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Interior Details: Yvette Jay Interior Design

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In this new series, we speak with leading interior designers from around the country, deep diving into some key projects in their repertoires and discussing their design processes and career histories. First up, Camille Khouri talks with Yvette Jay from Auckland-based Yvette Jay Interior Design.

Based in Auckland’s Westmere, Yvette Jay Interior Design opened its doors in 2004. Since then, sole practioner Yvette Jay has worked alongside many renowned architects in Auckland and further afield, building up a reputation as a creative, knowledgable and well-connected designer with an eye for detail.

Tell us the story of how Yvette Jay Interior Design started up?

Yvette Jay: Prior to starting in interior design, I studied architecture at the University of Auckland. I graduated with an architecture degree and worked for a few years in architecture practices, where I started to become more involved with the interiors of projects and I decided I really enjoyed that. I then worked at a couple of interior design practices and at a couple of suppliers’ showrooms. I moved into that area because I had a feeling that I wanted to have my own business but I didn’t have enough sales experience. So, after gaining that industry sales experience, I set up my own practice in 2004.

You collaborate with architects on projects but do you work with others in your practice?

I am the Managing Director and the tea lady when it comes to my own practice, so I do everything and I really enjoy working alongside architects on their projects as well. There are a few architects that I’m lucky to work with on a regular basis and it’s just a delight. It’s lovely to be a part of the team and to be working with them and their clients. Their clients have really made a massive commitment to quality of design by engaging architects and then engaging an interior designer as well, so I’m truly committed to following designs though and achieving something beautiful at the end of it. 

Interior Details: Yvette Jay Interior Design

A moody aesthetic is created in the kitchen at Lake Rotoiti. Image: Sam Hartnett

What was it that made you lean more towards interior design?

I think interiors are far more immediate than architecture, simply because of the process that is involved. You will see the results of your labour so much more quickly. It’s incredibly tactile. I have always loved fabric – I used to sew as a teenager. I loved going to this amazing fabric shop on Queen Street called Centrepoint. It was like an Aladdin’s cave and you would go down into their basement area and that is where they had all the best, most incredible fabrics. So it was combining my love of textiles and my love of architecture and design. Interiors seem to be a much more appropriate sector of the industry for me to be working in.

How do you approach an interior?

I always want to create an interior for my clients that is all about them and something that is honest to the architecture that it’s in. I want to give them something that makes their heart sing when it’s finished. So I’m looking at their loves, their passions, the architecture and then my desire to have something really beautiful and honest.

When you are approaching a new project, do you ask much of your clients in terms of a brief or do you just get a feel for it and have a discussion?

Interior Details: Yvette Jay Interior Design

Lake Rotoiti project, with architecture by DCA Architects. Image: Sam Hartnett

Every client is different. Some clients will want me to talk to them but then go away and come up with the inspiration. Others will be more heavily involved and they will have something already that is setting the design wheels in motion. It’s a mix between the two and every time is different.

Do you prefer them to give you some ideas about what they want or to have a clean slate?

I think the more the clients are involved, the better because then I’m going to give them something that is about them on so many layers. Their desires and their dreams are then knitted into every single surface and layer as we’re working through the project. So the more they are involved, the better. I love that.

Is it sometimes an artwork for the space or one furniture element that sets you off?

Yes, something like that. On the beautiful Lake Rotoiti project, I had worked with that client before so I understood what he liked. He was particularly hands-off with that one and just let me run, so I worked with the beautiful environment. You didn’t have to look towards anything else, it was just the incredible location.

Do you have a favourite project?

I’m particularly in love with that Lake Rotoiti project right now. For numerous reasons, it was quite a challenge and the lockdowns certainly made getting it finished far more fraught and convoluted than it should have been.

Interior Details: Yvette Jay Interior Design

A soft palette of timbers with black accents creates a contemporary look at Lake Rotoiti. Image: Sam Hartnett

Was this a renovation?

Yes, it was an existing ’80s Lockwood-style house and it was completely gutted. I got to romp through the interior from one end to the other. That was an amazing opportunity because the client trusted me to just go for it. The frustration with that we were locked down for four months as it was being finished. Many of the suppliers were up here in Auckland and they couldn’t get down there so it was much more fraught than it should have been. Ours was not the only one like that but now when I look back at photos, I’ve basically forgotten about all of that angst. It is delightful and it’s everything he wanted.

What were the main design aims for that project, in terms of colour scheme and material selections?

I was aiming for understated lodge chic for this house. Understated, masculine, contemporary. There is a place for everything because the client does not like clutter. Anything there is there for its beautiful form or texture. It’s a really beautiful and considered house.

Can you tell me about the Herne Bay house?

Interior Details: Yvette Jay Interior Design

Details in the Herne Bay apartment. Image: Sam Hartnett

That is this client’s other house. It was a really amazing project to work on because, again, he was fairly hands-off but as you can see, it is a very clean, modern, masculine aesthetic. It has a smidgen more colour, which is reflective of its location in the city. With the lakeside Rotoiti project, I was very much sticking to neutrals and either masculine forestry greens or playful lake blues through the various wings of the house.

And what about the Devonport Villa? Have you worked with Scarlet Architects often?

Yes. Back in the ’90s, I worked for Lindley Naismith for a few years and she is an incredible woman and a great mentor so I was fortunate to form the beginnings of a long-term friendship with her. She is someone whom I really respect. She’s incredibly hardworking and talented so to be able to come in and work with her and other members of the Scarlet team on their projects is really lovely because they’re great people to be a part of a team with.

Interior Details: Yvette Jay Interior Design

Devonport Villa with interior design by Yvette Jay and architecture by Scarlet Architects. Image: Sam Hartnett

It is quite bold, isn’t it?

Exactly. Scarlet did beautiful additions and alterations to this house, so you have got the beautiful traditional front and you have got the really chic contemporary extension at the back and you can feel this transitioning as you walk through. It is because of the materials and the way the colours are used in certain areas that the overall aesthetic cohesion is achieved. That’s because there are certain elements that just run the whole way through.

Can you tell us a bit about the Mt Eden Villa project?

These were really lovely clients. The renovation on this was probably spread over five or six years. The first thing I did with them was renovate the bathroom and en-suite. Then, a few years later, they got me back and we did the rest – a new kitchen, a whole new interior colour scheme, new flooring… we just finished the rest of it off. The really delightful thing about this was that my client sold this house about a year ago and when they were having the open home, people kept saying how lovely and cohesive it was and they were really delighted because they could understand the decisions I had made, six or so years ago. It was all relevant and I carried it through with all the new things as well so it didn’t look bitsy, but the whole thing has come together. That’s the advantage of getting someone like me in.

Interior Details: Yvette Jay Interior Design

Floating curtain fabrics and carefully chosen furnishings in the Mt Eden villa. Image: Sam Hartnett

The Remuera apartment is interesting with lots of texture and colours, including a lot of leopard print.

Yes. They’re fabulous clients. This was my third project with her and we’re now onto the fourth one. She is so much fun. She is really into interiors and I was let off the chain with this one. She really wanted to make it quite special so we went with some very luxe finishes, as you can see, around the fireplace and on the kitchen cabinetry. She loves gold, she loves leopards – it’s just a pure celebration of those beautiful colours and finishes.

It must have been fun.

You can see she has completely done this for herself and she absolutely loves it. It just wasn’t large enough so she has bought herself another apartment and we’re doing this all over again in the bigger one. One of the beautiful things about the people I work with is they are smart, successful and switched on and they know what they like. They want me to help them achieve something magnificent. It’s great for me because every time is different and it’s all about my clients and their personalities and their style. They’re not trying to impress anybody else, the only people they want to make happy are themselves. It’s wonderful because we’re not looking over our shoulders trying to copy anyone else but just doing something really unique and special for them.

Interior Details: Yvette Jay Interior Design

A cosy spot (pun intended) in the Remuera apartment. Image: Sam Hartnett

Follow Yvette Jay on Instagram @yvettejay_interiors

This article was first published on architecturenow

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