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Home tour: colour and warmth in a cool family home by Make Room

Home tour: colour and warmth in a cool family home by Make Room

By Aditi Gaitonde Fernandes

Barbara Fritschy’s Instagram bio puts it succinctly. She certainly does “help bring people’s prettiest Pinterest boards to life”. Barbara and her all-female team at Make Room infuse spaces with style, personality and most importantly, joyous energy.

And to think she started off her career as a number cruncher in a bank. “I’m an energetic creative, and as pretty as you can make a spreadsheet, it wasn’t fulfilling. I felt as though this passionate side of me wanted to burst out and after months of soul searching, I knew it was time for a change,” she adds.

Well, we’re glad she put down the calculator and picked up the colour wheel. Read on as she walks us through one of her interior design projects: a zen and playful three-bedroom HDB for a growing family. Plus, her top three tips for designing a home with kids…

In conversation with interior designer and stylist Barbara Fritschy

From banking to interior design, what made you switch?

Barbara: Interiors are always something I’ve loved. Much to my parents’ amusement, I would not stop moving things around in my own little bedroom as a child and always found happiness in saving my pocket money to buy that cute vase or stylish rug. As an adult, I realised that finding and creating this happiness at home was a skill (called interior design!). My soul searching pushed me to take the leap and I studied interior design all over again and established Make Room, an interior design firm that believes that everyone should be happy at home.

A decade later, it’s the best decision I ever made. I’m able to express myself fully and still, after 10 years, it excites me when I present a proposal to a prospective client and I can’t wait to implement my concept. 

Make Room’s expertise goes beyond interior design. Tell us more about the services you offer.

Barbara: We’re constantly evolving our services based on the ever-changing needs of our clients. Make Room initially began as a retail store offering styling and interior design. Over time we moved into a studio offering interior styling advice, interior design with project management and in the last couple of years, product styling and photography. 

Our work covers a wide range of spaces and clients, all tied together by their want and need to create a happy space, a home which is totally them. We typically have more residential projects, everything from new BTO HDBs and newly developed private developments to old maisonette HDBs and landed houses… and everything in-between! That being said, we also work on a few commercial and office spaces every year where we steer away from your typical cubicle-focused office space.

Ultimately, my design process is driven by the vibe the client wants to create at home and making sure that translates into being happy at work, too. We’re always looking at what can be done better and what will give the client the best value experience, so I’m so proud to say that as of last month we’ve added online styling to this list with the launch of MR Online.

Next, I would love to write a “How To” book on styling and offer online courses and workshops. The ideas keep just coming…

What sets Make Room apart from other studios? 

Barbara: We pride ourselves on being a trendsetting interior design and styling firm, creating bold modern spaces.

We’ll push the boundaries to get that Instagram-worthy space and are never afraid to try something new.

We don’t necessarily have a “house style”, so each project is inspired by its own context and the unique personality of our client. Our experience makes us experts in bringing our client’s vision to life, starting each project with a blank page and open ears. We won’t stop until we’ve delivered their inspired, solution-focused and beautiful space. And that is different for every individual, couple, family or company! A personal approach is very important to us. 

Home tour: a cool and calm family home by Make Room

“A young family reached out to us after buying a three-bedroom resale HDB and wanted to make the space their home. With one child and another on the way, our challenge was to create a space that could evolve with the family’s growing needs and to be stylish and comfortable at the same time,” she explains.

Make Room interior design open plan living and dining area

The result is an inviting home that’s modern, zen and highly practical. Envisioned in collaboration with Feng Shui masters and the client’s personal contractor, this family home doesn’t shy away from colour. The clean white living-dining area is brought to life with the warmth of wooden furniture and a popping blue sofa. The colour blue finds its way to the master bedroom too, taking over the feature wall and the headboard. And in true Make Room style, every little nook is worth the ‘gram!

What’s the overarching design story of the apartment?

Barbara: First and foremost, our starting point is listening to the brief and the client, always. The clients were a lovely couple with a sweet little girl and a baby boy on the way. They showed me reference photos of minimalist design, natural materials and white walls. But of course, they also wanted it to be practical and family friendly.

So, as always I started with thinking about the usage of the space. With two little kids you’re bound to have toys… so we gave them a lot of storage space around the living and dining area. It was important that this storage wasn’t only practical, but also fit the style and looked pretty, so we designed them to be floating units. By being able to see more floor space under the wall-hung storage units, it gives you the illusion that the room is bigger and makes the home feel more light and airy. 

Make Room interior design dining

My overarching rule is that interiors should always be useful and practical, and it has to make sense! Because of that, I definitely have a few features I always encourage my clients to invest in. You’ll often spot a feature armchair or two and a warm and cosy dining area. This is often where you spend the most time either with family or friends, so it deserves to be well executed. 

We relied heavily on earthy tones because we wanted the space to ooze warmth, even though we were sticking to a neutral and natural colour palette. You’ll notice a lot of the furniture is made of wood and we complemented this with a darker wood-look vinyl floor.

Since all the walls are white and the main furniture is natural wood tone, we were able to add pops of colour in the smaller accessories to make sure there is a still a playful element to the home.

Make Room had to collaborate with a Feng Shui expert and contractor for this particular project. How was the experience and what was your biggest takeaway from it? 

Barbara: We’re very confident with the workmanship and skill of the contractors we have been using regularly. But sometimes our clients request to use their own contacts, which was the case for this project. We have worked with various contractors for a decade now, so we know how to communicate and get things done. We work with a lot of different people, but the main trait they all have in common is the “can do” attitude. We usually like to design items or features that are unique for that particular client or project and we always push people to do it!

Make Room interior design storage console

I actually enjoy working with a Feng Shui Master, as I always learn new things. The one my client hired was lovely, but he did shock me at first. He said we need a picture of a waterfall above the console — it had to be in that exact location and the reference photo he showed me was completely out of sync with the rest of the design and styling. Luckily I found a modern black and white poster of the waterfall and he approved it right away! 

Walk us through the layout and design of the open-plan living room.

Barbara: The previous owners of this unit had built a small partition wall near the entrance that separated the living room. I really liked this so convinced my clients to keep it because it meant we could dedicate the whole entrance to its own separate “room” if you will.

Make Room interior design shoe storage

The entrance is often an overlooked area of the home but it’s really important to have a dumping ground for kids’ school bags and shoes etc. Also, welcoming someone into your home and directly stepping into a dining or living room can feel a little intrusive. So by having a dedicated entrance, we were better able to plan the open living and dining areas.

We used colour in the living room — the pop of blue on the sofa — to draw the eye to that nook which, without building walls, makes the living area feel separate from the rest of the space.

For the dining room, instead of colour, we used statement pendant lights to anchor the space. We planned these areas around the fact that there will be young kids moving around the space freely so needed to make sure we kept things open and child-friendly. 

Take us through the all-blue master bedroom and the adorable kids’ room.

Barbara: We decided to make the master bedroom a little different from the rest of the house by bringing in a blue feature wall. Blue is a lovely colour for a bedroom as it’s very calming and serene, which was important for these young parents! 

With a young family, we needed to make sure the other rooms were as flexible as possible so that they can all grow into it naturally. We always suggest built-in wardrobes as storage. It’s something you’re always going to need, and built-in is the best use of space. We kept the rest of the design very minimal, keeping the same flooring as the rest of the home which also creates a nice flow. 

Make Room interior design kids room

What are your top three tips for designing a home with little kids? 

Barbara: I love designing for families. Kids are the best critics — they’re completely driven by practicality with zero filters and a need to be constantly impressed and engaged. When we create spaces for children we use warm colour, bold art, innovative storage and find ways to use the space for fun. My tips for creating spaces that kids love are…  

1: Closed storage. This doesn’t only apply to home with kids, but really for any space. Closed storage will make any space look cleaner and neater. It’s a must in my books.

2: Don’t design a space around the kids. Design and styling can be child-friendly, without being childish. For example, if you know the kids are going to be playing around on the floor, you don’t need a Mickey Mouse playmat that isn’t going to age well. Instead, opt for a soft shag rug that ties in with the colour palette of your home but is also comfy enough for tummy time. 

3: Be honest about how the kids will use the space. Clients are often hopeful that they can set boundaries to where their kids will play and store toys. In reality, kids and toys are going to end up in every corner of your house. As a mum of three, I know this better than anyone! I will always plan for toy storage around the house and not just in the kids’ rooms — it’ll save you lots of tidying and headaches down the road. 

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All photos by Make Room

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