Saturday, August 8, 2009

A decorators Q & A luncheon in York

Postcard image of the York Harbor Reading Room

Recently I enjoyed a design discussion/luncheon presented by the Museums of Old York at the York Harbor Reading Room. A panel of five decorators from the McIntire Farm Show House presented tips, techniques and design stories that related to both their work on this year’s show house and the business of design. After the initial introductions of the panel (in order Frank Hodge, Kacey Graham, Michaele Boehm, Nicole Yee, and Joyce Jordan) the guests in the audience were able to pose their decorating questions. Here are some questions (and answers) that I thought would be of interest:


A story board I designed around pillows from my Vintage Seaside Collection
based on colors from the shore: coral, sand, seafoam and beachglass

Q. What color did you use in your room?

A. When people see a room that makes them feel good, the first question they ask is often about color choice. If you see a room that you like at a show house, don’t be shy ... ask the designer directly. If you see a room that you like on the web or in a magazine, keep in mind that the image is most likely affected by the printing process or monitor settings. Bring a magazine image directly to a paint store, they can color match what you see to get the result you fell in love with. But beware ... a wall color is greatly influenced by fixed variables like lighting, flooring and objects in the space. I always recommend to choose colors for your home while in your home – take a look around and see what colors are already there that will be interacting with a color you saw and loved somewhere else. Also, as most of the panel noted, a good design plan will take into consideration the colors in adjoining rooms for the best overall flow of the space.


I chose a blue ceiling to make this dining space more intimate.
Ceiling: Benjamin Moore Jamestown Blue
Walls: Benjamin Moore Yorkshire Tan

Q. What are your thoughts on colored ceilings?

While some designers prefer white ceilings, others treat the ceiling as an opportunity to add intimacy and/or interest by treating it with a color. A color other than white on a high ceiling can make a room feel much more cozy. Give it a try if you never have. Blue on a ceiling is a lot like looking up at the sky (I loved it with yellow walls in my first baby nursery). Even using a 50% value of your wall color can add a new dimension to the overall look of a space. Something all of the designers could agree upon, however, was to refrain from painting a textured or “popcorn” ceiling with a color. If at all possible, have it scraped down (add a skim coat if necessary to clean it up) and then feel free to highlight with that touch of color.



From my home, a recently added niche in the foyer
painted entirely in Benjamin Moore Aura Paint in Secret
Flower arrangement designed by Beth Hylan

Q. What are some current design trends?

A. The color gray is hot

I love grays ... they make everything else pop. Put a bright white in front of gray, furnish with rich chocolate browns, add vibrant colors as accents ... it’s all good! Gray acts as the perfect backdrop to make everything else look its sophisticated best. As the design panel mentioned, gray is the new neutral, replacing beige in a lot of instances. My tip: If your room does not receive a lot of natural light during the day, I would recommend going with a warm gray (more brown in undertones) as opposed to a cool gray (which can be more blue). Well planned lighting will help to keep the space feeling warm, like the recessed light I had installed in the niche above.

A. Going “green” is in

Green decorating is not just a passing trend. Choosing energy efficient appliances, natural fabrics, paints that produce low emissions (like the Aura paint used above), reducing waste in building materials and re-purposing existing furnishings are now common requests from clients and are highly recommended by designers. While costs in the past have been higher for eco-friendly design, with the increase in green providers we are now experiencing a larger supply of choices that will hopefully drive prices down (so glad I took economics in college!) My advice: start small. It doesn’t have to be an all or nothing way of decorating. Even the smallest green choices can make a difference to our environment while adding to the comfort of your home.


Q. How do you deal with a client’s collections?


I was inspired by my clients collection of pink appliances (she has a great Kitchen Aid Mixer, Blender and more in pink) and her large collection of vintage tea pots, cups and saucers when choosing the colors and fabrics for this kitchen makeover. The china cabinet was painted a shiny black to anchor the space while being the perfect backdrop to the variety of china patterns. The yellow dinette set is the one unexpected color in the space that keeps the palette interesting.
Ceiling: Benjamin Moore Pleasant Pink
Walls: Benjamin Moore Cappuccino

A. Grouping collections together will offer the biggest impact. Collections truly tell the story of the home owner. Whatever your collection is, be proud of it and find a special place to display it. Rotating items in and out of your collection is a nice way to keep the look fresh while not overdoing it. One great tip for starting a collection inexpensively was to add seashells to a space. They come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes, colors and textures, and are extremely accessible. Keep this in mind when strolling the beaches this summer ...

If you love pink, embrace it!
Kitchen Aid available at Macy’s online



Q. In your opinion, what are some of the top decorating faux pas?



A client of mine inherited this room in her new home that was painted with blue walls and a white ceiling that included the slants of the roof lines.
Highlighting too many angles created a disjointed look.


My advice: By painting the entire room the same color (treat slants as part of the wall, not the ceiling) the angles disappear allowing focal points more prominence. A new collection of colored glass bottles creates interest in what once was a dead corner. Walls and ceiling: Benjamin Moore Timid White

A decorating “mistake” that I often run into are slanted walls that are treated as part of the ceiling as shown above. The room will look so much bigger when wall color is applied to the slants, extending the visual dimensions of the room. The McIntire Farm panel mentioned a few of their pet peeves: Overdoing a theme was one. Not editing a space another. Not choosing the right scale of furniture or objects for a space. Special challenges that many clients face today regarding the subject of scale include the wide array of over-sized pieces that have been created to fit in the “great room” scenario. A better way to approach this “how do I fill such a large space dilemma” is to break the room out into smaller conversation areas instead of trying to fill the space with the largest sofa available.



Q. What are your thoughts on HGTV and do you have a favorite designer?

Candice Olson autographing my copy of her book Candice Olson on Design at a lecture she gave at Circle Furniture. Yes, she is just as tall, gorgeous and funny in person as she is on her HGTV show Divine Design!

Candice Olson received a lot of nods from our designer panel as an HGTV favorite, and other prominent designers Barbara Barry (love her!) and design legend Billy Baldwin were mentioned. While a lot of good ideas can come from televised design shows, most of the panel agreed that they present an unrealistic picture of what actually can be done “in a day” and “on a dime.” The largest omission is the cost of labor (and materials) for each makeover, which significantly adds to the reality of a projects bottom line.


My (unsigned *sigh*) copy of Nate’s book

Another favorite design personality of mine is Nate Berkus (and not just because he is adorably handsome!) His love of organic objects in a space and creating sacred moments in a persons home is something I firmly believe in. Items do not have to be expensive to be of value. I actually got to see Nate in person at the Oprah Live your Best Life Tour when it was in Boston. The question I wanted to ask him at the time was how he felt about the incredible amounts of money spent on a lot of the decorating makeover shows. While I didn’t get the chance to pose my question that day (honestly, I got too nervous to raise my hand!) soon after that event Nate became the host of Oprah’s Big Give, a show that rewarded the contestants for their creative ability to find ways to help those in need. I think I know what his answer would have been to my unasked question. Creating beautiful living spaces can certainly have a positive influence on one’s overall well-being, but in doing so, it is important to keep in mind that people, and not things, are what truly matter.


What design questions would you ask if you had the opportunity to receive free advice? Post your questions on my blog, and I will answer as much as I can with pictures to illustrate if possible.

And if you haven
t already, there is still time to visit the York Decorator Show House (it is open through August 15th). If you are lucky, you just might meet one of the designers mentioned in this post (I thought each of their spaces were truly fabulous and I really enjoyed hearing them talk about their love for the design process – I hope to run into them again soon). Remember, don’t be shy ... introduce yourself and ask them about their work. Half the fun of being in a show house is to see how people react to a designed space (the other half is getting a new client or two, of course!). At the end of the day, a person who designs interiors is very much like a favorite artist ... our canvas just includes four walls, a floor and quite likely a ceiling!

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