Photographs provided by Ava Living
Above left: Interior Designer Terri Symington; Above right: A design suggestion made by Terri regarding Sindy's interior was to add portieres to the opening between her family room and living space, like the single portiere that is pictured above, in order to soften the opening and create visual height to the space.
Finding the right interior designer for your space requires research, communication, and confidence that you will be able to come to a collaborative common ground for a beautiful end result. For those that are new to this process, or even those who are familiar with the process but want to branch out, it’s hard to know where to start, and where is the best venue to find just the right match for your needs. These considerations and experiences were the initial starting point for Ava Living’s newly launched program Designer Room Review. The program was developed to help guide the consumer through the process of looking for design talent on the Ava Living website, and then submitting photos of their interior for a free initial review, but was also developed with the hopes that it would help to facilitate new bonds between the client and designer to create a successful end result. This desired result was exactly the process that developed between Ava Living designer Terri Symington and Ava Living member Synthia Campbell.
Terri Symington speaks with Ava Living:
AL: Can you please tell us a little about yourself, your practice, and your location?
TS: Certainly. I have been in the design industry for over 25 years. I began my career in commercial art as a fashion illustrator, graphic designer, and art director. While I was a staff art director with the highly renowned Horchow Collection, I decided to return to school to pursue a career in interior design.
I have lived and worked from west coast to east coast, and I am now again in Texas, where I am centrally located between Houston and Austin in the rolling hills of Washington County. Because of my location, I can easily work on projects within a wide area. In the fall of 2005 I took the NCIDQ exam, passed all three sections the first time around, received my Texas registration, and became a full professional member of ASID.
I don’t have a signature style that defines my projects, but I do prefer to keep my designs clean and sophisticated. You won't find the word cute in my vocabulary, unless it is in a baby's nursery. It doesn't matter if a project is predominately traditional or warm contemporary, I like to eliminate as much of the unnecessary stuff that gets in the way of the lines of the design. Additionally, I think that most people can use less visual clutter in their spaces to simplify their lives. What ultimately makes each of my projects successful is this application and attention to the detail.
AL: How did you first become involved with Ava Living’s Designer Room Review?
TS: First of all, Ava Living is a wonderful forum for designers to promote their styles and services, as well as a serving as a central exchange for design-related ideas and information. Unlike localized direct marketing, a designer on the Ava Living website has the ability to communicate and work with people from all around the globe.
When I learned about the Designer Room Review feature that Ava Living was offering, I knew it was a unique opportunity. The expertise that has gone into creating the system for the exchange between designer and client is extremely valuable. As the world and technology continues to evolve, we must expand our approach and how we do business in the design industry. I love being able to work on projects with people that are across the country or halfway around the world at the touch of a keystroke!
AL: Can you explain a bit about the process that was involved in performing the room review for Synthia Campbell’s submitted living room?
TS: The room review is an analysis and critique of the client’s room based on the photos that are submitted to the Ava Living website. For a room to be successful, there are five elements that must be addressed: Proportion & Scale, Balance Harmony & Unity, Emphasis, and Rhythm. The client usually has a particular problem or issue with their interior that they want to address. However, what is not always obvious to the client, is that their real problem or issue may not actually be what they believe it to be.
In Sindy’s case, she was not happy with the way her room felt, and she thought that it needed some accessorizing to bring it all together and create more harmony in the room. Probably to her surprise, the accessories were not what I thought needed to be addressed straight away. I then studied her photos and commented on each element as it related to her space. There were several points that needed to be addressed first before she concerned herself with accessories.
AL: Once you completed your initial design review you must have struck a chord with Synthia, because she then wanted your professional design advice. How did the situation come about?
TS: In the reviews, I try to be as clear with the client as I can in regards to my thoughts and how they relate to their space. With her room review, Sindy was able to see her space and the existing issues through my eyes. Once she was able to see it from this new perspective, she was then ready to seek solutions. I was happy that she wanted to move to the next level and explore some ideas that would help her to reach the outcome that she was looking for.
AL: How did this process work for you and Synthia, being that it was mainly done via the Internet?
TS: It worked beautifully! During the review and consultation processes, I requested additional photos and information about Sindy's interiors. I think that it is extremely important to analyze a room from the point of view of the client and their needs regarding the use of the space. We then had an exchange of questions and answers, because I wanted to make sure that Sindy understood all of my comments and suggestions.
The elements that were analyzed in the room review were addressed in detail during the solution process. This included furniture layout, colors, window treatments, lighting, art, and accessories. Not only do you have to take each of these elements into consideration individually, but also they should also be considered as a whole so that you can see how they all relate to each other in the bigger picture.
One of the things that I loved about working with Sindy was her willingness to step out of her comfort zone and try out some of my suggestions that she was not sure about. I'm looking forward to receiving photos of her progress!
AL: Now that you have met Synthia through this process, do you think the two of you will continue working together on future projects?
TS: Actually, we already have. After this collaborative process, Sindy understood how important it is for rooms to relate to adjacent rooms. She has an entry/living room, which is very open to the family room that we first worked on, and she wanted to create continuity between these areas, so she requested a review and consultation for that space as well. Since we already had a clear direction for the one room, it was easy to continue on into the interior.
AL: How did this consultation experience contrast and compare with typical consultations that you’ve done in the past?
TS: Whether it is face-to-face, or via the internet, there are certain steps and criteria that don’t change. Since I can’t be there in person, it is important to have plenty of photos that are clear, and good communication is essential all of these situations. What is particularly nice with the online reviews are the time savings and the ability to work on them at odd hours of the day, when required.
For the client, a great feature of Ava Living's Designer Room Review is that they can request reviews of the same room from different designers. One of the fascinating aspects of interior design is that it is part science and part art, and even though the elements and issues are the same, no two designers will come up with the exact same solutions. The key is for the client to find the right fit for their taste and needs, and to be open to trying new ideas.
I’m looking forward to using the expanded program features that will allow me to create furniture plans for a client online, and also being able to recommend products through the service.
Above: Synthia Campbell's submitted photo of her family room for Designer Room Review
Ava Living member Synthia Campbell speaks with Ava Living:
AL: What triggered your desire to embark on a home makeover project, and what challenges did you encounter during the process?
SC: The walls in my family room and living room were painted pink, and I knew that had to change! After some consideration, I settled on a warm buff color for the fireplace wall so that our unique mantel would not stand out as much as before. I then chose two shades lighter than the buff for the adjacent walls and the living room, and was happy with how it turned out. After I put up some artwork and arranged my furniture, I wasn’t sure about what to do next, but I knew that something wasn’t quite right, like the space didn’t feel finished or complete. It was then that I started thinking about seeking outside help to finish the room.
AL: How did you first hear about Ava Living and the Designer Room Review?
SC: In an effort to figure out how to fix this existing design conundrum, I went on-line to check out HGTV design shows and eventually came to their Rate My Space section (RMS). It was while viewing some of the comments on a particular RMS room that I discovered Ava Living. A comment was left that encouraged the room’s poster to visit the Ava Living website for a free Designer Room Review. Of course, I scampered right over there and started perusing the site!
AL: When choosing a designer to review your room, what about Terri Symington’s work resonated with your aesthetics?
SC: I took my time reading the designer profiles, viewing the photos of their work, and reading their room reviews. I noticed that most of the rooms that were being submitted for evaluation were typically smaller; no grandiose mansions, with fantastic architectural details or vaulted ceilings, and were the kind of homes where 90% of real people actually live (homes like mine), so I immediately felt less intimidated!
I found that many of the reviews that I read were too vague and the designers sometimes came across as disinterested or uncommunicative. Unfortunately, because of some of my past experiences, this is what I had come to expect from interior designers. It seems to me that you have to give a little to get a little, so an evaluation of a room that seems to say “Here’s your free advice: the room’s out of balance, there’s no focal point, and you need to paint it; pay me and I may give you the name of the paint color to use" isn't that helpful and many homeowners already understand these problems.
I understand that designers cannot give everything away for free, but I think that Terri Symington demonstrated a reasonable balance with her reviews that left both the designer and the consumer feeling satisfied. In her reviews, she seemed to take the homeowner’s dilemma seriously and offered objective, thoughtful, and helpful suggestions, and gave the consumer a glimpse of what could be.
It was her generosity in sharing her knowledge, more than any other factor, that resonated the most with with me (even more than her work portfolio or and how they fit with my personal aesthetic). Terri came across as sincere, knowledgeable, professional, and articulate in her critique of a room’s design elements, and she also managed to give some helpful information for no cost, that a homeowner could implement on their own even if they didn't choose to take the next step of paying for additional designer advice. I was impressed by all of this, and I wanted to know how Terri would evaluate my room, so I requested a free Designer Room Review with Terri and I was not disappointed.
Above: Synthia Campbell's submitted photo of her living room/entryway for Designer Room Review
AL: When you received your design review, what was your initial reaction to Terri’s scores and comments about your room?
SC: I was surprised, delighted, and encouraged, and thought that maybe I did something right after all! I learned more from Terri in this one short, but free, initial evaluation of my room, than I did in weeks of paid consultation with a local Interior Designer. The evaluation progressed through each design element, explaining the layers that were needed to breathe some life and personality into my room, and to help it feel complete. She gave me so much to think about, that my own enthusiasm was renewed, and I began to visualize a bit of her vision for my room.
AL: You then chose to hire Terri to give you design advice. Can you tell us how you came to that decision? Did you find her advice helpful?
SC: The fact that Terri was so generous in sharing her helpful knowledge and suggestions from the start, made me confident in requesting her professional design advice. I knew that if I clicked on that button, good things would happen, and they did! Terri’s advice was specific, creative, and had some surprises that were all extremely helpful and doable. She provided me with an overall plan that I could prioritize and implement at my own pace that fit perfectly with my budget.
AL: Has this experience left you feeling confident about employing more design services in the future?
SC: Yes, as I mentioned before, I once hired a local interior designer, and with the two situations there is no comparison, only contrast. My one past experience was so discouraging, stressful, disappointing, and expensive that I thought to myself I'd never try it again.
Discovering Ava Living and Terri Symington has done a lot to erase that initial experience with an interior designer. I absolutely love the concept of on-line design consultations, and it has worked out perfectly for me! There are some limitations, of course, but my experience with Terri was exactly what I wanted, which was a minimal investment that has given me a plan to follow that will eventually lead to a beautiful, unified space.
AL: Were the design suggestions that were given easy to complete on your own?
SC: I believe that all Terri’s suggestions are doable for my husband and I, but our progress will be slow because of our budget limitations. I'm happy to take my time as I now have Terri’s plan to keep me focused and heading in the right direction. So far, I have put up the drapery rods and purchased the fabric for the window treatments.
Written by Ava Living