THE PROGRAMMING PHASE
While this doesn’t hold true for every interior designer or architect out there, it is quite typical for a designer to look at the house from a very different standpoint than the architect. In a nutshell I have found that the architect views it from the outside in and the designer views it from the inside out. In other words, we are trained to visually walk ourselves through the house, thinking about furniture, lighting, window access and materials. This is the beginning of what we call the Programming Phase of design.
That is what I had in mind when I reviewed the client’s drawings for the first time. Questions I asked myself were:
These are just some of the questions I ask myself while reviewing a set of plans for general layout. The next task is to look at the kitchen and bathroom layouts and cabinet designs. Many times these are “blocked out” but not detailed. It is left up to the client to decide if they want drawers or doors on kitchen cabinets. Do you want the bathroom sink to the left, center or right of the 36” wide cabinet? It can make a difference for certain uses. Lastly I think about furniture layouts and if the room sizes can handle the client’s needs. Are there too many windows and not enough wall space? Is the room too small for a full sofa even though the client already owns one?
Rarely do major changes happen at this time, especially to the overall footprint of the house. We adjust window sizes, move an interior wall or two, and make a closet bigger, that sort of thing. It sounds minor now, but you will not regret taking the time to think through and make these changes. Depending on the size of the house and the needs of the owner, some construction can begin while these decisions are being made. In this case, we were still waiting on the permit so we did not begin construction yet. But when we did, as you can see, there was a lot of land sculpting to be done!
INTERVIEWING INTERIOR DESIGNERS
If you didn’t interview interior designers in the beginning, long before your house looks like this it’s a good idea to have one on board. The best place to start looking is with friends and family if they have worked with designers in the past. You can also visit a couple of websites that will assist you in finding one in your area. www.houzz.com is probably the most popular site out there right now for ideas, product and professionals. You can also go to www.asid.org and find designers in your area as well as tips on how to interview one.
No matter how you find the designer, the most important question to ask, besides how much do you charge, is do you have any clients or photos of recent work that you can see and possibly talk to. The second most important topic is letting the designer know exactly what you are looking for. Do not get excited by extremely modern, austere looks if you own a lot of stuff you never plan to put away. You will not be happy with the design in the end. Be sure to explain with words or pictures what your basic needs are and what styles you like. Or if it’s easier what styles you don’t like!
For this job the client hired the architect and contractor first to get the ball rolling. The contractor and architect had worked together before and the client was quite comfortable with both of them. But due to the size of the house the things the client wanted, both recommended they find an interior designer. So off to houzz they went and found me. We interviewed and got to know each other a little so that I could explain to them what services I could provide, what I could not provide and how I charge for those services. Then I offered to set up viewings at a couple of my previous jobs.
I showed them two extremes so they could see that I meant what I said when I told them as long as they communicate their likes and dislikes, I was confident I could produce a look they liked. It worked and a few weeks later we were embarking on what would become a two and a half year relationship. The first item up was for the client to start putting together photos of what they liked and my job was to review the preliminary plans. This is the best time for the interior designer to enter a job because space planning is a big part of what we do. And we can catch things as they related to furniture and ergonomic details that the architect may not think of. Next week I'll discuss what I found and changed on the plans.
In this next series of blogs I will be going through the design process as it is used when building a new home. Going through this process, step by step, will help you as a client to understand the roll an architect, interior designer, contractor and you have in the process and the order in which each member is key. I think you will find that there is a lot of great information to be had no matter the size of your project. Relevant pictures will be included with each entry but if you are curious of the outcome, the full project is shown in several areas on my website, my houzz profile and my google plus page.
The design process is a very lengthy one, involving designers of several specialties. Although they do intersect from time to time, they do not always start their design knowing the other key players. Because of this, it is important that there be a lead designer coordinating and communicating with everyone so there are no surprises or hold ups along the way.
Initially the architect is the first designer on the job when building a new home, or any project that involves structural work. She or he must first determine the landscape attributes and relevant area codes to determine the maximum size the home can be. The client should have a good idea of what they want in their new home or addition before they interview architects. This is important because the architect should be creating the overall footprint of the new home based on your needs and wants, not just what is popular or will fit. Remember, pictures speak a thousand words.
Once the architect is secured and the size of the job is determined, you would have what is called preliminary plans drawn up so that you can interview contractors for the job. It is best to have the preliminary plans so that you can review any unusual or specialty details to be sure the contractor is right for the job. You also want to be sure there is a good working relationship between the architect and the contractor, although that applies to all of the members of your team, when it comes to excavation, foundations and other structural details in the project, these two entities need to communicate well with one another.
You are now ready to look for an interior designer. Next week I will talk about how to interview interior designers and what you need to do to get the most out of the interview.
Many of us are hearing about aging in place as it has become a mainstream topic in areas involving the elderly. But like other phrases that catch on, like “organic”, “green” or “nonfat” after awhile the true meaning gets washed out a little.
Our first thought goes to installing grab bars and making sure the bathroom floor isn’t slippery, and perhaps getting a chair that lifts you up and out. But to really age in place one must think about all aspects of our lives as it is in our 5os and 60s, not as it will be in our 80s. What hobbies do we have now that keep our brains sharp, our bodies moving and mouths fed with foods we like, that we will want and need to continue when it is most necessary yet we are least able.
To wonder if the aging boom is going to reach you consider this interesting observation from “The Shock of Gray”. Phillips Lifeline, the company who answers our emergency calls from a button, has more than 6 million customers and can average seven hundred thousand calls by mid-morning. The “Gray” factor has hit not only our country but Germany, Poland, Japan, and the list goes on.
Imagine being able to cook a meal, tend to a garden, invite friends over for tea and shower, all while sitting in a wheel chair because your knees have given out on you but your mind is sharp. Or finding your way to the bathroom during the night while visually impaired due to macular degeneration. What happens if you contract arthritis but are otherwise healthy? All of these conditions, and many more are out there and we are susceptible to one or two. But is that enough to put us in a nursing home?
In many cultures it is customary for our relatives to care for us as we age and cannot do things for ourselves. But that tends to fill many of us with guilt about the burden we have become. Preparing your home now in all aspects of design will significantly decrease the burden as we will be able to do more for ourselves with less.
Late last year I acquired a new client through referrals. We met and hit it off right away, having many common interests and similar tastes. She hired me to help her make what we currently like to call “a man cave” for her husband who was retiring for the second and final time the following spring.
She had told me right from the start that she had health problems and needed me not only for my expertise but because she couldn’t get around well any more to do what she could of it on her own. I listened and understood her plight, but did not put much emphasis on it. We finished the room in time for his retirement and she then asked if I would help her with her master bedroom next.
I was of course willing to help, but not quite sure what she needed me to do for her. The room was very well done and there weren’t many options for the furniture layout due to size/door constraints. But she had recently remodeled her bathroom so I understood it as wanting a facelift for the bedroom to go with it.
I selected new bedding and came up with a new layout, she said she wanted to be able to better view the outdoors when she was lying down. What the layout was really about was her knowing she was going to spend a lot more time in bed due to a turn for the worse in her health. By the time I was wrapping things up, they were preparing the room for hospice to come in.
She had gone in to the hospital a couple weeks earlier but of course as the designer I did not know details. When I came to put the final touches in place, mostly hanging artwork back up, I did the best I could with what I had and no direction from her. The next day I received a call from her at the hospital and she was upset about the way hung things. Needless to say I was surprised, both at disappointing her and that she was calling me from her hospital bed concerned about how the bedroom looked at home.
Armed with more boxes of art and decor I didn’t have the first time I returned and started rehanging everything. That was when her husband informed me she was coming home to live out her final days. I was numb at first, but then found myself pouring my heart in to this wall. It would be the last thing she looked at, along with the view of the outdoors and her husband by her side.
A designer cannot get a better education anywhere to experience how important home can be until you prepare a room for someone to die. I relearned how much emphasis we place on our belongings and the memories they carry. I relearned how important being comfortable and familiar with things on the outside when on the inside nothing is the same. I was reaffirmed that aging in place is not just a catch phrase that society uses for new trends in design, insurance or healthcare needs. It is key to easing fears in the individual as well as their family and I am proud to continue my efforts to help those who believe in being at home till the end, and believe that I can help them achieve that.
Lighting is an often overlooked but very important element of good interior design. After all, there`s little point in creating well-designed rooms if you can`t see them. Correct lighting is also essential for creating the ambiance you want in a space.
Three primary types of lighting are used by interior designers, each one providing a different service. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when choosing lighting for your home.
General lighting, also referred to as ambient lighting, provides a space with overall illumination. This type
of lighting radiates a comfortable level of brightness and allows you to see objects in the room so you don`t run into them at night.
Having a central source of ambient lighting in every room is essential to a good lighting plan. Both ceiling-mounted and wall-mounted fixtures can provide general lighting, but ceiling lights are typically safer for stairways, hallways and utility work areas.
General lighting is often accomplished with track lights, recessed lights and chandeliers. Other decorative
options include wall sconces and Japanese paper lanterns.
Task lighting is designed to help you perform specific tasks, such as doing homework, prepping and cooking
meals, working on hobbies, grooming and reading. This type of lighting only illuminates the sections of the room where you expect to be performing those specific tasks.
Task lighting is often provided with pendant lights, under-cabinet lights, desk lamps, recessed lights, portable floor lamps and track lights. Task lighting should be bright enough to help prevent eyestrain, but it should also be free from distracting glare.
Accent lighting includes any light fixture that adds decorative interest, personality or drama to a space. Accent lighting is frequently used to create a focal point in a room.
Some people use accent lighting to showcase a piece of artwork, highlight collections or accentuate interesting
architectural elements. Others might use it to show off their healthy houseplants.
Accent lighting is commonly achieved with wall-mounted picture lights, recessed lights, up lights and track
lights. Table lamps with opaque shades and halogen spotlights can also be used for accenting items in a room.
Accent lighting shouldn`t be used alone. It really needs to be accompanied with other types of lighting
for a successful lighting plan.
CREATING AMBIANCE WITH LIGHTING
The amount of illumination strongly influences the mood of a space. Brightly lit rooms typically give off
positive, stimulating vibes, while darker rooms have a more cozy or romantic ambiance.
But a room doesn`t have to be one or the other. Try playing with the middle range of lighting to find the right mood for different situations. For example, if you are throwing a dinner party, you need bright enough light that your guests can see what you are serving but soft enough light that there is an intimate feeling.
The correct lighting strategy creates harmony by tying all of the elements in a space together in an attractive,
interesting and unified way. Homeowners often need professional assistance to get the harmony of their home lighting just right.
According to a recent Houzz survey, Americans are more interested in redecorating or remodeling to improve the aesthetics of their home as opposed to increasing the value. This is a very interesting and exciting outcome for us professionals. It means we have succeeded in some degree, to teaching people just how important our
surroundings can be to our psyche.
One red flag, if you will, are the percentages of those who want to hire a professional, be it an achitect, interior designer, contractor or landscaper, and those who want to do it themselves. There are a lot of very good reasons to redecorate and remodel yourself, but the main reason given was to save money. And this brings up a very interesting point, is that actually a savings of money? Not if your time is worth money.
Many use their home for work, play, entertaining, and even mini vacations. Having any of these functions disrupted for weeks even months creates inefficiency in our schedules and can lead to frustration in our family dynamic. One of the many services offered through a professional interior designer is project management. Countless times I have seen people running around town at the last minute looking for faucets or a particular light fixture, settling for what is in stock because the contractor is waiting, by the hour. One example was a
friend who researched special ordered a fabulous Franke kitchen sink. It was there and ready when the plumber wanted to install it but unfortunately the sink required a 42” cabinet and no one was coordinating between the architect, client and contractor and the cabinet for the sink was only 36” wide! So there they were, scrambling to find any kitchen sink in stock locally that would fit. What a disappointment after all the excitement of seeing that sink in their new kitchen.
So think about what price you are willing to pay, especially if you have waited and saved a long time to remodel,
to ensure that you get what you want, when you want it, with minimal disruption to your everyday life. This holds true for redecorating as well. Sometimes we don’t notice when the bill is $20 here, $50 there, that we have spent hundreds trying to pull a room together only to feel that there is still a glaring disconnect. All do to a lack of professional planning. Planning that you could have purchased with the money spent on the wrong
Did you know that aging-in-place isn’t just about kitchens and bathrooms? We think of those places first because we use them more than any other room in the house and they are where the accidents can and do happen. But
our overall quality of life is an ongoing and ever-changing process that needs attention outside of the kitchen and bathroom as well.
How we “see” during different times of the day and different times of our life can have a huge impact on our daily activities. As we begin to age most everyone knows from experience that our eyes weaken and our distance and close up vision becomes more difficult. Later we can develop cataracts that blur our overall vision. These aging processes can be corrected relatively easy. But our eyes also experience a reduction in clarity there by needing a higher contrast in colors to discern items around us. In addition we develop a higher sensitivity to glare. So simply putting a brighter light in the area can illuminate the objects but also create reflection and
glare which defeats the purpose. Lastly the eye begins to yellow and so does everything we see.
Because many of us or our family members may have been living in the home prior to the start of the eye aging we don’t always notice the gradual transition until years later when reading the paper or working on a craft become difficult and we think it is our age in general and frustration sets in. Having a fresh eye come in to the space and improve task lighting at key activity areas and in critical pathways we can removed that frustration and improved the emotional wellbeing of our aging loved one. Some solutions to these problems can be:
· Reduce glare by using dimmer switches and matte surfaces where ever possible.
· Eliminate bright/dark spots to avoid problems with slower adaptation to the dark
· General lighting should be spread evenly throughout a room
· Task lighting should be flexible and on the side of the better eye
Lastly, if you want to give the room a fresh look to improve spirits, which colors and where they are used is important. For example, if your favorite color is lavender and the eye adds yellow to it you will be seeing gray instead. So think of what the colors in your room would look like with yellow added and see if you think the pillows will still be visible on the sofa and the room is still cheerful.