"I get to live many lives" says interior designer Rinat Lavi, referring to the many styles of homes she's created for her clients in her thirty years as decorator.
With a twinkle coming from her very bright and soulful eyes, that were brightened even more by the warm smile beginning to dominate the landscape of her face, as she talks about what she loves to do most - take people's dreams and translate them into stunningly beautiful, and above all, user-friendly environments.
Over lunch at a French Bistro on New York's 57th street, Rinat swipes through her iPad taking me on a tour of breath-taking photos cataloging everything from lush country estates to sharp, sexy, state of the art, Park Avenue penthouses.
For every formal element of furniture art or decor like shiny mirrors and delicate china vases, there was a counterpoint of something soft, simple, and inviting. What strikes me most about her work is that no matter how opulent any room might have been that she showed me, I could imagine moving right into any one of these luxurious spaces with my husband and kids. No matter what the kids were, or what they might be getting up to, I could see us all being relaxed comfortable eating or playing or lounging in every interior Rinat had designed. (Full disclosure, I would need Scotch guard to protect all the furniture so that "family fun" wouldn't turn into "family feud.")
"I would never design a house that's not a home," she replies adding, "and I always come in on budget." My eyes are wide when I hear the "B" word for budget and hearing that she delivers both on time and on budget. Now, it's truth-telling time. It comes spilling out - I admit it! I love to decorate, but size and scale often elude me and it's led to more than my share of do overs and disappointments. Baring my soul, I tell her "Everyone wants the decorator look of course, but it's so hard to know where to begin, or what questions to ask in order to find the right fit with an interior designer?" Rinat tells me that "As a decorator, all business is word of mouth." The insurance that she keeps her word to every client is that she begins "each project with a spreadsheet. That way, she says, "there's no surprises." I can create magic with forty thousand or five hundred thousand dollars and always come in on budget."
We talk for hours about her career and how to get the decorator look on a DIY budget (the "B"word again). We also talked about how to hire an interior decorator when the occasion calls for it. "Never do anything in your home because you think it will impress other people. " Using that sage advice a rule of thumb, Rinat tells me the best way to get started on creating your dream home is simply to make a folder of images that inspire you. Then create a budget before you buy a single thing. It's important to ask a decorator before starting work if they will only create rooms in their unique signature style , or if they are open to helping clients to realize their own personal style.
Rinat’s design philosophy is that today's lifestyle requires environments that are informal yet serene and luxurious. I learned so much sitting and talking with Rinat about her wide base of knowledge and understanding of period styles through 21st century styles and techniques . "Beauty', Rinat says, 'is found when comfort justifies the expense. That goes for every object in your home at any budget." She's a smart lady whose interiors are as eclectic as her clients and their finances. The jewels she dropped on me about creating the ultimate dream home were priceless. And because of that, you'll be hearing a lot more from Rinat here on WOTF as my accomplice in interior design.