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: Hale Navy

Benjamin Moore’s Hale Navy HC-154 is quickly becoming a favorite of mine. I have used it in dining rooms and on accent furniture. It’s a beautiful blue, so rich and saturated. It works well with bright reds, bright whites, golds, lime greens, and orange. Here are some images of Hale Navy from the web:








Favorite Color of the Week: White

Most designers have a favorite paint line they like to use, and mine is Benjamin Moore. Out of their hundreds of white hues, here are some of my favorites:

OC-117 Simply-White image

Simply white OC-117. I love this color because it doesn’t break blue or green, meaning the undertone is a pretty pure white. I use it for millwork and for ceilings. It goes with everything.

Entry-with-White-Dove-OC-17 OC-17

White Dove OC-17: this one is also pretty neutral. You can pair it with just about any wall color.

cloud white image OC-130

Cloud white OC-130: This is a warm white, meaning it has a red undertone. So be careful when using it with green hues because it could start to read a little pink. But I love it with warm neutrals and dark colors.

Tuttle Residence PM-1

Super white PM-1: When I’m looking for a really crisp, bright white, I’ll use super white on my millwork.

As always, paint a test swatch in your area before selecting!

Blog: Favorite Color of the Week- Galaxy

Galaxy is a lovely, saturated plum color from Benjamin Moore. I love it because it works so well with some many different colors: grays, blues, greens, yellow, beige. I live in a pale gray home and I have it on my front steps and fence. Here are some examples from the web on how to use Galaxy around your home:

front door

It’s a great color for a front door because it looks so rich and inviting. It’s paired here with beige siding and white trim.

kitchenHere it’s used on cabinets to anchor and give warmth to the stark white countertops and backsplash. It works so well with the wall color because the green picks up on the red undertone in Galaxy.

dining room

Yellow and purples are a classic combination. Here it makes this small dining room seem so majestic.

You can also pair it with similar plum hues for a sophisticated, monochromatic look.

Yay purple!


Psst! Your Undertone Is Showing

As I written about before, picking the right color is tricky. The color you see in the paint store or in your home on that 3×5 piece of paper and ink rendering you are holding up will not look like the same color on your walls. Or even the same color on your walls hours apart. The color you love in your friend’s home probably will not look the same in your house. Unless you live on the exact same side of the street with the exact same amount of north/south/east/west facing light, shade, furnishings, and artificial light. And if you do, don’t call me. That’s just freaky.

See where I’m going here? Picking paint is a tricky, tricky thing. Even for designers. The reason we get it right more often than not is because we know the rules about color and light. But don’t hate us if it even takes us a few tries. We eventually get there, but there is a lot that goes into it.

I won’t go into how light affects color – I’ll save that for a future post. (Besides, weren’t you listening that day to your eighth grade science teacher? You never knew that one day the knowledge would help you paint your condo, did you? ) Today I want to talk about something that comes up all the time in my work: why a seemingly innocent color like gray can go ape sh** all over your walls and end up looking yellow. Or blue. Or green. Anything but a nice, simple gray.

As Meghan Trainor says, it’s all about that base.

Or more specifically mass tones and (base) undertones. The mass tone is the color you are immediately drawn to, be it gray, blue, green, red etc; it’s the first color you see when you pull that swatch from the deck. But every color has an undertone too. Undertones are subtle, “hidden” layers underneath the color you initially picked. You need to discover what the undertones are in your color because they will 100% affect how your color looks overall. Most paint mishaps  – about 90%  I’d say – happen because you didn’t pay attention to the undertone. For example, that gray in your friend’s house that you love: with her beautiful medium toned woodwork, it looks amazing. Paired with your white trim, it looked blue. What your experiencing is the power of the undertone when placed next to different colors. Remember complimentary colors in that science class? (I’ve mentioned science twice in this post. I know half of you have officially stopped reading.) How if you put colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel next to each other they intensify their colors? (Think red and green at Christmastime). Well, that’s what an undertone does. You may not even know that you had green in your gray but put it next to your warm mid tone wood and wham! You now have a lovely moss tint to your walls.

So how do you detect an undertone if you can’t see it, especially in a tough color like a gray? The easiest way is to do what I just explained above: place the gray swatch color next to another color, such as red, orange or yellow. The complementary color – the undertone – will become more vibrant. In the red example, a green undertone will come through. Here are the complimentary colors:



It may take a few tries to get it right, so before you paint, always practice. Paint a little swatch on your wall and make sure that it’s surrounded by white, so it doesn’t pick up any other undertones. And you still can’t get the color right, then it’s time to look at your lighting. But that’s for another post.

Update on the Grove remodel

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

Recent project: removing wall paneling

I recently decorated a mid century style living room that had an open floor plan. One wall in the room was  completely paneled, including a built in cabinet. Removing the wall paneling was the best thing I did to bring the entire space together. Once the drywall was up and painted, I moved the dining table from a small area off to the side to the more open space behind the sofa. I defined the area as a dining room by centering a fixture above the table and anchoring the table and chairs with an area rug. Having the walls all the same material and color made the room feel more cohesive and helped the stone fireplace stand out more. The paneled cabinet will be removed at a future date, so painting it the same color as the wall helped to deflect  – rather than emphasize –  the panels until they are finally gone for good.


Holiday Decorating

I recently helped a client get her dining room ready for Christmas. When she called me we had just under four weeks to make the room feel more inviting and warm before 18 relatives descended upon her. She was a quick decision maker and excellent notetaker,  so while I gave direction, she quickly executed. We started with a new wall color  – a warm gray. There was a nice sized hole in one of the plaster walls and no way to get a painter in by Christmas. My client patched and painted by herself like a pro. Next we pulled new drapes in a bold pattern and a wool rug with soft lines to give the room more texture. A print on one wall was replaced with a striking mirror that added a lot of interest and helped bounce light around the room. Vases, lots of red and silver accents, holiday plants, and lights strung from the drapery rods added holiday charm and warmth. Good job CM!

2011 Fall Colors

Last week I attended a seminar on Benjamin Moore’s 2011 color schemes. These are not new colors; rather they are 18 existing colors that Benjamin Moore has arranged in three palettes of six to help you convey a certain mood in your home. The three moods are Dreamy- which has sophisticated, subtle hues; Spirited-a bold palette with high contrast colors; and Soulful-a selection of warm hues and rich tones. Pick two to three colors from each palette to create the color experience you want to create. The combinations are flawless: each color works perfectly with the others in its palette, so you don’t have to worry about picking monochromatic grays to match or using the right value of purple.

Which leads me to the 2011 Benjamin Moore color of the year: Vintage Wine. This is a sexy color. At times it looks like eggplant when paired with the chartreuse green in the same collection, but put it against some of the more subtle earthy hues and its brown tones really show up. Take a look at the Soulful palette below:

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Color Palettes


Genesis White 2134-70

Kendall Charcoal HC-166

Gray Mirage 2142-50

Porcelain 2113-60

Etiquette AF-50

Smoke 2122-40


Storm AF-700

Lucerne AF-530

Royal Flush 2076-20

Paper Mache AF-25

Wrought Iron 2124-10

Grape Green 2027-40


Hush AF-95

Vintage Wine 2116-20

Etruscan AF-355

Casco Bay 2051-30

Wasabi AF-430

Amulet AF 365

Decorating with Green

I just did my first post on my other design blog on the color yellow today. Yay! It was in reference to how yellow helps one concentrate on tasks, so it’s a good color to have at your desk when you need to work.

Image from Elle Decor. Decorator Joe Nahem.

Conversely, ElleDecor had a great article today on the color green. Green relaxes the mind and calms the spirit. It’s a great color for bedrooms and bathrooms, anywhere you want to just kick back and unwind. A bold green, like a kelly green, can renew the spirit; a pastel green will have a more soothing effect.

From a feng shui perspective, it’s good to use green in your health area. It will enhance the chi for good health, whether it be healthy relationships, healthy souls, or healthy bodies. The green can come from paint color, furniture, pictures, or other accessories. You can further stimulate the health chi by bringing in natural (green) plants and wood.

So yellow gets the creative juices flowing, and green calms you down. Got it? Good!