We all want a home that reflects who we are and how we want to feel, but achieving that look is somewhat of an art. Luckily, interior designers can help to make that vision a reality. Here’s how they do it.
Interior design isn’t just about buying a new sofa. It’s about creating a space that reflects who you are and how you want to feel.
By hiring an interior designer, you’re investing in someone with a sharp, creative mind and fashion-forward set of eyes to help make your living space more functional, beautiful and personalized to your style.
Whether you have a specific, vibrant vision or a blurry, half-formed idea of what your style is all about, area designers know how to get the conversation going.
A Space that Feels Like Home
Typically, you wouldn’t think about renovating your backyard in the fall. Autumn is such a short season, and soon the holidays will arrive and snow will cover your outdoor space.
But this year, due to supply chain shortages inflicted by the pandemic, now is actually the ideal time to think about your outdoor living – or any other part of the home you plan to update in the next several months.
“Two years ago, we were doing a ton of kitchens in the fall,” says Colleen Baader, senior vice president at VID Lifestyle, in Elgin. “Typically, you would start kitchen designs in September, and we’d be installing them in early November. But things have changed due to the lead times on furniture and cabinetry.”
Before, lead times on cabinetry, in particular, were about six weeks. Now, it can take around 20 weeks for cabinets to arrive, Baader says. That’s why she recommends thinking multiple seasons ahead when it comes to home design and renovation.
“I’m going to say that this fall, if people want things for their home before the holiday season, it’s going to be mostly furniture and accessorizing,” she says. “Now is also a perfect time for organizational projects, such as closet or pantry renovations, since you’re stuck inside anyway. And then, ideally, if we can set client expectations correctly, we’re going to be working during the winter season on projects that you want to do in spring, which will be kitchen remodels and home exteriors.”
Baader has been an interior designer for 27 years. At VID Lifestyle, she and her colleagues collaborate with clients to achieve their dream space, whether that means interior renovations, exterior renovations or new construction.
The goal is to figure out how a client wants to feel in their home, and then execute that feeling through exceptional service.
“My background is a little bit more commercial than residential. I spent 13 years designing health care environments,” Baader explains. “In health care, you really learn how an environment can heal people. So, I understand why it’s so important for someone’s home to be well designed. If you come home from a busy workday and you want to recuperate, that environment really needs to be peaceful and in a state where you can rest for the next day.”
When Baader meets with a client, she likes to ask about their lifestyle. Do they entertain often? Do they have children or grandchildren? The answers to these and other questions may impact what materials she suggests.
“We try to ask a lot of questions about their day-to-day life, and how they want their space to feel,” Baader says. “We’ll have clients who have a very hectic life, and when they come home, they just want it to be Zen. So, we’re going to choose a palette and materials that give that feeling. And then, we have clients where their home is their creative space, and so they want some bright colors because they need a room that has some liveliness to it, with lots of patterns.”
At the beginning of each project, it’s imperative for Baader to see her client’s home. This helps tremendously when drafting up an interior design proposal.
“What makes us unique in the industry is that we offer a full turnkey solution,” Baader explains. “We start with creating space plans, providing finish palettes and then coordinating the construction of the project. Some design firms might just design your project, but then you have to implement it. Or, if you go to a furniture company, a lot of them say they offer free design services, but that’s just for their furniture. That doesn’t include things like taking out a wall, or adding in a wet bar. So, we can handle all aspects of the project.”
Once a client is comfortable with the design proposal, the interior design phase can begin. VID Lifestyle designers provide options for flooring, wall treatments, lighting, cabinetry and accessories. They also provide renderings to help the client visualize their design. The process can take up to two months, says Baader. Once the design palette is decided, they price all elements and assess lead times. Then, they place orders.
“It’s really important to wait until all of the materials have arrived,” Baader emphasizes. “The last thing people want is for their home to be all torn out while they’re waiting for materials to arrive.”
The end goal for every project is to limit stress on the client and exceed their expectations of what they thought their home could look like.
“I think everybody has an idea of what they want. But sometimes, people are limited in what they think their home can be,” Baader explains. “Maybe they don’t realize that they could take out a wall, or they could open up the ceiling and vault it. There are just so many unique things you can do in a home.”
Hiring an interior designer isn’t just about picking out furniture, Baader adds. In fact, if that were all the client needed, she would suggest that person seek out a furniture store instead.
“At VID Lifestyle, we want your home to reflect who you are and how you want your space to feel,” says Baader. “This is more than just furniture and accessories; it is more about your lifestyle.”
A Home that Reflects You
Sometimes, people might misconstrue what the role of an interior designer is supposed to be, says Pam Stasney, an interior designer with Haven Interiors Ltd., with locations in both Milwaukee and Geneva.
“Sometimes, people think it’s all about the interior designer’s style, but it’s really not,” she explains. “It’s really all about you, and making your home a place that reflects who you are.”
Stasney’s passion for interior design began when she was young. After obtaining her communications degree from Florida Southern College, she made her way to New York City and found work as a set decorator for television and film. Before long, she was receiving requests from actors, directors, producers and other colleagues to help design their personal homes.
“I think a good sense of spatial awareness is something you’re just kind of born with,” Stasney says. “Understanding proportion, understanding the flow of a space, understanding colors – it just feels like it all comes naturally.”
After working in New York and L.A. for a while, Stasney made her way to the “Third Coast” of Milwaukee, where she pivoted from decorating sets to fully helping people transform their living spaces. As a designer at Haven Interiors, she offers highly personalized design services, covering everything from furniture and fabrics to artwork and accessories.
“The thing that we bring to the table at Haven is we do this day in and day out,” Stasney says. “We look at so many people’s homes and floor plans. We understand flow and what makes a space work, or what makes it really cozy. It’s just wanting to share what we’ve learned through our experiences of what really makes a home feel special. I feel like we give that as a gift, almost, to our clients, because I feel like we can help them really make a space great.”
Usually when people reach out to Haven, it’s because they’ve seen the company’s website or heard good things from a friend, Stasney says. Designers at Haven work one-on-one with clients, beginning with a consultation and home viewing.
Stasney enjoys presenting clients with floor plans, mood boards, fabric and color palettes – essentially a variety of visual aids, depending on what the client needs.
“I always say that’s just the beginning of the conversation,” Stasney says. “Everything that I pick and propose, some of it you may love right away, but then there may be a piece here or there that you don’t love. So, it comes back to learning about you and your style, and then we talk from there and make your priorities work for you.”
Right now, Stasney has a variety of projects she’s working on. Some people are doing home renovations, while others are building wine cellars, home gyms or game rooms.
Mostly, however, people are moving into new homes and wanting to reconfigure their furniture, she says.
“They’re finding that their old furniture doesn’t fit the style of their new house, so they’re wanting to start over, or use their old furniture in the basement,” Stasney explains. “We’re doing a lot of custom furniture, which we specialize in, and also a lot of draperies, window treatments, art and accessories – really just making the house work with their dream.”
When executing a client’s vision, Stasney asks a wide array of questions. Does the client have a favorite vacation spot, or have they collected a lot of decor from their travels? Are there particular colors they gravitate toward?
“From my background as a set decorator, I would read a script and have to figure out things like, where would this character live? Where would this character shop? Where would this character have traveled? And so, in the same regard, I ask my client a lot of questions to really make sure that, when I present a design idea or concept to them, it’s really going to reflect them, their family, where they’ve been, and what they’re into,” she explains.
She also helps couples to find balance between their own unique styles, which sometimes can greatly differ.
“It’s interesting seeing the dynamic between husbands and wives, because sometimes one will have a more traditional style and one will have a more modern style, and then we’ll have to find something in between,” Stasney says. “I always say a picture is worth a thousand words in the design industry because what is traditional to one person is transitional to another. So, pictures definitely help to communicate.”
In addition to helping clients figure out what they love, Stasney makes sure the materials she presents are practical. If the client has pets, she’ll recommend rugs that are more easily cleanable. If the client has kids, she’ll think about performance fabrics that can withstand a little wear and tear.
“The aesthetic needs to reflect the client – it’s not about me,” Stasney says. “I feel like all of us at Haven really have that attitude. We all want to listen to our clients and really make sure that what we’re designing meets their needs and reflects them.”