Great Design for Tiny Spaces

Even in Texas, where everything is big, people are opting more and more for right-sized spaces which may be too tiny for some. The dilemma of small space design and decorating has always been a challenge for some people.  Today, we have a Chicago-based interior designer share with us some secrets of the art of great design in tiny spaces.

Although the times have changed and the economy have forced a lot of people to downsize, cities like New York and San Francisco are still charging prime for their real estate. As a result, the houses are getting smaller as many people are found living in apartments. If you live in an apartment, especially in New York City, where the average size of a studio is 400 square feet, you must know how to master the art of space saving. If you are struggling on how to fit all your belongings in such a small space while keeping everything looking pretty, the following tips are just for you:

1. Bye-bye Clutter:  Since space is an issue, you should keep your place to a minimal by reducing the amount of unnecessary items. Everything that is broken beyond repair should be tossed and everything that hasn’t been used or worn in more than a year should leave the house too (consider selling or donating). Go paperless on as many bills as possible.
2. Think Vertical:  When living in a small space you should always think vertical by incorporating bookshelves or storage systems that allow you to expand up to the ceiling (for a cleaner look seek storage with doors).  Remember, more vertical storage you get, less claustrophobic your space will feel.

3. Embrace Color  & Think about Scale: It is true that certain colors can make your room looks bigger or small. However, what a lot of people forget is the scale of their furnishings. You don’t have to live in a completely white apartment to feel the largeness of the room. What you need to consider when designing for a small space is the proportion of the furnishings and how they are connected to each other. If your entire wall unit is white (and has doors), your sofa and chairs are also white, and you are using clear materials for your accent tables for example, you can (and you should) go bold on your walls. A medium to dark shade of grey will make your furniture to stand out and you can easily change the feeling of the room by using different colors on pillows and throws.

4. Bring Light In: From bringing down your energy bill monthly to improving your health, the benefits of day light are endless.  If you live in a very tiny home, the probability you have a very limited amount of windows is pretty high. However, you can create the illusion of having more windows by installing mirrors at strategic walls that would reflect the day light throughout your home.

5. Make most of your bed : When living in a place where every inch counts, having an underneath bed storage is a must. Although I prefer beds that are designed to provide storage underneath, if you don’t like them or if you can’t afford them, you should look for a bed lift to raise it just enough for you to slide few bins under the bed. Pottery Barn and West Elm have great options for bed with underneath storage.
6. Buy Strategic Furniture :Start thinking outside the box and consider buying double duty furniture. In the bedroom, replace your nightstands with a dresser on each side of the bed. In the living room, a sofa bed instead of a traditional one; and have a storage ottoman for extra linens as a coffee table.

7. Decorate with Shelves: In the bathroom, instead of hanging artwork opt for installing shelves for extra storage.   If you have a specific area you use for your home-office, don’t limit yourself to traditional bookshelves. Do better by installing shelves above the desk for a cleaner, more organized look.

No matter how small your space is whether it is an apartment rental, loft, or small home, if you start feeling lost or overwhelmed, consult an interior designer. A good interior design professional will find a very unique design solution to address your needs.

VK Sustainable Concepts’ Principal Andrea Vollf, LEED AP ID+C, is a registered interior designer and sustainability professional with over fifteen years of experience in the interior design and marketing industries. Ms. Vollf is an active member of the U.S. Green Building Council – Illinois Chapter, with in‐depth knowledge of all aspects of Sustainability – Social, Environmental and Economic.

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Tom Schereer Decorates

If you don’t know it yet, all interior designers, stylists and decorators can’t have enough of, well, design books. Heck, we have shelter mags and design magazines overflowing in every console, cabinet, and even the floor of the house. What more, hardbound, thick books with gorgeous covers? Coffee table books should go into rotation is a new styling tip I’m brewing. Last week, I received this book, Tom Scheerer Decorates by Vendome Press, with gorgeous photos by Francesco Lagnese and  written by Mimi Read; the book not only inspires but educates at the same time.

Mimi was spot on about the decorating style of Tom Scheerer, when she stated “it’s a more restrained brand of chic.” It’s old-fashioned and classic yet modern and well-edited at the same time. It’s unpretentious, the kind that you admire but know that it’s also approachable. It’s never screaming out loud, yet it catches your attention.

See for yourself and read some of my takeaways from this glorious design book:

1. You can repeat a pattern in wallcovering and furniture. Here, he paired cane-inspired wallpaper with a cane-inspired secretary.

Tom schereer bathroom design

2. Cobalt Blue looks amazing in a traditional dining room.

blue dining room Tom Scheerer

3. Spaces should be perfectly imperfect. Here, a staircase landing {or a foyer area?} is functional, yet beautiful and full of character.

Interiors of Tom Scheerer for Book

4. Floor to Ceiling Pastel Color Paint is dramatic.

Tom Scheerer Interiors

5. Whitewashed walls and floors paired with organic and earthy hues brings depth to a space.

interiors tom schereer

6. Do not be afraid to mix several styles that seemingly don’t go together. Here, the classic is mixed with the global and modern and contemporary.

tom schereer decorates book

There are more styling, design and decorating tips to gather from this amazing book of course! What interested me the most is the background behind Tom Schereer’s design philosophy. He said he is turned off by decorating that’s all about superficiality and frivolity. That design should be “about being able to balance symmetry, asymmetry, deliberation and improvisation, harmony and dissonance.” Very well said, design & decorating is not “trivial” as other people may perceive it to be. It’s creating spaces, rooms and homes that speaks, that’s full of life!

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Austin Smarter Spaces Tour 2013

In Austin, the Modern Homes Tour has a cousin and it’s name is the Smarter Spaces Tour. The tour will be in it’s second year this September 7th and I urge you to check out what it’s all about. It shouldn’t be in the 100’s anymore {let’s hope, right?} and a great time to soak in what’s “smart” in home living from our fellow Austinites.

From the visionaries behind Launch787, founders, Matt Swinney and James Leasure believes that a “smart” space is all about “right” sized living. I had the chance to interview Matt Swinney on how this tour came about.

1. What was the catalyst for you to launch a Smarter Spaces Tour?

Actually, this tour was conceived from our own personal experience. We have a 1950 1600 square foot home in Central Austin. It’s a 3 bedroom and we have 2 kids. We started looking for bigger homes, but found we really couldn’t afford to move up significantly and stay in Central Austin. Location was more important to us than space, so instead we worked with a designer (Thoughtcrib and then you Maureen!) to edit our layout some. We ended up shrinking our master bedroom and adding a second living space. Our home is exactly what we wanted and we didn’t expand our footprint at all — all for about $10,000.

During the process, we talked to lots of friends in similar situations and we found out we weren’t alone in our thinking. A smaller, more intimate home in the location you want is a common trend in Austin (and throughout the US). The idea of the “American Dream” being a suburban home with 4000 square feet, 5 bedrooms, a game room and 2 dining areas isn’t what most Austinites are wanting today. We wanted to create a home tour that showed how to take the average square footage (2500) and smaller in Central Austin and create uniquely designed homes that are both “smart” and incredibly beautiful.

smarter spaces tour austin


Alan K. Barley


2. What do you think are the Top 3 things that makes a home smarter?

First and foremost is the way space is used. We’ve all been in large homes that feel small and small homes that feel large. Square footage is just a number. How the home is laid out for a family’s needs is significantly more important than numerically how big it is. “Smart” to me is how one can take a vintage home and re-design it within the same footprint but to fit our modern lifestyle.

Technology is also key. And I don’t necessarily mean that an iPad controls everything in your home. I mean things that save space like adding tankless water heaters in older homes — that almost always gains a closet without expanding footprint. And while it’s not space-saving, adding things like a Nest to your home so you can control your HVAC from a smart phone is almost no-brainer. It’s low entry cost and pays for itself in probably a year. It’s money-saving but also environmentally more conscious.

Finally, I always advocate for using a designer once your space has been created {Can I just say a big YES to this?} In the U.S., we tend to buy really big furniture and more times than not, it just clogs up space and doesn’t really add to one’s lifestyle. Designers can help space-plan in a way the layperson can’t. Some people are great at it, but having that third party pay attention to how you live can give a unique perspective and help that small home feel larger than it actually is.

smarter spaces tour austin
Alan K. Barley

3. The Modern Home Tours has grown leaps and bounds in the past few years; is your vision for the Smarter Home Tours the same as the MHT? Go national or even global?

I’m not sure. The Modern Home Tours have gone so well nationally and even internationally that we’re really focusing the out-of-Austin growth on that. That said, it’s clear that the trend in America is for smaller, uniquely designed residential spaces. Since it’s a popular tour here in Austin, we’d be crazy to not at least consider trying to grow it in other cities as well.

smarter spaces tour austin


D. Crain


Thank you so much Matt!

So what do you think everyone? I hope to see you there. Get your tickets here!

Interior Design in Austin | E-Design everywhere. Contact me.

A French Style and Mint Design Board

Happy Wednesday folks! It’s kinda nice staying put in Austin for a while and having time to do some blog posts. I’ve been driving around town and really admiring how this city has so many home design styles to offer. As you know, I will ooohhh and ahhhh at modern and minimalist homes but old styles are still the ones that capture my heart.

I made a design board for a lovely couple a few months back. They have a gorgeous colonial home in the heart of Hyde Park. There’s a path that looks like it’s going to a secret garden and courtyards abound. I am in love. I made this design board for the foyer area for them:

french style foyer

I was going for neutral walls with splashes of mint green and gold, Louis chairs, architectural mirror and French Country textures. It will be functional yet beautiful. Just when I thought I have listened intently to my design client, I think I took her words quite literally or zoned in only to a few things she mentioned. I did not prod enough or studied her words and image choices enough. It’s something I need to work on and have since made my design questionnaire as thorough as possible. I am also taking more time to know the client. At times, I think I already know their vision but then I realize, I don’t. You see, the design process is that, a process. The “getting to know each other” phase may be fast for some but slow for others. To steer that process is all up to me.

Hmmm, this week is turning out to be a week of introspection for me it seems like. On a lighter note, isn’t that colonial home above with a  lime green door just gorgeous? I always love the classics with a twist of the unexpected!




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Low Platform Dreamin’

I recently moved into a new apartment and have finally decided to switch out my old bed frame for something new and exciting.  Yes, really, bed frame choices are exciting to me.  I’ve been thinking of a low platform bed as a welcome change from the wrought iron frame I’ve had since high school.  Something about low platforms just immediately says cozy to me.


A bed frame of pillows, now there’s an idea!


I don’t think I could keep something this modern clean enough to do it justice but isn’t it yummy?


Again, too minimalist of a style for me, but that butcher’s block frame is to die for.

So I’m still searching for the perfect frame to fit my eclectic style…but I think I’m heading in the right direction 🙂

The Striped Outdoors

It is freakishly {totally a word according to the Dictionary} hot here in Texas so although we are made for the outdoors; we’re keeping that to a minimum. I’m totally not saying that I don’t love beautiful porches, patios and cabanas. In fact, I prefer eating al fresco 99% of the time. When decorating an outdoor conversation area; your norm are solids played up with throw pillows of different patterns. Another “neutral” thing to try? Stripes. You can play it up and you can play it down. You can go for brights or go greige. Here are some ideas for you:

Stripe your floors black or gray for a touch of sophistication or in pastel for a cottage feel in the sunroom or patio.

Baby blues & pinks goes casual {and not nursery-like} when mixed with teak.

An outdoor striped cabana – when the outdoors becomes indoors and vice versa.

Classic wrought iron with natural fiber is great with taupe stripes.

Or go exotic, global and southwestern with your stripes.

I hope you’re enjoying the rest of your Summer and staying pretty calm although school has just started again {whether you’re a student, a teacher or have kids in school}. Enjoy and happy hump day!

Interior Design in Austin | E-Design everywhere. Contact me.

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Absolutely Beautiful WallPaper

I must admit, I do have a wallpaper fetish; c’mon how can I resist those gorgeous patterns in a wide array of colors and textures. I absolutely can’t have enough! I’m always stalking Schumacher, Osborne and Little; Cole and Son; I feel like we all have been friends for so long. For people who is a little scared to take the plunge to use wallpaper in their space, start small. In the guest bath perhaps? A little accent wall in the home office?

In the design world, I think Anna Spiro is a rockstar, an Aussie rockstar that is. The designer extraordinaire of Black & Spiro and the brainchild behind the blog Absolutely Beautiful Things is all about bright and cheerful spaces; where patterns are mainstays and mixing and matching is the norm. She debuted her array of wallcovering in partnership with Porter’s Paints last year and of course it didn’t disappoint.

It came in three patterns: Rosey Posey Trellis, Higgledy Piggledy Stripe, Round and Round the Garden. You probably know which pattern I’m in love with the most. Well, I’m a big “trellis” fan. In the US, her line is available at Sydney Harbour Paints. My samples are coming soon and getting ready to present it to a design client. Are you a wallpaper fan?

Interior Design in Austin | E-Design everywhere. Contact me.

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Color Boards

Hello everyone! Well, well it’s been a while. This Summer has been incredibly hectic for me but in a very good way. I haven’t posted in a while & thanks to my assistant Rachel who has been posting incredibly informational and wonderful posts about the wonders of sheer curtains, the allure of natural fiber wall covering and some helpful tidbits on lighting. She is amazing, no?

I completed about five DIY projects for I’m getting more of them up here soon! I did an interview with an awesome American writer living in the Netherlands, yup, the power of Skype; for a small feature of my home { from grunge to a bit of glam home makeover } for a national print home mag. I’m incredibly excited! And then I met the super adorable and gorgeous, Amy Hadley of YNN Austin for a house proud video segment. Not sure if I did ok…but oh well; learning along the way. We talked about beautiful brass…duh, literally the metal of the moment; Kelly Wearstler’s obsession and not your grandmas alloy.

Anywho, I think I’ve told you that I adore Jeff Lewis’ paint, he made choosing paint a little less scary and stressful I think. For a couple that I did a color selection on, I decided to go with it and advised them to go with an unboring Scandinavian feel. Gone are the days when the only neutral is beige. For small spaces and if your home have several walls, do not break them up by choosing different colors, go with an unboring neutral and pair it up with cheerful accessories, a bright-hued chair or accent table wouldn’t disappoint as well.

color board

Here in Austin, Jeff Lewis paint is available at Treehouse. While you’re there, explore not just the paint department but…oh, everything else in their shop. You’ll nab amazing ideas for your next home re-do! And please, please, have an amazing weekend…you deserve it!

Interior Design in Austin | E-Design everywhere. Contact me.

The Right Amount of Bright | How to Light Your Space

Have you ever been in a space that, while beautifully designed, felt a little flat?  Like you were looking at a picture of the space, not the space itself?  Chances are the culprit of this design flaw is bad lighting.  Lighting can make or break the feel of a space; it can create unexpected delight or underwhelming disinterest simply with the flick of a switch. As such, we wanted to give you a few quick hitting notes on how to properly light a few different spaces for different tasks.


1| Task Lighting

There are two main ways to light a space for different types of tasks:  general ambient lighting and task ambient lighting.

General Ambient lighting: This type of lighting is best for spaces in which the tasks being performed vary greatly.



The Lego Offices are a great example of various types of light used for multi-purpose spaces.


Task Ambient lighting:  In this type of lighting, higher values of illuminance are provided for the area in which one is working, with lesser values in the surrounding areas (think of a light at your desk versus only having an overhead light).



The Battle Hall Reading Room is a great example of beautiful task ambient lighting.

2| Ambient Lighting

Ambient lighting is created through mixing direct and indirect lighting – or downlighting and uplighting – to create a visually pleasing space.



I always think of wedding receptions when I think of uplighting.  Here the uplighting highlights the gorgeous ceiling architecture, while downlighting allows you to find your seat and chat with guests.


Various different types of lights and bulbs create very different effects in spaces.  The color temperature and brightness of a light play a large role in how our eye reads the room.

Incandescent:  These bulbs emit a warm light, with most of the energy in them concentrated towards the red and yellow end of the color spectrum, which compliments the appearance of human faces and warmer colored designs.




Incandescent lighting in the space is perfect!  It brings out the rich red hues instead of competing with them the way fluorescent light tends to do.

Fluorescent:  Depending on what color temperature you buy these in – they range from warm (3000k) to cool (4100) – you can light a space with an incandescent feel, or a feeling closer to daylight.  



Fluorescent lighting is a must in most ultra-modern spaces.  Too warm of a light source would distort the clean color palette and crispness of the space.



Sparkle is a real term in the field of lighting design references the highlights that add feelings of well-being to a space.  Sparkle can be found in the way light dances and reflects off water, or off a faceted chandelier.  Sparkle is a hard-to-pin-down element that creates deep visual interest in a space.  




This bar is too beautiful for words…all thanks to a lot of sparkle.

Just a few quick hits on what to consider when lighting your space.  Maureen will be delving into this topic more deeply, as she’s doing a talk on lighting soon!  It really is fascinating, you just have to wade through a lot of technical talk!  Happy weekend!


Au Natural | Wall Coverings to Love

From time to time, a girl’s gotta get a little more responsible.  A little more environmentally friendly.  A little more concerned with the bigger picture.  Ok, and a little more obsessed with the look of natural fiber wall coverings.  We are convinced they’re going to be the next big thing in design and, as such, have jumped head first into ogling pictures of them and attempting to find excuses to use them in our own homes and designs.  From linen to sisal to seagrass, the varieties of style are endless and incredibly sophisticated and low key.  Just take a gander at a few of these pictures and you’ll see what we mean.


A chic neutral grass cloth brings texture to this space


Naturals on naturals on naturals: grasscloth walls, sisal carpet and burlap poufs


The colorful side of grass cloth


Who would’ve guessed painted cork could look this sophisticated??

I love everything about this room, but the deep charcoal linen wall covering is what really sets it apart.

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 11.33.33 AM

If you were wondering what my dream bathroom would look like…

Screen Shot 2013-07-29 at 11.34.18 AM

And if all this is too much for you, maybe just try framing in a few pieces of natural coverings!

Ok ok, we’ll stop drooling and get back to work now.  Hopefully these images piqued your interest in the greener side of design and made the start of your work week a little more inspired!

Interior Design in Austin | E-Design everywhere. Contact me.