We recently met inspirational interior designer Eva Sonaike at Decorex 2018. Eva, who was born and raised in Germany and is of Nigerian origin, has founded a London-based interiors and lifestyle brand creating luxurious textiles, home décor and accessories with a vibrant West-African aesthetic. We love her work and wanted to know more about her approach, her distinctive use of colour and her take on interior design in general. James Lentaigne, Creative Director at Drummonds had a few questions to ask.
How’s Decorex going for you?
We’ve been doing trade shows for 9 years for every season. For me Decorex is the best trade show in London to highlight my products and to expose my brand. I like that it’s a smaller show, familiar audience- for my business it’s the best show.
So, you’re both a designer and you also sell products. Can you tell us more about that?
Yes, so I’m a ‘creative director’ that’s how I call myself (laughs). I design the textiles but I also manage sales and oversee everything, Unfortunately the design can take only 20% of my time. There’s also marketing
Tell us more about your designs.
We have soft furnishings, we have cushions, we have fabrics that we sell by the meter different types of fabrics for outdoor and indoor use. We also do very luxurious rugs, cushions and we also have a lifestyle range of little makeup bags for gifts purchases. It’s a whole interiors brand with a lifestyle edge.
Exciting. So, how did you get into colour and how did you translate it into products?
It’s quite interesting because I think I’ve always been totally influenced by colour from a very young age. Also, due to my upbringing- my father was an art historian – we always travelled and went to museums all over the world- things as when you’re a little child you find incredibly boring- but I think that over time I really learnt to appreciate what I’ve seen and understand colours and how they worked. Then I studied fashion, so I was into textile. I think with colour it’s either you love it and you understand it or you’re scared of it
But you have to learn how to use colour, no?
I think you have to learn how to use colour, but you also have to have a natural understanding of colour. The basic principles, the complementary colours, primary colours etc but I also think you just have to have a feel for it.
If you were stranded on a desert island and you had to live in a very simple building with one colour, what would it be?
It would be dusty pink because it’s the colour I love the most. It’s a powdery colour with a brownish tone to it. I think it’s a very elegant colour, it’s not overpowering, it makes me personally very happy and I think it works for me in interiors.
You have a slightly Germanic accent, did you do your training in Germany?
I lived in Germany until I did my A-Levels. Then I had a little stint in the US then went to the UK. I was influenced by my parents (travels, art trips to museums etc.) during my upbringing in Germany but I think my real training was in the UK. First at London College of Printing to study journalism then to London College of Fashion to do a M.A in journalism.
So, you would say your inspiration comes from Nigerian roots or your travels in general?
I think my first inspiration comes from the African aesthetics because that’s what I grew up with but through my upbringing, I translated it into something more contemporary. I noticed there was a gap in the market, nothing luxurious, high-end in the African market so I thought, why not create that? So, since I grew up in Germany with African parents, I decided to bring these 2 elements together.
Could you describe your style?
I think if you look at my work, you can see it quite clearly. It has a very African aesthetic: bold patterns and colours but at the same time it’s very contemporary so you can insert it in a minimalist apartment, in a boho-style décor- I think it works universally. I have clients in boutique hotel in St Barthes to high blocks in Dubai, so I think it translates internationally.
When you’re working on interior design projects, do you often get pulled in when clients start with your products or do they start asking you to design a space and then show interest in your products?
When I design spaces (which I don’t do a lot anymore because I’m focusing on my brand), I don’t necessarily bring my products in because the clients have a different aesthetic and come to me with something specific inn mind. Often if it’s African-related then I introduce my products, but it depends on the style of the client, on what they like. I source Antiques especially from Africa, art pieces so it’s a mix between that and my products.
What advice would you give in terms of the use of colour in bathrooms?
Firstly, I think people underestimate bathrooms a lot. They often think that the bathroom is just another room in a house. Personally, I think it’s one of the most important rooms in a house- I wind down in my bathroom after a busy and stressful day. I think its important people design their bathrooms according to their needs- it’s all about who you are, what you like, what makes you relaxed. Some people relax in floral environments, others in dark moody places.
And so, who are you? What would you go for?
It’s quite interesting because when I was a journalist, I interviewed Kelly Hoppen (who has a completely different aesthetic to what I do), we had a long chat, spent the whole day together and her design approach is very different to mine. Her house has black floors and white walls and one thing she said to me is “Eva, always have black floors” and I completely agree. My house has black wooden floors and white walls. My bathroom has the same scheme: I’ve got dark slate floors and white walls accessorised with my designs- I’ve got folder blinds made with my fabrics (yellow pattern with a palm tree on it), plants, antique statues…
What Drummonds products would you specify in your bathroom?
I love this Tweed bath tub in this beautiful green colour and the beautiful colour combination of green and pink in your stand, I love the combination with tiles. I really like this shower with the green marble tray.
Finally, what are you the most proud of so far?
It’s a really difficult question. I can begin to tell you that we’re reaching our 10 years and that’s something I’m incredibly proud of… You sometimes forget because you get carried away with working and working, growing the brand. 10 years ago when I started, colour wasn’t as prominent, we struggled sometimes to convince people to buy into colours and African patterns but now I think that we’re getting there. We’ve got some really good projects. It’s not only about setting a business up, it’s about establishing it to see it grow and keep it going which is a challenge.
So, what’s next?
I’m going to launch a new collection for September 2019, also I’ve been thinking about wallpapers for a long time now and we’ve got very interesting projects with hotels. The only one I can talk about for the moment is the finishing of a boutique hotel in Cordoba, Spain. 2019 is going to be interesting with new colour combinations and celebrating 10 years of business and simply continuing what we’re doing.