Matchmaker, Matchmaker…

Interested in having the help of an interior designer on your next project? Great! Now how do you go about finding the right one for you? While this can be a tricky question, I have a few tips to finding a good designer to match your needs and your style.

1. Ask around. Ask your friends, neighbors, and even co-workers if they have ever worked with an interior designer. Maybe they have someone they recommend! Maybe they know who you should stay away from. Most people are happy to tell you about their experiences (good or bad). Contact those designers and ask for references you might call.

2. Inquire about qualifications. Decide if you want/need a Registered Interior Designer (RID) for the job (please see my previous post  “Designing Mind”). Sometimes you need an RID to draw up plans to get permits, etc. If you need something minor done, you might not be interested in their degree or work history- just whether or not their work appeals to you.

3. Browse their portfolio. Designers will be more than happy to show you their work if they are proud of it and have happy clients! Be wary of a designer who doesn’t have any visual documentation of their designs. Seeing a variety of completed jobs can help you to understand the designers style, taste, and approach to design. Find one that matches your own taste or that has the knowledge of a style you are striving to achieve.

4. Show me the money! Some designers ask for a retainer or a deposit for larger jobs. It is NOT common for a designer to ask for 100% up front. Make sure to ask ahead of time for how the designer is paid whether its commission, flat fee, hourly, or any combination of the sort. This will ensure there are no questions later and you are left with an unexpected bill in the end.

5. Schedule a visit. Once you’ve narrowed your list to 1-3 designers request for a visit to the job site or meet in person to discuss the project. See if you can socialize comfortably, if they return your calls in a timely manner, and compare each cost estimate to help make your final selection.

Don’t get me wrong, even when following these tips a few bad eggs can slip through the cracks. But in the end just use your own judgement. There are so many variables in the selection of a designer that sometimes just finding one you can work with might be the best choice . Best of luck and happy hunting!

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Designing Mind

After our last poll, it is clear that there needs to be a brief discussion about the interior design profession in Texas. A recent law passed has changed what the title of “interior designer” entails. This new legislation states that ANYONE and everyone can be an interior designer. Absolutely no formal education is required to hold this title. However, a “Registered Interior Designer” (or RID) is someone who has been approved by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) as well as the Texas Board for Architectural Examiners (TBAE) as having enough experience and knowledge to obtain this title.

So what kind of experience can you expect from a Registered Interior Designer? The current requirements include a 4 year degree at an accredited university, followed by 2 years apprenticeship under a RID, and completion of a standardized exam over all the aspects of interior design. RID’s are directly charged with the task of caring for the health, safety, and welfare of our clients and the general public. RID’s are also required to have annual continuing education classes in order to maintain their registration. While an interior designer might be capable of putting pretty elements together, it is this responsibility and knowledge that separates RID’s from designers.

There are several ways to tell if someone has obtained their registration as an interior designer. One way is the letters behind their name. RID, IIDA, and ASID are common titles. IIDA (International Interior Design Association) and ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) are societies RID’s can join in order to meet other design professionals and contribute to the profession. You can also research online at TBAE’s database to find a Registered Interior Designer. The easiest route would be to directly ask a designer you are interested in hiring. Most registered interior designers are proud of their accomplishments and are more than willing to discuss the process and their qualifications.

If you have more specific questions about registered interior designers or the profession please feel free to leave comments or write me an e-mail!

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Test Your Designer Knowledge

As a designer, it is our responsibility to educate the public about our profession. Recent legislation has made significant changes in the verbiage designers are allowed to use. I’d like test your knowledge to see where we designers have succeeded (or failed) in our responsibilities of education. Take our polls and don’t forget to check back at the end of the month to see the results and how you scored!

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Comparing Flooring Materials

How do you know which type of flooring is right for your home? There are so many options- it can be a daunting decision to take the plunge into updating your floors. Today I’d like to overview some of the most popular flooring types for tackling this task.

Tile or stone is arguably one of the most durable floor surfaces available. Several varieties of materials, colors, and patterns provide countless installation combinations. A “rectified” tile offers a crisp edge for smaller grout joints while a tumbled tile requires larger grout lines. Depending on the hardness or pitting of the stone, initial maintenance and long-term care needs to be a factor into your selection.

Maybe a hardwood would better suit your needs? A quality hardwood floor will be a lasting, durable surface that is cleanable and simple to maintain. It’s warmer on bare feet than tile and area rugs can add color and cushion in living areas, corridors, and bedrooms. As a hardwood ages and wears, it can also be reinvigorated by refinishing to look new several times throughout it’s lifespan.

Carpet is usually a more cost-effective solution to updating your flooring or maybe it just better defines your sense of “home.” Consider upgrading to a stain-resistant fiber. It’s a big selling-point for family home buyers and might give you some peace of mind when creating the guest list for your next holiday meal. A solid urethane pad provides a luxuriously cushioned step and can extend the life of your carpet.

Even vinyl flooring has made several advancements in recent years. If you like the durability of vinyl but hate your outdated peel-and-stick there are several grains, stains, and plank sizes that mimic wood. These “luxury vinyl tiles” or LVT can resemble nearly any kind of flooring to achieve a much more appealing style without sacrificing ease of care.

Your best resource is to seek advice from a flooring professional in your area. Be sure to find someone knowledgeable and understanding, who addresses each of your concerns. If you find yourself being pushed by an impatient salesman- leave! Locally owned businesses count on customers to survive so it’s in their best interest to make sure you’re satisfied. Also, do your homework. Research on-line, talk to friends, and visit a few showrooms to see where you feel most comfortable spending your hard earned money.

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Increase Your Home’s Value

Spending money on your home can be one of the best investments you will ever make. Putting money into your kitchen and bathroom upgrades has long been the ideology for adding the most value to your home. While this is a great general guideline, it fails to address other areas in the home in need of improvements.

A few considerations when making the decision to update should include: what is the average priced home in your neighborhood; is your home one of the largest or smallest on the street; what is your budget; how long do you intend to stay in the home. For example, you might not want to have solid granite counter tops installed in a starter home that you only plan to stay in until you find a larger one to suit your needs. An alternative might be a granite tile top- investing less money and increasing the probability of a larger return on the investment.

When deciding where to invest your money flooring can make the biggest visual impact. You may want to see what neighboring homes have used when updating for ideas of what materials to use and the price range of flooring you are willing to invest in. Chartreuse shag is an obvious material to update, but no rule says you have to replace carpet with carpet. Flooring professionals can be fabulous assets when sifting through the countless flooring options available. Don’t forget that flooring patterns are potentially as important as the material itself.

A couple of areas that may need attention, although sometimes overlooked, are hardware and lighting. Polished brass is a constant visual reminder of the home’s age. Selecting popular finishes such as brushed nickel and oil-rubbed bronze show appreciation for details. Energy efficient lighting, sensors, timers, and dimmers help to lower electricity bills. Lighting for specific activities or daylight conditions versus overall general lighting can also drastically reduce wasted wattage.

Built-ins such as fireplaces, cabinets, bookcases, shower rooms, etc. are other areas where upgrades can make a significant impact. My best suggestion for these areas is to focus on functionality while simultaneously addressing your personal taste. A tiled shower wall functions just as well as a glass divider but the wow factor of the glass is more memorable for buyers and might even make you feel more pampered in your own home. If privacy becomes an issue try a textured, etched, or frosted glass. This detailed approach to built-in renovations can be applied throughout the home to enhance it’s overall value.

Finally, regular maintenance is a great way to protect your financial investment. An elegant slate floor can quickly become a dusty mess without proper continual care. Ensure that all of your renovation budgets include any weekly, monthly, or annual allotments to maintain the integrity of materials and finishes. Even minor upkeep can sustain your home’s worth for years to come.

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Containing Your Clutter

Think about when you first moved into your home- did you have a few empty corners, closets, drawers? Chances are if you once had an empty ounce of space that it is now over-flowing. Maybe you’re not bad enough that your friends and family submit your home to one of those hoarder shows, but you’re still seeking some advice. There are so many more options for storage now, as compared to 20 years ago. Storage can be rugged, beautiful, obscured, on display, plastic bins, woven baskets, and so much more! Choosing which type best fits you depends on needs for accessibility, location, and items to be stored.

Purging is the first, and hardest, step to containing clutter. Start in one room and go through every drawer, box, and bin. I recommend making 3 piles to organize: keep, toss, donate. The “keep” pile can later be sorted into location needs or functions to help consolidate items to a specific area. Place rarely used items in rooms that are rarely occupied, such as a guest room or garage. Store more frequently used items in close proximity to where they are most likely to be utilized. Try thinking outside traditional roles for storage. Maybe your dining room table doubles as a work surface for bill paying or weekend crafts. Store those items in the credenza and pack away the rarely-used Christmas dishes in the winter coat closet.

The next task is to assess the function of the house as a whole. Can your home office be combined with your guest bedroom? Would the family computer be better utilized in a more populated area such as the living room? Consider the space requirements needed for a task and try to combine travel paths, empty space, or rarely used functions. For example all of my pots and pans hang from a ceiling rack in my kitchen. Now I’ve got a functioning display as well as extra, valuable cabinet space.

Finally, informing household members where items belong ensures your continued organizational success. I’m afraid that most of this burden rests on your shoulders. Labels can help with this process but the designer can’t monitor your special craft helper as you put away playtime. Giving each item a “home” or a designated area minimizes wasted space, and time. How many places do you find yourself looking before you track down scissors? Kitchen scissors stay in the kitchen but locate all the other scissors in a desk drawer or plastic bin. Now you (and everyone else in your home) know where to find them!

Don’t worry- you don’t have to face this alone. Sometimes an objective eye (like a designer or a friend) is helpful in deciding if an item is a keeper or not. Get other household members involved in deciding how your “keeper” items are stored. Their involvement shows them their opinion matters to you and might make them more receptive to putting items in their proper place. Take your time and make your way through each room using this process. Be ruthless- those happy meal toys from the 80’s are just gathering dust in the back of your closet. The more you get rid of, the more space you have for yourself!

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Small Can Still Be BIG

A tough economy is no longer an excuse for not giving your home a face lift. Most people assume it take big bucks to completely change the look of a room- but you know where assuming gets you! Today I want to show you steps that will still make a big impact on the look and feel of your space that can fit within all types of budgets.

The first thing you need to do is assess what final look you want for the space. Can you benefit from just adding a piece of art to a blank wall? Does your furniture still function but need updating? (See my previous post about Affordable Design in the News) Maybe you’re looking for a bigger change? I’ll walk you through my steps of change for making big impacts. We’ll start with the smallest budget change, and take you to the biggest. Each can be done individually but I’ll show you a progression as we transform this ordinary kitchen.

Starting Point

My advice if you’re on a tight budget is to start with wall color. White or beige are good colors to be a simple background, a “blank canvas” for someone who likes to change out accessories frequently. A bolder color might help add personality to a simple space and take the place of having to find the right piece of art for your blank walls.

Painted Walls

Next I would suggest looking at ceiling design. Most people forget the 6th surface of the room! Unique ceilings are unexpected and can add interest to a small space. Whether you use paint, wood, or another material you are sure to create a lasting impression on your visitors.

Metal Ceiling

Another way to change the feel of a room is to take an ordinary element and reinvent it. In our example kitchen I’ve just taken cabinetry which would normally be white or stained and painted it an unexpected color. You can accomplish this same effect by having an old piece of furniture reupholstered uniquely, or turning a table lamp upside down and making it a pendant. This is your chance to get creative!

Painted Cabinets

And finally for the icing on the cake, I suggest replacing old, out-dated flooring. This can improve the value of your home! Carpet can transform a once loud dining room into a quieter, more intimate setting. Wood can be warmer on bare feet than a winter-chilled tile floor. Area rugs can add life and color to an otherwise dull color scheme. In our kitchen I’ve completed our design by replacing the contemporary maple-look linoleum with a darker, prominent grained wood. To add pizazz the counter tops were also changed from a light color to black. Just for fun, here’s the before and after of our kitchen:

Before and After

Voila! Complete transformation. Not all projects have to make drastic changes to turn heads. Maybe instead of replacing your kitchen cabinets you slap on a few coats of paint or install new hardware. That hand-me-down chair of yours might look great in a “Tiffany” blue instead of cream, or just in need of new contrasting buttons. The secret to making small changes that make a big difference is to find what element is holding back, dating, or not contributing to your design and do something about it.

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