Mercer Island Spotlight: Six Walls

Welcome to our first Mercer Island Spotlight featuring a local island business. Watch for this Spotlight on a monthly basis to learn a little more about the local businesses which contribute to the charm and uniqueness of the Mercer Island Community.

Nestled next to the Leasing Center and Resident Clubhouse of 77 Central Apartments is Six Walls’ flagship studio. Visitors entering the cozy storefront are treated to small vignettes of interior design examples, created with Six Walls’ retail goods. Almost directly across from the front door are Devine Color paint wheels, enticing one and all to come closer and investigate. And investigate is what the designers encourage visitors to do, with the help of an impressive array of samples right in the studio to touch, examine and coordinate to see how materials work together.

Dawn Wilkinson, Design Maven and owner of Six Walls, is warm and friendly. In fact, Wilkinson shines with excitement when she discusses design. She brought up their guiding principal at Six Walls several time during our discussion– specifically how their designers strive take the anxiety out of the design process. In fact, the company tag line, “Taking the Intimidation Out of Interior Design,” graces the front door. Creating a more approachable interior design process is the product of relationship development between the designers and their clients. Wilkinson shared that by offering short consultation services, like 1 hour color consults, they are able to earn people’s trust first through the happy completion of a smaller project. In turn, by “building relationships with people at a foundational level,” Wilkinson and her design team are able to nurture client relationships which results in return business for larger projects.

Why Mercer Island? When asked about their continued presence in the island’s downtown core, Wilkinson shared a story about a series of meetings she attended prior to opening Six Walls—these meetings were located at a Starbucks here on the island. The small town feel of Mercer Island, coupled with the convenient location between the more densely populated Seattle and Bellevue/Eastside communities, was appealing. Wilkinson noticed how island residents frequented island businesses and how everyone seemed to know each other. She thought these community attributes would help Six Walls grow, and her hunch was correct. Since opening their first studio in Tabit Village Square back in 2004, Six Walls has not only been a well-regarded presence in Downtown Mercer Island, they’ve built a service radius that stretches as far south as Palm Springs and as for east as Idaho.

When asked about classic design trends, Wilkinson brought up how people are seeking to define their living spaces more personally. Part of this trend is reflected in the growing popularity of repurposing furniture, whether it’s reupholstering that favorite, comfy chair bought during college to the resurfacing of a family heirloom piece to give it new life. One tool Six Walls uses for repurposing furniture are fabric samples which fill a ten foot wall in the studio. People can come into Six Walls to look at the samples, check out books and order memo samples before ordering fabric. Longevity is another classic design trend Wilkinson is seeing—with today’s economic conditions, people are navigating toward materials that wear well and will be durable for the long haul. Another local trend is to seek out locally sourced materials for design projects. She said clients do ask where materials for a remodel will come from and they discuss using items produced locally.

“A wise woman once told me there is no taupe in the rainbow,” Wilkinson shared when asked about neutrals. That wise woman was the founder of Devine Color, Gretchen Schauffler. Devine Color is the paint line Six Walls carries. Because each color, even neutrals like white, beige, taupe and gray, possess undertones that are part of the rainbow, she brought my question back to her company’s goal to build relationships. To pick out the right color, even neutrals, the designer needs to see the space, examine the light—both natural and from lighting—and honor the client’s personal taste, before suggesting the best neutrals for a room. An interesting side note: Devine Color has the only handmade artist’s palette in the paint industry. Devine Color paint cards—which are really paint on specialty paper, not a digital representation of the paint—and ¼ cup paint pouches for painting a small swatch on a wall are both available for purchase at Six Walls. These tools helps clients see what the color will really look like in their space before committing to it on the wall.

Another tool in their healthy tool box at Six Walls are the two computer programs their designers use when building a design project. The first program, mainly used with their clients, is called Sketch-Up. It allows the designer to add material appearances to a 3-D room design, to scale, so clients can see how the project will finish out before spending money on materials. Wilkinson discussed how helpful Sketch-Up is in walking their clients through how a room will look dimensionally, and how the material textures and colors will play off of each other. Also, the popularity of channels like HGTV may set someone up for an unrealistic expectation of the remodel process, because only the before, after and carefully chosen highlights are shown during 30 minute time slots. The designers use Sketch-Up in conjunction with books they have on hand to demonstrate to their clients the not-so-pretty moments during a remodel, and prepare them for the reality of the mess and disruption which are part of creating their stunning final project. CAD is the second computer program used at Six Walls, for communicating design ideas with architects and other contractors. These tools help build trust and give their clients confidence that the finished job will look and feel how it was intended to.

Because so many people embrace the DIY culture, the interview wouldn’t be complete without asking about some easy, low-cost tips for making over a room. Wilkinson replied without missing a beat– she described tweaking furniture placement in a room, or even moving a piece from one room to another, can evoke a more positive feeling in a room and give it renewed energy. She also mentioned freshening up a home’s entry. By adding a new, fun welcome mat and painting the front door, the home receives a quick facelift that gives so much for a small outlay of money. Add in some new pots filled with vibrant flowers, and you’re revitalizing your entry way! Wilkinson describes this spring’s hot colors like this: “Especially here in the Northwest, those brilliant punches of color are just like that Vitamin D shot in the arm we need.”

Where can you connect with Six Walls, besides their flagship studio on 77th Ave SE? They have a Facebook page and a Twitter feed, where they announce upcoming events, share news and design information. They have one project that is part of the NKBA Great Kitchen and Bath Tour May 19th and 20th; in fact, Wilkinson and Six Walls designer Emily Doden are co-chairs of the show this year. Every fall, they pair up with a Mercer Island based clothing line rep. for a fashion show event. Definitely check out their Facebook page, and visit it often for the latest scoop.

Wilkinson mentioned that this spring people are definitely less afraid of color. Six Walls has several of those “brilliant punches of color,” sprinkled throughout their retail space. And currently Six Walls is hosting a clearance sale, along with 40% off in-store merchandise, until April 26th. Stop by, take a look—maybe an accent piece in one of spring’s hot colors, or something metallic, will catch your eye. They are making room because, as designers, they are always tweaking things and are getting ready to remodel their flagship studio. Everyone at Six Walls is eager to unveil the new, redesigned space to you. Stay tuned for details!

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