Interviews with four top interior designers in Madison
By: Jessica Strong
Owner of Denise Quade Design
What do you like best about working in the Madison area?
I began working in this industry in Janesville while I raised my kids and when I made the move to Madison nearly fifteen years ago, I noticed immediately that people treated me as a professional. Being in Madison has been an enlightening experience for me, and this market has really helped me to explore more of my talent and has essentially changed the entire direction of my career.
What projects are you working on now?
I’m currently working on a home remodel where I’m specializing in cabinetry, countertops and tile. For this project, I’m also teaming up with another designer and that collaboration has been really fun!
Generally, my clientele is made up of individuals who want to remodel kitchens, bathrooms, studies, laundry and mudrooms—wherever cabinets are.
What materials are currently popular?
Cabinetry-wise, painted finishes are really coming back. Painted white is really hot right now. As far as countertops go, brushed finishes in granite are also very popular.
Have you noticed any trends in termsof clientele over the past years?
With the economy, I’ve noticed that people are more cautious about what they spend their money on. Also, my younger clients are really into technology. Many of them use different websites such as Pinterest and houzz.com to show me what they’re interested in.
How would you describe your signature style in three words?
Creative, passionate and experienced.
Owner of Brownhouse Design
What keeps you inspired and motivated as a designer?
It’s the absolute passion for the creation of something beautiful from nothing. I’ve used the analogy that my work is like creating a life, because it’s something that never existed before which comes from a spark and then after waiting for it to be created, it’s a new life!
What trends are you seeing and liking lately?
I actually don’t follow trends very closely because I think it’s just that—a trend and it doesn’t have staying power. What I have found is that my clientele is usually made up of people who want things that will last a longer period of time. I always advise my customers to not put money in trendy things that are architecturally associated with the building, or other things that are very expensive to change out.
Bright, intense colors are in this season for interior design. How can people incorporate those types of colors without going overboard?
The easiest way to incorporate loud colors into one’s home décor is through transitory items such as paint colors or throw pillows. Kitchen towels and artwork pieces are also items that can be easily changed out.
Which project that you have finished recently stands out the most for you?
It would have to be the Lucky Apartments. What’s unique about the Lucky Apartments project is that I own it. The experience of designing it was different because I was the client and creative designer and so the pressure was different. It was a phenomenal experience because it was a whole new level for us in terms of the size and complexity of the project.
People often note your fashion sense. Does it influence your work as an interior designer?
Absolutely! I really should have been in fashion; that was my first love. I always tell young designers who come to work for me that we are in a visual business, so the way you look is very important. It’s important that you express your creativity to some extent, in your personal style because it immediately gives a prospective or existing client some notion about your talent.
Owner of Fontaine Interior Designs
How have your travel experiences affected your interior design style?
My travel experiences have always affected my take oninterior design. I look at what is going on globally, take influence from the world around me and apply it to my design aesthetic, presentations and the work we do for clients.
What trends are you seeing and liking lately?
The first trend that we are seeing is the use of a lot of color, hot punches of color. Another serious trend in big-city design is the use of indigo mixed with a lot of sharp, crisp, clean white with either a punch of orange or a sophisticated charcoal. Love this trend!
What is the most rewarding aspect of being an interior designer?
The first rewarding aspect of being an interior designer is when someone who is a little reluctant is willing to take the leap with us and then tells us how thrilled they are with the results. We also love when a client invites us over for a cocktail when a project is completed.You have an eclectic mix of pieces in your store.
Where do they come from?
The pieces in our store come from all over the world including Africa, Bali, Europe, South America, China and America. We also source vintage finds and use all of this to present our client and customer with the eclectic mix that is only Fontaine.
Are there any special events coming up at Fontaine?
We are in the preliminary stages of setting up some vendor trunk shows for fall and there is our Holiday Open House, which our customers and clients look forward to every year.
Owner of Karen Claffey-Koller Interior Design
What is the most rewarding aspect of your work?
Creating an environment for individuals that is both functional and exciting to live in.
What trends are you seeing lately and liking a lot?
Styles seem to be trending toward simple, pure and clean, functional design.
Outside of your clients, what inspires your work as an interior designer?
Aside from great or interesting pieces of architecture, my work is probably most influenced by nature—color, texture, movement and light.
What are some of your favorite colors and materials to work with?
My own personal “favorites” fluctuate from time to time based on the project at hand and the surrounding environment. I always love working with color and natural materials from the earth—marbles, granites, stones and woods. I like to contrast those materials with more unexpected textures such as concrete, glass, metals and silks.
What are common mistakes people make when they attempt to design their own homes? How do you help them?
Sometimes people get so focused on their immediate surroundings that they forget about “the big picture.” When altering a space, the optimal condition is to have that new area look like it perfectly fits in with the rest of the place. I can help work that magic—make spaces feel better, seem bigger, feel cozier.
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