Tips For Making Smart Purchases For Your Home

Island City Traders (showroom display)

Probably one of the biggest fears that clients bring to the table is that their design project is going to cost a lot more than they are willing to spend.  As result, many who are not familiar with how interior designers work, tend to tackle the project on their own admitting they are willing to settle for less of a result if it means being more comfortable with the end price.

This whole concept opens the door for some good conversation.  While there may be some unscrupulous interior designers out there, for the most part, they are only there to help you get the end result that you are looking for at a price you can afford.  Their relationships with different showrooms and tradesmen usually offset the cost of their fees so in the end, the price is about the same as if you did it yourself.

However, if you’ve chosen to tackle your design project on your own, there are a few helpful tips for making smart purchases that you will be happy with for years to come.

Island City Traders (showroom display)

First, you need to have some idea of the design direction.  Without this, you’re likely to end up with a collection of unrelated items hoping that when they come together you will have created your own style.  More likely, you’ll have created your own mess.

Look through different magazines and find homes that appeal to you.  Clip them out and keep them in a folder.  It’s best to do this over a period of time rather than all at once so that you don’t fall into the trap of falling in love with a design “theme.”  A good example was the Tommy Bahama style that came on strong a few years ago and then vanished overnight.  Being stuck with a house full of this style now would represent an investment that did not pay off.   You need a style that will last the test of time.

Next, look at your home in terms of space.  The layout is extremely important and has a huge impact on the finished product.  Ignore your current layout and furnishings and treat it as a blank canvas.  Now look at the features the room may offer.  Consider the light source, length of walls, location of windows, doorways, etc.   Then think how to make the most use of them.   Remember to keep things in balance but that doesn’t mean everything has to be symmetrical.   Just be sure not to make the room too heavy in one area.

It’s easier for some people to draw it out on paper in order to move things around and experiment.  Designers do this with every project.  To do this, convert your measurements to ¼” scale, meaning every foot of the room equals ¼” on paper.  There is graph paper available to help you do this.

Retro Interiors (showroom display)

Move the layout around until you find the plan that works best for your lifestyle.  Consider different options such as a sectional instead of a sofa and loveseat.   Think about adding some interesting pieces that have multiple functions such as a buffet as your media console or a breakfront as a library.

The next step before you finish your layout is your lighting plan.  Lighting can make or break a room.  Lighting should come from multiple sources in different areas.   A combination of table lamps, floor lamps, chandeliers, etc., can make the room much more interesting at night.  Think about where you place the lighting to accent the furnishings and accessories as well as provide usefulness when using the room.

Once you’ve laid out your room, you should have a list of exactly what you are looking for and a good idea of the sizes that will work.  The best advice here is stick to your list and don’t make any impulse changes once you go shopping.  If you buy a sofa that is a foot longer, it’s going to throw your entire plan off.

When you start making your choices, there are a couple of tricks that will ensure you will probably be happier with your purchases for a longer time.  Keep the main items such as upholstery and window treatments in solid colors.  It’s best to pick out the main items at about the same time rather than having one item delivered to your home before you pick the next.  Just imagine trying to haul that sofa back to the store when you want to find a chair that will go with it.  If you want a punch of color, do it with accents such as pillows, artwork, area rugs, etc.  This is will help keep your cost down in the future should you decide you want to change the look.

Island City Traders (showroom display)

Lastly, have a budget.  After you do a little initial furniture shopping, sit down with your plan and put a dollar amount on each item that you are willing to spend.   When you start to make purchases, refer to your budget, realizing that if you go over in one area, you need to make up for it in another.  That way when the project is done, you won’t have to go on food stamps.

And remember, while designers might be able to put together a design in a week or so, it’s not uncommon for a homeowner to take much longer.  Take your time.  Stick to your plan and budget.  And, plan on making purchases that you can live with for a long time.

Design Touches Everything

Design is a funny thing.  It’s something that surrounds us every day in everything we see, the products we buy, the food we eat, the internet, credit cards, clothing, our car, and for most of us, the water we drink.   Literally, design touches everything before it touches us.

Design is like a silent educator.   Years of research and mountains of money are spent every day to cater to our demands and tastes.  And these tastes are getting more and more educated every day.  As a result, design is getting more competitive and important than ever.

Let’s look at some of the basics.  Red.  We have been conditioned to look at red as value.   Stores like Kmart, Target, Kohl’s, Macys, etc. know that red works in projecting to consumers that they represent value.   As our tastes become more sophisticated, so does the marketing.  Red is not a color you’ll see plastered on signs at Neiman Marcus.  Instead, you’ll see blended, rich colors, which we as consumers understand as more expensive, elite or exclusive.

Color is only one aspect of design.  This is not a blog on color but let’s assume that, knowing different colors produce different results, we can attract a certain market based primarily on certain colors.  If, for instance, we’re looking for a color for a product to appeal to men and women equally, peach would be it.  And if we need to project a feeling of calmness, turquoise, like the waters of the Caribbean will do the trick.  You get the picture.  Blue is cooling and refreshing, yellow is friendly, green is restful, orange is fun, black is elegant and so forth.

Shapes also play an important role in design.  Hard edges with square corners present a severe image.  Rounded edges imply something more organic.  This is true for everything from typography to furniture.  A quick study of different company logos and you’ll being to see that their lettering subtly implies their message.  Simple block styles for lower prices.  Fancier is serif lettering for more expensive.   Of course this is a simplified explanation but it makes the point.

Space, or spacing, is a huge component of design.  Whether it’s a cluttered little showroom where you expect to find bargains or a large gallery where each piece is displayed separately so it can be admired for its beauty.   Or a store with piles of the same clothes in every size or a boutique with limited pieces and sizes.  It affects how we react and we get a feeling for what’s in store for us without looking at the price tags.

Design has many more aspects.  To truly understand all of them would take years of intense study but almost anyone can appreciate it if they take the time to notice it.

So how does this relate to our home?  That’s simple.  We use design to express who we are.  We select the colors that appeal to our senses.  We arrange our homes in a way that gives us comfort.  We use textures to say relaxed or formal.  And so on and so on.

As a designer, all of these come into play when working with a client.  It’s a psychological maze that needs to be maneuvered and understood before the first decision can be made.  Then each choice must go through a process of qualifications relating to use, cost, size, comfort, style, etc.  Add to that the relationship of placement (spacing), creative selections, coordinating colors and patterns, detailing or styling (shapes), lifestyle, etc. and you can begin to see that great interior design results do not happen by chance.

It’s easy to flip through magazines and admire completed projects or walk through a showroom and spot a piece of furniture that you really love.  But when that happens, take a second look at it and imagine the people and time involved to bring it to you.  Notice the details, the subtleties and nuances and the amount of time spent in the design process in order to bring it to you.  What inspired them?  Why did they select that finish?  What made them choose that hardware?

Once you develop the ability to see design, you will notice a change in the way you see many other things.  It’s an appreciation that will flow into everything you will become.

 

Redroom Redroom

Nothing says life like the color red.  It’s everywhere around us on a daily basis.  But for some people, it represents a dangerous zone that they’re not really sure they would be comfortable living with.  We’ve been programmed to think red is hot, flashy and cheap.  I tend to disagree.

Red is actually a great color, when it’s not overdone.  Being a strong color, it makes a bold statement and you have to be very careful to know what statement you want to make.  While it’s probably not a good choice for a master bedroom or a little girl’s room, it can add a lot of warmth and depth to living rooms, family rooms, dens, home offices, etc.

Like any other color, reds come in different shades.  In order to make a room feel more cohesive, it’s best noted to stick with the same shade of red within an entire home.  Brighter reds work better for contemporary while black reds and rusty reds work better for traditional interiors.   Here are some samples images where I think the designers have shown good taste in using the color wisely.   If you want to spice up your interior, think about adding some red accents to your room.  But the back of your bedroom door probably isn’t the best choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red, white and some blue ocean.  Summer is here.  Adding vintage, retro-styled barstools brings informality and a sense of fun.

 

 

 

With an entirely red sofa, complete with sculpted camel back, there’s little reason to add more red into this room.  The contemporary pillows make a nice contrast in style and the white walls and chair help accentuate the sofa without competing with it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red always makes a contemporary room feel like a party.  Notice the small amounts and the effect it has.  It always feels like more than it is.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Classical lines and a dappling of red mix well.  Here, the feeling is somewhat European and eclectic.  Easy to live with.  Easy to change with the season.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding red to the canopy makes the whole bed feel much more dramatic than if they had played it safe.  And just a couple small repeats of color in the rug and the lamps make the room complete.  A bold statement with little expense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The relief of the lacquered white floors and white lamps make this room red hot!  Less is more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The mix of darker reds, patterns, and the layering of textiles and objects make this room feel like someplace you could spend hours.  It’s interesting and informal but speaks of quality.

 

 

 

Strange design ideas…the perfect ending for a long week.

Every week brings lots of new challenges, deadlines and usually a few laughs.  Since our design team got through the week and we got our workload done a little early, I thought it would be fitting to end the week with some fun stuff.

I’m always combing the net for one thing or another and when I come across things that are interesting, I just pop them in my dropbox for later use.  Today, I bring you some of the designs that were floating around in my “Wierd” box.  Good or bad, you be the judge.  At the very least, you have to admit there are some unusual designers out there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A little social commentary on the smoking room.  Subtle but spooky.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Captain Cook or Captain Kook?  But seriously, what kid wouldn’t love this?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Odd but cool.  Now that’s a nest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I think I’ll sleep on the sofa tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WILMA!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tommy, go clean your tree!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Probably looks really cool going to sleep but I can’t think of a single client    who’d be willing to sign off on this one.  Flood insurance, anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is more like Alice in Neverland.  To each their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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If this kid grows up to be anything else, there’s gonna be hell to pay.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound….a dimension of _____________(you fill in the blank).

Have a great weekend.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home Automation-Creating A Smart House

So you’ve just built a new home and you’re ready to drop the veil of secrecy and show it off.  Unfortunately, you weren’t planning on it being tonight and, as luck would have it, you’re not alone in the car as you head towards home.  You begin to imagine having your guests wait outside while you go in and turn on the lights, music and AC to make sure it gives the  perfect impressions when they enter.  Then you remember that you installed a home automation system and dig out your iphone while you’re driving.

A push of the button and everything is set.  The shades are raised, the lights are all turned on to your favorite setting in all the different rooms, the music is playing your favorite tunes, the AC is cooling down the interior and the landscape and house are illuminated worthy of a magazine cover.   Suddenly your anxiety turns to pride as you pull in the driveway.

This scenario could play out in many different ways.  Like waiting at the airport wondering if you set your alarm, or lying in bed at night wondering if you shut off all the lights downstairs, etc.   For those who like having more order and control in their daily lives while being environmentally conscious, conveniences like a smart home make a lot of sense.

What was once only a techno-fantasy has made its way to the mainstream homeowner.  But a smart home system is no small feat of engineering.  It’s a very sophisticated, highly computerized home automation system.  In order to customize a home to connect to the system, each component must be directly connected to the main interface.  This includes outlets, phone, cable, sound system, security system, air conditioner/heating systems, window shades, landscape lighting,  ceiling fans, etc.  While it’s possible to remodel a home to accommodate a home automation system, it can be a costly venture.  For this reason, some companies now offer infrared remotes for some household items but they have limited flexibility.  For most customers, it makes more sense to install a smart home system while a home is under construction so the wiring can be done before the walls are finished.

There are many different types of systems on the market that will achieve similar effects.  My favorite system is the Lutron HomeWorks system which is available at different option levels.  They also offer an advanced HomeWorks QS system adding energy control and efficiency to your home with things like sensor controls to turn lights on and off at doorways, power grid monitoring, and more.  It’s another option for decreasing your carbon footprint, saving money and supporting a “green” home concept.

Controls are easy to use and as with most systems, it can be accessed by your iphone or ipad from anywhere outside of the home.  There are also hard-wired wall mount controls for use upon entry or while in the home.  Each setting can be completely customized to your taste for different daytime or evening themes.

Smart Home system pricing is coming down with every passing year.  The iphone and ipad have reduced the need for costly controls and have brought smart home systems within everyone’s reach.  Consumers have been accustomed to using electronics in every phase of their life and now that flows through to the management of their homes.  We can expect these types of systems to become an industry standard in luxury homes.

So if you feel your house is a bit of a dimwit and a little dim lit, maybe it’s time to opt for a little education in the form of the addition of a smart home system.  Just keep your wits about you when you do your homework.  A top of the line luxury system could easily set you back the cost of a small college degree.

 

Life Can Be A Real Beach, If You’re a Celebrity

These pictures really don’t require much writing to accompany them.  I always like to snoop around the net to see how different celebrities and designers live.  It’s nice to admire someone else’s work and imagine everything they went through to get there.

After doing a little research, however, I was a little surprised to find a lack of well designed beach houses owned by celebrities or designers. I’m guessing that’s mainly because most of them chose to live in New York, Paris, Milan, and LA.  While the LA and Miami area had the greatest amount of them, it was still not quite what I had expected. Some of the interiors were either dated, worn or so trendy that they would be out of style by the time you read this.  Others just seemed uninteresting, given the scope of the inhabitants.

So I picked the ones that I personally felt were the more tasteful.  I thought this was a good selection of beach homes that showed a personal sense of style.  Of all of them, I think Ralph Lauren’s and Tina Turner’s are the clear winners.  Google them if you want to see the rest of the pictures.  They are pretty amazing.

 

 

 

Ralph Lauren(Jamaica)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Charlize Theron (Malibu)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Goldie Hawn & Kurt Russell (Malibu)

 

 

 

 

Chris Wink /Blue Man Group Founder (Hamptons)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Georgio Armani (Antigua)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ricky Martin (Golden Beach, FL)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lil Wayne (Miami Beach)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Katharine Hepburn (Long Island Sound)

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jennifer Lopez (Hamptons)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tina Turner (Nice, France)

 

 

Hopefully one of these may inspire you to follow your dreams and enjoy the life you’ve always wanted.   But don’t forget your suntan oil.

 

House Broke

There’s only one thing worse than coming home to find a little “surprise” that your pet has left you.  And that is coming home to a beautiful new house that’s empty or unfinished inside.

As more and more people are jumping back into the real estate game, it’s easy to want to get the most house for the money.  To some, that means getting the biggest house possible and sinking the majority of their finances into the purchase of the home.  Restraint takes backseat to conspicuous consumption and before you know it, those larger than life mortgage payments are arriving in the mail.

We’ve all been around this barn before.  It got us, as whole, into the mess we’re into today with no room for any downward mobility, whether in the real estate market or our personal lives.  Straddled with a monster mortgage often dictates how the rest of our “new home story” plays out.

As a designer, I see it happen to the smartest people.  They’ve just purchased a new house that is the home of their dreams. They’ve stretched to buy the biggest house possible thinking it represents the biggest potential in future value.  However, many homes need a lot more work before they become that warm, family gathering place that they’ve envisioned.  Often, the homes that are the biggest bargain require some updating and renovating to bring it into the present.  And if you’ve haven’t left yourself enough money in the bank to cover these costs, there’s a good chance you could find yourself “house broke.”

From a designer’s viewpoint, it’s better to have a smaller home and have it be well maintained and furnished.  From the exterior landscaping to the interior design, it can create a lifestyle of its own.  It’s not necessary to buy that lifestyle if you can create it yourself.  With the right detailing, millwork, updates in certain areas like kitchen and bathrooms, new lighting and a fresh eye for design, a simple house can be converted into a designer’s bungalow.  Creating character on a smaller scale is much less expensive allowing for more indulgences.  Of course, having a good relationship with an interior designer and a landscape architect wouldn’t hurt.

So if you’re house-hunting, keep a few things in mind.  It’s just not what the house looks like on the outside that counts.  People are going to be coming into your home and what the inside says is more important that the outside.  The old days of “keeping up appearances” has been replaced by having style and good taste.  If you’re going to splurge for that luxury home, leave yourself room to finish the job.  That may require another 25% for furnishings and, if the home needs work done to it, up to another 30-40% for the renovations and customizing.   Anything short of that and chances are you’ll find yourself on the same side of the fence as the seller of your new house…having to offer the house at a bargain in order to sell it in the future.   Done right, however, you’ll probably get a premium for it.

Buying a new home should be an exciting time.  A little careful planning will ensure that when you’re all said and done, you’ll still be in a position to enjoy the lifestyle that you’ve created.

 

And The Winner Is…..

First of all, thanks to everyone who has visited my blog and took the time to post comments or send me emails.  It’s a work in progress and if there’s any future topic that you would like to suggest, please let me know and I’ll do my best.

The winner for this contest was Stefanie Hurtak.  She will receive a $500 gift certificate (at retail) towards anything from our showroom.

I hope you continue to follow the blog as I will be having more contests and giveaways over the following months.  Just watch the bottom of each posting for updates and follow the simple instructions. I think the next giveaway is going to be a fire burner.  It seems to have generated a lot of interest with many of you and they’ve been flying out the door at the store.

For those of you who posted comments on my blog during the contest but didn’t win, I’d like to offer a consolation prize of 20% our already low prices (everything in our showroom is always marked 20% off retail)towards any item including sale merchandise.  Some of the sale merchandise is posted on www.islandcitytraders.com on the clearance page (listed under “Collection”)  This is a one-time offer and is good for the next 6 months.  Just let me know when you come in the store or send me a note if you’d like to purchase something by mail.

I’m working on some new material coming up including “Celebrity Beach Houses”, “White-On-White”, “You’re Such a Smarthouse”, “Redroom, Redroom”, and one of my personal favorites, “House Broke”.   While I’d like to be able to post more often, these things take time and taking caring of the business and clients always comes first.

Also, you are officially the first to know about our gigantic upcoming Annual Floor Sample/Clearance sale.  For those of you who have been to one, you know it’s totally crazy.  If you believe size is everything then let me tell you “THIS IS THE BIG ONE!”  This is the time we move out the older items to make room for the new season.  Discounts range from 20% to 80%.  Furniture, artwork, lighting, rugs, accessories…everything.  Sale starts at 10:00 am Saturday, March 24, 2012 and will last only one week!  First come basis and all sales final. Cash and carry.  People wait all year for us to do this so don’t miss it.

Hope to see you or hear from you soon.

Bill