Fiona Shakespeare has been designing interiors for over 10 years, with a passion for decoration and a flair for colour. Her business, Shakespeare Design, is based in Balmain, NSW and specialises in creating bespoke spaces that reflect her client's personal style.
She’s not afraid to explore new looks and bold hues to inspire her clients – each project aims to challenge the expected and produce spaces that stand the test of time. Fiona also advised us on the creation of our latest Hunt store, in Balmain, to great acclaim from our Balmain customers.
How did Shakespeare Design start?
FS: My mother-in-law owned Helioscreen Blinds and taught me about their products, so that was my starting point - selling blinds, but it meant I was helping clients make decisions about their interiors and colour schemes. Soon they were asking me to help them choose tiles and curtains and furniture and it grew from there.
Shakespeare Design officially started when I left management consulting after the birth of my first son and wanted to start my own business in the interior design field.
Who/what is on your design radar?
FS: Designers that inspire me are Vincent van Duysen, Studio Oliver Gustav, Joseph Dirand, Katie Ridder and Kit Kemp. Their signature looks represent a mix of raw materials and beautiful patterned fabrics.
Is there a psychology to colour and how important is it when designing for clients?
FS: I find most people have certain colours they love, and at least one colour they dislike intensely. The colours they love are often also the colours they like to wear and that suit their skin tone - a subconscious choice that makes sense.
Clients will often dislike a colour because it reminds them of an ugly interior or an old piece of furniture they remember from childhood, for example, grandma’s old olive green shag rug, and I’ve learnt I can’t change their mind and it’s best to avoid that colour, no matter how beautiful it looks in a contemporary setting.
Colour is very important when designing with clients. Everyone has a different definition of ‘lots of colour’; for some that means neutrals with a handful of bright cushions. For others, it means rich jewel colours on every surface - walls, floors and cabinetry with no white anywhere. This is one of the first things I discuss with a client when I start a new project.
What would be the perfect room for you?
FS: It wouldn’t matter which room in the house it is, but it would have stucco plaster finish on the walls, linen curtains, leather armchairs, white floors and modern artwork, sculpture and lots of lamps. Haven’t quite achieved it yet.
Do you think Australia has a signature style when it comes to interiors?
FS: I do think there is an Australian interior style which is driven by our climate and our love of bringing the outside in, and keeping interiors kid and pet friendly. That translates to lots of raw materials such as concrete and timber floors, lots of glass and lots of comfortable seating - in the living room, outside, in the kitchen and casual dining areas.
I think our interior designers and architects are also very brave and innovative when it comes to using materials in a new way, such as using using mosaic tiles on bedroom walls, or embracing the global move towards making cabinetry in bold colours such as the new range of furniture from Jardan Australia.
SPOT OUR IL BISONTE STOOL & PILLOW SET : )
Which in your portfolio is the favourite?
FS: Well it’s corny, but I really am proud of all my projects because I work so hard to make sure each client gets a result they love. But I guess I’m most proud of my own home, not because I think it looks so amazing but because my family enjoy it and the way it works for them and they find it comfortable. My 12-year-old recently said “I love our house and I’d never want to move”. Done.
What's next for Shakespeare Design?
FS: I want to keep focusing on larger residential projects but I’ll always love looking after clients who need help with a room here or there.
Paint or wallpaper ?
Always wallpaper if possible.
Style or function ?
Always function. Style is irrelevant
and just annoying if it’s not functional.
Favourite room ?
I love lounge rooms because they can have all my favourite components,
sofa, rug, armchairs, curtains, wallpaper, lamps and cushions.
Favourite textile ?
Two - wool and leather.
Your design philosophy in 3 words ?
Functional, beautiful, versatile.
Occupation in an alternate universe ?
Fashion designer - I couldn’t think of anything better than making clothes just the way you want them and playing with fabrics.
Now that it seems we are in for a long haul, here is Fiona's advice for living in the 'Working From Home' age.
Face a window.
Position makes a big difference. If you can position your desk so you’re facing a window, you’ll feel less cooped up and benefit from natural light. The sounds and sights of the outside world also provide some relaxing visuals and sounds, and keep you feeling connected to the outside world.
Good lighting is obviously essential to working from home and after a comfortable chair, probably the biggest challenge for people. But luckily lamps are inexpensive and are easy to place in the right position. Most spaces require a desk light for task lighting but don’t forget adding a floor lamp will also provide good task lighting and is perfect for filling an empty room corner during a Zoom meeting.
Make sure your chair is comfortable to sit at for long periods of time. If it isn’t you’re more likely to put off sitting there. Also, make sure the space is warm and you’re not sitting in a draught or touching a cold floor. A small rug and sealing draughts with stuffed door snakes can make a big difference and reduce procrastination.
Desk that doubles as a Console table.
If you’re tight on space and don’t have a dedicated room as a home office, a desk that can also double as a console table on weekends will help you reclaim your bedroom or living area when you’re not working so you can display things such as for framed photos or a vase of flowers.
Plants and flowers.
Plants will always liven up a workspace at home so consider adding an easy-to-care-for potted plant or a vase of flowers to your desk. If the space doesn’t get much natural light, use succulents or an air plant which are hardy and require far less attention.
Keep the area minimal and sparse.
This not what many would expect an Interior Designer to recommend, but too much decoration in a work space at home can lead to clutter and distractions, especially if you like styling and playing around with ornaments, like me! If you can make sure every item on your desk has a functional purpose, there is more pressure to get on with the job.
Style your space before a Zoom meeting.
Before a Zoom meeting, it’s worth spending time setting up your work space so you look and sound your best. Consider positioning light on your face, rather than behind your head, so avoid sitting with your back to a window or door. Instead, sit facing a window that casts light on your face or use a good lamp that casts a flattering light.
Do think about your background.
A set of tall book shelves with some well-placed pictures in frames, books and ornaments will look tidy and interesting to the viewer at the end of the camera. People do look at your background and make assumptions and judgements about you, whether you like it or not! So, make sure your back ground is neat and not barren and empty. Include things that represent who you are or portray you in the light you want to be seen, for example, art posters, reference or cook books, a very neatly arranged coat rack of hats and jackets, pictures of family or things you have collected from travels.