Vol. LXIII, No. 27
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
DESIGN EXPERTISE: I could always visualize. I could see things in my head, see ways of putting things together. I can go into a room and know what to do. Its all about line and form. Certified interior designer Amy Lebowitz is owner of the Interiors by Decorating Den franchise in Princeton.
The economy may be keeping some people at home this summer; at the same time, it is an opportunity to make some long-awaited and dreamed-of changes in the house. A new look for a room can do wonders both for the room and for those who are in it.
It just lifts my spirits whenever I look at it, says a Princeton homeowner, who recently had the family room redecorated. I didnt realize what a difference it would make.
Certified interior decorator Amy Lebowitz knows just how she feels. When clients say theyre happy and that they love how it all came out, its wonderful. It is a way of helping them realize a dream.
Ms. Lebowitz, who owns the Princeton franchise of Interiors by Decorating Den, always knew she wanted to help people with their home design. My parents collected antiques, and I grew up hunting for antigues, going to garage sales, and doing a lot of curbside shopping, she explains.
My parents taught me how to strip furniture, and I loved to go with them to find things. I always had an affinity for furniture, and whenever anyone was moving, theyd ask me if Id like a piece of furniture that they were leaving.
In college, however, she deferred her design plans, taking a practical path and majoring in accounting. Then, after five years working in that field, she knew something was missing. It just wasnt what I wanted to do. So, I took a course in design to see if I liked it, and then I attended the New York School of Design in Manhattan.
Love of Design
Now, she had found the right place, and could concentrate on her love of design.
I especially like French antiques, and I love their history. I really learned history through art, she says. Textiles and color are also very important to me.
After interning and working with design firms in New York, including Adam Tihany International Ltd., for 11 years, Ms. Lebowitz decided to become her own boss. I saw a commercial on TV about Interiors by Decorating Den, and was intrigued. Its a wonderful company, with a real family environment.
Its a franchise that started in the midwest 40 years ago, she explains. Today, there are 500 franchises in the U.S. and Canada.
Ms. Lebowitz opened the Princeton franchise in 2005, and she is very happy with the direction she has taken. We can do so much for our customers. The company negotiates on our behalf with vendors and gets us great wholesale prices. This covers all the categories furniture, accessories, lighting, carpet, window treatments, etc. The product assortment is huge. We have access to well over 100 of the U.S. and Canadas top quality home furnishings manufacturers.
Ms. Lebowitz also notes that she keeps up-to-date with current design and product trends by touring manufacturers showrooms, factories, show houses, and the Market at High Point, N.C.
She specializes in residences and small offices, and waiting room designs. I can do just about anything, and I tend to gravitate toward a cosmopolitan look. People in this area seem to like a look that is classic, but updated and tweaked. it can be traditional in form, but different in scale. This can be seen both in furniture and fabrics. Clients are open to classic change that is, it looks fresh, but has staying power.
And it doesnt have to be expensive, she adds. In fact, in this economy, there is an opportunity to be even more creative.
When Ms. Lebowitz considers an assignment, she has an initial extensive telephone conversation, covering details such as the clients life-style (whether there are children, pets, extent of entertainment, cooking, etc.) I will also ask about the existing rooms: current colors, current furniture, and especially the budget. That must be determined.
Then, if we decide to go ahead with the project, Ill get a non-refundable deposit. The rest of the payment will be made at the completion of the work.
Its very important to establish trust in the client-decorator relationship, she points out. When you find a client with whom you have a great bond, its wonderful. Trust is so important. When you have a good relationship, you can handle delays or unexpected problems that may come up.
It is also important for clients to be clear about decisions, she adds. I say to them, please have all decision-makers present when we are discussing choices. There are so many options in all areas from fabric to furniture that it is crucial to keep the budget always in mind.
I often explain to people that decorating a house is similar to dressing yourself, she adds. There are some things that can be faux, but others that cant. For example, you wouldnt get plastic shoes.
The clients needs and desires are uppermost in the design plan, but sometimes people are uncertain in their tastes. In that case, its very helpful to have magazine pictures, suggests Ms. Lebowitz. I like people to show me things they dont like as well as their favorites. This is helpful in determining a plan for them.
She enjoys designing areas that are versatile and creative. I like re-purposing things using furniture or objects for other purposes than their original intent. You can give a totally different feeling to a room.
Also, the room should have comfort and function. Dual functionality is important. An armoire that can be closed, or open with a laptop in it. Or one room serving both as an office or an entertainment center.
Another thing, she adds, if youre working with a large room, you can have more than one seating area, including setting aside space for a game table.
Ms. Lebowitz works on projects of every size, from simply rearranging existing furniture and perhaps adding new draperies or paint or wallpaper to more extensive designs for one or more rooms. She also works with screened-in porches and outdoor patios.
I like challenges, she says. I like having to work around something, such as a special table that can be an anchor in a room. If the design is going to flow and work, you have to deal with what exists.
She is also partial to master bedroom design. The master bedroom is very important, and is often overlooked. It should be peaceful and tranquil. Also very important is the mud room. Its for kids and clutter, boots, wet mittens and hats, etc. Perhaps you have to pare down and utilize any extra space to create this, but it is really important.
Ms. Lebowitz is happy to be the recipient of a great deal of word-of-mouth referrals from her clients, and she is currently offering a special discount. If I get a new client from a referral, I will give the past client a savings on their next project.
Interiors by Decorating Den can be reached at (609) 688-0040. Website: decoratingden.com/alebowitz.
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