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FAQ on Working with an Interior Designer: An Interview with Cathleen Gouveia of Cathleen Gouveia Design

By Cathleen Gouveia

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

Cathleen Gouveia is the design principal of Cathleen Gouveia Design, a Belvedere-based design firm delivering high-end residential interior design to homes in the San Francisco Bay Area, Lake Tahoe and throughout the U.S. Her work has been featured on Home and Garden Television (HGTV), "California Home and Living Television," in The San Francisco Chronicle, and several other periodicals. She is an Allied Member of the ASID, and an Associate Member of the IIDA.

Cathleen Gouveia Design was founded in Sausalito, CA, in 2004. Cathleen previously designed spaces for prestigious design firms including Brayton + Hughes and Barbara Scavullo Design. Her work has appeared at The Traditional Home Napa Showhouse (2012 and 2014), The San Francisco Decorator Showcase House (2011), The Elle Décor Home Tour (2011) and the Marin Designers Showcase House (2004, 2005, 2007, 2010). Cathleen was named a, "San Francisco Stylemaker" by The San Francisco Chronicle, and won The 2011 ASID Design Excellence Award for a Sustainable Residential Interior Design Project. She will be the President Elect of the Northern California Chapter of ASID in 2015.

Cathleen graduated with Honors from The Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1998, where she received an MFA Degree in Interior Architecture and Design, and an Award for Design Excellence. She studied European Architecture, Art and Design in London, Paris, and Rome; and completed post-baccalaureate studies at The School of Visual Arts and The N.Y. School of Interior Design.

The hallmark of Cathleen's style is a conceptual perspective unique to the history and vernacular of a building, and the rich personal history of each design client. Cathleen has established a cornucopia of unique design sources, artisans and suppliers. She invites her clients to collaborate during the design process, while offering the highest level of customer service.

In her free time, Cathleen may be found indulging her passion for travel, art, design, music and boating. She divides her time between San Francisco, CA; Bay Head, NJ; and East Hampton, NY.

Specialties: Custom Residential Design, Custom Furniture Design, Custom Area Rug Design, Custom Window Treatment Design, Custom Decorative Lighting, Fine Antiques and Home Furnishing Acquisitions, Hotel Design, Restaurant Design, Product Design and Manufacturing.

Is there a common misconception people have about working with an interior designer?

Clients often believe that only the wealthiest citizens of the U.S. work with professional interior designers. That is not the case. Designers will often work at an hourly rate agreed with the client, may work to a given total fee, or agree to a lower rate if the client cannot afford the standard rate offered by the designer. I often provide a one-hour free consultation to determine the scope of work, and then set the fee for consulting, or for the project as a whole depending on what is fair to both client and designer and the number of hours that may be required.

How is the budget typically set for a new project?

As a designer, I will review each of the rooms, the clients wishes, project the number of hours to accomplish those tasks, add a percentage on for good measure (revisions/changes) and then decide what the project will require. Depending on the number of square feet and size of the residence, I will then decide if it should be a consulting project or hourly. Consulting is reserved for smaller projects. A fee for moderate sized projects. An hourly rate for projects that require a lot of time, a client that has no idea what they want to do, or a project with an undefined scope. I enjoy working to a set fee with some large projects as the clients know what to anticipate each month, and I know that I can do as much as needed without putting the client's invoice on "tilt".

Can you briefly talk about the main benefits of hiring an interior designer for the whole house versus just one room?

Yes. I believe that synergy is critical. A design in one room must work with the rest. There are transition corridors, staircases, axial views, and other spaces that will be impacted by the design. When considered as a whole, the project will mesh. There are efficiencies of scale doing more tasks in the house all at once. For instance, painting, area rug selection, light fixtures. When you do several at once, they work together and when you purchase, you can often obtain a package deal. Finally, clients see one room done and then the rest of the house is not looking up to par. The upgrade starts to spread, and the client wishes they had done the project as a whole to save on economics of scale. Artisans, subcontractors, and finish artists are more excited when taking on the residence versus a small space. As a business, doing more is always more rewarding than doing less. That will always make a design team feel important, and ready to do the best work possible for the client.

What advice do you have for Rhode Island homeowners who want to redecorate but aren't sure how to start?

Know what you love. Know what you don't love. Bring tearsheets of both to your first meeting. Be realistic about your budget. Know what you can really afford. When you plan your design budget, make sure you include 20%-30% or more for your designer on top of your furnishings budget. An old house may require inspections, floor plans from the Town Hall, an idea of what your lifestyle will look like in your home (with family and friends) on holidays, birthdays, anniversaries, aging parents, new grandchildren on the way. Make a five, ten, fifteen year plan before you hire your designer. By knowing what your wishes are and how your lifestyle is changing, you can better meet the functional needs ? as well as the aesthetic.

Designers are not a commodity, so take time to understand how they are different by looking at websites, locations where work has been performed, the level of finishes and degree of decorating or staging versus interior design. Decorators do not have collegiate training. Interior designers have two to four years, sometimes more. Decorators are talented individuals who stylize a space, and interior designers can suggest movement of windows, walls, cabinetry but with stamped drawings from an architect. If you have a wood burning fireplace, consider yourself lucky and protect this as it has a grandfather clause, even if you don't intend to use it. This is going to be a benefit when the residence sells. Bathrooms and kitchen makeovers are often well worth the cost if you are selling your house or plan to the in the future. Talk to a local realtor about your residence and where the most investment worthy changes can be made.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

I am easiest to reach by email through my website or by telephone at 415.203.8663.

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