Five Interior Project Design Tips by Maryanne Quealy

Approaching an interior design project can be a very perplexing deal for many. A plethora of inspiration flows in from one angle and the application of practicality from another. How one blends these considerations is where the true art lies.

Today, we interview none-other than DDB’s lead Interior Designer, Maryanne Quealy. Together with DDB, Maryanne and the team have worked with many clients to bring alluring, forthcoming and award-winning designs to the world of architectural homes.

DDB: How would you describe your creative style?

MQ: I always approach an interior project with the same philosophy. The overall objective is that the interior energy feels peaceful when you walk in whether it is a city, country or beach location. I have a very strong intuitive response to my environment. So, for me, the interior must transport you to a place of relaxation and creativity, in order to escape the chaos of daily life.

I use a disciplined and cohesive approach, introducing uncomplicated functional design elements using natural finishes and organic textures. My style is specific in its detail, monotone in execution and probably more masculine in its feel. I think it is important that the interiors are of beautiful quality and add value by acting as the backdrop to reflect as well as complement the client’s personal lifestyle.

The use of luxurious finishes and mixed-use elements such as natural timber, beautiful stone, leather, glass and steel, are my preferred choices when creating a timeless interior. The art behind such combinations comes into play as I approach the project with key criteria in mind. I strategically adjust the percentage of the finishes we use in the home to maximise the client’s budget, without compromising the philosophy of the project.

Design Tip # 1:
My first tip in keeping with my philosophy, is to consider the following principles when considering an interior style project:

Cohesion: Always incorporate the use of an interior colour scheme to allow visual continuity within a room or set space. An effective colour palette will always act as a backdrop in support of other more beautiful textures or styles. Colour blocking adds chaos, so I rarely use it.

Discipline: I would advise never to deviate from the project theme. The interior must follow the same design integrity throughout the whole house, staying faithful to the colour scheme. Take for example a particular timber or a particular vintage style – staying with one style will always add design longevity to a project.

Uncomplicated: A uniform style is an integral and important component in achieving greater architectural impact. Think simple clean lines for cabinetry and tile detailing by using one medium repetitively in scale, or uniformly, over a large space.

Functional: A key principal when it comes to the use of space - be sure the functional use of the space is never compromised for a design trend. No matter how good the space looks at the time, if it doesn’t lend itself to practicality and flexibility, it can be a real disappointment down the track.

DDB: How would you suggest homeowners approach the concept of restyling their home?

MQ: DDB is in the fortunate position of having a business that attracts clients looking to upgrade their lifestyle through building a new home. They approach their projects with an open mind, trust in the services we provide as an experienced building company and are reasonably evolved when it comes to understanding interior trends. What they don’t have is the ability to detail interior finishes in a way that makes a home look cohesive, future proof and within budget.

My main design mantra with any client is to show them things they would never think of for their home.

As an experienced interior designer, I can solve problems such as the functional use of a space without compromising on the design. For example;

  • maximising storage with ingenuity (pantries, studies, laundries, kids’ desks)
  • add beautiful lighting detail
  • how to dress a window properly
  • great solutions for the designer within the client’s budget
  • rooms that flow, especially master ensuites and walk-in robes

Design Tip #2: 
In the initial project phase it is a good idea for a client to collect images of interiors, rooms and colour schemes they like. Great resources include snippets from magazines or pinboards on Pinterest in order to communicate their design brief visually. This also acts as a great way to interpret if a client has one simple approach to what they like or a mixed a bag of ideas.

I always recommend to a client to trust in the process. If it looks good on paper it will look ten times better in reality. Also, stay focused on the total design integrity of the project and never make decisions ad hoc. Unfortunately, for an interior designer the real appreciation for what you have done comes after the client has move into their home and begins to start interacting and engaging with the space. Then it all starts to make sense.

DDB: With so many new trends blending form with functionality, what is your top tip for a new client when it comes to considering a new design project?

MQ: Firstly, on a personal level, I like to know what a client wants from their interior, as this also reflects the mood we create.

Is it to have a showroom-style home with an intent to sell in 2 years’ time, or a more casual vibe for the family to relax in and enjoy? Is the client serious about entertaining in an environment that incorporates the latest trends, comforts and technology to impress guests, or is the home designed to be used as partly a professional space and partly living where zone-style living need to be applied? Is the aim to create a very private sanctuary in which the client will be staying for a long time, and therefore, seeks a timeless interior?

The “mood” for the project is a very important consideration too, and one to establish up front. When approaching a new interior project, are we thinking of bright and sunny interior with lots of light or a soft moody interior with lots of medium to dark comfort tones? Is the client after a totally natural and organic interior that feels earthy, or minimalist, or industrial using hard surfaces and lots of steel? Once we determine the mood and choices around finishes and colour themes, the design approach begins to flow, which will then influence tiling and finish choices for example.

Design Tip #3 

When starting an interior project, start with the floor. Once we establish the floor we work up, out and around. There is certainly credible depth in the saying “From the ground, up”.

DDB: What is your key tip for those looking to work with someone such as yourself, in order to create a relationship that brings their dream into formation and your expertise into play?

MQ: The association between the client and interior designer is a relationship that evolves over 6-12 months of decision-making and exploration of ideas. This is about something that is very personal to the client, and the interior designer has to be very respectful of that. Building a new home is the biggest investment that someone can make. It’s the role of the interior designer to guide the client into making smart decisions about their project, as well as maintain good control of the budget.

Design Tip #4

The dream will only become a reality if the clients other half or partner in the project, are on the same page. I always clarify up front who is driving the design decisions on this project, as this person is the one who I will be working with on a more personal and in-depth level. So, my tip here, is for the client(s) to identify their roles within the project, and to clarify the wants, needs and must-haves.


DDB: Mixed materials create amazing results both from a form and functional perspective. When a client is eager to delve into this area with you, what is your “go-to” tip?

Design Tip #5

MQ: On an interior design level, I always recommend that we only ever have one design hero in a room, and we build everything else around that element. For example, let’s take a beautiful wall of cabinetry in a room or a feature ceiling, or a very expensive but amazing stone floor, or an incredible island bench in a kitchen, and put all the money and focus into that one incredible feature. Its surroundings can be more moderate and play a complementary role in accentuating the feature. Too many of the latest trends can date a project very quickly.  Decorative features such as lighting or wall colours or rugs can easily be changed, so if a client is particularly wedded to a very transient trend, then I advise not to invest in it too heavily.


Great Resources:

Feel free to download our eBook on How to enjoy designing a new home or renovation.

Explore projects Maryanne has been involved in here.

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