Top 5 Design Trends That Need To Go

Some of them are just overdone. Others are just plain silly. Here’s to seeing these trends go out with the new year:

 1. Vintage bulbs (also known as Edison bulbs).  I like my light bulbs to perform their duty. I like them to light a room. Vintage bulbs emit an extremely poor light. Plus staring at an exposed bulb makes my eyes cross. I want to insist that any restaurant that has these also equip their diners with readers. And for anyone who is interested in saving the environment, here’s a tip: these bulbs suck up three times the energy of a regular incandescent bulb. Not cool for a farm to table restaurant or any space touting eco friendliness.



2. Having every chair at the dining table mismatched. I understand this trend came from the accessibility of shabby chic design, and if you live in a log cabin or lovely seaside cottage, I like it: it looks as if you suddenly found out you had four extra people coming for dinner and you had an hour to run to the local roadside market to pick up a few chairs for $20 a piece.  Dining chairs are expensive, averaging $200-$400 a chair, and most tables call for at least 4 to 6 of them. The math adds up fast. But with all that said, there is something to be said for symmetry. Four chairs that match and that fit the style of a dining room table add warmth and believability. Do an arm chair for the heads of the table if you need them to differ, but they should still relate to the rest of the setting.

3. Barn wood and concrete.  Don’t get me wrong. It is a lovely combination: the warmth of reclaimed woods juxtaposed with harsh concrete. But can we please get back to creative design? I don’t want every restaurant I frequent to look the same. I eat at different restaurants for different food sensations. I would love the decor to be as fresh and original as the food.



4.  Dark finishes on hardwood floors. I know a lot of folks are going to challenge me on this one. But I never heard so many people complain about dirt and dust showing against dark floors, much more so than when floors were a medium tone. I think the dark floor finish people and the Roomba© folks colluded on this: Hey Roombs! We’re gonna push dark finishes, cause they look super modern. They’ll show every speck of dust, but that’s where you’ll come in and work your magic! Bonus if you get a video of a cat sitting on you while you, well, clean up the cat litter speckled all over the dark floor!

5. And I’ll leave you with this. 


Design Tip for the Week: Painting Stair Risers

This is an oldie but a goodie. If you are lucky enough to have stained wood risers – I applaud you!  Don’t ever paint them! As for the rest of us  – we know that there is not enough Magic Eraser in the world to remove those scuffs…


If you’re fed up and thinking about painting your risers, do so and know that it’s still a bit of a trendy choice but once that is quickly becoming accepted into the mainstream. Choose a dark color (it does not have to be black) to hide the marks. Make sure to pick a paint designed for wood (different from wall paint) and a finish like satin that allows you to wipe off dirt. You’ll want to give your risers a good cleaning and a nice sanding before applying the paint. Then you’ll need to decide if you want to keep your stringers the same color as your trim (white as in picture two below) or paint them to match your risers (black as in photo three). Paint one or two first, stand back and see if you like the look. If you don’t, you can always go back to your original color.


You can even add a decal if you’d like, but make sure it’s dark enough to hide the dirt, and also select one that doesn’t make you dizzy going up and down the stairs:

Mudroom floor is complete

The floor is complete. It came out great.



It’s a ceramic tile that will be easy to clean in the winter.



Update To mudroom 2.0

It has finally (re)begun! See, this is the problem with having a fabulous contractor. I put him on all my client jobs, then he has no time for me. But I have waited this long, so I can wait a little longer. But today is finally the day! There’s a lot of hammering and sawing going on back there and that is music to my ears. Today’s discovery was of a harlequin style vinyl tile probably laid down in the 50’s or 60’s sitting beneath the plywood:

mudroom floor

Discovery #2: the original porch was much smaller! I always wondered why the joist was off center in the ceiling:


Once the floor was pulled up it was obvious that the porch used to end right there:

original end of house 2

At some point – probably very early on – the porch was extended another four feet or so and more windows were added, plus the bathroom later on:


So cool. I love the archaeological aspects of remodeling. Because of the unevenness of the floor – there is quite a bit of a slope – we are taking it down to the studs to lay a new subfloor. That way we’ll have a nice even surface to lay our new tile.

Earlier post: 

Today we ripped out all the old brick linoleum tile. Already the floor is looking better. Next up is prepping the plywood for the new tile.

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Update to mudroom

Today we ripped out all the old brick linoleum tile. Already the floor is looking better. Next up is prepping the plywood for the new tile.

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Mudroom flooring

I live in a modest four square with a “winterized” porch off the back that serves as a mudroom, office, and most recently, dog den. The house computer sits here, wires and all, taunting our six month puppy and his insatiable chewing habit. The office came first, after my husband and I spent a night into the wee hours cutting, laying down and adhering together wall to wall carpet squares and setting up an old desk and computer. The carpet served to cover a not so pleasant existing laminate glue down floor. Think Brady Bunch brick. Replacing/cleaning dirty carpet squares would be so much easier than cleaning/replacing an entire floor of carpeting, we reasoned as we headed into our fifth hour of slicing and sticking.

Over the years and having a child morphed the office into a repository for shoes, keys, coats and stuff to go out to the garage on the next exit, a place to kick off boots, hang wet snow and swim suits, wipe feet/hands/whatever before heading into the kitchen.  Hence it became The Mudroom. With a Computer. A muduter. The carpet squares? Never replaced. Nary a one. I did have a professional cleaner come by once and after spending an hour on the floor proclaimed that they were better than before, but that he wasn’t “a miracle worker.”

Now on to the puppy. I thought the muduter would be a great place to house a pup while he learned that the indoors was not his open toilet. But the carpet squares took a beating like nothing before. I learned that my sweet puppy could devour a carpet square in a minute flat, fiber, rubber backing, sticky tape and all. The carpet seemed to absorb all smells and transfer them to random parts of the house, no matter how much of the world’s greatest carpet cleaner I used.

So the nasty carpet squares were finally ripped up and thrown out. Which now leaves the brick glue down floor. I am going to replace it with another glue down floor because I need something easy to clean and not something the puppy can easily dig at and pull up. To make the new floor lay as flat and tight as possible I need to pull up all the old laminate and get down to the plywood floor. So this is where I’m at today:






Winter salt and wood floors

Right now in the Midwest we’re in the midst of a “wintry mix” of subzero temps, snow and wind. I don’t complain about it because I did choose to live in Chicago as opposed to Hawaii (Aloha mom!). I do have a love/hate relationship with rock salt though. It’s a damn necessity here. It will certainly cut your chances of ending up in traction post porch stairs slip. One winter I went down the back stairs so hard that my car key flew out of my hand and landed somewhere in a pile of snow. I had to wait a week for the snow to melt before I could find it.

So I use rock salt. But I don’t like it. It gets tracked indoors onto my wood floors. Wood floors and rock salt are a bad mix, like my mother and Chicago winters. Rock salt is generally made from sodium chloride, which will take off the finish from a floor, and if it’s left to sit for too long, it could cause the wood to split and/or rot. Use a good wood floor cleaner, or at the very least water, to clean up any rock salt residue from your floors. Use mats at the door that can be washed often, and make everyone takes off boots and shoes before they come into the house, regardless of whether it’s snowing or raining out. No one should walk around a house with outside shoes on anyway. The dirt and grime from shoes ruins carpets, not to mention the gunk that they trap in the carpet fibers. But that’s a post for another day.


Update on the Grove remodel

The remodel is almost complete! Even without the furniture in the transformation looks amazing. Fun project!

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!