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House Talk

No. 14 - October, 2003

"Montclair Interior Designer Believes in Color, Color and more Color!"
A talk with Pat Benson

The way that Judith Glass and Sheila Sabine had the privilege of meeting interior designer, Pat Benson, was when she was hired by one of the Glass-Sabine team's clients. The client had recently purchased a newly constructed luxury home in the Montclair Hills, and she had wisely hired Pat to work her magic on the home's interiors. The house had good bones: high vaulted ceilings, enormous windows, a spiral staircase and much more but the overall feeling was, in a word, bland. Pat's first move was to create an entirely new color scheme and then working with the colors, she added gorgeous curtains, exciting furniture, clever touches here and there, and voilá - a tremendous transformation took place. Pat believes that each house has its own style and personality - an empty canvas that she can play with.

Pat is one of those gifted people with natural interior design talent. As a young child she used to re-arrange the furniture in her family's home, much to the amazement of her parents. However, as an adult, she set this talent aside for many years while she worked in the computer industry leasing computers for 15 years and then for another 15, she was designing computer programs. She was very successful, but she asserts that she was definitely not "living her passion." She and her husband began to travel in Asia and they brought back wonderful pieces of art and furniture. As Pat says, most people come home from a trip with only their boarding pass, but she and her husband took the steps necessary to ship home large and unique pieces including furniture, marble statues, and wall hangings. Immediately, her friends were begging to buy her treasures, and her interior design business was born.

Since Pat and her husband moved from Sausalito to the Montclair Hills a few years ago, Pat has become an Oakland fan. She loves her home in what she calls her "million dollar pocket on top of the world, yet only five minutes from Montclair Village." And she has kind words to say about starting a business in Oakland; she said the process of obtaining a business license was streamlined and user-friendly - she even sent Oakland's mayor Jerry Brown an email congratulating his city on making it easy for a new business to get started! Her design business is called Harmonique focusing on interiors, consulting and accessories.

Pat loves to work with homeowners who really want to be involved in their decorating projects. She also insists that people work with a budget from the very beginning and be realistic about what they can spend. She likes to map out the projects clearly and work with the process step by step. Her first step in any interior design project is the decision about the color scheme. She believes that if you get the right background color in an environment, then everything comes together. And the colors she encourages people to use on their walls are definitely not for sissies! Pat's color schemes are adventuresome and striking, but they really work!

Glass-Sabine asked Pat Benson to give her opinion of the latest design trends and here's what she said. 

1. More people are getting involved in their own home projects. With stores like Ikea, Target, Home Expo, and Elements, good designs are more available than ever to more people at affordable prices. In addition, with all the House and Garden type shows on television, there is a strong awareness of creative decorating ideas and how to make our environments shine and sizzle! Since some people have cut back on travel (which may be partly a result of the events of September 11), they are staying home and spending their money on redecorating. 

2. More colors are being used in home environments in contrast to all those years when off-white walls were everywhere. Since Pat is such an advocate of experimenting with color, she says, "What's the worst thing that can happen? You spend $30.00 on a can of paint and a few hours on a Sunday afternoon doing the project and then if you don't like the color, you can easily re-do it." 

3. We are lucky to live in Northern California where there is such an interesting and eclectic mixture of cultures. We can reflect this mix in our home environments by using blends of textures, patterns and colors. 

4. Since Pat is an avid traveler, she always returns from her trips with items to add to her home décor, and she encourages everyone to do the same. Her philosophy is simply stated: "Dig out your treasures. Surround yourself with things that give you pleasure."

Pat Benson is an interior designer and owner of Harmonique. She can be reached at 510-339-3229 or through her website at www.harmoniqueinc.com.

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For further information or questions for our House Talk column, 
please contact Glass/Sabine by email:  Sheila@GlassSabine.com
or call us at 510-326-5055.

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