Alexis Nielsen Interiors

Responsible Design

The Not So Big Showhouse:Schoolstreet

The Not So Big Showhouse: Schoolstreet


Recently I was invited to attend an industry discussion on new trends in luxury design. It was a roundtable made up of local builders, designers, architects, landscape architects, kitchen and bath suppliers, stone masons, a/v experts and realtors. I knew the trends I was seeing in my own experience and I was eager to share them. But I soon realized that my idea of innovative and exciting design trends was vastly different from what the majority of others were discussing. 19,000 square foot homes. Kitchens with double islands. Caterer’s kitchens. Separate home theaters – one for adults and another for the kids. 1,500 square foot outdoor kitchen and living spaces.  It went on.

I am not naive. I know we live in a market that has the top 1% living here. The money is there, so follows the desire. I am positive that these homes incorporate beautiful design features and are award winning. The amount of detail on a home of this scale is incredible and takes skilled craftsmanship. As I sat there listening to one giant house story after another, I felt ashamed. Why am I here? This is not my experience, my client base. My projects are much smaller, so therefore I am less of a designer. I don’t belong at this table.

But then I started to feel anger. The longer I sat there the more I wanted to ask: is this responsible design? We see every day the impact our choices make on this earth. It is not just enough to recycle, but to reduce and reuse, and make decisions that help our resources, not deplete them. It’s wonderful that you opted for that recycled wood dining table, but if it has to be shipped on a tanker from overseas, what is the benefit gained? We are making homes that are smarter, more efficient and that leave less of a carbon footprint than the ones that we grew up in. As with all industries, don’t we have a responsibility to make design more harmonious with the planet?

Tom Bassett-Dilley, architect Oak Park

Tom Bassett-Dilley, architect Oak Park


But this is just one facet of the industry. There are many designers and builders out there who are creating efficient, beautiful, smart designs. We are fortunate to have one of the leaders in the industry in our own backyard  – Tom Basset-Dilley.

My own market is working men and women, some with children, others not, who have modest homes and want to enjoy them and who chose to use a designer for a time and money saver and to bring ideas that they otherwise would not have thought to use. My clients are savvy and conscientious and their homes reflect not only their hard work but also their desire to live as responsibly as they can while still living their everyday lives. I am not a luxury designer and I will probably never make a million dollars. But I am okay with that.


One Comment

  • Alex on May 31, 2018 Reply

    Thank you for sharing this great perspective! Luxury has a lot of lovely aspects, but your perspective on design has a heck of a lot more heart!

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