Sheila Rich Interiors: Design Blog

Helpful tips and suggestions on designing your interior.

Light Up Your Life…and Your Home

b2ap3_thumbnail_Colorblock-condo-dining-room-ceiling-lighting.jpgGood lighting is crucial in any home, yet a lack of ceiling fixtures or ineffective lighting is a common complaint among homeowners. This problem can be overcome, regardless of the challenges.

Maybe you own a condo, apartment or townhouse with cement ceilings and you can’t add recessed lighting – don’t lose heart. As with almost any interior design challenge, there is a solution that will not only brighten up your home, but will also add architectural beauty and character as well.

A coffered ceiling designed to enhance the look of your living space, while adding necessary recessed lighting where it’s needed, can be the perfect answer to your low light issue. This can even be used in addition to an existing chandelier, semi-flush mount fixtures or pendant lights, as in this condo’s dining room that was transformed with the help of a specially-designed coffered ceiling.

More interest was created by painting the ceiling of the coffer gray, which enhanced the ceiling and added definition and depth.

Wall sconces are another way to add lighting and draw attention to a particular wall or display area. Sconces can create a unique ambiance or add drama, depending on how they’re used.

b2ap3 thumbnail Basement retreat sconce lighting b2ap3 thumbnail Kitchen recessed lighting b2ap3 thumbnail Hallway path finding lighting

A third option is dropped ceilings, which also allow the addition of recessed lighting. In this kitchen, dropped ceilings installed over a cement ceiling gave the homeowners the option to add as much recessed lighting as they wanted.

Pathfinding is another important feature of good lighting. Many hallways are lit by a single fixture, which can create dark spots. By adding recessed lighting down the hallway, a pathway to bathrooms and bedrooms is created, which brightens the space and increases safety.

So look at your space in a new light; you may just discover more lighting options than you thought you had!

Derailing the Railroad Car Effect

b2ap3_thumbnail_hallway--BEFORE.JPGBEFOREIf you have a long, narrow hallway with doors on either side, you know what the “railroad car” effect is. These interior hallways are long, linear corridors that are usually relatively dark except for whatever ceiling fixture sheds some light in the area; they can even be on the dark side on sunny days.

It’s typical to find these types of hallways in older apartments, condos, and even some mid-century homes built before open floor plans became popular. You may think you just have to live with it – but you don’t.

There are cures for the railroad car effect. Here’s how we corrected it in a standard cookie-cutter 1980s condo.

b2ap3 thumbnail HALLWAYThe above “before” photo illustrates the condo’s narrow, dark hallway – the classic railroad car look. My clients wanted a more contemporary, colorful, open feel, so eliminating the railroad car syndrome was a definite must.

After moving the master bedroom doorway two feet from where it was, we widened the hallway and then borrowed space from the second bedroom.

Instead of the standard vanity that had been at the end of the hallway, we designed a floating vanity to give the area a more open look. We then mirrored the walls so that ambient light is reflected from across the condo, adding brightness and visual spaciousness.

If you can’t or don’t want to make all of these changes, choose the ones you prefer – they’ll still make a difference in lightening up the railroad car effect.

Colorblock condo vanity dressing room

The Ups and Downs of Staircases


Foyer circular staircase"Upstairs, Downstairs", "below stairs", the famous sweeping staircase of Gone with the Wind. Stairs have historically been used for so many things: to represent socio-economic divide in Victorian/Edwardian household, as plot/scene tools in movies, and as grand entrances for brides. So much of life has been described with "stairs" being the critical factor, yet many homeowners who put a lot of thought and money into designing their rooms forget that the staircase is an important feature as well.

More than just a means of moving from one floor to the next, a staircase makes as much of a first impression on guests - and potential buyers - as a foyer.

With the right treatment, a staircase can take on a sculptural look, as with this sweeping circular staircase that seems to float up from the ground floor. During the planning phase of building this home, we changed its design from a split stairwell with a small landing to a seamless, gracefully curved oak staircase, creating a wow entrance foyer with fluidity and motion. Although this focal point has a huge presence in the entry, it has an open feel because there are no risers or clunky supports underneath. The open space also allows other important pieces of furniture to be seen from the entry.

Staircase double sidedSometimes a staircase can serve double duty. This staircase allows access from two different areas - the kitchen and the entryway - making it convenient, attractive, and a bit unique. The pattern in the stair runner is coordinated with the entryway area rug and the upstairs hallway, warming the spaces. If your home has back stairs, treat them more casually than the staircase in the main foyer, but still make sure to coordinate them with the overall color scheme of the house. (One thing to remember is that stair carpeting takes a lot of abuse, so it might be necessary to update it more often than carpeting in other areas of the house.)

You may even find that an entire area of your home takes on a more updated look by just giving the staircase the attention it deserves. If the staircase can be seen from the living room, dining room, or any other common spaces, its appearance impacts the overall look of those rooms, too. So don’t ignore your staircase; use it to enhance the space it’s in!



Reimagine ~ Reuse ~ Repurpose Your Home’s Interior Architecture

Architecture and interior design go hand-in-hand.

Interesting interior architecture - like French doors and mill work – always add to both the aesthetic and real estate value of your home. But as beautiful as they are, if they’re used incorrectly, they can look awkward or just plain wrong.

That doesn’t mean you have to part with those wonderful architectural features. Take a fresh look around to see if there’s a better way to use them, then let your creativity run free.

Here’s an example of how to repurpose interior architecture.

Master-Bedroom-French-DoorsA client of mine in Basking Ridge, NJ asked me to redesign her formal bedroom suite. One of the first things I noticed was a set of French doors between the bedroom and the master bathroom – a beautiful piece of interior architecture, but definitely in the wrong place. While clear glass French doors in a master suite may be nice in theory, bathrooms and bedrooms require some privacy.

First I replaced the French doors with a single raised panel solid wood door. I used the French doors to close off an expanded linen closet within this very large bathroom, then covered the glass on the inside with tight shirred panels in a print that matches the window drapes. Besides being functional, the panels added a soft element to the room while effectively concealing storage space.

Not only does repurposing interior architecture save you money, it's also a very sustainable and environmentally friendly way to refresh and redesign your home’s interior.

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