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Stylish Spaces

Massachusetts Interior Design Company

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Feb '11

The Bold and the Beautiful… Embrace Color

More often than not I meet people who are afraid of bright, intense colors. But once in a while I happen upon that color enthusiast – an adventurous client that knows they love color. Today’s decorating trends would have us believe that unless the room is flooded with white, grey, and beige, it’s just not cool. But I’m here to show you, that’s not really the case.

Now don’t get me wrong. You CAN have too much color in a room. What’s important is balance. That includes color balance, pattern balance, and the correct proportions. Achieving these things is a bit of a tight-rope act, so to avoid frustrating and costly trial and error – hire a designer.
When I first met with this couple, they had just painted their dining room this bold, tomato red.


While some decorators would furrow their brow and ask the couple to re-paint the room a subdued color, I embraced their style. And after they showed me around their new home, I noticed a few other rooms had also been brightly painted. I have to say a little chill of excitement ran through me, because I know what color can do.

So for our dining room project, one of the first challenges was that the adjoining family room was painted this soft, neutral taupe color.


A typical issue with using bold colors is that they don’t necessarily flow easily from one room to the next. They create stark contrast against neutrals, and can also compete with other bold colors. The key is to establish some similarity between the boldly colored room and its neighbors. I knew I needed the perfect fabric to make sense of the two spaces and pull them together. This lovely print from Fabricut was my solution.

Astrea Grenadine - fabricut.com

The background is taupe, which is a cool shade of beige containing a lot of grey. It cools down the bright tomato red in a way that enhances it. And the taupe happens to be the exact shade painted on the walls in the adjoining family room. While the taupe color cools, the ivory brightens and lightens. That’s also important with an intense color like red – especially at night when natural light can’t do the job for you.

The dining room is fairly small, so it doesn’t leave us a lot of floor plan options. We need a rather compact table and 6 chairs. With small rooms, you need to be careful not to overpower the room with too many intense design elements. Since we have our print, we’ve got to go really simple elsewhere.

I decided to apply the printed upholstery fabric above to two head dining chairs from Lee Industries. These uniquely shaped chairs are one of my favorite styles. They are reminiscent of a traditional wing-back chair, so they’re large and welcoming, but at the same time they’re new and modern. The nail heads make them sparkle. Perfect for a transitional home!


Six upholstered chairs would truly have been overkill for the small area, so I opted to introduce additional texture with these distressed, X back chairs in a dark espresso finish. We wanted our chairs and tables to have character, not look like they were just bought at a big-box furniture showroom. So I opted for these chairs from Restoration Hardware.


The dining table needed a very clean-lined profile so as not to complicate the design, but had to stand up to both the distressed wooden and finely detailed upholstered chairs. Restoration Hardware just didn’t have a table with the right scale, so we selected this one from West Elm, featuring a more pronounced wood grain.


Distressed and grained woods add texture to a space. In the home’s only dining area, we didn’t want unapproachable, high gloss, fancy furniture. We wanted it elegant but casual, with just a little something special.

For the rest of the room, we had to keep things simple. Two small windows got clean, airy, and gauzy sheer ivory linen panels. The back side of the house is quite private so the panels were just decorative and served to soften a room full of wood. The sheer fabric was important because in a room this brightly painted, we don’t want to restrict any natural sunlight.

I also selected these fun tone-on-tone carpet tiles from FLOR. These tend to be my go-to for contemporary dining rooms and kitchens in homes with children and pets. They wash up easily, are flexible, and inexpensive. Dining disasters need not cause any major drama.


The ivory color complements the yellow oak floors that came with the house. If we had chosen a taupe, for instance, which may have hidden stains better, they would just blend into the floor color and make no impact. When selecting area rugs, pay close attention to the color and tone of your hardwood floor.

And last but not least, lighting is like the jewelry of the room, especially in a dining room. The couple had adventurous taste and wanted something really fun and special to replace the old-fashioned Tiffany style chandelier. So we selected this lovely champagne-colored metal hanging shade. It’s funky and modern, and doesn’t take itself too seriously.


Two of these abstract art pieces flanking the wall behind the table give the room a finished appearance. The colors warm up the room, but don’t compete with our fabrics, rug, and furniture.


And now, take a look at a few of these design elements together – bold can really be beautiful!

© 2011 Stylish Spaces, LLC

So if you’re one of those home owners who isn’t afraid to use color, remember to use complementary neutrals, brightening colors, and multiple textures to balance your bold selection. And don’t forget to find a color or other element that will tie your bold room into the other spaces in your home.

Happy Decorating!

Feb '11

A Fresh Family Room Design

One of the latest trends in design is a lighter color palette. The focus is on abundant use of white, grey, and other neutral tones with minimal color accents. Today’s blog chronicles my choices for a new project, using a white & light gold base with royal blue accents.

After meeting with the new clients, we decided upon these goals for the space:

  1. Furnish the room practically and casually for a family of 5
  2. Create optimum TV–watching area
  3. Take advantage of both the fireplace and beautiful outdoor views
  4. Improve the acoustics of the room
  5. Create reading & working areas
  6. Facilitate entertaining
  7. Design an updated, traditional space and flow with the kitchen and the rest of the house

With TV watching being one of the primary purposes of the room, I configured the seating area around the TV. After centrally locating the TV, I chose to position seating around it in an L-shape with these sofas that feature an elegant wood-trimmed base.


A reading nook in one corner and a swivel chair by the French doors allows fireplace viewing as well as a great view of the outdoors. The Rattan chair I selected brings a natural feel, as well as a more casual, homey feeling. It also introduces a new texture to the space. Texture is particularly important when you are using limited color.

A swivel chair by the fireplace allows flexibility for viewing the outdoors, the fireplace, or the TV. The high back is in scale to the high-ceilinged room and provides symmetry with the reading chair in the opposite corner. See the floor plan below.

The console table will serve as a writing desk, while storing underneath it two ottomans which can be used for stools when there is company. Flexible, easily-moved furniture pieces are a great investment, especially in large spaces.


© 2010 Stylish Spaces, LLC

Now that the floor plan is settled, I turn to color to make an impact in the space – but these walls were already painted a light buttery yellow. The clients liked the color and had several other rooms to paint in the new house. So, working in harmony with the walls, I started by choosing a practical, durable fabric for the sofas. For the main sofas, I selected acrylic-backed chenille – in a light golden tan. It’s best to keep large pieces plain, and use printed fabrics for chairs and accents. This allows you the flexibility to move your furniture to another space, while keeping the space from looking excessively busy with pattern.

For the swivel chair, I chose a classic traditional print with plenty of white to brighten the room and create a fun accent. It’s a textured linen blend that keeps things casual.

For the rattan reading chair, I applied ikat-style stripe fabric, which really complements the caramel color of the rattan and modernizes a little.

For the tables, we have some really fun pine plank top tables with industrial metal “X” design on the sides. The plank design is casual and adds another dimension. Again, when using all similar colors, make sure to mix up your materials and textures (in this case, pine planks, and metal).

For a console table, I gave the clients a couple of options to mull over – I’m definitely not matching the coffee table – and am providing slightly different colors and styles to complement the other design elements. We’ll decorate this table with a mirror above and maybe a vase of flowers or some lovely blue vases.

The fireplace is parallel to this console, so we will dress it up with a painting – perhaps one they already own – and make it a secondary focal point in the room. You’ll also be able to see it reflected in the mirror.

To house the TV, I’m designing a custom made entertainment center with speaker screens to hide the sound system components. It’s a two-tone design using these warm paint colors from Benjamin Moore. Again, I’m using different elements – here a painted piece. Painted, pine, and veneered woods – they all play well in the same sandbox. Practically speaking, it also needs to be light at 10′ tall – a darker color would loom over us.

Details like fluted molding, crown molding, and bead board along the back make this a special piece of furniture. Again, we are adding layers of texture. The bead board ties in with the plank top tables, and the fluted molding fits in with a traditional New England home. We also capitalize on the room’s architecture by lining up the height of this piece with the top of the windows. It will draw your eye upwards. If you’re going to have a big TV in the room – might as well make a big design statement out of it!


© 2010 Stylish Spaces, LLC

For the window treatments, we are using this crisp cotton with gold embroidery over the existing white wood blinds. Not a lot of new color here – but more texture! Embroidered threads with little velvet buds create softness in a room with so much wood. To address those asymmetrical semi-circle windows, we’re creating symmetry by tying back the drapery panels to either side.


© 2010 Stylish Spaces, LLC

While the light color palette and slightly outdoor feeling is to the taste of my clients, we need a little color to break up the monotony. For a punch of color, we are doing the ottomans in a royal blue color, and will do our accent pillows and accessories with a touch of blue as well.

As much as we want the room to be light and outdoorsy, this is New England, so we need that traditional blue color to ground the house to its classic architecture. We’re also using the blue to create flow with the kitchen. The kitchen cabinets are light creamy yellow and the backsplash is blue and white. So we’re just tipping our hats off to that color palette in the family room. The end result will make the two spaces coordinate as if we’d designed the kitchen right along with the family room.

Lighting is also very important for creating mood in a space. This ceiling fan won’t get much use – so it is getting replaced with a simple and beautiful alabaster pendant light fixture.

This will help illuminate the room at night, in addition to a floor lamp situated right by our reading chair. The existing recessed lights and puck lights in the entertainment center will do the rest of the job.

I’ve selected some rug options for my clients to consider. A large oriental rug in the center of the room really grounds it and solves our acoustic problems, in addition to the window treatments. The rug is lighter because the Brazilian cherry hardwood can be too dark in contrast with the rest of the room.

The furniture’s on order, so when we’re all done, I’ll follow up this entry with finished photos and a closer look at the accessories we select.

So when you’d like a fresh feeling living space – remember – texture is a must. Use different finishes, materials, and styles to create a dynamic look. And don’t forget to punch up those light airy spaces with some color. Your accent colors can connect the rooms in your home and make it feel very well decorated. And lastly, don’t fight the architecture – work with it. High ceilings get large furnishings, and traditional homes get moldings and classic color palettes.

Happy Decorating!

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Sep '10

Improve your Kitchen without a Full Renovation

Hello readers! I wanted to share with you a kitchen I’m working on now with clients who have decided to wait a few years before undertaking a full-scale renovation.

This kitchen is currently functional, but it just doesn’t feel like the homeowners’ style. So, they called me in to do a face lift. Starting out with dated oak cabinetry that screams 80′s, the family called and asked me to modernize the look without breaking the bank.


We opted to paint the cabinets since re-facing was not in the budget. We opted for a creamy taupe color – Benjamin Moore’s carlisle cream on the cabinets. The walls are being done in Benjamin Moore’s clay to provide a strong contrast and to establish the neutral and modern color palette. We also opted to paint the base cabinets of the island only in a rich red – Benjamin Moore’s currant red for a warm and colorful accent.


With the arches on the cabinet doors and paint colors we selected, the clients were beginning to worry the look would be more country. We used black, European bar pulls to create contrast against the light cabinet color. The black stands out, is modern, and it’s amazing how much of an impact it makes.

Currently my clients have Corian countertops which are a warm tan tone with black and white speckles in it. While another solid surface like quartz or granite would have been more attractive, it wasn’t in the budget. A fabulous glass mosaic backsplash in red and black tones does the trick. The black adds some contrast to the light creamy tones of the cabinets and speaks to the countertop. The red adds some warmth and a pop of color to the kitchen. Vidrepur makes these totally green fully recycled glass tiles.


I encouraged my clients to replace their white appliances with new stainless steel ones, which add a lot of value to any home in today’s market, but since the appliances still function, they opted to wait a little longer for new appliances and use the savings on other home furnishing pursuits.

Recessed lights were added around the kitchen to increase the amount of light at night – and a more elegant island light fixture was purchased to add more interest to the kitchen as well as spot lighting over the island. Task lighting over an island is preferable to general lighting you would typically get from a flush mounted fixture or recessed lights spread over the island.

In a renovation, we would have opted for ceiling height wall cabinets to add storage in a kitchen like this, but since those weren’t getting replaced, we displayed the homeowner’s fiesta dishware she collected from her days living in South America by hanging plates of different sizes and colors directly on the walls above the cabinets. Free, personal accessories!

In the adjacent eating area, the room was rectangular, and the clients had been using a round, solid cherry antique table and chairs that has been in their family. They knew it wasn’t the right fit, and while the seat cushions had taken a beating from their young kids, they didn’t know how to address the space. A rectangular table would allow seating for six. So we opted for this modern classic from Restoration Hardware in a deep espresso finish.


The modern table with classic trestle design allows us to re-use the antique chairs that accompany the clients’ existing table and add two new upholstered chairs at the head. I recommended these upholstered chairs from Pottery Barn in red leather so they would be easy to clean, and suggested we recover the existing chairs in a colorful print that complemented the antique chair frame as well as our color scheme. The addition of leather as another texture in the space also creates depth in the design.

The result is a thoughtful combination of modern and classic elements that really complement the contemporary kitchen while paying respect to the home’s traditional colonial architectural details.



For a rug under the table, I suggested carpet tiles from FLOR. With toddlers that would be eating in this kitchen, the option to wash carpet tiles in the sink was quite attractive! A neutral tone enhances the bright red chairs and better hides stains. The choice of the neutral colors also brings the wall, countertop, and hardware colors down to the floor level, making the whole scheme cohesive.


For a modern chandelier that coordinated with the island lights and brightened the area while adding some luxury, we opted for this price-friendly but beautiful pendant fixture from Uttermost.


With a very private back yard, we kept the window treatments very simple. We will replace the old, stuffy, padded cornices with clean, straight-lined, box pleated valances in neutral linen with a line of red and black banding at the bottom edge.

Here’s our visualization drawing. As you can see it’s hard to represent colors perfectly in a drawing, but this really helped our client understand that she was going in the right direction and solidify her choices.

These clients are parents with a hectic schedule – and to keep costs down they have become weekend warriors. So when the project is complete, I’ll be sure to post a photo to show you all how it came out in the end.

So while we can’t all afford to embark upon a time-consuming, expensive renovation of our kitchen, we can often times make small changes that completely personalize our spaces. With the help of a designer, you can be sure your choices will make the impact you’re trying to achieve. Tools like this visualization drawing can help you make decisions before making investments in materials or labor.

Happy Decorating!

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Jul '10

Remodeling Your Bathroom

As our homes age, we become less and less tolerant of the status quo with our bathrooms. There are so many excellent products and ideas out there for bathrooms, and we want to give you some tips and money-saving ideas to consider.

Powder Room Design Ideas

  • Use bold colors like red, cobalt blue, or black & white. Right now rich violet and eggplant are super in vogue. Avoid yellows and browns in baths.
  • With no moisture in the room, you can use bead board on walls or wallpaper to create depth.
  • Use a decorative framed mirror instead of a boring medicine cabinet.
  • Make your lighting dynamic. Wall sconces flanking the mirror are expected – but how about a small scale chandelier?
  • Details matter in a powder room. Impress your guests with monogrammed towels, fragrant soaps, and a potted orchid or floral plant.

Full Bath Remodels – Save Cost and Look Fabulous

  • Choose white fixtures. Not only is white the most popular current look, white fixtures will never become dated. Think about those ugly yellow, avocado green and brown fixtures you see in 60’s baths.
  • Stick with chrome for your fixtures and hardware. Available in both modern and traditional styles, polished chrome is the least expensive finish available from any manufacturer. Since all chrome is made from the same basic material (chromium) in the same few factories, you can use different manufacturers and the chrome will still match, giving you the option to choose the best and most-affordable pieces. Grohe & Hansgrohe, for example, make some of the best shower fixtures on the market today but have a more limited selection of styles for the sink faucets while Kohler supplies top-end faucets at an affordable price.
  • Vanities are expensive and don’t have to be so predictable! Try something with open legs or open shelving underneath. Incorporate a two pedestal surface or wall-mounted sinks to create an airy feel to your bathroom. It will also cost far less than other alternatives!
  • Closets may not save you money, but they will make your bathroom more functional. Instead of a boring linen closet, build a cabinet into the space. It’s easier to manage the shelves and looks so much better. You can even build in a hamper!
  • Definitely put some tiles on the wall. Build an accent wall – perhaps behind your sink or on one side of your shower – in a dramatic tile, but use an inexpensive field tile throughout the rest of the bath. You can also do a 3-4” border from expensive glass tiles that come in 12X12 mosaic sheets to save on the project.
  • Like the look of grand glass doors? Try semi-frameless instead of fully frameless glass doors. The frame will save you cost and still give you a high-end look. You can also install 6’ doors instead of full height to realize some savings.

Know Where to Spend

  • Don’t skip tiling the ceiling of your shower. Moisture build up is always a problem in bathrooms.
  • Invest in a quality exhaust fan. Panasonic makes excellent functioning exhaust fans, some with lighting included.
  • The toilet. I know they don’t seem as important, but please buy a good quality model that flushes well. Don’t spend less than $300 and buy a reputable brand.

Worthwhile Upgrades

  • Radiant flooring underneath your tile is great for winters in chilly New England.
  • Towel warmers now do double duty as space heaters. Get a hard wired model and make your after-shower experience warm and cozy.
  • Put a smash-proof recessed light in your shower. It’s handy to see better when shaving your legs.
  • Don’t have a huge bathroom? Even standard 5’ tubs come with whirlpool jets. Great for aching feet and backs after a long day!
  • Ladies – toilets now come with automatic seat and lid closure. What a delight!

Updating your bathroom adds so much value to your home – ask any Realtor – but please don’t choose dated styles and finishes to save money. A cheap and unattractive vanity from Home Depot is really a waste of your investment. On the other hand a spectacular master bath can be a great selling point for your house. Make sure the investments you make are going to please the masses and make your home look up to date.

Lost on the best way to use your remodeling budget? Give us a call. We’re offering specials on remodeling projects this summer.

Jun '10

Remodeling FAQs

Stylish Spaces has had the pleasure of doing many remodeling projects over the years and throughout our experience we’ve run into many of the same questions. If you’re getting ready to remodel your bathroom, kitchen, basement, or other area of your home – this post is just for you!

1. Do I need a designer and a contractor?

Yes. While your general contractor will do technical specs and plan for your space, you will have to know exactly what you want beforehand. You’ll have to tell him exactly how you want things laid out in your space to get an accurate labor quote. You’ll also want to be prepared with choices selections for tiles, fixtures, finishes, flooring, lighting, and paint colors, etc., and have them ready for delivery quickly. Material selection and delivery delays are the biggest complaint that I hear from contractors working with customers who don’t have a designer. Many clients complain that they were rushed to make a decision and didn’t get what they wanted in the end.

Working with a designer, however, enables you to get the most accurate quote possible and simplifies your decision making and ordering processes. Your designer will begin with an interior space plan which fully considers your family’s needs – from space circulation, to functional planning, to storage, lighting and more. Then the designer will help you select materials, fixtures, and furnishings to ensure a cohesive look. Your designer will also look at your budget and work with you to get the best bang for your dollar – as designers we’re also aware of the specific choices and options that result in labor up-charges and can help you navigate what’s really worth the money.

2. How long will it take to complete my project?

Every project is different depending on the complexity of your construction, existing conditions, the age of your home, and many other factors. Some basic rules of thumb for common projects are as follows:

Bathroom Gut & Remodel – 4-6 weeks from the start date

Kitchen Gut & Remodel – 4-8 weeks from the start date

Basement Finishing – 6- 18 weeks from the start date (a lot of variables here)

Keep in mind that these timelines may be affected by your options, assume you have already made all your decisions, and require that your materials will arrive on-site prior to the start of the job.

3. How much will my remodel cost?

Again, this depends on your choice of materials as well as existing conditions in the home. However, some rough guidelines are as follows:

Bathroom Gut & Remodel – $15,000 for a simple remodel using least expensive materials available on the market. A good mid-point for this is about $25,000.

Kitchen Gut & Remodel – $15,000 for a simple, small sized kitchen with basic options and appliances. A good mid-point assumption is about $28,000.

Basement Finishing – This build varies a lot. Cost depends on whether you’re incorporating built-in’s, a wet bar, a bathroom, a kitchen, etc. There are a lot of factors such as whether you’re finishing the ceiling or doing drop-in ceiling. However, these can run you anywhere from $15,000 for a small and basic finish to $70,000 for high-end finish work.

4.Why do I get such different quotes from contractors?

You will get very different quotes if you have not specified detailed plans for the space or have not specified the exact materials you want to use. Contractors have to make assumptions and provide you with allowances for products you need to complete the project. If you haven’t planned your project with a designer you can expect a wide variety of prices. If you have a designer, he/she can put together a detailed spec document for your contractors on which to bid – that spec will ensure your prices will all be in the same general range.

5. What are the most important things to consider when hiring/interviewing contractors?

A) Always ask for proof of licensing and insurance. A good contractor will provide these without being asked. Ask if they will pull permits. Don’t try to save money by skimping on this – it is not worth the risk you are taking with your investment.

B) Always ask for and check references. A good contractor will have at least 5 references you can contact. Some references should be older (to ensure the workmanship lasts) and some should be newer. Do not take a shortcut by skipping this step.

C) Your contractor should be forthcoming, honest, and communicate clearly. He/she should not take too long to get back to you with information, quotes, or samples. He should return your calls within 24 hrs. If he takes longer than 10 days to get a quote to you after meeting you, he’s overloaded with work, or simply not a good time manager. Either way – not a good choice for you.

D) Don’t interview more than 2-3 contractors. That is not fair to the good men whose time you are wasting. Narrow down your choices by asking for referrals from friends, family, and your designer. If you don’t know anyone in the area, call and pre-screen over the phone then set up appointments to interview those you like in person. You’ll easily weed out a few – those who don’t call you back or are not willing to provide the documentation you are asking for.

E) Chemistry. This person will be in and out of your home. Do you feel comfortable with him? Do you trust him with keys to your house? Your instincts are usually right – rely on them.

In a future post we’ll discuss how to best work with your contractor once you’ve hired him. But for now, I hope this entry will help you with your planning process!

May '10

How Much are Custom Window Treatments?…

My website gets so many hits from people googling (that’s a word, right?) “custom window treatments”. Subsequently I get a call asking me all about them – and whether I can come out and give a quote, which I gladly do for free. Then the million dollar question is – how much will they cost?

I believe firmly that “knowing is half the battle” (isn’t that from a child hood cartoon?) and I thought it might be a good idea to post a blog about this topic to help give you the low-down so you can start planning.

What about ready-made draperies?

First of all, the curtains you can buy at Bed Bath and Beyond, Pier1 or even Pottery Barn are most likely made in China or Mexico. They are mass-produced. They are made with the least expensive fabrics available in very limited color and fabric selection. The lining used (if used at all) is paper thin and does virtually nothing to support the fabric, provide light control, or add structure. These draperies also only come in 84″ long sizes (although now online you can order a few other sizes) and are usually not pleated, but “rod pocket” style. They do not have a “return” (that’s the size adjustment made from the projection of the rod back to the wall). There are numerous differences in construction, quality, and assembly that make them a much lower end product. That’s why they are priced between $30 – $100 per drapery panel. When buying ready-made, you can expect those to cost $150-$250 a window with hardware. And you can put them up yourself so no installation costs. Not really even that cheap.

Now, that being said, I am not frowning down upon those of you who have these or will buy them. If they suit your needs and budget, then wonderful.

But please don’t compare those to custom window treatments. That’s really like comparing a burger from McDonald’s to a $40 steak at a fancy restaurant. They’re both meat (I think), and they both fill you up, but that’s where the comparison ends.

So why custom?

Custom window treatments are just that – custom. You choose the fabric, light control, lining, whether or not they will provide thermal protection. You choose the color, pattern, length, width, fullness, etc. And they’re designed by a professional designer just to suit your personal taste, style, and furnishings. They are professionally installed on high quality hardware that is designed to last and tolerate more than a yank or two. They are locally made by experienced, hard-working American professionals who have to pay licensing fees and carry insurance. These great people will tailor them down to the last detail for your window.

Drum roll please… realistically you can expect them to cost at least $500 a window plus professional installation (which yes, you do need even if you are handy with a drill and hammer). Custom treatments need to be finessed, steamed or pressed, and hung in a certain way. You don’t just slap up a rod and throw them on. They are made to exact specifications of your window and are just as important investments as your sofa or TV. Yes, you heard me right. Just as important as your TV. Now if your windows are large, awkward, or strangely shaped, you can expect your window treatments to cost more than that.

Budgeting tips

Now what do you do if you just moved into a house – are living in a fish bowl, but don’t have the money to buy all these custom draperies? I don’t recommend you go out and buy ready-made draperies. You will be wasting your investment and will regret it when you eventually buy custom. I recommend you buy shades or blinds (custom of course not the kind you buy off the shelf at Target or Home Depot). Custom shades or blinds can run you more like $150-300 per window, depending on size and options of course. Custom fitted bamboo shades, wood blinds, and cellular shades, etc. can do the utilitarian job you need them to. You can spruce up the look with draperies and valances later when you have the budget.

And if that is too much, then prioritize. Choose the rooms in your home which really need more privacy – bathrooms, bedrooms, rooms that are view-able from the road… do those first. I can’t tell you how many clients regret having spent the money they did on ready-mades that just don’t make them happy at the end of the day.

I assure you, I’m not a snob about this stuff, and I do give extremely competitive prices on window treatments. But as an installer I know once said, you’re better off saving and waiting then not getting what you need or want. I agree wholeheartedly. Worse yet you could waste $100-$250 a window on something that just won’t do your money justice.

Custom window treatments are a significant investment for your home, but worth every penny! I promise.

Hopefully this very frank blog post will help you plan for your windows – and know what to expect…

May '10

Debunking Popular Decorating Misconceptions

Many of my clients look to me to provide them with ideas, inspiration and solutions. Other clients have a very strong sense of what they want – and what’s right and wrong for a home. Today I’d like to address some popular misconceptions and answer the most commonly asked questions in home decorating. Some of these topics might raise a few additional questions or spur your own inspiration, so please feel free to weigh in with your thoughts below!

1. Furniture should not “block” windows.

Many older homes have windows that are quite low to the ground, and many fear that seating in front of windows will block out precious light. However, furniture can cover up to 6″ of a window without affecting the light in your space. Of course, don’t back your furniture up against the window or wall! Leave about 6″ between the wall and furniture for “breathing” room or visual circulation. If you have the space, up to 10″ is preferable. Natural light reflects off of surfaces like floors and ceilings and spreads throughout a space.

Another concern is upholstery fading when in front of a window. Selecting the right fabric is key as well as selecting window treatments that reduce fading. Lastly, placing a sofa in front of a window does not make for a cold spot to sit. Poor heating, insulation, and old windows are responsible for that. If you can’t update your windows or your heating system right now – try thermally insulated drapes or shades.

2. Window treatments block the light.

While some window treatments are designed for light blocking – like those we put in bedrooms – many of them are sheer and simply filter the light. Others provide privacy while still letting light in. Hunter Douglas Luminette (vertical) or Silhouette shades provide a soft look with options ranging from completely sheer to completely blacked out in one product. Try layering products like Graber natural woven shades with drapery panels that can be closed to block light.

If you really want bare windows, mount side panels 8-10″ from the window trim or valances 8-10” above the trim. This will give your windows a finished, decorated appearance without taking away from the view. And, if you want to expose the trim, inside mount your valance or shade.

3. Beware of ceiling fans.

Many builders throw a ceiling fan in bedrooms, but the fans are typically ultra utilitarian and extremely dated! These tawdry fans bring a very negative impact on the look of your space. Despite their utilitarian intention, here in New England there are only a half dozen days a year when a ceiling fan will be used! In most cases, it’s either too cold or too hot for a fan alone. If you really want to use a fan, buy a pedestal fan. Keep it tucked away in the closet for those few nights when it’s needed and replace it with light fixture. And, if you MUST have a ceiling fan, buy an elegant one, like those from fanimation.

4. Matching wood and metal finishes.

Many people want every piece of furniture and metal accent to match, however you can use multiple finishes. It’s OK. I promise the matching police won’t get you! Try blending chrome faucets with brushed nickel light fixtures in your kitchen or maple hardwood floors with cherry stained and painted furniture in the living room.

Don’t match your wood blinds, hardwood and furniture. That is too much walnut for one poor room! Painted woods are great with light and dark woods mixed in. If you have a wall of oak cabinets use white trim and baseboard instead of stained trims. Break it up! By doing so you can appreciate the beauty of each piece. I’m not saying to mix 4-5 finishes in one space, but you can mix and match two different styles of metal or wood to create a cohesive and dynamic look. Keep in mind: match the character or style of your wood and metal – not the color.

I know you have strong opinions – so please share!

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Mar '10

My New Love – Linen!

Spring has sprung – or so I wishfully think, since today the glorious sun has emerged. I find that living in New England I wish days like today could last forever – the fresh breeze wafting through my open windows… just cold enough to warrant long sleeves, but warm enough to go without a jacket. Sigh. One thing that reminds me of spring year-round is linen fabric.

One of the latest trends in home decorating is the use of linen. I like to emphasize south-facing and sunny rooms with gauzy white linen panels at the window on a simple wrought iron rod. Why not use burlap-like durable linen for your slipcovers and upholstery (p.s. it’s washable!).

I wasn’t always in love with linen you know. When I look for fabrics, my hands always go to the chenille, silk, and velvet – rich in color, warmth and sophistication. Cotton and linen just seemed so drab and beige….

But today linen comes in rich saturated colors too – like paprika red and cobalt blue and jade green. Anyone who’s ever decorated with me knows it pains me to do a room in primarily neutral tones. I’ll do it if you ask, but it does make my insides hurt. You almost have to slap my hands to keep me from putting red somewhere…

Another fabulous thing about linen, aside from being practical, natural, washable, and casual, is that it gives so much texture to a space. It has a tactile softness all its own. Sure it’s not mohair velvet or cashmere, but it has a beautiful nubby nap to it. Some linen blends press up nice and crisp while others look determinedly wrinkled. Either way, linen’s got character.

Open up today’s design magazines and you’ll see some gorgeous furnishings done in linen – everything from French antiques to Italian modern furniture. And linen is so flexible; you can dress it up on a tailored wood-framed settee with silk pillows, or dress it down as a loose-fitting slip covered sofa or dining chair.

Designers establish trends all the time – but I’m curious to know if any of you out there are embracing this look. Talk to me about linen.

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Feb '10

February 2010: Decorating with Red

Popular since the Victorian age, the color red has been used to invigorate and inspire. It works in traditional schemes and modern ones alike. Not for the faint of heart as this color is certainly statement maker, red’s not going anywhere.

Many people love red and wish they had the courage to paint it on their walls. They look at me with fearful eyes when I suggest we paint it in a space – but these tips to painting with red will give you a bold and beautiful space:

  • Use red in small spaces. Think a powder room with white bead-board or subway tile.
  • Use red as an accent wall with tan or wheat-colored gold on the other walls.
  • Remember that red has shades. Benjamin Moore Spanish Red has a brownish/clay tinge that works well in many spaces – and BM Pottery Red has a maroon feel to it that creates a very classic, feminine look.
  • Red stimulates the appetite. This makes it a great color for kitchens and dining areas.
  • Tone it down – when you use red on walls, tone it down with other design elements being neutral – think white, tan, beige, cream, and brown. This really punches up the color, while keeping it balanced. Use red and black when you want to create a dynamic, contemporary look.
  • Make it flow – don’t paint red in a room open to a yellow kitchen unless you want it to look like Ronald McDonald’s House. Make sure that colors in adjacent rooms are subtle in tone or neutral.

And if red paint just doesn’t work for you, don’t hesitate to add red into your décor with other design elements. Red gerbera daises on your kitchen table are a beautiful accent to country décor – a collection of red vases in your curio cabinet make for a sophisticated living area, or a red throw and matching pillows on your neutral family room furniture can inspire a livelier feel.

Dec '09

December 2009: Wallpaper is Your Friend – no really, it is…

I just can’t say enough how much I love wallpaper and what a huge comeback it continues to make. Every month when I get my design magazines in the mail, I see more and more renowned designers using fabulous papers.

Many of you are probably scratching your heads thinking about that ugly, dated wallpaper you just finished painfully stripping off of your walls so you could apply a fresh coat of paint. You think of wallpaper as old fashioned and tired. But I assure you that with the right paper, any room can look clean, modern, and updated.

Trends in Wallpaper

One of the largest trends in paper by far is the use of eco-friendly bamboo and natural woven fibers, such as hemp. These are sometimes done in their most natural unadulterated form, and other times have dyes and metallic inks applied to create a luxurious look. Take a look at this year’s design show-houses and I guarantee you will see more than one designer using a natural woven paper.

In contemporary interiors we’re seeing large scale geometric patterns being used, albeit in small amounts. And in traditional and eclectic homes, we’re seeing the use of gorgeous Asian wallpaper murals with metallic finishes, depicting birds, flowers, and branches. These make for beautiful art pieces in entertaining areas of your home, such as dining rooms. While pricey, they can really take you a step further to adding that luxe, expensive look to your home’s formal areas. If you’re tired of your home looking blah, this might be the way to go!

Another trend that has been around for years, but is making a big comeback, is to apply matching toile or French country wallpaper and fabric to a room. This look is heavy on pattern but makes a strong statement. Envision a bedroom with blue and white toile wallpaper, matching curtains and bedspread. It’s like being wrapped in toile!

And last but not least is the use of damasks. These are being used in traditional scale in classic homes, and super large scale to add graphic interest in more contemporary homes – but since damask is such a traditional design motif, it really does keep a room transitional looking and even the large scale prints fit in with an otherwise traditional home. We’re also seeing these papers in unique and new color combinations as well as black and white. These papers are also coming in flock designs and metallic or mirrored papers.

How I like to use Wallpaper

  1. As an accent wall to bring dramatic, bold pattern and/or a graphic element – this is where I usually like a large floral or geometric – especially in focus areas such as behind a headboard or on walls flanking a fireplace.
  2. In place of paint to add texture, softness and interest to a room – these papers are usually plain in color or have a very small print you can’t see until you’re really up close. If your room feels too masculine, try adding wallpaper instead of paint to give the room that soft feel you’re going for. Textured papers are especially great in bedrooms.
  3. On ceilings to create a dynamic, cozy look. The ceiling of a room most often gets neglected and often gets painted white or a lighter shade of walls. Another idea is to wallpaper it! In rooms with cathedral and high ceilings, this is a fabulous way to add warmth. And, a great trick for families with young children or rowdy pets that might cause too much wear and tear on papered walls.

Not sure you’re ready for paper on your walls? Here are some other great ways to use paper as an accent:

  1. Line the inside of your drawers with gorgeous paper. Think an old distressed dresser refreshed with a coat of white paint and drawers lined with traditional wallpaper inside. So beautiful and elegant for a guest bedroom!
  2. Do you have a bookshelf with an open back? Instead of staring at the wall behind, get a sheet of wood, apply wallpaper and nail onto the back of the bookshelf. Add texture in a small way to your room and really feature your books and decorative items!
  3. Wallpaper your walk-in closet before putting up new shelving/storage. I know not many people see it, but it’s such a fun way to integrate the design of your closet to your bedroom.

Challenges with Wallpaper

It’s not as easy to do as paint, that’s for sure. In theory, a vinyl, pre-pasted paper shouldn’t be too tough to install. Just wet it down, line up the pattern and slap on the wall and voila! – right? No. Unless you are very DIY savvy, I highly recommend hiring a profesisonal installer. And yes, they do charge more to install wallpaper than to paint. Wallpaper itself is more expensive. The Home Depot varities run from $20-$30 a roll, while the elegant papers I recommend for my clients run from $40-$100 a roll. If your room is large this can mean a bigger investment than a can or two of paint. Financially speaking it’s on par with getting your room faux-finish painted. I guarantee you when the paper is up, though – it’s worth every penny!

Wallpaper may not be the best to put on walls in families with young children. For instance, crayon marks can easily be painted over or touched up with magic eraser on a painted wall – not the case with wallpaper. Water damage is also much harder to repair and cover up on paper. I don’t recommend the use of wallpaper in full bathrooms where people shower and bathe – simply because even the heavy duty commercial vinyl wallpapers don’t stand up that well to humidity over the long term.

When using a strong pattern, it can be difficult to coordinate other patterns in the room, for instance your upholstery fabrics, pillows, and window treatments. If your paper is bold and busy, use simpler fabrics at the window and more involved patterns on your area rugs and pillows. The items closest to the wall – such as your upholstery – should be simpler. Let your wallpaper be the star. It’s a delicate balancing act when you use wallpaper – and so of course, I recommend calling in a designer to help navigate the options.

For all its challenges, wallpaper makes a room soft, elegant, sophisticated, unique and dynamic. When I meet an open minded client, one of the first places I go is to my wallpaper samples for inspiration. I hope all this talk about paper will help expand your horizons.

Happy Decorating!