Design flaws…avoid them by hiring a designer

June 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Once seated....the design flaw becomes evident

The economy has not been a picnic on my industry – that is for sure.  Many have taken other jobs, re-invented themselves and creating work in what ever fashion they are able to.  The problem is, Interior Designers are seen as the “fluff”  the extra that only the wealthy enjoy.

The new show on Bravo TV “Millionare Designer” is very entertaining – but does not help our career predicament.  It only makes it frightening for the average person to even consider hiring a designer…..what with $ 15000.00 mirrors and $20,000.00 rugs…who can afford that??

Clearly, only the rich.  But step back for a minute and consider the source.  That is a TV show and it is fun to watch and yes, they have to make it enticing to gain a viewership.  Many of us dont belong to that world of wealth so it’s no wonder that getting a sort of “voyeuristic” look at it IS fun to watch.

In my career, I have been fortunate to design for wealthy clients as well as prudent, informed clients.  What they have in common is that they realize hiring a professional is money far better spent than an expensive, stressful mistake or two.    They hire me because they are about to embark on a costly project, and require that their home or business present not only functionally but visually as well.  So many people start remodels and finish them and THEN realize the design flaws and errors they have made….they then have to tear it out and re-do it or live with the mistake. Getting some help at the start of the project – even a consult from a professional – can save them $$$.

Businesses spend big dollars on design because they realize the value in creating an environment conducive to work as well as representation of their company.  Private clients vary in what they are willing to spend and the best place to start is with a budget.

A budget provides the parameters of the project.  It reflects the level of work required from my practice and what the client is willing to spend.  I can then decipher the BEST way I can provide them with an excellent result.

Dont make a costly mistake.  Hire a designer.  They know the in’s and out’s of the business and probably will save you money in the long run.  Avoid ridiculous design flaws that make you regret the choice to DIY.

Shed some light on it…

March 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Adding light to a space has been valued since man first had shelter.  Styles and tastes have changed a bit since then., and our ability to create spaces with light has grown with technology.

There are historic architectural buildings with  arcades and office spaces that offered a skylight in the center of the building to provide additional light.  Many realized the value it brought to the space and followed suit.  With the increased use of electricity, spaces could be created without natural light. Styling became popular to create darker spaces that could be illuminated.  It also made it easier to use more space because not every room can have a window. However, people prefer windows or natural light.  Tests have shown the psychological importance light has for us.

Sunlight adds warmth to a room and many options have been created to add light yet shield the rays from overheating the space.


Skylights heighten the appeal of any space whether it is in a commercial building or in a residential setting.

Not only does it increase the aesthetic appeal, create a more positive environment but it also is environmentally friendly because less electricity is use.  THAT IS of course if factors have been considered.




A large sky light, in a 9 foot ceiling will act as a magnifying glass and heat the space in the warmer months.  Then, air conditioning is used to cool the space and it no longer becomes a green choice.

Some skylights have built in shades or can be opened to vent out heat.    But there is another issue that skylights tend to create…….

Leaks.   A new skylight in a new roof is the best option.  But with the house settling, eventually  many years down the road it could have a leak.

If a client has pointed out to me how they are unhappy with the lack of light in a certain area and we are not building a custom home or office, then I sometimes recommend an affordable less leak probability option.

A product known as SolaTube….

It adds tremendous light to dark areas, it takes very little ceiling and roof space, has a flexible tube that extends to the roof and and greatly lessens (if any) the compromise of existing roofing material.








For already existing properties with older roofing material and space limitations,  this product is an excellent solution.  Design – well we all would love a beautiful sky light but when is the last time you notice a simple skylight design in a residential space?  Not often.  Also, most people notice the brightness of the room and do not connect that it is the skylight that is providing it.  I would never recommend this product for a vaulted or decorative ceiling.  You would need to add skylights.

I have specified this option on my projects and even used it in my own home.  A remodel left my laundry room without a window and it was very dark.  The  Solatube was installed in just a few hours  and I had a brilliantly lit laundry room.  The cost difference between a skylight and a Solatube?  Incredible.

Check it out and make your own opinion.  But it is always good to know your options.

Designing with Men in Mind

March 2, 2011 § Leave a comment

Many of my projects are residential.  When I do a commercial project it is all very business like. There is a process called the intake where I find out the needs of the space, those using it and the function.  I then add the overall desired look of style the clients want and it goes from there.  But when I am designing a home, it is far more personal and I have to look at the way people  who will be living it use their home.

Most of the time, it is the woman of the home that has hired me and the man doesn’t have many opinions one way or the other.  However, I know how important it is to make an ally of the husband right away.  Often, he immediately assumes that my job is to make everything very uncomfortable, fussy and impractical.  They get worried about certain things that I will “take away’ and overall are suspicious of what I might be up to.

No worries.  I find out right away what they require and what details they don’t like in their present home.  Usually, I am dead on when getting these few things correct – and then they appreciate that they have been included in the decision making – which makes for a happier experience all around.

Here are a few things I have done to accommodate the male input on  a remodel or a build project:

1) Very comfortable seating.  Most men prefer a deeper sofa for the den area, a place to put their feet up and not too many fussy pillows.  While I have had challenges talking them out of a chenille overstuffed recliner sofa, I have found some excellent compromises that have a hidden reclining option or excellent deep sofa sectionals with an ottoman that also can double as a table.  Easy access to lighting, a place to set their coffee cup and maybe a place to keep a laptop.  These details have been winners with my clients.

Avoid overstuffed sofa loungers


2) Sound system, television placed for optimal viewing. Most contractors work with the man of the house to accommodate their AV requirements.  My job is to keep it looking aesthetically pleasing.  I never design a room around a tv unless it is a media viewing room.  In those cases, I have still been able to create a gorgeous lounging area, hidden speakers (inside upholstered walls) snack area, etc.  Televisions are getting more attractive each year, and placing them on a wall is not a terrible thing.  As long as all the equipment is hidden.  You can also find frames and even two way mirrors to cover the television if you chose to.

3)  “I like carpeting in the master bedroom” I cant count the amount of times I have heard that….and the wife is wanting a hardwood floor.  Area rugs under the bed and in the hall leading to the master bath are a good solution.  Men  don’t like a cold floor when they step out of bed – no matter how great the new floor looks. Usually, I have also included a nice sitting area or sofa in the bedroom to read or watch tv.  The women always tell me the men use it often to get away and relax.  It can also stave off the comments about the decorative pillows on the bed when it is easy to just throw them on the seating.

A small sofa or a sitting area will get used

4) “I need more counter space in the bathroom” If there is enough room – create his private vanity space.  If it is a shared space add “towers” with cabinets and storage  flanking the sinks.  I usually add hidden electrical inside so they can charge their shaver, etc.  Everything is right at their finger tips.  Hooks for robe and towels near the shower, a private water closet, his own clothing closet with built-ins if space allows.

Double sink vanities provide little to no space


Add towers on top of the counter to increase space


5)”No drapes – it will block the view.” Windows must be dressed and there are ways to get around adding too much and taking away from the view.  I have worked around this since the first job I took.  This simply takes creative thinking and being flexible on the end result.

Lastly,I make sure I know what he collects, enjoys and how he spends his time in his home……because frankly it is his home too.  Making it functional while creating a beautiful space is the key to making  a house a home.

Take a look at some of the “before’s and afters’ on my site to see how I met the “Designing with Men in Mind_ challenge”

Designer dorm room on a budget….

December 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

A designer dorm room on a budget


My daughter had finally realized her goals.  She graduated high school and was going off to college in the North East to study and experience life on her own.   Living in an on campus dorm is required for the first year in the college she is enrolled at and that was fine.  She wasn’t quite ready for an apartment all her own on the East coast….(or maybe I wasn’t ready for that!) So we began to prepare for her departure from home and begin a new life 3000 miles away.

I have always collaborated with my daughter to create her living space in a way that reflects who she is and feels comfortable in.  We hadn’t seen the dorm space at all but knew she needed the basics.  We shopped the necessities in advance at Bed Bath and Beyond.  They have a great program there where you shop the items you need in advance at a BBB location near you.  They create a list  from your shopping visit for you to review. Once you have approved the list, they locate a BBB store close to your destination.  That store will then pull all of the items together and have it ready for you to pick up. That saves on having to pack it all up and ship it.

Going away to college

Headed for college - I look surprisingly happy!

We shopped a few items online.  She wanted beautiful, expensive bedding and I declined to purchase anything that couldn’t hold up to washing and abuse.  We both agreed on a bedding combination from Macy’s and it was under 100.00 for comforter, throw pillows, shams and bedskirt.  It was dark – to hide dirt, and washable – which was very important.  It wasn’t either of our favorites but we settled on what made sense.  We purchased only the bedding and a few personal items online.  Outside of that we were totally in the dark as to how we were going to pull this off.

We arrived very late in the night on Wednesday, picked up our hybrid rental car and headed for our hotel.  The next morning we found a Starbuck’s and got to work.  First, I had to get an idea of where I was in comparison to the college and make a list of what we needed to do.

Next morning at Starbucks - laptop, map and getting a plan together.

College towns are excellent for cool and funky shops.  Often you can find the  the staple stores like Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Home Goods and Home Depot not far away as well.

I was able to contact someone at the school.  They agreed to give us access to the dorm room a day in advance of “new student arrival day” and I was relieved.  The arrival day is full of tasks and meetings and there would be no way we could accomplish what we did during that one day of setting up her room.

With the room logistics worked out, we realized we had less than two days to completely move my daughter into her room with all that she needed (and some design touches too).

To save on time and fuel, we grouped the tasks with the areas for shopping and dug in.

My daughter likes cozy, classy vintage surroundings…..  I found a few great shops and the best was a vintage shop that had a supply of old fabrics, frames, and wallpaper.  I purchased wallpaper and picture frames for 40.oo total.

Next, we found a Home Goods and were able to round out the “necessities” there.   Bed Bath and Beyond had everything waiting for us and our little hybrid (which had a a lot of storage space) was packed to the hilt.

We made a brief  Home Depot stop for tools and various items.  Target carries shoe shelves(unassembled) that can stand on the floor of a closet and double floor space.  I wanted to create a “hutch” for my daughter’s desk so she would have more space to work and the shoe shelf worked out perfectly.

A canvas to paint on...


Friday morning – the car is bulging with all of her things and we head out to the college after coffee and a small bite to eat.  Once we arrived at the college and tracked down the dorm key, they gave us a rolling bin to put everything in and we worked like ants back and forth hauling it all upstairs to the dorm.

The room looked very “institutional” when we arrived. The walls were cinder block painted white and the floors were a well worn white linoleum.  The limitations were that you could not put holes in the wall or paint the walls. At the end of the school year, everything has to be left as you find it.

We worked through out the day to organize her space.  The mail room had her packages of clothing she had packed and sent in advance and the bedding from Macy’s had arrived.  The “slab” that is supposed to be a mattress was improved by adding foam padding and a mattress pad on top.  My daughter likes to sit in her bed when she reads and uses her laptop.  Her bed is a sofa, a chaise lounge and a bed all in one.  So making it comfortable is key.

Lavendar ultrasuede pillows and this fun green pillow added cozy texture and balanced the sheen of the bedding.

The space under the bed was high enough to house storage bins – for cold weather items and things she doesnt need all of the time.  The closets were small but we were able to make use of removable hooks and shelving to organize her belongings.  The shelf under the window would become her mini kitchen, hardware storage, water storage and library.

I tore and crumpled strips of vintage paper and adhered them to the wall with a removable adhesive.  There was a wooden trim piece at the top of the wall with small nails in it.  From there I was able to hang her framed tack board (very important element in her living space) and the vintage frames.  I used silk ribbon to attach it to the trim.  The bed came together with a few added accessories and I grabbed the bright green rugs (very well priced) because  I know how nice it will be to see that bright color in the dead of winter.

Items that are decorative and functional - make sense in small places.

Adding a "hutch" created more space for her printer and supplies. A tack board and calender was add to the adjoining wall.

We had completely decorated, organized and moved her in in one day.  It came together without our knowing how it was all going to look until we had arrived the day before.  She was thrilled with the results.

Tired but happy

We went out to Thai food in town(one of our fav things to do) to celebrate and were exhausted. The next day I had to say goodbye and I felt completely confident that my girl was ready for this new phase of her life.  I am so glad she wanted me to be a part of the process of settling in.

Can’t afford to decorate? Think again.

November 24, 2010 § Leave a comment

Many of us have cut our budgets and are spending less in several ways.  Often, people say that decorating is a luxury that they will”get to” when they have a little extra cash saved up.  This should not be the case at all.  Since we are spending more time at home, it makes sense now more than ever to create the environment you have always wanted.  We need a place of refuge – to call home.  That doesn’t have to cost as much as you think.

First of all, painting is the quickest most inexpensive way to decorate.  White walls mean “transition” and if that is where you are at – then that is fine.  But if you can paint, pull together a palette that you LOVE.  Look at design and home magazines.


Pull out the pages that make you say – that is home to me.  Then define the elements.  The first will be the overall color story.  Start pulling color chips and groupings. There is a lot of power in color as we all know and can say so much when you enter a room that has been painted or color has been used in some way. Color forecasts are showing a lot of the “washed out” colors.  Think of drift wood, sun bleached colors, grays and a touch of charcoal here and there.


Blues and shades of blue are excellent.  Browns and nuetrals are still around but are showing a touch more grey.  Spices like orange, red and green are still popular but with a twist on the cooler shades to accent the warmth.If you are renting and cannot paint, then use the white as a canvas background for your own personal style.  I have enjoyed using neutrals with splashes of color or pattern in a pillow or rug to create interest.  White can feel very chic when used to showcase an antique chair next to a modern mirror….elevating the antique to art status.

Now with so many people downsizing their living space and donating their unwanted items to charity;the thrift shops are a treasure trove of interesting things that can be re-used, repurposed or become something altogether different.  I have a friend who needed to rent a home.  She purchased a few pieces of furniture to round out the spaces she needed to but she also found some great accent pieces in vintage and thrift shops.  Home Goods, Cost Plus Imports, West Elm, CB2  Urban Home  are just a few places to find a those extra pieces at unbelievably affordable prices.


Oversized, overscaled  or unexpected items from a flea market can also become an art piece that you can take with you when you move.  The options are endless but do start with a color story or theme that you truly want for your living space and have fun with it.

Doing what I do best….on a budget.

November 2, 2010 § Leave a comment


Mid century classic - one wall defines space- a rug does the same but wouldn't work here. The light fixture was moved from a previous property and was wired to accommodate a lower ceiling - hence the height.

A work in progress

Knoll Platner table - modern yet always a classic

I have just returned from a design project in Chicago.  It was whirlwind and exhausting but the project turned out incredibly well.  My clients are LA based but have a second home in a high rise in Chicago.  They love letting me to do what I do best and have two other

properties that I have created for them.  The relationship with clients is easy – I usually know right away what their style is – and they know my work.  I never give them a force fed design that I would want to live in but instead connect with what they love and apply my taste to how it is implemented.

This particular property had incredible city views and views of the lake.  They loved modern  and mid-century modern and wanted to create an urban feel.  I was able to create most of the space in my LA office before I flew out to the property.  It helped to have photos and floor plans so that I could see the area, light, views, and plan furniture and finish.

What I do best is I key into what their style is, find the unexpected and present them with options.  I splurge in some areas and save money in others.  No matter how wealthy or successful a client is, they appreciate that the end result is the look not an overwhelming cost.  They also appreciate that I throw in the unexpected and not let everything get “homogenous” or “matchy”.  Those extra details and appointments provide that higher

Living Room
Jonathan Adler chair added the right pop of color, West Elm sofa.

level of style that people know they like but aren’t sure how to achieve it.Money  saved can then be spent on a fabulous chair, artwork, light fixture, custom tile or rug.  The internet is such an incredible resource for shopping out exactly what you want and sending it out to the project site.  It also helps to know the industry products that are offered and give clients something they haven’t yet seen.  For instance, Maya Romanoff custom glass bauble bead tiles (18×18) will go on the vanity wall of the powder room – to add some luxe.  They are pricey but we chose this instead of changing out fixtures (which were fine) and adding wallpaper.

Then, I made a rug out of FLOR rug tiles in a dramatic graphic pattern a that brings your eye down the hallway and to vintage posters and art.  The console in the foyer is West Elm (very well priced) but the mirror is completely unusual – clean lines with a cut out in the center with a mirror ledge – and cost considerably more.  I also found a few terrific resources in Chicago (Chicago is fabulous for design and the design center is a testimony to it) before I landed in the city.  One of them was Urban Source.  They had incredibly tasteful and unexpected window treatments, fabrics and wall papers.  We placed orders for wallpapers and window treatments.  We also scoured the galleries for local artist’s work and found items that were perfect for the clients taste.  There are higher end galleries, medium priced and conservatively priced art galleries throughout the city that have a tremendous variety of art to chose from.

Design is about balance.  Balancing the space, textures, surfaces and treatments.  It also is about balancing a budget and not spending for the sake of spending.

I was there a total of five days and pretty much got the major things in place.Items (window treatments and some other pieces) are on order and will be arriving soon but here are a few picks that show the project.

Chicago Skyline

The economy had made this a requirement but I have always designed this way and my clients have always liked that I refinish and reupholster something off of ebay for a song and then find them a gem they just can’t say no to.

Hello world!

September 11, 2010 § 1 Comment

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