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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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.

 

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.