Having fun with a Retro Kitchen Design

I love my job, especially when a challenge comes along that really gets me to think more creatively. Truth is, I deal with a lot of logistics... chasing deliveries, sweet-talking cranky plumbers, returning damaged light fixtures...you get the idea. So I was really happy when appliance maker Big Chill asked if I could could put together a design board incorporating their line of gas stoves that come in AMAZING colors.  I have a beach shack fantasy so this was a perfect opportunity to engage in a bit of dreaming using their Beach Blue appliances. For the floors,  I knew right away I wanted to use these cement tiles I saw on a recent trip to Mosaic House  - and the color worked perfectly with the range.   Lately I've been thinking about using wallpaper in kitchens so I thought this would be a good opportunity to add a bit of wallpaper to the back of open cabinetry, and I liked the sweet yellow bird in this design by fellow Brooklynite Julia Rothman.  I thought this was just enough color to counter the blue, and the pendant light from Dot and Bo sealed the deal. I'm ready to pack up my towel, Coppertone and sunglasses and hop on my bike!

Want to add some of these elements without a full renovation?  You can wallpaper the back of cabinets after removing the doors, switch out light fixtures, and replace cabinet hardware -- it's a weekend makeover for your kitchen!

1. wallpaper from  Spoonflower  | 2.Range in Beach Blue from  Big Chill   | 3.Cement floor tile from  Mosaic House   | 4. Inset cabinets from  Cliqstudio  | 5. Glass handles from  Rejuvenation   6. Pendants from Dot&Bo

1. Wallpaper from Design Public | 2.  Range from Big Chill |3. Cement floor tile from Mosaic House | 4.  Inset Cabinets from Cliqstudio| 5. Glass Pull from Rejuvenation| 6. Pendants from


Ready to create your OWN design board for your room redo project? Find out exactly how in my free e-book, which shows you how to do a complete room makeover in TEN EASY STEPS!

Inspired by Emily Henderson - 5 tips to great style

I'm a big, and I mean BIG fan of Emily Henderson. In case you don't know who she is, she was the winner of HGTV's Design Star, hosted her own show, and is now a partner with Target and others on her fantastic blog, stylebyemily.com. Now to be honest, I didn't always love Emily as much as I do now. In fact I have a confession to make… I thought she won Design Star because she was blond and pretty. So shallow of me (um, a little envy do you think?).  Truth is, Emily is a pro stylist, her background is in prepping photo shoots so they look lived in, natural, and of course super stylish.  She's expanded to other aspects of interior design, but her roots are in making spaces look great with the placement and choice of accessories and furniture.

The reason I'm a fan is because Emily SHARES and she shares big. Her blog is full of great tips and sources. A book was a natural step and STYLED: Secrets for Arranging Rooms, from Tabletops to Bookshelves by Emily Henderson came out last month. I snapped it up and did some studying so I could apply some of her great tips to my next project photo shoot.

Screenshot 2015-11-06 09.43.43
Screenshot 2015-11-06 09.43.43

This project was a townhouse, and the living room before I touched it looked like this:


There were some obvious things, like the painting, and some less obvious things to bring it around to where it would be a good starting point for decorating.

Redesigning a space comes a lot easier to me than the styling so first I tackled the following architectural elements:

  • The fireplace (yikes!) was replaced with a vintage marble fireplace from Demolition Depot
  • The wall on the left (in the “before” top photo, you can see that it goes in and out) was filled in so it was all one level. I frequently do this in brownstones which often walls that jog in and out (usually due to unused fireplaces), making it hard to place furniture.
  • The radiator was awkwardly located so I designed a built -in to house a smaller radiator as well as a media cabinet. The key was to create a solution that integrated their needs with the reality of the radiator (which they also needed). I surrounded the TV with floating shelves so the TV was not the focal point on that wall.

Then we dealt with paint and furniture: Lighter colors, a furniture plan including a cozy sectional for the living room, and a generous dining area satisfied the clients needs and created a multi-use space.

After the redesign and renovation here's where we landed:


Not bad, and definitely a big improvement on the bones of the space, but...my original idea had included a coffee table and a rug like the one below, which was nixed because the homeowners have 3 kids under the age of 5 and it just didn't seem practical.

Diamond Wool Rug

Now, it was time to style the room for the photo shoot. Fortunately, the homeowners had purchased a similar rug for another room and I moved it into the living room for the photo shoot (which they liked so much they kept it there). Here's what it looked like after:

livingroom numbered
livingroom numbered

See how the small details make such a big difference? Here were some of Emily Henderson’s tips I implemented from her book, “Styled”, I include page number for easy reference.

  1. Oddball sculptures (p 103):  I love this idea of working in little sculptures and 3D art to break it up a bit. For the bookshelves, I used these budget-friendly cubes from CB2. From now on I will keep an eye out at flea markets for unusual small sculptural pieces as they really do a great job of adding interest.
  2. Layering items (p 72): The space needed a coffee table, and this this West Elm Clover table had it's own layered, dynamic shape. Pillows with varying textures were added to the mix as well. An existing side table was relocated to the other side of the chair so it breaks up the view of the side of the chair. The shelves got a mix of books and objects, and books were arranged in a more random way on the shelves.
  3. Add depth with bright colors (p 219): The throw and the multicolored corner pillow pulled together a brighter color palette to complement the textured neutrals.
  4. Use plants (p 192 and throughout the book): While this seems kind of obvious, adding a couple of plants to the space brings life in, and that feels cozy and inviting.  For low light situations, a bowl of succulents looks fabulous - which is what I used in the living room on the coffee table (which by the way the owners also kept after the shoot).
  5. Contrast (this is something that comes up throughout the book): The original rug was close in tone to the sofa. When we put the brighter rug down, the sofa looked so much better as well as the other furniture. It just brought additional light into the room that helps the furniture separate more.

I learned a lot from this process - and here are my suggestions for applying it to your space:

  • take a photo of the space you are styling and print it on regular paper, then draw your notes in on it, including sketching in plants, tables, and additional furniture items
  • make a list of what you need including size notes (for example, 30" round table, 18-24" high potted plant, 60-70" floor lamp)
  • get out of the house and do some shopping/propping in person with your photo (and a tapemeasure)  in hand to help with visualizing
  • get more than you need (especially with pillows) and be ready to return what you don't use

Happy Designing!

Want my fabulous pillow resource cheat sheet so you can save loads of time? click below!

Great stores for furniture shopping in Chelsea, NYC

This week I was so excited to find that two of my favorite online resources have opened actual stores in New York City. World Market is a go-to resource for fantastically priced furniture, accessories and pillows with a bit of a global feel. France & Son is a budget minded alternative to some of the high end designs we see around —and for those of us who cannot afford 15,000 for a designer chandelier, it’s nice to know that there are great-looking options available (until we can buy the genuine article!)

Like most of us,I love the convenience of shopping online- its a great way to look at a whole lot of things, and hopefully find the perfect match. but I also know there are times when you really want to see, feel,touch, or sit on the piece you might be buying. There's just something about seeing things in person that really helps you get a much better sense of how it might look and feel in your space. But the most fun part of looking in person is the sense of discovery when you stumble across something that surprises or delights you.

When I went to world market yesterday (I cannot tell you how excited I was about this!) I noticed this super painting - only 99 bucks!

Back at home I circled back to find it online so I could show it to a client, and it didn’t look as amazing…I probably wouldn’t have noticed it if it had just been an online search. And we all know the reverse is often true - things look great online and sometime are kind of disappointing in person.

Here’s my not-great iPhone picture:


and here’s the online picture:

Screenshot 2015-09-24 15.15.33
Screenshot 2015-09-24 15.15.33

Not that the iphone pic is so great, but I can see why the online pic wouldn't have grabbed me.

I also found this gilded piece which I fell in love with and am thinking of sneaking into my house…(will he notice??).


What the heck, I’ll just buy both. At $99 and $129 respectively If they don’t work I’ll bring them back to the store…no trip to the post office,no repacking things for shipping. --Another reason I like good old brick and mortar stores.

At France & Sons I got to see these great pieces in person:

Screenshot 2015-09-24 15.52.40
Screenshot 2015-09-24 15.52.40


Screenshot 2015-09-24 15.55.13
Screenshot 2015-09-24 15.55.13

The Manhattan Chelsea neighborhood is becoming a great area for furniture shopping, in fact I’m doing most of my ‘offline’ shopping there. And walking down 18th street yesterday was amazing…From World Market, to West Elm, to Room and Board, to France & Sons, to Organic Modernism…not to even mention ABC Home, BoConcept and others.

So if you find yourself in the area, here’s my ‘walking tour’ of Chelsea stores to visit, in loose order of location from East to West:

ABC Home

888 Broadway, bet. 18th and 19th st.

Restoration Hardware

935 Broadway at 22nd Street

World Market (and Bed Bath Beyond in the same building)

620 Sixth Avenue, bet. 18th and 19th st.

West Elm

112 West 18th Street, bet. 6th and 7th

France and Son

122 W 18th

Organic Modernism

124 W. 18th Street

Room and Board

236 West 18th Street, bet. 7th and 8th

And of course you can always click on the links  above for a sneak peek or if you're not close by...

Happy Shopping!

Getting the most from Pinterest in your next room makeover

Are you a Pinterest fan? What a great interior design tool - If you’re looking for inspiration when it’s time to redecorate or remodel your home it’s the first place many people turn to for ideas (Click here to follow me and check out some of my favorite Pinterest Boards.)

I’d say at least 80% of my clients, who are coming to me for design help, already have a Pinterest board (or several) with design ideas that they know they like - which really helps when we're working out the look and style of  their space.

But while it's a big help to know what you like, you also need to know how to translate that into your own space --  and that can be tricky.

In this short video, I'll share my tips on how to hear what your pins are REALLY telling you about your style,  and more importantly how to translate the look you love from your board, into a look that you love in your room. (And don't forget to check the bottom of the post to see how to enter my September Giveaway)


Here are my top 3 tips:

1. Distinguish what you are reacting to in the photo and whether it's MOVEABLE. for example, if it's the architecture or the sunlight, then enjoy the photo but move on, as those things can't be moved into your space.

2. Use the pins to learn new terminology and descriptive words for searching online and on other sites.

3. Look for the colors, patterns and textures that repeat throughout your pins - these can be translated into color palettes and style directions for your room.

If you’re using Pinterest for interior design that tells me there’s probably an area in your home that could use a makeover. How would you like FREE access to my newest Design Coach Series online course – The Room Makeover Solution – PLUS a 30-minute one-on-one video coaching session with me to get you on the right track? Until September 30th, you can enter my Design Coach Series GIVEAWAY. Click here to enter this September Giveaway and you could win everything you need to make your room makeover spectacular!

Fun and Practical Ideas for Kids Rooms

  A number of years ago I wrote a book called, Kids Rooms, Ideas and Projects for Children’s Spaces. At the time this came out it was one of just a few books on the topic. Today I notice almost every parent wanting to do something special for their kid’s room. Although the book is now out of print,  I still love this creative playroom entry by designer Laura Bohn that we featured on the cover (above).

Wondering where to go next with your kids' space? Here are a few of the key features I like to include when working on a kids room.

1. Create display space to showcase artwork and memorabilia

magnetic board
magnetic board

2. Be consistent with storage. It doesn't need to involve expensive bins (see the potato chip storage below) but an effort should be made to use one system, whether it's bins, buckets, or baskets. That will create a clean, uncluttered look in the room.


3. Have some fun - infuse a little fantasy. I love how the playroom entry at the top of the post transforms a simple entrance into a wonderland.  Here's where you can play off a theme and inject a bit of whimsy.

secret garden before after
secret garden before after

Here's a source for a similar light.

So have fun when you’re redecorating your kid’s room. Let your creativity loose and get your child involved in the process with you. If you’re not sure where to start,  download a copy of my free ebook– 10 Steps to Your Perfect Room Makeover. These steps will work for your kid’s room or any room in your house that could use a redo.

Photo Credits:

Joanna Goddard  (galvinized metal wall)

Paul Whichelow  (storage)

Julie Cadieux  (pegboard)

Mark Lund  (nightstand)

Via House Beautiful (feather lamp)

White House Black Shutters   (clipboard wall)

All other photos by Jennifer Levy/ CAVdesign