Howard Lake Herald, April 20, 1998

Interior designer was 'always moving things around'


"In my business, people call when they are at the end of the road, when they have run out of money or at the last minute," said Dianne Zitzloff of Dianne's Interiors.

This is not the most efficient or cost-effective way to design your home or its interior, she said.

Zitzloff, who lives between Howard Lake and Cokato, works out of her home workshop and office.

After she graduated from Cokato High School, her parents sent her to school to be a dental assistant.

It soon became apparent the pay and promotion opportunities were non-existent, she said, and it wasn't a job she liked.

She had always done a lot of sewing in 4-H, school, and at home. So, when the opportunity came to assist a lady who made draperies, she took it.

Zitzloff wanted to expand her knowledge in the design area. She investigated, and discovered the Dakota County Technical College, later called Rosemont Technical College, was one of the best design schools in the Midwest.

She graduated with a degree in interior design.

"I was always moving things around when I lived at home. I'd move my parents' couch into the middle of the room, for example, and pretty soon I'd find it back against the wall," she said.

She even organized her clothes in high school, so she could mix and match a different outfit each day for up to two months.

"I guess I've always been detail oriented and organized," she said.

Zitzloff doesn't believe most people know what an interior designer can do for the homeowner.

"They think we come in with 'hoity toity' ideas and spend a lot of money for the client," she said.

Zitzloff said this couldn't be further from the truth.

"I work with a client on their own needs, within whatever budget they have," she said.

"Yes, it takes money to be really unique, but most people want their homes to reflect their own lives," said Zitzloff.

Sometimes she is retained to reorganize a client's things, not design a new room with new furniture.

Clutter can hide objects that are important to a client. Many times they even have things put away they would like to display, because they think they don't have room.

Zitzloff comes in and helps to make the client's memorabilia available to them for display.

Homes are not the only place Zitzloff works. She also does commercial work.

One of her favorite jobs was the adult day care area of St. Mary's Care Center in Winsted, she said.

"I got to take a medical clinic and redesign the entire space for a day care facility," said Zitzloff.

She has had training in design for the handicapped and said a lot of homes built today are incorporating many of these special features.

Homes for sale

"Something else I do to help a client is get a home ready for sale," said Zitzloff.

Here, re-organizing, eliminating extra items, and making suggestions for paint or carpets can make a home more likely to sell quickly, she said.

"I actually would prefer a home that needs a new carpet. That means the new owner can decorate to their own taste, rather than the previous owner's," said Zitzloff.

But if you decide to replace a carpet, do it in a mid-value color that is versatile, she suggested.

There are many things that can update a home without spending a lot of money, Zitzloff said.

Start from scratch

In addition to commercial projects, home sales, and reorganization, Zitzloff is called in to help clients from the very start of their projects.

"This is the cheapest, best way to do a new home, but it doesn't always happen that I get called in early," she said.

She shared some of her experiences and said it all starts with the basic design.

"I can save money by helping the homeowner ask the right questions to discover their needs. The way a home needs to function for the owner is very important to get right," she said.

The first step is to sit down with the homeowners together. This saves time, since this gives them a chance to work out ideas in a brainstorming session, she said.

"It is more costly to redo a mistake, than it is to avoid that mistake," said Zitzloff.

Questions, questions

Zitzloff said she asks many questions.

What are the hobbies? If the client has horses, do they need a space to store equipment (tack or medical items), in the home?

Will a space be needed for sewing, crafts, or woodworking?

What line of work are the people in? Do they need a wash area in a mud room?

"We talk about bubbles of space that serve certain needs," said Zitzloff.

Perhaps the person works at home on a computer. How does that fit into the home design, and what does the client need in that space?

Future needs are important. How will that home function once the children are grown, and the owners get older?

People are cocooning, more and more, she said. They want to be surrounded by the things that belong to them.

Surround yourself with good memories. Use those gifts and antiques you like.

In addition to special items, look in your closet and see what colors you usually buy.

Don't put a color in your home because it is trendy. Use those you feel comfortable with and like, she said.

If you want a warm feeling in your home, don't paint woodwork white. Use golden or mid-value stains and colors, not dark ones, she advised.


The clients need to tell her what they like, and what they can afford.

"Surprisingly, the people with the larger budgets seem to do the most recycling of furnishings and window treatments, she said.

In other words, what might be used as a window treatment in the living room one year, might be remade into something for the bedroom later.

In the beginning, whether it is a new or remodel project, Zitzloff said it is important to find out what the contractor will provide and how much of a cushion there is for upgrades.

"Usually, by the time the client gets to the extras, the money is gone," she commented, "unless you have the determination to stick to the plans."

Zitzloff can help save money by helping the client get bids on carpet, window coverings, painting, etc.

She does drafting, room layout and floor space design. She reads blueprints as well.

This is a far cry from the draperies she sewed when she first started.

Zitzloff recommended the homeowner find an interior designer to assist in the planning process, whether they are remodeling or building a home.

Stick with them all the way, and you will make fewer, costly mistakes. It will save you money, time, and a lot of headaches, she said.

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