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Inside Out

Designing from the Inside Out

Interior Design is typically interpreted based on the end aesthetic result; however, the technical process and contrast of decoration versus design are often misunderstood. Debi Carson explains design as a multi-faceted process, a culmination of ideas, experience, resources and goals. "Interior design is the coordination and development of the interior spaces of the building's shell provided by the architect" combined with the study of the person who will be occupying the space and how to establish and reach the project goals with regard to function, safety and aesthetics.


Debi has worked hand-in-hand with architects, clients and suppliers in the Caribbean for more than ten years. Her introduction to the BVI was as senior interior designer for OBM International, an architectural firm with a strong and respected foothold in the Caribbean. She still works directly with her former colleagues and other industry professionals around the territory. She helped explain what that collaboration looks like and how multiple parties come together to develop a building from the inside out. In design, she explained, there are many different types of client spaces, for example: residential, commercial, hospitality, retail and health-care. Each has its own nuances of design to be explored and understood.

If she's designing for a family or a homeowner, that end product would look very different from a high-traffic, high-end hotel or resort. She spoke fondly of a recent project she did for Peter Island Resort & Spa, a task that called upon her expertise to renovate 30 ocean-view and 20 beachfront units at the high-end resort. For this job, she was faced with the challenges that come from working in a tropical climate with an occupant that might "keep the doors and windows open to maximize the experience of our tropical surroundings [during the day] then have more climate control with air conditioning for sleeping."

"That's one of the bigger challenges in the Caribbean–designing for climate control and an indoor-outdoor lifestyle," she said, adding that finding the perfect material to weather the climate becomes another challenging task. For furnishings in the Virgin Islands, she said she often works with Arawak Interiors.  "With Arawak, I can look at the requirements and have flexibility to design to suit those needs with custom furnishings," she said, adding "Working with Arawak from design concept to fabrication and installation–it's a great relationship as Roy and his team understand our lifestyle and environmental challenges in the BVI firsthand."

Arawak allows Debi to relay an idea that in turn goes to a manufacturer who can customize to her preference. With the Peter Island project, she asked Arawak's Roy Keegan to provide her wood furnishings that would be able to withstand climate change and also products that could help utilize the space allotted in each room. With the works at Peter Island, Debi had an understanding of the function for the spaces, and the clientele that would be occupying the rooms, as well as maintenance challenges the resort faces. "In a hospitality project, there are quite a few clients to please. You have to meet expectations of your end user as the guest, you have to also consider the environment, natural resources, management, budget and maintenance procedures." The project solutions had to offer ease of use and durability for a hospitality space. "All the new pieces were designed with a simple line overall, carved details were implemented in a sophisticated pattern to coordinate with existing furnishings and fabricated of kiln-dried teak for durability. To replace broken highly corroded fold-out sofas; we chose the trundle. We desired few mechanical parts and implemented a glide system on casters, providing little to corrode in our climate," she said.

In a residential project, the client or end user is very much involved directly. Debi spoke of a project Roy's team worked with her to provide furnishings for bedrooms, lounge spaces, outdoor areas and even components for an artistic screen. Arawak custom built teak bedroom furnishings to meet the dimensions of the space, the function and storage needs for the client, and submitted stain samples for approval. "For the lounge areas, we selected durable woven pieces constructed of man-made fibers and fabrics resistant to UV rays and the occasional spill of your favorite cocktail," she said. In addition to the practicalities of furnishings, Arawak also supplies designers with jaw-dropping accent pieces. "When we needed something unique to create a focal point in a living space, I turned to Roy to source some amazing roots that have wonderful texture and dimension," Debi said. "They were each about 10' long installed vertically and backlit to create a dramatic effect." Though technical and precise as an interior designer, Debi's artistic leanings still came through to create a stunning (and practical) living space. 


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