A HAPPY LIFE - [successful businesswoman | published author | award-winning interior designer] - ASK ME ANYTHING

Rebecca West
Sep 17, 2018

How'd I become a published author, successful businesswoman, and award-winning interior designer? Was it by getting a degree in Geology? By volunteering for the Peace Corps? By teaching ballroom dance? Those all contributed to my success, but the real answer is... I got divorced. Yea. *cue the sarcasm*

When everything I planned for, all my hopes and dreams, came crashing down around my ears and I had to figure out how to start over while still living in the space I once shared with my now-ex-husband, I discovered not only a talent for interior design, but a way I could use it to help other people going through life's crazy transitions. 

Now I help people build little corners of happiness in a big and challenging world through my design psychology book Happy Starts At Home and with my team at Seriously Happy Homes - all from my very own life-sized TARDIS in Seattle, Washington!

I may be an interior designer, but it's not because I'm trying to get on the cover of Architectural Digest (though I have had the honour of speaking at Town Hall Seattle and Ignite Seattle, writing for Elephant Journal and Bustle Magazine, and showing up regularly on New Day Northwest). I simply want to people to know that what they surround themselves with, what they wake up to every day, impacts their joy and well being. 

I truly believe that everyone has the potential to be happy at home, and happy in life… Ask Me Anything! And if you’re wondering if *you* could be happier at home, I have a special gift for AMA readers: Click here for a FREE How Happy Is Your Home quiz  Plus there are lots of FREE articles, blogs and videos for you over at my websiteFacebook page and YouTube channel. Happy writing!


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OH MY GOSH everyone! Thank you for all the questions! What a marathon - I just sat in this chair typing for SEVEN HOURS - thank you for being so curious and inquistive about my journey! I hope there was something here for you to take away, and I hope that someday our paths cross in real life. May your home always be happy! Rebecca West

Last edited @ Sep 17, 9:12PM EDT.
Sep 17, 9:06PM EDT0

I'm having serious issues coming up with a floor plan in my nearly square 14' x16' living room. Any suggestions?

Sep 17, 12:50PM EDT0

Hi Denise, thanks for your question!

That's a tough question since I am not sure what your specific design challenges are and what it is that is making this room especially hard for you - does the room feel too big? too small? too long/skinny? Are there weird focal points or too many doors getting in the way?

Whenever I start with a project I ask the following questions first: 

1) what *functional* needs does this layout have to meet? That includes:

- *who* uses the space (if it's young kids, I might leave more open space, if it's grade-school kids, maybe I include a coffee table large enough for coloring that easy to sit at with an ottoman, if it's seniors maybe I plan for more task lighting for easy reading)

- *what* is the space used for (watching TV, playing board games, reading, entertaining a few couples, entertaining a large group?)

- what focal points or passages have to be accomodated (a fireplace or view or massive tv will all influence the layout, and doorways/hallways need flow)

- what kind of seating appeals to this family (sectionals, chairs, bean bags)

By answering this questions I can map out what the room needs to do functionally and then start mapping it out. Then the next step is to get those measurements with elements (doors, windows, fireplace) on a to-scale floor plan and start playing Tetris with it to see what layout might work.

Sadly there is no easy answer becuase every room and family is unique, but hopefully it helps to know that it's *normal* for it to be a challenge. Let me just add that doing your own space is the Hardest! Consider brainstorming it with a friend (ideally one who can ask questions like the one's above and help you design for *you,* not as if they were living there themselves) - it's always easier to think outside the box when it's not your own space! 

Good luck!! 🙂

Sep 17, 2:17PM EDT1

Which among the two is your greatest passion, writing or designing?

Sep 17, 8:01AM EDT0

Interesting question, and I think I have to answer... neither.

You see, both are a means to an end for me. My purpose is to empower people to live happier lives by changing the things that they can. That means their spaces, their thoughts, and their habits.

I do that through design and have a MARVELOUS time while doing it. I especially love the creative problem solving aspect of it, and I feed of the direct feedback and praise I get when I solve something they thought was unsolvable, like making this tiny bathroom feel open and airy

I also do that by writing articles on design, mindfulness, and mindset, and LOVE that I can make a tiny impact on the world with each word, while traveling with my hubby (this is us in Scotland - yea castles!!). 

When I taught ballroom dance it was about helping people feel confident doing something scary, and connecting with their spouses or dance partners in a sensual-but-not-creepy way. When I got my degree in Geology I paired it with a degree in Community and Environmental planning, intending to help bridge the gap between science and regular folk so we could build sustainably and thoughtfully. No matter what my current endeavor I want to educate, empower, and encourage people. The method and the tools are just that - a way to make a difference while I'm here. ❤️

Sep 17, 7:20PM EDT1

Best source for king bed covers?  Most of the ones I've found that are supposed to be king sized don't truly cover the bed adequately.

Sep 15, 1:35PM EDT0

Oh isn't that the truth! And I wish I had a good answer for you but unfortunately without going into custom bedding which can easily cost $1000 and lots, lots more (most of my clients like to stick with off-the-shelf bedding) I don't have a perfect solution.  I even chose to buy a king duvet for my queen bed for just this reason!

One semi-custom idea might be to take an off-the-shelf quilt and have a seamstress add a border to it (perhaps buying two of the same quilt, or two of the same in different colors). We do that sometimes to add length to off-the-shelf curtains that are too short. 

Another idea would be to follow a more European way of making the bed, with his-and-her-duvets instead of one large one, like Swedish fashion designer Naja Munthe did

This make take a little getting used to for Americans - we are so used to seeing one large cover, but it can solve the problem of a too small comfortable *and* possible save a lot of marriages. 😁 

Sep 17, 2:54PM EDT0

Do you have a recommendation for the best formation of couches/loveseats/chairs/etc in a room with a mantled fireplace?  This room is wall-less on one side, with the fireplace on the far side.  Very large windows with shutters to the right and left, and a grand piano in the corner on the immediate right.  Thanks!

Sep 15, 1:33PM EDT1

I would LOVE to be able to answer this one, but for this I would need a diagram of the room and some measurements. Feel free to send that our way at admin@seriouslyhappyhomes.com and if I get a chance I'll circle back around and give my best advice. If you'd like a more thorough answer I do have a design helpline service for help via skype or phone 🙂

Sep 17, 8:19PM EDT0

I am looking for a reverse-L shaped couch.  I love the idea of the Ikea one that has a hinged storage space inside the lounge portion of the couch.  Are there any brands on the market that have that feature, but are *ahem* higher quality?  Thanks!   :)

Sep 15, 1:29PM EDT0

I *think* you are talking about the Friheten at ikea

If so, have you looked at the Holt by Joybird

Or the Henry at West Elm

Hope that helps! Would love to hear what you choose and how it works out for you, shoot us an email to share your success and we'll pop the virtual champagne together! 😁

Sep 17, 6:13PM EDT0

A decorating question:

is there a rule of thumb for length on full length window coverings/treatments? 

I purchased a set from West Elm (maybe a mistake) and the length I got seem a little too short. Then next length up seemed super long. 

Disappointed and confused...

Thanks for your advice!

melanie in seattle 

Sep 14, 5:56PM EDT0

Hi Melanie in Seattle (are you as glad as I am that the cooler weather has returned?!)

I am sorry you are having a frustrating time with your new curtains, and what you are facing is a common problem. Off the shelf drapes come in four standard sizes - 63 inches for near the window sill, 84 for "standard", then 96" and 108" lengths - and it seems like builders and curtain manufacturers need to chat because window trim is hung often hung at a height that creates just the situation you're in - 84 is too short, 96 is too long. But don't give up, and know that you didn't make a mistake going with West Elm - you'd have had this problem with any off-the-shelf choice. Ideally your curtain will hang about 1/2" off the floor if you are going for that floor-to-ceiling (wonderful) look. 

Three solutions (easy or more challenging depending on your level of DIY comfort): 

1) get the 96" length curtains and re-hang your rod higher on your wall, if you have the room. (zero cost) There is often at least a foot of space between the window trim and the ceiling, so you can install the rod in that space, solving your curtain problem and also making your room feel taller. The key is that you may have to install the rods with anchors to make sure a toddler couldn't pull it off the wall, and that will put holes just a little smaller than dime-sized in your wall, but IMO it's well worth it! That also lets  you hang the rod a foot wider than your window on both sides, also making it feel bigger, and letting all the precious Seattle light in when the curtains are open. 

2) buy the 96" length curtains and trim/hem them to the right length. (medium cost) A dry cleaner/alterations place can usually do this if you don't have a sewing machine or the skills - hang your curtains, mark the length you want with a pin on both the right and left side, and then bring them in for a quick hem. *Make sure you hang your curtains and steam/iron them first to get the wrinkles out so they are hanging the real length, not the wrinkled-up lenght.* There are also iron-on hem tapes you can use to quick-hem too. If you own an iron. A lot of people don't any more, much less a sewing machine lol.

3) sew on a border to the bottom of your 84" curtains. (highest cost of the three options, but waaaay less than custom) This will take sewing skills or a seamstress too, but is a totally legit look. The cost will depend on if your curtains have a lining (a plain, usually white fabric on the back of a more decorative front) or are unlined. To make this as easy as possible go for a border fabric that is a similar weight to the main curtain - might be easiest to get the same curtain in a different color. This is a great solution especially if you find a bunch of too-short curtains on clearance!  

I hope that helps - I'd LOVE to hear what you choose to do - shoot us an email with your success!!

Last edited @ Sep 17, 4:33PM EDT.
Sep 17, 4:33PM EDT0
How do you remain inspired and continue to create designs that are unlike anything else on the market?
Sep 13, 1:42PM EDT0

Thank you for asking!

My designs are *always* inspired by the client, their life, and their home and since every human is unique, every chapter of life has different needs, and every home brings a new set of challenges, I don't find it's all that difficult to make each design stand on it's own. 

That said, I don't know that I would say that I create designs that are unlike anything else on the market. I have never been focused on leading the pack on new design trends I am just trying to create livable, functional, inviting spaces for folks to call home. If that means following a trend that has already been set because a client loves the urban-farmhouse look, that's a-okay by me. In my work the creativity comes in solving the problems the client faces with their home - how to seat enough people when there doesn't seem to be enough room, or how to accomodate "his ugly chair," far more than pushing the design envelope or getting on the cover of Architectural Digest.

It's just about creating a happy home, whatever that means for the person who lives there. 🙂

Sep 17, 3:18PM EDT0
What do you think is the secret to great interior style?
Sep 13, 1:33PM EDT0

Hmmm, I think it depends on what you mean by "great interior style."

When I read that I imagine most folks would think of "wow factor" or something that might get you a design award, and it's usually things that will photograph especially well - dramatic lighting, or bold accent walls like in this award-winning kitchen by D'Aquino Monaco

That is a totally legitimate interpretation of "great interior style" but so many of those designs feel unlivable to me - too bold, too stylish to relax in to on a day-to-day basis.

Great interior style, to my mind, has to both be noticable (who doesn't love a compliment on how great their home, or their outfit, looks?) AND comfortable. What good is a stylish outfit if you are constantly tugging at the skirt to keep it in place, or can't wait to get home to get out of those shoes? And what good is a stylish interior if people say it looks amazing, but no one wants to sit and linger there for a while?The best compliment I get on my home is that people want to hang out there for hours. I couldn't wish more for anyone than that. (Want to see it ? This was before I got my wonderful hanging chair and redid the living room, but it gives you a sense of where we started and what we did!)

If that is my litmus test for great interior style, then here are my parameters:

  1. It must be human-scaled and make people feel welcome, not intimidated or afraid to use it.
  2. it must compliment the space it is in and the geography of the place. Just like an outfit perfect for the Florida beach would look ridculous on the streets of Seattle, a space must fit it's locale to be truly at home.
  3. it must fit the people who live there. There is no right answer to whether a space should be whimsical, or mondern, casual or minimalist.  Audrey Hepburn and Iris Apfel are equally stylish women, but they'd probably look a little silly wearing each other's clothes.  

Thanks for the question!!

Sep 17, 3:41PM EDT0
What do you think the value of sharing your design ideas is in a printed book? How did you decide that was the best way to get your work across?
Sep 13, 7:19AM EDT1

Outstanding question! 

I think the value of sharing my design ideas through a printed book is:

1) it let me more fully explore and clarify my design philosophy. Although I am good at my work, I never set out to become an interior designer or to set the world on fire with my throw-pillow choices. The whole reason I do this is because I believe that what we have in our environments has serious implications for our general well-being, success, and happiness.

I knew that a book would help me elevate the conversation from "what's the latest trend" to "does this space make you happy and support your goals?" and "does this space add to, or detract from, your life?"

2) it added my credibility. Once I published my book I hoped it would give me a platform from which I could start a larger conversation. Through it I got the chance to speak to hundreds of audience members at Seattle Town Hall and also at Ignite Seattle, and to appear on New Day Northwest to demystify design and show it as an acheivable, positive endeavor.

Of course, now that I have published a book I know how hard it is and I have SO much respect for any one out there who makes the time to write a thoughtful and useful book, and who invests in the professionals (editors (shout out to Karen Parkin), cover designers (shout out to Michelle Fairbanks), interior designers, etc) to create as readable and beautiful a product as possible. 

That said, even without that insider knoweldge I was always impressed by anyone who was an author, so I figured other people would be too, and it would add to my credentials as I built my career. It has done exactly that, leading to my final value:

3) it helps me help more people. I'm only one person, and even as I build my company to include other designers, there is still a limit to how many people we can help in a month or a year. With a book there is no limit to how many people you can reach, how many people you can help. That's the beauty of the written word, and I want to help as many folks as I can.

Obviously it doesn't replace the 1 to 1 design work, but likewise, the three things listed above that I accomplished by publishing a book could neve have been done through my 1 to 1 design work, either. And now that I am focusing more of my efforts on mentoring future business women and designers I am taking this approach again, writing a book to share my story of how I got to where I am as a designer, aiming to encourage and empower those that share my dream of creating happy homes for other people. 😊

Sep 17, 4:01PM EDT0
How did you originally decide to go about actually producing a printed book?
Sep 12, 10:42PM EDT1

I *think* you are asking about the logistics of self-publishing vs traditional publishing. Here was my thought process:

Traditional publishing pros:

  • cache and legitimacy (over self-publishing)
  • hand-holding through the process, and pros on your side (theoretically leading to a better quality result)
  • *can* cover the costs of publishing

Traditional publishing cons:

  • hard to get as a new author
  • takes MUCH longer
  • gives away a lot of creative control

Self-publishing pros:

  • easy to access
  • complete creative control

Self-publishing cons:

  • too easy to access, so too many people have produced crappy books, so bookstores and other distributors may question your quality or legitimacy
  • can be expensive (with on-demand printing you don't have to buy hundreds of books, but you still *need* *need* *need* to hire a professional editor and cover designer)
  • it's time-consuming (you are learning a whole new industry, from ISBNs and where to get them, to distribution and marketing)

And what about the assisted or hybrid self-publishing options? There are lots of versions of this, from basically publishing coaches to tiny publishing houses. Basically, they do the hand-holding so you aren't doing all the learning on your own, and theoretically they have a list of awesome professionals like editors and designers and marketers they trust, so you have an all-in-one process that is time efficient. But you pay a hefty price (options I looked at were $5,000 to $20,000) and you are NOT guaranteed quality help, especially since this industry is pretty new and the companies (and thier commitment, quality, and results) are not time-tested. 

I knew my priority was to get this book out as quickly as I could, but that quality was just as important. So I decided that I would submit my manuscript to a dozen or so publishing houses (those that would take an author without an agent, since many of the established houses require agent representation) and then if I didn't have a bite by the time I was finished having it professionally edited I'd self-publish. 

In my case I ended up being accepted by a now-obsolete small publishing house. I had already paid on my own for my amazing editor (shout out to Karen Parkin) but being with Booktrope covered the cost of cover design (by the amazing Michelle Fairbanks), proof reading, interior layout, and and the stuff that goes into actually publishing, including ISBNs, etc.

Sadly, the industry is in flux and Booktrope went under, which left me in a bind with a suddenly out-of-print book - ack! When that happened I looked long and hard at my options (there was another publisher lined up to take on my of their titles) but I realized I wanted control back, and started my own imprint. So I guess I got the best of both worlds, learning and guided by great pros in the industry, and in the end with complete control over my book. #winning

Sep 17, 5:39PM EDT0
Who are your favourite designers currently working in the industry?
Sep 12, 4:58AM EDT1

For me this question comes down to who seems to be meeting what I consider to be the ethical standard of a residential interior designer - do they seem to listen to the client and try to solve their unique design problems (and, for bonus points, do it with a smile)?

Four of my design-crushes:

❤️ Emily Henderson - Ever since I watched her emerge on Design Star I've had a crush on her incredible talent to style any space. She is an amazing treasure-hunter and she listens to (and meets) the inner design dreams of her clients, dreams they didn't even know they had.

❤️ Nate Berkus - In my mind this guy set the standard for approachable, affordable, friendly design. I love to hate him, only that I wish I could have been there on Oprah with him - you're awesome Nate! 

❤️ Vern Yip - he always listens to the needs of his clients and, even on a silly show like Trading Spaces, tries to (seemingly always successfully) deliver elegant, thoughtful design solutions that fit the people who'll live in the space. 

❤️ Roger and Chris - As for someone I consider up-and-coming, I'd have to say Roger and Chris. They are cheeky, playful, and practical. Seriously. Just spend a minute reading any page of their website and it'll bring a grin to your face.

Plus OMG their sofas!!!! 

That should keep you busy reading for a while 😉


Sep 17, 6:38PM EDT0
How did you get where you are today, and who and what helped you along the way?
Sep 11, 5:30PM EDT1

That's a big question, impossible for me to answer fully here, so let me use this chance to give a shout out to three amazing "who's" that made all this possible (if you want more, I tell most of the tale in the book):

❤️ My hubby - As anyone who knows me or my book already knows, this whole adventure started with my divorce. But getting remarried to my new hubby was great for two reasons:

  1. he's an entrepreneur, too, so he totally understands my lack of weekends, long nights, and occasional desire to hide under my desk.
  2. he's a contractor, which was a BRILLIANT match *not* (as many people think) because he can execute my designs (we try really hard not to work together because we *like* being married) but because I can ask him silly, unimportant things like "can I knock down this wall and not have the house fall down?" I like designing practical spaces that are cost effective for the client - he helps me do that when I meet a new design challenge. It's great!

❤️ My mom - Having people on your team that will listen to you whine, help you talk through your problems, and cheer you on when you do *not* think you can do it is priceless. I am lucky enough to have my mom on my team in this way, who is not only a great sounding board and accountability partner (she's an award winning artist in her own right) but also is the one who taught me to see life as adventure, one in which the glass is always half full, and kindness is always an option.

❤️ My team - I started this journey on my own, but over the past eleven years I've invited people to be a part of the journey, starting with my first ever admin assistant Dana Little (an exceptional musician who ultimately went off to follow her own dream but has occasionally come back to help out when needed) to my remarkable team that includes our incredibly talented designer Angela who's attention to detail rivals my own, and our riduculously amazing office manager Leah who's sunshine and smarts keep this whole roller coaster in motion. 

I'm a lucky girl!

Sep 17, 7:06PM EDT0
What determined your passion for design? When did you decide this was your path?
Sep 11, 8:50AM EDT1

I've always had a talent for design - like a lot of designers I had thoughtfully put together rooms from my early teens on, including a perfectly coordinated dorm room with carpet I cut to fit the octagonal room. But I never thought of it as a career path because I wanted to do good in the world, as seen in my choice to volunteer for the Peace Corps, and my degree in Community and Environmental Planning. 

It didn't cross my radar until I got divorced in 2007. As I wrote in a previous answer:

"When my first marriage ended I was blessed to keep the house, but it was bittersweet because it meant that instead of starting "fresh" I was waking up every day to a space I once shared with my now-ex-husband. The colors on the walls, the sofa in the living room, the bedroom furniture... it all reminded me of my past, and kept me mentally stuck there, poking in the face with my "failure." One day I decided I couldn't keep living like that, so I painted my ceiling black with some leftover paint in the garage. It was... NOT a good design choice, but it was a GREAT life choice that broke me loose from the past and (partly because it looked so awful) freed me to redesign the space more intentionally. I sold most of my old furniture and bought all "new" furniture on Craigslist. In redoing my own space I realized that a talent I'd always had for design was more than just a fluffy, materialistic, useless ability to pick paint colors and coordinate throw pillows. Harnessed properly, interior design could actually help people."

But I would say I didn't really develop the "passion" for design until I started working with my clients and seeing the same wonderful changes happen for them that happened for me. 

  • One client went from suffering from situational depression to regularly having friends come over and feeling proud and confident about his space, life and choices, inspired by a living room and bedroom makeover. 
  • One client decided to finally put down roots and make her apartment a place she loved coming home to, which made her feel more able to date and bring people into her space. She ended up happily married to one of those people. ❤️
  • One client didn't realize how much resentment she was holding onto for her ex husband until we made over her space and she recognized how much of his stuff was still in her home and how much she felt she "had" to hold on to it. She needed permission to let go of stuff he clearly wasn't coming back for, and together we helped her clear out and make room for a new life. 
  • One client got himself sober after decades of alcoholism, and we worked together to refresh his space in a way that would help him move forward without moving out of his home, and remove some of the triggers and memories in the space. 

My divorce is the thing that made me take this path. My client's experiences are the thing that keep me at it from year to year. ❤️

Sep 17, 7:42PM EDT0
After all this success, what do you struggle with now?
Sep 11, 8:32AM EDT1

Oh.... ALL THE THINGS lol.

  • How to grow my design team but make sure my company stays true to it's focus on optimism, efficiency, and practicality without losing any quality (it's hard to replicate yourself!)
  • How to lead a growing company while still making time to travel (my hubby and I take one or two 3-week over-seas trips each year, and it's always a pre-and-post-trip scramble to make sure projects are done and the sales pipeline is full!)
  • How to stay on top of my email inbox (if you're an entreprenuer... you know the struggle).
  • How to take time away from the business to steer the business and determine where to put our efforts.
  • Maybe most: how to make time to write. Sigh. 
Sep 17, 5:45PM EDT0
Where do you like to hang out in your spare time when you’re switching off and relaxing?
Sep 10, 8:25PM EDT0

What a fun question to answer!

It probably won't surprise you to hear my home is one of my favorite places to hang out and relax!

As much as I love the inside (particularly my hanging chair!) 

I especially enjoy sitting in the guest room: 

Where I can watch the fountain in the garden where all the birds play: 

And maybe my most favorite space is the backyard: 

Where we spend most rainy winter evenings by the fire: 

That's where you'll find me if I'm not at a costume party: 

Or off on an international adventure: 


Last edited @ Sep 17, 8:15PM EDT.
Sep 17, 8:14PM EDT0
How do you prioritize a schedule and what needs to be done in order on a interior design project?
Sep 9, 4:36PM EDT0

This is largely controlled by the contractor when it comes to a remodel, and a good general contractor (here's a blog on what makes a good GC) will carefully schedule everyone so there are as few delays as possibly in the schedule (because time = money).

And of course the answer depends on the size project we are doing. Just a refresh of a living room: Paint first, install your new lighting and carpeting, then have your big furniture delivered, and finally accessorize.

Big kitchen remodel? Once you've demo'd the room, make all framing changes, plumbing and electrical updates, then insulation and sheetrock. Then do your surfaces (floors, first coat of paint, installing cabintry and trim, counters and tile work). Then do your finish work - plumbing fixtures, electrical trim, light fixtures. Finally, accessorize. 

It's a lot like making over a human. Get them physically in shape first with exercise and good hydration (framing and plumbing), then get them dressed (cabinets and counters), then do their hair and makeup (tile and fixtures) then jewelry (accessories). 

You can also think of it as "big things first" and then work down in scale. 


Sep 17, 8:26PM EDT0
In your opinion, is design an art or a science? Why do you say so?
Sep 9, 4:16PM EDT0

Hmmmmm, can I say both? Because it's both. 😉

ART: Becuase while there are lots of design "rules" no room or client is going to be well-behaved enough to fit in a box. I think that is why there is a limit to e-design, because to really get a sense of a space, and of the humans who live in it, you have to be there in person. Yes, you can do a TON with measurements and photos and questionaires, but design (and the psychology that goes with it) is also based on instinct, talent, and intuition - three things that I'd say are FIRMLY in the art category. 

SCIENCE - That said, design isn't some mysterious, ephemeral thing that only "Arteeests" (be sure to use a french accent) like myself can accomplish. Application of simple rules like 36" aisles for walking, and having a dining light fixture that is about 2/3 the width of your dining table, and hanging art at about 60" from the floor, and making sure that at least the front feet of all your seating in the living room is firmly on your area rug, and choosing a side table that is one or two inches lower (but never higher) than the arms of your sofa) can go a LONG way to creating a liveable, functional, pleasant room. 

So now that I wrote all that, I guess it comes down to what you are trying to acheive. Practical, livable rooms? Maybe more science. Envelope-pushing design, or creative problem solving? Maybe more art.

The best designs, naturally, have to be a combination of both.  🤓

Sep 17, 5:52PM EDT0
What role does texture and colour play in a room? Have you talked about texture, colors and shapes in your book as well?
Sep 8, 8:49PM EDT0

Both play an incredibly important role, with color being my most favorite too for transforming a room (check out the before and after to see what  paint did for this tub):


and texture being my most favorite tool for making a room feel cozy and interesting (can I tell you how much I love the sheepskin on my hanging chair, not to mention the weave of the wicker??): 

That said, I actually do not specifically talk about either in my book because in the past, when I've looked at "color inspiration" books, I've always struggled to know how to apply that to my own home. I wanted to create a book that would help folks figure out what they need from their space.

Focusing first on the tools of design, like color or texture, is like a bartender telling you all about bitters and how useful they are. They should start by asking what you want from your drink - do you want to have a light cocktail for a first date, or are you looking to throw back and get drunk? Do you like things light and fruity, or dark and smoky?

Only once they know what kind of drink you like can they make you a great drink, which may or may not include bitters. 

Only once you know what you are aiming at in your home (design psychology / my book) can you then identify the right tools (color/texture/scale) to get the recipe just right. 


Sep 17, 8:42PM EDT0
What do you need to know from clients before starting a interior design project?
Sep 8, 8:45PM EDT0

Before I start an interior design project I need to know: 

  1. Why are they doing this project? Everyone has different motivation for doing a redesign or remodel, and it's really important that the designer doesn't make assumptions about why this client is spending this time and money on a change. If you make the wrong assumption (like thinking they are updating their living room to entertain more, but really it's so they can have multiple member so of the family the same room but doing their own thing), then you are likely to make design decisions that are beautiful, but not practical for this family. And that is a design-fail.
  2. What they would consider success? Sometimes I consider skipping this question during my interview process (because I think I know the answer), and I'm always glad I don't! The words they use in answering this question always help me go deeper on the "why" - I hear things like "we won't be embarrassed to have people come over" which helps me dig deeper on who "those people" and what expectations are hanging over this project. Or "I'll feel calm and peaceful when I come home" which helps me focus on that feeling, and also dig deeper on what calm feels and looks like (which also usually includes an easy-to-clean, low maintenance house). Or "the cabinets won't be falling off the hinges" which tells me this is a functionally-focused family with practical needs, and I should focus on the problem-solving aspects of the design.
  3. What is it they want to come home to? This is a visual question, not verbal. I assign my clients homework to *show* me ten rooms they love (if it's a couple, I have them do this independently) and I draw my design inspiration from that. If I don't do this (or if the client won't do the homework) the project is miserable (in fact, I no longer work with clients who won't do the homework) because I'm just guessing the whole time I'm designing, and who needs that stress? Not me! 

Oh, and budget too, and their timeline, and any expectations they have about quality, and how long they are planning to live in the house, but those are standard questions and I can actually do a lot of the work without those answer. The first three are what make my process work and the design magic happen. 🦄

Thanks for the question!! 😁

Sep 17, 6:04PM EDT0
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Marisa Donnelly