I know what you might be thinking. “Hire an interior designer? Heck, I can do it myself and save some money in the meantime.”
Really? Is that what you honestly think? Well I’d like to try and set the record straight!
Here are some things to think about when weighing your options:
• Regardless if whether you have a crystal clear idea of how you want your home to look or are totally clueless, an interior designer can help you conceptualize the space and put it all together. This might be your first home or frankly, even if it is your tenth, an experienced interior designer will have much more experience than you do and will ultimately save you from making design mistakes that will cost you time and money.
• Doing the space plan and decorating a home are very time intensive activities and an interior designer can cut that time by half and save you the time and stress that are usually associated with construction and searching for furniture and accessories. Their vast experience provides them with “insider” information enabling them to purchase exactly what you desire without the endless forays that you might have in order to locate the pieces that you want.
• The ability to identify the right color palette for a space is borne out of years of experience and an interior designer can help guide you towards making the best selection with acknowledgement of your personal preferences, light quality, room usage and more.
• Buying furniture that is actually well suited for the space is another facet of interior design that is best accomplished by a professional. Dimensions aside, the sofa that looks so perfect in the showroom just might not fit in the room for which it is intended. Save yourself the trauma of buying pieces that are simply wrong for the space.
• Designing a space takes coordination with vendors. Furniture, lighting, window treatments, cabling and more have to be managed and timed so that everything happens when it is supposed to happen. An interior designer will project manage the process so that you are not sitting in a home that has no furniture or lights.
Your home is quite probably one of your largest expenses. It is also the place that you return to after a tough day, the place where you spend a significant amount of “down-time.” You want it to be comfortable, commodious and beautiful.
That being said, working with an interior designer might just be the best decision that you can make.
When I was a student at Parsons, one of my instructors said that there’s neither good design nor bad design – just a better solution. I think that’s true, and it can be true with the art you keep in your home or office, too.
As both a designer and a painter, I look at my clients’ properties and blank canvases the same way. Art is a matter of interpretation and problem solving – speaking to an artist’s preferences on light, balance, texture, color, materials and more. When you choose a piece to display, you’re picking up that interpretation and adding your own voice to it.
I cringe when a client says, “I love that painting, but it doesn’t match the color on my walls.” You should choose art that makes you react – whether a piece raises your senses, provokes thought or arouses you. Take your first reaction to heart.
Adapt your art to the setting, but collect what you like. Although it might not be appropriate to hang nude paintings in an office, you can still cater to the style you like, be it modernist, Impressionist or anything else. Your preferred style of art can complement your setting or room design, or it can contrast it in an interesting and carefully considered way.
Think beyond the stretched canvas. You might come to love baskets, sculptures or glass work. In my own home, I have a collection of rocks that I took from beaches I visited around the world, and they sit center-stage in my entry foyer.
Having trouble getting started? Keeping your favorite pieces in storage because you’re not sure what to do with them? Give me a call. We’ll talk about your style and start wiping the dust off those frames.
As you know, I enjoy attending events at the Horticultural Society of New York. As I was listening to a recent lecture on garden design, I started thinking about what influences the design of a room. By design, I mean more than the superficial elements such as color, fabric and lighting. I’m thinking about the shape, size and layout of the room. Good design should be dictated by the function of both the room and the user!
Let’s think about the layout of a traditional center hall colonial style house. The center hall, or foyer, was designed to welcome friends and guests in a more formal time. It had good lighting and an easily accessible closet. The furniture was simple, yet elegant – usually a small table or cabinet topped with fresh flowers. Each room in the house served a specific purpose, even to the extent of allowing men and women to have separate after-dinner conversations!
Homes built before the 1960s offered layouts and rooms designed with a specific purpose in mind. As our lifestyles became more casual, home design became more open. No longer did we require (or desire) formal dining rooms, living rooms or libraries. However, we did want homes that allowed us to flow easily from room to room. We wanted to entertain and be able to chat with guests while working in the kitchen. We wanted to be able to see our kids playing in the family room while preparing dinner. Remember how many houses used to have family rooms or romper rooms in the basement?
Many remodels for both stand-alone houses or apartments focus on opening up available space and creating incremental functionality. An open space can be divided into unique living spaces using furniture, paint color, wall hangings or lighting. For example, an eating area may be adjacent to a living room, yet the arrangement of furniture clearly defines each space. Take a look at at a client’s NYC apartment (below left). You can see how the furniture layout clearly defines the living area versus the dining area. Or, see how we used color in the townhouse (below right) to highlight the dining room which opens to the foyer and the living room. (Click on the pictures to see additional perspectives on my website!).
Additionally, we see the addition of islands to kitchens (where space allows or is created). Why? Interestingly, most kitchens simply do not have enough counter space. By the time we place all of our gadgets (coffee maker, toaster, canisters, etc.) on the counters, we are left with little functional work space. The islands provide space for meal prep, kids’ projects and quick meals. All reflective of our current lifestyles.
How do you use your home or office space? The concept of function applies to both homes and offices. When I’m working with a client, the first questions I ask are related to how a space will be used. By understanding the client’s needs as related to function, lifestyle or personal need, I can create a space that provides the features most important to the client.
What spaces don’t meet your needs? What questions do you have about why rooms are designed the way they are? I’d like to address your questions in future blogs! Or, better yet, if you have an immediate problem, let’s have a consultation!
We have all seen them. They are the funny tubes of colored lights we used to decorate our children’s parties, or on the deck for summer barbeques, or as part of our kids’ crazy dorm room decor. They have advanced and are used in public areas – shopping mall lighting, directional traffic lights, industrial parking lots, interior lights in industrial plants.
They are LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and they are coming into corporate environments as well as our homes. It is part of the energy efficient movement. A LED lamp (or LED light bulb) is a solid-state light source. Since the light output, of individual light emitting diodes, is small compared to incandescent and compact flourescent lamps, multiple diodes are often used together. They have two primary advantages over conventional lights sources: 1) their life span is as much as 55 times loner than the life of a standard source and 2) they do not emit heat. Both are great energy-saving features. The primary disadvantages are the light color emitted and the high expense.
Recently, I attended a discussion, targeting the design community, on LED lighting at the Benjamin-Moore NYC Showroom. Since the NY electrical codes changed as of July 2010, whereby the wattage usage per square foot has been reduced for commercial application, it is not surprising for LED lighting to move into the residential area. In fact, California has already implemented new guidelines for homeowners. By the year 2012, all incandescent light bulb wattage will be capped at 75 watts. By the year 2013, it will be dropped to 60 watts – and this is at the time when baby boomers need brighter lights due to failing eyesight!! As a side note, just in case you do invest in this new lighting technology – be aware that this type of lamp does not die like your average bulb. LED light just get dimmer and duller – so it’s not your eyes failing, it’s the bulb! Californians take energy savings and environmental issues seriously and homeowners will be subject to non-compliance fines. New York usually follows shortly behind California on such issues. So you are forewarned!
As a designer, I must understand how this new light source will effect my color selections for paint, fabric and other materials necessary for my clients. You may ask, “Pat, why does this affect color selection?” Well, let me explain. This type of light has a harsh white color output – harsh because it emanates a cool blue hue. Newer LED lighting is starting to address this unattractive effect. However, at present, it comes at a cost. I have found that getting the best quality lighting, requires investing in high quality fixtures. The best quality that I have found, in NYC, is Specialty Lighting whose manufacturing facilities are located in New Jersey. Their great showroom in Midtown is set up perfectly to assist in guiding the professional through various potential applications.
I’m presently working on a kitchen renovation and exploring the possibilities of utilizing new light sources, such as LEDs, in this project. LEDs make sense in a kitchen due to their long life, energy savings and low-level of heat emitted. In addition, they provide the best light for preparing meals. I haven’t made a final choice, but am considering incorporating alternatives that would balance the budget to minimize the high cost of LED lighting. These options include halogen lamps, which offer great light color but give off tremendous heat, or compact fluorescents which emit a harsh white light, but are much cooler. I’m looking forward to creating a fine balance in offering my client a functional, aesthetically pleasing light while embracing the new technology.
Like so many technologies in our daily lives, lighting continues to evolve. My focus is on those technologies that impact design and how we enjoy our living spaces at home and at the office. Please note, that despite the difference in cost when acquiring LED lighting, commercial space usage has seen a break even in as short as two years. The upfront cost is balanced by the long life and improved energy savings. As these technologies change, we all make the best decisions give the information and technology available at a given point in time. I’ll keep you posted as I learn more about LED lighting and its use in interior design!
Since we are surrounded by all this snow, I highly recommend taking a walk in the park or escaping the city for a day. If nothing else, snow is peaceful. Just walking in the midst of a snow fall, is quiet. There is a special sort of hush. And it is possible to find yourself surrounded by inspiration, great and small.
Besides design and being inspired to create – I also love to travel – it can be a simple train trip up the Hudson to visit family. This is one of the most awe inspiring ways of traveling – especially on the East coast. Most of the trip takes you directly along the river. Each season has something to offer – the slow moving river during the winter with patches of ice floating, while the gray sky seems to settle on top of the river as the bare tree branches rustle in the winds. I love looking for the various shades of dark green in the evergreens, and then reflected as deep green blue in the river. The cool grays and earthy browns of exposed rocks, not normally seen in the summer, offer not only these wonderful shades of color but draw interest in the textures of these elements. Do not forget the white sky – when you look hard you see shades of grays with hints of lavender, smokey blues, soft whites.
If you find yourself in the forest for cross-country skiing or snowshoeing, some of these same features, trees and rocks take on a deeper tone since the evergreens and bare trees hide the whitish sky without the brightness of a high summer sun. Or, if you live near the ocean and enjoy the cold, take that brisk walk at the beach. Look at the patterns the wind has drawn in the sand or snow. Take in the early morning light as the sun appears on the horizon. It has a special glow to it in the wee hours on a cold day. Just the other day, it was a rosie peach color, painting the sky – just for a few minutes. Most days, it’s the palest yellow spreading across the fading gray of the night sky.
I went to the Charles Rohfls exhibit in the American Wing at the MET this weekend. The inspiration for his Arts & Crafts style furniture comes from the movement of the grain in the wood that he uses. Design inspiration comes from many sources. Looking at the fabric swatches that I found at Kravet‘s and Flourishes, what inspirations do you see?
Every season is special. Which season inspires you? Do you enjoy the cool, subtle colors of winter? Or, are you bolder and warmer in your color palette? Transferring these moments that offer tranquility should be considered when developing your home or office design. Although they are wonderful, don’t always turn to the obvious – the fabric with leaves, the gray walls – look deeper, a chair with aged leather that reflects the movement of muddy waters. The soft white fabric with metallic threads as drapery that adds the glistening sparkle of ice on the lake into your decor. A room color can be inspired by that little speck of pink found inside a seashell.
Tell me about your inspirations, your favorite colors or textures. It will be fun to understand where they came from!