Focus on Photography (Part 1): Creating a Romantic Bedroom with Couples Photos

You've done a wonderful job creating the most beautiful home. Every room is comfy and now you're ready; your focus has turned to your bedroom. I will be explaining about how to create the perfect bedroom space in a future post, but today my purpose is to spark the romance in a space that is the most intimate place in your home. 

The rest of your home is a showcase for your visitors to see but your bedroom and master bath are for your eyes only. That doesn't mean it should lack style or art. It should be just as amazing a space and one of the best and most intimate ways to do this is with photography that shows off your love. 

Couple's photos are a way to showcase the beautiful tone of your relationship with your significant other. They can be sexy and steamy or just capture the love and tenderness you feel in a moment in time. Gone are the days of posed photos in front of a boring backdrop. Welcome to some of the most amazingly well captured snaps into your relationship, done through photos and film and in Arizona, I am blessed to work with a man who knows the best way to create this form of art. His name is Robert Billings and he's the owner of Robert Billings Photography. I asked him to show off a few pieces of his work and for some insight into how he creates such beautiful memories for his clients. 

Photo courtesy of Robert Billings Photography

Photo courtesy of Robert Billings Photography

Me: What is the mindset you have when meeting with a couple or individual for a more romantic style of photo shoot?

Robert: "The truth is that in both boudoir and a typical couples shoot the subjects tend to look for the same thing, intimacy.  They want what they consider and feel to be the "real" them captured and viewable (and understandable) by anyone who sees it.  What I mean is that in these types of shoots the product is extremely personal to the client.  Both types of shoots reveal a softer and more vulnerable side to them (usually).  Each of these shots belong to them 100% because it is them and yet anyone looking at these photographs, even people that do not know the subjects, understand something about them.  They feel that moment and can relate to that moment.  Its familiar to them and it resonates.  Its why I call my particular style of boudoir and couples shooting "Nostalgia".

That's the hope anyway.  That's the goal."

Photo courtesy of Robert Billings Photography

Photo courtesy of Robert Billings Photography

Me: I love how you seem to catch the couples in silent moments that you create a story around. They are so natural, versus posed couple shots. Why do you prefer to shoot this way?

Robert: "Very rarely will I pose someone. People naturally move at their own pace and with their own rhythm.  My job is to match their rhythm, not change it.  Its why I mentioned heart beats before.  A lot of photographers, especially in the digital age, just click click click away hoping to capture something awesome in between the heart beats.  It works, but there is too much luck involved.  Too much uncertainty and wasted moments.  I started out on film.  The kind where you had anywhere from 10 to 36 shots only and you couldn't see a single one of them until later.  You learn to slow down, to wait.  To watch and click at the right time.  My shift to digital hasn't changed that mindset.  I move slower than most photographers I think.  Also, I still shoot a lot of film."

Photo courtesy of Robert Billings Photography   

Photo courtesy of Robert Billings Photography


As a fan of his creations, Robert brings a lot for me to work with when designing a romantic space. I can work with him directly on creating a theme or color scheme for the photos to be placed on the walls of the room I'm working in, but most love working from what he creates in it's natural state and drawing inspiration for my rooms from the work itself. The above three photos are of one couple's shoot, yet each one has an entirely different mood, all personal and gorgeous. I can frame these photos or they can be mounted on canvas. I can play with different matte applications and group them as a gallery, or hang them in different areas for individual focus. The photos are not steamy, yet the love and intensity of the connection between these two shows blatantly in these subtle moments captured so perfectly by Robert. I love what he does for his couple clients and nothing speaks more romantically in decor than reminiscing your own love each time you look around your bedroom. 

If you'd like to create some beautiful, intimate art with Robert, you can reach him by phone at 480-666-1076, on his website or at 

Stay tuned for Part 2, where we discuss his boudoir shoots.

Studying My Inner D.J.- Dorm Decor For Guys (#Oliohop 4)

As always, I am honored to be a member of's monthly Blog Hop (lovingly referred to as our #Oliohop). This month I share the stage with ten other design bloggers, many of whom I have had the pleasure of joining forces with before. Our oliohops are a fun way to see one design concept in many different professional perspectives, seeing our creative minds in action on 2D and 3D boards. So hop around with us today, as we tackle one of the happiest times of the year for parents... Back To School!

With two kids in college, creating a dorm room design is a bittersweet subject matter. Sweet because I have two wonderful daughters in college; bitter because they both still live at home, but hey, a gal can dream! 

I decided to venture out to a world that I love, a world of urban decor and music. Whether your child is a mixmaster himself, a closet bedroom d.j. or just appreciates music as much as I do, he will love the D.J. inspired room I created for this dorm.

Dorm rooms follow a few basic principles that we cannot escape; but instead play up within a design.

1. Dorm room space is limited- You only get half a room, and sometimes just a third. Make it work by maximizing spaces with items that are as shallow as possible, layering when you can. Here I added storage without adding furniture. By taking a basic shelf from Ikea and stacking them, I've provided a way to store books, equipment or decorative items without sucking up valuable floor space.

2. Pre-furnished versus adding furniture- Thankfully, most dorm rooms come pre-furnished with your basics; a bed, a desk and closet. For those that don't I suggest a simply framed bed, such as the Malm from Ikea. Lacking a box spring, the malm promotes a somewhat tidy bed, allows a great backdrop for decorative sheet sets and coordinates with most modern, transitional and even traditional decor.

3. Dorm room space is REALLY limited- (definitely worth repeating)Whether you've added your own furnishings or have brought in your own, adjust your layout to create the illusion of space as best as possible. By placing a desk at the foot of this bed, we've squeezed out a bit more wall space, which a dorm never has enough of. Here we've focused it on a fun way to hide your laundry, which very rarely fits in your micro-sized closet. This washing machine looking basket is from Modcloth for just $27.99.

4. Stretch Your Budget- With as little time as you'll spend in your dorm room, shop smart and decorate with in stock items as lower priced stores. Consider that you won't be the only one in your space, so high dollar decor is not only unecessary, it's unsafe to have.

5. Find A Theme You Love & Almost Go Nuts- Notice I say almost... There really can be too much of a good thing. Designers know how to edit, but often times someone gets an idea in their head and goes far too overboard with it, making every piece in that room focus on that one color or theme. This room is a good example of working with a theme without becoming a slave to it.

Hey Mr. D.J.

So, how do you get this funky D.J. look in your dorm room? Start with this fun wall applique by Etsy for $120.00. It's one of the most expensive pieces in the room, but takes up a great deal of space and creates an amazing backdrop for your theme. It comes in many different colors, so find one you want and build your accents around that color palette. Here I used blues. Best of all, it adds color and pattern to your walls that's easily removed when you're done learning!

For far less money, and a little labor, create this great equalizer look on your wall and make the buttons into hooks for your jackets, hats or headphones.

On the left of the wall are speaker box interiors that double as coat racks, also found at If you enter d.j. decor into the search, you'll find many of the items that I've used to create this room. Etsy is a fantastic source to support smal businesses and individuals who create handmade, quality goods from home decor to jewelry. It's a favorite source of mine when shopping for my design clients!

Tie in your decor by using a few pieces of art that continue your look along with a few pieces of decor that mimic your color sheme. 

Add Fun- College is an amazing time in your life. Bring in elements that show your personality, like these fun balloon dog pillows. Play games with your roomate or other room visitors with this great Scrabble wall mounted board by Entertainmenthearth for just $27.99. Both fun and educational, play a lifesized game of Words With Friends or total strangers. Feeling creative? Take some CD jewel cases and create a chandelier with a simple light kit.

This room will be your home for the next two to four years, so make it comfortable, but stylish with my help and the help of my ten other partners in #Oliohop 4. Find them below and see what they've created! If you liked my space, please let me know below. Don't forget to see my other boards at Olioboard.

Charisse of

Kate of


Colette of


 Julie of

Matthew of


 Joanne of

Lynda of


 Antoinette of

 Selma of

Ana of




Design Styles- Focus on Contemporary- Metropolitan

I was born in Bronx, NY and have been lucky enough to have spent the greater portion of my years in design working on the East Coast perfecting one of my most favorite styles, a neverending NY trend- contemporary. What many do not know is that contemporary interior design is not a monotone style of design. Just as there is more than one shade of gray, so too are there many different layers that make up the classification of contemporary design. One of the most popular and most endearing is today's blog focus- Metropolitan.

Metropolitan design, also often referred to as "Glam Chic" has been rapidly increasing in popularity over the last five years, thanks to it's exposure on home network tv and designers who consistantly practice the art, such as Candice Olsen. The best way to describe this style is to take classic modern elements and kick the room up a notch with glamorous, lush or shiny statement pieces that enhance the cohesive look of the space. For instance, using mirrored end tables in conjuntion with a crystal chandelier pendant and other "sparkly" yet not overly dramatic pieces in a room such as this one I am currently working on for a client's family room in Phoenix, AZ. 

 A Metropolitan designed space is a bit more showy than a standard contemporary space. If you notice the ottomans I chose are plush velvet in a vivacious accent color. The look they give off is luxurious and perhaps this style is more appealing to a woman than it would be a man, but we've balanced the femininity with the more masculine steel gray in the curtains and in the largest piece in the space- the sofa, which is now a massive sectional, shown below.

Notice the lines on this sofa. It's just a bit more special than the average sofa, with fantastic wood trim that gives it a uniqueness. This sofa will be punched up with a rich, gray fabric and starburst accent pillows, then layered with more accent pillows in sexy plums and purples.

I will not yet reveal where these blingy shell tiles will fit into this design, but I will blog about this space when I am done. For now, it's a secret!

I love working with pieces like this in general within my designs. I have to get a piece or two in my design that is just their own, one not easily found or duplicated by their neighbor. In Metropolitan design, many special pieces work together. Metal accents are bold enough to be noticed, yet don't overtake the rest of the space. Lighting in a Metropolitan space must command attention. Even pendants drip in jewels, colored glass or crystals. Metropolitan rooms contain glass, mirrored accent pieces or other glam touches that set it apart from the norm. Shapes in this design style are typically swirls, bold geographic scrollwork, swooping ovals or hard-lined, repeticious rectangles. 

Here are some other distinctly Metropolitan pieces that can help to create an amazing space. This dresser can be used as a nighstand in a glam bedroom or as an accent piece on a wall in any room in a Metropolitan space. It's covered in linen and has a washed paint job with large, metal pulls to add the drama it needs to make it a mini statement in a room.

This jewel encrusted bed frame brings the glam and is a bit much for some, but it can be toned down if done well within a having a great designer such as myself. My husband (shown in the chair nearby) would agree!

The jewels, again, are a bit too much drama for some, but this sofa can come with merely the bright chrome nailhead trim, the perfect bit of glam for any male/ female space.


Here's just one more example- swooping, swan-like glass on a Metropolitan chandelier. All of the items shown above were pieces I found earlier this year at the World Market Show in Las Vegas, where Metro Design ruled and continues to make a statement.

There is no end in sight to this gorgeous form of contemporary style. If you are interested in incorporating this design style into your home with my help (whether you live in AZ or not), contact me and let's get some glam into your space!

I hope you enjoyed this first installment of Design Styles. By special request, our next focus will be Modern Industrial.  


Modern Beauty in a Living Room Niche

Tomorrow we begin the installation of an ultra modern fireplace niche in Scottsdale. I am so excited about this one for many reasons. First- we are working with my FAVORITE design style- contemporary and even more so, Ultra-Contemporary. Second- we are using a product which I love and have been dying to use in a residential application- 3-D Wall Art wall tiles.

The beauty of Ultra-Contemporary design is in the simplicity of it's minimalism. Cabinets are sleek and contain everything inside. Shapes are geometric and accessories are sparse. Lines are clean and color possibilities are endless. The home that we are working in emulates this style perfectly with strong angles, slick, linear marble floor tiles and modern touches throughout. NO TUSCAN HERE!

The fireplace goes 20' up from the floor.Here is the before pic.

Here is the basic drawing of what will be done. I am old school, so I still hand draw basically everything outside of my kitchen designs. (I just quickly colored these in for a better understanding of what we're doing. My client got the good colored version of this previously uncolored version). The fireplace on the left is getting wall tile running up the entire front and side, dying into the back niche wall. The wall tiles have a raised design embossed on them, making them an appealing 3-dimensional piece of art on your wall. They will be sprayed a charcoal gray.

The niche wall that recesses to the right of this fireplace will be painted a beautiful, soft plum. Fitting perfectly in this niche is a custom, wall mounted cabinet which sits 9" off the floor. It will be a high gloss red, a favorite color for my clients and apparent throughout their home in accents everywhere! The cable box will be hidden in a drawer and activated by remote through a 'red eye' system. This system allows full access to electronics which require sensors by placing a small sensor dot on the front of the drawer, allowing your remote to beam signal to the dot, which then transmits to your cable box. It works with virtually any electronic device, from cable to stereos and home theater systems. 

Above the custom cabinet will be three floating black shelves to tie in the black from the fireplace trim. The shelves are staggered to allow space for large artwork or finds for my clients. The red custom cabinet will be made by my talented husband Jay at J&M Custom Millwork & Remodeling and I can't wait to see the results! I'll be sure to post the after pictures when the job is completed.

The next project in their home will be a 27' wide mural of NY city above their patio doors (a strong desire of the homeowners, who are from NY, a couple after this NYer's heart!) 

2 Weeks in the Life of a SMALL Interior Design Job (Part 5)

SOOOO, It's been 11 days since I met with my client, Elvira on the evening she moved to Arizona and her one bedroom apartment in Tempe is now completed. We met all of our deadlines within the space and she cannot be happier with the results. Here's how it all went down.

Monday, May 28th- Met my new client for the first time and signed our design contract to begin the "design" portion of her project. This did not include items for her space that I had not yet planned. (Separate contract)

Wednesday, May 30th- Met with Elvira for the second time to review her design for her space. (This is the fastest design plan I have ever created for a client EVER, but I was able to do so because the space was SO small, required a minimal amount of stock furnishings that were easy to shop for and researched mostly online. We signed contract to make purchases.

Thursday, May 31st- Purchases and work began in her apartment. We painted the apple green box where her click clack sofa would sit and furnishings were assembled. The shelf liner I found (an unexpected touch) was installed on the wall with just an additional reinforcement of wallpaper paste along the edges.

Friday, June 1st- All items for the apartment were completed, minus one bookcase that I ordered and had not yet shipped. 

Thursday, June 7th- Bookcase delivered and set up with the remaining accessories, leaving a few small areas for her to incorporate her own pieces over time. This is an important part of what I do with my clients. Yes, I create a complete space but I also allow for your own personalization as time goes on. Through educating my clients throughout my entire process, they get to learn their style and the right pieces to add to their space, should they ever find one that fits their fancy. This makes it your own home, rather than a home that "Michelle designed". That means a lot to me.


Here is the dining area of the apartment. Her unit wasn't available to measure, so I took pics of the adjacent unit (a reverse of her floorplan). Based on this pic, the room appears narrow, small and dark.

Mid- remodel and the space is much larger looking now. A shelf liner in a great aqua print adds the perfect touch of temporary color to this apartment. SCALE IS EVERYTHING in design. (I cannot stress this enough). One of the largest mistakes I see when I meet homeowners is furniture that is either too large or too small for a room. This dining area was only 8' wide. I found the perfect table, narrower than the average, at just 38" wide. It's just enough for a place setting and perfect for 4 to sit comfortably and dine. Simple, pretty canvas prints with our color scheme of aqua, teal and apple green are a great fit for this tall wall.

The room is light and airy now. Elvira, my client, would like to fill the hurricane jars herself. (This was prior to ironing the linens, lol)

Elvira wanted happy colors. She was initially unsure of her style, which we got to learn was 'Modern'. This space proves modern, clean lines can also be comfortable. She wanted a futon suitable for a guest on the rare occasion that one will come and stay with her. I opted for a click clack sofa, which has more of a true sofa feel. This one boasts a sexy opening in the back, which was perfect to highlight the one box we painted behind it. 

The apartment community that she moved into allows her to paint her walls, but most renters don't have this luxury. I minimized the expense of painting a full wall and added a great way to highlight a piece of art, by painting one square behind her sofa, large enough to "frame" the art above it. The fun peek-a-boo effect it gives in the open back of the sofa is an added stylish, bonus. 

Although I used neutrals for all of the base furnishings, I love to add accent furnishings in a great print or bold color. Here I brought in the apple green in ottomans with tops that flip over to become trays. Be a more daring than just using pops of color in throw pillows! Accent furniture is cheap enough to have fun with and then ditch in the future if your color preferences change.

Speaking of pillows... check out the fantastic ones I picked up at Pier 1 between $19.95 and $35.95. The aqua pillow at the end is down filled. 

The massive canvas pic of The Flat Iron Building in NY is my favorite thing in the room. It was purchased by my client the day she moved here and could not have been more perfect for this wall! Nesting tables provide additional space for family photos in small frames.

The final piece and well worth the wait... this funky bookcase has multiple box shelves at different heights and areas, preventing it from ever being a bore!

Sometimes the most rewarding projects are the smallest ones. I don't often get to do apartments or condos, but it was a refreshing depart from my design norm. My team laughed and joked about how the mad rush to complete this space felt like an episode of an HGTV show. We had fun and seeing the look on Elvira's face as she came home to her new apartment for the first time was priceless. It's my natural high to please my clients with their dream home, big or small. I got to do it again!


2 Weeks in the Life of a SMALL Interior Design Job (Part 3)

So, it's now been a few days since I have seen my new client. Yesterday was my shopping day. I found many pieces that I can incorporate into my design.

My biggest dilemma has been selecting the accent color for her space. She loves all colors, happy colors. I typically ask my clients what colors they dislike, then create a palette from what's left. Why do I ask what colors you dislike? So often you ask a client what colors they like. They don't often know. They will list two or three colors but neglect to mention others because they just don't realize how much they like them. Usually they own several articles of clothing in these other colors but have never considered them for their walls of home decor. It's often difficult to expand a personal view of something you feel you just "know". This usually requires expanding that perception by seeing a color scheme with those colors to agree. One thing you always know, however, is the one or two colors you hate! You have strong feelings about them and can recite them quickly. Think about it... You can see a cute pair of shoes in the store but pass them over because you don't like red. You can look through your whole closet and not find one green outfit. You can proclaim to the mountains that you can't stand yellow. Your likes may be a bit wishy washy, but your dislikes are FIRM!

Now, one of the most important aspects of this design plan is scale. It's one of the most important parts of any design plan but even more so with a smaller space. It's also the most under planned concept by homeowners and the one they get wrong the most. I would say that seventy percent of all homes I see have furniture that's way too large for the space and another twenty percent has furniture that's just too small. That only leaves ten percent who actually get it right. It's not entirely your fault. There is a bit of math and science to it all. That's part of why people hire professionals. You may love a piece of furniture but that doesn't mean it's the right sized piece to live in your home. 

In my client's case, she needs smaller pieces, narrower in depth. I have found a great dining table that is a narrow oval and will be a great fit for her smaller width dining area. I have found a click clack that doesn't scream dorm room and a nice bookcase that I can either place on the wall or use as a room dividing knee wall to visually break up the space. I just haven't figured out which I am doing yet...

I'll keep you posted. Today, I put it all together and meet with my client at 5 to present my ideas.


2 Weeks in the Life of a SMALL Interior Design Job (Part 2)

Yesterday I got to meet my new client from CA. I arrived when she was still in the medst of paperwork to secure her new apartment. The leasing agent was nice enough to allow us to coduct our work first and she could come back to complete her lease package later. However, when we went to see her new apartment, we both agreed that the online floorplan was a bit deceiving and was way smaller than she had hoped for. So, it was a back and forth looking at a fw different spaces until she found the one she wants.

Now, I have to admit that this situation is a bit unusual for me, as I got to play real estate agent again. I am glad I was there to assist her in her choice because I had a good grasp of what she was looking for and it is difficult for many to interpret an empty space. The other unusual factor for this job is the time frame. My client will be moving in by next Friday. Tomorrow is a holiday and I have several jobs I am attending to at the same time. Typically, when working with your designer, it will take a week or two to meet again with a finished design plan and presentation, then the work begins after the client has signed off and given the appropriate deposits for their purchases. In this case (again beyond my norm), I am completing a good majority of the work, if not all of it- IN ONE WEEK! I am only able to do this because of the current status of several of my jobs, because I have a good grasp of what I will be doing in her small space and because I am purchasing a very small amount of stock furnishings and accessories to make the space work.

Here is her new floorplan.

Meeting Information-

In meeting with my new client I learned a few things. 1. She's lovely and we get along very well. (This is crucial for establishing a designer/ client working relationship). 2. She trusts me completely and will defer to me on options for her space (Trust again, VERY IMPORTANT). 3. Her budget is $4,000. For the type of furnishings and the amount she needs, this is completely do-able. If this were a one bedroom home- a permanent space, this would be FAR TO SMALL a budget. If this were a home I would be procuring higher end furnishings that would become lasting pieces. My client is looking for a comfy, yet temporary space for now. If she likes AZ and decides to make this her permanent residence, she may move after she gets the lay of the land and is unsure if it will be to another apartment or if she'll buy a home. She works A LOT, but outside of work, will never be home. She is an active woman who enjoys fitness and fun activities. She will mainly be home to sleep. She has no family in the area, but at times would like to have her sister come visit from California. In this small space, she requested a futon, as opposed to a sofa bed, which can be cumbersome and difficult to operate in a small space. I will entertain this thought, but I am going towards a click clack sofa which will be easier to convert from sofa to bed, by a simple click up and flattening of the back.

My client and I have an understanding of the type of furnishings she is seeking for her space. The level of quality at this price point is average. A designer usually does not work with this type of furnishings because the construction is not at the standards that we approve of and can't ensure the longevity of the piece. In this case, longevity is not a necessity. Nevertheless, in any case where I am weary about a selection or a client is choosing something beyond my recommendation, I have them sign a waiver of liability. This waiver holds me harmless if the item or selection has any problems beyond the coverage in the warranty or any issues that are beyond my control. Considering that we are using items below a quality that I would normally work with, she is comfortable with signing this waiver.  

Inspiration for Design-

My client has no color preferences. This is a rarity and also makes my job much easier and faster to achive her end result. THIS NEVER HAPPENS! She purchased 2 pieces of photo art that she would like to use in her home and she doesn't care where they go. They will be my inspiration to some extent. Happily enough, they are in muted sepia tones, which allows me to use any color to compliment the space. 

It's a Sunday and I don't normally work today but I have a few errands near a furniture store where I know I can get a great click clack for her space. Stay tuned for what I come up with in Part 3. Happy Memorial Day! 


2 Weeks in the Life of a SMALL Interior Design Job (Part 1)

Today I am meeting a new client whom I have been chatting with for the last few weeks by phone and email. I always get excited to meet new clients. Each one is unique and their perspective on design is often times far different than the reality of what we do, so I enjoy the education I provide to my clients by giving them a thorough understanding and appreciation for the design process.

My new client is relocating to AZ from San Jose, CA for work and is seeking to reside close to her place of business. After her first apartment didn't work out I helped her to find a new place to live by providing her several options within 10 miles of her company. I highlighted some favorites and she secured a great space. The building is modern and fun, right off of Tempe Town Lake and a few seconds from the highway. Now, I don't normally add real estate agent to my resume, but when you begin that designer/ client relationship and your end goal is the best for your client, it doesn't take much effort to go that extra mile. 

As a designer I work in a few different pay scales with my clients. I can do the standard hourly rate, but this is becoming less and less the preferred method for design, as clients seek transparency when working with a designer. An hourly fee is an open-ended contract and, although I am truthful, it can take far more hours than you can imagine to do all that is required to design and then implement your space and can be an overwhelming thought to a new client in this economic time. A little over a year ago I adopted a "Value Based Fee System" used by thousands of designers across the country that takes into account the estimated hours to design, plan and implement your design project and present that to my clients as a flat design fee. This takes the guess work out of how much my time will cost and allows them to focus on the bare bones of their project.

The Space-

My client's apartment is an 864 square foot, 1 bedroom, 1 bath space. Being an apartment, I have limitations in certain areas- I cannot change the flooring, I cannot paint the walls and I have to work with the existing cabinetry and layout. My client will be living in a hotel for the week and then moving into her home when the week is done. She is bringing nothing with her, so I will need to buy everything for her. Here is her layout.

The apartment community has this computer generated floorplan on their website and for the most part, many items placed on the plan- like the bed positioning- will have to remain the same, as there is no other way to place them. The importance here is not where things go, but what those things will be. My client has hired me because she doesn't know the area and wants a comfortable and tranquil space to come home to after a long day of work. She wants to walk into her new space and have it all done for her versus taking the many weeks it would take for her to do what I can do in way less time.

The Cost-

I estimate that it will take me 4-5 visits to her home to complete this job and combining that with the time it will take for initial consultation, presentation, and implementation of this design I have set my flat fee for this space at 17 hours. At a rate of $125.00 per hour, the fee for this job is $2,125.00. My normal rate is $150.00 per hour. Many times, working with stock products versus custom pieces creates far more work for us as designers because you are running from store to store trying to acquire just the right pieces, at the right price to make the space work. However, in this instance, I have such a clear plan for what I am doing in her home, that I am charging a lesser rate for her small amount of space.

DISCLAIMER: This is the way I work and that doesn't mean that the way your designer works is wrong because it is different. Every designer had their own method of charging and fees involved with what they do. 

Payment Method-

When you work with a designer, always expect that you will pay a portion of your design fee up front. What we do is creative, as well as intellectual service and it begins the second we enter your home... ideas are already brewing. A retainer is always a requirement. For my flat fee, I require half down of the design fee to get started on your job. The balance of the design fee is paid upon completion of your project. The design fee is the work involved to create your space, but does not inculde the actual products that will be within your space. These will depend on your budget and your desires for your home. 

In this client's case, she is seeking to  be within her space comfortably within a week. This means that I must get the most important areas of her home completed prior to her move in. These areas would be her counter where she will be able to eat, even if I do not get a dining table into her space by then, the living room and her bedroom- as she needs a bed and furniture to store her clothing. Because of this, we are looking for stock furnishings that are in stock and can be delivered quickly. 

Our Initial Consultation-

Today's first meeting will be to finally get to see each other face to face, get a feel for her new surroundings, sign our new work contract, pick up my deposit and discuss her budget and look at the two inspiration pieces she is buying today. When she was last down here she found two art pieces in downtown Tempe that she loved and hoped I could work with in my design. I can't wait to see them.

Now that we have covered all of the basics- stay tuned for my next post tomorrow, after I meet my new friend!

Using Olioboard in My World of Design

To many of you, who already know and love olioboard, this is just another blog post praising our new "holy grail" of design tools. For me, this is a long overdue explanation of the many ways in which I use to enhance what I do in my interior design company, Fashion House Interior Design Co, LLC. I have been meaning to do my own shrine on my blog to my new favorite toy for some time now, but I have been so busy using it, that I have not had the time to write! It's amazing the amount of work you can get done when certain tasks that were once a time consuming nuisance, become a little easier to accomplish!

For those of you who may not know, is an amazing website where homeowners can go to to voice their style by creating a 2-D inspiration board for the furnishings and accessories they'd love for a space within their home. But, it can also be so much more than that! A user can also take background images, such as those you find in the website's inventory, or even use your own actual space, and on that canvas you can create an entirely new room, by using the furniture and accessories on the site or you can download your own, from virtually any website. In my short time using olioboard, I've found it to be an ingenious tool that has become an intricate part of my business model and how I work with my clients. Here are just some of the ways in which I use my new found toy...


Presentation Boards

One of the most important parts of what I do is the aesthetic presentation of my ideas for a client's space. It's the largest "wow" factor for them and they appreciate the details I display in conceptualizing my plans. In order to do this, I create a floorplan and hand renderings of their future space along with high quality photos of furnishings, lighting and accessories, fabric samples, flooring and wall samples and a color palette. Normally I do this for them on a large presentation board and, although beautiful, I often work with clients who live out of town and there's no way to scan a 3' wide board and email them the pictures. I would normally have to deconstruct portions of my hard work to make them digital or copy and paste my products to a word format (nothing pretty about that!). 

Olioboard allows me to create a digital presentation board for my clients that incorporates high resolution photos of every piece I plan to incorporate into their design. With a pro account, I can add words to explain my vision and even show the color palette. Olioboard currently has a full array of Benjamin Moore paint colors to compliment your board. I happen to use Sherwin Williams for all of my Arizona interior design clients, but that's no problem either. I can have any color I desire custom matched from Benjamin Moore to any paint brand my clients prefer. Now my clear, concise board is portable, scanable and easily changeable, should the need arise to swap out one piece of furniture for another!


Client Inquiries-

It often happens that a client will call me to consult on a particular item they wish to incorporate within their existing space. A few months ago, a former client called me to help "talk him out of" what was going to become a major design mistake within his condo living room. He had just purchased a new sofa he got for a steal, but he wanted to make sure it would work with the egg shaped coffee table he had always desired for his space.


By using Olioboard, I was able to show him that his sofa and potential coffee table were a terrible match. He emailed me a picture of his current space with his new sofa and I added the egg table in front of his sofa so he could see that the lines of each piece together didn't work well. After presenting a few other options, as well as offering ideas for the rest of his room, he made peace with going another route for a coffee table.

Blogging & Teaching Tool-

My blogs come to life by using "real life examples" of what I'm discussing. Olioboard allows me to show my readers exactly what I mean, by importing a sofa and then showing 4 different options for a coffee table or taking one room and showing it in two different styles. With I have endless options of how I wish to get my point across, and can show you these options without spending hours drawing them or searching for photos that may be similar to what I want to show, yet not quite it.

E-Design by 'Room Design In A Box'

My most favorite way to use Olioboard is with my online interior design business Although I am an Arizona interior designer, my online business allows me to design spaces for clients all over the country. I began this business in 2007, out of necessity. A client whose home I had just remodeled here in Phoenix had just gotten a job offer in which she needed to relocate to Pennyslvania. She was renting an apartment there for the year she would live there and then was to relocate again to Michigan. I had her send me photos of her rooms and basic measurements. Knowing her style, I offered a shopping list for her to purchase all of the items she needed to make her space a home and she did her own DIY Design. Through the power of the internet I found a combination of stores close to her home and online sources for her to get her furnishings. It worked so well, that Room Design In A Box was soon born. Since that time and thanks to the birth of a new generation of DIY homeowners, Room Design In A Box has grown in popularity! You just can't beat the space planning, design assistance and recommendations of an interior designer in your ear to help you avoid the costly mistakes of going it alone when designing your space. When you realize how much money and time you'll save, $350.00 is WELL worth it!

I have only yet begun to scratch the surface as to the many ways I can incorporate Olioboard into my design business. I have to admit, it has been fun figuring it out. For me, is like that brand new toy you don't want to put down! If you are a fellow designer, I highly recommend you give it a try. If you are a homeowner who would like to dream up incredible spaces, it's the perfect place to do so! 

If you are a homeowner who sees the potential of all that Olioboard has to offer, but just don't have the time, patience of understanding of how to create your perfect space, but don't mind putting together the end result, consider working with me on your room by using Room Design In A Box


If I had a Design Show on HGTV/ DIY- 5 things home improvement shows should tell you! (Part 4)

4. One of my favorite designers on TV is Candice Olson, for her beautiful work and dramatic flair. She is a well admired designer and rightfully so, but the lavish designs and high end fits and finishes she uses in her designs all come with a very large price tag. Many homeowners crave this look but just don't realize the massive expense of an entirely mosaic tiled mother of pearl wall or the $2,000 chandelier she placed in the center of that latest basement remodel! A majority of the furnishings she uses in her homes happen to be from her own line of furniture and accessories and, while excellent in quality, they are not cheap. I can tell you easily that most of her room designs begin at $40,000 and that does not include whatever she is making to design them, nor her crew. I am purely speaking of the wallpapers, lighting, wood flooring, cabinets, tile, windows, furniture and her great accessories. She designs well done spaces, but homeowners have NO idea what they cost... and they DO cost! 

Consider, again, that the interiors designed for television are meant to pack a punch on your senses, but that luxurious products have a luxurious price tag. A designer can help you balance out those costs to accommodate your budget, by selecting the right mix of higher and lower end fixtures and finishes to create the drama in your space without the drama in your wallet! It's what we do...

If I had a Design Show on HGTV/ DIY- 5 things home improvement shows should tell you! (Part 2)

2. Design shows have sponsors. You may notice the same products repeatedly advertised in each commercial segment. Sponsors are a great thing for a TV show! They help pay for production of the show in return for promoting their brand and product. These products are then used within the homeowner's space. Most likely they got this product for free, but you will have to pay for it. A few of these on a show dramatically cut down what the room's total cost was- so the next time they tell you the whole room cost under $1,000, please know that floor they put in didn't cost $100 out of that budget, it was donated...Great advertising, but no savings there!

Forzastone- The Newest Name in Luxury Bathroom Design

Travertine is one of the most luxurious and most popular surfaces for bathroom remodels in the last decade, but it has not been without it's flaws. Being natural stone, to try and get it to look like this picture was a labor intensive and highly expensive feat. Slabs of any stone are extremely heavy, therefore costly to purchase and install, requiring several men just to lift and put your stone in place. Then there's the typical, lighter but not so less intensive method of application- travertine tile. While beautiful and offered in thousands of styles, patterns and colors ranging from lower cost and lower quality Mexican travertine to the costlier Turkish variety, owners of this beauty had the horrors of natural stone maintenance to contend with. Travertine is an extremely porous stone, with random veining and pitting allowing bacteria to fester in any moist environment. Tiled showers also have grout lines which, even when sealed, change color from dirt, mildew and age. 
Forzastone offers a beautiful, affordable solution to homeowners who seek the luxury of travertine, with the ease of maintenance available in a standard shower surround. Forzastone is a lightweight, natural travertine or marble panel that installs with NO grout and in less than a day. It comes in six varieties of travertine and two different marbles, offering you endless looks when combined with a decorative tile border, like the shown here with a marble mosaic.
Forzastone is comprised of many layers, blending the highest quality natural stone with the best in technology to bring you luxury for your bathroom that boasts a LIFETIME WARRANTY. The stone itself is a sealed 5mm slab mounted on a reinforced metal alloy, which is then mounted on a 4mm reinforced plastic ply laminate, which is mounted on another reinforced metal alloy. Cleaning and maintenance are a breeze because each panel is pre-sealed and 100% waterproof, and I have to say it again... NO GROUT! 
Forzastone cannot be purchased by homeowners, as it must be installed by a certified installer, ensuring proper installation of the product and no void of your warranty. As a designer, I'm having fun creating unique bathrooms with interesting combinations of Forzastone and porcelains, glasses and other natural products on decks, counters and walls. For more information on this phenomenal new product and their range of colors, please check out their website at Clients in the Phoenix- metro area interested in this product for their homes, I'd love to work with you to create a luxurious lav with old world appeal or cutting edge modern looks. Please reach me at 480-227-1832 or use my Contact Me page on this website and let's begin your journey into maintenance-free world of Forzastone. To all of my friends in the trade interested in using Forzastone in your own projects, please contact Jay Dunbar of J&M Custom Millwork & Remodeling. He's a certified installer who has done several installations throughout the valley. He's fast, professional and will make working with your clients on their bathroom a joy! He can be reached at 480-206-9183 or at his website at


Reface Your Kitchen & Make It Look Custom For Less

You HATE your kitchen! If it wasn't for the fact that you'd starve and die if you didn't cook there, you'd never even enter the room... or maybe your dislike is not quite as extreme. Perhaps you'd just prefer it look a little less dated or maybe you despise oak and long for a more modern feel. Maybe your dream kitchen is a Tuscan villa with ornamental details and a massive crown molding. You just wish you could change those cabinets but you know that ripping them out for the quality that you desire is just too expensive. BUT, what if your cabinets can be redressed as the cabinets that you desire and you could save thousands of dollars doing it? Maybe that dream kitchen is not so far out of reach after all, with the right partner in your remodel. 

J&M Custom Millwork & Remodeling has been in the dream kitchen business for over seventeen years. My company, Fashion House Interior Design Co, LLC works very well with them creating full custom kitchens to refacing kitchens in Arizona. Not only do they offer custom cabinetry to span your home, but they've perfected the refacing project in every way. Most refacing projects take between 3-5 days to complete and cost 30-50% less than replacing your cabinets. Once completed, your kitchen looks like full custom cabinetry, yet not one cabinet has been removed.

Before, this client's cabinets were lifeless natural maple with recessed doors. They had just redone their countertops, thinking they'd love their kitchen once they added them...but they didn't!
They were just too plain, too blah! Had they decided to replace their cabinets, they would have stayed with the exact same layout (there's really no other way to design this space and their storage was more than enough for their needs). They just hated the look. They longed for a Tuscan retreat that fit in with the rest of their home's decor. They got a price from Home Depot's refacing division and it was $18,000 to reface their kitchen, without the bells and whistles they desired! Even worse than that, at Home Depot you have to pay 100% up front. Sure, you can put it all on a credit card (if they approve such a charge), but you'll accrue interest and turn your kitchen into a major expense. 
Together, my client and I designed the details of the kitchen of her dreams and with minimal additional expense we added an overly dramatic crown with corbels, full extension roll out shelves in all base cabinets and appliques to create her look. Most stock and semi-custom cabinets have a recess on the sides (used to flush out your cabinets when attaching to a wall) Custom cabinets are completely flush. We add plywood panels to achieve a look of full custom cabinetry.

And here is the end result! Gorgeous and rich, this once 90's modern maple kitchen is reborn as a Tuscan paradise.

She loved it SO much that we then removed her island and created a custom piece to complete the transformation- for just $2,200. Oh, did I forget to mention... this kitchen refacing project cost my clients just $8,500 plus their custom island. NO ONE in this area can do this size job for this price. My clients know, they tried!
You too can have such a transformation to your space for far less than you ever imagined! Take a look at another one of my client's remodels and see if you may just need the high quality that J&M can offer you! Natural oak raised panels before...
Chocolate shaker panel after... with glass and marble mosaic tile and new granite for just under $10,000! That's 42" high cabinets, new tile splash, new granite counters and a higher height bar counter at the island, new stainless undermount sink and new 6" stainless steel pulls for their doors and drawers.
Need help to put your look together? Contact me at 480.227.1832 or call Jay at 480.206.9183 to schedule your no hassle, free consultation today. In less than 4 weeks, your kitchen can look just as fabulous!