Dec 1, 2023
Cover Stories

Interior Designers: Keep it Real

So, you watch a slew of TV interior design shows and believe your creative mind and set of fashion-forward eyes have certainly collected enough design intel to make the decision: Should I use an interior designer, or not?

Yes. No. Maybe.

“When people consider hiring an interior design professional for the first time, they often don’t know what to expect,” according to Houzz, considered an iconic hub for interior designers, remodelers, contractors and homeowners. “Television can make it seem as though designers are magicians. This can create the illusion that designing, purchasing for and executing a vision can happen in a day; that concepts cost next to nothing to achieve; or that these professionals do nothing but shop, cause drama and have the time of their lives spending clients’ money.”

While design reality shows provide good entertainment, Houzz stressed, it’s not actually reality. 

So, take time to meet some “real” Gulf Coast interior designers. 

Mom and daughter designing duo Cheryl Kees Clendenon, owner/creative chief/business coach at In Detail Design Collective; and Libby Carver, interior designer/Candle Studio manager at In Detail Design Collective.


 Many elements exist in the “real design process,” and “you don’t know what you don’t know,” said nationally acclaimed Pensacola interior designer Cheryl Kees Clendenon, owner of In Detail Design Collective.

“At In Detail Design Collective, we make a concerted effort to educate; we provide information about all of the nuts and bolts involved in the process,” Clendenon said. “We educate our clients because we want educated consumers.”

Clendenon and her team have been creating award-winning designs for about two decades; Clendenon’s designs have been published in many national publications. Google Clendenon and you quickly see she has fashioned a stellar career, landing HGTV and Houzz biographical features about her accomplishments and many photo and marketing opps.

Cheryl Kees Clendenon said prior to selecting an interior designer, a homeowner should “learn about the designer’s business and the company’s experience.”

Her full-service, “richly layered” design business offers everything from reviewing blueprint plans, working “from the ground up” on new residential construction with architects and contractors, managing home remodeling, providing interior design and selling luxury and affordable furniture, lighting, accessories and art from In Detail Design Collective’s retail showrooms. She even created the Candle Studio in the property’s historic 1910 Carriage House, offering a unique candle-pouring opportunity.

A service that is “growing exponentially” is Clendenon’s coaching program, The Design Paradigm, for others in the industry. Other national endeavors: She writes a monthly column for national trade publication Home Accents Today and produces Damn Good Designer podcasts (available on Apple) with team member/designer Liz Lapan.

And more is in the works for the tireless Clendenon.

“Our clients’ most precious commodity is time, so we give 100%,” she added. “But there is work all homeowners must do. I believe in ‘Buyer Beware.’ Before hiring a designer, do your homework. Learn about the designer’s business and the company’s experience. Check out the reviews. Get a feel for the designer.”

In her signature “tell it like it is style,” Clendenon said, “We may not be for everyone, but there is a designer for everyone.”

It’s important to Kristin Bouchard to help clients see the big picture, avoid bad choices and costly mistakes.


 “Yes, there are great designers for everyone and a different budget for every client,” said Kristin Bouchard, owner of Nest Interiors Inc. in Pensacola.

Nest Interiors Inc. is a full-service interior design firm specializing in residential design on all levels from new construction, finish selections, furnishings and remodeling.

A Houzz business profile highlights Nest Interiors Inc. project photos, reviews and a lengthy list of Bouchard’s services, a list that includes 3D imaging, space planning, floor plans, custom entry design, lighting design, built-ins, kitchen cabinets and pantries, walk-in closets, outdoor kitchen design and much more.

“Sometimes, I must turn down a large project because I am already doing several, but I have no problem recommending another designer,” Bouchard said.

A key element is to give clients the time they need, she stressed.

“A part of my role is to help clients understand the process and to enjoy the project, whether it is new construction, a remodel or a room refresh,” Bouchard said. “It’s all about the client. The client needs to feel relaxed, happy and safe in your hands.”

Honesty is essential along the way, too, she said.

“Clients entrust me to see the big picture, to help them make choices and avoid bad choices and costly mistakes,” Bouchard added. “Sometimes, clients get bad news that one of their ideas won’t work, but it’s up to me to provide them an alternative.”

As always, knowledge is power, she said.

“Half the time, clients use an architect, but often the architect is not a home planner,” Bouchard said. “When choosing an architect, you must ask about their experience in planning. You don’t want to find yourself asking ‘Why is the chandelier positioned incorrectly? Why are the closets and pantry too small?’

“Remember this. Whatever your style — coastal elegance, modern farmhouse, transitional, traditional — your home should be beautifully designed and exactly what you envision.”

And don’t fret. Your special pieces, collections and mementoes won’t get tossed in the process, said Bouchard, who shared the story about a client who inherited an old key from a relative who was the architect of a famous hotel.

“We had this hotel key, and we didn’t want to throw it in a bowl or have it sticking out, so we placed it in a shadow box with an elegant frame to become a topic of conversation,” Bouchard said. “It’s now a memento that is elevated, looks beautiful and was incorporated into the design — not treated as just some tchotchke.

“It’s your job as an interior designer to make sure a client’s special pieces are incorporated in some way.”

Connie Crosby said saving a client money is done through the interior designer’s technical knowledge and ability to bring the project together.


 In the interior design arena, communication with clients is intrinsic, said Connie Crosby, owner of award-winning Constance Crosby Interiors Inc., a full-service interior design firm for about thirty years in Pensacola.

“To explain your needs and for me to use my knowledge and experience, we must sit down eye-to-eye and communicate,” said Crosby, who studied interior design at Florida International University, Florida State University and Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. 

“Working together, we can achieve the aesthetics and functionality you require and the quality you expect,” said the allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers. “Our goal is to always save the client money, and that is done through technical knowledge and ability to bring the project together.”

Services include determining project budget, plan evaluation, “to scale” concept drawings, sourcing and specifications for client-specific design products, inspection and evaluation of materials supplied by Constance Crosby Interiors, on-site supervision of installation and plenty more.

Crosby said, typically, no job is too big or small for her firm, whose projects have included an older office park building, an outdoor kitchen, a 5,000 square-foot home at the Country Club in Andalusia and many partial room redesigns.

 When prospective clients ponder the cost, Crosby holds an initial consultation to discuss the project’s scope and then provides them a written report and moves on from there.

“If someone tells me they can’t afford a full gut of the kitchen, that’s OK,” Crosby said. “We don’t mind small jobs — no, not going out to just fluff a pillow — but sometimes it’s a partial kitchen, only drapery, new flooring and cabinetry.”

Also, look for interior designers who can do both: strive to be current and create designs that last, Crosby said.

Along with myriad awards Crosby has garnered during her career, her designs have been published in a variety of local and national publications, including Houzz. 

Coming in spring 2024: A Constance Crosby Interiors Inc. kitchen design will be featured in “Inspired Kitchens & Baths,” a new coffee table book published by Intermedia Publishing Services. The book will be available via Crosby’s firm and bookstores internationally.


Connie Crosby, owner of award-winning Constance Crosby Interiors Inc., encourages anyone who is considering using the services of an interior designer to touch base with several designers, ask questions, visit their websites and read reviews.

She also offers some food for thought, benefits of using a professional designer for everything from a new build to a full gut job to a simple refresh. Consider the following.

Increase value: Interior designers help homeowners turn their visions into reality and increase the value of their homes.

Save time and money: By reviewing plans, interior designers often prevent errors from occurring, saving homeowners time and money.

Access to professionals: Interior designers have networks of professionals, providing skills and expertise — possibly at a reduced cost.

Cohesion: Interior designers ensure a home is cohesive and that every room works, making the home more appealing.

Improve space and functionality: Interior designers maximize amount of available space, adding efficiency and functionality to make life more comfortable.

Sustainability, trends: Interior designers know which trends will stick around and which ones won’t.

Dee McDavid stresses the importance of her “generation of interior designers” being open-minded and embracing changes.


Passionate about her 20-plus-year interior design career and ownership of Dee McDavid Interiors in Pensacola, Dee McDavid prides herself in staying current in the design world.

When looking for an interior designer, she suggests selecting a designer with a similar mindset. 

“Years ago, designers did cater to wealthier clients, but technology and a new generation of designers has opened interior design to a much more diverse population,” said McDavid, who provides an array of services including consulting, space planning and project management, furnishings and accessories. 

“Clients now often work with designers using FaceTime and Zoom,” McDavid said. “A designer can look at rooms on the Internet and consult clients. To be competitive, people my age need to do the same thing.”

Interior designers must be cognizant of today’s influencers, which McDavid said she views as good and bad for the interior design industry.

“Influencers drive a certain style and soon all homes look alike,” McDavid said. “One of the biggest influencers today is Shea McGee, who offers her collection at Target.”

Following the renovation of her home in 2010, McGee’s social media influence soared, and she and her husband created Studio McGee and McGee & Co. design firm that designs high-end homes across the country, according to the couple’s website. Not to forget the McGees’ plethora of popular TV shows/series and million-plus Instagram followers.

“Companies are hiring influencers to drive what they are selling; that’s why you are seeing so much white and modern farmhouse designs,” McDavid said. “I am going to High Point Market, and it will be interesting to see how influencers are affecting the market.”

McDavid said each fall and spring, interior designers from around the globe head to High Point Market in High Point, North Carolina, the place where she learned “all furniture designs and drawing space plans.”

High Point is the largest home furnishings industry trade show in the world. It’s 11,000 square feet offers about 2,000 exhibitors, which greatly influence trends for the current and upcoming seasons, according to its website. Interior designers visit showrooms, attend educational seminars and conferences, network and more.

“For my generation of interior designers, it’s about being open-minded and embracing changes,” said McDavid, whose business profile, design photos and reviews are featured with Houzz. “Still, each designer is an individual who must build relationships with trust and rapport, be informative and inspirational.

McDavid said these words years ago, words she confirmed she still holds true: “Interior design is very artistic, but it is also artistry that involves people’s lives. It is good to attend college and study design and learn from published designers, but when you apply it to someone’s personal life, it takes more than just knowing design.”

Being receptive is essential, she said.

“Today, there are many approaches, a blending of old ways with new ways,” McDavid added. “It’s a very good way to look at life overall, certainly interior design.”