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Once again the annual trip to the Paris interior design shows did not disappoint.  The 2020 Paris Deco Off display from fabric houses showed an incredible range of pattern, color and texture.  Overall there was a feel of a 1980s high end revival.  While blush and a soft blue green were still showing, colors of spice and a mix of geology joined the group.  These later colors also reflect a sense of an updated 1970s palette.  Texture was still strong with every house having a nubly (yes I made up that word) neutral in contrast to the 1980s geometric patterns.  At the Maison et Objet show metallics and channel upholstery reflected a sense of the 80s once again.  Scale and proportion are definitely better this time around.  There was a lovely mix of metals throughout.  

My favorite part of the week is going to fabric houses when the design directors are showing their collections.  You hear the stories of their inspiration, construction and function for each of their new fabric lines.  Better yet, you feel their enjoyment of their craft and get a sense of how much work and dedication they put into their lines.  Some of my favorites are Nobilis, Dedar and Jim Thompson.  I am inspired by not only their depth of product but also by passion for fabrics.  

The larger single fabric growth across all of the houses are the performance fabrics.  Once called outdoor and then indoor outdoor, performance fabrics are just that - They have the ability to function well outdoors, indoors, and commercially.  Many of the fabrics are cleanable with soap and water.  Yes even red wine.  So many of our clients have children, pets (and husbands) so these fabrics function beautifully.  Not to mention, they also look and feel amazing. No longer flat just wovens, now there are thicker yummy fabrics that are soft to the touch, fun patterns and color combinations.  There’s no reason to look beyond performance fabrics these days when you have real life happening in your home.  

Yes, once again Paris did not disappoint.  It’s well organized, delightfully accessible on both sides of the river and best of all, it is Paris!! 

Janine Dowling Design Boston, MAThey may seem like tiny details, but shower niches play a role in how well a modern shower functions. They prevent a jumble of bottles from taking up residence on the shower floor or cluttering up a windowsill or shower bench, instead keeping products neat and within easy reach. And because clear glass surrounds and open showers are so popular in bathrooms today, the niche has become a design opportunity. Houzz asked four designers for the nitty gritty on five-star shower niches and tips to consider during your next shower update.

Read the full article on Houzz

Janine Dowling Interior Design     About Our Interior Design Agency     Interior Design Consultant Services

Here I sit on a plane coming back from an out of state client install.  Those who follow me on Instagram know how frequently I travel for work. I have projects that take me at least once a month to the upper Keys in Florida, plus we have projects on the Cape and Islands, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maine. That’s a lot of ground to cover and still keep on top of everything!

How do I manage out of state projects? There are a few key elements that make long distance projects different, and staying ahead of these differences helps to ensure they will run smoothly.

Be prepared

While I always value being creative and organized, for out of state projects we need to be organized first and then creative. Every second of an out of state meeting is precious, and therefore has to be maximized and prepared for in advance.  You can’t run to your materials library to select another fabric sample if something doesn’t hit right.  You can’t say let’s meet again in two days and answer those new questions.  To handle these kinds of surprises, I run the meetings in my head before I leave our office. This allows me to be sure we have all of the products and supplies we will need, and anticipate any questions that may come up.  Then, I pack extra fabric and materials.  We need to make room for the curve balls of new design inspiration, as well as any changes to what the client is looking for during the meeting.

Consider the local conditions

Personally, I love the challenge that comes with working in a new region: a different climate might call for different materials, different light causes colors to read differently, and differences in regional style allows me the opportunity to work in new and exciting ways.  It's all energizing! Taking time to research the unique conditions of a new place is important to ensure a design will be functional as well as beautiful. Additionally, always making sure to see the materials and fabric in the place they will be installed ensures they will read how I want them to.

Timing is crucial

While we have deadlines on every project, it becomes much more pressing to stick to the schedule for my out of state projects as many of them are vacation houses. Missing a deadline can push an install date into the time the client wants to spend in the home, and losing a season means losing a whole year. Additionally, as it requires scheduling travel and valuable time away from the office for me to be on-site, it’s critical that install days and meetings go as planned. If something doesn’t arrive in time for an install, it is very difficult to adjust to accommodate that item.

Know your local vendors


As designers, we rely on our networks of reliable and talented contractors and subcontractors. These relationships come from years of working closely with the same craftspeople, however when I have a long distance project I don’t always know my vendors well. Additionally, being so far away can make it more difficult to feel in the loop for what’s going on on-site. To overcome these challenges, making sure to have open lines of communication with the local team is key.  Reaching out frequently as questions arise, and responding quickly – and clearly – to all requests for design information helps to ensure everything is on track and there are no surprises. While I can’t always be there, the local vendors are the eyes on the ground.

While traveling can certainly be a more taxing part of my job, I love the opportunity to venture out and try something new. By keeping these factors in mind as I work, I have been able to make my long-distance work successful and rewarding. It may seem like an extra challenge to work with a designer who is not local, but if you have someone in mind that you would like to work with, don’t let your location be a limitation!

As we're now losing the last of our beautiful New England fall foliage for the bare branches of winter, I can't help but think about the spectacular palettes we just witnessed. It's no mystery why people flock here for the fall, mother nature puts on such a show! The outdoors becomes so layered and the colors have texture, you can practically hear the leaves crunching underfoot.  How can you not be inspired when you're surrounded by such vibrant, rich colors? While nature makes it look easy, any designer knows it’s tricky to put together harmonious color schemes for our clients. Here are a few tips to help clients explore new color options for their home.

Take cues from their wardrobe

What colors does your client look good wearing, and tend to choose for themselves? The classic approach to buying a wardrobe in your ‘season’ works for clothing, and it can be put to use for interiors too. You want the colors in the home to complement the colors your clients can wear. It’s also a good way to gauge what they are already attracted to and comfortable with, even if it’s unconscious.

Determine the type of energy they thrive in

A low contrast bedroom provides a soothing environment, and a high contrast sitting area creates a higher energy

What's the mood your clients want to create for their home?  High contrast colors offer more energy, low contrast and neutrals have a lower energy and often a soothing tone. Every person responds to color differently, so explore how different colors affect their mood and use that response to determine what colors and energy levels are best for different areas of their home. You might find some differences between extroverts and introverts here, but you can’t make assumptions.  Ask questions!

Complement the lighting conditions

Ample natural light allows navy walls to feel rich instead of overwhelming

What is the light quality like in terms of both natural daylight and the available electric lighting in their space?  Colors can appear drastically different in daylight and under different types of light sources (you can read more about that here).  You will need to adjust the saturation of the color depending on sunlight, light fixtures and the shadows in the space. This is why it’s important to never just pick a paint color in your office – it's all about how it looks in the client’s home.

Go back to the books

Don’t forget color theory and the color wheel. Using these principles can help you choose colors that go together more harmoniously, and avoid other combinations that can fight.  Colors are never a single hue – all have undertones and often that is what determines if we like a color, or how well it plays with other colors in a space.  Have you ever watched the hardware store mix your paint?   Gray is not just gray.  Weave this theory into your conversations as you explore their palette.  For example, if you are creating a gray, blue and white palette, make sure your gray doesn't have an undertone of green or it will clash with the other colors. Adobe Kuler is a great tool for playing with color using these principles.

When it comes to picking colors, there is no simple answer, and no right answer! Make sure you always ask lots of questions, and remember that this is a personal process. And never be afraid to tweak a color once it's up – even the most careful designer can misjudge the effect a color will have once it’s in full scale. It's better to take the time to make an adjustment to a paint color than to have a client who feels that the color is a bit off.

When autumn rolls around and the seasons start to change, many of us can’t help but think of heading back to school.  For the past 12 years I have as well, as I teach at the Boston Architectural College.  In the spirit of the season, let’s take a moment and talk about design education.

For those on the more architectural side of the design field, educational requirements and licensing are quite clearly spelled out state by state.  Of course you want to work with a licensed architect if you are building structures, and large scale projects demand this kind of education.  Health, safety, codes and the study of advanced design techniques are incredibly important as we have seen tragedy when structure and codes are not maintained.

But what about on the more decorative end of the field, what type of education is necessary to begin a career on that side of the spectrum?  I once had a coworker say to me, "No one is going to license me to chop a pillow." While those of us in the profession know that there is far more that goes into pulling a space together than a solid chop, how much education – or any – is enough?

Elsie de Wolfe is credited as America's first interior designer, and emblematic of the socialite decorator that grew the profession in the early 20th century (Photo source: Architectural Digest)

The decorative end of interior design was born in an era where people with good taste and access to money set the decorative tone in their social circles. Many of the great designers of the 20th century followed this pedigree.  It came from having more than just great taste: access to travel, museums, higher quality fabrics, tradesmen, and the luxury of time to think about their environment allowed these designers to hone their trade.  Their life was their education and their internship.

As the design field became more developed and matured over the course of the 20th century, education became more important, and regulations were established. I imagine this development and structure would have continued to evolve, if it hadn’t been for the advent of things like HGTV and Pinterest.  With online shopping, people feel like they can source anything on their own.  In some ways, I know that this has caused the field to take a step back in quality over convenience, as well as the devaluation of design skills.

This brings us back to the question of how much education is enough to consider yourself an interior designer on the residential and decorative end of the field?  I know many talented designers who are self-taught, and there is a full range of available options in terms of education – how do you decide what is right for you?

My short answer is if you want to decorate, you should get as much education as your life will allow. Also, think about what kind of work you picture yourself doing.  If you want to just deal in picking colors, then take a few color theory classes.  If you want to do light residential decorating, take classes in studio design, lighting, color, textiles and materials at the least.  If you love kitchens, then complete a certificate in kitchen and bath design. Ask yourself honestly what do you have to offer someone that they will pay for?  What sets you apart from someone who would seek the services of a designer? Do you have enough knowledge to advise clients in a professional manner?  Do you respect what the limits of your skill set are?

Photo Source: Kelly Sikkema

It's not about just having good taste, we also need to understand the rational and functional motivation behind our design choices – and courses in design can provide the technical know-how to back up that good taste. Remember, just because you love design doesn't mean you have enough education and experience to be a professional designer.  You know what though?  If you feel like you want to make that leap, you can start to explore your interests through continuing education classes.  Then try a few basic design classes at an accredited college for interior design. If the bug really hits you, enroll in a certificate, a bachelor’s or a master’s program in interior design.   Get as much education as you can so that you are contributing to the professional development of this field we love.  A day in the life of most interior designers is not at all what we see on HGTV. Education and experience in the field can help prepare you for what your clients need so that you feel confident you are working in their best interest.

In the end, no two people will take the same path anywhere, and interior design is no different. But if you want to grow your skill set and experience, and venture into a new field, education is always a great place to get started.

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