I have always been a visual person. After college, I channeled my creativity into a career in fashion, doing some merchandising while working for the clothing company, Free People. I loved working with the clothes, accessories, and the customers as well.
Later in life when my focus shifted from boho chic dresses, the perfect fit of denim, and hand-knit legwarmers, to the more adult world of home-ownership, my professional interests shifted as well. I started becoming interested in the elements that made my little rented apartment feel like a home. I spent less time putting together the perfect outfit, and more time assembling the perfect room.
When Mike and I bought and renovated our first home in Fanwood, I loved the design process. I pushed my creative limits to new levels, designing a full bathroom, two new bedrooms, a new finished basement, and an office. The feeling of seeing a paint color you've been obsessing over for weeks finally going up on a wall, and coordinating perfectly with the fabrics and carpet I so carefully chose was invigorating in a completely new way for me. I was hooked.
About two years ago, we bought a home in Westfield and completely remodeled it. It was a 1939 Colonial that had not been updated or renovated since the 1950's. The layout was terrible. It was old, it was dirty; it was perfect. It was in a great location and had solid bones. This was finally a place we could spread our wings and test the limits of our skills - Mike's construction and my design. The dream team we had been dreaming of since Mike started his business eight years ago.
My responsibilities went from designing and decorating a room or two here and there, to doing a complete house - a total of 3,700 square feet. Flooring, trim, cabinets, stone, tile, vanities, paint (oh! the paint!), doorknobs, rugs, tables, chairs, light fixtures, window coverings, wall paper, shutters, landscaping... the list goes on and on. Daunting? Yes. Thrilling? You betcha. Good thing I had folders and folders of photos and magazine clippings from nearly a decade of dreaming, and a fantastic iPad app called Moodboard (more on this another time) to help me along.
You know what would have made the process a heck of a lot easier? A design center like , and the help of the shop's owner, Daniela Palumbo.
I had the pleasure of meeting Daniela this morning at , thanks to an introduction from an old, dear friend who works her magic at textile and wallpaper-great Thibaut, and is a powerhouse in the industry herself.
After we shared stories about our upbringing, our hobbies, and our careers over coffee and iced tea, she brought me to her work space on East Broad (next to Nirvana, near Gap Kids) and let me look around. What a perfect place to cultivate your design schemes, and make them a reality. Forgive the analogy, my heart is obviously still in two places at once, but Ella Allure is like a fitting room for your home - a place to mix and match and try things on for size before you commit.
She has an extensive library of fabrics, wallcoverings, window shades, and paint samples, and from what I could tell, a profound grasp on what "works" and what doesn't.
Lucky for Mike's clients, they don't have to stumble through the process on their own. For the past month or so since I have returned to work part time, I have been available for them on a variety of levels. I have worked with clients on initial architectural design, offering my thoughts on layout and unique architectural details that they may not have thought of on their own. I have assisted them in selecting finishes, offered my two cents on their tile choices, and suggested paint colors for walls, doors, and trim. My involvement can be as much or as little as they require. I think it's a pretty good deal for the client who is doing a major remodel and needs a little help with the finishing touches.
Enthusiasm aside, I do not pretend to be an expert. My experience comes solely from my own remodeling projects, the research I have done for others, and the pure curiosity and drive I have to explore this world of interiors. I was honored to have my work in our home chosen to be showcased in this year's in October. It was a great feeling to hear people's positive comments as they wandered through our home; a fantastic affirmation that what I'm doing is being well received.
Thanks to Daniela, I now have a place to bring clients to explore the possibilities for their new spaces. I no longer have to travel around the state and throughout the Interwebs in search of the perfect fabric or wallpaper or paint color. She has everything I could possibly need right in her store, and she will serve it up to us with coffee and a smile.
So, welcome to Westfield, Daniela! Best of luck with your new endeavor. My clients and I are looking forward to working with you.
And, as promised...
Some before and during construction photos of our home: http://michaelrobertconstruction.com/westfield_energy_star_whole_house_renovation_before_pictures.html
And some photos of our home, post-renovation: http://michaelrobertconstruction.com/westfield_energy_star_custom_home.html#0
Ellie Mroz is the C.A.O. and Design Specialist for Michael Robert Construction, a Westfield-based Design/Build General Contractor. http://www.MichaelRobertConstruction.com and http://www.njdesignbuild.com