Interior Design on Your Own Time

Last week I penned an article about 5 inappropriate uses for appliance pulls, which really gave me a chuckle (and I hope it had the same result for my readers).  Inspired by the goofiness as well as the suggestion that some of my favorite home accessories can be recycled for other uses, I decided to share with you my ideas for alternate uses for towel rings.  Unlike other things I’ve suggested on this blog, these suggestions are made in jest, but the ideas could theoretically be done- if you’re adventurous!

1-      Towel rings as exercise rings.  My kids love climbing on the rings on their monkey bars.  Imagine how classy they’d feel swinging on their own oil rubbed bronze towel rings!  Sturdier than plastic, bronze towel rings can truly create a classier and safer swinging experience.

2-      Towel rings as door knockers.  If you’re tired of those hideous lion faces that hold a door knocker, maybe it’s time to consider using towel rings instead.  Simply screw them into your door and have them knock against the door instead of forcing your guests to bruise their knuckles in search of entrance to your palace.

Home 6 3/4'' Towel Ring Brushed Chrome,

3-      Towel rings as the base for crib mobiles.  I don’t know about you, but the mobiles that I’ve attached to my kids’ cribs have fallen, shifted, and come precariously close to crashing down on my little angels.  It would be better if crib mobiles could be suspended from the ceiling so that they were more secure and wouldn’t fall when grabbed by children.  Imagine screwing a towel ring into your ceiling and then tying strings with toys or bells down to your desired height above the crib.  Not only would the added height create a dramatic centerpiece for any room, but it would provide the extra security that every parent wants for their new baby.

If you’re feeling as frisky as I am right now, I’d love to hear your ideas about how you’d use towel rings to enhance your home in creative ways.


I love my house.  Really love it.  The problem is, we live on a mountain, and we have such a tremendous wind exposure that when someone opens the front door, if there is ANY other window open in the house, it creates a cross-breeze reminiscent of the tornado in the Wizard of Oz.  You can see in the picture below that a floor-to-ceiling height closet door literally got ripped off of its hinges last week when I opened the front door for barely a second.  So what’s a girl (with 4 little kids) to do?

Our Damaged Coat Closet

Our Damaged Coat Closet

After consulting with various contractors, engineers, decorators, and just generally smart people, the solution that we came up with would be to install an external glass door that will buffer the wind so that it won’t be as damaging inside our house.  With the help of a very talented neighbor, Marc Gottlieb, I designed a fantastic stained glass door, which I thought would really make a statement when guests arrived.  Unfortunately, such a masterpiece was WAY above my budget (if you want to see the design though, you can email me!).  So I took a stencil design offered by my contractor for a fraction of the price.  Does that sound like a cop out?  Or a decent way to save money while still springing for something relatively decorative, instead of just plain glass?  Curious to hear your opinions.

old front door Our new glass front door enclosure

If you have an ugly house, you’re probably not alone.  And I’m not going to pussy-foot around the issue- sometimes someone has an ugly house because that’s how they bought it (and maybe they paid less for the privilege of living in a hideous home), and sometimes a house is unsightly because the homeowner has bad taste.  And if that’s you, you may not even be aware that others don’t appreciate your design choices.  So, how can we fix this situation so that your house is beautiful both to you and to your family members and guests?  Here are some quick ways to evaluate whether you have an ugly home and make instant changes.

The first thing to do is to listen to what others are telling you.  If you spouse and/or children are constantly mentioning your revolting couch, your dreadful armchair or your nasty dining room table, TAKE THE HINT.  And make sure to listen even if they’re not as blunt as I am.

Next, approach your house objectively.  What are the things that bother you the most?  Can a coat of paint help the situation?  Can removing the unattractive items fix your space?  Your home doesn’t need to transform from the ugly duckling to a swan overnight.  Changing one thing at a time will enable you to enjoy the novelty of each new addition, to moderate your budget accordingly, and to make well-thought-out decisions that will truly help.

If it’s your friend or relative who has an ugly house, be gentle.  Make suggestions of ways that you think your friend can improve their space without sidestepping the issue entirely.  Also, consider whether your friend will heed your advice.  While he or she may not be willing to part with a hideous African sculpture, you may be able to separate him from a tattered La-Z-Boy.

And, of course, another way to inform your friend that his house is ugly is to kindly suggest some helpful design articles or blogs that you’ve come across recently (including yours truly, of course!).   Even one useful suggestion can go a long way.

Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @decorexpert and Facebook at Sari Holtz, and tell your friends- my daily tips may provide just the inspiration that your friend needs to overcome his ugly house!

We all know that few things in this world are actually black and white. A product is never priced exactly as marked (because it often has tax or tips or shipping attached). A job description is never as ideal as it sounds (perhaps because they didn’t mention that your ‘corner office’ is actually a converted stock closet with no windows or ventilation), and decorating your home is never as simple as picking what you want (probably because of budgetary restrictions, an overwhelming number of choices or limited space, among other things). Still, when it comes to black and white decorating, few color combinations can be quite as eye-catching as this dramatic duo. Although the last time that having a black and white kitchen was ‘all the rage’ was in the late 1980s or early ’90s, there are still many cutting edge interior designers that are using this stark color scheme. The reason is simple- black and white kitchens provide a unique visual appeal that adds a bit of something ‘extra’ to every kitchen. One reason is the white, which often provides a hint of cleanliness- even if the kitchen is messy (which homeowner wouldn’t want that?!). The black, on the other hand, is a great way to hide dirt, especially when it’s used as an accent in the floor tiles or on the countertops (again, which homeowner wouldn’t want to disguise the grime?).

Not sure how to implement a black and white kitchen design without regressing back into the ’80s? Don’t be afraid- be excited about the many ways to create a fantastic black and white kitchen. Here are some ways to get started:

– Start off slowly by choosing black and white “kitchen art” to hang on your kitchen walls. Choose 2 black and white prints, framed either in only glass or in subtle black frames, and hang them on your current wall. Even if they don’t match your current décor, you’ll begin to see how easy it is to fall in love with black and white kitchen accents.

– Go with granite countertops. Few countertops are as sleek and interesting as granite whose pattern is unpredictable and unique. There are dozens of granite options that integrate black or white with other colors, and choosing one of these is a great way to play up your black and white kitchen theme without going overboard. One of my personal favorites is black granite with a hint of silver or gold flecks, both of which happen to look fantastic with white cabinetry. Black countertops are great at hiding dirt and dust, and look wonderful with stainless steel sinks and faucets.

– Choose floor tiles that are ‘in the middle’. One of the hardest parts of black and white decorating is choosing a floor tile that will look great without being difficult to clean. I recommend choosing something that is gray, or even a neutral wood floor (or faux wood tiles), which can look very modern in a kitchen. Choosing floor tiles that are “too white” will show dirt too easily, and the same can be said for tiles that are “too dark.” A marbleized ceramic or porcelain may solve your problem, but don’t hesitate to take home some samples and let them sit on your floor for a few days to see how you like the look and feel (and the way they show dirt).

– Add a delicate black accent with black cabinet hardware. There are many (many!) different types of black cabinet hardware that can look wonderful in a black and white kitchen. While I recommend steering clear of plastic (way too cheap and cheesy), there are plenty of zinc, brass or alloy designs available that will be both bold and sophisticated. In addition, black nickel provides one of the most elegant high-gloss black finishes on the market today. One of my personal favorites is flat black cup pulls. I just love the shape and the slightly grizzly surface.

– Use stainless steel appliances and accents whenever possible to keep it current. Nothing shouts ‘overkill’ more than a kitchen that has black or white appliances, countertops, sinks, floors, cabinet hardware, window shades, and wall hangings. Instead, temper the look with stainless steel or other colors (think cherry red towels, green wall hangings or other interesting accents).

When considering a black and white kitchen (or any type of black and white decorating), the most important thing is to use moderation which will prevent things from getting out of hand. Although we’re all familiar with black and white rooms that are completely out of style, it is entirely possible to create a black and white space that won’t go out of style. Instead of being scared, be adventurous- you’ll be glad that you were!

Everyone loves things that look new, smell new, and feel new.  I mean, there are even ways to purchase a ‘new car smell’ in a can and cleaning products that restore that ‘brand new’ feel to almost everything.  For this reason, I find it wildly amusing that oil rubbed bronze hardware has become wildly popular.  Because after all, one of the most obvious goals of oil rubbed bronze hardware is to create a somewhat antique or weathered look- which is, of course, in stark contrast to the feeling of ‘new’ that is so coveted.  Nevertheless, I can’t help but jump on the oil rubbed bronze bandwagon.  I mean, its deep color is so luxurious, its texture so unique that the same finish can feel entirely smooth in some designs and downright grainy in other pieces.

After scouring the market (which, I must admit, was more of a scavenger hunt than a chore), I’ve identified my top 10 favorite pieces of oil rubbed bronze hardware.  Rated on price, color tone and style, here are my recommendations for oil rubbed bronze hardware:

1- 3″ Pull by Top Knobs, Item M1215.  I love this piece because it is fairly priced, remarkably smooth and has a rather modern design despite its old world finish.

2- 3 ¾” Pull by Top Knobs, Item M1197.  This pull is slightly larger than the standard 3″ pull and is shockingly contemporary for something made from oil rubbed bronze.  I love, love, love it.

Pull 3 3/4'' CC in Oil Rubbed Bronze

3- 3″ Blackrock Pull by Amerock, Item #55275-ORB.  The height on this solid pull sets it apart from similar designs.

4-  Blackrock Pendant Pull by Amerock, Item #55274-ORB.  This pull is a great complement to the Backrock pull or a fabulous addition to any bedroom furniture all on its own!

5- 3″ Cup Pull by Belwith, Item #K343-10B.  I appreciate the design of this cup pull because it will match both modern and traditional rooms.

CUP PULL, 3'' Centers

6-  64mm Cup Pull by Liberty Hardware, Item #PN0601-OB-C.  This cup pull has a dainty edge and a ruggedly weathered look that gets better with age.

7- 19mm Milk Bottle Knob by Liberty Hardware, Item #PN0248-OB-C.  The cute style of this knob and a price under $5 a piece makes this Milk Bottle cabinet knob extremely delicious.

8- 3″ Pull by Top Knobs, Item #M964.  The wide bases of this pull remind me of an old-fashioned telephone and are great for covering scratches if using this cabinet pull as a replacement on existing cabinetry.

9- 18″ Appliance Pull by Top Knobs, Item #M797-18.  The shape of this oil rubbed bronze appliance pull is both sleek and chic- it may cost a bit more than other appliance pulls, but it’s probably worth it!

18 Inch Door Pull in Oil Rubbed Bronze

10- Round-Off knob by Anne at Home in Rubbed Bronze finish, Item #1092.  While this item isn’t technically made of oil rubbed bronze, the rubbed bronze finished and the textured design of the knob provide a genuine look and feel.

Let’s be honest for a moment- have you ever used the public handicapped bathroom to avoid the discomfort of using a cramped bathroom stall? I know that I have- or, more often than not, I’m secretly relieved to have a child in a stroller with me which can only fit into the larger bathroom stall. The sad truth is that small bathrooms in both public areas and private homes are often the least preferred when other options are available. Maybe it’s because there’s something luxurious about a large bathroom, or because small bathrooms often seem more like a cramped closet than a space to be used and enjoyed. Still, as anyone who has ever lived in a small apartment can tell you, small bathrooms are still a critical part of most homes- and they deserved to be decorated with love and care. That’s why I felt it necessary to take a moment to offer some small bathroom decorating ideas that can tranform this neglected space from a functional area to a fashionable one.

The first thing to consider undertaking a small bathroom decorating project is what functions your bathroom needs to fulfill. Do you need a shower stall or bathtub in there? Do you need storage space? Does a window provide light but take away valuable wall space?

One of the most obvious small bathroom decorating ideas is to consider replacing a full bathtub with a shower stall (even one that is larger than standard size). This will create more space instantly and make your small bathroom feel significantly larger. Next, remove anything from your bathroom that is not absolutely critical. Do you have a footstool taking up valuable floor space, but a child who seldom uses the small bathroom? Do you have a large piece of art taking up valuable wall space? The key to successful small bathroom decorating is to choose every item in the room with a minimalist eye, so that each piece has an impact without overwhelming the space. Choose small pieces of artwork (maybe 1-3 photographs or prints of your choosing) instead of a large portrait. Consider an over-the-toilet storage rack instead of a freestanding cabinet which may close in the space.

Of course, picking the right color scheme is also a fundamental part of small bathroom decorating. While dark colors may make the space feel smaller, light colors and warm colors will reflect the light well and create a more spacious feel. If you do feel strongly about having a dark color, add it on only one wall instead of painting the entire room. Or, consider a patterned or sponge-painted design that blends your favorite color with a lighter one. A final (and easy!) small bathroom decorating idea is to replace your dingy or dark shower curtain with a lighter style or with transparent shower doors. Getting rid of a dark shower curtain will instantly add depth to the space (inexpensively).

Stay tuned for more small bathroom decorating ideas- coming soon. Or, feel free to share your favorite tips with us!

I bet you thought that cabinet knobs were only good for opening cabinets, right?  Or that soap dishes can be used only in the bathroom.  But what if you discovered that you could use some of your favorite cabinet hardware and home accessories for alternate uses that can improve both the look and efficiency of your space?  I happen to love reading Real Simple magazine, and they have a section called New Uses for Old Things.  In there, they offer incredibly creative ideas about how to use things that you’d find in your house for new purposes.  In tribute to Real Simple, I’d like to offer a few ways you can use kitchen cabinet hardware to improve the way your home functions (beautifully, of course).

1-  Cabinet knobs.

Old Use: opening cabinet doors and drawers.

New Use: hanging kitchen linens.

There’s no question that cabinet knobs are generally used for opening cabinetry.  But homeowners can also use cabinet knobs as towel hooks, or places to hang potholders.  Of course, I wouldn’t advocate hanging something off of every cabinet knob that you own, but there’s definitely no harm in using one or two to get some of your kitchen linens off of the countertop.  Why have a cluttered counter or risk dirtying your linens with spills, when you can keep your things easily within reach and safely away from your workspace?

2-  Appliance Pulls

Old Use: opening refrigerators or dishwashers with heavy doors.

New Use: as a convenient towel rack.

The goal of a towel rack is to keep your towels close at hand.  And while many homeowners prefer to store their kitchen towels tucked inside a cabinet, towels that are hidden away may be difficult to reach when hands are dirty or wet.  Instead, homeowners use appliance pulls as external towel racks in the kitchen.  Choose an appliance pull or appliance handle that matches your existing cabinet hardware, and mount it on the side of your kitchen island to create an instantly accessible (and classy) kitchen towel rack.

3- Wall mounted soap dish

Old Use: holding your soap in the shower.

New Use: housing your sponge in the kitchen.

Homeowners who have kitchen sinks that are against a backsplash (as opposed to on an island, for example) can find a permanent home for their sponge on a soap dish mounted directly into the backsplash.  This solution is ideal for those who don’t have drawers for their sponges and those who are tired of constantly finding their sponge floating in a pool of dirty water.  No need for suction cup sponge holders that constantly lose their grip or sponge holders that create clutter on the counter.  Bathroom soap dishes are available in endless finishes and styles- find one that matches your kitchen décor and enjoy a more organized sink area immediately.

4-  Pull out laundry hampers

Old Use: keeping laundry off the bathroom floor.

New Use: keeping kitchen linens out of sight.

Although many people complain that they don’t have enough cabinet space in their kitchen, many also complain that the look of their kitchen is constantly sullied with wet or dirty rags, towels and aprons. Installing pull out laundry hampers in a kitchen cabinet is a great way to keep your kitchen clean without having wet rags piled up in every corner.  Clean out a cabinet by getting rid of items you don’t need and moving some items from lower cabinets into higher ones.  Then, install a pull out laundry hamper in a bottom cabinet.  Choose a model with air vents to prevent your kitchen towels from getting moldy in the event that you forget to empty the wet linens.  This creative system will prevent you from having to run constantly to the laundry room- and will make it easier to stash used linen napkins and tablecloths too!