The Mind of a Designer, Part II

In this second installment of our quest to find out what makes an interior designer tick, we’ve approached the top winners for residential interior design in this year’s awards from the Washington Metro Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers: McLean designer Nancy Colbert, Bethesda designer Lorna Gross-Bryant and Arlington designer Andrea Houck. (Click here for our first installment, containing interviews with the winners of Home & Design magazine’s Designer’s Choice awards.)

Take it away, ladies!

Nancy Colbert
Design Partners LLC
Designer of Distinction

nancyHow long have you been in business? WHY are you in this business?
Design Partners was established in 2000, but I think I’ve been in the “Interior Design” business since my mother allowed me to cut off the legs of her new custom made end tables (in high school)!

Why do you think people choose to work with you? What do they tell you?
I think clients chose to work with us because we approach our projects from a position of industry knowledge and experience. Our clients tell us that they are pleased to have our guidance in working through the many challenges to arrive at their vision.

What’s your “sweet spot” — the perfect project or client for your style?
We welcome the input of our clients to create the solution for their project and our “perfect” client is one who gives us trust, but one who knows they need our help.

As a designer, where do your skills overlap with those of an architect or a remodeling designer who specializes in kitchen or bath design?
Designers are not permitted to do structural drawings, but our vetted team is made up of experts in their fields, therefore we are capable of tackling any remodeling project.

Nancy designed this loggia for the DC Design House with the goal of creating a space that offers both privacy as well as the allure of communing with the natural environment:

Photograph by Angie Seckinger
Photograph by Angie Seckinger

 

Photograph by Geoffrey Hodgdon
Photograph by Geoffrey Hodgdon

 

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Photograph by Geoffrey Hodgdon

 

Lorna Gross-Bryant
Lorna Gross Interior Design
Residential Detail Design Award

occoquanHow long have you been in business? WHY are you in this business?
I’ve been in business for ten years. I enjoy research and planning and I have a strong detail orientation. Marrying all of that with a love for beautiful things makes for a great foundation for interior design. As a former corporate executive, I love the opportunity to brand commercial interiors and to create dream spaces that clients can come home to after a long day of work. It’s a privilege to have a client put their trust in me.

Why do you think people choose to work with you? What do they tell you?
Most of my clients choose to work with me because they’re seeking “soup to nuts” design in one-stop shopping – everything from interiors drawings for new construction to candlesticks for the dining room table. They tell me that they appreciate that I don’t force my opinions on them, but sincerely listen and consider their preferences.

What’s your “sweet spot” — the perfect project or client for your style?
I’m a product of New York and Louisiana, places of very different cultures, so I honor individuality. Cookie cutter design is dull to me. I really enjoy the challenge of translating my client’s personality to the built environment and I have a talent for curating unique elements that capture my clients’ essence. Success is when their design is a true reflection of who they are.

As a designer, where do your skills overlap with those of an architect or a remodeling designer who specializes in kitchen or bath design?
Licensed interior designers can design bathrooms and kitchens. Similar to architects, they can create interiors floor and room plans. In my personal experience, the most successful projects allow for collaboration amidst each area of expertise.

Lorna helped clients with Houston roots and a love of the Caribbean infuse their Chevy Chase home with elements of both, all the while maintaining a sophisticated, elegant style:

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Andrea Houck
A. Houck Interiors
Residential Single Space Design Award

houckHow long have you been in business? WHY are you in this business?
Not only are we celebrating a milestone – 15 years in business – but we also marked the occasion by starting a blog, Creating Spaces, where we regularly share our passion for all things design.

I started my career as an art director in an advertising agency. I learned on the drawing board, doing everything by hand. As the advertising world transitioned to computers, I craved a more tactile, personal outlet for my creativity. Over the years, I had successfully renovated and re-designed several of my own houses as well as friends and family – and loved it! Those experiences inspired me to shift my business focus from two-dimensional ad design to three-dimensional interior design.

Why do you think people choose to work with you? What do they tell you?
I think there are several reasons clients choose A. Houck Designs. People want to work with a designer who is approachable, will listen to their ideas and then create spaces that reflect their personal style (and help them define that style, if needed).

A great rapport between the client and the designer is crucial to a project’s success. The design process gets pretty intimate, and the client needs to be comfortable opening up about their lifestyle needs and their budget.

Clients often tell me that they appreciate my down-to-earth approach. Clients also appreciate my attention to detail and my skill at bringing all the elements together at the final reveal. And that often leads to additional projects in the home. I am proud to say that I’ve been working with many clients for over five years, transforming each space in their house.

What’s your “sweet spot” — the perfect project or client for your style?
As our tagline says, we create spaces that our clients love…whether traditional, modern or somewhere in between. Our sweet spot is building a strong relationship with our client and honing in on their personality and tastes.

I love working with a client on a home that has good bones but needs a fresh perspective and some TLC. When I start a new project, I don’t just look at the physical space the way it is – I imagine what it could be. I love the visualization aspect of what I do. I can walk into a space and see the possibilities and envision the end result. In one home, moving a wall just one foot opened up the foyer and changed the entire feel of the space. In another kitchen project, taking a wall to half height opened up the small space to a vista on the large outdoor patio. Giving an outdated fireplace a new look has transformed a space for several clients.

As a designer, where do your skills overlap with those of an architect or a remodeling designer who specializes in kitchen or bath design?
Because A. Houck Designs has done many kitchen and bath renovations, we understand the principles of building and renovation. Our firm can be a wonderful asset to a builder, architect or remodeling designer. There are a tremendous number of details to prioritize and choices to be made during the design construction phase of a kitchen or bath project. The devil is indeed in the details in this type of work. I see my role as assisting the client with the selection process while understanding the overall aesthetic and project goal for the architect or builder.

We work collaboratively with architects, builders and remodelers to ensure a seamless process and amazing end result. Our collaboration frees up the architect or builder to concentrate on the specific architectural or engineering design and allows A. Houck Designs to focus on the interior design plan, from cabinets and countertops to flooring and lighting. It’s important that a kitchen or bath redesign fits in with the home’s existing spaces or desired design direction. This is especially true with an open floor plan, where the kitchen is open to the great room. We look at the big picture and work to bring cohesiveness and continuity to the interior design scheme.

In one recent project, Andrea helped her clients rein in and renew a bland, towering family room into a warm gathering spot for their extended family and friends to gather in: 

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