Friday, February 27, 2009

The 5 Top Things I Can Do to Improve My House

Well, this one is easy for me. Mostly because we do this type of work day to day, we know what impact these five things can have on your home. Today, we will keep it to simple, easy things you can do. We will deal with the bigger items on another day.

1. Paint.

Ok, now I have to ask - How long have you been in your home and when was the last time it was painted? More than 3-5 years ago? Well, that's too long. I have an active family - two little boys, a messy dog, two cats and then there is my husband and I. My boys are the ones that will go out in the yard, with the dog - find the only mud puddle in the back of the yard - jump, stomp and then come into the house to tell me about it...bringing the dog and mud with them. Since we have moved into our home, we have almost painted every room. The main areas which we painted first, only 2-3 years ago already need a new coat. The fact is that paint is the foundation of the your home, so you need to maintain it. That means walls, trim and CEILINGS! Most people paint their homes the basic ceiling white. Oh my, there are so many whites out there. Benjamin Moore Paints ( has an entire section devoted to them. Two of my favorites are Lemon Chiffon (OC-109) and Spanish White (OC-35). While they won't work with every wall color, it is amazing the effect that they have.

2. Window Coverings.

There are so many ways to dress your windows, the combinations can be mind boggling. Simply put - there is an inside mount treatment. This tends to be a shutter, wood blind, woven wood or soft shade product. They all have thier purpose with decoration. The choice will center on your style; traditional, transistional or contemporary, and your privacy needs. They all have thier place. Then there is the outside mount treatment. Ok, if you have painted, but not done your curtains or drapes... guess what is next? Really, this is the difference between living in an apartment and living in a home. Look at these before and after pictures.

3. Change every, single light bulb in your house.

Especially if they are more than six months old. We all probably by our light bulbs (technically lamps) the same way - How long are they going to last and by how efficient they are. While there have been some tremendouse improvements in lighting efficiency, you will still experience dimming. Most bulbs dim over time, and at different rates; causing the overall light brightness to go down. Can't do every bulb in the house at once? Then go room by room.
4. Change the View.

Most of us hang pictures and then feel committed to the placment of the art or mirror. There is no reason that we can't switch out like sized arts and mirror to give the room a fresh take.

5. Clean the clutter.

When we do consultations with our clients, I am amazed how often I hear. "Well, I really don't like that piece, but...." So here is some freedom. If you don't like it - don't keep it. Or if you simply must keep it, put it away. We give importance to the accessories in our homes by giving it precious space. Keeping items out that you don't like, is like filling you home with people you can't stand. Why waste the space?

Another common occurance is collections. Many people feel compelled to display their collections, both personal and inherited. Put some organization to the collection and edit. Show only the most fabulous pieces, or the ones that mean the most to you. Try not to show everypiece, it is confusing to the eye and doesn't give the viewer something to focus on. This is a great example from Traditional Home Magazine.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Remodeling in a Strained Economic Climate

In many ways, it seems that America has taken the current economic situation to heart. Many people have curtailed their spending, delaying gratification, waiting to pay cash versus paying on credit. But we have also seen many clients that have the funding to go ahead with a plan are waiting. My question is, waiting for what? Often the statement is "The Stock Market". OK, my next question is, "So you are waiting for the market to get better to liquidate?" Surprisingly, many answer no. Hmmm.

Amazingly, when we did research for the Houston area, we found that the home values were actually up 1% for 2008. So Houston has had a bit of protection compared to other markets. That's good news.

The other good news, now is actually a great time to do that project. Why? For several reasons.

1. Remodeling an older home to modern standards, helps to protect the investment in your home. For example, here is the picture of a master bathroom remodel we completed at the end of 2008.
This home is over 30 years old, only had one sink and the standard bath/shower enclosure.

The Master bath also only had one sink. With two people needing to get ready to leave at the same time, this left the wife to get ready in the powder bath just out side the bedroom.

These are the pictures after. What value did this add for the client?

Both the husband and the wife now have a luxurious walk-in shower with bench, they are both able to get ready side-by-side with two sinks. If you were looking at buying this house, would it appeal to you? Probably a lot more than the before shot. The point is people are more likely to purchase homes that have the least amount of work for them to do.

2. The slowing market has more available labor and material resources. Materials are more readily available and some others are better priced than they were before. From a labor perspective, contractors, painters, electricians have a greater ability to focus on you and your home, resulting in a quicker timeline, that inevitably translates to a better controlled budget.

So in short, the next time we have a situation so beneficial to the homeowner like this may be a long time coming.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Palm Spring Restaurants

Ok, so restaurants may not be directly related to Interior Design - but the ones in Palms Springs have it going on in spades. We went to several during our stay and it is interesting that they all are so different. I must say, I came back well feed and well wined, that and in need of losing a few pounds. In a time when amazing service in restaurants can be lacking. We had AMAZING service at all of the restaurants we went to. So cheers to the waiters and waitress that set out to make our evenings enjoyable.

If you find yourself in Palm Springs, I highly recommend the following restaurants.

The host and I presume owner was terribly gracious and very entertaining. We kept trying to figure out who he was. Our party felt sure that he was an Hollywood Actor, retired to the Palm Spring area. By the way, the entry chandelier is fabulous and hung a little low, really creating an intimate entrance. - Johannes Restaurant was equally as good, if not surprising in its menu which included among other things Kangaroo Loin. I had the butternut squash and appetizer quartet (since I could not decide). We had a fairly large table of ten for dinner and the restaurant and waitress did an excellent job of servicing our table.

Probably the most outstanding service we received was from Matchbox We arrived early for dinner, sublime calamari with jalapeno jelly and a fabulous pizza along with great wine and a great view. Always makes me happy.

The restaurant we went to the last evening Palm Springs Chop House ( , I am convinced put four pounds on me alone. We dined on escargot, spinach salad, rib eye, wonderful sourdough bread (it almost made your mouth pucker) and a molten chocolate cake for dessert. Now granted, my husband and I split everything - but it still was a lot of food. Interestingly, their interior was part Egyptian, part Spanish all at a chop house.

Fun Chairs for Kids & Teens

I strive to put the personality of the individual into their bedrooms. This can be the most difficult for the childrens rooms. I rarely get to meet them, but over time through their parents I can get a good idea of their personalities. These are some chairs that I love for children'r rooms.

The bentwood chair from This chair makes a great addition at the desk or vanity area.

This chair is a bit more for those who want a animal print, but Mom & Dad do not want animal print everywhere. The Parson style chair is a chameleon and can be reupholstered a million ways.

The last chair should be a staple in every childs bedroom - a twin sleeper chair. I'm not much a fan of the foam ones, but an upholstered chair that is big enough for after school lounging and converts to a twin bed when company is over would do the trick.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Palm Trees and Snow Capped Mountains

Well, we have arrived on an uneventful, but interesting flight. Uneventful for all the right reasons, interesting because there were NASCAR officials and several pit crew members on the flight for the race in LA this weekend. We happen to sit next to a pit official, so it was an interesting conversation.

This is our second trip to California and it is struck me as an almost surreal landscape. Driving from the Ontario Airport to Palm Springs it is the weirdest dichotomy of landscape elements. we are technically driving to a desert in Palm Springs - with palm trees on one side and and snow capped mountains on the other side. Check it out!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

I'm ready for the sun!

Well, that is what I will get to see of it. I am heading off to Palm Springs this week for the Winter Conference of the Best Practices Network (BPN). The network is comprised of interior design firms from all over the nation who share thier best businesses practices. Admittance into the Network is through application with a member approval process, ensuring that we are not competitive with each other. The conference should be great and I know I will come back with more ideas than any one person can implement.

The conference and our home in Palm Springs will be at the Hotel Zoso. From, the rooms look great - check it out. I may never want to leave. Believe me, the conference is intense - but we do have 75 min for lunch and I feel sure it will be enough time to lay at the pool at least on one day.
Another perk of being in Palm Springs this week will be the Palm Springs Modernism week( Since we are starting a new project that has a modern focus, I have it on my plans to try & hit the show on a lunch. From what I understand, Palm Springs is pretty small, so getting there sometime during the trip shouldn't be too hard.
I'm excited and can't wait to share all the finds from the trip. Until then - happy hunting!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Candice, Trees and Parties

Well February has started off with a bang for us!

At the beginning of February, we attended an all-day event for the Texas Chapter of National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA). The purpose of the event was two-fold - first to induct a Houston's Suzie Wilford as incoming National President of NKBA (congratulations!) and the second to hear from Candice Olsen of Divine Design on HGTV speak about her kitchen and bath projects.

First I have to say, as a designer, I am a HUGE fan of Candice. She shows the process in one of the most realistic shows out there. The truth is that theses type of projects take time and money, they are fun and problematic, and in the end it is beautiful!
So for those with questions....Here are your answers!
Yes, she is very tall. I'd guess at least 6'. She is also very much the same person you see on TV. All the clients on her show live in Toronto, although she said that they work very hard to make sure that they are diverse in project type, style and budgets. Since it is a television show, she really is not able to share with her clients what she has planned for them until the reveal - which is interesting because they do pay for the project (except for her design fees) and often she comes back and asks them to increase their budgets. Imagine that, being asked for a larger budget and not knowing why.

Other news from Candice, there are at least another 26 episodes heading our way; Plus she will be a judge on the next season of HGTV Design Star. A big "THANK YOU" to Silestone USA ( for sponsoring Candice's trip to Houston.

Last Thursday also had two showrooms hosting fundraisers and showroom openings. The first event was hosted by Skyline Art Services ( and Kirksey in the new location of Skyline Art Services off of Old Katy Road. The event benefited Trees For Houston, raising money to help replant the trees and canopy destroyed by Hurricane Ike. We love places like Skyline Art - it enables us to bring original art to our clients from some local and not so local artists.

One piece that especially caught my eye was this wooden vase. I love the intricate "lace" pattern that the artist, Michael Bauermeister, carved. According to Skyline, the artist uses trees that have been harvested for a variety of reasons by his local park department and landscapers. Isn't it gorgeous?

In the same evening, we went to the showroom opening for Poggenpohl USA ( The new showroom at Post Oak and Westheimer, in the Galleria, represents Poggenpohl's largest showroom. The event garnered over 400 RSVPs and I do believe everyone came. Look at this picture, there was barely any room to move!

Poggenpohl, for those of you who don't know is a manufacturers premium cabinets for contemporary kitchens. The finish on the cabinetry is flawless and enables for custom organization for every need. The showroom highlighted a new table that expands to allow for service carts through the center of the table. This type of product is chic and functional. But I admit, I have a soft spot for their Porche Kitchen. You can have one for your kitchen and your driveway - :).

We have started several new projects this month, so look forward to hearing about them in the future. We are also members of the Best Practices Network, comprised of around 100 leading companies across the nation. Next week is our Winter Conference in Palm Springs! So I'll be sure to share with you all of the design-worthy places there.

Happy Hunting!