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.
Welcome to the holiday season – always an exciting time, in New York and beyond. One of the best parts of the holidays is catching up with friends and family, and I had a wonderful opportunity to do that last week. I traveled south over Thanksgiving to visit good friends who moved to Florida about 10 years ago. Their home is beyond lovely, and so well maintained.
Now, the couple is looking to sell this beautiful home (and we’re talking perfect floors and stainless-steel sinks without a single scratch), but they’re still struggling. Blame it on a tough market. Still, I’m confident they’ll find a buyer – and not have to negotiate much on price. And that’s because they understand that maintenance makes the price, when it comes to selling a house.
This holiday trip reminded me of a recent New York Times article detailing all the upgrades homeowners are (and aren’t) making as they try to sell. Brokers estimate that buyers are often seeing up to a dozen listings before making a choice, and with values dropping and each buyer looking for the best deal, that spells major competition. At first glance, it might seem like a wasted effort to replace those cracked tiles or that leaky faucet, but now is a better time than ever to consider small to mid-range investments to keep your asking price higher and prevent your home from going into heavy negotiations. When a $5,000 change adds $15,000 to your asking price, that’s a good move.
How should you reconsider your space? Try to be objective about any issues buyers might have with your property. It’s hard to evaluate something that’s close to you, on the emotional and physical levels. We grow accustomed to flaws and irritants in our own homes. That dark red kitchen is charming to you, but a buyer might cringe. Overlooking any mold in the shower? A buyer won’t. Also, no matter how many design magazines buyers read, they usually don’t have the instant creativity to imagine what a space can be. They see it how it is, outdated fridge and all.
Once, I visited a client who was deciding whether she and her husband should get a new home or stay put. Her husband had bought the house 18 years earlier; it was a model home, and he left it as it was. Unfortunately, prior to our review, the couple had spoken with a real estate agent, who returned a low selling price. Unacceptable! We reconsidered their place and found out it had great bones but just needed a facelift to suit their lifestyle. We renovated, and they love their place now. (They brought the buyer back for fun and found out they could have sold for significantly higher than their asking price.)
If you’re looking to sell, then consider the value that a little extra work could give. Until the end of December, I’m offering reduced rates on property evaluations for homeowners looking to make the move. Let’s talk about what work might be required, then discuss how to make your home a “stage” to entice buyers. It could be as simple as just a few changes – and they’ll be well worth it when you sign the papers in the end.
Congratulations, you’ve moved into a new home! This home is likely the biggest investment of your life. You bought this home knowing that you would probably need to update its design. As an interior designer, I’m thrilled that you need my assistance! If this home is not newly constructed, you probably viewed this home with someone else’s furnishings and layout. Don’t assume that the way their furnishings worked in the room is appropriate for you. An existing use or function of space, may not be be appropriate for your lifestyle. I advise you to live in your new home for a little while before jumping into a remodel.
Why? This is a new home for you. You need to take time to understand how you will live in this home. Which rooms have high traffic? What is the traffic flow in, out and around the house? Do you like to cook? If so, this means the kitchen may get top priority for any updates. How does the sun light each room? Do some rooms feel dark and dingy? It may be possible to address this with window treatments or an upgrade of existing lighting. How are the bedrooms organized? Do they meet the needs of each of the inhabitants? What ages are your children (if you have them). How will they need to grow in their bedrooms and in the rest of the house? Do you entertain? If so, for who? Business clients, friends, family?
As you can see, there are a zillion questions to consider. You probably thought through a lot of these kinds of questions when you bought the house. But they need to be thought about again – in a different way – now that you are living in the home. The design of your home must fit your lifestyle. The flow, color, lighting, flooring and furniture should be appropriate for the way you live. If the house is over 15 years old, the layout of the house may not fit our newer, more casual lifestyles. Think outside the box! I highly recommend bringing in a designer to any prospective home you are seriously considering buying (this also goes for when you are ready to sell!). We can be invaluable during your decision process. Don’t dismiss a prospect because you cannot see beyond the chandelier or color. This is not HGTV! A designer can help you create a home that works for you. The house can be adapted to fit your life, not you adapting to live within its perceived limitations.
Sometimes a designated function for one room may not be the right use of this room! For example, I’ve turned a dining room into a family room because the family didn’t use a formal dining room and that room was adjacent to the kitchen. In the another case, the function of the room changed because the dining room was near the back of the house and had access to the back yard. I’ve also turned a living room into a dining room due to the living room location causing a complete family traffic disaster!
Families with young children may prefer stain resistant fabrics. Sporty families need a place to store gear and drop dirty sneakers. Technophiles crave easily accessible 3-pronged electrical outlets, while art collectors seek rooms with proper lighting. Regardless of your lifestyle and interests, your home can fit your life. Pay attention to to the details of how you live, then, make decisions about how you may want to update your home’s design!
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!