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In Profile:
Steven Graham Lifestyle & Interiors

In Profile:

Steven Graham Lifestyle & Interiors

Shortlisted: for 1 category

The International Design & Architecture Awards 2024

Name: Steven Graham

Company: Steven Graham Lifestyle & Interiors

Position within company: Owner


Tell us a little about your background in design:

Basically, I was that kid that never needed to be told to clean his room. It was more a case of “oh you’ve moved your room around again?” My background into design may differ from traditional design path as I initially came from retail. Fortunately, I worked for a leading home décor company in South Africa, where I gained valuable experience and discovered I had a knack for creating great visual displays within the store.

Inspired and bored at the same time, I left corporate and opened up my own décor showroom. However, as it coincided with a recession in South Africa, the business faced challenges. One fortuitous day, a customer walked in and inquired if I also provided an interior design service. My assistant panicked with the end of the month worries about cash flow immediately chimed “yes he’s amazing” and scheduled an appointment the same day. That unexpected opportunity launched my career and I have been passionate about it since that day. Almost 20 years later, I absolutely love what I get to do.

Where does your design inspiration come from?

Mainly from my clients. I never want to walk into a home and clock instantly who has designed the home. I am fascinated by people. When I walk into a home, I immediately want to know who lives there. What books they are reading, what photos and artwork they have on display. “Things” matter. We curate our lives around things we collect from places we have been, and they land up reflecting who we are. That’s where I get my inspiration from. My job is to connect people back to their home with their things and themselves and leave them with a home that reflects their truth.

In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?

As we live with the ever-evolving use of technology, design is becoming increasingly intertwined with the rise of mobile devices, digital experience, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence. Designers are poised to create immersive, responsive, and user- friendly digital interfaces that seamlessly integrate with the physical world.

What I really love seeing is that Design is increasingly being recognised as a cross-disciplinary collaborative experience. Designers are working closely with professionals from various fields such as engineering, psychology, marketing, and data science to create a more holistic and innovate solution. These collaborations I feel address complex problems and generate meaningful outcomes.

I truly believe we are also pairing back a lot of our “clutter” and growing towards a more minimalistic and simplistic design aesthetic. Clean lines, ample space, and elegance. This approach is aimed at eliminating distractions and creating more visually appealing designs that communicate efficiently and effectively.

Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2023 and beyond.

My personal 5 key themes are words I use in all my projects. Rest, Relaxation, Rejuvenation, Repair and Romance. Life is so busy in the outside world that when it comes that time at the end of the day when you get home and close the door. Your home should embrace all these elements that nurture you back to self.

If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to design schemes, what would it be?

Before you even think of a design scheme – Ask yourself, “How do I want to feel, What do I want and Does this serve me?”

How important are The International Design & Architecture Awards?

These are the Oscars in our field. I have always chanted “effort is sexy” whether it’s an outfit you’re wearing, a dinner party you’re hosting or a design project you are creating. These awards provide validation and recognition for exceptional work in the industry. It inspires and motivates designers and architects to push their craft to higher levels. Inspiration fuels further creativity and encourages experimentation and elevates the standard of design and architecture.

What projects are you currently working on?

I have a wonderful renovation I am doing for a couple who are downscaling in size but up reaching in elegance and sophistication. They are moving to a new city and embarking on an adventure into a lock up and go lifestyle whilst still creating a home that will be a haven upon their return from travelling.

What was your favourite project to work on and why?

To date and this has been for many years my favourite project was redoing my dentists’ mothers’ home as a surprise for her. It took some fancy footwork and family navigations to get her out of the house for a few weeks while I took the smallest budget I have every played with and created a warm and exciting home. It allowed me to think outside of the box and go back to basics where it wasn’t about money and fancy things. It was about home and nurture and warmth and love. Many years later I went back to renovate her bathroom and I was extremely moved to find everything I had done was still in the exact place I left it.

What was your most challenging project to work on and why?

I never find my projects consuming me in the idea of a negative challenge. Creative challenges are where the magic happens – in sitting in silence and letting the answer rise up. When that eureka moment doesn’t arise within myself, then collaboration, humour, and respect for others whose creativity and talents lie above or alongside mine is always worthy of a drink. When you leave egocentrism at the door and poke around at the project with the explorative mind the answers always come.

Which products/services could you not live without when designing?

There are no fixed products I am particularly attached to because each job is unique in budget and design. We change so much; we have to adapt to everything coming and going. The only thing I hold onto with the utmost respect and love is the team of people I have gathered around me over the last 20 years. I can conjure up the most ridiculous ideas and they laugh at me, till we stop laughing and I say, “great so how do we make this…”. The rest is created by the genius of my team who manage to somehow see what’s in my head and make it happen. I trust them, they trust me. It’s what makes us do what we do and do it well.

What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?

Personal goal. To buy and afford my dream home.
Work goal. I would like to do a hotel and be given free reign of the design.

Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself and your daily inspirations:

Your most treasured possession?

I was once burgled many years ago and everything I thought I ever treasured was stolen. It was a valuable lesson on placing attachment to “things” and as much as I have said “things” matter, which I really do believe they do, you are still however you without them. So, love them while you have them and be healthy in the attachment. My most treasured possession in my home is a giant clear quartz crystal that was given to me for my 40th by my closest friends. The meaning is healing and spiritual growth. Its sits on my coffee table and I never live without it.

Your favourite holiday destination?

Anywhere where there is no cell phone reception, soft sand, and a sea I can swim in. Bucket list : Mnemba Island for 3 weeks!!

Your favourite hotel, restaurant & bar?

Hotel : La Residence hotel in Franschhoek. Its exquisite on so many levels, quiet, quirky, 5 star and surrounded by the most beautiful mountains. It’s a place you can happily escape and unplug yourself from the world.

Restaurant Snazzy : Grotta di Palazzese in Polignano : ridiculous views, food is amazing.

Restaurant wholesome : Il Getino Plano Nowa in London : can you tell I’m a little in love with Italian food?

Bar: The Bascule Whisky Bar in The Cape Grace Hotel : Cape Town

Your favourite book, film & song?

Book: Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen

Film: A Single Man, Directed by Tom Ford

Song: L’appuntamento, Ornella Vanoni

Your favourite food and drink? 

Food: My partners version of spaghetti alla puttanesca, eaten on the balcony looking at the sea with white linen napkins, my Ralph Lauren plates and large bottle of cold white wine.

Drink The Sassenach Whisky, lots of ice, little bit of still water in a short heavy crystal glass.

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon?

With my partner and my two close friends in their garden in Stanford, under their vineyard canopy where there is a table and we sit there eating, drinking, laughing and connecting.

Anything else interesting?

My amazing friend is a Joy coach, and she has taught me the difference between Happiness and Joy. Happiness is not a something you wake up and decide to become that day. Creating small moments of Joy in your everyday life leads you to living a life of happiness.

Life is interesting if you learn to play. I was not a playful child as I needed to be adult rather early on in my life. But I have learnt to play and allow my inner child to dance. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you believe in yourself. Life is only interesting if you choose to make it that way. I live a very happy life!

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The International Design & Architecture Awards 2024
are organised by design et al and sponsored by:

Sylka Carpets
Joseph Giles

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