Lady, I’m Just Here for your Bedroom

Interior design is my passion. I believe that rooms should reflect the occupant as much as possible rather than the designer. When you work with clients, you have to explain that there are no cookie cutter solutions and that imitating a “look” breeds monotony and a lack of originality. You have to work as a team to come up with good ideas that the client can live with and feel positive about. You don’t give a country girl a home full of ultra-modern sleek furniture. You don’t design an eclectic space for a purist who revels in a particular style. In other words, mixing things up isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. I had a client who had what I call “horror vacui” or a fear of empty space in Greek (also known as kenophobia). Painters who have it will fill a canvas with endless images or forms, much like Jackson Pollock’s intricate skeins of paint drippings that leave no white canvas apparent. This client liked art work everywhere filling the walls and shelf after shelf of knickknacks. It was a feat for the eye because the end product was done well.

I believe in customization as you can see. I had another eccentric client who was a beauty product junkie. She needed ample space in her bathroom drawers for her vast collection. As her designer, I was required to organize everything to be within easy reach. It was simple to install drawer dividers. I had the additional job of beautifying her bedroom and installing a new headboard. I was in the middle of my work when I heard a shrill cry coming from the locked bathroom. What on earth? When she emerged shortly thereafter, she was moaning and groaning about what had happened when she removed her false eyelashes. Her own lashes were pulled out in the process and she was aghast. I hated to stop work as I had another job that day, but I took a breather to console her. She wanted to have Eyelashes to Die For. Of course, I had no idea so we looked it up on the Internet together. I learned more than I cared to know about eyelashes. As a matter of fact, they fall on regularly as new lashes emerge. It is like the hair on your head. It also sheds and regrows as part of the normal processes of nature. My client was thrilled that she would not look strange for months and months to come. She could use more eyelash extensions in the interim to mask the problem.

As a designer, I am often called upon to do odd jobs and this day was one of the strangest I had ever experienced. I don’t fancy myself a cosmetics expert but somehow I was called upon to offer advice in unknown territory. I prefer to stick with selecting artwork and decorative objects, a duvet and matching shams, or couch pillow fabric.

More than a Mirror and Some Weights

The home gym. When you hear that phrase, do you automatically picture some ghastly floor-to-ceiling mirrors, ugly black rubber flooring and some free weights? Maybe a yoga mat thrown in for good measure, perhaps? Or do you see a treadmill with some clothes hung on it, shoved in the corner of a bedroom? Whatever your vision, it probably doesn’t look fun or aesthetically pleasing. This, my dear readers, is unacceptable to me.

I don’t care what the purpose of any room in your home is, it still shouldn’t be ugly. Especially not something like a home gym. I have a good reason for feeling this way: if you are anything like me, you don’t necessarily want to work out. If you need to lug equipment around to get started, after a few days, you’re going to stop. If the room is functional but dreary and not motivating, you’re not going to want to be in it. You’ll find excuses not to go in there, and then all those attempts at getting healthier will be a waste as your equipment gathers dust.

First, paint the walls a color that is different than the rest of the house, so that your brain registers that this is a special place. I typically advise clients to choose what I call a “power color.” Look through the offerings online or at a paint store. Think of words like strong, happy, fit, and healthy; see if you catch onto a color that matches those words. Make it a color that you associate with your goals. Next, put things on the wall. Not necessarily related to fitness, although I have plenty of male clients that go with a sports theme and have team memorabilia on the walls. It can be anything that you want to look at while you’re in there. A family portrait, beautiful artwork, motivational words, or pictures of athletes. Something that triggers an “I can do this!” mentality whenever you see it. Use the walls, too. Make them functional. Put up hooks and/or shelves to put all those little things you need within both your reach and your eyesight. A home gym is not the place to be investing in lots of out-of-sight-out-of-mind storage techniques. The easier it is to grab and get on with it, the more likely you’re actually going to use it.

Now that I’ve given you some wall ideas, let’s talk about flooring. I recommend wood or tile floors. They are easy to clean, which is important when you get all sweaty and gross. You can also buy those rubber flooring squares or throw rugs with sticky material on the bottom to keep any equipment from sliding around. If you use carpet, it can be harder to do certain exercises (especially if you are into things like yoga or aerobics), and leaving heavy gym equipment on it for extended periods of time can actually damage the carpet. Plus, there’s always rug burn, which is something else to avoid.

Surround yourself with things that motivate you and make you happy. Make any equipment you have readily available, accessible, and easy to use. Choose easy-to-care-for flooring. Following these simple guidelines will help you reach your fitness goals in no time!

Why I Hate Pinterest

Yes, I’ve said it. I hate Pinterest. If you have been living under a rock for the past few years and don’t know what Pinterest is, it is a virtual dream board for its users. They scour the internet “pinning” things that they like. In theory, it is a great system for someone like me to keep track of interesting textiles, furniture, or design features that I see online for various projects.

However, in reality, it is a do-it-yourself horror story in the making. There are all kinds of crafty ways to refurbish, repurpose, or make décor. I will be the first to tell you, as someone who has been in this field for a decade, that there are some things you just should not try to do yourself. Reupholstering a chair may look easy, and those before and after shots you see on Pinterest may look great. But if you don’t know anything about chair assembly or fabrics, this may not be a great task for you to tackle on your own. There are too many variables to deal with when you’re inexperienced. First, you don’t know the skill level of the other person. It may take them 15 minutes because they worked in a furniture restoration store for 30 years; that doesn’t mean it will be quick for you. They may have attempted it 50 times before and this is the one time it worked out for them. The chair they are using might be a different design or made of different material than yours, which matters significantly when you start disassembling the chair or try to adhere the new fabric to it. You also cannot tell what kind of fabric they are using. It could be specially made, it could be a thick textile, it could be anything,really. It is possible the fabric you buy is too thin and your staples won’t hold, or you put in too much batting and then don’t have the proper amount of material to properly cover the bottom even if you diligently measured and cut the fabric properly.

There are so many reasons why your project may not come out like the one you see online, and instead of feeling like the person misrepresented the task or that they may have professional training, you start to take it personally. Many of my clients—smart, capable, successful women—are reduced to tears because they cannot measure up to these Pinterest queens. That bothers me so much. If you have a few spare moments, search for “Pinterest fails” and you’ll see what I am talking about. While I admire people’s attempts at saving money or their ingenuity in trying something new, I am a professional. I have taken courses and studied the proper techniques. I have cultivated relationships with other professionals who can do these jobs to your specifications for a fair price. It is part of my job to make things easier and more beautiful for my clients.

Let’s leave Pinterest out of it, OK?

Warehouse of Horrors

I was hired by a client about six months ago to renovate a warehouse they had recently purchased. It had been vacant for a while, which is always a bad sign when you start actually looking into the building—you see where things were neglected and misused during the off period. I have worked on other buildings that were poorly maintained, but I can assure you that this one took first prize.

I walked through the building with the client and talked about what he envisioned for the space—what sort of work would be done there, how many employees and that sort of thing. We immediately decided that the break and bathrooms would need to be enlarged, as he was expecting to hire more people than the rooms were originally designed for. This would cut into his available workspace, but we were able to reconfigure some of it to make up the majority of the room lost by expanding those facilities.

Then it came time for the demo and construction. I started to hear about mice from the team doing the work. Ugh. Mice are one of the two dreaded things to find during a renovation (in case you’re wondering, the other is mold). Not many things stop a project as quickly as a mice infestation. Since I try to be as conscientious as possible, I don’t see much point in killing these creatures—who can blame them for using the space, after all? Nobody else was. They seemed to be relatively new tenants, which was good. We didn’t see much damage to the interior of the walls and they hadn’t appeared to gnaw through any wiring at all, thank goodness! We set down some humane mouse traps to solve the problem.

Once the mice were safely and humanely out of the way, we were extra careful with the rest of the demo and did a serious clean out before we started building again. We located some hazardous materials that needed to be disposed of and a lot of rusty, unsalvageable equipment. Once we had that out of the way, we had the building checked twice more to see if any of our little friends had returned. We had to set down a few more traps, but all in all the situation got under control fairly easily. It could have been a lot worse.

We are nearly done with the renovation part now, and once that is complete, we’ll do another inspection to make sure everything is up to code before we start putting in the furniture and equipment. This has been a challenging project, to say the least. I think I will be done with warehouses for a bit after this one, and possibly off buildings that were previously abandoned altogether!

Overcoming Obstacles to Meet a Deadline

Sometimes I really am a miracle worker. I have been working on one of those projects. The kind that has an unpleasant surprise around every turn, a frustrated client, and mounting expenses. It is the kind of thing that makes you not want to get out of bed in the morning, I’ll tell you. But get up I have, ready to stare every last setback down and attempting to find a way to thwart every situation threatening to turn this project into a complete disaster.

It has taken a lot of energy, I’ll tell you. I’ve got a deadline approaching. And while my goal is always to get everything done correctly and to the client’s satisfaction, two of the things my clients want most is for me to get the job done on time and on budget. I completely understand. When things aren’t done by the time they should be, it can push other projects back and that has an ugly domino effect with the rest of my clients that I would very much like to avoid. While I have been around long enough now that it has gotten easier and easier to correctly gauge how long something is going to take, occasionally things take turns that even I couldn’t guess.

That’s where I am with this particular project. It isn’t anyone’s fault, per se, which makes it difficult. I can’t fire anyone involved in the project in order to prove to my client that I am handling the situation, and there isn’t really one thing that can satisfactorily shoulder the blame. Things have just been happening. We knocked down a wall and found asbestos. We called in an electrician to move an outlet and found that the wiring wasn’t up to code and had to be upgraded in order to power everything safely. I was wracking my brain to figure out how I could get my team to continue what little work they could do while the electricians did their thing.

Then I had a brilliant idea. A generator! I found one on this web site that can safely be run indoors without using electricity. I had the team come in at night, which cost extra but then they aren’t under the electrician’s feet the whole time, and they were able to install some of the flooring that we needed put in as well as inspect the pipes for any more leaks since the walls were all open at that point. Doing the work this way cost me a bit more than I would have liked but it put us right back on schedule. Since I have one of those post-deadline clauses, in the long run, it should actually end up saving me money. And I’ll gladly pay my workers a good wage to do a good job if it means getting the job done on time and a happy client at the end of the project.

Thank goodness for thinking outside the box. I don’t know what I would have done otherwise!

Difference Between an Interior Designer and a Decorator

I get asked this question probably more than any other when people are trying to decide who to hire to decorate their living or work space. It really depends on your objectives, but I tell people to go with the person they feel will best capture what they envision for their space. However, since I’m not trying to get you to hire me, I can talk about the differences here without talking myself out of a job.

An interior decorator does just that: decorates an interior. They buy furniture and fixtures, window treatments, rugs and that sort of thing. They can style a room like nobody’s business. A good interior decorator has done an apprentice or internship under the supervision of someone with more experience. They typically understand blueprints, building codes, inspection standards, and accessibility requirements. However, their sole purpose is to decorate a space through furnishings and accents.

On the other hand, interior designers (like me) tend to have more education. We have bachelor’s degrees in things like art, design, or architecture. We have to pass a nation exam so we can be licensed in the state we operate in. It’s very straightforward—if you don’t pass the test, you can’t call yourself an interior designer. I can walk into an empty space and change it—I can make adjustments to blueprints and reconfigure spaces. I can work with architects before the building is even built to go over the plans to make spaces functional and beautiful. In other words, I have a lot more that I can do than just decorate what is already there. I can decorate a room, of course, but I can also design spaces as well.

I can explain it best by giving an example. An interior designer will look at floor coverings and choose something based on what you like and what will work in the space. However, when I’m choosing flooring, I look at what the room is going to be used for, the acoustics of choosing such flooring, the durability of the options available, and fire codes. A lot more goes into my decisions.

Only you know what you really need. An interior decorator may have a lot of experience but if you want to knock down a wall or add whole rooms, you are much better off with an interior designer. If you’re renovating your space, I’m going to be a much better fit for your project. If all you want is someone to make your house look aesthetically pleasing, you can get an interior decorator for probably less money that I would charge you. Assess your needs and interview some candidates. Check their references, too. See who you feel comfortable with and who you think understands what you want and need. I am confident you can find the right person for the job.

Before You Start That Bathroom Remodel

People love renovating their bathrooms. It is a trend that is bordering on obsession. There are so many things that people are looking for in a bathroom nowadays. I mean, it’s a bathroom. The goals should really be that everything is functional, easy to clean, and looks nice. But that isn’t what the people want anymore. They’re looking for walk in showers big enough for three people (remember when they were just called showers?). Heated floors, fancy toilets, and smart showerheads are all the rage now.

Because of this new emphasis on bathrooms, especially en suite bathrooms, it can get incredibly expensive to do a bathroom renovation. This holds true even if you decide to do it yourself. But here is the thing that I tell my clients: quality is better than complicated. Most homebuyers would rather have a low-flow toilet and water conserving showerhead than a heated seat on their throne and multiple showerheads. Take notice that I said most. I advise people who want those types of amenities (and let’s face it, luxury is nice and some people just have that kind of money or preference) to plan on staying in the house until the end of time before expecting to get their money back on bathroom upgrades like that. Don’t get me wrong, I think all that stuff is great, but I also know that it is expensive and not to everyone’s taste. In other words, updating your bathroom=moneymaker. UpGRADING your bathroom=dicey.

Personally, I prefer a good detachable showerhead to the multi-head walk in showers that seem to be the in thing. A quality handheld shower head with different settings can work and feel just as good as the high tech ones yet be a fraction of the price. And if you get a low-flow showerhead, it will cost even less to operate than one of those multi-jet numbers. Those are the types of thing people remember at an open house and every time they look at their water bill. Besides, if you use a shower curtain or smoked glass doors, nobody sees your shower unless they’re physically inside it anyway—regardless of how much it cost you—and typically at that point they would just like to be clean. I would rather spend that money on a gorgeous bathroom sink, vanity, and mirror. You spend an awful lot of time in the bathroom, so having a quality vanity to hold all your toiletries will be a time and space saver. And anyone who has had to suffer without one knows the value of a good quality bathroom mirror. Also, think about how many times and for how many reasons you use your bathroom sink. Now you see where I am going with that? Put the money into the stuff you use the most.

My final advice is this: don’t let bells and whistles distract you from the fact that your bathroom needs to be functional, more so than many other rooms in a home or workspace. Fancy features are great but look for durability and quality over simply good looks or complicated settings you might never figure out, never mind use.

Tricks to Brighten Up a Room

I am often asked to “brighten” up a room. Believe it or not, there are simple things you can do to brighten a room without having to knock a hole in the wall and add another window. Many are simple tweaks that can be done in a few minutes or with minimal costs. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Look at the furniture. If you are surrounded by pieces that are dark or bulky, they are absorbing the light in the room. Light furniture, metallic features (more on that later), and glass tabletops or shelving will help change the whole feel of the room and create a lighter space.
  • What color is on the walls? Is it a dark, rich color? That could also be the culprit. A light color is especially important in rooms that have little or no natural lighting. Evaluate what is on the walls and consider changing the color if it is a problem.
  • If the room has windows, evaluate your window treatments. Are you using heavy brocade drapes? You could be unintentionally blocking your greatest source of light. Try using a lighter material, or pushing the heavier material to the sides and putting something sheer in the middle. There are plenty of options that allow light but are not see through. If you have blinds, think about replacing them with a shade that allows some light pass-through.
  • Next,evaluate your light sources. This includes any hanging lamps or wall fixtures, as well as free standing wall or table lamps. Turn them all on. If there are still dark corners, you need more lighting. If they cover the whole room but not well, you may need different bulbs. Check the lumens and increase them accordingly (lumens are light output, which is different than wattage because of things like energy efficient bulbs). I like to have softer lighting in table lamps and brighter bulbs in ceiling lights. Three-wayor dimmable bulbs are also a good idea if your fixture/switch supports them.
  • Add mirrors strategically. I don’t mean that you have to add a tacky mirror wall, but even something with metallic features will help. Place them opposite a window and they will reflect and multiply the room’s natural light. If you have two windows on the same wall, put a mirror (preferably around the same size as the windows if you can swing it) in between. It will trick the eye into thinking it is another window in the room and it will feel brighter. If you don’t have any windows or can’t put a mirror across from one, put it on the wall directly behind a table lamp. Whenever the lamp is on, it will reflect the light.
  • Is the room cluttered? That can also make a room feel cramped and dark. Do a sweep of the room and relocate things that don’t need to be in the room. If there are open spaces, the room will feel airier and lighter. If you must have tchotchkes laying around, make sure that they are white or light colored and that their proportions don’t overwhelm the room.

So go through your room with a discerning eye and see what you think can be tweaked a little here and there. You would be surprised at what some new curtains, a quick coat of paint, a new bulb, or some decluttering can accomplish!

Adding Splashes of Color

It may not be typical advice, but as an interior designer, I often recommend that people choose classic and neutral color furniture. I know that it sounds boring, but hear me out. It can be tempting to get a gorgeously rich sofa in lime green, and it very well could be the finishing touch to your room. However, if you maybe have to replace your rug because someone spills wine all over it at a party and you fall in love with a loud orange print, or you inherit your grandfather’s mahogany bookcase or something, that dream sofa might look like a nightmare. It could be more of a commitment than you really should be making. You know how often you get tired of looking at something, and how often it is financially feasible for you to replace something, so keep that in mind.

The advice I give to all my clients is to go bold with accents. There are so many places throughout the room that you can add color, and it is fun to use your imagination to find ways to add stylish and bright pieces that will add personality to any room in your home.

I love bright, vibrant throw pillows and rugs. If you are a throw blanket person, that is another way to add wonderful color to your room. Window treatmentsare another excellent chance to add fantastic colors that will make the room pop or bring in an interesting pattern to attract the eye. My favorite part about using color as an accent feature is that these items can be inexpensive, which encourages you to change them out every season, or if something gets spilled on it or they fade. Or you can just replace them on a whim! I keep different sets in storage and just rotate them as I see fit. All the colors coordinate, so I can mix and match as I go. I bought most of it at a big box store, and it always looks like a million bucks!

I also love to add art to the room, something bright and colorful—especially to offset a larger piece of furniture in a solid color. For people who frequently want to change out the art in the room, I recommend using an easel. It is much easier to switch out one painting for another, especially if they are different sizes or orientations. You never have to worry because there are no holes in the wall whatsoever!

One last idea is to paint an accent wall. It is not as big of a commitment to paint one wall as it is the whole room. It also enables you to paint it with a bold, bright color that might not work in the whole room. The color will stand out more in contrast, and if you decide that you don’t like it—you only have to prime and paint one wall instead of four.

I hope this has given you some ideas on ways to add color to your décor. If you are hesitant or unsure, talk with a designer or look at a color wheel to get an idea of what colors look good with the pieces you already have. Start small with a curtain change or some pillows and build onto your look from there. Experiment with it and have fun!

Design With You in Mind

Interior design may feel intimidating to most people. There are too many options out there: materials, patterns, colors, designs, and features. Even buying something as simple as a lamp can be incredibly complicated. People are afraid to make the wrong decisions, and that’s why they hire someone like me. Of course, I am a professional designer with a fancy education and years of experience, so I have a better grasp on what is going to look good together and what will go nicely in the space you have.But a well put together, color coordinated home isn’t necessarily what everyone wants. Let’s face it, some people are going to go Frat Boy Chic whether they are paying me to help them or not. But that is because that’s what appeals to them for whatever reason, bless their poor misguided little hearts.

Here is the secret to interior design: it is all about personal taste. If you are the type of person who likes pink walls, green curtains, and a purple sofa, then that is what you should have. And if it is what you tell a designer you like and they don’t listen, you shouldn’t work with them. Modifying or or tweaking your vision a little may be necessary based on what they can find in your price range, so you could end up with pink walls, lime green and pink stripes in the curtains, and purple cushions on the couch, but it should reflect what you were going for. It should still be what you want. If you walk into your living room and think it is the greatest place in the world to be because you have a couch that is the same color as your favorite team’s jersey or because it has the perfect light for you to read by or it has storage so you never have to see all of your kids’ toys—that is what really matters.

It doesn’t matter if your room is never going to make the cover of a design magazine. Most rooms won’t. And you want to know the thing about rooms like the ones you see in design magazines? They’re usually for show. Or they’re taken at the end of a design project before the client comes in and decides to move stuff around or add their books and knickknacks to the shelves. In other words, they look good because they aren’t actually lived in. They may reflect the client’s personal taste, but they are typically lacking in the client’s personality. You can’t compare your room to a space like that. It’s like comparing a house cat to a tiger. Sure the tiger is a magnificent and gorgeous creature, but you can actually sit with a cat in your lap and pet it. One is something you visit and admire and the other is something you can actually live with.

Whether you hire someone or you do it yourself, design the room with yourself in mind. Know what you want in the room and what your vision for the space is. It will give you a jumping off point and a goal to work toward.