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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

]

 

 

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.

 

A Closet Worth Staying In

America is obsessed with being organized.  We want a place for everything and everything in its place.  So it’s no wonder that closet design has become a huge factor to new home buyers and those looking to renovate.

Gone are the days of those wire shelving components.  You know, the ones that eventually turn into virtual glue sticks that are impossible to clean.  And the idea of a single rod with a storage shelf above is about as current as an avocado refrigerator.

Most people are now familiar with closet systems and how to get the most use of their space.  Double hanging rods, shoe shelves,  tie racks, built-in valet bars, belt racks, laundry bins, dressing islands,  etc. have all become part of the expected closet.

Laminates are clearly the most popular choice primarily due to the cost savings.  Although somewhat limited in colors and styles, the laminate units provide a sturdy, easy to clean product that appeals to a wide variety of clients at different price points.

So where does it go from here?  Well, if the budget exists, new closets are taking it to a different level.  Custom closets start out with real wood products which give the consumer endless choices of finishes, styles and hardware.  What used to be simple square boxes has become high quality furniture.  Clothing, which used to be exposed, is being stored behind doors as a protection against dust.  And every article of clothing is given its own designated space.  From shoes to sweaters to handbags, organizing a closet makes it easy to see what you have and keeps everything in mint condition.  And the gadgets, well they just keep getting better.

Some of the newer gadgets you might find can include hidden compartments accessible only by rubbing a key across an invisible lock mechanism, hidden safes for organizing valuables and jewelry, breakfast bars (for the early morning coffee without leaving your room), automated lighting systems that turn on and off with the opening of doors, flat panel televisions, and the list goes on.

Sometimes a closet just isn’t big enough no matter what you do.  As they say, go big or go home. In some cases, clients have turned entire guest bedrooms into luxury custom closets making them a room unto themselves.

Closets have come of design age, requiring as much thought and planning as a modern day kitchen.  No longer considered just an necessity, it’s become a coveted design element of the home.

 

 

Light My Fire

Nothing is more mesmerizing than gazing into the endless dance of real flames.  We can’t help but stare at their beauty while being completely in awe of its danger.   But nothing makes a home feel cozier and more inviting or luxurious during the winter months than having a live fire.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury of having a fireplace in their home.  Smaller homes, townhouses and condos rarely offer fireplaces but thanks to some new products such as those offered by Eco-Feu, now anyone can enjoy having the exotic luxury of their own personal fire.

 

 

Whether you want it in your living room or out on your patio or balcony, portable fire burners are the perfect solution for adding a personal fire without the expense of a fireplace.  For the most part, they are relatively inexpensive, easy to use and extremely safe.  They can be lit at the last moment before a party and extinguished as you walk out the door to dinner without worrying about burning embers or a potential fire hazard.

Each burner requires the use of a bio-ethanol fuel which is odorless and smokeless.  The environmentally safe fuel is made from such things as corn and beets.  The emissions are primarily water vapor and corn gives the flame its orange color.  The glass surroundings and materials will become hot so you must consider safety at all times.

Fire burners come in all sizes ranging from small tabletop models to wall mount fireplaces.   They are an ideal way to bring lighting and ambiance to outdoor eating and sitting areas.  While they generate very little heat, they will warm the spirits of everyone around them.

Just a reminder about my contest for blog subscribers.  Sign up for the feed (upper right hand corner of this blog) to your email and then post a comment on any posting on my blog.  Each comment will earn you one entry into the drawing to be held on March 1, 2012.  One lucky winner will win a $500 gift certificate towards anything in our showroom or online website.  Good Luck!

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.