A couple of discoveries from High Point!

High Point Mart is the largest furniture show in the world, and it is overwhelming for the first time visitor.  They have 11,000 square feet of showrooms in 180 buildings with 2000 exhibitors.  Who knew there were that many vendors of furniture, rugs, pillows, antiques, accessories, and bedding.  Blessings upon the Sustainable Furnishings Council for having this wonderful Guide to the mart, that shows where it's member companies are located.  Even so, I saw less than 1/2 of their member showrooms, I definately will plan on going back.  I am happy to have made contact with some of these vendors, and I hope to work with them in the future, to deliver healthy, sustainable furnishings to my clients. 

Some highlights include:

Gus* Design Group makes modern furniture in Canada, using FSC certified wood frames, and recycled PET cushions on some of their soft back styles.  I think of my self as being pretty knowledgeable about what green furniture vendors are out there, so I was pleased to discover Gus* as a new resource at this mart.   I was struck by their sectional options, and love the little blocks, with which you can work out your ideal configuration: 

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Jaipur Living  make rugs, pillows and poufs.  They are very open to using fibers that are sustainable, made from recycled plastic bottles, recycled Saris or Blue jeans, or Jute, which is one of the most sustainable plant fibers.  I love this Jute and Blue jeans rug for it's quiet, almost neutral texture.  

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Selamat Designs is one of the showrooms that I was super excited to find.  They make furniture out of rapidly renewable materials, and sustainably sourced woods.  They are riding the Boho Chic wave, which I love, but many of their solid Rattan pieces are timeless and useful for a traditional or modern interior. 

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I love their Ambrose Banquette, and not just for the fabulous green color.  Furniture that delivers a sense of enclosure is wonderful to use in larger rooms, when you might need to float some pieces in the room.  This would look great from the back or the front.  

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I did squeeze in a visit to one of my favorite vendors, Gat Creek.  If you have followed my blog for any time at all you know that I consider quality to be one of the most important characteristics of sustainability.  If your furniture ends up in the landfill after 4 years, it is not sustainable, you are just making ecologically sourced trash.  Gat Creek makes quality solid wood furniture, out of sustainably sourced wood, while tracking all of their waste and energy use, and striving to be the best and fairest employer they can be.  And, BONUS, I met Gat!

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Altogether a wonderful (if overwhelming) furniture mart.  

Why I love design- and keep running my business even when it is work

I recently had to renew one of my advertising contracts (yes please click through and see me on Houzz, but come back and read my blog)  And you know what?  It was kind of scary, it was one of the biggest yearly investments for my small business, and it was a lot of money.  Think: more- than-one-piece-of-furniture money.  

But what helped me make that decision were the many thoughts I was having about why I love being an interior designer.

There are so many reasons that this job is perfect for me. I love people, and truly believe that they are happier when they are in a well designed space.  I love having the green knowledge that will make the spaces I design healthier for the occupants, and have a lighter footprint on the planet.  I have always been most comfortable doing both technical and design thinking, and I get to use both my left and right brain solving the technical aspects of design and construction.

But the biggest reasons are partially selfish.  Design helps me be a better person, more the person that I want to be. 

I am extremely, almost obsessively visual.  I love when the stream of images coming in my eyes stops  the multiple layers of chat going on inside my head (and on my iPhone.)  When something says to me “Look, this is beautiful, just look”   I think that this feeling, of being in the flow of beauty, is why many people visit museums, or hike the high Sierra, or visit gardens.  They want to experience being taken out of themselves by beauty.

I actually get to create this feeling in my work, for my self, and hopefully for my clients.  However, in order to do so, I have to pay close attention to so many things about the world around me.  I have to truly enter into seeing.  Is the mix of tiles I am using all matte, does a space need some gleaming surface to make it balanced?  The client says she likes exotic feeling fabrics and rugs, what does that mean to her, and what exact rug would set the right note?  When I find the right thing for a client, I often tell them that it just clicked.  But I don’t tell them that is feels like a physical thing, like a puzzle piece sliding into just the right space with a smooth snap.  The right thing just feels happier and more relaxed visually, than the wrong thing.   Doing design helps me be in the visual moment, to spend time just floating on the stream of beauty.    

I also really want to be a kind person, and working as a designer helps me strive towards that goal.  The spaces I work are not mine.  They belong to the client, and at the end of the day, I walk away, and the client closes the door behind me and sits down in their home.  Talking to clients helps me enter into their concerns, their preferences, their way of living and perhaps even their dreams.   I have the visual vocabulary, the contacts with craftspersons, the textile knowledge, and the training in design, but the vision is theirs.  Everyone has a different image in their head when they talk about their perfect home, and my hope is that by listening carefully and empathically enough, I can make that image real. 

And the flat out truth is that my business runs better when I am gracious.  Interior design is always a collaboration, I am not an expert in installing glass tile, in duel fuel ovens, in faux painting, in cabinet construction or in looped carpet manufacturing techniques.  But I know one!  And if I am gracious, and a good learner, then I get to collaborate with all of these experts, as well as with my client, to create something that is beautiful and functional.  

Aristotle said “we are what we repeatedly do” and I am certainly going to continue spending long hours running my business.  I am lucky that these hours involve some much time doing things that make me improve as a human being.

Why having a budget is good for your design project, Reason #3- You will appreciate what you get

In the current economic climate many people are facing a gap between what they want and what they can afford. It is easy to see this as a beastly problem, or even a reason to throw up your hands and avoid needed design changes, (Please, not this!) But the reality is that every project has a budget. Even clients who have the ability to select more luxurious materials and furnishings end up bumping into dreaded compromises. Most people cannot afford everything they desire, and perhaps that is a good thing. Interestingly enough, I have found that many of the projects with strict budgets end up being the best designs when finished. I actually like working within a budget, it gives a structure to the many decisions that need to be made when redoing a space. So, to give hope as we enter the economic recovery (we are recovering, right?), over the next few blogs I will give you the reasons your design project will be better if you are working within a budget.

#3- You will appreciate your finished project more. As you work though a project, especially a remodel, there are many little things that you must fit into your budget. Many of them do not offer that much of an opportunity either to splurge or to economize- a 2x4 stud costs what it costs- but for many items there are solutions in a range of costs. Working within a budget causes you to consider the lowest cost item for each choice, in addition to the first pretty thing you fall in love with. You might want a subway tile backsplash in your kitchen, and think that Lanka hand molded tiles are fabulous, rich with variation. This might be the detail that will make your heart sing each time you look at it- but your budget will make you aware that the machine made tile is 1/3 the price. If you backsplash is 60 sf, and the cost savings is about $6/sq.ft, you will probably have one of two reactions- either “That handmade tile is so delightful, it was so worth the extra $360 out of my budget.” Or,“I am so glad I could afford that gorgeous modern faucet, because of the money I saved on the tile.” Either way, you are happier with the final result, because of the research that your budgeting made you do. The reality is that there are lovely products in every budget category, and that expensive things are only worth it if they add value that you appreciate. A budget forces you to be conscious of what you truly love and value in design.