MY HISTORY IN DESIGN
I’ve been in one end or another of the fine art and design world all my adult life. At Smith College and UC Berkeley, I studied Art History, with a focus on European and Asian cultures. Travels in Andalucía, India and the Middle East increased my passion for exquisite textiles and hand-woven rugs.
After college, while working in design showrooms and the Store Planning and Design Dept. of Macys’ CA, I was offered the chance to study under the fabled Rudolf Schaeffer at his Design School in SF. My personal focus was textile design. Mr. Schaeffer taught “pure design”, in the old European manner. His idea being, graduates should be able to design a room, a piece of fabric, a perfect floral arrangement, or an airplane! He taught that good design was based on Universal Principles of harmony, beauty, functionality that should be made accessible to everyone regardless of age or income. We all had to become colorists, able to identify the many tints that make up hues. My first job out of design school was creating costumes for a Washington DC ballet company—26 different colors of hand-dyed tutus!
When I needed a dress for my high school reunion, I bought a couple yards of silk, painted a pattern on the fabric and dunked it into a pot of dye on my stove. Voila, I wore that unique, fun dress to the event and came home with 5 orders. I launched my first clothing business, selling one-of-a-kind dresses to Congressional wives and TV news broadcasters. Within 3 years, Robineve Design in Textiles had evolved into a partnership with a showroom on 7th Avenue in NYC, and I was selling to 120 stores across the country, including major department stores. During that time, I garnered a contract from CBS TV to design the wardrobe for Annie Potts, and performance dresses for Dixie Carter, who were doing the TV show “Designing Women”. We joked about the life of fantasy Interior Designers, little did I suspect I would soon become one.
Fast forward, I married my architect husband, did some retail architecture consulting, and then returned to the world of Interior Design. I furnished homes top-to-bottom for Breuner’s Home Furnishings for 5 years, and then was Senior Designer at J. Hettinger Interiors in Danville for 15 years . I started doing more remodeling projects during the mid-2000’s and gathered a network of talented contractors and tradesmen who worked with me on projects from Silicon Valley throughout the East Bay. My clientele has always been growing families and active empty nesters. I love creating beautiful, nourishing homes for their busy lifestyles.
LIFE OPENS A NEW DOOR
Then, two major things happened to broaden my outlook: First, my Mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I started to look at the home my Dad had designed for them and realized that it was a difficult, almost dangerous place for Mom to navigate as her illness progressed. I realized there was a huge gap in our understanding of what it takes to make a home universally comfortable and usable to people of all ages and abilities. As I tried to do minor remodels to make their home safer for my Mother, I realized I had done many of the same things in our house when my daughter was little—the accommodations worked for both generations. I started to do serious architectural research and became certified as an “Aging in Place” Specialist (CAPS).
The next twist in my story is that I was hit by a car while walking across the street, which left me with two broken legs. I was unprepared for the many costly retrofits I had to make in my own two-story home. After spending months in a wheelchair, I really honed my skills as a UD designer, knowing exactly what accommodations had to be made for anyone with even a temporary injury or a disability. This was the final wakeup call—I wanted to be able to apply what I had learned about Universal Design to the refined interior design projects I worked on, incorporating the principles– but doing it in an elegant, seamless, nearly invisible way for more people, for growing families--yes, but especially for Boomers who planned to live in their homes for as long as possible.
I opened my own firm, Robineve Interiors, in 2014, in order to serve my interior design clients (many of whom are now downsizing after several large homes that I did for them), and to begin to establish a network of professionals who can offer the public the subtle but important refinements of UD remodeling.
So, as a designer who loves beauty and freshness, I make homes that are warm and inviting, dramatic and Fun. But in addition to the classic design projects that form the foundation of my firm, I introduce these timeless, sensible UD principles for my clients to consider before we build or remodel. I suggest the design elements that make every home work for every member of the immediate and extended family, no matter their age, size, or abilities. I bring deep thought and caring to this work, because I know that, eventually, all homes will be conceived around the principles of Universal Design.
I give talks around the Bay Area on Universal Design, if your club or organization is looking for a terrific speaker.
Ask about Robineve Interiors’ Universal Design Walk-Through checklist (3-hours) for a list of ways your specific home can be thouhtfully remodeled to integrate the multi-generational UD principles.