LaRue Design brings model decorating expertise to residential market

March 19, 2010

New home models showcased by builders have to make a great first impression on shoppers. So they call on experts like LaRue Agresti, president of Geneva-based LaRue Design, to transform the interiors with eye-catching colors, memorable décor and distinctive furnishings.

In the hands of a visionary vanguard like Agresti—a veteran designer with 23 years experience—the result is an inviting residence that stimulates the imagination and inspires creative decorating ideas that visitors can apply to their current or future home.

With the economic downturn in full swing, however, home builders are constructing fewer new models for interior designers to decorate. But that hasn’t kept Agresti from pursuing her passion to transform otherwise ordinary living spaces into vibrant, personalized interiors. Now, she’s making her talents more available to homeowner clients and capitalizing on a recent trend she observed in the market.

“Today, more people are choosing to remain in their existing homes,” said Agresti, an award-winning ASID-certified designer who founded her company back in 1994. “They’re opting to invest money on home improvements—money they would otherwise spend on moving and buying new.”

Many of these homeowners “are quickly realizing that there are cost-effective, relatively simple ways to reinvent their living spaces without having to gut a room, add on or build out. And that’s where I come in,” she said. “I can suggest creative yet affordable ways to give a room or even a whole-house a facelift without breaking the budget.”

Agresti said she specializes in saving clients money on interior makeovers without compromising quality. Unlike other designers, many of whom charge a commission percentage based on the project’s total cost, she is only paid for her time—charging a reasonable hourly fee. But customers can expect an abundant return on their dollar, Agresti said, as she works extremely efficiently and productively while on the clock.

“I know how to cut through the clutter,” she said. “I have knack for being able to quickly analyze a space and resourcefully devise an ideal solution that’s right for the client.”

For example, she’s a big proponent of adaptive reuse, an approach that employs recycling, refurbishing or simply re-using older furniture, décor, accessories, art—you name it—and employing it in a different way or space.

“Actually, a big trend lately is pairing old pieces, antiques and heirlooms with new pieces. It’s a European esthetic that contemporizes your interior without making it either look dated or too new and mass-produced,” said Agresti.

What also sets her apart from the competition is her “ability to save time by asking customers the right questions and providing prompt, thorough responses and recommendations,” she said. “Plus, I have a roster of top-notch, reliable painters, carpenters and other craftsmen I can outsource for the job, or I can efficiently work with the client’s contractor.”

An interior designer’s role is often misunderstood, Agresti noted. As on a movie set, the designer serves as the project’s director, providing a unique vision for the overall new look or theme of a living space and then enlisting and supervising the necessary outside tradespeople, whose job it is to do the heavy lifting and fulfill that creative vision. Agresti tackles design projects as large as a whole-house remodel and as small as a single-room makeover.

“The process starts with a complimentary initial phone consultation,” said Agresti, whose territory covers the entire Chicagoland area. “At that time, I talk with the homeowner to determine the goals and scope of the project, get an idea as to the budget they can afford, learn their intended timeframe, and decide if we want to go forward and set up a design consulting meeting.”

Next, Agresti takes a thorough inventory of the interior space and creates a checklist of every item needed. A budget and schedule are agreed upon, and the project proceeds.

Agresti was recently recruited by a real estate broker to add new life to her South Barrington home. While the residence wasn’t that old, the furniture, rugs, lamps, drapes and fixtures were passé. Agresti suggested a transitional, soft contemporary look that would blend with existing pieces such as the homeowner’s collection of high-quality Oriental accent pieces.

“The client wanted an interior that looked elegant, but which could stand up to the wear and tear her grandchildren could dish out,” she added. “She also wanted to incorporate vintage pieces she had collected over the years as well as family heirlooms.”

Agresti adorned the main living area with new furnishings that sported rich but tough earth-toned fabrics. She carefully positioned ultra-comfortable leather chairs with matching Ottomans in the reading room—which also benefitted from a new wall of custom bookcases. And she ensconced the extra-wide windows with exquisite bead-fringed drapery panels without sacrificing any visibility to the scenic lake just outside the windows. As a crowning touch, the walls were painted a light gold hue so as not to compete with Mother Nature’s outdoor splendor.

Many times Agresti will get a call from a frantic homeowner who has a graduation party, wedding or other big family event looming around the corner.

“They’ll call me out and, in a panic, say ‘look at this place—what can I do with it in so little time?’ Or, ‘I only have a limited budget to renovate.’ That’s my specialty—working fast and effectively under tight parameters,” said Agresti. “In many cases, I can show them how to utilize some or all of their existing furnishings and décor in a novel way and fill in the gaps with accessories and new pieces.”

Ultimately, she said, “my job is to bring out the client’s tastes and reflect his or her lifestyle in the new and improved living space. Many interior designers are known for a certain style, and this often doesn’t allow for the homeowner’s personality to be reflected. I take the opposite approach. I can help theme create virtually every kind of look, from ultra traditional to ultra contemporary, depending on the customer’s wishes.”

Agresti is also popular for her room staging expertise—namely, de-cluttering, freshening and prepping homes for a faster sale prior to being put on the market. And, in addition to decorating new construction models, LaRue Design also decorates rental property models and clubhouses.

She said that many interesting design trends are now in vogue, including a push from homeowners for multipurpose living spaces. Case in point: converting a corner in an otherwise seldom-used formal dining room into a home office niche complete with a handsome hutch that conceals a PC workstation.

“There is also a big drive to shop resale and salvage stores when looking for décor, furnishings and accessories,” said Agresti. “People are eager to find values in slightly used items. And, when they can, they prefer to purchase American-made products to boost our economy.”

Lastly, Agresti is pleased that more customers are thinking chromatically when it comes to freshening up their homes and preferring the creative possibilities of paint over wallpaper.

“Today, there are hundreds of shades of white alone, and every color in the spectrum has warm and cool versions from which to pick,” she said. “There are more products, styles, textures, colors and selections to choose from than ever before—including low VOC paints that are environmentally sensitive. It’s really an exciting time to be an interior designer.”

La Rue Design offers a range of services to homeowners, builders and property managers throughout the Midwest, including interior decorating, home staging, exterior and interior color and material selection assistance, computer-assisted design (CAD) services such as space planning and critical review of plans, and model merchandising. For more information about LaRue Design, call (630) 262-8447 or visit


About The Author

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Lynn Walsh is the President at Walsh Communications, LLC. Walsh Communications is a full-service public relations, marketing and advertising agency for home builders and real estate-related industries.

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