You may have noticed that we had a few pieces of bone inlay featured in the Bayview house. This was the first BuildHer house that we’ve styled with inlay, but we wanted to add a new texture to the mix, and we love the way that these pieces make a statement. Inlay creates a point of difference, and in this case these pieces tied in so perfectly with all the other colours and patterns we used.
Our in-house Advertising Angel, Lana, owns an online store selling bone and mother of pearl inlay furniture and homewares, so being the interior obsessed team that we are, we couldn’t wait to learn more about these pieces, and the story behind them.
Here, we sit down with Lana and Becky from Mahlia Interiors to hear all about styling with bone inlay, and how they go about sourcing these stunning handmade products from India
Mel: So why bone inlay?
Becky: My parents’ house is full of inlay – literally, there is a piece in every room of the house, and I’ve always had an appreciation of bone inlay craftsmanship. What stands out for me is the intricacy of the pieces, and as I got to learn more about how they’re made, my passion and interest just grew. There is something special about furniture that is not made by a machine, or churned out in bulk. They’re all individually handmade in India, in a place called Rajasthan, and a single chest can take 4 weeks to produce. Whilst we have a few favourite patterns, the artisans always have creative freedom to make each individual piece a bit different; they can add their own personal touches, whether it’s with the floral pattern, and trying a new swirl of petals, or in the way they arrange the different pieces of inlay, based on their natural colour tones. Every piece is different from the one next to it. They all have unique imperfections, but that’s what makes them so beautiful.
Lana: For me, it’s the ‘wow-factor’. Whether it’s something small like a box, or something larger like a chest of drawers, these pieces make you stop and look twice. They’re a showstopper – whether it’s the shimmer in the mother of pearl, or the stunning bone detailing … I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but I’ve seen pieces that actually make my heart skip a beat. They can work in all different styles of homes as well. They fit right into the busy and bright homes, but there are also options for minimalist homes, wanting a more subtle inlay piece to lure the eye. They can be coastal, classic, bohemian, contemporary, monochrome … with the right styling, the options are endless.
Mel: How do you work with customers to design and style with inlay?
Lana: We love having conversations with our customers about their homes, and finding out what they’re looking for. As there are lots of inlay options to choose from (colour, pattern, type of inlay…), it can often be overwhelming to choose, so we work with them to narrow down the options and find what will complement their space and style. Often we’ll get photos of their homes, so that we can recommend pieces.
Becky: Half of our orders are custom orders as well, so people will come to us with a nook somewhere, or dimensions in their bedroom they need to work with, and we liaise with our production team in India to come up with a custom solution. It’s important we understand the style and feel that the customer is wanting to achieve in their home, as well, whether it’s contemporary, modern, or boho-luxe ... knowing this helps us with our recommendations.
Mel: What’s your favourite piece and why?
Becky: Hands down … The mother of pearl 7-drawer floral chest in white. My family have this piece in the entranceway of their home and the amount of compliments they have received are endless, so it was almost worth the purchase just for the compliments!
Lana: I’m going to go small, and choose the round black floral bone inlay tray. I have this at home, and I’m constantly moving it around. Sometimes it holds my perfumes in my bedroom, other times it’s on the dining table for a dinner party … but wherever it is, it works.
Mel: Can I answer this, too? I have to say the side tables, like the one we had in the Bayview house. They’re so versatile! We styled the abstract side table in Bayview as a side table next to a reading chair in Emily’s room, but I can also see myself styling these as bedsides, or in a nursery, or in a living room.
Mel: How do you find the process of sourcing products from overseas?
Becky: It was quite a nerve-wracking process initially, to choose suppliers overseas when we’re all the way in Australia, and knowing who to trust. We’ve been so lucky with our choice. The team we work with in India are really great, and we have regular video calls with them as well. We’re probably not the easiest customers for them, as quality is our #1 priority, and we are adamant to see photos of every single piece, big or small, before it leaves their showroom. We want to make sure we’re only getting the most beautiful pieces for our customers.
Lana: There are definitely cultural differences to navigate, and different mentalities around certain areas of business. But the time difference is probably one of the biggest hurdles. I’ll be getting ready for bed, and suddenly there are 10 new emails with new quotes for custom orders or new product photos, and I’m back on my laptop actioning everything. It’s a challenge when we are so customer service focused, and always want to be at the other end of an email or phone call to a customer, but we have to wait on information from India.
Mel: What’s the best part of running Mahlia Interiors, and working with bone inlay products?
Lana: The staff discount … laughs
Becky: When our customers send us photos of their new piece styled in their home, and tell us how much they love it. It makes all the late nights worth it.
Lana: Growing a brand that is your own … controlling your day … seeing the engagement rise when you spend hours on photography and captions … we’re probably working harder and longer than we ever have before, but we’re definitely at our happiest.