The Best Interior Designers Are The Best Listeners

THE TRICK TO A SUCCESSFUL INTERIOR RENOVATION PROJECT IS VERY SIMPLE

A good life is not a place at which you arrive, it is a lens through which you see and create your world.” ― Jonathan Fields

With technology today, we all have an image of what we think our homes should look like.  What they should convey to the world and endless sources telling us how to achieve this very thing.  To some extent this has always been the case.  The design industry is based on finding the new, the better, and presenting the best in everything.  Our firm is small and has been for 35 years.  Our approach to good design will always be the same because it is what our clients expect and we continuously strive to deliver.

We are hired by clients who are open to exploring all avenues of how to make a house their home.  We help them curate and create a home that is exactly as they envision their homes to work in their lives.  First time clients think we have a bag of tricks, when in all sincerity, we get all our clues listening and learning from them.  This Motivational Monday we’d like to share how we create the lens our clients look through.

Small Dress 1

BEHIND THE SCENES OF AN INTERIOR DESIGN PROJECT

A picture is worth a thousand words.  We can’t count how many photos, digital and paper, we have in our “what if” files.  Every single photo has been saved for some reason.  Some for a specific element of a project like a light fixture, a molding concept or a paint process.  Others, my favorites, are saved because of the “feel” they convey.  Before the first measurement, drawing or selection is made, we compile a series of photos and notes of what we want to accomplish.  These in-house notes and photos sometimes never see the light of day again.  Sometimes, though not very often, they become part of a presentation as needed to explain our design concept.  With technology, we can now save all our notes and easily recall them.

THE NEW GRANDMA KITCHEN

This is what we ended up naming a kitchen renovation completed a few years ago.  It’s what our clients wanted but couldn’t get it across to one of the big box store kitchen planners.  Kitchen planners are experts at just that…kitchens.  The relationship with your designer is how you develop the concept of a project.  As we like to call it…the soul.

Inspiration Images

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Above is a photo collage of the images initially saved for this project and below are the notes.  (the italics have been added to explain more about the project for this post)  After our initial meeting, and a few questions, we pinpointed what the clients wanted in a kitchen for the next phase of their lives.  As parents to their adult children, who now come home and cook with them, and for future grandchildren, they wanted everyone to have the same good memories they both had when they went to “their” grandparents home growing up.  Simple and straight forward, a blueprint in the making.

Initial Notes

  • Work with the space you have.  Adding on is expensive and does not always achieve what you were dreaming of.  Existing space can be reconfigured to be everything on the wish list and with better quality finishes that what it cost to add footage.  Our client had a home they loved in a neighborhood they adored.  The set up was a typical early 80’s kitchen with a bay window that had housed a table over the years.  The view, of a now mature garden, was out those windows.  When we first met, they believed they needed to bump out the space to get a kitchen that now met their needs of serious cooking by two retired cooks each night.
  • Think about storage in unique ways.  Being such incredible cooks they had a lot of “stuff” yet were realistic of what pieces they really used and what could be passed on.  
  • Be open to finishes you think are “taboo” in the design world.  Brass is not, and never has been bad.  The way brass was used, in mass quantities and cheap finishes, is what is being undone.  Quality can be timeless in the right design. No we are not nuts when we suggested warm, inviting brass faucets to replace the worn, too shinny brass they were dreaming of replacing with the next trend…brushed chrome.
  • A little turquoise in every home is the secret of designers. Not a problem for this client.  They had such interesting pottery pieces we encouraged them to work into the design plan.  Originally, they thought a new kitchen meant a more sterile approach.
  • True divided windows and doors are a plus.  Feature them instead of looking at them as “old” windows.  No, no, no.  Do not replace good windows with cheap replacements.  Our clients did not have a problem with temperature control and were only considering replacements because others in the neighborhood were doing it.  Replacement windows are wonderful when the quality is equal to or better than what you currently have. 
  • There is a place for greenery in every decor.  Something living, that we care for, makes every space more intimate. Without doing any decor changes, a living potted plant or fresh flowers changes how we see our home.  
  • The soul of a home is you and what you place in it. We knew these clients very well.  Any design we came up with for a new kitchen would only be a backdrop to the pots simmering on the range, the wine uncorked and being enjoyed while someone was chopping, and the smell of fresh bread coming from the oven.

Sidenote:  Are you wondering why there is a photo of a women in a coat in the group?  It’s because this is how I thought of our client.  The project initially started in the fall and I could already picture her joining us at a site meeting, with no heat and her coat draped across her shoulders as she quickly and expertly approves each decision.  Now I can picture her in the same outfit perched on one of her counter stools looking through cookbooks, pondering what she cooks up next.  Our firms “trick” to a successful project is designing and implementing a project where our clients are the last, perfect piece of the puzzle. Their puzzle.

Listening Is The Greatest Trick In Our Design Bag


COMING UP ON WEDNESDAY’S POST

What do these four interiors have in common?

White Cocktail Table on Black and White Rug Flooded With Sunlight
Remodelista
Parisan Curly Iron Staircase, Stone Doorways with Stained Wood Arched Doors
Habitually Chic
Slate Floor Entry with Charcoal Bead Board Dutch Doors White Walls With  Golden Sunlight
Luxe
Traditional Bath with dual white furniture style vanities, red persian area rug with sunlight streaming in - via simon 140
House Beautiful

We will give you a hint….it’s the other “trick” we keep in our bag.

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10 thoughts on “The Best Interior Designers Are The Best Listeners

  1. Hi Laurel, your explanation of the inclusion of the photo of the woman in the coat is wonderful. Picturing your client as the key piece of the puzzle is so simple and clever and yet sadly, overlooked by so many other companies, Lxx

    1. Agree…we’ve got to find a way to get back to personal interaction. Conversation may now be over the web…but it can still be meaningful and heartfelt. Everyone is so interesting…all we have to do is ask!

    1. We are passionate about making everyone’s home “real”. Good design is for everyone!

  2. Such a good post! I enjoyed every bit of it! One day I want to redo my kitchen and dining room … I want to move the kitchen to where the dining room is. Your post is full of inspiration!

  3. I was wondering about that woman. Love her coat. Your quote is so true! I had a decorator that I fired because she was more concerned with fads than my wishes. Enjoy your week.

    1. Thank you! You and Ms Daisy would look forward ne in a coat like that! Readers: If you want to know more about Ms Daisy see Katie’s blog preppyemptynester.com

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