2 Weeks in the Life of a SMALL Interior Design Job (Part 3)

So, it's now been a few days since I have seen my new client. Yesterday was my shopping day. I found many pieces that I can incorporate into my design.

My biggest dilemma has been selecting the accent color for her space. She loves all colors, happy colors. I typically ask my clients what colors they dislike, then create a palette from what's left. Why do I ask what colors you dislike? So often you ask a client what colors they like. They don't often know. They will list two or three colors but neglect to mention others because they just don't realize how much they like them. Usually they own several articles of clothing in these other colors but have never considered them for their walls of home decor. It's often difficult to expand a personal view of something you feel you just "know". This usually requires expanding that perception by seeing a color scheme with those colors to agree. One thing you always know, however, is the one or two colors you hate! You have strong feelings about them and can recite them quickly. Think about it... You can see a cute pair of shoes in the store but pass them over because you don't like red. You can look through your whole closet and not find one green outfit. You can proclaim to the mountains that you can't stand yellow. Your likes may be a bit wishy washy, but your dislikes are FIRM!

Now, one of the most important aspects of this design plan is scale. It's one of the most important parts of any design plan but even more so with a smaller space. It's also the most under planned concept by homeowners and the one they get wrong the most. I would say that seventy percent of all homes I see have furniture that's way too large for the space and another twenty percent has furniture that's just too small. That only leaves ten percent who actually get it right. It's not entirely your fault. There is a bit of math and science to it all. That's part of why people hire professionals. You may love a piece of furniture but that doesn't mean it's the right sized piece to live in your home. 

In my client's case, she needs smaller pieces, narrower in depth. I have found a great dining table that is a narrow oval and will be a great fit for her smaller width dining area. I have found a click clack that doesn't scream dorm room and a nice bookcase that I can either place on the wall or use as a room dividing knee wall to visually break up the space. I just haven't figured out which I am doing yet...

I'll keep you posted. Today, I put it all together and meet with my client at 5 to present my ideas.


If I had a Design Show on HGTV/ DIY- 5 things home improvement shows should tell you! (Part 4)

4. One of my favorite designers on TV is Candice Olson, for her beautiful work and dramatic flair. She is a well admired designer and rightfully so, but the lavish designs and high end fits and finishes she uses in her designs all come with a very large price tag. Many homeowners crave this look but just don't realize the massive expense of an entirely mosaic tiled mother of pearl wall or the $2,000 chandelier she placed in the center of that latest basement remodel! A majority of the furnishings she uses in her homes happen to be from her own line of furniture and accessories and, while excellent in quality, they are not cheap. I can tell you easily that most of her room designs begin at $40,000 and that does not include whatever she is making to design them, nor her crew. I am purely speaking of the wallpapers, lighting, wood flooring, cabinets, tile, windows, furniture and her great accessories. She designs well done spaces, but homeowners have NO idea what they cost... and they DO cost! 

Consider, again, that the interiors designed for television are meant to pack a punch on your senses, but that luxurious products have a luxurious price tag. A designer can help you balance out those costs to accommodate your budget, by selecting the right mix of higher and lower end fixtures and finishes to create the drama in your space without the drama in your wallet! It's what we do...

If I had a Design Show on HGTV/ DIY- 5 things home improvement shows should tell you! (Part 1)

image courtesy of www.myditi.comThat's it. It's happened... You've just watched an hour of television that has changed your life and empowered you to take on the role of DIYer extraordinaire! There's just one problem- REAL LIFE DESIGN IS ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY NOTHING LIKE WHAT YOU SEE ON TV, and it's quite frustrating for me and the tens of thousands of other designers who watch these shows to keep up with what they are showing you, the homeowner. 

I often wish that I could have my own show on these networks, where I could show the realities of working with a designer versus going it alone, because there are so many situations that occur between the opening shot of your room to be remodeled and the closing credits when your room is complete... AND WAY MORE COST THAN WHAT THEY WILL EVER DISCLOSE TO YOU. I always do my best to provide my clients as much detailed information about their projects from beginning to end as possible, but television shows about design are made to wow you, and, perhaps design reality would bore you? One things for sure... there are 5 REALLY IMPORTANT THINGS THAT THESE SHOWS JUST DON'T TELL YOU, and here they are:

1. It takes way longer than 3 days to remake your room. On TV everything is instant. The designer meets the client... Then the show cuts to a second appointment right after. This never happens! When did the designer have time to plan the space? How did they push your design to the front of the line, or do they have absolutely no other clients? And then, you'd assume they just went to one magical store, waived a wand and found every single piece they needed for the room- AND IT WAS ALL IN STOCK! (Wow, I wish I designed in that world, my life would be SO much easier! Lol)

So, here's the reality. It can take anywhere from 1-3 weeks to get your plan together, depending on how busy your designer is. I average between 1-2. They have to source all of your room's items from flooring to draperies to furnishings. Anything custom designed, takes more time to dream up, plan and draw for you.

Now that you have a plan that your designer presented, you approved & made no changes to... Your designer still has to order everything and await their arrival. I think I've thoroughly explained this one... NO magic wand, NO three day project. Not gonna happen!


Find an interior designer in AZ- Arizona Interior Designers

Arizona is a veritable buffet of interior designers and decorators chomping at the bit to earn your business. That's the good thing. Now for the bad... In Arizona there is no skill required to obtain an interior design company, nor license. With SO, SO many of us around, how do you know you've found the right one to work with? That's a fantastic question. I will try to be as objective as I can with my answer, but of course, I will toot my own horn... toot, toot!


Some interior "designers" in Arizona are nothing more than a well dressed decorator. Decorators can make your space pretty- they, well... DECORATE. They can't really go beyond that, having no techincal knowledge of what we do. You may think initially that your project may not require much more than this, but if you are looking for someone to propose the absolute best options for your space, that may require more knowledge than whether that color upholstery will match that color floor. I have been suprised to find that many designers in Arizona do not know wood species, their characteristics, understand fabric ratings, light planning, scale, many can't render a room to show you what you will be getting as an end result of their design, very few know plumbing or understand specifications and far fewer can interpret a blueprint. Working directly with remodelers, I've come across countless errors made by other designers in the field, stemming from a lack of knowledge. These are things that you just don't think of until there she is standing in your room after two weeks of working with her and all she's done is dressed up your pre-existing space without really seeing that the floorplan can possibly exist in a different way.

A good way to judge if your designer is not much more than a decorator is by their hourly fee. It should be lower because they do not have the technical knowledge that would expect a higher salary. If your designer is charging less than $100.00 per hour, please know they are most likely not a designer. That being said, you can obtain a great designer for a rate of $125.00-$150.00 per hour, with many now offering value based flat fees ( I am one of them). Having done this for over seventeen years now, on the East and West Coast, I know this to be a very fair wage for what we do. If someone is charging you more, that does not mean they are better... and that brings me to my next topic.

Interior design was not invented in Scottsdale, AZ! You do not require a Scottsdale designer to ensure good work. However, this has become a snowball effect of afluent clients seeking designers in Scottsdale, so more designers have placed their offices or rented tiny showroom spaces in Scottsdale to do their best to attract your business. Does that mean that a designer who lives in Chandler, Mesa or Gilbert can't do as well a job... well, that's just silly? Is there a possibility that you will pay more money to work with a Scottsdale designer to create your dream space? Likely you will, because that high rent cannot pay itself. Don't judge a designer by where they have chosen to live, nor where they conduct their business. As a matter of fact, there are afluent pockets of homeowners throughout the East and West Valley; and I have to laugh when I come across a designer or remodeler that tells me they won't come down to the East Valley past Shea, as though no one worth designing for resides beyond the 101. I have done many gorgeous remodels in Chandler, Mesa, Gold Canyon and Tempe in everything from multi-million dollar estates to $300k condos. I feel a good designer doesn't limit herself and seeks to create where the opportunity is. As a result, I practice interior design from Phoenix to Gold Canyon, and every city in between. ( Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, Peoria, Tempe, Chandler, Gilbert, Queen Creek, Gold Canyon)

The more skill your designer possesses, the less outsourcing they will need to do to complete your project. For instance, I am an interior designer who also specializes in kitchen and bathroom remodeling. I can fully design a kitchen or bathroom, right down to the cabinet layout and fixtures that will work best within the space, doing my own technical drawings usable by a contractor. I can ensure that the fixtures will fit properly, understand the construction required to move a drain or cutouts needed when putting a certain style of faucet in a vanity that contains all drawers (I just recently saw this huge mistake made by a very well known Scottsdale design firm). Working with a designer that has this kind of knowledge can only benefit you and your project by having less hands on the work and greater project management. I also have a fantastic team that I work with constantly, consisting of my own custom cabinet and remodeling shop- owned by my husband, Jay Dunbar of J&M Custom Millwork & Remodeling, and an amazing custom home and commercial builder, Kevin Panoski of Kevron Homes. Some designers have to outsource this type of work, and that's ok, but that typically means there are added costs involved, as each time a plan passes hands, there is profit thrown on top of that next source's cost.

Lastly, use good judgement when selecting your designer. Do you feel, after meeting with them that they will be a good fit for you and your project? Have you seen their work? An experienced interior designer will have photos of their work and references of past clients. Be leery of someone who shows you nothing but one photo of each project they've done. Sometimes one photo is all that's required to show off the work, but designers know how important the process is from beginning to end, so your designer would be able to show you a few before and afters or even mid project construction photos. This is how you will know that this work is truly their own. I only bring this up because I have been shocked to find that a few designers in AZ have comprised websites and portfolio photos of work that is not even theirs. I also know of one designer who's website shows you nothing but inspiration photos stolen from another website. It's great to have inspiration, but this doesn't show you what they can accomplish for your space. I happen to be friends with a few designers both in Arizona and in New York who actually do great design work. There are a few good ones out there, in addition to myself, of course! One of my favorites, if you live in the New York area, is Meredith Zaretsky Weis. I highly recommend you contact her company, Merri Interiors, for all of your design projects. Like me, not only does she do fabulous interior design, but also specializes in kitchens and bathrooms. She is one of those background designers who really needs to shine more in the forefront, she's fantastic. (look at her portfolio).

I realize that this was a very long post, and it should be even longer, as I can go on and on about the many nuances I have seen first hand in interior design in Arizona. For instance, I know of one "design firm" who is remodeling kitchens and bathrooms throughout Scottsdale, Chandler and Mesa and the owner was previously in an unrelated field with no experience nor knowledge of design WHATSOEVER! She continues to take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners by charming them, I suppose, because she continues to be hired without so much as a website and has left a bad taste in the mouths of dozens of homeowners that I know of for the last 9 months. The mistakes she's made and lack of knowledge for what she claims she can do has shown in her work. As much as I would like to publicize this business, I will continue to do my best to promote good design, educate homeowners on what to look for, and create amazing spaces for my own clients. But at least now, you are a bit more savvy on what to look for and avoid when selecting an interior designer in Arizona. If you appreciate my honesty on the subject, and are seeking a designer for your home, give me a chance to see if I may be a good fit for you and your home!