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Interior design projects without guidance pose risks

Rochester Business Journal
September 16, 2011

Homeowners who jump into interior design projects without guidance may be risking hideous mistakes, designers say, whether by starting without a plan or choosing wild, crazy colors.
 
Executing a design without a master plan is a common problem among homeowners, according to Heather DeMoras, principal and owner of Heather DeMoras Design Consultants.
 
"Homeowners frequently do not have a master plan; as a result, they don't know how to achieve a cohesive look throughout their home," DeMoras says. "Without a plan for guidance, it is easy to get in over one's head."
 
The 1990 Syracuse University interior design graduate runs the firm with her husband, Mathieu DeMoras, from their studio in Rochester's Neighborhood of the Arts. Roughly half of the firm's business is residential; the remainder is in the hospitality and retail sectors.
 
DeMoras' solution for clients without a plan is straightforward: Work with a professional to create such a long-term plan, which can be executed over time.
 
"You don't have to do it all at once, and in the end, a well-conceived plan will save you money," she says.
 
A client's spontaneous selection of a dramatic color is another common error that DeMoras has encountered.
 
"I've seen some really hideous colors that weren't coordinated," she says.
 
For example, one client had painted the family room a loud color without considering what furniture would be in the room and exactly how the space would be used. The client then turned for help to De-Moras, who suggested a fresh start with a more conservative hue for the walls.
 
In an effort to display treasured purchases or gifts, clients sometimes create a crowded feeling within a room, DeMoras says. The solution might be a simple one, editing the volume of content.
 
"When you have everything on display that is near and dear to your heart, it can yield a confusing look," she says, citing the specific example of a room crowded with family photographs. "In this situation, I suggest to the client that we take everything down and tastefully redo the room. That may require temporarily placing some accessories in storage."
 
Using an interior designer at the outset can be helpful, especially to create a vision.
 
"Professionals can see the big picture and pull it all together," DeMoras suggests.
 
Fellow interior designer Robin Muto agrees with that perspective. Muto, owner of Robin Muto Interiors near the Memorial Art Gallery, also is a certified lighting designer. Most of her residential clients own mid-level to high-end properties.
 
"A lot of people try to do things themselves without first establishing a plan, so they buy a lot of merchandise piecemeal, then have a difficult time creating a cohesive look," Muto says. "In addition, people sometimes get carried away with the concept of achieving a minimalist look, without considering that they also need effective lighting."
 
Muto is delighted to help when clients seek her advice.
 
"Sometimes clients feel overwhelmed," she explains. "They look at their decor and see that it is too warm, too cold, too large-or that the color is awful. The solution may or may not be to buy more furniture."
 
Like DeMoras, Muto at that stage encourages the homeowner to pause and consider the long-term plan, which can be implemented over time.
 
"Layout is the place where we start," Muto says. "If you do it well, layout never lies. It helps you with scale of furniture and traffic patterns."

She also is a proponent of the minimal-ist concept.
 
"Empty or negative space in a room is important," Muto says. "If you receive a gift and you don't particularly like it, don't feel compelled to display it. Also, rotate your items from time to time; doing so will give a room a fresh, new look."
 
Jason Longo, owner of JDL Interiors, encourages clients to acquire pieces from several sources. Longo, whose studio is in the Hungerford Building near the Rochester Public Market, says he can easily spot a room that has been outfitted with a fast purchase at a furniture store.
 
"Take your time," advises Longo, who formerly co-hosted "Guess Who's Coming to Decorate," a cable television show on the Style Network. "Good design comes from multiple places-maybe local stores, maybe online-but not everything needs to be purchased from the same retailer."
 
The biggest mistakes Longo has noticed when entering a prospective client's home are insufficient lighting or do-it-yourself flooring and tiling projects that went horribly wrong.
 
"I'll never forget one client's home," he says. "The homeowners didn't know how to remove a wallpaper border, so they used joint compound-and ended up destroying their walls. So I arranged for a professional drywall installer to come in and do it correctly."
 
Another client, whom Longo refers to as a "reformed do-it-yourselfer," tried to install his own flooring. The results were not pretty-"completely uneven, with grout cracking," says Longo, who was hired to fix the problem.
 
Like his peers, Longo believes it is important to seek outside help.
 
"Invest in a good interior designer. Our expertise will help you understand the value of this profession," Longo says. "Design is a creative process. I love combining ideas in my head with ideas in my client's head."
 
Adds Muto: "It is important to invest time with a qualified interior designer. Design isn't fashion. It's not like buying a dress one day, then giving it away in a year. If a home is done right, it should last you a long time. Do it once, and do it right."

Debbie Waltzer is a Rochester-area freelance writer.9/16/11 (c) 2011 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or e-mail service@rbj.net.


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