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Myth Busting The Interior Design Trade.

I was over at a client’s one day getting their home ready for a neighborhood home tour they were participating in. I was putting all the accessories in place and arranging the furniture so that it was just perfect. There were several gracious old homes on the tour, many of them had been photographed for magazines in the past, but my client’s home is the oldest, and the one house in the neighborhood that arouses the most curiosity because it sits high up on a hill with a craggy set of winding steps flanked by gargoyles. In essence, it’s the creep-tastic home on the block. The kind you see in scary movies.

I had been working with them for several years, picking up the perfect items when we’ve found or needed them. Slowly creating a home that reflects both of their personalities of savvy candor and ease with open heartedness to chic cultural influences. I generally work on a casual basis with people, allowing their homes to progress  over time; as if each piece acquired adds to the story of the home and the lives within.

“OMG, we look RICH! How did that happen,….?”

While my clients were busy preparing some snacks for the event in the kitchen, I took the opportunity to take a snapshot of their living room with my cell phone camera just because it was looking mighty pretty. The shot turned out nicer than I had anticipated, and so I showed my clients the image.

Their response was quite unexpected.

Husband: “OMG we look RICH! How did that happen, considering we aren’t?”

Wife: “Yeah, that’s a crazy good shot!! You know,..I don’t know why people don’t use Interior Designers more. You, (Carter), have saved us from wasting our time trying to find the right items while saving us thousands of dollars by not buying the wrong stuff.” “You got our vibe from the start. So,..why is it so hard for people to use Designers?”

Good question: Why is it so hard for people to use Interior Designers?

There’s a couple of reasons as to why and I can state a few below:

FEAR: The interior design profession is seen as an intimidating one. It’s also seen as a luxury or superfluous where only the wealthy hire such experts. While this isn’t true, this myth has such a stronghold on the public consciousness, that it’s perenially a hard one to shake off. Interior Designers are like any other profession where one would need an expert to get the right results. A good lawyer, plumber, contractor or doctor are considered worth the price tag, but designers more often than not get a bum wrap for their expertise. Certainly magazines and social media showcasing extravagantly designed homes don’t help play down the preconceived high price tag. People fear designers will be too expensive and thus bypass our expertise to help them.

THE INTERNET: The internet is a vast resource for design and design ideas. It’s pretty much endless in terms of options. Naturally, many may think that it’s easy to just follow a tip or copy an inspiration from a blog or buy that cheap replica chair online thinking it’s going to look good the second it arrives. Sadly, this is usually where a rude awakening happens as that bargain chair you thought was going to be great doesn’t even come close to resembling the photoshopped image you saw online. Quite often, novice, DIY designers make the mistake of not knowing size, scale or quality of the item they are buying – it just looks pretty online so they get it. Once it arrives, sending it back may be a challenge, so living with your mistake is just what you do. Money lost rather than well spent. Yes, you do get what you pay for, and with the internet being what it is, this is an easy trap to fall into. I’ve always said: “Buy quality once, you cry once. Buy cheap once, you cry a lot!”

“Buy quality once, you only cry once.

Buy cheap once, and you’ll cry a lot!”


CHOICE: There are so many choices these days for design, people get the idea that all this choice is a good thing. But limitless choices actually cause more problems than they solve. First of all, it can become overwhelming. While you spend countless hours, days weeks, years perusing Pinterest lets say,  interior designers can quickly navigate and pinpoint the right style much much faster; literally warp speed in comparison. So if your time isn’t valuable, go head and scour for that deal forever. If your time is indeed valuable, then an interior designer can get you where you want to be sooner than you think

FREE DESIGN ADVICE: Many big box stores advertise free design advice from their “design team”. Sounds attractive right? Why hire an independent interior designer when you can get the advice free, right? That’s why so many people opt to use these services. But in reality, it isn’t free. Most of these store designers are actually salespeople who have to fulfill a sales quota. They will get to know you enough to make the sale whereas an independent designer will get to know you much more thoroughly, your real style, innate preferences and designs around you – not a catalog.

“An independent Designer designs

around you,..not a catalog.”



Our jobs as designers, in reality, is to problem solve design dilemmas. That awkward room size, the maze of small rooms or strange floorpan. Architectural features that seem fantastic on premise such as open floor plans or double height ceilings, that prove to be problematic once you’ve moved in. We first decipher the issues at hand, find solutions and then start to interject the client’s personality into a space. Many designers actually pay attention to client budgets and will work within the limits, finding things that a client, on their own, would never be able to obtain. Yes, we may have a higher hourly rate than those “free services” at a big box store, but what we do for our clients is get the job done right,..the first time.

So what’s the best way to get over your fear of hiring an interior designer? Make a phone call, ask questions and decide for yourself if using a designer is worth it. Usually it is, if not for expediency and expertise, but for getting the beautiful home you desire faster than you ever though possible. Designers are in the service industry after all, we are here to serve you. Our training and eye for detail can and should be utilized by all, not just the rich. As my client’s above proclaimed, “You helped us look rich when we are not.”

You see, you’ve been in the driver’s seat the entire time,………….you just didn’t know it!




Rule Breaker



Learn the Rules like a Pro

       So you can Break them like an Artist

~Pablo Picasso ~


It took a long time to learn the rules. My interest in art started early on out of a natural affinity for expressing myself through crayons at age 4. Drawing on any paper I could find, cardboard or other surface, I copied everything witnessed through my eyes of nature around me. All one had to do was look at my room and drawings were everywhere, and when I ran out of paper, I started in on the walls. It drove my parents nuts, but they also recognized that there was something there; this quiet, introverted kid was displaying an early passion for a vocation. Art.

An evening at my studio working on a half finished canvas mural for a client.


It didn’t take long for my mother to find a retired art teacher who made extra money teaching young students at her kitchen table inside her home every Wednesday night. Her name was Mrs. Brown. There I sat with 2-3 other kids, (all of us between 6-8 years old), learning how to correctly draw tigers, giraffes, people’s faces and figures. It was amazing to go to her house every Wednesday night and bring home something that didn’t look like stick figures or pencil scratchings. I was learning and loving it. At the time, I hadn’t known that Mrs. Brown was an accomplished artist showcasing in galleries around the country, or that what she was teaching her students were lessons in drawing that were at the level of a teenager.

In fourth grade I had another phenomenal teacher who helped to shape and mold me, Mrs. DiGangi. While she taught the usual fourth grade curriculum, the main focus was for all her students to learn about culture and art. Our days were spent learning classical music, naming the song by ear along with the composer. We had to recognize famous art and the artists who painted each piece and the year created. She showed us how to write our own poetry, plays, scripts and how to produce a theater show. This was not your typical public school fourth grade class. What none of us knew, was that Mrs. DiGangi believed her students so much, that she taught at a 12th grade level of competence, hoping it would all sink in. For me, it certainly did.

Replicating a french mural from the 17th Century using authentic gouaches made from fermented beer and gesso.

Throughout my teens, 20s and 30s, I learned the rules of Art and became a pro. I could copy classical artwork with ease; had no issues coming up with creative solutions to any project handed to me in regards to art and design for residential and commercial spaces. Many people loved that I could replicate an old masters style of painting, but copying such things only left me partially fulfilled. I needed more. I needed to explore.

“Many people loved that I could replicate an old masters style of painting, but copying such things only left me partially fulfilled.”

I did so first by simply changing colors and compositions of the things I had been taught. With each step into unknown territories, I became bolder in my attempts to create something of significance. I failed more often than I succeeded. Still, I got paid for the work, though in my own head I hadn’t done anything mind blowing. I felt stuck. Should I keep on doing what pays the bills or should I explore? That kind of decision is like leaping off a cliff, hoping there’s something to soften the blow below.

It can be an arduous task to find one’s voice, to become noted in a crowded room. I had fallen into the trap of comparing myself to other artists, thinking they were better, more skilled and more accomplished. They certainly knew how to self-promote. Who was I, then, to have all this education but no resonating voice. I dove further into the abyss, trying to find what excited me beyond what had been learned. I needed to transform.

After: Chair painted with Chameleon paint that changes color as one walks around it to match the sharkskin silk fabric.

That’s when I founded Omforme. A word that literally means “to transform” in Norwegian. Starting with a set of chairs that I had painted in saturated pastels in a new type of paint called chameleon paint. The paint actually changes colors as you walk around the chairs. Pink turns to orange, blue turns to green, etc. I put a listing up on this new website I had heard about called Etsy. Lots of creatives and craftspeople had already been successful on Etsy, yet I had huge doubts that anything would come of my listing. For sure I thought, nothing will sell, it will just sit there for everyone to laugh at and talk about how gaudy the chairs were. How they would never have anything like that in their homes – too much! On the spur of the moment, I decided to add one of the murals I had painted – yet another copy of classical work as the backdrop. At least there would be something people would like even if my chairs proved to be visually appalling.

Yeah, I was prepared for the worst. What actually happened instead, moved me: people started responding favorably. I couldn’t believe it. To see all the “likes” and “saves” people were doing of my stupid chairs and replica art. To them, what I had created wasn’t stupid, it was new and exciting. That’s when I realized I had found my voice. The chairs and the mural sold to the same person within two weeks of it being listed on Etsy. I was amazed and humbled from the experience. I knew I had to continue being able to produce interesting works of art through furniture restoration and design. To do things in a way that others hadn’t seen before. What I didn’t realize was that I had unwittingly learned how to break the rules and become an artist for real, in my own mind.

I still produce colorful furnishings. While many are uncomfortable having such boldness in their homes, there is a whole group of people who crave the unusual; trying to find their voice too. I am thankful for them, for I will never stop breaking the rules. After all, it’s why rules exist in the first place, to break with tradition and push us forward and grow from.

The Art of Furniture

As furniture goes, it’s primary function is functionality, right?

Chairs are to be sat on, tables used for eating at, beds for sleeping. It’s pretty clear that much of our belongings are meant for functionality. The means of which to live a fairly comfortable existence. But when does furniture, for all it’s form and functionality, become art?

It may surprise you to know that some of the earliest embracers of furniture as art were architects. Their passion for creating inspiring buildings naturally turned to creating furnishings that would coincide with their projects, thus making sure the atmosphere as a whole would project a kind of beauty as seen through the imagination of the architects by the people.  A chair became more than a chair. It was adorned, shaped and molded with carved woods, gold filigree and beautiful fabrics. It had  varying shapes from tudor style to Louis XVI, which have all become iconic shapes we live with today. Even in the 20th Century, it was architects such as Charles Mackintosh, Walter Gropius, Mies van der Rohe, or Eames that explored the sculptural nature of what furniture could be with new materials such as glass and steel, or bent plywood. It is these architects that sparked the flame that turned merely functional items into art.



Hair on Hide lining garnet dyed fiberglass chairs from the 1950s as transformed by Carter Averbeck

A recent exhibition at Circa Gallery in Minneapolis explores the relation of furniture in conjunction with modern art to showcase the true beauty of a notion we have lost in society; that of seeing furnishings as art. Artist/ Designer Carter Averbeck of Omforme explores the limitless possibilities for elevation of form to become more than the sum of its parts. Chairs from the 1930s get a makeover worthy of avant grade appeal, mid century chairs get a bolt of color and texture to enhance their sculptural shape even more so. Averbeck says that we’ve lost the art of furniture appreciation in the mass market culture. That our fast moving culture now doesn’t even recognize innovative design says a lot about the value we place on convenience over aesthetics. It is why we purchase things that are good enough; we won’t have it long before the next purchase. Our brains aren’t attuned to the art of the detail.

Today, replicas of iconic, decades old design have become de rigueur. “I call the first part of the 21st Century the Golden Age of Replicas. It’s a recycling of old concepts, but certainly not an exploration of new design anymore” says Averbeck. Now, no one has to think about exploratory design because we’re told what to like. Manufacturers regurgitate old design = consumer dollars. It’s a pretty sad state of affairs for designers trying to break the mold into new territories as once did Eames, or Gropius.

These days it’s expensive to produce artful furnishings. The amount of time and effort needed to create new items has a price tag, one that most consumers won’t pay. While the public can appreciate such beauty from a new version of a chair per se, it is never thought of as something to live with.

Yet in Averbeck’s world, it is,..

Carter’s formula for exploring new territories in artful furnishings by innovative restyling has found a new audience. One that is tired of having the same design shoved down their throats, who yearn for new ideas and versions of home decor or interior design. Omforme has proven to be the candy for design junkies who aren’t always searching for new, but definitely something different. Averbeck doesn’t regard himself as a pioneer, or even an innovator, but as an artist keenly attuned to seeing the potential of beautiful transformations within furniture. Walking through Circa Gallery seeing both modern art and unique furnishings together, gives hope that the art of furniture will survive.

Damia Chair: 1930s restyled chair in pleather by Carter Averbeck

Artemis Chair: Antique leather, deer hide and tapestry. Restyled by Carter Averbeck



Four Myths About Dark Interiors


Scared of the dark? Don’t be. I’ve got your 4 reasons to not be right here:

Fear of the dark is a very real thing. No I’m not talking about nighttime and monsters under the bed: I’m speaking of painting your walls a dark colour. Even the thought of doing so conjures up irrational fears in others. Dark colors get a bad wrap in interior design but they don’t have to. We are going to dispel some myths about “the dark” and shed some light on why it can enhance your home’s interior.

You’ve probably already got a few concerns swirling around in your mind:

What if:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             , encloses the room?                                                                                                                                                                                                                      ,.. feels too heavy?                                                                                                                                                                                           ,…soaks up all the light from windows?


I can dispel these myths and fears right now:

Myth Buster #1: Dark colours enclose a room:

Courtesy of

Dark colours don’t always enclose a room. As a matter of fact, it may even expand a room by wiping out any borders we see such as where walls meet ceilings or floors. Dark room can give focus on things such as views from a window, acting as a virtual frame for the beauty that takes us beyond a room’s borders. The key to many a dark painted interior is Gloss paint, and that brings me to the next Myth:

Pro Tip: When painting a room in a dark tone, use a satin to semi gloss paint to help reflect the light back into the room – keeping a balance to the atmosphere even though a dark tone exists.

Myth Buster #2: Dark Colours are heavy:

If you use darker tones in your interior the correct way, they will never feel heavy as much as they will feel grounded. For some of us, it will even have a cocooning effect that can calm our senses and bring us back to center. The key to keeping a dark coloured interior from being heavy is to make it glossy. Use of a gloss paint will reflect light from any source and bounce it back into the room.


Myth #3: Dark Colours are drab:

Have you ever tried searching for that perfect little black dress but nothing was “black” enough? Or the richness of your favorite garments have started to fade with repeated washings? You’re not alone in being disappointed when there isn’t enough colour in the things we gravitate to in our wardrobes. When it comes to dark and dramatic tones, we actually do not crave the “darkness” of a colour, we crave the intensity of it. The saturation of it. There has been study after study in the fashion world that the saturation a deep navy has been found to be more desirable than a lighter, more washed out version.

Pro Tip #2: Intensity of hue can make any dark colour exciting.

Courtesy of

Myth #4: Dark colours are depressing

Black, gray, navy and hunter green have all been given a bad wrap; yes, dark colors do represent depression in many ways, but it’s not the fault of the colour itself. Colour is colour; you either like a certain colour or you don’t. All white rooms have been shown to make people feel just as uncomfortable as all black rooms. So if that’s the case, why blame certain tones in the spectrum as depressing? The key to making sure that a dark room isn’t depressing is to create harmony in colour. What I mean by that is creating a colour story like the image above where hues of soft earthy paprikas and red ochres create a calm, not depressing, interior. This is an example of the cocooning effect displayed to perfection. But an opposite or complimentary colour from the walls can have a lively effect like the image below – making sure that there’s no room for solemness in this interior.

Courtesy of

So the lesson here is: If you want to be afraid of the dark, remember, it’s only in your mind. Dark can be, and is, lovely in many an interior designed room.

Can Minimalism Be Bold?

Minimalism Living Room

For many, a minimalist approach to design is unsettling. Assumptions of cold, harsh environments proliferate the mind. As modern day consumers, we are emotionally tied to our possessions. They are what define us, our style and our self worth. The more you have, the richer you are, (so the saying goes). Minimalism is a stance against excess but it doesn’t have to mean going without. Here are a few tips we employ in our interior design practices when the client wants to pare down and explore a minimalist approach to design.

Minimalism doesn’t mean spare: When going for a minimal look within a room, replace the word “spare” with the word “curated”. The best pieces you can pick to furnish a space should have a special or artful (almost sculptural) presence to them. Not everything has to be modern in flavor, antiques and heavily adorned pieces can be used. The trick is getting the balance of impactful furnishings and space to coincide. Think of an art gallery, the focus is one the art and not extraneous stuff. The same can be done with furnishings.

Minimalism can have colour: Mention the word minimal interior to most people and the thought of a blank white room comes to mind. Yet minimalism isn’t about a lack of color but rather the judicial use of it. Keeping a simple palette of three colours can keep things in perspective and the use of color helps promote a bold statement without all the adornment.

Minimalism Library
Minimalism isn’t about losing your possessions: As is thought, one must get rid of all their possessions in order to live a simple life. This really isn’t the case. However, editing what really matters to you within a space helps focus your view. The photo above showcases two main collections that were very important to the client: Books and a vintage glass collection. Both are cohesive by being grouped together and that’s what makes this room work. A limited collection of items help keep the feeling light and not compete for attention from the viewer.

Minimalism doesn’t mean going without: Believe it or not, one can live quite comfortably in a minimalistic environment. It’s all about paring down to the basics: what you really utilize on a daily basis. Do you sit in every chair in your house? Do you use those three sets of dinnerware with regularity? Most of us are apt to repeat a familiar routine daily, using only a few items. The rest is just “stuff” we look past without a thought. Having a few things to admire and utilize is becoming more important in the new millennia than having lots of possessions that get no attention at all.

Minimalism Bedroom

Popular assumptions of minimal interior design of being cold and harsh are starting to fade into the past as people realize that one doesn’t have to sacrifice style in order to create a fully realized environment. Minimalism is more about a way of life and how to lead one in its simplest form without losing the luxury of a warm and inviting place to dwell in. Less clutter in your home is less clutter in your mind.

DIY Table A Pro Furniture Designer

I have the fortune of having a mighty river in my back yard: The Mighty Mississippi.

I often go on lovely walks there during the warmer days and enjoy the water and parks along the way. One day I was walking and noticed beautiful pieces of driftwood that had washed up on tiny patches of sandy areas along the river and I knew I could do something inspiring with those pieces so I grabbed them up, went home and put on my design cap. Here is what I came up with:


Driftwood and Iron Table

What you need: Driftwood, iron pipe plus fittings, a drill, drill bits and a table top (I used an old piece of marble I had)
IMG_7065Once you get your driftwood cleaned up and dried out you can decide how you want to place it for best aesthetics for your table. Take your iron pipe and start playing with the physical layout until you come up with a plan as to where you will bore holes in the wood where the pipe will slide through to create stable legs for the table top. Mark your areas and the direction you will be drilling in; often it will not be at a 90 degree stance as you can see from the final photo.

IMG_7076Make sure that your drill bit is exactly the same size as the pipe you are using. Not any bigger or any smaller, you want a tight fit. Here I used 1/2″ diameter iron pipe so I used a 1/2″ drill bit. Drill your hole in the marked areas for the pipe.

IMG_7066Once you’ve drilled the holes, start to insert your pipe. This isn’t going to be super easy as it is a tight fit. I used a heavy hammer to pound the pipe through the wood until I got it to where I wanted it. My table in the photo is 20″ high (with the table top on), so I needed to make sure that the pipes at the top point was at 19″ high. A part of my driftwood was higher than that, But I knew I could saw off excess wood I didn’t need to get the height required.

When I got the pipes through the wood, I added the iron caps at the base to finish off the legs and the angle fittings were screwed onto the other end to support the table top. I made sure everything was level and then simply set the marble table top onto the base. Since the pipes were tightly in place, gravity and weight keeps them from not moving or slipping and the table is sturdy enough for everyday use.

I thought about using a glass top, even that old fashioned safety glass that had the metal mesh in it for an interesting look but ended up liking the way the marble looked. You can experiment with any table top you like, since your driftwood base is organic in nature, there is no right or wrong table top material that can go with it and not look beautiful so play around with what you have and what you can find. I guarantee you’ll have a unique table to call your own.

IMG_7083 copy




Driftwood Floor Lamp

IMG_7063This was a very easy project as all I did was the same procedure as I used for the table above and I drilled a hole for the lamp rod to go through. In this configuration, all I did was unscrew the base of the lamp and push the driftwood into place and reattached the base. flip on the switch and you have a cool, seaside light to grace your home!



Making A Room w/the ACC

We are honored to be asked to participate again in the American Craft Council’s “Make Room for Craft” where we will be designing a room around three objects from artisans showing at the 2016 ACC event coming up April 8-10 at the St Paul RiverCentre.

The theme this year is based around the four directions: North, South, East and West. We got East and couldn’t be happier to have this direction. A mix of sinuous vintage and rustic ethnic pieces will be pierced by razor sharp modern design with a custom table by Carter Averbeck for Omforme, exclusive rug by Woven Arts and walls made of metallic orange tinged grasscloth made from recycled nylon.

For more information and to read up on the four designers chosen to create a room please go to Minneapolis/ St Paul Magazine’s story to ge the scoop.




Ask An Expert : Newest Feature of MHGS

Springtime is just around the corner. Time to start dreaming of replacing those last bits of Winter blues with the freshness Spring. This year at the Minneapolis Home & Garden Show, green is definitely the theme of the event. We are thrilled to participate  in this year’s Home & Garden show with a brand new feature “Ask The Expert” where four fantastic Interior Designers will answer your design dilemmas in 15 minute complimentary sessions throughout the event. There will also be a four panel discussion on the MainStage where we can answer everyone’s questions at once.

For the kickoff, I was personally thrilled that a local publication, Lavender Magazine decided to write about the exciting changes at the event, including a nice write up of our business and how it’s influencing the mindset of consumers on purchasing older-turned-new items and the quickly fading stigma behind such purchases. You can read about it here by clicking on the photo cover of the magazine below:



In addition to our presence, we will be joined by three other incredibly talented Interior Designers: Jacque Bethke, Lucy Penfield and Kelli Kaufer who will help answer all your questions from simple DIY projects to complete design inspiration ideas. For more Information of the show and tickets, please visit Minneapolis Home & Garden Show and we will see you there!



855-OMFORME (663-6763)

Showroom hours are by appointment; it's our way of being able to cater to your needs while showing you the goods. Heck, we may even bring you back to "the Lab" where all the magic happens!