Meet the Designer: Erin Hiemstra, Apartment 34

We’ve rounded up five of the best up-and-coming designers from around the West and asked them to design rooms inspired by iconic spaces featured in Sunset issues from the 1940s through the ’80s. Their rooms will be on display at the Reimagining the Sunset Home exhibit at our annual Celebration Weekend festival in Menlo Park, California, June 1-2, 2013. This week we sat down to get to know Erin Hiemstra, who is designing the home’s “rumpus room” and home office.

Name: Erin HiemstraTitle: Stylist, BloggerCompany: Apartment 34 / Apartment 34 MediaAge: 33

Twitter Handle: @apartment_34Instagram Handle: @apartment_34Facebook Page: Page: is your area of design expertise?Erin Hiemstra (EH): I’m not an interior designer by trade or schooling. I like to call myself an accidental stylist. I probably rearranged my childhood home weekly, always wanting to move furniture, and I have been known to be late to dinner as my bathroom counter suddenly needs re-styling. I’ve also always been an intuitive designer and a voracious consumer of all things related to décor, design and style. That obsession continued through college and grad school (where I studied politics however), but in 2007, my love for the details in life could no longer be stymied. I started my lifestyle site, Apartment 34 as shelter blogs like Design Sponge, Remodelista and Décor*8 were just gaining traction and things took off from there. While I focus the majority of my time to being more of a style spotter on Apartment 34, last year I began to offer commercial styling services, styling shoots for clients ranging from apparel and accessories to beverage companies. And of course, I continue to design my own home again and again (and again!).

Describe your aesthetic in 7 words or less.EH: Relaxed, modern, urban minimalist, comfortable–not stark.

How does the Western lifestyle influence your designs?EH: Having grown up the Pacific Northwest, I’m definitely influenced by the craftsman design style that tends to dominate there. I think that’s why I still love to mix materials like rich cherry floors with leather and metal accents. But having moved to San Francisco, I now get to play with the more urban side of my aesthetic, focusing on cleaner lines, more mid-century pieces and a lighter touch.

What room are you working on for the Reimagining the Sunset Home project? What excites you most about this assignment?EH: I was tasked with designing the Home Office and what was originally inspired by a ’70s Rumpus Room, which I’ve redefined as an “Unplugged Den.” I was excited to create spaces for a modern West Coast home that I would actually want to live in. To me, those are spaces that are as aesthetically pleasing as they are functional; realistic as they are inspiring.

Tell us a little about your vision for the rooms.EH: Today’s living is all about multi-tasking so I set about creating rooms that could pull their weight by serving multiple functions.

Today, the home office is no longer a little desk in the corner, nor an out of the way room where Dad goes to disappear. As more of us have flexible working schedules and play multiple roles in life, so must our Home Office! I approached the space to serve the needs of everyone in the family, from both Mom and Dad to the kids (of course with my own world as a blogger in mind!). It could be used simultaneously by everyone in the family; for homework, paying bills or simply unwinding with an issue of Sunset magazine!

When approaching the “Unplugged Den” I was very excited to create a space that was about reconnecting. Rather than retreating to remote corners of a house with our electronic devices, I wanted to create a room that fostered offline interaction, promoted engaging activity and of course offered a great space to relax. Rather than separate parents into the living room, relegate teens into a basement or send kids off to watch a movie, this space is intended to let everyone be together – sans screens. I enjoyed getting to play with a bit more whimsy than I’d normally put into a space. Think of my design as two parts adult + one part kids.

What is your advice to homeowners who are dealing with dated home features and a small budget? Are there any quick-fix solutions for things like ’70s dark-wood paneling or popcorn ceilings?EH: This is a dilemma I’m always considering as my childhood home still has exactly that and I’m counseling my mother on remodels constantly. I’m firmly in the camp that there is no quick fix for popcorn ceilings. They really just need to come down. The work, though messy, can be done yourself (as long as safety hazards are taken into consideration), so block off a few weekends (or a month or two!) and take it down. Wood paneling (or really horrible avocado green floors) can be refreshed more easily. A fresh coat of paint (I love my bright white, but a soft grey would also be pretty) would give a space a bit of a coastal feel. There is also really good looking faux flooring these days that can be laid down for a cosmetic upgrade in a pinch.

Any advice for aspiring young designers?EH: I don’t believe there are many yes or no questions in design. Most choices are a matter of personal taste, but you also should always be a student. Always be evaluating design. Look at books, magazines and other designers’ work and ask yourself what you like and what you don’t.  What functions well and what doesn’t. Then just begin to try, learning from every project you do, be it for your mom or your first paying client. I’m the first one to admit something can always be improved, but you just have to start somewhere.

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