A Conversation with Elle Schwab Part II

With 18 different projects in the works and years of design experience, Elle’s relationship-focused approach to create timeless, personal spaces has continued to impress and exceed her client’s expectations.

And that designer-client relationship is everything. Knowing her clients personally and how they live and utilize their spaces brings out the best in her designs. “Going into a project, some people know exactly what they want, and others need guidance,” she says. It’s about taking pieces that my clients are excited about and cohesively blending them with the existing architectural style, additional furniture pieces, and art and accessories to complete the overall aesthetic of the home.”

We’ve had a conversation with Elle before, but here we dig deeper into her design process, learn about her favorite new design trends and her secret to creating stunning, meaningful spaces her clients love.

Any simple starter tips you give your clients?
I always ask my clients to share something that they love, whether it’s a finish, like a beautiful wood floor, or a piece of furniture. From there, we make selections to create a space that’s not only functional, but unique to them – all based around that finish or piece that we started the conversation with. I encourage my clients to be open with their opinions and try to not overthink every detail. Some clients know exactly what they want, but they need guidance on how to execute their vision. I let them know I’m here to help throughout the process, no matter where we start.

How does your insight and style influence your client’s project?
My design style is clean and simplistic with a little bit of a “wow.” I create spaces that are warm, yet minimalistic and exude a sense of clean elegance. I’m also organized and very detailed oriented and this is reflected in my designs through a sense of refinement, comfort and functionality.

How do you help your clients figure out their style?
I ask my clients share inspiration images of rooms, fixtures, and furnishings, so I can get a grasp of what they’re looking for and what they like and dislike. We can narrow down a lot during this process. Not everyone has a style that can be categorized, specially between couples! Sometimes their styles are so different. I’m here to meld the two together to create a cohesive, beautiful space. In fact, I’m experiencing this personally as I build my own home with my husband. We definitely go back-and-forth on every detail! Luckily, I’m a pro at finding the middle ground and guiding clients to create spaces that are a true reflection of themselves and meaningful in every way.


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What does a successful project mean to you?
A happy client is the true definition of a successful project. I especially know a project is successful when a client loves their final look and wants to work with us again. Repeat business is the highest form of flattery. Lisa Yates, my senior design partner, and I have clients that have come back to us four times! We’ve revamped furnishings, added new furnishings and have taken on completely new design and build projects with them. It’s an incredible experience to have this early in my design career.

What clues about your personality and style does your home reveal?
Currently, I’m building my own home! I space planned the interior inside a rectangular footprint and took my design to our in-house architect to make sure it passed his stamp of approval. My husband and I definitely created a home that’s spacious and functional with lots of storage. No open shelves! Everything in our house will have a place. I’m most excited about the functionality of our new space and how it works for our day-to-day lives.

What spaces inspire you most?
Spaces that get used in an unexpected way; like netting above stairs that acts as an extra hang out area, a children’s treehouse in their bedroom, or a bookcase that is a secret passage into a quiet room. I also love spaces that bring the outdoors in through sliding glass walls that retract, especially throughout the summer and fall months here in the mountains. There’s nothing better than that fresh mountain air as you sit in your living room! Homes can become so monotonous. Sometimes it’s difficult to be creative, new and different. If there’s a way to make a space function differently than its original intention, that’s inspiring to me.

What’s your favorite trend right now in the design world?
I love Pantone’s True Blue and Sherwin Williams’ Navel, Colors of the Year! Both are beautiful accent colors and pop in neutral spaces.

Another favorite is blending grays and browns. Warmer tones are beginning to trend again and fit well with a mountain-modern look.

What do you enjoy picking out more? Finishes or furnishings?
Definitely finishes because they have longevity in a space.

What’s a new piece we’re offering in the showroom that you’re excited about?
Two pieces from last year’s market; an ottoman upholstered in an antiqued rug and a stunning amethyst crystal side table. We have quite the pillow collection in our showroom as well – I love being able to source from so many different colors and textures!

What spaces are you currently designing?
Right now, I’m touching all stages of design. I’m working on a new construction project that’s technically 7 floors, but 4 are offset. The home sits at the base of Peak 8 in Breckenridge and it’s going to be a showstopper inside and out. We’ve done a new construction design with these clients before and have furnished two of their other homes. It’s an incredible bonus to already know the client’s aesthetic preferences, personality and to already have a great relationship with them upfront and throughout the design process.

I’m also working on a couple of new remodel projects. One is in the Vail Valley and one is in Breckenridge just off Main Street. The Vail Valley project is a full remodel, including a new kitchen, all new baths and furnishings. In Breckenridge, we’re making minor tweaks, but it’s going to completely refresh the home by adding new cabinetry, tile, flooring and fixtures.

I have multiple full-furnishings projects as well, completely revamping and refreshing spaces to be current, unique and inspiring.

Greatest accomplishment with Collective?
Collaborating and designing a home in South Carolina with Lisa last summer. The clients didn’t want the traditional coastal look, popular on the East Coast. We did a subtler version of coastal design, steering away from seashells and coral, still including lighter, beachy tones. Simultaneously, we were furnishing their home here in Frisco. It was interesting and fun to create spaces for the same clients in completely different locations.

What do you see for the future of design?
In residential design, I see spaces being centered around relaxation and minimalism – spaces that make you happy. A home should be a place that represents you and always brings you joy.

What do you like best about your line of work?
Happy clients. They make the process so enjoyable. I also love that every day is different, whether I’m working in CAD, working with a client, fabric scheming, furniture sourcing, or all of the above!

Collective Design Group is an award-winning interior design firm serving Vail Valley, Summit County, Winter Park and surrounding areas.

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