Most of us love a good DIY project every now and then.  I mean, who doesn’t love the challenge of planning a project and seeing it through to the end?  And then there’s the added bonus of saving a little money.  But lately, I’ve been hearing from a lot of Design-It-Yourself’ers that they’re disappointed in the way their remodels are turning out.  As I listen to their concerns, one common thread stands out loud and clear.  The biggest mistake they’re making is not communicating EXACTLY what they want to the people who are helping them. 

Being over-the-moon excited with your finished design project is what you dream of.  The vision you have in your head is sometimes the only thing that keeps you going when the dust and drilling is getting on your last nerve.  But unless you get that vision out of your head and onto paper, you might be headed for disappointment.  No one can read your mind, so communication is the key to your project’s success.

Somehow, in the rush of our crazy lives, the small details seem to get lost in the shuffle.  We assume  “they should know that”.  But they don’t.  Everyone working for you has their own idea of how something should be installed.   It might be standard in their industry, but not how you want it to look.

Here are just a few of those little details you need to consider:

 1. The height of your shower head.  Where do you want it?  Be sure to tell your plumber or contractor.

2.  The height of the tile in your shower.  Do you want it to go to the ceiling?  Is there crown molding?

3.  Garbage disposer…Do you want it on the small bowl side or the large?  On the left bowl or the right?  There is no right or wrong answer here, but you need to communicate this with the plumber.  If you think about how you like to work at your sink, and plan accordingly, incorrect installations won’t happen.

4.  Counter top overhang.  Standard is 1 1/4″ – 1 1/2″.  Make that clear with your counter top people.  Check it for consistency once it’s installed.  In my own kitchen, the first installation had different overhangs all around the island and had to be re-done.

5.  How high do you want your window treatments hung?  To the ceiling?  To the top of your trim?  Somewhere in between?  You need to decide this before they’re constructed and then communicate this to the installer.

6.  Placement of pendant lights.  Size of the pendants and size of the island usually determine how far apart they should be.  Your installer may have a different opinion than you do, so make it clear ahead of time.  Also, ceiling beams or joists may throw a wrench into the plan.  Keeping an open line of communication with your installers and contractor will make these last minute changes less stressful.

7.  Exact placement of mirrors and vanity lights.  This is determined by ceiling height, backsplash height, size of the lights, etc.  Plan and ahead and then communicate this plan to everyone involved, especially if you can’t be there when they’re installed.

To avoid miscommunication on your design project:

  • Ask a lot questions about the little details so you know what to expect.
  • Understand that, if the details aren’t spelled out in advance, you’ll get calls for last minute decisions.  If you’re not available to answer, something might get installed where you don’t want it.
  • Plan out every detail of your project before construction begins and make sure your contractor and subs are on board.
  • Arrange to have daily or weekly updates on progress.
  • Hire an interior designer to handle these details for you.  A designer will make sure they’re installed according to your vision.

Always remember that how well you communicate your design vision determines how happy you’ll be in the end.  And that’s exactly what everyone wants for you!

If you’re finally ready to begin your own home makeover, contact us today to schedule a Design Success call and get your project started in the right direction .  


Lessons Learned In Art Class

Lessons Learned In Art Class


This week I decided to act on my Word of the Year (CREATE) and do something creative.  Something that would take me way out of my comfort zone and challenge me.  I enrolled in an art class called Color and Mood because I love color, and I just knew it would help me in interior design.  Little did I know that the lessons learned in art class would also show me how to help clients in their quest for the perfect home.

Let me back up a little bit, to the day the supply list from the instructor arrived in my inbox.  Included in the list were instructions to bring pastels (too messy for me), oil paints (never tried them), and acrylic paints (haven’t touched them in 10 years).  And we needed all the brushes and papers that go with each medium.  I panicked!  I was in way over my head!  So I emailed the instructor who assured me that beginners were welcome.  The class to be was all about color and mood…not a technique class.

I was so excited for class day!  First of all, it was a chance to get out of the house during this monsoon season we’ve been having.  Second, I could hang out with some of my creative friends for two days.  And best of all, I was going to learn something new.

Color and Mood exercises by Sharon Colker

Our main exercise for Day 1 was to select a black and white photograph that the instructor provided.  We were to sketch it onto 6 different  6×6  boards.  That part was easy.  But then she explained that each board needed to be painted in a different color combination, and these colors would create a mood for each painting.  We had to paint each board as follows:  use the colors as they would be in real life,  use contrasting colors,  analogous colors (next to each other on the color wheel),  warm colors,  cool colors,  and monochromatic.

Have you ever had an anxiety attack right before you had to try something new and out of your comfort zone? Well, that’s exactly what happened when I started to put brush to canvas!  The thoughts going through my mind were  “I want it to be perfect”,   “I know it won’t be”,   “I’m afraid to start”,   “What if my friends think it’s awful?”.   Can you relate?   But I took a deep breath,  and told myself “it’s supposed to be fun…an experiment in color, not technique”. 

And I began to paint.

After two days of painting, experimenting, and learning from my mistakes, I discovered that the lessons learned in art class about life and design were just as important as painting again.  Here is my take away:

  • Before you begin a painting decide on the mood or emotion you want it to portray.  Keep this in mind for any home or office re-design project you want to take on.   Do you want the mood to be bright and cheerful or dark and cozy?

Pastel drawings by Patsy Dupre

  • Relax and don’t worry about perfection
  • Mistakes can usually be fixed
  • Walk away and come back to it later for a fresh perspective
  • Loosen up! It doesn’t have to look exactly like the photograph.  Insert your own personality and style into it.
  • The quality of the supplies you use impacts the end result and how much you like it. When it comes to our design projects, we all love to find a bargain.  But sometimes paying for better quality paint will give you better coverage and durability.  Buying a beautiful bargain sofa online without checking out all of the specifications, could be a huge mistake if no one will sit on it because it’s too hard.
  • Sketch it and “map it out” before you begin the painting. Plan, plan, plan is also the first and most important rule of every interior design project.

In the end, I was so glad that I took the class.  Sure, my work was far from perfect but I improved with each lesson.  By the end of Day 2 I was pleased with my work and ready to keep practicing.  But just like any design project we tackle, there’s always room for improvement when we start out.  Our design eye gets better with each new space we create.  And that’s what keeps it interesting and fun!

Photography by Becky Gilstrap, The Reserve at Lake Keowee





After extreme heat, high humidity, and two hurricanes, the Fall season has officially arrived.  It is finally cool in the South!!!  We home décor lovers are ready to go, and excited to get moving on our Fall decorations.  Are you someone who loves to use hand-picked apples, Indian corn, and autumn leaves?  Or are you like me, and are addicted to adding pumpkins in every size, shape, and color?  I don’t know about you, but the minute PSL (pumpkin spice latte) arrives at Starbucks, I’m ready to decorate for Fall.  

Saving and re-purposing fall decorations from one year to the next gives you a jump start on your holiday prep.   But I always go back to these 3 Designer Tips for Pumpkin Décor when I’m starting my list.

Pair It With Fall’s Bounty

Colors found in nature play well together for your home’s decor.  Consider incorporating deep, rich colors like persimmon, rust, amber, and butterscotch.  Remember that’s it’s all about variety.  So play with it and have some fun!

Anything that reminds you of fall can be used. 

  • Autumn squash
  • Indian corn
  • gourds,
  • colored leaves
  • pinecones
  • mums
  • apples
  • cornstalks

Plan It to Last Until Thanksgiving

If you want to create a lasting impression of Fall, remember to use items that you can add or subtract for each holiday.  The perfect carved pumpkin or scary witch for Halloween can be replaced with pilgrims and cornucopias for Thanksgiving.

When you’re taking the time to create something beautiful, why not plan ahead to make it last for a few months.  Don’t be afraid to use faux pumpkins, vines, and leaves.  The money you invest today will save you a time and money year after year.

Place It Creatively

Mixing pots of beautiful mums with colorful heirloom pumpkins is a super easy way to decorate your porch.  With so many shapes, sizes, and colors available at markets, it’s fun to get creative.

Using a large platter or tray as a base, it’s easy to add small gourds and candles.  Take a walk in the woods to bring the outdoors inside by adding some pinecones, leaves, and acorns.

I love finding examples of how creative people can be.  Here are my favorite finds for this season:

I discovered this unique jack-o-lantern appetizer on Pinterest, and can’t wait to make it!

Pumpkin man on his tractor just makes me smile! 



It’s the Year of the Pig, and I wish you Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy Lunar New Year and Chinese New Year (aka CNY)!  May you have a happy and prosperous new year. 

Did you know that this holiday typically lasts for two weeks?  Such a long break gives families a chance to travel to their parents’ home to celebrate, spend time together, and get a fresh start on the new year.

I love the idea of a fresh start for the new year!  And traveling is always a perfect way to make that happen.  Sometimes it’s a relaxing trip to the beach, and other times it’s a whirlwind of site seeing, museums, and great restaurants.  But the best part for me is coming home with a new attitude and a fresh perspective

Traveling gives my mind a break from the day to day routine of running a business, and the daily routine of life that we all seem to find ourselves in. Once I’ve had a break from all of this, the creative juices start flowing and new ideas seem more exciting and possible than they did before.

“It’s not always that we need to do more, but rather that we need to focus on less.” – Nathan W. Morris

Our recent return trip to Singapore and Bali did just that.  I was trying to check off more things on my to-do list than was humanly possible.  And of course, guess what that lead to…

For months before this fabulous vacation I just wasn’t inspired to write a blog post or send out a newsletter.  And that lead to guilt.  Can you relate? 

Have you ever wanted to simply be quiet and go with the flow of life instead of feeling the need to produce all the time?  I finally hit that wall!!! 

So I gave myself permission to stop writing, stop feeling guilty, and to focus on family and friends, client projects and creativity.  I started quilting again and playing with clay.  I even joined a quilt guild with a friend!!!  That one definitely sent my husband into shock!

But the guilt was still there, and the nagging feeling that a change was needed.  So our big trip after the holidays was the perfect time to completely forget about everything except having fun!  And it was a chance to get a fresh perspective on what is really important. 

Now that vacation is over, and I’ve had time to re-group, I realize that I love the Chinese New Year celebrations I experienced in Singapore! I love the colors, the red lanterns, and the oranges that are given as good luck for the coming year.

Orange trees for CNY

I love the festivities leading up to the big day…lion dances, artisans sharing their craft, and beautiful displays all over town.

But I also discovered that the traditions practiced in Chinese homes to get ready for the Lunar New Year, are the same ones we follow to get ready for our own New Year.  Here are a few that we share:

  • Preparing special foods to bring good luck and prosperity.
  • Cleaning the house top to bottom to welcome our guests and greet the new year.
  • Clearing out the bad energy of the year before by moving things around
  • Going through closets to get rid of old clothing, shoes, and purses you no longer use.  Clearing out the old makes way for wonderful new things in your life for the coming year.
  • In the kitchen, throw out containers and jars that only have a little bit left in them.  Keeping them, shows you’re stingy and good fortune will stay away!
  • Organize drawers and pantries, removing anything you no longer need or want.  If it isn’t used and doesn’t bring you joy, give it away.
  • Do not cook in your kitchen on Lunar New Year!  Sorry…I had to throw in this one even though we don’t usually practice it in our western culture.  But wouldn’t that be nice?

Many of these traditions are changes that we can easily make to our homes.  And these changes can give us a fresh perspective by letting us look at things from a different point view.  Sometimes you simply need to walk away for a while so you can look at a space or problem in a different way. Now get ready for the creative ideas to flow!

Your Design Homework:

  • Sort through your cabinets and pantry and look for any bottles, jars, etc. that have only a tiny bit left in the bottom.  Throw it away!
  • For 9 days in a row, throw away (or give away) 27 things each day. That could be 27 pieces of paper one day and 27 pieces of clothing another day.  I’ve been known to even get rid of 27 magazines from my ever growing pile.
  • This is a bit more challenging, but 27 things in your house and move them around.  An easy way to do this is to take down all your accessories and spread them out on the floor.  Now relocate them to different rooms in your house, or even a different shelf on the bookcase.


Sometimes you just simply need to walk away for a while so you can look at a space or problem in a different way. Now get ready for the creative ideas to flow!






Whenever I work on a project,  I am so motivated and excited to get going that I could work on it all day and night!  As the project moves along, and my short attention span kicks in,  I start anticipating how wonderful it will be to have it finished.  Does this ever happen to you?  Sometimes, though, I discover that  all the enthusiasm in the world won’t carry me through to completion once the Interior Design Project-Killers enter my mind.   And guess what? It can apply to any project you want to tackle, not just your DIY projects.

This all started when I decided that creative projects were missing in my life.  So I decided that every day for a month my focus would be on quilting.  It used to be my first love after all. 

Immediately I started feeling a little stressed.  What if I make a mistake?  What would I make?  Which fabrics should I choose from my stash?  Wow!  I was in overwhelm already and nearly gave up.  It was time for a deep breath…and a plan. 

And that’s when I realized that these project killers are the same for quilting, gardening, and even interior design.  Let’s take a look and see which ones might apply to the way you approach a project.

 Afraid of making a mistake – There are so many choices, so many options available to us, and sometimes it sends us into overwhelm.  What if we make a mistake?  What if it isn’t perfect?  What if my mistake costs a LOT of money to fix?   Overwhelm is a trap.  When we see everything that needs to be done on a project, sometimes we freeze and do nothing.  Then we feel stuck and can’t move forward.

Solution:  Make a list of all the steps, and then take one small step at a time.

HurryingWhen we’re in a hurry, usually it’s because our to-do list is bigger than what we can get done in a day.  Has this ever happened to you?  When I’m crazy busy and trying to work on a project I feel out of step.  I don’t enjoy the process.  And sometimes, I don’t enjoy the results when i get there because I’m running off to the next project.

Solution:  Make a plan before you start.  Study the plan so you know all the steps.  Then start the work. (Hint…Have you ever been in a rush while you’re baking and forgotten an ingredient or two?  When I do that, it’s mostly because I didn’t read the directions ahead of time.)

Going for the cheapest…putting cost before qualityWe all like to save money.  Right?  Well there are parts of a project where it’s OK to economize, and parts that aren’t.  Remember the old saying “you get what you pay for?”  It’s true.  You hire the tile installer based on his low price, and 4 months later, the tile falls off.  A lower priced faucet with plastic parts instead of one with ceramic parts will break in a year.  Get the picture?

Solution:  Do your homework before you start.  Educate yourself on the price ranges of the products that you want to include.  And then take it one step further and look at the descriptions of the products, including any ratings and reviews they might have.  This helps you plan your budget and make an educated decision about the best product for YOUR project.

Too complicated No matter how hard we try to keep it simple, we sometimes seem to get over excited when it comes to our design projects.  We see this great design.  It’s a little intricate, but we love it and we’re sure we can create it on our own.  And then it happens!  We realize it’s bigger than we can handle and have to hire a pro to finish it.  Or worse yet, we struggle through it, hating every second, and wish we had never started.

Solution: Keep it simple!!!!!  Only plan for what you know in your heart you can do yourself.  Or…hire a professional to create it for you.

Stuff happens – Sometimes things happen that we didn’t expect.  It might be a plumbing line running through the wall you wanted to move.  Or it could be as simple as discovering the granite you have your heart set on is out of stock.  The impact is always the same.  Disappointment.

Solution: Take a step back.  Take a deep breath and know that, if you’re willing to compromise, there’s almost always a solution.

Too much stuff you never use Now, who can’t relate to this one?  I seem to have noticed a tortilla press from the 80’s tucked away in my pantry (and never used).  Do you have a limited space that even the best designer or organizer can’t expand on to create as much storage as you want?

Solution: Sad but true, it’s time to take a serious look at all your stuff.  If you haven’t used it in the last 5 years, chances are you won’t miss it.  How much Tupperware do you really need?

Binge watching design TV – Have you ever spent a day watching one program after another and come away feeling like Super Women?  You know, you have that feeling of confidence that says “I can do this!  I can gut my kitchen, organize my garage, turn my basement into party central, and maybe even roof the house…all in one week.”  Sorry folks.  This is not always reality.  If you believe it, you’re setting yourself up for failure before your even start.

Solution: These shows are filled with creativity and good ideas…most of the time.  But watch them for the entertainment factor and then look for tips you can use on your own project.  Always keep in mind that there is a team of people working behind the scenes to make sure the design is perfect and products are selected and delivered on time.  It was not created overnight, and it was not done for free.

Now that you’ve seen my 7 Design Project Killers and how to get rid of them, the real magic is about to begin on your own project.  It’s time to work Your magic, make it happen, and enjoy the journey!

If you find yourself stuck on your next project, and confused about what to do next, contact me at to schedule a Design Strategy chat.  And if you leave your name and email in the box to the right, my newsletter, Life In the Kitchen, will be delivered to your in-box twice a month.  I hate SPAM as much as you do and only send design tips and trends that you’ll find useful.



How To Reclaim Your Kitchen In 3 Easy Steps

How To Reclaim Your Kitchen In 3 Easy Steps

The kitchen, the Heart of the Home, where everyone wants to hang out and have fun.   But are we really doing that?  Our lives are crazy busy between work and carpooling, after school activities, and evening meetings.  There’s barely time left in our week to shop for food.  Who has time to cook it?  Wouldn’t you love to go back to a simpler time?  A time when we were all together as a family making memories in the kitchen? Wouldn’t you love to learn how to reclaim your kitchen in 3 easy steps?

I love this video produced by Subzero/Wolf.  It’s a perfect explanation of how we wandered out of the kitchen and into “fast food land.”  Isn’t it time you reclaimed your kitchen?  Enjoy the video!

Video Courtesy of Subzero/Wolf

Reclaim Your Kitchen In 3 Easy Steps:

  1. Plan your meals even if it’s only one meal a week.  The next week add another meal.  Set a time to eat.  Set the table.  But most of all just cook!
  2. Celebrate the goodness of fresh food and how healthy it is.  Not to mention the money you’ll save on dining out!
  3. Cook together!!!

If you’re dreaming of your own Heart of the Home Kitchen and don’t know where to start,  we’re here to help.    Just leave your name and email in the box on the right to receive our free report 5 Secrets To Your Spectacular Kitchen or Bath.