How does design taste differ geographically? Watch the panel from Universal Furniture

HIGH POINT –  Universal Furniture hosted a Learning Lab series of panel discussions in their showroom. Decor News Now Editor-in-Chief, Courtney Porter moderates “Discover the Art of Design: Big Cities vs. Small Towns,” with Marta Mitchell of Marta Mitchell Interior Design Group, Robert Ventolo of Crain + Ventolo, and Christian Daw of Christian Daw Design. The discussion includes the dynamic relationship between location and design style, wants and needs; and the unique design needs and styles of urban and rural clients. Click play on the video below to watch the full panel discussion, or read on for our top takeaways.

  1. We are more alike than different: Consumers asking for similar things  regardless of whether they live in the city, rural, or suburban areas. They want practical materials that hold up over time. 
  1. Taste is art varies geographically. Designer Robert Ventolo is all about maximizing his clients’ investment – he’ll save money wherever possible in order to invest more in the art and says New York art taste is much more serious than in Florida, where much of his work is concentrated.
  1. The client’s predominant culture and background determines the aesthetic more so than the geography, Marta Mitchell says. Some of her clients like a nostalgic design, a nod to where they are from, rather than where they are.
  1. Clients are still mostly finding designers through word of mouth referrals, even abroad, Marta and Robert agreed. Their websites and social media function similarly to a business card or a portfolio than the way clients are finding them initially. Christian Daw, however, is a known social media influencer so plenty of projects come through there. 
  1. Technology is the long-distance designers’ best friend. Zoom and VR tools are great, but there is still no replacement for the tangible. These designers want their clients to sit on all the furniture before they buy, which makes them distinctly different from the on-line, distance designers. They plan for as many site visits as possible. 
  1. Sustainability Initiatives for Long-Distance Design: Repurpose and upcycle as much as possible, use sustainable fabrics, and shop local vendors. Have to off-set some of that carbon footprint from flying somehow!
  1. Facebook Community Groups for designers are the best place to source good trades when designing abroad. That’s where you’re going to find the best wallpaper hanger in Tulsa when your design firm is based in Palm Beach. 
  1. Keep different climates in mind when you are designing in areas you are less familiar with. Robert Ventolo brings up the example of the need for temperature-controlled storage in humid environments, like Florida. 
  1. Keep your home (base) office: You don’t necessarily need to open up an office in a city because you suddenly have multiple projects there. Marta Mitchell learned that the hard way. In our panel discussion she recounts the logistical difficulty and financial burden of opening her Denver office. 
  1. What do you charge for design abroad? Each panelist had a different answer – ranging from not charging more at all to splitting the travel costs, to charging travel time and billing all travel expenses. Christian Daw charges hourly and has a minimum amount of hours billed for travel, so that even if a meeting takes four to five hours, it will be billed for eight.
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