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BUZZWORTHY: Claire Schwab on Interior Design and Fall Decorating

ALEXANDRIA, VA – Who is Claire Schwab, and what are some tips and tricks for fall decorating this year? Z-TV’s Allison Priebe interviewed Alexandria interior designer Claire Schwab and asked all the right questions.

One of the top names in the home decor business is Alexandria’s Claire Schwab Interior Design. On Tuesday, September 29, she sat down in her showroom to chat with Allison Priebe with whom she shares the retail space at 825 S. Washington Street in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia. In addition to being a journalist, Priebe is an award-winning jewelry designer who owns Queen Bee Designs, which carries unique jewelry, accessories, and clothing. The pair joined forces about a year ago when they discovered their personalities and professions intertwined easily.

Schwab tells Priebe in the interesting interview above how she got into the business, what’s trending today, and what’s looking popular for the future.

Schwab’s foray into decorating all started when she spent some time on a working visa living in London after graduating from Vanderbilt University. A talented seamstress and communicator, she fell in love with the fabrics and home styling the British customers shared in the Laura Ashley store where she was working. She returned to the States and promptly went back to school for her advanced degree in design, started networking, and hung her professional shingle out in Alexandria more than 32 years ago.

What’s the Difference Between an Interior Designer and Interior Decorator?

It turns out you do not need any special qualifications to call yourself a decorator. “I’m an interior designer because I have a degree and am certified and licensed,” said Schwab explaining the difference between a decorator and a designer. “A designer can read blueprints and do partial and whole house renovations and can work with contractors, electricians, and tradesmen and architects on the whole picture.”

The humble Schwab then says, “But I tell clients I am an interior decorator mostly, which I am too. It’s less intimidating.”

Decorating Today Might Mean Saying Goodbye to Brown Furniture

How is business today? “We are lucky to live in Alexandria, where the economy is generally booming. Oddly enough, the pandemic has been wonderful for home decor. I know people are on Zoom and they are looking around at other people’s houses and looking at their own, and they are realizing how tired things have become,” says Schwab.

There have been some definite, notable trends in the last ten years, one of which has been a significant shift away from “brown” furniture. “Is brown bad?” asked Priebe, recalling a recent article she had just read. “Well, good antiques should be oiled and preserved. They show you are grounded with the past. But there are bad antiques too,” advises Schwab.

Now chairs are another thing. Special pieces can be reframed and reupholstered. “We are doing more recovering of furniture in COVID, and I love that because people aren’t just throwing things out. My upholsterers are busier now than ever.”

For budget-minded clients, Schwab loves helping people think outside the box too. She recommends accenting existing pieces with small accessories, refinishing tables, changing fabrics. “I love helping people make pillows for example. That’s easy.”

Elements and Tricks of Design

Get a neutral sofa. It’s the biggest piece of furniture in the room. “You can always change the pillows and a throw,” advises Schwab.

“We look to fashion for trends. The lines, the colors. It translates to home decor. And then, we see it in our cars, which is interesting.” says Schwab. So when deciding on a home color scheme, know the ones that make you happy are the ones you find yourself wearing the most, for example.

Proportion and balance are important. Give things air. Don’t over-accessorize. Learn to edit.

“And all of your light switches should be on dimmers. That’s just a golden rule,” laughs Schwab.

Show and Tell

During the video, Schwab and Priebe take the viewer on a “show and tell” journey through the design space, explaining why this works and that might not.

In addition to showing how a simple gray sofa can change its whole look from summer to fall, you will see easy examples that can make a difference in the overall mood of a room.

“I love a little touch of black too. It’s a very grounding color. But when you think about fireplaces, tv screens, those are all black,” mentions Schwab as she unfurls a cashmere throw to accent the sofa, transforming the furniture to a winter look.

Forecast for the Future and Tips

The new color is navy, and shades of blue. “I”m seeing them in all the textiles, paints, and accessories,” says Schwab.

“There is still also a strong presence in the taupes.,” she continues showing some Benjamin Moore paint chips.

Use baskets, especially now that spaces like dining rooms and other spaces are also being used for virtual schooling. “Have them at the ready for newspapers and school supplies,” she says showing beautiful examples of baskets and containers that are functional but respect the design of the room.

With these easy and affordable tips, Priebe says, “Now that everyone is peeking into our homes on Zoom and Skype, we need you now more than ever.”

To reach Claire, you can contact her via email at [email protected], call 703-615-9495, or find her in the popup showroom daily and on the weekends at 825 S. Washington Street and make an appointment.

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Mary Wadland

Mary Wadland is the Publisher and Editor in Chief of The Zebra Press, founded by her in 2010. Originally from Delray Beach, Florida, Mary is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Hollins College in Roanoke, VA and has lived and worked in the Alexandria publishing community since 1987.

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