I think it is a pretty commonly held belief that you MUST work with a designer that is close to you. Projects are more successful with a designer that is ever present practically stalking a project to death. I beg to differ.
I recently had dinner with a client and a friend of his and we arrived at the restaurant his guest along with Asa and I and she wanted all the dirt on the house we are designing for them in #PalmSprings. She immediately asked how many times we’d been down to the house. My response: Never. The look of shock on her face was truly humorous but expected. “What do you mean? How on earth can you do that?” I often find a polite way to respond with - “It’s not my first rodeo…” but I also recognize that people are concerned for their friends and are worried they’ve made a horrible mistake.
There are many ways you can work with someone long distance wise - some just consult, offer purchase suggestions. Others will delegate much of the grunt work to others who are more in the know than they are (decorator/stylist doing the delegating). I know a lot of people who prefer to hand off the actual design work to people who have more experience than they do. (Remind me to tell you about the girl who worked for me once who went out on her own… that’s a doozy of a story)
Because of our experience and our relationship with trades and other fabulous designers around North America and well the entire world come to think of it, we are able to establish strong working relationships in the areas that our clients live. These referrals are golden. Now I’m sure it will cross your mind - why don’t those designers get the job instead of us - well not all designers do the same sort of work, many have their preferred aesthetic and so on. Designer/Client relationships are intensely personal and if you have a good working relationship or you are referred by someone because they had a great experience well that is the foundation of a design business. Should any of my colleagues and friends find themselves working in Toronto, I’d bend over backwards to help them find the right trades/businesses to support them in their work.
So how did we do it? Well first and foremost we found someone who could go in and take professional measures of the house inside and out. This enabled us to ensure we were working with the correct room dimensions, window dimension and yard layout! We then found a White Glove Receiver who was able to receive all of the goods for the house on our behalf and be our contact on the ground. We use White Glove Receivers/Delivery/Installers because they handle all of the product, ensure its safe arrival and then deliver and install it at the house for us - preferably in one swoop but sometimes it has to be an ongoing relationship. Without this, it would be MUCH harder to work at a distance. It adds a cost to the project but it’s less than what it would be if I were receiving, tracking, and then arranging another delivery. You don’t want me doing that at my hourly rate. We budget it in as best we can but you should always try and factor between 10-15% of your purchases for delivery/shipping/freight/installation costs.
Our preference is to be on site for the installation and the “After Work” if you watch House of Lies you’ll get this reference I’m hoping. If we are doing a whole house we need at least 4 days. We often try and do the install on the very first day we are there but sometimes we will come in the night/day before so that we can meet an early delivery the next day. We prefer our clients to NOT be home during the delivery/install or at least hidden away. It doesn’t always happen but for our Palm Springs project we have three full days in the house before our clients arrive. We have a dryer delivery Monday afternoon - and we fly in to LA in the morning and then have to skedaddle out to PS to meet it.
Our big delivery arrives first thing Tuesday morning. We are staying at the house so that shouldn’t be too painful. Our clients have already mapped out the best coffee establishments nearby so we should be good to go. It often goes much faster than we anticipate so we hope that everything will be placed by noon and heavier pieces of art hung by the heavy lifters with power tools. We also have a house full of drapery that needs to be installed so that could conceivably be a full day. Drapery always seems like it is an easy install. It rarely is. Always takes longer than you’d imagined. It is worth it to hire a professional drapery installer though. These people can work miracles if you’ve oopsd a bit and they can trouble shoot on the fly when your drapery hardware comes up a ring or two short - WHICH ALWAYS seems to happen. It’s like socks in a dryer I tell ya.
Because this is a new home for our clients (new to them that is) we have a lot of household items to procure for them and we will do that Tuesday later in the day into Weds in between testing out their pool for quality control purposes. We have an entire exterior scheme to set up too. I’m already starting to stress that we don’t have enough time or that our plans to take off on Friday to LA are not going to happen.
I have fantasies about even getting some exterior plantings and arrangements in. Suddenly 6 days there doesn’t seem enough!!!!
Once we’ve wrapped up we will discuss Phase Two and the plans for that. Whenever we are doing a full house and it’s the first time the clients have lived there, they actually need to live there a bit before they can properly speak to Phase two. Even we like to marinate on things a bit and reflect back on what is working and what needs to be oomphed up a bit. We plan for this and look forward to it.
I just remembered I didn’t bring my camera home from the office. Guess I’m heading in there to get it. Did I mention I’m going to try my hand at taking pictures of the finished project? Stop laughing. I’m serious.
Pfft. All of this is a long rambling way of saying I’m not going to be blogging this week but I will be posting to instagram follow me there @ meredithheron. I expect 10,000 new followers by the time I’m back.
After building a new site at great expense - we discovered that the host we were working with wasn’t going to be up to snuff so we had to change servers. Good Times. The blog will hopefully be working zippity zoo fast for you now and the loading challenges resolved. As always, if you have any issues with the blog please let me know.
Our video with House and Home has been tremendously pop-U-lahhh which is amazing. The before and after is major on our #Hurndale project but I wanted to review the project in a bit more detail with you. If you haven’t seen the video yet please check it out HERE.
The biggest reason for the success of this project - straight up the clients. They knew themselves, knew they needed help and were fantastic at communicating strengths/weaknesses/fears/doubts/concerns and when they didn’t know or understand something they asked for clarification. We always knew where we stood with them and them with us. They have a remarkable sense of humour and once the trust was earned they literally handed things over to us and then sat back and were amazed by what was installed on their behalf. This sort of creative environment is optimal for both me and my team. It gives us room to be more creative and if we aren’t checking over our shoulders every ten minutes it means we can get it done, exceed expectations and deliver on time and on budget. I was interviewing a new client the other day and she asked me outright how I was with time management. My response - I’m excellent with managing time but the better question is - “How are YOU the client, at making decisions?” The number one way to derail any project timeline is a client who can’t make decisions or won’t trust the decisions they made or the designer made in consultation with them. EVERY TIME YOU HESITATE WEEKS ARE POTENTIALLY LOST.
Back to #Hurndale. We’ve been blown away by the number of inquiries about this project and I’m not going to lie - I wish they were more along the lines of “OH MY GOD YOU ARE AMAZING CAN WE HIRE YOU…” than the “Hey what paint colours did you use and where is the wallpaper from?”
The wallpaper is from me. You want it, you buy it from me. This is a business and that is how it works. The end.
Paint Colours - this one is a trickier question to answer here are a few thoughts:
On Houzz, I make it my policy to NOT share paint colours any longer. If you want what you see you need to hire me. You can hire me for an hour to pick your colours or you can hire me to design your dream home. I prefer the latter and not just because I want to make more money (I do) but because I know that if you want your home to resemble any or all of the projects that we’ve done in our portfolio you need me to do it. You may get close but it won’t be the same. My job is to push you beyond what has been done before including my own work. I’ve had people hire me and want the same look I’ve created for someone else and I always refuse. It’s THEIR home not yours, yours needs to reflect you and we can be inspired by another project but we do not copy it. The end.
The reason I tell people on Houzz why I won’t share the colours with them (or give the WRONG colours as my girlfriend does) is a little more complicated. On one hand, someone has paid me good money to select, worry over, tweak and install the colours you see. To then give these colours to someone else for free is a major conflict of interest. I’ve written about this before on the blog but it’s worth a revisit. I have a hard time doing that to my clients who have trusted me with their homes.
The second is a whole lot easier to understand. The colours were specifically chosen actually let me be a bit bolder - I am superior to most with colour selection. It’s a MAJOR skill. MAJOR. Just because someone is a designer doesn’t mean they are able to pick the right colours. Lord knows I’ve seen a lot of designed spaces that needed a colour re-adjust. Many things have to be taken into account - namely the lighting in the room. Where are the windows facing. This alone makes for a huge curveball - taupe in a western facing room often ends up looking like PEPTO BISMAL pink. Blue in an eastern facing room will have you singing the blues and so forth. You need to tweak and adjust to suit the room and the items IN the room. Often people think that painting their walls will drastically update their room. NO NO NO. Paint is the last thing you choose after the rest of the room has been done. Furniture purchased and about to be delivered. New flooring installed or about to be. Lighting chosen and installed.
THEN YOU PICK YOUR PAINT COLOURS.
Being inspired by our #Hurndale palette is a great thing but here’s yet another curve ball for me to throw at you. We used high gloss lacquer on the built ins. The colour choice itself is a deep indigo/charcoal. It’s about 30% lighter and bluer on the built ins thanks to the lacquer and the sheen. The rest of the room is painted out in the same colour as the built ins but is drastically different well at least to this colour expert. We’ve suggested to a few people who have written in and asked for the colour the following: Take the picture of the room from Feb 2014’s House and Home issue and show your local paint store. They will be able to help you match the colour that you see far better than me giving out the chip colour. Major disconnect between the two.
Photography also alters how you will perceive a colour so again I say, if you love it, take the photo in to a store and pick up some chips that will match how you perceive it. Bring them home. Get some sample pots out and see if they work in your space. A colour in one room will look drastically different in another room in the same house. You have to check it out. People are also sensitive to certain undertones. We have a client who HATES the green cast this one grey gives on one wall in her house. The rest of the house in the same colour is fine but in one room the wall that is facing a window that looks out onto a forest throws green on the wall - we figure it’s a bit of a reflection from the trees themselves. It drives her crazy. We’ve suggested that we paint the one wall in an adjusted tint of the same colour but reducing the amount of yellow oxide that is used in the making of the colour to make it less green and replace it with a touch of red - why? If you get a green tint and you add red - red and green make brown and cancel each other out and you get more of a grey (in this instance).
And that is why you hire a professional.
I don’t mean to be glib I truly don’t. I stand by my assertion that more often than not the paint is not the problem in a room and changing the paint will not address the problem. It will still be the same problem with new paint. Having a plan, investing in the creation of one is the best way to change any room. Working with a professional to address the functionality and the warts of said room will enable you to create a plan for change whether it is done at once or over time. Having a plan will ensure that you don’t fall in love with the price and make purchases in accordance with the plan or if you deviate you do so because you’ve fallen wildly in love with something unexpectedly and then you course correct the plan. Granted, not everyone can afford the services of a designer to oversee and implement but I will bet you six months worth of coffee at your Starbucks or Tim Horton’s that affording a consultation can be done.
GREAT DAYS that is. Running your own design firm or even simply your own little Design Biz is not a sprint. It’s more of a journey but if you had to use the running analogy it’s a Trek/Extended Marathon. There are little sprints across the way and other days you will slow to an absolute crawl, but you keep on going one foot in front of the other. Some days will suck. I mean SUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCCCCKKKKKKKK there aren’t enough swear words to use to properly describe those days but what you have to do is fortify yourself against these excruciating, agonizingly painful days. How do you do this? Well on the flip side of these shitastically soul-sucking days are the REALLY REALLY GREAT ONES. There are magical design days worthy of Unicorns Farting Glittery rainbows and Choirs of Angels singing. These are the days you gather up and soak in because they will help you on the dark ones keep your pace even if it feels impossible.
I’m not a religious person but I have to say that when I am putting together something that is beautiful on behalf of someone else I really do feel like I’m serving a higher calling. It can absolutely transcend the shittiest of days when you strike Design nirvana.
We are working on a new project #CollingwoodSkiChalet and the wool check we selected for two chairs in the living room is too itchy so we’ve been looking to replace it with a pattern. We loved the colour scheme we were working with but needed to change out this scratchy option - think deep aubergine/grape so we were on the hunt for something with a pattern in our colours.. the problem being ahead of the curve is that the fabric companies don’t have the fabrics we want in the right colours - however this was rather delightful. Not right for us but delightful nonetheless - see store the idea for a future client..
These were legit our Discards. Together. On top of one another. It’s like a new scheme was born and it is DELICIOUS but it’s not the right one for this project. Again - STORE THE IDEA it’s a damn good scheme and will find the right home eventually.
We didn’t have to store this one though. Our #Sawmill project saw us check off another #MUSTDO design idea as our clients gave the okay for us to commission a bespoke Grisaille wallpaper to adorn their dining room. We got a sample panel today via email and I am so over the moon. This for sure should count against the internet woes we had a week or so ago…
We had a Skype call with our #MadisonDecoration clients this morning. It was evening in Dubai and morning in Toronto. It was such a great call I was envious of their glasses of wine while we drank our coffee. Such great synergy. Their home is going to bear the fruit of this collaboration - we are collectively elated.
Their son’s room. I am beyond excited about - I think I’m going to have a hard time choosing a favourite room to be entirely honest. I always have a favourite room but it’s going to be tough for sure…
We managed to get a few sketches put together before the call but it’s full steam ahead and I can’t even. So much fantastical it blows the mind.
And then at the end of the day I got this email - I was expecting it but I am so thrilled to be able to share it with you. We were invited to give a little tour of our finished #Hurndale project for House and Home and the video is now LIVE! We leave in less than a week to install their #PalmSprings home too. So the design bank account is well stocked. Good thing Mercury goes Retrograde any day now.
The photo at the top of the post was taken by the talented Donna Griffith and the room was styled by Margot Austin with a little help from MHD.
Rich, saturated jewel tones have been around for awhile but the grey-loving, abandoned Belgian farmhouse, Restoration Hardware types have only been incorporating touches of these jewel tones as “Pops of Colour…” I know that this term sends many into quite a dither so it is said here in jest. Those of us who are not afraid of colour, are using these jewel tones together in abundance or at least we are proposing this to clients. Some give you the look of absolute horror and panic when you suggest it, while others like our #Hurndale clients say - “HELL YES” in a heartbeat and you are off to the races.
I’ve been using peacocks as inspiration for the living room and hopefully soon dining room for our #Edmonton project. My bestie loves rich jewel tones and made a bold choice of a red sofa years ago. We’ve been layering as we go and she loves the direction we are heading in.
I showed her this room in House and Home years ago now as the ideal colour for her master bedroom should we be allowed to make changes there - family politics and a collection of dressers. Don’t ask - suffice it to say it gets an entire chapter when I finally write that tell all… I am currently obsessed with the idea of using this shade as high gloss lacquer in either built ins or in a KITCHEN. If I did it in a kitchen, there for sure would be a brass reveal on the cabinetry. Just need to find the right clients to let me make that happen!
Or perhaps this shade - it’s more blue.. it’s just so rich and luscious. Celia and I keep finding ourselves looking at this colour and mixing it in - in velvet. It’s hard to resist.
Carriage Green by Farrow and Ball…
Mere Green also by Farrow and Ball
But Dark Harbour by Benjamin Moore is my fave. Can’t you just imagine an entire kitchen all glossy and fabulous in this hue with brass trim? Seriously. MUST MAKE THIS HAPPEN!