A Conversation with Emily Conley Part II

Emily’s eclectic and timeless style shines in each and every one of her projects. Since joining the Collective team three years ago, she’s already completed over 30 projects ranging from helping her client find the perfect piece of furniture to full remodels.

We’ve had a conversation with Emily before, but here we dive deeper into how she manages different clients and projects, what inspires her as a designer, and her favorite ways to help make her clients house feel like home.

How do you describe your job as an interior designer?
I’m here to simplify the process. I figure out the client’s wants and needs in order to guide them in the right direction. That way, together, we achieve the perfect, functional space plan for how they will use their home and find stylish pieces they love.

For me, design is storytelling. I am a designer, listener and interpreter. I bring the vision of a home to life by creating a story through color, textures and patterns. Each project is unique because my clients are, and I love what I do.

You’ve completed a variety of projects since joining Collective, how do you manage the variety of clients and types of projects?
It’s all about getting to know each of my clients on a personal level. As the designer, I’m providing a service, and ultimately, it’s their home and where they will spend most of their time. It’s so important to dig deep, communicate often and build trust throughout the process.

You’ve recently worked on two projects in Vail, for a single owner, that had two very different design aesthetics. How do you manage projects that are so different?
My client had two very different visions. He knew what he was looking for from the start and communicated that with me. One of the homes was a spec home, meeting a budget and aesthetic that would sell in the luxury mountain market. It was purely a business investment. The other property was a second home for personal use and the client desired a more eclectic, rustic, mountain feel that felt different from his home in Florida. The challenge was getting the client to make decisions quickly because he travels a lot and always finds new things he wants to incorporate while travelling. His personal home remodel has been under construction for almost 3 years and the spec home was completed in 12 months. I was able to successfully bring each space to life, by working with him and getting to know his vision for each property.

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Walk me through the beginning of your design process…
I always ask my clients to pull inspiration from Houzz, Pinterest or Instagram. We’ll go through various samples such as stone, wood, or wall plaster. I’ll have them choose textures and colors they love in materials. Then, we’ll begin sourcing furnishings that work beautifully with the finishes. Sometimes, clients come to me with an existing piece they love and that really speaks to them. We’ll start with that piece and work the room around it.

Any simple starter tips you give your clients?
If my clients are having a hard time dialing in what kind of color palate they like, I’ve learned that a great exercise is asking them to take a look in their own closet. Mine is neutral, black and white and that’s what I love in my home.

How do you help clients whose design aesthetic might not be like yours?
I’m always flexible and always listen to my clients. I’ll help guide them, throw out suggestions and offer the ability to simplify a space to make it more aesthetically pleasing.

How do you make sure your client’s house feels like home?
By incorporating any of their treasured, meaningful pieces like a bed, special table, or a piece of art that they love. Also, you can never go wrong with faux fur to make it extra cozy and warm.


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A lot of second homeowners are looking for furnishings that are durable. Is it possible to have pieces that are durable, yet stylish?
Absolutely! We include durable, yet stylish pieces in almost all of our projects. The technology of Crypton performance fabrics have come a long way. Now you can’t even tell Crypton versus a shearling. Also, I love to include wood pieces or any kind of natural surface that looks like marble. These will both withstand the staining that some people may be afraid of.

What does a successful project mean to you?
When my clients are happy, then I’m happy. I also love when everything goes smoothly throughout the entire process!

What is your favorite trend right now in the design world?
People are becoming more open to wallpaper, which I absolutely love. There’s so much variety now with a lot of timeless textures.

I also like the upwards trend of neutral tribal rugs. I’ve been seeing them a lot lately. They bring something different to a space and work in a modern or traditional setting. They also fit perfectly in the mountain aesthetic. I’d mix plaids and herringbone into the space to make it all come together.

What spaces are you currently designing?
I’m working on two new construction homes with full furnishings. Both are very high-end and modern. I’m also fully furnishing a condo in Winter Park with a black, white, and gray color scheme. I also have my hands in several furnishing projects and a few remodels, too.

What do you see for the future of design?
People are spending more time at home, now more than ever, and are beginning to look closer at their interiors, how they live and work, and are wanting to make their spaces more functional. We’re already starting to plan for more home gyms and home offices, and I predict these spaces will become staples for future home design.

I also see sustainability on the rise. Companies and manufacturers that are more environmentally friendly and made in the US will continue to thrive.

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


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