Scott Merzbach interviewed me about my interior design business for the Daily Hampshire Gazette and the article was published on July 24! The article is also noted below, and Scott kindly referred to me as a software engineer; alas, I never was that, but instead worked as a product manager and then project leader in software engineering as noted.
Also, here’s the text of the article (below):
From software engineer to interior design for Pelham woman
By SCOTT MERZBACH
Sunday, July 24, 2016 PELHAM — Inside a century-old American Arts and Crafts-style bungalow on Harkness Road, each room is meticulously designed to carry a consistent theme throughout the 4,500-square-foot home. From the picture and crown moldings placed on the walls and ceilings to the light fixtures installed over the dining room table, and from the slab marble used in the bathrooms and the curtains hanging in the windows, the living space is intended to be unified. For interior design consultant Karen Dzendolet, who operates KDZ Designs from her home on Arnold Road, the bungalow marked an accomplishment by achieving what her client requested: a clean, open interior floor plan that combines form and function and uses design concepts of serenity, harmony and rhythm.
“It’s really taking what the client wants for the building I’m working in and filtering that through my own sensibilities,” Dzendolet said. “It was about how to honor the envelope of the 1915 bungalow with a contemporary inside.”
Returning to her hometown from Boston, where she had worked in the computer industry for 15 years, Dzendolet, 58, opened her business in 2009 and has since engaged clients in the Valley in what she views as a collaborative relationship to achieve their desires. “A lot of thoughtful analysis has to happen,” Dzendolet said. “It’s looking at things and taking the client into consideration.”
In the case of the bungalow, completed a few years ago, Dzendolet began her work as soon as homeowner Mollye Lockwood hired Wright Builders of Northampton to handle construction. This allowed Dzendolet to focus on planning space and working closely with the contractor before construction was underway, and meant that her designs would not conflict with the interior work, such as in the master bedroom. In that room, Dzendolet encouraged the builders to narrow the windows so that the bed and end tables would fit on one side. Dzendolet describes her work in homes as being “about flow and finishes and furnishings.” For example, she took the appearance of the prominent columns in the colonnade separating the dining room and living room and carried this throughout the bungalow. The column look is replicated in the main posts of the staircases, and beneath the marble countertop island in the kitchen.
Lockwood said Dzendolet likely saved the project thousands of dollars by working closely with the architect and contractor to track construction plans and manage installations to ensure all complied with the design she wanted. “Karen Dzendolet created space that immediately feels warm, welcoming, and relaxing when you walk onto the property and into the home,” Lockwood said.
A 1976 graduate of Amherst-Regional High School, Dzendolet earned a degree in economics at the University of Massachusetts before working in corporate software engineering, serving as a project manager and leader with Digital and Compaq. At those companies, she learned how to work a schedule and complete projects. “As much as I liked that, it didn’t have a creative component,” Dzendolet said. Married to “Chef Bill” Collins, the couple was living in Beverly when she went back to school and earned a master’s degree in interior design at the New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University in Boston, in 2006.
With the growing popularity of television programs focused on home design, including several broadcast on cable channel HGTV, Dzendolet said there may be many who think the work of a designer is both quick, and a luxury. Neither is true, she said. “The end result is you’ll get a better product, you will probably save some time and possibly save money, as well,” Dzendolet said. For major projects, like the Pelham bungalow and a new project she is undertaking in North Amherst, where residents are seeking her expertise, she begins by reviewing what she can offer and undertaking an exacting process that begins with a written proposal estimating the time – which ranges from a few hours to months – and cost. Dzendolet said she does have a base hourly rate for her work, but the cost is typically determined in consultation with her clients. “I prefer to talk with each prospective client individually about the costs of my services,” Dzendolet said. She keeps a number of spreadsheets going at one time, with information about each element of a project.
Once she begins, no day will be exactly alike, with some spent examining the spreadsheets and talking to the clients, and others visiting showrooms such as the Boston Design Center, where she is familiar with numerous manufacturers of interior furnishings, or local places like Fly by Night in Northampton. That she has connections in Boston and Western Massachusetts is a hallmark of her business. “I feel I can offer the best of urban offerings with the best of what the Valley has to offer,” Dzendolet said.
Once the installations start, Dzendolet provides oversight so that the contractors installing tiles and marble in bathrooms or putting the cabinets in the kitchen are doing work according to her specifications. As an interior designer, other problems may arise due to structural challenges. For example, the owners of the Pelham bungalow originally wanted ceiling lights in the basement hallway, but that would have meant lowering the ceiling. Instead, Dzendolet suggested wall sconces. “In the case of a project, it’s not so much what problems will come up, it’s how you solve them,” Dzendolet said. “It’s so satisfying to work on a whole house and have the length of time to work with the client to understand their goals,” Dzendolet said.
Though the full home projects are highlights, Dzendolet said she also takes on smaller projects consulting for people simply looking for the right paint colors or fabrics for curtains. She publicizes her business through social media, including writing a blog, and most clients find her through her website, www.kdzdesigns.com/. “I’m just trying to network as much as I can,” Dzendolet said.
Dzendolet is also in her third year as president of the International Furnishings and Design Association’s New England chapter, which keeps her current in designs and connected to the urban area. As part of that role, she completed a chair for its Take-a- Seat project, that helped raise $19,000 for the Women’s Institute for Housing and Economic Development. Dzendolet bought a chair at the Trading Post in Amherst and reupholstered it prior to the auction. Dzendolet said she appreciates that interior design is about making homes better for those who will live in them. “My goal is not to make anyone feel uncomfortable. I’m there to help people get where they want to go,” Dzendolet said.
Scott Merzbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.