Welcome to Yael Shmueli-Goetz’s London home

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Photographs of Yael Shmueli-Goetz's home © The Interior Photographer

Yael Shmueli-Goetz is the founder of the London-based interior design studio plainHjem. Her practice, influenced by the Scandinavian aesthetic and the Japanese Wabi Sabi approach, blends form and function while favoring natural materials. Join us as we chat with Yael all about her journey in the world of design so far, the key philosophies that underlie her practice, and her personal connection to the fine arts.

1. Hello Yael! Thank you for taking the time to chat with us. Can you tell us a bit about your background in design? What initially drew you to this field, and eventually to found your own design studio?

I “formally" came to design quite late in life, after more than two decades as an academic psychologist, in the field of Developmental Psychology. My interest in design, though, was always there, very much as a driving force and a great passion, but a mere hobby. It was my eldest's transition to secondary school that was the catalyst to embracing interior design as a profession, and after a course at KLC School of Design, I was ready to unleash myself on the design world (unsure of whether the design world was ready to embrace me!).

I initially worked for a number of studios as a freelancer and subsequently decided to take the plunge, to found my own studio, plainHjem. Alongside taking on independent projects, I continue to work as a freelance designer for others. For the past year, I have worked closely with a wonderful team of architects at Jonathan Tuckey Design (JTD), delivering architecture and interiors that are thoughtfully conceived and aesthetically aligned.

2. Can you tell us about a project that you are particularly proud of?

It would have to be our own family home, as it was, and still is, such a labor of love. Not only with respect to the design but the sheer hard graft to make it into an inviting space that could evolve, change and grow, to accommodate different wants and needs. It's not a finished project, just the closing of another chapter.

No one project is like another, each presenting new challenges and calling on a different approach which is what I love about this work. Two large ongoing projects that I am excited about come to mind: a plainHjem collaboration with Brown & Brown Architects on a new build, contemporary house with a soft minimalist aesthetic in Scotland, and a wonderful Grade I listed manor house in the lush English countryside, for JTD.

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Photographs of Yael Shmueli-Goetz's home © The Interior Photographer

3. Two core values of your practice are quality and durability, with an emphasis on natural materials. Do you consider sustainability an integral aspect of good modern design? Has this value always been important to you?

Sustainability is paramount, though I am mindful that it is so easy to jump on the bandwagon and not truly practice what you preach. I generally hate waste, and my position on interior elements is that there are so many timeless pieces that have been designed with care and crafted to last, and thus it seems logical and sensible to curate and source such pieces, beyond the aesthetic value they bring. Interiors can never be compromised, only enhanced by the inclusion of such pieces. In addition, I try as much as possible to source sustainable textiles and other finishes, but I do think we all have a long way to go. It's a work in progress…

4. Your practice is influenced by Scandinavian design and the Japanese Wabi Sabi approach. Can you tell us a bit more about these design philosophies and how they play into your work?

What I take from both design approaches is a focus on natural materials, on craftsmanship, and a recognition that there is poetic beauty in imperfection. The synergy of Scandinavian and Japanese design is so natural because of these shared values, and of course an underlying aesthetic alignment, essentially “less is more." I take great care in choosing materials that celebrate the connection between nature and the human experience, texture and tactility, grain and knot, reflecting the passing of time and enduring relevance.

5. Your interiors often incorporate mid-century pieces. What is it about mid-century modern design that draws your attention?

On a personal level, I think in part, it's being exposed to these wonderful pieces whilst spending some of my childhood in Denmark. The Scandinavian greats of architecture and design, Hans Wegner, Arne Jacobsen, Bodil Kjær, and Grete Jalk to name but a few. In my adult years I have grown more appreciative of the marriage of function and form, a balance achieved and exemplified by many of the classic and iconic mid-century elements. The fact that many of these pieces have endured attests to their “success," and it is conceivable that they will remain relevant in another two hundred years or more. In essence, that is what is so appealing to me about mid-century modern design.

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On the left: photograph of Yael Shmueli-Goetz's home, on the right: portrait of Yael Shmueli-Goetz © The Interior Photographer

6. Your Instagram feed is full of beautiful design inspiration. Do you find that social media aids your creative process? Where else do you turn for creative inspiration?

Absolutely it does. Though, like many, my relationship with social media is a rather ambivalent one but it must be conquered and embraced. I take a lot of inspiration from the work of others, designers, architects, artists, and other creatives or otherwise, and often look to Instagram or Pinterest, especially in the early stages of research and development of ideas. However, an image only tells part of a story, a perspective, and it's important to hold that firmly in mind. I take inspiration from life, and what I mean is anything and everything. It could be the way light falls on an object, a sightline newly observed, a granite paving stone with wonderful veining and tone. It's about keenly observing the world and being open to receive.

7. Would you consider yourself an art lover? If so, do the fine arts play an important role in your design practice?

I am an art lover and my relationship with art is neither intellectual nor complex. I don't search for meaning when observing art but rather my “litmus test" is a simple one - does it engage me or evoke a feeling in me? It's a gut thing, much like my design. There is a huge overlap between art and design, and art is an endless source of inspiration. An artwork is often a starting point for me, with respect to the development of a design concept and/or a color palette, and I will ask my clients to name their favorite artists or artworks as part of the briefing stage. I consider most artists to have a wonderful eye for color combinations and composition, both of which are critical to my work too.

8. Are there any visual artists you have your eye on at the moment?

I recently discovered the work of Anne Rotherstein. I love her use of bold colors, her eerie landscapes, and ambiguous figures in solitude or close company. I also love the work of Poppy Jones who combines printmaking, with drawing and photography on an unusual material, suede, to capture a moment, an object, playing on light and shadow. Finally, the work of Susanne Wellm combines my love of textiles and Scandinavia. Wellm manages to convey fragments of life in a very engaging way, overlaying images with textile threads, narrative threads.

9. Finally, if you could design your dream project, where and what would it be?

A house on a remote cliff in New Zealand or, closer to home, in Scotland overlooking a Loch or Isle. It will be very pared back but also cozy and homely, not an easy balance to strike. I'm not sure I would want to live there permanently, but certainly a place to escape to, a place to enjoy nature uninterrupted.

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Their favorite artworks

Mystery train, Sarah Baley

Mystery train

Sarah Baley

Photography - 20.1 x 13.4 x 0.4 inch