A home away from home is the perfect escape to recharge and reset, away from the normalcy of everyday life, even if it’s just for a little while. With no pressure to repeat your home’s current style, designing for a home abroad can be an exciting-yet-trying venture for those toeing the fine balance between style and purpose.

From Saint-Tropez to the Bahamas – Dani Neville is no stranger to designing abroad, with her portfolio reading like a travelogue of dreamy holiday destinations. The interior designer, who co-founded The Interiors List in 2005 before branching out on her own in 2017, has travelled the globe crafting inspiring residential spaces for her discerning clients. 

As the summer season sparks a serious case of wanderlust, we caught up with Dani to hear about her experience creating beautiful properties abroad and her six key tips on how to style a holiday home.

A light-filled bedroom in a holiday home, with seashell prints on the walls, a striped headboard and blue cushions.

Where to Begin – the Art of Repurposing

If you’ve been dreaming about bringing your holiday home to life for some time, the thought of finally dipping into your furniture bucket list might be a tempting one. So, it could seem strange when our first tip is to look no further than your own doorstep.

For Dani, a project always begins by looking at existing pieces – "I like to use and re-purpose items as much as possible, so if a client has existing pieces that they wish to keep, we do our best to incorporate these into the scheme." 

Whether it’s upcycling a vintage dresser or giving new life to an old favourite armchair, simple sustainable changes can make a space feel fresh even before you hit the shops.

Use the Space Differently

Even when working with the same client, Dani shares that second homes can differ wildly to primary properties simply because the houses themselves need to perform differently. “A lot of my clients who may like a very classic look in their country house in the UK want a more relaxed style for their beach house,” the designer says. 

“They will use their space differently, and the space will also need to perform differently – not just to meet their holiday ‘mood’ but also for practical reasons.” Lounge space and outdoor seating, for example, serve a much more central purpose in holiday homes, where relaxation and indulging in the weather are top of the priority list.

“Regardless of where it is, a home should always be a reflection of its inhabitants, how they will use the space and how they wish to feel in that space,” Dani says. Whether she’s renovating one of the oldest ski chalets in the Swiss Alps or putting her spin on a 37-metre sailing yacht, the client’s needs are always at the heart of Dani's projects. 


A cosy sitting room in a ski chalet, with wooden walls, a neutral colour palette and printed ottomans..

Look to Local Inspiration

When you’re lost for ideas, spending time diving deep into the local area is the best way to spark inspiration. Dani recommends looking at the surrounding architecture (and that of the property itself) to inform your design choices – this will naturally bring out materials and colour palettes to use. We also recommend paying homage to the area’s cultural heritage by incorporating unique pieces such as local artwork, pottery or craftsmanship into the home.

“You really have to feel a space and feel the area,” the designer explains. “It sounds corny, but if you listen to it, it will tell you what works there; we spend a lot of time researching the local community because what we design has to be sympathetic to that.”

Bring nature inside with rattan pieces for your home abroad like the Balabac Rattan Sideboard, inspired by the tropical Philippine island of the same name. Or, even add a dash of colour to your European holiday décor with nods to Mediterranean summer living. No matter where you make your mark, don’t be afraid to infuse the charming patterns of the local surroundings into your home.

Consider the Climate when Choosing Fabrics

While focusing on the location informs certain stylistic choices, it can also reap practical benefits. Temperature, humidity and natural light all vary depending on the location and climate, which can have a knock-on effect on certain materials and colours. For example, the colour of natural fabrics can fade over time when placed in direct sunlight, so choose your upholstery fabrics wisely if you want to avoid this. 

Putting practicality ahead of aesthetics will save you time and money on replacing discoloured fabrics – and also ensure your furniture lasts a long time. “I’d also recommend that you look at the colours of your fabrics and paints while you’re on location,” Dani adds. “Don’t look at them in the UK, because the light will be very different.”

A cosy children's bedroom in a ski chalet. Twin beds are decorated with striped quilts and a novelty ski cushion.

Keep Easy Maintenance in Mind

Whether you settle down in your holiday home every summer or choose to rent it out throughout the year, another key consideration for styling is how regularly a property is used. This will impact how much maintenance will be required, and in turn, Dani and her team's design decisions. 

For example, homes abroad that are used once or twice a year will often have less frequent cleaning or maintenance while not in use. In these cases, picking out real, albeit beautiful, plants to complement the home or leaving furniture outdoors isn’t always a practical option. 

"When a property isn't being used, I always make dust covers for indoor furniture and protective covers for outdoor pieces,” Dani says. “I use a lot of OKA’s rattan baskets and faux plants as well, because a lot of these properties don’t have someone available for watering every day of the week. They’re fantastic.”

When it comes to renting out properties, choosing furniture and materials that can be easily cleaned is helpful for homes requiring quick cleaning turnarounds, especially during popular times of the year. The designer also recommends considering what cleaning processes are required for certain materials; the studio worked on one project where there weren’t any dry-cleaning facilities on the island, so they had to be careful about the fabrics they used. 

Add a Warm Touch of Personality

With practicality and local inspiration in mind, the last key ingredient to add into the style mix is a touch of personality. When it comes to style, Dani has no rules; although the designer describes her aesthetic as a combination of “modern, classic and contemporary design with a love of colour and texture” no two of her projects ever look the same, as each one has been carefully curated for the people behind them. 

Her handwriting is instead present in earthy colour palettes inspired by her "Australian country roots", nature-inspired pieces and natural fibres that are subtly woven into each space, through antique furniture, rugs and vibrant soft furnishings sourced from makers across the world – a fittingly international approach from such a globetrotting designer.

From the idyllic nature of the English countryside to the upbeat sounds of city living, think about what makes up your style personality and draw inspiration from your own experiences in curating each unique space. 

At the heart of OKA is travel and exploration – we prioritise beauty, comfort and style in our collections by calling on talented artisans from all over the world. Create a look that exudes paradise with stylish furniture, tableware, comfortable cushions and everything else you might need for the perfect holiday home.

You can discover more about our featured designer at Dani Neville Design here.