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“One of a Kind Design – The Real Deal”

by / Saturday, 12 March 2016 / Published in Blog

One of a Kind Design (OKD), an Interior Design company, has seen significant growth in 2015, expanding from primarily custom cabinetry to include more space planning, plans for additions, lighting plans, interior finishes, consulting on landscape design, concept drawings for exterior façade renovations and project management for both residential and light commercial spaces.  This Clarion company’s reputation has spread, largely by referrals, beyond the tri-county area to land jobs in Erie, Pittsburgh and even Dayton, OH and Long Island, NY.

In addition to great word-of-mouth referrals, Owner and Interior Designer Julie A. Graf also credits her business’ growth to the internet, which allows her to offer unique online design and consulting services to anyone anywhere.  She also offers low-cost, no obligation consultations both locally and virtually that allow people to “bounce ideas off” of her, which often leads to prospects hiring her for actual design work – about 95% of the time, she says.

Julie is a Certified Kitchen Designer and an Allied ASID member, who has been designing for 15+ years.  But before she studied interior design, she enjoyed working on construction and renovation projects.  She is no stranger to hand, power, and woodworking tools, and knows how to do plumbing and electrical work as well, which she says gives her an edge as a designer.  She has also surprised many contractors with her ability to understand structural and mechanical systems, and offer effective solutions to overcome obstacles in the field.  Julie says “My construction knowledge base helps me to design spaces that are not only beautiful but feasible, and I think contractors and customers appreciate that.”

Her love of space planning and the construction trades made her first consider becoming an architect, but at the time, she couldn’t pick up and move to State College to study architecture.  Her second choice was to become a contractor herself, but none of the contractors would take her seriously when she asked to learn roofing and framing.  They assumed that a petite five-foot-two-inch woman couldn’t possibly swing a hammer, run a saw or know how to frame a wall. She assures us they were wrong.

These obstacles were, perhaps, a blessing in disguise as they led Julie to complete both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Interior Design. Her best training, she says, came from hands-on experience as a remodeler and cabinet installer: “I loved being in the trenches; moving walls, doing plumbing, electrical and drywall, installing cabinets and counters…those things made me a better designer. I learned the hard work it takes to make a design look good, and I got to see my ideas come to life.” Her combined experience, training and talents have made her a designer that people quickly come to trust, because they realize she “knows her stuff” and her knowledge and love for what she does is immediately evident.  She prides herself on being able to come up with ideas that are out of the ordinary, but actually meet her customers’ needs and save them money in the long run, because they are practical and based on a good, solid plan.

Julie also enjoys the educational side of what she does, whether it’s educating the client as she designs their project or the informational lectures that she offers through the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Association and events like the Erie Home Show.  She has previously taught Interior Design classes at Chatham University and the Art Institute of Pittsburgh as an adjunct instructor, though her current schedule does not allow her time for this.

Her appreciation of historic architectural styles has led her to membership in the Frank Lloyd Wright Preservation Trust and participation in educational programs (elementary to adult) in sustainability.  Her respect for a building’s original architecture and a love for the challenge of “working with what you’ve got, because restoration is sustainable”, allows Julie to excel at designing interiors in historic buildings.  But she also has an open sense of wonder about new technology and likes to “save the old and incorporate the new”, seeing what’s good and how it can be retained, re-used, and improved.

She says she has a “unique flare for rustic and earthy”, but can also design in a very refined manner and anything in-between.  She has a great respect for organic design style, loves using wood and stone in their natural state, and making the indoors and out-of-doors flow into each other, which has led to the landscape consulting she has added to her list of services.  “I like the interior and exterior spaces to ‘think’ about each other; I let a little spill out and a little spill in.”

Julies says there’s nothing HGTV about her designs; hers are based in reality.  She has a very good sense of and background in construction, and is mindful of how all the larger elements and the small details fit together, designing so that the contractor can actually build it.  She embraces realistic expectations, timelines and structural considerations.  Unlike many interior designers, she knows how to identify load-bearing walls, structural issues, the complexity of mechanical systems, and realizes there are sometimes limitations, so she doesn’t promise what’s not possible.  Julie says, “Being in the ‘trenches’ made me mindful of the other trades people working with me on projects.”

Julie also admits she is definitely not a soft-lines “decorator”.  While she likes pillows and textiles– and even gets ideas for designs from them – she is more focused on space planning, finishes and lighting. “Function before finishes” is her motto.  Julie says that sometimes, though, her design inspirations come from the oddest places, like her coffee mug that inspired a fantastic stainless steel diamond plate and cherry wood bar.

The breadth of design services that OKD offers is extensive, ranging from helping with design choices for building a new home or addition, to finishing basements and garages, re-configuring floor plans and preparing a space to be ADA accessible and adaptable.  She can be involved as little or much as each job warrants, from design or ordering products to full project management. Julie also offers help with updating décor and finishes, choosing colors, staging for open houses and even decorating for events and holidays.  In addition to design plans, OKD offers lighting, flooring, fixtures, counters, some furniture and, her specialty, stock and custom cabinetry, to bring the design to life.

Designing various types of custom cabinetry is where it all began for OKD, including bars, home offices and other built-ins. She works with a list of trusted contractors and craftsmen who do quality work and are able to bring her de sign visions to life.  For example, Myers Custom Woodworks in Franklin who create all of her custom cabinetry.

Julie’s plans for 2016 include the addition of a part-time administrative assistant who will handle office work, as well as assist with CAD drawings for contractors and customers.  She also expects to do more Aging in Place Designs, both for multiple generations living under the same roof and extending the time a client can remain in their home by making it adaptable to changes in their mobility as they age.  She is scheduling more informational lectures on accessible design and kitchens in older homes with the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Association as well as locally and in Erie.

Also in 2016, OKD will be creating some design videos.  Julie has taken a Video for Business workshop, and hopes her new hire will allow her the time to create the videos, which will be available on YouTube and on her website.

Julie’s website is www.okdinteriordesign.com and you can follow her on Facebook at “One of a Kind Design”.  Both have many photos of her design projects.  She is also on Houzz, which she likes to use as a shared idea board as she works with her clients.  You can find her on Houzz.com by searching “Julie Graf, One of a Kind Design”.

Contact Julie by email at okdinteriordesign@windstream.net or call her at 814-316-2608.

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