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!

Beautiful custom lamp shades

It’s been awhile since I posted, but that’s good, because I’ve been busy! I’ve got lots of cool things to share during my hunt for items, but for now I’ll start with these beautiful lighting options from Stacy Garcia, available through

Stacy is know as a surface pattern designer, and her beautiful designs are actually custom prints, done through a specialized ink jet printing process. I’ve been looking for some floral lamp shades and she’s got lots of nature inspired designs with great pops of color.

Plus, the price points can’t be beat. Really affordable, cute lighting options. Go shop!


Fireplaces and TVs

I am about to start work on a family room for a new client. The room will be used for TV watching and enjoying fires (and occasional napping). It has a gas fireplace with a stone mantle that is about three feet wide. I am not kidding. This mantle could probably hold my family room TV, which looks like a screen stuck on the front of a VW Beetle.

My client’s TV is a 42″ flat screen. It currently sits on a nice stand in the corner of the room. She would like to mount it above the fireplace. It would certainly be convenient for me: something that is 40-46″ inches wide (screens widths are measured corner to corner and not horizontal across) is a bit of a challenge to work into a design. The large fireplace wall lends itself well to handling the height and width of the TV.

But as a decorator, I must ask myself: is this really a good idea?

There are two key things to consider when mounting a TV over a fireplace: heat and height.

You can read lots and lots of complicated information about how heat affects plasma and LCD TVs differently (believe me. I have. It’s been a slow Monday).  But I will keep this simple: heat and electronics don’t mix. You need to know how hot it really gets around your fireplace after you build that roaring fire and settle back to watch two hours of American Idol.  To determine the heat, do a simple test: place a thermometer on the wall above your fireplace.  Now light a fire and kick back and enjoy. After it’s been going for a while – a couple of hours at least – check the temperature. If it’s above 90 degrees farenheit, congrats! You now know where NOT to place your television! It may take a few fires, but if you insist on mounting your TV here despite the heat, eventually your flat screen will look like those tapes you used to leave in your car in the sun all day. (Yep. I said tapes. I am showing my age here but you know exactly what I’m talking about.)

The other consideration is how high you should mount your TV. After reading a lot on this subject I’ve decided I should start handing out cards for my chiropractor friend when I visit people’s homes and I see flat screens mounted above fireplaces. Why? Most TVs are just hung too high. TVs should be placed at eye level. Anything above this and you are either straining your neck or you are slumped down in your sofa so far your practically sitting on the floor. If your fireplace wall passes the heat test and you still want to mount your TV there, then spend a bit more money and get a wall mount that allows you to tip the screen down, minimizing the strain a bit.

The last thing to consider when deciding to mount your TV about the fireplace is how far back you should sit from the screen for proper viewing. This post won’t go into the intricacies of that because it depends on the number of pixels your tv is and whether you have a plasma or flat screen and quite frankly, all that math makes my brain hurt. My best advice there is to google the type of TV you have and follow the recommendations given by the manufacturer. For example, if you have a 1080p 40″ LCD flat screen, then you could sit about 5 feet away and get a great picture. But if your sofa is five feet away from your fireplace wall, and your TV is mounted about 4-5 feet up the wall, you’re straining your neck to watch TV. But if you are sitting 10 feet away, it’s easier on your neck but the picture might not look as good. See what I mean? Math.

So what will my decorating plan be for this job? I think am going to look for a lovely piece of art to hang about the fireplace and keep the tv at eye level  – somewhere else in the room. I’ll just create two seating areas: one for tv viewing and another for enjoying fires. My client can then use the money she saved on wall mounts and hiding wires on wireless surround sound. Or perhaps some more decorating.

My favorite rug (for now)

I’ve been doing  a lot of rug shopping lately. Besides the fabulous custom choices I have encountered at the Merchandise Mart, I have come across some wonderful mid range retail price options. My number one favorite? The Asimi rug by Crate and Barrel:

This is a wonderful, 100% wool rug with an oriental flair of flowers and vines woven in a warm pattern of chocolate brown, sage green, gold, red and steel blue hues, making it extremely versatile.  It would be perfect in a living room or dining room, either a contemporary or traditional setting.

If you require two rugs in a room or in rooms that flow together, pair it with the Library rug from Room and Board:

This is a durable rug, made in 100% New Zealand wool, making it great for a family or living room. What ties these rugs together? They are unified in hue and intensity even though their patterns are disparate.

Shoe storage solutions for an entryway

I just finished a floor plan for a client who’s back door leads from the garage immediately into the family room. There is no closet in this space, nor is there any type of hallway or foyer by the door, so shoes were lined up along walls in the family room and in front of the door. With the granite hearth fireplace, butter walls, french doors leading to the garden and honey colored wood floors, the room lends itself to a relaxed elegance design for fires and tv watching. So what to do with those pesky shoes that I had to work into the design?

I created an entry way using this piece from Pottery Barn:

I placed it horizontally along the arm of the sofa, so it created a right angle with the back door. It helped create a barrier between the sofa and the entryway, and underneath, I threw two large baskets:

(These were also from Pottery Barn but you can pick up baskets anywere). I have a size 10 shoe, so I practiced with my shoes first, and they fit nicely. I got about six pairs of flats in there! They have lids too, so now when they come in the door, they can toss their shoes in a basket and throw on the lid and no one is the wiser.

I liked this solution because it doesn’t look like shoe storage, it helped divide the entry way from the living space,  and it fit the decor of the room. Just throw a little rug in front to complete the space. Winter boots can stay on a boot tray in the garage so no worries there.

Coat Hooks

I’ve been looking for some coat hooks  in my ongoing attempt to stay organized and I’ve found several ones that I like. Even the smallest detail, like a wall hook, can make an impact in a room.


Tembo Ceramic Hook from Nkuku

Eames Hang it All from Room and Board

Knax walnut coat hook from Nest Living

Ceramic Melon Hook from Anthropologie



Fresh Flowers

As I watch the crocuses emerge around my house – yay spring! – I am reminded about how much difference flowers can make to a space. Fresh flowers are such an easy yet impactful decorating tool to create beauty and drama. I purchase flowers every week from our local Trader Joe’s. I see them right as I walk in the door and they cost about $5.00 a bundle, sometimes less. I keep them on my desk, in my living room, and in a little vase next to my kitchen sink. For me, they infuse a space with instant drama. No one can walk into a room and not notice even a simple arrangement of fresh flowers.

Notice how I keep saying fresh flowers? In feng shui, dried flowers are a no no. They have no chi – life force or positive energy. Dried flowers are dead, and in feng shui, you don’t want to place anything in your space that signifies neglect or death. So try to avoid using them, especially in areas that you are trying to enhance – career, wealth, health, etc. If you think fresh flowers are an extravagance, then purchase potted geraniums or other flowering plants. Even a simple jade plant, with its vivid green, will give a space a boost of color and drama.


Is your room like a polar bear against a snowy backdrop? Or is it more like a periwinkle hydrangea set against green leaves? If you feel your room is blah, there may be a quick fix: contrast. Take a look around your space. What color are your walls? How about your sofa? Floors? Are all your surfaces smooth and shiny, like leather sofas and glass tabletops? Or do you have a mix of textures? Is there enough contrast between the elements in your room?

Sometimes having little contrast is a good thing, like blending into your environment to avoid getting eaten. It can also help minimize the appearance of something that you don’t want to call attention to, like a support beam in the middle of a room. But if you want to create more interest and depth, add contrast in the form of color and/or texture. Add some soft, patterned throw pillows to that sofa. Swap out that glass table for distressed wood. Put a potted red geranium in a clay pot on a black side table.  It may take a little bit to play with textures and colors, but have fun! You don’t have to change the big stuff: just add a few accents here and there to create more interest.

Demolition Sales

Sounds like a monster truck event, doesn’t it? They can certainly feel like one if you’ve ever been. A demolition sale is a giant scavenger hunt to a decorator. It’s like an estate sale, but with one big difference: after an estate sale the house is usually left standing. Not so with a demo sale: the building is literally torn down after the sale. So don’t be late.

Demo sales are great resources for decorators and anyone who’s on a budget because you can literally find everything down to the kitchen sink. Currently I am looking for a stair railing/banister for a client. True, I could go to Home Depot and get something utilitarian. But I want something unique, something beautiful, something with character. This client doesn’t have the budget to have someone  custom make one, so we’re looking to repurpose an existing one and then I’ll have my contractor retro fit it for my client’s home.

How do you find demo sales? Simple. Just google “demolition sales” and find ones in your area. Most demo sales require you to pay in cash and take items with you immediately but read the fine print for the demo sale you’re interested in to see what they require.

Dress to get dirty and have fun!

Cool chair for dining or office

I have been on an IKEA kick lately. I found this chair while looking for some pieces for a commercial space I’m working on. It’s super comfortable and sexy and sleek. It comes in two colors – a clear and a smoke grey. It would look great with a round white Knoll table, a knotty wood rectangular table or even with a little writing desk.