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Want some design help but short on time or money? Try e-design

Somewhere between “misty morning” and “misted fern,” the shades began to blur.

My husband and I were in the midst of redecorating our guest room, and we were trying to select the perfect shade of green for the walls. As I plopped down on the carpet to flip through the paint chips for the umpteenth time, I silently wished I knew an interior decorator who could weigh in on the question of which of these shades would best complement the room.

Too bad I hadn’t met Jeanette Forney Van Wicklen, an Austin-based certified interior decorator who will offer her opinion via email on even the simplest home design question — including what color to paint a guest room — as part of her cadre of e-design services (

“To me, that sounds so easy, and it is easy on my end, but for another person, it may be difficult trying to look at a million colors and come down to the one color they should select,” Van Wicklen said. “What’s easy about e-design is that people send in pictures and measurements of their room. You pretty much can already get a feel and a sense for the space just based on the pictures they send.”

Thanks in part to the popularity of websites such as Pinterest and, online design services are becoming an increasingly useful — and affordable — way to seek advice on home decor. Van Wicklen’s e-design services start around $45 for a decorating question — such as how to arrange your furniture, what accent color to select or how to fix a problem spot in your home — and go up.

One of her most popular services is creating “vision design boards” for clients that offer a plan for overhauling a room, including specific color, furniture and accessory recommendations. Because Van Wicklen doesn’t visit homes when she works via e-design — everything is done through email — there are no consultation, mileage or styling fees.

“It’s kind of like a virtual interior designer,” said Austinite Jennifer Mullins, who has used Van Wicklen’s e-design services to redecorate her home office, daughter’s room and living room. “I’ve worked with designers and they would come out and spend all this time and you feel like you don’t get anywhere. After two hours, they’re basically just getting the lay of the land. With Jeanette, you can do as little or as much as you want.”

Most recently, Mullins asked Van Wicklen to help her coordinate accessories in her living room — specifically pillows, chairs and curtains. After Mullins submitted pictures of the room, Van Wicklen emailed her with feedback that included what to update (paint the existing lamps to give them a new feel, for example), what to get rid of (a side table) and what to buy (new pillows, lampshades).

“Nowadays, there are so many great resources online,” Van Wicklen said. “I have a list of go-to places. For this lamp, go there. For that chair, go here. If they are in Austin, I incorporate stores locally to give them business as well.”

San Antonio resident Brittany Dimmitt recently asked Van Wicklen to create a “mood board” with a baby elephant theme for her daughter. From the sparkling chandelier to the pink bed to the elephant throw pillows, the board creates a vibe sure to delight any little girl.

“We’re doing wallpaper. I thought, ‘Huh? Wallpaper?’ ” Dimmitt said. “It’s giving it a wild pop of pattern on the wall. Designers see things that normal people don’t look for. She noticed details that I probably would never pick up.”

Dimmitt, a mother of two, said she appreciates the flexibility she has with Van Wicklen.

“I’m just so busy with the kids that I don’t have a lot of time,” Dimmitt said. “This is nice. I can open the email when I’m ready to look at it and see what she’s got for me. You get to do it at your leisure — you don’t have to do it on someone else’s timetable. It’s neat to see everything completely set up for you to make sure it’s all going to look great together.”

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