8:05am You get into the office, you make your coffee or you are sipping your morning smoothie. Now what? Working in a design office naturally brings a lot of inspiration. There are beautiful pieces of art on the walls, a back warehouse full of rugs, furniture and accessories and a library of every fabric color and pattern you can imagine. But it’s hard to get absorbed in projects if all you hear is the clicking of the keyboards and the phone ringing. Music is a big inspiration for our days at Charmean Neithart Interiors.
When I designed our office I knew I wanted music to be a part of the environment. We use Sonos and take turns switching off what days we play different genres. Monday and Tuesday are generally very busy days at CNI as we are fielding calls from clients explaining issues that arose over the weekend and getting updates from contractors about what is going on at job sites for the week. For these days we need music that will pump us up. Our associate designer, JR, is great at playing the tunes that make you want to dance but also make work fun. Sia, Beyonce, and Chainsmokers are just a few of the artists on his lineup.
Our project manager, Liv, likes to play the smoother tunes. She is a millennial but grew up listening to the songs of the 60’s and 70’s. James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles provide a calming throwback to ease you into the day. It’s amazing how classic music connects generations. These songs also are great food for conversation since everyone has a favorite tune and memory of when they first heard it.
Our business manager, Tracy, loves country jams especially when we are working on projects in the back of the office where we can really rock out. There is nothing better than listening to the sweet crooning of Blake Shelton or Luke Bryan when organizing the many drawers filled with memos of fabric or moving furniture around for the next installation. It’s amazing how music can transport you. It’s almost like being at Stagecoach.
I like lyrics so anything with a story is my preferred music genre. Singer songwriters like John Mayer, Alicia Keys, Joni Mitchell or Ed Sheeran give me ideas for my designs as I listen to the stories they tell with their lyrics.
What are the soundtracks to your days at the office and what music inspires you?
The need for a home office is on the rise. With many workplaces letting employees telecommute and many people simply preferring to work from the comforts of home I design my share of work spaces. There are many special touches and design tricks that can make a home office a comfortable, productive and multi-functional room.
Make the room a multi-purpose space
Need an office space in your home but don’t want to give up on the extra space for a bedroom? Just because it’s an office by day doesn’t mean it can’t have another purpose. If you work with a designer they may be able to make you a custom sleeper sofa that fits the space and also looks stylish. If there is no room for a sofa but you have a spare wall, a Murphy bed can work wonders for a space and no one will know the room doubles as a bedroom.
Add a built in desk
A custom, built in desk offers more options than buying a stand-alone piece. A good cabinet maker can add doors and drawers into these pieces that hide files, office supplies, unsightly computer equipment, printers and cords so they don’t take up desk space. The home office above includes a round desk for a meeting space. As you can see the desk area is painted to add a pop of color and the custom cabinet doors have a wicker look to add even more texture. A cabinet maker can work with you to make the desk as unique as you like. This custom desk below by Rahil Taj (website here) is a piece of art as well as functional.
Lighting is important
Make sure that the lighting in your office is layered. A desk lamp is an important touch for style but I also suggest cans and overhead lights in a home office. This will enable the dual function of a room.
Using a corner not a whole room
If your house doesn’t have an entire room that can be dedicated to a home office consider a small corner in a bedroom or den. I prefer that work and relaxation be separate. There is nothing calming about a big stack of papers near your sleeping area. Keep a desk tidy if in a bedroom and as far away as possible from the bed.
Anyone who has ever had design work done on their home knows how important it is to be able to get a timely response from those who are doing the job. But what happens if your late night emails about finalizing the cabinets are going unanswered? Do you dare send that text? I am learning more and more that email is not the communication tool it once was. With all of the spam, clutter and promotions, people are ignoring their inboxes more and more. I prefer texting and here is why.
Response Time. The best part about texting is that you often get the quickest response possible. Gone are the days where people are even at their desks checking emails, but we all know that we carry cell phones to lunch, every meeting, and even into the bathroom, bedroom and car. We are joined at the hip with these little machines. You can be confident that when you shoot out a text or place a phone call, the contractor or client on the other line is sure to answer or at least be aware that you are trying to communicate.
Delivery Notifications. Also, we have even advanced so far technologically that iPhones will even let you know if your text has been delivered which can give you some peace of mind that your requests are being heard.
Be reasonable. Just because you are paying a contractor to do a job, that doesn’t mean you own him/her and are deserving of their undivided attention. Contractors have a tough job of managing subs and crews, schedule, compliance, job site visits, managing materials, and administration. They may not answer your text immediately if the response requires some looking into. I do appreciate a quick “Got it, I’ll get back to you.” Again, good communication goes two ways.
Setting Limits. Texting means you need to set limits. No matter how passionate you are about a project, no one wants a midnight text that their tile will be in next week. This is as easy as having a conversation with your contractor about what hours work best for the both of you.
What do you think about communicating with your contract via text? Great tool or too close for comfort?
There is a moment in most projects when clients ask me why they shouldn’t just go to a retail store and get a chair in the same style as the wing chair I will custom make for them. I have a long list of answers.
It’s not always cheaper. For example I have had clients that went with cheaper dining chairs for $500 each instead of the hand selected antiques with custom fabric for double that price. I agree that in the beginning it seems like a reasonable way to save a dime. However, those same clients, within a year or two found their chairs were so worn out they had to be replaced. My argument is why not just spend the extra money in the beginning for a higher quality chair that will last for many years and does not need to be replaced? Investing in custom pieces saves you money in the long run.
It maximizes your space. One of the greatest parts about the design process and making custom pieces is that a designer comes into your space, measures and then draws up a floor plan. Then we work on finding and creating pieces that fit the floor plan perfectly. Designers are trained to be visual artists who see the room as a whole and not in bits and pieces. It’s like a puzzle and we are able to see how pieces fit together and make the room whole. The arm chair with the style you like at a retailer might be oversized for your sitting room. It makes sense to invest in high quality pieces with dimensions that fit the space. If you are going to pay a designer, have them build custom pieces that fit the space and makes your home as efficient and well planned as possible.
You get to choose from the finest fabrics. If you have ever spent time searching on a retail site for a couch or piece of furniture you know that the fabric selections are limited. Colors like “pebble” “twill” “oatmeal” or “granite” will only get you so far. When working with a designer and create custom furniture the fabric options are endless. Most designers have an entire library of books filled with rainbows of fabric. Using custom fabric ensures that each piece is unique and work with the color palette your designer has selected for the room or project.
Custom furniture is unique. After a horrible windstorm in my city, there were many fallen trees. One of my vendors used a fallen oak tree to make gorgeous custom pieces for several of my clients. This is why having a designer is so valuable. They can find or make pieces that are one of a kind, timeless and priceless. Also, most designers have vendors they have worked with for years. Because they have built these relationships, it’s easy for them to bring any number of ideas to the upholsterer, furniture maker, and lamp fabricator and make any clients vision come to life.
Each piece is crafted and delivered with care. I am sure you all have had the experience of the “white glove service” stomping in your house with dirty shoes, dinging the door frame and dropping the sofa on your floors. It is very stressful. Most designers have a team of people who not only craft and create the products but when they are done wrap them, store them and deliver them to your home unscathed. Hiring a designer means not having to worry about the details and that is priceless.
The Art of the Deal
Antique stores typically consist of multiple dealers inside a common building referred to as “the house.” Find out what days your favorite dealers are present in their space. It is easier to buy and negotiate pricing directly. Price negotiating is common and in most instances expected. I suggest asking for a “final” price, but be respectful of dealers once they give their final price. Everyone has to make a living and grinding dealers down so they make no money is obnoxious. Remember what goes around comes around. Another way to negotiate pricing is to leave a message or note for a dealer offering a price on a particular item. Leave contact information and welcome their call if they accept the offer. This is a more civil way to negotiate and gives the dealer the opportunity to accept or prepare a counter offer. Remember you are more likely to get a break in pricing if you are a frequent customer and have cash.
Check the merchandise carefully, but be accepting of “antique character.” For me, the purpose of shopping in an antique store is to find something unique. Since I am in the business of creating custom environments, for me it’s time well spent searching the cluttered isles and corners of antique stores. I have found so many gems this way and consider it almost sport to find that special piece that will add distinction and patina to a room. Antique pieces have scratches, dings, and wobbly legs. If you are looking for a pristine piece of furniture, buy an antique and have it restored. Do not haggle over price due to the character marks on a table or the wobbly leg on a chair. You will only reveal yourself to be a novice and annoy the dealer. I do suggest asking about fumigation of old wood pieces that have a rustic quality. Pests, like wood-boring beetles, are a valid concern. You should learn how to spot active beetle holes and have a conversation about remediation should this occur with a piece you bring home. When shopping antique stores it’s best to consider yourself to be the new guardian of an antique piece of furniture and commit to its care or restoration.
The Educated Consumer
Define your objective and do your homework. If you are looking for a specific piece you should do your research first. For example, look into markings, dates, and value of what you are looking for. You are more likely to find what you want at a fair price if you know a little about what you are looking for. An educated consumer keeps everyone honest and is more likely to lead to a satisfactory transaction. Consult trusted dealers, read about furniture styles online and in catalogs, and finally reach out to auction houses. There are usually experts that are associated with auction houses that can give you details about what you are looking for. Happy antiquing and most importantly, wear comfortable shoes!