Double the fun
In this edition of Cribz, we chat with mama to two twin girls, Tessa Matthews as she dishes on what inspired her to create an understated and chic girls room. As a home interior stylist, Tessa stuck to her intuition when it came to curating special pieces and creating a bedroom for her girls, Sienna and Emelia. She shares practical tips on how to make a small space work and for two little people to boot! Using her experience and know-how, Tessa offers parents helpful suggestions on how to reinvent your kiddo’s room as he/she grows and needs change. We’re simply obsessed with Sienna and Emelia’s darling room and can see why it’s their favourite room to be in in their entire home.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you ended up in Hong Kong.
I’m an interior stylist, producer and Mum to 2-year-old twin girls, Sienna and Emelia. My husband, Nick and I moved to Hong Kong from London four-and-a-half years ago. We are both originally from South Africa but had been living in London for nine years and were ready for our next adventure. When Nick was offered a role in Hong Kong, we jumped at the opportunity to experience life somewhere completely different. And what an experience it has been!
Describe a day in your life.
A typical day for me at the moment involves a lot of ‘juggling’ as any mother will understand. Being a freelance stylist means that no two days are the same. If I’m not on set styling a photo shoot for a magazine, then I am either helping a client with home decor and styling advice, or out and about sourcing props for an upcoming shoot (which basically involves shopping for gorgeous things and not having to pay for anything!) or I’m at home with my girls.
How has styling many homes in Hong Kong changed or inspired the way you decorate your space?
Seeing so many gorgeous homes in Hong Kong makes me want to continuously change things in my own flat! I am constantly tempted by new and beautiful things that I see in stores and online and find it very hard not to redecorate at every opportunity I get! So instead of risking divorce, I am forever moving things around at home, whether its switching in different scatter cushions or throws or moving furniture around to give our home a small and instant (and free/inexpensive) refresh. Styling different homes around Hong Kong has also made me realise just how much you can do with rented, and often small, spaces. Just because you’re renting doesn’t mean you can’t make your house a home.
Favourite room in your entire apartment and why?
My favourite room in our apartment is my twins’ bedroom. Not only does it ‘house’ my two precious girls but it also has the most natural light in our flat and everything in their room has a story and special significance behind it. I put a lot of thought into their room when decorating it and it means so much to me to see them want to spend time in and enjoy it.
How would you describe this room? Which style would best describe the room?
I would describe their room as simple and chic, its understated and not overly girly or fussy. It has a gorgeously calming feel about it too (which is often much needed with toddler twins!). I’ve used a lot of white and grey with touches of dusty pink and turquoise. I’ve then added textural elements such as the rug, cane chairs and storage baskets to add interest and to make it feel more homely. All the little trinkets and decorative pieces have a special meaning behind them and bring back a lot of childhood memories of my own.
Where do you and the twins spend the most time at home? What about that room or space makes you gravitate there together?
If we’re not in their bedroom reading stories and paging through picture books, we’re together in our living area. This is where their little arts and craft table is, as well as their mini play kitchen and a few of their other toys (which I try my hardest to hide away in various storage drawers and baskets). They spend ages playing with the little kitchen and making me endless cups of tea!
Share more about special pieces that mean a lot to you and the twins in your home design.
The mini cane chairs are handmade in Malawi and were a gift from my mum. I absolutely adore them as do the girls. They love sitting on them to read their books and look like two little princesses in their thrones. I managed to convince my husband to haul them back to Hong Kong after one of our holidays back home to South Africa.
The hot air balloon mobile was the very first thing we bought when we found out we were pregnant. I had spotted it in Homeless when we first moved to Hong Kong and had said to Nick that I wanted to have it hanging in our future children’s bedroom. Thank goodness, Homeless still had it two years later! Everyone had said to us to buy a bright colourful mobile to hang above the changing table but I’m so pleased I stuck to my guns and went for the hot air balloons instead. The twins have loved looking up at it while having their nappies changed.
The vintage Vogue covers, which hang above their bookshelf, were carefully sourced on Amazon. I have spent part of my career working for fashion magazines (although, sadly not yet Vogue) and have always loved these illustrated covers.
It sounds totally crazy but when my younger sister and I were little, we convinced each other that we had seen fairies so when I saw the little fairy door at Mirth, I knew I wanted the girls to ‘believe’ in them too. Every evening before bed time, the girls take it in turns to knock on the door and say goodnight to the fairies.
Where did you get your inspiration from decorating and styling a room for two little people?
I spent a lot of time on Pinterest and Instagram while pregnant! We only found out the gender of the twins at my 20-week scan, so for a long time I didn’t know what they were. Regardless, I always wanted a nursery that was quite gender neutral. I also follow a lot of home decor and children’s brands on social media so I had a pretty good idea of what I liked and disliked.
What was the hardest part of decorating a room for twins?
Space! We had to move out of our previous apartment because we weren’t going to be able to fit two cots in the second bedroom. I had also wanted to buy this gorgeous armchair that I had seen and knew would be perfect as a nursing chair but practically, we needed to have a couch or daybed in their room so that we had space to feed two babies! So trying to figure out the configuration, and still make it look ok, was quite tricky.
What part of the room are you most proud of?
I love their little reading corner. I had wanted to create more of a play area in their room (and was itching to get rid of some of the toys that were beginning to take over in our living area!) so we sold the daybed and moved their cots around to allow space for a bookshelf for their growing collection of books. The girls love looking at their books and can often be found pulling books down from the bookshelf and lounging on their chairs while they flick through pages and ‘read’ each other a story. And I love the vintage Vogue posters hanging above the bookshelf. I am so pleased I went ahead with them when deciding on artworks for their room. They’re timeless, and grown-up while still being a bit fun and girly.
Is there anything in the room you would like to change?
Their room is an ever evolving project! I would love to create a ‘feature wall’ – either using wallpaper or by painting it a different colour. When the girls move into toddler beds I have no doubt that I’ll move things around again and I can’t wait to buy cute bed linen for their big girl beds!
What are your favourite design or furniture stores in Hong Kong? Any online options that you love?
I do a lot of my sourcing online on Etsy, Pottery Barn Kids, The Little White Company and The Great Little Trading Company. In Hong Kong, I love Petite Bazaar, Mirth, iDecorate, Homeless and H&M Home. And I love Cat Street Market, if you sift through the touristy things, there are some lovely little unique bits and pieces. However, quite a few of the little trinkets in the twins’ room have come from back home in South Africa or have been collected on our travels. The ceramic elephant, which we use as a bookend, came from our first trip to Sri Lanka and the other two little mini elephants on one of the shelves were given to us by our hotel in Chiang Mai.
Read more: Best Homeware Stores in Hong Kong
What advice would you give to parents who want to decorate their children’s bedrooms?
Have an idea of what you’d like your colour scheme to be and start with neutrals and then build from there. Bring in colour using scatter cushions, a rug, artwork and other decorative accessories as these are things you can always switch around or replace to give the room a refresh. Avoid clutter by being able to hide things away in drawers or storage baskets. Don’t be in a rush to ‘finish’ the room right away – your child’s needs will change (often!) so try and adapt with them and enjoy collecting things as you go along. Have somewhere comfortable to sit, whether its on a cosy rug on the floor, a big bean bag or a comfy armchair or daybed, as this is where you will spend a lot of your time together.