Focuson a uniquely Blaine home

Published on Thu, Jun 17, 2004
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Focus on a uniquely Blaine home

by Jack Kintner

Interior designer Kristin Engerman and former realtor Pat Long are going retail. The pair are transforming Engerman’s H Street studio, InteriorARTS, into a retail store offering unique items for the home and the expertise to use them to create a fresh look.

Long and her husband, retired executive Tom, moved to Semiahmoo from northern California’s Marin County three years ago, and even though the house they bought was fairly new she wanted to remodel the living room. “I wanted something a little more formal,” she said, “because even though we liked the place, we wanted to make it ours.”

But going from what they did not like to what they wanted proved to be more difficult than they anticipated until a subcontractor, Judy Lachner of Columbia Cabinets in Lynden, suggested Blaine interior designer Kristin Engerman “especially if you want to go a little outside the lines,” Lachner told her.

“I was getting a little frustrated and then here's Kristin practically right under my nose,” she said, “and she's turned out to be the best I could have found no matter how long I looked.”

Their working relationship was so successful the two talked of going into business together. Their interior design partnership will offer a wide range of services, from complete interior design to shopping for just one truly unique item to set off a room. One way to do this is to use original art, and the store features paintings and original photographs. Local papier-mache artist and Semiahmoo neighbor Sonja Nikel also exhibits her work there and will continue to do so.

“The thing that makes Kristin good to work with in designing the interior of your house is that she doesn't take over your life. This isn't ‘Trading Spaces,’ “ Long laughed, “and she was also very effective talking to the various subcontractors, the plumbers and so on, with her little Max crawling up and down her leg.” Engerman and husband Doug have two children, 12-year-old Lexi and Max, now eight.

“Kristin’s real skill lies in being able to see the completed room when she's looking at an empty shell,” Long continued, “which isn’t something I can do nearly as well. I can, however, create from what is there already, which can make a space look very different.”

It was this difference in skills that got the two women thinking about joining forces.

Though the business will be open more than when it was simply Engerman’s display space and workshop, “we'll still be open just three days a week, Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. We’re dedicated to finding things from all over the world, items that still say Blaine somehow,” Long said, “and we have to have the time to find them.” As an example she pointed to an Italian porcelain of a shorebird that could have just hopped off the beach at Marine Park.

A quick glance around the intimate but vividly decorated store showed original oil paintings from Charleston, South Carolina, Zulu baskets four feet high from South Africa and a metal crib from France that was used, Long said, “as a way of holding baskets for carrying things in the 18th century. My favorite things are what I call architectural salvage, old iron gates or an old pilaster from a bank that you can use as a planter. I like old things and textures, especially what I call architectural antiques.”
Engerman seems partial to fabrics and what can be done with them. Included among the services they offer are designing and building window treatments that Engerman sews in her upstairs workroom “on my industrial strength Pfaff, nothing fancy. I began to do this because I’d design something only to see it come out very differently, so I’ve gotten used to doing these things myself to get them to be the way I want them to be.”

Engerman said she appreciated Long’s ability to finish and arrange a living space. “I can get it to a certain point but when she takes over she really makes it into something memorable that’s still an expression of the person who lives there. I’m not quite sure how she does it, but it sure works.”

Engerman began her design career with professional training in her hometown of Chicago. She is now an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers, and says she likes working “here in Blaine because on this scale it both requires and guarantees a personal touch,” she said. “Both Pat and I like tailoring our work to the person instead of what you find in a bigger city, where it’s more impersonal.”

Long said she likes Blaine because “I like to go out to eat but in my jeans.” She said she likes the pace and friendly informality, “and getting to know so many people who see it and really like it here almost right away.”

Long became an expert in what’s known as house re-design as a realtor in California. Sometimes called ‘staging,’ Long would suggest ways clients could help their houses sell while avoiding any major expenses by re-arranging their houses, making them look appealing using things they already had.

Her father’s career as an Air Force fighter pilot gave her a childhood that was spent all over the world, exposing her to an unusually wide variety of cultures and styles. She still exhibits a military brat’s skill for making friends quickly, and values the same kind of honest approach in her new business partner.

The two seem to really enjoy finding unusual things to decorate with, art and treasures from all over, though the small retail space they have, about 900 square feet, means they have to rotate things in and out.

“We’re after just the right piece for just the right place, wherever we can find it. We’ll shop for people but also hope to draw customers to Blaine by constantly changing what’s in here. You really don't have to leave town to find some great ideas,” Long said.