“Someone is trusting you. Be trustworthy” is the core philosophy of Long Island interior designer Annette Jaffe. Client trust is at the core of her design – she earns it through her radical transparency on billing and her chameleon-like capacity to adjust her design styles to meet the needs of her clients and their homes. She is a designer that takes pride in not having a “signature style” that gets imposed on her clients.
I’m excited to introduce you to Annette’s gorgeous interior designs. Her creative approach is defined by how the residents of a home will use their space. She creates designs that will allow her clients to make the most of their homes or commercial enterprise. Annette is known to encourage her clients to have a long-term view of their homes and she offers design solutions that can accommodate changes in their lives. She believes that people and situations are constantly changing, and design should accommodate and reflect these changes. She always aims to be one step ahead of the inevitable changes of life.
Annette’s work has been featured in various media and caught my eye for its unique visual quality. I just had to feature her work and her insights on design and enjoyed every bit of this interview.
So without further ado, please welcome Annette.
Q: What inspired you to move from designing home furnishings to designing interiors?
Annette: Moving from designing decorative accessories and home furnishings was a natural transition and a confluence of personal and professional changes. I became a mother in my mid-30’s and traveling the world became less appealing and more difficult. At the same time, I was approached by a competitor who wanted to buy my company and offered me a design contract. I had always wanted to flip houses, and being someone who believes in forward motion, I set fear of change aside and went for it.
Q: I see earthy, natural palettes and materials in your residential designs. Your commercial designs are all about patterns, bold prints, and bright colors. What’s different in your approach to designing residential and commercial properties?
Annette: My strong business acumen is a key factor in our commercial partnerships. If a potential tenant is looking at several apartment complexes in an area, I believe the properties typically blend together – so we try to create an impression to differentiate our clients’ properties. A bright orange ceiling, a hanging sofa are among ways of encouraging a potential tenant to remember the property. In collateral material, bold colors and strong forms also help a property stand out.
Residences are completely different. They require budgeting and responsibility, but the homeowner lives there permanently, and while it is experiential, it’s also a reflection of their personality. How does the homeowner see themselves and what does the home communicate about them to their social world always comes into play.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to renovate or buy a home on Long Island?
Annette: Houses and land can be seductive, and people’s lives change. I always encourage homeowners to design for now but try to encourage them to think about what they don’t know. You may want your kids close to you when they are little, but that may not always be true. Look at your community and consider how far you want to go for milk, to catch a train, or to attend a class. You may not be doing those things now, but just try and find a place you can grow and change with. It’s a balance with tradeoffs. If you want peace and privacy you may not have a neighbor to call so easily for that missing recipe ingredient. I lived in all kinds of places and all kinds of settings, and there are benefits and costs to all.
Q: Your designs have a sophisticated style, and you're known for creating versatile spaces. How do you find the balance between aesthetics and function?
Annette: Knowledge, respect for clients’ lifestyle, product performance, and quality installation are all key to having beautiful design that functions. If we are specifying a light for a laundry room, to give a small example, we want to calculate the lumens as they relate to the square footage in addition to the size, finish, and aesthetic of the light. It’s pretty easy to make a place beautiful. When a client lets me know they love their laundry room, I know it’s working for them in every way. Good design stands up. If you go into a clothing store and try on an outfit you may look beautiful in it but if you don’t feel beautiful and you can’t go about your day in those clothes, their being beautiful is not enough. You’ll hear me say, “it’s beautiful, but it’s not our beautiful for this project.” Recently we joked with a client, “That’s for the family we want to be in our minds. Let’s get something for the family we are.”
Q: I see a lot of statement lighting in your designs. Is that an Annette Jaffe Interiors signature style?
Annette: I believe AJI has a signature way of doing business not a signature style. Our billing is transparent, and we want to find a way to bring together furniture, fixtures, and accessories that tell our clients’ stories. Our best clients are our courageous ones who have a vision, a connection to materials, and who attach meaning to things they inherited or purchased on a trip or a love of fine art. When you combine what you love you put your own touch on design.
Q: I love how you add touches of quirk to your elegant designs with playful art and posters. How do you select these pieces?
Annette: The memorable and creative projects we’ve done are usually in partnership with our best clients who understand to trust our relationship, the firm, and the process. Several years ago, we saw a giant birdcage, and I told the client “We’re making it a bar,” and she was thrilled. Another time I was in an antique resale shop, and there was a chandelier crated in a box, I couldn’t even see it fully, but when I called and said, “This is your light,” the response was “Do it.” We can’t do this without trusting partners.
Q: How do you think interior design will evolve in the next few years?
Annette: We are looking at virtual reality and coming to understand the differences between how our clients in their 20s and our clients in their 80s communicate and make decisions. Being bombarded with images on the internet like everything else has good and bad. I think experience is the best teacher and leaves us informed. Computer generated patterns have changed surface imaging but walking through the Santa Barbara Gardens is as wonderful an inspiration as are the flea markets and antique stores of Paris. Inspiration is everywhere and I’m aware of the tactile experience often being replaced by screen time. The outcome, I suspect, may be home becoming more important than ever.
It was a joy getting to know Annette’s work and her design story. I encourage my readers to look at her work on Annette Jaffe Interiors and follow her for design updates on Facebook, Instagram, and Houzz.♥