Award-winning interior designer Lynne Blumberg of Lynne Blumberg Interior Design talks about building a business, becoming a star in the international world of design, and what it takes to create a home that stands the test of time.
‘I woke up one day in 1981 and told my husband I was bored. It wasn’t that I didn’t adore him and our two kids, but I needed a new challenge.’ That whim is what set Lynne on a path to international acclaim – although she admits she had no design training at the time. However, her passion for style, design and fabric was sparked by her parents early in her childhood: Lynne’s mother designed the dresses she sold in her boutique, Lady Cotton, while her father provided protective clothing. ‘I was just two years old when he taught me about fabric. He made a game of it, showing me different swatches and telling me how much each weighed. Then he’d hide them behind his back, switch them around, and ask me to tell him which was the heaviest. My love started there. Touching and really feeling the fabrics made me aware of the importance of texture.’
Lynne’s upbringing also gave her a boldness and maturity beyond her years – which may be why her lack of a formal qualification in interior design didn’t deter her for an instant. ‘I simply printed out 200 business cards and went on my way,’ she laughs. If she needed proof of the soundness of her decision, she received it in a queue at Pick n Pay. ‘A fellow shopper told me she loved my sense of style and asked what I did for a living. I handed over one of my new business cards and she immediately hired me to do her home’s interiors.’
A little daunted by the scope of her first job, Lynne called on a designer friend to help – but he refused, telling Lynne she had to seize the opportunity. Which she did so well that her name was soon spread around Johannesburg’s home-loving circles. ‘Although my friend taught me how to read plans, I still couldn’t draw. I used to see clients in my dining room and discuss the plans at the table – but the one thing I seemed to do really well was hook into what made them tick. That’s important, because sometimes clients don’t actually know what they want’
After her beloved husband was killed, Lynne’s life changed dramatically – along with her view of her business. No longer simply a fulfilling source of satisfaction, it became her entire livelihood as she did all she could to support her two children.
Her abilities and insight helped her grow the company to the point where she was able to employ a team, and now offers a turnkey service. Her design style mirrors the eclectic look she personally favours; in fact, she takes pride in the fact that Lynne Blumberg Interior Design has no signature look. That said, her trademark is boldness and sophistication. ‘Everything we do is totally bespoke – we meet with you, you tell us what you like and we create the magic, according to your wishlist and working around your lifestyle, whether it’s contemporary, relaxed or glam.’
Apart from designing envy-inducing homes, Lynne also adds the x-factor to corporate and retail spaces, and loves the challenge of larger projects like boutique hotels, lodges and other hospitality establishments.
Lynne’s approach was recently recognised at the International Hotel & Property Awards, where she scooped top spot for Luxury Residence under five million pounds. ‘It had started out as the worst day – I’d lost my earrings and watch in Naples and we were late catching the ferry to Capri, where the awards were being held. I had no idea I’d win the category – all I knew was that I’d been shortlisted, and if you’re not there to collect the award, it goes to someone else.’ The only South African participating in the awards, Lynne knew no one – although she was more daunted by the prospect of navigating Capri’s notorious cobbles in her high heels! ‘I chatted to a few industry members I’d just met and was thrilled when many told me they’d voted for me to win the prize. Then the award was announced and everything became a blur. All I knew was that the room exploded – I got a standing ovation from 500 of the best designers from around the world!’
Joining these august ranks was, obviously, a career highlight – but Lynne says her greatest joy derives from her everyday interactions with clients. ‘My work is so diverse. I’ve been part of projects around the world, from Israel to Angola and Sydney. You can’t say that what we do isn’t important, because we change people’s lives. Making a home for someone is holding a mirror to their soul.’
Lynne changes people’s lives in other ways too. She’s a keen supporter of charity and this year undertook a massive renovation for Hospice, transforming a shabby building into a warm home from home; a comforting sanctuary for patients.
Going forward, Lynne’s excited to help more people realise their design dreams, with plans to perhaps host her own television show. ‘I adore engaging with people, so I want to spread my wings and experience more,’ she says.
The most important lesson she’s learnt on her journey? ’Enjoy every single day as if it were your last, because one day it will be.’
Lynne’s design tips:
• You don’t have to spend a lot on your home, but you should invest in the bones – like tiles and lighting – as these will stand the test of time.
• Take things slowly. You don’t have to do your entire house all at once. Creating a new look for just two rooms a year will help you reach perfection.
• Never match your art to your furnishings. Your home is not a hotel. A Kentridge in an antique home? Fabulous. An antique painting in a modern home? Even better!
• Your bathrooms, especially the master, must be amazing. Install the biggest shower possible, along with a fireplace.
• Buy the best sheets you can afford, but remember that ‘best’ doesn’t necessarily mean the highest thread count. This relates to the thickness of the linen and in hot South Africa, a high thread count isn’t practical.
• Your home must be a reflection of you, and you should feel comfortable in it.