How are you incorporating green design into your work?
I am very cognizant of the fact that because we often do large renovations of old homes, we are constantly part of a process that results in a lot of waste and garbage. So whenever possible, I attempt to help clients re-use old things in new and interesting ways-my version of "recycling." Whether it be through transferring an old piece of furniture to a different room or by updating a cherished family heirloom with a fresh coat of paint, we can stretch the life of an item and allow the client to see the piece in a new light. With old upholstery pieces, we can make a piece look different in more ways than simply covering the piece in new fabric-we can remove a skirt and paint the legs of the piece to give it a more tailored look, or we can re-shape the arms of a sofa or chair either by slimming them down or plumping them up; when new seat cushions are needed for a sofa, perhaps instead of doing two or three seats, we recommend one long, single cushion. We try to avoid adding to the already voluminous amount of waste where we can, even in small ways, by stretching our imaginations and being creative with old pieces. I feel the same theory applies to the purchase if vintage and antique pieces-in that it helps the environment if we can make use of something with some age, and can avoid having to manufacture everything from scratch.
My upholsterer has also recently introduced me to soy foam seat cushions. Not only do I feel good about suggesting these cushions to clients because they are environmentally friendly, but I also love the way they feel to sit on. When I first tested the soy foam cushions, I selected them over five other seat-cushion fills without even knowing what they were. It is a great alternative to regular foam if you are looking for an easy maintenance seat cushion.
Another very easy way to incorporate green design into our work in through the use of environmentally friendly paints like the Benjamin Moore Aura line.
What can't you live without?
Sparkly things! I am obsessed with materials that shine and shimmer - iridescent silk taffetas, metallic paints, gold leaf on walls and ceilings, high-gloss Venetian plaster that is infused with silver or gold mica powder, glass-beaded trims, gold-flecked Murano glass light fixtures, silk velvets, anything crystal-encrusted! I always try to work some sparkly materials into my clients' homes, but I do so with a light touch because it can be a difficult thing to sell in big doses. For myself, I push the limits and go for as much shimmer as I think a room can handle. My assistants recently discovered this amazing peach-colored lame fabric that I am in love with-if I could drape my ceiling in this fabric, I would be the happiest person on the planet!
What is your defining moment as a designer?
I think my feelings about the importance of interior design changed about a year ago when I designed an apartment for myself and my two children after separating from my then-husband of 13 years. While the experience of designing a home during such a difficult and traumatic time of my life was a serious challenge, it was during that exercise that I fully realized the psychological impact of a well-designed home-not only the end result, but the whole process of creating that home from start to finish. Not only was the experience a cathartic one for me, allowing me a much-needed opportunity to start from scratch and to re-build, but it was an empowering experience in that it showed me how I could put my life back together through putting a home together for myself. To this day, when I come home at the end of a long day, I heave a sigh of relief-I feel happy and relaxed and so fortunate to have such a meaningful place to live, a place that is mine, a place that I created. And when I wake up in the morning, I look around and feel inspired for the day ahead. I truly feel a connection between my home and my ability to lead a productive, successful, and inspired life. While I have always appreciated the beauty of good design, I now feel and understand good design to be so much more. I feel that my role as a designer is so much more significant than I ever thought before, that as a designer I can help people achieve a thoughtfully assembled home which can hopefully provide them with the basis and groundwork from which to build a meaningful life.
How is the recession impacting your work? How do you weave luxury into design during the recession?
In an ironic way, the recession has had some positive impact on my work. I am finding that many clients-both old and new-want to freshen up their homes because they are finding themselves at home more than they used to, whether as a result of having lost a job or because they are not eating out as much, not going on vacation. Spending more time at home is forcing people to focus more on items they have neglected for some time. People who have ignored maintaining parts of their home for a while now want to tackle these jobs, whether it's repairing cracking walls or just changing the environment with a new wall color, or hanging new curtains for an instantaneous face-lift of a room. People want their homes to be a sanctuary for themselves and their families during these tough times, and we have been able to help so many people in both big and small ways to make their homes more comfortable and livable, more peaceful and more inspiring at the same time.
I think it is important to feel luxury during hard times, and feel that incorporating luxurious materials into ones home, even in small doses, can propel us to a better, more successful future. Items like an incredibly soft cashmere blanket in a room can provide warmth and comfort, a beautiful leather-bound journal can be the place to write down inspired ideas that can provide motivation-quality accessories that fill the home and spark creativity and engender feelings of peace can truly help in tough times.
Jennifer Flanders Inc.