I Never Thought I’d Hire An Interior Designer…But Here’s What Happened When I Did

When I was about fifteen, my parents decided to hire an interior designer. His name was Val, he charged a small fortune (or at least I assume he did, based on the fact that he essentially lived at our house for two months while he sifted through piles of curtain fabric samples and such), and he did a very nice job, save for the fact that he covered the walls of our kitchen with a paper featuring French quotes about love on the very same day that my French boyfriend broke up with me and utterly destroyed my heart. 

(I walked into the apartment – already in tears from our breakup conversation – took one look at the kitchen walls, and collapsed on the floor, screaming “WHYYYYYY?” To which my mom, to her credit, responded, “Oh, Jesus, Jordan. Get off the floor.”)

It’s safe to say that I’ve never been super into the idea of hiring an interior designer myself. I mean, I have my own ideas about what I like, and while I may not be especially good at things like planning and foresight (which means that my decor plans tend to undergo a lot of revision as I discover that, say, the rug that I ordered in no way fits in the room I intended it to live in), I also don’t want to spend thousands of dollars for a service that, to my mind, seems a little…I don’t know…indulgent?

But there’s this woman, Inga Klingauf – I met her because our kids attend the same school – and she singlehandedly changed my mind about the concept of hiring a decorator. First, she changed my mind by inviting me over to her house (which oh my god, you guys – she agreed to let me photograph her backyard for the site and you’re going to freak out), and then she changed my mind by explaining what she does, which is wayyyy off the beaten path when it comes to interior (and exterior) design. Her approach is phenomenally cost-effective, straightforward, and unbelievably helpful, even if you – like me – already have a decent sense of what you’re looking for.

In short: Inga is the opposite of Val in every way.

Let me explain why. Traditional interior designers go back and forth with you, scout the pieces you’ll need, and essentially function as project managers. What Inga does is meet with you (the initial consultation is free), ask detailed questions about what you’re looking for, and then go off and generate a comprehensive plan for your space, including 3-D imagery to scale, so you can actually see precisely what the end result will be. If you approve the plan, she provides you with measurements that you can then hand over to contractors, as well as pricing and suggestions for all of the individual elements (which you secure yourself, to keep the interior design cost at a minimum).

So I asked Inga if she’d take a shot at figuring out my backyard situation (what it looks like now is pictured below). It’s always vexed me, because the pool equipment is right out there in the entertaining space (whyyyy?), all ugly and loud, and I know I’d like a hot tub but I don’t know where it’d go, and the pool and the cement around it need to be redone because they’re all cracked and falling to pieces, and I know I’d like to make it feel more lush and Miami hotel-y, but I don’t know how.

Here’s my backyard at present.


And HERE is what Inga decided it should look like. Spoiler: I concur.

backyard makeover 3-d image

The key elements of her design:

  • A hot tub that fits perfectly into the entertaining area, and that seamlessly blends with a wood sundeck that serves to cover the pool equipment and provide additional lounging space.
  • Landscaping around the pool that 100% achieves my Miami hotel fantasies (those are cement squares with either moss or grass in the spaces between them).
  • A solution to cover up the hideous cement blocks that line one side of the pool.
  • A dark-bottomed pool with a flat lip created out of concrete coping.
  • Plants selected especially for our climate and space (Queen palms, Sago palms, Birds of Paradise, and Elephant Ears).

What’s especially wonderful about Inga’s process (besides the fact that it’s affordable – you can contact her for a quote, but it’s nowhere near what a traditional interior or exterior designer costs): You can think big, and she’ll put together the plan for your dream space – but you don’t have to do it all at once. Since you have the plan all finished and in front of you, you can do a piece at a time, as your budget allows, and regardless of how much time it takes you, it’ll end up cohesive and beautifully designed.

I’m planning to do just this – slowly make the changes that Inga suggested over the coming months, starting with the pool (which is presently cracking and definitely needs attention sooner rather than later) – and will obviously post the results. In the meantime, if you have a space that you could use some expert advice on, I very, very much think you should give this a shot. I’m a completely impulsive redecorator and never put time into coming up with a coherent plan in advance, but I (finally) get it: Putting all the elements into place beforehand really does save you time, energy, and money.

Below is the full PDF that she gave to me detailing exactly what she thinks I should do (and remember, all of these are just suggestions – I can take or leave them at will). To say I’m impressed would be an understatement.

backyard makeover 3-d image

backyard makeover 3-d image

backyard makeover 3-d image

backyard makeover 3-d image backyard makeover 3-d image backyard makeover 3-d image backyard makeover 3-d image backyard makeover 3-d image

  • Rachel

    Do you have to live in San Jose to use her services? We live in Orange County.

    • Nope! She can work with you anywhere as long as you can get accurate measurements!