Friday, August 20, 2021

Designing for You or future owners


There have been a few occasions over the years when I’ve been sitting with a residential client discussing the concept and look of their home renovation and they suddenly hit a wall of panic. They realize that all the beautiful pictures they’ve have been merrily saving to their Pinterest or Houzz boards, may not be appropriate for the next owners of their house. They become very concerned about how their decisions will affect the resale of the house, even if they aren’t planning to sell for a long time.

This almost paralyses them like a deer in headlights. They can’t work out what they should do.

If you are renovating to sell in the next couple of years that will put different spin on the design process- which is a topic for another day.

 So here is my advice based on almost 30 years of interior design experience. Forget about future owners and design for you.

There seems to be a general misconception that people don’t like change, that they fearful of new and trendy ideas. Well… they aren’t. Do not underestimate or worry about offending future owners. The fact is that most of us are attracted to new, interesting and unique.

I have never had a client ask for a house design that looks like all the neighbours. We all want a point of difference, that WOW factor when our friends walk in the door and a home that reflects us.

It’s worth remembering that trends have roughly 10yrs of life (this varies, depending exactly what trend it is). This may help as a guide if you have an approx. idea of when/ if you want to put your house on the market. Look at the Hamptons style- still going strong after 20 years.

A good designer will combine all your ideas and your wish list and create a cohesive end result. We will steer you in the right direction and know when to gently apply the brakes to make it all work.

Be bold and confident and take a chance because that’s when it will really start to shine. Live your life, not the one you imagine for people in the future. I always tell clients that you must be able walk in the door everyday and know that you absolutely love your house. 

Monday, August 9, 2021

Flots and Jets Yamba

 In a recent break between interstate border closures, I ventured into new territory for me and visited the lovely coastal town of Yamba in the northern rivers area of NSW. After lunch at the very busy historic Pacific Hotel overlooking the ocean, I explored the gorgeous cluster of shops in the main streets. 

I love finding retailers who do it a bit differently while letting their unique style shine. This was the case at Flots and Jets. 

The store sells clothing, jewelry and vintage treasures. The owner has used her eye for the ordinary flotsam and jetsam to create quirky features through out the store. Even old dress making patterns are re-purposed for wrapping purchases.

Friday, November 6, 2020

Christmas Creep


Yes, we’re all aware the Silly Season has started. Groan! It started in September when we noticed the supermarkets starting to move the fruit mince pies, bonbons, advent calendars and plum puds onto the shelves. The official term is “Christmas Creep”.

Have you noticed that from now till mid May we really don’t get much of a break from the seasonal promos that the shops run? The Christmas merchandising and stock will disappear as of Boxing Day and we’re bombarded with hot cross buns and Easter paraphernalia. From Easter it runs into Mother’s Day. After that we finally get a break till the Father’s Day pitch, which is never quite as strong as Mother’s Day. In the middle of all this are the 2nd tier promos for Australia Day, Valentine’s and Halloween.

The big culprits in the heavy-handed seasonal retailing are the supermarkets. Everyone takes their lead from the big boys. But does putting Christmas product in our face 3 months out make that much difference? The marketing gurus tell us it does and that the lead in to xmas is the biggest quarter in the retail year. But what amount of selling happens 3 mths out compared with the last few weeks? And what happens in other countries?

Go back a generation and in America the focus was on celebrating Thanksgiving at the end of November and more recently the Black Friday sales (also end of November) before the xmas shopping began. Britain used to wait till after Remembrance Day, but large parts of Europe and other countries have now also embraced Black Friday and it seems that Christmas creep has spread worldwide.

Last year Australian Christmas expenditure fell below the forecast. It was the lowest expenditure growth in 28 yrs. This year will not be an accurate gauge compared with past. Many families are watching the expenses with one or both bread winners out of work. At the other end of the spectrum are families who have profited in varying ways from the corona shutdowns. Many areas are still struggling with the aftermath of the summer bush fires.

Smart independent retailers who embrace promotional events to kick start their xmas trading, report favourable results. The reality is that the majority of shopping in done in the last 2-3 weeks. It’s no surprise that food is the biggest of all retail categories, making up almost half of Christmas expenditure. And for obvious reasons sees its largest expenditure in the last few days.

CBA research shows that ¾ of women start shopping only a month out from Christmas and that a quarter of men shop in the last 24 hrs.

What about the other seasons- Easter Creep? In Australia who wants to buy chocolate eggs in January or February and risk finding them in April as disgusting melted messes? Yuck. I’ll wait till closer to the date thanks. Although hot crossed buns are a great school lunch box item, if only a non easter version could run all year.

There’s even what I call the “school book list creep”. Parents are given the stationery and textbook list in November for the following year. OMG- overload. School books on top of just trying to get the kids to finish those last few weeks when everyone is so tired, and we’re being told to start our xmas shopping!

Why has Creep come about? Bottom line, a marketing gimmick to try to compete in an ever more difficult climate. Retail has been tough for a few years now. People have so many more choices for their money compared with 20 years ago. Our lives are so much busier and it’s common to feel stretched to the max. We have more choices for discretionary spending i.e. online, subscriptions, experiences and other non-physical items and payment schemes such as after pay.

Frequent exposure lessens our response to things. Just as swear words have become more tolerated in society and advertising, we’ve become blasé to seasonal creep. We know Christmas and Easter happen every year. Having it forced into our lives gives an annoying niggling feeling a bit like that annual check-up at the doctor. Usually something we try to put off for a bit longer. Shoppers don’t want to be dictated to; they will do it when they’re ready. They don’t want the guilt trip of feeling they are not organized. They also don’t want to feel spoken down to. Early seasonal promotional is here to stay, but over the years we have become conditioned to Creep and its lost the shock factor.


Sunday, September 27, 2020

Colour in Kitchens


For a long while now white kitchens have featured prolifically in home magazines and digital images on Pinterest and Houzz. Very often people associate the Hamptons style with white kitchens. Carrara marble and the other similar veined marbles have been really popular. Last year I had 5 consecutive house renos where the clients requested these stones for their kitchen benchtops.

However we are slowly seeing some colour creep back into kitchens, which from my point of view is exciting. I do like the look of white kitchens if they are done well and have good detailing in the joinery and are complemented with nice feature pendants and beautiful splashbacks. I love working with clients who are not scared of colour and happy to embrace a new direction for their kitchen.

When I refer to colour, I don’t just mean paint colours. Colour comes from many sources such as timber tones, whether that is a red, yellow or black based timber. It can also be introduced with stones in greys, black, creams. Solid black has also become very popular as a new accent colour and there are a wonderful range of fingerprint free laminates available now. I’m also seeing blues appearing in 2 pack paint finishes.

There is an industry guide that a kitchen has a 10-year life span. The reality is kitchens are expensive and often 20 years plus before people do a reno. My design goal is to create a kitchen that is in keeping with the look of the house, is on trend and will last the distance and not age quickly.

If you are looking at a kitchen reno or building new and want some colour, I would advise to look at the colour sources suggested earlier. Select splashback tiles that whilst modern will age well. The classics such as subways and penny tiles have endured over time. Don’t use garish colours in 2 pack. You may love lime green for the first 12 months, but it’s an expensive type of surface to replace. Take into consideration the colours used near your kitchen, especially if you have a more open floorplan. Installing feature pendant lights can also introduce pops of colour. There are lots of beautiful cane and natural fibres available in pendants and these can add a warm yellow colour to your scheme.

If you are still feeling nervous and wishing for some colour, speak with a designer. In this industry we are constantly seeing the current trends and watching the lifespans of looks and finishes. A good designer will guide you with choices and help you obtain a finished look that you love.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Instore Experience Post Iso

Pre corona virus the term “instore experience” had a slightly different meaning to what I think the new post isolation version will evolve into.
As a retail designer giving BC (before Corona) examples, I would list

-make up demonstrations as your walk thru a department store
-staff that can suggest the exact type of clothing that suits you so well you end up buying the whole outfit.
-cranking music in the hip clothing stores that perfectly matches the image they wish to portray
-the luxurious smell of perfumes as you enter a store and elevates you to another level.

-trendy hair salons were the staff are the same level of cool that you aspire to when you walk in for your big transformation

- food tastings/demos in the supermarket
- your favourite furniture store showing room settings and vignettes in exactly the way that you would like to recreate them at home.

- amazing staff that greet you on an such a personal level that you feel you’ve instantly gelled with them.

Instore experience is often spoken about in the highest echelons of retail board rooms, but not always successfully achieved on the actual shop floor. All retailers think they can offer it, but they don’t always have the magic X factor to pull it off. I can design great looking stores but if the staff have bad attitudes the customers will remember that long after the incredible fitout.

So how might post isolation instore experience pan out? The staff free Amazon stores have ideas that can be built upon. Let’s put the thinking caps on for some more ideas!

-          Provision of entertainment outside the store while people are queuing. Keeping potential customers happy is important and keeping them happy and remaining in the que is key. Perhaps a busker of some type.

-          Taking temps pre-entry is becoming more normal, perhaps this can be done in some fun step in booth that doesn’t make you feel like you are having a medical examination.

-          A buzzer system on your phone that tells you when a change room is ready, so you don’t have to que.

-          More counter-less stores. Having staff that move around with tap and go handheld devices to prevent queuing at counters.

-          Self-serve wrap bars that dispense bags to minimize on handling.

-          Convenient pick up points, whether it’s counters, dedicated car spots outside for staff to run out or the embracing of free local deliveries.

All the wonderful senses like smell and sound can still be incorporated. Having great staff will always be a positive. I’m looking forward to seeing what ideas retailers come up with.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Onlined Out

When lock downs were first being discussed many people/ businesses and community groups started brain storming about how they could maintain a sense of continuance. Schools were already making plans for online learning.

In my own life and house hold we had online school, online scouts, online music lessons, online networking groups and talk about online art lessons. A few other local businesses that I visit or purchase from were offering online bar sessions and online trivia.

Humans are social pack animals. And whilst all the online offers sounded great and some people did participate, we were getting “onlined out”. Online also brought the doom and worry of the world to us. Lots of people chose to retreat into their cocoons. Whilst we had more “free time” during isolation, many people created lists of ways to fill that time and it didn’t involve swapping the previous physical activity for the new online version.

Just because we couldn’t physically participate in something didn’t mean we wanted to do the online version of it. The translation from real life to screen lost a lot of the senses that made the real version so great. Many of these online offerings have always been available. I love having a drink at my local pub with friends and soaking in the atmosphere. Somehow it just doesn’t have the same feeling sitting infront of a computer screen. 

Drinks at the local became watering my garden with a wine as the sunset. Enjoying live music changed to catching up on my pile of ironing with the stereo turned up and a scented candle burning. Things that had been on the “do to list” were suddenly being ticked off. The increase in hardware sales is testament to this. Or people found new online ways to fill their time. I have friends who have always wanted to learn yoga and their new spare time allowed them to learn online.

During isolation we’ve adapted our lifestyles. We know online everything will always be there for us, but its been nice to switch off and make the choice to use this time for what we really want.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

And Out again...

The light at the tunnel seems to be appearing- slowly. Although I am still concerned that we will be hit with another peak of corona cases.

Whilst locked down at home I have been very thankful that I live in a house with a decent sized yard, as I love gardening and that has kept me busy, often to the detriment of housework. I have also been thankful that my children are all good ages that they can do their schoolwork online without heavy supervision and can also easily entertain themselves, unlike the baby and toddler days when they were very labour intensive.

On the retail front one of the things that I have most loved seeing is the rise of click and collect. My first experience was with Bunnings and within half an hour after placing my order I had an email to say it was ready to be collected and to book my time for pickup. I wish this service was around back when I was struggling with a baby, toddler and young child and overall finding life very difficult.

We live in a great country that the government has been able to put financial steps in place to help with the huge amounts of people unemployed. However the 6-7-week delay from announcing this to people starting to receive their money has been sad to watch as I drive past Centrelink and see the ques lengthening. I’m very sure many of those people are walking in pleading to get some money urgently as they have not had any payments and are struggling to feed their families.

I think one of the main things we’ll see into the future is a see-sawing economy. Any industry that works on long lead times will be affected. My own industry is a perfect example of this. At the moment I have builders who have been very busy since the start of the year doing jobs that I designed as far back as September last year. These builds are almost finished now and after that I can’t offer them any more work to quote. The lull that hit designers and architects a while ago is about to hit the builders. Whilst there are many government and council building projects being initiated to keep the work rolling, not all builders are licenced to tender for this type of work.

The clothing industry is another that I think may be affected by the long lead times. Often orders for a clothing season are placed several months in advance and the drop in sales from shops being closed and some retailers cancelling orders will have an effect on this supply chain also. It will be interesting to see if there will be provisions for extended stimulus packages for these types of industries.

Some of the nice changes we’ve seen may stick, such as people getting out exercising more. People are keen to be able to hit the shops and once cafes and restaurants open, they will be full again (as much as the new restrictions will allow for). There have been lots of posts on social media with people proclaiming their lives will become simpler without all the material possessions. I think the truth is that we’re creatures of habit and want to resume our previous lives, with modification where needed.