Happy February! I hope you’re thriving and surviving the winter weather. I’m no longer in my beautiful, magical storefront, and instead I’m working from my converted sunroom. I’m struggling to feel inspired here, and things have felt really uncertain. I’m sure you all can empathize with that feeling of being unsettled – but as an interior designer it is extra unsettling because everything from the office is in my basement in boxes.
When everything feels uncertain, it can be hard to feel confident or to feel joy. I realized the other day, though, that this could be a time of exploration and curiosity. This could be a time when I find something new rather than lose something, and I’m really excited to think of it that way. You all have been sending me wonderful questions, and I’m excited to dive into them!
This episode, I answer questions about…
[5:59] Home office desk solutions (Debbie)
On the topic of the home office desk issue we are being faced with. My solution is to get the desk that works best: style, size, function! They solve the issue of sitting too much/too long by updating the technology. Most people either work completely with a laptop or have a desktop and a laptop. Call in a tech person who can connect all your devices, get WiFi extenders throughout your home if needed, and wa-la! You now have the option to work anywhere in your home.
You can move from the desktop to a laptop anywhere: To a kitchen island or counter, to taking it outside on a nice afternoon. One day we will be completely wireless and at that time let your client know you will be back to help them choose the right adjustable desk when that happens. I’m with you, I would never raise and lower a desk during a day, week or even month. Who needs that hassle?!!
I love Debbie’s feedback here, and I think she is responding to some topics I was talking about back in January. I was planning on leaving my office and I wasn’t sure where I was going to work. People have been asking me a lot about sit/stand desks, and my own experience with the sit/stand desk was rather lackluster. I always loved the idea that I could make it stand, and I had it since July of 2021 but never actually lifted it. It just seemed like too much hassle. I was in the groove and if I wanted to stand up, I would walk around my office rather than lift the desk and put it back down later.
I still am excited to have a sit/stand desk. Everybody loves options, even if we don’t take advantage of them. I do not agree, however, that we should think about being super mobile around our house. I love to work outside on my patio on a beautiful spring or summer day. Nothing is more inspiring. I feel so free and motivated. I really hate, however, to go into clients’ houses and see they have their dining table set up as a desk – but sometimes they move to the kitchen island to stand or to get a change of scenery. They have some papers over there, and sometimes they work at their couch so they keep a charging station there.
First of all, as somebody who runs a seven-figure business, I cannot imagine not having that executive moment. I need at least a five-foot desk. I need at least two monitors. I need notebooks. I need my planner. I need pens in 24 different colors. Now that I’m working from home, my children come in and steal their favorite colors and run around the house. They know my pens are off limits, but they do like to push my buttons.
Anyway, it drives me crazy when I see cords all over clients’ houses and they feel nomadic. Now, that’s not to say that if you want to do a quick email you shouldn’t be able to do it from somewhere else. I really do believe, though, that if you have any sort of job that’s taxing – any time that’s spent on the computer – a dedicated workstation is so important for mental health. If I’m dragging my workstation all over my house, where’s the boundary? Where can I shut it off? I need a place to shut the door and leave my work energy. I can bring the best to my family, and I can totally unplug. I deeply believe that you should have at least one to three days a week where you totally unplug. You don’t check your email, think about work, listen to motivational books, or listen to business podcasts. You completely shift focus.
I never used to think like this before joining my business group, Strategic Coach. I would wake up and check my email before spending time with my family all day and seeing my friends at night. Even just the energy of checking my email or thinking about a client immediately changed my day and it was hard to shake that. So I truly believe that if you have a job that stresses you out at any time or is mentally taxing, you do need that dedicated zone. As you guys know, I design for my clients in front of the TV, on the couch with my laptop. That is how I’m inspired and how my creativity works. My desk is totally not creative energy. I do, however, believe in work life balance and I believe that having a nomadic desk situation around your house does not promote that.
[13:18] Designing a warm and homey laundry room (Pia)
I would love some help with our laundry room. We will redo all floors in our basement and then fix our depressing laundry room. I got the floor plan to where I want it and I have my style is Homey Mid-Century. So to my question: How to think about counter tops, cabinet fronts, pulls, color and lighting in a dark and depressing utilitarian space? Especially lighting when the ceilings are low? I get that it will never look pretty with all the plumbing and concrete but I am just going for something warm and homey that doesn’t depress me. Any help would be appreciated.
From the pictures, I can see that the laundry room is a little depressing. It has exposed pipes at the top, it appears to have concrete floors, and it has a very utilitarian sink. It looks like you will be doing some pretty big renovations to it in terms of installing cabinetry. In terms of making things feel more cohesive, I think boxing out those pipes is a good idea because it is so industrial and exposed that it would be hard to put lipstick on this little piggy without doing something more invasive. I’m really excited that you’re planning on doing some cabinetry and countertops.
I think that the laundry room, or small rooms in general (like a powder room, a mud room, or even a small entryway) are the perfect places to go bold – to have some fun, be a little experimental and loud – because it is so small that it’s not going to be overwhelming. If you’re feeling like the space is dark, depressing, and gloomy, then let’s make it more inspiring. Let’s have some fun!
One thing I do want to mention is that I can see the laundry room opens up to a curving staircase that does have some wallpaper. It appears to be really well-designed and thoughtful, so I wouldn’t want the laundry room to not relate at all to that area. You might want to have it share a style, or share some parts of that 60/30/10 color palette. That way it will feel like a cohesive extension of that stairway and not just a strange, anomalous, fun room.
Something that I love to see in a laundry room that some people don’t think about is a backsplash – especially if you have a slop sink. It just makes sense that in that area a lot of water or splashing or potential spills would happen. A backsplash can be not only a really functional thing to add, but it can add a lot of color, vibrancy, and playfulness. You can take a chance and do something in a fun print.
I’m also finding printed tiles really inspiring. Of course, if your floors are painted concrete, they might have a drain that might make it a bit more difficult, if it’s pitched, to add tile. You wouldn’t want to do anything like carpeting, but I could definitely see painting that concrete in a less concrete color to avoid the gray. They also have these really great things called vinyl rugs, or oilcloth rugs. I don’t know if they have them in Sweden, where Pia is, but they are very up and coming in the United States. It’s very flat, almost like a plastic placemat, but it has the design of a rug. It can get wet, and it kind of adheres to the floor. Lots of different brands are offering them, they are quite durable, and they come in all sorts of exciting patterns and sizes.
The other thing I would think about if it’s dark in there is to get an overhead light fixture, because I see you do have options for overheads. Get an overhead light fixture that has multiple bulbs, and then be sure to put it on a full range dimmer. Just because it could get really bright, doesn’t mean you always want it at max brightness.
The one thing I would recommend is staying away from any chotchkies and any lamps on the surface. I don’t do laundry in my house – my husband does. But I would imagine that if we had a nice laundry room like this (right now we just have the basement and he brings it upstairs to fold) with a big countertop, he would want that totally free for all of his folding.
So those are a few ideas for you, Pia, but I definitely think you can take that homey, mid-century vibe and bring it down to the laundry room. I think the pattern you showed me might be a wallpaper and I’m totally open to that, just make sure it’s vinyl wallpaper so that it is more forgiving of water and soap splatters. I can’t wait to see before and after pics!
[19:19] Updating stair railing posts and handrails (Allison)
I spend hours hiking our beautiful Colorado trails listening to your inspiring information. I appreciate your ability to combine affordable design solutions while still providing quality inspiration. We live in a 20+ year home and are starting to re-energize its current “bones”. I am replacing all of the baseboards and window casings to a 3 1/4″ shaker style white trim. While doing this I realized my stair railing, posts and handrail are completely trashed and outdated 🙁 I am struggling with what to replace these with. I do like the black cable railing systems but find them a bit too outdoorsy for the interior entry way. The front door opens right up to this staircase and I don’t want something too busy because it’s an already tight area. I am including some photos of the staircase from the front door and surrounding entryway photos. I appreciate any suggestions you may have.
Allison’s photos are very illuminating in terms of understanding what to do here. The number one thing that you want to do is, you want to make all the architectural details in the home. So architectural details refer to things that are intrinsic to the home. They are built into the home, so they don’t include furniture, artwork, wallpaper, or paint. They are those renovation selections you made in the bathroom or the kitchen, or of course, stairway selections. You want to make sure they are cohesive with the era of the home and with the exterior of the home. The home itself should be saying one thing. You don’t want it to look like you updated over time and the bathroom is from the 80s, the kitchen is from the 90s, and the entryway is from the 60s. You want it to all look cohesive and in keeping with the style of the home.
So, while I have a lot of good pictures of the entryway, I don’t have pictures of the home in general and the other finishes. That being said, I can give you some general advice about the stairway. First things first, I don’t think you should do the cables either. I can tell that this home is not modern – I’m going to use “modern” but I really should be using “contemporary”. Modern refers to a specific era of interior design that happened in the 50s, and based on the paneling and the door I’m going to say that this is more of a transitional style home rather than a super contemporary or mid-century style home. This home is not saying clean lines, sleek, and minimal. So you had good instincts there with not doing the cable balusters on the stairway.
I would, however, want to replace the balusters with something that is a bit more simplistic. For those of you wondering what balusters are, they are the spindles. You have the handrail at the top, and as it comes down you have the newel post, which is the post at the very end of the stairway that often has some kind of decorative piece. The spindles are those little pieces, the balusters, that go all the way up the length of the stairway so that things don’t fall through. There is typically a handrail on the other side, and I typically like the handrails and potentially even the newel post to be a different color and texture than the balusters. The balusters might be that nice, fresh white that matches the trim. Typically, I would want the handrail and the newel post to be a wood tone or a darker tone so that it camouflages fingerprints and wear and tear. That’s also why I like to keep them a woodgrain, because the intrinsic patterning in the wood camouflages stains. If it’s just painted black or dark gray, you will be able to see those imperfections.
So, my takeaway would be that we keep the balusters white but make them a more contemporary style. We should keep the newel post and keep the idea of transitional in our mind so we don’t do anything too sleek. We want something much more minimal and clean. When you’re thinking about renovations, you want to think about the house holistically. I can see some bronze on the door handle, but across the way the other door has some silver. You’ll want to be intentional with how you are mixing your metals. If you choose to make the balusters metal instead of wood, maybe you could use an iron baluster versus a wood one for a decorative touch.
When I was doing my railings outside on my patio, I looked at different companies that did fences and railings and it was all fairly uninspiring. Somebody gave me the information for an ironworker who forged railings by hand. He brought over this huge book with what seemed like hundreds of different options for balusters. It was so inspiring, and I thumbed through every page until I found these really unique balusters with a clover inset. I see so many of the same balusters, and if you have the opportunity to use a craftsperson that can be a great way to get a unique look – and it was so cheap. The balusters were all pre-made, they just weren’t what the builders are constantly selecting. So my home has this really custom look now, even though we literally bought the balusters from a catalog.
[28:34] Alternatives to interior design options (Latoyia)
I was wondering if you could mention the alternatives to interior design options such as my twist on interior design. I would love it if you would let your listeners know alternatives that could really open their minds to the items they have in their possession – even heirloom or contemporary – that can be reimagined to fit their space and design aesthetic. I not only do this because I love being able to create unique pieces for my clients, but also it is sustainable. I love a home being a collection of things which creates interest and a balance to a space. Everything should not be painted and everything can’t be fixed, but knowing there are options is a whole new world to designing in space.
Latoyia, thank you so much for reminding the listeners that yes, you don’t just have to shop retail. You don’t have to buy things that are new. You are completely right, and the supply chain issues right now are out of control. They have been since September, and while I have seen things getting a little bit better, getting a couch before August at this point would be amazing. So yes, it’s much more sustainable and easier these days to buy something that has been pre-owned. You can click and buy it on Facebook marketplace, or you can go to a consignment shop or secondhand shop like Latoyia’s and pick something up.
People can be intimidated, which is why I hope you all listened to my episode with the host from Farmhouse Vernacular, because Paige gave so many tips on refurbishing and refinishing pieces. If you are considering a career in interior design, just know that there are so many paths open to you. You can sell furniture – whether you want to be a wholesaler, whether you want to mark up retail items, or whether you want to find your own gems and fix them up to resell them. There are so many different opportunities for making money in this field, and you just want to think creatively. You can take the Academy where we can help you think creatively and decide what your personal path looks like.
Unfortunately, at my firm we can only recommend retail. There is only one of those beautiful refurbished or second hand items, so if that sells out then it will be very hard to find another one. They are one-of-a-kind pieces that make your home unique, but as an interior designer they can make things a nightmare because we don’t have control over that inventory. My dad was an auctioneer for estate sales, so it has been ingrained in me since I was young to love old things. I do wish I was able to use those resources more with my clients, but the lack of control gives me pause.
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