Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The business of design ...

Seated from left to right: myself, Tina Melanson, Ann Chapdelaine,
Sandra Biondo, Rosanne Palazola enjoying High Tea at Glen Magna

After enjoying some yummy scones, tea sandwiches and desserts at last week’s Designer Tea held at Glen Magna (food provided by Harvest Catering, another coincidence) the guests in attendance were able to pose some of their design questions to us. We took turns giving our individual answers to the questions. Here are just a few of the questions with my
(now written) responses ...

Q. When designing for a client,
where do you start?

I like to meet my clients in their home and start out with a tour. Even if they plan to change an entire space, there are always fixed features that will influence the end result. What style home is it? How is the available lighting? What colors are in adjacent rooms? What types of flooring are in the home? What items have they collected over the years? Is there a favorite pattern or color scheme that keeps reappearing in their choices? Really listening to them as they point out what they wish to change and what they wish to keep is the best way for me to get a sense of their design needs. It is all about getting to know what they respond to and then working with them to create a space that feels like an extension of their personality. Of course, a blank slate (like new construction) is always a great opportunity to approach design with a fresh start, but many design reference points are usually discovered in that
first face-to-face conversation.

Q. How do you present your
ideas to your clients?

I usually put together sample boards using graphic design software (Quark Xpress and Photoshop are the tools of my trade) or I will use Polyvore to create a mood board pulling images of furnishings and patterns right from the internet. I also use Icovia, another great online resource, to quickly establish floor plans. I prefer to present ideas in person, however, I am always willing to send a quick email with the design boards attached to answer design questions in a more immediate way. Even with all of these computer aided design tools, I have discovered that lots of clients still love a real hand-drawn view of their future space. When I show an illustration of my ideas for a
client’s space, it is much easier for them
to visualize the end result.

Styling small spaces is always
a fun design project for me

Q. Has the downturn in the economy
affected your design business?

I am happy to say that through client referrals, and with participation in the past few design shows, my business has actually been growing. What has helped me, I believe, is that I am willing to take on design challenges that are big or small. Creating a
special spot in a home is just as satisfying to me as redesigning an entire room. It is also a great place to start a design relationship with a new client. I still do a lot of color consultations (which is how I started out 10 years ago), and I also love to spend an hour or two providing mini “design coaching sessions where I offer design tips that can later be executed at a client’s own pace. Whether faced with a complete renovation or a simple “freshening up my goal is always to help people make design decisions with confidence.

A notecard I designed to coordinate
with my space at the Danvers show

In addition, as I mentioned to our guests, I have actually been putting a lot of thought into creating other ways to market my design aesthetic, whether it be in pattern design,
printed reproductions of artwork, or some other type of creative representation of my design style. Jonathan Adler and Lilly Pulitzer are just a couple of designers who have successfully created a marketable brand out of their approach to design.

And I can’t forget to mention how important this blog has been in helping me to grow as a designer. It is a great way to share what I know about design while actually being able to connect with an audience. If someone gets to know me here, they are more likely to feel comfortable working with me on a future design project. And through blogging, I have made a lot of valuable connections with other design professionals. I actually have some neat collaborations in
the works that I will share with you later!

If you have any design questions of your own, feel free to pose them in the comment section below and I will answer each of them personally or in a post. And if you have an upcoming design project that you need help with, please give me a call at 617.899.1226 or
email me at

I look forward to any and all design conversations!

Don’t miss out! This is the last week to view
the designer vignettes at Tapley Hall.

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