First of all, I am so flattered that my dear friend Amber invited me to be part of her stunning blog. What an honour! Now I need to live up to her expectations and write something interesting. When my brain started digesting this opportunity, I came up with an idea: why don’t I describe “The Anatomy of Design”. What factors create a long lasting design and how do we identify them?
Designers and clients alike probably feel like I do at times; fully bombarded with new products! How do we select a material, a fixture, a piece of furniture or artwork that will stand the test of time (if only Botox worked on furnishings!!) and maintain it’s stylishness, making our purchase a good investment for year to come? Furthermore, how can we select pieces that meet these criteria but avoid being too safe or boring? Here, I’ll break down my process and rules of selection:
#1. Look for quality. I always recommend buying the best piece that you can afford. I’m not suggesting that you blow the bank, but look for something within your means that still represents your style (ie: please do not cheap out!). For me, luxury is not determined by the cost of an item, it’s by the feeling it gives. The things you touch everyday (faucets, appliances, textures) are where I recommend investing.
In order to be competitive, retail building centres force their suppliers to provide them with pieces that are within a certain price range. The suppliers then give you the ‘designer’ look at a cheap price, but of course they are lacking in quality too. Choosing these items means you’ll have to replace them sooner or later. They also usually have a low warranty period (a year or two) rather than the lifetime warranty that a superior version would have. Even if this isn’t your ‘forever’ home, the last thing you want to do is to deal with repairs and replacements that could have been avoided. You have to think ‘big picture’ here.
#2. Do your research. Nowadays, ‘shopping around’ is literally at your fingertips with the internet – heck, you can even peruse to your heart’s content in your favorite pajamas – but there’s no substitute for visiting showrooms in person. You may be surprised at what you find; many have an array of price points and styles beyond what they’re best known for. Step outside of your comfort zone and check out some unfamiliar ground.
Ask the sales staff about the feedback they’ve received from other homeowners as well as their own experience with certain brands or lines. The important thing here is to do your homework carefully. As a designer my reputation depends on recommending the best pieces for a given application so I rely on research, expert advise from my suppliers and my own experience to guide my clients towards the best investment.
I also recommend that my clients meet with a Realtor to discuss a reasonable amount to invest in a renovation based on the return they’ll get. This number, along with your pricing adventures, will help create a realistic budget.
Sidebar: I’m not trying to overwhelm you with this information. It may sound very much like common sense but in my 15 years of experience as a designer I still find that more often than not, clients aren’t aware of how much things cost.
Anyhow, moving on to the final step…
#3. Style it! After sourcing, pricing, and readjusting the budget, we can start having fun and find a style that will reflect your personality. This is the fun part, but can also be difficult for some. Of course, this is where a good designer comes in! Usually a designer has a clear vision and understanding of their client’s needs and how far to push them visually.
Your designer also keeps abreast of current, past and upcoming trends, so they have an understanding of what makes a design timeless (no Botox required!).
When I’m selecting something for a project, I ask myself: ‘how many years will this style be fashionable?’. If I can see it adapting to other styles in the future or simply maintaining it’s stylish appearance for 10 years or more – it’s a go for me. I use this criteria for bathroom fixtures, appliances, light fixtures and the main furniture pieces. When designing in a contemporary style, ten years is a good guideline for longevity. If you’re working in a more traditional style the time line can be even longer. This technique isn’t necessarily something that can be explained, which is why many clients need a designer to help them make these decisions – it comes from a layered knowledge of design history, colour theory, and a good eye (which you just can’t teach. I’m sorry, you either have it or you don’t!).
I hope you now feel better equipped to select the right materials/pieces needed for your project. Of course, having a designer (like the talented Miss Amber who was wise enough to invite me to write this guest post, or me; the handsome Mexican who is so graciously giving you this advice) will help you to facilitate all these steps, ensuring that you can enjoy your home, confident that you’ve made a wise investment.
Some additional considerations for Condo owners:
If you’re updating a condo, you need to create a connection to the rest of the building because you’ll inevitably be competing in the market against other units. You don’t want your condo to be the most expensive one in the building, or it will linger on the market. The most effective renovations stand out because of their beauty, but still have a sense of belonging within their surroundings. That connection can be achieved through materials, colour, style or form – but it must be there. It’s a fine balance, but good design not only reflects your personal taste, but also protects your biggest investment – your home or condo. You need to be realistic with this point.