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

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.

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.