- Please, please, please make a master plan before buying or starting anything. Even if you’re only working in one room at a time, think ahead to what you want your whole house to look like when you are done. This is especially important if you have an open floor plan. In open floor plans, there really is no such thing as one room— many rooms flow together, so the whole space should be taken into account to make sure the color scheme is consistent and the furnishings and other design elements are coordinated. Keep in mind adjacent spaces like hallways and the entry, so you have a cohesive look at the end. That said, I think I am more forgiving than other designers might be, so kids’ bedrooms and your own private spaces can deviate from the overall color scheme.
- As part of your master plan, measure your spaces carefully, check all dimensions of furnishings you plan to buy, and please buy only what you need. Resist all urges to buy a whole suite of furniture just because its on sale. I’ve seen very awkwardly arranged rooms due to too much furniture and furniture in the wrong size.
- Pick paint colors after picking out area rugs, textiles and furnishings. It is much easier to match a color to a fabric, than to try to find a fabric that matches your paint color. Trust me on this one!
- Ask for opinions, but not too many! If you’re working with a designer, you can trust him or her to do the right thing by you and not lead you astray. After all, you’re paying this person for his or her expertise and trained eye. If you are working on your own, ask a significant other or a trusted friend (whose taste you admire) to help guide you. Asking too many people for opinions only leads to self-doubt and a syndrome called “analysis paralysis,” in which you spend too much time thinking about things, but never actually move forward with your plan.
- Watch the placement and size of artwork. Not to be overly critical, but I have definitely seen my share of awkwardly placed artwork. In general, large walls need large artwork; narrow walls need vertically-oriented artwork, and horizontal spaces (like above a sofa) need horizontally-oriented artwork. And, if you are not sure how high to hang something, please err on the side of hanging it on the lower side, rather than too high. A great rule of thumb is for the center of the artwork to hang at 60-65” up from the floor. This applies even if you’re as tall as Kevin Durant, because artwork needs to relate to the furniture, not the wall height or the height of the people living there. If your artwork is too small for a particular wall, move it to another wall, or create a larger grouping for it using additional art pieces, or mirrors, or wall vases, or candle sconces.
- It’s OK to take your time. When we watch shows on HGTV, we get the idea that our homes should be “done” in a day. In reality, it doesn’t work that way. It takes time to order furniture and to schedule painters and electricians. It may take months to find the perfect piece to hang above the fireplace. A home evolves over time as our needs and tastes change. Take your time and enjoy the process.
- The kitchen has so much personality, with display space designed especially for the client’s treasures and collectibles.
- I love the toile wallpaper— it is so subtle and pretty.
- The countertops are stunning— it is quartz material from Cambria, called Britannica. Not only is it hard-working and easy to maintain, it’s pattern is very striking and beautiful.
- The finishing touches really do give this kitchen the feel of a French bakery.
Why I love it:
- Great use of space: where there were no cabinets at all, we added a wall of them for food storage, but also for a dedicated prayer space, as requested by the clients.
- The backsplash is gorgeous— a colorful mixture of glass, metal and stone, in reds and coppers. It really adds a bold and fun touch in this room.
- I love the two-tone cabinetry— if you can’t decide whether to use painted or stained cabinets, this solution allows you to have both!
Why I love it:
- I absolutely love the horizontal grain of the light wood cabinets— so modern and sleek!
- I love that we used the stunning quartz countertop on the backsplash also— that steak of color is even prettier in person.
- I love the dark walnut island— it provides a beautiful contrast to all the lighter tones in the kitchen.
Master Bath “Wet Room”
Why I love it:
- I love the challenge of taking a client’s wish list and making it all fit into a new space. In place of the too-large, dangerous step down tub, we created an enclosed wet room with a separate tub and luxurious shower. Great use of space!
- I love the color scheme and the mix of tiles— it’s very restful and elegant.
- Lighting on dimmers allows for every scenario.
“Vintage” Master Bath
Why I love it:
- I just love the overall look of this bath— the client desired a traditional, feminine, look, and she certainly got it!
- I love the crystal chandelier above the vanity— so sparkly and pretty.
- I love the huge shower with the shiny chrome fixtures. It’s functional as well as beautiful. Even the grab bar is pretty!
Space refers to the physical boundaries of a room. The designer must be very aware of the space available, both the two-dimensional floor space, but also the three-dimensional volume in the room. The designer must find a way to use existing space to his or her advantage. In a long, rectangular room, for example, the best use of space might be to divide it into two distinct living areas: one for TV watching and another for working from home. A area containing furniture and décor items is a “positive space,” while an empty spot is referred to as a “negative space.” The negative space can often be as important as the positive space, as it gives the eye a place to rest, and brings other elements into focus.
Lines are generally categorized into three types – horizontal, vertical and dynamic. Think table tops, shelves for horizontal lines; windows, doorways and tall fireplace chimneys for vertical lines. Dynamic lines might be an angled ceiling, a curved wall, or an arched doorway. Interior designers know to use a combination of lines is when selecting the selecting the items, or “forms” that will adorn the space.
The term “form” is used interchangeably with “shape” (and is also closely related to line). A form can have straight, angular lines, or be more “organic” or curvy. Forms can also be categorized as open (think of a birdcage light fixture that you can see through) or closed (for example, a solid ceramic table lamp base). Designers combine forms and lines to maximum effect in a space. For example, a long table in a rectangular dining room fits well. A similarly rectangular light fixture can provide nice repetition of lines, but a trio of round pendant fixtures above the table instead will provide an interesting contrast and sense of balance. Either would be an appropriate choice; the key is to combine and balance the elements.
Light is absolutely key in interior design. Generally speaking, a room needs three types of lighting: Ambient, task, and accent. Ambient lighting illuminates the entire space (think recessed can lighting); task lighting could be a bedside or desk lamp; and accent lighting is the “dazzle” in the room that provides the beauty and character. Examples: a crystal chandelier, or pendant lights above your kitchen island.
Color has the power to create many desired effects in a space. It can make a small room look larger and a large room look more cozy. It can create a sense of calm, or inject some drama into the space. Colors have values and intensities, and color schemes can be monochromatic, harmonious, or complementary. Designers combine colors to achieve their desired goals.
Texture describes how typical surface looks and feels. Think of polished granite versus concrete; velvet versus silk. Texture adds depth and dimension into a space, and a variety of textures makes a room more interesting. A sleek glass-topped table, atop a shaggy area rug, combined with a velvet chair will look more interesting than a room where everything is the same.
A room always needs a bit of pattern to add interest. Pattern can be linear/geometric (think about a subway tile backsplash, or a striped wallpaper) or curvy/organic (think paisley or florals, or even animal print). Patterns can be subtle or dramatic, and often a little goes a long way. A mixture of geometric and organic patterns is best for creating a cohesive interior design.
Consider these suggestions when planning your own interior design projects:
- For cabinetry, keep perimeter cabinets clean-lined and modern— perhaps Shaker style, or slab-front doors and drawers— but give your island some character by making out of knotty alder, or distressed oak.
2. If your house has exposed beams, consider wrapping them in reclaimed wood planks. Keep the walls smooth and simple, but repeat the distressed look with wood floors.
3. Mix textures by topping a rustic bath vanity or kitchen island with polished, refined quartz or granite countertop. Use shiny chrome fixtures. Or, try the reverse— rustic bronze fixtures on a crisp white countertop and modern cabinetry.
4. Use a farmhouse sink in an otherwise contemporary kitchen.
5. Select unique and interesting light fixtures. There are so many to choose from nowadays; In a dining room, install a very modern fixture above a farmhouse trestle table. Or how about wall-mounted lantern lights in a contemporary living room? Note the pendant lights and barstools in the kitchen photo; the bronze iron trim and old-looking Edison light bulb, along with the reclaimed wood on the stools, provide rustic elements to an otherwise contemporary kitchen.
6. Use wood planks, or even bricks or stone, on a wall to create an amazing focal point in a room. How about installing wood plank porcelain tiles in a shower?
This bath project was a pleasure to design— it’s a spectacular blend of form and function, delivered with a punch of vibrant color, and an interesting mix of textures. I work with and appreciate all design styles, but my favorite style is modern. I love the clean lines and simple, minimalistic aesthetic. Modern design allows the freedom to combine colors and materials like these— hand-maid glossy ceramic tiles in vibrant teal, wood-look porcelain in warm brown, and stark white quartz.
Before the remodel, this master bath was very tiny, as so many baths in Fremont seem to be! We borrowed a couple of feet from the master bedroom and expanded into the hallway linen closet to create this new larger space. Besides its new size, here’s a list of what really makes this bath unique and special:
The wall-to-wall vanity provides ample storage for both spouses— each has his and her own set of wide drawers, with a common space in the center below the sink. This couple decided on a large trough sink instead of two individual sinks; this gave them more counter space. The wall-mounted faucet keeps the countertop clear. We installed lighting below the floating vanity, used for accent, but also as a night light. The custom-made cabinet is made of cherry wood, with the grain running horizontally. To break up all the angles, I purposely chose a large round mirror.
The client chose the gorgeous hand-made ceramic tile from Heath Ceramics. I opted to run the subway tile vertically rather than horizontally to break up all the horizontal lines, and also to draw the eye up to the skylight in the ceiling. The entire bathroom floor and shower wall are tiled in wood-look porcelain, giving the illusion of more space. The brown of the wood plank tile also balances the brown color on the other side of the bathroom.
I really love the high contrast of the teal with the brown.
The large ceiling-mounted rain shower head, along with the hand-held shower head are pure luxury. And please note that we intentionally placed the valve on the right side wall, which is the entry point of the shower— that way, the clients only need to reach in to turn on the water instead of walk all the way into the shower. The two recessed niches provide storage, but also looks like modern art to me, with the juxtaposition of opposing colors, lines and shapes. The clear glass shower walls allow all the colors to be viewed with no obstructions.
The color scheme
Three colors— warm brown, vibrant teal, and crisp white are combined throughout. I was aiming for planes of color, again with a nod to modern art. I selected a matching teal paint color to use on the wall behind the toilet to continue the color from the tile, but all the other walls and ceiling are bright white like the countertop.
The result is a roomy, colorful, modern, stunning bath for two. I only wish it was my own bathroom!
Is your fireplace tired and dated? If so, then a fireplace makeover may be in your future. Sometimes the fix is very simple— several coats of white paint on old bricks or a worn oak mantel is often enough to give the fireplace a fresh new look. But sometimes a more dramatic change is desired. If that’s the case for you, your only limitations are your imagination, and of course, your budget, as there are myriad choices of materials available, from traditional to modern.
Your first decision is whether to keep your wood-burning fireplace or have a gas insert installed. To keep our air clean, California has instituted many restrictions on the use of wood-burning fireplaces, so converting to gas may be the right decision for you. Depending on their size, gas inserts can provide heat for 1000-3000 square feet, while also emitting very little pollution and smoke into the air. They are also very convenient to use. Just flip a switch, or press a button on the remote control and you’ll have a lovely fire in seconds.
If you have not been shopping for tile or stone recently, you’ll be amazed at how many choices you have for your fireplace. If you prefer natural materials, among your many choices are marble, granite, slate, limestone, and stacked stone, all of which are available in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. There is also a large selection of unique materials available: metal tiles in stainless steel and copper, glass tiles, and porcelain and ceramic tiles in every color, style and shape imaginable.
For contemporary styling, consider large porcelain tiles with some wavy textures, or narrow stacked stone. With this style, less is definitely more, so forgo the heavy wood mantel and keep your lines very clean and simple.
For traditional styling, look at natural stone such as marble, which is a very classic and timeless material, and add a beautiful, ornate wood surround in white painted, or dark stained wood. Curved lines and carved details are common features in traditional decor.
Most of us prefer “transitional” styling, which is a blend of both traditional and contemporary. Clean lines, combined with traditional colors and materials allow for a look that pleases just about everyone. “Floating” mantel ledges are a great choice for transitional rooms the lean toward contemporary, while full wood surrounds with simple lines works best in transitional rooms that lean toward traditional.
The possibilities are endless, so consider your overall decorating style, look at lots of photos for inspiration, and treat your fireplace to a whole new look.
Every year, there are countless articles about what’s in and what’s out in interior design. Professional forecasters and trend-spotters steer us into selecting things that they deem are “on trend” for any number of reasons. Please don’t get me wrong— there is such a thing as outdated decor (I’m thinking back to my own first condo in the late 1980s with the blue geese artwork!) But, while I read all of those articles in order to stay current within my industry, I very much take my cues from my clients, not the forecasters, when it comes to designing their interiors.
Most clients don’t care if rose gold is in or out this year; they only know whether or not they like it. If they don’t like the color blue, then it doesn’t matter that all shades of blue are extremely popular right now. If they don’t like it, then I don’t use it for their design. My point is this: Don’t overthink things and don’t drive yourself crazy. Please design your interiors to fit your own personal taste and lifestyle.
In 2018, in the world of kitchen design, for example, we are now being told that stainless steel appliances are “out” and black stainless is “in.” Does that mean you should not get stainless appliances for your kitchen? Not necessarily! Will stainless appliances ever really be “out?” In my opinion, no they won’t. I pick the finish based on all the other colors and finishes in the room. Sometimes it’s best to use black, sometimes white, sometimes paneled, sometimes stainless.
And in bath design, we are told that free-standing tubs are all the rage. Should you get one? Maybe, but maybe not! Do you love them? Do you have space for one? Are you a bath person? If not, then forgo the tub and stick with a wonderful walk-in shower instead.
Is there such a thing as “timeless” design? I’m sorry to say that honestly don’t think so. Everything goes in and out of fashion, but not all of it, and not all at the same time, fortunately. But here are some examples of trends that I think (and hope) will stand the test of time:
- Mixing materials and finishes: I love this trend and I truly hope it is here to stay. Not all wood has to match, and not all finishes have to be the same. For example, even if all of your door hardware is brushed nickel, it’s fine to throw in a little gold somewhere— perhaps a gold light fixture, or a gold and glass table. Take liberties by mixing rustic and modern, matte and polished, angular and curved.
- Unique and artistic light fixtures: Use light fixtures as if they were pieces of jewelry. Look for unique shapes, colors and materials and choose one or two special places in your house to showcase them. Over your dining room table, for example, or even in a powder room for a special touch.
- Global influence: In the world of food, I love “fusion” cuisine, where flavors from different cultures come together to create unique and delicious dishes. I also love this idea for interior design. Blending colors, fabrics and styles from different cultures leads to rich, welcoming and interesting rooms.
It’s hard to believe we have said goodbye to 2017 already! Why does it seem like it went by in the blink of an eye? With this first column of the new year, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorite design projects from 2017, and what I like most about them. They all came out beautifully, capturing the needs and wants of the clients, and each space has its own unique personality. Perhaps they will inspire you for your own projects in 2018.
Brown and White Kitchen
Why I love it:
- The color scheme is neutral, yet has a lot of punch because go the high-contrast chocolate and white color scheme.
- The countertops have some sparkle in them, which is set off beautifully under the LED lights.
- The cabinet hardware is very cool, with a great mix of stainless steel and oil rubbed bronze. Perfect for this kitchen.
Blue and White Kitchen
This kitchen was a big challenge, with the different ceiling heights and step-down family room.
Why I love it:
- Great use of space: we created a large pantry at the awkward, narrow area up the steps, and also expanded into the family room, creating extra storage and serving space for entertaining.
- I’m definitely a “blue person” so I love the color scheme. The cabinets look so crisp and clean against the soft blue walls.
- The backsplash is gorgeous— a mixture of blue and white marble tile, in a herringbone pattern. Kudos to the really talented tile installer we used on this project!
Open Concept Kitchen and Living Room
Why I love it:
- Opening up the wall separating the two rooms made all the difference in the world. The original kitchen was cut off entirely from the living space— now it’s a great space for the whole family to hang out together.
- I love the touches of yellow to brighten up the gray and white color scheme.
- I love the backsplash tile— it’s a really interesting combination of stones, colors, and textures.
Elegant Powder Room
Why I love it:
- I love the custom bow-front cabinet— it was designed especially for that tiny space, adding some much-needed storage, with lovely curves and elegant lines.
- I love the touches of “bling”— note the crystal light fixture, cut glass cabinet knobs, and the slight shimmer present in the wallpaper.
Compact, Contemporary Bathroom
This bath was part of a larger remodel project, where I was tasked with reconfiguring an existing laundry room and powder room to include a full bath and expanded laundry/mudroom.
Why I love it:
- Lots of functionality in a small space, including a walk-in shower.
- Despite its size, the monochromatic color scheme, frameless glass enclosure, and plenty of new lighting makes this bath feels light and airy, and larger than it is.
- The accent tile in the shower is a really striking mixture of glass and marble tiles.