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I'm the Interior Designer behind Janelle Steinberg Interior Design. I'm also a wife, mother, social tennis player, candle connoisseur and an avid list maker. I like wine, pearls, rainy days, museums and houses. I craft and bake on the weekends in my college sweatshirt and yoga pants. During the week I balance my toddler's playdates, my businesses and working with my clients throughout the country, (not in said sweatshirt or yoga pants).

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Maison Classique
Maison Classique

Behind the Scenes: Photo Shoot

· March 5, 2010

Want some "behind the scenes" pics from our photo shoot yesterday? Visit the j. steinberg design FaceBook album, here.

Here's a sneak peek of the shoot....

Behind the Scenes: Project Binders for DIYers

· February 9, 2010

This post is a hybrid of Do It Yourself and Behind the Scenes topics. Anyone who is a DIY fan and/or interested in the inner-workings of interior designers.....this post is for you!

I just had a lovely conversation with a reader from New Jersey (psst...she contacted me because she loved this post). She, like so many others, she is at standstill with their house (she has a Mr. Wonderful of her own, as well as two wee ones). She knows what they like, she likes to and is able to do it just hasn't come together yet.

Often times, like this dear reader, homeowners inherit architectural elements that need to be changed to suit their tastes before they can move on to implement their ideal home, make purchases and "bring it all together" (think perfect cabinets in a less than desirable stain, a sturdy staircase in the wrong style, or counter tops in an undesirable material or color). When this happens, the project quickly becomes more involved- it shifts from a decorating project to a full on design project that requires gaining bids, hiring contractors,  sequencing, and making tough decisions about durability, style and the credibility of those to be hired. We chatted for a bit and I told her my best advice: Break it Down and Keep it Organized.

What do I mean by "break it down"? I mean- make a plan (as best you can....if you get stuck- you can always call a pro!). Measure your rooms, take inventory of what you wish to keep, measure items you wish to keep and start listing out everything you need to complete your project. Break it down to the bare elements. You will go nowhere, and probably waste a lot of money and time, if you don't know where you are going and what you need. You need a plan.

That's how we designers do it- we plan. We don't go around and spend frivolously. We have A LOT of things to keep organized, we have A LOT of things to buy for our clients and we have A LOT of responsibility to our clients. Not to mention, we need to be really efficient because clients pay a premium for our time and talent. Do like we do- break it down and make a plan. A good plan is like a road map- you will know what needs to get done and you will finish your project once you know what it takes to get from Point A (existing condition) to Point B (completed house).

Now comes the "keep it organized" part. This is not an option. It must be done. Once you set yourself up, keeping your project organized is a cinch. You need to make a binder. This topic has come up twice in my life the last three days (once with my dear New Jersey reader, once with a fellow ASID member)- its a sign that I should shed the light for everyone reading. This is what interior designers actually do to organize their projects (you are getting a sneak peek into actual practice here!). And, if you are doing your own project- you will need to keep a binder, as well.

What is "A Binder"? Simply put- its a folder with all your project info. Want to drive a designer mad? Take away one of their client binders and watch them get ready to throw themselves off a cliff. That's how essential "the binder" is to each and every project. We really can't do anything without it. Its used as a reference and "home base" for every project. If binders were to get lost, stolen, burned in a fire or ruined in any other natural disaster- a designer would be screwed. Binders are also referenced after the project has been "dead filed"- they are important for the present and the future. (See my shelf to the right: large projects get the big binders, smaller projects or new porject starts get small ones, and current consulting projects get manilla folders,  which are placed in the mag file)

I specialize in larger projects- whole houses or at least 3+ rooms, so I usually start my projects in a 2" black binder. It usually moves up to a 3" binder by projects mid-point. Its just a simple, durable black binder. I label the outside spine with the "Sidemark", (our shorthand is "S/M"). A sidemark is the project name and is referenced on all project documents, PO's, computer files, etc. I looks like this: "S/M Smith". If you are keeping your own binder, there is no need for a S/M, but I would label it "Smith Residence" for easy shelf reference.

What's inside? I use pocketed divider tabs. Each tab is then labeled (each room gets a
section, as well as "estimates", "correspondence", etc). A designer's label tabs will differ from a do-it-yourselfers tabs. Just use common sense. Think of what you need to keep organized and give a divider section to each area you are working on (Living Room, Kitchen, Basement, etc.). You can add tabs as you need them. The key is to have one tab for each room, and a tab for quotes and estimates.

Keeping it organized: Once you have the system in place, you have to use it. Measure your spaces, take your inventory, take photos of items you are keeping- gather the essential information for each room. File each item in its appropriate divider section. File as you get or create information- don't let it pile up or float around. Just maintain the system and everything will be at your fingertips when you need it. Also, keeping everything together allows you to grab n' go, too. Take your binder on shopping trips and have it present at meetings. Reference and use the information.

When you get further in your project and you start to gather small odd and ends such as tiles (if you have a large tile or piece or stone, break the tile a
nd keep a small piece or ask your fabricator/installer to make you a small stone sample), paint swatches, fabric swatches, etc.- place them in a durable bag. I keep one binder and one bag for each project. These items come with me to site meetings, design centers, shopping trips, and they sit near my desk for reference at all times.

If you are doing your own project, and you follow these guidelines- you will get a lot more accomplished, you will use your time wisely and efficiently and you'll complete your project faster. You will also make less purchasing mistakes because you can reference concrete information, rather than trying to guess or estimate or go off of memory. You will have that wall measurement for a piece of art you are interested in, you will have your sofa upholstery fabric swatch to reference when shopping for throw pillows, you will have your paint and tile samples to reference when selecting your counter tops, etc.

For all of you brave homeowners who are design savvy &  have the time, energy, and resources to attempt a design project on your own- good luck to you! I hope this helps!

De-solv-it {Retail Pick}

· October 14, 2009


This product, De-Solv-it, is one of my little designer tips (but, actually, I can't take credit for it- since my mom turned me onto it!). I primarily use it to take off pesky labels and stickers from products, (but it can do so much more). It smells great and its environment friendly. A bottle will last you a long time, even though you will use it far more than you think you will! Labels and stickers that would normally have to be soaked and scrubbed off can be removed very quickly with this lovely little potion. Great for removing "made in", price stickers, and logo stickers from accessories and home-goods. Love it! You can get it here.

Designing a Custom Rug

· September 3, 2009

There are a few different avenues you can take to arrive at a custom rug. One is to supply an original design, select the colors and fiber type, specify the size, pay for it, wait for it, then its done! The other is modifying a rug you like (but one that's not *quite right* for your project either in color, size or scale). This post outlines the process we designers take our clients through when we embark upon the latter.

The journey to a custom rug is a long one. That's why, if you are fast-tracking a project, you order the rug as soon as possible (scratch that, you order it about two weeks before as soon as possible). This is assuming you aren't buying new or vintage off the rack (nothing wrong with it, but many clients understandably want new carpets). To me, there is nothing like a rug fabricated to your specific spec. Sometimes, the only part of a rug that is custom is the size. I typically order odd sizes, even if off by just a few inches from standard sizes. Sometimes those five or eight inches are crucial. One thing that's important when you supply a custom size, is that the pattern size should change accordingly. When you are dealing with a few inches, its not a big deal. But if you are supplying a size that is completely different than a standard size, the pattern has to be adjusted or else the proportion will be off.

Its no secret that I adore LOVE Patterson, Flynn + Martin rugs. Their value is unbeatable, their products span from traditional to fresh and transitional, and their customer service is flawless (L.A. designers who want the best vendor ever- call up Guillermo at the Patterson, Flynn + Martin at the Pacific Design Center location. He will take amazing care of you and your client! ). Aside from the aforementioned reasons, they will customize just about anything for you- either from scratch or by modifying existing designs.

One of the projects I just completed (aside from waiting on the rug, and therefore the photo shoot!) called for a few rugs, all of them custom in some way. This is an example of a kitchen runner. My client loved this Grand Ziggurat style from the Kelly Wearstler collection.

But...the colors, and the sizes offered, didn't work. So, we sat down with some poms, (poms are little bundles of yarn in hundreds thousands (!) of colors. As with anything in interior design, it can be very overwhelming to see how many options you have. We started with my client's kitchen paint color that she loved. From there, I built a five-color palette with my client sitting on the floor of the showroom, samples, poms and ideas flying about (its a really fun process!). Once we selected the colors, we allocated where the colors were to go on the pattern of the rug. The vendor took down our notes and sent away for the rendering from their art department. Not only were the colors custom, but so was the size- which meant they also needed to rescale the pattern to our specified rug size. After about a week (and a deposit!), they sent over the custom color rendering detail and the pattern size modification:


Isn't it pretty?! From there, we approved the artwork and all our specs. Since its a custom rug and there is no real life example to "see", we needed a strike off. A strike off is a small rug sample that is fabricated according to the custom specs. Although the renderings do a good job of illustrating the final outcome- its not what it will really look like. Strike off's are produced to show the exact colors, yarns and pattern. After submitting payment for the strike off, we waited...about 6 weeks. After the strike-off lead-time, I got a call from my vendor who is *in love* with what I did and can't wait to send it ships to my studio and this is what it looks like:

I receive it, inspect it, email my client that it has arrived, and ship it to my client with some other approval paperwork. My client approves it and ships its back to me. I approve the actual sample by singing my life away (not really, but sometimes we sarcastically refer to approvals as such):

Then I ship it back to the showroom with all the approval paperwork and final payment. They will use the strike off as a quality control measure, ensuring an exact color match. And, now.....we wait. Up to five months. (Understandably, the wait is long because its hand knotted- humans can only work so fast!) In total, the process will take nearly 9-10 months (it can happen a bit faster, depending on how fast your client approvals take).

{Behind the Scenes} Evolution of a Wingback Chair

· August 19, 2009

This is a story of a petite wingback chair. In every project, there is an issue (well, lets be honest, sometimes there are more than one!). For this project- it was these chairs. I won't go into the details (or out the vendor!)- but lets just say that the normal, nice and cooporative Ms. Janelle Steinberg can turn into a hard-hitting, sharp shooter when anything having to do with my client's project is on the line. This was the case with these chairs. BUT! In the end, all turned out fine and my client is happy (which, at the end of the day, is all that really matters). I am constantly amazed that everything always works itself out. So, the "Behind the Scenes" evolution of this pair of wingback chairs is as follows...

We needed some great head chairs for this gorgeous dining table (excuse the Sharpie- we marked up the spec sheet when sourcing for this project):


We went shopping at the PDC (one of only a few trips- this client was a pro at fast interior designer's dream!). We were looking for upholstered chairs for the heads of the table. Possibly a wingback, maybe something else if it struck us as "perfect". I pre-sourced a few options and we visited the showrooms to sit, touch, feel (basically ohhh and ahhhh), and we both decided that this petite wingback with Fruitwood finish was perfect in every way for my client's Dining Room and for the above table:


Now that we had the furniture piece selected, we could find the fabric for it! For me, selecting fabrics if one of the most enjoyable ID activities- its like picking colors for a painting or selecting jems and baubles for making jewlery- both of which I enjoy as hobbies. (Oh, any by the way, you really want to select fabrics after finding or designing your furniture, that way the scale and porportion will be right on.) We went shopping again and my client fell IN LOVE (she really, really loved this fabric!) with this gorgeous and fun stylized Jacobean flower motif printed on silk. Its by Quadrille (lovely, lovely Quadrille!). This was the *first* (see where I'm going with this?) fabric selection:


I received the yardage estimate from my vendor for those perfect petite wingback chairs. Wrote up the PO. Then realized they severly underquoted me as I was double checking everything (you always want to double check EVERYTHING!). Even though I gave my vendor the fabric info...they were wrong. At the very last minute, right before ordering, I realized something wasn't right- thank goodness. I went back to the vendor, waited on emails from their factory on the other side of the country...and they wanted double the fabric they initially quoted me. DOUBLE! Since I take budgets pretty seriously, I was not happy about the situation, and the fact that they misquoted me AGAIN. This fabric is nearly $200 per yard. On top of that issue (which turned out to not be an issue for my gracious client), the REAL issue was Quadrille does custom yardage runs and there just wasn't enough on hand to fulfill the extra yardage needed. The leadtime for European production for more yardage was about three months. This was the straw that broke the camel's back and made us reselect. I was disappointed, knowing how much my client adored this fabric!

So, naturally, I take her to Schumacher (one of my favs). Almost instantly (remember how I told you my client has that super-decisive thing going on?!) her eyes met the gaze of this super fun linen by Celerie Kemble:

I was thrilled (thrilled!) my client went for orange. Anyone who knows me, knows I've been obsessed with orange for awhile now. So, we took a memo (a "memo" is loaner sample of the fabric that showrooms loan out to designers) so I could find trim. The Dining Room has this great shell chandelier with lots of corals, orange-pinks, bisque yellows, pinks and whites.

I thought pink trim would be super fun against the orange and incorporate some of the pinks from the shells (which you can't really see in the photo- but its in there). I found this at Kravet a few days later, on a solo shopping trip:

The trim was perfect in every way. It was simple (I am known as the anti-trim designer with my fabricator...I stay away, far, far away from frilly trims! They have their time and place- but aesthetically, I am not a fan of drippy and goopy trims), AND it had orange with two shades of pink....perfect! I got back to my studio and sent a mock up to my client via email:

She loved it and approved it for purchase. Now...back to the chairs. My vendor quoted me on the yardage. I double checked, *specifically asked* and made sure that their quote was okay. I got a confimation. I then ordered the yardage they told me to order and has it sent to their factory on the East Coast.

A few weeks later, I get a call. They need to back the linen. Okay- fine. This sometimes happens. (They do it to add support to certain fabrics, and/or make it easier to work with.) Its extra money, okay, fine- its not that much and it needs to happen. Client understands, I understand. We submit the paperwork which pretty much says if they mess it up in the backing process, we can't blame them (kind of a scary document!).

A few weeks later I get another call. The knit backing won't work on this fabric (even though they already told me everything would be okay....not to MENTION this is WEEKS after we submit both approval AND payment for the backing....why are they just calling me NOW about this?!). They need to upholster in muslin first (which means more money), then apply our fabric...oh, and....they need more yardage! I was not happy. At. All. My rep was caught in the middle- shes just the messenger. My client has no idea anything is wrong or that we could possibly go over budget (afterall- it is my job to make it easy on my client! and Im happy to do it!), and these chairs which should be IN my client's house already are not even half way done. It was a headache.

I double checked with MY fabricator that fabricates all my custom designs from the smallest pillow to custom upholstery and drapery to just about anything else I need created. They told me the yardage my vendor had should be enough and that I donn't need more. So...after going over everything with my client, we opted to have the chairs shipped to my workroom to be finished.

After all that....the chairs came out amazing (and with no extra yardage or double upholstery needed- which means my client didn't have to add more to the budget for this room). This is the type of situation designer's handle for our client's. Its all in a day's work! (Well, it was actually spread out across a month or two!). Here is the latest photo I took from a design meeting at my factory. It still needed one more row of brushed brass nail heads...but it came out great! Now, I can't wait for the photoshoot in the beginning on 2010! (We are waiting on the custom rugs!).

And, here is the drapery right after installation (it stays tied the first few days for shape)


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