Mon. Apr 22nd, 2024
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Photo by Chris Murray Productions

When thinking about the broader picture, interior designer Sara VanStelten recommends going for a more classic look in the backsplash and elsewhere, like the one seen in this kitchen she designed for a client.

Spend a lot of time watching HGTV and you start to think you know what interior design and home remodeling are all about. Pick some colors, rip out some walls and presto, you’re enjoying a whole new look to your home.

But behind those before-and-after home reveals comes a lot of time and hard work — something interior designer Sara VanStelten knows a lot about. VanStelten is the owner of Spruce & Tailor, an interior design company based in Bend. Trained in interior design (with a side of architecture, business management and art history, she says) at the University of Minnesota, VanStelten made her way around various cities in the U.S. before eventually settling in Bend, where she spends about half her time working with clients on new construction projects, and another half on home remodels.

The work is busy, she says. “People think oftentimes kind of think it’s luxurious — picking all the pretty stuff, but probably 75% of the job is project management and dealing with people… relationships and subcontractors,” VanStelten said.

On a recent Friday, I sat down with VanStelten to get her thoughts, in her own words, on design trends, DIY projects and more, in honor of our Home & Garden issue.

Current design trends for Central Oregon

For a while it was more mountain modern, and I think now for people, it’s going a little softer, a little cozier feeling. Even the giant open floor plans where it’s like kitchen-dining-living in one giant space… I think during COVID people were like, we can’t escape — we’re all in this one giant room, unless we’re in a bedroom. So now a lot of my floor plans are going back to individual spaces — to have a kitchen with a little eating area, but then you have more of a traditional dining room again and a living room that’s sort of walled off. So, there’s a little bit more separation to space.

Advice for new homeowners

Come up with the long-term plan instead of just diving into piece-by-piece puzzles. It’s overwhelming. You do something over here, and then it affects something over here, and you’re not thinking that far ahead. So, make kind of an ultimate plan, and then start to tackle it, instead of just, ‘let’s do this first and then let’s do this’ and then by the end, you’re like, this is a cluster and nothing works.

Designing for resale

I think one thing that’s trendy that can turn people off is tile. So, like in a bathroom, a lot of people are doing patterned tiles and stuff and if you don’t like that, it’s more of an expensive change to rip that out — and does it match with everything else in the bathroom? Because kitchen and baths are the most expensive remodels.

So when designing I try to talk to people about classic choices — especially if they’re planning on selling — that aren’t going to go out of style immediately or people can add their own flair with all your accessory stuff, or change their lighting or the hardware or whatever, but don’t do that elaborate backsplash. That’s a big one that I rip out of a lot of places — people just hate like the backsplash or the bathroom. They’re just repulsed by what’s in there.

click to enlarge Central Oregon Home Design Trends

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Homeowners sometimes make design choices that really hone in on their personal style — which can be good to help someone feel at home, but not so great for resale.

What she wishes people knew about home design and remodeling projects

Everything is going to take longer than expected. Everyone watches HGTV and they’re like, ‘oh we know what’s going on here.’ Hiring a designer, going through this process — things are not cheap or easy like they are on TV.

Things homeowners can actually DIY (and have it come out looking good)

Some of those accessory type things — I think paint is a super easy one. That is the cheapest easiest major change to a room, right? And then there’s some small stuff, like small upgrade stuff — drawer hardware, cabinetry hardware. You can buy it anywhere — it can be super cheap, but it totally changes all the finishes, changes like the whole vibe right up.

Lighting is another one — a huge price range. You could buy a chandelier for like $100, or you can spend $10,000, but it’s something that’s super easy to change out. You don’t really need a lot of help to do that.

Things to leave to the professionals

I’ve seen disaster tile. It’s a tricky one, because people think like, ‘oh, it’s super easy and you just, like, lay out this pattern,’ but there’s so much more, like waterproofing. So that’s a big one. Also, any of the big-ticket items. If you’re putting in wood flooring, consult a professional. Electrical and plumbing — the stuff that could damage a lot of stuff if you mess it up.


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