Makeover in a Day

How would you like to transform your home -- in a day!?!

You can have your own HGTV experience, with your own personal designer. I plan and design to suit your family's needs and lifestyle. No two homes are alike.

Have you tried to do everything you've seen on Pinterest or HGTV, but can't get the same results? Don't know what's "off?" I've had more than twenty years' experience, and have a deeply embedded instinct for what needs to happen to make a room shine, and reflect the personality of the people who live there. 

Here's how your Makeover works: We'll set an initial meeting to assess needs and budget, then I go to work to collect all of the best accessories, lighting, artwork, rugs, pillows, window treatments, etc. to makeover your home in a day. You'll plan a little getaway (massage, pedicure, lunch with friends?) while my assistant and I work our magic. You'll come home to your own "reveal," with the camera rolling to document it all.

Typical clients plan on 2-3 rooms for their Makeover Day (kitchen, family room, dining). I come with my car packed (planning any shipments in advance -- but no peeking!). Total time in your home to set up: 4-6 hours. You have 2-3 days to live with everything, and decide if you want to send anything back (no one ever seems to want to). Typical costs: $3,000-$8,000, including all accessories, design time, shopping, and set up. This plan assumes that we are working with your own furniture. Other plans include new furnishings in addition to the Makeover.

Before-and-After Examples of Makeover in a Day:

Before: console and mirror, but wrong scale, paint color is muddy with furniture

Before: console and mirror, but wrong scale, paint color is muddy with furniture

After: proper scale accessories + new window coverings + new paint

After: proper scale accessories + new window coverings + new paint



After: new furnishings, rug, accessories, window coverings, paint

After: new furnishings, rug, accessories, window coverings, paint

Before: despite using their favorite HGTV wall color, everything is still reading dark and muddy

Before: despite using their favorite HGTV wall color, everything is still reading dark and muddy

After: furniture moved, accessories, pillows, window coverings -- now, their paint color sings!

After: furniture moved, accessories, pillows, window coverings -- now, their paint color sings!

Before: pictures in wrong scale and orientation, tablecloth distracts, things feel disjointed and dark, kitchen is dark, rooms do not connect visually

Before: pictures in wrong scale and orientation, tablecloth distracts, things feel disjointed and dark, kitchen is dark, rooms do not connect visually

After: custom pillows and window coverings, accessories, artwork to set everything off, with proper scale and orientation

After: custom pillows and window coverings, accessories, artwork to set everything off, with proper scale and orientation

Enjoy the Process

If you've decided to invest yourself in decorating or re-decorating your home, have fun doing it! Invest yourself. Count the cost before you begin, and once you've decided to proceed with those costs, decide from the outset that you are going to enjoy the process. Don't second-guess yourself, or stay awake agonizing over your decisions.

I believe that every home should reflect the personalities of the people who live in it. When I sit down with families and ask them what they want their home to say about them, invariably they say something like: "Our family is the most important thing to us. We want our home to represent our love of family and the fun times we enjoy together." I then proceed to ask them about hobbies, favorite music, what the dinner hour is like, and how they spend their time in the evening and on weekends. I want to know what happens in each of the rooms: does the family eat at the dinner table, or watching TV in the family room? Do they play games together indoors or out? Where's their favorite vacation spot? What do they like to read, and where will the reading take place? All of these activities impact how a room is designed to support the goals and activities of each individual.

Homes are not stagnant showpieces. They become a part of the living organism that is the family that lives in it. I once bought a home that felt depressed. I couldn't shake the feeling when I first saw it, and asked the real estate agent about the family that lived in it. He told me that the couple was getting divorced. Of course. I could feel it in the house. It was beautifully laid out, clean, and up-to-date. Most people would think it was worthy of a magazine cover. But, it was sad. I wanted to cheer it up, bring laughter, color and music back to its soul, and that wasn't going to have a lot to do with how I decorated it.

Our home holds the day-to-day of our family life. It's where we put our feet up, let our hair down, cry into our pillows, invite our friends, and express our innermost feelings. We should show our homes the care and respect that we show to the individuals who are sheltered within its walls. That means being good stewards to those things we do have, and carefully choosing new furnishings that will support us in our family goals. . . . and that's why the process should be enjoyable.

If you pull out your hair in dread over choosing the new floor, or worry yourself sick over the cost (remember, we planned and accounted for it before we began), or feel resentful that you "have to do this" in the first place, that spirit of dread, worry and resentment will echo in your home. You will come to associate that new table with the emotions you felt at the time you bought it - positive or negative. I can guarantee you that if you felt any of those negative feelings when you bought it, you are going to have "unexplained" knots in your stomach at meal time. On the other hand, if you treated that table-buying experience as one of adventure, discovery and anticipation, you are going to have a sense of adventure, discovery and anticipation as you gather with family and friends around the table that will become a visible symbol of happy memories.

We infuse inanimate objects with meaning. A family heirloom is treasured or despised according to the feelings we have about the person who first possessed it. A painting on our wall may remind us of a glorious moment of serenity, and help to calm us and give perspective. A whimsical chandelier over the dining table may help to create a sense of fun, while for others, a hand-carved desk may be the anchor that grounds their vision for a home-based business. You get the point: each item matters, and it matters how we feel about it.

I have determined to enjoy the process with each of my clients, as I discover their specific needs and desires. One of my happiest moments was when a 9 year-old boy clapped with joy over the fact that I had "heard him" and put together a room based on his love of endangered species. When I go in to his room, I feel his excitement and his commitment to the dream of owning his own organization in the future that will shelter and care for the endangered species of the world. He'll do it! I know it! And, I'm so happy that his surroundings support him in that goal. 

I want to have that experience with each client; hearing them, and helping to bring their dreams to reality. Together, we can create a joyful environment. This is most assured if we have enjoyed the process along the way. Make the investment: yes, money is a part of it, but the most important investment is yourself. Put your heart into it. Love it. Your home will thank you for it.

How Much Will it Cost?


Many people feel some anxiety about contacting an interior designer because they really don’t know how their costs will stack up. Let’s face it, cost does matter. You’ve got to weigh the cost of the new rug against the fees for soccer camp, and balance those against the vacation plan for next summer. No one wants the disappointment of beginning a project only to learn that they can’t really finish it.

A good designer needs to get personal and ask some direct questions. Not only does she need to know what your family does for dinner, but she is going to need to know how much you want to spend on the new dining table.

It’s not always easy to be that transparent with someone you’ve just met. That’s why trust and communication are so important in the designer/client relationship. You need to know that your designer has good listening skills, and can intuit the things you have a tough time saying. But, you also need to be prepared to answer some standard questions: How much are you budgeting for your project? What is your timeline for the finished product?

Your designer will know how to stretch your money to accomplish as many of your goals as possible. For example, I love to take my clients to Palace Rug in Bellevue for top-quality, beautifully hand-knotted rugs. These rugs will last a lifetime, and hold their value. They are works of art to build a room around, and when it comes to cleaning, they are a snap. Choosing a rug with Keivan and Leyla from Palace Rug is usually a first-stop when planning a design for my clients. But, sometimes, in order to meet the overall design goal, I will purchase a rug from Pottery Barn, Home Decorator’s, Ballard Designs, or Joss and Main. The quality will not compare, and the rug may need to be replaced in five years, but that may be all that my client is looking for in order to meet the needs of their budget, now. Budget compared to overall goal has to be a constant focus for the client and the designer. [Area rugs of the same size can run $300-$5000.]

I charge $250 an hour, and try to recoup that fee for my clients by passing on my discounts for fabrics, paint, drapery hardware, accessories, etc.  I also believe that I save my clients from costly mistakes, such as repainting a room because the color is wrong, or purchasing furniture that does not flow with the overall scheme.

I work with a brilliant workroom/seamstress, Beverly Brenan of Lifestyle Designs. She is a perfectionist, and I am always confident that clients will be thrilled when they receive their new bedding, window treatments, or living room pillows, hand sewn by Beverly. Beverly is my right hand; the magic fairy who brings my visions to life. I choose several fabric options, present them to my client, and then come up with a design using those fabrics. Recently, we designed and sewed window treatments for a 9,000 square foot home in Virginia. 3,000 square feet of windows, that took three professionals 12 full hours to install. I’d taken all of the measurements and created the design plan while the house was still under construction. I had the fabrics sent to Beverly, and together, we teased out every detail of welts, ruffles, buttons and trims. Beverly sewed for months and carefully packed each item for shipping to Virginia from Seattle. I planned on using a steamer to touch up any wrinkles that occurred from the long trip. I also braced myself for other kinds of wrinkles; perhaps there would be something that did not fit quite perfectly, and adjustments might have to be made. After all, these were quite unusual circumstances, and some of the windows I’d measured didn’t have their moldings yet  during construction. However, much to my delight, there wasn’t a single wrinkle or difficulty in fit. Perfect! Even 2700 miles away!

We can find fabrics as low as $25 a yard, or as high as $300 a yard, so it is difficult to answer when people ask me how much a drapery project may cost. Additionally, a Roman shade takes less fabric than a fully-functioning panel does, so there are many variables when it comes to choosing fabrics and styles. Although a fully-functioning panel may be the most expensive option, it will save money on blinds, offers complete privacy, and room-darkening features that a client may absolutely require. With all of these variables, window treatments can run $150-$2500.

The variables apply to all aspects of home furnishings. Sofas can cost $800-$5000, dining tables $500-$5000, and so on.

So, how much will it cost? Much of it depends upon you, your needs, your tastes, your budget. Speak openly with your designer, discuss what is most important to you. Do you just “want to get it done now,” or do you want to stretch things out to be able to afford top quality? Or, is your balance somewhere between the two? Don’t be afraid that if you tell your designer that you are willing to spend $10,000 on something, that she is then going to go out of her way to spend every last penny. She wouldn’t be in business very long if that were her approach. As a designer, it’s my job to see how all of the pieces can fit: goals, budget, style and taste. It’s a challenge I enjoy while I help you to create an environment that is uniquely yours, reflecting the lives of the people who live within the walls of your own home sweet home.

Where Do I Start? Part 2




Almost everyone I know thinks that the first thing they want to do to their home is apply a coat of paint in their favorite color. While paint makes an immediate, and relatively inexpensive change, I think it is a mistake to begin a decorating project with a paintbrush. Why?

The latest paint palettes and suggestions sweep blog posts and Facebook like an array of tempting desserts - "oooh, this one looks GOOD!" we exclaim as we nearly swoon with excitement. The Pantone Color of the Year adds to the dilemma as they announce that the color for 2014 is Radiant Orchid. Last year's color (2013 was Emerald Green) is out, as consumers search Joss and Main's latest in purple hues. 

The interior design industry, like the clothing industry, is driven by sales. To keep those sales going, fashions have to keep changing. Boot-cut jeans give way to skinny jeans, and crop tops to long, flowing shirts . . . and then it all repeats again. Avocado and tangerine made their way back from our great-grandmothers' homes not too many years ago, and recently, the 1950's turquoise and pink became new and hot, even though we shook our heads over them as we threw them away in the 60's. "Bellevue Beige," as it is called in our area, keeps making its rounds too, mostly amongst those who are afraid to make a mistake, and want to play it safe. Just take a look at the old Oprah shows to watch warm-colored sets give way to cools, and back again. We all tend to appreciate change and want to keep up with the fashion world, whether it is in our closets, or in our living rooms. 

The problem is that a sofa or a new lamp costs a lot more than a pair of jeans. Most homeowners like to think of their new purchases as lasting them for at least ten years. I can pretty much guarantee you that you'll wonder what you were thinking as you look at that sofa ten years from now. It's just the nature of the world we live in. Gone are the old European ideals where multiple generations sat on the same beautifully-made chair (yes, I am a Downton Abbey fan!). Whereas those lovingly-crafted furniture pieces used to be viewed as pieces of art, we now live in an era when it is rare that a chair cushion will still be wearing well ten years after its purchase.

. . . Which leads me back to the paint question.

If your most expensive pieces are the furnishings, shouldn't you start there? Paint comes in myriads of colors; there are thousands of shades of blue, for instance. Why not make sure that your "Magnetic Gray" perfectly harmonizes with your area rug - just because it can?

Be patient. Make a plan. Keep a folder with all of your favorite items, so that you resist impulsive buys. Choose your area rugs, sofas and chairs first because they are your largest investment. Choose your fabrics for your window coverings at the same time because they are your next largest investment. Finish a room before heading to the next one. You'll enjoy yourself more, and your creative juices will flow for the next project. You will also save yourself the drudgery of un-doing or re-doing a space. I've had many clients who groan when they realize they should repaint a room once they have chosen the furnishings that will go in the room. Yes, paint is relatively cheap compared to everything else, but what is your labor worth? Paint is definitely not the place to start.

If all of the above is true, and you are going to make an investment in your home, don't go with fads. The place I start with all of my clients is in getting to know them. Really know them. I want to know what music they listen to, what they watch on TV, where they are going to go to unwind, and what a typical evening is like for them. I want to know what relaxes them, and what gets them up and running.  I gather all of the information, and then put my heart into helping to create a space that is uniquely them. These components come together to create a "style" that is true to who my clients are. That style should be mostly harmonious throughout the home. Color becomes a part of  the style, but it is secondary to the lifestyle reflected within the home, and it is based upon who the clients are, and not what the latest blog states. Staying true to style is going to help my families still love their homes in five years . . . and perhaps even in ten.

Where Do I Start?

Posted on Tuesday, July 16, 2013 4:55 PM

Almost without exception, the first question I get asked as an interior designer is: "Where do I start?"

Creating an extraordinary living space is something like cooking a gourmet meal; before you can add the last elements that are going to distinguish your creation from anyone else's, you've got to start with the basic foundations. Don't get caught up on the chocolate shavings that will top your cake before you cut the butter properly into the flour mixture.

What are the foundations for a beautiful home? I imagine that every designer has their own personal formula, but for me, the place to start is with COLOR. 

They say that "beauty is in the eye of the beholder," and I've come to take this phrase pretty literally. Have you ever noticed how no two people have the same identical eye color? This is pretty indicative of the diversity of the responses people have to color. I've wondered if there is literally something in their eye that influences the way they see it. 

Things can get pretty challenging when family members don't see "eye-to-eye" about what colors they would like to see in their home. He may love blue (which shade?), and she may love red, while they each abhor the other's choice. A color may drive one person out of the room, while it invites another in. 

The goal of a good designer is to find what works for each individual, and bring the elements together to create an environment where everyone thrives. I use a personality test when I first meet with clients; it surprises some of them at first, but in just a few minutes, they get the reason for the process. I need to know how each person wants to feel when they are in each room of the home: energized, relaxed, stimulated, meditative, etc., and then I need to knowwhat components contribute to that state for each of the people involved. Color is always at the top of my list when I'm measuring out those components. I'll share more about what goes into my list in another post.

I derive true pleasure out of creating an environment that reflects the individuals who live there, a space as unique as, well, their individual eye color. When there are four or more sets of eyes, the challenge becomes more exciting! I recently had the opportunity to work with 6 children and their parents, as we created individual spaces for them within their new home. I listened carefully to each person (or parent) as they explained about what really mattered to them; how they liked to spend their time, what excited them, and yes, what colors they liked. The result is pictured below. It is a work in progress, but this is the initial response to the fabrics and wall color (painted) I chose for two sisters who will be sharing the same room:


Sherwin Williams' Hearts of Palm green may not be your color, but these two girls feel like I read their minds. Their parents think that that is what matters: Rachel and Sarah will have a room as lively and magical as they are. 

Color: "it's all in the eye of the beholder," and it is the perfect place to start when designing a home.