This Is How Colony's Co-Founder Audrey Ooi Found Her Calling In Interior Design
Although she had a thriving career in advertising, Audrey Ooi left it behind to become a full-time mother after the birth of her son, Jude Tiah in 2013. For 4 years, she concentrated on parenting Jude and her second child, Penelope. On the side, she blogged under the moniker, Fourfeetnine.
When her husband Timothy Tiah asked her to come onboard his co-working space endeavour, Colony, she was hesitant at first. “Tim is the go-getter entrepreneur, while I've always been more laidback. But I knew he needed my support so I agreed in the end,” she says.
To her surprise, Timothy assigned Colony’s design portfolio to her. “I have no background whatsoever in interior design, so I said to him: ‘Are you sure?' It’s a huge responsibility! What if I mess it up?’”.
But Timothy was certain that Audrey was the right candidate for the job. “My wife is a stylish woman, she has a flair for turning outfits that look bad or plain into something special with proper styling. Above all, she isn’t afraid to take risks with her style, which is why I think she has what it takes to be a designer,” he shares.
Embracing Her New Role
After her initial reservations, Audrey got right to work. “Tim’s vision for Colony is a workplace where people feel inspired to come to work. I used my own instincts to guide me. I asked questions like what a modern-day worker need in their workspace, how they interact with the space, the ideal scenario and so on and so forth. I put different ideas together with my team and tested them out."
When the first Colony opened in 2017, it hit the right chord with the new generation of freelancers. “We furnished the space as if it was a modern’s gentlemen club. We used a lot of white plaster and black-and-white tiles with masculine furnishings,” she says.
Colony also features additional facilities like playrooms and lactation rooms for working mothers, as well as nap rooms. “We want our tenants to feel as though they are at home while they are at work,” reveals Audrey.
She applies the same concept of form meeting function to subsequent Colony projects. The Colony Eco City in MidValley has a more British colonial aesthetics, while Colony KL Sentral is inspired by a typical Parisian apartment.
Finding Growth Through Design
Recently, Colony launched two new spaces in the span of a few months. “It was quite a challenge because both had contrasting concepts," Audrey recalls. "Colony Mutiara Damansara is inspired by Wes Anderson's movies, and we used a lot of sunny colours like yellow, cherry reds and pinks. For Colony Star Boulevard, the high ceilings informed my decision to go with a Manhattan Soho loft vibe."
An extrovert by nature, Audrey enjoys chatting with Colony’s tenants and figuring out creative solutions to their problems through design.
This year, Colony won two design awards for their properties—Best Office Interior at the International Property Award in Bangkok and Best Office Design by Atapdotco Design Award 2019. “Each Colony project pushes me out of my comfort zone. It's scary but it helps me grow as a person,” she says, while also attributing these accomplishments to her collaborators and team members.
Must-read: Our Oct Cover Story About Five Second-Generation Leaders
- Photography Khairul Imran