The unsexy part of design

Bell Ave Floor Plan.jpg

I'll admit when I first thought about doing interior design I imagined fabric swatches and paint samples, hunting down treasures at antique stores and going shopping with clients. 

The reality is that you have to do the hard parts first before you can start playing with fabric samples. The rest of the design falls apart if you do not have a solid base. 

I'm working with a fabulous couple and they have done what I usually recommend-which is to live in the home for awhile so they could decide what they wanted to do. That and they've set a budget.  The home has a kitchen with a dining area and a living area in the back of the house. The front living room and dining room, would generally be more formal, but they decided they don't want a formal dining room. They have a record player and love to listen to records but beyond that they just want a space to entertain and hang out in. 

I'm a pretty intuitive and empathetic person, which I feel helps me suss out people's design styles pretty easily. I also have my clients fill out a questionnaire, share a Houzz or Pinterest board with me and I take a look at the rest of the house. 

The very first thing I do when I meet with a client is to measure their space. We do also talk about their design style, living needs and color preferences. Then I'll pull together a first draft of a mood board. Here's a sample of some of the pins I pulled. 

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Sometimes, I rely on pinterest for a little inspiration, but in this case I already knew what the style was and I needed some layout ideas. My clients definitely have a mid-century modern clean vibe with a color palette of blues and greens. Since we were nixing the dining room I needed a way to pull the two rooms together and create separate spaces without the room feeling like a bowling alley or disconnected. The core request was for a space for the record player and records, and I started pinning ideas.

The floor plan and searching for furniture sometimes happen simultaneously. In this case I mapped out a first draft of a floor plan. A general idea of where things are going to go. 

RoomSketcher 2D Floor Plan.jpg

I liked the general direction this was going but I didn't quite like how it was flowing. Plus the window behind the couch has a low ledge and the couch was blocking some of the light. 

I pivoted the couch which made a huge difference and it felt like the rooms were a little more connected. Once I get the core furniture placement down then I hone in on how I want the room to feel. I'll start to pull furniture based on their style and color and adjust the furniture layout with those measurements in mind.

While a floor plan is extremely helpful to get an idea of how the room is going to look, it's also helpful to mark out where the furniture is going to be on the floor. This room is a little tricky because the entryway is right behind the chairs, there is a hallway through to the back of the house, a staircase and a bar. When I met with the clients to present the plan, I measured out and taped off where the furniture would be. At that point I realized that while there was physically enough clearance between the chair and the entryway, it just wasn't enough. I shifted everything a little closer to the window and that opened up the space a bit. 

Next up is choosing the furniture and wallpaper. 

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Design for Good

 white marble side table with social justice book

A good friend of mine shared the Design Justice Network Principles with me and they really resonated with how I try to design. 

I've been really struggling with what is happening in our country and how we as a nation believe that we do not have to be held to the same standards of human rights as the rest of the world. It hurts my heart. 

I know there have been so many action items posted on social media and I'm not going to add another action item to your list, instead I'm going to ask that we live our lives in a way that reflect our beliefs. 

Design Justice states first-

We use design to sustain, heal, and empower our communities, as well as to seek liberation from exploitative and oppressive systems.

We have a lot of power in the the decisions we make and we can use our money to support our community. Every time we buy something we are sending our money and energy to the maker/seller of that product. 

I freely admit that there are times I would love to spend my money in a way that sustains, heals and empowers my community, but I've got a tight budget. Sometimes I save up for the thing I want and in some cases I buy what I need even if it is at a big box store. Yet, I do try to buy local and buy handmade. My local shop owners know me because I visit them often. They also know when I'm on a budget because they don't see me! There is something delightful about knowing the people in my community and using my money to support them. 

This last weekend I was in Charlotte, North Carolina visiting a client and making some final tweaks to the design plan. We went to a local wood shop and learned about their story and their history and how they came to build furniture. We were able to customize the furniture we needed and I left that shop feeling great about, not just the design, but how my clients and I made a decision to support the community. FYI if you are in Charlotte I highly suggest Brown Dog Wood Co. We also went to a few antique shops and picked up some wonderful unique pieces for their home. 

Full confession we went to Lowe's to buy patio furniture. Partly for convenience and partly because of budget constraints. 

It's about balance. When you can shop local to support your community, shop vintage to support the environment and shop handmade to support makers. Yet, if there is something you need, sometimes you just need to go to target. 

I lied, I am going to add something to your to do list. In the next week stop in that little shop in your neighborhood that you've never been in. Who knows what you will find. 

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Adding the Finishing Touches to Your Home Style

 candlesticks on top of dining room table

I tend to decorate a home in layers. It's a little bit like getting dressed for a chilly day! The foundation layer are your core basic needs, which would be furniture. The next layer is rugs, window coverings and maybe some throw pillows. After that are books, collections and art. Then there is the icing on the cake, those finishing touches that make your house feel like home. 

That final layer can take years. I'll admit, that in some areas of my home I didn't realize that the final layer was missing. My coffee table was empty, my dining table didn't have anything on it and the kitchen was missing any styling. 

I used to resist putting things on surfaces because I didn't want my home to feel too cluttered, but it felt kind of cold. I also learned that it is a good idea to put something on your dining room table from a Feng Shiu stand point. The energy blows past the dining table, but when you have something on it, then the energy has a place to swirl around. I added a beautiful linen table cloth and some hand made wood candle holders. I really wanted to add some natural elements to the dining table. 

 coffee table decor with succulents and coffee table books

My coffee table got a couple of books that mean a lot to me. A Danish mid-century modern vase, some hand made ceramics and plants. When in doubt add plants! 

Over the years I've collected bits and bobs and they are what I use to style my home. I don't often buy something for a specific spot, because I already have things on hand. Shop your home and see what you already have on hand. I also, move things around a lot and play with styling. 

Here are a couple of styling tips:

  • Varying height-Make sure you have items of different heights when you are styling a grouping. 
  • The rule of odds-When you are styling, put one, three or five things together. Feel free to play with this, but when you start out it just works when you put three things together. They look good. 
  • Use books-Books are great for adding height and interesting things for people to look at. Coffee table books can get pricey, but I've found some great ones at second hand bookstores or estate sales. 
  • Something funky-One thing should be a little bit odd, different or interesting. 
  • Play-Try something and if it doesn't work, then change it up. Move stuff around until it feels right. 

I feel like my home is almost there. I do have a couple of spots that I'm still playing around with. I'll stop moving things around some day! 

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Create a Cohesive Design

Last week I talked about finding my style and setting a budget and now I'm talking about cohesion in your home. I had a great question from a podcast listener about creating a cohesive interior design style and that episode made me want to really hone in on how rooms flowed in my home. 

First, let's talk about design mistakes. FYI, even interior designers make them. At some point I knew I wanted to add color to my house and so I bought these amazing orange La Marie chairs by Philippe Starck. I love these chairs, but they are the wrong orange. I'm a rust orange type of girl.


You can also see a peek at the bright green carpet squares under the dining room table. Lesson learned was I am not really into bright colors. I want my colors dark, moody and super muted. Also, if you have a love for modern design, you too can own these chairs, because I've listed them for sale! 

Really taking a look at my style and picking my core colors made me see not only what needed to be added to my home, but what needed to be taken away. 

Pink and green are the core colors in my home, but that leaves some wiggle room for other colors. For example, I already own a rust orange vintage theater chair. I'm keeping it. I also own a blue/green French Victorian chair. These two are kind of tucked into a corner so they can stay.


Mixed into my rug is burgundy and green, which works with the pink and green that I've got going on. The burgundy also helps tie into my bedroom, which has burgundy and blue/green in it. 


OMG there is so much going on! Let me take a step back. The living room and dining room have a neutral base of grey. The walls are grey, the furniture is either white, wood or grey and everything is chill. From that you can start layering on colors and styles. 

To add cohesion does not mean that I am adding swaths of pink and green all over the house. Instead, I'm going to add hints of it. Touches of it to lead your eye from room to room. My office is already painted black and pink. It's more of a copper pink along the top 1/3 of the wall. From that room you see into the living room, which will have pink curtains and some pink accents in the pillows. The living room opens to the dining room, which has some pink in the artwork in the gallery wall. Tucked into the corner from the dining room is a hallway that leads into the bathroom and will have pink and green wallpaper. Standing from that hallway and looking into the dining room and then living room you see a blue/green chair and the green fireplace. 

I've also grounded my dining room with hints of black. The artwork is framed in black, the curtain rods are black and I'm adding a black light. That way I can add color and it won't feel excessive. 

Hints of it lead from room to room. Another way to create cohesion is through design style. My primary style is mid-century modern and my secondary style is French Victorian. There is mid-century modern and French Victorian furniture in each room. 

The other thing that is a constant in each room are plants! Yes, plants are a way to add some warmth and Oxygen to your home and also create design cohesion. 

Now that I know what the plan is I have a list of things I want in order to round out my home. 

  • Wallpaper for the hallway
  • Shelves in the hallway
  • Paint the fireplace
  • Make pink curtains
  • Black light for over art in the dining room
  • Items for the workbench (it's a little sparse on styling)
  • Dining Room Rug
  • Dining Room Chair
  • Pillows for the couch

My first search is actually my house. I already had the fabric to make the curtains and I swapped around some pillows from the living room and office that totally worked. I usually try to look to Etsy for lighting, but I couldn't quite find what I was looking for and actually ended up finding a light at Urban Outfitters. I hit up some vintage stores and found a fabulous candle for the workbench. Target released their Opalhouse line and the removable wallpaper selection was crazy amazing. I'm going to buy some reclaimed wood and make shelves for in the hallway. Then I can finally take my books out of the linen closet! 

I'm still looking for dining room chairs. I have the perfect chair in mind, but because I don't like to buy knockoffs, I'm either going to have to save up or find another option. For right now, I'm going to wait on this one. 

My budget often dictates my choices. I try to buy handmade and local, but sometimes I don't find exactly what I want or I do and I can't afford it. Sometimes you just need to go to Target and get your wallpaper! 

We'll see how this all works out. 


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Setting a Budget and Finding My Style

 Image via the  MakerPlace

Image via the MakerPlace

I did a whole house freshen up/finishing up recently to prepare for a photoshoot. I'll share those details when they are posted. I'm almost afraid to jinx it. I had the bones in place in my home, the furniture, rugs, some pieces of art, but I needed some finishing touches. Plus I needed to get through some of my to do list. Ironically I added some things to it and didn't get some of those things done! 

There are two things I need when I'm embarking on any interior design project, whether it is for myself or a client. One is the budget and the second is the style. I was doing the finishing touches in the kitchen, dining room (including a few new chairs) and the living room. I set aside $600. Most of the budget went to dining room chairs and art. The rest was accessories and paint. I already had the fabric for the curtains. I initially was going to slip cover the chaise in my office, but decided I liked the dark color. That left just enough fabric for curtains in the living room, although I did have to search through my stash for about 6 inches to finish off each curtain! 

The next was really honing in on my style. I've mentioned before that I struggle with wanting my home to be all white vs having a ton of color.  Color definitely won out. The reason is because I started looking through all of the things I had pinned to my home's board and the color combo of green and pink kept popping out. At one point I was thinking about repainting my office green, but then I realized that I could repaint the fireplace. It looks amazing. 

Since I was dealing with a few rooms I divided my pinterest board up into multiple sections. This was a lifesaver! It let me pin inspiration images and also hone in on things I wanted to purchase for my home. 

 Pinterest Board of home decor ideas

While the living room was getting a bit of color, the base in the dining room was still white and natural woods. The art on the wall picked up some of the pink and blue/greens from the living room and carried them over. I wasn't quite ready to let go of that Scandi sytle, but now the two rooms definitely talk to each other. something I'll talk about more next week. 

Since my budget was tight I was really focused on the things that had high impact. The major one was painting the fireplace. It changed the whole look of the house. 

 painted fireplace and sofa in living room

The next was bringing in some accessories and art. It just made my home feel much more finished. You'll have to wait for the pictures from the photographer to see those changes. 

If you are looking to design your space really hone in on what your budget is. Also, keep in mind sometimes having budget constraints forces you to get creative. It really made me take a second look at the fireplace and dig into my fabric to see if I could make some curtains. Then pin a bunch of things and then hone in on what your style is. You'll start to see that certain things keep coming up. 

If you are still stuck and aren't sure how to find your interior design style then take a look at my class Interior Design: Find Your Style. 

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