A We Love DC Interview: r:u

“u:board Sample”;  r:u, 2010

In December of 2009, I graduated from The George Washington University with a Graduate degree in Interior Design.  During my schooling I learned that it takes a lot of hard work to become an Interior Designer.  Just having phenomenal taste and being really, really good at tearing out magazine spreads doesn’t cut it anymore.  Now you have to be able to sketch, compose sections, build models, create 3-D renderings, and even pass your NCIDQ exam if you want to be taken seriously.

When I heard about the DC-based design team of residents:understood, I just knew that I had to get them on WLDC.  Not only can the firm do all of the above, but they also do it in a really unconventional way.  I caught up with the three principles of residents:understood, Kiera Kushlan, James Wall, and Jessica Centella, and got all of the insider tips for how to create the perfect “personality-driven design” while living in D.C.

We Love DC: What is residents:understood?

residents:understood: residents:understood is a firm focused on providing personality-driven residential design solutions. The three of us met while in graduate school studying Interior Design at the University of Florida, where much of our work focused heavily on researching the user’s wants and needs. And that’s where it all began – after school we knew we wanted to challenge the traditional approach to interior design and more closely focus on and understand the residents, thus inspiring the name residents:understood!

WLDC:  What inspired you to create a design firm that focuses on personality-driven design solutions?

r:u: We felt that residential designers tend to put too much of their personalities and tastes into their clients’ designs. We wanted to go against that grain, creating spaces that directly reflected our clients’ personality and lifestyle. We felt that there was a huge opportunity in DC because so much of the design seen here is traditional. We sensed a strong desire for another perspective, and so far have received great feedback for our unique approach.

To give you a better idea of how we do what we do, our design process begins with an in-depth consultation where we focus on learning as much about the client as possible. We ask our clients a broad range of questions ranging from “Who is your favorite musician?” to “Where to do shop for clothing?” The next step is to take that information and create a u:board – a custom collection of images that represents the client’s personality. The u:board then becomes the driving force for how we plan and design a space.

This is a u:board sample [see picture above] from one of the projects we’re currently working on. This particular client has an affinity for great beer, exotic cuisines, and good times with friends. He wanted to renovate his dining room so that it would reflect his modern design aesthetic and create a place to enjoy food and friendship. Below is an image of the client’s space prior to the renovation. The images that follow are some of our early in-process renderings of the new space, the second being a closer detail of the custom bar we are designing for the client. We’ll be documenting the entire renovation process on our blog so our readers will be able to see the how the design evolves into the final solution.

“Before Picture”;  r:u, 2010

WLDC:  Are these personality-driven design solutions based on applied scientific findings or readily accepted design principles?

r:u: We were taught that great design is research-based and built upon solid principles that incorporate elements of color, pattern, texture, scale, hierarchy and order. Our personality-driven design process seeks to integrate these elements in a way that creates a strong sense of place for the homeowners so they see a direct reflection of themselves in their space.

WLDC:  What would be your best design tip/advice for the apartment dweller, the first-time home-buyer, and the college student?

r:u: For the college student: HAVE FUN! Now is the time to be experimental – be bold, and be yourself. Try different designs on for size; if you’ve always wondered what fuchsia walls would look like, go for it! You’ll leave college not only with a degree, but a good sense of your design style that can translate to the “adult” world!

For the apartment dweller: focus on pieces that are appropriately scaled for your space. Apartment living is tight, and a large over-stuffed sofa can kill the space. It’s also very important to remember these pieces will be moved often and need to be versatile – your bedroom nightstand may sit beside your couch in your next apartment so try and select pieces that will work in any room.

For the first-time home-buyer: Invest in pieces that last. Focus on classic design with a neutral base; you can easily swap out accessories to suit your seasonal moods.

“Rendering 1″; r:u, 2010

WLDC: What, in your opinion, is the biggest residential design faux pas?

r:u: Trying to recreate a “look” from a catalogue. Those designs are meant to appeal to a very broad demographic and often end up being far too boring or overly “matchy”. Instead of picking a page out of a catalogue, try going shopping and picking one statement piece you love and create a room around that!

WLDC:  What about DC excites you?

r:u: DC is in a state of flux. There is a young energetic vibe here and a budding design scene. People are excited to try new things and move away from the traditional designs. It’s a very transformative time for DC, which is very exciting for a young design firm like ours.

“Rendering 2″; r:u, 2010

WLDC: Where do you go to find inspiration in D.C. for your design solutions and how does that translate into your work?

r:u: There is pretty much a neighborhood for every personality in the DC metro area. Just walking around the different neighborhoods draws inspiration—no matter how often you walk down a street you can always count on bumping into hidden treasures.

WLDC: What are your favorite places in D.C. to find unique/special items for the home?

r:u: The whole U Street corridor is overflowing with some great stores that cater to a variety of budgets. Some of our favorites are Sukio, RCKNDY, and Miss Pixie’s (Insider Tip: New items appear on Miss Pixie’s floor every Thursday!). Also, Eastern Market on the weekends has some great finds for the home.

To learn more about residents:understood you can read their blog, follow their Twitter feed, or friend them on Facebook.

Samantha can often be found daydreaming by the Rothkos of the East Gallery, sketching store facades along 14th, and snapping photos with her vintage polaroid at 9:30 club concerts. Since moving to DC in 2007 to get an MFA in Interior Design, her eyes can’t seem to be peeled away from the beautiful things in this city. Send any visual art, architecture, or design related news her way via Samantha (at) WeLoveDC.com

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