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I’m so excited about our latest window treatment install. This one is for a retired gentleman who lives in a great little condo in Stephens City (near Winchester), VA. He wanted something functional to give him privacy when necessary and to allow natural light to flow during the day. He also wanted something updated and stylish. We chose to go with wood blinds from Graber in cherry finish to match his existing furnishings. For style we added beautiful cornice boards in fabrics that are masculine in style but full of life and texture. They work amazingly with his new paint colors. In the living room we needed functional draperies to allow him privacy at night. We did a very classy blue/brown/green faux silk striped fabric that just pops against the wall color and ties his artwork and furnishings together. The rod is traversing in bronze finish to match his new ceiling fans.

Master bedroom wood blind and cornice board.

Office wood blinds and cornice board.


Living room draperies closed. Couldn't get a good picture with them open.


Part of our work with this client was helping him to hang his fantastic collection of artwork from his travels across the world. We chose to display is art in groupings to make them more substantial and to have them really attract attention. When hanging artwork, groupings tend to create a very dramatic display that calls for conversation. Check out how we did.

We had these reframed by a professional framer (Digital Recollections) to really bring out the colors and beauty of the art.

View down the hallway.

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Check out our latest design project. We’ve just about completed this family room for a nice couple and their four legged children in Alexandria. When we started the room had a nice collection of traditional furnishings that had been lent to them by her mother. The pieces were of excellent quality and quite attractive but just didn’t reflect their style and personality. This is the room in the house where they spend the majority of their time and they were ready for a space that they could lounge in and relax, entertain in and really get a lot of use of.
We started with an incredibly large and deep, comfy sectional. The sectional is in a deep chocolate fabric. We contrasted the chocolate a woven fabric with shades of reds and golds for the accent pillows. The coffee table, by Stanley Furniture, is perfect for hiding remotes, blankets and games. The metal side tables with glass tops ensure the kitties will not scratch them. The swivel arm lamps allow for perfect reading light.
The large entertainment center provides plenty of storage for the dvd player, WII and games. It allows gives plenty of display space for collections of vases, glassware and books.
We chose front fold roman shades to avoid kitties and doggies from destroying draperies and to give a more casual, family room feel. They also block light for tv watching. The deep green/grey color adds contrast to the neutral walls. Finally the details, like the two sets of wall plaques in varying shades of green, red, yellows and browns adds texture and color to the neutral backdrop. All thats missing now is a couple of great pieces of art on the walls near the entertainment center and recliner that is on order from Ethan Allen for the corner.
Check it out. We’d love to hear comments…

Family Room Before Picture

So the first steps of my master bedroom suite redo have been completed.  I painted the bedroom and bathroom (in one weekend, boy was I tired).  For the bedroom I chose a favorite neutral of mine, Benjamin Moore’s Shaker Beige.  To contrast in the bathroom I chose Benjamin Moore’s Tranquility.  Honestly, the Tranquility turned out more blue than imagined but I love the way it looks behind the Shaker Beige as you enter the bathroom from the bedroom.  I also love what it does to the accent border tiles.

View entering the bathroom from the bedroom.

In the bedroom we also mounted the flat screen TV on the wall which freed up so much space.  We moved the dresser that was under the TV, to the window wall.  Check out how the shades now pop against the Shaker Beige.

Dresser moved to window wall.

The mirror that is currently on top of the dresser will ultimately go above the new headboard which should arrive in January.  The chair that is currently there is left over from our old house and will be replaced in the near future.  I want to place a full length floor mirror on the wall perpendicular to the window wall and opposite where the chair is now.  Next will be adding the swing arm wall sconces on either side of the bed and I will be making two cornice boards to go over the windows.  The fabric has blues and greens and will help to unify the colors in the bedroom and bathroom.  The new shirred bedskirt, hopefully in January as well will also help to tie the colors together.  New bedding and accent pillows should finish off the fabric scheme.

In the bathroom you see two fretwork mirrored silver wall sconces on the wall.  These are from Bassett Furniture, one of our lines of furniture.  I just love the way they bling and their curves are so romantic.  Eventually I will find the perfect piece of artwork to go between them.  I just love how the new cafe draperies pop against the Tranquility.

larger view of bathroom. Hard to see but the accent tiles really pop with the new wall color.

The bathroom doesn’t require too much more.  New fixtures (towel bars, toilet paper holder, light fixtures, faucets and a few carefully placed accessories and this retreat will be ready for some nice long baths (as if there’s time).

Stay tuned for more to come soon…

The master bedroom is the most important room in the house, in my opinion.  It is also the most often overlooked.  In my last home I left the master bedroom design for last.  In this one, not so much.  Although I’ve moved quite ahead on the kid’s bedrooms and the main level of the home is getting there, I refuse to put the master bedroom last.  Its ahead of the basement family room, the guest room and the office, at least.

The Plan

In the next two months I plan to overhaul the room completely.  The plan is to

-paint the walls

-complete the window treatments by adding cornice boards (which I plan to make myself, I really want to learn how to make them).

-Purchase and install a new custom fabric headboard

-Purchase a new custom made shirred bedskirt

-Add two swing arm wall sconces for task lighting

-Add a new chandelier for overall lighting

-Mount the flat screen on the wall

-Move the furniture to its ideal location

-Create a cozy reading nook with a chair, side table and lamp

-Paint the master bathroom- change the light fixtures and towel bars and add art and accessories

What I’ve done so far… Not much.  Purchased the flat screen and wall mount in November, yes, its still uninstalled (honey d0 isn’t doing).  Purchased the reverse fold roman shades in a green.  I pulled the color from my inspiration fabric which is what will eventually go on a breakfront bench at the foot of the bed.  I also purchased cafe length relax pleated curtains installed inside the window frame.  They allow plenty of light into the room while providing privacy.   In September we upgraded from a queen to a king size bed, we bought a sleep number and I gotta say its every bit as good as they claim!

Not much else, the existing furniture I’ve had and plant to keep the two dressers and nightstands.  Here are the BEFORE pictures.  Embarrasing, I know.  But not for long… 🙂

Sorry about the lighting. Currently we have one little lamp lighting the entire room.

The bedding is remnants from our Queen size bed. Believe it or not it was actually quite beautiful on it. Now its just WAY too small.

The master bathr. The chip on the wall is called Tranquility #AF-490 from Benjamin Moore.

Check out the window treatments!

The other side of the bathroom.

By next week the goal is to have the bedroom painted, the tv mounted and the existing furniture in its new location.  After that, I plan to paint and accessorize the bathroom (before New YEars).  The new light fixtures, headboard and bedskirt should come after the Holidays and then its time to pull it all together with accessories and artwork.  Wish me luck and stay tuned.

I am an avid consignment and antique shopper.  For me there is nothing like finding that uniquely perfect treasure for the perfect spot in my home.  Its like a treasure hunt.  I love the idea that I’m also giving an old piece a new lease on life, thus recycling it and helping to keep it out of the landfill.

Recycling high quality older pieces is a fantastic way to low cost decorate, to give a great piece a new life and to add unique and one of a kind pieces to your home décor.  However, there are some simple strategies to effectively maneuvering the consignment shops so that you are getting the most for you money and time.

*When it comes to consignment shopping, not all shops are created equal.  Look for shops that discriminate.  Good consignment shops will only accept pieces that are in good shape and that have good potential for someone else.  Ask the store owner what their policy is for accepting consignment items.

* Keep an open mind. When shopping a consignment  shop, try to think beyond what a piece is to what it could be.   An old lamp can be given new life with a new shade.  Curtain panels could be converted to valances or accent pillows.  Focus on the potential of a piece versus its current state.  Can it use some paint, a new shade, a light sanding?  How can you transform that piece into something spectacular?

Believe it or not, this is an antique sewer grate mold that we found in the basement of Fairmont Avenue Antiques in West Virginia. I think it will make incredible wall art.

The lamp was purchased at Stuff Consignments in Gainesville. The shade was purchased at http://www.lampsplus.com. The sculpture on the table is actually a pair of wall sconces standing upside down. They were purchased at The Very Thing in Haymarket.

My daughter's night stand lamps were purchased with different shades at The Very Thing for about $12 each. I changed the shades to add a pop of pattern against pattern.

*Let your creative juices flow and don’t be afraid to try something new.  Consignment shopping provides an opportunity for trying out new decorating techniques and ideas.  Since you are typically paying lower prices for these pieces, it would not be so painful if something went wrong with your creative project.

Wall cabinet purchased at The Very Thing in Haymarket. I added the fabric panels using a tension rod and some hot glue, to hide the "not so nice" bathroom necessities.

Dresser with distressed paint finish found at antique shop in West Virginia. We use it to store our dining linens in our dining room.

*Look for quality. Just because the piece is being consigned doesn’t mean it should be sturdy, of good quality and safe. Be cautious of peeling paint or rusting nails and screws.  Just like if you were shopping for new items, consider the quality of piece being purchased.

*Don’t be afraid to negotiate.  Some consignment shops will keep items for only thirty days.  After fifteen days, the price is usually dropped and the consignment shops and consigners are typically more willing to negotiate the price of an item.  I always say, if you don’t ask you won’t know.  See if the shop would be willing to reduce the price or sell a combination of items for lower price.

*Get to know the shop owners or staff.  Getting to know the store staff will allow them to get to know you and your tastes.  Perhaps the next time something that would appeal to you comes in, they will contact you directly to let you have first dibs.  Or perhaps you are looking for something specific, if you know the staff you can ask them to keep an eye out for this item on your behalf.

*Drop by your favorite shops often.  As I mentioned before, good consignment shops will keep items on display for about thirty days, which means there will be a lot of rotation and fresh items coming into the shop weekly.    By stopping by often you reduce the risk of missing out on that perfect items you’ve been looking for.

*Consider consigning your older, good quality pieces.  You can make some money towards your your items and will give someone an opportunity to give your great piece a new life.  Be sure to think about the minimum you are willing to accept for the item and speak with the shop owner or staff to make sure you can get that for your item.  Also, if you want your items returned if they do not sell, you must make arrangements to return and pick them up at the end of our consigning period.  Make sure they make a note of it and make sure you keep track or your consignment timeline.

Consignment shopping is a fantastic way to add unique, one of a kind pieces to your home décor.  I hope you find these tips useful for effectively shopping your local consignment shops.  Good luck and happy hunting!

I often have clients ask me for creative solutions for storage in smaller bathrooms and powder rooms.  It seems that more and more builders and homeowners are moving away from under sink storage, particularly in smaller bathroom and powder rooms.  So what then do you do with all the necessary “bathroom” stuff that needs to be stored and that you may not want everyone looking at.  Here are few creative solutions.

From my own home:

For my powder room I found a cute, funky open wall cabinet at one of my favorite places in the whole world, “The Very Thing” in Haymarket.  The cabinet had no enclosed storage so I got creative with a glue gun and some striped cotton fabric and created a small curtain to hide the not so pretty bathroom necessities like toilet paper.  The open shelves serve to display nice objects (yes, you can and should decorate your bathroom spaces too).  I have placed a Moroccan vase that matches the other colors in the space.  The idea is to one day paint the cabinet a fun color but these days I don’t have much time for painting.  I may even wallpaper the back of the cabinet with some fun wallpaper to coordinate with the colors and fabrics.  Take a look:

Small cabinet purchased at The Very Thing, a local consignment shop in Haymarket. I made a small curtain with some fabric, fabric glue and a tension rod to hide all of the not so pretty bathroom stuff.

Another creative solution is to add a decorative skirt to your pedestal sink.  This is particularly useful in really tight spaces where storage in general is limited.  You can use baskets or small shelves to hidden underneath the curtain.  You don’t even need to sew.  Use fabric glue and velcro to create a custom look.

Open shelving can also be useful, even for the not so pretty bathroom necessities.  Use baskets and containers to hide the not so pretty and use the open shelving and hanging racks for the pretty stuff.

Baskets and bins can serve to hold toilet paper, towels, magazines, etc.  Tuck them in a corner or under the sink to keep them out of the way.  Be sure to place the items inside neatly so that they look decorative.

Floor cabinets can also be useful if you have the space.  There are some beautiful, off the rack floor cabinets that can serve to hide the clutter.  Check out this one from Bed, Bath and Beyond: http://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/product.asp?sku=16643980

Use old barn ladders and plant trellises to hang things like towels, and to sit a roll of toilet paper and decorative soaps.  This can be a creative and fun way to create storage.  You can nail hooks into them and hang them from the wall or simply sit them on the floor and lean them against the wall.  One piece of advice, tie the ladder into the wall so that it doesn’t fall on people as they are trying to remove towels or other items.

Check out more creative bathroom storage photos at http://www.hgtv.com/bathrooms/10-stylish-bathroom-storage-solutions/pictures/index.html

One of my favorite parts of my job is combining and coordinating fabrics and textiles.  When you see a perfectly designed room in a magazine, you often fine combinations of fabrics, patterns, textures and colors that you probably wouldn’t have thought to put together yourself, yet they look so perfectly executed within the design.  There is an art to combining fabrics and textiles to get a beautiful, cohesive, well-designed look.  But it doesn’t have to be so difficult.  Here are a few simple rules I use to help me perfectly combine fabric and textiles in my designs.

* Find a unifying color – you can easily combine different patterns of fabrics and textiles if you choose one unifying color among all of them to tie them together.  For example, in my family room I have chosen blue-green as my unifying color.  I have successfully been able to combine a small Ikat print in small accent pillows, with a slightly larger geometric in the draperies, a solid silk accent pillow and a floral metallic wallpaper in the back of the built-in, using the blue green as the unifier.  The sofa is a darker blue and the rich dark woods around the room help to ground it all.

*Choose one fabric and pull your other colors from that one fabric.  It should be a bolder fabric and should be the used as the highlight or centerpiece of your design.  For my master bedroom I have selected several beautiful fabrics from Thibaut for my upcoming redo.  In this case, I fell in love with the bold floral print.  I pulled the blue out again in the fabric for the soft shades.  The green Ikat will either be cornices above the shades or accent pillows and the solid blue will likely be the custom uphosltered headboard.  The large print floral that I fell in love with will be the new upholstery on a new pair of chairs I have yet to find.

Fabric selections for my upcoming master bedroom redo.

*Don’t forget about texture.  Varying your texture can help to add depth to your design.  Even if you are using the same color or a more monochromatic color scheme, varying the textures can help give life and depth to the design of the room.  Consider combining a chenille with a woven with a wool and add a bit of silk for glamour.

*Use textured solids or tone on tone, large scaled patterns on the large pieces and add punches of busier pattern and textures in your smaller pieces.  By using textured solids or tone on tone on your larger pieces you are keeping them more neutral, making it easy to change out your accents later on.  If you put a large, heavy or busy print on a larger piece (such as a sofa), it can limit you if you choose to change your decor down the road.

My living room sofa with a tone on tone damask fabric.

A textured neutral on the sofa and tone on tone modern metallic fabric on the chairs allows us to play with other patterns throughout the room in this Alexandria home.

Selecting fabric patterns and textures can be a lot of fun and can really help to pull together the design of your room.  Don’t be afraid to try unique and unusual combinations of fabric patters and colors.  You just might surprise yourself at the cool new look you might create.

This past Sunday the Washington Examiner highlighted one of our client projects (http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/economy/real-estate/98860724.html) .  The article focused specifically on using family photos in your interior design.  The client had an amazing collection of family photos done by a local photographer, Virginia Pixton Payne  of Virginia Payne Photography (http://www.virginiapaynephotography.com/).  We created some amazing collages on her basement office and stair walls.

I too have started my own family collage on my stairs to my basement family room and wanted to share some additional tips as well as photos on how to use family photos in your interior design.

The start of my family collage. A friend of mine, Rick Reinsch of Digital Recollections (http://www.digitalrecollections.net/Home.html) made the custom mats for me so that I could use these inexpensive frames I already had. I am going to have him do the two larger ones next, just need to pick the photos.

*Make sure the photos are well done.  You don’t have to be a professional photographer to take good photos.  Here are some simple rules and you will see that your photos will begin to look like perhaps a professional took them.

–  Close ups are better than far away.  If you are photographing a person, a close up of the person is much more please than a full body shot.

– Get creative with your point of view.  Taking a photo of a child from above, or from below can be more artsy looking and creative than taking a photo straight on.  Change up your point of view and you will see how creative your photos become.

– Change your focus.  Try close-ups with everything blurry in the background, or focus on one child in front and get the second child in the background.  Get creative with your focus and you will see how interesting your photos become.

– Think about the lighting.  In photography, lighting makes all the difference.  Outdoors, try taking photos in the early to mid-morning when the sun is bright but not blaring.  Indoors, make sure you have a good flash and play around with your                     ambient lighting to get the perfect mix.

I took these of my son one night when he was playing with a blanket. I just got creative with the angles and played along with him. They are going on my collage wall ASAP.

Another creative angle.

*Find one unifying element.  Choose one element that will be constant throughout your photo display.  It can be as simple as using the same frame, or even the same color frame.  Or perhaps all of your pictures will be in black and white, or in color.  Or maybe all of your frame sizes are the same.  Find one thing that unifies the overall design and get creative with everything else.In one of Alison's collages, the unifying element was the beautiful antique gold frames.  We were able to mix color and black and white photos in different sizes together and they all look beautiful in these frames.

*Put multiple pictures together for a more dramatic affect.  Creating wall collages turns your photos into art.  Get creative with your layouts.  Use different size frames to create a less formal, more creative display or use the same size frame for a more dramatic, formal affect.

*It is okay to go overboard.  My client Alison had hundreds of photos of her family.   They were all beautiful and worthy of display.  She also knew she would be getting more as her children grew.  We displayed as many as we possibly could and created a rotating gallery for her so that she could easily update them as she pleased.   Its your home and your family, using them as your artwork is the most meaningful way to display art.  Don’t be afraid to go overboard.

At Alison's this collage continues all the way up the stairs. Its incredibly dramatic.

I love accent chairs.  If it were up to me, the whole house would be full of beautiful accent chairs in all sorts of fun and funky fabrics.  I guess it is up to me, however, having a home full of fun and funky accent chairs would not be very practical for my growing family.  So I’ve settled a few beautiful accent chairs in interesting design styles and textures to finish off my living room and family room and am excited because I have found the perfect fabric for some accent chairs that I will one day have in my master bedroom.  Accent chairs are a great way to add additional, movable seating to a space and to add pops of color, texture and/or interest to as space.  Because they are usually a bit smaller, they can easily withstand a bolder fabric that really reflects you style.  Because they are smaller they are also easier and less expensive to reupholster if you happen to get sick of that bolder fabric. There are many incredibly beautiful chair design styles you can use in your decor.  The slipper chair has become quite popular in recent years as a great accent chair choice.  Here is a picture of a pair of slipper chairs I have used in my family room.  If you read my blog this is not the first time you’ve seen these.  Recently we purchased the second chair to match and finish off the seating in the living room.  It is the Bassett Furniture Chandler Chair in Raffia. You’ve also seen the beautiful, t-back exposed wood chairs upholstered in a blue knit fabric.  These finish off my family room so nicely.  The fabric is actually quite soft and the chairs are really comfortable.   Yes, I said I was done in there but honestly, my work is never done.  We switched the wood coffee table we had in the family room to the living room and bought the Peekaboo Coffee Table (www.cb2.com) CB2 last week.  We love how it opens up the space and allows a full, clear view to the fireplace. Here are other beautiful accent chairs from other projects we’ve worked on:

5248 Chair from DR Kincaid for a client in Alexandria.  The black chair in the
background is the 8196 Chair also by DR Kincaid.
Traditional wing-back chair in office of client in Alexandria.
Flychair from BoConcepts for bachelor pad in Arlington, VA.

As I said in my last post, reupholstering old pieces is a great way to give them new life and to recycle.  It can save the piece from being tossed and in some cases can save you money from having to buy a new piece all together (depending on the fabric you choose, if you embellish, etc.)  So how do you know if a piece is worthy or reupholstery?  There are few tips that I can provide to help you decide.

*How is it holding up?  Are the cushions deflated, flattened or lumpy?  Has it basically retained its shape over the years?  How are the cushions constructed?  There are many materials from which your cushions could be constructed, including: down (most expensive), down lined with Decron Polyester fibers or Blendown (still expensive), and polyurethane wrapped in cotton or other fibers (most reasonable) are among the most common fillings.  If your cushions are made of high density, good quality foam they will not have broken down (or would have broken down less) over time.  Even your cushions are not holding up, however, there are other factors to consider in the construction of your sofa so don’t let this be the only deciding factor.  A good upholsterer can always provide you with new cushions to replace poor quality ones (of course, this will add to your overall price).

Client's reupholstered antique settee.

Here is another picture of the 50’s sleeper sofa I purchased and had reupholstered in a linen blend fabric…

1950's Sleeper Sofa reupholstered in linen blend. It was in excellent condition and is an incredible quality piece. The cushions needed to be remade and we replaced the mattress. We are very happy with it.

*Does it have good, solid bones?  If the piece is sturdy, strong and well constructed, you should definitely consider giving it a facelift. One of the tell tales signs of a quality piece of furniture is the joint system.  Good quality pieces have mitered joint systems or are dovetailed or tongue and grooved, and the frames are often glued and screwed together.  If the piece is made of particle board or plywood and the frame is held together with staples, it is probably not worth investing in reupholstery for the piece.

*Quality of exposed wood – if your piece has any exposed wood (dining chairs, sofas with wood legs, etc.) what kind of shape is the wood in?  If it has a few knicks and scratches it can probably be repaired fairly easily or these can add to the charm of the piece.  If the wood is rotted or broken or falling apart, you may want to reconsider as it may be costly to repair the piece.  Painting or restaining exposed wood is also an option but you may have to do some heavy sanding to remove any top coat that has been added so that the piece will take new paint or stain.  Here are pictures, before and after of my breakfast room chairs which I got from an old neighbor when I fell in love with the back design and I repainted and reupholstered them to be more interesting and updated.

Unpainted, pre-reupholstered dining room chairs I got from a neighbor. They are over 30 years old and were in great shape except for some scrapes and scratches. I had reupholstered them when I first got them in a paisley fabric.

My chairs now, painted in a blue metallic paint and reupholstered in brown polka-dotted fabric.

*Does it, or can it work with your existing or new decor?  It is important to consider if refacing a piece will allow it to fit more nicely into your decor.  There are some very creative things that can be done with old pieces to bring them up to date and give them updated style.  You can get creative with your fabric choice.  I love seeing traditional wingback chairs in very contemporary or graphic fabric patterns and colors, for example.  Don’t discount a piece because it simply looks dated.  Think about how you could make it into a contemporary piece that is perhaps fun and funky, or unique, or almost art like.  Paint can take furniture a long way these days.  Take a look at these pictures…

Traditional chairs in contemporary silk fabric from a project I completed in Alexandria.

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