Thinking of hiring an interior designer but not sure where to start? You are not alone. Many of our Bay Area clients have never worked with an interior designer before and wonder what to expect. Read on for tips on streamlining your search for the right designer.
Scope of work? Start by mapping out the work you want done in your home. Which rooms do you want to tackle? What types of services are you are interested in: Space planning, remodeling, furniture selection and purchasing? Determine a rough budget and timeline for your project. Many design firms schedule projects months in advance, so it’s best to start looking before you actually want to start work. Once you have a clear grasp of the scope of your project, start searching for a design firm whose strengths and services are a good match.
Start with style. There are many differences between design firms, ranging from the design process, billing structure, and philosophy. The easiest way to narrow in on your top contenders is to look at a variety of designers projects and see which portfolio speaks to you.
Key Questions. Most designers will start with an initial phone call or in-home consultation before starting a project. The following are a few key questions to ask during this initial meeting:
1. Is the firm full-service or do they work as consultants?Full-service firms manage a project from start to finish, while consultants work on a smaller scale and will provide quick advice or guidance as needed. Be sure to ask whether they have a minimum project size or budget that they typically work with.
2. Who will you be working with?How many employees does the firm have — Will you be working solely with the principal designer or with other designers in the firm? If the firm is larger, find out if you will have one designer as a main point of contact.
3. What are the billing practices? Most designers bill by the hour, with varying rates for each designer based on level of experience. Inquire about hourly rates and if an estimate will be provided based on past projects. It’s best for everyone to be on the same page before starting work.
Last but certainly not least – Pay close attention to the rapport you have with the designer. It’s important to make sure the designer “gets you” and that you can relate to them both professionally and personally. The design process should be rewarding and fun!
We recently wrapped up a fun project in SOMA – a glam condo that’s perfect for relaxing and entertaining. Our clients turned to Niche Interiors to help soften the modern lines of their new space and to create a cozy and welcoming new home. Judging by our clients thrilled reactions, I think we succeeded!
First, we painted over the brick red walls with a wispy dove gray, which immediately made the space feel larger and more airy. We added a statement chandelier over the dining table and designed a custom banquette to maximize seating in a small space.
A large rug grounds the seating area and custom drapery panels add softness and elongate the room.
A tufted headboard mingles with metallics and soft geometric patterns in the luxe master bedroom.
Our recent projects in Woodside and Napa have very different styles, but share common requirements: Non-toxic finishes and no flame retardants. We continually update our eco-friendly database to track which furniture manufacturers are phasing out harmful flame retardants from their upholstery. Read on to learn which companies are headed in the right direction!
Long-standing Green Companies
Cisco Home, Lee Industries, and Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams have all been offering a greener alternative to traditional foam for years. Up until the new 2013 update to TB117 passed in California, Lee Industries and Mitchell Gold were using soy foam, which contain significantly less chemicals. Cisco Home takes it one step further by offering natural latex and organic wool options. Mitchell Gold and Lee Industries now use foam with no flame retardants.
• Crate & Barrel phased out flame retardants in early 2014 – kudos!
• DWR has phased out the use of flame retardants in their new pieces, but be sure to check if you are purchasing something from old stock which may still have chemicals.
• Room & Board stated that their manufacturers have phased out flame retardants this year.
Not Even Close
• Restoration Hardware still uses flame retardants and has no known plans to change. Boo!
When in doubt, check the label on the underside of sofas. A new Calfornia law requires that furniture made after January 1, 2015 feature an updated label that clearly states whether or not flame retardants were added to the foam.
As many of you know, the Niche team has been busy working with The Ellen DeGeneres Show and Houzz to re-design the home of a firefighter struggling with ALS. We designed a cozy new living room for the family and surprised them with makeovers for their two young daughters’ rooms, as well as their master bedroom.
We had 3 days to completely overhaul this space – we started by painting all the rooms and the fireplace, installing new fans and light fixtures and new window treatments. The new furniture in the living room provides a more comfortable and welcoming space for the family while maintaining ample room for the husband’s wheelchair.
Next, all the furniture and industrial accessories from the Houzz Shop were moved in to create the rustic, casual space that the family wanted. As a special gift, the Niche team commissioned a reclaimed wood tray and coasters from a San Francisco woodworker – proudly showing off the husband’s Engine 32 logo.
Lynn and I each tackled a girl’s bedroom, applying removable decals to give the rooms an easy and fun update. Those pinwheel designs that Lynn created are my favorite detail!
After much anticipation, the family was thrilled with their new rooms! We were honored to be involved with this makeover and to be able to help this incredible family. Be sure to watch the reveal episode here.
Next up in our Designer’s Choice series is Anna, our talented Design Assistant, who chose ottomans for their versatility and function.
Noe Valley is one of our favorite areas to work – the vibe tends to be a little more contemporary than other neighborhoods, with a subtle nod to mid-century design. Ottomans can complete the layout of a living room, provide function in an entry way, or be pulled out for extra seating during big gatherings. The perfect piece for a casual, family-friendly home in Noe Valley!
1. Stellarworks Brasilian Metal Stool.I love the curved wood frame and delicate base of this piece. It’s just the right balance of simplicity and interest.
2. Studio Van Den Akker Charles Ottoman – Available to the trade from De Sousa Hughes.The thick upholstered cushion gives this piece a strong presence and the exposed bolts are a handsome detail. It’s sophisticated design pairs well with a mid-century modern chair.
3. Dasha Small Ottoman from Zinc Door.I love the details on the base of the Dasha ottoman – elegant but not overly fancy. This would be perfect for taking off shoes or stashing your handbag in an entryway.
4. B&B Italia Stella Stool.This is a great non-upholstered option for families with young children (wipeable – yay!). I like the curvature of the seat and its simple, casual vibe. I could see a pair of these in front of a fireplace or used as seating in a tight kitchen nook.
5. Elana Bench from Bright Chair – Available to the trade. This ottoman can stand alone or sit side by side to be used as a bench – at the foot of your bed or in your living room.
What’s better than a dramatic before and after shot?? Our latest project, a 1930s Spanish Mediterranean, had great bones but was in desperate need of cosmetic updates. Niche Interiors worked closely with the architect to transform this dated home into a comfortable and stylish space well-suited for an active family of five.
Painting the beams and walls instantly refreshed the space, along with light wood floors, a contemporary fireplace, and new lighting. Generously scaled sofas ground the expansive living room, creating a cozy conversation area. Textural rugs and natural fabrics are layered with navy and persimmon accents.
Head to our Projects page to see the rest of this beautiful home!
We are excited to share a guest post from Katie Carr, Executive Vice President at Changing Places, an award winning home organizing and move coordination firm based in Marin. Her team of professional home organizers specialize in orchestrating complex relocations throughout the Bay Area and beyond.
Start by studying how you and your family move about your house. Recognize how you utilize each room, and how often you’re there – this will help prioritize your organizing.
1. RESIST THE PILE HABIT
Most of us walk into our house with purses, groceries, keys, and more. An intuitive “drop zone” off your main entryway creates a home for essential items. It may include a key rack, an inbox for kids’ artwork or bills, or an attractive container for everyday items.
2. ORGANIZE AN INSPIRING HOME OFFICE
Even if your home office shares space with a bedroom, create a dedicated work area that inspires you.
• Love where you work – even if you don’t have a window, hang a pretty picture above your desk and personalize a small corner of your desk with framed photos, a living plant or kids’ artwork.
• Buy a beautiful basket to tame your inbox piles on your desk’s surface, and use vertical file boxes for everyday papers.
• Invest in an attractive, comfortable and ergonomic chair.
Photo courtesy of Pinterest
3. CLOSETS THAT MAKE SENSE
What good is that custom closet when your most needed items are inaccessible (or in a pile)? Make sure essentials are within arm’s reach and contained well.
• Use garment boxes and sweater bins, which can also house handbags.
• Slim, velvet hangers work well to maximize space – you can squeeze in 20-25% more than traditional wooden hangers.
• See through acrylic shoe boxes stack well – and protect your Choos!
There are plenty of mixed opinions about having a stylish home with young children. We are firm believers that you can have both! With a few smart design choices (and the right stain treatment) your home can be a beautiful place that the whole family can enjoy. Our latest project in Laurel Heights is a perfect example – sophisticated yet warm and livable.
The velvet sofa and ivory armchairs in the formal living room were stain treated with a non-toxic, water-based solution. So far no sticky hand prints or stains!
A textural wool rug is easy to clean and hides tiny toddler crumbs while the sturdy resin cocktail table can withstand bumps without tipping over easily.
A kids corner is created in the family room with plenty of storage for toys and books. The white bookcase and shelves coordinate with the media stand for a cohesive look. A lightweight coffee table is easily moved aside when the train set comes out. Ready to start on your family-friendly interior design project? Contact us today!
We’re kicking off a new blog series featuring furniture selections for homes in San Francisco’s distinct neighborhoods. Each post will be curated by the talented designers on our team. First up is Heather, our Senior Designer, whose modern sensibilities are perfectly suited for SOMA’s contemporary lofts.
SOMA is urban, edgy, and fresh. Materials in lofts have a strong almost masculine feel, with exposed brick walls, steel beams, lots of glass, and concrete floors. Swivel chairs can help soften modern spaces while still maintaining a clean-lined aesthetic. Their organic shape is attractive from any angle, which is important in an open concept living space. It’s also a functional solution for living rooms that have more than one focal point, such as a flatscreen and the Bay Bridge!
1. The Swan chair available at DWR.Arne Jacobsen’s Swan chair is a design classic – as relevant and functional today as it was in 1958.
2. B&B Italia Mart 2012 chair.I love the wood legs and the stitching detail on this chair. Bonus: It’s super comfortable!
3. De Sede DS-51 chair from Arkitektura. This chair is ergonomic and sleek, perfect for a living room or office.
4. Bernhardt Designs Chiara chair. This is one of our go-to swivel chairs – it’s small footprint and low profile is ideal for rooms with amazing views.
We are thrilled to share our eco-friendly Palo Alto project on Lonny today! I’m not going to lie – this was a tough one to keep secret the past few months. The Niche team had a fantastic collaboration with our clients, a young couple expecting their first baby.
We created a contemporary, eco-friendly home using a mix of custom, non-toxic upholstery, natural fabrics and solid wood furniture. I could go on and on, but I’ll let you read the whole scoop on Lonny!