Designer or Onliner?

Giving credit where credit is due, one of my coworkers, Mary Nowak,  presented this concept to me this week.  It seems in this digital age, everyone is trying to reap the rewards of shopping online instead of enlisting the advice of a designer or a local showroom.  Apparently it’s just as easy to get a sofa online as it is a date.  But just how much are we willing to sacrifice to save money? And who really looks like their online picture.  In the past, hiring a designer was a luxury few could afford or so they thought.  Many people found it intimidating as their designers suggested items that were priced well outside their comfort zone.  It was a time when it was more about the name than the style and that usually meant a hefty price to go along with it.  High priced designers were making a killing…and it was our profession they just about buried.

Hiring a designer is no longer just for a lucky few, it’s now for the savvy.  Over the years, scores of well-established design schools and universities have churned out a sufficient number of talented individuals to make access to a designer more reasonable and in a more consumer-friendly environment than ever before.  This, in turn, has changed the way many people approach furnishing a new home. Designers have the ability to negotiate wholesale pricing and even with their fees added, the price is still less than retail.  Plus you have a designer on your side to help avoid mistakes.

But still there are those who feel compelled to shop online, forfeiting any type of personal guidance or service in hopes of saving a few dollars.  For smaller, disposable items, it can make good sense but buying an item of value online can be a little like Russian roulette.  Who cares if the sofa you ordered online doesn’t fit?  Just put it in your next garage sale. What if the fabric looks terrible in person?  If there’s a defect or damage in shipping, or if the item breaks after only a few months, you will probably wish you had someone local to call to make the problem go away.  And the only person with a vested interest in your happiness other than yourself is your local designer or showroom.  I have a feeling when you call them that your call isn’t going to get rerouted to a customer service department in a third-world country.  (Peggy, can you hear me?)

Many better quality retail stores and design firms are eager to work with clients on smaller projects.  And this isn’t just because of the economy.  It’s because we have all gotten a little smarter over time.  We realize that helping a young couple with their first home and developing a relationship with them often results in future homes down the road.   It’s become the building block for smaller firms and for designers who are in the business for the long haul.  It’s residual business.   I have personally had clients start out with just a small living room and, over time, grow into several jobs for their relatives and also larger homes for themselves as their careers have blossomed.  When it comes to clients, a good investment always grows.

Onliners pride themselves on savings but in many cases, item for item, the prices end up about the same.  And if you have a problem once you get it home, you can usually resolve it easily and quickly.  Online companies often had hidden charges such as crating, in-home delivery, etc. that add to the price.  And it’s funny how they make you pay for it in full before you even take delivery.  Hmmm.

We all use online services for something.  Electronics, games, reviews, news and yes, even dates.  But a sofa or dining room set?  What if I answered the door and the sofa didn’t look anything like it did in the picture?  Ah, the date from hell.

 

Accessorize And Personalize

 

When it comes to putting the finishing touches on a space, most people, and some designers, are unsure of where to start and when to stop.  We’ve all seen it.  The beautiful new home with its well appointed and carefully selected furnishings.  But after looking around it’s obvious that they’ve haven’t actually lived in the space.

So why are we so afraid to put our personal belongings on display?  Creating a look that incorporates good taste with some personal style takes a bit of courage.  It’s not about how much you spend to accessorize or how many things you use but rather the types of things you choose that reflect your style.

Taking a good look at your lifestyle is the best place to start.  When I’m working with a client, I tend to look at things that they often overlook.  During the design process I get to know them a little and try to pick up on some character traits.   I look for things like daily activities, special interests, attire, hobbies, and habits.  These are things that make them familiar to the people around them and obviously give them the most personal comfort in their own lives.

Once I think I have a handle on their style, I start collecting…from my own sources as well as going through their personal things that I think they might be overlooking.  It usually takes a mix of both to finish the job since most people have too much of one thing or too many different things that don’t relate.

Then it’s time to have fun.  Using the mix, I like to focus on areas that catch the eye…bookcases, table tops, small forgotten spaces and places of high impact.  I like to surprise the eye, giving them something a little unexpected in the mix in a place not likely expected.

I also like to “landscape” the accessories.  This is creating a placement or arrangement to include different heights and shapes, mixing old and new, and using the shapes to play off the space (or negative space).  I like to tighten them up so they interact instead of placing individuals items floating by themselves.  They sort of become small groupings of familiar friends.  I like tall items to the back, thin items to contrast the bulky ones, sculptural shapes next to hard lines, old next to new and maybe a little greenery to add some life.  I tend to cover enough space but leave room to breathe.  It’s more of an art than a science and balance is the key.

Having come from traditional roots, I tend to like more than less. I think it’s more interesting to the eye and shows a little more depth of personality.  Collections have always been a favorite whether its artwork, souvenirs, books, or whatever my mood is at the time in my life.  And once collected, I never get rid of them…I just find a new home for them…and start looking for my next favorite thing.

 

“Made In America” Means Something

Sure, it’s easy to find an item cheaper every time we want to buy something but if you’re like most, sometimes it’s that one purchase we had to pay full price for that ends up being one of our favorite items.  Why is that?  Is it some form of self-justification for paying the price or was it the act of the splurge that gives us the satisfaction…the thought of treating ourselves to something we had come to deserve?

The truth may be the hardest thing to swallow.  Could it be that after owning it a little while, we actually realized it was more than worth the price we paid for it?  While foreign markets are loading the shelves with lower priced items, they are also lowering our standards of quality.  It’s like a tsunami and the rippling effects are costing us more than the dollars we are saving.

The furniture industry is no stranger to out-sourcing production to countries where employees are paid only a few dollars a day, where there are no insurance or retirement plans, there are no unions, and for the most part, there is little concern for the materials or safety used to get the job done.  And if you need customer service, well…it’s non-existent.  As a result, some of these manufacturers have grown by leaps and bounds while terminating most of their employees and abandoning their American factories.  How would you feel if you found out that your retirement fund owned stock in an American company who eliminated any chance of retirement for hundreds, if not thousands of American families?

Make no mistake.  American-made quality is like no other.  And there’s nothing better than treating ourselves to that quality whenever possible.  Thankfully, some American furniture manufacturers have taken a strong position in preserving this quality for those who can appreciate it and understand it.

One of the foremost furniture manufacturers that comes to mind is EJVictor.  Based in Morganton, North Carolina, they represent a tradition of very high quality, hand-made casegoods and upholstery items.  After doing business with them over the past 18 years, I can honestly say that no details or materials are spared to ensure that their product is second to none.  And their customer service is not just a department…it’s their method of business.   While others are pumping out stamped carvings or turnings, EJVictor is painstakingly producing theirs the old fashioned way…one piece at a time…using the talents of many second or third  generation furniture builders who are still practicing the art of craftsmanship.  One look and feel is enough to convince you of the difference.

Pieces of furniture that are made this way are the treasures of tomorrow.   They are the pieces that last a lifetime, and then some.   And yes, they cost a little more.  But they are also better designed, of higher quality, have finer finishes, offer more flexibility and will no doubt become one of those of favorite pieces that you made a splurge on.  And yes, you probably deserve it.

You’ll also have the added pleasure of knowing every dollar you spend on it, from the manufacturer, to the trucking company to the retail dealer, will be kept here at home to benefit all of us as a whole.

It’s just one more way you can make a difference in helping our country get back on its feet and own a piece of American quality.

 

Visit EJVictor’s site by clicking here

First Impact-Making The Right Impression For Whom?

It’s not really something you learn in school, nor is it the kind of thing most clients would be willing to admit when furnishing their home.  But believe it or not, other people make their first impression of your home within 10 seconds of entering it.  And sometimes that impression is difficult to change   So the question is…should we be concerned with what they think?  To answer the question, we have to look beyond purely our own ego.

Drawing on my previous years of doing some high-end model homes for a couple of Florida’s leading builders, one of the key elements in home sales was the point of impact.  What does the potential buyer see as soon as they open their door?   This created one of the contributing factors to what has become a standard in home design…the open floor plan.

The open floor plan can easily make a home feel larger and customers can immediately envision a family-gathering lifestyle.  The cooking/eating area exposed to the entertainment area speaks of family meals and movies, weekend BBQ’s, birthday and holiday parties, and a place where the world is safe.  These are powerful mental images that turn lookers into buyers.

Keeping that in mind, it’s important to plan your furniture layout not to obstruct the view, especially if your pool or view lies in the background.   Furniture with it’s back facing the entry should be the smaller, lighter pieces such as chairs, and not your sofa.   Brighter homes give a sense of good health and well-being.  Colors, textures and styles all play an important role.  And don’t forget to dress the windows.  They are the frames for your picture.

So, first impact has an affect on sale/resale.  It also has an affect on value.  A home that has been well designed and furnished, more often than not will sell faster and for a higher price.  When people are buying a new home, they are not looking for the added expense of renovations or trying to figure out how to use the space.  It’s more than just a kitchen, bathrooms and bedrooms to them.  It’s how they imagine living in it.  Or what it will be like to wake up to it on the weekends.  And trust me, the more beautiful and interesting it is, the more desirable it becomes.   So while you may think it’s not important to you what other people think, the day will probably come when you may want to rethink your position.

With the price of homes being what they are, who wouldn’t want their investment to look like more than they paid for it?

So it’s not really caring what other people think about your home but rather how they will subconsciously respond to it.  And if they can feel it, trust me, you can feel it.  And if there’s one person you should care about how your home makes them feel, it’s you.

 

 

Design Project Gets Published

For the most part, the business of interior design is just that.  Business.  Calls to vendors, making selections and reselections for clients, hours spent at the drafting table pulling your hair out wondering if the client will be on board with the concept, and phone calls.  Lots of phone calls.  Pricing hundreds of items from wallpapers to fabrics to furniture.  Reviewing construction plans, selecting finishes, hardware, lighting fixtures and window treatments.  And more phone calls.

It’s kind of like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  Hours of planning and organizing and fitting the pieces together to make an overall picture that hopefully your clients will love.  Sometimes the pieces just fall into place and sometimes those last few pieces seem to elude you until you’re about to put the whole thing back in the box and start a new one.

As an owner of a design firm, there’s a little added pleasure to the business to make sure that not only your design team is in sync with the client and on schedule as well as budget, but you also have to keep the business machine running…negotiating with factories, buying inventory, showroom issues, maneuvering the world of insurance and licenses, invoicing, payroll, and worrying about little things like work schedules, credit standing, advertising, internet marketing, building maintenance, etc.  Lots of fun stuff.

But like any other business, there is definitely a reward to the business.  It’s that magic phone call you receive from a publisher letting you know that the hard work and talent of your design team has paid off and your firm’s project is going to press.  It’s a nice recognition from the design community since it’s not the kind of media coverage you can buy.

Recently, one of Retro Interiors’ projects that was completed earlier this year was published by Gulfstream Media, owners of Broward Design, Boca Life, Fort Lauderdale, Gold Coast and Miami Design magazines.   While we are very proud and thankful to receive this type of notoriety, we are the most proud of our designers and staff, creative and dedicated individuals who continue to work each day giving their best, helping our clients realize their dreams and expectations,  and who make coming to work each day a pleasure.  And of course, our extremely grateful for our really great clients…who trust in our vision and who make all of this possible every day.

Here are some pictures from our published project.  I hope you enjoy looking at them and find a little inspiration of your own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mix It Up-Contemporary Gets Interesting

Most people still think of choosing an interior design theme as one style or another.  Some prefer the sleek minimal effects of contemporary while others enjoy that warm, cozy traditional look.  Of course nothing is just that simple any more.  Style-bending is quickly becoming the norm.

Contemporary furnishings still seem to dominate the furniture market and consumer sales in the South Florida market and it was still the main attraction at the Fall High Point Furniture Market.   However, the hard edge design that used to be the hallmark of contemporary seems to be getting a little fuzzy.  It is being influenced by the desire for something more comfortable and relaxed.

An example of this mix can be seen in one of Bernhardt’s new bed introductions.

While the design and structure of the bed is very linear and contemporary, it has been softened by its covering in fabric and nailhead trim.  This allows the consumer to pair it with almost any type of night stand and almost any style.

The bed is a new interpretation of a poster bed and the only one like so far on the market.   Currently, it’s only offered in one fabric.  The construction of the bed is rock solid.

The bed will be available around March, 2012.

The reverse is also true where traditional items are being modernized with the use of finishes as is the case with the this chow leg cocktail shown in chrome.   Maybe your living room is starting to look a lot like Grandma’s house and you want to spice it up.  Or maybe you’re getting tired of your sparse contemporary living room and want to add some less rigid pieces.  Either way, they’re your rules and it’s your game.  Jump into the pool of creativity and express yourself.

The finish is a high polished chrome and should be available early this year in limited supply.  The price is surprisingly affordable compared to other higher priced contemporary manufacturers and the quality is just as good.

For those wanting a little more of a statement, this Georgian-inspired chair was a show stopper.   Instead of using the expected stain finish, EJVictor lacquered the frame black and then applied the fabric to make a contemporary statement.  This would be a great combination with something very contemporary such as a chunky lucite table.  The fabric and finish choices from this company, not to mention the handcrafted workmanship of each piece,  keep EJVictor regarded as one of the finest furniture lines made in the USA.

The same held true for upholstery and textiles.  Many of the new sofa styles were larger in scale and more on the contemporary side but more often than not, the fabrics that were shown on them were mostly in solids, and usually in a woven texture of some type.   Rugs, which always seemed extremely traditional, seemed to be simpler and more geometric, also a response to the demand for contemporary and more understated interiors.

Of course, these are only the appetizers for what lies ahead on the furniture menu.  Some of the other companies that introduced exceptionally original products were Four Hands, Raymond Waites Couture, Global View and Design Institute Of America.