I recently held a forum for consumers to discuss their design issues. Here is some of the conversation and questions we had.

Q: I would love to use some bold patterns on my upholstery. What do I have to know to successfully do this?

A: Using big, bold patterns definitely makes a statement. It is best to do this as accents rather than on a large piece – of course, pillows are an obvious choice. You have flexibility and can enhance a pattern when the color is used as a background to bring out the colors in the print. You also can upholster a screen and use it by the windows, behind a piece of furniture or as a visual divider in a room.

Q: How do you feel about mixing styles and finishes?

A: This is one of my favorite things to do because it creates interest in a room and adds personality – your personality – to a room. This is your opportunity to be daring and experiment. For example, you can put things together and create your own combination and style. A frequently used word for this style is eclectic; a good example is when you combine a French-style desk with a contemporary chair. You are saying, “I am different, and I’m not afraid to show it.”

Q: I see leather is back in a big way. Is it easy to use when decorating?

A: Yes, leather is a popular material today. It is easier than ever to use when decorating because:

  1. It comes in a variety of colors – the palate of colors is almost endless, from the brightest to the most muted tones. It’s fun and interesting to use leathers in unexpected colors. It’s a whole new way to look at leather.
  2. The feel of the leather is so soft that if you close your eyes you think it is fabric.
  3. Price. Leather has become more affordable. However, the softer the leather, the higher the price will be. You can mix your leathers with fabrics such as chenille and more economical microfibers on the same piece to give interest and contrast.

Q: I have notice furniture is mirrored. How can we use these pieces?

A: Mirrored furniture is back. This is a trend from the 1940’s that made a glamorous and dramatic statement in any room. It is being used on all kinds of furniture, Years ago a client had a miniature piano that I mirrored, and it was the talk of the home. Today’s interpretation has gone even further; such as mirrored dressers and sinks installed in them for bathrooms.

Here are some designer trends you can consider. Don’t feel like you have to match your furniture pieces – mix and match finishes, styles and scale. It’s interesting not to place furniture against a wall. Come up with different ways to arrange the furniture to make it more significant – such as placing the furniture at an angle or floating the seating to make the space appear more open and large.

Paint walls bright colors. Instead of having white ceilings, paint them the same color as the wall. If your wall color is dark, make sure the ceiling color is half the intensity. This will make the ceiling color appear the same because it is facing down. By painting the ceiling you can make the room feel cozier and not break up the look you created by painting the walls a special color.

There is no one way to decorate a room. Your imagination and understanding of your needs is all it takes when you remember that, “Rooms have no feelings, YOU do!”

Written By

Holistic Living — It’s All About Design! Ask Barbara! Barbara Kaplan is an interior designer specializing in holistic living. For information, call 480.998.5088 or visit


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