Creating an Interior Concept, with Alison Lewis Interiors


In spite of the multitude of challenges presented by this second lockdown, the highly motivated BuildHer8 ladies have been ramping up the momentum at the Rathmines Project.

We have now almost completed our ‘take off’, and the tender process has officially commenced with leading trades and contractors!

What’s more, services (electricity, gas, telecoms) are being abolished as we speak, and site demolition set to commence later this month!

We are set to rock and roll, baby!!!

Meanwhile Rachel and Alison, our two BuildHer8 interior designers, have some pretty special design features on the agenda.

One of the many unique propositions about the Rathmines Project is that the two sister houses, North and South, are deliberately designed to be – and I quote Ben Callery of Ben Callery Architects – “different in form and materiality”.

Two entirely distinct offerings will be brought to market – so what a brilliant opportunity for each of our designers to showcase their individual and fabulous styles and personalities. And kid you not, their styles are chalk and cheese, but both breathtaking in their own way.

Yup, there will be nothing cookie cutter about these homes!

Ivy (from Homes by Ivy) recently caught up with Alison Lewis (check out her website Alison Lewis Interiors) who is responsible for North House.

She shares with us her design process inspirations and hot tips on where to start and how to address that inevitable sense of overwhelm when thinking all things interiors for your own projects.


IVY: Hey Al! OK so let’s say I’m in the planning stages of a project, I’ve got a floorplan and I really need to start making interior design decisions! It’s seriously overwhelming and I’m overdosing on Insta, Pinterest, Houzz….

Where do I start?! Talk us through your creative / design process.

AL: I always start with a concept and go from there. Concepts are *so* important and I’ll explain why in a bit.

For me, I use Pinterest to get the creative juices flowing. I’ll usually create a board and brainstorm a series of words that describe the look and feel I’m aiming for e.g. earthy, warm, rustic or it could be colour pop, boho, maximalist.

Once I’ve got an idea in my head, I’ll start finding images that evoke these feelings.

I also have a few go-to designers and architects who I know do a particular style of interior and I’ll use them to begin the creative journey.

Once my board is starting to take shape and I feel like I’ve got a clear idea of where the interior is headed, I’ll do my concept.

IVY: Why is it so important to do a ‘concept’ before you start choosing specific finishes?

AL: Concepts are an amazing way to keep you on track. Concepts aren’t just images either, I do both a ‘concept board’ (also known as a mood board) and a written ‘concept statement that describes what I’m trying to achieve for the interiors.

It can be difficult initially to think in full sentences, so I start by jotting down some words and phrases of how I want my finished project to look and begin to build the concept statement from there.

Design and render by Ben Callery Architects. Words by Alison Lewis.

A little handy tip to remember is – keep referring back to your concept board! Concepts are created at the very beginning of your project and capture the essence of its completion. When things become overwhelming, as they so often can when it’s time to select finishes, the concept can bring you back to where you started and remind you of what your objectives are and the look and feel you want to create.

I never do a project without one and I find it amazing to look at my finished project and then back at my concept, because even though projects ebb and flow and changes happen, the look and feel captured in my concept will always be reflected in the finished project.


IVY: What have you got in store for the North House at the Rathmines project?

AL: I’m so pumped to be responsible for the interiors of the North House for the Rathmines project! It’s pretty special to be a part of a group of 8 like-minded women passionate about development and building.

My concept for the North House is to create

“a modern interior with soft timber features and earthy tones, with a light, bright and fresh feeling throughout”.

Ben Callery Architects have designed a home that not only sits perfectly within Fairfield’s leafy surrounds, but also speaks to the lifestyle, needs and wants from families looking to buy Northside. My aim is to enhance this experience by creating an interior that’s a little bit edgy, uses colours and textures that are calming to the chaos that family life can often bring, is above all functional and talks effortlessly with its exterior.

I’ve done this by incorporating a mix of finishes, textures and design elements that tell a story as you walk through the house. For example, there’s an amazing sunken lounge that just screams retro, so I’m creating a space that will be a throwback to the 70’s but done in a way that allows for a modern-day interpretation of a second living area. Don’t worry, there won’t be any shag pile furniture or disco balls, rather I’ll be taking the best of the era and using these elements to create a sophisticated and refined space the whole family can connect with.

Concept Design by Alison Lewis Interiors


IVY: Who are your biggest design influencers?

AL: Ahh, where do I start!? I love everything Whiting Architects / Carole Whiting to, as well as the powerhouse design teams behind Kennedy Nolan and Arent & Pyke Studio. If budget allowed, I would probably purchase everything from the Sarah Ellison Studio catalogue. Currently, I’m loving the work coming out of local Kew firm Studio Bright and Doherty Design Studio – AH-mazing!

Having Instagram at our fingertips also means that I can follow inspo pages that basically take all the hard work out of sourcing images individually. My fave would have to be Domino MagazineThe Design FilesHunting for George and The Designory.


IVY: What are your 3 hot tips to our readers?

AL: Apart from the importance of starting with a concept like we discussed earlier, my first hot tip would be to get help early on in your project in the areas that you’re not confident in. Having the right input early on will save you an incredible amount of time down the track and potentially thousands of dollars.

My second tip would be to really think about how you want your home to feel once your project is complete.

If you’re a family of 5 with young, active kids then maybe marble benchtops are not the best option for you right now. Or perhaps you are a lover of light and your house orientation is south facing? If so, investing in a professional who can maximise the amount of light coming into your home at the design stage will prevent any disappointment once the build is complete.

My final hot tip would be to have fun with your finishes and styling.

If you love that burnt orange terrazzo but you’re worried how your friends might feel, give yourself a break and go with what makes your heart sing. So often we can choose the safe option for fear of getting it wrong, but your home is an expression of the people who live in it. Make it about you and what you love – and if you’re not sure how to get everything to work together, engage an interior designer to help you put everything together. It could be a simple one-off consultation that is the key to eliminating the overwhelm and keeping you on track to create your perfect dream home.


Alongside designing and project managing her own builds, Alison also offers design consultations and coaching to those embarking on the renovating or new build process, seasoned veterans who need a sounding board for their current project and everyone else in between. Check out her website or follow her on Insta for more details.

Alison splits her time between living in Melbourne and Byron Bay, Australia.

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