Childrens' Spaces that Grow

Maybe it’s my age, but as my design career grew, so did my friends and the size of their families.  One of the most frequently asked questions regardless of location, budget, or gender was and still remains “How can I design a space that children don’t outgrow as quickly as their shoes?”

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Foundations.  It’s the beginning of any successful project.  Selecting pieces that aren’t age specific, to the best we can, is the starting point.  For a nursery, that means a crib, rocker, dresser, and changing space.  For the crib, select a convertible option that transitions from crib, to toddler bed, to full size bed with just a few easy adjustments.   The crib mattress is used until a full size is needed, often times not until the child is 3 or 4 (or 5 in my daughter’s case!).

For a rocking chair, select a neutral, hard working fabric because here, is undoubtedly where late night infant feedings through story time with sippy cups will take place.  As the child grows and the design elements shift, a neutral fabric here will stay fresh and flexible.

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For the dresser and changer, select a double duty piece.  A full size dresser will transition nicely over time, and many are available with a changer top piece for the diaper years.  This also creates more space in the room to be occupied with what will be a guaranteed overflow of toys and other necessities from infant swings and playmats to toddler art tables and teepees.

Now for the design elements.  Paint, textiles and accessories are the easiest and most cost effective design injection into nearly any space.  A soft palette works well for infants (and their sleep deprived parents) while fun, bold, and bright colors are great for the toddler and early learning years.  A calm gray or tan wall can easily be modified and enhanced later with bold stripes, or patterns in accent colors with just a gallon of paint, a roll of masking tape and a free afternoon.  Two of which may be easier to acquire than the other. 

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Windows can take a bit of planning.  Roller shades or blinds for the infant years (toddler years too if you’re lucky) but layered with fabric romans or drapes can add drama, whimsy and fun.  These are also easily changed over time when wished is a style and design overhaul.

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Lastly, accents.  A soft and plush area rug for tummy time, or a fun and bold pattern underfoot for pretend play.   For lighting, an elegant chandelier or a mid century modern mobile adds drama and whimsy.  Throw pillows on the bed and rocker can round out the design finishing a space that looks planned, well executed and perfectly suited to your little one, easily adaptable, regardless of their shoe size.

 Inspriation, Danielle, my very first client, 2007

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Refreshing without Renovation

How do we keep our individual style fresh and current without wanting a complete overhaul each time someone posts the new design or decor fabulousness to our favorite design board?  

Commitment…with flexibility.  Keep a consistent and classic middle line for the investment pieces.  The sofa in your living room, the bed in your master, the reading chair for Sunday morning.  These are the pieces that lend to simple, stylistic changes like new bedding, accent pillows and throws.  Easy changes, even seasonally as some of my clients prefer.

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Personality…but always personal.  The console you found at an alley consignment store, a set of Audubon books from your neighbors tag sale, a charcoal sketch of a loved one.  The items collected over time that make your home, well, simply put, yours.  These are invaluable and not necessarily high ticket items.  They are the pieces that play on your senses, they make you smile, remember, and feel like only that special item can.


Living…without missing.  Keeping what really matters in check.  Our home is our nest, but it’s what comes in and out visiting this nest that matters most.  Children, family, friends – whomever you find flying through, it’s the memories that matter most.  There will inevitably be water marks, wine stains, and missing dishes to your once complete dinnerware set.  But, this is where life happens, try not to get so caught up in the perfection of the design that you miss out on the memories while they’re happening. 

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The random cut glass cordial turned dessert dish could become one your child’s most special memories to a cherished holiday festivity evoking emotions that no fabric throw pillow ever could.

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Love, and the art of bed making

This post is all about the bedroom... 

The time involved.  Getting it just right.  Years of learning turned to skillful execution.   The basics on how to please us.


Our partners, and how they humor us and our crazy.  Daily in most cases.  They know just how much a perfectly made bed with endless rows of perfectly “jujjed” (as a dear friend from Long Island termed it) pillows in a variety of shapes and sizes, makes us feel the right combination of elegant, put together, and even …sexy.  They take note, repeat the process with, sometimes even without us, keep (mostly) their comments to themselves of “why” and the precious amount of time it takes away from the morning when perhaps what they would rather do would involve another hit of the snooze button.  All of this, in an effort of pleasing us.


The bedroom is our haven.  I lecture clients to not start in the main, family or entertaining areas of the home, but to allocate design efforts and resources first in the master bedroom.  Let the first and last thing you see be complete, perfect, engulfing, luxurious.  Exactly what you need to start and end the day.  Whatever this means to you.


To me, a perfectly designed bed is at the center of this space that evokes such emotion.  Layers of softness.  Masculine or feminine, modern or traditional, the layers are the same.  A lightweight coverlet, perfect on it’s own in warmer months, but not too much once paired with a folded duvet and down insert.  I love the height this adds at the foot of the bed creating a sense of landscape.  For pillows, I use king size, always.  For twins, kings and queens, they’re the right size.  On a king, you’ll find two pillows for sleeping, two additional in either shams or additional cases for added support if needed, and then come the accent pillows.  A mix of euro sizes and throw pillows.  Here, the personality of the room shines.  Modern, masculine, feminine, monochromatic…here is where you’ll find the details.  Sometimes it’s a row of three euros and that’s enough.  Other times you’ll find two euros with a lumbar in-between adding varied height and texture. 

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Regardless of the design elements and luxurious details you’re drawn to, here’s to a great night’s sleep with your head, and mind, resting softly upon the right layers of bedding.

Inspriation, my social media followers, always asking, and always supportive, thank you!

Designer Deals and Steals

Every budget and every project has a limit, so how do you make your budget stretch as far as you can?  Designer steals and deals of course!  Like most things in life, balance is key.  Some great, well made items mixed in with some budget friendly items not only stretches the budget, but gives flexibility over time.  Accents that can be swapped out seasonally, or, in a few years you can change things up a bit because those items didn’t break the bank in the first place.

Great design is accessible at any price point everywhere we turn.  Most retailers even offer multiple brands so there’s something for everyone – think Williams Sonoma Home to West Elm, or Crate and Barrel to CB2.

Above, a brass and maple Barclay Butera coffee table is adorned with Homegoods accents and Ikea's budget ottomans compliment custom upholstered navy chairs.

Above, a brass and maple Barclay Butera coffee table is adorned with Homegoods accents and Ikea's budget ottomans compliment custom upholstered navy chairs.

My mix, regardless of room or budget is using great quality main pieces like bedroom beds ad storage, then I can round out the design with lower cost accents to really push the budget.  Homegoods for tabletop accents and bedding basics like down comforter inserts for $79 and bath towels at $7, as well as Ikea for fun and easy accents like wall mirrors and most recently fabulous wicker dining chairs for $89.

Here, the homeowner found a great deal on the perfect fabric for her master suite.  So, I purchased a chaise at retail, and had a custom slipcovered created for the perfect fit and compliment.  Retail drapes and a wool rug purchased online help compliment the scheme.

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We’ve become familiar with the term “high low” but how do you achieve it successfully?  Classic items that will stand the test of time as well as mixing in some custom pieces that can be designed to be the perfect fit check the “high” box.  For the "low", accents like throw pillows, wall décor and accents help inject the personality.  Also, give consignment a try.  Before home décor was so disposable, pieces were made to a much higher standard of quality and there are many deals to be had.  Look for tables and dressers.  The quality as well as the price points are great!

Here, consignment store mahogany beds got a paint makeover and were then outfitted with high end Matouk and Restoration Hardware bedding. A vintage rocker and some thrift store wall art were also added for some personality. 

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Mark your calendars!   January and August are great “warehouse sale” months for furniture companies often offering discounts as well as free fabric upgrades.  And with the web at our fingertips, sign up for your favorite retailers email alerts so you can stay up to date on promotions like free shipping and discounts.

Lastly, always keep your trunk empty, just in case a deal (or deals) are too good to pass up!

Car Full Q&A asked me to reveal how I made the refined blue and white color scheme in this Nantucket summer home come together. But, I didn't stop there. Read along as I shared designer tips and tricks for creating this "by the beach" look in your own home.


1. What were you trying to accomplish with the design of this project?

The design goal of this space was to create a classic look, but one that was family- and budget-friendly. It was a real story in high/low price points with a sprinkling of consignment and vintage pieces.


2. What was the inspiration for the project? 

 The inspiration for the project was vintage blue and white porcelain. A classic look found on Nantucket dating back to the shipping and whaling days.

3. How did you choose the color palette? 

 Mimicking the ornate patterns of blue and white porcelain, the palette became rich navy and bright white warmed by wood tones in cherry and mahogany, and balanced with subtle touches of black and brass. Given the intimate size of the home, it was very important that the rooms had a continuous flow both in color and style. The fabrics vary by room, but stay within the same color palette.


4. A lot of homeowners are concerned with purchasing a white sofa. What's your take on this? 

 I love white sofas, with slipcovers that is. I find them VERY forgiving because they can be laundered anytime you need to get that bright, fresh, white back. I use them in my own homes and most projects, in fact.

5. What are your tricks for keeping a simple color palate interesting? 

It's all about layering. It was important to add warmth with wood and texture to the space. The woven Roman blinds behind the crisp white and navy drapes; the vintage wood trunk; the burled wood coffee table with warm brass accents; and of course, the pop of color in the art and glass fishing orbs.


6. What is your favorite part of the project and why?

My favorite part was the perfect high-low marriage within this project. The gorgeous Barclay Butera coffee table sits perfectly against budget-friendly white slipcovered sofas, Ikea drapes are adorned with a custom navy banding, and vintage pieces sit atop a budget-friendly 10 by 13 foot rug.  

7. What are your tips for someone trying to recreate the look of this project? 

My simplest tip would be to start with a palette and then don't stray. The three repeating elements are navy, white, and warm wood tones. Patterns can all work together as long as the color tones remain the same. There are stripes, paisleys, and solid fabrics,and they all come together harmoniously.

8. How did you create this beautiful coastal look without using classic coastal elements, like seashells? 

 White instantly creates an easy breezy feeling; it always feels beachy. By using a white slipcovered sofa and white cotton/linen drapes, it was easy to build on a "by the beach" feel. Also, adding in woven textures like the sisal rug and Roman blinds helped continue the coastal feel.


9. What is your favorite designer trick? 

My favorite trick is hanging draperies high and wide. It instantly makes a room feel lighter and brighter. More of the window is exposed by mounting the hardware wider than the window, and by going higher, you give the illusion of height to the room, too.

 10. Finish the sentence: Every room needs ___. 

Something black. I find black can ground any color scheme. In the living room, I used black in the sconces, on the trunk, and on the drapery hardware. 

11. What is your best piece of advice for someone who is redecorating their home? 

Start with the building blocks: What colors and what wood tone? Choose three colors to work with, but be careful here. Repetition is key. If you continue to introduce new colors and materials, it will quickly feel like a yard sale. Make sure there are at least three hits of the same color/finish throughout the room to maintain a cohesive design.

DIY Video Series: Season 1 of #HowtoHome

As video continues to gain momentum, it's everpresent in the photographic social media world we live in.  Whether for pure pleasure or necessity - watching babies and puppies, learning a few dances moves, or a new homeowner in need of help on how to fix their own garbage disposal jam, video is there for all of our needs.

So, I introduce my new design video series Season 1 where you too can learn how to make small updates that give back both in equity and accomplishment alike.  Watch as I give insider tips and tricks as well as step by step instructions for things I do everyday in clients' home's like creating a successful design or installing light fixtures. These videos apply to any budget and any location.  Watch and try them out for yourself!

Creating a Nursery That Lasts

Creating a nursery that lasts beyond diapers is always at the top of my “frequently asked” design dilemmas.  Children’s rooms and how to create a space that can transition through the fast moving youthful years without constant redesign and financial investment is a question almost all new parents have.

KK Nursery

You find out you’re expecting and instantly go into the nesting phase that starts with the nursery.   There’s no greater joy for parents-to-be than creating a space that they envision rocking, feeding and watching their new bundle of joy.  But will this space be appropriate a fast 12 months later when their child is learning colors, playing with blocks and instead of singing lullaby’s, books like Cat in the Hat take over?

Similar to other spaces in the home, a child’s space has some commonalities with design needs.  Start with neutrals.  Walls, flooring, larger pieces of furniture.  This allows you to make simple changes as your child transitions through phases.  This also allows greater flexibility when and if other siblings arrive and changing rooms makes sense.  Tan or gray walls allows you to swap out drapes and bedding to transition from a baby girl’s floral inspired room to a baby boy’s nautical theme.

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Another tip is to purchase multi-use furniture from the outset.  A crib that transitions to a toddler bed then a full size bed, or, a changing table with a removable diaper changing station that doubles as a dresser.  An upholstered rocker (with a washable slipcover) is far more comfortable and a lot more attractive than the run of the mill wooden glider – and needless to say, a piece with a lot more longevity.

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Let the accessories and textiles carry the room’s theme.  This way, at little expense and effort, the room can change easily through different design phases.  Draperies, wall art, an accent rug and bedding are all easy ways to insert the room’s personality allowing easy transition from Mother Goose to Pirates and Princesses.

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I love to incorporate a child size chair in a reading nook.  Though not used in the infancy stages, it becomes their spot as time progresses and the love of books develops.  I use an indoor/outdoor fabric on the piece and love the IKEA wall shelves that are the perfect size for children’s books.  I also love creating a wall display with uniform frames.  In a nursery, alphabet cards look beautiful and then later, the cards can be swapped  for their original works of art in the same display.  Another favorite is to trace and paint a favorite saying.  Young or old, an inspiring phrase on the wall is always and easy and fun design project.

Have fun creating a space and changing it with the changing needs of your little one!

Collections or Clutter?

Pottery, photography books, fiestaware, heirloom sterling, sports memorabilia, or for me, it’s vintage French Aplico bistro pieces.  Everyone is drawn to something that evokes happy memories or feelings.  It’s human nature to want to gather and display these items because their presence bring us joy. It’s also great fun to collect along the way - the thrill of the hunt ! It may be via ebay, consignment stores or just summer time yard sales.  But, where is the line between collections and clutter? 


How do we successfully display our treasures without looking like an ebay site, a consignment store, or, that we’re in need of a yard sale ourselves?

My design tricks for any décor, any budget, and any collection is that you limit the display locations.  Less is more.  Instead of having your collection spread throughout your home, display them in one or two areas and this will be far more impactful.  A beautiful bookcase (or two!) filled with treasures is far more interesting and serves a statement in the room as opposed to casually placing a piece here, there and everywhere. 

Photo Source: House Beautiful

Photo Source: House Beautiful

Another tip is when you’re displaying, even though the items are all together, try not to overcrowd.  Let each piece still retain it’s identity so you can appreciate it fully.

Photo Source: Houzz

Photo Source: Houzz

Lastly, keep one design detail uniform.  For sports memorabilia or photography, keep all frames the same size.  For a display of blue and white porcelain, they may vary in shape and size, but each piece is uniform in color.

These design tips will ensure your prized collection is well displayed to enjoy always. 

Mastering the Master Bedroom

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we can’t help thinking about romance!  But, is your Master bedroom the relaxing and restful oasis that is not only your daily escape, but also a romantic retreat when February 14 rolls around?

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Time and time again, I work with clients that neglect this hugely important space.  We buy a home, start designing and decorating in the main “important” areas and by the time attention falls to the Master, we’re overspent, exhausted and left with a completely neglected space. 


Make the first room you see in the morning and the last room you see at night a perfectly completed and restful space your heart, body and soul need and deserve.  A home purchase is a big deal regardless of your budget and location, and everyone deserves a perfectly appointed Master.

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Now that you have the room selected, where do you start?  As in all rooms, inspiration can come from anywhere – a favorite vacation spot, a soothing color palette, or a treasured piece of furniture or art.  I tend to start with a color palette and in a master, that means calm and serene which usually calls for a tone on tone design.  At this point, the client's favorite colors come into play.  Are you a neutrals person looking for quiet, calm, and elegant? Maybe you desire a warm and cozy space that envelopes you like rich, dark chocolate?  Perhaps cool and calm like a seaside breeze?  Whichever design direction you take, first, select your larger pieces - an upholstered bedframe and chairs in neutral tones is always a good idea.  Next, your wood pieces like tables and dressers in a complimenting wood tone or finish.  Lastly, use wall color, draperies, pillows, and accessories to add your colors and round out the room’s personality.

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Here's to a relaxing, restful and romantic space that reflects your style and personality providing the perfect resting place year round.  

Valentine's Wish List - Power Tools

A month away lies the lovely date that is often dreaded by men and women alike, Valentine's Day. We want to love it, but the pressures are often quite overwhelming- for everyone!  Here's an idea, how about a project together?  Power tools make a great gift or maybe a personalized tool box?  Need some inspiration? I'll be releasing videos VERY soon giving you plenty of ideas!

Kristy Kay Power Tools