A Chic & Playful NYC Apartment
How did you enjoy the first installment of the Home Tours Series? Where I feature real life interiors just begging to be bragged about. I sure am loving it and learning loads which is valuable information for all of us to be inspired by. If you missed the first one check it out HERE. Next up, I am ridiculously excited and honored to be showing you one of the interiors by the very talented, humble and creative force behind Designs By Human, (a NYC based interior design firm specializing in anything and everything design) Joe Human. Hey, what a cool last name, right? With over 12 years in the field, Joe has acquired the necessary foundation and experience needed to help clients tackle their design dilemmas and bringing to life what they have been envisioning their home to look like. Thankfully, there is not just one but many of his finished interiors to be featured throughout the course of the Home Tours Series, so let's get on with the first one, shall we? You won't want to miss this, no. Uhh, warning: There will be a lot more of that jaw-dropping action we all suffer from. Can you blame me?
A Chic & Playful NYC Apartment
How did you manage to start your own interior design company and the motive behind the name?
Right out of high school I was lucky enough to obtain a job with a large architectural firm in my home state of Idaho. Working there gave me a lot of valuable experience in the industry, but it also showed that I did not want to work for a large corporate company for the rest of my career. I then branched out on my own, working on a kitchen and a home addition project for friends. Before I knew it, it began to turn into an actual business! As for the company name, I wanted it to reflect me since I invested so much time, energy and money into it through the good and bad times over the years. Plus – I’ve always enjoyed my last name (Human) so I figured why not use it!
Tell us about your typical workday.
Busy days are long and tiring, but very fulfilling. There are days (such as today) where we receive deliveries for clients, then assemble and place the items for them. But with those deliveries always comes headache as some items come damaged or incomplete. There is a lot of back and forth with vendors and consultants. Depending on the phase of each project we can be found doing anything from sitting in the office drawing to managing the trades on our construction sites. That is the thing I love about running my own company, the days are always different!
How would you describe your interior design style? And the color palettes you seem to gravitate towards the most?
My style is mostly modern but with a full and collected look. I love a clean and crisp white room with a contrasting dark floor and pops of color. It is nice to finish off a room like that with texture and soft touches in order to give it a homey feel with a modern edge.
What is the process / how do you begin to put a room together from concept to completion?
The design process is generally similar for each project, but will vary depending on the client and the scope. Typically, we start by discussing with the client what they want from the project; a brief overview of what they want the space to look and feel like. I then usually ask the client for sources of inspiration and we discuss what they like about these images/inspiration. These initial steps give us a better idea of the client’s comfort zone and budget. From there, we plan out the space by coming up with preliminary selections and layouts to meet their needs and budgets. Some clients will accept the first option we present them and others will take a few renditions to get things moving. Since we are a highly motivated design studio, we LOVE to see each of our projects to the end and make sure the client's best interest is always taken care of. After all, they are investing their own money and time to make their home... their home.
Since you work on many rental projects here in NYC, what is the process you use with those as supposed to homes owned by your clients (Condo / COOP)? How do you overcome the "cannot be permanent" situation in a rental?
The NYC rental market is so vast! Some clients want to spend as little money as possible and others want to spend as if they own the place for life. It really comes down to their long term goals and their budget. I always ask them how long their lease is and what their goals are for the next 12 to 24 months (for example, some clients are looking to purchase soon). The temptation with renters is to stick exclusively with IKEA because it is easy, cheap and basically disposable furniture. However, whether you rent or own, it is still your home and you want your home to feel comfortable, personal, and inviting and not feel like your college dorm room! Since items cannot be permanent and a lot of times we cannot change existing items in the rental, this creates an interesting yet fun challenge for us, as it requires even more creativity when coming up with ideas to present to the client. In rental spaces we are not removing walls and changing the lighting plans but we can add items to enhance the space and make it feel more customized without breaking the bank.
What elements / items do you seem to always include in each of your projects?
I like to use a variety items throughout - I never want everything to be the same or too similar. But similar suggestions I always make are drapes / curtains and lots of textured, colorful pillows!
How can we create a beautiful but functional space?
This is where it is an important point to hire a designer (like Designs by Human) to assist you through the process. We work hard to make sure that the pieces we suggest and layouts we propose are functional, beautiful, and personal. There is a lot of planning and thought that goes behind each selection and into making a wonderful space. A lot of it comes with experience, but also simply listening to your clients’ needs.
What has been your favorite project to work on and what made it special or different?
I enjoy 99% of my projects, but one that stood out to me was a medical space in Lower Manhattan. As stressful and time consuming it was, we had the freedom and budget to be innovative. We were able to design unique features into the space such as a 1000 lb pivoting marble door and trim-less / recessed wall lighting. This commercial space that was interesting; the client had specific needs for staff requirements AND the practice had to remain operational during construction. There was A LOT of logistics coordination between owners, managers, staff, contractors and vendors as well as making sure customers were not inconvenienced and left happy.
Your interiors feel very luxurious yet friendly, welcoming and cozy. They all have an apparent style to them which is incredible to achieve. How do you manage to capture what the client is envisioning?
Thank you! Interior design is definitely a close collaboration between you and your client. Each party has to be willing to compromise a little. I try to (gently) push my clients outside of their comfort zone and present them with options that they may not have seen themselves, after all that is why they are hiring a professional!
What advice would you give to those wanting to start in the interior design industry?
Interior design is fun and I don't think I could have any other career choice (except maybe professional mountain biking)! With that said, it is so much more difficult and demanding than what is perceived on TV, which is actually mostly false on how a design concept and project takes place. Be prepared to run around and jump in on mountains of different tasks. I recently hired my first employee, and a lot of the potential hires I interviewed were only expecting to be in the office drawing or looking at fabrics and picking out paint colors for 8 hours a day, and even at a large firm that is very minimal part of the job description. Be prepared to have your hand in every part of the project but always be thinking ahead of what the client wants and what they will perceive when they come home from work.
What a lovely and inspirational interview that was. I truly hope you all got something positive and educational from it and that you too swooned over the quality of work Designs By Human produces. Did you notice the use of textures and patterns in this home? The drapes, pillows, chair upholstery and that rug? All so different and colorful yet they all just go together seamlessly. Wow!