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I’m Josh Cooperman and this is Convo By Design with a long overdue introduction to a new concept in design houses. Remote and virtual Design. Check out the video here.
Fist things first. I am a native Angeleno, born and raised in Los Angeles, The Valley to be more specific. In the 1980’s when Valley Girls, parachute pants, mini-trucks, and Depeche Mode were part of my everyday life. I wasn’t into design and architecture at that time. It was only after leaving, and returning to LA did I realize an appreciation for the amazing design surrounding me. I grew up in a mid-century traditional, a California Ranch House that was once a stage coach stop and later a train station in Chatsworth and much later, a Dingbat that was toppled in the Northridge earthquake.
So when Tulsa, Oklahoma was selected as the site for the 2022 Remote Design House – Tulsa, most people I spoke with about the concept didn’t really understand the idea behind it. The idea is so simple that it gets lost from the start.
The pandemic created a forced shelter-in-place which affected home and office design more than most other industries.
The core ideas of both home and office have changed forever. And rightfully so. At the same time, the very nature of what architects and designers do hasn’t changed at all, while their means, methods, processes and procedures certainly have. The remote nature of this design house is in direct response to designers responding to clients that they could not see in person at the time and, for those who have left their current city or state but love their designer and want to remain with them. If I live in Los Angeles and move to Aspen, I might want my designer to to work on my project. But if my designer doesn’t know how to work remotely, or virtually, that can and will be a problem.
Remote Design is the practice of working in one place on a project in another.
Virtual Design is the process of working on a project that does not currently exist. Thank of it as an idea without a physical embodiment.
The Remote Design House – Tulsa is a real project, using real designers who will never physically step foot in the project house. All the work is being done virtually, and remotely with local trades and artisans doing the work.
This project will also not have tours and there are no tickets for events or parties. No matter where you are listening to this, you will have access to the final project through videos, before and after segments, product features and an intimate look at the project house, neighborhood and City of Tulsa.
Side note. I was recently in Los Angeles for a design event (May) and as I was telling many in the trade about the project, the most common response was, “eww, why Tulsa.” This has been a common response since I started planning this project in 2020. There is a visceral, negative response to the idea of Tulsa, Oklahoma and the Midwest from many I have met in LA, New York, San Francisco and the other “tier one” design destinations. My response is always the same, “oh, when was the last time you were in Tulsa?” Not a single person with that response has ever been to Tulsa because had they been, they would know what a special city this is. Which is exactly why it was selected over Austin, Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, Seattle and Denver. Nothing against those cities, but Tulsa is special and over the next year, you are going to find out why.
The Family | The Jennings’s, Michael (45), Rachael (42) and their children, Davis (19) and Rose (17) are transplants from New York City. The family learned that they could work remotely from anywhere in the country and sought out a city where they could slow down, focus on family and still grow their business, make friends, finish high school and pursue a higher quality of life. The desire was to slow down, focus and decrease the rat race pace and find their space.
Michael is a TV producer. He is an avid cook, not a chef. He enjoys his work but is looking for ways to separate himself from doing it 24/7/365. Michael is connected (media) and looks for ways to disconnect, spend time volunteering coach youth sports and engaging in creative endeavors. This includes building and refinishing furniture.
Rachel is in sales. She manages a territory across the US and does the majority of her work online but travels about 5 times a year to industry trade shows. Rachel enjoys reading, yoga and quiet meditation. She is an avid baker who loves spending time in the kitchen and enjoys spending time with the family.
Davis is a college student, attending school on the east coast. While his room is not occupied year-round, when he is at home, he spends countless hours on research projects. He spends time gaming with his college friends around the country and enjoys reading, golf and computer training events.
Rose is a senior in high school. She is a highly accomplished athlete. She plays club soccer and lacrosse and debate competitions. Rose misses her friends back home and looks forward to playing host when they come to town and visit her. There are times when she is often exhausted and physically beat up from long tournament weekends. She spends long hours doing research papers and studying so her workspace needs to be both functional and comfortable. She is fashion forward and cherishes her personal space as teenage girls do.
The home is American Colonial Revival built in 1936. This is a unique property with a park setting and Tulsa’s Crow Creek running though the back yard. Project rooms include; Living Room, Kitchen/ Dining Room, Michel and Rachael’s Room, Rose’s Room, Davis’s Room, Club Room, Guest Quarters w/ Sunroom, Office. All bedrooms are en-suites.
The Designers | Rather than introduce you to all the designers selected for this project, I am going to introduce you to them as their projects are coming to reality. Do to a nightmare of a supply chain, product discontinuations and logistical issues, all of which you will hear about, we are working on two project rooms at a time to capture all the details.
Gail Davis of Gail Davis Designs is a friend, someone I have immense respect for and who was so generous with her time. She selected the Club Room. Gail is an amazing designer with a skill that transcends the work. She has a process and flow that was such a pleasure to work with. Nothing phases Gail and if there is a problem, discontinuation or needed reselect, she just handles it and it was such a joy working with her on this space.
Gail has a background in fashion and her passion for both color and textiles are evident in this design work. One story about Gail. There is a small stairway leading down to the Clubroom, a walkout basement. Gail said that for the stairs, we’re going with Black. My first response was….”excuse me? No, I don’t think so.” There was a pause and she said, “I get it. Trust me.” I did, and she was right. Her vision turned a small, tight stairway into a moment of anticipation. A theatrical entry that allows the mind to wonder what is around the corner.
Gail studied at New York School of Interior Design and sharpened her skills interning at Bunny Williams, Inc. and David Kleinberg & Associates. Gail’s work has been published in AD Pro, Elle Decor, Domino, House Beautiful and you have heard her here on Convo By Design.
As you will hear, Gail knows her business, she is clear in her ideas and she is an absolute joy to work with. As promised some behind the scenes stories that you would never know if we weren’t talking about it here.
Supply Chain – If you are a designer, you know that the struggle is real. If you are a client, you are just plain frustrated by the cost increases, delivery problems, lack of customer service and product delays.
For the Club Room, the vendors we worked with include NOIR, Benjamin Moore, The Home Depot and Article amongst others. Local work was done by local trades and here is what was so surprising. The response time of painters and electricians was really fast. In just a few weeks, they were scheduled, showed up and did the work. The problem was in product re-selects for various reasons but the number one reason was discontinuation or lack of availability.
We specified product in September of 2021. It arrived in Tulsa in late May 2022 and then sat in a warehouse for a few more weeks. After delivery, then it was inspected and defects were discovered and that created a whole new set of issues.
PRODUCT DAMAGE SEGMENT. There was one vendor we worked with that, to date, has not disappointed in product or service. Article. You may have heard Article advertised on the show, and you might think that their partnership is the reason for a stellar review. Actually, it’s the other way around. They are partners BECAUSE of their stellar products and service. For the Club Room, their product arrived first. It actually got here so fast, as ordered that it sat in the space, in the original packaging while we waited for everything else. The sofa and chairs arrived exactly as ordered. The ordering process was simple. It was ordered through their Trade Program and I could not be happier with them. As is the case with all of the rooms in the Remote Design House – Tulsa, there will be videos, before and after shots, product features and more. You can check the show notes for links to everything as it’s published.
Surprisingly, The Home Depot Pro services provided an incredible opportunity. The rug originally specified for this space became “unavailable” weeks after it was ordered. And the most frustrating part was the manner it which it happened. It was ordered and then an email comes and “oopsie”, no more rug. So, I looked into The Home Depot’s Pro program and sent Gail some reselect options. We found a rug that was very similar to the original, slightly smaller which actually worked out better due to the beauty of the original Saltillo tile. But it was also $1,500 less expensive and while I was a little dubious at first, when it was delivered, IN 4 WEEKS the quality is exactly what I was hoping for. So the lesson learned here is not to overlook the obvious. Home Depot, Lowes, Target have all provided an element to the space and a high/ low mix that really works well.
We ordered product in September of 2021 and it was delivered in June of 2022. That was not the plan. But, understanding that supply chain issues were universal, it was okay. What we not okay was the amount of product damage that was delivered. In one case, there was a leather chair that was damaged and discolored because someone put packing tape on the leather itself. Another piece, a steel coffee table was damaged on all sides. The manufacturer has still, as of this recording not remedied the situation. They promised a refund due to the fact that both items were discontinued.
I am going to say this again, because it bears repeating…Article was an absolute standout. They do receive promotional consideration on the podcast as a promotional partner that extended a trade discount through their trade program. And they are the real deal. Their products are beautiful, high quality and durable. Their customer service, for this project has been amazing! I will be asking our other design partners to specify from them when possible.
Most clients don’t know what designers really do because they don’t tell you every time something goes wrong. They don’t bother clients with the minutia, they deal with it like professionals and show the client the spaces that make them happy.
This is where the true superpowers of an excellent designer come into play. Gail knew what she was looking for and because she is such a good communicator, allowed me to confidently look for replacements when there was an issue. I sent her some options and she made a reselect based on her original plan and factored in all the variables. For clients, here is another valuable lesson.
*Sending your designer images and links to Instagram and Pinterest is okay. But, if you are really in tune with your designer and your designer is a good communicator, you can handle some of the selection and re-selections which will save you money in the time your designer is researching replacement materials which is a common occurrence now.
*This also helps your designer and their junior designers and interns understand your taste and that in turn will make the design process run smoother and faster. It will save money on streamlining the process by focusing on products that are more in line with your style and preferences.
Gail created a perfect environment to check out of work and check in with family and friends. A place to relax, entertain and play. A theater, game room, quiet meditative space and chill room, all in one place.
Color Selections. Gail’s color selections in this space included Benjamin Moore Mercurial in the Club Room and Caviar on the walls in the stairway. Her color selections captured the spirit of what the Jenning’s would have wanted for this space. Caviar, a rich, deep black with flat on the walls and satin on the ceiling created a dramatic entrance that set the tone and mood for what was happening down at the stairs and around the corner. While I was concerned that it would be too dark and scary, it was just the opposite, Gail added a stairway LED floor lights to light the path and set expectation. The sconce and ceiling fixture added all the light needed for utilitarian functionality light bringing the laundry down to the working side of the basement, but keeps all the glamour and fun of the Club Room in tact. Genius. The Mercurial allowed for light to bounce around the room and reflect all the colors without too much bounce allowing it to be both consistent in light and saturation. Multiple lighting was included like the sconces, overhead cans that are both enclosed and dimable LEDs as well as shelf lighting. The walls remain the original pine paneling but the Mercurial covers the original “pickling”. Interesting, the lighting plan is far better than before even though the gloss on the “pickling” bounced the light around the room, the lighting plan and adjustments like moving the sconces out 18 inches on both sides created a greater light flow. The Buster & Punch Edison Bulbs in the stairway also add to the walk in effect and overall lighting plan. Genius too was 3 coats on satin poly on the Saltillo time and satin on the ceiling added a “bounce” effect to the lighting that allowed for a high level of customization using all available lighting sources. The TV was kept in this space allowing for viewing of sports from the gaming table, movies from the sofa or business channels if working form the Club Room. Honestly, not a lot of work happens in this area. It’s too fun down there for work. And, it being a walk out basement Club Room, it creates a natural noise buffer for the Jenning kids to have their friends over while Michael and Rachael entertain upstairs.
This is the Club Room designed by Gail Davis of Gail Davis Design.
Specified & Sourced:
Pisa Floor Lamps, Noir
Davis Mist Grey Chairs, Article
Timber Olio Green Sofa, Article
Artistic Weavers Rug, Abstract in Congressional Grey
Wall Console, Custom, J. Michael Cooper
Surfboard Art, J. Michael Cooper
Paint from Sherwin Williams in Mercurial and Caviar
Thank you Gail for your time and talent. Your patience and amazing vision. Thank you to Convo By Design partners and sponsors; ThermaSol, York Wallcoverings, Franz Viegener, Moya Living and Article. And thank you for listening and subscribing to Convo By Design. I so appreciate that you take me with you on your drives, hikes, workouts all the other places where you listen to your podcasts. For more stories from the Remote Design House – Tulsa and interviews, panels and design events, please make sure you are subscribing to the show. Remember why you do what you do and take today first.