Thumbtack Best Pro of 2015
Remodeling and Home Design



2016 Parade of Homes Magazine Cover


Imagine my surprise this past Saturday when, while reading the paper, this magazine fell out featuring a photo of one of my models! Some of the furniture and items have been slightly rearranged since I completed the work last June, but I know this home, and the one adjoining it, intimately. This photo represents my most frustrating, exhausting, terrifying, educational and personally rewarding design job to date. To say the learning curve was steep would be a vast understatement. I experienced the full gamut of harrowing challenges in completing this project,and I am grateful for the lessons, opportunity, and limited recognition it provided. I will probably never agree to do it again.


New Pinterest “Create This Look” boards!


One of my favorites tools for communicating and managing products and ideas for decorating and home staging projects is Pinterest. By now, most people are somewhat famililiar with this online tool, but for the uninitiated, Pinterest is a virtual site where you can create separate “boards” and pin photos, articles and ideas from the web, photos or your own computer. There are a number of reasons why I think the Pinterest application is a wonderful tool:

First, it allows me to communicate with my clients using visuals, rather than trying to find the right words to communicate a visual idea. Since most of my clients don’t  know yet exactly what they want, I typically start by throwing a lot of “Pins” or pictures on a board that I create for them, then seeing what they react to, either positively or negatively. This helps me to quickly develop a clear picture of what their particular style is, and hone my selections to fit that style. A successful client board works a bit like a funnel, starting with me throwing a lot of stuff in it, and then slowly distilling it to the unique look of that client.

Then, because all of the photos are in one place, on a board where I can look at them all at once, it is helpful to get an idea of how the different selections pinned there may work together in a room.

Finally, it is a great organizing tool, because when you pin something from the web, it creates a direct link from your board to the source, where you can easily look up details such as price, dimensions, colorways, etc.. Of course, this is not true of items that you pin from your own computer or photos, so it is important to add any critical information to the comments and titles for those pins.

Here are a couple of boards from some of my actual projects, complete with “After” photos showing how the pinned items were used. To keep my projects on track, I typically start deleting items from boards that we know we are not interested in. The first board is a completed kitchen renovation and redesign project. The second is a home staging project. Feel free to steal my ideas- the links to the products are right there for you to use!


Relaxing Beach Getaway- Create This Look

Sarasota FL boasts one of the top-rated beaches in the world- Siesta Key Beach, known for it’s wide swale of sugar-white sand. In renovating and staging this vintage condo for use as a seasonal rental, just steps away from beautiful Siesta Beach, we opted to capitalize on the rich history of the Sarasota area as a vacation getaway. Choosing a palate of sunset colors, we found it an easy task to find prints based on vintage Sarasota postcards as our design inspiration, offering a rich sense of place. Click here to see a slide show of the project . Follow this link to see some of the components of this wonderful vacation property. To rent it, contact Tami at The Crescent Arms

An interesting, simplified look at the effect colors have on our psyche.

Psychology of Color [Infographic]

Courtesy of NowSourcing, Inc

Re-Create This Look Using Pinterest

I love, love, love Pinterest! One of the problems with decorating for other people has always been difficulty in communicating visual ideas with words.  Just last week, I  had a husband question his wife’s and my decision to use “Roman Shades” on the windows in the Great Room. In his mind, the term “Roman Shades” evinced something ultra-feminine, or “foo-foo” as he put it. After much discussion about other options like blinds, shutters, shades and draperies, all vetoed, he said with exasperation, “Why can’t we just do something like what we did last year in the Master Bedroom? I really like those!” It was all I could do to keep a straight face as I replied, “Yes, I think Roman Shades would work very well in this room also.”

Using Pinterest, I can search the internet and pin ideas to a board I create for my client, which they can pin onto as well. We can like and comment on each other’s pins, and using the smart-phone app, I can even photograph and pin ideas while shopping. This becomes a fluid visual conversation, allowing me to distill the contents over time to the essence of almost any client’s style. And because each pin links directly back to the  vendor, (except your own photos, where I like to record important information in the comments) it is an extremely easy way to refer back for information as to where to purchase, how much, what are the dimensions, etc..

Follow this link to the board of a completed redesign project which includes before and after photos, as well as the “Pins” of the final items selected.

Transforming Old Furniture Using This Easy “Distressing” Technique

As a very excited first-time grandmother-to-be, it has been my privilege and honor  to assist my daughter and her boyfriend in planning and preparing the little one’s room. As always, we have been working under a very strict budget, and so when it came time to find a dresser for our soon-to-arrive darling baby girl, my task was to find a well-priced (read cheap) used dresser that could also serve as a changing table.

Over a period of several days, I scoured the local used furniture, Goodwill and Salvation Army stores. I found many bedroom sets, but very few solitary dressers that would suit our purposes, and none at the price we were hoping for.  After dragging my son on one of these trips, we were returning home dejected and resigned. As we made the final turn and drove down the street towards home, my son suddenly cried “Dresser!”. Sure enough, there by the side of the road stood a lonely chest of drawers,  abused and unloved with a “Free” sign hand-scrawled on a torn-out notebook page taped to the front. We backed up, and quickly determined that only the painted finish and the hardware needed work. Giggling foolishly, we somehow managed to load it into my little Suzuki hatchback, half of it hanging out the back with my son holding on to keep it from sliding out onto the pavement as we rode the last quarter mile home. Looking back, I have no doubt that our find involved Divine Intervention from Beyond, as I would probably not have seen it, and certainly could never have loaded and transported it home had I been on my own as usual. (Thanks Mom!)

Once unloaded into the garage, I cleaned it up and went over it thoroughly. Well made and sturdy, the adorable french-provincial style dresser boasted such features as solid wood dove-tailed drawers, raised panel design, rounded corners and carved cabriole legs, and an indestructible epoxy finish on the top- perfect for easy cleaning after diaper changes. Inside one of the drawers was the factory stamp for Henry Link. Score! It was the perfect candidate for a new white distressed finish. Here are the steps I used:

1) After laying out newspaper and placing each leg on a block for easy painting, I removed what was left of the hardware and started by sanding the entire piece (except the top, which would not be painted) with medium-grit sandpaper. This step is very important. You want to rough up the surface of a factory finish so that it will accept your primer and paint.

2) I then wiped the entire piece with a damp rag to remove any dust left by sanding, and let it dry.  At this stage, I could have opted to tape off the top because it would not be painted, but since I am fairly confident in my paint skills, and I planned on using latex based paint and primer which could be easily removed from the epoxy finish, I skipped this step.

3) Pull out all of the drawers and lay on the newspaper, face up.

4) Brush on Primer. I used a latex primer from Home Depot specific to painting  over smooth factory finishes, because I happened to have some on hand, but Zinsser 123 or Kilz would have also done the job. Let dry.

5) Brush on white paint. I prefer a creamy flat white, which I was able to custom mix, again from what I had on hand, but you can also select from what your preferred paint company offers. The quality of the paint is not important- you will be adding a protective finish when done. You will need two to three coats, allowing each coat to dry to the touch in between.

6) Now for the fun part- distressing. Using a combination of fine and medium grit sandpaper, lightly sand the areas that would naturally suffer the most wear. Raised edges, corners, rounded areas. Don’t worry, if you sand too much. You can always go back and retouch with paint, and sand again.

7) Once you have achieved the desired look, wipe down again and let dry.

8) To protect my piece, I used a satin finish poly-urethane, which is easy to clean up after and also adds a bit of an aged patina. Other suggestions are lemon-oil finish, or varnish.

9) Finally, I added my new hardware, replaced the drawers and Ta-Da!

Selecting the Right Paint Color With Confidence


A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to my home state of Vermont to attend a family reunion. While there, we also gathered at my brother’s rambling farm-style home, always a favorite stop. We were all sitting at the huge farmhouse table my brother had built by hand (so that the entire family could gather for a meal), and he turned to me and said “Hey, since you’re here, and a decorator and all, we’ve been thinking about repainting. What color should we use in here?”

I run into this question frequently, as you can imagine, and my stomach always does a little flip when this happens. I made a show of fanning out my imaginary paint deck, selecting a color strip and pulling it out, stalling for time as I frantically looked around the room, in vain, for some kind of color cue. Other than the blue countertops and sofas, family photos and the existing yellow walls, there was no jumping off point. I looked at their expectant faces, took a deep breath, and stated authoritatively “Well, the trend right now is toward the new shades of gray, which are much richer in depth than before, and are often used as warm neutrals. You could use a deeper shade here, for example, to create a focal wall with some art, and then a lighter shade for the remaining walls, which will work well with your existing blue furniture and counters, and bring a feeling of sophistication.” Well, I thought it sounded pretty good. They both stared at me wide-eyed and mouths open for what seemed an eternity. Then someone changed the subject, and the conversation turned back to the finer points of chickens, motorcycles and children.

Here is why I break out into a cold sweat when asked this specific question at the beginning of a project, and why most people are frightened by the prospect of choosing colors that they will have to live with and display to their friends, family and neighbors for years to come. It’s sensible to panic, when there is no possibility of certainty in a world full of colors, tints, hues and shades. Don’t we all know of someone who made a horrible, embarrassing and perhaps expensive mistake in color selection! Common practice for most people is to choose paint color near the beginning of a decorating project, but it should actually be one of the last decisions.

That’s right- paint color should not be selected until well into a decorating project, perhaps even at the end, because paint does come in an amazing array of colors, tints, hues and shades, unlike most of the other components in a typical decorating project. Even in the case of custom upholstered furniture or draperies and bedspreads, you are limited by the fabric colors and patterns available. And let’s face it- most people do not have the inclination or budget for custom items, so the majority of us must select from what’s available on the furniture showroom floor, for example, or the bedding and linens department. Wouldn’t you much rather select the piece that you love and can afford, rather than being pushed around by a tiny little paint chip? Shouldn’t you buy the art piece that speaks to you, rather than the one that coordinates with your carefully selected wall color? When you put paint color in its proper place in the decorating process, I promise that the skies will open, and a beauteous ray of light will shine down, highlighting the perfect color. (Cue angel chorus.)  OK, maybe not, but you can make your color selections with much more confidence and certainty when you can see their relationships to the other items in the room.

My story does have a happy ending. When I arrived home from my little trip, I sat down at the computer and sent my sister-in-law an email with some suggested color palettes attached from one of my favorite color-inspiration sources, . She emailed me back a few days later to let me know that they had taken my advice, and were incorporating soft shades of gray, blue and green from one of the palettes. I can’t wait to go back and see the results!

Kitchen DIY

Give Your Kitchen Cabinets a Facelift

Have you grown tired of your old kitchen cabinets? If you want to give them a fresh new look without the expense of refacing (or replacing), try painting.Painting your kitchen cabinets is one of the least expensive ways to update the look of your kitchen-and, it’s not as difficult as you may think. Here are some tips from the experts at Zinsser that can make kitchen cabinet painting quick and easy:

  • First, remove all doors, drawers, handles and hardware.
  • Wipe all surfaces with a clean rag saturated with mineral spirits (paint thinner) to remove any surface contamination. You may need to do this twice if there is a heavy buildup of dirt, grease or grime. Change rags frequently to avoid depositing dirt and grease back onto the cabinets.
  • Wash the surface with equal parts of household ammonia and water and rinse well with clean water. Allow the clean surface to dry completely.
  • Prime the clean, dry surfaces with a shellac-base primer-sealer. Unlike finish paints, shellac-base primer-sealers, such as Zinsser’s B-I-N, will adhere to all cabinet surfaces-painted, polyurethaned, unfinished, Formica, plastic, metal and glass-to form a sound base for the topcoat. B-I-N will seal porous surfaces, like new wood, and seal off knots and sappy streaks in knotty pine so they won’t bleed through and ruin the paint job. Its bright white formula blocks out dark stains and colors. Perhaps best of all, there is no need to sand the surface when you use B-I-N, thus eliminating the dust and messy cleanup often associated with cabinet refinishing.Let the primer-sealer dry for about an hour. Then apply two coats of finish paint. Hint: If you tint the primer toward the color of your finish paint, you can eliminate the second finish coat. Consider choosing an oil-base finish paint over a water-base finish for a harder, more stain-resistant, washable and durable finish.Want to give your cabinets a little added pizzazz? Try a faux finish, antique finish or stencil to create a unique and personalized look that is well worth the extra effort. Replacing cabinet hardware is another inexpensive way to give your freshly painted kitchen cabinets an extra-special look.
    Courtesy of NAPSnet.
  • Follow This Link To A Fantastic Budget-Freindly Kitchen Renovation By Luciann Samu
  • Kitchen Staging Tips-
    • Clean, Clean, Clean- Make it shine!
    • Organize cabinets and pantry, pack or get rid of items you don’t use. Buyers want to see lots of storage.
    • Clear off counter tops. Put away appliances like coffee maker and toaster. Display an open cookbook on an easel, or a set of colorful decorative jars. Add a bowl of fruit or flowers.
    • Don’t forget to incorporate the sense of smell- the aroma of fresh baked cookies or bread is irresistable, whether you do the baking, or choose to employ faux scents like Yankee Candle’s Oatmeal Cookie.

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