We Get Asked: How Do You Work?

We Get Asked: How Do You Work?

Rightly so, this is one of the most frequently asked questions by potential clients and, one of the first things that we address in an initial consultation. With the proliferation of HGTV, Houzz, Pinterest, and the plethora of ‘instant design’ reality TV shows it is no surprise that the inner workings of the interior design industry remain shrouded in mystery. Many of these design sources show excellent finished projects, however, they don’t often chronicle the detailed behind-the-scenes work that all exceptional design requires. Let’s be honest, no one really wants to watch HGTV chronicle a designer responding to builder-architect-client communication, tapping out detailed CAD elevations, searching for the “perfect” product replacement, visiting workrooms to check in on specialty designed pieces, or pushing vendors to honor quality standards and lead times. That wouldn’t be entertaining or exciting! And, that certainly wouldn’t fit neatly into a 1 hour time slot. Yet, it is precisely these kinds of activities that happen daily on every project to bring it to a successful culmination.

With over 60 years of cumulative design experience, our firm recognizes that good design doesn’t materialize in the span of a commercial break. We take great pride in the thoughtful process that we follow for every project that comes through our office. Time has taught us that the foundation of our work is best built on a positive and transparent relationship with our clients. We conduct a complimentary consultation to gain a true understanding of the project scope, client needs and expectations. This is our opportunity to share our design approach. It is also our opportunity to educate prospective clients on the services that we offer and how we manage a project. After the consultation we are able to generate a Design Agreement, for client approval, that explains in detail our involvement with the project and our fee structure.

Once the Design Agreement is in place, we set up the initial design meeting. A typical first meeting with us is going to include an introduction to our entire team of designers, an opportunity for us to get acquainted with the client, listen to their vision for the project, be receptive to any inspiration they want to share, and begin the conversation about functional needs related to the project. From here, the design team begins working on the ‘behind the scenes’ tasks to develop and put form to the concepts that need to go forward first. Consider our approach to design development much like the process a baker uses to build a layer cake: The first layers to get solidified are the architectural framework, budget, construction elements, and background finishes. Next layers include plumbing, lighting, millwork, and hardware selections. Then come the last layers with selection of soft goods like rugs, furnishings, drapery and bedding—all of which relate to directly to the background elements. It all truly comes together with the unifying force of the icing, in the form of the art and accessories. And finally, the “cherry on top” expressed as a shared celebration and champagne toast at project completion.

One of the most satisfying aspects of our work is that post-project we don’t part ways with many of our clients. In fact, over 90% of our business consists of new projects from repeat clients and positive client referrals. That is a real statement for the relationships that we forge, the professional insight and value that we bring to a project, and the well developed process that we use to move clients successfully through a design project from start to finish.

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Design in a Little ‘Breathing Space’

We all feel it, that indefinable quality of “space” that draws us to certain structures, or parks, a sacred cathedral or sometimes to a friends’ home or even a single room. Humans have the ability to respond emotionally to each environment we move through, whether consciously noting or unconsciously reacting. As an Interior Designer, our mission is to help bring to your “present” consciousness how important these reactions to “space” really are. This word means so many things, from physical sparseness and volume to mental freedom and openness. Think of the awe we feel inside strictly from the grandness of spatial architecture in a cathedral, or the ability to stop, breathe and study great art in a quiet museum hall. It is the surrounding “lack” of filler that brings focus to the intended center. Sometimes what we take out of our vision is of greater value than what we add.

This same concept of understanding can be brought to your own intimate surroundings. Truly consider the visual arena that you are living in under the filter of creating clear space. Is there a cohesive value of intention, or a cluttered result of activities that have not been considered in the planning process? Your life is reflected around you, but is the reflection ordered with “space” for the mental functions as well as the physical? This takes consideration and attention to more than the “title” of a room. If you really need a project table instead of a formal dining room, change it! Look for more action space, rather than things to fill in. Make sure to view your own areas with a fresh take on needs, light and motion. Edit the “remainders” of other people’s traditions and memories, and make sure your current life is in focus. Think realistically about how it feels to enter your front door, or each room and define your emotions clearly. Do you feel invited into an area with space to enter, or is the path unclear, or blocked. Interior Design is all about the color palettes, the relationships of textures and light, a unity of thought and mind, and a thousand other details, but what creates something truly inspiring is when we focus on the individuals involved in a project and how they are relating to their physical space. So, step back from your normal patterns, and take a deep breath!

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Rosemary Lentil Soup

Rosemary Lentil Soup

Serves 6-8

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tablespoon Rosemary Olive Oil
  • 4 Bay Leafs (or ½ tsp Penzy’s Ground Bay Leafs)
  • 6 Garlic Cloves (to taste) with “Press” or “Dice”
  • 4 Stalks Green Onion – Chop all White & Green
  • 2 Leeks – Chop White Only
  • 1 Large Carrot – Cut in Small Rounds
  • 1 Stalk Celery – Chopped with Leafy Greens Included
  • 1 Handful – Fresh Parsley – Chopped without Stems

Spices:

  • Chicken Bouillon – 2 Cube Knorr Swiss
  • ½ tsp Ground Celery Seed
  • 1 tsp Spike
  • Pepper to Taste
  • 2 Tablespoon Ground Cumin
  • 2 Tablespoon Ground Oregano
  • 1 Can Rotel Mild Tomato Chili’s
  • *Optional: (for meat eaters) 2 Links Sliced Candelari’s (or other)– Spicy Italian Sausage

 

Sauté in Olive Oil: Onions, Garlic, Celery, Carrots, and Leeks. Add 6 cups of water, or more as it cooks. Add 1 pound of dried green or brown Lentils and all ingredients and spices except Rotel.

Cook 1 hour, then add the can of Rotel for final hour

Total cook time 2 hours. Serve with Brown Rice

 

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Accessories, A Natural Expression

“Personality” in people is the description of the multiple traits that create our perception of that individual.  Just think about someone you know, and the words flow…cherry, bubbly, moody, thoughtful, candid, private, quite, etc.

Now, think of their personal surroundings and you will “see” their personality.  It is a natural to surround ourselves with the bits and pieces, the here and there of our lives.  The family photos framed haphazard and spread all over, or are they gathered and co-ordinated?  The sculpture that frees your mind in loose form, or the detailed bronzethat you love to study.

The books, the paperweights, the collections.  They are all reflections of you, your interests, your diversions, your travels.  These are the “accessories” of your life.

As an interior designer, I try to take great care first to observe, and then continue the trends already established.  This is not a quick hit to the “accessory store”.  It’s more like a psychological study and research project.  After all, the big pieces in an overall design, the sofa, the style of the chairs, the rug, and the architectural layouts generally happen first.  These are the backgrounds, the color palettes, the wood tones, and surface textures.  All chosen in context to the end goals.  Then come the all important art selections, and even the style of lamps used as accessory to the room.  It is the blend that creates the reflection of the people involved.  The multiple facets of each individual.  The bold forms of structural sculpture could be added to a fresh background, or the glamour of a collection of crystal against a rich stained cabinet.

Always, the interest is in the multi-layers.  The relaxed linen throw next to the polished walnut table.  The natural grace of a worn stone urn next to a silver framed photo.  The contrasts, created from the different timelines, set next to a brown bust or Tibetan carved Buddha.  All pieces of interest and daily enjoyment.

The real accessories are the extensions of thoughts and personalities, the mix of currents of emotions, periods of life modern added to tradition.  We are all creating the feel and tone of our lives everyday, adding a little surprise, or luxurious touch that just might show up as the nicest “accessory”.

~Margie Slovack

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The “Vision Quest” For Home

Everyone has the ability to envision, but in order to define the details of a specific vision, like your home, you must focus.  As a designer, the first conversation I always have with my clients goes like this: “Tell me your view of your home.”  I ask them to do their “homework”—to collect pictures they like and make lists of their needs.

The perfect home is much more than a house in the right neighborhood or one with square feet to spare.  This special home is one that first you and your family that fulfills your needs, that works with your lifestyle.  Before you can plan your ideal home—before you get down to the details of how many bedrooms and baths and what kind of appliances you want in the kitchen—you need to refine your emotional response to “home”.  How you want to feel when you walk into the home?  Do you want it to feel friendly, welcoming, uplifting?  Maybe peaceful, quiet.  Does art inspire you when you walk in?

When you think about home, don’t think about the hottest trends or accessories.  Think about comfort, about the people you want around you, about family photos.  Think about your life, not décor.

Think about the elements that make you dream of your desired space.  Besides location and size, what shapes the vision, what kind of environment will support your needs?  Whether your special home is spacious or small is not relevant when you are focusing on your vision.  A 4,000-square-foot house can be designed to feel almost intimate, while limited space can appear larger with visual “expanders” such as glass, light colors, and mirrors.  Is it all about light or mood?  Most importantly, what inspires your life? Perhaps you like a space filled with natural light.  Or maybe you prefer rooms that feel warm and cozy.  Do you feel best surrounded by calm, neutral hues, or do you love the energy of strong colors?  Do you respond the most to your surroundings when inside or outdoors?

In the initial planning stage—the vision stage—think about how you want to live in your ideal home.  Where do you want to have conversations?  Do you and your family and friends usually gather around the kitchen table or do you settle on the sofa and easy chairs?  Where do you like to sit quietly and read?  Do you want a private place to paint or sew?  These are the wishes that help shape your vision.  It really is “all about you!”

Will your home be filled with children and activity for many years to come?  Or will the kids be moving away in a few years?  Will you be retiring soon?  Once couple anticipating retirement wanted to leave their big house, to pare down, lighten up, simplify.  They envisioned having visual space, not necessarily a large living space.  They moved to the coast where they can look out to sea and the horizon never felt closed in.  That’s their perfect reality!

If your dream home will be a family home, you need to plug into the other family members’ dreams.  A husband may see himself surrounded with art and windows rather than paneled walls.  A 9-year-old girl’s wishes will be totally different from those of a 12-year-old boy.  Don’t forget to ask.  And try not to fight it.  Allow it!  Remember, if your son wants black walls to look like outer space, in two years he may want to repaint them brick red.  Enjoy the fun!

Favorite colors will help create your vision.  Why shouldn’t you live with the colors that make you feel good?

Don’t get hung up on the name of a room.  For instance, the dining room can have multiple uses; it can also be a library, or a project space to the family room.  The function of different spaces may even change over time as your lifestyle, preferences, and needs evolve.

Whether or not you will have professional assistance in planning your home, first you must do your personal homework.  You must give shape to your vision in order to be able to articulate it to someone else.  You have to know how you want your home to feel before you can determine how the physical will be turned into reality.  Think about, and write down, your response to other places—your parents’ home, your friends’ homes, pictures in design magazines.  What do you like?  What don’t you like?  What makes you feel good, happy?

Bring your vision into the context of your life today—and tomorrow—not the way it has been in the past.  Think about how you want to live in the future, not necessarily how you live now.

Before you make a move, envision how you want to live!

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A Focus on Calm

One of the most rewarding aspects of the profession of “Interior Design” is the significance it can bring to your emotional well being! A quality designer should start with listening to a client’s request of style and color, but these are not the true anchors of “spirit of place”. Truly successful design of the environment surrounding us is much more about the patterns of movement, life’s activities, natural light, visual space, and inviting gathering spots. The current research shows that a supportive, adaptive living space adds greatly to the relationships of the individuals experiencing them. Healing centers are adding natural settings, interior green spaces for respite, calmer waiting areas. There is a certain rhythm of human response to all the color palettes, textures, and sounds around us that happens on almost an unnoticed basis. These responses are the real tools of design.


As a designer, I believe there must be a thoughtful process of layering involved that is concerned with the blended whole.

This concept of design creates the background of support, not centering on “decorative” solutions. Decorative design has its place, of course, in public venues, but our personal living spaces must enhance our lives. Now add the most important overlooked ingredient to any space, a reserve of pretension, and a focus on calm. Often this takes the form of edition, not adding. One of the first “rules” of design is to REMOVE what is wrong in the space. This can be any element in view, including architectural blunders, too much trim, too much pattern or color. Using the subtle renderings of tones, less contrasts, muted patterns and solids are all tools that can inject a sense of calm. It is the combination of responses to all the elements around us that can enhance the quality of our lives.

~Margie Slovack

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Oh, The Places You Can Go!

School is out and summer is in!  You may already have travel plans or be searching for a last-minute getaway.  If there is one thing you should know about our team it is that we are well traveled.  Collectively we’ve visited over 30 of the United States and 20 international countries.  All of us find vacations to be prime time for not only refueling our energy stores, but also scouting interesting and inspirational design ideas.  Here are some of our favorites:

IMG_2979The Muir Woods, California: Margie Slovack

The Muir Woods are one of the most stunning natural phenomena in the United States!  This park, located snugly between Napa Valley and San Francisco is a must-see for any California trip.  The majesty of redwoods is beyond description. Imagine, these mighty giants came from a seed smaller than an acorn.  The whole forest is a testament to nature’s grandeur and the power of perseverance.  The earthy notes of greens and browns dappled by rays of sunlight filtering through the branches create a calm, serene, and healing environment.  When you visit be sure to leave enough time to walk along the miles of trails and take in the scents, smells and sights of the natural word! Continue reading

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Dress For Success

A recent outing to drop off a clothing donation, turned into an amazing peek into the core of the Houston’s chapter of Dress for Success, located at 3310 Eastside.  The team at Slovack-Bass made a commitment last year to regularly put aside our most professional looking clothing that we were not utilizing in hopes of supporting Dress for Success, an organization geared toward helping disadvantaged women prepare for job interviews by outfitting them with all the wardrobe staples they need to make a good first impression.

Dress For Success Houston

Photo courtesy of Joe Aker

During our tour of the facility, we learned that the volunteers at DFS do a whole lot more than just provide a single outfit.  They offer educational training, emotional support and a continued supply of clothing to help Houston women on the road to independence.  Along with the tangible benefits of DFS, the facility itself offers women a chance to feel important and even a little bit spoiled, as the experience includes a personal shopper and a retail venue that rivals any of Houston’s finest boutiques.

We can appreciate the benefit of making a good first impression and with DFS operating in Houston, we feel confident that thousands of local women will do just that.  Thank you DFS for a glimpse into your world of serving those in need, we look forward to continued support of your valuable mission!

The mission of Dress for Success is to promote the economic independence of disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools to help women thrive in work and in life.


Since 1998, Dress for Success Houston has provided business attire, a much needed boost of confidence, career tools and educational services to more than 40,000 in our community. In 2012, we served more than 6,000 women adding to the countless success stories. An independent 501(c)(3) corporation registered in the state of Texas, Dress for Success Houston is part of a worldwide network of more than 120 affiliates.

Dress for Success Houston
3310 Eastside Street
Houston, TX 77098
(p) 713.957.3779
(f) 713.957.3774

One woman, one suit, one job can change the world!
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Partnership for Success

Partnership.  For some design firms it is just a cliché.  At Slovack-Bass it’s a way of approaching every relationship we encounter.  Whether we are meeting a client for the first time, developing a design concept, generating construction documents or walking the job site, our goal is always the same—to be a positive and productive partner in the design and construction process.  Why?  Because we know that partnership is the key ingredient that elevates design from good to great.

In April we were interviewed by Jim Koaller of Construction Citizen.  The subject of our interview was 40,000 square feet of commercial and retail space that we recently designed and installed in the Williams Tower—the 3rd largest building in Houston and iconic landmark in the Galleria.  This collection of four separate projects for the same client has already been honored with two ASID design awards.  We could never have accomplished it alone!  It was the collaboration between Slovack-Bass, the client, architects, and contractors that made each of these unique spaces an outstanding success!

Watch the full interview here AND read the article below

Slovack-Bass Teams with Contractor to Create an Award Winning Design

by Jim Kollaer on Tue, 04/09/2013 – 1:53pm
From: Construction Citizen

In December, Elizabeth McPherson toured the build-out of a new bank and office space in Williams Tower, located in the Uptown District of Houston, Texas right behind the Houston Galleria, and interviewed the owner’s representative.

As a follow-up to that posting, I interviewed the design team to see how they approached this project and to gather some tips that complete the story of how this project came together successfully.

The designer for the project was Slovack-Bass, a partnership of Marjorie Slovack, RID, ASID and John Bass.  They have worked together for over 20 years in both the residential and the commercial markets and in the process, they have developed a team of skilled project professionals and designers, several of whom worked on this project.

For this assignment, Marjorie chose Amy Lopez, RID, ASID, IIDA to work with Lauren Lucas, the owner’s representative on the team.  Together, they worked closely with Marek Brothers Systems to create a successful build-out of the office and lobby space.

Several points became evident about the unique character of this team in the conversation.  Marjorie talked about the space itself and their approach to the materials selection and how their design themes were carried throughout the floors that house the corporate headquarters.  She explained that the team approached the design of the lobby on a residential scale that would create a warm and inviting environment for the bank’s customers and prospects.

Williams Tower, developed by Hines in 1983, is the 3rd tallest building in Houston, and at the time it was built, it was the tallest building west of the Mississippi.  It is an “all-glass” tower and was finished with materials such as granite, marble, and glass which were designed to last 50 to 100 years.  Not exactly the warmest of building materials.

The materials used in the new design are much warmer and yet link to the tower’s materials in a way that enables the finished design to “fit” in the tower lobby.

The Slovack-Bass team walked us through the materials and colors used throughout the interior and explained how they created the “residential feel” of the spaces, both in the ground floor lobby and in the upper story offices.

The contractor was an important part of the team. Both the owner and the designers told us how important their work with Marek Brothers Systems was to the success of the project.  They even told us that they used another contractor for part of the work and how much more successful their relationship was with Marek.

Marjorie explained that having a professional builder like Marek on the team at the outset made an enormous difference in the successful build-out of the space and in the delivery of labor and materials on time.

She said that most other contractors they worked with cared little about the design or the concepts, rather they just seemed to want the designer to give them the drawings and get out the way while they built it.

Not so with Marek, whose team wanted to know the concept, the designers’ intent, the materials selections, and the schedules.  Together the team developed the plan and put that plan in place for the owner.

The conversation revealed to us how important the builder is to the success of the final design.  You can see more of the interview in the 13 minute video below.

Slovack-Bass was named the winner of the 2012 American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) award in commercial retail for this project.

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41Q: Raising the Standard in Luxury Living

Here at Slovack-Bass we love a good challenge…even if it means traveling out of town and designing for a “conceptual client” on a quick timeline!  Unit 41Q at The Austonian, a luxury high rise condominium in Austin, TX, afforded the design team a chance to stretch their creative wings.  We were commissioned by the developer to finish out the “shell” of an upper level unit to be used as a model, showing prospecting buyers the potential of a fully customized home.  The entire project took about 3 months to specify and another 3 months to install—lightening speed for the level of finishes that were incorporated.  The end result is a testament to creative collaboration between a designer and a developer.

“For this unit, we wanted to figuratively bring in the treetops, the birds, and the natural elements that are so beautiful in this world. The textures and color palettes we selected for the unit, keep it from being too contemporary or cold.”

Read more about the unit at the Austonian below

Continue reading

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