Sitting Down with Stylish and Vivacious Interior Designer Serena Crawford

Serena Crawford is an award-winning and internationally recognised interior designer, but she’s more than that. Serena is heavily involved with architecture and design, as well as decorating when she works with clients. She also has a love for designing the gardens and often finds herself working with landscape professionals as part of her projects. Her adventurous spirit and love of travel bring Serena all over the world including to work on the design of safari camps and boutique hotels. For example, she worked on the renowned Castle on the Cliff hotel, which was named by Conde Nast USA as one of the top hotels in South Africa and the world. Her work has been featured in Conde Nast House & Garden, Conde Nast Traveller, and Vogue Living among other media outlets.
We had the opportunity to sit down and talk with Serena about her work, what inspires her and some of the elements of her daily life.

No 1. When did you first decide to become an interior designer and stylist and how did you get started with your design business? 

My first job was as a stylist for commercials. I designed the sets, decorated them, cast the models, dressed them. My intention was to work in the movie business as I wanted to be an Art Director.

So I think this idea has always influenced my design and decorating as its quite cinematic and very resonant of a cinematic backdrop or theme. This is the same design process Ralph Lauren uses. I set the scene cinematically in my mind. African Farm, Safari , Peasant Greek, Spanish California, Cliff Castle, Cape Georgian London, Cape Dutch Cottage are some of the themes I've decorated around. I got started in my design business as my own client...  

No 2. What is the most challenging part of your job? 

The most challenging part of my job is the budget….!! Also it's a business that requires vast numbers of cooperative people all working to the same end and so it's my job to make sure that I choose the best, most honourable, talented, nicest people to work with so it is a happy experience all round.

No 3. Is there an interior design style you favour and do you have your own design aesthetic?

I like rooms that have emotional resonance. It's very very important to me how the room makes you feel. So I favour comfort, I love references to the past in antiques, and also sensible modernity. I like rooms to have a story. I like lots of references and layers. I want to be excited when I walk into a space. I want it to be interesting. Sometimes if the architecture is extraordinarily interesting the decorating can be very very simple and minimalistic. But mostly my rooms tell a story.

No 4. Who are other interior designers you admire? 

  • Axel Vervoordt
  • Joanna Oritz
  • Carolina Irving
  • Veere Greeney
  • Francois Catroux
  • Miles Redd
  • Stephen Falcke
  • Boyd Ferguson
And all the Australian designers you have covered (in your interview series of Australian Interior Designers) …many are personal friends and I think they are all brilliant!!. Cameron Kimber is the person I'm going to channel in my next project in London.

No 5. What inspires you?

I’m mostly inspired by magazines and the internet ( Instagram and blogs ) and most importantly visiting projects of other designers, seeing amazing homes all over the world and fabulous hotel design. 

No 6. What do you think is the essential piece of furniture we should all have in our bedroom? 

A very big bedside table… I think it's the most important part of operating my life is what happens on my bedside table. The is because I live in my bedroom, write and do a lot of work in my bedroom. I like having a scented candle , water in a jug, books, magazines, fresh roses, my computer , iPad. etc etc. on my bedside table I learned this brilliant idea from Tom Parr the Head of Colefax and Fowler in the 80's who gave a lecture on the subject. He said if you want to change someones quality of life instantly give them a big bedside table or a huge chest of drawers next to their bed. It changed my life.!! 

Obviously the bed is the most important thing ….and the mattress and base is EVERYTHING. Thats where I spend money is on a comfortable medium soft mattress.. Most important piece of furniture in the house.

No 7. What key element we all need for a chic living room?

The single most important piece of furniture in a chic living room is the sofa.
It makes and breaks the room, sets the style and more importantly tells you if the room is really for living in, if it’s really meant to be a place of comfort or a more formal place.

The most important thing is that this sofa has to look good and be comfortable at the same time and be the right scale. Axel Vervoordt really understands how important scale is with the sofa. After the mattress it's the second most important piece of furniture in the entire house. You can have the most stunning living room but if no one is comfortable on the sofa they will never be really happy.

The cushions on the sofa also add the warmth, texture, layers and the colour to the room.


8. Do you have a favourite project or story behind a project?

My favourite project is always what Im doing right now and what Im doing right now is a Thatch Cape Dutch Vernacular beach house. It's challenging as it's smaller than I'm used to and it has very firm boundaries and I'm loving it. I'm also presently involved in sourcing ideas for a flat in London which will be my next project.

Let's Get Personal .....

No 1. What else are you passionate about besides your work? 

Having fun and travelling. It is a decision I make each day to find time to have some fun. I adore travelling, it's my greatest passion. My favourite country is Japan. It's like going to another planet.

No 2. What is your most treasured belonging?

It is a very big antique gold mirror that I bought from Geoffrey Bennison in the early 80's in London. He was an extraordinary dealer and decorator. It is Florentine and I love it, it has been in every house I've owned for the last 38 years… Also it's the first thing I bought as a young woman when I got married.

No 3. What's one thing people may not know about you? 

I write a very open bloggette on my Instagram account about my interests and life… so I honestly I can't think of anything !!

No 4. In 10 years I'd like to be .... 

Living a simpler life materially, so I'm having a bigger life, time wise and experientially.
Very fit.

No 5. What can't you live without?  

Wifi (and my iPhone and my iWatch) ( embarrassed to admit it !)
My down travel pillow
Our Dogs

A great way to follow along with what Serena is working on at any given time, or to glimpse a peek of what inspires her is through her Instagram. With tens of thousands of followers, Serena has a strong presence on Instagram thanks to both her curated images as well as the content she writes to accompany them. 





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