The Myth of Less is More


As an Interior Designer, my scope of work involves interacting and collaborating with construction professionals. In my ideal world, I would get to advise my clients and recommend a crew I trust and value. Unfortunately, I don’t always have the final say on who the homeowner decides to hire.

To all the homeowners out there who are considering hiring a General Contractor (GC), I’d like to share my experience and a bit of friendly advice:

WantedWhen a homeowner chooses to tackle a remodel or home improvement project, there is much to consider: Design, Quality, Details, Time Line and so forth. What typically is most preoccupying? The answer is cost, naturally.

As would the captain of a ship, homeowners often only see the tip of the iceberg. Under the water often lurk more ominous factors that require acute attention. This is why hiring the right crew can make or break the outcome of a home improvement project.

A qualified and professional General Contractor will ensure that common challenges and frustrations won’t mushroom into downright nightmares. Although contractor bids can vary, there usually is reason for concern when a bid comes in significantly lower than most. It can be very tempting for a homeowner to choose the most cost efficient bid. Unfortunately, the old saying will most likely prove to be true, “you get what you pay for”.


Contractors who quote low-ball bids usually take on any job coming their way to stay afloat and/or profitable. They often spread themselves thin and are not able to provide the type of service and follow through that every homeowner should expect.

When a contractor does not make adequate time for a project, it inevitably causes a snowball effect. Every professional involved incurs obstructive delays and additional fees, which most often are passed on to the homeowner.

One of the most frustrating scenarios is the “missing in action” team. A contractor who is spread thin and over promises will ofetn avoid communication with homeowners and designers. He and his crew will fail to show up on the job and leave everyone in limbo regarding the status of the project. The project schedule is then compromised and completion dates get pushed back over and over.

A low bid also frequently translates into a lack of foresight on the General Contractor’s part. Consider whether or not the contractor performed an on-site survey with the subcontractors. Discuss his opinions on room transitions, finishes, existing challenges, quality of materials, consistency with the rest of the house, and proposed construction schedule for completion. Confirm weather these items are congruent with his bid. Homeowners may find that when these items are not accounted for in the original bid, costs mysteriously creep up as the project gets underway.Door_Corner_DIY_Gone_Wrong

Quality can also greatly suffer in the process. If the contractor fails to consider the aforementioned items, the end result will be less than satisfactory. Additions will look like afterthoughts and materials may deteriorate. Poor craftsmanship will stand out like a sore thumb. It is perfectly reasonable to ask the names and qualifications of the subcontractors your General Contractor is proposing. The last thing you want to do is pay to have work redone or “fixed” because of poor quality construction.

Soak_em_for_Crutchy_DIY_Gone_WrongIn hiring a contractor, homeowners should ask themselves what kind of service they expect. Quality contractors will take the time to cover furniture and protect adjacent rooms during construction. They clean up at the end of every day. They provide constant communication on construction progress. They visit the site daily to provide quality control on the subcontractor’s work. Reliable contractors also stick to the plans the designer and architect supply and work with the team to solve any unforeseen challenges. Problems arise on every project. How the contractor works with the team to resolve them is a true indicator of his worth.

So while that low bid may appear tempting, homeowners most often find that the lowerst price ends up costing them more in the long run in terms of money, time and stress.

In summery, when hiring a general contractor, a homeowner should look at the contractor’s experience and track record. A qualified and professional contractor will anticipate all costs in the project. He will be thorough in giving a bid. He will pay attention to details, transition and quality. He will be in constant communication. He will provide skilled subcontractors. He will work closely with designers, architects and other members of the trade involved in the project. He will be concerned with the time line and project completion. He will have impeccable follow through and make sure the punch list is addressed. He will care to respect the design intent despite of any challenges that may arise. He will respect the homeowner’s home and possessions. He will update all involved with his progress on the job.



While this level of service may look like a bigger investment at the beginning of a project, in my experience, the price to pay for a cheaper bid might turn out to be much more than you bargained for.



Instant Design With Significant Purpose



Instant Design with Significant Purpose

Here we are in 2014!  I survived another Holiday season, hosting Christmas Eve and creating the warm and welcoming atmosphere my children and Santa love (Wink – wink)… The gift shopping and wrapping marathon is over. The Elf on the Shelf traveled safely back to HQ in the North Pole. The meal planning and cooking frenzy is past and was enjoyed. The ornaments are back in their boxes and pine needles have been vacuumed and vacuumed and vacuumed.  New Year’s Eve was celebrated with good friends and kids lit sparklers at midnight.


Now the New Year has begun, and the first order of business is to get organized. With the excitement of owning new toys from parents and relatives and special gifts from Saint Nick, comes the dread of, “Where will all this be stored?”  Without a basement or an attic to box away older items, our things can “take over”.  For several days after Christmas, I could not walk into my children’s rooms without stepping on something “plasticky”. Solution number one was, of course, to clean up the closets and storage spaces by making room for the new by ridding ourselves of the old.  I dedicated an entire day to this, and was very pleased with the donations it produced: bags of clothing, toys and books my kids had outgrown, household items I realized I had never used, and the likes.


Once the clutter was eliminated, solution number two is a designer’s favorite: vertical storage! I love to use a pair of bookshelves, cabinets, or a built-in unit to address storage issues in my designs. This is a “win-win” solution for families; shelves and built-ins create symmetry and balance. They add interest by bringing the eye up to become a room’s beautiful focal point. Repeat the height of your shelves with floor to ceiling curtains and voila! You get instant design with a significant purpose.

Built-ins added character to my daughter’s rooms and my home. If you use open shelves, there is an opportunity for an artful display along with storage compartments. So if you are struggling with storage issues, don’t over-think it. Vertical storage is the better solution. With added shelves or built-ins, your space will feel more finished and more spacious, and you won’t need to navigate your children’s rooms as you would a land mine field.

Happy New Year to all and happy design…

(Photos via Pinterest)

59ec52a26034873442aa25a0c49d6ebakid's shelves








I always save a special place for books in my designs.


bathroom libraryLibrary 2I always save a special place for books in my designs.

My grandfather was a collector of beautiful things. He traveled the world and spent a great deal of time in Northern Africa and the Middle East. Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Libya, Lebanon and Syria are all destinations he either visited or resided. In my grandparent’s home in Vernon, near Paris, my grandfather had a “man cave” where he liked to retreat as if a Bedouin. There, he displayed beautiful Kilims and copper platters and hookah pipes.  Floor pillows were laid between leather trunks and incredible textiles were hung over the walls.  Lanterns and camel blankets, gorgeous mirrors and furniture inlaid with ivory and mother of pearl, satchels and muskets populated his travel den.

As children, we were seldom allowed in the mysterious lounge that smelled of tobacco and whiskey. The whole house contained unique and carefully selected objects: gorgeous jades, ceramics from China and incredible art deco vases. Furniture from the 1940’s was scattered through the house.  I particularly loved sinking into the four club chairs that had the warm, sweet smell of leather and the patina of time just so I could hear the crease of the leather whisper its welcoming sound.

Most impressive though, was his collection of books. When in Paris, he would stroll on the banks of the river Seine and look for treasures from the “Bouquinistes” stands. His “bibliothèque” was comprised of an incredible 7,500 mostly leather bound volumes: classic novels, works of philosophy and science, obscure treaties, art and religion, poems by Dante and Victor Hugo, the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Mary Shelley and many more wonderful authors.

I never got to know my grandfather well. He passed away when I was four years old and my grandmother sold the house soon after.  As a family of nine, we were the only ones with a big enough home to house the “Bibliothèque”. The books lined our walls from floor to ceiling and became familiar companions.  Growing up with these books fostered my love for them.

To this day, I enjoy holding a book, opening it and feeling its heavy promise in my hands.  I find that books populate our homes with a reassuring presence, a casual sophistication. Books give clues as to who lives there and what the owner’s likes or interests might be.  Books provide a quiet escape from stressful days or a welcomed conversation starter when entertaining.  Books are essential providers of human clues, warmth and comfort, proof of life.

So please, save and display your books.  They are beautiful objects that have design power far beyond any color palette.  I believe that books really do have a story to tell, and it’s not just about what’s written on the page.

Bibliotheque   BooksBook display


I absolutely love wainscot! And you should too!



Black wainscot with mirror

I Absolutely Love Wainscot!  And You Should Too.

I absolutely love a gorgeous wainscot. Perhaps because it fits beautifully into my criteria of sophistication and clean lines.  Or perhaps it’s because wainscoting is a fantastic way to dress up a wall by giving it dimension, depth and interest.

For instance, take this first photograph. The walls are black yet very reflective. Here, color and wainscot bring out the dimensional definition of the moldings and give an otherwise plain wall a splash of sheer elegance.

Growing up in France, I have seen my share of wainscots. They are an integral part of the old world home.  Originally, their primary function was to isolate stone walls and keep rooms warm, often used from floor to ceiling. By integrating decorative moldings, creative symmetry, tapestry insertWhite wainscots and intricate inlays or carvings, wainscots earned panache and transformed into stunning decorative elements.

Today, wainscoting is a wonderful way to break up a wall when high ceilings seem intimidating. The application can be vertical or horizontal, delicate or rustic, traditional or contemporary clean. The options are endless.

Using a wainscot can be a wonderful alternative to “just paint”. It gives your walls character and helps define the flavor of a room. Additionally, it can tone down a loud wall paper by dividing the surface and grounding the room.

Recently, I used wainscoting to transform an ordinary foyer and corridor by defining the walls and coffered ceiling.  The result was a dramatic and glamorous entryway.  I applied a gorgeous metallic natural weave wall paper to the panels, the ceiling and the bare walls between the moldings.  The entry is truly stunning and the space is fully transformed.

I am genuinely looking forward to conceiving my next wainscot application. Adding a little drama and a lot of character to a space is always an excellent remedy to the monotony of everyday ennui.

Dining room wainscot

Wainscot basic












Get inspired with Cameron Diaz and fall in love again…



Elle docor camren diaz kitchen

Get inspired with Cameron Diaz and fall in love again…

Working with a client who is willing to take risks opens doors in a designer’s mind that are often otherwise blocked by safe choices.  In our trade, the opportunity to explore new territories and introduce bold design statements in the home is a welcomed gift.

One of my current projects is for a beloved client who is open to step out of her comfort zone. When we started her renovation last year, I suggested the idea of refinishing her kitchen cabinets in extreme high gloss, selecting a deep, dark and moody green lacquer.  Initially, she was not convinced that she would like the end result.

As we moved through the project, it became clear that this bold direction would beautifully integrate her open floor plan kitchen with the flow of the new spaces we were creating. The new saturated emerald color would take my client’s kitchen from its generic design of warm wood cabinetry with speckled granite counters (Oh, so 90’s) to a fun, sophisticated look much more in line with her vibrant personality.

To my great pleasure and surprise, actress Cameron Diaz’s kitchen in the latest issue of Elle Décor echoed my sensibility. In Cameron’s space, the brilliant designer Kelly Wearstler used dark green lacquered cabinets with an elegant gold detail. This fresh new take on a vintage 70′s look was the final argument to seduce my client into refinishing her own kitchen.  The new color will transform the space into a glamorous, sexy and mysterious corner, all qualities my client loves in her new home.

In design history, the dark painted cabinetry look traditionally belongs to Old World England and centuries old East Coast homes, which renders it timeless.  Sadly, this decorating element has long been out of favor in the name of “resale value”.  Because dark colors are a statement and a personal preference, they are not a “safe” choice in the mind of homeowners who may be looking to sell their home when the market is right.

On a positive note and in part due to the recent financial crisis, we may finally be leaving an era of treating our homes like piggy banks. It seems we may be returning to a culture where homes are a refuge for memories and families. Perhaps hard times have taught us again to love our homes for their ability to capture within their walls the emotions that will stay with us for years to come. Perhaps we can finally begin to safely reflect who we are with our design choices.

In terms of real estate, I believe that a well-designed personal space will show just as well, if not better than, a generically appealing one.  Although, chances are that when home truly becomes the place where your heart is, you probably won’t even think about selling.

Glamour Chandelier


Oly muriel_chandelier
This gorgeous chandelier from Oly Studio is now the dramatic focal point over one of my  client’s dining room table. It’s warm amber glow sparkles into the mirrors on the opposite walls, creating a wonderful enveloping ambient light that sets the mood for a lovely dinner.

BTID now on


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