Posted: 29 Oct 2011 11:17 PM PDT
ALICE Nguyen might come across as the Simon Cowell of the interior design world. One of three judges on The Apartment, a reality penthouse-decorating television show shot in Kuala Lumpur, the American interior designer is no-nonsense and rarely smiles onscreen. She is also known for chilling lines directed at offending competitors, such as "the mood of this room is so cold, I wanted to get a fur coat".
Off the small screen, however, Vietnam-born Nguyen, 36, is friendly and forthcoming.
"As the only interior designer on the show, I had to be the one to take charge," she says of her persona on her TV debut.
The other judges are American host Kahi Lee and British architect Martin Haeger. The trio preside over three teams which are assigned brand new penthouses and have to out-design, out-shop and out-decorate one another within a tight deadline. The grand prize is a Kuala Lumpur condominium worth RM530,000.
The eight-part series, produced by Singapore-based production company Imagine Group, debuted on AXN channel (StarHub Channel 511) on Oct 27 at 8.10pm.
Now based in Singapore, Nguyen was beaming when Life! met her at Ink Bar. She had designed the bar with red leather seats and metal chain drapes in 2003, as a senior designer with Hirsch Bedner & Associates – the renowned interior design firm that sent her to its Singapore office eight years ago.
For the last five years, she has been running her own design firm, Maison. Her work in Singapore also includes nightclub Shanghai Dolly and the Wine Bar & Bistro at St James Power Station and high-end residences and showflats, such as one for Scotts Square with FBEYE International interior design firm in 2006.
Nguyen landed The Apartment gig when a friend referred her to the show's director. On her first TV appearance, she says: "It is very exciting but can be exhausting, too." The eight episodes were filmed over three-and-a-half weeks.
Back home in the United States, she has designed boutique showrooms in Los Angeles' celebrity-favourite Robertson Boulevard, as well as in San Francisco's hip Union Street.
On designing commercial spaces such as nightclubs, she says: "It is all business and I have to be more disciplined about imposing my views." As for residential projects, "you must be patient".
She adds: "You also have to have humility and not go in with arrogance. You have to be respectful and have to accommodate the client."
Regardless of the type of project, the most important thing is to be able to click with the client.
The ideal client is someone who is "decisive but open-minded and not a first-time renovator". Those new to home renovations usually do not know what they want, she explains.
The worst type of clients? "Housewives, because they have too much time on their hands and are too emotional with the project," says Nguyen, who has spent 11 years in the industry.
The trick to dealing with difficult clients, she says, is to be polite. "I'm a diplomatic person. I'm committed to the family for at least a year, so I pick and choose my words."
Still, sometimes this interior designer, who is single, finds herself having to act as a marriage counsellor. The wife may have a certain idea, while the husband has another and communication breaks down.
Nguyen, who studied interior design at the University of California, Los Angeles, describes her style as modern classic, but adds that there is no style that she cannot do. Designing homes in Singapore, however, comes with its own set of restrictions.
"I have to be more climate conscious here. I can't have full carpets or warm upholstery."
She is all for clients who bring in pictures of interiors that they like, so she gets a better feel of what they want. However, she frowns on those who copy showflats wholesale.
By all means, take storage, kitchen and bathroom ideas from such model units, "but the rest of your home, should be a reflection of yourself. Don't copy everything," she advises. – The Straits Times/Asia News Network
The Apartment airs on Thursdays at 8.10pm on AXN (Astro Ch 701).Full content generated by Get Full RSS.
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