In conversation with LEI LESTER
FIELDS has had its doors open for roughly three years now and with all the changes happening around us, we decided it was high time for a change ourselves. We embarked on a location change for our flagship store, moving our premises from upstairs to the ground floor at the Old Biscuit Mill. What we were seeking was better accessibility to increase our awareness and customer engagement, with a face lift to our interiors. We wanted open breathing room to browse whilst maintaining our creative work and design studio in the back. With a few non-negotiables for our interior requirements, we reached out to Lei Lester, the interior designer of our first space, to collaborate with us and design our new headquarters. In this interview, we ask her a few questions on her love, passion and talent for interior design as well as her process in refreshing FIELDS’ new location.
Images by Ian Engelbrecht
FIELDS: How did you get into interior design?
LL: I sort of fell into it in a way…I had studied Fine Arts at Michaelis and then moved overseas to be with my love (now husband) on this small island called Guernsey in the Channel Islands. It felt like a natural progression and so I studied through a London school at the time.
Upon returning to SA however, I got into retail and buying homeware and furniture for many years and it was only after having my 2 children that I returned to my love of interiors and transformation.
FIELDS: Where do you seek inspiration for your projects?
LL: All over, my mind never really switches off. Since Covid hit, nature has been a real driving force in finding the escape and providing the platform to be still and get inspired. In commercial design the concept is always driven first and foremost by the brand and what it stands for. The client's needs are at the forefront and the concept and inspiration grows from there.
FIELDS: How would you describe FIELDS’ aesthetic?
LL: The brand is all about precision and thought, paying attention to detail, materials and process.
Luxury and calm are always the 2 words that come to mind.
FIELDS: What are the stages of your interior design processes?
LL: It starts with what the client is needing and hoping the end result to be.
From there we work on the concept and the design process to create this. Both the brand and space we are working within are key drivers.
Once the look and feel is approved, we create, source and install.
FIELDS: From the first space you designed, how did you interpret the “upgrade”?
LL: It needed to feel like a progression, a seamless transition from infant to teenager; a little more sophisticated, grown up and worldly.
The look and feel remained the same with us adding some key pieces to elevate the brand.
The space itself provided the boundaries and framework in which we could create this.
FIELDS: What additions and alterations did you make to the new space?
LL: All the existing shop fittings were adapted to fit the new space with us adding some new elements that maintained the look and feel but provided that feeling of luxury and calm.
As the new space was bigger we were able to design some really beautiful display areas/ pieces, namely the long fitted white shelves in the existing alcove and the beautiful display case in the front.
With us also having an exterior space, we were able to add plants and a very special seating area.
FIELDS: What kind of atmosphere were you hoping to achieve with the designs you’ve put in place?
LL: One that paid homage to SA design (using local designers and materials) but could sit comfortable in any city worldwide. The space needed to feel inviting and tranquil, allowing for quiet and inspiration in a chaos filled world.