Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Interior Design Tip: More Is Just More

The idea that 'less is more' is true, but the idea behind 'more is just more' takes this a step farther.  Sometimes people keep adding to their existing decor thinking that one addition is going to fix the room.  This new furniture item is going to complete the room, or this new painting will make the room look more unified.  However, this is often not the case and the newest item does not change anything.

More Is Just More
If a room has an underlying flawed design, no new purchase can alleviate the flaw.  The newest organization product will not fix a completely unorganized room.  The best sofa will not make a poorly designed living room look perfect.  While this may seem like bad news for some, when taken to heart this concept can save a person tons of money long term.

Purchase with a Plan
Rather than investing dollar after dollar into one item at a time just hoping that a room will magically fix itself, a person who really wants a room to change will realize that they need a plan.  The entire room may have to be redone, reorganized, and moved around, but this person will save a ton of money by not buying excess decor, furniture, and organizational tools.

Getting a Plan
Where does a room plan come from?  A determined person realizing that a room has a need for a makeover can work out a plan by considering each need of that particular room.  What feel does the room have?  What feel does the room need?  However, for the person who feels completely lost when considering completing such a task, an interior designer or decorator can help by assisting the person in planning out the room.  Design services that can help in completing a room design are floor plans, furniture and accessory selection lists, and a color scheme just to name a few.  Have a unifying thought behind a room and don't stop until that dream is realized.

Stick To the Plan
When considering new items, don't fall into your previous trap of purchasing an item that might make your room better.  You have a plan and you can easily decide whether the new item fits into your plan for your room.  If it will just be more . . . then let it be one more item filling that stores shelves and not in your room with a plan.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Unique Find: Empire Chest of Drawers

Unique Chest of Drawers at Antique Store

A little over a week ago, my husband and I were in Buena Vista, Virginia.  We love visiting the area because of the beautiful mountains, unique sites, and for all the wonderful antique stores in nearby Lexington.  During this past trip, we found a new antique store in downtown Buena Vista.

The store front used to be a local hardware store, but it had closed within the past few years.  The owner pulled up the linoleum in the store and discovered a beautiful hard wood floor underneath.  As we talked with him about his new venture, an antique store, he explained that a friend suggested that he put some furniture and glassware in the store and see if it sells.  What is the point of leaving an empty store front empty when waiting for it to sell?  My husband and I are more than thankful for his venture, because we were able to find the perfect chest of drawers to replace the small children's dresser that we were still using in our bedroom.

I saw it first.  I walked over to this substantial solid wood chest of drawers and could tell that it was an older piece.  I was the one who was supposed to find a dresser for myself, but this chest of drawers was a little to big and manly for my taste.  So I pointed the piece out to my husband and kept walking.

My husband walked over to the piece and fell in love.  He loved the hand cut dove tailed drawers, he loved the thick pieces of wood used for its construction, and he loved the spacious drawers.  When we looked at it together, we realized that the piece was constructed with cut nails and was definitely earlier than the 1900's.  One look at the price tag and we were hooked, this chest of drawers was coming home to Mississippi.

Let me tell you right now, when a piece of furniture is made right it is extremely heavy!  The interior of the drawers were made of pine, but the exterior was some other wood that definitely added to the weight.  With some difficulty, we loaded the chest of drawers into our truck and brought it inside for the night until the next day when we rented a U-haul trailer to tow behind the truck.

That night we did a little research.  The tag in the antique store had suggested that the chest of drawers was Empire style, so we had a good starting point.  When we began to research Empire style, we found that the style originated over in Europe.  However, this piece had nothing to do with the European Empire style.  This was actually an American Empire Style piece dating from around 1850 to 1860.  Typically, most American Empire furniture pieces were made with mahogany; therefore, we are pretty sure that we have identified the exterior wood on the piece.  The biggest difficulty in determining the type of wood used in the chest of drawers was in the fact that over the years the finish had formed a beautiful cracked texture over the entire piece.  Our new chest of drawers was an American Empire Chest of Drawers from the 1850's constructed with beautiful mahogany.

Comparison Shot:  Old versus New
The chest of drawers made the trip home with no trouble.  My husband was more than happy to replace the small children's dresser, which he had been using out of necessity, with an outstanding antique chest of drawers that more than doubled his storage space.  Though the piece is large, we were able to integrate it into our room across from our bed.  What a wonderful piece of furniture to wake up to every day!  I am truly in love with furniture and enjoy every day that brings me closer to filling my home with unique furniture finds!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Interior Design Advice for Tuesday

Interior Design Profit


How do interior designers make their profit?  Will I pay the massive fees to use them, then high prices for the furniture they select?  I can't afford that kind of service!


Different types of interior designers choose to make money in different ways.  There are mainly three ways an interior designer can make a profit (and a living!).  Each way has a different benefit for the designer and for the client.

Service Fees
The first way an interior designer can make a profit is by charging directly for her services.  She can charge upfront to assist with color section, furniture selection, and even drawing a floor plan.  This is often the most clear-cut way to charge in that both the interior designer and the client understand the cost involved.  Due to the profit being determined ahead of time, this can be a huge benefit for the client.  The interior designer is not trying to sell her own furniture and decor at a mark up and she will be more than happy to align to the client’s budget.  In addition, some designers have connections.  For the interior designer who does consultations and provides a buying service, that designer can actually purchase goods at cost and pass the savings to the client.  However, some interior designers do not charge for their services, but instead sell the client on their furniture and goods.

An interior designer has the opportunity to develop accounts with furniture and home decor companies.  While this has a huge cost upfront, the interior designer who has already set up these accounts can make her money through selling these goods at a mark-up.  Instead of charging for her services, she will work with a client to develop their needs and then sell the client furniture and home decor from the companies with which she has accounts.  This can save the client from an upfront service fee, but the client is now unaware the interior designer's profit.  Most interior designers mark-up goods at least double if not triple the wholesale cost.  However, many designers sell specialty items not available in furniture and home decor stores.  Even with the mark-up, some interior designers are able to keep their products at a lower cost than retail stores.  In this way, a client benefits from the unique furniture and home decor and still saves money, while the interior designer makes a profit by cutting out the middle man.  Depending on the integrity of your interior designer, this can be a win-win situation.

Not all interior designers are fortunate enough to operate independently.  Many designers are employed by furniture companies, home decor stores, and even in specialty stores that sell one genre of product.  These interior designers are often extremely knowledgeable regarding the company for which they work.  If an interior designer is working at Bassett Furniture that interior designer is your best asset for finding what you need at that store.  However, most furniture stores also employ sales personnel who are not interior designers and they may or may not have the experience you need.  So be aware of the credentials of the sales person who is helping you at these furniture stores.

Interior designers make a profit through commission when working in a retail setting.  Each interior designer will have a different motivation when helping a client.  Some may really love doing design and will help a client find the home decor items that fulfill the client's needs.  However, in commission situations, many designers and sales people are less concerned with the clients needs and more interested in the bottom line, their commission.  The customer is in a very hard situation when working with an interior designer who works through commission.  The client must constantly gauge how much advice is to better the client's life and how much of the advice is meant to increase the dollar value of the purchase.  If caution is used, an interior designer working on commission can still be a wonderful asset when purchasing furniture and home decor in a retail setting.

The best method is not always apparent when choosing an interior designer.  The client must decide the pros and cons for his or her particular situation, budget, and needs.  Below, I will include three charts listing the pros and cons of service fees, mark-ups, and commissions.

Service Fees
Cost is evident and at times expensive
Not selling products
May only work through consultation
Goal is to provide service to client

May sell products at cost to client

Possible savings from retail
True cost of service hidden
Unique furniture and decor
Selling to make money
Goal is to provide furniture and decor to client
Goal is to provide furniture and decor to client

Knowledge of specific products
Selling to make money
Often free
True cost of service hidden
Goal is to make commission by helping client
Goal is to make commission by helping client

While these are the three main ways that interior designers make their profits, I must warn you that some are not so honest.  Be aware that some designers are more than happy to combine the three main ways in order to heighten their profit at the client’s expense.  For instance, a designer could charge a set service fee and offer to purchase the client’s furniture and home decor.  If the designer has wholesale accounts with home decor companies, the designer has two choices.  He can extend much of his wholesale benefit to the client, or he can mark the decor up to retail cost.  If the designer chooses to fully mark-up the decor that he gets at wholesale and he charges a service fee, then he is actually double charging his client.  Unfortunately, many designers have no qualms about this practice.

Saving Money
The interior designer who only does consultations and does not have wholesale accounts is able to offer their services at a lower price than those who hold wholesale accounts and operate as an intermediary between the client and other professionals such as painters, upholsterers, drapery specialists, and contractors.  The client who seeks the services of an interior designer has to decide how much they want the interior designer to do and how much they can do themselves.  The designer who consults is able to give information to the clients and provide knowledgeable advice, but the clients must hire the professionals needed to complete tasks or actually do the work themselves.  If a client hires a full service interior designer that designer can often do everything or bring in those who can.

Hopefully this allows you, the client, into the world of the interior designer and allows you to make a more informed decision.  You know your budget and your needs, and now you can understand how an interior designer can fit into your budget and provide for your home decor needs.

Next week’s Ask the Interior Designer question is still open!  Feel free to post a question through this blog, the Designing Life Facebook, or through e-mail.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Masculine and Feminine: Working Through a Difference of Opinion in Decor

Masculine VS Feminine

Men and women do not think the same.  Whether in the world of psychology, sports, medicine, or in interior design, the differences are abundantly evident.  Sometimes that difference of attitude or opinion ends up being a barrier to home design.  The wife wants the bedroom painted a light heather shade; the husband says why don't we leave it alone.  The husband finds a large manly recliner and proposes adding the piece to the living room; the wife would rather keep the atrocity away from her living space.  The examples go on and on.  How can any woman or even man who has opinions about home decor find a middle ground when these opinions seem so irreconcilable.

Focus on the Similarities
Yes, the differences are numerous, but the similarities can form a common ground.  Most women do not prefer massive pieces of manly furniture just as most men do not prefer floral patterns with hues of pink, still many women find browns attractive and men find comfortable furniture appealing.  These are the agreements in opinion that must be built upon in order to create a home design that both parties will enjoy.

Build on the Similarities
Maybe the only thing a couple can agree on is the fact that they both like authentic wood furniture.  An entire room can be styled based on this one foundation!  The couple can collect fine wood furniture and pair this will wood frames for the wall decor.  The floor can even be hard wood to reflect the couples’s love of wood and its beautiful grain.

Another example of a commonality would be the love of comfort.  Typically men love comfort and women have been known for sacrificing comfort for style.  However, if both people are equally sold on the need for comfort, they have a united front.  Each person can introduce other elements such as style and durability, but the final deciding factor on most home choices will be "Is it comfortable?"  This works even for items when decorating.  Some items create a feel that is more comfortable, while others make a room feel formal and create an atmosphere for activity or stress.  Simply choose items that facilitate relaxation.

As a seasoned wheeler and dealer, I know that sometimes it takes a trade or two to get what you want.  When my husband gets an idea about something he wants changed around the house, I consider it an opportunity rather than a moment to run in fear.  If he wants a new piece of equipment for the television, then I can sometimes use that to encourage the buying of a new television stand to house this new piece of equipment.  If he needs a new wood working tool for his workshop in the garage, then I can propose buying a new shelf for garage organization.  However, this can work both ways.  Since I really want to complete our bedroom by painting it mild evergreen, I agreed to hang some framed tapestry pieces in our bedroom.  I get the room painted, and he gets to have the three framed tapestries in the bedroom.  Compromise not only allows both persons to feel a benefit, but it can create a new design that would have not have occurred without working together.

Decor Mediator
In a home that houses a family, the design decisions affect the entire family.  Whether the man of the house or the lady of the house takes the strongest stance, both can reconcile their differences in decor with an appealing design.  However, even the best of couples occasionally become stuck on a room or a project due to different ideas about how things should be done.  At these times, a third party can be ever so helpful.  A trained interior designer or interior decorator knows how to listen to both parties, understand the needs and desires for the space, and he or she can come up with a plan that will work for everyone.  While some men think a decorator will turn the house into a girly mess, a true interior decorator or designer will only come up with a design once she or he has heard both the husband and a wife of the household.  The design plan should be a reflection of the family of the house, not the personal style of the designer.

Working through a difference of opinion in decor can be done successfully!  The manly dresser can coincide with the floral armchair and the man cave may be able to coexist with the craft room.  With a little bit of give and take and a lot a bit of love, the house can show both masculinity and feminity while being equally enjoyable for each member of the family.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Friday Furniture Feature: Name Design Studio

Furniture Maker: Jo Supara Tarakci
Location:  Istanbul, Turkey
Specialty: Upcycled and reupholstered antique and vintage furniture and decor with a patchwork flair

Friday Furniture Feature: Name Design Studio

Though beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, a person would have to be blind to not recognize the timeless elegance of Name Design Studio's patchwork furniture pieces.  Located in Istanbul, Turkey, Name Design Studio is headed up by Jo Supara Tarakci an interior architect.  Though established in 2010, her Etsy shop began earlier this year.  For those who discover her unique wares, their world will always have the potential to be a more colorful place.

The blue and white porcelain patchwork armchair stands out due to its bold contrast of colors.  The blue and white colors are reminiscent of traditional porcelain dinnerware.  This piece would not only make a statement in the living room of any home, but it would be a family heirloom for years to come!

Pink Green Armchair

Another stunning aspect of Jo Supara Tarakci's patchwork pieces is the choice of color.  In the pink green armchair, the rose hues are paired with meadow green, the accent colors include yellow, white, and taupe.  This shop is one of the best examples of an artisan that values attention to detail and the attention has paid off.

Unique Upholstery by Jo Supara Tarakci

In the world of upholstery, the tattered and worn is often replaced with new and unique patterns.  Most chairs are considered special to be graced with one unique and desirable pattern.  The upholstery products in Name Design Studio are perfectly balanced with an array of fancy fabrics and stunning designs.  If you are looking to bring a bit of spice to a corner or completely illuminate a room with a new sofa, consider purchasing a patchwork piece from Name Design Studio off of

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Today's Project: Closet Organization

My Closet with Hanging Shelves
This is a topic very close to home to me.  In fact, today, the topic actually found its way all the way into my closet!  With much duress, gusto, and sweat, I reorganized my closet to better meet my needs and my husband’s needs.

Though I enjoy designing and decorating, the closet is often the exception.  Even when enjoyment can be found in organizing (which often happens in the morning hours after having my daily cup of joe), I typically tend to take care of the areas that are seen most often such as the bathroom, the kitchen, and the living room.  My closet is often low on my list of priorities and, therefore, it normally has to reach a breaking point until I’ll venture into my walk-in closet lined with closet rods filled with clothes on the right and left.

Reaching the Breaking Point
This morning (after my coffee) I took the dive to clean and reorganize my closet.  The breaking point had arrived a few days ago when we came back from vacation with an antique dresser for my husband, James.  I will blog more about this unique find later, but the issue with this dresser came from its space requirements.  We no longer had space in the bedroom for James’s old dresser so we decided to move it into the closet so I could use it in place of my hanging shelf.  However, as it often works out, the night we loaded the new dresser into the room and moved the old dresser into the closet James and I were exhausted.  We shoved the old dresser to the back of the closet, placed our empty suitcases in front of it, and left the hanging shelves in place.  What a disaster!

Clearing Work Space
Left in practically disgraceful condition, I had to begin by moving the four suitcases that blocked the way to the old dresser.  When organizing, you have to begin by creating a space to work.  Many people begin to organize while coexisting with the clutter, but there is really no quicker way to become frustrated, disheartened, and to simply give up.  Clear some space, move bigger items into another room, and then begin working in a breathable and workable space.

Work and Rework
After moving the suitcases, I could spend my time unloading the items that were in the hanging shelf into the dresser.  Each type of item in a closet needs a home.  I put my belts and scarves in the top drawer, my socks in the second, my bathing suits and nightgowns in the third, etc.  I measured the space that I would need for the dresser and realized I would have to pack up some of the formal dresses farther down to make space.  Organization takes time!

After I created the space that I needed, I was able to jostle the dresser forward in the closet until I reached the open space to the left of the door.  While the dresser looks better, I could see that it took significantly more space than my hanging shelf.  I was able to use the space above the dresser for various boxes that had cluttered the floor of my closet.  After moving the boxes, I realized I now had more space for my shoe rack and shoes!  When organizing a closet, you must work and rework your solutions.

Don’t Make it Work
As soon as I had taken down the hanging shelves, I thought ‘Hey!  I’ll just put this in another location in the closet.’ Though the hanging shelves were meant for a full length space, I tried hanging it on a closet rod that had half of full length space.  The hanging shelves poured into the floor and I noticed how the previously sturdy fabric-covered cardboard shelves had begun to sag over time.  Sometimes you just have to let go of the old and allow the new to kick it out the door.  I could not make the shelving work for me and it is now sitting in the trash pile waiting to hit the curb.

Sentiment My Foot!
Like most ladies, I love shoes.  I have old shoes and I have new shoes.  Then I have some really old shoes.  Only they are not just any shoes, they have sentimental value!  Like the shoes I bought when I was pregnant with my son, or the flip flops I wore when I was in high school.  I even have the black slip-resistant shoes that I used when I did waitressing.  Whether it is shoes, clothes, jewelry, or any other item with sentimental value, you must realize that collecting these items does you and your closet no good!  The shoes will never grow young again and will always look dingy, the clothes that have holes will never magically fix themselves, and even the jewelry that you wore in college will never look as good now as it did then.  Saving them is not a solution, it’s a mistake.  I waved goodbye to my sentimental shoes and still need to go through some of the sentimental clothes and jewelry.

Get Some Ideas
Each challenge has a corresponding idea.  My closet has presented me with multiple challenges and I had the opportunity to acknowledge those challenges as I sought to organize and clean.  I did not solve all of the challenges in one organization session, but now I can write down the challenges and begin to work out solutions.  Here are my existing challenges:

How to effectively utilize high closet shelves
Where to put extra guest pillows
What hangers do I really want to keep and which should I toss out
Where should we keep our suitcases
Does our closet really make the best wine rack (yes, there is a story there)
What type of shoe rack would do better than my two shelf unit

Rather than thinking of these existing challenges as all the ways I did not succeed in finishing today, I can understand that taking more than a day to work out solutions can actually make my closet organization better than it would be on a one day project.  Organization takes time, thought, and constant problem solving, but the results are so worth it!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Attention to Detail in Home Decorating

When I first began my venture into Interior Design, I paid little attention to detail.  The details came at random and I experienced my life as one unrelated event after another.  This was no difference in my outlook regarding the details during my first year as an Interior Design student.  It took time to realize that it was all about the details.

Whether in my own life or within home decorating, each detail is an opportunity to excel.  Instead of looking at my life as a scattered collage of unrelated pieces, I must realize that each piece is a mosaic that must be relished and experienced to the fullest.  In design, I realize that each element within a room is a unique chance to convey who I am as a person and who I want my family to be.  Each item of decor whether it is a bookshelf, a sofa, or a piece of art says something about me and also expresses my care for my guests.

Doing Nothing Is Doing Something
Many people believe that they can simply leave a room alone to play it safe.  Sticking with the basics may seem like a good idea, but it still communicates.  A guest room without a box of tissues, a trash can, towels, and extra pillows and blankets is saying to the guest, "your host has not considered your needs."  Similarly, a living room without coasters, end tables, or comfortable seating is telling visitors, "I hope you don't stay too long!"

If these messages are being relayed to your company, imagine what you are saying to your family without realizing it!  Each and every detail in your home has the potential to be a constant reminder to your family that you have considered their needs and are actively taking care of them.  The strategic placement of a shoe basket at the front door keeps the floors clean and makes the parents of the household less likely to have to fuss with children about shoes being all over the house.  A homework box on a child's desk allows for a parent to easily monitor a child's progress on assignments, but keeps away the stress of having to ask for assignments and makes it seem less like a trust issue.  Each detail that is attended to actually allows for stress to be removed from a household and for organization and peace to reign.

Just as the image on this blog mentions, you want your house to be about something genuine.  Genuinely seek ways to demonstrate your thoughtfulness throughout your household as you consider the details that can make your lives and homes run more smoothly.  Remember, doing nothing is not a solution, so be intentional about what is being said through your choices in home decor.
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