The secrets to creating a beautiful interior. You can do it!

This post started out being about home accessories, but I had a little snafu this past week. Some of you may have seen me groaning on facebook. I spent all day contorting my body into bizarre pretzel shapes because I was photographing four rooms.

Got home and after phone calls to Canon, etc. discovered that the camera’s memory card had Alzheimer’s. The information appeared to be going in. But… nope. The camera done checked out.

Onto another topic that I hope you’ll enjoy!

I’ve been working on three new jobs since the end of summer and this is a very good one to make my point about the secret to creating a beautiful interior. This client, I’ll call her Em, actually reads my blog! Of course, she’s as nice as can be, or I wouldn’t be talking about her!



Here’s the living room done by the previous owners.

The home was built in 1916 and is an English center hall-style. It’s a very lovely, classic home in a historic district.

Before Em hired me, she had worked with an architect because she’s doing some renovations. He also does interior design. (he says) He asked her to choose a painting as the inspiration for a color scheme.

That part is wonderful!

[tweet_box design=”default”]Using art as inspiration for colors and design themes is one of the best interior design hacks ever![/tweet_box]

As it happens, Em has a doctorate in art history and she chose this lesser known masterpiece by Edouard Manet

2manet13Luncheon In The Studio

Very cool highly sophisticated color scheme.

The architect chose an awesome fabric for the dining chairs from J Robert Scott.

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 10.36.23 AM

The table and chairs are traditional, so this fabric will make an interesting counterpoint. Em loves this.

What’s a little freaky, is that I did not know about the painting until the other day. You’ll see why in a bit.

Em found this incredible Belle Epoque chandelier for the dining room. I love how it’s fanciness plays against the geometry of the chair fabric. I spent way too long trying to locate one that looks something like it.

Em’s is actually square, with crystal and antique brass or bronze. It feels a lot like this one but isn’t exactly like it. Mag

The architect sold Em on some black velvet drapes. Here’s where it begins to fall apart.

Em picked them up the other day and they

They were made with the most humongous pinch pleats I’ve ever seen.


Sorry, but pinch pleats went out with the 80’s. It’s fine if you still do them, but you rarely see them in any of the high-end shelter magazines. In addition the drapes are velvet, so these pinch pleats looked like a row of hungry Sharpeis.


awwww… tho cute!

but not for drapes!

That’s problem number one.

Problem number two is like the doggie, the drapes are brown, not black. (these aren’t them. I wish they were!)


We need sheers for some privacy as the drapes are only a single panel. (mistake #3. Too skimpy for a large window)

Our sheer is black. (not ordered yet)

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 7.51.38 PM


Oh dear. No Good. This isn’t working, but it’s not our fault!

Em wants a mix of vintage, contemporary and traditional. This is beginning to look like vintage Adams Family! lol  Em agreed. We decided to do a sort of Scarlet O’Hara and reupholster two chairs with the velvet drapes.

Back to the drawing board.

Em wants a fresh look and she chose my favorite shade of white paint. Benjamin Moore Cotton Balls oc-122.

Alright. This one’s simple.

White walls. White drapes. White linen drapes. We’ll make them full enough to close so we won’t need sheers.

We had already established a color scheme of black and white, with touches of gold and neutrals. This will be better.



I love this tape by Mary McDonald for F. Schumacher.

The Design Process for Creating a Beautiful Interior

We’ve been working on the living room, dining room and entry for a few weeks now.

The beginning of the design process is to

  • discuss, needs, wish lists, style, color and general budget. You can do this for yourself too!
  • I always begin with a floor plan and once that’s approved, start to select furnishings.
  • What I do is go shopping online and recently, Laurel’s Rolodex has been incredibly helpful!

I’m loving mine so much!

  • I put all of the furnishings into folders and then start to narrow them down. Putting them side by side helps to visualize how they will look together.

Here’s a board I made for y’all to show you where we’re at.


This isn’t exactly what we’re doing, but it’s pretty close. For every image you see here, there are at least three more that hit the cutting room floor. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but it’s fun work.

The look hearkens back to a time right around when the home was built with its Art Deco elements. One of my favorites is this interpretation by Thomas O’Brien for Circa Lighting. We’re doing Six in the Living Room and then two each in the center hall and dining room. Since all three areas are open to the other it creates a continuity between the spaces.

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 4.08.48 PM

If you look closely, you’ll see that there are repetitions of design elements that make for a kind of dialog.

It includes color, pattern, and style. That’s what you want to go for. That is, without making it too “theme-y” or predictable.

And that is the secret to creating a beautiful room.

As I said, I only found out about the painting (and added another one by Manet for the board) a few days ago! Yet all of the fabrics had been selected before that.

Here are a few more detail shots from the board.

thibaut-sofa-upholstered-in-crypton-high-point-furniture-market-miracle-fabric copy

We’re going to be using the Thibaut Crypton for the two sofas in the living room! So excited about that!


A Detail shot of the main painting

An important note is that while the painting has all of the colors, it doesn’t mean that they have to be used in the same concentration. We don’t need huge blobs of black! In addition, it’s fine to play with the colors a little. By that, use a lemon yellow and then a little chartreuse or even apple green.

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 7.27.51 PM

Here’s a shot of blue that’s in the painting. Love this lamp from Circa Lighting.

2manet17A detail shot of Portrait of Emile Zola by Edouard Manet


A document print from Schumacher. Shanghai Peacock. Selected before I knew about the paintings!


A detail shot of a gorgeous Tobi Fairley room showing a white drapery trimmed.

Screen Shot 2015-11-07 at 10.18.30 PM

Peace Out!

Hey, just be glad, I didn’t put in the one called “The Finger.” haha!

Photo redo on Tuesday. Please stay tuned!



30 Responses

  1. Hi Laurel, love the looks and advice, thank you.

    You said that pinch pleats are very 80’s. I am just about to have some natural creamy linen drapes made. They will be in a classic enviroment and thought French pleats (triple pleats) may be the way to go offering a more tailored look but after reading your comment I would like to have a different header.

    Can I ask what would be your advice in this situation please?

    1. Hi Wendy,

      I love the Parisian Pleat. It’s smaller that the French pleat and pinched at the top. I believe there is an example or two in the post. I’m in the back end and not looking at the post. :]

      1. Thank you Laurel. I have never even heard of the Parisian Pleat, I will have a look. I had no idea that pleated drapes were considered outdated!

        1. Hi Wendy,

          It’s a small detail, but if you look closely in all of the high-end shelter magazines, you will rarely find the traditional pinch pleat.

          I haven’t done it for the entire 21 years of my business unless the drapes are under a valance.

  2. Hey Laurel I would love to hear how the Krypton sofas worked out, how Em liked them, how the fabric holds up. I really see no reason to specify myself any other fabric when I buy new seating. I noticed Pottery Barn is using some Krypton linen for a performance fabric choice. It seems super. Thank you for the idea of using art for inspiration. Does this mean that all the art in ones house must be variants of the main color scheme?

    1. Hi Karen,

      The fabric is holding up beautifully.

      No, it doesn’t mean that all of the art needs to be variants of the main color scheme. In fact, art is a great way of introducing some other colors. But it all depends on what else is going on.

    1. Hi Laurie,

      I use to make my boards. You can also do boards in polyvore and olioboard. And a lot of people use Canva and like it. I like picmonkey because as you can see, you can make a really big board. Or you can make little boards and then put them together to make one big one.

      Of course, there’s always photo shop, but I’ve never used that because it has a hefty price tag.

  3. beautiful choices! we are in the midst of curtain-ing was told by a designer friend to do pinch pleats. probably echoing cathy above…we hate grommets too! what to do?

  4. Laurel, I hope you post pictures when it is completed. I love all your choices. The sconces are gorgeous!

  5. Love your blog( I am new to it) I am in a deep rut as well-downsized-moved to Seattle from Philly upon retirement simply cant get going -all my east coast touchstones are not here for advice-unfamiliar territory. I need to reupholster 3 pieces and get the cute little ouse feeling like us. I determined I needed either a rug or painting “real” for inspiration-but perhaps sorting through art books could be a solution. Cant afford an original Manet. The whole thing is daunting and I am going in circles.


    1. Hi Wenonah, Just take a deep breath and go slowly. Make a plan. Look for inspiration in magazines, pinterest and see how you want your room to feel. BTW, there are cheap Chinese oil paintings. Well, relatively cheap. I have a large one that cost about $500. They’ll send you a photo of the painting when it’s done and if you don’t like it, they’ll redo it. They did a very nice job.

    2. Wow-Chinese paintings knew?! I think you are saying they will do reproduction kind of thing? Where does one find that in Seattle. Thanks so much for responding to all of these comments.

  6. Love your blog( I am new to it) I am in a deep rut as well-downsized-moved to Seattle from Philly upon retirement simply cant get going -all my east coast touchstones are not here for advice-unfamiliar territory. I need to reupholster 3 pieces and get the cute little ouse feeling like us. I determined I needed either a rug or painting “real” for inspiration-but perhaps sorting through art books could be a solution. Cant afford an original Manet. The whole thing is daunting and I am going in circles.


  7. I love,love,love your blog. This is going to be a beautiful space. I am looking around my house and I see a hodge podge of styles. What do you do if you are a Dorrie with a very short attention span?

    1. Hi Marilynn,

      Gosh, that would make a great blog post. How to pull together a hodge podge of styles.

      However, I can relate to a short attention span. Very well. lol

  8. Laurel, your blog is terrific. I appreciate that you’ve shared your sense of humor and so much knowledge about why certain things do and don’t work.(You have converted me to a lover of sconces! And of cotton balls oc-122! And restored my faith in my own sense of proportion!) Thanks for highlighting drapery trim—it’s gorgeous

    1. Thanks for stopping by Beth! I love sconces because they give off the best light, IMO. As for proportion, I’d like to start a crusade to ban over-scale furniture! Ban the Mcmansions. Ban those trucks that some people mistakenly refer to as a car. My beef is that they eat up our tiny parking spots in NY!

      I’ll get off my soap box now. lol

  9. Hi Laurel, This room will be beautiful – I have a feeling the whole house will be spectacular! OK. I’m in a deep old rut and I like traditionally styled curtains (and I hate grommets). So what do you do for curtain headers to be more ‘today’? Cathy D.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      I knew that I was opening up a can of drapery hooks there. ;] But, that is definitely a separate blog post and one I will do very soon! There are a couple posts here which discuss window treatments, but not all of the fine details. And there are numerous. BTW, none of them I learned in interior design school. I went there for three years, full-time and had not one clue what to do until I worked for someone else for four years. And even then, only learned half of what I know now.

      Thanks for the suggestion and yes, it’s a gorgeous home to begin with. The clients are in the process of doing some fabulous renovations!

  10. Can’t wait to watch the progress, I too learn so much from your blog and you always put a smile on my face with your humor! Have a great Sunday.

    1. Hi Sarah,

      Thank you so much! Sometimes it is difficult to break it all down. But like I was telling Eileen, there’s a collaboration and the client’s feedback and desires help make the selections 100 times easier!

  11. Thank you for your confidence, you can do it on your own. This post confirms I could never do it on my own. You see details and have skills way beyond the normal decorating enthusiast! Love this post.

    1. Haha! Eileen! Of course you can! The hardest part was making that graphic! What was I thinking?

      The only thing I have to say is… and probably something most of us decorators won’t admit. It is ten times easier to help someone else than to do our own place. Okay, it’s not exactly Sophie’s Choice, but…

      And even when doing someone else. For every job, I look at thousands of pieces of furniture. It’s like trying on wedding gowns! lol! The difference being, it’s my client’s wedding!

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Hi, I’m Laurel, and Laurel Home is the website and blog for Laurel Bern Interiors.
I’ve been creating new-traditional interiors since 1988. The blog is where I share all.

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