June 24, 2014:

Photoshoot Prep - Cont’d

When you have a large house to photograph, you often have to phase the shoot out over a few days to allow for proper lighting and well time to get all of the detail shots. I often work a few rooms ahead styling but truth be told, if I'm not standing in the room with the photograph they never take the shots I want even if I have given them a shot list. I'm not a stylist, so it takes me more attempts to get things at the right angle than a pro would so that's another thing I have to factor in time wise.

#MadisonAve is 4 storys plus a front and back garden that will need to be shot as well. There isn't much in the way of furniture to shoot, so it's interior design that will be shot but there's still an abundance of that on its own. Designers, like stylists, often keep their own arsenal of props on hand for photoshoots. You have to keep a mental inventory of which pieces you've used in which shots to avoid your portfolio looking repetitive styling wise. Same goes with flowers and fruit.

To that end, there will be no Pellegrino bottles on the counter for this shoot. There will not be a single green apple either shot. I avoid certain books like the plague. While I love the look of  "I Married Adventure..." it's been done to death. The same with the Tom Ford book and the Hermes blanket. They've become such a cliche.

Here's some inspiration for our styling efforts this shoot...

I actually don't mind the green apples in this kitchen by Karen Sealy for Style at Home. I'd prefer limes though even though you'd never put either fruit in a glass jar with a lid. Suspend your disbelief for the pretty shot - that I fully endorse.

Sometimes simple is best - prune a tree and put the branches in a vase... especially in our #MadisonAve kitchen with the super tall ceilings. Height is good.... Angie Silvy Photography.

Obsessed with TTH Blooms by Taylor Tomasi Hill - it's her new venture and I stalk her blooms on instagram.

I think this could be super pretty on the third floor bathroom vanity...

I love an action shot like this working sink published in Feb 2013 in Living the Country Life - sadly they didn't credit the designer on their site. Love soap stone counters.

Pink would look very pretty up here I think.

I'm so obsessed with my DXV Loos.

I thank the gods every day for a great tiler who recognized his mistake, removed the white grout and put the black grout that we specified in the shower. It is perfection.

Our mirror stories throughout are delish.

One of the best decisions we made after digging out the basement. White High Gloss Epoxy concrete floor finish. This may be one of my favourite spaces in the house. 

June 23, 2014:

Prepping for a PhotoShoot

Whenever we finish a project, we like to photograph it either for submissions to magazines or for our own portfolio. With our #MadisonAve project coming to a close, we will be shooting this phase prior to the house being put on the market for sale. Yes. I have mentioned it before and I will remind those who are unaware as was pointed out to me on Instagram this past weekend, the house is going on the market. 

So we are hoping this is Phase one of our photoshoot and that the new owners will see the wisdom in hiring MHD to finish off the project from a decorating standpoint. :prays to the design gods to provide:: But in the mean time, we have to set up our shot list and I was there on Friday doing just that.

Here's a sneak peek.

We are going to be staging the living room to show off two seating areas - one that will face the fireplace and the other the space for the TV.

The dining room we are going to leave alone - this pretty chandy is finally up though!

Our Guest Bath on the 2nd Floor is definitely a fave. It's pretty tight in terms of shooting space so we are going to have to really work the angles to get things set up. I often take pics on my phone and then show them to Asa to convey how I want something shot. We then often disagree until I'm finally at peace.

Our grotto inspired tub.

I love this shot.

And this for a detail shot.

Okay and this one too!

June 19, 2014:

Empowering Your Clients - Budget Crunching & Negotiations

I think a lot of people have a misperception on how budgets and working with a designer actually plays out, designers included. I have friends who are designers who put together a presentation for a client with zero backup, contingencies or options. Many designers, especially those fresh out of school, fail to realize that putting together a design for a room, a floor or an entire house is ALWAYS a negotiation. What is presented is often done so as the "Best Case, What Budget?, Option"  - but is in no way the only option that you will proceed with. In fact, I can count on my hand THREE projects in the last 17 years that were accepted outright without any variation on the plans that were presented to them and I'm shocked that I have had that many. I should also note that two of them only happened in the last year and the other one within the last three years. This is a combination of luck and experience. I would say that I am exceptional at reading people, their tastes, their likes and dislikes. I don't always hit it right on the nose, sometimes I have a harder time reading people - the few I've had the most trouble reading we've ended up parting ways as it's not a good fit for either party. Sometimes you have to woo certain people and romance them a bit more than most before they are willing and/or able to open up to you. Even THAT can be a negotiation.

Before I put a presentation together, I like to explain to a new client that together we have to create the semantics of our design relationship. What does Cozy mean to you? I had one prospect tell me that she had seen the homes of her friends that were all open and airy and she wanted that but refused to part with her matching dark wine leather furniture set in the family room and her dark olive, black and gold living room furniture. Light and Airy will NEVER EVER EVER HAPPEN if you have these pieces. I'm often persuasive in getting clients to part with pieces that don't exactly work with their design but sometimes - confession moment here - I deliberately leave the existing pieces in the design plan so that the client is able to realize on their own, just how much their pieces will not work in the new scheme. You can lead the horse to water, but they have to choose to drink themselves ya know?

I've also shared my secrets to presenting to clients. I like to create a feast for their senses that include easy opportunities for them to say no to things. Being able to reject selections is powerful and it helps a client who has issues with giving over control, feel in control. It also helps those who don't have a great confidence in these matters to feel like they are involved and are able to be decisive. Many people who hire a designer, have an issue with making decisions for themselves and are easily overwhelmed. Creating opportunities for a client to say no to something is a huge  win for them and for you. It quickly tells you what they had an immediate and visceral negative reaction to - if your entire presentation plan hinged on that fabric that they summarily rejected, you have a moment to switch gears and head to plan B. If you didn't put a plan B together you best be a natural tap dancer as it is now time for you to Dance for your life. If a client X's a big favourite of mine - I often whimper a bit to them so that they know I loved that choice. If I'm truly passionate about it, I ask them why they responded with an Emphatic NO to better understand what set them off. I've been known to subsequently talk a client back into a HATED fabric when I have understood what it was that they've hated about it. I've even had clients slink back to me apologetically weeks later because they've now become obsessed with their rejected option.

Sometimes a client will be neutral or MEH to a cornerstone for your design plan. I find it is imperative at these times to explain the design principles behind your selection. Is it necessary for scale, colour, variety, repetition of a theme/motif? Is it the cornerstone fabric that the rest of the colour scheme will be dependent on. Sometimes, it's essential to point out to a client that it was selected because of it's price point or I reassure clients that even though it looks like a big bossy fabric on my meeting table but in actuality it will be a small player in the room but a necessary one. Once you've got the yesses lined up, it's often time to price it out.

We are VERY conscious when we are making a selection of fabrics to present to a client of price point. We know which brands and their respective lines come at what price point before we put them on the table and we are cautious when suggesting the application or use for a given fabric based on pricepoints. Case in point, we recently specified the most scrumptious of wool drapery fabrics for our #SawMill project. We knew going in, it would be an expensive fabric for drapery but the colour is perfection, the drape and hang will be spectacular and it was our first choice. We did however, have a back up if the clients felt it too expensive. We worked with our workroom to design the panels to maximum fulless without needing additional yardage - work rooms are your FRIENDS and can help you cheat a look and save you money! The clients gave us approvals on our first choice yesterday and we are elated. Plan B does not need to be activated for the drapery.

It does however, need to be actioned on in a few other areas where the clients thought the investment wasn't going to pay off. A stunning chaise/daybed for example. We didn't disagree with the client on this - we clutched pearls and gasped audibly when we got the price but we still presented it. I am happy to reselect items that a client feels are not worth the investment or defer others that they are very happy with but feel that they can't allocate the funds toward that at this time. We tuck the item away to revisit later. Other times, we defer selections until other items are installed first so that we can re-asses in the space itself with more context. The lesson in all of this - don't be too quick to say yes or no to something. Often, the best answer is to meditate, ruminate, ponder, consider, reflect or defer a decision. I routinely tell clients that we should slow the process down and think carefully or wait to think entirely about something to do with their project. This helps to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed and gives me time (and the control) to figure out the best way to navigate through these murky decision heavy waters. My philosophy about life and design - if it's a lot of effort to make something try and work it's probably not the right decision. The right decisions and choices are easy to say yes to. They fall into place. You feel like you are in a good groove. You are excited about the prospects that are unfolding. These are all exactly WHERE your project needs to be heading. If it isn't, stop and regroup. Maybe the designer you are working with isn't the right fit. Maybe the client you are working with isn't ready to work with a designer or is an equally as bad a fit for you.

Slow it down. Remain calm but determined. Leave it alone for a few days and revisit. 

And always have a Plan B.

and remember - if you can't afford it right NOW, save up and WAIT. TOTALLY worth it. Be honest with your designer and empower them to make the magic happen even if it means they have to give you the original look for less. Better the original designer do this than trying to settle for close but not quite close enough.

June 18, 2014:

Creative Musings aka What I’m Obsessing Over

I don't know if I've mentioned this before but I think that Dining Rooms are incredibly hard to style. Sure they are easy enough to style for a photo shoot but styling for clients' every day use or even for a dinner party are decidedly trickier. A great floral centrepiece which I love, often fights with a great chandelier so you end up doing something lower and then the scale is all wrong.

If you were on twitter yesterday or the day before you'll have seen this tweet:

"Your chandelier is hung too high."

It was. I saw someone post a picture of their dining room on instagram and it was so freakin high above the table I really didn't know what they were thinking. So this of course got me to thinking about styling three dining rooms we are working on and a third one which we are waiting for an approval on.

Blue Opaline and anything Barovier catches my eye. I'm torn with doing Blue/White porcelain groupings for our #Nobscot dining room or the more striking Blue Opaline.  The Blue Opaline would be amazing at our #Brooklin house as well.  Our #Unionville project is a study of neutrals so we're looking at crystal, metals and brown/white porcelain.

These are an investment sort of deal from Nancy Price via The Highboy

I saw Nancy Price's Blue Opaline collection at #hpmkt this spring. I covet.

This is the art piece we are installing in our #Brooklin project VERY soon.

I'm considering a pair of these pedestals with white urns on top of them for #Nobscot. Whatcha think?

This is what annoys me - the flowers are too close to the chandelier - which is hung at the correct height btw. A gorgeous dining room by Kelie Grosso.

I love this but is it sophisticated enough??

June 17, 2014:

Things They Don’t Teach You in Design School

Design Lull.

It's a thing. It's that period of time between the Hot & Heavy Petting Period involving the groping of fabrics, the drooling over creative ideas, the sweet, sweet love making that happens during an installation as you finish a project and the waiting for your next big romance.

Why yes, Creatives are such Creative Trollopes. We are always fantasizing about our next big creative get. We are post first date giddy when it's a new project and when there isn't a new project only accounting, specifying and waiting - there is a hell of a lot of waiting in the design world - we languish like a teenager who's love is unrequited. We may even occasionally bemoan our situation like children.

The same happens when a client doesn't return our affections for a certain fabric, a table or a quote. We absolutely feel sorry for ourselves - even if only for a nanosecond before we change gears and solve the problem, find something else to love or in other cases, we redesign our own look for less. Oh yes, I am EXTREMELY well versed in getting the look for less - but the look was and is always MHD. There is sighing yet we remain undaunted. 

I used to think I would be able to figure out how to line projects up so that I could always be in the infatuation phase with someone. It's like a drug - you can't get enough. Ideally, you would have a plethora of projects at any one time that were in each of the various phases of the design process. It never happens that way though. You'll have a slew of installs that you had initially tried to plan our with spacing in between and then you find them crashing down on you all in one week. Same with photoshoots for that matter. They always happen in clusters. Ironically though, the sweet love of launching a project rarely coincides with another  - which I think is good only because it keeps the creative process more pure and enables designers to resist the lure of falling into a design of convenience. Why yes, there are many out there that are happy to provide a similar look for each of their projects under the notion of having a "Look." How dull.

But I am going to put it out there. I am up for the challenge of taking on multiple creative phases at the same time. Being creative makes you more creative. I want more creative.

I also wish the World Cup wasn't only every four years. I could give a rat's ass about soccer/football but when it's the World Cup I'm all over it.  That's a random thought for you.