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.

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.

In my closet, I have several black garments— dresses, pants, tops and shoes. Black is most definitely a color that is always in style, and one that can be dressed up or dressed down, depending on what you pair with it. It’s such a versatile color, and since it works so well in a wardrobe, it also works extremely well in interior design.ICP_2933

Black is a favorite color for many interior designers. It’s bold, dramatic, and makes the other colors in the room pop. Black is sophisticated and elegant, and works with any design style from traditional to modern. If you look through design magazines, you may notice walls and ceilings painted black. This can really look stunning, but people can be afraid to try it, thinking it will make their rooms look small. Surprisingly, however, black has the counterintuitive effect of looking endless, like a midnight sky, so walls painted black will actually appear as if they are moving away from you. It’s a very interesting effect! (The same is true for navy blue, in case you were wondering.)

If you want to decorate with black, here are some tips for you. Conquer your fears and go bold with this wonderful color.

ICP_30141- If you decide to paint a wall or ceiling black, set it off with some stark white architectural details like crown molding, baseboards, wainscoting, window casing or chair rails. (By the way, you can also do the opposite— paint your walls in a neutral tan, and use black for the crown molding, window casing and baseboards. Its a great look!)

2- Incorporate an accent color to play off the black. Black is a great foundation color. Think of a black dress dressed up with jewelry or a colorful scarf or shoes. Try pairing it with lime green or hot pink or yellow for a playful look. Try red for drama, or stick with shades of gray and whites for a sophisticated, monochromatic look. Black (or very dark brown) floors and countertops are excellent choices as foundations for a room, combined with other colors for interest. In the bathroom photo shown, please notice how well the red accent color stands up to the high-contrast black counters and white cabinets. And in the bedroom, notice how the color scheme is repeated, but in a softer version, using charcoal gray instead of black. And in the kitchen, white, black and gray look elegant and timeless. The wood floors and taupe walls keep the room from looking cold.

3- Use silver, mirror or gold to add touches of glamorous elegance. Try a crystal chandelier against a black ceiling, or a mirrored dresser in your bedroom against a black wall or on top of ebony stained wood floors. It’s spectacular.

ICP_29744- Black can be used to tie things together. For example— let’s say you have some hand-me-down furniture that looks mismatched and haphazard in your room. Try painting them black— they will immediately look more cohesive and pulled together. This tip works well with mismatched picture frames too.

The key to using black successfully is to make sure there is some contrast to keep it from looking too dark and flat, and some warmth to keep it from looking too cold. Probably most importantly, decorating with black will take some confidence on your part. Don’t be afraid of this classic, sophisticated color— it really can look amazing.

Anna Jacoby is a local Certified Interior Designer. Contact her at 510-378-6989 or or info@annajacobyinteriors.com. You can also visit her website at www.annajacobyinteriors.com

ICP_2855Raise your hand if you enjoy doing laundry. Maybe there are a few hands raised out there, but probably not too many. But what if your laundry room were a very pleasant place to be, rather than a cramped, dingy room with no personality?

Even if you can’t undergo a large remodeling project like these two, you can at least give your space a face lift with paint, artwork, and improved organization and storage. If your budget allows, however, borrow some ideas from these two recent design projects to achieve your own beautiful and functional space.

ICP_2869Laundry rooms are often more than just a place to wash clothes. Many laundry rooms are right off of the garage, making them the first entry point into the house. Because of this, it’s important to create space for things for more than just the washer and dryer. In these two examples, we designed multi-functional rooms, specific to the needs of the families who live in these homes.

There are spaces for each child in the family to store backpacks, shoes, jackets, and ballet bags. There is a dedicated space for washing, folding and hanging clothes. There is an organizational area where important notices can be kept. The green laundry room even includes a desk for craft projects and household organization.

In both projects, we used highly durable surfaces such quartz countertops, tile backsplashes, and porcelain tile flooring. And both baths have a sink, which is very convenient for hand-washing delicate clothing, cleaning kids’ sticky fingers, and even washing small pets.

Things to keep in mind when designing a laundry room:

  • ICP_5935ICP_5939Make sure there is enough lighting. Install ceiling lighting like recessed can lights or surface-mounted fixtures. Consider a solar tube to bring in lots of natural light, especially if you have no window. I have a solar tube in my own laundry room and I just love how light and bright the room is.
  • Add color! The lively green walls and black and white flooring makes this laundry room cheerful and friendly. The blue, black, white and gray color scheme is sophisticated and timeless. In my laundry room, when it came time to replace my washer and dryer, I decided to go bold: My washer and dryer are a color called Chili Pepper Red!
  • Think about your storage needs. Laundry rooms are usually quite small, so storage space is very limited. Open cubbies can work really well for things you need to access everyday, like backpacks and shoes. Closed storage is great to hide cleaning supplies, linens, and anything else you need to store. We keep extra light bulbs and batteries in our laundry room, and I find that drawers work best for those items.
  • Add personality with wall decor. If you have wall space, hang some artwork to add some color and whimsy. How about travel photos, kids’ artwork, or inexpensive decorative art from Home Goods? In my laundry room, I have a very cute collage my daughter made for me of clothes hanging on a clothesline.

You may never actually love doing laundry, but a beautiful environment can make this everyday task more enjoyable.

Anna Jacoby is a local Certified Interior Designer. Contact her at 510-378-6989 or info@annajacobyinteriors.com.

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’m betting that you can tell a lot about the owners of these three bathrooms. Each is beautiful, but in very different ways. The best part of my job is that I get to design in a variety of styles, using products in new and exciting ways. It’s great to see how the same materials— tile, stone, quartz and wood can come together in such unique ways.

Bath #1 Colorful and charming

Bathroom 1I absolutely love the handmade ceramic tiles we chose for this bath. We purposely installed the 4”x4” squares at random, using shades of blue, aqua and purple. The small diamonds you see are made up of 1” x 1” iridescent purple glass mosaic tiles. The walls are a soft lavender and, the cabinetry is white. The quartz counter in neutral cream balances the bold colors in the shower. The cool color palette exudes a feeling of calm, even with the busy tile pattern. The overall result feels fun, youthful and friendly, which was indeed my design intent.

Bath #2 Luxurious and elegant

Bathroom 2With rich wood tones, gorgeous granite slab and mosaic comprised of marble and glass, this bath feels very elegant. We mixed metallics and materials for this project— there is a combination of silver and gold tones in the cabinet hardware, plumbing fixtures, mirror frames and light fixtures, pulled together with handmade wallpaper in subtle, yet shimmery gold and silver. The colors and patterns in the granite counter also help pull everything together. The homeowner requested a luxurious spa-like bathroom and I do believe she got it.

Bathroom #3 Tasteful and Relaxing

Bathroom 3Like Bath #2, this bath features a neutral color palette, but executed in a very different way. It is also very elegant and classic, with Emperadora Dark chocolate brown marble accents, and creamy-colored porcelain field tiles. The decorative border is marble and glass, cut by water-jet machinery into a lovely fleur de lis motif. The creamy walls and tile make this large bath feel even more spacious, and the stained cherry cabinets add contrast and warmth. The bronze fixtures bring out the brown in the marble accents. We are still looking for just the right art piece for the wall above the soaking tub— an Italian landscape would fit in beautifully here, don’t you think?

Anna