Q&A with Interior Designer Audrey Lee

Besides managing her own interior design firm, Audrey Lee is also the brains behind retail space The GoDown, which houses beautiful pieces of home furnishings and décor accessories. We speak to her to find out what she thinks makes a good home.

Updated on June 12, 2017 18:06 pm

Michelle Ong

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For interior designer Audrey Lee, having a home that is tasteful yet thoughtfully planned is very important. “Practicality goes hand in hand with good design,” she says. “Good design makes spaces more liveable, doesn’t it?"

To achieve beautifully designed spaces that are also practical for the client, she and her team at Audrey Lee Interiors conduct in-depth interviews at the onset to help clients realise the potential of each space as a reflection of their lifestyle and preferences. The team will even sit with the kids sometimes and talk to them to find out what special things they want in their rooms.

For most of the firm's projects, she adds her own special touch by including eclectic items like those found in her shop, The GoDown, which also doubles as her interior design office. "Godowns," according to her, are described as warehouse spaces in East Asia during the 19th and 20th centuries for loading and unloading goods. The GoDown is such a space—here, you’ll find hand-selected home furnishings and décor accessories from around the world, each with its own interesting story.

Armed with this arsenal of home and décor gems, as well as 16 years of interior designing knowledge, Audrey is well-versed in creating elegant yet liveable homes. We speak to her to find out her thoughts on design and what gives her inspiration when working on projects.

How did you get started as an interior designer?
I was in the furniture business for 12 years, importing mostly European furniture. But I've always had an inclination towards interior design, so I took courses to educate myself and learn more about the principles of design. After I earned a certificate, my former employer let me style our clients' homes with the furniture we sold.

Where do you usually find inspiration from?
I find inspiration when I travel. Besides Europe and the US, Asia—specifically Bali—is always an inspiring place to go to because there are no rules there. People build whatever they want, and they use whatever materials they have, and often create some amazing design-forward pieces. So it’s like a testing ground to try first and see what creativity happens!

Would you say some of the architecture in Bali is inspiring to you?
Yes, sometimes. Because the culture not only allows them to use materials that you would never think of using but they also come from a different mindset and lifestyle. They’re very creative that way.

When did you start going to Bali?
I’ve been going there for 15 years now, on a regular basis. It’s like a second home for me—whenever I feel drained, I go there to recharge. The energy there is different from Singapore. Every part of Bali has something different for me because there are mountains and oceans. From a community perspective, there are influences from people from all across the world who bring their cultures and ideas into Bali. That makes it even more interesting because it’s not just Balinese culture—it’s the whole world gathered there to be creative.

You mentioned you get inspired by nature. Would you say a lot of your work has the element of nature in it?
Yes, quite a lot. I’m very much into the ocean so you’ll see a lot of natural, nautical, beach-y inspirations in my work. The beautiful coastal waters often reflect a relaxed, sophisticated and casual lifestyle. From intricately carved teak and other wood furnishings unified with nature-inspired warm tones and romantic soft hues, they create a contemporary, comfortably chic décor.

Are the materials you use from nature as well?
Sustainability is one of the factors that I consider when sourcing a piece of furniture or décor. For example, for an installation in a home that required the use of shells, I used shells from oysters farmed for oyster sauce. They were about to be thrown away, but instead we had them collected and manufactured into round semi-translucent discs.

Tell us about your favourite projects so far.
One recent residential project that we did was a black and white colonial house on Nassim Road. It was the first time I was asked to build a pool. I had no experience, but I took on the challenge to create an uninterrupted indoor and outdoor living space for the client.

Another one was actually a sensual adult boutique—not a normal project for us. It was quite fun. The upmarket contemporary interiors is a vast shift from the traditional adult shop to make customers feel comfortable, relaxed, and open to celebrating their sexual well-being. It was quite interesting, but we thought we could bring a new vision to this industry, and the result was that the client was very happy.

And then there's one of my very first projects with a Swedish lady who lived on Chancery Lane. She has very good taste but simply didn’t know how to put it together. Thankfully though, our tastes were quite similar. The project was done 12 years ago but still looks contemporary by today's standards. It goes to prove that the items we put in there were really timeless.

It seems like a lot of your designs are very clean.
It’s clean, but I like to add a contemporary quirk to give the space a bit of personality. For very clean spaces, you feel like you can’t touch anything. When kids go in, they feel like they shouldn't put anything on the table. What’s the point of having furniture the whole family can’t use?

How can a homeowner keep his home looking the way it was designed?
It all depends on the person's lifestyle. For example, in my store, I’m very particular about my flowers. If the flowers start to die, you have to change it right away. I’d rather have no flowers than dead flowers. You have to want to maintain your home. If you don’t, then no matter how many times someone gives tips, it’s not going to happen.

What has been your favourite part of being an interior designer?
When the client starts jumping up and down in joy. Seriously, that’s the best part. One my clients actually did that!

How can homeowners best communicate with their interior designers on what they want?
The interior designer has to ask the homeowners. The homeowners usually have so many ideas that they need an interior designer to rein in and create the space beyond what they envision in their minds. A successful project is only one part of the creative vision. Other critical factors include open communication, strategic project leadership, organised and transparent practices, and client relationships. With any project, my primary goal is to help realise the potential of each space as a reflection of the client's lifestyle and preferences.

Tell us about The GoDown.
The store has been around for about two and a half years now. This was our design studio before, and it looked like an apartment: there was actually a bed, a lounge area, even a kitchen. However, because it was the only area on this stretch of the road that was renovated, people kept knocking on our door. They'd ask "What’s this place? Is it a home? Is this a shop?'" It was then that we realised it was an under-utilised space.

So I thought to myself that as an interior designer, it's so difficult to find that one special piece to complete a project or unique décor to complement a space. And that's when The GoDown was conceived.


What kind of items do you sell in your store?
The GoDown stocks a vast array of lifestyle home décor—from re-found discoveries to new, contemporary furnishings and home accessories—everything in the store is for sale. The concept brings wares to people through a collection of unique items found from all over the world that will be loved each day for a lifetime.

The GoDown is not just a retail space and studio, but also a place where workshops and even tasting sessions can be held. What kind of a place would you describe The GoDown to be?
A place that inspires a modern-day lifestyle. Whether it’s beautiful décor, food and wine, or personal wellbeing products, it's a space that reflects our daily lives.

Industrial or Scandinavian?
I would go for Scandinavian usually.

City or country?
City

Traditional or contemporary?
Contemporary

Morning or evening?
Definitely evening

Comfort food when it comes to conceptualising and designing?
Char Kway Teow. Whatever’s really bad for you, I’ll eat.

Favourite place in Singapore?
My shop! My clients tell me this is a cool place to hang out.

Favourite furniture piece in your home?
My sofa. I don’t spend enough time on the couch, but whenever I get enough time, I spend it there.

Interior design trend you’re glad happened?
Bringing back retro vintage-inspired design. I’m really glad that happened.

Audrey's top three picks in her store

Ice kacang machine. "This reminds me of my childhood a lot. This has been around for 30 years and is still working fine —it just needs a block of ice! And it’s so beautiful, look at the work that went into it! Every part is there for a reason."

Crackle porcelain vases. "I like ceramics a lot. Every piece of a ceramic is handmade, functional, and yet pretty."

Tea light candle holders. "I think these candle holders are simple but lovely. They go well with any theme, whether it's casual, contemporary, or traditional. When I choose things, I think about what kind of space I can see a product in, whether traditional or contemporary and even modern outdoor living."

The Godown
44 Zion Road
Tel: +65 6333 8966
Email: shop@thegodownstore.com

Opening hours: Every day, 11am-7pm

Audrey Lee Interiors
44 Zion Road
Tel: +65 6333 8966
Email: contact@audreyleeinteriors.com


Who's your favourite furniture and interior designer? Email us at hello@cromly.com.

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