The Art of Prioritization: Maximizing Productivity as an Interior Designer

As Interior Designers, with multiple clients, projects and deadlines, it can be overwhelming when every project feels like your main priority. Oftentimes we need to take a step back, self-assess, and determine how to better maximize our productivity. The great news, there are several programs available that can help you do just that, while helping you mark the key milestones to be remember on every new build! Think: work smarter, not harder.

Find the Right Management System

Management systems like Asana or Monday.com are helpful because they will store all your project information. Everything from the day you begin a project, to setting deadlines for every phase of the project, to noting all items that need to be developed, presented, approved, expedited and installed, all the way down to the lightbulbs and toilet paper holders – that’s where the real glamour comes in! 

High Level Milestones to Remember

Pro tip! Make sure your team is aware and in agreement with the deadlines you have set before committing to the client! By plugging everything into a management system, you will be able to see the flow of projects over the course of 6 months or even a year and understand if it’s attainable.


Creating a Schedule that Works: Balancing Multiple Projects and Deadlines

Running your own Interior Design business has its challenges, especially when you’re juggling multiple projects, deadlines and managing communication internally and externally. This is why it’s so important to create a schedule that actually works for you and your team and offers clear communication to keep everyone on task. As we all know, there will be delays and project mishaps along the way (hello, COVID!). Circaphiles is here to level up your organization game and protect your system from distraction!

Define Goals and Objectives

What do you want to accomplish for each project?  Write these goals and objectives down in a place where it is highly visible on a daily basis for a constant reminder.  If you are doing something that doesn’t serve that goal, delegate or delete that task (as my business coach likes to say).  

Are all of your team members aware of these goals and objectives?  Including your support staff on these conversations, from creation to the extent of their definitions, will better prepare them to do the job to the best of their ability.  Visibility into the firm and project goals often fosters growth and dedication.  This will, in turn, raise the bar of the entire firm’s reputation. 


Understand Team Dynamics

Consider the strengths, weaknesses and work styles of you and your team members.  This understanding will help in allocating tasks effectively and ensuring a balanced workload.  If one team member is more adept in problem-solving, perhaps he or she is best suited to handle client communication or expediting.  If a team member is struggling with a task, ask them about it in a supportive way.  Pave a wide open lane of communication.  

Pro tip! The faster you discover the root of the delay or frustration, the quicker you assign better help and keep your clients happy. 

Divide and Conquer

Breaking down the project into their phases with bite-size, manageable tasks is a great course of action. Establish the most critical tasks due over the next 6 weeks and prioritize them.  Hold standing meetings to track progress, encourage focus and meet those deadlines.  

Pro tip! One of my best strategies is to set an internal deadline a few days before the actual client deadline.  It reduces anxiety about not finishing in time, procrastination and allows time for any adds, substitutions (due to stock or budget constraint, for example) or extra polish that will set your firm apart.  Preparedness = confidence (and confidence sells!)


Implement Calendar Blocking


The best tool for the job is what’s called “calendar blocking.” To begin implementing, first and foremost start your week by reviewing your tasks and meetings (with your team, if you have one) to prioritize. Once you’ve done this, you can then set aside time for each project with different tasks (whether it be billing, scheming, expediting, or client updating) by scheduling it on your calendar. That way, nothing else gets booked during those time blocks, and you can focus without the distractions. Of course, there may be weeks when you will need to re-prioritize or push a task because something didn’t go according to plan, but it will be much easier because you’ll already have a framework in place.

Pro tip! Remember, the key to staying on task and on time with projects is by creating a schedule and communicating. As designers, we’re often so focused on the big picture for our clients but are we as laser focused when it comes to our own calendars? Big wins start with small tasks. Calendar blocking gives you the tools to see the big picture for each week and the best part, it’s easy to start doing today!

Managing Quarterly Estimated Tax Payments: A Roadmap for Interior Designers

The concept of estimated tax payments for self-employed designers can be overwhelming, but it’s a fundamental aspect of financial responsibility. Don’t drive down this daunting path alone! Circaphiles is here to provide the roadmap, so you are making every important stop along the way, *beep beep!* In this blog post, we will embark on a journey to unravel the intricacies of estimated tax payments, shedding light on their importance and the vital considerations involved.

Whether you’re just starting your self-employed design career or looking to refine your financial acumen, we’ll provide practical insights and expert tips to help you budget, plan, and navigate your financial landscape with confidence!

Record Your Business Transactions

Keep meticulous records of your business activities in real time, as soon as you are making the purchase. Create a habit for yourself to input your financial transactions into an accounting software the same day (or week!), including as much billing information as possible. Questions like “Is it billable?”, “who was I with for the business meal?” or “what type of business expense is this?” should be answered in the entry line item.  This process is much easier if you are recording them regularly, as it is fresh on your mind. 

Adding as much detail as possible allows your bookkeeper to accurately analyze your activity, so you can understand your expenses versus profitability. Doing so also allows your tax preparer to use that information to maximize your savings at the end of the year!

What are Allowable Expenses?

In general, business expenses are eligible for tax deductions only if they are incurred solely for the purpose of conducting your business. It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of which expenses qualify, as they can significantly reduce your tax liability. Incorrect claims, on the other hand, may lead to penalties. Therefore, it’s wise to assess whether these expenses may qualify for tax benefits before you commence your expenditure. Below, we’ve compiled a list of common costs that are typically eligible for deductions, specifically tailored for self-employed interior designers:


  1. Computer and Printer 
  2. Business Website
  3. Licenses, Software, and Subscriptions
  4. Phone and Internet
  5. Project-Related and Networking Travel
  6. Automobile Mileage
  7. Health and Business Insurance

Common Tax Deductions for Self-Employed Designers

Tax deductions are what you take out of your taxable income, lowering the total income on which you can be taxed. Therefore, saving you from paying more in taxes. Here is a list of some self-employment tax deductions:

Design Your Finances: A Guide to Effortless Tax Recordkeeping for Interior Designers

In the world of interior design, creativity knows no bounds. Yet, amid the tapestries of textiles and symphonies of colors, there exists a less glamorous but equally vital facet of the profession: financial management. *cue suspenseful music*. Understanding the importance of maintaining accurate and well-organized records is not just a financial necessity; it’s a cornerstone of a thriving design business. Let’s take the fear out of mastering this challenging side of your design business!

In this blog post, we embark on a journey to illuminate the path toward financial clarity for interior designers. We’ll explore the art of organizing and streamlining your financial documentation, offering invaluable insights, practical tips, and best practices that will not only simplify tax season but also help you gain a clearer perspective on the financial health of your design endeavors.

Make Sure to Account for Every Billable Hour

For designers who bill by the hour, it’s crucial to keep a close eye on your time. Even if you use a flat rate or don’t plan to charge clients for your hours, tracking your working hours is essential to ensure your flat rate adequately covers the time invested in projects.

At the end of each month, allocate time to create invoices based on the tracked hours and expenses. Timely invoicing helps maintain healthy cash flow for your business. Remember that tax obligations may vary by state, requiring either monthly or quarterly payments. Keep in mind that open invoices will still be subject to taxes, regardless of whether you’ve received payment. It’s crucial to exercise caution with invoices, as they appear on your financial statements. Once submitted, avoid making changes to invoices, especially if you’ve already filed sales tax for that period. 

Genevieve Trousdale

Keep Personal and Business Accounts Separate

Avoiding the commingling of personal and business finances is an absolute must for interior designers.  Whether it’s using your debit or credit cards, the practice of keeping your personal and business expenses separate is not to be taken lightly. This segregation is your safeguard against inadvertently covering a customer’s expenses, overlooking potential tax deductions, or missing out on owed reimbursements.

Maintaining distinct accounts is more than just a good practice; it’s the pillar of maintaining clean and organized bookkeeping, free from the clutter of daily personal transactions. By adhering to this principle, you not only enhance your financial accuracy but also streamline your business operations for greater success.

Pay Attention to Purchase Orders


When you’re fully immersed in the whirlwind of an interior design project, meticulous bookkeeping may not be at the forefront of your mind. However, there’s a crucial tool that should always have a place in your project management toolkit: purchase orders. Purchase orders serve as a safety net, catching errors early, accurately allocating expenses, and expediting the invoicing process. They are instrumental in maintaining financial transparency and project efficiency.

Neglecting purchase orders can lead to project delays and financial discrepancies for clients. To ensure efficient bookkeeping, establish clear communication with vendors, create purchase orders promptly (Using the Circaphiles Purchase Order Specification Templates), process payments, and track order statuses diligently. By doing so, you’ll not only streamline your financial management but also maintain project integrity and client satisfaction.

Talk With Your Accountant to Review Your Financials

As an interior designer, the beginning of the year is not just about embracing new creative projects; it’s also the perfect time to take a proactive approach to your financial planning and ensure your records are in order. 

Pro-tip! Review your books with your accountant in January, so they can advise you on potential write-offs and tax-saving strategies.  

By being proactive, you can get ahead of the tax rush that typically engulfs many businesses later in the year. With your finances in order, you’ll have peace of mind, and can get back to what you do best! 

Managing Scope Creep: Navigating the Fine Line Between Client Requests and Practicality

As designers, we’re tasked with translating our clients’ dreams into tangible spaces, all while ensuring that projects remain on track, on budget, and aligned with the original vision. Oof, that is no easy feat! Let’s also not forget the delicate balance of accommodating evolving client requests while maintaining the practicality of the project. If scope creep has been the biggest challenge for you, you’re in luck because, today, I’m sharing a few tips for navigating this fine line!

From setting clear project boundaries to fostering transparent communication, harnessing the power of change order systems to finding the right balance between professionalism and personal connections, we’ll delve into a wealth of knowledge aimed at streamlining the nuances of scope management.

Define Price Structure

When defining the pricing structure that governs your project’s revenue, ensure absolute clarity by listing your provided services with concise action verbs. Rather than stating “floor plans,” emphasize “create personalized floor plans harmonizing functionality and aesthetics.” Likewise, swap “initial programming consultation” for “ascertain client preferences, vision, and lifestyle.” This approach highlights the uniqueness of each project phase, contributing to an exceptional client experience throughout the design process.

When utilizing a flat fee structure, outline the specifics: the number, frequency, and duration of meetings, presentations, installations, and other project elements covered by the fee. Recognizing that clients may swiftly scan contracts, consider organizing a festive kick-off meeting to revisit these details in person. This step ensures your client retains a deeper understanding of fee structures that persist throughout the project.

Genevieve Trousdale

Pro-tip! Polite, yet professional reminders might be necessary along the way, and are recommended to be as clear as possible.

Manage Relationships, Professional and Personal

Designers frequently develop close friendships with clients, more often than not, taking on the role of confidants for family dynamics. It’s prudent to consciously choose between maintaining a strictly project-centric relationship or venturing into a more personal connection that extends beyond the professional sphere. Opting for the latter – forming bonds beyond business – can indeed be fruitful, though it’s important to note that success is possible either way.

Set Consistent Reviews

Arrange a brief monthly or quarterly review with your COO or CFO to ensure alignment between the project activities and scope discussed versus what was initially agreed upon in the contract. Over time, the momentum and details can easily blur, making it challenging to recall contract stipulations from years past. 

Pro-tip! Engage a consultant or an in-house team member to conduct thorough checks, safeguarding against potential revenue losses for your firm.

Plan a midway meeting with the client to comprehensively assess the project’s status, encompassing services, deliverables, potential gaps in their needs, and scope additions as progress becomes evident. This meeting also serves as an opportunity to candidly discuss the quality of service provided by you and your team. While it might feel uncomfortable to initiate, asking for feedback is a vital step in ensuring your firm’s success, particularly when it comes to addressing concerns and negative feedback.



Take Charge of Change Orders

  1. When a clear addition to the project scope arises with a flat fee price structure, such as adding a new room, it’s crucial to issue an addendum to the contract that outlines the associated fee. This approach ensures the client’s understanding and agreement. Whether the new scope aligns with a flat, hourly, or hybrid fee structure, upfront communication about costs is essential.
  2. For situations where the scope additions are less defined, it’s wise to include specific contract language. This stipulation clarifies that any services beyond the contracted ones will be billed at an agreed upon hourly rate. This practice prevents any ambiguity or surprises in billing.
  3. In cases involving change orders that require general contractor implementation, endeavor to secure an estimate from them. This estimate can then be factored into the project’s overall design fee, providing a comprehensive view of the potential costs involved. This approach enhances transparency and collaboration within the project.



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Tips for how to make the most of Fall Market at High Point

High Point Market (HPMKT), a mecca for design inspiration, awaits – an immersive experience filled with endless treasures, unique insights, and the chance to connect with industry experts. But traversing this grand design haven requires a strategic approach to make the most of your time and leave no stone unturned. 

Are you ready to access the insider track that fuses street smarts with some juicy behind-the-scenes know-how? Join us as we unveil a guide to High Point Market that goes beyond the surface. Whether you’re a seasoned attendee or a first-time visitor, our expert insights will arm you with the knowledge to make the most of this extraordinary event.

Guided Tours

Unlock the hidden gems of High Point Market by booking a guided tour with none other than Jeanne Chung of Cozy Stylish Chic – a seasoned veteran of the event.  Jeanne’s unique perspective and insider knowledge provide unparalleled insight that you won’t find on your own. Let her guide you through the market’s intricate landscape, revealing the stories behind the exhibits and the nuances that shape this incredible experience.  

Event Map

High Point Market’s vastness can be overwhelming, but fear not – we’ve got you covered. Study the event map meticulously, grouping your shopping destinations by location. By doing so, you’ll optimize your time and avoid unnecessary treks across the expansive campus. To further refine your experience, create an itinerary that aligns with your goals. Research exhibitors in advance, ensuring you don’t miss the chance to explore brands you’ve been longing to see, as well as those you’ve yet to discover.

Hidden Gems

Leave room for curiosity and exploration – a key ingredient to unearthing the unexpected. High Point Market is brimming with eye-candy distractions that can lead you to new avenues of design inspiration and vendors who can execute current project visions. Venture beyond the mainstream and discover off-the-beaten-path sources like the Phillips Collection warehouse where you can shop their live edge wood slab inventory, Schwung Home with its delightful French café, and an array of vintage shops that offer unique finds.


Endless Education

High Point Market is not just a visual feast; it’s also an educational opportunity waiting to be seized. Prioritize time to rest your feet and attend panels featuring industry experts. The HPMKT website unveils these events and programs two months ahead of the market, allowing you to plan your schedule accordingly. These panels offer a chance to connect with like-minded designers, learn from industry icons, and gain insights to elevate your own business.


Time is precious at High Point Market, and every minute counts. For seamless transportation, consider renting a car to eliminate wait times for shuttles. Maximizing your time ensures you can pack in as much as possible during your visit. Parking options are aplenty, with affordable on-site rates, at $15 on the grounds, or a convenient option adjacent to EJ Victor, $50 which includes parking and a complimentary dinner at Pandora’s Manor for your carpool companions.


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Designing for Different Generations: Addressing the unique design preferences and needs of various age groups, from millennials to seniors

Navigating the ever-evolving landscape of interior design demands more than just a keen eye for aesthetics; it requires a deep appreciation for the diverse tapestry of generations that shape our world! Each age group brings forth its distinct set of values, experiences, and aspirations. Partnering with the seasoned expert Christi Barbour of Barbour Spangle Design, we invite you to explore the significance of tailored design solutions that speak to each generation, unraveling the threads that weave together timeless aesthetics and functional considerations!


After years spent building their respective businesses and honing their individual expertise, Christi Barbour and Christi Spangle found themselves envisioning a new kind of studio — one where imagination would be rewarded, personal growth would be prioritized, and the process would be as important as the resulting designs. They founded Barbour Spangle Design on the belief that authentic connection is the cornerstone of creativity.


In what ways do you ensure personal growth is fostered within your design team, and how does this impact creativity and innovation in your projects?

As for personal growth, we have each team member participate in coaching specific to how we communicate, which helps in many ways: with clients, with each other, and in their personal lives. We want everyone to be well-rounded, both at work and at home. For advanced team members, we have them go through additional coaching programs specific to leading other team members. We also support their attendance at trade shows to see the latest products and design trends, host lunch and learns and CEU courses for continuous learning, and cover the costs of professional memberships where they participate in various programs.

Everyone on our team researches conferences and learning opportunities to ensure they have the most current information on the market. It’s built into our designers’ daily schedule to seek out new resources and opportunities to ensure we are at the head of the industry.

All of these efforts impact how our team interacts with clients (both current and future), their knowledge about products and the industry, and the creativity and innovation they put into our projects.


Can you share insights on how your design process evolves to accommodate the changing needs of clients as they transition through different life stages?

Communication is the key to success, so we invest heavily in it.

Our team needs to understand who uses the space for our commercial projects: Is it a start-up company with lots of collaboration and a young team? Is it a more formal office environment with a large range of age groups, and if so, how do we cater to those various needs with the right products and space allocations?

For our residential projects, our team needs to understand the family dynamics and their ages. If it’s a young family, spaces need to be designed to be safe for the youngest members and comfortable for everyone, meaning they need to be durable and practical. Suppose it’s for an older/aging family. In that case, there are conversations about aging in place, ergonomics of hardware selections, flooring transitions, adequate lighting, counter surfaces, built-in functionality (such as automated window shades), and more.

We recently designed for a senior living community whose executive team is committed to vetting the selections based on what questions residents will ask, not only for the current generation but also for future generations who will come to inhabit the space.


How do you approach designing for different generations, considering their unique design preferences and needs?

As professionals, we need to listen to what the clients want (their unique design preferences) and then interpret that based on our experience and vast product knowledge.

For spaces that include multiple generations cohabitating, we design for ease and accessibility with all in mind. Our design process, by nature, was developed to adapt and reflect the needs of our clients. Our personalized approach allows us to do this by asking the right questions.
For senior living and commercial projects, we see the perspective of all involved, including the facilities team, when designing a spec to ensure that the selections work and function for both the residents as well as the cleaning staff and maintenance requirements.

Specifically speaking, we consider the following things for different generations:

  1. Dorms: Focus on high durability, feelings of home, and creating an inspiring environment
  2. Young Families: We incorporate performance fabrics, evaluate the products used in the home to support children, etc.
  3. Empty Nesters: Downsizing, design for aging in place, primary bedroom on the main level, ADA bathrooms
  4. Senior Living: Making the environment adaptable and multi-generational, creating a beautiful aesthetic and incorporating feelings of home

Age-inclusive design is about considering vision, hearing, balance, memory, touch, aesthetic, and more when we design. We can incorporate these needs as we age while enriching lives through design.


What are some essential elements or features you consider when creating spaces that appeal to multiple generations?

At home, we suggest highly durable finishes such as washable fabrics, scuff-proof flooring, washable paints/wallcovering, hard counter surfaces, rounded edges, and nothing too precious. This approach results in a livable, comfortable home for all ages, young to old.

At the office, it’s a little different; we have to think about the workflow of generations. For example, Gen Z is much more comfortable with all things digital and moving from desk to desk, whereas many members of Gen X still want an office with storage for items they have collected over the years.

For multi-family and senior living projects, it’s essential to understand the demographics surrounding the community to provide a design and space that reflects the given environment. If the community is on the coast, add some coastal ties relative to the aesthetic, but that doesn’t mean standard beach landscape for artwork; instead, how do you create an environment that is reflective of the beach landscape? It’s about evoking a feeling and experience within the interiors that makes all generations want to stay a bit longer.


What are some key considerations you take into account when designing spaces for older adults that are both functional and aesthetically appealing?

Cabinet and door hardware can be a nuanced design element that significantly impacts the end-user. Additionally, counter finishes, flooring transitions, and overall lighting are essential as eyesight declines. Automation in the home can make aging in place much more comfortable, for example, having window sheers automated, so they don’t have to be raised and lowered manually.

For senior living or any residential project, we ensure the furniture’s scale and size are in proportion, since that can significantly impact daily routines. It becomes hard to get around as we age, therefore we want to ensure our furniture selections give the end user independence when living within a community space or in a private residence. When designing for accessibility in a community space, we want to evoke independence and make the environment comfortable. Some key elements to ensuring we do include seating with arms for ease of getting in and out and when seating is too deep, providing a lumbar pillow for support.


How do you handle situations where different generations within a family have conflicting design preferences, and how do you find common ground?

There is a delicate balance to this that requires good negotiating skills for the designer. Everyone deserves to have input on the final design, and our design process (which we explain in greater detail on our website) helps us determine how to find common ground that will be reflective of the family members living in their homes.

One tactical example includes incorporating soft surfaces for additional seating, such as ottomans and built-in benches, for visiting family members. We don’t envision the primary population utilizing these options, but when family visits, it allows for overflow seating for kids or adolescents to sit down.

We want to find a common ground for all to enjoy the space! As the designer, we are responsible for providing a solution that brings peace, compromise, and function for all parties involved within the environment.

Designing for Well-being: Exploring the impact of design on mental and physical health, including biophilic design and wellness spaces

Interior design has a, sometimes sub-conscious, profound impact on our mental and physical well-being. As our lives become increasingly intertwined with the spaces we inhabit, the design of our surroundings can either nurture or neglect our health. Today, we have the distinct pleasure of interviewing Circaphiles ambassador Angela Harris of Trio Design, whose expertise has redefined the relationship between design and well-being.

Together with Angela, we delve beyond stylish interiors, as she has harnessed her design prowess to explore the influence spaces exert on our mental and physical health. Read on to uncover the intricate connections between design and well-being, including the concept of biophilic design, a term that has been gaining momentum in the world of interior design.


Angela Harris is an American interior designer, product designer, CEO, mother, and industry board member. At her renowned interior architecture firm, Angela has spent over 23 years working directly with the nation’s most prominent builders, developers, and product manufacturers.

Her robust experience in market-driven design coupled with a Masters in Sustainable Design has led her to embark on a new journey inspired by mindful design powered by science and technology. Angela is currently earning her PhD degree in Visual Arts, pursuing research in the field of Aesthetics, Design, and the Built Environment through IDSVA.

Angela and her talented team collaborate on all aspects of master planned communities, model homes, clubhouses, sales centers, commercial, hospitality, multifamily apartment communities, and product development.


How do you balance aesthetics and functionality with the emphasis on promoting mental and physical health in your designs?

It’s been said that the future of science is in the home, and I couldn’t agree more. As a design professional, I have the opportunity to not only provide my clients with beautiful spaces but enhance their well-being on a daily basis. Luckily, on a biological level, we are hard-wired to be more attracted to spaces that mimic the natural world.


How do you incorporate the principles of biophilic design into your interior architecture projects to enhance the well-being of occupants?

Being human means taking in your surroundings 24/7, and sometimes these environments are healing, and other times they’re not. Studies have shown that interior design has the ability to ease stress levels and promote well-being through a variety of biophilic design tactics such as exposure to natural light, incorporating patterns and textures that replicate those found in nature, and the use of organic materials like wood, stone, etc.


Are there any challenges you’ve encountered when implementing biophilic design, and how do you overcome them?

Human beings use their subconscious mind more than their conscious mind. Knowing this, we are constantly judging our environment without even realizing it. As a designer, it’s important to keep this in mind so I can ensure my client is happy in their space. This can be a challenge, since there are always so many details to take into consideration – from the number of windows allowing sunlight in a room, to the texture of the carpet below your feet.

With your ongoing research in Aesthetics, Design, and the Built Environment, what exciting discoveries or trends could revolutionize the way we approach interior design for well-being?

Promoting a sense of connection with nature is simply essential for psychological well-being. Biophilic design is proven to promote better sleep, enhanced creativity, and even boost immune systems. Another way to look at it is that 90% of our time is spent indoors, so there must be a critical connection between the built environment, design, art, and well-being. At least that is the way I see it at a very fundamental level.


With your experience in various project types, from master-planned communities to commercial spaces, could you share how the concept of well-being and biophilic design varies in each context?

The concept of biophilic design can (and should) be applied to any project, whether it be a residential community or a commercial space. Human beings everywhere could benefit from this scientific research, making it a valuable tool for creating healthy and sustainable living spaces. For example, incorporating loads of natural light and fresh greenery into an office space will likely have a positive effect on the mood and cognitive function of its employees.


As a mother, how has your personal experience influenced your understanding of well-being in design, especially when it comes to family-oriented spaces?

Through the study of neuroaesthetics and biophilic design, I’ve grown to truly understand the importance of creating a healing space for kids and adults alike – one that provides them with peace of mind on a subconscious level. As a child, I was also able to experience the power of art by living with an aunt who had Schizophrenia. It was clear to me that the art on the hospital walls and the opportunities we had to create art together had a direct influence on her health and wellbeing.

Preserving the Past: Techniques for Restoring and Reviving Antique Furniture

In the realm of antique furniture, you will encounter various approaches to restoration. Warning: Not all approaches are accurate and authentic! Some restorers prioritize achieving a flawless finish that aligns with contemporary interiors, often disregarding the historical essence of the piece. Instead, seek restorers who engage in complete transformations as part of an upcycling endeavor.


A damaged antique impacts the value significantly and can easily be detected by experienced buyers and dealers, who can then adjust the price accordingly. In contrast, restoration is a complex process that can have an equal influence on the value. It is not always readily noticeable, and a skilled restorer can transform a severely damaged piece into a pristine condition. It is important to note that restored antiques are not considered fake; this is simply a way to retain their authenticity.


The process is one that cannot be rushed. Don’t let your antiques become available to amateurs…ensure these treasures are restored to their original beauty properly and precisely with these following steps:

Investigate the condition

Remember that you are acquiring an artifact that may be hundreds or even thousands of years old, so perfection cannot be expected, and natural changes or decay over time may have occurred. It is advisable to engage the expertise of professionals when it comes to restoration, storage, mounting, cleaning, or repairs of your ancient pieces.


Observe the period and genre

The first step to restoring an antique piece would be to observe the period and genre, narrowing down to a smaller range of dates when it would have been created.  If there are missing parts (like a veneer section, a carving, hardware, or a body part in figures), having knowledge of the date, a restoration specialist can source a period-correct replacement.

interior design by timothy corrigan

Repair veneer

When repairing veneer, just like matching a pattern on a chair from the cushion to the frame, the wood grain should line up with as little a break as possible.  A particular kind of glue known in the antique world for hundreds of years is bone hide glue, which exhibits great strength, low-pressure gap-filling ability, high initial tack, and fast cure.


Rebuild to restore structural instability

One of the primary reasons for furniture restoration is structural instability, such as separating joints on unbalanced chairs. Traditional approaches to address this problem involve fully disassembling and rebuilding the piece.  This comprehensive process enables thorough examination and repair of each component before carefully reassembling them to enhance precision and overall strength as needed.

Shine on

Finishes like French polish, wax, and shellac are key in bringing the shine back to the surface of antique wood.  Waxing a table-top regularly will allow the surface to resist moisture from a glass of sweating ice water.  To preserve your item’s integrity, avoid subjecting it to sudden fluctuations in temperature, humidity, or brightness.





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Treasure Hunting: Tips for Interior Designers to Source and Curate Antique Pieces

“According to the official definition, any item that surpasses the century mark is classified as an antique.  Therefore, any item is more than 40 years old and less than 100 years old is considered vintage.”

 – Toma Clark Haines, The Antiques Diva


Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a curious enthusiast, the enchanting realm of antiques is fascinating and complex, and takes much time and careful research to master. At the forefront of my own interior design projects are these exquisite pieces of furniture, where stories of bygone eras are woven into every curve and color. With endless hours dedicated to this craft, I am sharing a few of my best tips to discovering these timeless treasures! Read on before you begin your quest for artful artifacts…

Real versus Fake

  1. Furniture that is not antique is described as an “antique reproduction” or “inspired”, as in “a Jean-Michel Frank Inspired sculpture.”
  2. Real antiques are always accompanied by an age, as in “circa 1800” or “early 19th century.”

First, find out from your client their level of expectation for antiques. Are they seeking museum quality, or will they stand for some patina or a new part, such as hardware or a mirror plate?


How to find a reputable dealer

To become a member of trade associations, dealers must fulfill specific requirements. Being a part of these associations offers enhanced protection for both customers and dealers. In the event of any issues arising from your purchase, and if you are unable to reach a resolution directly with the dealer, you can seek assistance from these organizations for guidance and mediation. Notable associations include the Antiquities Dealers Association (ADA), LAPADA, International Association of Dealers of Ancient Art (IADAA) and Confédération Internationale des Négociants en Oeuvres d’Art (CINOA). By visiting the websites of these organizations, you can access lists of reputable dealers.

interior design by circagenevieve id

Due diligence required

This is a series of thorough examinations to ensure that the items sold are not counterfeit, illegally obtained, or stolen. In addition to relying on their own expertise, this process may involve seeking advice from other specialists and restorers. For higher-value items, it is crucial to cross-reference the object with online databases of stolen items, such as the Art Loss Register or Art Recovery, to ensure its legitimacy.

Pro tip? Keep and preserve any receipts or certificates that are given to you when making a purchase. These documents become an integral part of the object’s provenance, which holds significant importance. Notably, as the value and significance of an item increase, more comprehensive details regarding its origin and history are required.


Guarantee of authenticity

Every trustworthy dealer will furnish a certificate of authenticity for the item, which should encompass a photograph, description, and the item’s condition at the time of sale, to the best of their knowledge.

In buying from a reputable dealer, you are assisting the preservation of cultural heritage that normally would not find a place in a museum and supporting the legal trade of ancient art. The trade, museums and academia are inextricably linked in fostering research, preservation and conservation of artifacts. Nowadays, many dealers and trade associations support preservation by fundraising for museums and by contributing to research and scholarship with grants or expertise. Many private collectors choose to publish and lend their collections to museums and institutions, exchanging ideas and expertise with academics and the public alike.

Auction Houses

A practice I’ve been implementing in my career (and inspired by my great mentor, Timothy Corrigan) is sourcing from auction houses. Christie’s, Sotheby’s, Bonhams, Doyle, Bruun Rasmussen are all personal favorites and houses from which I’ve won the hammer!  I have gathered storied pieces of great provenance from Stair Galleries for my current Neo-Gothic project in Utah.

  1. Prices are often far less at auction than at an antiques dealer’s shop.
  2. If the description is vague, reach out to their support team to inquire more about the condition report or additional images.
  3. Bidding online at Live Auctioneers for many houses across the world makes the process very simple.
  4. If you aren’t able to log on during the scheduled auction, place an absentee bid for your highest price you/your client is willing to pay for the item.


Circaphiles top 5 favorite antique sources

  1. Provenance Antiques in Atlanta
  2. Marche aux Puces in Paris
  3. Decorative Collective – The UK and European version of 1stdibs.  You can communicate directly with our Sellers, no commission is charged to Sellers or Clients. The website is very transparent and encourages discussions between both parties. 
  4. Some dealers are “hunters,” for example Mitra Kilburn, the Art and Antique Hunter, who travels throughout Europe with specific wish lists from designers.
  5. Newel Antiques – always on my list when I visit New York!




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