The Family Room Sofa: The Most Important Piece in the House

The keystone piece of any family room is the beloved sofa. This is the most important piece of furniture in the room, if not the entire house, because the family hangs out together on the sofa. The family room sofa will get more use than any other piece of furniture in your home. With a properly designed room, it will also offer the most visual impact.

For these reasons, you should put plenty of thought and care into selecting a new sofa. The sofa will most likely be the largest piece of furniture in the room. It will also be front and center as an anchor or focal point for the space. Carefully consider how you and your family will utilize the sofa before you make your choice.

If possible, make the sofa your first decision in the room and work the other furnishings around it. This will help keep you focused on the style and scale of the other pieces when creating your family room.

Here are a few of my best guidelines to keep in mind when selecting a sofa:

Comfort is first and foremost. But remember, you and your spouse many have different ideas of comfort. The sofa should naturally fit both of you. So ask yourself a few questions: Do you enjoy lying down to watch TV or curling up in the corner? Will the sofa be used most often for reading or conversation?

If it’s not possible to find a sofa that naturally fits both of you, here are some suggestions. You may like a deep sofa, but that may be uncomfortable for your spouse. If this is your situation, the use of kidney pillows will help a deep sofa feel more shallow. I have also used small, low ottomans in front of the sofa for height challenged people that like to have their feet planted.

The size, or scale, of the sofa is your next consideration. A long sofa can add wonderful drama to a room but can take up valuable room. A sofa that seats four adults is often a waste of real estate, as rarely will four people opt to line up like pigeons on a wire at a cocktail party or to watch TV. Most people don’t feel comfortable sitting to others in close proximity on one piece of furniture–unless they’re family. Even then, close proximity may still be an issue.

A good-sized sofa is approximately 84” to 90” long – this is generally considered a “three seater.” This sized sofa will most likely be long enough to lay on, and in a pinch, it will fit three people perching side by side. Here’s an example of a super long sofa.

Arm Proportions
Pay close attention to arm proportions. An 84” sofa can have large rolled arms full cushions measure up to 12” wide each, which means the length of your seating area is only 60”. Not only will the interior seating area be too short for an average adult to lie on, but the 24 inches of space could be used for a separate occasional chair.

If space is an issue, look for a sofa with small scale arms, no more than 5” wide to offer the most seating room possible for the footprint of the sofa.

Cushion Fill
Each sofa manufacturer generally has various options for seat and back cushion fills. If you’re worried about your sofa looking messy, opt for down or Dacron wrapped, spring down cushions. The interior spring will ensure the cushions pop back up into position when you stand up. Many people find this is not only the best looking cushion, but also the most comfortable. If you want the old world look of a well-worn, matted cushion, the down blend is a good choice. Keep in mind that it will be necessary to fluff the cushions. Many manufacturers may have environmentally-friendly option like jute or recycled foam will be available as well. It is best to test these fills in person because each one will sit differently. Some will be hard, and some will have more give.

Since the sofa is the most used and loved piece in the home, purchase the best quality piece you can afford with the nicest fabric money allows. Think durability as well as forgiveness. Often a tweed or tiny print fabric that appears almost solid is a great choice for hiding spills and dirt. Multiple colors will help with cleanup by hiding stains. Some degree of texture is more desirable than a smooth fabric for the same reason.

Finally, consider the style. If you’re embracing the current trend toward simple, clean lines — opt for a sofa with the same style. It will be difficult to create a simple, clean- lined room with a curvy Victorian style sofa. Ideally, the sofa should be the understated elegance in the room, not the major drama. Toss pillows and cozy throws can add color and pattern to the overall piece for added drama. They also offer the opportunity for seasonal change without a huge commitment.

The comfort and style of the room helps set the tone for the time you spend there. Paying attention to the details will help you select a sofa that is not only comfortable, but fits your space and lifestyle with a warm invitation to have a seat. The right sofa can truly turn your living room in an inspired interior the whole family will enjoy.

Do you need help creating the perfect family room? Click here to see how we can help you create the family room you’ve always dreamed of!

Why Hire An Interior Designer?

My next few blogs will concentrate on why you should consider hiring an interior designer for you next renovation or remodeling project as well as the benefits an interior designer brings to your renovation project. Please know I am not trying to bash contractors. Contractors play an integral role in the success of any design project. My intent it to emphasize that expecting your contractor to design, select appropriate finishes and fixtures for your bathroom, kitchen or new sun room is the equivalent to hiring a lawyer to operate on your appendicitis.

It is the interior designer’s job to collaborate with the client and spend time developing a design concept based on the clients’ taste and lifestyle. This is an area of expertise that contractors generally do not have, as they haven’t been educated in this area and they do not devote their lives to pouring through design magazines and online resources to create great design schemes. The contractors’ job is to demolish, build, install, paint and more, according to the plan that the designer and client have developed together.

Originally, I thought I would write one quick blog on this subject, but as I thought of the many experiences I’ve had with this over my 30 year career, I realized I would be doing my readers a disservice if I did not devote more time to it. I have been hired numerous times to save remodeling jobs that have gone astray due to contractors posing as designers. Much time, money and effort can be saved if a designers’ input is requested at the start of a project, before demolition has begun, and before any finishes or fixtures have been ordered. So, here goes… the first reason why you should hire an interior designer for your next remodeling project.

#1: The designer is focused on the finished product.
Interior designers focus on the end result – a room complete with coordinating color schemes, compatible furnishings and finishes, accessories strategically placed, all the details that support the original design concept developed with the client. With this is mind – each tile, floor board, kitchen counter, and recessed light fixture – is selected in keeping with this design concept.

The interior designer will help you find the perfect pedestal sink, that not only fits in the space provided, but will also look dynamite with your grandmother’s antique mirror that you are so happy to have acquired. Then, the interior designer will help select the perfect light fixture, tile and faucets to work with the mirror and pedestal sink.

A contractor will often suggest the most readily available pedestal sink, one that will work in the space, but not help realize your ultimate vision. A designer’s job is to research and present the client with the absolute best choices for finishes and fixtures, knowing that these selections will all work together when the furniture, art, and accessories are installed.

I have often specified a wall washer in the ceiling or above a niche in an odd spot that makes no sense at the time of construction, only to hear the “Ah Ha “ moment when the perfect sculpture is placed in the niche to play off the colors in the sofa color and the art over it.

A contractor or electrician will often place a recessed wall washer light in a logical or “obvious” spot, such as over a bed or fireplace with no regard to the creative and unique talents of the designer who wanted to place a mirror over the bed or a TV over the fireplace where the last item needed is a glaring light source. It can cost a lot of money to relocate a recessed ceiling fixture after the fact. When a designer is involved, details such as the lighting plan, the electrical outlet layout, the placement of ceiling and wall speakers. All these details work together to produce the best possible interior that not only looks fantastic, but also functions as great as it looks.

I’ve seen many an electrician place a light switch smack in the center of a focal wall which should display an important piece of art. A designer specifies the locations of light switches and outlets so an entire wall is not devoted to highlighting the light switch. In the kitchen, the designer will specify the direction of the convenience outlets in keeping with the back splash tile design. An example – when I use a subway tile running horizontally as a back splash, I always ensure the outlets are also horizontal to maintain the flow of the tile layout. A vertically oriented outlet in a sea of horizontal tile is an interruption to the eye and will look distracting.

These are just a few examples of how an interior designers’ attention to detail, and experience can help you, the home owner, create perfectly balanced, beautiful spaces within your home. Whether you are renovating a small bathroom, adding a new room to your home, or building an entirely new home, an interior designer’s input is crucial for overall success.

Has your remodeling project gone astray? Are you stuck with a light switch smack dab in the center of your focal wall? Have no fear! Help is only a phone call or email away — 215-640-8820 or Let’s get started today!

Affordable Custom Looking Interiors: Mirrors (Part 4)

This is the last in my current series Affordable Ways to Achieve a Custom Looking Interior. You can check out the previous 3 posts here: Part 1: Lamps, Part 2: Rugs, and Part 3: Art.

This post will concentrate on mirrors, particularly large mirrors. A simple shaped, large mirror can create instant impact for almost any room. Virtually every room can benefit from a mirror in some way.

Over a fireplace: the mirror will serve as an art piece; it will reflect the rest of the room, creating additional interest and it will maximize the light in your room. All of this adds up to a focal point. Most rooms are arranged to highlight the fireplace anyway. The addition of a mirror ensures the fireplace wall will be an eye catching composition as well as a focal point.

Personally, I love round mirrors and will almost always show clients these as my first choice. A round shape adds softness, as well as impact. By nature many of our furnishings are more rectangular. Think cabinetry, shelving, sofas, chairs, and the fireplace itself; adding a round shape offers contrast which automatically draws our eye in.

Large rectangular mirrors are terrific in the bedroom propped up against a wall. They serve as an accessory and function for your morning dressing routine. Choose a mirror with a stunning beefy frame to make a statement.

A large mirror also works well over a sofa. Somewhat unexpected, this application also reflects the room and adds light to the space. Be sure to choose a round mirror or a horizontally oriented rectangle that flows with the length of the sofa.

Another possibility… try three or four elegant shaped medium to large sized mirrors over a console or sofa to create a reflective grouping. The key is to marry the shape of the mirrors with the feel of your room. Curvy edges for the romantic look, or sharp geometric shapes for a more tailored and slick look.

The great news in all of this is that large mirrors are readily available in many different shapes and sizes at affordable prices. Home Goods, Ballard Design, West Elm and many others have terrific accessories in stock waiting to be hung on your wall.

Ready to add light, interest and a magnificent focal point to your room? Let’s talk! Contact me by email at or call (215) 640-8820. Let’s get started today!

Affordable Custom Looking Interiors: Art (Part 3)

Good design is a combination of the subtle and the dramatic. I have found over the years, clients naturally come by the subtle: small photos of family scattered on table tops, a few heirloom objects among the books on shelves, a stack of coffee table books, etc. The dramatic is more difficult to pull off, or perhaps harder to commit to.

An easy way to achieve the dramatic is with a collection of wall art. As a rule, I am not a fan of collections. I find them dull and they often appear cluttered. But, a number of art pieces combined on the wall in a grouping can become more than the sum of its parts: it can become a statement, i.e. the drama. This grouping could be family photos of many sizes randomly hung in a hallway, or four to ten “same size” paintings hung in a controlled pattern abovea sofa. The key to success is having the subject matter, as well as the frame style, be the same. The smaller the frames, the more of them you need to make a statement. The idea here is repetition to draw attention. The good news is craft shops such as Michaels and AC Moore sell many great looking, affordable frames. I recently purchased fifteen silver frames for about $150.00. I selected family photos from the clients archives and voila – instant impact!

Websites such as and will often have four or six similar pieces of art meant to be hung together, so the work is done for you! Experiment with art that speaks to you. Try not to worry if the colors “match” your room. That is not necessary. Concentrate on colors and subjects that move you or make you happy. Just make sure you hang several together in a grouping to make a “statement”!

Does your room need dramatic impact? Don’t know where to start?
As always, I’m available to help. Feel free to shoot me an email at or ring me at (215) 640-8820.

Affordable Custom Looking Interiors: Rugs (Part 2)

Everyone knows throw pillows are an easy way to add color, pop and pattern to a room… but how about taking it a step further with an area rug? Many affordable, colorful, patterned rugs are available via retail shops or online. You do not need to invest in a large rug to add impact. The right 5’ x 8’ rug can be layered over your current hardwood or stone floor to add color, warmth and texture.

Take into consideration the feeling of the room when selecting your rug – if fun and playful are your goals, go for primary colors with large abstract floral or oversize geometric patterns that contrast with your current décor. If slick and stylized are your look, find a sophisticated stripe or a tone-on-tone rug in a color to blend with your room.

The rug can be placed in the center of your main seating area, or under a set of chairs to offset the grouping. Play with the positioning. An angled rug can give the room a whole new feel, a new “angle” if you will. If possible have a few rug selections to change seasonally (similar to our wardrobes, why not?). An area rug can be just the right accessory to give your room new life!

Do you need help creating the perfect custom looking interior? I can help! Email me at and let’s design together!

Affordable Custom Looking Interiors: Lamps (Part 1)

If your budget does not allow for custom wallpaper in your favorite floral pattern, or custom fabricated window treatments of the finest Belgian linen, don’t lose heart. There are other simple ways to achieve a personalized “one of a kind” look. My next few blogs will focus on a few of these.

Consider having a custom lampshade made. The possibilities are endless: colorful trims, cording, fancy pleating, and beautiful fabrics. A wide range of fabrics are available from textured solids to large scale damask patterns. You’ll invest a few hundred dollars, instead of thousands for that custom sofa. Not too bad for a one of a kind- look to accent your room.

There are also local artisans that specifically fabricate lampshades as well as a few online manufacturers. Often, you can select your shade shape and your fabric from their stocked inventory. For a small up-charge, add trims, beading and fringes.

Ask for a swatch of the fabric to test in the room. The shade need not “match” the room – it can be the accent or it can be that bohemian addition that doesn’t match but makes the room look better. To ensure the lamp shade fits the lamp, try a variety of shapes and sizes using your eye as the guide. Don’t forget a larger or smaller harp can easily adjust the height of the shade. Play around with cheap shades from your local box store if needed to help guide you to the correct size. The time and effort you put into this will be well worth it when your completed project comes together.

Are you ready for a personalized “one of a kind” look? Don’t know where to start? I’m only a phone call or email away. Reach out by email to or give me a call at 215-640-8820. Let’s design together!

Color, Pop and Definition

One simple way to add color, pop and definition to a room is to paint one or more of the doors a wonderful contrasting color. Consider using a bold, rich red like the kitchen door below with the port hole peek through window; try a deep blue or royal purple. Use shiny gloss paint for the most dramatic effect. The great thing about this little tip is there is no wrong color. It is up to you if you want to make a subtle statement or a dramatic effect.

Play with paint swatches or purchase small jars of the colors you are considering. Look at the samples in day light, evening light, and the dark of night with your lights on. With the investment of a little time and a can of paint, you can easily improve the look of you entire room.

What color would you like to try? Give me a ring 215-640-8820 or email Let’s design together!!

Using Reclaimed Wood on Walls

I love the look of wood walls. The installation of wood flooring on walls is one of my favorite new trends and I believe it is here to stay. Often it is reclaimed wood, or new wood made to look “reclaimed”. Either way, these walls make a statement and add the natural warmth that we all look for to any room.

As a designer, I am always looking for inventive ways to add texture to interiors. A room will appear flat no matter how beautiful, if all of the materials used are the same dimension. Wood walls adds this new dimension in a big way over a large expanse of space. For contemporary spaces, I add slick lacquers and shiny chrome or nickel to a room with a wood wall. For a more traditional feel, I add worn leathers and plush fabrics to these rooms.

The versatility of the wood wall is endless. It sets a neutral stage for whatever drama you desire to add and the natural feel of wood works with virtually any color. Consider it in your next renovation, I believe it is a worthwhile investment that Is sure to become a classic.

What do you think? Have you used wood on interior walls in your home? Ready to warm up the walls? Call me at 215-640-8820 or email Let’s design together!

Embracing Dark Colors – Even On Walls!

There is a misconception out there that dark walls make a room look smaller. While this can be the case, if dark paint, or wallpaper is used effectively the result is an expansive feeling room with a great punch. The key is contrast. If everything in your room is dark then the room will look dark, small and uninteresting. But if dark colors are juxtaposed with bright, light colors the room takes on a very vibrant personality.

Take a look a this great space I found on and let me know what you think.

Consider a small bathroom with clean white fixtures. Dark walls can be an inexpensive, easy way to create excitement in a room like this. Even dark grey can be handsome and happy in a bath with white sinks, tubs and water closets. Think of adding more punch with colorful artwork or towels.

When painting the walls of a living room or bedroom dark, make sure that the hardwood floor or carpet is a much lighter shade. The large expansive of the light floor will balance the dark walls and create a natural contrast, leaving the furniture colors wide open for selection.

When in doubt play with small pots of paint, applied to the wall as testers. View these in every type of light: daylight, rainy days, shady days and of course, at night with room lighting. Chances are you will embrace these once feared dark colors, in conjunction with their opposite bright, light colors.

Interested in exploring darker colors and contrast for a room in your home? Email me at and let’s get started!

Aged, distressed and gorgeous flooring!

Recently, when I was at the newly renovated Park Hyatt in Washington, DC, I noticed this fabulous wide plank wood flooring on the first floor. I’m really excited about it! This new type floor looks like refined driftwood. It’s light, fresh and goes with virtually all design styles. The hues of taupe and gray enable it to go with almost any color too. Unlike typical old oak floors, it doesn’t have a lot of yellows, whites or reds. It has the warmth of natural wood without the dark tones. It’s clean, contemporary neutral flooring.

Do you love the warmth of real wood, but are tired of seeing red oak or dark stained cherry floors? This fresh new taupe and gray natural wood is for you. Call me at 215-640-8820 or email Let’s design together!!

3 Big Mistakes to Avoid When Arranging Furniture

Many home owners, especially new home owners, are in a quandary about how to arrange furniture in their new space. Fortunately, although there is no mathematical formula for this geometry problem, there are tried and true guidelines to create a functional, pleasing room.

The first and most important “rule” is to have your furniture arranged so that the backs of sofas, chairs or case goods are not facing the entrance of the room. In other words, make sure the seating side of the sofa or chair is facing towards you upon entering the room. This creates the “warmth and welcome” most people crave. There is nothing worse than being greeted with the straight long back of a sofa when entering what is supposed to be a cozy family room. It’s an immediate put off. If this proves impossible, make sure the back of your sofa has a pretty shape or it is softened by a sofa back console with dimming lamps to create a soft, warm glow.

The second most important thing to avoid is placing all your upholstered furniture on one side of the room. This is often the case with sectional sofas which must be placed together. It is important to balance out your sectional with a large upholstered chair or ottoman on the other side of the room.

Lastly avoid “The Big Dip”. “The Big Dip” is created when high furniture is placed to close to the low furniture, without some bridge between. Think of a large glass china cabinet flanked by low small benches or high back sofas placed around an extremely low coffee table. The result is “The Big Dip”. Use artwork on the walls to bridge the gap and make sure your coffee table displays some tall accessories to avoid this visual valley.

And if you need a little help, or you just have no idea where to start, I am available to help. Just give me a call at (215) 640-8820 or email me at

Glass Tile – Passing Fad or Here to Stay?

Many clients question whether glass tile is a classic, timeless choice for their tiling projects. I have two thoughts to share. First, I bet there was a time when people wondered if ceramic tile was a passing fad, as compared to natural stone. Second, I believe your color selection as well as the application of the tile will be the barometer of “classic and timeless” more than the fact that the tile is made of glass.

It is safe to say if you choose a hot pink or bright orange glass tile you will run the risk of this looking trendy at some point. This is particularly true if these colors are chosen for a prominent location such as a fireplace surround. Your choice will be literally set in stone. Unlike carpet or paint, tile does not start to look worn or used quickly, but will be costly to replace when you simply grow tired of it. However, if your inclination runs to the soft blues, greys or beiges, dare I say “the naturals”, any tile, including glass, will look clean and classic longer. Plus, you will have the added bonus of reflection and shine that glass tiles offer.

Although more difficult to install than ceramic tile, glass tiles give you a lot of bang for your buck when it comes to color choices and finishes. Rich deep jewel tones as well as calm clear spa colors, and literally everything in between, are all available in glass options. This is not the case with ceramic or porcelain tile. Committing to the kind of color and accent that glass tile presents can often be the “thunder” that makes your space dramatically fabulous! Consider using glass tile for drama in a self-contained space such as a powder room. It won’t limited your choices for the rest of your home, but will allow your powder room to become the “jewel box”. Given the nearly limitless options available in color, size and finish for glass tile, it is my belief that it is certainly not a passing fad. I do believe glass tile is more vulnerable to becoming declared a trend at some point.

If budget is a factor, it will most likely be safer to select any tile whether it is stone, porcelain or ceramic in softer neutral colors and add “pop” with more transient finishes such as paint or wallpaper.

One final muse… it’s quite possible that homeowners questioned whether ceramic tile would be considered a trend, as compared to natural stone, at some point in the past. And that is certainly not the case. Like glass tile, ceramic and porcelain tile has grown into a plethora of patterns, colors and styles, making it difficult to become a passing fad.

Need help finding the perfect tile for your bathroom or kitchen? Does your fireplace surround need a makeover? As always, I’m available to help. Feel free to shoot me an email at or ring me at (215) 640-8820.

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