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
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
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
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