Why Hire an Interior Designer?

A large part of my career has been spent helping clients reach the end of the first design layer in their homes.  While quite possibly the most important layer in creating a well designed, fabulous and functional home…it by no means ends there.  This first layer is the foundation for every thing that comes after, but it does little to impart coziness, convenience or even the personality of the individual client. The first layer as I define it consists of the layout and finishes.  Wall color, flooring, cabinet, lighting, plumbing, and counter top selections…the “finish bones” of the house that combined with a well thought out and client tailored floor plan create that all important first layer.  But at this point, the home is still a shell awaiting the customization that the next layers impart.  For most people building a new home or doing a large scale remodeling project, it is impossible to do anything besides focus on this first layer until it's completed.  Many times I've asked questions about furnishings or window treatments while selecting interior finishes with a client and they’ve responded that they’ve given no thought to those items and warned me that their head may spin off and blow up if I insist we discuss it then and there.  But the reality is, if we fail to visualize and consider our design Gestalt, we jeopardize the unity of the space and are much more likely to make missed steps along the way that will prevent us from truly making our house the home we desire and need.


In order to achieve that aesthetic cohesiveness and the seamless function we aspire to, visualization and creation of a design thought hierarchy are both essential.  In other words, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. This is where your professionals come into the picture. The architect and/or general contractor lay the groundwork quite literally for the home.  With the client leading the way, they establish the floor plan, site plan, construction schedule and overall create a concept of the homes existence taking it from a dream into the first step toward reality.  This is an exciting step, with the right pros on board clients begin to understand options and the ability to customize the home.  It can also be overwhelming to certain home owners for the exact same reasons.  Enter the professional interior designer.

The interior designer client relationship can possibly be even more personal than the one the client has with the GC and architect.  The designer should learn about the clients personality and lifestyle to a more detailed degree so they can fully understand the client needs and wants.  And since the designer often speaks on behalf of the client throughout the process of building or remodeling, it is essential that the client and designer have good communication and a great working relationship.  It certainly helps if the client and designer create a friendship and enjoy each other's company as much time will be spent together sharing thoughts and they may potentially encounter opposing views while making decisions together. The designer should help the home owner keep their thoughts organized and focused while at the same time never losing track of the overall design goals typically established at the first couple client meetings.  A good designer is the keeper of the design Gestalt allowing the client to keep their sanity and live life as close to “usual” while going though the consuming process of designing and building their dream home.  A good designer should offer new ideas and product options to the client appropriate to the big picture while always respecting the clients own personal tastes and wishes. With this directed focus, the first layer of design can easily and beautifully be completed making the experience enjoyable for the client.


The next layer includes major furnishings, appliances, window treatments and closet storage solutions.  If the overall design goals have been considered throughout the process, all the appliances and furnishings will not only fit the spaces they serve but they will also be aesthetically and functionally ideal in their role.  Window treatments are often times neglected in the early stages of design planning.  A poorly thought out piece of door hardware, the wrong patio door or window selection can substantially narrow window treatment options taking the overall design to a place the client never intended or wanted.  Closet storage solutions should be discussed early in the design process also to ensure the clients storage needs can be met with the planned storage space.  The general contractor can make modifications to storage areas as long as it happens early enough in the planning and construction process.  The devil is truly in the details, and having an interior design pro involved early on whom you can draw from their experiences is key to ensuring you will not make mistakes along the way, or if you do…that you receive guidance to reasonable and workable solutions.

Next comes the all important fluffy part of designing your home…the final design layer. This is the opportunity to add color, texture and interest with artwork, rugs, accessories and secondary furnishing items.  This is accomplished by incorporating personal items that not only look great in the spaces but evoke memories of the clients family, friends, travels and life experiences.  Whether they were previous possessions, family heirlooms, flee market finds or newly purchased items…these elements add true personality and customize the spaces.  If this last layer is well thought out, intentionally these items can be mixed and matched from one room to the next as the designer or the client sees opportunity or reason.  They can be changed out over time to help keep the spaces fresh or to make room for more important pieces as they are acquired along life’s path.

Enlist the help of the right professionals for your new construction or remodeling project and it will be the difference between the experience being thoroughly enjoyable or completely miserable and the end result fulfilling your dreams or falling short of justifying the time and monetary investment.  Look for professionals who work well together, your contractor may recommend an architect or vice versa.  Either your contractor or your architect may suggest a designer to assist you along the way as well.  Don’t rush through the process of selecting your own “dream team.” Interview them, ask for references and to see actual homes they have designed or built and photos of past work.  Be sure their design style, quality philosophy and business ethics mesh with yours.  The process can take years from start to finish and for most families, it will be their one shot at creating a custom home they will literally spend the rest of their life in.  Call or email Annette at ABK Interiors to take the first step toward selecting your very own dream team today.

New Beginnings

Life is full of wonderful surprises, some are obvious blessings and others take a while to reveal the beauty they bring to our world. But too often our time is consumed spinning, racing to win some silly undefined race….leaving us oblivious to life’s blessings and opportunities until we are either hit upside the head rendering us dumbfounded that it took us so long to wake up, or until it's too late and the door has closed.

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Time is the most precious commodity we possess, if we do indeed posses it rather than it possessing us. This year I realized that in a blink of an eye my spirited curly haired, dimpled toddler had turned into a vibrant, beautiful, intelligently quirky young lady. I simultaneously understood at that moment that the time I have left to teach her life’s most important lessons is dwindling. So I decided to take the leap of faith in myself, to trust my instincts and Carpe Diem…and ABK Interiors was born.  

For the last twenty some years it has been my dream start my own business, to ply my trade as an interior designer and build it from nothing into everything I believed it could be. Now as I enter this new and exciting chapter in my career and life, I have the opportunity to teach my daughter that risk is just another word for taking a gutsy opportunity, for bravely taking a chance and believing in yourself. I have the opportunity to share my God given talents and passion for what I do with the world, fulfilling my professional aspirations. I have the opportunity to stop spinning, to take a breath and be kind, polite and be the change in the world we all want to see. Sometimes a new beginning in one aspect of life can truly be the gateway to making other even more important changes in your life.

What’s Your Favorite Color?

My very inquisitive, artistic 10-year-old daughter asked me one lazy Saturday afternoon, "Mom, what's your favorite color?" Simple enough question I supposed but I could not answer it simply. I replied that individual colors don't get me excited, rather their combinations. A color by itself can be attractive and even evocative of memories and emotions, but true appreciation for it requires contrast and complements.

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Here in the Midwest we are often accused of being bland, unexciting and in general afraid to commit to color in our home furnishings and other fashion related areas of our lives. Ironic since half our year is spent in a monochromatic world that resembles the inside of a snow globe. Why not make our interiors sing with the colors from nature that we miss so dearly? Because we are afraid that what we enjoy today may not be what we enjoy tomorrow. So in an effort to avoid making costly changes that we may possibly find distasteful in the near or distant future, we agree to settle for average or ordinary.  But chromophobics need not despair; infusing color in your spaces doesn't have to be a sweaty panic inducing commitment. There are options! Let's first assume that injecting color is the only way to achieve that design nirvana we strive for in the places we live and love.  A sea of beige in your master bathroom is not going to make anyone do a back flip. But when you combine that basic beige with contrasting neutrals such as charcoal, black or chocolate brown, it now becomes the basis for a dynamic color pallet. To this foundation you can now add a primary accent color - try something vibrant and dynamic like taxicab yellow, poppy red or a gorgeous shade of turquoise. Layer it again if you are feeling adventurous! Secondary accent colors add richness, depth and that unexpected twist that leaves others saying "those colors look amazing together! I never would have thought of that combination!" Use your neutral pallet as your canvas and add color and accessories in layers until you are happy. Remember, if you have loved turquoise your whole life, most likely you will love turquoise the rest of your life. Don't be afraid to use your favorite colors in more permanent places, and save the trendy tones for the removable items.

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Experiment with your newfound color chops, mix and match wall color swatches or download a color or design app that allows you to play before diving in head first. Lastly don't forget that texture and balanced contrast are colors' amazing sidekicks. They are a must in monochromatic spaces that crave a visual hierarchy.

Connected Contrast in Design

“Does THAT really go with THAT?!”…I’ve heard this question from my clients more times than I can count. Now don’t get me wrong, I will not make a suggestion that takes a client out of their comfort zone until I fully understand their personal aesthetic preferences and requirements for their spaces. But often we get stuck in a rut or caught up in “Garanimals for Interiors” as I like to call it. The horrified look that accompanies this question is sometimes enough to make me want to back off completely from the suggestion that produced it. But clients don’t hire me to give them ordinary, average coordinated spaces…they hire me to present fresh ideas and help them find that edge where their comfortable, established personal style lives in harmony with the risky, unexpected and awesome.


Our eyes and brains understand colors, textures and shapes by contrast. Without it, everything in life is unremarkable. But our brains also crave connections between the elements we see. This is one of the challenges we face as we intentionally design. Those connections can be made while using the contrast of design elements producing an unforgettable space. It is our human tendency to focus on individual elements. But to appreciate and buy into this concept of connected contrast, you must be able to see it as a whole in your minds eye. Helping my clients visualize the end result is as much my job as creating the look. Without getting them to “see” it before it’s done, I cannot expect them to be on board. That’s important to me because I only move forward with a unique concept after I have my clients confidence and trust in where we are headed.


Examples of the connected contrast I speak of can be illustrated with textures, colors and shapes and general design style. Such as polished and stained concrete floors used with rustic wood bar elements in a restaurant. The finishes clearly contrast by texture, but if you give the concrete an organic pattern and color we can also connect them by nature. Polished brass cabinet hardware with gray kitchen cabinets is another example. The cool tone of the gray cabinets contrasts to the warmth of the brass hardware, but by choosing a hardware style that echoes the clean lines of the shaker style cabinets you have now tied them together and set them apart simultaneously. Take this example….combining raw wide plank rustic wood flooring with rich formal furnishings in a living space. Many of you have opened up Architectural Digest to see exactly this. That floor has a soul and history as do the formal antique furnishings, this is the unifying factor in the room. The contrast factor comes in via rich velvet upholsteries in vibrant colors next to the raw natural wood tone of the floor. Pairing a clear acrylic chair with a natural wood tone desk and shaggy white rug in a home office also illustrates this concept. By selecting similar clean lines in the molded pvc chair with a mid century style desk, we create a style connection where a material contrast exists. The texture and placement of the rug ties the two elements together and softens the clean lines. When this balance is accomplished, design elements maintain their own identity while harmonizing perfectly together.


Is design juxtaposition for everyone? Absolutely not. This is why it’s so important to me that I get to know my clients style personality and comfort zones as we work together. By working in layers on projects, we can address the visualization and comfort zone challenges faced with every client. This also helps build trust with my role and the design plan we’ve established. I start with basic elements that my client feels confident selecting such as flooring, paint colors and cabinet design. Then we build on that by adding subsequent layers incorporating details and furnishings that may take them to that edge. Sometimes this is done in one phase, but most times it’s done in two or more. Giving my clients time to live in their spaces before we add those additional layers helps them understand what will work best in their world. It’s important to weave these unique touches into the entire space rather than randomly throwing in one. Tossing in an individual unexpected element in a room can easily look like a mistake. Incorporate them sparingly throughout a space and the design becomes dynamic feeling intentionally unintentional. The bottom line is this, every project is different and every client is unique. Which is what makes my job so challenging and fun. It’s also why every client deserves to explore the special design touches that reflect their personalities and style preferences. I enjoy discovering what gives each client joy and seeing those ear to ear smiles as the plan we’ve created comes to fruition….with beautiful, unexpected, connected contrast.