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.

For a variety of reasons, some living rooms are difficult to furnish. Maybe the room is too small, or even too large, or just awkwardly laid out. Or maybe you’d just like a new idea for furniture arrangement. Instead of your typical sofa, try a grouping of chairs instead.  Here are some reasons to try this arrangement in your house:

  1. When your fireplace is awkwardly placed. A fireplace is often the focal point of the room, but if it is off in a corner, or is splitting your room in two, then mostly likely, a sofa facing it will not work. A grouping of two or four chairs might work better, and still provide the same amount of seating as a sofa. 
  2. When your living room is small, with no obvious spot for a sofa. If this is the case, then bring the furniture away from the walls with a cluster of four chairs around a coffee table. This creates an intimate and conversational seating arrangement.
  3. When the focal point is something grand, like a piano, for example. In the photo, you’ll notice the stunning black grand piano, which is definitely the center of attention in this amazing living room. The group of four teal chairs fits nicely alongside the piano, perfect for listening to music and conversation.
  4. When you need a flexible seating arrangement. Let’s say you often have gatherings at your house and need to be able to move or expand the seating area easily, or clear the floorspace. Chairs are much easier to move around than are large sofas. 

Some guidelines when planning your space and before you make your purchases:

  1. Measurements are key— you don’t want chairs that are too large! Measure your space carefully, and err on the side of narrower and shallower, over wider and deeper. 
  2. Chairs should coordinate in terms of color and style, but they don’t necessarily have to match. If you’re not sure what to do, though, go for matching chairs. Or perhaps two different chairs, but in the same fabric. If you choose two different chairs, make sure they are the same height and width, give or take an inch or two. You don’t want two of the chairs to dwarf the other two. 
  3. Make sure the chairs are comfortable. If you’re forgoing a comfy sofa, you want to make sure the chairs are just as comfortable. 

There are no interior design rule that says a living room must have a sofa, so look objectively at your space and see if this type of seating arrangement will work for you.

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.

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.

Living Room With Wooden Staircase And BookcaseTake a good look at that bookcase in your living room. How are the items arranged on the shelves? Does the bookcase look attractive or does it need help?

One of the most common mistakes people make is crowding too many books and knickknacks on the shelves. Your living room can look instantly cluttered and unattractive if you let these shelves get out of control. Resist the urge to display any of the following items on your nice living room bookshelves: telephone books, photo albums (framed photos are great, but albums are best stored elsewhere), video tapes and DVDs (place them in baskets or good-looking storage boxes), loose papers, binders and notebooks. Try to find other locations for these items, such as in a home office or in a closed cabinet or closet.

During a recent redesign, my client had a gorgeous dark wood bookcase with elegant fluting and lighted glass shelves. It has been placed off center on the large living room wall, but my partner and I moved it front and center, so it became the focal point around which the furniture was arranged. We carefully edited her accessories, placing books on the bottom shelves and one large, striking item on each of the glass shelves. By only using one item per shelf, each piece gained importance and commanded more attention. My client was thrilled with the final result.

To arrange bookcases attractively, try to use a combination of books and accessories, and don’t be afraid to edit your accessories. To give the bookcase a more formal look, remove the dust jackets from hardback books, revealing linen book covers with gold lettering. Try to move trade paperbacks to another location in the home, as these books are not so attractive. If this is not possible, group all trade paperbacks together on their own shelves. Have some books stand upright and some books stacked lying down. A single photo or accessory can sit on the stack of books or act as a bookend. Varying the horizontal and vertical placement of books and accessories makes the arrangement more interesting.

Another option is to place taller books in the middle of a shelf, and shorter books (from tallest to shortest) on either side so that they create a pyramid shape. Use bookends to hold the books in place.

A small piece of art looks beautiful displayed on an easel, and silk greenery adds a nice touch to the arrangement.

Family photos are wonderful to use in bookcases, but it is easy to go overboard. Keep your favorites and intersperse them among the books. Place other framed photos on side tables, or create a large photo collage to hang on the wall. I impart this advice loosely, however, as I find it as difficult as all of you do to take down cute pictures of my kids. Luckily there is no “bookcase police” to come and tell you to remove them. If they make you happy, I won’t say a word about it.