Residential Color and Style from a Certified True Color Expert.


High/low Great Lamps

One of my favorite recent projects has been helping my young adult daughter with her very first apartment.

I am loving these Chris-Spitz look-alikes from Overstock:


Can you tell which, above, is the

Christopher Spitzmiller Aurora Double Gourd Marbleized Lamp
$2,665.00 (EACH!!!)

and which is from ($144.99 per pair)?




One of a kind sofa table

Unlike the above example, most sofas are not designed to be

interesting and beautiful in the back.

Sometimes, a sofa table is perfect for adding needed interest and beauty.

Function, too. Think storage, display, or a pair of lamps.

Check out this top, below. A beautifully carved French top, perfect width. Just sitting there waiting.

It hasn’t been there for long. It was once part of a larger piece.

And it won’t last. Nope, not this one. Not at this price.


The sconces on top aren’t part of the piece, in case you are wondering.

It is going to be perfect for someone with a home in the French taste.

I see it going on top of a simple but sturdy wrought iron stand.

Custom made, just enough height to raise it to the exact sofa-table height. 

A tiny flip of iron at the foot. Just enough to say, “I honor your French heritage.

But, I won’t try to compete.”

Nothing more. Eyes only on the carving.


And, no pretense of trying to marry a modern leg, made to look old, on this old piece.

Perfect for a country French room, where the back of the sofa meets the eye.

So much more beautiful to hide a visible plain sofa’s back view when possible.

And much more beautiful when you do so with a one-of-a-kind piece, 

with room for a lovely pair of lamps. And even some storage space in the three bays.

What do you think?
Color Calling

Chinoiserie bedroom makeover for a young twenty-something


Design by Ellen Rhett

My young collegiate was anxious for an update to the room that had last been decorated when she was thirteen.

A college co-ed desires a sophisticated space to return to when she’s home.

Chic chinoiserie details pleased and surprised.


Pink dogwood linen fabric unifies the hot-pink wallpaper with the neutrals.

And repeats the Chinoiserie theme.

Existing strié wallpaper was kept.

Foo dog lamps add a youthful vibe and continue the Chinoiserie theme.


They also repeat the white in the dogwood fabric and bedding.

Remember, white is never a neutral in décor, even though it always is in fashion.

It must be repeated at least three times in a room.

White peonies, a favorite, are a natural in this room.


Design by Ellen Rhett

Custom padded headboard with expertly hand-applied nailheads (by my wonderful upholsterer)
Fun and funky and ultra-feminine light fixture, below, with plenty of sparkle and a dark finish.

Repeating the shape, movement, darkness, of the branches on the drapery and neckroll fabric.

Repeating the color of  the  lampshades as well.

And, a gorgeous on-trend sunburst accent mirror, handmade and all-wood. 


Design by Ellen Rhett

Both sourced online for a song.

If I told you from where, you wouldn’t believe it anyway.

But, I know you, reader.

I know what you really want.

You want the before.

I’ll show you the before.

Get ready.

A little embarrassing so I’ll make this quick. 

Here you are:



And,  one more time, the AFTER:


All Images Color Calling

Fabric Sources

Neckroll: Clark and Clark “Dogwood” (trade only)
Draperies: same as above. 
Headboard fabric: Clark and Clark “Chinese Square” (trade only)
Bedspread, shams, comforter: Macy’s

My Top 10 for Loving your Master Bedroom

As promised in my post last week, here are some practical guidelines for getting started with your  new Master Bedroom.


I have had wonderful luck with Tempurpedic. I like their Cloud.  Do your own research.

This is an investment, and worth your time to get it right.

If you have a queen size mattress currently, and want a little more room, don’t miss trying out a California King.

The proportions are so much better than a regular King, and I don’t know why they aren’t more popular.

I find a regular King almost too wide for most couples (and they are so boxy looking, because they are almost square.)

A California King is 4″ narrower and 4″ LONGER than a standard King.

California Kings are fully 12″ wider than most Queens.

Love them.



Natural light is a must for our emotional well-being.

If your bedroom  has dinky windows, consider elongating them.

If you have access to the  outdoors, consider installing French doors.

You will love having access to the outdoors on pretty days. Yes, this is an investment.

Your master bedroom is the most important room in your house for your peace of mind.

So, don’t put it at the very bottom of your wish-list.

Your bedroom draperies should be on a draw-rod, not the kind on rings which must be pushed and pulled by hand across the rod.

They should be lined and interlined for privacy, and should also have black-out lining to control the morning light.


You will spend over 1/3 of your life in bed. I consider quality sheets a necessity.

I personally like either Matouk or Sferra though there are certainly others that are wonderful.

Some designers swear by Soft Sheets at Target. I am not one of them.

(I do like their nicest quality plain white towels by Thomas O’Brien, though.)

I buy my Sferra sheets for a great price at Tuesday Morning.

You have to be diligent now, because it has gotten harder to find them. I like the embroidered ones.

The ones I have all say “Hand Embroidered” on the hang-tag, but skeptic that I am, I do think they are machine embroidered.

Still, they are gorgeous, they feel so crisp/soft, and my house guests almost always comment on them.

There is also now an on-line sheet section on their website.

I buy my Matouk sheets at the Matouk Outlet in Fall River, MA.

It can be hit or miss there, but lately I have been hitting. This is an in-person proposition only.

No phone or internet orders accepted. They have some truly amazing deals if you are ever in the area.

Use fabric softener to keep your sheets soft.

And,  have your pillowcases and at least the top of your sheet, ironed. It is worth it.

Oh, and in case you don’t know this, NEVER wash your sheets with towels. That is what causes pilling.

A little ‘cheat’ that works pretty well, is to buy wrinkle remover spray (I use the kind they sell at Dollar General)

and spray lightly on your bottom sheet after you have put the bottom sheet on the bed.

Smooth by hand. Spray and smooth some more. This works.


With upgraded lampshades if necessary. Yes, a pair. With bedroom lamps,

Matchy matchy = Good, sometimes. This is one of those times.

On the same visual plane as each other, even if you have non-matching bedside tables.

You can use pretty books to raise the lower lamp if needed.

One of my pet peeves is dinky lighting by a bed.

If your bedside lamp isn’t 28″ (at least) from top to bottom, it is likely not proper height for reading at bedside.

I like my lamps with regular incandescent 3-way bulbs. Stock up.

I hate those new snakey, one-second-pause-before-working,  bulbs, otherwise known as CFL.

They throw out the most horrible excuse for lighting.

Supposedly, the incandescent 100W bulbs are being completely phased out,

due to concerns about their energy usage.  

(Big government over-reach, since the new swirly ones have up to 4 mg of mercury, per bulb,  in them,

but that is for another post.

Just don’t feel too smug if you are using them, I personally think they are far more dangerous to your person.

If you break one accidentally, you will have one big toxic problem on your hands.

Please do your own research. And, as I said, stock up on the old 100w kind while you still can.)

5) WALL TO WALL carpet or big room-sized rug.


If you or your spouse are allergy prone, you might consider skipping the big rug

and going for a small rug by each side of the bed only.


Lighter may be better.


Nothing dates a bedroom more than a matching bedroom suite consisting of a dark chest of drawers,

a dark highboy, and a pair of dark matching bedside tables.

A good residential stylist can advise you how to update your existing pieces or guide you if you need new furniture.

Bedrooms today are much lighter in their look and feel.

7) Please say NO to a ceiling fan

in your Master Bedroom space. A chandelier is 100x better.

Put it on a dimmer.

You will never look back.

Trust me on this one.

8) SEATING if you have room


A nice side chair or a lounge chair (or a pair) is terrific for so many reasons.

It is nice to sit in a proper chair when you are zipping up or pulling up boots, lacing up your tennis shoes, etc.

A chaise longue is ideal and can be visually pleasing as well as versatile.

Of course, make sure you have a lamp beside your chair.

If you are a really light sleeper, experts advise that you don’t go to bed

until you are actually ready for sleep.

A bedroom lounge chair can help the transition from awake to asleep.

9) No television

I am unlike many in that I truly hate television.

As I have gotten older,  I see how addictive and utterly useless it is, and what a time waster it can be.

I do enjoy watching my Crimson Tide football team play (RTR!) when I can’t make it to the stadium.

And, Downton Abbey. Don’t even get me started.

But, other than that, I almost never turn the television on.

Yes, it is hard to give up a master tv if you are used to it. You may not be able to give it up.

But, if you don’t have one, may I suggest keeping it that way?

Television is not conducive for conversation. Television programs are certainly not relaxing these days.

Your master bedroom should be a sanctuary and an oasis of calm.

You will assuredly sleep better with no television to distract or disturb you.

10) Only Non squirmy/non-whiny pets on the bed.


Source: via Margie on Pinterest

You may have to crate the squirmers and the whiners elsewhere.

They really won’t mind after the first few nights.

YOUR sleep is more important than giving in to squirminess, so stand firm.

Don’t feel guilty about this.

If you have a storm-related whiner, try a sleep/sound machine in your room

instead of giving them so-called doggy valium.

Works wonders on my dogs.

So, those are my top 10 for a master bedroom.

Any thoughts or additions to the list? Fire away!

How to work with a design professional

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Get ready.

This is a long post, one that I have been thinking about for months.

I have been on both sides of the decorating equation, so to speak.

First, as the client decorating my house with the help of a decorator.

And, now, for the past several years, as a Certified Color Specialist

and design professional helping others.

Here are a few things I have learned.

As a homeowner, do you love and gravitate towards neutral, subdued,

calming colors, as below



Or, do you prefer  bright happy colors?


When you call us, we are going to give you a look

and feel in your home that is a reflection of  YOU.

This takes time, and it is an investment.

I was taught that good design can cost about the same

as bad design.

And, the right paint color will not cost one penny more

than the wrong paint color.

I believe that  your home should be a beautiful sanctuary

away from the stresses of your job and your busy life.

It should be a treasured place to come together as a

family for meals, for  rest,

and for relaxation.

It should be a place you look forward to, and a place you

are happy to share with  friends and relatives.

If your home is not all of these things, why not?  

Is there something holding you back?

Even if you say “money,”  keep reading.

Good design can occur at a number of price points.

Don’t let a limited budget keep you from having the

best possible look and feel for your home.

The gorgeous stair runner, below, has an equestrian motif that looks

like it could have come straight

from the Hermès Paris showroom.

But, it did not come from Hermès.

(Nope, it came from JC Penney online.

Installed to perfection by one of my resources.)

Are you with me?

I have worked with a number of young couples

just starting out, some with very, very  tiny budgets.

If you are working on a tight budget,

you can’t afford to make a mistake!

This is when a resourceful design professional

is going to be invaluable.

The labor alone for painting one room is well into the hundreds,

and for kitchens and baths with cabinetry, it can easily go

into the thousands.

I have been selecting paint colors for people for several years,

and my system never relies just on those tiny 2 x 2 inch chips.

Image ©Color Calling

In fact, one difference between my system and the way you

might select a color, is that I KNOW that I can’t choose a

color properly from a tiny paint chip.

Those chips aren’t even paint, they are printed interpretations

of the paint color.

They do not reflect light the way that the

real painted wall will, either.

If you are currently a client working with,

or thinking of working with, a design professional,

there are several pointers I might suggest

to help establish and keep a good working relationship.

Custom interiors are expensive, and there are some things

you, the client, can do to get the most from your

design professional.

I would make sure that I know the following:

1) Does she keep current with

what is going on in design?

(latest collection Schumacher fabric on classicly simple Roman shade)

Do not confuse “current” with “trendy.”

Blogging keeps you current, and it helps a design professional spot

the comings and goings in decorating long before they hit print.

If you are working on a new room, today in 2012, and your designer

is suggesting starting with a brown or floral sofa, or example,

then she is probably not current. 

Floral on a sofa is long gone, and Brown is trending out,

having  been around for years (a decade).

Now  Gray is the current neutral.  

Your designer should know this.

Does this mean you need to start with Gray? Absolutely not!  

See the first two images, above.

Neutral “important” pieces are the way to go if you have a limited

budget and don’t want to change out things every few years.

So, I would suggest a fairly good browsing session through magazines

such as Traditional Home, House Beautiful, and Veranda.

Get an idea of what is current so that you can see if your design

professional’s suggestions are helping you move forward, 

or if she’ll  just be taking you back in time.

2) Does your professional have access

to good resources?

The details and the construction in design make all the difference.

The quality of this construction would not pass my test.

See how the seams are slightly askew?

See how the lumbar pillow looks off-square?

See how the box pleats look saggy on the left?

This is an amateur job.

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Does the workroom she uses work with quality lining and

interlining fabrics, stand behind their work, and are they

willing to come make reasonable adjustments

if necessary?

If you are doing expensive work, are they accustomed

to working with designer fabrics(fabrics which start at $150 a yard, 

and you will need 12 yards for your average window)?

Can they do custom touches, for example?

You don’t want an expensive mistake being made on your job

because of inexperience.

Does your professional use a quality upholsterer?

Are your seams, lines and patterns nicely matched when you

get back your upholstery?

And, if your designer reps a particular line exclusively,

do you love that look and are you willing to forego other options?

Does she have an excellent painter, a great wallpaper hanger,

a quality furniture refinisher, a perfectionist carpet installer, 

and someone who can professionally and

correctly hang those expensive new draperies?

Can she have custom furniture fabricated if you are looking for

something not readily available?

3) Does your professional always specify

the most expensive lighting, fabrics, and


Or, does she know how to resource budget-friendly items,

say for a child’s bedroom or a playroom?

Does she at least occasionally show you a trim option from somewhere

like Lewis and Sheron fabrics (running $35/yard, not $250/yard),

a lamp from Shades of Light or Ballard or even Overstock, or an accessory

from Target, Anthro, West Elm or Pottery Barn?

When appropriate, she should.

(Wallpaper is a different story. Don’t buy cheap wallpaper, ever.

Good wallpaper is worth every penny.)

It takes work to know where to find nice reasonably-priced accessories

and budget options.

Is your professional willing to do the legwork necessary to know where?

4) Does your professional use correct/useful

design terminology?

Knowledgeable residential design professionals should be discussing concepts

such as “fixed finishes,” “undertones,”  “focal point,” “symmetry,” “color harmony/

flow,” “repetition” and “balance,”

when helping you achieve an overall look and feel in your home.

She should be happy to explain (without condescension)

any terms which you aren’t familiar with.

If  someone you are thinking of working with uses the words

a matching dinette set,”

you are going to get a very different proposed look from someone who says,

an antique  Regency breakfast table mixed with Louis Seize-style chairs.”

And, watch out for someone who uses the same vague buzz words

(“edgy”  and “whimsical” are two which come to my mind) many times

during a consultation.

A decorating cliché is likely to follow.

And here is what you can do for your

trusted design professional to help the


1) Provide magazine pictures

(tear them out and keep them in a file)

Provide your designer with pictures of rooms you love.

YOU need to decide,  and then communicate, what it is that attracts

you to a particular look.

Don’t hand your designer random pictures if you don’t want her

to achieve a similar look.

We are not mind readers.

We can’t determine from a photograph that you hated the room

in general, but absolutely loved the fabric on the ottoman.

So, tell us.

If you trust your professional, you should be able to

2) articulate a clear reasonable budget 

for whatever you want done.

If you have never given out a budget, you, the client, should go

to your nearest quality furniture retailer

(if they carry primarily brands such as Henkel-Harris, Sherrill, Baker, 

Hancock & Moore, Henredon, then they are a quality retailer).

In Birmingham, I would tell you to start at Birmingham Wholesale Furniture,  

and price out whatever is closest to what you think you may want.

That means pricing every single thing you need off of your list: rugs, tables,

chairs, sofas, lamps, etc.

If you want antiques, they have a selection of antiques there as well,

which you can price out for your budget.

This is valuable time spent, and it matters, because you now will have a

minimum starting point for the budget that you give your professional.

It will not include draperies, but you can get your professional to roughly

estimate this for you in advance.

Custom is always more expensive. Custom draperies are exorbitant.

Custom wool carpeting is price-prohibitive for most.

But, you are in for less sticker-shock, and you can spend your time more

productively,  if you price needed items at retail first.

And, if you are lucky enough to be one for whom the sky is the limit,

say so if you trust your design professional.

The best professionals will save you from making expensive mistakes.

(click to go to this previous post).

3) Let your trusted professional’s ideas

percolate for a bit.

Try not to make a snap judgment about every single thing that

we suggest.

Whether designing, decorating, or selecting fabrics, accessories,

and colors, this is what we do.

We will not suggest something that we don’t think will have a

reasonable chance of filling a need or a space.

We usually see things in a different way, and our fresh eye may

have come up with a solution that you hadn’t thought of.

We know which fabrics will stand up to children and pets.

We know how to achieve a total look and feel for your home.

Try to keep an open mind and try to appreciate the vision we have

for your space, and give us the chance to articulate that vision to you.

4) Understand that quality jobs take time.

A good design professional will allocate your resources in a certain order.

Rugs should be chosen before your wall color, for example.

Special order upholstery takes 8-12 weeks.

Custom drapery jobs may take 6 weeks just to fabricate.

My best painters may be booked up for weeks.

Oh, I didn’t even mention “backorder” or “no longer current.”

We might have found the perfect fabric, and it might be out of stock with

3 months to wait for new stock.

Or, the colorway that works may have been discontinued and 

is completely unavailable.

Stay flexible.

We might have to look for something else.

5) Make us tell you “the because.”

We know there are some of you out there who are going to be resistant

to any change we suggest, because that is human nature.

Ha, I always meet resistance when I suggest painting dated wood or brick

(usually orangey or pinky, but can be other colors).

Want to see “the because” on this one? Here is a great before and after by

fellow True Color Expert Kristie Barnett who lives in Tennessee,

well worth the read for an amazing transformation:

Before, dated wood and brick:

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

After, with paint instead of dated brick and wood:

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Isn’t it hard to believe it is the same room? Read the entire article here.

Make sure we explain “why”  to you, the client. There is a reason (or should be one!) 

for everything we suggest.

We want your home to be a beautiful reflection of you.

We can tell what is visually working

and not working in a space from the moment we step in a room.

It may be that the wall color is not working

(because it is clashing with the undertones of your fixed finishes);

it may be that the artwork over your sofa is not working 

(because it is entirely the wrong scale– too small, or needs upgrading);

it may be that the chest in your entry hall is much too large for the space and

is impeding access to the next room.

Ask questions and make sure you understand why we are suggesting a change.

If you get the idea that the person is just trying to sell you “more stuff,”

without a thoughtful and deliberate taking-stock of

every single room of existing furniture, you are probably right.

Listen to your instincts!

Good design professionals of integrity want your home to look great, function

beautifully, and reflect you. 

We are thrilled when we can show you how to work with something

you already have.

We are ecstatic to “go shopping” in your own home and

find something we can use in a way you may not have thought of.

We are also going to think about your job when we are actually out,

and we may call you if we see something that is perfect for you.

We will mentally go over your job when we are home, when all is quiet,

and when we are “off the clock.”

Some of our best ideas come when we aren’t even charging you for our time.

We don’t just want to sell you something.

6) We do not work for free.

Unless you are our mother.

Please be prepared to pay for my time. I charge an hourly rate.

 I  tell you everything in advance to avoid any misunderstandings.

You are never expected to buy even one thing in return for my best advice.

I was called in  several years ago to help someone replace her living room

draperies, which she said she hated, and which would have been been a very,

very  expensive job.

After going through the initial consultation, I recognized that the draperies,

though a bit old, were not the problem at all.

I showed the client how we could work with the existing draperies,

and make some other, much less costly, changes to achieve a beautiful end


This one piece of advice actually saved her thousands of dollars in the end. 

Trust me when I tell you, we want your house to look wonderful.

But, no designer of integrity will suggest something, or even go along

with something the client thinks she needs, just to make a sale.

We want to do what is right for your home.

We want you to be happy, and a happy client is our very best referral.


So, there is my list of some of the things I find important on both sides of the


Thoughts, other examples, or anything you would express differently?

Are lamps out of style?

Judging by the last few issues of the design magazines I regularly read, the answer would be yes. There are certainly a very few table lamps in sight.

But, get real!

Overhead-only  lighting –especially when viewed at night — is one of the real decorating “don’ts.”  Fortunately, beautiful lamps and sconces are readily available at a variety of price points.

And, if I have any magazine editors reading today, please give us a little more real life and a little less photographic perfection.

A perfect fire-lit room, gorgeous upholstery and carpet, beautiful drapery and … lamps, just a few pot-lights on the ceiling?

Here is a room properly lighted, see how there is lamp or sconce lighting on each side of the room? So pretty and warm.

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Out of the current pictures on the living room page of the House Beautiful website, look at all these living rooms with few or no lamps:

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Dear Editors: Please show us rooms which are both beautiful AND properly lighted!

Does your designer understand family living?

In my residential styling business, I am big on the way in which a room functions. Part of that function includes placing lamps (click  to see my post on beautiful lamps) where people will be sitting to read. And, another part of that function includes placing a table or other flat surface where people who are sitting can conveniently place a teacup (or a martini).

Below:  The designer here really got it right. Notice the lamps which are placed behind the sofa on a long, high sofa table. Clean lines, beautiful carpet, upholstery and drapery, and perfectly functional:

                                                                                     Another view of the same room Source: via teri on Pinterest

Two images Below: While not unattractive, the designers whose rooms are pictured next, sadly didn’t think through the actual living in these rooms. Why are there no lamps in these rooms? Do you notice that there is nowhere to sit and read? Overhead lighting doesn’t count here. Overhead lighting is not proper task lighting. A little teeny sconce doesn’t count, either. Can you imagine how much warmer these rooms would feel if there were some pretty, well-placed lamp lighting? Where are you supposed to place your cup of coffee while watching the morning news? Where is your teenaged son going to put his feet up? Are you with me? These rooms don’t live. And, in the turquoise room, there is only one seat in the entire space angled for comfortable television viewing.

I don’t get the current trend of ‘no’ task lighting in the room, but I am seeing it everywhere. Don’t fall for this trend. This isn’t just about style, it is about function. Every main seating place should have a lamp for reading and a nearby surface for putting down a drink. Then, you can enjoy the look and feel of your family room, because it functions for a family. And, it can be done beautifully.

Beautiful lamps

As a color expert, sometimes what is perceived to be a paint issue turns out to be a lighting issue. When possible, I like to have  light available in each corner of a room. There is nothing like a nice lamp with the correct shade to enhance everything else about the room, and to cast a warm glow which makes moods, complexions, and everything about the room look right. My personal favorite style of lampshade is an English silk pleated shade which has a tonal stripe look when lighted.

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Sometimes you can break the rules and have a fabulous space. Look here, I can’t really explain why this works, but it does. It looks like the designer did a great job with using  a lot of pinky-beige undertones in the carpet and wall-covering, which really ramp up and enhance the clean strong purples. Great floor lamp! (the smaller lamp  doesn’t work, though, it’s way too small and looks like an afterthought)

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Sometimes an odd-ball lamp is just perfect for a culture-specific space

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Lovely statement lamp in a neutral room

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Nice updated lamps for a young collector’s look

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Great lamp, but this is one where I would recommend upgrading the shade

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Great style in a pretty Chinoiserie room. Wouldn’t change a thing.

Nice looking vintage orange lamps with black pagoda silk shades

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

How fab are these for a beach house? They make the room.

Source: via Ellen on Pinterest

Happy decorating!