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Interior designer Alison Pickart can create a glamorous space at any price
Long before decorating lush multimillion-dollar homes in London, Paris and Chicago, interior designer Alison Pickart was just trying to make her 10-person college house at the University of Dayton more livable.
“It got trashed constantly and I couldn’t stand it,” says Pickart. “So one weekend I taught myself how to reupholster. I took apart this sofa so I could understand how it all worked and how it fit together.”
A part-time job at a local fabric store had her all set up with the perfect material to experiment with — a cotton graphic print from the, ahem, children’s department.
“It had elephants on it, or something silly like that, but it actually ended up looking really cool on this sectional,” she says, adding that her once-skeptical roommates were thrilled with the result.
Could that have been the beginning of Pickart’s playful alter ego, “The Fabulous Faker”?
Well, maybe. But she’s always believed that it’s easy to swap budget-friendly options for their high end counterparts. And if you chat long enough with the woman whose talents are now in demand around the world, you realize that she was probably born with this gift.
“For me, design is like breathing. I’ve always wanted to live in a space that looked and felt very glamorous, even when I didn’t have any money,” she says. “I think the origin of The Fabulous Faker was me wanting to have the look that was in the magazines, but not being able to afford it.”
It was an obsession, one that she wanted to share.
Soon after graduating from University of Dayton, Pickart opened Alison Pickart LLC and began studying at the Harrington College of Design in Chicago. Today, she divides her time between Chicago and San Francisco, designing interiors for homes around the world. Some are very glamorous and expensive, while some are more eclectic and creative, mixing a few select high-end treasures with affordable chic.
“My career has led me into projects that many designers aspire to,” Pickart says. “At the same time, every client at every level wants the same thing. They want quality and they want value. It’s very indicative of the economy we’re in as well.”
So what’s Pickart’s approach when clients come to her with a look that they want for less? She does what she’s always done — improvise.
“There’s no excuse anymore not to have a totally fabulous environment to live in,” she adds. “There are just so many sources, so many ways to figure something out. And [then] you can do it yourself.”
For more information about Alison Pickart’s design projects, including her latest FRIPPERY collection of custom jewelry, visit alisonpickart.com.
Pickart designed this South Loop dining room for one of her clients. Here, she shares her picks for home pieces that look just like the designer goods, but for a fraction of the price.
CB2’s $349 Silverado rectangular dining table (below) is a near-exact replica of a higher-stakes Ralph Lauren version (pictured above).
Dark chairs help ground a glass-filled room. Check out the Alta Chair from CB2 (below), a relative bargain at $199.
The Fiona Mirror from Mecox Gardens is an “investment piece” at $1,850 but could easily be swapped out with ZGallerie’s Devon Mirror for $199 (below).
The Ether 150 S chandelier is a modern classic, but rings in at a pricey $10,000. For the same high-end look try the Glass Links Chandelier from ZGallerie
for a reasonable $299 (below).
Alison’s Cheat Sheet
“The Fabulous Faker” Alison Pickart offers a few quick design tips for creating your dream home without breaking the bank.
ATTENTION TO DETAIL: A gorgeously saturated blue (above) can transform a room for the cost of a few cans of paint. (Pickart suggests Benjamin Moore’s Bold Blue.) And for a playful pop, add accessories. Animal prints are always in style and can be found in a range of prices. A $500 zebra pillow, for example, is easily switched out with the $115 Jonathan Adler Black Zebra version.
MIX AND MATCH: “Mixing materials and textures is huge, but it doesn’t have to be the most expensive thing you do,” Pickart says. She recently paired a plush upholstered settee with an ordinary wood table to create an inviting kitchen sanctuary. She also has been known to pop a sparkly chandelier into an unexpected space — such as a powder room or kitchen — for a touch of glamour.
UNEXPECTED ACCENTS: A clever found object can give character to any room. Pickart loves mixing clamshells and succulents or filling a basket with concrete mushrooms. When in doubt? She says moss spheres are always an excellent source of “green.”