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Why hiring an interior designer is a good idea.

As the weather cools down and we start spending more time indoors, our focus can shift toward the interiors of our homes and how they look. This can be a good time to think about hiring an interior designer if you haven’t ever done so. Whether you have no idea where to begin, have ideas but need help tying things together or don’t have the time to execute a plan yourself, hiring an interior designer can be a smart decision, especially if you have invested a good bit of money into your home and want to showcase it to look its best. If you hire a good and experienced designer you will be happy that you choose to do so. Here are few good reasons to think about taking the plunge and what you should expect if you do. Interior Designers can save you time and money. It might sound strange to hear that hiring a designer can save you money since you will incur the additional cost of a design fee, however doing so could potentially help you avoid costly mistakes. Have you ever spent time searching for and then buying items, only to decide you are not happy with them once at home? Making selections for your home can be overwhelming but with a good designer’s assistance you will be steered in the right direction so your entire space can come together as a whole.

  1. Interior designers provide a professional assessment and work within your budget. A good, experienced designer can give you a professional assessment of your home to help you determine what can be repurposed and what should be edited. This information can help you determine your budget which your designer should work within, or tell you up front if it isn’t realistic give the scope of the project. Additionally, your designer should develop a full plan before making any purchases so you will know exactly what your project will cost before you start spending money.

    Interior designers are experts at space planning.  A good designer will be well versed in space planning and can determine the best furniture layout for a space. This is critical to determine how the room functions and how it reads aesthetically. Your designer can, and should, provide you with a detailed floor plan indicating the sizes of all furniture pieces. This will ensure that the furniture you are purchasing will fit your space and make your room look and feel its best.

  2. Interior Designers can provide you with a quality rendering. If you have trouble envisioning how your space will look once the project is finished, you can hire a designer who is able to hand draw a rendering or who is experienced with rendering software. This can be an invaluable tool to help you see what your room will look like before you start to finalize your design plan.

  3. Interior Designers are your liaison. If you are taking on a renovation project, your designer will help build a good relationship with your architect or contractor early on and can head off design misses in your overall plan. This is crucial in managing time and money. Additionally, designers are trained to think about things you may overlook. It is important that the lighting, furnishing, and traffic flow issues be addressed before construction begins in any project. If your living room sofa is floating in a the middle of the room you want to make sure that you not only have proper outlets available but that you are not tripping over them when you walk through the room.

  4. Interior Designers will give you the Wow Factor. Designers can help to give you the “wow” factor you’ve been looking for. They are trained to know scale, proportion, color, size, texture, etc. and to see an overall picture that a client often cannot.  They will introduce elements into a space that you may not have considered without their input.  They can help you push the limit that leads to a truly amazing result. I hope I have given you some insight about how a good interior designer can help you make your home the space you have always dreamed it could be.

The 7 Principles of Interior Design

As an interior designer I love to look through home magazines to get inspiration from the spaces that come alive with beautiful furniture, interesting lighting and touchable fabrics.  However, one of the biggest frustrations I hear from homeowners, who also subscribe to these publications, is that they don’t know how to achieve those results in their own homes.  Well fear no more because I am going to give you an inside look at the world of interior design so you can have spectacular rooms of your very own.  The trick to giving any space a fabulous look that feels cohesive and pulled together is to follow the seven basic principles that interior designers live by.  If you pair that knowledge with practice and experimentation you will be on your way to creating a truly beautiful home.

 The first principle to consider is Unity.  When designing interiors it is necessary to think of the house as a series of spaces linked together by halls and stairways.  As such, there needs to be  a common style that runs throughout to unify the whole.   This is not to say that all design elements should be the same, but that they should work together to complement each other and strengthen the whole composition.  “Have I achieved unity?” is a question that a designer will ask him/herself after finishing a design. “Is there anything in this space that does not contribute to the overall design concept?”  The answers should confirm that a good design is not a whole but a sum of its parts.

Balance can be described as the equal distribution of visual weight in a room and is an important factor to incorporate into all interior spaces. Balance can be achieved in one of three ways: symmetrical, asymmetrical, and radial.

Symmetrical balance is usually found in traditional interiors and is accomplished when one side of a design mirrors the other side from a straight center point.  An example of this would be the same object found on either side of a fireplace mantle or matching side tables and lamps on either side of a bed.  Symmetrical balance is found in the human form so we are innately comfortable in a balanced setting.

Asymmetrical balance is achieved by using dissimilar objects that have equal visual weight or eye attraction.  It is more casual and less contrived in feeling, but more difficult to achieve.  Examples of asymmetrical balance would be mismatched tables and lamps on either side of a sofa.  Asymmetry suggests movement, and leads to more lively interiors.

Radial symmetry is when all the elements of a design are arrayed around a center point. A spiral staircase is an excellent example of radial balance. Though not often employed in interiors, it can provide an interesting counterpoint if used appropriately.

 Emphasis is about creating a feature in the room dominant enough to draw attention and interesting enough to encourage the viewer to look further.  We generally refer to this as the focal point of the room, and a fireplace or a window with a beautiful view would be two good examples.   If there isn’t a focal point in your room you can create one by highlighting an interesting piece of furniture or artwork, or by simply painting a contrasting color in one area. But creating a focal point is more than just picking a favorite object and making that the thing you want your guests to see first. You have to create a visual path or direction toward that point so that there is no mistaking what the focal point may be. Once the focal point has been established the furniture furniture plans should reflect it as the dominant feature in the room.  

A good way to define your focal point is to set it at a strong Contrast to the space surrounding it. Contrast is the fourth principle of interior design.  This can obviously be done with color, for instance a black chair in a white room, but also consider it with shape. If you have a very sleek square couch, add a round ottoman for contrast and interest. Consider positive and negative space, too. Sometimes a void (negative space) creates a bigger statement than a solid object (positive space) so it is important to create balance between solid and void.  Positive space is color, furniture, artwork, area rugs and bold flooring. Negative space is the emptiness that helps us to find the focal point. Too much positive space means visual clutter and too much negative space indicates coldness and an unfinished room.

As in music, Rhythm in design is all about creating patterns of repetition and contrast to create visual interest.  It is defined as continuity, recurrence or organized movement and is achieved by using the same element, or series of elements to move your eye around the room. For instance, you can establish a rhythm by using a color in the pillows, picking it up in a painting, and echoing it again in a rug, or by using the same fabric on a sofa and an accent pillow in a chair.

Repetition is the use of the same element more than once throughout a space. It is the art of creating a pattern either with the objects in a space or with the physical patterns of fabric and decorative items in a space.  Maybe it is a series of objects lining a mantle or a stack of books on a shelf.  Use your imagination, the possibilities are endless.

Finally we have Scale which relates to shape and size, and the ratio of one design element to another, or one element to the whole.  It is important to consider the principles of scale and in your projects. Scale refers to the size of your room versus the size of the contents, patterns, and even quantity of contents in a room. Improper use of scale can spell disaster.  The most obvious example of scale is making sure that the size of your furniture is proportion to the size of your room.

Well there you have it, the knowledge that a well designed room incorporates the seven principles of interior design so they all work together to create a dramatic, beautiful room that pleases the eye, yet is functional for those who live in it.

Are Your Colors Making You Cranky?

How Room Color Can Affect Your Mood.

 


Is there a particular color that you are always drawn to? Then perhaps you've experienced just a hint of how colors can affect your emotions. Depending upon one’s age, gender, ethnic background or the local climate certain colors, or groups of colors, tend to elicit particular reactions and affect how we feel.

This, of course, translates into our homes when we are selecting the colors with which we will surround ourselves. Those colors can make us feel happy, sad, relaxed, energized and yes ... even cranky. Therefore, when selecting color for your home it is  important to choose not only those that reflect your likes and your personality but the ones that elicit the appropriate emotions suitable to the function of each room.

Colors behave in three basic ways, they are either active, passive, or neutral. Additionally, light colors are expansive and airy, making rooms seem larger and brighter while dark colors are sophisticated and warm giving large rooms a more intimate feel. When selecting color you should ask yourself what mood you want to create and then determine which color, or combination of colors, will help you achieve that mood?   

So let’s look at how particular colors can make us feel.

Red impacts a room’s energy level. It has been shown to raise blood pressure and speed respiration and heart rate, so it’s a good choice when you want to stir up excitement. In a living room or dining room, red draws people together and stimulates conversation. In an entryway, it creates a strong first impression. It is usually considered too stimulating for bedrooms, but if you’re primarily using the room after dark, the lamplight will make the color appear muted, rich, and elegant. However, when there is too much red present, or if someone is sensitive to red,  it can elicit feelings of irritation, anger or hostility. Often, red is best suited as an accent color instead of the primary color in decor.

Yellow captures the joy of sunshine and evokes happiness. It’s perfect for kitchens, dining rooms, and bathrooms, where a happy color is energizing and uplifting. In halls, entries, and small spaces, yellow can feel expansive and welcoming. However, yellow is the color that is most fatiguing on the eyes.  Perhaps this is why babies seem to cry more in a yellow room. A good thing to remember when ruling out colors for your nursery!

Blue reduces blood pressure, slows respiration and heart rate. It’s considered calming, relaxing, and serene, and is often recommended for bedrooms and bathrooms. Be careful, however, as some blues can appear unpleasantly cool, especially in a room that receives little natural light. If you opt for a cooler blue as the primary color in a room, balance it with warm hues in your furnishings and fabrics. Additionally, dark blue evokes feelings of sadness, so be careful when using a darker blue as the primary color in a scheme.

Green is considered the most restful color for the eye. Combining the refreshing quality of blue and the cheerfulness of yellow, green is suited to almost any room in the home. In a kitchen, family room or living room, it encourages unwinding but has enough warmth to promote comfort and togetherness. In a bedroom, it’s soothing and pleasant and is believed to relieve stress by helping us to relax.  It’s calming effect makes green a great primary color in any decorating scheme. 

Purple in its darkest values, like eggplant, is rich, dramatic and sophisticated. It’s associated with luxury as well as creativity, and as an accent or secondary color, can give a room depth. Lighter versions of purple, such as lavender and lilac, bring the same restful quality to a room as blue, but without the risk of feeling chilly.

Orange is a warm, inviting and joyful color. It evokes feelings of sociability and happiness. It has an emotionally strong presence, and promotes extroverted behavior  so it is a fantastic color to use in gathering spaces to encourage interaction. Because orange contains red, it can also be overused, so keep in mind that too much orange, or an orange that is too bright or intense, can create overwhelming, irritating or frustrating feelings.

Neutrals (black, gray, white and brown) can be a fabulous starting point in a color scheme because of their flexibility. One can use a neutral as the primary hue in a room and add color to liven things up or subtract it to calm things down.  Neutrals are a good bet for those who are not comfortable with lots of bold color.  Black is best used in small doses as an accent as it will ground the color scheme and give it depth.

And don’t forget the ceiling!

The ceiling represents one-sixth of the space in a room, and is often referred to as the fifth wall. However, most of the time the ceiling gets nothing more than a coat of white paint. In fact, for decades white has been considered not only the safest but also the best choice for ceilings.

As a general rule, ceilings that are lighter than the walls feel higher, while those that are darker feel lower, however, lower  need not mean claustrophobic as visually lowered ceilings can evoke cozy intimacy. A room with neutral walls can come alive with a pop of color on the ceiling.

These general guidelines are a good starting point in your search for the perfect paint color. But remember that color choice is a very personal matter. You will be living with your new paint color every day, so choose a hue that suits you, your family and your life style.

And don’t wait until the last minute to select your color. Paint can look dramatically different on a wall than it does on a chip in the store and the changing light in a room will impact the appearance of the color throughout the day and night.

ALWAYS purchase a sample pint or quart of your color selection and put it on the walls in a few places throughout the room.  Look at it several times during the day and night to make sure that it appeals to you in all types of light. You will be happy you took the time as you enjoy the new, perfect color in your room.

For more color ideas, visit my Baltimore Interior Design website at www.millbrookcircle.com.

Opening of The 36th Baltimore Symphony Decorators' Showhouse


 

Today the 36th Baltimore Symphony Decorators’ Show House will open to the public with a champagne brunch at 10:30 followed by a ribbon cutting at noon.  It has been a very exciting and chaotic few days for us as we put the finishing touches on our rooms and then hosted guests of the private parties through out the last week.

Feedback on the house has been wonderful. The Eck house is smaller than some of the past Symphony Show Houses, yet the smaller scale of the rooms seems to be very relatable to those who have passed through. It is a comfortable, livable home and the group of talented Baltimore Interior Designers with whom I am fortunate to be participating have turned out some very creative rooms!

The room that I designed called “Blossom Bedroom” shaped up to be the warm, exciting and sophisticated retreat that I envisioned. The bedroom was designed to be a space any young girl would love that would grow with her until she set off for college. I did this by combining fresh colorful fabrics with updated traditional furniture and then added contemporary elements throughout.  

The floral fabric used for the valance was the inspiration for the whole room.  It is a beautiful hand printed organic linen that has the young, yet sophisticated feel I wanted to convey. From there I choose a chocolate chenille for the headboard and a pink and cream chain link pattern for the bed linens and benches.  A wonderful, young artist named Emily Dickson (yes, we are related) did a series of blossom pieces for the room. She got her inspiration from the fabric as well.

Then it was on to paint color. In order to keep the room feeling refined, I choose a warm neutral color for the walls and added a pop of pink on my 5th wall, the ceiling.  The result is a very cozy space where the walls reflect the warm color of the ceiling and make you want to come in and stay for a while.

The house is located at 1996 Cromwell Bridge Road, Baltimore, MD 21234.

Hours are:

Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday: 10 am – 4 pm

Thursday: 10 am – 8 pm

Sunday: 12 pm – 5 pm.  

For more information you can visit the BSO Decorator Show house Facebook page athttps://www.facebook.com/pages/Baltimore-Symphony-Decorator-Show-House/148074048646727.

Hope to see you at the house.  Please come visit me in the "Blossom Bedroom" and let me know what you think

The 36th Baltimore Symphony Decorators' Showhouse

This spring I am fortunate enough to be participating in the 36th Baltimore Symphony Decorators' Show House. The event will take place at The Eck House, a home built in 1972 on land that was part of Nicholas Ruxton Gay's Good Fellowship Farm. The farm changed hands thoughout the 18th and 19th centuries, until it was sold to Charles and Viola Eck in 1942.

Then, in the early 1990's when the property came under development pressure, Baltimore County government stepped in to purchase the now 45-acre property to be included in the new Cromwell Valley Park. In addition to this beautiful residence, the park includes open meadows, organic farm fields, orchards, a marked trail system, and past historic structures.

The Decorators’ Showhouse, an annual event, is the largest fundraiser for the BSO. I am so excited to be participating this year with a very talented group of Baltimore Interior Designers and Decorators. As we have less than a month to pull our spaces together before move in day, I thought it would be fun to share my behind the scenes preparations. 

The space I am designing is a bedroom for a teenage girl with a palette of chocolate browns and raspberries. I love my fabrics, they give the room a lot of character while still maintaining a sophisticate feel. The fabrics inspired my color choices for the walls and the ceiling and also for a surprise inside the closet. (If I gave all my secrets away, no one would come to the show house!)

The furniture I will use is a combination of traditional and modern elements. As the pieces start to arrive I will give you some sneak peeks! Because the bed is always the focal point of any bedroom I designed a custom modular headboard fabricated from individually upholstered sections of chocolate chenille which will serves as a backdrop for the colorful fabrics used for the bed linens and pillows. I have a fabulous upholstered chair with cool modern lines, and found the greatest button tufted ceramic garden bench to sit beside the chair.  

Show houses are always exciting for designers to participate in because we become our own client. As such each rooms is a true reflection of our individual design aesthetic. Additionally, because  we absorb the cost of decorating the room, we tend to come up with some very clever solutions to design problems in an attempt to cut corners cost wise. I hope you will consider coming out and seeing the work that all these great designers have put into their spaces.

The house opens on April 29 and runs through May 20. For more information you can visit the BSO Decorator Showhouse Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/BSDSH. If you “like” the page you can keep up on the progress of all the designers at the house.

For now I am busy pulling together the final pieces of my design...new hardware on the bedside tables, selecting frames for the custom artwork done by a fabulous up and coming young artist, deciding at what point enough bed pillows are enough bed pillows, etc...stay tuned, I will be back with more updates!

Saying Goodbye To Watts and Hello to Lumens

Any interior designer worth her fee will tell you that lighting is as important an element in a room as fabric, furniture or color.  We place emphasis on the need for ceiling lighting, lamp lighting, accent lighting and in particular the type and amount of light given off by those fixtures.  In the past when our incandescent bulbs burnt out all we needed to know to replace them was the wattage and the type of light (soft or bright) they gave off. Well things have certainly changed! 

By now you are probably aware that the federal government is phasing out energy-wasting incandescent light bulbs in favor of more energy efficient bulbs.   With these new bulbs comes a new way to measure their brightness and new labeling which lists the bulb's lumens, or brightness; its estimated yearly energy cost; how long the bulb is expected to last; its appearance, from warm to cool; how much energy, or watts, it uses; and whether the bulb contains mercury.  Wow!  

As I have mentioned, lighting is a very important part of my business so it shouldn’t surprise you that my reaction to these changes has been to pick up several packages of incandescent bulbs every time I go to Target.   And while I wouldn’t necessarily call that hoarding...upon reflection I decided that perhaps it was time for me navigate the world of lumens.  

I learned several things while saying goodbye to watts and hello to lumens. While it is hard to let go of the notion that higher wattage equals brighter light, that doesn’t always hold true anymore, as fluorescent and LED bulbs use less energy (watts) but provide the same amount of light (lumens).  Here is  a little cheat sheet to help you convert watts to lumens.

100 watts = 1490-2600 lumens

75 watts  = 1050-1489 lumens

60 watts =  750-1049 lumens

40 watts = 310-749 lumens

25 watts =  150-309 lumens

Regardless of the lumens, different types of bulbs produce different colors of light.  This is very important to consider when choosing a bulb so I have gathered a little information about some of the more readily available bulbs on the market.

CFL

While CFL’s are incredibly energy-efficient for the amount of light they output they do have some downfalls.  Most require a warm up time so when you first turn them on there is a delay before they are at their brightest.  Additionally they cannot be dimmed and they contain mercury so there are disposal issues.  But the most disappointing fact, in my opinion, is that they don’t really replicate the color temperature of an incandescent light bulb very well.  CFL’s are a good choice for places like closets and hallways where light temperature is not particularly important.

LED

More and more LED light bulbs are becoming available but they are the most expensive replacement option and the lumen output is not comparable to the incandesents.  Additionally, an incandescent light bulb’s light is omnidirectional meaning light is outputted all around the bulb. The LED light bulbs that I have tried have not been able to replicate this, however, they are the most energy efficient lighting available.

Halogen

While Halogen light bulbs are not nearly as energy efficient as CFLs and LED’s and they don’t last as long, they are dimmable, they have a nice color temperature and they are at full light output immediately after they are turned on.  Additionally, they contain no mercury.  In my book halogen bulbs are a good replacement for the old incandescents, especially in rooms where you have dimmers and light temperature is important.

As the demand for energy efficient lighting increases manufacturers are improving their bulbs and introducing new ones. There are several light bulb options available now and a combination of those options is probably the best solution in most homes.  As consumers we need to evaluate lighting needs in each room and buy bulbs accordingly.  Or...you can just race to Target...

New Year, Fresh Look - 5 Quick, Easy and Inexpensive Ways to Freshen Up Your Home

Has the New Year motivated you to do a little freshening up at home?

In January, when the holiday chaos is put on  hold for another year, and it is to early to get out into the garden, I always find myself feeling inspired to make some changes around my home. Adding some bright color and pattern to your rooms can help to alleviate winter’s gloom, and can be done without spending a tremendous amount of time and money.  With with that in mind, I thought I would share  a few quick, easy, and low  budget ways to freshen up your home for 2012.  

 

Start with your throw pillows, they can give any room a punch of color in seconds. If your sofa and chairs are upholstered in a print, look for solid pillows that highlight the less dominant colors in your upholstery fabric.  If your furnishings are upholstered in solids, then patterned pillows are your answer. You can go with some of the latest trends, like trellis patterns, or suzani prints, and when those trends fade — as they all do — you will be happy that you didn’t spend lots of money to get the look!

 

 

A new duvet cover or comforter can transform your bedroom.  If your walls are painted in neutral shades, almost any color or print will work.  Conversely, if your walls are the source of color in the room, then a beautiful neutral with hints of your wall color is what you want to select.  Make sure that you choose something that you love.  Your bedroom is your oasis so the decor should make you want to spend time in the room.  Splurge for a few coordinating throw pillows and you will feel like you are staying at the Ritz.

 

 

One of the quickest ways to instantly refresh a space is to paint. Painting a small room can be accomplished in an afternoon, especially if you're using just one color.  If you don’t know what color to choose, spend some time getting inspiration at design websites like Houzz.com.  And don't stop with the walls!  Furniture can be transformed with a stroke of color, and a piece of painted furniture is a great way to add pizzaz to any room. To create a colorful accent piece, try Tangerine Tango, a vivid shade of red-orange that was just selected by The Pantone Color Institute as the 2012 Color of the Year.  Or, to get a Scandinavian look, try painting a table  with Annie Sloan Chalk Paint or any of the lighter shades of Milk Paint.  You could also pick up a case piece with an interesting drawer arrangement and paint it two tone to create a spectacular entry piece.

 

 

 

If you haven’t rearranged your furniture since you moved in, now may be a great time to consider doing so. If there is a feature in the room, like a fireplace or a window with a great view, make sure that is your focal point.   Moving the television, or swapping a long sofa for two comfortable chairs with ottomans, can immediately give your room a fresh feel.  You can also think about repurposing some of the furniture you already own.  

 

Finally, once you have made all your changes, give the rooms a good straightening.  Clean off the top of dressers and tables, display your favorite things and store (or toss) the rest.  You will not only have a new look for the new year but you will feel organized too.

Un-Decorating For The Holidays - A Great Time To Mix It Up.

Taking down the holiday decorations can also be a great time to reaccess your decor.

Every year when I pull out the Christmas decorations I wonder why I didn't take pictures the year before so I wouldn't have to re-invent the wheel.  But then I remember that one of my favorite part of the holidays is, in fact, re-decorating each year.    I love changing thing up and using my decorations in different areas of the house each season.  It keeps things fresh and exciting.   

This is also true of the un-decorating process.  Post holiday un-decorating is a wonderful time to reassess your decor and give your home a fresh look for the New Year.  During the holidays, we often move furnishings and accessories to make room for the Christmas tree and other decorations.   Well, when it’s time to take it all down, resist the urge to put things back exactly as they were, and take the opportunity to mix it up a bit.

Because most of us have color schemes that we carry through out our homes, moving around accessories (and in some cases even furniture) is not  as strange as it may seem.  A great place to start is with your photographs.  Collect every photo in your home and put them all on a table.  Then pick the ones you love the most and put them in the rooms you spend the most time in.  If this gets you motivated, do the same with your other accessories.  The same rule of thumb applies...put the thing you love in the rooms you use the most, fill in with the things you like, and get rid of the things you don’t like (it is the New Year after all).  Think outside of the box a bit.  Just because you had a stack of books on your coffee table, doesn’t mean you have to use books again.  Try a tray with some vases, or perhaps a great bowl you had in your bookshelves.   Find magazine pictures with arrangements you like and recreate them with the things you have.  You will be surprised at how much new life you can give your rooms with just a few small changes.

Have fun and Happy New Year!