Interior design with Amanda Neill

New Zealand designer Amanda Neill discusses interior design trends and how to give your home a cohesive look

Interview with Amanda Neill furniture, home, interior design, gray, brown
Interview with Amanda Neill

While anyone can fill a home with ornaments and furniture, it takes an experienced designer to give a space a cohesive look. Amanda Neill has been designing interiors for many years, bringing her eclectic style to all of her projects. We spoke with Amanda to learn about her approach. 

Thanks for chatting to us Amanda. So, what initially got you into design?

I had been running a children’s wear company with my sister called Just Kidding right at the time when the government removed the tariffs on importing children’s wear into New Zealand. As a result, many of the smaller companies crashed and burned because it was just too costly to compete with overseas manufacturers.

When we closed the doors on that business I remember going “Well, what now?”. I’d studied in Sydney and London and I was really passionate about design so I thought I’d go back to school and restudy in the New Zealand environment. Everything sort of grew from there! 

Do you work for mostly New Zealand or international clients?

We work with people throughout New Zealand, but we also work with a number of international clients. Right now I’m doing a home project up in the Isle of Man. It’s so easy now, thanks to things like Skype which allow me to have a chat with people as if we were in the same room. Add 3D rendering to the mix and there’s no need for me to even be on site – unless I’m project managing.

How do you see those 3D technologies evolving?

Well, with the Isle of Man project, for example, we’ve done 3D renderings of every room. We have a graphics team in India who we liaise with to produce photorealistic images and we then send these to clients for approval. It’s amazing. It's only getting better too. Now we're doing 3D walkthroughs and other really cool things. The mind boggles with how it's going to get better.

Where do you usually go for inspiration?

Last year I went to the Milan design fair. That was completely inspiring. We started with a Blum tour in Austria before heading down to Spain and doing a tour there. We just got totally inspired by the new products and just seeing the trends in Europe. With the speed of technology we're often outside the square as New Zealand designers in that we're not bound by things like age-old Corinthian columns. So much of European design is basically "this is the way you do it as this is the way it's always been done". We have this number 8 wire kind of design aspect. We're a little bit braver, we push boundaries. We're a little more eclectic.

Designers are using more natural materials and architecture, cabinetry, countertop, cuisine classique, floor, flooring, hardwood, house, interior design, kitchen, real estate, wood, wood flooring, brown, open shelving, shelving
Designers are using more natural materials and going with darker, more intimate tones.

Do have a favourite trend you're seeing right now?

I love combining metals. I find this really exciting. I don't even mean just real metals, but with new technology we're able to make things look like metal. We've just designed a table that's sprayed in copper but imprinted in Victorian lace. We're also bringing in a lot of natural materials. I'm also noticing this in the wider industry. Designers are using more natural materials and going with darker, more intimate tones. I see them using more dark blues and dark greens – moving away from the white kitchens we've had forever. They help to create more human, intimate spaces.

Do you have any key design principles you'd share with someone about to renovate?

I think the key starting point is asking yourself how you want the space to feel. Every other decision comes after this. For me personally, design is about that human connection to a space. It’s thinking about every one of our senses. Really sit down and think about what you want out of the room you’re designing. After you’ve given this some thought, you can use the other design elements to create the feeling. There’s a reason this is the first part of my brief. I take clients through magazines and websites and ask them what they like about different spaces. I ask questions like “How does this make you feel?” and “Why do you like that?”.

How often do clients bring their own ideas to the table?

Some people are good at knowing what they don't want and they have no idea what they do want. Some people know what they want but have no idea how to pull it all together. When you're doing a new build you can have two or three hundred products or decisions that all need to be pulled together. If one of them falls over it's like a knock on domino effect – everything else changes.

Do you like to carry things over from existing spaces or start fresh?

I don't really have a preference, for me it's not about putting my personal preference into a design. It's about how the client wants to feel. So if I've got a place where it's a small renovation and they've already got grandma's collection that they have to work with then you just have to work with it. When you have a blank canvas you get to push boundaries a little more so I do really like that.

Amanda sees 3D printing becoming more established furniture, product design, table, wood, gray
Amanda sees 3D printing becoming more established in the next few years.

Are you ever given free reign to create a space?

I am, although I still find it important to take people through that process I described before. The hardest thing, in my opinion, will be going through this process when I renovate shortly! I'll have to go through my own brief.

What trends do you see taking hold in the next few years?

I definitely see 3D printing becoming more established, especially the ability to create new materials and products right here in New Zealand. I actually think artificial intelligence will come into design too, although I'm not sure how yet. I also see home automation taking off. This is happening now, but I think it'll be much more of an everyday, established thing. AI could definitely become an advisor for home designers and their clients.

Any last advice or final words of wisdom for people?

My advice would be to develop an overview plan of what you want out of a renovation. I often walk into houses where people have a made a start on a project, where they’ve been renovating as time or money permits. These usually always end up as ad-hoc renovations, never really going anywhere and lacking cohesion. Just get that plan down so you have something to stick to. The other thing is to really know and understand the products you’re going to be using. Make sure fabrics fit the room and are durable, or you’re just throwing money away. That's why it's a good idea to hire a designer! We've got to know all about these materials and what works and what doesn't.

If you’re preparing to sell or want to improve your house, take a good look at current trends and get advice from professionals. We’ve also got more advice in the Home section of our website.

Story by: Trends

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