Sunday, October 26, 2014

Top 10 tips for being a successful interior designer

Sophie Conran, the award-winning English interior designer, is the daughter of designer and restaurateur Sir Terence Conran and the sister of fashion designer Jasper Conran.

She says it sometimes feels like design has become part of her DNA.

Here are her top 10 tips for being an interior designer.

1. Start young and see what excites you

I had a dolls' house as a child. I decorated it, furnished it and even put wallpaper up, so I sort of started interior design at quite a young age for some small, inanimate clients!

We moved home when I was about eight years old. My parents bought a dilapidated old school and then spent the next few years doing it up. We basically lived on a building site, and I got to see the whole thing stripped back to the bare bones. I found it really exciting and I think that experience probably sparked my initial interest in interior design.

2. Believe in yourself

I left school after my O-levels, and then I did a year of retakes because I did so badly. It is so important to believe in yourself, and tell yourself that it is going to be ok.

I failed at school and not going to university meant that I wasn't particularly confident when I started out and I didn't feel great about myself then. I was quite badly dyslexic and everything was a bit of a struggle, apart from the arts. Reading, writing and spelling were all a bit tricky.

I always loved designing things. With anything in life that you want to do, if it interests you and you spend enough time doing it, you will learn it. You just have to care enough about it to try.

3. Practise your maths, it's not all choosing lovely curtains

I think it is very competitive now. I would always encourage people to stay in education for as long as they can, really. I think it shows staying power, demonstrates a certain seriousness about things and allows you to get your thoughts in order. Even though I didn't do it, I do think it's a good thing.

Getting some sort of grounding in architectural interior design is a very good thing to do. You need to learn to do things like scale drawings and maths is very important too. It's not all choosing lovely curtains and fabrics!

4. Consider an internship

When I left school, I became an apprentice milliner - I really wanted to make hats at the time. Looking back, it was a great thing to do because it is so important to learn a skill, to work with a team and to understand seasonality.

I would totally encourage people to go for internships. They give you an experience of the industry that you want to be in and allow you to find out if it is the right one for you. It means that you start from the bottom and you get access to amazing talent in the real world.

I'm very lucky to work in a field that I really enjoy, but I wouldn't take on a job that I felt was going to be unpleasant or difficult. I think it's important to work with people that you get on with and that you can see eye to eye with.

5. Don't blow the budget

You don't need to spend a lot of money to make a room look and feel good. Time frames and budget constraints are probably the most difficult thing to manage about the job. People don't want to spend too much money and if you go over budget, then people understandably get upset.

I'll make suggestions and put together a mood board using images from books and magazines. Try and get all your ideas in one place visually, from bits of fabric to tiles to floor finishes, put all the bits you might want to use together and see if they work together on paper, that is always a good place to start.

6. Be brave

A long time ago, when I first had my flat in London, I painted my sitting room yellow and blue. I thought it would be a good idea, but it wasn't and it was hideous! I was 20 years old, I was brave and I thought this could work, this could be fabulous.

It didn't and it wasn't, but some of the other things I tried did - and I think it's important to be brave. When you're spending someone else's money steer clear of something you think might be a mistake, but do try and be brave. Otherwise we'd all live in a very grey world, wouldn't we!

7. Don't aim for perfection

Things don't have to be perfect to be beautiful. If you go into a room and it's all perfect, you don't feel comfortable. A home interior is not an abstract thing, it is about people, it's about the way you feel, the way you interact. It's about family and friends, it's the backdrop to your life.

We used to drive down to France every summer when we were kids and my Mum would stop off in Limoges, which is famous for porcelain. She would always insist on buying seconds from the factory shop. They were all wobbly and bent because they had been misfired, but to me they were beautiful and filled with character.

That was a big part of what inspired me to create the Portmeirion collection. If things are too perfect then it is without character, it's not good to be too precious about something. The more you strive for perfection, the more it disappears. Don't aim for perfection, try to create a relaxed environment, that's what I think is important.

8. Look for inspiration in everything and get to know your clients

I get my inspiration from all over the place; books, magazines, the internet, shops and my relatives of course! It is like being in a family of doctors sometimes, we spend a lot of time together and are inspired by similar things so we do talk about our work with each other.

Our enthusiasm can be slightly contagious I think, and it sometimes feels like design has sort of become part of our DNA, but everyone in the family has been incredibly supportive of me and encouraging and it's lovely.

Thinking about how a room is going to make you feel is essential. That is what good interior design does. It's about creating an atmosphere. You absolutely have to know something about the people you are designing a space for. You need to find out about the way they lead their life, which rooms they use the most and you must always consider form and function.

9. Take your time with colour and lighting

When it comes to making decisions about colour, my advice is to do it slowly. Try colours on a small area of the walls you want to paint and look at them at different times of day. It's about instinct and how it makes you feel again. Always try things before you make any final decisions.

Lighting is also essential because it's all to do with mood. I like to have lots of different light sources, low level lighting as well as ceiling lights and I like to have quite a lot of control over them as well, with lots of different switches and dimmers.

The functionality and the atmosphere are the most important things to get right. The fabrics, the floor coverings, the furniture the lighting are the tools that you use to create that. Don't make rushed decisions if you can help it, apply a process of elimination approach if you can. The more you do it, the more confident you will become in your decision making.

10. Be empathetic and think about how a room makes you feel

You've got to be able to empathise with your client. Being an interior designer can mean lots of things, there's a little bit of being a nanny in there, a little bit of psychology and lots of empathy.

When you have designed a space or an object or anything really and the client loves it, that is why I do what I do. That is the best feeling and the best thing about the job. If you create something and you put it out there and you know that somebody else is genuinely thrilled with it, then that is your reward and there is no better feeling!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Manhattan’s most-celebrated architects and interior designers go large-scale

The latest crop of luxury residential developments is breaking ground in a whole new way: by hiring interior designers and architects better known for their work in hotels, restaurants and product design — along with swanky private homes.
Previously lauded for their smaller-scale commissions, these talents bring a fine eye for architectural and design detail to their first-ever large-scale residential developments.  Along the way, they’re imbuing these projects with bespoke features that come from very personal visions.

“Who knows how to better craft homes than interior architects?” says Barbara van Beuren, managing director of Anbau Enterprises, which hired Andrew Sheinman of Pembrooke & Ives for a new Upper East Side development. “They have a deeper understanding of lifestyles and needs, and that translates into the design.”

“People want beautiful design rather than a brand name just for the sake of the name,” says Shaun Osher, CEO of Core, which marketed 141 Fifth Ave., one the city’s first bespoke developments, in 2008. “Something that feels customized to the buyer and feels unique is what they’ll put the value on.”

Citing the high stakes and high costs of today’s market, Jonathan Miller, president and CEO of real estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel, sees this new trend driven by economics.

“There’s an extra cost associated with a brand that might not translate into additional returns,” he says. Bringing in “people who have been successful in their own right [versus a ‘starchitect’] but that don’t have the brand recognition [is] a cost-effective alternative.”

On the Upper East Side, developers are placing a value on reinterpreting history, selecting interior designers who can straddle tradition and trends, and respect the neighborhood context.

Such is the case at 155 E. 79th St., a 14-story building of seven duplexes that broke ground last October. Units range from $8.95 million for a 3,291-square-foot maisonette to $12 million for the remaining duplex. Developer Anbau Enterprises chose Andrew Sheinman, founder of Pembrooke & Ives, an interior design firm known for its private residential work. The choice was driven by Anbau managing director Barbara van Beuren, who grew up a couple of doors down at No. 151, and who envisioned homes that would be as equally personal to buyers.

“There’s a client you’re designing for and … they wouldn’t go to Philippe Starck. They’d go to an interior designer who would invest the time to understand who they are and design a residence that’s very personal and specific,” van Beuren says. “We wanted someone who was going to produce something new and fresh, but not trendy and gimmicky.”

For 155 E. 79th St., Sheinman created a psychographic of who might live there and designed around that: “It was someone who understands high-quality materials and details looking to be in an environment that’s extremely comfortable … [someone] who doesn’t have to prove anything.”

Envisioning they’d likely be collectors, he created spaces to serve as backdrops for art.

Other museum-like finishes echo throughout Sheinman’s design: stone moldings and archways, marble floors inlaid with brushed brass, an elegant procession of rooms. His design approach has worked; contracts are in or pending on four of the 4,292-square-foot duplexes.

Noting his firm’s “extremely low profile,” Sheinman — who’s completed projects such as the East Hampton Golf Club — says the development work was a way to enhance the brand. “It’s a business decision as well as a personal and intellectual one.”

Another tony project tapped the expertise of native Upper East Sider Peter Pennoyer of Peter Pennoyer Architects for a 16-story building at 151 E. 78th St. Launched in March, 11 of the 14 units, ranging from 3,300 to 6,975 square feet, sold at prices between $10 and $27.5 million. Two penthouses remain.

Pennoyer — whose experience includes designing apartments, country houses and commercial work such as The Mark Hotel — says the project was an opportunity to reinterpret the classic prewar building.

“We gave it a traditional character that could be a background for a more modern interior and design,” he says. “In a new building like this you don’t want to make the architecture too specific because you want each owner to have their own thing.”

Pennoyer utilized some visual tricks to create the perception of space: double-hung mullioned windows (“looking at the city through a grid makes the rooms seem much bigger,” he says) and moldings tailored to each room. He melded the old and new by featuring an open kitchen by Smallbone of Devizes along with traditional details like coffered ceilings and custom hardware.

Ten blocks south, Madeline Hult Elghanayan, the Douglas Elliman agent representing the Marquand condo conversion, says HFZ Capital Group chose Shelton, Mindel & Associates because the developer “wanted an architect who understands the time period.”
The project’s intentionally clubby atmosphere evokes old New York while “understanding … the way people want to live now,” says Lee Mindel, co-founder of Shelton, Mindel & Associates, which has also designed Ralph Lauren’s New York headquarters and the London home of Sting and Trudie Styler. In the century-old landmarked Marquand, on East 68th Street between Madison and Fifth avenues, Mindel created custom touches such as window grating that echoed the building’s escutcheon (heraldic shield), wood-paneled doors and onyx bathrooms.

“We’re not slaves to tradition, but there is a history to that building … we found things that gave clues of its character that brought the centuries forward,” he explains. “We didn’t want it to look like a building in drag.”
Buyers paid upwards of $14 million for the four- to six-bedroom units, ranging from 3,800 to 4,600 square feet. A 6,758-square-foot triplex penthouse comes online at the end of the month for $46.5 million.

Sometimes the choice of interior designer is all about whom you know.

Because of his prior work for the Kushner family, designing city and beach homes for Jared and his father, Charles, architect Jose Ramirez was chosen to reimagine the six Puck Penthouses in the landmarked building on Lafayette Street — his first such development project.

Ramirez respected the building’s historic envelope, keeping the brick-vaulted ceilings and using European references on the interiors, such as glazed, ceramic-tiled kitchens inspired by Parisian bistros.

“It’s not what we do and we might not do one again, but this was so special. There are very few projects with this level of detail,” Ramirez says. The apartments, ranging from 4,895 to 7,000-plus square feet, start at $22 million and include brushed nickel doors and full-slab marble bathrooms.

Also a developer’s darling: Daniel Romualdez of Daniel Romualdez Architects, the interior architect for 252 E. 57th St., a 93-unit building designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. Romualdez was picked by development firm World Wide Group for work he did on the home of the firm’s president, Jim Stanton.

“We thought his track record in private homes spoke for itself,” says Julia Hodgson, World Wide’s director of development. “We did open a wide net … and we ended up with Daniel in large part because he had not worked for a development company, and we thought he could bring a direct and fresh approach.”

The 65-story Italian-glass tower features condo residences and amenities starting on the 34th floor; the floors below are luxury rentals. There are 18 different two- to five-bedroom layouts with custom kitchens and floor plans ranging from 1,742 to 5,242 square feet. Prices begin at $4.5 million; the 8,139-square-foot penthouse lists at $37.5 million.
Romualdez, a classically trained architect who’s completed projects for brewing heiress Daphne Guinness, brought “very classic Upper East Side proportions and concepts” to the project, Hodgson notes. He included finishes of his own design: gleaming white quartz kitchen counters juxtaposed against untreated horizontal grain walnut, a theme echoed in the bathrooms’ walnut vanities and white Nanoglass walls and floors.

Increasingly, developers who historically have sat on the sidelines of the design process are becoming more involved, selecting interior experts who can deliver lifestyle, comfort and customization.

“There’s a different kind of developer out here,” says Brian Meier of Douglas Elliman. “It used to be an IKEA-style project manager, but now it’s more hands-on and the developers are showing up, feeling the wood and sitting in on design meetings.”

When the Rudin Family sought a designer for the Greenwich Lane, a West Village complex that’s a mix of new and prewar buildings, they already formulated a vision thanks to Aero, a store and design studio founded by Thomas O’Brien.
Samantha Rudin, who oversees the project on behalf of the Rudin Family, where she is vice president, notes the personality of O’Brien’s store provided “visual comfort” in his ability to create distinct identities for each of the buildings, while envisioning it as a whole. “He gave them allegory and all these layers that unraveled like a beautiful story,” she says. The project is co-developed with Global Holdings.

“The biggest challenge was coming up with a language,” says O’Brien, who designs for Waterworks, Williams-Sonoma and its affiliate brands, West Elm and Pottery Barn. His references for the Greenwich Lane included a Connecticut farmhouse, a West Village loft and a Fifth Avenue residence reimagined for downtown.

The Greenwich Lane’s 200 units range from 1,000 to more than 7,000 square feet, listing from $2 million to more than $30 million. Launched last October, the project is nearly 70 percent sold.

The lobbies mix antique and Art Deco-like finishes. Fourteen kinds of marble help set off the residences from each other and still provide a unifying element, as do the custom-paneled interior doors with Nanz hardware.

Throughout the buildings, O’Brien blended traditional and modern details, incorporating his own designs for lighting, custom millwork and cabinetry, and plumbing fixtures.

“For the more traditional person it’s a way to feel young and new, and for the modern person, it’s giving them the confidence for a bit of detail,” the designer explains.

Details are most significant in the kitchen and bathroom, and for that reason, 1 West End Ave. tapped Jeffrey Beers, founder of Jeffrey Beers International, a veteran designer for the hospitality sector who has designed more than 100 restaurants and bars, including kitchens for Daniel Boulud and Michael White. (Anna Wintour is also a fan.)

“The attention to detail is much greater,” Beers says of 1 West End Ave.’s kitchens, noting most designers don’t work with concepts like sauté stations. And with food-obsessed New Yorkers spending more time at home, he considers the kitchen “very much the heart and soul of the residence.”

Sales have not yet begun for the 246 condos in the  Lincoln Square building, but the one- to four-bedroom units will be market rate, according to reports.

It’s not just in New York City that interior designers are working on such developments for the first time: Elsewhere, in glittery ocean-fronting projects, developers hope to capture an international market by offering both known entities and fresh takes.

The Howard Hughes Corp. hired New York designer Tony Ingrao, co-partner of Ingrao Inc., for Honolulu’s Ward Village, a 60-acre planned community. The first phase includes the 36-story Waiea tower with interiors by Ingrao. Waiea broke ground last June and 84 percent of 171 units have sold, according to Nick Vanderboom, senior vice president at Howard Hughes. The bulk of the buyers are from Hawaii, Asia and the West Coast.

Vanderboom says Ingrao, who designed Baccarat Hotel & Residences in New York, a palace in Saudi Arabia and private residences for ad-man Danny Deutsch and former GE honcho Jack Welch, was chosen for his “tremendous range. Having worked internationally he understands the buyer’s mentality. We have a significant amount of buyers from Japan, and want to [be] responsive to that market.”

Ingrao notes that Ward Village, his first Hawaiian project, is an opportunity to design for a well-traveled audience that doesn’t necessarily have a sense of Hawaiian design.

“Everyone’s interpretation of what Hawaii is will be a little different,” he says. Buyers will have a range of finish options created by Ingrao, a first for the company, says Vanderboom.

Developers for Miami’s historic Surf Club conversion hired a design team using Richard Meier as the building architect for both the 150 condominiums and 77 Four Seasons hotel rooms. Lee  Mindel will design the interiors of 122 of the private residences, which will be branded under Richard Meier Signature Homes. The remaining 28 hotel condominiums will be designed by Joseph Dirand.

Also in Miami, Terra Group commissioned architect Rene Gonzalez for Glass, an 18-story residential tower, after his private home on Indian Creek Island sold for a Dade County record: $47 million in 2012.

“I think they’re looking to use design as a differentiator, and definitely looking at innovative architects and designers,” Gonzalez says.

Glass, designed inside and out by Gonzalez, does just that. On the southern tip of Miami Beach, his ethereal tower seems to connect ocean and sky. He incorporated fritted glass on the railings — vertical patterning that mimics the water.
With units starting at $7 million, the 10-unit tower has almost sold out, including the $30 million penthouse, attracting buyers from Europe and New York.

“The trend is to dig in deep and understand what you’re trying to create,” says Terra Group President David Martin. “And that doesn’t mean it has to be a Pritzker Prize winner.”

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I want to be an interior designer. What will my salary be?

Job: Interior designer

The role: Interior designers help their clients to create functional and attractive interior spaces that enhance the quality of life for the occupants, says Susan Wiggins, chief executive officer of Interior Designers of Canada (IDC), the professional association for interior designers in Canada.

Interior designers have a much broader role than interior decorators, Ms. Wiggins says. Designers are involved in planning a space from the start, including design analysis and working with building codes and materials.

“They work on the strategic side of the original decision for the space,” she says. “It’s about the movement within the space and working with the company to make sure the investment in the space is used the right way.”

An interior decorator deals more with the finishing touches, such as paint colours and picking furniture. An interior design can do both jobs, Ms. Wiggins says.

Interior designers can work with homeowners, as well as large and small businesses, institutions and governments.

Salary: Starts at about $35,000 to $50,000 annually for someone just entering the market and can increase to about $65,000 to $80,000 for those with more experience. Interior designers who own their own company or are partners in one can earn more than $100,000 annually.

Education: It can take seven to 10 years to become an interior designer, starting with a postsecondary education, followed by on-the-job training and a set of industry exams. The industry refers to it as the three E’s: education, experience and examination.

Although some schools offer interior design diplomas, the industry is moving to a degree requirement in 2015, Ms. Wiggins says. After they have completed their studies, promising designers need to work in a “supervised internship” for about two or three years. That’s followed by a North American qualifying exam. “It’s a significant commitment of time and money,” Ms. Wiggins says.

By the numbers: There are about 23,000 interior designers and interior decorators in Canada, according to the 2011 National Household Survey. Ms. Wiggins says her association, which represents only interior designers, has about 3,500 members across Canada.

Job prospects: Good, especially now that Canada is back in building mode after the recent recession and homeowners continue to renovate their homes. Many people and businesses are using interior designers to help them make better use of their space.

Ms. Wiggins says designers can work at different types of organizations, such as interior design companies, architecture and engineering firms, or for governments and corporations. A number of major retailers, for instance, have interior designers on staff.

Challenges: Keeping clients happy, while also ensuring the project remains on budget and adheres to all building codes and restrictions, is among the challenges for interior designers. Ms. Wiggins says it can also be difficult to try to explain the value of the work to prospective clients, including how they can save them money at the end. “Trying to convince clients of the advantages of including [interior designers] early on in the process as a strategic partner is important,” she says.

Why they do it: It’s a creative industry. Some people are drawn to that. Others enjoy the more technical aspects of the job. “Studying interior design is math. It’s complex computer programs,” Ms. Wiggins says.

Misconceptions: Interior designers aren’t just decorators. Also, not all design projects can or should be done on the cheap.

“We thank HGTV and we curse them,” Ms. Higgins says. “They’ve done a great job of educating the public about the world of interior design … but they’ve also taught the consumer you can create a new space overnight for $1,000. That’s not necessarily the case.”

She says the process is often much more complicated that what’s seen on TV.

Give us the scoop: Are you an interior designer? Write a note in the comments area of this story or e-mail your comment to and let us know what you would tell others who are interested in the profession.