decorating tablescape

Posted by & filed under Checklists, Interior Design, Project Tips.

Before you start working with an Interior Designer, there are some very important questions to ask yourself. While the designer is there to make your dreams come true, they cannot read your mind. Like any relationship, open and clear communication is crucial for a successful result.

Through my 20+ years of experience as an Interior Designer, I’ve discovered three key questions to ask every client before starting a project. Asking these questions at the start of a home design project has helped me make my client’s dreams a reality.

What is your budget?

The first question I ask clients is their budget. Communication with the financial decision makers from the beginning is crucial. A sofa can cost anywhere from $700 to $17,000+. If a client has a budget of $20,000 and they want a $5,000 sofa, that takes 1/4 of the budget. Once we know the amount that you’re willing to invest in your project, we can then help you plan for all of the project goals while helping to prevent costly mistakes from occurring.

What is the finished room to look like?

This is where my clients get to dream! I ask them what they want their home to say about them – calm, happy, inviting, casual, elegant? I encourage them to use, Pinterest, magazines and photos they have taken of inspirational interiors to help get started. Once I have these images from the client, we can then begin the selection process for creating their dream space.


decorating tablescape

Is there an event or deadline you’re trying to meet?

Most clients have an expectation in their minds of how long a project will take or a goal of when they want it to be complete. It helps to know their expectations up front, provide them with a detailed timeline and agree together on deadlines.

For an interior design project, the planning phase can take up to 3 months and for a remodel project, the planning phase can take up to 6 months. Furnishings may take anywhere from 2-12 weeks and the construction portion of the remodel project can last 3-12 months, depending on the scope of the project.

Be sure to signup for our newsletter to learn more about our project design process.

spa master bathroom

Posted by & filed under Bathroom Design, Interior Design.

Wouldn’t you love coming home after a long day, walking into your master bathroom and immediately feeling peaceful and relaxed?

While you may not have the funds for a complete renovation, you’d be surprised at what you can accomplish with a few small projects. Many of our clients want a spa-like Master bathroom. Here are the design elements we use to create a luxurious space:

  • Earth tonesspa like master bathroom
  • Double vanity sinks
  • Towel & supply storage
  • Freestanding air tub with hand shower
  • Recessed medicine cabinets
  • Compartmentalized vanity drawers
  • Heated floors
  • Body sprays and hand shower
  • Towel heater
  • Decorative vent-fan-light

Want to see a Master Bathroom renovation project using these design elements? Take a peak at these before and after photos of a recent remodel. The design phase took approximately two months and demolition to completion about three months.

Looking for more design tips for your master bathroom? Check out my 5 simple design tips.

When you’re ready to have a Spa-like Master Bathroom, be sure to contact us so that we can help you reach this goal.

Posted by & filed under Checklists, Interior Design.

Shopping for an Interior Designer is overwhelming. Shopping for the right Interior Designer is even harder. There are many designers out there who will reel you in with low prices, charismatic personalities or recommendations from influential people. But are these the best reasons to hire that particular designer? Are they right for you and your project? How can you determine a good fit? Here are four key things to look out for when interviewing Interior Designers.

Do They Understand Your Problem

If you are thinking of changing a space in your home there is usually a problem with its current state. Enter the Interior Designer. Their goal should be to discover the problem of the space and provide a solution.

Interior Designers are like doctors. They dissect the symptoms, find the cause and then prescribe a cure. The job of the Interior Designer is much more than picking out colors and fabrics. They should have an intuition into the person who lives in the space, why they dislike it and what needs they have.

Anyone can dress up the look of a space. Changing the way a space feels requires an understanding of who will live in that space and how they want to feel being there. When you are shopping for an Interior Designer, make sure they inquire about why you want to change the space. They should ask questions that give them insight into your feelings and desires about your home, not just about budget or styles.

Do They Offer a Solution

The second part to determining a good fit with an Interior Designer is the solution they provide to your problem. If they have done their job in understanding why you want to change a space, they will be able to articulate ways to meet your needs. They should be specific with their suggestions. “Lets update paint, choose different furniture and change the light fixtures” is fine, but anyone can say that without having a true plan.

Not only should the Interior Designer have specific changes, they should explain why those changes will solve your problem. Changing paint colors just to change them is a waste of your time and money. They should be able to articulate which paint colors would work for your space and why.

Are They Able to Articulate Benefits

Interior Designers are a dime a dozen. Why should you hire this one over that one? When you are interviewing, ask them why you should hire them. If they know their business and have been intentional about building it they will be able to describe their value and benefit to you. Low prices, recommendations and even experience are not reasons to hire them.

Are they able to articulate the benefits their design will bring to you? For example, a new lamp to provide better lighting is a great feature: but why? The benefit to better lighting is to help the client feel energetic and peaceful in the space, instead of groggy and sad.

Always ask how the features they suggest will benefit you. If a design is merely for look or function, then the benefit might not be there and you will end up wasting time and money. A good Interior Designer will know the benefits you are looking for and adjust their solution accordingly.

Do They Appeal to Your Emotions

Lastly, do you feel good about them? Do they speak your language? Do their solutions directly resonate with the problems you wish to solve? Are they considering the benefits a redesign will give their client or just going after looks? Interior Designers should always listen and respond to your feelings about a space.

If you are looking for an Interior Designer, take some time to consider why you want to redesign. Before interviewing make sure you know your space’s problem and the benefits you wish for from the new design. The better you know yourself, your personality and desires, the better an Interior Designer will be able to help.

Posted by & filed under Interior Design.

In this installment of our behind-the-scene series we wanted to share highlights from Maura’s background during her professional career to date.

  • 2017 is her 29th year in the interior design industry
  • Bachelor of Science Interior Design – Univ. of IL 1988
  • Graduate Certificate Archeworks Chicago Stanley Tigerman’s Think Tank 1995
  • N.C.I.D.Q. Certification 2000
  • Adjunct Faculty Columbia College Chicago 1995-1999
  • M.F.A. Architectural Studies Columbia College Chicago 2005
  • Riverside Plan Commission 2011-2014
  • Board of Directors Frederick Law Olmsted Society 2015-Present
  • D4D Volunteer Designs for Dignity 2017-Present
  • 2018 Columnist for Chicago Woman Magazine Interior Design Trends

Maura thanks her husband George and daughter Lauren for their love and support throughout her career.

Posted by & filed under Checklists, Interior Design, Workshop.

The dream to become an Interior Designer is wonderful! With 29 years of experience in the industry, I have learned some valuable lessons about being successful in the industry. Here are my top tips for pursuing a career in Interior Design for college students.

Know How to Spell and Handwrite

Learning Interior Design industry terms is only half of the battle. Make sure you also learn how to spell each and every word. If you are not certain, take the time to look up the correct spelling. Check and double check your spelling and work for accuracy. In addition to correct spelling, work on your penmanship. While most of the world functions digitally now, penmanship has taken a backseat. But there will be situations you need to write on paper and having good penmanship works wonders. Precision in the details proves that you are serious about your work and will do a good job no matter how big or small the project.

Be Eager to Learn

Just because you have completed a degree does not mean the learning stops. Part of being successful in the Interior Design industry is keeping up with the trends. Be eager to learn and have a positive attitude. Be grateful for the opportunities you have, no matter how unimportant they may seem at the time. Every experience makes you who you are and shapes your career.

Work on Drawing

Drawing freehand sketches is very important for keeping your brain fresh. Practice this every day. Be neat and put forth your absolute best work, even if no one ever sees your drawings. This will hone your skills in ways you could not otherwise.

Nurture Leads

In the world of Marketing, nurturing leads is an important part of making a sale. This applies to getting new Interior Design clients too. I send a handwritten Thank You note (see practice penmanship and spelling above!) to every prospect after meeting with them. I also send handwritten notes, or an email, to new contacts as a part of relationship building. These practices help me remember their names, which goes a long way when I see them again and remember!

Network, Network, Network!

In finding a job at a firm or finding your own clients, it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know. Join networking and professional groups to meet people in the Interior Design field. You’ll get connected with people from all different ends of the industry, potential clients, and possible future employers. If you tend to be more shy or nervous in social situations, talk to people who are great at networking, or even watch youtube videos, for tips. Then practice, practice, practice!

Posted by & filed under Interior Design, Workshop.

While the dream of being a self employed Interior Design is a beautiful one, there are certainly challenges that come with it. After 6 years of being employed by 3 different Interior Design firms, I struck out on my own. While it has been an incredible journey, it has had it’s share of pains.

For example, I was not affected by the 2008 recession until 2009, as we were very fortunate to have been involved in a 19 month project that spanned 2007 – 2009.  However, in the Spring of 2009, once the large project was completed, I was forced to take smaller projects that were not our ideal projects.  However, I worked hard and made it over the hump.  Through this tough time, I learned some valuable lessons about the challenges of being an Interior Designer and that is to market 2 hours a day every day, to keep a consistent flow of business coming in and to constantly maintain relations with prior clients and industry referral partners.

Self Employed Interior Designers Do It All

As a self employed Interior Designer, I do it all. I am the lead Designer for all project designs and meet with my Interior Design Assistant 6 times a week to go over 

projects updates and make decisions. I am in charge of the client experience throughout each project, which includes client gifts, meetings and followups. On top of managing clients, I manage all staff and vendors, which include a Bookkeeper, Social Media Assistant, Executive Assistant, and a PR Firm. Lastly, I attend networking events and manage advertising with Luxe Magazine’s preferred community, Chicago Woman’s Magazine, and BNI Network networking group.

While managing my own business can be overwhelming at times, the payoff is so much greater than the stress. At the end of the day, I get to do what I love with people I love. My advice to anyone wanting to start their own Interior Design business is to be realistic about the challenges. If the reward outweighs the challenges, then you will not regret your decision!

If you have any questions about what it takes to have a self employed Interior Design business, feel free to reach out to me!

Posted by & filed under Color, Interior Design.

The holiday season is a magical, beautiful time of the year! Parties upon parties with colleagues, friends and family keep us busy and entertained.

If you are hosting your own party or event, it can be overwhelming to choose your decorations. There are so many themes and the world of Pinterest has made it impossible to pick just one. We think a good place to start is your table. Your table is the center piece of the room and everyone sees it. Once you have your table decorations picked out, you can easily pick out and match the rest of your home decorations.

Here are some of our holiday season table decoration favorites!

Modern Tablescape

(From Real Simple)

Natural elements and layers of texture elevate a neutral color scheme, while warm wooden accents prevent it from seeming stark. If you choose to add in color, keep it simple with just one shade. Create a centerpiece of artfully arranged woodland accents, such as pinecones, faux antlers, and feathers, and finish off each setting with a mini wreath and place card.

Real Simple

Sweet Tidings Tablescape

(From Real Simple)

The halls are decked, now bring colorful delight to the table with a sweet set-up of treats that never feel out of season. For the ultimate centerpiece, try a no-fuss arrangement filled with red and white peppermint balls and fluffy marshmallows. Call on ribbon candy, multicolored chocolates, and candy canes for making the perfect sides.

Real Simple

Table Trimmings Tablescape

(From Real Simple)

Forgo the fine china, fancy linens, and extravagant centerpiece for a unique runner that will steal the dinner scene. Place pins along the sides of a gilded poster board and artfully weave colored string from pin to pin to create a modern, textured focal point.

Real Simple

Think About Your Winter Wardrobe

(Martha Stewart)

Deep reds, purples, mauves, forest greens, navy blue, jewel tones … these all evoke the spirit of the season, without clashing! Our favorite to use is crimson, rich and purple-based. Call it oxblood, wine, or purple-red — this rich color is just as winter appropriate and less glaring than the usual red-green combo. Crimson flowers in mason jars and Red Delicious apples firmly anchor the color theme; and the complementary tone of deep-green ivy gives a lush, natural look.

Photo Credit: Juhea Kim

Don’t Be Afraid to Simplify

(Martha Stewart)

Yes, it’s the holidays, but sometimes simple is more beautiful. You don’t have to worry about whether you need more pinecones or poinsettias — there’s a lot going on with food already! It’s fun to try different centerpieces, but it really takes only three components to make a warm, inviting, festive atmosphere: flowers, candles, and music. Your favorite flowers cut low (so guests can see each other over the table) and unscented candles are always a good idea. Long, tapered candles are always an elegant choice, but small candles work just as well, and also allow your guests to see each other better.

5 tips for hiring a residential interior designer

Posted by & filed under Checklists, Interior Design.

Hiring a residential Interior Designer is a very important decision. This person will help you design a home to match your lifestyle so they must understand you, your budget, and your vision. On top of that, they need to be reputable, honest, hardworking, and reliable. Interior Designers come a dime a dozen, but not all are equal or a good match for your needs and personality. Here are my top 5 tips for hiring the perfect residential Interior Designer.

Do Your Homework

Assess the area to receive professional interior design guidance. List all of the issues that need to be addressed on paper, on your smart phone, or in a Word document. Now take that list and prioritize it into two (2) columns. The items that are absolutely necessary (NEEDS) go on the left and the wish list items (WANTS) go on the right, in descending order of importance.

Make sure you are including the input of all family members in these lists; even items that seem out of reach or unrealistic should be included. These are important in the planning strategy even for an item that may not be implemented until later.

Establish a budget by checking out the items you NEED to include, whether online or in the store, to understand what things cost. Keep in mind that the source for pricing things out determines the level you are seeking. A sink at Home Depot is a different level than a sink through the Chicago Merchandise Mart. You decide the level of product that your home deserves without exceeding the value of your home.

Research Several Interior Designers Before Hiring

Contact your local interior design council for interior design certification or contact N.C.I.D.Q. to find a certified Interior Designer in your area at that design with the style of interior design that you’re looking to have in your home. The Designer MUST have a degree in interior design to even qualify for the N.C.I.D.Q. exam.

Check with friends or family who have used Interior Designers before to learn about the process. Ask the Designer what their design process is; be sure to check their work and ask for references to help understand how long the process took and was the experience of working with the Designer a favorable one.

Get a Letter of Agreement or an Interior Design Contract

There is a lot of money involved in this process, so it is imperative to have both parties sign a Letter of Agreement or an Interior Design contract. It is very important that the duties of the Interior Designer are spelled out completely, in addition to the fees and when the fees are due. All Agreements/Contracts need to have a dispute resolution clause in case of a disagreement between you and the Interior Designer. Insurance coverage needs to be included in the Designer’s Agreement/Contract as well.

Work Within Your Budget

Be open and upfront about your budget from the start of the project, so that the Designer knows your financial boundaries. The Designer needs to provide multiple bids for the construction portion from construction firms that provide a valid state Contractor’s license along with a certificate of insurance.

It’s important that the budget and bids include the design fee, taxes, shipping/expediting and delivery in addition to all of the labor and material costs prior to the start of the project, so that all costs are accounted for before ordering product and labor.

A remodel project can and typically will encounter unexpected surprises as a result of demolishing the interior and opening up walls, as a result it’s important to set aside a contingency fund of 10%-20% of the project total, for the unexpected.

Delays on a project can increase the cost due to the additional time for the Contractor and the Designer. The key is to order as much of the product prior to starting the construction portion to avoid delays. Another way to avoid delays and additional costs is to be flexible and willing to give up something along the way.

The Design professional is there to guide you along the way, so ask questions and allow them to do their job to help the project run as efficiently as possible. The Designer should provide a Statement of Proposed Purchases that details every product and/or labor that is being proposed and what is included with that product and/or labor.

Surviving the Remodel Project

If you have the opportunity to move out temporarily, you should or if you don’t have to move in right away, take advantage of having the work done while you’re not there. If you can’t move out, then prepare to live with dirt, dust, noise and a lot of people in your home.

Request the project to be done in phases to section off areas for living in while other areas are being worked on. Adding onto the scope of the project is a very common occurrence as the construction company begins to make progress on the project, it builds confidence in the homeowner and the add-ons begin to occur. The Designer and/or Contractor need to provide the addendum or change orders to the contract as the add-ons occur.

Keep the goals in site and request a timeline at the start of the project to help with charting the progress. The punch list provides the end of the project To Do list; the end is near.

Posted by & filed under Checklists, Color, Interior Design.

Coordinating fabrics is easier said than done. When you walk into a fabric store with rows and rows of fabrics of many colors and textures, it can be overwhelming. Even interior designers can spend hours upon hours coordinating fabrics for their home remodel projects. I try to remember 3 tips when working on interior design projects for my clients. See below for my 3 tips for coordinating fabric for home remodel projects.

Select a WOW Factor Pattern as a Base

interior design circular fabric

Choose a pattern that has a WOW factor to use as the base fabric, such as this circular patterned fabric.

This is the pattern fabric that ties everything together. You should use this fabric on drapery, pillows, and upholstered dining chairs as statement pieces. Other material colors are selected from this pattern, such as walls, cabinetry, and tile colors.

Use a Pattern and Texture Mixture


For your second fabric, select a more simple patterned  fabric that won’t compete with the WOW factor fabric’s pattern. This fabric should have some texture to stand out and be different from the WOW pattern, yet coordinate with the WOW fabric’s colors. Texture adds another dimension in that you want to touch it’s unique quality. Use this on accent pillows and drapery and an upholstered quality on lounge chairs.


interior design textured fabricinterior design textured fabric

Lastly, Add More Texture

For your third and final fabric, select a quiet non-patterned fabric that has a great weave. This adds a luxurious look and feel to the space. This texture should respond to light with its own subtle luster and is the back drop on which the other fabrics layer on top. Use this textured fabric as an upholstered quality on a sofa.


Take a look at my Pinterest Profile for inspiration on colors and textures. If you need more assistance coordinating fabrics for your home interior design projects, feel free to reach out and contact me!

kitchen remodel

Posted by & filed under Interior Design, Kitchens.

Major kitchen remodels are one of the most popular home renovations, but it can cost you greatly if you do it in the wrong order. Getting the steps right will save you time, money and plenty of headaches. Kitchen remodels typically take 6.5 – 11 months to complete, unless you do things out of order. In that case it can take significantly longer.

Here is the correct order to tackle a kitchen remodel from start-to-finish.

1. Planning – The planning stage includes design, drawings, bidding, and planning of the timeline. This typically takes up to 3 months depending on the scope of the project.

2. Ordering – Next the products must be ordered. Product lead times range from 2-16 weeks. Initial field measures for the cabinetry can be taken prior to the actual field measure date, which is after the new drywall is installed, to speed up lead time of the cabinetry order. It is still super critical to re-measure once the new drywall is installed to confirm all measurements previously submitted.

3. Temporary Kitchen Setup – Families still have to eat, even while their kitchens are in disarray. We help our clients set up temporary kitchens to minimize the disruption to their daily lives.

4. Demolition – This takes up to 1 week depending on how many helping hands you have to remove and haul away the debris.

5. Final Field Measure for Cabinetry is Taken – this takes 1 day and lead time is 4 days – 8 weeks typically, for the cabinet order.

6. Rough-In – Relocating or installing new plumbing pipes, electrical wires, gas line, hvac ductwork, and drywall follows and takes around 1-2 weeks

7. Painting – Painting comes next and this takes 1-3 days

8. Flooring – 2-4 days depending on the type of flooring installed

9. Cabinets Installed – Now things are coming together! Cabinets take 2-3 days to be installed.

10. Countertops Measured – Countertops get measured in 1 day and installed in the next 2 weeks. All plumbing templates and specifications need to be available at this point.

11. Appliances Installed – 1-2 days

12. Lighting Installed – 1-2 days

13. Countertops Installed then Final Plumbing – 2-4 days

14. Backsplash Installed – 1-2 days

15. Finish Carpentry – The final touch! Installing the carpentry usually takes around 1-2 days.

As you can see, a kitchen remodel is a major project, but nothing to be feared. With the right professionals leading the project and doing things in the right order, you will have nothing worry about except what to cook for your first meal in your gorgeous new space!