Looking for some inspiration for a home entertainment space? I’ve got you covered! Check out these brand new photos and design tips from my recently completed whole-house project in suburban Chicago. The lower-level entertainment space is pretty awesome!

lower level home theater with u shaped sectional
Keep everyone entertained with plenty of screen time and comfortable seating. All photos by NormanSizemore.

Set Goals

The first step toward creating a crave-worthy entertainment space is planning. Before developing the design for this lower-level entertainment area, my clients and I sat down and compiled a wish list, including:  

  • A sleek, modern design in black-and-white with a warm, comfortable vibe
  • An eye-catching bar with room for seven stools
  • Wine-tasting lounge with wine and cigar storage room
  • Unexpected elements
  • Smart lighting control system for adjusting the mood from subdued and intimate to high-energy party-party
  • Luxurious finishes and impeccable fit-and-finish
  • Multiple TV’s – of course – and a projection screen
  • Extensive, comfortable seating options
  • Spaces for a table-top shuffle board game and golf simulator

Notice the expansive sectional sofa in the photo above? My clients love movie nights with loved ones, so I packed in plenty of seating in front of this giant screen in the photo above, including this navy leather sectional from www.charlesstewartcompany.com. Four ottomans on casters under the table can be used for additional seats or feet. My clients love marble, so I topped the table with this beautiful slab from www.tithoftile.com.

Designing the pillows was so much fun! For this collection, I mixed some fun metallic fabrics with greys and blues, an important accent color in the lower level. I purposely combined larger square pillows with lumbar pillows to provide maximum comfort.

contemporary white swivel chairs in lower level home theater
Picture yourself watching the Super Bowl or Oscars in red-carpet style, in front of a fireplace with a reflective, chrome-like surround.

Use Your Imagination

Crave-worthy entertainment areas are meant for good times and laughter, so use your imagination when choosing furnishings. I fell for these whimsical and sexy chairs from Thayer Coggin, and so did my clients. The semi-precious, agate panels from Tithof Tile, flanking the fireplace, add another eye-catching and unexpected element to this space. I could look at those for hours! (Check out the bar top below, too. It is made of the same agate.)

To jazz up the color palette throughout this area, I introduced mixed blues, inspired by the ocean-like hues of the shark tank – of course!  

Remember the Acoustics

Area rugs not only define a space and add softness, they improve the acoustics. Here I chose a subdued, blue and white area rug from Kravet under the chairs, and a deep sea blue rug from Masland Carpets to anchor the adjacent sectional. Soft goods such as rugs and upholstered furniture help absorb sound. Note that because the back of the leather sectional angles inward, I needed to select a console table that follows the same angle, or there would have been a five-inch gap at the floor. The table is also a little higher than the back of the sofa so people can reach behind them and set a cocktail on it. 

Behind that tank is an amazing control room that regulates water temperature, lighting and more. 

Go Big, Go Bold

What’s better than a fish tank? A shark tank! My clients first considered having an indoor koi pond because they love water features, but then the husband switched gears and opted for a shark tank. He has always enjoyed the beauty and relaxation of watching fish swimming in a tank, but this time he wanted to make it more exciting. With this tank, the owners can change the color of the lighting from blue to a wide range of hues, depending on their mood.

Be Practical, Too

In a space this size, that is going to withstand a lot of foot traffic, it’s important to choose durable flooring that’s easy to maintain. In this case, I opted for a stress-free, luxury vinyl tile from DivineFloor. It has the shading of real vintage wood so you don’t see every little crumb or leaf from the backyard, and it cleans up easily.     

More than just support, these pillars shine.

Transform Those Pillars

To transform the lower level support pillars from ho-hum to fabulous, I covered them with a hand-painted wall covering that has crystal-like sparkles. It’s a sophisticated look that makes everyone feel like they’re in a members-only club. My clients often entertain large groups, so I included as many bar chairs as possible – seven total including two not visible on the right.

Create Focal Points

Isn’t this bar top a dazzler?! I echoed the blue agate panels flanking the fireplace with this same gorgeous material for the bar. Throughout my clients’ home I created focal points like this, where they make sense. People seated at the bar can contemplate the beautiful tile bar-back as well, in shades of smoky-gray with a silver mirrored finish that reflects and diffuses light.

glass wine cellar with adjacent humidor and matching blue velvet sofas
This crushed navy velvet from Maxwell Fabrics is a comfortable, forgiving fabric for sofas because of its texture.  

Carve Out Purpose-Driven Spaces

In a space this large, I like to carve out multiple areas with defined purposes, such as this wine and cigar lounge. We started calling this space “Dave’s Lounge” because he likes to sit back and enjoy a good-quality cigar and a glass of fine wine or whiskey with friends. With crushed velvet sofas, a reflective, chrome-like table and a 200-bottle wine room, this space could be a plush VIP lounge in downtown Chicago. My clients trusted me to purchase all of the wine, whiskey and cigars. That was an exciting shopping trip!

matching blue velvet sofas opposite 4-screen tv area
From the comfort of the wine lounge or the swivel arm chairs from Hickory White Furniture, this quartet of TV’s is easily visible.

Be Generous with Screens!

Are seven TV’s better than one? These clients say yes! In addition to the three other TV’s in the lower level, I placed a quartet of TVS in view of these two seating areas. My clients and their friends can monitor multiple financial markets or watch four games at once. Lighting was a priority throughout the entertainment area, too. One of my favorites – among many – is the www.kellywearstler.com chandelier from Visual Comfort, above the wine lounge. 

large shuffle board with glass pendant lighting
The husband’s much-loved shuffleboard game is paired with a trio of framed jerseys from his collection of sports memorabilia.  

Focus on Lighting

Lighting can instantly change the vibe of a room from quiet and subdued to party-party! Providing the right lighting for any situation is one of my passions, especially for the serious business of shuffleboard! This shuffleboard table has seen a lot of action, and it was a must-have for the husband to move from his former home to a place of honor in his new entertainment area. The pendants on this linear fixture are made of cast glass, which ensures consistent illumination from top to bottom.The crackle-like finish introduces another element of texture. And here’s an insider’s secret – there is an elevator tucked into the corner at the end of this space.

Here we go again! Each year I love to share some of the most exciting furnishings I discover while shopping online at my favorite vendors. Check out my past picks at Simply Fabulous Finds for Interiors and Simply Fabulous Finds for Backyards. Today I have gathered an eclectic collection of interior pieces that are designed to inspire and energize you. If you’re interested in learning more, you can find me at 847-223-2660.

The languid, curvy shape of this Monroe Sofa by Rick Lee from Thayer Coggin, echoes the glamorous era of midcentury design, when a shapely Marilyn Monroe was a matinee idol.

Sexy Sofa Adds Pizazz

This sofa really grabbed me because it will bring the elevated vibe of a really cool hotel lounge to your living room. It seems to invite you and your friends or loved ones to curl up side-by-side for an intimate conversation. Those sexy curves can be seen from any angle in the room, and they add some architectural pizazz to a rectangular space. Notice how the hidden feet make it look like it’s floating on air!   

Designed by Vladimir Kagan for Holly Hunt, these contemporary stools bring new life to your bar.

Stools Inspired by Riding Saddles

These bar stools practically walked off my computer screen and into my office while I was shopping! The hand-carved walnut legs have a bold, animalistic look that is a trademark of the designer, Vladimir Kagan. Wouldn’t they be amazing in your home bar? The legs and seats come in a variety of colors that completely change the personality of the piece. The natural finish with orange seats above is casual and playful, while the dark seats and Midnight finished legs in the photo below transform the stool into something sleek and elegant.

dark wood sculptural bar stool
Go playful and casual or sleek and elegant depending on the upholstery and wood finish you choose for these jazzy bar stools.

Ergonomic Seats = Comfort

Those laid-back, ergonomic seats are something special, too. They were inspired by Western and English riding saddles. The dip in the seat fits around your backside and the rounded front edge naturally curves into the back of your knees for great support. The slightly elevated back is just high enough to provide some added support.  

blue wallpaper with rivets by philip jeffries
“Rivets” wallpaper comes in a variety of colors and rivet styles from Phillip Jeffries.

Raised-Rivet Design is Edgy, Intriguing

Raised gold rivets are a clever update for this classic navy wallcovering, elevating it into something unexpected and edgy. For me, the rivets make a statement about the person who chose this style. I’m wondering, “Do they ride a motorcycle? Do they sky dive or go rock climbing? I can imagine this wallcovering making a big impact in a powder room, dining room or home office, too. It’s riveting! Hahaha.

natural material pedants with sculptural form
These free-form Andorra pendants from Michael Cleary are hand-shaped over a metal frame and attached to the ceiling by an antique brass metal chain. Or, you can get them in flush mount.

Go ‘Au Naturel’ with Wicker Pendants

These scrunchy, free-wheeling wicker pendants will make you feel like you’re in a special place, but one that’s easy-going and casual. The organic look really appeals to me, especially the open-air styling of the wicker.  Imagine what happens when the light shines through those openings at night! Beautiful shadows everywhere. The variation in size and shape generates a lot of interest, too. I would use just one in a small space or five in a really long space. But no matter how many I choose for a client, I would always put them on a dimmer switch so they can adjust the amount of light to the time of day and the mood.

bar cabinet with tribal design
This intriguing bar cabinet is a blend of art and function, from Alfonso Marina.

Furniture as Art

I am so impressed by the unusual and beautifully crafted case pieces from Mexico-based Alonzo Marina. Their  designs are one-of-a-kind and their craftsmen are meticulous.  Imagine this eclectic bar cabinet in your home! The exterior has an ebony veneer with intricate bone inlays that create the impression of depth and angles. It reminds me of a zebra, if Picasso had painted one! The interior of the piece is cleverly designed with a variety of compartments and must-have utensils for a bar. The space between the base and the chest makes it look like it’s floating on air. I could see this armoire/bar in the same house with the wicker pendants above. The Asian feet on the chest give you that same Pacific vibe.

tribal art featuring man on horse and man with headdress
“Les Hommes” is from www.jeandemerry.com

Oversized Art = Big Statement

Would you believe that this piece of art is made of 16 panels of reverse, hand-painted glass? That technique produces unexpected depth and almost seems to glow under the proper lighting. The process of this technique is fascinating. Each piece is done back-to-front: details painted first, then larger color areas and finally a background color.

What an incredible statement piece, especially for a more traditional home. The antique, Egyptian vibe is so different and thought-provoking, it jumped off the screen at me. The artist makes me wonder what the figures are saying and what they are doing. The sheer size is so dramatic, too. At roughly 6 feet wide and 6-foot-9 inches tall, you won’t need anything else on the wall. One and done.

large home acquarium
By Aquatic Solutions

Shark Tanks Add Drama

After installing this shark tank in a client’s home last year, I have become a huge fan of this dramatic, watery installation.  The custom tank above – 10 feet long by 4 feet high and 5 feet deep –  was part of a whole-house interior design project I handled  for a newly constructed home in Hinsdale. As you can see,  there is no shark yet. Stocking the tank is a layering-in process. First, the smaller fish acclimate for three weeks or so and then the shark is added. Eventually the coral goes in, and at first it doesn’t have much color. Within a few weeks it will become vibrant!

But you can imagine how exciting it will be when the tank is completely stocked. Stocking the tank is a layering-in process. First, the smaller fish acclimate for three weeks or so and then the shark is added. Eventually the coral goes in, but at first it doesn’t have much color. Within a few weeks it will become vibrant!

Notice that through the open cabinets above the tank you can glimpse behind the scenes at the “water works” that maintain this large installation.

Inspiration = Action!

Are you building a new home, remodeling or ready to reimagine a room or two? Let’s do it together! I start at the beginning, taking time to get to know you, because I want your home to be one-of-a-kind, to reflect who you are and the life you live.  Luxurious interior design is about creating an environment where you can feel and be your best. Ready to get started? Contact me at 847-223-2660.

What’s the first thing you notice when you walk into your bedroom? If you’re like me, it’s your bed, right? As the biggest piece of furniture in the room, your bed is the focal point — and it should draw you in with luxurious bedding!

We spend up to one-third of our lives sleeping (or trying to sleep), so why not indulge in bedding that looks and feels great? You know that feeling you get when you walk into a luxury hotel suite, and the bed looks so beautiful, comfortable, and inviting that you can’t wait to crawl in and go to sleep? Imagine if your bedroom made you feel the same way! 

Types of customized bedding

Personalized bedding is one of my favorite design tasks. I can tailor every element to your taste, including duvets and comforters, throw pillows and decorative shams. Details are so important. I can select the exact fabric, color, size, texture, and trim to make each element just right for you. 

Customized bedding ideas: A Texas mansion

Take a look at these beautiful custom bedrooms from a whole-house project I designed in Texas. I started working with the clients before the builders broke ground on their two-story, 9,000-square-foot home. I reviewed and revised everything including the blueprints, designing their entire house right down to the custom bedding.

The Primary Bedroom

My clients wanted their home to feel comfortable and luxurious while suiting their upscale casual lifestyle. Because the house was so huge and featured soaring 12-foot ceilings, one of my primary goals was to make it feel more intimate, warm and welcoming — and I think this primary bedroom is the epitome of “elegant cozy!”

master bedroom with fireplace and designer bed

Don’t these fabrics, colors, patterns and textures make you feel relaxed and calm? This is the kind of place I’d love to start my day or wind down the evening! 

I chose a king-sized bed with a custom-created gray velvet headboard. On the bed, the duvet, shams, and long pillow were hand-crafted by Quiltmaster using luxury fabric I sourced from Kravet. The custom rugs under the bed and near the fireplace by Julie Dasher echo the colors and patterns throughout the room without competing for attention. Plus, they help amp up the room’s warmth.

“Elephant” guest bedroom

With two grown children and four grandkids, my clients needed comfortable spaces to host family, friends, and little ones. For this guest bedroom, I chose a Stanford bed frame and headboard, customizing it with flax-colored fabric from Romo that complements the tweed Romo fabric on the lounge chairs. I  absolutely love the elephant pillows — crafted with fabric sourced from Kravet — because they add a touch of elegant whimsy to the room. 

Pillows are a great way to have a little fun without making a room feel too over-the-top. I like to choose unique, funky fabric and treat pillows like they’re statement pieces. For decorative pillows — not for sleeping — I like to use fabulous textures, materials, and decorative trim (like beading) that are not practical elsewhere.

“Medallion” guest bedroom

Brown and Taupe Bedroom with Swivel Lounge Chairs and Color-Block Window Panels

I added a bit of Western flair to this guest bedroom, inspired by the colors of Texas’ rolling plains. The layers of color and texture here give the room a warm, organic feeling — I know I’d be excited if this were my guest room for the weekend! 

Here, Quiltmaster crafted the custom medallion duvet cover with fabric I selected from Romo. The euro shams feature trim sourced from Kravet, and the custom rug under the bed is also from Kravet. I always insist on using luxury, breathable materials that feel as good as they look — so that guests will enjoy a good night’s sleep, staying warm even during the chilliest winter nights. 

Also, one of my favorite features of this bedding is it’s reversible! I always design coverlets so they can be used in two different ways, with each complementing the throw pillows, Euro shams, and other bedding elements. This gives you a ton of versatility without having to store more linens. Change your bed with the seasons!

Grandchildren’s Room

bed with red headboard and bold graphic black and white prints

The clients wanted something extra special for their young grandchildren. I set the tone with young, bold, and fun bedding that still reflects the home’s overall style and design. 

I chose custom, full-sized bed frames from Stanford with upholstered headboards in a cheerful, bright red fabric, then worked with Quiltmaster to create the custom buffalo check duvet covers, long pillows, and ball pillows with fabric from Romo. Can’t you imagine the grandkids literally having a ball with those pillows?

One design detail I love using on custom bedding, especially in kids’ rooms, is baseball stitching. You know what I mean — where the stitches are separated instead of being on top of each other. This technique introduces a modern, sporty look that’s perfect for a tween or teen’s room. Lots of times, I’ll do the stitching in a shade that contrasts with the bedding to add another pop of color. Little details like that really boost a room’s “wow” factor. 

Creating customized bedding

To help design the (literal) bed of your dreams, I’ll ask you and your partner questions to better understand your needs, preferences, lifestyle, and sleeping habits. Do you need an adjustable bed?  Are you a hot sleeper? Do you prefer firm or soft pillows and mattresses

Armed with the answers to those questions, I’ll start selecting fabrics so we can choose the perfect combo of patterns and textures to create YOUR bedding. Then I’ll employ one of my favorite workrooms to tailor-make your linens — from duvet covers and coverlets to decorative pillows.

Get in touch

Don’t wait until your next holiday or vacation to crawl into the luxury bed of your dreams — create your dream bed in your own home with bespoke bedding! Are you ready to get started? Contact me!

I’ll bet I’m not the only one who is looking forward to spring and spending more time outside in our own backyards! As the days get warmer and longer, we will all be celebrating that magical time of year: spring in Chicago. Is your backyard ready? Do you need some fresh inspiration? To get you started, I have gathered some gorgeous photos of a project I recently completed for some wonderful Chicago-area clients. Check them out, and then contact me if you want to get started on a backyard update for 2023! 

The Big Picture

My clients — doting grandparents with three young grandchildren — recently commissioned me to redo their upscale suburban Chicago backyard, transforming it into a resort-like setting with an exclusive vibe that is still comfortable and kid-friendly. We kicked off design work in April and wrapped up installation by September. And the result? A backyard that enhances the lives, health and well-being of my clients. They spend more time outdoors relaxing, socializing, swimming and making memories. They especially wanted their backyard to appeal to their grandchildren as they grew into teens and young adults. Items on their wish list included: 

  • An “outdoor theater” that would allow them to enjoy movie moments with the grandkids
  • Improved functionality for their pool house/kitchen 
  • Lots of seating at the kitchen bar
  • A “wow” factor 
  • Multiple comfortable and inviting seating areas 
  • Design elements that can extend the season from early spring to late fall
  • Wellness features
  • Decor that felt as luxurious as their home’s interior
I knew that the pool house/kitchen was going to be a focal point of the backyard, so it was extra important that we got all of the details right! In addition to choosing all of the outdoor furnishings, the clients asked me to review and revise blueprints for their new combination pool house/kitchen with an eye toward enhancing its functionality.
ou can just imagine the snuggles and together time the clients and their grandchildren enjoy on this luxurious sectional couch! The outdoor rug helps define the space, and the umbrella keeps the area from getting too hot on days when the sun is really shining. Thoughtfully-placed tables mean there’s plenty of room to set down a juice box or a favorite book without waking up a napping little one
The clients wanted multiple seating areas for different activities — lounging and relaxing, having a conversation, playing a game, or having a snack. Here’s an example of two types of seating areas I created — each provides its own functionality with a style that complements the rest of the space. The landscape design was completed by Schmechtig Landscapes.

The Details

Let’s take a closer look at some of the specific elements that make this backyard space work so well — and so beautifully!


Summer Classic provided these fireside lounge chairs that flank the Trevi 42” fire pit. The Ashland Teak Lounge chairs in Oyster Teak are as comfortable as any chair inside the client’s house — not to mention the fact that they’re highly sustainable, as teak grows without artificial fertilizers or heavy irrigation, making it an eco-friendly choice. These thickly cushioned chairs encourage the clients to linger near the fire on chilly nights. And the clients won’t have to discard and replace these chairs anytime soon; teak furniture is built to last!
I opted to use these 30” Athena bar stools in black walnut for the pool house/kitchen area. These weather-resistant wicker chairs feature an all-aluminum frame, making them light but durable — and “green”, as aluminum is an endlessly recyclable metal!

When thinking about seating, I knew we needed products that could stand up to sun, chlorine, and even an occasional melting popsicle! These poolside chairs (and  the accent pillows) are crafted from an attractive yet practical, high-performance outdoor fabric.


Over the bar, I featured pendant globe lights from Palacek — their sockets are enclosed in glass globes, making them suitable for outdoor use. The chandelier over the dining table is from CAI Lighting (Lite Art) and is a powder-coated metal frame covered with hand-woven, all-weather slate brown rope.
Lighting inside the bathing and changing area of the pool house is just as important as lighting elsewhere — and when it came to the vanity lighting in the pool house powder room, I didn’t want to cut any corners. This three-light fixture is part of the Bridlewood Bath Bar collection by Minka-Lavery. I used a similar four-light fixture in another area of the bathroom.
imari led fan
The 65” Imari LED Fan from Ferguson Enterprises — satin black with weathered white walnut blades — complements the other lighting in the kitchen area without competing. Not only does it help provide better lighting for food prep tasks, but the ceiling fan keeps the air moving, helping ensure things don’t get too toasty while the clients make dinner.


It’s essential to have plenty of space to work and play in an outdoor kitchen, so having ample countertop space was vital. I revised the kitchen blueprints, making the bar L-shaped instead of a pass-through, which created a conversation-friendly space. The outdoor kitchen’s prep counter was also fabricated and installed by Tithof Tile & Marble. I chose  quartz in beach medium gray with a polished finish to ensure beauty, durability, and easy cleanup.
It was important to create an outdoor kitchen that was elegant and functional. I commissioned my tile gurus Tithof Tile & Marble to supply, fabricate, and install the feature wall above the grill, the counters below the feature wall, and the L-shaped bar top. They used Dekton Trilium and porcelain and included cutouts for the hood vent and TV hookup to ease their installation.
The cabinets in this outdoor kitchen provide the clients with ample storage space for everything they need to enjoy a day outside with their grandchildren — without needing to head back into the house for more snacks and supplies. The kitchen and bar cabinets are from NatureKast in the color weathered dockside. I procured the kitchen cabinet pulls from Build.com.


I wanted something extra-special for the dining room table for this area, so I had a custom dining table created by Wood Statements. They provided the custom teak base, which uses three individual pieces of sustainable teak to create a beautiful, environmentally-friendly piece. A 54” gray quartz top from Tithof completes the look.
With young grandchildren around, we needed chairs that would be sturdy enough for little ones to easily climb into without toppling over. Summer Classic was my source for these Haley teak side chairs in natural teak.
As anyone with children (or grandchildren) knows, not all of your family’s dining happens in the actual dining room! With that in mind, I needed to give the clients plenty of options for enjoying a bite or a beverage regardless of where they are in their backyard. The poolside coffee table and set of stacking tables — which both feature UV- and heat-resistant travertine —  are from Summer Classic.

Special Touches

I’ve been in some pool houses that look elegant on the outside but quickly lose their oompf when you walk in the door. Wanting the “utilitarian” area of this pool house/bathroom to have the same wow factor as the outside, I opted to use the same cabinets I used in the outdoor kitchen, switching up the brushed nickel hardware for a flat black. Additionally, I revised the pool house blueprints to establish three private areas instead of two — with a shower/sink, powder room, and changing area, multiple people can use the space but still have privacy.
How can you tell you’re an interior designer? You get irrationally excited about umbrellas! 😉 Tucci provided this Ocean Master Max 10’ square cantilever umbrella. I chose a Sunbrella charcoal grey for the top canopy fabric, then used customer-provided fabric for the bottom canopy to create a one-of-a-kind piece. The base is in a teak finish, complementing other pieces throughout the space. The umbrella provides necessary sun protection while helping extend the amount of time the clients can stay outdoors.
Just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you should miss the big game — or your grandchildren should have to miss their favorite Disney classic! I had this big-screen television installed above the sink/bar area opposite the cabana, where it can be used and enjoyed without being the entire focal point of the backyard space.

Ready to get your backyard space in tip-top shape for spring? Get in touch!

  • When

    October 26, 2022
    6-9 PM

  • Where

    Material Bespoke Stone + Tile
    212 W Kinzie St.
    Chicago, IL 60654

  • Co-Hosts

    Orren Pickell Building Group

    Divine Flooring

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I'll be joined by Orren Pickell Building Group and Divine Flooring

Together, we'll share tips on designing and building spaces that are environmentally-friendly and simply fabulous.

Lite bites provided by Sub-Zero & Wolf

6-7 pm
Meet and Greet, Cocktails and Hors d’oeuvres

7-8 pm
Presentation, Q&A, and Raffle

8-9 pm
Cocktails and Socializing

All participants will be eligible to win one of our exciting raffle prizes. You must be present to win.

Michelle Rohrer-Lauer
President, Michelle's Interiors


Rugs/Stair Runners

Wall Coverings

Natural Stone for Walls, Floors, and Ceilings

Reclaimed Wood for Walls, Floors, and Ceilings

Living Walls

Eric Pickell

Sales and Marketing Manager, Orren Pickell Building Group


Insulation Options

Drywall Options

Low VOC Options for Paint/Stain

Reclaimed Lumber/Millwork Options

Wall Coverings

Katy Papreck
Midwest A&D Territory Rep, Divine Flooring


Sustainable Sourcing & Forest Management

Indoor Air Quality Standards


Refinishing vs. Replacing

Photos from the event:

What do your accessories say about you? Do they tell people a bit about who you are and where you came from? When you walk through the door, do they make you feel like this is your home? Choosing the right accessories is as important as selecting your major furnishings. When you look at them, they should feel personal and evoke some emotion or memories, including pieces from your travels or hobbies.  I have a number of paperweights that my cousin gave me over the years. Every time I look at one, it makes me smile.

Layers of textures, colors and finishes produce an eclectic, urban vibe. Photo by Jeff Mateer

Layer Your Accessories

Often, accessories are a conversation starter, as in, “where the heck did you get that gorgeous wall art? My approach to accessorizing is to create layers, often starting with one key accent piece such as the colorful glass wall installation in the Chicago pied-a-terre above. Then I layer in supporting pieces, such as the leggy horse and the modern sculptures.  Imagine this high-rise condo without the accessories. It wouldn’t be quite so exciting and engaging without these colorful bright spots, would it? One look tells you so much about my clients! Warm and friendly. Playful. Willing to take a risk. These bright colors and unusual designs aren’t for everyone, and that’s the point. I hand-select accessories for each client based on my insight into who they are. It’s a challenge and a lot of fun!

Because bathrooms have so many hard surfaces, I like to add some softness. Photo by Jeff Mateer
Bring on the shine! Photo by Jeff Mateer

Choose the Right Style

Take a closer look at the vanity accessories from the bathroom above. Whenever I accessorize a home, I  look for pieces that reflect the style and tone of the space. In this case, that would be upscale and a bit ritzy. The mirror-like finishes on the soap dispenser, tissue and soap holders remind me of the gleaming chrome details on a luxury car. For a soft touch, I added plush towels that pull together the colors of the backsplash tile.   

Mixed media and a splash of color complete this table-top arrangement. Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

Create a Focal Point

The star of this vignette is the textural metal collage tucked into a niche at the end of this soaring limestone hallway. I installed the piece over a panel of wallcovering in a stone-like pattern that adds another layer of  intrigue to the scene without detracting from the artwork. The patinated bronze chair, upholstered with Kelly Wearstler fabric, builds on the metallic theme while adding to the somewhat mysterious mood.

This vignette would look at home in art gallery. Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

Be Unique

Finding unusual, fascinating artwork is one of my favorite things about interior design. These clients love art and want pieces that they aren’t likely to see anywhere else. The beautifully rugged geography of North Central Texas inspired my choice of textures for their dining room, shown above. I placed this statuesque trio of carved African figures on a richly carved chest against a backdrop of contemporary encaustic wall art. The open texture of the sculptural, framed piece offers a peek at the champagne colored wall behind it.

This vignette is a textural feast for the eyes. Photo by Brian Gassel Photo  Chest by Alfonso Marina

Include Family Treasures

Finding the right place for my clients’ collections and heirlooms is so rewarding. And virtually all of my clients want to include some much-loved pieces when they are updating or moving into a new home. For this client, I framed her treasured collection of Norman Rockwell plates in shadow boxes and displayed them around the window. They bring a homey touch to a much-used space, while the all-new wooden cherries on the island and the flower basket pick up the red-tinged backsplash tile.

Your treasured collections inject a personal touch. Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

Experiment with Layouts

Some accessories just call out for creative layouts, like these copper pans that my client collects. The best way to find the right arrangement is to lay them out on a surface—like the countertop in the laundry room above—and experiment with different groupings. I wanted the right balance—not too top or bottom heavy—as well as an interesting layout without crowding the pieces. I think this works on all fronts!

How many rabbits have you seen in bathrooms? Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

Have Some Fun!

Black rabbits are rare in nature, and even more unexpected in a bathroom. That’s why I chose this little fellow. His whimsical pose is pretty cute in this sophisticated-glam bathroom, and he fits right in with the black counter accessories and red accents.

 Photo by Jeff Mateer

The Difference Between Average and Stunning

Yes! I am very happy to help you choose dishes, place mats, napkins and napkin rings for your table as well as linens for your bedrooms, bathrooms and kitchen. Michelle’s Interiors is truly a full-service studio. Many of my clients love to have me complete their home right down to the smallest details. After all, “It’s attention to detail that makes the difference between average and stunning,” according to Francis Atterbury, 17th century English politician, writer and bishop. I agree!

  • When

    August 24, 2022
    6-9 PM

  • Where

    Horticultural Hall
    330 Broad St.
    Lake Geneva, WI 53147

  • Co-Hosts

    Schmechtig Landscapes

    Orren Pickell Building Group

fifty shades 8-24-22

I'll be joined by Schmechtig Landscapes and Orren Pickell Building Group

Together we’ll present exciting ideas for making the most of your outdoor spaces with thoughtful landscape and hardscape elements. We’ll share tips on creating environmentally-friendly outdoor structures and beautifying your outdoor living area while using sustainable materials.

6-7 pm
Meet and Greet, Cocktails and Passed Hors d’oeuvres

7-8 pm
Presentation, Q&A, and Raffle

8-9 pm
Cocktails and Socializing

All participants will be eligible to win one of our exciting raffle prizes. You must be present to win.

Michelle Rohrer Lauer
President, Michelle's Interiors


Catering/Event Coordination
Working with Your Builder

Eric Pickell
Sales and Marketing Manager, Orren Pickell Building Group


Pool Houses
Outdoor Kitchens
Screen & Covered Porches

Michael Schmechtig
President, Schmechtig Landscapes


Designing Outdoor Rooms
Pergola & Patios
Go Native
Fire/Water Features
Outdoor Kitchens
Landscape Lighting

Photos from the event:

  • When

    June 16, 2022

  • Where

    The Glen Club
    2901 W Lake Ave.
    Glenview IL 60026

  • Co-Hosts

    Schmechtig Landscapes

    BlueEarth Deconstruction

june 16 2022 facebook cover

I'll be joined by Schmechtig Landscapes and BlueEarth Deconstruction

Together we’ll present exciting ideas for sustainable furnishings as well as innovative ideas for how to Reuse, Recycle and Restore items inside and outside your home, including building materials, appliances, landscape elements and more!

Heavy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails will be served.

All participants will be eligible to win one of our exciting raffle prizes. You must be present to win.

Michelle Rohrer-Lauer
President, Michelle's Interiors

Minimizing our impact by using:
  • Repurposed farm house flooring
  • Reclaimed barn wood applications
  • Recycled aluminum outdoor furniture
  • Rugs and fabrics made from recycled materials
  • Repurposed furniture, family heirlooms

Steve Filyo
President, BlueEarth Deconstruction

  • Economic and environmental benefits
  • Job creation
  • Reduction in waste stream from construction and demolition

Michael Schmechtig
President, Schmechtig Landscapes

  • Natural landscaping elements
  • Repurposed materials and plants
  • Recycled elements

Photos from the event:

There’s always something new under the sun for outdoor design, and I’m always excited to share my discoveries! With the backyarding season upon us, I have gathered of the hottest new outdoor furnishings to share with you. I made my choices with smart technology, outstanding design, comfort and durability and eco-friendly materials at the top of my mind. After all, my  50 Shades of Green philosophy is just as important outdoors.  

Heat, light and shade, all in one parasol. Photo by Tuuci.

How to Extend the Season

My husband, Jeff, and I, love to enjoy the outdoors right through the end of fall, when the leaves are so beautiful, the insects are gone and the temperatures are cool and comfortable. These parasols are one of my favorite ways to extend the outdoor season from early spring to hot mulled cider time . This heated and lighted umbrella from Tuuci supplies LED light and high-efficiency, infrared radiant heaters. The sleek, control panel has an easy-to-use, push-button, icon-based interface.

What’s special about that lamp? Keep reading. Photo by Sutherland Furniture.

Another Option: Heat and Light

When you’re chilling out but don’t want to be chilly, these smart Heatsail Lamps from Sutherland Furniture can keep you comfortable longer outdoors. Nearly all outdoor heat sources only supply heat, but these lamps give you both. And how about that cool design?  I love the way it arches over the seating and distributes the heat more evenly. So much better than those floor heaters that restaurants put in the corners of their patios.

The best of both worlds – you’re outside, but sort of inside. Photo and cabana by Tuuci.

Redefining the Home Office

If this isn’t a trend, it should be! Working outside is a logical extension of the burgeoning work-at-home trend, whether you are at your primary residence or second home. This automated, louvered cabana from Tuuci is a great framework for an outdoor office. It offers the perfect combo of working outside while enjoying some of the benefits of being inside: protection from the wind, sun and summer sprinkles. Just add furniture and the optional outlet/USB port for you electronics, and you can hang out your shingle! Lights and heating elements are optional but who wouldn’t want them? They can dramatically extend your daily and seasonal outdoor hours. Not long ago I installed one of these cabanas for clients in the Chicago suburbs. I can’t wait to hear how they are making the most of it this summer.

Bonus Green Points

I love that this cabana is fabricated of durable aluminum and stainless steels, which are both 100 percent recyclable. Here are some fun facts to share with your friends while you are backyarding this year. Haha!

  • Seventy-five percent of all aluminum ever made is still in use because the metal can be recycled indefinitely.
  • Used aluminum beverage cans are the most recycled metal product in the world.
  • Plus, recycling aluminum requires only 5 percent of the energy used to make primary aluminum for the first time.
Casting a long shadow. Photo by Pavilion.

Bringing Life to Art

It was love at first sight when I discovered these chairs and ottomans on the Pavilion Furniture website. I fell even harder when I learned the story behind the design. This “Waves” collection was designed by Petu Kummala, a native of Finland who now heads up a design studio in Miami and is senior director of interior design and architecture for Carnival Cruise Lines! Doesn’t that sound like an amazing job? Kummala said he was inspired by the gentle rolling of the ocean’s tides when creating these awesomely curvy outdoor chairs, but comfort was important, too. Those curves will provide ergonomic support for relaxing hours of lounging. Of course, the way the sunlight passes through the slats produces awesome shadows as the sun moves across the sky.

Mariner 316 swivel tub chair via Sutherland Furniture.

Taking the Indoors, Outdoors

People just can’t get enough of this trend – extending the comfort and beauty of their home to the outdoors. Look how beautiful outdoor living can be with this amazing swivel chair, the outdoor rug and the sensual drapes. Aren’t you thinking, ‘oh my gosh, that space looks like it’s inside the house, but oh no, it’s outside!’ I think that’s really cool. The way the fabric is so tightly wrapped around the frame makes me think of a sail boat. And imagine how those luxurious drapes would make you feel so beautiful and semi-private outside, too. Better yet, the marine-like frame work of the chair is made of super-recyclable aluminum. Bonus green points!

Communal dining reaches new heights. Photo by Pavilion.

Elevating Dining, Literally

Talk about towering stilettos! The tapered legs for this counter-height dining table and stools bring urban elegance and new energy to outdoor meals. I like pairing the stools with the upholstered bench on the opposite side. You could seat a lot of wriggly little kids there! The table is available at just over six feet or 9 feet, so feel free to invite a crowd and watch the fun happen. Don’t miss the faux marble table-top below, either.

Here’s a way to add glam to your outdoor dining. Photo by Pavilion.

Is That Marble?

The dramatic grain of this table top makes it look like a luxurious slab of blue-grey Carrara marble, but it isn’t. The stone-like tabletop surface is actually made from a blend of materials using a process that produces a highly compact material. It is resistant to scratches, abrasions, stains and UV-rays as well as high heat and freezing temps. I call that optimal for outdoor lifestyles. 

How to combine recycling and backyarding in a yummy rug. Photo by The Delos Company.

Luxurious + Sustainable

Those who know me, know that I am passionate about eco-friendly design and color! This rug from The Delos Company combines both in a yummy shade of pomegranate. The flexible flat-weave style is woven from yarn made of recycled plastic water bottles – yay! These flat-weaves are easy to maintain, reversible and luxuriously soft underfoot, plus they come in a variety of shades. Who said it’s not easy being green? 

Setting the mood. Photo by Pablo Designs.

What’s New in Backyard Lighting?

Mood lighting is one of my specialties. I’m all about underlighting, dimmer switches and of course, the latest in outdoor illumination. This Bola Lantern from Pablo Designs is a big winner. The floating globe is simple and effective. The leather handle makes it very portable and the lamp offers four levels of warm, ambient light at your fingertips. The rechargeable battery supplies 10 to 400 hours of light, depending on the intensity level, so your backyarding festivities can continue well after the fireflies come out.

Photo by Pablo Designs.

Illuminating and Eco-Friendly

I’m crazy about the graceful, vessel-like silhouette of these rechargeable Candel lights by Pablo Designs. They shed an intimate, candle-like glow that blends beautifully into your backyard surroundings. Imagine how they would look with your outdoor stemware and serving pieces. So pretty!  Depending on your mood, you can choose from four levels of touch-control light that can brighten your backyard for up to 150 hours.   

With Phantom Screens   you can protect yourself from bugs while preserving your view. Photo courtesy of Midwest Screens.

Tech-Savvy Screens and Shades

Let’s face it, sometimes we are plagued by flying critters that bite and sting when we’re outside, but these motorized Phantom screens and shades are a great solution. They allow fresh air in, provide shade from the sun, protection from pesky insects and a bit of privacy. The automated controls include sun and wind sensors and can be controlled by wall-mounted and hand-held remotes or by smart phone app. Just raise and lower them at the touch of a button.

Clear vinyl shades are on-trend for living outside in comfort. Photo by Midwest Screens.

Vinyl is Back!

Vinyl may be out of date for music, but it is on-trend if you want comfortable outdoor living.

Phantom Screens also has developed clear vinyl shades for covered porches and other outdoor structures. Pairing the clear vinyl with the motorized screens, above, allows you to control the temperature in your outdoor living space without obstructing your view. In cooler climates, the vinyl shades keep the warmth in and the weather out, and for hotter climates it’s perfect for keeping cooled air in your covered porch or patio area. This is another smart way to extend your outdoor season.

Ready to Go Outside?

Contact me!

What does a large group of interior designers do when they gather at a resort in Mexico? For one thing,  we sometimes play games like “Love It Or Lose It.” This is a fun take-off of the popular HGTV program, “Love It or List It.”  It’s all about the trends we love and the ones we’d like to lose in the world of design. We had a blast sharing our ideas during the latest C.Next Global Design Summit sponsored by our valued vendor, Cosentino, at the luxurious Nizuc resort in Cancun.

You Can Play Too!

I thought you might enjoy playing a game, too, so I put together questions and answers about design trends below.  Do you agree or disagree with me? Let’s discuss!

Think longer for subway tiles. Photo and tiles by Artistic Tile

Subway Tile: Love It or Lose It?

My advice is to lose those traditional 3 x 6-inch subway tiles and think longer! I still love the look of rectangular tiles, but now they come in a variety of longer lengths up to 12 inches at least. Imagine installing them horizontally, as above, vertically or even in a herring bone pattern.  It’s time to change it up.

Classic subway tiles are 3 X 6 inches and glossy white. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we have so many new options now. Photo by Artistic Tile
Heated umbrellas are one way to love your backyard from early spring to late fall. Umbrella and photo by Tuuci

I LOVE that people are thinking of their backyards as their destination for relaxation, entertaining and even working outdoors. That mindset took hold during the first wave of COVID and it is here to stay. People are continuing to invest in luxurious backyards that are an extension of their interior design. Kitchens, dining areas, resort-like lounge areas, outdoor TVs and projectors – it’s a mini-vacation or a party whenever you step out the back door. Just imagine inviting the neighborhood over for movie night under the stars! As the outdoor living design expert for Lake Homes, I am up-to-date on the hottest outdoor furnishings, including eco-friendly options and ideas for extending your backyard season from early spring to late fall. Check out that heated parasol in the photo above. We can add lights, too! 

With a closet like this, you will feel pampered every day. Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

Love Your Closet or Lose It?

I say give your closet the “wow” factor and LOVE it! Closets have become showpieces. They make you feel like you just walked into your favorite boutique where everyone knows your name. And guess what? I just designed my first closet that features a wine cooler! My client considers it her private get-away, but she likes to invite friends over too so they can collaborate on what she should wear for the next girls’ trip, an upcoming wedding or a family vacation. I added a couple of comfy chairs so her girlfriends can sit while she displays her latest finds. It’s better than schlepping outfits onto the bed for inspection!

Closets have gone high tech, too. Remember those motorized clothing racks from the movie Clueless with Alicia Silverstone? We can do that! The rack is operated with a foot pedal that spins your clothes in a circle so you can see everything in your closet without reaching into corners. I can add shoe and purse carousels to your closet, too and motorized shelves that automatically bring the highest shelves in your closet down to eye level at the push of a button.  Do you need a locked safe, too? I can disguise one in a cabinet so it’s your little secret.

Formal living rooms are taking on new roles.  Photo by Cari Berg Interior Design

Formal Living Room – Love It Or Lose It?

More and more often, my clients are saying “lose it” to formal living rooms and opting to make better use of that space. It’s about choosing function versus a pretty space that doesn’t fit your lifestyle. How about turning it into a library or a music room? Or how about both, as in the photo above? I could imagine curling up and reading a book in this living room every evening, or on a lazy weekend morning. Now that’s a great use of space.

Luxury vinyl tile is a great choice for lower level entertainment areas, home gyms and beach homes. Photo courtesy of Divine Flooring

Love Luxury Vinyl Tile Or Lose It?  

I love it, with limits! For a primary home, luxury vinyl tile is excellent for home gyms and lower level bars, game rooms and media spaces. If you have a backyard pool, it’s a smart choice for the entrance to the house nearest the pool. As a lake home owner, I love luxury vinyl for the main living areas of beach houses where you and your guests may drip water and track in sand and other bits of nature. Luxury vinyl is easy to clean, sand won’t scratch it, and if it gets wet, it’s not a big deal.  I know from years of experience that even if you rinse off after a day on the beach, some sand always manages to get into the house!

Can you see the acoustics in this entertainment room? Find the answer below! Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

Acoustics: Love It Or Lose It?

This is a big love! Of all the pollutions in the world, I think noise is the most under-estimated. Our ears are bombarded daily by power mowers and snow blowers, cars, trains, airplanes, loud music and conversations. In the refuge of our homes, we can gain some control over noise through rugs, window treatments, windows, upholstered furniture and – in the photo above – upholstered walls! This multi-use entertainment space won First Place Wildcard Residential Space in the ASID-IL Design Excellence Awards 2021, partly because of the creative acoustics. It is a high-energy space with a bar, game table, media-conversation area and a custom shuffleboard table.  To dampen the decibel level, I included:

  • Walls upholstered with chenille-like fabric that is quiet, luxurious and intimate
  • Upholstered bar back panels
  • Natural woven shades with black-out lining and side panels
  • Upholstered sofas and chairs plus a rug

My clients do love this space and their acoustics!

Open floor plan homes are slowly giving way to closed plans, such as this enclosed kitchen. Photo by Studio West

Open Floor Plans: Love It or Lose It?

Open floor plans have been on-trend since the 70s, but people are beginning to say, “lose it.”  Many of us are spending more time at home, working and playing, and we crave quiet, private space for down time. Imagine using a food processor in the kitchen while people are trying to watch television or read in the adjacent family room. The above kitchen is separated from the living room and dining room by partial walls of cabinetry, which helps dampen down noise, and guests can’t see any dirty dishes from food prep. That’s a plus!  

How many ways could you use this dining room? Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

Love Your Dining Room or Lose It?

Love it, but use it in different ways! Most of my clients still want a dining room. They almost always talk about how important it is to host meals for family and friends at one big table in their home. That’s difficult to accomplish in a kitchen! Plus, if you’re eating in a kitchen, the hosts may feel that urge to clear the table faster. In a private dining room, you’re not in a hurry. Everyone sits around the table longer, having great conversations. 

But we need to lose the concept that dining rooms are for dining only. I can picture a thousand-piece jigsaw puzzle spread across this table – no need to put it away until company comes. This space could be a great place for drawing or playing board games, too.  Multi-purpose rooms are more important now that we are spending more time at home.

Photo by Delos Rugs

Eco-Friendly Design: Love It or Lose It?

Well, this one is easy – I love it!! What else would you expect from the “Green Queen?”  Sustainable design is a passion for me, so I am always looking for manufacturers who offer eco-friendly furnishings and embrace sustainable practices. Delos Custom Carpets and Rugs fits the bill. This raindrop-inspired rug above is made in the USA from  Econyl,® a fiber made entirely of regenerated nylon from recovered fishing nets, reclaimed carpets and other recycled nylon products. Isn’t that awesome? Nylon is excellent for saturated colors and durability. It is resistant to stains and sun, too. Plus, Econyl® helps reduce our carbon footprint.  Every 10,000 tons of Econyl® saves 70,000 barrels of crude oil, avoids 57,000 tons of CO2 equivalent emissions and over 1,000 gigajoules of primary energy demand. Love that!

Are you contemplating a home renovation project for 2022? Contact me!

Shopping for awesome furnishings is one of my favorite pursuits. Sharing my finds with you is another! Do you remember my blog about Fabulous Finds for Backyards?  Well, I have been virtual shopping again and gathered ten absolutely amazing pieces that I hope will inspire you. Of course, if you’re interested in learning more, you know where to find me: 847-223-2660.

Each impeccably engineered La Cornue range is made by hand. Photo by La Cornue.

Just How Big is that Range?

Check out this Grand Palais 180 range from La Cornue. Isn’t that six feet of awesome? La Cornue calls this the crown jewel of its Chateau Series, and I agree. Imagine how labor-intensive it is to make this range, and all by hand! The Grand Palais 180 features one vaulted gas oven and one vaulted electric oven, set beneath a range top that comes in one of seven configurations. Each La Cornue range is made to order in the company’s Saint-Ouen l’Aumone workshop outside Paris and is available in a range of configurations, colors, finishes and measurements. Complementary cabinetry, hoods, rotisserie and accessories are also available. Wouldn’t this be a fantastic birthday or anniversary gift!

Nature meets technology in this mixed-media pendant. Fixture and photo by Hubbardton Forge.

Slate Slabs = Unique Design

Wow! I couldn’t take my eyes off of this Aradesia Circular LED pendant from Hubbardton Forge. There is so much to love about this fixture – most of all the organic design. Don’t those pieces look like they broke off  a huge piece of rock? In fact, the slate slabs are mined from a Vermont quarry, making each piece unique in texture. The metalwork is done by skilled Vermont artisans. It’s a wonderful interplay of nature and technology, plus, it’s made by American artisans with American materials. That’s fantastic.

I can’t resist this collage mirror from one of my long-time favorite vendors, Christopher Guy.

Jigsaw Puzzle, Mirror or Art?

Are you good at puzzles? With this impressive collage mirror from Christopher Guy you can let your imagination run wild. Or, you could allow me to put those pieces together in a unique pattern. That would be so exciting and challenging. The individual pieces are faceted and shaped in a variety of crisp, geometric forms, and each one is framed with hand-carved wood. If you saw these pieces individually, you would never imagine the impact they could have when assembled. Truly the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. You can think big with this mirror, too. Very big. It comes in five sizes, from roughly 5-feet by 11 feet to an immense 11 feet by almost 24 feet. Talk about making a statement.

Working at home just got more interesting.
Photos and “Cappone” desk by Abner Henry.

Secret Compartments? Sort of!

Here’s a desk that would make working at home more exciting. The two finishes on the maple top are handsome and those polished, stainless-steel legs are so energizing and industrial-eque. Check this out, too:  the top at each end of the desk slides open to reveal storage and plug-ins. At just over 6 feet long, you’ll have plenty of space for all your tech devices, a lamp and a double espresso. Hey Siri – play some Billie Eilish for me!

Such a spa-like feeling. Photo and “Flute Lilac Marble Field” tiles by Artistic Tile

Marble Slabs Get Groovy

Look closely at these gorgeous marble slabs from Artistic Tile. Can you see the vertical channels that have been cut into the stone, like fluted columns? I like the fluid effect those channels create as each tile flows into the next. The stone is smooth, but architectural, a bit like carved millwork. For me, these tiles are a blend of symmetry and a carefree style. While the tiles are laid perfectly straight, the grain goes its own way. I can imagine this luxurious wall covering in my home office for sure, along with the inviting chaise!  Whenever I needed a 15 or 20-minute break, I could lie down and meditate with a beautiful backdrop. No need for artwork on this wall. It’s the star of the show.

Cocktail table and photo by Abner Henry.

New Angles on a Cocktail Table

Do you like to play the angles? In this case, I would say yes! Those cantilevered gold steel legs and the  thick, red oak top really spoke to me! This table has country-meets-city appeal that would work in a wide range of living room styles. As a bonus, red oak is a highly sustainable, durable hardwood that is grown abundantly in North America.

Wouldn’t you like to be working out there with your laptop? Or snoozing? Neo-Contour chair and photo via Sutherland Furniture.

Call This Modern Industrial Style

Yes, I’m already dreaming of summer at our lake house in Wisconsin! This incredible chair from Belgian designer Jean-Pierre Geelen would be ideal for al fresco lounging. Geelen is known for his modern industrial styles that take a technological approach. I can’t say enough about this chair! It is so well-designed and the detailing is amazing. You’re going to get that zero-gravity kind of experience when you sit in it. Look at how the sleek carbon fiber frame attaches to the seat and creates such a fluid design with mesh body. That chair you will not have to adjust to. That chair, you’ll just sit in and melt!

Photos by Pablo Designs

Eco-Friendly Circles of Light

Eco-friendly AND so cool! These new fixtures from Pablo Studio bowled me over. The defining feature is a flat-panel LED disc that moves fluidly in an infinite number of positions. That makes it a fantastic task light that supplies warm, even lighting. The Circa light offers an integrated USB charging port, as well, on the table, floor and wall models. I’m a big fan of this company too, because of its focus on sustainability, including:

  • Minimal use of materials
  • Contains no hazardous substances, such as mercury
  • Lasts for 50K hours or 25 years of daily use
  • Uses only 11W of power (90% more efficient than a comparable halogen light source, 40% more efficient than CFLs)
 “Cloche” artwork from Christopher Guy

What is She Thinking?

I don’t know for sure, but I imagine she’s developing new strategy for her company’s growth in 2022! I can relate to that. This glittering mosaic panel features a sophisticated flapper girl from the Roaring 20s who is definitely ahead of her time. She’s much too strong and independent to worry about living up to conventional standards of the day, and I love that!  This piece is made of thousands of hand-cut and individually colored glass pieces. What a fabulous work of art to place in a home office or bedroom, or maybe a boardroom?

Taycan Turbo S Cross Turismo electric car in (Eastern) mamba (snake) green from Porsche.

Why a Sports Car?

I do love sports cars! But you’re probably wondering why I chose a luxury electric sports car for a blog about interior furnishings. Well, I have always felt that walking up to your home and going inside is like approaching your car and opening the door. You want the interior to match the promise of the exterior. When you open that door, you’re looking for comfort, excitement, incredible fit and finish and attention to detail. You know what it’s like to get into a luxury automobile. The seat conforms to your body and you can appreciate the feel and the stitching of the leather. When you reach for the controls they are exactly where they need to be to make driving a pleasure.  

Of course, electric cars tie in beautifully with my “50 Shades of Green” philosophy of eco-friendly design. I believe that each small sustainable step we take can make a difference in our health and the health of our planet. Going sustainable at home is like easing into an organic diet or an exercise program. You don’t have to go completely organic or work out like an athlete to improve your lifestyle, and you don’t have to go 100 percent sustainable green at home. You can be any shade of eco-green you like. Our homes are a place of refuge, happiness and peace. Our planet is our home. I feel compelled to participate in the fight to save it.

Are you contemplating a home renovation project for 2022? Contact me!

Greetings and Happy New Year from Michelle’s Interiors! Are you feeling a little breathless after 2021? I know I am! We have survived our second pandemic year and we don’t know what awaits us in 2022, but the start of each year is always an exciting time for me. I feel so full of hope and energy anticipating the opportunities to work with new clients and our valued long-time clients. Last year I talked about How 2020 Transformed Our Homes. This year I have some predictions about lifestyle and design trends in 2022, but first I want to reflect on the bright spots of the past year. Yes, there were some exciting moments!  

Sharing my “50 Shades of Green” philosophy and design ideas at public events from Lake Forest to Lake Geneva. Photo by Michelle’s Interiors

Getting Our Green On 

I was so thrilled to share eco-friendly design ideas with everyone who attended our four, “50 Shades of Green” events last year. We traveled from Lake Forest to Libertyville and Lake Geneva, with our partners, Orren Pickell Building Group and Schmechtig Landscapes,  and we co-hosted a virtual event with Chalet Nursery.  As a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, I am passionate about creating healthier homes and communities by connecting our clients to sensible, eco-friendly design solutions. Why do I call my philosophy “50 Shades of Green?” Because I believe that we don’t have to be 100 percent eco-friendly “green” at home to make a difference in indoor air quality and the health of our planet. Be on the lookout for details of this year’s new “50 Shades of Green” events. I am planning to host three to four more sessions packed with information on sustainable design. We would love to see you there!

What an honor! Photo by Michelle’s Interiors

A Fourth ASID-IL Award and More Headlines

It was so exciting and humbling to win another ASID-IL Design Excellence Award last year, my fourth in four years. Last year’s winner was a multi-purpose entertainment room which took first place in the “Wild Card Residential Space” category. I can tell you, our clients actually play some “wild cards” at the game table in that space! Check out the project photos here: A Fourth ASID-IL Award.   

A big thanks also to Jeanne Hudson, editor at Lake Homes, for featuring my ideas on Flexible and Functional Lake Home Living in their magazine, Lake Home Lifestyles, and my tips for Safely Renovating Your Lake Home in their blog. The website is a multi-state real estate brokerage for lake homes. Be on the lookout this spring for my “Outdoor Bliss” blog that will publish in Lake Homes’ magazine and website. Plus, Sheridan Road magazine is featuring my ASID-IL award-winning Highland Park project in an upcoming issue. We will share those with you when they go live.

A big welcome to our new interior designer Jennifer Paddock.

Say Goodbye and Say Hello

We are all sorry to say goodbye to our talented interior designer Kerry Panko, who is moving on to new responsibilities. She made a valuable contribution to our team, and we wish her well.

We also want to welcome Jennifer Paddock, a very experienced designer, to Michelle’s Interiors. Jennifer is an NCIDQ-licensed interior designer who worked with an architect for nine years and a design-build firm for six years. I love her ideas and her style.

Cabanas are the new home office. Photo and Solanox automated louvered cabana by Tuuci

And Now – My Predictions for 2022!

Offices Will Go Al Fresco  

Can’t you picture yourself working outside in this awesome cabana once winter is behind us? That’s something to look forward to!  More than ever, people are working at home, and working outside is going to be a logical extension of that trend. I just recently installed a multi-purpose cabana like this one from Tuuci for clients in the Chicago area. It has automated louvres on the roof to block out sun or rain, and we added lights, heating elements, a plug-in for electronics and – believe it or not – beautiful outdoor drapes, including a fabric roof.  Those add-ons will stretch our clients’ outdoor season from early spring to late fall, whether they are working, practicing yoga, reading, texting or doing absolutely nothing. Ahhh.

If you love the outdoors, you know that it’s important to protect your skin. With the louvered roof and retractable cloth cover you can choose how much sun you soak up. The draw curtains not only provide some privacy and protection from the wind and sun, but when they are closed, they convert the cabana into a really cool clubhouse or theatre for young children or grandchildren staging plays or pretending to be pirates or Antarctic explorers. 

As a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, I love that this cabana is fabricated of durable aluminum and stainless steel, which are both 100 percent recyclable. Seventy-five percent of all aluminum that has ever been made is still in use because the metal can be recycled over and over again. Here’s another tidbit: Recycling aluminum requires only 5% of the energy used to make primary aluminum for the first time. That’s so green!

This is unexpected – a petrified wood bar top. Photo by Brian Gassel Photography

Home Entertainment Will Power Up

I predict that once the latest COVID surge recedes, entertaining at home is going to power up. Many of us are working from home more often, and we need to be more deliberate about connecting with people. I know that I need the energy infusion I get from hanging out with family and friends.

Home bars will be one hot spot for home entertaining this year. Whether your beverage of choice is beer, wine, cocktails or Glaceau Vitamin Water, a well-designed home bar is a friendly, relaxing place to enjoy it. I have a lot of ideas for making this space uniquely yours, such as the black and white petrified wood bar top in the photo above. In fact, I’m going to devote an entire blog to that topic later this year, including a display idea for a popular beverage. Stay tuned!

Resort-style entertaining  in your own backyard – call it “backyarding” – is another concept that’s gaining traction. I have always said that our homes should feel like our favorite vacation destination, every day.

During these past two years that philosophy has become even more apparent.  My clients appreciate the day-to-day rewards of making their home as inviting and luxurious as their go-to resort or vacation spot.  Demand is going to increase for all the comforts.   

Bathrooms with Backyard Access

One of the most in-demand amenities is a bathroom with direct outdoor access. In fact, I just added bathrooms with backyard access to the blueprints for two new houses I am working on.  After all, who wants a lot of people tracking through their home to the bathroom during an outdoor party, even if they are your friends and family? Haha!  Of course, fire pits, full-equipped kitchens, cabanas and lounge areas will continue to be popular.

Instead of traditional cabinets, islands will have refrigerator drawers and storage drawers in 2022. Photo by Studio West/Architeriors

Home Cooking Boomlet Will Persist

I confess, my husband Jeff does all of the cooking at our house and I love coming home to a hot meal! But the pandemic has spurred a renewed love for home cooking for a lot of Americans. The Food Industry Association reported that 49 percent of shoppers were cooking or preparing their own meals more than before the pandemic. New studies suggest that the Shift to Home Cooking Might Outlast Pandemic. I can see it! Couples are cooking together. Children are getting into the act. Families are going to be scheduling cooking nights the way they schedule game or movie nights. What does that mean? Function will be more important than ever. A few important elements for 2022:

  • Refrigerator drawers in the island to keep most-used foods close by
  • Storage drawers instead of cabinets for easier, more accessible storage, as in the photo above
  • Two prep areas, each with a sink for group cooking!
  • At least one sink that is large enough for big pot and pans
Photo courtesy of Orren Pickell Building Group

Open Concept Will Fade

My niece and I were talking recently about how happy she feels about living in an older home with a “closed” floor plan instead of open.  She said that in her previous home, she felt like she was in the kitchen all the time because it was open to the family room and dining room. My niece isn’t alone in craving private spaces. Even before the pandemic hit, the open space concept had been declining, and that trend continues to gain momentum. One clever solution to creating private space in an open space is this cozy office hidden from the adjacent kitchen by a pocket door. It was constructed by my partners, Orren Pickell Building Group.

An area rug like this one from Julie Dasher Rugs makes the master bedroom cozy and quiet. Photo by  Brian Gassel Photography

Acoustics Will Improve

Life at home can get loud if two people are taking phone calls and Zoom meetings, the kids have arrived home from school and the dogs are barking to get outside for a walk. The decibels can rise quickly! Three sound solutions:

  • Area rugs. So many homes today have wood floors, which are beautiful, but they can be noisy. Area rugs help dampen down the volume while protecting the wood from scratches and providing a design element. Better yet, if you choose a wool or bamboo fiber rug they are eco-friendly! 
  • Window treatments offer the same acoustical and design benefits, while also adding privacy and insulation. Both bring soft elements to a space, too.
  • Fabric-covered walls are another acoustical option, especially in a media room.

Photo by Vivid Interior Design – Danielle LovenDiscover bedroom design ideas

Accent Ceilings

Take a moment to look up at your ceilings. Are most of them ceiling white? I think a lot of us are noticing little details like that as we spend more time at home. Painting ceilings an accent color or applying a faux finish can make a huge difference in the right space. Imagine this – for clients with a new house under construction, I am going to paint the great room ceiling glossy black. Sound scary? It isn’t if you love black and white, as these clients do. The black will be a dramatic backdrop for the white glass fixtures I have chosen.  Once this whole-house project is completed, I will share lots of photos! In the meantime…

Let’s Chat!

Are you ready to update your home or furnish a new home in 2022? Contact us at 847-223-2660.

Shopping for designer wallcoverings is like visiting my favorite French patisserie—it can be difficult to choose from all the tempting options on display. Before I know it, my plate is overflowing! The task can be even more of an adventure for interior designers because we have access to an entire world of vendors who create custom designs available only to the trades. To stay on top of the newest and coolest, I periodically schedule a “shopping trip” to visit my wall covering vendors online for their freshest patterns, colors and materials. Plus, I want to show you some favorites from my portfolio.

Any meal would be festive in this dining room. Photo and wall covering from Phillip Jeffries

Can You Haiku?

I kicked off my latest shopping spree at Phillip Jeffries, where I found this gorgeous “Haiku” designer wallcovering in a shade they call “Teal Regeneration.” Isn’t it amazing? I love that it looks hand painted and so fresh. The cherry blossoms, twisting branches and color wash in shades of green give it an Asian quality that feels very calming to me. This pattern is striking in the dining room above, but I can picture it in a guest bedroom with a tall, upholstered white headboard. Wouldn’t that be beautiful?   

Black and white and awesome all over. Photo and wallcovering from Phillip Jeffries

Be a Free-Spirit

As I mentioned above, it’s hard to stop at just one pastry or one wall paper. Before I left Phillip Jeffries’ site I couldn’t resist putting this energetic “Offset” pattern on my plate in the “Black Ink on White Dove” colorway. Whoever chose this paper for their house would definitely have a free spirit! This pattern would be a knock-out in a foyer, too, with a black door and white floor, welcoming people into your home.

Shades of blue do not give me the blues. Wallcovering by Cowtan and Tout  Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

Opt for Peace and Serenity

Did you know that the color blue has been show in various studies to reduce blood pressure? Maybe that’s because it’s the color of the sea and sky on a beautiful sunny day. Shades of blue in a bedroom make me feel peaceful, and that’s why I chose it as the backdrop for this guest bedroom. The textural grass cloth wallcovering picks up the color of the custom window treatments, bedding and the fuzzy throw on the arm chair. The elephant shams are an unexpected accent. In feng shui, they represent strength, protection, wisdom and good luck. That’s a heavy burden, but elephants are definitely massive enough to manage it!  

Oh, the places she’ll go! Wallpaper and photo by Romo

Stretch Your Imagination

Oh my gosh—this Dusky Amazon wallpaper mural makes me feel like Peter Pan! I want to play in that tent with my 19-month-old granddaughter and imagine that we are camping in a rainforest. The attention to detail, the rich colors and whimsical charm are so appealing. Designing spaces for children  has always had a special place in my heart. Take a look at my earlier blog with Cool Ideas for Kids’ Bedrooms.  

Pick up the color of the wallpaper in other elements in the room. Wallpaper by Elitis Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

Aim For a Consistent Style

For the master bedroom in this expansive home, I wanted my clients to feel uber-sophisticated and luxurious. This wallpaper is consistent with the rich fabrics of the bedding and headboard, the custom rug and the exquisite light fixture. Though it isn’t obvious in this photo, the muted magenta of the wallcovering picks up the regal purple of the pillows.

A wet bar with panache. Wallpaper and photo by Innovations USA
So many “flavors” to choose from in this matte, marbled paper. Can I have one of each? Wallpaper and photo by Innovations USA

Beautiful and Sustainable

Can you believe that this soft, sophisticated wallpaper is made mostly of sustainable, biodegradable cork? That’s even more proof that eco-friendly design can be beautiful and luxurious! It’s a knock-out for this web bar, but I chose the “Marbled Cork” pattern in azure (see photo below, far left color) for the bedroom of a client’s four-year-old son. The azure paper is awesome because it has the washed, worn feeling of denim with a subtle, metallic foil base that’s cool for a boy’s room. (Can we still say “cool” or is that outdated? Ha!) The denim look is virtually timeless too, so it will still be in style through the son’s college years. I mean, who is ever going to give up their blue jeans?

I call this lounge a show stopper. Photo by Michelle’s Interiors.

Consider Paintable Wallpaper

Have you ever heard of paintable wallpaper? It’s a great invention! This type of wallcovering gives you the option of adding texture and pattern to your walls in exactly the color you want. I created a chic, inviting lounge at the Hamptons Contemporary Home Design & Décor Show with this vibrant wallpaper painted in a high-gloss fuchsia. How yummy, and memorable.

The torn-paper installation of this wallcovering gives it a 3D vibe. Wallpaper and photo courtesy of Vahallan

Be Open to New Ideas

Not only do I love this hand-painted wallpaper, I’m crazy about the unusual torn-paper application! The cracked, textural installation is so free-form and sophisticated. You won’t see this everywhere you go. I can definitely see it in a powder room or a bar area.

Embrace color and make a statement. “Indian Sunflower” wallcovering and photo from www.designersguild.com

Go a Little Wild!

The sheer exuberance of this vivid wallpaper makes me feel happy! It’s a like a summer garden at the peak of the season, flowing down the walls. The white millwork and doors offset the color surge and keep the wallcovering front and center at the same time.

A children’s bedroom that’s fit for Texas cattle country. Wallpaper by Cowtan & Tout/Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

Give the Kids Something Special

Because this grandchildren’s bedroom is located in Texas, I wanted it to have a rustic, weathered look that feels like cattle country. This wallpaper ticks all the boxes with its faded-barn look paired with a bleached wood lamp and the buffalo check bedding. Ride ‘em, cowboys and cowgirls!

This hand-made “Lotus Garden” wallpaper will bring a burst of color and energy into your home. Wallcovering and photo by FS Schumacher

Embrace Color

This lively pattern from FS Schumacher was reimagined from a 1920s document in the company’s archives. They call it an ode to Japanese natural motifs. I call it colorful and energizing. It would make me feel like I’m on vacation every day, and that’s just the way I want my clients to feel in their homes.

How About You?

If you are ready for some home renovations, we can connect via email, phone, Zoom or in person.

I am so excited to share my newest project photos of a complete home renovation on Chicago’s North Shore! When these wonderful clients decided to move from the city into a 16-year-old home in Glenview, we began a multi-phased renovation of the entire five-bedroom,  4,300-square-foot home.  As young professionals with two children, they wanted a fresh take on traditional styling that reflects their lifestyle. This stately two-story residence is located on what I call a “fairy-tale lane” lined with majestic old trees.  Work kicked-off in 2019.

Like a fine automobile, the fit and finish of this completely reimagined master bathroom are impeccable.  All photos by www.studiow.com

Fresh Traditional Styling

Shouldn’t your bathroom make you feel like you are staying at your favorite resort? I think so! Every detail in this master bath is designed to provide that kind of experience, including a new, longer vanity from  BonafideCorp. It allows for his-and-hers task areas with sinks, mirrors, drawers and cabinets for husband and wife. The recessed panel cabinets have a clean-lined, timeless look that channels the new traditional styling these clients wanted throughout their home. I gave the the existing tub a sleek, luxurious look with large-scale tile panels in a pattern that balances the wall and floor tiles.

Ahhhhh. Symmetry is so zen.   

Best Placement for Sconces

Excellent task lighting is a must-have for makeup and shaving, so I placed sconces flanking the mirrors instead of above for better illumination. I framed the custom mirrors in a pewter finish that help define the his-and-hers task areas while adding a new material and sophistication to this space.  

I doubled the existing lighting and included a dimmer switch for relaxing, nighttime showers.

Go For a Resort-Like Experience

Boring showers are for high school gyms and summer camps. At home, our morning or evening showers should invigorate us at the start of the day and reward us after a hard day at work or a challenging workout. For these clients I selected a fixed rain shower head and a handheld shower head plus multiple body sprays, each individually controlled. The thermostatic control valve keeps the water temperature at any level my clients choose. Of course, the shower compartment should be as beautiful as it is functional. In this case, I surrounded the interior in tiles from floor to ceiling to create a seamless look. The color palette is quiet, but I dialed up the energy with hexagonal tiles in two different sizes from MidAmericaTile. The smaller floor tiles also ensure a more slip-free surface. Plus, the sleek stone slabs from TithofTile for the shower bench, the curb and other elements offset the grout lines within the shower.

A wall-to-wall master bedroom revival.

Textured, Tailored and Terrific

My clients wanted the bed to be the centerpiece of this room, so I chose a stately four-poster from Old Biscayne Designs but deleted the metal frame canopy. That modification simplifies the look and retains the open feeling of this lofty space. I love the image of the four posts reaching for the ceiling, like a sun salutation pose in yoga! The horizontal strie finish of the bed posts is designed to balance the height of the room and the window panels from Drapery Connection. To build on the new traditional styling, I chose a bench from Stanford with acrylic legs—so clean and fresh. Benches make a good catch-all for decorative pillows at night, and a handy perch for getting dressed in the morning. Every master bedroom should have a reading chair, too. Wouldn’t it be easy to doze off in this thickly cushioned lounge chair from www.kravet.com?

Subtle textures equal a refined look.

Keep It Subtle and Refined

The linen-like, grey finish of the side tables from Old Biscayne Designs and the horizontal strie finish of the four-poster bed add to the tailored look of this master bedroom.

Separate but equal closet.  Hers to the left; his to the right.

Stay Organized and Efficient

My clients often call me their organizational guru. I guess that’s part of my DNA as an interior designer. I just believe that a home cannot feel luxurious and relaxing if it is cluttered and messy. During the past 30-plus years as a designer, I have had a lot of practice creating custom closets that provide a place for everything.

As in the rest of the home, I opted for a grey and white color palette, including dove grey custom cabinetry from Bonafide Corp with long, easy-to-grab pulls from Shop Studio 41. The neutral color scheme suits the clients’ style and it doesn’t fight with the colors and patterns of their clothing. Notice that as part of my turn-key service, I organized their clothing by color and season. My clients appreciate the extra effort.

Bright closet lighting is important so you don’t end up at work with mismatched socks.

Two Fixtures = Balanced Lighting

Great lighting is important, too. The existing closet had only one fixture, so I doubled up in this phase of the whole-house renovation. The two new ceiling fixtures from Circa Lighting  radiate an even light that makes it easier to select the right ensemble. Dirty clothes need a home too, so I provided a custom dual,-purpose bench in the center with a seat for changing shoes and hide-away drawers for laundry. I call that multi-tasking cabinetry!

Managing your wardrobe is another key to organization. For each season, I recommend combing through your wardrobe and making some hard decisions about what to give away. Here are some of my rules of thumb for what to donate or throw away. Say goodbye if: 

  • You haven’t worn something for a year.
  • It hasn’t fit you for a year.
  • If a piece of clothing is uncomfortable, isn’t your style anymore or you don’t love it.
Thick cushions and gently arched arms make the wicker chairs exceptionally comfortable for lazy lounging

Take Your Indoor Style Outdoors

When I’m planning an outdoor space, I always take my clients’ indoor style outdoors. These clients wanted to incorporate an outdoor dining room and family room on their covered porch where they could spend time with their young children, extended family and friends. Though the basic color palette is the same grey and soft white from the interior, I punched it up with vivid blue accents that put everyone in a playful mood for outdoor fun. Eco-friendly options are a plus, including that plush, geometric rug from https://thedeloscompany.com/ in deep-sea blue and white. You won’t believe it is made from recycled plastic bottles. It is so soft and pretty it could be used indoors! Plus, I added wood tones to warm up the area, including the sustainable teak table and chairs and the sustainable wicker cocktail table, all from https://summerclassics.com/ .

A table for six means there’s always an extra seat for company

Luxurious and Sustainable

This teak dining set from Summer Classics  is made of renewable, recyclable, plantation-raised teak. It develops a beautiful patina, too. Next up: we plan to screen in the porch and add more lighting.

Are you ready to update your home? Contact me! 

  • When

    October 14, 2021

  • Where

    Independence Grove, 16400 W Buckley Rd., Libertyville, IL

  • Co-Hosts

    Orren Pickell Building Group

    Schmechtig Landscapes

October 14 Libertyville Event

Please join Michelle’s Interiors, Orren Pickell Building Group and Schmechtig Landscapes for a live event packed with ideas for creating the ultimate entertaining spaces.

Heavy hors d’oeuvres and cocktails will be served.

All participants will be eligible to win one of our exciting raffle prizes. You must be present to win.

Presenters Include:

Michelle Rohrer Lauer, Michelle's Interiors President, Presenting:

  • Exciting ideas for media/game rooms
  • New looks and materials for home bars
  • Tips for transforming lower levels

Eric Pickell, Orren Pickell Sales & Marketing Manager, Presenting:

  • Options for wet and dry bars
  • Wine cellars, feature walls, and tasting rooms
  • The ultimate lower level entertainment space

Michael Schmechtig, Schmechtig Landscapes President, Presenting:

  • Outdoor rooms: fireplaces/fire pits, kitchens, dining, pergolas
  • Landscape lighting
  • Eco-friendly properties: plant a Tree, upcycle items from your home for outdoor function, and go native with your landscaping

The seminar will be followed by a Q&A session, so bring your questions. See you soon!

Photos from the event:

It’s hard to describe how great it feels to win a fourth ASID-IL Design Excellence Award in four years. Let’s just say I’m walking on clouds! This year’s winner is a multi-purpose entertainment room which took First Place “Wild Card Residential Space.” I designed it for clients who live outside Dallas and love to entertain. Coincidentally, my next “50 Shades of Green” event, on Thurs., Oct. 14 in Libertyville, will focus on how to create the ultimate eco-friendly gathering spaces. Be sure to reserve a space for “Let’s Entertain!

The husband wanted the TV to span the wall from window to window. I told him “no, Ben! We have to see the fireplace surround!” Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

What They Wanted

Fun, fun fun! That was the primary goal for this multi-purpose entertainment room. My clients wanted me to pack as much enjoyment into this 486-square-foot space as possible without compromising aesthetics. With two grown children, four grandchildren and many friends, my clients imagined a party-like room where they can entertain in their luxurious-yet-Texas-casual style. On their wish list: four distinct areas including a media/conversation grouping, shown in the photo above, a bar, a game table space and a shuffleboard game. Plus, they wanted outstanding acoustics so that people at the bar can chat while others are watching the big game on TV or playing shuffleboard.

Seating for Seven in Media Room/Bar
The four swivel chairs fit virtually everyone because the seats pitch toward the back a little. The cushion supports your legs better for a comfortable “sit.” Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

How to Bring Down the Sound

To begin, I covered the walls in a velvet-like fabric that looks luxurious, creates an intimate feeling and significantly dampens down noise. The upholstered sofas and chairs provide more than comfortable seating—they absorb sound waves too, along with the rug and the fabric-covered bar back panels.

Fuzzy drappery panel fringe
Fuzzy window panels contribute texture and sound proofing. Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

Sound Advice for Choosing Window Panels

With their rich folds and wispy texture, these window panels add another acoustic element to the entertainment space. My clients tell me that when they are hosting large groups, with people talking at the bar, kibitzing over a card game and others watching sports, this space develops a festive buzz that isn’t overwhelming. Don’t you just want to reach out and touch that feathery fabric?  

So much texture! Velvet-like wall coverings, leather chairs, metal table and repurposed farm house flooring combine for a clubby, cozy vibe. Photo by Holger Obenaus

Tips for a Clubby, Cozy Vibe

Before construction on this spacious home began, my clients asked me to review and revise the architect’s blueprints. For this room, I reduced the proposed doorways from three to two because they broke up the space too much, and one of the doorways was dangerously close to the stairs leading down to the powder room. Eliminating one doorway also freed up more wall space for design. At the same time, I recommended pocket doors in place of the architect’s proposed French doors, which would have opened into the room, encroaching on the space. Finally, I relocated the fireplace from the wall between the two doorways to the window wall, improving traffic flow and design options. The result is a well laid-out, clubby and cozy space.

Remember the Details

Custom interior design is all about the details! Do you see the subtle shading in the wall fabric above and below? That shading creates an illusion of movement and provides a beautiful backdrop for artwork. The fabric also adds warmth. I think it’s the perfect environment for laughing and having a good time while watching the Oscars or the Super Bowl.

Remember that fabric walls need to be trimmed or they won’t look professionally finished. For this space, I outlined the top edge of all the fabric walls and around the edges of the door casings with a decorative flat trim called a “gimp” trim. Typically, fabric walls would be trimmed with rounded cording or piping, but I like the crisp, tailored look of the flat-backed gimp. Doesn’t it highlight the elegant curve of the ceiling?

The bar back cabinets have upholstered insets for texture and sound control. Photo by Brian Gassel Photo

Choose a Variety of Seating

With four bar chairs, four game table chairs, four swivel chairs by the TV and a three-person sofa, my clients can seat 15 people comfortably while four more are playing shuffleboard. I call that a party! Notice that the bar chairs are upholstered in two understated yet elegant fabrics. So sharp! Plus, I included a glass-fronted cabinet for stemware that is recessed so it doesn’t eat up any space.

Petrified wood on the bi-level bar top is an artsy, organic element for my clients, who love that sort of thing.

Include Eco-Friendly Elements

As a long-time nature lover and member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, eco-friendly options are a priority for my clients’ health and the health of the planet.

For this space I chose recyclable petrified wood for the bar top, fast-growing, sustainably harvested eucalyptus for the bar and reclaimed farm house wood for the floors. The support frames for the game table chairs, swivel chairs and the sofa are fabricated in the United States from renewable, bio-degradable maple that is sustainably harvested. I tell my clients it’s easy to be (eco-friendly) green! In fact, your home can be any shade of sustainable green you like. That’s the basis of my “50 Shades of Green” philosophy and my ongoing series of design events. Want to learn more? Just a reminder to sign up for my live event, “Let’s Entertain” Want to learn more? Check out photos of two of my earlier award-winning projects here:

  • When

    August 26, 2021

  • Where

    Horticultural Hall, 330 Broad St., Lake Geneva, WI

  • Co-Hosts

    Orren Pickell Building Group

    Sheldon Landscape/Schmechtig Landscapes

august 26 2021 lake geneva event

Please join Michelle’s Interiors, Orren Pickell Building Group and Sheldon Landscape/Schmechtig Landscapes for a live seminar packed with ideas for transforming your backyard into a luxurious, three-season get-away.

Executive Chef Pawel and his sous chef Jay from Wolf/Sub-Zero will prepare heavy hors d’oeuvres. Cocktails and dessert will also be served.

All participants will be eligible to win one of our exciting raffle prizes. You must be present to win.

Presenters Include:

Michelle Rohrer Lauer, Michelle's Interiors President, Presenting:

  • Ideas for stretching your backyard season from early spring to late fall
  • How to design a pergola with panache
  • The latest in outdoor furniture, fabrics and accessories

Tom Hackett & Anna Sorensen, Orren Pickell Sales Associates, Presenting:

  • Sustainable aluminum decking and fencing
  • Weatherproof outdoor cabinetry with the look and feel of real wood
  • “Disappearing” window screens

Michael Schmechtig, Schmechtig Landscapes President, Presenting:

  • Optimal landscape drainage
  • Soil and composting
  • Mapping the right plants in the right place
  • Material selections (hardscape and plant material)
  • Ideas for healthy plants and soil

The seminar will be followed by a Q&A session, so bring your questions. See you soon!

Photos from the event:

Not ready to renovate your whole house at once? You’re not alone. I often handle an extensive project like that in stages, such as this bachelor physician’s home in Highland Park, IL. After first updating the kitchen and master bath, we moved on to the great room, dining room, foyer, laundry room, guest bathroom and lower level. I love when a plan comes together! 

multi color glass chandelier in front entry
This chandelier does so much more than just provide illumination. All photos by Studio West Photography

Make Your Fixtures Work For You

I love to design gorgeous lighting. But most fixtures do more than look pretty and provide illumination. For this lofty foyer, I designed a multi-level, layered chandelier that can be seen from the outside as well as the great room, dining room and staircase. Notice that the highest pendants are positioned above the window? I did that to warm up and fill this lofty space. The mixture of rich amber, taupey-brown and clear globes are hand-blown in Israel and will never look dated.

staircase with metal and wood ballusters
The blend of wood and metal on the staircase results provides the right mix of traditional and modern.

Create a Statement Staircase

Because this staircase is front-and-center  in the heart of the home, I wanted it to be a star. By combining the same rich walnut of the flooring with black metal accents among the balusters, I provided a fabulous backdrop for the foyer, the great room and dining room. Walnut is my client’s favorite type of wood, and it is truly a classic. During the previous renovation phase, I chose walnut cabinetry and flooring throughout his kitchen, too.

stair runner made of wool
This all-wool stair runner is finished with a surged edge.

French Cap or Waterfall?

I opted for a French Cap installation of the stairway runner, which is consistent with the tailored, sophisticated look of my client’s home. Wrapping the carpet around the edge of the stair and tucking it under the lip defines the shape of the step and yields a crisp, finished look. This technique requires more time and skill than the waterfall method, in which the carpet drops straight down from the edge of the riser rather than being wrapped. But I think this method was worth it!

custom coffee table in wood and leather

Opt for Custom Detailing

Everyone from my vendors and installers to my clients and my team knows that I am a perfectionist when it comes to precision fit-and-finish! For the great room, I custom designed the fireplace and the built-in cabinetry, focusing on form as well as function. The fireplace features a vein-cut, Marone Toscano travertine surround in an exotic, linear pattern. I surrounded it with a beautifully carved walnut mantel with “legs,” stained a little deeper than the floor for contrast.

For the built-in cabinetry on the TV wall, I chose a darker stained wood and upholstered the doors in woven faux leather. Behind the tall upper doors on either side of the TV are open shelves. My client can slide the doors toward the middle to hide the TV when not in use and reveal the shelves.

Choose a Versatile Coffee Table

Don’t you love multi-tasking coffee tables like the one above? This particular model is one of my favorites because it can be custom-sized and upholstered for the space. You can put your feet up, perch on the edges, play a game, work a puzzle or serve appetizers and drinks on this roomy surface. Because it will get hard use, I upholstered it in easy-to-clean faux leather. The large shelf underneath is perfect for storing books and games, iPads and laptops. I anchored the space with a shearling rug that is not only super soft, but helps absorbs sound. Did you notice the sheers over the windows? They introduce a soft pattern that filters the sunlight but allows you to see the lovely backyard.

dining room with open staircase in background
Working with a client’s existing furniture is almost always a key component in every project.

Incorporate Existing Furniture

Working with my client’s handsome, decades-old dining table and chairs was a must-do for this project. I underscored the table with a new custom rug and added a glamorous chandelier of hand-blown glass from Italy. Have I mentioned that I love to work with statement lighting? Haha! Black accents are another one of my go-to techniques when I’m creating a traditional or modern design. In this home I added black metal spindles on the staircase, which reference the dining room furniture.

built in bar with antiqued mirrored tile backsplash
Antiqued tiles in a transitional home? It works if you do it right.

Include the Unexpected

Mirrored glass tiles with an antiqued finish are unexpected in a transitional home, but I updated the look by using large-scale rectangles. For consistency with the flooring, the stairway and the fireplace in the adjacent spaces, I chose walnut cabinets for the bar. I also selected the same travertine stone for the countertop that I used for the fireplace surround. By repeating certain elements in this open floor plan space, I created a cohesive design.

laundry room with white cabinetry
Located just off the garage, this laundry room turns a chore into a pleasure.

Make Laundry Duty More Fun

I’m not a huge fan of doing the laundry, but who wouldn’t enjoy working in this cheerful space? The beautiful door opens up the view to sunshine and greenery, which gives me a sense of being alive and connected to the outdoors. The Roman shade above the door can be completely lowered for privacy when needed, or raised to any height desired. The fresh white cabinetry and mosaic tile backsplash elevate the mood, as well. To eliminate the usual clutter of shoes and boots, I designated the floor-to-ceiling cabinet to the left of the sink for footwear storage. That’s handy when my client walks into the laundry room from the garage.

jack and jill bath
Jack and Jill never had it so good.

Aim for Understated Luxury

This Jack-and-Jill bathroom is luxurious yet clean-lined and understated. The millwork is handsome but not fussy. The floor tiles have a subtle shagreen pattern and the same taupey tone of the shower walls, which blends the surfaces together.

custom closet with off white cabinetry and glass doors
Getting dressed in the morning is a breeze if your closet is organized.

Organize Your Closet

If you want to save precious minutes when you’re getting dressed in the morning, a custom, organized closet is the answer. My clients love when I design closet space that’s tailored for their wardrobe. For this client I included individual compartments that separate dress shirts from casual. The glass-doored cubbies keep shoes, hats, scarves and wallets dust-free while locked drawers accommodate personal items. Adequate lighting is important, too. With this chandelier, my client will never show up at work with one black and one navy sock, and it looks classy, too!

dark wood vanity with multi-colored tile backsplash in orange and rust tones
This urban/modern/rustic bath is just right for my client’s lower-level hangout.

Personalize Your Retreat

The term “man cave” has been so over-used; let’s just call my client’s lower level hangout Camp Richard. This spacious area features his workout room, arcade games, media area, bar, hobby space and of course, the masculine bathroom pictured above. The vibe is equal parts urban, modern and rustic in shades of brown and black with glints of polished nickel in the hardware. It’s ideally situated for a post-workout shower.

How About You?

If you are ready for some home renovations, we can connect via email, phone, Zoom or in person.

  • When

    July 22, 2021

  • Where

    Kelmscott Park Apartments, 145 Morris Lane, Lake Forest

  • Co-Host

    Orren Pickell Building Group

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Michelle’s Interiors and Orren Pickell Building Group invite you to a live seminar filled with ideas for transforming your backyard into a luxurious, three-season get-away.

Heavy hors d’oeuvres and drinks will be served. RSVP required.

All participants will be eligible to win one of our exciting raffle prizes. You must be present to win.

Presenters Include:

Interior Designer Michelle Rohrer Lauer Presenting:

  • Ideas for stretching your backyard season from early spring to late fall
  • How to design a pergola with panache
  • The latest in outdoor furniture, fabrics and accessories

Eric Pickell, Sales and Marketing Manager, and Tom Hackett, Sales Associate Presenting:

  • Sustainable aluminum decking and fencing
  • Weatherproof outdoor cabinetry with the look and feel of real wood
  • “Disappearing” window screens

The seminar will be followed by a Q&A session, so bring your questions. See you soon!

Photos from the event:

Isn’t it tough to take care of yourself? After a hard day at work, sometimes all I want is a quiet room at home away from everything so I can just sit and unwind or enjoy a private massage without heading out the door again.  That’s the beauty of an at-home wellness room. It’s always there.

Neutral colors and organic materials are a natural for a wellness room. 

Make It Your Own

Wellness rooms mean something different to each of us, but they are almost always multi-purpose spaces.  I always start this project by asking how my clients want to use their wellness room. Will it be a combination exercise/reading/meditation space? Do you want it to accommodate friends for an end-of-week chat and glass of wine or just you and your partner for some private time? Maybe you want to incorporate a sauna or a massage table. It’s up to you.  I can create whatever you want. Here are some earlier ideas I gathered for home gyms: Pumping Up Your Home Gym

Imagine greeting the sun each morning on this three-seasons “wellness porch.” Photo courtesy of www.kravet.com

Take Wellness Outside!

I love the idea of having an outdoor or semi-outdoor wellness space such as this screened-in porch or a pergola. In fact, I will be sharing my ideas about that and much more at my next “50 Shades of Green” eco-friendly design event on Thursday, July 22 with Orren Pickell Building Group.  I will be offering tips on how to create a luxurious backyard that will stretch your outdoor season from early spring to late fall, as well as discussing options such as a “wellness pergola,” complete with privacy drapes, cushy pillows, yoga mats, lounge chairs or whatever fits your outdoor spirit!

Don’t you love those big, plump pillows above? The colors are so organic and spa-like. I’m crazy about plants for indoor and outdoor wellness rooms, too. Healthline says that plants have been shown to help reduce stress and improve our outlook. Go green!

Treat Yourself to Zero Gravity

Wouldn’t it be cool to experience zero gravity in your wellness room? The Perfect Chair PC-610 zero gravity recliner from Human Touch  may be the next best thing to a trip into space! No, it isn’t really zero gravity, but it’s designed to distribute your weight so comfortably that you won’t feel any pressure points. The unusual reclining position, which positions your legs higher than your heart, was inspired by the “zero gravity” or neutral position used by NASA to support astronauts during their launch into space, according to Human Touch. Sounds ideal to me for chilling out in your home wellness room. This high-tech recliner is made with hand-carved walnut and upholstered in supple leather. It has a combination of memory foam and a proprietary fluid-cell seat cushion that distributes your body weight across the entire seating surface. Plus it offers heat therapy. I’m thinking that my husband and I might buy one for each other to celebrate our anniversary this year!

There’s an eco-friendly element, too. As a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, I am thrilled that the chair frame is hand-built from solid, sustainably harvested parawood from plantation-raised rubber trees. That’s not only good for our environment, but the wood has a dense grain that is strong and  durable. Plus, many indigenous people depend on forestry jobs on rubber tree plantations to support their families. That a win-win-win!

Enjoy the feeling of weightlessness every day with a Perfect Chair PC-610, zero-gravity recliner from  Human Touch.

Turn Up the Heat

No more steam or “hot rocks.” Infrared saunas are all the buzz for promoting relaxation, particularly because they operate at a lower temperature – between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit compared to a traditional sauna, which is between 150 and 180 degrees. Wouldn’t that be great after a tough day,  an intense work out or a round of golf? I can just feel my mind, muscles and joints relaxing. Ahhhhh….

Imagine being able to enjoy this Jacuzzi® infrared sauna in your home wellness room. The Clearlight Sanctuary fits into a corner and can accommodate you and three friends.

Consider a Salt Room

A salt room would be a fabulous experience in the privacy of your home. I can personally rave about the experience. Some of girlfriends and I visited a salt room spa and we enjoyed it so much that we went back for another visit!  We all felt really great afterwards. There were salt walls, salt lamps and a thick layer of granulated salt on the floor, like sand. I laid on the floor and covered myself in salt. Ahh!  All of us said our skin felt amazing afterwards.  It was like having a luxurious spa skin treatment, and we were all dreaming about having our own salt rooms at home for private relaxation or fun get-togethers with each other. Check out that back-lighting in the photo above, but at home, we could do cove lighting and salt lamps, too. See below.

If you don’t live near the ocean, try a salt room. Photo courtesy of www.touchamerica.com

Add a Salt Lamp

Salt lamps are basically a light bulb placed inside a large chunk of salt, often pink Himalayan salt. The salt from that area is reported to be millions of years old and some people say it provides health benefits, though that hasn’t been proven so far. I like these lamps because they look organic and cast a pretty pink light in a room! 

Himalayan salt lamps provide pretty pink lighting. Photo courtesy of Urban Outfitters

Choose Eco-Friendly Cork Flooring

Here is another way to make your home wellness room eco-friendly. Cork flooring is not only durable and attractive, it is a sustainable, renewable, biodegradable resource. That makes me happy.

Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak, but the trees are not harmed during that process. Some cork forests have been harvested for a thousand years. I think that’s amazing! Cork is good for us, too. It is naturally hypo-allergenic, anti-microbial and anti-fungal. It feels warm underfoot because of its high insulation factor and it only needs routine damp-mopping with water. All of that makes cork a great choice for a wellness room floor. Duro-Design manufactures this flooring in 88 colors and six patterns, which gives us a lot to work with.

Cork is a multi-purpose flooring for a multi-purpose room. Photo courtesy of Duro Design

Incorporate Nature

If a few potted plants can improve your mental and physical health, why not a wall of plants? No, you don’t have to go full-wall. Smaller wall panels like this one, above, can be very effective. I’m a big fan succulents. They are low-maintenance and come in an amazing assortment of colors, shapes and sizes. Note to self: aloe and snake plants are especially good at removing toxins and humidifying the air, which is so appropriate for a wellness room!

Why not a wall of plants? Photo courtesy of Phillips Interior Plants

Stimulate Your Senses

A great wellness room should appeal to all of your senses, including your sense of smell. Scatter around a few candles and you will not only be surrounded by a relaxing scent, but warm, twinkling lights as well. It’s a two-fer! Keep some healthy snacks and cold beverages on hand in a mini-fridge too, to satisfy your sense of taste. Water is often the best thirst-quencher, but I like a bottle of wine in my mini-fridge too for evenings in the wellness room with my girlfriends, my husband or just myself.  Check out the spa-blue, retro option from SMEG below and the under-counter version from Subzero-Wolf.

Don’t forget your sense of smell when you’re planning a wellness room. Photo courtesy of Jo Malone
This retro-style, pastel blue fridge from SMEG is an unexpected but practical choice for a wellness room. Smaller than a full-sized kitchen fridge, it is larger than a mini-fridge so it can accommodate a variety of beverages and healthy snacks.  
Tuck this handy mini-fridge under a counter and you’ll be well-stocked for relaxing hours in you wellness room.  Photo courtesy of Subzero-Wolf

How about You?

If you’re ready to add a wellness room to your home, we can connect via email, phone, video call or in person.

How to Brighten Up an Urban Condo

Neutrals are still hot for home interiors, and always will be, but some of my clients are crazy about color, and so am I! Dialing up the color can make your home cheerful, exciting, energizing – choose any mood you like!  You don’t have to go full-rainbow to achieve your goals, though I wouldn’t object! Don’t you love the range of colors in the Chicago condo below, left? For a unified look, I pulled the reds, oranges and blues from the Viz Art Glass wall installation into the accessories.

Not only do these clients love color, they enjoy unusual, whimsical art and furnishings. They wanted a fun-loving space for this pied-a-terre in the city where they escape for kicked-back weekends with the married kids and grandkids.  Of course, you don’t have to introduce color in every room. My clients who love color often want a space or two that are more understated and relaxing.     

Outside the view is all steel, concrete and glass. Inside, it’s a festival of color. Photo by Studio West Photography
Bright colors invite everyone to step inside and put their feet up on the orange tufted poufs from CAI Designs.  Photo by Studio West Photography.

Make Color Changes Easy

Big, pumpkin orange ottomans might be a little scary for some, but aren’t they great in the study above? I love bringing something unexpected to a project! The color palette is drawn from the piece of art, which makes the orange and blue furniture feel right at home. For the custom pillows from Style Library, I combined the colors of the artwork.

A few neutral pieces – the side tables, lamps, rug and window treatments balance the energy in the room, and so does the wall color.

Do you like to update your palette periodically? In this room it’s easy. Start with a new piece of art and reupholster the ottomans and the throw pillows. Everything else can stay the same.

Match the Colors to the Space

Because this powder room is located near my client’s outdoor pool, I recommended a plunge into free-wheeling color and pattern. Isn’t this playful? Believe it or not, this accent wall is a custom glass mosaic tile installation from Artistic Tile with thousands of individual pieces. I’m glad I wasn’t the one who had to install it. Ha! The red vanity anchors the space while the white countertop and onyx sink from Stone Forest  provide contrast. Powder rooms are a great place to let your imagination run wild. They tend to be small and much less used than kitchens, bedrooms or full baths.

This powder room is a better eye-opener than a double espresso! Photo by Brian Gassel.

Why a Purple Dining Room?

I always think of purple as combining the calming quality of blue with the bold energy of red. That may sound like a mixed message, but to me it seems like the right one for a dining room. We want our guests to be relaxed yet excited about the food and beverages we serve and the conversation we inspire. For extra interest, I mixed fabrics to highlight the head chairs and to introduce a geometric pattern that plays into the strength of purple. Imagine the lively discussions you might have with guests around this table! Click to see more of this spectacular colorful dining room.

What does purple say to you? Photo by Studio West.

Tips for Warming Up a High-Rise Condo

These wonderful clients love the colors and patterns of their modern tribal condo in Chicago. The oranges and reds warm up this great room, which overlooks urban high rises. The embroidered, geometric window treatments were the jumping off point for the color palette of the art and accessories throughout the room.  My clients’ gracious lifestyle and open-door policy to friends and family were the jumping-off point for the welcoming vibe that permeates my clients’ second home.

Photo by Studio West Photography

Why Dial Down Color for Master Bedroom?

Of course, you can always choose bright colors for your master bedroom, but most of my clients want a more subdued, calming palette when they’re getting ready to sleep or just opening their eyes in the morning. But that doesn’t mean you have to stick to neutrals. These regal blue window panels supply floor to ceiling color without making a lot of “noise.”

Midnight blue, printed sheers from Schumacher set just the right mood for this master bedroom suite, furnished with Kravet  lounge chairs and ottoman. Photo by Brian Gassel.

Color Your Home Office with Personality

Don’t the colors and patterns of this home office tell you something about the occupant? You might guess a vivacious, fun-loving female who is laid-back but also a bit of a risk-taker. You would be right! Not everyone would be willing to combine multi-colored polka dots with red and white plaid and an ottoman wrapped in red balloons. This palette blends beautifully with the rest of her home, where I chose the client’s favorite reds to accent many rooms. Notice how I balanced all that color and pattern with the understated second fabric on the wings and arms of the chairs? It’s important not to overdue a good thing.   

 I always encourage my clients to let their personalities shine in their home offices. You will feel better about going to work every day, and that will make you more productive. Check out more of my ideas for home ideas in one of my earlier blogs,  Optimizing Your Home Office.

Home offices don’t have to be buttoned-down and boring. Check out these chairs from Charles Stewart Company. Photo by Brian Gassel.

Are You Getting Excited About Color at Home?

I would love to chat with you about how to dial up the color in your home. If you’re ready, we can connect via email, phone, video call or in-person meeting. 

  • When

    April 8, 2021

  • Where


  • Co-Hosts

    Scott Simpson Design + Build


April 8 2021 event cover

Join Scott Simpson Design + Build, Chalet, and Michelle’s Interiors virtually for ideas to transform your backyard into a fabulous, sustainable, and eco-friendly get-away.

In addition to the webinar, all participants are eligible to win one of our exciting raffle prizes. The raffle, which will be announced at the end of the webinar crypto news, includes a grand prize dinner for three couples at Sub-Zero’s showroom with a personal chef and gifts from each of the presenters. You must be present to win.

Other prizes include:
+ Signature planter from Chalet
+ Rechargeable outdoor designer lamp
+ 6 Revolution Workshop coasters, 3 bottles of wine from Vinic in Evanston, and 2 custom Yeti wine tumblers

“50 Shades of Green” is all about sustainability where even small changes make a big difference.

Presenters Include:

Scott Simpson, Scott Simpson Design + Build Partner, Presenting:

  • Deconstruction, recycling, using reclaimed materials
  • Sealing the building “envelope” – windows, doors, insulation, air quality
  • Daylighting – using siting and windows to use less energy
  • Outside In/Inside out – maximizing views inside and family spaces outside

Eric Braun, Director of Design and Darren Leonardi, Landscape Services Director, Chalet, Presenting:

  • Permeable hardscape options and strategies
  • Water conservation strategies in the landscape
  • Plant materials
  • Drainage
  • Lawn alternatives

Michelle Rohrer Lauer, Michelle's Interiors President, Presenting:

  • Getting to know you and your style
  • Designing spaces just for you with an eye on sustainability—furniture, fabrics, accessories and appliances

The seminar will be followed by a Q&A session, so bring your questions. See you soon!

View the Presentation

Ready to get outside? Me too! Temperatures are warmer and the sandhill cranes are returning from their winter quarters—clear signs that it’s time to plan for luxurious outdoor living. To get started, I have gathered a dozen simply fabulous pieces for your backyard. This is kind of like my must-haves for the 12 Days of Christmas only warmer! In this case, unique design, outdoor durability and comfort were top priorities; sustainability was a bonus. I’m not only getting ready for the outdoor season, I’m preparing for my next 50 Shades of Green event on Thurs., April 8. Watch my Facebook page for upcoming details about how to register.  I have invited Chalet Nursery in Wilmette and Scott Simpson of Scott Simpson Design+Build to join me for an afternoon full of ideas for your backyard. Just remember, 50 Shades of Green means you don’t have to go 100 percent eco-conscious. Small steps can lead to big changes. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the ideas you can see during the event, but we will be presenting much more!  

You won’t find a setting this beautiful at a restaurant! Photo courtesy of Summer Classics.

Look for Eco-Friendly AND Luxurious when Creating a Designer Backyard

When I talk about eco-friendly AND luxurious furnishings, this is what I mean! The table and chairs from Summer Classics above have laid-back, classic styling and are fabricated of sustainable aluminum. Did you know that aluminum is infinitely recyclable and highly durable? Nearly 75 percent of all aluminum ever produced is still in use today. That’s great to know when choosing outdoor furniture. Plus, these pieces are meant to last and last, so they can be passed along to someone else with just a change of cushion. Furniture is not disposable!

Picture This in Your Yard

Think about this Iluze sofa from Stone Yard “floating” in the middle of your yard, or by the pool, or in a cabana. The word “iluze” means illusion in Czech, but that pattern is the real thing. It is carved into the piece on three sides, so it looks great from all angles. And what about that grassy green color against the white? I can just picture it with a lush backdrop of colorful flowers, bushes, trees and turf.  

Right: Durable and long-lasting, this sofa is made of glass fiber-reinforced concrete with a Fiberstone finish. Photo Courtesy of Stone Yard.

Be Bold!

Everyone from toddlers to great-grandparents will be talking about this piece if you put it in your yard. With its deeply carved texture and fire engine red color, this table is as much a sculpture as a place to set your iced tea or umbrella drink. Plus, it would be gorgeous against a bed of mixed flowers with splashes of scarlet New Guinea impatiens or Red Dragon hibiscus.

Left: Wow! I love vendors who aren’t afraid of color. Photo Courtesy of Stone Yard.

“Arms Outstretched” sculpture and photo from Phillips Collection.

Designer Backyards Use Accessories

Outdoor spaces give us a lot more room to stretch out, so to speak. It’s easy to accommodate a sizable sculpture like this one from Phillips Collection, at 55 inches wide x 18 inches deep x 40 inches high. I love the timeless, fine art look, and that edgy quality. As a bonus, the piece is made of recycled scraps of aluminum, which are equally recyclable. The award-winning artist and sculptor, Timbul Raharjo, lives in the village of Kasongan in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. What a great story to tell your family and friends! Phillips is one of my go-to vendors for sustainable pieces. Like me, the company is a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council. Now check out their crazy bench, below!

“Colossal Cast Stone Sculpture with Seat” and photo from  Phillips Collection.

Yes, it’s really a bench, and it lives up to its “Colossal” name at 99 inches wide x 40 inches deep x 78 inches high. That’s a big piece, and so awesome. The rugged, organic texture is just right for outdoors. This piece is made of durable resin, which is not recyclable, but the company minimized the impact on the environment by adding a natural stone finish that comprises half of the piece.

Recyclable and Really Cool

During this massive shopping spree I discovered that one of my most valuable vendors has just launched its first indoor-outdoor fabric collection. Kravet’s “Vista” collection is durable, cleanable, feel luxuriously supple and is 100 percent recyclable. Those words are music to my eco-loving, designer ears! Kravet is another member of SFC, and the company works hard to maintain sustainable manufacturing processes. These outdoor yarns require almost no water to produce, and they absorb color beautifully. The palette is so crisp and refreshing, it will make us feel cool comfortable during the sunny days of summer.

Kravet’s  first-ever indoor/outdoor fabric collection.
The mix of textures and patterns in these new, outdoor fabrics allows me to create a chic setting outdoors or indoors. Photo and fabrics by Kravet.

Take a Peek at Teak

Yes, the teak used for this fireside vignette is shipped from Southeast Asia, but it is sustainably raised on plantations, conserving our valuable forests and providing jobs. I was amazed to learn that more than 25 percent of the world’s people – nearly 1.6 billion – rely on forest resources for their livelihoods! Check that out and more in my blog about Choosing Eco-Friendly Wood. Because of its high oil and rubber content, teak is naturally weather resistant and because it is slow growing, it is very durable. After all, they make ships out of teak! Of course, I love it because the organic look is perfect for outdoors.

Sustainably grown and harvested teak adds a shade of eco-green to this fireplace setting. Photo courtesy of Summer Classics.
For clients in the Chicago area, I selected this teak dining set from Summer Classics. The clean lines and light-colored wood have a relaxed, Scandinavian vibe that reminds me of the lazy days of summer. Photo by Studio West Photography.

Extend Your Outdoor Season

If you love the outdoors like I do, you’ll want one of these heated and lighted umbrellas from Tuuci. With technology like this, I can start the season early and end later. Isn’t that a cozy scene?

Let there be heat AND light. Photo and parasol by Tuuci.

Think Aluminum

The groovy waves of this outdoor cocktail table caught my eye first, and the recyclable aluminum sealed the deal. I’m crazy about this piece! Metals add interest and new texture to an outdoor setting, and they really shine in the sunlight.

Feelin’ groovy. Aluminum cocktail table and photo by Phillips Collection.

Choose Outdoor Rugs for an Indoor Look

Such a regal look! But these sitting area furnishings would be at home in more understated settings too, including that exciting new “All Season” rug from The Delos Company. Can you tell that it is woven from yarns made from recycled water bottles? According to Forbes and Scientific American, it is estimated that one square yard of carpet keeps 50, two-liter water bottles out of landfills. That’s good for the planet, and it is durable, stain-resistant and retains its color. From a design standpoint, outdoor rugs have the same attributes as indoor rugs—they help define a space while contributing texture and color. Delos also offers rugs made from recycled fish nets recovered from the ocean. That’s something to talk about as you contemplate a dip in the pool!

Outdoor carpets give an indoor look to your backyard living spaces. Photo and outdoor rug by The Delos Company.

Are you ready to get outside? We’d love to work with you!

PS: Be sure to check out the blog I did last year about Designing Your Dream Backyard too.

I’m not kidding—I love to design children’s bedrooms! It isn’t just about the décor. I enjoy discussing the projects with the young ones themselves—if they’re not too little—so I can incorporate their personalities and interests into these very personal spaces.  I have a lot of experience in this area.

My first business venture was a children’s furniture boutique called the Stork Room, which I co-owned for 11 years. I have also co-authored two books on children’s bedrooms, Kidspace and Kids’ Rooms and worked on dozens of children’s bedrooms through Michelle’s Interiors. Plus, I have decorated my own sons’ rooms.

Channeling the Lone Star State

More than ever, my clients who are grandparents want a designated bedroom for the grandkids to make them feel at home during overnighters. For these Texas clients, I channeled a bit of rustic cattle country with faux, weathered-wood wallcovering from Cowtan and Tout and a bleached wood lamp. Color is almost always a big factor in the kids’ rooms I design. The ruby-red headboards on these custom, full-size beds echo the red accents I scattered throughout the home. Don’t they just jump off the walls? Of course, layers of pillows are a must for pillow fights, but the round pillows are my favorites. Imagine the fun the kids are having with those! 

twin beds with red headboard and black and white plaid bedspread
Playful Texas influence makes this bedroom special for visiting grandchildren. Photo by Brian Gassel Photography.

Splurging on the Grandkids

As a grandmother myself (the kids call me Gigi), I understand the urge to splurge on the grandkids! For the bedroom above, my clients couldn’t resist going a little overboard with a playful “confetti” dresser from Mike Bell.  The old pine chest has a flat, ivory-rubbed finish and is sprinkled with handmade, colored wedges of glass that are flushed into the wood.  I’m a stickler for including an inviting chair and reading lamp in kids’ rooms so the youngsters can curl up with a good book. This faux fur swivel chair is pretty much irresistible, don’t you think?  

white furry chair in child bedroom
Kids appreciate color and texture, even though they might not realize it.  Photo by Brian Gassel.

Closet Conversion

Even in a home as large as the one above, it’s important to make the most of the space you have. I turned this unused closet into a sweet, gender-neutral nursery for a visiting grandbaby. Multi-colored, horizontally-striped wall covering from Romo makes the space look larger, and works for boys or girls. Just change out the accessories and you’re good to go for Amelia or Ethan.  

a nursery inside a closet
A nursery in a closet? Yes, it works!  Photo by Brian Gassel.

Give the Girl What She Wants

This much pink would be a bit crazy for a grown woman, but the two little girls who occupy this room thought it was just right. Their parents gave them a lot of leeway for their own space, which I totally endorse. I’m not a fan of bland bedrooms that kids can “grow into.” Let them enjoy being kids, and let yourselves enjoy them at this stage, with their ruffles and bows and gauzy materials.

A day bed with a huge drawer is a fabulous piece for a child’s bedroom. It provides storage, a place to stretch out and read or do homework, and a spare bed for sleepovers with a friend. Kids love feeling cozy, so I added tie-back panels that can be pulled together for a sense of privacy.  

pink bedroom with crown top
Little girls still love layers of pink. Photo by Studio West Photography.
built-in daybed with trundle and colorful area rug
Polka dots meet butterflies in this exuberant girls’ bedroom. Photo by Studio West Photography.

Minimizing Clutter

Who couldn’t use more storage in their lives? I loaded up this bedroom with open shelves and a bed with built-in storage below. There’s a place for everything, if only she will put it in its place! Age-appropriate accessories make a difference, too. The playful, oversized punctuation marks on the headboard hint at the student who lives here.

multi-color child's bedroom with lots of built-in storage
Great design is lost without proper storage to corral the clutter. Photo by Studio West Photography.

Optimizing Space for Two

Bunk beds are practical and a bit adventurous.  They provide two beds in the space of one, and they always remind me of a tree house, because the ladder takes you to the upper-most perch.  The bright colors, glamorous chandelier and bold patterns give this room a fairy-tale vibe that’s perfect for a pair of princesses.

white bunkbeds in colorful child's bedroom
Two sisters share this color-drenched room. Photo by Studio West Photography.

Don’t Forget the Fifth Wall

Have you heard about the fifth wall? In design, we call the ceiling the fifth wall because it is an important part of a complete plan. In this case, I painted the fifth wall purple to connect the dots between the window treatments and ceiling, and to accent the ceiling’s crisp angles.    

Colorful bedroom with blue walls and pink ceiling
The pair of ottomans can be pulled out when human friends visit, and then tucked into the corner for stuffed friends. Photo by Studio West Photography.

Ruffing it Up

Yes, blue is a classic color for boys, but I like to mix it up with a Crayon box full of accent shades. Notice that there are even pink pooches on the sheets? Why not? The result is playful and unrestrained, just like a new puppy or a young boy. Of course, practicality always plays a role in children’s rooms. A reading chair and study desk are must-haves for the young scholar.

buys bedroom with lots of color
Little boys, puppies and shades of blue are a classic combo. Photo by Studio West Photography.

Updating for Tweens and Teens

As the kids grow, their bedroom needs to mature with them. This young lady was ready for more sophisticated colors, patterns and textures. I mixed low-key greys with a luscious mix of purple and pink that’s not too young or too old. The wing-back headboard is a more grown-up way to give a young adult a sense of privacy. Of course, a plush rug is very cozy for bare feet!

tween bedroom with pink and purple striped bedding
Striking the right tone for young adults is the next step. Photo by Studio West Photography.

Personality Plus

It was a pleasure to have so much space to work with in this young lady’s bedroom. Her “art studio” is located opposite the bed in the photo above. I gave it a whimsical touch with the cupped hands table and oversized easel placed perfectly to catch the best light of the day. The custom storage conceals not only art supplies but clothing. The drawers below the comfy window seat are big enough to hold extra blankets in the off-season, too.

sophisticated child bedroom for art lover
Artsy and functional, this space accomplishes a lot. Photo by Studio West Photography.

Are you welcoming a new baby or grandchild this year, or is it time to update the kids’ bedrooms?

Let’s talk! My youngest clients are some of my biggest fans!

There’s no question that the year 2020 was a challenging and often crazy ride for all of us – some more than others.  Life gave us the wild ups and downs that we couldn’t experience at the amusement parks.  But amidst everything we faced, one thing became clear to me: the concept of home has been transformed for the long term.

What Has Changed?

  • Exterior spaces have grown increasingly important as cabin fever spiked. Demand is up for more elaborate patios and decks with all the amenities.
  • The thirst for pools has soared.
  • The notion of the kitchen as the heart of the home has been underscored.
  • Private study/work spaces are increasingly important.  The kitchen island can’t accommodate Mom and Dad working while the kids do at-home learning.
  • Home gyms became a must-have.
  • Awareness of indoor air quality has expanded.
Entertainment spaces became more important in 2020 as we hunkered down at home. Photo by Brain Gassel

Creating That Vacation Vibe

My primary take-away from 2020 is this: our families have always been important to us, but through the past year we have learned how important the home is for our family. Mixing work, learning and leisure within our own four walls at a greater-than-ever level has reinforced my long-standing philosophy that our homes should truly be our everyday retreat – our private vacation destination.  They should be the place where we feel our best, where we can relax and revive. During the past year I have observed an increased awareness of this concept as we all spent more time cocooning. Yes, it’s important to have those fabulous trips to far-away places, but it’s more important to our well-being to create that vacation feeling where we spend most of our time.

Bright Lights Amid the Gloom

Like so many people, I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other. Despite all the dark moments of 2020. there were many bright lights for Michelle’s Interiors.  I won several awards, including my third design award in three years from the American Society of Interior Designers/Illinois. I also was thrilled to win “Designer of the Year” from the Interior Design Society and Sustainable Furnishings Council and an “Innovation in Business Award” from the Daily Herald’s Business Ledger.  

Among my speaking engagements, it was an honor and a pleasure to be chosen also as one of several Chicago-area “design icons” to talk about our careers in design during the annual PowerhouseSMART Luxury Convention last year. I will be speaking at that event again this year. And it was a special pleasure to be interviewed by Green Building & Design Magazine for an article on sustainable interior design tips.

Moving Projects Forward, Safely

During 2020 and continuing into 2021, Michelle’s Interiors has been able to move projects forward and launch new projects for clients while adhering to OSHA’s COVID-19 workforce guidelines.  I will continue to do so for as long as necessary.  Masks, zip-wall dividers, social distancing, virtual meetings and other precautions help keep us all safe.

Welcoming New Team Members

I was very happy to welcome two talented and very experienced new members to my team in 2020. Interior designer Kerry Panko brings more than 28 years’ experience in various disciplines to Michelle’s Interiors. She has worked in residential, model home/merchandising and hospitality design, including Hilton properties and independently owned hotels. Kerry has lived in the Chicago area for 22 years.

A native of the Chicago area, Office|Procurement Manager Allison McDonald has a business degree from Miami University and 25 years’ experience in project management and office administration.  For many years, she managed Fortune 500 clients and she and her husband still run a restaurant.

Kerry Panko
Allison McDonald

What’s Ahead?

I am looking forward to a busy, rewarding year in 2021, how about you? One of my primary tasks will be guiding clients as they figure out how they are going to live in their homes post-COVID.  Here are four of my predictions:

  • Some people who were forced to work home from will continue to do so; others will divide their time between home and their remote office.
  • The open-concept floor plan will give way to much-needed private spaces.
  • Demand for multi-purpose spaces will grow.
  • Though the kitchen has always been the heart of the home, it will become even more important.
  • Client awareness of indoor air quality will continue to grow along with the demand for eco-friendly furnishings.

Focusing on “50 Shades of Green”

During the past two years I have written and spoken frequently about my passion for sustainable design, and I’m never stopping!  I am more committed than ever to creating healthier homes and communities world-wide by connecting my clients to sensible, eco-friendly interior design solutions. I call my philosophy “50 Shades of Green” because I believe that we don’t have to be 100 percent eco-friendly “green” at home to make a difference in our lives. Each small step can make a difference in our health and the health of our planet. I think of it as a life insurance policy for the future. It is my way of giving back. 

Let’s Chat!

Above all, I have a great deal of hope and optimism for 2021. My team and I would love to work with you in 2021. Let’s start making new memories!

On the First Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me, a handcrafted “Verdi” chandelier from Hammerton.  The off-balance blend of organic and geometric  design calls out to my artistic and mathematical natures. The branches are made of polished, hand-hewn steel and fitted with LED-lit, cast glass buds. At 78 inches, it manages to look graceful yet substantial.

Sometimes a bit of asymmetry is just what a room needs. Photo courtesy of Hammerton.

On the Second Day of Christmas…

My true gave to me, brass Regulator faucets inspired by industrial controls from the early 1900s, by Waterworks. Isn’t it amazing how something so rugged can be so beautiful? The fit and finish and detailing of this faucet is a tribute to that early 20th century vibe, when craftsman took tremendous pride in their work.

waterworks regulator faucet in brass
The casted brass mixing valve in the center regulates temperature while the solid brass wheel handles control volume. Photo by Jaimie Baird.
waterworks regulator faucet and industrial pendant lights
I like the pairing of industrial-esque lighting with these faucets.  Photo by Jamie Baird.

On the Third Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me, this Victoria and Albert Cabrits tub via Banner. The tuxedo-like matte black and white finish, and the sleek, modern- art styling make it a glamorous centerpiece.

Calbrits tub by Victoria and Albert
Just add hot water and relax. Photo courtesy of Banner Plumbing.

On the Fourth Day of Christmas….

My true gave to me, this stunning, eco-friendly wallcovering by Omexco via Romo. Yes, the colors are wonderful, and how about that texture? It comes from natural bak bak, which is the dried outer part of the bark of the abaca plant, a species of banana from Borneo. The material is dried, colored, laminated onto a backing, cut into strips and woven on looms. So unique, and sustainable!

Omexco is known for using unusual, sustainable materials in its line of natural, hand-made wallcoverings. That is so appealing to me! Among their materials, they harvest not only the bak bak, but coconut bark, rattan, bacnoc, water lily and capiz, which is the shell of sustainable windowpane oysters.

omexco wall covering in blue and brown
Each strip of material is hand woven into a stunning pattern. Photo courtesy of Omexco.
While the blue colorway above evokes the ocean, this earthy palette is more reminiscent of the jungle. Photo courtesy of Omexco.

On the Fifth Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me, a pair of “Sugar Bomb” sconces made of quartz crystal and obsidian brass by Christopher Boots via Jean de Merry.  How sweet is that? Warm light radiates through the cracks and crevices in these uncut crystals, magnifying their natural beauty. I have been imagining these in a glamorous powder room, but they would work in so many places!

Christopher Boot sugar bomb sconce
Like giant sugar crystals, these sconces are “the bomb.” Photo courtesy of Christopher Boots.

On the Sixth Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me, a Fontana dining room table fabricated of glass and metal by Abner Henry. Love that “gold rush” glimmer and matte black finishes! This is the kind of design that makes me stop and linger for a while. The glass topper is perfect because it doesn’t hide any of the impeccable styling and design of the three-part base, which is the focal point of the piece. 

Abner Henry is one of my go-to vendors not only for its innovative design and quality workmanship. Every piece of their furniture is crafted in the United States, they use sustainably harvested, North American hardwoods and like me, they are members of the Sustainable Furnishings Council.

abner henry metal and glass table
At 64 inches across, this table can seat 6 to 8 people comfortably.  Photo courtesy of Abner Henry.
Abner henry table detail
Hand crafted and hand finished, the detailing on this piece is outstanding. Photo courtesy of Abner Henry.

On the Seventh Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me, a sexy Holly Hunt sofa. This is truly a “wow.” The curve is designed to bring people together and promote great conversation. Plus, no matter what you’re wearing, you’ll look simply fabulous on that sofa. Green is nature’s neutral.

holly hunt green sofa

On the Eighth Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me, a Dali-esque mirror from Christopher Guy. My first thought when I saw this? Sophistication.

Nearly three feet wide and 46 inches tall, this hand-carved mirror works as a single unit or as a pair, such as flanking the doorways above. They have an almost regal bearing. 

cristopher guy scalloped metallic mirror
Photo courtesy of Christopher Guy
pair of christopher guy mirrors in entry hall
Photo courtesy of Christopher Guy

On the Ninth Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me, a Tobiishi cocktail table by Fanny Haim. So shapely! Together or individually, these tables have a subtle Asian mystique. The name comes from the Japanese word for “stepping stone,” which is appropriate: the tables come in three slightly different heights. You won’t find one of these under everybody’s Christmas tree!

tobiishi coctail table in black
The top of each table has a natural parchment hand finish. The bodies have a softly carved wood satin finish.

On the 10th Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me a “Wandering Path” rug from Julie Dasher Rugs. It brings out the natural wanderlust in me, and oh those colors! The sample shown above was woven in 100 percent Tibetan wool. The workmanship is exquisite. Each strand is meticulously hand-knotted and hand-tufted, and I can order from 1,500 colors! I love working with Julie Dasher to create custom rugs for our clients’ homes. The results are always outstanding and Julie’s business practices are impressive, too. Her goal is to hire women weavers and purchase rugs directly from them, increasing their wages significantly. She supports GOODWEAVE International too, a nonprofit dedicated to ending illegal child labor in the rug-making industry. And Julie is another member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, which promotes the use of eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes. 

Julie Dasher rug in blue green and white

Your home furnishings should evoke an emotional response, a personal connection to who you are. Photo courtesy of Julie Dasher Rugs.

On the 11th Day of Christmas…

My true gave to me, a sumptuous slab of Botanic Green quartzite from Artistic Tile to use as an accent wall. That is truly a tribute to earth and all of its splendors. Imported from Brazil, this striking piece combines aquatic greens and hints of red. The colors are soothing while the cross-veining is lively.

botanic green quartzite from artistic tile

On the 12th Day of Christmas…

My true love gave to me, “Hidden in You” by Amy Donaldson

Amy is one of my favorite artists. Her work is so passionate and vibrant, it really draws me in. What will you find hidden in you this coming year?

amy donaldson artwork in multiple colors
I love Amy’s use of color! Photo courtesy of Amy Donaldson.

Should you integrate pet-friendly design in your house? Absolutely!  Pet design, particularly organizational solutions, makes your home more functional and enjoyable for you and your new best friend, or is that friends? People all over the country have been adopting, fostering and buying pets in record numbers.  Some pet shelters have even reported that for the first time, they have no more dogs to adopt!  That’s great news, but I’m not surprised. Many of us are feeling a bit isolated and in need of real—not virtual—hugs and the unconditional love of a pet. A big wet kiss doesn’t hurt, either! My best friend, Dreamypie, has been a big comfort and support for me as we face the challenges of COVID-19 together!  In fact, research has shown that interacting with an animal can lower your heart rate, blood pressure and cortisol levels while increasing the production of feel-good hormones such as dopamine and oxytocin.  Check out more in this article from Mayo Clinic: My Pet, My Wellness.

Love the stylish doggy bone tile detailing in this pet shower. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Custom Homes

Four Reasons for Pet-Friendly Design

Taking care of Dreamypie has taught me a lot about why pet-friendly design is important:   

  • The way you plan a house influences a dog’s behavior and spirit
  • Good design makes pets feel cared for and content
  • Keeping pets happy prevents unwanted behaviors
  • Pet-friendly design makes it easier and less time-consuming to take care of a pet, which makes us pet owners happier

The counter-level pet shower in the photo above is not only modern and stylish, it eliminates kneeling beside a floor-level tub or shower. Because you have to lift your pet, this one is best for small to medium-sized dogs. Nearby cabinets are convenient for storing fluffy clean towels and other bath-time necessities. I especially like border tile of doggy bones! So cute. Beautiful and imaginative tile backsplashes and accent walls are one of my favorite design elements. You can read more in my blog Statement Backsplashes.

Custom storage for pet essentials makes our jobs easier. Photo courtesy of Wood-Mode Cabinetry

Storage Ideas

After more than 30 years as a designer, I have become a storage guru! The pull-out bins for pet food and treats and the pet dish drawer in the photo above are among my favorite ideas for a pet-friendly home. A laundry room is purr-fect for these custom cabinets! Notice how close the bins are to the dishes and the sink, where the pet can quickly fill the water dish. Spills and kibble crumbs on the tile floor can be easily cleaned up too. Other pet essentials, such as leashes, brushes, combs, medications and supplements can be kept in designated drawers in the same area as well.

Bath time is more fun when you have the right set-up. Photo courtesy of Shea Homes.

Multi-Purpose Pet Shower

Imagine the possibilities for a pet shower in the laundry room? I can picture hosing off gardening tools and shoes, hiking boots, winter boots, sandy beach flip flops and chairs and the kids’ muddy sports gear. Of course, the most important function is to make your pet feel secure and relaxed while he or she gets a bath. This floor-level, semi-enclosed shower addresses those issues, especially for dogs who are nervous about being bathed in a counter-level sink. The goose-neck faucet allows you to direct the flow just to dirty paws or all over for a thorough shampooing. Having your dog wash near an exterior door in a mud room or laundry room is the ideal location. No more snowy, sandy or muddy paws tracking through the house.

Wall treatments, artwork and accessories combine for a luxurious pet shower. Photo courtesy of Michelle’s Interiors

Choosing the Right Accessories

Personalizing your pet shower is a way to unleash your creativity and have fun. For this client’s dog shower, above, I selected the playful “Dogs in Clogs” wallpaper by Sanderson. See more images below. The cartoon pups in a variety of footwear always make my clients smile, though I’m not sure about their dogs—haha! A piece of quirky wall art and a dog clock amplify the pet theme and add to the whimsical mood. The tiling is handsome enough for a human shower. Just above the wall tiles I placed a mosaic border that combines the color scheme of the room and adds new pattern and texture.

“Dogs in Clogs” wallpaper, sanderson wallpaper via perigold.com
This adorable pup is an independent fellow who can go in and out on his own. Photo courtesy of Michelle’s Interiors

Ins and Outs of Pet Doors

Pet doors are a great way to give your cat or dog the freedom to go outside for business or pleasure, or to access a litter box in the basement. It’s a huge convenience because you don’t have to worry about hurrying home to let your pet out or interrupt your at-home work days. Ideally I like to install a pet door in a mud room or laundry room that can be closed off to the rest of the house in case your dog gets muddy paws outside. Pet doors should be durable to withstand hard use, and choosing the right size is important. I recommend choosing one that is about two inches taller than your pet’s shoulders to ensure easy ins-and-outs. Pet doors have gone high-tech, too! Some of them can be monitored remotely via a smartphone, just as you would monitor the other doors and windows around your home. Others work in sync with a sensor attached to your pet’s collar so they only open for your pet, not the neighborhood skunk or raccoon!

Would you like to know more about making your home pet friendly? Contact information is below.

I am so thrilled and honored to receive an ASID-Illinois Design Excellence Award for the third year in a row! This year’s Best Bathroom for a Small Firm award went to a spacious master bath I completed for clients outside of Dallas. It was part of a newly constructed, whole-house project in an exclusive golf club community. You can see all photos of that project here: Redefining Texas Living.  After working with these clients on their pied-a-terre in Chicago, they commissioned me to review the blueprints and select all design elements for their new home in the Lone Star State.  As frequent flyers, my clients wanted a master bathroom that channels the 5-star luxury of the hotels they visit during their travels. They live casually, but love art and appreciate exceptionally fine quality materials.

luxurious master bath with custom chandelier and white soaking tub
The custom, hand-blown glass cluster chandelier from Shakuff sets the tone for an ultra-luxurious master bath and helps make the space more intimate. The framed mosaic tile floor inset from Artistic Tile mimics an area rug. Photo by Brian Gassel

Anatomy of a Winning Bath

My key aim was to create a space where my clients can begin and end their days in an oasis of tranquility. The statement chandelier is just one of several artistic elements in this space. I custom-designed the colors, varying heights and positions of the 18 pendants to create a sculptural effect and to make this large-volume room feel cozier. The hand-blown glass pendants from Israel supply the “wow” factor that was a must-have for these clients.   Other highlights from the photo above include:

  • His and hers vanities. A few degrees of separation is appreciated!  
  • For his vanity, I integrated a TV into one of the mirrors so he can listen to the news to start and finish his days. Because it is out of sight, it doesn’t disrupt the flow of the design scheme.
  • Her vanity has a custom drawer for a hair dryer and flat iron
  • A framed, mosaic tile floor inset mimics a rug and supplies texture and pattern
  • The free-standing tub is made of insulating volcanic limestone. It maintains the water temperature longer so my clients can enjoy an uninterrupted, therapeutic soak.
  • The oval tub echoes the bay window curve
  • Fast-growing eco-friendly eucalyptus wood for the custom cabinetry.

Why Choose Eucalyptus Wood?

If you read my blogs regularly, you know that I am a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council  and I am passionate about commonsense, eco-friendly design! I chose eucalyptus wood for this cabinetry because:

  • It is a sustainable, fast-growing hardwood. (Ten-year-old trees often reach 90-100 feet!)
  • The wood is a beautiful dark red
  • It has a long, straight grain that yields one of the strongest and most stable of all the hardwood building materials. In fact, the wood is said to be as durable as teak and 10 to 20 percent more dense.
  • Eucalyptus is plantation grown and known for its affordability.

You can read more about why it’s important to choose sustainable wood in my earlier blog: Why Choose Eco-Friendly Wood?

master bath with stone mosaic backsplash
If you look closely, you can see that the petals of the flowers in this stone mosaic are made of frosted glass. Photo by Brian Gassell.

Add Artistic Flair

Statement backsplashes are one of my signature design elements. They create a stunning focal point, especially if they are composed of artistically rendered, high-quality materials such as the stone and frosted glass in the photo above. Don’t you love the way the mirror reflects the backsplash on the opposite vanity wall? It appears to echo into eternity. Like a work of art, I framed this installation using a thin border of bull-nose tile.  You can see more photos of my backsplash installations here: Dial Up the Wow with Statement Backsplashes.  Because the backsplash is the star of this vignette, I offset it with a subdued, but no less elegant mirror, vessel sink, matte-finished countertop and natural toned, recessed-panel cabinets. Details are always important to me, such as the vessel sinks that reference the shape of the freestanding tub and the bay windows. I also bumped out the countertop to follow the shape of the cabinets.

His and her shower heads in master bath
His-and-hers shower heads are just one of many amenities. Photo by Holger Obenaus.

Best Shower Amenities

Before I selected any of the finishes or amenities for this master shower, I revised the original architectural plan, lowering the shower ceiling from 12 to 10 feet. At 12 feet, my clients would have felt like they showering in an echo-y mine shaft! The lower ceiling not only created a more intimate space, it improved energy efficiency for the steam option. Other design choices included:

  • Individual shower heads – a single-handled faucet for him with a really soft flow, like a gentle rainfall; a more forceful shower head for her for hair washing
  • A heated shower seat
  • A fog-free shaving mirror for him
  • Steam shower option
  • Hand-held shower nozzle
  • Not shown – a transom window to allow more light into the space
  • Stone tiles in grays and whites
  • Handy niche to keep toiletries organized

The soothing, artful setting, with his-and-hers amenities and eco-friendly elements, contributes to rejuvenation, deeper relaxation and contemplation. That makes my clients happy!   

Staying fit and burning off stress—not to mention calories—are more important than ever as we face the challenges of these unprecedented times.  I know I definitely need to keep moving or I’ll go crazy—hahaha! After years of staying in shape so I can keep up with my very active sons and husband, I have learned that my workouts need to be easily accessible, enjoyable and motivating in order to stay on track. One of the best places to find all of those elements is in your own home gym.  While I do love to head outside for exercise, working out at home is the fastest, most convenient option for me if I’m busy or the weather is bad.  Whether your home gym needs a face-lift or you need to carve out an area for your workout, I can help you make the most of that space by combining creative styling and interior design solutions with the latest and greatest in exercise equipment – check out that cool Peleton bike above!

Is it time to move your home gym out of the family room or bedroom? Photo Courtesy of Peleton
An inviting workout room can take your exercise routine up a notch.  Photo courtesy of Orren-Pickell Building Group

My First Four Must-Haves for a Workout-Friendly Space

Doesn’t this home gym look appealing and inspiring? It makes me want to jump into my workout clothes and hit the treadmill! Here are four reason why I like it:  

  • Bright lighting: Natural light from the windows and the evenly spaced can lights make us feel more energetic than a dimly lit space, and energy equals a better workout.
  • Wall of mirrors: Not only do mirrors magnify light and make a space look larger, they supply feedback about proper form while we exercise, which helps prevent injuries. Plus, if you smile at yourself once in a while, it will lift your mood!
  • Cushiony floor:  The interlocking rubber floor cushions our floor workout and helps suppress noise from treadmills and dropped weights.  The checkerboard design is visually appealing, too.
  • More soundproofing ideas:  Muffling the noise from your gym is smart for you and your family members who may be working, studying or watching TV in other rooms of the house.  Plus, I’m all about protecting my hearing. Accoustical tiles and sound proofed walls are two more ways I can help create a quieter workout.
An easy-to-clean laminate floor with a natural wood look brightens this workout space. Photo courtesy of Orren-Pickell Building Group

Three More Essentials for Your Home Gym

The mullioned doors and bright lighting in this home gym make it another very inviting space. These homeowners chose a laminate floor with a natural wood look that brightens the space and is easy to clean. Just add mats to cushion your floor workout and to reduce the noise from dropped weights. Here are three more home gym essentials:

  • A TV monitor is a valuable multi-purpose piece of equipment in your home gym. I know that being distracted helps me get through an entire routine without getting bored. You can live-stream fitness programs, listen to music, watch the news or tune into the latest episode of your current favorite TV series.
  • Smart storage solutions: Rather than jumbling exercise equipment into a big storage bin, I prefer  wall hooks for easy access to whatever I need. If you are short on storage, I recommend using weights that interlock and take up less room.  Keep those clean towels handy with cabinets or open shelving, too.
  • Water source: An eco-friendly water dispenser is super handy in a home gym and cuts down on plastic bottles. Everyone can fill up their reusable bottles as needed, and you know how important that is to me! I am always thinking of ways to help people live “greener” lives at home. It’s an insurance policy for our future health and the health of the planet.
Working out with a virtual trainer is so motivating. I love this amazing technology from Mirror, and it requires very little space. Photo courtesy of https://www.mirror.co/

Inspirational Accessories

Even a home gym can benefit from accessorizing!  A few well-chosen items can really boost your mood, which pumps up your workout. I like the mix of items of the inset shelves above, the chic and practical stool for holding your towel and cell phone and the floor vase with some cheerful flowers. But let your imagination run wild – the options are infinite:

  • Framed photos on the walls of your hiking trip in the Rockies or kayaking at the lake
  • Trophies from your 5k runs or Iron Man competitions
  • Your favorite inspirational quotes, framed: Just Do It! (Nike)
  • Images of your favorite athletes (I’m a big fan of tennis star Serena Williams, soccer champ Mia Hamm and Olympic track medalist Jackie Joyner-Kersee!)
  • Your favorite scented candles or a diffuser (I love outdoor scents, like Sun and Sand or Beach Walk from Yankee candles. They remind me of weekends at our cottage on the lake with my family, including Dreamypie!)

How about You?

If you’re ready to update your home gym, we can connect via email, phone, video call or a safe-distanced meeting.   

Storage and lighting solutions plus a comfortable chair are must-haves for a home office. Photo by Brian Gassell.
Storage and lighting solutions plus a comfortable chair are must-haves for a home office. Photo by Brian Gassell.

I don’t know about you, but I am spending many more hours in my home office these days and it looks like that’s going to continue. Just three years ago, 8 million Americans were working at home. Now? Let’s just say it’s a lot more! The lines between work and home are blurring, which means our home offices probably need some updating. Does your desk chair feel comfortable and support your back for long hours in front of the computer? Do you have enough lighting and is it gentle on your eyes? Your home office should be soundproof enough to shut out household distractions.  It should channel your personality, promote your best thinking and productivity. More than ever, your office should convey a professional look as you’re zooming through video-conference calls. I would love to help create the ideal office space for you.

Blending Your Office with Your Home

Your home office furnishings should reflect the design throughout your home. For this client’s office in the photo above, I chose a casual-upscale look that channels his Texas lifestyle and is consistent with the other rooms in the house. Storage and lighting solutions and a comfortable chair were among his must-haves. I provided plenty of custom cabinetry, several types of lighting – notice the recessed lights above the desk in the ceiling beam – and a wool-upholstered chair with good arm and back support. The dramatic ceiling beams and repurposed, French farm house flooring are juxtaposed with beautifully finished desks and storage units. This space was incorporated into his almost- guys-only great room, where he watches sports and plays poker with friends when he isn’t working.

Photo courtesy of Orren Pickell Building Group
Photo courtesy of Orren Pickell Building Group

Is Your Office Zoom-Ready?

Here is a sign of the times: Not only do we have to dress for success – at least from the waist up – for a video-conference call at home, but our offices need to be ready for their close-ups, too. Maybe you have invested in a new external USB camera, and you know to position it above your eyes. You have a high-performance new microphone and headphones. What next? Make sure the “scenery” behind you is uncluttered, attractive and professional, as in the office above, built by Orren Pickell Building Group. The shelves each contain just a few items, and the dark cabinetry has a luxurious, executive suite presence.

Eliminate silhouettes and glare with the right lighting for video calls. Photo Courtesy of TravelerPix/Shuttercock
Eliminate silhouettes and glare with the right lighting for video calls. Photo Courtesy of TravelerPix/Shuttercock
firepit with blue rocks

Getting the Lighting Right

Every room needs several levels of lighting. In an office where you may spend 8 to 10 hours per day, I always make sure that my clients have plenty of general light to cut down on eye strain and headaches. Task lighting is important for reading, and your computer monitor should be positioned to avoid glare from a window or overhead light. Proper lighting for video calls is important, too. Your clients and co-workers need to see you clearly – no silhouetting or shadows. I can customize all of your fixtures to put you in the best light, so to speak.

When a face-to-face meeting is preferable, extra seating is important. Photo courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens
When a face-to-face meeting is preferable, extra seating is important. Photo courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens

A Place For Safe-Distanced Meetings

Sometimes, meeting a client or co-worker in person is the most productive way to communicate. For now, that means masks and six feet of separation. In the photo above, the seating area and desk chair offer a couple of options for getting together now and in the future when masks and distancing are no longer necessary.

Private Residence

Silence, Please!

Soundproofing is important in any office when you need to concentrate, create or communicate. The custom rug and window treatments in this client’s office above not only introduce pattern and energy, they help deaden noise from other areas of the house, a big plus when you are on a video call. We can boost soundproofing even more with acoustic windows, ceiling and floor materials and a solid core door.

Private Residence

Storage Galore

Even in this so-called paperless world, storage is a must-have in home offices, especially if you’re working there more often or full-time. Efficiency depends on having everything you need at hand. For the office above, I designed custom shelving with cabinets and drawers that follow the interesting angles of the walls.

Corralling Your Cords

Power cords can make an unsightly mess in your office, but I have become an expert at bringing organization out of that chaos. Let’s talk!

Colorful, Whimsical Home Office for Her

Express Yourself

The great thing about designing a home office? You get to choose all of the furnishings and the color palette, so you can give free rein to your personality. Forget “file cabinet grey.” You should choose whatever colors get your creative juices flowing, whether that is soothing neutrals or energizing bolds and brights. This client clearly isn’t afraid of color or pattern, and she loves red! The pair of polka dot and plaid chairs set a friendly, casual tone for her home office. The custom gray and white rug with its animal hide pattern is soft contrast for the vintage French farm house wood floor. Photos of her family and a large piece of colorful art give her office that personal touch. It also blends beautifully with the rest of her home, where I chose red accents and the same flooring for many rooms.


Does your dog hang out with you while you’re working? My Dreamypie, above, is my faithful companion whenever I’m at my desk, and I love it. She is always ready to collaborate with me on fabrics and finishes!

How about you?

If you’re ready to update your office we can connect via email, phone, video call or a safe-distanced meeting. Let’s chat!

high end outdoor furniture
Everything about this patio says luxurious, outdoor living. Photo Courtesy of Ebel, Inc.

Is your summer vacation going to be in your backyard this year? Let’s meet outside! I can help you – at a safe distance – create that three-seasons sanctuary you are looking for right at home. You won’t have to worry about deliveries or workers in your home. Everything can be accomplished with a combination of teleconferencing, telephone, email and social distancing in your yard, plus I can deliver fabric and finish samples to your porch. Because I love being outside as much as you do, I am passionate about getting this done so you can enjoy your backyard to the fullest this year and beyond.

American Made and Eco-Friendly

One of my go-to vendors for exterior décor is Florida-based Ebel Inc. Not only does it manufacture imaginative, long-last furniture, but it is an American company –see my blog Boosting Our Economy via Interior Design - and it makes every effort to remain environmentally responsible. Eco-friendly furnishings make a lot of sense, particularly for outdoor spaces!

All of Ebel’s aluminum and weather wicker is completely recyclable. Ebel also partners with Trees for the Future, which promotes sustainable agroforestry in developing countries. The company has committed to planting one tree for every piece of furniture it produces, and it already has planted over 100,000 trees! As a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, I appreciate that can kind of dedication. You can read more about my sustainable practices here: Why Choose Eco-Friendly Wood Furnishings.

backyard water feature
Tranquil water features edged by lush landscaping will transform your property. Photo Courtesy of Schmechtig Landscapes.

Furnishings and Landscaping Go Hand-in-Hand

To ensure seamless, turnkey  projects - so to speak - I am partnering with Mundelein-based Schmechtig Landscapes , a 60-year-old, award-winning landscaping firm. Together we can provide everything you need to make your property feel like your favorite resort:  pavers, pergolas, water features, furniture, fire pits, outdoor kitchens, grills, accessories, and of course, lush plantings. Naturally, your first priority and ours is to design a backyard that will benefit your family life, provide space for socializing and privacy and add significant social and emotional benefits. Beyond that, outdoor improvements add value to your home, as much as 10 to 20 percent according to some sources, depending on the extent of the design.

lush landscaping
Photo courtesy of Schmechtig Landscapes
firepit with blue rocks
The brilliant blue of this stone fire pit is echoed in the upholstered arm chairs from Ebel Inc. and the swimming pool tiles visible just beyond, on the upper terrace. Photo by Brian Gassel

Taking Outdoor Grilling to New Heights

For many of you, an outdoor kitchen represents much more than a grill and a pair of tongs. You want the same kind of amenities and luxury outside as in, whether you are firing up some burgers and brats or shrimp and steaks. An outdoor kitchen extends your food prep and dining space substantially, and it requires careful planning. Location, layout, type of appliances and their placement, and traffic pattern between indoor and outdoor kitchens are key considerations that we would discuss before we launched a project.

outdoor kitchen with subzero wolf appliances
Outdoor kitchens can be as elaborate as you like. Photo courtesy of www.subzero-wolf.com
Open grill
If you’re cooking for a crowd, you need a lot of cooking surface. Photo courtesy of Subzero-Wolf

Where to Start?

When I design  outdoor spaces for my clients, I approach the project the same way I would for interiors. We discuss who uses the space, how you use it and your aesthetic. Do you like to cook and dine outdoors? Do you enjoy gathering around a fire pit with friends and family? Do you want a quiet corner just for yourself where you can read a good book or take an afternoon nap? For the project above I imagined a spacious, al fresco great room with separate areas for different purposes. My clients can spend the day in the seating area at pool side, beneath the shade of the large umbrella from Bambrella USA. As the sun goes down, they can enjoy drinks and s’mores around the fire pit. Regardless of your style and how you use your backyard, the exterior should be a natural extension of your interior style so that it flows effortlessly in both directions.

Let Your Personality Shine Outdoors

Don’t you just love the color and branchy pattern of this patio rug from The Delos Company? It might be too energetic for indoor spaces, but in the great outdoors it checks off all the right boxes: cheerful and laid-back, uninhibited, durable and easy to clean. It put me in a party mood at first sight! Pairing that rug with understated furniture gives you the opportunity to add something jazzy, such as the colorful chevron pillows show above. If you keep the major pieces simple, you can always change out the pillows when the mood strikes.

Outdoor area rug in bright orange
Sometimes it’s easier to connect with your wild side outdoors. Photo courtesy of Delos Rugs

Remember the Artistic Touches

Inspired by modern art and organic textures, this textural fire pit and the whimsical cup chairs and table from California-based Stone Yard Inc. are constructed of durable glass fiber reinforced concrete. ‍When I want something unusual for an exterior, I often turn to Stone Yard. I placed these chairs in the pool area of my client’s back yard, below. Each piece is designed, handcrafted and hand finished by a team of Stone Yard’s skilled American artisans. I share their appreciation for all things artful, and for buying American.

stone yard designer accessories
Looking for something different? These pieces have got you covered. Photo courtesy of Stone Yard.
chairs by pool
Every space needs something unusual and artistic, such as these sculptural chairs. Photo by Brian Gassell

Accessorizing Mother Nature

This trio of oversized vessels from Stone Yard has curves in all the right places. Though they are man-made, they have an organic vibe that is appealing for an outdoor setting. Accessorizing Mother Nature is an important element of exterior design. Throw pillows, planters, objets d’art, benches and accent tables all contribute to a thoughtfully designed outdoor space.

large outdoor vessels
Photo courtesy of Stone Yard
outdoor day bed
This outdoor day bed takes afternoon napping to a more luxurious level. Photo courtesy of Ebel, Inc.
curved wicker outdoor seating
outdoor swing
The Circa hanging chair is an exciting new look for a swinging chair or hammock. It can be hung from a bamboo wigwam stand or from almost anywhere, and the cushion is covered in a high quality outdoor fabric. Photo courtesy of Bambrella USA
garden art on pedestal
Photo courtesy of Schmechtig Landscapes
garden bench
Zen bench photo courtesy of Stone Yard
bolt table
Bolt table photo, courtesy of Stone Yard
tribal upholstered chair
I’m picturing a lazy siesta with my best friend, Dreamypie!
fire table

Ready to get started?

I’m ready when you are to get started on a safely social-distanced design project for your backyard. Let’s meet outside!


Is your summer vacation going to be in your backyard this year? Let’s meet outside! I can help you – at a safe distance – create that three-seasons sanctuary you are looking for right at home. You won’t have to worry about deliveries or workers in your home. Everything can be accomplished with a combination of teleconferencing, telephone, email and social distancing in your yard, plus I can deliver fabric and finish samples to your porch. Because I love being outside as much as you do, I am passionate about getting this done so you can enjoy your backyard to the fullest this year and beyond.

American Made and Eco-Friendly

One of my go-to vendors for exterior décor is Florida-based Ebel Inc. Not only does it manufacture imaginative, long-last furniture, but it is an American company –see my blog Boosting Our Economy via Interior Design - and it makes every effort to remain environmentally responsible. Eco-friendly furnishings make a lot of sense, particularly for outdoor spaces!

All of Ebel’s aluminum and weather wicker is completely recyclable. Ebel also partners with Trees for the Future, which promotes sustainable agroforestry in developing countries. The company has committed to planting one tree for every piece of furniture it produces, and it already has planted over 100,000 trees! As a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, I appreciate that can kind of dedication. You can read more about my sustainable practices here: Why Choose Eco-Friendly Wood Furnishings.


Furnishings and Landscaping Go Hand-in-Hand

To ensure seamless, turnkey  projects - so to speak - I am partnering with Mundelein-based Schmechtig Landscapes , a 60-year-old, award-winning landscaping firm. Together we can provide everything you need to make your property feel like your favorite resort:  pavers, pergolas, water features, furniture, fire pits, outdoor kitchens, grills, accessories, and of course, lush plantings. Naturally, your first priority and ours is to design a backyard that will benefit your family life, provide space for socializing and privacy and add significant social and emotional benefits. Beyond that, outdoor improvements add value to your home, as much as 10 to 20 percent according to some sources, depending on the extent of the design.


Taking Outdoor Grilling to New Heights

For many of you, an outdoor kitchen represents much more than a grill and a pair of tongs. You want the same kind of amenities and luxury outside as in, whether you are firing up some burgers and brats or shrimp and steaks. An outdoor kitchen extends your food prep and dining space substantially, and it requires careful planning. Location, layout, type of appliances and their placement, and traffic pattern between indoor and outdoor kitchens are key considerations that we would discuss before we launched a project.


Where to Start?

When I design  outdoor spaces for my clients, I approach the project the same way I would for interiors. We discuss who uses the space, how you use it and your aesthetic. Do you like to cook and dine outdoors? Do you enjoy gathering around a fire pit with friends and family? Do you want a quiet corner just for yourself where you can read a good book or take an afternoon nap? For the project above I imagined a spacious, al fresco great room with separate areas for different purposes. My clients can spend the day in the seating area at pool side, beneath the shade of the large umbrella from Bambrella USA. As the sun goes down, they can enjoy drinks and s’mores around the fire pit. Regardless of your style and how you use your backyard, the exterior should be a natural extension of your interior style so that it flows effortlessly in both directions.

Let Your Personality Shine Outdoors

Don’t you just love the color and branchy pattern of this patio rug from The Delos Company? It might be too energetic for indoor spaces, but in the great outdoors it checks off all the right boxes: cheerful and laid-back, uninhibited, durable and easy to clean. It put me in a party mood at first sight! Pairing that rug with understated furniture gives you the opportunity to add something jazzy, such as the colorful chevron pillows show above. If you keep the major pieces simple, you can always change out the pillows when the mood strikes.


Remember the Artistic Touches

Inspired by modern art and organic textures, this textural fire pit and the whimsical cup chairs and table from California-based Stone Yard Inc. are constructed of durable glass fiber reinforced concrete. ‍When I want something unusual for an exterior, I often turn to Stone Yard. I placed these chairs in the pool area of my client’s back yard, below. Each piece is designed, handcrafted and hand finished by a team of Stone Yard’s skilled American artisans. I share their appreciation for all things artful, and for buying American.


Accessorizing Mother Nature

This trio of oversized vessels from Stone Yard has curves in all the right places. Though they are man-made, they have an organic vibe that is appealing for an outdoor setting. Accessorizing Mother Nature is an important element of exterior design. Throw pillows, planters, objets d’art, benches and accent tables all contribute to a thoughtfully designed outdoor space.

fire table

Ready to get started?

I’m ready when you are to get started on a safely social-distanced design project for your backyard. Let’s meet outside!


Lately I’ve been thinking of myself as “The Little Engine That Could.” Why? Because even though I have a small firm, for every project I undertake I am like an economic engine pulling dozens of businesses - like trains cars - behind me. That ripple effect in the economy is going to be vitally important as we recover not only from the corona virus but its financial impact.  The work I do helps support many, many businesses, most of them based in the United States, which in turn provide jobs for a lot of Americans.

By the Numbers

I do love numbers, and I found some interesting statistics from a 2016 CHMURA Economics & Analysis report on the design industry: The total annual economic impact of the interior design sector in the United States, including its ripple effects, is estimated at $96.3 billion, supporting more than half a million jobs. That number includes not only interior design industries, but occupations in related industries such as retail and construction. This economic train is miles long!

For the kitchen and bath project featured in this blog, I worked with  20 furnishings vendors representing dozens of skilled workers who produced just this client’s selections  – cabinets, flooring and window treatments plus countertops, faucets,  fabrics, appliances, light fixtures and hardware.  I am proud to say that I am a staunch advocate of buying American when possible. In the photo above, the walnut-finished flooring is constructed by New Hampshire-based Carlisle Wide Plank Flooring. The cabinets were built by Bona Fide Corp in Wheeling and the opaque, white glass pendants over the island are designed and built by Hammerton of Utah.  Bravo to our American tradespeople.  The fabric for the kitchen window Roman shades is from  Romo of Ohio.


Boosting Tax Revenue by More Than a Billion Dollars

Just think of all the people who may be involved in a design project, starting with the interior designer and her staff, the architect, drafters, contractors, electricians, plumbers, carpenters, painters, furniture builders, carpet and light fixture manufacturers and a small army of others.  CHMURA reports that from all interior design related jobs, payroll tax totaled $1.8 billion, and corporate income tax added another $399 million in federal tax revenue in 2016. The interior design sector generates significant economic impact in state economies as well, and sizable tax revenue to the state governments.  That’s great news.

American-Made Table and Chairs

Adjacent to the kitchen in the first photo, the white oak dining table and chairs in this eating area above are from California-based  Berman Rosetti.  Owner Gennaro Rosetti told me that each of their products is constructed in their Los Angeles factory by skilled American craftsmen, even though it would be easier and more profitable to contract out the work overseas.  The company uses predominantly white oak, black walnut and maple grown in the U.S. by American firms that are actively involved in the sustainability of this valuable resource.


Gennaro told me that nine people are involved in the making of a single piece.

  • Gennaro draws the design and reviews it with the specific craftsman
  • Jake approves the wood grain for pattern and appearance before it is cut.
  • A craftsman constructs the piece with assistance from an apprentice.
  • A sander smooths the piece in preparation for finish
  • A master finisher applies a low-VOC finish approved by the AQMD (Air Quality Management District).
  • A finish helper hand-rubs the finish.
  • The craftsman assembles the piece.
  • Two inspectors examine each piece before shipment.

Isn’t it nice to know that this impeccably engineered Subzero-Wolf range is made in America? In fact, the company’s products are built in their own Wisconsin and Arizona facilities. I can imagine that at least a dozen people were involved in building and shipping that single unit, maybe more. Even better, Subzero-Wolf is committed to sustainability. More than 75 percent of the stainless steel and up to 50 percent of plastic in their refrigerators are recycled materials. Each year the company recycles more than 550 tons of scrap. Imagine that much scrap in a landfill! More than 30 of Sub-Zero appliances have earned Energy Star ratings for energy efficiency, too.  As an interior designer dedicated to sustainability, eco-friendly materials and manufacturing processes are very important to me. Check out this recent blog on Eco-Friendly Mattresses.


American Workmanship Second to None

My clients know that I am a perfectionist when it comes to quality workmanship. I won’t accept anything less than the best, and the local tradespeople I employ deliver. After more than 30 years as a designer, I have developed a priceless directory of trusted, skilled workers who I can count on to handle the kind of high-level design I require – intricate tile installations, precision finishes and specialty wall treatments. Those resources are a valuable part of the services I provide, and one of the reasons my clients come to me.  The fit and finish of this master bathroom is impeccable. Notice the perfect balance of the two vanities – you might think you were looking at a mirror image – as well as the meticulous installation of the tiles and mill work. To accomplish that level of workmanship I needed carpenters, tile installers,  plumbers, electricians and painters.  The vast majority of elements for this space were supplied by American companies, including Kohler for some of the plumbing supplies, Tithof Tile and Marble  in Kenosha, WI, which manufactured the countertops and Kelly Kelly Wearstler  in California for the sconces. In addition to the kitchen cabinets, I contracted again with  Bona Fide in Wheeling again for the cabinets.

Pulling That Train

If I’m the “Little Engine That Could,” then my train is red white and blue.  Yes, I am a dedicated “buy American” gal, and proud of it. Our clients can feel confident too that they are helping to support American workers and companies when they collaborate with Michelle’s Interiors. If we pull together, we can make a difference.


This luxury Superia mattress from Sweden-based Hastens is made of natural materials, including cotton, wool, flax and horsehair. Photo courtesy of Hastens.

Sleeping “Green”

Eating green. Driving green. And now sleeping green? Yes—for many years mattress stores across the country have been promoting the benefits of eco-friendly, natural and organic mattresses and bedding for babies, youngsters and adults, and demand is on the rise. Whether you are concerned about your health, our global environment or both, choosing a “green” mattress is vital, in my opinion, and that of many experts.  I feel it is equally important that mattresses made with natural, organic, sustainable and biodegradable materials are infinitely better for our environment. It just makes sense.  You can find more recommendations for eco-friendly design in one of my earlier blogs—Tips for Eco-FriendlyDesign.

Instead of choosing mattresses made of petro-chemical-based foam or other materials that aren’t biodegradable and may off-gas into the bedroom, I have found mattresses made with soybean foam, sugar cane, flax and coconut fiber, plus models that are infused with green tea. Are we cooking or building mattresses? Haha!


The frame on this adjustable Hastens mattress is built of sustainable Swedish pine. The company also offers natural cotton and feather bedding. Photo Courtesy of Hastens.

Types of Natural Materials?

One of the most luxurious mattress makers in the world (see both photos above) is Sweden-based Hastens. Their all-natural mattresses range from about $12,500 to nearly $150,000 for a king-size version.  At the high end, that works out to $2 per hour if you spend 8 hours a night in bed for 25 years!  They are made with layers of ethically sourced horsehair, down, cotton, wool and flax. According to Hastens, those materials allow the bed to breathe and circulate air around your body for a comfortable night’s sleep. No need to worry if you are allergic to horses! The horsehair they use is washed and rinsed, then sanitized and heated to 140 degrees centigrade to eliminate allergens. All Hastens wooden frames are made of slow-growing Swedish pine trees that are certified to be harvested in a way that maintains the forest’s biodiversity, productivity and ecological processes.  The mattress and frame are guaranteed for 25 years, so though they are priced at the higher end, you won’t have to buy a new one for a long time.

In the adjustable version above, you can raise and lower the head and foot with a remote control or even an app, so you can comfortably sit up and indulge in a breakfast tray, read or watch TV with outstanding back support. Sounds better than a 5-star luxury resort!


Raising Green Kids

Never under-estimate the power of a grandpa-to-be! Ohio-based Naturepedic was founded by an environmental engineer who wanted a chemical-free crib mattress for his first grandchild. One of my  fellow members of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, the company now produces certified organic and non-toxic mattresses for the whole family, made with a mix of organic cotton, wool and latex and natural (not organic) alpaca and cashmere. Prices range from $2,500 to $10,000 for a king-size mattress, not including add-ons such as a pillow top. Naturepedic offers organic bedding as well.


Avocado brand mattresses are offered in organic or vegan, and range from $1,249 for the crib to $1,800 for a king size. Photo courtesy of Avocado Green Mattress.

Organic and Vegan Mattresses

California-based Avocado brand mattresses sources only certified organic materials for their mattresses. Those high-quality materials don’t tax the earth’s resources and create far less pollution than polyester, pesticide-treated cotton, chemical flame retardants or synthetic foam. Check out these highlights from Avocado:

  • Their mattresses are made from certified organic latex, wool and cotton.
  • The latex is sustainably harvested from rubber trees on their own plantations.
  • Their wool comes from a herding collective that the company jointly owns.
  • The wood for their bed frames comes from 100 percent reclaimed wood and handmade in Los Angeles.
  • The frames are finished with a zero-VOC (volatile organic compounds) sealant.
avocado mattress with woman tying her show

All of Avocado’s operations, from rubber plantations to factory, are certified as “net zero” for carbon emissions. Photo courtesy of Avocado.

How Dedicated Are They?

  • Avocado also is the only Climate Neutral Certified mattress brand, having achieved “net zero” carbon emissions across all of its operations. That’s an amazing achievement.
  • It uses only clean, renewable energy – wind and solar – which it purchases from Arcadia Power.
  • Avocado donates 1 percent of revenues to 1% For the Planet, a global movement encouraging businesses to support environmental solutions.

Mattresses for Vegans, Too!

California-based Organic Mattress (OMI) makes a vegan option in its full line of mattresses, from cribs and youth beds up to king-size adult beds. The certified organic mattresses are made of latex, wool and cotton, and the innerspring mattresses are made of organic wool and cotton. In the vegan version, the  standard organic wool flame barrier is replaced with organic cotton fill covered with organic cotton woven fabric. The company also uses recycled steel for its springs and the wood for its mattress foundations is all spruce and fir sustainably harvested in Canada.


OMI’s crib mattress is available in organic latex and like all OMI mattresses, it has a 20-year warranty, so it can be handed down for many years. Photo courtesy of OMI.

There’s an interesting story behind the company: The founder launched the company because he developed chemical sensitivity after battling cancer and couldn’t find an organic mattress. The entire factory in Northern California is GOTS approved—Global Organic Textile Standard—which means the employees cannot wear perfumes, use detergents with scents or smoke. That’s quite a commitment!

Any waste materials left from the manufacturing process are biodegradable and not harmful to the environment. (The OMI website lists the youth mattress at $1,879 and the crib mattress is $600. King-sized mattresses range from $4,700 to $9,000.)

Don’t Forget the Bedding

If you’re going to commit to a natural or organic mattress, the next step is to finish it with natural or organic bedding. All of these companies offer a variety of bedding, including feather pillows, sheets, mattress pads, quilts and bed skirts.

Why Am I Green?

As a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, I am committed to creating healthier homes and communities world-wide by connecting people to sensible, eco-friendly interior design solutions.  My love for family, friends and our pets, inspires my dedication to improving indoor and outdoor air quality, rebelling against our throw-away society, protecting our natural resources and reducing the size of the world’s carbon footprint.

The following was posted on the Redfin website and was authored by Lexi Klinkenberg. We're including Michelle's section on the importance of underlighting but please read the entire post by clicking here.

Lighting is a very important element of a home that can often be overlooked when designing and decorating your space. Even if you live in Florida, with an abundance of sun, having the right lights can still be critical to the look and convenience of your home. There are many different styles, designs, and types of lighting that finding the best lighting for your home can sometimes be overwhelming. That is why we asked experts in the field to share their tips about lighting your home the right way.

White and Stained Wood Kitchen

Don’t ignore underlighting

Underlighting is just as vital as chandeliers or pendants in your home. Powder rooms are a great place for underlighting, whether beneath a floating vanity or under a quartzite countertop. The lighting creates a special effect in the evening that will have your guests raving. Some of Michelle’s underlighting design can be seen in the photo above. –Michelle Rohrer-Lauer, Michelle’s Interiors

Rectangular Freestanding Tub with Faux Goat-Hair Bench

To make the master bath symmetrical on either side of the window, I stole 10 inches from the study and then placed mirror-image vanities flanking the tub. All photos by www.studio.w.com

I was so thrilled when this master bathroom project won Best Bathroom 2019 from the American Society of Interiors Designers, Illinois (ASID-IL). It is particularly gratifying when your peers from around the country honor your work. I undertook this project for a 60-year-old bachelor physician moving from a condo to a single family home in Highland Park, a North Shore suburb of Chicago. The bath is located on the first floor of a gracious, two-story home where I also completed a gut-renovation of the kitchen. You can see all of the photos here:  https://www.michellesinteriors.com/spaces/highland-park-illinois/

What Makes This Project a Winner?

Smart space planning was the starting point. Because the existing walls in this master bath were not symmetrical,  I stole 10 inches from the study and placed mirror-image vanities flanking the tub. Each one is exactly the same distance from the window and the rectangular tub, creating a soothing balance. In the process I relocated the existing commode and shower areas, which had been on either side of the tub.

Diagnosing the Issues

But let’s back up a little. Before he moved into the home, my bachelor-physician client and I diagnosed the new master bathroom’s condition and problems. We agreed that the “patient” was terminal, so I prescribed a complete gut-renovation. The existing toilet compartment was too large, the shower was too small and the double-sink vanity did not provide the his-and-hers privacy my client envisioned. The floorplan was asymmetrical, as noted above, and the bathroom lacked four-star amenities and safety features as well.  The cure was a completely new floor plan, footprint and a design update. The “patient” recovered very nicely!

Heated, Textural Tile Floor

To ensure privacy in this first-floor space, I installed a top-down, bottom-up shade with fabric from Romo Fabrics.

What Did the Client Want?

As a single man who might remarry, my client envisioned a gender-neutral design with a modern sensibility and luxurious amenities. As a physician entering his 60s, he wanted me to plan for the future with safety features such as a zero-threshold shower, slip-resistant flooring throughout and braced shower walls that would accommodate a grab bar. As a tall man with broad shoulders, a more spacious shower compartment was a must-have so he could experience a luxurious shower.  I opted for a gray, cream and taupe color palette and updated-transitional styling for that gender-neutral, modern feeling he craved.

For comfort and safety, the textured, porcelain tile floor in the photo above is heated, while the grooves help prevent slips.  The herringbone pattern imparts a transitional feeling to this traditional tile.  Beside the tub, I placed a whimsical Lucite bench with a faux, long-haired goat cushion. Luxurious, and feminine, too!

Faux Goat Hair Stool Adds Whimsical Note

The cast-iron tub from Kohler helps keep the water hot.

Choosing Your Art

Art is a very personal choice, so I always spend time discussing art selections with my clients in order to match their preferences. In this case, my client wanted a relaxing, expressionist piece of art in the master bath. I placed a meditative piece on the wall opposite the tub as a focal point while he enjoys long, therapeutic soaks at the end of the day. Notice the size of the artwork? Scale is important when choosing art, too. Whether you choose a single piece or a grouping, make sure it is large enough to make a statement.

Artistic, Mosaic Tile Backsplash
Extending the backsplash to the ceiling creates an art-inspired focal point.

Why Backsplashes Touch the Ceiling

You may remember from my earlier blog, Dial Up the Wow with Backsplashes, that artistic, ceiling-high backsplashes are one of my signature design techniques. Many of the backsplashes I install are inspired by art, created by artists and made of materials that are both functional and stunning. They often become the focal point of a room while serving as a backdrop for other elements, such as sconces, mirrors or wall art. For this project I chose a dramatic pattern of clear and pearlized glass tiles in taupe and cream from Artistic Tile, which are illuminated by a pair of glass and metal sconces and recessed can lights. The honeycomb-like pattern and texture are important design components in a room with a lot of sleek surfaces. Notice the open niche at the bottom of the vanity, too. I often specify that feature to provide handy towel storage and to transform the towels into an accessory that breaks up the expanse of cabinetry.

Rectangular Sinks and Faucets
Crisp edges and sharp corners are masculine accents in this bachelor’s master bath.

Building on a Geometric Theme

The rectangular sinks and faucets echo the shape of the freestanding tub and multiply the geometric theme.  To maintain focus on the dramatic backsplash, I kept the counter accessories and towels simple. The reflective surfaces of the soap dispenser, tissue holder and soap dish add another layer of shine to the space.

Square Knobs on Recessed Panel Cabinets
Square knobs on recessed panel cabinets are balanced by curvaceous accessories.

Making the Most of Accessories

Accessories are another way to balance the design theme in a space. The recessed panel cabinetry from Bona Fide  and squared off cabinet knobs continue the sharply angular theme of this white and grey bathroom.  As a counterpoint, I placed a curvaceous ceramic vessel and rounded planter on the countertop.

Large Steam Shower with Custom Amenities
The newly enlarged steam shower has custom amenities.

Enlarging the Shower

To make the shower more spacious, I relocated the existing vanity, borrowed 24 inches from the adjacent, extra-large master bedroom closet and designed a luxurious compartment that is much more comfortable for my client. Among the amenities are a shower seat where he can relax and enjoy the steam option. The zero-threshold base is another safety feature in this bathroom plan, and I ensured that the walls were braced to accommodate a grab bar when it became necessary. To help prevent slip-and-falls, I chose small-scale, 2-by-2-inch  tiles for the shower floor because the extra grout lines provide better traction.

Large Steam Shower with Custom Amenities

A heated towel rack above acrylic bench is just outside the shower door.

Details Make a Winning Design

I always pay careful attention to fit and finish in any project, including the zero-threshold shower entry where the door jamb is framed in porcelain to bring it in line with the 8-inch high millwork and the floor tiles. I also added a wood detail to the millwork for the porcelain tile and base to die into.

Warm Towels = Happy Client

The heated towel rack, located conveniently close the shower, is another layer of luxury in this master bath. Beneath is an acrylic-sided bench which I selected for its open, airy appearance – you can see through it to the tall, white mill work - and for its transitional design.

Shower Niche in Faux Marble Shower
Shower niche in faux marble shower keeps sundries organized.

An Organizational Must-Have

Shower niches are another one of my signature design details for a bathroom. They eliminate unsightly shower caddies and keep necessities well organized.   I added a set of steam shower controls next to the niche and above the bench, so my client can control the steam setting while seated.

Why Not Marble?

Though my client requested marble for the shower and countertops, I convinced him to use a faux marble porcelain from Tithoftile instead. Porcelain is more durable and lower maintenance than marble, especially for a steam shower, and it is just as handsome, when you make the right selection. In this close-up, you can see the rich marble pattern of the porcelain wall panels.

Wall-Mounted, High-Tech Toilet

This Toto USA  toilet/bidet is a high-tech addition to the bathroom.

What a High-Tech Toilet Can Do

I prefer wall-mounted toilets such as the one above because it is easy to clean under the commode, it saves floor space and reduces the profile of this essential fixture.  When the bathroom door is opened, the lid on this high-tech Toto toilet/bidet opens and the light turns on. It also has adjustable temperature for the spray, the seat and dryer, plus an easy-to-reach control panel on the wall and a slim wireless remote control with illuminated touch pad.

How I Define Luxury

As I outlined in an earlier post,  Luxury Is..., luxury for me is not only about  top-quality materials and exquisite craftsmanship. Luxury is about creating an environment where people can thrive, where they can be their best. It is all about your lifestyle. When you are at home, you should enjoy the same mindset that you have on vacation—every day. Your home should feel like a refuge. It should refresh and rejuvenate you and give you a deep sense of well-being.  A custom bathroom, whose layout, style and amenities are custom-designed for you, is one of life’s luxuries. Wouldn’t you love to feel as good at home as you do when you’re on vacation?

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” —John Muir

Here are a couple of statistics that may surprise you: Globally, furniture makers are third largest users of wood, behind construction and the paper industry, according to the national Sustainable Furnishings Council (SFC). That’s huge! Furthermore, deforestation globally is the second leading cause of climate change, after the burning of fossil fuels. Those important bits of information underscore how critical it is for furniture makers to choose sustainably harvested and fast-growing, sustainable species of trees.  But beyond that, it places a responsibility on designers and consumers to advocate for sustainable practices whenever possible. As a certified GREENleader  and member of the SFC, one of my New Year’s resolutions is to continue raising awareness of the importance of sensible sustainable design, and supporting  vendors who are committed to sustainable harvesting.


Why Choose Sustainable Woods?

Forests are crucial to our existence on this planet, and we must preserve them. They have been called the “lungs” of the world. In a sense, they inhale carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and exhale the oxygen we breathe. Because they store carbon, forests play an essential  role in regulating the global climate, absorbing nearly 40 percent of the fossil-fuel emissions that humans produce.  According to the RainforestAlliance, forests also provide habitat for 70 percent of land-based animals and plants, while more than 25 percent of the world’s people – nearly 1.6 billion – rely on forest resources for the livelihoods. That’s a staggering figure.

Among my go-to vendors for sustainable furnishings is North Carolina-based StanfordFurniture. As a member of SFC, Stanford makes a conscious effort to seek out sustainable materials, such as legally harvested forest products, responsibly produced plantation products and recycled content. In the media room pictured above, I chose four Stanford swivel chairs built with sustainably harvested wood

What is Sustainable Forest Management?

According to the ForestandAgricultureOrganization, managing forests sustainably means optimizing their benefits, including timber and contributions to food security, to meet society’s needs in a way that conserves and maintains forest ecosystems for the benefit of present and future generations. That stewardship and use must maintain the forests’ biodiversity, productivity, regeneration, capacity and vitality.


How Can We Make a Difference?

Have you ever seen the dolphin-safe mark on cans of tuna? Consumers made that happen. They refused to buy tuna without that assurance. The key was awareness. When consumers learned that fisheries were capturing and killing dolphins along with tuna, they held the industry accountable, and it changed. We have the power to do the same with furnishings. The more we ask about sustainability in what we buy, the more incentive manufacturers have to provide those goods. Fewer forests will be destroyed!

For the master bedroom above, I turned to another one of my go-to showrooms, CAIDesigns, for the  Old Biscayne Designs console opposite the bed. Also a member of SFC, CAI seeks out sustainable materials such as legally harvested trees, responsibly produced plantation-grown trees and recycled content. I love this piece too for its understated elegance and textured front panels, which add another layer of interest to a luxurious master bedroom.


Is There Any Good News?

In fact, there is great news, at least here in the United States. We have proof that awareness and sustainable practices are making an impact. According to the FoodandAgricultureOrganization, the United States has more trees than it did 100 years ago. That makes me smile!  “Forest growth nationally has exceeded harvest since the 1940s,” reported the FAO. ”By 1997, forest growth exceeded harvest by 42 percent and the volume of forest growth was 380 percent greater than it had been in 1920.” The increase is due to a number of factors, including sustainable harvesting, the cultivation of trees by plantation owners, who plant more trees than they harvest, and conservation. But sustainability world-wide is still an issue. According to the  RainForestAlliance, each year the earth loses 32 million acres  of forest – 26 times the size of the Grand Canyon - or 60 acres per minute. That cannot be sustained.

When U.S. manufacturers import wood, they must source it from suppliers who are adhering to sustainable practices. As consumer demand becomes greater and greater, suppliers will want to conform to sustainability.

For my client’s lodge-like study, above, I chose a sustainable, renewable, crocodile leather ottoman and a pair of swivel armchairs with renewable, sustainable mohair upholstery from SFC member Stanford Furniture. The rug is made of 100 percent sustainable, New Zealand felted wool string yard, from SFC member DelosCompany. Clearly, sustainability does not require any sacrifice in outstanding design!

abner henry console table
This handsome, contemporary console from Abner Henry is made of sustainably harvested wood.

Why Source Locally?

The curly maple wood for this dramatic console above was sustainably harvested in North America and sourced by SFC member www.abnerhenry.com  Sourcing locally dramatically reduces the carbon footprint of shipping timber from overseas vendors and helps us gain control over global warming.

I am currently customizing this piece for an in-progress project in curly maple in a subtle blue finish that allows the grain to show through. Plus, I am re-sizing it to precisely fit in the space I have specified.  My clients love the bold curves and the pewter nuts and washers I selected, which combine for a polished yet industrial look.  I appreciate that I can also specify formaldehyde-free finishes as well as Abner Henry’s Pro Tekt finish, which after 21 days will have minimal to no off-gassing. Both protect furniture from hot coffee, finger nail polish remover, tomato juice, even acids! No more worrying about ruining the finish.

Why Are We Green?

All of us at Michelle’s Interiors are committed to creating healthier homes and communities world-wide by connecting people to sensible, eco-friendly interior design solutions.  My love for family, friends - and yes, my pet - inspires my dedication to improving indoor and outdoor air quality, protecting our natural resources and reducing the size of the world’s carbon footprint. Each small step that we take can make a big difference in our health and the health of our planet. I call that approach “50 Shades of Green,” because we don’t have to be 100 percent green to make a difference.  We encourage all of our clients to start with the furnishings and materials that will have the greatest impact, including sustainably harvested woods and water-based wood finishes.  Simply put, eco-friendly design makes everyday life better for all of us. I call it a life insurance policy for the future.  It is my way of giving back.


Did you know that the first backsplashes were simply functional, not decorative? Times sure have changed! Many of the backsplashes I design are inspired by art, created by artists and made of materials that are both functional and stunning. They often become the focal point of a room while serving as a backdrop for other elements, such as a stove hood, sconces, mirrors or wall art.

Why Backsplashes Became Popular

The evolution of the backsplash in America dates back to the widespread availability of indoor running water around the 1930s. For kitchens, they were first designed only to protect walls from splatters of water, grease, marinara sauce and other messy mishaps. In bathrooms, they protected the areas near the sink from splashing water. Because of that, the first backsplashes were typically short, just a four-inch strip that was first attached to the sink—originally farmhouse sinks—and later attached to the wall behind sinks and stoves.  What began as a utilitarian element has gradually evolved into a fabulous design element that sometimes spans entire walls, as in the kitchen I designed in these examples.

Strike a Balance Between Luxurious and Down-to-Earth

For their home in Texas, these clients wanted modern, clean lines, subtle references to the Lone Star State and a comfortable, luxurious feel that suits their upscale-casual lifestyle. A pair of empty-nesters, they love to entertain their friends, their two grown children and four grandchildren. The kitchen is in the center of this wing, so it very visible. I didn’t want it to look like a typical kitchen, but I had to strike a balance between luxurious materials such as this full wall backsplash, and the relaxed lifestyle of these down-to-earth clients.

How Were Those Panels Made?

To achieve a one-of-kind, artistic look for my art-loving clients, I selected these amazing hand-made panels designed by California artist Ellen Blakeley via www.artistictile.com.  To create the design, she first painted the panels in a champagne colored pattern. Then she broke sheets of glass and placed each piece by hand. Because the panels are so large, the installation looks seamless – like one huge piece of art that gleams and sparkles as it catches the light. The colors reference the brushed gold, riveted trim of the bronze range hood and the detailing on the www.lacornueusa.com range.  I continued those panels on all three of the kitchen walls for a unified, breathtaking look.

Choose a Variety of Backsplash Materials and Designs

Each backsplash throughout a home should be unique, but work together with all of the others. This master bathroom is in the same home as the kitchen above, so it had to meet the same goals. For the his-and-hers sinks, I wanted a similar level of artistic flair and quality material, but the backsplash is completely different in material, size, design and color palette. This remarkable installation is made of smokey grey limestone, white marble outlining and glass petals. It has a timeless feeling and a unique contrast between the translucent depths of glass and the elegance of solid stone.The design was achieved using a precision water jet technique that produces intricate patterns. Each section looks like a puzzle piece, and all the pieces are interlocked to look like one seamless panel. For a polished finish, I outlined the installation with a marble pencil liner.

To balance the high energy of the backsplash, I chose a more subdued mirror, vessel sink, quartzite countertop from www.mandmstone.ca. and cabinets from www.woodlandcabinetry.com.  The simple glass and metal sconces from www.shakuff.com flanking the mirrors do not distract from the star of the show.


Bring Big Style to a Small Space

Though they tend to be small, powder rooms are a great opportunity to make a big impact during the short time that people spend there.  For his study/entertainment room, the husband wanted a masculine, memorable look in en suite the powder room. Working again with www.artistictile.com, I chose an  organic wave pattern hand carved by artisans onto sandstone, referencing the husband’s love for the beauty and power of the outdoors. To  achieve the tonal differences, the darker waves on each stone are more highly honed than the lighter ones, producing a three-dimensional relief. Rounding out the space, I added a sleek black vessel sink from www.stoneforest.com, and a gray quartzite countertop. Notice too how the open shelving in the vanity gives our client easy access to towels, and allows him to display a valet box.


Establish the Tone for the Whole House

I have always believed that the front foyer, including the powder room, should tell everyone what to expect of the design throughout the home. My goals for the entire house are summarized in this small space—luxurious and artistic yet warm and inviting. The centerpiece is the highly textured tile backsplash wall by Kelly Wearstler via www.annsax.com.  It has a warm, mocha-brown rubbed finish that intensifies the ridged pattern. The installation is one of many textures that generate energy and excitement, including the leathered quartzite countertop and the pebbly finish of the bronze door handle.

Match the Mood to the Function

The location and function of any room is always a consideration when choosing the furnishings and finishes. This powder room above is just off the outdoor pool, so the playful design of this mosaic tile wall installation and the splashes of color are perfect! I worked with artist Alison Eden of New York, again via www.artistictile.com, to custom design this pattern. It is made of tiny stained glass pieces, meticulously assembled into an exuberant work of art. Whenever I look at this photo, it always makes me happy! To offset all of that energy and excitement, I chose a clean-lined vanity in cabernet red and a simple white onyx vessel sink from www.stoneforest.com. The floating toilet from www.pirch.com  opens up sight lines and makes cleaning easier.

What Do Your Backsplashes Say About You?

For each client’s home, I choose backsplashes that help tell the story of the people who live there. Would you like to know more? Please contact me.

As the winter holidays approach and days grow shorter, I am craving more light in my life.  How about  you? Holiday entertaining makes me think about those eye-catching chandeliers and fixtures that elicit oohs and aahs from our friends and family, and us. The glamour and exhilaration of a statement light can transform a space, so I like to think beyond the dining room and find unexpected places for them throughout a home, such as this client’s spacious closet and dressing area, below.


When I choose a fixture, I ask myself if I want it to be the star of the show or add another layer to a well-designed space. The delicate-looking, lotus-like light fixture from Wired brings both elements to the wife’s spacious closet above. It doesn’t steal the scene, but it is an exciting presence. Beyond that, it helps achieve the feminine look she envisioned. Made of clear Murano glass leaves, this piece is designed to make her smile every time she steps into this very personal dressing area. While the pendant serves as overall lighting, I added a task light on her vanity and illuminated closet space, including a lighted shoe carousel. One more tip: the antiqued, mirrored cabinet fronts reflect light, magnifying it throughout the room.

It is well documented that lighting plays a major role in our emotional health and well-being.  Did you know that it can affect appetite and increase both positive and negative emotions? Find out more in this interesting article I found from Thrive Global  on HowLightingAffectsMoodandBehavior.

Three Layers of Lighting

As an interior designer I have known for decades that lighting is a major component in the design process.  I always keep in mind the purpose of each room. The kitchen is a work space where we are moving from one to task to another, so it requires brighter light while the dining room calls for more mellow illumination that encourages a relaxed yet festive mood. No matter which room or area of the house, I always plan for layers of lighting:

  • Overall
  • Task
  • Accent
black starburst chandelier
A black starburst chandelier brings unexpected drama and elegance to this cozy upper hallway sitting area.

All Fixtures Must Be Different, But Work Together

When choosing lighting for a whole home or multiple rooms, it is important to choose a variety of styles and shapes while also ensuring that all the fixtures work in harmony with each other and the style of the home. The black starburst chandelier in the upper hallway of this Dallas-area home, above photo, is completely different than the tailored pendants, also from Wired, in the nearby master bedroom hallway shown below. But the black shades and crystal rods of the master bedroom pendants are a natural transition from the upper hallway fixture.

To round out the cozy, upper hallway sitting area, I combined the dramatic light fixture with a pair of carved wood arm chairs with bright paisley fabric, a hair-on-hide rug in a chevron pattern and a sculptural floor lamp. The carved wood panels on the wall introduce a layer of texture and rustic interest.

black shade pendants
The elegantly tailored black shades of these pendants are a counterpoint to the glamorous sparkle of the crystal rods.

Fixtures with Masculine-Feminine Vibe

My objective in the master bedroom above was to create a grand but not ornate passage. I chose a blend of traditional, contemporary and modern elements including free-form art, stained wood, custom doors and the trio of chandeliers. The fixtures have a masculine-feminine vibe that reminds me of a man in a tux beside a woman wearing glittering jewelry.

oval chandelier
An elongated, oval chandelier fills the space above the long table with glamorous style in this dining room. Photo by Studio West Photography

Go Big in the Dining Room

Chandeliers help balance the scale and proportion of a room and they supply the “wow” factor. I look for fixtures that have a three-dimensional, sculptural quality that can be appreciated whether standing or seated. In this dining room, the transparency of the glass, the golden gleam of the trim and shimmering light are juxtaposed against the size and shape of the fixture. It is a stunning combination that works well above a 10-seat table. In keeping with the glamorous lighting, I chose plummy-colored velvet strie chairs and geometric head chairs and wrapped the room in a beautiful shimmered gold wall paper that references the light fixture trim.

round open metal chandelier
Not all dining area fixtures have to be glam. Photo by Studio West Photography

Thinking Green

As a certified GREENleader with the SustainableFurnishingsCouncil,

I make extensive use of LED lighting. LED bulbs consume less power in relation to the light they provide, which reduces greenhouse emissions from power plants. Carbon dioxide emissions for LEDs also are low. Did you know that one LED bulb will minimize greenhouse gas emissions by almost half a ton? That’s a major benefit to us and our environment. For more enlightenment, check out this Business Matters article on Top 9 Benefits of LED Bulbs.

Looks Count, Too

Of course, looks are important too. I chose this modern, LED fixture in smoky gray glass from Hammerton to echo the shape of the table and its gleaming metal base. It also provides a circular counterpoint to the angular elements of the space, such as the squared-off chairs with square cut-out backs and the built-in cabinets.  

opaque qhite glass pendants over kitchen island
Opaque, white glass pendants provide excellent task lighting in this bachelor’s kitchen. Photo by Studio West Photography

Appealing to Men and Women

This 60-year-old bachelor and physician commissioned me to completely renovate his Highland Park, Illinois, kitchen in a clean, transitional style that has more sharp angles and edges than curves. But the design had to be as appealing to women as men, including the light fixtures. The opaque glass drum pendants, also from Hammerton, are tailored and elegant - they reference the shape of the dining table pendant and the table’s glass inset lazy susan, establishing a pleasing transition from one space to the other.  Again – two different styles of light fixtures that share similar traits, much like children from the same family.

Statement lighting is a great addition to any room, as long as the scale and the style are right. It works in foyers, living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, master bedrooms and guestrooms, walk-in closets and even the nursery. My best advice is to keep an open mind when considering light fixtures. Some of the most successful rooms I’ve designed have a mix of lighting styles and materials.

Many thanks to all of you who were able to attend “50 Shades of Green,” co-hosted by Orren Pickell Building Group of Winnetka.  As a member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council and an environmentalist, I loved sharing my ideas for eco-friendly design options with you and chatting afterwards about the display of sustainable fabrics, woods and cork flooring. We called our event  “50 Shades of Green" because we believe that our clients can choose any level of sustainable “green” for their homes. Eco-friendly home décor and home construction is like switching to organic foods—you can start with a few sensible choices and expand from there. Even small changes at home can make an important difference in your indoor air quality and the health of the planet. After all, we spend most of our time at home. Our indoor air quality is as important to our health as eating well and exercising. Reducing out-gassing from home furnishings, such as formaldehyde in wood floor finishes, protects us, our families and our much-loved pets.

Here is a summary of my top tips for eco-friendly home furnishings.


Sustainable and Reclaimed Flooring

I have already blogged about fast-growing eucalyptus wood for floors and cabinets and reclaimed French farm house wood for floors here:  JustCertifiedinEco-FriendlyDesign and here: GreenFurnishingsAreSmart.  But I have gathered some extra facts about eucalyptus wood:

  • It is a fast-growing, sustainable hardwood. Ten-year-old trees often reach 90-100 feet.
  • The wood is dark-red and durable.
  • It a long, straight-grain that yields one of the strongest and most stable of all the hardwood building materials. In fact, the wood is said to be as durable as teak and 10 to 20 percent more dense.
  • Eucalyptus Is grown on plantations and known not only for its rapid growth but its affordability.

Fascinating Facts About Cork

Today I am adding another sustainable flooring to my list—cork. Surprise! It isn’t just for wine bottles and memo boards anymore. Cork is harvested from the bark of the cork oak, which is grown primarily in Spain and Portugal. Did you know that cork oak trees are not harmed when their bark is harvested? Some cork forests have been harvested for a thousand years, which is absolutely amazing. Using cork supports those farmers and protects this vital resource. The preservation of cork oak forests also is important to the survival of thousands of species in its rare ecosystem.

Why is Cork Good for Homes?

Because cork is a protective barrier for the tree, it also is naturally hypo-allergenic, anti-microbial and anti-fungal. Cork is very resilient too, due to its unique cellular construction. It cushions impacts, resists dents and absorbs sound. It also feels warm underfoot because of its high insulation value.  Cork is very durable, too. Your floor can last over 50 years! My go-to vendor for this sustainable, renewable resource is Duro-Design. Their product has a water-based finish with minimal out-gassing.  It is resistant to abrasion and only needs routine damp-mopping with water. Of course, I love the variety of styles they offer, too. Duro-Design manufactures this flooring in 88 colors and six patterns. I would recommend it for any room in the house.


Choosing Natural Wool Rugs

Wool rugs are a win-win for your home. One of my favorite vendors is Davis Rugs because their wool rugs are:

  • Made with a natural, renewable resource – sheep’s wool!
  • Biodegradable
  • Energy efficient to produce, creating a much smaller carbon footprint
  • Manufactured without petroleum, which is a limited, non-biodegradable resource
  • Made in the USA – shorter distance to ship
  • Durable and easy to clean
  • Can be protected with a “green” stain resistant finish
  • Recyclable – it can be unraveled and repurposed for new products
  • Soft and warm underfoot

Natural Fabrics and Finishes

Why should you choose natural textiles for upholstery, window treatments, mattresses, bedding and decorative pillows? They are sustainable, biodegradable and breathable. They produce minimal out-gassing and are often made using green manufacturing processes that have a smaller ecological footprint. You can protect these fabrics with “green” stain resistant finishes, too.

Among my favorite natural fabrics are wool, linen and cotton. I like Crypton  fabrics too. Though the fabric is not natural, the company uses an eco-friendly stain resistant finish, so it does have some “green” credentials. Remember too that while you spend most of your time at home, the majority of that time is spent in bed, so it is important to consider choosing a mattress made of natural materials.


Choosing Sustainable Wood

The wood floor samples above are from Abner Henry,  a 100-year-old Amish furniture company in Ohio that uses only sustainably harvested wood. What does that mean? All of the trees harvested to make their furniture are individually chosen so that only the most mature trees are cut down and the younger ones can continue to thrive. Abner Henry uses virtually all North American woods, and they offer a formaldehyde-free finish as well as their Pro Tekt finish which after 21 days has minimal to no off-gassing. Both finishes protect furniture from hazardous spills such as hot coffee, finger nail polish remover, tomato juice and acids. And here’s an interesting fact: the United States Forestry Service says we now have 2 ½ times more harvestable timber in North America than in the 1950s because of improved harvesting techniques.

Final Words

I believe that luxury and sustainability can be combined to create outstanding design. Whether you choose to make your whole house “green” or you just want it to be a lighter shade of green, I would love to help you select furnishings to meet your goals.





  • When

    November 12, 2019

  • Where

    Orren Pickell Building Group, 444 Skokie Blvd., Wilmette

  • Co-Host

    Orren Pickell Building Group

September 12 2019 event image

Please join us at the Orren Pickell Showroom for an evening of conversation about sensible, eco-friendly design choices for your home.

Orren Pickell Building Group will discuss low-vapor paint, the value of efficient furnaces and water-based wood floor finishes.

Michelles Interiors will be talking about improving indoor air quality, sustainable wood flooring and cabinetry, and the importance of using natural fabrics.

To sustain you (pun intended) heavy hor d'oeuvres and cocktails will be served.

Photos from the event:


It’s great to be green! I have just completed an intensive course in eco-friendly design and have become a certified GREENleader and member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council.  SFC is a North Carolina-based coalition of design-related professionals working to raise awareness and expand the adoption of environmentally sustainable practices across the home furnishings industry. The course is approved by top people at the Rainforest Alliance, World Wildlife Fund and USGBC/LEED (U.S. Green Building Council/Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design).

Whether I choose one or two sustainable items for a project, or reclaimed wood floors throughout a home, luxury and sustainability can be combined to create outstanding design. I call it “eco-luxury.” Through my continual explorations and research, I have discovered a wealth of excellent furnishings made from sustainable or reclaimed materials. Many do not cost much more than other products and they bring so much value to a home. Eco-friendly furnishings provide a sense of wellness to an indoor lifestyle, organic influences to the design and a sense of authenticity. For one of my newest and most luxurious projects – a spacious, newly constructed home in the Dallas area, pictured above – I made extensive use of sustainable, reclaimed and repurposed materials.


In the Dallas-area kitchen above, I chose sustainable Red Grandis (eucalyptus) wood from Woodland Cabinetry in three different finishes – weathered gray for the perimeter cabinets, creamy white for the island and chocolate with a milky, translucent glass on the millwork. Eucalyptus trees are amazing. They can be fast-growers, and they are one of the tallest plants on the planet. Some grow as high as 200 feet!

The floor, from Exquisite Surfaces,  is made of natural, untouched wood planks that were reclaimed from French farm houses. They add history and a lived-in feeling, plus I love the variety of natural earth tones in the unfinished boards. Imagine the stories they could tell.

The husband’s study is so spacious I started calling it his “wing.” It includes his office plus a game table for cards with his buddies and a substantial sitting area where they can all watch sports. To boost the masculine yet polished feeling he wanted, I paired the natural wood flooring with the more refined finishes of the desk, credenza and ceiling beams.


I wanted to make the vestibule to the master bedroom feel special each time my clients entered their private sanctuary. The decorative inlay design using the reclaimed wood creates that focal point. The natural wood with the floral settee and artwork combine for a nature-inspired vignette.


Yes, those are cow bells lining the second floor hallway, where you can spot the reclaimed flooring again. I repurposed the wife’s collection to create a focal wall that channels her Texas lifestyle.  It would be a shame not to display those awesome bells, which also advance my green goals.

Upper Hallway with Wood Beam Ceiling, Cow Bell Collection

Because it is near the outdoor pool, I wanted this bathroom to have a colorful, playful feeling and a sense of continuity with the rest of the home that comes from the farm house planks.

The floral, mosaic tile wall installation and glass wall sculptures are art-inspired contrast for the floor.

Colorful Pool Powder Room with Floral Mosaic Tile Wall

All photos by Brian Gassel Photography

Want to know more about eco-friendly luxury?

Contact me using the form below or call me at 847.223.2660

When I’m looking for inspiration, nothing compares to my annual trek to High Point Market in North Carolina. This is the largest home furnishings trade show in the world, and it is always a source of discovery and delight. I spend several days exploring 10 million square feet of exhibit space and roughly 2,000 exhibitors. Comfortable shoes are a must-have! The show attracts the top furnishings designers and manufacturers in the world with the latest designs in fabrics, finishes, furniture, lighting and accessories.  It is exhausting, but worth every step. I always come home with dozens of photographs and acres of ideas for my clients’ homes. This year, as a newly certified member of the Sustainable Furnishings Council, I was truly happy to see an increase in furnishings made with sustainable or reclaimed materials, too. Below, I have curated some of my favorite finds from my latest expedition.

Many thanks to the editors at Kitchen & Bath Design News for featuring one of my complete kitchen renovations in the latest issue of their monthly magazine. They did a wonderful job describing the problems I confronted and the solutions I created for this project. Though the floorplan for this interior “floating” kitchen presented a challenge, I was able to open up sight lines, integrate the room with the rest of the house and create a functional, attractive space.  Here are some photos in addition to those in the article:

white floating kitchen with dark island

A Dark Wood Island Pairs Beautifully with White Perimeter Cabinets

In this view you can see the stained wood, mullioned door to the dining room on the right, located conveniently close to the kitchen. I extended the countertop along that wall to provide a place for the dishes removed after meals. White cabinets were a must-have for these clients, but I balanced them with stained-wood island cabinets (all from CrestwoodCustomCabinets), which integrate the kitchen with other dark wood elements throughout the house. I also created symmetry and more storage by making all of the cabinets the same height, increasing their size and eliminating a seldom-used desk. The taupe and soft white granite countertop from TerrazzoandMarble draws its color palette from the cabinets.

Creative Problem Solving

When I redesigned the L-shaped island into a rectangle, it left a gap between the cabinetry and the existing floor tile—which the clients wanted to keep. To solve the problem, I chose a mosaic tile border in complementary colors from DalTile that looks like it was installed with the original floor. In order to add a second oven, I eliminated the existing single oven and created an appliance wall opposite the island with a double oven from LG Appliances, framed by panties, cabinets and drawers. The island drawers are yet another update. I always recommend drawers to my clients instead of cabinets, to eliminate the two-step process of opening cabinet doors and pulling out rolling shelves to access cookware.

dark wood kitchen island

A Glass Mosaic Tile Backsplash adds Texture

creamy white glass backsplash tile

This close-up shot spotlights the texture and pattern of the glass backsplash tile from MidAmericaTile. I chose a quiet color that directs focus on the ridged texture and blends well with the cabinets.

sharp brand microwave drawer dark kitchen island

This side of the kitchen island is packed with solutions, from the SharpUSA drawer microwave to the additional cabinets and draws, plus the open shelving for our clients’ cookbook collection. Notice that I recessed that area to create room for the counter stools.

The completed kitchen has an improved traffic pattern, 36 square feet of additional storage, more cooking space, improved sight lines and is better integrated with the rest of the house. Thanks again to Kitchen & Bath Design News for putting this kitchen in the spotlight!

Ready to talk about remodeling your kitchen? Just fill out the form below.

What is luxury? I ponder that question often. Yes, luxury is top-quality materials and exquisite craftsmanship. But it is so much more.  For me, luxurious interior design is about creating an environment where people can thrive, where they can be their best. It is all about your lifestyle. When you are at home, you should enjoy the same mindset that you have on vacation – every day. Your home should feel like a refuge. It should refresh and rejuvenate you and give you a deep sense of well-being.  People often are willing to splurge on a fantastic vacation that is over in a week or two. But you spend most of our time in your home, and you deserve a retreat that gives you what a vacation gives you, day after day. Here is my definition of luxury:


Photos Courtesy of Michelle’s Interiors

Luxury is… when everyone feels comfortable in your home.

You need cushy places to sit, a memorable powder room, sufficient lighting and excellent acoustics for conversation, listening to music, watching TV and falling asleep. Good acoustics were important for this client’s media room in Texas, above, where family and friends gather to watch TV or movies, play cards, enjoy conversation at the bar (topped by black petrified wood) and play shuffleboard. No one would ever guess that the upholstered walls, with fabric from www.jab.de,  were my acoustical solution. The comfortable swivel arm chairs and sofas by www.stanfordfurniture.com and swivel counter stools by www.ef-lm.com   make everyone feel like lingering.


Photo Courtesy of Michelle’s Interiors

Luxury is… getting a refreshing night’s sleep.

Your bed and bedding should all be perfectly paired with your needs for a relaxing, deep sleep. We chose a duvet cover, shams and lumbar pillow from www.quiltmasterinc.com and the bed frame is from www.kravet.com.  I provided layers of lighting, including two cans over the bed with individual bedside controls so one person can read and the other can dim or turn theirs off as desired.  The bedside lamps should be at the right height and intensity for late-night reading, such as these organic lamps we chose from Kravet.  The window treatments should provide privacy and the amount of light you want.


Photo Courtesy of Michelle’s Interiors

Luxury is…. a well-planned and welcoming kitchen.

If your kitchen is easy to work in, you may be inspired to cook more often and eat better. It will make entertaining easier and perhaps more frequent. The work space will be logical and efficient. For this project I chose the high-performance range, wall convection steam oven, additional wall convection oven and integrated refrigerator and freezer, all from www.subzerowolf.com.  The lightly distressed walnut flooring is from www.Wideplankflooring.com, and I  chose Dekton countertops from www.tithoftile.com because they are super durable and easy to maintain.


Photo Courtesy of Luxemagazine.com

Luxury is… a healthy environment.

Indoor air quality, natural fabrics and materials as well as plants contribute to making you feel good at home. Studies show that indoor plants boost our mood, help clean and humidify the air and reduce our risk of illness. Plus, they add color and beauty to any room in the house.


Photo Courtesy of Michelle’s Interiors

Luxury is…. privacy.

Having your own space to be alone or to have an intimate conversation, is one of life’s great pleasures and needs. That has become particularly important since the era of the open-concept floor plan, as Houzz  explored in this piece:  https://www.houzz.com/magazine/rethinking-the-open-plan-space-stsetivw-vs~85130880.  In the photo above, my client’s cheerful and private home office gives her the seclusion she sometimes craves, and it suits her playful, upbeat personality. The colorful wing chairs are from www.charlesstewartcompany.com and the desk chair is from www.stanfordfurniture.com.


Photo Courtesy of TraditionalHome.com, by Kimberly Gavin

Luxury is…. a great shower.

You know what I mean – a shower that relaxes or invigorates you, depending on the need.  Research shows that showers – hot or cold – have a variety of health benefits https://www.popsugar.com/fitness/Cold-Showers-vs-Hot-Showers-Health-Benefits-Both-15021710, whether you have stiff muscles, a head cold or fatigue.


Photo Courtesy of Michelle’s Interiors

Luxury is…. a custom, personal look.

It’s one that makes people ask, “where did you get that?” Custom-tailored design is about unique, authentic pieces that tell a story, whether those are your treasured heirlooms, antiques, or something new. The cowbells in this client’s upstairs hallway are part of a much-loved collection that she wanted us to display.

Interior design is… an investment in everyday life.


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Sometimes the most luxurious part of vacationing is not where you go, but where you stay.  Ask yourself this: Why do you travel? Is it to explore historic buildings, sites and artifacts? Is it to relax? Or, maybe your excursions include setting out on adventures without a plan at all. Yes, you may fulfill these experiences through the places you visit. But, wonderful immersions in far-off places can equally occur at the fine hotels, inns or other accommodations where you stay. Whether traveling for business or leisure, I’ve always thought a hotel’s design and hospitality experience should be impressive and offer that something special to treat yourself. Below are five of my favorite hotels that emit serenity and charm in every corner.

The Wentworth Mansion, Charleston, S.C. 

The historic Wentworth Mansion exudes splendor. This exquisite 21-room tribute to Charleston’s gilded age ensures that each guest experiences the magic of the mansion. Each one of the guest rooms and suites are unique in size, shape and architectural detail.

What I admire most about this ornate hotel is its interior luxury. With Italian crystal chandeliers, hand-carved marble fireplaces and original Tiffany-stained glass, you are sure to feel like royalty during your stay here.

The Wentworth caters to all of life’s little pleasures, including afternoon wine and hors d’oeuvres, evening port, sherry and brandy, 24-hour concierge services, an on-site spa, and an evening turndown service with homemade chocolates. It is no wonder the Wentworth Mansion claimed its spot on the 2018 TripAdvisor Travelers’ Choice Awards as the second Best Luxury Hotel in the United States.

Learn more: https://www.wentworthmansion.com/

Las Alcobas, Napa Valley, California

If a Georgian-style farmhouse situated adjacent to Beringer vineyards does not scream serenity, I don’t know what will. The beautiful Las Alcobas in Napa Valley is elegantly designed using soothing natural materials and a neutral palette. Many of the resort’s 68 rooms and suites feature an outdoor terrace with breath-taking vineyard views. Additionally, they are also decorated with Rivolta linens, oversized bathrooms and custom-designed furniture. I love the resorts picturesque detailing, including a different collection of artwork in each room. It’s heaven!

What I adore most about this Napa Valley hotel is the story behind it. When looking at Las Alcobas standing proudly on the top of a hill, you are looking at a house that has stories of a family whose generations worked the land, growing, building, and planting. While times have changed, the family has remained strong. Some may have left the property, but all of them eventually make their way back home to this restful place to enjoy a few days in paradise.

Learn more: http://www.lasalcobasnapavalley.com.

The Umaid Bhawan Palace, Jodhpur, India

As far as international hotels go, the Umaid Bhawan is one of my favorites. This luxurious five-star Taj heritage hotel is set amidst 26 acres of lush gardens and landscaped Baradari Lawns. If that is not luxurious enough, there are also peacocks roaming around and a subterranean Zodiac pool. This gorgeous palace offers 64 breathtaking art deco-style rooms and suites.

The Taj Umaid Bhawan Palace Hotel is a portion of the Umaid Bhawan Palace. The palace shares the same palm court marble as the renowned Taj Mahal and counts among the most opulent homes ever built. An excursion to this wonderful palace of a hotel is like nothing you have seen or experienced.

A much-loved aspect of the Umaid Bhawan is the experience of being surrounded by the beauty of the original architecture of the bygone era. The palace permeates with rich history, and has had its fair share of royal company, including Maharani Badan Kanwar of Jodhpur.

Before your tour of the nearby Taj Mahal, my recommendation is to pre-book your seat at the hotel’s lavish poolside grill and enjoy the best of Indian food and cocktails under the warm India sun.

Learn more: http://www.ummedhotels.com/jodhpur

The Setai Hotel, Miami Beach, FL

Anyone who knows me, knows I cherish time in South Florida. Whether doing work for a design client or taking time for Miami shopping, the Setai Hotel is always one of my go-to hotel options.

If you’re craving a serene beach getaway, I recommend booking your stay at the Setai Hotel in Miami Beach, Florida. This oasis of tranquility is set amidst the lively energy of South Beach. The hotel is gorgeous, and it has been artfully designed with a combination of the rich architectural history of South Beach’s Art Deco District and the cultural history of the Asian Art Deco Movement. What a combination for design!

This hotel is dear to my heart because guests are offered the best of both worlds– the excitement of South Beach and the intimacy of a luxurious hotel. The Setai Hotel offers Asian-inspired hospitality, meaning each hotel room experience is personalized, discreet and highly comfortable.

The exquisite design of the spacious rooms offers numerous en-suite amenities including handmade Swedish Duxiana king-sized beds, Frette linens, a rainfall shower, a jacuzzi tub, Nest digital thermostats, a Nespresso coffeemaker, and so much more. Some rooms even offer your own private 3,000 square-foot tropical infinity pool!

If that isn’t enough, dimly lit and luxurious lounge seating has been created indoors amid interior palms and an ocean-blue reflection pool, where you can be see and be seen as you relax in South Beach style.

Learn more: www.thesetaihotel.com

The Inn at Willow Grove, Orange, VA.

Voted one of the top 10 best hotels in the world in 2017 by Travel and Leisure, the Inn at Willow Grove in Orange, Virginia, offers one of the most delightful guest experiences in the country. With fresh homemade beignets and locally-roasted signature blend French Press coffee delivered to your door in the morning, concierge butler service and complimentary canapes in the evening, what more could you ask for?

Well, how about rustic yet modern furniture with a, what Forbes likes to call, Restoration-Hardware-meets-Gone-with-the-Wind vibe. I mean, that alone is worth a visit to this cute hotel.

This hidden gem has such a cute backstory. One day while on a trip to buy groceries, owners David and Charlene Scibal saw a “For Sale” sign outside the historic Willow Grove plantation house. Within 24 hours, the property was on its way to becoming a huge renovation project for them.

The result of this 1778 inn’s rebirth was truly astonishing. While the Scibal’s have preserved the historical integrity of Willow Grove, they also turned the expansive home into a luxury hotel. The rooms feature amenities such as heated tile bathroom floors, gas fireplaces and deep soaking tubs.

The destination underwent another exciting expansion that opened in fall 2017. The expansion includes two new cottages with luxury rooms and suites, along with the Mill House Spa, a fitness center, and a heated outdoor pool. My favorite part of the inn? It is dog-friendly!

Learn more: https://innatwillowgrove.com/

Wherever you roam, some say there is no place like home. But, I am not so sure. It is very well possible that indulgent hotels and other breath-taking get-aways are so unlike home, you just might want to book a long and luxurious stay.

Though, if you are like me, when you return home, you will have brought with you many beautiful ideas for designing your own space, as if to reflect the gracious hospitality and stunning interiors of the places where you stayed.

Enjoy your summer vacation and stay tuned to our blog for more to follow.

~ Michelle

Beautiful lighting is essential to all of my design projects and is one of the most important elements that can be used to create spaces with luminous style and design.

An indispensable design ideology I learned and mastered years ago is that well-planned lighting transforms spaces and sets the tone for every room. I always have a road map including specific research and planning when I start a project with dazzling lights.

Because lighting should be one of the primary considerations when designing interiors, I love staying informed about lighting essentials, lighting design trends and the best options for specifying light fixtures for my clients.

Already this year, I have uncovered some of the most beguiling and elegant sconces, chandeliers, pendants, globes, and hanging lights. So, I have shared just a few of my favorites in this blog post.

1. The Pathleaf Wall Sconce Brings the Outside Inside!

Nature is made manifest in the Pathleaf Collection from Serip. I was awestruck after seeing some of Serip’s lights at the Hamptons Contemporary Design Show; the Pathleaf Collection recreates every graceful vein in a leaf with its stunning Pathleaf Wall Sconce, which is handmade in Portugal.

It comes in 10 creative metal finishes, including pink gold, copper, black and silver with a white patina, and the glass can be ordered from an array of colors, too. This wall sconce can be customized to one’s specifications. There are so many wonderful options like having it made into a large piece for an open space such as a two-story foyer.

You can see the line at www.serip.com.vn/index.php/product/collection/pathleaf-collection/pathleaf-all.

2. The Kadur Drizzle Pendant Resembles Falling Rain.

Rocks and shells were the childhood muses of Joseph Sidof, the founder of Brooklyn-based Shakúff Custom Glass Lighting & Decor. His inspiration shows in the hand-blown Kadur Drizzle Pendant, which looks like an exquisite beach treasure that was pocketed, once upon a time, by an enterprising child on a beach adventure. That is my creative view of the inspiration behind this highly imaginative light!

The pendant is available in an array of breath-taking colors, finishes and sizes, with the center orb of each pendant filled with drizzled glass fibers that are encased within a pristine, outer glass sphere. One concept of using this light fixture is to create the fanciful, yet carefree, look of a gentle rainfall in nature, with its hanging or seemingly dripping “raindrop” orbs.

I customized a version of this light when I worked with one of my clients to address an architecturally awkward space above her front foyer and main staircase. By designing a distinct and unique version of the light that was specific to the space, I put to good use the fixtures’ artistic shape and ability to offer varying heights with its globes. This changed the awkward space into a key design element of the interior’s new essence. For more information, visit www.shakuff.com/kadur-pendant-light-custom-chandelier.

3. Petra Baku Updates the Past.

During the 16th and 17th centuries, chandeliers were made of irregularly-cut rock crystal that enhanced the modest power of candlelight. Petra Baku, a stunning fixture from Wired Custom Lighting, revisits the earliest days of chandelier design with this modern design created with black iron and hand-tied raw, milky rock crystal.

It’s such a fascinating blend of old and new; it would be the perfect statement piece for a dining room or to affix above a curving stair.

To learn more about Petra Baku, visit www.wired-designs.com/collections/ceiling/products/petra-baku.

4. The Bold, Yet Delicate, Liquid!

This linear suspension LED fixture, Liquid, is yet another spectacular creation from the studio of David D’Imperio. An innovator in linear suspension lighting, what I adore about D’Imporio is that he brings art to lighting through his totally unique sculptural style. His lighting design is unlike most you will see, and this alone is what gives it such an attractive and understated languid quality.

The exterior of Liquid is stainless steel, while the interior is aluminum. In my view, the piece artfully pushes the boundaries of lighting design by marrying organic and geometric shapes in perfect harmony. It quickly caught my eye when I saw it shining, with each and every jemstone-like appendage shimmering in its light.

I would put this piece in a space in which no other art is nearby. Why? Because Liquid leaves no room for competition. It’s no wonder that D’Imperio’s work has been featured in the most exclusive of places. To learn more about Liquid, visit www.daviddimperio.com/liquid.

5. Getting Celestial with the Luna Globe.

For a classic, transitional or evenly subtly modern space, I like to bring in some important features such as with the Luna Globe’s sphere. When I first saw this fixture, I knew it was an updated version of an armillary sphere giving way to numerous options for where and how it could light spaces. I envision it placed individually as a low-hanging globe above a dining table, or as part of a pair hung higher from a ceiling to flank the interior of a room with extended length or width.

It comes from KingsHaven. The company’s founder and lead lighting designer, Lauren Wylonis, and her team have launched an entire line of sophisticated lighting options for interiors and exteriors. The Luna Globe’s hand-crafted iron sphere is embraced by a beautiful ring of delicately-grained laurel wood. Inspired by the shapes in the night sky, the Luna Globe is available as a chandelier, pendant or semi-flush fixture in virtually any color of wood and finish.

What I like about it most may be the fact it is versatile. It works particularly well in historic homes in need of staying true to historic architecture, yet it also can add light and levity to a new and more modernized home. This fixture certainly creates the point at which coziness enters a room. Learn more at www.kingshaven.com/collections/lighting/products/luna-globe-large.

Believing in the power of well-designed light as well as embracing the ways it provokes evolution of style in any space are second to none when it comes to interiors that reflect beauty and luxury.

Contact me with your questions about lighting and interior design for your home or business.


Whether reconfiguring an existing interior space or adding square footage to a home, interior design of excellence begins with understanding what is involved.

As the new year is well upon us, and many of you are looking toward home renovations and renewed design ideas, I thought this month’s blog topics might inspire you.

This time of year, when many people desire creative changes in their homes, I am often asked for my thoughts and advice about interior design. The topic of interior design is complex and can involve refreshing the look and feel of a room the whole way to accomplishing a total home renovation project.

I tend to work with clients on larger-scale projects, including custom furniture design, lighting, fabrics, finish selections, custom cabinetry and millwork as well as planning, procurement and installation coordination. Much goes into evoking new design aesthetics for a home, and no two interiors are exactly alike.

Of dozens of questions I am frequently asked about home design, this blog shares my take on a handful of topics about which many of you have inquired. I hope this information will help you consider exciting new interior design ideas for your home.

Now that the holiday décor is stored away for another year, it is time to enhance your home in innovative and imaginative ways to add luxury and beauty to your interior.

Enjoy these often-asked questions and my answers, and contact us if we can help conceptualize your new rooms and spaces in 2018.

Q. What advice do you have for transforming a dining room into a stunning gathering space for family and friends?

 A. At first it may sound obvious, but one of my favorite dining room components to incorporate for my interior design clients is the table. While, yes, the table is clearly the essential item every dining room must have, there is more to table selection than meets the eye.

Round dining tables evoke connectivity between everyone seated at the table, allowing diners to easily converse and see one another. Of course, not every space has the correct dimensions to easily accommodate a round table. Square and rectangular dining tables also give way to conversational dining experiences. I love planning rectangular tables because creative uses of harmonizing side and captains’ chairs are possible.

Selecting the table shape is about how the spaces will be used for both quiet family dinners and lavish dinner parties. But, by all means, the dimensions of the dining room are first and foremost. For dining rooms, size undoubtedly matters and should be at the core of planning.

For one of my client’s dining rooms (pictured below), we chose a rectangular dining table to fit generously into the spacious and elongated space, which needed to be elegant with a touch of contemporary flair, yet not too busy.

To make a statement that was appealing but not over-dramatic, we went with shades of purple for the chairs’ upholstery. This added pop of chair color was just the right design emphasis against a subtle gold wall paper we picked that looks like soft satin.

I customized the tables’ side chairs with a plush and textured purple fabric. Then, we covered the captains’ chairs in a corresponding purple material displaying a gorgeous geometric pattern.

Tying the color hues together in an orchestrated balancing act, I specified a cream-colored area rug with a pattern of curving purple-dotted lines. We instilled a touch of understated contrast in the room with an oval chandelier boasting a gold finish and strands of hanging crystals, which we hung above the table.

The oval light fixture above the rectangular table created a sense of spatial interest for the room, not to mention provided necessary light with a touch-button dimming feature. Oh, and did I mention the crystal chandelier was my way of infusing a dash of luxury to the dining room?

The overall effect is a warm, inviting dining room for entertaining friends. Though, the design also offers a space for family dinners that are sure to keep the kids engaged and their phones and handhelds out of sight- well, at least for a few minutes.

Q. What is the secret to using multiple fabric colors and patterns in the same room?

A. Incorporating fabrics in interior design is a creative way to turn an ordinary room into an extraordinary one. As a designer, fabrics are one of the creative “tools” I can’t live without. By mixing and matching fabrics, we can create the opportunity to evoke a specific sense of style for a space. Though, this all depends on what type of sentiment you want to create within a room.

To produce a calming effect, I admire fabrics that contain shades of light blue and serene green. Deep reds and gold are workable choices I like to fashion more dramatic or attention-grabbing spaces. No matter which emotion you are trying to imbue, decorating with fabrics can easily give a room a new and chic appearance.

There are a few principles for mixing and matching fabrics. I suggest beginning by selecting three to four colors per room. Often, I will find a print fabric that has several colors in it. I might only use this fabric in a small way, but I can easily build an entire color scheme and room concept around it. This is especially true for homes with tall ceilings and ample wall space.

For one of my client’s guest rooms (below), I planned the perfect room with three colors, black, white and red. But, delving deeper into ultimate design, the tri-color theme was then carefully planned to incorporate seven different patterns or textures. This was our way to give the bed room heaps of design interest, yet keeping all of the patterns nicely unified by the three consistent colors.

I covered the headboards with a solid-red matelassé fabric, which was set against a black and white wallcovering which showcases the pattern of Birch trees. Black and white large-plaid bedding was customized to provide foundation to the room. We further personalized the room with custom, complementary decorative pillows, which have a black and white pattern that appears like square letter “S’s,” for the room’s pièce de résistance.

I topped off the bed with smaller, solid-black rectangular pillows with piping edges as well as two darling round, red pillows that have the texture of playful balls. I then selected art for the room from my client’s art collection, including touches of red, black and white.

When I design fabrics for clients, I like to incorporate different scales of prints and solids. The first fabric pattern usually is a large-scale. This will create a focal point. Next, we choose a second pattern that is completely different from the first. A medium-size pattern but within the same color palette is wise. If not already planned, I then settle on a solid fabric to accompany or counter-balance the first two patterns. Or, we sometimes pick a fabric with a completely contrasting color that features an embroidered design or embellished accents such as decorative buttons, fringes, brocades, or tufts.

I can provide you with predetermined color schemes and compatible families of cohesive fabrics for your next design project. I’ll show you how to play with patterns!

Q. My family room has become the hub of our home for both family and guests. How can I make the room comfortable for my family but more suitable for guests?

 A. Proper planning is extremely important in order to ensure overall form and function of the space. Two components of sophisticated interiors are the floor plan and a room’s focal point. The best arrangements provide the right kind of seating where needed, like furniture placement that allows you and your guests to easily converse; a table within arm’s reach of most seats; and a clear sight line to the room’s focal point- whether it is a beautiful view, fireplace or even the television.

We start with a creative assessment of how a family room will be used and take proper measurements of the room and any existing furniture. You will want to consider the location of immovable structures of the space such as doors, stairs and electrical sockets, as these determine where certain pieces can be placed. I always remind that walkways need to remain unobstructed and wide enough to ease traffic flow.

With these steps prepped and executed, you can arrange furnishings to focus attention toward your desired focal point. A natural-looking arrangement that equates to comfort and flow is key. My design staff and I often try various sketches or other visuals to explore options upfront. Ample seating permits use of the room by both family members and your visiting guests.

In the family room seen below, one of the objectives was comfortable seating to be used for the couple who owned the home. Making good use of the couple’s existing sofas, and creating a seating arrangement in the shape of a “U,” I incorporated two wide armchairs, a useful cocktail ottoman, a rug to ground the space, and draperies easily opened and closed for both day and nighttime uses.

A widescreen television was hung above the fireplace mantle. By doing so, we created two focal points, one being the T.V. when turned on and the other being the fireplace when the T.V. is off and a fire is lit. I flanked the chairs with leather ottomans to provide additional seating when needed.

As you consider your family room’s redesign, think of all the ways you enjoy the room and what it currently does and does not offer. From there, a new design for the room can be conceptualized and planned.

Contact us if we can help. Family rooms, like kitchens, are where much takes place in homes, and we can plan your dream space where you can create memories to last a lifetime.

Q. Do you have suggestions for a much-needed kitchen makeover we are considering for 2018?

A. Kitchens are the heart of the home. I often say if the kitchen table could talk, the stories would be endless. The kitchen design process is complex but does not have to be daunting.

Before any kitchen design project can be successful, you have to assess your wants and needs. For our interior design clients, I sometimes advise them to begin by starting a kitchen “Style File.” This is where they collect photos and information about all the things they think they might like for their new kitchens. This is a time to dream big and let your imagination run a little wild.

Similar to the family room, the best kitchen is one that has been designed for both aesthetic form and real-life function. When we start a kitchen project, we guide our clients through a series of questions such as how many people live in the household and will use the kitchen on a daily basis; does the kitchen need to accommodate small children and pets; do you love to cook; do you collect kitchenware or dishware; is the kitchen used strictly for family, or is it a place of entertaining, too? By asking these and other questions, you will better achieve an end result that suits the needs of your family.

Next, we like to determine whether a client needs a kitchen refresh design, full makeover and renovation, or a brand new kitchen with added square footage.

Possibly, above all else, you will want to assemble the right team members to help you. A kitchen interior project is not one to take lightly or treat as a DIY project.

The first person on your team should be an experienced designer. A good designer can guide you through myriad details that need to be addressed. A designer will also assist with simplifying and supervising the process, at times, including overseeing the kitchen project’s budget.

 Many design experts believe the most efficient kitchen pathway is the triangle. Not always a literal triangle, this path involves the refrigerator, stove and sink. For maximum efficiency, the design should include counter space next to the open side of the fridge as well as plenty of additional counter space on both sides of the stove and sink.

Today’s trend of doubling-up on appliances such dishwashers, sinks, refrigerator drawers, and a separate cooktop may allow for extra work stations, which means you will also want to create supplementary work spaces in your kitchen. For kitchens I conceptualize, I like to avoid “collision” paths, so two people moving about the space while cooking is easy and smooth.

 Picking the right counter tops, choosing appliances, and customizing cabinetry and storage in the kitchen are tasks best left to the guidance of a designer. For example, we learn our clients’ needs and preferences for their kitchens, and we follow-up by researching several options for them to see and consider. All of these kitchen essentials must be carefully predetermined to satisfy cooking and food prep operations and activities well in advance of the final design scheme and material procurements.

 As the most important and potentially most used room in the home, it is important to add your own influence in the kitchen. Following the overall tone of the home is crucial, but the kitchen is a space in which you can break away a bit, with just the right color or a twist on the home’s style.

Colors trending right now include gray, all-white kitchens and splashes of unexpected soft aqua or tones of blue (see our example of this below).

My best kitchen advice: Allow a designer (our own Michelle’s Interiors, if you choose) to help create a personalized kitchen you will love each morning when you make your coffee, one that is also designed to simplify your life during busy family nights and allows you to enjoy and entertain dinner guests.

Q. I’d like to create a seating area or reading nook in my master bedroom. How would you, as a designer, make it comfortable for leisure as well as be consistent with the room’s overall design?

 A. Adding a seating area is a charming way to increase a master bedroom’s functionality and space. An elegant chaise longue or a pair of overstuffed armchairs can instantly create a cozy reading spot or an intimate space to unwind at the end of the day.

With my knowledge of color theory, I know the mind can be positively or negatively stimulated by the surroundings first seen when beginning the day. While each bedroom design is unique, many bedroom’s can include a softer color plan to give way to tranquility, relaxation and rest.

For this master bedroom’s seating area (below), my clients desired a peaceful area for waking in the morning while reading daily devotionals and the newspaper. I custom-designed a tufted chaise for the room with beige, Chenille-like fabric adorned with fringed lumbar and back pillows.

Because their legs are delicate and minimalistic, saving much needed space, we added two lovely, round occasional tables next to the chaise to hold books, coffee cups and juice glasses.

The space still needed that something special. So, I selected a large, round ottoman and had it custom-covered with a luxurious fabric with a sheen in a semi-tufted, circular style.

Keeping the intended use of the seating area top of mind, yet wanting to yield beauty for the space, I hung a small-scale, antique chandelier just above the chaise and placed a floor lamp aside it. Always a fan of natural light as well, I had custom draperies made for the adjacent windows. A heavier nighttime drapery was installed to remotely open and close overtop a lightweight sheer curtain, allowing options for dark or light in the room as desired.

Q. We are considering a whole-home renovation, and the process seems as if it could be overwhelming. What do you suggest for making the process enjoyable?

A. We believe that a well-designed renovation project begins with a strategic approach to creativity and planning. A successful and pleasurable project is always within your reach if you choose the right design team.

My team of designers and I plan many large residential and commercial prospects by first hosting an initial meeting that involves envisioning the completed space and how its end-users will use and enjoy it. Whether the goal is to renovate an existing space or design and build one from scratch, we use this information as a critical component in preparation of a space plan.

We look at future space functions and establish both a creative interior design theme and the physical aspects the space will need to oblige its eventual usage. We survey the space, calculate measurements, and assess the necessary contracting or construction prerequisites.

Our service includes an intrinsic design plan and is often accompanied by floor plans or other visual tools to help our clients imagine and plan the future space with our team. When multiple design options have been explored, we finalize the resulting design theme and either draft or provide consultation for construction documents as needed.

My staff and I then concept and provide a series of material, finish, flooring, wall, ceiling, and many other creative options to evoke decisions about the desired environment. Furniture, lighting and artwork choices are studied to address the interior’s intended impact, stylistically and personally.

It is important we work with our clients until they are completely satisfied and excited about the plan. After they approve the product selections and the plan of action, we assign responsibilities to our staff. Some of these can involve construction bids, overseeing contractors, synchronizing change orders, space planning, site meetings, furniture and fabric selections, customization of one-of-a-kind items, and full interior design installations.

I like to say, we do not consider a whole-home project complete until everything is in its place, and there is a place for everything.

Most of all, do not be overwhelmed. The prospect of a large-scale project like this should be enjoyable and fun. How a project is planned and executed is as important as the final, beautiful result.

Contact me, and we can streamline the process for you in a way that will have you ready to grab a sledge hammer to knock down walls and give your home an entirely new interior flair.



To my faithful blog readers and social media followers, please send me more questions about design, and I’ll answer as many as possible in some of my forthcoming blogs!

Happy designing,



There’s nothing as kind as giving a gift for no reason. But during the Christmas and holiday season, the ante is upped: Our cherished traditions propel us into giddy gift-buying and overt displays of affection. I love it, because it creates precisely the mood necessary for reveling in luxury and sharing some of the finer things in life with those you love.

I so enjoy this time of year because you have an excuse to be over-the-top and truly indulge in all the luxuries Christmas time provides. Here are just a few of my favorite finds for bringing cheer to your holiday season.

When I spotted this Foxhall Manor Dollhouse Kit, I knew it would find its foundation under some lucky child’s Christmas tree. Handmade in Vermont, the Federal-style home is rich in architectural details, including a Palladian dormer window, two curved staircases and a grand center hall. If I were a doll, I would change my address and move here, posthaste. $1,149 at Real Good Toys (www.realgoodtoys.com).The “Star Wars” franchise is the gift that keeps on giving. This year, it is making fiction a reality with the X-34 Landspeeder, a tiny replica of the hovercraft flown by Luke Skywalker in the 1977 film “Star Wars.” Radio Flyer, a firm more known for making red wagons than vehicles for a multi-planet society, is the maker of this vehicle, which will likely thrill parents as much as their children. That’s a total win-win. $250 at www.toysrus.com.

We all have that BFF who savors the written word. Her stationary is her wardrobe. She records her thoughts in longhand. And, it is rumored, she keeps a custom die for engraving her stationary at Cartier’s 5th Avenue flagship. She needs Mrs. John L. Strong Gossip Box Tablets with a keepsake crate. The covers are engraved with cute sayings, including “Off the Record,” “Shhh…” and “Heard Through the Grapevine,” which are printed in various colors and include a hand-engraved motif stamped in gold ink. $98 at Bergdorf Goodman (www.bergdorfgoodman.com).

Even if that man in your life is a visionary, his eyes peering clearly into the future, he could still use the occasional blast from the past. The straight razor is one of these – and it makes for a chic Christmas gift. I am enamored of this razor that was handcrafted by Thiers-Issard, a respected French razor maker that has been in business since 1884. It is the 188 Olivewood Spartacus F-Nose and, while I never thought I’d call a razor “gorgeous,” I am surprised to say this one is indeed just that; it is gorgeous. $285 at www.smallflower.com.

Some parents, yours and mine I am sure, simply have artisanal tastes. They’re the ones following the latest creameries and researching which geographical areas fared best during grape season. When I learned about the 12-month Best of Goldbelysubscription, I knew I had hit a foodie’s delight for the parents who have everything. This subscription includes American favorites, including lobster rolls from Maine’s Hancock Lobster Company, a selection of ice cream from San Francisco’s Humphry Slocombe, a Jack Stack barbecue box from Kansas City, and more. $749 at www.goldbely.com.

Now, thinking of those we may not know well but who live and love just as we do, tens of millions of families cannot afford books for their homes, which puts their children at a significant disadvantage. I love the idea of gifting a child who may need a special gift in his or her life a gorgeous set of books, such as the Puffin in Bloom collection. These classics carry the cover art of Anna Bond, the principal artists behind the stationery brand Rifle Paper Co.In a variation on that theme, I encourage people to get involved with nonprofits that support reading. Milk+Bookies is an inventive one. It provides tools, resources and support in instructing children to host their own Milk+Bookies “book-raiser” parties, during which they can choose, inscribe and donate books to other children who lack reading materials at home.

As we all ready our final purchases and plans, we give thanks to all who have brought us blessings this year. Part of this special season is gifting with the joy of knowing we have provided a little luxury to our friends and family and perhaps to someone in need.

Clearly, the holidays give us carte blanche to be decadent, as if pie has no calories and budgets are an urban legend, so use this season as your reason to revel in luxury and help those you adore do the same.

Happy holidays,


There is something incredibly appealing about the season of autumn. To me, it is the season in which we look inward as we congregate in cozy, well-appointed rooms with loved ones. It is also the time to decide how you are going to celebrate the season’s tastes, scents, traditions, and colors.

Fall rings in the holidays with a wonderful excuse to surround yourself with carefully selected lifestyle and luxury items that add the essence of warm, moody hues and touches of everyday extravagance to enjoy.

Here are five of my favorite finds that make life warm and cheery during this time of year:

Fabulous Missoni Knitwear

Right now, I’m loving knit skirts and sweaters from the iconic Italian brand Missoni; who says cozy can’t be glamorous? There are some great pieces available in Missoni’s trademark space-dyed pattern, in which woven threads create a blended stripe effect of various colors. I think this metallic space-dye knit sweater, from Nordstrom, would be perfect for autumn luncheons or even turkey day. I really like the fact it is lightweight with a glamorous sparkle. It looks incredibly chic when paired with Missoni’s metallic stripe midi skirt, which I learned is also made in lightweight knit. Missoni’s signature zigzag pattern (which I have come to admire!) is unmistakable in this skirt and, by combining it with the sweater, I think this look works from day to night. (Photo courtesy of www.shop.nordstrom.com).

Luxury Mahjong set from AERIN

I didn’t know I was missing this in my life, but I was! It is a handcrafted mahjong set from AERIN, a very cool lifestyle brand launched by Aerin Lauder. There’s nothing like an after-dinner parlor game to keep the festivities going, right?

Let’s just say this mahjong set embraces luxury with wanton abandon. Contained in an embossed shagreen box, it includes 144 engraved tiles made of white melamine and can be used by up to four players. And, while this game will keep guests entertained during the holidays, it’s so gorgeous and stylish, you’ll want to keep it out year-round. (Photo courtesy of www.aerin.com). 

The cookbook “Gateaux: 150 Large and Small Cakes, Cookies, and Desserts”

As soon as the holidays grow near, I always need a few new ideas for sweet treats to serve or gift. I can’t think of a better place to find them than “Gateaux: 150 Large and Small Cakes, Cookies, and Desserts.” Published by Rizzoli, this is my newest go-to cookbook for autumn, which was written by Christophe Felder and Camille Lesecq, renowned pastry chefs in France. The book is so beautifully illustrated, I call it a Look Book! Its 150 recipes can teach some tricks to both the sage baker and the complete novice. I suggest the book as being perfect for the Francophile who wants to master French classics, including éclairs, Saint-Honoré cake, tarte tatin, and croquembouche. Or, if kitchen utility is not your cup of tea, you can always place this stunning book on a book stand or decorative plate holder as an eye-appealing pop of color and interest for fall. Bon appétit! (Photo courtesy of www.rizzoliusa.com).

Scalamandré’s “Oh, so Luxurious” Jardin de Chine fabric

When I first saw this deliciously rich espresso color of Scalamandré Jardin de Chine fabric, I knew instantly it will bring extravagant warmth to any room. From the La Boheme collection, this chintz is a classic chinoiserie print with motifs of flowers and bamboo foliage. Personally, I like it since the design is adapted from an antique, hand-printed wallpaper, but it is executed with a modern sensibility. Scalamandré makes an identical wallpaper for those who desire the opulent look of matching curtains and walls. (Photo courtesy of www.scalamandre.com).

The treat of a Silver Plum personal chef

At no other time of year is food held in higher esteem than during the holiday season. That’s where Silver Plum Personal Chef comes in. Founded by Chef Elizabeth Wells in 2010, this private chef service brings fine elegant dining to your dining room.

An impressive factoid, Wells graduated, magna cum laude, from the Baking and Pastry Arts program at Sullivan University in Kentucky. Now she creates intriguing dishes, such as spiced winter squash soup with crabmeat; torched date canapés with blue cheese, walnuts and watercress; and sous vide duck breast salad with blackberry-sumac sauce. If you need some chic hors d’oeuvres for a cocktail party or a multi-course meal with drink pairings, Silver Plum Personal Chef can whip it up in your kitchen- so you can concentrate on entertaining friends and family this season. (Photo courtesy of www.personalchefblog.com).


In the end, no matter how you shape your own personal season, I like to say, “Embrace love, life and luxury this time of year.”

~ Michelle

If you’ve seen any projects on my website, read any of my blogs, or seen anything I post on Instagram, it’s no surprise that I’m all about creating a luxury lifestyle. There’s a good reason behind my love for the finer things in life, however. Luxury items – designer clothing, luxury cars, gourmet food – have a quality to them that you didn’t even know you needed until you experience them firsthand. You can read more details on how these things can change your life in my previous blog, but today, I’m talking about how investing in simple tools can let you live your life not only easier, but healthier. Today, we’re getting real about what’s going on in the central hub of your home: your kitchen.


In today’s busy world of to-do lists, errands, extracurriculars and the like, taking the time to cook can be the first thing to go. What if I told you there was a way to cook a healthy, vitamin-rich meal, faster than you can say, “Honey, what’s for dinner tonight?”



Welcome to the beautiful world of steam ovens! Steam ovens allow you to cook food in less than half the time while retaining more than 20% more vitamins and minerals in your dishes than when cooking with a traditional oven. I’m a huge fan of Wolf Convection Steam Ovens, myself. They cook your meals to perfection quickly, and can even bring leftovers back to their former glory – nothing will ever go to waste again! With countless design specs and customizable features, as well as multiple cooking modes, your kitchen aesthetic and your cooking reputation both get an upgrade. Who wouldn’t want healthy, home-cooked meals made easy?
As I’ve said before, design is not just about what things look like – it’s how they feel and how they improve the functionality and the quality of your life. A steam oven is a simple solution to not only making healthy meals a part of your routine again, but also bringing back a more family-oriented meal time.

When you walk in your kitchen what do you say to yourself? Do you say: “I don’t feel like digging out my pots and pans! Nothing is in reach!” or “It’s such a hassle to get everything ready to cook, my oven takes forever to warm up!”

Or do you walk into your kitchen and say:  “I love my kitchen!” or “It’s so easy to get everything I need to cook, I don’t have to bend over digging in my cabinet!” or “My refrigerator keeps our food fresh and our range is fabulous! Let’s get cooking!”

Your kitchen can make you say “I can’t wait to cook!”  or  “Let’s eat out.”

Which one does your kitchen make you say?




As far as inspiration goes, I have always had a love and passion for furniture, fabrics and art. My mom instilled this passion in me at a young age, and I ended up following this creative path to design school. The rest is history!

Interior design has brought me a true sense of being. Beyond the beauty, great design answers the question of how you want to live your life. If a space is designed well and designed for you, it lets you live your best life.

When a room is both functional and beautiful, it allows you to live easily. When you design a space to match your lifestyle, life is good. When the functionality of your space is exceptional, you’re going to use it more and, most importantly, enjoy it more.

We live in a society that is all about the experience – it’s more than just what you do, it’s how and where you experience things today that counts.

If you go out for a nice meal, truly, half the experience you’re looking for is the ambiance and the setting in which you dine. You want to sit cozily and comfortably with your party at a well-design table setting, within a well-designed space. You want dim lighting and soft music playing- all of this adds to your experience of your night out.

Same principles apply in your home.

Something that fascinates me to this day is how you don’t always know what you’re missing out on until you’ve experienced it.

The first time I got a car with a back-up camera, I didn’t even think to use it! I had been driving for years without one so why would I need this extra tool? After giving in and trying it out and eventually getting used to it, now I can’t live without it! I hadn’t realized the value of the camera when they were first brought to market, but now I’m a supporter because I experienced it and it made my life easier.

Let’s say you’re buying furniture for your family room. When looking for a sofa you may think, “OK, it’s a couch.”  But if it sits well and fits fabulously in your home, you’re more inclined to have conversations on it, to watch movies with the family on it, to let it become a central hub in your home. Functionally, it makes your life better.

Good design can transform an empty space into a beautiful and lively or a calm and cozy room. It can transform a non-functional space into an efficient one. It can turn a house into your home.

You may not even know what you’re missing out on, but let me tell you: design can change your life.




When designing rooms for their children, parents often want to create a simple design that will last until their kids are in high school. Although this is a practical and conscious decision, I have a different perspective on the matter. When designing children’s rooms, my goal to provide a space in which they can be… well, children! Rather than speeding up the time that they’re in, let’s embrace their youth and their imagination and let that guide the design. Let’s let our kids be young and playful for as long as possible!

One of our amazing clients, a well-traveled family who continuously breathes different cultures into their home designs, asked up to capture an under the sea theme for their second son’s bedroom. Naturally, we knew a submarine- a vessel for travel and for imagination- would be the only answer!

When designing in the city of Chicago, or any big city for that matter, you have to take advantage of the space that you have. For this room, we started with a loft bed design. With storage underneath and on either side, we created a sleeping area, reading nook, and play area all in one. We added lighting and a bookshelf for when the space would be used for reading, a ladder to get up top during adventures at sea, and completed the ship with a periscope that peered into the journey ahead.

Our clients agreed that their son deserved a room that was special to him, and they loved the fact that this room would also serve as a tool for learning. With their travel-inspired vision for the room, they’re able to teach their son about other cultures while still having fun together as a family.

Custom furniture answers many questions in a space, and sometimes it’s the best answer. Beyond the playfulness of a submarine bed, a custom item such as this can be the solution to space constraints and functionality just as this project was. By combining sleep, storage, and play, we came up with this functional concept that solved the issue of space while still making for good design.

In today’s day and age, toys are designed to keep children busy, and often limit their imaginations. Without stimulating learning and play, children are missing out on time to be creative and pretend. This project allowed us to bring some fun back into a child’s youth. This was truly a fun one! It challenged our team creatively, and it also let us get back to our own playful imaginations.




In small business, culture is incredibly important. As the team is small and everyone works closely, it’s important to focus on creating and maintaining a healthy, happy environment for all.

At Michelles’ Interiors, everyone on the team touches, in some capacity, each project that comes through our studio. I truly value my team, and although I know and honor everyone’s individual strengths, I know that we are never as strong as we are when we’re working together as a team.

Good vibes only.

Being positive and promoting only positive vibes in the studio is a top priority for me. I have learned that reacting negatively in a less-than-perfect situation only creates more negativity. Reacting positively creates positivity, therefore avoiding a bad situation altogether.

For instance, we have a lot of items that are delivered to our studio. Occasionally, something arrives late or damaged or not at all. Although damaged pieces or incorrect or missing  orders can delay projects dramatically, we choose to react quickly yet calmly and mitigate situations like this accordingly. No amount of worry will change the past or the future. What counts is positive energy and action.

It’s important to remember that most situations have a solution that’s within your reach. Sometimes we are required to think outside the box, and luckily that’s where my great team steps in and offers each of their unique perspectives. Team problem solving is a great way to promote a positive company culture and hear and acknowledge each team member’s contributions.



It’s also very important to respect each and every employee that works for you- in small business or in big. Respect them not only as human people, but also respect and observe what works for them in the workspace.

If someone who works better with music playing is working next to someone who works better in silence, then maybe that person wears headphones while they work. It’s as simple as finding everyday solutions for your people and making sure that not only you respect your employees and your employees respect you, but that they respect one another.

It comes down to the fact that I want my people to work to their highest potential. I want them to be comfortable in their day-to-day environment, and I want them to be in a place that allows them to enjoy their work, breathe, and grow professionally.

Everyone has a voice.

I fully support and employ an open office policy. If there are any concerns amongst my team, whether it’s a workflow, project, or even a personnel issue, my employees know that they can come see me. Everyone has a voice and everyone is heard.

A thank you to my team.

I am so grateful for my team and all they do for Michelle’s Interiors. They step up and wear different hats when our work calls for it, they hold themselves accountable to their responsibilities, they hold each other accountable to get projects completed efficiently and exquisitely, and most importantly, they make Michelle’s Interiors a great place to work every day.

Although there are practices that any leader can instill in their workplaces, it’s all about finding the right people for you.

I’m proud and grateful to say that I’ve found mine.




There’s always been a connection between people and their environments. Nothing strengthens this bond more than traveling to different parts of the world and soaking up the local culture and its natural imperfections.

As a designer, I’ve found beauty in my adventures and have enjoyed translating them into my work. Through this process, I have also helped clients bring their own stories of adventure and travel organically into their homes. Whether it’s accenting their home with different international styles or helping them capture the atmosphere of their favorite destinations, we bring their travels home.

European Design

The strongest asset of European design is that it showcases the diversity of its inhabitants and their cultures. The bold patterns, unique use of color, and intricate designs have been a major trend in homes around the world. There are many ways to bring them into your own.

A Touch of Paris

Parisian style is the perfect mix of beauty and comfort. Remember, it’s all in the details, especially if you’re looking to achieve the quaint, relaxed feel of Paris’ cafes in your own kitchen. Adding ornate metal accents and even something as simple as a bouquet of fresh flowers can bring character to a room and create the perfect gathering place.

A Taste of Italy

Italian style is the epitome of luxury as well as a timeless design choice for any homeowner. Bringing this modern, old-world feel to your home can be done by layering your home with texture, especially the walls. Using plaster or even aged wallpaper can add the perfect finish.

Another main component to Italian design is blending old-world and modern style together. Find an older piece of furniture, perhaps a chair from your Mediterranean travels, and reupholster it with a new fabric. This update can enhance a space while maintaining the history and integrity of the piece itself.

The Scent of the Ocean

Decorating a home with the bright blues of the Atlantic Ocean or the soft neutral beige of sandy, white beaches sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Whether you want to bring the laid-back, Caribbean mentality home or simply awaken your space with color, adding bright, easy colors to the fabric of your furniture, accents, or window treatments can liven up the room and give you the same feeling you experience near the ocean.

Asian Design

Asian design can be a timeless choice and one that can bring tranquility to your home. For our clients in the historic district of Chicago, we added modern yet traditional accents to their master bathroom in the form of a unique backdrop behind the tub, bringing both texture and zen to the room. Subtle touches such as this can truly transform a room into a retreat.

When you bring your travels and your memories into your home, the vacation is never over. Your stories are forever imprinted in the design of your home, and the memories live on. All you have to do it remember to keep your eyes open to the beauty around you.





Interior Design often has the stigma of being an investment. I’m here to tell you that you are, in fact, making an investment, just not the kind you might think. You’re not solely investing in the design process itself, but you are investing into your home, your family life, your lifestyle, and your well being.

[quote quotation=”You’re not solely investing in the design process itself, but you are investing into your home, your family life, your lifestyle, and your well being.”]

Your surroundings have more of an impact than you may think. For instance, if your home has a well-designed kitchen, you will be more inclined to cook for yourself or your family. Not only are you able to cook, you are able to store food properly, and more likely to eat healthy on a regular basis. A functional and beautiful kitchen environment will inspire a healthy lifestyle.

If your home has a well-designed family room or living space, you have a gathering space for lounging on your own, relaxing with family, or entertaining your dearest friends. With the right elements, the room can be a warm and welcoming space in which to create memories for all who inhabit it.

A well-designed space can bring great value to your life. For instance, hospitals used to be very institutional-looking. They were cold and uninviting, and a place you went to if you were sick. Today, a stay in the hospital is almost equivalent to a spa retreat! The rooms are made so that you’re more comfortable, amenities within the rooms are more convenient, and so that you don’t necessarily feel as though you’re in a hospital room. Design elements with both the patients and their families in mind allows everyone to feel better and heal faster. Rather than a place you go to when you’re sick, hospitals are now a place where you go to get better.

Strategic design can truly invoke certain feelings or emotions within you. Today’s health clubs and spas are a true testament to this. These establishments want you to feel energized, motivated to workout, and keep working out. The colors used within their spaces, the strategic use of light and white space, the amenities they provide, all create a sense of energy and inspiration.

As a designer, my goal is to bring the same concept into your home design.

We have all been there – we go on a trip to a beautiful hotel with beautiful surroundings, a special vacation with family or friends. It’s a treat to be surrounded by such things. And once you get home, you don’t have the same feeling. “Vacation’s over” as they say.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Investing in good design allows you to have that “getaway” feeling everyday when you walk through your door. You can’t imagine how life-changing it can be to come home to a place you want to be. A place that inspires your well being. A place you call home.




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