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.

luxurious dining roomA few weeks ago, I answered questions about paint colors. For this article, let’s talk about lighting. These are some questions I get asked all the time.

How high should I hang my chandelier above the dining table?

In general, the bottom of the chandelier should be 30-36” above the dining table. This allows for great illumination of the space, without the chandelier being too low or too high.

What size should my chandelier be?

To size a chandelier for your dining room, measure the length and width of the room and add those figures together. The sum, converted to inches, will give you the diameter of an appropriately sized chandelier. For example—if your dining room is twelve feet wide by sixteen feet long, add 12+16, to get the sum of 28. Convert 28 to inches. So twenty-eight inches would be an appropriate diameter for your chandelier. That said, you can make a really interesting design statement by selecting an oversized chandelier, or by hanging several tiny pendants in a cluster or in a straight line above a dining table. Use this measurement as a guideline, and then feel free to deviate from it, as you feel comfortable.

And speaking of chandeliers, they are not just for dining rooms anymore! You’ll see them in living rooms, bedrooms, over kitchen islands, and even bathrooms. Why not replace the ordinary ceiling light in your bedroom with a beautiful chandelier?

What are some other ideas for bedside lighting?

I love hanging wall sconces above each nightstand, or swing-arm wall lamps. Or why not hang pendant lights? These can provide great lighting, and also look very attractive.

I want to hang wall lights in my bathroom—how high should they hang?

Wall sconces hanging on either side of the vanity mirror cast the best quality of light in a bathroom. Usually, they are hung so the junction box is 60-66” off the floor. This is a general rule of thumb—you can adjust a few inches up or down depending on the height and style of the fixture, and also the height of the people using the bathroom. If one partner is tall, and the other is short, aim for a spot in the middle of both heights. The important thing is to have the lighting be at face height. Choosing narrower and taller fixtures is a good idea if the people using the bathroom are different heights. Make sure to hold up the actual light fixtures and see what looks and functions the best before having your contractor cut holes for the junction boxes.

Where should I place recessed can lighting?

In a kitchen, place them strategically where you need light the most. Generally speaking, place them 12-18” in front of the refrigerator and pantry and in front of upper cabinets. You will also probably want one centered above the kitchen sink, and definitely inside a walk-in pantry. You’ll also want to illuminate walkways through the kitchen.

In a living room, try to avoid placing recessed cans directly above people’s heads as they sit on the sofa—this casts very unflattering shadows on your guests!  Place lights on each side of the sofa instead of right above the sofa. And use 18”-24” from the wall as a guideline for placement. You can adjust this number as needed for function and aesthetics.

If you have beautiful drapes, wallpaper or artwork you’d like to highlight, install directional recessed cans closer to the wall. Usually 12” is a good number to use.

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.