…he’ll always have the toilets

I  just reread the last post here from March that was from a gal who said her husband had terrible style and taste in furniture. It still got a chuckle out of it…  But this time it’s for a different reason. 

As with most women, I like to think I have excellent taste in all things interior design as compared to my spouse. Actually, I do. It’s a fact. However, recently I stopped calling the shots. Why you ask? It’s not because I don’t care – believe me, I care. I think it has to do with being pregnant, interestingly enough. I’m more even keel in the need-to-do-everything department these months and it has worked out to my advantage. Well, not entirely. Back in May, my husband told me that during his vacation from work, he was going to re-do the downstairs powder room and laundry area which had been in a state of… half ass since 2006. I asked him how long I would be without a washer and dryer and I was told about two weeks. Fine by me. The next day the rooms were empty and gutted to the studs. ???!!??  Five weeks later (or was it six?…) we had the washer and dryer back in place, both rooms painted and fully functional. Did I complain? Yeah, a little. Did my husband do a good job? Actually, he did a great job – even chosing the paint colors – two colors that I would never in a million years consider.  Was I okay with it because it was just the downstairs powder room and laundry area? Yes. Yes I was. 

At the end of August, I was informed that he would be renovating our upstairs bathroom starting in two days.  Not because he was feeling confident or adventurous but because water was going behind the walls in the tub/ shower and because we’ve had a garbage bag over the shower window since he installed new ones… 5 years ago. I’m not kidding.  When I asked how long it would take, I was assured two weeks. MAX. Hmmmm, I had heard that before. 

powder room

  As I sit here a month (29 days to be exact) into this project that’s still is not done – and I’m living without a shower or tub or even an upstairs toilet for this pregnant woman – I’m very much okay with letting my husband call the shots in this renovation.  Actually, the only thing I told him I must have was the white subway tile.  He chose/ designed everything else and even though I don’t love love it all, I’m glad I let go and let him take complete control- he’s doing a great job, learning how to tile, installing plumbing and electric. Also, I’ve come to find that guys like doing home things that have a start and a finish.  And anything that includes using tools. And the possibility of buying new tools.  Choosing furniture… even going back to fix things like a rogue outlet from an old AC unit, is a never ending concept to them. They like to be done and move on.  And although this project feels like there’ll never be an end for me, his end will be when he flushes the toilet and the water goes down.   

Plus, when it’s time to do the kitchen renovation and it’s got to be done my way, he really can’t be all that pissed.  He’ll always have the toilets…

bathroom - in progress


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tactful vs. tasteful

Q:  My husband has really bad taste and we are at odds about what family room furniture to get. What can I do to get him to like what I like? I’m at the point where I’m about to go and order the things I want without him so the room gets done and looks tasteful.   

A:  Ouch. Choosing furniture is turning you into one crazy bitch!  Take a deep breath.   

I will say that I have a bit less trouble in this departement because as the designer, I’m the neutral party who listens to the client’s wants, needs, likes and dislikes to establish the total vision of the room. Since there is no middle person here to diffuse emotions and because everyone is entitled to have their own style and taste represented in their home – you are going to have to find a middle ground all on your own.  Coming out and telling your spouse that they have questionable taste or that their ideas are terrible, will most likely make them push harder for what they want and things will get nasty. Why? Because you are being a bully.       

I have a husband, I know what it’s like. In fact, I bet my husband and your husband like the same style: The I Don’t Care How Ugly It Is I Just Want It To Recline Style.  If that’s the case you’re in for an uphill battle, my dear: we still have two plastic outdoor chairs in our family room instead of the sofa we can’t decide on…   

Anyway, think about the features you like about the sofas you tend towards and make a list. Have your spouse do the same. I’m pretty sure if you itemize the features that make up the style you like, you can put yours and his together and find a compromise.   




Compromise - Transitional Style

Another idea: traditonal furniture with modern twist… although this one is a bit crazy.    

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heaven’s above

Q:  I have a very voluminous dining room with a super tall wall of 13′-0″h.  The ceiling angles down from that height across to the opposite wall which is 8′-0″ high.  My problem is that I never noticed how bare and obnoxious that huge wall was until I saw photos from a party we had recently.  Help! I have no idea what do with a 13′ high x 16′ wide  wall.   -N.K.


A:    It’s much easier to put ‘stuff’ up in a room that’s got 8′-0″ or 9′-0″ flat ceilings, but a room with a tall wall and an angled ceiling… this is going to be fun!  I’d think about putting several ‘layers’ of things up on the wall –  items that are higher up than others.  I’d suggest something larger like 24 x 36 or larger in a nice chunky frame.  … but not too high – you don’t want it to feel like the wall is looming over you or have to have your eyes travel up, up, up to see what the frick is up near the ceiling.

What I’ve doodled below are two thoughts.  The first shows two very large squares (which represent art) placed about 36″ above the floor.  This art is about 60″h x 48″w,  and in relation to my boyfriend I’ve drawn in, is placed higher than you’d normally hang art. (My boyfriend is 6′-0″, btw).  This doodle shows a very basic way to fill up the wall. If it works for you – do it, but it’s boring and your friends will talk about how boring you still are behind your back after your next party.

The second doodle is a more interesting display and gives the wall a different feel.  I’ve shown three average sized pieces of art (36″h x 24″w) resting on a long ledge(s) placed again at about 36″ above the floor.  Above that, is a long piece (or several pieces) of art. My six foot tall boyfriend has stepped out of the room so you won’t be distracted by his handsome…ness. Whatever. This example works better to me because the height of the wall is broken up by horizontal lines. (Hmmm, where have I heard that before…)  It doesn’t look like a vast wall with two massive pictures on it.

I’m showing larger, framed pieces and not a lot of little things because that would make the wall look like a busy collection of odds and ends.  You want the space to feel elegant and planned out – not like you threw things up there willy nilly. 

Check out art.com for prints of all kinds and there are several places to check out for picture ledges – Pottery Barn, West Elm  and  Crate and Barrel  to name a few. This isn’t the end all be all, but I hope it gives you a direction to go in.

Any other suggestions – let me know!!

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Movin’ on up!

Q:   We are putting our house kitchen1on the market but before we do, we need to update a few things.  Our biggest problem is the kitchen -currently, it has a bumpy off-white laminate countertop which has seen better days and yellow square backsplash tile… circa 1970.  We’d like to replace both, but we have a lot of countertop (there is other cabinetry and countertops not in the photo!) and two stretches of backsplash.  What should we put in its place that will attract potential buyers but still be affordable?   -J.S.

A:      When you are preparing to sell, most of the major improvements you make to the interior of your house should be made in the kitchen. Buyers generally place the most value on an updated kitchen.  With that said… you’d like to do this affordably?!  Before you start remodeling,  you’ll want to think about the cost versus value because you want it to look the very best for your money and you certainly want to make that money put into your improvements back… and then some. 

 A backsplash improvement for any budget would be to replace the existing tile with white or off-white subway tile.  It’s a classic look and can go with just about any style, which is what buyers like to see.  You can play up the green on the walls with a line of glass mosaics in shades of green… or any color that you have in the kitchen – it creates an accent and looks like it was thought out.  Here are a few examples of the classic look of subway tile backsplash I got off the internet:

subway tile1subwaytile2



   If your current laminate countertops are the pits, anything is better at this point.   There are several different price points to choose from.  Bottomline – go neutral so that buyers don’t see your tastes reflected in the house – they can start to see themselves living there.

**Update: Here are the tiles and solid surface countertop going into this kitchen:



Let’s check out countertop material:

Laminate – about $15-$60/ sqft installed.  Laminate is the ‘low end’ countertop material; made of polymer bonded to substrate – usually plywood or particle board; easy to clean, durable and comes in hundreds of colors or stone look-a-likes.  Not easily repairable if it chips; not heatproof so don’t put a hot pot on it… which in my mind is a ridiculous thing to want to do (see granite).  This would be the choice if your budget is down and dirty.

Tile – $5 -$50/ sqft installed.  Ceramic tile looks a bit more high-end than laminate.  I don’t love the look of ceramic tile counters – usually the grout looks grimy and can be easily scratch and chip.  Also, depending on the tile used the surface may not be entirely level. 

Granite – $50- $100+/ sqft installed (depending on the thickness).  Granite seems to be everyone’s choice in countertop material.  It’s durable, it won’t scratch or stain (if polished) and you can certainly put a hot pot on it. 

**Alright, I have to ask… how many people really put hot pots onto their countertop?! When I was a designer at a high end kitchen showroom, that was the question everyone asked – Oooh, I love limestone, but can I put a hot pot on it?  The butcher block top is divine… but am I able to put a hot pot on it? I’m leaning toward the stainless steel tops, but can I put a hot pot on them? If it was your very first time on this planet cooking …with heat, then yes I’d suggest you get a countertop that you could put a hot pot on, but the rest of us should go with something gorgeous that meets every other normal need for the kitchen.

Whew… with that said… granite is also very easy to clean, comes in a polished or honed finish and a smooth work surface. One of the downsides to granite is that I see the same stone in everyone’s home: the absolute black or the beige with little red specks (the name is different at every stone yard)- there are so many different granites out there with blues and greens in them. If you can find it in yourself – veer toward the unusual – they take granite a step up!  Sorry, I got away with myself there.

Marble – $50- $100+/ sqft installed.  If you are a baker, you will most likely have some marble in your kitchen somewhere.  Marble is great in that it’s easy to clean and heat-proof.  The movement in the stone (veins) create so many different looks.  This is a very classic looking material to use in a kitchen.  The biggest downside that people have with marble is that it stains.  It is a natural material and has pores, so yes that does happen – but there ways of getting them out.  Generally needs to be sealed. 

Soapstone – $70 – $100+/ sqft installed.  Soapstone has a really nice feel to it – silky and smooth.  Like marble it’s easy to clean, but does need to be sealed and can stain.

Solid Surfacing (Corian, etc) – $40 – $100/ sqft installed.  Some people dismiss solid surfacing because of its price and the fact they could put in granite for about the same price.  Unlike granite, you can scorch it with a hot pot and it can get scratched.  Otherwise, if it does chip or get scratched, it can be repaired; comes in many, many, many colors and patterns. 

 With solid surfacing you can have an integrated sink – a sink that is made out of the same material and virtually seamlessly attached so that it looks like one piece of material. Also, you could have grooves cut into the countertop sloping toward the sink, so that you can place your dishrack on it and have the water drain down.  I’ve seen strips of metal stuck in about 1/4″ higher than the surface to create a permanent trivet… so you don’t put a hot pot on it.

Stainless Steel – $65 – $100 (varies really)/ sqft installed.  Stainless steel tops look so cool!  Like some stones, you have to be okay with their look  after a little wear and tear because you will see scratches and fingerprints.  The price generally varies project to project because they are all custom-made to fit each space.

Quartz Surfacing (Silestone) – $75 -$125+/ sqft installed. Looks like stone… but isn’t. It’s made of about 93% quartz and 7% resins and pigments. Easy to clean and scratch resistant.  Installation needs to be precise and therefor installation cost is a bit high.

Wood – $50 – 200/ sqft installed (depending on the thickness). The looks you can create with wood!  Typically, you find small areas of wood countertops in a kitchen where you would chop and prepare, but I’ve seen entire island tops in wood.  Any type of scratch or mark can easily be sanded out.  However, to keep a wood top in great condition, it would need be treated with mineral oil periodically and like a wood cutting board, could swell and crack when exposed to prolonged periods of water. 

Concrete – $70+/ sqft installed.  There are a two main ways to install a concrete countertop – one is to install pre cast slabs and the other is to cast it in place.  If it’s poured in place – it takes a lot of time to install… about 10 days to cure.    Concrete is heat-resistant, but needs to be sealed.  It can come in just about any color and can also be imbedded with things such as stones, glass or fossils.

If you have any other ideas (or if you too wonder why people must put a hot pot on a counter) let me know!!

Please send me a photo of the kitchen after you get to the update… love to see it!

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Up, up and away…

I have a client who’s kitchen needs to be redesigned.  It is a large space with a very nice footprint and 12′ high ceilings to boot.  Presently, it has cherry wood cabinetry – 36″h base and 42″h upper cabinets along one long stretch of wall and a refrigerator and angled penninsula opposite.   Even though it is a good size room the mass of cabinetry makes it feels as though it’s much smaller than it is. 


existing kitchen

Right now in the design stage of the project, our big question is: How do we make this room feel more spacious? Well, for starters by using 42″h or taller upper cabinets.  That’s right. 

And in my opinion, the taller the better. 

 As it turns out, the client wants to relocate the sink (currently at penninsula -you can’t see it in the photo) to the long wall and add a window. Will a window make the room feel more spacious?  The light coming in will help, but it’s not the full solution.  Even if the sink remained in it’s original place and no window was added, something needs to be done to break up the heaviness of upper cabinets.  Let’s think about one upper at a time to figure this out – each of these door panels (average) is about 24″ x 42″ of  uninterrupted wood.  Think about it -that’s 7 square feet of wood. Per door.  So, if we put a new 24″ x 42″ door up it will also be about 7 square feet of wood – so what’s the difference? 

The difference is that it will be interrupted.  Whaaa?

Look at the existing kitchen photo.  The door panels are plain Jane.  It’s boring, there’s nothing to interest your eye.  But, if you were to add something horizontal to the upper cabinets:

kitchen elev1 001

Your eye now has many places to travel: up,  across, down, to the glass in the doors, to the window at the sink, to the crown…  the flat mass of wood is gone and because of the horizontal elements, your eyes keep a movin’.  Would it blow your mind if I told you that the height of these upper cabinets were drawn at 54″h?!   Doesn’t look as massive as the ones in the photo?  Well just to give yourself something to compare it to…


Kraftmaid Cabinetry

This is a very similar solution to the kitchen project I’m working on.  I think  it helps to see it in ‘real life’ rather than in a sketch.  The glass in the top doors are another feature that enhances the openess of the cabinetry and helps make the space feel more airy.  I know, the glass is only a small part, but compare it to the wood at the range hood… it looks to me that the height of the doors (wood cabinet door with glass cabinet door above) is very close in height to the solid wood panel at the hood.  That little bit of glass and the horizontal rails of the two doors make a difference.


Final Kitchen Result:


So if you’re blessed with high ceiling and are thinking about a kitchen remodel – use some of the following as inspiration to help keep the room feeling spacious… and don’t be afriad of going up, up, up with your cabinetry.  Break up the monotony with glass and horizontal elements.


Christopher Peacock Cabinetry

Empire Kitchen & Bath
Rutt Handcrafted Cabinetry

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mirror mirror on the wall

Q:  Just wondering about how big certain things in the bathroom should be.

We are purchasing a 42” wide vanity. But I don’t’ know how big of a mirror should go above it? My options are 30”, 35”, 38”.  What will look good?  Also wondering how wide the lighting fixtures should be above?  If I have a 42” vanity- with a 30” mirror- do I put a 31” light?  My husband doesn’t want side sconces… so I am stuck with light fixure above.  Thanks!!!   -J.K.

A:  Not to worry!   I drew up a quick little study with three 42″ vanities and the three different width mirrors above. (Ignore the dashed boxes for a minute)  vanity 001

 The first mirror is 30″w – you’ll have 6″ difference on either side of the mirror to that of the vanity width. Make sense? With the 35″ w mirror, you’ll have a 3 1/2″ difference and the 38″ w mirror, you’ll have a 2″ difference.  Following?  Good.

Above the mirror outlines are those dashed boxes – each box represents a 31″w x 8″h  light fixture.  So. Just looking at the three… which one looks the most comfortable to you?  Comfortable in the relation of each item to the others: the vanity width to the mirror width to the sconce width…  

My immediate reaction to the first elevation is that the mirror is too narrow for that size vanity. It’s not terrible, but it doesn’t feel good to me.  In the second and third elevations the mirror widths feel much better in regard to the vanity.  It may sound like a whole lotta fluffy talk, but I bet you too, thought the same thing.  

Now, a light fixture. You can see how a 31″w fixture looks above a 35″w and a 38″w mirror – I would think about keeping the light fixture’s width smaller than the mirror as shown.    My point: get the widest light fixture – one with at least three or four arms between 32″w and 36″w depending on the mirror width you chose.



** Something to try if you are stuck – ‘mock up’ an idea with painters tape in your space. For example, you can stick the tape at 42″ away from each other to show the vainty outline as well as the mirror widths… then stand back and take a look. 

Let me know what you choose!!!



* I just received photos of the finished bathroom vanities, medicine cabinets and sconces…

Thanks for the photos – it looks great!

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Spice it up. With a spice rack.

There’s a spot in your kitchen that offers a lot of extra storage and I bet you’re not even using it. It’s the space above your countertop but below the upper cabinets – 1970's spice rackthe backsplash. 

When I was a kid my mom had that typical 1970’s plastic spice rack up on the wall, and if that’s the first image that pops up in your head, you will be happy to know they still make it. However, I’m thinking of backsplash accessories that are cool, sleek and a whole lot better looking.


 At a very resonable price point is the Ikea Grundtal system.   



Most of the kitchen backsplash systems start with a rod that allows many different accessories to be mounted on or hung from them.  As you can see here, Ikea offers a pretty cool metal spice rack… along with a paper towel holder, a dish drainer, hooks to hold just about anything and even a utensil cup – all hang from the mounted bar.    Ikea also has two other series, that don’t seem to offer as much.





PB st stl


Pottery Barn offers stainless steel kitchen accessories that are mounted directly in the wall.  I like them and want them primarily because Pottery Barn has such good photos in their catalogues.




magic loc1


Another place I looked into is the Container Store.  I figured they’d have something cool – this is the store to go to for organization. I am so disappointed.  And not about their usual crazy ass prices, I’m disappointed because their system uses suction cups. The suction cups can hold to a non porous surface (tile, glass, etc) for at least 6 months when ‘properly installed’. I believe the max weight limit is 7 lbs. Lame. I didn’t even feel like checking  the prices after that. 


When you need any kind of architectural hardware, Hafele is the place to go.  That includes anything kitchen.  Along the same lines of the Ikea system, Hafele offers the Linero Backsplash System.  It is definitely more expensive, but has a sleeker high end look. Check it out at the Kitchen Accessories website – pricing aswell as other lines are offered.


  I investigated some kitchens and kitchen products from England (because I just like to, okay?)

 surry kitchen


…and noticed that if you wanted a backsplash system over there, this is the best you can do:

 multi kitchen dispenser





I’m kidding.  (that would be saran wrap and foil in the cubbies above the paper towels… fancy.)


So now you’ve cleared up some space in a cabinet or two… or even a drawer or counter space by adding a backsplash system! 

If you’ve seen any other ideas for backsplash storage, let me know! I’d love to post them…

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