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
Just 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
Since 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 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.
Pick 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.
Pick 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.
Accent 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.
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.
This 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.
- 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.
- Use 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.
- 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
This 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
And 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
Wood 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
What 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.
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.
Natural 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.
A 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.
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.
If 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.
For 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.
Interestingly, Benjamin Moore named “Simply White” their color of the year for 2016. Other paint companies like Sherwin Williams, Behr and Gladden have also listed versions of white in their their forecasts for 2016 and going forward. Why white? It’s part of a larger societal trend favoring simplicity and timelessness. White is recognized as a fantastic backdrop color— one that sets the stage for everything else that will be happening in the room.
White and all of its many iterations can be terrific wall colors— white with a hint of yellow, pink or peach can add so much subtle warmth to a space, while white with slight undertones of blue or green can cool off a room. White also sets off other colors beautifully— think of crisp white crown molding or a fireplace mantel contrasting with the deeper wall color behind it. But white is not just for trim and moldings— furniture, walls, window treatments, tile, and cabinetry all look terrific in tints, tones and shades of white.
Using white in your interior design allows you to be more adventurous with the other colors in the space. In one recent project, the client loved bold colors like purple, red and cobalt, so we used crisp white on most of the walls, then used those bold colors strategically on accent walls and even some ceilings to create a modern, “art gallery” type of look.
If you want a mix of colors, but don’t tend to like bold, bright hues, use white and creams, paired with light grays and tans to create a very elegant and restful interior. In another project, we used a variety of whites, creams and other soft neutrals for the fireplace mantel and tile, the finish on the chairs, the upholstery fabric, window treatments and area rug. The result is a beautiful, inviting living room that will stand the test of time.
White kitchen cabinets are hugely popular right now, as they coordinate with almost any other color and work in almost all design styles from contemporary to traditional. In this kitchen, the crisp white cabinets coordinate beautifully with the aqua blues in the backsplash tile and the quartz counters, while the wood floor and island add warmth and contrast to the space.
And there’s no way to go wrong with a white bathroom. White tile always looks clean and fresh, and you can add a lot of personality with wall color, window treatments, art and accessories.
Some advice to clients who are afraid of color: if you’re defaulting to white for your walls because you are afraid to take a leap and try color, please get over that fear! Most people love colorful interiors when they see them, and just need a nudge to try something new. That said, if you are intentionally choosing white for your interior design, then go with it wholeheartedly and don’t let anyone make you feel bad about it. If white is the color of the year for 2016, then you know you’re in great company.
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.
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.
1- 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.
4- 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.