Whether you are starting from scratch, tackling a DIY project or just experimenting with new colors, interior designers possess a wealth of information and experience to walk clients through the decorating process.
"I feel people are sometimes scared to hire designers, not realizing how valuable they can be," says Julie Ponze of Julie Ponze Designs. "Good designers can make the project fun, easier and less expensive than you might think."
Designers are advisers and will tell clients the truth about things like home trends on the internet (don't do it if it doesn't fit your space or your budget), geometric patterns (overuse can easily ruin a design scheme) and what items you should prioritize when trimming a new space (curtains, rugs and sofas), Ponze says. She and three other local designers answered a few of our design questions.
Curtis Herring of Curtis Herring Interior Design started his business in 1997. He describes his personal taste as a "very clean-line, transitional style." But, he says, "I design for my client, so each project has a completely different look."
The best part of his job is the variety. "I never know what is coming my way," he says. "My clients are all fun to work with and I get to work on incredible houses, hot new restaurants, offices, veterinary clinics [and] synagogues."
One of Herring's philosophies is that "good design is not trendy, but rather timeless. If the interior designer does a good job," he says, "the interior will be stunning and usable for many years."
Herring operates a studio and office with a full library of projects.
CUE: What is your least favorite trend?
Herring: The all-white interior. Color is so crucial in setting the mood and personality of an interior.
How often should homes be updated?
H: I think you should make small improvements and add items on a regular basis, just to keep your house interesting. Major decorating changes such as curtains, rugs and general color palette updates, or even renovations to kitchens and baths, should generally be considered every 10 years or so.
How long do design trends tend to last?
H: It depends on the trend; some trends last decades, some only a short time. But, in general terms, I'd say the longevity of a design trend is about five to seven years.
What style of design do you see gaining popularity right now?
H: I think it depends on what geogra-phic area you are exposed to. Here in New Orleans, I'm noticing quite a lot of vintage industrial, urban chic and mid-century modern aesthetic. I'm not sure what the future holds for new design, but it will definitely be interesting and worth the wait.
How can people select the right designer?
H: The best way is to ask around and find out who people have used and what kind of experiences they had. Also, check out websites and even call a designer to ask questions, or set up an in-home consultation. (There's) nothing like meeting in person to see how your personalities will mesh (or not).
What is your favorite type of flooring for a living room? Kitchen? Bedroom?
H: I love wood flooring throughout; the warmth and beauty of wood are incomparable, and it is (easy) to work a design scheme around wood. However, wood is not always practical in a kitchen, so I really like honed limestone or marble in a kitchen. However, there are some really great-looking porcelain tiles out right now, too.
After leaving New York and a career in fashion, Vikki Leftwich opened Villa Vici in New Orleans in 1991.
"We are a one-stop design resource providing eclectic modern designs alongside reclaimed wood and one-of-a-kind objects, from upholstery to tables, storage to lighting, floor coverings to window treatments, with furniture for both indoors and out," she says.
Leftwich's personal style motto is "less is more." She favors mixing contemporary-style upholstery with antique pieces and "fabulous art." One of her favorite trends is mixing metal or acrylic accent legs on upholstered pieces that have curved lines.
Where do you find your inspiration when designing a new project?
Leftwich: When traveling, I'm always on the lookout for something unique and interesting to incorporate in my next project. Inspiration (also) comes from my clients' lifestyles.
What is the best piece of advice that you can offer someone who is about to renovate a home?
L: Having architectural drawings for any renovation project will save you time and money by minimizing mistakes and maintaining a budget.
What trends are making their way to New Orleans?
L: Mixing nature's colors along with furniture made in raw materials — like (a) teak root coffee table — makes for a tranquil living space.
Are there any New Orleans-specific trends in design?
L: New Orleans embraces the artistic and cultural diversity of its people, which is inherent [in] its art and interior design, ranging from bohemian to the most sophisticated. Mixing styles in New Orleans isn't a trend, it's a way of life.
What are your favorite statement pieces?
L: Icon and abstract art, large totems, fabulous chandeliers and one-of-a-kind serving and entertainment pieces.
Shaun Smith became interested in design as a child. "I loved playing with fabrics," he remembers, and every summer he would redecorate his bedroom. In 2010, his childhood dream turned into an adult reality when he opened his design store, Shaun Smith Home.
"For me, it's all about the mix," he says of his style. "I try to bring a collected and not (too) decorated approach to the homes I work on. I love a room filled with pieces that each tell a different story from a different time period."
One look he appreciates is mixing metals. "I don't necessarily believe this is a trend, but [it's] timeless," he says. "Polished nickel, brass and bronze work so much better together."
Working in such a personal business brings him joy.
"It is an honor to be creating spaces that clients can relax, entertain and simply live in," he says.
What are some ways people can make the most of a small space?
Smith: A big misconception is that you can't paint a small space a dark color. The smaller the space, the darker I like to paint it. A mirror in a small space is always a good idea. Paint your trim, walls and ceiling the same color. It works.
What are the best ways to spruce up a home on a limited budget?
S: Pillows. If you stick to neutrals on your upholstery, you can change your pillows with the season to create a fresh feel in your home. Paint always works.
What are some good, classic items that people should be willing to splurge on?
S: Draperies, a beautiful antique chest, a gorgeous mirror and a fabulous sofa.
What is your least favorite design trend?
S: I can go the rest of my life without seeing another chevron pillow.
What is a good indoor plant to add texture to a room?
S: Fiddle-leaf fig is my go-to house plant. They range in height and have a big, broad leaf that instantly gives extra life to any room. I love succulents because if you don't have a green thumb you can make them work for you.