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 / 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

Photo credit: coco+kelley via / 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 / 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’ / / 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

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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!”

Put The Plan On Paper Before Moving In The Furniture

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By Barbara Kaplan –

Q: I’m going to decorate a room in my home. Is it important to do a furniture layout (plan) of my room before buying the first piece of furniture?

 A: Yes, it is necessary. From the moment you begin a project to placing the last piece, you must consider the total picture. Having the plan to look at gives you another perspective – a bird’s-eye view of the room. It’s as if you are above your room looking down, seeing how everything works together.

Obviously everything has size. First, measure your room. You can use a piece of graph paper or download an app on your computer and draw your walls, windows and door openings. Make each box equal one foot.

Now draw and place each piece of furniture where you think you want it. The function of the room has to be considered, because each room has a different purpose.

This is the time to try something unexpected. Place a piece of furniture in a corner or at an angle. Depending on the room, you can place something behind a sofa, the bed or a chair. It’s much easier to make a change now. Try several different arrangements.

How does it look? Is it balanced? Does it flow? Do the traffic patterns work? Keep in mind the scale of each piece and how it relates to the other pieces. Dimension and placement are central to seeing if the pieces fit properly in the room and are in balance with each other.

Make sure:

  • There is enough leg room in front of a chair for people to sit and cross their legs comfortably.
  • When placing the dining room table, the chairs should be placed three feet from the wall so people can get in and out easily.
  • The placement of tables and lamps is convenient for people to reach when sitting or lying in bed.
  • If you plan to use a area rug, determine how much of the floor you want it to cover. Watch where the furniture falls on the edges. Either go to the edge of a piece of furniture or under it. Make sure all the legs of the same piece of furniture are either on or off the area rug.

You now have a plan and the dimensions of the furniture you need to purchase. You know how long sofas should be, how wide and deep chairs should be and the size of the tables you’ll need. Shopping will be so much easier because you have the correct information.

One more caution: Many times we buy too much. Unless you like a cluttered look, good design requires fewer pieces. Each piece, well chosen, will work effectively where it is placed.

You will also notice that each piece you bring into the room changes the balance and feeling of the space. Look at what is happening to the room and how you react to it. If it feels right, it is right. If it doesn’t feel right, change it. Let your feelings guide you.

Remember, rooms have no feelings, you do!

Art: Part Two

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By Barbara Kaplan –

Art can change everything in a room. When moving into a new home, it may feel uncomfortable, incomplete and not like home until the art is hung on the walls or the pedestals or statues are placed. Then all of a sudden the space is transformed and comes alive. There is life and meaning to the space where there was emptiness. Art pulls a room together. So be aware of the feeling you are sending to yourself by the choices you are making. When the art is hung you have now expressed yourself in the space and declared your own signature.

Many of the most successful projects I have created started with a client’s piece of wall art or rug which really is floor art.

When hanging art, proportion, spacing and scale are important considerations. Just as important is the negative space or the place for your eyes to rest. This is the same as a rest between notes in music. Negative space helps make sure that you’re not placing too many pieces and crowding your space and that they are not placed too close together.

When hanging art on the wall the worst thing you can do is hang it too high. Wall art has to relate to the furniture. If there is too big a space between the two the relationship is lost. When the art is floating in space unconnected, it loses its effect of bringing together the vertical and horizontal lines to complete the room. This is a valuable element because it tells your eye how to relate to the flow of the room.

I am working with clients currently who have a lovely glass art collection and while building their home were concerned about which area to place their fabulous collection. I asked them to please be patient and the answer would reveal itself. I resisted finding a place to show off the collection until we determined the placement of the furniture. We know that “form follows function” and until my clients were living there the function would not be known. I also wanted to see how the lighting would be on the glass.

There is a four letter word I often use with my clients. They cringe when I say it and then later thank me for it. The word is “wait”. It is so hard to wait when you are so eager to finish. But it is so valuable to see your ideas come alive and determine what it is you need more or less of. All the visualizing you do is not as accurate as seeing it in person. The balance constantly changes as you bring in and place another new thing that has color, shape, style, and proportion into the mix. And it is really important you love each piece you bring into your home. Don’t do it for the room…do it for you!


Art: Make It “Your” Choice

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By Barbara Kaplan –

Art was probably the first word I said as a baby…or so it seems. My parents were antiques importers and I grew up with 18th and 19th century incredible artifacts.

It was after WWII and my father would travel to Germany and France to buy antiques. So I truly grew up with the finest European antiques. It wasn’t until I was in my 30s and sold my home – which was filled with these glorious masterpieces – to buy a new contemporary home that I realized I no longer wanted to live with old, fragile, expensive antiques. I realized that these pieces were my heritage, but they were not me today or my taste any longer and I now loved more contemporary art and furnishings. So I sold everything I owned, and I mean everything, and moved into my new contemporary home with nothing, just bare necessities, and lived that way for about a year.

I gave myself time to breathe without the burden of expensive and irreplaceable antiques. I had called in an antiques dealer from New York who bought everything. I asked the packing company to hold everything over night before packing it for shipment to New York. I wanted to see how I would feel the next morning, waking up without my beloved and once cherished pieces. Well, I loved the feeling…I felt free! I called the shipping company to pack everything and send the antiques away.

This began my design journey of self-discovery. It was tough and it was fun!

So I practiced what I preach. I realized over the years working with my clients that I wasn’t decorating a room. I was helping people express themselves through their design choices.

On my journey of design discovery, I had to look at my choices with new eyes and be open to all possibilities. I had to ask myself questions like “Can I live with this?” “Will I still like it in a week or a year?” “Am I making a mistake?”

While this may seem difficult, it really isn’t and I’m going to explain to you why not. Why you needn’t fear making a mistake, because if you feel your decision is the right one, it is.

First let’s talk a little about the art.

Art can be a focal point. When you choose the art with your heart, YOU come through as the focal point, too. You are seen as the art also because it is an expression of your personality, style and taste. The first consideration is how it feels to you. Second, is how it looks. Choosing art is a personal choice because art has the ability to evoke feelings. It is an emotional purchase. As much as I enjoy guiding my clients through the design of their homes, I never influence them in their choice of art. Rather I help them define what they like, in regard to the different mediums, their individual reaction to colors, the feel of the many textures, geometric shapes, abundance of styles and critical proportions.

These are all very subjective details and must come from inside of each of you. However, I have found that most people I work with do not have an awareness of these elements in relationship to their reactions to them. That is why they are working with a professional designer. They are wise to realize that they need to learn more about themselves to make the right decisions. And the right decisions are the ones that feel right to them. Yes, I repeat “what feels right, is right.” And this is the magic bullet that makes interior design easy for everyone. Interior design is about your interior. The space you are decorating is exterior design. The room has no feelings, but you do. And that is what you must focus on. YOU!


Change Your Decorating Choices, Change Your Life

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By Barbara Kaplan –

When buying a new home or redecorating an existing home, personal transition is happening. This can be overwhelming, as well as being an exciting time of new beginnings.

Change requires a deeper look at personal needs and wants.
A release from the past, to a shift into new directions. Often we have outgrown furniture or accessories we have lived with, but hold on to them without realizing or thinking. It’s an opportunity to honestly assess what pieces are broken, worn out or no longer fit your personality, taste and lifestyle.

Moving into a new environment is a perfect time to see your furniture and possessions with fresh eyes. A time to evaluate what has served you in the past and redesign how you want to live going forward. Purging makes space for design discovery and imagination.

Concerns and fear about the high cost of purchasing new pieces are often unfounded. You may not need to replace them at all.

Every area on the floor or space on a wall does not have to be filled. Less is more! An example of this, is when beginning a design project, it is a good idea to remove pictures from small walls! Leave more empty space, there and everywhere. Also, using larger pieces (in dimension, not necessarily scale) is a great design trick to create drama and spend less money.

Repurpose! Every design choice needn’t be expensive. When carefully thought out, you will realize you have options. First consider the pieces you already have. Envision them used differently. Choose what you would like to keep. Changing color, finish or adding a new detail such as hardware, lamp shade or pillow can add new and interesting focal points. Paint a piece of furniture an accent color and/or add molding, beads or metal accents. Thereby renewing the pieces you already own you have created a unique and personalized style.

A great way to see your furniture and accessories differently is to place them in different rooms than they were previously. Don’t do the obvious or the same. Think “out of the box” or better yet have no box and have fun. Watch your creativity flourish. Decorating is often taken too seriously. When you realize there are no “have too’s” in decorating you can relax and freely envision different furniture arrangements. For example, turning a dining table just 45 degrees can change the flow of the area. And the chairs will face in a different direction for people to experience. Or move the dining room furniture into the family room or living room and the previous dining room or kitchen eating area can become a more intimate sitting room. After all where do family and guests hang out?

To avoid interior design mistakes:

  • Live in your new home for at least a month before making any permanent design decisions.
  • Before buying new furniture place your existing furniture to emulate the new look. Experiment with what you have.
  • Don’t do everything at once.
  • Consider your life style, not the obvious that the rooms were intended for.
  • Explore using room layouts differently to suit your feelings.
  • Don’t duplicate function in rooms.
  • Don’t buy because something is on sale.
  • Most important, love everything you bring into your home.

The way you live and choices you make can affect your happiness and wellbeing. Make sure your environment supports the lifestyle you want to live today.


Remember, Rooms have no feelings, YOU do!”


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