For lover of interior design...

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My ‘Design Desire’ blog is aiming to share my interior design knowledge with anyone who is interested in the subject. Also available in Malay translation. I hope you will follow my DESIGN DESIRE journey...

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Saturday, 28 February 2015


Hi there, this is the uncut version of my interview with The Home & Decor Malaysian edition magazine. I thought it would be nice to share it with all of you. I hope you'll like it.

For my Malaysian readers, this Q & A will not be translated into Malay language. Enjoy reading. The Home & Decor:

1) Could you tell us a little bit about your background? (Where and when were you born and where did you receive your education from?)

I was born in a hot sunny country called Malaysia. I’ve been brought up in a family that is full of love and joy; a hard working environment and full of music and play at home.

I was educated in the United Kingdom at De Montfort University in interior design. The highest credentials I hold are an MA Interior Design having obtained a BA (Hons) Degree at the same university. In the early days of my education in interior design I obtained a BTEC Nat Diploma at the Bradford And Ilkely Community College, United Kingdom and a Diploma in Interior Design in Malaysia.
2) How did you develop your passion for interior design? I read that you gained your interest from your birthday gift, an aquarium? Do you still have an aquarium? If yes, how does it inspire you? If no, what inspires you now?

Believe it or not, I still have the aquarium. It is in my parents’ first home in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur. No more living fish I’m afraid! The aquarium is only used as a decoration. The interior space is designed in an eclectic scheme, showcasing a little vintage wooden house, a few safari toys- it’s a fantasy animal village!

Going back to how I first developed an interest for interior design, I enjoyed viewing the aquarium display at the vet / animal hospital in my town. I borrowed their ideas and transferred them to the display and then adding my own touches into my aquarium. I began wondering how many other spaces I could transform.

The design ambition then took off after that. At school, I chose subjects that are related to design. At home I started to observe what my mother was doing, which was rearranging the home display. At the age of 14 I started to re-arrange the furniture of the house. My mother was generally thrilled with the transformation however at times… Well let me put it this way; there may have been a number of friendly mother and son design disputes! My father paid for my education and I went on to gain my university qualifications. As time move on, I gain my creative ideas in many ways. I’m always open to new ideas to gain inspiration and learning from others is an important part of the learning process. I’m inspired by my surroundings, the people, countries and places that I have visited. Things that I’ve observed, the landscape, even the music I’m listening to. Your questions also inspire me. By the way, I still get inspiration from looking at aquarium displays!
3) Do you do interior design, full-time? Did you become an interior designer as soon as you graduated?

I’m a full time interior designer and yes I did become a designer as soon as I graduated in Malaysia. Still I had to resign from my job to move to the United Kingdom to further my qualifications. The rest is history.
4) How does music and writing inspire you in interior designing? And how do you juggle between, writing, interior designing and product designing?

Music has been part of my life since I bought my very first EP in 1975.When I’m writing my design tips or working on a design project I listen to certain types of music. It provides me with the inspiration I need. I create a scheme, a story board in my mind then later I transfer and develop it into my work; writing or designing.

Self discipline and good time management is crucial if you are working on several tasks. Creating a conducive environment is important so that you can focus on the work. As for me, once I complete the first phase of an interior design project, such as sketches or researching for materials, I start on the product design ideas. Put it this way, you work for eight hours a day. I spend a few hours for the first task in the morning to lunch break and continue with other creative ventures until the end of the working day. Within those periods, I allow time for any telephone calls and e-mails tasks. Writing comes when I’ve been approached by a publication(s) to write design tips. So that would work well in the evening or during the weekends. This also applies if I’m working on my own manuscript.
5) How and what made you decide to go abroad?

I wanted to gain a higher education in interior design, to explore and gain life experience. I first moved away from my homeland in 1977, to The Philippines and returned to Malaysia. From then on the idea of flying to other countries interested me! Still, I have to give credit to my father who often worked abroad and I was amused with his stories and experiences. Also two of my sisters studied abroad, in the USA and the UK. I say moving abroad is a good challenge for anybody if you use the experience in a good manner and for the right reason.
6) What do you think about the interior design industry in Malaysia?

Malaysia has a booming interior design industry! Don’t get me wrong, this creative field is not new. I worked in Malaysia in the late 1980s before my departure to England in 1991.There was a lot of interest in interior design from the public already back then. Malaysia also gained a lot of creative exposure from other developing countries. However Malaysia needs its own interior design identity. Malaysian interior design needs to encompass that uniqueness, the ‘ASIAN’ feel that has history value with local craftsmanship from the country’s designers and manufacturers. Let’s bring this diverse culture, traditional and contemporary together. Be proud of Malaysian products! 
7) If you have the opportunity to go back to Malaysia, what is the one project that you would like to work on as an interior and product designer?

I would love to work on a redundant existing building somewhere in Malaysia with an outstanding historical history and architecture and convert it into a space that can be used by the public such as apartments, a museum, a store or even a hotel.

I would also like to produce my own furniture product ranges, decoration ranges and also soft furnishings to be featured in the interior design!
8) What were the experiences you’ve gained as an interior designer? 

I have gained a lot of experience about products, designs and sales. One to one client liaising skills are a crucial part of the job. You never stop learning! It is not just about good design. The designs have to work for the clients and their budgets. Getting to know the clients and bringing their ideas into reality is one of the best parts of the job. By working on a design brief provided by the clients and helping them through the design and the research process of the project is very rewarding. As a designer I also get new ideas from the clients through every discussion we have during a project. I also enjoy learning about how individual clients use their personal spaces. Of course the very best aspect of the experiences is getting PAID for the design project!
9) What are the current and on-going projects that you’re involved in?

I’m designing an open space living, dining and cooking space at the moment. The project is using the client’s existing furniture with some soft furnishings and a colour proposal.
10)Your website shows some products that you have produced, this include an artwork, can I describe you as an artist and could you tell us how closely related design and art are?

Artist in my ‘own right’ perhaps? I do not make millions on that yet! Seriously design and art cannot be separated. They are both creative and subjective. I often suggest that my clients feature some sort of original artwork in their home. This will provide a unique point in one’s home. Home is not a home, if it’s not unique!
11) Do you plan on coming up with a new range? 

I’m working on some soft furnishings of my own at the moment, so watch this space.
12) What are the challenges that you face when you first started as an interior designer and now that you’re more experienced?

Let’s turn back the clock and years here! I had to learn on my own when I started in this field, no senior designer to point me in the right direction. On one occasion, I was working on a curtain design as a backdrop for a formal government conference. Somehow one part of the curtain was not going to be ready on time and, to make things worse, the Malaysian Prime Minister at that time was due be sitting in front of that particular curtain drop! You can imagine how I felt and I had to come up with a solution ASAP. It was a drama but it was resolved and it was a good learning experience for me. Still, when I moved to another practice, gaining the freedom to handle project(s) on my own was the biggest challenge. I was a young and junior at the time, with a vision and my creativity was burning! I was not given the opportunity instead I was just inking the existing pencil drawings of the senior designer and doing some little tasks! So I said to my employer “I would like to do a bigger job and I can do it…” Finally I was given a task on my own to survey and write a report for an office building public toilet. YES… You hear me, a public toilet! Well, that was a challenge indeed! But that was in the past. Interior design work changes and develops over time.

As I became more qualified and become senior the experience evolved to sales, paperwork, direct communication with manufacturers, contractors and decorators as well as with clients. Presentation technique has also evolved with various computer packages widely used yet the traditional methods are still in vogue, for example a mood board or a hand drawing. Clients like to touch and feel the material samples. I must say, each design experience is different from another. Each project will have its own challenge. Whatever it will be, it is a good challenge. 
13) The play of colours is important as an interior designer, could you tell us how did you explore with colour combination when you begin as an interior designer? Are there any examples, when you first begin, that the combination of colours did not go well at all?

Colours are a crucial part of interior design. Understanding the client’s emotions and design brief is the first step. The use of natural and artificial illumination in each room is important as is the overall dimension and layout of the room. Different colours will provide very different atmospheres. For example, coffee and cream deliver the classic look. These hues work well together because they are neutral colours that blend in harmoniously. A claret red with cream could not go wrong. It provides the seductive feeling.

I have not had any disputes in my work as a result of colour choices. Several hue samples will be presented to my clients according to the scheme. If you put two strong deep colours in a room I say that will never work well such as deep purple and deep green. Orange and green also fight against one another. To avoid unpleasant colour clashes it is wise to get several colour pallets that you like and painted them in squares on the wall, live with them for a few day and see if its works for you.
14) One of the must-have pieces of furniture in your home is… 

A Sofa… You need to sit and relax! Let your feet up. Am I right?
Picture credit: Luxury Furniture Vietnam

15) Also, name one of your favourite materials to use?

Textured fabric! It will soften and glam up and provide sensuality to any room. 
Picture credit: Curtain Factory Outlet

16) How did you come out with the idea to write about Donna Summer?

I decided to write this book as a personal tribute to Donna Summer and her creativity. It is a thank you for all the joy she gave me and her fans. My book, ‘Donna Summer The Thrill Goes On – A Tribute’ started as a hobby in 1997, a compilation of data on the American star. As I accumulated more and more information I began to record it all on my laptop from January to July 1999. I started on the writing and printed on 20th January 2000. But it was only in late 2008 that I asked myself “I wonder what will happen if…” and that was it – ‘All Systems Go’! It was a way to compile her recordings in succession and to communicate my understanding of her music for other people in relation to her musical landscape. Donna Summer was always a singer that I adored and writing and researching about her work was a fascinating venture. She was a highly creative recording act, much more than just the 1970s disco icon that most people see her as. While younger singers dominated the chart, Summer’s last studio album ‘Crayons’, released in 2008, charted at no.17 in the Billboard album chart. Her 2010 ‘To Paris With Love’ single was a no.1 dance chart hit. What more can you say?

The project is available as an e-book, hardcover and paperback. I’m humbly proud to say that the book is still selling. So buy my book! The book is also currently competing in ‘The People’s Book Choice Awards’, organized by an independent UK organization. You can VOTE for it online!

 17) Any plans to write a book on interior designing? 

I’m compiling and writing an interior design manuscript at the moment. 
18) What are you working on currently, and what are some of the projects you want to work on in the future? 

Currently I’m completing a colour and accessories scheme mood board of a living room for an organization in the UK. It’s a living room for their client.

As for future projects, I like the idea of designing a shelter home or a stopover area for the homeless, a home where they can clean up, rest and get education and be safe. I would love to design a mosque with a twist with the use of the interior space! 

19) Lastly, what do you constantly learn as an interior designer? 

Learning is endless in any field. I learn about products, human uses of interior space, marketing and selling. The global economy plays an important part in interior design. As a designer, I grow with experience and learn about the current trends and products. I have to be proactive by visiting interior design trade fair shows. To grow in a career is not to be comfortable, leave the comfort zone.

For more information visit Nik A Ramli website: 

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Hi semua, ini adalah bual bicara secara langsung saya bersama majalah The Home & Decor edisi Malaysia. Saya rasa ia satu cadangan yang baik untuk di kongsikan bersama semua. Saya harap semua akan suka pada nya.  

Untuk membaca di malaysia, bual bicara ini tidak akan di terjemahkan kedalam Bahasa Malaysia.

Selamat membaca.

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