Refreshingly honest with infectious energy for life, Jessica Iliffe, interior and furniture designer, former model and mother of four, will have you wanting to pick up the pace in following your own dreams, while also slowing down to appreciate everyday life and the gift of family...
Despite her long list of accomplishments, global travel and big plans, Jessica has never forgotten her roots. “Growing up in a Vietnamese refugee family was difficult for me. Trying to assimilate into the Australian way of life and trying to find the balance with both cultures was hard. It took me a long time to find my identity because of this.” After stints in Singapore, Shanghai and Sydney, Jessica now finds herself back in Singapore, this time with her family of six, exploring as much of the world near and far as they can together (and with some lovely family traditions of one-on-one time with mum once each child turns 12). Jessica also has over 10 years of experience on how to sustain a sense of self, while also having the role of mother. “I think mothers tend to lose their identity and struggle with having to give up their life for a family,” she Jessica. “It’s rewarding but we have to be kind to ourselves too. We ultimately give a lot and forget to self-care and love. I am pro this, and through the 10 years of having babies I have learnt many things and this is number 1 on the list!” There is so much inspiration in Jessica’s fascinating life thus far and we just know there is a whole lot more to come. Read on to glean her home styling tips, advice on sharing the love between a large family, and how they survive (and thrive) without a TV at home. Photography: Clare Barker Wells | Go to www.jessicailiffe.com
What are your most vivid memories of your childhood?
My most vivid childhood memories would be in the garden with my grandmother who grew every Asian vegetable possible in her yard. She would cook the most amazing Vietnamese food from scratch. I would help her in the kitchen, we would sit on the floor and talk, smell and taste. Every weekend all family members would descend and it was all about food, family and more food. All my aunties busily prepping in the kitchen, the smells were so intoxicating. I grew up in Perth, Western Australia. We were sent to Perth after we arrived in Darwin. My family were Vietnamese refugee boat people. I have four siblings, I am the eldest of four. I have two brothers and a sister. We spent our time growing up with our many cousins at my grandmother’s house. There was a park opposite her house and we used to just play and roam the neighbourhood. My grandmother looked after all the grandchildren whilst all the parents worked. My grandmother had seven children who followed her to Australia with my grandfather.
When did you move to Singapore?
We moved here 18 months ago, it’s my second stint here. I lived here 20 years ago before children. We have also lived in Shanghai which was so much fun.
Tell us about your career before Jessica Iliffe interiors?
I started out studying fashion design in Perth. It was all I ever wanted to do and knew it from age 11. I fell into modelling because I was fairly tall, this led me to travel and ended up in Singapore where I spent quite a few years. I then moved to Sydney for Fashion week, met my husband and stayed. I studied natural therapies at the time and ran my own mobile massage business before falling pregnant and moving to Shanghai. We moved back to Sydney and where I started my interior design business. My neighbour in Singapore relocated to Shanghai as well, he was an interior designer and I ended up exploring the furniture factories and started manufacturing custom made furniture whilst living in Shanghai. I moved back to Sydney and kept my business going, supplying to designers and clients. It really changed when clients asked me to extend my services into Interior styling and then design. I basically learnt on the job and winged it. Luckily I had a close interior designer friend who really helped me with all the processes. I am not formally trained but managed to oversee large commercial and residential projects not just in Australia but worldwide. I am now studying for my formal degree. Having help here is a godsend.
When did you launch your furniture business? Can you explain what you offer? Tell us more about your interior styling and interior design services…
I offer custom design and manufacturing of furniture, clients get to select the design finishes, fabrics, foam, feather etc. It’s a really bespoke design. I basically design interior concepts, interior spaces. This means renovations, new builds. I design new joinery, kitchens, bathrooms, all living spaces. Select all the paint, flooring, tiles, finishes, fittings including lighting. I even select all the white goods. It’s quite in-depth and I project manage the builder, produce tender documents, drawings and also budgets and schedules for clients. The furniture and soft furnishings come in after all this has been done.