Sitting Pretty ..... For the Right Price

Sorry for the radio silence for the last few weeks. I fell down the tax rabbit hole -- I had a cute little analogy about getting smaller after drinking out of a bottle marked "Deduct Me" but I never fully developed it, which probably says something about my state of mind. Three weeks of taxes and money, money and taxes, got me thinking of tips regarding saving money when buying retail furniture. I have furniture sales experience in my background and I learned a few strategies during my time there. Sometimes it is about timing, oftentimes it requires some research and comparison shopping, and every now and then it's about building relationships.

As far as timing is concerned, your best bet in starting to look is in the middle of the month so you have time to comparison shop, determine the look you want to achieve based on what's available, and to measure to be sure any furniture you purchase will fit in your space. It's important to have a plan for the room instead of buying individual pieces on a whim, hoping that they'll all work together. Sales tend to end at the end of the month, so the associates will be extra helpful then, especially if they are working on commission (please don't toy with them though, working without a salary is a very stressful business). If you are considering a large purchase, you might get lucky and the associate will share with you if the next month's discount is better than the current month's discount in order to make the customer happy and close the sale.

For upholstered furniture, keep in mind that the price listed is often their least expensive model. It is usually available in only one or two options, usually their most basic fabric and a single finish. Sometimes that model is the only one that's included in the sale so check with a sales associate to be sure. Any form of customization is going to raise the price, and it's easy to get carried away. The fabric and leather options are often listed with a grade -- either a letter or number. Make sure the associate explains to you how their grading system works, as every store has their own system of measurement, and also how much of a difference in cost can be found between grades. Overall however you can bet that simple solids with a polyester mix will have a lower price point than an all-natural fabric with an elaborate print. With leather you can usually feel the difference in price as the less pieces will be thinner and the more expensive pieces will show more of the qualities of natural hide. Any addition of detail such as nailheads, contrast welt, or dual fabrics will add to the cost as well so ask for that to be itemized. In several retailers, you can upgrade your accent pillows for a small fee with your pick of fabrics in the store, upgrading the overall look fairly easily.

These chairs feature a custom fabric and leg finish.

The frame construction should be a hardwood plywood for new furniture, as it is among the most durable around, and steel spring foundations offer the most consistency in quality. The old standards of eight way hand tied construction and kiln dried hardwood are still regarded as the high standard for custom one-off pieces, but don't write off a retail manufacturer for not applying them to their furniture. Always ask not only how the furniture was constructed but why that method was chosen. As you comparison shop you will have a much better idea how construction affects the price point and can make a decision as to what works for your lifestyle.

As for casegood furniture such as dressers and coffee tables, it's important to know how they are constructed and the materials that are used. Key words for quality construction include "dovetail joinery", "corner blocks", "dust proof panels", "return moldings", and "center guides". The associate should be able to demonstrate these details to you with the floor model. Also, does the furniture arrive assembled or is it "knock-down"? Knock down furniture requires assembly and can demonstrate a cheaper product. Also do not necessarily write off a piece that is made with veneers. Veneers are often placed on furniture in order to prevent splitting and cracking as solid wood tends to do when the weather changes. Do, however, check the floor model to see if the corners are peeling away. Sales for casegoods tend to be pretty straightforward as there is much less customization involved.

Of course, this is a lot of information to take in and keep in the old noggin. One tried and true way to find your best options at the best price is to take your interior designer with you on furniture shopping trips. Many stores have a designer program where the designer has already developed a relationship with the store and/or its employees, who are incentivized by the notion that the designers represent repeat business for them.

So I guess that after being away for a while unleashed a diatribe from me! I'd better go before I'm late for a very important date. And before I throw out too many half-baked Alice in Wonderland references…

xo, dk

Fast Fashion

Every now and then on this blog I may talk about a product I first saw on a TV show set, because I notice those things instead of, say, listening to dialogue and noticing the plot. That’s something I do from time to time when watching The CW’s The Flash based on the DC comic. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a fun show (way better than its sister show Arrow, which, well don’t get me started and I'm not even going to link it), but occasionally it’s easy to get distracted.

It happened recently when I noticed a wall treatment on the set based in a lab where the superhero team meets. At first I thought it looked like an Apple store, which, okay, is a look that makes sense in a tech-based atmosphere. But then I realized, holy moly those 3D wall panels are printed with braille! What a cool idea!

The cast of The Flash, and some really cool braille wall panels.

After seeing the seeing a post on Instagram using the wall panels as a headboard I needed to know more about the product. Turns out it comes from a company called Inhabit, and it sellssurfaces in a number of shapes: panels, planks (for that rustic “shiplap” look), and tile. What’s great about the wall panels is that they are paintable but the white is pretty impressive.

I’ve checked and though the original tiles do not actually spell anything, if you purchase a minimum of 10,000 tiles they can customize them to include a personal message. Imagine how amazing that could be for branding purposes in a hotel, restaurant, or retail space!

I’m probably getting a bit off track with this but it’s my blog, so I can do that. So to the effect of what I was saying about, branding is one of the reasons an interior designer is key for your business. They work as part of your marketing team in order to make sure your customers get exactly the impression you want your customers to experience, which it goes without saying can be invaluable since first impressions happen in a flash. (I am the queen of puns!)

Until next time!

xo, dk

Title inspiration: My favorite band is Depeche Mode -- can't help it. The name translated from French means "Fast Fashion".

Couch Confession: The Article Isn't The End Of The Story

Bon lundi, tout le monde! (I have been practicing French on Duolingo for over a month now. It's possible that expressive French utterances may become an annoying byproduct.)

This has been a very exciting week for me. The esteemed and hipper-than-I-will-ever-be blog for all things home, Apartment Therapy, published a piece I presented to them about a very personal project: my own living room. You can link it directly here: "Avoiding Decorating Mistakes: A Design Pro Shares Her Do's and Don'ts". The essence of the post is that I felt I made some errors the first time I went about decorating the space, and I wanted to share the things I learned along the path of creating the living room I have now.

The site did a fantastic job of setting the scene and presenting the vast change of the look and feel of the room from before to after. Here's a more truncated view:

A little bit different, huh?

When the piece was first accepted, I was told it would be up on the site "in the next month" so I had a feeling it would be a surprise. It was -- my husband received a text from a friend a couple of weeks later saying that she had seen my name on the site. It's really a thrill to learn that your work has reached a national level, and it's also quite humbling that it was accepted in the first place.

The reaction was swift. By the time I had found the article it already had 58 comments. I'm glad to see that most of it was positive and they loved my advice. I had expected some negative remarks because design is subjective and frankly because this is the Internet. What was new and different were the mistaken assumptions some of the commenters made to justify their less than flattering remarks. To be fair, you can't detail every thought process in an article unless you want to ruin the site's bandwidth. I don't feel like engaging the naysayers directly (because what would that accomplish?), but I feel it would be cathartic to expel some of the misconceptions I encountered.

1. The before and after photos were both taken at the same time of day. Somebody said (and I'm paraphrasing here) that she thought that before and after photos in general were manipulated by shooting the before photos in the dark and Photoshopping the afters. I can't speak for everyone, but that was not the case this time. I had both rooms shot first thing in the morning for the sake of convenience. The lightness and spaciousness of the after photo comes from the use of colors, materials, and furniture.

2. A lot of the furniture choices I made were for personal function and not to make the room "more designed". Perhaps a sofa and chairs would make more sense to some and might photograph better, but my husband and I both really wanted a sectional, so I felt that this was an opportunity to show how a big piece of furniture really can fit in a small space. I also agree with one commenter that perhaps a round ottoman would have been a better choice for the space aesthetically, but I love the coffee table I selected as it has a lift top and serves us well as an impromptu desk or a place for TV dinners. Someone else commented on the size of the rug being too small. I agree with her, but they didn't make it in a larger size and I decided that I loved it enough not to care. At the end of the day, design is very personal and that's what makes it great. To that effect....

3. Sometimes what you love and what is trendy neatly coincide. Apparently aqua and teal are über trendy, and it was insinuated that I was a trend chaser. While it's nice to know I'm on the forefront of fashion or something, if you look at any design magazine, there are a ton of trendy colors at any given moment. Readers of this blog know how I came up with my color scheme: by wishing for an ocean in my house. I happen think that's the least trendy inspiration ever, but I also like to think that I came up with my own spin on it.

Overall, the takeaway is that one's home design will never be perfect to everyone, it just has to be perfect for you. I believe that the advice I provided to the world of Apartment Therapy will help its readers in making the decorating choices best for them.

Until next time!

xo, dk

It's Oh So Quiet

Hitting your head on the chandelier: so not gonna happen. (Diana Kennedy Interiors, Laurie Hunt Photography)

It’s always fun to watch “House Hunters” and hear the comments the homebuyers make that, well let’s face it, sound downright silly. Occasionally these silly remarks stem from the fact that it’s not every day you spend time in an empty house.

One that made me want to face plant was from the guy that said that the dining room chandelier had to go because he would always be banging his head on it. He did not seem to take into account that usually there would be a dining table underneath it protecting his temples from making contact with that light fixture. In another episode, a woman said that she didn’t think that she could deal with the constant echo in the home’s barren great room. That problem will be instantly remedied when furnishings are brought into the space.

However, in reality, for those of you living in a multi-unit building, reducing the noise factor can make the difference between receiving free cookies from your neighbors or frustrated visits from your landlord or condo committee.  If this is a particular concern for you, here are a number of ways in order to cut down on the commotion in your home.

It's important to know what causes noise to carry in the first place. The principle of how sound works in a space is similar to the concept of energy movement in feng shui -- it needs a direct path in order to stay active. Adding items in the room of various heights and textures will stop noise dead in its tracks. Tall bookcases with a mix of books and beloved knickknacks will assist in dissipating reverberations in the room.

The use of fabrics is also valuable when absorbing sound. Window treatments, particularly heavy, interlined drapes and blackout curtains are great for this. Use fabric instead of leather furniture for better sound absorption. Hang tapestries or blankets on the wall, and choose canvas art instead framed prints. Carpet is ideal for noise absorption, but rugs work well on hardwood floors -- the larger the better (larger rugs look nicer too). For an added bonus, it’s now trendy and acceptable to place a rug on carpet or to layer your rugs.

A Little Bit Softer Now: applying fabrics through furniture, window treatments, rugs, and accessories while filling bookcases with various sized objects. A Little Bit Louder Now: Barking (but adorable) dog. (Diana Kennedy Interiors, Diane Anton Photography)

Lastly, if your rental/HOA agreement allows, make sure your windows are properly sealed in order to prevent sound from coming in from the outside. Up-to-date insulation is an important item for house hunters as well, with a wonderful side benefit being the decrease in your energy bill.

Hopefully by applying these techniques you will enjoy a great relationship with your neighbors. When you do, I hope you will invite me over for cookies.

xo, dk

Title Reference: "It's Oh So Quiet" by Bjork, Post, 1995.

Lower the Curtain Down on Memphis (Design)

Do you ever find that you like something that nobody else does? Art and design are truly subjective, and styles that are loved by some are in turn loathed by others.

When a design style is truly indicative of its time, such as the modernism of the 50s and 60s, Art Deco from the early 20th century, it's sure to evoke a strong reaction. The strongest reaction of all that I've seen was to the Memphis design movement of the 80s, and quite honestly I enjoy both the design and the reactions I hear.

Okay so what is Memphis Design? The most mainstream example of Memphis is the opening titles of "Saved By The Bell" or MTV advertising (oh hey there, David Bowie). It involved 80s-era bright colors, over-the-top geometric patterns, and off-the-charts whimsicality. What began as a movement by Italian product designer Ettore Sottsass in 1981 has been a subject of derision by many for several decades. You may find that you aren't a fan yourself. But recently the patterns and shapes have been pervading their way into our culture once again.

As a great example of this, not that the link for the SBTB credits is actually a web series called "Teens React". I found it was difficult to find a video that showed just the credit sequence, but it actually helps me prove a point. I find it cute and hysterical when the teens laugh at the styles that the cast members are wearing, even though they themselves are wearing similar fashions (and a couple of them admit it). Just no perms. Those were horrible. Yes I had one. I have fine hair. Shut up.

Back when I was in design school we had a class called History of Style Studio. For the entire semester we were assigned to select one design style and eventually create an interpretive center in and around that style. An interpretive center is essentially an interactive museum. I chose Memphis because I wanted to have fun with the assignment, and Pop Art was already taken. I found myself appreciating the form, its sense of pluck, and its willingness to entertain while performing a function. My center included Memphis furniture, china, a tea bar, and a film station featuring a documentary with Karl Lagerfeld.

So this above was my version. In 2015, high end contemporary furniture outfit Kartell presented their own exhibit in Milan, detailed here by the Dezeen blog. In it they mention that some of the key designers of the Memphis movement are seeing a resurgence of interest in their work and are contributing new pieces in the style. Make sure to scroll down and check out the Daisy chandelier.

Wallpaper - Brunschwig & Fils Staccato on Paper

I've been thinking about Memphis lately due to my favorite song, "Under the Milky Way" by The Church, and I got the blog title from one of the lyrics. Perhaps I'm happy that I now have options to create my own Memphis curtains, perhaps in a style like the wallpaper seen here.

When counterbalanced with a sense of restraint in furniture and surfaces, a statement pattern can bring a room to the next level.  Is there a style that you want to bring into your home but are scared of how to make it work? I'm eager to talk to you about it, as I often purport that your home is the place to display what you love, and I want to encourage you to make that happen.

Other links on the Memphis resurgence if you're interested:


Etsy Blog



Absolute Beginners: Building a Home From Scratch

Since the news broke that David Bowie passed away, I've been listening to his songs and watching his videos on YouTube. I first fell in love with the music in the mid-90s during the era of Tin Machine and his collaborations with Trent Reznor, even though I was aware of his earlier work. Nobody stands in the back of the concert hall screaming "Play the new stuff!" (which I did at one of Bowie's shows) but then again I was always a bit backwards. More recently I've discovered a new appreciation for how he changed the music scene in the 70s, particularly after watching the Showtime documentary Five Years, which is definitely worth a watch.

During my musical memory tour, I came across a title I was not familiar with: Absolute Beginners, released in 1984, which was used in a film he appeared in of the same name. Neither the song nor the movie can be considered to be his best work, but the title stuck with me.

I work with a lot of young couples and families who are making their home together with not much to start with save some furniture hand me downs that may or may not reflect their personal style. They find the home of their dreams and have no idea where to begin in order to make it their own. In that sense they feel as much like absolute beginners as the song suggests.

To this I suggest to clients that they pick the room that they will likely spend the most time with and create a design plan for that room. I also suggest doing each room one at a time, since often the rooms used less often tend to define themselves better after some time has passed.

More often then not, the living or family room is the one chosen. All of the members of the family use that room in order to unwind and spend time together so to have that space feel complete tends to remove a large portion of the burden they feel regarding decorating their new home. The living room that appeared in my entry "Folie à Deux" involved one such family that wanted their new living room completed so that they could enjoy working on the rest of their home, and another that I met early in my career had a living room that was a complete blank space. Completely blank. No furniture, nothing.

First they told me that they really wanted greige walls. For those not in the know, greige is the combination of grey and beige. At the same time, they wanted something fun and whimsical with an eclectic mix of traditional and modern elements. I selected a paint based on that discussion, knowing that it was neutral enough that it would work well with a variety of design directions (I usually choose paint last, but that's a blog post on its own). Then I found them the perfect curtain fabric. They loved it.

Fabric by Thomas Paul

The room had a fantastic focal point, a wall with high windows and even higher ceilings, so the floor to ceiling custom drapes would make a huge impact. Therefore, we kept the furniture in the neutral family with browns, creams, and greys with accent colors taken from the fabric.

Working together with these homeowners was a joy and afterwards I collaborated on several other rooms in the house for them. Completing this room gave this couple the confidence to explore other creative color schemes and furniture options for their home. Sometimes a bit of outside help can create the motivation for true expression. I think David Bowie would approve.

Pop Interiors: Marrakesh Express Powder Room

One of the great things about being a designer is having designer friends. We meet up, share ideas and lunch, and sometimes wine (but not today). After having one of those lunches where time sits below the radar, my three friends and I ventured over to the new Kohler Signature Store in Burlington, MA. I was expecting to see a display of classic and conservative, yet elegant products for the bath. There was some of that to be found, but I especially got excited when I came across a smattering of sink basins with a great deal of personality. So I took lots of pictures.

So long, boring white ceramic basins!

So long, boring white ceramic basins!

I'm told that the Art Nouveau look seen in at least two of these sinks has been very popular for spring orders, but I feel that the bigger overall trend has to be that individual expression in design is no longer the scary prospect that it was not too long ago. (Courtesy of the recession and HGTV real estate shows that promoted neutral design for resale purposes.) To that I say hooray!!!!!! Homes in my opinion are the biggest canvases you will ever get the chance to work with and should be used as such.

If you are interested in having your home "live out loud" (see Emile Zola quote) but are overwhelmed as to where to start, I would like to suggest the powder room. Powder rooms are small spaces that are used infrequently so it's much more difficult to feel overpowered by pattern and color. Plus, powder rooms are frequently used by guests at, um, I don't know, parties, and a little drama never hurt a party. (A lot of drama could potentially hurt a party, but that's another story for another time.)

There were some fantastic sinks at Kohler this afternoon, but my eye was immediately drawn to a vessel sink of cut glass in emerald green. Here it is. Isn't it stunning?

Imported directly from the Emerald City...

Imported directly from the Emerald City...

I got inspired to create a powder room design around this gorgeous specimen and when I found the Schumacher wallpaper it kind of all fell into place. I am calling this the "Marrakesh Express" powder room since I had the Crosby Stills & Nash playlist still open from last week, and the design is both Marrakesh-y and expressive. What I enjoy most about this design besides the impact of the colors is that I feel that it has just the juxtaposition of organic and geometric shapes in order to provide balance in the space.

Okay so I think that now is the time to take the Marrakesh Express directly to dreamland (lame segue I know but it's late). Yawn....

xo, dk

If You Can't Be In The Place You Love, Love The Place You're In

Hello to all of you, and I hope that you had a wonderful holiday, with even more fun to come as we ring in 2016!

I just got back from a fantastic vacation in Punta Cana with my husband. I love the warm weather, and warm water to swim in. (Some people tan. I swim. Tanning has not worked so well for me.) Punta Cana delivered both, and I spent my days there swimming for literally hours. Plus, the view was spectacular.

View from my beach recliner. Ahhhh.....

Now I am back in New England. While I love my home, my family, and my friends here, I am that person who, when making small talk about the weather, always mentions that she does not understand why she lives here in the Northeast when she hates cold and gray weather as much as she does. (I put that in third person so I don't sound quite so awful.)

During the plane ride home, I had a minor epiphany when I realized that I made my home an experiment in wish fulfillment. I finished redecorating my living room last May. You may have seen photos elsewhere on this site. If you have, then you may have noticed before I did that I was subconsciously creating an ocean in my living room.

Seriously, I don't know how I didn't notice this before.

The color palette is strikingly similar to the palm tree photo above, and I even put a sun in the corner of the room in order to drive the point home! My living room is my favorite room in the house, and it's the room I actively use the most. So it makes sense in retrospect that I would want the space to resemble the water setting I feel most at peace in.

Coastal-themed decorating is a very popular style here. However, instead of going with the whitewashed look (which is very lovely and a lot of fun), I feel that this room is more about being in the ocean rather than being near it so that I can feel like I'm still spending my days swimming. 

Where is your favorite place to be? What would you be doing there that makes you happiest? Leave me a comment or send me an email and maybe we can make your home feel like the faraway place of your dreams.

xo, dk

(Title Reference: "Love the One You're With" by Crosby, Stills, and Nash. You'd think that would date me, but in actuality I first heard the song on an episode of The Simpsons. No, I won't say which one.)

Just to prove I was there.....

Just to prove I was there.....

Vacation Decoration

This holiday season, I'm trying something a little new and different. I'll be out of the country with my husband on Christmas Day. And as a lover of sunshine, I cannot say more emphatically how excited I am to be heading to Punta Cana for a week.

*Pause for bad singing and even worse shimmying to "Holiday" by Madonna or "Vacation" by The Go Go's. Your choice.*

I love to travel, and not just for the obvious reasons. In addition to sun/sand/surf and the all-inclusiveness that immediately comes to mind with such daydreams (which are indeed fantastic), I find some of my best design inspiration by leaving my neck of the woods and exploring new domestic and international locales.

Here are some of my own (slightly blurry) pics from past vacations and some of the decorating tips I've gleaned from them:

How to make a bathroom look more expensive: apply tile all the way to the ceiling, in a rich color and unexpected pattern. Also, yellow accents go a long way towards making a room more cheerful.

Sometimes all the drama you need in a room can come from a stunning chandelier.

Art can be made out of anything. This is actually a piece of fabric that's been matted, framed, and placed on the wall of a high-end hotel.

Seriously, anything. Even your broken stuff.

If you keep your furniture and fixed elements neutral, your art and accessories will really pop (and you can change them when you get bored).

Happy Holidays to all of you! There will not be a new blog entry next week while I'm away, but I hope to have lots of new ideas and tips to share with you upon my return!

xo, dk

Pop Interiors: Cover Girl Bedroom

I just got home from a trip to New Jersey visiting my mom and brother. Since the three of us are going to be on separate vacations for the holidays, we decided to have a mini celebration now. I was very touched by my gift: my mother decided to hand down my grandmother’s prized Bennett Bean bowl with the golden interior.

Boston to New Jersey is a five hour plus trip, so while I drive the dog and I rock out to my shuffle mix on Pandora. Suffice to say, I have a lot of 80s New Wave and Indie Rock on my playlist. Don’t judge. The beauty of Pandora is that they not only play the songs but give you access to the lyrics, band facts, and the album covers. Two in particular caught my attention. The first was International, a New Order greatest hits album; and the second was Passive Me, Aggressive You, the debut album by The Naked and Famous (side note: if you watch HGTV as much as I do, you might recognize their single “Young Blood” from a “Property Brothers” promo that had Jonathan and Drew posed like American Gothic).

Aren’t they pretty? The bright color combos inspired me to create a fictional design for a tween bedroom with tons of personality. The trick to keep the walls and trim white to ground all of that color – in this case I’d suggest Benjamin Moore’s Color of the Year OC-117 Simply White. The second is to not go too crazy with pattern. You’ll see what I mean when you check out the mood board below:

The idea is to keep the furniture pieces sophisticated so that if the girl’s tastes change as she gets older, the décor elements can be switched out. The artwork is also a mix of some whimsical pieces and bold abstracts.

Hope you enjoyed this! I am now off to enjoy the rest of my Blue Monday. That’s a New Order joke. Once again, don’t judge.