Michelle Strausbaugh: A Space for Them

It’s not easy for designers to keep their client in mind, but for Michelle Strausbaugh her charge is to collaborate with clients and make their space beautiful.

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

After college, I had various corporate-type jobs that never really felt satisfying.  When I turned 30 I realized that I could not do that kind of work for 30 more years, and I set out to find my work bliss.  I realized that when I was house hunting, I always wanted to buy the most run-down, dilapidated houses because I could clearly see their potential.  I realized that time stood completely still when I was determining how to decorate my friend’s rooms.  I realized that I became single-mindedly obsessed when I was painting a room.  And then I realized that this wasn’t normal!  I went back to school and received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Interior Design, and never, ever looked back.

How would you describe your style? Influences?

“Less is more” are words to live by!  I like to choose a few oversized pieces to fill a room rather than incorporating many small items.  Big items create a big impact.  My greatest influence is, without a doubt, my clients.  I am creating a space for them, so how they live, their style, and their personalities guide the design of their.

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

Fantastic use of scale and proportion. It’s the biggest challenge I hear about from home owners.  They purchase a rug that looks perfect in the showroom, but teeny-weeny under their king size bed.

Which project are you most proud of and why? 

Please don’t make me pick just one! My favorite projects are when the client is really involved, and we collaborate to create their space.  When their friends and family walk into their newly renovated space and say, “Wow, this looks like you!” I know we nailed it!  That’s how we measure the success of the project.

Are there any rules you must follow when decorating your own space? 

When decorating any space, begin with function.  For instance, if you are designing your dining room, determine how many people you need to sit or if you need a serving area.  We can make anything pretty, but it has to function!  People wonder what the difference is between a decorator and a designer.  I think Steve Jobs said it best, “Design is not just what it looks like and feels like.  Design is how it works.”

When should you call in a designer? 

At the beginning of your project!  Even if you are a do-it-yourselfer, a few hours of designer time will give you valuable guidance to create the room you want.

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

People tend to throw a little rug in front of the sink and call it done.  Rugs are a fantastic way to add a bit of fun and softness into areas that are typically all hard surfaces. Add a runner in a bright color or with a beautiful pattern in front of your kitchen or bath cabinetry.

Why do you rely on area rugs? What is the biggest addition they make to your kitchens and bathrooms? Do you have a particular type, size or color rug that you like to include in your work? Any that you avoid? 

I use rugs to bring another component of the client’s personality to their space.  Your room has four walls, a floor, and a ceiling that means the floor is a sixth of your design space! Make the most of it by adding area rugs that complement the design.  We all know they soften hardwood and tile floors, but you can also layer them on top of wall-to-wall carpet to add some pizzazz.

Anything else to add? 

Design is fun!  Fill your house with items that you love, and it will always feel like home.

Thanks for your time! 

Thanks to you, too!

 

Connie Raines: Honing Her Craft

For Atlanta-based designer Connie Raines a beautiful area rug helps tie together some of her warmest spaces.

Thanks or joining us, Connie! Tell us a little bit about your training in interior design and how you came to choose both the profession and location. 

I knew in high school that I loved making my childhood home look better.   I grew up in a large family (12 kids-always a mess) in a beautiful old Queen Anne style home in a suburb of Chicago. I feel like growing up in that house had something to do with my appreciation and interest in interior design. I received my degree in Interior Design from Georgia State University. Most of my training was on the job of course, working in some great commercial design firms in Atlanta. Really learning how to conduct a business professionally. I had some great mentors at these firms, who always expected the highest standards from the designers in their firms.

Is Atlanta a challenging market for interior decorating? What are some of the major influences for the area?

Atlanta is a great city to practice interior design. I will say that it is pretty competitive as far as the number of designers who practice in the city. I think if you are talented and you are determined you will find the right clients to be able to do the work. Major influences are both traditional design and definitely now more transitional and contemporary design is becoming more mainstream everywhere. Less fuss.

What’s you design philosophy? How do you try and implement it in your work?

I don’t have only one philosophy of design. But I will say that any space no matter how small or big the budget can be well designed and usually improved upon.

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

It really depends on each client. Sometimes it is a room or two, most of the time it is an overall design concept thru out the home.

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

I love area rugs over carpeting. Many of my clients have pets and hard surface flooring with area rugs are a great way to provide ease of maintenance and still have the softness that is needed on the floor. I use area rugs in all rooms of a home. I would typically always recommend a hard surface (wood, tile, concrete) floor with area rugs for softness.

Area rugs add some warmth to space. What are some other ways they can be used?

Area rugs can be used for wall softness and helping with acoustics in large open areas, and for keeping dirt and dust from tracking everywhere at entry doors and porches. Beautiful small antique woven rugs can make great ottoman upholstery or chair seat covers as well.

Do you have any types of rugs you use more often than others in Atlanta? Any other tips or tricks for using area rugs?

I have been recommending the polypropylene sisal products that really look good but can be used in moist areas like screen porches or rooms where animals and kids will be living. It has to be a reputable manufacturer to get the acceptable quality.

Thanks, Connie!

Thanks and Happy New Year.

 

Personal Touch: Rachel Oliver

From drapes to rugs, Rachel Oliver meets the design needs of all her clients by matching style with personality.

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

After graduating from Auburn University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts I started my career as a graphic designer. Working for 12 years, mostly in the fields of historic tourism and real estate marketing, I decided to expand my knowledge of art history and decorative arts by enrolling in an Italian design and decorative painting school in Tuscany. That put me on the track to my second career as a designer and decorative painter.

Atlanta definitely has a vibe all its own. What elements of the city’s personality do you try to add into your work? 

Atlanta has evolved into an international city with many cultural influences. It is still uniquely southern, though, and lots of my clients really want to incorporate that into their homes, creating a warm, family atmosphere. The mostly mild climate tends to lend itself to a nice southern vibe. Linen fabrics, antiques, and oriental rugs are a big hit with a lot of metro-Atlanta homeowners, whether they have a southern heritage or not.

Describe some of your most challenging spaces? Does a more unique layout always benefit the designer? Hurt?

I see just about every type of room layout you can imagine. Many newer homes here in Atlanta have windows that are two-stories tall and that is a particular design dilemma when the homeowner has to worry about privacy or bright sun. Lately, my favorite solution is to hang linen drapery from ceiling to floor that is the same color as the walls. That way it blends in with the room and doesn’t draw the eye away from the rest of the space.

The idea of flow is huge in design. How are your designs patterned to help the occupant feel that the space is stress-free? 

One of the things many of my clients say, is that they want to come home to a calm, soothing space, like a retreat. Having a terrific flow is the key to a harmonious and calming home. Using paint colors, fabrics, and furniture that are tailored to the space automatically begins the transformation from hectic to heavenly. You just have to hit the right notes for color, texture and style that fits the design aesthetic of the client. Going from room to room should be smooth and even transition. I am a gal that loves color, so it’s a lot of fun for me to try and balance color and flow without giving them too much of a jolt!

Area rugs are versatile and since Atlanta has plenty of loft space with hardwood floors, I’m sure you see a bunch. Tell us how you tend to incorporate them in your design?

I’d say most of my clients have hardwood or natural stone floors in their homes.  Great rugs are an absolute must! I love to start a project by choosing rugs and fabrics to get a color scheme going. That way I can create a total look where everything in the room works together and nothing sticks out as odd or out of place.

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

I simply love a natural grass rug like jute or seagrass. The amazing textures really bring spirit to a creative space. But tastes and needs vary so much that I really have to see what works best for each project. I work with a lot of families with small children, so I have to be very careful and choose rugs that are durable.  Antique oriental rugs with subtle colors are really beautiful, but let’s face it, they’re expensive. It’s thrilling to have so many choices for rugs in Atlanta.

How much is too much when it comes to rugs? 

Well, I love a great graphic rug with zig zags or geometric designs, but if the colors are too garish and the design too bold, the room is about the rug and nothing else. You’re walking a fine line with crazy patterns and colors, but in the right situation, you can pull it off! In the end, the room design really dictates the rug style.

Any final words of design advice? 

It’s all about the balance of color, texture and proportion. Start with a simple and clean design, then take it just over the top and STOP!  You’ll end up with a perfect room every time!

Thanks for joining us!

Thanks to you and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Corine Maggio: The Best Idea Always Wins

Some designers need to have their way, but Southern California’s Corine Maggio knows that often the client knows what’s best for them and she helps them achieve the look they want.

 

Tell us a little bit about your training in interior design and how you came to choose both the profession and location.

I was always meant to be a designer. I used to draft out floor plans on graph paper in grade school and I was always very sensitive to space. When I first entered college I was majoring in Marketing, Psychology, and Finance and minoring in Art. I went for a few years before I decided to quit and spend my time and money traveling. Looking back, all of those disciplines were helpful when starting my design business.

I eventually decided to go back to school, and in the time I spent soul searching, interior design surfaced as the obvious path. I enrolled at Design Institute of San Diego because of their accreditations, fabulous reputation, successful graduates and beautiful location. I graduated in 2009 with a Bachelors of Fine Arts in Interior Design.

Is Southern California a challenging market for interior decorating? What are some of the major influences for the area?

I don’t find Southern California to be a particularly challenging market. I’m definitely new to the game but have yet to experience a lack of work. I believe if you stick to doing what you love, you will be the best at it and find your niche, even in a tough market.

San Diego has a lot of Spanish style architecture and interiors which I don’t find particularly inspiring but my love for coastal interiors still has its place given the number of seaside properties in the area.

What’s you design philosophy? How do you try and implement it in your work?

I love this question. I feel strongly about the importance and power of design. It can either assist in or hinder your well-being. I work to create designs and organization systems that facilitate and support the lifestyle needs and goals of my clients. Understanding how our built environment can give peace of mind and add ease to our daily tasks can give us more space in our life to pursue our best selves. I want my clients to have a space that not only functions well but actually enhances growth.

I do this by extensively interviewing my clients before I begin and then involving them throughout the process. I use my education, intuition, experience, passion and love for people congruently to produce the best possible outcome. I also try to let the design pieces come together organically. You can sit at your desk and spend all day designing but you can’t really know how it’s going to feel until it’s installed. I take pride in that I am always learning and am comfortable admitting when something I thought might work doesn’t or when my client has an idea that is better than mine. It’s more important for me that the best idea is implemented than I am ‘right’ all the time. I communicate openly and honestly with my clients and enjoy when they do the same. This type of relationship is crucial in order to finish a project well. Because of the intimate nature of creating rooms that people live in, I end up really getting to know my clients on a personal level. After jumping all of the hurdles and overcoming the multitude of challenges that seem to come with any project, my clients start to feel like family. It’s an extra blessing I never anticipated when I entered this industry.

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

It really varies. I have some clients that are more comfortable going room-by-room and some that want everything done in one big swoop! I like doing both and am careful to manage my time so that each space is given the amount of love and attention it deserves. I also like doing small hospitality spaces: cafes, tea shops, bakeries, etc. It is so different to think about the needs of a space that many people visit for a short time and that a few people work in versus a home where generally just a few people go every day over a long period of time. The hospitality spaces are usually all encompassing which is exciting because the project can be altered in a much more holistic fashion.

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

I spent 2 1/2 years working for Aja Rugs, an Oriental rug store in La Jolla, and this solidified my belief that rugs are a crucial element in any home. They are much cleaner, sustainable and beautiful than broadloom and can make the space more interesting and inviting. I use rugs to frame a room. Just like pictures need frames, rooms do too! I also use them to add texture, balance and pattern.

Area rugs add some warmth to space. What are some other ways they can be used?

They can useful to tie together a multitude of other elements in a room.  Especially in open floor plans, rugs can visually signify one ‘room’ from another, distinguishing the separate spaces. Plus, rugs are super helpful with noise reduction!

Do you have any types of rugs you use more often than others in Southern California? Favorites for certain homes?

The coastal interiors that I tend to do use a lot of natural fiber rugs such as jute and hemp, but the handmade oriental rugs such as Heriz and Kashan look fantastic in a variety of homes in the area.

Any other tips or tricks for using area rugs?

In my own home, I use a lot of neutral tones and almost no pattern, so the rug is where I go bold. It is fun to walk into a space where the rug is the focal point with big pattern and color.

I recommend going in to a rug store like Aja because you will speak to someone with experience and see the endless varieties firsthand. Plus, they will bring them to your house free of charge, so that you can see the difference it can make right in your home!

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

My website is the best place to see a sampling of my work: www.corinemaggionaturaldesigns.comhttp://www.corinemaggionaturaldesigns.com/

There will be some fantastic new projects added this spring and throughout the year! I also have a Facebook page: www.facebook.com/CorineMaggioNaturalDesigns

You can contact Corine through her website, or via email at Corine@corinemaggionaturaldesigns.com

 

Claudia Morales: Communication is Key in the OC

Claudia Morales understands that to have a happy client you need a unique set of design skills and the ability to forge a strong line of communication.

Thanks for joining us, Claudia! Tell us a little bit about your training in interior design and how you came to choose both the profession and location.

Having been born and raised in Berlin, Germany, I strongly feel the international aspect of my upbringing paved the path that I was born to follow….interior design was definitely in my blood! I was taught very early on by my Grandmother and Mother that it’s not a bad thing to constantly move furniture around to give your home a whole new look.  By the time I was 12 years old, I confidently stated: “I would like to be a Photographer and an Interior Designer”.  I initially chose the photography route, studying in NYC at FIT for Fashion Photography, and later after moving to Los Angeles, I became a color effects designer for Film and Television.  Within that time I, too, constantly moved furniture around. I pretty much “remodeled” every room I lived in starting with my dorm room in Munich, Germany. Very quickly, I discovered that one of the least expensive changes one can do to a room to make it feel new & fresh, is through paint. I decided in my early 40’s to finally go the Interior design route full force and attended UCLA extension where I was awarded a certificate in Interior Design.

Is Southern California a challenging market for interior decorating? What are some of the major influences for the area?

I would say that the Southern Californian market is not necessarily more or less challenging than any other area in the country. Our urban areas have some highly creative individuals designing, ranging from bold and outrageous to ultra modern and high end. In the OC you most definitely still can find an over the top, cluttered design that the McMansions seemingly demand. Due to Southern California’s location, the area may be a little bit more specific on certain design decisions one has to make for instance, designing beach homes/cottages to implement an indoor/outdoor kind of vibe, or enhancing and complementing Spanish colonial architecture. Spanish Colonial architecture is still very predominant here in southern California, old or new construction.

What’s your design philosophy? How do you try and implement it in your work? 

It most definitely is a very precise process.  I like to plan things out in minute detail (probably my German background).  The communication process is not only finding out in great detail what my clients are requiring, it also involves getting to know them on a very intimate level.  And then, I can now start the process of my design.  In a kitchen and bathroom remodel I always do extensive drawings so there are no open ended questions from my clients or my contractors. Everything is documented. I feel my design philosophy starts with ultimate organization.

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

It really has varied.  Some like to start out slow, with one room at a time and then move to additional areas.  At times it can be a cost issue or depending on the potential scope of the project, they may want to experience the personal dynamic first before committing completely. A home remodel can at times be extremely anxiety ridden, so it is crucial that you get along on so many levels as you will be spending an enormous amount of time together.  Larger projects of this scope can run continuingly for well over a year. Other clients immediately just want to get the project completed.

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

Area rugs are most definitely a very important part of interior decorating in pulling a seating cluster together successfully.  One example: I just specified a beautiful, custom living room area rug for a client of mine.  This rug was definitely a showstopper.  In order to not hide this beautiful rug we added a very simple, yet striking coffee table all in glass.  They were both able to shine, in this instance each on their very own.

Area rugs add some warmth to space. What are some other ways they can be used?

In some cases they can definitely be room dividers.  If one has a very large room with several different seating vignettes, area rugs most definitely can add to that division by either pulling those vignettes together, or deliberately setting them apart.

Do you have any types of rugs you use more often than others in Southern California? Favorites for certain homes? 

I’ve most recently have implemented a lot of Seagrass flooring.  Wall to wall, or as area rugs.  They fit perfectly in cottage/mid-century type homes located in beach towns like Laguna or Newport Beach.  In more contemporary homes I have implemented large, shag type area rugs where location per se didn’t seem to be a factor.

Any other tips or tricks for using area rugs?  

I feel the most common mistake made is purchasing an area rug that is either too big, or too small.  If furniture has not been purchased yet I feel it is important that one has a professional draft a furniture plan layout. If furniture is already in place and the only item missing is an area rug, simply just measure the area and put tape down for visualization purposes.  This is a simple way to do it yourself with very good results.

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

They can either contact me directly at (213) 248-4802, or preview my website first at http://www.consultclaudia.com

 

Stearing Your Designs in the Right Direction

Owner of Allen Stear Designs in Atlanta, Cynthia Allen has the leadership and knowhow to make your project pop!

Thanks or joining us, Cynthia! Tell us a little bit about your training in interior design and how you came to choose both the profession and location.      

I attended Georgia Southern University just south of Atlanta where I grew up, my initial interest was in textiles and fashion design, but after a few years in that industry I quickly realized that grind wasn’t for me. I began working on small jobs first, paint selection, choosing fabrics for re-upholstery, simple design 101 kinds of things. As far as location, I started in Atlanta, wonderful spot to be a designer, just fabulous access to the design center, and loads of inspiration.

Is Atlanta a challenging market for interior decorating? What are some of the major influences for the area?

In this economy ALL markets are challenging, however I have been in the industry for over 24 years so my clients are either repeat clients, or referrals. Typically my work takes me all over the US and some International locations.  My inspiration and influences come from everything I see. You just never know what will spark a concept.

What’s you design philosophy? How do you try and implement it in your work?

Most importantly, KNOW YOUR CLIENT!  I spend a lot of time with my clients prior to presenting my design ideas. I insist on all my clients putting together a personal ” wish book,” traditionally these are from the shelter publications that represent the style and look they think they want. I see a lot of Traditional Home, Veranda, etc. Clients don’t know what they want really, or how to achieve it, that’s why they hire a designer, however they can move you in a direction that tells you where you CAN take them and what they will accept and LOVE in the end.

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

I’m happy to work with anyone who has a desire to change and better their living environment, usually if you start small and create just the right space, I end up with the entire home, It’s all about relationships and trust.  However, most of my project and design jobs are fairly large, and will take me to some wonderful locations. a footnote , it’s very difficult to just do a room at a time, a true design is an all encompassing job. One area leads to another to create a perfectly in sync home which in my design usually incorporates the outdoors as well.

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

With any design, the rug can make or break the room. If my clients have a collection of antique rugs they want to use, I usually start with those and build the design around them. With contemporary jobs, the rugs and floor coverings are key — It’s an area you can add a pop of color to a very calm textured room. Beautiful rugs are like ART to me, very personal — they should be respected.

Area rugs add some warmth to space. What are some other ways they can be used?

Small rugs can be hung as art in a space. I don’t like to use anything in my design “just because I need warmth”, there are specific reasons for any implementation. Yes they add warmth, but that should be the last reason you use one. They add another dimension of texture, color, and pattern to a room.

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

I have one or two vendors at ADAC I can always count on to know what I need when describing what I want in a space. Rugs have to be taken out and placed prior to purchase, they are expensive and my clients need to see how it feels in a room before I commit. Allowing approval is key for this part of the design. Again, it’s like art, subjective. I some cases when dealing with natural wovens like jute, sisal, hemp, these will need to be ordered and the client doesn’t see prior to purchase, however the price point is very different.

Any other tips or tricks for using area rugs?

Don’t discount a rug with some wear on it; these are often times the best and most expensive pieces. Your designer can always have them repaired! Never throw out a rug because of its age — that could be the best part of it. And if you have a few rugs that you are just not sure about, talk with your designer, have them appraised  and then make your decision whether to implement them into your design.

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

The best way to see my work is either my website  www.allensteardesigns.com , or my Facebook page, which has the most current information and photos, Allen Stear Designs. I also have a Houzz page under Allen Stear Designs. My email is cynthia@allensteardesigns.com , that is the best way to reach out to me.

Happy New Year !!!

 

Stephanie Cook: Design Star On the Rise

With her eyes on the stars both figuratively and in Hollywood, Stephanie Cook is designing spaces for salons, beach resorts and everything in between.

 

Thanks or joining us, Stephanie! Tell us a little bit about your training in interior design and how you came to choose both the profession and location.

Well let’s see where to start. I new I always wanted to do something creative, it’s like breathing to me. I started repurposing garage sell finds and creating my own art when I was a little girl. My mother would always come home to lovely new surprises; I drove her nuts sometimes. Growing up I actually thought interior design was just for people on TV, then one day I found out it was a real profession and that’s when I knew it was for me. I enrolled in CIDA accredited Interior Designers Institute after High School and moved in with my grandmother who lived near by. She was kind enough to take me in and I always remember her bringing me tater tots and red bull during late nights of studying. After graduating with my Bachelors Degree I decided to make Orange County my home. It’s close to my family and a great place to live. Upon graduating I started my business Plural Design and began designing my first home. A few years later I took a dare and tried out for HGTV’s Design Star and actually made it. Today there may even be a new show happening in the near future! Well it’s been ten years now and I love what I do; so hears to the next ten. Cheers!

Is Southern California a challenging market for interior decorating? What are some of the major influences for the area?

There are definitely a lot of challenges, but if you treat your clients with respect and offer them a valuable service they will come back again and again. In fact I have very close friends now that used to be my clients.

One major influence I see is Hollywood. I get a lot of requests for hotels people have stayed at. Another influence is the fantastic weather we have in Southern California, indoor-outdoor living is what its all about.

What’s your design philosophy? How do you try and implement it in your work?

Make it personal. I design every home to fit my client’s tastes not mine. I am here to make their visions come to life in a way they can’t achieve on their own.

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

Our clients are looking for everything. We design one room at a time to an entire home from the ground up. Our commercial clients are just as varied from a small salon to a resort in Belize!

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

Area rugs are a must we use them over hard wood, tile and even carpet. Layer them or fill an entire room.

 

Area rugs add some warmth to space. What are some other ways they can be used?

We use area rugs to anchor a seating area or separate two seating areas in a single space. Some more creative ways to use them is to place them over a chair, hang them as wall art, create pillows or even upholster a piece of furniture.

Do you have any types of rugs you use more often than others in Southern California? Favorites for certain homes?

Not really we mix it up, anything from cowhide, bamboo, sisal, silk, wool and sheep’s skin are very popular. My favorite is cowhide because it doesn’t stain easily and offers a high-end look without the price tag.

Any other tips or tricks for using area rugs? 

Use a big enough size. I can’t tell you how many seating areas I’ve seen with a tiny little rug only under the coffee table. It makes a huge difference when the rug anchors all the furniture. If you are trying to save on budget by buying a smaller size, at least have all the fronts of your pieces overlapping the rug by twelve inches.

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

They can call our office at 949-735-4115 or go through any of these sites to schedule an appointment. All initial consultations are complimentary.

www.pluraldesign.com

www.stephaniecook.com

 

Matthew Alexander Loves a Challenge

Whether it’s saving money for a client or utilizing a small space for a big purpose Matthew Alexander welcomes a design challenge.

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

I would say my career began when I was old enough to push the furniture around in my room as a kid.  I always wanted to create interesting spaces so the furnishings plan evolved constantly as did the wall colors & window treatments.  I also had other influences with my second cousin an architect, my aunt a fine artist & my parents whom remodeled & built homes during my growing up.  I taught myself everything about creating floor plans & drawing up construction sheets.  My first commission was at the age of 10 yld when I designed a 3 story beach house in Mexico for some family friends.  The house is still there today.

Southern California definitely has a cool vibe. What elements of the SoCal lifestyle do you try and incorporate into your designs? 

Today in SoCal your primarily defined by the beach or the vineyards, but I’ve incorporated either design in both locations.  California has always been an ever changing state when it comes to building.  Depending on your homes location, you can drive through areas of SoCal where you can see how divided it is; each area defined into sections by building styles & design generations.  You can see the neighborhoods of the classic 50′s beach condo’s in the old part of SanDiego, the 70′s tract homes in the Inland areas & the more classical European influences in the newer cities.  It’s really along the coast where the architecture changes with the trends.  Where contemporary monoliths sit next door to Mediterranean pavilions.  The biggest & strongest influence has been the Tuscan style & it’s hung on just way too long.  For the past 5-10 years or so my trend is to use those heavy architectural elements, without a massive remodel, & incorporate lighter more contemporary styles of furnishings, accessories & decor.  The dark browns, gold’s, burgundy’s, heavy iron work & bullion fringe dripping off sofas & drapes are gone in my book.  The space can still have a Tuscan influence, but now it’s about a more simple, light & airy feel.  I find my customers really want to be comfortable in their spaces & not over whelmed by a cluttering of “things”.   The draw toward a more modern look does excite people, but with the investment they’ve made in a heavier style they just don’t know where to start the change.  This is when a professional can really help the homeowner figure out a fresh new look for 2013.

Describe some of your most challenging spaces? Does a more unique layout always benefit the designer? Hurt?

The design is not about the designer, the design is about the client & their needs.  A design professional should be able to work with anything thrown at them without the request to tear it all down & start over.  I think most of the tract homes in this area are designed relatively well.  Most spaces are pretty proportionate to each other when accommodating furnishings.  What freaks me out is when a custom home is built & the formal dining room seats 12 while the formal living room seat 6.  I love challenging spaces, this is where true talent shines.  It gives me the opportunity to really be creative by creating special vignettes, an art gallery or a unique storage space.  A challenging space is NOT something you can copy off a TV show.  Because most of the homes in SoCal have been built within the last 50 years it’s not often you’ll find a quirky old house.

The idea of flow is huge in design. How are your designs patterned to help the occupant feel that the space is stress-free?

I spent a large portion of my early career space planning for architects & designers.  When you first put the pencil to the paper I can really begin to feel the space.  Measurements don’t lie & in some cases a few inches can be life or death to a making the room function well.  Small spaces are fun to design.  I always fit to the standard allowances in residential which are really based on a human scale of movement.  If possible to be more generous than why not?  But it’s really human nature to gather in smaller spaces than larger ones, so create an environment that accommodates the basic furnishing needs used on the every day function & let the rest come together when the environment changes.

Area rugs are versatile and with more spaces having hardwood and stone floors, tell us how you tend to incorporate them in your design?

An area rug can either be the pallet to the room’s defining style & color theme, or it can become a basic essential finding itself lost in the doldrums.  If I can begin with a rug I will.  This could very well be one of the largest more costly purchases for the space & so it should set the mood of the room just right.  Putting more neutral upholstery on a patterned rug can fill the room with color & not make it feel heavy or bring the client to regret they may get tired of the sofa fabric.  It’s easy to change out the throw pillows.  Now if I can just convince the client that … yes it’s OK when 75% of the rug becomes covered up, I will have mastered the art of rug selling.  That is what a rug is for.  It should define the furnishings area & help to create a room within a room & give positive influence to the “layered” element I preach so much about.  A rug needs furniture friends.  Except for in a rug gallery, a rug floating alone by itself in the middle of an open space truly does look awkward.

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

Rugs are a special purchase.  I’ve sold every kind.  Ones from $99.00 up to half a million.  They’ve been machine made in China & hand knotted in Pakistan.  I rarely just place a rug unless I am so sure about the need for it.  It’s like buying a car, the new owner has to see it & love it.  Because I believe a rug should be a choice investment I want the client to  approve of the style, color and feel so it can become a convincing sale.  Once that’s secure then I can pull the rest together.

How much is too much when it comes to rugs? 

A rug is like art.  I don’t think it should be perceived that it needs to fit so completely into the space that it gets lost.  There’s nothing more cool than an antique rug that doesn’t quite fit the rooms shape, is missing some fringe or shows a bit of wear.  And there’s nothing more satisfying than designing a rug that fits so perfectly it screams you could have never just “found” this.  There’s character, intrigue, romance & a story that comes with a rug.  More than a sofa, or drapes or paint, a rug can be a whole conversation in itself.

Any final words of design advice?

On my business sign I have a quote from Frank Lloyd Wright that reads ” If you invest in beauty, it will remain with you all the days of your life”.  Whether it be art, a rug, furnishings, an attitude, or a love … if you live by that everything will be good.

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

I can be found online via a multitude of sources.  If you google Matthew Alexander Creations you should get two or three pages of information.  My website is www.matthewalexandercreations.com which is more informative than showy.  If you want the up-to-date goodies follow us on FaceBook.  This is where we post trends, topics, current events, charities, features, magazine releases & a bit of design humor.  Hope to see you there.

 

The Right Tonic: Subtle and Beautiful

Willem Stear’s Tonic Studio meets on the needs of clients by using subtle details and quality components to make their design dreams come true.

Thanks or joining us, Willem! Tell us a little bit about your training in interior design and how you came to choose both the profession and location.

I studied fine art in South Africa and then moved on to Interior Design. I come from a family of builders and architects, so Interior Design seemed like a natural career choice. I’ve been fortunate enough to work on projects all over the world. I relocated from Johannesburg to Atlanta in 2009. Although I’m based in Atlanta, the majority of my projects are in CA.

Is Atlanta a challenging market for interior decorating? What are some of the major influences for the area?

I specialize in contemporary design, so from that point of view I would say that, yes, Atlanta is a challenging market for contemporary designers / architects. Atlanta has a very long history of fantastic traditional work by fantastic traditional designers. There seems to be a shift towards clients wanting a more contemporary look though.

What’s you design philosophy? How do you try and implement it in your work?

Keep it simple! Often the best design ideas the simple ones. I try not to overwork a project. I rather ask myself: ‘What can I take away instead of add’. My clients often have a very clean aesthetic, monochromatic, calm. I find textures more interesting than patterns – it’s more organic.

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

I typically work on projects from the ground up. I like to be involved even before construction starts, that way we can be sure to create a cohesive product. Of course I do a room-by-room projects too.

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

Area rugs are probably the most important element in each room. I believe that rugs are works of art and shouldn’t necessarily ‘match’ the rest of the furniture – it should work, but not match. Area rugs can really change the mood of a room and is a quick way to transform the feel of a space.

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

Each project is different. I use a lot of viscose / wool combinations as I like the depth and dimension created by the contrasting elements. I also love the organic look of hemp and banana silk.

Any other tips or tricks for using area rugs?

Decide what you want your room to feel like, formal, informal, casual, etc. Area rugs can really change the feel of the room. When purchasing a rug its always good to get a few options and lay them out in the room and feel what it feels like before you make a decision.

 

 

An Interview with Jim Walters

Tell us a little bit about how you got into the design business.

At the Universityof Oregon I majored in marketing and business.  Upon graduation I created two popular retail clothing stores in Seattle.  In designing these stores and some of their clothing lines (active sportswear and sleepwear) I discovered that there was a connection between fashion and interior design that I wanted to explore, mainly involving self-expression and image projection.

What are some of the first things you try to notice when meeting a new client at their space?

I determine how the client wishes to use their rooms so that we make use of every possible living space.  I look for ways to express personality through a client’s interest in art collections, hobbies, travel, or any special affinities for different cultures and time periods.

Do you have a checklist?

Each client notebook contains a record of every meeting, and this details our next point of focus.  All pending products are tracked weekly on a Merchandise Order checklist.  Overall, the order of steps I’ve outlined for the design process are as follows:

Conceptualization: prioritize goals and explore all options.Schematic Design: establish theme and color scheme; blend function with aesthetics.  Construction: space planning, furniture design, technical drawings, lighting, electrical layout. Design Application: procurement and specification of backgrounds, furniture, art, accessories.  Project Management: construction, installation, supervision of craftsmen, fabricators, contractors.

Your job is filled with challenges. Which do you face most often?  

Juggling myriad details. Interior planning and design involves coordination of carefully scaled space plans and elevations representing a thoroughly conceived goal, then the timely ordering of product and materials that are not only appropriately integrated but properly sized!  Then comes the constant order tracking, supervision of deliveries and installations, quality control, and troubleshooting.  All this is done while simultaneously protecting the client from worry, calmly reassuring them that everything is going to be terrific.  Because my experience has taught me that it will be terrific!

Do you have a method to work through those problems?

Weekly staff meetings, daily punch lists, frequent status reports to clients, constant communication with contractors, subcontractors and fabricators, and being on-site as much as possible.

Describe to us the project you are most proud to have designed.

I specialize in whole-house design, commonly known as the “gut and remodel.”  When a client wants to collaborate on a whole new look and feel to their home, you embark on an outrageously exciting adventure. You can reconfigure floor plans, expand living spaces, introduce exotic new materials and veneers, and impart ideal function to the home – for the very first time, sometimes!

I experience similar gratification even with a single room remodel such as a master bathroom – easily the most commonly redesigned space, and I’ve certainly done my share of them.

What did it look like before?

Before, it looks like a house: quite often, a disorganized series of disconnected rooms cluttered with objects haphazardly displayed, with no coordinating aesthetic. After, it looks custom: one-of-a-kind, casually elegant, brimming with comfort and beauty.

We love rugs. Can you take us through how you use area rugs in your business?

More often than not, a room’s color scheme will emerge from the area rug we select.  I gravitate toward neutral earth tones in furniture, with splashes of color in art, accessories, pillows, and accent walls.  The area rug obviously must reflect colors compatible with the client’s preferences.

Which type of designs do you see yourself using more?  

Contemporary. Anything innovative.  I especially enjoy designing original rugs – if not creating the pattern, then selecting the colors.      Less?  Anything floral.

Which area rugs do you find most durable? 

Wool, with a high knot count per square inch. Least durable?  Polypropylene, low grade nylon.

These things can be expensive. Any assistance on how to cut down on the initial price? 

Custom design rugs with broadloom products.

I am cost conscious and I work hard to remain within a client’s budget, but I never scrimp on quality.  I believe that my primary responsibility is to steer the client toward the best possible result.  Over the years you become familiar with who is going to deliver a quality product within a reasonable lead time.  A designer acquires expertise in durability and variety but is also always open to new design concepts for inspiration.

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

Home design must be viewed as an investment.  When you work with professionals, you’re avoiding costly mistakes and unnecessary setbacks.  Your dollars buy more than product, they guarantee quality results.