British designer Jo Hamilton’s living space tips for expats

The interior designer will be appearing at the OFIS sponsored Design Talks at this year’s INDEX Design Series.

May 23, 2017

Jo Hamilton, one of the United Kingdom’s leading interior designers, tells us what we should know about designing our homes and talks about her favourite design trends from the year.

How excited are you to be involved in an interiors show as big and wide reaching as INDEX?
I’m really excited. It’s a real honour to be involved in such a prestigious show. I’m really looking forward to meeting with and talking to a wide range of people from across the world and discussing different approaches to interior design. 

You've obviously made your name designing living spaces for others. How would you describe your own personal tastes when it comes to your home?
My own personal style is quite eclectic, elegant and tranquil. I don’t like an interior to be too contrived or matching. I like things to look as though they’ve grown organically and that there’s a story behind the interior; so that it tells the story of the person that’s living there. Art is a big focus - I love art. I love lots of different sorts of art, including very contemporary, abstract, minimalist. Steven Lindsay’s work is beautiful - he’s one of my favourite artists at the moment.

Greens and bold, lush designs are staple trends this year, which goes hand-in-hand with the theme at this year's INDEX. What are some of your favourite 2017 design trends?
I love that the focus is around nature and simplicity. I am always big campaigner for texture. Layers of texture add so much to any scheme. The trends for 2017 see texture in abundance - brushed brass, hand-washed linens and worn leathers and textured wall coverings. Marble and bronze is another favourite. This trend was on the rise last year and it’s going to be really big in 2017 - I love the contract between the hard, cold texture of the marble with the warm tones of bronze.

INDEX this year is all about design for the senses - creating spaces that truly stimulate the senses. What can people do to bring design to life in such a way?
The theme Index is taking this year is an exciting one. Nature is a great starting place for any home design and offers a wealth of inspiration on colour, texture and light. A home should be a restful calming space that gives us a sense of peace, it calms the very core of us if we get it right. Lighting is the absolute key in this. People understand they need to physically light a space but often mood lighting is missed out. It’s really important to be creative here. Nature uses layer after layer of texture and the results are beautiful.

Dubai is home to thousands of British expats. What key differences should expats consider when it comes to designing their home in the desert rather than back in the UK? What should they try and avoid here that they'd maybe incorporate into their interiors back home?
One of the luxuries that Dubai expats will have is the quality of light. They can be softer with tones because subtle beautiful tones will be rendered more clearly and in a way that it is just not back in the UK. The light in Dubai gives a freedom the UK doesn’t have to play with colour. The sun is so warm and vibrant, so cooler tones work really well; blues, greens and violets look particularly beautiful. Whereas in the UK we want to warm everything up, in somewhere like Dubai you have the opportunity to bring in cooler, hard textures like stone and marble. Warmth can be brought not only by fabric, but by warmer-toned woods - balancing those cooler textures and colours with warmer textures, warmer materials. Textured fabrics in cushions and accessories will make the scheme feel comfortable as well as beautiful.

When it comes to designing for a client, how do you to truly understand what that person wants from their space? Do you have any special techniques? Is that one of your favourite parts about being a designer, really getting to know your clients?
It’s what really excites me — being able to listen to somebody and translate their likes and dislikes into a discernible style even though they might not even know they have one. It’s a real skill and a big part of my job to decipher a client’s style and translate that into a coherent design. I’m interested in the client’s story, so that I can draw that out and show a journey in the pieces I choose — that might be some very modern piece that is very clean and sharp, next to an antique piece from Hong Kong because the client lived there for a period of their life, or got married or engaged there or some other significant life event. I love that story element of designing an interior.

What are the key elements anyone should consider when designing a living space?
Colour, lighting, space and planning. Balancing colours with soft neutral tones is important. Whatever the colour choice, pay attention to the neutral tones you choose to partner them with. We can bring more or less impact depending on how many neutrals we introduce to the scheme.   Lighting is also crucial - good lighting shows the true nature of colours. Design a lighting scheme that really shows your chosen colours off. Pick out beautiful architectural features and create a bit of drama in the room.  Space and planning. Remember to allow the space to breathe - a common mistake is to clutter the space with furniture and to think you need a piece in every single corner, but actually the space will just feel uncomfortable and claustrophobic. So remember to allow space around pieces for flow and calm.

When owning rental properties, what are the biggest dos and don'ts when it comes to their interior design?
Create a really beautiful, elegant backdrop that anybody could just walk into, with soft neutral tones. Don’t be afraid to add some colour in the accessories to give the scheme a bit of personality, maybe with a fabulous piece of art or some feature cushions. Don’t go garish with colour but do punctuate with it with some nice features and warm tones, inky colours work really well. Because the colour is only in the accessories - if somebody doesn’t like it then they can take it away easily enough.

This year’s INDEX Design Series runs from May 22 to 25 at the Dubai World Trade Centre. Register here to attend.