5 simple measurements for hanging light fixtures



Here are some common measurements to use when hanging light fixtures in your home. Happy hanging!

1. How high to hang a light fixture above a dining room table. Hang the fixture so that its bottom is between 30-34 inches above the top of the table. Have someone sit down across the table from you and make sure that you can see the person completely – your chandelier should not impede any visual or conversation.

2. How wide a light fixture to get for a dining room.  Add the width and length of the dining room: this number IN INCHES is the best diameter size for a chandelier in the room.

3. How high should a reading lamp be. Position the lampshade so that the bottom is just below eye level. If you are a reader in bed, make sure that the bottom of the lampshade sits about 16-18 above the mattress.

4. How high should you mount sconces on a wall. For a standard 8-9 foot ceiling sconces should sit about 5 to 5 1/2 feet above the floor.

5. How many interior designers does it take to change a lightbulb? Does it have to be a lightbulb? nyuk nyuk.

How to handle a fireplace in an awkward location

Often I am asked to assist with the layout of a room when it has an awkward feature like a fireplace in an odd place.  I have seen many bizarre, head shaking fireplace placements. Here are some of my faves:

The fireplace plopped in the room like the giant box it came in:



The fireplace sitting off center in a room:

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The corner fireplace:



I haven’t seen this one yet. But apparently it’s out there:

I understand it when I see awkward fireplace locations in the older homes: their fireplaces were used to supply heat, not provide a design feature: form followed function.  But there’s no excuse for new construction. In that case bad fireplace location is just plain laziness:  “Living room – check. Wait. Damn. We forgot to add a fireplace. Well, just stick it over on that wall so we can easily vent it outside.”

Most people  - and rightly so – try to arrange their furniture around the fireplace because it is the natural focal point in the room. But this can lead to very bizarre furniture arrangements and awkward room flow. I’ve seen rooms with a sofa plopped in front of the fireplace and then the rest of the seating flung to the far corners of the room, as if everyone were in a giant timeout.

So what’s the fix? The easiest solution is to hire a designer. Just kidding. (No really. Call me). Here are a few solutions for the most common issues above:

1. Fireplaces with the entire box sitting in the room. In this example the fireplace box was large and squat, completely disproportionate to the space. So I brought the box all the way up to the ceiling and surrounded it with a honed travertine. Now it became a good focal point, not an eyesore. Next I flanked it with bookshelves so that the entire fireplace became a builtin wall. It helped to draw the eye up and out, expanding the wall and visually enlarging the space.


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2. Fireplaces off center in a room. The easiest thing to do here is take the focus off the fact the fireplace is off center by creating asymmetrical drama. This can easily be achieved using a bold pattern rug or a rug placed at an angle in front of the fireplace. Here I used a bold rug, pillows and drapes to create drama. The asymmetrical furniture grouping  - with a sofa on one side and occasional chairs and a baby grand on the other –  also helped drama and helped mitigate the less than ideal fireplace placement.




3. Corner fireplaces.  The best solution here is to create another focal point in the room. Place the furnishings in the most logical seating arrangement in the room and use something else as the focal point. It could be a large window overlooking a garden,  a large piece of artwork, or a cool conversation piece. If it’s a family room then make the tv the focal point. Always keep the line of sight open to the fireplace, and if you have room, create a second seating area by placing a settee or upholstered bench in front of it.


Happy arranging!


New England Gardens 2015

My quest each summer is to recreate a New England cottage garden in my midwest soil. I haven’t been successful yet but I won’t stop trying. Here are some pics of gardens on my recent trip to Cape Cod.

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Update to mudroom

Today we ripped out all the old brick linoleum tile. Already the floor is looking better. Next up is prepping the plywood for the new tile.

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Mudroom flooring

I live in a modest four square with a “winterized” porch off the back that serves as a mudroom, office, and most recently, dog den. The house computer sits here, wires and all, taunting our six month puppy and his insatiable chewing habit. The office came first, after my husband and I spent a night into the wee hours cutting, laying down and adhering together wall to wall carpet squares and setting up an old desk and computer. The carpet served to cover a not so pleasant existing laminate glue down floor. Think Brady Bunch brick. Replacing/cleaning dirty carpet squares would be so much easier than cleaning/replacing an entire floor of carpeting, we reasoned as we headed into our fifth hour of slicing and sticking.

Over the years and having a child morphed the office into a repository for shoes, keys, coats and stuff to go out to the garage on the next exit, a place to kick off boots, hang wet snow and swim suits, wipe feet/hands/whatever before heading into the kitchen.  Hence it became The Mudroom. With a Computer. A muduter. The carpet squares? Never replaced. Nary a one. I did have a professional cleaner come by once and after spending an hour on the floor proclaimed that they were better than before, but that he wasn’t “a miracle worker.”

Now on to the puppy. I thought the muduter would be a great place to house a pup while he learned that the indoors was not his open toilet. But the carpet squares took a beating like nothing before. I learned that my sweet puppy could devour a carpet square in a minute flat, fiber, rubber backing, sticky tape and all. The carpet seemed to absorb all smells and transfer them to random parts of the house, no matter how much of the world’s greatest carpet cleaner I used.

So the nasty carpet squares were finally ripped up and thrown out. Which now leaves the brick glue down floor. I am going to replace it with another glue down floor because I need something easy to clean and not something the puppy can easily dig at and pull up. To make the new floor lay as flat and tight as possible I need to pull up all the old laminate and get down to the plywood floor. So this is where I’m at today:






5 tips for choosing a new paint color

It’s Spring! Yay! Time to throw open the windows and let the light in!  Throw back those drapes and…GAH!!

This is me last week. My house looked like winter took it and punched it in the nose. Repeatedly. Closed up from the Chicago snow and wind for months, dust, dirt, and grime accumulated in its darkened corners with a free, all stages pass. Stuff I don’t even have a name for was floating by me in the full sunlight. It was like Raiders of the Lost Ark up in here.

So having OCD (a very handy trait in the design business actually) I cleaned top to bottom, and then stood back to admire. Then announced it was time to move. Just kidding. Just announced it was time to paint the walls a different color. But really  - same effect. But it’s been seven years since I’ve painted my walls. That’s an eternity in decorating.

Funny thing is that many of my clients must have been through the same winter a** whupping because they all seemed to call me last week for color consults. So after meeting with a few I decided to do my top fives for selecting a color. So here there are:

5. Always separate the existing wall color from the color sample. If you tape or paint your new color option over the existing color, it will not read right. Separate your colors with white, either by taping the paper sample up to white printer paper, or prime a square and paint the sample within that.

4. Always take a sample home. The light in the paint store is 99% of the time not the same light as your lovely home.

3. Always paint an actual sample. Those 1″ x 1″ paper samples are ink…not paint. And not on plaster or dry wall. They are ink on paper, so very different than paint on your walls.

2. Always hold the paper sample upright, like it’s on your walls. Light hits walls very differently than light on the floor. Hold those samples upright so it’s a better representation of how light hits the color.

1. Consider how and when you use the space. If you are someone that works throughout the day and mainly uses the space at night, select the color after you’ve seen it with artificial light (lamps and cans on at night). If you work from home, then choose a color that works best during the natural daylight hours – the hours you most use the room.

And if you are local and stuck, just call me.

Winter salt and wood floors

Right now in the Midwest we’re in the midst of a “wintry mix” of subzero temps, snow and wind. I don’t complain about it because I did choose to live in Chicago as opposed to Hawaii (Aloha mom!). I do have a love/hate relationship with rock salt though. It’s a damn necessity here. It will certainly cut your chances of ending up in traction post porch stairs slip. One winter I went down the back stairs so hard that my car key flew out of my hand and landed somewhere in a pile of snow. I had to wait a week for the snow to melt before I could find it.

So I use rock salt. But I don’t like it. It gets tracked indoors onto my wood floors. Wood floors and rock salt are a bad mix, like my mother and Chicago winters. Rock salt is generally made from sodium chloride, which will take off the finish from a floor, and if it’s left to sit for too long, it could cause the wood to split and/or rot. Use a good wood floor cleaner, or at the very least water, to clean up any rock salt residue from your floors. Use mats at the door that can be washed often, and make everyone takes off boots and shoes before they come into the house, regardless of whether it’s snowing or raining out. No one should walk around a house with outside shoes on anyway. The dirt and grime from shoes ruins carpets, not to mention the gunk that they trap in the carpet fibers. But that’s a post for another day.


Update on the Grove remodel

The remodel is almost complete! Even without the furniture in the transformation looks amazing. Fun project!

Bathroom progress

The bathroom project is progressing nicely! The shampoo and soap niches are in after some minor positioning changes. The moisture barrier is up, all walls are sheeted and taped, electrical is done and ready for the sconces and ceiling fan. Next up –  tile!

Top Ten Room Energizing Updates

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We’re stuck indoors while another polar vortex/arctic blast whips through. To avoid going stir crazy with my five year old I perform two of my favorite tasks: purging and rearranging. My daughter loves it because she thinks I’m making furniture forts in the middle of the room just for her. It’s a win win.

But it’s not just a busy activity. The process of purging, rearranging, cleaning and balancing gets the chi flowing. And flowing chi is energizing. Who doesn’t need a dose of that on a gray and blustery day.

Here are my top ten favorite ways to invigorate a room:

10. Deep clean. It is so effective in changing a room’s energy. Don’t just wipe down bookshelves: dust every book, picture frame, knick knack, and then wipe down the entire cabinet. While you’re at it, toss the used paperbacks in a bag to give to your local charity. Wash floors underneath the rugs. Clean the webs from the corners. Prune dead leaves from plants. You get the idea.

9. Purge. Rid surface areas and drawers of unwanted mail, old magazines, paid bills, stacks of school artwork. Find places for the things you want to keep (file cabinets, poster boards) and toss the rest. Get rid of clutter. It takes up too much energy to ignore it.

8. Vacuum. Kinda goes with #10 but without the deep clean. A simple vacuum gets the carpets looking great again. Don’t forget to vacuum the couch and fluff the pillows.

7.  Decorate with what you already have. Stack two or three books on that nicely cleaned surface and add a pretty bowl on top. Buy some inexpensive branches or flowers and display them in your prettiest vases. Arrange books so that some are stacked horizontally and others vertically. Grab a home decorating catalog, see how they do it, and replicate.

6. Rearrange furniture. Pull that sofa away from the wall and try using it on a diagonal in the room. Try a different seating setup in front of the TV.  Try the rug on an angle. Put a narrow desk behind a sofa. Start seeing the room from a different angle.

5. Replace CFL bulbs with LEDs. Or halogens. Or incandescents. Anything but horrible CFLs. The colors in your room will change instantly.

4. Light candles.

3. Put on music.

2. Add pillows in bold patterns to sofas and/or chairs.

1. My favorite? Invite friends over. Friends, laughter, conversation: all this will elevate the chi instantly.