The Steel City is filled with tradition and passion. Interior decorator and Pittsburgh native Nancy Barsotti knows exactly how to design for her city while getting the most for her clients.
Thanks for joining us, Nancy! Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business.
I decided in high school that I wanted to be an interior designer. I studied and received my degree in Interior Design at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and have worked as an interior designer for my entire professional life. It has been a very good career!
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 try to understand the client’s lifestyle by their home, existing furnishings and I ask a lot of questions. Of course I listen closely to what they are saying and showing me in their home. I try to develop a rapport with them at the first meeting.
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?
No matter the problem or challenge, communication is key. Asking questions, resolving issues with honest answers and just being upfront when something unexpected arises. I try to “leave no stone unturned” in trying to find a good solution and satisfy my clients. I think the main challenge today is how much quality products cost and conveying that to clients – who usually have no idea what they want or need to spend – is the biggest challenge.
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 do not like the design shows! I watch very few of them, and usually by accident. They have given the public an unrealistic idea of how projects are handled, accomplished and what the costs would be. Designers have to explain that this is “not real” in terms of accomplishing their goals.
From the outside it seems like Pittsburgh 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.
Pittsburgh has had a history of being a very conservative, traditional city. But as people have relocated to the city, traveled and see new sources, they are becoming more “eclectic” in their style and tastes. I love historic preservation and we have a lot of wonderful, older homes in Pittsburgh. (I live in a 100+I home and my office building, which I also renovated, was a turn-of-the-century Victorian commercial building.) So obviously I am a big proponent of using antiques, family heirlooms and furnishings that showcase a home’s history. Clients tend to enjoy the ability I have to use things that they have and feature them in their homes in ways they had not considered.
Do you have a design project you are most proud to have completed? What did it look like before? After?
My best projects are those that the client has trusted me to do what I think is the right thing – and have been realistic about the budget as well. Just recently I completed a project for a wonderful couple. Their home is from the 1920s with some additions to it to enlarge the kitchen area. They like the original style of the home with its wood and traditional architecture. We used lots of antiques and period wall coverings and carpets (including a Chinese Art Deco area rug they had hiding in the attic). The fun part though was their fabulous collection of 1960s era art – even signed Jerry Garcia watercolors! The combination was a great challenge and it was fun to work with such an unusual combination. The clients are so nice and we had a great time working on the project.
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 you might imagine, I like hardwood floors so selecting area rugs is an integral part of most of my projects. Whenever possible I encourage people to either refinish their hardwood floors or install new ones. I like area rugs for any room, in any style of home design and use them as often as possible.
Which area rugs do you find most durable? Least durable?
I like Orientals – both new and old – of many different styles. The selection relating to durability, maintenance and such is based on the use of the room, traffic patterns, etc.
We know as well as anyone that rugs can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price?
No matter what I am selecting for a client, my advice is always to buy the best they can afford. Sometimes the rug is really the centerpiece of the design of the room.
Thanks for your time today! Any more hints for our readers!
Obviously that would increase the rug budget. But to cut-down on the price, a client could consider a smaller rug but of good quality and arrange the furnishings accordingly.