September, 2011

Carlsbad, CA - Karen C. Wirrig, FIFDA was awarded the Honorary Recognition Award by the International Furnishings and Design Association at the recent International Symposium in Philadelphia, PA. This award is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a member of the organization and is awarded to those who have made notable contributions to the furnishings and design or related fields. Ms. Wirrig is owner and principal designer for Karen Cole Designs in Carlsbad, CA, a full service interior design firm.

November, 2009

Scottsdale, AZ - IFDA Tableau held the 3rd annual event to benefit Ryan House, the first pediatric respite and palliative care home in the Southwest.  The event featured fantasy tabletop designs by some of the Valley's leading designers, dinner, Robert Black fashion show, and Monte Carlo style gaming plus a Chinese auction.

One of the featured tables was created by Karen C. Wirrig, FIFDA of Karen Cole Designs with offices in Phoenix, AZ and Carlsbad, CA.  Her table, entitled The City of Lights in Blacks and Whites, was a fantasy architectural tour of Paris featuring iconic buildings on all the chairs as well as a lighted Eiffel Tower centerpiece.  The tableskirt featured the skyline of Paris in a 360° view and inset flounces of black and white patterned Eiffel Tower fabric.  The table itself was highlighted by four "shadow" Eiffel Towers and was set with hand-painted stemware, black and white china, and black and silver flatware.  Arrangements of white dendrobium orchids with black grasses maintained the theme.  The final detail to set the scene was a full sized street lamp with a Metro sign.

"I love Paris and I wanted everyone who saw my table to feel like they just took a little journey to one of the most beautiful cities on Earth", said Wirrig.  She said she plans to use these custom creations for other events such as weddings or bridal showers.

Read more about the event at TABLEAU, Arizona Foothills and Blacktie - Arizona.

November, 2008

Karen Wirrig, FIFDA, owner of Karen Cole Designs in Phoenix, Arizona and Carlsbad, California was the winner of the People's Choice Award for Most Elegant Table at the recent Tableau event held in Scottsdale, Arizona. This event featured table design competition, dining, and Monte Carlo style gaming along with raffles and auctions to benefit Ryan House in Phoenix.  Ryan House is the first pediatric respite and palliative care home to serve families in the Southwest.

The competition featured 24 tables each designed in a different theme and the judging was done by the 200 guests at the event. This was the second annual Tableau event hosted by the Arizona Chapter of the International Furnishings and Design Association.

Read about the competition in Arizona Foothills Magazine.

September, 2006

Karen Cole Designs is pleased to announce that owner, Karen C. Wirrig, has been awarded the prestigious distinction of Fellow by the International Furnishings and Design Association. Fellows recognition is awarded to those members in recognition of outstanding service both to the Association and civic, educational, and industry contributions. Karen Cole Designs is a full service interior design firm with offices in Phoenix, Arizona and Carlsbad, California. Company information is available at

IFDA is the only all-industry association whose members provide services and products to the furnishings and design industry. IFDA is the driving force, through its programs and services, to enhance the professionalism and stature of the industry worldwide.

January, 2006

IFDA Announces Its 2006 President and International Board

Karen C. Wirrig, owner of Karen Cole Designs, has been elected to a three year term as Director at Large to the international board of the International Furnishings and Design Association. Ms. Wirrig is a past president of the IFDA-Arizona Chapter and national chairperson for the 2003 National Education Conference.

October, 2005

Karen Cole Designs of Phoenix, Arizona is pleased to announce the opening of a second office in Carlsbad, California. The full service design firm looks forward to serving clients throughout San Diego County. "Our new turn-key furnishings package for second home buyers seems especially well suited to southern California buyers in addition to our clients in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area", said owner Karen C. Wirrig. A virtual tour of a furnished condo is available to view on the company’s website

MAKE IT WORK! By Karen C. Wirrig, FIFDA

Those three words have become synonymous with Tim Gunn, the guru of fashion who serves as mentor on Bravo's Project Runway as well as host of his own show Tim Gunn's Guide to Style and co-author of Tim Gunn, A Guide to Quality, Taste & Style.

In addition to television, Tim is now the Chief Creative Officer for Liz Claiborne, Inc. headquartered in New York. He is traveling the country hosting fashion shows to kick off the new collections offered by the line.

I had the opportunity to meet him recently when he came to Scottsdale and later spoke with him in a telephone interview. For someone with an inordinately busy schedule, Tim and his colleagues could not have been more gracious and were very courteous about following up to schedule the interview. We spoke about the cross-pollination of the fashion design and the interior design worlds.

IFDA: Who influenced your first specific memory about style?
TG: My mother, my grandmother, and my great aunt were all style influences with my grandmother being the most notable for her personal style. She always wore hats, even at home, and her friends called her the Duchess. That definitely makes a style statement. (Tim grew up in Washington, D.C.)

IFDA: How did your career path move from artist to educator?
TG: For a while, they co-existed but then I realized that my creative needs were actually being fulfilled as an educator and that was where I wanted to focus my time. Diane Von Furstenberg advised me never to lose my voice as an educator.

IFDA: We often see cross-over influences from fashion design to interior design. Is the reverse true?
TG: I think fashion and interior design are inextricably linked. And I definitely think that a home's interior design, especially when entertaining, can influence a host's decision about fashion for a special event at home.

IFDA: What are important design influences today?
TG: World influences, cultural influences - I think interior designers have a greater challenge than fashion designers as they often use existing products and they must make selections from a huge mega-mart of choices to fit appropriately whereas a fashion designer creates an item from whole cloth.

IFDA: You have said that no one needs fashion but that many people want it. Given that fashion design and interior design are both luxury businesses, how do you think good design - both fashion and interior - contribute to society?
TG: Both make our world a better, more beautiful place and a more joyful place.

IFDA: You are traveling a lot these days. What are some of the best hotel ideas you are seeing? Where do they miss the mark?
TG: I'm not seeing many great ideas these days to be honest. Most of my travel is business so I am staying at mid-range hotels. They are either dismal, neutral colors or an over-the-top riot of colors and stripes. And hotel bathrooms are not at all user friendly. The lighting is horrible and there is usually no place to put your personal items.

IFDA: How would you describe the style of your own home?
TG: Classic but eclectic. I know that word is overused but I like lots of different things. I am not wedded to any particular period but I really like Asian items and I have a lovely coromandel screen behind my sofa. I also love the pieces of antique European art that I have collected over the years. However, if I had a second home I would like it to be very minimalist and clean. I just can't live that way all the time.

IFDA: What textile(s) has the biggest cross-over appeal from fashion to interiors?
TG: Linen, silks, tweeds, men's suiting fabrics. One of the best interiors I've ever seen was done by Albert Hadley with all upholstery in a chalk stripe suiting fabric.

IFDA: What is the #1 fashion mistake people make?
TG: It's the fit. People say they want comfort so they buy things that don't fit properly. I recommend natural fabrics that also have about 4% Lycra so the fit is very comfortable. Proper tailoring is essential.

IFDA: As Chief Creative Officer, what is your primary goal for the Liz Claiborne Company?
TG: I want to reposition the brand back to where it was at its heyday and sustain it.

IFDA: Finally, did Diane Von Furstenberg really "sniff" at your attire as you stated in your book?
TG: Oh yes, it was very subtle but very meaningful. She has been a great guide and a great sounding board. I knew I needed to make a change so I worked on it.

Tim Gunn is not only impeccable in his dress but, seemingly, unflappable in his demeanor. While in Scottsdale recently on behalf of Liz Claiborne and the holiday collection, he signed books and stood for photos for hours and was as nice to the 200th person as he was to the first. Perhaps it is Tim's affinity for Asian influences which gives him a "Zen Master" approach to life. Whatever it is, Tim has truly made it work!


We Spent the Morning with Joe! by Karen C. Wirrig, FIFDA

March came in like a lion with a major event at Arizona Design Center sponsored by Inside/Out Showroom, Sunbrella Fabrics, Silver State Distributing and Dodaz al fresco for "A Morning with Joe". Joe Ruggiero is the host of a popular series on HGTV, is the former Chief Design Consultant to the PBS award-winning series "This Old House", design correspondent for ABC's "Good Morning, America" in addition to developing product lines for furniture, lighting, and fabrics.

Joe was in Scottsdale to unveil the Sunbrella residential fabrics collection, Design Elements by Joe Ruggiero, that debuted last fall. If you haven't looked at Sunbrella lately, you are in for a big surprise. The collections featured five different themes:

  1. Asian Influence - features kimono-like fabrics, Chippendale fretwork patterns, bronze colors, and bold patterned damasks.
  2. English Country Cottage - not chintzy but, rather, stripes, and woven and textured chenilles
  3. Malibu - shows matelasse, bright florals and geometrics, a linen-like stripe, and a high performance velvet - yes, VELVET!
  4. Loft living - City Style - bold graphics, velvet, contemporary patterns and retro inspired.
  5. New Traditions - color combinations like red with lemon yellow, crisp, clean patterns, rich tone on tone patterns.

Sunbrella is eminently suitable for interior use in drapery, bedding, and upholstery. As drapery, it can stand alone or it can be used as lining for more delicate fabrics that take a beating in the Arizona light and heat. If you have a client whose pets share the bed you may want to consider Sunbrella for custom bedding. Throw the bedding in the washing machine with bleach and it looks new again. All woven products have a three year guarantee against fading. That is not true of the printed fabrics. All care instructions are available at Also announced was the introduction of a 118" sheer which will be available very soon.

Upholstery of indoor furniture may be a new concept when you think of Sunbrella but once you feel the hand and see the patterns, you will want to try it on your next project where kids and pets present a challenge on fabric selection. You will find chenilles, silk-look damasks, tweeds, and velvet that is soft yet exceeds 90,000 double rubs.

Bill Heacox and his staff at Inside/Out sponsored a lovely lunch while Joe chatted with guests and gave away signed copies of "The Perfect Home - Living in Style" in which he is featured. Of special note, the book includes mention that Joe Ruggiero was the 1995 recipient of the IFDA Star of the Year award.