As you look around your home, you begin yearning for something different. Perhaps you’ve had your eye on some new furniture, or maybe you just realize it has been a decade since you’ve updated your home’s décor. Now you’re contemplating a complete overhaul of your family’s living space, and having a mental debate over whether to hire a professional or tackle the project yourself. After all, you’ve watched your fair share of HGTV. You can do this, right?
Well, just because you may be capable doesn’t mean you’re the most qualified for the job. “People are doing things once or twice that interior designers have been doing for years,” says local interior designer Alan Garren. “Get someone who does it for a living, and who has the experience, training and resources to make the most out of a project.”
A residential and commercial designer, Garren has 35 years of experience specializing in space planning and architectural detailing. He is also a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers and is NCIDQ board certified. When choosing an interior designer, Garren suggests first finding out if he or she does space planning, which he considers the most important part of a design. If you’re building or remodeling a house, it’s crucial that you involve the designer from the very beginning, even before construction begins. A good designer will make sure your furniture, electronics and other belongings will fit in the new space, and also be able to advise on lighting, materials and colors, which often overwhelm people. “When you build a house, there are hundreds of decisions to be made. It can be very stressful,” Garren explains. “Get an unemotional third party...someone who can work with you and communicate with your builder.”
For those who don’t have the time, energy or funds to remodel the entire house, Garren recommends putting the most effort into the room in which you do most of your living, such as the family room. And keep in mind that kitchens are often the most expensive to remodel.
As a designer, Garren wants his projects to be functional, comfortable and attractive. He first looks at space planning. Next, he makes sure the furniture layout is good and all the pieces are comfortable. And lastly, he makes it all look good. “I compare what I do to a movie director,” Garren says.
So what is the source of Garren’s inspiration? His clients. “There’s a blank canvas until they start giving me information,” he says, adding that he collects all the information he can get—adjectives, photographs, magazine clippings, etc. Because every client is different, so are all his designs.
To discover what inspires you, Garren suggests looking through magazines and books, identifying colors you like and don’t like, and most of all, thinking about what you need and what you want from a designer.
“The room is a box until you do something with it,” Garren explains. “It should have structural character before you put anything in it.” This could be a wood beam ceiling, something different with the flooring, anything to give it character.
“Color is one of the most powerful tools a designer has to work with. You change only the color of a room, and it’s a dramatic difference,” Garren says, though he warns that color selection is best left to a professional. “Some colors, like red, you have to handle like dynamite.”
Garren also cautions against trends or fashions. “It’s OK to wear something like that,” he says, but permanent aspects of the room should be more neutral. Fabrics and accessories that can inexpensively be changed are better places to experiment.
One last important aspect of design is lighting. “You can’t have good interiors without good lighting, both natural and manmade,” Garren says. It’s an often overlooked aspect, and one that takes training, education and experience to do. Good lighting needs a balance of recessed, ambient lighting and also task lighting. “The more different sources, the better.”