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Redesigning an Empty Nest With Brenda Szarek

Megan Hill
An interior floor plan created by Brenda Szarek

Brenda Szarek is the founder of Autumn Light Interiors—as the name suggests, her mission is to create beautiful spaces for people in a transitional period of their life.

The breakdown

When Brenda takes on a new interior design project, her client induction process can be broken down into three steps:

  • Step 1: the client fills out an online client profile questionnaire.
  • Step 2: Brenda schedules a 20-minute discovery call to assess what services would help the client best; she does so by asking questions about their current space and what problems they want to solve.
  • Step 3: a brainstorming session during which Brenda listens closely whilst touring the home, providing quick hit ideas so the client can start their own project or hire her for additional help.

Make it make sense

Throughout the design process, Brenda focuses on encouraging clients to keep an open mind.

"I don’t like to pigeonhole a client into a specific style. Most everyone gravitates toward a combination of styles—usually, they just don’t know how to put it all together."

The essential tool in handling eclectic tastes and influences: moodboards. "Moodboards help to communicate my inkling of a client's tastes. From there, it usually takes just a couple of rounds to agree on a basis for moving forward.

A client moodboard curated by Brenda.

Feasible finance

Predictably, working around a client's budget is usually the first obstacle—it can be hard for clients to understand what their budget can realistically achieve. Brenda keeps a bank of budget-management tools to hand to help start the discussion with her clients—it is important to be clear on the budget from the outset, to avoid any surprises down the line and make sure clients can look forward to a beautiful, functional, and achievable space.

Managing meetings, balancing budget, and juggling taste—truly understanding an interior design client's goals and needs is no easy task. So just how does Brenda do it?

In keeping with her speciality, we challenged Brenda to decipher the changing needs and priorities of recent 'empty nesters'—if she only had 5 questions to work with...

What... problems would you like to solve?

When... are you planning to move or downsize to a new home (or rightsize)?

Why... do you think an interior designer can help you?

Who... will be using the space? That includes people and pets!

Where... will you spend the majority of time during the morning/afternoon/evening?

One of Brenda's projects, waiting to be transformed

Got a question for Brenda? Head over to her website, or find her on Instagram.