How To---

Advice from a design pro: Get the right lighting, ditch clutter, be happy!

I haven't posted in such a long time.  It was a whirlwind summer with lots of great projects and family time (the beach was awesome, but remind me to tell you about our visit to Chicago later).  I'm working on getting you caught up with some yummy photos by the end of the week, but for now here's a post that somehow never got published back in May!  


It's always fun to be featured in print and digital media. The News & Observer here in Raleigh, NC, published this article in May - if you would rather see their page,  Here's the link to the article,   Most of the photos here were taken by the talented Marilyn of Style House Photography.

My design signature: I lean toward clean lines and calm interiors. I urge clients to pare down the “stuff” and focus on small details that build continued interest in the room. Contrast welt on upholstery, interesting lampshades and mixing antiques with new furnishings are always present in my work.

Biggest design mistake you see in homes: Nothing is more important than the right lighting, whether it’s for mood, safety or function, yet it’s often completely overlooked.


Easy ways to address that mistake in three quick tips:

1. Replace the big incandescent or CFL bulbs in your recessed cans with Cree’s TW Series LED replacement bulbs for recessed cans. They’re sold at Home Depot and cost about $10. 65-watt equivalents are usually bright enough. Cree is a local company and those bulbs are fantastic (and dimmable).

The right lighting made all the difference in the use of this kitchen.

The right lighting made all the difference in the use of this kitchen.

2. If you’re lucky enough to have 9-foot ceilings or higher in your kitchen plus an island, hang some pretty pendants over it. This will bring light down closer to the surface where meals are being prepared, homework is being done and conversations are happening. A hanging height rule of thumb is for the bottom of your fixture to be 32 to 36 inches from the surface.

3. Scatter light fixtures around the room. Ceiling lights are for navigation, accent light provides a welcoming glow and task lighting lets you read comfortably in your favorite chair. All three need to be in almost every room.

Best design advice you can give: Enjoy your home. Your goal is not to impress anyone with Instagram-worthy décor. Your goal is to smile every time you walk through the door at the end of the day. Add attractive storage to hold stuff that wants to pile up on the counters, put colorful artwork on those neutral walls and display grandma’s treasured china in an old plate rack you find at the Flea Market, SuzAnna’s Antiques or Market Imports.

Gorgeous window treatments warmed this room right up.  Isn't it inviting?

Gorgeous window treatments warmed this room right up.  Isn't it inviting?

Best advice for window treatments: Big, high windows in many Triangle homes are beautiful, but they also make the room feel kind of cold and exposed. Frame your windows – and their lovely views – with drapery panels. They soften the lines, polish up the room and instantly add a note of luxury.

Go-to trim color: Sherwin Williams Alabaster is my favorite white for beautiful moldings – and use a high gloss finish. Light sneaks in from different sources and the lovely sheen of high gloss paint on your trim is a little bit of magic.

Best decorating bang for the buck: Invest in a couple of hours of time with an experienced interior designer. Designers are happy to do consultations and you will get lots of ideas to implement as time and budget allow. The average hourly rate for local designers seems to run between $100 and $175, and many offer a consultation package (2 hours plus some follow-up resources, for example) in the ballpark of $365. Designers can cover a lot of details in one or two rooms in that amount of time and it can easily save homeowners that much in avoided mistakes.

This is the photo they used in the print edition of the newspaper--one of our grand-dogs, enjoying a chair, taken with my iPhone!

This is the photo they used in the print edition of the newspaper--one of our grand-dogs, enjoying a chair, taken with my iPhone!

How to buy the right things when shopping: I always ask my clients to come up with three or four words that describe how they want their rooms to look when they’re finished decorating. The words cannot be “warm, comfortable and inviting” – too generic. Dig a little deeper to find words that are more meaningful and personal. We all like so many things that we see in magazines, in the stores and on TV, so those three words can really drive the bus when deciding what to buy. Does the item match up with your three words? If not, put it down. You can admire it without having to buy it. This works for everything from sofas to accessories.

Do you have a current design challenge in your own home? I just bought two gold candle sconces from Vintage Vault in Durham. They’ve got big faceted glass prisms hanging from every possible point. Quite fussy, fun and fabulous. However, my house is rather tailored – not fussy at all. But I promise I will soon find a place to showcase those two sparkly sconces.

UPDATE!  I hung the sconces on an accent wall in our Living Room.  New LED candles are on their way as I type.  Yes!  Projects in designer's homes can stretch on for a very long time!  LOL!

UPDATE!  I hung the sconces on an accent wall in our Living Room.  New LED candles are on their way as I type.  Yes!  Projects in designer's homes can stretch on for a very long time!  LOL!



Another Must-Have To Make Your Office Run Smoothly!

Meet Sheila Rennart of Quick Bookkeeping, Inc., (click on her business name back there to get the link) here in Raleigh.  Of course I've been keeping my accounts straight throughout the years, but it has taken a LOT of time to do that--because knowing how to add, subtract, multiply and divide isn't the same as accounting.  If you're running a business, this is another one of those things you need to hand over to an expert.  Sheila LOVES accounting (thank you, God, for making all kinds of people)!  AND she taught Karen and I how to use the accounting software.  She is our hero.

Do you think you can't afford a bookkeeper?  The truth is that you can't afford not to hire a bookeeper.  She saves you money.  Go figure.  I won't share Karen (my Business Manager, talked about here), but I can share Sheila!



How To Make Your Office Run Smoothly

If you have a busy, hectic, slightly chaotic office environment, I have a cure for you:



Hire Karen.  No, wait, that's not what I mean!  Hire a person like Karen.  You can't have Karen, she's the new Business Manager at DeCocco Design! She appears to LIKE running a business--I've heard about people like that.  My office has become an oasis of calm.   I'm not sure I remembered what color the top of my desk was and now it's clear and orderly.  Records and resources are where they should be.  There are processes and forms, invoices and reports.  

I can focus on interior design.   Thank you God, for Karen!




Why Hire An Interior Designer?



Every time I finish one of my two hour design consultations, I'm sure of 2 things; lots of ideas have been shared AND I've saved these clients at least the amount of my fee.  Worth saying again--at least that amount.

I wish I could trumpet that on the Home page of my website ("call today--it's like a free consultation!"), but it seems kind of tacky.  Plus, the clients and I are only together for a short amount of time, and I don't always know how things are looking 2 or 3 months later. 

Lately though, I've been sending past clients "how's it going?" emails and the feedback has been wonderful. Sometimes they even send me pictures! Those two hours with a designer (moi) made a BIG difference in the outcome of their projects.

In this post, I'm going to share what I'm hearing about the value of working with an interior designer, using the words of clients.  It's not just working with me--I'll bet most design pros hear the same things.

#1 Why hire an interior designer?  "We stopped disagreeing."

What I really hear is "we stopped fighting about how to decorate our home." The days of one partner being much more involved in the design and decor decisions are dwindling.  Everyone seems more interested in the process, has ideas and wants to be heard - and it works out well!


#2 Why hire an interior designer? "We saved so much time because you told us what would work and where to get it!"

DIY home decor projects tend to drag on or never get finished because there are too many choices out there and not all of them are very good.  It's overwhelming, especially when you don't have a lot of time on your hands.   After a consultation,  I send a customized Resource List that often shows specific products and where to get it. I also share contact info about my painter, tile installer, cabinet store, etc.  Clients are excited to have this info in their hands and are able to  schedule and place orders.  Before they know it, the room is done and looking better than they imagined!  


#3 Why hire an interior designer?  "We stopped making mistakes and saved money!"

We all make  decor mistakes.  I'll show you one of mine:


It made a cute photo, but there were a lot of problems with this chair that made it a mistake:  

  • I don't really like sitting in armless chairs.
  • Nine year old Grandboy and his pals were wildly attracted to this chair with it's white background that could not easily be cleaned.  So I would yell "get away from that chair!" at small children.  Real nice.  I have NEVER owned a piece of furniture that couldn't be used by everyone, so this was really cramping my style.
  • Really, those two are enough reasons to get rid of that chair. I sold it on Move Loot, for very little money, of course. 

There's no shame in making mistakes.  The shame, to me, is holding onto them and trying to design the rest of the room around them.  Letting go of mistakes makes room for some much, MUCH better choices.  Better results. Relief. It's all good.

We all know that mistakes cost money.  And time is money.  And life is short. Hold on while I look up some more of these gems.    


Here's the best one:  "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten."  Thank you, Benjamin Franklin.



#4 Why hire an interior designer?  "You had so many great ideas that we never would have considered!"

Many times I've said something very general during a consultation, like "you could paint that wall green" and the client response has been, "Green?  Oh my gosh! That's a great idea!  I love it!  I've never thought of that!"  

I know--you've looked at that builder-beige wall every day for 5 years. You're so afraid of painting it the "wrong" color--even though it's a color you happen to love (like, maybe, green)--so the beige stays.  I'll see clues about what you like.  And, well, I just have ideas.   I'm going to come up with a boatload of them to make your rooms special and the first one out of my mouth, the easiest and cheapest idea of them all might be to paint that wall a color that you love.  Go figure.

A green wall, fabulous lighting, creative use of everyday materials, furnishings that are comfortable AND good looking, sources for really special stuff--any good designer can give you this kind of information.  It's what we do. 



When it's all done, you're going to walk into that room and smile. You're smiling because you stopped fighting, saved time, saved money, implemented great ideas and got it done.  That's why you should hire an interior designer.




How To Decorate With Pets -3 Great Tips


So many clients ask me how to decorate with pets in mind.  They love those furry family members, but not saggy sofas,  picked apart rugs or stains on their upholstery fabrics.  Let me share 3 tips that make it work:


How To Decorate With Pets, Tip #1

Polyester is a synthetic fiber and your new best friend when it comes to upholstery fabrics.  Steer clear of cotton fibers.  Cotton loves to absorb, and that includes cotton blends and linen.  Does the word "absorb" sound like a good thing in this case?  No, it does not.  Rayon has cotton qualities, so add that to the no can do list.  "All weather" fabrics are almost always great choices (notice I said "almost" - I'm saving that for another blog post).  Choose synthetic fabrics that feel good, don't snag easily and have some color, pattern or texture to them.  Know that white/cream/beige/almond choices are going to show pet wear and tear--I don't care what the fabric is made of.

Side note on seating:  large dogs should never sit on sofas or chairs.  Their weight wears down the inner construction.  If you insist that they do, subtract several years from the life expectancy of the seating.


How To Decorate With Pets, Tip #2

Notice those zippers on cushion covers.  That means you can unzip, take the insert out and wash that cover right in your washing machine.  I do it all the time. Pay attention when drying - don't run it on high and check it's progress every 15 minutes or so.  If you have a messy pet,  buy the stain protection plan the store offers OR hire an outside company to provide that service for you.

Side note on stain service providers: DO NOT buy that service if you're not going to call them when a stain happens.  You wouldn't believe how many people do that!


How To Decorate With Pets, Tip #3

Use accent rugs.  Yes, that's right where they're going to have an accident, but pets don't like to walk on slick floors all the time and rugs add so much to any room.  Avoid hooked rugs--the ones with all those little loops.  Pet nails get stuck in them and it's much harder to clean up those accidents when they're on hooked rugs.  I favor wool rugs, but if you can find an indoor/outdoor carpet that really feels nice, go for it. Again, I warn you to steer clear of cotton content.  Jute or sisal may be tres chic in the shelter mags, but it's just gross with pets. I've got a lovely wool Kilim rug in the Living Room and it's been barfed on many times (TMI?  Sorry.) and still looks great. Wool is a wonder, and a busy pattern doesn't hurt either!

Side note on stained rugs: if you own a pet, own a carpet cleaner.  You will love both.


Here's our girl, Raven, standing on the much-barfed on rug.  I place a high priority on the safety and comfort of family pets, but you can have beautiful furnishings as well.

Would you like some help creating a beautiful home that you and your pets can enjoy together?  It's not hard.  Call me today and let's get it done!



How To Decorate With Vintage

How to decorate with vintage

Many people would love to decorate with vintage furniture, but they just aren't sure about the end result.  Will it look ratty and dated or unique and inspiring?  I love to haunt consignment shops for special vintage pieces to create awesome spaces and have to say that decorating with vintage can sometimes be easier than with new stuff.  Let me show you how to do it.

How to decorate with vintage: Tip #1 - start with the big piece.

In a Family Room or Living Room, that would be the sofa. Here's a great choice:

how to decorate with vintage

You could use a vintage sofa, but they're hard to find.  This blue color works so well with vintage pieces and the neutral style is extremely versatile.

How to decorate with vintage: Tip #2 - select vintage pieces that you love...

even if you're afraid they're weird or funky.  Be brave dear heart.

How to decorate with vintage furniture

I found these mushroom footstools and rug at a local consignment shop and fell in love.  They are weird, funky and stopped me in my tracks--all signs pointing to the right purchase!  Thrift and consignment are great sources for vintage furnishings.  Stop by often to scoop up the good stuff.

How to decorate with vintage, Tip #3 - don't overwhelm.

With a colorful sofa, those fab footstools and the rug, you now can easily fill in with an end table, lamp and colorful chair.   But I have a little saying to share with you:

DeCocco Design, interior design services

Not everyone will agree, but I feel that a room full of fabulosity can get loud and visually messy real quick.  I want special things to stand out, and for the room to have an easy vibe.  That's my signature style as a designer - ease, as in comfortable.  YOU are the rock star in your room, not the stuff.  You sparkle more brightly when surrounded by things you love, but ALL the things you love don't need to be packed into every room.  Let's spread them out.

how to decorate with vintage

Above is a concept board I made to show you everything pulled together.  The sofa is from Klaussner's, the end table and lamp from West Elm and the leather chair from Arhaus. The centerpiece of the room is those mushroom footstools and the groovy rug, found at a local consignment shop.

Do you need some help pulling together a room?  Call me for a 2 hour design consultation today and I'll show you how to decorate with vintage furniture in your own home!