For many, the thought of working with an interior designer immediately brings a dollar sign followed by lots of zeros and a paralyzing fear of getting the vision of someone else. They resort to magazines, books and Pinterest. This is not a bad start when looking for inspiration. The fact is that interior designers can not only save you time and money but can also help you bring those inspirations together cohesively and in your own vision. Guess what? It won’t require a bank loan, raiding the 401K or even working overtime for the next five years! And so, I’m really delighted to share an interview I had with Valarie Baser, whose interior design service is more than just affordable.
Shirley: Valarie, below is just one of my favorite mood boards found on your Etsy site. The classic colors of blue, white and yellow, textures and patterns give a lot of interest. Let’s pretend a client looks at this and says, “I love it and I want it but . . . .” Valarie, how do you go about tailoring this to your client’s life style and needs?
Valarie: Whenever a client hires an interior designer, it’s supposed to be like a journey. Honestly, it’s really a time a client is just discovering their style by learning about what they like and dislike. Just think of it like you’re at a restaurant, trying something new for the first time. In the beginning, you take your time to order, ask questions about a specific dish, order then see for yourself how you feel about it. If you like it, you’re happy. If you don’t like it, you probably want to know your next best option so that you can be happy.
It’s always a good sign when a client is honest and is seeking my guidance to help them find something that will make them happy. In order for me to be a good guide, I ask lots and lots of questions so that I can get a client to open up to really find the key elements they need.
Shirley: The above project with that client is completed. The client is elated, you’re please. Then a few days later, the client comes back and says, “Valarie, something is missing. I need a drop-dead gorgeous statement piece that my guests will just drool over. I’ve reserved $5,000 just for that one piece.” What would you select for that one out-of-this-world focal piece? And why?
Valarie: I would always recommend either selecting unique art or lighting. What I like about art is that it’s subjective to each person, so the right art can be very personal and meaningful. I also think that most of us love art because we connected with it at a young age. Before, we were encouraged to be expressive and creative till we were forced to grow up and become “adults.” So to include art in our lives is a wonderful way to visually express our thoughts and feelings. Now, let’s say a person isn’t into art at all and never had the tiniest bit of interest for it, I would suggest finding a unique chandelier as their statement piece in the room. Next is how to choose the right art or lighting and here’s what I always suggest. I suggest my clients to walk through their favorite store or showroom and notice the moment something catches their eye then walk away from it for a while. If that piece keeps coming back in their mind, even days after, then it’s definitely that drop dead gorgeous statement piece they were searching for.
Shirley: How did you come to be an interior designer? Were you the little girl always redecorating your bedroom? Were you fashion crazy? Or is the profession something you gradually fell in love with?
Valarie: How I became an interior designer is kind of funny because I was actually interested about it since I was a kid and I never realized it till I started school. I always remember going to the some home decor store with my mom when I was about seven or eight and “advising” on her which curtains to buy and I was very sassy about it. So she bought it, hung it at the window in the front of the house and would get compliments on it from her friends. Whenever she would say, “Valarie picked those, can you believe it?” me, pretending to not listen, would have the biggest smirk on my face. Years later, before I decided to go to school for interior design, my roommates in California would always complain about how they couldn’t find their belongings because I switched up the apartment. Then I would ask them, “yah, but do you think that apartment looks better this way,” they would say, “yes I love it,”and that’s all I cared about. I just like cheering people up with changes in the house. It brightens things up and lifts up the mood. Oh and whenever I switched up the apartment, I did help my roommates with their belongings.
Shirley: Valarie, for the readers, please explain your process when working with clients, particularly one that has never worked with an interior designer? Such as how do you capture their vision for a particular space?
Valarie: Sure, would love to. So in beginning, I like to ask clients a lot of questions. Most of the questions include asking about their style, what some of the challenges are with the space, if they’d like to include existing meaningful pieces into the new design scheme, what colors they like etc. After they define their style, they share with me some inspirational photos of spaces they love through Pinterest. Then it’s my turn to create a mood board based on what they shared with me. Let’s say they need help decorating a living room, the mood board may include a sofa that was inspired by one of their favorite images, a color scheme they would enjoy being around and it would also include some items that serve a functional need like an adjustable coffee table that can be comfortably used for a laptop. Basically, the mood board will give the client a visual idea on how each different furniture suggestion will look altogether. Once the client see’s this, they will like and dislike some items, which is when I step in again and ask them questions to create a better mood board for the next round.
Shirley: I understand you grew up in Hawaii but now live and work in New York—two very different lifestyles. If you could pick any major city anywhere in the world (such as London, Paris, Sidney) where you could work on a major decorating project for an apartment, what city would that be? Why? And how would you approach the project?
Valarie: Even though it’s so hard to choose one place, I would definitely want to go to Japan for an interior decorating project. I really love minimalist – modern design. I like spaces that have hidden cabinets, cove lighting and visual crispness with innovative textures as a highlight. I also like designs that are clever and shapes that are soft.
So yah, if I had a project in Japan, I would approach it with a minimalist sense but would somehow bring out some other elements. I wonder what a minimalist - industrial space would look like. To create a minimalist space that had a bit of a rock 'n roll and edgy vibe would be pretty different and cool.
Shirley: Thank you so much for sharing your time and thoughts on interior design and decorating.
Here are a few more examples of interior designs by Valarie:
For readers interested in learning more about Valarie and her online interior design and decorating services, you can find her at VmDecor.com.