From left to right, Laura Barnett, Jessica Lagrange, Joan Craig, Susan Brunstrum and Kathleen Mitchell. | Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

Designing Women

From left to right, Laura Barnett, Jessica Lagrange, Joan Craig, Susan Brunstrum and Kathleen Mitchell. | Photo Courtesy of Sweet Peas Design

Put four interior designers in a room with 50 women (and a few men) and what do you get? A lively evening filled with advice, candor, behind-the-scenes tidbits and lots of laughter! Yes, I was one of the four designers and also the organizer of that panel discussion at the Woman’s Athletic Club of Chicago http://www.wacchicago.com/. It was a wide-ranging and sometimes light-hearted event expertly moderated by Kathleen Mitchell, publisher of Luxe Interiors + Design Chicago.https://www.luxesource.com/  Rounding out the panel were Joan Craig of Lichten Craig Architecture and Interiors, Jessica Lagrange of Jessica Lagrange Interiors and Laura Barnett of Laura Barnett Designs, all well-respected Chicago-area designers. We all agreed that trust, respect, communication and a sense of humor are the right ingredients for a successful collaboration between an interior designer and her clients. As Jessica told the crowd – to much laughter – “We find out who sleeps where and how they fold their underwear. They need to trust us.” So true! Communication is critical as well. Our clients have to be able to tell us what they like and when they don’t like what we’ve chosen so we can understand their wants and needs. Another question we were asked: What are common mistakes clients make before the interior designer arrives? According to Joan, people sometimes try to transform their home into something it just can’t be because of its inherent limitations such as scale and style. Laura said that clients with homes in warmer climates often need to adjust their expectations to a more casual look that’s safe for swimsuits and sand – no silks or damasks! In my experience lighting is a major challenge for homeowners – lamps are often too small next to a bed, there are too many matching fixtures and unflattering light. During the question-and-answer session at the end a newlywed asked all of us for advice on whether she should include her husband in design decisions. We were unanimous in saying that a husband’s opinion is important, and that compromise is critical. But Jessica had us laughing again when she said, “Tell him he has to get rid of his black leather sofa and chairs!”

leathersofaworld-com

Sorry guys, the matching black leather sofa and love seat have to go! | Photo Courtesy of leathersofaworld.com

I might add – the $5,000 toilet he wants, with a heated seat that changes color, is a definite no! And believe, me, some guys are willing to splurge on something like that. Thanks to WAC for hosting the event, to all of the panelists, Kathleen and everyone who attended. It was a memorable evening!

Susan Brunstrum