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Saturday, January 6, 2018

Communicating With Your Designer - Part 2

It's time to follow up from Part 1 of this series.  

Part 1 dealt with the initial contact and consultation with one or more designers.  You've gotten to know a bit about him or her and they have done the same with you. They may request more time to meet with you to further define your style and provide you with a chance to voice your opinion on all kinds of things: color, art, what you want to keep, what must go, and much, much more.  This exploration may take the form of a face to face interview or a questionnaire that you can fill out at your leisure.  If you've already provided them with a non-refundable retainer fee, you may be requested to return the filled out questionnaire within a couple of days or a week.  Your designer does not want to sit on your money without doing anything, so put them to work!  Be open and honest with answers and don't be afraid to add details no matter how small you think they are.

Once detailed information is gathered by your designer, she/he will take detailed measurements and pictures of your space(s).  Taking down measurements can be tedious work.  Ask your designer how much time is needed for taking measurements if they haven't told you already and commit to allowing your designer in the space for that time.  Try to hold off on asking questions until the work is done if at all possible.  Your designer should allow time at the end to discuss next steps. 

Now, the real design work begins.  The pictures, measurements, and details gathered from interviews and questionnaires will all be analyzed in depth. Your designer will create one or more artifacts/documents for various purposes.  At first, one or more 'concepts' may be drawn up in the form of a collage showing examples of furniture styles, flooring, window coverings, accessories, and colors.  This may be provided to you online or on paper.  

The purpose of these concept drawings is to gain a reaction from you on the look as a whole and on individual items.  They are not intended to be the exact furnishings as this is just one more information gathering tool.  

Did your designer capture something that excites you?  Does the concept give you confidence that your designer is heading in the right direction?  If not, tell them.   

This is a great time to have discussions on why you don't like some items, but like others. 

Another artifact is a 2D floor plan to show furniture placement, door swings, electrical outlets, and more.  These diagrams may be numbered so that a detailed furnishings list can accompany the diagram.  Do not send these diagrams to a builder and expect them to build from them.  Even though great attention is paid to ensuring that measurements are accurate, these diagrams are not architectural diagrams.  In a full design/execution of an interior design project, a designer is responsible for ordering furnishings and fixtures and wants to order items that fit appropriately; however, architects are responsible for knowing how to diagram the correct measurements for walls, drywall, ceiling height and all other physical aspects of the structure itself from which builders take direction. 

If you have received a detailed floor plan from your designer, she will likely use it for the basis of many discussions.  You can work through the flow of the layout - how easily is it to walk through the space?  Will the placement of the furnishings impede wheel chair accessibility when that is a concern. Do the door swings show you any problems with their use?  Does the overall placement of furnishings and the furnishings themselves work for you?  Ask your designer about the symbols and any other questions you have so that you feel very comfortable in interpreting what they are showing you.

Do you need more visuals before you can move on to the next phase - hiring trades to build, paint, fabricate, and more, and/or asking your designer to go ahead and source and purchase various pieces for the room?  Depending on the agreement made with your designer and how far into the project you are, they may provide you with additional artifacts to give you a better picture of how your space will look.  

Elevation Diagrams can be hand sketched or digital:

3D models may be provided physically or digitally and can be viewed from many angles. 
 Furnishings may not represent actual products, but they will show you the style intended and give you a very good idea for the feel of the room. 

Videos can be fun, but not all designers provide them.  That is not an indication of their talent.  Sometimes a designer will determine that taking the time to generate a 3D design or a video is not a good use of your design budget. 

Your relationship with your designer is an important one.  Relationships require open and honest communication.  A remodeling project has many phases.  All phases, especially the design phase, are opportunities to fine tune your project so that you will be delighted with the end result.

For your next project, contact Brenda Szarek
or view my website

Friday, December 22, 2017

Communicating With Your Designer - Part 1

You're a homeowner with a room or more that needs updating, freshening up, or a complete remodel.  You have a vision, but you're overwhelmed with the choices and don't want to spend a lot of money making mistakes.  You also don't want your project to extend indefinitely.

Oh Captain my Captain by Denisstiel

An interior designer can save the day!  Yes, we are super heroes.  We fight lines at home decor stores, protect your lifestyle and vision, and battle the never ending media ads that tell you their product is the best.  All kidding aside, we can help.

In order to help, your designer needs a lot of information from you.  That information is somewhat personal in order for someone you may have just met (your designer) to 'get you'.  Don't let that prevent you from picking up the phone or sending an email to several designers letting them know you want a consultation.  A free consultation is often offered.  Not only are you looking for someone you can trust, designers need to get a feeling about how your relationship can work.  If either of you decide for any reason that your project will not be successful doing it together, you have only used up perhaps an hour of your time.  Often that time will help you formulate and focus your thoughts about what you want, so that time is still valuable.

Okay, now you have the designer's attention and an appointment is scheduled.  How can you prepare for your meeting? This won't be hard if you have already collected numerous magazine clippings, Pinterest boards, Houzz ideabooks, or just kept in mind all the public places you've been that have design elements that you would love to incorporate in some way into your home. Show/discuss these with your designer at the consultation.  Their keen, educated eye will find the thread that binds the chaos into the story that makes up your unique style.  If you haven't done any of this, just be prepared for many questions around what you like to do or wear, what you like in general, and more.

The consultation was informative and fun. You get the feeling the designer now knows you and others that will live in the space you want to makeover.  You decide to go forward with hiring your designer.  This is usually where budget is discussed at a high level.  Be open and honest with your designer about budget.  You should share your dreams for the outcome of the project, but be realistic with how much you can afford to invest in the end result.  If you have no idea what the remodel will cost, your designer will have models from which to work and can give you a dollar range to start the discussion.  You will discuss where it makes sense to spend and where costs can be cut without sacrificing the end result.

There are many ways to build up to your dream room.  A few ways include starting with the basics (room layout, paint, existing furnishings re-purposed), or spending less on furnishings now knowing you can spend more later, or add a few items on your wish list that will make an impact, yet go well with current items you own.  If you invest in completing the project all at once, you'll be able to relax and enjoy your home likely sooner, than later.  No way is wrong.  You and your designer will work out the best approach together.

Hiring a designer to come up with a design for you will typically involve a non-refundable retainer fee.  You are paying for their creative abilities as well as the time it physically takes a design team to come up with the best layout and color scheme and to research and shop around for products that support the vision and budgetary needs for your space.  You will likely sign a contract for this design phase which outlines how many design versions are included, when the design will be available for review, and some basic agreement on how and when the designer can have access to your space for taking pictures and measurements.  If you come up with other ideas or changes in your plans in any way, contact your designer immediately.  Changes early in the design phase are always the easiest to accommodate.  It is their job to provide you with options or explanations if your changes cannot be included, or given their expert opinion your changes are not recommended to be included.

Be patient.  You hired them for their knowledge, experience, and creativity.  You trusted them in the beginning, so keep that trust going.  Be prepared for the exciting next step...seeing your personalized design in a form that gives you hope and anticipation that you will have a space in which you can be proud.

Check back for part 2 of Communicating With Your Designer
in early 2018 where I will show you the
various forms a design presentation can take.

For your next project, contact Brenda Szarek
or view my website

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Whose opinion counts?

I've been known to squeal with delight when my new copy of Elle Decor arrives in the mail.  I know that within its covers there will be beautiful pictures of rooms, all the latest (and historic) pieces of art, furnishings, and products designed to inspire anyone who has an interest in turning our dreams into reality within the spaces we live and work.

The Jan/Feb 2018 issue did not fail to impress me.  I have to admit I don't usually read all (or many) of the articles.  The pictures alone are wonderful.  This time I did read a bit about a few iconic designers and their opinions about desks and chairs.  I loved some remarks made by Susan Ferrier, especially her comment about a Secretello Desk by Michele De Lucchi for Molteni&C.  She said "It's interesting.  It would look really good if you caught fireflies in it at night."

Why am I bringing you down this path?  Stay with me as I continue a bit more down my armchair journey.  As I got further into the magazine, I began to ask questions like who would want to live in a room with concrete walls and uncomfortable looking chair?  Yes, I said the singular 'chair' as there was barely any furnishings in the room.  I turned the page and found the opposite.  Why would someone want to live with so much clutter in furnishings and pattern in every room of the home?  Then there was a glorious picture of the Metropolitan Opera interior with so much red, I felt the fire referenced by Robert Rufino, Elle Decor's interiors editor as he stated "The madness of all that red.  Its like burning in hell."

I started asking myself, "Who am I to have such strong reactions to someone else's designs?" Then I realized these are (of course) designs for someone who wanted to achieve a look that pleased them, not me!  What I'm getting at is this: We all have our opinions as individuals and as designers.  When we design we are influenced by so many before us and by the visions we can imagine.  HOWEVER, if we are designing for someone other than ourselves, as designers, we must get into our clients mindset and provide them with what they want, not what we want.  We might push a boundary or two and provide advice when we feel that something a client says they want will end up ruining the very look we know they want to achieve, but that's okay.  That is why you hire a designer.  They have the experience, education, and resources to provide the result that will delight you in the end.

You will need to trust that your designer has your vision in mind while going through a remodel or redecorating project.  There are so  many layers that make up a style - color, textures, patterns, furnishings, fixtures, lighting, etc.  In the end, it is you and your style that will shine in the space your designer creates.  Don't be afraid to show pictures, mention interiors of well known buildings, or express that you want your room to feel like the last trip you took abroad.  Your designer will know how to interpret your input and provide you with a space in which you can live comfortably and proudly while knowing it reflects you in the best light.

Finding your style with a designer is a process that should be fun and rewarding, so along with a big Happy Holidays to you, I also wish you Happy Decorating throughout  the years to come.

YOUR opinion counts!
Here are a few holiday fireplaces for your opinion.

For your next project, contact Brenda Szarek
or view my website

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Why hire a Color Consultant?

You have finally decided it is time to paint.  It is obvious that you have to pick a color if you are going to paint, even if you are just trying to match the current color to clean up a wall or other surface, you need to know the color name or code, manufacturer, and sheen.  There are plenty of paint estimation calculators out there to help you determine quantities, so that's easy enough.  The sheen will depend on your use of the room, the quality of the walls, and to some extent the style you want to achieve.

Do you know what color you want?  "Blue", you say.  Oh my we have a long way to go!  There are so many shades and tints of blue, it will make your head spin around that color wheel.  Do you know your color scheme?  Does your room and/or home look cohesive or do you prefer that each room stands on its own with no connectivity between rooms?  Zero connectivity is not my recommendation, but I know there are exuberant personalities out there who want their home to reflect their creative, outgoing personas, and it should.

Does your current color scheme make you feel overwhelmed, tired, and ready for a change. There are psychological effects each one of us has to color.  For example, red can promote a feeling of hunger or danger or romanticism.  The application of the right red is obviously important given we don't want to feel danger in any room, hungry if you're dieting or romantic when we prefer studious.

Color choices go beyond paint.  Your window and floor treatments as well as furnishings will play a big role in what you choose. Are you exhausted with all the details that go into choosing a color scheme, yet?

Color consultants such as myself have been trained and have tools to pull together a color scheme that uniquely suits each client.  A color consultant can save you time and money by providing you with a specification sheet that will communicate to painters which paint product, color, sheen, etc goes on each surface.  If you are painting yourself, you can use the specification when purchasing paint, again saving you time and eliminating errors when ordering paint.  Inspiration can come from so many places. You should be able to have fun with the process.  A color consultant can make that happen. 

Here's a great article by Becky Harris that speaks to the process of hiring a consultant and your participation:

For your next project, contact Brenda Szarek
or view my website

Monday, December 4, 2017

Chances are you arrived at this blog because you love DIY... Or you want to try it out, or you are a good friend of mine who has been a faithful follower from the beginning. I hope you can forgive me for taking such a long time to get back. Welcome, everyone!

Since my original self inflicted challenge, I've been working to build up my design skills and learn more about managing and operating my own interior design company, Autumn Light Interiors. Blogging had taken a back seat and as a result I realized how much I missed sharing my projects with you.

I would like to take a slightly different approach at this time. Rather than blog on a long project, I plan to provide design tips and ideas in more frequent short posts. Of course I welcome your feedback always. Tell me what you like, what you want to see, and what kind of projects interest you.

For this post, I want to introduce you to my new Facebook page and website.  Come back in a few days for my next post - Why would you want to hire a color consultant?

Yours truly, Brenda Szarek

Saturday, October 31, 2015

The little bunk house is now fully clothed

We started out this June with a deteriorating slant roof structure that had a leaky roof and never had any siding on it except for OSB (which isn't siding at all!).  We ended up with a cute, gable roof structure with pretty cedar siding, a new entrance, a deck, a pine ceiling, and roof that WILL NOT LEAK.  (I may be commanding here more than reporting, but it better not leak after all the hard work we put into it.)  I learned a bunch about construction and am extremely grateful for the help of good friends and family.  It's not plumb and level, but working with the existing structure made that impossible.  The entire effort was a big lesson learned along with several small lessons.

Here are a few side by side comparison of the work we did -

Yes, we really did a few changes!  We removed 2 windows from the back (not shown).  We moved the door from the side to the front and moved the window from the front to the side.  There is one more window on the wall opposite the window shown.

We used the same door, minus a screen door for now.  We added a doorknob with a lock so we don't have to deal with pad locks.  Added a step using douglas fir wood, then stained it with walnut colored gel stain.

Here is a look from beginning to almost the end...Sorry the sizing and focal point changes a bit!

Here is how we left 'her' on 10/25/2015 when we closed up the main house and all buildings for the winter.  (I must have stained the door step after this picture!)

 I like it!

Monday, September 7, 2015

It took a couple of weekends, but the little cabbage roof is done!

Okay, so here is another quick update on the little cabbage.  The first 2 days of August, our great friends came back to help us get the heavy 4x8 OSB onto the rooftop over the nice pine planks we added in the last post.  We added fascia boards on the sides to 'cap' the end of the rafters.

Here is a link to some instructions that point out what a fascia board is and other tips.  We didn't follow these instructions - I found them now while I write this post! We generally did the same thing.

Next we added the roofing felt.  Don is the fearless one on top of the roof!

While holding the ladder, Lu tries to convince Chris that building is sexy!  I'm sure she succeeded.

Chris and Lu handled the shingles on this side after adding the drip edge down the gable ends.

Don and I installed this side.  Can you see the one we put in upside down?  I don't care! This is hard work.  It was in the mid to upper 80's this weekend.

This is not the end, really...
Moving on to the weekend of 8/22...

OSB installed, on to roofing felt on the other side :)
Don spent 4.5 hours on top of the roof, while I cut shingles and went up and down the ladder bringing them to him.  Ouch!  But the roof is finally done.

And now onto painting the door and installing trim and siding...


It took about 4 hours to get the siding done on this one side. It is not fun anymore, but I know I'll be happy when it is all done.

Happy Labor Day!