Brabantialife Design Insights had an exclusive interview with Barbara Segal, President of Noir Blanc Interiors Chicago, IL and Newport, RI. The company specialises in luxury homes, coastal living, yacht interiors, and high rise interiors. Barbara is also the Founder and Moderator for the professional global community #IntDesignerChat on Twitter every Tuesday at 6pm EST.
What or who inspired you to become an interior designer?
My father was an Advertising Executive, and moving often in those days my mother had a corporate decorating allowance (yes those were the days) and from a very early age my mother included me in her design decisions. I guess good design is in my DNA. So I’ve always been an interior designer, focusing on my own houses and those of friends and family.
But the “tipping point” which got me started founding my own interior design business Noir Blanc Interiors was, when I, and my (then) husband hired & fired two design teams. Both my husband and I had a demanding careers and businesses, we were looking for help with the time challenges of the interiors of our own residences. We fired the designers for “not listening”, no realistic schedules and a big void where their business savvy should have been. There is way more to being an interior designer than just design, and I had both the design and the business expertise.
I might add that many of my previous entrepreneurial endevours were an ideal spring board to starting my interior design business including the following three below:
In my other careers I travelled extensively internationally to Trade Shows in the Home Furnishing Industry; so my own homes (which I design) were and are always unique with one of a kind finds.
I owned a 10,000 sq. ft. Showroom to the Trade at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago and represented 20 French Manufacturers at the time. I designed the commercial space and had a cooking demonstration area sponsored by Le Cordon Bleu with seating for 50. I threw many a parties for top Chicago Institutions and non profits. Clients & interior designers came into my showroom and both asked me to visit their projects or homes.
I owned a retail store, and successful online website which sold luxury French products. I was buying for years at all Gift Shows and in MAISON & OBJET. Mixing in antique finds as well. I heard daily how beautiful my store was and was featured in several shelter magazines. Clients came to me often for help with their interiors.
One of the highlights for me has been building the Architect, Home Decor, and Interior Designer global community; online via twitter chat #intdesignerchat, and other online channels including our Linkedin group and the “real life” educational events we focus on. Our chat is attracting major brands, as that is where often 150-200 of their Architect and designer influencers and advocate hang out. Wow what an opportunity. 10 million impressions in one hour!
Secondly, I am embracing the trend that you create your trend, something that is coming very much in focus (thankfully) these days; design appropriate for your client and the space where your client lives or works. Trends come and go, but good design is forever.
What decorating techniques/ideas would you recommend to a homeowner who wants to update a room without spending a fortune?
There is lots of good advice to homeowners doing their own design. Starting with the overall plan for the room before rushing to the store and buying anything. Putting all the components together on one “pinterest” board and then shopping around for the best prices would be my advice. Adding new decorative pillows, seasonally in the living areas can add color and pizzaz! A fresh new colored wall, can make a world of difference in any room. I love changing duvets seasonally it changes the entire feel of the bedroom. I am also a believer of less is more. Re-organize, sell things, and a homeowner instantly has a fresh new look in their home.
What is your favourite design magazine?
Traditional Home is one of my favorites because they showcase my taste and style of classic and traditional design.
How about your favourite website or blog?
Freshome, Pursuitist and Inhabitat. I like websites and blog that incorporate more than just one point of view. Good design is good design no matter what your style or focus. I appreciate very traditional design and I appreciate minimalist (zen) or contemporary design.
Tell us about one of your favourite projects
Honestly every new project I work on I swear is my favorite project. One that comes to mine for this interview, was working with a single female executive on a multi million dollar three bedroom high rise and new build out in a Chicago. The challenge was working her antiques into the new contemporary layout of the space. The draperies and color palette were magnificent. She entertained often, so we designed the space for her lifestyle and soirees.
What’s your favourite colour combination?
Shade of blue from the sea and silver; as that’s what inspires me personally. However, when I start the discovery process understanding a new client, this is the exact question I ask them. A home should incorporate the favorites of those who live there, and I always include the client favorites in my design, either as a focus color or in the accessories. I love colorful unique accessories.
What’s something you should never skimp on when decorating your home?
The electrical & switching plans. Especially today when there is still so much to be learned about LED lighting ~ yes, a 2012 trend. Firstly, the plans should reflect the lifestyles of the people; do they need a lot of outlets? Where do they read/work? Lots of client discovery here. Both the planning and the wiring infrastructure are a very bad places to skimp, as it’s very expensive to change later. I don’t skimp on the lighting fixtures, but if someone does it’s easy to change in the future.
Are there any insider interior design top tips we should know about for 2012?
To be on the “green” bandwagon it does not have to be the whole “costly” thing all at once. Start small. That’s for the designers in talking to their client. Find something a client can relate to, like LED light bulbs and low flush toilets.
My business advice is since a flat fee does not work in this “fluctuating” economy charge an hourly fee instead. That’s a subject I am afraid for a whole other interview!
And lastly…(cheeky I know!) what’s your favourite Brabantia product and why?
I love the new London Olympics Bin.