Saturday, March 12, 2016


I was recently consulting with a client from Upstate New York. We were finalizing the colours and finishes for her kitchen renovation. As one last piece of advice, I told her to make sure she did not install the 4" slab of granite on the backsplash so commonly found in kitchens.
She said "I am so glad you mentioned that, because my countertop guy said that my walls were crooked and I had to have it but I don't like the look at all".
One of my designer friends was looking for a new home in the suburbs last year and after touring house after house she said:
"The combination of finishes (tile/countertops/floors/stone fireplace) in 99% of the homes we have seen are so ugly and so bad, it amazes me that it doesn't occur to people to hire a designer even to consult on what they are ABOUT to install. They would save all kinds of money because they'd be doing it right the first time and actually be happy with the result instead of upset once they see how it all looks together.
" In all fairness, a good designer is hard to find but once you actually find one, hire them, if even for a single consultation.
If you are a do-it-yourselfer, a consultation is even more critical because your ideas will usually be based on the current trends and have little to do with what is appropriate and will actually coordinate with your existing house (maybe).
If you want free design advice, you'll definitely get it, but it will be from all the salespeople or trades who do not have the entire picture of your renovation in their head.
Your builder or contractor will say 'It can't be done' because they don't want to do it or they don't know how, or worse, they'll tell you to do something unnecessary because they will make more money in the process.
The hardwood floor installer will declare 'That room wasn't square' so that's why you now have a transition strip at the doorway where there should not be one.
Your painter tells you he uses that colour 'All the time, and it works in every house'.
The salesperson assures you that the colour of the tile or carpet you are buying 'Is definitely perfect'.
The person selling you a product should be relied upon for their expertise regarding quality and availability. 

Conducting a poll with anyone who does not have the design plan for your home is simply foolish.

I recently had a client who purchased all new living room furniture from a high-end furniture store. 'The designer was free', she said. What she ended up with was a sofa that was the wrong scale for her living room, chairs that did not coordinate, clashing undertones, the list goes on.  The designers job in a furniture store is to specify the furniture, in their store, not anyone else's (maybe).
Add all this to the free advice you'll receive from your family and friends and the renovation you were so excited about from the beginning might just turn into a mess that's too expensive to re-do and will bother you much more than the old finishes you inherited from the previous homeowner because YOU paid for it.
Are you depressed from reading this now?
I'm trying to jolt you into understanding that a beautiful house, kitchen, bathroom or living room takes a big picture plan and cannot possibly ever happen with 50 different opinions and points of view.

Vancouver Colour Designer asks: Is Hiring a Designer a Luxury or a Necessity? Maria Killam


When my installer handed me his invoice of $210.00 for an installation that lasted approximately 1 1/2 hours, I got to thinking; why is it that a home-owner seems to have no real issues with paying for labour? The painter, plumber, electrician, tile layer, carpenter, and so on.
But hiring the DESIGNER or COLOUR CONSULTANT–even if it’s just for a 2 hour consultation–to pull it all together, to make it all beautiful and fabulous, seems to fall into the category of LUXURY?
I have watched many a box of finishes for an entire brand new house; tile, granite, wood flooring, and fabrics, schlepped into a Benjamin Moore paint store in the hopes of getting ‘a free colour consultation’. For an entire house. COLOUR. Which will occupy the largest amount of square footage in your house. COLOUR. Which creates a feeling and is VERY upsetting when it is wrong. COLOUR.
Which will most assuredly change from the lighting in the paint store (where the colours then get selected) to the lighting in your house, once your finishes are installed.
The reason I hire an accountant to do my taxes is so that he/she will SAVE me money! Whatever I pay him/her doesn’t matter in the end because I’m saving that money, many times over by having a professional prepare my taxes!
I have a friend in West Vancouver who wanted to hire a local, high-end, interior designer when they started their kitchen renovation. She loved the contemporary style of kitchen this designer was known for and it was exactly what she wanted. When the husband heard how much this designer charged for the first consultation, he said NO WAY. They ended up going through THREE designers before they got the kitchen they wanted. And do you know how much this renovation ended up costing them?
I can’t tell you it upset me so much, but I’ll tell you this—A lot more than they would have if they hired the designer they originally wanted in the first place.
A few years ago, Robert Allen had an event featuring their designer fabrics for spring. Kimberley Seldon was their guest speaker and at one point in the evening she asked “Who here charges less than $100 per hour?”. To the few who raised their hand, she said “Shame on you, do you think you have less responsibility than a plumber?”. This statement, by the way, confirms the first point I made earlier.
I once walked into a house that had freshly installed laminate flooring throughout. However, the big mistake the homeowner had made was they had picked a different colour of laminate for each bedroom. They obviously thought they had to define each room in some way like you might do with a colour. What they did not know was that the days of defining spaces with flooring are gone.
Today we are installing hardwood flooring in powder rooms as well as kitchens. Oh, and one more thing; this flooring had been installed to ‘flip’ the house as it was for sale; however, what they did actually devalued the house to a potential buyer.
So here’s what I’m trying to say: When we are learning something new or making decisions in an area that we are not an expert, we usually make it harder than it has to be. I notice this with my students.
The answer is totally obvious and even EASY. But we think to ourselves [It can’t be that easy, it has to be harder than that, so we keep looking and that’s when things usually go wrong]. When the designer shows up with 1 – 3 choices, we make it look easy. But what you don’t know is that we have already waded through hundreds, sometimes thousands of possibilities to come up with the palette that is going to work for YOU, for the style of YOUR home, the lifestyle of YOUR family.
The professional (in any field) and in this case an experienced designer makes everything look easy. I was standing in front of an exterior with a client who was asking about accenting this area and that on the front of the house. However, my suggestions for colour were based on the STYLE of the home, including the existing, fixed elements of the house, which dictated using more of the body colour and less of the ACCENT colours the client was talking about. At one point he looked at me and I KNEW he was thinking “But I could have done that myself?”.
The reason why he could not; however, was that he could not explain to anyone why his choices were the right ones.

It’s the same when it’s time to specify colours for my clients. When I first started specifying colour, I thought it was my JOB to pick a new colour for every room. Now I don’t pick a new colour unless there’s a really good reason to do so. Otherwise the house becomes a kaleidoscope of colours without any real flow.
If the home-owner makes ONE bad purchase decision – that would have already paid for the designer. And if you are on a budget, you have no budget to waste on mistakes!!
When is hiring a designer, a luxury? Well, if you hire one to custom design every piece of your house down to the tassel on your $1,200 toss cushions, then yes, that’s when a designer becomes a luxury.
Jeffrey Bilhuber’s new book “Defining Luxury” says it best:
“Decorators can guide clients and their families to an elevated standard of living. At it’s best, the process is similar to discovering a brilliant museum, one you had never entered before or even knew existed. Once you pass through it’s doors, your world is forever changed. You may never revisit your old world again. If you do, you’ll never see it quite the same way.”
Happiness is hiring the designer you already know can give you the high end kitchen you want, because you’ve seen their work and you love it.
Happiness can be restored where there is disagreement very quickly, by hiring a designer for—at the very minimum—a CONSULTATION before you make the mistakes you can’t afford to make anyways. That is an absolute NECESSITY!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Lake Home

Beautiful home on the lake.  A wonderful place to enjoy the peace of the water and the light. 

YES, summer is really coming...refresh your home to bring the colors of the season inside.


Do you all change up your decor from one season to the next?  I love to, especially in my accessories.  I also find that my client's see it as a very budget conscious way to refresh their homes a few times a year.
Changing out the pillows on your furniture, eliminate or replace the rug or carpet in a room, add a summer throw to a chair and even make a few changes to an area like behind your bookshelves.
Recently a client wanted to highlight the walls behind the books.  We added a grey and white geometric paper, changed out a few accessories, adding flowers, a topiary and new picture frames for a completely new look.  It felt like we had made big changes to the room within only an hour and a small budget. 
Maybe it is time to make some color changes in your home. Here is what i hear from Maxwell fabrics to be the color trends for the rest of the year:
~Green continues to be a very strong influence.  Anything from dark emerald to vivid citrus lime.
~Navy blue and white combinations (my favorite) are on the rise, while turquoise remains a fresh choice.
~Pink!  Dazzling hot pinks are at the top of the list.  This is a color everyone is using.
~Metallics in copper, bronze and gold tones add warmth and luster.  Silver still is a favorite.
~Brown is the new black again.  I think it will overtake the greys as being the trendy color for next year.

Some of my all time favorites are the tweeds, linen, cotton-velvets mixed with the new colorful crewels. Lee Jofa and the Oscar de la Renta line offers some wonderful new color in the fabrics we are seeing.

This is the time to spend some time looking at a new color to revive what you already love in your home.  Think about a new pink, orange, purple or navy that might complement what you have to liven up your favorite space.  Add a few new large, print pillows...floral, geometric or textured.  Nothing adds new life to a room like a few new pillows.