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Peter Marinelli stands in a meeting room he recently remodeled in Phnom Penh.
Peter Marinelli stands in a meeting room he recently remodeled in Phnom Penh. Hong Menea

Design with a personal touch

For interior designer Peter Marinelli, Phnom Penh is a dream come true: endless residential and commercial spaces more in need of renovation than demolition.

The 58-year-old Melbourne native, who has been working as an interior designer for more than 37 years, is the director of Phnom Penh-based Marinelli Creative Designs.

In Australia, much of Marinelli’s clientele was split between residences and offices and larger hospitality projects including hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. He also worked for several years in Ho Chi Minh City before moving to Phnom Penh three years ago. Since moving here he has primarily been involved in renovating apartments and offices in the city centre.

The Post spoke with Marinelli about his goals in Phnom Penh and the future he sees for interior design in the city.

Post: What brought you to Phnom Penh?
Marinelli: Before coming to Phnom Penh I was living in Ho Chi Minh City and had some business contacts here who introduced the city to me. Cambodia had recently been receiving more exposure in Australian media as well. I love Cambodia, in some ways it reminds me of the 1970s in Australia – a similar laid-back lifestyle and a good family environment.

What philosophy do you bring to your client projects?
My goal is always the same – to create a good environment for a specific purpose. I work on existing properties to breathe new life into old spaces. I work closely with the client to make sure the goal is clear and then oversee every detail of the work my crew does. When necessary I’ll do certain aspects of the work myself. For me, the best thing about my job is when I see the customer’s satisfaction with the finished product.

What do your clients usually want?
With apartments and offices, a bright but relaxed environment is usually the objective. In hospitality and other businesses, the mood you want to go for is the one that appeals to the clients that you’re trying to attract. I’m heavily into light, sound and colours in order to create the mood that you want to go for.

What clients in Phnom Penh and elsewhere in Cambodia do you think are ideal for your services?
I’m interested in all kinds of clients, small hotels of up to 20 rooms, landlords with apartments or apartment buildings. With very little outlay and not much time, renovations to an existing space can translate to rents that are 30 to 40 per cent higher.

What about families that own their own apartments?
They’re important as well. I focus on residential properties on a personal level and like to work closely with the client to make sure that I know what they want. I especially enjoy designing spaces suitable to families. I have two children and one grandchild. I’m a family man.

What has been the biggest change in your line of work over the decades?
Technology has made my work easier and it has also made it easier for clients to know what they’re getting – with CAD computer imaging they can see the finished product before any work begins. This efficiency in the end means lower costs for myself and the client.

What are your basic rates for remodelling residential or office spaces?
Our rates are very reasonable. For a 90-square-metre two-bedroom flat, we can give it a facelift, not including furniture, for around $7,000 with turnaround within six weeks. A facelift for a 100-square-metre office might start at around $10,000.

As an interior designer, what kind of potential do you see in the coming years in Phnom Penh?
There are going to be some very big changes here in Phnom Penh. Architecturally there are a lot of solid but older buildings here. Ideally we don’t want to tear these buildings down, rather this existing architecture can be renovated to create unique new environments.

Peter Marinelli of Marinelli Creative Designs can be reached on 095 734 155 or via email at



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