Décor That Dazzles

Couch doesn’t look quite right in the space? Pros offer insider tips on interior designDécor That DazzlesLocal Interior Designers Offer Tricks of the Trade

By Virginia Newman

As amateur designers of our own homes, we look at the pretty pictures in home magazines (those in the know call them “shelter magazines”), watch TV home shows, go online to search for products and ideas, look at houses in the community or browse through stores for inspiration.

But creativity, imagination and experience all play a vital role in making interior design work. Unfortunately, most of us are lacking one-or all-of the above. That’s where the pros come in. They’re trained in the complexities of color, style and proportion and spend their days immersed in the practicalities of getting the design job done.

Experience has given interior designers all sorts of resources and “tricks of the trade,” a fact illustrated during a chance conversation at a Realtor’s open house one weekend.

While discussing the home’s porch rockers, in-demand architect and interior designer Tammy Massey made an offhand remark, saying that when wood and metal outdoor furniture needs painting, she sends them to an auto body shop.

“It dries so hard and gives such a different, lasting look,” she said.

Which made us think: What other secret tips and tricks might interior designers know? And, more importantly, would they share?

So we found tips and ideas to help you with summer decorating – techniques or practices that interior designers may use but you may not know about.


Design & More: Keep it Simple

We start with words of wisdom from interior design consultants Russ and Rose Marie Brabec, owners of Design & More, a Market Square mainstay filled with elegant furnishings and décor. They have been in their interior design business for 16 years.

“Don’t overcrowd your rooms,” Rose Marie Brabec advised. “Sometimes people want to cram too many pieces of furniture into a room, when it would be much better to keep it simple. Remember the four basics of interior design – color, texture, proportion and balance. You’ll add years of style and beauty to your home.”

Asked if there are “do’s and don’ts” for decorating your home, the Brabecs smilingly said, “Not really.” They asserted that the most beautifully decorated homes are the result of careful thought and decision-making.

“You can never go wrong with the classics,” Russ Brabec said. “Trends come and go, but classics are timeless. What’s basic, what is ‘classic,’ will be around for a long time. It’s about being true to yourself and not being a fashion victim. It’s about not reading the magazines and thinking, ‘I’ve really got to go beige this year.’”

That said, Rose Marie Brabec confided that they are directing a lot of their attention now to how light affects the looks of a room. They are looking forward to an announcement by manufacturer Hunter Douglas about a hush-hush new type of window treatment to be announced in July. Always innovators, the Hunter Douglas legacy includes developing the first lightweight aluminum blind in 1946 and developing an energy-efficient honeycomb design in 1985.

Tammy Massey: Individual Character

Tammy Massey is licensed and holds professional degrees in both interior design and architecture. She blends her two talents, saying that “it all boils down to the spiritual essence of an environment for me. The character of the architecture has to flow interestingly and consistently with the interiors. You have to feel as one with it, whether it is a room, a series of spaces, an entrance garden, a view into a garden, an entire house or work space.”

She emphasizes that each client is different, with individual wants, needs and dreams that always are evolving. So today’s multi-purpose room can be anything from a Zen exercise room with a floor-incorporated running treadmill to a staggered stone wall with the soothing sound of trickling water, a Hollywood home theater or a wine collector’s authentic wine cellar. The room can address “all of our senses while successfully fulfilling its purpose,” Massey said.

She also observed that over the past few years, the kitchen has become much more technologically sophisticated. In most homes, it is the “gathering node” – the area that serves the most functions and attracts the most people.

“From uniquely designed custom cabinetry to the array of appliances and finishes available, I always allow the kitchen to evolve into a creative mecca,” Massey said.
Massey also noted that new emphasis is being placed on a room that demands practicality as well as visual attractiveness. Massey said the master suite’s bath/spa retreat is emerging as an area that demands as much knowledge and creativity as the kitchen. From heated floors, towel racks and drawers to overhead rain environments, cascading waterfalls, motion detection faucets and aromatherapy whirlpools, the master bath has transitioned into an interactive, theatrical stage that places us in the midst of our most passionately desired luxury retreat destination.

Julian Mathis Interior Design: Innovation

Julian Mathis is an established, well-known interior designer, whose work encompasses a combination of residential and commercial designs. He currently is ensconced in a building he acquired which was the old sheriffs’ headquarters on Thomasville Road. Mathis completely redesigned the building into living and working quarters by adding a third floor.

“My philosophy as an interior designer is to help the client pull their personality into their personal space,” Mathis said. “I want to see that it is one that they enjoy being in and that makes them feel comfortable.”

For a handy hint, he shared a recipe for restoring the finish of old furniture: apply a mixture of one-third turpentine, one-third tung oil and one-third vinegar. He says it really does a great job.

Mathis joined other designers in noting the continuing electronic revolution is exerting change in decorating. The bigger TVs are bringing families home more, and rooms increasingly are focused on the TV. The ubiquitous flat-screen TV seemingly is in every room – even the kitchen and bath.

“Now that TVs are a major part of today’s living, hide the TV behind sliding pictures or concealed-hinge panels,” Mathis said.

And with multi-purpose rooms gaining in popularity, Mathis suggests taking advantage of space typically wasted in high-pitched ceiling lines. He has designed movable, built-in bookcases, allowing access to a hidden room for a safe or valuables.

For the kitchen, he suggested another smart “secret”; installation of floor drains under the kitchen sink and dishwashers or in laundry rooms in case of water backups and overflows.

For kids’ rooms or built-in kitchen desks, he proposes a clever way to do a bulletin board with a magnet system by installing a metal sheet on a wall prior to wallpapering.

Afterward, magnets can be stuck right on the wall, with no magnet board showing.

Langston & Sprowls Interior Design: Style and Comfort

Cary Langston and Ellen Sprowls worked together for more than a dozen years with a Tallahassee interior design firm before deciding to join forces and go into business for themselves in 1993.

Over the years, they have worked on a wide variety of projects, from Florida State University sorority houses to residential and commercial properties. Sprowls said  people are more savvy today about their home – what it looks like, how it functions – and are wisely beginning to realize that an investment in their home today will bring rewards tomorrow in the housing market.

“It is important that residential interior design should be a personal reflection of life,” Sprowls said. “People today want stylish environments without sacrificing comfort. They still want to feel they can flop on the sofa – and that means more durable, kid- and pet-friendly fabrics and furniture.”

Langston has developed lots of interior design tips over the years, but she said one of her favorites is window treatments.

“A common error that we see is window treatments hung on the window casing, when there is space above to take advantage of,” she said. “To enhance the height of a room or even to make a ceiling feel taller, window treatments should be installed just a few inches below the ceiling. That accentuates the vertical line and draws the eye upward. Also, floor-length drapery panels should break when they touch the floor, appearing to be just a tad too long.”

In general, both Langston and Sprowls favor cleaning up bulky, fussy looks.

“We like clean lines, and oftentimes in accessories feel that less is more,” Langston said. “You could create a feeling of serenity in the master suite by selecting a soft color palette. Paint the walls and trim moldings the same color and tint the ceiling in a quiet neutral instead of white. One of my favorite colors is Benjamin Moore’s ‘Beach Glass.’”

Langston said she sees a growing decorating trend in wallpaper, a decorating tool that fell into disfavor in the 1980s but now is making a comeback with new styles and materials.

With home offices becoming a must in homes today, Langston also sees spare bedrooms being turned into home offices, as well as exercise rooms and libraries. Today’s professionals want comfort and relaxation after a hard day’s work, she said, while still being able to check in to the office from home as comfortably as possible.


Creative Design Solutions Inc.: Storage Spaces

Marcia Deeb Thornberry comes from a prominent Tallahassee family headed by her father, the late entrepreneur and philanthropist Syde P. Deeb.

“As a child, my father took me to his construction sites,” she said. “He always felt the interior was just as important as the exterior. He even let me pick out the furnishings for several homes in one of his subdivisions. After that I was hooked. I worked for my dad from the late ’60s until I took over his company in the late ’70s. We provided both construction and design services.”

Thornberry noted that when the state of Florida required interior designers to be licensed, she went back to school at FSU to complete both undergraduate and master’s degrees in interior design. She currently is working on a doctorate in merchandising and housing.

Her favorite tip for homeowners is baskets, which she uses all over her own home.

“I believe I have one or more baskets in every room of my home,” Thornberry said. “I use them on the floor in the bathrooms to store toilet paper, for trash, to hold folded washcloths or rolled hand towels and bath towels, for plants, makeup, soap, sponges, toiletries, etc., including under the sink for beauty and cleaning supplies.”

In the main rooms of the house, a variety of baskets store plants, books, magazines and sit on a shelf under the sofa table. CDs, DVDs and movies are in different baskets, and the grandchildren know which baskets house theirs.         

In one of the guest rooms, Thornberry sorts out the different-size diapers for each grandchild and has two very large baskets with wheels for some of their toys. This makes it easier to move them around the house and put them away after they leave.

In her kitchen there is a cabinet devoted entirely to baskets of various shapes and sizes. She uses them to serve bread, for chips, under glass dishes or serving pieces. Even in her living and dining rooms, which are somewhat formal, there are baskets with plants. In their office area, baskets abound for such items as files, clips, pens and pencils, and rubber bands.

“Baskets are a quick, easy, decorative and fun way to store and organize just about anything,” Thornberry said.


Online Tips 

Try these Web sites for more ideas on decorating your home.

• decoratingsecrets.net

• hgtv.com/hgtv/decorating

• decoratorsecrets.com

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