Last winter I featured some beautiful counter stools sold through Darby Road Home in Waltham, MA (See my blog from 30 November 2018 – “Darby Road Home Delights with Counter Stools and Holiday Cheer”) and remarked that it is hard to find just the right counter stool at just the right height. Well, that challenge still continues; despite a growing number of on-line retailers who offer stools. The purpose of today’s post is to highlight to my wonderful readers that you can’t rely on the name “counter stool” to magically fit your new kitchen island, because there is great variability in the height of stools - much more so than with chairs, in my opinion. So, you must pay attention while shopping! Especially when using catalogs or shopping on-line.
Before you start looking for stools the #1 thing you need to do is to first figure out the optimal seat height that fits for you and your family. The graphic below (from Williams Sonoma) illustrates this point since it shows the variability they have for seat heights where a counter stool seat could be between 23” and 28” tall.
So where have I been shopping for stools for clients recently to solve their design problems? Well, everywhere – and with good success. Here’s the Gage counter stool from Arhaus, a stylish and practical stool that is incredibly comfortable. I love that Arhaus tells you the dimensions (including seat height and overall height); Gage Counter Stool - Dimensions: 19.5" W X 19.5" D X 36.5" H (SEAT 25" H). Here's the link to the Arhaus website's page about the Gage stool:
Arhaus also has an adjustable stool, the Kensington, which is a good solution if you have children who will grow (well, that’s a given, right?) and family members of different heights. But these adjustable stools are somewhat casual and industrial in nature, and won’t fit every situation. Of course, adjustable has its perks. Here's the link to that page:
Frontgate is my #1 catalog/on-line source for stools, and I just saw that they have a new guide related to the subject of choosing just the right stool; their “Bar Stool Guide”:
In addition, here’s another great resource from Frontgate to help you find the perfect stool for your situation and style; “Seat Yourself: Which Types of Bar Stools Work Where”.
You might not think that getting the counter stools “just right” is that hard, or that important. But Fall is just around the corner, kids are going back to school, and I would venture to say that there are many students out there who do their homework at the kitchen island or peninsula. So perhaps you should think about purchasing new counter stools or barstools for your hard-working kitchen as another “back to school” shopping expedition.
We’ve all been there. We have ideas for a great new decorating scheme for a room in our house – but don’t have the time to look for all the pieces of the puzzle; paint colors, fabrics, rugs, chairs, tables, light fixtures, art, wallpaper, accessories and all of the other odds and ends. Well I can help.
Since many of my clients are too busy to spend the time required to track everything down, or don’t have the trade resources to locate the furniture that they need to transform their decorating visions into finished rooms, one of the services that I often provide is shopping for them to find what they are looking for, or to narrow down the options, then shopping with them to make the final selections.
Here’s how it works. I meet with my client and review what their decorating issues and style are. We then decide on the priority of the items needed and the budget targets. With that information I start looking at my preferred vendor stores and websites for the desired items. When I’ve found some interesting pieces, and narrowed the choices down to a manageable number, I either send my client photos and the details about the item (or a link to the website if it’s online) or we go shopping together to evaluate what would best meet their vision. From a pricing point of view I can either work based on a commission tied to purchases, on an hourly fee basis, or a hybrid of the two.
Where do we look? Well if it’s an item that my client physically wants to see we go to the stores that best fit their design vision in the Boston Metro area. Stores like: Mitchell Gold, Arhaus, Stickley Audi & Co, Darby Road Home, the Boston Design Center (BDC), Ballard Designs, Ethan Allen, Crate and Barrel, Needham Decorative Hardware, and Carpet Carousel. If it’s something that can be purchased online, we use the vendors that I’ve found over the years that have quality products and good delivery track records. Vendors like Uttermost for accessories, Surya for rugs and Philip Jeffries for Wallpaper. You can see a complete list of my preferred vendors on my website’s “Vendors & Resources” page.
Here are some photos from my recent shopping expeditions:
Furniture Shopping (click in any image to enlarge it or to start a slideshow):
Accessories and Art Shopping (click in any image to enlarge it or to start a slideshow):
Fabric and Wallcovering Shopping (click in any image to enlarge it or to start a slideshow):
Carpet Shopping (click in any image to enlarge it or to start a slideshow):
Light Shopping (click in any image to enlarge it or to start a slideshow):
Over the years I’ve found that this holistic approach allows my clients to see the big picture and then choose specific items that fit into their desired design esthetic. It’s an approach that saves my clients both time and money since I know which stores/vendors have what they might be looking for and my trade accounts normally allow my clients to purchase what they find at a discount.
So, if you want to redo a room, or start an entire new project, but don’t know where to begin, I can help! Call me and we’ll figure out what approach works best for you.
So, you've set up an appointment with an Interior Designer to get the ball rolling on your newest project, and now you’re starting to wonder what to do next. Rest assured that everyone has this question. Since I see things from the other side (e.g. the Designer’s side), here are some suggestions for you to effectively prepare for a discussion about your ideas and needs during your initial appointment.
If you follow these tips then you and your Designer will have a much more productive initial meeting – and that will allow you to get rolling on your project even faster. During your initial meeting your Designer will be happy to discuss all your preferences and needs, and your preparation ahead of time can make it a truly enjoyable and productive session!
Deadline Driven Design (DDD). Does that describe an interior home project you are deciding on right now? One where you have an important fixed deadline for a specific purpose - perhaps Christmas, your child’s wedding, Bar-Mitzvah, baby shower, or in-laws visiting for the first time in your new home. Anything where you have less than 2 months to make some significant décor changes and you just haven’t found a designer who can respond that quickly?
Well, I can respond and deliver on your fast-track project. I know because I’ve delivered big projects on tight deadlines over and over during my 18 year career as an interior designer. The reason that I can do this is simple - my company is not just me. It’s my team of trusted vendors and sales consultants I can go to in a pinch for furniture that’s stylish, comfortable, and available in 2-3 weeks instead of the regular custom timetable of 8-12 weeks. Quality furniture manufacturers like Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, Arhaus, and Curated Kravet who have carved out a niche for fast track projects with designer wow-factor.
Perhaps even more important, I have a team of quality professionals and trades that I can count on to execute the trickiest of projects and who also respond brilliantly to a deadline - painters, paperhangers, electricians, TV/audio, window treatments and shades (hey, that would be me), re-upholstery, carpentry, installers, carpet, movers, organizers, closet systems - well just about everything on your list. Here are a few of the folks on my team that completed a recent fast-track project:
So, what’s our recipe for mutual success on a fast-track project? Three things:
(1) Organization on my part (got that down, check!)
(2) Communication between us (clear, responsive, documented, and solution-oriented)
(3) A client that is flexible, available for real time consultations, ready to make decisions and move fast - just as my team and I will.
Do you have a project that needs to be completed ASAP? Are you ready? Call me! Let’s go!
Developing a Design Plan - 10 Steps Toward Success and Sanity in Decorating a New Home or Completing a Home Remodel
During the 17 years that I’ve been helping clients transform their houses into homes I’ve noticed that there are several critical steps that need to be undertaken to successfully decorate a new home, or significantly remodel an existing home. In my experience, missing any of these key steps can cause issues and delays in the decorating effort.
It all starts with assessing your home inside and out. Does the interior design go with the exterior design? If not, do you want it to? What are the “givens” of your situation – e.g. the things that will be harder to change? Are you ok with these or are you willing to spend the time, effort and money to change them?
Next, what’s your personal decorating style? Do you have a single design point of view that you want carried throughout the house – or do you like a variety of styles?
What do you need to do to plan for your living needs? Do you entertain frequently? Inside? Outside? Do you need a place for the kids to play or designated homework area?
Have you spent any time figuring out your budget? Decide your priorities. Start with the basics, like what you will sit on and function with initially, then move on to the smaller items and design accents.
I know that this is a little bit of a teaser since I’m not going to give the internet all of the steps and details that I’ve sorted out over the years. So, if you want to receive the detailed 4-page approach that I’ve written to cover this topic, please email me on the "Contact" page and I’ll send it to you.
Until next time, I hope that your Summer was great and that as Fall arrives you have time to enjoy the splendor of the changing colors; especially here in New England!
Overnight guests -- Yay!! However, some folks might say “well…truthfully…nay…we’re not ready…”
Whether you love to entertain guests and provide them with accommodations that mimic a 5-star resort, or just “get through it” to provide a reasonable bed for the night, one thing is for sure: having a nice guest room at the ready goes hand-in-hand with summer. You really do want your guests to have a great night’s rest. Invite them, they will surely come!
Here’s some guest room inspiration for you…our hotel room in Lisbon, Portugal from 2 summers ago. This suite was a delight, and so generously appointed, especially the bath.
You might not have as much space as this hotel room to dedicate to your guest room, but it’s always nice to envision a heavenly place that you have stayed at when you embark on designing a special retreat for your guests.
There were several elements which I really enjoyed in this hotel room. First, the draperies were sumptuous silk, and the many layers of drapery, sheers, and shades made for maximum privacy and light control, including blackout for sleep. Second, the room felt special, very European, and while the color scheme was not my most favorite, it had a cohesive design “point of view.” When you examine your own guest room and recognize that it’s furnished in non-coordinated cast-offs, maybe it’s time to actually think about improving both the style and functionality of the room. Making these kinds of changes will certainly put smiling faces at your breakfast table each morning when guests stay over.
For the ultimate in packing in luxurious function for your guests’ every need in a small space, cruise ship cabins are just the ticket for inspiration. Here is a photo of our cabin on the Crystal Serenity on our latest European cruise. I particularly liked the sleek and neutral color scheme and tactile touches…and functional amenities everywhere. And having a cabin steward was pretty nice, too!
To help you out with your planning here are 15 Tips for a Terrific Guest Room Experience:
Of course most of these suggestions are really common sense and adhere to a golden rule of sorts, “Provide for your guests as you would like to be treated as a guest.” In fact, I often recommend to my clients who are embarking on a guest bedroom renovation that they sleep in their guest bedroom for a night and solely use the guest bath. There is nothing like walking in your guests’ shoes (or bedroom slippers) to clearly assess your guest accommodations and plan ways to improve their experience in your home. I hope this blog has given you some food-for-thought and impetus to make your home more friendly for your guests.
It’s summer, and I know lots of you are headed out on vacation. Safe and happy travels to you all! And if you are home and doing the “staycation” thing, I wish you fair weather and a minimum of road construction delays for all your outings and get-togethers. See you next week on the Center Stage blog!
In today’s Interior Design landscape, there’s a great deal of free advice out there. My blog (and hundreds of other blogs) is free. Pinterest is free. Houzz is free. Asking questions of Houzz designers is free. Major furniture chains (like Ethan Allen) have designer services that are free. All free and available at your fingertips on your computer with a few simple search terms - ready to help you redesign your home’s interior.
So you need to ask yourself three critical questions:
Well, it’s a bit of a consumer nightmare out there, sorting out the free wheat from the free chaff….and the sorting requires lots of time and energy spent by you! Which brings me to the following list about design fees:
Why paying a design fee for a specific project is good for you:
For all these reasons, I have developed a design process that has served my clients extremely well over the past 17 years (see the “Client Journey: How We Work Together” page). And that process includes having my clients pay a design fee up front based on a clear understanding between the client (you) and the designer (me) on the scope of the project and what the client will get for that design fee (e.g. photographic renderings, fabric swatches, wallcovering samples, paint selections, pricing, time estimates, etc.,). As a client of any service, don’t you want to know what you are going to get, how it’s going to look and what it’s going to cost? Of course you do!
I can think of many instances in my own personal life where I’ve paid an up-front “design fee” to start a project out on the right footing. For example, when we were first married we moved to Colorado, purchased a new home and paid a landscape architect to draw up a detailed landscaping design. Frankly, we had no clue on the trees and shrubs that grew in Colorado’s climate, and it would have been way too laborious and inefficient for us to research it ourselves. That’s what you hire any professional for, right? With the landscaping plans we paid for we could make informed decisions on what we were going to do and when. We ended up using that architect’s landscaping company for the major initial work and did many of the smaller jobs ourselves on a time phased approach. We were happy that we had the structure of the architect’s design plan to guide us on the overall project, the costs and the time phasing. Similarly, years ago we paid an investment advisor to perform a comprehensive financial review and design a retirement plan, with no risk of him selling us specific investment products that were more financially rewarding for him than they were for us. We were seeking a high-quality, objective and informed professional opinion. To get that we paid a design fee to the investment advisor, and therefore spent time specifying our needs and paid attention to, and placed value on the plan that he developed. And it’s no different with a professional Interior Designer (except Interior Design projects are way more fun!)
So now I’m going to make a statement that will probably make you wince: “Nobody values decorating advice they don’t pay for.” Yes, it’s true. Free decorating advice from the internet is valued as much as asking your mother-in-law, sister, best friend, or pet. Harsh words, but it’s true! We value what we pay for…….maybe it’s because we have to invest our time in doing the research to find the right person to pay for advice. Think about it! When was the last time you took professional advice that came for free from a Doctor, Lawyer or Plumber?
In my opinion, if you have a significant decorating project you need interior design help and advice, and you probably know it. The good news is that this help can be extremely beneficial in terms of money and time spent, and in the happiness that comes from getting it right the first time! As a designer who charges a design fee I can assure you that doing this aligns us and makes sure that I have your unique goals and interests at heart. I can help, and you will be amazed at what we can accomplish together! Call me at 978-440-7264 so that we can get started on the project that you keep putting off.
This week I thought that I would share with you my Top 11, all-time favorite, Interior Design books from my own personal library. I am a huge fan of the printed word, and when I say printed, I mean actually printed out on paper. Cyberspace is indeed incredible for communicating the written word and gorgeous photos, but I just adore books in book form, especially ones I can curl up with.
So, here are the interior design books that I reference all the time, from inspirational design to fabrication methods to architectural classification. I’ll review each book, clockwise, starting in the lower left corner. These are presented in no particular order in terms of how much I adore the books…it’s just too hard to choose anyway. It was hard enough for me to pare it down to only 11!
8 and 9) Sarah Style (2014) and At Home Sarah Style (2015) by Sarah Richardson
My all-time favorite designer, Sarah Richardson, has written two books that I recommend to anyone redecorating a residence. She’s Canadian, and you have undoubtedly seen her on HGTV. I love the fabrics she has designed and her overall sense of vitality, freshness, and use of textural materials in her residential interiors. The looks she favors are particularly relevant in New England with our millwork, architecture and size and layout of rooms.
So, that’s it for my Top 11 Interior Design books. If you are in the Sudbury MA area, you are more than welcome to borrow any of these books…just call.
Happy reading to you, whatever the format!
In today’s hectic world it’s not uncommon that getting around to decorating sometimes falls to the bottom of the “to do” list. Decorating takes time and energy. Sometimes it feels like just too much work to take on. Help might be the answer. So, if you’re struggling with defining and executing your interior design vision, here are 9 indicators that it may be time for you to ask an Interior Designer to assist you.
1. When you moved in, you accepted the previous owner’s paint colors that don’t quite go with your things, yet you’re reluctant to make a decision on new paint colors.
2. The rooms in your home don’t flow…the living room is red and Tuscan. The library is 1920’s Craftsman in navy and green. The kitchen all white and slick modern. The family room is mid-century modern with teak wood. Oh my! It’s like you’re at a museum and each room is from a different decorating era.
3. There is no artwork on your walls because….you just don’t own any!
4. You’re 35 and you don’t have a proper bed and headboard. Your mattresses are on the floor, and frankly, it’s getting harder and harder on your knees to get out of bed.
5. You have totally bare windows in every room of your house…and/or your neighbors are making snarky remarks at the neighborhood holiday party about the “wink, wink” need for shades.
6. The pillows on your sofa all came with the sofa…years ago.
7. You have a few “costly mistakes” around your house, probably ordered from a catalog company, and they are likely too big, too small, or too tall for your space.
8. You and your partner can’t agree on anything, decorating-wise.
9. You need a wider reach than the same old stores and catalogs like Pottery Barn, Frontgate, West Elm, Serena and Lily, Crate and Barrel, Wisteria, Ballard, CB2, Rejuvenation, and Restoration Hardware.
It all sounds pretty bleak and time consuming – doesn’t it? Rest assured, in the larger scheme of things, the time that you spend decorating will pale in comparison to the time that your decorating results will last and the enjoyment that you will receive from them. So, all is not lost. To inspire you to reach for a beautiful coherent design for your home, here are some photos of period rooms from museums we have visited during our travels. They illustrate how some elements of design are timeless, no matter the era or style.
First, two photos I took at the Nordic Museum in Stockholm, Sweden…land of Ikea and mid-century modern. The photos show a 1974 living room in Sweden. (Gee, some of these design elements are still pretty popular.) The second photo has a caption detailing the design elements for this 1970’s interior (thankfully in English on the bottom).
Next, some Art Deco rooms at the Musee D’Orsay in Paris France:
And some period French interiors (from the Louis XVI period) at the Louvre in Paris, France:
And finally, a dining room from the summer palace of Catherine the Great outside Saint Petersburg, Russia.
We’ve completed our quick review of the 9 telltale signs that it’s time for you think about calling an Interior Designer and put your decorating project onto the front burner (with a little inspiration thrown in to keep you motivated).
So let me ask you, isn’t it time for you to get that decorating project that’s been on your list for a while done and get it done right? If you are struggling with any of these issues, give me a call. I can help!
Today let’s discuss using the often overlooked stripe fabric for upholstered pieces. Why don’t stripes get more attention in the fabric selection process? Well, one reason is that it is exceedingly hard for most people to envision a stripe on a piece of furniture when just looking at the swatch or a bolt of fabric. All that verticality...you start to get a bit wonky thinking the stripe will dominate and close in…jail cell mental image perhaps? But in smaller furniture pieces, like ottomans, stools, occasional chairs (not skirted), and pillows (especially!), stripes really add zip and tailored crispness. Especially paired with a bold wallpaper, like in this Thibaut photo I just received in my email. These striped stools really finish this beautiful entry space!
As another example, below is a fresh and inviting family room sporting several stripes, created by designer Garrison Hullinger in Portland, Oregon.
Stripes in a coastal décor is a classic look, but note how pretty and interesting the slender stripe looks on the wing chair…I love the way your eye goes to the mitered effect on the curve of the back of the chair (which has to be perfectly matched, naturally). The rug is a subtle and interesting stripe, with a different scale than the chair. This is such a calming interior that really could be anywhere, mountain cabin, coastal, suburban family room. For more inspiring interiors and stripes, here is a link to Garrison Hullinger’s Houzz site: https://www.houzz.com/pro/ghid/garrison-hullinger-interior-design-inc
Below is a fan-back chair from Chairish (https://www.chairish.com/) that demonstrates a very effective way of finding the exact two colors for a striped fabric in the exact dimension you seek…make it with two different fabrics. By the way, Chairish is a cool site that pairs sellers and buyers of vintage furniture and décor. This center-stripe technique is perfect for updating a cherished family chair to harmonize with a casual or transitional décor. I would caution you, though, about making the center stripe too narrow, less than 6”. I personally am not a fan of the look where at first glance, you think it’s an actual narrow ribbon running down the chair similar to at a museum that indicates “don’t you dare sit here!” Just saying…make the width of that center stripe scream “Yes, please do sit yourself down right here and stay awhile!” This chair from Chairish looks super inviting, like a big hug; and note that it is paired with a red and white Oriental carpet…nice!
As a designer and fabricator, I love to use stripes in creative ways on pillows. This summer I fashioned lots of pillows from remnants, experimenting with stripes on the diagonal and mitered effects.
Stripes on window treatments are a natural…whether in children’s rooms, coastal settings, or more formal spaces. Below is a drapery panel treatment I did in a home office, with the subtle striped silk “pleated to pattern” (see Blog post “Pleating to Pattern”, 6/25/2017). Below that photo is a closeup of the pleat which I stitched down to further emphasize the stripe colors.
So, when you decorate your home I encourage you to consider using the “simple stripe” in your next décor project. Used creatively and thoughtfully, a simple stripe becomes sublime. (Note to my readers…I don’t actually think I have ever used the term sublime in a blog before…more coffee on this cold fall morning, please!) Happy day to you all as you prepare for Thanksgiving next week.
Barbara Phillips, interior designer and owner of Center Stage Interior Designs, has delivered impeccable window treatments and design services to both residential and commercial clients in Massachusetts since 2001.