Interior designers Alison Palevsky and Sarah Shetter and their Hollywood-agent clients share the same brand of woo: 24/7 availability.
“Agents are never home,” says Palevsky, who founded SPI Design with fellow USC grad Shetter in 2004. “They can’t be home all day waiting for the sofa to be delivered.”
Shetter and Palevsky were working for designers in New York and Los Angeles, respectively, when they realized there was an opportunity in serving clients who came of age using e-mail and text messaging — technology that the old guard of decorators was sometimes slow to embrace.
Most SPI clients are agents and writers who recently purchased their first “real” homes and are new to working with interior designers. Notable projects include the remodel of the reception/lobby in the Gersh Agency’s Gotham office, a screenwriter’s Spanish home, a bachelor agent’s mid-century pad in the Hollywood Hills and a vacation home in Cabo San Lucas. The Gersh commission led to renovating Gersh agent Lindsay Porter’s New York apartment, which is when SPI’s BlackBerry skills really came into play.
“With anyone else, I might have been daunted by the fact that they were 3,000 miles away,” says Porter.
In a move stolen from reality TV’s playbook, SPI clients are sent to a hotel for a few days while the designers oversee the final installation of everything from cabinetry to candy dishes. They also stock the house with food and wine — the better for a dramatic “reveal.”
SPI says the average residential commission takes approximately four months, much of which is spent trying to tease out a client’s tastes.
However, Palevsky and Shetter say that’s one hurdle they don’t have to face with agent clients, as they tend to have as strong opinions about home design as they do about material.
“I would probably work at Martha Stewart if I didn’t work at Gersh,” Porter says.
However, SPI’s political skills are equal to their technical ones. Shetter and Palevsky advise former clients on new purchases after a project is complete and have even been known to accompany them on house-hunting expeditions. Even professional hand-holders like holding hands.
For more information, go to www.spi-design.com.