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Fine time for a redesign

Susan Wood
Dan Thrift / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Janna York creates her suede look at the home of a client.
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The world of interior design has come a long way since the common belief that it is reserved for the lifestyles of the rich and famous.

Many people are in on it. Some use their home equity loans to upgrade their houses. Ryan Terry, the financial services officer at Bank of the West, estimated Monday that 75 percent of his clients rely on at least a portion of their loans to fund such ventures. Kitchen revamps top the list.

Others – especially at this time of year – use their tax returns. Beyond the standard magazines, they get their ideas from the Internet.



“Clients are much more informed than they’ve been in the past,” said Sam French of Interior Motives. The company has noticed a mood-enhancing trend that moves away from blinds into drapes. Accents are key.

Interior design shows like “Design on a Dime” and “Trading Spaces” have blanketed the airwaves. Their influx have left some designers grappling with the exposure as a bane and a blessing. The latter gets people thinking about doing something with their homes.



“The good side is it’s good for business. The bad side is they’re unrealistic,” South Shore designer Joyce Blackstone said, referring to the amount of money people spend to decorate on the television shows. “They don’t include labor (on the shows).”

Her jobs can range from $200 to $200,000 and often involve a series of multiple projects within one home. They may consist of installing windows to gutting several rooms.

The New York native, who attended the Chicago School of Fine Arts in 1963, has worked as a designer for 41 years and knows the ins and outs of the field. And yes, there’s a difference between being a designer and a decorator that involves credentials and education.

“There’s a science in (design),” she said. Sure, there are elements of design like colors, repetition and scale. One must also know a client’s preference even if they can’t articulate it.

“There’s a house that needs help,” she said, pointing to an Apache Avenue home on her way to meet a client in Meyers.

At the house, she admits that pink could be coming back. She’ll be advising them to use another color when it comes time to redo the kitchen. Blackstone revamped the living room, including replacing the pink carpet with wood floors, painting the walls and lining the stairwell with a cable line.

By the time she’s done, her clients could dump $40,000 into the common area. The amount includes a television room, kitchen and master bedroom with bath.

Many owners of older homes ask for closet space. Although newer, this client was no exception. And she’s using the space to block an eyesore, a pipe that spans from floor to ceiling. The narrowing of the doorway to the rest of the room intends to invite the visitor.

She’s even using mirrors – one situated on an antique dresser – on two sides of the room to draw the eye and reflect the light. Blackstone relishes the challenges of the work.

“Look at this. I see a glorious canvas,” she said.

Blackstone has found many of her clients add on rooms when they see results. Janna York, who also does design work, has discovered the same reaction. With jobs ranging from $300 to $20,000, half of York’s business is paid for by home equity loans.

At a house on McFaul Way, she’s signed on to spruce up the upstairs and downstairs bathrooms, hallway, stairwell, living room and kitchen.

Her company, York Interiors, is delving into a technique called “suede painting” that through twirling brush strokes provides depth to a room.

York is using the popular Ralph Lauren technique in a few rooms with color names more creative than the room’s function. She’s applying a orange type shade called “rattle box” to the downstairs bathroom with the technique.

York, an artist who attended the Academy of Art in San Francisco and specialized in color theory, performed the same custom finish on the stairwell wall.

“The one thing about suede painting is people want to see the whole house in it. I really have to emphasize not to do it in every room,” she said.

Tahoe represents a unique market for interior design in that regulatory restraints make it “more difficult to build as opposed to remodel,” Alicia Benson of Pragmatic Design cited. She estimated 90 percent of the homes here “are ready to be remodeled.” The South Shore firm is hired to design kitchens and baths, but the designers will also expand into furnishings and putting in accessories.

And real estate agents have even seen that kind of commitment on their end.

“I am finding so many of our clients have the extra cash and are fixing up the homes,” Coldwell Banker agent Madeleine Gutierrez said.

According to recent national statistics in Realtor magazine, a homeowner could recoup $33,890 from a major kitchen remodel costing $42,660.

Gutierrez said she was startled by the figures showing a lesser rate of return than 100 percent. She believes Tahoe’s rates are higher.

“Normally, each thousand dollars put into their properties give back twice the value,” she said.

Of course, people don’t just remodel as an investment but because they want to make their homes more livable, she added.


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