Category Archives: Interior Design

Read this before buying leather furniture

People either love leather furniture or not. I know from experience that most men left to their own devices tend to purchase the biggest black leather sofas they can find. Unfortunately, when they meet the woman of their dreams they discover that black leather is not the choice of most women!

Leather upholstery is perfect for many applications. It has a longer lifespan than fabric, it ages well and is easy to clean. Leather is particularly good for people with allergies because dust particles don’t get trapped in it. Aniline leather in particular is perfect with children and pets!

Leather furniture is generally more expensive than fabric upholstery. One of the reasons for this is that hides are seldom cured in the USA because of the noxious chemicals used in the process and instead are sent all over the world. Italy is known for producing high quality leather and is a producer of many lines of leather furniture.

A Product of Nature
No man-made material can compare with the natural beauty and feel of genuine leather. Leather is a product of nature.

Aniline
The most expensive hides are those that look rough and unrefined with scars from scratches, bug bites, wrinkles, and even brand marks. This is genuine leather that has pores and breathes just like our skin allowing the leather to quickly adjust to your body temperature.

Only five out of every hundred hides is chosen to be aniline dyed. The skins are soaked in translucent dyes so that the natural marks are not obscured. These are not defects but the hallmarks of nature.

For those who like order, tidiness or balance, aniline may not be for you. In addition to the natural markings, the leather will stretch with continuous seating and soak up spills creating more “natural” marking.

Semi-Aniline
The next prized category is semi-aniline leathers. Out of a hundred hides perhaps fifteen are selected for this process. They usually exhibit some of the natural markings of the range but are not as extreme. Most hides are touched up by a process called micro-pigmentation which results in a combination of the soft feel of aniline leather with the protective benefits of a light finish. The darker the leather, the fewer imperfections will be seen.

Protected & Pigmented
As many as eighty out of a hundred hides fall into this category because they have too many marks and blemishes and require heavy buffing to remove them. The surface of the hide is given a protective topcoat of opaque dyes or paint that minimizes any remaining marks and then sealed with a clear topcoat to protect and enhance the stain resistance and increase the durability of the coloring.

This is the leather that you see often in modern upholstery, car upholstery and clothing.

These leathers generally have good uniformity of color and to have the least dye lot variation but remember that with leathers, the sample you see in a showroom or from your decorator may not be an exact replica of what you’ll receive. Due to the finish of these hides they may be prone to damage from scratching which will tear the protective top coat.

Care & Maintenance
Proper cleaning and conditioning on a regular basis will help prolong the life of your leather. Products specifically developed for the type of leather being purchased will help prevent damage caused by drying as well as oil and dirt build-up. My recommendation is to install a humidifier into your existing H-Vac system – it won’t be just the furniture that will benefit!

Written originally for Montgomery Newspapers, now used as a blog for Decorating Den Interiors franchise owners.

Working Remotely with an Interior Designer

As interior designers, working remotely isn’t a new thing. There are plenty of occasions when we work via video conferencing, email and text. Clients may have a vacation home, while some have several homes in different States or even countries! Another example is when we work from blueprints and use our fertile imaginations for those clients building a new home and want to make their décor purchases prior to move-in. In all these examples the designer is working without actually being in the home they are decorating.

In this unprecedented time when the majority of us are staying in place and working from home, you might think that your decorating project has to be put on hold. At a time when your home is so important, sprucing it up or starting a complete makeover is just what you need to keep your spirits up. There is plenty that can be done from the comfort and safety of your own home. This blog lets you know what you can expect when working remotely.

Find a designer who has a virtual design process
Call your designer and ask if they can work on your project with video conferencing and remote design presentations. Milestones to discuss will be:

  • Initial consultation
  • Design Presentations
  • Viewing fabric/rug samples
  • Installation of furniture, soft furnishings and décor items

First steps
The initial phone call or video chat gives you the opportunity to discuss the important aspects of your project:

  • Design objectives
  • Style and color
  • Functionality
  • Any limitations or constraints
  • How you live in your home
  • Budget

Your first communication with the designer should allow you to assess whether you would like to move forward. This is a relationship built on trust and will become a true partnership as you and the designer work on your home.

Learn your design style
If you haven’t worked with an interior designer before you may feel a little apprehensive. There is no need to be. Your designer understands the process and will lead you through it, from initial selections to the final reveal.

If you are unsure about a style for your home, finding inspirational images is a great start and will help both you and the designer. Your interior designer will want to know specific things you like about the images: color palette, décor style, architectural elements, furniture choices, and functionality. Whether you prefer a more traditional style, a farmhouse vibe or a contemporary space, knowing how to discuss your style will make for more productive conversations with your interior designer.

Along with style, think about your lifestyle too. Are you casual or formal? Do you prefer rustic or polished finishes? What colors do you gravitate to? Which metallic finishes do you prefer? If you are unsure, your designer will help you narrow down the choices by finding out what you don’t like!

Floor plans and photographs
To get started on your interior design project the interior designer needs to see the space and get dimensions for furniture placement and traffic. If you have blueprints or floorplans of your home this step will be easy. If not, your designer can help you draw a rough floorplan and take accurate measurements. The floorplan should include any doors and windows, and show which way they open.

Just as important will be taking a video or multiple photographs to give a clear image of what the space looks like. We recommend taking photographs from all four corners, separate photos of windows, and any furniture pieces you may want to keep. Take the photos during the day when the room has the most light. Make note of any problem areas such as harsh sun on rugs and furniture, or issues with traffic patterns.

Relax and enjoy the journey
Once you’ve done your part and the designer has the information they need, it’s time to enjoy the process. You will be taken through the remainder of the design process until reaching your goal of a beautifully transformed space that you will love.

Written for Decorating Den Interiors.

Spring blog for Decorating Den Interiors

Spring Preparations

As an interior designer my focus is usually inside but the thought of Spring pulls me outside like a moth is drawn to a flame, and I find my spirits lifting and immediately feel better. But we can’t always be outside so let’s focus a little on how we can improve our inside environment.

Fresh Air Inside and Out

I am sitting writing on what is to be the warmest day so far this year and even though it’s early morning I have opened all the windows. Not only can I smell the fresh air coming in but now I can hear the birds too. A reminder that life is happening everywhere, even outside!

Some may say that they can’t go outside because of seasonal allergies but we often create far more allergic situations inside. It has been a known fact for some time that new homes are sealed tight so it stands to reason that we should be careful with our indoor air quality.

Here are a few things you can be doing now:

  • Bring in a professional technician to check your central air system for leaking hoses, dirty air filters (you should change these at least quarterly if not more often) and to check if the system needs refrigerant. Regular maintenance will save money in the long run.
  • If allergies are a concern, or if you suspect mold in your home, call an indoor air quality professional who can evaluate and assess your needs. You may not think this is necessary but according to the Environmental Protection Agency over fifty percent of illness is caused by indoor air pollution.
  • Consider contacting an HVAC professional or environmental energy to run a home energy audit. This will show things like where you need insulation, if your windows are leaking, whether appliances are leeching power, and much more.
lots of natural light and a beautiful crystal chandelier for evenings and dull days.

Natural Light

Clients often wonder why we insist on daytime appointments to see their homes for the first time. They’re thinking of having to leave work early and how inconvenient it is but to interior designers and decorators, lighting is one of the first things on our minds and we need to evaluate your home in daylight hours.

This important part of the design process happens at the same time as the floor plan is developed. You may have heard that a room needs several layers of light and if executed correctly a lighting plan will establish a warm and inviting atmosphere while simultaneously addressing specific needs for the tasks you wish to accomplish.

Some methods of increasing natural light into your home are more obvious such as by adding larger windows or skylights, but a cost effective way to achieve the same thing is by adding a solar light tube which slips between roof rafters and funnels sunshine down into the living space.

Reverse Your Rooms

During a recent project a client complained how her family room was very dreary with little natural light.  It was truly a dismal room and only cheered up in the evening when it would suddenly become brightly lit and attractive due to a great lighting plan!

The solution was to swap with a bonus room over the garage that was only being used as a guest room. The best thing about the bonus room was that it has windows on two sides and gets light for most of the day. This simple change has made a huge difference and the client now has a light, airy family room with no need for artificial light during the day, and a darker bedroom where guests can lie in undisturbed.

light control with shutters and concealed lighting

So coming back to the layers of light you need in your home and lets ask why we need multiple light sources.  Lighting is generally broken up into three distinct layers; ambient, task and accent. These layers add depth and dimension to each room and are achieved with overhead or ceiling lights, wall lights or sconces, and table lamps. In addition, use specialty lighting for illuminating wall art, bookcases or statuary.

Artificial Light

To assess your needs write down all the ways you want to use the space and the tasks you want to accomplish such as reading, sewing, or doing homework. What is the room like in daylight? Are there dark corners? Does it work well at night? Draw up a rough floorplan with furniture placement and then mark where you think light is needed. Use it as a road map to produce multiple light sources that will give even light throughout the room and create a warm, comfortable environment.

If you are building a new home, work with your architect, builder or designer on the lighting plan well in advance of the actual construction as once walls have been dry walled it is an expensive exercise to retrofit additional lighting.

This Spring, really think about how you live and try for balance. Improve your lifestyle with additional lighting inside the home, ensure your HVAC system is working efficiently, but most of all make time to be outside enjoying natural sunlight and breathing fresh air.

Written for Decorating Den Interiors.

How to stop money flying out the window

While still in the throes of winter, it’s a good time to find out why you should be interested in window treatments.

Imagine living in a medieval castle with no glass in the windows! The first windows were often slits in the walls perhaps covered with wooden shutters which would still have been very drafty so our ancestors tried to keep out the cold with skins, then heavy brocades and tapestries. Glass for windows has been around since the Romans but until the 20th Century it was very expensive for the rest of us. Fortunately today’s windows offer more protection from the elements with multi-pane glass and coatings to deflect the sun.

thermal imagery of a home needing new windows, blinds and curtains!

We tend to think that with today’s multi-pane windows we don’t have to worry about window treatments but in fact, up to fifty percent of your home’s cooling and heating energy is still lost out the window! Putting it bluntly, that means that half of your heating and cooling bills are literally lost out the window.

Thermal imaging cameras highlight heat against cooler backgrounds and firefighters use this technology to see through smoke, find people, and localize the source of a fire. The image shown here emphasizes in red where heat is escaping the house and one can clearly see that heat loss is greatest from the windows and roof. Many reputable home inspectors will perform an energy audit and those with thermal imaging capabilities can prove how best to improve your home with insulation, repairs and products such as window treatments.

Conversely, in warmer climates like Florida it’s not the heat that escapes, for which your electricity bill for the cool air is just as expensive. The same rules apply to both when conserving energy.

Blinds and Shades

The next best way to reduce energy costs are with window treatments and the first choice should be with blinds or shades. Some of the factors to take into account are:

  • Light source: Where is the light coming from? How does it change during the day? How does it change seasonally?
  • Privacy: Do you need full privacy from neighbors and passers-by or do you just want to screen the air-conditioning unit?
  • UV protection: Built-in ultraviolet protection will reduce the harmful rays that fade carpets and upholstery. Did you know that your wood floors will also fade?
  • Style: Do you prefer a traditional or contemporary look? Do you want your shades to stand out or fade away?
  • Shape: Many new builds have specialized windows that require custom shapes from arches to Palladian’s. Tall ceilings with high windows will require either a permanent solution or motorization.
  • Within reach: For tall windows or those you can’t reach, there are many motorized options that operate with battery remote control or can be hardwired (see my article Control at your Fingertips, August 2008.)
  • Safety: Look out for operating systems without long cords that can cause accidents with children and pets. The Safety Standard since last year is that products used to cover windows must either be cordless or have short, inaccessible cords.

Hunter Douglas
Hunter Douglas has long been a favorite of architects and designers because of their research and development, and the broad range of product and color/fabric choice. They are the nation’s leading manufacturer of custom window fashions and the only company offering an exclusive Lifetime Guarantee. Products can be purchased through interior designers, dealers and architects.

Draperies are for beauty and energy conservation!

Draperies are generally seen as being part of home decorating and tend to get purchased last as they can be an expensive addition for your home. I try to dispel this myth with clients because to me they are a vital part of energy conservation as well as looking beautiful. There has been a trend to highlight windows with stationary drapery panels that nicely “frame” the window but provide no functionality at all.

Custom drapes should provide privacy, control light and frame the view. They should enhance the architectural elements of the space and establish the decorative style. Have your draperies designed to overlap when closed, have “returns” to the wall to stop drafts at the sides. The draperies should sit on or close to the floor. Drapes that “puddle” on the floor have some downsides: people trip over them, pets like to curl up in them!

An investment to enjoy

Look at window treatments as an investment in your home that will provide comfort and beauty for decades to come. Be guided by your personal taste and your home’s practical requirements. And lastly, don’t be afraid to ask for help as there are so many options available to get to the correct solution.

Fully Customizable Flooring

I had the pleasure of speaking to Alex Basinger recently about his work in product development and sales with FreeFit®. With my many connections to Interior Designers, I felt that I had to tell everyone about his wonderful product.

FreeFit floors are a great solution. Although luxury vinyl has been around for some time, here is an opportunity to design your own flooring with an additional twist – the floor can be floating and is therefore easily changed or can be moved. Another aspect that appealed to me is that the product is environmentally friendly. These quality custom floors have “been embraced by the Architectural and Design Community for the best and most realistic visuals in the industry, quality, and the extreme durability of the product.”

FreeFit floors have many applications and can be used in restaurants, office environments, hospitality, healthcare, sports venues and in the home. You can utilize their standard designs but the most exciting part is that you can design your own! They will take your design and make it work in the best way.

Go to www.freefitfloors.com to see their gallery or talk directly to
Alex Basinger at 970-763-5920.

Ready for the Kitchen of Tomorrow?

If you have a passion for cooking and like to spend time in your kitchen, the industry has never been in a better position to give you an idyllic space for your creativity. If your wish is to create a home where your kitchen is the shining jewel where friends and family congregate, look no further than today’s trends.

The kitchen is often in full view as open plan homes are always popular. The kitchen should be integrated into the whole, giving pleasure to the beholder and creating a luxurious scene from any aspect.

Continue reading

How eco-friendly are your furnishings?

How green are your furnishings?

Whether you’re reading, watching TV or on social media you cannot get away from hearing about being “green or eco-friendly.” So, what’s your take on being green?

According to a study released by the Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC) in August last year consumers remain concerned about their spending on home furnishings and while quality, style and price are their main consideration, about half are just as concerned with being eco-friendly. Consumers are significantly interested in purchasing green home furnishings with two important qualifiers: if they like the style and if it costs roughly the same.

The main reasons consumers gave for not purchasing green home furnishings is lack of awareness and availability, suggesting a supply and awareness problem but the SFC study also reported that 25% of respondents don’t trust advertising claiming that products are green. 56% thought that green products would probably cost more.

As an accredited green designer, I would start by asking prospective clients how interested they are in purchasing green products for their homes. Many are not but for those who are interested we are able to lead them through the minefield of available information. Others are perhaps ripe to learn more about it.

Furniture

Many large chains import furniture from the Far East to keep costs down but the ramifications are many: child labor, inferior quality, harsh chemicals and deforestation, to name a few. During the recent Winter Olympics, it was gratifying to watch a TV special on logging in British Columbia that followed a man employed solely to plant a new tree for each one cut down. That’s the way it should be.

Ask questions. Find out where your furniture is being made. Look out for the FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) label on furniture you’re interested in purchasing as this is the most widely recognized international wood standard with national initiatives in 46 countries and with 81 countries receiving certification. The FSC’s mission is to prohibit land use conversion, the use of hazardous pesticides, prevent genetically modified trees, and to respect the rights of indigenous people. You can find out more at www.fsc.org

See the source imageYou can guarantee that most custom American bench-made furniture will be made using wood from sustainable forests, and many of the larger chains such as Crate & Barrel do too.

Paint & Wallcoverings

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about 23 million people, including 6.8 million children, have asthma which accounts for nearly 17 million physician office and hospital visits, and nearly 2 million emergency department visits each year. Indoor air quality is another hot topic right now and the figures above show why.

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are organic chemical compounds that vaporize into the atmosphere and can be harmful and toxic especially to children. They can be found in paints and lacquers, paint strippers, cleaning supplies, building materials and furnishings. Paint stores offer a variety of sustainable paint options and for very little extra you can use low or no V.O.C. products.

York Wallcoverings (www.yorkwall.com) in York, PA are the oldest and largest manufacturer of wallcoverings and have a huge selection of low VOC vinyl wallpapers used in hotels and nursing homes due to their long life and easy-to-clean surfaces. Ask your decorator to show you what’s available.

Although this blog has only covered two key elements of the green debate there is much more to discover. The green market is more established in hospitality and many consumers have already stayed in a green hotel yet 75% of consumers polled have never heard of a green designer.

Sue Thomson, C.I.D. is an accredited GREENleader Accredited Professional and Member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council .