Lubna sat down with us to share what ignited her passion for design, how she wrapped her mind around reimagining the interior of the members lounge at one of Asia’s oldest and finest clubs—the Sind Club, and what contemporary painting stands out in her own lounge.

Can you tell us about your journey and what ignited your passion for Interior Design?

It was ignited following a self-initiated project to refurbish my home. I’ve always been inspired by looking to nature and bringing the outside in through colour, pattern and texture. I wanted to realise this. When the transformation was complete my friends fell in love with it too and by word-of-mouth my design journey began— including a project for ICI to renovate their guest house in the beautiful hill station of Nathia Gali.

In the early noughties I made a move to London and did a course with the multi-award winning designer Kelly Hoppen CBE. Her ever-evolving style defined by a fusion of clean lines and neutral tones balanced with opulence and warmth has always been an inspiration to me.

When I returned to Pakistan I was approached by Naheed Mashooqulla to join her studio for Interior Design and Architecture and was privileged to work on a broad roster of projects. You’ll most likely be familiar with Naheed’s game-changing design of the Pakistan Pavilion at the Expo 2020, Dubai.

Fast forward to today and I’m thrilled to be working with the team at NEO to help our customers feel more comfortable experimenting with colour and new techniques to create a home that is truly a reflection of them.

Do you have a project that you’re particularly proud of?

There’s been many accomplishments along the way and my work for the Sind Club—an exclusive members club established in 1871— is something I feel great about. Actually, the Club’s story is almost as old as Karachi itself! 

It was a commission to refresh the interior of their members lounge. I had a 

window of 28 days to complete during fasting. The challenge was to modernise while respecting and complementing the wonderful Victorian architecture and original features from the days of the Raj. 

I wanted to preserve the character at the same time taking inspiration from it. 

Getting this right meant an enormous amount of research. 

A new colour scheme played a critical part. Moving away from off-white walls to bring in colours from the period. I picked-up on the stunning original mosaic tiling and selected a mint/pistachio colour which was taken right up to the incredibly high wood panelled ceilings. The furniture had to be of the utmost comfort and I reimagined beautiful vintage seating all upholstered in a rich grape leather. The ambience in the space was transformed and the new interior still felt ‘of its place’. 

Does your own home reflect your professional style?

Yes, it does. Aesthetics must marry with comfort and relaxation. I live by the motto adding extra to ordinary. An eye for beauty that can work regardless of budget. 

My style is minimal with a twist. Last year I redecorated my space and changed the predominant scheme to white, enhanced with different textures—velvet, linen, cotton. And I adore glass. Take a glass table top for example, then accent colour through a rug or carpet. 

I always aim for one wow factor in a room, an investment piece of art or furniture. The standout piece in my lounge is by contemporary Pakistani painter Unver Shafi Khan. It’s a large and richly coloured abstract, done in acrylic. I adore it. 

Design is a global business. Do you have a favourite country or region that inspires you?

I have several favourites. Country wise—Thailand and Malaysia. City wise—London, Paris and Rome. Inspiration can come from surprising places. For example, on my last visit to London the doormen at The Ivy Asia wore smart outfits made from damask. I ran with that idea to reupholster a sofa with the same fabric and similar pattern.

How do you stay updated with the latest trends?

For me trends are not to follow. They can become boring and create predictability and tunnel vision.

I believe in creating work that is lasting. Art and the colours of art and their palettes impact me. As does going to interior design shops, antique markets and salvage places. 

In London, I love visiting Crawford Street for the interior decorating inspiration and Portobello Road to stumble upon unique antique finds such as door knobs and fixtures and fittings. One of my local go-to’s is Saira Chapra’s Charcoal and Rabia Hassan Home Furnishings. Reading wise, I enjoy The Sunday Times Life & Style, Architectural Digest, and Veranda magazine. 

What do you think people are living with now or wanting in their homes that wasn’t around five years ago and what is NEO doing to serve that?

Lifestyles are evolving. People are more house proud. They want their home to be a treasure and they’re more conscious of how they do up their place. To achieve this they are enjoying working more with architects and designers to guide them. Pakistan furniture and craftsmanship is excellent and new materials are being experimented with such as perspex. 

With NEO people can use colour to help bring their vision for their home to life. Our product is outstanding and paint is an easy way to update your home inside and out—whatever the budget. We have experts on hand to guide people through the process from colour consultancy to How To Guides. 

What are your three tips to use paint to refresh the home and colour your life?

• Take time to think clearly about your vision. Sit in your home and quietly soak in every area. When you’re ready to try out your colour ideas – get patch tests done. Have fun! Don’t be afraid to test different colour combinations and finishes. 

• Let the wall speak to you. Can you add more beauty to achieve your look such as decorative moulding? Or rectify/remove something unsightly like damp stained paint?

• Whether on the interior or exterior of your home be mindful that natural and artificial light will influence how your paint colours will appear. As a quick guide: Natural light (sunlight) changes and is affected by a room’s location—North, South, East, West. Artificial light changes with the type of bulb you use—Fluorescents, Halogens, Incandescents, LEDs.