Some of my clients live in large homes with soaring ceilings and plenty of space, but the majority live in average-size homes. A very common question my clients ask is: How can I make this room look bigger? Let me just start by saying that not all rooms need to feel as large as possible. Sometimes it is best not to fight a small space. Just make it as comfortable and beautiful as you can. Small rooms can be tiny jewel boxes, cozy and intimate, with dark colors and dramatic lighting.

On the other hand, for those of you who desire a more open, spacious look in your home, the following tips can help.

1. Choose light, cool paint colors for the walls. Cool colors recede, making them good choices for small rooms. Try icy blues and soft, pale greens. These restful colors are particularly good in bedrooms. Neutral tones like gray and taupe also
work well in small rooms. Keep ceilings and trim work painted white or in a lighter version of the wall color.

2. For flooring, use one type only, such as wall-to-wall carpeting or hardwood floors. If you must use an area rug, use one larger one instead of several smaller ones, and stick with a lighter, solid color or a subtle tone-on-tone pattern.Select Color Swatch To Paint Wall

3. Use a monochromatic color scheme for the room. Select one main color and run with it, using varying shades of the hue for walls, flooring and furnishings. Use tone-on-tone patterns in upholstery fabrics, but be sure to incorporate a mixture of textures to add interest to the space. For example, choose golden chenille for the sofa, creamy yellow for the walls and light oak wood flooring. Choosing upholstered pieces, such as sofas and chairs, in colors similar to the wall color will allow them to blend in and make the room seem more spacious. Avoid vibrant and busy fabric patterns.

4. Be careful when selecting furniture pieces. Using fewer, larger scale pieces can actually make a room seem larger than using many smaller pieces. For example, instead of a separate TV stand, stereo cabinet and DVD storage unit, house the
TV and all of the related components and accessories in one media cabinet. Also, keep in mind that some furniture pieces take up less visual space than others.  Armless chairs, glass top tables and low benches are some examples.

5. Minimize clutter. Too many tiny knick-knacks can make a room feel much smaller than it is. Instead opt for a minimalist look with fewer, larger accessories.  On the mantel, for example, replace any small, skinny candles with one or two
large-scale candlesticks. And over the sofa, use one large painting instead of a collage of smaller pictures.

6. Lighten up the window treatments. Replace dark, heavy draperies with filmy, gauzy fabrics that let in natural light. Select a neutral white or ivory, or a fabric color that blends with the wall color, and avoid busy patterns.

7. Add lighting. Dark rooms can seem smaller than they actually are. The best way to remedy this situation is to add lighting. I don’t mean to say bring in lots of table lamps. Doing this will simply add clutter, and will not adequately light your
space. Splurge a little and have an electrician add recessed lighting, a large center ceiling fixture, track lights or wall sconces. Money invested on lighting is always money well-spent.

With some careful planning and a few changes, your small rooms can look and feel more spacious.

In this column, I thought I’d share with you answers to questions that clients ask me all the time. I’ll focus on paint colors this week, and then tackle other topics in the weeks ahead.Pantone

Q. Won’t this dark color make my room look smaller?
A. Our goal should not always be to make the room look as large as possible. The goal should make the room look as good as possible. While a dark color might make the room look a little smaller, it will also add a lot of drama and warmth to the room.  If the color looks great with the furnishings and woodwork, then use it with confidence. Your room will only look smaller on the first day of painting. After that, you’ll get used to it, and your room will be gorgeous.

Q. Is white the best color for my baseboards and crown molding?
A. It’s true that most people in most situations use white for their trim work. It is a beautiful look that is almost never wrong. But, depending on the paint color and overall look you want, white might look too stark. For example, in one project, we used wallpaper in a burnished copper color. White crown molding looked too bright and stark next to it. So we softened the contrast by selecting Kelly Moore’s Navajo White for the base and crown. It worked beautifully. For a dramatic look, try pairing tan or taupe walls with black baseboard and crown. It’s really striking and attractive.

Q. Should I paint my room first or buy my new furniture first?
A. Whenever possible, buy your furniture first. There are many more paint colors than there are upholstery colors, so it’s much easier to match paint to fabrics than the other way around. When you order your upholstered pieces, ask to order a
swatch of the fabric also; you can use this swatch to select paint colors, draperies, flooring, and other furnishings.

Q. What about an accent wall? Are those still popular?
A. Yes and no. They aren’t quite as popular as they used to be, but that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t look good in particular situations. Painting the wall behind your bed, for example, is often a great thing to do. It can add a lot of punch to a space. But here are some rules of thumb for accent walls:

Choose a color that truly is an accent color. What I mean by that is that the color should be quite different from the surrounding colors. For example, if the surrounding walls are a light tan, your accent wall should not be a slighter darker tan. Go with a dark chocolate brown, or burgundy, or navy, or rusty red. In other words, really make it an accent!

Choose a large enough wall to accent. Some people get a little scared and paint accent color on walls broken up by large windows or door openings, for example. In this situation, there probably isn’t enough wall space to accent successfully. Accent walls should already be feature walls in a room—such as a fireplace wall, or the wall behind your bed, or the wall behind the sofa.

Consider the ceiling as an accent wall. Ceilings can provide a great area for bold color. For example, in my son’s room, his walls are gray, and the ceiling is red. And in my own bedroom, my walls are taupe and the center of my ceiling is navy blue. I love the look!

Design Furniture At Miart 2014 In Milan, ItalyQ. Dear Anna: We’ve recently painted our home and all our artwork is stacked up waiting to be hung. Do you have any ideas about how we can hang our art effectively?

I sure do. Hanging artwork properly is essential for creating a beautiful, comfortable room. Here are some tips:

  1. Select artwork that complements the style and mood of the room. Is the room modern or country-style? Is the color scheme peaceful and soothing or vibrant and energetic? These elements are clues as to which type of art would best suit the room. Try muted floral watercolors in a tranquil bedroom and colorful abstract paintings in a contemporary living room. You can certainly mix styles if you wish, but if you do, make sure the pieces relate to each other in some way—theme or color, for example.
  1. Hang large pieces first, and then fill in with smaller pieces. Make sure the size of the art fits the size and orientation of the wall. For instance, a long wide wall will accommodate a large horizontally oriented piece of art. A narrow wall would be best with a vertically oriented piece. Over a sofa, usually a large horizontal piece looks best, but two smaller pieces can also work well, as can a grouping of several smaller pieces.
  1. When hanging art above furniture, consider the size of the furniture piece. For example, a painting should not be wider than the sofa or chest below it. In general, a painting should be about 75% of the width of the furniture below it. And a good rule of thumb is to hang art so that the bottom of the frame is 6-10 inches above the piece of furniture.
  1. Be sure to relate the art to the furnishings in the room. A painting with some red in it will look great near a chair upholstered in the same red, if the theme is appropriate. When hanging art above a table, place something on the table that relates to the art in terms of color or theme. For example, a bouquet of sunflowers would look wonderful next to a watercolor print of sunflowers. And if you have an accent wall in your room, hang a piece of artwork on the opposite or adjacent wall that contains a fair amount of that accent color. That will help bring the eye around the room.
  2. Don’t hang pictures too high! If you have to look up to see the picture, it is too high. I won’t say hang it at “eye level” because it depends on the situation. The important thing is to relate it to the furnishings around it. In a dining room, the painting should be at eye level to people sitting at the table. In a hallway, the paintings should be at eye level when standing. Some pictures might actually be hung lower than eye level, such as under a lamp and above a nightstand. In general, my rule of thumb is to make sure the center of the artwork hangs at 60”-65” up from the floor, regardless of how tall you are. Start there and adjust accordingly.
  1. Usually art looks better than a mirror on a mantel. Mantels are often too high for mirrors to be effective. You do not want to reflect your ceiling in the mirror. Hang mirrors where they will reflect something attractive, for instance opposite a picture window or a piece of art.

Of course, artwork is so very personal, so please take don’t take this advice too seriously—if you love certain pieces, please hang them! Even if it “breaks a rule,” your home should make you happy.

Blue CurtainAre your window coverings in need of an update? Perhaps you notice a cold air entering or warm air escaping through your windows; perhaps your needs have changed and you would like to have a dark room in the morning so you can sleep in. Perhaps your current window treatments look outdated or worn out, or privacy is an issue. No matter what the issue is, there is always a solution. Here are some common scenarios and some options of how to treat the windows.

  1. You’ve installed a large new flat screen TV and would like to turn your family room into a full-blown media room. Anytime you need your room to be nice and dark for movie watching and sleeping in, a great option are room-darkening honeycomb shades, such as Hunter Douglas Duettes. They fit snugly inside your window casings, look sleek and modern, and block out almost all the light. They come in dozens of colors and pleat sizes and can even come motorized, which is a great option for those hard-to-reach high windows and for people who have a hard time with lift cords. Plus, remote control blinds and shades are just plain fun. To block even more light and add a decorative touch, operational drapes can be added to the windows. Duette Honeycomb shades are also the most energy efficient window treatments on the market today. They offer incredible insulative properties and UV protection.
  2. You have a home office and have trouble with glare on your computer monitor. A window treatment that offers you the ability to control the light would be a great choice. This means a product that allows you to open and close the louvers, such as a plantation shutter, or a wood or metal blind, or a vertical blind. The choices in louver size and color are numerous—there is something in every price range and for every decorating style.
  3. You have a lovely view out your windows and want to cover the windows but don’t want to sacrifice light or view. Two wonderful options are Hunter Douglas Silhouettes and Pirouettes. Both of these beautiful products offer privacy and still let soft, filtered light come in through the windows when the shades are fully closed, and when the vanes are open, the sheer fabric maintains the view. These lovely treatments look great on their own, and can also be dressed up with fabric valances and decorative curtain panels.
  4. You have a sliding glass door and don’t know what your options are. Luckily there are many options now for sliders. The most popular option is still vertical blinds. Many people think they hate vertical blinds because they remember the old style they used to have. I invite you to take another look at verticals, as there are many options available—woven fabrics, linen looks, attractive textured vinyls, and even wood verticals. These are still a very practical and affordable option. Other options include drapes, of course, Duette Vertiglides, which are vertical versions of Duette shades made specifically for sliding doors, Luminettes, which are in essence a sheer drapery and a vertical blind in one product, and gliding panel tracks, which are very contemporary looking and look terrific.
  5. You have windows that face the street and desire more privacy, but don’t want to block all the sunlight. To solve this problem, look for a product that offers a Top Down-Bottom Up option. Honeycomb shades offer this option, as do Roman shades and pleated shades. This feature allows you to lower the shade from the top of the window down, thereby offering privacy on the bottom, and light from the top. It’s perfect for street facing windows or windows that look right into your neighbor’s house.

With all the options available today, there is a solution for every window.


simple sketch of an interior design of a dining roomIs your dining room in need of a facelift? Whether your dining room is formal or informal, here are some decorating tips to help make it special.

  • Before purchasing new dining furniture, measure the room to keep you from buying a table that is too large. Ideally you would want at least 36-42″ of clearance around the table, measured from the edge of the table to the wall. This will give diners enough room to pass behind the chairs.
  • Consider two different types of dining chairs—for example, the head chairs can be fully upholstered, while the side chairs can have upholstered seats and wood backs. Choose fabric for the head chairs that will work well in your living room too; that way you can bring those chairs into the living room when you entertain.
  • Before purchasing a new chandelier, again, take note of the measurements of the room and of the table. A good rule of thumb is to look for a chandelier that is 1/2 the width of the dining table. For example, if your table is 48” wide, look for chandeliers that are approximately 24” wide.
  • If your room has eight-foot ceilings, install the chandelier so that the bottom is approximately 30 inches above the tabletop. Add three inches for every additional foot of ceiling height.
  • Install dimmer switches on all of the light fixtures. This will allow you to create just the right mood for the occasion.
  • Warm colors are wonderful in dining rooms. Reds, oranges, and yellows stimulate the appetite while exuding a friendly, welcoming feel. Select rich, muted colors rather than bright, pure colors for a subdued, elegant feel. Examples are: terracotta or cinnamon rather than orange; burgundy or rose rather than red; creamy yellow or gold, rather than pure yellow.
  • If you prefer cool colors, warm up the dining room with small accents of a warm color. For example, in a taupe dining room, use touches of red. You might use red in a floral arrangement, in a piece of art, in your dishware or in the chair fabric.
  • If your living room and dining room are open to each other, make sure to use the same colors in both rooms to tie them together. If you have a burgundy sofa, for example, cover your dining chairs in a patterned fabric that has burgundy in it.
  • Create a custom floral arrangement with the colors in your color scheme to use as a centerpiece.
  • For window treatments, vary the style of the treatment. For example, hang gorgeous drapery panels in the dining room, and swags in the living room. Using the same or coordinating fabrics in both rooms will tie them together.
  • When displaying china in the china cabinet, resist the urge to overfill the cabinet. Display what looks aesthetically pleasing, and store the rest elsewhere.
  • When arranging your china cabinet, use plate stands for your dinner plates to create backdrops for your crystal.
  • Use a table runner instead of a tablecloth to show off the beautiful wood table. Don’t hang artwork too high. Hang art at eye-level while seated.
  • Candles are always right at home in a dining room. Group a collection of silver candlesticks on a tray for a simple centerpiece.

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.

Fabulous LivingroomEarlier this year, a client hired me to help her update her home. She had inherited her childhood home and was ready to make it her own. The house was quite outdated, and in need of some repairs, as well as redecoration. Her task to me was to make it modern but comfortable, with a Japanese flair (she is Japanese), in neutral colors with some accent color thrown in. Her favorite accent color? Red! She asked me to incorporate some of her favorite art pieces, such as the Japanese screen and scrolls, and I was happy to honor that request. I also reused her existing coffee and end tables, as they were in good shape, and their clean lines complemented my design.

Fast-forward a few months, and the living room is complete. Gone is the paneling from the 70’s, with a rich red accent wall in its place. Slate stacked stone transformed the old brick fireplace, and neutral carpet replaced the worn-out gold carpet. While the furniture arrangement stayed basically the same, most of the furniture was replaced with new custom pieces. Her comfortable swivel chair was given new life by reupholstering it in red. Her favorite artwork and accessories added a personal and perfect finishing touch.  Design lessons to take away from this project:

1) Symmetry adds a sense of calm to a space. Notice how the sofa is flanked by two matching end tables and two matching lamps. The symmetry of that arrangement makes the room feel balanced and restful. Please don’t think I am suggesting that everything in a room has to match! It certainly does not.  Items should coordinate and blend together well, and not necessarily match.  However, in this case, I intentionally chose matching pieces to create overall  calm look and feel.

2) Repeat an accent color several times in a space. Notice how we distributed the color red throughout the room. There is a red throw pillow on the sofa, a red accent chair, a red dish on the coffee table. This repetition helps the eye travel around the room.

3) Emphasize the focal point. In this living room, the fireplace was already the focal point, although it was a bit small and unassuming in its original state. By taking the stacked stone all the way to the ceiling, we gave the fireplace more presence and brought more attention to it. The red wall color accentuates it even more.

4) Try using the color gray instead of brown. In this space, I chose to mix gray with cream, brown and taupe, instead of using all browns and tans. I could have selected a dark brown sofa, however, using charcoal gray instead adds a contemporary and sophisticated touch. Gray works well with most other colors, so even if this client changes her color scheme in the future, her gray sofa should still work well for her.