Saturday, June 30, 2012

Notes from a Maine Interior Designer: inspired wire

To date, over 1000 people have stopped and stared at the chandelier inside my guest bedroom space at the Kennebunkport Designers' Showhouse.
I can only show you tiny glimpses until AFTER the tour ends on July 14th. 
Here you go:

Reclaimed wood, gilded steel, xenon bulbs-all designed and made in Maine!
WHAT you say? Yes. I worked with Inspired Wire Studio, whom I met a year ago and have been quietly watching from afar. After deciding that 1. their quality was fabulous and 2. I simply dig their creative process (inspired, a joy to interact with, and GOOD), I asked if they would like to work with me on this endeavor. Lucky for me they said yes. I submitted my design "concept" (below) and we collaborated on the design. I knew I would love whatever they made, since they understood and connected with my vision.
(click on image to enlarge).
This common understanding of vision is the same process they use working with clients directly. They create custom lighting. Hence the name Inspired Wire Studio! Below are a few pieces I really like from their portfolio:
simple mini pendant

The diffuser is genius.

They did the chandelier, sconces, etc, all for the same client.
As an interior designer, I love sharing my local sources.
Thank you, Inspired Wire Studio!

Talk to:

Maine Studio:
11 Cedar Street
Portland, ME 04101


T: 207-776-0589

Nora Ephron, farewell.

Nora Ephron makes an apple tart at her New York home in 2009 amid the release of “Julie & Julia.”
Nora Ephron-writer. Books. Screenplays.Columns.Cookbook! She did it all. Her influence can't be summed up in a blog post, and I recommend heading to the library and checking out some of her books. Her characters would have gone to the library or an independently owned book store, of course.
Below are images that I will always bring a smile to my face.
(Sleepless in Seattle)
The bachelor pad/ houseboat in Seattle:

the single, romantic/vintage loving girl kitchen set in Baltimore:

Sleepless in Seattle-Meg Ryan's pink kitchen

Annie: Now those were the days when people knew how to be in love.
Becky: You’re a basket case.
Annie: They knew it. Time, distance, nothing could separate them. Because they knew. It was right. It was real. It was…
Becky:…a movie. That’s your problem. You don’t want to be in love. You want to be in love in a movie
Sleepless in Seattle

And of course, one of my favorite movies:
When Harry Met Sally... Poster

The Manhattan Apartments! I will just focus on the best two:
The loft! Can I have one, please?

The brownstone!

The wagon wheel coffee table that represents the furniture all you men need to just THROW AWAY (er, I mean recycle).
And yes, I'll have what she's having. :)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

OMG=Notes from a Maine Interior Designer

I no longer have cable TV. I have found that only 10% (if that) of the entertainment on home and garden related shows are worth watching. They are designed (pun intended) for entertainment value only. However I cannot protect myself from reading the empty, poorly written content.
So yes, this article made me get up and blog. Thank you TLC for helping me MAKE the time to respond to this. I felt the article so misleading I feared that people I know would make expensive mistakes.
Here you go, the worst design article I have EVER read. In fact, it made me hoppin mad so my comments are in RED:

10 Things Your Decorator Doesn't Want You to Know

"If you're planning to hire someone to help you with your décor, you may wonder whether you should go with aninterior designer or a decorator. An interior designer can work on a design project from start to finish, including construction and architectural elements. This person has all of the expertise necessary to handle building codes and licensed contractors. He or she is certified under law as a professional interior designer. A decorator, on the other hand, is equipped to handle the selection of fabrics, furniture and color palettes. This pro is usually confined to working within interior spaces.
Hiring a professional isn't for everyone, but if you want to take that extra step and secure some help, there are some things you need to know. We'll share 10 trade secrets of the home decorating industry."
No, sorry, the laws vary from state to state.This is pretty common knowledge.  -V

10: She Gets a Kickback

Some decorators have special relationships with flooringfabric and paint vendors and get a discount for using their products. The key question to ask here is if your decorator is willing to pass along those savings to you!
A decorator could very well charge the full amount, if not more, on those items. This allows the decorator to turn a hefty profit just by using specific products, let alone the fees you're paying her. Some decorators will continually use their preferred vendors because they can make more money from them, not necessarily because the products are the best choice for the client. Be mindful of this and ask your decorator if she's willing to allow you to benefit from any savings that get passed to her. Or, provide her with a list of your own preferred vendors.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Do you ask the restaurant to give you a discount on your food? Are you paying my tuition loans back (from training in design)? Then, NO. Do you go into a furniture store and demand their pricing? Seriously. Also, the word "kickback" is a joke. We are not handed a check. We go home and spend hours on ordering, faxing, purchase orders, quickbooks, bookkeepers, and accountants. Do you think you are billed hourly? No. By the way, does ANYONE make money on paint? If so, please let me know how. Thanks! Sorry, but I always use the right products and pricepoints for my clients, not kickbacks. It's suspicious crap like this that makes clients think designers are out to rip them off. We aren't. I think the writer is projecting her own bizarre issues.

9: You Can Get a Similar Item at a Lower Cost

Little do you know, you can order those insanely expensive curtains from an online wholesaler at a much lower price. And that leather couch? Unless you're adamant about having the real thing, imitation leather looks just as nice and will help you cut down on your spending.
Talk to your decorator about your budget from the very beginning, and be very direct with how much you're willing to spend -- including taxes, fees and shipping charges. If you've fallen in love with an item that's way over your budget, talk to your decorator about finding a similar, less expensive counterpart. That's the beauty of hiring a pro; she'll know of something that fits your ideal décor scheme or lead you in an equally gorgeous but more attainable direction.
Dear ignorance, ALL of my drapery are completely custom. Who is this wholesaler you speak of? Why would I put storebought, standard size drapery that are not lined properly nor the right size in my clients home? Did you know that imitation leather off gases and is unhealthy to breath, especially for children? Shall we fill our homes with 100% chinese product? Riiiight. Yes, budget is good. But better to not try to redo things you cannot afford to do right-that crappy sofa will fall apart in 3 years. Then you buy again. Repeat. After 10 should have gone with the real thing. Love, me.

8: She's More Concerned With Her Style Than Yours

Most decorators have a certain style or taste that they like to work within, which sometimes means it can be difficult for them to break out of the norm if you're requesting a style that they aren't used to.
Before you hire a decorator, make sure to check out several candidates' portfolios to see what style parameters they're used to working within, and go with the decorator who best showcases what you want to see in your home. If you're after a cozy living room done in whites, be wary of choosing the designer who has color plastered all over her portfolio.
And if the decorator in question is absolutely sure that she can give you what you want -- even if her portfolio doesn't illustrate it -- ask for proof that she can get the job done to your satisfaction. Request references from previous clients, or insist that a clause be put in your contract to ensure that the job is done to your liking.
Those first two sentences are ridiculous. The second paragraph is only halfway dumb. They last paragraph is meant to be helpful. Clause in the contract...there are no refunds! Better make sure you, the client, approves all purchases. Which is how professionals work anyway.(DUH) But one must have something to fill a list of ridiculousness with. Professionals put their clients first. ALWAYS. How else would they stay in business?

7: You Can Hire an Interior Design Student

Most design schools have programs where students put their skills to the test for class credit or experience in the field. Often, their services are much cheaper than someone who already has a degree.
Watch out, though, because this option does have some risk attached to it. You are, after all, taking a gamble on a student who may or may not fully understand the rules of design. However, you'll be saving a good chunk of money in the process, up to hundreds of dollars!
You can even hire the student to work with some parts of your room, while saving the more difficult tasks for someone with more experience. For example, having a student help you arrange furniture in your space is a great idea, but talk to a professional about what type of fabric you should get to recover your couch and loveseat.
If you're willing to take the risk of hiring a student, the reward could pay off big in the end -- it's possible that he or she could turn out to be the next big thing. In that case, you've had the Picasso of designers work on your room, which is a priceless perk!
NOOOOO. NOOOOOOOOO. oh dear Lord help them NOOOOOO. While you are at it, see if you can get an illegal immigrant to work really hard for less pay too. Why not? We are looking to profit off humans, right? Oh there it is-your moral soul. Glad you found it! How about you come up with your budget, meet with your designer, and ask that pro to consult on some areas (with homework for the client) and be more hands on in other areas. There ya go! Opinions are like....well, everyone has one. Getting to many opinions and visions leads to a very sloppy finished project! I have seen the effects of too many cooks in the kitchen. Don't do it to yourself!

6: She's Using Leftover Inventory

Sometimes, decorators have leftover inventory from previous clients that, for whatever reason, they couldn't return to the store or warehouse. They might try to use that inventory in your space in order to get it off their books. If that red chair that you absolutely despise keeps showing up in your living room, make sure to keep an open line of communication with your decorator about it.
At the end of the day, your decorator shouldn't include things in your space that you just aren't crazy about. You're paying her to create a space that you love, not to take furnishings off of her back.
When have you seen this happen? Exactly when? Sorry, my clients approve all transactions and why would I have expensive mistakes lying around? I don't. EVER. What total ignorance-all stores/vendors have specific policies. Not sure where these warehouses are that decorators go to. Anyone?

5: You Can Use an Online Decorator

Submit pictures of your room to certain Web sites, and, for just a few hundred dollars, get feedback on things you can do to make it more design-friendly. This can include anything from furnishings to wall coverings. Some online decorators even give you a mood board complete with options galore on how to make your room as style-savvy as possible. has a virtual decorator where you can change the floors and walls of their existing room examples, and you can also upload your own photo with their free onlinesoftware download. You can also upload pictures of your room on to see which paint colors match your décor best.
Online decorators also specialize in helping you come up with solutions that include things you already own, so you end up saving even more money. Another great benefit? You don't have to feel badly for not using some of their suggestions if you don't like them!
One of the most popular and most EXPENSIVE mistakes not choosing paint colors with a PRO insides your home!! Light determines color, every time. Online decorating IS easy-you are picking out catalog pictures and have no idea what they look like in person, if the your computer monitor affects the colors, or if they will coordinate in person. So while its cheaper, it will cost you far more money in the long run in mistakes and mishaps. My clients in CA know I won't work this way (and yes I do work cross country, still). 

4: You Can Hire Her by the Hour

This is a little known fact, but you don't have to bring in a designer to complete an entire job if you don't want to. You may be the type that spends most of your time at Home Depot and wants to do things yourself, which is great! If you get stuck on part of your project, like what color tile to put in your bathroom, you can bring in reinforcements to help you with the things you need a professional eye for. Having a designer help you only on big design elements leaves plenty of room for you to incorporate your own personality and design inspiration into the space.
Finally, something that isn't completely idiotic. Yes, you can hire by the hour. However this is a pretty widely known fact since we discuss our rates ON OUR WEBSITES. Duh.

3: You Can Get Free Advice

Your local design center or furniture store is likely to have designers on call who can help you with almost any decorating issues you may have. Take advantage of the knowledgeable professionals who are standing by to help you with one small piece of your project or with the overall atmosphere of your space. From fabric choices to sofa styles, these designers know what they're talking about!
Some in-store designers, such as those at Pottery Barn, will actually visit your home in order to give you complimentary design advice that best fits your personality and space. Although it would be a nice gesture to buy their merchandise in exchange for their design services, there are no strings attached and you aren't required to purchase anything. It's a fabulous way to get pointed guidance for free with no commitments. What could be better than that?
This is one of the most scummy things about our industry. In this economy, plenty of pro's with education are working at furniture stores, and yes even big box home stores on a commission or minimum wage plus commission pay structure. It is not ideal. If they give their time to you, and you waste it or rip off their design work, they are actually losing income. Please don't think they are being paid more than $7-$10 an hour for their "free" advice. Only use them if you really do just need help with buying furniture and decor. The authors excitement over no commitments saddens me, because it is another example of devaluing our industry and being borderline dishonest/opportunist. Do you want that karma in your house?

2: She Might Have More Important Clients

Most decorators have more than one client at a time, so don't expect for them to give you their full, undivided attention. Some decorators also have clients that they work with on a regular basis. Although it's important for them to establish a good rapport with all of their clients, those lasting and consistent relationships are of huge value to them. This may mean that you get pushed under the rug sometimes because of a higher priority client.
It may seem like a silly question to ask, but find out if your decorator has time for you. Be clear about when you want to see your project completed, and make sure that she has the available hours to put into it.
Finally! A good point. Yes ask this, and also be committed to YOUR time frame. Designers (good ones) are always busy and will schedule according to deadline. I am not going to hold up a kitchen renovation involving contractors, plumbers, tile installers, because one client wants to go rug shopping on a whim.

1: You Could Pay Hidden Referral Fees

It's time to paint your living room and build those custom bookcases that you just can't live without, and you're so excited. You need to hire a contractor who can get the job done, and your decorator wants to hire someone off of her preferred list of service providers. But beware -- sometimes using your decorator's favorite contactors can be pricier than finding a contractor on your own. You might get charged more, only for the markup to be given back to the decorator as a referral fee.
For example, if a contractor normally charges $400 to build out a custom bookcase, he might charge you $500 only to pass along the extra $100 to your designer as a referral fee for hiring him. However, don't automatically become suspicious if your decorator wants you to use people he or she has worked with in the past. Chances are, those contractors are ones that the decorator trusts and can rely on.
OOOOh! Lets get readers really freaked out so they come back for more pointless guidance, click on our advertisers on our blog, and make us $! That is the entire purpose of this column!! I don't take kickbacks, I am always on the side of my clients. Often, clients ask me to use their contractors and painters. Know how many times that has been a smooth process? Not once. They were costlier because they knew they would not get repeat business of that ONE client. They do, however, get repeat business from a designer if THEY DO A GOOD JOB AND KEEP THE CLIENT HAPPY. They also don't have to spend $ on advertising because the referrals keep them in business. But, hey what do I know. I actually do this for a living. Enjoy.

If you would like to talk to an ACTUAL Interior Designer who gives honest, direct advice, contact Designing your home can be a smooth, enjoyable process. It is not about spending every penny, following trends, or hunting the hugest discount possible. Your home should be your haven; a reflection of you on your best day.-Vanessa

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Good Design Sells-but who sells it?

My staging Mantra is "Good design sells".
I get asked ALL the time, who do I recommend to list property with?
Here is a short list of people I have worked closely with and am comfortable recommending.
Interview a couple people, see who you mesh with. It is a personal choice and I can't dictate that.  This list simple comes from working repeatedly with these pros and seeing much of what clients don't see: hard work, true concern for clients well being, excellent market knowledge.
 It is more than knowing or liking a Realtor-I know and like plenty. It is REPEATEDLY working with them. Hoping repeating the word repeating has repetitive impact. Er, moving on...they also all work with buyers, and I am happy to recommend:

Richard Beal
Primary:(207) 253-3180
Cell:(207) 518-8637

Anne Marie Cooke
Primary:(207) 553-1306
Cell:(207) 838-4705


Tom Landry
Primary:(207) 775-0248
Cell:(207) 939-0185

Glenn Reeves
 Primary:(207) 749-4509
Cell:(207) 749-4509

Bridgette Lynch Vermette
Primary:(207) 553-2680
Cell:(207) 318-3421

Yes, they are all in alphabetical order

Happy Selling!

Successful Realtors partner with designers and stagers. Why? Because they are busy. Busy doing their jobs, marketing your properties, and finding you a home. If they spent the time staging all their properties themselves, they are not producing volume sales. The stager does what they do full time, and therefore are quite skilled at it. It is very, very simple. 

Professional Stagers Are:
  • Trained. Either in Interior Design or a lengthy staging course. Not a one day online webinar. Not with their self taught style (that is an oxymoron by the way).
  • Insured. 
  • RESA members. (REAL ESTATE STAGING ASSOC). I am RESA PRO, and am the only one in Maine who is. Requires a certain amount of time in business, no lawsuits or complaints, insurance, code of ethics, CEU's....It seperates hobbyists from pro's.
  • Own their own inventory. The best ones warehouse it-seriously. I do, and it's a pain. But I can achieve any style, on any budget. That is value.
  • Have a portfolio of a broad range of houses-style, price, Realtor. 
  • Do not knock off my logo (while this is funny, it's not a joke).

Fiore Interiors is an Interior Design firm in Portland, Maine. We specialize in Real Estate Staging. We are not Realtors. We are not in house for any one specific Realtor. We happily help Realtors and homeowners sell their homes for the best value and least days on the market. We design a smoother sales process. 

Feel welcome to contact us here.