Industry Support

A Reality Check

Every month I glance at the little star indicating Favorites on the right side of my task bar when I am on the internet.  I linger on it, knowing underneath it lies the quick link to my blog, and a vast canvas of the internet onto which I may paint my thoughts through words and pictures.

But I have been resisting.  You see, these last 17 months of design work with my boss and mentor, Gretchen, have taught me a ton about what design is really like.  In the real world, we don’t enter a room and rip it apart, saying “that comes down, move that back, throw that out.”  Many, many, many times we are working with what is already in the home, making slight changes and modifications to the actual shell, and polishing it off with some killer finishes.  It’s a delicate balance between creativity and budget, with a whole bunch of the homeowner’s personal preferences mixed into it.

Knowing this, I have been surprised by some of the imagery I see on social media platforms.  One of the things I do for my boss is manage the shop’s Instagram account.  I have learned how intentional you need to be to maintain a professional account.  Taking the time to learn how to do it correctly has made the feed that much stronger, and in looking back at the lessons I have learned as an assistant, I believe that’s the whole point of the whole freaking thing…take the time to learn to do it right.  Anything.  Anything you want to do.  Learn about it, then do it.

Here is the reality…in order to use the title Professional Interior Designer, you need 60 hours of industry specific education at a minimum, followed by 2-3 years on-the-job experience with a certified firm, and then you need to sit for three sections of a three hour each test.  Then you get your license.  If you are considering hiring an Interior Designer, these are things you can expect to see.  There are also Designers that have been in the industry so long that their portfolio speaks for itself.  The point is, in reality, there aren’t any inexperienced Interior Designers.  There’s only inexperienced people calling themselves Interior Designers.  I don’t want to be one of those.

So I took a step back, and refined my digital vision.  I know I have a voice that I want to share, and at the very least, tips I learn at work (ie, we are installing drapes at half an inch off of the floor now, instead of quarter inch.  Few rooms are large enough to have the angle to see the casing behind it, and you never have any section of the drape pooling on the ground)  I am looking forward to a productive 2020, graduating with my Associates in Interior Design, and sharing the real deal here on my blog…have a great February!



Marie Kondo, the woman behind the Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is experiencing an up-tick in popularity right now (I started this post in January, so just go with that thought!). She just hosted a show on Netflix, but her book has been around for a number of years now. Funny enough, I just got around to buying it and reading it. And while I haven’t yet completed the last 30%, I can still say it was a revelation. Not because I am a hoarder that desperately needed to rid myself of large quantities of unwanted items, but because she carefully explains what I knew in my heart, and allowed to flow freely. What is so life-changing about her philosophy is the understanding that some things we have do not end up serving the purpose that we originally intended them to serve, and it’s okay to let them go without realizing that intention.

Intention is a powerful word. When we pick something up and ask ourselves if it still brings us joy, we examine our intentions for the object. I hadn’t realized how much guilt there is wrapped up in storing objects. So many clients come to designers with the primary goal of ‘creating more storage’. And as I have said so many times in the past, ‘You don’t need more storage, Sis, you need less stuff!’ Too many times I have seen people hanging on to things because they represent something completely unrelated to the object. For me, it’s a bread maker. Store bought bread is loaded with preservatives, so I want to make home made bread for my family. In the 19 years that it has sat in my kitchen island, have I ever made a loaf of country white? Nope. But it sat there, representing the kind of mother I want to be, if I had more time. The truth here, though, is that it’s just a bread maker. It’s not the holy grail of motherhood. And I never once have used the thing. I have no intention of making bread, so I should give it to someone who does! That’s the subtle difference between intention and sparking joy.

When it comes to deciding whether or not to purchase something, the same idea applies. It’s asking myself, ‘what specific unmet need does this fulfil?’ When you ask, ‘why do I need this particular thing?’ instead of ‘do I like this?’, the buying decision becomes much less complex. If you are close to my age, you probably find that there really isn’t much out there that you need that you don’t already have. Further, a lot of the stuff you thought you needed, you really don’t. So when it comes to purchasing, the question boils down to, ‘do I not already own something that can do this?’ If the answer is no, by all means get it. But one of the most fun things is when you take something you already have and repurpose it to fulfill an unforeseen need. That armchair languishing in a spare bedroom would look amazing reupholstered and in the foyer. The frayed edge denim look is SO easy to accomplish by ripping the seam of those old jeans you haven’t worn for a year. Don’t just float along, really look at what you are doing and ask yourself why. The why is the intention, and that’s the whole point!

Finishing Touches, Function, Mud Room, Organization

A Hardworking Home

Happy 2019!

This week I am inspired by Joanna Gaines’s book, Homebody.  She has some amazing photos, sure.  But what really inspired me is her philosophy on design:  every nook and cranny of a home should be special, and work for you.

If you think about it for a second, it makes a lot of sense.  As homeownership evolved, and homes started to be kept not by a staff, but by the owners themselves, there became the idea that we would keep some parts of our homes to show others, and other parts would be closed and private.  We started to really buy into the concept of public and private spaces.    But then we took it a step further and started to pick out private places that were not worthy of investment.  Laundry rooms were in a dark corner of the basement.  Mudrooms were in the garage.  Pantries were shut behind closed doors adjacent, but not visible in, the kitchen.  Why?  Why did we take the tasks that people enjoy the least (laundry, gear organizing and putting away the groceries) and make them even more tedious by making the working environment they exist in so deplorable?

Thankfully, we are in a time of design where these spaces are being reconsidered.  I see plenty of second floor laundry rooms (depending on how you feel about that 😉 ), show stopping mud-rooms, and large pantries with spaces to sit and hang out.  But not many people have room for all of that.  So what I want you to take away from this is one small concept…make it intentional.

I love this laundry space…a counter top finished off the appliances.  Further, the homeowner brought in a lamp, a potted plant and a couple of other touches to make this space feel finished.  It’s especially important to finish these spaces when it’s the primary entrance to the home for your family (ie, it’s how you get from the garage into the home).  That first greeting the house gives you is so important, make it clean and inviting!

Here is another intentional space for a plant lover, I assume.  This is a great example of a space that more than likely brings the homeowner great joy, even if it isn’t each and every one of our’s dream laundry.

From this space, just admire the intention.  Fun cabinet hardware, friendly tile work, unique lighting, a throw rug.  These little touches make a space feel special.

For a pantry, consider clear containers to make the space more intentional.  It keeps food fresher, longer, and looks more uniform on the shelves.  If you don’t have a dedicated space for a pantry, these containers look fantastic on a high shelf in the kitchen.

And I have featured mud rooms before, but what I want to point out is that even a small hallway can be a mud room.  A few well anchored hooks, a couple baskets to toss smaller objects, and a small place to sit to put your shoes on, and you have a mud room!





Off the Rails

Today I am inspired by the boundless creativity that exists at the early stages of a new assignment in school.  Set before me is a blank canvas, 80′ X 41′ of wide open space, with only my imagination to limit me.  Because this is a senior level class, these projects will most likely play a large roll in my portfolio, so they have to communicate a story about me, wordlessly.  I waiver back and forth, should I play it safe and go for a comfy farmhouse theme?  Or jump off the rails and go for broke…an Art Nouveau themed space!

I really am torn here, because this is a large space, and if it is not successful, I have to use something less grand in my portfolio.  Not a cool prospect.  So let me make my case here, and see where we land.

If unfamiliar, Art Nouveau hit mainly in France from around 1890-1910.  It encompassed all of the art forms; decorative arts, architecture, textile design, furniture design, graphic design, you name it. It is not to be confused with Art Deco, which has extremely rigid lines and corners.  No, Art Nouveau is natural.  It has undulation, meaning lines wind and curl.  It’s organic.  And it uses a bunch of metal, which is also extremely cool.

Some of the most famous examples of it’s art are the entrances to the Paris Metro stations.


Check out the way the metal curves and seems to pool at the bottom.  Hector Guimard is the genius behind these installations.

On to the interiors, and you can’t NOT talk about the Hotel Tassel by Victor Horta.

It’s absolutely breathtaking!

But let’s fast forward to today, not a century ago, and see where Art Nouveau is still making it’s mark.  Art Nouveau is intentional.  When you see it, you know it.

Let’s start with a statement entryway:

Then we see it subtly in a dining room.  Check out the windows:

Now into the kitchen.  A touch could be as small as:

Or as bold as:

I feel the need to disclose that this is a cabinet showroom, so with the dark sides and lack of backsplash, it may be hard to like this example.  But the details on the cabinet doors are amazing!

Unfortunately, my space has no staircase, but if it did:

Are you kidding me with the tile work on this one?

And some finishing touches on the ceiling:

But here is the real test.  A fireplace mantel…can we picture it?

It seems straightforward enough…a carved wood mantel. It blends nicely with the wood base behind it.  But is it just too ‘not what we are used to’ to make a successful room in a portfolio?  I think so.  But I guess the much bigger question is, how will this look on AutoCAD?  And do I want to take the time to draw it and not like it?  Blurg, I just don’t know!


White Kitchens

I read a few different blogs by established Designers, but one is sticking with me even a few days later.  She posted a picture of a recent kitchen she did, proclaiming it ‘timeless’ and will never go out of style.  Admittedly, it’s a lovely kitchen; white cabinets, gray subway tile, noteworthy pendants, stainless appliances, and gold cabinet pulls.  About the third comment in was a women calling her bluff.  (What?!)  She did mention that she was not a designer, but for me, that made her message all the more powerful.  She asked if, since she feels like she is seeing these kitchens EVERYWHERE, if maybe they are over done.  Ouch.  Overdone?  Harsh!

White kitchens came on the scene several years ago, after we all got sick of looking at kitchen after kitchen with dark granite counter tops.  The old rule of thumb was, stack like an Oreo, dark floors, light cabinets, dark counters.  It made sense, contrast always provides visual interest (although not always GOOD visual interest 😉 )  You were seeing at least a few natural wood cabinets, injecting that organic feel that most people associate with warmth and home.

But then marble hit really hard for a few years.  People started embracing a reduction in contrast, turning towards exclusively painted cabinetry.  You saw the brushed metals coming in, fitting closely with the stainless appliances.  That made sense as well.  Stark white and shiny metal conjures up images of hospitals, not kitchens, so designers beautifully created kitchens that were clean and crisp, never stark or sterile.

But that blog post was still sitting with me…where are we TODAY?  Recently I was asked to advise a friend redoing her own kitchen.  She is going white. So the question has to be asked…is this a mistake? Given the cost and inconvenience of a kitchen reno, is it ill-advised to go with ‘white kitchen’? In looking at example after example, I can say with relative certainty, the answer is NO! Go for it!

Here’s why…the pendulum has centered.  What we have learned from the organic feel of wood and granite kitchens is that they don’t have to be super ornate.  Simplify the doors, lighten up the room, but keep some of the coziness.  What we learned from the other extreme was that crisp, clean feel is energizing, but we miss some of the contrast.  So today, we actually decorate our kitchens.  We like the blank canvas of white, but we bring in other elements as well, be they wood or color, to round out the space. I admit, finding examples of kitchens with all white cabinets, light counter tops, and light backsplashes took a little digging, but let’s have a look at what I found:

This one incorporated wood beams in the ceiling:

This one has my new favorite look, the stacked wood bread paddles!  Point is, what’s on the counter top is what is driving the feel of the kitchen.

Another one finished to add warmth, I love it!

This one has perfectly used windows:

This one has the most current answer…the countertops have nice contast:

This last one is part of the uber-popular modern farmhouse look.  I love it!  Take note of the open shelving in natural wood, the swing arm lighting, the mixed metal finishes and the shiplap…

Finishing Touches


Today I have been inspired by books!

No, I am not going to give a long critic of a book I am reading.  What I AM excited about is the versatility of books.  Sure, they can be fun to read, or a familiar old friend, or a much needed source of information.  But they can also be beautiful between bookends, or boost up a vase or picture to just the right height.  Take a look:




They are also a great way to bring color into a room:

And isn’t this a charming kids room:

They can create visual interest in non-traditional shelving:

And finally, they always look great on coffee tables!



Going Down?

I didn’t want to name this Basement Flooring, it was just too boring.  However, this title seems a little scandy.  Let’s see if I am brave enough to publish!

Basement flooring can be tricky.  Basements are subterranean; with that comes a host of challenges that can make or break how successful the project outcome will be in the long term.  Nobody really goes into a remodel and says, ‘yup, my basement will take on water at some point.’ But the fact of the matter remains, if you live in the Midwest, moisture in your basement should be a huge consideration.  Fact.

Does that mean you can’t have a beautiful basement?  Absolutely not!  There are tons of selections that are suited to the moisture that a basement invariably offers, and there are beautiful ways to use them.

Vinyl wood flooring, also known as laminate, is not made of wood.  That’s good for the trees!  Real wood is beautiful, but impractical, because moisture makes it swell.  Vinyl is a form of plastic, so moisture doesn’t effect it.  This is a great option if you love love love the look of wood floors.  Vinyl flooring is so well done now, it’s hard to tell the difference between it and actual hardwood.  See below from Honey Bear Lane and Top Joy Flooring…


Here’s one I worked on last summer:


Concrete is another idea.  I love the look of stained concrete, and one of the cool things about a basement is that it doesn’t have to conform to the aesthetic of the rest of the house.  Concrete can start to look a bit modern, so if that isn’t your comfort level, soften it up with texture.  Here are two examples from Coco Lapine Design and Sun Kissed Alba:


Another cool thing to do with concrete is to stencil it.  Here are two from Cutting Edge Stencils and How to Build It.  Make sure you have plenty of time on your hands though!


Of course, you can’t overlook a beautiful tile floor.  There are so many fun ways to use tile, like this one from Studio McGee and Little Green Notebook:



My personal favorite that I am dying to try next I saw on Fixer Upper a few seasons ago:
Gaines Floor

This is a hybrid of porcelain tile and wood look tile.  And it is so easy to do:


These are from Floor & Décor!  Not expensive either…the two together are just $6.38 per square foot, and that was with a quick on line search.

There are countless options you can take when finishing a basement.  Whether you like the wood look, the indestructibility of concrete, or the play with shapes and designs with tile, there are so many ways to make your basement a space that everyone will enjoy visiting.  Have fun!