One of the perks of designing a custom home is getting to tailor every last detail — right down to the knobs on the cabinet doors — to suit your own tastes and fit your family’s needs. Of course, that means there’s a whole lot to sort through!
Angie Bartlett, our talented interior designer at Paradisa Homes, helps clients look at every angle of their home’s design to build spaces that are comfortable, stylish, and enduring. In particular, Angie assists in selecting materials that are both timeless and durable, while creating designs that are flexible enough to work well throughout all the phases in a family’s lifetime. Today we sit down and talk to Angie about the whole design process, and how she helps homeowners take some of the headache out of home design.
What’s your role in the home design process?
After we’ve completed the architectural side of the home design, I start to look at what the client wants to do for the exterior of the house. Usually the client will have an idea — they want stone or stucco — but I’ll talk with them about colors and materials. After that, I go through and design the exteriors and send them to the client for approval. We usually get that nailed down pretty early. Then we’ll talk about what they want as far as the interiors. I ask them to bring in pictures they like to get an idea. Starting with pictures is good because there’s usually a recurring style or theme among the pictures that the client may not have realized they liked so much.
Based on the size of their budget, I try my best to incorporate the things that they want in a design, the materials and patterns. If the client says, “I love this material, but I don’t want to pay that much,” I’ll try to find an alternative. After that, I build a deck of potential options. We go through the entire deck of materials and choices and the client tells me, “I love it” or “I want to change it.” We look at everything from flooring to cabinet styles to hardware and lighting.
I also do all electrical plans. So if they want something specific, like if they want an outlet in a particular place, I work through all of that so we can design an electrical plan based off their needs.
How do you help clients choose products that are both stylish and durable?
Particularly for the exterior, we always try to find the most durable materials. Here in Texas, it’s always best if you have things that are light-colored, so that the home doesn’t get so hot with sun exposure. Darker surfaces can mean higher cooling bills in the summer. The main durability issue that people come across is actually inside the house, however — for instance, if the homeowners have kids, or they have a busy family life, or they love to cook, or they’re really hard on things, or they hate to clean.
A lot of people go into material selection thinking, “I love marble,” for instance. But they don’t realize that there are a lot of caveats with marble, and it’s going to age. So it’s all about finding different alternative materials. We can find excellent manmade materials that look really great. In fact, some of them even look just like marble or like natural stone. But they have a nice durability.
We also consider how they’re going to live in the future. For instance, some people may not have kids yet, but they’re thinking about having them in the future, which would be a factor to consider because kids are rough on homes sometimes. A lot of planning is making sure the materials that we put in a home are going to last through the homeowners’ lifetimes.
What about styles? How do you help clients pick designs that will endure throughout the years?
Usually I point out styles that clients like that may be passing trends. I’ll try to come up with a good alternative that highlights what they like about the trend but incorporates it more classically. We can also blend two styles together that will look great throughout the longevity of the house.
What about neighboring homes? Do the styles of neighbors’ houses impact what you recommend?
It definitely does when it comes to the exterior. I look at the neighborhood beforehand to see what the overarching style is and the color of the neighboring homes. For instance, you don’t want to have two gray homes in a row. You want to have your home stand out. So I try to look at that beforehand.
Of course, if a client really loves something and they want it a specific way, that’s okay, too. At the end of the day, it’s their home, so as long as they’re happy with it, I’m happy.
How do you help homeowners through the process so that it doesn’t feel too overwhelming?
It comes down to that first part, where we sit down together and look at the first design that I have for them. That takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. If they say, ”I like white subway porcelain,” I can pull that up for them. And then if they say, “Oh, maybe I want brick instead,” I can show them right away.
If they get a good idea from that first meeting, it’s easy for them to say, “I like it, but I want to tweak it this way.” That’s actually one of the benefits of building a custom home. You can take time to look at all the finishings and decide exactly what you want. It usually takes a couple of meetings for us to narrow it down. Design is very subjective, so I don’t get offended when I suggest something and clients say, “That is not for me.” It’s all about working together to get exactly what they want.
You probably work with a lot of couples. But let’s say you have a couple come in, and one half of the couple likes one style, and the other wants something completely different. How do you reconcile those differences?
A lot of it is figuring out where each person is going to spend most of their time. For instance, if one person says, “I really care about the closet because I have a ton of clothes,” we let them decide the closets. We kind of go space by space, and it usually works out where each area of the home is more important to one person than the other. We can also find a compromise. For instance, if one person really cares about the cabinets, and one person really cares about the backsplash, we can blend those styles to make it work.
How about as families grow? How do you help clients choose styles that will work throughout every phase of their lifetime?
Many materials we choose are very classic, so clients can just switch out pattern or colors. For instance, a family with a daughter might want a bright pink bathroom when she’s younger, but not when she’s 15. So it’s always a good idea to add colors in small accents. For instance, we could add mosaic tile in the shower that has that color, while keeping the rest of the design more mature.
Changing the pattern on the tile is also a good way to mix up the style as well. For instance, we could do a chevron pattern with subway tile to keep it fun, but it will still be something that someone older will enjoy, too. We also make sure that the materials that families are installing are going to wear really well. For instance, we wouldn’t install anything slippery in the shower. That way, an older couple could live there without worrying about slipping while bathing.
Some things are easy to change out, too — paint or hardware, for instance, or lighting. You can change those things relatively easily as you age, if you need to. The things that are more difficult are the cabinets or tile. So we recommend taking a more neutral approach to those, with a contemporary pattern for instance, that will always look good.