Greet­ings from the in­te­rior

Want to avoid a ‘so-so’ makeover?

The Prince George Citizen - The Citizen - Real Estate Weekly - - Real Estate Weekly - Michelle Hop­kins Canwest News Ser­vice

When Sheila Tripp and her hus­band re­turned to B.C. af­ter a four-year Cal­i­for­nia so­journ, they re­turned to a tired and dated home on the West Van­cou­ver water­front.

Armed with all the de­signer mag­a­zines she could find, she set out to take on the job on her own. Then re­al­ity set in: the thought of choos­ing fur­ni­ture, fab­ric, draperies, car­pets and tiles for her large home threat­ened to over­whelm her.

Where to start? “We rented out our home while liv­ing in Cal­i­for­nia and when we re­turned, we re­al­ized our 20-year-old house re­ally needed fresh­en­ing up,” says Tripp. “When I thought about all the leg­work in­volved, we de­cided to hire an in­te­rior de­signer to help us.”

Tripp had seen the work of Van­cou­ver in­te­rior de­signer Robert Led­ing­ham in a num­ber of home and gar­den jour­nals, and gave him a call.

“He came and met me the very next day and I in­stantly liked his man­ner and ideas,” says Tripp. “Af­ter a few meet­ings, he gave us sug­ges­tions and in­cor­po­rated our vi­sion into some de­signs.”

In hir­ing Robert Led­ing­ham, Tripp and her hus­band hired a man who has pro­vided in­te­rior-de­sign ser­vices to home­own­ers and builders and de­vel­op­ers for four decades, work that has gen­er­ated more than 26 awards and made him the first Cana­dian to re­ceive the In­ter­na­tional In­te­rior De­sign As­so­ci­a­tion Lead­er­ship Award, as a 2006 story on an honorary doc­tor­ate granted by his alma mater, the Uni­ver­sity of Man­i­toba re­ports.

Tripp loved many of his sug­ges­tions, but there were some she re­jected. “Bob didn’t pres­sure us to go with an idea we didn’t like; in­stead, he had al­ter­na­tives he pre­sented to us,” she says.

Not only did Led­ing­ham come up with in­no­va­tive struc­tural ideas that hadn’t occurred to the cou­ple; the renowned de­signer also had ac­cess to an ex­ten­sive se­lec­tion of sam­ples - ev­ery­thing from floor­ing to fab­ric, and gran­ite to sinks and lighting - and that made a daunt­ing task easy to man­age.

“It would have taken me days and days to source out ev­ery­thing he had right in his of­fice,” says Tripp.

Led­ing­ham, who owns Led­ing­ham De­sign Con­sul­tants, has had his work fea­tured in many ar­chi­tec­tural de­sign mag­a­zines and books, in­clud­ing Spec­tac­u­lar Homes of West­ern Canada. He says he takes time to get to know prospec­tive clients so that his rec­om­men­da­tions will re­flect their per­son­al­i­ties, lifestyles, and wants and needs.

When asked if he’s ever had to walk away from a project, he laughs and nods. He likens the re­la­tion­ship be­tween an in­te­rior de­signer and client to that of a mar­ried cou­ple: “it’s very close and per­sonal and of­ten lasts for more than a year.”

“When con­flict arises, some­times you both have to throw up your hands and say the best thing is to part ways,” he says, not­ing that de­lays can be stress­ful, yet are un­for­tu­nately of­ten un­avoid­able. “How­ever, most in­te­rior de­sign­ers try very hard to work through prob­lems, but some­times per­son­al­i­ties con­flict and it’s best not to pro­long it.”

At Coun­try Fur­ni­ture in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tor Mar­lene Seguin of Van­cou­ver is also in the busi­ness of help­ing peo­ple beau­tify their homes. “I like to help cus­tomers take their house and cre­ate a home,” says Seguin.

She’s of­ten asked by clients to work along­side a con­trac­tor to help with lay­out. She may be called upon to do some­thing as sim­ple as ac­ces­soriz­ing a room - to de­cide what to place on a ta­ble or coun­ter­top - or to de­sign a room around an an­chor piece.

“For ex­am­ple, a client had an an­tique side­board in­her­ited from their grand­mother and they didn’t know what fur­ni­ture would look good with it,” she says.

She says in­te­rior dec­o­ra­tors and de­sign­ers can of­fer clients a “new set of im­par­tial eyes.”

“When you walk into your house day in and day out, some­times you can’t see any­thing other than what you have, you can’t pic­ture any other way for the room or rooms to look,” Seguin says. “I can help give a fresh per­spec­tive to a client’s space and cre­ate ones that re­flect the home­owner’s per­son­al­ity.

“A home should al­most scream who the per­son is who lives there.”

In­te­rior dec­o­ra­tors typ­i­cally charge $50 an hour, she adds. “How­ever, if clients hire me and then pur­chase fur­nish­ings or rugs at the store, my fee is de­ducted from their bill,” says Seguin, who adds this is of­ten typ­i­cal at larger fine fur­nish­ings stores.

Seguin, who stud­ied in­te­rior dec­o­rat­ing for two years, adds most home­own­ers have lit­tle to no con­cept about pro­por­tion and scale, which are key to form and func­tion in any home.

Led­ing­ham, like many in­te­rior de­sign­ers, of­ten col­lab­o­rates on larger projects with ar­chi­tect Robert Lemon.

“The re­la­tion­ship be­tween an in­te­rior de­signer and ar­chi­tect can be very close, de­pend­ing on the job,” Lemon says, not­ing that an ar­chi­tect is of­ten called in on ren­o­va­tions to de­sign new kitchens, bath­rooms, lighting or mill­work.

“It’s a good as­sim­i­la­tion of tal­ents,” says Lemon, adding that he and Led­ing­ham re­cently com­pleted a stun­ning Galiano Is­land home from the ground up. “In­te­rior de­sign­ers have, at their dis­posal, a good source of fab­ric and ma­te­rial sam­ples, as well as a li­brary of fur­nish­ings, which are very use­ful re­sources for ar­chi­tects.”

Canwest photo

Con­cord Pa­cific called on Led­ing­ham to do its Flag­ship in­te­ri­ors, such as this one on False Creek.

Canwest pho­tos

Left: Robert Led­ing­ham works on the in­te­rior de­sign of a new-home project. Right: Mar­lene Seguin of Coun­try Fur­ni­ture is of­ten asked by clients to work along­side a con­trac­tor to help with lay­out. She may be called upon to do some­thing as sim­ple as ac­ces­soriz­ing a room - to de­cide what to place on a ta­ble or coun­ter­top - or to de­sign a room around an an­chor piece.

Canwest photo

Of­ten a room is dec­o­rated in a style that en­hances a main fea­ture, or a strik­ing piece of fur­ni­ture.

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