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Ever wonder how a real interior designer would set up a home here? Well, you’re in for a treat!

Photo Courtesy of Rilia

I met Rilia through my friend Zaza, the one with the awesome shabby chic home that I covered a few weeks ago. Rilia is Zaza’s next door neighbor, and while they have houses that look the same from the outside, her home is so completely different in style.

It’s full of bold, beautiful, warm colors that give you a sense of calm and ease when you walk in. I would have never thought that I’d walk into a home with a red wall and feel a sense of comfort – it wasn’t overpowering at all! The power of picking the right paint color, right?

Rilia went about decorating her home with a couple things in mind. I could tell straight away that filling her home with the things she loved was on the top of that list. There were bits and bobs from her travels, paintings on her walls, and stunning pictures that she had photographed from all over the world. I absolutely love when people personalize their spaces by using their own photos – whether it be of their travels or family photos – it adds so much character to a home!

She also wanted to stick to a budget since her family was unsure about whether they were staying or not. She avoided buying super expensive furniture, and invested primarily on accessories and painting walls so that the home had a homely feel to it!

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How cool is Rilia’s Instagram feed? Check out her posts at @rilia_artwork

Years in Saudi: 2 years ago from the UK

Tell me a little bit about yourself as an Interior Designer…

I love the challenge of putting together ideas, trying to accommodate client’s taste, budget, style and what is available in the market. I started my career about 20 years ago in Brazil working for an Architecture office. Then, when we moved to UK in 2004, I worked for 2 studios, producing beautiful kitchens and bathrooms design together with an incredible team. In both places I used to do high end hand drawingsI learned a lot about the British style and way of life.

Photo Courtesy of Rilia

Your Inspiration?

I am not sure if have a particular inspiration to decorate my house. I can say that a couple of challenges and limitations guided me to get the way it is now. I think the house is still not finished yet, because to me there is always room to improve.

To help the design process I used a sketchbook, where I sketched ideas and put together cut-out images from IKEA catalogue, dimensions, colour samples and any other information related to the project.

Photo Courtesy of Rilia

Your Style?

I really struggle to describe my style. I like a lot of things and try to combine them together. I love wood finishes, square lines, rattan, shiny elements, kind of ‘rustic-chic.’ I can’t say I am a minimalist, but definitely I have learned that ‘less is more.’

The bold colours in my home are an influence from my Brazilian background, and the softer colours from the European side. Your home should say something about you, so as my husband and I love travelling and photography, I use it to inspire and display.

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As you’ll see through the home tour, Rilia is just amazing at “editing.” This is one of my favorite and yet scariest moments when decorating. It sounds really easy, but teaching your eye to “take out things” is so much harder than it looks. Just because you have something, doesn’t necessarily mean you have to use it as a display item in your home…

So here’s how bold colors, personalization, and an eclectic and minimalist approach to decorating can completely warm up your home…



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What I like most about my home is the red wall at the entrance with the 3 white plaster ‘frames’ from a souk in Doha. I had so much picture around the house that I decided to add some texture on that one.

Living Room

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The red wall is the attraction, everybody who comes here for the first time gets surprised about how much difference that makes to the room and how balanced that was, in a way that is not overdone, not too in your face.

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This rug came from a family that retired from Saudi – I love how much personality it adds to the space!
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I love those leaves!!

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Rilia has neutral furniture and uses accessories to add her pops of color!

Dining Room

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I love the gallery walls in her home. They all look so perfectly placed!

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Informal Sitting Room

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The rug in this room is from a store in Khobar and is over 50 years old!

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This beautiful wooden chest sits right by Rilia’s entrance, and came from friends who retired from Saudi. Clearly, I need to find these kinds of friends…



Home Office

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How cute is that Instagram pillow? You can purchase one by visiting Valentina’s site (an expat living in Saudi): or visit her Etsy shop for other goodies:


I have never thought about using aqua blue in my bedroom – I love the serenity it brings to the space. Paired with white accessories, and the occasional pop of red and orange, it pretty much ties everything back to the color scheme of the whole home.

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Mid Section Design

A Chat with Rilia

How did you go about designing your house? What challenges or lessons did you learn?

When we got our shipment, the furniture from our previous little house in the UK could fit completely inside of the living room. To be honest we didn’t bring much, so we had to buy extra furniture to go with what we already had. So, the first challenge was to fill up the space without overcrowding and kind of match everything.

For example: My original sofa was beige and we had to buy an extra one to go with it and fill up the living room space. Instead of trying to match colours and texture of the old sofa, I bought a completely different sofa from IKEA with more straight lines that give a more modern look to the room. The dark grey colour is neutral, and matches the TV stand as the other furniture instead of the beige sofa.

The other challenge was budget. Your first and second year in a new country with new job can be quiet uncertain and temporary. So, we did not buy much furniture and neither expensive items. I invested on accessories and painting a couple of walls.

What pieces have you bought in Saudi or received from people here? 

I love the pendent lights we bought in Qatar. I actually knew exactly what I wanted and looked for something similar until we found those in the Doha souk. They were not expensive, very easy to install and gives such a nice touch to the living room.

We also got two things from friends that retire and left Saudi, one is the living room dark blue carpet and the other is a wood chest we have at the entrance. They are unique items and have special meaning to us.

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Where do you like shopping in Dhahran? 

I am a fan of IKEA, where I can find from small to large items. I love the Scandinavian design and the fact that they keep changing collections, bringing new ideas. I also like to keep updating my house with small changes, or buying new accessories.

I also like Desert Design and Nice for accessories.

Tips & Tricks…

Last year I gave some talks about Home Designing at the Art group of Abqaiq, where I was there to inspire and motivate resident ladies with decorating ideas. Most of them did not know where to start and how to decorate their houses, so here are some basic steps we discussed and used as a guide:

  • Make a brief analysis to understand what you need, what you want to achieve, how much you want to spend, etc.
  • Find key words to describe your project and help finding your style.
  • Look for images to inspire you from magazines, Pinterest, holiday photos, etc.
  • Create a sketchbook or moodboard to guide, inspire and help you visualize your idea.
  • Check the size of your rooms before buying your furniture.
  • Make a colour palette based on your mood board. It will help to decide which colours to use on walls, furniture, rugs and accessories.

I also wish I knew about Design Souk before. It is such a great blog with so many tips where to shop in Saudi 🙂

Hope you enjoyed the home tour! 

If you’d like to follow Rilia on Instagram, please find her at: @rilia_artwork

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0 comments on “The Designer’s Home Tour”

  1. great throughly enjoyed want to meet rilia as i also wanted to decorate my duplex n a budget. thanks for sharing a beautiful home.

  2. Seeeeeensacional!!!!! Adorei!!!! Muito linda a sua casa, Rília!!!! Parabéns pela reportagem no blog. Show!!!!

  3. Rilia’s home is indeed beautiful, and well decorated. She’s really talented as has a great eye for mixing colors and textures!! Hope she’ll help me decorate my house one day!😉

  4. Congratulations for your excellent taste and creativity. Look transformer and special touch in everything you see and touch. Congratulations dear!