From a business started “just for fun,” Debbie Gersh is now busy designing creative and stress-free rooms for her clients.
Thanks for joining us, Debbie! Tell us a little bit about how you two got your start in interior design.
I began my business in 1989 as a part time business making window treatments. My son had begun preschool and I decided to go into business. Three weeks later I had my first client. As I went along I began helping with other aspects of decorating a room. I have a fine arts degree from UT and went back to school for an interior design degree. My business has grown tremendously over the years and now I do everything from decorating and design projects to major renovations.
Texas is consumed with the idea of being the biggest. How do you try to incorporate the Texas lifestyle into your designs? How do you try and limit it?
I was born in Houston and have lived most of my life here. Much of this is a myth! My clients are normal, everyday people. No one I know lives on a huge ranch! Should a client want to incorporate a Texas themed design into his or her home I would do that. I work in whatever style the client likes. More important here in Texas is considering environmental concerns, such as saving water as much as possible, making sure homes are properly insulated to save on the air conditioning bill (we run our AC’s probably nine months out of the year, if not more), good quality windows, etc. Water is a huge problem in Texas. Using water saving appliances and fixtures is a must. I will say that I would be happy to design a huge ranch, should anyone want one!!
Describe some of your most challenging spaces? Would a unique layout always benefit the designer by expanding their ability to be creative? Or could it limit your options?
I feel that unique layouts or any layout, for that matter, presents its own set of circumstances. I have worked in large rooms that were difficult to arrange because of door placement or lack of usable wall space. When I am redoing the space plan of a room or a home, I always ask the client what works in the space, what does not work in the space. What are the client’s dreams and goals for the space. In a kitchen redo, for example, imagine moving through the space. If you open the oven door do you have room to set a hot tray down? Things of that nature. One challenging space was a kitchen I redid a few years ago. It was a large space and the client wanted to incorporate an island. The space for the island was next to bookcases, a side door, and the walkway into the family room. So working with all of those limitations I designed a very unique island for the clients. After laying it out on paper I laid out the outline with paper towels on the floor so they could see it and be sure it was the perfect design. Another was a small master bath and small closet. The homeowner wanted to incorporate a larger shower and longer counter (to enable installation of two sinks). There were two main solutions that made the space more user friendly. We moved the door opening down and installed a pocket door, which gave us more room for the shower. We also borrowed two feet from the adjacent closet, adding another pocket door. This gave us the space we needed for the counter. And at the end of the day, by reconfiguring the closet they had more storage space in spite of the fact that we borrowed the two feet. I love the challenge of reworking a small space to use it to its best advantage. Did I mention pocket doors? They are my best friend!
Open floor plans are more popular than ever and many clients are consumed with the idea of flow. How are your designs patterned to help the occupant feel that the space is stress-free?
When designing for this type of floor plan, it is important to provide the open feeling the clients want, while at the same time creating the different “rooms” they also want. Area rugs are a great way to visually define different spaces. Additionally, I am always careful in the placement of heavy sofas and armchairs. Placing a sofa with its back greeting a person upon entering a room is like putting up a wall. If one must have seating in the middle of a room, I always recommend side chairs that have raised wood legs. That way when entering a room, one can see around the chairs, under the chairs, etc. They don’t feel as massive and intimidating. Another major challenge in large open plans with massive family rooms – most have a wall of windows, a fireplace and built ins, and a place for a TV. This can be quite challenging in laying out furniture. It goes back to my comments about imagining living in the space. If you want to face the TV where is the back of the sofa? Do you end up having to put the back to the windows? These things should be considered at the design stage of the project.
Area rugs, our specialty, are versatile. Texas homes and businesses have open spaces with traditional hardwood floors. Explain how you tend to incorporate the rugs into your design.
I love area rugs because I am not a fan of wall-to-wall carpet. Hard flooring is much more healthy. Rugs can be picked up, cleaned, cleaned under, etc. And as I mentioned, they help to zone areas in a large space and anchor furniture in general. I do quite a lot of area rugs.
Do you have a type of area rug that you lean on most? Or is it a case-by-case basis?
I do not have any one type of rug that I use or vendor that I use. I am always happy to meet new vendors. It depends on the budget and the type of rug the client wants.
Are there price limits when it comes to rugs?
For my clients there are price limits as no one has an unlimited budget.
Do you have any final words of design advice?
That is a question!
When doing a home design or renovation it is always best to work with a design professional. A professional can help a client avoid mistakes, give options not considered, both in plan/design of the space, and of materials used, and manage a project. Projects are stressful and it is helpful to have someone to lean on. Some people become overwhelmed when making design choices and some are not comfortable making choices. Working with a designer that you like and trust is so helpful.
I always suggest to clients that they get the best they can afford on the pieces that get the most abuse (sofas, dining room chairs) or are more difficult to come back to later on to change (flooring, tile installations, countertops, etc.). I would not compromise on quality by trying to do everything at once. Complete one project and if you have to wait 6 months to do the next, so be it. Retail stores that we all know and love (Target, Pier One, Marshalls, etc.) are fabulous for items that don’t get a lot of abuse. If you are short on cash after doing good quality sofa and chairs, and find inexpensive end tables, great! You can always replace them a year down the road and will have gotten the value from them. Trends are fun but I would not recommend major investments in them. Do what you love and makes you happy.
Where can readers see your work, or make an appointment for consultation?
My website is www.creativitiesdesign.com.
Thanks for your time!