Sheila Rich Interiors: Design Blog

Helpful tips and suggestions on designing your interior.

Staging Your Environment

Punches of color In this kitchen update, the original pink laminate countertops and dining table were swapped for granite countertops and backsplash. The cabinetry is the same but renewed with simple polished and brushed chrome hardware.
Photography- Peter Rymwid

There's a new buzzword in real estate: staging. It's become something of a new specialty in the world of decorating.

Staging is when a realtor or decorator is hired to make the interior of a home that's on the real estate market look appealing to potential buyers. If furnishings are already in the house, they're rearranged, modified or removed for optimal appeal; if everything's been moved out, furnishings may need to be rented to show the house in a better way.

When selling a home is a last-minute decision or the home needs to sell quickly, staging services might be helpful. But why wait? Why not enjoy the benefits of a "staged home" while you and your family are still living there so you can enjoy it?

One of the first rules of staging that realtors advise their clients who are selling homes is to remove any clutter from the home. This is a good thing to do long before you decide to sell; in fact, keeping your home as clutter-free as possible benefits your daily life. Clutter tends to cause stress, whether we realize it or not, and a home is much more functional without clutter. Certified Interior Designers are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of their clients working in sync with the functional beauty of their spaces, so naturally, clutter is something we work to eliminate. It’s often as easy as “a place for everything and everything in its place”.

Kitchen update In this kitchen update, the original pink laminate countertops and dining table were swapped for granite countertops and backsplash. The cabinetry is the same but renewed with simple polished and brushed chrome hardware. The chipped ceramic tile floor was substituted with a gray porcelain tile set in a random brick pattern. A novelty door that reads “laundry” was installed at the end of the kitchen to allow warmth and natural light to come through, giving the room a spark of personality.
Photography- Peter Rymwid

This doesn't mean you need to get rid of your collections or other meaningful belongings - just the opposite, in fact. Collections can be arranged in out-of-the-way, designated display areas where you and your guests can admire them; this makes them even more attractive and prevents them from becoming broken or unattractive dust catchers. In this way you can better enjoy them and your home is clutter-free with some important staging done, regardless of whether you're planning to sell in the next few years or not.

A lot of advice about staging says to make everything in your home more generic and neutral in color, but what if you prefer color? Repainting and recarpeting shortly before moving means spending a lot of extra money for decor you won't have a chance to enjoy, but if you love color, you also don't want to spend years in a home that doesn't feel like your own. It's most important to surround yourself with what appeals to you, to walk into a home that you love every day. Even if prospective buyers don't have the same taste as you, paint color, chosen correctly, is not a deal breaker and you'll be setting your home apart from those around it. 

You may want to get a professional consultation for the best ways to use colors and accents on your walls so you don't create a chaotic or overwhelming look. If you want to play it safe, you can always integrate pops of color without committing it to your walls by choosing pillows, throws, rugs or accessories in your colors of choice because you'll be taking them with you when you move and they don't impact the home itself. To create a cohesive environment, sparks of color can be added in accessories and occasionally on a single wall with neutrals in the larger spaces. 

custom wall storage 1200x800 The neutral, proportionally-sized custom wall unit with strategically placed angles allows the Queen sofa bed to open with ease as well as providing open and closed storage.
Photography- Peter Rymwid

Everyone views the use of neutrals and colors differently, so please yourself and your family rather than guessing what a potential buyer might like, especially if selling is years down the road.  

Sometimes achieving an optimal appearance just takes some rearranging of your existing furniture. Make sure the furnishings in your rooms are in proportion to each other and the rooms themselves. Shifting things around can create a warmer, more balanced look and refresh your space. If you have a piece of furniture with a unique color tone, add pillows or accessories that also contain that color so the piece is connected to the rest of the room rather than looking like it doesn't belong.

Whatever your personal preferences, as long as your choices are proportional to their spaces and colors are used wisely, your home will be a source of comfort and happiness to you and your family while also presenting itself well to prospective buyers, whether in the near term or in the future.

Sheila Rich  

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Q&A Blueprint Stage

One of the things I enjoy so much about personal appearances (like at the March 16 APP Talks I did about design that makes a difference) is helping people with their design challenges and answering design questions about both residential and commercial spaces. I'd like to do the same thing with this column periodically, so I invite you to send your design questions to me on the contact page at

Solarium 1000

Q. We’re having a home built and are now in the blueprint stage. I’ve read in your column that this is the optimal time for us to make changes in the house’s layout so we don’t have to spend additional money later on improvements and upgrades. I was hoping you could give me some general insights as to what we should look for, and maybe some examples of “mistakes” you’ve spotted in blueprints. Thanks for your help. ~Jody

A.  Jody, you’re going about things the right way by making your changes in the blueprint stage. At this early point, you’ll need to consider the layout of your furniture, lighting requirements, and the traffic flow in your home for both entertaining and your own family’s lifestyle in order to ensure that your new home is built to suit your specific needs. 

In general, you’ll find that the theme of many new construction plans today is to make things look grand, which can mean a lot of wasted space. However, in the blueprint stage you can assess the various ways to make your home look impressive and still eliminate wasted space. Space that looks attractive will maximize your home’s value, but that doesn’t mean it has to be overly large to be impressive; you can set the right tone immediately with a well decorated home that meets your needs. 

The most important first step is to plan the function of each room and make sure it’s in the right place within the house. The location of each room should be appropriate to the use of room. A kitchen separated from a dining room by a foyer would be inconvenient for serving, and a kitchen with a pass-through to the dining room but with no door directly leading into the dining room would also create difficulties. Often builders and architects use half walls to separate rooms, but I rarely see any advantage to having these walls. This is common between kitchens and family rooms as well as between living rooms and dining rooms; it is the blueprint change I make most often. Half walls tend to impede the flow of traffic and do not offer privacy or sound buffers. If such a wall exists in your blueprints, I would suggest removing it and treating the whole area with the same flooring. You can warm up the spaces by grouping the furniture into conversation areas or television watching areas, and use area rugs to ground the grouping. Making this change will give your house the look of a more open floor plan, something that is highly desirable today and works better for young families.

Another primary focus when assessing a home in the blueprint stage is to carefully review each room’s layout. Take into consideration the often-overlooked “ordinary” features such as the space required to allow doors to swing open without hitting counters or furniture. Lay out your furniture arrangement over the blueprint so you can make sure things like the location of electrical switches, ceiling lights, and outlets work within your arrangement. Plan the location of the switches so that they don’t prevent you from putting art on the wall, nor should they be the first thing you see when you enter a room. If you have recessed lighting (which should be planned in relation to the furniture layout), you should have areas of lights controlled by different switches so they don’t all turn on and off at once with a single switch. With this option, you can light up different areas of the room according to use, and always use dimmers.  

A good example to illustrate the fact that builders and architects don’t always consider the impact of furniture layouts is reflected in changes I recently made to a blueprint that would have placed the family room seating so that it would face a wall instead of the television niche. I switched a French door and the television niche so that the seating arrangement would face both the television and the lovely yard, affording the family two desirable views.

The master bedroom in the same house also required modifications. It was a very, very large room with a long walk to the bathroom and dressing area. The room was large enough to add an additional, closer entry to the bathroom without changing the look of the room or the layout of the furniture.

Window placement needs to be considered too - bow or bay windows add interesting detail to a room and will impact the layout of your furniture. Plan your windows so that they become part of outdoor views when you’re sitting, but make sure they don’t interfere with the purpose of the room. A client of mine had a two-story room family room that was also a dedicated home theater with second-story windows, but the resulting glare on the screen hadn’t been taken into consideration before the room was built. (A room that is a dedicated home theater functions best with fewer windows.) After the fact, window treatments had to be added to the room. In the long run, since those windows had to be kept covered, having installed them in the first place was a waste of money. Instead, either fewer windows could have been used or the second story could have been turned into an additional room on the upper floor, which would have added to the value of the house. High windows with treetop views are wonderful as long as they’re not interfering with the purpose of the room. Even with all of these considerations, there is still plenty of flexibility for the layout of your furniture. 

The blueprint stage is the best time to find spaces for extra closets and storage areas. There’s no such thing as too much storage space! It’s important to plan for the luxury of having a place for everything so everything can have its own place. You can’t squirrel everything away in the garage, and today’s basements are usually finished and used for entertaining rather than storage, so think beyond the standard closets and plan for the storage of things like luggage, skis, out-of-season clothing, holiday decorations, and so on.  

This is also the perfect time to consider any amenities you may want in your bathrooms. Allowing for a spa, tub, steam shower, or bidet now can save you lots of time, money, and inconvenience in the future when plumbing would have to be redone. Be sure arrangements for extra amenities and perhaps extra support for future grab bars are made when the walls and floors are open. 

Outdoor entertaining also needs to be considered when designing a new home. Since you’ll be using the yard and outdoor rooms on beautiful days, you need to plan the flow and traffic patterns within your home that are used to reach your outdoor spaces. If you have a deck or patio with a barbecue, make sure it’s convenient to the kitchen. Ideally you should be able to access the outdoors several different ways in order to have the proper flow for outdoor entertaining. 

These are just a few ideas as to what you should look for in your blueprints. Your own particular needs may be different from the examples I’ve given, but you have the general idea. Best of luck in your new home!

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Small Spaces

No matter how much you may love the outdoors, there are times when weather or other factors can force you to stay indoors for a day or more at a time. If you live in a small home, it doesn’t have to make you feel cramped or closed in – there are plenty of ways to open up your cozy home and let your decor multitask for you.


Creating Flow Like a Pro

Bring harmony to small spaces by unifying color and design. If you choose a crisp and consistent color scheme, you can create an airy atmosphere and continuous flow throughout your home. White is a wonderful foundation color for increasing the effect of light, and you can find white paints with an almost endless number of tones and tints, from blues to yellows to pinks to grays. Paint the walls, moldings, and even brick fireplaces the same tone to aesthetically expand your rooms and give them a professional-looking, unbroken flow. Paint moldings and trim with a glossy finish for subtle contrast, especially when the trim adds an architectural dimension.

To create warmth and contrast, use hardwood flooring throughout for warm tones and textures; later you can enhance it with area rugs to cozy up furniture groupings and add softness, color and texture. Think of this as your perfect, clean canvas for any colors you add to the room.

Furniture – The Great Multitaskers

Rather than buying a few larger pieces of furniture, go for smaller proportional pieces or furniture pairs (for a more symmetrical look) with coordinated patterns. Then, when friends and family visit, you can easily move additional seating from one room to the other while still maintaining a coordinated look. Consider using ottomans instead of a coffee table - they can serve double duty, both as surface areas and as extra seating. Some ottomans even have hidden storage space, adding yet another facet to their usefulness. If you have some remodeling dollars saved up, you can install window seats that multitask as seating and storage while providing a place where you can add some softness and colors with pillows.

Let There Be Light

Nothing warms a home more than ambient light, and your light-colored walls will maximize its beauty. In rooms that don’t require privacy, go for a light and airy look on windows, like gauzy cotton Roman shades or perforated roller shades that have clean lines and filter the sunlight. For nighttime privacy in bedrooms, use room darkening shades that can be raised to become unobtrusive or hidden behind the window treatment during the day. Coax natural light in during daytime hours by either leaving the windows uncovered or using plain or patterned sheer treatments over the windows. Consider using recessed lighting - it keeps ceiling space open while providing perfect, even illumination, and you can add dimmers to change the mood in the room.

Color + Style = Flair!

Accessories are the best way to incorporate trendy new styles and splashes of colors in your decor without breaking the budget; when the styles or your tastes change, you can easily replace them. They also let you add spark and flair while not disturbing the overall rhythm of your rooms. Bring in some vintage or antique pieces - they not only complement contemporary décor, they also add a new dimension to your space.

Jump on the Glass Wall Trend

As I talked about in a previous column, glass room dividers are perfect for smaller spaces. Colored or frosted glass partitions can shield private spaces from view while still letting light through and keeping an open feel, while textured glass will obscure the area just enough that it’s not clearly visible. And backlit colored glass creates a dramatic effect that can set a general tone while setting off accessories and artwork. Sliding partitions are easily moved so the area can be completely open when you want it that way, then closed off when needed. You can opt for either a solid sheet of glass to create a completely unobstructed divider or use smaller panes of glass set within their own frames to add extra interest and pattern.

Once your interior makeover is done, you’ll be surprised at how much more functional and comfortable your cozy home’s interior will be!

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Don’t forget about your home’s fifth wall

When deciding on an interior design plan for a home, plenty of attention is paid to the four walls, but many times the fifth wall is forgotten – the ceiling. Just as important as the rest of your home’s design, a ceiling can be enhanced to become as dramatic and unique as other areas, with attractive effects that add interest to your home. There are more ceiling types than you may think, and all of them can complement your room's style and tone. Here are some examples:

Coffered Ceilings 400pw The coffered ceiling adds a quality architectural detail to this elegant and edgy dining room. Dark gray paint enhances and defines the coffers while complementing the furniture. A chandelier with beaded square glass becomes a focal point with its brass finishes. (Peter Rymwid Photography)

Conventional- Typically eight feet high with a simple flat surface, adding color or texture can aesthetically impact your conventional ceiling. However, be careful not to overwhelm the room because this may make the ceiling appear lower, which can make the room feel smaller.

Suspended/Drop- This is a secondary ceiling often used in basements; it's usually created with ceiling tiles that are laid into a metal grid. The suspended ceiling hangs below an existing ceiling and is an ideal choice to hide things like plumbing, ducting, wiring, or an original unattractive ceiling while at the same time allowing access when necessary. Be sure you have enough height in the room because the drop is about six inches. You can refresh an existing drop ceiling grid with snap-on architectural moldings and painting or by replacing the tiles.

Coffered- With many dramatic possibilities, a coffered ceiling is essentially a grid with sunken panels that are divided and often accentuated by moldings in a waffle-like pattern; the grid is created with beams that come down from a flat ceiling and create a coffer. When the original ceiling is cement, the coffers are a good solution to providing wiring for the addition of recessed lighting, pendants and speakers. Painting the recessed sections with a contrasting color will create a striking impression.

Tray Ceiling 400pw The formal crystal chandelier highlights the tray ceiling in this elegant master bedroom suite. Recessed lighting was installed around the tray to further illuminate the room. (Memories, TTL Photography)

Cove- A cove molding joins the walls and ceiling to create a hollow, graceful curve with no sharp lines or defining edges. Although they are not necessarily formal, cove ceilings are often seen in more formal settings.

Dome- These arched ceilings, created by the structure itself and not with moldings, are sometimes seen in small spaces to add volume but most frequently seen in large homes. Creative lighting and murals can add to the dramatic effects of the dome.

Tray- This ceiling has a flat, rectangular center that either pops out or is recessed to add architectural interest. Tray ceilings with recessed centers are especially well suited to smaller sized rooms (though they work well anywhere) because they add volume and give the impression of added height. Interesting effects can be created with the addition of lighting in the tray, especially LED strip lights in white or colors.

Dome Ceiling 400pw The beautiful dome ceiling in this vintage estate home is accentuated by using a shade darker on the ceiling than the walls. The ceiling's interest is further enhanced with an intricate contrasting stencil design whose delicate lines continue into the corners. A pendant up-light whispers of the home's historical heritage. (Memories, TTL Photography)

Cathedral- High ceilings - often fifteen feet high - with equally sloping sides that join in the center, creating an upside down "V" that's typically located at the peak of the house. Cathedral ceilings offer a dramatic design element as well as an open, spacious feel. Hanging a chandelier from the center fills the volume and enhances the dramatic effect.

Vaulted- These ceilings have asymmetrically sloping sides that meet at the high point of a room because the ceiling follows the roof line. Vaulted ceilings add volume and drama.

Exposed ceilings- By leaving the beams, piping, ducting or trusses exposed, spaces get a loftier, more open idiosyncratic look. In some cases it adds a historical element and in more modern settings it can insert an industrial feel. By making lemonade from lemons you can add unique character to a space by leaving your ceiling exposed.

Ceiling styles that are made by adding moldings, like coffered, cove and tray, can be created anytime, but other types that are built into the structure, such as dome, cathedral and vaulted, are best planned and installed during construction. If you're having a home built, it’s best to consider the type of ceilings you'd like during the blueprint stage.


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Glass is a hot design trend

It’s a new year, and that means lots of new design trends to explore and enjoy. One of the biggest trends being shown at NeoCon Eastfor 2016 and forward was glass. Now, you might be saying, “Glass is nothing new!” And you’d be right – manmade glass glazes date back as far as 4000 BC, and hollow glass containers have been found from 1500 BC. Fast forward to today, and the trend is colorful, textured and frosted glass panels for walls and windows, floor inserts, furniture, countertops, and backsplashes.

Glass2 Bottle green glass backspalsh This solarium is complete with bottle green glass countertop and multi-colored glass backsplash for sophisticated contrast. (Rosemary Carroll Photography)

Sliding or stationary interior walls can be colored, textured or frosted – this offers a degree of privacy without the heaviness of a solid wall. If you only want rooms or sections of rooms blocked from sight at certain times, they obscure the view while still allowing light to filter through, keeping an airy, open feel in the space. Moveable glass partitions can be top hung or floor supported whether they’re folding or sliding. The possibilities are endless.

Glass block is a popular high performance, energy efficient building material that’s a very versatile option for both interiors and exteriors. Not only can it provide privacy, it’s also eco-friendly. You can find glass block in a variety of colors and textures; your choice can depend on the look or amount of privacy you want. Colored panes or blocks can give a monochromatic décor a pop of color that can set the tone for artwork or other accent pieces while it gives the space a light, modern design. By using a variety of colorful blocks in a planned pattern or design, you can create a focal point that will become its own work of art.

Glass1 puffy glass tile backspalash Silver and white puffy glass tile in a herringbone pattern create a unique backsplash. (Peter Rymwid Photography)

Exterior glass walls can be energy efficient and weather resistant while allowing for a clear view to the outdoors.Exterior glass block is more commonly used in place of a standard window where light is wanted but privacy is required, as long as the window doesn’t need to be operational. This works well for ground-level windows such as basements because they’re impervious to water, which makes them perfect for landscaping. I’ve also seen them used simply for their aesthetic beauty in lieu of masonry walls. For one of my residential clients, I used glass block to create a staircase and the half wall of the upper hall, both topped with natural stone. The result was an open look that added a lot of dramatic interest to the small foyer of a standard Colonial-style house.

Glass tiles and sheetsmake beautiful and efficient backsplashes and countertops. Besides being easy to clean with window cleaner, your style can really come through because of the endless choices and looks you can create. If you want to reflect a contemporary style, you may like the look of a solid sheet of glass; backlighting glass can also add additional drama. It can be colored, frosted, or have an etched pattern, but the key is that it isn’t broken up by grout lines and has a very sleek, modern appearance. Glass sheets can also be used as countertops, and not just for kitchens and baths.  For one of my clients, I created a thickbottle-green glass bar topthat looks like it’s floating over the stone countertop; the backsplash was also done in glass tiles, which are perfect for kitchens and bathrooms as well. There’s an unlimited choice of colors, textures and shapes, so you can create unique patterns in whatever tones you love.

Glass3 double glass doors Double glass doors on the executive offices foster both accessibility and privacy when needed. (Peter Rymwid Photography)

While shower doors are a place where you expect to see glass, you can leave it minimal or jazz it up a bit with an etched pattern and/or unique hardware. Far from being standard, hardware – both door handles and supports – can complement or enhance the style of your bathroom. Glass shower doors are perfect for any size bathroom, but they’re extremely well suited for small bathrooms because they visually expand the size of the room. You can also opt for sliding showerdoors that slide from the center to the wall– a great space-saver in small rooms when a pivot or standard sliding door won’t work.

As you can see, glass is extremely versatile; works well with both natural and manmade materials, and can complement a number of moods and styles. It’s a trend with unlimited possibilities whose time has come and one that will have some real staying power.


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Houzz Awards 5yrs 200

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