Coveted exclusive interview with Miaja Design Group. Founded in 1995 by Isabelle Miaja, the Interior Design & Architecture firm has grown into a strong outfit headquartered in Singapore. MIAJA provides a “unique and distinctive” design approach to each of its projects, including the newly completed Sofitel So Singapore, the Pullman Central Park Hotel in Jakarta and the Sofitel Mumbai BKC in India, for which MIAJA has gained international recognition. MIAJA’s signature is to also create unique art piece collections for each project, bringing in a local creative inspiration. As a result of this creative undertaking, Isabelle Miaja co-creates with well-known artists that are specially selected for MIAJA’s projects. These personalised art pieces become a part of the essence of the project, and an intrinsic element of the final vision that will provide the client with a stamp of artistic authenticity.
What Isabelle Miaja loves the most about her work is the diversity that comes from each project. Each new project feels like a new adventure for her. The place, the people, the site and the history of the place are the beginning aspects for creativity to start flowing. The most challenging times in her career path were aside from external factors: economic crisis and some personal family challenges. They were moments of reinvention
“The countries I lived in were also a challenge. Moving from Europe to the US was a real shaker, in my way of seeing the world and the way to go about life and of course the different styles between the East Coast and the West Coast, it was a new way of thinking, of understanding the way people lived in their homes and how to answer accurately their aspirations.” – said the designer. But the most challenging time was when she moved to Asia. “It took me quite a while to understand that a nod did not necessarily mean “yes”. It also took me a while to understand the differences between each South-East Asian culture – a mistake many foreigners make putting Asia in one big sentence.” – explained Isabelle.
“It is futile to think we direct our life in everything, we are like boats on a big river and the current takes us places. We stir best we can, one bend leading us to another….and we manage them the best possible way. My boat took me places I never dreamt of as a child, and when I look back I feel extremely grateful to have had the opportunities I had – A family, children I cherish, friends I keep close to my heart, work that took me places and people that kept coming and going enriching each step of my journey. There is still more to come and I await what is ahead of me with true anticipation…grand-children…more places to discover….more people to meet and appreciate…”
– Isabelle Miaja
As an interior designer, Isabelle hopes to continue creating amazing designs. In a few years, she will be a “douanier” in her profession, and at that time she dreams to be like Andre Putman or Anna Wintour. Fashionably old and sought after. Proving that age does not mean “passe” but knowledge. She believes she still has a lot to share and designs to create that will stand out for times to come. She is fulfilled when the project looks exactly like the vision when she first started designing it. It’s like painting a portrait and give it life. “A very satisfying moment that comes with many hours of work from inception to completion. Every step is held firmly by my team and me to ensure there is no losing sight of the final vision.” – said Isabelle.
When speaking about how she communicates with her audience, Isabelle believes a design speaks for itself. In a time of social interaction and communication what is most important is to provide quality content. “If the content is great, the message will be shared!” – said the designer. “We just finished a beautiful restaurant in Singapore and before it was even professionally photographed – clients entering the premises took their own photos and started feeding them on Instagram and it spread the word instantly.” – explained Isabelle.
MIAJA Design Group’s projects vary widely, from a Hospital to a resort to apartments to city hotels. Each existing on its own and the inspiration focused on making each of them unique. “Our Hospital project in Bangkok stems from a desire to create a unique environment. Each of the design elements exists to promote healing – a design that soothes right when entering the premises. I call it the “Ecosystem of Care”. A lot of research went into this design as it was my first Hospital and each material carefully selected. “ – she said.
Isabelle believes that we are constantly following trends. For her, the word “trend” had been synonymous with being frivolous or easy to go out of style, but in her opinion, to be a trend is what is relevant today. “I am aware of the new fabrics and materials that are being developed and some of them are so amazing they inspire me and they are at the centre of my design if it suits my project. Today, I believe the design world is in need of Nature and spaces that give them a sense of freedom and areas of privacy to isolate and regroup. Human beings love to gather yet at the moment we need to also give them a safe place to do so and provide spaces to breathe and rest their mind.” – she said.
Her type of client seeks their knowledge and experience. The portfolio they present is just an indication of their creativity. As no two projects are alike. The most important thing for the designer and her team is the trust they put in them to achieve their goals and answer their vision. Every project is a collaboration, as explained by the designer. They put a lot of time and effort to discuss the project needs and take steps to ensure communication flows between all parties. Their role is not to come up with their vision but to translate the sum of everyone’s ideas and crystallise it into one solid design adding their definite personal touch.
In Isabelle Miaja‘s opinion, the world is changing into a more personal focus. The need to fulfil our own goals means a much more self-centred type of clientele. Emerging from the changes that we are going through, there is a sense of loss of time and loss of control over our destinies. This means that will be a rush to live a life with a sense of purpose and well-being. “As a designer, I believe people will put more attention on their home and for fear of being “stuck” again – they will ensure their personal space will be secured.” – said the designer. Isabelle hopes her predictions come true as she believes we need to finally put our attention on what matters. Nature and our well-being, if we feel good we do good.
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