7 Interior Designer Secrets to Successful Accessorizing
My partner Irwin and I always talk about a client's "endurance" when it comes to the lengths they'll go to see their design project reach completion. Will the architectural phase – the often lengthy and expensive process of getting the bones right for each room – be too exhausting? Will they properly decorate a room, or will they only have enough energy and funds to cover the bare necessities?
Often we see clients wanting to stop short of accessorizing and warming up each space in their home because they're either tired of the constant spending on their project or they've reached a point of design fatigue.
We asked Benjamin Bradley and David Thiergartner, the principals behind the NYC design firm Bradley Thiergartner, for their take on how to help clients accessorize...and go the decorating distance.
- Be proactive with your client. The greatest chance of fulfilling a project is based on several designer actions. As the project starts, put together a complete and detailed design presentation. When a client can "see" their home coming together and how it will look fully accessorized, they get excited. It's your job to keep that excitement going.
- Pace the project. Once your client is engaged, they become used to the outlay of cash, but you must show them incremental decorating results at the same time. We all want something for our money!
- Combine accessories of higher and lower value. If you're a good designer, you can identify and utilize good design for accessories, no matter what the sticker price. Combine high-end elements with more value-oriented items, and show your client that you’re keeping watch on their bottom line.
- Keep your client involved. Discuss accessories with your client and make an action plan. Tell them that the "feeling" of each room will be made up of basic design accessories like lamps, artwork, pillows, throws, books, etc. But your accessorizing plan also includes your client making some direct purchases to add their unique personality as layering on top of the basic scheme. If you or your client goes to an antiques show or auction, keep each other in the loop; pique interest by sending on a photo of an item for their feedback or jump in with your comments if it's a special client discovery. Turn accessorizing into a close collaboration.
- Work with your client's collections. Embrace collections! Any items, when massed together, make for dramatic accessorizing impact. A collection of Mexican Santos became the focus for Bradley Thiergartner living room shelves in a Santa Fe project. Chinese bronzes inspired a display in a SoHo loft. Working with collections can cut down on the number of individual accessories you’ll need for a room – and their impact will be great.
- Engage all the senses. Accessories provide "eye candy" to a room. The visual sweep of a space should tell any guest about your client's interests and hobbies. Accessories should also provide tactile comfort: a down-filled pillow, a cashmere throw, a solid reading light. And engage the olfactory with touches of scented candles and soaps.
- Accessorize with a budget and an installation goal. Sketch out each room for your client and detail what accessories you’re looking for. Settle on a budget, which will be refined as you shop for and discover individual items. Set a time goal to fill your car or van with accessories, and schedule deliveries and the installation of accessories in the client's home. Your client can see the overall impact of accessorizing in one or more rooms at a time and can edit out individual items they don't want in the final mix.
So what are some of Benjamin and David's favorite accessories? Here's their go-to list:
- Beachcomber Baskets for firewood, large tropical indoor plants, dog toys, or magazines.
- Wood Gallery Oversized Mat Frames, particularly the 18" x 18" frames, give small items like individual ceramic tiles great importance and can fill a bare wall (the downfall of any room) with color and interest.
- Shore Birds prints are perfect for a client's beach home.
- Decorative glass Display Domes give any object importance – a son's first baseball, a daughter's ballet shoes, or Grandma's favorite teacup.
- Any crewel embroidered pillow adds rich texture to a room. Pillows add so much to a plain sofa, they soften the look of an upholstered chair, and they add pattern to a room filled with subtle texture.
Photo credit: Courtesy of Bradley Thiergartner Interiors, Inc.
In November 2006, Manhattan-based blogger Jay Johnson and his partner Irwin Weiner, ASID applied the popularity of watching videos on the Internet to the house-and-garden arena. The idea for Design2Share was born. On D2S, they share their insight, tips, and strong opinions about how people design and decorate their homes, entertaining over 300,000 visitors a year; their syndicated original videos had over 22 million video views in 2010.