Friday, April 5, 2013

Small Spaces, no worries!
One of the design strengths that I pride myself on is my space planning ability.  I think that the deck that we designed for the DC Design House (see below photo) was a good example.  Another good example is my little sister's condo in Arlington.  Read the story on today about it!  It is a 600 some square foot condo that had little personality when she got it three years ago.  We just officially "finished" it up a few months ago.  Northern VA magazine did a great feature article on it this week if you live in the DC area.

Five tips on small space design:
1.  Open spaces up to each other.  Seating groups and dining areas and working areas should have visual flow.  Example, in my sister's condo it would have been wrong to have a sofa face the TV.  The back would have cut off the dining space.
2.  Keep furniture open and airy.  The bookshelves in my sister's desk area are great because you see the wall behind.  It keeps the room looking "wall to wall".  The open benches on the deck I designed did the same thing.
3.  Utilize the height of a room.  Window treatments should go as high as possible.  Storage should go tall (read the article to see my sister's closet!).
4.  Mirrors and reflective finishes bounce light around reflection around a space to help to make it seem larger.
5.  Clear furniture or furniture with legs shows floor and helps trick the eye into thinking a space is larger.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Adorable and functional go hand in hand!

It is funny that my first post in months is going to be about measuring cups.  But it is =).  If you know me well you probably know that I have a little bit of an inherited obsession with kitchenware (sorry mom, I let the cat out of the bag!).  I usually keep a fairly tight rein on it because I also don't care for mis-matched sets.  However, Amanda made a very good point while we were baking my client Christmas goodies this year, I was severely lacking in measuring cups!  Part of that is just the way that I cook.  I don't measure- a pinch of this, a shake of that.  However, when you bake you need to be precise.  So, now I had a green light to buy a necessary tool for my kitchen!

Obviously as a designer I am very cognizant of style.  But most of my clients will probably attest that I am also very concerned with practicality.  And this adorable set of nesting doll measuring cups combines those two worlds perfectly!  

Friday, October 12, 2012

Today's article in the Examiner is worth taking the time to read!!

Today's Examiner is featuring a home I worked on two years ago.  Julie and Lisa brought eclectic tastes and personalities to the project and I wanted it to reflect in their home.  They had a collection of family antiques and pieces from their travels but nothing gelled together.  The most challenging part of the project was trying to improve the visual and functional flow between the sunken family room and the dining room above.  The daybed achieved that goal, keeping the railing area visually free, but allowing interaction between the areas.  Another challenge was combining the focal points (TV with the fireplace) and the intimidating height of the adjacent wall.
Read more about it:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Think seasonal =)

Michele Lerner once again graciously included me in one of her design articles for the Washington Times.  This time her article was focused on small (low budget) ways to bring the feel of the season into your home without going over the top.  She always writes a great article- please check it out (click the link below)!

Small changes give feel of new season

Not all of my ideas were included so I will share more of them with you.  I always try to have all of my core pieces fixed- they don't change.  However, little changes make a huge difference.  One of my favorite ways to personalize a cabinet or built-in is by adding either colored mat board or a fabric covered piece of Luan board behind the shelves.  It is a spin on painting the back of the cabinet- but it is not permanent.  Then, when the fiery orange color you have up for the fall feels like it should be Christmas red, all you have to do is change the board out!  I have done this many times with great success and little effort.

A fabric covered back in the cabinet I custom made for my daughter's room.
I also love displaying fall squash and gourds in a big bowl in my living room (currently holding sea-shells).  They have beautiful colors and last forever.  And when you are done with them you can eat them!  I don't buy the mini pumpkins, I buy acorn squash, butternut or spaghetti squash and smaller pie pumpkins.

Also, don't forget to address your sense of smell.  I love the smell of cinnamon and nutmeg- but they seem out of place in the summer.  Cinnamon sticks tied with ribbon or pine cones soaked in extract and discreetly displayed or candles placed in strategic places help to bring you into the holiday spirit.  

And for my children I keep all of their holiday books put away until the appropriate season.  They love seeing their favorites and they help to dress the table tops.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Strike INAPPROPRIATE from your vocabulary!

A beautiful pile of treated silk velvet pillows

When you are working on putting together your fabric schemes it is important to think about practicality.  Sometimes a rugged recycled polyester or outdoor solution dyed acrylic fabric just makes sense.  Especially if you are family that actually LIVES in your house. 

But sometimes a fabric that is entirely inappropriate is just too irresistible to refuse.  What then?  Do you have to tiptoe around that chair, or ottoman or pillow forever?  Should you ban your kids, and dogs and wine drinking friends from that room?  Heck no!  Treat it!

approx 2 minutes in!  

What exactly does that mean and how do you go about it?  Well, there are several ways to get it done.

1.  The best way:  Ask the furniture store, fabric store or designer that is helping you procure the fabric to send the fabric out for a stain protection treatment BEFORE it becomes a piece of furniture or pillow.  There are a number of companies around the country that specialize in this.  They take your fabric and soak it in a solution that helps to protect your fabric from both oil and water borne stains. It also, helps repel dust and dry soil and makes the fabric physically stronger.  A treatment will run around $60, but depends on how much fabric you are treating.  This lasts for the life of the fabric.
2.  The next best thing:  Hire a local fabric/stain protection company to come to your house and spray your new furnishings, carpet or draperies with a stain protecting.  Most places have a per square foot price and a per room or rooms price.  This type of treatment needs to be done annually, but is highly effective if maintained. 
3.  The DIY way:  Buy a can of stain repellent treatment and go to town.  This is initially cost effective, but does not last long and must be maintained religiously.

Additionally, you can add to the life of that delicate silk, or linen that you chose by adding a knit backing treatment.  This is especially important if you are going to be doing upholstery.  Ask your expert to help you identify if this is a good decision for your particular fabric.  A usual trick to figure this out on your own is to pull the fabric on the diagonal (bias); if it stretches a lot then it needs to be backed.

Design without boundaries- it's now possible!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

My secret weapon...BABY WIPES!!!

Ok, you might think that this is a totally random post.  However, part of designing a beautiful home is maintaining a beautiful home.  The little wipes that keep my two year old squeaky clean are also my little trick for keeping lots of things clean around the house!

A couple of weeks ago my five year old was running from her bathroom to my bathroom with a toothbrush loaded with bright aqua toothpaste.  Well guess what managed to find its way onto on my white silk draperies that are hung in the bedroom next to the bathroom?  You guessed it- toothpaste!  I looked at the dime sized spot in horror and then sprung into action.  I pulled the excess off with toilet paper and then ran to my son's room to get a packet of wipes.  After just a few seconds of rubbing with a wipe I could see that the aqua colored stain was lightening.  The real test was if it was going to dry with a wet water ring.  I grabbed my blow dryer and dried the spot quickly.  I couldn't believe that it came out almost perfect!  A few years ago I had gotten some water on the same material in another room and it left terrible water marks on the bottom hem- makes me wish that I had tried my wipes instead of taking them to the dry cleaner who couldn't do anything for the spots.

Besides saving my draperies I have used baby wipes to spot clean rugs, clothes, handbags and wallets and my car upholstery.  No special brand, but I generally use the least expensive unscented, sensitive skin variety available to me.

So fear not!  You can be a mommy and have your white silk too!!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The simple, but well dressed bed! How many pillows are enough?

For a Master Bedroom king sized bed:  One long custom kimono inspired pillow with contrasting velvet pleats and decorative frog closures and two custom silk king sized pillow shams stacked in front of the off-the-rack Bloomingdales linens.
I have worked with a number of clients who are still carrying the 80's and 90's mentality that more is more when discussing bed pillows.  I admit, In my career I have designed upwards of 12 decorative pillows on one bed!  Who the heck has the time to take off and put on that many pillows each day?!  Not me, that's for darn sure.  So in the last few years I started streamlining the pillow schemes that I designed for my clients.  I try to keep it to 3 decorative pillows (plus sleeping pillows) or less.  I find that one larger pillow has more impact than several small pillows and helps to keep bed-making easy.  Take a look at the photos to see how this method can be translated in several different styles. 
For a Master Bedroom king sized bed:  One custom, long embroidered pillow with box-pleat edge stacked in front of two custom blue silk king shams with flat flange stacked on stock West Elm linens.
For a boy's full sized bed:  One large decorative pillow with self welting with one decorative square throw pillow in front of Bed Bath and Beyond linens.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Having Fun Digging!

The auction/showroom floor (Not air conditioned if you can believe it!  Wear a tank top =)
Earlier in the month I was asked to design the front window of Weschler's Auction House.  The experience reinforced my belief that you can create a beautiful room setting at any price-point (some of the items are auctioned at a true steal!).
The challenge was especially difficult because the 4th of July holiday week left them with a low amount of available inventory.  The first few times around the store the combination did not seem apparent.  It wasn't until a wing chair was pushed in the door about a half hour after we started that the combination clicked.  The best part was the "treasure hunt" feeling that we had while digging for accessories!  Amazing what little gems were hidden in that place!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Your tour of the DC Design House!

So if you didn't know- I was chosen to do a space for the DC Design House.  It is a great event that benefits the Children's Medical Center.  We got the awkwardly shaped Master Bedroom deck.  It was 6 feet wide and 40 feet long!
We have gotten some great press from the project including the Fox5 morning show, HGTV on-line, Home and Design, Washington Gardener, the Washington Post on-line and lots and lots of other features.
To appreciate what our challenge really looked like, here is the BEFORE picture:
Pretty drab, right?
Here were the main issues:
-  The impossibly thin dimensions created a floor plan challenge.
-  Working with the peeling floor and the awful existing railings (you can't even see the worst part, the terrible gold cornucopia things in the middle).
-  The deck felt very exposed and lacked intimacy.

- By designing a custom row of pedestals (placed over the angle supports that hold up the railing) and benches (placed in the gaps between the supports) I was able to create visual height and interest and create one long continual focal point that unified the two seating areas we designed.
- By laying down a row of patterned indoor outdoor rugs I was able to hide the existing floor and create a nice indoor-outdoor feel.
- Adding accessories like custom printed artwork (the photos are of espalier trees that are in a private garden in Georgetown) and custom mirrors (made by my sister's talented boyfriend!).
- The new sheer canopy that was supported by metal brackets that I designed and had custom made helps to give the sense of intimacy that was missing.

The FINISHED project!:

The custom metal work I designed was made by Phoenix Handcraft  (see more of his work in my DreamHome Room).  PAPortner Construction once again followed through with help on the installation.

The benches and pedestals I designed were fabricated by Kaleo at Kala Studios the sectional was borrowed from Offenbacher's Patio.

Thank you to Glen Raven who provided the outdoor Sunbrella cover fabric.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Wood Floors- Prefinished VS Finished On-Site

I admit, for me there was really no argument before.  I was a bit of a snob- finished on-site was the only way to go!  However, I have had a few products come my way recently that might be changing my tune.  A client I have been working with wanted to have her floors refinished to a richer, more modern color.  However they are living in the home and there was no real opportunity to have them out for the week that it takes to refinish floors.  Plus, we would have had to try to move out all of the furniture during that time and put it into storage.  It was not going to be an inexpensive endeavor!  This was the perfect time, if any, to use a prefinished floor.  What had driven me away in the past was the beveled edge that was a dead giveaway that the floor was prefinished.  However, after discussions with the contractor on the project and after doing some research I found out that a few manufacturers have begun making prefinished flooring that has a perfectly flat edge.  We were able to do the project in a manor that allowed the client to be inconvenienced as little as possible.  Areas were done in stages which allowed furniture to be moved from room to room instead of out all at once.  And it is beautiful- definitely a floor to be proud of!
Photo courtesy Carlisle Floors

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Your personal tour of our 2012 DreamHome-Design Craft room!

The overall: Stark Carpets fabricated this rug for me from my custom design.  It turned out stunning!
The last couple of weeks have been especially busy for our office.  We have been installing client projects and our 2012 DreamHome room which opened on the 15th.

Each of the designer's rooms were to be inspired by a piece in the Smithsonian Renwick Galleries upcoming show- 40 under 40.  My room was inspired by Christy Oates' Crane Chair (see our earlier post on the show and Christy).  I decided to create a woman's power office.  My muse was Vera Wang.  Like one of her famous dresses, I wanted to create layers of detail that would be full of quality and sophistication.  I loved working with the other designers (Jeff Akseizer, Christine Philp, Kori Keyser, Scott Cooke, Catherine Hailey, Will McGovern and Miriam Dillon) and found it interesting how they each interpreted their art pieces into room designs.

If you click on the link you can see more of the room details and watch a little video that shows some of the elements in detail.  There is nothing like seeing the room in person though- the layers of texture can not come through in photography.  The beauty of this Design House is that it is FREE!  So all of you out there should grab a friend and head down to the DC Design Center's 5th floor to see it.

Enjoy some of these detailed photos!!!  Did you know that our room has connections to the Dalai Lama?  See below... =)
I designed custom bookcases- Phoenix Handcraft made them gorgeous!  Hines sells this criss-crossed metal based coffee table.  Henredon did the sofa and Michael Cleary provided the awesome stacked acrylic lamps.
The end-table is another custom piece.  Phoenix Handcraft  did the metal and mosaic work.  Notice the great multi-color pillow fabric?  It actually was the first fabric we found for the room.  Stoddard Interiors fabricated the pillows and draperies for me.  The drapery has a beautiful pleat that she does incredibly well.  They look beautiful!
Leather wrapped wall panels, Angel Homsi Leather, in a diagonal pattern- you don't need anything hanging over a fireplace this pretty.

Notice the "puddle" effect at the bottom and the folded detail at the corner of the fireplace frame.  The sparkly bits in the fireplace is recycled glass.
Willem Smith provided the desk chairs.  The Dalai Lama sat in the cream colored one when he visited DC last year!
European Design, Inc in Manassas did the embroidery of our custom criss-cross pattern and did a wonderful job.  It really evokes the inspiration piece.
A Baker table and a Niermann Weeks console set up a pretty niche.  One thing that the contractor I used, PA Portner did for me is paint the trim.  Notice the high gloss shine?  You can finally get water based paint in a true gloss finish!  Yay!
Judy Koessel from Koessel Studios provided the wall coverings for the room.  She is amazing!  We chose a simple grass-cloth styled design for the main walls and this cross-hatched pattern for the accent niche.  Amanda loved gluing these little glass gems onto it =).  I wish you could see the texture of this in person!  Marly's Superior Interiors did a beautiful job installing the wall treatment for me.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

DC Design House preview

Hello readers!  Apologies for the long break.  Let's just say that I've been burning the midnight oil recently.  So while this really should be a posting about our newly installed DreamHome room I have to say that I have failed to take any real photos of the space to share with you all.  I will be visiting Friday and I promise to return with detailed photos to show off our new installation!  Please check back in a few days, I promise you will not be disappointed!
Our next task: the DC Design House project will install in a short couple weeks.  I can share a little preview of our bowling alley shaped deck.  We will be featuring some custom built benches and pedestals, a wall of acrylic art panels, billowy sheers and funky prints.  This swing chair is sitting at my office and is stunning in person, can't wait to install it!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

You've probably never seen anything like this!!

Charma and Margaret

In my 13 years as a designer I have been lucky to work with a host of talented people.  One of my favorite people and one of the most amazingly talented artists I know is Charma Le Edmonds of Shelter Studios.  She just completed an AMAZING feature wall in a clients house.  This wall is so unbelievable, not only because of the scale and complexity of the pattern but because of the amazingly power it exudes in strangely subtle manor.  
The following photos are a progression over 11 days.  You have to see the process that she used to create this piece of art!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Thinking warm, despite the cold!

Even though it is only February it is the perfect time of year to let your mind wander to the outdoors.  Because my focus is interiors I don't get to work on exterior spaces as frequently as I might like, so when I do get those periodic opportunities I am always shocked by the new products that are on the market.
photo from
Can you believe that the photo above is of exterior fabrics?  Who thought you could have a gorgeous damask pillow with decorative trim living on your deck chair.  
photo from
The above lounge furniture could easily be in sexy living room setting.  But we are lucky enough to be using it on the deck that we have been asked to design for the DCDesign House.  You got it, another show house- this is going to be a busy, busy spring!  We'll share more details and drawings as we get farther into the design.