Basement Den/Guest Room with Off-Center Fireplace

I was originally tasked with making this a comfortable basement den/TV watching space that also doubled as a guest room for long term visitors.


The requirements were:

  • keep the TV, wall color & coffee table trunk (far right corner)
  • include a sleeper sofa
  • include comfortable seating for TV viewing
  • include storage for clothing and other guest items
  • include some sort of wall art gallery to display the grandkids’ artwork

This is a big list for such a small space but it served as a checklist which made the solution relatively easy.  Once I had sourced all of the required elements, I just needed to arrange them in the space:


  • the coffee table trunk provides storage for blankets, linens, etc.
  • a contemporary sleeper sofa converts to a bed for guests
  • end tables with storage double as nightstands for guests
  • recliners provide comfortable seating for TV viewing
  • a wardrobe provides extra storage for long term guests
  • a wall art gallery over the sofa creates a unique focal point where he grandkids’ art can be displayed

This was approved but as I proceeded with drawing the 3D model of the room, I realized that the project was not as simple as I initially thought.  If you look again at the “before” picture, you’ll see that the TV is centered on the wall but the fireplace is not – and per the clients – this wasn’t going to change.  What would change however, would be the style of the fireplace; they were looking to add a wood surround with marble tile, and built-ins on either side. I was then asked if I could help them visualize this.

Here’s my proposed solution:


I made the entire TV/fireplace area one large rectangle and balanced the TV with built-ins on the right, and the fireplace with built-ins on the left.  Per the clients’ request, I replaced the red brick with marble tile, and added a modern wood mantel.

Once I had the space drawn, 2 recliners felt too crowded, so I removed one – otherwise the design remained the same. I kept their soft gray/green color on the walls, added panels in a neutral gray to frame the windows and give them more presence, anchored the seating area with a rug, and included a little bit of greenery to make the space feel more cozy (i.e. less basement-y).

I love the modern look of this fireplace, and how what was originally a design dilemma became a unique feature in this space.




Mediterranean Foyer

Mediterranean isn’t really my style but I have to admit that I was intrigued by this challenge:

Dilemma:  This is our new custom Mediterranean home & the entry needs some warming up – it’s currently cold & bland. To start with, I do not want to block the view to the backyard with a table in the center of the entry – the house was designed so that you can see the waterfall in the backyard when you walk in the front door and there isn’t much room to put any furniture in such a small space anyway.  Secondly, there is a lot of empty wall space where the sconces are in the arches, so I am hoping you can come up with something to help that area – I have tried a gazillion ideas & nothing works! I would also like a couple of floor vases with some artificial foliage or flowers with a lot of height on each side of the door. I made a note of it elsewhere but keep in mind that there is an alarm keypad & light switches that we need access to on the left side.

Here’s what we’re dealing with:

Mediterranean Foyer - Before

Mediterranean Foyer – Before

Very grand and pretty, but yes, very bland.  How do you bring warmth and interest to this space without adding any furniture, and what the heck to do with those niches?

I was originally going to add iron wall decor above the sconces, something curvy and scroll-y, similar to the sconces and the metal work in the doors that would take up some of the empty space.  I also considered a glass floating shelf below the sconces that would allow me to add decor around them.  Neither option worked – well, at least, not in my opinion.  The iron wall decor looked like a blatant attempt to take up wall space, and the glass floating shelf above the existing niche ledge looked redundant and out of place.

So I cut out the backs of the niches in PhotoShop and that’s when the fun began…

I tried all sorts of tile options, from Travertine split face tile (which, though very Tuscan, didn’t provide enough contrast/interest), to sparkly glass tile which stems from my own personal love of sparkle but didn’t work at all here.

Eventually I arrived at this as my favorite:


Mediterranean Foyer Design

I wanted to take advantage of the niche areas to create dramatic focal points and I love how this arabesque baroque tile does that – it brings in texture, pattern, visual interest and makes the existing sconces pop.  Instead of a floating shelf, I anchored the niches with mantel shelves in a black finish that ties nicely to the doors, and frames the niches.  To meet her specific requests for greenery, I added a 6′ ficus to the right of the door, and staggered the height of plants on the left side using a combination of a shorter plant along with flowers on a plant stand.  Since I couldn’t add furniture, I included a small rug that repeats some of the pattern and texture on the floor, giving the space a cohesive feel.

In case installing tile was too big of a project, I included a couple of faux finish paint options as well:


Mediterranean Foyer Design – Faux Tuscan Paint Finish

Option B:  darken the niches with a faux Tuscan finish, adding texture, warmth, and a little bit of drama.


Mediterranean Foyer Design – Faux Marble Paint Finish

Option C:  lighten the niches with a faux marble finish that will brighten the space, add texture, and draw the eye.

Overall, I feel like the space is a lot more inviting and interesting, and though Mediterranean is pretty far from my personal style, I had a lot of fun playing around with options for the niches.

What would you have done with those niches?

See Why the “Zen Bungalow” is the Perfect Name for this Serene Space

When was the last time you looked around your neighborhood coffee shop and didn’t see a single laptop? Have you ever attended a picturesque dinner party void of cellphones? In a world driven by technology, escaping the pressure to be plugged-in is rare, which is why it’s important to have a place where you can …

Source: See Why the “Zen Bungalow” is the Perfect Name for this Serene Space

TV Room Mini Makeover

I love projects like these because there’s nowhere to go but up….

IMG_0959 IMG_0958

These are repeat clients of mine – I did their formal living room, master bedroomdaughter’s room and recently I helped with their kitchen (which I neglected to get pictures of – so yeah, not sure when you’ll get to see that project…).  To work on their formal living room however, I had to pass through their TV room, and this sad TV set up all but tortured me as a designer.  I won’t go into the details of everything that’s wrong with this (pretty self explanatory), so you can imagine how ECSTATIC I was when they finally asked for my help with it.

Thank goodness.

Their requests were really pretty minimal.  SHE wanted a better way to handle the TV components; HE wanted the TV to be level.  Easy-peasy, but you know I could not stop there…



I do so love a good wallpapered focal wall:

AFTER-TV-Wall2Yes, the TV is now level, and yes, the components are nicely tucked away in a lovely media console, but it’s also now a beautiful focal point instead of an eye sore.

And as a designer, I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.


Leaving the Comfort Zone

I was browsing a forum awhile back and came across the question to designers, “What is your design style?”.  There were of course, the straight forward answers of of those who lean towards or fully specialize in a certain style, and those who wouldn’t admit that they lean towards a certain style, though they clearly do.  I was most intrigued however, by the comment that a “good designer” can design toward any aesthetic or style and please any client.  Is that true – does that make them a better designer, or just incredibly versatile – and does such a thing even really exist?

I’m not sure, but I do know that I have certain design tendencies.  I may do a coastal living room, a transitional baby nursery or a modern formal living room but all of them will have things in common.  I like a modern feel with clean lines, I like a room to feel decorated but not cluttered or overdone; there are certain colors I won’t put together if at all avoidable, and styles that are definitely out of my comfort zone.

So imagine my surprise when I was hand selected to provide a design inspiration board for a country cottage living room.  Country cottage?   Chunky ornate furniture, floral patterns, fussy furnishings?  WAY out of my wheelhouse.  And to top things off, the color palette requested by the client meant putting colors together that I would never, ever put together otherwise.

Had I not been specifically selected because this client liked my portfolio on other projects, I might’ve passed on this but I thought about that comment about a a good designer achieving any aesthetic and decided to challenge myself.  Picture me stepping out of comfort zone…

Here was the inspiration provided by the client – I worked backwards from this.

Screen Shot 2015-02-17 at 9.33.39 PM

I struggled with trying to design for the client but also putting something together that represented me.  It was definitely more challenging than a contemporary space would be, but in the end I delivered a design that both met the client’s needs and had my personal design stamp on it:


I toned down what could’ve been an overwhelmingly busy and colorful palette with a neutral backdrop, and by selecting neutral major pieces.  I also kept the major pieces relatively transitional so that the space didn’t feel overly country or theme-y which can quickly become tacky.  I did bring in a bit of the country feel through a few statement pieces like the coffee table, console table and the spectacular window treatments, which also remind me of the client’s inspiration photo.  I balanced the chunky, rustic coffee table and ornate console with a visually lighter, modern and elegant end table.   Lastly, the pillows are a wonderful mix of all of the styles, colors and patterns in the room.

The client loves the design.

After some thought, I wondered if maybe that’s why she selected me – maybe what she really wanted was a contemporary take on country cottage.  Either way, I’m glad I pushed my boundaries a bit.

How do you feel about  country cottage style and this design?  Do you agree that designers should be able to design to any style?  I’d love to hear thoughts on this.

To blank slate, or not to blank slate

With white walls, white carpet, white blinds and little to no furniture…

…the beginning of this project was as close to a blank slate as a project can get.  Though there is more to design, plan for, purchase and implement with a complete blank slate, there is also freedom and opportunity since there’s nothing to design around, or any pre-existing factors guiding the design.

Here’s a look at the space before:


The challenge with this completely blank slate, however, would be furnishing the entire space on an extremely thrifty budget, as well as bringing in the burst of color, warmth, and inviting feel the client wanted without painting the walls since she’s renting.

The solution?  Bright, bold, colorful pieces:


I started with the area rug, purposely choosing one of the several the client had indicated she liked that had lots of good color to work with.  We chose a blue sofa, another bold choice but one that works perfectly in this space.  The rest was just pulling more of the colors from the rug into the room:


I sanded and re-stained this mirror, modernizing it and giving it new life:


Pillows are an easy, inexpensive way to pull the color palette of a room together:DRW_D300_201501108204__DSC3678


I chose a coffee table that would be “light” visually and not compete with anything else in the room.DRW_D300_201501108105__DSC3579_hdr

There are a lot of bold colors and patterns here, but they work together because there is an entirely neutral backdrop grounding the space.  In the end, the blank slate worked to our advantage, helping create a warm, inviting, colorful transitional living room.

Make My Dive Bar Less Dive-y Please

One look at this before pic and you can see why I was brought in on this project.  A friend of mine bought this very dive-y bar and asked for help making it family friendly and welcoming…in other words, much less dive-y.DiveBar_Before1

A lot of money went into the purchase of the space so the hope was to upgrade it without spending a lot of money on renovations.  No major renovations meant working with the monstrous wood bar on the right, and after discussing that the space should incorporate mountain climbing (my friend is an avid climber), and a slight northern European feel, the design concept was obvious to me.


To make it feel family friendly, I wanted to lighten things up a bit, especially since there’s a lot of dark, heavy wood tones in the space.  Nothing says rustic like ceiling wood beams and stone tile, and to keep the space from becoming over the top mountain lodge, I proposed a combination of both rustic and modern lighting.


The result?  A family friendly, warm and inviting, mountain climbing, slightly northern European feeling, modern rustic soccer bar and grill.

Kid Friendly Basement Family Room – Final Photos

You may remember me mentioning a few posts ago a design for a kid-friendly basement family room.  You can see more on the online interior design here, so I won’t go into great detail but a high level, the process was this:

  1. Step 1:  They sent me “before” photos, and examples of designs that they liked
  2. Step 2:  I sent them this concept board
  3.  Step 3:  I drew the 3D model, designed the space and sent them photo renders:
    render13_photocollagerender12_treadmill render14_chalkboard  render11_tvwall
  4. Step 4:  I sent them this Pinterest board, identifying all items and where to find them
  5. Step 5:  They implemented the design themselves

Let’s take a look at how it turned out…

photocollage entertnmtctr cubbymirror crafttable coucarea

The results are in, Online Interior Design works!

Modern Massage Space 3D Photo Rendering

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was contracted to turn the cold, empty room shown below into a modern massage space.  Beyond the design, this project involved making the space much more functional by breaking it out into 3 separate spaces:

  • Lobby
  • Massage Room
  • Storage Room

There are aesthetic changes of course, but before getting into those, let’s take a look at the “before” space:

BEFORE photo of modern massage space

BEFORE photo of modern massage space

BEFORE photo of modern massage space

BEFORE photo of modern massage space

With the ceiling tiles, dingy walls and dated carpet and trim, the current space has more of an abandoned office feel than the welcoming, soothing feel that a massage space should have.  But it does have one thing going for it – it’s pretty much a blank slate, and anyone who has ever had to take room measurements knows that a perfectly rectangular box like this is a dream :-).

Based on discussions with the client, who wanted a clean, “bare bones” modern space, I proposed and received approval of this Modern Massage Space Concept Board, then proceeded with the 3D model and photo renderings.  You’ll notice right away a few major changes:

  • I’ve replaced the old carpet with a medium brown, laminate wood flooring which will warm the space, be much more practical for cleanup, and (since installed horizontally) will also widen the space visually.
  • I’ve proposed painting the dated wood trim (and front door) to a crisp white to freshen the space.
  • The walls will be darkened from the existing yellowed white to a calming, neutral tan.
  • And I’ll accent the otherwise neutral palette with liberal doses of spa blue.

Here’s a shot of 1 of the 3 spaces – probably the most important one – the massage room.   For storage, I’ve included both open, upper shelving, and a lower closed cabinet.  Small lamps will provide an option of softer lighting than the overhead fluorescents when needed.  I’ve also darkened the ceiling tiles to help them disappear (did you even notice them?).


Modern Massage Space 3D Photo Rendering

Modern Massage Space 3D Photo Rendering

In the lobby area, I’ve included a small seating area and another cabinet for additional storage.  A pocket door provides privacy without intruding into either the massage room or lobby.




Lastly, the 3D model shows much more clearly the division into 3 separate spaces.

Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.09.01 PM Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 10.08.40 PM

Modern Massage Space Concept

My client on this project is a chiropractor expanding the massage space of his business into another area within the same building.  He’s not super pleased with the interior design of his current space, so he came to me wanting something different, and specified that there’s no need to tie the look of the new space to the look of the existing space.  Great.

My immediate thoughts were of grand spas with fantastic light fixtures and tile that glimmers like water – the lush, oasis where I always imagine myself getting a massage.  But then I remembered that it’s an 11’x20′ foot chiropractor’s office, and the client’s very specific direction that it should be simple, clean, modern and “bare bones”.   So I tamped down my love for all things shiny, and focused on function and the client’s requests, and here’s what I came up with as a concept:


modern massage space

Modern Massage Room Concept Board

Functional, clean and modern – per the client’s request – but with a little bit of elegance and Zen.  Perfect for a chiropractor’s office.  Next up…the 3D model.