If you even utter the words “Meredith Heron” here at SMP, be prepared to get an earful of words the likes of obsessed, love and omg I can’t even! In truth, she’s a bit of a legend. And I’m confident I’m not alone when I say I’d happily reside in any space she’s designed: her office included. Captured by our dear Daring Wanderer, it’s all right here. And if you have any interest in interior design, you’re going to want to read on.
SMP: So tell us a little bit about your office. What was your inspiration behind it?
MH: Well I’m not going to start this off with a bold faced lie and say I “designed it with purpose and intent” it’s more like the Cobbler’s Kids Have No Shoes meets The Youngest Kid gets the Hand Me Downs. We’ve had many of the pieces in our office but they lacked a cohesive look and feel. Some we inherited from clients (not always in a good way), others we opted for because they were cheap (y’all gotta start somewhere) and then there were others that we opted for out of necessity.
When we moved to a larger office, we put a little more thought and effort into pulling it all together. Our stainless steel desks and marble table base were all ‘Rub n’ Buffed’ into brushed gold. Vintage chairs were acquired and reupholstered for a steal. We opted for a neutral colour scheme because we work with so much colour it is really helpful to not have it influence us. We love the drama of dark ink black walls with white cabinetry – it actually makes the space feel even bigger than it is.
The two spaces that have had the most planning however are our kitchen and our bathroom. We collaborated with the Home Depot Canada – yes you heard that right – Serious Glamazon spaces from the Home Depot. We worked with their kitchen department to work miracles in both spaces. It’s Martha Stewart Cabinetry in the kitchen in black. That Kohler Karbon faucet was on my must have wish list – I kind of designed the whole look around it.
Our bathroom too – again people die over the hex marble mosaic floors and when they find out that the vanity is actually a kitchen cabinet from Home Depot’s Thomasville line with counter filler posts as the sides their minds are blown. That’s one of the reasons why I love to work with kitchen designers – they can work miracles with the layout and the cabinetry itself. The chandelier is also Home Depot and the Purist faucet from Kohler. All the hardware in both spaces are from Kohler’s Pinstripe line. We finished it off with grasscloth from JF Fabrics and added Schuamacher wallpaper on our ceiling. Again – we use the space to show clients the possibilities!
SMP: When it comes to designing for clients, what’s the one thing you always convince them to splurge on? And where do you typically save?
MH: Well hiring me is the best investment that they will make for their project. I prefer to invest in great fabrics (they come in a wide range of prices so we will find the right fit for their budget) and in amazing lighting. Cheap lighting is lipstick on a pig. I mean, it shows. Great lighting hides a lot of wrinkles, you know?
My team and I excel at spending and splurging within a budget. We respect budgets but will tell a client if their wish list and their budget are unrealistic and not suited for one another. I will say that I’ve gotten a bit jaded about what things cost. If we can get you a fabulous pillow for under $300, we hear a choir of angels. Yes, that’s a single pillow. I love pillows. But in the same breath, we are able to put that pillow on a sofa that is under $3000 so it’s a balancing act.
SMP: The best piece of design advice you’ve ever gotten?
MH: I think my current favourite piece of advice came to me indirectly from the source. Toronto was home to a truly amazing decorator Ray Staples. I grew up watching Ray SHOCK people on tv with her designs including myself. She had a take no prisoners attitude and as I’ve matured into the designer that I am today ( it takes TIME people) I began to develop a deep appreciation for her work. A friend of mine, Margot Austin, who is a Senior Editor at House and Home Magazine was friends with Ray and her husband and on Ray’s passing a few years ago, Margot shared Ray’s advice for designers today, who she felt were too conservative in their work, to “Bring the Fucking Magic…” I am so grateful to Margot for sharing that and I have shared this over and over again and whenever I’m feeling like a design is contrived or just not clicking I think – “What Would Ray say?”
SMP: What’s your biggest design pet-peeve?
MH: Good God you want me to only pick one? I could write a seven volume series on the subject. I think in light of recent events I hate copy cats. I get that design is derivative but in the age of Pinterest people have sold their souls and just copy the work of other creatives. They don’t even do a good job of it. The lack of credit where it is due is really galling. It’s one thing to have an eye but it takes decades to become a great designer. Trying to fast track a process that is necessary to make a career doesn’t work. It shows. Your own work will have soul and it also shows.
SMP: What trends do you think will stand the test of time?
MH: I really hate the word trend. It feels so cheap and tawdry… worthy of a Walk of Shame. In fact, we use the word “TRENDS” like a dirty word when we are trying to talk a client OUT of something. I’m a Neo-Traditionalist. I love the classics. I love to try new ways of expressing them though. I get bored easily. I’m still having a massive love affair with Navy but I’ve had a huge love for it since I was a little girl. I had a pair of navy cords in Grade 1 that I thought were the BOMB. I’ve worn navy and kelly green forever and I never tire of it.
I grew up with wallpaper and love wallpaper so that’s a no brainer to me. Once you’ve wallpapered a room, it’s hard to go back to plain painted walls. Truly. It brings a space to life. I’ve also decided that I’m going to mix metals forever. No more “trendy finishes” for me. You love it? Great! It gets to go in the space. Mix it up. Live with what you love and don’t apologize for it. Rugs aren’t going anywhere but I’d love to see more people make bold statements with them. The same can be said for colour and pattern.If there was a trend I could start and get everyone drinking the koolaid on though – it would be investing in good quality products. No more of this cheap and quick soul-less decorating. I’m so over that.
SMP: Are there any you’d be happy to see disappear?
MH: Glass mosaic tile. Hate it. Mixed glass and marble mosaic tile. REALLY HATE IT. Spa Blue and Brown fabric combinations – when fabric reps bring me these I practically throw them back at them. I’m also not a fan of Autumnal Colours in decorating. This often changes – I have pet colour palettes that I love but I just can’t do Autumnal Colours.
SMP: What’s one thing that could totally make or break a room?
MH: Cheap fabrics and cheap lighting. That’s two. If you use all cotton fabrics in your pillows on your sofa it will look flat. You need variety and texture. You need contrast. Design Principles are what they are and they make or break a room. If you are interested in design you need to study these and history of furniture. You have to know your stuff. If you are decorating for yourself, these are still worth investigating. They will help guide you to invest in the right pieces and add the missing layers.
Oh and I want to add rushing to finish a space will almost always guarantee a lesser result. Good rooms take time and evolve. That’s the best part of design – you’re never really finished.
SMP: Do you have any tips for a designer just starting out?
MH: I was just at KBIS as part of BlogtourVegas presented by Modenus and participated in the first ever Modenus Talks. A group of 50 design industry players, designers and bloggers got together to start a conversation. We were divided into teams and given challenges. One of these included basically giving advice to a recent design graduate on getting started in the business. I’m proud to say that I presented and we won.
Here are a few highlights from that presentation:
No. 1 – You need to decide if you are the type to work for someone or if you are a Work for Yourself Type (I never worked for anyone in the industry, it never crossed my mind)
No. 2 - If you want to start out working for someone else but your goal is to eventually work for yourself, be up front in this. To not be transparent about this is duplicitous. The hiring designer is consenting to train you AND pay you so you need to be honest with your intentions. If you are undecided keep in mind that not everyone works for themselves and they can go on to have a great career. Not everyone is cut out to run a business.
No. 3 – If you want to work for yourself remember this – It’s an 80/20 split. 80% is business 20% is creative and fun. The key is to find a way to feel like the 20% happens 80% of the time!
No. 4 – If you are going to work for yourself you need to get your finances in order. You will need capital to get started and you will need credit to purchase for your clients. These take time to acquire and build so you need to start off with this in mind.
No. 5 – You need to find a mentor. This is imperative. You may eventually be in need of a coach. I have worked with coaches for about 8 years. Absolutely imperative to grow your business. It’s like therapy.
The best advice I have received, however, came from my best friend about 8 years ago. I was frustrated, angry and wanting to lash out at a former friend and business partner and she calmly told me that I needed to “Think with my Pocketbook.” She’s had to remind me of this on more than one occasion but it has become my own mantra. When I am tempted to do something rash or reactionary (I am a redhead… duh…) I stop and take a moment and think with my pocketbook. It has helped me avoid many unfortunate situations but it has also helped me to not take some situations as personally as I once did. When I look at it from a business person’s perspective, I am much calmer, more shrewd and I resolve situations faster and with better results. Between you and me she’s one of my secret weapons – a GENIUS!
No. 1 – Hire a designer.
No. 2 – Build a solid plan with room for unexpected but great surprises along the way. Something WILL go wrong. If you expect it and are prepared to roll with the punches it will get resolved much faster and more successfully than if you fight it.
No.3 – At the end of a project no one ever says, “Wow, that took a lot less time than I expected and Wow, that cost a lot less than I expected.”
No. 4 – Mix patterns and colours in your space. They add life and soul to a design.
No. 5 – Never decorate a room around a $100 mistake.
No. 6 – Hire a designer. (that’s a bonus tip!
Photography: Daring Wanderer | Chandelier In Office & Workspace: Barbara Barry’s Simple Scalloped Chandelier | Cream Walls: Benjamin Moore’s Paper Mache AF-25 | Inky Black Walls: Black By Benjamin Moore 2132-10 | Interior Design: Meredith Heron | Meredith's Office Wallpaper: Thibaut