These clients had an underutilized upstairs bedroom, outfitted with a small desk, a loveseat, and a TV in the closet. They challenged me to create a space where they all could be together, helping their young son with homework, surfing the internet, reading, and watching television. On their wish list: a large TV and comfortable seating area, two separate work spaces, ample storage for books and miscellaneous items, better lighting, and a space for a small microwave so they could heat up a cup of tea without having to go all the way downstairs. And, of course, make it attractive.

To make room for the large, custom U-shaped desk I designed, we removed the closet at the end of the room. The new desk features a work space at each end, with a long countertop, wall-to-wall upper and lower cabinets, and open shelves. In the center, we installed a large TV, and, while the microwave is not shown in the photo, notice the outlet in the right corner— that’s where it will go. And speaking of outlets, you’ll notice several new ones, both above and below the desk. This makes charging devices easy and convenient.

Their son’s workspace has an easy-to-reach book display, with drawers and cabinets for his school supplies. Both work spaces have their own desk light. The closed cabinets keep everything nearby but out of sight, while the open shelves provide display space.

My client loves the color orange, a friendly and energetic color (which is fitting, because she is also very friendly and energetic!), so you’ll see it distributed around the room. The accent wall is painted in a color called Winter Sunset by Kelly Moore. I absolutely love the double pocket doors also painted Winter Sunset. We widened the opening to the new den, and replaced the standard bedroom door with contemporary frosted glass French doors. This brings in more light, and adds a lot of personality. The doors are one of my favorite elements in this room.

The wall behind the new sofa is clad in wood planks, for texture and warmth. The wood wall coordinates with the wood shelves in the desk area, and the wood-look laminate countertop.

We kept the existing recessed can lighting, but added a contemporary track fixture, the individual desk lamps, and a wall-mounted reading light. Each on separate switches for maximum flexibility, the homeowners can now choose to have dimmer lighting for nighttime TV viewing, or lots of light for homework, bill-paying, and other projects.

With room for everyone, this inviting multi-purpose room has become a favorite hang-out spot for the whole family.

As long as I could remember, blue has been my favorite color. I love all shades of blue, but in particular, I love deep, intense blues like navy, royal, and cobalt. Blue is an amazingly versatile color, perhaps because it is the color of the sky and the ocean, which coordinate with just about every other color around. Throw on a pair of blue jeans, and you can wear any color top with them. So imagine my delight when the Pantone Color Institute, a very influential company in the world of color and design, selected Classic Blue as the color of the year for 2020.

In color psychology, blue is the color of stability, order, and reliability. It exudes feelings of serenity, calmness, and tranquility. An intense color like Classic Blue, however, can also evoke feelings of energy and strength. Blue is described as a favorite color by most people. In selecting the color of the year, Pantone and other color forecasters look thoughtfully at global societal influences such as art, media, entertainment, socioeconomic and political conditions, travel destinations and technology.

According to the folks at Pantone, “We are on the precipice of entering into a new decade and are desirous of a stable and strong foundation to help us go forward. Yet at the same time, many around the world are feeling unsure and as though the ground beneath them is continually in flux. Pantone 19-4052 Classic Blue, a solid and dependable blue hue, expresses trust, faith and constancy, as well as offering protection—qualities that provide us with the reassuring presence and feelings of calm and confidence we crave as we cross the threshold into this new era.”

Maybe it’s the feeling of strength and stability, or maybe I just like the color. But whatever the reason, I have blue running throughout my own house, and have also used it in a few of my design projects. The selection of Classic Blue as color of the year means you will be seeing it all over the place; in fabrics, wallpaper, home furnishings, clothing, even in consumer goods like electronics and appliances. If you like blue as much as I do, consider using it in your home as well.

For some, Classic Blue will be too intense to use as a wall color, but I challenge you to try it. Note the bedroom that features Navy as an accent wall behind the bed. And take a look at my headshot on the “About” page of this website— notice the blue wall behind me? That’s actually my own kitchen! I had it painted several years ago, and I still love it!. I also have Cobalt Blue glass tiles on my kitchen backsplash— in 15 years I have never gotten tired of them. I recently added some smoky blue glass tiles to my fireplace, and I love those too.

Another way to bring in deep, rich blue would on your countertops. Search on Google for a Cambria Quartz countertop called Hadley. Hadley is a gorgeous Navy Blue— I have not used it in a project yet, but I am dying to. Bala Blue is a brighter, more fun and energetic blue, shown in the bathroom photo below.

For many people, it will feel more comfortable to use Classic Blue in smaller doses. Try pillows, or an area rug, or a new sofa or chair. Or look for bedding, draperies or artwork. Blue is a classic color that does not go out of style; a versatile color that works equally well in traditional, transitional and contemporary styles.

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. 
 


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.

Looking back on the design projects I completed in 2016 gives me some insight into what clients will be asking for in 2017. 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.

Aging in Place

ICP_1353Just like in 2015, many of my design projects involved making changes so that homeowners could remain in their homes as they aged. Most clients asked for grab bars in the bathrooms, walk-in showers with hand-held shower heads instead of tubs, and ADA height toilets. A few asked for wheelchair-accessible sinks and showers. Other improvements included widening doorways to better accommodate walkers and wheelchairs, motorized window coverings operated by remote control, and kitchen appliances located at more ergonomic heights. In a couple of homes, we eliminated the step-down living room by raising the floor to match the height of the main floor. This is a great improvement for people with mobility issues, as steps and level changes can easily become safety hazards. If your goal is to stay in your house as long as possible, consider making some of these changes.

Lighter wall colors

ICP_4181Since I’ve been in business now for over 16 years, I have been hearing from past clients ready to update the paint colors we selected way back in the early 2000s. By this time, rooms need paint again, and clients are ready to make changes to their color scheme. Of course, every client and every house is different, but in general I can say there are three major trends in wall colors: 1) People are preferring lighter colors overall; 2) people are preferring one or two colors throughout the house, rather than lots of different colors, and 3) people are preferring cooler tones over warm tones. This means I’m specifying lots of off-whites and light beiges, very light blues and greens, and all varieties of gray tones.

Hardwood Floors

ICP_1616Hardwood floors are hugely popular these days. In many homes, clients have opted to replace all of their carpeting with hardwood. This could be for a variety of reasons. Some have allergies that are exacerbated by carpeting, some prefer the easy cleaning of wood over carpeting, especially if they have pets and kids, and some simply prefer the richness of wood. There are more choices in wood now than I have ever seen! New trends include wide planks, rustic finishes, and gray tones.

And I must mention other wood-like products, as this is also a huge trend in interior design.

Laminate flooring: you will not believe the options available in laminate flooring—the laminates are amazing today, in terms of color, texture, and variety. The quality is fabulous and you just can’t beat it for durability and affordability.
Luxury Vinyl Tile: this is a relatively new product category that has grown by leaps and bounds. For people who want a more water-resistant surface, especially in a kitchen or bathroom, this product is fantastic. And it comes in a huge variety of wood looks as well as tile. It’s really beautiful and durable.
Wood-look tile: this is one of my favorite products to use on bathroom floors. Water-resistant, durable and great-looking, there is a look for all design styles, from refined to rustic.

I expect these trends to continue through 2017 and beyond, and I look forward to seeing what else might be coming down the pike.

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_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.

Several years ago, I invoked the classic song from The Sound of Music, and wrote a column featuring “a few of my favorite things” for the home. Here are a few more of my favorite things.

ICP_7261Pendant lights.

Of course I love using pendants in kitchens over islands or dining tables, but I also love using hanging pendant lights in bedrooms and even bathrooms. They bring light where you need it, and they look beautiful too.

Painted cabinetry.

ICP_7378Natural wood is always beautiful, but paint opens up so many options that it’s hard to resist. In one recent design project, we mixed light gray painted kitchen cabinets with a large island painted black, and the results are stunning. And in the photo shown, the turquoise-painted bath vanity gives this bathroom an unexpected and fun pop of color.

Nunez Bath sink closeupA little bit of “bling.”

Almost every room can benefit from a little bit of shine and glamour. Crystal lamps, glass cabinet knobs, Mercury glass, a mirrored cabinet, shiny chrome—small doses add so much personality to a space.

Wall-mounted ledges.

These handy items have been “in” for a while, and I don’t see them going away anytime soon. Use them to display family photos, rotating collections of artwork, books and accessories.

Quartz countertops.

ICP_3002If you’re debating between quartz and granite, consider the benefits of quartz: No sealing is required, it won’t stain or absorb water, it is extremely durable and it comes in a world of colors and patterns.  Quartz works in all design styles from traditional to modern, and the number of options is amazing.

Fabric at the windows.

I used to be a minimalist when it came to dressing windows. Maybe it was rebellion against the heavy, old-fashioned drapes of the past. However, I’ve completely changed my mind on this issue. The longer I work in interior design, the more I realize how much of an impact the right fabric can have in the room.  I absolutely love how curtain panels frame a window and add softness, texture and color. A tailored valance at a kitchen window can be the perfect finishing touch. Not every room needs fabric at the windows, especially if the design aesthetic is very modern and streamlined. But I would say most rooms don’t look quite “finished” until the windows are properly dressed.

Contrasting textures and materials.

ICP_5932For example, if you have wood coffee table, pair it with glass end tables. If you have a leather sofa, pair it with fabric upholstered chairs. Mix metals, such as a chrome and glass table with a gold and silver mirror. Mix a shaggy area rug with a sleek and smooth leather chair. Mixing textures is the key to an interesting room.  And please remember that not all woods have to be the same! Variety is the spice of life.