Go behind the scenes with Homepolish's Mandy Cheng as she tells us all about designing a home in Tampa... while she was hours away in St. Augustine.
Photos by Jen Smith.
Mandy, this is our first time doing a ‘behind the scenes’ on a by-video client! What were your general first impressions of the process?
“Shay was actually my very first Homepolish client, period! Needless to say, the project is very close to me. The whole by-video process was a great learning experience and really set the tone for how I plan to move forward with future clients. Shay is very busy and wanted to work on rooms simultaneously. I learned the value of my (now very staple process) shared Google doc to keep us on track and organized. I also learned the value in being kind but firm with the client to focus on the task at hand (as opposed to running off and looking for vases and flowers and books and the fun accessories).”
It must be really tough to sell some design ideas and focus the client when you’re not there in person!
“It’s really hard to convince someone over FaceTime and email that you know what’s best for their space when they’re standing in it, in person. A philosophy I started with Shay (and have since used on many hesitant clients since) is ‘let’s try it and have you live with it for a few days to a week. If you still hate it, we’ll move it back.’ This has been really helpful and makes the client feel like the decision is less permanent. In this case, it took Photoshop mockups and a Sketchup model to convince Shay that I had the best layout for the living room.”
Was the living room an “aha” moment, so to speak?
“Yes! Turning the living room layout by 90 degrees was a game-changer. When Shay first sent me images of the house, I kept getting stuck on that room and hated that its ‘back’ was to the front door. She told me that it was a beautiful space because it looked directly out onto her pool and backyard, but people never wanted to hang out there. Once Shay tried my concept, it changed everything. The space was inviting and opened up that entire side of the house.”
Sounds like Shay really had some strong design ideas. How did you two collaborate?
“A lot of clients have no idea what they like and don’t like, which can be challenging at times. Shay, on the other hand, has an eye for design and more specifically, her preferred taste. For each room, we discussed the pieces that were needed and the size I preferred. We then talked about the colors and styles of the pieces. (Pinterest came in handy here.) Once we were in agreement, we both started looking for pieces and emailed each other ones that we thought were top contenders. Having the client help look for items cut my time in half, so we were able to accomplish a lot in her house for 25 hours.”
Wow, this house was done in 25 hours?! What did it all entail?
“Overall, Shay really wanted to pull all of the rooms together individually, but also make the rooms flow cohesively since her house has an open concept layout. She had a lot of furniture and nice pieces, but everything was was placed in funny locations (like in the middle of the walkway, or in corners that shouldn’t be filled with gigantic furniture). I helped her re-orient rooms, change out some furniture and décor, update some lighting, and overhaul a storage room into a music room/library.”
Oh, tell us about that music room!
“That room is actually my favorite moment. When Shay first sent me photos of this room, the French doors were closed, it was dark, cluttered with stacks of boxes and miscellaneous furniture, and felt like a little grey rain cloud. We re-painted the room to a cheerier white, added a rug, a light fixture, new seating, and a dramatic floor-to-ceiling gallery wall. The room completely transformed. My initial design had a built-in bench along that back wall with open shelves underneath. Chairs were supposed to go where the piano now sits, and the piano would have been placed on the opposite wall. With this layout, the clients saved money and there’s plenty of space for the whole family to sprawl out in there.”
If you look at the first floor, it’s almost like it’s three living spaces. Do you think that is a consequence of your vision?
“The biggest change in the house overall is the ease of flow from one room to the next. This was key since the home features a very open plan, and sight lines often cross into adjacent rooms. After our work, all of the rooms ‘speak’ to each other, but also stand on their own as cohesive, beautiful spaces in their own right.”
To see more of Mandy’s work and aesthetic, follow her at @mandychengdesign.