When the homeowner and interior designer are compatible, the results can be picture perfect


October 10, 1993|By Holly Selby

When Erika Hush began to decorate her first home, she was sure about two things: She had $3,000 to spend and she wanted a leather sofa.

"Money was my biggest constraint," the 23-year-old telecommunication manager says. "I wanted to put up wallpaper and have new furnishings that looked classy, but were also budget-conscious."

A wallpaper saleswoman referred Ms. Hush to a Columbia designer named Harriett Stanley, owner of a company called Uniquely Yours.

Ms. Hush called Mrs. Stanley and the two women clicked.

"She didn't think my amount of money was below her," Ms. Hush says. "Some people wouldn't come out and talk to me for that amount."

Says Mrs. Stanley, "We walked through her town house and I told her to prioritize which rooms she wanted to concentrate on first. I told her she could do other rooms later when she had the money.

"She picked the den and she wanted it to serve as guest room, den and part-office."

After agreeing on an hourly wage of $65 for Mrs. Stanley, the two women got to work. The largest expense was clearly going to be the leather sofa bed, says Mrs. Stanley. She custom-ordered a smaller-than-usual sofa, sized to fit the proportions of a town house. The black leather sofa cost about $1,800.

Then they chose paint for the walls -- a blend of carroty colors. The job cost $50 for labor, plus the cost of the paint.

"Harriett did textured painting on the walls using a rust background. It sounds weird, but you don't really notice how different the colors are -- you just know they work," Ms. Hush says.

Mrs. Stanley convinced Ms. Hush that second-hand furniture offered a far wider variety of styles and choices for a person on her budget. Once Mrs. Stanley received permission, she scoured the antique furniture markets. Enter a second-hand lady's desk, refinished for Ms. Hush's den.

A few weeks later, Mrs. Stanley found an antique linen storage cabinet for the bathroom -- a room in which there was a lot of unused space.

In addition, Ms. Hush chose a comforter for her bedroom that echoes the carroty colors of the den. And using a sea sponge, Mrs. Stanley painted the bedroom walls a goldenrod color that echoes colors in the bed spread.

"Even though each room is different, the colors bring harmony to the house," says Ms. Hush. And she got a good start on decorating her home -- and stayed within her budget.


Continuity was one woman's top priority when she began redecorating four rooms on the first floor of her Owings Mills home.

"You can stand in the foyer and see all rooms -- so I knew the decor needed to flow from one to the next," she says.

In addition, she liked the notion of having a grand decorating strategy. "I wanted one person to create a master plan. Even if I couldn't afford to do all four rooms at first, I wanted to know where I was going."

Susan Sunderland, a designer at Louis Mazor Inc. in Mount Washington, likes to think of herself as a translator between concept and reality; customer and contractor. If a client says, "I like blue, I like antique books and I entertain a lot," she helps transform those unrelated statements into a workable concept for a room.

And as far as this client and designer were concerned, these two philosophies were a match.

As in many client-designer relationships, word of mouth played a part in getting the two together: The homeowner saw another home designed by Ms. Sunderland and decided to give her a call.

The Owings Mills resident came to the introductory interview armed with magazine photos of rooms she loved and rooms she hated.

From a designer's point of view, photos play an important role in the initial meeting, giving the designer a glimpse of preferences a client may not be able to articulate -- "a real point of reference," says Ms. Sunderland. For example, these photos told her that this client wanted sophistication, but not stiff formality. And that she loved blending textures.

Before beginning, designer and client walked through the house and discussed lifestyle: The woman and her husband work full time as a teacher and a businessman, respectively. They also have two young sons.

"I didn't want to be a slave to the house and I didn't want to have to be after my children all the time," the woman says. The method of payment, they decided, would be one fee for the entire job.

When beginning the design process they discussed continuity and flow, as well as color and style of each room.

The kitchen already was a blend of white and mauve, and, while mauve highlights are fine, the woman didn't want the color to dominate every room.

The end result? The four rooms are done mostly in beige with touches of black. Mauve splashes are used as accents throughout the first floor. Contrasting fabric textures offer interest and distinction to the sophisticated decor.

The round, two-story foyer has a white wood floor and an elaborate molding about 8 feet from the floor that draws the eye upward.

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