We’ve been talking to Nadya Savannah Sawney about her career as an interior designer, current trends, how art impacts an interior and about her work at Decor Diva Interiors.
Could you give us a brief outline of the background of your business and what services you offer?
My creative talents and my ability to translate a client’s visual desires are the backbone to my business. I offer the usual services supplied by an interior designer… but my forte is my ability to ‘see’ paint colour on walls before it is applied. This gives me the confidence to advise and consequently inspire my clients about paint colour choices. I firmly believe that transformation of rooms absolutely can be achieved simply by having the ‘right’ paint colour on your walls; likewise get it wrong and no amount of fabulous furniture, window dressings or accessories will look good.
How long have you been working as an Interior Designer?
Since a child. In business: 3 years.
Why did you decide to become an Interior Designer?
Expression through interiors has always been part of who I am. So in essence the only change I made was to make it into a business. It has always been a deeply intuitive gift, for which I am very grateful.
What were you doing beforehand and how did this lead you into Interior Design?
I rode horses for a living; worked in the Music Industry then the Television industry. All the aforementioned are very creative areas… all supported my creative talents. And always over the years I was helping friends and family to make interior choices. So the transition into interior design being my full time business was quite effortless on one level but also the beginning of hard work to get my name ‘out there’.
Above: Nadya Savannah Sawney
Where are you based?
I am currently based in Buckinghamshire. I work from home so my environment is what I make it. Working on my own from home can be quite insular but somehow that alone time balances out between family life and commissions. Sometimes I get my best creativity flowing when I am working on a project alone at home. Other times one needs interaction with people and places. I guess it is all about balance. Indeed, so is interior design.
Do you work alone or do you have assistance?
I work alone.
How would you describe the kind of work you do?
The work I do is translating a client’s visual desires into an interior reality that feels and looks comfortable, harmonious and inspirational. I call that ‘Luxury with Imagination’.
Do you have a particular style?
Yes I do …and it’s called good taste! One may say that good taste is subjective, and of course it is, but I feel that within us all is a built-in barometer of what feels good to look at and live in. As a designer my aim is to find that ‘feel good’ feeling within my client and then work from there. Sometimes that involves showing alternatives to their taste; steering them away from a look that has no visual harmony to something that they love yet previously would never have thought of. Other times I expand on the clients taste. Again, showing alternatives that would have previously remained undiscovered. And let’s not forget the clients home. It too has a voice – rooms will let you know what works and what does not.
Has working in the music and television had an impact on the style of your work?
Absolutely. When I first worked for a rock star in the 70′s I was based at his Manor house in Gloucestershire. I was used to such homes being decorated in quite traditional ways but his home not only had that style but also influences from Morocco and America. The look and feel of that house along with the interior of Blakes Hotel in London certainly had a very positive and lasting effect on my creative outlook towards home interiors. I spent time staying at the hotel in the mid seventies and the interior designed by Anouska Hempel was totally fabulous and unique.She was also designing amazing interiors back then and using certain colours on walls way before any other designer took those kind of leaps. And it all worked to perfection. Her work is so inspirational.
Does listening to music or watching TV ever inspire design ideas?
I garner inspiration from the music that I listen to all day and every day when I am working. And like most consumers, I watch television as a way of ‘switching off’. Suffice to say if a item of furniture, lighting or window dressing leaps out to me I certainly do take note.
Do you ever take inspiration from an artist’s work or an art movement?
I feel inspiration in abundance when looking at art that I like. I just adore the work of Eoghan Bridge. His sculptors of horses with humans are exquisite. They literally fill me with the warmth and love they exude when I look at those pieces. My Husband introduced me to early American artists such as Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton. I love their work namely because of how they use colour to describe their imagery. The black and white photographer O.Winston Link (also American) captures exceedingly strong emotion through his work and Richard Avedon is another amazing photographer… his work is simply stunning!
Do you use specific types of materials or colours in your work?
I am not held by any particular materials. Having said that; there are some materials I loathe. Pine and artex spring to mind! Plus, I am not afraid to suggest deep colours to a client. Especially for a small space. I so disagree with the notion that one should always paint a small room or a dark room in a light colour. A deep colour in a small room makes a statement, which is ‘I mean it, I am small, strong and gorgeous!’
Have you ever done or considered any commercial work?
Thus far I have not done any commercial work. I would welcome the opportunity, depending on what it is of course!
What size of house do you usually work on?
There have been a range of sizes and not as one would imagine always easier because of house and room size. Sometimes a very large drawing room/sitting room would be a designer’s dream to do; other times a nightmare! I seem to have attracted all different kinds of shapes and sizes of rooms and well as houses. From an 18th century cottage to a 50′s bungalow.
Do you mainly work on whole houses or just rooms?
Both. One of the services I offer is paint colour consultations which is what is says on the tin. But invariably the client sees such a profound transformation from my paint colour suggestions, I am asked to extend my input. So what can begin to be a paint colour commission for one room will extend to more interior design for the room and other rooms in the house.
What is your dream project?
A huge country house here to renovate and add on to; I love Orangey’s and would build a massive one onto the kitchen and grace it with scrumptious furniture, rugs, art, mirrors and flowers. Then I would cross the pond and ‘Decor Diva’ a beach house in California!
Who would you like to work with if you could?
Ralph Lauren or Anouska Hempel. Both of whom are designers of distinction, class and style. I simply adore their interiors and garner tremendous inspiration from each of them.
Who would be your dream client?
It is characteristics more than a name. He/She/They would be aware of their visual strengths and weaknesses and be honest to themselves and therefore me throughout the process of the job. It is my call to translate the feeling and ideas a client has about their living space through my interior design and it is the client’s call to be open to inspiration whilst remaining true to themselves. Just think back to the hundreds of TV makeover shows and how one knew as soon as the TV crews were gone …the ‘new look’ would be following swiftly behind!
Are there any Designers or Artists you would love to collaborate with?
Ralph Lauren, Anouska Hempel, Bob Dylan, Eoghan Bridge, Heather Jansch.
What defines success in the industry for you?
Word of mouth recommendations. Features on my work in major interior design magazines and in on line publications such as The Art Curator.
What are your plans and aims for the next year, 5 years?
To continue to inspire and be inspired. To have national and international recognition for my work.
What’s popular in the Interior Design world now?
Deep colours seemingly are making a comeback. Which is fantastic as companies like Farrow & Ball have some very beautiful deep colours. Because of the pigment in their paint the paint colour changes throughout the day and evening depending on the light in the room. To me that is a most glorious and generous contribution from a paint colour to a room and I thank F&B for that!
What’s cool for 2012?
Sourcing, sourcing and more sourcing. If you love a ‘look’ or a piece of furniture in a magazine that you just love but do not have the budget for, sourcing for the items or something similar can solve that.
Any particular colours or themes?
I love mixing fabrics always have… Paisleys with leopard skin prints; plaids with flower prints; pinstripes with checks or any combination there of. Needless to say the fabric’s material, design and colours are all important to get the ‘look’ right. Use any of the aforementioned in fabrics that fall short of the mark and one would have a dreadful mess of garishness on one’s hands. Use the right fabrics and one has created something very special.
Do you feel that you are defining trends?
I am not sure I am able to answer that today. Ask me again in a few years time! My input is unique but it also has ears..ie: I listen to what my clients ‘feel’ they want and then I translate that directive through my talent and experience. Of course I also garner inspiration from trends that successful designers have given us all. But I am not held prisoner by them. Nor should anyone else feel they have to go for a particular look because it is fashionable. That look may not work for their home, bits and pieces of it may. That is where I come in, to get the ‘jigsaw pieces’ looking like the perfect fit.
Do trends in Interior Design often follow similar trends in music and fashion?
Yes, I think so. Especially in the UK where we have seasons. Where as in the spring and summer months one’s interior wants to breathe in the sun and the colours in your home will want to reflect that; in the autumn and winter months our rooms like to feel cosy and warm and of course wall colour and or accessories can achieve the change. But as with music and fashion. Our tastes change, what one loved two years ago may be something you can’t stand looking at today.
That is why I will always advise clients on NOT going with a new trend in an area that is costly and disruptive to change. Loud and garish splashbacks spring to mind.
Do you consider Interior Design as an art form in itself?
Yes I do. How a room’s interior ‘speaks’ can change its language and therefore translation to being one of clarity – to one of confusion.
How can a single piece of art change the mood of a room?
It can completely change the vibe of a room… exactly like a human can. Art like us is energy and each piece has its own vibration. The key is to allow the piece to ‘be’ without it compromising the space around it and vice versa.
Do you incorporate artwork in any of your existing designs?
Yes, yet having said that I do not think artwork should dictate anything to a room other than it’s own particular beauty. When a client starts talking about ‘matching’ furniture, wall colour and or accessories to artwork I steer them away from that concept. Other wise the artwork and the room’s interior become to busy for one’s sub-conscious. One starts feeling uneasy rather than inspired and relaxed.
Do you have any artwork up in your office/studio?
Yes I do. I have artwork which was chosen for several reasons; not least because of it’s vibe. I think most people choose artwork for the feel they get from it. I am also not afraid to mix up a take on a theme by various artists, or indeed integrate paintings with other forms of art. I have a horse’s head sculpture that sits on one side of my desk that sometimes I find myself stroking!
Is it inspiring, motivating, or does it set any other kind of mood?
The art work and the sculpture do offer me a very relaxing and inspiring vibe. None of it is overpowering.
Do you have a favourite painter?
I enjoy quite an eclectic array of painters. I love the evocative work of Edward Hopper. His work entitled “Cape Cod Morning’ puts one in that location. I really like his other paintings too. I also enjoy portraits of Native American Indians. The power and the energy in those faces is quite extraordinary. Some Cuban art has been known to inspire me as their use of colour is so different to any artist working in a different climate therefore light. And being a horse lover, I do love Stubbs – although not a painter per se, the Driftwood Horse Art created by Heather Jansch is truly beautiful.
Each artist I like, all seem to appeal to my sense of strength that I receive, when feeling and looking at light, colour, space and emotion.
Is it important to have a focal point or centrepiece in a room?
I do think it is useful to have a centrepiece and or focal point in a room. It is a good place to start for balance.
How might someone display a painting or sculpture in a room?
Carefully and thoughtfully. I do not mean that to sound flippant. I really do mean carefully and thoughtfully. A painting or indeed a sculpture placed incorrectly in a room will not only ‘fight’ the space but also distract from the beauty of the piece or painting.
What factors of the room does art affect? E.g. colours, soft furnishings, room accents?
It would affect all the factors of the room and the key words are complement, complement and complement again. Everything about an art piece has to be taken into consideration… its size, colour and its statement. I have seen art hung where is does nothing for the picture or the room. Suffice to say, I have seen that same piece of art work hung elsewhere sometimes simply on a different wall in the same room and suddenly one has a stunning visual experience.
What steps did you take to break into the industries of Interior design?
I said yes to a friend asking me to renovate her property.
What path would you recommend to someone considering it as a career now?
Belief in one’s ability is crucial and in practical terms..anything from doing work experience in interior design shops to work experience with a designer.
Have client’s expectations changed?
I think the interior make over TV’s shows have given people a very odd perception of how long things can take. For good and for bad. This is were communication with the client is crucial. Expectations need to be aired and then the reality of them talked about. Informed discussion and informed choices are always my preference.
What are the advantages of hiring an Interior Designer?
Getting ‘it’ right. How many times have I seen as a friend (let alone as a designer) homes that have been vandalised with bad design choices. I once went to a house whose owner was very proud of how she had ‘matched’ her kitchen floor tiles to her pine orange cupboards. Visually it looked as though a whole load of pumpkins had exploded in that room. It could have all looked so different. Individually nothing was wrong with the tiles or the cupboards but together their colours just did not work. That is where an interior designer can save the day and together with the client create a fantastic kitchen or what ever room it happens to be.
Can you give us 5-10 reasons why someone should hire an Interior Designer if they are thinking about giving their house a makeover?
As above is one reason! As above is a second, third, fourth reason.. and so on! Most people think that hiring an interior designer is very expensive without actually knowing what costs are involved. I have saved my clients a lot of money especially with paint colour choices and also through guidance to the right product or furniture item.They experience getting it right the ‘first time’ instead of ‘eventually’ through trial and error, the client ends up saving money and time and more importantly – enjoying the process. No one is going to love their new interiors if the journey was full of stress and costly mistakes.
Our thanks go out to Nadya Savannah Sawney for her time answering our questions.
You can find out more about Nadya and her interior design business via her website at www.decordivainteriors.com.