Ask the Experts

By staff December 1, 2001

Q. I want to make a grouping of family photographs in a wide white hallway, sort of like a gallery. What's the most effective way to do it?

Nancy Ebel-Collum, ASID, of Nancy Ebel Interior Design answers: I would unify the collection with frame and mat consistency. One classic approach that works is to select simple black frames and a cream mat. Once all the photos have the same frames and mats, work on your grouping. You could start with the most important photo in the center of the wall at eye level and build out from there. You can stagger the prints, stack them, line them up in a row. It's a personal choice. To avoid unnecessary holes in the walls, work out your design on graph paper or trace the art works on paper, cut and them put them up with a tiny bit of tape. Move things around until the arrangement pleases you.

Q. Can I mix real and faux plants and flowers in a room? How do I know when I have too many?

Lee Younger, interior designer of Classic Imports, answers: You know you have too many when you feel like you're in a forest instead of a room. It's an easy line to cross, but remember that plants are there just for accent. A silk tree in a dark corner is useful. And as for mixing faux and real, yes, do it. Use the live flowers in an entrance foyer or a coffee table-places where people are likely to see the flowers close up and maybe touch or smell them. Use the faux atop bookcases or armoires-places that need some color and texture. No one is going to get close enough to them to tell if they are real or not. The main thing is to refrain from overdoing a good thing. When in doubt, take some away rather than adding more.

Q. What does the term "mid-century modern classic furniture" mean, and what are some of the best pieces for a collector to own?

Wilson Stiles, interior designer and art historian, answers: The term generally refers to American designers and some Europeans working right after World War II. Essentially, these designs were an American response to the modern movement and expressed great postwar optimism through exciting furniture with clean lines. Furniture companies such as Knoll and Herman Miller hired young designers and architects and gave them a place to create. Some of them were Charles Eames, Henry Bertoia, George Nelson, Edward Wormley, and Isamu Noguchi. Other companies such as Haywood Wakefield and Whitticomb produced wonderful pieces that were more affordable to the middle classes. Pieces that would appear in collections of those who appreciate mid-century modern would be the Eames lounge chair, an Eero Saarinen womb chair, the Bertoia big bird chair, the Noguchi coffee tables and dining room table and the George Nelson coconut chair, just to name a few. The works of Alvar Aalto, Marcel Breuer, Bruno Weil and Paul Kjerholm would be highly collectible, too, even though they are not American. Many mid-century pieces such as the Eames chair have never gone out of production and are still available new today. The Noguchi dining room table is about to be re-issued. When famous pieces are re-issued, the value of an original is lowered. Consequently, pieces not in production make the original more valuable. Any upholstered piece by Edward Wormley would be very desirable because his work is no longer in production.

Q. How do interior designers charge for their services?

Stanley J. Falls, ASID, of Designers Fore Interiors answers: There are a variety of ways and clients should get it worked out before the start of a collaboration. Designers can charge full retail on furniture and accessories plus an hourly fee. They can charge by the square foot, or by the whole project. Some designers prefer to charge a design fee and pass on the furniture and accessories at their cost with no mark up. Others work on a cost plus basis, which means they add a percentage to their cost on what they buy for the client. When you want just consultation, designers charge an hourly rate. In my 34 years of experience, I've developed a sense about who I want to work with and what jobs I prefer to decline. I appreciate clients who come to me with a general idea of what they want and a realistic budget. And there must be trust between the client and the designer. The designer is going to be making a lot of educated decisions for the client. If the client doesn't have complete trust in the designer's experience, taste, and knowledge then the two should not be working together no matter what the charge or how it's worked out.

Please send your questions about interior design to Marsha Fottler, SARASOTA Magazine, 601 S. Osprey Ave., Sarasota, FL 34236 or e-mail Marsha at [email protected]

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