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Slow Living & Design With Naomi Scott-Dunne

Naomi Scott-Dunne is not your regular Interior Designer. She had a career with the United Nations for over 20 years, preceded by working for a Foreign Ministry, living and working in many post-conflict and humanitarian missions around the world. Whilst living in a UN shipping container in Mogadishu, Somalia, Naomi received a stack of her favourite design magazine – Living Etc – and in the back there was an advert entitled “Why not turn your passion into your new career”. So after quite a rigorous selection process, Naomi went back to University as a mature adult to retrain as a professional Interior Designer and she graduated 5 years’ ago.

Naomi Scott-Dunne


As a designer, Naomi Scott-Dunne is extremely passionate about slow living, especially since the beginning of the pandemic. She shares what it means and how you can embrace the slow movement in your own life and home.

The pandemic has brought about many new considerations. We are not just talking about baking bread, making smoothies and watching less Netflix, but being more conscious consumers; taking the time to celebrate craftsman (and women!) ship, and generally creating calmer spaces.  Curating a place which is unique and is in line with individual values, where we can truly be ourselves – our homes need to be an extension of our personalities, extracting those elements which make us tick, and incorporating these within our homes.

The Slow Movement

We have all heard about fast food, fast fashion and fast shopping: but on the flip side, the level of consciousness about the Slow Movement is minimal.  The Slow Movement began back in the late 1980s with protests against the fast food culture and how the industry’s harmful farming techniques and unhealthy ingredients were negatively impacting people’s lives.  Fast forward to the noughties and the Slow Movement brought to the mainstream’s attention the abysmal conditions under which large fast fashion labels were forcing people to work and the negative impacts the industry was having on the environment.   Consequently, informed consumers began to realize that they could make a change, and that being informed of the dangers of these fast industries, increased awareness: people began to make smarter buying decisions.

Nowadays more and more people are selecting quality crafted or vintage pieces over mass-made products.  Being an advocate for slow design, Naomi explains that slow design incorporates many of the principles associated with sustainable design but much more.  It’s also about reusing/reupholstering/repurposing – it’s a wonderful way to reduce mass consumerism.  Injecting new life into vintage pieces is in fact honouring our ancestors and bringing them back into our lives.  It’s all about building an enduring relationship between people and their belongings.  Slow design is all about reflective consumption since it encourages the customer to consciously think about a product and understand the work that went into making it.  As a result, one is more likely to keep the piece for longer, which also slows down the rapid cycle of buying and throwing away.  So next time you’re contemplating buying a throw cushion from Zara Home consider if you really love it, or will it end up in a landfill in a couple of years, since you can’t identify with it?

An Evolution

Curating a home shouldn’t be a rushed process; instead it should reflect one’s life, not fleeting trends. It’s ok that your home isn’t instantly finished, part of embracing slow design and being part of the slow movement means that it’s fine to have things which are continuing to evolve.  Expanding collections which resonate with you is such fun and taking time to scout around local vintage shops for unique pieces is slowing you down and moreover you’re curating your own collection which is in line with your own values.

Slow Design has 7 main principles (initially there were 6), they are:  REVEAL | EXPAND | REFLECT | ENGAGE | PARTICIPATE | EVOLVE | RITUAL.  When you think about the words they are all pretty abstract; they should provide inspiration, rather than a rigid set of instructions to follow.  The slow design philosophy aims at assisting people to do things at the right time and the right speed, in order to give them time to understand and reflect about their actions.  The slow design principles (expanded below) were created by Carolyn F. Strauss and Alastair Fuad-Luke.

REVEAL – Reveal relates to the origins of materials and encourages use of unappreciated materials.  It also helps us discover unexpected aesthetic pleasures – basically repositioning the unfamiliar and generally increasing awareness.

EXPAND – Expand considers how we can explore other potential meanings and uses of different objects and environments.

REFLECT – Reflect conveys a heightened connection to every day objects, whereby objects are celebrated as they age and take on imperfections, reflecting the journey of an object and how the owner interacts with it.

ENGAGE – Engage conveys the idea that product designers need to collaborate more, whereby design concepts are prevalent throughout the design professions.

PARTICIPATE – Participate embraces the idea of conviviality – encouraging designers to work with people on a grass-roots level.

EVOLVE – Evolve leans towards designers considering the needs of the future and how their designs can become richer in time.

RITUAL – Ritual means embracing habits to enhance and create better user experiences.

Naomi enjoys creating a concept for each project – each project is bespoke, since it should tell a story about the clients.  She always hands over a long questionnaire in order to learn about their lives and their interests. As part of her design process she ensures that she shares her knowledge and educates the clients on materials used and the provenance of items sourced.

Obviously, luxury high-end projects are always a joy to undertake, but Naomi feels so passionately about clients who want to incorporate sustainability into their projects.  In short, focus on quality not quantity, make as light a footprint as possible, try to use locally-sourced products where possible, and try to ensure that the design is consistent with the genre of the property.

Local and Abroad

Naomi has worked on projects both in South Africa and overseas where she has recommended repurposing items the clients already have. For a guest bathroom project in Kenya, Naomi arranged for vintage sanitaryware (in a delicious mint hue) to be refinished, re-engineered original brass taps were sourced; contemporary wallpaper was installed.  The final effect was impactful – the client loves to recount the story of the collective search for the perfect faucet!

Two projects in Johannesburg were true slow design examples:  the first one was for a teenager’s bedroom and en-suite bathroom.  The client had some antique furniture – family heirlooms – which she wanted incorporated.  Naomi collaborated with Claire Bond of Bond Thru Colour and a bespoke linen paint finish in a carefully chosen palette was applied.  Finally, contemporary marble knobs were added and the heirlooms took on a new lease of life, and have an air of timelessness about them.  The existing curtains were also used, but the introduction of new crafted bedside shelves/lighting and a bespoke mosquito net added softness and a contemporary feel to the space.

Another project was for a client who wanted a dedicated working from home area which felt inspirational and unique.  In Naomi’s questionnaire the client said that her favourite movie was Marie Antoinette, starring Sofia Coppola, and she had recently binge-watched the fabulous Mr. Hastings in Netflix’s Bridgerton.  The client has a passion for the Cape and enjoys collecting sea urchin shells, coral pieces and other seashore collectibles and likes to be surrounded by plants.

Georgian interiors often featured intricate blue and gold schemes and Georgians were enthusiastic collectors and relished displaying their unusual collections in cabinets.  Naomi sourced a vintage Italian secretary from a Russell Kaplan Auctioneers, which would display collectibles on the shelves and the folding leaf would be used to rest the laptop on.  For a fun light fixture, Naomi sourced a vintage birdcage from Trouvé, had it wired with fabric coated cable, delicately applied gold leaf to the insulation sleeve and added an elongated Edison bulb together with some origami birds.  For the gallery wall, the client chose some vintage prints which were extracted from vintage art panel books, and the eclectic selection of frames were sourced from charity shops.  All frames were refinished in gold leaf and black and tongue-in-cheek artworks were created.  The finished result was a magical step back in time.  The only investment was in fact the Plascon paint which was matched to the Boucher painting in Naomi’s original concept.  It looked fantastic, better than the client had ever imagined, and she is now an avid slow design advocate!

Hit Pause

One of the most exciting elements of being an interior designer is educating clients and drawing them out of their comfort zones.  Integrating unexpected elements into the design and enabling good design to be accessible is key.  Bringing one’s personality into the design is such an important factor for me – we all need joy in our lives and introducing some colour, glow, curves, playfulness and adding to the overall comfort at home are the simplest ways to implement this. Whilst we are hunkering down at home, what better time than the present to examine how to personalize our homes?

So remember that pressing the pause button and reflecting is the new normal: slow philosophy is here to stay. Let’s enjoy it, change our lifestyles and prioritize our wellbeing accordingly, based on our true needs.

Find out more about Naomi Scott-Dunne online here.



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