Designing a beautiful space doesn’t have to be difficult, and it doesn’t have to break the budget. Looking at the project with fresh eyes makes a big difference, said Ridgefield interior designer Aundra Skinner.
In her business, Aundra Skinner Interiors, Skinner focuses on creating interior designs which make the best use of space, reflect the owner’s tastes and lifestyle, and incorporate favorite existing pieces.
Even though it feels like her perfect career, designing homes wasn’t Aundra Skinner’s first career. Despite her upbringing in a family of creative types — painters, architects, and graphic designers — she started her working life in the medical field. She wasn’t especially happy with her job, but she had chosen her career and she stuck with it for seven years.
Along the way, she designed spaces. Her own homes, her friend’s homes, and the offices where she worked all bore her creative touch. Finally one day, a co-worker suggested that she should be an interior designer, and the idea took hold.
When Skinner’s husband accepted a job working in remote eastern Montana, she found herself many miles from medical career opportunities, and with time on her hands while raising their three children. She seized the opportunity to complete a degree in interior design, and set upon her second career.
Skinner’s first big project was her own home. A burst kitchen pipe flooded much of the home, necessitating a whole house renovation. The project was complicated by their remote Montana location, hours from building supply sources and scant in skilled labor.
“It was a lot of DIY (do it yourself),” laughed Skinner in retrospect. “If someone tells me it can’t be done, I figure out how it can be done.”
Finding alternate ways to achieve her vision stretched and challenged her design skills. At the heart of her kitchen plan was a showpiece island, but nothing of the kind was available in the area. Skinner used stock cabinets and wood trim to create the signature piece she wanted, making it stand on its own with a coat of stain in a contrasting color.
Skinner undertakes commercial and residential projects, from new construction and total renovations, to small updates which make the most of existing space and furnishings. Tools of the trade spread across her broad table, architect’s drawings sharing space with thoughtfully selected samples of granite, tile and carpet.
Skinner’s style mixes the old with the new in a fresh, minimalist approach, she said.
When working with an existing home, it’s important to think about how new spaces and finishes will tie in with the rest of the house. “I help integrate the old with the new so the house is cohesive,” said Skinner.
Technology has changed the way she works, said Skinner. She can provide design services to clients across the country using internet resources. A client will send her photos of their home, a floor plan, and a description of what they want to accomplish, and she will create a design plan customized for them.
Media has also changed people’s expectations about design. The popularity of home renovation shows on television offers a bounty of ideas, but a lack of realistic budgets and timelines. Most projects take longer than people realize.
Every project is aimed at suiting the client and their taste, said Skinner. The design process starts with an in-home consultation, where she discusses the client’s ideas, their preferences for colors and style and their goals for the project. She assesses how they can utilize their space better.
And that first talk includes the budget. “Knowing the budget can help you get the most for the money,” she emphasized.
“A lot of people waste money. They buy pieces that are a mistake, like the scale of the furniture is wrong for the space, or pieces don’t work together,” said Skinner. She assesses which furnishings work or don’t work, emphasizing that buying the right pieces the first time will save money in the long run. Plus, Skinner gets trade discounts on furnishings and materials and passes those on to her clients.
Once she has a plan which suits her client, Skinner brings in a contractor to evaluate any construction requirements and provide a realistic cost estimate. When there will be new construction, she utilizes an architect to provide technical drawings.
Working with clients to renovate their homes puts her squarely in the middle of their lives during a stressful time, she said. “It’s hard for clients to live in a project underway. I let them vent to me, always. We just talk and come up with a game plan so they feel reassured that work is in motion.”
When it’s time to put the finishing touches on a new design, Skinner thinks in terms of layering. She first considers how the room will be used, and selects the right type and amount of lighting.
Then, “I always bring in textiles,” said Skinner. Soft throws, blankets, pillows, drapes and rugs all add softness and texture to a room.
And there is always greenery, she added, a way to bring the outdoors in. She wants a room to feel natural and bright.
Beautiful spaces are accessible regardless of the size of the project or the budget, stressed Skinner.
“You can have it beautiful on a budget,” Skinner said emphatically.
More information about Aundra Skinner Interiors is available at her website,
aundraskinnerinteriors.com, or by calling (406) 360-9543.