March 26, 2011

The Projects Come Fast and Furious!

Posted in Decorating tagged , , , , , , , , at 9:25 am by dotcomdecorator

Hello all! I am relishing a quiet (OMG, it IS quiet!) Saturday morning and thought I would visit my much-forsaken blog. Over the past few weeks, the new projects have been rolling in and I feel like a whirling dervish trying to keep up with all of them, but it’s great! I love the excitement, creative outlet, challenges and variety of decorating styles of each.

Since I last checked in here, I have buttoned up a kitchen remodel and will get photos posted after I revisit the client for staging the new kitchen and dining room! This was a fun, and in my opinion, relatively quick project–less than 90 days from concept to completion! Using the existing flooring and cabinets kept the time frame and budget manageable. Many changes, including granite counter tops, new sink, appliances, lighting, removal of wallpaper, addition of wainscoting in the dining area, updated wall color, addition of a subway tile back splash, and painting the existing cabinets, brought this kitchen up to speed.  However, my absolute favorite item is the transformed kitchen island!

The island is large for the space and initially had an oddly placed and never used bar sink. By removing the sink and dropping one end of the counter top, we were able to create a small desk area for the telephone, cellphone charging station, mail station, etc. In addition, decorative trim was applied to the base and then the island painted a gorgeous shade called Blueblood. It is a great focal point and anchor to this open-space floor plan.  Sorry no photos today, I seem to be having computer issues, aka “operator errors”. Ugh, technology!

In addition to the kitchen project, I was called back to a recent client’s home to transform their living and dining rooms. Designing a space that is hip and trendy, yet one that invites lingering meals and post-dinner conversation, while also fitting into their predominantly warm-toned space was the challenge. While not yet addressed, the foyer will become a main anchor/transition point for uniting the various spaces.

We decided on shades of blue, gray, and silver for the living room and dining room. The dining room walls are being done in a gray Lusterstone finish–for simplicity sake, think Venetian plaster with glimmer. On top of the wall finish, a funky starburst pattern will be stenciled in silver Lusterstone. The drapes are blue with large circles in two shades of silver, a gorgeous mirrored buffet, silver and black framed mirror, silver and crystal chandelier, chairs upholstered in a gray cut velvet will anchor both ends of the table, and lots of glass and silver accents will bring glam, sparkle, and a very inviting feel to the room!

The living room will be anchored with a soft blue suede sofa, large glass coffee table, and two graphite colored leather swivel chairs. At one end of the room a sofa table will serve as a workspace, and art work will consist of one graphic piece and a wall mounted fireplace. The addition of drapery panels in a blue/grey stripe and two table lamps and a few simple accessories will keep the space clean and trendy, yet inviting. Can’t wait to share photos with you!

In the midst of tackling the aforementioned projects, my washing machine croaked. What should have been a quick and simple replacement process turned into a full-blown project! The short version is that I now have a new front-load washer and it’s dryer mate; a new built-in folding table over the width of the two; refreshed paint in the utility room (oh brother was that a task, more about that another day!), and a few new decorative accessories. It’s harder than you’d think to create an attractive utility room that evokes a laundry center feel with relying on kitschy laundry-room specific wallpaper border!

Now to return to the other projects on my plate: design concepts for 7 rooms–yes, I’m a little overwhelmed by this one–and the beginnings of a two bedroom project. So much for a quiet Saturday!

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The DotComDecorator


February 21, 2011

Displaying Artwork

Posted in Decorating tagged , , , , , , , at 8:42 am by dotcomdecorator

The point of displaying artwork should be to create a focal point and enhance your space, not to simply cover a wall. Regardless if you have one favored piece, or an eclectic, extensive collection, the following are tips for displaying art in your space.

When hanging items on a wall, aim for roughly eye level, based on the primary residents/visitors to your space. Eye level for a 6’ tall person is considerably higher than for a 5’ tall one! As such, hang items in a children’s room slightly lower on the wall.  When hanging a picture above an item of furniture such as a piano or above a mantle, hang the picture comfortably in the space available.

Aim for consistent wall height between furniture and wall decor throughout a room. Stand in the center of the room and turn slowly.  If the eye has to move up and down to follow the varied heights along the wall, there is too much “movement” which disallows the artwork to be the focal point.

Create groupings; odd numbers work best.  This trick is a favorite of mine for incorporating a piece that may be different from a space’s overall style and helps creates cohesiveness. For example to display a Native American painting in a loft filled with modern furnishings and artwork, place the painting on the wall, then add two other elements near the base of the painting, i.e. on a table or use a tall vase, etc., thus creating a grouping of three elements. When selecting these complimentary pieces, try to incorporate colors or textures from the adjacent painting, as well as the overall design of the space.

To display a large piece in a small space, your options are to let the piece “own” the space, or to minimize its impact. If your intent is to minimize, consider leaning it against a wall instead of hanging it and let it serve as a backdrop to a seating area or table—allowing some obstruction of the full piece. If the piece is the focal point, keep accessories and furnishings simple to avoid competing for focus. Other options for display include the use of an easel, or to suspend the painting from the ceiling to create a room divider (you will need a way to camouflage the back if you do this).

I encounter many clients who hesitate when it comes to hanging or displaying artwork. I routinely apply a couple of tactics to help alleviate these fears. The first is to have the client express his or her feelings about their pieces: Do they absolutely love them? Do they clearly represent the client’s tastes? Do they feel compelled to hang pieces because of the sentimental or monetary investment? Once we are clear on this aspect, we move to the actual placement.

Often the fear of actually displaying artwork is in getting it wrong and/or putting holes in the wall. There are some easy, stress-alleviating options to work through this. One of my favorites is to use Posterboard and cut it into the size of the proposed artwork, then hang on the wall with double-sided tape. When possible, I prefer to purchase colored sheets that are similar to the colors of the artwork. Another option is to use newspaper, but you risk smudges on the wall! The use of painter’s tape to mask out the size, shape and location is also an option, but I find it a little discerning to simply look at bold border shapes. There are also templates one can purchase and these are great, especially if you are planning an installation with multiple pieces. Find what works for you and “try on” your placement before committing!

One final caveat…your  choice of artwork and its placement should ultimately be an expression of  you! If the above guidelines help, then use them; otherwise throw out the rules and do what feels best to you!

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The DotComDecorator

February 10, 2011

Wine Cellars

Posted in Decorating tagged , , , , , , at 7:30 am by dotcomdecorator

Man caves, basement rec rooms and home theaters have become the standard upgrade for many homeowners. Those wanting to take it to the next level include the installation of a private wine cellar. When considering the addition of a wine cellar/tasting room, the process needs to begin with the core-level: the proper storage of wine. Whether you want to store a dozen bottles in simple fashion, or showcase your 20,000-bottle collection in a climate controlled, limestone wine cave, there is a storage solution for you. 

First, assess your “wine collector status”.  Are you a serious collector—someone who has a substantial (numbering in the thousands of bottles) amount of wine for which you need long-term storage? Are you a tweener—someone who has a few cases of wine and the need for 18-24 month storage?  Are you a fledgling—someone who is learning an appreciation of wine and buys a few bottles to have on hand for consumption in the near to immediate future?

I am confident that anyone classified as a serious collector has already made a substantial investment in having a professional wine cellar constructed. Therefore, I am going to move on to options for tweeners and fledglings.

The top considerations to proper wine storage are temperature and humidity. To age properly, whether for months or decades, wine needs cool temperatures—around 55 degrees Fahrenheit—moderate humidity, low light, and little or no vibration or odor.  If not stored properly, wine will taste flat and lifeless. For small-scale storage needs, consider temperature-controlled units. For the fledgling, this can be a small countertop unit; for a tweener, a reach-in/walk-in unit big enough to hold several cases. Both of these options are affordable and can easily be incorporated into your existing living space.

If you prefer to construct an actual wine cellar/tasting room and have a home with a basement, this is the ideal place for your wine cellar. Ideally, a “passive” cellar—a non-lived-in space—with natural heating and cooling, and the addition of a humidifier, will provide an ideal wine storage environment.  However, most modern homes have lights, mechanical equipment, and artificially heated and cooled basements. In this case, if you are serious about proper wine storage, you should follow a few basic principles when considering your wine cellar.

  • Guard against extreme fluctuations in temperature. These are far worse for wine than a constant too-high or too-low temperature. Fluctuations can cause corks to expand, contract and loosen, causing spills or allowing oxygen into the bottle, which can result in spoilage. Invest in a quality cooling system, designed specifically for wine storage areas.

  • Humidity should also be fairly constant, around 60 to 75 percent. Too much humidity can cause mold growth and can cause labels to disintegrate. Too little can dry and shrink the corks, causing spills and oxidation.
  • Too much light can also harm wine, because ultraviolet rays can cause spoilage, and because light creates heat, which can ruin your efforts to maintain a constant temperature.

A perfect wine cellar is insulated and humidity-controlled by means of a vapor barrier (usually 6- to 8-millimeter plastic sheeting). If done properly, with the vapor barrier placed on the warm side—which is the exterior of the cellar/the interior of your living space—you will be able to maintain a proper environment. Without a vapor barrier, condensation can be a problem. The moisture in the air of your warmer living space will condense on the cooler walls of your wine cellar. Too much condensation can threaten the integrity of the cellar walls and make the cooling mechanism work harder to keep the air inside the cellar at the proper humidity level.

For a wine cellar, the insulation should be R-19. Many cellar design specialists prefer rigid foam insulation. The cellar walls can be regular sheet rock or plywood, though moisture-resistant dry wall, known as green board, provides extra protection against moisture related problems. Also, consider doors as part of the insulation picture; sturdy exterior-core or specially designed glass doors are recommended to keep the cold air in.

After insulation, humidity control and cooling, the rest is aesthetics.  Size, design, lighting, racking, and furnishing options are abundant! Will you select wood racking or French limestone? Do you want a traditional serving and tasting area, or simply a place to store your collection? How do you want to store and display your wines? Your pocketbook is the only limit!

If a custom-built wine cellar is in your future, assess your needs, do your research, then call on a quality builder to construct your ideal wine storage space!

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The DotComDecorator


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 8, 2010

The Christmas Decorating is Done!

Posted in Decorating tagged , , , , , , , , at 8:40 pm by dotcomdecorator

I am happy to report that I finally got my Christmas decorating done! I admit I was doubtful it would actually be accomplished; I spent days “assessing the situation” with little progress made. However, once I got started, things fell into place.

And, fulfilling my previously stated intention, I have embraced the season! I even changed up my usual decor and tried a few new things, including using a pink feather boa on a small tree in my powder room!

My kids are grown and while I seriously miss the excitement of children at Christmas time (even as twenty-somethings they seemed to bring the magic of Christmas to life around here!), I no longer feel obliged to decorate in the traditional way I did when they lived at home.

In addition to the pink boa, my Diva Tree is adorned with crystal-look ornaments (leftovers from the chandelier project!) and large pink glass ornaments. While I wanted to top it with a tiara, I opted for a little pink star burst, only because I couldn’t find a tiara ornament on short notice!

Further switching things up, I chose a black, white, and silver theme for my tree, and must say I LOVE it! It has sparkle, is elegant, and quite unexpected!

I paired the black ,white, and silver with red for the decorations in other areas. For the first time, I feel like the majority of the Christmas ornamentation compliments my decor rather than disrupting it!  Of course, I can’t use the dining room table without disassembling the tablescape, but until then, I’ll enjoy it!

Here are pictures of some of my efforts:


With the decorating behind me, I can now start thinking about all the other aspects of the Christmas season! Who knows, one of these years I might actually get ahead of the curve and not be blindsided by the holiday season…it’s not like it comes at a different time each year, right?


Hope you’re celebrating this season in your own special way!

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!
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 13, 2010

I Have a Crush…on a Range!

Posted in Decorating tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:41 am by dotcomdecorator

I love to cook, bake, chop, puree, blend, experiment, concoct, serve…I simply enjoy being in the kitchen!  In fact, I have often considered pursuing a career as a restaurateur, baker, or caterer.   However, for now, I am interested in learning professional kitchen skills for self-gratifying reasons: I believe learning would be fun; better skills may reduce the number of self-inflicted kitchen injuries; having them would add to my enjoyment of the culinary craft; and, most truthfully, because then I would have more leverage for my need of a gourmet kitchen!

Omega Cabinetry kitchen

Omega Cabinetry kitchen

Over the past several years, upscale kitchens have become the norm in American homes. The average homeowner is aware of the basics:  granite counter tops, stainless steel appliances, prep and/or cook-top islands, task lighting, double ovens and built-in microwaves. For a little more style, a wine cooler, ability for guests to belly up to a bar/island area, and custom back splashes comprise the typical upscale kitchen, similar to the Omega Cabinetry kitchen pictured above.

Beyond the basic, and the moderately upscaled, we get into the elegant kitchen, such as this beautiful Wm Ohs kitchen pictured below.

Elegant Wm Ohs kitchen

Elegant Wm Ohs kitchen

Furniture-style cabinetry with custom finishes, hand scraped wood or Travertine tile floors, farmhouse sinks, 6-burner ranges with pot-filler, cabinets boasting pull out storage, elegant lighting for ambiance, at least one warming drawer, and walk-in pantry. These kitchens are stunning and I would love one of my own, but for me it still falls short of my dream kitchen!

For me, the central figure in my dream kitchen, the workhorse, the reason for all that is, is the range…and I have an obsession with ranges!  You know how a car-guy lights up at the sight of a classic car with a Hemi? I’m like that with ranges! I have a serious crush on a range, but before I introduce you to the object of my desire, I would like to explain where this all began.

From a self-analytical standpoint, this obsession can be directly traced to two incidents the year I went away to school. The first incident took place in my tiny galley kitchen with an outdated gas range, similar to this one.

Old gas stove

Old gas stove

Let’s just say the incident involved an inept roommate, a gas oven, a match and the smell of burning hair as I realized my eyebrows, eyelashes, and bangs were missing! The second incident was when I went home for Thanksgiving. As a student, I subsisted on a diet of canned green beans and McDonald’s, the thought of a home-cooked meal with roasted turkey and all the fixin’s was highly anticipated! Thanksgiving Day I woke up to sounds of my mom in the kitchen and I knew it was only a matter of time before the smells of “food day” began wafting into my room. Oh, it wasn’t so. What wafted in was the annoyed voice of my mother as she realized we had run out of propane–a major requirement for cooking with our gas-fueled appliances! What!? Are you kidding? Who runs out of propane on Thanksgiving? I was incredulous that we had not one, but two ovens, and would be eating Thanksgiving dinner at a restaurant!  I think it was at that moment I began to fantasize about my dream kitchen and how I would have great appliances and never be without the ability to cook…especially on Thanksgiving Day!

As time marched on, reality set in. Our first home had a standard free-standing electric range…that was the extent of builder options. Our second, self-designed home, ended up with a single built-in cooktop/oven, so we could maximize the view, but also because we blew the bank on the build! Our third, and current home, does have two built-in ovens and a cook-top in the island. While it’s nice, I still have major “range envy”.

Many of my friends have 6-8 burner Viking or AGA ranges with either attached or built-in double ovens. Comparing my appliances to their’s is like parking a VW van next to a Corvette. Even worse, many of them confess to never cooking, or using their ovens to heat pizza–that’s like driving a Corvette 30mph everywhere you go. I am not in a position to make changes to my kitchen at this time, but it doesn’t stop me from being envious and dreaming of my “one day” kitchen!

To fit my design and cooking styles, a range with at least six burners and double ovens makes the most sense. However, that configuration limits the manufacturer and price-point options. Once I realized there is an option to have gas and electric burners and ovens in the same range, I cannot imagine anything less. Besides, talk about the ultimate in emotional soothing–there’s no way I would ever be without a means to prepare meals! Of course, with this options the brand selection again decreases and the price increases.  I also want a retro look–a solid, heavy, workhorse of a range, but something timeless and stylish, and not stainless! The options become fewer and fewer…and the price increases incrementally. These La Cornue ranges were my first flutter:

La Cornue chateau

While there are other amazing ranges on the market–Viking, Wolf, AGA, Falcon, Lacanche, Delaubrac, Molteni–and in reality I would relish the opportunity to own any of them, this is my dream date:

Wanders Piano 105

Wanders Piano 105

I love, love, love this vintage-style range by Wanders! I imagine owning this in the beautiful, deep Bordeaux color and know it would be the focal point of my dream kitchen. There are many other elements necessary to create this ideal kitchen, but today this is all about my crush–isn’t it simply fabulous!?

For now, I appreciate the hard-working appliances I have and enjoy preparing meals in my kitchen, even though it isn’t my ideal setup. However, sometimes living with the less-than-ideal allows us to identify what we consider to be ideal. I have definitely made some adjustments to my thinking over the years, and now I’m clear about what I want, and why I want it. Of course, to desire is no guarantee of having.  As with most crushes, I have to wonder if this one has staying-power or will a new model one day set my heart a’flutter? A girl can always dream!

Until next time,

Viva Con Gioia!

The DotComDecorator

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 24, 2010

How Do You Dress Your Home?

Posted in Decorating tagged , , , , , , at 8:04 am by dotcomdecorator

Many people are intimidated by the prospect of designing their interior living spaces. Regardless if the process is limited to selecting a new paint color or as comprehensive as a full-scale remodeling project, it can be a daunting challenge for many homeowners. If you are white-knuckling at the thought of making changes to your home, know that it does not have to be intimidating—and it can actually be fun!

I ensure my clients, if they can get dressed, they are capable of participating in the interior decorating of their home. That’s all you are doing—you are dressing your home.  Like getting dressed, interior decorating is done in layers, although getting dressed is a little more regimented…you don’t put on your shoes before your socks, but you could select fabrics before paint!

The basic structural integrity, purpose of space and traffic pattern, are akin to the “body”…these are what we work with when dressing a space. Begin dressing by selecting your foundation items–wall color and flooring. Like undergarments, they are often most notable in their absence! Neutrality equals longevity, but neutral does not have to be void of color or texture! On walls, varied hues of color on adjacent spaces, or faux finishing provide interest without being overwhelming. Think the difference between plain white cotton and alternative fabrics and colors…you may be the only one aware of and enjoying the choice!

The selection of large items such as sofas, chairs, cabinetry, appliances, and bedroom furniture make up the next layer–the basics. Consider them like a quality suit or favored jeans. What (or who) are you projecting–comfort and ease, trendy, artistic, vintage chic, or leadership? Your attire reflects your image, just like your furnishings will define the image of a space.

Soft goods, such as draperies, bedding, pillows, and rugs, along with hard goods such as counter tops, back splashes, and accent tables, add additional color, texture and visual interest.  What shirt or blouse will you wear with your trousers? These choices, when paired with your foundation and basic layers, build on the look you want to project. Imagine the following looks: Jeans with a tee-shirt;  jeans with a starched button-down shirt; a tailored suit with a turtle neck; a tailored suit with a dress shirt. While each option may or may not appeal to your sense of style, appreciate that each gives a unique voice to style.  Applying that to design, could you use an embroidered silk fabric in a space with concrete counter tops? Of course! If you are comfortable with the contrast. If not, use granite with silk, or linen with concrete…whatever is most comforting.

When considering lighting, think shoes! Most homeowner’s go for general lighting options—like a good pair of loafers. Integrating task-specific and/or ambient lighting adds a new dimension and completes your overall design. It’s like having your everyday loafer with an exciting weekend shoe!

The final touches and pops of color come from accessories.  Accessorizing is the equivalent of adding jewelry, makeup, hosiery, or a tie to your final outfit. Don’t be afraid to make a statement! Let your accessories bring in a pop of color, show your personality or showcase your hobbies and talents. However, do remember that sometimes “less is more”…be aware of the amount of tchotchke in the space…it’s the difference between the elegance of wearing one simple chain or the potential to look like the gold-chain-laden Mr. T!

When you dress–beyond the social requirement of having major body parts covered—you are dressing for yourself, expressing your likes and dislikes, your personality, your sense of style, all through your choice of attire; do the same in your home. Like your personal wardrobe, you want your home’s interior to be an extension of your personal taste and lifestyle.

How’s your house’s wardrobe looking these days? Do you need to refresh the look with a new item or two, or is a total makeover required? If you need help, ask! Store associates, friends, and professional decorators, like The DotComDecorator, can offer a different perspective and/or advice.  As always, I’m an advocate for decorating to be an enjoyable process. It’s more important that your space being right for you, than to adhere to hard and fast design rules. Glam it up a little, baby!

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

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