outdoor lighting

Carefully chosen outdoor lighting adds ambience, creates a unified appearance and contributes to safety and security.

How to Improve Your Outdoor Lifestyle

The kids may be heading back to school, but we still have many weeks left to enjoy the outdoors here in the Midwest. What do you need to improve your outdoor lifestyle? Do you have enough chairs and are they comfortable? Is your dining table big enough? Do you have a big umbrella for shade and enough drinks tables? Maybe a new fire pit would be welcome as we transition into the chillier temperatures of fall. And how about improving your outdoor lighting?

I am a huge fan of spending time outside with my family. That that includes barbecues, hanging out with my best friend, Dreamy Pie, reading in a big, cushy lawn chair and gathering friends together for a refreshing gin and tonic, with a lime twist! Because I like to be as comfortable in my backyard as I am in my home, I put as much planning into my outdoor furnishings as my indoor design.

Today the “buzz” about backyards is to make them an extension of your interior design style.The exterior represents you, and it should mirror your personality as much as the interior does. In the photo above, an expansive pool with mosaic tile exterior is the centerpiece of these clients’ terraced back yard. The whimsical cup chairs I selected are constructed of durable glass fiber reinforced concrete and perfectly placed for poolside people watching.


stone fire pit

A stone fire pit anchors this inviting seating area surrounded by woven arm chairs with upholstered seats and backs. The brilliant blue of the fire pit stones is echoed in the chair fabric and the pool tiles visible just beyond, on the upper terrace.

Issues to Consider When Planning an Outdoor Space

Whether you are adding furniture or starting fresh outdoors, there are a number of key design issues I always consider:

  • What do you and your family and friends like to do in the backyard? If you enjoy stretching out for a nap or to read, you will need a sofa large enough that your feet don’t hang off the end. If you want to chat with friends, include a conversation grouping with tables for snacks and beverages, sunglasses and electronics. Umbrellas are important if there isn’t enough shade, and a fire pit is always a plus. It generates warmth and is an inviting focal point for chatting and make s’mores.
  • How large is your space? I can’t overstate the importance of scale. Too often I see oversized outdoor furniture in a small space or undersized pieces in a large space. I wouldn’t put a tiny sofa in a huge great room, and I don’t do that on patios and terraces, either.
  • Layout and traffic flow. Leaving enough space so that people can easily get in and out of the space and walk between pieces is important, especially if people are carrying a beverage. It is also critical to provide easy access in and out of the house.
  • How much seating do you need? Think about how you use your outdoor space and who uses it.
  • As the days get shorter, lighting becomes more important. It adds atmosphere, curb appeal, creates a unified look and improves safety and security. I divide outdoor lighting into three categories: ambient, task and accent.  Options include ceiling fixtures (if you have a covered patio) and wall or post lights, hanging lights and under-lighting for steps.


outdoor conversation grouping

Glass reinforced concrete tables are durable and attractive in this conversation area.

Choosing Durable Pieces

Once I create the plan, I consider specific styles and materials. Choosing pieces for your backyard can be a bigger challenge than for your interior because the items must withstand the elements. One of my go-to materials for outdoor furniture is glass reinforced concrete (GFRC). Surprised? Most people don’t think of concrete as being aesthetically pleasing, but GFRC is changing that mindset. Just check out the cocktail tables in the photo above! I chose a trio of industrial-chic, gear-shaped tables made of GFRC. The tables can be fitted together to form a larger cocktail table or pulled apart as I did for individual drinks tables. My clients love the combination of futuristic technology and nineteenth century design.

GFRC’s strength comes from the interaction of the glass fibers and concrete. Those two elements combine to make the material stronger than its component parts. GFRC also is weather- and crack-resistant and is considered one of the longest-lasting materials on the planet. Surprisingly, this material is exceptionally lightweight. Glass fiber reinforced concrete can weigh 75 percent less than traditional concrete, That makes it a versatile material that also is easier to ship and install.  You can learn more here: BenefitsofGFRC.

Another key player in the vignette above is texture, from the stone exterior walls to the woven chairs and the more subtle weave of the cushions.  A durable outdoor rug anchors the space and adds to the feeling that this could be an indoor grouping.


outdoor furniture, umbrella

Cushioned furniture encourages you and your guests to linger longer outdoors. All photos by Brian Gassell Photography

Choosing Color Palette and Textures

To ensure the flow of the home from indoors to outdoors, I continue the same color palette and style of the home, but I may change up the accent color. For this client, above, I chose neutral tones with bright blue accents that pull together the pool and the “dry” areas. All of the pieces are fairly low-profile so they don’t interview with the open landscape.

Because they entertain large groups, my clients wanted extensive, comfortable seating options on their terraced patio.  On this level, the chairs and sofa can accommodate seven or eight people beneath the shade cast by the over-sized umbrella. To round out the space, a handmade, glazed ceramic accent table stands ready for a book or electronic gear.

Feeling inspired? Please contact me to learn more. And to see all of the photos from this whole-house project, visit my portfolio here: RedefiningTexasLiving.








Some of the hottest buzz words in interior design today are repurposing, recycling and renewable materials. That’s good news because billions of tons of materials go into our homes each year. We need to  reduce that drain on our environment and preserve our world for generations to come.

Two Options: French Farm House Wood and Red Grandis Wood

But you don’t have to furnish your entire home with green materials to make a difference. I am very committed to incorporating recycled, repurposed and renewable in my design plans whenever possible. For this newly constructed home outside Dallas, I selected repurposed French farm house wood flooring from Exquisite Surfaces throughout much of the 9,000-square-foot space. For the kitchen, I chose sustainable Red Grandis (eucalyptus) wood from Woodland Cabinetry, for the cabinets and millwork framing each of the three wall niches. They were not only smart choices environmentally, but aesthetically.

All Photos by Brian Gassel

Repurposed French Farm House Wood Adapts to Many Styles

My clients are sophisticated world travelers, but they are down-to-earth and unpretentious. They wanted a casual, organic elegance at home with an authentic, lived-feeling and a sense of history. The repurposed French farm house wood for their flooring meets all of those goals. It also works well with the transitional vibe they desired. But, I could use this versatile product in a lodge-like home in Aspen or Telluride, too. Plus, I could pair it with modern cabinetry and furniture for an industrial-modern look that is casual, warm and inviting. My supplier harvests the boards from a variety of homes that date back for generations, resulting in rich variations in color and markings.

Red Grandis Wood Has Subtle Grain, Finishes Well

Renewable Red Grandis wood for the cabinetry and millwork was a good choice as well.  It has a beautiful, soft grain, finishes well and is more cost-effective than some premium woods. The texture is subtle enough to work with all styles of design while retaining an organic feeling. It can be painted or I can add a little distressing to give the wood a more traditional look. For these clients, I chose a weathered gray finish for the perimeter cabinets and a soft white for the island. The floor-to-ceiling millwork around the niches is finished in a dark brown stain with a whitish-gray glaze.

Rustic Flooring Pairs Well With Elegance

For consistency in this open floor plan home, I extended the vintage French farm house wood into the dining room. The delicate, hand-blown glass chandelier from Shakuff is an elegant contrast with the organic floor board texture. The dark wood trim and carved buffet reference the darker planks in the floor, while the golden tones in the artwork and chandelier tie into the lighter colored floor sections.

Master bedroom vestibule with inlaid floor detail in French farm house wood

Creating a Dramatic Focal Point With Vintage Planks

I chose a decorative inlay design in French farm house wood to create a dramatic focal point in the master bedroom vestibule.  The combination of vintage wood with the floral settee and artwork creates a nature-inspired vignette.

colorful home office designer fabrics

Rustic Can Be Feminine or Masculine

The natural warmth of the wood floor works as well in the wife’s feminine office, above, as it does in her husband’s masculine study and entertainment room, below. The subdued flooring grounds the whimsical polka dot and plaid fabrics of the Charles Stewart wing chairs and the colorful artwork above the desk.

rustic hallway with barn door opening

Reclaimed Flooring Gives Unique Look to a Home

Paired with a custom barn door entry and wood-beamed ceiling, the repurposed wood floor becomes uniquely masculine for the husband’s “wing.” His space includes a game table and chairs, seen here, where he plays cards with his friends in a lodge-like atmosphere.

Want to see more? You can find all the photos from this whole-house project here: TransitionalNewConstructionTexas.


Ready to go green? Just fill out the form below and we’ll get to work.




Everyone’s talking about Netflix’s hottest new show, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.” (Haven’t seen her yet? Here’s the official trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WvyeapVBLWY)

Marie inspires her viewers to organize their homes and improve their lives by keeping only the things that “spark joy” for them.

Photo Courtesy of vice.com

Stacking Storage

I can relate to that, Marie! My clients often ask me to help organize their homes, especially in the kitchen where efficiency is the key to sparking joy in cooking and entertaining. For this client’s completely renovated kitchen in Highland Park, below, I included a number of organizational solutions, including a stack of drawers for frequently used items. Each one is custom-fitted for a specific purpose, and positioned near the dishwasher for highest efficiency. This kitchen won an ASID Illinois Design Award of Excellence 2018.

Photo by Jeff Mateer

Preserving High-Performance Knives

If you have a high-performance set of knives, it’s smart to protect them from wear and tear. This  beautiful light wood knife divider not only keeps our client’s knives within easy reach, it separates them, which helps preserve their sharp edges.

Photo by Jeff Mateer

Containing Leftovers

No more searching for the right storage container. This built-in divided drawer separates containers by size, prevents them from banging together and chipping and provides a clear picture of what’s available to handle tonight’s left-over Pad Thai.

Photo by Jeff Mateer

Keeping Things Together

It just makes sense to store flatware, place settings and small pieces for entertaining all together in a convenient stack.  Setting the table is a snap, and so is returning the dishes to the drawers after they comes out of the dishwasher.

Photo by Jeff Mateer

Cornering Like A Pro

This corner cabinet would have been too deep for my client to easily reach its farthest recesses without the custom wire, pull-out shelves I selected. Now he can quickly find just the right pot or pan – and its lid – when he’s preparing a meal.

Photo by Jeff Mateer

Maybe I could get my own show: “Organizing With Michelle!”


Range hoods go far beyond function. They bring a sculptural element to your kitchen that can be customized to suit any style of décor. As a designer, I love exploring the wide variety of shapes and materials such as brass, copper, gold, black, white and even wood-tone hoods. Some hoods are integrated into the cabinetry, where they disappear from view.


Photo by Jeff Mateer

Black and White

To juxtapose with the white and gray elements in this client’s kitchen, above, I pulled the black tone of the range and cabinet knobs and cast iron grates into a dramatic metal hood, which has diamond-shaped trim and corner rivets. While the hood is eye-catching, it highlights the intricate tile wall and backsplash behind the range.


Photo Courtesy of ddgpartners.com

Focal Point

When choosing a range hood, consider whether you want it to be the focal point of the room or blend into the décor. In this sky-high kitchen from countryliving.com, the hood is definitely the star of the show. The rows of brass strips bring an architectural feeling that is juxtaposed against the quieter elements – light wood island, white cabinetry and white walls. Notice how the faucet on the island subtly picks up the tone of the hood?


Photo by Brian Gassel

Texas-Sized Hood

I custom designed this Texas-sized bronze range hood for clients who live outside of Dallas. The brushed gold, riveted trim was inspired by the gorgeous La Cornue range and the broken-glass wall panels.

Functional AND beautiful. That’s a luxurious combination.



Red and green Christmas décor is a beautiful tradition, but it isn’t the only way to be festive during the holidays. The best color scheme and style is the one that blends well with your existing design. Lately I’ve been seeing an array of elegant holiday palettes that will make your season merry and bright!


Photo Courtesy of housebeautiful.com

Jewel Tones

Jewel tones in blues and purples with shimmering gold accents give this family room a regal and festive feeling for the holidays. Little details such as the tiny gold ornaments draped over the mirror on ribbons, add up to a cohesive style. Plus, matching your wrapping paper to your décor adds bonus points – notice how the gold paper ties into the hammered gold drinks table!


Photo Courtesy of Elle Decor

Black and White, Yin and Yang

The yin-yang mix of organic and glam elements in this black and white Christmas living room really makes me smile. The frosted tree, a pair of playful polar bears and a miniature forest create a charming, outdoorsy vignette that appeals to children and adults.


Photo Courtesy of traditionalhome.com

Chinoiserie Christmas

The Chinoiserie-inspired blue velvet chair and Christmas stockings look incredibly snuggly in this chic living room with sparkly silver accents. I was drawn to this because it clearly says “holiday,” but in a chic, understated way. Plus, the sweet vase of white tulips is an unexpected accent in a season when poinsettias and holly berries are more traditional.


Photo Courtesy of elledecor.com

Minimalist Merriment

I couldn’t resist this exquisite, minimalist approach in soft white with subtle gold accents. It feels like a calm, relaxing escape from the hubbub of the holiday season, and I love the organic elements on the mantle. It’s all in the details.

Happy holidays!




Congratulations to @UWLCWomenUnited and @unitedwaylakeco for another energizing and successful Power of the Purse fundraising event. I am so honored and excited to join with this amazing group of women to help Lake County children learn and accomplish their goals.

I am surrounded by fabulous, generous women at the Power of the Purse event, sponsored by Women United of United Way Lake County. I am in the front row, seated, third from the left.

Little Kids, Big Futures

We gathered earlier this month to raise money for the organization’s Little Kids, Big Futures fund. Since 2014, Women United has distributed over $370,000 in grants through this program to support early literacy programs across Lake County. Yes, women are a powerful force for good!


What a wonderful way to spend a Sunday – raising money for literacy programs for Lake County children.




Many thanks to the editors at Modern Luxury Interiors magazine for spotlighting me as well as all of the winners of the 2018 ASID Illinois Design Awards of Excellence: ASID Awards. I was thrilled to earn first place in the Best Kitchen category for a complete kitchen renovation in the Chicago suburbs. My goals were to create a functional and attractive space for a bachelor physician that would encourage him to cook more and eat better.






Walnut wood cabinets and seating for four at the kitchen island were among our client’s must-haves, as well as marble counter tops and excellent task lighting. The clean-lined, transitional look is a mix of sharp angles and edges with a few soft curves, which makes it appealing to men and women.


Photo by Jeff Mateer

Thanks again to Modern Luxury Interiors and ASID Illinois for supporting the work of all of these talented designers. These awards are particularly meaningful because they are judged – anonymously – by our ASID colleagues  from across the country. I am so honored to be included in such a talented group.I will have more photos to share soon, so please stay tuned.








Photo by Studio West

Many thanks to the editors at www.DeringHall.com for spotlighting one of our bold, graphic rugs in a photo-feature. You can check it out and find many more graphic rugs here: https://deringhall.com/daily-features/contributors/dering-hall/rooms-with-graphic-rugs. I chose this large-scale, black-and-white pattern to channel the drama of the cityscape seen through the windows of this urban condo. To balance out the statement rug, I chose more subtle patterns and textures throughout the rest of the living space. DeringHall.com is a popular interior design website where you can find a wide range of design inspiration. You can explore my profile and portfolio here: https://deringhall.com/interior-designers/michelle-s-interiors 


In the design world, we call ceilings the “fifth wall.” It’s our way of giving them the “elevated” status they deserve! Ceilings give designers another opportunity to generate a bit of excitement at home with unexpected  texture, color, pattern or shine. I understand that it can be daunting for some to venture away from basic ceiling white paint.  But when our clients see the results, they love the way a new ceiling treatment brings energy and personality to their homes.

Photo by Jeff Mateer

Creative Coffers

In this Chicago-area client’s kitchen and breakfast area, above, the wooden beams bring a bold pattern and undeniable warmth to family meals and get-togethers with friends. The darker ruggedness overhead juxtaposes beautifully with the elegant lighting fixtures and fresh white cabinets. The contrast of the circular ceiling medallion with the right angles of the coffered ceiling also puts a personal stamp on this home.

Photo by Jeff Mateer

Color Coordinates

For the master bedroom in the same suburban home, we defined the barrel vault ceiling with a relaxing,  grayish blue hue. I can’t imagine this room now with a plain white ceiling – it just wouldn’t have the same refinement.  Your bedroom should be a retreat. When the ceiling becomes a vital part of the design, it can have a cozy, enveloping effect.

Photo Courtesy of AThoughtfulEye.com

Specialty Painting

Because the walls are soft gray and have no artwork, the ceiling is the focal point in this traditional hallway. It has been specialty painted for richness and shine, and to draw eyes upward to the luxurious chandeliers.

Photo Courtesy of ElleDecor.com

Pattern Play

Children enjoy a pretty ceiling, too! Though the color palette here is subtle and soothing, the ceiling is engaging and playful. It’s just right for cuddling up during story time in the swivel-rocker. I remember those days!











I feel so honored! One of my luxurious powder room designs just won a Best Powder Room award in the national 2018 Kitchen & Bath Design Awards. The judges at Kitchen & Bath Design News Magazine called it “unique and architectural.”


Photo by Brian Gassell

Stunning Staircase Ceiling 

I have never met a powder room quite like this! It is tucked beneath the home’s curved main entry staircase, forming the underside of the ceiling. The varying height staircase-ceiling is unusual and so striking. It set the tone for the entire space. Because these clients enjoy authentic materials with an historic feel, I finished the staircase above and below with antique French farmhouse planks. They’re beautiful, and if those planks could talk, they could tell so many stories!  To balance the unusual length of the space and give it an open feel, I chose a seven-foot floating vanity, accented by a striated metal band.


Photo by Brian Gassell

Artistic Powder Room Wall

The focal wall above the vanity speaks to the clients’ love of artistic elements in their home. The richly textured tiles have a warm, mocha-brown rubbed finish that intensifies the ridged pattern.  To balance the elegance of the room, I added a quartzite counter top with a casual, leather-like finish. The bronze vessel sink, faucet and white bronze door handle round out the design with metallic sheen and warm tones.


Photo by Brian Gassell

Who would guess that such a sophisticated powder room is hiding beneath this stunning staircase? Many thanks to the judges at Kitchen & Bath Design News for this distinguished award. And I welcome you to browse my portfolio at https://www.michellesinteriors.com


Bringing color into design is a great way to add personality and a bit of energy to a room. That is particularly welcome in a dining room where you want to stimulate conversation in a comfortable, elegant setting. I can be fearless with color, but not flamboyant. It’s critical to balance brighter hues with neutrals and a mix of materials, patterns and textures.  I designed this dining room, below, for a family of six in Shorthills, New Jersey. They love to entertain!

All photos by Jeff Mateer, Studio West Photography

Mix Fabrics for Dazzling Dining

Purples and plums are always sophisticated when paired with gold, silver and a touch of soft white. I started with the strie magenta velvet fabric on the side chairs above. At each end of the table I added more excitement with a geometric pattern on the back of the chairs and subtle, shimmery gold on the front. I echoed the purple in the custom rug, which has waves of soft white pearls floating across its surface.

Interesting Wall Covering

An understated gold wall covering with a touch of silver underlay wraps the room in luxurious elegance. It also references the warm brass tone of the chandelier and the wood floor. Interesting walls are so important.

Art-Inspired Palette

The contemporary painting above inspired the color palette, and artwork in general helps spark conversation, too. The neutral toned window treatments anchor the brighter hues.

Accessories Matter

On the buffet, blown-glass vessels in purple and smoky gray take their color cues from the dining chairs. They echo the palette while adding an intriguing ribbed texture to the room.

Linger Longer

Our clients love to entertain even more now that their dining room is updated, comfortable and elegant. It encourages long, lingering conversations over delicious meals.




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