MY MAGICAL MUSE

Welcome to my space — I’m here to talk about my personal approach to interior design. I define “designing” as creating something as opposed to planning here. I am in this for the creative expression as I am logical and very literal by nature. I have the tendency to overthink so creative expression helps me manage my thoughts. But mainly interior design is something I just love doing and am totally passionate about. I am sharing some interior design ideas which guide me personally.  I acknowledge that everyone is unique, and therefore what looks pleasant to one person can look unpleasant to another. Creativity is highly subjective, but my aim is to provide information that may resonate with you. I have not done any formal training in interior design; these are my own experiences, discoveries, and ideas.  
 
Where to find things? 
 
I use Facebook Marketplace, Trade Me, Eco-shop, thrift stores (Salvation Army, Red Cross, and St Vincent de Paul), “for free” piles on the street, occasionally specialty stores (Java Furniture, Bali Hai, or Loft), or be given or ask for things gently from friends or family. I find there are different advantages and disadvantages to each location — cost, quality, style, convenience, friendliness. Finding this out is part of the interior design process. What I prefer may not suit another, so I am hesitant to say “this one is the best”. Over lockdown, I’ve been successfully using Facebook Marketplace and Trade Me, so maybe start there.  Try them all and see what works for you. However, knowing where to find things is less important than knowing how to find things. This is what I really want to talk about because it was not immediately apparent to me.  
 
Know thyself 

When it comes to creativity, I am aware that I operate quite organically and according to my feelings. Thoughts and logic take a welcome back seat here. I do not follow creative theories (e.g. Fung Shui or colour theory), nor do I consciously copy a specific style, I prefer spontaneity over pre-planning, and I do not like being giving unsolicited advice. It seems impossible for me to accurately describe my process, but I am guided by my feelings; what feels right, nice, pleasant, calming, peaceful, or nostalgic.  Conversely, I am also guided by feelings of cringe, bad, off, wrong, or simply, bad vibes. It is not just about visuals either. Certain smells or sounds contribute to these feelings in a cumulative way in my interior space. I especially like having Nag Champa incense burning and classical or meditative music playing. Like my feelings, my interior space is never static. There is a constant adding, replacing, removing, moving and changing going on; an outward projection of my inner-self perhaps. As a consequence, setting up my interior space to where I am content has taken a long period of time (years). When it comes to creativity, my mind operates quite unconsciously, but not completely. When choosing ornaments, furniture, colours, or observing another’s interior space, things will “pop out” for me. So, although I am feelings-based and do things quite haphazardly, there is a method to my madness. A certain level of knowledge is essential to achieving the right feeling about my interior space, and there are certain signposts or guides that I follow.  
 
Labelling styles 
 
I generally have issues with labels and categories as I find them self-limiting. However, with interior design, knowing styles to be extremely helpful. Labels here are a good servant, but a bad master, if you will. Everyone’s style will be unique but mine definitely gives off an Eastern or Oriental vibe. I like this general term as opposed to a specific label as I am less limited in my approach to interior design. I can be more uniquely myself. Sometimes, I search generally for “Eastern” and see what comes up. Other times, I refine this by searching for specific countries, such as Indonesian, Indian, Balinese, and Persian. I am also into Buddhist philosophy and like to have the Buddha’s calming face around. Knowing other styles also helps me. I know the styles I am drawn to (mid-century, art deco, and bohemian), and ones I dislike (country, rustic, industrial, executive, gamer, shabby-chic). This knowledge acts as a filter to guide me. These terms are learned without effort and just picked up along the way. Knowing your general style, and finding a label for it, is hugely important for interior design. From there, other helpful ideas or concepts become apparent. 

Discovering materials 
 
Knowing that certain materials often go with certain styles also assists me in searching and choosing things. I have found certain materials relate to my style more; bamboo, rattan, mahogany, teak, bronze, brass and copper are often used in the furniture or ornaments I adore. I tend to avoid things made of plastic, leather/animals, resin, and steel. The styles associated with them often give off the wrong vibe for me. I search for specific materials, or use a filter to check what the item is made of, before obtaining. For example, in my bedroom I currently have tallboy drawers, a queen sleigh-style bed, and an exotic xylophone. I found all these items online, solely by searching the word “teak”. And just a quick note regarding furniture — there are a whole lot of terms out there that are not used in everyday language. Things like chaise, console table, the difference between a day bed and a couch, and certain styles of furniture. These are just learned with time, and are part of the fun of doing interior design.  

Being practical 
 
While expressing creatively, I am aware of the need to be practical. It cannot just be all looks. My place is not big; it has an open living room and kitchen downstairs and two bedrooms, a hallway and a bathroom upstairs. So, although I would like big Rajasthan chest and matching doorway entrance one day, space and finances do not currently permit this. I also have a leather ottoman I found on the street which doesn’t feel right for me, but it is very comfortable and I love stretching out on it to lay in the sun and watch movies on. I am also conscious of collecting too much stuff. My space is cluttered but organized in a way so that it is balanced with space. Again, this is totally subjective, but common-sense goes a long way.  
 
Operating creatively: seeking advice and planning 
 
I try to avoid planning a space too much beforehand. When I find something that I like, I take measurements to ensure the potential piece actually fits, but otherwise I am guided by feeling and will simply picture things with my mind’s eye. If it does not work, I will experiment until it does. 

I avoid seeking advice from others, finding it too subjective. I don’t like it when some says, “it will look better if you do this”, or “black is too oppressive”, or “according to colour theory…”. That is not how I operate. I am guided by my own feelings and style, and do not desire my creativity to be limited in any way. There are a whole lot of contradictory tips, guides, and how-to ideas out there relating to interior design, and it is easy to get an information overload. If it works for another, then great, but it is just not me. Opinions are welcome, however, as they lead to a greater shared understanding of something that we both enjoy.  
 
Similarly, I try not to copy another’s style. I avoid this for fear of becoming too generic. There are certain sites online where people share ideas and advice about their personal interior space. However, I find that the spaces are basically all the same: sterile, grey L-shaped couch, guitar on the wall, Eames replica chair — it just doesn’t look or feel right for me. Some may love another’s style and want it exactly. They may seek a specific piece or designer furniture to incorporate. That’s great, but it does not work for me. Instead, I am influenced by things. I do not mean inspired, as this process is very subconscious. For example, I might read a magazine and see a piece of furniture that calls out to me, and then a couple of months later somehow end up with something similar in the living room. I don’t need to understand this, it just happens.  
 
Experiment, experiment, experiment 
 
Experimentation is something I love doing and is invaluable to me. Often, I will discover something new through experimentation that I could not possibly have thought of beforehand. I will move furniture so that it fits, or discover something by accident. For example, I might knock over a round cane stool and discover it makes a great pot-plant holder.  I love these little moments of spontaneity and revelation. Experimentation can also help with things like flow — it is totally based on what I’m feeling at the time. Currently I like it how I can open front door and the eye is pleasantly lead through the living room and into the back courtyard. If I feel like less flow and more encapsulation, I can put up tiered shelving or move a bookcase to “box in” the living room to capture that feeling by adding the extra wall.  

 

Separating styles 

I have another style I like, bright and colourful things. I have always loved them. As a kid, I drew quite complex colourful drawings and still do. However, bright colours do not fit with my main style, so I created a space to express this. I call it my colour space, and it is in my hallway. I tried mixing the styles, but it did not feel right and was too eclectic for me to handle. I enjoy the freedom this space gives me to experiment with different colours and total random objects — something different from my main style. Again, it is totally up to the individual, but I find it helpful to separate space if you have multiple styles that do not go together.  

There is a lot more I can say or expand on, but the material information is here. I hope this was helpful or resonated with you. But if not, then that is totally fine as well. Do what works for you as that is all that matters.  

CANTA’S INTERIOR DESIGN TIPS 

  • Determine your style: think of how you want the space to feel. Traditional or modern? Colourful or monochromatic? Once you figure out your style you can start sussing pieces that match.  
  • Artwork: if your landlord isn’t so keen on you repainting the walls, why not decorate your room with some art? Support a local artist, or create something yourself! Extra points for artistic nudes.  
  • Experiment with lighting: treat yourself to a fun lamp, or string up some fairy lights for some cosy vibes.  
  • Add some greenery: plants will brighten up any room and fill the void of emptiness when you miss your cat. The only downside is trying to keep them alive.  
  • Get some pretty bedding: you spend most of your time in bed already, so why not make it fun. Places like Kmart now have great collections of printed duvets that won’t break the bank.   
By Reuben Strange