Afraid of Interior Designers?

Done In A DayInterior ‘refiners’ give homes a fresh new look fast.

By Lori Hutzler Eckert


QUICK: Take a look around your house – a really good look. Do you like what you see?

It’s possible that your comfortable home may have become, well . . . a little too comfortable. Stacks of books, collections of knickknacks run amuck and furnishings that have long outlived their original functions all too often are part of the décor in most homes.

While our homes serve us well in providing shelter and a place in the world that we each can call our own, the best intended among us (yours truly included) easily overlook and sometimes neglect the very environment in which we actually live out our personal lives.

I used to work with a woman who said it best when she would apologetically explain to visitors to her home, “I should have a plaque in my entryway that says, ‘I know better.’”

However, for many of us, it isn’t just about knowing better. We need professional help to rescue us from our décor dilemmas, but an interior-design service often can tax two important resources – time and money.


Overcoming the Makeover Malaise

Fortunately for those of us who haven’t considered an interior update since papasan chairs were in – the first time – a new trend is emerging in the design world that offers a budget-friendly decorating-in-a-day solution.

One Emerald Coast business, Le Simple Makeovers, owned by Mattie Carr and Michelle Schuman, has made this new approach the focus of its design efforts.

“Our concept is that we go in for a day and we renew and refresh,” said Schuman, a professional interior designer since 1991. “People are afraid of interior designers. They think, ‘Oh, I can’t afford it.’ But this is for all price ranges.”

For $500 a day, Schuman and Carr, who also owns Les Sassy Mermaids at The Market Shops at Sandestin, will recreate one or more rooms, working mostly with items the homeowner already has.

Carr said that she and Schuman founded Le Simple Makeovers because they recognized the need in the area. In addition, “we want people to come into their homes and be able to enjoy their lives,” she said. “It is very rewarding.”

The partners operate more as interior “refiners” than designers. They start the process by talking with the client, learning his or her likes and dislikes in terms of color and style, as well as what the client needs for day-to-day functionality. In fact, after a brief visit, the observant Carr was able to tell me correctly about my own design preferences, based entirely on my clothing.

After formulating a plan, Carr and Schuman go to the client’s home and remove most of the items from the rooms included in the makeover. And then they remove their shoes.

“They said, ‘Let’s declutter the place. Are you ready?’ And then they took off their shoes and said, ‘Are you really ready?’ and they started moving furniture,” said Enid Eckhardt, a recent Le Simple Makeover client who owns a condominium in Tops’L Beach & Racquet Resort, east of Destin.

Eckhardt, who is from New Orleans but relocated to the Emerald Coast after Hurricane Katrina, was in need of an efficient home makeover. In addition, the condo, which had not been updated in several years, is co-owned by several family members, so Eckhardt could not just empty it and start over. She needed a way to keep and make the best use of most of the current furnishings.

During their visit, Carr and Schuman rearranged several rooms in Eckhardt’s condo to give her home a more aesthetic balance and functional flow. They also edited the homeowner’s belongings, helping her select the appropriate pieces to keep for her home’s new look and those items she should store or donate.

The design team then brought in a few new furnishings and accessories for an understated update as well as to tie the look together. And finally, a full palette of interior paint was chosen for Eckhardt’s entire home.

“They worked with me and understood the budget that I had,” she said. “They see (your home) from a different perspective. It makes you see things differently. It is just amazing what they did in one day.”


Redo Dos and Don’ts

Teresa Vucovich, owner of Uniquely Chic, a home interiors and gift store located in Destin, also offers design services that can be accomplished in a day.

Vucovich and her staff American Society of Interior Decorators-certified designer, Jenifer Berger, always are available to help their customers – “from hanging one picture to whatever they might need,” Vucovich said.

Vucovich added that she encourages her customers to begin with a little planning, which can go a long way, even when doing a quick-fix makeover.

“They need to focus on the purpose of the room and what they want to get out of the room and start from there,” she said. “You have to put things in a room that you love and that mean something to you. When you make that room an extension of your family and your personality, then people are going to be comfortable there.”

Carr, Schuman and Vucovich all agreed that applying a new coat of paint is one of the fastest and least expensive ways to change a room. Paint not only refreshes the walls, but the right hues can make any room look larger and airy or more intimate and cozy.

Color also can introduce a new tone and personality for a room at a fraction of the cost of new furnishings or floorings.

Vucovich said that one of the best secrets to quickly reworking a room at a low cost is adding a lamp.

“Lighting adds warmth and you can highlight a particularly area in a room – it is a much more intimate setting if you don’t have the lights blaring in a room,” she said.

Mixing what you own with a few carefully selected new accessories also is a great way to make a room look different. A new area rug and a painting or two can completely change the personality of the room, with minimal effort.

But before you add, be sure to edit what you have. Carr said Le Simple Makeover’s strength is to “reduce and refine.”

“People don’t notice their clutter,” Schuman said. “They need a fresh eye. People buy and they just keep buying. It’s detracting from a look.”


At the End of the Decorating Day

Although their makeovers are designed as one-day events, Carr, Schuman and Vucovich all stand ready to continue to work with their clients on an ongoing basis.

“It’s not just about a one-trip thing,” said Carr, who still is looking for items for Eckhardt’s Tops’L condo. The decorating consultants all build a relationship with their clients, just as a full-service design firm does.

“Mattie and Michelle said, ‘This is your list of things to do – and we will come back when you are ready,’” Eckhardt said.

“The one time has given me so much to work with and think about. That night I looked around and I felt like I had really accomplished something.”