These past several months have been obviously distracting. Since my last post lots has happened and my focus has been shifted to other professional development opportunities. Hopefully I can make all this tie into interior design…
Last summer sometime, my husband and I started looking into expanding our family with a four legged friend. After lots of searching, interviewing breeders and checking out shelters, we found a great match. We are now the proud owners of a golden retriever puppy named Ronin who we have a love-hate (mostly love) relationship with. I have learned a ton about interior design, specifically residential design. I am grateful that we went cheap on our house, furniture and all the things that were once within nose reach of the little guy that have found their resting place in a landfill/recycling center somewhere. (Or should a I suggest a place that is up-cycling our trash to provide jobs and funding to the underprivileged?)
With a puppy everything goes into the mouth. As our vet reassured us, goldens are very oral explorers and we can expect it to get worse before it gets better. We have learned that wood coffee tables are very enticing for puppy teeth and we have never been so happy to have wood floors, as we are sure that any carpet we may have had would have turned several different colors from the fluids and then immediate clean-up. As the flooring becomes less of an issue, with the exception of small muddy paw prints all over, our newest struggle was how to hide the cat food from the non-feline member of the home. As an interior designer, I want the new contraption to still look ok when people come over. My husband on the other hand just wanted to toss a cardboard box over the food with a cat access door. We had a mild compromise with an under the table contraption that Ronin still tried to get his head stuck in, but it works. One of the biggest interior design lessons I have taken away from having a puppy is that training is your best friend and make sure everything is durable, very, very durable. Thanks to no-bite spray our coffee table is teeth-mark free and thanks to the previous owners and the flooring they installed, muddy prints have not made it to that only carpeted part of the house.
Before all this puppy craziness, we celebrated our five year wedding anniversary in Cancun for a long weekend. It was a great time, however there was one thing that I found especially intriguing about the resort we stayed in. The air conditioning bill must have been crazy! This was the only Caribbean vacation resort that we have stayed in that was not open air in the common spaces. We stayed at the Iberostar Cancun, which I would highly recommend, however it was most recently owned by Hilton before selling to Iberostar. All I could think about was how an American company came in and designed in a way that was familiar to them without taking advantage of the best practices from the region. In essence they were wasting energy. There was glass featured everywhere, and then fabric shades to shield the guest from the sun. It was beautiful, however an excellent example of how we sometimes react to a design dilemma without thinking outside the box.
As though this wasn’t enough, I joined the IIDA (International Interior Design Association) Professional Development Committee. It’s been a great way meet a diverse group of industry professionals and it’s been great serving an organization that’s so important to my industry. We recently concluded a five week New Year’s Resolution Series that revolved around bettering yourself as an interior designer. We had classes that taught about presentation skills, technology oriented classes and even learned about the different career paths that an interior design major can take. The series was wildly successful and we are hoping to do another sometime. Some of the classes were newly developed and we were even able to get them approved for continuing education credits for the members. This year has some really great things planned and I can’t wait to continue on the journey.
It’s interesting how many business owners are so interested in the what I affectionately call the “band-aid approach” to their facilities. It stems from not wanting to spend capital dollars on their space, but what happens is a bunch of haphazard design decisions that become layered on each other, resulting in increased money over time. It’s such a waste.
Interior designers have an ability to see the potential of a space and make recommendations accordingly. Not only is a designer interested in making a space look good, but also function exceptionally well. It’s about making the space work harder and reflecting a brand that the business owner is trying to portray to it’s employees and customers.
Interior design gives an impression of what’s to come, it gives the first impression to a potential employee or customer as they enter the space, and it’s important that the business relationship gets stared off on the right foot.
Interior design has the ability to hide flaws in the building architecture and accentuate what makes the business special. It’s through color, texture and architecture that a designer can make an impact.
Often when a business owner approaches a project, they think about making small improvements to get them by, as opposed to choosing solutions that would have the greatest impact on the environment over time. I recently worked for a client who wanted a demountable wall solution because it would appear as though he spent less money on the space than if he redid an entire wing of the office, each solution costing an equal amount of money. He opted for the band-aid because he was laying people off in the process, however often business owners don’t give as much thought as this client. Business owners should view interior design as another marketing or PR expense that helps to propel the business forward and budget accordingly.
There are business lessons anywhere you look and today I was reminded of an important business less in the interior design industry. Too many designers are focused on the art of interior design. As we make our journey through school, we are taught to think outside the box, in the same way as the student sitting next to us. Everyone is so busy thinking outside the box, that we forget about the value that interior design brings to an organization or a family. We also have a tendency to think that thinking outside the box is the only way to think to move forward.
Interior design is no good unless there is a value proposition for the client. No one wants to spend money on anything, even a well designed space, unless there is a great benefit that out ways the capital being invested in the project. Many interior designers think of what they do as art, and sometimes it is, but I would prefer to think of what I do as a business instead. Artists work hard and suffer for their work, constantly struggling with society to accept and understand what they have created. A business person satisfies a need in the marketplace with something (even art) and designs the product in a way that it’s easily accepted by the masses and consumers see value in it. Business is capitalized on and becomes a commodity instead of something that needs to be understood to have it’s effect on the world.
Sometimes the simplest idea is the best idea. While the competition is working at thinking outside the box with a new concept, sometimes the best idea is the one that’s inside the box. I attended a workshop once where we went through several problem solving exercises and one of the greatest lessons I learned is that sometimes the best solution is the most obvious, but often the dismissed one. It’s typically dismissed because of it’s simplicity. Instead of reinventing the wheel, look for the best solution possible and make sure there’s great value in it, art or not.
Recently I was asked what my design style was and how I design for people. I found it interesting because so many of the amazing designers I know and firms I know of have a distinct style. Often large clients contract with these firms based on the style of the firm. Some love clean lines and everything to be white, while other commercial firms have a hospitality or residential style. I don’t fit into any of those buckets.
If I am being hired by someone to design their space, my design isn’t being driven by my personal taste, it’s being driven by the client’s needs. Often times designers are so busy trying to put their fingerprint on a design, that they forget the purpose of why we have chosen this profession, to help people, inspire people and meet their needs. Fingerprints are great, and even if the space is beautiful, that doesn’t mean the space was designed successfully.
Successful design is an integration of life safety, function, and works to help people to live better or help them get their job done more efficiently. Beauty is a bonus.
As I drove to work this morning, one big rain drip hit my windshield, then another, followed by another. I pulled into the parking lot and made my way into the building before sheets of rain started barreling down bringing with it tremendous wind and a black sky. We began commenting on the elegance of how the rain sweeps across the streets just before the first flicker of lights, followed by a few rapid flickers when suddenly our office was darker than the sky outside. Iphones armed with flashlight apps emerged and investigations began to take place. Emails were read and then the dreaded happened, the server went down.
The dark office didn’t stop us, but the dreaded “Unable to Connect” error stopped us in our tracks. After much deliberation and everyone offering a hypothesis like eleventh grade chemistry class, our department made it’s way to the nearest Starbucks. Packed with business suites, ties and laptops, we fought for a table, ordered drinks and set in for a morning of work. It soon became clear that the server we were trying to connect to was in our office building, not another facility as previously thought.
The temporary impairment of technology caused us to change our course and tackle another task. Just ten years ago, this wouldn’t have happened. Ten years ago we could have been potentially drafting by candlelight. Interior colors, not so much, but drawings could have come together. I can’t even begin to imagine trying to read email by candle light, that would be a sight!
When designing a space, it’s important to understand how technology plays a role and what you can do as a designer or facilities manager to integrate the technology into the building to eliminate as many potential headaches as possible. Today I learned a little more about the ways technology interfaces with a building and how it effects the occupants and their work.
I’ve been reading this fabulous marketing book lately, and they have been discussing what really motivates people to be influenced by advertising and what kinds of things encourage our purchasing decisions. The past couple chapters have suggested that sensory and subliminal advertising take the lead for making the most impact on our buying decisions.This concept bleeds into interior design.
In retail design the interior designer’s goal is to create a customer experience and lead the consumer to the back wall. The back wall is seen as the most valued space in an retail environment because of the challenge associated with getting the customer to the back wall. The real estate is only a wise investment if the additional space generates revenue. Sensory marketing begins to make a play to make the consumer feel compelled to spend more time in a retail establishment, thus increasing the volume of goods purchased and the likelihood that they will leave with something.
Sensory marketing and subliminal advertising includes shapes, colors, scents and other elements associated with a brand and exposing the consumer to these things in a not so forward kind of way. A great example of this is various restaurants who use scent generating machines to make a connection with the consumer and generate a feeling of comfort, encouraging the consumer to drop their guard and order more.
Watching a reality television talent show recently, I noticed that their main sponsor’s colors and logo background (tonal stripes) appeared all over the program. This is not a coincidence. The subliminal advertising encourages people to indulge in the product, feel, taste and smell the product. Turning off the television I was much more likely to reach for that snack above another just because of the interior of the theaters and the colors that were used, and I guarantee so were you.
Subliminal advertising and subliminal design generate more revenue than you could possible imagine. It’s just another way that interior design is making an impact on the world and helping businesses continue to grow and prosper.
NeoCon transforms the Merchandise Mart in Chicago to something with such an incredible pulse and energy. Chicago comes alive as thousands of creative minds come together to one place once a year. Usually I can look back at NeoCon and recall one or two things that stuck out to me and proclaim them to the world.
Looking back on the first day of NeoCon, I realized that it wasn’t any of the amazing products that stuck out to me, but the people that I am so privileged to share an industry with. From the co-worker who I got to drive downtown with to the people I worked with at my first job out of school, they are the best of NeoCon to me.
Networking and catching up with people who I haven’t seen in ages is part of the fun, and while the food is good, we are developing stories that will live on. Next year as we think back to NeoCon 2011, we won’t be remembering the food or new finish introductions or product enhancements that never made it to market, we will remember laughing at the parties, hugging long lost friends and the new connections we picked up along the way. It’s another reminder that people do business with people and that relationships are fragile and shouldn’t be taken for granted. Today was an amazing NeoCon because of all the people I got to see, but also because of the amazing group who I got to tour around with. Looking forward to keeping connections close and looking forward to another day of interior design.
Here we are, just two days before NeoCon officially begins! This weekend is filled with NeoCon festivities, parties, galas and flights arriving. NeoCon is my favorite industry event. I get to see the Chicago Merchandise Mart filled with people, see old friends and meet new people. There is such a pulse that takes over the city of Chicago and the interior design industry takes over and invades to learn, network and check out what the competition is working on.
Stay tuned this week for NeoCon updates, photos (yes, I may even include photos on my posts, something I purposefully don’t do) and learnings from the show and the people I run into.If you’re on Twitter, it’s where the action is at, follow me @HMastrangeli
It’s going to be a great week!
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love, love, love warm weather! It makes me appreciate Chicago summers and question at the slightest hint of chilly air why I live in the Midwest. Seeing that warm summer-like spring days are far and few between (or maybe it’s just that I am constantly holding my breath in expectation of snow in July), I spend as much time as possible outside. Today was perfect, sushi on the patio at RA Sushi near-ish my office.
It’s already common knowledge that I’m an all around interior design nerd, and furniture nerd… Anyways, sitting down on the patio, my design girls and I were chatting about sushi, ice cream and our appreciation of the sunny day and sunglasses when I said, “Hey! This fabric is from Anzea!” Heads were shaken, and we briefly digressed to shop talk before indulging in sushi. Isn’t it interesting how when you’re passionate about something, you notice it everywhere?
Interior design elements surround us and gently lead us through life. Interior design helps us navigate through public spaces and understand where private spaces begin. We collect visual cues and subconsciously allow those cues to direct us.
The way the walls open to the outside patio at RA Sushi for instance leads the casual diner to the outside, almost without realizing it. Umbrellas are strategically placed to encourage conversation and a more intimate atmosphere than a completely open space would. Dark finishes give a sense of mystery and lend to the trendiness of the establishment. The feel of RA Sushi is much different from that of the local all you can eat place that has an acoustic drop ceiling and a couple Japanese lanterns hanging from the ceiling.
Many small things contribute to making a space feel unique and original. When small details are pulled together into a collective environment, it becomes interior design. Interior design is everywhere, influential and impactful.
Have you ever approached a new destination, walked through the door and was shocked with the interior? Nestled into a strip mall near my office is a little restaurant. It’s a franchise that I had never heard of before, yet my new coworkers rave about. It was described to me as being small and a great place to get soup. This franchise makes soup from scratch everyday and changes their menu regularly. Zoup is a one of a kind place and nothing at all what I expected from the outside. The interior of Zoup is warm and inviting. The ordering counter is very design oriented and creates a unique customer experience. Carpeting is used in part of the dining area which creates a great ambiance for a fast food restaurant.
Interiors and exteriors work together to create customer expectations. When interrupting the continuity of interior design from the exterior building, it must be done efficiently and uniquely to make the customer impact positive. Exceeding expectations only leads to a positive experience which leads to more business. Interior design behind the exterior door is important to how a business operates and it’s success within the public eye.