Many people find it challenging to combine different colors and patterns when shopping for new furnishings. They feel more comfortable purchasing a matching sofa, loveseat and chair, for example. However, mixing colors and patterns makes a room much more interesting, and it is not as difficult as it may seem.


As a general rule, vary the patterns in your room by including small-, medium- and large-scale designs. An example would be a large geometric, a midsize floral, and a narrow stripe. If one of the patterns is large-scale, like the wide stripes on the walls in the living room shown, look for small- and medium-scale patterns for the other pieces. And remember that all of the patterns in the space do not need to be bold— they can certainly be subtle and understated, with soft colored and muted designs.


I always like to incorporate solid colors and fabrics with tone-on-tone patterns and textures in my designs. They add interest without adding a lot of pattern, and offer a break to the eyes. Consider using textural fabrics such as velvet, silk, linen, chenille, tweed, boucle, leather, suede and metallics to boost the interest level in the room. Use the colors from busiest of the patterns as a jumping off point for the other fabrics. For example, if you have a chair upholstered in a paisley print, use a geometric design, like a herringbone, stripe, diamond or pin-dot pattern for your sofa that includes two or more of those colors. Then perhaps a leather ottoman or velvet pillows, or linen curtains.

Additional patterned fabrics can be used for dining room chair cushions, accent pillows, window treatments, and ottomans, or you can repeat one of the fabrics you’ve already used. For example, make some accent pillows out of the drapery fabric for the sofa or the chairs. And while you’re at it, make one or two additional accent pillows in the chair fabric for the sofa. Pillows are a great way to tie all the furniture pieces together. Add some texture to the pillows by trimming them with a variegated fringe that incorporates two or three colors in the room.


Aim for a coordinated, blended look, rather than a “matchy-matchy” look. By selecting a variety of coordinated colors and patterns, your room will be unique and interesting.

At the end of a busy day, wouldn’t it be nice to retreat to a beautiful and tranquil bedroom? I recently completed several bedroom design projects, incorporating some tried and true tips for creating a lovely and peaceful space. I’d like to share them with you here.

Clear the clutter

This is not always easy, but it is truly one of the best things you can do for your bedroom. It’s very difficult to relax amidst a lot of clutter. If you’re the parent of young kids, try your hardest to keep your bedroom a toy-free zone. You will thank yourself for it. Clear the top of the dresser of extraneous items; keep just a few decorative items on top— perhaps a jewelry box, a couple of photos, a lamp, or a vase of flowers. At my own house, I’m not going to lie to you and tell you my bedroom is pristine and perfect— sometimes there are clothes on the floor, and sometimes I don’t make my bed, but every few days I pick everything up, put everything away and start over with a clean slate. It always makes me feel better!

Remove work-related items

Years ago, before I had an office, I set up a small desk and my computer in a corner of my bedroom. What a mistake! Seeing that computer every night reminded me of all the things still on my to-do list, and it really kept me from relaxing and falling asleep. It was a short-lived experiment, as I pretty quickly realized that all those things had to go. I strongly recommend keeping computers, files, technical books, and anything else related to work out of the bedroom!

Include decorative items

Sometimes bedrooms are an afterthought, and people don’t think to actually decorate it. Pretty linens, accent pillows, a cozy throw blanket at the foot of the bed— your bedroom should not only be functional, but also beautiful. And do go ahead and hang some decorative artwork. When you wake up in the morning, make sure what you look at is pleasing to the eye.

Use restful colors

My go-to colors for bedrooms are cool colors like blues and greens, mixed with neutrals like taupes and grays. Accent colors are fun to incorporate in smaller doses, such as in artwork or fabrics. In the world of color psychology, cool colors, even dark and bold ones, exude feelings of tranquility. That said, if you prefer warm colors like yellows, peaches and pinks, please do so— it’s more important for a room to make you happy, than to abide by the “rules.” But if you’re planning to redecorate and need a color, you won’t go wrong by looking at soft blues, greens and cool neutrals.

Address the lighting

There are so many options! Add general light as well as beauty, with an overhead decorative chandelier, If you like to read in bed, consider hanging pendants, or wall-mounted swing-arm lamps. If you prefer bedside lamps, make sure they are tall enough to read by. In one project, I used lamps with built-in USB outlets for charging phones. A great idea!

The important thing is to create a personal space where you can relax, recharge and get ready for the demands that await you tomorrow.

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.

Green is one of the most versatile colors in interior design. Since it is so prevalent in nature, it can work in almost any room, and almost any design style, from traditional to modern. On the color wheel, green is considered a cool color, although it is a mixture of cool blue and warm yellow. Greens can lean more blue—like emerald green—or more yellow, like avocado. Regardless of which way it leans, color psychology tells us that green is the color of balance and harmony, with the ability to restore and rejuvenate us.  Given the abundance of green in nature, it can actually be considered a neutral color. Green plays very well with almost every other color. Think of a garden, where green leaves sit beside reds, pinks, oranges, purples and yellows.green_2

Muted shades of green are relaxing, making green an excellent color for bedrooms and baths. Research has even indicated that blue-greens can actually have a stress-relieving effect on us, and can even help lower blood pressure. Doesn’t the soothing light minty green color of the marble in the large spa shower make you want to relax and luxuriate in the shower? (Not that I am recommending that, given our serious drought situation. But the feeling is definitely there, isn’t it? But even short showers can be more relaxing when surrounded by lovely colors like this blue-green.)

green_1More vibrant shades of green can add a welcome burst of energy to a space. Note the lime-sherbet green walls in the laundry room photo—set against the high-contrast black and white color scheme, the overall look is friendly and fun. Lime green also looks great combined with magenta or turquoise.

green_3Greens look wonderful with all wood tones as well. Just look out your window and notice the trees—dark and light green leaves combined with dark and light tree branches and trunks. It all works together well.  Warm wood tones provide a great balance for the cool green colors, as illustrated in the bathroom vanity photo. Look at how beautifully the green wall color and glass mosaic tiles pair with the natural cherry wood. With nature as your inspiration, you can’t go wrong incorporating green into your décor.

I once met with a client about redecorating her living room. She showed me around the house, which was quite beautiful, and when we got to her bedroom, she showed me a very plain room, with hand-me-down furniture, very inefficient lighting, and no decor at all. I asked her about it, wondering why we were working on her living room when her bedroom needed so much TLC. She said, “Everyone sees the living room; only my husband and I see the bedroom!” My immediate thought was: Aren’t you and your husband deserving of a beautiful space too? Master bedrooms are often the last rooms to be tackled, but, as the room you retreat to at the end of a busy day, wouldn’t it be great to move it up the priority list?

Here are some tips to make your master bedroom the retreat you deserve.

ICP_18971. Highlight the bed.

The bed is the focal point of the room, and should take center stage. It should go on the longest wall in the room, and should be the first thing you see when you enter. Besides new bedding, which I will get to in a moment, add some interest to the wall behind the bed using an accent color on the wall, or a beautiful wallpaper, or a paint technique like wide horizontal stripes.

2. Address the lighting.

Bedside table lamps should be on the taller side— if your night stands are 24”-30” tall, then the lamps should be around 30-32” or so— to provide adequate light for reading. As an alternative, install wall-mounted light fixtures, or pendant lights above each nightstand. In my own bedroom, I asked my contractor to install pendant lights, with a dimmer switch on each side of the bed. Pendants or wall lights are a great option when you want as much room as possible on top of the bedside tables.

If you like to look at decorating magazines, you’ve probably noticed a popular lighting trend: installing a hanging light fixture above the bed. This is not only a great look, but it also provides good general lighting for the entire room.

ICP_66163. Dress the bed.

Treat yourself to beautiful bedding— a duvet cover is great because it can be laundered easily, but some people prefer comforters or quilts. I like to dress a bed with a quilt or coverlet, with a folded comforter at the foot of the bed. I also really like pillows. A beautiful bed has decorative pillow shams, as well as throw pillows. Pillows add color, texture, pattern and are a perfect finishing touch. Even if you or your partner are averse to pillows (I know they end up on the floor every night), please add at least one! The bed just doesn’t look finished without decorative pillows.

 

Every bed needs a headboard— this could be wood, iron, or upholstered. I love the look of upholstered headboards. Remember that headboards can always be re-upholstered or painted, so as you are shopping, look for shapes you like, and don’t worry too much about the color of the wood or fabric. That can always be changed. You might find a great bargain online or at a consignment store.

 

4. Dress the windows.

Maybe you already have room-darkening shades or blinds— that’s great. But adding fabric will do wonders for the room. Consider curtain panels in a color that coordinates with your bedding, or a tailored valance like a box pleat or mock Roman shade style. I like to use colors and styles with a timeless quality to them, so in general, simple styles are best.

 

5. Add hotel room amenities.

ICP_5829Comfortable hotel rooms have some additional seating— perhaps a chair and small table by the window, or a reading chair in the corner. If you like to work in your bedroom, consider adding a writing table or small desk for a laptop. A bench at the end of the bed is a nice place to sit and put on shoes, or lay out your clothes for the day. Think about your favorite hotel— wouldn’t it be nice to feel like you are on vacation in your own bedroom?

purple1Purple is a wonderful color. It combines the passion of red with the tranquility of blue, and the result is beautifully multi-layered and unique. Color psychologists have determined that purple is the color of imagination and spirituality. Purple promotes harmony of the mind and spirit, and helps to balance thought and emotion.

If purple is your favorite color, you are probably sensitive and compassionate, the person people come to when they need a friend and listening ear. You are probably also creative and unique, choosing home décor, clothing and hobbies that are unconventional. You are probably also quite spiritual, with an appreciation for the mysteries of the universe.

Given this information, purple is a great color to use for interior design. Dark eggplant purple can look rich and elegant, especially paired with silver, gold and glass accents. Light purples can look playful and cheerful, especially paired with yellows, pinks, and lime greens. Dark purple also looks terrific paired with dark greens and oranges (think vineyards during fall harvest), and purple combined with red, magenta and bright orange is extremely energetic and fun.

purple-bedroomA recent design project involved a master bedroom, which the homeowner, a lovely, kind-hearted and creative person, wanted to decorate with her favorite color- purple. I designed the space using various shades of purple, accented with a vibrant teal, for contrast and energy. The drapery and cabinet hardware and finish on the bench are silver, and the walls were already painted a very light silvery color with lavender undertones.  Small touches of teal (contrast piping on the purple satin comforter, one accent pillow, the beautiful mosaic mirror, and a glass vase) provide an unexpected splash of color.

I mixed textures and materials in the space for added interest: the chair and ottoman are velvet, the bedding is shimmery satin, the bedside lamp bases are purple beveled glass. And the sheer curtain panels have a metallic threads running through the fabric for a tiny bit of bling.

The result is a beautiful and luxurious bedroom retreat, a fitting place for my purple-loving clients.

purple-bedroom1

Contemporary living room in earth tonesYou want to spruce up your home, but you don’t want to spend a lot of money. In this column, I’ll give you suggestions for how to improve the look and feel of your rooms without spending a fortune.

Entry: Let’s begin at the front door. Create a welcoming space for your family and guests. If your entry is too small for a table, hang a crownmolding ledge with a mirror above it to create a space for dropping keys and mail. An entry is a great place to try a bold color or wallpaper pattern, since it is a self-contained, small space. Wallpaper or paint the largest wall, or go for it and do the whole entry.

Living room: Blinds or shades on the windows are great, but to really finish off your windows, add some curtain panels on each side. They don’t need to close all the way; they are merely decorative, but boy do they add a lot to a room. The fabric will really add some softness, weight and color to the space. Use fabric in a color similar to the wall color to keep the room looking large and formal; use a contrasting color for a more casual, friendly look.

Instead of matching table lamps on either side of your sofa, update your lighting by installing wall sconces above the side tables. There are many plug-in varieties, so no hard-wiring is needed. Another option is to hang pendant lights from the ceiling right above the side tables. It’s a great look, and it also frees up space on the tables. This is a great look in a bedroom too.

Dining room: Most people have matching dining chairs, which is expected and certainly reasonable. But for a little more pizzazz try one of these ideas: Replace your head chairs with fully upholstered wing chairs or parson’s chairs. Choose a fabric and color that blends with your living room, so the chairs can be brought in for extra seating. Or reupholster your existing chairs in two different fabrics—one fabric for the side chairs and another for the head chairs.  As in the living room, add curtain panels to plain windows to add texture, color and softness.  Add crown molding to the ceiling to define the space, and paint or wallpaper inside the crown.

Bathrooms: Perk up a plain bathroom with large, colorful artwork. Pull a bold color from the artwork and paint the ceiling with it—you’ll love it! Keep the walls neutral. Repeat this bold color in towels and accessories.

Bedrooms: I love lots of pillows on the bed. I know it’s harder to make in the morning, but it sure looks pretty! For a queen size bed: Two Euro pillows (large square) in the back with decorative shams, then two standard pillows with decorative shams, then two decorative throw pillows, then one smaller rectangular pillow or round bolster pillow in the front. The pillows you use for sleeping should hide behind the Euro pillows. Please use sheets in coordinating colors! A cozy duvet or throw blanket (again, coordinating colors please!) can be folded at the foot of the bed.

This summer I am embarking on a re-decorating project of my own. Since my daughter has moved to a small apartment closer to school, her room here is ready and waiting for some changes. Several years ago, I wrote an article about decorating her room when she went from a little girl to a pre-teen. Wow, how time has flown! Since her pre-teen years, she made many decorating decisions for herself, creating a room that was all her. Gradually the dolls and American Girl books were phased out, in exchange for hundreds of photos of friends, sentimental mementos, and hand-made artistic touches. She even asked me for decorating advice a time or two, which made my day. Don’t all moms feel great when their teenage children ask their advice? It has been enjoyable to experience the transformation of my little girl into the strong, independent young woman she is today.

When she left the house, she took her bed with her, along with many of her favorite items, leaving the room sparse and plain. My plan is to make the room nice for her when she comes home to visit us. I will incorporate many of the personal items she left behind—since she is not exactly completely on her own yet, I certainly don’t want her to feel like I am eliminating her from the house. My re-decorating plans call for a new paint colors, a refinished wood floor, and a new bed with new linens, along with a new arrangement of existing decorative items and artwork.

Her walls will be painted the palest shade of blue; my design intent is to make the room feel fresh and light, like a day at the beach. The harmonious color scheme of blue and green, reminiscent of sand and sea, will be soothing and restful. Blue and green are my daughter’s favorite colors, so I know I have her blessing. Her ceiling will be painted a slightly darker blue, and the crown molding, baseboards and door will be refreshed with a coat of bright white. Her worn carpeting will be removed, exposing the hardwood floor underneath. The floor will then be refinished in a clear coat, which will match the other wood floors in our house. This will add to that fresh and light feeling I am going for.

I purchased bed linens in white, pale blue and pale green; I love to mix and match bed linens, using different colors for the fitted sheet, top sheet and pillow cases. And, in my opinion, no bed is complete without a variety of throw pillows, even if they do end up on the floor at night. (Just ask my husband—we have 8 pillows on our bed!) The new quilt has very subtle, wavy stripes of light blue, white and green. Finishing touches will include many of my daughter’s photos and colorful art pieces. As a designer, I am good at visualizing, and can already see the room completed. I am confident this room will become a respite for my daughter when she comes home to be with us. I enjoy seeing her so much; I hope she makes coming home a habit.