how i work: the design phase

This is a room in progress based on the board above.

Potential clients will sometimes ask if I will go shopping with them or how involved they will be in the design process.

I generally do not go shopping with clients or sort through tons of fabric swatches with them. I am happy to consider any furnishings or fabrics clients have found that they love, but I need to be able to evaluate everything independently to see if it really will create the overall feeling the client wants, and if it really is the best option from a space planning perspective.

I can only do this type of evaluation in the quiet of my studio, where I have the rooms on paper and all the other design elements thought out so that I can consider everything in relationship to one another.

There are several points in the design process where the work is collaborative. There is in the initial phase where the client tells us about their lifestyle and shares inspiration and ideas for the design. This is your opportunity to consider all the options and bring us absolutely every idea that strikes your fancy. This meeting sets the agenda for the entire project.

Then again in the revision phase the client points out any elements in the design that they do not absolutely love, and we work together to find replacements. At this point we can shop together for a few signature items or sort through things together to find replacements for anything that is not working.

I know it disappoints some people that I will not work hourly or shop with them, but this is really not the way most professional designers work. I think Million Dollar Decorators, which I wrote about in my last post, is a great depiction of how top designers create. They consult with the client but they do the work, the shopping, the editing, separately.

If you hire a designer it should be because you trust that this person can accomplish a result that you cannot get on your own. If this is true then, as a client, you have to communicate your point of view best you can and then let your designer do the design.

Many of my best clients have told me upfront that they want to be very involved, but when they see what we create for them they realize we have hit the nail on the head and that they do not really need to be there every step of the way to get the space of their dreams.

What do you think? Are you a designer? How do you prefer to work? Have any of you ever had a great experience with a designer who worked differently than this?

summer obsession #2: million dollar decorators

Bravo’s new TV show, Million Dollar Decorators, is my ultimate guilty pleasure of the moment.  After all, we are talking about interior design royalty and their juicy exploits here! I bought a season pass on I Tunes and have been downloading episodes at the earliest possible moment each week.

It feels like I am watching an amped up version of my own life, but since it is not me I can laugh at it with abandon and objectively see how hilarious the whole thing is!

Last week I was crying tears of laughter when Jeffrey Alan Marks spent a small fortune on a spot table for his own home, only to find it was way too small to fill the space he was planning for it.

The rational brain had to know the table would be too small, but the passionate brain saw a great, signature piece that it just had to have and make work somehow. Admit it, you’ve been there too right?

In the end a great designer will always do the right thing, which is realize it doesn’t work and adjust the plan.  In the case of JAM he settled on the table as an accent piece and started planning new shopping trips where he might just find the perfect cocktail table to fill the space.

What strikes me most about this show is how over the top ALL the designers are, each in their own way. Watch out folks. I may be inspired to unleash my inner diva! A side that only my team here really gets to see.

Who is your favorite character? Do you have a favorite moment on the show? Do tell.

reads: good to great by jim collins

I love reading business books and memoirs of successful entrepreneurs. I picked up Good to Great by Jim Collins while I was in Chicago and re-read it last week.

I love the idea Collins calls a “Hedgehog Concept,” a central idea that is simple, and guides the decisions and actions of a business consistently, religiously even.

What is interesting, is that a good interior design is similar in that it requires a single concept that dictates the thousand different choices you have to make to put a room together. Not adhering to the central concept for a room or a house can mean a house is good, not great, or worse yet, a complete design disaster!

Like the businesses Collins discusses the key ingredient is discipline. It takes discipline to not meander off concept in interior design. Keeping clients on a clear path towards their design goals and away from the distraction of the hundreds of thousands of other choices out there is one of my key responsibilities.

Can I do that with the business direction too? That is harder for me. We’ll see! I’m working with my team on what our hedgehog concept might be.

summer obsession: red mango white peach frozen yogurt

My assistant Emily has been talking too much about Red Mango this summer. It planted a bug in my head and now I am equally obsessed. I went 3 times this week to eat the White Peach Frozen Yogurt.

In my defense, it tastes like you are really biting into a juicy white peach! And you get to add all the fun toppings that you like!  And it’s not too high in carbs if you eat a small…

Seriously though, it is self serve, they have 8 different flavors, and maybe 30 different options for toppings. It’s a frozen yogurt equivalent to walking into the D & D building!

Have you been? Do you have your own favorite flavor? Emily’s tip: Skip the one in Montclair because it doesn’t have all the options and isn’t self-serve like the one in downtown Summit.

If you go this week, you’ll probably see me there : ).

chicago river architecture tour

Here are some pics I found online of the architecture on the Chicago river. We just went last week. The palette of the city reminds me of my favorite color schemes: neutrals with all shades of blue to green. On a good tour you can learn how all the buildings were conceived in relationship to the overall skyline.

I recommend the Chicago Architecture Foundation cruise for the real deal. I’ve done this several times, however last week we went for the more kid-friendly Seadog Tour, where they take you on a speedboat ride on Lake Michigan afterwards. It was still beautiful and fun for all!