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.

ICP_7353Interestingly, 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.

ICP_5806White 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.

ICP_7193White 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.

ICP_2827And 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.

Custom drapes and top treatment add softness and color to this living room, while offering privacy.

Custom drapes and top treatment add softness and color to this living room, while offering privacy.

If it’s time to update the window treatments in your home, please allow me to offer you some advice. With so many choices out there—from brands to styles to colors and materials—it can get overwhelming. But on the flip side, with so many choices available, there is no reason not to find the perfect solution for your windows.

As you are investigating your options, make sure to keep in mind functionality as well as beauty. For instance, do you like your room to be dark in the morning? If so, select a window treatment with a room-darkening lining. Some products are described as “black-out” or room-darkening; others are described as “light-dimming.” As you can imagine, “light-dimming” is just that—it dims the sunlight coming into the room, rather than blocking it completely. Only you can decide which option is best for your needs.

Another consideration is light control. Are you a person who opens the drapes each morning and closes them at night? If so, then a single-function window treatment is probably right for you. Examples of single-function coverings are drapes, honeycomb shades, Roman shades and roller shades—anything where the covering is either open or closed. These types are great for a number of reasons, but they offer no light control. Dual-function coverings offer light control options. Examples of this type are wood blinds, shutters, vertical blinds, and Silhouettes. With dual-function shades, you can have them completely open or closed, and also have the option of controlling the light by opening and closing the louvers or slats. This can be important for reducing glare on a TV or a computer, and also for providing privacy without blocking all of the light.

This Silhouette Window Shading offers light control, privacy and a beautiful soft look at this kitchen window.

This Silhouette Window Shading offers light control, privacy and a beautiful soft look at this kitchen window.

Some clients enjoy the clean lines of the blinds and shutters by themselves, while other clients choose to dress their windows even more with drapery panels and top treatments. Curtain panels, with or without a valance, add a beautiful finishing touch to your windows. Did you know that valances, draperies and curtain panels are more popular than ever? After years of plain windows, clients are back to embellishing their windows with layered window treatments.

If you have purchased new window coverings recently, you probably had some sticker shock over the prices. It’s not uncommon to spend hundreds of dollars on one window treatment, depending on the style and material chosen, of course. It’s true there are inexpensive options out there—wood blinds, for example, are quite affordable—but I’d like to caution you about purchasing inexpensive knock-off versions of more expensive brands. Knock-offs may be manufactured with inferior materials, leading to warping or fading, or simply not functioning properly. One important difference is the warranty on the product. Make sure to ask about the length of the warranty, and what is covered. How does the manufacturer handle any repairs that might be needed down the road? Is the shade reparable or are you out of luck if something goes wrong? It’s common for higher-priced brands to last years and years before needing any repairs. The most common repairs are for broken lift cords. And fortunately, those are relatively easy to deal with.

Plantation shutters provide privacy and light control, and are a timeless look for any room.

Plantation shutters provide privacy and light control, and are a timeless look for any room.

With inexpensive brands, the warranty may be for only two or three years; higher-end brands offer limited lifetime warranties. What does limited mean? It might mean that after 10 years, some repairs are still covered at no charge, while others might carry a nominal fee. Lifetime warranty can also mean that the blind will never fade or warp. One important note: while the manufacturer might cover the cost of the actual repair, installers will charge to come out to remove and replace the blind, and some dealers may charge a service charge for sending the blind back and handling the paperwork. Even with these charges, repairs should still be more economical than purchasing a new shade.

How long will you be living in your home? If you plan to stay awhile, invest in top-of-the-line window fashions. Even if you are planning a move in the next few years, it is important to know that beautiful custom window treatments can be a very attractive selling feature for your home.

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.

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.


spacious modern kitchen with maple cabinets and graniteI recently attended the annual Kitchen and Bath Industry Show in Las Vegas, where my colleagues and I got to see a wide variety of beautiful and innovative products for remodeling kitchens and baths. It was like Disneyland for designers–tiles, cabinetry, countertops, cabinet hardware, and fancy gadgets as far as the eye could see!

We saw cabinetry made from gorgeous, rich-looking exotic woods and very unique finishes (picture a bleached finish resembling driftwood), quartz slabs made to look like marble and granite, creative storage solutions for kitchen cabinets, and much more.

During a seminar on kitchen and bath trends for 2014, we learned the following:

Seventy-five percent of you prefer neutral kitchens, especially those of you over the age of 44. It is true that neutral kitchens tend to have more universal appeal (which is important if you plan to sell in the next few years) and tend to be more timeless than trendy. Neutral kitchens can be traditional or modern, and can look elegant or more rustic and casual, depending on the materials chosen. It’s never wrong to design a neutral kitchen, but don’t default to neutral because you are afraid of color!

Twenty-five percent of you prefer bold colors in the kitchen, and for those of you under the age of 44, the percentage is even higher. Bold colors can appear in wall colors, backsplash tile, and upholstery of course, but also in unexpected places like appliances and cabinetry. For example, picture a kitchen with a stainless steel refrigerator and dishwasher, and an oven in an eye-catching Cherry Red or Cobalt Blue. Mixing in a colorful appliance, or painting the island in a bold color can add pizzazz to the kitchen.

Eighty-six percent of you prefer granite or quartz for your countertops. With so many colors and patterns to choose from, it is no wonder. It appears that other materials like laminate and Corian are not as popular anymore, however, for tighter
budgets, I would definitely recommend looking at laminate. There are lots of greatlooking choices out there and are quite durable, even for high-use kitchens.

I was happy to learn that 50% prefer tile backsplashes instead of using the same granite or quartz on the backsplash. My clients will tell you that nine times out of ten I recommend tile for the backsplash. It allows us to be much more creative and give the kitchen a more personal touch.

Most of you undertaking bath remodels desire spa-like bathrooms that feature warm, neutral colors and natural materials. In one recent remodel, the shower pan is a bed of natural river rocks, and the shower wall features a wide band of glass and stone mosaic tile. Beautiful.

Many of you are adding windows to the bathroom to bring in natural light. I like to enhance the lighting in the bath as well. For example, we might install vanity lights on a dimmer switch, an LED light in the shower, and a pendant light hanging above the spa tub.

Forty percent of you prefer a large shower rather a tub, and the number is even higher for those of you over 55. In those large showers, remodelers under the age of 44 are choosing large rain head-type showerheads and body jets; those over 44 are opting for handheld showerheads. Some even want both types—a large rain head as well as the handheld showerhead. Why not have maximum flexibility?

If a new kitchen or bath is in your future this year, know that you have myriad choices for fixtures and materials. Take your time and think about the type of room you desire, in terms of both functionality and aesthetics. If you can imagine it, it probably exists!

Anna Jacoby is a Certified Interior Designer. Contact her at 510-490-0379 or or visit her website at