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?

I recently went on a vacation to New England, where the fall foliage was magnificent. The beautiful oranges, reds and golds were truly a feast for the eyes. Let’s not underestimate California, however. In wine country, we have a fall foliage extravaganza of our own taking place right now. A weekend getaway to Healdsburg and Geyserville, featuring acres of golden-hued vineyards, was every bit as breathtaking as parts of New England.

Vineyards in Geyserville, Ca

Vineyards in Geyserville, Ca

Walpole, New Hampshire

Walpole, New Hampshire

Many of my clients prefer the warm, rich colors of autumn to cooler palettes of blues and grays. Those clients enjoy the warmth exuded by orange, red and gold. Warm colors tend to advance toward you in a room, so rooms decorated in a fall color palette feel cozy and comfortable—like a big hug.


This guest bedroom is a great example of decorating in autumn colors. We chose a mostly monochromatic orangey-brown color scheme, with touches of gold and bronze finishes. The wallpaper on all the walls wraps the room in color, and the doors trim is painted in a contrasting, yet still warm-toned Navajo White.

If you like the colors of autumn, you have many to choose from. Think of the seasonal fall produce for color inspiration: persimmons, pumpkins, butternut squash, red and green pears, sweet potatoes, pomegranates and golden and red beets. Notice the combination of leaves on the trees outside and pair your colors accordingly. Mother nature always gets it right.

For a monochromatic color scheme, choose one main color and decorate with darker and lighter versions of that color. For example, in the bedroom photo, you’ll notice lighter and darker shades of orangey-browns and tans in the bedding, carpeting, wallpaper and the wood tones in the furniture.

An analogous color scheme pairs colors next to each other on the color wheel. For example: yellow, orange and green. Imagine golden yellow walls, with an avocado or sage green sofa, and pillows in persimmon and pumpkin colors.

A complementary scheme combines colors opposite each other on the color wheel. Red and green are classic examples of complementary colors. For an autumn color scheme, combine deep forest green with pomegranate red, or the rich burgundy of red wine. Add touches of gold in the light fixtures or pillows to round out this elegant look.

In fall colors, your home will always exude coziness and warmth.

ICP_1067This living room recently underwent a striking transformation. It’s amazing what some redecorating can accomplish! My client had furniture she liked, but not enough to fill the space. She wanted to create a living room that was cozy and comfortable for her, but that also welcomed guests to sit and relax. She also wanted to redesign her fireplace so it had more presence in the room.

I began with a new furniture arrangement. She had placed her sofa facing the fireplace, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, the original arrangement left a large empty spot along the back wall. The new arrangement features two sitting areas—four chairs arranged for conversation in front of the fireplace, and the large sofa along the back wall. When needed, two of the chairs can easily be turned to include the sofa and create one large seating arrangement. This design filled the space nicely, and allowed for two more people to join the group.

I used her existing furniture to fine tune the color scheme, and selected two new chairs, an ottoman, an area rug, table lamps, window treatments and artwork to complete the look. The new color scheme is a warm and rich combination of golden tan with sage green undertones, a restful and relaxing monochromatic palette. The wall color is Kelly Moore’s Serengeti Safari, and we repainted her beautiful moldings in Kelly Moore’s Swiss Coffee for a crisp contrast.

The biggest change was the flooring. Removing the beige carpet and replacing it with hardwood really brought a wow factor to the room. The fireplace was also transformed from barely visible to striking and elegant with marble mosaic tiles and a custom wood mantel.

If you are planning to redecorate your living room, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  1. Try a new furniture arrangement. Instead of a predictable sofa and matching loveseat, try four chairs around a coffee table, or a sofa and two or more chairs.
  2. Use a variety of fabrics. You’ll notice that we used five different fabrics in this room, plus the area rug. While all of the support the color scheme, they each have a different pattern and texture, which adds a lot of interest to the room.
  3. Use an area rug to define a seating arrangement. Make sure the area rug is large enough so the furniture sits on top. You can use an area rug on top of carpet if it’s large and heavy enough to stay in place; you can also use a rug pad underneath the area rug to enable it to “stick” to the carpet underneath.
  4. Don’t be afraid to go a little darker than you think on the wall color. Darker colors can provide richness that just doesn’t exist with lighter colors.
  5. Don’t forget the window treatments. My client had wood blinds before, which we kept, but the custom curtain panels framing the window really add a nice finishing touch.

Closeup of a installers hands attaching a hinge a kitchen cabineA few weeks ago I wrote about planning a bathroom remodel. This week I thought I’d tackle kitchens. Whether you do the bulk of the work yourself or hire a general contractor, I’ve provided a sample timeline so you understand what to expect. A typical kitchen project takes 6-8 weeks, and it can be longer if walls are being moved or if adjacent rooms are involved. For example, in one recent project, my clients not only remodeled their kitchen, but also made substantial changes to the adjacent family room. Those changes included raising the floor in their step-down family room so it would be level with the kitchen, installing new wood flooring, new built-in cabinetry, and a new sliding door and window.

As you are planning your kitchen project, keep these steps in mind.

  • Design the kitchen layout and select all materials. Spend a good amount of time on this step. The more detailed you are with your design plan, the more accurate the contractor can be with his price quote. Will you be keeping your appliances in the same location? Or is there a better way to plan the space? Perhaps you need more counter space—can you move the double ovens away from the cook top and open up more space for prepping? Is there enough room for an island? Do you need more cabinet space? If so, can you build some in the adjacent dining area? Or make your existing island a little longer or wider? Take time to investigate your options for materials. At this stage, a professional designer can really help you narrow down your options and put together a space plan and design that fits your taste and lifestyle.
  • Obtain permits. After you have your design created, take your drawings to the city to obtain any necessary building permits. The homeowner or the contractor can take care of this step. The city will want to know the type of plumbing and lighting you are using—there are strict building codes regarding water flow and energy efficiency, as well as requirements regarding the number and type of electrical outlets needed. There will be periodic inspections during the remodel process.
  • Select appliances, sinks and faucets. The cabinets are built around the appliances, so it’s important to select these first and make sure the cabinet-maker receives all the dimensions and specifications.
  • Order the cabinetry. This is typically the item with the longest lead-time, so order these before starting any demolition. Your contractor will typically start construction approximately two weeks before the cabinets are due to be finished.
  • Start construction. Demolition, framing, rough plumbing and rough electrical work will be the first steps. Are you changing your electric cook top to gas? Do you need to add more outlets? Are you adding more lighting? All the wiring and plumbing will be done at this stage. The cabinet drawings are needed so the contractor knows where the plumbing and electrical wiring need to go.
  • Install, tape and texture the sheetrock. After the old kitchen has been torn out and new plumbing and wiring has been installed, there will be wall repair. After the new sheetrock has been installed, textured and prepped, then painters will come to put on a fresh coat of your chosen wall color.
  • Install the cabinetry. Contractors will generally leave off the cabinet doors until the end, to avoid potential damage when the floors, counters and appliances are installed.
  • Create a template for the new countertop. After the cabinets are in, the installers for the new countertop will come and take final measurements and create the template for your new counters. After about a week or so, they will return with your beautiful new counters and install them. You’re in the home stretch now.
  • Install the backsplash. This can be tile, stone, glass—any of a wide variety of options.
  • Install the new flooring. This can be done anytime after the cabinets are installed, but often contractors wait till after the counters and backsplash are in, again just to avoid any potential damage to the floors.
  • Install appliances, sinks, faucets, and light fixtures. Now the kitchen is almost finished!
  • Install cabinet doors and cabinet hardware.
  • Finishing touches: paint touches, final trim moldings, caulk baseboards, install window treatments, and anything else that may be left to do.
  • Final cleaning: the new kitchen will be dusty—some contractors include a final cleaning as part of their work, but some don’t. You might want to ask about it this at the beginning. You’ll want to do a final cleaning before you move in.
  • Kitchen complete! Although it always seems like it takes forever, a few weeks of inconvenience will result in years of enjoyment.

addartworkAre you wishing for some color in your rooms without having to paint your walls?  Try one or more of these tips to add an instant punch to your room.

1. Add artwork
Many homes I visit have empty walls with no art, or artwork that is too small for their walls. Stores like Home Goods, Ross and Bed Bath and Beyond have affordable artwork in all sizes. Add a large canvas print in vibrant colors over your fireplace, or above the sofa, or in the dining room across from the china cabinet. If you have a mirror above your fireplace, replace it with some colorful artwork. Art.com is one of my favorite sites for framed art—the choices are endless!

2. Dress up your windows
Blinds, shutters and shades are terrific for blocking light and providing privacy. But sometimes windows can look a bit naked. Here is where fabric can come into play. Adding decorative curtain panels to each side of a large window, or a valance to a kitchen window can really dress up those areas and add a lot of color and personality. I recently completed a master bedroom project where the clients already had white wood blinds on their windows. The wood blinds were just fine, but the room seemed a bit bare. I suggested custom stationary panels in a pewter color to blend with the bedding and new pillows. Their walls were painted in a light gray, and the darker tone of the fabric added texture and softness, as well as visual weight to the space. It was the perfect finishing touch.

cratebarrelpillow3. Add pillows
Since most people buy furniture in neutral colors, a great way to add vibrant color is by adding throw pillows. Pick up the colors in your artwork, area rug, or other upholstered furniture and your room will instantly have more personality. I love to pick my own fabrics and create custom pillows for clients, but I look for ready-made pillows whenever possible. Try Pier One or Crate and Barrel for a great selection of colorful pillows.

4. Add a rug
Even if you have carpeting, a large area rug can do wonders for a room. In my own living room, I bought a large 9×12 cream-colored area rug and laid it over my brown wall-to-wall carpeting. Even though it is not a vibrant color, it immediately lightened up the room and gave it a more polished look. In another recent bedroom project, red was our accent color, so we used golden tan paint on the walls, a cream coverlet with a red, green and gold paisley duvet, and a large beautiful red area rug. Without the rug, the room was pretty; with the rug, the room is gorgeous!

5. Reupholster a chair or bench
Almost anything can be reupholstered. Dining chairs, a living room accent chair, an ottoman, a footstool, a headboard—you get the idea. Take the opportunity to add beautiful vibrant color to wake up the room. For myself and for clients, I sometimes purchase inexpensive benches and ottomans at Homegoods or from Overstock.com, then select my own fabric and have them reupholstered.

6. Paint some furniture
Do you have an old dresser, headboard, or end table that could use new life?  Paint them in a vibrant color like red, or cobalt, black, or anything that strikes your fancy. A friend of mine purchased a small chest of drawers at a thrift shop and painted it gray. She uses it as a nightstand in her room with a navy accent wall and blue and gray paisley bedding. It looks great! For best results, hire a professional painter to spray the furniture instead of painting it with a brush. It will Look better, and have a longer-lasting finish that way.

7. Paint the inside of a bookcase
You may have seen photos of this idea—instead of painting the whole bookcase, try painting just the back of it. The color provides a nice backdrop for the books and accessories that will go on the shelves. You can also use wallpaper instead of paint.

8. Dress up your bed
Purchase a white, cream or light gray coverlet, then embellish the bed with a colorful duvet or comforter folded at the end of the bed. Finish it off with coordinating throw pillows and pillow shams. This is a great solution for someone who likes to change their bedding frequently, as pillows and duvet covers can be easily traded out for the seasons.

lampsplus_green9. Choose colorful lamps
This is a huge design trend right now. Have you seen the lamp bases in all the beautiful colors? Try lampsplus.com. You can get lamps in dozens of colors, shapes and sizes, paired with solid color shades or patterned shades. Picture a dresser or console table, with a large mirror above it, and two matching lamps in a vibrant color like orange or turquoise. Instant fun!

10. Add accessories
By accessories, I mean vases, dishes, bowls, trays, photo frames, even books with colorful jackets. How about a collection of blue, turquoise and green glass bottles in your kitchen garden window? Or a family photo collage all in glossy red frames? Or kitchen canisters and mixing bowls in lime green? A client of mine has a neutral kitchen, with a lime green KitchenAid mixer on her counter, a green tray on the table (holding napkins, salt and pepper), and green, orange and blue patterned dishtowels. It’s adorable!