Designer in Profile: Lesley Zaal, Etcetera Living LLC

Etcetera Living LLC have recently been successfully shortlised in the International Design and Architecture Awards 2014 with their Water Villa project entering the Gulf States Interior Design Residential £5 million plus (property value) category and also with their “7th Heaven” project being shortlisted in the Gulf States – Living Space category.


Name: Lesley Zaal

Company: Etcetera Living LLC

Position within company: Managing Partner




Tell us a little about your background in design (education, experience, etc)

I actually studied Hotel management originally and only got into interior design in 2002! I have always loved interiors and once my children were grown up I decided that I would start my own business in Interiors. I did the very first short introduction to Interiors with Kelly Hoppen and this was what sparked my desire to start my business! I found premises, employed a young Interior designer and Etcetera Living was born in 2003!I n the beginning it was just the two of us, plus a salesman in the showroom. I have literally learnt all I know “on the job’.

We started doing individual rooms for clients and soft furnishings and then we started collaborating with a developer and specified all the finishes for the villas.

Fast forward to today and we are a team of fifty people ranging from architects and designers through to carpenters, painters etc. The backup team are the backbone of the company, enabling us to do most of the work in-house.


How would you describe your personal interior design style?

Definitely modern but with quirky touches. I love to find unusual pieces on my travels- either for myself or for clients!


Where does your design inspiration come from?

I travel a lot both for work and personally and I just buy whatever I really like! Often one piece in my warehouse will be the inspiration for a complete room.


In what direction do you feel that design is moving towards in a general sense?

I would say that design is moving away from the “cardboard cut-out hotel style “ and more towards clean lines but with the ability to add touches to personalise and definitely looking at ways to be “Green”.


Name five key themes to consider when approaching design in 2014 and beyond.

First and foremost would have to be budget, then green wherever possible as we all want to keep our planet thriving.

Recycling of products is also becoming much more the norm, so not insisting that clients get rid of every item of furniture they have but rather re-upholster or re-paint much loved pieces .

The use of LED lighting is of course the only way forward.

Natural light when looking at internal spaces, especially in bathrooms and dressing areas.


If you could offer one piece of advice when it comes to interior design schemes, what would it be?

Keep it simple and neutral as the base. It is always easy to add colour with wall paint and accessories.


How important are The International Design and Architecture Awards as recognition of talent and achievement?

It is important for any company wanting to be recognised for their work to be a part of such a prestigious award.


What projects are you currently working on?

Currently we are finishing a house on “The Palm” in Dubai and another large house in Abu Dhabi plus a penthouse apartment in Dubai Marina.


What are your aims and goals for the next twelve months?

We have projects until the end of 2014 already scheduled but I would ideally like us to have some work in other countries also.


Final thoughts; tell us a little more about yourself

Your most treasured possession? – The first watch my husband bought for me for our first wedding anniversary- an EBEL Beluga.

Your favourite holiday destination? – Phuket in Thailand

Your favourite hotel / restaurant / bar? – Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok (not for the décor but for the amazing service!)

Your favourite book / film / song? – Favourite book – The Great Gatsby- I studied it for A level and just fell in love with it! (The 1920’s is also one of my favourite periods for inspiration in interior design.)

Favourite film – The French Lieutenants Woman

Favourite song – any song by The Temptations

Your favourite food and drink? – Without a doubt Thai food.

Your favourite way to spend an afternoon? (in no more than 25 words) – Relaxing with my family after a fabulous lunch and playing with my grandsons.

If you weren’t a designer, what would you be? – If I wasn’t a designer I would probably be a chef. I follow the Paleo diet and am always looking for new and interesting recipes.


Anything else interesting?

I came to Design relatively late in life in my late 40’s but would just say to anyone that it is never too late to follow your dream! I wake up every morning loving my job!