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Conceptualizing a Story for Your Space

Conceptualizing a Story for Your Space

October 12, 2017


Bamberger Answers

A Real Estate Blog Where Experts Give Answers

 

Conceptualizing a Story for Your Space
 

Interior design is the process of elevating a space into a livable work of art. A balance must be achieved between comfort and style, and one should not have to be sacrificed for the other. While there are many ways to tailor your home to fit your lifestyle and aesthetic preferences, a transformation cannot truly begin without conceptualizing the story that will define your space. After all, a concept does more than guide the design process – it unifies the space and brings it to life.

In this edition of Bamberger Answers, BNO Design president and principal designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz discusses the process of achieving continuity in your living space, as well as the changing trends aspiring renovators should know about.

 

Benjamin Noriega Ortiz holds a Master Degree in Architecture from the University of Puerto Rico and a Master’s Degree in Architecture and Urban Design from Columbia University. He began his career in New York in 1983 at the world-renowned interior and product design studio of John F. Saladino, Inc. Establishing his own firm in 1992, Benjamin has traveled throughout the world to produce residential projects for such clients as Lenny Kravitz, Laura Esquivel, Mark Seliger, Russell Simmons, and Sean Combs, and has worked with notable commercial clients including Cartier, Morgan Hotel Group, and Renaissance Times Square, among others.

BNO Design’s work has been featured in newspapers, design blogs, magazines, and television shows. Benjamin Noriega Ortiz’ first book,Emotional Rooms, The Sensual Interiors of Benjamin Noriega Ortiz was published in 2007. The second, Suspending Reality, Interiors, is in stores now.

 

[The Bamberger Group] What sets BNO Design apart from the various other interior design firms in New York?

 

[Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz] We mostly do residential work, but have also done a few hotels and commercial properties. I feel that one of the ways we set ourselves apart is with our interior design – our décor is not too serious, and has a whimsical quality to it. This translates well between all of our projects, because hotels, offices, showrooms, and apartments can all benefit from having a little sense of humor in their design. Whimsicality is a characteristic of our work, and we like to mix different styles. While our projects vary and our designs do not correlate to a particular look, they always encompass a particular feel. We specialize in a jovial interior style, which can be seen not only in the furniture we choose, but also the lighting. I co-own a designing company that produces light fixtures, and we use different materials, such as glass, feathers, and leather, to add a whimsical quality.

 

[TBG] Do you notice a difference between designing for commercial spaces and designing for residential homes?

 

[BNO] In a commercial space, more than one family uses it, and therefore it must tailor to a wide array of people. We must be open to various opinions and visions, which is a different approach from working with residences. When we work with one couple or family, we know exactly who we are designing for, and how to tailor our expertise to fit their tastes and lifestyles.

 

A residence in Rockaway Park, New York, was transformed into an unconventional yet glamorous space with color scheme and accents inspired by Marie Antoinette. Photographed by Antoine Bootz.

[TBG] Is continuity in aesthetic important? For example, should lobbies and hallways match the space itself?

 

[BNO] Absolutely. There always has to be a design concept, no matter if it’s a home, hotel, boat, or car. You must have something that travels through the space and connects all the pieces together – you need a story. Continuity is given by a story. For example, for one project we used The Beauty and the Beast to guide the design, so throughout the entire hotel you saw elements of the story. But another way could be with color – for instance, my apartment is all white. That is a very simple yet effective way to unify the entire place. I used to have a house in Miami where all of the furniture was white, but all the walls were in color. Defining your story is an essential step to having continuity in your home. It’s actually very similar to getting dressed – you must decide where you’re going, and the type of story you want to convey when you get there. Are you going to a wedding or are you going to a funeral? You have to tie your outfit together, and likewise, we tie our projects together by having designs that contribute to the continuity of the space.

 

[TBG] How do you collaborate with clients to come up with a story or concept for their homes?

 

[BNO] We communicate with them very well and try to learn how they live, what they wear, and what their tastes are. Through conversations, you start to develop and understanding of what they need and the pieces they would like to have. It’s also very important to see how they live in the present, and what they’re wearing when you visit their space. For example, if they’re comfortable in a certain outfit, or have a preference for a particular color, that is important to make note of. If a client wears green often, it’s most likely because they look good in green, and thus that’s a color we might want to use when we work with them. We make a lot of observations such as these, and ask plenty of questions. We are very thorough in our process, and as a result, we usually end up designing more than one project for each client. Once you get to know a client, they come back to you because you know their family, tastes, and lifestyle. You’re already equipped to remodel their second home or country house because you have full awareness of their preferences, behaviors, and interactions.

 

This Upper East Side home encompasses both the ancient and the modern with a patchwork quilt ottoman designed by Noriega-Ortiz and Ming Dynasty chairs made from Huanghuali wood. Photographed by Costas Picadas.
 

[TBG] Is there a trend that you’ve noticed among New York clients?

 

[BNO] One thing that we’ve noticed is that men are really interested in design. This has been ignored for years, but I believe it is rapidly changing. Fifteen years ago, if you were working with a couple, the wife would be in charge of everything. Now, our male clients contribute their opinion, they make calls to follow up, they create a Pinterest page, and they send us images for reference. The clients we work with currently are more of an equal design team than in the past. In terms of aesthetics, I find a popular trend is to mix the mid-century modern style that was popular in the last ten years with more artistic interiors. People like to collect everything. They are interested in décor from various periods, and want the chance to experiment with more than one style.  

 

[TBG] How do you collaborate with clients to ensure their tastes and lifestyles are being met, while ensuring their homes are practical and comfortable to live in?

 

[BNO] We interview the clients and open a Pinterest page for the team. On that page, we naturally include furniture and lighting pieces, but we also find images that capture the desired feeling the client wishes to have upon entering the home, where they can place their shoes, among other overlooked aspects. It helps our design process to use the clients’ feedback and Pinterest pages as reference when we make the detailed proposal, because when we finally present it, it is essentially perfect. Our clients are never surprised – in my experience, surprise is usually negative and something you want to avoid. If I want to suggest an idea or a direction to take the design in, I let my clients know that they should feel comfortable telling me no. And if they say no, I move on. Transparency connects us with clients and builds a strong collaboration between us, so when they see the design, they feel like they are a part of it. They’ve actually seen the process ahead of time because we included them in every step of the process. At the end, when we present our detailed proposal, it is essentially perfect because it was exactly what they were looking for.

 

[TBG] Do you have any thoughts on virtual staging and other post-production tools that are rising in popularity? Have you made efforts to incorporate them, or do you see this software as competition?

 

[BNO] Actually, I see it as a very useful tool. My friend asked for my opinion on an apartment that he built using an app, and you could move furniture around and really create the space. None of our clients have brought it up with us, but I think it’s a good tool. What we use is realistic 3D renderings for hotels and other commercial spaces, and they are so realistic that our clients use it in their marketing instead of pictures. Those renderings are very effective for commercial projects, and great to present to marketing teams or the board of directors. For residential projects, I like to make hand-drawn sketches. They are a little bit more personal, and they don’t feel so committed or “done.” Sometimes, when you present something to the client that’s too “done,” they feel like you’re imposing on them. I want my clients to feel like they have a say in the process, and that their opinion matters. Sketches help convey the feeling of the space without being completely constructed – they’re friendlier.

 

[TBG] Do you notice a common misconception that your clients have about interior design?

 

[BNO] People tend to think that we spend a lot of money. As a matter of fact, it’s the opposite – the client is the one that spends the money. We try to always be conservative and use the money in the best places possible, while in our experience, the client ends up being the one that raises the budget. Our team works with a particular budget in mind, and when we meet the budget and present the proposal to the clients, they usually ask us to add to various aspects and spend more for certain items they want. The misconception I hear from many people is that designers spend too much money, which I think is the opposite. We try to save you money – we get things you need and can actually use, and we know how to modify existing items so they look like new pieces.  

 

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