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6 Insider Tips to Maximize Your Next Design Show House Visit

You know Spring is in full bloom (despite our mercurial weather) when your inbox is full of invitations to interior design and garden show house tours throughout the state.

This season is like the Academy Awards of the design world with each participating professional spotlighting their creativity and taking their walk down the red carpet to crowds of admiring attendees.

And the best part?

The majority of the tours raise money for worthwhile local charities. So it’s a design lover’s trifecta: touring fabulous spaces, boutique shopping and raising money (all while sipping delicious wine). Sounds like a perfect day to me!

Now you may be shaking your head and thinking right missy! “The reality is I go to these tours, gather ideas, fantasize about what my home could look like, get depressed about what my home does look like, dog ear pages in the glossy tour brochure, file the brochure, grab some ice cream, watch more TV decorating shows and get even more overwhelmed with ideas!  And then…another year goes by and I haven’t made any progress on my dream kitchen or spa-inspired master bath. But I have a lot of great ideas!”

Well don’t despair, I’m going to share with you six quick insider strategies to maximize your next design show house tour and parlay that inspiration into getting your future remodel completed. In 2016!



Pasadena Showcase House of Design is fortunate to revisit this elegant La Canada, CA estate, previously known as Dryborough Hall, 29 years after its original Showcase debut in 1987. The tour is open until May 15, 2016.


Strategy One:

Great design evokes a visceral emotion.

That being said, when you enter each space on your tour, pay attention not just to the look of the beautiful space, but how you feel in each designer’s room. Why? Because your body has physiological reactions to the built environment. Your mood, mindset, blood pressure, alertness and disposition are influenced (negatively or positively) by your surroundings whether you’re consciously aware of it or not. And of course you want to re-create elements of spaces that make you feel serene, happy, uplifted or whichever feeling is priority to you.

As designers, we strive to create that “Oh-my-gosh-I-could-spend-the-whole-day-in-this-room feeling” for our clients. And that’s my goal for you with this suggestion.

So ask yourself: Are the colors the designer used in the room making me feel relaxed or agitated? Is there too much going on visually to feel comfortable? Does my eye have a place to rest? Would this space make me happy? Do I need more/less “drama” or “wow” factor? Are my other senses such as touch, smell, taste or hearing engaged?

Take note in your tour brochure of your observations and this will be your first step in honing in on your true design preferences, as well as provide valuable information should you hire a professional to help you.

Strategy Two:

If at all possible, attend during off-peak hours as the day you go can really impact your enjoyment and ability to view the spaces without too many people crowding you. Call the organizers and find out which days of the week and time slots have lower attendance rates. This way you can really enjoy being in each room, see the true scale of the space, assess the furniture layout more accurately and not feel rushed to move along. I typically try not to attend on the weekends as they’re often quite crowded.

Strategy Three:

Don’t wait until you’re home flipping through your tour brochure to really look at the BEFORE pictures of each space. Studying the before pictures will teach you creative solutions that you could apply to your own home or garden for that matter. Also, you’ll feel a deeper appreciation for the new show house space when you see how far it has come. Continue reading

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Signing Mr. Right: 7 Trade Tips for Hiring and Managing the RIGHT Contractor, The First Time

Swipe right for a great contractor.

Swipe left to avoid six months of S-T-R-E-S-S, financial drain and a migraine.

Imagine…a dedicated website featuring professional, well-priced and competent contractors excited to execute your vision on time (cue the white doves and colorful rainbows), in budget and without leaving oil stains on your driveway! Ahhh, if only this type of pairing was as easy as the popular matchmaking site, Tinder.

A girl can dream…


Unfortunately, unless you really know the industry insider questions to ask before hiring, reality isn’t always this rosy when it comes to selecting the most-qualified contractor for your type of job

Often times you believe you’ve done your due diligence interviewing and checking references. You feel cautiously optimistic. So you sign on the dotted line.

Demolition starts, and then something seems to change. Slowly at first.

By week eight you start to realize work is not proceeding as you had originally discussed. Deadlines are being missed. Material orders are delayed. And communication with you becomes less frequent.

You try to remain calm. “Just breathe,” you tell yourself.

And then you’re informed that city inspections to sign-off have been moved again. Feeling frustrated, you walk the job site and notice your expectations of quality craftsmanship are well, let’s just say VERY different than his, or hers, and work needs to be redone.

And then things start to get tense. And stressful.

“I think you hired the wrong contractor!,” a little voice inside your head whispers.

“Quiet!” You retort.”My co-worker said he was great, just wait and see,” you unconvincingly say to your little voice.

Now, by week twelve things have progressed from bad to worse .You’re ready to put a hit out on your contractor, your spouse is threatening divorce every morning at breakfast and you’re ready to board the next NASA mission to Mars until construction is finished. Yikes!

Ok, ok, you get the picture right? Construction can be particularly challenging if you don’t ask key questions upfront and select the best team for your type of project. But the good news is…YES, there is good news…it doesn’t have to be this way! Really.

In this two-part Blog series, you’ll learn “7 Trade Tips for Hiring and Managing The RIGHT Contractor, The FIRST Time” thus avoiding job delays, costly mistakes and any need to call Virgin Galactic to book your spaceflight to escape.

Tip #1 – Really Check Him Out

I’m not talking “Heyyyyyyy, nice ________ (fill in your preferred body part), I mean check him (for purposes of the rest of this article I’m using the masculine pronoun, as the majority of contractors are men) out beyond the obligatory Past Client Reference List or website testimonials. I mean really, who’s going to pass out a bad reference list?

I want to know if he “plays nice with others”, i.e. how well did he work with past project architects, interior designers, subs and the local Building Department? You have every right to ask a potential contractor for names of these and other team members and peers he has collaborated with so you can garner a more accurate picture of his professional business practices.

Also it goes without saying, you must run his license number through your local Contractors State License Board website.  Here you’ll learn if your prospective contractor is licensed, carries commercial general liability insurance (which is highly recommended) and is in good standing. It is not enough for a contractor to just show you his business card, flyer or website with his license number listed. It may be invalid, so run the number.

Additionally, if a contractor has employees, he’s required to carry Worker’s Compensation Insurance in many states. If he doesn’t and his employee gets injured on your job site, you could be financially liable to pay for the employee’s medical and rehabilitation bills (note: your homeowner’s insurance may or may not cover these costs).

In some states, like California, contractors are also required to carry a Contractor’s License Bond of $15,000 which frankly, in light of today’s high construction and material costs, is not a lot to cover substandard work should an issue arise. Be informed. Refer to your local State Contractors License Board for more details.

It goes without saying, none of these issues are the glamorous or fun part of the building process, but they are essential and should be discussed, as well as outlined for you in writing before you sign anything.

Tip #2 – Who’s His Posse?

Really. You need to know.

Like many professions the lead business owner, in this case your general contractor, is only as good as his team. So it’s very important you learn about WHO the sub-contractors are that he’s bringing to your home or office, how long they’ve worked together and most importantly if they’re licensed tradesmen.

While it may be tempting to hire unlicensed labor as they typically have a lower day rate, it’s NOT worth the risk as a homeowner and it’s not legal, despite it being a frequent practice. Continue reading

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7 Design Tips To Create A Home That Attracts More Love And Connection

Can you believe the Superbowl of Love is just two weeks away?

I know it’s sappy…but I adore Valentine’s Day!  I see it as a day to take time out and tell my friends, family, honey and clients how much I truly appreciate and care about them.  Because if you get right down to it, isn’t that what life is REALLY about?  Relationships. Connection. Love. Fabulous wine. Ok, ok, I digress. You get my point.

So with that in mind, I’d like to share 7 Design Tips to Create a Home That Attracts More Love and Fosters Connection.” I truly believe that by designing spaces which encourage connection, express your individuality and help present the BEST version of YOU to the world, you’ll enjoy a more expansive life on many levels. So let’s get started!


Be Loved - Michael Hale

“be (love)d red” by Los Angeles artist Michael Hale features a charming verbal pun on the important emotion.


Tip #1: Color

Selecting paint colors based on how you want to feel in a space is much more important than choosing hues based on current design trends. Yes, yes, the East Coast Pantone Color gods predict what’s “in” each January but if those hues don’t resonate with you, you won’t feel comfortable living in, or wearing them, for that matter. You want to be surrounded by colors that are in alignment with your personality and culture.

Numerous scientific studies show our bodies have a physiological reaction to color.  Have you ever noticed how your energy level, pulse rate, mental clarity and mood are different in a red room, than say a grey-blue room? When you’re in a space painted a warm color such as red or orange room, you’re activated and move faster. And when you’re surrounded by soothing greens or blues, you relax and typically feel more centered.

I recently refreshed a client’s master bedroom from a sunny yellow to a deep marine blue. Now she says she sleeps deeper and feels more calm in the space.  I love hearing testimonies about the power of color!

Now if the idea of painting your four walls anything bolder than “beige-a-licious” scares you, (don’t worry a lot of clients tell me that at first), try incorporating color on only one focal wall to start such as your headboard, dining or fireplace wall and have the flanking walls painted a neutral. This will give your home personality and a pop of color without being overwhelming.

Several great on-line tools to help you visualize your space with new paint color are: Dunn Edwards InstaColor, Sherwin-William’s Color Snap Visualizer and Benjamin Moore’s Personal Color Viewer. 

With any of these color visualization tools you just upload a picture of your room, pick a color, “paint” your room virtually and voila!  You have a transformed space.  Quick Tip:  ONLY use these virtual tools for “concept” as computer “paint” colors look slightly different than actual paint colors. Once you’ve narrowed down the hue you like, buy some small sample pots and paint out swatches in your home. Live with the swatches for a few days and notice how color changes throughout the day.



Dunn-Edward’s on-line, complimentary color visualization tool InstaColor helps home owners virtually “paint” their room before purchasing. Photo: Dunn-Edwards Paints.


Tip #2: Furniture Layout

Furniture lining the perimeter of a room like a campfire circle doesn’t promote connection.  Let’s leave that to the girl scouts!  Rather, think about creating furniture groupings which will encourage intimate conversation and connection. I recommend about 18″- 24″ inches in between sofas, side chairs and coffee tables for comfortable circulation and easy conversation. With challenging spaces such as long and narrow living or family rooms creating “zones” by activity such as reading, TV watching or game playing is a great way to break up a big space while keeping everyone together and connected.


Living room furniture image

A thoughtful furniture grouping of various furniture styles fosters conversation and connection.

Continue reading

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Fab Find Friday: Labor Day Entertaining

Happy Holiday Weekend Everyone!

If you are entertaining this weekend I hope the following Fab Find Friday selections will inspire you to do it with style!

Each week our staff reviews hundreds of new products from the fashion, design and cooking worlds and we love sharing our finds to help you live a more expansive and joyful life through design.

So let’s get this party started shall we?!


Who doesn’t love delicious dessert that’s healthy right?! This Cooking Light recipe for Seared Figs and White Peaches with Balsamic Reduction is just the ticket and will surely impress your guests. And the best part?! It only requires eight ingredients and takes less than 10 minutes to make.

Just reading the recipe gets me excited: “an intense balsamic vinegar pan sauce mixed with creamy and tangy creme fraiche atop seared fruit with carmalized sugars with….” Ok, ok, I have to stop! I’m not going to finish entering this post. You get the picture. It’s delish! Here’s the recipe

Now no party is complete without charming serve ware and flatware. I was fortunate growing up as I had this instilled in me at a young age. My sweet Mother (who’s currently 89! Bless her heart) was the ultimate hostess always creating a beautiful table with flowers, decorative plates, unique flatware and colorful candles. Yes, I caught the bug. I actually have more fun setting the table than preparing the food sometimes.

With that in mind, I thought I would share two selections discovered this week: Vietri’s sea-inspired Maremisto dinnerware reminiscent of the nautical flags on ships off Italy’s Amalfi Coast (be still my heart) and the eye-catching wood-and-bone cheese knives from Two’s Company. Continue reading

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5 Secrets To Designing A Kitchen That Supports Weight Management

“Fit and Fabulous!”

We all want to be described that way, right?  Well you probably already have the fabulous part down, but how are you doing on the fit part this year?

Well, if you’re like me it’s a bit more challenging after reaching 45 years old. Wait! Who am I kidding?  It’s A LOT more challenging!

With that in mind, I am continually reading and researching design products and lifestyle practices that can help me stay energized, eating healthy and supporting my fitness goals.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fanatic. I enjoy a good Pinot Noir, cook with butta’ and loooove dessert, but 80% of the time I am focused on being healthy all while making the world more beautiful…of course!

And one of the best ways to reach your personal and professional goals is to create environments that SUPPORT your success in achieving them. Yes, your home and office environments greatly affect your mindset and daily well being.

Everything from the interior colors, spatial layout, quantity of natural light, organization and quality of the fixtures and furnishings in your space have an impact on your happiness, productivity and physical comfort.

I am a true believer in the power of the built environment and passionate about helping you create beautiful interiors that empower you to be THE best version of YOU as possible.

So with that in mind, let’s get started!

Following are 5 Secrets To Designing A Kitchen That Supports Weight Management and a healthy lifestyle.  I’d love to hear about your favorite products or healthy lifestyle solutions in the comments below.

Secret One: This is a cook’s dream! Imagine always having fresh organic herbs and micro-greens within arms reach while prepping meals. No more “Honey, I forgot the cilantro” trips to the grocery store, backyard or farmer’s market. And no more time spent at the sink washing and rinsing off pesticides and dirt. The Urban Cultivator gives you the opportunity to grow flavorful herbs and select produce hydroponically in your kitchen in an under counter or island version on wheels. I particularly like that the watering and light cycles, as well as humidity and air circulation systems are controlled by an intuitive computer interface so your harvest is always successful. The under counter units have the same space profile as a built-in dishwasher, and water and electrical installation is simple. Both residential and commercial versions are available from this Vancouver-based company. A fun aside, “Martha” has one in her home and NYC office!


Organic and nutritious herbs, produce and even flowers can be grown in your Urban Cultivator 365 days a year. Photo courtesy of

Continue reading

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7 Finishing Touches for a Five-Star Holiday Guest Bedroom

Last week my honey and I had the treat of staying at the FABULOUS Terranea Resort in Palos Verdes. Oh la la …I mean, oh la la those guest bedrooms are beautiful, soothing and welcoming.

I asked him “What is it about this room that is making me go ahhhhhh…?”

“The wine,” he smiled….”Me?” he winked.

“No, seriously,” I said,” The hotel designer created a FEELING here and I want to replicate it for my house guests.”

In addition to being beautifully decorated – the reason the room felt so welcoming was that all my “needs” as a guest were anticipated and prepared for before I stepped in the room, not after I called room service!  Anything I could possibly desire to make my stay enjoyable was already there (albeit a steep price for some). The point is, the attention to detail was outstanding.

With this in mind I want to share 7 finishing touches you can incorporate to create a WOW guest bedroom your holiday guests will be talking about!

Pinterest 2015

Special Touch #1 – When preparing your guest bedroom, make it extra inviting by including a selection of magazines about your guests’ interests or hobbies, several books you think they would enjoy and an area map if they are new to the city. They will feel extra special that you took the time to personalize the room.  Another nice touch, provide a list of your favorite area restaurants and bakeries so guests feel comfortable venturing off on their own.

Continue reading

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Decorating Secrets Nobody Ever Tells You

Do you swoon while reading design magazines? Does your heart pitter patter while watching the television decorating shows (and not just because they have hunky hosts)? Does the thought of touring decorator show houses make you giddy? Well my friend you have a case of Design Love. Yup, it’s contagious. I know, I have an acute case myself.

It’s 2 a.m., my bedroom lights are off, my honey is snoring and I am quietly still surfing the web looking at sexy …new chaises, chandeliers, chenilles. Oh my god I can’t stop looking at beautiful products and spaces.

My doctor says I have absorbed extremely large doses of good taste, decorating secrets, and clever remodeling ideas and if I don’t cut it out there could be long-term consequences. “Consequences?” I asked “

“Yup, you are going to burst at the welt, I mean seams, and tell everyone you meet all your stylish and clever ideas and then, and then …..”

“And then,” I interrupt, “everyone will know my decorating secrets and get to live in a space they love,” I smile. I can live with that prescription.

Secret #1 – Think Like a Supermodel

If you want to create a sense of height and drama in a space, mount your drapery hardware higher above you window and closer to the ceiling. This will make your room appear “tall” with long flowing drapes, as well as add visual impact particularly if your fabric has a large pattern or bold color.

Secret #2 – Tell Me A Story

Bookcases shouldn’t be boring. Paint the inside back and sides (if you want) of your bookcase in a complementary color to your room. Then pick up that same color in select room accessories. This will make the bookcases’ displayed items pop, while creating visual interest and cohesiveness in your space.

Decorating Secrets Bookcase

This back-painted bookcase adds personality and showcases its’ contents with a pretty shade of blue. House Beautiful, August 2009.

Secret #3 – Come Closer Baby

Guess what? You don’t have to have a sofa in your living or great room. Really. Three or four comfortable upholstered chairs around a cocktail table or large ottoman is conversational, intimate and more interesting.

Continue reading

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7.5 Lighting Tips to Create Va-Va-Voom in Your Bedroom

Since the Superbowl of love, Valentine’s Day, is in February  and there is a lot of attention on the, ahem…, bedroom, I thought I would offer 7.5 tips to recreate that stylish, sexy look you see in hotels suites in your own home.

Now don’t despair, you don’t have to have a four-diamond budget to create a feeling of relaxation, comfort, and style.  Just follow these guidelines and you will be enjoying the “suite life.”

I recently spent a week at the fabulous Venetian/Palazzo hotel in Las Vegas (, and our suite, ok…, mini-suite, was smoking hot due to the designer’s artful layering of low-voltage halogen lighting, task lighting and natural light resulting in a knock-out look.

My honey walked in the room and said “Wow!” (and he wasn’t talking about me).

So, I can’t say enough about how much impact the right lighting has on the mood and feeling of a bedroom. You can select luxurious fabrics, a fabulous wall color, great art, but if the lighting isn’t positioned to highlight these design features it is money wasted and a missed opportunity to create the ambience you desire.

Lighting Tips Palazzo

This fab suite at the Palazzo Hotel Las Vegas evokes drama with accent lights spotlighting the ceiling-height upholstered headboards.

If you like this more dramatic look featured in many hotel rooms — concentrated pools of light from above and darker room corners or edges — think about installing small, recessed 50 watt halogen lights in select areas on the ceiling. Continue reading

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