Transplanted from New York, interior designer, Julie reimagines her family living space bringing design concepts to reality…
I am a glorified mover and packer, but my true passion (and day job) is that of a lifestyle and interior designer. So in 2013 when my husband’s job uprooted us from NYC to London, I identified a void in the design market and was eager to expand my business model to accommodate. I sought to introduce design solutions for DIY enthusiasts (expat or city living), which can be a relatively unpredictable and transient lifestyle. With great enthusiasm, I launched e-design by Julieann Gregory to offer an alternative to high-end, custom interior design services. I design lifestyles and interiors that are equally comfortable, timeless and unique.
Curious as to what the looks like? Well, our small, overpriced Soho flat served my husband and me well in our early days in Hong Kong, but with our seven month old daughter on the brink of crawling, we knew it was time to expand our space. We discovered a gem (still located in Central) in the midst of a remodel. Being a bit of a design fanatic (I literally reorganise our furnishings in my sleep), I could see the potential in the flat. Mind you at the time it was stripped to a lifeless concrete shell… no kitchen, no fixtures, nothing! For me, it was a blank slate, and I got to pick paint colours and finishes. This is a dream for a renter. We signed the lease, and the renovation period tested my patience as I eagerly awaited moving day. In the meantime, I put my e-design services to the test, planning out our new home room by room. Join me for an insider’s look, at a few of the rooms in our new Hong Kong flat, as I take them from concept to reality.
The Living Room
The key in the living room is to start with a few investment pieces. A good quality sofa is well worth the splurge, as is a nice rug; they’ll stand the test of time. Stick to a basic fabric or leather for the anchor-upholstered pieces, and play with fun patterns on side chairs, decorative pillows and throws. For added functionality and texture, I layered the living room rug with a kid-friendly rug from a favourite brand of mine, Lorena Canals. Take note folks… this rug is super stylish and machine washable. Win, win!
When it comes to purchasing accent furnishings make sure the pieces not only strike your fancy, but also offer functional storage solutions. This is especially essential for compact city living! The bookcase houses favourite books, family photos and storage baskets. The storage baskets are home to a lot of knick-knacks I regularly use – washi tapes, custom letterpress notecards, Muji pens, office trinkets, wrapping ribbons and textile samples. I suppose a bookcase serves as a beautiful reflection into the heart of family.
The bar cart is home base for my husband’s favourite cocktail ingredients, glassware and such. The open base upholstered ottoman hides two wire baskets. One holds a handful of Baby E’s toys, which I regularly rotate out. The other basket holds the laptop, current reading materials and any other trinkets they have been pulled from their usual storage spot – I despise clutter! My number one design tip is to evaluate your lifestyle, how you and your family function and then create the space to accommodate. It is a simple concept, but genius in action.
I like to keep home accessories rather simple. The less clutter the better, it keeps the interior visually appealing. I always incorporate fresh flowers, meaningful gems from family travels, giant candles and pretty bowls to hold technology ‘stuff’ like remotes and USB cords.
The Entryway and Dining Room
This space is rather simple, but was lots of fun for me! I love entertaining, hosting friends and creating a reason for a fun summer soiree or holiday bash. In our last flat, we had a lovely, yet tiny, four seater table crammed amid our living room furnishings. It was uninspiring and left no room to move around let alone have an extra visitor. So having a big table that I could properly set simply overjoyed my heart.
With a little one at home, I skipped out on a rug, opted for hard-surfaced chairs for easy surface cleaning and invested in a lovely high chair for Baby E. This is one place where functionality entirely wins out. You will thank me later, I promise.
To keep the look fresh and ever changing, I regularly change up the table styling, flowers and such.
Placing a large mirror at the entryway not only makes the dining area feel larger, but it provides a spot for a ‘last look’ before running out the door. Oh and I cannot forget, there is more storage too: cubbies for shoes worn regularly and a catchall basket for headphones, spare change, sunnies, lip-glosses and more!
The Master Bedroom
We moved with our upholstered bed from New York City. It’s a custom piece from Lee Industries, which translates to quite an investment, but well worth every penny as the neutral fabric elegantly adapts to every new space. The mattress is simple offering the perfect balance between plush and firm, and the splurge here is a super luxe sheet set because I believe a good night’s sleep is essential to your well being.
An online visit to my guilty pleasure Gilt.com is my favourite flash sale site for fashion and interiors (they offer affordable international shipping options!). The bed is layered with super-soft sheets, a lightweight Indian dohar and a satin coverlet with matching shams. For the most part the tones are neutral and palliative, with the exception of a pop of colour on the bed and the walls. I suggest to add colour in places that are easy and relatively affordable to change out, as too much colour or pattern can easily grow tiresome.
Now, my favourite of all might be the stylish bedside chests from Indigo Living, a furniture showroom based right here in Hong Kong. Yes, these pieces are a tad trendy, with oversized lucite handles and mid-century modern-esque legs, but I find they’re rounded out nicely with brassy chic details. The rug is modest, but soft to the touch when I reluctantly hit the ground running in the morning. At the bedside, the accessories reflect a little ‘his’ and a little ‘hers’, from perfumes and succulents to cufflinks and hidden cell chargers. And the piece with an ulterior motive is the brass and marble valet; this is my best attempt at getting my husband to put his suit away at the end of a long workday! Shhh… don’t tell my secret. All joking aside, you see a recurring theme, pieces are both stylish and functionally on point.
Baby E’s Nursery
Most of the e-design projects I work on include bedrooms or living rooms, with lots of those being kid-friendly spaces. A kid’s room or nursery project is always heaps of fun to work on. For my daughter’s room, I completely splurged on the crib, for safety of course, but also because this particular crib can grow with her. The crib, by Bloom, transitions to a toddler bed, which is a great interim solution before moving the little ones to a ‘big kids’ bed. Not only that, while waiting on baby number two, it folds at the hinges for easy storage.
I love modern, abstract art. This piece is from an artist duo based in Rome, a city that holds a special piece of my heart; I studied architecture, got engaged and roamed all over this magical city! I opted for this particular piece as it anchors the room while introducing alternate colours into the neutral and pink palette. Art is key in creating visual focus, but also a great opportunity to expose a sliver of personal style; thus, I encourage clients to play a role in art selection when working on projects.
Textiles are my strongpoint for interior projects. I could scheme fabric combos all day long. Here I work with a linen fabric from LA-based Kerry Joyce Textiles for the oversized throw pillows. They flaunt a soft pink retro-style flower which is girly and has a solid linen backing and elegant pleated corners. It is all about those tiny details. The rug is custom from a lovely mumtrepreneur based here in Hong Kong – Maya Rugs. I waited six weeks for this gem, but it is hand-woven from India, and not pictured are the fun custom tassels that adorn the ends.
And who does not love a giant BlaBla Kids doll? This Giant Splash doll travelled back from the USA with us last Christmas. I am surprised the airline did not charge for an entire seat. I indefensibly admit, as a designer, I have been known to bring rather bizarre carry-ons on board a flight.
The unassuming Ikea shelf offers loads of storage solutions and is a great place to display a fun collection of books. Do you know about BabyLit Board Books? My sister-in-law gave Baby E the entire collection last Christmas. They are an absolute must-have for every kiddo. The books are a fashionable way to introduce classic literature, plus they make for a well-dressed bookshelf!
I really believe in designing a magical space for kids. It is mentally stimulating, provides a sense of security and offers an escape to a magical land! Baby E can attest, she absolutely adores her room.
Thanks to the talented Michelle Proctor of Michelle Proctor Photography for all of the beautiful images above! Follow her on Instagram @michellejproctor and Facebook at www.facebook.com/MichelleProctorPhotography.