How Not to Electrocute Your Clients While Keeping It Interesting, Decoratively Speaking.

Juxtaposition in interior design is so important when designing a client’s home. It allows side by side comparison while keeping it interesting. Webster defines it as:

“Juxtaposition is the state or position of being placed close
together or side by side, so as to permit comparison or contrast.”

Back in his time, Greer was a bit of an avant-garde, and executed juxtaposition in his design über successfully. One would guess that he thrived on the element of surprise.

Bureau plat with a crashingly contemporary institutional-type chair, and flat tailored restraint of Roman shade in an opulent room. – Inside Design by Michael Greer

In his book, Greer states, “Presumably you don’t wish to electrocute your guests, decoratively speaking, but you certainly should wish to be interesting even outrageous enough to shock them a little here and there…..Mild or violent, legitimate shocks (those neither ugly nor grotesque) are as essential as spice to stew, and to permit none of them to occur is to sign an affidavit to one’s lack or imagination, with adjustment or humor”.

Don’t you love his pomp? Every day cooks and chefs mar such elements via flavors and sweeteners don’t they? Think: sweet/salty, sweet/savory, spicy/sweet. Why do they employ this method? Well….. as a way to shock- mild or violent, (depending on your taste buds) and with varying degrees of success.

As an interior designer, I see this commingling of different styles and elements pervasive more than ever. Take for example: contemporary and rustic, bohem and modern, industrial and chic, mid century and modern, farmhouse and modern, the list goes on. What makes this “marriage” so unique and intriguing is the fact that the possibilities are limitless (as they should be a reflection of our personalities, style and taste).  Last week, I came across an article about a designer who combined a unique style for her clients and coined it “Vintage Industrial Romantic.” The design used a combination of some masculine, feminine, and classic pieces made up of rustic wood and industrial lighting.

Trying to capture the essence of that design style, I came across this. What do you think?

Seem easy? To the DIY, beginner interior designer, or one not accustomed to combining differing looks, the idea can be a bit overwhelming with a lot of finesse, experience and knowledge required. Here’s a bit of 101 advice:

  1. Start with just one piece.
  2. The 80-20 rule holds true and is an ideal starting point.
  3. Go big or go home!
Upholstered Bergere chair with an ultra modern and gorgeous Timorous Beasties Kaledio Splatt Allover velvet fabric.















Jonathan Adler
Designed by Jonathan Adler
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Bohem Modern Kitchen.
Contemporary Rustic Living Room.

When executed successfully, the rewards are worth the risk with a space that looks interesting, eclectic, lived in and even a bit nostalgic. There’s a term we use in the world of design, and it’s called, tension.  It is a balance maintained in an artistic work between opposing forces or elements. It’s that “je ne sais quoi” that brings energy to a space making your eyes linger while catching you slightly off-guard.  Personally, it gives me the goose bumps.

Good design causes tension. But hey! it’s not for everyone. For some who desire that matchy matchy look, this probably will not be your cup of tea. But isn’t it part of our job as designers to push our clients out of their comfort zone, if even a tiny bit?

Want to embark on larger scale project within your home but don’t know where to start?  Seem too daunting? Well then my beauties…..what are you waiting for, pick up the phone and leave it to the professionals. Til next time.

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Essential Architectural Moldings: Is it Breaking The Mold?

Architectural moldings and millwork add style, character and a bit of distinction within a home and rids the “empty box syndrome” (plain and featureless) that can be common in a lot of homes today.  Architectural moldings come in a variety of profiles that can be chosen based on one’s project requirements and budget. They come in virtually every style and they can be stock or custom, factory pre-primed for paint and stain in solid milled wood, or plaster, or reformed wood—and perfect for a remodel or restoration project.

“If the architecture is any good, a person who looks and listens will feel its good effects without noticing.”– Carlo Scarpa, Italian Architect

When used creatively, architectural moldings can have a stunning and memorable impact.  Being a proud Italian, I relate architectural moldings to pasta: Pasta comes in a wide variety of styles: rigatoni, fusilli, penne, fettuccine, pappardelle, tagliatelle, spätzle, cannelloni, etc., and can handle any type of sauce and ingredients (though fresh is best). Like pasta, architectural elements within a space are timeless and can stand on their own, and can accommodate a variety of design styles from classic to contemporary to modern to Boheme to Art Deco to Arts & Crafts, to French or English Country and so on. Like a good pasta sauce, you do not want to dress the pasta with too much sauce. Less is more. Restraint is the key. And that’s the beauty to “goodness”.


Greer says this about architectural moldings: “But as I say, the baby has been thrown out with the bath water, and among the essential architectural moldings which have all but vanished with the picture molding are cornices and proper baseboard. A baseboard should be four to six inches high. It should not be embellished with a quarter-round molding at the top as though you were trying to apologize for is being there.”

Consider scale and proportion when choosing molding height.  Decide on the kind of impact you wish to make.   Source:

I got to agree with Greer—it’s a critical detail that often gets overlooked though it seems to be making a major comeback. I was going through some old magazines dating back to 2009, and couldn’t help but notice the beautifully photographed spaces with the good bones. Trust me on this. Peruse any furniture and décor catalog, and on the cover, one will surely see a photo spread of a beautiful space adorned with stunning architectural details. (check out catalogs such as CB2, West Elm and Restoration Hardware). They might lead you to think that they are essential. During a preliminary client meeting, when walking through the client’s home, a good designer will check for the bones of the space. Always. What do we mean by “great bones”?

Restoration Hardware Source Book

Elements within a room with great bones include:

  • Molding
  • High ceilings (over 9’), pitched, ceiling beams, etc.
  • Elegant windows, transoms and doors with classic details (wood casing)
  • Fireplace
  • Gorgeous hardwood or stone floors

…and if left all by itself, is simply BEAUTIFUL. No other adornment is required. Filling it, one must show restraint with design execution. Design decisions include: choosing shape/lines, color, lighting and style of furniture.

What if the space lacks these “good bones”?  What then? Here’s the good news- it does not have to permanent. Take for example, a long dark narrow hallway- think bowling alley. What can we do to transform the space? Let’s begin with the architecture. Paneling would also be a fantastic option. This would break up the long expanse while creating some visual interest. Finish off the design with a nice white wall paint, fabulous sconces, long carpet or dark floor (for high contrast), add wall mounted mirrors and/or art work. And viola! Instant panache.

Though they can provide rich detail and even assist in the replication of a historical design, the choices can be daunting for the lay person. Choices include: decorative interior moldings, decorative wall accents, decorative ceiling accents, interior mill work, etc. So, if you know you want to add to or add some good bones within your home but don’t know where to start and need some guidance what are you waiting for…… a professional!

Bones quote
















Architectural Moldings: Are Your Clients Ethically Disposed to Making Budget Available?


“But as I say, the baby has been thrown out with the bath water, and among the essential architectural moldings which have all but vanished with the picture moldings are cornices and proper basedboard……For some reason, clients are ethically disposed to resist the making budget available for essential architectural moldings; shortsighted of them.”                  – M. Greer, Inside Design, 1962. Chapter 3

Decorative molding is that classic touch that’s been around since the ancient Greeks and Romans. Molding is one of the most dramatic ways to add panache and value to your client’s home. Investment costs can range dramatically depending on the project size and the molding types chosen.  From simple to ornate, material options range from solid wood species to MDF to flexible options made out of foam to any creative material imaginable (read further).

The Pantheon was built between 118-128 AD, and is the largest and most accessible complete classical temple front known to the Italian Renaissance. Because of its exemplary classicist design, it has been copied many times by modern architects.


screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-5-13-12-pmPeruse any interior design magazine or furnishings catalog, and you will see interior spaces graced with architectural moldings. Hands down, these images stand the test of time! Take for example, West Elm, a Brooklyn-based furniture company touting themselves as the intersection of modern design, affordability and community.  Take it in! January’s front cover captures a beautiful and timeless space,  and yes- you’ve guessed right, it’s adorned with ornamental molding staged with modern flair.

According to a recent report by National Association of Home Builders, “What Home Buyers Really Want.”, potential buyers consistently rank  crown molding and chair railing in their list of most desirable decorative features they seek in a home (#3 and #7 respectively).

Have a client on a tight budget? Begin with a small improvement trimming the space with simple molding giving it a finished and expensive look.

Use crown molding to make a room seem bigger and taller. Careful considerations about proportion is paramount, and could make or break your client’s investment.  For ceiling heights of 9 feet or less,  a simpler style is recommended to avoid that out of balance proportioned space which can be overwhelming.

Moldings have a variety of profiles that add architectural interest while supporting your design intent. Want a more dramatic and lasting impression? Add indirect LED lighting that casts a soft, ambient glow and leads the eye upward above cornices, cove molding, chair rails and even baseboards.

Calabasas Molding for Indirect Lighting

Other ideas may include:

  • Using crown molding along doors and window frame.
This Old House. Photo Credit: Ken Gunmaker
  •  Using crown molding to accent a coffered ceiling. Available collections include various geometric shapes ranging from square, rectangle, octagon, hexagon, pentagon, triangle, etc.
Tilton Coffered Ceiling System
  • Using chair rails.  Chair railing, like art work, when placed incorrectly, can make a room seem out of proportion. This is a good solution in smaller spaces. Chair rails are generally placed at 32″ A.F.F. (above finished floor) and adds a dramatic accent to a space. Use different paint colors above and below the rail or use paint and wall covering for a special effect.

Not a Traditionalist?  Do not fret. There are an unlimited amount of creative options out there for all of your client’s style be it gothic, urban, contemporary, mid-century modern, industrial, nautical, bohemian, shabby chic, etc. Think outside the box. Take for example, 21C Hotel’s lobby in Oklahoma City. I absolutely admire the use of the perforated steel as a respectful nod taking it back to its origin as a Ford Motor Assembly Plant.

Former Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant now 21C Hotel, Oklahoma

Architectural detailings give us the opportunity to help our clients creatively express their unique style. It also increases their home’s value. It’s certainly in our best interest to help our clients understand the value in setting aside budget for their remodel projects. Let’s get them ethically disposed to finding the budget for this design detail. After all…..



What does the Queen Anne Style and Pansy Yokum Have in Common?


Al Capp’s Cartoon Character, Pansy “Mammy”  Yokum
Illustration, Queen Anne Style



Inside Design by Michael Greer. Chapter 2- Queen Anne 

Miniaturization and Reflection about Greer and Interior Design.

A Current Perspective.

According to Michael Greer, “Queen Anne, a girl about as diffident toward decorating as Pansy Yoku, had very little if not absolutely nothing to do with Queen Anne.” Arguably  with some careful analysis and a little soul-searching, I would have to disagree with Greer. But first….Have you even heard of Pansy Yokum? Me neither. Apparently, she was one of the famous Dogpatch cartoon characters of Al Capp’s long-running syndicated newspaper strip  which ran from 1934-1977.  She was the pint-sized, highly principled, corncob pipe-smoking leader of her family, aka the Yokum clan and the town of Dogwatch. She certainly looks tough, doesn’t she?   My first-generation Italian grandmother was a little like her.  We could surmise that Greer, a NY native, was one of Capp’s admirers since Capps’ total readership exceeded 60,000,000 in the 40’s. Capp was born in New Haven, CT. So, while Cap entertained millions daily, Greer was busy designing posh Manhattan spaces while impressing his affluent clients.


Contemporary wing back chair painted in high gloss paint and upholstered in velvet fabric. Martha Stewart. 
The Pink House
The Pink House, Edinburgh
Schumacher, Arches Print in Bamboo. Geometric, bold, dramatic and colorful indoor/outdoor fabric ideal for upholstery, drapery and pillows.
Van Den Akker’s Pedrino Club Chair. Also available as a Settee. Shown in Maple with brass hardware. Other wood species and finishes available. Hardware can be specified in brass, nickel, chrome or studio bronze (which is currently on trend).
De gournay’s Japanese and Korean Wall Covering, Kiso Mountains Design on Statue India Tea Paper. Photo Credit: Natalie Didham.
Schumacher, Sonriza Print in Orange. Dynamic circular/spiraling pattern ideal for pillows, or upholstery. Available in Java and Pool.

Greer would not see the likes of the Yokum clan nor would they be traveling in the same circles.  Originating in England, the peak period of the Queen Anne style in America,  was in the late nineteenth century, and had several personalities: some homes were ornamental and fanciful while others showed more restraint, and yet some were asymmetrical in design. Since this style was during the Industrial age,  factory-made, pre-cut architectural parts were brimming at the seams.  Chinese-inspired early Georgian furniture with cabriolet legs terminating in a pad or drake foot (yum!) manufactured from walnut with flowing graceful lines were becoming exuberantly popular. Overdone, a space in this style could be perceived as being dark, heavy, cluttered and out of scale.


Today, there are so many directions a designer could take this style. Is it challenging? Definitely!  Let me warn you, it is not for the faint at heart.  Oh, the places you’ll go! Here’s where experience and yes, even some of Pansy’s brazen fearlessness comes into play. Boldly and with confidence, in today’s contemporary space, this is a designer’s dream. This would NOT be the time to hold back nor show hesitation. THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX, introducing PLAYFUL color and/or pattern (INTRICATE, ARCHITECTURAL, GEOMETRIC) done in BOLD ways is indeed the way to go.  Why not wallpaper a ceiling or use whimsical over scaled wall covering in the powder room? Got a thing and the budget for hand painted silk wallpaper? The real finesse is knowing how to BALANCE without over doing- something outside of Pansy Yokum’s realm.

So here it is, with some deep soul-searching, some characteristics of which the Queen Ann style and Pansy Yokum might share: BRAZEN, BOLD, UNCONVENTIONAL and ECLECTIC. I think I may have been able to change Greer’s opinion over a cup of coffee. Bold as brass,  eh?

Metal plate w/ magnetic mounting system found at






Piece de Resistance: Outrageously Stunning Jumping-off Ideas for your Home


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Magnificent  custom hand-blown stained glass chandelier. Offered in an assortment of hues by Lightin Art

Piece de Resistance. Try saying it aloud 3x. Piece de resistance.  Piece de resistance. Piece de resistance! If you’re not a French person, this may be a bit challenging to roll off your tongue. After 5 years of french in high school and college, I still find it a bit tricky. Here’s an audio version to help you get it right  Listen here

Miriam Webster defines it as:

Noun. Pièce de Résistance – the outstanding item (the prize piece or main exhibit) in a collection, collector’s item, showpiece, curio, curiosity, oddment, peculiarity, rarity, oddity – something unusual — perhaps worthy of collecting rariora – (plural) rare collector’s items, expertise, artistry, savoir faire

Greer’s interpretation will surely give you a giggle: “Whether or not, you have much money to spend, but especially if you haven’t, you need one marvelous decorative object which you love outrageously, which you may have spent far more for than you could afford, and perhaps which no one else in his right mind would ever have spent as much for as you did.” Come on, now! How many of us stretched ourselves and budget for the perfect pair of high heeled shoes for that high school/college reunion, or just for the love of shoes?

jumping off

Many designers consider the piece de resistance as the “jumping off point”. It is a strategy to keep the noise in your head at bay. It acts as an inspiration, and is different for everyone. The trick is to start with that favorite piece, color or anything else that may illicit an extra heart beat…..and then you build from there. So, if you’ve got that ONE thing that is special to you of which you simply can not resist, listen to your heart, and go for it! Greer’s piece de resistance examples include art work, a bust, an inkwell, a vase, or a first “folio of Shakespeare” (say what?!). Since we’re in the 21st century, why not think outside the box and take it a step further:  If you are lucky enough to own a home overlooking a splendid golf course, gorgeous lake or ocean, or well preserved ravine, or simply wish to extend the outside in, why couldn’t your piece de resistance be a folding door system  or gallery of windows allowing a seamless integration with the outside world?

NanaWall SL70
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LaCantina Folding Door System

And, why we’re at it, why couldn’t that marvelous piece de resistance be an entire space vs. object, like say, a kitchen? Or, if your kitchen budget range isn’t $50K-100K+, you still got choices. If you’re anything like me- an avid wine enthusiast, a built-in wine refrigeration system would be a dream come true!

Don’t get me wrong, your piece de resistance piece could also be inherited or even a  bargain basement find. There are so many choices available today which are treasure troves for design geeks like ourselves. For example,  there are auction houses and online stores where you can buy and sell vintage furniture and decor that are trust worthy and offer full-services.

Take this vintage Planter table as shown below by

Platner coffee table valued at $3,800 selling for $1,800










Here’s the last piece of advice on acquiring that perfect “jumping off” item: When you find something you’ve been looking for and it makes your heart skip a beat,  do not hesitate and kid yourself into thinking that you’ll come back another time. Greer puts it succinctly:

“The beauty and value of the piece de resistance may be far out of proportion to anything else you own, though in time one might hope to reduce the disparity. When you feel genuine intimations of piece de resistanceness at a shop or gallery, buy, for there is no greater tragedy than to decide to buy later and find the piece de resistance already bought.”

Before I go, let me share with you my bespoken piece de resistance:

de Gournay’s chinoiserie St. Laurent hand-painted wall covering on tea paper.                 What’s your Piece de Resistance?

Gotta go! Off to San Francisco’s Design Center to find that outrageously stunning piece de resistance  for my client…….Til next time.

Should Interior Design Be Taken So Seriously?


Michael Greer, Author and Decorator
Self potrait
Janine Arietta, Blogger,  Interior Designer & Decor Coach




Inside Design

The following series of interior design blogs will be inspired by the book, inside design, by Michael Greer (now deceased). I’ve had this idea floating in my creative humming head of mine for over 2+ years. This book was given to me nearly six years ago during an interior design internship by an Artist/Designer who went to school with Greer at Parsons School of Design in NY. His book is executed with a great deal of knowledge and a little sarcasm, humor and wit thrown in for good measure.

blog 1 quote.jpg

Think of Julie & Julia where Julie decides to create every recipe from Julia Child’s cookbook and records her experiences. Each of my posts will reflect a chapter in Greer’s book. My goal is to impart design knowledge, personal experience and some fun (thrown in for good measure)! My design philosophy is this: Good design should inspire, and it should not be taken so seriously all of the time. The two of us would get along like chums!

Most people probably haven’t heard of Michael Greer. He was a prominent “decorator” in the 60’s in Manhattan. (Shhh! Don’t tell anyone you heard me say that. Back “in the day” that’s what they were called.) A Georgian born society decorator who reached the pinnacle of his success in New York’s affluent and elitist circles in the 60’s.




His client base grew steadily and spanned coast to coast. Even the late Jacqueline Kennedy, Eleanor Roosevelt and Lady Bird Johnson consulted with him on White House projects.

Greer had a love for antiques and collecting, and penchant for neoclassicism (French Eighteenth Century).  Unfortunately, his life was cut tragically short in 1976, and was found murdered in his Manhattan home.  To this day, his death is shrouded with controversy and mystery.

Stay tuned for the first chapter, piece de resistance. (Yes, I am aware that I did not use capital letters. In his book, Greer uses all lower case. Note the book cover itself).  As my friends and clients often hear me say repeatedly: “Design is in the details.”.  You also have to possess a solid grasp of the rules before they can be broken– and have fun! 



Curious to learn more about Michael Greer? If so, select theses links:

Bizarre Manhattan Murder

Grand in the “Greer Manner”