About SHI

Who is Sonia Hayes?

Sonia Hayes was born British in Kenya, Mombasa, and raised in South Africa, Kwa-Zulu Natal, by British parents. Calling both South Africa and Britain home, her upbringing and exposure gave her a deep love for both African and European finishes.

Sonia exhibited a natural talent for art and a unique eye for colour from a young age and went on to become the top Art student of her school. Voted most likely to succeed by her peers, she went on to study Interior Design under a talented Danish Designer in Durban whose course gave her the tools to work both in the Interior and Graphic Design sector for a few years. When an opportunity to further her studies in Art surfaced, she went on to complete a degree in Fine Art at the University of KwaZulu Natal in Pietermaritzburg. On completion of her degree, she worked as a professional artist and assisted in the setting up and management of Butterflies for Africa Art Gallery. Life and circumstances kept drawing her back to her Interior Design roots and she accepted a job as a decorator and designer and at Anne Colle Interiors where she honed her skills under the mentorship of the Belgian Designer and owner of Belgotex Carpets, Anne Colle. in 2003, she opened Sonia Hayes Interiors in Pietermaritzburg with the help and support of her Manager at Anne Colle Interiors, Silvana Cooper, who remains a close friend and advisor to this day.

Sonia’s influences are her love for African texture and palettes, rich Jacobean patterned fabrics from the British Colonial era and the minimalism and purposefulness of Danish and Belgian Design. From these she has created a distinctive contemporary style that allows the space she is working with to both be simple and rich with tactile appeal, timeless fabrics and functional design which blends both antique and contemporary furniture comfortably. She specialises in showcasing and incorporating the home-owners or company’s unique personality, hobbies, ideals and ethos. Sonia creates spaces that are timeless and enduring. Sonia likes to build rooms around meaningful pieces of Art, often weaving the colours in paintings into her palettes. Her clients have commented that Sonia makes each selected piece of furniture, art, fabric etc. communicate individually and together in such a way that once the room is complete, the design is so perfectly blended and reduced to its’ essential elements, that it is difficult to remove a single item without the concept being compromised. Sonia’s way of working with people have given her the nickname “The Dream Catcher” and her clients have commented that, “Working with Sonia will draw you closer to yourself and allow you to bring forth and materialise your greatest hopes and dreams in a tasteful way”.

Sonia’s love for Africa has led her to open an online platform for talented Africans called Bao Africa. She curates high-end decor, fabric and artefacts from around the continent in an effort to preserve the artisans who would otherwise turn to less creative ways to make money and she gives them a voice around the world in hopes that more talent will reveal itself if it is profitable enough.

Sonia continues to paint professionally, exhibiting her work on the Saatchi Website. Her subject matter remains close to her heart and she produces portraits of African faces, animals and the landscapes of places where she lives or visits. Most of her work is commissioned. Her love for colour and how it communicates on a deeper level is evident in her work which is realistic but vibrant and lively.


My History

Sonia’s history in the Design Industry began at Anne Colle Interiors in Pietermaritzburg when clients were consistently being referred to her for more than just décor advice. Since those early beginnings she has managed refurbishments of local Hotels such as Golden Horse Casino, Ithala Game Reserve, iNsingizi Guest House, numerous Bed and Breakfasts and bespoke hotels in the Sheffield area, Midlands and Pietermaritzburg as well as holiday homes along the South and North Coast. Sonia currently lives in the UK, Norwich, and is working freelance with Reanimer Yachts working on mega yacht decor and finishes and with Golden Mean Designs as the Lead Interior Designer. She effortlessly works independently and within a team bringing her unique vision, energy and focus to projects.

Sonia thoroughly enjoys working on large long term ventures where she can cultivate lasting relationships with her clients. Her unique and diverse background in addition to her studies in African Art mean she is happiest when she is working with African textures and artefacts. She enjoys building and enhancing homes and seeing projects through from visualising the 2D plans to producing the final product in 3D completion giving her skillful attention to detail plenty of scope.


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