The design business can be tricky, but for interior designer Erik Waldorf hard work has overcome every obstacle, even moving his business from California to Seattle.
Thanks for joining us, Erik! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business.
Thanks Tim! Thanks for talking to me today. For me it was a transition from retail, schooling, and eventually landing at a couple of design firms. The rocky economy, let’s say, helped me choose my path and I started my practice in 2006. It’s been rewarding to be able to help transition people’s environments into the spaces and places they want to live.
You recently moved from California to Seattle. What a change! Will the climate change affect your designs?
That’s right. I’ve only been in Seattle for about three months so I’m still settling into my surrounds. However, I have asked myself that question. The short answer: Yes. The climate and certainly the way the light in the sky is have a direct impact on design. My typical color palette may change a bit and eventually I’m assuming I’ll start imparting some Pacific Northwest influences into my designs. I am hoping, however, that my California past will be able to show off a little bit. We shall see. That’s the exciting part!
What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space? Do you have a checklist?
I can’t say I have a checklist down to a science but I do try to see how clients are living. It’s important to understand their routine, their habits, how they are using their spaces, and I ask as many questions as I can to figure this out. Once I find out how they are using their spaces then the next step is to understand how they want to use their spaces. It’s important to understand the scope of the project they have in mind and go room-by-room to get an outline of what needs to be done. Of course, coming to a realistic idea of budget is an important part of that initial conversation.
Your job is filled with challenges. Which do you face most often? Do you have a method to work through those problems?
I think the challenge I face most often is working with others in the industry. Not that they are purposefully being challenging but that there are many hands involved in a design project from contractors and sub-contractors to vendors and workrooms. This makes me the pivot person. As with all things in life communication is key. It’s important to be on top of all the hands involved and understand any setback they might have. I communicate every aspect of a project with my client and have them involved in the decision making process as much as I am. Collaboration is very important with all those involved. It’s always a team effort whether it’s a one room me and the client kind of thing or an entire home with all the players.
Describe to us the project you are most proud to have designed. What did it look like before? After?
Hmm., that’s a tough question. It’s hard to pick just one as they all have their unique elements. I’m quite fond of a project I completed this past year in Menlo Park, CA. It was a great project to play with as it had a little bit of everything for me to dig into. We transformed the kitchen and dining room in this home without having to spend a fortune.
The kitchen was almost too bright. Lime green walls, bright white cabinets, and white ceramic tile everywhere. They also had a built-in desk that collected clutter; it was a throwback to the 90’s era of new homes. I made small architectural changes by completely redoing the kitchen island and revamping the cabinets where the desk was to have a wine cabinet and pantry. I refinished the cabinets to soften them and replaced the countertops with beautiful granite and the backsplash with hand painted tile. The dining room wasn’t quite as involved but it started out dark in color but also not much natural or artificial light. I changed the wall color (inspired by a color in a fabric choice), added more and controllable lighting and added all new furniture. It was tons of fun! The best thing… the clients love it! The best thing a client can ever say is, “it feels like home.” I know I did my job right when I hear that.
We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your business? Which type of designs do you see yourself using more? Less?
I love rugs too! Rugs, of course, add character, charm and warmth to a room. Not to mention texture and/or pattern. They help reel in many aspects of a designed space and I use them to help define the space. I tend toward more traditional designs but with a contemporary or lighter color palette. I guess what might be called “new traditional.” I absolutely love many of the Moroccan patterns that are coming to the market now. Although, I don’t use them as much, contemporary Tibetan rugs can be wonderful additions to a space. Usually, they have less pattern and more focus on color and texture.
Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable?
The best area rugs are those that are hand knotted and made with natural fibers; most often wool or a wool-silk blend. I find these rugs tend to maintain their value as well as durability. Yes, they can be pricier and so for more budget-minded clients I lean towards hand-tufted rugs but keep to the natural fibers. If allergies are persistent that will lead me down the path of nylon or other synthetic fibers but I find they are just not as durable over the long haul and tend to matt and show traffic pattern more readily.
These things can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price?
As far as rugs go, you have to do your research. Know what you’re getting and why the price is attached. You can find inexpensive rugs but is it the quality you want or need? Perhaps you don’t go for the most expensive rug under the dining table or maybe no rug there at all and put your monies into the living room rug. Planning for the space and making sure you get the right size will help too. You may not be able to purchase something right away either but if you know the price you can plan for it and eventually follow-through. You never have to do it all at once.
Thanks for your time today! Any more hints for our readers!
Keep true to who you are in your design. Your rooms don’t have to look like a magazine cover or catalog. Hire a professional! If you’re confused, tired, don’t have time, etc, etc. bring on someone who knows what they are doing and can save you time, and costly mistakes. Even if it’s for a few hours to get your feet moving in the right direction. And always do something beautiful for yourself.