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Designing a First Home With Elaine Thompson

Megan Hill
A modern, colourful lounge area designed by Elaine Thompson, Pistachio Designs.
Elaine Thompson smiles wearing a black dress and thick black headband. She is sat at a picnic table in a green field
Elaine Thompson—founder of Pistachio Designs.

Elaine Thompson leads Pistachio Designs, an interior decorating firm based in NYC. AT Pistachio, Elaine ensures that each client's lifestyle is carefully considered and translated into a highly personalised home.

Meet at the milestones

When possible, I always prefer a face-to-face meeting to get to know new clients (zoom totally counts)—conversation typically flows best that way and we can really dive into the nitty gritty. As a project evolves, digital communication works well. Especially as we share reference images or floor plans and renderings. Milestone meetings are another great opportunity to chat things out, face-to-face, and make sure everyone is on the same page.

Design for life

Understanding my client's lifestyle is one of the most important factors when working through the design process. Lifestyle gives me a sense of what clients value most in their day-to-day lives and I use that information to inform my design choices.

Decisions aren't final

The most challenging part of the design process is probably all of the decisions that need to be made every step of the way. The smallest details can make a huge impact...it's a lot! I remind both my clients and myself that nothing in interior design needs to be permanent; it's ever-evolving and ok to change your mind down the road.

A bed pictured in the middle of a room, with large windows on one side. Back wall is painted navy with an assortment of pictures of the sea. Covers are white with a pink throw. An orange footstool sits at the end of the bed
A tranquil escape—designed by Elaine Thompson. Photo credits: Jacqueline Clair Photography.

We asked Elaine to imagine she was working with a couple who have just bought their first home—they only have a small space to work with but they have big ideas and dreams! How would she get a feel for the life they want to live here if she had just ~5 questions to work with?

Who... do you turn to for style inspiration?

Is it a celebrity with a fabulous home? A favourite writer? A friend with great taste?

What... is your favourite at-home activity?

The answer here is so telling, it really gives me a sense of this couple's lifestyle. Do they love staying in for a quiet evening catching up on their Netflix queue? Or do they prefer to host friends for dinner parties?

Where... was your first trip together?

This is a fantastic icebreaker and usually leads to some fun stories too! The location and type of trip they took can also help provide inspiration for a colour palette or mood.

When... did you realise you want to work with a designer?

Do they need help honing in on their design aesthetic? Do they get overwhelmed by the details of making a space feel 'complete' and need someone to narrow down choices to keep things progressing? The more I know about what a client's strengths and weaknesses are, the better we can all work together!

Why... do you gravitate toward certain colour palettes?

Do you like muted colours for the calming effect they evoke or are you afraid you'll overdo it if you work with brighter, more saturated hues? Either way, I'm here to help!

Small round dining table sits in an all-white room with two dark wood chairs. Table has a striped tablecloth and is laid with gold placemats and a green and red flower arrangement. A curved lamp leans over the table.
A dining area made for two—designed by Elaine Thompson. Photo credits: Jacqueline Clair Photography.

Find out more about Elaine's services on her website. Find interior inspiration on Elaine's Instagram.

Interior designers, looking for an interactive way to do your client deep dives? Look out for docs in Visualist. Follow us on Instagram for updates.