Monday, December 4, 2017

Exclusive | Dorado Beach Meets City Chic

I'm quite thrilled to share an exclusive home tour of a fantastic project from Meredith Heron Design with you today. With multiple design projects internationally, I wanted to explore how one of my all-time favourite Canadian designers manages her projects from afar. This one in particular happens to be located in Dorado Beach, a Ritz-Carlton reserve in Puerto Rico. Meredith's clients wanted something that didn't look like all the other homes on the Island but instead had the look and feel of the Upper East Side in a warmer climate setting. I had the pleasure of getting a bit of the background on this special home from the designer herself and learned that this task of remote luxury interior design is not for the faint of heart.

Nancy Marcus: What are some of the key features you implemented to create this perfect blend of island style & UES apartment?

Meredith Heron: This was definitely a house where we were designing for the sexes. She loves colour and pattern and he tends to love really expensive things from 1stdibs. HA! The family room is a great example of mixing the two styles though. We have a tufted, rolled arm tuxedo sofa, animal print galore and our MHD Hex Rug from our Rug Collection in silk. The dining area has neoclassical chairs in an emerald leather and a Marble dining table. These are all set against the Celerie Kemble grasscloth wallpaper from Schumacher which has more of a tropical feel. The chandelier in the breakfast area was something that they had and wanted to use and it gives the breakfast area a more relaxed feel as does the brush stroke Perennials fabric (it’s an outdoor fabric) on the banquette. Everything in this room is kid friendly seeing as this is where the family will hang out most of the time.

We had Bethany Travis of Penshall Hill fly down and hand paint a custom chinoiserie landscape wall mural in the foyer which in a tropical local feels way more tropical than it would on the UES so context has a way of shifting your perception!

The dining room again has a very sophisticated look and feel but the Blush & Bashful palette again makes it feel more tropical. If it were in a northern climate, it would feel very UES chic.

MH: The Hex rug in the family room is our Hex Rug from our Meredith Heron Collection in silk. I hand painted the splatter drapery in the breakfast room and we then had them made into drapery.

NM: Did this particular home have any jumping off point for you or did you start from scratch?

MH: Our clients bought the house from the previous owners who had custom built it. They literally knocked on the door and begged to buy it from them, made them an offer they couldn’t refuse. The house was custom built for very tall people which was an odd challenge the counters literally in some rooms were mid chest on me. The millwork & tile work were all things we had to work with along with existing electrical. The house is made of concrete and if we were going to add fixtures they would have to be surface mounted which was less than ideal so we managed to work with what we had.

Furniture wise though, we had a blank slate which was great. Our clients didn’t love the patterned concrete tile but in some rooms we just embraced it and in others we used area rugs strategically. The tile makes great sense in a tropical climate but I have to say I’m not a fan of it even though it is super trendy right now.

NM: You are the MASTER of the mix - textures and patterns and colors and everything! Is it something that just comes very naturally to your eye? Do you play with and constantly tweak things or see the combinations and layers once and commit? 

MH: Layering and mixing patterns have always just come to me. I have joked for years that I hate Math except for Scale and Proportion which are innate in me. I am always challenging myself though. Sometimes I try and not use patterns in a space but it just feels flat and boring to me so mix I must! Look at nature - trees don’t care if their greens match, flowers don’t get hung up on repeating the exact same hue of yellow. Pattern and colour are on a continuum and I love to experiment with unexpected combinations to constantly be reinventing my own work.

As for process, my own is very fluid. I often start out with a few fabrics I love and build out from there. There is usually one fabric that I commit to and then start to see what works and this is all before we decide what fabric is going to go where. We may start with a wallpaper. I always finish with the area rug which is actually a much harder way of doing things but given that I can design a rug for a space to suit everything else that I’ve layered in, I don’t think it’s that difficult. Fortunately, most of our clients trust me to just make it work and don’t need to see in person before committing to it.

NM: I'd love to hear anything more about how you organize the delivery and install from afar. Do most of the products you source come from US/Canada and then get shipped? I ask this because every piece looks so perfectly curated and fit for the space, I can't imagine how that all came together from afar. And I cannot believe 6 days for install!

MH: The majority of our work is often not in Toronto at any given time. We are currently working all across Canada and the US. We tend to work in the same cities but even when we don’t our approach is the same. We reach out to local design professionals and ask them for referrals for trades and most importantly for great Receiver Warehouses. Even in Toronto, we always use a Receiver who receives our goods, inspects them and then when we are ready, delivers and installs them for our project. White Glove service is imperative in a luxury service business. 

Now for Puerto Rico, it’s very tricky because it’s a protectorate and not really a state. All of our goods had to be sent to Orlando Florida and from there shipped to San Juan and then delivered to this home. Design is 99% Logistics. Lots of moving parts from all over the world, directed to Florida and then on Puerto Rico. The craziest part was that our first time there was literally to install. We did all of the work remotely thanks to FaceTime, email and local trades who spoke great English and did a lot of onsite measures for us. We’ve done this enough times now that it feels pretty natural. The aggravations and disappointments are the same no matter where you are but because we are experienced and know what to look for in advance, most of these can be minimized which is always the goal. 

Six days was a long install for us to be honest but that was Island Time. The sad part is that we spent ONE HOUR by the pool. We also spent another hour stalking Ricky Martin who has a house around the corner, by golf cart. HA!!! Apparently we missed him at breakfast one morning by mere minutes. Sigh.

NM: Obviously there are children living here - how do you help your clients balance a refined luxurious taste and a family-friendly space?

MH: I always tell new clients that I am a klutz and have spilled more red wine on cream wool carpets than is right but because of this, I’m a master of stain removal and prevention. We are very quick to specify fabrics that have been treated to repel liquids and other hazmat substances on things like sofas or wherever kids will gravitate to. We’ve even begun to send out fabrics that don’t arrive treated to be treated. The technology is out there and it’s eco-friendly so we don’t have to worry about off gassing. Because this technology exists, I find it’s easier to get clients to invest in better made furniture that will last. You’ll never find us using disposable furniture and sisal rugs because neither are friendly to the home or the environment. There really is so much out there that is family/pet /klutz friendly - smart, calculated choices are the key. 

I also think that from my own experience with my son, kids really do appreciate beautiful surroundings if that’s what is modeled to them. We started to take our son to Art Galleries when he was little. We had clear and established rules about where art projects could be conduct and furniture is not for jumping on. I am officially my mother - I swear to god (we used to rake ourselves out of the living room so she wouldn’t know we’d been in there!). My son loves when our house is ready to receive guests and looks its best. He loves to show people his room and takes responsibility for getting it ready for public viewing. I try reinforce this with kids when I’m working with their parents. I have a meeting set up with a lovely 7 year old boy this week to discuss his desire for bunk beds in his room. You can be sure I will be talking about how to care for them and the responsibility of making not just one bed but two….

NM: How do your International clients typically find and hire you? Through your published works? Social media?

MH: We are contacted by clients from all around the world thanks to Social Media. Pinterest and Instagram are the two biggest platforms we have found to refer clients to us but we also find that word of mouth and personal referrals drive a lot of people to us. I think that a lot of people go down the social media rabbit hole. In this instance, the pink and gold kitchen we designed in our #ProjectKitchenGorgeous project four years ago was what got them to pick up the phone. It was first published in Style at Home and we blogged and posted about it online. It’s a mix now - I find that people are hesitant to admit to finding you online still though for fear that we’ll think they were stalking us. That’s my kind of stalking!!!

A huge thank you to Meredith for being gracious & generous with her time and sharing some of these behind-the-designer-scenes stories with us! Be sure to follow her on her inspiring Instagram account here, and see her impressive portfolio here.


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