Adrienne Hart: Exceeding Expectations

AdrienneDesign clients often complain about not being heard, but not with Adrienne Hart. The Arizona-based designer puts her clients ideas and expectations as top priority.

Thanks for joining us, Adrienne! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business.

I grew up in a house full of do-it-yourselfers. My dad was always adding on to the house or changing things and my mom was all about changing wallpaper, paint and furniture around. I remember shingling the roof of our storage shed when I was 10- my dad was terrified of heights, so he would stand and direct from below. My design career didn’t start until eleven years ago when I broke from my operations background to go to design school. Best decision I’ve ever made!!!

What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space? Do you have a checklist, or is it a meet and greet for the feel of their personality?

It depends on if I’m charging for the initial consultation or if it’s just to get a sense of the client and scope of work. If I’m charging, I gather all of the information as to why I’m there and then give as much design advice as I can in two hours. More often, it’s a meet and greet and in that case what I’m really looking for… bottom line… is how well they can communicate what they really want. Not specifically if they know the right terms or can articulate what they actually want down to details (that’s my job), but their willingness to share their needs and desires. The more I understand what the expectations are, the happier everyone involved will be. If I see a sense of willingness, then I can do all the heavy lifting and get the information I need to do an excellent job for them. PS. I’ve never used a checklist as most discussions are fluid and trying to keep to a format usually restricts the amount of information. I do take copious amounts of notes.

Your job is filled with challenges. Which problems do you face most often? Do you have a method to work through those problems? 

One of the biggest challenges in design, in my opinion, is making sure that the picture in my head matches the picture in their head and it can all be translated to a trades person to execute to match. We all use words in different ways and background and upbringing could change the connotation of an adjective and before you know it, we’re speaking two different languages. To combat that, after much discussion and preparation, I provide very detailed specifications and drawings that are reviewed in person until everyone is on the same page. It should never be a surprise what something is going to look like or what it’s going to cost…. Unless, of course, that’s what the client wanted and that can be a lot of fun too!

Design shows are very popular on television right now. How have they influenced your business? In what ways do your clients now interact with you that they might not have before the popularity of the shows?

There is a disproportionate expectation on how long things should take and how much they cost, because of these design shows. On occasion, I have to have conversations about the production crew and the months of preparation before the days of the show and how the network picks up the cost of all of that. Many times, a show will be brought up in context to explain what their goal is- will they “love it or leave it”. Or it may provide a glimmer into their aesthetic- “I love everything Candice Olsen does.” Or perhaps an admiration for repurposing. One of the best things about design shows is that it gets people thinking about things they would have never considered and to me, that’s the fun part- exploring the new and unknown.

From the outside it seems like Arizona is about incorporating Southwest designs with strong Native American and Mexican-inspired themes! Describe how you incorporate those into your designs. 

Many of my clients are part-time residents and want to appreciate our desert climate. I like to do that in a less literal way by capitalizing on our earthy color palette and adding touches of accessories and art that nod to our history. It’s so much easier to appreciate something special when it’s done sparingly, rather than bathing in a sea of howling coyotes and chili peppers!

Do you have a project you are most proud to have designed. What did it look like before? After?

I am always proud when my client is happy, so that’s a tough one. And I have many strong before and after photos. I can think of two very challenging and complicated specific elements in two different houses that I was elated at the result.

We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your designs? Are there designs where you’re more likely to use a rug? Less? 

All hard surface floors need rugs! For acoustics, for lushness, to unite furniture settings, to bring all the colors in a space together, to add pattern, to tone down pattern, to set the whole tone of a room… I could go on. Most homes that I work in have tile floors, so there are rugs everywhere. Other than a carpeted floor, I can’t think of any place I would be less likely to use a rug.

Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable? 

Wool. Anything that starts with “poly”.

We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price? 

I find that there are clients who have an appreciation for how a rug is made and how long it take and the rest who just want to add some color or warmth under their toes. Knowing this before you go out shopping saves everyone time and money. Almost all rug prices are negotiable… the tag is rarely the actual price you can take it home for.

 

Linda Rubin: Functional, Intelligent Design

Linda_RubinThe design world can be filled with expensive pieces that add little to a design than to bloat the budget, New England-based interior decorator Linda Rubin finds pieces and layouts that are as beautiful as they are budget conscience.

Thanks for joining us, Linda. Tell us a little bit about how you got started in interior design.

I always had an eye for design and was encouraged to do it professionally but I had a career in human resources and didn’t feel I was qualified to design professionally without a formal education in design.  Eventually I returned to school and earned a degree in interior design.  I interned in the design department of a well-known furniture retailer, which allowed me to learn a lot about furniture quality, but I felt the design opportunity was limiting because of the narrow choices offered by a retail store.  I struck out on my own in 2001 and my business has been both successful and rewarding every year since.

New England is a wonderful place to work with design.  Which classic New England features do you try and incorporate into your designs? How do you try and limit it?

Like most areas of the country New England has a unique style, although it seems to be far more pervasive in exterior architecture.  New Englanders have largely moved past a singular interior style.  I’m sensitive to keeping my design consistent with the geography, but as I say to my clients “good design is good design regardless of the style”.

Describe some of your more challenging spaces? Does a unique layout benefit the designer by expanding their ability to be creative? Or does it limit options?

A unique space can certainly add visual interest, but you have to be careful to ensure that the space will ultimately work in a way that the client plans on using it.  One problem that I run into is the placement of large screen televisions.  For instance, sometimes an architect will envision a family room with expansive windows, fireplace, and other design elements, without considering one of the room’s main functions: watching television.  Particularly when designing from the ground up, it’s important to consider how a room will really be used.

One challenge which can really be turned into a positive is staircase design.  Sometimes a staircase dominates a space.  There are some wonderful options that combine wood, metal, and other materials, and can turn that dominant design feature into something really interesting.

Open floor plans are more popular than ever and many clients are consumed with the idea of flow.  How do you ensure against clutter, and that the occupant always feels stress-free in that space?

Again, the single most important thing is to determine how a client really intends to use the space.  How many people share the space?  Will it be used for television and other multimedia?  Is the space for entertaining?  Is there any need for privacy?  You really need to get an idea of how the space will be used.

As a general rule, creating soft separations in the space for conversation areas, eating, watching television or entertaining tends to add harmony to the space.  This can be done using area rugs, furniture and other design elements.

Area rugs are versatile. New England homes and businesses use lots of hardwood floors. Explain how you incorporate area rugs into your designs.

Area rugs can be used to help separated large spaces into functionally smaller areas.  They also soften hard floors, and can visually work with the other colors and textures in a room to complete the look and feel of the space

Do you have a type of area rug that you lean on most? Or is it a case-by-case basis?

It is strictly a case by case basis.  The material and pattern will be dictated by the rugs intended use and surrounding design.  Additionally, budget will dictate what types of rugs can be considered.

Are there price limits when it comes to rugs? 

Absolutely.  Like everything else, an area rug has to fit in a project’s budget.  I’ve had success finding rugs at the right price, but it requires careful shopping.  The right rug at the wrong price isn’t worth anything to my client.

Do you have any final words of design advice?

Pick a designer who’s predominate style largely agrees with your own.  If you are designing a brand new space, involve an interior designer early in the process; architects and builders often don’t fully consider interior function.  Pull pictures from magazines and the internet which really reflect your style so you can give the designer a solid idea of what you like and dislike.  Last, don’t be afraid to consider solutions which are “out of your box”.  You didn’t hire a designer so you could come up with a space like everything else you’ve done.  Some of my happiest clients are those that left their comfort zone and ended up “wowed” in way they wouldn’t have achieved on their own.

Where can readers see your work, or make an appointment for consultation?

Visit my website at www.QuintessentialInteriors and call or email for a consultation.

 

Liz Stiving-Nichols: Until You LOVE It

LizWhen it comes to adding the right area rug for her client, Liz Stiving-Nichols won’t stop until they can’t imagine not having it in their room.

Thanks for joining us, Liz. Tell us a little bit about how you got started in interior design.

I have always gravitated to more artistic or visual courses in college but didn’t make the leap to Interior Design until my early 20’s. I had a summer job on the Vineyard and realized I had a knack for spatial design while working on window displays. This was in the mid to late 90’s when design shows were just popping up on TV. I decided to go back to school and study Interior Design and chose a school in Chicago that (at the time) was the only private school focused solely on Interior Design and Interior Architecture.

New England is a wonderful place to work with design. Which classic New England features do you try and incorporate into your designs? How do you try and limit it?

When beginning a project, my team and I have a process we go through to familiarize ourselves not only with our clients and their lifestyle, but we also get the lay of the land, literally. One of our primary goals is to find inspiration in the perennial elements of each site, creating a direct connection to the natural surroundings of the home. While we work towards creating a connection to these elements, we don’t necessarily aim to duplicate them – rather we find materials, lines, and finishes that will produce a complimentary environment inside.

Describe some of your more challenging spaces? Does a unique layout benefit the designer by expanding their ability to be creative? Or does it limit options?

Sometimes it is the opposite way around, and the challenge comes from making a traditional space feel unique. We recently had a client with great taste who purchased a very traditional home on the island. We focused on transforming the undeniable traditional elements of the house to create a stronger synergy with the views beyond.

In the living room, we replaced the classic white columns and walls with a rustic, reclaimed barnboard, making the fireplace the centerpiece of the room. For the fireplace surround we replaced the oversized white mantle with a noncombustable material that visually blended with the barnboard. Neolith is a relatively new product that is incredibly versatile with this veneer like construction.

The furnishings and décor supported the monochromatic pallet and focus on texture. Natural finishes, like wood and raw metals, mixed with neutral colors complimented the rustic aspect, while creating a refined and sophisticated living area.

Open floor plans are more popular than ever and many clients are consumed with the idea of flow. How do you ensure against clutter, and that the occupant always feels stress-free in that space?

I would suggest finding beautiful furniture with purpose. Elegant furniture can also be useful. Console and coffee tables with discreet drawers, elegant baskets, and when applicable, built-in bookcases and storage drawers under window seats are also subtle but useful. Area rugs are versatile. New England homes and businesses use lots of hardwood floors. Explain how you incorporate area rugs into your designs.

As you noted before, open floor plans are very popular. Rugs help define areas within large spaces. For example, with area rugs laid correctly, a Great Room could potentially have three or more living spaces- a seating area by the fire, a large dining table for family dinners, or a reading nook for relaxing. Families can enjoy each other’s company while still feeling they are in their own space.

Do you have a type of area rug that you lean on most? Or is it a case-by-case basis?

As with any design element, there are too many factors that come into play when choosing a rug. As mentioned my team and I strive to create a direct connection to the perennial elements of each site but also the architecture influences our design direction greatly. A colorful cotton rug could be perfect in a beach cottage, a Tibetan cut pile wool and silk in a more modern home or loft, or perhaps a Gabbeh or Dhurri in a farm house.

Personally I like simplicity and texture. I love an abrash technique on a wool and silk blend. Although one may view these inconsistencies in color as ‘flaws’, I love the visual texture of an abrash stria and the beautiful hand of a wool and silk blend.

Are there price limits when it comes to rugs?

There is no one size fits all budget. This truly depends on the client and how the rug will be used in their home. Some may see a rug as an investment piece while another may focus on durable and if the rug will stand against the test of time. A rug could be a piece of art, an artifact found during travels, or simply be what anchors the space. The price point should really be dictated by the use of the rug and the value the client sees in it.

Do you have any final words of design advice?

Be cognizant of your space planning. If you rug will be heavily concealed by furniture, keep that in mind when looking at rugs with patterns. If you are in search of a rug for an area with heavy foot traffic, pay attention to the weave and materials. For a space where one may often be barefoot, pay attention to the hand.

And with most design decisions, I tell my clients “You have to LOVE it.” If not, we’ll keep looking.

Where can readers see your work, or make an appointment for consultation?

You can view our portfolio on our website www.mvidesign.com or call our office at 508-687-9555 to speak to a designer. If you are on MV, check out our store Bespoke Abode or on line at www.bespokeabode.com

Vera Bahou: Free-Flowing Comfort

Vera BahouWith hard work and determination Vera Bahou has learned the design business from the ground up and designs functional and stress-free spaces for all her clients.

Thanks for joining us, Vera! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business.

As a child I always was interested in decorating and re-designing room layouts. I always used to redesign my mother’s living room and didn’t know at that time 

Business major, got married, had two children and helped my husband in his medical career and in establishing his solo medical practice and became an office manger.  Well this went on for ten years till I realized it’s time to hang my good will hat and go back searching for my creativity.

My path took me back to Art school at Bucks County Community college as a part time student for one year.  As I discovered my passion in designing, I transferred to Drexel University where I earned my Bachelor of Science degree in Interior Design.  After I graduated, I gained some design experience and worked in Doylestown for home interiors then moved to Florida and worked for Robb & Stucky specializing in high-end residential interior design for one year. Moved back to Bucks County and got some experience in kitchen & bath renovation and opened my business “Designhaus Interiors” in 2004.

What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space? Do you have a checklist, or is it a meet and greet to feel out their personality?

Prior to meeting with the client, I always ask them few questions regarding their project then schedule an appointment to meet each other and  to learn about their personality,   the style of their home, talk about their likes and dislikes and most importantly go over their budget . By this time I will be able to tell whether the client knows what they are looking for or require my design expertise in helping them achieve the look that they want to go for.  Design is a process and getting to know a client has its share of process in uncovering their style, attitude and the style they like.

After years of experience I do not rely on a checklist.  I am very observant and like to concentrate and listen to my client.  As I am listening I am also observing and getting a feel of the clients lifestyle. Choice of colors their taste in clothing, and the type of their existing furniture & accessories. However, I do rely on my camera and the more pictures I take the more information I am gathering of the client existing spaces.  Which is an important tool in our profession and provides instant access anytime towards the clients existing home.

Working as a designer is committing to a career filled with difficult
challenges. Which problems do you face most often? Clients or space?
Do you have a method to work through those problems?

Clients or spaces! I believe this fluctuates with every project.  I’ve had projects where the client just went along with what I designed and specified and had no problem with budget. And that’s exactly why we as designers are hired and enjoy!

I’ve had other design project where the client and the design had no problems but they have the challenge of a tight budget.  This is where I try to work with the client and provide alternatives to suite their budget and create a solution to satisfy their needs.

Design shows are very popular on television right now. How have they
influenced your business? In what ways do your clients now interact
with you that they might not have before the popularity of the shows?

I believe design shows have advanced the design profession forward and have made people aware of such a luxurious service.  Television shows tries to sell the design concept for everyone and project deceptive information towards quality & budget.  Our professional business has become more competitive and some consumers have become savvier as a result that they want design guidance and hands on their personal projects.  

From the outside it seems like the Philadelphia area focuses on
incorporating it’s rich history into many designs! Is that something
many clients want? Describe if/how you might incorporate a sense of
history into your designs.

Some of my design projects require research of older traditional Philadelphia home incorporated with more modern style of design.  The focus of an antique piece of furniture and reclaimed random planked wood floors brings in character and charm as well as antique area rugs that have been re-conditioned and used for their high detail and rich colors incorporated in an eclectic  or modern design setting.  

Do you have a design project you are most proud to have completed?
What did it look like before? After?

One of my design projects that I am really proud of was published in a magazine.  It was in a basement of this older home built in the late 1800’s.  A crawl space never finished nor used with a ceiling height of 6’5” and became converted it into a functional space and created a massage space, exercise, laundry facility, powder room, steam & spa space.  The functional feng shui designed space was a challenge and became one of my top creative projects that were created with a high level of energy.

We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your
designs? Are there designs where you’re more likely to use a rug?
Less?

Area rugs are being used more today than ever before for hardwood floor and tile floors. I love to see an area rug as you are entering a grand foyer.  It makes a stunning statement or a custom stair runner with a particular design intended for that particular client.  I use them everywhere on top of hardwood & tile floors except kitchens & bath.

Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable?

Nylon is the most popular fiber and the most durable in quality and against color fading while Jute is a renewable bio-based product but is not as durable as nylon and other natural fibers such as wool.

We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance
on how to cut down on the initial price?

One needs to be objective here regarding quality, colors & design!

They all matter in selecting an area rug.  Choose a wool rug versus a blend of wool and silk, fewer knots per square inch, choose a rug size smaller than larger, be selective from the country of origin and machine made rugs are less expensive than hand made rugs.

Thanks for your time today! Any more hints for our readers

Always consult a design professional whether you are re-decorating, re-modeling or moving into a new house. We have up to date talent and we’d love to share it with you!

 

Kathy Coady Gets Cozy on Cape Cod

Kathy_CoadyWhen it comes to design, former furniture specialist Kathy Coady understands how to make a room aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and comfortable on the body.

Thanks for joining us, Kathy! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business.

I always had a fondness for beautiful things.  When I was in my thirties as an at home mother with one daughter I decided it was time for me to attend school to study my passion Interior Design.  When I received my degree I worked for large retail furniture showrooms.   I did this for 15 years.  Then in 2011, I decided I didn’t want to sell furniture any longer I wanted to provide design solutions to clients therefore began my own design business, New Angle Designs.

What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space? Do you have a checklist, or is it a meet and greet to feel out their personality?

The first thing I like to do when I meet a new client is to put them at ease by letting them know that I am working for them to assist them in providing good solid design solutions for their home based on their lifestyle and needs.  So we sit and talk about their vision and their priority’s.  From our conversation I then make a list of what we talked about and review it with the client.

Working as a designer is committing to a career filled with difficult challenges. Which problems do you face most often? Clients or space? Do you have a method to work through those problems?

The biggest challenge I have is with clients believing my time is valuable.  I charge an hourly fee for my services and over time have established creditability in the design industry and have valuable knowledge that can be used in their home.  To overcome this mindset I use a lot of design rational when talking with my clients about design in their home.

Design shows are very popular on television right now. How have they influenced your business? In what ways do your clients now interact with you that they might not have before the popularity of the shows?

I think the design shows are helpful as they allow the clients to see there are many options in design available to them.  I like it when my client is knowledgeable about the many products available.  I can then advise them on how best to use these products to create a successful design for their home.

From the outside it seems like New England focuses on incorporating it’s rich history into many designs! Is that something many clients want? Describe if/how you might incorporate a sense of history into your designs.

I live and work in a seasonal/resort area outside of Boston called Cape Cod.  This area provides me with inspiration from the sea and all the wonderful natural elements offered by the beach’s and ponds and the shoreline.  So when I’m working with my clients I encourage them to bring the outdoors into their home design and to embrace the natural beauty of this area that has brought them to live on Cape Cod.

Do you have a design project you are most proud to have completed? What did it look like before? After?

One project I am most proud of is when I turned a room that was once a garage, which had been finished into a simple room with a sectional sofa, a TV, a few tables. This room was referred to as the “Dogs Room”.  While the couple was at work all day the dogs stayed in this room.  When the family came home from work in the evening they would sit with the dogs in this room to watch TV.  It had no closets for storage, it had no proper lighting and they were using only half of the room.  So I was able to redesign the room so they had a proper entrance, with wall sconces providing proper lighting.  I designed a custom cabinet as a closet space for their coats and boots and storage for their dog toys. On the opposite side of the custom closet I designed an entertainment cabinet providing them with a proper home for their TV, additional storage and display shelving.  Per their request I used the original sectional that they loved hanging out on with their dogs in their newly designed family room, no longer “the Dogs Room”.

We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your designs? Are there designs where you’re more likely to use a rug? Less?

Rugs a are very important item to include in all room designs.  Foremost rugs help to define the space while also provides an anchor for the furniture in the space.   A rug in my designs can most times be that one item that can add texture or pattern to a room.  Rugs also provide protection for your floors.   I try to use rugs when and wherever possible.

Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable?

I try to use all wool rugs if possible.  They offer the ease of cleaning and are the most durable especially for high traffic areas.

We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price?

Many times I will suggest to my clients an option to purchase a broadloom and have it cut and bound to the exact size they need.  Often this can be the most cost effective way to have a durable rug at an affordable price.

Thanks for your time today!

 

 

Joanne Jordan: Food and Shelter

JoanneWith a focus on the connection between food and the shelter, Joanne Jordan has become one of the leading designers in the Northeast, especially when it comes to designing everyone’s favorite room.

What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space? Do you have a checklist, or is it a meet and greet to feel out their personality?

Sometimes the space isn’t even built yet, so while it’s exciting, there’s little to notice. However, the most important items that really stand out to me when meeting someone new isn’t design or industry–specific, it’s how compatible, personable and comfortable we will be as a collaborative team working together towards something spectacular.

Working as a designer is committing to a career filled with difficult challenges. Which problems do you face most often? Clients or space? Do you have a method to work through those problems?

Each project comes with its own unique set of challenges.  Some associated with logistics or space, some associated with, at times, the client.  My method, which has always served me well, has remained constant for the 25 plus years I have owned my own firm – and that is to be patient, professional and handle things as openly and with as much diplomacy as possible.

Design shows are very popular on television right now. How have they influenced your business? In what ways do your clients now interact with you that they might not have before the popularity of the shows?

A lot of my clients will get ideas from another kitchen they saw, not necessarily on a show or on television, but maybe a magazine or while at a party at another house.  I think these shows enable do-it-yourself types with ideas that can fall within a variety of budgets, which is certainly raising awareness for the overall industry.  Yet, we offer a lot more than just designing a kitchen. We offer our expertise, our industry knowledge and an overall experience from the very first conversation and sketch to the last cabinet being placed in the finished product. I don’t think that translates into a popular show, but its what makes us as successful as we are.

From the outside it seems like the Philadelphia area focuses on incorporating it’s rich history into many designs! Is that something many clients want? Describe if/how you might incorporate a sense of history into your designs.

Some clients love the look of a grandiose, traditional space but I’ve also worked on many landmarked townhouses in Center City that end up contemporary and urban.  I try to be as flexible as I can with understanding the client’s needs and incorporate a variety of styles as a result of those needs. If it happens to marry both historical and modern or contemporary and traditional, we certainly strive to achieve just that by, for instance, using different woods or marbles with stainless steel or taking advantage of an exposed beam in a unique and interesting way.

Do you have a design project you are most proud to have completed? What did it look like before? After?

Honestly, I would say we’re proud of all of our projects so it’s difficult for me to decide.  However, one project that was very personal to me included an entire ground-up redesign of my husband’s family home in Canada.  We built the new house on the original footprint, visually played upon on the former layout in a modern way and interior design-wise, incorporated a number of family antiques and local and environmental elements in the décor.

We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your designs? Are there designs where you’re more likely to use a rug? Less?

I’ve used runners in kitchens. I’m less inclined to use rugs in bathrooms. I’ve never understood it. I’m particularly fond of sisal despite it not being the most comfortable to walk on In fact, a running joke in our family is my firstborn son skipped the crawling process and went directly to walking because we don’t think he liked the sisal rubbing on his knees!

Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable?

Persian area rugs although expensive, are beautiful and sturdy.  Like a well fitting piece of clothing, they always look timeless and terrific. Bamboo rugs also hold up nicely and look sharp and there are many indoor/outdoor brands that look indoor, but hold up amazingly because they are meant for outdoor use.

We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price?

Pretty much like anything.  The bigger the room, house, etc. the more expensive it gets.  Rugs are no exception to that rule.  To cut down on price, find a smaller rug that is still a quality product as opposed to trying to find a bigger one made more cheaply. It shows and won’t last as long anyway.

Thanks for your time today! Any more hints for our readers

Don’t be afraid to be opinionated and communicate with the designer and architect you choose to work with and enjoy the process!

Rocco Marianni: Like Father Like Daughter

Rocco Marianni & Assoc. Interior DesignRocco Marianni has been an interior designer for more than 30 years, but with the recent addition of his daughter as part of his company, his designs have never been better.

Thanks for joining us, Rocco! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business. 

I was a young man getting a first apartment and I took it upon myself to fix it up with some decorations. My buddies I lived with and their friends really seemed to like it. Eventually I realized I had a passion, and started studying interior design at night at the Philadelphia College of Art. I graduated in five years and was able to make a lateral move from insurance business into interior design. Once in the business I worked hard and progressed from assistant to owning my owning my own business in about six years. I’ve now been designing on my own for 35 years

I now work with my daughter Jenn, which is great because she has a very young, fresh and contemporary ideas about design. Together we an come up with great ideas. My approach and her approach to a project are totally different and the combination of our perspectives creates a nice product

What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space? Do you have a checklist, or is it a meet and greet to feel out their personality?

I usually start over the phone by explaining fees and we see if we are a good fit to work together. Once I get to their space I can ask what they like and don’t like and what colors, period, and styling. Do they like contemporary, modern and country? For me it’s not about a checklist, just in my head I know what type of questions to ask. The goal for first meeting is to get as much information as possible to see if you can meet their needs. The houses themselves can also have a big bearing on what happens, as do clients, and of course my experience.

Working as a designer is committing to a career filled with difficult challenges. Which problems do you face most often? Clients or space? Do you have a method to work through those problems?

Budget is often a problem. When I ask my clients what their budget is, they often don’t want to give me a number too high because they’re fearful that it’s too much to spend. But really they often come in too low and don’t allow us to do very much. But I show them what we can do for extra 10 or 20-percent and they almost always see the value. That’s just how it is to get a room designed properly. But remember most people have little experience and so you have be patient with them and their learning curve.

From a design perspective, some clients are unwilling to budge, or move forward and grab current styles. Sometimes it takes some nudging and cajoling, but we usually always find a space to agree. Design can be a compromise. I do the best I can to convince them because you can never let them make major mistakes.

Design shows are very popular on television right now. How have they influenced your business? In what ways do your clients now interact with you that they might not have before the popularity of the shows?

The shows have influenced clients, and though they’ve prompted business, but they’re a little unrealistic. They can get a lot more done with a lot less money. Of course the shows have large subsidies and they become an unrealistic representation of what we can get done.

From the outside it seems like the Philadelphia area focuses on incorporating it’s rich history into many designs! Is that something many clients want? Describe if/how you might incorporate a sense of history into your designs.

Not normally, but I did put up some old photos of Philly in a small room of a restaurant redesign. That’s pretty much it, but it doesn’t carry over to the home too often. Mostly law offices and places that directly benefit from being rooted in the area.

We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your designs? Are there designs where you’re more likely to use a rug? Less?

We do, too. Mostly use it in dining rooms, living rooms and open areas. Lots of hallways and runners that go up the steps. I use them in both traditional and contemporary designs. There are so many options out there that you aren’t stuck having just Oriental rugs.

Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable?

Wool of course, and the synthetic materials are also very durability. But I don’t pick them for durability as much as they would in a restaurant.

We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price?

They can vary so much anywhere from $1000 $25,000 and we have to focus on the look of the rug being appropriate for the room.

Thanks for your time today!

 

 

Bridget McMullin: Worth Every Penny

arearugsPhoto: Rich McMullin

To create the best designs for her clients, Bridget McMullin keeps to their budget and works to find them the best value and experience possible.

Thanks for joining us, Bridget! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business.  What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space? Do you have a checklist, or is it a meet and greet to feel out their personality? 

We start all of clients out with a two-hour consultation which we do bill for.  Design is about ideas- and by charging for our time, we are able to very open about our vision of the client’s space.  By giving them very concrete and focused answers at our initial meeting, we can help a client whose budget is $1000 or a client whose budget is $100,000.   I may focus the client with a small budget towards online options, “bang for the buck” ideas, and we give them a focused to do list by the time we leave.  A client with a larger budget is a bit different experience because we are focusing in on their vision, budget limitations- or as I call it “want versus need” analysis.  In either case, we customize our initial consultations to fit the client’s goals.  Our clients are also given some homework prior to our consultation including a request of the budget, which, for us, is the number one deciding factor on what direction we take with a client.  “You wouldn’t shop for a Mercedes when all you can afford is a Volkswagen” is what I tell every client at our first meeting.  Design can come at any price and being upfront about what you are willing to spend allows us to be honest about what we can give you and what products we will introduce to your project.

Working as a designer is committing to a career filled with difficult challenges. Which problems do you face most often? Clients or space? Do you have a method to work through those problems? 

I think the hardest obstacle to overcome is the industry is the clients expectations of what we “do”.  HGTV has made our job look easy, cheap, and fast.  Clients have a hard time understanding how long it takes to do what we do and we are constantly trying to educate our clients of the value we bring to the project.   

Design shows are very popular on television right now. How have they influenced your business? In what ways do your clients now interact with you that they might not have before the popularity of the shows? 

As you can see from my above answer, I am not a fan of the television shows even though I have done a few myself.  Candice Olsen and Sarah Richardson probably have the most realistic version of what we do- though it is still a version.  In our initial homework questionnaire we do ask clients what their favorite design shows are- we find this helps us understand their vision of us as designers.  A client who loves “Design on a Dime” has a very different view of design than a client who watches Candice Olsen.

From the outside it seems like the Philadelphia area focuses on incorporating it’s rich history into many designs! Is that something many clients want? Describe if/how you might incorporate a sense of history into your designs. 

I have to convince my clients not to be bound by their houses! Restoration is an expensive process, so I usually focus my clients who want to be “true” to their spaces to focus on updated details that still nod to the period of their home without sacrificing their comfort, their personal design sensibility, and their wallets.  We won an award for an IDA Award (Philadelphia Interior Design Award) for a  project in 2011, it was a 1920′s house with at 1950′s addition with a 1970′s kitchen remodel.   We helped the clients take this unthought-of space and make it flow with existing 1920′s architecture.  It was fresh, up to date, and felt like it had always been there- which is the key to a great interior remodel

Do you have a design project you are most proud to have completed? What did it look like before? After? 

I am proud of all of our projects.  Our designers are very talented and I believe our best work is always yet to come because each day we get better at what we do.   

We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your designs? Are there designs where you’re more likely to use a rug? Less? 

I love a good area rug- especially the fresh geometric patterns and the ikat’s that are coming into vogue again.  So rarely do I use a wall-to-wall carpet, I always try to work in an area rug.

Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable? 

It’s not that I find ones more durable than another, but I think a client should understand what they are buying.  Price does matter when it comes to area rugs.

When I bought my home 8 years ago, like most clients, I had very little money to finish furnishing after I did all the necessary renovations. I fell in love with a Home Goods carpet and decided to purchase.  I think I paid $400 for it.  It rotted- literally rotted.  I was vacuuming one day and I noticed a mark.  When I went to pick at it the rug, it fell apart.  Had I waited a few more months and saved my money, I would have been able to afford a much more substantial rug.  I knew better when I bought the rug but I wanted it NOW! (A trap of our immediate gratification society, I know).  I have a gorgeous oriental in my back porch, a gift from a client who downsized their home.  The rug is 20 years old and still is as perfect as the day it was bought.  Lesson- you get what you pay for when it comes to area rugs.  Afford the best you can, and if you can afford that one- save a few more months and spend a bit more extra.  I understand that everyone has their limitations but remember, a good rug will always be your best friend.

Roving nomads used their hand knotted rugs to as the floors of their dessert tents for centuries.  Unless you are spending a fortune on a all silk rug, remember that paupers and kings have “lived” on their rugs for centuries- your kid is not going to kill your rug!   

We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price? 

If you are going for look- flat weaves or kilms are usually a great price point and can give you a lot of bang for your buck.  Another trick we use for larger rooms with tight budgets is to bind a broadloom.  Our clients get the durability of a Stain Master (or other technology) but the feeling of an area rug. 

Thanks for your time today! Any more hints for our readers 

Don’t forget to clean your rugs!  We live in a throw away society, so I always try to educate my clients remembering to get their rugs (and upholstery) cleaned on a regular basis.  Yes, it is not cheap- but it is more affordable than replacing your carpet in five years.  I have my area rugs cleaned around every 18 months to 2 years.  It cuts down on allergens such as dust mites and keeps my rugs in tip top shape. 

 

Angela Souder: Seeing Design as Problem Solving

Angela-ams-interiorsWhen Angela Souder accepts a complicated design project she doesn’t see the limitations, she sees the opportunity.

Thanks for joining us, Angela! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business.

As far back as I can remember I enjoyed the visual arts. After high school, I went to Penn State University and majored in social psychology and minored in the arts. I worked as a Human Resource Generalist, got married, bought a house and had a family. With the addition of children, the house seemed a little small so my husband and I had to decide if we should move or add on.  We had enough property to add on and the prospect of building an addition was very exciting and challenging to me. My mind was racing with creative ideas for space planning and design. We worked with an architect through the design process and when the project was completed, I was convinced that this is what I was meant to do. I immediately enrolled in the Interior Design Program at Philadelphia University, formerly Philadelphia College of Textiles and Sciences. After I graduated, I worked four years for architectural firms and design professionals before starting my own business, AMS Interiors, LLC.

What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space? Do you have a checklist, or is it a meet and greet to feel out their personality?

I usually ask the client a number of questions over the telephone to see if our company would be a good match.

When I meet the client at their home, it is to see the space, discuss the project scope and budget, review my process and portfolio, answer their questions and lesson their fears. Most important, my goal is to    establish a mutual trust and respect for each other because we will be working very closely together in their personal space. I want the design process to be  interesting and enjoyable.  

Working as a designer is committing to a career filled with difficult challenges. Which problems do you face most often? Clients or space? Do you have a method to work through those problems?

If I do a good job of explaining the design process and how I work initially, I don’t have problems with clients. On occasion a delivery of materials or furnishings may be delayed so we expedite our purchase orders and specify alternates choices in case of delays. To design is to solve problems, so we are always in creative solution mode.

Design shows are very popular on television right now. How have they influenced your business? In what ways do your clients now interact with you that they might not have before the popularity of the shows?

Many clients watch the design shows on television every week. I let them know right away that I will not be able to complete their project in a half hour. In general, more people are design savvy because of the exposure to those shows. As a result, some clients would prefer to do some things themselves but need guidance in coordinating styles, colors and patterns. So I now offer limited consulting services to assist clients with those needs.

From the outside it seems like the Philadelphia area focuses on incorporating it’s rich history into many designs! Is that something many clients want? Describe if/how you might incorporate a sense of history into your designs.

Many homes in Philadelphia including those homes and buildings built during the colonial era such as the Betsy Ross House, Independence Hall, the Elfreth’s Alley homes were built of brick. So exposing interior brick walls in a home is one way of incorporating a sense of history. Also, the use of paned glass colonial windows, random planked pine floors and the display of antique furniture, textiles and lighting fixture are additional ways to create a sense of history and family tradition.  

Do you have a design project you are most proud to have completed? What did it look like before? After?

One of the projects that I am most proud of completing is the new residential construction project in Newport, RI. Prior to its construction, it was a very rocky bluff overlooking a beautiful scenic view of the Atlantic Ocean. Now it is a beautiful shingle style home with two levels of views of the Atlantic Ocean. Inspiration for the interior of this home was the flora, fauna and rocky coastline of this famous New England town and the client’s request for a casual elegant easy life style and decor.

Interior colors reflect the gray, celadon green, and plum tones in the huge rocks on the property and the ocean blues, green shrubs and trees and the creamy beige sand. Photos are on my website at www.amsinteriordesigns.com under New Projects.

We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your designs? Are there designs where you’re more likely to use a rug? Less?

With the advent of so many beautiful wood, stone, and tile floors, I have specified area rugs in   almost every room of a house. There is an area rug for every style whether it is traditional, contemporary, transitional or eclectic. I have even placed area rugs on some wall-to-wall carpeting to give the room interest and color. For the most part, I specify area rugs in living rooms, dining rooms, breakfast rooms and bedrooms. I have also specified area rugs in master bathrooms and laundry rooms.

In addition to providing color and warmth within the space, area rugs ground the furniture, add  texture and can serve as a work of art or focal point for rooms lacking architectural detail.

I am less likely to specify area rugs where children play or where the elderly with walkers or canes live. I would specify a thin wall to wall carpet or a  resilient hard floor in those spaces.

Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable?

Wool rugs are very durable and my favorite are wool with silk. However synthetic rugs can be very durable because of their many generations of engineered fibers that have special qualities such as soil release, stain repellents, etc. I have three 100% spun nylon area rugs in my own home that are 15 years old and they look as good as the day I bought them. Sisal rugs are also quite durable and great for vacation homes by the sea and lakes.

We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price?

Specify a smaller rug or less expensive fibers.

Thanks for your time today! Any more hints for our readers.

One way to keep your area rugs looking their best is to vacuum the rugs in different directions so you pick up all dirt and dust, vacuum often, and spot clean immediately by following the manufacturer’s directions.

 

 

Amanda Maier Makes it Work

AmandaFrom twigs to distressed furniture Amanda Maier finds a way to connect her clients to the designs they’ve always wanted.

Thanks for joining us, Amanda! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business.

After high school, and after only one semester in state college, I was restless and instead I began a career modeling. Several years later, I was living in Paris and working for Givenchy and was reaching a point in my career where I was ready for a new direction. I went to visit a fashion school in Florence, Italy which I was very interested in attending. Modeling for years made me a lover of fashion, I just loved wearing the clothes, meeting the designers… Upon returning home to the states, I instead decided to return to a childhood love of mine, interior design, although back then i didn’t know there was such a thing. I just always wanted to build things, decorate, move furniture around…plan all the details.

I remember planning an underground fort as a kid- although it was set up more like an apartment. I started digging, but didn’t get very far on that one. I would love to see those sketches today. I asked my mom for a subscription to Architectural Digest. I always loved it. So flash forward to when I began classes at the Art Institute of Philadelphia, I realized It was so much more than I ever thought, and I knew I was meant to do this. I earned my bachelors degree in interior design and worked for a high end residential firm for a few years before starting my own business in 2007. I went on to pass the NCIDQ exam and am an active professional ASID member, currently serving on the PA East chapter board as president elect. I am so grateful that I enjoy a career I truly love, and am able to use my creativity for others to enjoy…having a positive, real impact on people’s lives.

What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space? Do you have a checklist, or is it a meet and greet to feel out their personality?

When I meet a potential client in their space I am looking to find out a lot of information – most of which is personality, although certainly other factors are important and some are even intuitive. The best clients are excited about the process, (aka happy people) willing to trust me and my team, and are good decision makers. I have all kinds of different clients -but most of them have these in common and it makes my job easier, which in turn makes the client happy and everybody wins. Design of the home  is intimate, and there must be a good connection. Also of course I am taking in the existing spaces as well, and most important, I am listening to the client speak about them, uncovering cues on lifestyle, attitude, and aesthetic. 

Working as a designer is committing to a career filled with difficult challenges. Which problems do you face most often? Clients or space? Do you have a method to work through those problems?

As a designer, I am a problem solver, and not only with spaces, which I find  is the easy part, but also challenges with clients and projects in general. The method of working out a seemingly disastrous situation such as a cabinet being made the wrong size or a vendor losing an order, damage or long delays, etc…. is to make it right for the client. That entails using all my resources to remedy the situation, whatever it is. This could cause problems with the client as well, and as a designer i am sometimes the bearer of bad news, but that comes with the job. . We do everything we can to ensure the smooth run of projects but there are always crazy things that happen and you just have to roll with it, and do the best we can. i focus on the fact that in the end everything will be brilliant and the client will be happy. that is the most important thing.

Design shows are very popular on television right now. How have they influenced your business? In what ways do your clients now interact with you that they might not have before the popularity of the shows?

Design shows can be educational, touching and entertaining…  But that is what 

It is, entertainment. Although it can definitely be fun, interior design is a serious business, and design on TV is very different than in real life. You would think that would be obvious, but I believe it creates some misperceptions about the industry. On the plus side, it has brought design to the masses, and helping inspire creativity and beauty is never a bad thing. Interior design is exciting and fun- it is such a big part of our lives- so I look to the positive elements that design on TV brings, and focus on educating others about how the design process actually works.

From the outside it seems like the Philadelphia area focuses on incorporating it’s rich history into many designs! Is that something many clients want? Describe if/how you might incorporate a sense of history into your designs. 

I love to bring a sense of history to a project – or even focusing on the second part of that word- story. I love creating spaces that feel as though they have been there awhile, a little comfy worn-in feeling. Distressed finishes do this very well. Also I love incorporating reclaimed architectural items into projects, like time worn painted corbels used to support a milled mantle, or old barn beams used as material for a coffered ceiling. Old family photographs and antiques are of course beautiful ways to bring the past to mingle with the now. It is amazing how beautifully an antique set of doors works juxtaposed to a modern chandelier. Old and new together are so fresh. Also fabulous is using a gorgeous modern print fabric on a classic or traditional frame – chair or sofa… The effects can be dramatic. 

Do you have a design project you are most proud to have completed?

What did it look like before? After?

I was very excited to complete this renovation of the first floor of a stone manor home in Chestnut Hill, PA. Before it was an unused outdoor porch, leading into a dull living room, complete with sad brick fireplace with classic woodwork mantle, nothing special. I incorporated many gorgeous custom elements into the design that made it so exciting to see come together. From the new ledge stone clad fireplace, which now extended the length of the wall, where I used a huge reclaimed beam spanning the 10 feet, to the mahogany paneling and arched windows which now enclose the former outdoor porch. The entry to which is now home to the old front door, given new life surrounded by the custom stained glass design for the sidelights and transom. It is brimming with a classic, yet elegantly rustic charm, with a modern twist. 

We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your designs? Are there designs where you’re more likely to use a rug? Less?

I love rugs too… And I have used area rugs many times in my designs. They can be the centerpiece of a room, like a rug I selected for a penthouse loft in Center City Philadelphia. It had a bold modern Aztec circular design on it, and we did a low glass slab coffee table; the warm tones of amber-gold and red-orange gave it the punch it needed to pull the room together. Sometimes a room can go sans rug however. It really depends on the project. In a home out in New Hope PA, I designed a custom glass dining table, the glass was embedded with twigs- absolutely stunning. The new floor below was a gorgeous natural walnut. I decided that no rug was needed here, to allow the beauty of the tabletop to shine; it also seems to float in the space. 

Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable?

I love 100%wool rugs, and and wool and silk is gorgeous if the budget allows. Nylon is also a good durable natural fiber as well. Sisal rugs are very durable. I have some clients with big dogs running around- and they love it. Acrylic is cheap and not durable; it pills and will look old quickly. A good flokati wool rug can be cleaned over and over and last a very long time. There are a lot of cool wool felt rugs out now : plaited, woven and flat, even shag ones. These are extremely durable, and cool. If you are really into something different, and Eco-friendly, I have seen rugs made from recycled plastic that are so adorable, and outdoor! 

We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price? 

Hmmm, well I would hit local rug dealers…they will flip through tons of heavy rugs for you to view, and they are usually open to negotiation on price. Remember also that a good rug is an investment, it’s functional art and you deserve it. I like to view rug options in the space also when possible, where you can see how it is reacting in the light of the actual space. If you really want to save on rugs… Do some traveling; Turkey, Lebanon and India can procure amazing finds at a fraction of the cost.

Thanks for your time today! Any more hints for our readers?

Think about the size of the rug you actually need for the space before you start your search so you avoid falling in love with something that won’t work. Envision the rug as creating a backdrop for your furniture, something to ground the space, it should compliment the fabrics, not compete with them. If you have mostly plain or striped fabric on the furniture, maybe a bold design is in order. Or if the fabric is more patterned, then possibly a rich and textured rug is the choice.  Also, look at the rug from all angles, the fibers can appear different shades of light and dark depending on which direction the rug is viewed from.