5 Feng Shui Spring Clean Tips

How great would it be if there was a service that would come box up your winter furnishings, like you do with your coats and sweaters and such, and store them while you enjoy your summer stuff? I would so love to put my favorite soft and warm microfiber sofa into storage and trot out a wicker or bamboo loveseat, perhaps painted a high gloss pink with ticking fabric, in its place for the warm months. Super impractical but until I can afford my summer home on Martha’s Vineyard I may need to improvise. In the meantime here are a few things that I like to do from a feng shui perspective to shrug off old man winter:

  1. Roll up my rugs. My wool rugs after a winter are fuzzy petri dishes. All the dirt, salt, snow, mud, shoe gunk and whatever the dog has been picking out of his paws has been secured so tightly in the fiber nooks and crannies that there is no way anything short of a deep professional clean is gonna render them house friendly again. So I roll them up and take them to the basement where my lovely local at home service cleaner will come over and bomb them clean. Why do I take them to the basement? Because I like to give the floors a break. I like to clean my wood floors and expose them to the air so that they have a chance to wear like the non covered parts. Clean bare floors also gives the room a fresh new feel.
  2. Have fresh flowers everywhere. My house looks like a nursery pooped up in here. I love fresh super cheap flowers from Trader Joe’s. I have them all over the house. Fresh flowers are an instant room energizer. And because they are so cute and cheap at TJs I can get them weekly.  I toss them as soon as they turn blah. In feng shui having dead flowers around is a no no.
  3. Flip my fans.  If your fans have been operating properly during the winter you had them rotating clockwise. Now is the time to reverse their direction, so that they run counterclockwise, in order pull the warm air up. Open those windows too, in order to get a good cross flow. This gets the air (and energy, in feng shui speak) circulating well throughout the home. Warning: if you haven’t been keeping up with the dust on those winter blades, you are gonna have some serious wiping to do. Use a wet paper towel to damp down the dust and dirt so that they don’t get all over your clean bare floors (see #1).
  4. Flip my mattresses. Flipping mattresses is a pain. That is why I only do it a couple times a year. But it’s a good thing to do so that the mattress wears uniformly. Also in feng shui it’s good to use all your things in rotation, like the burners on your stove. It helps balance the energy throughout a space.

I love this photo of the great Lucille Ball. I too make this face when I realize I need to clean my fan blades.

Should You Hire A Designer?

I don’t like HGTV.  Most designers I know agree with me it has done little to advance our profession. No design job is ever that much of a disaster or done that presto quick. The producers of HGTV have dumbed down our trade so much for entertainment that no one watching the show can possibly understand the expertise and effort that went into the renovation or how much time the designer spent planning the project before demo began.

People love to watch a good before/after reno but when it comes to hiring a designer for their own project, they balk. Why? Designers are professionals, like architects, contractors and other tradespeople. Are we necessary? I think so, especially on larger projects. Can you get away with doing a project without a designer? Sure, but why would you want to? To save money? Because you don’t think a designer brings value to the project? I’ll argue that a designer can save you money and bring tons of value. Here’s how:

  1. A designer will properly plan out the project from conception to installation, helping avoid costly mistakes from the get go and save you from having to go back and redo things you thought were being done right the first time.
  2. Most contractors don’t do their own plans, and architects generally like the big picture mechanical and structural stuff, not the little details.  Please don’t think I’m knocking contractors or architects: they are necessary to a renovation project but the designer is the one who bring all the moving parts together.
  3.  A designer will know every phase of the project and what needs to get done before the next phase can proceed, again saving you from doing things in the wrong order and lining up the work so that it gets done in a timely manner.
  4. A designer knows who s/he can bring in to get the job done properly, saving time and money in costly re estimates or low balled estimates that didn’t include the whole picture the first time around.
  5. A designer knows where to go to get the best quality products and some designers including myself will even pass the wholesale savings to you. If you like spending every weekend for the foreseeable future shopping at malls for furniture and looking at fabric swatches and wood stains, then go for it! Otherwise hire a designer to do the legwork for you and save those weekends for your family.
  6. A designer is your collaborator, your consultant and your advocate. We don’t cut corners and we don’t let our contractors do it either. It’s our reputation on the line.
  7. A good designer will sometimes even talk you out of a project if s/he thinks it’s not a good idea, or at least give you options that may make more sense.
  8. A good designer will fight on your behalf to get things righted and righted quickly if things go awry with shipments or construction.
  9. A designer isn’t a commodity. You need to meet with several to decide whom best fits your style philosophy and can help you fulfill your dream.
  10. Designers cost money. But anything worth doing well has a price.

How do you find a good designer? Ask neighbors whom they used. Search for portfolios and reviews. Google local designers in your area and check out their work. Attend house walks in your area.

There are a lot of great designers on HGTV, both on and off the camera. I just wish they disclosed how much time and effort it really took them to get a job done. Then maybe the rest of us wouldn’t have to fight so hard to prove our value.


The color I’m Loving Now – Navy Blue

Navy blue is quickly becoming the new neutral – see ya gray! It’s an easy color to work with because it pairs so well with so many other colors: apple green, tangerine orange, fire engine red, navy with other tints and shades of blue, and of course the classic navy and cream.

But how do you use navy in your decor? Navy is a beautiful and bold wall color choice – I love it in dining rooms – but if you aren’t willing to commit to so much color on your walls then consider using it these ways:

As a navy blue sofa with cream walls:



Hung as navy and tan color blocked drapes:

source: pinterest

As accent pillows with navy, orange and tan:

source: ninestreetsny

There’s really no way to go wrong with navy. Plus it’s super forgiving, hiding spills and such, which makes it a fav among my clients with kids.

Plus I’m pretty sure Bears fans will love it.



How to Achieve Asymmetrical Balance

We all know how balance things, right? I’m not talking about balance in your day to day life. That to me is as elusive and imaginary as a pink unicorn. But most of us do know the meaning of balance when it comes to your decor. You put two matching end tables with two matching lamps on top and set those on either side of the sofa. Boom. But did you know that it’s easy to create balance even without those matched sets? It’s just about knowing the laws of balance.

Take the first example below. You can see how everything is perfectly balanced because one side is an exact mirror of the other. Lovely? Yes. A bit boring? Mmm.


Balance has more to do with the visual weight of things rather than the exact replica of things. The first picture has the same visual weight on either side and therefore our eye registers it as balanced.

Let’s go to the second example:


Your eye also sees this as balanced, even though the opposite sides are definitely not mirrors of each other. So what’s going on here? The tree on the right is tall. Our eye needs something equally commanding – equal visual weight –  on the opposite side to balance the look. Placing several bushes on the other side in varying sizes, shapes and colors gives visual balance to the tall tree. And notice how the wide bushes are slightly closer to the center – the front door – than the tree? Our eye needs larger things  – the bunch of bushes – to be closer to the center and smaller things further away from the center in order to register balance. Just think of a see saw – if one person is heavier than the other, how do you achieve balance? By moving the heavier person closer to the center of the board. You achieve the same thing visually in design.

The bottom image is not balanced. It’s easy to see but can you explain why? All of the heaviness is off to one side. The trees plus the bushes and shrubs takes up a lot of space visually AND they are closer to the center of the line.  In this example if the bush and tree on the left were moved closer to the front door and everything on the right were moved further to the right there would be more balance. It still wouldn’t be perfect but it would better than it is now.


So how does knowing how to create asymmetrical balance help you in your space? Take this symmetrically balanced fireplace mantle for example:

source: muse interiors

Very elegant. But a bit staid, right? What if you had a lot of things you wanted to display, or even swap out from time to time? Take a look at this example of asymmetrical design perfectly executed:


source: morgan harrison home

The larger frames are closest to the center line. Plus there are more little frames on one side, to balance out the largest frame on the other. You can achieve this with anything if you just remember to balance out your heavies with your lights and keep the heavies closer to the center line.

Play around with objects on a shelf in your home to achieve asymmetrical balance. I’m off to tackle my checkbook. That is one balance that will not be achieved so easily.

Feng Shui: The Command Position

When you sit at your desk, do you face a wall or into the room? Do you feel protected or exposed? Can you concentrate or do you feel distracted? If you aren’t feeling secure or strong, chances are you are facing a wall when you sit, with your back to the room. A quick fix: flip your desk around, so that the wall is now behind you and you are facing into the room. You should feel an immediate change. Why? In feng shui you are now in a command position. You can see everything going on in front of you and nothing can “sneak up” behind you. In business this is a good thing: you are aware of all your business proceedings and you will see if anyone tries to “backstab” you. Sit facing out and as far into the room as possible, so you can see everything that is going on. If you are unable to move your desk or you sit in a cubicle, then hang a small mirror in front of you, so that you can see everything behind you. If you are aware and feel protected then your work will reflect this.

Before and After: Drapes

If you have ever wondered how drapes can transform a space then look at these photos. Nothing else was added to these rooms except for the drapes:


DSC_8392 (1) before 2

IMG_6960 after 1IMG_6955 DSC_8379IMG_6956 DSC_8377

Dining room makeover

I have a wonderful photographer that takes professional photos of all my work. But sometimes I can’t wait. So I apologize for the iphone 6 pics. I am sure AJ is cringing somewhere.

I was hired to decorate a dining room for a young family of four. They had not done anything to the space since moving in, but now that they were more settled they were ready to make some changes.  The dining room was originally painted in a moss green with white baseboards and window trim (no crown). It was a basic rectangle shape with one large window on the east side and it is open to both the kitchen and living room.

dr before

The clients wanted a family friendly dining room but also one that had some drama and sophistication to it. They wanted it to feel like its own room, not just a pass through to the kitchen or living room. I had my task set before me and got to work.

The existing table and chairs would stay but everything else could go. Though there wasn’t much more to go – just a baker’s rack in one corner, a small storage cabinet along the west wall, and a builder’s special light center ceiling fixture.

dr before 2 dr before 4

The room needed more storage. My clients have lots of dishes and cookware and already the kitchen was chock full. So along that long black wall I designed wall to wall cabinetry with glass door uppers –  to help keep the room feeling closed in –  and base cabinets with doors and a few custom pullouts. We got all the wants – glass doors, lots of shelving, under mount lighting, pullouts, wine fridge, the right color of white paint – for a fraction of the cost of true custom because we went with a plywood cabinetry company that does stock and semi custom cabinets. It was a bit tricky to wrap the end cabinet around the bump out (seen from the left): it had to be narrow to line up with the rest of the cabinets but it turned out to be a perfect closet for hanging aprons and such.

dr after 3 dr after4

The countertop is quartz and the space between the uppers and lowers is actually a very thin back board painted the same cream color as the cabinets, to keep the look of the builtins consistent. The clients are adding crown molding at a later date so we left the top of the cabinetry with a simple cornice piece that could be replicated in the future crown.

Next I took the clients out of their comfort zone a bit and suggested that we paint the walls a rich, saturated navy (if you’ve read my blogs you know I love navy dining rooms). The blue plays up the orange tones in the floor and table and chairs, and also looks great against the cream trim. The quartz countertop actually has some blue veining in it too.

dr after 5

We needed to balance both sides of the room by making the window appear as large as the cabinets so I chose a bold Osborne and Little fabric with blues, reds, and golds in a beautiful large oriental pattern. The drapery panels are a width and a half each, and I hung them close to ceiling (leaving room for the crown) and about a half inch from the floor. Once AJ posts the photos of the windows with his fancy camera you’ll really see how the drapes make the room. I added crystal ball finials on the rod to echo the crystal pulls on the cabinets.

drapery closeup

dr after2

Lastly I knew the client loved capiz so I found a chandelier that was actually rectangular in shape rather than the more known round pendant style. It fits perfectly over the shape of their table and helps soften the space.

capiz chan

The room is really starting to come together and the client is very happy, which means the world to me.

Favorite Color of the Week: Benjamin Moore’s 2016 Color of the Year

Simply White is one of my all time favorites. Nice color selection for 2016!


10 Easy Ways To Update Your Front Door

The front door gets a lot of use in the fall: you got your trick o’ treaters, your Thanksgiving visitors, your cookie exchangers, your wine (er) book clubbers….so make sure you’re giving your visitors a nice view as they pause at your bell. Here are some simple ways to update your front door:

  1. Upgrade your lighting. Find a style that fits your home and make sure you use a high enough wattage for night time visitors- at least 60w for a single bulb. If you already have a nice fixture, give it a good cleaning and again pay attention to the type of light bulb you use. I use Lumens for cost effective outdoor light fixtures.


2. Update your house numbers. I do a lot of new client consults in the fall, which often means searching for house numbers in the dark. Do your friends and your local designers a favor and make sure your numbers can be seen from the street! House of Antique Hardware has some wonderful styles.

3. Replace your mailbox. If your mailbox came with the house, it might be time for a change. I purchased a large one for our home because I get so many magazines.



4. Paint your steps. Many people paint their steps in springtime, but I like to give them a fresh coat in fall for all the additional foot traffic.

5. Add mums to your steps. They are so inexpensive right now that you can get a pot for every step or every other. Try to coordinate the colors with your home. You can add pumpkins too – the squirrels will love you for feeding them.

6. Change your door bell. Again, your home probably came with one. A builder’s grade special. You can upgrade the bell without having to get a whole new kit. Or if yours is busted and you don’t want to go through the hassle of installing a new one then get a knocker. Or this sign.

7. Add shutters. But only if your house calls for them! Make sure that shutters fit the style of the home and that they fit the windows! Even though you’ll never close them, make sure they fit as if you will.


8. Add decorative treads. They serve a dual purpose. First, they provide traction on slippery surfaces. Second, they help hide steps that are in less than pristine condition. Ballard Designs has some great inexpensive ones.

9. Add festive string lights. Super easy to hang and the best part is that they aren’t meant to look perfect, so if your hanging skills are the best, no worries! Tell everyone it’s meant to look “organic.”

10. And finally – put out a new welcome mat! There are tons of lovely versions available through Ballard, through Home Decorators, through Target. But this one will always be my fav:




What color should you paint your ceiling?

This is an old post but I got asked this a few times recently so thought I would repost for today.

The short answer? It always depends. Some decorators use the 8 foot rule: If your ceiling is less than 8 ft high, then paint it 2 tints lighter than the wall color. (Tint just means the color has more white in it and is therefore lighter. If it had more black in it, you’d say it was a shade darker).

If your ceiling height is more than 8 feet, paint it 2 shades darker than the walls.

Other decorators feel that painting a ceiling white always makes it feel lower than it is. I disagree with this. It’s true that when you break up the color  –  when the wall color is different from the ceiling color – your eye notices the change. But if the ceiling is lighter than the walls, and especially if it has a semi gloss finish to it, it actually looks more expansive and higher.  But you may need to play with this a bit,  because if your walls are really dark, then the change from dark (walls) to light (ceiling) is much more noticeable and therefore the ceiling appears closer.

Another trick to make that ceiling appear higher is to bring the ceiling color down the walls a bit: paint the same color on the ceiling a foot or so down onto the wall. This makes the ceiling appear taller than it is.

Painting a ceiling is definitely a personal choice. There really is no wrong answer. Just decide the effect you want and go from there.  As I always say, if you don’t like it, you can always paint it over!