PROBLEM: How do you fit a baby grand piano, two accent chairs, a side table, a floor lamp, an area rug, and accessories all in a 12 X 14 room? I don’t know yet, but I’m gonna figure it out.

The client wants the room to be elegant, but simple, with clean lines. There’s not a lot of space to work with, in fact the room really only has two walls. The third wall is mostly windows and the fourth ‘wall’ is actually the archway to enter the room. Making things even more difficult is the fact that there will be a baby grand piano occupying most of the 168 sq feet.

SOLUTION: So what does one do when space is this limited? The answer is scale down. People have a tendency today to buy oversized furniture far too often. Part of the problem is that when we shop for furniture we usually see it in a giant store the size of a warehouse. Only when the pieces are delivered to our 12 X 14 rooms do we realize our eyes were bigger than our floor plans! We end up with giant sofas and enormous coffee tables that make it so we can’t even walk into the room anymore. So the plan with this room will be to make sure the items we place in it are the right size. Take a look at the sketch below which illustrates what sort of furniture and decor we should be aiming for as a guide. Also, as a bonus all the items you see (except for the Steinway piano and Benjamin Moore paint) are available from One stop shopping, you can’t beat that!


Here’s what’s what:

A. Bottoms up! We might as well start with the foundation. There will be hardwood flooring in this room which is a big plus for any room to start with. However, we need to give the room a little softening up, and one of the best ways to do that is with this gold Metropolis area rug. The rug isn’t meant to occupy the whole room, but rather to go under the seating area we are creating. It has a timeless Moroccan pattern and is a steal at $150.

B. The baby grand! Pianos can sometimes be a nightmare to work around, especially if you find yourself having to move it one too many times. On the flip side, they do provide a sense of classicism to a home as well as fill it with wonderful sounds, hopefully. If nothing else pianos can act as big shelves to display your curios!

C. Paint in the Butt. One of the hardest things to figure out in any room is what color to paint the walls. The client said she wanted a white with slate gray scheme. My suggestion is this palette from Benjamin Moore. The lighter gray called silver spring has just enough of that hint of slate blue but still keeps a very neutral tone. Match that with the much lighter steam color and you have a great base to start building your room.

D. Light it up! This Nova Lighting tripod floor lamp will make a great addition to the corner slightly behind the seating area. It should provide enough light for reading or just sitting back and listening to the music. It’s a bit pricier than I would like at $284, but still within reach. You might be able to find a cheaper version that looks very similar, so do your research before you buy.

E and F. Travel in pairs. Here are a couple of somewhat matching black vases that can be added to the room, be it on the side table, or perhaps on a corner shelf. The taller Tung Chi vase is 14″ tall while the shorter Jar is 12″ tall. Both cost $63 each.

G. Have a seat. These accent chairs are a great size for a smaller more crowded space. The Safavieh Noho Lounge Chair is about 30″ high X 30″ wide and 25″ deep and costs only $228 each. Buy two of them to create a nice seating area while saving on space AND money! These chairs have very simple lines. The fact that they are armless will help give the room a sense of having even more space. The white piping and buttons are a great touch that adds some contrast the the gray fabric.

H. Table time. I really like this gold table. Gold is in again so don’t be afraid to use it. This great little side table is also made by Safavieh and sells for only $130. It’s about 20″ high X 17″ wide and 12″ deep. This is a perfect size for a small vase, a cup of coffee, or just a place to rest your book. The top is actually mirrored so it will reflect a lot of light brightening up the room even more. The elegant gold color of the table against the gray side chairs and wall will compliment each other nicely. The lines in this table are as clean and sharp as they come. The straight verticals and horizontals will be a good contrast to the curved line of the side chairs.

I. Soften with Color. While I think the chairs may be great by themselves, you may find that they need a little more cushion. My suggestion is to add a pop of color with this set of two pillows made by Key Lipstick which sell for $70. The rich, deep, red color add a bit of luxury and elegance to the room, while the gold embroidery helps pick up the warmth from the rug and side table.


The dining room renovation is still in the planning stage, but I just picked up this great chandelier from Joss & Main for $157, actually a bit more once you add tax and shipping!


It is a 10-light version that measures 14″ X 17″, perfect for a small room like mine. They also have a larger 12 light version for $220 and a smaller 6 light version for $330. I am not sure why the smallest version is the most expensive though? I’ll keep you posted when it arrives and finally gets hung up.

If you REALLY like the sputnik style they also have a floor lamp ($253), desk lamp ($167), and wall sconce ($54) available as well. But to me, the chandelier is really where it’s at!


If you’re interested in these deals you better act quick, the sale ends in about 22 hours!

I’m Stumped!


I was going to call this post Stool Sample, but I couldn’t bring myself to write that as a headline. Stools, particularly wooden stools, have been around since the earliest human sat down in the woods on a fallen tree. Usually when I think of a stump stool I picture some cabin in the woods, surrounded by flannel blankets and hunting gear, where some old man is sitting on an old tree stump he hauled in from the forest. He’s not using it for the aesthetic style as much as he is for the pure function. A simple round base with a flat top for him to rest his legs while he guts fish, or whittles pipes, or whatever camping folk do these days. Maybe he just sits there while he’s on his iPad, who knows.

Now there are thousands of styles of stools available today made from countless varieties of material. Sure there’s wood (natural and man-made), plastic, acrylic, metal, leather, cotton, ceramic, hell even bean bag style stools, but what can really make a statement today are these stump stools. It’s odd to see them out of their natural environment, or at least out of the cabins, but adding these little seating elements to your home can make for a great conversation piece as well as a functional stool or table.

Take a look at a few I found today:

This one is available from West Elm for $199. It’s a very natural color wood, because it is natural, and is a perfect height to serve as both a side table or stool at 19″ high X 12.5″ wide. Place this in front of a sofa or next to a chair, maybe even in the corner as a lamp table or in your entry way as a place to throw your keys and mail when you walk in the house, or sit down to put your shoes on before you go out.




Here’s an option from KALON STUDIOS starting at $85 for the small size (8.5″ wide X 12″ high) and $350 for the large (12″ wide X 17″ high). Made of maple or ash depending on availability and then dried and sanded to keep it’s natural color and tone, these are some pretty sleek looking stools. They kind of look like big teeth to me, but that adds to their cool factor! Check out the rest of the Kalon Studios website for some more really cool wooden furniture.






Lastly there’s this molten silver looking stool available from Amazon for $325. This is definitely my favorite of the three. The stool measures 20″ X 18″ and is cast from a real log then manufactured in resin and hand finished in silver-leaf. Sounds very expensive, and it certainly isn’t cheap, but I still think it’s a good deal at this price. The silver leafing provides a real modern feel to the stump, yet the natural texture makes it still seem very organic.




So as you can see from the three examples above, a tree stump can be so much more than a place to gut your fish!

A Star is Reborn!

Starburst (and I don’t mean the candy) mirrors are definitely in right now, especially in gold. In fact, the color gold is in vogue at the moment as well, we’ll talk about that in a later post.



The history of the starburst mirror goes back sometime, at least as far back as the Venetian Republic and that’s a long long time ago to you and me. But just because something has been around a long time doesn’t mean that it’s not good anymore. Look at Abe Vigoda for example! Some would say he gets better with age!

In any case, the starburst mirror is having a major comeback at the moment. They come in all different sizes and prices which is great for us. No matter if you have a small narrow wall or a large expansive one, there’s a perfect starburst just waiting for its’ chance to shine in your space. Here’s a few that I found today ranging in price from $35 to $140:

This one is from Lamps Plus and is $140, but it’s quite large at 40.5″ round. It weighs over 8 pounds but free shipping is included. This is perfect for that large space between two windows or above your bed (see the pic below). While the actual functionality of the mirror may not be as useful since the reflective surface is only 10″ round, but who cares! You’re not buying this mirror to do your make-up or style your hair.



Similarly priced is this choice from Home Decorators Collection.  It is $139, but shipping will cost you an extra $9, but it is slightly smaller at 35.5″ round. This mirror has a more aged gold leaf finish to it that adds a bit of the Renaissance to your room.


Suzanne Kasler designed this classic starburst mirror below and it’s a great deal at $99 from Ballard Designs. This mirror is 21″ in diameter and perfect for that smaller wall, maybe above a side or end table.



Here’s a very affordable option from Target for only $35. Also a smaller choice at 23″, the rays or bursts are a much more delicate and thinner style. This mirror may really pop on a dark colored wall where the thin lines can stand out more.


Sometimes Moore means Less . . .


Benjamin Moore that is! So let’s talk about paint brands.

The big ones are Behr (Home Depot), Valspar (Lowe’s), Sherwin-Williams, Benjamin Moore, Glidden, and Olympic. There are more brands out there like Ralph Lauren and Martha Stewart, but in truth each brand is made by another, they’re all related . . . so to speak.

Let’s get the boring statistics out of the way first. Here’s the JD Power rankings of best consumer paint brands:


Now I’ve done my fair share of painting and every time I do, about half way through the project, I remember why I hate painting so much! No matter what size the room, small or large, it’s the same amount of work to me. The actual act of painting the physical color on the wall takes just a few minutes really, depending on how much cutting in and edging you have to do. The BIGGER pain is all the mess and clean up that comes along with it. Set up the drop cloth, shake the paint, open the paint, stir the paint, pour the paint into the tray, open the ladder, get your brush ready, dip it NOT TOO MUCH, scrape some off, paint, dip it NOT TOO MUCH . . . well you get the idea. If that’s where it ended it wouldn’t be so bad. But then once you’re done painting for the day, or even after one coat, you have to clean everything up! Pour the leftover paint back into the can (I know you’re not supposed to do that because it contaminates the paint – I’m not made of money though so back goes the paint), hammer the can shut, pick up the tarp BE CAREFUL NOT TO KNOCK OVER THE WET BRUSHES, pack up all the trays and rollers and head down to the wash basin, rinse everything out DON’T USE HOT WATER YOU’LL RUIN THE BRUSH (but of course cold water does nothing), dry the brush . . . you get the idea again. In any case, it may not be the most difficult thing to do around your home, but it sure is one of the most time consuming. Wait, weren’t we talking about pain brands? Back to that.

Needless to say I’ve painted my fair share of rooms (that’s where we were). I’ve used the cheapest paint money could buy and some of the most expensive. There really should be some sort of scale in all the paint stores and home improvement centers that has a dollar amount from low to high and then a paint brand below it that corresponds to the cost above. There could even be a third line that goes from watery to pudding or thin to thick paint! Basically the cheaper the paint the more watery it usually is, the more expensive the paint, the thicker it is. And quality paint is all about thickness, or to be technical viscosity.

In my not so expert painting opinion the thickest paint I have ever used, as backed up by the JD Power study, is Benjamin Moore. Now you may be saying that’s great, but Benjamin Moore is a bit pricey, I think their cheapest level paint is still about $50 a gallon. Now this is where the title Moore means Less comes in. Yes, while $50 a gallon is a lot of money, it will cover your walls a heck of a lot better and last a lot longer than the cheaper $25-30 a gallon brands will. Plus, if you’re really good, you only need one coat of Benjamin Moore paint where you may need 2 or 3 coats of the cheaper brands, and that right there is worth big savings in both time and money! I’ve said it on this blog before, but when it comes to paint, you really do get what you pay for. There’s nothing worse than edging a room and having that long watery drip go down your wall because you saved $5 a gallon on the cheaper paint (oh yes, and to get the $5 back you have to mail in the proof of purchase and your receipt, and I’m sure we ALL do that right!?!). Even worse is not noticing until after it has dried that your paint is running in globs down the edge, nothing to really fix it at that point.

Now if you can’t bring yourself to spend $50+ on a gallon of paint that’s quite understandable. There’s no need to spend that much on primer or ceiling paint, as long as your careful about the globing effect in corners. It’s fine to buy the cheaper stuff to lay down as a base coat. You could also try buying a better quality of the cheaper brands and see how that works for you. Meaning, usually paint companies like Behr have 3 different qualities or levels of paint, basic, mid-level, and high end. Maybe try the middle one if price is an issue and see how that goes on. Spending even just a few extra bucks could make all the difference in your room!

I have other great painting tips, like buy the most expensive brushes you can afford so the bristles don’t fall out, and what type of finish to pick for which room, or how to edge around molding and corners, or how putting your brushes in the freezer between coats can save on cleaning time . . . but we’ll cover that some other day!

I Pity the Foo!


I got a great deal this past weekend on a pair of Jonathan Adler Foo Dog lamps from the JC Penny home store. The website has them on sale right now for $45 each, but in the store they were marked as $37 each. And as a bonus they left the light bulbs in them!!!

These lamps are perfect for your bedside (which is where I will be using them) or on a sofa table, buffet cabinet, end tables, well pretty much anywhere. And, if you’re really in to Buddhism you should definitely buy a pair of them and not just one lamp. Foo dogs are always found in pairs in the Buddhist faith. Foo dogs (also spelled Fu) are the guardians of Buddhist temples and Chinese palaces. In fact, Foo/Fu means Buddha. They were originally made to act as lions would, but since lions are not native to China, they were modeled after native dogs like the Chow Chow. Hence their somewhat gargoyle-ian features.


Today of course, at least in Western culture, the Foo/Fu dogs are typically used as pieces of decor, which brings us back to these Adler lamps. They are just the right size for bedside lamps at about 22″ high. The shade is just ok, as are most shades that come with lamps. I will think about upgrading it to a heavier quality black shade. But all in all it, and especially for the price, the quality is very good.


Don’t think of these lamps, or Foo dogs in general, as just Asian decor. The Adler lamp is a very stylized and modern looking Fu dog, which really helps bring it into the Western design sense. In fact, many of the Foo dogs you see in the stores and shops today are of this modern style. They do not have the same ancient feel as the ones you would see in a museum or temple, but they will add just enough of that far east feeling to make your room seem unique!


It’s All in the Decals!

Following up, sort of, with an earlier post about wall decals. My wife, who is also a graphic designer, has the unfortunate luck to actually have to go into an office everyday. Until recently, her work space used to be a dark, dank, dimly lit corner. But then they added some bright colors, moved some desks around to open up space and just the other day added this really cool decal to their wall.


Obviously as a graphic designer myself I have full appreciation for the content of this decal. But, from a more interior design prospective this is also a great choice. The contrast of the black and white decal on the red/orange painted wall is perfect! The Periodic Table of Typefaces adds some whimsy and fun to an otherwise typical office. Check out the link above to Scribble on Everything, there’s some other great decals on this site as well. This one was only $49 and look at how cool it looks. You would never be able to find a framed piece of art or print for anywhere near $49, at least not one that would take up this much space AND look good doing it!

Dining Room Do’s and Doo-doo’s!!!

Take a look at the dining room shot below. There’s a lot of dining room doo-doo going on here!


Where to start? The dark wood hutch and buffet cabinet and dark wood chairs and table (hidden under an oddly placed flower print table-cloth) make this room feel claustrophobic, or at least it makes me feel claustrophobic when IN this room. The burgundy/merlot colored curtains block out all the light while the frosted glass chandelier blares in your face. The two-tone taupe (say that real fast five times) colored walls only help to mute out the light even more.

The two bright spots in this room are the hard-wood floor and the chair rail molding along the bottom half of the walls. The wood flooring provides a nice warm color to the room while the white molding at least gives us SOME contrast.

Sadly, this is my dining room. All these mistakes took some time to coordinate. An inherited china cabinet and dining set mixed in with a chandelier that was in this home before we moved in, combined with curtains that seemed like a good idea at the time and a table cloth that looked great in the store, all came together to make this room look like doo-doo! But not for long!

Here’s a sketch of a few ideas I have so far. Obviously not all these things will be making the final cut, but it’s a start. I like to use these kind of sketches as a frame work for the design of a room. I like the two porcelain heads on the wall, but if I can’t find them, I can find something similar in size and shape which will work just as well, and the same for everything else.


The most obvious change is the brightness in the room. It doesn’t get a great deal of sunlight, but you can create light using small amounts of contrast. A dark paint color on the bottom half against a brighter creamy color on the top half suddenly opens this space right up. I’ve already wrote about the buffet cabinet in a previous post (To Display or Buffet…) so let’s talk about the chandelier.


This would probably be considered a Sputnik style chandelier, popular in the 60’s when the whole space craze took flight (cough-cough). They have since become a part of the mid-centruy modern movement and you find them in all different sizes and shapes. Usually they are fairly round and have several extensions coming out from the center like a star, or satellite, or UFO! They range in size from 18″ or so up to several feet for the big $$$ buyer.

The model above is called the Zuo 50028 Pulsar and I found it on Quill for $249. Many other websites cary this same chandelier so shop around for the best price. Amazon carries it, through a 3rd party seller, for $75 more. Even Staples carries this light, but they’re out of stock right now. If you don’t like this particular chandelier but like the Sputnik style there are a lot of options out there, and many of them are very affordable.