Nicely Designed Living Room

Update your home interior to a welcoming, warm and cozy environment without breaking the bank or going crazy. Designer Genevieve Torri talks about color making a come back into the home for 2020 as well as clean and classic looks that endure for years.

January 22, 2020: with Genevieve Torri of Honeysuckle Suite Design



Janet Jefferson (00:14):
Welcome to Third Floor Views where we at Chesapeake Family Life talk about health, education and living with kids. I’m your host, Janet Jefferson. Genevieve Torri, owner and founder of Honeysuckle Suite Design and chair of Arts and Public Places in Annapolis is here with us today to help us usher in the new year and new decade with some ideas on how to update your house. Can you tell us just a little bit more about Honeysuckle Suite Design?

Genevieve Torri (00:42):
Sure. I founded Honeysuckle Suite Design after leaving a pretty big commercial designer after 9/11 and freelance on my own because a lot of our contracts for the hotels and restaurants were frozen. We weren’t sure what tourism was going to do during that time, so I created my own little entity so I could work from home, be home with the kids and as well as have some sort of creative outlet on the side, especially during that time, needed a distraction. And then it’s just kind of grown into what it is. And we do a few projects a year, mainly restaurants and a few boutique hotels and we go into neighborhoods in larger cities like Boston, New York, Atlanta, Nashville, Philadelphia and in neighborhoods that are currently redeveloping. And we reimagine the block in order to make it just a hospitality area for tourism because it really has picked up and people want to come experience places as if they’re part of the neighborhood. So these boutique hotels and restaurants are coming into existing neighborhoods that have an area where they could redevelop it a little bit and then service not only visitors that are coming, but also the residents that are in the neighborhood.

Janet Jefferson (02:06):
That’s great. Could you just describe your style, your personal style?

Genevieve Torri (02:11):
My personal style depends a lot on my mood. Now due to budget concerns, I can’t really change it up. My moods change, but I can’t really change it all the time. But I’m currently, it’s a little eccentric but kind of warm, cozy, just being able to come home and feel like you’re home. Like this is my space and I share it with five other people. So it’s not just my space, but we tried to keep it where everybody has a space in the house so I can’t get too crazy. We have children ranging from 22 years old to 4 years old, so I can’t have a lot of wonderful collectibles in the house or anything like that either. And everything has to be jumpable, so I take that into consideration with my design at home and it’s creating a welcoming space. No matter who comes into the home, they feel welcome and it’s clean aesthetically, a little bit of Hollywood glam. We have a 1935 house, so I’ve kept most of the character of it. I didn’t want to change it and make it look brand new in the inside or anything like that. We’ve kept all the plaster walls and ceilings and added soft hues and touches with warm colors and a few crystal chandeliers where the children can’t reach them.

Janet Jefferson (03:46):
Let’s talk just a little bit about what’s in and out for 2020 and how people can use that in their house. So what would you say as a designer, what is in for 2020?

Genevieve Torri (04:01):
In 2020, we’re seeing more color come back into the house. Bolder colors, not so much of the soft hues that are in my house currently. We’re seeing lots of blues, all forms of shade, mostly warm colors still, but brighter colors. The browns and the cold whites are headed out. So with that coming in, you’re seeing more color cabinetry, not just white or black. You’re seeing more interesting countertops, especially in the kitchens, not just marble, which is timeless and classic, but people are trying to just experiment a little bit more with that. And you can bring the color in. There’s so many amazing colorful stones now that you can get for your countertops. And in addition to that, we’re using a lot of wood and a lot of poured concrete, which gives you all different colors that you can put in there with powders and stuff. I think people are getting experimental again but still keeping it aesthetically pleasing in general. I don’t see too many wild hard surfaces or structural designs or anything currently. Brass is back in, a lot of brass poles, a lot of brass hardware for your exposed plumbing, for your bathroom fixtures and just kind of a reconstruct, kind of back to the thirties in the forties for the fixtures. And then I know that the farmhouse thing is ebbing.

Janet Jefferson (05:43):
Okay. What else is out?

Genevieve Torri (05:46):
A lot of the fake materials, the foam materials are on their way out instead of spending less money on your renovation, it’s more about spending and buying quality items that will be timeless and will last for a while. And so the laminate flooring or laminate cabinets or countertops are on their way out. You’re going to spend your most money there because it’s going to last the longest and it’s the best investment. And honestly when renovating, it has the best return.

Janet Jefferson (06:22):
And you could refinish that potentially, right?

Genevieve Torri (06:24):
Yes, yes. So if you use real wood on the floors and you’ve decided you don’t like the color, you can refinish it in a couple of years and it costs way less than ripping the whole floor up and then putting a whole new floor in. You can also paint wood and you can also refinish it later. There’s a lot of trends with painting designs on the floor to make it look like tile. And you have that flexibility of doing that and not being stuck with just one flooring. And then if you want to change it later, you have to rip it up.

Janet Jefferson (06:53):
And that’s true for wear and tear as well. So if you have a dog or young children that are scratching it up, you could also refinish.

Genevieve Torri (07:01):
You can, yes. And there’s all different kinds of woods that you can put on your floor. Pine is a softer wood. So if it’s a high traffic area, you don’t put the pine there. You could put it maybe in your bedroom if you like the look of pine, but you would want to take a harder wood down in your main traffic areas for the kids and the dogs and everything else that lands on the floor. Unless you like the dinged look which is fine too. It’s a rustic look.

Janet Jefferson (07:28):
Is that in or out right now?

Genevieve Torri (07:29):
So that’s in, it’s just shiplap is out. No more DIY, more of a polished finish is coming in for the look. But kind of going back more to the timeless classical items, an In Design less looking like you just went down to Home Depot and did it yourself, which is totally fine because we do a lot of our own work too. I’m not trying to discredit it but definitely make it look clean. And even Chip and Joanna Gaines have said that the extreme farmhouse look is on its way out. A lot of metals are coming in, but it’s offset with warm woods and warm colors. And so it’s nice, it’s kind of a reprieve from a lot going on in the room to stripping it down and going back to the classical.

Janet Jefferson (08:27):
When would you choose what’s in versus what’s timeless? Are there certain points in a design where you say, “Oh yes, let’s definitely go with this really cool new idea right now?” Or when should you really back off and say, “Hey, let’s keep it timeless?”

Genevieve Torri (08:42):
I think for me personally it’s easier for me to swing whichever way I want to go because I’m responsible for it. But coming in with a client, I always like them to think 10 steps ahead and ask how long are you going to be in the house? Who is going to be enjoying the house? What’s your budget at the point of leaving your house in order to change anything that you have done that makes it more palatable to a number of buyers. The more buyers that like your house, the more money you’re going to get as well as the traffic. So you do have to think about that idea of “down the road.” However, life happens so we can’t really predict it. You could say, Oh, I’m going to be here for 30 years, but do you really know that? So you have to think about it. If you’re going to do some major bold things in your house, I would recommend that it’s not so much in the design of the house or the structure, do it more accent pieces with your furniture, or you could put wallpaper on the walls. That’s coming back as well. Large prints for accent walls or paint. They are doing accent walls and paint again, which takes me back to the nineties but that’s great if that’s what you like. But stuff like that could easily be turned over for not a lot of money. And try to keep the main things that go with the house that are timeless and classic. And then you can just add your pops here and there and you can even have some funky faucet fixtures because that’s easily changed out as well. It’s an hour of a plumber’s time or your own time just to change them out and make it something that somebody else would like. But if you want a hot pink faucet while you’re living there, then do it. Go for it.

Janet Jefferson (10:39):
What are some quick fixes in terms of changing up the design? Because it is a new year, maybe you’re feeling you need to refresh, what are some quick fixes that you could do that won’t break the bank?

Genevieve Torri (10:52):
I always recommend pillows. If you like pillows and you have a space for pillows, pillows are a great accent piece that you can change up. You can do it seasonally too. You can have your warm fuzzy pillows for the winter time so they want to cozy up in them on the couch. And then in the summertime/springtime you can bring in florals and brighter colors. You can also easily change hardware on cabinets. I know this sounds crazy, but as long as you find a hardware piece that is adaptable to your current cabinets – you don’t want to start drilling holes in your cabinets if you don’t have to – but there are so many different pieces of hardware that even if you went to Home Depot or Lowe’s and you can examine other kitchen design place and examine all the different hardwares, that’s a quick change up you can do for your bathroom cabinets, your kitchen cabinets, you can bring that up to date. You can change your plumbing fixtures. That can bring it more up to date too. They’re easy. They’re kind of one day projects. If you’re handy, you don’t have to hire somebody. Rugs on the floor is a good change up as well. And then you could paint if you have more time during your day. You can take on a little paint projects, spruce things up. Flowers are great. You can bring flowers in, whether they’re fake or real and they’re very inexpensive as far as giving a pop of color in the room or just changing it up a little bit, giving you a different view. And especially in the winter, we need some flowers in our lives during the gray, snowy days.

Janet Jefferson (12:34):
When you’re doing a design, where do you get your inspiration from?

Genevieve Torri (12:39):
So my inspiration comes from so many things. I don’t have a one particular place that I go to. A lot of it is experience that I have on a day to day basis. I will be out in the city, seeing something, seeing a color on another house downtown or certain textures. I’m a big photographer, so I get inspiration just out of looking at the water and all the colors and the way the sun hits it and it brings a whole new kaleidoscope of a palette of colors that you can use in the house. And then I am inspired by other designers as well and architects and what they see, they’re projecting their images and it does inspire me thinking, “Oh that’s amazing that somebody thought to do that.” And most of the things that inspire me are functionality, time thinking how is this going to work further down the road as well as in today’s current society and our lives and implementing it into the home where it’s doesn’t just look good but it actually serves a purpose too. I could be in the grocery store and see a fabulous color on a box. Or just sometimes even the grocery store has little knickknacks, which are fun to pick up a little candle holder and then kind of design something around the texture on the candle holder or the succulents, which are very big right now too.

Janet Jefferson (14:12):
So if you’re working with a client or even for our listeners today, where would you suggest that they look for inspiration? Definitely keep their eyes open as they’re moving through their day. But is there any place else that you would recommend?

Genevieve Torri (14:24):
You always have your magazines, you have your design magazines. HGTV is huge. They love to inspire. I get a little weary with HGTV sometimes because you always have to keep in mind that it’s not quite reality. We must keep reality in design. We see these glorious things happening on HGTV in 30 minutes or an hour. And the concepts start from the very beginning with somebody having seen something somewhere they liked, something they want to feel something when they come into their home or they use their home for entertainment or they just want it to be their sanctuary. And it normally starts with that. And then you start to pull in, well what are the things that inspire them? What is it that makes this space feel this way for you? Whether it’s negative or positive. And then you can start to try to revolve around that and maybe problem solve if there’s something that doesn’t quite feel right for them. How do you make that feel the way that they want to in the end. Pinterest is huge. People will get lost on Pinterest though. Be careful. It’s a bit of a black hole. You can get extremely lost down there. But it is great. Instagram’s also a good inspirational place to see a lot of stuff. A lot of designers and architects are on there as well as just everyday people too. You can do certain hashtags searches to see design per the area that you’re at. And then you can save them and you can hold on to them. And I always recommend doing a vision board. You know, gather as many ideas as you want to gather. Collect things that you see whatever it is. And with modern technology we’re really lucky because you could be just in the grocery store and see something and take a picture of it. And you can hold it for later. So do that and then bring that to the meeting and we can discuss why and what is it and and how do you want to implement this into the house and where do we take this from here? And I greatly recommend being inspired by everyday things because they’re easier to implement versus seeing something on HDTV, which may not even be doable. Especially if you have a short time frame, we can’t do that, but we can aspire to do that. Or if you want to change your aspirations or goals or time limits or if you have a rich uncle that can give you some extra money, then we can work with that. But always find things in your day to day life, I think is the easiest way to do that.

Janet Jefferson (17:10):
Last question. What are some of your favorite ideas right now that you’re going to implement in your home? So something quick for maybe the winter to make it cozy or to maybe brighten your day. Since sometimes January and February in this area can be rather gloomy.

Genevieve Torri (17:26):
It can, as we’re gearing up for the cold snowy days. For us it’s mainly warm, cozy environments. So for our couch in the winter, I bring out the fuzzy blankets, lots of blankets, lots of warm, cozy pillows. The dogs kind of blend in with them because they’re all fluffy and furry the faux fur look. So we all just cuddle up on the couch and binge watch something on streaming TV. I do shift, I do take a lot of the springy florals out and just kind of put in some more mellow tones in there, maybe some cooler tones because everything else is warmer with the textures and we have a fireplace in there. We’re lucky then when the springtime comes again and then we’ll start brightening up the room and bringing stuff in. But it’s relatively inexpensive things that you could just go to Marshall’s and Home Goods or TJ Maxx. I’m a huge deal lover so I will definitely shop those aisles for our home and only spend $10 on a pillow that I like. I don’t like to spend a lot of money on my interchangeable items. The money that we do put in is mainly for the big pieces that are going to be there. That’s my equity in the house, not so much the accessories.

Janet Jefferson (18:57):
That makes a lot of sense. Thank you so much for coming in today, Genevieve. I can’t wait to implement some of these tips and tricks in my own home and hopefully spruce it up a little bit for the season. We’d love to hear your thoughts, comments and questions. If you enjoyed what you heard today, check out more at I’m Janet Jefferson. This is Third Floor Views. Thank you for listening.