finding flavor with CRI Designs

Remodeling or renovating your home is a substantial decision and investment. Taking care to hire a trustworthy and honest team of people to plan, design, and construct your space is the first decision you will make on the cascading mountain of choices you will face. Interior designers help you climb that mountain by working as a liaison between you and the architect and contractor. They also are critical in helping you implement your unique style. CRI Designs specializes in curating custom spaces specific to each individual client by digging into the details, getting to know the person behind the home, and finding their flavor. John Wilson, owner of CRI Designs, has collaborated with NJW Renovations Unlimited on several projects in the past and is preparing for an upcoming project as well. He and his team have the extensive knowledge and know-how to successfully reflect each client’s personal style and “flavor” through thoughtful consultations, continued communication, and exquisite taste. We asked John a few questions about his business, his process, and his experiences working for over 26 years as a prominent Central Ohio interior designer.

Tell us a little about CRI designs.

I started this firm with 2 people and after 26 years, I have an incredible team of 5 who design residential and commercial properties all over. It began with the focus on residential, and eventually, we branched

out into commercial spaces. We received great referrals in the commercial sector and now we work on everything from single and multi-family homes to development projects to apartments, community centers, etc. We are based here in Central Ohio but have worked on projects across the country, from Seattle to Florida.

Do you prefer working on residential projects or commercial?

I love the process for both types of projects—commercial spaces require a lot of teamwork and collaboration. We are never afraid to say, “I don’t know, but I will find out.” Our goal in commercial spaces is to recognize the space and make it so it doesn’t feel “cold” like a lot of commercial spaces can.

Residential is way more personal. It’s our goal to put our soul into every project we encounter. We like to collaborate with creators and clients and stress that there is never a wrong answer OR a stupid question. I love learning people’s processes and showing them something they never knew they could have. We all think outside of the box and all the designers at the firm collaborate even if it isn’t their project. We share ideas and rip it apart, putting it back together for an awesome result.

What does your process look like when taking on a new residential client?

The first thing we do is walk the plans or the house together. I will collaborate with the architect on the project to give meaning to the space the architect created. We look at things as we walk through—I want to know the client’s lifestyle and how it transits into the structure. We talk, we walk, and I listen. We bring up potential problems and solutions. I also ask questions. I want to know what they want it to look like/feel like. Some people don’t really know off the top of their heads, and we dig to find it. What a person wears and how they talk will tell me a lot about your style. Flavor comes from what we naturally gravitate towards. A friend of mine always says: “if you listen, people will always tell you who they are” and that is so true.

Throughout the process, we will do a series of what I call, “field trips.” This includes bringing options to the client or meeting in showrooms, tile stores, etc. I call this my “toy box.” Together, we find elements and slowly put the pieces of your style together. All of this is done while keeping the client’s budget in mind. I am not afraid of a small project or a large high-end project. I can work with a variety of budgets to meet the client’s needs.

What would you suggest a homeowner do to prepare for working with a designer?

Look around. See what you like and get an idea of style and bring it all to the table. Bring all the likes and don’t forget the dislikes. Having a lot of no’s will get you to a yes. Not finding something right away is good, it just means we are getting to the yes. Know yourself and your process. Don’t go against your grain. Images always help to gather all the things that interest you even if you don’t know why.

As a Designer, what is the best part about working with a trusted contractor?

The trust. I have a critical and fair eye and a contractor that doesn’t cut you at the knee is awesome. When things happen, they need to make it right – NJW RU does this. Understanding what makes that room that room? It’s every single detail. Getting those details right is key, so you need a contractor that looks for those details and doesn’t assume without knowing or asking questions.

What is something new you’ve learned recently – either for your job or personally?

I’m 56 and I kind of live like I’m retired, living life a lot freer. COVID taught us that you are on your own and you need to be self-sustaining, and live life more calmly and joyfully.

What’s a comment you heard or received from a client that you love?

“We could never have done this ourselves and you have really changed our life.”

Favorite project you’ve worked on with RU and/or NJW:

It’s difficult to pick one because they have all been so different. We worked on a project that was an ode to mid-century modern that was a lot of fun, but also a historic arts and crafts home. Historic properties are important. We really listened to the house and kept the architectural structure while adding an addition. You must be careful so that the spaces don’t feel separated.

Joel and I had weekly meetings, I loved his enthusiasm, and we bounced ideas off one another, and pushed each other. We had a client say we should have our own TV show! We just work really well together, and I respect him. I really like the diversity of his people in every sense of the word—skill levels, roles, walks of life, etc. He built a really nice company that I safely recommend, and that doesn’t come lightly with me!

Are you ready to tackle that home renovation or remodel? NJW Renovations Unlimited is ready to help! Working with the best architects and designers in the Central Ohio area, we can bring your home the life and energy it needs! Reach out today to schedule a consultation to discuss your space.