When designer, Judith Balis, of Nest Instinctual Interiors
, first stepped foot into her 1970’s ranch home ten years ago, she was greeted by an interior that may have sent other buyers running for the hills. Judith was able to see beyond the shag carpeting, outdated baths and heavy wood paneling. Some family members had their doubts, seriously wondering if she knew what she was getting into.
Even as she washed dishes in the bathtub
, Judith had faith knowing the house had good bones and great potential. It was a diamond in the rough, just waiting for the right person to come rescue it...and rescue it, she did! The home Judith shares with her husband and two daughters is beautiful and well-designed…easily meeting with style the needs of an active family of four.
Recently, I had the enjoyment of talking with Judith about her home and how she was able to transform it from an ugly duckling into the beautiful swan it is today.
Judith, could you share a little about your background, career and how you became interested in design?
I think I have been a decorating and design junkie since birth. While other kids were outside riding their bikes, I was either redecorating my bedroom or creating new homes and accessories for anything and everything…my Barbie lived VERY well! I was also raised by a single mother on a VERY limited income, so I learned early on how to make something beautiful out of what I had available to me. I learned that $1.00 sheets from the thrift store and a package of RIT dye were a great way to get fabric yardage to sew bedspreads, pillows, napkins, and even some of my own clothes (luckily it was during the early Madonna era, so frumpy was chic!). Rusty old doorknobs found out by the back shed turned upside down became flower vases, and spray paint could make almost anything look brand new! When it was time to go to college, we didn’t have a school of design here and I married young which kept me from leaving, so as my initial career I chose to follow my other passion and became a teacher. It was around the time of the birth of my second child that I noticed that there was no one offering decorating and design services to “regular” people with “regular” budgets. Most designers/decorators wouldn’t even LOOK at you unless you had a budget of $50,000 or higher for your project, and that is when I had my light bulb
moment. I decided to use my gift for thrift, hang up my teaching hat, and start my own company, NEST Interiors, in order to help fill that void in the community…and I have woken up with a smile on my face every single day since then!
How would you describe your design philosophy?
I start each of my jobs with the mindset of a Sociologist. One of the most important parts of my job is to OBSERVE and LISTEN in order to really find out the essence of WHO my clients are and HOW they live their lives. People don’t always know what they want, so it is my job is to weed through all the millions of choices and make selections based on what I know about them as individuals (do they have kids or pets, do they entertain a lot, do they like to curl up with a good book, do they dress themselves in bright colors or muted tones, what kinds of jobs do they do, are they most comfortable in structured environments or active and creative environments, etc), and how the physical space can be best utilized to meet their needs. It is only after I get a feel for who my client’s ARE as people, that I can begin to do any sort of actual decorating/design work.
We are so excited to tour your beautiful home today! Could you tell us a little about your home...the style of the architecture, age, and the condition when you first moved in?
Oh my. This house has been a true labor of love. It is a 1970’s ranch that was, for the most part, “untouched” when we bought it 10 years ago. It was covered in wall to wall, worn-through, green, shag carpet and wood paneling, but we knew it had good bones, and could be a glorious home for us with a little elbow grease and lipstick! I wish I could share the “before” pictures with you, you would GASP and wonder why anyone in their right mind would buy such a house! My parents just shook their heads for the first few months after we purchased…and we LIVED in it while we renovated…with our 6 year old daughter in tow! It was quite an adventure, to say the least.
Were there any particular needs or functions that guided the direction of your renovations i.e....children, working from home, pets, etc..?
This house has gone through several changes over the years. When our second child was born, we added on a master suite in order to keep everyone on the same floor, and when my husband and I both started working out of our home, we had to convert one of the lower bedrooms to an additional office so that we could each have a separate “his and her” office. We call it, The Marriage Saver!
Did you encounter any special challenges during the renovation process...and if so, how did you overcome those?
It’s really hard to remain objective and not over think EVERYTHING when it’s your own home! What’s that saying…”the cobbler’s children have no shoes”…? I had SOOOO many ideas going into this project, so the hardest part for me was wrangling, hog-tying, and corralling them all into a single plan that both, made sense, AND fit into our very limited budget…as well as being able to be executed quickly since we were living here during construction and washing dishes in the bathtub was only “fun” for about a day!
A couple of the rooms have been re-redone over time due to a change in my aesthetic as well as saving up enough money to do them “right”…like our daughter’s bathroom
for instance. When we initially remodeled that room, we used inexpensive “birch-like” veneer cabinetry, vinyl flooring, and laminate counter tops. Not that there’s anything wrong with those materials and they offered us an affordable way to remodel a bathroom at the time, but they did not fit with the true “vision” I had in mind for that room. A couple years ago, we added the new custom cabinet (designed by me and built by my brilliant carpenter for a LOT less than the stock pieces I had been eyeballing), the marble countertops, and the new tile floors. Now, I LOVE this room.
I love your walls in your Living Room. How did you achieve the look?
The wall treatment in the LR is something I was experimenting with. It is a base coat of red, then I used glaze and orange paint and dragged it across the wall horizontally with a wallpaper brush. After that was dry, I used glaze and gold metallic paint and dragged it across vertically with a wallpaper brush so that it created a kind of "woven" look.
Often homeowners struggle with designing and decorating their homes. What are the advantages of working with a designer and at what point in a renovation or new build should a homeowner bring a designer into the process?
The answer to this question varies with the individual. Some people have a pretty clear idea about what they want and may just need someone to come in and help them edit and stay focused. While others don’t really have any idea about what they want, and may need someone to come in and help guide them through the journey one step at a time. Remodeling or building a home can be overwhelming! There are so many decisions to be made and choices available, so a designer/decorator can not only help you to stay focused and bring your dream to fruition, but more importantly, they can help you to see things from the perspective of scale, flow, and function. The biggest mistake people make is not looking at the “big picture” when designing their homes. Where will your furniture go? Does it create a functional flow for your family? Will you need floor outlets for ambient lighting? Etc.. There is so much more that goes into a room besides paint colors and fabric choices, and a good designer can help you sort out those issues while there is still time to do something about them.
Judith, thanks so much for taking us on this delightful tour of your beautiful home.