Sun Valley’s local interior design talent— Bruce Martin (Bruce Martin Interiors), Connie Hagestad and Janet Krogh (The Design Studio), Jennifer Hoey (Jennifer Hoey Interior Design), and Heidi Stearns (The Picket Fence)—weigh in on creativity, trends, and the state of their industry—both in and out of the Wood River Valley. The Sun Valley area is seeing a renaissance in design, and these designers are leading the way. From considerations of green-building to re-imagining the way traditional materials can be used in the home, these pros are always looking forward to the next challenge and raising the bar for interior design.
What is it like to work in a resort community? Are the needs and desires of clients different here versus a more urban environment?
BRUCE MARTIN One advantage we have is that for most clients, these are second homes. They have worked with designers in the past and they know the process. While they may not be around all the time, they understand deadlines and the pressure to make decisions.
HEIDI STEARNS One of the disadvantages is that you don’t have the resources that you would in a city. It’s more difficult to get things here and the cost of shipping is higher.
BRUCE MARTIN We are fortunate that most of the subcontractors here are quite qualified and willing to work with you in ways that aren’t so standardized in the industry. They’re willing to get creative and work with you to create unique designs and products.
JANET KROGH It also seems like second homeowners are a little more willing to do something different—for many of our clients, this is their retreat.
JENNIFER HOEY Whether it is a primary or second home, my clients want their homes to be custom. Sometimes that is casual and laid back or sometimes a little formal. The showroom experience—that tactile experience with materials—is definitely lacking in our area. That is one of the reasons I travel for inspiration and keep a studio stocked with current finds.
CONNIE HAGESTAD You certainly have to be a little more resourceful and creative. You wear a lot of hats as a designer in this town.
Do you see a rise of the Internet and the opening up of sources changing the way you do business?
STEARNS Clients are more knowledgeable now. People are using the Internet and getting ideas at sites like Pinterest and Houzz.
HAGESTAD Yes, people are much more educated about what they really want. In that sense, it’s very helpful. Sites like these are much more of a positive than a negative.
MARTIN Sites like Pinterest and Houzz help clients explore what they’re looking for. They can find a look, a style, or feel for a room, but some other sources like Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware are kind of hurting. The prices are great but they copy the trends and do it very quickly.
HOEY I find that at the price point I’m working with, they don’t want to do it themselves. I’m selling something more distinctive, and they’re looking to me for that. I don’t get the do-it-yourselfer very often.
STEARNS Most of the clients here understand quality and that is what they are looking for.
MARTIN Our clientele is looking for something unique that they can be proud of and will wear well—something classic that in five to seven years they’ll still enjoy.
STEARNS Many of our clients here are willing to do something different and are free to have fun with the design—they feel as if they don’t have to be quite as practical when it’s not their primary home.
How often do you design a home here, then take on another project for the same client somewhere else?
STEARNS I would say 60 to 70 percent of my work is here. In the retail environment (at Picket Fence), I also work with out-of-town designers. We’re a local resource and we work on a lot of the aspects of the house together.
HAGESTAD That’s an opportunity that you don’t get unless you live in a resort town—that ability to do a home here and then work with the same client again somewhere else. That’s been our experience. Before 2007/2008 we were doing more primary homes. That really shut down with the economy and is just now really rebounding here.
HOEY I love having the opportunity to travel and work in new locations. When you work with clients here then have the opportunity to work on their primary residence elsewhere, it’s seamless because you know them so well. It’s a lower percentage of my work, but when it happens, it is great. It also depends on the time of year and my other projects. I have some that take up to a year. .
MARTIN 60 percent of my work is here too. It’s a tough schedule when you travel and the accessibility here makes it complicated. A project won’t take you out of Ketchum unless it’s serious. They’re big projects that put you in control. You go to places like New York and L.A. and see tons of sources and huge manufacturers. It’s always an experience and lots of fun.
How have you seen design trends evolve?
STEARNS We are seeing much cleaner lines, less cluttered looks—the hallmarks of contemporary design.
HAGESTAD Yes, but we’re in the mountains. People still want to bring the mountains into the interiors. It’s not their Chicago or New York contemporary. It’s a different kind of modern.
HOEY When I moved here 12 years ago, it was all about the heavy lodge look. No one was doing contemporary, so it was easy to establish my look early. My aesthetic is cleaner, more casual, and always reflects my client’s style. The most curious part is that mountain modern means something different to everyone. There are many different ways to define it. Most of my clients want something more contemporary; but I still do plenty of traditional. Some clients have just one toe outside their box—cleaner for them may not be totally contemporary.
STEARNS I think clients want simpler lines and simpler design because life here is casual and less formal. 3
KROGH For most of our clients, we are working on a retreat, a sanctuary for them. The simpler, the cleaner, and the less maintenance, the better.
MARTIN Contemporary is such a label. Then you have transitional. I’m still trying to figure out what it all means. It’s a wide arena. To me, a casual mountain feel is about being comfortable and inviting. I’m not sure how well concrete and glass really plays out here.
HAGESTAD The weather plays into the design. We have different considerations. Everything is much more vibrant. We have the heat and the cold. It all has to be taken into account.
HOEY Even my most contemporary clients want warmth. That’s why texture is so important. Blending smooth with the textural and giving that interest is important.
MARTIN It seems like color now is the accent now. It’s all geometrics and textures. I just came back from San Francisco and showrooms had racks and racks of tone- on-tone fabrics, all neutral solids and textures. There wasn’t a lot of color at all.
Is there one room that you love to design or is particularly challenging?
STEARNS I like the great room but the master bedroom can be a big challenge. Trying to make a space where the client can come to de-stress. It’s such a personal space and clients spend a lot of time there.
HAGESTAD I like the great rooms—the living and seating areas.
HOEY For me, it’s the kitchen. My dad owns a custom cabinet company so I grew up around that. I love the orientation around detail. Kitchens bring function and aesthetic together so strongly. I like dreaming up details that can be made, that are totally original, not off-the-shelf. It’s all custom and I love that.
MARTIN It really depends on the space more than the room, what the space offers you—the size, the windows, the details. The spaces dictate my favorite rooms.
While every client and project is unique, do you have a certain process that you follow or a mindset with which you approach every project?
HOEY It starts with listening—getting inside your client’s head and really understanding what they want. That can be done in a variety of ways. They can collect images. They can describe it to you, and you can pull together the images. It’s all about understanding what they want first. Once I know that, it’s easy to design they spaces they want to live in and to show them products that they will love.
KROGH The most difficult client is the one who says: ‘I don’t know, what do you think I should do?’ That is so wide open. I first want to know how a client lives in their space.
STEARNS You want your design to be as functional and comfortable as possible for your client when they move in. You want them to come back and say, I love what you did for us. We love coming here and spending time here. That means you did your job.
HOEY I interview prospective clients as much as they interview me. With two small children at home, I don’t want to go to work if it’s not a good fit. It’s so important to connect with a client.
KROGH I think there is a reason they find you and you find them.
How often do you use local resources and craftspeople?
STEARNS We have some amazing artists and craftsmen here. It’s also easier to work with local people.
HAGESTAD I agree. I try to support them as much as I can. They are excited to work with us and often rise to meet our creative challenges. that is why Janet and I have our showroom here. We have an enormous amount of resources here. We don’t have time to go back and forth to showrooms. We have to bring it all here. It’s made it more streamlined. With fewer choices, it’s easier to make decisions.
MARTIN I enjoy the process of working with local subs—working on the designs and detailing, and looking at how it’s developing and the finish process. Even with my outside jobs, I use people here. I can have it done quicker here and then have it shipped. I can control it. Often they do a better job here. Like with cabinetry, the quality is better than major manufacturers. They build a better product. Our clients don’t necessarily know that, but as professionals, we do.
What new materials or concepts are hot right now?
MARTIN Green, green and more green.
STEARNS Yes, we are seeing the trend of using greener products and recycled wood. People are becoming much more environmentally conscious.
HAGESTAD More recycled materials and more electronics. And lighting has changed tremendously. It’s improved. There’s more functionality with LEDs. Then you have to modify colors with the different color scales that come out with paints and fabrics. You have nice ambient lighting with soft tones.
MARTIN I feel like we’re ready for new hard surfaces. It’s a wide open market that hasn’t been tapped yet.
HOEY Sometimes it’s about using materials in a different way—re- inventing the material by planning or finishing it differently.
HAGESTAD Yes, even bamboo counters are being used in the kitchen because they can be so water resistant. There are so many options. It’s challenging us to come up with new ideas.
HOEY It’s easy to design with a green mentality now because the products are there. But clients still want their aesthetic and designing with sustainable materials is secondary.
HAGESTAD That is what has changed from when Bruce and I started. We didn’t have to think about these things. We want to think environmentally now. The requirements for completing the interior design home are much more complicated.