It’s hard to believe we have said goodbye to 2017 already! Why does it seem like it went by in the blink of an eye? With this first column of the new year, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite design projects from 2017, and what I like most about them. They all came out beautifully, capturing the needs and wants of the clients, and each space has its own unique personality.  Perhaps they will inspire you for your own projects in 2018.

Brown and White Kitchen

Why I love it:

  • The color scheme is neutral, yet has a lot of punch because go the high-contrast chocolate and white color scheme. 
  • The countertops have some sparkle in them, which is set off beautifully under the LED lights. 
  • The cabinet hardware is very cool, with a great mix of stainless steel and oil rubbed bronze. Perfect for this kitchen.

Blue and White Kitchen

This kitchen was a big challenge, with the different ceiling heights and step-down family room.

Why I love it:

  • Great use of space: we created a large pantry at the awkward, narrow area up the steps, and also expanded into the family room, creating extra storage and serving space for entertaining. 
  • I’m definitely a “blue person” so I love the color scheme. The cabinets look so crisp and clean against the soft blue walls. 
  • The backsplash is gorgeous— a mixture of blue and white marble tile, in a herringbone pattern. Kudos to the really talented tile installer we used on this project!

Open Concept Kitchen and Living Room

Why I love it:

  • Opening up the wall separating the two rooms made all the difference in the world. The original kitchen was cut off entirely from the living space— now it’s a great space for the whole family to hang out together. 
  • I love the touches of yellow to brighten up the gray and white color scheme.
  • I love the backsplash tile— it’s a really interesting combination of stones, colors, and textures. 

Elegant Powder Room


Why I love it:

  • I love the custom bow-front cabinet— it was designed especially for that tiny space, adding some much-needed storage, with lovely curves and elegant lines.
  • I love the touches of “bling”— note the crystal light fixture, cut glass cabinet knobs, and the slight shimmer present in the wallpaper. 

Compact, Contemporary Bathroom


This bath was part of a larger remodel project, where I was tasked with reconfiguring an existing laundry room and powder room to include a full bath and expanded laundry/mudroom.

Why I love it:

  • Lots of functionality in a small space, including a walk-in shower.
  • Despite its size, the monochromatic color scheme, frameless glass enclosure, and plenty of new lighting makes this bath feels light and airy, and larger than it is.
  • The accent tile in the shower is a really striking mixture of glass and marble tiles. 


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.

Brushing your teeth, shaving, styling your hair— those mundane tasks are a necessary part of our daily lives. But what if you could start and end your day in a calm and tranquil space? How might a soothing ambiance alter your mood and set you up to tackle the workday or prepare for a restful night’s sleep?

These homeowners were seeking just such an environment. They desired a space that would exude a Zen-like feeling in their home, and provide an oasis in which to refresh and rejuvenate. Here is how you can incorporate a similar vibe in your own home.

  • Use calm colors. You’ll notice my use of harmonious colors, rather than bold contrasting colors. Neutral earth tones are always a great choice for restful spaces. Keep colors “quiet.” Please notice that I don’t necessarily mean light colors. It’s fine to use darker colors also— notice the dark granite, dark wood cabinet, and dark finish on the fixtures. Contrast adds interest, but the overall look should not be jarring.
         
  • Incorporate natural materials (or at least great imitations!) Notice the use of stone, glass and wood in these baths. You might think that natural materials are more difficult to care for, and sometimes that is indeed true. For example, marble is quite porous and requires regular sealing to reduce the possibility of staining. I don’t usually recommend marble in the bath, except on a backsplash or as an accent in the shower. Fortunately, nowadays there are are easy-to-maintain porcelain tiles that look amazingly similar to real wood and stone, which allow you to get the look you want without the high maintenance. I use these materials in many of my bath projects. Likewise with countertops. Quartz counters are man-made, but are an excellent choice for baths. They are non-porous, anti-microbial, and never need to be sealed. And they are available in many patterns that strongly resemble marble and granite.
         
  • Minimize the clutter. I’ve said this many times before, but I’ll say it again. Too much clutter does not make for a calm and tranquil space. Do your best to go through all those beauty products and keep only the ones you actually use. Make sure each item has a “place to live,” be it a medicine cabinet, drawer, or wall cabinet. Having an uncluttered space will definitely help maintain that Zen feeling.
         
  • Consider incorporating clean, angular, contemporary lines in your design. You undoubtedly noticed that two of the baths in the photos feature Asian-inspired design elements. This type of decor is certainly not mandatory to create a tranquil oasis, but the reason it does work is because of the simple, clean lines and minimal ornamentation.
         
  • Put your lighting on dimmers. I often include lighting in the shower and over the tub, and when I do, I always specify dimmer switches. Even your vanity lights should be on dimmers. Imagine a luxurious shower or bath with relaxing low lighting. And if you wake up in the middle of the night, you’ll appreciate not having to turn on those bright lights.

By incorporating some of these ideas, you too can create a wonderful, tranquil bath.


Before (scroll down for after pictures)

This kitchen transformation is striking. What once was a dark and isolated space is now an open, light-filled, beautiful great room. The first item on their wish list was removing the wall separating the kitchen from the living room. This young couple wanted to be able to entertain friends and family, and be part of the festivities, rather than be relegated to the kitchen. Fortunately, we were able to do that for them, and the result is a large, open-concept great room, where everyone can be together.

Second on their wish list was enhanced functionality, in terms of increased storage space and counter space. To achieve this, I recommended changing the locations of the sink and cooktop. The large farmhouse sink is now under the front window (the new window stayed the same width as the old one, but became shorter to accommodate the wall of cabinetry and backsplash). By moving the cooktop to the old sink location we gained several feet of counter space on both sides, and we also gained a second oven, in place of the old one-piece range.

The island provides even more functionality. Notice the microwave drawer in the island— this frees up space on the counters, and still keeps it in a convenient location near the cooking area and the breakfast bar. The new island is great for serving food and drinks when friends come over, and, on a day-to-day basis, provides a lovely spot for drinking coffee and watching the birds out the front window.

 

Probably the biggest benefit in the new kitchen is the increased amount of storage space. Between the Lazy Susan in the corner, and the pull-out cabinet for utensils near the cooktop, large drawers for pots and pans under the cooktop, the large upper cabinets flanking the sink, the pantry cabinet with adjustable pull-out shelves by the fridge, and the extra space in the island, my clients have ample space for everything. I think my client said it best when she texted me while she was putting away all of her things: “Holy potatoes we have a TON of storage in this kitchen!!!!!”

To unify the living room and new kitchen, we extended the wood flooring throughout the entire space, and used the same paint colors in both rooms. The teal and yellow accent colors add a welcome pop of brightness to the calming white and gray color scheme. I was very happy working on this project, and am thrilled with the results. The new space is very warm, welcoming and fun, just like the clients.

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.

If you’re embarking on a kitchen or bath remodel, one of your most important decisions is the countertop. Which materials are available and what are the pros and cons of each? Let me give you an overview of your choices, and my take on each.

Granite:

I get asked frequently if granite is still “in.” It’s true that many of my clients are preferring Quartz over granite, but many still prefer the natural beauty and uniqueness of granite. I don’t think granite will be going “out” anytime soon, although I think many people will be looking at more unique colors and patterns going forward. There are some granite patterns that are more ubiquitous out there— those are the ones that may end up looking dated in several years.

Pros: With granite, you can get an enormous “wow” factor— brilliant color, amazing pattern, and a true one-of-a kind kitchen or bath. Granite is extremely durable, and is a great choice for busy kitchens, as it stands up to knife nicks and high heat quite well.

Cons: Because it is a natural stone, it is porous, and can possibly stain, especially the lighter colors. Take care to wipe up spills right away, and plan to seal your granite every few years to protect it. If you’re planning on putting new granite on top of your existing kitchen cabinets, make sure they are sturdy enough to support the weight of the granite slab— your contractor should look at your cabinets and determine whether extra support is needed.

Marble:

Marble is stunningly beautiful and elegant, and is especially lovely in traditional kitchens.

Pros: It is the preferred material for pastry and baking because it stays cool. If you are an avid baker, you might want to create a baking station in your kitchen and use marble for that countertop.

Cons: It is much softer than granite, and can very easily stain, even if you seal it regularly. It is a bit harder to maintain, which is why most people tend not to use it in their whole kitchen. You might see marble used on an island, or a bar, or on the backsplash as an accent.

Engineered Quartz:

There are many brands of man-made quartz materials that you may have heard of. Silestone, Caesarstone and Cambria are among the most well-known. Quartz is surging in popularity, due to it’s durability and it’s vast array of colors, and now patterns too. If you tend to prefer solid colors over patterns, or want a very modern look, then quartz is a great choice. Quartz is also now available in patterns that resemble granite and marble, so if you like the look of natural stone, but prefer a lower-maintenance product, definitely look at those options.

Pros: It’s available in myriad colors, including the ever-popular neutrals, but also vibrant colors like orange, fire engine red, cobalt blue and lime green. Quartz is non-porous, making it very stain resistant. It is durable, and holds up well in busy kitchens.

Cons: Because of the resins used in the manufacture of quartz, it can possibly scorch if very hot pans are placed directly on it. Make sure to always use trivets to protect the surface.

 
Other choices: 

Tile:

Not too many people are choosing tile for their counters these days, although if you have a historic home that you are refurbishing, tile may be the best choice for aesthetics and authenticity. Most people don’t care for the grout, as it can be notoriously hard to clean. I love using tile on backsplashes and in showers or on the floors, but not on counters.
 

Laminate:

If you’re on a tight budget, laminate is a great option. It is very affordable, and comes in a host of colors and patterns. New laminates now can even look like stainless steel, or bamboo, or wood. It is easy to clean and maintain. But it can scratch or burn if you’re not careful. I like to use laminates on desktops. In my own home office I have a blue laminate countertop that is now 11 years old and still in perfect condition. 
 
There is no wrong choice for your kitchen or bath— but one product may suit your needs, lifestyle, taste and budget better than another. 

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.

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.