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Inevitably, when I meet someone for the first time, the topic of what do you do for a living always seems to make its way into polite conversation. When I inform them I am in the business of interior design and architecture, I am often met with the reply: “Oh, that must be fun. You get to shop all day.” I kindly smile, but realize they have no idea of what it is I actually do or have little regard for what designers and architects really do in their day-to-day life. Interior Design and Architecture were once well-respected professions. Somewhere, there has been a decline.

One could say it is the fact that universities are handing out degrees by the thousands to people who achieve a mediocre level of understanding of the role and duties of interior designers and architects. They have literally saturated the market and job force. If you take a in depth look at those that actually completed degrees in the field of interior design or architecture, how many of them are actually working for firms, own their own business, or even still work in the industry?

I also have to give respect to those who never went to formal education and entered into the field. I have a great deal of admiration for these individuals. The one thing I do know is they have surrounded themselves with others to help them be successful. I have to applaud them. It is virtuous to know the areas that you excel, and to surround you with others who are the best at what they do. Let them compliment you. I think one of the greatest design talents; Vicente Wolf is a prime example of someone with no formal design education that is one of the most talented sought after interior designers of this generation.

HGTV

HGTV logo 2015I admit; at one time, I was a fan of HGTV. That was until I went to school and gained a greater understanding of what an interior designer’s job description and duty to clients and the world. It didn’t align with what I was seeing on HGTV. In 2011, being a young, emerging designer, I was approached by HGTV to be a designer on a new reality series, Showhouse Showdown. Looking for money, success, fame, and glamour, I jumped on the bandwagon to be disheartened at the world of “reality television.” Of the approximately twelve designers from across the country, Corey Damen Jenkins – to my knowledge – is the only designer that leveraged his appearance on the show to skyrocket his career.

I believe HGTV has done a disservice not only to designers, architects, landscape architects, and real estate agents, but I believe it has done damage to it’s viewers by setting up unrealistic expectations when it comes to budgets and timelines for projects. Let’s be honest.

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HOUZZ

A few years ago, a new platform, Houzz emerged. “We are a platform for home remodeling and design, bringing 

homeowners and home professionals together in a uniquely visual community.” I had dismissed it for several years. With the importance of website, Google rankings, blogging, and social media in today’s industry, I thought this might be a viable option to attract more business. I

did my research. I reached out to a several designers across the country that I r

espected. They all had positive feedback on how Houzz has been an affirmative factor in their business. I set up an account. Almost two years later, I have yet to receive a job from this site. Under their Advice tab, there is a forum for Design Dilemma. It is filled with over 300,000 homeowners seeking free advice for their design projects. It seems to me with a site that boasts over 1,000,000 professionals, you as a homeowner would seek out the services and advice of one of these professionals rather than relying on them to give you free advice. At the end of the day, this is a business for me. I can’t afford to give out free advice.

In closing, I feel hopeful for the future of our industry. It is cliché, but the cream always rises to the top. AARON B DUKE is a luxury brand that focus on not only excellence in design, but providing service and an experience for our clients. We carefully chose the projects and clients we decide fit into our core values and beliefs. Craftsmanship, quality, and excellence are paramount to the designs we create, as well as the showrooms, vendors, contractors, and tradespeople we collaborate with on a daily basis to bring our clients design not intended for the masses, but for those who are discerning, worldly, and sophisticated. We enjoy working with clients who appreciate our knowledge, expertise, and experience. There is no need to question our every choice. We chose ones who trust that we are making the finest decisions in their best interest.

We unveiled three different services this year to appeal to a wide audience, while keeping our brand and values in place.

Are you ready to experience the AARON B DUKE difference?

CONTACT US TODAY!

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I remember in 2008 murmurings of E-Design. It was a new way for designers to work with clients virtually and was going to change the interior design profession. Soon, websites began to appear offering E-Design services. I began to notice designers adding E-Design to their list of services. I did my research on E-Design. I looked into websites and designers that offered E-Design and how they were approaching this business model. After careful consideration, I decided E-Design is not part of the services or brand of AARON B DUKE. E-Design – at best – offers a service. AARON B DUKE offers design, service, and an experience your can’t recreate through E-Design.

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HOW DO YOU BUILD RELATIONSHIPS WITH CLIENTS THROUGH E-DESIGN?

My entire career in interior design has been relationship building. I have developed lasting relationships with vendors, showrooms, tradespeople, and contractors – and most importantly with my clients. In the era of chic technology, we are connected via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest. What ever happened to one-on-one, face-to-face interactions with humans? Often times, my initial contact with a client will be through email or a phone call. I can learn so much more about a client and how to best serve them by actually sitting down with them in their home and learning about them. I fail to see how this can be achieved through an exchange of email communication.

HOW DO YOU CREATE DESIGNS THAT REFLECT A CLIENTS LIFESTYLE

Many of these online services and designers that provide E-Design promise design and decor services all done by email, Skype, snail mail or phone calls – you chose.  Upon purchase, you will provide photos, measurements, budget guidelines and inspiration photos.  After approximately 2 weeks, you will receive, a design scheme, layout options, furniture and accessory board with options within your budget.  Then after you have made your selections, purchases and ordered a style consultation with vignettes and styling ideas for that curated finishing touch. Has this achieved interior design and decorating? Yes, but I feel in the most sterile way. Interior design and decorating is much more than creating pretty well appointed rooms. Which brings me to my next topic.

WHAT WE DO IT GREATER THAN THE SERVICES OF AN E-DESIGNER

Don’t get me wrong. I think E-Design is a wonderful option for those in locations that might not have access to professional interior designers. It allows them to work with someone remotely that they might not have the opportunity to work with in their location. The services provided are often at a reduced cost of those who provide professional interior design services. In a way, it has brought interior design to the masses, but I can’t stand by and say that is a good for our profession.

My first day of design school, I had no clue about the journey I was about to embark. A passionate professor opened my eyes to the possibilities and opportunities within interior design. It wasn’t just decoratoring. Interior Designers do so much more. We design every space you enter each day be it your home, restaurants, churches, banks, theaters, offices, add infinitum.

We take into consideration access, lighting, acoustics, seating, and places to store or set things down. We also poccess knowledge of health and safety considerations , and we pay special attention to special needs. We consider the psychological and bevavior impact of the design. We look forward to the environmental impacts our choices make with design.

Many designers approach projects from different perspectives. These approaches to design cut across specialties, such as sustainable or green design, universal or accessible design, design for aging in place, and others.

When you hire a professional interior designer, you get the benefit of an experienced professional who can solve problems, help you avoid costly mistakes and, most importantly, create a space designed specifically to meet your needs.

Are you ready for the professional interior design experience, CONTACT AARON B DUKE TODAY!

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As an interior designer who provides bathroom design and remodeling services, I am often the first call a homeowner makes when they want to remodel their master bathroom. They may or may not have a contractor lined up, but they know they want AARON B DUKE to design their new luxury master bathroom.

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No matter where the conversation starts, when inevitably get around to the question of cost. With my wealth of knowledge of design, the construction industry, and typical job cost associated with cabinets, finishes, and plumbing fixtures, I can give them a ballpark of the cost associated with the work they want done and the vision they wish to achieve.

Usually, it’s preceded with statements that involve the word “just.”

“I just want to flip the shower and the closet.”

“I just want to bump-out the wall two feet.”

“I just want a higher ceiling in this area.”

Homeowners have an unrealistic idea of all these “just” statements, because someone, somewhere, has said for whatever reason, that job shouldn’t really cost that much.

I hear statements like: You are not really changing anything; The building industry is in a slump and needs the work; My neighbor did it for $6,000.00 himself; and apparently, there are people who do this for free.

Whatever the reason, it often feels like the homeowners have been set up to be absolutely shocked by the real cost of a bathroom remodel. A bathroom remodel is an investment in you and your home.

Here is the reality in Los Angeles: it's tough to remodel a master bathroom for less than $40,000, - and even worse – that is just a start. It is easy for that number to reach $80,000.00 or more when we are talking high-end residential design budgets.

Then comes the, “While we are at it, we might as well ____________ (fill in the black). Add a tankless water heater, add a steam shower, and install radiant flooring. All these additions add line items to the proposal and definitely drive the cost of a bathroom remodel.

Of course, you can always find someone willing to do the work for less. Often times, they are unlicensed, uninsured, and unbounded, which raises a whole host of other expenses should something go wrong.

If you are lucky, that person will be a responsible, talented builder or contractor on their way up, who is still charging unrealistic prices and does not yet realize it. Good for you! Grab them and put them to work.

If you are unlucky, though, that person will underbid your project. Why? Their idea of a quality job is not your idea of a quality job.

The hallmark of AARON B DUKE projects is quality, craftsmanship, and excellence from the design to every single contractor and tradesperson we employ.

Are you ready now to begin that master bathroom remodel?

Contact AARON B DUKE today to get started envisioning your new dream master bathroom remodel.

 

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Recently, I sat down with luxury real estate expert, Aileen Comora of The Agency's Beverly Hills Office to discuss the perceived and added value of bathroom remodels. Ms. Comora had an interesting perspective as both a buyer who remodeled her home and being one of Los Angeles’ premiere real estate agents. “A really nice bathroom enhances your life psychologically. Some people have to have a bathtub in their bathroom. Think about your life and the lifestyle you want to live. If you home is your haven, invest in it like you would a really nice pair of shoes. Surround yourself with the best of everything,” she said.

Ms. Comora also noted, some luxury homebuyers are looking for something that is completely turnkey and ready to move in, while others are looking for a project to make it personal to them.

With any major bathroom remodel, you should consider: your motivation; how much you will spend; and the anticipated return on that investment.

Perhaps you plan to sell and hope this renovation will impact resale value, in which case your goal is a direct monetary return. Updating your baths may be enough to give your house an edge over other homes for sale in your area. How much of your investment are you likely to get back in resale value of your home in Los Angeles? Our research found,  a typical bathroom remodel begins around $25,000.00, while a more upscale remodel will start at $58,000.00. According to a report compiled by Remodeling Magazine, you can recoup approximately 55-60% of that cost in the resale value.  Other sources have put that number much higher.

HOW MANY BATHROOMS SHOULD YOU HAVE?

Most homes are equipped with plenty of bathrooms.  Depending on the size and date of your home, it may only have one or two bathrooms.  For most in the luxury market - they expect more. Remember, they lived a much different lifestyle than we do today.  Prospective buyers expect to see multiple baths.  Most of them know the time and resources involved in adding new bathrooms - which may be a deal breaker. Some have suggest considering adding the second bathroom before you update the existing one. Buyers will definitely be more attracted to your home. Some reports say you can recoup 80% or more of the remodeling expenses. What a great return on investment!

WHAT DO OTHER HOMES IN YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD HAVE?

Do your research.  Find out what is typical in your area and look at what the popular features are for homes for sale in your neighborhood.  How much you get back depends in part on the value of homes in your area, the value of your home, and the quality of your project.  Also, make sure you invest what is inline for your area and neighborhood.   It isn't wise to invest so much that you price yourself out of your neighborhood.

MAKE IT MOVE-IN READY

We spend a great deal of time in our bathrooms. They can be the most expensive and difficult to renovate spaces in a home to renovate. Some perspective homeowners want the feeling they can move in without undering major remodeling - an attractive bathroom design is one way to aleveate that stressor. Make sure structural elements are in shape but also focus on visual items like tiles and fixtures that will grab attention their attention.

GO FOR THE WOW FACTOR

Pick a few select items that will catch people’s attention as soon as they enter the room. A large glass shower enclosure, a stunning vanity, or an eye-catching tile detail will enhance the space and make it more appealing. Depending on available budget and the value of your home, you may need to pick and choose which items to incorporate. Use a more expensive tile for a feature or opt to update faucets and sinks. A few high-end details are enough to give your bathroom design the updated look you want to appeal to potential buyers.

Whether you are looking to sell your home, or you just purchased a home that needs bathroom remodeling, contact AARON B DUKE.

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An inspirational story of overcoming adversity and achieving success!

sharon_copeland_interior_designerLos Angeles based Interior Designer, AARON B DUKE recently caught up with his college classmate to find out how she has created her own niche in the interior design world.

My name is Sharon Copeland, I am an interior designer. I have always been creative. I have always had a passion for music, dance and yes, even interior design as a young girl. My interior design journey began about ten years ago while working as a floral manager and designer. I did floral designs for every occasion underneath the sun. I did baby showers, weddings, and proms - and yes funerals. I had been a floral designer for more than 20 years and after a life altering surgery decided to make a change that would still let me be creative.

I loved color, movement and working with God’s many creations. I was bit of a clotheshorse, and I was hooked on Style TV; but, my husband pointed out to me there was a new channel I should watch. I was hesitant at first but gave it a try. It was called HGTV, and I loved it. The first shows I got hooked on were Sarah 101, Divine Design, and Designers Challenge. I was also a fan of Kenneth Brown Design, as well. While I was in the process of healing from surgery I looked around my new house and decided I wanted to change my country kitchen. I picked out the paint colors and had my husband take off the doors of the cabinets and had him paint where I needed. I used broken plates, glass, and marbles to change the look of my cabinets and color to enhance the room. All the work was done on the floor. I was so proud of the finished product I showed the pictures to a local designer. She was so impressed. She told me go to a local design school to become a proper designer, but where would I find the time? I took design classes at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online. At the time it was frowned upon. Who designs a room online? (Who’s laughing now?) By the time I finished it was CIDA certified. So it was perfect. I worked really hard…forty-five hour weeks, staying up late at night. I graduated June 2007 with a residential planner’s degree. My very first internship at a kitchen and bath-remodeling place was a success - I even won an award. So things were looking up or so it seemed. I had a hard time people believing it was my work.

Because of Texas’ regulations I still wasn’t a designer, so I went to the Art Institute of Dallas to continue my education. I felt overwhelmed and even though I had the technical talent of a designer and architect, hands on I was a novice. My classes at the AID were fun and educational. I had great teachers and my skills flourished. The money on the other hand did not.
I didn’t have enough money to continue at AID.

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I felt alone most of the time and my friends had the gift of their parents who paid for their tuition, room and books. They had the opportunity learn overseas in the U.K. and Paris. Plus it was hard at the time to find another internship at larger firm because I didn’t fit the “mold”.

So, I took another route, and I learned at furniture retail shops. I worked for Restoration Hardware for two years, and I learned hands on about color, texture, and how things are made. Not textbook made! REAL LIFE, in person made. I learned about lighting and drapery. I LOVED working there, and they saved my life it seems.

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I will never forget that experience.

Being African American is another challenge as I began to finish out my degree at El Centro College. I didn’t see my face…ANYWHERE. There was no one I could talk to about my challenges as a designer. No one who really helped me; they’d criticize me sure. I had panic attacks thinking I’ll never make it. You think you are talented, but there are fifty people more talented. Sadly some of the teachers reach out to them more to cultivate their talents. Happily I had one teacher in particular who took me aside and actively encouraged me. You just need one person beside yourself to believe in you; just one. He told me what I did wrong of course, but also how I could improve and when I succeeded. He made me evolve into the designer I am.

I graduated in 2012 with my associates in design. I am the first person in my family to graduate from college. I am proud to say that.

I cannot emphasis how practicing your skills and reading every design magazine and book helps. I am a visualizer, I have to see it. I learned going to the design markets, show houses really trained my eyes made me a better designer.

Being told the word no helped me, too. No one puts baby in the corner. I had a few bad experiences on my way becoming a real designer. I interned for places that used the N word on a daily basis. I interned with firms with a couple of people who were on a power trip and hurt me on a daily basis. I had people who talked down to me because of who I was and called me stupid. I was told I would never do a home in Texas because I was black. I would never get through the door. You become brave, and you walk away from anyone who uses and abuses you. Close that door.

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Every story has a happy ending. Through social media I discovered e-design as a way to get through the door. I worked with two e-design firms and not only did I do e-designs, I did interior design on the ground in client homes. Not only did every single design turn out great and the clients were happy, I made long life friends. After 20 turn key designs and more than 40 virtual projects, I opened Traditional Edge Designs I have so far this year done six turnkey projects and 12 virtual ones on my own. The road has not been an easy one; I am still growing and learning. I’ve also been learning about marketing, and that takes more than savvy social networking skills; it takes money. That’s the journey I’m on now. I am with a fantastic group of women, Black Female Interior Designers (BFID) group. I have also won my first design competition. I won outstanding upcoming designer held by Design Star winner Tiffany Brooks, and I went to my first convention, Black Interior Designers Conference in August.

Here is my advice for young designers especially who are struggling to fit in and find their voice…because I was once like you. Believe in your abilities, work extra hard and be brave. If anything be brave.

 

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Interior Design and Architectural Coordination | Aaron B Duke | Los Angeles 424.262.3853

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