make over my house: designer q&a

{Editor’s Note: Welcome to installment #3 in my home design recap! I’ve teamed up with one of my absolute favorite home stores, Manor Fine Wares, and a few other wonderful sponsors you’ll be hearing about, to complete a total redesign of my main living areas. In case you’re behind, check out the before pics and the design plan lookbook over here.}

As I’ve mentioned in prior weeks, when I first moved into my new space, I was stumped. The layout wasn’t making sense to me, none of my furniture was working, and even though I like to think I have a bit of expertise in the world of style, I knew I was completely out of my league.

But asking for help? From a professional? That seemed even more out of my league. Surely, I was nowhere near the budget of a girl that would hire a designer. And surely they’d look at my little job and laugh me right out of the store. When I first mentioned my idea at Manor, I fully expected to be told I was nuts. But instead, they were so excited! They loved the prospect of working on a lower-priced job, and my designer, Shannon, told me more than once she was really enjoying the challenge of hunting down good design pieces on a budget. I’m choosing to believe her.

Since for most of us, the idea of hiring a designer feels like traveling to a foreign country, I wanted to have Shannon give us the low-down on everything there is to know about hiring a designer. Prepare for some serious design expertise!

SMC: When you’re working with a new client, how do you get started? What is the typical process like?

Shannon: The first session really about just getting to know one another. I like to discuss what the client is interested in, what their living style is like, and what brings them joy. I also like to walk around the space with them and discuss how they came to have the pieces they do and what pieces really mean something to them so we can try to use them in the new plan.

I feel that the key to being a good designer and giving the client the end result they are searching for requires being a good listener – you can determine a lot of what someone is really wanting within their home by listening and reading between the lines. From there I will take measurements and discuss timelines. I try to tell clients that they set the pace of the project, so we can move as slowly or quickly as they like.

SMC: Layout was such an important part of this project. Can you explain a bit about your overall approach to layout, and how you help someone plan their space?

Shannon: When I came into your space, it felt cluttered. The furniture was out of scale and everything was floating in the room. I immediately wanted to have built-ins made on either side of your fireplace to anchor the room and create an obvious focal point. Because you were renting, we didn’t want to invest that kind of money, so I came up with the twin chests which provide that same weight we were searching for and the storage you desperately needed.

I also wanted to be mindful of walkways in such a small space. By creating obvious pathways with rugs, it helps to keep things looking clean and gives you a clear understanding of how to move through the space.

It is also important to be realistic about how you will really use the room. Don’t be ashamed if you enjoy watching television in your living room – if that is how you live, it’s important to make the space work for you. This is your refuge – have fun with it! As Manor’s owners, Liz and Liza, always say, “Houses are to be lived in. Dogs should be on sofas.”

SMC: What should a client know about the project they have in mind before they come to you?

Shannon: It always helps if they know what pieces really matter to them and how they envision using the space. As you can tell from the store, we do not adhere to one specific style…how on earth could you ever pick just one? We believe in the philosophy that if you love it, it will work. So be open, and focus more on specific qualities of a piece that you like, whether it’s the rolled arm of a sofa or the texture of the upholstery.

It is also helpful to have a budget in mind. However large or small, you should be realistic about what you really can afford. Maybe you can’t do it all at once and the project needs to be more gradual – we work hard to source in all different price points, and we’re happy working on anything from a full scale remodeling project to just switching up accessories.

SMC: What do you wish people knew about working with a designer? What would make the experience better or easier?

Shannon: A good designer is there to help you see the potential of your space and help you set realistic goals, not drain your bank account. It is important to be realistic with yourself about what you can afford and share that with your designer. If you don’t have a large sum of money to work with, a designer can be the perfect person to help you set priorities. Also, good design can take time – be patient and enjoy the process. Stop watching those HGTV shows that tell you can transform your home in 48 hours!

SMC: What are some of your favorite ways to transform a room on a budget (besides paint!)?

Shannon: Refreshing accessories (books, memorabilia, art) and pillows is a great way to breathe new life into a space, and can be easy on your pocket book. This is another reason to invest in quality pieces of furniture with classic lines so you can transform your space without having to break the bank.

Great lighting is worth investing in – from chandeliers to table lamps, it sets the tone of the room. I like to place my lamps in a triangle configuration, making sure to illuminate every angle of the room with the warm glow that only a lamp can give.

Instead of relying only on pattern to create interest in your space, use a variety of fabrics and textures to layer and enrich your design.

And never buy matching sets of furniture – it is a missed opportunity for a truly collected look.

Next week? The big reveal!! Stay tuned….

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