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A Day in the Life… a Recent Peek into the SHS Design Studio

If you were to ask me which part of being an interior designer I like best, I’d be hard pressed to tell you. The days I’m holed up in the studio in my jammies, creating floor plans on my CAD program, choosing sofa frames, fabrics and paint; or stationed at a comfortable armchair at one of the local cafes, tapping out my design column on my laptop in workout clothes and ponytail; or all dressed up, perusing the San Francisco Design Center showrooms in search of wonderful items for clients’ homes, all have special meaning.

above via ELLE DECOR
The entrepreneurial lifestyle has worked well for me over the past fifteen years as it’s allowed me to grow at a pace that’s comfortable for me. I’m a slow, methodical person with perfectionist tendencies. Working as a stock broker or journalist would not bode well for anyone who hired me. Being a designer allows me to do something I love. I have a fulfilling life that often overlaps business with pleasure.

My typical work day begins about 7:00 and ends at 4:00, but at times it’s more. I work on a wide range of tasks such as writing proposals, presentations, and estimates; preparing purchase orders and invoices; tracking orders; and conferring with clients and sub-contractors.
My studio walls are lined with cabinets of fabric and trim books, paint samples, architectural catalogs, furniture catalogs, and baskets full of over sized fabric samples, or “memos”. The room itself can’t be more than 300 square feet, yet within those walls we produce many full service design schemes per year.
above via ELLE DECOR


Some previously unpublished but remarkable projects I’ve had the honor to work on over the years…

·        The remodel and furnishing of an initially modest Sonora home which came to life with the client’s impressive family antiques, extensive artwork collections, newly upholstered pieces, new area rugs, wallpaper, tile, paint and custom draperies and roman shades. We chose a new sofa and armchair, all fabrics, and oversaw the restoration of all antiques, placement of artwork, and customization of closets, interior doors, and bathrooms. I enjoyed working the interiors around the amazing collections. Several years later I was called to remodel and furnish the master bedroom which turned out stunningly beautiful with soft pastel colors, a mahogany, four poster “rice” bed, and French Modern dresser and wardrobe.
·       The furnishing of a large custom home in Granite Bay’s gated community, Los Lagos, for the President of a professional sports team. We worked on this residence for a number of years providing custom silk draperies, valances and iron drapery hardware throughout, area rugs, and high-end furniture and accessories.
·       Overseeing the new construction of a large, custom home in the mountains, working with the contractor, choosing most of the elements from the roof and siding to extensive custom window coverings, drapery hardware, furnishings, fixtures, finishes and flooring. Spectacular views and a picturesque setting made this home a special retreat.
above via ELLE DECOR
·         Overseeing the remodel and furnishing of a large custom home with stunning views of Mt. Diablo. This custom home had some great qualities like custom stone work and large, picture windows but the builder missed the mark on details like hand rails, fireplace design, and doorway styles. We took out the cumbersome, elliptical arched doorways and put in their place, framed doorways with straight, tailored cornices. We revamped the faux stone fireplace with a custom wood surround and mantel. And we replaced the cheap stair rail with custom iron. For furnishings we did gorgeous silk, floor length draperies on custom iron rods and a high end feather filled sofa and cocktail “ottoman”.

·         Designing the remodel of a once non-descript, 70’s living room. We opened up doorways, took out the dated built-in planter boxes, redesigned the fireplace and flanking built-in bookcases, designed custom window treatments, slipcovers and matching pillows.

The real fun for me, of course, is working on design schemes. I particularly enjoy designing interiors around a client’s favorite things. It could be anything from a favorite color scheme or style to a favorite antique or art collection. I like doing remodels such as opening up doorways, placing additional windows, kitchen and bath updates, designing built-ins, and fireplaces, and choosing architectural molding. All of these add significant aesthetic and dollar value to a home.
above via ELLE DECOR

If I absolutely had to pin myself down to one niche, it would probably be custom fabrications like sofas, chairs, draperies, valances, shades, re-upholstery, slipcovers and bedding. Because they’re large surfaces these changes make a huge difference in a home’s overall function and appearance. They are what I’m best known for.

As for the value of a designer’s services, I believe it comes from working closely with and understanding the needs of the individual client. This isn’t something you learn overnight. It takes time to communicate well. It takes a lot of questions to figure out what someone means by “homey” or “clean” or “rich” or “quality”. These terms mean different things to different people. It comes from having a wide array of reliable vendors, artisans, knowledgeable seamstresses and workrooms with at least twenty years of experience. It includes having an innate ability to foresee troubles and correct them before they happen, or at least lessen their impact. It comes from having the perseverance to struggle along with the occasional tough client to help them reach a happy conclusion, even though it might mean a strain on your own senses. It especially comes from producing high quality products with long lasting style that are appropriate to the geography and architecture of the project.  

But that’s just my side of the fence. Like any industry, the trade has its twists and turns, its ups and downs. I’ve bought my ticket and am prepared for the ride.
What’s new right now? I will continue work on a fab, mid-century modern project near San Francisco, a beautiful living room in the mountains, and a downsizing project near Yosemite.