Spring Reflection

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By Barbara Kaplan –

As Spring begins it is a time for reflection. I also find it hard to work and stay focused because I want to stop for a short time. I want to stop doing and just be. When anticipating Spring, I think about how I can make my life better. I also look around and see if my house is in order. It’s when I think about how I have integrated my personal interior and exterior to give me a home that is truly a place I call “my sanctuary.”

Using today’s technological terminology, we might call it a reboot. We simply shut down our computers and start them again. This is what we can do with our lives, too. It’s time to take a moment to stop and take stock of where we are.

  • Have we gone numb to our surroundings?
  • Do we take our environment for granted?
  • Have we made the most of the opportunities we have to create our own personal healing environments?

Many clients come to me for that very reason. They want to create a place where they can reboot, regenerate, or just have some downtime. Of course, this means different things to different people. How do you reboot? How do you stop your world and get off for a short time before getting on again?

Perhaps it’s the new season, but I feel the need to write this personal column to you. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to communicate with you these past months. I hope you’ve enjoyed the information I’ve shared. I want to thank those of you who have taken the time to contact me. We’ve had fun e-mailing and talking about design.

Being able to reach so many people at one time is awesome and overwhelming. I sit and write all by myself at my computer, not realizing the impact of my words. Then I meet one of you and you quote something I have said in the column and tell me how it has affected your life and lifestyle.

I look forward to communicating with you in all the seasons. I would love to hear from more of you so I can furnish information that has meaning for you. Let me know what’s in your hearts and minds. I’ll continue to answer your questions and continue to ask questions so that you can find your own answers.

Lastly, I want to explain why I keep writing that “Rooms have no feelings, you do!” All that means is that you are the most important part of the equation when decorating. Rooms don’t care how you decorate them. Only you care how your rooms look and feel. So follow your heart – and if it feels right, it is right.

Thanks for all your questions. If I use your question in this column I will send you a free, autographed copy of my book The Bajaro Method: Rooms Have No Feelings, YOU Do!

Photo credit: Neal. via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Eye-Catching Collectible Displays Bring Personality Into A Room

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By Barbara Kaplan –

Q: My home décor is eclectic. I like the feeling and would like to keep all the fun accents I’ve collected. However, I would like to redecorate so my collections make more of a statement. Should I do it with color, new furniture or lighting? What will give me the quickest, most cost-effective change?

Also, is it possible to blend ethnic art and collectibles?

A: The list of what humans collect is endless. We collect whatever turns us on or what we want to put our energy into collecting.

Perhaps inherited pieces have memories attached.

Or, they might be items we purchased on our travels. Even though others may not understand why we collect certain things, they have meaning and sentiment to us.

Some collections also have value from a financial standpoint, such as art glass, porcelain birds, music boxes and so many more.

Anything you might decide to collect has either a visual, monetary, conceptual or sentimental appeal.

This is an opportunity to use your creativity.

Consider the display space. Find a unifying or contrasting color for the background of the collection. Your background can make a big difference as to the impact of how your collection will be seen.

For example, if most of the pieces are light, the wall behind the collection can be dark. I once placed shelves on a dark fuchsia background for a client who had an extensive Iladro collection.

Conversely, if most of the pieces are dark, use a light or bright color for your background. The contrast of color will make your pieces pop!

If your collection has to be protected from the elements, choose a display cabinet to go with your furnishings. Be sure the shelves are sized to accommodate your pieces. You don’t want to put small pieces to high or large shelves, they will get lost. And keep the surrounding and background color of the cabinet always in mind.

Lighting is important, no matter where or how the collection is displayed. In a display cabinet things are harder to see, so lighting inside the cabinet is essential. If the pieces are exposed, lighting can be directed right on the pieces from track, cable or recess cans.

To make the greatest impact, create an unexpected arrangement or shelf for it. An unusual arrangement and foundation is always intriguing.

When the pieces are “grouped” in an unusual and creative fashion, they also appear more important and impressive.

If grouping on the wall, begin by laying it out on the floor. Move the pieces around so they relate to each other in size, color or shape. If there is a particular theme, such as pictures of boats, you can hang the pictures using little anchors to hold the wire to enhance the theme.

Nothing in your home can say more about you than your collection of chosen objects. It says how you made a decision to devote your time and space.

You are making a statement about your personal preferences. Be sure that when you decide how you want your collection displayed, your decisions come from your heart, because rooms have no feelings, you do!

Photo credit: Douglas Coulter via Foter.com / CC BY-NC-SA

Let Go Of The Past To Find Your Own Style

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By Barbara Kaplan –

I frequently get asked how I help people decorate when they have bad taste.

My response:  There is no such thing as bad taste.  What you like and don’t like is purely subjective.  If you like something, no one can tell you it is wrong. If it feels right, it is right!

Make selections based on your wishes.  We have different experiences and histories when we create the picture of our own style.

I was recently asked in what style I had decorated my home.  I answered, “Barbara Contemporary,” but I had no idea what that actually meant.

Yet it felt right, comfortable and accurate.

I have spent the past 10 years recovering from being the child of antique dealers.  I lived a major part of my life with 18th- and 19th-century antiques as an expression of who I was.

It was comfortable, until I moved into a more contemporary home.

It was then I decided to shed the old and begin anew.  I sold the antiques and moved with no furniture or accessories.  I even sold my dishes, flatware, and pots and pans.  I had cleared the space to find out what fits me today.

First, I realized I didn’t need as much as I thought I did.  I appreciated open spaces.  When I was able to feel what was missing, I began buying.

Antiques were my heritage – they were my parents’ business and life – but I didn’t have to live with them.  I had my own ideas and interpretation of the look I wanted.

I would have never given myself a chance to find the real me until the antiques were gone.

Emptying out the old gave me the space to find the new.

This led to the discovery of new colors, styles and a way to live that was more satisfying.

Was one bad and the other better now that my taste had changed?

No, it was just time to re-evaluate myself and determine what was important to me now.

Here are some questions you might ask yourself to see if what you are doing is right for you:

  • Are you comfortable living with the things you have chosen?
  • Have you chosen the things you have – or have you inherited them or been influenced by others in choosing them?
  • Are you holding onto things because you are afraid you might offend someone or afraid you can’t afford to replace them?
  • If money were no object, what would you do differently?

Let go, explore and be open to new ideas, styles and colors you never thought about using before.  Select some new things and keep some of the old – then combine them to create your style.

Remember, rooms have no feelings, YOU do!

To explore your taste and find the “best of the best” home & lifestyle companies, go to http://barbaraspicks.com.

Photo credit: mattwalker69 via Foter.com / CC BY-SA

Kitchen Design Begins With The All-Important Countertop

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By Barbara Kaplan –

We’re surrounded by counters – particularly in the kitchen, bathroom, home office….and so much more. We take them for granted and don’t realize the impact they have on us.  Their colors, patterns and textures affect our feelings daily. Choosing the material is a decision based on style, function and cost, whereas the design decision is based on your preferences.

Taking this a step further, we coordinate our cabinets with our countertops. We might even match the walls and accessories with the color of the countertops. When I work with a client, we generally begin the design of the room by choosing the countertop. Your counters can be the most dramatic feature, as well as the choice that affects you the most.

For example, in the kitchen, while working you are you’re constantly looking down and seeing the counter. You’re surrounded by the mood-altering energy of the color and pattern.  When choosing countertops, consider how they will be used and who will use them. Are there children at home? Do you want to use a cutting board? Do you want to put hot pots on the counters? Do uneven surfaces bother you?

Today you have a variety of choices:

  • Granite is the most expensive, one of the more durable and still the most popular countertop choice today. Plus, there are a multitude of colors and textures to choose from. Check out the leather finish.
  • Marble is beautiful but more porous, so it’s more apt to stain than granite.
  • Engineered Quartz such as CeasarStone, Cambria or Silestone are man-made materials using 90 percent ground quartz and add resin are more durable than granite and are similar in price to the mid-range price of granite.
  • Other man-made materials in solid surface such as Corian and Cambria come in a variety of colors and are strong; however, you cannot cut on them.
  • Tile comes in many colors, is durable, and can take heat, but the grout is porous, needs to be sealed and is difficult to keep looking good. The surface may be more uneven. Vertically, hand-painted tiles can create beautiful and interesting designs on backsplashes.
  • Cement is smooth and heat resistant; however, it is porous, and can stain or crack as it cures.
  • Natural stone, which is honed until smooth, must be sealed. This creates a rustic and earthy look.
  • Stainless steel and/or stainless combined with copper are more sensitive to scratches, yet resistant to heat and stain. This look is often used in more contemporary-looking kitchens and can emphasize a theme with stainless appliances.
  • Laminates are less expensive and have the greatest amount of color and pattern choices. They are not resistant to heat or cutting.
  • Solid wood is warm, rich and elegant, and when sealed properly has a long life.

Once you’ve determine your material, you have to decide how the backsplash will look and how much of a backsplash you want. They can continue to the upper cabinets or they can be the standard 4 inches. You can use the same material as the countertop or introduce a new material such as tiles or mosaics. Combining materials creates your signature look.

Lighting changes the way your countertops look. Not only functional, under-cabinet lighting, be it fluorescent, halogen or LED, will highlight the countertop material and emphasize the theme for the room. In the evening your counter tops could be the only glow in the room.

How do you make this difficult choice? Cost is a factor:  Each material has a different price.  Durability is your next consideration:  How hard a surface do you need? And finally, consider what you want to look at every day.

Counters are there to serve you.  And remember, rooms have no feelings, you do!


Photo credit: sherwoodrealestate via Foter.com / CC BY

Color Can Tell A Story Going Upstairs And Down

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By Barbara Kaplan –

Q: My husband and I just purchased a new home. We quickly painted the downstairs; it has a casual look with yellow and burnt orange. The couches are covered in blue denim fabric.
We haven’t done anything upstairs, except for our baby’s room. Should we tie the downstairs to the upstairs? Do we need to use the same color scheme? Upstairs we have a loft with a television and futon and four bedrooms (including the baby’s room).

A: Remember, when selecting a color scheme for your home, you are the most important consideration.

To answer your question completely, I would have to come to your home, so let me offer some general information. A new home is a wonderful opportunity to create a portrait of your family. Think of your new home as a new beginning. What color scheme would you like to live with? Keep in mind you will see it every day and that you will make several expensive purchases around your choices.

So far you have decided on yellow and burnt orange for your downstairs and the denim sofa is a good complement to those colors. You have chosen a version of the primary colors red, yellow and blue, which you can use throughout your home, or you can introduce new colors that go with them.

However, if you like the way the downstairs looks, you can certainly repeat the same colors upstairs. The colors you have used are strong, and to soften the feel, you could introduce a sage green, which gives a lighter feel and brings in the feeling of nature.

The architecture of the house will dictate where colors can begin and end, particularly in transitioning from room to room. There are natural breaking points in every house, like the wall going up the stairs that connects the downstairs and the upstairs.

If you have used the burnt orange on that wall, you can use accent colors on the other walls in the loft. If it is important to change the colors upstairs, you can create an architectural stopping point with the molding at the bottom or top of the staircase.

As you transition into the bedrooms, you can use a totally different color. The color used downstairs may be taken up to the loft area and changed at the entrance of each bedroom. The loft is your bridge between the downstairs and the upstairs. Keep in mind that your eye sees the loft when you are downstairs looking up and when you are in the loft looking down.

Because your home has to be pleasing to both of you, begin by going together to a paint store and selecting color chips you like. Think about your personal space, and then the common areas you share. If the colors don’t all go together, you can tweak them by selecting slightly different shades of the same color until they look good together.

Once you have decided what colors to use, decide what room upstairs gets which color. This is an opportunity for each person – who is the principal user of the room – to express a preference. Most people are affected by the colors they choose to live with, so make your choice personal. If it is a common area you’re discussing, it can become a time for communication and creativity where you may learn more about each other in a new way.

The taste of two people joined together becomes distinct and extremely creative. See where the discussion leads you. Don’t be afraid; make your own rules and create a signature look that expresses both of you.

Remember: Rooms have no feelings, you do!

Photo credit: Sayid Budhi via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Design & Lifestyle Market Comes To Scottsdale

Barbara’s Picks has declared February “Love Your Home Month,” and for one day only, Saturday, February 27, more than 30 design and lifestyle vendors will come together at Allstate Appliances at 15250 North Hayden Road in Scottsdale to showcase their products and services to the public. Known as Barbara’s Picks, each of these vendors are hand selected by Barbara Kaplan, an industry advocate and one of the Valley’s leading interior designers. The public is invited to meet the owners and key consultants for expert answers to every design question from 10am-4pm.

There will be live presentations, demonstrations and industry experts, giving advice and guidance. Interior designers will also be available for individual consultations. Bring your design projects to experts for answers. Barbara Kaplan will also be on hand to offer her own advice and tips.

For those in attendance, vendors will have special event offers for products and services.

Throughout the event there will be drawings for some amazing design and lifestyle prizes. A grand prize valued at more than $1,000, will be drawn Saturday at 4pm. You do not need to be present to win. There is no cost to the public to attend the event.

“I and other professional designers admire and work with these companies. They are reliable, quality companies that I have confidence recommending to you (my name is on the site!),” says Kaplan. “They are picked because they are the best of the best. After 30 plus years in the design industry, I can recommend with confidence these vendors who provide luxury products and services. They have proven themselves.”

For more information, visit www.barbaraspicks.com.

Photo credit: coco+kelley via Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Mirrors, Mirrors On The Wall – Reflect It All

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By Barbara Kaplan –

Passion Mirror

Passion Mirror – Courtesy of Thingz

Mirrors create a wonderful design effect. They can make a significant difference in a room. When selecting the use and placement of a mirror, consider two things: function and aesthetic.

The most important consideration in deciding where a mirror should be placed is “what is being reflected in the mirror?” Whatever it is, you will be seeing it twice in the room. This is the functional part. Do you want to reflect something in the room or make it possible for people to see themselves?

Boomerang Mirror

Boomerang Mirror – Courtesy of Thingz

When placing a mirror, also remember the three S’s – size, shape and style. Additionally, if there is a frame, you need to select the material, color and texture of the frame. It also has to fit the space and the décor of the room. You have the choice of whether you want a beveled edge or matting touching the frame – so many things to think about for one mirror.

Mirror as a material comes in many colors – clear, black, bronze, grey, rose and green. I love using colored mirrors. They add wonderful surprise and interest. Mirrors are thought to make rooms look larger and often lighter because they reflect light. And we’ve all heard about mirrored ceilings for the dramatic effect.

Mirrored pieces in all sizes, shapes and color can be inserted on walls and furniture or mixed with other types of glass to create design accents/details. Mirror mixed with metal is particularly stunning because both materials are reflective.

Dali Scrib Mirror

Dali Scrib Mirror – Courtesy of Thingz

There are many fun things to do with mirrors that are unexpected. Have you ever seen a mirrored floor? I once had a client with a piano that was smaller than standard that needed refinishing. We decided to mirror the entire piano making refinishing unnecessary while creating something unique. Recently I used black mirror for a banister on a staircase. First we built the posts in smooth wood and then we mirrored them. We built black-mirrored étagères on either side of the fireplace in the adjoining room and also mirrored the fireplace.

In my home office, I mirrored the space between the work counter and upper cabinets. I sit opposite the mirror, and it reflects the garden window behind me. This way, I have the benefit of the window light behind me and the window’s reflection in front of me.

When you love your room and want to have double the pleasure, mirrors may be your answer. Remember, rooms have no feelings, YOU DO!


Photo credit: Ryan Vaarsi via Foter.com / CC BY

See The Humor In Interior Design

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By Barbara Kaplan –

Thank goodness for beginnings and endings. I always welcome them because I can get so caught up in life that I don’t know how to stop feeling like I’m on a carousel. It’s important to have a beginning and an ending to mark the time, to stop and take a breath. It gives pause to see if you are on the right track. I know so many of us make resolutions; I like to think of them as actions, because actions need to be executed.

I enjoy my life as an interior designer. Every day is different. There are frustrating days and creative days; there are days when I find just the right fabric for a project and others when everything is back-ordered. Even on the worst day I still wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.

What I have learned is that if I smile and have fun, things flow more easily and I am more successful. It’s important not to lose my sense of humor and forget that bringing joy and comfort into people’s lives is what it’s all about.

On the lighter side of things, here are some of my resolutions:

As an interior designer:

  • I promise not to design anything that is uncomfortable.
  • I won’t experiment painting anyone else’s wall except my own.
  • I will stop using Navajo White.
  • I will think of new ways to decorate in Southwest style.
  • I will keep Tuscan design to a minimum.
  • I am committed to eradicating whitewash wherever it still exists.
  • I will think of a new way to reintroduce avocado green and harvest gold.
  • I will ignore Saltillo tile if someone wants to keep it as their flooring.
  • I will stop poisoning my clients’ pets that ruin the new furniture.
  • I will make plastic slipcovers for people who won’t get rid of their destructive pets.
  • No more martinis before designing.

And a few predictions:

  • No more Shabby Chic
  • Away with slip covers – except at my house
  • No more faux finish on walls
  • Wallpaper is back, but not flocked
  • Shag carpet and beanbags are in again and out again

As you see, it’s more fun to see the humor in our design choices than to worry about finding the “only” answers. I’ve often said that design is an art, not a science, and each of us has our own version of how we want to express ourselves artistically.

My last thought is a suggestion to those of you who will be making design choices
and decisions:

Have fun on your interior design journey and don’t take it too seriously.

Always remember that rooms have no feelings, YOU do!


Photo credit: Community Photography ‘now & then’ /Foter.com / CC BY-NC

Holidays Speak To Us Through The Decorations We Cherish

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By Barbara Kaplan –

As I was putting my Halloween decorations out this year, I thought what a pleasure it gives me to have these symbols of the holidays. The pieces I’ve chosen have become sweet memories. For instance, I have a large white porcelain pumpkin that matches my black-and-white home. I adorn it with orange pumpkins, but my personal black-and-white statement is there.

I also have an orange glass lamp with a black shade that I only bring out during October. I use it to temporarily replace a lamp in my kitchen and then I move it on Halloween night to the table outside my front door to light the way to my surprises for the trick-or-treaters. I pack it away each Nov. 1 until the next year.

For Thanksgiving, I have other accessories. I love using my white, brown and black turkey serving pieces, which I set on an autumn-colored tablecloth. I then add a mix of napkins in those colors. It’s also lovely to randomly add autumn leaves on the table. You can use votive or colored candles to make it complete. It’s not expensive to rent a tablecloth and napkins so you have different colors every year. Finally, I place my festive wooden turkey plaque at the front door to welcome my guests.

When I open my cupboard, I am always excited to see the potpourri of colors I store for the holidays. It’s like old friends coming to visit. There are times I introduce new friends into my collection, as my family of decorations and ornaments grow.

The holidays are all about color! Much of my collection has no particular holiday symbolism. I simply use the right color for the holiday. If there is a particular symbolism to the holiday, I blend color with those pieces that carries the theme further. When using color only, you can start the holiday early and end late.

The other day I was at an accessory store with a friend. She saw hand towels with a Christmas design on them for her powder room. She asked what I thought of them. I was concerned that people would not want to use them and that, if someone did, the towels would be ruined. I suggested that perhaps colored towels would be just as effective. I recommended red or green, accented with gold or white, and they would be washable and replaceable. Next I suggested that Christmas ornaments be placed around the area for theme and fun. As we talked, she remembered several Christmas decorations she could use in the powder room.

It’s possible to celebrate each holiday with your personal decorations that make a statement about you. Think about the pieces you might have tucked away and how you could use them to decorate for the holidays.

My holiday decorations have become a holiday ritual. “Holiday rituals – activities that invite us to step out of ordinary time – play a strong and important role in emotional health,” says Andrew Weil. He goes on to say, “They deepen relationships, allow the expression of important values, and offer a sense of security and continuity.”

Your rooms will look beautiful and give you a feeling of celebration. So consider what you can do to put you and your visitors in the mood of the holiday. Remember, rooms have no feelings, YOU DO!

Putting Personality Into Your Rooms

Click to read more about Barbara.

By Barbara Kaplan –

I recently held a forum for consumers to discuss their design issues. Here is some of the conversation and questions we had.
Q: I would love to use some bold patterns on my upholstery. What do I have to know to successfully do this?

A: Using big, bold patterns definitely makes a statement. It is best to do this as accents rather than on a large piece – of course, pillows are an obvious choice. You have flexibility and can enhance a pattern when the color is used as a background to bring out the colors in the print. You also can upholster a screen and use it by the windows, behind a piece of furniture or as a visual divider in a room.
Q: How do you feel about mixing styles and finishes?

A: This is one of my favorite things to do because it creates interest in a room and adds personality – your personality – to a room. This is your opportunity to be daring and experiment. For example, you can put things together and create your own combination and style. A frequently used word for this style is eclectic; a good example is when you combine a French-style desk with a contemporary chair. You are saying, “I am different, and I’m not afraid to show it.”

Q: I see leather is back in a big way. Is it easy to use when decorating?

A: Yes, leather is a popular material today. It is easier than ever to use when decorating because:

  1. It comes in a variety of colors – the palate of colors is almost endless, from the brightest to the most muted tones. It’s fun and interesting to use leathers in unexpected colors. It’s a whole new way to look at leather.
  2. The feel of the leather is so soft that if you close your eyes you think it is fabric.
  3. Price. Leather has become more affordable. However, the softer the leather, the higher the price will be. You can mix your leathers with fabrics such as chenille and more economical microfibers on the same piece to give interest and contrast.

Q: I have notice furniture is mirrored. How can we use these pieces?

A: Mirrored furniture is back. This is a trend from the 1940’s that made a glamorous and dramatic statement in any room. It is being used on all kinds of furniture, Years ago a client had a miniature piano that I mirrored, and it was the talk of the home. Today’s interpretation has gone even further; such as mirrored dressers and sinks installed in them for bathrooms.
Here are some designer trends you can consider. Don’t feel like you have to match your furniture pieces – mix and match finishes, styles and scale. It’s interesting not to place furniture against a wall. Come up with different ways to arrange the furniture to make it more significant – such as placing the furniture at an angle or floating the seating to make the space appear more open and large.
Paint walls bright colors. Instead of having white ceilings, paint them the same color as the wall. If your wall color is dark, make sure the ceiling color is half the intensity. This will make the ceiling color appear the same because it is facing down. By painting the ceiling you can make the room feel cozier and not break up the look you created by painting the walls a special color.
There is no one way to decorate a room. Your imagination and understanding of your needs is all it takes when you remember that, “Rooms have no feelings, YOU do!”

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