Creating environments to meet your needs and suit your lifestyle.

Your Unique Interior

November, 2006

Source: Pioneer Press

Your Unique Interior

The Importance of Feeling Connected to Our Interiors

Often we see photographs of homes; beautiful homes stylishly decorated in hues and textures so lovely you want to touch the page in hopes that the aurora created there might somehow be transported through your finger, through your person and into your home.  Then what?  You have a house perfectly appointed with “things” that don’t mean anything to you, however well put together they are.   Does this really matter?

Consider a broad definition of home.  Basically, a home is a place of safety, both physically and emotionally, a place of love, support and respect, and a place of comfort.   To say that our home should be a place of beauty is icing on the cake.  Now, we need to determine whether the “things” we put into a house help define it as the home we want it to be.

Here is an easy test: imagine yourself staying at an elegant hotel.  This is a hotel of luxury with sheets that are crisp and cool against your skin, towels so thick they could be mistaken for pillows. There is thick, lush carpeting and the entire space is decorated in a sumptuous, serene color palette.  This brief description is undeniably appealing for a number of reasons, one of them being our conditioned response to beauty.  It is enjoyable to be in a beautiful environment.

Yet, how long would you stay in this hotel before pulling out a photo of your partner or child, or picking up your journal to record the day’s events or settling in with the book you’re currently reading.  It wouldn’t be long before even the luxuries of such a place would not be completely satisfying.   As human beings we want to be connected to our surroundings.  We respond to senses and images that jog our memories, that inspire us, comfort us, that make us laugh.  These are important “things” to have in a place we call home.  Ultimately, your home will be a reflection of you if it serves the purposes we first articulated of providing a safe, supportive, comfortable environment because to feel these emotions in a physical space, there must be something in the space to which we feel a connection.

The furnishing process shouldn’t be like going to a department store (or the Merchandise Mart) for a one-stop shop though obviously there are furnishing needs that can largely be met with standard pieces.  It is in the details that our interiors should be as unique as we are.

What kinds of things do have meaning to us?  Something that has been passed down to us from our family, an object given to us by a mentor or a friend who may no longer be here, these are meaningful .  Even things we have recently acquired in some memorable way, through travel or study   may provide a meaningful connection.  Photographs are a good example of this.  A friend recently framed a collection of vintage photographs taken in the neighborhood of New York City where her husband grew up.  I have a simple wooden box on a shelf full of hand-made dominos.  The box and its contents were made by my great grandfather for my grandfather who was born in 1894.  The box is simple but still a treasure.

Objects like these that are uniquely personal are not only a reflection of us but they start to make up our own history.  They’re interesting and clearly have meaning.  Set them out and enjoy them.  Chances are very good that they will enhance your interior environment and, more importantly, you will feel good about having them around you.  It doesn’t have to be a priceless dining room set or an heirloom oriental rug to make an impact, though these are nice too!

“Zone”-ing, Conservation & Baby Boomers Are Changing Kitchen Design

May, 2005

Source: Pioneer Press

“Zone”-ing, Conservation & Baby Boomers Are Changing Kitchen Design

The standard for kitchen design over the last half century has been “The Triangle,” smoothly linking the three points of refrigerator, sink and cooktop in the kitchen.  While still functional, the triangle has evolved and kitchen needs now commonly reflect progress in several areas:  more efficient kitchen appliances and storage; increasingly sophisticated entertainment at home; energy conservation objectives; and the sensibilities of an aging Baby Boomer population.

Consequently, we hear homeowners and consumers asking for kitchens with “zones”, features that minimize energy output and provide well-designed and strategically located solutions that will age with them, limiting the need for upgrades and retrofitting as kitchen needs as well as people needs change with time and age.

Seldom are all kitchen features in use at once—we could only wish that we had enough people helping in the kitchen to man every station at one time—so it can be helpful to group functions together to the extent space and budget allow.  Consider your culinary habits and style to determine the kitchen layout.  Some households need a “baking zone,” others need a child-friendly “zone” or features for an aging family member, and most need areas for food preparation, cleanup and service for entertaining.

Situate food and cookware storage in one area, limiting the impact on other space and people in the kitchen.  Create a zone for entertainment preparation near access to the living and dining areas.  Keep heavier service pieces here and consider a lower height, single bowl sink for easier cleanup.  Perhaps this would be a good place for a second dishwasher.

Consider installing stacked dishwasher “drawers” which allow you to keep frequently used kitchenware clean without having to wait for a full load to run the entire cycle.  This newer take on a standard kitchen appliance gets our vote for accomplishing space and energy efficiency, easy access and versatility.  Two drawers stacked fit in most standard dishwasher openings.

The drawer concept has been expanded as well for cookware, pantry storage, dish drawers and even refrigerator drawers.  Drawers, shelves and bins that pull out rather than remain stationary make it much easier on the back, enabling one to lift heavier items more comfortably and safely.  It is also easier to find things in a drawer that pulls out.  Roll-out mechanisms work for pantry shelves, cookware drawers, trash and recycling bins, even small appliances such as food processors and coffee makers.

While “The Triangle” is still as good starting point for kitchen layout, progress in appliance technology, energy efficiency and human longevity make it possible to design truly custom kitchens suitable throughout a lifetime.

Summer Furnishings at Summer’s End

August, 2004

Source: Pioneer Press

Summer Furnishings at Summer’s End

The best time to determine what your outdoor living space needs is during the season you are using it.  This coincides perfectly with the turn of the season retail sales.  The outdoor furniture retailers will soon be busy preparing to sell off summer inventories to make room for their winter stock.  Believe it or not we still have one month until Labor Day and, depending on the weather, perhaps a month after that to enjoy our patios, porches and gardens.  It’s worth getting in on the best products at end-of-the-season prices instead of putting it off until next spring for top dollar.

Start with the big stuff.  Access your outdoor furniture needs.  Begin looking for sale notices or call the showroom or retailer of products that appeal to you.  They will be happy to tell you when their sale will start.

Many places that sell outdoor furniture also repair it.  If the frames of your existing furniture are in good shape but the fabric needs repair, call a local retailer to see if they will fix it.  If you furniture is all metal or wood and you have cushions that need to be replaced or repaired, many of the same retailers can assist you there as well.

Midsummer is a great time to purchase outdoor planters and pots, especially the over-sized variety.  In May, when you were shopping for annuals or perennials you undoubtedly saw some splendid looking pots for the walk or patio.  Then you saw the price and decided that the plants were enough of a splurge.  The colors of the flowers themselves will be enough, never mind the decade old terra-cotta pot they’ll sit in.  While it is true that the pot matters little compared to what’s in it, it is a real delight to see a beautiful planter filled with cascading flora at a prominent spot on the walk.

Garden ornaments such as trellis’, water features, bird baths and outdoor fireplaces are great additions to outdoors spaces.  It is a good time to consider more functional objects as well such as gardening tools, hose guards, table umbrellas, hammocks and even picnic equipment.

There are many possibilities for lighting in your outdoor spaces.  Great looking lanterns, strings of festive lights, torch lights that stick in the ground and line the walk, all have a certain allure on a summer evening, especially at the right price.

The world of outdoor grilling products has exploded.  Some outdoor grills are more substantial than the typical kitchen range and priced accordingly.  Of course there are several smaller, even portable grills, on the market and as well as a number of handsome gas grills with plenty of btus, warming shelves and stainless finishes.  With amenities like these available at good prices it makes considering an upgrade very appealing.  

Set the Table for Summer

June, 2004

Source: Pioneer Press

Set the Table for Summer

The outdoor dining and entertaining season is here.  We may finally be able to set a dining table outside for our guests (but have the pontoon boat at the ready just in case the monsoon season begins again).  Liven up your summer table with a piece or two of seasonal table fare.  Not only will specially chosen pieces perk up your table, over the years of collecting just one or two at a time, there will be a story behind each one.

Table Linens

Assess your table linens for outdoors and in.  Take stock of any changes or additions you could make that would be a refreshing change.  Consider adding a second color over top of an existing solid color tablecloth or add print napkins to a solid tablecloth.  This works in reverse as well, adding solid napkins, or even a variety of solid but coordinating colors to a print tablecloth.

Serving Pieces

Consider whether you might need additional serving pieces like platters, bowls or pitchers.  If you have mostly solid colors in dishware or table linens, a whimsical painted pitcher would be a great addition.  The same would be true for a colorfully painted platter.  After the food is long gone, the platter will anchor the table with color until the last guest departs.  All you need is a large colorful piece or two to create a festive table.

Serving Utensils

Serving utensils can be like small pieces of art, sculptural, whimsical and fun, or handsomely traditional.  Whatever the style of your tableware, dinner guests always appreciate      weighty utensils that work well and are handsome to boot.

Family Outdoor Dining and Picnics

Families with smaller children may especially want to consider fun and festive dishware in safe, durable plastic.  This year the colorful designs are particularly hip and easy to find.  Target offers some great looking sets as does Crate & Barrel.

World Market may also be a good bet.  This just might be the year to stock or restock your picnic basket for walks in the forest preserves, trips to the beach or special evenings at Ravinia.


To assist you in setting your table for summer, any of these sources are worth a stop when you are downtown:  I.D. at 3341 N. Clark St., Chicago, 773.755.4343; Material Possessions at 704 N. Wabash Ave., Chicago, 312.467.1490, and in Winnetka at 954 Green Bay Rd., 847.446.8840; No Place Like at 300 W. Grand Ave., Chicago, 312.822.0550; Pass the Salt & Pepper, 3310 N. Broadway, Chicago, 773.975.9789; Porte Rouge at 1911 W. Division St., Chicago, 312.269.2800; Stitch, 1723 N. Damen Ave., Chicago, 773.782.1570; Table Manners, 2112 Central St., Evanston, 847.492.9664, and Williams Daniels at 1918 W.Montrose Ave., Chicago, 773.293.3851.

For very special linen pieces go to Frette on Oak Street and Pratesi just down the street for a look at sumptuous silks, linens and cottons.  Bedside Manor Ltd. on Halsted or on Green Bay in Winnetka is a wonderful place to look for table and bed linens, guest towels and hand towels.

For sources that may be closer to home, try Multiple Choices, 843 Elm St., Winnetka, 847.441.5240; Dinner At Eight, 1167 Wilmette Ave., Wilmette, 847.251.8380; Adesso in Highland Park at 600 Central Ave., 847.433.8525.  Also The Artisan Shop in Plaza DeLago, Wilmette, always has something stunning you can’t quite decide if you have to give it as a hostess gift or it would be alright to keep it for yourself.

So Many Boots, So Little Space

February, 2004

Source: Pioneer Press

So Many Boots, So Little Space

Winter has settled in and snow invites those young and young at heart to get out and play.  Short of putting a mudroom addition on you house, quite a luxury if you live in an older home, how can you gracefully deal with the wet snow pants, sopping mittens and dripping boots that constantly adorn your doorway?  With some creativity these seasonal challenges can be met without too much trouble.

Off the Floor

Boot trays are the best thing since sliced bread.  They sure beat the old towel I’ve seen thrown down to catch incoming snow.  These boot trays are like the “little black dress” of door mats as they are narrow enough to fit in most hallways with even the smallest ones holding three to four pair of wet boots and shoes.  Yet they remain unobtrusive.  The basic black plastic cleans easily and somehow the tray makes things look tidier.  Set the boot tray  close to the door mat so boots and shoes can be set right on the tray without wet footprints that require immediate wipe-up.

In wet snowy weather it is also a good idea to use a door mat with contours so the water won’t stay on the surface, along with a heavy rubber backing.  This way there won’t be concern about ruining something you love.  After the muddy spring season, put your colorful rug back in its place.

Off the Door

Is it a gender thing or does no one else’s husband think that a door knob is an extra hook for a coat too damp to be put away?  When wet outdoor clothes come in, the closet isn’t the best place for them to drip dry.  Perhaps the entrance way has hooks or pegs to hang coats over the boot tray that sits right below.  Perhaps not.

Where there is a laundry room adjacent to the entry, or at least in striking distance, that’s the perfect place for drip drying.

If there is an attached garage adjacent to the back door, a row of pegs or hooks right beside the door but on the garage side is a great idea.  All types of stackable racks and shelves are available to create a perfect storage area tailored to your needs.  Where space is plentiful in this location, individual lockers or tall cubbies are another solution to the challenge of keeping hats, mittens, coats and even sports gear organized.  In fact, this area can serve as a more than adequate quasi-mudroom where there is none, with the only downside being the cold.  If clothes are really wet from outdoor play, you will probably want to dry them inside but storing them in the garage mudroom is no problem.

Where there is no alternative that allows for putting winter wonderland clothes out of sight, a coat tree can hold a load of damp clothes.  Set it on a mat to catch the drips so that cleaning two surfaces isn’t necessary.  After all, these ideas are really meant to be time-savers so you have time to do the things you want to do, like go play in the snow.

LuxeHome — The Luxurious Shopping Experience

October, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press

LuxeHome — The Luxurious Shopping Experience

Luxury abounds at The Merchandise Mart’s new LuxeHome collection of 24 boutiques featuring the most recognized and respected high-end products for the home from around the world.  The 90,000 square feet that make up LuxeHome is a showcase for the finest and newest concepts in kitchen, bath and home building.

It is open to the public and the trade Monday through Saturday.

This experience brings new meaning to the phrase “one stop shopping.” The consumer has a chance to see first hand the best of a range of styles for any given product offered.  Walking through LuxeHome is like walking through a well-edited kitchen and bath magazine.  The kitchen showrooms certainly highlight this.  From traditional (Christopher Peacock Cabinetry and Clive Christian) to cutting edge European contemporary kitchens (Poggenphl U.S., Verenna Chicago by Poliform of Italy and Studio Snaidero Chicago) and everything in between.  LuxeHome is a feast for the eyes.  In the Snaidero Chicago showroom, the motto is “form follows function,” yet the form is artful, even sculptural and very impressive in its unique approach to kitchen efficiency.

The tile, stone and bath boutiques also make quite a nice showing at Luxehome.  The latest trends in materials and their combinations are interestingly and artfully displayed.  You can lose yourself in the cavernous Waterworks showroom with its comprehensive range of products from the bathtub to the towels that furnish the classic bathroom.

Many other building products are showcased such as wood and stone flooring, windows and doors, lighting, closets, and door and cabinetry hardware.  Every boutique is well-planned and the experience of LuxeHome is a dream for consumers and designers alike.  This new concept at The Mart promises to be a model for the design and architecture industry.

Whether you are just thinking about a home renovation or new construction project, or are in the midst of one, a trip through LuxeHome would be instructive.  This new experience at The Mart also includes a schedule of events from special design shows to lectures by designers, authors and editors on specific design topics and trends.  Visit for upcoming special events.

Stylish Sustainable Floors

September, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press

Stylish Sustainable Floors

For many people, new green products are intriguing but mysterious.  Here are two floorcovering products with an edge and style that can’t be beat.


Marmoleum is a resilient floorcovering made from natural ingredients—linseed oil, wood flour, rosins, pigments and jute.  It comes in over 100 colorways, in sheets and tiles (thought not every color comes in both).  The tiles are 13 x 13, so mixing the color palette is an exercise in creativity where the sky’s the limit.  Imagine what you can do with so many colors to choose from—create a colorful mix with multi-colored tiles or use a neutral gray, brown or beige and drop in only a handful of one or two colors in strategic locations.

The people at Marmoleum say it all starts with nature.  Linseed oil is pressed from the flax plant. The flax plant, the source for linen, is an easily cultivated plant whose supply is readily renewable.  Pine Rosins are mixed with the linseed oil to produce a flexible binder.  The pine trees from which the rosins are extracted exist in abundance throughout the world.  Wood flour is obtained from managed forestry, including the planting of special forests.  No tropical hardwoods are used.  The vibrant colors are made from ecologically friendly pigments.  The backing used for Marmoleum sheets is made from spun yarn of strong jute fiber, Jute is plentiful and highly renewable.

All linoleum remnants are recycled back into the production process which achieves maximum waste reduction.  All adhesives are 100% solvent free and meet all low VOC requirements.  At the end of the product’s life, it is biodegradable.  For more information on Marmoleum contact


Flor is a modular peel and stick carpet system that comes in 100 colors, 30 styles, 11 textures and 8 new patterns.  It’s thoughtfully engineered to handle traffic, smartly designed to be liveable and stylish.  Sustainable carpet used to be obscure but now you see the Flor advertisements in all the home and interiors magazines, and for good reason.

The beauty of the modular system is that you can mix and match from the system of related colors and textures that were designed to work together.  You can order and install it yourself.

The Flor product and its packaging are completely recyclable.  The carpet is made from the corn plant.  The product was developed by the parent company Interface, a leader in the sustainable market for interiors products.

The variety of styles offered by Flor make it a great product choice for many rooms.  It can be used as a wall to wall product or as an area carpet, defining a furniture grouping.  If need be, you can peel up a square and wash it off in the sink.  If one piece needs to be replaced, change out one square.  Samples are also available by mail so you can check out the colors before you order.  For further information click

Recently, I had the opportunity to specify both Marmoleum and Flor for a client.  We used a field of neural gray Marmoleum for a study/family room with a dozen drop-ins of red and blue.  In the adjoining guest suite, we specified a neutral Flor color with a sparse 4 or so drop-ins of red.  The result was a clean, crisp look with a playful finish.  There is great satisfaction in implementing a successful design with sustainable products.

Shades Your Windows Wear Well

March, 2003

Source: Pioneer Press

Shades Your Windows Wear Well

A window shade is truly dressing for the window that enhances the window and shows off the molding. Blinds, shades and simple fabric panels provide the privacy you want and can make a small or big statement–whatever you desire.

The Minimalist

A solid or tidy geometric patterned fabric tucked into the inside of a window opening (inside mount) makes a sleek and stylish impression.  This treatment can take the form of what is essentially a roller shade with updated hardware or a roman shade.  The roman shade has two forms. One is a flat roman style where the fabric lies completely flat when the shade is down but gathers into horizontal pleats as it is pulled up.  The other is a pleated roman shade that has horizontal pleats even when the shade is all the way down.  There are other variations on these styles.

The fabric selected for the window treatment will be a major factor in the effect the shade or panel creates.  For the modernist style, the most typical fabrics to use are linen, cotton, silk and materials akin to rice paper such as polyurethane-coated woven fabric. Even a metal-plated nylon creates a striking contemporary line.

Also, whether or not the fabric should be lined is an issue that must be taken into consideration.   A lining will help create privacy and can add a visual (and real) weight to a fabric giving it a very different effect.  Silk should always be lined particularly of it will be in direct sunlight since sunlight will affect it quickly.  Finally, if you are concerned about the uniformity of your windows from the exterior, a point about which many designers feel strongly, a lining can certainly accomplish this.

The Traditionalist

For the more traditional home there are many possibilities.  A balloon shade is a classic traditional style which can be done in any number of fabrics and doesn’t have to be heavy looking.  With a translucent fabric the balloon shade can be an elegant yet light statement at the window.  There are a number of other styles that are variations on the roman shade with an element that softens the line.  Some of these are referred to as relaxed roman shades, London shades and the Brighton-style shade.  There are variations on these variations these as well.  Adding a trim to any of these shades or fabric panels can make a big difference.  The trim can turn a perfectly fine shade into an elegant statement.  This is particularly true of the roman style shades.

Don’t discount the roller shade that can be dressed up with the simple addition of a tassel or a row of fringe.  Natural material shades like wood and woven grasses may be right for a study or library.  These can be trimmed in fabric as well which can be coordinated with a fabric-covered valance.


If you are unfamiliar with shad e styles, you can get yourself up to speed by going to a shop like Calico Corners or any fabric store and ask to look through their catalogs.  The bookstore or even the library will have reference books.  If you have access to the web, go to Smith & Noble’s Windoware website at or call them for a catalog at 800.248.8888.  They have a multitude of styles that will surely give you some good ideas.

Once you know the style you are interested in you are ready to select the fabric.  Selecting your own fabric from the universe of fabrics is always a nice if you can swing it.  Sources for this include anything from showrooms at the Merchandise Mart to  more economical showrooms such as Off the Bolt at 1333 N. Kingsbury in Chicago.  Fabric stores are another way to go.  An alternative source for silks or linens can be found in Chicago’s Indian neighborhood on Devon Avenue.  One such place is Regal Traders Inc. at 2616 W. Devon.  The fabrics are gorgeous and the prices terrific.  The sari fabrics are also stunning.  I once made fabric window panels from two coordinating saris to create a light, soft covering.  This has the added benefit of a cultural experience where you can feel a world away but be close to home.

These simple style window treatments will not mask undulating wall plaster, crocked window trim and the like.  They are best in places where showing off the window, its frame or molding is a highlight.

I once read that “if heavily draped windows with puddling hemlines are the ball gowns of window couture, then graphically constructed blinds and shades are the little black dresses—they’re almost always elegant, appropriate and chic.”  Enjoy selecting your little black dress.

Tone Down the Lights and Warm up Your Space

October, 2002

Source: Pioneer Press

Tone Down the Lights and Warm up Your Space

How to Create Warm and Inviting Spaces in Your Home

Fall is upon us and we’re losing our light earlier every day!  If the temperature isn’t an indication that the season is changing, the sunlight sure is.  Gone is the long, slow, golden light of the late summer afternoon.  By six o’clock you need to turn some lights on.

It’s easy to provide sufficient lumens to light up a room with an overhead ceiling fixture or with several recessed cans.  This arrangement provides good, general lighting to make a living space functional, however; it will not create a very interesting, warm or inviting place to sit and read, visit or ponder the world.  Beyond that, lighting can be used to accent artwork, highlight table top objects such as photographs, or used to set a mood.

Any place where there is an upholstered piece of furniture there is an opportunity to create an inviting vignette for you and other family members to enjoy.  The soft, intentional light from a table lamp or a floor lamp cannot be achieved by general down lighting, even with dimmers.  Not only does the warm light from a lamp look appealing, this more direct light is much better task lighting for reading, etc. as the light is closer to what you need to see.  End tables that sit among furniture groupings are natural locations for lamps.  Sofa tables are also good locations for direct lighting.

That same warm lamp light will create a nice effect on a hall or entryway table or on an accent table.  This is in part due to the warm glow of incandescent light and its effect on color.  Color cannot exist without light but once light is introduced, colors begin to emerge.  How bright a color reads depends directly on the brightness or intensity of the light.  This is obviously true for wall color but equally true of artwork.   There are special lights available to accent artwork on the wall.  Most places that frame art will offer appropriate information for lighting a particular piece.  Lamps that sit on a table surface just under a piece of art should have a three-way setting which is always a good option where you will want something more than accent or mood lighting.

When light is used as an accent, that is to say when it is not used solely for function or task, it can highlight an adjacent object or the lamp itself can be a highlight.  We’ve all seen lamps worthy of being referred to as art, and price tags too.  But there is always something in between inexpensive dreck and the sculpted burnished copper lamp available to the trade only.

Lighting is an area a specialty.  The dramatic effects created by lighting are amazing.  The most effective lighting schemes are those that use a sophisticated combination of a variety of light sources from recessed lighting and pinspots to lamp light, cove lighting and up lighting.  Lighting is a required course in design school—a whole semester of calculating lumens taught most of us enough to know where to find a lighting specialist when we needed them.

This article is not an attempt to discuss all lighting options.  It is an attempt to get you thinking about what kind of light you use and whether it is as appealing as it can be.  If you rely on general lighting, there are ways to improve the lighting in your home.  Do an experiment and add a lamp to a sitting area that currently doesn’t have one.   It will change the tone of the room.  Now you have created the mood that is, “come in, sit down and relax.”