Sheila Rich Interiors: Design Blog

Helpful tips and suggestions on designing your interior.

Turn Interior Design Problems Into Solutions – Two Quick Tips (Part 2 of 2)

Continuing on from my previous post about how to camouflage builders’ errors and unsightly, intrusive features, here’s my second tip.

Tip #2: Creative Camouflage.

contemporary-kitchenMy client asked me to completely redesign her kitchen in a bright, contemporary style. As part of that makeover, I planned to use two types of white tiles for the backsplash over the granite counter with a double row of stainless steel mosaic tiles between the two that would give the space a continuous horizontal flow and also add a sleek look, picking up the tone in the stainless steel appliances. The stainless steel tiles were to run all the way around the work area, underscoring the large double windows over the sink area.

However, when I measured the distance between the countertop and the windows, I discovered that there was a 1”-2” difference in height from one end of the windows to the other. Putting a straight line of stainless steel tiles across the bottom of an uneven window would have made that erroneous measurement glaringly obvious.

The solution to this problem was relatively simple: instead of running the silvery tiles underneath the window, I raised them a little higher and had them stop at the outer edges of the window trim. Using that approach, the difference in spacing between each end of the window and the countertop was completely camouflaged and we still achieved the same look we originally wanted.

In a show house makeover I did last year, where I turned a poorly decorated, small basement wine room into a cozy Couple’s Retreat, garish yellow tiles made up the original floor of the entire space. Since my makeover was based on a nature theme set by the natural stone walls, I covered the entire floor with a natural ecru wall-to-wall sisal carpeting. This added softness and warmth while at the same time unifying the entire space.

What types of camouflage have you used in your home? What flaws would you like to camouflage? We’d love to hear from you!

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Negotiating The Carpet Puzzle

I receive a lot of questions about choosing carpet color, especially when homeowners are either replacing a hall carpet that abuts existing carpeting in other rooms or replacing carpeting in a room that abuts existing hall carpeting.

Sometimes rooms or halls are repainted or repapered in a different color than they were, which means that the new carpeting may need to be a different color than it was as well. One woman wrote me saying that she painted her bedroom yellow and needed a carpet color that wouldn’t clash with either her walls or the beige hall carpet. This was particularly important because in her ranch house, her bedroom was at the end of the hallway where guests walked to get to the bathroom. Therefore, both carpets would be clearly visible. I suggested that she choose a very light neutral carpet to go with both her walls and the hall carpeting.

When two carpeted areas meet, the goal is to maintain a visual flow from one area into the other by keeping the transition as simple and unbroken as possible. This sometimes means compromising on your color choice, but it’s worth it in order to keep the area aesthetically pleasing and open.

When looking at carpet samples, try to bring home as large a swatch as possible and check it in various lights against both the adjacent carpeting and the wall color – view it in daylight, artificial light, and the ambient light of a cloudy day. This way you’ll be sure the carpet color you choose works well all the way around.

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To Carpet Or Not To Carpet…That Is The Question

When you’re in the construction phase of a new home, builders will many times allow you to make upgrades in the products they offer throughout the house. One choice you may face is whether to have wood flooring or wall-to-wall carpeting in your new home.

Personally, I love wood flooring, especially when it’s contrasted with area rugs. Using an area rug under a grouping pulls it together while adding fresh, bold colors and making larger rooms more intimate. Also, it’s easier to change the look of your room when you redecorate because you can either change the rugs or just use colors from the rug throughout the room.

However, if you like to walk around the bedroom barefoot like I do, then wall-to-wall carpeting may be the way to go, since it’s much softer and warmer than a hardwood floor. In that case, I’d suggest using a neutral tone so that in the future you can safely change the room’s color scheme without changing the carpeting.

These are just a few points to consider; in the end, you have to take your own personal preferences into consideration before you make that final decision for your home.


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Lower Your Health Risks – Choose Eco-Friendly Carpet (Pt. 2 of 2)

Several solutions to make your home healthier by choosing eco-friendly carpeting.

Part 2: What’s the solution?

Okay, so in the previous blog post we talked about that “new carpet smell” actually stemming from VOCs, which are a hazard to humans and the environment. Now let’s talk about solutions.

One way to recognize a “green”, or eco-friendly, carpet is to check the label for a small green house icon – this indicates that the carpeting was tested by the Carpet and Rug Institute’s (CRI) Indoor Air Testing Program. The presence of the green house icon means that the product has passed VOC testing, and that the amount of dangerous off-gassing for that product is below industry standards.

What can you do if your existing carpeting is not eco-friendly?

If you already own any carpeting that you suspect may be affecting your health, Co-op America suggests using a nontoxic “green” finish from SafeChoice Carpet Seal, which prevents chemicals from off-gassing for up to five carpet cleanings. An easy way to find out how your carpet or flooring ranks environmentally is by looking it up online in the National Green Pages (

But if you’re planning to purchase new carpeting, you can eliminate this problem by buying carpeting made from natural fibers with no chemical treatments. It should also have a natural fiber backing that’s been attached with a less toxic adhesive. Carpets that fall into this category include woven wool, natural sisal, seagrass, and jute; also, if the carpet is dyed, it’s preferable that the dye is a natural vegetable dye rather than a chemical dye. Carpeting that is made with minimal natural latex glue is also preferable.

Carpet Padding

Eco-friendly carpeting doesn’t stop at the carpet itself.  When it comes to carpet padding, look for recycled cotton and rag padding – this avoids putting an unrenewable, consumptiveresource back into the environment. Some carpeting comes complete with a lightweight backing, so no additional padding is needed.

Carpet pads made with styrenebutadiene rubber are also hazardous; this type of padding is thicker and “bouncier” than others. Instead, opt for felt padding, which is a trendier choice with today’s Berber rugs and is fine to use with thicker carpeting, like shag, which owes its thickness to its own depth rather than that of the padding underneath.

Carpet Glues

You can also keep your installation eco-friendly by avoiding chemical-based glues that are linked to health issues. If you can avoid gluing the carpet, opt instead for tacking, which is a safe and easy alternative to using toxic glues. However, carpets that receive exceptionally high wear, such as those used in commercial arenas, may require gluing; in this case, look for water-based, low VOC glues.

20,000 Years of Trashed Carpeting

In order to make your carpet purchase completely eco-friendly, you need to consider what happens to carpeting after it’s disposed of. An incredible 1.8 million tons of carpeting and rugs are taken to local landfills every year, and most of those will last up to 20,000 years. A good alternative is to purchase carpeting from a company that will recycle or donate your old, used carpet. You can find out how and where to recycle old carpets at Another economical and eco-friendly solution is to use carpet tiles instead of wall-to-wall carpeting so that when a high-traffic area becomes worn, you only need to replace the worn tiles with new ones rather than replacing everything.

Can’t find an eco-friendly carpet you want?

If you can’t settle on an eco-friendly carpet, the next best thing you can do is ask the store to open the carpet roll and air it out for a few days before installation.

In designing my clients’ interiors, I now recommend eco-friendly paints and flooring first over the more toxic choices. If the exact color they want isn’t yet available, a good alternative is to choose the closest available color in an eco-friendly product and then use their exact color choice on draperies and other furnishings. Although not all carpet manufacturers are currently offering eco-friendly carpeting and carpet products, the more consumers demand “green” products, the faster manufacturers will provide what we want and, ultimately, what’s best for us and our environment.

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Lower Your Health Risks – Choose Eco-Friendly Carpet (Pt. 1 of 2)

New carpet smell is actually the sign of hazardous VOC pollutants. Protect your family's health by choosing eco-friendly green carpeting.

Part 1: What’s the issue?

More and more information is coming out about the dangers - to both people and the environment - of off-gassing from carpeting and paints. When it’s time to choose new carpeting, you might want to consider avoiding these contaminants by selecting an eco-friendly carpet.

The environmental problem with carpeting is the same as the problem with paints – Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which contain known and suspected carcinogens such as formaldehyde and benzene. On an HGTV program, it was stated that the negative health impact from carpeting (as well as carpet liners and glues) includes a wide range of symptoms such as:

    • nose and throat discomfort
    • allergic skin reactions
    • headache
    • breathing problems
    • nausea
    • fatigue
    • dizziness

That “new carpet smell” we’re all familiar with is actually the VOC 4-phenylcyclohexene (4-PCH), which is a by-product of latex. This is a binding agent used to secure the fibers to the carpet’s backing. Similarly, carpets with stain-resistant treatments or moth-proofing can increase VOC levels even more. The off-gassing from carpet VOCs can linger after installation for up to a week.

High Indoor Pollutant Levels

Co-op America (, a non-profit organization that works to “harness economic power…to create a socially just and environmentally sustainable society”, states that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studies have shown that indoor pollutant levels can actually be two to five times higher than outdoor levels.

Hundreds of VOCs can fill the air from various sources, and these can take years to dissipate. Co-op America has determined that the negative environmental and health costs of VOC-laden carpeting can continue from the time of purchase through disposal. In addition, improper disposal of these carpets can pollute plants that may be growing near the dump site.

Not all carpeting contains high levels of VOCs, and the carpet industry is taking steps to make products that have low or no VOCs. These new carpet lines are often less expensive than traditional carpets. My next blog post will discuss practical solutions every homeowner can use to make healthier carpet choices.

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