Diana Walker: Journey to the Top

DianaWhether hunting down a rare piece or making a bold career move, Diana Walker’s focus is on being a proactive interior designer at the benefit of her clients.

Thanks for joining us, Diana! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into interior design.

I come from a convoluted path to Interior Design. I was going to be a fashion designer, but majored in French (obviously to a 14 year old this was a means to an end) and then decided that this was not working as planned.

When I married, I went back to school and I changed my major to Psychology and worked in social work but I changed divisions to an area that catapulted me into Design. I was already helping all my friends do their homes after hours. I was going to specialize in design of schools and day care centers, but I was introduced to a company that had a strong art business where my friend worked as an art consultant, and I began immediately surpassing her success. I think it was more because I cared what people had to look at and wanted them to like their surroundings. I was asked to do increasingly more complicated projects, and decided to go back to school to learn how to explain why I knew these things would work and pick up the skill and knowledge base to defend my designs.

I entered a Certificate of Design Program, 192 hours of instruction at University of Houston Continuing Ed program taught by the cream of Houston top Designers and Professors at that time. It was life altering to go back to school and love everything I was doing. I had my own business, but I was also training other designers for the company that handled the art and design divisions and caught the eye of a developer who had me do all his properties in other states and Texas. Having that experience was another opportunity to grow. He was the owner, developer, and the finance man for the projects he built and was mentoring me along the way to understand how to manage the projects and construction process.

When they stopped building aggressively, I had my 2nd child and needed support and a less intense travel schedule.

At the suggestion of my friends in ASID, I applied at a prestigious firm in Houston with 18 designers. This was the second biggest moment for my career, because we worked on multimillion and outstanding projects. I was a key designer on many award-winning projects, and came to love project management as much as the design. I have to admit it was sad to leave this cocoon of amazing designers who worked on each of their own projects but also were a strong network of support for each other. When the owner retired, we all left and started our own firms (1995) and as a testament to the firm’s apprentice like environment, we were able to sustain our clients and the work that was established through the firm. I am celebrating 32 years in May of being a Designer.

I can’t believe I have been working that long! The days go by very quickly, and when you love what you do, you don’t feel like you are working.

What would you describe as your style? Influences? Designers you emulate?

I have a very clean lined, classic, timeless appeal to the interiors with a more contemporary aesthetic. The larger firm was a mixture of people who specialized in a particular style. The owner, and being part of her team, loved more contemporary and modern, simple, livable spaces and she approached everything like an architect and expected excellence in every decision. The project management was equally important because clients didn’t have a clue how to manage the work and could never do it themselves. We collaborated with clients, but brought the skills and design abilities they didn’t have to create wonderful interiors. That is what I still emulate. I am constantly asking myself, ” What can I do to make my client love their home, and feel they had a hand in the final outcome?”

The influencers are every designers work I ever see. You can’t stay isolated and come up with new ideas. I love the looks of Suzanne Lovell in Chicago, Perkins+Will, Lauren Rottet, Barbara Berry, Mary Douglas Drysdale, Thomas O’Brian, Axel Vervoordt, because they represent interesting details, tailored, classic, and clean aesthetics and create spaces with a stunning architectural backgrounds with seemingly simple but carefully planned designs.

When you enter a room can you tell if it has been professionally decorated? What are the tell tale signs?

Scale is everything, color and balance of details shows when a true professional has been given the ability to use elements that enhance the room. I believe a room needs to be stunning BEFORE anything is put into the space. The home speaks to me and tells me what it needs. With clients who love more color in the background, this needs to be carefully worked out. Bad furnishings can ruin a space. Furnishings that are bought, even if they are very expensive pieces have to speak to the owner and have to be right. I have made some mistakes, but then had to work hard to remake or rectify the scale with other elements.

I hate to see the cords and poor lighting in an expensive home. That tells me that they didn’t really care to get this right. A piece of furniture missing for another year, would be worth spending more time and money on lighting and controls. Most Interior Designers know the concepts behind lighting, but don’t know how to update the home or use current lighting techniques to enhance everything to the best.

Texas is a state that does everything on a massive scale. What are some projects you most proud of and why?

Actually that is not true, but property values and affordability of land and houses seems to make for larger houses on smaller lots. We aren’t as restricted for land as some cities and finally there are many urban styles coming to the city of Houston to rebuild downtown with young hip owners with a refined style.

I had the opportunity to work on several large homes in my early years from the ground up that were so expressive of the client and manage the project for the team. It was a chance to bring my years of expertise to help clients enjoy the process. Then when I went out on my own, I carried that same skill and attention to other projects 1/2 that size. It thrills me to do any size space. I am currently one of 20 designers selected for a show house that is a country estate built in 1920. I took a small room, 10×13 that was the lounging room. It was actually a back entry for the owners, and has the most wonderful walnut paneling with round concave corners, plaster moldings and ceiling, and I saw the charm, but also four openings and one closet! The placement of the furnishings and details I chose for this room, were the reason the room feels spacious and welcoming

Are there any rules you must follow when decorating your own space? When should you call in a designer?

My space or someone else’s own space? Like my clients, sometimes I will go for several years before making changes, primarily because of some changes in health or in family dynamics and finances just don’t allow that change. I am currently organizing and eliminating things that don’t work for me anymore because I have my first grandchild that is going to visit. Suddenly I needed a rocking chair and more space for baby stuff that will come with the parents when they sleep over. When my Mother moved in with us, it took some really careful editing for us. I am upgrading quality of windows, now contemplating a move to work from home in a few years. Kitchen upgrades and bath upgrades are normal things I work on for clients. The old layouts in homes don’t work for today’s clients.

My advice is don’t be in a hurry. Think how you want to use the space now and how this will be used to support your life. Call in a designer for planning and helping you sort the possibilities and determine the plan. You need a guide and someone to keep the vision and help you evaluate decisions. Find someone that works with you and not someone who dictates to you.

We like rugs. Tell me a little about the various ways your incorporate them into your designs.

I choose a rug at the start of a room whenever possible. I love all kinds of rugs. I appreciate great creativity and modern and post modern designs, and all the abilities as a designer to customize, but people are very hesitant to have customized rugs.

Why do you rely on area rugs?

Warmth, color and texture to add something that is missing in the space without it.

What is the biggest addition they make to a room?

Unifies the overall space and adds some texture to the room other than the textiles used. Is critical for hard floors and wood floors for making the biggest difference in open spaces.

Do you have a particular type, size or color rug that you like to include in your work?

No, just what I feel will work for that specific client taste, color, design, and size. Sometimes a rug adds the artistic quality for the room, at other times it provides the cohesion to multiple conversation areas in lofts and other size rooms with many wide-open spaces. I get a range of pricing and style likes from the client before I design and propose options.

Any that you avoid?

Anything that is too difficult to maintain and won’t be durable for long term. Too many wonderful choices are available today. I go to appointments were clients pay money for some very poor quality rugs, and they are the wrong style or don’t add to the character of the room. They may match the furniture too much. I know that they could have avoided all of this by educating themselves more about rugs and taking the time to check out rugs to try at the house so that we could both view them together.

I also hate rugs that are put onto carpet.

Anything else to add?

Be yourself and slow down a little to learn about your tastes. Plan your space more efficiency, and get your plan right before building, no matter how long it takes. If you are a designer, you know you can help your clients with better planning and organization of their space utilization. Be up for a challenge, but know your limitations and express this. Also, allow a designer to use their gift to achieve a better environment. I bet they will be your best clients. If you are a client, find a designer who can give you the chance to have the home you want to live in. Allow them to take the design a step farther than you would normally envision.

Appreciate every day for the opportunity to express beauty!

Thanks for your time!

You are welcome.

 

Suzanne Lasky: Finding the Right Balance

SuzanneNorthern Arizona gives Suzanne Lasky the perfect opportunity to use indoor and outdoor area rugs to make her clients space unique and comfortable.

Thanks for joining us, Suzanne! Tell us a little bit about your training in interior design and how you came to live and work in Arizona.

 

I moved to Arizona from Indiana with my husband, dog and cat to work at Dial, Inc. as a product manager in their household products division. After 14 years in a successful corporate marketing career, I resigned and went back to school to add an A.A.S. Degree in Interior Design to formal education that includes a Masters of Business degree. I am fortunate to have a great balance of right brain and left-brain strengths which allow me to run a successful Design business.

 

Arizona is a dry place, does that make it a challenging marketplace for robust interior decorating? Describe some of the major influences for the area?

Yes it is dry not to mention HOT. The weather influences the choice of fabrics in terms of their ability to withstand the strong sun and protection measures against fading. Of course the Southwest influences design particular when designing for client’s second homes, and for those who are newly relocated to the area. In these instances we often will incorporate tasteful ethnic and regional aspects in colors chosen, artwork or accessories.

Do you have a design philosophy? How do you try and implement it in your work?

Our design philosophy as evidenced by our portfolio is understanding each client’s unique desires, needs and lifestyles and translating it all into their home environments. I always strive to introduce my client’s to new options in materials or styles and spend time educating them about the pros and cons of the design choices being made.

 

Are your clients typically looking for big jobs, or a room-by-room type thing?

 

No such thing as ‘typical’. We do everything from full house remodels to room-by-room aesthetic only transformations.

When it comes to floor coverings, tell us how you incorporate area rugs into your designs.

We love area rugs–they ground a space visually and often inspire the color palette for a room’s design. I use area rugs extensively in my designs including placing them on top of wall-to-wall carpeting.

Area rugs add some warmth to space, but Arizona seems plenty hot enough. What are some other ways they can be incorporated into your work?

It gets cold here for several months of the year and everyone still loves to have something soft underfoot regardless of the temperature. I have used unique area rugs as wall hangings too!

Do you have any types of rugs you use more often than others? Less?

I use pure wool area rugs most often. The wool fibers are hard wearing and take the dye colors best. I also use indoor/outdoor rugs in families with young children so Mom can simply hose off the mess!

Where can readers find your work, or make a booking for an estimate?

Readers can find our work on our web site at on the Gallery page, and on Houzz.com. S Interior Design was just honored to be names the Best of Houzz 2013!

Andrea Bazilus: A Natural Fit

AndreaWhether on the beaches of Southern California or the arid landscape of Arizona desert, Andrea Bazilus utilizes existing architecture and natural surroundings to create the perfect design for her clients.

Thanks for joining us, Andrea! Tell us a little bit about your training in interior design and how you came to choose living and working in Arizona.

Growing up in California, I always had a strong interest in Interior Design and Decorating. From a very young age my family used to frequent model homes and home design shows. I always knew that a career in Interior Design is what I wanted to pursue. I attended a private Interior Design College in Long Beach, CA where I took instantly took to all of my classes and training. I began my career working in Southern California where beachfront residential projects were an every day occurrence.

I decided to move to Arizona in 2008 mostly because of the sunny weather and the vast Interior Design opportunities that Phoenix has to offer.  Modern and Contemporary Design Elements are seen in every aspect of desert living and that is a perfect fit for me esthetically. After over a decade of working in all areas of the Design Industry, I decided to venture out on my own. My company, Red Egg Design Group, is now a full service Interior Design firm specializing in modern and contemporary desert designs.

Arizona is a dry place, does that make it a challenging marketplace for robust interior decorating? Describe some of the major influences for the area?

Architecturally, the majority of homes in Arizona lean towards contemporary, modern and overall clean lines in design. We are huge proponents of letting the outdoors in and many natural and organic features are used in almost all of my projects. Desert scenery is so beautiful and vast that many interior features are large picture windows and sliding walls of glass. Since we live outdoors year round, seamless transitions from interior to exterior are a feature of all of the projects that I am involved in.

Frank Lloyd Wright is also a huge influence in the Phoenix area. He built his vacation home, Taliesin West, here in 1937. His works as well as his apprentice’s designs are displayed magnificently throughout Arizona in many public buildings, hotels and private residences.

Do you have a design philosophy? How do you try and implement it in your work?

My biggest design philosophy is that a home’s interior needs to be reflective of the existing architecture and the family that lives there. Designing an all white delicate space would obviously not be conducive to a family of five with young children. I try very hard with every project to make the interior work esthetically with the architecture and natural surroundings of the home. I also always keep in mind who my clients are and what will ultimately function for them the best now and in the future.

Are your clients typically looking for big jobs, or a room-by-room type thing?

Every project is different and that is why I love my job! Right now I involved in everything from new construction, kitchen and bath remodels, exterior planning and even selecting just paint colors. I enjoy every project and the opportunity to help my clients love their home.

When it comes to floor coverings, tell us how you incorporate area rugs into your designs.

I use area rugs and rug accents in almost every project that I am designing. With keeping the theme of using natural elements in mind, almost all of my projects consist of wood flooring, natural stone, stained concrete and/or organic materials. I use area rugs to bring color, texture and sound absorption in most furniture arrangements. While most architectural features are natural tones, area rugs are a great way to bring in the desired colors and patterns into the space that do not exist naturally.

Area rugs add some warmth to space, but Arizona seems plenty hot enough. Do you find that area rugs don’t work for this reason?

In Arizona we do not use area rugs for warmth- you are right about that! Area rugs are use as a decorative element and to help to ground furniture arrangements.

Do you have any types of rugs you use more often than others? Less?

I primarily use area rugs that are of a natural quality. Hair on Hide rugs are a favorite because they work so well in Desert Contemporary décor. I also use a lot of tone on tone area rugs that are made of natural and recycled materials.

I usually do not use antique traditional area rugs. While they are very beautiful, my projects are just too contemporary and modern to work with those types of designs.

Where can readers find your work, or make a booking for an estimate?

Red Egg Design Group is on every Social Media Outlet. A good starting place is my website www.redeggdesigngroup.com

 

Pamela O’Brien: The Right Stuff

Pamela_ObrienVision gives her designs life, but Pamela O’Brien knows that the secret to a successful space is to find and use the perfect accessories and rugs.

Thanks for joining us, Pamela! Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into interior design.

I grew up in an antique-loving family.  A nicely decorated home, no matter what your means, was an important family value.  When my parents first married, my father was a new Navy officer stationed in Honolulu, HI.  They lived in a hotel for the first six months to save money and even then, my mother would save up for a tablecloth or pretty napkins.  I guess I just got that gene and began appreciating it from day one.  I chose design as a second career when I decided I had to know if I really wanted more than a hobby.  I left my job in 2000 and have never looked back.

What would you describe as your style? Influences? Designers you emulate?

My style is an eclectic mix of things I cherish, collect, find and occasionally stumble upon.  The fun and the challenge is making sense of the mix.  I think my best and highest use is when I create a beautiful environment that makes my client happy, fits his or her lifestyle, works within the budget and was completed on schedule.  We hit the mark nearly all of the time and I am very proud of that.  I am a die-hard Martha Stewart fan.  I love how she makes simplicity absolutely fantastic.  She also has a strong retro vibe which I really cherish.  I am continuously impressed by Candice Olson’s viability in the market.  I have also met Joe Ruggiero and appreciate his vim, vigor and signature style.  I envy Alexa Hampton’s dream projects, Barclay Butera’s combinations of clean lines and great fabrics and find Charlotte Moss’ representation of nature to be pure fantasy.

When you enter a room can you tell if it has been professionally decorated? What are the tell tale signs?

I think I can generally tell although people are getting very design-savvy these days and often they pleasantly surprise me with their skill.  However, when a design professional is involved I think the paint colors tend to be much better, the furniture layout is comfortable — not too sparse and not overly full — and the accessories feel interesting yet cohesive.

Texas is a state that does everything on a massive scale. What are some projects you most proud of and why?

I worked on Tradition Bank Plaza, an award-winning, historic remodel in the Houston Museum District.  What was particularly great about this project was it was a splendid building that had been vacant for many, many years so it was a treat to be involved in its renaissance.  The museum district location allowed me to recruit some wonderful local, emerging artists.  We were able to preserve the historic provenance of the building as well as giving a nod to its hotel roots, all while designing a wonderful bank and community space. I also really enjoyed refurbishing two, prominent high-rise building lobbies and turning a very nice but rather vanilla Woodlands, Texas suburban home into a French-style Burgundian manor house for one of my favorite families.

Are there any rules you must follow when decorating your own space? When should you call in a designer?

Have a plan of action, measure, take photos, pull paint chips and fabric samples.  Spend more time planning and less time shopping and you should have excellent results.  When you can’t make yourself do the planning or you hit a roadblock, then you should consider calling in a pro.  Remember, nearly always, two heads are better than one and if one of those heads has a really good eye for design, you should benefit from the liaison. And of course, buy what you love but also be sure to buy what you need as well.

We like rugs. Tell me a little about the various ways your incorporate them into your designs.

I LOVE rugs.  I think you need them in most rooms.  Houston is having a love affair with hard surface floors.  The challenge is that many clients were used to carpeting and they have a hard time envisioning covering up their beautiful new floors.  However, I educate them on the many benefits of rugs and how much beauty, texture, interest and style they will impart.  Often it takes a few weeks of working together but invariably, their rugs are some of their favorite purchases.

Do you have a particular type, size or color rug that you like to include in your work? Any that you avoid?

I like to make sure rugs are the correct size, many people order rugs in too small of size.  I prefer using 100% wool whenever appropriate.  I love runners on stairs and I insist on them for safety.  I try to convince my clients to save up for the right rug and not buy cheap throw-away rugs for just a year or two’s use.  A good rug can hold its value so I think it is a place to splurge rather than scrimp.

Anything else to add? 

I think we covered quite a bit!

Thanks for your time!  

Thank you!  It was a pleasure.

 

Donna Vining: Think Different

Don’t believe the rumors, when it comes to Texas-themed designs big isn’t always better. Interior designer Donna Vininig knows that often time client don’t need BIG, just the most bang for their buck.

Thanks for joining us, Donna! Tell us a little bit about how you two got your start in interior design

When I was 8 years old my parents remodeled our home and my mother worked very closely with the architect and landscape architect and I was fascinated.  When I was 13 years old my mother opened an antiques shop and that was the final hook.

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? 

As a native Texan, I always think people’s ideas are so interesting such as “TEXAS is consumed with the idea of being the biggest” so since I don’t believe that is true this is hard a question to answer. The largest private home is Biltmore in Ashville, North Carolina. In fact of the largest 26 homes in the United States only one is in Texas, ranking in at number 17, and it was built in 2002. I listen to my clients and strive to give them everything they want while paying great attention to universal design principles, cost and the environment.

Fair enough! Describe some of your most challenging spaces?  

Let’s begin with what makes a space challenging and that is usually when the owners want something that is not feasible within their budget parameters.  It is then my job to tell them what we can do within their budget.

Would a unique layout always benefit the designer by expanding their ability to be creative? 

Not necessarily, for example if people have a long skinny room and they want a round dining table that seats 10 people, the unique layout of the long skinny room does not work.  However, if they are open to unique layouts and using the space in the best way, the design solution is usually less predictable.

So it could it limit your options?

Of course.  The creativity of a professional is not limited by square spaces or unique layouts.  I have changed many ordinary spaces into extraordinary spaces, the result is always what counts the most.

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? 

Wow, I have never thought of open floor plans as stressful. Everyone usually prefers open spaces and once again for a professional, flow is never an issue. I would never design a space that is stressful.  Making people comfortable, spaces warm and inviting are key components of all the spaces I design.  I have been told many times by attendees of show houses, that my spaces feel warm and inviting and like something they could live in — I think that is the ultimate compliment and goal.  Many people can do outlandish eye catching rooms but if no one really wants to occupy them, what is their purpose?

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 all types of area rugs.  They can be the most impactful of the design elements or the least.  They can create instant harmony and bring the room together very quickly.  I have clients with summer and winter rugs so that they can have different feelings.  Rugs are very versatile.

Do you have a type of area rug that you lean on most?  

No, really depends on the client and the space.

Or is it a case-by-case basis?  

Definitely

Are there price limits when it comes to rugs?  

Not that I know of.  They can be inexpensive too extremely expensive.

Do you have any final words of design advice?  

I always tell my clients to dare a little, put themselves into the hands of a professional and reap the rewards.  It is our duty to stretch the client and expose them to ides and items they may not know about and LISTEN to what makes them happy.  My design is not about pleasing me, but pleasing my client.

Thanks for your time!

Thanks!

 

Debbie Gersh: Windows to the Soul

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!

Thanks!

 

Derrick DeCristofaro: Success is in the Details

He’s booked with some of the today’s biggest names, but when it comes down to what works, interior designer Derrick Decristofaro admits it’s nothing fancy, just the details and knowing what’s right for your client.

You work all over the country, how do you try to incorporate the local vibe into your designs? Do you sometimes try and limit it? 

It’s important to research the area and take note of the local flavor. Classic design and a well-appointed space transcend geography.

Well put. Please describe some of your most challenging spaces? 

The most challenging? Hmm, I’d say that it was designing a living room for a big game hunter. With all those dead animals a strong editorial eye was a must to make sure the space turned out fabulous! Another difficult space was the beachside retreat I was asked to design for a color-blind artist. For the space we had to focus almost primarily on textures and patterns. I mean there could be absolutely no definitive color. Some other tricky areas to design were the thirty thousand square foot restaurant and nightclub, which was a two-year project from the architectural design phase until completion.

Would a unique layout always benefit the designer by expanding their ability to be creative? Or could it limit your options?

I adore a unique or challenging space, and I definitely think that some of the most challenging spaces can inspire my creativity. Whether it’s a beautiful staircase, or a narrow hallway, I think that with hard work and the right eye you can turn any space into something that your client will love.

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?

A stress free environment almost always begins with function. That is always the most important, followed by comfort. Though at the end you also have to consider the ease of maintaining all the pieces in your design.

Area rugs, our specialty, are versatile. Many upscale homes and businesses have open spaces with traditional hardwood floors. Explain how you tend to incorporate the rugs into your design.

The rug is one of the most integral parts of the design. It’s all about layering of detail and elements. Flooring, lighting and architectural detail are the most important layers in creating the environment.

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

I have a passion for natural fibers. A silk blend always provides that upscale feel. I’ve been placing flat weaves with strong graphic patterns.

Are there price limits when it comes to rugs?

Rugs are an important element in the overall design of the space. As a rule twenty percent of the budget for the space should be spent on a rug. The rug, after all is a key element to any room where it’s used!

Do you have any final words of design advice? 

Always choose quality pieces first. A great rug is like your best “LBD” or Dark Suite. It will always be a core element in your wardrobe and can be accessorized for any occasion.

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

I have a presence on most social media and of course my web site or check me out at www.facebook.com/designderrick.

Thanks for your time today.

I enjoyed it. Thanks guys!

 

Cindy Aplanalp: Follow Your Passion

Whether it’s implementing a design you saw in Paris or choosing a career, interior designer Cindy Aplanalp knows that to make it a reality you have to go for it.

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

I’d probably be classified as a late bloomer and I’ve only been doing this professionally for six or seven years.  Prior to I did lots of my own ‘projects’ and my ex’s son was a builder so helped him some. For years friends would offer to take me to lunch if I’d help them pick paint or rearrange their bookcase, so I did a lot of ‘free design’ as I learned what did and didn’t work. Probably the thing that helped me hone my talents the most is raising six kids. I’ve cleaned my share of bathrooms, vacuumed acres of carpet and learned with wears well and what doesn’t. Additionally, I’ve been fortunate to travel the world and see first hand ancient architecture and how others live. So all these experiences add to my work now.

You live and work in Texas. What are some Texas-like themes you carry into your design that might have originated in the Lonestar state?

No, I try with all my heart to steer clear of typically Texas ventricular. No Lone Stars yet, thankfully!

All spaces are unique, but in Texas 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?

There is no such thing as a typical client- all are unique and would not use me if I did the same thing over and over. What I can always count on is starting every design from the ‘feeling’ realm- like how they envision feeling in their space- those strong emotionally charged feelings are what I use to gather my design ideas and instincts. Its really not about me at all- its about them and what they desire.

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?

If I’m meeting a couple, then my first priority is to meet with both on the initial encounter. This is a joint collaboration and I need the input of all parties.  Secondly, they must communicate well, honestly and respectfully with each other, especially about money and have congruent expectations for the project. I’m not a marriage counselor and I don’t want to be. They must already be happy because stuff like a big fancy house, no matter how lovely, doesn’t create happiness. Sure, it can enhance happiness, but you gotta start from of place of internal happiness to really appreciate the heart that I put in each project. As a designer my time is limited, I want to work with those who will appreciate and enjoy what we create together. Fortunately, I guess I’m at the point now where I can be choosy. I’m really seeking inspiration from them and what they are wanting. I’m a luxury item, unlike bread, milk or gasoline, so those seeking me have the basics very well covered. They are seeking an expertise, talent and ability to turn their desired outcomes for their homes into reality. It takes an emotional connection, and a lot of trust, so that is why I want my potential clients to feel as good about me as I need to feel about them because we are partners in this process.

Texas has grand hallways and with that comes nice hardwood floors, and eventually some area rugs. Tell us how you use rugs in your designs.

Our climate in Houston is mild and humid so I use hard flooring almost exclusively except in bedrooms, media rooms and closets. Rugs are tremendously important and the place I begin my color palettes because there are fewer rug options than any other material that would go into a fine interior. I will almost exclusively select the rugs as the first item because this sets our color palette for the entire home. It is a very efficient way to approach a project. I’ll have 14-to 20 rugs all selected for the entire space an that all play nicely together, and use that as the basis for the design.

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

Depends on the needs of the family, and answering questions like, dogs, kids, cats, what stage of life?  Do they take off their shoes in the house, or not. What’s their budget? Is this a ‘forever’ purchase or will it be thrown away in a few years? I go to market four times a year and have thousands of rug samples in my studio- so I have access to just about any rug in the world really. I have some lines that I love to use because of their value, quality and timing attributes. Many times I have custom rugs made for clients willing to wait months if not a year or more for something truly one of a kind. So it just depends on timing, budget and clients lifestyle.

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

No, and my favorite rug in my own home was under $600 and I’ve placed a $6,000 rug under a kitchen table. It has to be the right rug for that particular client. It’s really not about money, its what works

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

Yes, follow your passion and study and expose your self to great design through books, magazines, the Internet and visit great places and spaces. I think travel is key to training your eye.

Take the time to sketch. It causes you to really look at things and stay close to nature, because nothing trumps nature and the way colors, patterns, textures are mixed in nature is harmonious- genius.  Follow the work of designers you appreciate- read about what inspires them and how they came to be in this field. Lastly, its never too late. I didn’t go to design school until my early 40′s. In 1984 I graduated with a Business Management degree. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as an Interior Design degree, so dream big and enthusiastically follow your passion!

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

www.cindyaplanalp.com

 

Sisterhood of the Traveling Designers: Classica Design

After moving from Israel five years ago the sisters behind Classica Design have worked hard to bring their home country and the influences of Europe into homes across Texas.                                   

Thanks for joining us, Debra and Dafna! Tell us a little bit about how you two got your start in interior design.

Debra and I are sisters, we grew up in Israel and we always had a passion for design and aesthetic. Our education is in the fashion industry, we have started working together in our twenties and we had our own business in Israel for a few years. After that Debra started doing home staging and home decorating and I joined her a few years later. We got to the US five years ago when Debra’s husband relocated to Houston because of his business. We started our own business in Houston and we have decided to name it Classica because in Hebrew that basically means good style and high quality.

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?

Our major influence in style comes from Israel and Europe, with most of it coming from Italy. Basically our design style is very different from the local one – we think it is much more contemporary and modern.  Designing a home must be according to the size of the rooms. We found that most people in Texas are buying big furniture that most of the time are consuming the rooms and making the space feel smaller. We believe that the design should reflect the needs, style and atmosphere that the client need as well as it needs to be according to the room size.

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?

In the last year we found that lots of customers would like to keep some of their furniture but still wants to have their house looking like it was designed in a magazine. We have come up with a new design concept and we call it “Design Touch.” With the Design Touch we actually design a room that already has furniture adding to it designed items like more/designed furniture, accessories, drapes, rugs, chandeliers etc.

That way we save money for our customers is to have them consider items that they already have and would not want to throw away because of a sentimental value or other. Design Touch is actually very challenging, not only we need to conceder the space size and shape, but also furniture that most of the time we would not add to our design, but seeing the results is most rewarding.

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?

We love open floor plans and we believe that there has to be a flow in the house in every room even if the colors or the styles are different. A good flow in a home will result in a good felling even if the space is open and big, creating coziness in big spaces can be by dividing it with furniture or accent items into a few small spaces.

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.

Rugs are very important to create coziness, beauty and also to define spaces, we love adding a rug to any room in some cases if the floor is old and not pretty rugs can be used to cover the floor as well as make the place look beautiful. In some cases when we design a room we starts with the rug and then choose everything else, the rug has a big impact on the design and the right rug can make the design flow and look complete. We also like to use outdoor rugs for outdoors spaces.

Do you have a type of area rug that you lean on most? Or is it a case-by-case basis? Are there price limits when it comes to rugs? 

We choose a rug for a design according to the style and the design colors, incase we are doing a contemporary design we believe that graphic patterns are beautiful and can have the impact that we are looking for in the design. If we need to work with a traditional style we will choose a traditional rug with contemporary colors.

Do you have any final words of design advice?

Always start a design with the item that you have less variety to choose from. For example start with the fabric for the drapes and accent chairs, or start by choosing the rug you love and then choose everything else, wall color can be found in almost any shade but choosing a wall color and then looking for a fabric or a rug to match it, will be much more difficult.

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

You can see our work on our website: www.ClassicaDecoration.com. For making an appointment, you can send us an email to: design@ClassicaDecoration.com or fill in the “Customer Form” on our website

Thanks for your time!

Our pleasure!

Ariana Smetana: Lifestyle Design Crossroads

Hard-working interior designer Ariana Smetana uses her international experience to bring eclectic, luxurious and free-flowing spaces to clients in the Houston area.

Tell us a little bit about how you got started in interior design. Who was the first designer you emulated?

I always had a great appreciation for design & architecture, and through living in Europe and being passionate about traveling around the Globe, I was immersed in and inspired by the beauty and cultures of the countries I visited.  Also, I can recall that from a young age, I was collecting vintage home décor items from markets and odd places, and bringing them home to my mom’s dismay.

After a successful corporate career of over 15 year in Europe & the USA, I finally embarked on my new career as a lifestyle designer and tastemaker in 2008.  At the same time, I decided that if I wanted to fully understand the experience of a major construction and custom design process, I needed to experience it firsthand, and I designed & built my own custom home.  Concurrently, I returned to the classroom, attended the Interior Design program, and polished my design skills at an established design firm. As I built my client base, I established my own boutique design firm: artVIA l lifestyle design crossroads.

In my work, I strive to have my own design “point of view’ and do not emulate any specific designer.  I do admire and appreciate the work of many American and International designers, such as: Bunny Williams, Vincent Wolf, Mary McDonald, and Kelly Wearstler to Stark, Karim Rashid, and Jean-Michel Frank.

My design style is very eclectic yet sophisticated and distinctive, but when working with my clients I’m driven by their lifestyle needs and style aspirations that they want to achieve for their home.

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?

Sure, one can say that Texas loves the idea of big homes, grand spaces, and large furniture but at the same time it is such an international city that variety of design styles and architecture can be found, and I love working with all of them.

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?

In my mind, challenge is always good and it does expand my ability to come up with innovative ways to solve it.  Almost any space will have some degree of challenge for a designer to make a space fit the lifestyle and functional needs of a specific family.

For example; the ultra-tall ceilings and walls of windows are very grand and impressive feature in a space but they can present a challenge in finding the right wall covering for privacy options customer may need.

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?

Open floor plans are definitely very popular in Houston, as people enjoy entertaining frequently in small or large groups, thus giving them the ability to easily move between spaces.  Also inter-connectives of spaces give families ability to collaborate, and keep connected even when sitting or working in different areas, and each area now can be used in multifunctional ways, where kids do homework while mom or dad cooks.

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 using rugs, and strive to find unique rug choices for my clients that can be used in many ways such as:  being an art piece for the floor, for defining and dividing the large open rooms into functional areas, or to soften the look against the hard surfaces.

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

I work with a variety of rugs vendors, and recommend different types of rugs on a case-by-case basis.  artVIA even represents in Texas a very unique line of custom rugs that uses materials like alpaca fur, and llama along with wool and silk to create amazing choices of affordable luxury rugs.

Are there price limits when it comes to rugs? 

It really depends on the customer’s budget, and their love and understanding of what a rug brings to the overall design.  I work with verity of rug styles and price ranges from traditional Persian rugs, modern and contemporary rugs, sisals to outdoor machine-made rugs.  I guide my clients to incorporate each of them based on their specific application, functionality and design style for the space.

Do you have any final words of design advice?

My advice to clients is to find a designer who they can trust to build a great relationship with, and who will turn the house into a home that expresses their soul.

My belief is that your home should reflect your unique taste, needs, and tell your life story. My goal is to create that unique design vision with you and give you a roadmap which will enrich your life and amplify your style.

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

The readers can see my design work/portfolio and make an appointment at www.art-via.com. You can also read about my recent project for a client who was featured in the December issue of Houston Magazine; http://digital.modernluxury.com/publication/?i=135962&p=90