Williams-Sonoma Designer Series

 Last week in my Materials, Finishes + Sources class, the lecture and discussion was on selection criteria for interior materials.  There is much to consider.  Budget, design concept, existing conditions and client's habits are just some of the things that need to be analyzed.  This interview with Heather Clawson sums up many of these issues perfectly. 


In addition to owning her own interior design and consulting business, Heather Clawson is the author of the popular design blog Habitually Chic.
Listen before you leap. I start by talking to my clients to get a better feel for their aesthetic and how they envision using the space. Knowing if they plan to entertain, need child-friendly fabrics, or have pieces that can be moved from another room or taken out of storage is key. It's also crucial to figure out the budget so that I can make the right choices and get the most for a client's money. Paint and wallpaper can make a huge impact, so I try to pinpoint what's happening on the walls early on in the process.
Think practically. Designers have to avoid forcing their will on clients or choosing the most expensive options instead of thinking about how a room will actually be used. I was at a beach house in the Hamptons recently, and was shocked that the designer had chosen silk fabric for the sofas in the living room across from the pool. In a family with four boys, it seems inevitable that one or all of them might run in from the pool and sit on the sofa with wet hair or bathing suits! I always try to think of all possible problems that might occur before the design is executed.
Have a seat. When I'm selecting a sofa, comfort comes first. I have a client now who is 6'5" so though I made suggestions, he really needed to go to showrooms and try out different styles to sort out what felt best for someone of his height. Another important thing to do when picking a sofa for a New York City apartment is to make sure it will fit in the freight elevator and through the doorway!
Be consistent. It's easiest to stick with neutrals for larger upholstered pieces, and work in brighter colors with throw pillows, which are less of a hassle and cheaper to swap out if you get sick of them. Make sure that the palette of each room works within the context of the entire house. This is especially important in smaller city apartments where one room tends to bleed into another.
Pay attention to detail. Without accessories, a room reminds me of a woman who got dressed and forgot to put on jewelry. Small accents create another layer and keep a space from looking cold or boring. I avoid buying everything from the same store or period. The most interesting spaces offer a mix of modern and antique from a bunch of different sources. Flowers or potted plants help create a warm and inviting environment. Placing favorite books on a table and a cashmere throw blanket on the arm of a chair also sets a nice mood.
Make it your own. A house should feel personal to a client. I love incorporating family heirlooms or anything that has a lot of sentimental value. If we're starting totally from scratch, I try to choose pieces like marble Buddha heads or old art books that look like the client could have picked them up along their travels or inherited them. I don't want anything to look too done—a space should never look like a designer came in and did it all.
from Williams-Sonoma designer series
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