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.

 

 

 

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.