Design Tips

Linda Shears with her sisters in Venice, circa 2002.
Linda Shears with her sisters in Venice, circa 2002.

Monday, July 2, 2018

Vacation Inspiration

We wouldn’t grow as people if we remained forever in our little corner of the globe. For designers, travel serves as a conduit for creativity and inspiration. Perhaps centuries-old mosaics in India, hand-blown Murano glass viewed in Italy, or the turquoise beaches of Mexico will find their way into a designer’s repertoire once he or she arrives back home. A region’s architecture, geography, flora, and even cuisine can inspire, too.

“My favorite city in the world is Venice, Italy. Venice is nicknamed 'La Serenissima,' which translates to 'The Serene One.' My parents were born in Italy, so I have traveled there many times, often visiting Venice as part of the trip. The photos above are from a trip with my sisters in 2002. There is something mysterious and exotic about this island city, this city of romance. Its interiors are grand with a wealth of detail and rich color schemes of burgundy and dark reds. The powder room above was very much influenced by elements of Venetian design. We used a rich red Venetian plaster on the walls and embellished it with embedded stencils (thank you, Barbara Johnson from Walls of Virtue). Venetians have an ongoing love affair with elaborate glass accessories and intricate mirrors to glamorize their spaces. Most of us are familiar with Murano glass made on the Venetian island of Murano. In this powder room we used a detailed Venetian mirror and provided lighting via faceted glass pendants. The vanity, with its carved elements, bows to the Rococo style seen on many commodes in Venetian interiors.” – Linda Shears, Linda Shears Designs

“I recently traveled to Rome and Montenegro and was inspired by the incredible architecture, beautiful people and the insanely delicious food. The culture put an emphasis on spending time with family, specifically over food. Also, the 'vino' has inspired a few wine rooms I’m working on right now with elements influenced by Italy.” – Amanda Sinistaj, Ellwood Interiors

“The Maldives inspired me because their airport wasn’t built until around 1975, leaving it untouched by pollution, so the water is clear and even more amazing than any water I have ever seen. The color is unreal and the most sparkling blue. The Maldives is made up of hundreds of little islands and on our island, we were the only Americans of about 100 guests.

The other pictures above are from my trip to India. The garden design seen behind me at the Taj Mahal was done 100 years ago and features a medallion pattern that is very relevant in fabric designs today. Another palace in India also inspired me as it had the most reflective mosaics that were done hundreds of years ago.” – Paul Feiten, Paul Feiten Design

“The photos above are from my two-week trip to Italy. Even though I went to Rome and Florence, it was Venice that really struck me. Venice was a huge merchant city, so it was the cross-cultural architectural details that really interested me. Most of the photos I took were of details of the stone and iron work, which I found fascinating. In my travels I really like seeing how people live in ancient environments and how modern elements are integrated. One of the best examples was visiting the island of Murano, where artisans are using centuries-old techniques to create modern pieces.” – Arturo Sanchez, Art | Harrison Interiors

“Cabo San Lucas has been a destination spot my husband and I have traveled to for years. The colorful terrain, calming organic feeling, their use of indirect lighting in landscape and architecture has all heavily influenced my design style. Probably why I love blue so much – any shade of blue, as that is the color I most think of when going to Cabo.

Additionally, we keep going back to Italy. In my opinion, there is no other culture that pays attention to detail like the Italian culture. Their fashion designs are impeccable. The boutique shopping in Italy is inspiring in and of itself for their fashion sense. And, of course, the terrain and architecture is awe inspiring!” – Cheryl Nestro, Tutto Interiors

This vignette by Linda Shears demonstrates how utilizing a black accent wall does not have to be forbidding.
This vignette by Linda Shears demonstrates how utilizing a black accent wall does not have to be forbidding.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Renovations Done Right Recap

Recently, MDC hosted our “Renovations Done Right” event featuring multiple presentations covering a variety of renovation-themed topics from kitchens and baths to space planning, color, and more. Several of the day’s presenters revisited their topics and provided a recap with their top renovation tips.

COLOR PLAY – Linda Shears, Linda Shears Designs
The interaction of color palette, fabrics, and artwork can transform a room, but where do you start? Which of these three elements is the impetus in defining the color scheme for your space? I designed two vignettes in the Decoroom showroom to illustrate different starting points.

In the black and red room, the dragon area rug from The Ghiordes Knot was the inspiration. It allowed me to highlight how painting an accent wall in black does not have to be forbidding. Keeping the furnishings light and adding a pop of red enlivens the space. Is black the 2018 new gray? It works the same as gray by allowing accent colors to thrive and not be absorbed by it. I also showed consumers how to use several different fabrics and artwork with the rug.

The turquoise/coral vignette illustrates two very important aspects of creating the perfect color scheme:

  • Complementary colors sit opposite each other on the color wheel. For this vignette, we highlighted turquoise and its opposite, coral.
  • The selection of colors in this space demonstrates the 60/30/10 rule in design – for the best balanced and appealing look use 60% of the room in a dominant color (in our space that was turquoise), 30% of a secondary color (here it was the coral) and 10% as an accent color (the melon color in the area rug and an accent pillow).

YOUR HOME – HAVE IT YOUR WAY – Jane Synnestvedt, Jane S Synnestvedt Interior Design Consultant, Inc.
There are always surprises and new discoveries when renovating older homes, some that can lead to higher costs. Therefore, you should consider the following steps when developing a renovation or a new build plan:

  • Before hiring a designer, you should set some goals. What is the desired aesthetic? Provide pictures and lists to describe your priorities for using the space. Are there any special needs for you, family members, pets, or aging parents?
  • How much are you willing to spend? You need to understand the reality of your budget and should allow 20% more, as there will always be unforeseen adjustments.
  • Communication between all team members involved in your project is key to the execution of the project. You should select a team that is composed of professionals, such as an architect, interior designer, landscape designer, general contractor. This team should have the skills and hands-on working experience to help you make the smart decisions that differentiate a well-executed plan from a disorganized disaster.
  • Materials for each job need to be selected based on the way the renovated / new space will function, and the overall desired maintenance you wish to take on.
  • You should consider what role technology will play in your home.

The above images support some of these points on the importance of the planning steps. The original house was built as a weekend retreat in horse country in the late 1800s, and the history of the home was very important to my clients. Out of respect for that history, the new home was updated and spaces were enlarged for today’s living. Attention to detail becomes critical when repurposing architectural features from an old structure. In this case, the painted panels on the wall and the stones on the fireplace were numbered, and the beams in the ceiling from the original farm house were repurposed in this new build. An outside wall was brought inside for historical recognition.

DESIGNING WITH COLOR – Kevin Serba and John Rattray, Serba Interiors

  • Color not only creates visual interest in an otherwise neutral space; it can also add warmth and energy to a room.
  • Neutral backgrounds allow you to layer color into your space through the use of colorful upholstery, interesting area rugs, and vibrant accent fabrics and accessories.
  • When creating a color scheme for a space, it’s often helpful to start with a single item that will set the tone for your room. A colorful woven area rug, favorite accent fabric, or cherished artwork are all good starting points to work from.


  • Do you love your home? Consider your neighbors, location, and surrounding areas. If you like these elements, renovating might be the answer. A designer may see new possibilities to get you maximum functionality.
  • Be sure to budget realistically. Budgeting accurately is essential if you decide to renovate. Meeting and planning with experts is critical. Be aware of how time constraints can impact budget.
  • More room or more rooms. You can add more room without adding more square footage. For example, consult a designer to see if a three-bedroom home can be re-configured to four bedrooms.
  • How long will a renovation take? Be prepared for a serious, long-term commitment of time and energy. A total kitchen re-model. ideally will take 10-12 weeks, depending on products and methods.
  • Earning back your investment in remodeling. What’s the average return on investment for the renovation you are considering? Not all upgrades give you a full 100% return on the money invested, but give your total home a better profile.

CREATING THE KITCHEN OF YOUR DREAMS – Arturo Sanchez and Barry Harrison, Art | Harrison Interiors

  • Don’t forget to design the ceiling for more interest and texture.
  • Create cozy nooks in the kitchen using banquettes.
  • Bring clerestory windows in kitchens as opposed to soffits. This adds heaps of light while giving privacy.

SPACE PLANNING – Pamela Livingston Hardy, Creative Renovations, Inc.
Pamela Livingston Hardy suggests rearranging existing furniture to make a more usable space.

  • If removing walls to open up a space, it is always wise to get recommendations from an architect to ensure that additional support is not required to brace the upper levels or the roof.
  • Rearranging the furniture in a room can sometimes open space and provide a better and more usable space.
  • When planning out a new kitchen, leaving the major appliances where they currently are placed, when possible, will avoid additional cost for plumbing and electrical service.
  • Think outside the box when considering renovations to the home. For example, moving walls, doorways, and/or windows can maximize the space and functionality in a room.
'The Cave' is located below the original sun room, following the footprint of the space above. | Photo by Jeff Garland
'The Cave' is located below the original sun room, following the footprint of the space above. | Photo by Jeff Garland

Monday, April 30, 2018

Outdoor Small Wonders

An expansive outdoor space may be alluring, but a well-designed small space can create an intimate and cozy environment when hosting guests outdoors. Whether it’s a welcoming front porch connecting a homeowner with their neighborhood or a secret backyard oasis, these small outdoor spaces are sure to please.

“A favorite small outdoor space that comes to mind is a northern Michigan home designed with architect Mark Johnson. 'The Cave' is located below the original sun room, following the octagonal footprint of the original sun room above, designed with the intent to be used year-round and sheltered from Michigan's ever-changing weather. The interior / exterior of the cave was furnished using teak tilt-back chairs with custom fabric and table.”

Another favorite small wonder is our tucked-in outdoor kitchen located on the Gulf Coast of Florida. A custom twinkle light fixture was designed by Kathleen McGovern Studio and made from perforated copper to create the perfect evening shimmering effect. This space features a built-in grill, custom cabinetry, and a high top table with director-style bar stools. The walls are covered with wormy cyprus and the backsplash is from Ann Sacks.”
– Kathleen McGovern, Kathleen McGovern Studio of Interior Design

"A covered front porch adds wonderful 'in town' outdoor living space that connects one to the community. This is a beautiful example of natural materials that feel good to the senses and provide a cozy backdrop to comfortable porch seating. It's become a favorite summertime spot for this homeowner."
– Amy Miller Weinstein, AMW Design Studio

“This house was designed to flow seamlessly between the interior and the exterior / gardens. This is the entrance to the garden, and it showcases many aspects of what is featured inside the house and in the garden. Collections of architectural artifacts, potted plants and accents of orange are throughout the interior of the home as well. The frog fountain greets visitors to the garden, and it sits below the kitchen window so you can hear the sound inside the house.”
– Dan Davis, Dan Davis Design

Pictured are two narrow condominium balconies of a South Beach Jones-Keena interior / exterior renovation project for a local family. In the first photo, the client wanted an al fresco dining spot off the kitchen. Lucy Earl worked with Gallery Steel of Waterford to custom-design a heavyweight steel dining table, which is directly attached to the building's railing and bolted to the ground. This design was necessitated by Florida high-rise building codes due to high winds and hurricanes. In this small space, the clients have enjoyed hours of relaxed meals watching boats sail by. Likewise, in the second picture, Lucy used lightweight, movable patio furniture along with outdoor planters for the clients to enjoy the serene water views outside their formal living room. Lucy kept the design choices in these narrow balconies simple as to not compete with the real "star of the show" – the Intracoastal Waterway.
– Jones-Keena & Co.

Barry Harrison’s small '25 X 42' backyard didn’t stop him from maximizing his city garden space. The center of Harrison’s garden design features an impressive moat, created to house the prized koi he raised in a pond on his Kentucky farm. The waters of the moat are accentuated with large granite slab bridges that define an outdoor space that can be easily converted for outdoor dining use during summer parties.
– Art | Harrison Interiors