The creation of TRUE DESIGN TALKs to create a platform where I will be able to use y three decades of experience as an Interior Design Professional to speak openly and honestly about the sometimes wonderful aspects of the interior design process AND the sometimes not so wonderful aspects.  What I have learned and how I have integrated that knowledge into my projects is precisely the kind of design awareness I hope to bring to this blog.   


It is undeniably no secret - the world is changing.  Business is following suit and changing with it.  While I do feel that the interior design industry is also evolving, the aspect that I have found has changed the most are THE CLIENTS. 


The prospective client today is to be taken very seriously.  They are savvy, knowledgable, well equipped in many facets concerning the design process and pricing platforms.    They are certainly not as interested in all of the drama that formerly surounded the grand decorating stars of pasts days.   A design professional today has to be ready with the right answers. They need to bring to the table a clear objective and be flexible.   At the same time they need to have a current sence of what is available in both the retail and wholesale markets and be able to dance on a dime.   


In the beginning of a project, I like to take the client for an initial "spin" through the ultra fabulous Designer Only showrooms that exist within the two New York City Design Centers,  The D & D Building (18 floors) and The New York Design Center NYDC (16 floors).  I have been inhabiting those buildings since I was a bright eyed young design student of the late 1980's.  However I didnt walk through the doors as a design professional until 1989. 


I think its prudent for me to see the client in action.  It's equally as so for them to see me in action.  I like to explore what they are drawn to and what they are repelled by.    I want to see what they think is beautiful and by the same token I want to see what they see as not so beautiful.


Every woman makes two different types of faces when they do not like something.  The first being the "Its pretty but its not for me" face and then you have the much less polite "I hate that" face.     


Another good reason for our little design center tour is good is for me to see what type of shopper the client is.  I am a naturally a fast talker and walker - I like to accomplish a lot in a day and you can't really do that if do either of those actions slowly.   Therefore our impromptu "excursion" garners me much needed information that I will need in order for me to be in charge of 


What the client is not aware of on our lovely outing is that this day is the last day we will ever browse together.   I do not browse with clients.  It is a major waste of time.  I prefer to PRE-SHOP first.  I find what it is I am looking for, I then get emotionally behind it which then allows me to get  excited about it.  All this is in preparation for me to sell it.    Indeed when I am shopping "with the client" - we go from pre-selected piece to pre-selected to pre-selected piece.  It is much more efficient this way thereby no one's time is wasted.


Another way I often like to establish aesthetic trust between myself and the client is that I like to have a small success in the beginning of the project.  I usually will propose we reupholster an ottoman or a chair or something small like that.  We make the selections together and while of course I am simultaneously continuing on with the design development - we successfully complete our little project - together.  Once it comes out beautifully - it established a success in the beginnning and sort of bonds us together and the "aesthetic trust" which is so vital to our future success is then born.


By sheer definition, I am a professional shopper and these two buildings are my little sandboxes.  They are my playgrounds.  I know everyone of the employees in the building from front desk conceirge, porters, showroom managers, salespeople, elevator workers and even the loading dock guys.  I take pride in being a member of the  New York design community and have great respect for my collegues.   


Of course, it doesnt hurt much that I live a block away.    


When one is a bright eyed design student, you endlessly dream of one day being published in a design magazine.  It is the goal of every young up and coming future designer.  It may seem strange to some but I remember clearly the excitment that would take place on the same day each month when you would receive your fresh plastic wrapped monthly edition of Architectural Digest.  I cant even describe to you the excitement that ensued.  As I mentioned, it came wrapped in pastic and once unwrapped the first thing you would do is bring it to your nose to smell the newness of it.


Then very slowly you would start to turn the pages being very careful not to skip ahead.  In the index, they would have a snip of who was going to be in the issue and you would read that page usually with a friend as I did and just literally scream out with excitment.  Yes, reading your monthly edition of architectural digest was practically a religious experience.  You would read every word, look at every ad and when it was finally over you would spend hours dreaming of one day being published yourself.  Just writing this takes me back to that innocent time.   The birth of a passion and the beginning of a career.  So lucky we are.




At the beginning of a project there are so many paths to travel.  It is very important before your projects gets off the ground that both the client and the designer be on the same page when it comes to all facets of the project.  One of the most  vital of those "facets" would be aesthetics.  It is imperative that before you compell the client to spend a huge pile of their money, you understand what they want and they in turn understand what the path that are taking them down looks like.


There are many ways to acheive this goal of unity.






What I am about to say may seem harsh but unfortunately it is quite true.  This is a very unfortunate fact but most people in the world, and I mean like 80% .....unknowingly or knowingly have VERY BAD TASTE. 


For example, you can take the most powerful CEO on Wall Street who is responsible for building a billion dollar business and I am telling you.....he will barely know the difference between blue and green nevermind how to select and place furniture.   It is just not a built-in ability that everyone knows whether they like to think they do or not.   I very often say to my cleints "The road to defining what truly is your "personal style" is full of you looking at things you do not like.  Ergo, you have to look at what you do NOT like in order to define what it is you do like". 


Ultimately the entire process of interior design is one huge educational fast track for the client.  Having the opportunity to define themselves, their style and how they would like to be percieved by the world is a clear benefit for them during the process of interior design.


Women very often are the ones who struggle defining their own personal style.  It seems more of a learned behavior with them.  Men on the other hand.....it seems to come more natural to them.  They have a simplier more genuine outlook towards style.  They just like what they like.   This of course does not include gay man (who notoriously make the worst clients for any interior designer crazy enough to take them on as clients (i.e. everyones is the designer...NOT!)


I have never felt it was my job to attempt to try and change any of my clients taste levels.  I just feel that through the process of extreme exposure they will reach the level that they were intuitively meant to be at.  


One of the questions that I often ask the "woman" in the beginning of a project is "When you shop for clothes, are you the kind of shopper that has to ask the salesperson along with others what they think?  Most woman answer this question with a flat out NO!.  I ask that question not for any other reason than to know if she is comfortasble with making a decision because the worst type of client is the one who cannot come to a decision easily.  


The truth of the matter really is this.  The task of defining or aiding in the definition of a clients personal style is part of a designer's role.  I couldn't place a number on how many projects that I have completed but I can say this.  There wasnt one of those completed projects where the client didnt come out the other end with a much better sence of who they were, what they aesthetically liked and how they wished to move forward with their newly polished style.   





I happen to love the construction process but that is certainly not the case with everyone.   For projects that are located outside of the New York Metropolitan area, construction usually amounts to a new home build.  In NYC construction is 8 out of 10 of my projects and is always a renovation of some kind.   Everything is older here and space is a commotity so making the best use of your space - both aesthetically and functionally is very important.


Purchasing  your Own Materials: KEYWORD OWN


Anyone, and I really mean anyone that is doing any form of construction/rehab, a word of warning: Always buy whatever materials (lumber, cabinets, flooring, sheetrock, plumbing, tile, sprinkler system, lighting, etc., etc) you need for a project seperately with your own credit card/checkbook. You own it. Not the contractor. In all due respect to contractors/subs, never ever let a contractor or anyone else purchase materials other than yourself, esp. if you don't know them well. You can go with the contractor, but the actual register purchase should be with your own credit card/checkbook as the rightful owner.


Reason: If you ever have a falling out or dispute with anyone working on your project who purchased project materials, that they could easily claim it as theirs, take off site (steal??) or whatever, and still they bill you for it even if they never finish the project or left the materials on site, good luck trying to get it back in a dispute or if they walk off the job. Let's say you get into a dispute, you fail to pay them or withhold payment or the contractor/sub fails to show up again or whatever, and you have paid them some monies already, well, technically, until you pay for all materials, under most state laws, those materials are not yours.  If you personally purchased the materials seperately from the contractor/sub, that is your property irrespective of any disputes/claims the parties may have. You want to purchase and own the materials yourself, even if you have to go with the contractor/sub to do so, and it may be a pain, but having rightful ownership will at least mitigate any future disputes that may arise.


For the client's who wish to engage construction in the home and have concerns regarding their budget, removing all the "hands in the pot" is the first and best way to reduce your construction cost.  Directly purchasing all of the materials that you will need yourself will significantly eliminating the various trades from marking those materials up.    This is a great way to keep costs down and is an enormous savings. 


Whenever you pay someone to pay someone else, you can gaurantee yourself that there is money being tacked on the price as it lands in the lap of the each middle man.  Most of the time that extra ionflation in money can be as much as double to triple of what the actual purchase price was.   Contractors would probably drop me in cement somewhere after reading this but it's the truth.   My allegience has to always be with my client and their budget.   I work differently in the sence that I work with a highly skilled group of individuals who are both licensed and insured but when they work with me they work labor only.  Of course not every person is equipped to purchase all the materials needed.  They dont know what to buy, the terminology and the detailed things to ask for.   therefore my clients are the beneficiaries of this.


"Having the best of the best":


Another way to reduce your construction costs is to break down your wish list and decide what can be just purchased from a showroom and what items on that list could be price shopped.    There will be items on the list that you absolutely must have the best of and there are others that you dont actually have to have to have the best of.   This best/second best outline is different for every client.  However, if the goal is to keep the costs down and to have enough money left to maybe furnish your home after constrcution is over then you will have to wake yourself up to this reality.


"Remnant Ready"


A third way to reduce your construction costs is to purchase certain materials you need from the wonderful

world of remnant showrooms and on line remnant dealers.  Materials such as sinks, marble, flooring, lighting, doors, moldings are available in several remnant sources all around the city and on line.


"Auction Fever"


There are so many auctions in and out of the city that deal in so many of the items you would need in your construction project.  You have to be diligent and patient but there are many many deals to be had indeed.  


I have been a construction manager for thirty years now and I have always said there are two types of contractors.  One that has a clip board and drives around in a mercedes and the other who has no clip board and drives around in a dirty truck.  Being that I am very experienced in all phases of construction, I prefer the ladder. 


Construction should never be viewed through rose tinted glasses or with fear of the unknown.  You need to put a good team together and unfortunately if you dont want to pay through the nose - whether you like it or not - YOU WILL HAVE TO BE INVOLVED! You need to embrace the reality of construction instead of wishing it didnt have to happen or that you didnt have to be involved. Toughen up a bit, roll your sleeves up and realize that it encompasses the most "change" brought about on your project and enjoy the many hurdles, suprises and improvements that are being made during this filthy process.


I have always believed that assumption is a very bad thing.  Most people view construction as a huge mountain of costs that they can never tackle.  This is mainly because they "assume" one thing or another about the costs, timing, etc. THIS IS WHAT I TELL ALL OF MY CLIENTS.  IT COSTS ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO GET AN ESTIMATE.  ASSUMING YOU KNOW WHAT THINGS ACTUALLY COSTS IS SILLY.  IF WE BECOME INTELLIGENT ABOUT THE COSTS THEN WE CAN MAKE A SOUND DECISION AS TO HOW TO MOVE FORWARD.    

"OK You can afford it but can you handle it"


The disrupting factor level of construction is definitely measured on whether the client will be liovign through it or moving out.  Both of those scenarios have their ups and downs.   The living through it is obvious and the moving out scenario if also daunting because of the costs and inconveinece issue.  I have delt with both scenarios and what ensues form them countless amount of times.  In my opinion, moving out to an affordable place is the best becuasee when clients live through it it significatly slows up the process.


Whatever scenario gets chosen most deesigner's know that there is one day FOR EVERY CLIENT where they absolutely just lose it.  It could be dust on there clothes, an unforeseen setback, late materials or slow workers but inevitably there will be one day where there will be screaming.  I've seen everything under the sun when it comes to residential construction and have survived it all.


One last piece of advise.   Do your due diligence prior to signing with a contractor.  Request to skype his references (you could be talking to his son if you dont!).


In addition, know your process and materials that are needed and have everything humanly possible in the initial contract before you start because there is nothing that contractors love and client's hate more than  EXPENSIVE EXTRAS!



Mark Hampton once wrote "If you ever want to know where to place the furniture in your parlour, just have a party and wherever people pull their chairs up to - leave them like that".  What he is telling us is that unless attempting to be an art piece or sculpture piece - furniture needs "groupings"  The best living rooms are the ones that have more than one seating group.  Furniture needs intimacy just like the creatures that inhabit them.  


Space planning is a fundamental element of the interior design process.  All people are different and how and why each person or groups of people actually function in their space - is also different.  A young newly married couple will use their space much differently than when they add three children to the mix.  Men use space different than women.  Kids different than adults.  This is why it is key for myself and the clients to have an in depth consultation.  I need to listen to ALL OF YOUR NEEDS and then go back to my studio and use what you have told me you either want or do not want to do.  I then interpret that into planning the best possible space for you.  Planning a space and checking off everyone's "wish" list is a very important task for the designer quite early on in the project.


An experienced designer can walk into a space and be able to see it completely furnished.  Having the knowledge of standard furniture sizes also helps.  Planning the perfect space for my clients consists of a combination of; what the clients would like to acheive, my awareness of all standard sizing and my past experience of what has been acurately successful.


 Who is this woman you ask? She is my leader I declare!!.   In my career, I have had many woman in the role of  "The Most Recent and All Important Woman" in my life.  


During a design project, the lion share of my time is spent with the woman or with the wife.  She is the center of the household who is centrally aware of everyones personal needs.  Her family's life and happiness is usually her top priority.  Since it is my job to see what makes her tick, she is my one and only focus.


I have said this very often.. "The way in which an interior design project progresses....bumpy or smooth, is solely dependant on what type of woman I am dealing with.  If she is an intense woman - it is an intense job.  If she is a depressed woman so is the job.  If she is a woman with no confidence and questions her every move - then that is the way the job will go.  Whatever the woman is - the job is.  It is just the way it is.  Please do not misinterpret me.  I am the biggest lover of woman - I truly am.   I have been adoringly studying women my entire life and that is why I know what I know,


However, my three decades of experience has afforded me the opportunity to deal with many types of women.  Some good and some not good.   I've had my share of the real influential barracudas that have nearly chewed me up and spit me out for breakfast.  I have had a ton of absolutely lovely angels, I have had some unfortunate tragic cases however, some seriously sad situations where I have had to endure some quite uncomfortable processes.  Mostly though, I have been extremely lucky because of the wornderful people I have met.  Enough so that I have been paired up with some amazing characters that have usually developed into wonderful long lasting friendships.  


Here is how the interior design process kicks off.  You have just met this dynamic woman and have entered her world just hours ago.  You are immediately asking her and she is telling you very personal things about herself.  If she is married, you are getting a window into the dynamics of her marriage probably more than many of her friends do.  From that day on, you are on the phone daily, emailing daily, thinking about her on a daily basis and you do not even know the woman a week.  Oh and yees - getting all that right and being totally appropriate in everything you do is YOUR JOB AND DOING IT PERFECTLY IS YOUR ONLY OPTION....LOL..


Each one of them - beautiful all - hold a special place within me.  I only hope that I have left each one of them with the beautiuful surroundings that they so deserve.  


I absolutely love all of the woman and I cannot wait to meet a ton more..,....they drive my passion.  I think that says it all.   Sean Michael Loves the Woman.    Here's to all of the beautiful woman who have touched my life.  I hope I have done nothing but beautify theirs.  


 I have a very intimate and very intense love affair with wallpaper.  I have done so many useful things with all of the left over wallpaper samples.  I have made things such as; the most gorgeous greeting cards, I have incorporate wallpaper into several pieces of art, I have used them to wrap a tray or a decorative box and so on and so on. 


Indeed.....gone are the ditzy little tea stained florals that our grandmothers used to have running up their staircases.  Gone are the bright garish flocked wallpapers of the not so distant past.  Gone are also the occassions where you would have two clients that would have the same wallpaper.  Yes even though Jayne didnt know Sheryl, if they did Jayne's would see that her powder room walls looked so similar to Sheryl's master bedroom walls.  We just hoped that they never met. 


No today is a whole new world for us wallpaper connoisseurs.  After the internet exploded and technology blew the roof off of every industry, we now have wallcovering that has the help of computers.  Computers that have the help of printers.  Not only has texture reached its pinnacle but now we have layered texture......woven layered texture.....metallic woven layered texture.....I could go on but I am sure you get the point.


Under the influence of photography to printer technology, SCALE has become quite popular which has totally changed the game.  Its nothing today to snap a photo and turn it into a sixteen foot mural and make that the end all accent wall of your color scheme....I don't know but with all of the improvements in texture, finishes, depth, photography, computers and printers - I truly cannot imagine that it could get any better than it is today.  I say that knowing that I will easliy be in a showroom next week and see the most unbelievable thing I have ever seen in my entire career.  Yes, I say that out loud every time LOL.


Most of those amazing wallpapers are only available at the exclusive designer only showrooms located in the Decoration and Design building (better known as the D & D.  you remember my sandbox I was telling you about? 


You can see some of the papers I am talking about by visiting the websites of the following showrooms.











Peruse the above sites and many others which can be reached by going to https://ddbuilding.com.  You will see some of the most innovative current eye popping iimages.  Cheers.


I have a love for fabric that is unprescedented.  I adore texture.  I love color and I cannot live without the finish of a fabric.  What I love most however is the art that magically happens when they are artisticly combined.  


I understand fabric.  I know how to use it, why to use it and of course when to use it.  In fact,  any chance that I can to create or to incorporate more of it - I usually jump for.  I like a well rounded color scheme and that is only created by layering all of the above.


More importantly, the key to a fantastic color scheme is having a good knowledge of proportion and scale.  A client may fall in love with a fabric and immediately want to see it everywhere.  However, if that fabric has a pattern that will be hard to handle in large amounts at once, say on a sofa - I will explain to the client that it is better to reign the pattern in by presenting it in a smaller version - say as a pillow, bench or an ottoman.  This rather that than a swath of 27 yards of it across your living room. 


Scale and proportion.    You will only be able to appreciate a large pattern if it is presented to you in a special more proportionally manageable amount.  For example,  I loathe patterned bedding.  Many clients do not understand that after we have spent six months assembling a great color scheme and she cannot simply go to bloomingdales and purchase the latest Frette patterned Duvet Cover.  Not gonna happen.    


On the first day of shopping with the client, I usually announce two very important things.  First that i would very much appreciate if that day was the last she will ever purchase anything for her home without my advise.  I backup that request by secondly adding that she will be ensured never to make a mistake again.  


Once our color scheme of fabrics is well on its way of collecting - I have something that I call a "Schring" I make a ring of small samples of all of our fabrics (aka Sean's Ring) that the client is to keep in her purse.  She does this so she can pull it out if she needs to compare it to a color or something should she be in a store by herself.    The shring is not an inusurance policy against an unwanted purchase moreoever it is merely to compare to what you are seeing in a store and then to call your designer for advise. 


Over the years,  the schring has saved thousands of dollars on many projects with countless clients.  The husbands are usually big schring fans because they are acutely aware of the nonsence that derives from impulse purchasing.   Lets face it, most people dont return things because it is simply a big pain in the ass.  I say "Then why purchase it"? I really have no time for nonsence like impulse buys.  


Fabric is so vital to the interior design process.  Most people in the world like fabric but then there are certain people that just loooove it.  It is always nice when the client also feels the same way as I do about material.  


Below is a link to a wonderful website that simplifies in understandable terms what the differences between the many types of fabrics are.  




One of the trade industries that took the biggest hit when the internet came into play was the industry of decorative lighting.  Prior to the almighty internet, you simply had lighting shops full of thousands of different types of lighting fixtures.


In New York, we had an actual Lighting Disctrict.  It was wonderful.  It was mainly run by the Heisidic Jewish community and was closed on Saturday and opened and quite busy on Sundays.  Today it is mainly run by the Asian community and is open seven days a week.  In fact,  It is still located in the same place - the only difference is that where there used to be 35-40 lighting stores, there are barely but three to four left.  What was wonderful about going there after your Sunday Brunch was that they engaged you in a heathly amount of haggling.  It was a great day, you would go out for some eggs benedict and would come home with a chandelier. 


However these stores and I assume any other  lighting establishments anywhere have the same problem.  They cannot compete with the competitve pricing structure of the literally thousands of on-line sources ready to ship you your desired fixture overnight.  I mean Amazon.com now delivers TO YOUR CAR!!.  You just simply leave your key with a close establishment and they will retrieve the key and place your package in the trunk of your car.  How can anyone possibly compete with that? 


Placing accessibility aside for a moment, Lighting in an interior is so very important  - probably one of the most important.  The optimal goal is to have various types of lighting that is customized to the various way you live within your space. 


Whether you are eating, reading, entertaining, performing a task, cleaning, applying make up, cooking or doing homework.  All of those actions require different types of lighting at different levels and ofcourse - all on a very expensive dimmer switch. 


Indeed when I am planning an interior, I do so with the pool of lighting choices at my fingertips which enhances my design at every corner and allows me to produce the best possible customized result for my wonderful clients. 


Ah Yes The big "C".  I will begin this very intriguing and often daunting subject by saying one thing.  As an interior designer, I do not have the luxury to dislike, despise or favor any one color.  I have to be able to do the most beautiful purple bedroom in the morning as well as I do the prettiest pale blue beach house in the afternoon right on through to keeping that evening appointment with my client who must have her dining room blood red!  I hear it all the time and I always chuckle when I do.  When I hear people say "I hate orange!"  I usually respond by saying.  "Listen, hate is a very strong word.  Are you sure we cant scale it back to a medium dislike for today, ha?"


Color Color Color.  What is your favorite color? I always ask within hours of knowing the client.  I will say this.  Just the existence of color creates such extremes in people.  I will usually get clients that LOVE COLOR SO MUCH!!! they seem to want their living room to look like a float in the Puerto Rican Day parade OR I get the client who tells me beige beige beige and NO to off beige! 


i will share a valuable lesson I learned about color when I was about six years into my now thirty years designing career. 


i was hired to do the bedroom of a young newlywed couple in a small apartment on the upper east side.  They didnt have much money but what they did have was a free bolt of this deep bown, lilac and yellow silkl plaid fabric that was given to them by relatives so that they could make draperies out of. 


Of course because decorating is so often about "associations", i had my own.  When I was growing up we didnt have a lot of money.  Ok we were pretty poor.  We had this disgusting brown carpeting in our house that I always associated with dirt and even though I was far away from that and supposed to have been color educated, I still associated brown with Poverty.  Brown was shit and that was it.


However, the job before me was one that required some real creativity.  The jist of the story was that through tonacity and shedding a few layers, I was able to create this beautiful luscious bedroom using this plaid as the cheif fabric and created a color scheme where they had a lilac velvet headboard and a yellow and brown patterned chair and gorgeous yellow silk pillows on the bed.  Of course I found Lilac ceramic table lamps to round it off and the result was a spectaular room where my formr arch enemy - the color brown - was not dirty or poor at all.  It was rich, deep and filled wtih mystery and sheen.  I learned my lesson and I associated NO MORE.


The struggle with color seems to be the same universally - fear of committment.  Indeed, as well educated and experienced design professionals we are taught that the ultimate project would be one where you are able to take the clients most hated color and use it extensively in the room that the client will end up loving the most.  The ultimate design challenge. 






 The history of the sofa begins its life on earth with the ancient Egyptians.  The word "Sofa" derives from the Arabic word "suffah," which literally translates to "bench."   A little later in the Roman times, the sofa was used more widely but was still considered a luxury to be enjoyed by the wealthy few. After the Renaissance, European furniture makers began designing and building a variety of sofa styles, with cabinet-maker Thomas Chippendale paving the way to mass marketing with catalogs of designs. The industrialized age offered improved machinery for the mass-production of sofas, making them affordable for the general public and offering even more variety. These days you can hardly imagine a living room without an over-stuffed, well-used and much-loved sofa, placed at its center.The sofa has always been a main centerpiece and focal point when it comes to the living room.  


From design perspective, a sofa is determined by its arm.  i.e. A rolled arm sofa, a square arm sofa etc.  The sofa's arm style, size and shape are the main ways that each sofa is set apart from another.  Deciding on what you like in those three catagories will get you closer to defining which sofa is the "perfect sofa" for you.  The fabric that you decide to put on that sofa is an entirely separate decision that you will surely allow your interior designer to assist you in selecting.


The bottom line is that the sofa is the heart of most seating groups.  The selection of your sofa is one of the more important decisions that you will make

while decorating your home.