Warren, a native Charlottean, has been in the interior decorating business
“In my work I focus primarily on new home construction,” says Warren.
“We’ll talk with the client about the home they want and work with
an architect and residential building designer. We work together as a team.
“Once we start construction I’ll help the client select architecural
elemets that go into the house, like tile and cabinets. On a big project
I may work with a client for over a year. When it comes time to design
their draperies and the traditional stuff it’s easy because I know
so well what they like.”
Warren and her partner Marty Ackerman (a residential designer) are currently
at work on a project all their own. “We’re building a new house
in Lucia, about 21 miles from Charlotte,” Warren says excitedly. “It’s
something very different for this region — it’s very southwestern — kind
of like The Alamo house in Texas.”
Warren and Ackerman were inspired to adopt the design style for their new
home after they took a motorcycle ride across the American southwest.
“It’s really our dream house, Warren enthuses. “I like an earthy
feel with neutrals and rich textures. Our floors will be stained concrete
in an earthy gold color.”
The 4,300 square-foot house includes 3,600 square feet in the main residence
and 600 square feet over the garage apartment or mother-in-law suite.
A cerified Energy Star house, it utilizes passive solar energy and radiant
Other outside projects for Warren and her staff of eight have included
the March of Dimes house and the ABC Designer House to Benefit Public Education,
an achievement Warren is particularly proud of. “The ABC house is
8,000 equare feet,” Warren explains. “My firm designed the
With personal clients, Warren admits a fondness for working with gay and
lesbian couples or individuals.
“I’ve been working with a lesbian couple building a new home on the
lake,” she offers. “The thing I’ve noticed — with
gay couples — there tends to be a bit more creativity and a little
more whimsy than most heteros would put into a project. I think my gay
clients are willing to step out on a limb with it and I have a lot more
fun with it.
“Everybody should be like that though — your house is an extension
of yourself, an extension of your personality. I guess in the gay community
we just express ourselves much better.”
Warren confirms that she’s seen clients spend as much as $400,000
on a complete interior decorating job, although most of her clients average
between $100,000 and $200,000.
“Some of my designers have done houses that are 1,200 square feet and
the client may spend as much as $15,000 on furnishings, draperies and art pieces.”
If those figures leave your head spinning, don’t be dismayed. Warren
confirms there are lots of ways to get the look you want without having
to take out a second mortgage.
“When I first got into the business, only the most elite hired decorators.
In the last six or seven years — with the advent of HDTV — all
kinds of people can do it now. They’ll call you in a heartbeat for
a consultation and then do it themselves.”
According to Warren, Charlotte has great opportunities for interior designers
and homeowners who want to decorate themselves.
“For the trade-only community there are so many showrooms available to
designers — fabric
showrooms, furniture showrooms, lighting showrooms.
“If you’re an individual and not a professional decorator, I’d
recommend places like The Purple Picket, Boulevard and Urban Homes. The
number of antique stores in the area is also a great resource.”
So what if you’re strapped and your digs really need some help.
“Paint,” says Warren. “You can get paint cheap and no matter
the color you can get a lot of bang. New fabric on furniture and throw
pillows can add a lot, too.”
Another take on interior designing
Originally from Greenville, S.C., part-time designer Derrell Johnson and
his partner Clarence Gray, a social worker, have been together for 11 years.
They make their home in Charlotte’s historic Wesley Heights neighborhood,
just west of Uptown.
“For years I lived in a new house,” says Johnson. “Never again.
I would never go back to a new home. The older houses have so much more
attention to detail. The trim, the craftsmanship, the clawfoot tub. I love
all those things about my older home.”
Situated on Walnut Ave., Johnson’s home was built in 1936.
A graduate of the Art Instiute of Charlotte, Johnson was certified in design
Since that time he’s taken on various design and consultation projects,
while continuing to work part-time as a paralegal.
Johnson admits the interior designs of his own home might be considered
a bit eclectic by some but readily confesses an unyielding passion for
the style. “I call it Afrocentric with a modern twist,” says
Johnson. “There’s lots of rich colors — like chocolate
and orange and apple green.”
Some of his most favorite projects have been those that posed considerable
challenge, like a recent assignment for a client that lived in a small
“This client wanted to add some additional sleeping quarters,” says
Johnson. “It’s a small apartment and it had a tiny dining nook
off the living room. He wanted to re-purose that area and make it into
a guest sleeping alcove.”
Johnson chose a deep red for the room, while keeping in mind the client
had some specific requests.
“He didn’t want to cover the windows, and didn’t like blinds,
so we used beads over the windows,” Johnson offers. “The wood
tones of the floor and the beads worked together very well.”
To continue the Afrocentric design theme, the client chose a faux-fur bedspread.
For Johnson, perfecting his design style is a constantly evolving process.
“There are a lot of people — when you say Afrocentric — all
they think of is animal prints. But there’s so much more to it. For
authentic art pieces and collectibles, the House of Africa on Thomas St.
is incredible. But you don’t have to spend a whole lot of money for
fabrics if you don’t want to. Places like Target have these great
bright colored fabrics that work for draperies and furniture cover. Mixing
the African artwork in with traditional African colors in a contemporary
usage modernizes it. It’s bringing an historic cultural thing into
a modern age.”
In addition to his love for older homes, Johnson also confesses a passion
for vintage furnishings and collectibles as well.
“There’s something about the item having a history to it that I find
very appealing,” he says. “To know that a chair or a lamp or
artwork have had a life of their own before it came to you — and
to know that you’re allowing it to continue its purpose seems somehow,
Fortunately for Johnson and Gray, they equally share an appreciation for
yard sales, thrift stores and the ocassional roadside gold mine.
“It’s amazing what you can get out there if you take the time to
Johnson. “We do a lot of shopping at thrift and consignment stores
and there are some pieces that we’ve picked up that other people
have thrown out. We recovered or striped them and re-stained them and ended
up with something beautiful.”