Commercial Design for Personal Services Businesses

commercial design

I want to design more commercial spaces. Not huge office buildings although I had a great custom office building to do last year, and it was fun. But space where people go to be healed or pampered.

Timeliness:  A commercial design project, so different in terms of clients and client needs, needs to move quickly in most cases. Unlike the Apple stores which took years of planning, including when the meticulous Steve Jobs scrapped all his plans after seeing a better way. But there is no denying that the Apple Store layout and finishes show both efficiency and beauty in a crowded and popular destination shopping spot.

Special-ness:  Apple stores offer a Genius Bar for technical support, and free product workshops for the public. The Apple Stores have, according to an article in The New York Times, been responsible for “[turning] the boring computer sales floor into a sleek playroom filled with gadgets.” These stores have a standardised appearance with white or light wood tables and a minimal design. The sales folks walk around with tablets and there is not much wait time to buy and go.

Special-ness and your business:  Why not? Why be pedestrian when it costs no more, with good design, to be special. For example, my personal services business design highest gripe is ugly manicure salons. At risk of getting into big trouble, I won’t go around town taking phone snaps of ugly salons, or heaven forbid, unclean workstations. But wouldn’t you, and your customers, prefer to be here, at the salon in the photo? It does not cost more to be tasteful. It can take some guidance to get to where you want to be. And can cost less.

Looks Expensive!   You may be looking at this and thinking “wow, this looks expensive!” I guarantee that it could easily be less than the grotesque pedicure all-in-one-soak-your-feet-and give-you-a-brutal-back-massage contraptions we encounter in pedicure stations. Yes, this has custom upholstery (a good thing) but the little sinks are pretty standard small sinks, as are the gooseneck faucets. This is the classic case of doing more with less and making it look great.

Yes, it needs to be designed by a professional, or many things large and small could and will go wrong. Small service business owners, let’s talk design, for function and beauty, and increasing customers and their happiness and satisfaction.



The design of any home tells a story

custom design

Take a look at the image above. Can you sense the story? The story in this room is that of a retired couple, who once lived in Asia for many years, love the art and culture of Japan, and lead active casual social lives. The kitchen, so often the heart of the home, supports quiet meals as well as entertaining. The bathroom is roomy, beautiful, but very useful and safe as well.


bathroom and kitchen design

The home was purchased as a step toward downsizing, although it is not small, and required a complete and total renovation to bring it in line with this couple’s world in the Americas, after many years of living abroad.

So the design fits a lifestyle that is casual-elegant. Handsome momentoes of a large scale, and priceless art from life in Asia were the cornerstones to set up for this style.  Entertaining without fuss is important here. Commodious kitchens and baths. Durable materials, low maintenance — befitting retirement but not inactivity —  flow of spaces, and of course comfort, warmth and safety. And adds great value to the property.


Is your home a reflection of your best story?


Why a story?  As a literature major, with a personal interest in design of all types, as I engaged with a story, I always wanted to know “What does this room look like? How does it feel? What does it feel like? How does it smell?”’ Great writers impart that directly with description, or in moody scenes. When I morphed many years later into design, the story aspect of a dwelling stuck with me.

The big question:  What does your home say about you? Is it really your story, or some idea you saw somewhere that may or may not be you. Here are the questions I like to answer just from being in and around a home. They are the basic questions about the life being lived in the home.


About these questions:  If I answer some of these questions correctly, without in depth interviews, the engagement is of one sort. If I can’t answer these questions correctly,  it is another type of work entirely. Both are rewarding — interesting and fun.


Who lives here?

What do they do? And not exactly literally, but in a general sense.

What are their ages?

IF it’s a couple…who is she? Who is he? Who are they?

What do they do?

Do they entertain?

IF there are kids….what are their ages? Are they girls or boys?


Why does it matter?  One of the most important things about my job is to figure out the best of the home’s story, and help the owners tell it in a comfortable way. This means to find and create whatever helps them feel they are living in their own best story, or even their own fantasy, and not someone else’s fantasy.


I don’t design “magazine” homes, although some have been published. I build support for their story.

Color is prime…Paint Quality counts just as much

paint quality

VIVID:  It’s always been there for me. Always in interiors. I never had a little girl room or a teenage one or a wall in a dorm (that caused trouble) or in a first apartment, or a series of houses, that did not have at least one vivid bedroom wall. And ultimately that brought me to my first serious color job. It was not even picking colors.

THEY ALL NEED NAMES:  I worked in San Francisco in clothing design, my first design training. And after one season of loving the work, fabrics, colors, shapes and everything about it, and although I was not yet allowed to pick colors of the season, that having been dictated by some larger-than-life entity, I was assigned to name the colors. This was an era when there were just not so many colors on the racks. So imagine, every spring, creatively naming pale pink, baby blue, and yellow.

This is why I was so eager to attend a new color launch by my favorite paint company, Dunn-Edwards. And I am not paid to write this.


THE PROJECT:  It was led by Sara McClean who spent five years with them on a $10 million dollar project to create and launch a palette of 300 new colors. Names like “Wine Goblet” and “Bourbon Truffle,” ranging from historic to ‘trending now,’  in a collection called “Then, Now and Forever.” How happy I was to learn that she too had a hard time…. “with names like Pewter Patter, Eat Your Peas, Outlawed Orange. She admitted with whites and creams in particular, ‘there’re only so many words you can use.’” (Hemispheres Magazine Dec. 2015)

Color in paint really is the hardest thing to pick successfully. . . requires testing, etc.  That’s why I have a lot of work doing it.

NOW FOR THE QUALITY:  But paint quality is something many clients do not understand. And they sometimes ask “Why shouldn’t we just get cheaper paint at a big box store?” Because it will disappoint.

paint color

I am not paid by any paint company to say this, but there are great reasons:  

Here they are simplified for us, excerpted from


“Most contractor-grade paints are vastly superior, in that people who do it for a living tend to buy the coatings that go on easily, cover, and last. I have never used Brand X from the big box store, but have used Benjamin Moore and Dunn Edwards. I like Dunn Edwards a lot.”


“All of the professional painters I know hate (Brand X at the big box store) and refuse to use it, because it doesn’t go on as smoothly. They are not just being conservative, with this product it takes them more time to get an even coat, and time is money.”


This from a homeowner: I have 6 doors painted with (Brand X from the big box store) that are pretty much not salvageable. They peel like crazy. When I decide to fix the problem, I’m going to just buy new doors.

paint swatches

And this from a paint store manager who sells Benjamin Moore and another brand, C2, I don’t know of in our area:    

“If we’re just talking about the makeup of the paint before tinting, the #1 factor in a good paint is the amount of solids the paint contains, i.e. the resins and other components that are left on the wall when the solvents evaporate. Paints like from big box stores tend to have pretty low solids, so they tend to cover poorly and leave behind a thinner film (although their higher end lines are better). They’re also often not 100% acrylic latex, and will be termed ‘vinyl acrylic’ paints. Paints like Ben Moore and C2 have higher solids, so they tend to have a greater film build, greater adhesion, and better coverage.

         The colorant that goes into each can, and the color that you choose also have a great deal to do with quality. As an example, C2 in particular uses pigments that are higher strength and more finely ground than many other companies (Ben Moore included) and their colors will often be made up of three or more pigments. Whereas a Big Box store brand blue tone might be made up of some concentration of a single blue colorant, a C2 blue tone might be created with a mixture of four different pigments, and sometimes won’t even include any blue colorant at all!”

And an industry rep explains it to a class of design students:  

“A Dunn Edwards rep actually came and spoke to my class the other day, and he described it this way: The same things go into every can of paint, regardless of brand. This is stuff like resins/adhesives, colorant (the liquid pigment), etc. The thing with more expensive brands is the quality of those ingredients–just like any other product I guess. Brand X has always worked fine for me in terms of application, but I think the difference comes down to the long-term: How long before it fades? How is the water-resistance? If you try to clean it, will you end up with a faded spot? How soon will you need to repaint? Will it chip? Will it crumble? Think of a designer dress versus its knock-off counterpart. They may look exactly the same next to each other, but the knock-off probably has crappier material (which will wear out sooner), thinner thread, cheaper buttons, etc.”

                                   So check out professional brand paints, we are happy to guide you.

The Magic of Libraries

Creative Process: From Inspiration to Realization

Residential Libraries

inspiration residential libraries
Inspiration- One of my creative processes when I start a new design assignment–for example, to design a contemporary residential library–is to go out and find visuals that inspire creative approaches in line with my client’s hopes for the room or space. “Something cool and edgy but still my own private retreat space.”

Listening to great music always helps. Hmmm, music to ponder new libraries with.
Try This:

For this special residential library, I wanted to propose a portion of one wall with a large mural of something sweet, soulful and inspirational, something that related to their love of reading, books and information, and solitude. So I offered, “How about something like this Borges poster/ quote for a tall wall beside a tall door, like a wing next to this French door?”

They loved the concept, and now I have to work: Find out if it is licensed and if so, where to license it for use, and how best to reproduce it 10 feet high by 4 feet wide. And of course, all importantly, how to install it so it is perfect and the execution does not take away from the image. All in a day’s work.

No color: A year or so ago, enterprising designers started shelving books backwards, edges of the paper out to the room, to give a uniform appearance, all shades of cream and white. It is pretty, but pretty useless if you actually like to find the book you want quickly.

And actually, in the 1500’s books were shelved this way (fore-edge out) to protect the rare and valuable spines. With many of the edges painted decoratively.

book placement

With color: Instead, many designers have always shelved books by color, and that can be okay, unless you are a stickler for either the Dewey decimal system, or your own categories of books: fiction, biography, history, etc. Unlikely as it sounds, when I was working abroad many years ago, the college library at the university shelved their books in English by color. It is pretty. One of my clients loves books in libraries by color, and did it on her own. Her historian husband has forgiven if not forgotten. Black and white do stand out; the grays and taupes sort of blend in.

residential libraries

The aesthetics are not the least of many considerations in designing for a library. The more practical concerns may not be as interesting to consider, but include figuring out how many linear feet of shelving we will need, the lighting, the value of appropriate seating, and more. In sum, one of the more interesting types of rooms to work with, for me, and one of the most personal.

6 Ways Edy Keeler finishes a room.. repost

edy keeler finishes rooms
Over the last few months, we at Core Value Interiors have received quite a few emails asking Edy where to find her interview with Kristine Hansen for  Yahoo Homes entitled, “6 ways Edy Keeler finishes a room with style”. Seems that Google and Yahoo are having issues agreeing on where exactly the article is located from day to day. One would think that such a popular post would be easier to link to. For the sake of convenience and because there are 6 great tips for DIY interior design in the article, we are reposting it, in its entirety, on the Core Value Interiors’ website.

6 ways Edy Keeler finishes a room with style

Kristine Hansen
Yahoo! Homes

Whether you have invested months into renovating a room – or you’re frantically primping it for an impromptu visit from friends – making that finishing touch is key. Pulling together a room’s emotions, decorations and overall vibe is often the biggest challenge in a project. Edy Keeler, an interior designer in Santa Fe, N.M., with projects featured in Architectural Digest and Western Interiors, confesses she’ll even sit in someone’s closet to help them figure out their design scheme before adding the finishing touch.

“Look at what’s in there. Is it hipster or is it banker? What colors do you wear?” asks Keeler.

Keeler offers six tips on how to pull together a room, with affordability in mind.

Empty the room

It may sound drastic, but once you get every little side table, stack of books, tchotchke and gadget out of the room, you’ll see the bones (Is it square? Long and narrow? U-shaped?), and immediately know how to reposition everything. You’ll also be forced to prioritize your favorite decorative accents as you shuttle everything back into the room. What, you never really liked that marble plant stand? Then reroute it to the garage – not back to the living room. “Look at the room. It will stop you from putting more tchotchkes in the room. Less really is more,” says Keeler. “Take all tchotchkes, have a yard sale and buy just one in a larger size. Let that do the talking.”

Create a focal point

Every successfully designed room has a focal point. Maybe it’s artwork arranged in a grouping, a cozy armchair for reading your favorite magazines, the built-in buffet in an historic home, or a flat-screen television for watching your hometown baseball team’s games. Don’t stress yourself in creating this focal point. A lot of times it comes naturally. Ask yourself what you use the room for most often – and stick to that intention as you’re rearranging. “What most rooms lack is a focal point,” says Keeler – and that could divide an otherwise cohesive design into parts.

Reframe photos

An easy, inexpensive way to dress up your framed collection of photos depicting your friends, family pets and family members is to swap out the frames. Transition those photos to frames that are consistent in some fashion – either a similar stain of wood or an ornamental design (ornate metal or glued-on seashells, for example*). “Get rid of all the frames,” says Keeler. “Go to the great sale at Hobby Lobby and get a bunch of frames in the same material. Then, all of a sudden, you have a grouping that’s not a hodge-podge.”


After reading this interview in print, Edy noticed the writer had suggested “picture frames with glued-on seashells.” Not being a decorative designer, in any way, Edy attributes this suggestion to editorial license, by the article’s author. It is clearly not founded in anything she might have said. Her only response to the idea, “It might work okay in a coastal environment.”


Coax soft lighting

Want to know the secret to what makes a room the kind you want to hole in with a good book on a rainy day? Or catch up on your family members’ weeks? Two words: soft lighting. But it’s not that easy to effectively create. “Buy a good quality small up-light with a base to place on the floor, keeping it a safe distance from furnishings.” instructs Keeler, and then pull out the sofa from the wall and put a light behind it to soften the wall. This can also be done with a bed. Another easy trick: buy a tall, oversized potted plant with spiky leaves and place the same type light behind it. Once again, not close to anything flammable. “You’ll have a beautiful lighting effect – a silhouette – on your walls and ceiling,” she says.

Change out the linens

For less than $50 – 100 bucks if you splurge on high thread counts or brand names – you can instantly switch a kitchen or bathroom’s design from mod to masculine, or Edwardian to edgy. It’s all in the towels. “For 100 bucks it feels really good,” says Keeler, who also suggests for kitchens investing in a fun teakettle – perhaps in a bright cherry-red hue – to keep on the stove even when you aren’t boiling water. “That’s a cheap way to pull it together.” Most teapots won’t cost more than $25. And when paired with new, non-faded and unripped tea towels it’s a brand-new look.

Touch up with flora and fauna

What makes Keeler cringe and want to quickly exit a room are dried plants and flowers. They accumulate dust (visible in natural sunlight), particularly with flowers, and they lack a perfumed scent and bright shine that’s impossible to mimic. Opt for fresh-cut flowers instead and arrange them in a pretty vase. “Using scent in the design is a relatively new thing,” she says. If flowers and plants are a concern due to allergies or the presence of pets, lit scented candles can achieve the same effect.

For more great ideas on making your spaces come to life, please check back weekly.
The Edy Keeler | Core Value Interiors blog updates every Monday.

4 Local New Mexico Builders You Should Know

interior designer

Being a local interior designer in a small state like New Mexico, I’ve found that it is truly important to not only know the people you work with, but to respect and love them for what they do and how they do it. It is also important to let them know how you feel. With that being said and fully aware that all four might be embarrassed reading this, here goes . . .

These are 4 very un-alike, award-winning builders who I work with in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, and why I love them:

  • Tierra Concepts, Inc. They have a deep organization with clearly defined roles and cover all the details. Each job has a wonderful superintendent who is ON IT, is 100% responsive, and a problem solver. Aesthetics are important and homeowners are heard. The annual Haciendas Parade of Homes is the most demanding of showplaces, and they get it…it would be impossible to do it year after year otherwise.
  • Hurlocker Homes It was maybe 15 years ago that I first worked on a Hurlocker Homes residence. All creativity was encouraged: allowing re-purposed use of materials which I love to do; the use of strong color, especially on exteriors; and the most contemporary of aesthetics. The execution is super precise…so gratifying to see. And so appreciated by those Parade of Homes critics. As I told the builder, these first jobs were specs, but really they were custom homes, and they always found the right buyer.
  • Wollens Quality Homes Again, I was given very free reign but very differently: it was all within the constraints of a small spec house budget, also for the Parade of Homes, and they managed to do it without sacrificing quality. Just being clever, shopping well — because of having great vendor relations, so important for a good builder — and then building a really tight, wonderful home — sold in a month, in a dicey market. Wish they had a website to send you to, but call 505-660-6940.

Of course, I also work in Albuquerque and would be remiss if I did not thank these guys-

interior designer

  • Picasso Builders They do a perfect job of both light commercial and high end residential building. This was invaluable to me when I undertook working on my first totally ADA compliant home. The constraints were many, and each had its own ripple effect on design decisions. Each time they were willing to re-think, adjust, rework, and just plain re-do things that were not right. This was the most crucial part of making the home work perfectly for these clients, and be beautiful at the same time . . . Including high attention to Old-World details!


I would like to thank all four of you for the work you do and the quality you uphold. You help make our city the beautiful jewel that it is and I could not do what I do without builders like you.

Palette Studies Based on 10th Century Art Form

Classic Endpapers art
Classic Endpapers

Recently I was introduced to an art treasure trove: a friend’s brother’s work, created in the 60s and 70s, now kept in a huge reddish brown cardboard portfolio.

The medium was good quality roughly 22 x30 inch art paper, which had been manipulated while floating face down in oil infused water.

This simple water surface process has been around for ages. First seen in China during the 10th  Century, it was called “flowing sand” technique. The 12th Century Japanese called it “floating ink,” and 15th Century Islamic artisans called it “clouded paper.”

The technique spread to Europe by the 17th Century and became the standard

decoration for bookbinder’s endpapers that we are all familiar with.

The treasure I was given to work with included the tight feather patterns common to endpaper art, but abstract works as well. And whether the outcomes were accident or artistry, I cannot say. Happy accidents at the least.

I have been only vaguely interested in color theory from a scientific standpoint, rather than an emotional one. So, having been offered to select two works to keep as a gift from a stack of two hundred, and finding it hard to reject any, I approached it this way:

Which ones appealed, simply appealed? No time for “why.” Why does not matter so much in appreciation of color and form etc.

What is it (or what it seems to represent) does matter, but in a personal sense, and that is when to say “why” for me. For example: the dragon image, why do I like him? His archetypal impact? Or just a fun image to encounter?

But enough blather.

Color first and form second. Then I saw that I responded to the loosely abstract rather than the tight patterns that were in the form of the Italian bookbinder’s endpapers.

As an interior designer with a strong focus on color, I saw this as an exercise and a tool to see how others might respond, first to the colors themselves, not just raw single colors, but the magical, unusual combination of colors that attracted me.

The artistry that was expressed in the combinations, and finally in the forms they took together, inspired me to photograph the entire collection. Because I discovered our ubiquitous tool, the ipad, was just not going to capture the color, I enlisted a friendly amateur-pro, and here is what we have: my favorites, culled from two hundred. Enjoy!


Palette Studies Based on 10th Century Art Form