living
A LIFE OF YOUR OWN
The central attraction of the home, the living room is easily the most crucial space, setting the stage for life’s greatest moments

An alluring living room both draws you in and compels you to stay. Between entertaining and relaxing, you will undoubtedly create some of your best memories in this space. “From first glance, the living room should tell you about the habits, elegance and taste of the inhabitants,” says Hassan Arji, the man at the helm of the Marrakech and Paris-based architecture and design studio Arjitec. “My sources of inspiration are my travels; my house is a patchwork of style.” Laurence Puah, design director at akiHAUS agrees, saying “with the explosion of travel and the internet, home owners are now more exposed to different cultures and have come to appreciate the elegant tapestry of multiplicity.” Nebihe Cihan, the Turkey-born founder of the eponymous, London-based Nebihe Cihan Studio, also emphasises the idea of creating a space that tells a tale within its walls. “When it comes to decorating a living room, I like to tell a story, whilst also creating a functional space,” she says. “Often, in my projects, I like to section the space, so your living room tells multiple stories and serves multiple functions.” Choosing artwork may seem like an intimidating task, but founder and managing director of design and build consultancy Office Urban:I (OUI), Edward Tsui, says that it can be very approachable. “Artwork is becoming a popular décor for modern homes,” he says. “It doesn’t only refer to art pieces by artist or commercial sources, but can be sets of properly framed pictures from travel experiences to family portraits display in the living room, truly personalising the home.”

INSPIRATION: A BESPOKE TIMELESSNESS

To avoid having to change the interior of the living room every few years, you should choose a timeless design that will look fresh to you even after a few years. An eternal home is neither over the top or boring, but it comes in a multi-layered approach that balances the feeling of being lived-in and curated. “A timeless style transcends time, which is both elegant and classic,” says Nebihe. “For me, style, without being trend-driven, is the key. Something that is effortless and not too contrived or overly decorated.”


Photography: Daqi Zhang

This is why Edward takes extra effort and time to develop a thorough understanding of his clients’ habits and preferences before formulating the overall design concept. “Instead of a preconceived style to be imposed, we believe each home deserves a bespoke design approach to create a truly unique character of space with personal taste,” he says.


Photography: Banda Property | Simon Upton 

For Hassan, timelessness comes from drawing inspiration from his childhood. “Having grown up in Morocco, Middle Eastern and Moroccan design are strong sources of inspiration,” he recalls. “There is an ode to Middle Eastern and Moroccan design in all my projects around the world.”

COLOURS AND TEXTURES

Versatile and easy to layer, all four designers unanimously agree that a neutral colour scheme is an ideal backdrop for a living room that will never go out of style, for you can regularly change up your living space with rich furnishings. “Warm tones with soothing patterns are recommended, such as muted colour palette of sand beige, soft clay or warm greys, highlighted with trims in darker matching colours,” Edward comments. “If the owner prefers to have expressive patterns through wood grain or stone finish, it is suggested to only apply on one main surface in the living room and not on all walls or floor. Otherwise, it will be overcrowded visually,” opines Laurence. 


Interior Photography: Stephan Julliard and Ian Phillips; Styling: Natalya Onufreychuk  

“I start by understanding the climate, natural light and the use of the space when I select the colours and textures for the living room. I consider how the client interacts in their space and the function. This enables me to ascertain how I can maximise space and light,” Nebihe explains, drawing examples from her works. “In the Bel Air residence I recently completed, I preferred a very tonal and neutral palette. I played with a lot of linens and outdoor fabrics, such as drapes, to expose the light in the living room area. Since the palette was very light, in order for it not to feel dull and flat, I selected a variety of furnishings that were rich in texture, to create a layered, multi-dimensional look. To achieve a visual unity, I chose materials which echo nature, such as a lot of wood in the furniture, natural stones on the fireplaces and leather upholstery.”


Photography: Stephen Johnson

Along the same line of thought, Hassan chose white to be his favourite colour because “it is clean, modern and matches all other colours. I love to use neutral colours for flooring, ceilings and walls (beige, white, cream, ivory, eggshell, etc.), and then I brighten it up with strong colours in furniture, curtains, artwork and decorative accessories.” 

FIXTURES AND FURNISHINGS

It’s easy to pick up an item on impulse and be drawn to its visual appeal without really considering what you would ever need it for. For this reason, it’s best to keep in mind that form should follow function when it comes to interior design to avoid fall into the trap of creating spaces full of unnecessary items just because they shine. 


Photography: Jose Manuel Alorda

“When I am designing, I always think of the function of each piece of furniture, first and foremost. When choosing furniture, each piece you select should be comfortable, functional and durable,” Nebihe stresses. “I would advise investing in timeless pieces which are sophisticated in terms of design and feature rich textures. I avoid furnishings which are flat and dull. For example, if I am proposing a collectable design or an art piece to my clients, I always think of timelessness. Invest in pieces that age well with time and that you will not tire of.”


Photography: Prue Ruscoe

In Hassan’s home, the investment takes the form of a lovely limestone flooring called Crema Fatima from Portugal, which he also used for the private villas at the Four Seasons Marrakech. While he likes to bring home a decorative piece home every time he travels, he makes sure that it is always curated with meaning. “I especially like my bronze hardware, I designed it myself and had a mould made in Spain,” Hassan quips. “Furthermore, I designed three chandeliers and had them made in Marrakech by an amazing local craftsman.”


Designed by Arjitec; Photography: Francis Amiand


It never hurts to plan for the long-term and purchase furnishings with a purpose, for in a practical sense, they can increase in value in the future. Quoting Edward, “These items, be it a designer lamp or a piece of vintage furniture in good condition, are great talking pieces for social occasions. Sometimes they also have the potential to appreciate as an investment piece.”

(Cover image photography: Reylia Slaby)

Tips
  • Choose materials which echo nature, such as a lot of wood in the furniture, natural stones on the fireplaces and leather upholstery.
  • Use neutral colours for flooring, ceilings and walls (beige, white, cream, ivory, eggshell, etc.), and then brighten it up with strong colours in furniture, curtains, artwork and decorative accessories.
  • It never hurts to plan for the long-term and purchase furnishings with a purpose, for in a practical sense, they can increase in value in the future.
Products
Expert Advice
NEBIHE CIHAN
NEBIHE CIHAN STUDIO

I gravitate towards natural materials and like to showcase neutral palettes, which create a warm and intimate environment when it comes to colours. I use high-quality natural materials, such as wood, natural stones and leather, to form the base for my projects. To bring it to life, I use texture, leaning towards rich textures to introduce a layering effect. I love to use French and Italian furnishings, in particular. Woven, bouclette and heavyweight linen fabrics feature heavily in my designs.

THE TREND NOWADAYS IS TO INTRODUCE EDGY ARTWORK OR SCULPTURES AS A FOCAL POINTTHE TREND NOWADAYS IS TO INTRODUCE EDGY ARTWORK OR SCULPTURES AS A FOCAL POINT

HASSAN ARJI
ARJITEC

Use interior design services but always add a personal touch to make it your own. Don’t try to make it look like a patchwork of places where you have been around the world. Your living room is not a hotel suite, nor a restaurant.

MY HOUSE IS A PATCHWORK OF STYLEMY HOUSE IS A PATCHWORK OF STYLE

EDWARD TSUI
OFFICE URBAN:I (OUI)
  • A contemporary living room goes beyond being a place for relaxation and TV entertainment. It calls for high-tech personalisation and the opportunity for the five senses experience. Consider home equipment controlled by a smart IOT system to enhance the personal experience through convenience offered by technology.

  • Lighting is key for shaping an interior space, especially for a place such a living rooms. Many people in Hong Kong use to go for white fluorescent lights for their homes, but this has become an outdated practice. To create an elegant, soothing and relaxing ambience, it is recommended for the lighting stay below 3000k source, within the warm white range. Soft spotlights to highlight artwork or pictures can be considered for a feature wall. If the owner looks for more variety of moods, investing in a smart lighting system is the way to go.

A CONTEMPORARY LIVING ROOM CALLS FOR THE FIVE SENSES EXPERIENCEA CONTEMPORARY LIVING ROOM CALLS FOR THE FIVE SENSES EXPERIENCE


Room By Room Guide Filled With Expert Advice