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PostHeaderIcon Rejuvenate Your Bathroom - June Designers Log

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Recently, clients have started kitchen or bath renovations. They get this glazed, lost look on their faces when asked what they want. But, "more space" "the lighting is bad" and "it's so dated" I hear over and over. For many these are the most personal, yet frustrating areas to work with. I started my business back in the late 80s as a kitchen and bathroom designer and have renovated and restored over 25 homes, so I know these rooms can be real problem areas.

Bathrooms seemed the perfect subject for this months Designers Log. We are caught between needing functionality and beauty and often end up doing the same tired look over and over. I always push my clients to think outside the box and be open to something different, but when it comes to kitchens and baths, most of us tend to be safe as they are not rooms we renovate more than once in a home.

Baths are, for me, the ultimate challenge. Unlike kitchens, which tend to be a gathering place, bathrooms are our private space and ought to be both intimate and comfortable. A full bathroom renovation can cost thousands, but there are things you can do for a quick pick-me-up. Try these 5 easy ideas to update and transform a boring bath.

Pull on it - Changing hardware is something anyone can do. Grab a screwdriver and take off the existing knobs and pulls. Replace them with updated finishes and styles. Knobs are the most functional for wet hands. For a modern, minimal atmosphere, use brushed nickel. For kids baths or for a funky look try different shapes and colors, mixing it up. While you are at it, remove all the traditional towel bars. Install hooks and stack or roll towels in a basket or open shelf. You'd be surprised how the space opens up without the standard, run of the mill towel bar.

Be ready for your close up - One of the most important features of any bathroom is the effective use of lighting. Whether you are shaving, putting on make up or just like a bright room, use a mix of different light sources. The single light bar above the mirror is not enough. And never use the so called "make up" bulbs that are usually the standard fixture. They leave shadows or hot spots and are unflattering. Try a combination of small recessed lights spaced 30" apart over the vanity. Add sconces left and right and you will have good illumination that covers your whole face. Make sure you have light in the shower and in the water closet. Surprisingly, these can be the darkest areas of a bathroom, and are not only needed, but add drama to your lighting scheme.

Small space, big look - Bathrooms can be tricky because there is rarely much continuous, uninterrupted space. Mirrors, shower doors, tub and tile surround can all make the room seem cut up. A good solution to this is to use big tiles, 18" or more if possible. Keep grout lines to a minimum and match your grout to your tile for a more cohesive look. Laying tile subway style elongates a room while big squares are currently a trendy look. Be careful with mixing patterns. If you like granite counter tops, use a simpler floor tile. I've never been a fan of the vessel sink, the ones that sit on top of the vanity. They add another dimension that is just not needed. Use simple, wide white porcelain under mount sinks instead. And always use frameless shower doors. Another easy and effective change, it will modernize your room like nothing else.

Make it personal - One of the most asked questions in bath renovations is what color to paint. No one likes gawdy colors first thing in the morning but it depends on the space. I would recommend that the master bath be a soothing color, like ochre,cream or anything organic in base. In this case, you want to feel that you are in a spa or Zen retreat. But in a powder room or guest bath? Go crazy! Use color blocking or stripes. Make your wow statement with green or blue. Show your sophistication with eggplant or gloss black. One of my favorite powder rooms had vertical stripes in black, brown and purple, a white pedestal sink and a black and gold Federal style framed mirror. Just this little change took a tract home half bath from blah to stunning.

Stow the stuff - The most fun bathrooms are the ones with unexpected and inspired storage. As mentioned above, find new ways to store guest towels. Cut out niches in the walls for candles and soaps. You can break up that boring double sink area by installing a floor to ceiling cabinet in the middle of the vanity. It can be shared and gives a nice feeling of privacy for each sink. Clutter can be the enemy, but not everything has to be behind doors either. Use racks, open shelving and stacking storage bins in brights colors. This is especially great for kids' bathrooms, combining fun and easy access. An upholstered bench that opens up allows storage for all that stuff normally found in the cabinet and gives a warm feeling to the room.

So whether you are a family or this is your own personal escape, the bath is where you start your day and often end it. Done right, bathroom renovations can make a huge difference in your home. From the powder room to the master suite, let it be the place that rejuvenates and calms you as well as a room you can be proud to show your guests. 



An established Interior Designer for over 20 years, Steve Wallace Design is based in Walnut Creek, California.  His work has appeared in Palm Springs Life and other interior design publications, and he is the author of a soon to be published book about design and the way we live. He can be reached at  925 915 1005, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or visit www.SteveWallaceDesign.com.  Follow on Twitter @swallacedesign.


Last Updated (Tuesday, 05 June 2012 00:40)


PostHeaderIcon Interior Design As Seen on TV - April Designers Log

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Due to popular demand, The Designers Log updates and revisits a post from 2010, adding a top 10 list. Enjoy! 

Do you ever look at a house on TV and wish it was yours? Did you ever try to decorate your home to look like one you saw on the small screen? How we see others live on television shapes how we see our own homes, what we aspire to and offers a possible blueprint for perfect living. 

In the 1950s, television started giving us an eye into how others live. No longer did we have to leave the comfort of our living room to get a peek at our neighbors. We could compare and contrast our spaces with other families, from Ozzie and Harriet to Leave it to Beaver.  Post WW II, ostentatious wealth was out. Manufactured furniture, Lucy and Desi and the middle class was in. The rich were not like us; family and a suburban life was on the rise. We moved from formal rooms to tract homes and twin beds.

On 60s TV, programs like The Dick Van Dyke Show brought us black and white living and a concept of what the perfect home needed to look like. Bewitched also depicted a version of suburban homes and neighborhoods. Husbands came home from the city to a wife with dinner on the table and a martini in hand. Darrin Stevens gave us the first "man cave", his paneled den. As Gladys Kravitz peeked through the blinds, it was the beginning of keeping up with the Joneses.

Television has given us such iconic rooms as The Mary Tyler Moore Show single woman apartment with the big M on the wall and Rhoda's hip attic pad. Who can forget the Archie Bunker dad chair or the upscale urban family rooms of 30-Something?

Recently I worked with a couple in their 40's. Their number one concern was not to get a Brady Bunch house. For people of that generation, the decor of the 1970s is their parents era. Ironically, at the time the show aired, it was considered the epitome of upscale California suburban living. Their combined family resided in arguably the most recognizable house on TV. The stone planter, the open stairway, the orange laminate counters and the Jack and Jill bathroom were mimicked by builders and designers for years as the way a family should live.

By the 80s, shows like Dallas, Falcon Crest and Dynasty depicted the poster interiors for opulence.  Bigger was better, rich was back in vogue and the over the top furnishings held their own with the big shoulders of Linda Evans and Joan Collins. Hart to Hart showcased wealthy Los Angeles living, while The Golden Girls put hip Florida senior living on the map.

In the 2000's, Mad Men, about the advertising industry in the 1960s, showcases mid century modern decor. The hipness of the martini crowd has made this look very trendy. Mad Men attempts to mimic the era, right down to the smallest detail. They do a remarkable job of re-creating the time and romanticizing days gone by. By enjoying the modern feel of the interiors, we are seeing a strong example of how styles and trends recycle. Now in it's 5th season, we've seen Mad Men go from the Eisenhower era to the swinging 60's. Pucci prints, shag rugs and bean bag chairs have renewed interest in the colors of those pychedelic years.

Currently, TV allows us to peek into the hipness of New York lofts on Smash, see a real depiction of  family diversity on Modern Family and fabulous interiors around the country on The Real Housewives of... series. We see how real celebrities live on reality shows and HGTV schedules makeovers and renovations to entertain us for hours.

Over the years, interiors on TV have shown us glamour, style and reality as well as trends and design disasters. We have been given rooms to admire, color palettes to stagger the senses and the diversity of our lives. Our own homes and lifestyle has been reflected through the lense in subliminal messages of how we should live. 

So whether you are a Don Draper, miss your Brady Bunch childhood or still like to fantasize about the homes of the uber-rich, the line between real life and the media has shrunken. 

Here is my Top 10 list of favorite TV rooms:

10 -  Don Johnson's Miami Vice bacholer pad.

9 - The Doris Day Show spiral staircase with San Francisco Bay view.

8 - Brothers and Sisters Santa Barbara loggia.

7 - Marlo Thomas' That Girl New York one bedroom.

6 - The Brady Bunch stairway.

5 - Smash brownstone of Debra Messing.

4 - Any room in Downton Abbey.

3 - Dick Van Dyke Show living room in New Rochelle.

2 - Niles' living room on Frasier.

1 - The Madison Avenue offices of Mad Men.

An established Interior Designer for over 20 years, Steve Wallace Design is based in Walnut Creek, California.  His work has appeared in Palm Springs Life and other interior design publications, and he is the author of a soon to be published book about design and the way we live. 

He can be reached at  925 915 1005, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or visit www.SteveWallaceDesign.com.

Last Updated (Monday, 30 April 2012 15:23)


PostHeaderIcon Finding Your Perfect Color - March Designers Log

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As spring arrives, and thoughts turn to refreshing your home, The Designers Log updates and revises this previous post from 2 years ago.

You've probably seen them too, people at Home Depot or the local paint store, holding a handful of paint swatches with puzzled looks on their faces.

For most of us, selecting a paint color is difficult.  Beyond deciding which blue matches your eyes or which green is closest to your daughters bedspread, there is a psychological impact of color in our lives.

Every color we encounter in a space has some impact on how we feel.  It can make us happy or sad, literally give us a headache or put a warm fuzzy feeling into our hearts.  A recent study by Olympic Paints found that yellow, an old standby for babies rooms, can actually provoke anxiety and babies in yellow nurseries tend to cry more.

Color can also affect our appetite, work productivity and even our lovemaking.  The saturation or intensity of a color can alter how you feel.  A soft blue can bring back fond memories of childhood while a strong dark blue can be depressing.

Cultural preferences can be another factor in color selection.  In China and India white is the color of death, as opposed to black in this country.  We think of white as meaning peace, virginity and it's usually the color for wedding dresses.  But in many Latin America countries, it's considered good luck to wear bright colors, not white. 

Here's a quick primer on how some colors can affect your psyche. 

Yellow -  A very invigorating color, yellow can also bring on anxiety.  Don't use it for high energy areas like the kitchen, but keep it to smaller areas like hallways or laundry rooms.  If you enjoy this color, opt for one with honey or golden tones.  This will add an elegance to the room

Red - Did you know research brought the use red for stop signs?  Red literally tells the brain to slow down.  It's often used in bars, casinos and restaurants to keep customers engaged and remove any feeling of being rushed.  Red is perfect for dining rooms and sexy reds, like the color of Merlot, is soothing in the bedroom.

Blue - It's not a stretch to understand that blue is a calming color.  It's the color of the sea and the sky.  Be careful that the blue you select isn't what I like to call "little boys room" blue, but choose a turquoise or navy for large rooms.  Blue is also an appetite suppressant.  When was the last time you ate blue food?

Green - Again a color associated with nature,  greens make us feel secure and tranquil.  Green is not a good color for skin tones, so shy away from using it in a bathroom or bedroom where you look in the mirror.  However, mossy green is a great neutral, while apple green feels fresh and clean.

Brown - Another color that prompts comfort and security, brown really runs the spectrum from organic to muddy.  Don't use a dark brown in small rooms, it only intensifies the feeling of claustrophobia.  But a light brown, like soft suede is very conducive to dens or home offices as it cuts down on eye fatigue.

Don't let the paint color you choose have the wrong effect.  That pink in the store can look like Pepto-Bismol in your bedroom.  Terra Cotta might seems like the perfect selection for that Italian look, but can be dreary and depressing when it surrounds you.

The next time you are stymied and overwhelmed with the choices at your local paint store, think beyond what might be netural or safe.  Color is a psychological tool and can hugely affect your mood and life.  Use it well. - SEW

An established Interior Designer for over 20 years, Steve Wallace Design is based in Walnut Creek, California.  His work has appeard in Palm Springs Life and other interior design publications, and he is the author of a soon to be published book about design and the way we live.  He can be reached at  925 915 1005, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or visit www.SteveWallaceDesign.com.

Last Updated (Wednesday, 28 November 2012 07:40)


PostHeaderIcon Color Me Red - February Designers Log

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The color red plays an important part in our lives. It's the color of heat, of patriotism and most importantly, the color of love. Red moves us, it's dramatic and unforgettable. It can be smoldering, exotic or shocking.  A red rose symbolizes passion; a red fire truck signifies urgency. Whether a call to arms or the signal to stop, red can be mystifying, but it's never shy.

During February, no color in the spectrum is more on display.  At Valentine's Day, red is everywhere. For this month's Designers Log, I thought it would be fun to explore and play with this fascinating color. It's not the color for everyone and needs to be used sparingly; yet a blast of red, whether it's Jungle Red, Crimson or Cayenne, can be just the right wow factor you are looking for.

Seven ways to incorporate red in your design ... if you dare!

Sit down on it - I recently had a couple yards of the most intense red silk left over from a project. It really spoke to me and wasn't the kind of fabric you could just leave in the closet. I purchased an architectural mid-century wood framed chair at the local consignment store and recovered the seat with this bold shiny red.  We use it as a desk chair from time to time, but mostly it lives in front of a window, where the sun dances on it and the fabric lights up the whole room. It's amazing how just one piece like this can suddenly become the focal point. But that's red for you.  It loves the attention.

Express yourself - There must be over 100 different shades of red in the paint store. Even the names jump out at you: Confederate Red, Sultan's Palace, Chili Pepper. Painting an accent wall in one of these can really make a statement. There is no way that wall is going to be a wallflower. It's going to jump out at you and say, hey, look at me. Reds can be pink tinged or brick colored. One of my personal favorites is Benjamin Moore Vermilion. It's a great hue that works well with khaki  tans, cool whites and even lime greens, for that knock you off your feet room.

Frame the view - It's a bit risky to do window coverings with a color as in your face as red, and a little bit can go a long way. For the best look, combine red with other fun colors. You can achieve a summer, beachy look by installing striped fabric panels of red, yellow, green and white. It's fresh, colorful and instantly refreshes your windows without being overkill. For a more formal look, use wider stripes, combining red with brown or gray. Whether you are looking out at trees, the ocean or just your neighbors wall, stripes with red will make whatever you see look better.

Eat it up - A punch of color is always appropriate on the dining table and red is the perfect compliment here. Whether it's mix and matching with your fine bone china or layering colored plates, any table will be exciting with a little red thrown in. Here again, you might take extra red fabric and give it new life as a table cloth or napkins. When you think about it, red is the color of food and I know my appetite is awakened by names like Raspberry, Rhubarb, Cherry and Tomato. When it comes to table decor, you are only limited by your imagination. Raid your kids' room for red marbles, use them in a vase as your centerpiece. Make every meal a night out.

Red light district - I'm not suggesting that you put a red light bulb outside your door, bur red is a very hot color for light fixtures. It can add a bit of personality to an otherwise staid and unexciting room. Hanging red glass pendants over the breakfast bar or  table is very modern and an easy way to update the area. Even incorporate a little red by finding Murano glass, which mixes multi colors. Squatty ceramic lamps also give a very cool and contemporary presence to a living room and a color like LIpstick or Rouge can add a dose of romance to the bedroom. Red in lighting is where this color can literally shine. Glass and ceramic both reflect light and still look good after you have dimmed the lights.

It's a natural - I have already mentioned how red is the color of many foods, but it's also natures way of having fun. Plant strawberry as ground cover and enjoy the small, delicate fruit that punctuates the green leaves. Many flowering bushes including Fuchsia, Camelia and Azalea are available in brilliant reds. Summer just wouldn't be the same without red impatiens or geraniums. Winter brings us Cyclamen as well as the ever popular Poinsettia. Liven up your kitchen counters and your entertaining with bowls of red apples, peppers and cherries. We recently planted a red rose bush and look forward to its brilliant velvety petals blooming this year in the yard.

Lean on it - Probably the easiest way to make a change to your room is with pillows. They are easy to find and can be as personal as you like. Here is where red can really do its thing. Add brightly colored throw pillows to your sofa or bed. Mix up patterns and shapes. Plaids are really trending right now and run the gamut from dark wools to bright and summery seersucker. My family Scottish plaid is red and yellow. It's mellow yet royal and looks stunning against off whites and warm browns. Whether you choose linen or leather, red accents update any decor. And the best part is that pillows can be found for very little money, making it easy to change out seasonally.

So whether you are the ravishing red, salsa red or blushing rose type, add a little intensity to your life this spring. Embrace your personal shade and let it shine. And tell us in the comments section below, what red gets you going? 

Steve Wallace lives in Danville, California. An established Interior Designer for over 20 years, his work has appeard in Palm Springs Life and he is the author of a soon to be published book about design and the way we live.  He can be reached at  925 915 1005 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  or visit www.SteveWallaceDesign.com.

Steve Wallace Design is pleased to announce its new office in Walnut Creek.  Please join us in a reception "Celebrating Interior Design and Art" on March 1 from 4:30 to 7 p.m.  Call or email for directions and to RSVP.  


Last Updated (Thursday, 16 February 2012 19:54)


PostHeaderIcon Show Your Good Taste - January Designers Log

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People often ask me "what is your style"? It's a valid question, but one I always find hard to answer. Of course I have my own personal favorite furniture, colors and looks. But the style is not as important as the execution.

I have parameters I follow, an overall vibe that appeals to me and I try to show in my work. It's timeless, trendless you might say, uncluttered and clean. I have always been a follower of the "Less Is More" school of thought. But beyond that, any style and look can be beautiful if it's done right. A Mercedes Benz will look good 100 years from now. Jackie Kennedy is emulated by women the world over 50 years since she entered the White House. On the other hand, when any style or look is done incorrectly, it can be a travesty and there is no word more dreaded for an interior designer than that 5 letter one: TACKY.

For the New Year, I have listed 6 elements that can enhance your rooms. When in doubt, edit.  If you don't feel someting works, it probably doesn't. Follow your instincts. Most of us have very good ones if we just trust ourselves. Enlist the help of a good interior designer if you can. Just use your eye, think shape, form and simplicity and your good taste will shine.

1) Find your color. Using bright, festive colors can be fun and exciting, but leave it to the professionals. Paint your rooms in soft neutrals that will stay fresh for years. Taupes, creams and tans work best; they are good in any light  and make the perfect background for your furnishings to pop. If you want to add an accent wall, go ahead. It can add the punch you need and it's easy enough to repaint one wall if you tire of it. Right now, gray is showing up more and more on designers palettes. It's fresh and modern without being trendy or tiresome.

2) Rethink patterns. Remmber the adage, less is more.  It's better to utilize textures instead of mixing too many patterns.  Just like paint color, keep a large piece like the sofa neutral. Add color and pattern with pillows. When you have carpet installed, think about what's going to be sitting on it. Flooring is important, rooms should flow, not look choppy. Be very judicious in selecting tile and stone flooring. Especially keep this in mind if you have a small house. If it's an open floor plan where you see into other rooms from one room, keep the different flooring to a minimum. Bigger is better, use large tile, 18 X 18 or more.  Think large patterns, stay away from small prints.

3) Invest in one good piece. The club chair is one of my go-to pieces. It can have a variety of arms, back styles and cushions, but it needs to be simply upholstered and unskirted, with block or  taper legs. Find a solid textural fabric that wears well and allows the chair to show off its architectural styling. One of my favorite projects was a home in Las Vegs placing four club chairs around a low table. Great for conversation and cocktails. If you have the room, get the matching ottoman. It adds extra seating when needed and face it, we all love to put our feet up.

4) Look at your windows. This is where most people go wrong. They either do too little or too much. It's a rare occasion when you need to hide your window or the outside, so select window coverings that let in the light. Shutters are fine, basic and easy to live with. Wood blinds give a similar effect, but can cost thousands less. if you like draperies, keep them simple. Hang the rod midway between the top of the window and the ceiling, using rings or grommets. Give careful consideration to the use of valances or swags. And whatever you do, have the bottom hemmed to just reach the floor. Drapery panels are like slacks, you don't want high waters and you dont  want it baggy.

5) Sleep on it. Let's discuss your bed. Not everyone wants nor can afford custom made bedding. And you don't need a mountain of pillows or teddy bears either. But take the time to find comforters, shams etc, that match. It's like dressing yourself. You can mix and match stripes and plaids, but do it carefully. They even make it easy for amateurs. It's called "bed in a bag". Even a beginner can't goof. Keep it simple and easy to make, just make sure it all fits. If you bought a king bed, don't keep using your queen duvet. Make sure your bed skirt hits the floor perfectly (see above about window treatments). There is nothing uglier than a saggy, dragging bed skirt, it's like an untucked shirt. And finally, make your bed. That alone shows you take pride in your home.

6) Find your scale and proportion. These days we all have a mish mash of furniture. We keep the couch from when we were first married, the over sized armoire designed for those obsolete big tube TV's, that antique table from Aunt Ethel that never seems to find a home. Plan your room and your purchases with thought to the finished product. If you have a large sofa, find a cocktail  table that is the right size. An 85" sofa needs one 2/3 the size. The table by your reading chair should be close to the arm height. If it's a large room, scale the furnishings appropriately. This is where a good interior designer can help, or use room planners on your computer that give dimensions. If you have a small bedroom, as much as you may like to have a California King bed, it just may not be possible unless you want to walk over it every time you need to get to the closet.

The code phrase this year: Replace trendy with timeless. Think before you buy. Have an overall plan before you begin. Remember less is more and when in doubt, edit. It won't be long before you are showing your good taste and style.

Steve Wallace lives in Danville, California. An established Interior Designer for 25 years, his work has appeard in Palm Springs Life and he is the author of a soon to be published book about design and the way we live.  He can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Steve Wallace Design is pleased to announce it's new office in Walnut Creek, California, February 2012.  


Last Updated (Tuesday, 17 January 2012 16:31)

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