Residential Color and Style from a Certified True Color Expert.

Decorating trends

My Top Rules for Perfect Porches


Don’t be too matchy-matchy.

Break up sets with vintage finds and flea market items.
See how one little vintage footstool and a couple of quirky lights break up the matched set of furniture, below? And a couple of roughed-up vintage tables, next image down?

Too matchy-matchy, below:

Propped up Vintage shutters can add interest and depth to a plain long wall:

Image ©Color Calling

Keep CLEAN colors together

and MUTED colors together

See what happens when you mix clean [the pillows] with muted [the fireplace stone]? The effect is not as visually pleasing or harmonious.

So, don’t mix “Clean” (the red pillows) with “Muted”(everything else)

If you wish to use humorous or cliché phrases, do so with a little subtlety, like this:


Use plants to help carry out your color scheme

(you do have a color scheme, right?)

Use pretty colors as a vignette if space allows, even if no one ever sits there. It can just “BE” pretty.

Respect the architecture of the home when furnishing and styling the porch:

Don’t forget to use plants on your porch! (Look at this no-plant porch. Did you realize what was wrong?)

USE UNDERSTATED OR SOLID UPHOLSTERY FABRIC which can be more easily jazzed up with toss pillows:

Image ©Color Calling

Too much graphic upholstery doesn’t work. It looks dated:

Do give a nod to the topographical area of your porch, but don’t go overboard.

These two porches, below, hit the right note of “beach”, without giving in to too many clichés:

AND, IN THE HILL COUNTRY, how is this for rustic perfection? 



IF YOU WANT YOUR PORCH TO BE USED, you must have comfortable (deep seating) furniture.
Which lovely porch  would you rather sit in for a while?






DON’T BE AFRAID TO USE NOT-OUTDOOR-ONLY THINGS IN A COVERED AREA. But, use only outdoor-approved electrical items on your covered porch.



Does your house tell a story?

The story of a house. Landscape Designer extraordinaire Tara Dillard says it best. The narrative. Tara designs gardens that tell a story. I work with houses. Story-telling. Narratives. Narratives are wonderful.

The golden codfish overdoor, above,  is part of the narrative of my little Cape Cod summer cottage. Don’t get me wrong, I am not talking about going overboard with a cloying theme for your house.  No “Welcome to the Beach” signs over the sink.  I am talking about a simple story-line, a thread, a narrative.  A narrative is how I say “welcome to the beach.” Here is my narrative.  What story does your house tell?

All images ©Color Calling

Losing your Ledge

Compare the good-looking built-in bookcase, below……..

…… the Southern Living Bookcases, here, below. Do you know what I mean by “Southern Living” Bookcases? Here is what I am referring to:

This is my personal terminology. A Southern Living Bookcase. It is what I call a built-in with a ledge. Usually with a dreaded colonial curve in the panel and a not-so-attractive visible hinge.

This was the hot look for some, back in the early 1980s. Nearly every family room example in a 1980s Southern Living magazine featured a built-in bookcase like the one above. Everyone wanted to have a built-in with a ledge, which was generally used  to display a plethora of framed family photographs. 

Flash forward. This is a very dated look. Although about half of the houses I work with have Southern Living Bookcases, it took me half an hour to find an online photo of this look.  Here is a little decorating secret that I learned in True Expert Training with trend/color expert Maria Killam: if it has been a long time since you’ve seen something in design magazines, it is probably dated.

Are you holding on to a Southern Living Bookcase in your beautiful home:

a) because it’s been there so long you didn’t even notice it

b) because you don’t know how to make it better, or

c) because you don’t agree that it is dated.

If you answered a) or b), don’t worry!

There is help. When the bookcase is made flush from top to bottom, a dated-look suddenly becomes current. But, please trust me on this, you are going to have to lose the ledge, if you want to update the look!

This is going to require a carpenter.  This is going to be a retrofit job. But, it can be done, and it can be done beautifully.

You have several choices:

— remove the bulky bottom section and repeat the open shelving from top to bottom;

— maintain the section of closed cabinetry, but decrease the depth of the bottom section in order to bring the bottom section into the same plane as the top section

(there may be flooring constraints, so beware if you are working around wall-to-wall carpet that is not being changed, for example);

— or increase the depth of the top section.

Here, we simply added a pair of doors to the top section with some gorgeous antique brass French open-work wire inset. See how much nicer a flush line of cabinetry looks? How much cleaner the visual line running ceiling to floor looks?

Image ©Color Calling

Painting the interior of the back of the shelves in a different color can also be a good idea in some rooms. A darker color paint can add depth and elegance when properly executed. The three photos below show how a combination of open and closed shelving can work nicely. Notice that the open shelving is flush with the base cabinetry.

Shelves that are too thin look dated as well as skimpy. Your carpenter can beef them up with a custom strip of wood (painted to match) across the shelf to give an illusion of thicker shelves. This is the likely reason that the shelving below left looks so substantial:

Source: via Alyda on Pinterest

Then, what about adding some library lighting to really enhance the new look?

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

A good residential stylist can help you decide how to update your old built-in bookcases. So, are you ready to lose your ledge?

But my husband won’t paint the paneling!


Above: beautifully painted paneling instantly updates a formerly heavy room.

In my residential styling and color consulting business, I see a lot of paneled wood rooms. Sometimes they are beautiful, but more often, they are not. If you are a woman reading this, you probably know this already: Men do not like to paint paneling. In fact, they really don’t like to paint anything that is wood. Even the merest hint of grain is enough to squelch any desire to paint that surface. Although I laugh when I say this, I am serious: it is in their DNA.

Are all paneled rooms in need of paint?  No, but when my eye tells me that the room looks too dated/dark/dreary to work with the existing wood tones, I will usually pull out my fan deck of  colors and look for the right color to paint. And what I generally find, is that the wife agrees (either on the spot or eventually) that it should be painted, but the husband won’t hear of it.

After a master bedroom addition, the dark little library/den (below, now painted) was no longer at the end of the house, and had become the pass-through to the master area. It was more about “flow.”  In this case, I mean color flow, not traffic flow. I wanted the house to  flow nicely from the light-colored living room, through to the light blue master suite. But, the dark paneled (very small) library with its dark interior shutters was preventing proper color flow.  What does the husband  say now? “I wish I had done this a long time ago.”

Color flow is important, and lack of color flow can really chop up a house. Below, the formerly dark paneled little library is now a sunny sitting room which flows nicely from living room on one side into the master bedroom on the other. The only panels here are the silk ones on the windows. The morning light, blocked before by dated wooden shutters, now comes streaming in.

Notice all the millwork is painted one neutral color, the same color as the adjoining living room (Benjamin Moore Monroe Bisque HC-26 ). By the way, good paneling takes paint beautifully, and looks much nicer and more substantial than SheetRock.

Sitting room painted millwork Image ©Color Calling.

Sitting room painted millwork Image ©Color Calling

Now you walk from one light-filled space into another. There is now visual harmony and color flow in the space, as you walk from the living room through the sitting room and into the master area.

Adjoining pale blue bedroom Image ©Color Calling
The living room paneling in this lovely older home,  below, has clearly been painted from an earlier incarnation:

Above Source:

Can you see how the above room now has wonderful visual harmony? The paneling was obviously very nicely done in its wood-grained state, but now it looks fresh and updated, not dark and dreary. Do you think the above room looks any less worthy of attention just because it now has a painted surface instead of  its former wood (and wood-colored) surface?

Here is a little test:  If  the paneling in your own home looks at all like any of these rooms below, it is dated. Please let me gently tell you this again. It is dated.


Above  images


The ceiling height in the living room  is very low to be using accent paneling, and the paneling is not adding to any sort of harmony in either room. Can you see that although the paneling itself is not awful, the visual impact of the paneling is truly terrible? It does nothing for either room. There is no visual harmony in this living room or in the bath above it.

The paneling above has a strong pink undertone. Although this paneling is shown in a current advertisement, this look actually has been dated for decades. I can’t think of a single instance in which I would not advise painting paneling with either strong pink or strong orange undertones. This look just isn’t ever going to come back.

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Here, the paneled wood is clearly fighting the white fireplace. This is another good example of a room where the paneling itself isn’t terrible, but it is preventing visual harmony in the room.

A “before and after,” for your viewing pleasure.

Before, and yes, there are people who won’t paint even this low grade of paneling:

After, fortunately, this owner wasn’t one of them.
And, yes, this really is the same room:

Once again, does every paneled room need to be painted? No. But, if your paneled room is either dated, is chopping up color flow,  or simply does not have visual harmony, give some real thought to painting it.With gentle guidance from a trustworthy professional, or even from a trusted friend with a great decorating eye, you can move forward.

So, are you letting dated paneling hold you back from having the best possible look and feel for your own home?

Happy decorating!

Is Your New Home On-Trend or is it just plain Trendy?

"On-trend" living room image via Pinterest

This post is for young couples just starting out, to help them avoid a few pitfalls when trying to bring style into their home.

The living room above looks like someone with nice taste put some thought into the room and that they actually live there. They know how to hang  the chandelier properly so that it relates to the coffee table, and it looks like there is enough task lighting to read a book or a magazine. The table is on-trend and fits right in with the the ‘Young House’ look of this living room. The chevron rug is cute and works well. THE COLOR gray is used, but not cloyingly so. It is a fresh, not too pricey, easy on the eyes look for a young couple starting out.

While this blog is all about being uplifting and helpful, I really have to show a “don’t” to make my point. I doubt that the nice-looking-room’s owner, above, spent a penny more than the trendy room’s owner, below. That is my point. Good style and an updated look are not going to cost any more than a ridiculously trendy look. And, the really trendy look will look even more ridiculous in a year or two when those trends have played out.

So trendy

                                                “Trendy” Living Room via Pinterest


The Color Calling way: If you are looking to update and accessorize, find a few real things that you actually love, and incorporate those into your already  tasteful room.