Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Best Design Advice

The one and only room in our house that has remained untouched since moving into our house is our dining room.  I have no idea why.  Probably because we use this room for everything and I couldn't be inconvenienced with tearing it apart.  But, it's time. (As my mom would say).

One day I was talking  complaining to my friend about feeling overwhelmed with trying to get all my home projects done by summer's end (more on that later) when she recommended the best piece of design advice I've ever received. 

She suggested I contact an interior designer to seek some 'free' advice/consultation.  What?  That's brilliant.  Why didn't I think of that?  Oh, yeah, I have pregnancy brain!

In fact, I remember Kirsten from 6th Street Design School did a post on how to become a better designer and one of things she suggested is to hire a designer.  Now I know why.

Without hesitation, I put up a post on craigslist (under 'gigs') advertising that I was seeking an Interior Designer or ID intern who was willing to provide free consultation on my home in return for a Starbucks coffee of their choice.  No joke.  I recieved 5 responses!

Lucky for me, the interior designer that I contacted is new to the area having just moved from NYC.  She has her degree in Interior Design from a university in the U.K.  She is keen on starting her business here in CT and is building her client base.  She happily agreed to meet with me for a free consultation and we spent Saturday morning walking through my home.  I soaked up every minute of it!!  It was so refreshing to see things from her point of view.

For example, here is a paraphrased excerpt of our conversation.  The setting is my living room.

Her: "Do you mind me asking why you put your bookshelf over there?"
Me: "Well, I thought it looked good and that space was empty."
Her: "Well, I think it would look better over on that wall because it would provide symmetry to that wall as you have an entry way on one side and nothing on the other."
Me; "Oh, you know, I've never thought of that before."

What I learned is that every suggestion she made there was a legitimate reason for it.  Another example, she suggested I move my mirror opposite my window to provide more light into my room.

As much as I love design and think I have a good eye, I realize I approach design with my gut as oppose to relying on technical knowledge.  I think you need both.  It was refreshing to hear her reasons as to why things would work better in some spaces versus other spaces.

We focused a bulk of the consultation on my dining room throwing around ideas.  I probably was her 'worst' client as I told her that I had NO money for a real budget and everything in the room had to be repurposed.  So, her consultation didn't focus on sourcing furnishing, but instead helping me to finalize my thoughts, espeically my color palette. 

Needless to say, decisions have been made and progress is on it's way.  Painters are actually here today painting.  More to come soon!

So, lesson of the day, if you're interested in learning more about design - hire a designer (or buy them a coffee!).  You won't be sorry!!


  1. Agree!! Designers are there for a reason!!!

  2. I am so going to try this. I've only worked with designers twice but had a MUCH better experience with a fresh-from-graduation designer. The seasoned pro really didn't listen to my thoughts and desires. I still use tips I learned from the new grad.

  3. Getting another point of view is always a good idea, especially from a professional. I'm thinking of painting my dining room (pop over and see what you think)!

  4. Wow, what a great idea! So crafy... I'm really excited to see the result!!


  5. What a great story! We all need a fresh pair of eyes - especially at home. I'm really looking forward to seeing the changes you are making now.

  6. Brilliant idea! Sometimes even a friend with a good 'eye' can also help you make some simple changes with the things you already have to re-invent a space.
    I look forward to seeing the results of your coffee consultation!

  7. Hiring a designer is always a great idea. Many times a designer will even save you time and money in the long run.

  8. So, so smart. I'm beginning to feel like I've hit a wall decorating-wise in our current apartment and, as Rene said, a fresh pair of eyes (especially professional ones!) would really help.

    Please show us the progress!!

  9. I'm glad to know I'm not the only design junkie who hired someone (albeit online) and I loved the results I got. I'm looking forward to seeing the suggestions AND you proved that it never, ever hurts to ask!


  10. Buying her a coffee in exchange for her expertise is well worth it. Now, I am looking forward to see the results. First time reader, following now. Great blog!


  11. What a refreshing and fun idea. I love it when design minded people meet togther to get the best out of a spac einstead of competition. Great piece of advice xx

  12. Hi Fran, I am so happy to meet you and your blog. Love your kitchen before and afters, and your experience with a designer. I had someone come in to bounce ideas off of and it was really helpful (her consultation fee was $65/hour which, after touring my whole house with her and gaining lots of helpful insight, I considered a bargain. But your Starbucks coffee beats that any day!) I am a New England girl too - MA. Look forward to reading more of your design adventures! Have a great weekend, Lisa

  13. I had to come back and tell you that I tried your idea. I got a response by the next morning. The person who replied asked if I'd send pics and she would be willing to offer advice. I got the response this morning and let's just say that it was interesting. Her ideas were kind of generic, not awful, but nothing I'd exceptional, but I had a hard time getting past the grammatical errors and misspellings. Hey, it was worth a try though.

  14. Hi Karen, that is great you tried. Sorry to hear, though, that your experience didn't meet your expectations. I was fortunate to have received 5 responses from my inquiry. From those I was able to choose the one that I thought had the best potential for success (She had an Interior Design degree from the UK and significant experience, which factored into my choice). While I wouldn't say this approach isn't perfect, it's free with the potential for a good payoff.

  15. Awesome story, Fran. I love the idea of hiring/borrowing/begging a designer for a fresh eye on our spaces. We all need this from time to time. So when do we get a reveal?!

  16. So nice to get a fresh perspective on your space! Anything to get you over the design hump.

    Are you going to give her a shout out? I'd rather have a shout out than a cup of coffee ;)

  17. How fun! This is a great story and just confirms that there's a *reason* to hire a professional. Even when you're good at it yourself. I can't wait to see the end result!