Design Tips

Amy Weinstein used twiggy foliage with orange buds and berries for a fall event. | Photo by Beth Singer
Amy Weinstein used twiggy foliage with orange buds and berries for a fall event. | Photo by Beth Singer

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Be Our Guest!

With Thanksgiving just weeks away, the holiday season is upon us! Many of us will be hosting friends and family in the coming weeks, so we asked top designers to share some of their favorite dining room designs, go-to entertaining tips, and delectable recipes.


"This dining space is ready for a party! These colors lend themselves to a beautiful fall event, and with a tablescape that includes twiggy foliage with orange buds and berries, plenty of low votives, and smoky glassware, it will look smashing, festive, and seasonally appropriate."
– Amy Weinstein, AMW Design Studio


“In this era of open floor plans and eat-in kitchens, formal dining rooms may seem passé. Entertaining has become more relaxed and informal; however, many homeowners still love the idea of a separate dining room. There is something special and elegant about entertaining in a space devoted solely to the purpose of dining. It brings back memories of family sit-down dinners and delicious holiday meals. I have several clients who have and prefer to use separate dining rooms. Because these areas are not used every day, they can handle darker walls, elegant furniture, and lavish drapery treatments. For instance, in the dining room pictured here, we used my client’s favorite color, emerald green, to create a dramatic yet relaxing and soothing atmosphere. We used this tone on the walls, chair fabric and draperies, accented by brass and gold. Formal dining rooms make every meal seem special and are not going away anytime soon.”
– Linda Shears, Linda Shears Designs


“Don’t just use table decorations like vases and candlesticks; pull from other things you may have around the house that could bring an element of surprise, color or texture. We did a table setting for an evening of watching the stars using a small antique telescope. We made papier-mâché orbs and painted them yellow like the moon, and placed electric tea lights in them for a soft moonlight glow. We pulled these yellow vases for their texture and some round metal orbs from a rock shop to complete the tablescape. People were thrilled to find small compasses on the place settings as their take-home gifts.

Print the menu. Nothing says great expectations for guests as much as when they see a beautiful table and a printed menu. Type up the menu in a nice-looking format and then place in in a great frame. The menu can be placed wherever you have drinks before the meal, or on the buffet or side table. Or make small, unframed menus and put them on the place setting. It’s a big impact for a small amount of effort and cost.”
– Dan Davis, Dan Davis Designs


Jones-Keena designer Heather Duggan worked with Birmingham clients to glamorously upgrade their dining room – just in time for Thanksgiving! The star of the room is the elaborately hand-painted walls in silver leaf with gold accents and variations of climbing purple cherry blossoms. A floating shelf lines the rear wall which makes a convenient buffet for holiday meals. The dining chairs were reupholstered in an elegant velvet, and silk curtains with detailed beaded trim were added. The traditional chandelier and wall sconces provide the perfect lighting for entertainment.
– Heather Duggan, Jones-Keena & Co.


“Creative centerpieces can be the star of any dinner party. I like to use unconventional materials as part of the design, and I layer fabrics, mix and match china and linens, and add lots of texture. Try stacking pedestal plates for added interest. Hit the dimmer and add a mix of candles in varying heights for perfect party lighting. Choose unscented candles so the smell won’t compete with the food. Plan a playlist and have the music on and candles lit before the first guests arrive. Go-to favorites that you keep on hand will make impromptu get-togethers a breeze. I always have ingredients for Mystic Crab Dip and Baked Brie on hand, and wine and Pellegrino in the fridge just in case friends stop over.”
– Cynthia Evans, Cynthia Evans Interiors



Baked Brie (recipe provided by Cynthia Evans, Cynthia Evans Interiors)

  • 1 puff pastry sheet
  • 1 large round of Brie
  • 1 small green apple, chopped
  • ¾ cup walnuts, chopped
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Directions: Combine the apple, walnuts, cranberries, brown sugar, and melted butter in a mixing bowl.

Roll the pastry sheet into a circle. Cut the round of Brie in half horizontally. Place the bottom half of the cut Brie in the center of the pie crust. Spoon half of the apple mixture onto the Brie. Place the top half of the Brie on the mixture, and spoon the remaining apple mixture on the top of the cheese. Pull up the edges of the pastry to the center, creating the illusion of a drawstring pouch.

Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until browned. Serve with your favorite crackers and grapes.


Mystic Crab Dip (recipe provided by Cynthia Evans, Cynthia Evans Interiors)

  • 1 can crab meat, drained
  • 1 8-oz. package cream cheese, softened
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 tablespoons horseradish
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley

Directions: Blend the cream cheese, mayonnaise, and horseradish in an oven-proof dish. Add the onion powder, garlic powder, and parsley, and fold in the crab meat. Cook for 20 minutes at 350 until lightly browned. Garnish with a sprig of parsley and serve with crackers and grapes.


Aunt Cathy’s Famous Coleslaw (recipe provided by Anne Strickland, PORT Mfg. & Design)

  • 1 head Napa cabbage, very thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 packages ramen noodles
  • 2 oz. slivered almonds
  • ¼ cup sesame seeds
  • ½ stick margarine


  • ¼ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

Directions: Sauté noodles, almonds, and sesame seeds in the margarine until brown. Spoon onto a plate with paper towels to drain and cool. When you are almost ready to serve, put the cabbage and scallions into a bowl and add the cooled noodle mixture. Mix up the dressing and pour over cabbage. Toss well and enjoy!

Earthscape Home Products are 100% organic with natural latex, wool, and cotton for a healthy night’s sleep.
Earthscape Home Products are 100% organic with natural latex, wool, and cotton for a healthy night’s sleep.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Rest Easy

While there are many different factors that affect one’s ability to get a good night’s rest, one of the most important is the bed itself. We spoke with showroom managers David Orlando (Hästens Detroit, Suite 111) and Ted Metas (Earthscape Home Products, Suite 95) and asked them to share what makes a quality mattress, things to consider when testing and purchasing a new mattress, and what to do to create a better sleep environment within our homes.



David Orlando, Hästens Detroit: There are 3 things that make up a quality mattress:

  1. What materials the bed is made of – Quality mattresses use the finest natural materials.
  2. How those materials are put together – The care and precision of how the bed is assembled dictate the quality of the bed.
  3. How the bed performs to provide you with a deep refreshing sleep. This is a combination of the materials, the craftsmanship, and the engineering.

Ted Metas, Earthscape Home Products: A quality mattress starts with the right ingredients. The highest quality materials in the bedding industry today are 100% organic natural latex, 100% organic wool, 100% organic cotton, and pocketed encased coils. Buying a certified organic mattress ensures that there are no harmful chemicals, flame retardants, or formaldehydes, which are commonly used in conventional synthetic mattresses.



David Orlando, Hästens Detroit: Spine alignment and pressure-point relief. If your back is not straight, you can not only deprive yourself of a deep regenerative sleep, it can also give you back pain. Additionally, when we do not get enough pressure-point relief we toss and turn. Maybe not enough to wake us up, but enough to deny a great night’s sleep.

Ted Metas, Earthscape Home Products: Getting the right level of surface firmness, combined with postural support, is very important. The choices for consumers allow for a wide variety of surface comfort levels, from firm to soft and the option of firmer or gentler support levels. Temperature control is a big issue for many customers, so I look for products that are heat dissipating, which sleep cooler than conventional synthetic mattresses that absorb heat. Also available are adjustable power bases that can greatly improve sleep quality and provide a place to watch TV, read or work on a laptop or tablet.



David Orlando, Hästens Detroit:

  1. How does your spinal alignment look and feel?
  2. If you sleep with a partner, how does the mattress feel when one of you rolls over?
  3. Can you lie next to the edge without feeling like you are going to roll off?
  4. How is the temperature?
  5. Test a bed with a good pillow.
  6. Plan on spending some time in the bed to get the true feel.

Ted Metas, Earthscape Home Products: The first thing is to identify what your individual support and comfort profile is. This is accomplished through progressive sampling, which is a technique we have developed to help our clients determine the right combination of components to optimize their sleep. Other factors include mattresses for couples that will minimize motion transfer, which can cause one partner to interfere with the other’s sleep.



David Orlando, Hästens Detroit:

  1. Make your room as dark as possible
  2. Keep the temperature cool
  3. Avoid noise
  4. Get into a routine

Ted Metas, Earthscape Home Products Creating a better sleep environment starts with replacing materials in the bedroom that have VOCs that contain toxic chemicals. This starts with the mattress, but also extends to mattress pads, pillows, sheets, blankets and comforters. Additionally, many MDF (medium density fiberboard) or veneered bedroom furniture can emit formaldehydes. The paint and flooring insulation can also contribute to a list of indoor pollutants. Replacing the synthetic products and materials in your bedroom with all natural and organic ingredients, is the best way to create a healthy sleep environment.

Gail Urso chose eggplant walls to compliment the painting by Carla Mazzucato | Photo by Jeff Garland
Gail Urso chose eggplant walls to compliment the painting by Carla Mazzucato | Photo by Jeff Garland

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Color Gets Creative

While neutrals have a definite role in decorating, it is a refreshing change to see spaces that effectively use vivid colors. Whether through repeating vibrant colors from a painting throughout a space or incorporating a daring color scheme, when done correctly, unusual color combinations can make a stylish statement. From intense yellow to eggplant purple, several top designers share how they integrated color in striking ways.

“In both rooms the artwork inspired the vibrant wall colors. In the first instance, the eggplant walls provide a great background for the beautiful painting by Carla Mazzucato. The drapery fabric from Robert Allen, chair from Hickory Chair, and Conrad shades all employ a similar color palette to match the painting. In the family room, an inherited art collection inspired the rich shade of dark green that is a perfect background for the art.” – Gail Urso, Urso Designs

“About five years ago gray became the on-trend neutral color for interiors. From the cooler grays to the warmer greige tones, and the 500 shades in between, it is still a very popular neutral. Unlike beiges, which die as a backdrop for colors (especially the popular clean colors), grays really help colors pop. My client purchased a home that was very beige, and locked in the 1980’s. She is a young and perky individual who favors the cooler blue-grays and loves teal as an accent color. We cocooned the living room in grays – changing the carpet to a platinum grey, painting the walls Sherwin-Williams 7672 Knitting Needles and lightened the window treatments to white under-curtains with gray faux silk side panels. We brought the gray room to life by placing her favorite color teal on two lounge chairs, (not seen in the photo) accent pillows, and a throw. But the room still needed the spark of an exciting warm color. An obvious choice would have been teal’s complementary color, which is coral. But when we found the canvas which now hangs above the sofa, it set us on a path to use intense yellow as our missing element. In accessories and small scaled furnishings, the strong yellow creates a color path that leads the eye across the room via a method called color mapping and adds to the allure of the space.” – Linda Shears, Linda Shears Designs

“My client was searching for something unique in this dining room. Her point of reference in the past had been a more traditional aesthetic so moving into a modern prairie-style home with clean lines was a change. When she found this vintage Murano Glass chandelier, I was totally on board. She still wanted 'pretty' so this was a great way to add a punch of color into the home. It has a nice modern quality as well.  By the way, her favorite color is green!

In the young girl’s bedroom, the parent wanted to make sure it carried through to teenager and adult years.  Backgrounds were kept to a sophisticated gray palette.  The paisley on the bed from Schumacher was our starting point with its pale gray, pale blue, and yellow embroidery stitch work. We used the pale blue (In Your Eyes from Benjamin Moore) on the ceiling to create the 'sky'. It was the natural decision to frame the window in bright yellow silk from Schumacher as it frames the window perfectly bringing the outside into the room. Additionally, the draperies were mounted on the front edge of crown to hide the automated shades hidden behind.” – Ian Hartwell, Oliver Max Inc.

“Popular opinion suggests that art should be viewed on a neutral, or many times, a museum white background. I hold the opinion that sometimes the colors selected by the artist may dictate the best background, or wall color to enjoy the piece. This was the case of selecting the backdrop color for the work of local artist, James Kristich, in this apartment dining room overlooking the Detroit River.

However, the obvious wall color of blue would have swallowed up this canvas, so we pulled out the unexpected vivid orange from the boats in this piece, thereby maximizing the beauty and energy of the blue tones in the image. Per the residents, it has clearly been an unexpected (and successful) color choice for those who have enjoyed the art and the room.” – Kathleen McGovern, Kathleen McGovern Studio of Interior Design

“For the turquoise space above, we sought inspiration from the beatnik musings of the Bloomsbury Set – a group of English artists, intellectuals, philosophers and writers who worked and studied together near Bloomsbury, London in the first half of the 20th century, and whose bohemian ways greatly influenced the aesthetics of their time and beyond. Lounge-like, a bit rumpled, far less than perfect – this space is meant to be an artist's retreat. A place to bask in the morning light with time to enjoy the simple pleasures of one's coffee, the art that surrounds, and to take the time to contemplate.

While we sought to keep the design in the kitchen pictured above focused on a minimalistic color palette of blacks, whites, and grays, that can get boring fast. To counteract the simplicity of the space, we chose to give the door to the screen porch a splash of vibrant yellow which speaks to the colorful personality of the homeowner.” – Krista Nye Nicholas and Tami Ramsay, CLOTH & KIND

“Black and white each represent an extreme that is a must in design. In the home above, black is taken to the extreme in the dining room. Black gives objects perfect form, and color shows amazingly well as you can see from the portrait on the back wall and the custom white tile surround on the fireplace.  Using the ebony paint in the entire room makes a powerful and striking statement. To accentuate the compelling dining room theme, the black is represented throughout the home via the use of window trim, crown molding, quartz kitchen counters (a mixture of black and white) as well complementing accessories while blending spectacularly with the white walls and cabinets in the kitchen.” – Rita O’Brien, Rita O’Brien Design Group