Wednesday, October 5, 2016


If you don't like tomatoes, well, you just won't like this blog entry, but if you do and are the least bit adventurous, then KEEP ON READING! While living through a kitchen renovation this summer we have enjoyed cooking anything and everything outside on our grill. By "enjoy" I mean it was our only option, unless we wanted to spend our renovation budget eating out every night. Because we wanted to have money to buy new appliances, we chose to eat in and let our spatulas guide us down an adventurous culinary path. Here is one (of many) we've enjoyed over and over...grilled cherry tomatoes.
Here's how we did it:
1.) We bought cherry tomatoes (duh...)
2.) Turn on grill and place directly on, watching carefully. As the tomatoes being to look grilled (I know this sounds like an idiot typing, but once grill marks appear YOU ARE DONE)
3.) Place tomatoes in bowl and add salt, pepper and balsamic vinaigrette.

Friday, September 30, 2016


I love when a reporter or fans pull back the mask of reality shows to reveal what really goes on. Take, for example, one of the most popular shows today on HGTV (one of my faves too!) FIXER UPPER, at first glance Joanna Gaines does an incredible job with her team transforming a space (no argument there), but do you ever wonder why the entire house is furnished with new pieces (shouldn't it reflect the homeowners a LITTLE bit?) THE REALITY: Joanna packs the houses she does with furniture from her own store, MAGNOLIA, and will make a few pieces for the clients within their budget (that's when we get the plug from the guy she works with who makes tables). When the cameras turn off the clients are asked if they want to BUY all of the "stuff" and if not, it leaves the next day and the clients are left to decorate their home. The story is the same with many reality shows that end up being a big advertisement for whoever is hosting. My point? From time to time I TOO like to check back in on several projects I've talked about here to give you the TRUTH behind how they really went down, if they worked, etc. Today there are a few things I'll check back in on...
1.) In renovating a friends house in Connecticut, we researched the best deals for appliances for her new kitchen and landed on a packaged deal from Lowes. After waiting six weeks for them to arrive, one of two double ovens were broken, so we had to wait another month. The other problem? While saving a few hundred dollars, Lowe's did NOT mentioned that the "package deal" included different brands, so the refrigerator is Frigidaire, the dishwasher Kitchenaide, ovens GE. If you don't care, no problem, but just a word to the wise.
2.) I found an incredible deal at Lowes on a stainless steel sink and faucet combination for $215. They look incredible together and a similar combination from a kitchen store could run as high as $1,000.00 or more. The problem: the grading of the sink here is a bit off, so water sits on the outer edges of the interior of the sink and have to be guided into the drain. If you don't mind the extra work, I'd say go for it.
3.) The burlap project above...wrapping ugly metal support beams in a basement...certainly looks good in the end but was a little more work than I thought. A roll of burlap rope from Home Depot cost $8.75 and this 8' pole took about four rolls. I attached with liquid nails after my hot glue gun bailed after the first time. Lesson here: give yourself a few hours and use liquid nails. Hot glue guns SUCK!
4.) For another client and a different kitchen renovation, we ordered a higher end dishwasher from Kitchenaide with noise-dampening technology..this proved to be a MUCH NICER feature than I'd imagined (it's basically wrapped in insulation) especially in an open concept home as after dinner conversations won't be interrupted by the noisy dishwasher. PROBLEM: new dishwasher don't hold bigger dishes because of the interior mechanisms so MEASURE when you are in the store to make sure your dishes fit. Thankfully the upper deck was designed to carry dishes, so my client found a solution without returning the unit she waited four months for!

Wednesday, September 28, 2016


This week I worked for hours with a colorful client helping her choose the perfect WHITE for her entire house. One doesn't know the sea of whites you can drown in until you venture into the vast world of color.  If you are a regular reader you will know one thing I've suggested over and over again when choosing paint colors...YOU MUST GET SAMPLES and paint them in different areas of your house (if you are picky) before committing. Sometimes I will grab a large board or piece of sheetrock and move those around a house, but to get a TRUE READING you need to commit to AT LEAST A SAMPLE (and, yes, I'm I did to my client). Sample cards in stores are IMPOSSIBLE to get a true reading of color. The one I'm holding up here is the one she chose months ago..I'm holding it up against an unpainted piece of raw sheetrock, she explained months ago she did NOT want a color that looked like this!! When I showed her the comparison she was shocked, so I did what I always do and painted several walls in her house with various samples of white. She then picked certain swatches in each room (I placed four on each wall). Little did she know I PAINTED THE SAME WHITE EVERYWHERE. My passive-aggressive lesson: white is a tough one, as are many colors, because the changing light throughout the day changes EVERYTHING. She eventually surrendered to another suggestion of mine...light grey...and it brightened her day!
I understood what my client was going for..she wanted simple, bright and clean. The reality of her space, however, high atop a mountain in the woods of the Hudson Valley of New York, darker afternoons made the pure white look drab and dirty. Adding a splash of ANY color created vibrancy. I often suggest, especially in an area like the northeast where weather (and light) changes constantly, add those fun splashes of color in accessories, artwork, carpets, etc.
***If you've ever painted red or tried to PAINT OVER red you know it takes about ten coats to get results, and white is the same way. If you live white, PREP the space by sanding, cleaning and patching any holes or everything will show up like a zit on your cheek on prom night!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016


I often say the curse of Attention Deficit Disorder is far from that, in fact, while some assume one with ADD can't focus on any ONE thing, many of us can focus on several tasks AT ONCE. Take last night, for example, as I headed into our YET TO BE COMPLETED pantry to grab a quick snack for dinner, I looked down and was horrified by the hideous linoleum floors we put so far down on the list of projects I knew we wouldn't get to it until next summer. CUT TO an hour later and I'm in line at the Home Depot checkout (needless to say dinner didn't happen). For less than $10 and in under an hour I changed the floors from vile to pretty cool (at least for awhile). The countertops in our kitchen look like concrete and our entry has concrete-type tiles, so these peel-and-stick versions seemed to blend nicely with everything else in our design plan. A few hours later and, in my opinion, the results were well worth it. Now, what to have for dinner...
1.) I wouldn't use this on a bigger scale as they've already scratched a bit when dragging a drawer unit with spices across it gently. If, however, this appeals to you more than porcelain or other solid surfaces, consider a higher quality vinyl (still major cost savings to solids)
2.) They are easy to break, so cut with care and grab a few more just in case.
3.) Because we won't be getting to renovating our guest bathroom until next year, I might consider these if we have guests over the holiday just to get a cleaner look on the floors without moving the toilet, vanity, etc. as we would if installing real tile.
4.) FOR THE MONEY AND QUICK CHANGE, you can't beat it.
With a list of projects longer than Santa's list of bad children, I knew the pantry would fall close to last (pantry was once a closet in our living room used as coat closet then bar and is now part of our newly renovated kitchen). Because I wanted it up and running for the busy cooking of the holidays, I decided to make do with what we have (the bigger plan is simply to add a few more shelves and stepped shelving units for spices, etc.). In the meantime, my floor project turned into priming and painting the whole closet, so instead of ONE hour it took me FOUR.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


I won't play the "can you tell which one is really vintage" today because it's pretty obvious what photos were taken with an iPhone in questionable lighting with a shaky hand! But you can see where I'm going with this...while designing a weekend home for a busy Boston couple with an affinity for everything mid-century, I headed out on a shopping spree. My mission; to furnish a 6,000 square foot house but make it look like it hasn't been touched in years. While the budget has no limits, I always save when and where I can. One of the factors I consider when buying anything for clients is how they will live in the space. Are they relaxed, single retirees? Do they have animals? Is it a family with kids who act like animals? In this case, the active teenage kids tend to bring friends along for weekend retreats, so that will dictate what I bring into the design. For example, I wouldn't splurge on an expensive rug or light colored fabric in an active home. Instead, I will devote more of the budget to appliances, light fixtures and flooring. As I shopped for a mid-century dining room table I found this incredible set for $5,500 (insert gasp here). While the clients fell in love with the pieces, one requirement was for multiple guest chairs for larger parties. That's when I turned to my trusty friends over at where I found chairs that could easily co-star with these A-listers. The price? $90 for TWO! While the CEO of this family probably wouldn't normally bargain hunt, they certainly appreciated the way I balanced their design budget!

Tuesday, September 6, 2016


I don't like fake people and I don't like fake wood. Fake wood, in my opinion, feels like older men (especially actors) who decide to have plastic surgery but don't consult their better halves before diving in face first. When you're pulled so tight you can't close your lips, gentlemen, you've taken it a bit too far. And, just like the guy wearing the kitty cat on his head, WE KNOW IT'S FAKE, so instead of trying to fool everyone, JUST OWN IT. A few weeks ago I met a different kind of faker;  I call her the "pretender" because she acts like she's Martha Stewart but couldn't boil a pot of water if her life depended on it. My task was to help her replace the flooring in her kitchen. The challenge: she wants something she never has to clean. After explaining to her that no product exists that doesn't need cleaning, especially flooring, she slapped back with; "well, they say laminate floors, especially those that look like wood, hide everything!" First thought that came to mind; Who in the hell are "THEY?" Second, what exactly was she trying to hide on her floors? Shoes? A cat? Her husband? After a sip of happy juice she relaxed and explained that budget constraints prevented her from installing real wood, and I totally understood. Much like the man attempting to hide his bald spot with a stuffed chimpanzee, she was trying to re-create something that just wasn't real. INSERT HUGE CONTRADICTION HERE: On occasion I come across cool products that stop me in my tracks.  Porcelain tiles that look like wood are incredibly trendy now, but evergreen in their design and look (in other words, a year from now it won't be like the second season of "LOST" where you just don't give a crap anymore). They are simple, clean, they come in many different shades and shapes and, quite honestly, I see them as cool, interesting tiles on their own, less than something trying to be something else.  These are part of the "Montagna" line at the Home Depot for $1.69/square foot and is a photo of the bar area in the basement of my home. They are inexpensive, easy to clean and ON TREND!

Thursday, September 1, 2016


Today's meltdown is brought to you in part by Peets Coffee, little sleep and dirty contractors. Allow me to take us back a few days before my volcanic eruption of this morning, when my lava had yet to burst, to a clients home where several guys have been working for the better part of three months. NUMBER ONE KEY TO ANY RENOVATION: The homeowner must be up for it emotionally. If you can live somewhere else during renovations, DO IT. That said, many of us don't have the luxury of renovating a home, and those that do likely live through every bit of it. My advice: PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE. I've worked with a set group of wonderful contractors, architects, painters, electricians and plumbers for YEARS and I still pick up after them almost every day. I won't tell you about the toilets I've scrubbed or the other filthy things I've cleaned to keep a project TIDY (if you can afford to, RENT A PORTA POTTY for extended renovation me, the money spent will preserve your sanity). I walked into the final stretch of a project the other day...floors are in and stained, countertops are in, lighting is finished, new furniture has arrived. In final approach tiny details (often) become big messes. I asked my lovely tile man to secure a few loose tiles in the new entry. No problem, so I thought. I returned at the end of the day to find everything I mentioned above...floors, counters, NEW FURNITURE...covered in a thick layer of dust. This lovely professional had gone outside to grind off glue from the tiles (I appreciated the fact that he went outside), sadly it was only to the front porch opposite two large open windows. With a slight New England breeze blowing, ALL of that dust wound up inside fueling the churning lava inside my mood. In the haste of my day I forgot to mention the importance of covering the countertops, new furniture, closing the windows and adding one of my favorite construction necessities...PLASTIC WALLS. While I don't have children, I do work with straight men...and no matter how gifted and talented they might be, at the end of the day I often feel like a frustrated parent. The lesson, again, is to PREPARE and stay ON TOP of your men.

Saturday, August 27, 2016


Back on the ranch of my Connecticut friend, and one area we both thought had major potential but needed A LOT OF WORK (picture the television show THE SWAN where ugly ducklings...not my words, but the real description of the show...were given major makeovers to become, what the producers thought, were "beautiful"). Unlike the show, that gave nose jobs and facelifts to participants then forced them to diet, making them look more like strange aliens in costumes, we imagined this lower level and its great possibilities. With a bedroom, full bath, walk in closet, kitchen area, living area, office area and about a thousand square feet of unfinished space, the options were ENDLESS in our minds (the realtor photos make the red room look far more interesting than it was in person). I immediately said the Days Of Our Lives-inspired glass brick wall HAD TO GO (it felt more like a dentists office) and the addition of windows would make a HUGE difference. We replaced pet-urine saturated carpet with tiles from the Home Depot that look like wood floors ($1.75/square foot), took down the ugly ceiling tiles and replaced with sheetrock, insulated and sheet rocked the walls and added an accent wall of shiplap tongue and groove to the far wall. The space you see in the after shot is the space at the far end of the first photo near the glass wall. The other end will house a new wood-burning fireplace and bar area (that photo will come soon). COST OF THE BASEMENT MAKEOVER TO DATE: $4,750.00, mostly due to labor of installing three windows and the cost of a thousand square feet of drywall and insulation. To date we have created a new bedroom and entry upstairs, added a new dining room and reimagined the space downstairs to add a cool bar area, comfortable fireplace area for winter, tv watching zone, bedroom and bath and gym ALL FOR FAR LESS than the air-conditioning estimates of $18,000+. STAY TUNED

Tuesday, August 16, 2016


ANNNNND WE'RE BACK (in Connecticut, that is, at my girlfriends project). On the initial viewing of the house, my girlfriend went NUTS when she saw this porch, and we both vowed to screen it in the first day she took possession so we could enjoy mosquito-free mojitos! Then I did it again...opened my BIG mouth to create yet another huge (not really) project. When I examined the roofline I noticed that it pitched a bit and immediately pictured a fantastic, dramatic dining room. Once again, she loved the idea, so we started pulling down the tacky vinyl siding, which to our surprise revealed a nice pitch in the roof. To save money we repurposed the door from the living room to the porch and added four windows we bought off the floor from the Home Depot (we squeezed them together to look like two large windows, a savings of thousands of dollars..and a blog I did a few weeks ago). We found an incredible chandelier at Lowe's (yet again another blog from a few weeks ago), added wood floors (when installing ontop of concrete we started with a protective layer, then added plywood and placed the unfinished red pine on top of those). Because we added shiplap tongue-and-groove to the new foyer and in the basement, we thought an accent in the dining room tied it all in...we will be staining a light grey in one of the final steps and painting brick high-gloss white. COST: While the floors came in at a whopping $850 with all materials, the most expensive part of this room was brining in my plumber an electrician to add two new outlets and bring the heat in from the existing living room. The total for a new 200 square foot dining room? Right around $5,000. If you're keeping track, we are still WAY under the air-conditioning budget and have three new HOT rooms...stay tuned for MORE!

Friday, August 12, 2016


It's been awhile since we've checked in with my girlfriend in Connecticut and her massive renovation on a mini budget, and a lot has happened in three months. To bring you back up to speed, I raised my hand to help (and am now slapping myself for doing it) but her journey encompasses everything I strive to do in my business; prove to people that no matter the budget, you can live in a beautiful space. So, we set out on a mission to find a relatively inexpensive house in one of the best neighborhoods. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. My lovely friend, prioritizing her renovation projects, then met with air conditioning installers who gave her estimates of no less than $18,000.00, which was the first of many times I would open my big mouth to create a huge project. Minus appliances, countertops, furniture and (most) experts (plumbers, electricians, etc.) I challenged my friend to designing and reimagining the entire house for less than the air-conditioning budget. At first glance I thought the house was disjointed and unbalanced; the front door was far off-centered, entering into an unusually big entry. A middle room, which the previous owner used as a dining room, was small and odd, adding to the choppy feeling of the entire space. While my girlfriend initially wanted to knock every wall down to create a huge open concept, I dialed her back and came up with an open plan that made sense. Every home I walk into with clients I'm constantly thinking RESALE, even if they tell me this is their forever home. Life happens, folks, and not everyone will want your built-in terrarium or the champagne glass-shaped bathtub plopped right in the middle of your master bedroom, so designing a unique space that's FLEXIBLE, is always important. Focusing ONLY on the entry and odd middle room for now, I showed her how to save money by simply flipping the front door with the window in the dining room (both were exactly the same size). Because the entry had a closet, it seemed like the obvious spot to place a new bedroom/office by eating into the dining room a tad (the lovely wallpapered room in the first photos). The remaining space in the old dining room would then become a new entry in the center of the house (those photos will come later). By taking an odd entry and useless middle room we created a new bedroom, new hall and new entry without adding square footage whatsoever. THE COST? $1,350.00 for sheetrock, 2x4's for framing and new tile for the entry. We scored big time by discovering wood floors under the blue carpet (something I knew when we first looked at the place...and a HUGE SAVINGS). While the progress photos here of the new bedroom are dark (sorry, I was tired and forgot to turn on lights) use the closet door as a reference point from the first photo. Stay tuned for ROOM TWO...

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


The other day, as I arm wrestled with my cantankerous remote control desperate to find something not politically themed, I landed on a fashion design show that peaked my interest. The contestants, all vying for the grand prize of bits and drabs of nonsense and a few minutes of fame, were actually incredibly talented designers. The episode took the ten remaining millennials with peroxide hair and untied sneakers to a landing strip in the middle of nowhere and told them to use it as inspiration for a couture designed dress. The caveat; they had five hours to give birth to their genius. I was totally blown away by some of the designers creations, but even more shocked by some of the judges comments. One in particular zeroed in on the color of nail polish the designer had chosen for her model (ignoring the miles of glam she'd produced in less time it took this foolish judge to apply make up to her botoxed face). The polish, she thought, MADE THE OUTFIT. Frustrated by her idiocy, back to politics I went. Then I got to thinking, this C-level celebrity judge wasn't that far's the details, folks, that really matter!  I once designed a seven thousand square foot home from tip to toilets with everything from sofas and beds to food-stocked pantries. What was the one thing the client noticed when she walked in on the reveal day? Two adirondack chairs I positioned out near her pond (I spoke about this a few weeks ago). The placement, she thought, was brilliant. I thought she was nuts, but hey, at least she liked something! Back on my planet of reality today, I've redesigned a home for a lovely couple with an ugly budget, so I've had to be innovative in the choices I've made. One area I thought tapped into existing square footage was in the basement where a little insulation, drywall, and inexpensive tile from the Home Depot transformed the space (I'll post after shot soon). To make it feel less like a basement, I added several windows, which triggered the clients to jam on the breaks, afraid that windows would blow their budget. Instead of heading to a fancy window and door company to special order a large window, I assured them I could create the same look for less by hoping over to the Home Depot. Anderson and other companies make a wide array of windows available off the floor AND THE BIG SECRET (to some) is to place two windows next to each other to look like one large window. The size pictured above was quoted at well over $1,000.00 by my local window vendor, but at the Home Depot I picked these up for $120/each. Once installed my clients walked in and acted like I had just recreated the pyramids in their basement. While the devil is certainly in the details, paying attention to them garners a heavenly result!

Monday, August 1, 2016


I've said this before and I'm saying it again, sometimes I feel like the town hooker because I've been in just about every house this summer and seen JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING. One lovely couple asked me to update a few rooms in their sixties ranch and make them more authentic to the period, so I dove right in and did everything from shag rugs to an orange sofa, lava lamps to bean bags. When it came to lighting, my clients desperately wanted a starburst chandelier for above a game table, but they didn't want to pay a lot for it. A little digging goes a long way, as these photos show. While walking through Lowe's for another client I was pleasantly surprised at the quality (and price) of both indoor and outdoor lighting options. The second, gold chandelier in this post is from Design Within Reach and costs $3,400. The top, very similar light, is only $199 at Lowes! Not your taste? If you're hunting for lights, head to Lowe's first, they might just be the solution for your bright idea.

Friday, July 22, 2016


You know when you're feeling over the moon happy (maybe, just maybe you've had a cocktail or TWO) and you offer to do something for a friend then wake up the next morning regretting that you went out in the first place? Yeah, happens to the best of us! In this case someone (I won't mention names; ME) committed to helping a friend in need renovate most of her new home, including a kitchen renovation, three bathrooms, adding a bedroom, converting a covered porch into a dining room, reconfiguring a basement to include new windows, fireplace, bed and bath and gym...OH and painting the exterior, new roof, new garage doors, new outdoor kitchen, driveway, fence and landscaping. What was I thinking? And, yes, I've mentioned her before and will show before and after pictures soon. In the meantime I was exhausted this week working on several different projects and as I reluctantly peered at my "to do" list for the Connecticut job I saw, "kitchen demo and removal" for this weekend. I cried. Then I had a glass of wine and cried some more. And then I decided to enlist the help of my friend, Craig. Craigs LIST, that is! I posted a fairly straight forward ad with detailed pictures of the kitchen and simply said, "parting out kitchen. if you want it, COME GET IT. $300" And the calls (especially from contractors) came flooding in. Instead of bashing apart walls today and cursing like a drunken sailor, I sat back, made a lovely drink and watched other people do the work...OH, and did I mention we made money on this deal? Craigslist transactions can be a tad scary, so be careful what you post (I always say I'm a designer working in someones home with a crew so any potential odd ball knows I'm with a group AND I always talk to people before meeting and ask for email addresses and names...and I google them!) Next time you're staring at something ugly and want to bash it apart and toss it in the dumpster, just remember the old persons trash is another's treasure. Then POST it on Craigslist!

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


What seems like a lifetime ago, I attended a small boarding school in Northern California where my weekends were spent with one of my favorite aunts, aunt Rita, who is one cool chic! She's not your typical aunt; not thrilled when I call her "aunt," she will respond with, "yes, nephew Paul." One day she told me she'd rather be called "Alex" because it seemed more hip than "Rita." She antiqued long before it was cool, she could effortlessly transform Top Ramen into a gourmet meal and today she loves quilting (if you're an HGTV fan, picture Nicole Curtis from "Rehab Addict" and that's the blond version of my aunt). Tedious, depressing weeks at boarding school were made more bearable because I knew I'd be spending the weekends with Rita/Alex. At the time she had purchased a new home and was slowly trying to make it her own by doing things like pickling exposed beams in her master bedroom, wallpapering an entire room (including the ceiling), added moldings to otherwise drab rooms, and other innovative, incredibly edgy, cool designs. To say I absorbed creative talents from her is an understatement. One Friday afternoon she picked me up, avocados in tow for her homemade guacamole, and when we arrived at her house a man was painting a phone booth in her kitchen around an antique phone she found in rural Michigan. When I looked slightly baffled, Rita said; "it's a painting trick called Trompe l'oeil, which means "trick of the eye." The technique tricks the viewer into perceiving a painted detail as a three dimensional object. She thought it would be cool to have what looked like an antique phone booth around this cool piece she found, and dang it, she was right! What could go terribly wrong in some homes looked incredibly amazing in Aunt Rita's kitchen. I often picture those weekends with her, where I'd quietly observe design brilliance at work, as I try to help people today, especially when they're trying to sell their homes. One simple trick I've used many times (and used twice this week) is the simple art of drawing ones eye OUTSIDE. To have a beautiful property is one thing, to get other people to WANT it is another. I often set up little "moments" outside, whether the current owners would actually participate in the experience I'm creating doesn't matter. In our click-to-view world of today, a picture truly is worth a thousand words. The simple art of placing chairs out in a yard pointed SOMEWHERE, creates the illusion of something more interesting in the distance.  My hope is that fantasy lures someone into the reality of owning a new home.  Yesterday a client looked at me like I was a lunatic, as I dragged her teak dining room table out under a tree in the far end of her yard. I came back to her as she stared out onto the horizon and the "moment " I had created. She looked at me and said, "Wow. I want to be THERE!"

Friday, July 15, 2016


Today it's back to the ugly ranch in Connecticut where I continue to help my friend surf her way through the tidal wave of projects in her home. One of the things she hated most about the sixties ranch when she pulled up was the ugly, dated plastic siding someone installed in the nineties. Don't get me wrong, I totally see the benefits to siding, especially on the east coast...maintenance FREE. That doesn't mean, however, it doesn't look like the ugliest person at the prom! She also wasn't crazy about the red brick, which also dated the house. So, as electricians work away on the interior, we decided to focus on the outside. I chose shiplap to replace the vinyl siding, because it can play both contemporary and rustic, depending on how you finish it. Because she bought a (somewhat) contemporary home surrounded by farm houses, I thought it was a nice way to marry two styles (we will use some with reclaimed wood on the interior, but you'll have to wait for that one). Like most people she grabbed a few paint samples and a stain sample she slapped on a tiny piece of wood. RULE #1: the true color is hard to determine based on a glossy 2"x2" card, so buy samples for $3.25 at the home depot (even if it isn't the same brand you choose they will match the color in a small sample) then slap it on the wall! Especially when painting brick, it is important to get it on THICK or you'll be painting for days (we will more than likely have her painter spray most of the house but wanted to get a majority of the front finished to see what it looked like). Many brands make this great paint, but at the Home Depot it is Behr who makes a special finish for Masonry, Stucco and Brick. Make sure you buy a roller for rough services, too, then go for it! In a few short hours this house went from ugly duckling to Prom Queen!

Saturday, July 9, 2016


Have you ever found yourself at a party or friendly gathering where you're involved in a deep conversation, when someone suddenly inserts themselves, throwing the rhythm off? Take that annoying party-goer and replace them with renovation projects as we head back to my lovely friend in the Connecticut countryside, where I opened my big mouth and suggested she remove an 18' span of wall to create a more open, modern vibe. Of course it's totally doable, but we needed the assistance of professionals, so I called on my contractor to bring in a heavy duty beam. That wasn't the problem. Like the previously mentioned annoying inserter of unwanted opinions at a party, my contractor told us we also needed to put a new lolly column in the basement directly underneath where the wall was removed upstairs for additional support. The issue (at least in my crazy mind), the beautifully finished basement will now have an unwanted, ugly visitor in the form of a concrete, round beam. SOLUTION: Instead of being nasty to that intruder, EMBRACE IT!  So, I'm planning on doing one of two things, either painting it a fun color in a tone completely opposite from anything in the room (trying to make it blend will only make us look like we're trying to hide an obvious blemish) OR wrapping it in burlap rope. Because it's close to the entry of the basement I can't build a square column or bar table around it (something I've done in other basements). SO, I've chosen a few colors and have my string and am ready for action. Stay tuned for more PROGRESS pictures from Connecticut!

Friday, July 1, 2016


I always love walking into a house filled with 80's music, so when a client asked me over and I heard Cyndi Lauper belting out one of her classics from the driveway, I knew they were going to be fun. The true colors of this bathroom renovation screamed I WAS RAD ONCE, but needed to go NOW NOW NOW. My challenge was to make that transformation for under $5,000.00 and we did it. By keeping the existing bathtub and sourcing less expensive floor tiles, I was able to splurge on cool glass tiles for the shower area, upgraded plumbing fixtures and add a glass door. Updating the vanity was simple, and in a few beats we were done and ready to move onto the next room!

Thursday, June 30, 2016


As my Connecticut friend comes around the bend of frustrated and panic-stricken with her renovation, I decided to take her on a little field trip to show her another project I just completed to make her feel better about what lies ahead. While a very different style than hers, these clients wanted to say goodbye to their 80's formica kitchen and hello to something more modern. When deep in a renovation (or project of any kind, for that matter) it's often a good practice to step back, take a break and gain perspective before diving back in. While the budget of these clients far exceeds hers, there are simple things we can take from it; she loved the floors, for example (a 24" square concrete tile), but at $10/square foot it was a bit out of her reach, so I took her to the Home Depot where I found a similar tile for $2.50/square foot. I showed her the pop up outlets we installed in the island and just the general layout to give her a good idea of where her renovation is headed. Once we left the place she was excited to get back to hers and pound pavement!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


I'll never forget walking into the first gym I ever joined in West Hollywood, California about twenty five pounds (lighter) ago. Intimidation, YEAH. One thing that struck me as funny with this ultra hip, non-judgmental gym (or so it advertised) were the frosted glass, see-through walls of the men and women's bathrooms that faced the main lobby. When walking in to check in it was easy to see the outline of figures showering. First thought; "why the hell shower at the gym, unless you're just THAT into yourself?" Second thought: it was actually kind of cool. Year's later I've used this little trick to brighten up darker homes and make them look more modern, by switching out nasty old hollow-core doors for frosted glass. Fear not, you can NOT see anything through the glass but light. At about $150/each it's a great, inexpensive way to quickly modernize a space. Now go on and show off your good side!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


If blogging were a college course I would have a big old "F" at this point. I've been so nutty with clients and helping my friend renovate her house, I haven't had time to share many of the tips I'm using every day on my various projects. So, my apologies. I will try to post with more regularity moving forward as I've received many great questions about everything from painting tips to planning a party, so stick with me and I'll be back to my OLD self soon!  SOOOOO...back to Connecticut and the ongoing ranch renovation project. Because my friend is doing this project on her own (with my help) on the weekends, progress is as slow as Sarah Palin answering questions in an interview, but we are getting there. One of the first questions she asked me when we toured the home was how she could squeeze in one more bedroom on the main level. Because the house had a rather large entry with a closet and a random room between it and the kitchen (used as a dining room at one point), I suggested she flip the entry with the dining room and make the old entry (with the closet) a bedroom. She loved the idea so our project got off to a running start, demolishing the walls with lovely floral paper FIRST. Before the walls came down we ripped up the old carpet to find a hidden treasure underneath...beautiful wood floors, which means things are looking up budget-wise (installing wood floors in these areas could easily cost $10,000.00!). Once the walls were down I suggested we map out the new rooms by placing painters tape on the floors to represent where the walls and doors will go. I then taped out furniture pieces so she could get a better idea of exactly how the rooms would feel before we started framing.  If I'm doing an exterior addition I use spray paint to map out the rooms, and inside painters tape is a good idea so you can manipulate the space as much as possible before fully committing. Onward and upward we go...

Thursday, June 2, 2016


It feels like weeks since I last posted a blog entry.  Hmm, that's because IT HAS been weeks, as work has been out of control busy AND I've been helping a dear friend hunt for a new home. As I began the house hunt with her, I asked permission to document the entire process, from first hunt to closing to bashing down walls and putting it all back together. Because I refuse to have her pay me (and I'll be doing the design of the new place and spearheading the renovations), she agreed to let me be raw, honest, and upfront about the entire process. So, here we go...ready? The house hunt played out like a cheesy reality show; we narrowed the search down to three homes, two of which were her dream style of classic country farmhouses. One was totally finished (she insisted on having a project) and one was way too far gone for her budget. The third, a long shot, was a boring, personality-free ranch house set on a beautiful piece of property with carpeted bathrooms, wall to wall blue carpet, wallpaper in every room and an eighties kitchen. While her passion (and dream) was to own and old farmhouse in rural Connecticut, she went with the drab ranch because it presented an interesting challenge, both for her and for me; to update every square inch of it while maintaining the integrity of the environment around it. In other words, she won't be knocking it down and building something new, she won't try to make it look like something it isn't, she's just going to make it COOL. While I suggested she live in it for at least six months before bashing down walls, she's insisting we start projects as soon as possible. I did what I've for clients for years, I came up with a detailed list of projects (including things found in the inspection, like a leaky fireplace, radon in the basement, etc. that need addressing immediately). I then came up with a realistic calendar of projects and when we might need to bring in professionals to help. OH YEAH, did I mention WE ARE DOING THIS OURSELVES? Yes, that's just how good of a friend I am! This should be interesting!  After we left the closing she wanted to head off and shop for sofas and other furniture. I quickly reminded her that we didn't know where that sofa was going YET and better to hold off until we started construction. Reluctantly, she agreed to hold off on any major purchases until we dove into the project. Wish us luck and check back for updates, tips and our trips along the way!

Wednesday, May 4, 2016


Well spring has finally sprung in the northeast, as have my wretched allergies, and with the late arrival of this lovely season, so is my spring cleaning...LATE. I often try out as many cleaning products as I can, use them for multiple projects then share the ideas if they truly work. For example, I LOVE a magic eraser but have warned that you need to be careful what surfaces you clean. If you attempt to wipe off flat painted surfaces, the paint will come right off..high gloss, no problem. The one unexpected use I discovered was helping scratches magically disappear. I once leased a luxury sedan and when it was time to turn the lease in there were minor scratches I was worried I'd get charged for. I whipped out my magic eraser, and WHAMO the scratches disappeared! I use windex on wood floor scratches, Bar Keepers on my stainless steel and to spruce up a few vintage serving trays I use in my bar, I brought out an old favorite, OLD ENGLISH. While I don't use these trays to serve food, I do place olives and other bar items on them, so they tend to get wet and stained. Just before I tossed them out, I thought to try some OE and it did just the trick! I've also used olive oil (as I do on my wooden salad bowls), but my old English pal pulled through this time and brought new life to these old trays.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


This is where the Gemini in me comes out, because when pressed I would say I am NOT a fan of window coverings whatsoever, but understand they are often a necessity; to keep a place warm in the winter, cool in the summer or keep a big hot mess from peeking in your windows. If you've shopped for curtains or shades recently you know the cold hard truth; they're pretty darn expensive! For simple curtains and rods I love heading to Ikea (most curtain panels are $19/pair and rods are as little as $9.99). For a client I'm working with in Manhattan who just bought an apartment on the third floor overlooking a busy street, she needed something immediately for privacy. She was willing to hang sheets in the windows (I was NOT), so while we wait the ten weeks for custom shades to arrive, I found a great alternative...TEMPORARY paper shades at the Home Depot for approximately $4/window. Because they are paper you can cut them to size, raise and lower by hand and clip into position to stay open (clips are even included in the cost...Fancy!).  Now, would I hang these in the Queen Mums suite? OF COURSE NOT, but for a kids room, basement, dorm room, etc. they are the perfect solution. Another great find I discovered at the Home Depot was a new line of cellular window shades called the HOME DECORATORS COLLECTION. These off-the-shelf shades come in several different colors and hang so you can open from top down, or down up AND they can be cut to size in the store, so no more waiting 8-10 weeks for custom shades!  If you don't feel confident in your measuring or hanging abilities, for $50 the Home Depot will measure (cost taken off once order is placed) and for an additional $75 they will hang them for you. If naked windows just won't cut it, head to the Home Depot and have THEM do the cutting for you!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016


Sometimes when shopping for the perfect accessory item I will find inspiration in the most unlikely spots, like this cool hanging light I saw above a bar in a restaurant.  Excuse the bad iPhone-photo, but this galvanized bucket was turned into a cool light by cutting a hole in the bottom and inserting a lightbulb on a long cord. I've seen easy plug-in versions at Ikea (I've used several in the past to turn lampshades into chandeliers) and the Home Depot and Lowe's have hardwire kits available for sale, making it fairly easy to turn just about anything into a lamp. This combination, purchased at Lowe's, costs a whopping $20! Not bad in the world of expensive light fixtures!

Monday, April 4, 2016


I'm sure this post will show my age, but advances in technology continue to blow me away. Years ago, producing a blue print of a house would take hours, a few years ago computer programs made that much easier and today there are many apps you can download to your tablet or phone which creates floorpans in seconds. In that same vein, I've shared many tips here on how I make the paint-color-choosing process for clients much easier (paint large pieces of plywood and move them to different areas of your home to see paint colors at different times of day, etc.) but now there's an even easier way, thanks to Benjamin Moore. Log onto and spend a few minutes setting up a free account. Once you do that you can upload photos from your computer, tablet or smartphone to the site, highlight the areas you want painted with the help of a few easy tools, choose colors, and click to your hearts content!  While it might take a few years before we see drones delivering toilet paper to our front doors, the agony of choosing the right paint color for your living room walls is now a click away!