Design Chick  

Sage advice for designers

Each week, I share my love of interior design with the world, but this week, my fellow designers and decorators, is for you.

If I can share any sage advice that might help you on your own professional journey, this is definitely it: here are three of my top takeaways.

Charge For Your Consultations

We all know how tempting it can be to take a meeting with a potential client, in the hope of it leading to a much larger project, for free.

We think that once we have an audience, they’ll fall in love with our amazing personalities and stellar design advice, and of course, book us for their job. But let me be perfectly honest here: free advice is rarely taken, and always undervalued.

If you’re not willing to establish yourself as a business professional by valuing your services enough to charge for them right from the beginning, your client won’t view you as such either.

Sure, there are other companies or individuals willing to offer free design advice or in-home consults, but when a potential client pays for your time, they’re invested – and will treat you, your time, and your expertise with respect.

Know When To Walk Away

No project is worth conceding your energy, time, and talent over. It doesn’t matter how amazing or visible the project is. If a client is compromising your professional standards and expectations, or starts jeopardizing the outcome and final quality of the project in any form, walk away.

This is especially hard to do when we all rely on constantly updated portfolios to help sell our services, but the stress, time wasting, and energy drain a less than stellar client causes is never worth sticking it out for in the hopes you’ll have some pretty pictures at the end.

While you’re busy saying yes to a bad situation, you’re saying no to an amazing opportunity waiting in the wings.

Artsy People, Know Your Worth

I find designers and decorators are cut from a similarly familiar cloth: we’re people pleasers, ultra concerned with our clients and their needs.

We agonize over minutiae; needing things to be perfect and harmonious in order to feel a healthy level of self-satisfaction and worth. High achievers, we’ve been praised mostly only for our talents throughout our earlier years, and as a result, we don’t always know our own self-worth as adults, let alone professionals.

If you want a super-solid business practice, with well-paying clients and superb projects, you have to first truly know your own self-worth, what value you have to offer this world – especially your clients, and lastly, charge a fair and established premium for it.


Interior design style secrets

Do you ever wonder what goes on behind the scenes of some of your favourite interior design inspirations? What’s the story behind all those style choices and aesthetics?

I was recently asked to break down the design of a gorgeous executive-style lake home we collaborated on from top to bottom, and here’s a sneak peek into that process…


As senior designer and owner of Urban Theory, I was hired by the client to design the exterior/interior architecture, and source all of the materials and finishes for the build. This was a fantastic dream project. 

Together with the client and the builder, we were able to design a modern, yet organic executive haven off the lake.


Because the home is so open-concept, one of the main design elements focuses on using the open space to create natural pause and placement by crafting expansive furniture arrangements, a floating wall at the front entry, and enticing the kitchen island out of the kitchen nook slightly and into more of the main dining space.

Playing with these groupings and the layout helped perfectly define each individual area within the open floor plan.


The whole home feels energetic, yet grounded; which creates an amazing sense of comfort and ease. The master ensuite with the semi-opaque 3Form textured acrylic panel in the shower is a clever design feature, and the linear structure of the corner windows above the soaker tub offer an incredible view of the lake and wooded areas surrounding the house.

I also love just how much gorgeous sunshine washes in throughout the day and illuminates the stunning, walnut flooring running throughout.


Urban Theory Design has come to be known for our ability to execute dynamic, contemporary/organic design… not too rigid or austere, and with just enough temperament and playfulness.

Truthfully, we are able to work with almost any design style, because our emphasis is on bringing out the very best of our client’s personalities, and we then infuse our ideas and inspiration to help create the most authentic, soul-hugging spaces.


We have always loved the whimsy and distinctiveness behind Hubbardton Forge lighting pieces, so tailoring the selections for prominent yet effortless and airy fixtures was fairly easy to do.

This build required fixtures with character, but clean lines, and the HF design story complimented the build scheme perfectly. www.hubbardtonforge.com


We opened an office in beautiful Kelowna in 2014, and the ability to work on projects overlooking some of the most majestic natural scenery has completely opened up and expanded our design focus.

Lately we’ve been dreaming in hints of L.A. and Big Sur… we would love to take on a substantial luxury coastal retreat for a client wanting to create the utmost in well-being and leading-edge, personalized living.

Designers get you the wow!

Why you need a designer

You’re about to embark on a new build or renovation, and inevitably the question of whether to hire a designer comes up. Do you, or don’t you?

Design has become much more mainstream over the years, and for good reason: builders, developers, and savvy homeowners all know the importance of joining forces with a creative professional.

We're experts

Interior design is a delicate balance of art, science, and business smarts. Just as accountants and lawyers go to school to fully learn their craft, so do interior designers.

You want the very best with it comes to your time, money, and expectations, so go ahead and inquire about our policies, fees, services, and education. Sadly, not everyone who calls themselves an interior designer actually fits the bill, and that affects you on every level.

Avoid costly mistakes

Ever buy a piece of furniture that looked amazing in-store, but was too big or too small once you got it home? As trained professionals, we steer you clear of common mistakes, and help you nail your design dreams perfectly from the start.

Refine your ideas

We won’t take over your home and inflict our design style on you; a great interior designer will work with you, refining your visions, guiding you to achieve something unique and wholly yours.

You'll save money

Yes, you heard me right. My job is to keep you focused, on budget, and save you time and effort. Our trade discounts are a terrific means of obtaining substantial savings on your furnishings and interior fittings at the end of the project too.

Get connected

Designers work with a wide variety of trusted trade professionals, and we hand select the perfect team for your projects. New builds and renovations can become expensive and stressful without the right team on your side – having peace of mind that your project is in good hands is worth its weight in gold.

You'll love your home

We’re trained to think differently, spatially, and to see an overall picture that clients often cannot.

I help to give you the “wow” factor and polished aesthetic you’ve been looking for; thinking outside of the box is what we live to do, all day long.


Fabulous gold decor

Gold is definitely in and here to stay. 

I’ve become much less hesitant to throw hints of it into design projects, and I'm confident you can warm up to the idea of bits and pieces of it as smaller decor items in your spaces too.

If you thought gold was history, think again. Warm washes of rich yellows, ochres, and aged brass are popping up all over the place. If you're wanting to jump on board, here are some ways to get going with gold...

Gilded furniture

I'm loving bed-side and cocktail tables finished with opulent touches of gold and brass (think glazed fronts, piping details, and statement-making hardware).

They glimmer and have that extra touch of finesse you just don't get with wood or glass materials. Simple and stately, gilded furniture fits into many different styles of decor, but looks especially handsome in crisp, more tailored atmospheres


It used to be that anything with brassy finishes was the first to go when I got my hands on a kitchen renovation. Lighting, hinges, hardware... if it was yellow, it hit the dust bin.

I've changed my tune lately however; some of my favourite cabinetry hardware is... wait for it... gold.

I especially love handles and pulls with slightly burnished washes, and those that are mainly black with bits of spun gold peeking through. If you have dark or espresso stained cabinets, consider switching out your hardware - brushed nickel is still nice, but richly finished hardware in glimmering shades of gold is a better way to add polish and shine to your existing kitchen.


Have you seen the delicious looking pendants out there from Tom Dixon? Appearing in every design magazine and on every design blog recently, these high-style babies are sleek, contemporary, and add subtle drama to interiors built upon minimalist design elements. 

Mixing round and square, large and small pendants creates a stunning and original grouping... something to try if you're looking to make a truly unique and distinctive statement.

Mirrors and table-top decor

A design favourite for many, the classic starburst mirror (even before gold hit the scene) has been creating drama for years. Inspired by mid-century antiques, modern-day pieces offering a bright textural circle at the center dipped in gold makes this guy an instant classic.

Try experimenting with gold-leafed decorative bowls, serving trays, candle holders and votives, picture frames, amber glass vases, plate chargers, and even snazzy toss pillows for gentle introductions of the metal into your existing spaces.


A belief I have for almost every space, touches of black are a must, especially in spaces laced with gold embellishments.

Black visually grounds your interiors and adds a compelling edge most metallic finishes radiate next to. If you're looking for that ultimate chic combination of colours to use with your new found love of gold, a gorgeous palette of black, gold, cream, pearl, and linen will seal the deal in a heartbeat.

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About the Author

A graduate of Mount Royal University in Calgary, Crispin Butterfield launched Urban Theory Interior Design in 2003 and has since been featured in Canada’s Style At Home magazine, Covet, Canadian Retailer, and the National Post.

She’s a master in designing residential and commercial soul-hugging spaces clients relish showing up to, socializing in, and especially love coming home to.

She and her team work with clients from conceptualization to completion, providing full scale service with authenticity, innovation, and lots of personality.


The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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