Designers Coffeehouse — Behind the Curtain
Come back to the table in our virtual café as we share a latte and a chat with four interior designers. Today we welcome to the coffeehouse:
- Linda H. Bassert, of Masterworks Window Fashions & Design in Fairfax, Virginia
- Barbara Miller, of Barbara Miller Design in West Linn, Oregon
- Linda Merrill, of Chameleon Interiors in Duxbury, Massachusetts
- Kerry Ann Dame, of Posh Living in Surfside Beach, South Carolina
HomeWorkshop: What do you wish the public knew about interior designers?
Barbara Miller: We are not sales people we are problem solvers. We are not there to sell you the most expensive sofa on the planet we want to work with you to maximize your space, enhance your surroundings and make the best choices for your needs and personal budget.
Kerry Ann Dame: That we more than pay for ourselves in money and effort saved; we help the client avoid impulse buying and flashy trends, which wastes money. We help them make wise decisions on purchases because we educate them about quality furnishings and new products in the market. We can show them solutions they wouldn’t know of otherwise. Having your furnishings last for many years and be easy to clean and maintain is well worth the investment.
Linda H. Bassert: Many clients have fears about inviting an interior designer into their home. There’s a little of the “clean the house before the cleaning team arrives” syndrome. They somehow forget that we live in our homes too. I remind them that my job is to see the home the way it is going to be, not the way it is.
I don’t see pet hair, dust, laundry, piles of mail, or the teenager’s unmade bed in their home, and they must promise not to see it in mine, or we cannot work together. (For the record, my children are now grown and gone, but I do know well what a teenager’s room can look like.)
I hope to put them at ease, so we can discuss more important things, such as: what feeling they want in the rooms when we are done; what is staying in a particular room, and what is leaving; what the practical concerns are; and the budget.
A corollary concern on my part is that they not ask me which choice I would put in my house, because that has nothing to do with what is right for their home. My favorite colors, and the style my husband and I have agreed on for our home, is totally irrelevant to the selections we need to make for their home. And don’t be concerned if a designer walks in wearing a color which is not your favorite, unless she or he is leaning on you to use it for more than an accent color. Let’s get to know one another, and see if we make a good team to solve your challenge in your home.
Linda Merrill: I wish there was more understanding about the value that a good designer brings to the table. The value of education, experience and the ability to help the client find their own unique design style.
But more than that, I wish the public realized how passionate interiors professionals are about our work – we don’t do it for the money because it’s very hard to make a great living in the profession. While our hourly rates may seem high ($75-$200 per hour and on up), most designers are not billing out forty hours a week. And those who are billing full time hours likely have a staff and all the attendant costs of payroll, taxes, health care, etc. Designers/decorators simply love the work – bringing life, functionality and style to the built environment.
HomeWorkshop: What service do you offer that you wish more people knew about?
Linda H. Bassert: I have started putting more emphasis on color consultation, because it is one of my strengths, and it allows me to work early on with a client who may be unsure of what changes to make, but is willing to change their paint colors. We usually come up with an overall color plan, which often leads to additional work. If they entrust me with paint color recommendations, and like the results, they will be more open to other recommendations.
In our region, the Washington DC metropolitan area, Benjamin Moore has a new pilot program, referring color consultants and painters from their website. Each color consultant or other referral partner must undergo a background check, have a substantial liability policy, and be experienced. Eventually this program will be available across the country. We are very excited about it here, and I am honored to have been asked to participate. I used Benjamin Moore paint in my award winning room last year, and so I am known to them as an experienced designer who uses their paints. The LINK program is just one of the ways in which color consultation has become very important to my business.
Linda Merrill: I offer each of my clients – whether locally based or long distance through my virtual decorating service – a page on my website where I upload floor plans, images of fabrics, furnishings, links to resources for their review. As the project moves along, their design page becomes the final inspiration board and blueprint of the design plan.
Kerry Ann Dame: Our in-house workroom. Clients do not need to retain us as interior designers to be able to use our workroom services. Like the ateliers of the past, we make curtains, custom furniture and slipcovers and will take on projects of any size; we routinely handle simple orders for a drapery, valance or slipcover and our design advice is part of that process too. For the client, it takes the worry out of trying to find a seamstress.
Barbara Miller: I usually get calls from people who are starting large overwhelming projects and are afraid to make costly mistakes. What most people don’t know is that I love to go into a home with a client and spend the afternoon rearranging the furniture, art and accessories that they already have. A fresh pair of trained eyes can see possibilities in a space that a homeowner may not have even considered without every purchasing a thing.
Read the previous Designers Coffeehouse story about current trends and recent changes in Interior Design.