Monday, October 31, 2011

Is your ex haunting your home?

Whether you are living in the family home and your ex moved out, or you are starting over in a new place of your own, one of the big challenges is figuring out what will make you feel "at home" again.  It can be hard to get that "at home" feeling when your ex is still haunting your home!

When your ex moves out they don't take *everything* with them that you wish they would.  Left behind, haunting your home, are the Memories... trapped in the sofa you bought together, the pictures of you both with your friends last summer, the wedding gift from your aunt, the print from that winery you picked up on your honeymoon... the list goes on and on.  But how do you get rid of those ghosts without setting a match to it all and walking away?

Recently, while being interviewed for an upcoming documentary on divorce in the USA, they asked if I have my clients throw everything out in order to start fresh after a divorce.  I said "no, of course not" and explained that not only is that prohibitively expensive for most of my clients, but that relaunching doesn't mean having to toss everything and buy all new.  For each client we have to start by figuring out what in the home needs to go, what needs to stay, and what needs to be put away for a while.  And if there are kids involved we also have to figure out what they need to stay connected to the other parent, without holding anyone back from moving forward.  It's not easy.

Then I explained that small changes can go a really long way to helping the recently-divorced person move on from the embarrassment, pain, and heartache of the breakup and move on to the terrifying excitement of a new start in life.  Fresh paint, for example, can transform a room and create a new mood in just a few hours, whether you are wanting to feel newly sensual, newly youthful, or newly adventurous!

If you feel like your ex is still haunting your home and your just not sure where to start, try these four tips:

1. Make one small change.  Just rearrange the living room furniture. Just put fresh flowers on the kitchen table.  Just repaint your bedroom.  One small, manageable, bite-size change can start the process of healing and help you get some forward motion if you are feeling stuck.

2. Give yourself permission to let go.  Just because that sofa was expensive doesn't mean you can't sell it on Craigslist if it is making you miserable.  It's just a sofa, and it's not worth your misery.

3. Give yourself permission to hold on.  If your friends are telling you to throw out your wedding photos but it doesn't feel right to you, then put them safely in a box so that you don't have the day-to-day visual reminder of your past and the failure of your marriage, and put them on a top shelf in the attic.  It's okay if they stay there for a decade, or until you start dating again, or forever.  And if you have kids, it's often smart to save them for the inevitable questions that will come up later.

4. Get help.  Have a friend (or a professional your trust) go through your home with you and do an 'energy audit' of the space.  Walk through each room and get out what you feel when you are in that room.  What memories are evoked, what do you feel and what do you wish you felt?  Have your friend take notes - this will give you a good overview and the start to a roadmap for the big-picture changes you will need to take on, and help you understand what it is about your house that is haunting you.
If you have a haunted home and you'd like a little help busting those ghosts, let's chat - I love good ghostbusting challenges, and together we can nix the ex!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Does a mirror make a room look bigger?

A mirror is only is good as the image it reflects.

I wanted to share this image with you of a room designed by Barry Dixon, hung with a beautiful mirror, as seen in the September 2011 issue of House Beautiful.  Three of the things that make this vignette so successful are that 1) the mirror is hung at a natural height for a person to look in to its center, 2) the mirror itself is a lovely piece of art due to its oval shape and ornate frame, and 3) that it is reflecting a beautiful piece of art and a well chosen hanging lamp and medallion.

Room by Barry Dixon as seen in House Beautiful Sep 2011
In my work I have encountered dozens of mirrors that were meant to 'open up a room', often hung over a fireplace.  But if you hang a mirror over your fireplace and all it reflects is your white, bare or (gasp) popcorn ceiling, then all you've done is add more unsightly space to the room.  It may seem bigger, but is that the 'more' that you want?  That was the case for the client with the living room in the photo below - when I first came to their home to redesign this living room with their existing furnishings they had just that, a large, unadorned mirror reflecting a lot of white ceiling:

They wanted a new tv so we removed the mirror and hung the tv over the fireplace, and also rearranged the furniture and replaced the too-small rug with the larger rug from the dining room along with new paint and updated lighting and window treatments.  While I would have loved to put a piece of art over the fireplace, function for the family is always a first priority!

When choosing to hang a mirror consider what it will reflect when you look at it from all parts of the room.  If it reflects a beautiful view or piece of art that you love, go for it!  If it's hung so high that it just reflects white ceiling you've lost an opportunity to add to your space.  Same goes for reflecting a long dark hallway - who needs more hallway?  In those instances consider, instead, a piece of art, maybe with a natural theme like a forest with dappled light coming through aspen trees or a sunny desert vista. 

And remember, if the room feels 'dark' but a mirror will only reflect more of that dark room, add real light with table and floor lamps.

If you have questions about when to hang a mirror or how high to hang it, don't hesitate to send me an email with a picture of your space and your question, at  Happy decorating!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Cleaning my new granite counters

Q: How do I keep my new granite counter clean?

My tile and granite folks, John and Theresa at Johnny Tile, recommend Dupont's series of stone and tile cleaners and sealers, specifically their Dupont StoneTech Professional Revitalizer Cleaner and Protector spray.  The key to a good stone and tile cleaner is that it does the job without having pH levels that will etch or otherwise damage your stone surface.  This product not only meets that criteria, but also reinforces the protection of your counter and tile with it's built in sealer.  And as an added bonus, it's citrus scented!  I am sure there are many other fine products out there (send me a note if you've found something amazing), but here's a place to start.  I've found it at Pental Granite and Marble in Seattle and on

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why hire a designer? Article on working with Rivalee!

I don't mind tooting my own horn, but this time I get the pleasure of leaving that to journalist Elizabeth Griffin who wrote the following article about her experience working with me to transform her bedroom.  My favorite part about this transformation was that all we had to purchase was the paint and the fabric for the new curtain-headboard.  Everything else was already in the home, including the extra fabric to make the new throw and pillows for the bed.  The goal was to make the most of what she owned, including the quilted bedding, and stick to a cozy budget.  We did all that and had a lot of fun in the process!  Enjoy!

Before: faux painted walls were too pale to ground the room and pull the color out from the bedding.  The window behind the bed felt awkward, and the table lamps were too small.

After: a rich teal green anchors the room and brings out the green in the bedding.  The coral curtain eliminates the awkward window and ties to the rose colors in the bedding, further accented by the new pillows and larger, colorful lamps.  The rest of the accessories came from throughout the home, given new life through color and lack of clutter.

Bedroom transformation

From a converted two-car garage to a comfortable haven: working with a designer helped me create the bedroom I always wanted

Published: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 10:10 AM PDT
My bedroom is a converted two-car garage. Huge and awkwardly shaped, it has a total of five doors, all of which are used regularly to access places in our house and closets. I have tried to make it cozy by moving furniture around and faux painting, but have never been able to achieve the look I desired.

I have always been dubious of the claim that homeowners save money by using an interior designer. Now I see the benefit of getting it right the first time with the help of a professional. It really does save a lot of money and time, and it also helps you avoid the decorating burnout that dissatisfaction with your own choices can bring.

That burnout is what led to the mess that I called my bedroom. The place had become the dumping ground for many things in our house. Just the process of preparing for a designer to visit helped me get rid of a filing cabinet’s worth of old paperwork, treasures I have never used, and stuff that needed to be put in the attic. This alone made such a difference that I am listing it as the first reason that using a professional interior designer is a good idea.

Second on my list is the fact that within 15 minutes of walking around my bedroom and asking about the colors I like, Rebecca West, owner of Rivalee Design, told me exactly what we needed to do to give the room a cozy, warm atmosphere.

I moved from feeling ashamed to hopeful after that first consultation. “Most people live with bedrooms that aren’t what they want, and why? We wake up there and start our day there and we should love it!” West said.

She cut through my indecisiveness immediately, and, without pushing, showed me that the large windows on one wall provided enough light and the undersized, awkwardly placed window on another wall needed to be covered up. By making it disappear with a large floor-to-ceiling curtain, I had a lovely backdrop for my bed, which previously had been hard to place.

Another area of indecision and downright anxiety was overcome when West flipped through her wheel of paint colors and pointed to the perfect shade for the largest wall in the room — number three on my list is that professionals know which of 5 million color choices is the right one. Each color she chose matched a picture I showed her that included my favorite hues, which were bolder than I had the courage to use. Instead, I had decorated the room with lighter shades that left it washed-out and dreary.

“You can use color so successfully to make a big room feel cozy. A rich, dark color anchors the room,” West said.

After purchasing a gallon of the paint West recommended, I second-guessed the choice. West returned my worried e-mail with one that read, “It’s a scary color, always scary to go dark, but I am excited to see this come together for you! Make sure you do at least two coats so that you get the richness of the color coming through. Thanks for trusting me.” This is the fourth reason on my list of why to use an interior decorator. She gave me courage to keep moving in the right direction when I wanted to return to safe territory.

After completing the major work, it was time to “accessorize.” Using artwork and items that I already owned, West placed them in just the right location of the room to give them new life. I realized then that I should always go bigger and bolder than I feel comfortable with to make my d├ęcor work.

“Fewer things, but bigger, will be more successful,” West said. “Using lots of little items just turns into clutter.”

Repurposing the things that I love brought personal touches to an intimate room. Rather than taking over and doing it her way, West recognized my style and drew out of me what I really wanted all along but had been hesitant to do — reason number five to seek professional help in decorating. Because we worked together, I felt as much a part of the process as she was, and that gave me confidence for future decorating pursuits.

Basic factors in room design

Though each room is unique and the things to look at depend on the project, according to West, there are a few factors that go into every decorating renovation.

Use of the room: How do you really use the room and want to use the room, as opposed to how you think you should use the room? For example, do you want a home office in your bedroom or a television in your dining room? There is no reason to be stuck with the label of a room.

Mood desired: How do you want to feel when you’re in the room? This is where color and style come into play because they evoke the mood you want for yourself and others, depending on whether it’s a public or private space.

Decluttering: Get rid of the things that don’t belong in the room. Use fewer large objects rather than lots of little ones.

Putting the puzzle together: Once use and mood are determined and the space has been decluttered, it’s simply a matter of determining all the elements that need to go into the room, setting those up and creating it.

Figuring out the details: Accessorizing provides texture and interest. This is where the art comes in, according to West. You bring in a number of accessories and play with them, creating those personal touches that make a room feel complete. 

Monday, March 14, 2011

The right size rug for your room. Go big!

Area rugs are one of the very best tools to use to transform a room, second only to paint in making a big impact.  But that tool is only effective if you size the rug properly.  Often I find that my clients are living with a rug that is much too small for the space, and as a result no matter how many accessories they add the room won't ever feel quite finished.  If in doubt I always recommend going bigger.  Sure, it is more expensive, but a too-small rug only accentuates the unfinished feel of a room and you'd be better off not buying a rug at all until you can get the right size.  Otherwise, you may just be wasting your money.

Before: the rug in this room was much too small to add any interest, softness, or grounding to the space.  In a room that can't be painted (like this rental) the size and impact of the rug is even more important!

After: a much larger rug, even though it is still in a pale color palette, adds much more warmth to the space and, by tying all the furniture together makes the room feel larger, too! 
I'd like to share this fabulous guide from MI Corp. in the Seattle Design Center for sizing a rug for your room.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Using color excite and energize your room

This image from the new line at CB2 (Jan. 2011) shows a great example of how to energize a room using contrasting color.  
Room and accessories by CB2

Contrast can be created in a number of ways, but using "complimentary colors", that is, color that are opposite each other on the color wheel, is a sure-fire way to increase the sizzle and zing of each color and of the room in general.  In this example they use one of my personal favorite combinations of red-orange and blue-green; I find this combination fresh, whimsical, and fun!  

When playing with complimentary colors, try using varying values of the colors (meaning how light or dark the color is).  Consider a saturated blue green with a very pale red-orange for a more subtle effect, or try both in a very pale version for a subdued yet interesting look.  Staying in the same range in lightness and darkness often creates a too-rich and garish, or too-boring and beige effect.
So,if you are wanting a playful, interesting and energetic room, try turning to the color wheel and playing with opposites - you might just come up with something fantastic!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Want prosperity in 2011? Then dress (your home) for success!

You've probably heard that you should "dress for the job you want", but did you know you should also dress your home for the life that you want?  

  • Want to be a successful business person?  Is your office the room of a successful entrepreneur or the cave of a messy middleman?
  • Want to be a healthy, energetic person?  Is your kitchen a room that invites cooking healthy meals or is it set up for grab-and-go eating?
  • Want to be a generous, giving person?  Is your home neat and clutter-free, or are you hoarding lots of stuff that someone else could really use and would love to have?

It's the new year, a great time to determine where you are in your life and where you want to be.  Take a moment to decide who you want to be at the end of this wonderful year, and then make sure that your home supports those goals.  Let go of the past and leap into your future, and remember:

"You can't write the next part of your story if you keep rereading the last chapter in your life!"

If you're still not sure you deserve to create a welcoming, nurturing, beautiful home, consider these questions for Sandra Felton in her book "Messie No More":

Why not have a lovely home that encourages all who enter?  
Why not be among those who are thrilled to invite people over on the spur of the moment?  
Why not be the person to whom people say, "Your house is so lovely!"  
Why not have people over for meals without working yourself to death to get ready?  
Why not have a house that raises your self-esteem rather than tears it down?  
Why not have a house filled with your favorite colors and accents?  
Why not have a house that reflects peace so that others love to come over? 

The question is not why should we have a nice house.  The real question is why not?