2020 Kips Bay Decorator Show House Dallas

2020 Kips Bay Decorator Show House Dallas

Eight miles north of downtown, this story and a half estate with over 11,000 square feet was chosen for the inaugural Dallas show house location.  Reminiscent of a villa in Provence, the exterior features ivy-covered natural stone, limestone accents, a steeply pitched slate roof and elegant pool area.  The house was built in 2003 with 18 rooms including 5 bedrooms and 8 baths.

Twenty-seven descriptively named spaces were completed by interior designers, architects and landscape architects from Texas, California, Oklahoma and North Carolina.  There are some consistent themes that were also on display in August’s Lake Forest Showhouse.


Get ready because you will be seeing more and more pattern and color!  Nearly every interior space had wallpaper or fabric covered walls and some ceilings.  A few applications were more subtle and textural, but most were patterned and colorful.

High Sheen

Several rooms featured lacquered walls and ceilings which means perfecting surfaces, applying several coats of paint and a urethane alkyd gloss.  Any defects are magnified by the glass-like shine so it’s a complex and time-consuming process.  (Read expensive.)  Lacquering was also seen on some furniture.  If you are willing to give it a go, I want to see after photos!

Colorful Traditional

Designers want their show house spaces to reflect their best work and no detail was spared. Layered window treatments and rugs, tented beds, gorgeous lighting, interesting art, abundant accessories, a dash of animal prints, decorative trim and lots of monogramming defined the traditional looks.  Green seemed to be the favorite color, with some use of a newer, more olive tone.   Blue came in second with guest appearances from gold, lavender, red and eggplant.  Unlike other times, whatever color suits you seems to now be available in home furnishings.

Modern Neutrals

Since Texas is known to be more traditional, only a handful of rooms displayed a modern or transitional style.  All were primarily shown in neutral colors of cream, brown, black and a little gray. Clean straight lines and smooth curves with lots of texture made the spaces inviting.

Global Influences and Beyond

The French Provincial feel did not stop at the exterior, however, other cultural styles were represented in many of the rooms: a Spanish screened porch named “La Matadora”, the Moroccan-inspired bedroom “Turkish Writer’s Lair”, “Casa Fiorentina” for the Italian living room and even a futuristic serving spot called “Bunny Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness Bar”.  Creativity everywhere!

Indoor/Outdoor Living

With the temperate weather of Dallas, outdoor spaces can be enjoyed year-round.  No need to close pools if fountains keep water moving to prevent possible freezing.  Overlooking the pool area, a fireplace keeps the screened porch comfortable and a swinging bed is steps away from seating around a fire pit.

For photos and more info on spaces mentioned, go to @DesignerlyExperience on my Instagram feed or Beautiful Rooms LLC on Facebook.  Please share.  And, since it was such a large estate, there will be more posts for inspiration to come!

Countertop Conundrum

Countertop Conundrum

Some clients have a difficult time choosing the kind of countertops they want when building or remodeling their kitchens and baths. Consider personal preference on look, cost, heat and stain resistance, maintenance, ease of cleaning and, perhaps, resale value.  (In terms of investment, think twice before putting new countertops on dated cabinets.)  Here’s the 411 on some of the choices, with all but one category suitable for either room.  Once you have decided on the material, you still have choices on the price point, pattern, color and edge style.  In kitchens, you may choose two or more materials for variety.  A design professional can assist you through the maze.


The most budget friendly choice is seeing a resurgence due to retro looks.  There are endless colors and patterns that resemble stone, metal, wood and concrete.  It’s versatility and price make laminate popular in the commercial sector.  Laminate doesn’t stain but is heat sensitive, can scratch or chip and has fewer edge style choices.


Depending on the tile you choose, it can be on the lower end of the price spectrum.  Grout lines are visible and difficult to keep clean but tile is easy for DIYers to install.  Most options are stain resistant and not easily scratched but can crack if heavy objects are dropped on the countertop.  All edges are finished with bullnose tile, wood or metal and natural stone tile needs sealing.


The warmth of wood is the main attraction.  Butcher block has long been used as a countertop because it is easy on knives.  Just like your wood cutting boards, they scratch and may warp with too much exposure to water so it shouldn’t be used near the sink.  Any wood can be used as a plain island but will need to be sealed frequently and maintained like furniture.  Wood is available with many edge treatments and can be refinished as needed.  For the eco-conscious, countertops can be made from reclaimed wood which has excellent heat resistance.


Considered a more contemporary look, the main advantage is concrete countertops can be created in a single pour with no seams.  Priced on par with a medium granite, it takes an experienced professional to fabricate correctly.  Concrete can be custom tinted to your choice of colors and a sealer is needed regularly to prevent staining. Surprisingly, it is easily scorched.


Almost any metal can be made into a countertop as they are nonporous, antimicrobial, easy to clean and heat resistant but most are noisy, scratch or dent easily and can be etched with acidic foods.  Stainless steel is seen most often in commercial kitchens and the look is considered cold by most homeowners.  With copper, zinc, pewter, bronze and brass, the finish oxidizes over time which changes the look or patina, sometimes irregularly.  Both bronze and brass are harder and less susceptible to scratches and dents.  All are expensive because you are buying a sheet of metal that will need to be bent, soldered and fit to your space.  There are a variety of edge options.


Once the most desired material, granite has come in second for the past 5 years.  Due to the increased popularity of white kitchens, granite’s generally darker colors and care have taken a back seat to lighter, easy-care quartz.  Heat resistant, hard to scratch but can be chipped (and repaired), granite does need to be sealed regularly to prevent staining.  Standard thickness is 3cm (1.25”) so beware of lower pricing for 2 cm (.75”) which is not as durable.  If you prefer the more luxurious look of even thicker countertops, make sure your cabinets and floors can hold the extra weight.  Many edge styles are available and edge treatments can be added to give the appearance of thicker granite.  Pricing is by grade with the lowest for more common patterns and can go way up from there.  Since granite is a natural stone, you will need to reserve the number of slabs necessary for your job from the same stone cutting to have color continuity.  There will usually be seams but a careful template layout of your job can make them nearly invisible.


Historically, marble is the princess of all countertops: beautiful and high maintenance.  (Above right photo shows Carrera Marble.)  Softer than granite, marble is a natural stone that scratches, chips and stains without regular sealing.  In addition, it can etch with acidic vinegars and wines which dull the finish.  If you choose marble, it is best to understand the limitations and accept the imperfections with aging as character.  Marble stays cool which makes it an excellent choice for rolling out pastry.  Pricing starts at a medium granite and goes higher. Beware of engineered marble (marble pieces and resin) and cultured marble (marble dust and resin) which are usually only available in prefab counters for bathrooms.  The same caveats apply to thickness, reserving multiple slabs and templating as stated in the granite description.

Exotic Stones

Examples include quartzite (not to be confused with quartz), slate and agate.  These beautiful and rare stones start pricing at the higher grades of granite and go up.  Quartzite has a similar look to marble but is harder and more durable so it may be an even trade, dollar wise.  Slate can be brittle on the edges and agate can be very busy.  Each kind of exotic stone has it’s own limitations that should be considered.


The reigning favorite countertop material is sometimes called engineered stone.  Quartz is man-made by combining crushed stone waste and less than 10% resins to form slabs that have no pattern repeat.  There are many companies that make quartz but the top three manufacturers are Cambria (shown in upper left photo), Caesarstone and Silestone.  Quartz has graded price points starting equal to a medium grade granite.  Again, be cautious on lower pricing as it may be made in China, known to have inconsistencies in quality.  Quartz is durable, easy to clean and heat resistant, although I would still use a trivet for hot pots.  It can be scratched so do not use abrasive cleaners or pads.  There are many patterns and colors with as many edge styles and treatment choices as granite or marble.  Quartz can be whiter in color than natural stone which has made it more popular along with the fact that it needs no sealing.

Bathrooms only

There are solid surfaces that work nicely in an extra bathroom but are thinner and have little heat resistance making them unsuitable for kitchens.  Cultured marble and cultured granite are two examples that are made with stone dust or pieces and resin.  It is also available in sheets for walls.

Choose carefully.  When I was updating my kitchen, for budget reasons, I chose a darker, common granite called Santa Cecilia.  The specks of black, brown, gray and gold make it very difficult to see if it is clean.  You may think that sounds like a positive but kitchen counters should be sanitary and I have to get down to eye level to see if I missed a spot.  In addition, I once read that you will tire faster of the common patterns.  After 9 years, I have to agree.


Treat your Windows Part 2

Treat your Windows Part 2

When I started in business 25 years ago, it was during a window treatment heyday.  Oh, baby!  Multi-layers with swags, cascades, sheers and panels ruled the day.  For me it was a baptism of fire to get up to speed on how to design, select fabric, price and order soft window treatments.  Guess what?  It’s all coming back. . . in a slightly different way!  After 10+ years of simpler treatments, the focus has returned to dressing the windows.

There are 2 categories of window treatments and last week I covered hard products which include shutters, blinds and shades.  (See previous blog.)  Today, I will explore soft products or anything sewn of fabric that includes draperies, panels, top treatments and soft shades.  Rule number 1: All must be lined!  Lining provides sun protection for the face fabric, creates a nicer drape or hang and gives uniformity to your windows at the street view. (It is just wrong to arrive at a home and see multi-colors at the windows!)  Custom is far better because it is made just for your window size and you can choose the style, fabric, trim and correct lining.  All are critical decisions but style and fabric must be considered together for a successful treatment.  However, there are some ready-made, lined, fabric treatments that can work if you follow the suggestions below.

Here is some general info on hem lengths, fullness and hanging height.  Anything full-length should be no more than ½” off the floor and I prefer touching or breaking, like a pant leg on your shoe.  In the past, puddling (an extra 18” of length) was popular in formal rooms.  If draperies are on the floor, it is difficult to vacuum and puddling was attractive to pets as a nap spot.  Too long is better than too short!

Draperies, panels and some valance styles should use enough fabric, before pleating or fabrication, to be at least 2 ½ times the width of the rod.  This is called fullness and if you don’t use that much fabric, it will look skimpy.  For sheers, 3 times fullness is suggested.  To draw the draperies off the window for full glass exposure, make sure you have enough room for a wider rod.  You need a rod that is 1 ½ times the glass for full view.

I disagree with other professional recommendations to hang the drapery rod as high as possible, by themselves.  The rectangle of wall space formed by the rod, top of the window and draperies draws your eye.  Longer draperies do create a sense of height in the room so I use a valance on top or under the draperies to cover that nagging wall space.  (See example in right photo above.)


One of few soft treatments that can be used for privacy, draperies are designed to cover the window in fabric.  There are 2 methods for opening and closing: hanging on a decorative traversing rod or on rings that slide back and forth on a decorative fixed rod.  Both methods require top pleats to insert hooks.  If you choose rings, it is recommended to have a baton attached to the inside rings for opening without tugging on the fabric.  Note: white utility rods are not meant to be seen!  Draperies should be on decorative rods unless a top treatment will cover.  At this time, I would not suggest a tab top (attached fabric loops) or grommet top (metal covered buttonholes) drapery style for any reason but please don’t think you can slide them closed. You can’t!


Stationary draperies are called panels, which are meant to frame the sides of a window.  Side panels should appear that they could be drawn closed so it needs the same amount of fullness as traversing draperies.  I do sometimes cheat a bit on this but a single side panel should never be less that one width of fabric for a single window.  (I once saw ½ widths in a display home and they looked like ribbons!)  For wider windows please add fullness.

Sheers and Casements

Fabrics that are transparent and unlined are called sheers and come in solids, colors and patterns.  Casements are heavier in weight with a more open weave, also hung unlined, and add a lot of texture to a room.  Both types of fabrics offer minimal privacy but can be a lighter finishing touch.

Top Treatments

The number of top treatments styles are nearly endless and come in and out of fashion.  Most are casual and I would only use them in casual rooms like kitchens, bathrooms and kid’s rooms where full-length draperies do not make sense.  The classic and historical swags are more formal.  Top treatments can hang from a decorative rod or be board-mounted.  The length is determined by adding the window height plus any additional hanging space and dividing by 5.  You can visually expand the height of a window by hanging them higher than the top frame with a length that just reaches the glass to allow a full view.  Never make a top treatment less than 12” – 18” long.  The width should fit like a hat; just past the window trim or edge on either side.  (See example of soft shade top treatment in above left photo.)

Soft Shades

Not to be confused with a hard product shade, soft shades are operable, come in a variety of styles and can be made from your choice of fabric.  Currently, roman shades are very popular but I don’t suggest them for the front windows of the house because the lift cords on the back are visible to the street.

As you can see, there are many decisions to make on draperies and top treatments and it is easy to make mistakes.  It is a product category that requires ongoing learning and I recommend you seek the guidance of a design professional.  Every designer or decorator has a window treatment team that includes fabric and trim resources, a sewing workroom and installer so you can get just the look and function you want.  Soft window treatments are the finishing touch to any well-designed room!

Treat your Windows Part 1

Treat your Windows Part 1

Window treatments fall into two categories. Part 1 will cover hard products which include shutters, blinds and shades.  All are primarily used for privacy and/or sun control and my descriptions are about custom-made only because ready-made never really fits correctly.  (I know this from personal experience in my pre-designer life!)  Next week, Part 2 will discuss soft products or anything sewn of fabric that includes draperies, sheers, panels, top treatments and soft shades.  Selected for style and beauty, they are the necessary finishing touch to a well-designed space.

Hard Products

Function, cost and visibility of the treatment will help you make your decision.  The two styles I suggest the most are shutters and woven wood shades (shown above).  Yes, both are higher on pricing but are the only hard products that are sometimes able to stand alone in casual areas without soft treatments.  Shutters, blinds and woven woods are usually mounted on the outside wood trim but blinds and some shades may also be mounted on the inside of the window space, most commonly seen in drywall openings.  Specialty window shapes are available in most categories but may not be operable.

In 2018 compliance was mandated by the Window Covering Manufacturers Association on new standards to prevent danger to children and pets by removing accessible cording on hard products.  There are still imported products available so please note that safety features should include cordless operation, breakaway tassels, covered inner cords and secured loop controls.


Probably the most purchased hard products are blinds.  They can be made of metal, vinyl, wood or a composite of wood pulp and polymer known as faux wood.  The slats can be horizontal or vertical, ½” to 3 ½” wide.  For homes, I would not recommend metal or vinyl blinds and only in rare circumstances would I use a vertical blind.  These are your least expensive options and they have a commercial look.  Wood and faux wood horizontal blinds should have slats at least 2” wide however your view will be better with larger slats.  Wood warps with moisture so faux wood is a great alternative in high humidity areas like over sinks, in bathrooms and garages.  Pricing on blinds starts on the lower end but special finishes and options will increase the cost.  Also, blinds are fairly easy to measure, order and install with a drill.

Most companies offer cordless lift blinds for ease of use and safety.  A tilt wand or cord will still be needed to open and close the slats.  Horizontal blinds are not recommended if you want to raise and lower daily.  On windows over 36” wide, they can be heavy to lift and have a high stack at the top window which will block the view.  Blinds will be the same finish on the inside and street view.


A clean, classic look, shutters will give you partial or complete privacy, sun control and increase your home value because they are considered a fixture.  Disadvantages include high price and blocking more of the light and view.  If it fits the window, a larger louver size can increase both light and view.  Shutters are made of wood with stain or paint choices.  Faux wood selections only come in a painted look. Shutters are made like doors on hinges and to fully open, you need to be aware of nearby furniture.  (If you have tilt-in windows for cleaning, a wider shutter may need to be ordered for access to the tilt function.) The shutter louvers tilt with 2 options: a tilt bar, for a traditional look, or invisible tilt which looks more streamlined and modern. The tilt may also be split for privacy below and light above (like photo at top).  Shutters will also be the same color on front and back.  Expert measuring, ordering and installation is recommended.


There are many different styles and fabrics available within each company’s offering but these are not the same as custom sewn shades.  Each style has different size restrictions and applications.  A good method of judging how much you will be able to see in your windows at night is to hold the fabric to the window during the day.  What you can see out, you will see in with the light reversed.

The woven woods that I mentioned as a favorite can operate like a roman shade.  There are hundreds of woven fabrics in many colors and they are available lined for privacy.  I prefer them unlined to enjoy the natural beauty of the weave.  Even unlined, there are weaves that provide good opacity and are available in top down/bottom up for café style coverage (like photo at top).  If unlined, the fabric will be the same on the street side.

Roller shades have made a comeback and are not the same as Grandma’s.  Light blocking capability and privacy should be considered in selecting the right fabric.  Solid vinyl provides room darkening and solar fabrics reduce heat and glare.  There are many decorative fabrics as well.  Roller shades can operate on spring tension (cordless, like Grandma’s but improved) or have a continuous loop cord to raise and lower.  Some offer decorative cassettes to hide the roll at the top of the window and some fabrics can be white to the street view.

Honeycomb shades are the only hard product that provide an insulating factor at the windows.  They come in various pleat sizes, fabrics and colors, always with white lining to the street.  One of their biggest selling features is that they collapse to a very small stack at the top of the window for full view and, with cordless, all but disappear.  Honeycomb shades are also available in top down/bottom up.

Other popular styles are variations on a fabric vane between 2 sheers that roll up into a cassette.  Again, the street side is always white.


Most hard window products are available with some kind of motorization: hard wired or battery operated.  (On 2-story windows, it is almost required or you will have 2-story cords to wrangle!)  The most economical time to consider hard wiring is when you are building or remodeling.  Some companies offer apps to operate with a smart speaker or your phone and they can be programmed to open and close at specific times.  It’s pretty “Jetson’s” to lower the shades with a voice command!


Nancy Barrett’s home featured in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Nancy Barrett’s home featured in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

June 2020    At home with Nancy Barrett in Chesterfield by Jim Winnerman

After an initial career and education as a graphic artist, Nancy realized her true ambition was to be an interior designer.  “As a teenager, my mom always let me decorate my own room, and later, I was frequently asked for my decorating advice.” she remembers.

Her interest in décor never abated, and in 1995 she decided to switch occupations, follow her dream, and open her own decorating studio.  At the same time, she enrolled in St. Louis Community College-Meramec to pursue a degree in interior design, which she completed while getting her business started. “Getting the degree was important to me,” she says.

“Most of my design business was for clients who preferred traditional décor.  However, currently the most requested style is ‘transitional,’” she says, explaining that the younger generation’s preference for clean lines and a simpler style has influenced a change in St. Louis.

“I have no difficulty adapting to the design style of any client, whether it be traditional, contemporary or any preference in between. It is important I understand what people want in their homes so it can reflect their taste,” she says.

Nancy describes her own home décor as “eclectic with a mix of old and new,” with a preference for patterns, pictures and colors that reflect nature.

For example, under the vintage breakfast table the rug displays a pattern of tree branches.  On the wall are framed prints of eggs, certainly appropriate for the breakfast table.  A 4 x 6 painting in the living room is of a dandelion. Pillows, curtains, and a blanket in the master bedroom have a contemporary floral pattern, as does her formal chinaware.


Colors are also earthy.  The dining and living room walls are “pumpkin pie orange”, and the guest bedroom is “sea glass green.”

Several vintage pieces are from family.  A buffet in the dining room belonged to her grandmother, while the dining room table and chairs belonged to her parents. A vanity once belonged to a great aunt, and dates to 1901.

An heirloom from an unknown family is a painted and distressed work table in the master bedroom purchased at a farm auction.

Eclectic décor includes old wooden shutters flanking the guest bedroom bed, an ornate carved wooden balustrade repurposed as an accent table capable of holding one glass of wine, and a straw lamp shade that resembles a modern interpretation of a top hat. Two window cornices have been put to new use as display shelves in the living room.

A collection of Majolica plates, all incorporating some element of nature into their design, is displayed in the living room, dining room, breakfast room, family room and guest bathroom.





Nancy’s affinity for nature extends outside to her mailbox. In the summer it is decorated with a cover of flowers and a hummingbird. In the winter she changes the scene to Cardinals against a background of snow.

Instead of remodeling a room all at once, Nancy has redone the kitchen and master bath in stages over several years. Separate projects in the kitchen include refinishing the cabinets and installing new countertops and appliances. A tile backsplash with a band of mosaic under the kitchen window were added when the countertop was replaced.

In the master bathroom a curved hanging vanity was added and is lit from below.  When the prior vanity was removed, it was discovered the area was not finished, so a pattern of tile matching the curve of the vanity was added on the floor below.


“This is by far the longest I have stayed in one house,” Nancy says.  “Previously I lived in several homes, but none more than eight years, but I have been here since 2003.  “I personally am a ‘homebody,’ and I decorated the way I enjoy living.  It is wonderfully comfortable for me.”



St. Louis Post-Dispatch Feature

The 5-10-20 Home section featured the second home I designed for my client in Ladue. She tells me what she likes, “the color sea glass green and nature”, and I go from there. Since the furnishings in the Chesterfield house I designed for her were only 2 years old, I repurposed it all and added some new items to fill this larger house. We even replaced and moved one light fixture that she particularly liked.

Her new house was built in 1954 and needed some updating. She thought the dark family room looked like “the inside of a Taco Bell” with its many beams and faux painting on the walls and fireplace. And, she requested removing the wall between the dining room and kitchen to create a more casual flow. All interior rooms were to be painted.

The family room was gutted to remove most of the beams and add more ambient lighting, insulation, and new drywall. The fireplace was refaced with marble. She did not care for the brick floor, but I convinced her that it added some character and we covered most of it with a new hand-knotted rug. Her existing family room slipcovered furniture fit nicely and new tables were added. This is now one of her favorite spaces!

In the dining room, the triple window needed replacing and I suggested a sliding door since the only access to the pool was through the kitchen. The wall was opened into the kitchen and a new sliced agate chandelier makes a bold statement. Her existing dining room furniture was used with the addition of a larger table and 2 additional chairs. The previous family room rug fit nicely in this room. She loves the flow between dining room, kitchen and her newly landscaped backyard.

There were no major structural changes to the living room but the built-in shelving was reworked and grasscloth wallcovering added to the back wall. A treasured elk painting set the color scheme along with a new hand-knotted rug. Her family’s antique butler’s tables fit perfectly on either side of the fireplace. New chairs were added to her previous furniture and the favorite light fixture found its place in this room.

This home won a design award for the family room. However, the best reward is that my client, a frequent entertainer and host of many charity events, refers to her residence as “her Eden.”

Lower Level Retreat for Two

BEFORE – LOWER LEVEL                                      AFTER – LOWER LEVEL WITH FIREPLACE

Three years after moving to their custom-built home, this Chesterfield couple was ready to complete their lower level and called Beautiful Rooms for assistance. Currently, the space was only being used as a large workout room. They had specific requests for new flooring, a direct-vent gas fireplace, seating, dry bar, workout area and full bathroom. The existing space had finished walls and a rough-in bath with sheet vinyl flooring throughout. Since they did all their entertaining upstairs, the new space was to be a private retreat for the two of them. They requested clean lines with neutrals accented by bright colors and wanted the lower level to reflect the same modern look as the main floor.

After deciding to work with our recommended contractor, they approved our floor plan which created a separate room for the workout equipment. That room would be accessed by a pair of French doors with a matching pair going into the unfinished area. On one end, there were 2 large windows and a sliding door so the fireplace was located on the blank exterior wall at the other end. This left the space by the windows for a counter height table and a small lounge area. Our first selections were wood-look LVP (luxury vinyl plank) for the flooring and an area rug with bright colors, to set the color scheme. After approval on the fireplace wall design, a textured Carrara marble tile was chosen for the face with striped wallcovering behind the custom shelving.

In front of the fireplace, a Sputnik light fixture was positioned between two recliners. They did not want to over-furnish the lounge area to keep a wide walkway between the dry bar on the other side. Repeating bright colors in the upholstery pieces gave them presence and floating cabinetry for the dry bar and bath vanity increased the feeling of spaciousness.

The bathroom was finished with chrome plumbing fixtures and a crystal light fixture. In the large shower, rectangular tile was installed vertically featuring a mosaic stripe of stone, glass and metal.

Since the new lower level provides many comforts, they are spending lots of time down there!

This lower level was a finalist in the 2020 Architect & Designer Awards!