Spokane Journal of Business

In sync in class, interior designers launch their own firm

Nook Interiors mostly reconfigures inside spaces in older Spokane homes

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In sync in class, interior designers launch their own firm
-—Staff photo by Treva Lind
Carolina Johnson and Bridgit Wilson started Nook Interiors LLC after working together on an interior-design project while students at Spokane Falls Community College.

When business partners Bridgit Wilson and Carolina Johnson sought a name for their interior design firm, they thought of a cozy nook—often used for dining—as an inviting part of a home.

They started Spokane-based Nook Interiors LLC last September, after they worked together as interior design students at Spokane Falls Community College. While at SFCC, they had teamed up with a third student to design an interior for a home in the River Run development, in northwest Spokane, that was sold as an SFCC scholarship fundraiser.

"We handled all the aesthetics and were responsible for all the finishing materials," explains Wilson, who says the third designer now lives in the Seattle area. "It sold in three weeks."

Adds Johnson, "It was during the project that Bridgit and I realized we work really well together. We complement each other."

Since deciding to launch a joint enterprise, Wilson and Johnson have continued their in-sync approach, having completed four major interior design projects since December. They do a range of projects—mainly remodels of existing home spaces—but they also seek new construction and commercial design work.

Most of their clients want to update homes in a desired neighborhood, or to refresh an interior area because they feel they can't sell their house in a down real estate market, Wilson says.

"In Spokane, a lot of people love their established neighborhoods, but they don't like the configuration of their home," Wilson says. "You have people who want to reconfigure their homes so they have more efficient use of existing space, or they want a facelift."

"We also hear from people who want a facelift for their homes because they're not going to move because of the down market," Wilson adds. "They're thinking, if we have to stay here, we want to really like it."

Both partners work out of their homes, often communicating with each other on clients' behalf or going together to a remodel site. They organize project requirements into a shared three-ring binder and work with contractors as the project progresses. The partners offer a range of services to clients—from overseeing the selection of furniture and appliances to selecting color schemes.

When working on an interior space, the pair meets with clients to go over the design, and propose a contract based on an estimated time to complete the work. For larger hands-on projects, the hourly fee runs about $75 an hour, but with an agreed-upon cap on total cost.

For a recently completed remodel of a 1922-built Rockwood Boulevard home on the lower South Hill, the pair designed a new kitchen and great room area, created from the removal of a dividing wall, to open up new space for a dining nook, extra storage, and activities. They helped the clients replace a section of nearly 90-year-old wood flooring to match the existing wall-to wall wood floors. That meant special ordering wood panels in a smaller width that is no longer sold by flooring companies and matching the wood stain.

"It was really a closed-off floor plan before," says Wilson about the Georgian Colonial Re-vival style house. "This (remodeled space) has great circulation and space for entertaining. We thought of storage, wherever we could find it, built-in."

However, the two say they keep the historical features of a home in mind. "The clients didn't want to steer too far from the original house build."

With the open area, Wilson and Johnson helped select furniture and reupholster two wing-backed chairs, lighting fixtures, and usable areas for the clients' young family. That included a built-in seat bench with storage for an eating nook, table and chairs, and on the opposite wall, a buffet wall with a media desk and wall cabinets.

The remodel also included refurbishing some kitchen cabinets, adding new marble surfaces, and helping the clients pick out appliances. They also kept an eye to "repurposing" items, a term for reuse of pieces such as cabinet doors removed during the remodel.

Johnson even went as far as painting a piece of artwork that hangs over the dining nook. "They couldn't find a painting they liked exactly, so I took a go at an image she liked," says Johnson.

"We're that crazy; we go to that length," adds Wilson, with a laugh.

Wilson says she comes to the business with a 10-year background handling rental properties. Meanwhile, Johnson has run her own business as a make-up artist for weddings and photography shoots. They say both of them have artistic talent, and both have business backgrounds.

"We definitely bounce ideas off each other," Johnson adds. "I like the idea of two heads together. There are so many details to take into consideration."

They also offer what they call an "e-design" service, providing design options following a completed client questionnaire and onsite appraisal. The drawings, specifications and a shopping list are emailed to clients who want to do their own upgrades, with a flat fee of roughly $1,500 charged.

"A lot of people want to be involved in their own remodel," says Wilson. "They need a direction, and we can say here's your plan and a shopping list."

Treva Lind
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