for your reference: project checklist

Over the years, I have collected quite an assortment of reference guides for my clients.  Many of them file these 'sheets' in a three ring binder for their reference on future projects .  I thought that this blog might be a great way to share some of these reference 'sheets' with you, too!

You can download the .pdf of this post HERE for your personal reference.

Here’s a great Check List for any project (including Interior Design):

The first thing you need to do is create an initial plan.  This initial plan should contain the following four steps. 

STEP NUMBER ONE: Create a budget

Figure out what the maximum amount of money you have available for the upcoming project. This step is often overlooked. Once you commit to the budget, you can then make clear decisions concerning what will be done when. Your money will control how much change you are able to accomplish. Be perfectly honest with yourself here.

STEP NUMBER TWO: Make a list of what you want done

This might sound simple, but it requires some discipline. Pictures help in this process. Select photographs from magazines and catalogs that illustrate design elements, furniture choices, color preferences, woodwork, etc.

Make sure your list contains realistic priorities. Indicate the absolute musts. Keep in mind that you should work in some type of order. Don't organize projects such that workmen walk through or pass rooms or hallways that were just finished! They could ruin brand new work and then you have to start over again! Just use common sense.  

List priorities with each project or room. Keep in mind that it is easy to add an area rug, furniture or window coverings, but hard to change wallpaper or permanent fixtures. 

STEP NUMBER THREE: Once you have your budget and your realistic wish list - It's time to call a professional

You need to feel comfortable with professionals. Ask them questions. Talk in great detail about the fees. If you think you will be more comfortable, get all points in writing. Ask the professional for a written proposal regarding their scope of work. Find out just what they will be doing to earn their fee. A true professional will not get defensive at all with this procedure. If they do, you need to find someone else to work with! Step Number Three should be followed whether you are looking for an Interior Designer or a Licensed Contractor.

And last but certainly not least – STEP NUMBER FOUR on your planning checklist:  Don't go over budget! ...Need I say more?
What's on your Design Wish List?

how-to: make a decorative blackboard

Chalkboard paint can transform almost any hard surface into a cute, usable blackboard. This paint is very versatile, and usable on almost all surfaces - glass, wood, plastic and so much more.

An ornate vintage frame, an old cupboard door, a recycled dresser drawer, a broken antique vanity mirror, or an old silver tray all make beautiful vintage chalkboards. Dig around in your attic or basement, or shop your local tag sales for the perfect bones to make a vintage chalkboard.

Special Message Board
Try making a message board; a memo board; or a grocery list board for your kitchen. Make a menu board for your dining room. Make a full wall or a play table with fun displays, quotes, or even a blank canvas in a child's playroom. Add your ‘favorite’ football team’s schedule to the game room.

Transform a simple piece of wood into a blackboard with chalkboard paint and when it’s time to change the ‘message’, you just wash the board with a wet rag, a cotton glove or a purchased blackboard eraser.

How-To Make a Vintage Frame Chalkboard

Grocery List Wall

Materials You Need
  • Old ornate picture frame
  • Ply (or MFD) board sized to fit inside the frame and thick enough to fit the groove on the back of the frame
  • Sandpaper
  • Primer paint
  • Dust rag
  • Primer Black chalkboard paint (spray or brush on)
  • Paint or Sponge Brush (if you use the brush on paint)
  • Brad nails
  • Hammer
  • Picture hanger

Paint the surface of the board using the primer to create a smoother and more durable surface for the chalkboard paint to adhere. Allow the primer to dry thoroughly.

Paint the surface using the chalkboard paint. Allow the paint to dry. This could take several hours. Apply a second coat of chalkboard paint, and let it dry overnight.

Silver Tray Menu Board
Lay the vintage frame with the back side up. Insert the chalkboard into the back of the frame, paint side down. Nail the brads into the back edges of the ply board and into the frame at an angle. Angling the brads will keep them from poking through to the front of the frame.

Center and attach your chosen hanger hardware to the top back of the frame to complete your vintage chalkboard.

If painting a silver tray, use a picture easel to stand the tray vertical. (This application is perfect for a Menu Board at a Dinner Party!)


Sand the top surface of the ply board that will become the chalkboard to give the board a grip for the paint applications. Remove the dust particles with a rag.

how-to: create a bed to show off your beautiful linens

Spruce up your bedroom by making your bed look like one straight from a five-star hotel.  Placing bedding accessories is an art, but it’s easy to do.

Almost everyone likes to crawl into a well-made bed at the end of the day.... not that there's necessarily anything wrong with getting into an unmade bed. But there's something about peeling the covers down off of a bed that's made and snuggling yourself down into it that makes you really feel like you're getting ready to relax. Of course, in order to do this, you have to make your bed in the morning.

Here's how:

Whether you have a pillow top or regular mattress, I still recommend adding a feather bed before you add your mattress protector.  Both the feather bed and mattress protector can be purchased at any linens store… Unless you’ve made the investment of a Tempur-pedic Mattress. (I just bought one and trust me, it's a little piece of heaven… well worth the investment!)

Ok – next, the sheets…..There’s a reason hospital and hotel employees know exactly how to make a perfect bed - they do it hundreds of times each day. A hospital corner is an efficient way to keep the sheets tucked into the foot of the bed.

Start by spreading a flat sheet over your fitted sheet on the mattress so that the same amount of fabric hangs off of each side of the bed. Tuck the edges at the foot of the bed under the mattress. Then tuck in the sides to create a neat crease at the corners of the mattress.

You should place your blanket on the bed in the same way. Whether you tuck it in ("hospital corners" style) or leave it loose is up to you. Just make sure that the blanket is smooth and even.

At the head of your bed, fold back the blanket (about a pillow’s distance down). Then fold the flat sheet back over the blanket, and smooth it out. (The sheet should hide the hem of the blanket.) Tuck in the sheet and blanket all the way to the foot of your bed.

If you use a coverlet, spread it over the blanket, and fold it half way to the foot of the bed, leaving some of your blanket exposed.

If you choose to use a duvet, spread it over the coverlet, and fold it (in thirds) at the foot of the bed. This will add a note of cushiony softness to your irresistible bed.

Once the sheets and covers are been arranged on the bed…. then comes the fun part – adding your own personality to that irresistible retreat arrangement.

Try complimenting your coverlet and duvet with matching shams and pillow cases. Before you place any of these pillows at the head of the bed, make sure all of your pillowcases are on their pillows tightly and then plump the pillows.

I suggest using 3 Euro Shams arranged standing up against the headboard *except on a twin bed, of course, but you may use 4 on a King size bed. Then lay your sleeping pillows against them, followed by 2 decorative standard size shams, and last but not least any accent pillows you may choose to use.  Try an uneven number of accent pillows to add interest and to please the eye.

This all may sound more complicated than it really is... but remember, practice makes perfect (especially in beds!)

Here's a few:

Bed & Breakfast

Clean Lines



Feng Shui

quick tip: add warmth & elegance to a living room

A glass-and-iron coffee table is a great choice for an elegant look but because of the cold hard surfaces you need to warm it up with a punch of vivant color.

I love a large pop of red in a living room…. It is such a WARM & ALIVE color.

Try RED tulips in a vase or maybe a series of Red Pillar Candles set in a decorative platter.

quick tip: color your walls

I can’t stress this enough. Completely transform your room with just a few gallons of paint. Try a new color or a fresh shade of the existing paint, and watch how it transforms all your existing furniture. Paint costs so little compared to how much you get in return.

When picking out a paint color, remember trends come and go.  So if you're looking for something that will last, stick with the classics.  Try painting a few large squares of different choices on one wall and check back throughout the day to see how the colors look with the different lighting of the room.

Check out my YouTube Videos on Picking Colors:

quick tip: add design interest in your kitchen

Pair accessories in several colors and textures… like sleek silver canisters actually go nicely with an old rustic basket…. or set a topiary or two along side your sink… try adding a pop of color to a very neutral kitchen color scheme. For instance, place a couple bright orange containers in a brown kitchen. 

Here’s one of my favorites: 
Take a tall vase or urn and add a bouquet of utensils to set beside your stove.

quick tip: kitchen cottage charm

If you adore cottage charm (especially in your kitchen) – add a generous amount of white accessories: dishes, a bread box, a pitcher, a large pedestal bowl, and maybe even some white canisters. And on your kitchen window... add a Roman shade to give the room softness. The key here is to keep things subtle and simple in a cottage kitchen.

quick tip: a prime piece of design property

Your coffee table is prime design real estate right there in front of your sofa. The key to a coffee table-scape is to use objects of varying heights.  And go with a theme… arrange a collection of accessories (like square boxes, tall candles, and maybe books).

quick tip: a punch of color


Try to remember this easy trick the next time you're walking down the pillow aisle at your favorite home store: Pick up two pillows in a soft, solid color, and then buy a third pillow with a bright pattern. This combination will keep your sofa simple but will add a twist.

quick tip: extra seating in the living room


Instead of a coffee table in the living room, use an upholstered ottoman. Then it can be used for additional seating when entertaining.  You can place a large, low basket or maybe a serving tray on the ottoman for a useable stable surface to display items or set drinks.

don't blow your design budget

You know you want a change and you know... change costs money. 

Home improvement projects always start with the best intentions, and many times, end up draining your pocketbook and your peace of mind. Whether you’re updating the decor in one room or going for a total remodel, costs add up quickly.

No matter the size of your project, keep up with your costs as you go along and don’t wait till the end for the "grand total" - it will undoubtedly be grander than you ever imagined.

So, before you launch your next undertaking, here are some easy ways to save by planning ahead and being creative with your budget.


Splurge before Selling

“You’ve finally decided to put your house on the market, but you feel that there’s some work to be done before the sign goes in the front yard. You’re thinking new appliances, new flooring...etc, etc."

You want to get your home ready to sell, but with an outrageous to-do list, you won’t have any funds in the end to buy your new home. So, my suggestion, the best thing to do is start with kitchen and bathroom updates - these are key selling points that buyers are quick to pick apart. And think about sprucing up your curb appeal with a freshly painted front door and colorful plants to greet potential buyers. After all, this is the first and last impression of your home that they will see.

Furniture Makeovers 

Slipcovered Sofa
"Your furniture’s been through the ringer and you don’t really have the money to buy new, so what else can you do?"

Before you leave your furniture on the side of the road for garbage pickup, consider these options. One easy way to give your pieces a new look is by reupholstering. With a change of fabric, that worn-out chair hiding in the guest room can be the star of your living room. And THE foolproof, money-saving solution has to be slipcovers. They are easy to change out, and you can have them custom made in stain-resistant fabric so that they’re kid and pet friendly.

Neighborhood Rivals

"Your friend down the street just redecorated her entire home from top to bottom, and it looks amazing! Now you feel you can’t have anyone over to your place until you do something just as lovely."

This game of Keeping up with the Joneses is a longtime battle that can get you in serious money trouble.  Still want to redecorate? Hold a garage sale (or visit a Consignment Store) to purge those items you no longer want, and then take some time to scope out local flea markets, Craigslist, and even your own home for treasures. With a little creativity, you can have beautiful, customized pieces that will make your home the envy of the neighborhood.

Flooring Matters

"You love our hardwood floors, but after years of wear and tear, they look like you’ve had a horse race run through your home. You think it’s time for all new flooring."

Painted Floor

Well, before you go tearing up your precious hardwoods, RE- staining your floors is easier than you think – and with a professional taking the lead on the project – you can have beautiful ‘new’ hardwood floors before you know it! 

Want a completely different change, try painting your floors, a far less expensive way to instantly update your flooring - and you can pump it up with personality! Try stripes, patterns, or a touch of color for a new look.

Contractor Issues

"It was just supposed to be a simple remodel, but you’ve hired and fired multiple contractors, and are still not happy with the project. You think every crew in town’s been through our house and your budget."  

It’s time for a reality check: Not all contractors were created equal. They each have different certifications, specialties, and backgrounds. For instance, one may specialize in small residential remodels while another only focuses on building homes. Before you choose your contractor, do your homework. Interview multiple potential candidates, and ask for the names and numbers of past clients for referrals.


Check out my blog 10 Questions to Ask a Potential Contractor for more suggestions.


And last but certainly not least – Handyman Issues


"Your handyman has been at the house so much lately, your kids think he’s a long-lost uncle. There are just so many little improvements that need to be done… you don’t think you can afford to pay him any more money!" 


Think about this – can you do it yourself... DIY? In one weekend, you can make a trip to the home improvement store, gather materials, and finish a small repair or update. Don’t know where to start? Try making a “to-do” list for projects you see around the house.  And before you head to the store, calculate exactly what your materials should be so that there’s no overbuying or overspending.

for your reference: 10 questions to ask a potential contractor

Over the years, I have collected quite an assortment of reference guides for my clients.  Many of them file these 'sheets' in a three ring binder for their reference on future projects .  I thought that this blog might be a great way to share some of these reference 'sheets' with you, too!
You can download the .pdf of this post HERE for your personal reference.

You've spent hours tearing out pages in home magazines and poring over plans, and finally you've chosen the look you want. You're ready to build your dream home or tackle that master-bedroom addition.
Just one question remains:
Who is going to do the work?

To help with that selection, here are 10 questions for you to ask any potential contractors or builders.

1. What types of projects do you do? Match your job to the builder. Some contractors may be better at new construction - others at remodeling. Explore pricing as well. A builder that concentrates on million-dollar custom homes may not be the best choice for a modest cottage on a tight budget.

2. Can I see some of your projects? Good builders are proud of their work and enjoy showing it to potential clients. Ask to see photographs of complete projects, and choose someone whose work looks similar to the job you're planning.

3. Can I talk to some of your former clients? Word of mouth is often the best way to find and learn about a builder.

4. Are you licensed and insured? Depending on the state, builders should have a state-issued home builder's license in addition to a local business license. They and their subcontractors also should carry general liability and workman's compensation liability insurance.

5. How long have you been in the business? While longevity isn't a guarantee of quality or reliability, it is an indication that the builder can run a job successfully and satisfy clients.

6. How do you handle callbacks?
You need to hire a builder who is willing to return to the site and fix any building-related problems that may arise - even after the job is finished.

7. How much do you charge? While an experienced builder may be able to give you a rough cost estimate, most really can't give an exact number until you work out plans and specifications.

8. What is your payment schedule? Most professional builders work on a pay-as-you-go basis, receiving partial payments throughout the process. The payments for new construction, also called draws, typically are scheduled as a certain percentage of the total cost when specific stages of construction are completed. Avoid any contractor who wants full payment before starting the job.

9. With whom will I be working on the jobsite?
Know who your main contact will be. Some builders supervise in person; others use superintendants or foremen to handle day-to-day operations.

10. Do you belong to any type of professional building organization? Professional licensing often is a requirement for membership in a group such as the
National Association of Home Builders. Members also are encouraged to attend continuing education program courses, and they often receive professional designations such as Certified Graduate Builder (CGB). Because licensing and membership in this type of organization is an indication of a builder's knowledge and reputability, you're likely to find a good builder through such an organization.

Have you had a bad experience with a contractor?

don't overlook these design details of a room

I believe good design isn’t just in the look and balance of a room –
Good Design is also...  “All in the Detail” (of course)

Interiors should be both functional and comfortable while maintaining a sense of style. Think carefully about how the room will be used and who will be using it. For instance, if the room is going to be used for entertaining… be sure to plan for extra seating.

Try separating a large room into several different areas with different functions.  Think about an area for reading; an area for conversation; and maybe even an area for dining all in the same living room. These divisions can be accomplished by using distinct furniture groupings and rugs to define the area.

A small space may require furniture that has extra storage and versatility, like a media cabinet with shelves, an ottoman that serves as a trunk at the foot of a bed, a trunk that serves as a coffee table or a dining table with extensions to help it vary in size and function.

Identify the focal point of a room, such as a fireplace, the television or a window with a view. Then place your furniture to draw attention to that focal point.

Arrange the main piece of furniture in a room first (for instance, the bed in the bedroom or the sofa in the living room), next related pieces of furniture (the bedside tables or end tables), and finally the secondary pieces (a reading chair & a side table and dresser for the bedroom; or the coffee table and accessories for the living room).

Consider the balance of the furniture. Keep pieces of similar scale together.  A large coffee table would look better in front of a sofa than in front of a small love seat. Balance large pieces such as a sofa with either another large feature or with several smaller items, such as two small armchairs.

Keep traffic patterns in mind when arranging a room. Leave at least 2 feet for walkways and avoid forcing traffic patterns through conversational spaces if possible. 

Tips on Spacing:
  • To encourage conversation, place chairs and sofas within 8 feet of each other. Remember to place tables next to seating for food and drinks.
  • If a home office is going to be used as an occasional guest bedroom, consider a day bed or a sleeper sofa instead of trying to squeeze a full size bed into the space.
  • Plan at least 24" of clear space behind dining and desk chairs (measure this by assuming someone is already seated).
  • Allow sufficient space in front of dressers and console to allow doors and drawers to be opened easily.
  • Allow 14 to 18" between a coffee table and the front of the sofa.
  • You may want to position newspaper on the floor of the room itself, representing each furniture piece in actual size, to see how your layout will impact the traffic flow.
  • Before purchasing any large pieces of furniture, make sure the items will fit through all doors and entryways, elevators, and staircases.

Ultimately, your home is an expression of who you are so design your space to be comfortable and to reflect your personality and lifestyle.