Tag Archives: interior design

…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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Filed under Bathroom, Uncategorized

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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Filed under Color, furniture, styles

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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Filed under Dining Room, Wall decor

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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Filed under Kitchen

Enter at your own risk

Q:My entry isn’t a formal entry… it’s at the right side of my long living room.  I know it will never be a proper entry area, but I’ve tried to create a more defined space by putting down an area rug and positioning the living room furniture.  What the space is lacking is a surface –  a place to throw keys and mail, but we’re working with only a sliver of space to do so. I was thinking a shelf with funky brackets, but I really would like a piece of furniture.


A: Looking at the dimensions, you’ve got an almost three foot wide space to do something in – between the doorway to the hall and the open front door.  Hmmmm.  dwg1 001 I would suggest something on the taller side.   Did you know that bathroom furniture is generally rather narrow? Well, it is.  That could be a pretty interesting piece to use. No, not a vanity… a storage piece.  Now the problem is to have it not look like it belongs in the bathroom…



Ballard Designs Vetrina Cabinet

pb modular

Pottery Barn Modular Bath Storage









There are also pieces of furniture other than bedside tables that will fit in that narrow spot, but some won’t be as tall and others may be too tall…

raie chest

Pier 1 Raie Chest 24"w x 31"h


Powell Cabinet 20.5"w x 44"h


White Horse Furniture 14"w x 30"h

blossom chest
Pulaski Blossom Chest 26″w x 30″h


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Hey, Buster! …you left something

This is my entry table… it isn’t really at the entry of the house, it’s up a few steps in a ‘traffic area’ between my dining room to the left and kitchen to the right. Weird, I know.  Its IMG_1386one of the first things you see when you enter the house and I’m sick of it looking so lame ass.  However, there is one big reason I haven’t addressed it yet:  

My Husband.  

Well, he’s definitely an accessory to the problem.  When we moved in, there was a big old AC unit in that wall.  Huge. My husband got it out, patched up the hole, painted and called it a day.

HELLO!? What the hell is that thing still doing there?!!  Oh yes, he left the power outlet up there in no man’s land.  Precisely 67″ above the floor and 29-1/2″ over from the wall at the right. Squint… you can see it.  I’ve been racking my brains to come up with a solution but since we are dealing with a man who will never get back to this part of the house I decided that I’m just going to have to cover it up. 

Ideally, I would have loved to hang a mirror there. I haven’t found anything big enough …or should I say affordable enough in the size I need.  Then, I thought about putting framed photos up in a collection, but everbody seems to do that and I didn’t want the same old thing.     

Then I came up with an idea I didn’t think would materialize into anything, because the last time I really saw one up close was in 8th grade wood shop: The Candle Sconce.  I did a quick search on the web and I was truly suprised to find a few that are right up my alley.  I thought this would be a clever idea because of how high the sconce could be placed on the wall.  I could use two of them symmetrically over the table and it could hang over the outlet on the right side.  A  real concern is mounting the sconce on the wall without disturbing the electrical box or conduit inside.  Hmmmm, I think I’ll let my husband hang them…  

(I tease because I love)

dwg2 001



Some of the sconces I came across on my investigation.  If you have a solution to my entry table problem – please let me know!!  I’d love to hear it!


Pottery Barn – Nina Mirror & Votive Holder
Ballard Designs – Antiqued Mirror Candle Sconce
Graham & Green – Mosaic Mirrored Candle Wall Sconce



Filed under Entry

Death by mauve

Q: We are ready to redo our hall bathroom- it’s the one bathroom we pink bath 4haven’t gotten to since we moved in, but we are now ready to say goodbye to mauve.  Everything is going (yes, the mauve toilet, tub and sink are going!) and we’re thinking about doing it in another color, but we’re not sure what yet.  As you can see by the photos, its a full size bathroom and is one of the main bathrooms used the family -but also by guests since its closest to the area we entertain in.  We don’t have a very big budget and were thinking about doing as much as we can ourselves.  Can you offer some ideas that would help keep our budget down but not make it look like…we had to keep our budget down?! Thanks!

A: OMG. That’s a color.

So, you have champagne dreams but a Budweiser budget, huh? Who doesn’t -not to worry!

There are a few things I see right away in your photo that could help.  First of all, it looks as though there’s a tile wainscot around the room along with the tub surround.  There is maybe one reason to have tile behind the toilet…and if your kids are boys you’ll know what I mean. Kidding aside, you may want to rethink tiling only the tub surround.  I’m guessing there will be about +/- 70sqft of wall tile there (hard to say for sure… can’t see if tile goes to ceiling, let’s say it does).  If I do some more eyeballing, it looks like you have a 42”high wainscot around the rest of the space?  Not knowing the exact dimensions of the room I’ll guess it could add up to at least 50-60sqft more of wall tile which you don’t really need.  You could consider using a tile base at the floor to stop the spills.

as1 as2 as3


You mentioned that you don’t know what colors to do in the new bath… PLEASE don’t go with different colored fixtures again!!!  I say this because that mauve is burned into my retinas. No, I say this because plumbing fixtures in colors other than white or off white are generally more expensive.  Looking at the Kohler website, I’ve checked out the ‘Memoirs® Comfort Height® Elongated Toilet with Classic Design’ – the list price for the toilet in white is $907.85 (list price people… you can get it for less!) and the colored ones are between $230 – $430 list higher…  and that’s just for the toilet!  On the American Standard website, the Traditional Champion® 4 EL Right Height™ Toilet  has a list price ranging from $710- $1028.

If it’s color you want – paint is what you need!! One idea is doing the wall tile in a neutral tone and using paint and your linen selections to kick it with color. If you want to change the color scheme, you won’t have to change the tile.

I see you have a shower rod and curtain rather than glass shower doors. That’s another suggestion I would have made in keeping the cost down. Two upsides to having a shower curtain is that it gives you a chance to show off something fun in your color choice  and it’s much easier when you have to give someone a bath.  Don’t worry, cleaning the liner is a snap:  throw it in the washing machine when needed.

Now that you have some ideas on how to stick within your budget, one of the places you should consider spending some money on is the flooring. Think about using a natural stone floor – not the ceramic or porcelain flooring the salesperson says looks like stone, but real limestone or marble, slate… or even river rocks! Yes, it is more expensive than the faux stuff but it’s a great place to make your bathroom look high end. However, if this bathroom is going to be used primarily by your kids but also will need to look great for your guests you may want to consider ceramic mosaics – a less expensive alternative which can definately hold up to kids and has a more funky look than what you remember from the bathroom in your parents house.

wz 1 cm1

(marble & granite dot mosaic)     (ceramic tile mosaic)

Look at websites like Faucet.com and Build.com for discounted prices on plumbing fixtures like faucets, toilets and tubs among other things like bathroom accessories – toilet paper holders, towel bars, shower rods…

Have fun!

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