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You and Your Interior Designer: An Invaluable Partnership

Your home is probably the biggest investment you will ever make. Aside from its investment value, it is your cozy comfort-zone, your castle. It must serve you functionally as well as aesthetically.

When you build a new home, or make changes in an existing one, you are not only cementing (forgive the pun) your level of contentment (or lack of it) for many years to come, but in the event that you decide to sell your home at one point, the success or failure of its layout will seriously impact the selling price.

Simple fact: we humans require furniture for comfort.  It is surprising that often, even architects ignore this fundamental truth.  The rooms of your home must serve your furnishings.  Your furnishings, in turn, serve you.

Furniture, even small-scale furniture, has volume.  The most compact sofa will be at least 35" deep, 72" long.

As an interior designer I have seen costly and irreversible errors in space planning - painful errors, which may easily have been prevented, had an interior designer been consulted in the planning stage

Case in Point - A Cautionary Tale

One of the saddest examples is a client who called me with a referral from her friend.  She introduced herself and proceeded, enthusiastically, to describe her new sun-room, the construction of which had just been completed.   She was ready to design the room and wanted my help.  When I asked for the dimensions of the room she replied, “Oh, I don’t really know, but it’s huge!  My voice is echoing in here.”  She went on to say that the room was built to accommodate their custom of heavy summer entertaining.  Groups of 20 to 30 people were the norm.  She envisioned a sofa or two, several chairs, tables, and a huge palm tree to remind her of her place in Florida.

My impression from this conversation was that the room must be enormous, and that my challenge as a designer, would be to create a feeling of intimacy in this large space by working out a floor plan that would incorporate two or three conversation areas.

Upon visiting the home for the first time I was startled.  A very pretty room it was, but what my new client considered “huge” seemed this way only because it was, at that point, absolutely empty.  I drafted a quick scale drawing.  Together we started to add scale-size furnishings.  She was devastated to see the reality of the room: even one small sofa left little room to navigate.  The room was cut right down the middle by a traffic lane leading from the livingroom to the pool area.  It was much too small a space for two sofas; even one small one would be awkward and out of place.

Enough said.

The original purpose for the room could never be fulfilled.

Learn from this story.  The most economical thing you can do before breaking ground on new construction is to consult with a good interior designer. 

Yes, Interior Designers Do Come In Handy

Following are other ways your interior designer can save you time, money, and many, many headaches.

Talk to your designer before painting your room(s).  Just instruct your painter to do the “prep” work (repair cracks and prime walls), and hold off on color until you have a chance to discuss the room with your designer.  Wall color is an integral and thematic key to your decor.  You don’t want to risk having to re-paint in order to achieve the look you were after. 

Do not purchase any furniture before you consult with your interior designer.  A bargain sofa from the Final Clearance room is no bargain at all if it won’t fit into the layout, or is just plain wrong for the room.

Allow your interior designer to be your interpreter in the foreign terrain of interior design.  A good designer listens to your ideas, your wants and needs, and never imposes upon you a look or style which is not you.  A good designer’s goal is to create a beautiful environment which reflects your unique personality.  This evolves as the result of the partnership between you both.

Easy Communication With Your Designer

But, you say, how do I express to my designer what it is I want, when I don’t really know myself?

It’s amazing how your vision can evolve, and how clearly and eloquently you will convey your ideas if you will do a little homework in advance of your first meeting with your designer.

Prioritize.  Make a list of the rooms you want to design, in the order of priority.  If you are looking forward to an event such as a wedding, you may prefer to complete the “public” rooms first, such as the livingroom and the foyer.  It’s your call.  On that list, note the amount of time you have allotted to complete each room.

Very important: be absolutely committed to the completion, down to the last finishing touch, of each room before moving on to the next.  Banish any urge to break this rule, and you will save yourself from one of the biggest interior design faux pas.  Many people make this mistake, and it is the recipe for failure.

Become a clipping-fiend.  Develop the habit of clipping photos from magazines, catalogues, anywhere an appealing idea pops up.  Whenever you come across a detail, a color, a pillow treatment, a mood, or a finished room that feels right to you, clip it out and put it into a folder.  No need to be literal here.  Soon that folder will be overflowing with pictures, all reflecting your personal preferences.  This folder will be gold to your interior designer, and will allow him/her to get a “feel” for what you are after, much more clearly than words alone ever could.  I like to encourage my clients to also clip photos of rooms, colors, furnishings, etc, that they DO NOT like.  This way I will know from the start what to rule out.

Choose a designer who encourages you to participate in the process.  A good designer will present you with many choices along the way.  This can be daunting for many people, as they are concerned about making errors.  Remember, there are no right or wrong answers here.  Your designer will offer you only viable alternatives.  The “best choice” is the alternative which you, personally, prefer.  Participating in the process will assure that your room will reflect you.  If there is an instance where you simply don’t have a strong preference, trust your designer to make the choice for you.  Trust him/her to add the defining finishing touches, as well - a pop of color here, or a soft texture
there - these accents are usually what ultimately put the room into sharp focus, assuring the polish and pizazz you were aiming for!

-Karen Saloomey

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