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. 

 

 

Joe Berkowitz: Trust Your Instinct

joe-head-shot-008With experience comes confidence, and for Joe Berkowitz that means trusting his gut while also listening to his clients. It’s a combination that hasn’t failed him yet.

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

Since I was  child I have been interested in design. I made my first model home out of clay and left over carpet from my parents home at age 7. By the time I was 18 I was asked to do a charming Historical Townhouse on Delancey St. in Philadelphia. I remember upholstering an existing Bar with a heavy Navy Corduroy Velvet that I purchased in NY.I created a hanging glass rack above it with a rustic log and some stainless hooks. It was a knock out. Throw in a camel pit sofa, some very eclectic accessories and the phone started ringing.

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’m sure there was a checklist 30 years ago when I started, but now it is instinct. I always listen carefully to a clients wishes but I find the real insight comes from observing their personal style, color palette in clothing and taste in art. Sometimes you need to see where someone has come from in order to know  where to lead them. Often I am asked to redirect a client, so they don’t do the same thing they have had all their lives.

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?

Definitely not clients, I get along with everyone. Architectural limitations are the most common design challenges. Rooms with too many openings, walkways, or broken walls, make it hard to ground a furniture arrangement. Rooms with too little natural light really bring out the creativity in me. I am very interested in lighting quality. It is an often ignored decorating tool.

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?

Funny you should ask. I won HGTV’s Show House Showdown last year. It was an incredible show. We received calls from all over the country as soon as it aired, and every time they re-run it. The concept was for me to compete against a designer in another city. We each had identical houses and were given a budget to design a home. The public would tour the finished homes and select the one they would most want to live in. It immediately gave us a larger audience to design for. I find my clients are far more aware of products, materials, and even the installation process as a result of all of this exposure.

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.

It depends on the project. We did just complete a project designed to look like an “Old Philadelphia Manor Home”. As it was an authentic look. The exterior stone was reclaimed from a well known local structure. We selected traditional wood framed period pieces and the appropriate fabrics to complete the old feeling. As an accent we had our fine arts painter recreate a mural of a horse and buggy scene from photographic archives on Philadelphia history. The result is wonderful!

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

I am very proud of so many of our projects. We have turned an old dental office into the only “Boutique Hotel Styled” practice in Philadelphia. We transformed a mission style home into an incredible “Lodge” complete with rustic wood details, antler chandeliers, distressed furniture and many stone and structural changes done by our craftsman. One of our Florida designs was a hip apartment at Canyon Ranch in Miami. We designed a hydraulic cocktail table that became the dining table. It sat in front of a custom banquette that had a hidden sofa bed in it. The overall style was Chic South Beach with a slight ethnic influence. I could go on and on, We run 30-40 completely different projects at a time.

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?

As I mentioned, some rooms are Architecturally challenged. When there are no good walls to anchor a furniture layout I absolutely rely on a good rug to ground the furniture. Without it you get a floating lost affect. We also rely on area rugs for strong texture or pattern, both of which can make any space pop. We used an area rug made by a hammock company in a shore home to combat the moisture and sand. In my HGTV winning home I used an animal skin in the breakfast room and an enormous white synthetic Flokati in the family room. Both were fabulous design statements.

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

Most durable are the flat weaves; Real sisal, sea grass matting,  wool textures, a tight woven rug can withstand kids, dogs, or commercial traffic. I try not to say least durable, I prefer most delicate. Like fine clothing, be prepared to care for the things you love!!

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

First I would say that a quality rug will last forever. You can’t say that about everything expensive. But if you need to cut back don’t be afraid to get a slightly smaller rug. Your furniture does not have to sit completely on it. Second find a fair reliable source. There is a rug in every price range. That is a fact.

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

Yes, don’t be afraid to take a risk. Be bold with your ideas. Create your own ideas as often as possible. Do what hasn’t been done. Don’t buy the whole set, and remember; It’s not what you spend but what you select that makes for good style!

 

 

Stephen Leon: Designing Sin City

STEPHEN LEON - PRINTBeyond the casinos and the bright lights of the strip, designer Stephen Leon knows that the real Sin City aesthetic is more about projecting a modern vibe than being garish and over-the-top.

Thanks for joining us, Stephen. Tell us a little bit about how you got your start in interior design?

A few years ago I was honored to be chosen by the ASID as Keynote Speaker for the annual Student Career Forum held for the past 40+ years in San Francisco. Naturally, I wanted the audience to know how I began my career and I think I surprised them by showing a video of my first chosen career – the theatre! Even though I had always been interested in design even as a child, I never thought I would be doing it as a professional designer.  I went to Los Angeles and in seeking part-time work I found myself working in a high -end Italian showroom – and that was when I literally found myself as well and I’ve been at it ever since. I segued into opening one of the first custom furniture and design showrooms and worked with many celebrity clients until moving to Las Vegas in early 1994.

You live and work in Las Vegas. What are some Sin City themes you carry into your design. Is there a prevalent nautical influence in area designs? Which elements do you use?

Yes, I live and work in Las Vegas – and have loved it from the start. Personally, I don’t think there are any Sin City themes because the modern Vegas is not at all like the stereotype that people have associated with it in the past such as garish, over-the-top looks.  Most clients that I’ve encountered here in Las Vegas have been quite sophisticated and well-travelled. And , of course, everyone is now so much better informed about design through the internet and all those TV shows p- even though they may have little to do with the reality of good design work.  The only nautical influence that I’ve really encountered is in the community in which I reside which is referred to as “The Lakes” and has countless streets with nautical names. For example, I live on “Mast Drive!”

All spaces are unique, but in Vegas you must find that there are design features every client wants. Which are most popular? Any type of furniture or finishing you find dependable in pleasing your client? 

You can count on most clients having stone or wood floors with area rugs.  Many now favor dark, wenge wood in their kitchens and steel appliances, of course.  When I was coming up and for a long time, clients loved beautifully lacquered pieces, but the trend through the years has been away from lacquer to wood – much more practical. Still, when I can, I specify a piece here and there in lacquer, steel or stone or a combination of those finishes.  Interesting, I began my career with many geometric shapes, simple lines but well executed and finished, and now these shapes are once again all the rage. Everything old is new again!

What are you first priorities when meeting a new client in a new space? How much are you matching their needs to your design experiences and current forms of inspiration?

No doubt my first priority is to discover whether we’re going to be compatible working together. Do we click? Will we like each other and will we have a good time while engaging in the design process. Over the years, many clients have become good friends. It’s important to experience trust and truth early on in the interview process and to really feel that I can help a client achieve their goal of a beautiful home.  The fact that I’ve always been a custom designer is extremely helpful because there really isn’t a style of design that I haven’t yet worked with.  That’s one of the benefits of being around for so long!

Vegas is unique city. Tell us how you use area rugs in your designs.

In a word, I love area rugs! Really I do. In my own home, for example, there are area rugs to be found in the kitchen, breakfast room, family room, living room (zebras), my office (zebra again!) and in the bathrooms as well.  Probably my favorite look of all are beautiful wood floors graced by an area rug. They warm a space, anchor it and help to create the mood.  I’ve even been known to use an area run on top of carpeting.  They work like magic in any type of design, from contemporary, to traditional and eclectic.

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

It’s absolutely a case by case basis.  The client’s budget and type of design has a great deal to do with the choices I make.

Is there a price limit on what you’ll spend on the area rug? 

No, there’s no price limit. Again, it will depend on what works and what the client is comfortable with. I’m there to help guide them, to help them make good sensible choices, but in the final analysis I have great respect for the fact that it’s the client’s home, the client’s money and they will be living in the space long after I move on to my next assignment. I want them to be happy and to speak well of me always.

Any words of design advice for the wannabe’s out there?!

Yes. It’s a tough business. It’s not glamorous. Yes, it may beat sitting in front of a computer all day long – but there’s a price to pay.  A wannabe needs to feel instinctively that there’s nothing else they would want to do – or could do – aside from design. Without that extreme commitment – they migt dabble – but should leave it at that.

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

My web site is soleildesigninternational.com.  My email is soleildesign@cox.net  Telephone: (702) 873-5358.  I’ve also written for a number of publications on design (of course) and articles can be found on Google – especially the many I’ve written for the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Thanks for your time!

 

Mercello Luzi: Asking the Right Questions

MarcelloLuziBeing a good designer means understanding your clients and their needs. Philadelphia’s Marcello Luzi understands that to design the perfect room he has to listen first, act second.

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

Well, I first went to college as a Finance Major but then changed it to Interior Design.  As a child I was always drawing floor plans of very large grand houses and it was my sister who reminded me of this and convinced me to check out Interior Design and Architecture.  I did and because I was obsessed with the interior of the home and how it laid out and functioned I chose Interior Design.

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?

A lot of it is intuitive.  I like to meet them in their home, see how they live and see what type of things they have purchased in the past.  I also like to see how they interact with one another.  I ask a lot of questions and usually I can get a good feel for people after this initial meeting.  People don’t show you their “crazy” right away, but after several meetings usually they relax and let it all hang out, so to speak.

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?

Design is hardly ever a problem; we can always find a solution to a design problem.  The problems occur with the budget, the timing, client expectations and the delays caused by suppliers.  With enough planning though and proper design in advance, we try to minimize these real world problems.

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?

Clients are asking a lot more questions they never asked before.  The consumer is better educated on design however most are still in the infant stages of learning.  You’ve heard the expression of someone “having just enough information to be dangerous”?  Well, sometimes that is the case.  TV shows are very deceptive in time, budget and quality level but our job is to educate our clients in the process as well as design.

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.

There was a time when our Philadelphia projects were definitely more traditional than say other projects in Florida or Bermuda however I am finding that the Philadelphia area is becoming more “transitional”, that’s in-between traditional and contemporary, some call it traditional light.  However I love doing eclectic interiors where one can mix an antique with a modern piece so we can always work in a bit of Philadelphia history when asked to do so.  One might put modern furniture on a very traditional rug or put an antique piece in a contemporary interior.  These days in design we are seeing such a blending of styles, which we call eclectic.

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

Well the projects that get published in a magazine such as Architectural Digest, Florida Design, Philadelphia Magazine and Philadelphia Style Magazine are always special because a lot of people get to see them and you look back and say, hey I was in a magazine, that’s great!  But I have always felt as a designer that my designs are like having children.  Each one gets the love and attention they require and it is very difficult to choose a favorite.  If I had to choose I would say the projects with very open minded clients are always the most fun as you can go outside the box.

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 huge these days because hard wood floors are also huge these days.  We use them everywhere.  I can’t say there is one style or space that gets them more or less.  We just love to use them everywhere.  Usually kitchens and baths will not get them, but any sitting room, dining room and bedroom look best with rugs.  We can vary the style based on the design but rugs and window treatments do the most to make a room warm and cozy and make it look finished.

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

We use a lot of wool rugs and then sometimes synthetics but I have also been known to use outdoor rugs indoors when there are pets or kids that have accidents.  I for instance have two male Chihuahua’s that were rescue dogs and I have used outdoor faux sisal in my home so I can easily clean any accidents.

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

Well here are some basic tips… choose the smallest size that works for the space; chose lesser expensive fibers like nylon instead of New Zealand wool; select a rug with fewer knots per square inch; chose machine made over hand tied or hand tufted.

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

Always consult a design professional.  They can save you time and money and help you avoid costly mistakes.

 

Ellen Winkler: Lifetime Commitment to Design

Ellen_WinklerThe design business is filled with semi-professionals and those looking to find their way, but not Ellen Winkler. A leader in the design business for more than two decades, she’s a reliable leader, and accomplished designer.

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

My grandmother was an excellent seamstress, so I had an inherent interest in fabrics and design.  I owned and managed a workroom for several years and then enrolled in an interior design program.  I went on to pass my NCIDQ  (National Committee of Interior Design Qualification) and was President of the New England Chapter of the ASID (American Society of Interior Design) in 2000-2001.

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?

I’ve found design trends in New England are influenced by several factors, including the location (mountains, lakefront, oceanside, rural) combined with the homeowners’ personal taste.  Many of our clients have second homes in the Lake Sunapee area and while they want their home to be indicative of a lake home, they often blend this style with a more contemporary or eclectic one, which is exactly what I strive to help them achieve.

We work with clients closely throughout the design process.  At the first consultation I do much more listening than talking, allowing the homeowners to tell me their likes, dislikes, goals, and dreams.  We develop the design through a collaborative processing involving sketches and samples to visualize the end result of the space.

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?

Spaces that can be particularly challenging, especially in regard to space planning and furniture layout, are long rectangular rooms with a lot of windows, doors, and large fireplaces.  One recent client had such a room, where an oversized stone fireplace and hearth took up one end wall with a door located to the side of it.  Typically, the fireplace creates a focal point for seating to be arranged, but in this case there was only enough room for two chairs and small end tables to be located at the end of the room with the fireplace and door, leaving the rest of the room in want.  I drew several floor plan options for the client with two separate seating areas, incorporating chairs and an ottoman that are easily movable to accommodate large or small parties.

Unique layouts do force the designer to be more creative.  Traditional New England homes have many additions onto a main structure which mean more doorways to work around, and often older homes have more than one fireplace not particularly in the best location.  By understanding how the clients want to use their space and their current lifestyles, I can suggest storage techniques that will work in their space, i.e. built ins, cabinets, shelves, hidden storage in a coffee table, etc.

Options are only limited by the designer’s imagination and the clients’ receptiveness to his or her ideas.  The better we know the client, the more options we have to present.

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?

Traffic flow is an extremely important interior design consideration.  Open floor plans present more of a challenge in that basically everything is visible to the guest; however, there are several design options that can organize clutter, limit it, or at the very least contain it.  The kitchen pantry is a godsend for the client who spends a lot of time in the kitchen, housing large and small equipment, mixing bowls, and even food items which would normally present a storage challenge in an open, contemporary kitchen layout.   Open pantries can be organized in such a way as to focus on specific items, such as a collection of dishes, rather than the ordinary items generally found in the pantry.

Built-in entertainment centers in family rooms can also be useful in keeping books, games, and sports memorabilia contained while creating a showcase for personal achievements such as metals and trophies.

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

It’s true New England homes and businesses have a lot of hardwood floors, but seldom do you see one without an area rug.  Area rugs contribute so much to the design of a room.  I love designing rooms around colorful area rugs and often let the rug selection dictate the other design elements in the room.  I also design the rug and select the color palette for the perfect piece in a room.

After interviewing my clients and developing a color scheme, we start researching rugs with the colors and pattern style that will complement the space.  Our vendors who work with custom made rugs email pictures of their current supply of rugs that might match the space for our consideration, or if we are designing a whole house, we travel to the vendor’s warehouse to select all of the rugs at once, ensuring they work together and create a design flow from space to space in the home.  The area rug references the theme of the room and often repeats design elements.  Both color and texture reinforce and influence the activities use of the room.

Rugs can also help create a cohesive design when bringing furniture from one location to a new one, or combining furniture from two homes into one.

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

I really select rugs on a case by case basis, but I typically use 100% wool with vegetable dyes for the clarity of color tones and durability.  Man-made components such as nylon give years of service in more utilitarian areas.

Are there price limits when it comes to rugs? 

There really is no price limit on rugs.  Most are made in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nepal by true craftsmen who have worked in the trade for decades.   Some, with intricate designs and a high knot count, can easily reach $10,000, depending on the size and thread count.  Antique rugs area a wonderful alternative and often fit best with no budget.  There are several good options, though, to keep within any budget.

Do you have any final words of design advice?

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

Our website showcases our portfolio of projects all over the country.  We travel to potential clients’ homes for consultations, or if it is more convenient, we have two office locations for appointments – our Showroom and Design Center in New London, New Hampshire, and a satellite office in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

 

 

Lisa Buyuk: From Drab to Fab!

When it comes to a full-room makeover look no further than Lisa Buyuk, who uses intelligent design to turn your spaces from sad and drab to fab!

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

I graduated from college with a Bachelors Degree in Art History and French Language and Literature.  I knew that I didn’t want to go the traditional route and get a job in a museum or auction house.  I prefer working with objects the way that a sculptor or painter works with their medium.  Being in such institutionalized environments felt stifling to me. Understanding this, I worked for a time selling French and English antiques and contemporary art at two prominent galleries in Boston.  I finally got my big break when a gallery owner refereed me to work for an established design firm.  From there I spent several years working for two of Boston’s top interior design firms.  As a result, I was exposed to some incredible design projects.  Those years were a lot of fun…  Of course there is a big difference between working for a designer and having your own firm, so I invested the time in my education, obtaining my Master’s Degree in Interior Design and completing the NCIDQ exam.  At the end of the day Interior Design is a profession.  My early work experience with licensed design professionals and my credentials are the foundation for my success as an Interior Designer.

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 first meet with a client in their space there is generally a lot to absorb.  Communication is paramount.  For this reason I look to see if their words and descriptions are matching what they are showing me.  Understanding how a client communicates is the key to meeting expectations.  Once you understand how they use their words the design that follows is effortless.

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?

There are always going to be problems – clients or spaces.  Luckily I consider myself to be a problem solver and I find inspiration in challenges.  With any problem it is important to establish what is not working and why.  For a room the problem can be spatial disorganization.  For a client the problem might be difficulty visualizing change.  Having a clear understanding of the problem allows you to implement the right tools for a solution.

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 that design shows have excited the public and made design more accessible.  Of course, as with anything “Hollywood” there is often a suspension of reality and a distortion of the actual amount of time that it takes to achieve results.  Because of this some clients operate under the impression that once a decision is made the design should be complete a week later.  They forget that things take time and coordination.  These shows have massive production teams that operate behind the scenes to coordinate everything.  Educating the homeowner about all that is involved from design concept the completion and the value of the interior design professional’s role is paramount.

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.

Design in New England can be a challenge.  Our nation’s history began here and in some ways we are the heart of the proverbial “melting pot”.  More than anything I think that clients want their homes to be personal.  As a designer, this means that I have a responsibility to use objects, colors and textiles that speak to the personalities and heritage of my clients.  Because New England is culturally diverse and rich in history I get to pull my resources from a bigger “toy box.”  Design could not be more fun!

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

In the preceding question you asked about the rich history of New England.  For this reason I think that this project is a wonderful example of the challenges that a designer can face and the power of the creative eye.  It is also a great segue way into your next question about rugs…

A young homeowner purchased a condominium in a new construction urban high rise.  She had some existing traditional oak furniture pieces that had tremendous sentimental value and family history and despite another designer’s council, she refused to toss them for more modern items.  The challenge was to honor the client’s feelings and integrate the traditional pieces in a modern built environment.

 

Before: Drab and sad

Before 1   Before 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After: Cool and Serene

After 1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The problem was how to make something old, new again.  With a little imagination, some stain, new upholstery and a nod to modern living the transformation was miraculous.  A cool color palette plays off of the richness of the newly stained pieces.  Tailored window treatments and the use of the hide rug keep this room from feeling heavy and dated.  The client was so happy with the transformation of this room that we moved on to other areas of her home.

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 are wonderful.  They can be wonderful tools for spatial organization.  In the example above I selected a hide rug.  Had I chosen a traditional rectangular rug in a wool or silk it would have weighed the room down.  The client’s existing furniture was heavy and rich in detail.  I needed to find a way to provide some warmth underfoot without weighing the room down.  The organic shape of the hide was the perfect solution.

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

I think that you have to have an understanding of the use of the room when specifying rugs.  A custom woven silk rug might be durable (silk is the strongest natural fiber), but it is not appropriate for a high traffic walk off matt in a mud room.  For this application I might suggest a modern vinyl weave (like Bolon) or perhaps a natural coco fiber matt…  Context is everything.  Once you know the context, application of the material is easy.

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

I recently faced this problem when designing a bachelor pad for a young finance professional.  He has a great apartment overlooking Boston Common in Beacon Hill.  Because his background is in finance, every decision was weighed for profitability over long term use.  In this scenario, the apartment was going to be flipped for a better investment in 5 years.  The challenge was to furnish it with meaningful pieces that would grow as my client grew.  Unfortunately, for our budget this meant that the woven leather and horsehair rug that I wanted to specify for his living area was cost prohibitive.  The compromise resulted in re-using his traditional 5×7 Oriental and layering it over less expensive carpet tiles to give the warmth and coverage that we needed.  The look is cool and modern and in budget!

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

For personalized solutions to you your design problems contact me at buyukinteriors.com!

 

Shelley McGinity: On the FLIP to Design

imageFew designers know more about how design can increase the value of a home more than former house flipper, Shelley McGinity.   

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

My husband has been a general contractor for the past 40 years, and when we were located in San Francisco, we started flipping houses. I went back to design school at that time and also received my NCIDQ certification.

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 am always very aware of MY first hit when walking into a new space that I may be working in. What do I like, dislike, question, feel comfortable/uncomfortable with, etc. Then I usually start my client interview with objectives and their intentions.

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?

Depending on the type of job… With residential, it is more often the client (much more emotion involved). Contract/hospitality is a more defined- space and budget issue.

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?

Having done a few of my own design shows locally, and just speaking to my (residential) clients, they are under the impression that design and implementation is far easier than it really is. I find that my clients want to be more involved initially, until the project becomes more complicated and timely, and they step back and increase my scope of work.

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

Over the last decade, Craftsman design has been revived and become hugely popular. Because we have such a call for this style in my area (Lake Tahoe) I have often done some blending of styles to compliment the Craftsman and bring in other elements to lighten up the scale as well as incorporate the outside experience, views and available natural light.

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

I am proud of most of the projects I have designed. Again, being in a more isolated area, it is important to be very flexible in what design projects you seek. I have done new construction consultation thru to completion, to many bathroom/kitchen remodels, color consultations, and “finished” projects that other designers did not finish or they were released. I must say that taking a 1970′s, very tired condominium in Northstar (psudo-contemporary outside/ hot mountain mess inside) and turning it into a beautiful, open floorplan with all contemporary finish, including adding a bathroom in a reclaimed closet, was the most fun and rewarding projects I have done to date!

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! I often treat area rugs as functional art. They are an investment that can take my projects (residential, contract, medical, hopitality, etc.) to the next level. I like to work from the ground up, with a layering affect, when planning interior spaces.

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

New Zealand wool is sooo yummy, especially in our colder climate- summer and winter! I tend to stay away from any rugs that have silk in them, especially for this area, because the harsh sunlight at this elevation (6000 ft. +-) is not kind to certain materials.

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

I shop around a lot, keeping an ear to the ground for good deals. There are times, however, that I do go custom, and the option to have my client participate in the design of their rug is something that I have done several times and my clients really enjoy the process and outcome!

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

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thoughts!