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Understanding the Home Design Process: An Interview with Susan Victor of Nandina Home & Design

By Susan Victor

Tell us a little bit about your experience, company history and the services you offer.

Nandina Home & Design first opened its doors as a furniture and home accessory store in 2006. We soon realized that our customers needed full design services, not just a furniture store. Our team of professional interior designers help with everything from ground-up construction to furniture and accessory selection. Our retail store in downtown Aiken offers an edited selection of fine home furnishings and gifts, while our design studio is in the back of the shop.

What are some of the most common design features that homeowners request in your area?

Since Aiken has such a large equestrian community, many of our clients' homes are designed to incorporate their love of horses. We have also designed many barn apartments. Durable materials that can withstand muddy riding boots, pets, and harsh use are always important. Aiken is also a very diverse town, with transplants from all over the US and abroad. With well-traveled clients, we often incorporate eclectic antiques and items collected from all over the world.

What's the most important thing you do when you first meet with a homeowner about a new design project?

With every design project it's important to understand the client's lifestyle. Our motto of "Real Life, Real Style" reflects our belief that kids, dogs, and parties do happen (and should!) and no one needs to skimp on glamorous living because of them. Our first and most important goal, then, is to understand how they live and use the space we're designing.

What are the basic phases in the design process?

The first phase is exploratory, getting to know the client and their design needs. We determine if we are a good fit with the client and if they feel the same. Next is defining the budget, and respecting it throughout the design process. Having a clear budget helps both the client and us feel more comfortable. Then the fun begins! We pull together design concepts with color palettes, furniture, and fabric selections. There's always tweaking based on what the client likes or dislikes. Ordering and installing is the most tedious and yet the most exciting, as furniture and items are delivered to us. After the design is installed and complete, we always follow up with the clients and ensure that they are happy!

How do you help people balance what they want for their home with their budget?

It's important to prioritize your furniture and design needs instead of shopping spontaneously for your home. We often recommend designing your home in phases, starting with the most important rooms for you and your family- the great room, the kitchen, master bedroom, it's different for everyone. Larger ticket items like sofas require a higher investment for quality, while small decorative accessories can be added later.

What advice would you give to homeowners who don't want to have any regrets when their project is finished?

Make a list of what design elements are most important to you, and then prioritize based on what you can't easily change or add later. For example, you can save up to switch out your lighting down the road, but installing new floors is a much bigger hassle. Settling for a cheap solution that sacrifices quality will cost you more in the end. All of us have to work with a budget, but I recently heard the wise advice to "buy right the first time- and only cry once."

What's the best way for people to reach you and your company?

Our retail store and design studio is in downtown Aiken, SC. All of our contact and store information is also on our website: www.nandinahome.com, as well as Facebook and Instagram!

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