This week we’ll learn some interior design basics, especially as it pertains to new and remodeled homes. You’ll hear my conversation with Betsy Helmuth, owner of Affordable Interior Design and host of her own interior design podcast called Big Design, Small Budget. It’s one of my new favorites. I just love it and here’s why: In the same way this podcast simplifies and demystifies homebuilding concepts, Betsy, on Big Design Small Budget, simplifies and demystifies interior design. So, to go along with BYHYU’S tips and tricks for building your dream house, Betsy gives strategies for decorating your dream house.
And she really knows her stuff. She’s appeared on the Today Show, HGTV, DIY Network, CBS, NBC, plus she’s been featured in dozens of magazines and newspapers.
Today you’ll hear her expert opinion on what to do and where to start when designing rooms from scratch. Betsy will tell us what fixtures and finishes should stay consistent throughout the whole house, and when it’s ok to add in different color palettes and styles. We’ll also hear why Betsy says that investment furniture and an all-neutral rooms are no-no’s.
The following is a paraphrase of our interview. To hear the interview in its entirety, take a listen on the podcast player above.
Michelle: When you're starting out with the clean slate of a completely empty house or new room, where do you begin with the design- paint color, furniture, window treatments, or something else?
Betsy: The first thing you want to think about is what you're going to do in each room. Which area needs to function for which activity (TV watching, dining, etc). Function is more important than paint color, wallpaper, etc.
Michelle: What are the most common layout mistakes you see?
Betsy: Not being able to see the main point of access when you are in a room. You should arrange furniture so you are able to see the main point of entry from the major furniture pieces, be it the bed, a desk, or the sofa. Not being able to see that main entry point makes us feel vulnerable in the space.
Michelle: I know you're a fan of color, but are there any color palettes we should avoid?
Betsy: There are colors that are controversial--purple, orange, and pink. Purple is the most controversial color in the spectrum. It's not a color that a lot of people can relate to, plus it's overly feminine. Pink is also quite feminine and is not always sophisticated. Pink and purple are fine for a little girl's room, but should be used sparingly in adult spaces.
Orange is another color that is polarizing. Most people don't like it.
When designing a room, stick with 3 colors per room so the room feels more focused and less chaotic. Plus it's easier when you're shopping to be restricted to 3 tones. And be sure to mix warm and cool colors.
Michelle: Do you think the color palette, overall style, and finishes (such as cabinetry, flooring and countertops) should stay consistent throughout the entire house? Or is it ok to give different rooms different personalities?
Betsy: Architectural finishes, like window molding and crown molding, should stay consistent throughout the whole home. I also think metal finishes should stay relatively consistent throughout. If you going to use silver metals, use all silver, although it's okay to mix brushed silver metal (brushed nickel) with polished silver (chrome).
When it comes to color palettes, you can really mix it up. But, if you have an open concept living space, keep the color palette consistent in that open area. Different bedrooms can be unique since they are behind doors. Each bedroom can have a different vibe.
Michelle: What are some of your design pet peeves?
Betsy: Not using any color in a space. When you are designing on a budget, and using all neutrals (grays, creams, beige, whites, taupes), it looks like you didn't make any choices. An all-neutral space could work in a very high end home because each selection would be very expensive, detailed and impeccably finished.
But when shopping for neutrals at Crate and Barrel, Room and Board, and Pottery Barn, the lines, finishes and seaming aren't perfect or precise. When you pop those neutrals with some color and pattern, it camouflages those issues. And an all-neutral room is boring. So, No exclusively neutral spaces unless you're a millionaire!
Michelle: What are the furniture pieces or design items that we should we spend a little more on and think of as investment pieces? And then talk about what items it's ok to go a little cheaper on?
Betsy: I have a real problem with considering furniture investment pieces in this day and age. We're more transient and on the go than our predecessors. In addition, high end furniture is not as well made as it used to be. So the idea that something would last 15 years is somewhat a thing of the past. And years ago, we didn't have a lot of interesting furniture options, now we do. There is a lot of selection at really decent price points.
Think about furniture lasting no more than 10 years. I don't think there is such thing as an investment piece when our tastes change so wildly now. And if you have kids and/or pets, you're on a 5 year time line because there are stains, smells and scratches that just don't go away.
And nobody wants your old buffet or grandma's dining table-- not your kids, not your uncle, no one.
That being said, if you want to splurge, the place to do it is the master bedroom because it's an area where things don't typically get a ton of hard wear and tear.
Michelle: Where are some of your favorite places to shop for the home?
Betsy: Each place has extreme pros and cons. There is no one store that does everything right. I like Room and Board for upholstered furniture, but I don't like their wood furniture.
I like West Elm for their amazing accents, throw pillows and vases, but I don't like anything there that has drawers and I really don't like their sofas.
I rely on reviews when online shopping and I shop at stores with free or minimal shipping.
Michelle: Tell us about Affordable Interior Design and how your podcast and services can help those of us building new homes.
Betsy: I have an interior design firm in New York City and a storefront in Westchester, but we also work internationally. We have virtual plans. Plans ranges from $399 to $1299. We try to stay really affordable. I feel like a high end design aesthetic should be affordable and accessible to everyone. You can find those plans at AffordableInteriorDesign.com. And you can also check out my podcast Big Design, Small Budget, where I am constantly giving away my top tips and where I dish on stores and what they are doing right, which is constantly evolving. I love to share and "keep it real" on the podcast which comes out every Wednesday.
Isn’t Betsy the best? I just love her practical, no no-sense approach to design. Check out her portfolio, design plans and Podcast by going to Affordable Interior Design.com.
Thank you for joining me this week. And special thanks to Betsy Helmuth for educating us about interior design. I hope you learned as much as I did and I hope you’ll stop by again for another episode of Build Your House Yourself University--BYHYU.