Design Tips

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

This large bonus room by CLOTH & KIND was transformed into a modern-day speakeasy. | Photo by Sarah Dorio
This large bonus room by CLOTH & KIND was transformed into a modern-day speakeasy. | Photo by Sarah Dorio

Monday, April 2, 2018

In the Dark

Light and airy rooms are very welcoming and accommodating, but they sometimes lack the warmth and sophistication that a well-done, dark and moody space offers. Read more about how several of the area’s top designers incorporated these dark hues into their clients’ spaces.

“We aspired to transform this massive bonus room, situated above a three-car garage, into a cozy, dark and moody 'modern day speakeasy.' The soot black walls were specifically chosen to help make this vacuous space feel infinitely cozier. We incorporated the use of lighter accents and interesting layers to keep it from feeling too heavy, and the abundance of natural light helped as well. In large and small spaces alike, we never shy away from dark and bold walls - and our clients are always happier for it!”
– Krista Nye Nicholas and Tami Ramsay, CLOTH & KIND

“The clients let me design this space exactly how I wanted. We get a good chuckle as we have dubbed the room 'Amanda’s bathroom.' The goal was to create a moody lower level that had a little edge to it. There is an incredible bar, amazing artwork, and lots of gaming, so we wanted to approach the bathroom with a dark and moody feel, but still a little playful. We immediately fell in love with the Dia de los Muertos design from Detroit Wallpaper Company and had it scaled so that the eyes of the skulls were peeking out over the mirror. The lighting emits a soft glow out of smoky gray glass from Tec Lighting above a custom concrete trough sink. An espresso cabinet with all-black plumbing and hardware adds a soft, slick look on top of the bold tuxedo and charcoal-colored zig-zag (Sterling Row) Walker Zanger tile from Virginia Tile. The colors work seamlessly with the rest of the lower level and the subtle details keep you looking around the room for more.”
– Amanda Sinistaj, Ellwood Interiors

“This is the Ladies’ Powder Room in the Governor’s Residence, referred to as the 'Power Room.' The view from the window was of the parking lot, so we selected a treatment to block the view, as well as contribute to the dark, moody effect in the room. Since the room is small and there is no natural light, we took advantage of those characteristics and went dark. Contrary to what many people think, a small room can be powerful with dark finishes. A palette of deep green, gray, and charcoal was selected to coordinate with the main spaces of the residence. To provide visual relief from the intensity of the intimate space, framed photographs from the Michigan Women’s Hall of Fame were selected not only for their historical interest, but to provide a 'lift' from the deep-green grasscloth background.”
– Kathleen McGovern, Kathleen McGovern Studio of Interior Design

“Here is a special powder room entirely clad in a pewter metallic glass tile. The room was designed to create the mood of an atmospheric lounge in a trendy nightclub. I love dark spaces that are a bit edgy, and add mystery and intrigue!”
– Terry Ellis, Room Service Interior Design

“The Dressing Room walls were painted black, contrasting with crisp white woodwork and windows, reminiscent of a classic little black dress adorned with pearls. The art over the sofa was the inspiration for the room done by Rene Gruau, a famous Parisian fashion illustrator. The dark walls and draperies were a perfect backdrop for the white furniture, vintage 3-way mirror, and accessories. We added the touch of yellow for a pop of color. There were places to display handbags and shoes, dressing area, and a desk for a snack or computer. The room was designed so you could sleep, work, or entertain. What woman wouldn’t want this private sanctuary?”
– Phyllis Whitehead, Fifi & Coco Interiors

“Our clients wanted a dark and moody bedroom that still displayed playful elements. We chose jewel tones to play off the almost black walls, and an eclectic blend of traditional and mid-century modern lines. The Fornasetti plate collection adds to the mysteriousness of the space. They almost have a voyeuristic presence. The large mirror reflects the light from the window and is also functional for dressing. These clients are creative people and have a dark and funny sense of humor. With all of the spaces we have done for them, they wanted them to be unique, fun, and beautiful.”
– Dan Davis, Dan Davis Design

"'When in doubt, wear black.' The inspiration for this powder room renovation was the framed nude sketch the client already owned. The dark patterned wallcovering in shades of gray created a dramatic backdrop. Bubble glass pendants were chosen for their simplicity. Brass and polished nickel accents add a dose of sophistication.”
– Toby Sneider, Snieder Custom Interiors