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In part one of this four part series, I introduced you to Elizabeth CB Marsh, an Associate Interior Designer with the firm Jenkins Baer Associates.  In Part 2, we talked a bit about some of the projects she had working and some of her thoughts on such things as writing contracts.  In Part 3, we discussed some of how she manages the many and varied projects and pricing.  For Parts 2 and 3, I am thankful friends @ the Interiors by Studio M Blog for hosting.

Here for the final installment of “Month in the Life of an Interior Designer”, we close with a discussion of Elizabeth’s style. We discuss what it’s like working for a big firm. And Elizabeth’s tips for homeowner thinking about working with an interior designer. Enjoy!

upstairs contemporary media room title card for interiors by Studio M

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Working as an Associate Interior Designer

Elizabeth CB Marsh of JBAElizabeth is from Baltimore, Towson.  Out of college, and after a brief stint with a commercial architecture firm, she joined Jenkins Baer Associates as a design assistant to Jay Jenkins.  Her background in architectural interiors, she accepted the role of Associate just two years ago. Of this she says, “I can’t even describe to you how I grappled with that decision for so long.”  She initially turned down the offer claiming she was too young.  “I was nervous about losing my salary, etc,” she says.

I asked her squarely about the pros and cons of working with a larger firm like JBA.  She says, “Pros & Cons? Hmmmm… Pro-Easy. I get a desk, computer, receptionist, billing department, inventory manager, tons of resources.”  With the Cons, she continues, “The firm takes a good chunk of the money I earn.”

But as Elizabeth looks back now, she says, “The best decision I ever made was accepting the Associate.” She tells how lucky she is in the current economic climate, continuing, “When I think things are slowing down, a new and interesting client always pops up.  I’ve heard that’s not the case for everyone in the industry right now, so I really couldn’t be happier.”  She stops here and again continues, “Well, that is … unless a celebrity with an unlimited budget asked me to design their whole house, however I wanted, with no deadline … then I could be happier.  We can all dream, can’t we?”

Defining (Her) Style

I asked Elizabeth to describe her style.  In part, it seems driven by her love of oil painting, and in fact, like other designers I know, she is a painter.  Her work, some examples I saw hung in her office, in my eyes is pretty impressive … have a look for yourself.

Vaffanculo an Oil Painting by Elizabeth CB MarshWhen citing specific influences, she mentions Bunny Williams, Kelly Wearstler and Victoria Hagan, among others.  She says, “I am driven by items that have unique, well-made qualities to them.  I would say that I tend to relate more to the transitional rather than the ultra-modern or traditional, BUT I appreciate great style no matter.”

And looking at her overall work, connections may not always be immediately made.  When I ask why, she attributes this always to the project at hand.  “I find that I gear every project so much toward the client. I mean – I can have two projects going on simultaneously and you wouldn’t necessarily know that they are both mine.”  She finishes by saying, “I still haven’t figured out if that is good or a bad thing.”

On Working in Baltimore

transitional living room Photo by Tommy SheldonHaving learned that Baltimore is very limited in product showroom, I asked Elizabeth how she feels about being a designer in Baltimore … if she feels that it stacks up with other large metro areas.  To this, she says, “… I’m extremely happy with Baltimore being the central “hub” from which I work. I have access to wonderful clients who are down the street from me, but am close enough to both D.C. and NYC for day trips to either.”

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“Would I love to one day have clients who are more scattered? California? NYC?  Totally. I’m absolutely okay with travel.  If I hypothetically owned my own firm one day and was able to grow the firm enough, I think it would be great to have a secondary office in NYC – in my opinion, the level of creativity and innovative furniture, lighting, wallcovering. ANY design in that city is unmatched, and I would love to have easy access to all of those one-of-a- kind sources.”

Tips for Homeowners

I asked, “What would your advice be for homeowners considering working with an interior designer?”

Hickory Chair Sample Board“Simple,” she says, “Go online first! Educate yourself! Furniture and decor is now more easily accessible than ever. And I find it stunning sometimes when a new client needs, say – a sofa, two chairs, a coffee table, area rugs, lamps, draperies, pillows, artwork, side tables for a living room, and then is shocked when the overall price comes back for that room.”

She continues and touching on some of the strategies she uses in working with clients. “I will tell new homeowners, especially if they are young, go on Restoration Hardware. Are you comfortable with those prices? Even as they add up? Then go on West Elm. Is that more your price range? From there, it’s my job to inform the client that they really do get what they pay for. That West Elm piece, while trendy and inexpensive, probably won’t have the longevity of say a Hickory Chair piece.”

Transitional Bathroom with Metallic Wallpaper Pattern Client Kafka Curtis Martin.jpg

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My thanks out to Elizabeth for taking the time out of her incredible busy schedule, and her patience.  We met in February, chatted in May.  I mean- it took me so long to compile these articles that she actually had time to change her name.  ha! She got married!  Congrats Elizabeth and continued success out to you.  Elizabeth can be found here, her page on the JBA website.  You can also find her on Houzz.

Thanks for reading.  ~ jb