All in the design: Helen Eisenhardt talks of her favorites, philosophies, and influences

by Jessica Carreras

When most people set out to put together their home, they tackle the task alone. But there's a lot to consider when piecing together the perfect pad: furniture and color schemes, window treatments and artwork, layout and room use.
Sometimes, when it comes to home design, it's OK to ask for a little help – and not from your Aunt Linda.
Cozy sanctuary? Futuristic feeding space? An entertainer's utopia? Whatever the theme, interior designers can help to take your ideas and make them into reality, turning mere rooms into livable spaces that speak to your style. The two designers featured in this year's Fall Home Guide, Eric Jirgens of Eric Charles Designs and Helen Eisenhardt of Gorman's Home Furnishings, share tips from their years of interior design experience to help get you started on making your house into a home.

Helen Eisenhardt, designer, Gorman's Home Furnishings and Interior Design

Why did you decide to become an interior designer?
It was a very easy decision because I had the passion for it. I got to work with beautiful things and make people as passionate about it as I am. It gave me the opportunity to meet the people, help them with different choices as far as furniture, colors and availability of the different things they can do for their home.

Who or what is your biggest design influence?
Probably the first would have to be a gal I worked with at Pioneer Furniture, Betty Westfahl. She was a fine designer and she was the accessories buyer. She was an artist – worked with oils, watercolors and did a lot of pottery. She had a wealth of knowledge about the history of furniture, types of furniture. I learned to appreciate antiques up to contemporary furniture because of her.
A second would be my mother and grandmother. They had an eye for beautiful things.

Design-wise, which room is the most important in a house?
At first, I would say it would be the kitchen, where families truly get together and listen to one another and talk about what happened during the day. They should be comfortable in that room and it should be very relaxed.
But the more I think about it, the room that is used the most now is either a family room or great room, which is usually off of a kitchen. That is where the computer, TV and games are. It has to be very comfortable for entertainment and family.
Those are the rooms that people are more content on spending money on. For comfort and look, it's a personal reflection of them.

What is your favorite new design style or feature?
I have always been a very traditional person, because I like antiques and family heirlooms. The more I am in the business, I am appreciating European contemporary furniture – the simplicity of the pieces, the scale of it is smaller and a lot more people are having smaller homes.
People my age are downsizing and a lot of them who used to be traditional are leaning toward a transitional to contemporary type of furniture. You can mix traditional with contemporary and come out with transitional furniture.
Everyone's lives are so complicated, they want their houses easy to maintain. I'm with them 100 percent. As you get older, you get to appreciate simplicity in your life. Things that were important before aren't important now. You don't want to be afraid to go into your home.

What is your design philosophy?
Honestly, it's making sure that their home reflects their tastes and their needs; making sure it has both the form and function that meets their lifestyle or expectations as far as comfort and design; Listening to that person and really getting into their mind. It's their home and it needs to reflect what they want. That's why Gorman's has all these different vendors. I can show them all these different things they never would have thought of. It's really my philosophy to please the people.


Topics: Guides

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