A local gem who appeared on almost every form of media, Dr. Eric Leong is a renowned celebrity designer who has hosted dozens of TV shows, published books and worked with many household brands like Watsons.

Dubbed Malaysia’s design king, he now spends most of his time teaching, as head of interior architecture & design school at The One Academy, sharing his 30 years of experience to up-and-coming interior designers and artists.

In this post, Dr. Eric Leong has been kind to share with us his best interior makeover tips for Malaysian homeowners renovating their homes or doing a makeover.

Here’s what we learnt.

Stop! Plan first, then design.

You must be picturing your dream home in your mind. 

But wait! Before start thinking about design, think about how your home fits into your current lifestyle. Having a home that supports your way of living is equally, if not more, important than the design.

As Dr. Eric advises: 

First thing first: the needs and the practicality. Don’t just blindly follow the design trends, as you are the one who is going to live in your house and use it daily; hence, it must be practical and reflect your lifestyle.”

Dr. Eric Leong

First, picture how your ideal style will fit into your day to day activities. Then adjust your ideas for areas in your home that clashes with your lifestyle.

Remember, it’s important to keep a balance between practicality and design aesthetics.

Get Brainstorming

The first step to interior design is to always explore as many ideas as possible.

Whether or not you have an idea of what your rooms will look like, brainstorm all aspects of interior design, such as:

  • Floor & Wall tiles
  • Colour Scheme
  • Furniture
  • Light fixtures
  • Soft furnishing
  • Decoratives
  • Mood etc.

Write them down and get down to the small details.

Dr. Eric recommends Pinterest as a good source of inspiration, as a spot to find thousands of amazing interior spaces and the latest design trends and ideas.

When you find something you like, re-pin on your Pinterest board and name them according to the area of your home eg. Living room and see how it can fit into your overall plans.

In fact, this was how Dr. Eric developed his skillsets in idea development. As a teenager, he found joy in seeing beautiful displays of products and merchandises in stores. This passion of his, brought about the inspiration to create many of his own designs.

When asked about what advice he would give his younger self, Dr Eric once again emphasises on inspiration: 

During my era, resources are very limited and one needs to travel to see designs and one need a lot of money to travel. Hence, I will advise the younger me to work harder to earn more money to travel for inspiration.

Dr. Eric Leong

Get as many ideas as possible and don’t be afraid to explore. Use the abundance of the internet to get inspiration and give yourself time before settling for an idea.

Budget, budget, budget.

Okay, so you have a list of design ideas now. Great!

The next important thing to have is a definite budget. The size of your budget will influence the type of materials, furniture, and the fixtures you are going to have.

In fact, always work out a budget first before moving into designing.

Dr Eric explains the steps into creating a master list below: 

  1. Create a wishlist. Include everything you want on this list.
  2. Set a budget and write down a new list of things you need to have such as furniture, beddings or electrical appliances and include its cost. This will be your master list.
  3. Is there a budget leftover after listing your necessities? If yes, add items from your wish list into your master list.
  4. Finally, follow your master list strictly throughout the renovation to stay on budget. 

Note: If you are hiring an interior designer to renovate your home, the services of the interior designer and the constructors they hire will be included in the budget as well. 

On Hiring an Interior Designer

If you plan to hire an interior designer, here’s how to determine a reliable designer.

Take a good look at the designer’s portfolio. See what they have done previously and see if their portfolio aligns with your desired interior style. It’s easier to work with designers who share the same design styles as you.

Find opportunities to have a chat with them. If you feel comfortable with them, they are the ones you’re looking for.

During the renovation, constantly supervise the site to avoid any mistakes that can be made by contractors.

Dr. Eric Leong’s 8 Step Approach to Interior Design

Budgeting, material shopping, managing, designing – wait, which comes first? All these tasks can get jumbled up and confusing when renovating your home.

Here’s Dr. Eric 8 steps to making your next dream home.

1 –  Determine the Interior Style

With all your ideas in hand, compile and organise them to express a mood or vibe that resonates with you. 

Each room can have its own unique vibe. For example, you can have a living room with a minimalist, modern aesthetic while your child’s bedroom can have a playful theme.

“As long as the room has a door to separate itself from other rooms, it doesn’t have to be the same as the other areas.

Nevertheless, open spaces such as the living room and dining room are usually joined as one space (rooms without doors). In this case, both areas need to be united as one concept or one mood.” 

Dr. Eric Leong

Currently, a popular design trend for home spaces is the Scandinavian style, where light color wood furniture is matched with soft or pastel colours and soft furnishing. This gives off a very ‘liveable’ interior style that many feel comfortable with. 

However, it’s not a compulsory design, if it doesn’t speak to you. Remember, it’s your home. Do what you like and is most comfortable with. 

2 – Create a Colour Scheme

You can choose any colour to give off your ideal impression or mood to your room, however, Dr. Eric advises against using dark colours. This is because dark walls make the room feel cramped which can be unsettling and uncomfortable. 

However, if you want to increase the depth of a small room, Dr. Eric recommends painting a feature wall with a darker tone of your chosen colour to enhance the visual depth for the room.

If you are following a specific design trend or style, you need to match your colours accordingly.

For example, muted colours work best with the Scandinavian style. With your chosen muted colour, paint your feature wall with a darker shade while using a lighter shade to paint the rest of the walls.

3 – Identify a Feature Wall

A feature wall is the first wall you see when you enter a room. Hence, it needs to make a grand impression. 

The most subtle and natural way to do it is to paint the feature wall with a darker tone of your chosen colour. You can also get creative with a feature wall by adding texture with tiles, geometric wall art or using patterned wallpaper.

If you are feeling adventurous, you can feature a wall painting or use another colour outside of your colour palette to make your feature wall the highlight of your room. 

You can also add wall decors on a feature wall such as paintings, and family photos. This is also the wall where most of your furniture will be placed against. 

As for the surrounding walls, they should match and support the feature walls with either a beige or neutral colour. They can also use pastel colours or a lighter tint of your chosen colour. 

4 – Select Furniture

The most important thing when it comes to choosing furniture is its functionality.

Remember: There has to be a balance of practicality and design. 

Once you have made a list of furniture you need for your living space, choose the right furniture that matches your interior style and work within your budget.

5 – Select Lighting

When it comes to lighting, Dr. Eric advises:

The best way to plan for the lighting of a room is by the room’s function. Use warm lighting to create ambience and use daylighting as tasking light.

Dr. Eric Leong

Warm lights gives off a welcoming, relaxing tone that is more suited for leisure while daylighting provides clear lighting most suited for office or working environments. 

When it comes to using multiple light sources, always use ceiling light (pendant light) as the main light source and use table light or floor light as the supporting light source. You should also make use of the natural lighting from your window. 

Place supporting lights at the corner of the room to gain more soft light reflection from ceiling and walls.   

6 – Select Soft Furnishing

This includes pillows, curtains, linens, bath towels, bedspreads and anything that is made of cloth or linen.

Like furniture, the designs of your soft furnishing should support both your lifestyle and the overall vibe of our living area. Always refer to the room color scheme when selecting the color for the soft furnishing.

7 – Select Decorative Accessories

When it comes to decorative accessories, Dr. Eric prefers using big or oversized decorative accessories to create visual impact. 

Place those items at the ‘hotspots’ in your home. These are spots people will notice when they enter your home. It captures your visitor’s attention to the decor of your room and leaves a lasting impression on them. 

Dr. Eric doesn’t usually encourage the use of small accessories because they don’t contribute to the visual impact of the living area. However, if you do decide to use small accessories, they should be grouped together on display to create a greater visual impact. 

Once again, the decor accessories should match with your interior style.

8 – Freshen Up the Room as the Final touch.

To bring life into the house, add something that gives the house a refreshing vibe such as fresh flowers and potted plants.

Like to learn more from Dr. Eric Leong? Follow him on Facebook and catch up on every update he posts.

eric leong homa2u
Dr. Eric Leong on Facebook

Final Words

Planning is important when it comes to designing a home.

Building a home and designing it should be an exciting process. So if you’re a new homeowner, remember to set a budget first before thinking about the design.

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