Intensive Care

Interior designer Faith Wolf is part detective, part psychologist, and part reassuring mom.

When she first visits a client's home, she's paying attention not just to what they're telling her about furniture styles and countertop materials — she's looking for subtler clues as well.

“I note what they're wearing. People always wear the colors they love. You can even learn something from the fruit basket on the counter: There are people who won't put an orange in there because they can't live with that color. I take into consideration what they're not saying as well as what they are saying.”

Some clients, Wolf says, know exactly what they want. They've done their homework on the Internet or they've got file folders of clippings. “Others need more hand-holding: They may have no idea of what they'd like to use.”

Once a full-time member of the Bartelt Filo staff, Wolf now works with the firm on an independent basis. When a new project is ready to launch, her involvement begins at an initial meeting where the project manager and other staffers gather to go over blueprints and the contract.

Wolf then contacts the client to set up an on-site meeting. “I'm the first one on the job,” she says. “I'm out there well before construction starts.”

With the daunting number of decisions remodeling projects demand, a big part of her job is setting priorities. Clients are sometimes surprised at the order in which they're required to make final choices. Plumbing fixtures first, before the stud walls go up; appliances next, so cabinetry selections can be made; hardware and countertops before carpeting and paint.

“The log look the Riggs wanted made things so much easier. It immediately narrowed our options. We knew we wanted a lot of texture and we brought that in in the carpeting and drywall, as well as in the tile and the hardware,” she says. “For paint colors, we looked around upstairs and picked up on the greens and salmons. They all played into each other: a rustic look, very natural, nothing bright and shiny.”

Every client is different, Wolf says, but her role remains the same: “I see myself as a sort of ‘nurse' for the house. I help them realize the dream that they have.”