Ask the expert: interior designer Mimi Pineau tells us how to save, when to go big, and which design blunders to avoid

Ask the expert: interior designer Mimi Pineau tells us how to save, when to go big, and which design blunders to avoid

Interior designer Mimi Pineau, known for such innovative residential spaces as the minuscule but modern shed she exhibited at the 2010 Interior Design Show, tells us how to save, when to go big, and which design blunders to avoid at all costs.

(Image: Vanessa Heins) 

How much time do you spend on a job?
Longer than people expect—anywhere from a couple of months to many years. With clients you really like, it can be diffi­cult to end. It’s a bit like a breakup. You literally see their kids grow up.

What’s the worst design mistake your clients make?
Being too timid, especially with size or proportions. Get some good design advice at the outset, establish where you want the emphasis, and have the courage to go forward with those decisions. Rugs are a good example: a four-by-six-foot rug in a large room just doesn’t work. And with artwork, sometimes people want to put up tiny little pieces, but I recommend saving up for a while so you can choose something that makes a big statement.

What can you do for someone with a $300,000 loft and a $3,000 budget?
I’d focus on making changes that are more flash than cash, like using colour in clever ways.

Do you use a colour wheel as your design compass?
No. There are no rules anymore. Designers have come up with such great colour combinations lately, like mixing acidic yellows, greens and oranges. My colours are more muted, but even a chartreuse green looks great in combination with a nice, mid-tone grey.

What design trends are on their way out?
That over-the-top, pure 1960s look needs to go. If you like a certain decade, give
it a nod by incorporating elements you really love, in small doses: a modular sectional sofa, an artichoke pendant lamp or a Mies van der Rohe daybed.

What about Italian marble bathrooms? Overrated and overdone?
I don’t think so. Designers are doing so much with marble and mosaic, creating beautiful patterns and updating the classic material for modern interiors.

Where do men and women disagree when it comes to home design?
Women usually want a walk-in closet. I recommend that the husband get some­thing in exchange, like his own man cave. Maybe that’s a basement room with a ton of electronics and the requisite big screen TV, or maybe it’s the more upscale version—a wine cellar.

Any tips for finding great bargains?
Look at higher-end stores that carry quality, such as Elte, and ask them when their big sales are. Check out the Designers Walk annual sidewalk sale for amazing prices on trade showroom items. Take your measurements and design plans with you and be ready to buy.

What’s your house like?
It’s an Edwardian home between High Park and the Junction. I love the detail of historical homes: the high, chunky baseboards, the original crown mouldings. But my house is an unfinished, long-term project, partly because I want to mix old and new, and that takes time.

Does your house always come last? Like that proverb about the shoemaker’s children going barefoot?
Yes. I give most of my great ideas away to my clients.