Designer Q&A: Jaya Ibrahim

Indonesian designer Jaya Ibrahim, founder of Jaya International, is the designer responsible for the interiors of iconic hotels such as The Legian in Bali, The Chedi Muscat, The Setai Miami and several Aman resorts. Ibrahim shares with Design Anthology eight of his favourites.

Design Anthology: What are you reading at the moment?

I’m reading about the — I can’t remember the title — but it’s about the warring Tudor kings and queens. The Tudors were quite an amazing dynasty. And everyone always zooms into Henry the Eighth because he chopped his four wives’ heads off, but there was more to it. It ended up with Elizabeth the First who was the one who said ‘I will not have my people punished because of their faith’. And that was the start.

What are you listening to?

There is always two. One is Bach, and the other is my Javanese music, which is classical. This is something which is very stable and is on in the background. My music is always rather conservative. I think it’s, how should I say, I suppose it evokes more emotion than other background music. I don’t find pop music very interesting. But it’s a matter of taste.

Your favourite restaurant?

I like everything. But there is one in Rome, I don’t remember what it’s called, but it’s down an alley — towards a piazza. I think where they invented Alfredo. That’s the only one I can think of, but there are many restaurants I like. But I like all food. Unfortunately lately though, which is very frustrating, I have developed an allergy to crustaceans, so I can’t eat prawns, I can’t eat oysters, I can’t eat crabs. Which is a pity because I love it. Especially in Thailand, the southeastern food seafood is a speciality.

All-time favourite design item?

One of my own, which is a piece of furniture, a three-legged chair. And whenever I see it, I still think it’s relevant, and there is nothing that can be improved on. I designed that in 1997, almost 20 years ago. And it still has that difference to it. It’s timeless, it’s not avant garde. It’s comfortable and it’s classical.

Otherwise, Anouska Hempel’s lamps. Very nice, very slender, very elegant.

 Colour of the moment?

It changes. And then unfortunately I become trendy. Or not trendy, but I am influenced by fashion. This year it’s going to be purple. I do look at what’s on the catwalks, only fleetingly, I don’t take it too seriously. That’s a colour that comes to mind. I don’t know how to translate that into interiors though, as my interiors are usually very quiet.

Favourite fashion house?

I’m not really a very fashionable person, but I have to say when I go to Giorgio Armani and if anything fits me in the right size, a 48 or whatever…

Sometimes when you buy fashion it’s more about what you like or don’t like, it’s more about whether it fits your body.

Favourite museum/gallery?

Yes, there are two in England — the Tate Britain and the National Gallery. There is always something that needs to be looked at again. And over time you change your mind, or your knowledge becomes more layered and you can look at the same thing and you find something else.

Favourite movie?

The English Patient (laughs). And the other one, this one is terrible, Shakespeare in Love. I don’t know why (laughs). The English Patient is fascinating though. You are in the wrong place, wrong name, wrong person, wrong time. Totally wrong. Tragic. You can’t be more English than he is but he has the wrong name…

What does being an Asian designer mean to you?

I just happen to be an Asian, and I just happen to design. But I wouldn’t categorise myself like that. I think Asia has suddenly become big because of the perception of the world. I remember in the beginning, I went to a big hotel and noticed all the designers were foreigners. And this is one reason why I decided to get into this. I thought ‘I can do this too’. So they’re busy interpreting Asia, which is quite interesting. But I thought I can interpret it much better than them. The reason I can interpret it at an international level is because I’ve been away for many years, so you see it from a different angle, and you understand. If the British design something English, they go back to the historical periods. To jump and do something different, you need to jump out of it and look at yourself from outside. So to be called Asian, I can’t help it, I’m an Asian person. I was born in Asia. It is sought after at the moment. But look at China, it has been desired by Europe for centuries. It’s just that the other side of the world is greener.