For big design changes think small

Spark up your living space for less by focusing on details, say interior designers

When homeowners tighten budgets in tough times, updating interiors is often moved to the bottom of the to-do list. Yet despite the economic downturn, designer Joy Cacicia of RCC Interiors says homeowners should keep even the smallest redecorating projects on the menu.

“You know how just buying a new pair of shoes or piece of clothing can make you feel better? That’s what a new coat of paint in your bathroom can do,” she explains.

Cacicia and fellow interior designer Gigi Olive of Gigi Olive Interiors, LLC, both of Minneapolis, offer their ideas on recession style trends, punching up popular living spaces and the hottest paint colors (hint: it’s not beige).

 

SWJ: Have you identified any recession design trends? What are they?
Cacicia: People are looking to stay where they are and take what they have to make it the best they can. Projects are financially manageable. If people have a big project and decide they can’t do the whole thing right now, that’s OK.

Are clients scaling back?
Cacicia: I am working on a condo that was going to be an exceedingly major remodel, and all the plans were done, but the owner decided it wasn’t the time to do it. So instead they are cleaning up and painting, putting in some new carpet. But we are still involved in new house projects, like one on Lake of the Isles. Things are happening.

SWJ: Is it challenging, as a designer, to work in these new parameters?
Cacicia: No, it’s not. As a designer you’re there to work with a client to get the best possible end result while working with their budget. It’s always been that way. No project is too small. We’re finding with our industry partners, whether remodelers or builders, that everyone is willing to do small projects.

SWJ: What areas of the home do people want to invest in?
Cacicia: It’s still kitchens and master bathrooms. When it comes to investment within the home, kitchens are still getting back what you put into them. Everybody likes to freshen things up, and that can mean just painting your bedroom, because it makes you feel good.
 

What advice would you give to people looking to update on a budget?
Cacicia: First and foremost is paint. That will give you your biggest change. And don’t be afraid to use color! Accessorizing is also good; if you paint your bathroom, change out the towels and accessories — that’s going to be the most cost effective right now.

SWJ: What is the outlook for the design industry?
Cacicia: Things are starting to pick up now just as evidenced by the phone calls and appointments we’re getting. My guesstimate is that by October and November we’ll be seeing changes. It’s happening in little bits but I think it’s getting better. I can tell people are more optimistic when I talk to them.

Talk about a favorite recent project.
Cacicia: I recently did a cabin with longtime clients — that was a huge amount of fun. They used colors that were fresh and new and not what you think of in terms of a lake home. They have children, grandchildren and dogs so they wanted the place to be very livable but very fresh and new. With second homes you don’t usually take as much thought and care putting it together, but they did.

What trends are fading?
Cacicia: I’m not seeing as much of the really heavy, overdone kind of look, it’s a little bit more scaled back — a less-is-more approach. People don’t want things that are in your face, and they are taking into account that we’re going through a recession so they’re not looking at trends so much as they are the timeless and classic.

Does the warmer weather make clients more interested in updating outdoor spaces?
Cacicia: Absolutely, because they are thinking in terms of spending time outside. I moved here 26 years ago on April 18 and I was bundled in a winter coat and I will never forget that I saw children in shorts! But now I understand it: When the thermometer hits 30 degrees I am throwing open my coat too!

SWJ: Have you identified any recession design trends? What are they?
Olive: I think a recession design trend is “keep it simple.” People are making smarter choices and the choices are simpler, the design elements are simpler — there’s not as much fuss. Take a sofa for example: People are picking a straighter arm rather than a rolled arm, which lends itself to working in more areas of the home.

SWJ: Are people scaling back ideas?
Olive: It seems to depend on what age they are at. Some people think, “I want to do this project now because I want to enjoy it now.” People are scaling back from building houses and are working on what they have, figuring out ways to jazz up their existing space at this time.

SWJ: Is it challenging, as a designer, to work in these new parameters?
Olive: It hasn’t been for me because I’ve been doing it so long. It’s about balancing client needs and finding the right quality that fits. And if you’re quality-conscious, that never goes away. You just have to figure out more economical ways to achieve that.

SWJ: What areas of the home do people want to invest in?
Olive: Kitchens, all living spaces, even bedrooms because that’s where people hang out. It gives everyone comfort when they can come home and feel good in their space.

SWJ: What advice would you give to people looking to update on a budget?
Olive: I was just at a house in Linden Hills this morning and we talked about how it is really easy to update with paint, pillows and rugs. They don’t have to be expensive and they can change a whole space. For colors I think grey is making a comeback — people are tired of beige and gold, they’re saying “Enough already!” Grey is not dull; it’s fresh and clear.

SWJ: What is the outlook for the design industry?
Olive: I think the industry is improving, but I still think the summer will be a slow recovery. People are anxious and want to do things but are still nervous. I haven’t felt it so much in my immediate business, but the future coming around the bend seems a little slower. But I think in residential design people still want to freshen up and still want a change, so they figure out how to do things in a smaller way.

Talk about a favorite recent project.
Olive: My favorite recent project was a loft downtown. We had to combine contemporary newness with older pieces, but still keep it simple open and uncluttered. The clients were moving from an older, established home to a new space and concept. The clients were wonderful to work with and interested in trying new ideas. We also did a concrete counter in the kitchen that turned out fabulous!

What trends are fading?
Olive: Matchy-matchy is just not happening and has been drifting away for a while.

Does the warmer weather make clients more interested in updating outdoor spaces?
Olive: The warmer weather makes people want to redo outdoor and indoor spaces … particularly the ones that they spend the summer months in. The outdoor spaces are more timely.