Thinking outside of the box for personal growth

Designing outside the lines

Between the concrete facades of the urban jungle and prescribed trends, attempts at expression can easily succumb to sameness. But interior designer Lorena Gaxiola shows that by strategically breaking the rules, you can create a bespoke space that facilitates and follows personal growth.

In between the trends du jour and a world of design principles, the notion of a personalised sanctuary may be oxymoronic with individual imperatives squeezed out by obligation. It’s an impediment to designing a home space that encourages personal growth and the freedom to live authentically, says interior designer Lorena Gaxiola.

Informed by her Mexican heritage and a background in fine arts, she suggests that breaking the rules is a promising foundation for truly reflecting your current and future
needs and individual style. “People are often afraid to hang artwork or paint walls because they are renting, but it is not hard to patch walls and repaint,” says Gaxiola. “How else can
you make a space your own if not by changing the main characteristics of your space?  The walls are the face of the home and without make-up, you have a washed, untidy face; but just like make-up, you don’t want to overdo it or you will look like a clown. A little goes a long way.”

In her own home, Gaxiola adopts a ‘make-up’ palette that pays homage to her rule-breaking heritage. “Growing up in a very colourful country and a country where rules are made to be broken, I tend to apply the same sentiment to my designs,” she says.

“I always ask myself, why not? I live outside of the box and often argue with my clients when they just want to follow rules. But, when I finally convince them to break a design rule, more often than not that design motif becomes their favourite feature. There is something to be said about getting over a fear or overcoming a personal challenge.”

One objective Gaxiola sought to achieve when designing her home was to avoid pursuing perfection. “Fixed finishes and materials like joinery and flooring do not need to match the furnishing styles or colours,” she says. “Like my practice, I tend to view the fixed materials as one matter and then look at furnishings and accessories as a completely different animal. The two do not always need to relate and, in my home, that is very clear.”

Gaxiola’s appreciation of the impact of accessories, artwork and furnishings led her to launch her eponymous homewares brand ( . “The devil is in the details,” she says. But Gaxiola’s accessories are not details for details’ sake. “From the books on my bedside table to the furnishings and the artwork, everything has a meaning and a purpose,” she says. Much of this purpose is emotional, meaning the details, like Gaxiola’s materials and furnishings, do not always match. “I like to surround myself with things that matter to me and I keep acquiring more and more things whilst moving them from home to home,” she says. “I have an emotional connection with my objects and this means that I constantly need to mix different styles of furnishings with lots of artwork and sculptural pieces.” Gaxiola admits that these unorthodox pairings can lead to ‘disaster’ in the wrong hands, but with careful planning they produce standout features.

Any possibility of chaos is also reined in by Gaxiola’s celebration of symmetry, which brings an over-arching sense of order to the space. “My obsession with symmetry is definitely influenced by my fine arts degree,” she says. “There is something to be said when you can make chaos look poetic or relevant.”

Modern architecture and functionality also inspire Gaxiola’s practice. “I think I draw a lot of my designs from a deep spiritual connection with life,” she says. “Not so much in a religious way but in a matter of holistic function. I like to balance materials, shapes and colours to create a sense of peace and zen.”

Creating this sense of zen and establishing a family-friendly environment in a multistorey inner-city apartment was challenging. “We have an open floor plan and we don’t have many walls to anchor furnishings to, so the furniture selections were considered firsthand,” says the designer. Next she had to consider every family’s dilemma – toy storage. “I have a six-year-old girl that likes to play 24/7,” she says. “I want her to feel comfortable and included so there is plenty of storage to hide the clutter while she maintains close access to her favourite toys.” To achieve this ease of access without the clutter, Gaxiola uses multi-functional furniture. “That doesn’t mean it needs to be boring and square,” says the designer. “In her bedroom, we use media furniture to conceal her objects while still giving her a bench top area to play.”

The finished product is a bright, spacious home that exudes playfulness and character while never straying too far from the clean lines and functionality of modern architecture. “I love to sleep in on the weekends and if I could stay in my bedroom for days, I would,” Gaxiola says. “I am lucky to have a gorgeous view to the city. During sunset, when the lights in the buildings start lighting up, I feel like I am floating in the sky. It really feels like I am in a hotel room.”

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