Our arrival at the showroom gallery for AIRA Residence must have provided a pleasant break for Karin Meyn on a busy morning. The creative director of interior and styling of Studio Piet Boon was found by staff in one of the bedrooms of the show unit, adjusting a side table to just the right angle.
Putting the finishing touches to the studio’s projects is akin to signing off for Meyn, who flew to Malaysia with her team for a few days to work on the next phase of the luxury development and to finalise the styling of the show unit.
The AIRA Residence project marks the first time the Oostzaan-based design studio is working in Malaysia, after having been approached by its developer Selangor Properties Bhd for a collaboration. Helmed by award-winning Dutch designer Piet Boon, the bespoke company has worked on some of the world’s most stylish spaces, from private homes to hotels, retail spaces, restaurants and office buildings.
As a business partner who has been with the company since 1986, Meyn is an instrumental shaper of the Piet Boon aesthetic. In 2012, her philosophies and tips were compiled into an illustrated guidebook entitled Piet Boon Styling by Karin Meyn.
Meyn says it is all about the balance of “yin and yang” when it comes to how she works with her partner, a masculine versus feminine equilibrium that sees her complementing Boon’s architectural vision with materials, colours and art.
She credits that aesthetical instinct to her upbringing, particularly by her father. “I was born and grew up in Oostzaan actually, in a close-knit family of 14, seven boys and seven girls, I was number 12. My father was an entrepreneur and inventor, and I definitely inherited his creativity. But he was also a man who had a great eye for beauty and details — he loved fabrics, fashion and had a great passion for art. I remember evenings and weekends when he would take some of us to art galleries, or to look for materials and fabrics. He was very good with colours, so I would say it is in my DNA.”
We get to see first-hand how adept Meyn is in the language of colours and textures as we step into the spacious living room of AIRA’s 5, 253 sq ft Type-A show unit. Studio Piet Boon’s signature embraces clean lines, understated elegance and nuances of impactful details. The latter, especially, lend an air of lived-in comfort to the showroom.
Meyn calls it the soft touch. “True to who we are, we made the decision to keep things overall more muted, and then play up the contrast of light and strong colours in different ways. So the TV wall has a dark tone, but then the sitting area is soft in tone. Colour comes in the form of the cushions, with soft blue and fabrics with different textures like silk and leather. It is the same with the carpets and curtains — textures and colours,” she explains.
But what completes the room is obviously Meyn’s Midas touch for decorating, though it is the subtlety that stands out. Interestingly, we see an Oriental-style traditional painting and some bits and bobs of decorative items that are not typically sleek showpieces . We are told later that some of the art and decorative items belong to the developers — the Wen family — but that is exactly why she chose to use them.
“Our philosophy is always [about] functionality, aesthetic and individuality — these are the ingredients that define the Studio Piet Boon experience. We often hear that our work has a ‘Zen’ quality, and I feel a lot of affinity with the Eastern wabi-sabi philosophy and appreciate the beauty of imperfection and transience. Less is more, I believe that, but that said, I also think things from the past are very important. You have to think about the personality and identity of your home and your family. If not, the house is no different from all the others out there. Identity adds more softness, so our clients never say our work is ‘cold’, even if it is clean,” says Meyn.
She also makes sure to include local materials and elements in her work. As we proceed past the living room, an oval dining table in the connected room comes into view. The choice not only provides a break from the strong lines of the living room and kitchen, but also represents the Asian tradition of having communal meals. In the kitchen, one can see more of these East-meets-West touches, from natural lighting to gold-leaf paint wallpaper that warms up the large space.
Even the setting of plates on the table is a mix and match of the studio’s own line of dishes, which adds a playful character that is further enhanced by placing traditional Chinese porcelain decorative pieces in the background, or in the wet kitchen and some dim sum steamer baskets on the windowsill.
It brings to mind snapshots of an avid traveller, which Meyn acknowledges is how she draws inspiration. “Travelling and art. I always visit a museum whenever I go to a city, and I try to visit art galleries. I am a collector. But it is not just one thing. Everywhere I walk, it never stops. It may be on the streets, or what people wear … and yes, the local food,” her eyes lighting up as she smiles.
Calling design a conversation, where the flow is very important, Meyn says the key to a good conversation is focus, especially when it comes to the last touches of decoration. “Things don’t have to match exactly, but it is also not about decorating everywhere. It is about making the decision of putting things together in a certain way, and in which part of the house. You want to create a focal point in any room you walk into,” she says.
What is her prescription for a stylish home, you may ask. “Clean up, clean up, clean up. I tell everyone to start the same way. Take some things out, less is more. I go to houses and there is always too much going on, too full. I am not saying throw everything, I too always buy something little from every place I visit. But don’t put everything in, especially if it does not look good. Put in the things you love to look at, and those you will use again.”
As Meyn steps back to look at her work, one can sense of satisfaction the creative director feels. She certainly has the same passion as when she first started. “When I went on site and looked out at the skyline, and I looked at what we have managed to create here for the first time, I felt proud that we could do this project in AIRA. I emailed my team back home, showed them a few photos, and said we have to take more pride in what we do and to do more in this country. Each one is always different, it is never the same,” Meyn smiles. With that, she gets back to work.
This article first appeared on Apr 8, 2019 in The Edge Malaysia.