December 29, 2010

Happy Year End to My Clients!

Posted in Decorating, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , , , , at 5:04 pm by dotcomdecorator

As 2010 winds to a close, I want to pause and offer thanks to my WONDERFUL clients from 2010 and years’ past! I have enjoyed working with each and every one of you! Yes, even those who believe you were “challenging”. A good challenge fosters creativity and I have yet to shy away from either!

While this is a thank you to you, it is hard to express my gratitude without bringing myself into the equation, so please permit me this indulgence:

This year I have designed,  painted, sewn, shopped, moved furniture, installed window treatments, found creative solutions to some interesting problems, and even found myself making beds and hiding dirty laundry while answering the call of “emergency staging”! I have stressed (always) that my finished projects will meet your expectations; I have had goosebumps watching your tears of excitement and appreciation; I have felt part of your families; I have enjoyed interpreting your desires and needs to find your perfect design style; and I have certainly enjoyed the many glasses of wine, lunches, and other memorable moments shared between us!

Each project has afforded me the opportunity to stretch my abilities, work within new parameters, and bring my visions to life. I have reached the apex of frustration on more than one occasion, but have always reached the finish line. I have fallen off my step stool and ladder multiple times this year, tripped over a step and wrecked my shoulder, and even took a less-than-graceful spill down a staircase, yet I have (knock on wood!) avoided breaking anything–yours or mine! I have sat in my floor frantically trying to pull together your Design Boards; I have designed your projects in my head during long sleepless nights; and often find myself drifting from a conversation because I had a great idea for your home! I simply cannot shop just for myself–I have many (or all?) of you in the back of my mind and if I see just the perfect thing that would work in your space, I can’t wait to share that find with you! I often work alone, spend far more time on something than the average person would, and some days my body and mind are simply exhausted, yet I continue to love what I do, because of you!

This job of mine is in my blood…I can’t turn it off, nor would I want to! Yes, I know…I cannot manage to come into your home without “futzing” to correct furniture placement, align a window treatment or (cough, cough) take the throw pillows out of the closet and place them back on the sofa! Sorry, it’s just who I am.

When you hired me, you were looking for a decorator, faux finisher or custom drapery fabricator… I hope you found so much more than that; I know I have! I cannot think of any other career that allows me to have so much fun, constantly expand and express my creativity or meet and get to know such amazing, wonderful people! Thank you for allowing me into your homes and lives, it has been my pleasure!

Have a blessed year in 2011! Oooooohhhh, look at that sofa…

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The DotComDecorator


December 23, 2010

Where’s My Easy Button?

Posted in Decorating, Uncategorized tagged , , , at 8:54 am by dotcomdecorator

As Christmas draws nearer, I once again wonder why time suddenly seems to speed up, our to-do lists are so much larger than any other time of the year, and there is a palatable feeling of anxiety in the air.

Personally, I have known, for the past twenty-three years, that this is my busiest time of the year and while I mentally “gear up” for that, I also mentally hit the panic button before I need to! When I take a deeper look at the projects on my plate, I haven’t tripled, or even doubled my workload, the projects are not substantially bigger or more complex, but their deadlines, combined with all the “have to do’s” of the holiday season send me into a tizzy!

The other day I had a friend point this out to me. I don’t need reminding–I live it every moment of my day during this season. However, it was good to hear. Good to gain some perspective. Good to know that someone notices and doesn’t like the way it makes me crazy.  And most of all, good to have a friend who offers to step in and help, despite her own crazy life! Thank you…but, if you could just find my “Easy Button” I think I’ll be ok!

At two days from Christmas, my house is quiet, and I suddenly realized part of the hectic pace of this season is self-protection. If I keep busy, keep moving, and keep feeling engaged, it allows me to enjoy the hustle-bustle of the season.  Once I have finished my projects, done my shopping, and attended the parties, it gets quiet…too quiet. I miss friends and family members that have passed, I miss those who live away, and this year I will face my first Christmas without my children here on Christmas! We will celebrate, but it won’t be the same. That’s how life is.

Like all of you, I know I will face many challenges, opportunities, and changes in the upcoming year. One of my big adjustments will be seeing my daughter graduate college, which means my freedom from college expenses! While I don’t have a crystal ball, I am pretty certain this will also mean I will cut back and adopt a less frantic work pace. My goal for next year’s holiday season is to be in a different place–calm, cool, and collected. I will have one well-used “Easy Button” ready to pass on!

Peaceful Snow

No matter where you are, no matter how busy or stressed you are, let in the quiet–even for a few moments–and remember what the season is all about. Hold gratitude in your heart for all you do have–and we all have blessings to count, even when they look like burdens! My wish for you now and in 2011 is that love, peace, and joy are abundant in your life! Merry Christmas!


The DotComDecorator

November 15, 2010

Supporting My Habits

Posted in Decorating, DIY Projects, Uncategorized, Wine Cork Topiary tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , at 8:53 am by dotcomdecorator

Well folks, I’m back to the cork projects! This weekend I made two adorable little cork boards, some easy-as-pie napkin rings, and some kitschy push-pins. In all I used 528 corks!


Champagne cork napkin rings

Champagne cork napkin rings

Before you start wondering how I manage to make anything after drinking so much wine and/or champagne, let me assure you,  it’s my friends doing the drinking!  Ok, and me. Most often together.

As we open another bottle, I wonder:  Which habit am I supporting?  Have I started creating cork items because they’re fun and fit into my decor, and it is a great way to recycle; or have I amplified the habit of sharing a glass of wine with friends so I can have more corks? I worry about these things!


Cork board

However, it took only a moment to realize it was a silly question! Wine and friendship have been around for the ages, and if it weren’t for all those previously shared bottles (without any agenda other than to enjoy our friendships over wine), none of us would have amassed a collection of corks to complete these projects. So, pop a cork, raise your glass, and toast to good wine and great friends!  And, what are you going to do with that cork? Just asking…!

I will eventually have time to post project directions on my website, but if you are interested in learning how to make any of these items, or the wine cork topiary previously featured here, just drop me an email request at

Cork trivet/server

Cork trivet/server

I, and my friends, will continue to engage in the habit of enjoying the nectar of the Gods, satisfying our souls with friendship, our artistic muse with new projects for the corks, and our palettes with good wine! Try it, you’ll like it!

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The DotComDecorator

PS:  If you like the serving spoon in the above picture, check out for more information!

November 8, 2010

Temporary Wallpaper

Posted in Decorating, Uncategorized tagged , , , , , at 11:23 am by dotcomdecorator

Some of the most innovative products ever developed-Velcro, zip ties, and Post-it products–are routinely used by interior decorating professionals.  I am a huge fan of the above-mentioned products and cannot imagine life without them! I admit, every time I use one of these products (almost daily) I find myself wishing I was the creative genius behind any of them.

Of the three products, I use zip-ties the least often, but they come in handy to secure swags to poles, create fabric poufs, or even as emergency picture hangers. I consider Velcro a business staple and use it often!  I use it to attach valances to mounting boards, as a replacement for zipper closures, and to keep display items in place.  Velcro is available in sew on, stick on, dots, strips, and straps; in different strengths, widths and colors; and even in removable stick-on hangers!  Velcro seems to be ever-evolving and new applications keep appearing. While I use an abundance of Post-it tabs and notes, I haven’t given this product much thought or found great use for it beyond the obvious: notes and flagging. Apparently, someone else has!

LolliProps, Inc., a small New York firm, has combined the look of decorative wall coverings with a Post-it type adhesive to create a temporary, repositionable (repositionable!) wall paper called Tempaper.  Again, I wish I had thought of that!

Tempaper pattern Edie Spanish Moss

Tempaper pattern Edie Spanish Moss

According to, “Twin sisters Jennifer and Julia Biancella designed the product with their aunt Kate Szilagyi, who works as a set decorator in the film industry.”  As set decorators in NYC, the trio was frustrated by the lack of sourcing for temporary repositionable wallpaper. Proof again that “necessity is the mother of invention”!

Tempaper pattern Damsel Black and White

Tempaper pattern Damsel Black and White

Several years ago, wallpaper fell out of favor with the masses; it is starting to once again find an audience. Products such as Tempaper will appeal to those who have no experience using wallpaper, as well as to those who have less-than-positive experiences with the application and/or removal of traditional papers. Just typing this, I have flashbacks of hours spent removing unsized paper and the subsequent wall repairs. Ugh!

Tempaper comes in limited patterns and colors, but the patterns range from modern to traditional to nursery prints and according to LolliProp’s website, “we will constantly be updating our patterns to satisfy the current trends of the design industry.” While college dorm dwellers may find the concept appealing, the cost of this product may be a bit of a reach. However, I believe  it is a cost-effective option for apartment or home dwellers, especially sans the installation costs associated with traditional wall coverings. As a decorator and home stager, I see great potential for this product in home staging, for special events, and even seasonal decor updates, or for someone like myself who loves a steady diet of change!

Tempaper pattern Tusk, in  Flamingo Pink

Tempaper pattern Tusk, in Flamingo Pink

I find the the idea of using temporary wallpaper in a nursery brilliant and the elephant print is beyond adorable!

What do you think about self-stick, repositionable wallpaper? Would you use it? Where would you use it? I’d love to hear what you have to say about this one!

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The DotComDecorator

September 19, 2010

The Beauty of History

Posted in Architecture, Decorating, Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:02 pm by dotcomdecorator

I was never a good student of history. Dates and names and tales of war bored me to tears. Without a doubt I frustrated those teachers who tried to enlighten me to our historical past. Years later I realize if they had only shown me the great architectural treasures of the past, I would have been impassioned! I have found out that I actually love history…as long as I can relate it to a physical place. Of course, the more unique the place, the more I want to learn!  


Pfister Hotel Lobby Ceiling

Pfister Hotel Lobby Ceiling


I am blessed to live equidistant between Chicago and Milwaukee–both cities, and the area between, have an abundance of amazing architectural gems from the past.  I recently visited my favorite Milwaukee hotel, The Pfister, the former Milwaukee Grain Exchange, and two Italianate villas of grandeur–Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and The Cuneo Mansion in Vernon Hills, Illinois.  

Back view of Cuneo Mansion

Back view of Cuneo Mansion


While all of these structures are immense, each is ornate, stately, and opulent. Most impressive is that they are all well-constructed, timelessly elegant, and have a level of artistic craftsmanship seldom seen in today’s structures. From hand-crafted decorative door hinges, to hand-painted murals on soaring ceilings, to vibrant stained glass windows, to the sweeping marble staircases, to the impeccably manicured gardens, and abundant gold gilding, every space holds a veritable feast for the eyes! However, equally fascinating are the histories behind each of these buildings.  

Villa Terrace


Villa Terrace was built in 1923 for the Lloyd Smith family. Mr. Smith was an industrialist and president of A.O. Smith Company, the company started by his grandfather. Wanting to replicate a 16th century Italian villas he and his wife adored, Lloyd commissioned renowned architect David Adler to design and build the villa. From the courtyard with its decorative stone pathway (Mrs. Smith and her six children collected each and every stone from the shore of Lake Michigan and carried them home for the stone mason!), to the water stairs that lead to the manicured gardens, to the magnificent view of Lake Michigan, this home exudes an air of wealth and privilege! However, it was home to the Smiths.  The grounds were home to family football games, the Italian marble staircase endured hoards of stopping feet, and the ornate, hand-crafted metal work probably went unnoticed as the children opened and closed the elegant doors!  

Library at Cuneo

Library at Cuneo


Now used for special events and as a movie setting–My Best Friend’s Wedding and Witless Protection, with Larry the Cable Guy–the Cuneo is equally impressive.  Construction of the mansion began in 1908 and stopped during World War I. It was completed in 1918 as the summer home of Samuel Insull, an original founder of the General Electric Company. In 1937, John Cuneo Sr., a well-known and highly successful entrepreneur, bought the home. He and his wife, Julia, and two children made their home on the 75-acre estate.  Even though the mansion was, and is still, filled with priceless antiques, including many religious artifacts, the children rode their pedal cars all through the formal rooms, and used the grand foyer as a parking garage! The mansion has its own elaborate chapel, his and her’s bedroom suites, servants quarters, and gold gilded bathrooms! The grounds with the multitude of beautifully designed and maintained gardens, in-ground pool, and statuary, are delightful in every way! Like Villa Terrace, the Cuneo Mansion is a treasure-trove of exquisite craftsmanship, both inside and out, but also rich with history of the former residents and their guests.  

Exterior of Pfister

Exterior of Pfister


The Pfister is my favorite hotel in the Milwaukee area.  The hotel website uses the terms “grand elegance”, “historic tradition”, “gracious service” and “impeccable style”…I cannot find better words to describe the Pfister! Since opening its doors in 1893, the Pfister has surrounded guests with priceless art collections, exquisite architecture, and a comfortable, yet luxurious, ambiance. Visionary businessman Guido Pfister and his son, Charles, built the hotel at a cost of 1 million dollars. The hotel deemed the “Grand Hotel of the West”, was the most lavish hotel of its time. Walking through the doors I am transported back to a time of social graces and personal service; the Pfister exudes an atmosphere that invites guests to relax and let others take care of them…the epitome of the word “Salve”   A welcome respite from the nitty-gritty day-to-day, lunch from a bag, life we know all too well! The Pfister has welcomed some of the world’s most famous dignitaries and athletes, a bevy of brides, and is rumored to have one or more resident ghosts! I definitely give this hotel the thumb’s up!
The Grain Exchange simply awes me because it was once a place of commodity trading…a bustling work place! In 1879 Milwaukee Grain Exchange was the location of the Trading Pit, first invented and used in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and used as a model for other exchanges throughout America.
Grain Exchange

Grain Exchange


Today it is a favored site for special occasions, such as wedding receptions. Taking in its three-story, nearly 10,000 sq. ft. Italian style room, with soaring ceilings, frescoes, stained glass windows, handsome granite, limestone, sandstone and 175 ft. bell tower in the center of the room, I envision the space as more a grand church than an active business center. Could you imagine going to work there each day…how much more inspiring that would be than the drab cubicles or personality-void open spaces of today’s offices!  

If you are able to visit any of these architectural beauties, I’m sure you’ll be charmed! If not, the internet is a wonderful place to find out more information and view other images!  Here are a few links to get your “armchair tour” started:  

Here are a couple more images to whet your appetite:  

So, there you have it–I love history! Who would have ever thought it.  

Until next time,  

Viva Con Gioia!  

The DotComDecorator

September 14, 2010

Favorite Things

Posted in Daily Favorites, Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 2:39 pm by dotcomdecorator

Do you know what makes a decorated house most appealing? It isn’t the model-home staging, it isn’t the designer sofa, and it isn’t the perfect accessory…it is the home’s inhabitants.  Interior decorating is about infusing a space with the personalities, lifestyles and likes of those who occupy it!

As a decorator, it is imperative that I ask the right questions of my clients to truly understand who they are and what the mood, style and function of their space should be. Unearthing a client’s story is like peeling layers of an onion. If I get just the quick version, their space may be attractive, but without substantial meaning or comfort to them. It is within the layers I find the best substance from which I design a space.  Honing in on dreams, cherished memories, and the favorite things in a client’s life allows me to include  those in their space.  This is what takes a space from pretty to charmed, from ornate to comfortably elegant, and from a showcase house to a beloved home.

No matter where you live or what your design style is, pay attention to what your favorite things are and incorporate them into your space.  While you could do this in a literal way, like hanging your Nascar flag on the wall, the more figurative approach may be a little more aesthetically pleasing for main living spaces! A couple alternate ways to embrace the race fan within could include sleek round chrome tables (to signify the wheels of a car), manly leather chairs (to replicate the driver’s seat), or your favorite driver’s colors represented in accessories. Obviously, not everyone is a Nascar fan (I’m sorry Nascar fans, it is true!) so we will move on from this example!

If you love music, interpret that in colors and shapes. For example, if you’re a beat-loving rocker, think bold, vibrant, energizing colors; angular shapes, trendy fabrics, and casual furniture. The music doesn’t have to be blaring to give a sense of a rocker-soul inhabiting the space. An opera aficionado appreciates subtleties and undertones, therefore their decor may consist of layers of neutral colors in fabrics, wall color and rugs, the use of traditional formal furnishings, lots of rich textures in fabrics, and soft curving shapes in accessories, lighting, and decorative molding.  Do you “see” how each preference can be interpreted?

If you look around your house and feel something is missing…maybe it’s the sense of self! How are you/your family represented in the space? If this is a shared space, does everyone have equal voice or is it overwhelmingly representative of one voice? Is your space designed for the way you live, for your likes and comfort, or is it plucked off a furniture showroom floor?

If you’re ready to infuse personality into your home, grab paper and pencil to create a list and follow these quick steps to get you started:

1.  Assess what the space is to be used for. If your family room is a space for watching tv, entertaining friends, paying bills, doing homework, and eating, then you either make accommodations for each of those activities, or find a new space for one/some of them.

2. Have each person who uses the space share what some of his/her favorite things are. Don’t limit this to physical objects–incorporate all the senses! What are favorite places, sights, sounds, smells, tastes, colors, activities, people, texture, period of history?  Each is rich with decorating potential!

3. Once you’ve compiled your list, a sense of  “mood” will be found in it.  For example, if there is a tendency for the favorite things to be related to the outdoors, the “mood” could be defined as earthy, woodsy, natural, open, light-filled, life-giving and comfortable. If the favorite things lean toward world travel, the mood may be interpreted as cosmopolitan, eclectic, adventurous, unencumbered, and global. If the favorite things are concerts and theme parks, the mood may indicate  adventure, excitement, and a zest for life.

4. After you’ve identified the mood, incorporate the colors that best convey the mood.  Remember, wall color is only one of the many surfaces you can use for color! Ceilings, flooring, molding, furniture, rugs, window treatments, art, lighting and accessories all provide additional color to a space.

5. With your space purpose, favorite things and mood identified, and with a color palette selected, next determine how to best incorporate some of each person’s favorite things through furniture, fabrics, accessories, art and other materials. Don’t over think this–but also don’t go overboard by literally bringing in dozens of colors/objects just so everyone feels he/she is equally represented! People who share spaces, share their lives; there is balance in the everyday and that is what your finished room should convey.

Even if you’re a solo-dweller, you have much to draw from…your social life, your career life, your family/friends, your tastes in music, food, clothes, cars, and the like. Peel back your layers and use them to bring personality to your space!

This morning I decided to share with my Facebook friends, on a regular basis, what some of my favorite things are. After more thought, I’ve decided to include a Daily Favorites category here and update it each day. I welcome your comments and sharing of your favorites as well!

Today’s favorite is music by Ludovico Einaudi. While I have an appreciation for a vast range of music, I find the pureness of piano music soothing, inspiring, and balancing. It makes nice bookends for starting and finishing my day…a balance to the cacophony of tvs, radios, barking dogs, ringing telephones, and other sounds of my daily life! Enjoy…I Giorni by Ludvico Einaudi

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The DotComDecorator

September 9, 2010

Do you need an Interior Designer, Decorator, or Home Stager…what’s the difference?

Posted in Decorating, Uncategorized at 10:46 am by dotcomdecorator

When asked the question, “Have you, or would you, work with a professional to create your interior space?” people respond in surprising ways! I have heard all of the following:  “No, they (designers) are all alike…pushy, overpriced and self-absorbed.” “I have, but it was horrible!” “I would love to, but it is so expensive!” ” I don’t need that, I just have a simple home.” “I wouldn’t know how to find the right decorator–it’s intimidating.” My favorite comment is, “I don’t know what to do with this space, so I just gave up altogether.”

Give up? Ouch! That cuts to the heart. People, these are YOUR homes you’re talking about. YOUR sanctuary, YOUR personal space. You deserve to have a space you absolutely love! And the good news is, there is someone out there who can help you!  Someone personable, someone reasonably priced, someone willing to take on your project, no matter how large or small, and someone who will listen to you and design your space from your desires! I’m going to help you get started on your quest!

First and foremost, there are three distinct titles to consider:  Interior Designer, Interior Decorator, and Home Stager. Before you can begin your search, you should understand what each of these professionals can offer you. It is important that you contact the right professional for your project.

When I first meet a potential client, I share with them my background, experience, training, and portfolio. As a professional, I am also obliged to inform them that despite being in the industry over twenty-two years, I am an Interior Decorator and Home Stager, not an Interior Designer.  It is generally at this point in the conversation I also explain the differences.  While I have yet to have a client abandon a project based on my official title, it is information a knowledgeable consumer should possess before beginning a project. (And I feel it is my moral obligation to clearly represent myself).

The designation “Interior Designer” applies to those who have completed an Interior Design course at an accredited institution.  Interior Designers apply their analytical, technical, and aesthetic skills in the construction/renovation of interior spaces. Designers have architectural design skills which permit them to create or alter interior components–such as relocating walls, designing kitchens, or major renovations–they understand and adhere to building codes. Most, but not all, Interior Designers also practice Interior Decorating and/or Home Staging.  For a major renovation or new space, an Interior Designer can serve as general contractor, architect, and decorator/stylist.  Because of their training and expertise, Interior Designers command higher rates.

Interior Designers and Interior Decorators are charged with improving the psychological and/or physiological well-being of their clients. They achieve this by understanding their clients needs, seeking appropriate solutions, respecting their clients social, physical and psychological needs and applying them in safe, aesthetically pleasing, budget-adhering and ecologically sensitive ways.

Interior Decorators deal with space renovations that can be easily and quickly changed, and at lower budgets. Projects such as changing kitchen cabinets or flooring,  selecting paint colors, furnishings, window coverings and accessories all fall within the realm of an Interior Decorator. In general, most projects do not deal with structural building codes, unless the Decorator is working in tandem with a general contractor. An interior decorator does not need a degree, but often has a certificate in interior decorating. Beyond simply “decorating” a space, a Decorator changes style and quality of life with their skills. Many Interior Decorators are also skilled as Home Stagers.

In general terms, Home Stagers prepare a property for sale by making it aesthetically pleasing to potential buyers. Home staging often begins with an assessment of the property–both inside and out–then a presentation of a task list to the property owner. Tasks may include, but are not limited to, the need to clean or paint inside and/or out; general cleaning and landscaping; removal of furniture to open up the space; introduction of furniture to create a homey environment; depersonalization of spaces; and re-purposing of specific areas.  Like Interior Designers and Decorators, a Home Stager must understand the client’s needs, but also guide the client toward preparing the home for new owners. This often means reasoning with a client to pack up prized possessions, create a more neutral space, and live with some inconveniences while the property is being marketed. While a Designer and Decorator are able to excite their clients with the potential of great things to come, a Stager often has to neutralize negative emotions and lead the client to focus on the end result–the sale of the property.  A Stager’s duties can end with the delivery of the staging report, or may include the hands on preparation of the property–from cleaning to decorating.

Each of the aforementioned professionals should have a network of reliable subcontractors/suppliers whom they rely upon for various aspects of the project. Often times, the professional will have additional skill sets–faux finishing, furniture construction, etc–and perform those tasks him/herself. Many professionals work only under a turn-key (start to finish) guideline, meaning they control every nuance of the project; others invite your input and will allow you to select and hire additional service providers on your own.  Consider to what extent you want to be involved and have this discussion during your initial meeting.

Now you know which professional you need for your project!  The next step is to narrow your search. For example, if you want to completely gut and renovate a kitchen, look for an Interior Designer who specializes in kitchen renovations. Further narrow your search by what style a Designer specializes in–if you like clean modern lines, find a Designer who specializes in Modern or Industrial style, not Old World European design!  Once you’ve created your short list, make an appointment. During the appointment, review the client portfolio, ask for references, talk about your budget, and most importantly, gauge the comfort level and ease of communication between you and the designer/decorator/stager.  Were your desires heard, were your concerns answered, and do you feel confident he/she can deliver what they promise? While it is unreasonable to expect on-the-spot delivery of a full design concept (unless the designer/decorator/stager produces cookie-cutter concepts!), rather than giving you a blank stare and proclaiming, “This will take some thinking about!” a skilled professional will provide a sense of direction or a little “teaser” of what you should expect and a promise to deliver a plan that will “knock your socks off!”

As in all professions, you will find highly skilled professionals and charlatans; you will find those who make you feel unworthy of their service and those who wholeheartedly embrace you; you will find those who hear what you say and unearth the desires you don’t verbalize, and those who hold valid only the words that come from their own lips; and you will find those who want nothing more than to showcase their desires, tastes and talents in your space. However, if you are lucky you will find those who understand the importance of creating the most comfortable and appealing space for your tastes, desires, and needs…and are willing to sacrifice their own agenda to achieve that.

The process of changing your space can be challenging. However, if handled properly, you should have more excitement than stress, more optimism than fear, and experience as little disruption to your life as possible. The designer/decorator/stager work for you–make sure your voice is heard!

Life is too short to suffer bad design! So today, stop cringing when you walk by that room, pick up the phone, call a professional and explore the possibilities for your space! A single room or a whole house–no project is unworthy of good design!

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The  DotComDecorator

P.S.  Remember, if you’re a hands-on, do-it-yourselfer, you can work with our online design service at

September 5, 2010

What do you see?

Posted in Uncategorized at 3:10 pm by dotcomdecorator

I think it’s safe to say we are all familiar with optical illusions such as the Rubin Vase (pictured) or the Magic Eye stereogram images. At first glance you may see a vase, then your awareness shifts and suddenly you see two faces. Is there a right or wrong interpretation? Can something be one thing then another? I say “absolutely!” and applying that belief in decorating terms brings me some of my greatest joy and sense of accomplishment.

I have a voracious appetite for DIY projects and feel most alive when creating (or re-creating) something. If budget weren’t an issue, my projects would be much larger –like purchasing and renovating a certain property I refer to as my “dream house”–but I have found I can answer the call of the creative muse and find great satisfaction even with smaller, low-budget projects. Many times those projects require looking at an item and seeing something other than what is there…just like looking at the Rubin Vase.

For example, one afternoon I spotted an old stereo cabinet at the curb for the trash man.  Most people wouldn’t have given it a second glance, who needs a relic from the 1950’s? I do! I took one look at the arched front and decided I could make it into a wine cabinet. Had I ever done that before? No, but hey, it was free so what did I have to lose? It wasn’t a simple one-day project, but each step of the way, my vision became clearer and I prevailed. I ended up with a beautiful wine buffet, complete with 12-bottle wine rack, hanging glass storage, shelf space, and a cheese serving area. As it turns out, it is now one of my favorite pieces of furniture! (Before and after photos will soon be posted at the newly updated

Another one of my favorites was once my daughters 6-drawer tall dresser, now my liquor cabinet. Yes, I know there is a continuing theme here…I like to entertain! I removed the drawers, painted the interior flat black, added a shelving board, built wire-front doors, and crackle finished the exterior. It got a second life and I have a nice addition to my decor!

Most recently I decided I could no longer stand the makeshift doggy blockades I have concocted over the years. I have spent far too much time and effort making my home warm and inviting for the first reaction of visitors to be “what is all that?” as they point to whatever is blocking the 8′ wide doorway into the living room. Seriously–isn’t this awful?

Improvised doggy blockade!

I’ve given this a lot of thought over the years–I wanted to install antique French bi-fold doors, but that budget thing again–and finally came up with a viable option. Wanting something attractive, yet functional, I looked at a door frame accent kit with new eyes and got my solution! While intended to be mounted on the face trim of a door, I opted to mount it inside the frame.  Of course, it wasn’t just a matter of mounting it:  there was measuring, cutting, installation of hinges, filling holes, sanding and painting. Once finished, I have a doggy gate that can be used daily, but within seconds it becomes a simple decorative accent.  Not the intended use, but with a fresh approach it becomes a practical solution to a problem.

New doggy gate in down position

Doggy gate in the upright position

While many of my projects are solution-focused, just as many are simply because I see a new or unique purpose for an item.  For example, do you know that you can create a beautiful faux tile floor with hardi-backer (cement tile board) and paint? Or that a wrought-iron plant stand with a top makes a great pub table? Or how about, instead of plants you can hang candle lanterns from shepard’s hooks for nice garden path lighting; a decorative birdcage with electric candles inside makes a stunning lighting fixture, or that simple Christmas ornaments can dramatically change the look of a dining room chandelier (stay tuned…this is next month’s big project!)?

How many times have you dismissed an object, if looked at with a creative eye could be your own found treasure? How many times have you stuck with the same ol’ thing because that’s just the way it is done?  Try looking at a problem, a piece of furniture, a discarded item, or a common household object with fresh eyes!  Invite your inner-creative out to play…you’ll enjoy the process!

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The DotComDecorator

P.S.  I guess this post can’t be complete until I share with you my recent embarrassment from seeing things in a different light:  One day last week, I headed out the back door, but stopped short when I realized our resident backyard bunny was back! I hadn’t seen him in months and was amazed at how fat he’d gotten, so I went to get my camera. I came back and shot a few pictures through the glass.   I was surprised the bunny wasn’t disturbed by the squirrels running all around it. Then I became concerned, he wasn’t moving at all. Not a blink, not a nose twitch.  I stepped outside and he still didn’t move.  With dread, I imagined the recent heat and dry spell had taken its toll on the poor bunny.  I went to the edge of the deck, trying to ascertain if it was even breathing, then I realized why he wasn’t moving…it wasn’t a bunny, it was a rock! A huge rock that’s been in the same spot for years. I just never saw it in the same way I did this day. Ok, stop laughing! Really, it looked like a bunny! See…

Rockbunny--the best pet rock ever!

Rocks aside, start looking for the unexpected in the ordinary!!

August 22, 2010


Posted in Uncategorized at 11:41 am by dotcomdecorator

As and interior decorator and home stager, it is my job to keep current with trends and to create transformations. In this spirit, I have spent the past few weeks giving my business a much-needed update!

I have been in this business over twenty-two years.  Wow, who would have thought!?  I began by fabricating soft goods–table skirts, pillows, etc–for various interior designers.  In the beginning I operated as CSDesigns.  Through the years, I expanded my skills and services to include interior decorating, home staging, faux finishing, color selection, and custom fabrication. All was well.

However, after a relocation, I opted to rename my business. Why? On that point I’m not really clear! Maybe it was just an opportunity for a fresh start, or maybe it was the belief that a new image was necessary to better compete with decorating and design firms already established in this area. Or maybe it was just because what I considered to be a great name popped into my head!  I opted for the name Carrington Row Interiors and have operated under that name for the past twelve years.

Recently, while talking with former clients turned friends, the topic turned to my business and choice of business name. These clients indicated a “disconnect” between the name and who I am, what I provide, and the cost of my services. They admitted the name was actually off-putting because it conveyed highbrow services that would be “too expensive”.

I was flabbergasted! It amazed me that as someone trained to see things from varied perspectives, I never saw a reason to look at this.  Well, I’m all about taking action, so I proceeded to poll former clients, and sure enough, most of them didn’t “get the name” and thought it did nothing to represent ME, which is the core of my business.  Uh oh, major problem!

The essence of what I do is transform interior spaces.  I do so with a practical eye, under realistic budgetary constraints, and with a focus on creating an environment my clients can’t wait to come home to. I take what I do seriously, but do it without seriousness…I bring a light-hearted, fun, relaxed approach to interior decorating.  I believe everyone should reside in a space that reflects their personality and lifestyle–this isn’t only for the rich and famous! Seriously…there is nothing of me reflected in the Carrington Row Interiors name!  Ergo, I am unveiling my NEW and IMPROVED business image and would like to introduce you to transformation interiors by tina!

Transforming a space should be FUN! It should bring new life to the space, and to those who inhabit the space! It should balance the client’s needs, tastes and budget! When finished, it should be a unique, affordable, attractive and practical representation of the client and not just another cookie-cutter space!  Therefore, gone is the elitist, over-priced, stuffy image, and in its place a clearer, lighter, and more accessible one.

While all this talk about fun and lightness make me giddy, I want to convey that in no way does my approach to interior decorating and home staging minimize my ability to meet  my primary objective…creating great space transformations that result in satisfied clients!

So I missed the mark with my former image, but as is par for life, mistakes offer opportunity for learning and growth!  I don’t have the desire to be a Park Avenue decorator or one that is available only to a select group of people.  I enjoy working with people who want to improve their space (and therefore their lives) without the budget of a small country! I like helping people achieve the look they want on a “Regular Joe’s” income.  I relish the joy I see in people’s eyes when they finally have a sense of “coming home” because their space is so them!  I engage my clients in the process–it’s their space, why should they stand on the sidelines? People trust me to come into their homes and turn their desires into reality; I am honored by that trust and it is my responsibility to deliver what is expected, and more.

It has been my experience, when all is said and done, what begins as a homeowner reaching out for help blossoms into a genuine relationship between decorator and client.  Carrington Row Interiors spoke nothing of that; it is my desire that transformation interiors by tina does! This reawakening of my core values and desires around decorating is my great transformation! So, all around, I think the name fits.

Until next time,

Viva con Gioia!

The DotComDecorator

August 2, 2010

The Absent Blogger

Posted in Decorating, DIY Projects, Uncategorized at 9:43 am by dotcomdecorator

Hello again, at last! Summer has been busier than expected and each day my intent to blog falls lower on the to-do list.

I’ve been busy wrapping up a couple of client projects, looking at my business model, revamping my workroom, and readying myself for the (hopeful) surge in business that comes once the children are back in school. Between the work projects–I always have a hard time remembering what I do is work–I have started my own dining room makeover, beginning with sprucing up the hardwood floors.

My home decor is lite French Country, but I’ve decided to make some minor changes in the formal rooms and take them from Primitive French Country into a more traditional French Country style. The first piece of furniture to go was my beloved corner cabinet with rooster painting on the glass door, toile fabric on the lower doors, and hand-painted details on the remainder of the frame. I’m sure this piece will eventually be rotated back into the decor, but for now it will find a home in the basement.

Also relegated to the basement are two of the dining room chairs. I have decided to replace them with either a rush-seat or wicker settee. I have been scouring local shops and the internet for just the right piece, at the right price. During my quest,  I came across J. Covington, Interior Design, run by Jane “Cubby” Derby, which can be found at the following web address: Cubby’s online portfolio showcases her clean, simple style, which exudes a sense of comfort and casual elegance.  To my eye, her style is the epitome of good design–comfortable spaces that don’t look overdone or like they belong in a Versailles palace.  I’m definitely a fan and encourage you to enjoy her portfolio.  Back to my search for the settee…

J. Covington also has an online shop at Ruby Lane, which can be accessed through this link  While they did not have a settee, their link to Ruby Lane reminded me of that great site! Ruby Lane is an online community of independent shops showcasing quality art, antiques, vintage collectibles and jewelry from around the world. Visit Ruby Lane at

So, while I visited a couple great sites, I’m still without settee. I know the right item will be found, it’s just a matter of keeping my eyes open for it!  In the meantime, I believe I’m going to transform my dated brass chandelier.  Removing some of the center support pieces will give it less of a Colonial  Williamsburg feel. Then with a coat of paint, the addition of crystal pendants and roping, I will have a charming and elegant addition to the dining room! Of course, I will keep you apprised of my progress as I get into that project!  The big question is, do I tell the husband first or surprise him after the fact? Hmmmm, thinking he likes surprises. No, really!

Until next time,

Viva con gioia!

The DotComDecorator

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