I recently received a call from a client because her glass coffee table had broken and she wanted my assistance in acquiring a new one. She prefaced the request by telling me that her neighbor offered to help her look “to save her money” by not hiring her designer of many years. After all, it was only a coffee table. Wrong.
Fortunately, after looking at a few of the options she and her neighbor found she concluded she did need my help. Why? Because she realized that after having entire home meticulously designed over the years then skimp on one final piece that is sitting in the middle of the room was not a good idea.
So much of what interior designers do is small stuff. A lot of small stuff. Individually they don’t look like much but putting all those small moving parts together is the challenge we face every day. And we love it. Think jigsaw puzzle. If one piece gets lost it leaves a hole in the picture and that is exactly what the wrong coffee table would do since it the centerpiece of the living room.
There are three design tricks you should never overlook; 1. Sweat some small stuff because the personality of your space is in the small stuff. 2. Don’t be afraid to go custom, which is exactly what we ended up doing for the coffee table. Her options were narrowed down to ordering a less expensive ottoman on line, not knowing the quality or if the color shown on the website would be exactly the same in person, OR spend three hundred dollars more and get a good quality ottoman in the perfect size with a fabric of her choosing. 3. Knowing who is making your products can make a difference in how you perceive that item. There is something about spending your hard-earned money on an item that was crafted by a company or individual who cared about their work and are proud to know you wanted in your home. This certainly doesn’t apply to everything we own, but it can make a good design great when items have a story.
As the Coronavirus slowly began to cripple the Hawaiian islands and we were all sheltered-in-place, I was reminded of the parallels of our sheltering in place to the daily challenges of the elderly and disabled.
Most of us go in and out of our homes several times a day without much thought that it is a privilege not available to everyone. And then one day, quickly and without much warning, we are told we cannot leave our houses except for essentials. We have a car and no place to go, beaches we cannot enjoy, a job that, unless we can perform virtually, may no longer exist. Now imagine a person who has this same experience every day because they are elderly or have suddenly become disabled.
As we struggle to conform to the new normal, we may become frustrated because many of our homes are not equipped with amenities that would make our shelter in place an easier transition. Maybe you have a small space and cannot store extra necessities or you have no office space but still have to perform work duties. These challenges, for many of us, are temporary and will end when we resume whatever will be the new normal. But until then, we are frustrated with our situation.
For extroverts, this new normal can be a struggle, both mentally and physically. They often thrive on human connection, interaction, movement and group activities. They enjoy having others over to visit. Their loneliness can lead to depression or a feeling almost worse than actually contracting the flu virus!
All of the above scenarios are very common amongst the aging and disabled demographics. Imagine some of the same situations only there is no end. Your car keys have been taken away permanently, you may have to move to a place that does not offer you the same comforts you currently have in home or, worse, you are at home and cannot work well within your confines. Now is the time to begin a conversation with yourself or significant others about aging in place. As a designer, my job is to take all these scenarios into consideration and design a space that has flexibility for hobbies or recreation, outdoor living spaces and bathrooms and kitchens with accessibility. Don’t wait until it’s too late and your shelter in place frustration is permanent.
When I announced to my clients that I was heading to the furniture and accessory market in Las Vegas last month I was quite surprised to learn that a few of my clients did not know furniture and space planning were part of my services! Well they are and they are my favorite part of the job. So if you are interested in hearing and seeing what is new and what I find to be the best value, read on!
For starters everyone was showing metals. Polished, brushed, chrome, brass you name it they had it. And it wasn’t only used on table legs and lamp stands, entire pieces of furniture are metal and mirror. A sampling is shown in this photo from the Sagebrook Home showroom.
I must agree the metals and mirrors work quite nicely with the new upholstery colors which were mostly pale blues and pinks. I know that look is not for everyone but paired with heavier accents such as an antique armoire or colorful area rug you could really make a change in your room without looking too “glam”.
Late last year Pantone announced that its 2020 color of the year is Classic Blue. It’s a beautiful color and a few of the showrooms had pieces that were expertly chosen to carry off the color. I can certainly see how a piece like this buffet or the small cabinet with Asian accents from the Crestview Colleciton could work with our tropical hues.
Like tiny houses, I discovered a few brands showing “tiny furniture”, in other words furniture scaled to condo living, and Honolulu is full of condos. Sizing furniture to your room instead of buying off a showroom floor and making it fit is how we should shop for furniture. But being isolated with few options many people opt for the latter method. That is where working with an interior designer can add value to your investment. Paying a little extra to have furniture that fits comfortably in your room and has storage can be done. Here are a few pieces from various showrooms that are sized for condo living but are also lend a lighter feel to them so the furniture does not overpower the room and the view.
And lastly for those of you who do have space, how about this fun outdoor piece from Zuo.
Going to these shows is a creative boost for me and I hope to share these ideas with you, so give us a call!
Late last year I was asked to do a segment with KITV on their Aging Well Segment to show an example of a universally designed bedroom and bathroom I did for a client. During the interview I was explaining what Universal Design is and offered an example of the difference between Universal Design and designing to age in place The example I gave was that when an accessible entrance and a traditional entrance are put near one another, everyone just naturally used the accessible entrance because it was more comfortable, i.e. it was wider, easier to open etc. But in many designs, we are prompted to feel that we should not use that entrance, that is only for the impaired. (This example applies to the restrooms for sure, but unfortunately there is never enough room to build all the stalls with ADA dimensions)
I’m not sure my example really had an impact and since then I’ve been looking for examples to better explain what I do as a primarily universal designer and how it can change the way we look at our environment. And then I read an article about the recent remodeling of the Oslo Metro in Norway.
When they redesigned the space they reversed all wayfinding cues so that an accessible exit was just marked EXIT and all other exits that required specific mobility skills had the pictograms that we typically see for the handicapped. The use of signs was thus reversed. The accessible exit became the obvious exit for all travelers, needing no special marking. Other exits were marked with their specific restrictive properties….it was a subtle, but important, manifestation of a change of mindset.
It is a large scaled example of what we do for client’s bathrooms, kitchens, etc. every day. When a space works for everyone, there is no need for a sign to remind someone of their disability. We all have disabilities of some sort at some time in our life. Design can move us past singling them out with signs.
Welcome to the new Universal Interiors website and our first blog. This new beginning made me think of my beginnings and how I landed in the world of design.
From the time I was 8 years old until I left home my “space” was in the upper left room of this house. But what I never realized was that it was also my first decorating job!
When my older sister moved out, my younger sister and I were able to have our own rooms and I was able to pick out new wallpaper and paint. That was huge! Lavender was all the rage back then, so my room was converted from little girls’ pink to a middle schooler’s lavender and green floral garden. And since you could buy fabric to match the wallpaper new curtains were in order. I can still recall standing at my father’s workbench while he explained to me what they meant by 1-1/2 fabric widths per window. By then I was sewing most of my clothes, but curtains? It sounded scary. But I did it, and of course it was so easy that my mother wanted me to make them for other rooms too. I would eventually start my first side business in my parent’s basement sewing curtains, shades and pillow covers for other designers.
Eventually grade school gave way to high school and little flowers didn’t cut it anymore. Any changes had to be superficial since I couldn’t remove the wallpaper or paint. The wallpaper was only on one wall, my first tip on an accent wall, so I covered the entire wall with strategically placed posters. Very 60’s. No black light though, that was in my brother’s room. Bold plaid curtains replaced the faded flowers and luckily me for it was time to lay new carpeting, so I picked a bright, not quite lime, green. Yikes! I couldn’t believe my mother went for it! Add one recycled wooden cable spool padded and covered in green fabric and I had myself a pad.
I didn’t realize at the time how naturally all of these little ideas came to me, only that when I redecorated or rearranged my room I felt refreshed. It was my expression, my ideas. I’m sure I inherited some of my talent from my mother even though she doesn’t agree, but she knew enough to select beds that could be configured three ways, two different sized dressers and mix and match smaller pieces to be split between bedrooms as needed. Adaptability! Never decorate without it.
And so my journey in design began, in that room on the corner, decorating or rearranging every place I lived and worked. Adaptability, flexibility and expression continue to be a strong component in all my designs….but I don’t do posters anymore.