We sat down with interior designer Rachel Vanek to talk design styles, favorite projects, and what it’s like designing for our affiliate company, Inside Stories by Duet Design Group. Get to know Rachel, learn about Inside Stories, and start a project with the Inside Stories team today.
Tell us a little about your background and why you decided to become an interior designer.
I knew from a young age that I wanted to be an interior designer. I was always finding ways to rearrange my room growing up and obsessing over HGTV. I worked my way through design school with odd jobs and then landed a dream internship where I stayed for 6+ years, growing my knowledge while designing model homes.
What is one of your key design philosophies?
– Repetition: I always want to make sure a color/style/finish/material is repeated throughout the room or home (preferably in 3’s or odd numbers). This creates continuity and makes each piece feel more purposeful.
What would you say are some of your strengths as a designer?
– Art: I love mixing different mediums and unique pieces of art for clients – especially when it’s a new build and they have very little existing art. Art is the best (and easiest) way to bring out a client’s style and personality. It also can create drama, warmth, and character in a space.
– Budgeting: Designing model homes for 6+ years, you become really good at finding deals and mixing Gap with Gucci (low-end with high-end price points!). There are times when a client has no idea what a realistic budget for a room can be, so it takes some coaching and explaining. But working with clients who are limited by a lower budget just makes the challenge more fun, and it forces me to get thriftier and think outside the box.
What are some of your pet peeves as a designer?
Restoration Hardware: Every other client says it’s their preferred retail furniture store. The fact is, it’s a name brand, and you’re paying big bucks just for that name. We can find equally beautiful and more unique pieces elsewhere. RH also lacks personality and character, with little to no pattern and the same 20 gray/tan/greige fabrics through all their lines. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve walked into a home that is all RH and the client/friend can’t understand why it doesn’t feel homey! Don’t get me wrong – I can understand the draw. RH is easy for clients to visualize in their space because they have amazing imagery and marketing materials, as well as a HUGE local showroom. But I’m just over the name.
Where do you look for inspiration? Are there any recent examples of things that have inspired your work?
I’d say Instagram is my main source of inspiration these days. Truth is, I’m a busy working woman/wife/mom who is always on the go. It’s so easy to pull out my phone while in between meetings or during design days and flip through the latest #designinspo postings.
What are 3 of your favorite projects you’ve worked on and why?
1. CHANTILLY LACE Project (LoHi Condo): This condo was a completely blank slate, and the client was an artist with an amazing style. The couple wanted a modern black/white/gold feel while still incorporating some of their collected pieces. (2019-2020, LoHi, Denver, Colorado, Condo)
2. SOUTH MEDEA Holiday: This was a Duet Design Group client who wanted help styling for the holidays (Thanksgiving through Christmas). Fellow Inside Stories interior designer Karleen and I tag-teamed the project, and we had so much fun. We designed custom wreaths, garlands, and tablescapes, and then installed everything together. It was an all-around beautiful project – enhancing the already beautiful design Duet Design Group created with Christmas magic. (Fall 2019, Denver, Colorado, Custom Home)
3. IRON ORE Project (Transitional/Modern): These clients have been repeats for quite a few years! Inside Stories has helped them with adding drapery and paint colors all the way to adding a golf simulator in their basement, and everything in between. I personally loved mixing his modern, clean style with her transitional, colorful flare. (2017-2020, Littleton, Colorado, Custom Home)
What do you like about being a Designer with Inside Stories?
The flexibility has been amazing, especially since I’m a mom to two littles (ages 3 and 5). Working as an Inside Stories designer still allows me to be at every sporting event, work from home on sick days, and enjoy my evenings with them. I also love that no two projects are the same because our process is so client-driven. We give the clients multiple opportunities to share their personality and personal style. This allows us to create truly unique designs, tailor specifically for each individual project!
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not designing?
When I’m not designing, I enjoy spending time with family (both immediate and extended). Whether it’s simply enjoying the laughs of my children or having dinner with my parents, I love being around family. We also like getting out and seeing all Colorado has to offer (ie. zoos, museums, hot springs, parks, etc). I also enjoy crafting mosaics, party décor, and t-shirts to name a few.