I don’t know what it is, but whatever your profession, friends and family will ask for your professional advice or services. I’ve seen people approach doctors, computer programmers and interior designers for help. I have provided design assistance to my sister.
Or you could say I was directed to help. Yes, I agreed to help ... Then I found myself in IKEA being let loose and told “to do my thing.” My sister, Kelly, was furnishing her new condo during her medical residency.
This time, however, I am directing her to take a more professional, thoughtful approach. Moving in to a new house is a great opportunity to look at the big picture and create a cohesive design. Though it didn’t guarantee I wouldn’t again be told to do my thing.
During their Thanksgiving visit, Kelly and her husband, Ross, offered to fly me to Dayton, Ohio, to help them with the design and furnishing of their new home. They moved in the day after they returned.
I had about a month to discern their needs and wants and how they anticipated using the space. Without exact measurements, I used a virtual tour of the house and tile size to gauge the width of rooms for space planning purposes. Then I selected furnishings to fulfill their needs and styles.
Shortly before I arrived, I shared the floor plans and furnishing ideas with them through a presentation over speaker phone. Walking them through the spaces and explaining why selections were made, Kelly and Ross shared their opinions and feedback. Their reaction was positive overall.
One of the first things I wanted to know was their budget. Knowing this was a guideline and couldn’t be achieved with selections made from retailers such as Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel and Restoration Hardware. Adding up most of the items came to more than $20,000, and that did not include everything they wanted or needed.
We used the selections as a basis of design — the look we wanted to achieve — knowing that the actual selections would be different based on availability and price.
Kelly and I went to big cities and small towns to scour local furniture retailers, antique shops and consignment stores. No shopping trip would be complete without a few Target runs. We spent two days shopping and spent nearly $1,960. We completed the dining room, eat-in kitchen, entry and hung much of the art.
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The biggest challenge was agreeing on and ordering a sectional for the lower level. This was a priority for Ross, especially after learning it would take more than a month for the furniture to arrive. Finding one they liked and that fit the room was not too difficult, but Ross could not overcome the sticker shock.
Custom furniture is expensive — especially when it is made in the United States and involves combining multiple sectional pieces. Kelly understood the value of a quality purchase, but Ross didn’t want to accept the price.
Ross has had a leather sofa and love seat from Ashley Furniture for about six years, and it has held up well. I’m guessing he paid much less for those. Being a thrifty Midwesterner who has trouble throwing or giving away anything, these holdovers from his bachelor days are in their living room.
When we couldn’t reconcile the $5,000-plus sectional quote, I recommended other budget-friendly choices. Later at a store called Bargains and Buyouts, Kelly and I found a gray sectional that was almost the same size as one five times its cost. It also was an Ashley Furniture sectional, but purchasing it there would involve renting a truck and driving it back about 50 miles.
They considered buying it at a closer location, but for now, the lower level is unfinished. At least that was the case until last weekend. They ordered a sectional and ottoman for $3,300. In the end, they finished with more than $2,700 left in their budget.
It’s one thing to know what your clients like and another to be in an unfamiliar store and be told to accessorize the space on the spot.
I prefer to have time to think things through, but any professional needs to be flexible and able to respond appropriately and timely to issues that arise.
Surrounded by a store of beautiful decor, I had to think fast and make some selections for the eat-in kitchen. I chose a couple of hanging planters with faux greenery to bring color and visual interest above the coffee bar.
Upon further evaluation, greater variation of the size and length of the planters would have been better. Adding a third, larger planter also would be a good adjustment.
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Tweaks and additional items are like requests for help; they are to be expected. Come to think of it, so was the help with writing and editing I’ve shared over the years. Helping family and friends, well, it’s all in a day’s work.
• Erin Owen graduated in 2015 from the interior design program at Kirkwood Community College. She has worked as a commercial and residential interior designer.