It’s definitely true that interior design involves selecting beautiful tiles and paint colors. However, keeping the bigger picture in mind, interior design is really about problem-solving. How can I improve the lighting in this bathroom? How can multiple cooks use this kitchen? How can I work from home effectively? How can my elderly mother bathe safely? With every job, clients pose challenges, and it’s up to the designer to solve them in creative and attractive ways. Some challenges are about convenience and efficiency, others are about safety. But all the solutions are intended to enhance the clients’ quality of life. Here are some client challenges and how we solved them.

Problem: I’d like to turn this powder room into a full bath so my guests can use it when they stay with us.

Solution: By removing the walls between the powder room and adjacent laundry room, we were able to reconfigure the entire space to allow for a stand-up shower, while still maintaining a separate laundry room. The curb-less corner shower has glass walls to keep the space light and airy, and I used the same tile on the floor and walls to make the room look as large as possible.

Problem: I need a space for kids’ backpacks, shoes and supplies, as well as a convenient place where I can fold and iron clothes.

Solution: Luckily, this house had a relatively large laundry area as you entered the house from the garage. Some creative space planning and custom cabinetry increased the efficiency of this room, giving kids a place to keep their jackets, backpacks and shoes, and parents a place to wash, fold and iron clothes. Custom cabinets allowed us to maximize every inch of the room.

Problem: I’d like a work space in my master bedroom that has plenty of storage but that looks beautiful from the bedroom.

Solution: To create this beautiful and functional home office, we removed an existing closet and rebuilt it on the other side of the room. That gave us ample space for this desk, with lots of storage space for books, files and supplies. Again, custom cabinetry makes this possible.

Problem: A family member is in a wheelchair and needs to be able to use the bathroom as independently as possible.

Solution: A curb-less shower with a hand-held shower head, conveniently-located grab bars and a wall-mounted sink allow a wheelchair-bound person to maintain some independence.

Problem: We keep our cat’s litter box in our master bath, but it gets in our way and looks unsightly.

Solution: A small problem, but a problem nonetheless! Our pets are part of the family, so why not take their needs into account when designing a room? When designing this bath, a recessed linen cabinet provided the solution. I designed the bottom portion of the cabinet with an open section to house the litter box. The removable center panel of the cabinet door can be reinstalled at a later date when this is no longer a need.

Before HGTV came on the scene in 1994, most people picked their own paint colors, bought their own furniture, and selected their own bathroom tile. Some were very successful; others, not so much. Then came the avalanche of design shows, and pretty soon, we were all benefiting from the talents of the professional designers we were seeing on TV. Because I had been interested in interiors since I was a very young girl, I too found myself glued to the TV, inspired by all those television designers. It was during those years that I decided to switch careers, take design classes, and begin my new career. HGTV made interior design accessible to everyone, and for that I will be forever grateful. It’s the reason I have a successful business. But, for as much advice as HGTV dispensed, for many people the result was to create more confusion and self-doubt. If you are someone feeling a little unsure, allow me to offer some friendly advice as you undertake projects at home. 
  1. Please, please, please make a master plan before buying or starting anything. Even if you’re only working in one room at a time, think ahead to what you want your whole house to look like when you are done. This is especially important if you have an open floor plan. In open floor plans, there really is no such thing as one room— many rooms flow together, so the whole space should be taken into account to make sure the color scheme is consistent and the furnishings and other design elements are coordinated. Keep in mind adjacent spaces like hallways and the entry, so you have a cohesive look at the end. That said, I think I am more forgiving than other designers might be, so kids’ bedrooms and your own private spaces can deviate from the overall color scheme.

  2. As part of your master plan, measure your spaces carefully, check all dimensions of furnishings you plan to buy, and please buy only what you need. Resist all urges to buy a whole suite of furniture just because its on sale. I’ve seen very awkwardly arranged rooms due to too much furniture and furniture in the wrong size. 
  3. Pick paint colors after picking out area rugs, textiles and furnishings. It is much easier to match a color to a fabric, than to try to find a fabric that matches your paint color. Trust me on this one!

  4. Ask for opinions, but not too many! If you’re working with a designer, you can trust him or her to do the right thing by you and not lead you astray. After all, you’re paying this person for his or her expertise and trained eye. If you are working on your own, ask a significant other or a trusted friend (whose taste you admire) to help guide you. Asking too many people for opinions only leads to self-doubt and a syndrome called “analysis paralysis,” in which you spend too much time thinking about things, but never actually move forward with your plan. 
  5. Watch the placement and size of artwork. Not to be overly critical, but I have definitely seen my share of awkwardly placed artwork. In general, large walls need large artwork; narrow walls need vertically-oriented artwork, and horizontal spaces (like above a sofa) need horizontally-oriented artwork. And, if you are not sure how high to hang something, please err on the side of hanging it on the lower side, rather than too high. A great rule of thumb is for the center of the artwork to hang at 60-65” up from the floor. This applies even if you’re as tall as Kevin Durant, because artwork needs to relate to the furniture, not the wall height or the height of the people living there. If your artwork is too small for a particular wall, move it to another wall, or create a larger grouping for it using additional art pieces, or mirrors, or wall vases, or candle sconces. 

  6. It’s OK to take your time. When we watch shows on HGTV, we get the idea that our homes should be “done” in a day. In reality, it doesn’t work that way. It takes time to order furniture and to schedule painters and electricians. It may take months to find the perfect piece to hang above the fireplace. A home evolves over time as our needs and tastes change. Take your time and enjoy the process. 

How do you feel when you walk into a red room? How about a green room? You’re not alone if you feel calmer surrounded by blues and greens, or more confident when wearing black. The subject of color psychology is fascinating. As we all might guess, color can have a profound effect on our mood, whether it’s in something we wear, or in our homes. 
 
Red—exudes excitement and energy, and it makes a bold statement wherever it goes. Think of a bright red sports car or a dozen red roses. In addition to stimulating appetites, red has been known to improve one’s sense of smell, as well as cause other psychological responses such as increased heart rate and rapid breathing. Red provides a jolt of energy and life. Just look at this kitchen!  I was happy when these clients took my suggestion of red as their wall color—it adds so much punch to all the gray and white.  Other energetic colors in the red family are fuchsia and magenta. If these colors are too intense for you, try burgundy or brick red, which are still bold, but a bit more subdued. 
 
 
Orange—is associated with warmth, happiness, whimsy and playfulness. Like red, it is also an appetite stimulant, and because of its energy, it also attracts attention, waking up any room. As the complement of blue on the color wheel, it is a great accent color to pair with navy or cobalt blue. Other colors in the orange family are copper and terra-cotta. Try combining copper with turquoise or purple for a very beautiful color scheme.
 
 
Yellow—is cheerful and outgoing, and a particularly wonderful color for rooms with no windows or natural light. Closets, small bathrooms and laundry rooms come to mind as spaces that could benefit from this warm and friendly color. Yellow can remind us of nature, as in golden sunsets, lemons and daffodils, or elegance and prestige, as in gold jewelry or gold leaf. 
 
 
Green—is a restful color, and, because of its ubiquitous presence in nature, can even act as a neutral, allowing other colors to play off of it. Dark greens tend to be masculine, traditional and can even imply wealth. Earthy greens like moss and sage are quiet and soothing. And bright greens, like in Granny Smith apples and limes, are playful and fun, especially when combined with tangerine orange, aqua blue or lemon yellow. Dark green looks beautiful paired with burgundy red (think vineyards and a glass of Pinot Noir). And mossy greens combine well with mustard and brick red.
 
 
Blue—is named by most people as their favorite color (including yours truly!) The color of the sky and the ocean, blue is calming and peaceful. Blue is a wonderful color for bedrooms, and really any room in the house. Lighter tones can be almost ethereal (great when you’re designing a spa-like bathroom for example); darker blues can be formal (think navy blue velvet with gold trim) or casual (think of your most comfy pair of blue jeans.) In the world of color psychology, the color blue exudes professionalism and dependability. Business consultants often recommend wearing navy blue suits, and many professional uniforms are also blue. 
 
 
 
Purple—combines the vibrancy of red and the tranquility of blue. Historically, purple has been the color of royalty, and it connotes wealth and luxury. Purple is also associated with the exotic and mystical. Red-purple is sensual and exciting. Eggplant and plum are regal and elegant. Lavender is delicate and sweet. 
 
“How can I have a bathroom that’s beautiful but still easy to clean?” This question comes up frequently when I speak with clients about their bath projects. The good news is that there are solutions!
 
By far, the most popular surface for shower walls is tile. In the world of tile there are literally thousands of options—from natural stone, to ceramic, to glass, to porcelain. Regardless of the look you are aiming for, there is a tile out there that will fit the bill. However, some tiles are definitely more high maintenance than others. One example is marble. Marble tile is gorgeous, and I wouldn’t tell you to never use it in a bathroom, but if you do, you need to be aware that it must be sealed periodically, and that it can stain. Fortunately, however, there are some high-quality porcelain tiles that look very much like real marble. No sealing required, and no staining either.
 
With any tile, it’s really the grout that needs the most attention. To minimize the amount of grout  in the shower, select large tiles— 12” x 24” tiles are a very popular size— and install them using the smallest grout line possible. Many tiles now are coming in very large sizes- like the 36”  wavy tiles shown in the photo below. Using large tiles gives the shower walls a very sleek look, and can actually make a small shower look larger. The large tile is almost like using a solid surface material, which I will discuss shortly. 
 
 
Plan to seal your grout periodically; in a heavily-used bath, once a year is advisable. In occasionally-used baths, every few years is probably sufficient. Probably the best thing you can do, however, is what I tell my clients all the time: Make friends with the squeegee! Keeping water from sitting too long on the tile or the grout makes all the difference. Take 60 seconds after each shower and use that squeegee on the walls (don’t forget the shower doors!) I’m not kidding when I say that this step will save you lots of cleaning time. 
 
One design trick I’ve started using in some of my bath projects is using tiles on the large wall of the shower only, and solid surface material on the two side walls. This is a great idea from both a stylistic perspective and a cleaning perspective. In the photo, for example, the only tiles used are the large navy blue ones on the center wall. The two side walls are full-height white solid quartz slab. The matching navy blue grout lines are minimal in size (1/8”) and easy to clean. The dark tiles make a bold statement in the room, while the gleaming white quartz keeps the space looking light and bright. 
 
Another option, if you want no grout at all, is to use quartz slabs on all the walls of the shower. Quartz is non-porous, which means no sealing and no staining. And with the myriad choices available, you are sure to find a look you like. More and more beautiful colors and patterns are being introduced all the time, which means you can have walls with beautiful granite-like patterns, as in the photo, or walls resembling concrete, marble, and limestone. For folks wanting a bold punch of color, quartz also comes in very vibrant hues like fire engine red, cobalt blue, and lime green. For one wall or all the walls, using solid surface materials in the shower will increase style and reduce cleaning time. 
 
Please enjoy this collection of some of my favorite design projects from this year, 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 2019.
 

Parisian-Inspired Kitchen

Why I love it:
  • The kitchen has so much personality, with display space designed especially for the client’s treasures and collectibles. 
  • I love the toile wallpaper— it is so subtle and pretty. 
  • The countertops are stunning— it is quartz material from Cambria, called Britannica. Not only is it hard-working and easy to maintain, it’s pattern is very striking and beautiful.
  • The finishing touches really do give this kitchen the feel of a French bakery. 

Colorful Kitchen

Why I love it:

  • Great use of space: where there were no cabinets at all, we added a wall of them for food storage, but also for a dedicated prayer space, as requested by the clients.
  • The backsplash is gorgeous— a colorful mixture of glass, metal and stone, in reds and coppers. It really adds a bold and fun touch in this room.
  • I love the two-tone cabinetry— if you can’t decide whether to use painted or stained cabinets, this solution allows you to have both!

Contemporary Kitchen

Why I love it:

  • I absolutely love the horizontal grain of the light wood cabinets— so modern and sleek!
  • I love that we used the stunning quartz countertop on the backsplash also— that steak of color is even prettier in person.
  • I love the dark walnut island— it provides a beautiful contrast to all the lighter tones in the kitchen.

Master Bath “Wet Room”

Why I love it:

  • I love the challenge of taking a client’s wish list and making it all fit into a new space. In place of the too-large, dangerous step down tub, we created an enclosed wet room with a separate tub and luxurious shower. Great use of space!
  • I love the color scheme and the mix of tiles— it’s very restful and elegant.
  • Lighting on dimmers allows for every scenario. 

“Vintage” Master Bath

Why I love it:

  • I just love the overall look of this bath— the client desired a traditional, feminine, look, and she certainly got it! 
  • I love the crystal chandelier above the vanity— so sparkly and pretty.
  • I love the huge shower with the shiny chrome fixtures. It’s functional as well as beautiful. Even the grab bar is pretty!