PROFILE #002: ELAINE SANTOS, Interior Designer, BarlisWedlick Architects

PROFILE #002: Elaine Santos, Interior Designer, BarlisWedlick Architects


In this episode, we talked to Elaine about the interior design process from client consultation & concept presentations to scouting, procurement (of furniture, decorative lighting, textiles, and more), and design implementation, and how it's taken her to different parts of the world. 

And because we're on The Escape Issue, we'll find out Elaine's recommendations on what the best cities are to visit for design and creative inspiration.

*Some parts of the audio during the audience Q&A are hard to hear because they weren't mic'ed, so here's an abbreviated transcription of the Q&A portion with Elaine.

For your projects like the Passive House for example, how much time do you spend on-site?

We try to be there very early on in the process. We're looking at projects holistically, so the interior design department is very involved in the initial decisions like square footage, for example, if this a client is asking for X amount of bedroom, etc. So we're involved pretty early and that's when we get to look at the sites that our clients are looking at, our houses that they're looking to restore or build on. So we're involved pretty early on and we're on site early on a lot of the time. And then we hit the drafting table and we design, design, design. At the same time, we're trying to design with real things and real pieces so we have to go look at a lot of these elements whether that would be the timbers we're salvaging or staining. And then, the installation part, we're on site a lot! We work very collaboratively but at the end of the day, the client is looking at me for delivering the product and the project on time. For installations, we live there. We live there for  a few days depending on how big the project is.

How do you feel about replica furniture?

I have mixed feelings about it. This one designer, you'll take like a Hans Wegner, because of his remarkable design, we have this ergonomic chair that we all love. So the replica...I know it's attainable for us all that can't drop $2000 on a side chair. But an alternative to it is finding craftsmen that are doing almost the same thing, they're inspired by it, but it's their the original design. Etsy is a huge resource for that. And sometimes, don't be shy about contacting a furniture designer that does something kind of like it but you're sort of like "hey can you reinterpret this on your own?" And not only you're sporting a local craftsmen that is relying on etsy for pay and his wellbeing, but you're also supporting the next Hans Wegner.

I know you've traveled around. I was wondering have you ever looked at Third World countries and how they work with elements instead of blocking it out. For instance, I was in Guatemala where some of the houses had a system set up where would catch rain water and use it.

Absolutely. Passive houses especially, we're working directly with the sun. The sun, exposure of windows... we are putting those into calculations, the sun is doing a lot of the work of the house. For clients, a lot of the times like those "cistern systems" that are collecting rain water, we have a lot of clients that want a farm-to-table lifestyle. That's why they're moving upstate. They really want to be close to the land, they want to cultivate their lettuce, so we do use water systems, "cistern" is one of them. More and more people are getting closer to the elements as opposed to fighting them. You realize how powerful nature is and embrace the fact that it's there to help you if you know how to make it work for you.



Listen to the full interview:


This episode was recorded live in front of an audience on Nov. 16, 2016 at &co in Jersey City, hosted by EIGHTY Magazine's Creative Director Marinell Montales with guest Elaine Santos. Elaine gave an audience member an impromptu virtual consultation in a Show & Tell portion after the chat. Small bites were provided by Busy Bee Organics. Photos by Aaron.

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