Living in Our Pet’s Home

For those of you who know me, you know my softest spot is for animals.  Without them, life just wouldn’t be the same.  We develop a relationship with them that isn’t defined by language, age, race, or gender.  We communicate with them as members of our own family because they are.  And although their time here seems limited, the love and memories they give us stay with us forever.

So while other people are writing about how to make your home pet-friendly, I think it’s more appropriate to think that pets have made their home more people-friendly.  They open our minds to the world through their eyes.  They allow us in their home, to share their days and nights, to play with us when we are happy and to be there for us when we are sad.  They hold a gift that can only be opened by letting them into our lives.  One look at their faces and we’re butter.

"Sam"
“Sam”

Sadly, friends of mine lost their Sam this week after 15 ½ years…a heartbreaking day that will take time to pass before their memories are filled with all the love and good times they shared together.  Unfortunately, most of us have shared a similar day.   In Sammy’s honor, I’d like to take a look at some other pets who have shared their homes with us.  This is a collection of pictures I’ve collected privately over time out of my love for animals.  They show us just who the king (or sometimes queen) of the house is.  Some of them come from some amazing websites which, if you hover over the image, you will be able to visit. My favorite sites are Interior Design Sense and Desire to Inspire which has a weekly posting every Monday about pets on furniture.  Others are my own pets or those of friends.  Notice how comfortable they seem lounging on their furniture. Enjoy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Questions A Designer May Ask You

Hiring an interior designer should be an exciting time for you.  However, if you’ve never used their services before, you may feel a little anxious or intimidated by the prospect of having a total stranger come into your home (and your life) and start analyzing everything you own.

Retro Interiors: Private Residence, The Bahamas

While most designers understand the dynamics of what they are walking into, I’ve found that most homeowners have a lot of questions and concerns about how it works.
To help those of you who haven’t had the pleasure of working with a designer, here is a list of some of the most common questions that your designer will likely ask you.

1.   How would you describe the overall look that you want to give your home?  This could range from casual to contemporary or traditional to transitional.  Some clients have certain keywords that they may have in mind such as coastal, cottage, vintage,  Mediterranean, eclectic, minimalist, etc.  Generally the designer is looking for a mental picture to begin the design strategy.

Retro Interiors: Private Residence, Las Olas Isles, Fort Lauderdale

2.   How is the space going to be used?  There’s nothing typical about how people live.  Everyone is different and there is no right or wrong.  I’ve had people convert complete bedrooms into closets, dining rooms into billiard rooms, etc.   Maybe you want the room to have multiple uses such as a great room for entertaining, gaming, media center and family gatherings.  Maybe the home office needs to accommodate overnight guests.  Maybe the dining room needs to be able to serve as card tables on game night.  This is where you need to be honest in the way you live so the designer can create something that will satisfy your requests.

Retro Interiors: Penthouse, Pompano Beach, FL

3.    
How do you feel about structural changes?  This could include adding windows, moving doorways, enlarging rooms, raising ceilings, etc.  Sometimes these changes can make a huge impact on the final result.

4.    How many people do you typically entertain? This can have an effect on the size of the dining room, the amount of seating in the living areas, the traffic pattern and layout of the furniture and also the types of surfaces selected.  Heavy traffic areas need surfaces that will take abuse and are easy to clean.  The same holds true for fabrics used on upholstery.

5.    Do you have any pet peeves or things you don’t like?  Let you designer know if you have certain colors that you favor or ones that you don’t like.  If you have preferences beyond that, such as types of patterns (florals, stripes, plaids, etc.), speak your mind.

Retro Interiors: Penthouse, Fort Lauderdale, FL

6.   Are there any special personal needs? Special needs include family or close friends that might have certain handicaps, pets, size of extended families during holidays, etc.

 
7.   Time Frame?  Do you have any deadline for having the work completed?  Is this date firm or just a desired date?  Keep in mind that by shortening the timeframe, you may be shortening the selection that your designer can choose from and also limits them on suggesting special treatments such as construction related improvements.  Also, if you don’t have any specific deadlines, the option of completing the project in phases is a possibility meaning the scope of the work could be increased to fit your financial situation over time.

Retro Interiors: Penthouse, Fort Lauderdale, FL

8.   How long do you plan on living here?  This is important so the designer can gauge the value of different options.  Those planning on moving in 4-5 years should invest less in a project than someone who his planning on spending a great deal of their future years in this home.  The only exception to this rule is if you have purchased an older home at a great price and you’re hoping to realize a profit on the resale.  In that case, construction costs may exceed the cost of furnishings but undoubtedly need to be done to bring the home up to a competitive standard.

9.    Do you need any specialty services included in the project? Specialty items would include things such as sound systems, media or security systems, special remote controlled devices such as the Lutron SmartHouse system, specialty plumbing or any other mechanical items that would require the coordination with an outside source to include in the project.

Retro Interiors: Private Residence, Fort Lauderdale, FL

10.    What is your budget? This is a bit tricky. Some clients feel they need to low-ball the designer thinking that designers always come in over budget.  Some throw out an unrealistic figure with no real intention of spending that much money.  The best advice here is to be honest.  Let your designer know just how much you are comfortable spending.  They can apply it in the best possible way to give you the biggest bang for your buck.  If you have no idea what things cost, again be honest.  A good designer should be able to give you some idea after discussing the scope of the project based on their previous experience.  But before you start handing over any deposits, it’s a wise decision to get all the costs lined up first so there are no surprises.

This will give you an idea of some of the more popular questions that we, as designers, like to know going into a new project.   Of course, you will have questions too and you should ask all of them without reserve.  Having no surprises during or at the end of the job will make the process much more fun and hopefully you will have built a lasting relationship that will follow you and your family through the years ahead.

For more information and tips on finding the right designer, check out my posts: http://retrointeriors.net/news/whos-driving-this-bus
http://retrointeriors.net/news/the-last-supper

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vintage Is The Future

 

First, let me apologize for taking so long to continue this blog but as some of you may not be aware, our entire showroom was flooded on Halloween night.  What ensued was a day-after-day process of cleaning, repairing, rebuilding, repainting and restocking.  The mess is finally over and the showroom now looks better than ever.   It’s now time to get back to work and bring you up to speed on what’s going on in the market.

The 2011 Fall Furniture Market in High Point showed continued growth in the abundance of natural products coming into the marketplace as demand for casual and relaxed interiors takes an even stronger foothold.  This trend, due in part to the largely successful transformation of Restoration Hardware under the guidance of Gary Friedman and Carlos Alberini, their executive officers, continues to influence the market in a direction with such a force that even the stodgiest of companies are succumbing to the pressure.

While previous market trends were based on limited time fashions, this trend will probably see a much longer lifespan because it is based on something a little more important…sustainability and the future of our planet.  Sustainable products such as reclaimed or recycled wood and materials not only add interest and texture, they make a statement of what we want for our future.   And companies are able to bring us these products in a way that ensures durability, quality and affordability.

Market attendance appeared to be lower this year, however, those who did attend were buying as if the economy is making a strong rebound.  Some older showrooms have disappeared and some of the new ones are bringing new products and new blood into the business.  So without further jibber, let’s take a look at some of the new items that I found interesting.

“Vintage” seems to be popping up as a look by itself and also as an accent to tone down the contemporary.   I also noticed some occasional “industrial” themed pieces that showroom salespeople said were selling like hotcakes to the designers.  The pictures, although I’m an amateur, speak for themselves.  Feel free to browse through the following images and get your insider access to the furniture market.   In my next blog, I’ll cover some of the more interesting contemporary introductions as this style is still dominating the market.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interior Design Begins On The Exterior

So you’re taking advantage of the real estate market’s demise and you’ve just purchased a new home.  One of the first things you’re probably thinking about is what style you want to create for the interior.

My first suggestion is if you liked the style of the home, stick with that same style on the inside.   It always feels a little strange to me when someone buys a colonial house and furnishes it with contemporary,  minimalistic pieces.   It just comes off as a big disconnect.   Likewise, if you buy a contemporary home, keep the pieces clean and avoid all the clutter and embellishments.

When you’re designing a home, you’re creating a package.  The exterior should give the visitor a glimpse of what to expect and the interior should finish the job.  I’ve seen some of the oddest combinations over the years and often,  the only way to remedy the situation is to start over on the interior or find a new house that will more appropriately reflect your interior style.

Granted, most people have some possessions that they want to incorporate into their home from their previous home.  This can be done if you understand that some items will need to be repurposed, separated from their original location and possibly undergo refinishing or reupholstering.   If you find yourself in this category, I’d strongly suggest you seek the assistance of an interior designer to give you an objective opinion.

Every style offers a few variations so don’t feel you have to make it a “theme” house.  A casual bungalow, for example could easily be transformed into either a coastal cottage home or embrace a mission style.  A common misconception is to over-decorate a simple home, thereby dismissing the original architecture and displaying an obsessive vulgarity or overruling ambition, as Frank Lloyd Wright would call “grandomania.”

In the same thought, an elegant luxury home also needs to continue the thought.  Buying an impressive home only makes sense if you have the means and intent to complete the picture.  A good rule of thumb that I use is to budget about 25% of the home to complete the interior.   Nothing feels more awkward than enjoying a million dollar view from a $400 sofa.  Not to sound like a snob, but come on.

The same hold true for your color scheme.  The outside and inside colors need to complement each other and appear to be part of the plan…including the fabrics on the patio.   And while those painted Adirondack chairs look great on the porch of your beach house, they will look like a flea market find on the patio of your golf course estate home.  It’s like wearing a sweatshirt to a wedding.

The bottom line is to be true to your style.  Find a home that represents the style you want to create and live in and then complete the interior as part of the same design thought.  When you are done, you will have created an oasis, a place that represents who you really are and one that makes you comfortable.