Interior design for expats

Updated: Jun 6

As a British interior designer based in The Hague in The Netherlands, I'm experienced in helping expats who move here as well as around the world. However temporary the move, a home is reflective of who you are. A beautiful and well thought out ergonomic home will help you settle in quicker and provide a much needed sanctuary to you and/or your family’s needs. Combining my professional training and years in the field as an experienced interior designer for private international clients, my team and I are able to help expats - moving temporarily or for a longer term - create a welcoming and stylish house they love to come home to. A home from home.


Living room design for expat family residence in The Hague

Why hire an Interior Designer for your home abroad?

When moving abroad to a new city as an expat for a new role or to start a new

business you want to get settled in to your home as soon as possible. Interior design

may not be the first thing on your mind - however, when a home is well designed it functions

perfectly in allowing you to live your life as comfortably as possible. This in turn helps you

to settle quickly in to new roles at work, at home, at school and as a busy couple or family.


Having a living space where you feel confident to entertain guests and welcome your friends and colleagues helps to establish you in your new community. You can also ensure your guest rooms are ready and waiting for when family comes to visit.


Hiring an interior designer who has experience working with expats who regularly move to a new house abroad, will put you in a good position to get the job done quickly and effectively. Interpreting your taste from your forever home into your current living space whilst including those treasured pieces that travel the world with you will make you feel at home wherever you are.


When approaching any interior design project the designer's knowledge of when to spend and when to save gets the best out of your budget whether large or small. In addition to this, considering what you need to do immediately and what can wait a while, will help you settle quickly and comfortably into a new location.



Planning an interior design project for an expat home

A briefing discussion

Planning starts with taking a detailed brief where we investigate the most consistent colours and styles of our client and understand the interior design needs of the project. We also consider the budget and estimate the timescales to complete the project.


Defining the design ideas

After this, it is time to delve deep into years of knowledge on colour advice for paint, wallpapers, fabrics and furniture from local suppliers (or further afield for some very special things). Our aim is to discover the exact combination that will portray a unique sense of style, bringing in the clients' personality and incorporating elements of their lifestyle and location in a new city but in keeping with their core tastes and preferences.


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Mood board with samples fabrics and finishes by Vanessa Leyland Interiors



Plans and layouts

Following our discussions, detailed plans and layouts are drawn up. Starting with the furniture layout details and identifying what existing pieces will be incorporated into the interior design of the property. Following this we make a list of all the outstanding pieces and from here we can set a realistic budget and put together a shopping list of what we need to source. Once these design details are in place, detailed visualisations can be presented to the client.





Project management and installation

With everything in place the installation can commence. Throughout this whole process your well being is our prime consideration. As we provide a complete package of services to our clients from concept to completion, the team are on hand with project co-ordination to make sure everything goes smoothly from co-ordinating tradespeople to overseeing deliveries and installation. We aim to ensure you have a smooth and stress free transition to your new home!


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Hiring interior designers for rented or temporary homes

The level of interior design and interior architecture services each client requires can vary from smaller projects when moving temporarily, to a full home relocation service for a long term posting.


Working together with clients over the years means I've become adept at quickly defining exactly what they need to make their new house a home from home. Sometimes simple styling advice and a few changes can make all the difference in your temporary home. In other cases a complete package of our interior design, interior architecture services and project co-ordination is needed to prepare your new home for your life in a new country.


The interior design solutions that are put into practice will vary depending on the home owner's goals, personal taste and the different budgets we work with. However, from our years of experience we come back to some elements which work time and time again and are always in the list of considerations to explore with clients.


Here are some of the most common interior design dilemmas which our clients face when re-locating along with some examples of how we've worked together with them to find stylish solutions.


Same décor different house

Versatility is key when choosing new items that will be transported from one home to the next. Homes in different countries inevitably have varying architectural features such as ceiling heights, window sizes and room sizes which need to be considered when choosing your home decor. Clients returning back to a hot country may not want to use sheepskin, wool or a mohair velvet on furniture upholstery or home accents such as cushions that can feel cosy and sumptuous here in the Netherlands but then feel hot and uncomfortable in a much warmer climate.


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Treasured pieces that always make you feel at home

It can be a really joyful process to up-cycle client's existing furniture. Pieces that are nostalgic that have moved abroad from home to home given a new lease of life to complement their new home location.


A gallery wall is a lovely way to display art. Buy old frames, mix up compositions,

new artwork pieces (see art sourcing below), travel and family photos together create a lovely mix of old and familiar with new and exciting.


Creating memories and marking a moment in time

Alternatively, finding a a piece of furniture in a vintage store and painting and/or upholstering it helps tell a story, writing another chapter in a family's journey through life and adding even more sentiment and meaning to its place in their next home.


For clients that are not from Europe, purchasing European Antiques is always a really exciting opportunity as they can be less expensive than purchasing in countries like the US. Pieces unique to a certain area are a wonderful memento of time spent there.


Sourcing art for interiors

Sourcing art at the beginning of a posting is advisable so it can be enjoyed throughout your time in the home. Choosing the right artwork is an important part of the end result of any interior design project and visiting galleries and auction houses to do so, is a wonderful experience.


Take advantage of our sourcing services such as connections with local artists and galleries - enabling us to try pieces in your home before making your selections.


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Where to spend and where to save

When choosing furniture invest in good quality vintage, antiques or choose new classic design pieces. Enjoy your time with them but if they really don't suit your next posting then unlike normal run-of-the-mill high street pieces, these pieces will have a high resale value on which you can cash in and invest in your next home. Hiring the right interior designer is all about investing wisely and adding value, so next I'm sharing some of my favourite tips for keeping costs down whilst still making an impact with great interior design.

The art of window dressing

Window treatments (such as curtains, blinds and shades) really do transform a space and make a huge impact in a living space. However, to have curtains made for a rental home can be time consuming and costly given the fabric meterage required. To keep costs down when renting, purchase curtain panels or ready-made curtains. For a touch of luxury, velvet curtains are great for blocking light and also add a rich opulent texture to a room.

My favourite places to shop for ready made curtains include Anthropology, West Elm, Hema, Zara, Caravane and Elitis. They have selections which look beautiful yet are very cost effective, especially as they can usually be easily transferred from home to home.


Stylish storage solutions

Ikea might not be the first place you think of for stylish storage solutions however there are some great companies supplying beautiful door fronts and handles that can turn wardrobes, storage and kitchen units from off-the-shelf to one of a kind pieces for your home. Adding a different paint finish to units or stone or glass tops to shelving are also little hacks I use to make affordable furniture stand out from the crowd.


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If you're considering a move to a new position abroad and want a smooth and easy transition into a well designed home, take a look at our website portfolio to see some of our recent home transformations or contact me to see how I can help.








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