Born in Europe, Ziering came to the United States as a young child. Her father had been an artist in Europe and after moving to America, he and his wife took up the furniture design and manufacturing trade. Jeani Ziering believes her interior design work is a natural extension of her background in the arts as well as in the design industry.
"I grew up surrounded by art books and paint, and there was always a focus on creativity," she remembers. "I believe anyone interested in the arts develops a natural appreciation for viewing things of beauty in all realms." Ziering was educated in New York, graduating from New York University and earning a master's degree from the University of Connecticut.
To this busy designer, a home or room to decorate is very much like a blank canvas. "Interior design is like painting," Ziering explains. "But instead of using a brush, you are using objects. You are painting with furniture and fabrics. When I see a room, I see it as a blank canvas. I think of what it can be. I make pictures in my head."
A recent decorators' showhouse in which Ziering participated offered her just such a blank canvas. "When I first walked into the empty room I asked myself, 'What is this room used for?' What will its function be, and who will be using it?'
"Even in a showhouse, I want the rooms to come across as if it's real life," Ziering adds. "And once a theme is determined, then the project falls into place because you have a focus."
Her company namesake, Ziering Interiors Inc., is located on Long Island's wealthy north shore. Ziering is quick to point out, however, that not only Long Island is seeing a return to opulence in today's lifestyle.
"In design in general there is a sense of wanting to maintain and restore the grandeur that once was," Ziering suggests.
"Houses have gotten bigger," she adds. "Furnishings have gotten larger as well. Windows are enormous. A lot of homes today are built with cathedral and double-height ceilings. And as a result, the windows are also tremendous in size."
The challenge that designers face today, suggests Ziering, is how do you take a space of that size and create a sense of intimacy—where the home's residents are not overwhelmed with the cavernous space? "A lot of people have become intimidated with the living environments they have created for themselves," she says.
"You go into homes today that have 18-foot-high windows. I was recently working on a room in an old, Gold Coast mansion. It had been built in the early 1900s and was intended to be an American castle."
According to Ziering, the mansion had a lot of imported material. For example, walls had been taken out of castles in Europe to create the sense of another era.
"I was working on one of the castle's bed
rooms. The windows were very high, requiring a lot of fabric," she explains. "The reason I used lace to cover the main window section was I didn't want to block out the light—I wanted an airy, light feeling."
If Ziering had covered the windows with a solid fabric, the room design could have become oppressive. To provide the needed complexity, she brought pattern into the valance and surround. And for texture, she used fringe.
An outdoor room in the Hamptons can present a very different challenge. For one home, Ziering needed to provide a window treatment for an area that actually had no window. She was working with an all-wood porch room, which needed the softness of fabric to take away its wooden severity.
"The green and white striped material we used is outdoor fabric that will withstand all the elements," says Ziering. "Because they are on the beach, there were also problems with wind, so I had it mounted from the roof line and tacked the curtains into the floor so they could withstand the sea breezes."
While Ziering is based on Long Island, she deals regularly with customers throughout the whole New York metropolitan area including Manhattan, Connecticut and Jew Jersey.
"I also have 'snow bird' work that takes me frequently into Florida and travel to other areas with customers who have retirement and vacation homes outside New York and Florida."
Ziering's firm handles a good deal of commercial work as well as residential including business offices, catering halls and restaurants. "You can find a blank canvas with interesting problems to solve almost anywhere," Ziering says.