Discussing Interior Design With Gretchen Black

Discussing Interior Design With Gretchen Black

Greg:    Welcome to this edition of the Louisville Custom Homebuilder podcast series, brought to you by Louisville’s leading construction team, Artisan Signature Homes. I’m Greg, your host, and for today’s episode we are joined by Louisville’s best known and most accomplished custom and luxury home builder Jason Black.

Jason:    Good morning, Greg. Well, today we have a very special guest. I’ve been trying for a year now to get her on the podcast and today is the day, so I want to introduce my lovely wife, Gretchen Black, who is an interior designer as well as a boutique owner here in Norton Commons, with her store, is called Lulubelles, so Gretchen, welcome and thanks for joining us this morning.

Gretchen:    Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Greg:    I’m looking forward to the opportunity because there’s a lot that I don’t know about interior design. I’m hoping between the two of you, you can help us out or help me out here. We could talk about interior design, straight up, or where it fits in the custom home building process. I’m curious about both, so I don’t know where you want to start.

Jason:    Well, I think what we ought to do today, Greg, is talk about why you should have an interior designer when building a new custom home. There’s a lot of bits and pieces and moving parts with a custom home and people are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars if not more so it’s a small investment to make but it really can transform the house. I don’t want to steal the thunder here so I will ask Ms. Gretchen here what her thoughts are on why her services are needed when building a new home.

Gretchen:    I often think about the world we live in now and what people are exposed to between HDTV, having things such as Pinterest to look on and oftentimes I think what happens is customers will see all these amazing ideas from magazines, from shows, from Pinterest boards and then when push comes to shove and they have to make these decisions, they’re kind of all over the place.

Our job as designers is to look at all of their ideas and hone in on what’s really important, what is it they want to portray in their house. Not only are we gearing and guiding and giving them ideas, but we’re also just trying to figure out really what their style is because anyone can watch a show and say, “I want to exactly have what this guy had in his bathroom,” but maybe their budget isn’t set up for that, so our job is to look at that, look at their budget and try to figure out how we can emulate that look and give them the home that they’ve dreamed about.

Greg:    Where in the process would you get involved? I guess that’s two questions. Where do people usually get you involved and where should you get involved? Two different things, right?

Gretchen:    Right. I think the earlier, the better. I like to see a set of blueprints before someone breaks ground. For me, if I can look at a bathroom design and say, “Wow, did you really need your shower that big,” or “How about we separate the cabinets like this,” before we have to go in and make change orders, which I know is one of Jason’s least favorite things to tell a customer because change order equals, cost money. I would like to see blueprints in hand and meet with customers even before they break ground. That way we can set a realistic budget for tile, for cabinets, for lighting, for all those things that people tend to go over budget on.

Jason:    One thing, too, as wonderful as architects and designers are when it comes to designing a house, sometimes they don’t live in them. Well, obviously they probably do live in a house, but they don’t think about how furniture is going to be placed in a room or how you’re going to work in the kitchen or how you’re going to work in the bathroom so I think that’s one thing that I always like to run ideas by Gretchen when I’m doing a preliminary plan and say, “Hey, what do you think about this,” and I may think it’s the greatest plan and she’s like, “Well, did you ever think about this,” and that’s where we can tweak a plan before the construction drawings are finalized, so I do agree. The earlier on in the process, the better to get a designer involved.

Greg:    How do you actually find out how a client lives in their house and how they’re going to live in the next house? It sounds like you all are talking about two different things: how do they actually use the space and what do they want the space to look like? How do you figure those things out to give yourself enough time to build the house that they want to be built?

Gretchen:    I generally would like, my ideal situation is to meet the clients in their existing home-

Greg:    Very early in the process?

Gretchen:    Yeah, assuming they haven’t already sold a home and they’re not living in a rental but for me just to kind of get an idea of why are they building a house? What didn’t work for the house for them in the house that they’re living in? Was it that the kitchen was too small or they didn’t have an open floor plan? Those are all things that it’s nice to talk through like, “What’s not working in this house that made you decide that you wanted to move,” so moving forward, we make sure that the new house has those functions and that certain look that they aspire to have.

Greg:    Do you come at this with a set of ideas that you know that work for most people, and you like to use those ideas for most people or is it a really blank canvas and it’s custom tailored to each person that comes to a new house?

Gretchen:    I would like to believe that everything is customized per the client but also at the end of the day they have to keep in mind if they have brought me on a certain project that I also have a certain design aesthetic that I really keep tried-and-true to, that’s true to how I design houses and design spaces, so you would not see me design a super modern interior because that’s not true to what I’m passionate about into design. I like to keep that in mind.

I’m happy to work with them and I like to work with them on like … In a perfect world, everyone would love to build a new house and put all new furniture in it, but that’s not the real world we live in. I like to look at their space, look at what they have furniture-wise, what they’re planning on bringing to the new house and how can we incorporate some of that new with the old?

Greg:    How did you develop your style? Is this something that came to you naturally? Is this something that you study and work at on a ongoing basis?

Gretchen:    I think, and this is what I’ve been told, you’re either born with it or you’re not, so I’ve been very passionate about design from a young age. I took sewing classes when I was in grade school. I’ve been doing DIY projects since I was little, painting my bedrooms every chance I got. Jason and I, on our very first house, we hung wallpaper upside down, which was hilarious but we hung it ourselves.

Greg:    It’s a learning experience, right?

Gretchen:    It is. It is. I’m never afraid to try something myself and so I think my style has definitely evolved over time. I love to keep up with blogs. Pinterest is something I’m on daily just constantly looking what’s new, what’s the latest and greatest in designs and really just that’s what I want to present to my clients because I don’t want to present to them something that they’ve already seen published in a magazine from last year’s Traditional Home. I want to see something that’s new, that’s really fresh because that’s what they want their friends to see. They don’t want to look like the house down the street.

Greg:    Do you all find that, Gretchen, your style works with Jason, your style, so that the house you build works with the interior that Gretchen puts together? Is that a pretty good fit or do you all have to, is there like a little wrestling match trying to figure out who’s aesthetic view is going to win out on this house and, “Okay, you can have the next one,” or however that might work?

Interior Design By Gretchen Black and Artisan Signature HomesJason:    No, we share very similar styles but yet she pushes me to do things different and then I’ll push her to do things different. Sometimes I like to do things, not contemporary, but a little bit more modern, maybe a little bit more clean lined and then she’ll reel me back in and she likes it classic, kind of light and airy. House Number 8, which was the Magnolia Cottage in Norton Commons, this year’s Homarama, I think was a good reflection of Gretchen’s style, if anybody saw that or we can put some pictures out there for them to see that…

Greg:    I don’t know if I mentioned, my wife and daughter love that house. They walked through, my wife turned to me like, “I could do this,” so both of you guys, the house and the styling.

Gretchen:    Thank you. I appreciate that.

Jason:    Yeah, so what do you think as far as …

Gretchen:    I think so. I think we make a good team. I think it’s, I think we like enough of the same stuff for it to work, but in the same tone, like you said, we’re not exact perfect matches on everything. For example, our dining room. Jason came to me and he said, “What about painting all of it, trims, wall, everything the same color,” and was like, “I need to sit and think on this for a couple days.” I was like, in my mind, I had something else visualized, but I’m always open to suggestions and as it sits today, our dining room is painted all the same color, trim, walls, everything thing, same finish, so I think that’s what makes it work. We’re just a good balance and not exact replica of each other when it comes to design so that each of us kind of have our little elements that we can bring to the table.

Jason:    As listeners and readers have followed along, they’ve always heard of my love for travel. Obviously, I’m not traveling alone, so Gretchen’s traveling with me, so we’re always going through neighborhoods and walking through new houses under construction. We thrive off each other, I think, and really helps evolve our style as we continue to grow. You look at some of the first houses we’ve done to where we are now and it’s leaps and bounds. It’s pretty impressive how far we’ve come with our styling.

Greg:    Then, what does that means for the next generation? Do your kids love going on vacation with you guys and walking through houses or do they roll their eyes like, “Great. Mom and Dad are going through another house. Awesome”?

Gretchen:    We have one. One out of three that’s not bad odds…

Greg:    That’s not that bad.

Gretchen:    Our middle son, Noah, I think he has definitely caught the bug. He will come with us to the tile shop and give his two cents, which is great. I think the other two appreciate it, but they definitely can be over it at times.

Jason:    Yeah, they’re definitely more concerned about where the restaurant is or the gym than maybe the most, newest, new construction house that their dad is going to break through the window to get in.

Greg:    That’s right. Well, Gretchen, if someone’s listening and they want to get ahold of you and your interior design skills, what’s the best way to reach you?

Gretchen:    They can email me at gretchen@lulubelles.com.

Greg:    Wonderful, and I assume we’ll put a few pictures of some work up here on the blog post.

Jason:    Yeah, and you can always check Gretchen on Instagram. She’s very active and always following her journey through there as well as I’m on Instagram under Artisan Signature Homes and I can always be reached at 502-551-3004.

Greg:    All right. Well, thank you both very much for your time and I’m looking forward to seeing you next week.

Gretchen:    Great. Thanks for having me.

Jason:    Thanks, Greg.