Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I'm looking for a....vanity stool!

Everyone now and then I have a client that needs something more than just a couch or a paint color.   There is a weird piece of furniture that has thrown them off.  The piece isn’t exactly common and there are definitely some bad examples of there.  The piece of furniture I'm referring to is actually a vanity seat or vanity stool. 

Many of us have a vanity.  It might be built in or a piece of furniture.  We spend much time sitting in that seat applying makeup and preparing for the day.

A friend of mine has just that…a built in part of her bathroom cabinetry that needs a little attention.  What could a find to fit the space?  Of course…there is everything from the high end trade type places (Pieces and World-Away) all the way to your every day IKEA and Pottery Barn. 

How do you get started?  Where should you go?  What do you search for ? Well, you could go ahead and google vanity seat or vanity stool, but that's not going to get you very far.  Keep your options open and creative.  Consider ottomans, stools, benchs and footstools. Here are some choices I came up with….
Target $149

Horchow $699

CB2 $129

JCPenney $300, now on sale for $159.99

Ballard Designs Courbe Ottoman $149

Pottery Barn Lewis Cube $199
IKEA  $19.99

The famous "x-stool"  from Pieces $595
From Williams-Sonoma Home $795

Jan Showers Collection

Belle Meade Signature  $539

Plexi-Craft Classic $403

Mid-century Modern Knoll Planter $1431

So...what are you sitting on as you prepare for that Christmas party?  I hope its something wonderful!  

Until next week,


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Finding a Designer - Lessons Learned

We can all hear the sound of it.  Some may argue that it is an icon of American television. Tick.....tick...tick...tick..tick..tick,tick,tick.  The sound of the wheel on the famous show The Price is Right.  A player’s hard work left to complete chance with the roll of it and the opportunity to play for the grand prizes at the end of the show.  Not a desirable situation to be in when you have made it that far in the game and certainly not something that you would ever want to happen in real life --- or in this case, design world. Your hard earned cash left to utter destiny because you didn’t do your homework.

As my faithful readers may recall from the last few weeks, the Moss family had found our new dream house in a desirable neighborhood in Dallas.  Being that I am not one to delve into anything lightly, I instantly began decorating it in my mind and found the task daunting.  To ease my anxiety about designing my own abode, I decided to do take this chance to hire someone else to help me with the transition from starter home to forever home.  I also thought that it would be a great opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of the client side of things.  What a better way to learn more about design than to work with a tried and true professional on my own home!   I decided to take the plunge and began researching designers in the Dallas area for our possible new home.  (I really am an eternal optimist...) Let me walk you through the process.
One of several pictures of my dream living room.

The deep, brooding brown here is very comfy -- diggin’ it

Being that I am new to this whole design arena, I decided to take the very intellectual approach and comb the finest reading material that I had on hand --- DHome.  Each year, DHome lists the top designers in the area based on several criteria and possibly just a lot of letter writing I’m guessing.  I contacted many of the designers via email inquiring about availability and estimate of service charges.    
Initially, it wasn’t easy to wade through all the hub-bub of some of the designers but it did get easier the more I did my homework.  Personally, I would not suggest grabbing the Yellow Pages (do they still have those anymore?) or doing a Google search on interior designers.  This leaves too much to chance.  Be sure to stick to those that have write-ups in magazines, who came highly recommended or have stores in the area.  Not because there might not be others who are just as talented but because you want to make sure that you are getting a quality product.  Some designers that I spoke with didn’t have a clue as to what they were doing and have no formal training in the field.  Then there are some that have beaucoup experience without the website and the write-up.  Either way, be sure to ask lots of questions to those who will potentially be handling your hard earned cash.  You want to make sure that they are in it for the long haul and not just getting by in this world.

I basically got three responses:

1) No Answer.  No response at all.  Nada. Zilch. Zero.  This tells me a few things:  they either don’t work on homes in my area or they are so busy they don’t need the work.  Whichever the case, they are not for you.

2) An email.  Most of my soon-to-be comrades answered promptly with an email back to me.  They asked me to contact them directly via phone and the thought of making all those calls made my ears ring.  I decided the most concise approach was to check out their websites first and then narrow it down based on those details.

3) Quotes & Details.  Pricing does matter in design world.  While some persons were very upfront with me about their pricing, some were less open about their costs.  There were some designers who had the pricing on their websites and some who sent me a document.  Others freely gave it to me on the phone.  That got me to thinking that for some, pricing is a sensitive issue for whatever the reason.  Either way, it varies greatly so find someone that appeals to your personality (and pocketbook) on this issue.

Another dream house option for me...notice the trend?

With all this rolling around in my head, there were a few things that I found out about paying for a designer that were very insightful:

Initial Consultation.  Most designers would be more than happy to meet with you for an hour or so and don’t charge for the initial conversation.  A few do charge -- again, personal choice.

Retainer.  Some of the higher end firms require a retainer for their services and it is usually credited back to the client once the work is completed.  Oftentimes, this retainer is a percentage of the budget set in the beginning.  This helps ensure that the designer is not left high and dry at the end of the project without payment.

Hourly Fee.  This is to be expected in the design market.  Most will charge an hourly fee and the lead designer will fetch the largest coin, followed by design assistants, drafting and tech people.  Who knew that there was such a hierarchy to the method?

Markup.  All designers charge some type of markup on the goods they find for your home.  This can vary from 20 – 50%.  Designers will get a trade discount (things at cost) but they still mark it up to gain a well-earned profit.  It’s the way business is done (even at Walmart).  Take for example that stunning $4,000 antique mirror gracing the walls of your bedroom.  You are charged $4000 for it but the designer paid $2800 for it at the store and then sold it to you for way more than they paid.  Free market at work and rightly so....we all have to make a living right?  Again, the degree to which they mark it up varies greatly.

Type.  Designers vary their rates based on residential or commercial.  Some professionals only do one or the other so make sure that you are getting the right fit for your job.  With a huge endeavor, the price may even go down slightly for your budget.  Makes total sense.

This could even be option number four --- I can’t stop thinking about it!

     I really clicked with several of the designers that I spoke with and they indicated that I should pull together some pictures of what appeals to me.  (Don’t think I haven’t already done that.  Piles of files organized by rooms in hard and soft folders.  Makes me happy.)  A couple of the experts had me fill out questionnaires and sent me pics of the rooms that they had done for previous clients. 

    Yum, yum, yummy....

All in all, I was so excited about the prospect of being on the other side of the design equation and soaking in the expertise of another professional.  With the encouragement of other insiders, I decided to take the plunge and be a big girl and hire someone to help me out.  However despite all my enthusiasm and optimism, it appears as if our dream home is crumbling beneath us. 

We were recently outbid on the home and have been relegated to contingency on the contract.    It’s been a bittersweet adventure for us - as well as exhausting.  But, I really did learn a ton from this experience: sometimes you don’t get what you want, sometimes your kids will whine and cry despite the ideal circumstances, current neighbors don’t get it and new neighbors don’t either (but for different reasons). At the end of the day, you have to be comfortable with your decision and know that despite all the grumbling and groans, it was a walk in faith.  So, for now hubbie and I will sit back and regroup about our next endeavor.  Take it from someone who has done their pricing homework, leave nothing to chance or the big wheel when you are designer shopping.  Use my experience to bolster your confidence in finding that perfect someone to create your living environment.
Until the grand prize round-


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Room of the Month - The Room with your Christmas Tree

Jingle bell, jingle bell, jingle bell rock  
Jingle bells swing and jingle bells ring
Snowing and blowing up bushels of fun
Now the jingle hop has begun"
While making my monthly pilgrimage to Horchow Finale (for a wee bit of retail therapy), I overheard a fellow shopper humming away the words to the joyous tune above.  Being that I have been singing Christmas carols for weeks now, I was eager to have a fellow songstress to join in the holiday spirit along with me.  Not quite there yet, yourself?  Not to worry...The best place to start is the tree.
Personally, the tree is the easiest way to add punch to your decor.  My three trees are already decked and ready to go (minus my 15 footer which did not make the list this year due to numerous reasons...) Following is a quick look at the trees blosssoming on Pintail Lane:

Tree #1
The white glam tree fits the ever-unique builder niche and works well with the d├ęcor.

Tree #2, What's Christmas without the real deal?  Smells are everything at the holidays.

Tree #3. Charlie Brown is never far away in the Moss family celebration.  Complete with the heavy ornaments and bending branches.
Insteading of sighing because of my decoration completion, how about join me?  Nothing thrills me more than seeing how others bring their own unique take on the holidays.  To make your transition from ho-hum to a winter wonderland, here are some savvy suggestions to get you going: 

Neutrals with just the right metallic pop.  Classy and festive.

Cotton candy pink keeps this tree looking fabu...

Tight spaces are spot-on for a tiny tree.  A few ornaments which coordinate with the gift wrap used on the presents creates giant pizzaz.

Instead of visions of sugar plums this year, what about cupcakes?  Said to be from Kmart this year, this room is the inspiration of Eddie Ross.
Southern Accents Magazine showcases gorgeous trees and these are just a sampling from the last two years. 

Traditional red and green are always stylish.  The quintessential Christmas combination is made even more yummy with a more festive green.

Va-va-voom.  Turquoise really speaks to me at the holidays.
And this one has a fun pop too.

Featured in Veranda, why not utilize a peacock?

And let’s not forget the queen  - Martha Stewart!

Adore the pink…

All this talk of trees makes me want to fire up the ole lights and finish what my fellow Horchow Finale pal started the other day.  So until I receive some pics of the trees donning the halls of your home, I'm forced to leave you with the final verse of the previous carol:
"Mix and a-mingle in the jingling feet
That's the jingle bell,
That's the jingle bell,
That's the jingle bell rock."