Behind the scenes at YSG: Playing with colour and texture - People AU
Behind the scenes at YSG: Playing with colour and texture

Behind the scenes at YSG: Playing with colour and texture

Homes have always been somewhere to make memories, but what if those memories – the feeling of nostalgia – formed the basis of a home’s interior style? We talk to YSG founder Yasmine Saleh Ghoniem to find out more

Words by Cassie Birrer

You won’t find plain white walls in any of the spaces fitted by Sydney-based interior designer Yasmine Saleh Ghoniem, unless they are adorned with artworks and textiles. Instead, spaces are curated with daring palettes, organic shapes and unexpected textural pairings that ignite the urge to not only visually enjoy the room, but to become fully immersed in it.

“I try to create spaces that have the ability to absorb memories and build new ones,” says Yasmine, founder of YSG. “It’s important that their design aesthetics don’t dominate. It’s the experiences enjoyed in them that should. Comfort and practicality are key, plus the feeling that what you see has never been encountered before.”

Polychrome House by YSG | Photo by Prue Roscoe

Yasmine grew up in the Middle East and spent much of her childhood surrounded by desert landscape.

“Given the unforgiving heat, I spent a lot of time indoors. When I looked out the window, crumbly brown shades reigned for miles. So my imagination became my oasis and I spent a lot of time injecting my bedroom into high chroma fantasies every time we moved to different apartments.”

Today, colour continues to play a key emotive role in her designs. In some projects, it’s the nuances of neutral tones that tether rooms together, while for others, the spectrum is amped up.

Soft Serve by YSG | Photo by Prue Roscoe

This instinctive approach to design is something that the rest of the YSG team also possesses. From different pockets of the globe – including Argentina, Japan, the UK, China, Hungary, the Middle East, New Zealand and Australia – the interior designer and architect is drawn to investigating how discordant textures and patterns can mix to create visually arresting arrangements.

“Matchy-matchy ain’t our thing. Architecturally, our spaces have a carved, inter-connected appeal,” says Yasmine. “I rarely purchase much off the shelf as my design outcomes favour bespoke solutions – from joinery to individual furniture pieces.”

As well as residential projects, YSG has created spaces in the hospitality and commercial sectors. If you’ve dined at Paddington’s The Garden at the Lord Dudley, or stayed at the Hotel Collectionist in Camperdown, Sydney, you’ll have experienced YSG’s work. All are highly customised, steeped in craftsmanship, and honed with an artisanal energy that mutually celebrates whimsy and functionality.

YSG founder Yasmine Saleh Ghoniem | Photo by Prue Roscoe

Interior design meets music and dance

It’s hard to believe that Yasmine wasn’t always destined to be an interior designer – or, at least, she didn’t realise it. Singing was her passion.

“Even though I won a scholarship to the Savannah College of Art and Design in America’s Deep South and then worked in three different architectural practices in America, I aspired to have performing as my main gig, not as a side hustle.”

Landing on Australian shores in 2008, she formed a band with her brother and some friends. During this time, interior design was merely a day job to support her performing at night.

But design found its way back to the forefront of Yasmine’s life in 2013 when she co-founded landscape and interiors practice Amber Road with her landscape architect sister, Katy Svalbe. Using their combined knowledge, the duo created unique design solutions for homes and hospitality locations.

“We hit some amazing goals over seven years before dissolving the company so we could establish our own practices focussing on our niche design strengths.”

Project by Laminex X YSG | Photo by Derek Swalwell
It’s the unpredictable outcomes that give me a real buzz. My most epic conclusions ultimately look like happy accidents rather than highly resolved outcomes. Believe me, achieving this is hard!

With such a strong background in the arts, having also been a dancer since the age of four, Yasmine describes herself as a “choreographer of sorts” when it comes to her interior design practice as her end goal is always about evoking feelings.

The creative process starts with Yasmine spending time on her own in a space – getting the feel for something before the visuals come into effect. Once plans are underway, it’s time to choose the materials and textural pairings that YSG are known for.

“Often it’s the unpredictable outcomes that give me a real buzz. My most epic conclusions ultimately look like happy accidents rather than highly resolved outcomes. Believe me, achieving this is hard!”

And when everything can influence a design, the possibilities are endless.

Deco House by YSG | Photo by Lisa Cohen

Adding personality

With households continuing to spend more time at home, it’s no surprise that people are putting more thought into the design of their spaces.

“I think after exhausting lockdowns, confined within household walls, we’re all craving the cult of personality,” says Yasmine. “So we’re becoming more experimental with colour especially. People are becoming really receptive to unleashing broad upbeat paint strokes across walls and joinery as opposed to limiting that expression through replaceable cushions and rugs.”

The demand for custom timber joinery also seems to be on the rise. As part of Yasmine’s designs, you’ll often find mis-matched timber species or veneers that contrast and create tapestry-like jigsaw connections of joinery surfaces.

So what’s Yasmine’s advice for those wanting to be more daring when it comes to the interiors of their homes? “Tactility is everything.”

See more projects by YSG Studio and get in touch.

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