“I love unveiling the final product to a client who has entrusted me while they were not here for the process. Every project that ends with a happy client is a favorite one!” — Christine Neal, Allied ASID
From wall coverings to furniture, fabrics and fixtures, Christine Neal, Allied ASID, regards the creative process that is her profession as an art technique that helps her clients express their passions through the places they live. Whether it’s where they eat, sleep or relax, she makes it her mission to make sure they feel great in it, she says. “It’s what I love to do.”
A native of Elizabeth, N.J., Ms. Neal earned a degree in fine art from Oakland Community College in Michigan and a diploma in interior design from the Interior Design Institute. She moved to Southwest Florida 20 years ago and joined the design team at Robb & Stucky seven years ago. Her work on a condominium in Altaira at The Colony won a 2017 Sand Dollar Award.
Describe your approach to interior design in no more than five words. Listen. Research. Plan. Create. Fun!
When/how did you know you wanted to be an interior designer? I feel like the love and desire have been a part of me all my life.
Christine Neal of Robb & Stucky worked with the owners of this home in Twin Eagles to create their dream of a contemporary setting for their artwork and other collections.
Tell us something about your very first project: When/where was it? What did it entail? What was your budget? It was in 1993, in Wyandotte, Mich., a small town on the Detroit River. I had a very small budget to turn a historic building that had been gutted to its studs into a coffee bar and art gallery. Function and flow were imperative, as were the aesthetics.
Tell us something about your most challenging project. My first project was also my most challenging.
And tell us something about a favorite project. What made it so great? I honestly don’t have a favorite project. I love unveiling the final product to a client who has entrusted me while they were not here for the process. Every project that ends with a happy client is a favorite one.
What is your favorite room/place in your own home?
Our master bath. We renovated a 1969 space to make it exactly what we want. The lighting, wallpaper, fixtures … everything is an expression of our style.
Tell us three things you consider must-haves for a great room/family room where people gather? It must be comfortable. It must have color. And it must have good lighting.
Walk us through the process when you start a new project with a client.
The design process is very personal, so it is critical that I understand the client’s needs and expectations if we are to be a successful team. I ask a lot of questions. To me, the most important skill for a designer to have is the ability to listen to the client and then to use his or her expertise to create the space the client wants. Also as part of getting to know a new client, we do a walk-through of the Robb & Stucky showroom together, and I make sure they understand the many services we offer. A great relationship at the beginning results in a great outcome.
For clients who are new to Southwest Florida, what is something you have found that surprises many of them about having a home here? They are often surprised by the importance of the outdoor living spaces in their home.
Describe the perfect client. Any clients who loves the outcome of their design project!
Remodel or start from scratch? Do you have a preference? Which do you do more of ? I enjoy every portion of design, and my work is done in both areas equally. For me, it’s as exciting to start with a blank canvas as it is to redesign an existing space.
The owners purchased a spec home in Twin Eagles that had neutral backgrounds and cabinetry already in place throughout. Accent colors in blue and coral were inspired by a piece of art from their collection. Designer Christine Neal used satin gold lighting fixtures for a sophisticated touch and a variety of textures in wallpapers, window treatments and upholstery to add richness and depth.
Any trends you especially love today? I love the move toward decluttering and mixing mediums. But what I really love is creating personal spaces rather than following any trends.
Any words of wisdom for a young person who thinks they want to be an interior designer? Learn to listen and focus on your client’s wants and needs. Remember, it’s their space and you are there to advise and assist them on how to make it what they want.
What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t doing this? I don’t know, but it would most definitely be something creative. ¦