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How Travel Impacts Interior Design

I grew up in a LARGE family. As any family knows, this means a drastic cut back on travel, because each child is another plane ticket. My first plane ride was a ticket I bought myself to New Orleans to visit my dad’s side of the family when I was 21 years old.

It’s amazing the things that impact people differently when they experience new things. All I could think about New Orleans was… it’s so flat. My dad took us out to 'the hill’ and I stood there puzzled, trying to find it. He had to explain that there was a slight incline. To a Seattle native, this was flat enough to pitch a tent on. No, this didn’t inspire me to build New Orleans style architecture and try to make it fit in Seattle. It did, however, give me a different viewpoint on the world and how people experience space. I was enamored by the long thin alleyways that led to magnificent bars (Pat O’s for you NOLA folks), and by the way it felt different to be outdoors there. Even the grass was different. Rather than working to replicate style, I was interested in replicating feeling.

Two children and a recession later, I haven’t done the amount of traveling I would like to have done, but we are making a very focused effort. Each trip gives me a different outlook. Even the little annual trip we take to the Oregon coast each year, staying in a different AirBnB each time. I look at the homes we stay in and how different people live, organize, and utilize their interior spaces. It’s fascinating.

In Belize, the bathroom was as big as the living room, and the walk-in shower we had was deep enough to serve as a shallow bath, which felt wonderful in the heat and humidity. In Japan, the bathrooms… oh, the bathrooms. They were compartmentalized, well thought out, and very clean. Experiencing different cultures and understanding how differently they live and operate help me to understand how to best design for different personality types and to perfect my approach by considering completely different lifestyles.

When I come home, I am not looking to replicate a Japanese bathroom or a Belizean shower. I am, however, considering these approaches when I hear my clients’ needs and frustrations. I am remembering solutions that I may not find in a local showroom.

More than anything, travel changes perspective. And, what better way to create and be creative than to have the ability to change perspective?


Quirky Interior Design

Take a minute to look around the space you are in. Maybe it’s an office, your home, or maybe you are outside right now. Does the space reflect its purpose? It’s user? If you are at a park, what is the personality of the park? Is it a Japanese garden? If so, is it authentic, or is it a random garden with a pond and a bonsai just to use the name? If at home, do you look around and see a space that represents who you are? Does it capture all your fun quirks? One of the biggest challenges of an interior designer is to capture our client’s personalities. We work to get to know you, and your personality, but we do this on a limited amount of time. So, how does your home develop its own special quirk?

Our homes should reflect our selves, not just a reflection of our taste or style. A home is so much more than what looks good. It is what feels good, what is healthy, what takes care of our planet, our future generations. It is what will work for us now, later, and in the future for someone else. It is thoughtful and considerate. It is embracing, comforting, calming. It is our place of solace.

Hiring a professional interior designer takes the development of your space further than what looks good and what is in good taste. A professional interior designer will work to involve the client. They will talk, listen, observe, learn, and absorb. Some of the things I feel so fortunate to have in my background include acting and marketing. It sounds strange, I know. But, as an actress, one has to learn to absorb personalities, become someone else, something else. A marketing specialist knows how to observe, question, to express and achieve goals through understanding. Once the designer has all these pieces, they incorporate the plan, the art and science of design, and create the space.

Good interior design is about the quirks, the nuances, the eclectic abnormalities. It is timeless because it is unusual. Design is not store-bought, it is curated, handpicked, created, and customized. Design is an art, and art can’t simply be “picked”. Based on my own definition of design, it cannot possibly be anything BUT quirky. Personalities are quirky. Businesses are quirky (if they have good marketing, AKA good brand DESIGN). Even nature has its quirks.

So, the next time someone pulls together a selection of products from a few box stores and calls it a design… know that this may be ‘good taste’ and they may have an ‘eye’ for aesthetics, but that does not make it a design.

Now go be your quirky self and remember that sometimes that special item that is soooo loved may not ‘fit’ and may seem ‘weird’ to others and that’s okay, because it’s the special quirk!

Is Interior Design Expensive?

“Affordable Interior Design”. We see this everywhere today- retail stores offer free design services, designers do free consultations, and e-design is available for very low rates. On the other hand, we look at Architectural Digest and see homes designed for the elite. There is a definite range and it ultimately comes down to the designer you choose, your expectations, and a good old fashioned reality check.

I spoke with someone recently, letting them know that a good rule of thumb for budgeting their design fee was to set aside 15-20% of their overall budget. The response, “other designers told me 10%” was not seen as a lie or an attempt to get me to drop my rates at all. Instead, it is simply the reaity of variation in pricing based on professional training, experience, and demand.

Free Design Services

There are absolutely ways to get design services for next to nothing. Looking for furniture and happy with retail offerings? Great- hop over to just about any retail store today and you will find an on-staff designer ready to help. Maybe you do not want to furnish your space exclusively from one store. No problem. Select the pieces you really love from the one store, and take that design to other locations. Now you have sourced furnishings from multiple stores to provide an varied aesthetic at no cost to you other than the furnishings. Some of these designers may have professional training as a designer. Others may have simply been trained as salespeople and are using the title of designer. What I can tell you is that they will likely know their product better than I would.

Now, what about kitchen and bath remodels? Many kitchen and bath locations offer free design services with the purchase of their cabinets. They make their money with the mark up on product. So, if that is the product you are happy with, then by all means- utilize this service! Most, but not all kitchen and bath designers have SOME design training. These locations are likely more focused on the sale than they are the design, but not in all cases, and it is again a great option for someone working on a tight budget.

E-design is a fantastic option for those who want to shop retail online. My big buyer beware here is that the online design companies typically cannot guarantee the merchandise and the designers are being paid horribly so they aren’t particularly invested. Revisions are essentially done on their time and are irksome. Customer service will go down after that first presentation. If a designer offers e-design through their own website/business, this is always a better option, but will likely cost significantly more.

Low Cost Design Services

If you have a little bit of money to spend on design services, but still aren’t looking at the high end, consider a recent graduate or new business. Recent graduates should have professional training before launching their own business, but this could be a safe bet for a simple furnishing project where they are specifying retail goods. Often times a new business can work with a kitchen and bath shop to ensure they are specifying all the right parts and pieces while providing designer insight for balance, symmetry, line, texture, etc.

New interior designers should always have SOME kind of design training, but that is up to you as the consumer to verify. This isn’t a career that one can switch to without some kind of introduction and mentorship.

Expect to have to do a bit of legwork and be prepared to have several revisions, and a few basic human errors. Expect to set aside 10% of your design budget for this type of service.

Mid-Range Design Services

This is for the middle class homeowner who is ready to invest in a space they plan to stay in for over 5 years. They are done with Ikea and hand-me-downs and want their space to be artistically created to fit their needs. Full services are expected, with little-to-no legwork on their end. This designer has established consultants and may be starting to handle permit application. They will expect to stay on your project through construction to ensure the design is carried through and properly documented. This is a start-to-finish design service. Expect to set aside 15-20% of your design budget for this type of service.

Luxury Design Services

Here is the designer that will sweep into your life with a very refined process. They may offer design-build, architectural services, landscape services, and decor. They may have staff to ensure every call is answered, and interns to manage smaller tasks such as errands, product delivery, note taking, and more. This designer will likely have been practicing for 20+ years, is confident, and will have clear expectations of you as well. This designer will have a brick and mortar location and will have staff available during all business hours to answer questions and accomodate your needs.

Services will be concierge services- meaning the expecatations this designer has of you is simply to provide information. They will take over and manage every aspect of the design. Expect to set aside 15-20% of your design budget, and meet a minimum design fee for this type of services.

Is Interior Design Expensive?

I guess that depends on your outlook on the service, your expectations and budget. Those looking for free design will most likely find the Luxury Designer exorbitantly priced, and the Mid-Range designer expensive. When looking for a designer to fit your price range, look at their staff size, experience, professional training, and demand. Like many other businesses, this will give an idea of their rates. Waldron Designs currently lies between the mid-range and luxury point. We serve mid-range very comfortably, and step out of our comfort zone a bit for luxury, but are working our way there! We are unlikely to be the best option for very tight budgets to no design budget.

Questions? Ask away in our comments below! We always respond!

The Cluttered Home

Clutter is one of the biggest challenges I see in homes today and becoming more and more common, particularly in island homes. We love a good find on Vashon- the Estate Sales are wonderful as are all the fun and funky Grannie’s finds. I support these businesses 100%, and yet I am finding homes that have no space to move, breathe, or function simply because every nook is filled with another great find. It’s not so great anymore when it’s buried among the masses.

What do we do with a cluttered home? Well, it’s easy for me to TELL someone what to do. It’s harder to do it. One home I saw was full of furnishings that had been inherited when parents passed away- not exactly easy to set out on the side of the road for a free pick up now, is it? One of the best tips I learned as a designer is that the best designs aren’t filled, they are cleared. Meaning, once we’ve created the design, we look at what can be removed. If it can be removed and the design still holds its ground, it wasn’t necessary. Keep removing unitl we have only what is NEEDED. That, is beautiful design. This is not to say that spaces need to be emptied, just that they should be well thought out and utilized.

“The best designed spaces aren’t filled up with ‘stuff’, they are cleared of it”

My best advice to my clients- don’t pop into Estate sales or Grannies just to see what they have. Instead, go with a singular purpose and need in mind, and leave only with that item. If you are easily distracted, bring support- someone who will hedge your urges to buy a piece just because, and help you focus on why you are there. At retal stores, utilize the reps! They know their product, and if you arrive prepared with dimensions and photos of existing items, the reps can help you find the perfect fit.

Now that we know how to avoid ADDING clutter in furnishings, what do we do with the existing clutter? Interior design can certainly help with all the loose odds and ends by providing well-planned built in storage and spaces that are created for their functions. However, excessive knick-nacks and overpurchasing cannot be remedied with a few pretty cabinets. This requires purging, organizing, and overall a lifestyle change. Whew! Sounds daunting, doesn’t it? If this does sound more daunting to you than exciting, I highly recommend bringing in a home organizer.

When working on a renovation project and clearing clutter, we suggest scheduling a home organizer initial consult to coincide with your interior design in-home consultation.

I cannot emphasize enough how beneficial it is for multiple professionals to work together on home improvement projects. We love coordinating with home organizers by meeting with you on the same day. Once the organizer has had some time to purge and understand the needs of the space, we request a follow up meeting with the organizer to coordinate a plan. The design is developed with your lifestyle and organization needs in mind, and the home is clutter free!

To schedule an appointment with Waldron Designs and a Home Organizer, contact us. We will connect you with our recommended organizers and coordinate that first meeting!

Vegan Interior Design

What does veganism have to do with design? Well, leather sofas, leather wall panels, fur rugs, wool carpet, silk drapes, the list goes on and on. Designing vegan is not only a great way to prevent animal cruelty, it helps our environment! As a vegan designer, I understand that not all my clients are vegan and if they want a leather sofa, a leather sofa they will get. I will absolutely share the pros of vegan substitutes that are NOT plastic based! Sure, we can all throw vinyl on the sofa and call it leather, but vinyl emits harmful toxins and when the time comes for the sofa to be reupholstered or tossed, the plastic will stay…. and stay… and stay.

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Permitting: Who is Responsible?

It’s time to remodel your home, and you’ve locked in your designer and your contractor. You’ve done your homework and provided them with everything you need. Now, who does the permitting and what does this look like?

Electrical and Plumbing permits are typically handled by the Electrician and the Plumber. Phew, that’s off your plate. Additional permits are technically the responsibility of… you. Woah, wait, what? It seems silly to put this in the hands of the owner, but in the end, the home and what happens to it is the liability of the owner. If permits aren’t pulled, the owner is the one held responsible. Let’s add some really good twists to this because after several of my go-to contractors let me know that they are washing their hands of the permit application process, I decided to do some research…

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Improve Indoor Air Quality with Design

Who would think that their child’s lack of focus could be improved with interior design? Or that those ongoing sinus problems are due to the overwhelming amount of plastic products and VOC’s offgassing into our homes? We spend 90% of our time indoors, that time should be spent free of toxins and lack of ventilation.

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Tokyo, Part II: A Design Study

There was ONE building I didn’t talk about in the last post, because I felt it deserving of its own post. You see, I finally stepped foot in my favorite architect’s work! Not only did I experience the work of the great Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris (AKA Les Corbusier), I visited a museum he designed which housed a significant exhibit of his work. It felt amazing to look at models built by him (or his office), and see his sketches and planning drawings of Villa Savoye among others. To see models of his ideas for urban planning- the start to what today’s cities are, felt almost surreal, magical. Photos cannot possibly do this building justice, and there were many areas where photos were not permitted, so I’ll do my best to find references images.

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