Welcome to Little Miss Isla’s Bohemian Rhapsody
In this edition of Cribz, we step into Isla’s room which can only be described as a labour of love. The entire nursery is dripping with handmade touches by Isla’s mama, Donna Duckworth of The Travelled Interior. Curating special pieces from all over the world, we’re invited into a room which is a feast for the eyes…
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up in Hong Kong.
I’m English, about to hit my thirties and I’m a new mum! I’ve been a dancer for as long as I can remember and I’m also the founder of The Travelled Interior. I’ve been living in Hong Kong since 2012. My husband used to come here regularly on business, and despite having only visited once myself, we decided to take an opportunity to relocate. It’s a move that has been more successful than either of us could have imagined; we got married, had a baby and both set up businesses!
What is The Travelled Interior?
The Travelled Interior is an online homeware store, which I set up last year. Unsure whether I’d be returning to dance once I had a baby, I decided to launch something where I could work from home. I absolutely love interior styling, I’m a complete travel addict and I also have a great deal of compassion for our neighbouring communities. These three things combined were the motivation behind the brand.
It’s a social-led business because not only do I try to source products ethically (many of my suppliers are social enterprises or independent artisans) but there is also a charity donation included in every price. The donation is deducted from my profit so no prices have been inflated – and I believe my prices are already very competitive. In fact, that was another reason I wanted to create a homeware store, because I’ve found Hong Kong an incredibly expensive place to buy furniture.
There are currently three collections; China, Indonesia and Vietnam. The beneficiaries are based within those regions too. I intend to add further collections, and hope to develop a way of personally contributing through volunteering and fundraising.
How has The Travelled Interior changed the way you style a room? How you purchase items for your home?
I’d say it’s made me more mindful of where or how an item has been made. I try to avoid the mass-produced and have a higher appreciation for handcrafted pieces.
It’s also inspired me to learn new artistries and has provoked my creative consciousness. I think my handmade pieces enrich my home with character and encourage me to be more creative when styling a room. I’ve always been quite crafty but now I’m obsessed! I sell a lot of my creations on Etsy.
I am making more and more nursery decor these days – my earth-mama instincts are particularly opposed to plastic toys!
Which items in the room have you made or customised yourself?
Where do I begin?! Almost everything is either handmade or customised! The boring white shelving unit now has a powerful pop of colour from the old pashmina that I fitted to the back. The hanging rail is made with a fallen branch that I found. I also used branches to dress up the otherwise uninteresting lamp. I added the flower garland to the cot canopy by hand-sewing individual artificial flowers into it. I customised the IKEA changing unit, by adding funky handles, wallpaper to the front of the draws and a photo gallery on one side.
I created the artwork but it’s hardly original – it’s based on a piece by artist Eleanor McColl. It’s a silhouette of Isla’s Chinese zodiac animal filled with landmark images of HK, including Queen Mary Hospital where she was born.
I handmade the teepee gym using two brooms, a teething ring and some decorative birds. The wooden sign on the wall was also made by me. It was my first attempt at wood-burning and I’m pretty proud of it! I also made the pom poms.
There is a small wooden stool, which I hand-painted with a mandala style motif. I then added the “ISLA” letters, which my sister bought back from her travels in Australia, and the four music boxes play songs by The Beatles and “You Are My Sunshine”, which is a bedtime favourite!
The baby mobile is another of my creations – I bought the miniature conical hats in Vietnam.
The dreamcatcher was handmade by me using recycled sari silk. It was made specifically to hang a tourmaline (Isla’s birth stone) charm, which was a gift from her godfather. What’s really special about this is the music box it hangs from was mine as a child!
How would you describe this room? Which style would best describe the room?
It’s hand-crafted baby boho! I guess it’s quite a grown-up room for a 5-month old baby but there are lots of fun details that keep it relevant. I think it’s important to choose a style that’s not too age specific or heavily themed because it needs to appeal and adapt to a growing child.
Where did you get your inspiration from?
There is a lot of my own style in there but I think the design for the room started with the Moses basket, which I’d had my eye on for a while! It’s from Ghana and made with handwoven elephant grass. The design is so beautiful, I based the colour scheme on it. Sadly, Isla has outgrown it now but it makes a very stylish storage basket, which I’ve hung on the wall to really show it off.
Because of my travel-bug and well-travelled friends, I’ve been able to collect some interesting pieces from around the world for Isla’s room. Travel always inspires me.
I use Instagram too, which is a great starting point if you’re looking for design ideas. I repost pictures of spaces that inspire me, as well as shots of the things that I make and the products that I sell.
What was the hardest part of decorating this room?
The biggest restriction was the size of the room so I had to be very disciplined. I bought the three essentials – cot, chest of draws/change table and a chair. I took a step back to reassess and decide what else I could comfortably fit it into the room.
I take my time when styling a room. If you rush the decorating process, you risk filling it with things that you may not want or need in a few years, which can be frustrating if you’re limited on space.
What part of the room are you proudest of?
Like the rest of our apartment, there are lots of personal touches in the nursery. I went into nesting overdrive and spent hours painting, wood-burning, sawing, sewing… I put so much heart into it, it’s hard to pin-point one thing as being my favourite. However, I will say that I love the ambience of the room, especially in the evenings when we are getting ready for bath time.
Isla is also so lucky to have such big windows filling the room with natural light and overlooking the beautiful marina.
Is there anything in the room you would like to change?
Nope! I’m sure there will be something new in here before long, though. I’m obsessed with rearranging and evolving the style of our home. Having a baby now means I get a new decorating project every few years or so – WIN!
What are your favourite design or furniture stores in Hong Kong? Any online options that you love?
I really like Thorn and Burrow; the Moroccan rug is from there. They carry some interesting pieces from faraway lands so it’s right up my street!
Other than that and, I admit, the odd thing from IKEA, I don’t really shop in Hong Kong for homeware anymore. If it’s not from The Travelled Interior, then I’ve most likely bought it second-hand, made it or dragged it in off the street and customised it!
What advice would you give to parents who want to decorate their nursery?
Be realistic. It’s easy to get carried away and opt for the pretty over the practical. Instead, make the space as flexible as possible. If it folds or you can use it as storage, it is your friend!
Keep it relevant. Hold back on the Peppa Pig wallpaper because it may not be appropriate in one years time. Instead, select a timeless colour palette and sneak in themed accessories and/or textiles which are easily changed.
Add personal touches. You don’t have to buy all your nursery decor in a shop! Be creative and find other ways to embellish the walls. Even if you’re not the crafty type, displaying souvenirs or keepsakes is a lovely way to individualise a room and surround your child with trinkets from loved ones who, for many of us, aren’t so close to home.
Have fun with it! Don’t feel that you have to decorate in a conventional way, just make it magical for your little one.
A huge thank you to Kim Bacon from Kim Bacon Photography for the beautiful photos above
If you think your baby or child has a cool room, send us a picture at firstname.lastname@example.org and your room might be featured!