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PostHeaderIcon Design Tips

PostHeaderIcon Favorite Things for 2012 - December Designers Log

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It's time for the third annual Designers Log Favorites of the Year and what's going to be hot in interior design for 2012.

Favorite individual piece - Kolkka Furniture, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, designs and custom constructs unique metal and glass tables, consoles and other pieces.. Recently they introduced tops of fabric, recyled leather, rubber and spandex that are hip, sophisticated and maintenance free. My personal favorite is the Paris Cocktail Table, a round, clean, uncluttered classic design. Usually shown in clear glass, a client has recently suggested an antique mirrored top, which will be a real show stopper when matched with a champagne colored, hand applied finish. With its timeless style, this piece works in any interior. Kolkka's drinks tables are a must for any decor.  Just the right size for a book, cup or martini.

Favorite color - White is this years black. From traditional ivory to stark "art gallery," you can't get more out of any color than white.  It can hold its own as the only color in the room or be the background for bright primary prints and patterns. I love the way white morphs as the light in a room changes. It's always moving, never a static color. White can be as soft as milk or as intense as the sun on snow. It can evoke a period like Art Deco, and be used anywhere from a bathroom to the exterior of a Moroccan palace. There is something about the way white speaks to us, as a beginning or just harkening back to a time when life was simpler.  It's clean, fresh and inviting. For the new year, mix white with organic neutrals like khaki, caramel or sand.

Favorite fabric - For 2012 my favorite fabric is actually wallpaper, or in this case, wall coverings. The popularity of wall coverings dwindled for a few years, but it's back bigger and more diverse than ever. Think grasscloth on steroids. Your walls can look like stone, wood or even an Italian fresco. Mica gives the appearance of sparklling diamonds. Bamboo and hemp look so organic you won't be able to resist touching. The new textures are tactile and low maintenance. Need bling in the room? No problem. Want a scene of the Tuscan countryside? Done. Paint and faux finishes are great, but nothing matches the sophistication and drama of the right wall covering. This is one trend that is back and long missed.

Favorite style - Summer may be over, but not forgotten. Beach chic is the design style that transcends season and location and is timelss and comfortable year around. Think Hamptons, St. Tropez or Laguna Beach. The look is easy to achieve, just be careful, this is a real less is more situation. Pared down works best. Start with clean, basic, off white or neutral walls. Throw in colorful pillows, pictures, lamps. Orange is the perfect compliment, it's modern and bright. Sky blue, sea greens and ochre completes that indoor/outdoor feeling. Woven furniture and minimal window treatments are needed; it's all about letting the natural light in. I like to add family pictures, sea glass and shells scattered around a table top and a throw for the cool beach evenings. The best thing about beach chic is that you can do it on a minimal budget. The best pieces will be the ones you find in consignment stores or second hand shops. Some great ideas can be found in my favorite publication, Coastal Living.

Favorite comeback look - The reemergence of Swedish design.  Another great look that is classic and clean is Scandinavian. This is where white really does its thing. The look goes back to the 18th Century Gustavian Period in Sweden. It hasn't changed much over the years, but is rapidly gaining popularity again. I love the painted, slightly distressed wood pieces, the neutral pale upholstery and the woven or rag rugs. For the more traditional look, throw in botanical and animal prints. For something more modern and slick, use minimal and clean lined furniture, black framed pictures. Swedish Design is ultra stylish and practical whether you like it old or new. The uncluttered, almost spartan feel works perfectly for those of us looking for a simpler lifestyle.

Favorite retro look - 1980's. Before you cringe at the thought, just consider it's been 30 years since the 80s began.  Still thought of by many as a time of ugly design, over the top trends and bad taste, its cheeky approach and use of color really works in todays design. Combine pastels with the splash of neon colors. Re-imagine the practicality of black and white patterns or the classic combination of preppie pink and green. These were staples of the interior design of that decade and are familiar to us still. The 80s were themselves a re-imagining of the 1950's. Mixing the metallics of the earlier time with graffiti graphics gave birth to a candy colored retro/modern era. Colors like lemon yellow and Cadillac pink can add that punch you need to update your rooms with a bit of 80s whimsy. Add in a mirrored wall, a ficus  tree, put on the Go-Go's and you will be on the cutting edge.  Maybe stay away from that one color combination that doesn't need to be resurrected: mauve and teal.

Favorite place for inspiration - California. I've traveled all over and there are many places that are inspiring, but there is no place like home. California has always danced to its own drum and you don't have to go far to be blown away by the natural beauty of the state. The ocean, the mountains and deserts, the cities and small towns, everywhere you look, there is something new to discover. The color is special, the variety of greens alone, from cactus to palm trees, is unique. Californians are explorers by nature, always looking for the latest and newest. We embrace the outdoors, the arts and diversity.  So whether you prefer a mountain cabin in Tahoe, a Mid-Century ranch in Palm Springs or a penthouse view, the splendor of the state is never ending. Nowhere else will you find so much to pull from in creating your personal design style.

Looking forward to 2012, embrace the things that are your personal favorites. Make your home a statement, the place you love to come home to and most of all your inspiration for the new year. Take the time to explore and learn new design concepts, ideas and trends. You'll be glad you did. Happy New Year. - SEW

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 .

Last Updated (Tuesday, 04 February 2014 04:38)


PostHeaderIcon Design Your Holiday - November Designer's Log

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For November, the Designers Log returns from hiatus with the first of four new posts.  Enjoy!

The holidays are nearly upon us.  As we pull old decorations from storage, it's hard not to sigh at the prospect of recycling those tired, bent and smashed items again.  This is a good time to explore what is new and exciting this season and how to use the latest design trends to liven up your home and entertaining this year.

Here are five creative ideas to make this holiday unlike any before:

Tweak the traditional Christmas colors. We all know red and  green as the colors of the season.  But how boring is that?  This year, think outside the Christmas box and explore the palette available to you.  Silver and white are very hot this year and always a sharp and sophisticated element to transition into New Years Eve.  Add a touch of blue or violet, especially in the form of ribbons and accessories.  Use ornaments with stripes, polka dots or abstract designs.  This year I am including chocolate into my holiday decor.  Not only does it add warmth and modernism to the room, it brings that organic feeling inside.  Keep to tones that suggest a culinary experience like latte, cocoa or cinnamon.

Greet your guests with dazzle. Designer Tami Leung has created a unique Christmas wreath called "Plumage", exclusively for Horchow. The artful creation covered in beaded faux artichokes, plums, pine cones, berries and feathers integrates nature with vivid use of color.  This festooned masterpiece will add that very special touch to your door.  It's timeless, classic and the perfect combination of nature and bling.  You can also easily make your own personalized wreath.  Find fall leaves or pine cones in your own yard.  Roll in glue and sprinkle with multi colored glitter.  Add old costume jewelry and dried fruit of your own.  Be as creative as you can and make it a family project.  Start now before Thanksgiving and modify your wreath as the season progresses.

Twist your tree. Everyone loves the idea of un-wrapping the ornaments and discovering the one that's been in the family for generations, brought back from vacation or made in grade school.  But this year, do something completelly unexpected.  Decorate your  tree in only one color or with just blue lights.  I've seen trees hung from the ceiling upside down, completely covered in high heels or festooned with dog toys.  One year, my friend Marta and I drove out to the Arizona desert and came home with a large tumbleweed.  Set in an old fruit basket and covered in twinkly colored lights, it was the most talked about "tree" ever.  Metallics are a huge trend this year.  Back in the 60's, my grandparents had a pink aluminum Christmas tree.  At the time, it was considered a complete breach of tradition, but do I wish I had that tree now.  Consider purchasing a live tree in a pot and plant it outside after the holidays.  String lights and keep the tradition going for years.  It's renewable and as you watch it grow, remember the time it was your indoor Christmas tree.

Party like it's 2012. Mix things up with your holiday entertaining and keep the energy high.  Throw a costume party and invite your friends to come as their favorite holiday character.  Decorate the house in a Fiesta theme but make it black tie.  One year we asked friends and family to bring the tackiest ornament they could find.  There was a prize for the most outlandish.  Whatever you do, keep it carefree.  Don't fret over setting the table with fine china and crystal.  Mix and match your dishes and glasses, use different colored napkins and placements at each setting.  The key word this season is innovation.  Combine holiday decor with a Hawaiian tablecloth or other colorful prints.  Put palm fronds in a vase with pine cones and ban poinsettias from the property.  Have a dinner party sitting on the floor with oversized pillows.  Mix themes and traditions from around the world and from different faiths than your own.

Wrap it up. Every year garbage cans overflow with used wrapping paper and trash from the holidays.  Turn up the green factor and recycle what you can.  Find unusual ways to present your gifts.  Don't scoff at keeping the old paper and bows, it's amazing what you can do with a little imagination.  Wrap a box in newspaper or cut out pictures and pages from old magazines.  Put smaller gifts in the stocking and use less paper.  Last years Christmas cards are great for decorations and as ornaments on the tree.  Bring in branches, twigs and leaves from the yard and decorate your table and mantel.  The simplest things can have the most impact.  A few large ornaments placed in a glass bowl says it all.  Mis-matched candles bring warmth to the room and placed in groupings can have the same impact as a fireplace.

As you can see, it can be simple to decorate your house with style and entertain with flair this year.  This year, everyone will be talking about you and your fabulous home and waiting to see what you do next season!  Have a fun, happy and safe holday.

Steve Wallace lives in Danville, California.  An 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.  You can reach him at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated (Wednesday, 26 March 2014 22:23)


PostHeaderIcon Get Moving. - March Designers Log

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Maybe it's the weather, but I had a huge writer's block about this months Designers Log. 

Then two things happened this week that got me thinking.

The first is the realization my creative block is the same thing many people feel when facing their interiors.  They know they have to do something, but can't figure out what to do or where to start.  They just can't take that first step.

The second was that I went to a new stylist for a haircut.  While sitting there listening to her comments on my hair, I realized she was looking at me with an unbiased eye.  Having never met before, she was seeing me for the first time.  Unlike my usual guy who has cut my hair for three years, she was able to look at it objectively.

It's the same way we sometimes have to look at our rooms: like we have never met before.  We live in our homes every day and often need to step away to get a fresh perspective - the way we see placement of furniture, the color on the walls, carpet on the floor.  Could this be holding us back from creating the rooms we really want?

Clients often tell me that they haven't made the effort to redecorate because the idea alone exhausts them.  They just give up before they even begin.  This is sad as our environment should stimulate us and provide us with enjoyment and not be a burden or drag us down.

Look at these 5 easy ways to get yourself out of a funk and get your design mojo on.

Take a break - When I go on vacation, I love the feeling of coming back home and walking into the house.  I see the rooms and the furnishings differently after a short absence.  Sometimes I look around and am pleased, but often I see things that I didn't notice before; like how a chair fabric takes on a different hue or how the sunlight is washing a wall.  Not everyone can take a holiday, but even a small time away, even a work day, can give you the break you need.  Play a game with your family.  Ask them to turn away and describe the room.  Then have them turn back.  What they see when really looking can be very revealing.

A little color wouldn't hurt - Although the choices of paint colors can be intimidating, it's a great opportunity to see what's new and what the trends are.  Be a kid in the candy store.  Pull color swatches you secretly love but haven't tried.  Take home bright colors, even different hues of the same color, but go outside of your comfort zone.  Take advantage of the paint store experts.  They can give you a good lesson in Paint 101.  For about $10 you can buy a quart to bring home and try out on your wall before committing to that bold new palette.

Stow it away - There is an old rule that applies to fashion and travel.  When you dress in the morning, look in the mirror and take one accessory off.  When you pack, take one thing out of the suitcase.  In both cases, that extra item wasn't needed at all.  The same thing applies to interior design.  Clutter is the enemy.  Over time, you may have collected one too many vases/pictures/plants.  Just by removing that one thing, you have changed the dynamics of the room.  One less pillow, one less gift from your mother in law, and eventually you will see the space and shape of the room, not just what's in it.  This is a big move to understand the potential for creating a fresh new space.

Forget the rules - No where is it carved in stone that the bed has to be on the bed wall or the cocktail table in front of the sofa.  Play with your space, move things around, try seeing your rooms as more than you think they are.  Recently a friend brought a small condo with an alcove for the bed, but no real place for a dining table.  We removed the bed, got him a sofa sleeper and made the alcove into a dining area.  Suddenly, he was utilizing the whole space.  When he entertained, he could easily accomodate more people.  By letting the sofa do double duty, he made three usable areas out of two.  Consider your rooms and what they could be if there weren't labels attached.  You may not really change their purpose, but it will open your mind to what could be.  And how fun is that?

Designer for a day - Not every change has to involve all new furniture and cost more than you can afford.  Often what you already have can be repurposed.  Hire a professional interior designer for an hour or two of consultation.  Explain your needs and your budget and ask them how to use what you already own.  A designer can help you re-arrange your room to its best advantage.  They can suggest easy, inexpensive ways to freshen a tired chair or sad window treatments.  Often simple things such as re-framing artwork or re-grouping accessories can help those items feel new again.  Designers love a challenge.  Give us your dilemma and watch us go to work.

I guarantee that by doing these few things, you will be on your way to exciting new rooms and be ready for your best summer ever.  Any journey begins with the first step.  But don't just take a step... make the leap. - SEW

Steve Wallace lives in Danville, Californnia.  An 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.  You can reach him at Design and Interiors in Lafayette, California or at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated (Thursday, 24 March 2011 23:17)


PostHeaderIcon Design for Men 101 - February Designers Log

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For most men, looking at or even thinking about home furnishings ranks somewhere between a visit to the dentist and a letter from the IRS.  We'd rather do anything else but be dragged to a furniture store and asked such questions as "What do you think of this one, honey?"  As an interior designer working with couples, I have seen that deer in the headlights look on mens' faces too many times.

Guys may think they don't know much about interior design and wouldn't know their settee from their settle, but we sell ourselves short.  With just a few simple lessons, any man can become not only good but downright talented when it comes to decorating.  Men have a real knack for space and proportion.  While women look at color and eye catching patterns, men understand spatial relations and how balance makes for a good room layout.  Many of the great architects down the centuries have been men.  Men excel at cooking and at designing automobiles.  How is designing your living room any different?

Lesson One - Color is not out to get you.   Believe it or not, there is something beyond Navajo white and blue.  While your wife may bring home swatches of pink and lavender, you can one up her big time by impressing her with your knowledge of such manly colors as Sedona Rock or Wilderness Cabin.  I've found most men are open to color more so than their mates.  In the animal kingdom, males flash bright colors and strut their stuff to get attention.  Somehow, human males have become drab and this just goes against nature.  Whenever I show clients color options, it's always the man who goes for the saturated reds and greens.  But then he somehow retreats to his comfort zone and ends up with beige.  Don't be afraid to take the plunge.  You can do it.

Lesson Two - Get out of that Dad Chair.  Face it, our fathers and probably their fathers had the one chair in the house that was just theirs.  Usually a recliner or at least  something in brown leather, it became a man's one and only refuge in a room he probably had no input in designing.  Men aren't like dogs who need just a bed and a bone to be happy.  We need to escape the Dad Chair and join the rest of the family.  Leather is great; it's comfortable and forms to your body like an old pair of jeans.  But look at lighter colors, neutral and vanilla shades that are more modern, hipper and look like part of the room plan, not an afterthought.  Next time you are in a furniture store, tell your wife you want to look at tufted chairs and textural fabrics.  By the time she comes to, you'll be far away from the recliner section.

Lesson Three - It's not like matching your shoes to your belt.   Don't let our good looks fool you, we have imagination.  If you can figure out how to sneak in that weekend in Vegas, you can select furniture without breaking into a sweat.  One of the things that really makes me crazy is when men say they want a bedroom "set".  We are not in the days of Ozzie and Harriet anymore.  You don't need to match the bed with the night stands and the dresser.  Open up your parameters and see that mix and match makes a room more user friendly and not so staid.  Recently, I told a young father to go home and throw around words like "coordinate" and "complimentary" in describing his vision of the perfect bedroom.  I think I may have personally saved a marriage!

Lesson Four - Up your game.  I don't know what it is about men holding on to everything.  Don't let your house become full of unneccessary items.  We all like our stuff, but there is a limit.  Get back to the basics.  Keep accessories to a minimum.  The idea of a man cave probably started when someone's girlfriend got sick and tired of looking at the high school trophies, framed team jerseys and collection of beer glasses that were filling up her dream house.  The poor guy was banished to the den, the basement or even worse, a corner of the garage.  Keep the peace in your home and be a part of the family room by learning that you can live with a lot less than you think.  Not to say that your needs should be disregarded.  But the poster of the cat clinging to the branch that says "Hang in there, Baby" was probably best left at your college dorm room.  You're a grown man, now.  The time has come for adult art.  Finally, think about how easy it will be to straighten up when you want to make a good impression on that first date.

Lesson Five - Sofa and the single man.  We need to stand proud and shout "I'm not going to take it any longer".  Men have needs, too, and one of these is comfort.  Work with your designer to find sofas and chairs that fit you.  Today, one size does not fit all.  You can buy furniture that's scaled to your frame.  Sofas come in different depths.  Cushions can be anything from pure down to solid core foam.  We don't have to sit on tiny dining room chairs and feel that we are attending a tea party.  It's up to you, gentlemen, to make your voice heard.  The biggest lesson you need to learn here is not to be a passive participant in your own home and its design.  Have a say in what's comfortable for you.  Sit in many options; don't be talked into something just because it's pretty or on sale.  In this business, you get what you pay for and it's not the time to be frugal.  A recent study showed that men spend more time using their home furnishings than woman do.  Flex your designer muscle.  Your house can look good and be your restful respite from the world.

I'll keep this short, as most of us suffer from ADHD and have the attention span of a tsetse fly.  If you think you have successfully completed this course, then it's time to sign up for Interior Design for Men Graduate School.  Classes start soon.  If decorating your home still scares you, don't be afraid to ask questions.  Hire an interior designer to lead you in the right direction.  It's bad enough someone has to pick out your clothes, dude.  Don't let your wife or mother make the decisions you will have to live with for years to come.

Now, lets talk the biggest friggin screen TV we can find.  - SEW

Steve Wallace lives in Danville.  An 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.  You can reach him at Design and Interiors in Lafayette, California or at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Last Updated (Thursday, 07 April 2011 22:07)


PostHeaderIcon New Year. New Town. New Style.

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The Designers Log takes a break this month to feature this exciting event.

Design and Interiors is proud to announce the opening of their new location in Lafayette, California.  The 30-year-old company, with showrooms also in Los Altos and Los Gatos, will celebrate with a Grand Opening Party on February 10, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.  A gala event, the party will introduce new furnishings and fabrics from the recent High Point, North Carolina furniture market and the evening will include food, wine and music.

The premier resource for high end furnishing and interior design in the San Francisco East Bay, Design and Interiors offers an exclusive selection of the finest furniture, accessories and lighting available.  The more than 100 manufacturers they represent are the best in their field, including such top lines as Baker, Hickory Chair, French Heritage, Francesco Molon and Kindel.

Located at 3590 Mount Diablo Boulevard in charming downtown Lafayette, Design and Interiors new showroom brings an exciting addition to this already growing design and decorating hub.  The large and well executed showroom allows the client to visualize the pieces to how they may look in their own homes.  Vignettes showcase a variety of the latest styles, from traditional to contemporary.  Custom pieces and European imports are also showcased.

Interior design is the focus at Design and Interiors.  With three full time designers, the professional and friendly team works hard to bring your project in on time and on budget. From visualization, through working drawings to the final touches, here are the names you need to know:

Rita Brown is a well known name in the industry.  With years of experience as a designer, Rita has created numerous beautiful interiors and is an authority on fabrics and textiles.  Her natural sense of style and color coordination has endeared her to clients and her engaging personality brings them back time and time again.  Rita can transform your residence into the home of your dreams.

Georgina Logan has become a bright new talent in the field.  A native of New Zealand, Georgina brings a fresh sensibility to design and a boundless energy to develop her clients' vision from concept to completion.  Recent projects have included a lake home in Idaho and a pied a Terre in San Francisco.

Steve Wallace brings a background as an independent designer and home renovator.  His look is clean, classic and timeless, with a resume that includes over 100 projects.   A recent arrival to the East Bay, Steve has already become the go to person for that unique interpretation and is well known to his clients as the designer to call for that perfect space.

Along with pieces available off the floor, these designers work closely with the client on special projects to achieve the desired results.  Design and Interiors features an extensive library with the latest fabrics, wallcoverings, carpets and rugs.

Known affectionately in the industry as D & I, the new Lafayette location also showcases local artists like Susan Jenkins and Victor Cohen Stuart.  They also work with art dealer Jacque Smith to feature artist installations on a rotating basis.

Throughout the year, there will be artist open houses, special client events and seminars on furniture and interior design.

Please join us in welcoming Design and Interiors to Lafayette.  To RSVP to the Grand Opening Party, call 925 988 9380 or 650 948 7360. - SEW

Design and Interiors

3590 Mount Diablo Boulevard

Lafayette, CA  94549




Last Updated (Wednesday, 16 March 2011 21:54)

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