Your Outdoor Space – A Bonus Room

Almost any outdoor space can  be transformed into an outdoor room that reflects your style; the choice is yours whether to use the style you have created inside your home, punch it up a bit, or change style completely!

The obvious choice would be to extend the style of your home right into the outdoor area. You are already comfortable with this design mode, and by keeping it consistent, the transition between spaces will be effortless.    If your color palette is subdued or pastel, consider punching it up with bolder colors and accents.   It actually will visually enlarge your interior space by drawing the eye outdoors!
Your outdoor space also offers a way to experiment with and experience a new style of decor, one that differs from your home’s interior. Walking through the doorway between the interior and exterior offers a natural feeling of transition, allowing a different style outdoors to work. To add some continuity and connection to your interior space, keep a few common elements such as one of your interior colors. That way, there is something that stays familiar and creates a bridge between the two environments.

Landscaping can become part of the outdoor design, defining both the physical space as well as composing part of the color palette. Consider shape and size, color and blooming time when selecting your plants and flowers. Keep in mind scent – a strongly scented flower may not be appealing right next to your seating area or dining table. It may also attract more bugs than a less fragrant plant.

There are many ways to add more color or accents to your outdoor room:

Landscaping – include flowers, bushes and trees. Plan for the entire lifespan of the space and vegetation – keeping in mind that the sapling you plant will grow, and may not enhance your space the same way in 5 years. Consider the blooming season; plants may only bloom for part of your outdoor season, so you will want to plan to have different plants flowering throughout the entire season.20150520_101121

Furniture –  Outdoor furniture comes in a variety of colors and textures which can add color to your outdoor space. You can also repaint most furniture to the color of your liking; just make sure you use a paint that is specifically created for outdoor use. Wrought iron furniture can be completely transformed in a half hour using a can of spray paint!                                                                                                                                                  KIPS BAY Showhouse – Rich Heller .                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   for Greener by Design.

20150517_155432   Mill Neck Manor Showhouse, Long Island.

Be creative with furniture also – with wood and bricks or old metal carts repainted can become your beverage center – or old columns or fencing can create a defined seating or dining area – with outdoor drapery and lighting – you have now created a dining room!   No longer stop at candles – use chandeliers hung from tall tree branches!

Accessories and Accents – flower pots and planters can add bold color splashes to accent and add a finished look to your outdoor decor.  Pillows can add both color and patternern, as well as a sense of comfort to your room.   Bring some of the accessories that you have used inside your home and repeat that theme outdoors!

Your outdoor space should be a wonderful addition to your home. Well designed it is a reflection of you, and a sanctuary to be enjoyed – differently and in addition to your interior space. 


A drive through the countryside

Today was a beautiful summery Sunday – I rented a car and hit the back roads of the glorious area known as the Gold Coast of the North Shore of Long Island.

Here were the great mansions that were built by the industrialists of the 1890s.    I grew up on Long Island and always found joy in getting lost on these back roads filled with the old mansions, high vistas where you can see the waters of the LI Sound, passing the horse farms and country farm stands.   I went today to view two Designer Showhouses, one that was featuring a room done by one of my previous assistants – it was her first time participating in such an endeavor.    This showhouse benefited the American Heart Association.   Vera used this small room to create an artist’s studio with its north light as well as a lovely view of a tree shaded garden from her window.   It gave her the opportunity to show off her understanding of scale as well as her own talents as a painter and photographer.VM Design Showhouse

Not far down the road, past the horse farm with horses starting to shed their winter coat, was the Mill Neck Manor – a turn of the century magnificent Tudor mansion, now the home to The Mill Neck School for Deaf Children.   This house truly captures the essence of the Gold Coast, you almost expect the Fitzgeralds to greet you at the entry and have you join them in one of their great parties!     At the top of the stairs was a bedroom done in all the shades of white – the hallmark of my friend, Beverly Balk.    Her white interiors are known throughout the North Shore and beyond.BB Designshowhouse

Since I had participated in a Designer Showhouse several years ago, I understand and appreciate the hardwork that goes into producing these rooms and being scrutinized by the many visitors that wander from room to room in these houses that have such history, that gives us a peak into how people lived in the past and why these homes can no longer satisfied the life styles of modern society.

Today was a beautiful summery Sunday – I loved my ride – loved wandering through these mansions and seeing the accomplishments of my dear friends – I loved the memories that this ride conjured up for me – but like the mansions – this is a life I left to live in New York City where I have my design practice.   But its the experience of growing up in this area that I hope I bring into each of my own designs in the concrete jungle I now call home.

Your Renovation Budget – Fantasy or Realistic

One of the biggest challenges I encounter in my interior design work, with both prospects and clients, is around budgets.

A prospect or existing client will meet with me about a design or renovation project they would like to work with me on. Here is how the conversation typically goes:

Prospect: We’d like to hire you to redo our kitchen.


Before Renovation

Me: Great. Tell me about the project and your budget.

Prospect: Well, we’d like to totally renovate our kitchen, take down the wall between the kitchen and dining room, all new cabinets, appliances, floors, counters… We’re not sure about the budget.

Me: Great. Based on what you are telling me, I would put the project in the $50,000 to $60,000 range.

Prospect: Wow, that is a bit higher then we had in mind. Can we do it for $35,000?

Me: Not likely. Let me break out how we arrive at the budget.


While a prospect may say they have no idea of the budget, they have usually spoken to friends and family who has been through a renovation or redesign project, as well as watched a few HGTV home renovation shows, so they have thought about it to some degree.  They can still get sticker shock when they hear the costs involved in making over a space, especially in New York City; it is a unique environment due to fact that it is more challenging and expensive to undertake construction projects in a crowded urban environment.

How much will this improvement add to the value of my home? According to US News and World Report:  Surprisingly, much of the time the answer is not as much value as it costs to actually make the improvement.

To get to a realistic design budget here is a breakdown of what you have to factor in:


Project plans and permits– Projects requiring changes to layout and structural elements of your interior space or exterior building will need building permits and associated project plans.  The fees will depend on the type of project and its complexity.

Building permits are often required by local governments before any type of renovation and construction can begin. Your contractor and interior designer will be familiar with local building regulations and can handle preparing and filing your permits. Fees will be determined by the costs of the permits, if any, as well as the time your professional has to spend on securing them.


Materials, Labor and delivery charges– your existing office or home’s age and original materials will shape what types of materials are needed to create the proper build out for your current project. Construction related materials are comprised of pretty fixed costs; your selection of finishes is an area where you can potentially save money, or increase your costs.

One of the biggest expenses in doing a renovation or design project can be the labor. While a project starts out with an estimate of labor costs, it can’t possibly factor in the unforeseen things that come up in the course of doing your construction. In a congested urban area such as New York City, there will be additional contractor hours and fees for travel time and parking.

From building materials to furniture and accessories, there is a cost to have them delivered to your site. In today’s world, we are able to source the best materials and designs from around the globe. However, without careful attention to where a product is produced or shipped from, your budget can quickly accrue larger delivery charges, which are based on distance. Your design professional will be able to save you money by making better sourcing selections; keeping delivery costs down wherever possible.


Design Fees – Your designer is much more than just a creative advisor. They are a true professional who wears many often-unseen hats to get your dream office or home created with minimal hassle or problems. These additional roles include project manager, price negotiator, troubleshooter, and project champion. Interior designers work hard behind the scenes to keep your contractors honest and on schedule, as well as waiting on site for deliveries, which they then inspect for correctness and quality. Their fees are typically based on calculations of time and staff required to successfully complete your project; and according to my clients “are worth every penny in the problems they avert and solve without you ever knowing about them”. Their fees are not typically negotiable


Furniture and accessories – Your furniture and accessories are often an area where you don’t want to scrimp on your budget, as it’s these items that are seen and help define your space and its style. Buying less expensive, knock down [IKEA] furniture, can end up being not so inexpensive after you factor in the labor costs to assemble the furniture.


After tallying up all these project component and fees, we now have a realistic project budget.

Before you consider doing a renovation or addition to your home or office, I encourage you to speak with a design professional and run your project costs before getting attached to a number that may not be accurate for what you have in mind.

As an interior designer, I work with clients to help them create spaces they love while making the most of their budgets. If your budget and your dream project don’t seem to be aligned, I am able to show you the available and best options; ones you may not be aware of or considered on your own.

My goal is to work with you to achieve your desired outcome, in the most cost effective way that also protects your real estate investment.



After Renovation

To schedule a design consultation contact me at  212 532 2569  or at   (And yes, there is no e at the end of my name in the email address!)  That’s a story by itself.

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