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Inside a Designer’s Home That Mixes Classic & Modern Touches
It's hard not to stand in awe and be mesmerised by the beauty of the space once you stepped into Suraya Yeop Jr’s 3000 sq ft abode. However, the most impressive part of the home is probably the fact that the entire look was conceived by the founder of SYJ Interior & Design, Suraya Yeop Jr whose career actually started in public relations.
With careful planning and an eye for detail, Suraya tackled her home renovation room by room and succeeded in creating a beautiful abode with a rich mix of oriental-inspired furniture, elaborate art and decor pieces with modern furnishings that come together beautifully in this overall modern classic setting.
We met up with the designer, to talk about her career and how she managed to put together an aesthetically pleasing home that she, her husband and their three children have been residing in for the past 6 years.
Qanvast: Tell me about yourself and how did you begin your career as an interior designer?
Suraya: I started off my career in the public relations field soon after I graduated. In between juggling motherhood and my job as a public relations executive, I also pursued a career in broadcasting as a TV presenter at both Media Prima and Astro channels. Somewhere along the way, I also dabbled in fashion as a writer and stylist for a women’s magazine.
Whilst manoeuvring my unusual yet exciting career path, my husband and I moved six times to accommodate our growing family. Each new home allowed me to experiment with new ideas, accumulate my technical knowledge and flex my design muscles. And every home became a reflection of my evolving tastes and developing skills.
My interest in beautiful interiors likely stemmed from a very young age. As a little girl, I used to rearrange my parents’ furniture and redecorate their shelves, nooks and corners. And I continued to explore and nurture my love for interior design at my rented apartments as a college student and a single career woman.
The idea of designing and decorating homes other than my own never occurred to me until my mother-in-law brought it up one day. But since I did not go to design school, I didn’t have the guts to pursue that particular path.
But fate would have it, I finally ventured into interior design with a business partner in 2016. The experience has been incredibly valuable and essential in anchoring my confidence to pursue this passion for a living. In 2019, with overwhelming encouragement and support from friends and family, I launched my interior design company - SYJ Interior & Design.
Qanvast: What makes SYJ Interior & Design unique?
Suraya: My clients always tell me they reached out to me because they were drawn to my style. They always describe my style as simple. They like the simplicity.
When you go through my Instagram, my interior design DNA is pretty evident. I’m not comfortable labelling my style but if I had to, it’ll be a modern classic. I don’t believe in sticking to one concept when designing a space. A combination of complementing concepts work very well when executed properly.
As part of my design process, I will always begin by understanding my client’s history and their personality. I believe a home should tell a story. I encourage my clients to combine something new with something old. A token from their travels. An object that evokes a beautiful memory. The aim is to achieve an overall look and design that is an extension of the homeowner, reflecting his or her personality and character.
Qanvast: What is your memorable project to date and why?
Suraya: I had a famous social media influencer who requested that I design a nursery as a surprise gift for her best friend, who was about to deliver her third child. Due to certain circumstances, I was given only 3 days to complete the makeover.
When we met at the site, I found out the surprise gift had to be unveiled to the expecting mama the next day! In other words, I had 24 hours to complete the task! From my experience as an interior designer throughout these years, I knew this was impossible. However, I didn’t want to disappoint her as a friend and neither did I want to disappoint her expecting friend. It was a risk and a huge challenge, but I took it on.
I started designing and sourcing as soon as I nervously left the site. I continuously made doa the entire time I was on the task. And friends who knew made doa for me too! And I believe that helped things fall into place. Almost everything I needed was in stock and could be delivered the next morning and whatever was not available, was replaced with something even better. Truly, it was a miracle!
By 4 pm the next day, what I thought was impossible was possible! The nursery was ready to be unveiled to the glowing mama who was at work the whole time I was busy decorating her baby’s room. The entire process was overwhelming, as was the response I received from the client and from social media. I still get asked about that project till today.
I’m forever grateful I was given the trust and that priceless opportunity.
Qanvast: Has Covid-19 impacted your business overall? And how did you deal with it?
Suraya: When the MCO was implemented, I was very, very worried. I didn’t think my business would survive the lockdown. Who would be allocating their hard-earned money to renovating or beautifying their homes now? I assumed everyone would be extra cautious with their expenses since there was so much uncertainty at that time.
But surprisingly the opposite happened. During the 1st lockdown, I received numerous enquiries. I then realised that everyone was spending so much time at home with the family and cooking in the kitchen so much that they finally noticed that they either needed a bigger kitchen, an upgraded living room, an updated bedroom. It was unexpected but alhamdulillah for all of my clients’ support.
Qanvast: Tell us about your home and how did you transform this 3000 sq ft space?
Suraya: When I first laid eyes on this house, I said yes to it almost immediately. I loved the layout of the house. Everything was on one convenient single floor, and it had nooks and corners – I see them as opportunities for me to play with my creativity.
It has three bedrooms, a family room which I converted to a playroom for my kids plus one maid’s room. I had minor renovation works done as it didn’t require much remodelling. I replaced all the lighting fixtures, repainted and added wall panellings to add dimension to my walls.
What I love about my home most is that there is a little story behind the many pieces of décor decorating my walls and vignettes. I have a few antique tekat benang emas pieces or gold thread embroidery which is around 100 years old adorning my walls. I inherited them from my late aunt who inherited them from my grandmother. I’m from Perak, so I take pride in having our cultural heritage decorating my walls.
I have décor from my travels and each time I lay my eyes on them, it brings me back to memorable moments with my family and friends. I also have a framed Quranic verse here on my dining wall which I found in my father’s office soon after he passed away. Really, I accumulate things that have a history or evoke beautiful memories or serves as a little reminder of special persons in my life.
Since my husband works from home so much now as many of us do now, I recently installed a glass sliding door to convert a corner of our home into his home office. I have 3 active and noisy kids so this home office allows him to have the privacy he needs because he is constantly on conference calls.
Qanvast: How would you describe your home style?
Suraya: It’s a modern classic with a touch of chinoiserie. I have always been a fan of oriental-inspired furniture pieces, thus why you can see them scattered around my living and dining spaces. The lines and curves found on these oriental pieces captivate me and I feel they add a touch of luxe to my home.
I like to keep most of my furniture in neutral and earthy tones as it brings a sense of harmony and also cohesiveness from one space to another. And since I do love playing with colours as well, I reserve that for smaller items like my floral arrangements and throw pillows.
Qanvast: Where do you get your design inspiration from?
Suraya: I’m just like everyone else, I like looking at Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration. Before I moved in, I visited my empty house many times and just sat right in the middle of the hallway and imagined how everything would look like. I arranged and rearranged my existing furniture and décor in my head.
Over time, I slowly added décor pieces on the walls, collected accent pieces to compliment my existing furniture, slowly created my vignettes. It was a slow and steady progress, which I enjoyed. My home is a continuous work in progress!
Qanvast: You have an extensive collection of house decor. Where did you source them from?
Suraya: I love collecting décor items when I travel. I also love raiding flea markets and local bazaars. There is a place called Pasar Karat in Ipoh where traders sell old, used and antique items and I love it! I have brought home a few gems from there.
Qanvast: How do you maintain a neat home with three kids!?
Suraya: The secret is having a separate playroom for my kids! They are free to make a mess and do just about anything they want in there, and in there only.
I also have a lot of friends who wonder how I manage to keep my white furniture stain-free/clean. I am fortunate that I chose a dark blue fabric for my 3 seater chesterfield sofa as it is the furniture with the highest traffic in my living room. If you look closely, there are so many handprints, chocolate stains, food stains on this sofa! But you can’t see them (unless you look carefully).
Qanvast: You have moved houses several times, is there a big chance that you and your family will be moving out again?
Suraya: I feel that we will probably move again sometime in the future. The dream is actually to design and build a home on our own piece of land one day. I have all these ideas already in my head. I don’t know when that will be or if that will ever be possible. But the thought of it alone is very exciting!
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