A few of our favorite things

Amanda Veller Chicago

Visit your local C.A.I. Designs Showroom, or meet Amanda in person in our Chicago Showroom to answer any questions you have.

Meet Victoria Larsen | Scottsdale Customer Service Representative

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Brief History of your work experience. My first job, at age 9, was setting up the breakfast room and making waffles for guests at my mom’s hotel. Since then, the majority of my work history has been in hospitality. Most recently as a concierges in the city of Chicago. I felt like an ambassador for the Windy City, it was very rewarding when my recommendations made memorable experiences for my guests. I still strive to add a flair of hospitality into my working life today.

Where are you from?

I was raised in the US’s largest piece of land with the smallest population. The back woods of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

What was your most rewarding project and why?

Taking notice of our hard working designers eating habits, I hosted Working Lunch Wednesdays at CAI Designs Arlington Heights. Typically a designers lunch consists of a granola bar or dining in the car on something picked up in the drive thru. Designers appreciated the opportunity to enjoy a homemade lunch and it was nice to see our designers interact with each other and focus on something that brought them joy, like my chicken salad recipe.

What does a usual workday look like for you?

Multi-tasking is the only usual part of my day. At some point I am on the phone, emailing a vendor, and printing out a tear sheets simultaneously.

How would you characterize your design style?

Worldly Eclectic with a Rock n Roll Edge

Where or whom do you draw inspiration from?

Fashion and travel

Where do you see the interior design market going in the future?

More Mechanisms! Custom fitting sofas with a “sleep number” technology, functional accessories like the hand wall hook in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

What is the most important thing to consider when choosing interiors for your home?

It should be a reflection of you and what makes you feel comfortable.

Why CAI Designs?

I hold a deep admiration for the way the owner of our company has grown his business. Starting out in the fabric industry, adding a small furniture showroom with only a few lines, growing into who we are today.

What is your favorite color?

Lavender puts me ease, think of orchids, lilacs, and the color the clouds turn at sunset in Arizona.

What is your favorite food?

Stroganoff, the more tangy, beefy, and creamy the better.  It is the one thing I cook and also enjoy second helpings. I have mastered my recipe.

What is your dream interior design job?

A home for Mr and Mrs. Alice Cooper

What is your favorite part of your job?

It is satisfying to become a trusted resource for the designers.  I enjoy seeing the different ways a designer approaches a project and what inspires them.

Would you say it is helpful to have a designer as the middle man and why?

Are their any insights or helpful hints you can share with designers when they are working with their clients on projects?  A very wise designer, whom I adore, has her clients sign an agreement of expectations. It spells out how special ordering in the industry works, includes a “Murphys Law of Design”,  lays out common bumps in the road with freight companies, and states “Your party/holiday is not a deadline” I think this is genius.

Meet Dana Bryant… C.A.I. Designs Scottsdale, Showroom Manager

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How did you get into interior design?

Being a self taught weaver and lover off all things art and textile, I had the blessed luck of meeting a most talented artist who had just returned from being educated in Paris. We created, wove, sold and shipped beautiful upholstery fabrics to interior designers across the United States, Canada and Mexico for over 15 years. I have continued to love the world of design ever since.


What was your most rewarding project and why?

That is really a very easy question to answer. All of them! Seriously, I get the same satisfaction in helping designers and their clients find the pieces that ultimately combine to create their perfect spaces no matter how big or small the project. Their happiness is my happiness!


Where do you see the interior design market going in the future?

Humans naturally want to be surrounded by beauty and furnishings that make them happy. Decorated cave dwellings and the stories of Josephine decorating Napoleon’s tents during long battles tells us this human desire has been around before man was even civilized, so it’s not going anywhere. Like most professions there is an art and an education to being an interior designer. The educated general public knows that an interior designer will ultimately save them money and create those beautiful environments we all desire but most cannot accomplish themselves. The direction the industry will go would require the purchase of a crystal ball.


Are their any insights or helpful hints you can share with designers when they are working with their clients on projects?

 Yes, two actually. The first rule of sales is to listen to your clients.

Secondly, manage client expectations. Giving clients realistic expectations of the products and process will eliminate a lot of misunderstandings and unrealistic demands.


What is your favorite color?

 I love White! White goes with everything; it is the presence of all colors.

Then secondly I love most all colors.




Exclusive Interview with Eric Berkey, C.A.I. Designs Lighting Designer


What is your title? Lighting Designer

What is your degree in? Architectural design

Tell us a little about your work experience.

Worked all four years of high school in a shoe store, where early on I learned the significance and value of patience!  When I got out of college we were in the midst of a recession and I could not get an architectural job to save myself, so ended up being the last assistant to a local iconic interior designer.  Upon her death a few years later, I inherited many of her clients and continued to work in my own interior design business for the next twelve years.  I was always interested in good lighting for my projects, and developed a good association with a venerable lighting showroom in Phoenix.  I subsequently signed on with that showroom and through continuing education became a lighting designer and general manager.

Where are you from? 

I grew up in the Midwest, Indiana to be specific, and upon my family’s move across country, played out my senior year in Olympia Washington.  I came to Arizona after two years of college, continued my higher education here,  and have resided in Phoenix ever since.

How did you get into Lighting?

Working within residential interior design I realized the critical importance of lighting to the value of the end product.  I was frequently spending a large amount of the project budget on lighting, usually after making the case to clients as to why it was necessary.

What made you choose light design out of any other opportunities?

My future in lighting may have been preordained earlier in life.  During my teenage years my family lived in a house that had been custom built by the owner of the local lighting showroom.  It was equipped with a rather state of the art lighting control system along with multiple types of lighting in every room, which educated me early in life to understand the value of layers of light within a space along with the ability for ease and convenience of control, plus the energetic drama added by the ability of full range dimming.

What was your most rewarding project and why?

I have had many rewarding projects on various levels, but a specific project a few years ago was an outstanding experience.  I had worked with a local couple on lighting changes within their seventeen year old residence in Paradise Valley and was asked to provide lighting design for a new 12,000 square foot residence they were building outside Calgary.  After many meetings over several years of design and selecting products, I, along with two members of my staff, went to the new residence to supervise the installation of more than fifty five crystal lighting fixtures.  I questioned why the clients wanted us to come from Phoenix, at significant expense, to do what seemingly local installers could do.  They responded that they wouldn’t do it without us, and found great value in having us do the job from beginning to end, stating no one locally would be able to give them the service and expertise we were providing.  Their confidence in me, and their delight with the final product was so rewarding, besides being two of the nicest people I have ever met, made the ending of that project both exhilarating and bittersweet.

What does a usual workday look like for you?

Arriving at the showroom, doing the usual email/message check, making a list of things to do, and then never getting anything done on that list due to showroom traffic, emails, and calls.  You know – just another normal day!

How would you characterize your design style? 

I might venture to label it Sophisticated Modern Organic.  I have a great interest in materials being honest in their presentation:  wood as wood, stone as stone, etc.  I have historically detested faux representations of materials, as in wood grain formica, or aluminum siding with woodgrain embossing.  Truth in materials was one of the principal tenants espoused by Frank Lloyd Wright, a major mentor in my life.  At the same time, I celebrate technology in all the ways that it can bring convenience and creative design into play.

Where do you draw inspiration from?

From everything and everywhere.  I have always been stimulated by geometry in all things natural or manmade, abstracting most everything I observe into the basic geometric shapes that compose it.  I am also inspired by pattern and texture, in how they repeat and progress, creating rhythm and unity.

What is the most important thing to consider when choosing a lighting fixture?

This is where Mies van de Rohe’s famous quote, “Form Follows Function”, somewhat comes into play.  Actually, I don’t believe that expression always holds true, so I might adapt it a bit to reflect a balance of form and function.  Ambient, task, and accent lighting all perform specific purposes (function) while most “decorative” lighting fixtures provide delight or design with their looks (form).  Every lighting decision requires a happy blend.

How do you choose your lights for your home?

By a combination of the of form and function.  If a chandelier is pleasing to my senses and performs the necessary illumination requirements then it’s a winner.  The same goes for architectural lighting within my spaces, as even the trim on a recessed light needs feel “good”, i.e. disappearing as much as possible while functionally lighting the painting to create drama and visual excitement.  I apply the same principles when working with clients.

How is it like working with a designer versus a customer? 

Frankly, in most situations it is easier as the designer and I are usually on the same experience level and speak the same language.  The designer has usually established a more focused path and the design direction is known and considered.  Customers are frequently not sure what they really want, and require some sort of education at various points along the way, ultimately consuming many more hours of time.

Would you say it is helpful to have a designer as the middle man and why?

Absolutely, as their role is pivotal within the complexities of a major design project.  Not only do they provide design inspiration, they are psychiatrists, advisors, friends, and sounding boards to their clients.

Are their any insights or helpful hints you can share with designers when they are working with their clients on lighting projects? 

Bring me into the project as early as possible.  Pre-select 2-3 options without you client.  If there are any specific things you don’t want me to say or ask, please establish that “script” with me before appearing    in the showroom with your client.  Be passionate and firm with you opinions and advice to your clients – they hired you for your expertise.

What is your dream lighting job?

Any design situation where I feel fully valued for my contribution and expertise.  Lighting has become so much more a technical achievement than even a few years ago, so I have a great deal to bring to the table on interior design projects.  When every member of the design team respects what the other professionals contribute, the entire project runs much more smoothly, is fun instead of drudgery, good relationships are created, and the final product is high caliber.

What is your favorite part of your job? 

The completion! (as in a successful completion)  It is so rewarding when all parties are excited and happy at the conclusion of a project and everyone has a sense of pride and ownership.

Why CAI Designs?

After twenty one years at my previous position, I suppose I was finally ready for a change (I, like many, really don’t like change).  CAI Designs provides a greater outlet for me to work with colleagues of like minds in a design center that celebrates the possibilities of what human minds can create.

What is your favorite color?

Orange, or more specifically Burnt Orange.  Living in Arizona, the main thing I miss is the splendor of Autumn in the Midwest, especially the deep, russet oranges in fall foliage.  My color palate runs the collage that is fall, from deep golden yellows, intense reds, earthy browns, along with deep purple hues.  I am not generally fond of bright or primary colors within my environment, with my preference tilting toward colors that are more muted or “muddied”.

What is your favorite food?

That question is just too hard, as I love to cook and eat.  There are too many choices to single out just one!