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Chicago Interior Designers Bill and Katy

The Importance of Hiring an Interior Designer

Recently, Bill and I were interviewed by Illinois Homes.  In this interview they asked us a lot of questions about why home owners should hire an interior designer for their next home renovation or design project is important.  I always love an opportunity to sit down with someone and share with them our story of how we started our business and our philosophy behind our business.

Below, are some of my favorite questions from the interview.  Or, you can click here to read the entire article.


In your opinion, why is it important to utilize the services of an interior designer?

When furnishing your home or designing a space like a kitchen or bathroom our customers can spend hundreds to thousands of dollars. It’s really important to make sure that you are spending your money on the right products and services that work with your design tastes and lifestyle.

We have seen it too many times where a friend or potential customer has purchased an item like a sofa that is too large, the wrong style or the wrong color for the space. Sure, there are ways that we can work around a piece of furniture and make it work with a space, but it much easier (and sometimes cheaper) to work with a designer from the start.

Another important reason to hire a designer is to help you build a space that is cohesive. Many times, people will pick out an item because they like it or because they are familiar with it. Unfortunately, just because you like a particular item doesn’t necessarily mean that it will go with the space or that the items will work with the other items selected. Not only do you have to worry about making sure the heights of items function well together (a high sofa and a low coffee table can be irksome), you also need to consider the lines and visual weights of items relative to each other (an ornate, traditional lamp could look weird on an industrial style table unless you have some other ornate elements in the room.) Beyond decoration, the interior architecture needs direction to achieve cohesion. I have seen plenty of examples of Chicago style bungalows with Corinthian Columns. We love Bungalow’s and we love Corinthian Columns, just not in the same house. Importantly, if your home has a strong aesthetic concept, you’ll need to work within the styling bounds of that concept. This may mean that the concept is about rectangular, visually heavy items; it doesn’t necessarily have to be as restrictive as saying, “I have a Prairie-style home.” Knowing where and when to stay in the lines is as important as knowing when to push beyond them. A designer knows these lines.

How does the vision of an interior designer differ from that of the average homeowner?

We are able to come into a space and see the space in terms of style, overarching design concept, color, light, volume and functional needs. This allows us to listen to a client and help guide them in the right direction – much like how an Accountant can look at a pile of receipts and statements and know what to do in order to maximize your tax returns.

The discerning eye of an interior designer is also helpful when looking for a new home. Many times, potential homeowners will overlook a beautiful home because they can’t see the end potential. This is the very reason why every Realtor will have you paint your home a neutral color and have you clear out excess furniture when trying to sell it.

Interior designers bring the experience of working on hundreds of other homes to achieve many of the shared desires of all homeowners, whether its how to maximize storage, how to create intimate seating arrangements, or how big of a light fixture to use in a foyer if your ceiling is 8′ or 30′ high. We have the benefit of seeing many homes before we have worked on them, allowing us to discover the things that do and don’t work in homes.

Can hiring an interior designer help me to save money in the long run? Will they help me budget?

Many times we can help our customers spend their money more wisely. For example, if a customer has a budget of $10,000 to freshen up their home. It may be tempting to try to spread out that $10,000 across all of the rooms of the house instead of focusing on the critical spaces that provide the most impact. As designers, we do our best to help our customers save where they can and splurge where it is necessary in an effort to provide the best value for their budget no matter how much your budget is. This means that we have ideas for how to get some kind of equivalent to that 20k table you saw in a restaurant. The expertise means that you will have access to the vendors and tradespeople that the interior designer has had good experiences with.

What are some design elements I can add to me home that will really increase its value?

It really depends on what you are trying to do with your home. Depending on where we are at in our lives we may be looking to freshen up an apartment with a tiny budget, design our dream home where we have a larger budget or put your place up for sale.

In all 3 examples, we would have different objectives and different design goals.
For example, with the apartment on a tiny budget, we would focus on finding pieces that can be taken with you after you move out of your apartment. Though you may want to paint your walls and replace the carpet, apartments are usually not the best place to do this since your Lease Agreement will many times prevent you from doing those types of renovations.

When building your “dream home”, pick what you love assuming you plan on staying in the space for at least five years and it falls within your budget. For example, if you really wanted heated floors in your bathroom and it’s in your budget, go for it! Working with an interior designer will help you ensure that you don’t go overboard.

If you are planning on selling your home, it’s time to simplify, de-clutter and make the space neutral and non-offensive. Now is not the time to show off your love for a bright color or put a ton of money into some dramatic tile backsplash. What you may love may completely turn off a potential buyer.

Almost universally, however, we find that updated countertops (granite, Silestone, etc.), crown-molding, and hardwood floors are elements that impress in the Chicago metropolitan area.

Do interior designers have access to resources that the overage homeowner does not?

Some interior designers (like us) have direct accounts with manufacturers. This allows us to have access to a larger variety of merchandise since we can specify any make, model and variation that the manufacturer offers. Every year, we make the trips to various furniture shows to learn about new manufacturers and products that are available.

Other design firms may only have access to stores that sell to “the trade”. The downside to this approach is that the designer may have a smaller selection available to them since the store will many times pick and choose which models and items they choose to resell, much like any furniture store that is open to the public.

While the average homeowner may have access to all the same tradespeople, the tradespeople recommended by a designer have been vetted. For those that have dealt with shoddy craftsmanship, they know how much a good resource is worth to the end result.

Do you have any other insight on why hiring an interior designer is important?

When we first meet with customers, many times they are just sick and tired of their current home and how it looks. They usually feel “stuck” and don’t know how to get a particular look or feel out of a space. One customer once described his situation like he was looking under the hood of his broken car. He knew something wasn’t working right but just saw a bunch of hoses and cables and had no clue where to begin in order to fix it.

Sometimes customers think that their entire home is broken when in reality it may need a few small repairs. Other times, its time to start over from scratch. In both situations, an interior designer should be able to help you out. That is why we offer both single design sessions and larger design projects for our customers.

Illinois Homes is the one of the top sites for Illinois Real Estate, including Chicago IL Homes For Sale, condos, multi families, and townhouses for sale. Illinois Homes also services Michigan Homes For Sale and California Homes For Sale.

Kitchen Remodeling Costs in Chicago

Kitchen Remodeling Costs in Chicago

If you are planning on renovating your Kitchen, there are a lot of things to take into consideration.  Should you buy new cabinets or refinish the existing cabinets?  Tile or granite countertops? White appliances or Stainless Steel appliances?  All of these decisions can have a big impact on the overall project cost.

Luckily, our friends over at Houzz have recently put together a guide that surveys a large portion of their users to find out how much they are paying for Kitchen remodeling projects in Chicago.  I’ve also included what other large cities are spending on their Kitchen remodeling projects as a point of comparison.

CityAverageLower 3rdMiddle 3rdKUpper 3rd
New York$38,775$9K$27K$80K
Los Angeles$35,531$8K$28K$70K
San Francisco$42,82210$K31$K87$K

Image and data courtesy of Houzz


Picking the Proper Exhaust Fan for Your Bathroom Renovation

If you are remodeling your bathroom or simply looking to replace an old bathroom fan in a powder room, it’s important to select an appropriate ventilation fan that will not only look good (an important factor for us designers), but also function properly.

Before we dive in to calculating the size of the bathroom fan you will need, many homeowners ask us, why we need a bathroom exhaust fan or sometimes why they need 2 fans, especially if they have a window in the bathroom.  Well, let me give you a few reasons:

  • Bathrooms with tubs and showers create a lot of moisture.  Though its nice to wake up to a hot and steamy shower during a cold Chicago winter season, all of that moisture will build up and start to moisten the dry wall, plaster and any wood.  This can not only lead to nasty mold growing on your walls and ceilings, but it can also lead to the wood in your bathroom starting to rot.
  • Bathrooms can also become stinky places for obvious reasons, so it’s nice to get the funk out.

Now that we know why we need an exhaust fan, picking the proper one requires you to look at 4 main features:

  • Size – If remodeling, you will want a replacement fan that is the same size and shape
  • Fan Speed –measured in CFM
  • Noise Level – measured in “sones”
  • Features
  • Style

Fan Size

If you are remodeling you bathroom or replacing an old or outdated bathroom exhaust fan, it’s best if you try to pick a new fan that is the same size and shape.  If you remove the vanity cover of the fan, you can gather the dimensions of the fan housing.  It is possible to go with a larger or smaller fan, but this will require additional carpentry and drywall work.

Determining the Proper Fan Speed for the Bathroom Fan

When you hop on over to the local home improvement store or go online, there can sometimes be hundreds of fans to choose from.  The first thing you should focus on is the speed at which your fan runs.  This is measured in CFM or Cubic Feet per Minute.  The larger the bathroom you have, the higher CFM number you will need to look for.  Now, before you go all Tim Allen on us and look for “More Power”, there is a little math that you can do to make sure you don’t pay for more than you need.  Here is how you calculate the size fan you will need.

(Bathroom Width X Depth X Height) x 0.13 = Minimum CFM Rating

For example, if you bathroom is: 6 X 8 X 8.5, you would need a fan with ~a 53 CFM rating.  To speed things up a bit for you, here is a table with a few common bathroom sizes.

Bathroom Width

Bathroom Depth

Bathroom Height

Minimum CFM





















If you have an incredibly large bathroom, or one with an enclosed toilet of if you have a steam room in your bathroom, you may opt for 2 bathroom exhaust fans instead of one.  Or, favor a fan with a higher CFM rating.

Bathroom Exhaust Fan Noise

The next important feature to think about with your bathroom exhaust is fan noise.  When looking at fan noise, manufacturers of higher end fans will typically promote how quite the fans are.  Personally, I like a bathroom fan with a bit of noise to it.  For me, the noise allows a bit of privacy, which is critical in bathrooms that are in a public space like a powder room on your main floor.  For a master bathroom suite, a quitter fan may be more important so you don’t wake up your significant other in the morning after you take your shower.

Once you determine how “noisy” you want your fan to be, now its time to decipher the coding on the side of the fan box.  When you read the box, have a number on the side of it like 2 sones.  “Sones” are the measurement of fan noise. One sone is equivalent to the sound of quiet refrigerator. The lower the sone rating, the quieter the fan will be. Most fans range anywhere from 1.5 sones to 5 sones.


Exhaust fans have a variety of features, the most common are:

  • Built in light – great for basic bathrooms.
  • Night-light – a nice feature for a kids bathroom, may require wiring a new switch if your bathroom doesn’t already have a switch for a night light.
  • Heat lamp – We like to avoid this because they are unsightly and use a lot of electricity to run.


Selecting a stylish fan is important to us at Design Inside.  After all, we are interior designers.  We typically go for a white fan that has a clean look.  This is the least distracting to the eye.


When shopping for a replacement bathroom exhaust fan, remember to keep an eye on size, fan speed, fan noise, features and style.  If you keep those 5 factors in mind, you have no problems selecting the appropriate fan for you bathroom.


Fan image courtesy of Brian Matis

Painting your ceiling

Do I Need to Use Ceiling Paint When Painting My Room?

If you have decided to paint your own home, whether it’s a single room or the entire house, there is no shortage of paint options.  When standing in the paint aisle of your home improvement store trying to decide which paint and paint supplies you will need, you will have to select from the following paint options:

  • Paint Color
  • Paint Sheen – Flat, Eggshell, Semi-Gloss, Gloss
  • Brand – Sherwin Williams, Benjamin Moore, Behr, Pittsburgh Paints

Beyond the options listed above, there are a lot of add-ons that many paint manufacturers are trying to get you to buy.  One that always seemed like a bit of a scam to me and man customers that I deal with was Ceiling Paint.

So, the million dollar question (more like $60 question) is, do I really need to buy a can of ceiling paint?  I don’t think you need to.

If you have basic ceiling that is smooth and is in good shape, you can get away with using a basic flat white paint. It will cover the ceilings, help hide imperfections and do it’s job.  If it’s the middle of the night and you are trying to paint a room quickly, or, if you have a tight budget using a can of flat white will do the job.

The downside is that most non-ceiling paints are thinner and will drip easily and can create a mess if you are not careful.  If you decide to go this route, make sure you take the time to properly cover your furniture and floors to prevent drips from damaging them.  Also, make sure to wear some safety glasses to prevent paint from getting into your eyes.

If you want to save yourself some time, the thicker ceiling paint is less prone to dripping and will hopefully make cleanup a bit quicker. Also, many of the ceiling paints will help cover hairline cracks and do a better job at hiding imperfections in your ceiling. This is a must if you have an older home with plaster ceilings.

Happy painting!


Photo Courtesy of: Tu-Whitt Tu-Whoo

Howto install a custom closet organization system

How To Install a Closet Organization System

We come across a lot of closets of all shapes and sizes throughout the homes we visit in Chicago.  The one thing in common is that the majority of them poorly utilize the space.  When a closet is poorly organized, many of our customers commonly think that they are outgrowing their home and need to either throw away half of their clothes or move to a new home.  Luckily, our team of designers can usually get in there and design them an awesome closet that helps them better organize their items and looks beautiful.

In this video, watch as Bill walks you through how easy it is to install the Elfa Closet Organization system from The Container Store.