Growth By Design

Paul Miller

How does graphic design, architecture, and interior design strengthen a brand and lay the foundation for business growth? And how did Dolly Parton and Andy Warhol help me find the right balance in a local hair salon design?

In collaboration with architect Leesa Mayfield and graphic designer Emily Christiansen, I set out to answer these questions at this year's Shenandoah University Business Symposium.  The overarching symposium topic was Your Business Legacy.  

One of the uniting themes between interior design and marketing is that both aim to express the point of view of a business.  In our break out session, Emily spoke about her use of positioning statements to help develop a marketing strategy for her clients.  This was an eye-opener for me, because it helped to highlight the intentions in design that I have always called 'telling the story'. 


Howe Hall Astro Lounge

We were approached by Shenandoah University to transform a careworn space into a sleek and inspiring area where students could participate in professional mixer simulations to develop networking skills.  Every square foot of real estate on campus is vital, so the space would also need to function 24/7 as a study area.  From the talk:

Great creative opportunities are discovered in making friends with what we cannot change. Within the project scope, we knew that making large spatial alterations was not part of the vision. We would be changing the skin of this space and furnishing it to suit.

We wanted to work with the brutalist vintage of the building and play to the popularity of mid-century design.

Thinking about things that were fresh and innovative in the 1970s got me thinking about NASA and the space age, which led me to Star Wars. I got to calling this area the Astro Lounge.

Ed's Heads was a natural fit for the Symposium breakout session.  As a locally-owned boutique business, it provided a contrast in scope from the design for Shenandoah University.  And I could offer more than one perspective on the project.  From the talk:  

I am a co-owner and so I thought Ed’s Heads would be a good case study because I know both the inside, business-owner perspective and the outside designer view of the salon.

The salon had earned a good reputation as much because of a warm and inviting vibe as it had for providing quality services.  With a gorgeous historic building on Main Street, we wanted to connect to our local roots, while doing so in a way that spoke to the dapper style of the principal owner, my husband, Ed McKee. 

After all, why hide from being a small town salon with a close-knit group of stylists when what most of us are starving for is meaningful interactions with real people? One of my mantras was ‘Manhattan meets Mayberry’.

That was where the Dolly Parton-Andy Warhol Venn diagram came into play.


Read a transcript of the MakeNest portion of the talk here.

Trend Watch 2017

The new year opens up before us like a clean white canvas.  Our wish for the design professions is that we keep what works - negative space, clean silhouettes, user-friendly materials - even as we shape the look of the next chapter.  It can have escaped no thinking person that 2016 was rife with social tensions and polarizing messages.  What we who love the comfort of home know is that there is no greater balm for the spirit than breaking bread with people whom we hold dear in a warm and cared for space.  With a great deal of hope in the power of home to reset and renew the spirit, here humbly is our design forecast for the season ahead. 

Fearless Prints

The return of prints to drapery fabrics and wallpaper is a welcome addition to designs that have been centered around angular geometrics in recent years. Classic subjects like leaves, butterflies, and birds are being colored vibrantly and writ large to pack a punch. Use prints that are deconstructed or exotic in style to create a fresh and memorable space. 

Lush Scene, Onyx by Robert Allen Home

Lush Scene, Onyx by Robert Allen Home

Nooks

While open floor plans have justly earned their popularity, they do present challenges, such as allowing noise and food odors to travel through a house unchecked.  Additionally, a home with too few walls can ignore a fundamental human need for solitude.  We anticipate seeing a more conservative approach to removing walls in 2017 renovations and look forward to designing those cozy, tucked away spaces that allow us to escape for a quiet read or meditation.

Our Canal Point project. 

Our Canal Point project. 

Our Howe Hall project.

Our Howe Hall project.

Toothy Textures

From wall coverings to upholstery fabric, we're predicting densely textured fabrics this year that will rival your favorite cable skit sweater for comfort.  More and more we're spending time in front of computer screens; designs that are alive with tactile experiences helps us to better connect to real space.  Our favorite 'goes-with-anything' fabric this year is striae sculpted velvet.  It feels fantastic to the touch and stands up to the every day tests of active home life.

Toothy textures from our resourse library. 

Toothy textures from our resourse library. 

Artisan

Near and dear to our own hearts, there is a growing trend toward artisan-made home accents and furniture.  Supporting craftspeople who are carrying on traditional skills or developing the classics of tomorrow has numerous advantages, from knowing that your home has interesting and storied pieces, to helping to revitalize industries in your own back yard. 

A piece from our artisans in Indiana.

A piece from our artisans in Indiana.

Jewel Tones

This year isn't the starting point for this journey, but in 2017 we expect to see bold emerald and rich plum move from accent to backdrop, as milk white spaces make room for daring accent walls.  Perhaps the best lesson in color from almost two decades in design is to be a good editor.  Thoughtful placement of color will add spirit and sensuality to any home; white space and negative space - as in graphic design - are important palette cleansers to help sharpen the impact of hero colors.  

Mixing jewel tones in our Fairmont Avenue project.

Mixing jewel tones in our Fairmont Avenue project.

Plumb walls in our Fairmont Avenue project. 

Plumb walls in our Fairmont Avenue project. 

Warm Metals

The beautiful glow of copper, gold, and brass finishes will continue to accent anything from tabletop decor to cabinet hardware.  This year will see a return of bronze and raw iron to add the deeper notes that have been less present in metals in the last couple of years.  Expect to see metal used in fresh ways, like brass inlaid in marble or copper trimming on earthenware goods.

Regina Andrew Design

Regina Andrew Design

Our Staff Picks

Our Staff Picks

To celebrate our second annual November fund raising efforts for Literacy Volunteers of Winchester, I asked the Team to share something about a book from any time in their lives that stuck with them.  Here are their picks.

-PM                   

Triana's Pick

“One of my favorite books is Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. It chronicles a band of travelers making a pilgrimage to a distant church and the stories they share with each other to pass the time.  I love this book because each pilgrim’s story is told from a different perspective reflecting the teller’s life. Everyone from the knight to the nun is allowed to share their story; some in prose and others verse, some funny and some serious. 

No matter your mood as a reader you can find something to love about the Canterbury Tales.”


Zack's Pick

“My favorite childhood books were the Redwall series by Brian Jacques. 

In the world of Redwall animals are the only inhabitants and almost all are capable of speech. The stories are not told in chronological order and I always loved when a character was mentioned from a previous book.  It took me a long time to finish one volume because to get context I would re-read the book that had taken place when the character just mentioned was alive. 

One of my favorite things about the books were the elaborate descriptions of the banquet feasts that inevitably occurred.  How the table was set, what was used for decoration, and especially the food was so fascinating to me. ‘Did it just say that Mrs. Hubbell made a huckleberry pie? For a funeral?! That is not traditional!’ - And other such inner dialogues. 

Mostly though I liked the adventures and hero stories of the little animals and their different personalities. I haven’t thought about reading these books for some time, and it makes me happy to remember how much I enjoyed them.”

 

Emily's Pick

"Like all the runners up for the position of 'favorite', A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson was introduced to me in high school English class.  I still am not sure what made me choose this title over the other options on the summer reading list.  Perhaps it was half-listening to bits of 'A Short History of Nearly Everything' by the same author in the car with my mom.  Or the inquisitive-looking grizzly on the cover.

I was enchanted by the history that Bryson injected throughout the storyline.  I was encouraged by the humanity of the protagonists.  I wanted to also have super cool hiking gear.

I suppose that I read this book at just the right time in my life for it to strike a very significant chord of adventure and self reliance.  I haven't laced up my hiking boots or tinkered with my ultra-light jet fuel stove in some time, but the lesson of adapting your expectations while persevering towards your goal was not lost on me."


Paul's Pick

“The book I can’t shake is Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr. An unassuming find in a used book store, it was like a Russian nesting doll revealing new layers and stories that belied the slender volume.

This novel follows a couple as they leave behind their urban comforts to take up residency in a remote Mexican mining town. Yet the heart of the story that unfolds is made up of the lives of the villagers, each with an account of personal love and loss.  Doerr’s storytelling is simple and unadorned and I was not fully aware of how much she had drawn me into the lives of the characters until late in the story, when their tragedies and their courage intermittently caused me to feel sorrow and elation. I was surprised that the journey was so moving. ”

Let's Talk Benefits

An In-House Chat with Our Designer on Commercial Design

Lobby, HLSB, Shenandoah University, Photo: MakeNest

You do both commercial and residential design. What are the similarities and differences in your approach to each? 

Our goal in both residential and commercial projects is to identify needs and design solutions. Residential design is inherently more personal - often incorporating heirlooms and meaningful pieces - but both forms of design ultimately must project an identity that represents the client sincerely.

What would you say are the biggest challenges presented in commercial design projects?

In commercial designs, there is the need to consider workflow. Depending on the space, those considerations must align with the image the client wants to project about their business. There are markedly different considerations depending on service or product output. For example, a commercial office space may consume the majority of its square footage for internal operations; clients consult in conference rooms or in key offices while whole departments function out of the public eye. Conversely, in a restaurant, the majority of the space is likely to be front-side, requiring more artful presentation of the brand than back of house areas.

In your work in the commercial design industry, have you observed any design trends that just don’t offer any usefulness to either the staff or the guests?

Sometimes a material may come into vogue that is a poor match to some applications, but a thoughtful design team should disqualify those selections during the planning stages.

Entry, Visitor Suites, Shenandoah University, Photo: MakeNest

What steps can businesses take to avoid this mistake?

It's important to distinguish the difference between trends and fads. A trend develops more slowly and speaks to large cultural shifts - and trends are generally answers to questions about lifestyle. In residential design as an instance, think of open floor plans as a trend that addresses the desire with families to feel more connected. A fad is typically more conceptual and less grounded in how we work and live. Fads are commonly expressed in material or surface elements. To invoke a time-tested design mantra, less really is more. If one uses restraint with faddish adornments or avoids them altogether, the design will enjoy a longer run of relevance.

For the average business needing a refresh, what is usually the first thing that you recommend updating or changing?

We recommend looking at the business from two perspectives: inside out and outside in. How staff experience it inwardly and how customers and clients perceive it outwardly. Typically making a meaningful change to the entry space and lobby can profoundly improve perceptions about the business. Yet in cases where the primary challenges are operational, the budget for improvements might be best served elsewhere, for example the kitchen of a restaurant or the tech spaces of an office building.

What specific benefits does that one change provide to the company?

Updating the entry space of most businesses is a fantastic opportunity to improve traffic flow and strengthen branding. For a company that is serious about growth and a sharpened image, this can be a much needed reset. In addition to boosting morale with staff, thoughtful redesigns improve the way that clients perceive the business. We recommend whenever feasible that our clients introduce us to their marketing provider so that we can factor the messaging goals of the company into our design.

Can businesses expect to see major benefits after a thoughtful redesign and can they compensate for the upfront costs over time?  

When workflow is improved, employees are able to accomplish tasks more efficiently, which improves output and thus customer satisfaction. By sharpening the image of a business through interior design, clients and patrons feel more confident in their choice and more apt to refer the business to friends and colleagues.

Astro Lounge Layout

What about a business on a budget. Are the costs and benefits exclusively correlated?

Sometimes the best changes have more to do with editing than additions. In instances where the budget does not allow for elaborate architectural changes, there are still opportunities to improve organization and refine the appearance. Company goals play a big part in determining budget. Perhaps our best tip is advising business owners to consult with a designer before they have ever sign a lease or purchase a building. Picking a space that can grow with the company while not seeming overly large during the early phases is important. A large retail space with a shallow inventory does not project success in an era of massive online shopping venues and large box stores. Something as simple as a shell partition wall - removed with a little effort and some dust later - can make a shop seem full on opening day, keep down the cost of inventory, and prevent a costly move at a later date should the company meet its expansion projections. A good design factors in the future.

Lobby, Ed's Heads Hair Salon, Photo: Matthew Lofton

You have a retail store and office on a downtown retail street. How do you employ brand supportive design in your own space?

We have the luxury of being a style-related business, so our inventory creates the look of our space, and is driven by trend. We are big believers in the importance of consistent marketing, so we make sure that our brand colors, textures, and images are fluid from window signage to website, form business card to pamphlet.

What aspects of your own office design directly influence employee productivity and client satisfaction?

Our showroom represents an ideal for clients, so we strive for an experience that is pleasing to all the senses. That means the shop smells clean and subtly fragrant, that the spaces are organized for easy use, but not so rigidly structured that patrons feel uptight in our boutique. As our business has grown, the design office has undergone numerous layout changes to accommodate employee task areas. While this can be a moving target in a small but expanding business, we find that maintaining a clear line of communication with staff helps head off workflow issues through design solutions.

Five Designer Favorites Vol.1

Hello, Nesters!

There has been a lot to inspire me this year - from finding new innovative makers to rediscovering classics that had fallen off my radar.  Not too long ago I would have been steeped in roughened woods with a grayish wash.  Today we have rediscovered the quiet elegance of walnut and cherry woods. After many long seasons of linens that pretended to be burlap, we see the uprising of lux velvets and graphic prints.  Even rusty finishes are ceding the way for a tsunami of molten gold faucets and fixtures.  Design is always changing, always expressive of something about the moment.  Perhaps our economy picking up has whetted appetites for things that lean toward the refined.  Here are just a few of my current delights.   

Sap Cherry Wood

I find the lighter sapwood from the outer portions of the cherry tree so engaging.  When selected artfully, the result is a striking hi-low pattern that adds immeasurably to the impact of understated furniture like our Heartland Table. For many years Queen Anne-inspired furniture cloaked the warm and deep grain of cherry in dark stains that essentially masked the wood's characteristic cathedrals.  Makers now are drawing influences from Arts and Crafts and especially from Mid-Century design, so the grain is left visible by the use of light clear finishes.  This is the way sap cherry is meant to be dressed.

Photo: MakeNest

Photo: MakeNest

Graphic Pillows

Our collection of pillows from Arnge embody everything there is to love about mid-century design.  The bold retro graphics make me want to binge watch The Dick Van Dyke Show for hours, while the kaleidoscope of colors are a study in harmony with just a skosh of friction.  Having been schooled in the finer points of sewing, I was pleased to see that the patterns match from front to back so that the design moves fluidly around the pillow.  Each one is made to order in the USA without the use of sweatshop labor, which is another reason to tip our hats to this maker.

Wool & Silk Carpets

When I was apprenticing in design back at the turn of the last century, my mentor was a dealer in fine hand-made carpets.  Helping to show her selections to her clients was an education. Peeling back dozens of beautiful carpets was good exercise, but it was also like peering into the pages of a journal from an ancient people.  Combining forms from nature and architecture, the patterns and colors - as well as the art of weaving itself - are part of a cherished tradition.  While wool is still the most common material in a hand-knotted carpets, the addition of silk adds highlights that outline the design and glimmer magically.  

Vinyl Rugs

I discovered the designs of Spicher & Co. a couple of years ago and am still finding new uses for these fabulous designs.  Not surprisingly, these graphics are created by artist designers and not fabricated from a short list of popular motifs.  Drawing inspiration from vintage linoleum rugs that were popular well into the first half of the 20th century, there is something about these rugs that feels simultaneously fresh and nostalgic.  I like using them because they add a strong graphic to a room and because they can exist in spaces where sometimes other rugs aren't ideal.  And these are printed in house in Pennsylvania, so we feel like they come to us from just over the mountain, as they say.

Deco Influences

When I first spotted this chair at market, I knew I wanted to put a whimsical and magical fabric on the frame.  With its graceful arms and deeply scooped back profile, I was reminded of chairs from my favorite 1930s black and white films.  This piece would have existed in a screwball comedy - in the country house of the haughty old aunt who wears a lorgnette, winds up getting a little tipsy on dandelion wine, and eventually comes around to like the mustachioed anti-hero her wide-eyed niece wants to marry.  Her house would have gilded things but also ruffles. For me those Hollywood sets are an escape into unabashed style.  So we outfitted this chair in a colorful Asian toile, trimmed her skirt in velvet, and the rest is history.

Thanks for indulging me on a journey through some of the things that have been in my look book and on my mind this season.

Cheers!

PM

The Dark Side of Color Theory

There are many things to consider at the high level conceptual stage of an interior design, but one of the most expressive fundamentals is crafting the color palette.  Here are two palettes from recent projects that, while distinctly different visually, rely on a similar theoretic principle.  Each palette was based on the decision to promote artistic drama rather than the oft over-prescribed notion that spaces should be made to seem larger.

The Garret Room

When we began to noodle the best approach to a family media room in an attic of an historic home, we rejected the obvious choice of painting the walls in light, bright hues to make the space appear larger.  In this home, we had already created fresh, sunny palettes on the main and second floors, so we felt the attic could be better served is a deeply-shaded and cozy away space.  We theorized that the value of visually expanding the room was not trumped by the greater goal of giving the homeowners a nurturing and even theatrical sense of place. 

Because the house has a classic mansard roof, the walls slant on four sides as they approach a narrow jot of ridge at the middle of the room.  Two dormers - one tasked for window seating and the other for a modest custom bar - provided a fair amount of natural light.  By painting the walls from base to ridge in a dark blue, we promoted a cozy sensibility for the attic.  The rather beaten up original wood flooring we had painted in a green hue equal in saturation and value to the wall color, so that while there was some variation, the floor and walls had minimal visual distinction; our goal was to keep the eye moving fluidly with the architecture instead of the gaze hanging up on sometimes awkward transitions.  A large sectional in dark chestnut leather further promoted the rich palette, while accents in bright yellow and taupe provided points of brightness and chilly contrast.     

The Jewel Parlor

There was something about this parlor in another historic home that seemed to be waiting for dramatic wall color.  And our client has a peaceful and yet magnetic energy that we felt would be nicely expressed in a space with muted variations of jewel tones.  Starting with a jade lamp the homeowner wanted to use in the room, we built an analogous palette that moved away from blue-greens and toward yellow on the color wheel.  The use of a rich plum on the walls managed to serve both a warm and cool helping of wow factor.  

Because the parlor had a large vista onto a sunny, off-white dining room at one end, and a large, off-white builtin at the other, we knew that there was plenty of lightness to offset our wall color choice.  We had purposed a boxy turret space adjacent to the builtin for a handsome Japanese travel bar; we opted to carry the soft whiteness of the trim onto this alcove to further contrast and highlight the plum tone of the primary space - and to frame the bar for emphasis.  Using dark emerald velvet on a tufted accent chair and a geometric woven in chartreuse and cream to wrap the outside back of the sofa, we pinned down our progression of green to yellow-green hues. 

We're big fans of white-wall decor and recognize the place it has taken in contemporary interior design, but our opportunities to work in dark hues are always a welcome change of pace.  The important things to consider when deciding whether or not a room should go to the dark side is how the color choice will serve the overall purpose of the room and how you will construct a palette with enough variation and contrast to not be flattened out by the weight of the main color itself.   

Tips

  • Remember that the walls will be the background of the canvas, and the furnishings will create the layering towards the foreground. If larger furnishings have sufficient lightness, they will alleviate the heaviness of the wall color.
  • Darker rooms swallow light, so consider using a paint finish with a bit of sheen to help bounce both natural and artificial light. Know that sheen will highlight imperfections in the wall surface, so we recommend a professionally applied skim coat to make the walls picture perfect.
  • In a room where the wall color is more assertive, the textures of fabrics should be far bolder and the scale of prints riskier.  The beauty of starting from a place of intentional drama is that boldness is welcome and necessary for harmony.
  • Consider how a dramatic paint color will impact the visual rhythm of a space.  If there is a series of awkwardly placed closet doors, it is sometimes advisable to paint them out in the same color as the wall.  The same can be said of a chair rail, which becomes a light belt around a dark room, often cutting the perceived height of the walls and pulling attention away from more important elements of the design.
  • Before panicking when the paint is half up and you begin to waver in your resolve, pull a few pieces into the space and view them against the walls.  You'll never feel more vulnerable about your choice than when the room is without any of the components that helped inspire the color.  

Behind the Scenes

For our autumn home furnishings collection we drew inspiration from some of our favorite design projects.  The coastal oases of Martha's Vineyard and Rehoboth Beach offered us soft colors and buoyant graphics.  The smart simplicity of our urban homes guided us toward mid-century modern forms and artisan details.  And the elegance of the old homes we've designed in our native Virginia reminded us that antique wood and romantic silhouettes never lose their allure.  Creating a collection of American-made and sustainable furnishings was an ambitious undertaking; here are the mood boards we used to define our vision.

The Oasis.  Here not everything has to be 'just so' - this is a home that makes the hours after work and school feel like vacation.  Sturdy iron tables plant themselves where they're needed and the soft linen slipcover on the sofa looks its best when a little rumpled.  Shoes come off the moment you walk through the door and the piece of modern art everyone compliments is the doodle your daughter brought home in third grade.  Here you don't cry over spilled milk; you wanted a cocktail anyway. 

The Modern. This house isn't frilly or lacy or precious.  It is a thoughtfully composed design that favors simplicity.  The chill of minimalism is chased off by rugged textures and natural elements.  Each piece of furniture serves a purpose and everywhere you look there are testaments to artisan craft.  The sap cherry dining table is as smart as a suspension bridge and the custom sofa as handsome as it is comfortable.  This is the home of someone who doesn't believe in filler. Here thoughtful intention reigns.

The Estate.  You may or may not have grown up in this house, but you love that guests feel transported to an earlier era the moment they broach the porch steps.  This home isn't shy about embellishments; the moldings are elaborate and the walls are papered in garden scenes.  This is where emerald velvet doesn't feel too fancy and brass never went out of style because this is the good stuff. And while there may be the occasional new acquisition to add a spark of funk, the table at Thanksgiving is always set with antique china and Irish crystal.

Our design style is to mix more than match.  We use color, texture, and scale to make spaces pleasing, but a close inspection reveals that we don't play by the book when we're pairing objects.  When it comes to composing stylish design, we've thrown most of the rules to the wayside.  While we crafted our collection of American-made and sustainable furnishings with some specific inspirations in mind, we're sure each piece will shine when it finds new interpretations in rooms waiting to unfold.  Visit our boutique to explore the collection.

Surreal Journey

One of our many short summer trips took us to the gorgeously curated Hi-Fructose art exhibit at MOCA in Virginia Beach. Each artist tells a different story - from nightmare scape to upside down fairy tale - with refinement and stunning potency.  This art merges our ideas of the sweetly precious with the murkier matters of the human inner world. Here are a few among many at the exhibit that roused our curiosity and fed our visual appetite.  

Mark Ryden, Rosie's Tea Party 

Mark Ryden, Rosie's Tea Party 

Mark Dean Veca, Madder Hatter

Mark Dean Veca, Madder Hatter

Tim Biskup, Asylum #1 

Tim Biskup, Asylum #1 

Kris Kuksi, Eros at Play 

Kris Kuksi, Eros at Play 

Martin Wittfooth, Incantation 

Martin Wittfooth, Incantation 

A Love Letter to Summer

The cricket fiddles a sweet ballad as the fireflies spark the dusk. Now is the season of road trips and boardwalks; lemonade pink or yellow; straw hats and sunglasses; spaghetti thin tan lines; basil and tomato sandwiches.  Above all else it is the season of getting together in the great outdoors.  The living is easy.

The season provokes sweet memories for each of us.  Growing up on farmland, my summer nostalgia has a bucolic bent.  Never did our cousins spend so much time with us as when Dad opened the pool; its mesmerizing blue waves brought good times right to our doors.  There was laughter and splashing all summer long that only abated when the mimosa trees began to look ragged and for the first time since May the yellow school bus rose over the hill.

Here is a love letter (in words and images) to time well spent with loved ones in the days that smolder between June and September. 

BBQ

You bring that dessert I love and I'll make the potato salad you keep asking about - the secret is freshly ground cardamon.  Today is as muggy as yesterday and tomorrow, but a blue table paints a focal point as cool as chilled watermelon.

Cocktails and Music

And while we're chilling things, lets not forget to put a few coups in the icebox for later. The evening air will rub the frost off even the most vigorously shaken Manhattan, so lets cloak the glass in ice, shave in lemon peel instead of sticky sweet cherry, and let Lady Day lilt through the screens and out over the lawn.  

Slumber Party Stories

You're staying over, aren't you?  We made up everything nice in the guest room.  I ironed your sheets in lavender water.  We'll relax in the morning over coffee before the day gets hot. Slumber parties are for grown-ups, too, and we tell our best stories after the moon has climbed high.

All too soon the days will shorten. The night music of bug life will dwindle to a lone romantic scratching out a lament through the first chilly nights.  The fall will begin, as spring did, with pale chartreuse leaves.  Yet for tonight the sultry weeks stack ahead of us and all our warm-weather adventures are only a question away.  You want to hang out again?

PM

Summer Prints

As the sunny days of summer continue to unfold in an endless splash of blooms, we're taking inspiration from some of our favorite prints.  The craft of printing on fabric dates back to China in the third century and has spurred a world of gorgeous graphic imagery ever since.  Many of the 20th century's most prolific designers - we're thinking of Dorothy Draper, her protege Carlton Vernay, and The Prince of Chintz himself, Mario Buatta - have used prints to stunning effect in some of the most iconic spaces in design history.  Follow us on our indulgent journey through five glorious prints.  To keep up with our fabric obsession, check out our Fabric Friday hashtags on Instagram.

This Jacobean-inspired print is a classic, rendered in bold indigo on an ivory field.  There are few punchy pop colors we'd hesitate to mix with this beauty.

Drawing inspiration from the primitive forms of South Pacific heritage art, this playful print is the perfect foil for its warm plum and oyster white palette.

The art style of this bold tropical print has all the innocent charm of a children's coloring book, yet the thoughtful mix of blues and greens keeps the palette tight and polished.

The whimsical waves of this cheerful print cannot help but uplift any space they wash over.  A toothy linen weave adds dimension to the block-print styling of this design.  

Perhaps our favorite motifs in prints are ones that speak to the Asian origins of the art form.  This gentle and joyful garden scene invites us to take a journey into a serene state of mind.

What to Expect When You're Expecting [Your Designer]

There is something wonderful about the first time you ring the doorbell or lift the knocker at your first house call with a new client.  The front garden and the decor on the porch tell you a little bit about them, but when the door glides back to reveal the entry, the picture begins to clarify.

We have developed a practice of meeting with prospective clients at our office before the house call.  It is a half hour get-to-know at no charge: the client shares the big picture reasons behind seeking design help and we discuss our process and fee structure.  When we get to the site the first time, we already know whether the whole house is being remodeled or if we're tackling a few specific areas.

Despite having already met one another, on the first site meeting the client is sometimes a shade nervous.  They might say, "Here it is. Don't judge."

It took me a long time (and a number of my own home projects) to realize what this first moment must feel like on the other end.  The moment the homeowner lets you into their personal haven is a vulnerable one for them.  For some the uncertainty comes from imagining their own design attempts are under the microscope (a good designer doesn't judge, he assesses).  For others, the biggest question is how does this appointment work.

The most important thing to note is that the house call is simply a fact-finding experience.  The designer is there to gather notes relative to the project.  Rooms will be measured as well as heirlooms that aren't going anywhere.  Notations on existing materials and architectural details are gathered.  Photographs are taken.  There is additional discussion about the project and some of the challenges to overcome.

The house call isn't complete until the client points to something about the space (or to a piece of furniture their spouse has lobbied to keep) and says gravely, "This is what I was telling you about."  There is further discussion.

What your designer isn't very likely to do on the first house call is make a lot of suggestions right off the bat.  Until the floor plans have been rendered and the site notes unpacked, it can be an exercise in fruitlessness to make too many promises.  However, there are occasions when the best fix is immediately obvious to a professional eye and while he will likely reserve judgment until his homework is done, he may float out a tentative suggestion. 

The best way to be prepared for the house call if you are a client is to make sure the rooms haven't been cleared of signs of life.  If magazines usually pile up near a favorite chair in a sunny spot, that tells your designer a lot.  You like to bask in a particular corner; you're an avid reader of periodicals; you have a lot of issues of Cat Fancy for a self-described dog lover.  The clutter and the crushed cushions tell us where and how you spend time at home.

The house call is intriguing for the designer and can be fun for the client once the ice is broken. Hopefully knowing a little bit more about what the designer is hoping to glean will make it easier to relax into the visit.  

And cookies. Most designers will not turn down cookies.

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Still digging into your research about how this whole design thing works?  Check out our guide, 5 Tips for Working with a Designer!