In Conversation with Sonal Kotecha, founder of Rumah Interiors

When and how did you start Rumah Interiors?


Rumah Interiors was officially founded in 2017. However, in truth I know that my childhood obsession with space has been brewing for many years. I’m a firm believer in the impact a well designed space can have on a person's life and mental health, having grown up in an extended family household in a small house above a shop in Manchester, UK, for the first 18 years of my life my bedroom was also our family living room. For the best part of my childhood, I craved space! This manifested itself into an obsession of what that could look like and in turn, I pursued a degree in Interior Architecture & Design.


After my degree, I moved to Dubai at the tender age of 24, and worked for a couple of other companies to gain experience - both technically and commercially. Then in 2017 - as cliche as it sounds, I went to Bali for the summer. I was at a transitionary point in my career. I knew that I wanted to start my own business that focuses on residential interior design, and I had the opportunity to step away from my ‘regular’ environment for a couple of months to do some big picture thinking about how I could go about designing my own business. As I was walking through some local neighbourhoods, I kept seeing the name ‘Rumah’ on the plaques outside the locals' houses. I googled it to find out that it meant ‘Home’, felt 'the feeling' and the name was born!


If you were to give one piece of advice to someone just starting to decorate a new home what would it be?


I’d say to start off with, get clear on 2 things - what you need (and want) in terms of :


  1. Functionality - you could start this by literally writing down a list of requirements. Get granular in your requirements, such as how many seats to accommodate around a dining table. Can any of the spaces double up for example - a low use guest bedroom that can have a dedicated home office space for your average day. Go through each room and make a list. Make sure you’ve come to some sort of agreement with other members of your household on these things too, in order to avoid any conflicts later! :) Don’t be afraid to put pen to paper and start sketching!! If you don’t know how or don’t like to sketch, download an app like MagicPlan, get your measuring tape out and start plugging in the key dimensions and see the overall layout of the room start to form in front of your eyes. This is also great for accuracy and scale and can be your constant go-to throughout the process of selecting the right products for your space.

  2. Aesthetics - what look are you going for? By this I want to specify that I don’t mean a theme - because themes by their very nature are quite pastiche. But establish your concept.  Your concept could relate to a particular style, material palette or be quite abstract one such as biophilia - bringing an earthy vibe into the home using colours, patterns and forms found in nature.

It’s important to do both of the above right - keep this document with you for easy access throughout the process - as this is you’ll need to reference it whenever you’re confronted with a plethora of options and decisions to make - which believe me can be plenty!


What are your suggestions for incorporating traditional and modern styles. Can it be done?

100% yes - it can be done and it is encouraged! I love mixing a bit of traditional and modern styles, usually the output is something both timeless yet eclectic. My advice for doing so tastefully, is to keep the base palette quite light and neutral. Layer up using textures. Be conscious about each decision, and where possible - try to pull the selection (finishes and furniture) together onto a page first to make sure various elements complement rather than compete with each other.


What is your favorite part of the design process?

My favourite part of the design process is the first stage - concept design. As I described above, this is where we do 2 main parts of the design process - layouts and moodboards. I love conceptualising and creating a narrative behind the decisions, and each time coming up with something unique and reflective of the personality of the homeowner. I also LOVE seeing a project completed - and standing in a space with the initial sketch of it in front of me. Gives me a huge sense of satisfaction!



For someone who needs assistance in decorating their home, what are important things to look for when hiring an interior designer or firm?


I think when you’re hiring an interior designer or firm - of course you’ll check out their portfolio and social media to see what kind of work they’ve done before. If they have completed a number of projects successfully, it’s pretty likely that they know what  they’re doing from a technical standpoint. But I think what is just as important, particularly when hiring a designer to work on your personal space, is to do a discovery call or go just go and grab a coffee together and see if you get along personally! I call it the vibe check, and it is an important part exercise for both the client and the designer. You’re likely embarking on a professional relationship that will take anywhere between a couple of months to maybe even a couple of years - if they’re appointed to oversee the execution of their design too. It’s very important you get on - and that you have a very clear agreement in place about what is and is not in their scope of work. A lot of us interior designers are in this industry because it is borne out of a passion - that being said, we designers also need time to rest and recoup if we’re to give you our best work! So if the designer has not already defined their scope and the nitty gritty details about their working hours for example - ask them! Get it all clear from the beginning so that way once your professional relationship begins, the focus can be on the design process and the implementation to make that vision into a reality.

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