Delight is the wholesome goal of interior designers- to create and craft a space to an aesthetic that will beckon a particular ambience and cohesion.
And whether this delight is visual and functional or one or the other, the context of satisfaction may vary and change, thus calling for a new look and demands for either a quick makeover or complete renovation.
These creative conquests are the driving force of Kameel Shariff, who took a pragmatic approach to this venture by spending an extended period in market research after registering Innovative Designs and Solutions in 2015.
“I took a year or so to research and understand the market and how everything operated in Fiji. I was born in Fiji but grew up in California where I lived and schooled till college. I left America and lived in New Zealand, where I started studying law and then finished my degree at the University of the South Pacific, here in Fiji. After the completion of that, I lived and worked in a law firm in Australia before moving back to Fiji to start my company and to live out my passion for interior designing.”
Based in the capital, Innovative Designs and Solutions is one of a local pool of professional interior designers, and its owner admits that foraying into this sector has unearthed some prevalent shortcomings of general property owners in Fiji.
“The mentality of many locals has yet to be given an opportunity to think differently in terms of designing and planning. This is resulting in homes still being designed looking the same as they did 50 to 60 years ago.”
There are of course differing architectural leanings for differing spectrums of the housing market- such as resort homes and villas dominating the residential landscape of opulent residencies like Denarau Island, Naisoso Island, Volivoli Point, Pacific Harbour, and upmarket outer island communities.
“At the moment, the biggest trend is the need to have a contemporary or modern looking home. Property owners are moving away from the conventional style homes that we have had in the past. As better materials come in the market, we are seeing better looking homes. There is also a rise for villa style homes where there are big balconies and patios. A lot of people are wanting swimming pools and decks on their property; which is also a great way to add value as well.”
On the general front however, Shariff notes that creative undertakings have much to expand upon, which has also kept companies in this line of work busy.
“The demand is relatively heavy in Suva but we have been receiving clients from Nadi and Lautoka as well. The rest of the island doesn’t reach out as much but I think it’s due to a lot of companies not being able to reach out to them.”
Enclosed spaces to demarcate functional parts of living areas have been a prevalence that Shariff hopes property owners will reconsider.
“A major common mistake I have come across is that people do not design an open flowing living room and kitchen. Having closed off areas tends to make the space look smaller and confined. I think generally people just don’t take the time to have a professional designer come and lay out the floor plan and design to the best use of the space. It goes from the architect and then straight to the contractor to begin construction.”
Other points that need to be considered is the choice of paint and tile combinations and improved lighting, he adds.
“Having a lot of lights does not necessarily mean they all have to be turned on and used all at the same time. Also, people do not consider closet space and room layouts at the initial stage of planning. The best thing people can do to help improve those qualities is to facelift their properties, which can be achieved through painting the interior or exterior and upgrading to modern lights and fixtures, as well as applying tiles to walls and other surfaces as opposed to having bare cement. Upgrading to well-designed fences and gates also add to the curb appeal of properties.”
Landscaping is another key pointer, with Shariff noting that this helps lift exterior designs and the value of properties.
“Generally, people do not care about how their yards look- they do not bother about how driveways are made and gardens, trees and plants get heavily overlooked, though they are essential in beautifying properties.
Some houses look great but the yard and landscaping make it extremely unappealing, so landscaping really needs to change and become a big part of the designing process. Current homeowners can also certainly benefit greatly from landscaping as well.”
Growing up in California exposed him to fine architectural work and the experience of witnessing professional interior designers transform spaces with sheer creativity, while his own domestic setting certainly honed this eventual career path.
“I transitioned from a law career into interior designing and project management a few years ago as I always had an interest and passion in interior designing and landscaping. I grew up in a household where we always did maintenance work ourselves regardless of which country our home was in, so renovating gave opportunities for me to express my creativity and learn at the same time.”
Close to three years after registering his design company, its services include interior and exterior designing, all renovation works, landscaping, and recently introduced painting techniques.
“We are doing painting using airless spray machines, as our goal is to change the primitive ways of doing things here and introduce innovation. I believe companies need to provide more affordable interior and exterior designing services so that people can consider hiring the services of professionals to design better homes.
Currently there is a lack of understanding as to what interior designers do and the benefits they can provide to our real estate development.”
Cohesion, functionality, character, and context provide a focal basis for home design and as Shariff highlights, including professional designs or project manager from the initial stages of planning are likely to yield better looking homes for its occupants to enjoy, while retaining great property value when put on the rental or selling market.
“As we get nicer homes in the market, the more affordable it’ll get will eventually and inadvertently raise the standard of living in Fiji.”