Are you looking to decorate a new nursery? Can’t figure out how to mix and match colours, or seeking that accent piece to make your living room pop? Founder of INSIGHT School of Interior Design (and Sassy Mama’s new resident interior design expert!) Eve Mercier is here to answer all your questions on how to make your living space go from drab to fab! We sit down with the stylish, French-born designer to talk about her love for cool spaces, inspiration behind INSIGHT and most importantly, the tips and tricks she’ll be sharing with our Sassy Mama audience in the upcoming months – grab a paper and pen and take note, mamas!
How did you get started in interior design? Can you tell us a bit about your background?
My career actually began in the art scene working for auctioneers in Paris and London (Christie’s) as well as writing for the “Art Newspaper” before working in fashion for a while, designing some fashion accessories as well as collaborating with Shanghai Tang on a tailor-made collection. I then worked for the big developer and designer firm Candy & Candy before setting up my own practice in London. My experience in the art and fashion world helped me train my eyes in a very rounded way and the Candy & Candy job taught me how to navigate and structure massive design projects. It also got me access to the best suppliers. When I moved to Hong Kong, I wanted to stay in the same field but in a different capacity. After a thorough research, I identified a need in the market for some trained interior designers and I launched INSIGHT School of Interior Design.
Tell us a bit about INSIGHT. What do you offer?
INSIGHT is the only school in Hong Kong which is focused solely on interior design, both in the residential and the commercial sectors. We offer a selection of short 1-2 day vocational courses on specific subjects, i.e. Small Space Design, Lighting Design or Feng Shui and Interiors, and part-time Certificates (3 months). We are also launching our 1 year full-time diploma aimed at people who wish to be professionals in the field on 15 September.
All our teaching is done by a team of international working professionals with extensive experience in the region. The training is very practical and done around real case studies brought to the school by the industry (architects, retail firms, hotel chains, property developers, etc.). I teach the Small Space Design, Kitchen and Bathroom Design and Concept and Creative Thinking courses.
Where do you draw design inspiration from?
Not from interior design magazines! I get my inspiration from museums and exhibitions, from fashion, from great architectural buildings (right proportions are for me an obsession) and from craftsmen studios. I love visiting those savoir faire troves and feeling like you always leave inspired by original and quality materials.
How did you decorate your own home? Was it a difficult process?
Quickly! It was my 13th move so I didn’t want to waste time with all the installation processes. I just asked my agent to send me the layout plan and I designed a new sofa in London, chose the furniture needed, had some cushions and rugs made during the summer and shipped everything to HK to create the “California Meets Hong Kong” look I desired – basically a breezy house by the sea!
What are your best places to pick up home furniture in Hong Kong?
Some of my favourite stores include Deem, Lane Crawford, Amelie and Tulips, Casa Capriz and Zhouhai warehouses for Chinese furniture. Mixing and matching is always a great idea. I also tend to design furniture myself and ask my builder to make it. It is often cheaper and more accurate to my requirements.
Do you gravitate to a certain colour palette or design style?
I like saffron and blue tones, as well as 1950s and 1960s Scandinavian and Italian designs. Growing up in Versailles, I also love French 18th-century style.
Can you talk us through your career pre and post babies? How did you get back into the swing of things after having children?
I always stayed active before and after having kids as I am not very good as staying still at home. My longer inactive period was when I was living in Geneva and expecting. I was working on a book aimed at grandparents and grandchildren with a friend of mine (she was the writer and I was the illustrator). It was fun and we even had an appointment with a big publisher in London but it didn’t get through. Nevertheless it helped me not die of boredom in Geneva …
How has having kids changed the way you define work?
I think that when you have kids, you realise that the rest will always fall into second place. You end up having less tolerance for the things that are not essential to your work. You don’t want to spend time on things that are unnecessary or are too political. In a nutshell, you learn to say no which is something that I feel is very hard to learn!
Do you have any tips for aspiring “mamapreneurs” and working other mamas in Hong Kong?
Take risks and yes, you will break some eggs along the process, but as long as you are aware of it and that you manage to find the work / family balance at some stage you will be fine. Your grown-up children will look at you in a better light and so will your husband (once he is finished complaining about your work overload panic attacks!)
What obstacles have you had to overcome over the course of your career?
Having an entrepreneur husband who was very busy with his job and simultaneously having children at a young age was definitely an obstacle. I was quite frustrated in my 20s. But there are always two sides of the coin: having a husband who set up two successful businesses is now a big plus, as he’s advising me on INSIGHT and other business tips!
What are your best time management tips?
I think a lot of mistakes happen when information is not properly explained. I am also quite demanding with myself and people who work around me, but I hope in a reasonable sense. I enjoy learning something new everyday and I intend my team to react the same way. After all, there is nothing more boring than coming to work everyday knowing exactly what is going to happen next. And a good sense of humour is a must! There is so much stress involved with a start-up business that we should all be able to have fun at some point!
Speaking of fun, what is your biggest stress-reliever?
A long walk, followed by a long swim and a long massage.
What topics can we expect you to cover as Sassy Mama’s resident Interior Design columnist?
I’ll be sharing tips and tricks about designing home and work spaces, such as how to design for small spaces, incorporating feng shui, sustainable interior design, lighting tips and tricks, how to mix and match and how to modernise oriental designs. All you soon-to-be mamas out there, look out for my first article on designing a nursery space!
What has been your favourite project to date?
My agency in London transformed into a pied-a-terre into an artist studio for an Italian family in London. It was an architecturally challenging project as we added a new floor, created a staircase and added a kitchen and a bathroom. We did it without the help of an architect, just with our contractor’s team. But the result was great, the client was really happy, and the project was featured in “House and Garden”.
What do you hope to achieve?
Let’s just say I will be very happy if thanks to INSIGHT we can train designers that will inject beauty and quality into the local scene and beyond… Hong Kong is such a beautiful place, it deserves beautiful projects and less salmon-coloured bathroom tiles!
If you could give our readers just one piece of interior design advice, what would it be?
Design an interior that reflects who you are and stands the test of time.
For more information on INSIGHT School of Interior Design, visit the website here or check out the Open Day on 4 and 6 September!
INSIGHT School of Interior Design, 24/F, Federal Centre, 77 Sheung On Street, Chai Wan, Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong, 2114 2021
All the photos of Eve taken above are courtesy of the extremely talented Elizabeth Surtees-Roberts of Lumo Photography.