Creating Havens in Homes
On The Dock
24 Creating Havens in Homes
Two of America's greatest interior designers reveal their secret designing tips and how they approach guiding their clients on a journey of self discovery and expression. Both designers will participate in Port of Harlem's Building/Renovating Your Own Castle II.
Building / Renovating Your Own Castle II
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Ever since Dawn Patrick-Wout can remember, she has had a knack for sizing up a room’s parameters, contours, and life force. As a child, she often rearranged furniture around her parents’ home in St. Thomas, keeping her siblings and parents guessing about what she, a diminutive designer-in-training, would conjure up next.
Reminiscing about her childhood quirks, Patrick-Wout said, “I remember I was about nine-years-old when this crazy career started unbeknownst to me. It was just something I did. It made me happy… made me smile… gave me a sense of accomplishment.” Little did she know that her pasttime as a youngster would gradually mold her into an adult interior design guru.
As a professionally trained psychotherapist, Patrick-Wout employs the art of people-reading to coordinate the colors and textures that reflect her clients’ unique personalities. During her initial meeting with clients, she gets a sense of their likes and dislikes, and creates physical havens of living or working spaces. “Design is about more than furnishings and color. It’s about creating the spaces where we can live our lives to the fullest,” she says.
Her background and philosophy are what make her a tour de force in the business. She continued, “I think a person’s fear of not being understood is directly attached to his or her fear of hiring an interior designer.” She says she also uses her mental health schooling “to understand people… to minimize their fear… to hold their hands through the process.”
Designers are also no different from service providers such as doctors, mechanics, plumbers, and attorneys. Patrick-Wout continued, “We take these parts of life seriously and hire professionals to do these jobs. How then could the most important part of our lives [our home] not require that we hire a professional designer
Charged with the notion that people thrive when their living and work spaces reflect their inner selves, Patrick-Wout began Creative Re-Designs, a professional design service company, in 1994. She opened About Interiors, a furniture showroom, seven years later. The two-story store is full of furniture that she hand-selected from reputable manufacturers. Located in Beltsville, Maryland, the store is a 21st century wonder brimming with Moroccan-inspired lampshades, mahogany vases, golden candelabra, well-positioned plants, iridescent curtains, and chandeliers with amber tear drops.
If you are wondering what kind of cash flow a professional design job will take from your already diminishing coffers, Patrick-Wout discourages her clients from speculating about the price before sampling the pay- off. Home décor is an investment, says the About Interiors executive, because it is both aesthetic and psychical. Home should be synonymous with haven, a place of rest and solace, a proverbial oasis of peace and tranquility, contends Patrick-Wout. “A designer has the training to eke out a sanctuary from any space, provided that the person who dwells there desires the same thing. And that’s as good as priceless,” she added.
Designers are also no different from service providers such as doctors, mechanics, plumbers, and attorneys. Patrick-Wout continued, “We take these parts of life seriously and hire professionals to do these jobs. How then could the most important part of our lives [our home] not require that we hire a professional designer… someone to help us achieve the maximum impact; the maximum yin and yang?”
Like Patrick-Wout, Sherry Ways of Design Scheme Interiors incorporates the ancient principles of yin and yang—two opposing but complementary forces found in the universe—into her Baltimore-Washington corridor firm portfolio. Way has gone a step further by using feng shui—a Chinese technique of space alignment that arranges the design and layout of cities, villages, dwellings, and buildings—to soak up “chi” (good energy) from an individual’s surroundings. Feng shui literally means “wind and water.”
“I incorporate feng shui into my design schemes because it forces me to manipulate and improve the subtle atmosphere in a building without having to always buy new and expensive furniture or having to redecorate,” said Ways, a holistic design diva. The increase in popularity of the ancient art has galvanized Ways to consider how intangible elements—light, air, color, sound, and aroma—boost the vigor of dwelling spaces.
Whereas some designers copy recycled trends found in chic, mainstream magazines, Ways relies on vision and inspiration uniquely channeled from her belief in holistic healing. “My role is to make sure we create a healing interior that enhances the body, mind, and spirit,” she shared with Port of Harlem. Ways says she provides her clients with advice and then works with them so that their home or office looks as if they created the interior themselves and that the design has grown naturally out of the space and its surroundings.
Avalaura’s Healing Center in College Park, Maryland would not be the same without Ways’ healing touch. Owner Avalaura Beharry wanted to incorporate feng shui in the furniture layout and design. With color therapy principles as her guide, Ways chose sage green and saddle soap brown as the predominant colors of the center, creating an ambience of serenity. According to Ways, green signifies healing, balance and harmony.
Incorporating the ancient ying and yang principles of feng shui, Ways and her business partner, Susan Featherstone-Schemm, have merged businesses to create a multipurpose design firm poised for harmonious growth in the electronic age. They are in the process of developing an online décor store to cater to internet savvy clients. Ways explained, “As our society gets busier people want to find efficient ways to shop and take care of their household needs. Look at Amazon.com, Storehouse Furniture, IKEA, and others who have online retail establishments. We feel this is the wave of the future.”
Akin to Ways’ ability to put the customer’s needs first, Patrick-Wout’s clients think of her as a godsend. Tammy Killette and husband, James, can attest to the designer’s ingenuity. Since March 2006, their three-story modest home in Bowie, Maryland has metamorphosed into wall-to-wall ecstasy unfolding.
James Killette, an architect, found a blurb about Patrick-Wout in a magazine. After consulting with his wife, he immediately commissioned her for the job. “The very first day we met her, we signed a contract with her,” said Tammy Killette, as she bragged about Patrick-Wout’s infectious personality and surefire marketability. Notwithstanding their initial meeting, the couple believed that their end-product would be dynamic after visiting Patrick-Wout’s immaculate showroom.
A self-professed idealist, Patrick-Wout believes that as in design, life is about following one’s passion, about believing in the signs that prove the universe is conspiring with you. She added, “Our bigger mission is to revolutionize people’s thinking about interior design by making it accessible to the majority versus a small minority.” However, the company’s motto is more practical: changing people’s lives one space at a time.
Patrick-Wout has come a long way from the world of psychotherapy-jargon and learned a new lingo—the art of design-speak. Generally, both she and Ways agree that the design process is a dialogue between the client and the designer in a journey of self-discovery and expression.
Talk to mortgage loan consultants, architects, real estate agents and interior decorators at Build / Renovate Your Own Castle II. See page 3 for details.
This is the Same Cover Story, but in its Original Layout