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Pret-a-Habiter does all the décor legwork for the design-impaired

By Mark Peikert

As IKEA and CB2 stores proliferate, design has turned into something both affordable and achievable. Gone are the days of hiring an expensive interior decorator and crossing your fingers; now, you can outfit your entire home in style without breaking the bank.

Of course, a plentitude of choices has its own drawback: making decisions. That's where Pret-a-Habiter comes in. The onestop shop for all your decorating needs, the company has been handling busy, overwhelmed style-seekers since 2005, first in New York City then gradually expanding across the country to Boston, L.A., Chicago, West Palm Beach, St. Louis and Portland, Ore.

Charging just a flat fee ($2,500?$3,000 per room), Pret takes clients from boring to chic in four easy steps. First, the client chooses a style-classic, modern, country, etc.- then the designer creates a design plan, chooses the furnishings and décor and then whips it all into one beautiful design.

"It's the greatest time to be a consumer because the range of products, styles and prices-whether it's IKEA or Target or West Elm or Design Within Reach, it's all there," said Pret founder and Executive Director Carl Bradford Stibolt. "You can basically have a fantastic home and it's not going to cost you a lot of money."

Focusing on simplicity in decorating rather than markups and hidden fees has allowed Pret-a-Habiter to weather the recession better than most design firms. "The first thing to get cut is luxury, and people still think of interior design as luxury," Stibolt said. "But you've got money invested in your home, and maybe you don't have the time or the know-how or the eye to put it together. That's what we do. We know tricks, we know great sources, and you really can have a place that looks good."

As homeowners and renters slowly become more design savvy, Pret-a-Habiter has reflected the growing trend toward affordable décor that's not reliant on hourly billing. "Traditionally, you always hired someone based on their style," Stibolt said. "But we'll go in and do eclectic or modern. We've had bankers who wanted more classic, masculine things, people who want more color in their lives. We see everything; people who are downsizing, people who are here for a few years and want to have a nice place. It's really been all over the place. Our demographic is people who want to have a designed home but aren't ready to make that leap to working with a high-end designer, either for budgetary reasons or they don't think it's worth it."

Pret-a-Habiter is also willing to go the extra mile with their services, from accessorizing the finished product to offering a slew of digital services that cut down on the time crunch. "I think where we're going is very much a digitalized thing," Stibolt said. "We do an online project management system, and people do go online at midnight, and do it at their own pace. We even have a blog where people can go on and ask a design question,"

When a company is willing to do all of the legwork for you-from ordering furniture to making sure it's delivered-there's not a single reason to avoid making your house into the kind of place that looks as if an adult resides there.

For more information about Pret-a- Habiter, visit

A Pret-a-Habiter designed room. PHOTO BY Barbara Saskia Klap for Pret-a-Habiter

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