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Get inside the process of how this stylish room came together. (PHOTO: Sarah Utech/Steinhafels)

Steinhafels Before and After: A designer explains her process

We love sharing some of our favorite Steinhafels Decorating Solutions "Before and After" projects with OnMilwaukee readers! This month, we're going to have Interior Designer Michelle Kahl tell you all about one of her recent projects – in her own words.

Hi everyone, my name is Michelle Kahl. I am based at the Steinhafels Superstore on Madison's east side, but I work on projects across Southeast and mid-Wisconsin. I like to bring a fresh perspective to the latest trends and styles!

Design style process

This project is located in Sun Prairie, built in the Victorian style with a lot of those ornate features throughout. My client, Brenda, felt the home dictated her design style, which is very traditional. However, she does have a flair for the eclectic and found herself wanting to bring in different elements of different styles. She loves to incorporate additional accent colors into the space. She also loves the windows but felt things were too dark. She also felt very limited by the placement of the windows and the multiple doorways in her space, limiting her furniture arrangement options.

Since her home is spacious, she hosts most of her family gatherings. However, based on the entertaining centralized around the kitchen, she felt she didn't have enough seating in the living room area to accommodate the overflow of guests from the kitchen.

Our goal with the project was to give her space better lighting, more seating, better comfort and an overall updated style! The home doesn't allow for an open concept, but we still wanted to have the flow of the styling continue throughout the home so we kept the traditional style, which is in other living spaces on the main level of the home but gave things a modern feel.

To give the space better lighting, we lightened up the wall colors. They were a lighter color to begin with, but we chose a color that would give the trim a little more contrast and stand out more. We chose a color that had a crispness to it and wasn't so dull. We also chose an accent color to use on the wall with the antique stove. Even though the stove isn't used, it's a cool feature of the home to call out. Selecting lighter fabrics also helps with the lighting in the space. Darker colors can make furniture seem heavy, so by selecting the lighter fabrics it makes the room appear lighter as well.

The furniture

Brenda's old furniture had become uncomfortable, and was also starting to show wear and flaws. Now that her children are grown and she's an empty nester, she wanted furniture that was going to last a long time but still be durable for when the kids come back to visit and for entertaining. We selected quality pieces from King Hickory, which she has actually had in the past and moved into her lower level. We also chose quality fabrics that will be durable and easy to clean.

"Favorite" projects

I think any time a client and I accomplish a redesign, it becomes my new "favorite." I do have a lot of favorite projects, and this one is at the top of the list. It is a favorite not only because of how the project turned out, but because my client was great to work with. She was very open to my ideas, which were right on target with the vision she had for her space. I'm very excited to continue to work with her on future projects!

This is my favorite picture our photographer Sarah took of this project. Why? Because it is a little bit of me incorporated into the client's design. Of course, when I design a space, I am always keeping the client's needs, wants and interests in the front of my mind because their space needs to be a reflection of them. When I started working for the Decorating Solutions program at Steinhafels, and knew there would be potential to have my clients' spaces photographed, I wanted to incorporate my "signature" with all of my projects. That's where the dachshund comes in! Not only do I have a huge love for dachshunds (ask any of my family, friends or co-workers) but I would say I have somewhat of a similar personality to a dachshund as well. Dachshunds are intelligent, independent, loyal, laid back and they make people smile and laugh (mostly because they are goofy looking).

Those are all qualities I see in myself, especially when it comes to working with clients. Obviously, I am very knowledgeable about our products at Steinhafels and with the design elements in order to create a functional space for clients. I am a very loyal and honest person, which is extremely important to clients. I will give them honest feedback whether they like the message or not. So if you look at any of my projects photographed on the Steinhafels Before and After page, you'll see a little dachshund hiding somewhere!

Before the customer had decided to hire me, she had been looking at fabrics with one of the sales associates and fell in love with this floral pattern that was hanging on our Steinhafels wall of fabrics. I used this fabric as the starting point in the design process and worked everything around this pattern.

Because I knew she loved this pattern, I wanted to use it in a big way in the space. I felt like the sofa would have been too much, and the pillows not quite enough, so putting the fabric on the chairs was perfect for the space.

Blue is a very on trend color right now. It is a very versatile color, that can be mixed with a lot of different accent colors. Plus it is a very calm and relaxing color. We mixed the darker blues to give the room a more cozy and sophisticated look with the lighter blues to keep everything fresh and airy.

Just because we went with a more traditional style, doesn't mean that the client can't have comfort in her space! This chair and a half is a perfect example of the traditional style with a comfort aspect. We used a pleated rolled arm, which matches the conversation sofa, and we added some fringe to one of the pillows (which is seen more in traditional settings). I also wanted to utilize one of the floral pillows on the chair and a half because it is on the opposite side of the room from the accent chairs, so it will help move your eye throughout the space. This is the perfect chair to lounge in by yourself or snuggle up with grandkids. I know my client loves this chair and uses it frequently to do her needlepoint work!

My favorite piece in the space is actually a buffet – but we are using it as an accent cabinet! If she ever decides to put a TV in the space, it could work as a media cabinet as well. When I first met Brenda, this is the piece that was giving her the most trouble. If she fell in love with a piece, it didn't fit between the windows, and she wasn't completely in love with the ones that fit between them.

I wanted to give her a statement piece – and that is why I went to Canadel. They have so many special order options with different styles, sizes and finishes, that we were really able to create the perfect piece for her. The lighter blue finish helps tie in to the rest of the space and also gives the traditional styled cabinet more of a modern feel.

This rug is the anchor piece in the room! It has a great pattern that works with the traditional styling, and because it is a larger pattern, it works perfectly with the smaller pattern on the chairs. We wanted to have the contrast between the floor and the rug, and the rug and the furniture – and as you can see with this picture, we accomplished just that.

Again, to keep movement throughout the space, I wanted to bring some of the darker shades of the rug to a higher level, which is why we went with the pillows on the chair and a half and on the sofa. All of the colors in the rug are represented throughout the space, which makes it a great anchor piece.

Thanks so much Michelle for all of this great insight into the designer's process. The end result is gorgeous. We're so glad your client loves it, and has more space to entertain her family and friends!

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