Behind the Scenes of A Real Interior Design Project: Part One

TV and Internet design have given us a warped perception about how the business of interior design actually works. We see rooms magically transformed in a number of days for ridiculously low, unreasonable budgets with cans of spray paint used willy nilly to DIY everything in sight. And we think, yes let's do that in my house! Why can't I renovate my kitchen in four days for $10,000?!? Well you can't. And I am here to show you why you really don't want to. 

As a part time TV designer and a full time real interior designer, I am here to show you what a real project really looks like. And believe me there is no magic wand and construction team working 24 hours a day to make a TV miracle happen. Real design projects cost. They cost in time. They cost in money. They cost in major amounts of stress and aggravation. 

A TV designer in my TV office on my real show Shop This Room. 

A TV designer in my TV office on my real show Shop This Room. 

I am here to be the wet blanket of reality on your Cinderella, makeover dreams. But I am also here to stick up for my industry and my business and to explain why doing it slow is really the right way to go. And how doing it right and spending the real time and money can be incredibly fulfilling. 

Buzz Kill Betty is back and she's taking no prisoners!

Case Study: Brooklyn Townhouse

I began working on this one family Brooklyn townhouse in the fall of 2014. My job was to transform a nondescript, extremely long, parlor room into a chic, space for entertaining. On the surface it looked like a decorating job. I was thrilled. No need for any construction here. I would just paint, wallpaper, and shop to my hearts content. Someone had been hearing my prayers. Hallelujah!

The extremely long room before. The furniture plan was not working for them. 

The extremely long room before. The furniture plan was not working for them. 

Beautiful mantle…. and I had two to work with. 

Beautiful mantle…. and I had two to work with. 

Hello down there! I knew I needed a better plan. 

Hello down there! I knew I needed a better plan. 

The Vision

I began my process of designing. I worked out a furniture floor plan. I worked out some architectural details I wanted to add to the space. It was creative heaven. It was all about giving the room some history and some depth. Some elegant touches that would make it feel like a real Parlor and less of a long hallway. I would add crown molding and a chair rail. I would add medallions on the ceiling to frame the chandeliers. I would wallpaper and paint. I would add in some furniture in the empty middle space. I would create distinct living and dining experiences. I would add in a bar cabinet, why not!?! I would play with art and accessorize to my hearts content. I was in design heaven. 

Furniture Floorplan with new furniture placement… done and done. 

Furniture Floorplan with new furniture placement… done and done. 

Fabric, Lighting, Wallpaper, Oh my! 

And then I began my design schemes. I presented two design schemes to the clients and we settled on one. This is the one truly creative aspect of my job and the part I enjoy the most. I try to savor it as long as possible since it only comprises about 10% of my job. I play with fabrics. I shop for vintage lighting and furniture. I put together the vision board of my masterpiece. I throw out fabrics and add them back in. I play with neutral palettes and add in accent colors. I troll the internet and hit the streets. And this project was a dream for me. It was a historic row house that needed some history and I was just the gal to bring it. 

A vintage light found for the entry vestibule. One of my first purchases for the project. 

A vintage light found for the entry vestibule. One of my first purchases for the project. 

Scheming. Looking at colors for my custom Malene B Rug. 

Scheming. Looking at colors for my custom Malene B Rug. 

So far so good no? Well kinda. What we didn't discus was the budget. And while I won't get into specific numbers I will give you some idea of the process. The client had a number in her head for decorating the room that was not in line with what it really costs. I had to break the news that we would be about 5 or 6 times what she thought and easily more than that. She thought I was crazy. Seeing all of these tv shows and blogs she knew it could be done on a dime. What she didn't know was what really goes into a project and what that really costs. More on that another day. Suffice it to say the TV model does not hold true in real life on real projects. 

So, anyhoo, moving along things were going well. Until I brought in my contractor, who is also my husband, to quote adding the decorative moldings. There has been some rumblings of ceiling trouble and a leak that I wanted him to check out but I wasn't prepared for what came next. 

And elevation of the room with new moldings. 

And elevation of the room with new moldings. 

We need to completely remove the ceiling and put it back? Say what??? The ceiling as it turns out was not connected to anything. It was not secured to the joists and the leak if untreated would eventually lead to the ceiling falling down onto the floor. So in order to make my pretty room pretty we would first have to rip the whole thing apart.

Dreams deferred. Hopes sidelined. Skipping through the park cut short. The reality was that my ish got very real very fast. 

Say what??? 

Say what??? 

This story is to be continued. More on my very real design project in the weeks ahead.

Until Next Week

xx

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