By Karen Corinha for The Sun Chronicle
I have been asked to write a column on home design. So it is fitting that I tell you a little bit about myself and then share with you some of the ideas I have for it.
My name is Karen Corinha and I have been an interior designer, based in Mansfield, for 18 years. I studied Art and Design at UMass-Amherst and later the Rhode Island School of Design. I spent the first 20 years of my career as a graphic designer working on brochures and annual reports for companies and nonprofit organizations.
Interior design was always calling and the last 18 years have been the most exciting with a word-of-mouth strategy that has taken me from Vermont to Texas with a special stop in Washington, D.C. More on that later.
My work has focused on the interiors of residences of all different sizes. Simply from one friend telling another, I have kept busy with generally 25 projects going at a time.
Each year, I would select a few of my larger projects and, as a way of showing my appreciation for the business, I would decorate their homes for the holidays. Three years ago I applied for an opportunity to volunteer to decorate the White House for the holidays and, amazingly, I was selected.
What an honor it was to walk the floor in THE White House. I would leave on Thanksgiving morning and meet a team of people from all over the country, each with unique skills (and some without) to decorate the While House for the next seven days. The first three days were spent at an off-site location and then the remaining four days at the White House while the staff and first family (and puppy) went along their daily routine. On the final day, a reception was held by the First Lady for all of the volunteers that had worked very long days to transform the elegant spaces to present to the media. They estimate that over 10,000 people visit the White House during the holiday season.
It took a few months to get over the excitement of that experience and it really pushed me out of my comfort zone when I was asked to share the story with the press, the Mansfield Women of Today asked me to speak to them and I even did a little cable program in the town of Somerset, where I grew up.
The next year I would be asked to decorate the show house they built inside the Rhode Island Convention Center for the RI Builders Association Home Show. That was a lot of fun, and soon after I would once again be asked back to the White House to be a member of the prestigious Blue Room team for November 2013. Another home show, another 50 projects later and here we are.
Finally, to the column. I figured it should be called High Style on a Budget. This has been a phrase that I have applied to the type of work that I do. I believe that there are attractive design solutions available at every price point. Let's face it, anyone can create a luxurious home with an unlimited budget. Designers worth their salt do it by combining a client's personal taste and lifestyle with budget-minded solutions. The key to doing it successfully is knowing where to splurge.
This is what I hope to share with you in the coming months. It all begins with seeing spaces and styles that inspire you and finding a way for you to bring them into your own home. We will talk about trends in home design and what they are showing at the trade markets, which will soon be in a store near you.
Also, if you have a question for me or a home problem or challenge you could use some advice on, please email me.
With each column I will present a low-cost solution to a high-price piece or inspiration.
Before I go, here is a seasonal idea that you might find interesting.
I was recently asked to dress up a dull three-season porch. What fun it was to transform this great space with just a few hundred dollars, turning it into a room that the client now enjoys each evening after a long day at the office. You can brighten up your own space, whether inside or out, with a bright-colored lantern. I purchased most of these pieces at HomeGoods or Pier 1, but similar pieces can be found at Target, Ocean State Job Lot or the Christmas Tree Shop. (Stay away from the lighthouse lamps.) If you are timid, then my suggestion is to stick with yellow. It goes with most everything and works well as an accent. (Be careful with yellow walls and remember, a little goes a long way; stay on the orange side of the yellow color chips.) Here is a picture of my project. Everyone may not like all of the items, but I knew my client well and knew what she would enjoy.
High Style on a Budget
Here is this month's High Style on a Budget item. Lamps styles can really add a lot to a space and this one is certain to make a statement. Not everyone can splurge on a $1,400 lamp after decorating their room, but I did have an opportunity about 10 years ago to buy this for a client in the South End. I was a wreck handling it since I had paid about that for my first car, but the customer was thrilled. It is a very interesting piece and I never expected to see another like it until I walked into Raymour and Flanigan in January looking for furniture for the RIBA Home Show. I was amazed to see this lamp with a $77 price tag.
Karen Corinha is an accomplished and regionally recognized interior designer who specializes in creating high-style, affordable solutions. She is also a regular columnist for The Sun Chronicle.