Written by Lexi

What color should you paint your ceiling?

This is an old post but I got asked this a few times recently so thought I would repost for today.

The short answer? It always depends. Some decorators use the 8 foot rule: If your ceiling is less than 8 ft high, then paint it 2 tints lighter than the wall color. (Tint just means the color has more white in it and is therefore lighter. If it had more black in it, you’d say it was a shade darker).

If your ceiling height is more than 8 feet, paint it 2 shades darker than the walls.

Other decorators feel that painting a ceiling white always makes it feel lower than it is. I disagree with this. It’s true that when you break up the color  –  when the wall color is different from the ceiling color – your eye notices the change. But if the ceiling is lighter than the walls, and especially if it has a semi gloss finish to it, it actually looks more expansive and higher.  But you may need to play with this a bit,  because if your walls are really dark, then the change from dark (walls) to light (ceiling) is much more noticeable and therefore the ceiling appears closer.

Another trick to make that ceiling appear higher is to bring the ceiling color down the walls a bit: paint the same color on the ceiling a foot or so down onto the wall. This makes the ceiling appear taller than it is.

Painting a ceiling is definitely a personal choice. There really is no wrong answer. Just decide the effect you want and go from there.  As I always say, if you don’t like it, you can always paint it over!


Your colors

One of the things I enjoy most about my job is picking color. Changing the color of a room is the best way to give a room new life. Most people know this, but knowing doesn’t make the picking any easier. I spend a lot of time at my local paint store and I watch people stand at the paint chip kiosk, pick up a tiny square of color, stare at it for a minute, then put it down. Then repeat. It is really difficult to visualize this teeny swatch of color all over your walls. Not to mention that the light in the store is most likely different than the light in your home, so that color you’re choosing (or not) probably looks completely different in the space you’re looking to paint.

As a designer my job is to know color: how to combine colors, how color and light  – both natural and artificial – interact, and how to use color to trick not so pleasant architectural features such as narrow hallways, low ceilings, etc seem more pleasing. It’s not a perfect science. Sometimes I have to try several tints and shades before I hit it on the head. But I always get there. I haven’t lost a room yet.

I use a holistic approach to choosing color. You may ask me to pick a wall color for your dining room. I’ll choose that wall color, but then also give you color direction for trim, ceilings, moldings, built-ins, flooring, artwork, fabrics, lighting, furnishings, hardware. Like nature abhors a vacuum a designer abhors a hue without a scheme, so to that end I recently had a neat piece designed by r3mg: creative boutique for my color consult clients. After the consult I provide a complete color scheme for the room, including wall, trim, ceiling, and any accent colors that would work well within the color scheme, all in a handy envelope. The color swatches are neatly tucked inside so that you can take them with you whenever you shop. If you see a rug or piece of artwork you like, just pull out your swatches and see if the rug color goes with your scheme.

Color consults are $200. I am excited to start using my new consult piece, so if you need to pick colors,   please give me a call today!

Sprucing up with a few changes

I just finished sprucing up a living room and dining room in Oak Park. The homeowners are very sweet couple with two young children. They didn’t want to spend a lot of money on new furniture right now, waiting (rightfully so) till the child-lunging-off-sofas phase has passed. So I needed to work with the existing pieces:  a sectional sofa, dining room table and chairs,  and two floor lamps. They also weren’t up to take on any remodeling work, so the color on the walls and the position of the light fixture over the dining room table were staying. But even without making any color or major furniture changes I was able to create a room that is more pulled together and relaxing for the family.

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Is your wealth corner missing?

Recently my husband painted the back steps. Exciting right? (Well the color* is! See below).  But why I mention this is because the back steps sit in our wealth corner. Which means that our wealth corner is not actually in our house. It’s…missing. If you drew a line across the back of our house, it would run along the back wall, jog down about six feet where the back door sits, then jut over to the left about another five feet.  Our finances have been a little missing of late too, so having everything else in order, I decided to tackle this issue. I hung a pair of wind chimes at the back door help to bring chi to the missing area. The tinkle sound is nice too and bonus – it helps to drown out the never ending hum of our neighbor’s AC. I also hung a clear crystal in the same area  – I could have used a purple one,  purple being the color associated with wealth – because crystals help liven up chi. And lastly I fixed that missing corner by literally drawing it in: I took some of my daughter’s purple chalk and drew a line across the steps and back to the house. Voila! Purple chalk! Good chi!

Wait! Rain! Ga! No more chalk. Well, I wasn’t that unhappy about the rain. We needed it.

Instead of redrawing chalk lines we painted the back steps. Purple. A lovely deep blue purple. And guess what? The next day the phone rang. It was a new client.

Normally feng shui isn’t this immediate, and it’s certainly not going to fix money issues especially if there are other major factors involved. But if you feel the energy is missing in that area, help it out with a little feng shui. And see what happens.

* Benjamin Moore Galaxy.

Having Trouble with the Balance of your Checkbook? Then Consider the Balance in your Home

Feng shui is the Chinese art of creating balance and harmony in one’s surroundings by following the natural creative cycle of the elements – fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. The creative cycle goes like this: ashes from fire become earth. Earth creates the element metal. Metal captures water through condensation. Water feeds plants and creates wood. Wood burns fire.

Paying attention to the creative cycle above enhances chi, or energy. Chi can be thought of as a fresh summer breeze, or a breath of crisp and energized mountain air, wafting through your home, touching on every room, permeating and uplifting your space.  A home with good feng shui is a home that has the creative cycle in balance.

If the creative cycle is disrupted, chi cannot flow properly and the energy in your home literally and metaphorically gets stale. A disruptive cycle would be one in which water douses fire, or metal chops wood, or earth dirties water.

For those of you who have ever practiced acupuncture, yoga or tai chi, you understand the benefits of getting blocked chi flowing. Energy flow is essential to a healthy body.  Like the energy centers, or chakras, in the body, there are eight life areas in your home that require good chi in order to function properly. They are:  fame, relationships, children, mentors, career, knowledge, health and wealth.

When chi is blocked and cannot flow freely into one of these areas in your home, such as your wealth area, problems can arise. These problems can manifest as lost business; unexpected expenses that keep arising; financial issues that never seem to get resolved; problems getting payment from clients; problems settling legal issues; and so forth.

To determine where the wealth area is in your home, you’ll need a ba-gua map. A ba-gua is an octagonal chart with its roots in the I Ching.  Each side represents one of the life areas mentioned above. Standing at your front door and facing into your home, hold the ba-gua so that south is at the top. Now superimpose the chart over your home. Your wealth corner will be just to the left of the top of the chart.

How does the chi get blocked? There can be several ways, but the most common is when the creative cycle is disrupted. For example, you may have a bathroom in your wealth corner. This is a disruptive cycle, and water symbolically flushes finances down the drain.

How can balance be restored? Keep sink and tub drains closed. Fix leaky faucets. Keep toilet seat lids down. Then bring in aspects of wealth that enhance its properties, like the color purple. Purple is the color associated with wealth, so introduce it in the form of towels, soaps, picture frames, paint, or flowers (real or silk). Crystals help move chi by reflecting the energy, so hang a purple or clear crystal above your sink or toilet. Finally, if you have the room and natural light, bring in a jade plant because its leaves look like coins.

So if you find that your finances aren’t in order or if there’s another aspect of your life that seems disrupted, consider the balance of chi in your home, and then work to correct that balance through the practice of feng shui.

Napkins I’m Loving Now

This past year I started using cloth napkins instead of paper ones at mealtime. I used to only use cloth napkins for dinner parties, Thanksgiving, etc. Not sure why. At every meal I would use nice plates, nice drinking glasses, nice flatware and…paper napkins? I changed my tune after reading this quote from Erma Bomback, who wrote of things she would have done differently after she found out she was dying from cancer:

“I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.”

That stopped me. What was I saving these silly napkins for? They were meant to be used, not treated like some priceless heirloom. So I started using them.  But I am not 100% sure if washing napkins multiple times is actually better for the environment than using paper ones. I hope it is.

That is why I was so happy to find these 100% cotton and linen disposable napkins, available from Suzanne Cummings, a Chicago floral designer. They offer a chic option to paper and cloth. They come on a roll, so they are handy to store.  They can be washed. They can be reused, several times. They also come in several colors, like this fabulous orange. I got the dinner napkins, but they come in cocktail size too. So now I alternate between cloth and these fabulous finds. Now if only I could get my meals to look as good…

2011 Fall Colors

Last week I attended a seminar on Benjamin Moore’s 2011 color schemes. These are not new colors; rather they are 18 existing colors that Benjamin Moore has arranged in three palettes of six to help you convey a certain mood in your home. The three moods are Dreamy- which has sophisticated, subtle hues; Spirited-a bold palette with high contrast colors; and Soulful-a selection of warm hues and rich tones. Pick two to three colors from each palette to create the color experience you want to create. The combinations are flawless: each color works perfectly with the others in its palette, so you don’t have to worry about picking monochromatic grays to match or using the right value of purple.

Which leads me to the 2011 Benjamin Moore color of the year: Vintage Wine. This is a sexy color. At times it looks like eggplant when paired with the chartreuse green in the same collection, but put it against some of the more subtle earthy hues and its brown tones really show up. Take a look at the Soulful palette below:


Color Palettes


Genesis White 2134-70

Kendall Charcoal HC-166

Gray Mirage 2142-50

Porcelain 2113-60

Etiquette AF-50

Smoke 2122-40


Storm AF-700

Lucerne AF-530

Royal Flush 2076-20

Paper Mache AF-25

Wrought Iron 2124-10

Grape Green 2027-40


Hush AF-95

Vintage Wine 2116-20

Etruscan AF-355

Casco Bay 2051-30

Wasabi AF-430

Amulet AF 365

Decorating with Green

I just did my first post on my other design blog on the color yellow today. Yay! It was in reference to how yellow helps one concentrate on tasks, so it’s a good color to have at your desk when you need to work.

Image from Elle Decor. Decorator Joe Nahem.

Conversely, ElleDecor had a great article today on the color green. Green relaxes the mind and calms the spirit. It’s a great color for bedrooms and bathrooms, anywhere you want to just kick back and unwind. A bold green, like a kelly green, can renew the spirit; a pastel green will have a more soothing effect.

From a feng shui perspective, it’s good to use green in your health area. It will enhance the chi for good health, whether it be healthy relationships, healthy souls, or healthy bodies. The green can come from paint color, furniture, pictures, or other accessories. You can further stimulate the health chi by bringing in natural (green) plants and wood.

So yellow gets the creative juices flowing, and green calms you down. Got it? Good!


Basement Floor Options

Someone asked me the other day if we had a sump pump for our basement. I said, no, we never get that much water…and then of course we got hit. Our basement is half finished, so luckily the water stayed mostly in the unfinished part. But because we’re thinking about finishing off the rest of it, I want a floor that is more durable than carpet, which is what we have now.

I just had a stone laminate floor installed in a client’s home similar to this one:

Laminate wasn’t my first choice but it fit the budget, and now that it’s in, I have to say it looks great. It is very hard to tell it isn’t stone. It’s durable and made from post consumer materials. We opted for a stone look but there are lots of nice looking wood options out there too.

The choice I’m really leaning towards though is stained concrete. There are so many color choices to chose from, and I can just throw down rugs where I need them. If the rugs get wet, I can get them cleaned.

Both laminate flooring and stained concrete would work well if we ever get water again. And if we do, then maybe I’ll finally think about that sump pump.



Pretty storage bench

If you are looking for a cute + affordable coffee table/bench seating/storage option, then check out Ballard Designs Amelia storage bench!

It comes in lots of different patterns, colors, fabrics, so you can find something for every decor. The construction is solid and I think this looks a lot more expensive than it is. It’s the perfect height & width for a coffee table and it’s stable, sitting on substantial solid feet. Check it out!