Designer Crush Q&A: Karen VidalAuthor:Rachel Amy Shahvar
We are so inspired by the Vidal’s commitment to, “save, renovate and restore” instead of buying new, love their enthusiasm for homes with character and history, and are so happy to chat with Karen for our Designer Crush Q&A!
1. Where do you currently live in CA and what’s your favorite thing about how you’ve designed your personal space?
l live in Silver Lake with my husband Guy and our two kids. Guy and I purchased our home from the former owner who had lived there for 40 years! It had green shag carpeting, acoustic ceiling, heavy drapes and bars on all the tiny windows. We saw the potential and loved the location–right across from the Silver Lake reservoir. We brought the house down to the studs, added the second floor and the pool. We really thought about what we wanted (such as display cabinets for family memorabilia, a piano nook; a roman tub; and a large dining room banquette) how we wanted to space to look (modern, yet classic) and function (modern, yet cozy). We put together a comprehensive overall vision before we started demo. It’s been 8 years since we finished our renovation and we are still super happy with the result. My favorite thing about our home is our huge dining room banquette – the nerve center of the house – where we eat, play, read, hang out, have serious meetings, etc.
2. What’s your dream design project? Who would it be for (dead or alive)?
I wish Elvis and Ann-Margret had run off together after filming “Viva Las Vegas”, and I could have designed an island sanctuary for them…
3. In real life, what’s your favorite project you’ve completed to date?
Ohh, that’s really too hard to answer! I love so many of the projects we’ve done. When we started, we were restoring houses that would have been torn down and it felt like we were saving little pieces of LA history. The ultimate ‘save’ was that of 1515 Elevado St, a beautiful, forlorn and badly dilapidated spanish 4 plex, ear marked for demolition, that we managed to transform, over 12 months, into a 4000 sq ft Mediterranean oasis. Definitely one of our favorite.
4. You’ve been gifted a fabulously furnished dream home but can only bring one item from your current space. What would it be?
My huge Calphalon frying pan that I bought on Lower Broadway in NYC when I was in college. I love it so much–I take it with me camping or if we go away for the weekend and I plan on cooking.
5. What’s your creative process when designing a space?
We specialize in restorations of what people lovingly call “character homes”, homes that have a lot of personality. I like to stay in the language of the homes’ architecture, tackle the problem areas in a way that is seamless. It really pleases me when many of my clients tell me that people think the kitchen we’ve just remodeled is original to their home, and in remarkably good shape!
6. Where do you score your favorite interior design items? Any shopping tips?
How can I put this delicately–I love to shop! So my shopping tip would be to shop. Anywhere! Pull over at the store on Santa Monica that has a cute dresser on the sidewalk. See what else they have. Pop into that store with the lights in the window that look really pricey and check it out. You never know what you might find where.
7. Ever had an epic DIY disaster? What project would you never take on again yourself?
The very first home we restored needed to be completely redone from the brick foundation (that we replaced with a concrete one) to the rotting roof and everything in between. The painter we had hired just sort of left the job near the end, and I thought I would be able to finish up the paint. Me painting a tongue and groove ceiling on top of a ladder was not a very fun time. It’s so hard to have your hands over your head for hours with your neck tilted up, trying not to get paint in your face! It wasn’t an epic DIY disaster, but it was a very eye opening experience as I realized the value of working with people who are skilled at what they do. Since then I’ve assembled a regular crew of artisans that I’ve worked with for years!
8. What new design trend are you excited to integrate into your next project?
I’m super excited because I’m designing cement tile and I just saw my first production tiles today! I’m a huge fan of cement tile, and incorporate it frequently into my designs. Now I get to try out one of my own designs.
9. Lightning round!
Beach or mountains?
Twitter or Facebook?
Architectural Digest or Wallpaper?
Should you spend money on a fabulous bathroom or kitchen?
Would you rather shop new or vintage?
Great view or perfect pool?
SF or LA?
10. What’s one tip you wish someone had told you when first starting out in the design world?
That estimated budgets and completion dates are mostly a fantasy – we didn’t know what we were getting into when we bought our first house and fixed it up. It was a huge learning curve.
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