“Wallpaper, Wallpaper, Where Art Thou?”

For some of us, wallpaper never left the room.   I’ve always enjoyed using it as another layer of texture or pattern in my overall design scheme.  For me, it adds a finished feeling that paint can’t always provide.   For many, the idea of sifting through hundreds, if not thousands of samples, can be a tedious task but for those who are willing to invest the time, and the expense,  stand to enjoy the rewards for years to come.

Wallpaper is a classic interior design element.  It is to the walls what draperies are to windows.   It can transform a simple apartment into a showcase or tame the largest room down to scale.  It can be dramatic or subtle, contemporary or traditional.   This is a quick look, and some inspiration from other designers as well, on how and where wallpaper might make your home a little more appealing.

The first trick of the trade is drama.  The walls become your art and focal point.  A good example of this is this dining room encased in this black chinese-inspired bamboo design.  Notice how the furnishings, fabrics and rug have been kept very simple so your eye is focused on the walls.  And not only is the color of the paper dramatic, so is the scale.

 

 

Here is another example of drama, but a little more subtle and contemporary.  The horizontal stripes actually make this room feel larger than it is and it adds a bold design statement as well.  Again, the pattern and color have not been upstaged by the furnishings.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a classic look without overdoing it.  The wainscoting panels on the lower half make the architectural statement while the wallpaper adds a backdrop for the design.  Another note is the unexpected pattern which suggests a sense of sophistication.  The furnishings are more eclectic than one would expect, making it appealing to a younger clientele.

 

For those who appreciate simplicity, “green” elements and a sense of calm, textured papers such as this bamboo wallcovering are a perfect solution.   It’s just at home with contemporary as it is with traditional furnishings.  The direction depends on the style you prefer.  I’ve used in bedrooms as it is and also have had it painted to create an even allover color.  It’s also great in studies, dining rooms and foyers.

 

 

The scale of the pattern can make or break a room.  If you don’t have the budget for elaborate furnishings, consider making your walls the investment.  This paper is an outstanding, if not brave, choice.  It says a lot about the personality of the homeowner and creates a room that is not easily forgotten but very easy to live in.

 

 

 

 

For those who like a little more formality in their lives, wallpaper can make the difference between ordinary and extraordinary.  In this dining room, while the furnishings are as beautiful as the architectural details, the paper adds that little extra something that finishes it off.  The pattern is subtle and the color is very soothing.  It also highlights the structure of the room and defines it as a place of importance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t be afraid to introduce the unexpected.  When the pattern and color work well with the interior palette, forget about the trappings of textbook style.  This otherwise contemporary print is perfect for this traditional setting and once again, adds youth to an otherwise mature interior.  The geometrical pattern is an ideal complement to architecturally inspired interiors.

 

 

Likewise, this geometric pattern works very well with this tone-on-tone transitional interior.  The smaller scale pattern expands the room and provides a tailored atmosphere.  While the effect seems easy enough to achieve, finding the exact pattern and shade of color to match the coordinating fabrics takes patience and time.  Notice the oval mirrors become the “jewels” in this room.

 

And then there is always the design sense of the French.  The application of the same toile wallpaper pattern as the predominant fabric pattern in the room is something they’ve been doing for centuries.  It always works.  Notice they have kept the period of furnishings relative to the style.  A classic at any time.

 

 

All in all, wallpaper is making a huge return to interiors in a time when we want our homes to be our sanctuary.   It provides a level of personal variety unmatched by furnishings that are available.  It’s a great way to express yourself without having to make a lifetime investment.  So the next time you’re thinking about painting a room a new color, talk to your designer and see if they can’t take it one step further.  And have fun with it.

 

 

“The Color of Summer”

The Colors Of Summer

Ever since the time when we were young, the idea of summer meant fun, friends and freedom.  Even though most of us no longer get the summer off anymore, we somehow continue to look forward to it like some sort of annual reward for a year of hard work.   With winter behind us, we begin to plan vacations, cookouts, or maybe just a plan of getting a good tan and reading a few good books.  It’s a time for both fun and rest.

If we were to put colors to the time of the year, summer would be the most colorful.  Maybe because those colors remind of us of summers past or maybe they just inflict a feeling of happiness.  It’s a time when everything blooms, when we spend time at the beach and county fairs, and gardens are filled with fruits and vegetables that beg to be eaten.  Color is everywhere and we love it.

So to pay respect to our summer fantasies, I’ve decided to dedicate this blog to an area of design in which summer plays an important role.   This is a photo blog about our backyards, patios and porches, and that little piece of our world where we can create our own vacation.

 

Nothing feels cleaner and quieter, than the strong presence of white.  Like fresh clean sheets, it invites us to rest.  The use of green repeats the theme of nature and invites guests to feel welcome.   The patio furniture is kept simple so as to not detract from the overall effect of the use of color.

 

 

The mixture of materials can create an intimate area that is filled with character.  This can make an otherwise small space seem more interesting and memorable.  As always, the garden is part of the furnishings, not just a backdrop.

 

The patio should be an extension of the home.  The use of the same flooring makes the interior expand to the outside and makes the house feel larger.  The style should also be in keeping with the style of the owner and house.  This makes moving from one area to the other appear seamless.  In this case, the natural tones of the house have been repeated and the large scale of the home has been tamed by the simplicity of design.

Outdoor fireplaces have become a major focal point for outdoor living.  They are great to take a chill out of the nighttime air and provide a warm ambient light for entertaining or just relaxing at the end of the day.

 

For those who prefer the indoor patio, nothing speaks of summer more than the cool color of blue.  Blue ceilings, originally designed to fool birds into thinking it was the sky so they wouldn’t build nests, have become an icon of southern beachfront homes.  The addition of same color prints and accents, along with classic wicker furnishings and a painted wood floor, give this porch the feeling of a private guest house.

And patios aren’t just for patio furniture.  Draperies, used for backdrops or to disguise the neighbors view, are kept light to catch the breeze.  Notice in this photo that the main pieces of upholstery are contemporary but they have introduced a mixture of accessories for character.  The symmetrical arrangement and clean lines add to a more formal atmosphere.

Sometimes you just need to carve out a little niche’ just for yourself.  A single comfortable piece surrounded by things you love, old and new, will give you a place that belongs to you.  Have fun with the colors trying to make the fabrics feel as organic as the foliage surrounding them.

Whether you’re looking for a dramatic space for entertaining or just a private getaway, let nature play the most important role.  Keeping things a little more organic will increase the restfulness whether it’s teak furniture, clay pots and urns, stonework, or even a water feature.  Divide your spaces up into different areas but try to keep one main focal point such as the pool, the gardens or even a large artifact.  Have fun with it and change it up a little every year like a new vacation spot.  Summer is only here for a short while.

“Who’s Driving This Bus?”

 

There’s one thing lot of people overlook when they decide it’s time to furnish their home.  One of the most important decisions is whether to do it themselves or fess up on their lacks of skills and hire a professional.  All humor aside this time, this is serious business and some serious money.

There’s a good argument for both sides.  Some people are able to do it themselves and have a good eye for putting together a nice home.   My experience has taught me that most of these people usually end up taking much longer to complete it and usually spend more money than they had planned.   Typically, at least some of the honest ones that I know, will admit to a few mistakes they are living with until they’ve gotten their money’s worth before they replace them.   However, to most of these people, it’s the process that they want to savor, the endless weekends of roaming around furniture stores and the endless nights of agonizing over details like tile selections, lighting fixtures, paint colors, etc.  Can you  say “self torture?”

Some people enlist the help of friends or neighbors while others entrust the whole process to a salesman from a local store.  There’s nothing wrong with any of these assuming the friends, neighbors and salesman are knowledgeable…because they are doing it with your money.  The big question is who is taking responsibility if things don’t go as planned?   I’ve known a few people who’ve ended up in therapy and minus some good friendships as a result.   Still, there are plenty of talented people out there who are starting their careers in the design business that will someday rise to the top.

If the idea of spending every weekend for the next year shopping for furniture, or the idea that you might have to fire a close friend because you don’t think painting every room in your house beige is a smart decision, you always have the option of hiring a professional interior designer to take the heat.  Beyond saving your marriage, they may save your home from a design disaster.

Contrary to belief, most good designers will actually save you money in the long run, assuming you have your wits about you when you make your compensation arrangements with them.  Make sure to figure in their commissions or design fees in the overall budget.  Some of the biggest savings will be in your time.  The designer will do the leg work and usually bring you in at the end for your approval.   Another huge savings is the money saved from not making mistakes.  Designers are especially trained to work in scale to make sure pieces fit as planned.  This can save a lot of heartache not to mention a lot of space in the garage from storing that oversized sofa that didn’t fit in the living room and couldn’t be returned.  Mistakes are one of the most costly components in the design business and when you’re making those choices yourself, you have to own up to them.  When it happens, and it will, you’ll wish you had a good designer on speed dial.  However, the single biggest advantage of a hiring a professional will be the final outcome.  Most homes, in their natural state, do not inspire many homeowners to design beyond the expected.  A good case in point are these before and after pics.  It’s a good example of how an ordinary space can be transformed into an oasis.

Before

After

Designers can also save you money by educating you on your purchases.  The least expensive sofa can be the most expensive, especially if you don’t learn the lesson the first time.  It’s cheaper to buy a better sofa than to buy two inexpensive sofas…and it will still outlast both of them in terms of quality and style.

One big concern about hiring a designer is how to select the right one.   That’s kind of like asking who would make the best President.   It all depends on who you ask.  There are a lot of people who call themselves designers since the design field has few regulations.   Until recently, Florida was a leader in the interior design field and required anyone calling themselves a “designer” or “interior designer” to be licensed by the state to ensure their qualifications.   Qualifying for that license meant accredited educational training and/or extensive experience in the field before taking a grueling exam that is not so easy to pass.   This law was recently rescinded.   It’s now open season on potential design clients so do your due diligence before making your choice.   I would recommend making a few background checks.  Get some references and check their background. Are they licensed?  ASID members or affiliates?  Have they been in business awhile?  Make sure you’re comfortable giving this person large sums of your money because it’s going to happen.  If they suggest paying vendors directly, be very, very careful!

Once you hire the designer, step back if you want the best possible outcome.  Too many clients hire designers and then try to control every aspect of the job.  They are usually the ones that are the least thrilled with the final outcome because it looks like it’s missing something.  And it usually is…it’s missing the designer’s taste that’s been replaced by the clients choices.  An experienced designer can read into your lifestyle and create something for your future rather than the present.  They can avoid pitfalls and trends that will quickly date a look, helping save you money over the years to come.   They can expose you to ideas and products that you probably don’t even know exist in some cases.   Think of it like hiring a lawyer.  You wouldn’t hire one and then cite case numbers to help him defend your case.  Let them do what you’ve paid them to do.

In the end, anyone who plans on furnishing a room or a whole house can afford a designer.  It might be a small budget or the budget of a small country.  Designers don’t dictate the prices of items.  They just help you find the best ones that are in your price range.   A designer can be your best ally but you have to be honest when you talk to them about expectations and limitations.  Be honest and straight forward.  If you do, you’ll get more than you’ve bargained for.  If your budget is unrealistic, they can help you figure out which items you should start with.  Sometimes you might need to break it down into a few phases over time but you should have a long term design plan.

However, if you’re thinking about tackling the project on your own, let’s see if you’re equipped for some of the basics.  Here are a few simple questions you’ll probably be asked during the process.  (answers below)

  1. If you’re using polished stone in your shower, should you use sanded or unsanded grout?
  2. If you have incandescent lighting in your kitchen ceiling, can you use LED lighting under the counter?
  3. How many ceiling lights can you put on one switch?
  4. If you’re hanging wallpaper, should you use oil based or water based prep?
  5. If you are building a banquette in your kitchen, what is the best seat height?
  6. If you’re buying a rug for under your dining room, how big should it be?
  7. How big should your chandelier be if your dining table is 60” round?
  8. If you have allergies, why type of cushion material should you use in the sofa?
  9. How much bigger is a king bed than a queen bed?
  10. Should you lay your wood floor parallel or perpendicular to the sliding glass doors?

Simple questions?  Maybe.  Maybe not.  But the wrong answers could be costly or annoying to live with.  Hiring a good designer also has a lot of other benefits also.   They are trained to look at your lifestyle, how you plan to use the house, accessibility for handicapped clients, fire ratings, building codes, safety issues, manufacturer’s reputations, space requirements, etc.   Of course they also bring a huge knowledge of how to select the proper furniture styles and which ones work best together.  Over time, you will build more than a beautiful home together, if they are a good designer you will probably build a relationship that will last for many, many years.  They are one of the few people that you will meet that will get to know you like only a few ever will.  And with that knowledge, they will always be there for you to make sure your best interests are looked after.

If nothing else, do yourself a favor and invite a designer over for a chat.  Look at their portfolio and get to know them a little.  Tell them what you have in your head and leave yourself open for new ideas.  And if you decide to hire them, start planning your weekends because you’re going to have a lot more free time on your hands.

 

 

Answers:

  1. Polished stone or not, use sanded grout.  It’s more porous and dries quicker.
  2. Incandescent light gives off a warm white light, LED almost always has cold blue cast.  If both lights are on at the same time, it can look a bit odd.
  3. It depends on the wattage.  Best rule of thumb is 600 watts to a switch.  Larger capacity switches are available but they usually stick out of the wall to allow venting of heat.
  4. Always oil.  If you ever need to remove the paper, it won’t pull the face off your drywall.
  5. Dining height is 19-20” depending on the softness of the cushion.  This is slightly higher than normal seating height for a living room.
  6. A good rule of thumb in 36” beyond the sides of your table.  Otherwise, when guests pull their chairs out to sit down to eat, the back chair legs will be off the rug and the chair will not sit evenly.
  7. I always like to suggest chandeliers to be about 2/3 the width of the table.  The most common mistake is buying fixtures that are too small.   The distance from the table can vary from 30-36” depending on shape of fixture.  Personally, I like to oversize the fixtures a bit for effect.
  8. Poly filled cushions, preferably with spring cores.  Never any down feathers or latex.
  9. A king is 16” wider than a queen but not any longer.  And whatever you do, don’t buy a king bed and put a 24” wide nightstand next to it.  It will look like a postage stamp in most cases.
  10. You never want to look down the joints in the wood toward a major light source.  The “snaking” of joints can be very distracting.  Run the direction of the wood perpendicular to the light source.

 

“The Last Supper”

THE LAST SUPPER!

I love meeting with new clients.  They are always so full of hope.   They have enough dreams and wishes to fill volumes of notebooks.  I wish I had written down some of the most “original” ones over the years but on the outside chance one of them might read this blog, I think I’ll save that for my autobiography when I retire.  After all, you know us designers are all about keeping secrets.  Right.

One of my favorite ones comes at the end of a long interview session with a new client.  They’ve just told me how they want their house to be an extension of their own personality.  Ok, stop here for a minute while I digress.  The client I was speaking with has about 65 cigarette burns on the carpet next to the bed.  True story.  Just the thought of “drawing upon their personality” to design their home conjures all sorts of ideas…of course not many of them would win any design awards.

Anyway, the interview continues.  They would like seating for at least 10-12 in their dining room which is approximately 12’ x 15’.  Figuring that the chairs alone take up at least two feet each, that should leave about 2” for walking…oh, and let’s not forget they must have a buffet for serving when guests come over.  I guess they need more room for ashtrays.   As I’m about to explain the issues of space planning they push me into to the living room.  We proceed to go room to room.  They’ve obviously given this a lot of thought before I arrived.

And so the interview and walk-thru goes…on and on…and the list has gotten so long that I’m wondering if I have a backup pen.  After we’ve spent hours going through each room and learning about all their little quirks that must be met, we sit down to discuss the design contract.  Mind you, our interior design contract is fairly simple and straightforward.  All is going well up to the point where we need to discuss the budget for the job.

First, let me say there are a few standards in figuring budgets.  I have developed my own rules of thumb over the years but that’s my little trade secret.  Suffice it to say considerations need to be made regarding size of home, cost of home and location of home.  But budgets are important to know before starting a project.  I’ve seen so many designers, and some pretty experienced ones that usually work on a cost-plus basis (go figure… the more it costs, the more they make) take clients down the spending path without any sort of barometer of where they will end up until it’s too late.  Unless the client has given you carte blanche and you know for a fact that cost is no issue, this will have devastating results.  My advice is get all your selections and costs determined up front before you start making purchases.

Anyway, getting back to my story, I’m sitting with the clients.  I have my 62 notepads of wish lists.  I ask them what they feel would be a comfortable budget for the work we’ve discussed.   For a second I thought I could cut the silence with a knife.  Then, as if they’re offering up their first born, they lay it on me.  Of course, the budget isn’t even close to what it needs to be.  Seriously, the dining room set they wanted is more than half their whole budget.  Somehow they expect me to install new floors (hopefully not carpet in the bedroom again), purchase new furniture, paint the interior and let’s not forget about accommodating all the little quirky requests like the fact the granddaughter comes to visit and she needs what seems like an entire college library set-up in the guest bedroom.  You get the picture.  You just have to wonder how such otherwise smart, successful, worldly people could be oblivious to the retail world for so many years.  Personally, I don’t buy it.  After all, the car in their driveway cost twice that of their entire budget.  And, they have another one parked in the garage.  The apartment is a luxury oceanfront condo in Boca Raton, Florida.   I know when I get clients like this that the only way to get them to accept a realistic budget is to walk them through the process piece by piece so they can see for themselves what the actual costs will be.

I take out a floor plan and roughly sketch an entire furniture layout for them.  After 30 years, you sort of have a knack for this.  I draw in ¼” scale in my sleep.  I give them the sketch and ask them to sit down together and put a price on each item that they think is a reasonable amount they would expect to pay.  Every sofa, end table, lamp, rug, etc.   I also make a short list on the side for items like paint, flooring, electrical, etc., so they can put a number on those items even though I know those amounts will require a little more research.

Somehow I have a feeling when we meet again, the list of requirements will have decreased or the budget will have been miraculously infused from The Rockefeller Foundation.  Funny how that happens when they realize they either have to rise to the occasion or do without.  And so, the hour of reckoning has arrived.   I never like to feel too sure that this method will work.  I always run the risk of having a client realize they can’t afford to do the whole project as they had expected and both of us leave the negotiating table empty handed.   That is never my intent.  Sometimes it might mean doing the project in phases.  I always feel there are options to some degree.

Thankfully in this case, the option was determined by the fact that the client knew exactly what they wanted but were trying to lowball the job.  They were very aware of their taste level and expectations about quality.   The estimated budget that they came up with was not that far off from what I had originally thought it would be.  Thankfully, there were in a position to adjust their numbers.  We settled on an overall range in price and the project was a go.

The next step takes us to the point at hand.  One of things I find that is a huge waste of time for both the designer and client is that whole notion of shopping together, fashionable lunches and making a day out of finding a new sofa.  I’ve been around that barn so many times I’m embarrassed to say.  It’s fine for a beginner or someone who doesn’t have many clients but it just never worked for me.  Worse, the clients are subjected to what I call “The Last Supper” effect.

This is how it works.  Let’s say that the first item on the list is the main upholstery for the living room.  This sets the tone for the room and usually it’s one of the first rooms you see when entering the house.  Of course it’s a very important piece and should make a statement.  The details are crucial.  The fabric chosen should be something that is unique, tasteful and luxurious.  Let’s not forget some crucial decorative pillows are a must, trim included.  And while we’re at it, we should upgrade the cushion cores to make sure when someone sits in it that they notice this is no ordinary sofa from a furniture store.   Let’s add some special cording and some nail heads to finish it off.  Perfect.  We can cut some other corners down the road, but not the sofa.  DUMB IDEA!

This client just bought the sofa like they were ordering off the menu at the Last Supper.  This is not going to be the last sofa they will ever buy, and let’s remember they have a budget.   If you have the budget for an EJ Victor sofa, then by all means, go for it.  It’s probably one of the finest made in the United States.  But if your budget is $3000, you might consider another brand that offers comfort and style.  That’s a reasonable amount for a nice sofa.  Once you start the trend of upgrading items, there is no place to stop without it being obvious.  This is where the dog and pony show needs to end or your bank account is going to be in for a rude awakening.  This is where you need to step back and let the designer do their homework before making any more purchases.

This is a good example where a client can be led down the primrose spending path, each item having the utmost of importance and the budget is thrown out the window.  This is a bad practice that has given way to the notion that only the rich can afford a designer.  My design staff and I work very differently.  The designers select the items and make a comprehensive presentation.  Otherwise, we lose control of the job and the client ends up unhappy with the final outcome and costs.  In contrast, once we know the budget, we have a handle on what level of goods will fit the budget and we only select from vendors in that price range.  After we have assembled the complete job, we do all the pricing and make reselections where needed.  By the time the client is called in for a presentation, every detail and cost is worked out.  In doing so, the client can focus on the overall design.  They can see what the entire job will cost down to the penny before they spend their first dollar.   At that point, they can make whatever changes are needed.  There are always a few fabrics or pieces of furniture that they might want to change but overall it has kept them in budget.  Most of the time, we hit the target on design and price in a fraction of the time it would otherwise take.

No one realizes how important the final outcome of designing a new home can be.  We stake our reputation on it day after day.  The decisions we make in the selection process are based on experience and education.   It’s more than just style we’re looking for at that point.  We’re considering the price, the construction, delivery times, sizing, comfort, the reliability of the vendor and most importantly, the expectations of the client.  Multiply that times the thousands of decisions that each client requires, and you’ll understand what goes on behind the scenes.

So if you’re starting a new project keep your wits and wallet about you until you have your ducks in a row.  Determine your budget if you need one and wait for your final presentation before you start writing blank checks.  Trust me, this won’t be your last supper.

Bill Philby, ASID

“So many bloggers, not enough Kleenex!”

Reading through countless blogs on various subjects of interests, you have to wonder just how many accumulative hours are spent each year by people spewing information and thoughts on subjects appealing to niche audiences.  Apparently, I am one of those people who find it fascinating to read the thoughts of others, feeling like sort of a peeping tom on their personal thoughts and getting those occasional glimpses into their personal lives.  It doesn’t take long before you feel like you’ve formed some sort of fantasy relationship

Well, after some reservations, my friends and business partner have convinced me to step in the arena.  I’m not the world’s best writer but I’ve been told I have an unusual way of looking at things.  I’ve never really been someone who’s been short on opinions or biting my tongue so I’ve decided to add my two cents on this business of interior design.

I know, Oh God, another decorator telling me how to make my home fabulous(the first and last time you’ll ever see me use that word).  Trust me, I’ve heard it all before too and that’s one of the reasons I think it’s time for a little more sensible approach that will hopefully enhance your life instead of turning you into a manic-stricken fashion freak on a credit card binge.

In the posts to come, I’ll address design issues on everything from “housesnarking” to landscaping your accessories.  You’ll get an insider’s view of what it’s really like to be a designer and not the image that is portrayed on television.   Design is more than just picking the right color combination or choosing some ridiculous “theme” or “costume” for your house.

First of all, a little background.   I was raised in the no-nonsense Midwest.  I graduated from the University of Wisconsin with a BFA.  Fast forward past some bumbling jobs and a couple attempts as an entrepreneur.  Then back for some more stable employment at which time I started to pay a little more attention to crafting my skills and getting my ASID status.  In 1994, I decided to make the plunge into my own business one more time, leaving behind job security, a steady paycheck and my sanity.  One of the most talented and knowledgeable people I had met along the way was Mitchell, the guy who would become my business partner and close friend.   When I told him I was quitting a great job with benefits, risking all my retirement money to open a showroom and would probably work for free for the next couple years, he asked if he could join me for the journey.   What an idiot he was.   And so the partnership began.

Having spent the previous 15 years before 1994 doing interior design, nine of them in Boca Raton working with some of the most demanding clients on the face of the earth, I decided it was time to take a new approach.  The idea was to open a showroom that would incorporate the old and the new, a “retrospective” eye on all things good, new and old that stand the test of time.  The concept of having a showroom meant that we could buy the best furniture lines directly and not have to pay third party prices.  I could pick and choose a personal selection.  This would mean a huge investment but would give us an edge over the other work-at-home designers who work on a cost plus basis.  Most importantly, clients could sample the quality of manufacturers that weren’t readily available to the general public.  In 1994 it was unheard of to find Baker, EJ Victor or Artifacts, to name a few, in public showrooms.  They were usually only available to other designers through design showrooms.   This was about to change.

The name Retro came to Mitchell’s wife in a dream just weeks before the store was opening in May of 1994. .  There we were, building walls, installing lighting and flooring, searching day and night for those items we would be showcasing…and not even a clue what the name would be.  What were we thinking?  I figured there must have been some divine reason that the name came to Jody in a dream which I thought would reveal itself at a later date.  Wishful thinking.  Who knew that the term “retro” would emerge several years later to mean something entirely different.  It’s a hurdle we still address.   Oh well, a rose is a rose…blah blah blah.

For 17 years we’ve operated a showroom with some of the best furniture and accessory lines in the world.  A team of six designers, showroom salespeople, accounting department, receiving, warehouses,  and then six years ago, the addition of Island City Traders, our sister showroom in Wilton Manors that features contemporary mid-priced designer furnishings.  With a combined staff of 22, the economy tanked.  Competitors were filing bankruptcy left and right, the DCOTA was becoming a ghost town, hurricane Wilma blew the roof off our offices and real estate prices were cut almost in half.  It seemed as if the deck was stacked against us.  Thankfully, good clients and our reputation kept our business humming along.

Now almost five years later, we’re entering a new chapter.   We’ve decided to combine our two showrooms and design staff under one roof.  We chose to use our Wilton Manors location since the showroom was twice the size of Retro’s showroom.  That plus the area is more progressive and energized.  I’ve never seen two stores with completely different identities operate under one roof before but it sounded like an interesting concept so we did it.  I’ll keep you posted on the progress as our first year progresses.

And with all that out of the way, I need to start putting together my thoughts for my new blog.  I’m going to try to write on a new subject every week along with a few tidbits of interest.  If something comes up during the week that I think you could benefit from, I’ll share it.  Most of the blogs that I read seem more like a resource site for other designers or they’re so serious about proving what talented designers they are that I find them too pretentious.   Honestly, after all these years,  it’s boring.

I’m sure there must be people out who are less interested in what the rich and famous are doing and more interested in learning design techniques that they can apply to their own life.  Judging by the reduced size of Architectural Digest, I don’t think I’m the only person who feels this way.  I’ve found clients are less interested in the technical aspects and periods of design and more interested in making sure the completed project was an interior that complimented their lifestyle and personality.  This applies to clients of all financial ranges.

Most importantly, all people have quirks.

I repeat.  All people have quirks.  Just get over it. Some of them you wouldn’t believe if I told you.

This doesn’t make them wrong.  It makes them interesting.  One of the biggest reasons I got in this business is because I like people.  My clients have run the gambit from Roberta Peters (The Met) to Ricky Williams (Miami Dolphins) and a ton of people in between.  Everyone has a different personality and I get to use that personality to create something different for each of them.   It’s like a puzzle.  And the harder the puzzle, the more I enjoy my job.

I’m also interested in hearing comments or questions you might have in trying to find solutions to a specific problem.   Feel free to submit a picture of the area/item in question.   I’ll try to respond to the most pertinent (and sometimes most unusual) dilemmas.  Instead of drawing conclusions based on textbook information, I’ll relate it to you based on my years of practical experience in the field and what my thought process is in coming up with my solution.   I’ll try to keep it easy to understand.   I may share your questions but will never divulge your identity.

This whole blogging thing is a new experience for me.  Let’s take it one week at a time and see where it goes.

See you next week.

Bill