icp_1301Glass tile provides amazing color and pattern, and is a gorgeous accent in your shower or at your vanity area. Borders, stripes, entire walls— your creativity is your only limit.

There are considerations to using glass tile in a bathroom, so let’s discuss some of those.

Cleaning and Maintenance: Many clients ask me about this issue. Because of the smooth surface of glass, it is actually relatively low maintenance. All you really need is a little glass cleaner and a cloth. The larger the tiles, the easier they are to keep clean, although those small mosaics sure are beautiful! The glass itself is quite easy to keep clean, and because glass is non-porous, it is naturally mildew resistant. But mosaic tile means more grout, so more effort will be required to keep the grout clean. Make sure the grout is sealed properly after it is installed, and reapply the sealer every year or two for best results. The best thing to do is to start the habit of using a squeegee in the shower. After each shower, use the squeegee to wipe away the water from the tiles. It takes a few extra minutes, but it is really worth it and will help you avoid having to deep clean the grout. At my own house, my husband and I squeegee daily, and our 15 year old bathroom tile still looks like new.

icp_1489Glass tile can scratch, so make sure to use a non-abrasive cleaner and a soft cloth.

If cleaning and easy maintenance is your main concern, then you’ll be better off with large tiles instead of small mosaics.

Cost: Glass tile is definitely more expensive than other types of tile such as porcelain or ceramic. But the good news is that you don’t necessarily need to use a lot of it to make a beautiful design statement. One simple border in the shower, for example, can really dress up plain tile. You can offset the cost of the glass tile by selecting more moderately priced tiles for the rest of the shower walls and floor.

Versatility: Glass tiles can be used almost everywhere with great results. If you like curvy lines, then small mosaics are for you. They can be cut to create wavy lines, or cover the front of a curved shower bench seat. Straight lines are always easier for installers, however, so you might consider vertical stripes, or multiple horizontal borders instead.icp_1582

Beware of using glass tile on the floor; some glass tiles can be used on a shower pan or on the floor, but others cannot. Some glass is not strong enough to withstand people walking or standing on it. Make sure to ask at the tile store if what you selected can be used for the application you have in mind.

Design ideas: These photos should give you some creative inspiration of how you might use glass in your bath. Think about using more than one horizontal stripe, or one wide vertical stripe. Cover the face of your shower bench seat or use it inside of a recessed niche. You could also use glass on your backsplash, either in the 4″ or 6″ size, or on the entire wall behind the vanity. If your budget allows, using glass on one or more entire walls of the shower is a stunning look. With so many colors, patterns and sizes of glass tile available, your options are limitless.

 

icp_0923This family has four adorable young children, and wanted to reconfigure their out-dated baths to increase space and add functionality. These two baths were back-to-back in the house, in between the kids’ bedrooms. They needed to be child-friendly, with easy-to-maintain materials, but also coordinate with the rest of the house in terms of color and style. The left-side bath had a very tiny, claustrophobic shower awkwardly situated behind the bathroom door, and only one sink. The right-side bath had a tub/shower combination and again, only one sink.

The clients and I considered different options for the two baths. One option was to remove the wall separating the baths and create one large, open bathroom space with a bathtub, a walk-in shower, and four sinks and vanities in the center, sort of like a kitchen island, for the four children. But, after weighing pros and cons of our options, ultimately we decided to keep two separate bathrooms. Here’s what I designed for them to give them the flexibility and space they needed:

  • In the bathroom on the left, I moved the walk-in shower from the tiny little space behind the door to the back of the bathroom. This allowed for a much larger shower, and also provided a striking focal point in the space. The toilet was moved several inches in order to create the space. The window was left in its current location, but is now inside the shower.
  • Relocating the shower gave us space for a much needed second sink.
  • I also recommended reversing the door swing on the bathroom door—in the old bath, it blocked the entrance to the tiny shower, and, had it remained as it was, it would have blocked access to the sink. Reversing the door swing provided much more floor space.
  • In the bathroom on the right, we kept the tub and shower in its existing location, but removed the overhead soffit to make it more spacious and bright.
  • We added a second sink, while still being able to keep linen storage in the bath. The new linen cabinet even has a pullout laundry hamper.
  • In both baths, we plumbed for a hand-held shower on a slide bar. This allows the showerhead to be adjusted for the varying heights of all four children (adults too!), and also allows for convenient cleaning of the tub and shower.
  • For consistency and flow throughout the house, I recommended keeping the colors neutral and using the same materials in both baths. However, I did change the tile design to keep things interesting.  Notice the asymmetrical vertical stripes in the shower, and the large arch feature in the tub- the same glass mosaic is used in both spaces, but with very different results.
  • The wall and floor tiles are porcelain, and the countertop is engineered quartz, for easy cleaning and maintenance.
back-to-back-baths

The end result is two beautiful and functional new bathrooms that fit the needs of this busy family.

When it comes to interior design, many people find it easier to tell you what they don’t like rather than what they do like. Can you describe your own design style? Are you traditional? Modern? Contemporary? Classic? One reason it’s so difficult for us to pin down one particular style is that most of us, at least here in California, tend to gravitate toward a mix of styles. Seldom do I see (or design, for that matter) a room that’s 100% one way or another. Have a look at these kitchens and you’ll see what I mean. In each example, there is a blend of elements, materials and finishes, all fitting the personalities and lifestyles of the clients who own them.

icp_9673“Traditional” and “Classic” elements– In some traditional and classic kitchens, you’ll find natural wood cabinets, and in others you’ll see painted cabinetry. Both types can fit into traditional décor. Painted cabinetry is often glazed or antiqued to give it more character, and wood finishes tend toward the dark, formal and dramatic. Color schemes tend toward neutrals like earth tones and black and white. Traditional kitchens often feature beautiful millwork, such as crown molding and embellished cabinets. Decorative corbels supporting breakfast bar countertops, and furniture-style toe kicks are definitely elements of a traditional kitchen. So are custom wood hood vent surrounds. You might see farmhouse (also called apron-front) sinks, and elegant plumbing fixtures. You’ll often see luxurious materials like marble tile backsplashes and natural stone counters.

icp_5858“Contemporary” and “Modern” elements– Contemporary kitchens might also feature natural wood or painted cabinetry, but the door style is much simpler, less ornate, with cleaner lines. Very modern cabinets might have a high-gloss lacquered finish in white or black or a bold color like orange. Shaker style or flat-front (also called slab) cabinetry is very popular for contemporary and modern kitchens, and in some kitchens, you’ll even see wood grain running horizontally rather than vertically. Mixing natural and man-made materials is also common. For example, you’ll see sleek quartz countertops paired with marble tile backsplashes, or granite counters combined with glass tile. Decorative light fixtures and pops of color are also characteristic of a contemporary kitchen. Faucets and sinks will be simple and unadorned, often stainless steel.

icp_1627Distressed wood floors and heavily textured stone backsplashes are two popular features you might see in today’s contemporary kitchens. A strategically selected rustic element can soften the look of a very modern kitchen and make it more casual and livable. For example, combining hand-scraped, distressed wood floors with sleek, crisp cabinetry creates an interesting juxtaposition, and also provides a practical walking surface for busy families with kids and pets. Unless the entire kitchen is designed intentionally as a rustic mountain cabin, the addition of one or two rustic elements does not make the kitchen any less contemporary.

All of this brings me to “transitional” design—a very popular term used today to describe a design style that I think most of us can relate to very well. I define transitional design as a successful blend of both traditional and contemporary elements. I think that all of these kitchens shown can be described as transitional kitchens. Some may lean a bit more traditional or more contemporary, but none is a pure example of any one style. These days, unless you really know undoubtedly which style you prefer, chances are you’ll feel right at home in a transitional kitchen, blending elements of traditional, classic and contemporary styling.

What happens when a younger brother asks his older sister for interior design help? My brother and I get along well now that we are adults, but we did have some heated fights when we were kids! I was flattered when my brother and his wife hired me to redesign their bath. They own a charming 1920’s bungalow in San Jose, but their bath had been remodeled in the 80’s by the previous owners, featuring a floral wallpaper border, and green and mauve color scheme. Remember that look? The idea was to create a comfortable oasis for them, with modern conveniences, and to use materials more in keeping with the original look of the home.

Ask my brother and he’ll confirm that I was most certainly a bossy older sister when we were growing up—I would forcefully dictate to him what we would watch on TV, and rudely order him leave the room when I had friends over. However, he also pushed my buttons, saying exactly what he knew would send me over the edge. We fought a lot as kids, but we also had lots of fun times together, like the year we moved to Sunnyvale and spent the entire summer outside playing “Jaws” in the pool and board games on the diving board.

So when he and my sister-in-law asked me to help them with this project, I had to dance a fine line of being a sister and being their designer. As a designer, I have to take the lead, present ideas, and be able to explain why I planned things a certain way. With regular clients, this approach is often just what they need. But would it seem bossy to my brother? How much do I direct the project and how much do I step back? Fortunately, the experience turned out to be a great one, despite a few construction glitches along the way. He says he’s glad that I “big-sistered” this project because he admits that he and his wife sometimes have trouble making decisions. So my big sister role served us both well this time.

ICP_9697The result is a beautiful, modern bathroom with lovely vintage touches. My sister-in-law and I made an afternoon of tile shopping and ultimately selected the watery, soothing aqua blue hand-made subway tiles that set the tone for the whole bath. The gray, white and aqua color scheme creates a crisp and clean look, and the polished chrome accents add some sparkle.

We replaced the old awkward corner tub with a roomy walk-in shower, and I designed a vanity cabinet to make the most of the narrow room and provide as much storage as possible. Two large mirrored medicine cabinets add extra storage and also allow two people to stand comfortably at the vanity.  My brother says it’s easy to keep things tidy, as now there is room for all of their toiletries.

A big change in the room was to relocate the toilet to the back corner behind a pony wall; in the old bath, the toilet was the first thing you saw from the door, which bothered my sister-in-law.

I selected a marble-look Cambria Quartz called Torquay for the countertop and bench seat, and the floor is a mosaic of white and gray marble. The wall color is a soft white with a gray undertone, which keeps the room light and airy.

I’m happy to report that my brother and sister-in-law are really enjoying this new bath. He told me that, on their last vacation, they realized that for the first time ever, their bath was nicer than the bath in the hotel! A great compliment indeed, especially from my little brother.

Are accent walls still “in?” This is a question I get asked frequently, and the answer is yes, but there are some guidelines. Not every wall can or should be an accent wall; accent walls should be chosen with a specific design intention. Here are some guidelines.

Decide why you want an accent wall.

I find that many people are afraid to commit to a color, so they think just painting one wall will be sufficient. If you’re picking an accent wall color for that reason, I caution you to reconsider. Many times I am able to convince people to paint the entire room—often this simply does look better! I also often advocate painting two adjacent walls in an accent color; it always depends on the space and whether or not it makes sense visually.

Number 2 in articlePick your color carefully.

Accent walls by definition should be bold in some way—off-white, when the other walls are white, doesn’t count! That said, pick a color that coordinates with your décor—pull a bold color from a piece of artwork or the granite countertop, or your sofa fabric. Make sure it fits into the décor of not only that room, but also the adjacent rooms. In other words, your accent wall should not look random—it should be part of the overall décor. In this home, the teal accent color is repeated in the pillows, area rug, artwork, and also in the velvet chairs in the living room next door. It even makes an appearance in the kitchen granite.

Number 3 in articlePick your wall carefully.

Ideally, it should be the first wall you see as you come into the room. The accent color should draw you in. Large uninterrupted walls work well– for example, a wall behind a bed or sofa, or a wall that is already a feature wall, like the fireplace wall. Ceilings are also great accent walls. Here’s an exception though, although it is the first thing you see as you walk in: I chose a bold red in this black and white bath to setoff the bathtub alcove. It’s a small area, but boy does it make a statement.

Number 4 in articleAccent walls don’t have to be painted.

Wallpaper is a beautiful option, as are wood planks, or textured wall panels. This bedroom accent wall features richly colored and textured wallpaper. Note that the other walls and ceiling are painted in a gray beige to complement the wallpaper.

This unique accent wall features reclaimed wood planks used as wall paneling. It gives the room so much character and texture.
Number 4-second photo

The most important thing is to follow your instinct. You don’t have to do any accent walls if the thought is off-putting to you (or just because your friend told you it was a good idea.) On the other hand, you don’t need to shy away from accent walls because someone somewhere told you they were “out.” If you’re really stumped, hire someone who can give you a professional opinion. You’ll either get validation for what you already thought, or, even better, you’ll be empowered to try something new and wonderful.

ICP_5875In every relationship, one spouse favors certain things, and the other spouse favors other things. In remodeling, those differences often come to the forefront, and it’s up to the designer to create a plan that pleases both partners. I’ve worked with many, many couples over the years and have learned what questions to ask and what to do to strike a perfect compromise. For example, in some relationships, one partner loves baths while the other prefers showers. One likes to have a separate sink and drawers, while the other doesn’t mind sharing. One favors traditional styling while the other loves contemporary.

Here are some tips I can offer so you both get what you want.

1- Make a priority list.

Each partner should write down his or her must-haves for the project. For example, her list might include a large bathtub, a hardwired makeup mirror, a place to store her hair dryer, and some “bling” in the form of polished chrome fixtures, or a glass light fixture. His list might include a separate room for the toilet, a luxurious large shower head, and an extra outlet on his side of the sink for his electric razor. It’s important for both partners to get their lists on paper. They may find they have more in common than they thought!

ICP_58712- Consider one sink over two sinks.

I’ve had this conversation a number of times with couples. I will ask them about their habits— do they both use the vanity area at the same time? What’s more important to them: their own sink? or more counter space and storage? If you already have two sinks, take some time to determine if you can eliminate one of them. By eliminating a sink, that leaves the option open for a lot more counter space, and more drawers or cabinets.

3- Think about things you need to store in the bathroom.

Do you need to store towels or do you have a separate linen closet elsewhere in the house? Do you tend to buy toothpaste and shampoo in bulk quantities or do you just keep what you need on hand? Are you someone who has multiple hair products or do you share one bottle of shampoo? All of those questions come into play when making design decisions. A traditional medicine cabinet may be the most appropriate type of storage for you; someone else may prefer a bank of drawers, or a tower cabinet on top of the vanity deep enough to store linens.

ICP_59094- Select materials that make you both happy.

Given that the norm in interior design nowadays is mixing materials, it’s relatively easy to select materials that please both spouses. If one likes shiny and smooth, go with polished chrome and glass tile. If one is more outdoorsy and enjoys nature and texture, then consider using pebbles on the floor, or tile that looks like wood.

ICP_5892This bathroom underwent a major transformation. Both spouses said they wanted a spa feel in the new bath, and surely you’ll agree that they both got their wish. We borrowed space from the master bedroom to enlarge the bath. This enabled us to create a “wet room” with both a bathtub for her and a shower for him. High on his list was a separate toilet room, so I incorporated it into the design. They kept their two sinks and separate medicine cabinets, mirrors and storage drawers. They both like contemporary styling, so that part was easy. And they both loved the mix of materials with the porcelain “wood” tile floor, the pebbles in the wet room, the frosted glass door, the textured wallpaper, contrasting with the smooth quartz countertop.

With advance planning and lots of conversation, pleasing both partners is definitely possible.

You undoubtedly have heard of rhythm as it relates to music. But did you know that rhythm is also an important concept in interior design? Rhythm in interior design refers to the illusion of movement through a space. Rhythm keeps the eyes traveling around the room and makes a room look lively and interesting. Rhythm in a room can be created in a number of ways:

  • repititionRepetition of a design element such as shape, color, texture, line or pattern. For example, think of a striped fabric pattern in which the colors yellow, red and brown repeat. The repetition of colors and lines implies a sense of movement and rhythm. As another example, a trio of woven baskets on a shelf shows repetition of texture. As I look in my own living and dining rooms, I see my accent color, blue, repeated around the room: a cobalt blue glass floor vase, navy and cream pillows on the sofa, a blue platter on the coffee table, and navy fabric on the dining chair seats. This repetition of color leads the eye to all of the different elements in the room, tying them all together.
  • gradationGradation refers to the gradual movement from a low point to a high point or from high to low. In interior redesign we often refer to the concept of “peaks and valleys,” which means that the furniture and accessories are arranged to create highs and lows. Think of three candles on the dining table ranging in size from short to tall. Or think of a tabletop arrangement in which the eye travels from the top of a tall lampshade down to a shorter framed photo, down to a velvet-covered box.
  • Transition— Curved lines are a good example of this type of rhythm. With a curved line, your eye gently transitions, or travels, from one object to another. Think of a camelback sofa, for example, a curved headboard, or an archway.
  • transitionOpposition— Using opposites can create an interesting and pleasing effect in your decor. Using colors opposite each other on the color wheel is one example of oppositional rhythm. Complementary colors such as purple and yellow, for example can create a jarring, yet desirable effect. Pairing black and white, always a classic combination in home decor, is another great look in a room. Mixing textures, such as pairing a smooth leather sofa with a rough slate-topped coffee table, is another example of oppositional rhythm.
  • radiationRadiation— This type of rhythm refers to several objects repeated around a center object creating a circular pattern. For example, think of a chandelier in which crystals surround the centerpiece of the light fixture. Dining chairs around a dining table is another simple example.

Take a look around your home for evidence of rhythm. Could you rearrange a few pieces to create highs and lows? Could you find ways to repeat your accent color in different areas in the room? With a few changes, your room could be a symphony of beautiful music.

ICP_7019This living room recently underwent a makeover. The client was ready to move on from all white walls and the furniture he’d had since college. The end result is a colorful, contemporary and comfortable space where he can relax and also entertain family and friends. If you’re looking to redecorate your living room, feel free to use the following tips as inspiration.

  • Design the space as it suits your lifestyle, not necessarily how the builder intended. For example, the builder designed this space to be a combination living room and dining room. Not being one to host formal dinner parties, my client didn’t need the dining room. Instead we decided to extend the living room into that space, which allowed us to bring in a large sectional. ICP_7039
  • Add color! I used a palette of three cool colors in the design: gray, blue, and teal. The bold teal accent color adds a huge pop. I used it on the back wall (and it extends into the kitchen eating area as well), as well as on the large stairwell wall. All three colors appear throughout the entire downstairs and into the upstairs hallway, which creates a cohesive look. 
  • Repeat the colors in your color scheme. My colors are repeated throughout the room in various tints, tones and shades. You’ll notice the charcoal gray sectional, teal pillows, the variety of blues in the area rug and artwork. In the kitchen, my client can sit at his breakfast bar on teal leather stools. 
  • Incorporate an interesting mix of materials and textural finishes. You’ll notice I brought in a variety of materials: leather, wood, iron, and glass. You’ll also notice a variety of textures: the coffee table is rustic wood, the console table is sleek metal and glass; the wood blinds have a rustic, wire-brushed type of finish, the wool rug is soft and thick. Mixing materials creates a layered, much more interesting look than if everything matched.
  • ICP_7029Use an area rug. I selected the area rug in this room for three reasons: it supports my color scheme, it adds softness and warmth to the room (and another texture), and it also defines the sitting area. Use a rug large enough to fill the space. I’ve noticed in some homes I visit, that the area rugs are too small.  A rug that is too small can make a room look choppy and haphazard. To help determine what size rug you need, measure the entire seating area and get the size that comes closest to that. In this room, for example, the sectional is eight feet by ten feet long; I selected an area rug that is also 8’ x 10’. It fills the space beautifully.ICP_7044
  • Finish the room with artwork and accessories. The new étagère holds family photos and accessories, the walls are adorned with large, eye-catching art pieces, and now the room is complete. May my client enjoy his new living room for years to come. 

Looking back on the design projects I completed in 2015 gives me some insight into what clients will be asking for in 2016. Here are some of the most common requests from last year that I see continuing this year as well. As you plan your own remodeling and redecorating projects, keep these in mind.

Improved lighting throughout the house

ICP_5920This is an extremely common request, no matter what the project entails. All over the house we are improving the lighting by adding LED recessed can lights—in baths, bedrooms, kitchens, living spaces—as well as decorative pendants, chandeliers, wall sconces, and accent lighting. It’s hard to believe how many older homes came with almost no lighting at all! There are a lot of bedrooms and living rooms out there with no hard-wired lighting, just one sad small lamp on a table, or a rickety torchiere lamp in the corner. As we all age, this issue will even become more important.

Accessible bathrooms for different ages and abilities

ICP_1235And speaking of aging, several of the baths I worked on last year included grab bars, ADA-height toilets, and walk-in showers. With many people hoping to live in their homes forever, thinking ahead to later years is extremely important. The good news is that accessible baths cannot only be functional, but can also be very beautiful. The variety of products available is amazing.

Removal of traditional medicine cabinets

In so many bathroom projects, we are removing the existing medicine cabinets to make space for more interesting storage options, such as tower cabinets on the vanity or recessed wall cabinets. Removing the medicine cabinets allows us to also add more interesting lighting as well, such as wall sconces on each side of the mirror. In cases where we do keep a medicine cabinet, we are installing more functional cabinets with pull-out magnifying mirrors, mirrors on the backs of doors, and even electrical outlets built in. I bet you didn’t even know there were so many options.

Painted kitchen and bathroom cabinets

ICP_1313Wood cabinets will never go out of style, but painted cabinets are definitely “in” right now. Most popular colors for painted cabinets right now: white and gray, although I’ve done several projects where we used black and other colors as well. Whole kitchens can be painted the same color, or you can use two colors. For example, painting upper cabinets white, with dark gray lower cabinets, or combining wood perimeter cabinets with a painted island. I don’t see this trend going away any time soon. Varying the finishes and colors really does add a lot of personality to the space.

Well-designed living spaces

ICP_5865What I mean by this is that more and more people are tired of feeling like their rooms are a random hodgepodge of hand-me-down furnishings or rooms filled with purchasing mistakes. An increasing number of people are asking for living rooms, family rooms, dining rooms and bedrooms that are professionally designed, with fabrics and furnishings that go together and are color-coordinated. I can’t tell you how many times people ask me to design “grown-up” living rooms – no matter what age they are! I’ve worked with young folks in their 20s and 30s, all the way to retirement age, and it’s a common request. Maybe it’s a result of too much HGTV, but whatever the cause, people really do want to feel comfortable and happy in their homes.

Several years ago, I invoked the classic song from The Sound of Music, and wrote a column featuring “a few of my favorite things” for the home. Here are a few more of my favorite things.

ICP_7261Pendant lights.

Of course I love using pendants in kitchens over islands or dining tables, but I also love using hanging pendant lights in bedrooms and even bathrooms. They bring light where you need it, and they look beautiful too.

Painted cabinetry.

ICP_7378Natural wood is always beautiful, but paint opens up so many options that it’s hard to resist. In one recent design project, we mixed light gray painted kitchen cabinets with a large island painted black, and the results are stunning. And in the photo shown, the turquoise-painted bath vanity gives this bathroom an unexpected and fun pop of color.

Nunez Bath sink closeupA little bit of “bling.”

Almost every room can benefit from a little bit of shine and glamour. Crystal lamps, glass cabinet knobs, Mercury glass, a mirrored cabinet, shiny chrome—small doses add so much personality to a space.

Wall-mounted ledges.

These handy items have been “in” for a while, and I don’t see them going away anytime soon. Use them to display family photos, rotating collections of artwork, books and accessories.

Quartz countertops.

ICP_3002If you’re debating between quartz and granite, consider the benefits of quartz: No sealing is required, it won’t stain or absorb water, it is extremely durable and it comes in a world of colors and patterns.  Quartz works in all design styles from traditional to modern, and the number of options is amazing.

Fabric at the windows.

I used to be a minimalist when it came to dressing windows. Maybe it was rebellion against the heavy, old-fashioned drapes of the past. However, I’ve completely changed my mind on this issue. The longer I work in interior design, the more I realize how much of an impact the right fabric can have in the room.  I absolutely love how curtain panels frame a window and add softness, texture and color. A tailored valance at a kitchen window can be the perfect finishing touch. Not every room needs fabric at the windows, especially if the design aesthetic is very modern and streamlined. But I would say most rooms don’t look quite “finished” until the windows are properly dressed.

Contrasting textures and materials.

ICP_5932For example, if you have wood coffee table, pair it with glass end tables. If you have a leather sofa, pair it with fabric upholstered chairs. Mix metals, such as a chrome and glass table with a gold and silver mirror. Mix a shaggy area rug with a sleek and smooth leather chair. Mixing textures is the key to an interesting room.  And please remember that not all woods have to be the same! Variety is the spice of life.