Masterclass: Interior Design with Jacqueline Butler (part 2)

January 21, 2022

We are so excited to share the second instalment of our chat with the sensational Bondi interior designer, Jacqueline Butler, principal of Jacq Interiors.

Jacq is the owner and principal designer at Jacq Interiors. She is a qualified Interior Architect working in Sydney, currently based in the Eastern suburbs. She graduated from the University of Technology Sydney in 2003 and has worked in the design industry ever since.

This instalment covers the five most important things buyers should be looking for from an Interior Designer's perspective. We also ask Jacq what suburbs or spots in NSW she loves and any trends, colours, materials, products, or brands that have piqued her interest. 

What are the five most important things buyers should be looking for when searching for property from an interior designer's perspective?

This is a crucial topic for homebuyers to consider. When reviewing potential homes for clients, I am always looking for some key elements that I believe make all the difference to how the home functions and affects the client's lifestyle.

1. Orientation  

This one is a massive one for me. I am an enormous fan of natural light and ventilation in a home. We are so blessed to have access to natural light most of the calendar year in this country. However, many older homes aren't designed to access their full potential. Terraces style houses are a great example of this missed opportunity. The basic principles of the typical terrace design were introduced from the United Kingdom. While they were easy and affordable homes to build, they were never well suited to the Australian climate and lifestyle.

When any of my clients have purchased a terrace house, a large portion of structural work needs to be considered to transform the original smaller rooms and separate living spaces into a more open-plan design that allows more natural light and airflow. This is how more and more people tend to want to live these days, especially in this country. It's about letting more of the outside in, and it's about sharing spaces and company with our family and friends.

Always consider the orientation of your potential new home before purchasing and do some research about what orientation works best for your lifestyle.  

We also experience a lot of humidity in Sydney, so the key to avoiding mould issues in the home is often related to sunlight and natural ventilation.

Mould is a serious health concern and something to be aware of during the inspection. There are some excellent specialised mould experts that I can recommend who offer pre-purchase inspections. After assessing the home, they can provide valuable feedback and advice on this subject.  

Sunlight and natural ventilation are the two main elements that I believe provide a home with an intrinsic sense of good energy and well being. When looking for a new home, you will often notice that each space you enter has a very different feeling. Be aware and start to notice how the natural lighting affects the most critical areas in the home and how you want to live in the space.

Consider where the backyard and living spaces are located, as these are often where we spend much of our daily lives.

Bedrooms are rooms we don't access as often during the day. So if any rooms don't have great orientation, it's generally best if the bedrooms are situated in that zone.

It's probably a lengthy explanation of this topic, but I feel it's essential. It surprises me how many people don't consider these things when selecting their potential new home.

2. Accommodation & suitability

These are some questions I would be asking at the time of selecting:

  • How many bedrooms and how many current or potential family members need accommodating?
  • Do you need to grow as a family, and will this house suit the growth plan? Do you have long term guests that need accommodation?
  • Do you have elderly family members that may need to move in with you at any stage?
  • Do you have work from home requirements within this home, and does that require separate office space, or can an existing area be reallocated?
  • Does the home have good ceiling heights? Ceiling heights can go unnoticed during an inspection, and then the realisation comes once you've moved in. Ceiling heights can also make a big difference to how a space feels. Even if you are planning to do an extensive renovation, the ceiling heights aren't always something you can alter.
  • Does the property have an off-street parking space? Off-street parking and vehicle accommodation are also big considerations for most families and even young couples. I have completed many driveway, carport and garage development applications for clients over the years, and they can be tricky. Some are successful, and some aren't. Development applications for things like this can often be a costly exercise, which buyers should consider with great care from the offset. Most of us have at least one car per household, and some have more. If you are considering purchasing a home without existing parking or at least a driveway, you will need to do your research to understand whether a parking space is likely to be permitted in your LGA. Some key locations, property constraints, and other considerations rule out the approval of new parking. Many agents will assure you that you can sort out parking later down the track. Still, I recommend getting some advice early on before taking their word for it.  

3. Number of bathrooms compared to the number of occupants

Generally, the ideal situation is at least two separate toilets if you have more than two people in the home. An ensuite bathroom is a huge bonus or an upstairs and downstairs bathroom should it be a two or more storey home. Bathrooms are one of the most expensive and tricky rooms in the home to renovate. Although they are one of the most common rooms to be redone in a new home purchase, they can be costly and time-consuming. Several trades need to be coordinated and involved in the exercise. Trades needed are:

  • Waterproofing
  • Rendering
  • Tiling
  • Plumbing
  • Carpentry
  • Plastering
  • Electrical
  • Joinery

I generally estimate the time frame of a standard size bathroom at 6-8 weeks. Suppose you don't have a second bathroom. In that case, it's always advised to move out during a bathroom reno as the builder can generally move quicker in this scenario. The overall interruption of building works isn't going to affect the family. These are factors all should consider when budgeting for a new bathroom.

Also, something to consider is if you need to move or alter anything external or get structural work done for the new bathroom. In this case, you may require approval from either your Local Council or a Private Certifier, depending on what the alterations include. Most interior designers should be able to take care of these applications for you.

Beautiful example of natural materials used in all aspects of a room. Image Source: Pinterest

4. Living Areas  

I find that families with children need to consider this one closely. Many homes have a floor plan with the living areas on the top floor to access better views or light. However, this commonly means there isn't direct access to external areas, backyard and swimming pool. If you have young children, this can be inconvenient as you can't be supervising your young ones whilst attending to other things in the house. I have had a few clients decline homes on this basis.

Some questions to consider:

  • Where are the current or proposed living areas located?
  • Do they have access to the home's natural light source and ventilation?
  • Are the living spaces closely linked to the outdoor living spaces?

5. Backyard and external spaces  

These areas often need some real attention before moving in or when you decide to tackle the more extensive renovation. Be aware again of how much natural light and ventilation are in these areas and check to see if they feel inviting. I would recommend visiting the home at two different times of day to see the changes from morning to afternoon. Also, consider what season you are doing your inspection and how the sun changes from season to season.

Also, consider what you will add to these spaces and are they relevant to the home's local environment and style. Many people like the idea of adding a pool to their homes. Pools are a great idea if you have the budget and the space. If the area is small, consider how much room will be leftover once you've built the pool (considering the pool fencing and enclosure spaces). You can get a pool consultant or company to give you solid advice and planning ideas before proceeding. Also, consider how often you will use the pool.

There are also many constraints regarding getting a pool approved by a council or a private certifier, so also consider that. Make special consideration in reviewing the existing plumbing on the site. There may be significant plumbing/sewer lines running through the backyard that may eliminate the opportunity for a pool. Check your sewer diagrams or review any existing site surveys that they may have for the property. The council may also be able to help you with this.

I always advise people to spend as much time as they can in the space, sit down, and take in as much detail as possible. Some items you may want to consider closely:

  • Privacy issues - from any large neighbouring buildings overlooking the external / leisure areas. While this can sometimes be unavoidable, some situations are worse than others.  
  • Existing large trees and their effect on shading your outdoor areas or possible locations for a new pool or entertaining areas.
  • Maintenance of certain trees and their foliage. Some trees are evergreen and won't shed much foliage, and others can be deciduous and drop all of their leaves each autumn.  
  • Existing tree roots in regards to existing and proposed pipes and plumbing

The advice here is don't ever assume that you can remove any trees as you like. Councils have many requirements for tree pruning and removal. You can quickly get some professional advice on this topic if you have any areas of concern.

What suburbs or spots in NSW are you loving right now?

Well, this would be tricky to go past my own backyard, which is the Eastern suburbs of Sydney. I grew up in Bondi and remain there 39 years later! Bondi has evolved and reinvented itself time and time again since I was a kid, and I continue to love what it has to offer. The housing market is obviously out of control in those areas at the moment, and it amazes me what people are willing to pay to get a slice of Bondi.

I really enjoy working in the area as I work with hard-working families passionate about creating beautiful family homes.

I also love the South coast of Sydney if I can get away for some quiet time. Sydney is such an awesome location considering there is so much beauty in larger, more open spaces if you drive for just 2 hours in pretty much any direction.  

If I was to venture out of the East, I also love more quiet suburbs to the North, South and West. I have friends who live in Kirrawee, close to the Royal National Park, if I am going South. There is a real sense of family living down there, and I love a taste of old school suburbia, which reminds me of my childhood and the good old days.

Are there any particular trends, colours, materials, products or brands you love right now?

As a residential interior architect & designer, I try to steer clear of the hardcore fashion trends. Generally, when renovating or redesigning a home, you want the fit-out and design to remain relevant yet timeless.

Some aspects of fashion trends are fine to work within the home as long as they are well balanced and refined. When selecting things for the home based on a current fashion trend, I'd usually recommend picking items that are easily changed or upgraded down the track. An example of this could be colours and styles of soft furnishings such as bed linen and cushion covers, shades of walls or wall coverings and even areas like splashback tiles in kitchens.

A timeless and tasteful example of styling some elements in your home that don’t need to follow a particular fashion trend. Image source: Pinterest

There are elements in the home that aren't too tricky to revise if you realise that you wanted to replace these down the track. We also always want to be mindful of waste, so selecting timeless pieces made with quality and care is also a good idea. There are so many cheap household supplies on the market today, and we can get caught up in the whirlwind of trends and bargain prices. Before purchasing your next piece based on a price point, I recommend that you take some time to consider if you think you will still get joy out of it in years to come and if you think it has the quality to stand the test of time.

Splashback tiles can have a subtle or more intense effect on your space. These geometric encaustic tiles brought together a very simple black and white kitchen. The use of timber shelving and the display of a hanging plant help neutralise the shapes and patterns in the tiles.

Colour trends are very much an obvious cycle in our industry. A few years back, the trend was focused more on minimal and modern design. This trend was all about using colder tones in the palette, such as bright whites, greys and blacks. Many elements were concealed and sleek, whereas now we celebrate the finishes and palettes that display more decorative surfaces.

I like this focus as we are paying more attention to craftsmanship and understanding the value of using materials that have their innate qualities on show. I am very much a fan of this trend. I love using natural materials enabling us to witness their raw integrity.

Materials that display their raw integrity are, in my opinion, the way to keep the design of a home timeless. I find myself specifying materials such as hardwood timbers, concrete masonry,  metals and plasters as they give a sense of depth and quality. Whilst they typically come with a slightly higher price tag, I believe it is money well spent.

The latest colour trends are moving to warmer palettes that draw upon nature for their inspiration. There is a focus on neutrals and warm colours, which links very nicely to the autumnal and winter seasons. Once you start looking into your inspirational outlets, you will notice this.

Suppose this trend is not your cup of tea. In that case, you don't need to buy into it. Just work with the elements you like and build your palette slowly and carefully around that. Perhaps seek some advice or get some reassurance from your designer if you are trying to do your project independently.

I am usually always looking for new and interesting furniture, materials, and pieces to incorporate into homes when it comes to brands. However, I have a list of go-to brands as I always know what I am getting with these businesses.

When selecting furniture and materials, it is often governed by the client's taste, style and budget, so I have an extensive collection of different manufacturers and suppliers that cover all bases.

I enjoy recommending ethical brands where I can and where they are suitable. The industry seems to be favouring this more and more these days as we all become more conscious about the throw-away society we are living in.

There are a few suppliers that I like to recommend to my clients that supply some gorgeous products that have a tremendous ethical approach to their business model.

Armadillo & Co is a company that supplies very high-quality rugs. They are a great example of a business taking care of how they do things and the product they provide their customers. They are a wonderful Australian company that supplies ethical rugs using sustainable practices that honour true quality and craftsmanship.

They create these products with natural materials prepared and woven by hand from artisans working in their field of expertise around the world. Their pieces are truly a work of art and display such quality. They are timeless quality additions to any home.

A snapshot of Armadillo & Co’s huge range of beautiful rugs in all colours, textures and patterns. Image Source: Armadillo & Co

Dharma Door is a smaller business that supplies baskets, rugs and decorative items for the home. They are supporting Fair Trade practices focusing on using natural materials and supporting craftsmanship in smaller communities worldwide. Most recently, they have started to supply light fittings, which I am excited about!

I respect handmade pieces, and I believe they speak for themselves within a beautifully curated space. Dharma Door has some beautiful products, and I highly recommend checking out their stuff.

Woven baskets made from natural materials that will complement any home or display that needs some attention. Image source: Dharma Door

Ethnicraft is another brand that supplies timber furniture. They are a bigger business with a large scale supply chain; however, all of their timber supplies are sourced from responsibly and carefully managed forests. They also pride themselves in a No Waste policy where they reuse all offcuts in the business.

A beautiful timber dining table with chairs by Ethnicraft. Image Source: Ethnicraft

Anchor Ceramics is another Australian brand that makes ceramic light fittings and other artisan pieces. They are a company that focuses on quality over quantity, and they take time and care with each piece they create. There aren't many companies that have this work ethic approach, and you can see from the end products that they make unique and beautiful pieces in all they do.

Anchor ceramics wall lights in terracotta finish. Image source: Anchor Ceramics

There are so many more brands, products and materials I access and specify for each unique project, and I could list many more of them. However, I think I have probably given you a great taste of where to get started for now.

A special thanks once again to Jacq for chatting with us. Stay tuned for the next edition of Masterclass. We have some great guests lined up, and we're excited to bring them to you.

For more from Jacq Interiors, follow along on Instagram @jacq_interiors, or you can contact Jacq directly via her website at

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