An interview with designer and manufacturers' rep Trayce Blake.
BY STEPHANIE CASIMIRO
TRAYCE BLAKE BRINGS AN ENTREPRENEUR’S VISION, years of expertise, and comprehensive design-build fundamentals to her role as a designer and manufacturers' representative. Her rep firm, Studio Decor, is renowned for its expertise in blending disciplines and achieving exceptional results by applying its unique design and architectural perspectives in harmony with well-matched product lines. Studio Decor markets its associated products and programs to exclusive Southern California systems integrators, designers and architects in the progressive and innovative theater and custom home electronics markets.
I recently sat down to talk with Trayce about her fabulous kitchen remodel and how designers can incorporate the latest in lighting technology into their projects without breaking the bank. We kick off our conversation discussing Trayce’s background and the disciplines she has mastered that contribute to her firm’s success.
STEPHANIE: It seems like your entire career arc perfectly matched the qualification needed to act as project manager for your remodel. Take us back to the beginnings of Studio Decor.
TRAYCE: I really got my start in the world of design when I received a scholarship to Arizona State to study architecture. Fast forward some years and I found myself doing home cinema design. That’s really how I got my start in the consumer technology industry. And I love doing theater design, because a properly designed home cinema is such an immersive experience. And who doesn’t like having all of the majesty of a grand movie night in the privacy of one’s home where you can share the magic with family and friends.
So I would find great products that I would include in my design and the systems integrators would order them from the area rep company. And one of my favorite products were the cinema chairs from Fortress Seating. One day they asked me, “you bring us more new dealers than our rep does, would you be interested in taking on the line?” And that’s kind of how my rep firm started.
I still do cinema décor, which is the theater design part of my business, and that has just taken off like a rocket in the last, well, since COVID. It’s just been insane. And I know other trades have been incredibly busy as people have focused on their homes during the pandemic.
And because of being a designer for over 15 years, I have also been involved with lighting fixtures and lighting design, which is a big part of getting a home cinema to really impress people. There are layers of light you have to manage and automate that replicates what goes on in the finest commercial theaters.
Designer And Owner
Manufacturers' Rep Firm
STEPHANIE: So let’s talk about your home and what you’ve done design-wise as it relates to lighting.
TRAYCE: My husband and I bought this house about two and a half years ago and one of the first things I did was to upgrade the lighting. There were 55 switches in the house, and it seemed like in order to set scenes you kind of have to run around several different times during the day and you’re adjusting dimming switches. Not really efficient and it gets really boring really quickly! So because of my connection with Legrand — I represent their QMotion line of shades and filmscreens — I thought, okay, now is the time to do this. So I put in Vantage EasyTouch keypads because the system is wireless and pretty simple to integrate, especially if you are remodeling and upgrading/updating your home.
I also wanted to control natural light so I integrated in QMotion shades as well. Both the lights and shades are controlled by the same Vantage keypad. So it’s fairly easy to get encompassing control over your natural light and your artificial lighting.
"I wanted 3D renderings so I could say to my husband, 'This is how it’s gonna look' and he was like, 'Okay, go for it.' So I hired Decorilla and sent them a package of what I was looking for and they got me drawing specs within two weeks." Trayce Blake
STEPHANIE: And then you decided to tackle the kitchen remodel.
TRAYCE: Right. And I had a pretty good idea of how I wanted my kitchen to look, but I wanted 3D renderings so I could say to my husband, “This is how it’s gonna look” and he was like, “Okay, go for it.”
So I hired Decorilla and sent them a package of what I was looking for and they got me drawing specs within two weeks. And then I just made sure I planned everything out for about another four weeks where all the materials were in stock, and I knew that I had all the trades lined up. Because there were 12 trades involved between the demolition, the drywall, the electrical, the granite guys, the cabinet guys, the painters and finishers and the flooring guy. Yeah, it was a lot. So from the time I tore out the kitchen countertops and had everything new installed was maybe six weeks. It was pretty quick.
And there are good parts of the process and bad parts. The good parts are obviously, all of the trades are super busy, but then you’ve got labor issues. Just trying to find anybody who can even take on the job because many have lost some of their laborers and then obviously the issues with getting products.
During my kitchen remodel, lumber costs tripled — and we wanted floating wood teak shelves, which I had to really negotiate hard with the lumber supplier for. So I was the GC for my own project, which is what I do for a living anyway, so it was a natural fit. And I feel a lot of interior designers take that same angle. They really run their own jobs and run their own trades. And it was also a lot more cost-effective for me to do it that way as well.
And then as far as the lighting and my Control4 home automation goes, I just made sure that I worked directly with a qualified electrical contractor. And he was amazing. He understood the Control4 aspect of it as well as the Vantage lighting products.
When I was designing the kitchen, I wanted a more high-end elegant look for the wall fixtures, not that the Vantage Palladium collection that I had installed throughout the rest of the house wasn’t high-end looking. But the new Vantage adorne® line of products are stunning! The adorne Collection of designer switches and outlets features a unique square form factor and pairs it with dazzling wall plates, available in a wide array of colors and materials like matte metals and rich woods.
So on the island, there’s a little wall where the Control4 panel is, and you don’t want that outlet just sitting there looking like an outlet all the time, so it’s just this little pop out panel. It’s super cool. And then I did a Vantage adorne wave switch for the garbage disposal. I just wave my hand right in front of it and the garbage disposal goes on and then I wave it again then it goes off.
The adorne Collection of designer switches and outlets features a unique square form factor and pairs it with dazzling wall plates, available in a wide array of colors and materials like matte metals and rich woods.
As far as the lighting goes, I have different layers of lighting and to make life really simple I’ve just set up a few scenes. One is called “island scene” and that’s the one I use every single day. When I get up in the morning the island pendant lights go on, which is set to the perfect light temperature, and the under cabinet lights also turn on. I have a whale tail back splash that is part marble and part mother of pearl, so the lighting accentuates that. And then the floating teak shelves lighting comes on at a certain temperature.
The 11-foot island has a waterfall on one end and underneath the island where the barstools go its reclaimed teak that’s imported from Thailand. I have lights underneath that illuminate the barstools that are all a burnished brass with a really pretty, darker gray leather. The lighting brings all the textures together and accents that space.
STEPHANIE: Who did you bring in to help with the technology?
TRAYCE: I originally hired a local systems integration firm who did the original shading project. I brought them back for the technology portion of the kitchen remodel. My advice to designers is that you not only need a qualified electrician, but also a technology specialist who can advise on products as well as technologies, like Zigbee, which is the wireless protocol that allows keypads to talk to the shades and lighting.
And I think with COVID, people being home a lot more, everyone’s looking at, “Okay, what can I do around here to simplify my life? What can I do around my home to bring it into the 21st century or to update everything, including the speed of my Wi-Fi?” And so I think that there is so much technology that can help transform any space and homeowners and designers need a reliable technology partner who is as much an advisor as an integrator.
When it comes to lighting, human-centric lighting (HCL) and circadian rhythm and the whole wellness concept is still relatively new to the industry. And it is these new technologies that the systems integrators are embracing, so it only makes sense to seek one of them out whether you’re doing a remodel or a new build.
STEPHANIE: What’s next on your remodel list?
TRAYCE: Master bath remodel in early 2022!
Stephanie is a Contributing Editor and the Social Media Manager for Technology Designer. She is
the Founder of Designer Marketing Solutions, a full-service social media and marketing agency.