Tag Archive: Emotive Design

Space Planning

Part of being in Interior Design is the joy of finished room – not just upholstered pieces, but cabinetry, tables, bookcases, art, accessories… but the way all of these items come together and create an expression, a feeling, a moment – a place for memories, for a family to grow in (and sometimes out of) – to gather and entertain…

When starting a brand new project, you have the freedom to try something new, something different. But when you inherit a project or have to work with existing pieces, it can get very challenging.

In New York City, we struggle with those clients with townhouses or brownstones. It is a rarity you find them wide enough for two spacious rooms. Usually the width is enough for a room and a hallway. This is typically as many of the facades on the street are three windows wide.

I am just staring a project in a great section of Brooklyn called Boerum Hill. The clients I have worked with in the past and they have brought me back to figure out their next steps with their townhouse.

The Foyer, Kitchen, Dining and Living Area is all on the Parlor Level which means high ceilings and great amounts of light. The street is tree-lined and very picturesque when viewed from the kitchen which is in the front.

What they are struggling with and why they have brought me back is that for this home – they hired a different architect but no designer. They have come to realize that they can’t do the interior design themselves and the lack of storage and planning for livability of this active family can’t continue.

We are faced with the built-in questions: Cabinetry. Dining. (Questions of round table, square table, rectangular? Should the seating be a banquette a bench or chairs?)

At the heart of it all is the lifestyle they want to have and the moments they want the space to envelope.

Vintage Finds

When you are in the design business, it seems that friends enjoy asking your for your professional opinion about finds at flea markets and vintage stores.
Sometimes, these questions invariably are irritating. But there are a few, that strike your fantasy for those goldmines that are hidden and under-appreciated.
It isn’t the seller’s responsibility to know the exact pedigree of pieces they are selling. At the end of it all, it must be the buyer’s love of the piece.
Value isn’t guaranteed. After all, a piece will usually fetch more in an urban area than a suburban one.
Take for instance a friend locating two Asian inspired slipper chairs. They have a brass frame – very heavy – the lacquer looks in good condition and the upholstery appears to be original and as well art deco inspired.
She loved them because they were different.
She paid $40 for the pair which she thought wasn’t cheap.
I saw and wondered immediately where she got them.
Vintage she said.
It is at these times you go green with envy – just there in the eyes.
I had to do some research and stumbled across them on 1st dibs which then directed me to a high-end antique store in New York City.
I inquired for the price and even I was shocked.
$8500 for the pair.
What? That much?
Well, good for her.
What are her next steps? She just wants to enjoy them.

Project Management

As with any business venture, you need to understand the steps in order to grasp the total time required to complete. Also, good thing to prepare for the inevitable challenge or conflict resolution that arises especially in Design.

How many Designers break down the process into phases to better understand not only how much time should be invested, but was? How many projects end up suffering for too much time in the design phase and not enough left to implementation – meaning to resolve the challenges or conflicts that arise?

I was trained as an architect and as such, design in the architectural profession is broken down into the following… I have attached percentages for each phase based on my experience.

Schematic Design: 15%
Design Development: 20%
Construction Documentation: 25%
Construction Administration: 40%

It is a challenge to project percentage of time invested on a project. It is also tough to stick with those numbers.

However, the safeguard of time is there to deal with the problems when they come up.

For the person looking to hire a designer, consider the process as well. The more educated you are as to the process, the easier it will be to negotiate your designer’s contract and understand their fee structure.

The design process is rarely fluid.

Whether it has time or budget constrictions, something always gets in the way of it moving quickly and easily. For many clients, this stop and start is seen as a frustrating if not irritating situation. While for the designer, it can be a presentation of great opportunities but can also mean unanticipated extra work.

This blog entry is about how Building Codes can be the wild card.

We are working on a home at the Shore presently. It has been a delight to work through the ideas of “lifestyle” with the clients. They are a young couple who are well-traveled with young children and wanted the house to be relaxed, informal but also able to polished up at a moment’s notice should someone stop by. They would prefer it to be stylish, yet classic so that it wouldn’t be dated “so 2010.” They also want the materials to be hard-wearing and long-lasting and be kid-friendly yet sophisticated enough to entertain friends, family and colleagues.

Big Wish List, right?

Not really.

The clients found the house by accident while boating and felt an immediate attraction to the arts and craft bungalow with low slung roofs barely visible through cedars up a gently sloping garden from the water. It was on the market and the price was reasonable enough for them to enjoy for a few summers before taking the plunge into a full-scale reno.

The house’s eccentricities were not at first completely understood. The low-slung roofs cause you to stoop when inside trying to take in the spectacular view for one. The arts and crafts styling proved to be too original in its state for an active family for the next point. And finally, the site is long and narrow with the narrow edge along the water. Funnily enough, the site is actually too narrow to have a considerable sideyard (one wide enough to walk through). In this situation, you have to use the street to get to the backyard. This condition is a common occurrence in dense urban areas, but rarely in areas considered, “suburban.”

But even with these eccentricities, the house is wonderfully sandwiched between that sloping rear garden to the water and a large (but narrow) wooded section completely underutilized.

We started wanting to maintain the feeling of the original house.

Emotive Design.

At the end of the renovation, the house should feel as if it has always been that way. Keeping the meandering paths in the gardens, the exposed eaves, the scale of the house and outbuildings was penultimate.

Often when seeking approvals from local communities, the design must change or evolve to address the building code. Our initial design included three buildings: the house, workroom/studio and detached garage. The three structures would create a community of hipped-roofed buildings connected with gardens, pergolas, paths and breezeways.

Today, working through the design in consideration of the building codes, we came to a point where we had to backtrack to what our purpose was: To design an intimate home with associated garage and workshop keeping in mind it is a shorehouse and must adapt easily to sand, salt air and constant use.

The building code was encouraging us to connect the house with the garage and merge the workroom/studio with it.

Our initial response was disappointment as we wanted to maintain the campus-like feeling of the three structures. But as we are working to gain approvals, we found ourselves having to adjust our thought process.

We are grateful for the shift as the design is now nearly complete.

We have designed for the intimacy, the old-world feeling, but still have satisfied the local building code.

So, even though the house isn’t exactly what we sketched and fleshed out at the start, we still have the intimacy, the old world styling and the cohesive nature of that original eccentricity that initially drew the clients to the house in the first place.

Next Step for the Shorehouse? Budget! I will start tackling that this week.