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What makes a

Successful Design?    

To Joanne Balaban Olen, principal of her eponymous firm (Joanne Balaban Designs) the answer is simple: when each space complements and flows to the next, seamlessly but not repetitively. It should in the process juxtapose the client’s personal tastes, desires, needs, even fantasies, within a custom-balance of function and aesthetics geared to that client’s unique characteristics and objectives. Custom details, achieved through creative use of  materials, such as moldings, stone, tile, glass, wall coverings, & cabinetry personalize a space.  Marvelous fabrics make it sing. Mix in an assortment of lighting and the magic begins.

 The firm focuses on projects in Pennsylvania’s Bucks and Montgomery Counties; and in surrounding New Jersey locales (the Jersey shore), going as far as New York City.  Joanne has practiced in the field since 1981. With an early natural predilection for Art and Design, leading to fine art and industrial design training, she targeted those interests as an Interior Design major at Philadelphia’s Drexel University. Completing that design program (including stints via  “co-op”  internships; notably, at the renowned Grenald lighting firm, a regional architectural firm, and 2 fabric showrooms at the Philadelphia Designer’s Marketplace). A Drexel Bachelor of Science Degree in Interior Design afforded Ms. Olen a broad technical background. On that framework she built her Interior Design practice. Asked to distinguish her approach, Joanne notes “clients hire me to develop and implement a distinctive and welcoming space, whether a big budget media room or a bathroom. Decoration has its place, but after the overall design & details are established. A client’s personal collection, supplemented with hand selected finishing touches, leaves just the right mix”.

      Joanne’s career kicked off as a commercial interior designer for Kenneth Parker Associates, handling large scale commercial spaces, such as executive headquarters & hospitals.  By the mid-80’s, with a strong appreciation of Bucks County’s natural beauty/great proximity, Wanting to start her own firm, she focused on smaller scale commercial design such as Legal, Medical & Dental offices as well as assisted living facilities . That led to residential design opportunities, nurtured by those increasingly familiar with the designer’s flair and refreshingly harmonious interplay on commercial projects.   Joanne established her independent design company there. Initially sited in Washington Crossing and since 1988 centered at a professional complex centrally located to her clientele, in the  Oxford Valley Mall area, it operates as a boutique firm handling a mix of residential and commercial projects.

 “Great spaces certainly start best resting on ‘great bones’; the key is integrating the natural highpoints with unabashedly ‘outside-the-box’ takes on the tougher spaces”, Joanne emphasizes. And how to do that? By giving the client those comfort and technology features he or she wants, in a style reflecting the primary purpose for the room’s use, tailored to that client’s lifestyle and tastes. A client should pass comfortably between rooms, as moods, lighting, and tasks change. A small private nook can be just as enjoyable as the most elegant public area. A well designed space contains some of each, and a nice range in between.

On a concluding note, the designer stresses the importance of planning ahead. The greatest latitude, and thereby optimum result,  is achieved when a project evolves from a perfect blending of form and function. The key is taking what may start out as ordinary space, and making it great. Not by ostentation or brand-name proliferation, but one-to-one refinement of the space to reflect the client’s lifestyle tweaked with the designer’s practiced eye.




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