Twenty years later I can appreciate my color theory professor

I was coordinating fabrics and the color of one looked completely different depending on what I put around it. It took me a minute but I recalled this is referred to as simultaneous contrast. It was one of the theories covered in Color Class, a mandatory course for Interior Design students. The theory is that one color can change how we perceive another color when the two are placed side by side.

The video above demonstrates the simultaneous contrast color theory. The color in the center remains the same the whole time but appears different at times depending on the colors surrounding it.

With that thought, a rush of memories from design school came flooding in. “Color” was supposed to be my “easy class” to balance out a second class I registered for, which had a reputation for being challenging.

Having previously studied Fine Art, why wouldn’t I have expected this Color class to be easy for me? I knew the color wheel, and how to mix colors, etc. This class was going to be a piece of cake.

The professor was new so my classmates and I had no idea what to expect. My first impression of him was young, handsome and charming. I remember thinking, I’m going to love this class!

Never Assume

About an hour into the first class, somewhere between going over the syllabus and discussing his grading rubric, the realization that the class was not what I assumed it to be, began to set in. In fact, it was going to kick my butt! Forget about having a life. I was going to eat, sleep and drink “color” for the next 12 weeks if was going to pass the class. It didn’t take long for the professor to be nicknamed “The Color Nazi”.

The assignments were challenging, but that was not what earned him his title. It was his “my way or the highway” attitude mixed with the level of perfectionism that he expected of us. My classmates and I were terrified to get our assignments back because the rubric would be all marked up with comments such as; pencil smudge minus 5 points, excess rubber cement minus 10 points, imperfect edges on the mat (cut with an Exacto knife) to frame our assignment minus 15 points. He was brutal. Back then I thought he was too picky with unrealistic standards.

Life Lessons

Twenty years later, I realize I learned much more than Color Theory from that course. I also learned discipline, attention to detail, never to assume and not to judge a book by its cover.

Interior Design and Color

Those are valuable life lessons, but as far as design goes, remember when you are selecting items for a room, view your selections together. They may appear differently as part of a group than they do when they are viewed alone, just as the fabrics I was working with did.

If you would like to learn more about Simultaneous Contrast and other color theories, 7 color contrast by Johannes Itten is a great resource. I hope you were able to read last week’s post The Interior Designer/Client relationship and how to make sure it’s awesome. If you are enjoying my posts, please subscribe.

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The Interior Designer-Client Relationship and how to make sure it’s awesome

I have the best clients! Over the years, I have been so fortunate to have some fantastic people hire me as their Interior Designer. Many of my clients have been with me since I started designing nineteen years ago. Some say they will not conquer a home project without me.

I started thinking, what makes these relationships successful? What advice can I give to those seeking a designer? I think most people know to choose a designer who can create warm and welcoming interiors and has a deep understanding of the fundamental principles of design. It is also common sense that he or she should have knowledge of products, brands, and trends. But there are additional qualities to look for, which are not the first things that come to mind. Also, there are things you can do to make sure your designer-client relationship is successful.

Compatibility is key

Hire an interior designer with whom you are compatible. Designing your home should be a collaboration in which your designer helps you make the best choices for your style, taste, and budget. Often it is a give and take of ideas that are shaped by both the designer and the client. I genuinely believe that with my long-standing clients, our successful track record is because we make a great team and work well together. Look for a designer who will be a good fit for your personality.

Make sure your Interior Designer is a good listener

Keep in mind; all designers are different. One essential point to note when hiring an Interior Designer is to make sure he or she is a good listener. You want to be sure that your wants and needs are heard and used to make design decisions and purchases.

A good interior designer creates a space that reflects the personal taste of the client. If the client is traditional, it will be traditional. If the client has a contemporary flair, their home should reflect it. All too often, I am asked, “What style do you do?” I do my clients’ styles. I help them make choices that they like and that works for them in the best way possible.

My work is not a reflection of my taste. When my clients love their home, I feel the project was successful. In the end, that is the only thing that matters. Anyone you hire should have a similar outlook and goal.

Image by Lorenzo Cafaro from Pixabay
Make sure your interior designer listens to your “wants”

Make sure you communicate your “wants” clearly

As important as it is for your designer to be a good listener, it is equally essential for you to be an excellent communicator. Initial consultations are idea sessions in which design goals are determined. You will benefit a lot from providing your designer with a list of wants, “must-haves,” and a budget. It is also helpful to have pictures collected of styles that you like. In this case, pictures are worth a thousand words because sometimes words mean different things to different people.

I have had clients express their taste to me in words. Then came to realize in time that their verbal portrayal was not an accurate description of what they meant. Pictures would have eliminated this communication error and saved us some wasted time. Having a folder of inspiration pictures can give insight to your taste and style. Also, it can help you pinpoint your authentic likes and dislikes. This knowledge will help your designer with shopping selections.

Your designer should be easily accessible, reliable and trustworthy

Often on the job, your contractor will have a question, and you will need to get an answer from your designer as fast as possible. It is best to pick a designer that is good at returning phone calls promptly. Also, you will be making many appointments with your designer. You want to make sure they show up when they say and that you are their priority for that slotted time. Also, you need to be able to trust your designer. You will be writing them checks to make your purchases. You will need to know that you can count on your designer to order on time, and follow through with your project appropriately.

interior designer returning a client call
Image by AllClear55 from Pixabay
Your designer should be easily accessible to answer questions during your project

Establish a Budget

Be sure to establish a budget with your designer. A budget will give your design professional a guideline when developing a plan. It is a good idea for you to do some preliminary footwork to have a sense of a range that things could cost. They will help to make sure your budget is realistic and that you don’t bite off more than you can chew.

If you do not have experience with home projects, you may be in for a surprise when you start costing things out. Don’t use television design shows as a guide for the cost to do a project. Prices vary from region to region, and some of the shows omit labor costs. Most importantly, always keep a buffer in the budget for unexpected expenses. Feel free to use my printables to help you with this.

Free printable form for kitchen remodeling budget
Free printable form for kitchen remodeling budget and others available

Hire an Interior Designer

If you are losing sleep and are overwhelmed with a design project, stop! Hire an interior designer. Follow this advice, and you will have a rewarding experience. A designer will make the project fun and take the stress out of it for you. Interior designers are creative people with a keen eye for detail and balance and bring with them much experience. Working with a designer has many benefits, and can keep you from making a costly mistake.

I hope you were able to read last week’s post on clutter. I have been taking my own advice and cleaning out some neglected storage closets in my home. If you have started some organizing projects you may want to check out the Container Store’s blog, it has great ideas!

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Ten Practical Tips to Conquer Clutter for Good

pillow with my happy place written on it

Storage and organization go hand in hand with design. You can create the most beautiful space, but if it has clutter, who can enjoy it or feel good in it? As I keep saying; It is all about Designing to be happy!

Clutter means different things to different people. To some, it means it is time to clean out the junk drawer. But to others, it can be a much bigger deal, and may even prevent them from entertaining in their home. If left un-managed, it can create tension between family members, cause stress, and unhappiness.

How much clutter do you have? Whether you have a little or a lot, these tips can help you can conquer it.

Clutter in our home can cause us stress

Tip 1 of 10- Design with storage in mind

If you live in small quarters, it is easy to accumulate clutter simply because there are not enough places to store items. Try to reduce what you have by eliminating doubles and things that you don’t use often. Next, make sure you are using your closets and other storage areas as efficiently as possible. Be very selective when choosing furniture. Tall furniture pieces take advantage of verticle space and provide much-needed storage. A credenza with storage space can be utilized behind a sofa and would be a better choice than a console table that does not have storage space. It is incredible how much extra space can be found with good design.

Tip 2 of 10- Thin out the excess

If you can’t blame the lack of space, perhaps you have too much stuff. Over the years, we acquire and inherit, and the result is the burden of caring for much more than we need. In some cases, it becomes overwhelming. When this occurs in your life, it is time to thin out what you have. This task is sometimes difficult because there are emotional reasons that prevent us from letting go. Let go of things that don’t fit into your ultimate design plan. Permit yourself to give away items that you have felt obligated to keep.

Tip 3 of 10- Develop good organization habits

Some people are innately good at keeping things organized. If it doesn’t come naturally to you, it just means you have to work a little harder at it. Start by making a conscious effort to make sure everything has a designated space and that it gets returned to it’s named home after use.

Tip 4 of 10- Throw out what is of no use

Throw out anything you don’t want, and that would be of no use to others. Get rid of old paperwork, broken household items, tattered towels, comforters, sheets. Completing this step first frees up space in which other belongings can be stored.

Closet systems can help control clutter

Tip 5 of 10- Give away


It is easier to lighten the load if you find your once treasured belongings a new home. If you don’t use it or need it, see if friends or family have a use for it. That way, you did something nice for yourself and someone else! Also, there is a fabulous website called freecycle that helps put you in touch with community members who might be searching for the very item you are looking to give away.

Tip 6 of 10- Donate to charity

Donating to a charity is great to do too. Some will even pick up clothing and household items that you would like to donate. I confess that I am guilty of arranging a pick up before getting donations together to get my family to clean out their closets. That tactic has a 100% success rate.

Tip 7 of 10- Sell unwanted items with significant value

Technology makes it easy to turn unwanted items that are valuable into cash. Craigslist, facebook marketplace, let it go, and next-door are great places to post the items you wish to sell. They are also an excellent resource to determine the value of the things you are selling.

Tip 8 of 10- Box up items that are difficult to let go of

If you are finding it difficult to part with some items, try boxing them up in plastic totes and storing them for a while. The plastic totes keep your items safe. If a year goes by and you have not looked for the things you packed up, it may be easier for you to bring them to a donation shop.

Tip 9 of 10- Go digital when possible to get rid of paper clutter

Try going digital if you must retain it—besides not taking up physical space in your home, it will be easier to find when you need it. Digital works great for papers but also can work for keepsakes from the past. Try taking photos of each thing, and then permit yourself to let go of the actual items. You will still be able to enjoy them.

checklist of what has to be done to remove clutter
Make a list of goals and then check off as you make progress

Tip 10 of 10- Take small steps

Be careful about pulling everything out all at once and becoming overwhelmed. If you have a lot to go through, remember that it took a long time to collect, and it may take some time to clear out. Be patient, and keep forging ahead. Taking small steps is still working in the right direction and eventually will get you to your goal.

The Incredible Power of Seasonal Decor Changes

pumpkin on table

I have memories as a young child watching my grandmother perform a massive ritual every spring. Not only did she scrub her house from top to bottom, but she made seasonal decor changes. Bold colored rugs were rolled up and stored. She changed the bedding and window treatments from heavy fabric to light. The colors in the home went from bright to muted. In fact, the whole house’s decor was transformed from winter to summer, in every way imaginable. I remember thinking that it seemed like a lot of unnecessary work. I no longer feel that way. What changed? 

Seasonal Decor Changes Can Bring Happiness

Over the years, I have watched clients and family members perform the same ritual and see the joy that it has brought them. My sister in-law’s face lights up just talking about putting out her winter area rug and the slipcover for one of her favorite chairs. She gets equally excited as summer approaches, and she pulls out her summer rug and accessories. 

I now recognize the happiness that seasonal decor changes can bring and how it can keep your home from becoming stagnant to your eyes. Just as we get used to the smudges on the walls, we get use to our surroundings and fail to appreciate the beautiful things we have.

Photo by Irina Iriser on Pexels.com

I remember hearing that a study was done and concluded that people who decorated their homes for Christmas were happier when their decorations were out than the rest of the year. I googled it, and found two interesting sites that claim this is true. If you would like to read more about the reasoning behind this, check out these two links.

seasonal decor changes can include removing everyday decor and replacing it with holiday decorations.

“It does create that neurological shift that can produce happiness,” she said. “I think anything that takes us out of our normal habituation, the normal day in, day out … signals our senses, and then our senses measure if it’s pleasing or not.”

Psychologist Deborah Serani quote from Today.com

If this is true, it supports my theory that surrounding ourselves with things we love makes us happy, as discussed in my post, INCORPORATE GOOD MOOD INFLUENCE INTO YOUR DECOR. Making seasonal decor changes, keeps our accessories that we love fresh in our eyes, so we are able to admire and appreciate them. 

Change Decor Depending On Your Emotional Needs

Seasonal decor changes demonstrated with a bright floral picture leaning on white dresser.
Find ways to add pops of color to brighten things up during dreary winter months.

Changing some decorative accessories is an opportunity to address our changing emotional needs. During different times of the year, we may need different things. I have noticed that during the dreary months of winter, I need more visual stimulation. I benefit from the addition of some fun pops of color in my otherwise neutral palette. During the summer, I need lighter, simpler tones. I can make a few changes with accessories such as throw blankets and decorative pillows to alter my environment to fit my emotional needs.  

Don’t be afraid to experiment with color to see how it affects you. When I realized I needed more color in my neutral color scheme during the winter, I had to determine which shades would work for me. I tried different colored throw pillows on my sofa until I figured it out and ended up incorporating pops of gold. To me, gold and shades of yellow are cheery colors. It was just what I needed to get me through a bleak winter.  If you want to learn more about color, Benjamin Moore has a lot of great information on their website.

This summer centerpiece can be transformed for fall buy changing the shells to pine-cones.

Keep in mind that the seasonal decor changes you make do not have to be drastic to be effective. The idea is to move things around and switch things up from time to time. It keeps us from getting stale in our surroundings. 

Ideas for seasonal decor changes

  • Switch out decorative pillows. 
  • Switch out window treatments. 
  • Slipcover upholstered furniture. 
  • Rotate accessories in the room. 
  • Try a different furniture arrangement, trading items with ones from other rooms. 
  • Buy fresh flowers for yourself or cut some from your garden. 
  • Change the centerpiece on your dining table. 
  • Change place-mats and tablecloths. 
  • Add a throw blanket over your sofa. 
  • Display pictures and art on a picture ledge, so they can be changed without putting a hole in the wall. 
  • Decorate (tastefully) for all seasons and holidays. 

Can you add any ideas for seasonal decor changes to my list? Let us know by leaving a reply below.

I would like to thank everyone who shared my post, DECORATE RESPONSIBLY AND FEEL GOOD ABOUT WHAT YOU PUT INTO YOUR HOME. I was thrilled to see it shared so many times.

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5 Home Furnishings Shopping Tips That Many People Don’t Know

Over the years, I have learned many home furnishings shopping tips. In this post, I will share a few. I hope you were able to find time to read my last post Decorate Responsibly, which was about the importance of knowing the business practices of the brands that you are purchasing. I also believe in patronizing local mom and pop stores, artists and artisans when possible. With that said, let’s get to the tips!

Home Furnishings Shopping Tips #1 of 5: Rugs

We all know that rugs are an important design element in a room. They set the stage for all that follows and can independently create the mood of the room. However, they are big, bulky, and challenging to cart home. It isn’t easy to try a few rugs in a room and keep only the one we like best in the space.

The good news is if you shop at a local mom and pop store, they usually provide a service in which they can bring a few rugs to your home for you to view in the space before you buy. They do all the carting, and heavy lifting, all you have to do is decide which one you like best. Most often there is a fee for this service, but it is well worth it.

If you are purchasing online or where this type of service is not available, buy a few of the rugs that you are considering in the smallest size possible. For example, if I am ordering a rug online, I look to purchase it in the 2″ x 3″ size first. Once I have determined I like the rug, I then purchase it in the larger size. Also, you can bring the small one with you when you are selecting fabrics and art to coordinate with it. If I don’t like the rug, I return it. It is much easier and less costly to return a small rug than a large one.

small rug
Purchase the rug you are considering in a small size first as a sample
The area rug in the large size can be purchased when you are sure you like it

Home Furnishings Shopping Tip #2 of 5: Sofas and Chairs

We all have preferred sitting depths. Usually, tall people find sofas and chairs with a deeper seat more comfortable. The reverse is true for people who are petite. A person who has shorter legs usually prefer to sit in a chair with a smaller cushion depth.

how to find depth of sofa cushion to make sofa shopping easier
Use a tape measure to find the depth of the cushion on a sofa you feel is comfortable

To find your preferred sitting depth simply measure the inside dimensions of a sofa or a chair that you find comfortable.

Once you know your preferred sitting depth, you can eliminate anything that does not meet your criteria and therefore save hours of shopping time. Paying attention to your preferred sitting depth is also a valuable tool when ordering custom furniture, which is impossible to try first.

Home Furnishings Shopping Tips #3 of 5: Kitchen Cabinets

Kitchen cabinets

Before falling in love with a cabinet door style, make sure that the cabinet line has a wide selection of sizes and options available. This is especially important when space is limited. If the cabinet line has few options in sizes available, you end up wasting space because you have to add fillers to extend dimensions, rather than being able to change the size of the cabinet.

Look for cabinet lines that are KCMA Certified (Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer’s Association). Cabinet lines with the KCMA Certification have passed the toughest durability test in today’s market. Additionally, cabinet lines that are KCMA ESP Certified have met criteria to be environmentally friendly.

If you are remodeling your kitchen visit my Interior Design Printables page for handy organizers to help you with your project.

Home Furnishings Shopping Tips #4 of 5: Mirrors

One of the home furnishings shopping tips for buying mirrors is to make sure you like the reflection and that it isn't distorted.
Photo by bruce mars on Pexels.com

Not all mirrors are created equally. I am sure you have realized that you can look better or worse in different mirrors. Remember to consider this when purchasing a mirror. I think a mirror that can take off ten years and ten pounds is the one to buy! Great for the self-esteem.

Seriously, make sure the reflection is pleasing before purchasing, especially with very large mirrors. To get a perfect reflection, the surface of the mirror needs to be completely flat. This is almost impossible for large-sized mirrors. Some have distortions that are worse than others. So check it out before you take it home.

Home Furnishings Shopping Tips #5 of 5: Broadloom Carpeting

You don’t always get what you pay for. In fact, with broadloom carpeting, you also pay for what you don’t get. In other words, you pay for waste as well as what is used in your space.

Carpet is produced in three size rolls. The most common is 12 feet, but sometimes you will find a 13 1/2 or 15-foot roll. Depending on the size of the room you are choosing broadloom for, the carpet roll size can make a difference in price. If you have minimal waste, you can save money.

Also choosing a size roll that fits the room better will make for a cleaner installation. For example, if your room is 15′ x 13′ and chose a broadloom carpet that comes on a 15′ roll, you can purchase just enough carpet and avoid having any seams in the room. However, if you buy a carpet that comes on a 12′ roll, you will have both waste and seams.