Even if you think you have good taste and know what you want, sometimes a professional can help you make that fantasy room a reality. PM talked to interior designers about the latest trends, their pet peeves, and how they nudge clients toward good design decisions.
Quick Change Interiors
“I’m seeing the pendulum swing toward more traditional as opposed to mid-century modern and contemporary for the last three or four years. People want comfortable sofas as opposed to contemporary sofas, lines are more padded, and there is a greater sense of comfort. It’s a reflection of the economy that they want longevity as opposed to trendy—more traditional, more neutral materials as opposed to calacatta gold marble with white-gold and taupe veining. I’m doing fewer whole brownstone renovations and more smaller projects, kitchen or bathroom renovations.
“Clients should learn as much about their project as possible, the more information, the better the job—it’s easier with the Internet. If you watch HGTV 24 hours and read every shelter magazine going, if you’re involved and participative, you get a better result. I supplement what they lack.
“Artists, graphic designers, are capable of doing the work on their own. They have their own look, their own thing they’re trying to execute. I don’t know what they would get from working with an outsider.
“There’s this idea that being an interior designer is all about going into the D&D [design and decoration] building and picking out beautiful fabrics and wallpaper. But you can spend a decent amount of the day on dusty job sites solving problems as they come up.
“I’m not a design dictator. I don’t have a ‘look.’ I find out what the client’s style is and execute that. But there are a couple of things that people do that make me wish they would ask for my advice. They hang art way too high. The solution is so simple and it makes such a difference. The center of the groupings should be 59 to 63 inches from the floor. Just give me a hammer and I could make their lives so much better.
“They’re also lighting rooms with flush-mount fixtures on the ceiling, half globes with a ring of metal that makes the room so dull and gloomy. I walk my dog at night on the streets of Hoboken, and I look in houses and assess what’s going on in there. One central pendent light fixture or chandelier passes unattractive shadows on your face. You want a light down where you use it, not up on the ceiling. You should have a table lamp or standing lamp. The rule of thumb— everyone thinks I’m crazy, they can’t imagine it—every room needs four or five lamps.
“Another thing—and this is so hackneyed—get rid of the clutter. I was working with a client and they were doing great but every time I went to their home, there were toys in every room. They wanted to place their home on the market. I told them to get rid of everything extra. My sister is amazingly talented and has her own aesthetic. She has a four year old, but her house is exquisite, no plastic toys in the house. There are a zillion books and handmade toys but no big plastic kitchens or big plastic trucks. The toys are put away every day.”
Vanessa DeLeon Associates
“We are being hired to do spaces or gut and expand existing spaces. A lot of homeowners are investing right at home. It’s safe!
“As a kid I always had a passion for design, fashion, fabrics, etc. I come from a creative background—my grandfather designed kitchens and bathrooms in Cuba. When my family immigrated to the United States he opened a furniture store which was then passed down to my father. Once it came to the next generation, I was interested more in the full design—taking a space and transforming it from the beginning to the end. I opened my design business in 2000.
“In design I strive for a balanced, cohesive flow. I love symmetry, and I’m a stickler for attention to detail, detail is important down to the stitching on a pillow.
“My pet peeve is plastic flowers in an empty vase. I’m not opposed to silk, but it’s how you put it together. If someone can’t afford to replenish real flowers, find an arrangement that’s full and looks real. Some have fake gels that look like water.
“People have this misconception that they have to fill every corner with furniture, but less is more. I say nothing at all is a better approach. You don’t have to put a pedestal in the corner and put something on top of it. Create interest in a bland space with an accented wall paint—a lot of people are also scared of using color—that’s better than filling up the room with something that doesn’t work.
“Another peeve is the misconception that HGTV transforms, such as making over a space for $1,000, not taking into consideration that it is television—there is a full crew behind the cameras helping to complete those spaces. It’s completely unrealistic and many people are fooled by this.
“The work we have done in Hudson County is for young singles or couples who are hip and trendy.
“I relocated in Edgewater because I felt it was central to everything we work with. We have a lot of clients in and out of the city. We are in New York, Bergen County, Hudson County, Essex County, Passaic County. We felt it was a perfect place, plus I wanted a storefront design studio, and I found the perfect space.
“My personal aesthetic is to be loyal, honest, and genuine to my friends, clients, and acquaintances. That is why I believe I have gotten so far in my career.
“I have always lived my life with my 3D role—drive, discipline, dedication!”
“The odd thing is this recession, depression, has brought people back into the home. They’re turning inward. They realize it’s their best investment, and they want to stay there and spend time there. They want to do something to it—draperies, sofa, kitchen, bathroom. There’s one truism that’s never been proven wrong—when you open your front door, that’s your space, your whole environment, no matter how bad work or the economy is, it’s your bubble; you can make it what you want. People who live in homes they love are happier.
“The most important trend is counterpoint. If you live in a brand-new unit in the W, you think you want to decorate contemporary. A counterpoint is throwing in an antique, something totally unexpected. With the nice contemporary furnishings, you add a 17th century Flemish gilded mirror, a counterpoint to offset the leather sofa. It’s exciting. It creates energy. After seeing all the decorating shows and magazines, people ask, ‘How can I make my home different?’ An original piece of art or an antique is one of a kind, an original, yours alone.
“In the go-go years everyone was mimicking what was in design shows—granite countertops, Sub-Zero appliances were a status symbol. It was easily replicated and they burned out people’s eyes. They all had the same thing. Now they’re saying, ‘I want my home to be my home, to look and feel different.’
“You can buy local art, paintings, wood carvings—there are a lot of artists in Hoboken in the Neumann Leather building. You can go to art galleries, antique shows, there’s no limit. You can buy a piece of art from five dollars to five million. I steer clients toward galleries that will suit their tastes. High-end clients don’t care if they shop at Crate & Barrel, they can mix it up. It doesn’t have to be an art piece. It could be a Nantucket basket, an autographed book. On the Gold Coast, every condo looks like every condo. You need to find the one thing—antique urn, a fragment from Greece, that’s different from the 500 other people in the building.
“The number one thing for women is comfort. They come home, they want to nest in a cocoon. They want the tactile effect of a sofa. It’s more important than what it looks like. They’re more aspirational than men, not because they’re keeping up with the Joneses but because they’re more exposed, they look at magazines, watch HGTV.
“But people need guidance. You could pull your own teeth out, too.”
Design Directory Vanessa DeLeon Associates
Quick Change Interiors
Paul Somerville Design
Swift Morris Interiors