Interior Design on Your Own Time

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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 just heard about a great new contest that can be great for homeowners looking for kitchen design ideas and those who have just redone their kitchens.  Kitchen Cabinet Hardware is offering a $100 to their website (and other home décor sites parented by the same company) as a prize in their new kitchen design contest.  Applicants should sent in a 2 pictures of their kitchen- one from “before”, and one from “after”, to show the world how their new kitchen cabinet hardware impacted their space.  Submissions should include a list of all new cabinet hardware used in the kitchen design, and any other relevant information.

Good news for homeowners is that the contest is open to both homeowners and professional contractors, so consumers looking for free kitchen design ideas can hopefully get an eyeful from the submissions.  Even better news is that the contest has no purchase necessary- you can enter the contest even if you didn’t purchase your supplies from Kitchen Cabinet Hardware.  I know that I’ll be monitoring the contest to see all the great ideas out there- I can’t wait to see yours!  For a full set of rules or to enter, go to:  To hear about more online contests, check out Grandma Jam, a great source for online contests.  You can also check out Super Blog Directory for some other blogs that may discuss contests.  It’s kinda like the lotto- hey, you never know!

Anyone who knows me or has read my blogs or articles will know that I never claimed to be an interior designer- I’m really just a regular person who has learned a tremendous amount about home organization and affordable decorating in recent years. Most of my experience comes from being a newlywed, new mom, and student, and being forced to decorate each home we’ve lived in as nicely as possible on a limited budget. Likewise, while living in a ‘shoe box’ for 2 ½ years, I’ve created various home organization solutions that I’m happy to share with others.

I’m a fan of interior design shows as much as the next person- for the most part. But Keyshawn Johnson’s new show called “Tackling Design” has left me scratching my head. For one thing, I couldn’t really tell how many of the ideas were Johnson’s and how many were a collaborative effort with his entire production team. Even still, I didn’t find any of the suggestions specifically creative or distinctive.

Another problem I had with the show is that I felt as though Keyshawn Johnson tried too hard to impose his opinion on his clients, when he should have been more open to compromise. As I mentioned in a previous post, it’s important for a client to consider the sagacious advice of his or her interior designer- but it’s even more important for a designer to appreciate the desires of the client and to incorporate them as much as possible.

In short, I’m concerned that while Keyshawn Johnson may have had a fantastic NFL career, his foray into the world of interior design will be anything but phenomenal.