Blair Parkes and Susan Lamb begin every conversation with clients by asking two questions: “How can we help you with your project?” and “What is your personal style?” These questions allow them to set the course for each project. Priding themselves on being good listeners, the design duo put their clients first. Through their namesake boutique interior design firm, Parkes and Lamb Interiors, they create spaces that inspire, organize, relax, prepare and nurture — in a way that is reflective of the client.
Susan’s love of design and architecture came at a young age. “I’ve been fascinated with architecture, especially old homes and interiors, for as long as I can remember,” she tells us. This love led her to study interior design at O’More College of Design. After graduating in 2009, working for local design firms and later branching out on her own, Susan embarked on a partnership with Blair.
For Blair, decorating starting as a side gig. After earning her degree in special education, she began teaching for the visually impaired; decorating and design were creative outlets. Soon, her love and appreciation for interiors grew into a full-time job. Although a seemingly drastic departure from her previous field, Blair continued to find the joy in helping others. So, she took on designing full time, and in 2014, Blair and Susan combined their skills and love of the industry. “We were friends before business partners, and we both knew it would be fun to work with someone else, but also knew it has to be the perfect fit in terms of personality and work ethic. We decided to give our design partnership a try and haven’t looked back since,” Blair says.
Today, these friends and designers sit down to answer a few of our questions. Read on to see why we are crushing on these two ladies and their interior design aesthetic.
What is your design aesthetic, and how does it set you apart?
Susan: I think our overall aesthetic could be described as timeless, refined, inviting and, most importantly, livable. It’s important for us to get to know our clients and we want the spaces we design to reflect their unique lifestyle and personality.
Blair: We love to say that “our style is your style.” We do contemporary, traditional, transitional, you name it! Our style is all over the map, which makes each day unique and fun. We work with all types of budgets, and we value and treat each project with the same amount of heart and attention to detail. We have projects that range from new construction, to helping someone with window treatments. We really like to listen to our clients in our first meeting and absorb their space and really get a feel for what they are wanting. The fun part is putting your own interpretation to their style and really getting them excited about their project on presentation day. We love a design challenge and trying to figure out the parts to the puzzle. Each space we create is unique to the client.
How do your aesthetics differ?
Susan: Simple, warm, collected, natural. Overall, I’d say my personal style is still evolving.
Blair: I am from Birmingham originally, and the style that I grew up with is something that I have carried over into my own home. My personal style is more warmer tones with a natural, organic feel. I love juxtaposing contemporary lines such as in upholstery or fabrics, paired with antiques and objects that have history and tell a story.
At Parkes and Lamb Interiors, what design services do you offer?
Susan: We are a full-service interior design firm. We are open to projects of all sizes, from a simple color consultation to designing a single room or a full house.We also offer new construction and remodeling design services. Our process is organized and predictable for our clients. We like to say that we hold our client’s hand through the process. We start group texts and emails, and we strongly encourage open communication. We like to always have a date scheduled for our clients so that they can anticipate the next meeting. We have our initial meeting at the client’s house, where we get a feel for what they are wanting. Then, we send our design agreement to the client that lays out the scope of work. After this, we measure their space and take pictures, and then we have our design presentation, where we come with visuals, fabrics and inspiration pictures. After this is the reselection phase, where we have another meeting with reselections to finalize everything. Then, the proposal is sent, approved and ordering starts. The best part is install day! We are there with all of our laborers and delivery trucks, and we like for our clients to come in at the end and have that “WOW” effect!
Can you tell us a little bit more about your E-Design service?
Susan: Of course! The process is conducted online, making it convenient and affordable for the client. This is a great option for clients who want a custom-designed space but prefer to work as their own project manager and at their own pace. It is still an interactive process, and from us you will receive floor plans, an inspiration board, room elevations, design specifications such as furniture, fabrics, paint, lighting, etc., and a shopping list, which includes where to purchase the items we selected for you. This way the client can purchase at their leisure.
Blair: This is a great service for someone who wants to work with a designer, but is comfortable implementing the design on their own. It’s also a great option for someone who enjoys shopping and searching for deals but needs direction and inspiration. The service includes a custom design with a detailed floor plan, design concept board and a complete shopping list. Our E-Design service also includes the option to purchase items through many of our to-the-trade-only sources, at special pricing.
What has been your most challenging project to date and why?
Blair: We had an historic renovation project in Oxford, MS, Susan’s hometown. It was such an old home and all the exterior changes had to be approved by the local Historic Preservation Commission. The goal was to give the house new life while preserving the home’s historical character and reusing the existing exterior materials. It took two years, but well worth it!
What are your predictions for interior design trends?
Susan: Color and bold patterns are definitely coming back. For a long time the transitional and neutral look was popular, but now we are seeing that fade and more risk-taking happening with color, patterns, furniture style, etc.
What are your best tips for picking paint colors?
Susan: Whenever possible make choosing paint the last selection when planning a space. There are thousands of paint colors, but there may only be a few sofa fabrics that you love and work for your budget. And always test colors first. Lighting is different in every room and can completely change how a color is perceived.
Blair: Look at it at different times of day, especially if it’s an exterior color. Put up the mock up, drive by in the morning, afternoon and evening. You don’t want to pick a pretty color on a swatch and then drive by at high noon and what you thought was a white house looks yellow! For interior colors, have all of your fabrics next to your paint deck, because what looks pretty online may not go with your fabrics. Test several samples next to your trim, because sometimes your trim appears a different color next to certain colors. And, “don’t cry ’til it’s dry!” Wait until the whole room is painted and dried, and you will have that WOW effect you’re wanting.
Do you have any go-to stores for interior design finds?
Susan: Check out Preservation Station and McKay’s for unique architectural elements and books! Bennett Galleries represents some of our favorite artists. Designers Gallery is our local trade showroom and an invaluable resource when planning spaces for our clients.
Would you share one designer secret with StyleBlueprint readers?
Susan: Mix in some funky art. It’s guaranteed to start a conversation! Interesting art will pair well with any style.
What is your best advice for new designers?
Blair: Go for it! If you believe in your work and your product, you will be successful. Also, ask a lot of questions. When we were starting out, we would take other designers to lunch and pick their brains. We are always happy when a new designer reaches out to us, and we will always take the time to pay that forward.
What are three household items you couldn’t live without?
Blair: My porch swing, because my family spends a lot of time in the evening on the porch. My microwave because I barely cook. And flowers! I love to have fresh flowers all around the house because they really brighten a room and your day.
Susan: White percale sheets from Pine Cone Hill. I got a set after college and have been hooked ever since. They are perfectly cool and crisp! A French press — it’s how I make my coffee every day. Lamps, because lamp light makes everything and everyone look better!
If you could squeeze your design philosophy into five words, what would they be?
Susan and Blair: Work hard and have fun!
Thank you Susan and Blair for answer all of our burning questions!
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