Office Diaries feat. Jade Interiors

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Bespoke styling for the home by Aalia Monnoo and Mahvish Ahmed Ellahi

HOW WE GOT INTO INTERIORS:

AALIA: I have a background in Art History with a specialization in Decorative Arts. My most poignant experiences from college were those when I visited museums with our French Decorative Arts professor and she showed us how to correctly “dress” a room. My passion was ignited there and has stayed with me ever since.

MAHVISH: I have loved interior design and architecture for as long as I can remember. Travelling and exploring beautiful hotels, markets and galleries around the world has kept my passion for both alive. I have no formal training in either field, but it’s exhilarating to learn something new each day as our work progresses.

WHAT INSPIRED US TO OPEN JADE:

AALIA: Jade was initially opened in 2012, as a means to bring decorative pieces for the home to Pakistan. Homeowners found it tedious to bring back such large or delicate items from their travels, yet they wanted to be able to incorporate foreign elements into their interior spaces. Hence, we brought back such pieces and hosted an exhibition, which was a great success. After much encouragement from family and friends, we decided to take our passions further and launch our interior styling company, Jade Interiors, which enabled us to create an entire aesthetic for the home.

MAHVISH: We started out in 2012, as Aalia mentioned, and have now evolved into a multi-faceted brand dealing with all aspects of space design. We saw a dire need for accessories in the local market and started out with a bi-annual exhibition of urns and vases from Thailand. The ball never stopped rolling after that.

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THE IDEA BEHIND THE NAME:

AALIA: Jade was chosen for our exhibition in 2012 due to the fact that our pieces were styled with chinois motifs. In Chinese culture, jade symbolizes beauty and indeed, perfection, so it seemed like the perfect choice at the time! The stone symbolizes so many virtues, many of which we hope to embody in our work.

MAHVISH: As a stone, Jade holds great significance in the Orient. It symbolizes success and good fortune, and it just felt fitting to use it as our brand name.

OUR PERSONAL DECORATING AESTHETIC:

AALIA: Our aesthetic is an amalgamation of contemporary materials, classic pieces placed in modern surroundings, sophisticated accent pieces, and above all – drama!

MAHVISH: Our spaces are a fusion of fantastic art, straight-lined furniture with accent pieces and balanced accessories.

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I FIND INSPIRATION IN:

AALIA: Traveling inspires me! It allows you to view cultural differences across the globe from your own unique perspective, thus creating a new vantage point that is entirely your own.

MAHVISH: Everywhere for me. In souks, small nooks and crannies, restaurants and fantastic hotels.

THREE MUST-HAVE ITEMS IN EVERY HOME:

AALIA: I think each home is a reflection of its owner, so there can be no hard and fast rules about essentials as our homes cannot adhere to any strict guidelines to match our individuality. As for me, my home is not complete without books, books and more books!

MAHVISH: I feel every home needs art, at least one piece that’s been handed down to you by your mother, and one cozy corner to call your own.

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WHEN IT COMES TO WORK, YOU CAN FIND US WEARING:

AALIA: Comfort comes first for me. So at work, it’s all about tracks and t-shirts!

MAHVISH: Our work requires us to shop; from humid markets to high end stores, we are always on the go. You can find me in track suits and sneakers in winter and non-embroidered lawn in summer.

GO-TO HAIRSTYLE:

AALIA: A bun. My hair must be off my face, or else I can’t function!

MAHVISH: My hair is always tied up.

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OUR FAVOURITE ACCESSORIES THESE DAYS:

AALIA: I’m a sucker for bracelets and bangles. These days I love the arm candy I recently picked up in Turkey.

MAHVISH: Cocktail rings are my favourite and a lightweight tote is a must have!

WHEN ALL ELSE FAILS, I THROW ON:

AALIA: Jeans and a white t-shirt. It’s classic and uber comfortable!

MAHVISH: Track pants and a hoodie.

WORK QUALITY I AM MOST ADMIRED FOR:

AALIA: Being able to take something old and give it a new life.

MAHVISH: Timely deliveries and being available for clients at all times.

WORK QUALITY I AM MOST HATED FOR:

AALIA: I am useless at being practical. For me, it’s all about form over function, so things will look great, but not always be user friendly!

MAHVISH: I can’t give too many options, which sometimes is what the clients want. I feel I’ve given the best one already.

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PROUDEST WORK MOMENT:

AALIA: Transforming a room for a client in a span of 15 days!

MAHVISH: Making a table out of storage boxes.

FOR LUNCH, I EAT:

AALIA: Lunch is boring, as I eat vegetables and roti with my daughter so that I may set a good example. Le’ts talk dinner… Then it’s all about junk food and chocolate!

MAHVISH: Cucumbers and carrots these days.

COOLEST PART ABOUT MY JOB:

AALIA: I get to create something new with every project, which is invigorating.

MAHVISH: Well, I’m shopping all the time and getting paid for it – is there anything better than that?

WORST PART ABOUT MY JOB:

AALIA: Working within financial parameters. I don’t do well with numbers, and Mahvish is my savior in this department!

MAHVISH: I hate using old furniture, so I’m not good with reusing existing items unless they speak to me.

DESIGN RULES WE LOVE TO BREAK:

AALIA: Nowadays, everything goes! So there are no rules to break.

MAHVISH: Dressing windows is so obsolete. Why must we do something there when we have three other walls to work with.

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FUNNIEST CLIENT STORY:

AALIA: Having a client run to get some glint and a dusting cloth when they saw our installation of distressed mirrors!

MAHVISH: Haha! I’d have to agree on that one too.

OUR WORK ROUTINE ON A REGULAR DAY:

AALIA: Our work is very flexible as we don’t have an office and work from home. When working on a project, Mahvish and I divide the tasks amongst ourselves and then venture out to acquire pieces at our leisure. We then meet up in the evenings to discuss placement and overall finishing.

MAHVISH: Our work is project based, so once it starts there’s pretty much a realistic deadline to follow. We plan together and visit sites together, but after that we divide the work load and share our daily inputs.

ADVICE FOR A YOUNGER ME:

AALIA: If I could go back in time and give myself some advice, it would be to embrace the social media revolution! It’s such a great tool to be able to put yourself out there and exchange information. That being said, I rarely take my own advice and would probably still not have joined Facebook!

MAHVISH: I should have studied architecture and pursued it as a career, but I live with no regrets and experience is the best teacher .

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UP NEXT AT WORK, WE ARE MOST LOOKING FORWARD TO:

AALIA: A major renovation project; Transformations are our forte!

MAHVISH: A construction related makeover.

SOMETHING THAT SURPRISES ME ABOUT THE INDUSTRY:

AALIA: It’s lovely to see furniture-makers taking risks and breaking away from traditional designs and concepts. Our job is so much easier as we can shop around for items that are edgy and fun, as opposed to generic pieces that have been done to death.

MAHVISH: I’m surprised to see no one here is making glazed terracotta and ceramic pots and urns as planters. We have the conventional decade old designs but nothing new comes up, whereas we have great artisans and it doesn’t require expensive materials. We are looking into talking to local manufacturers to pursue making these items.

PERKS OF OWNING MY OWN BUSINESS:

AALIA: The timings! I have a 10 month old baby and he keeps me rather busy, thus the ability to create my own work hours is a godsend!

MAHVISH: I can take on a project or not depending on my will. I do not work in Ramzan or during my kids exams, and I still get to travel very frequently.

MOST MEMORABLE EXPERIENCE FROM MY CAREER:

AALIA: We are a fairly new company, so I hope to make many more memories in order to be able to choose the most memorable experience. To date, the look on our client’s face when he saw the transformation of his section for the first time.

MAHVISH: I’d say our trip to Bangkok has to be it,as that was our first business venture and I have fond memories to date.

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IF I COULD HELP DECORATE THE HOME OF ONE CELEBRITY IT WOULD BE:

AALIA: Meryl Streep. Not because I think she needs any interior tips, but just because I would love to meet her!

MAHVISH: I think I’d do Tom Cruise’s house for the same reason!

FAVOURITE PIECE IN MY OWN HOME:

AALIA: An antique chinois, mother-of-pearl inlay cabinet given to me by my mother. You just can’t find pieces with that level of craftsmanship these days.

MAHVISH: A pure silver tray given to me as a wedding gift from a dear friend.

FAVOURITE INTERIORS WEBSITES, MAGAZINES AND BLOGS:

AALIA: I love Elle Decor, Interiors and Wallpaper magazines. I’m very old school and prefer to see things on paper as opposed to a screen.

MAHVISH: I’ll flip through any magazine really, but these days one can find great ideas and concepts on Pinterest and Instagram.

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