Adding This Can Change Your World

Photo courtesy of Leonie Freeman / Hardie Grant Books

One of the most talked about words I can think of is - color. Maybe it's because I'm a designer and I select colors almost every day for my clients. Yet, I notice at parties, events and chats with friends, that color almost always comes up in the discussion. 

We could be discussing colors for the upcoming wedding, the color of a sunset or the color of a new puppy. We select fruit, vegetables and even meat, fish or poultry based on how the 'color' looks. 

However, one color I never seem to wear is the color 'green'. I think it goes back to years wearing a green school uniform. It's not that I don't like green (our bedroom is a forest green), it's just one of those things with my wardrobe. 

In our home though you can find lots of green as an accent color. Mostly it's the green of the hydrangea leaves or the green of a large fern in a basket. I can't imagine not having plants in our home. The most beautiful homes I've visited have plants like orchids with their wide leaves, or ficus trees with shiny leaves, or beautiful rooms with leafy design wallpapers. Plants 'complete' a room just like jewelry completes an outfit.

Photo courtesy of Thibaut 

Beyond the beauty of the plant is what it does for your emotions. According to NBC News the article states that "Studies have also proven that indoor plants improve concentration and productivity (by up to 15 percent!), reduce stress levels and boost your mood — making them perfect for not just your home but your work space, too." 

Imagine that! You can bring some beauty into your home, reduce your stress level and boost your mood at the same time with the addition of plants. 

Today add a plant to your desk or cut some stems from your garden. Visit garden centers like Terrain to get inspiration you've never experienced before. 

Mary Alice Smith - 732 608-7583

Residential and Commercial Interior Design

Allied Member ASID

Serving Coastal New Jersey homeowners and businesses for 20 years

How To Conquer The Fear of Remodeling or new Construction

Coastal New Jersey 

Like many of my clients, D. had a shore home that was the center of summer life at the New Jersey shore. And even though it was renovated after Hurricane Sandy, there were a few areas in the home that needed to be revised. 

For instance, the upstairs bedrooms were small and cramped. There was no en suite bath for the Master Bedroom. If there were to be changes inside the home like new windows and sliders, it would affect the exterior of the house as well. 

A renovation like that can take months. And, it all had to be accomplished in time for the summer season. The summer season is so important to families and there was no time for fear, hesitancy or indecision. 

When we first met to discuss the remodel plans I knew that the goal had to be achieved to have the home ready for summer family and friends. I also understood that there were important changes that must be made to the floorplan to make the project successful. 

However, one of the first decisions that needed to be made was the selection of siding and roofing. I implemented an app that allows you to see how a different siding, roofing or trim color will look on the exterior of the home. 

We used the existing house as a template and then applied various siding colors to see which selection would work best. Once the decision was made we followed a plan to check off the next item on the list.

First, we started with measuring the second floor existing space and discussed the addition of higher ceilings that would significantly enlarge the living area in the Master Bedroom. Within a few weeks, the floorplan was complete and now we were ready to obtain the approvals to begin the construction phase.

Throughout the project my client was available to communicate with all on a daily basis. In the meantime, her husband had assembled an expert construction crew. So within a few busy and productive months, the shore home was ready for the season. 

Any remodeling or construction project will be successful if you follow my prescription below:

  • Determine what is the most important feature/s to be changed
  • Have a concrete budget and time line to accomplish the renovation
  • Hire only licensed and insured contractors
  • Include a floorplan with furnishings drawn before construction begins
  • Encourage open communication with all involved 
  • Understand there will be problems encountered, but alternatives will often work better
  • Don't worry be happy and create a positive vibe throughout the process 
For additional information on renovations, and construction, visit my blog posts below. 

Kitchen Remodel           

The most important part of the project     

Are you overwhelmed? Read this first!

Mary Alice Smith - 732 608-7583

Residential and Commercial Interior Design

Allied Member ASID

Serving Coastal New Jersey homeowners and businesses for twenty years

One Of The Toughest Decorating Problem and The Solution

Photo courtesy of Microsoft Office

Part V - Of The "Five Most Common Decorating Problems that People Have in Decorating their Homes"

Wherever you go - Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, parties, meetings, family dinners, everyone is talking about their goals and changes they want in their home. 

We all may be different, but then we all have so much in common. One of those items we have in common is that we all have distinct ways we process change.

Change is a funny thing. It can be good or bad. It means different things to different people. Some people thrive on change. Others sense change as scary or intimidating - so much so that it stops them in their path of doing something new.

All of my successful decorating clients want change. Some need encouragement to go forward. Others need a second opinion in their decisions. 

But most of all, they realize that doing nothing means things stay the same. The living room will look the same, the kitchen will stay cramped and dated, etc.

The biggest problem in decorating to me is the decision to make a commitment to schedule a date when the home makeover will begin. 

You can talk about it, spend hours on Pinterest, read every decorating magazine on the newsstand. But, nothing will happen till you pull out your calendar, call your contractor, call your interior designer, or visit the kitchen showroom.

Lesson #5: Change is good!

Mary Alice Smith - 732 608-7583

M. A. Smith Interior Design 
Residential and Commercial Interior Design


Allied Member ASID

Member of Kiwanis Club of Greater Toms River 
Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce


Serving Coastal New Jersey homeowners and businesses for twenty years

Are you stuck with your renovation project's to-do list? 

It's true - somethings never seem to change - like your to do list. But if you're like many of my clients, there comes a time when you just have to go ahead and get your project going.

But where to start? You can start here by reading a few posts written for people just like you.

A little confirmation helps you to know you are not alone. So here are some ideas for you to read to get you started. The link below is a short piece about the need to block out time and make a commitment to get started. It might start with contacting a contractor, builder or architect or you might start by visiting home centers and kitchen and bath stores. 

Start here first

Great, now you're warming up to moving ahead. But you still have questions or concerns about building or renovating. The more you understand the building process, the better you will be when the time comes to find your kitchen and bath cabinets, plumbing, appliances, tubs, etc.

If you're in a coastal area, you want to make sure that your home will be built for longevity.

Now read this

It's really that simple. Once you understand what's needed in the construction process, you can jump to the fun part - design and decorating. However, before you head back to Pinterest to get ideas, let's take time to discuss how you plan to use the room you are building or renovating.

This part will make you relieved and ready for a great change

In the end, your project is about creating your vision of the best home. Home should be a place to be comfortable in with everything that pulls at your heart strings. And by the way, I value this quote from The One Thing book that says "Perfection gets in the way of what is possible". In other words, it's okay to want something wonderful, but don't let the fact that it isn't "perfect" (nothing is here on earth you know) keep you from enjoying all the wonderful things about your home. 

If you're still frozen, consider calling an expert to help you make decisions and who values the things that you love. 

Mary Alice Smith - 732 608-7583

M. A. Smith Interior Design 
Residential and Commercial Interior Design


Allied Member ASID

Serving Coastal New Jersey homeowners and businesses for twenty years

The Most Important Advice For Decorating Your Home

Keep it Clear and Simple

I captured this image on one of my morning walks. What I like about it is its clarity and its simplicity. It's the same thing when you hire people to help you decorate or renovate your home. To have a successful design project, you must have clarity about how everyone in the project will work together and who, when, where and how things will be accomplished. 

It’s as simple as that!

Here are some of the ways to make your renovation successful: 

Collaborate: Getting along with everyone is a win-win attitude. (Being pushy or demanding will only render a lot of push-back = slow progress)
Communicate: Roadblocks to communication stifle creativity and progress. There are so many ways to communicate today - text, email, phone or in person. Do whatever works for all involved in your renovation to keep the momentum going.

Finally and really important: Be ready to go to Plan B, or C, etc. Sometimes the best ideas need some time to appear. Your redesign will get done. So having an 'open attitude' is the key to success. 

It's simple!

After years of working on interior design projects, I've noticed that having a ‘yes’ attitude makes all the difference. It's okay to communicate your needs and wants, but keep your mind open for new ways of solving a problem.
Mary Alice Smith of M. A. Smith Interior Design - interior design company serving New Jersey, New York and Connecticut 
To schedule an appointment call: 732 608-7583 or email me at 
M. A. Smith Interior Design 

732 608-7583 

Allied Member ASID
Blogs: The Coastal Confidante and Best Design Coach
Serving Coastal New Jersey 

3 Ways to Add Style to your Dining Table

Just about now you're trying to decide on a new look for your dining table area.

With all the Spring festivities like holidays, barbecues and also birthdays, your table will be the center of attention. 

Maybe your table needs a little accessorizing. Like jewelry, it's the little things that pull an 'outfit' together. 

Where do you start? What can you add that doesn't 'break the bank' or require major overhaul?

Here's what interior designers do that you can do today to change out and create a beautiful dining area:

  • First - take a photo of the dining area. It's a great way to see how the space looks so you can focus on the area in question. Is the table bare? Could you add some perky candlesticks and/or a centerpiece to add interest?

  • Look at the area in the photo. Do you need a more interesting chandelier? Would a touch of glamour, a touch of sparkle or a hint of industrial chic create focus with a new chandelier?

  • Add color! Use a bright color for placemats or a runner. Or add a pale shade for placemats in a color to contrast with the table top. It's contrast that makes a table interesting. 

It's all about layering, adding contrasts, color and sometimes some whimsy. I know you can do it!

For professional interior design for your home, office or commercial project call:

Call Mary Alice Smith of M. A. Smith Interior Design - serving New Jersey, including Ocean and Monmouth County, the Jersey Shore.

To schedule an appointment call: 732 608-7583 or email me at 

M. A. Smith Interior Design
Allied Member ASID

How to Change Your Dining Room from 'Blah' To Beautiful - Part 1

You've seen amazing dining rooms on Pinterest or TV. But if your dining area looks more blah than beautiful - start here first. 

While the trend these days is for 'open plan living' versus a separate dining room, we all have the same dilemma. The dilemma is how to enjoy our dining table and chairs and keep them looking fresh and new.

So, do you have a Dining Room chair or Dining Room table dilemma?

We may have children, or grandchildren enjoying meals or it could be just the two of you - or just you. Either way, the table and chairs get a lot of use over the years. So, there are a few things to consider when looking to refresh or purchase your dining furniture. Let's start with the dining chair fabric. 

Here's my quick and easy 'cheat sheet' of suggestions for Dining Room chair fabric:

  • Look for fabrics that are easy to clean and maintain. If you have a boatload of kids or messy adults, consider using Sunbrella or other outdoor use fabrics. Kravet Performance Fabrics 's Soleil fabrics offer not only durability but a great variety of patterns in scrumptious colors.

  • Consider the shape of the Dining Room chair cushion and the design of the chair back when choosing a fabric pattern. For instance, if the chair is simple in design, perhaps the fabric could have a bold pattern or lively and lovely fabric color as shown below.

  • Not sold on outdoor fabrics for your Dining Room? Go ahead and take a chance on that gorgeous fabric, but make sure it can keep it's good looks by adding Fibreseal protection.
Chair courtesy of Maine Cottage

In my own home, our Dining Room chairs have a Robert Allen fabric that is woven with a fabric protectorant. Even after years of use, a quick wipe with a damp sponge or a spray foam application of Scotchguard keeps the fabric looking as good as it gets!

In Part II, we'll talk about dining tables and the why's and wherefores of selecting one type of table over another. 

For professional interior design for your home, office or commercial project call:

Mary Alice Smith of M. A. Smith Interior Design - serving New Jersey, including Ocean and Monmouth County, the Jersey Shore.

To schedule an appointment call: 732 608-7583 or email me at 

M. A. Smith Interior Design
Allied Member ASID

Why Just One Step is the Best Way to Get Your Renovation Going

Schumacher's Monarch's March 

"Spring ahead" they say. Yes, Spring with all its promises for warmer temps, daffodil and tulip bulbs sprouting gives us a new outlook. Butterflies will return to your gardens. As well as to-do lists.

Ugh - those dreaded tasks to get the house ready for the seasons ahead. Where to start, what to do first? Trust me, I'm there with you. If you own a home it's guaranteed that every season "Somethings Gotta Give" you frustration. So many lists, so little time.

In our home, we've got a list for every room. We have busy days and mostly weekends left for our to-do lists. So this weekend instead of moaning the lack of time to get a project done, I looked at it with a new perspective. I think I've found a way to make this work for our project and hopefully for yours too.

Instead of looking at how 'much' you need to accomplish, do this. Look at the smallest one thing that needs to be done. For us, it was to remove the doors on our built-in TV cabinet. Next, I emptied the contents and either threw away the old papers, etc., moved items to another room, or moved the items to be dropped off and donated to places like Habitat for Humanity.

And by the way, that's how it works in new construction or any renovation project. It's all done in little steps. 

You can do this! 

Feeling Discombobulated Lately? Join our De-Cluttering Challenge Today

Photo courtesy of House Beautiful and Ikea

More Clothes and Less Space?

After the holidays were you given wonderful new outfits, purses, scarves, etc.? All is well and good till you try to add them to our already cramped closet. 

Or, maybe you threw yourself into cooking over the holidays and have added spices, new pots and pans to your cramped pantry. 

While Architectural Digest is not coming to inspect your home, you know you'd feel better, more in control and even lighter if you could organize your spaces. 

 Enter this year's challenge. Pick one space you would be so happy to see organized.

Schedule it in your calendar to tackle. 

Tell us your plan or challenge. 

Send us photos when you are done and you will have more praise than you've received in a long time.

What's your organizing challenge? 

Part II - Designer's Best Kept Secrets to a Successful Project

Renaissance at Manchester NJ new Lobby's Installation Day
The minute you see the photo above, you may have wondered why I used this image today. Yes, it's a lobby and not a home. But the design process to arrive to this special installation day is the same, whether for residential or commercial design.

The process starts with gathering information as I discussed in the last blog post. We discuss how a room is used or will be used. What do you like or dislike when you think of the room as it is now. And, what changes in the room would make you happy.

(The former Lobby before updating)
For instance, our design committee at Renaissance discussed the dissatisfaction with the old layout of the room. We discussed how much seating should be included (as well as a change in color scheme). Once I had the basic information on the flow (or access from one area to the next) and the need for ample seating, I measured and then created the floorplan you see below.

We expanded the carpeted area to the rear of the room and shortened the carpeted area in the front of the Lobby. This created a more open feel and direct access from one hallway to the other.

The intent of the space is to add seating arranged for conversation.

However, the space is not meant for lengthy meetings, so we left out the use of side tables next to the sofa and armchairs.

The result is a more updated, open and airy lobby that is a great departure from the former layout.

Yes, floorplans are helpful. But sometimes a 3D drawing gives our clients an image they can understand.

This drawing shows the highback wing chairs that work beautifully in a room with a high ceiling. Also, it's more interesting to vary the heights of sofas or chairs.

We stayed on course with the committees' request to keep the traffic flow around the seating area and within the seating area easy for residents to use.

So now you know this designer's secret to successful projects - start with information gathering and design spaces that are comfortable to use for all.

From new construction, renovations and room refreshing, we work a plan and plan your design around your life, your family and your budget. 

Part I - Designer's Best Kept Secret to a Successful Project

Photo courtesy of Urban Electric Company 

Did you look at the photo above and immediately start to think about your own living room or family room? Maybe the paneled wall attracted you or the amazing wall sconce. Perhaps the throw pillows are something you've been meaning to add to your sofa. 
All those thoughts are so important. You see, you need to have a vision first, if you want to achieve anything in life or in designing your home. 

As I mentioned in the last blog post : I always ask my clients - "How do you want to use the room or space (indoors or outside)? Do you need more seating, less seating, more space for entertaining perhaps?"

Simply put - it's function first. Yes, I know you have numerous Pinterest Boards (as I do). 
But, before we get excited about that sofa or dining room table, let me hear from you how you use the room now and/or how you'd really like to use the room. 

The view from my office to the Dining Room (formerly the  Living Room)

In our home over the last ten years, I've asked myself that same question - How do we want to use the room now? 

We had a Living Room and a Family Room. But since the family is all grown up, did we really need two rooms for seating? 

Perhaps the former Dining Room would serve better as my home office and perhaps the former Living Room would allow more seating for our Dining Room table. 

Let's start the design journey with questions. Let's be open to ideas that you would never imagine before. 

What area of your home could be reimagined into the most wonderful space you never imagined before?

The 5 Most Important Questions I ask my Clients

The 5 Most Important Questions I ask my Clients 

Photo courtesy of Copeland Furniture - made in Vermont
Now that summer is behind us, we look to the next few months as a new start. If you're like me, you feel like hitting "refresh" as soon as September rolls around. 

I definitely need a new look and a new perspective in autumn. And, just like my clients who hire me to give their homes a new look, I also need to change up things inside and outside our home. 

But in order to change, you first need to know what needs changing. It's hard to prioritize and decide what should stay, what should go or what look in your home needs a re-boot. 

So I have to pretend I'm my own client in a way. I have to ask myself the same things I ask my clients. For instance:

  1. How do you want to use the room or space (indoors or outside)? Do you need more seating, less seating, more space for entertaining perhaps?
  2. What are the things you love about this room? Is it the light, the fireplace, the colors used on walls and furnishings?
  3. What are you most dissatisfied with the room? Is it too small, too large, too plain? 
  4. What rooms in Pinterest, House Beautiful or Architectural Digest have you consistently loved? Are you a fan of Ralph Lauren, Miles Redd, Restoration Hardware?
  5. What is your budget? Are you ready to renovate to the extent of changing floors, opening up a room, or is it more cosmetic with new furniture and new paint colors on the walls? 
To help you make a change, I'll share with you my journey in my own 'Autumn Refresh'. I'll start with the first question on the next post. See you then!

Valentine's Day - A few different ideas for Gifts

With only days away, do you have to come up with a great Valentine, Birthday or Anniversary gift idea?

 If you're 5 years old, you can get away with a handmade card from school, but not now. So now what to do, what is a different kind of gift, what would they love to receive?

Here are a few ideas to get you going in the right direction fast. (You only have a week or so!) The first ones are for men, and the last are for the love or loves of your life.

For the men in your life:
  • A monthly gym membership - for a "core strength and conditioning program."
  • Dinner at Charlie's in Bay Head, NJ  - fabulous atmosphere and great food. 
For wife, mother, grandmother, sister or girlfriend:
  • A two hour interior designer consultation at $150.
  • A four hour interior designer consultation at $295.
Now is the perfect time to help her get her home ready for spring, for renovation or for staging a house for sale. A two hour Gift Card towards a consult on a room of your choice includes:
  1. Paint color ideas to make a room come to life (finally the right color!)
  2. A better floorplan concept - great for Living Room and Family Rooms
  3. Arranging accessory ideas for tabletop, bookcases or a mantel 
  4. Window treatment or lighting suggestions to bring a room to life
  5. Lighting suggestions to give a room the atmosphere to feel and look great in

Mary Alice Smith of M. A. Smith Interior Design - an interior designer serving New Jersey, Ocean and Monmouth County, the Jersey Shore and metropolitan New York, CT 
To schedule an appointment call: 732 690-2030

The Secret to Successful Decorating

Contrast make this room interesting
A Designer's To Do List to Decorate Your Home 

You might be well on your way to finishing a room. Furniture is delivered and the walls have a new coat of paint. But something is missing.

You've done your homework but somehow your room doesn't look like the one in Pinterest or Coastal Home. It's frustrating and I know how you feel. But there's an answer to be sure.

When I visit homes for the first time, I see the rooms with fresh eyes. If you live day to day in a home, you might not be able to see the things I see. 

For instance, if the lighting is uneven, even the best dressed rooms will look flat. Perhaps you could use some table lamps, uplights or a spot on art work. 

Or, is there enough contrast in the room? Contrast is important to bring a room to life. You can add contrast with a nubby throw on a soft fabric sofa. A vase in a bright color can add pizzazz to the space just as a mirror adds a touch of sparkle to a room. 

Simply put, layer your rooms with objects that give it personality. Use books, flowers, plants, art and accessories to give it the sense that it is a well lived and well loved home. 

Five of my Favorite Myths or Secrets about Decorating your Home with Paint

Photo courtesy of Country Living 

  1. Dark paint colors make a room look smaller - wrong! Dark paint colors give a small space the oomph it needs to look important. There is a warm and enveloping feeling that you can't always get from a pale shade of paint. 
  2. Trim has to be either stained or painted white. Please give this one myth up ASAP! In our own home we used a medium shade of gray on our formerly lackluster white interior doors. 
  3. Gray paint is not a warm color. Wrong again! Yes, some grays are cooler grays, but there's a warm gray for everybody. We used Benjamin Moore's Edgecomb Gray on our hallways and Foyer. It's a beigy/soft/greige that changes throughout the day. It's perfect if you want to be 'engaged' but not commit to gray. 
  4. Everyone in the house has to love the color I choose. Trust me, not everyone has the faintest idea of what paint can do for a house. For instance, if your toddler craves purple, would you respect her choice and paint your home purple? If you're unsure on what color to select, look into hiring an interior designer to help make the best choice of color. 
  5. All paints are the same, so buy less expensive paint. After twenty years in the business of interior design, I can speak as an expert. Do buy good paint, it will look and last better than cheaper paints. 
Lastly, (as much as I love my painters) let them do their work but save the color selection to you or your designer. Not every color looks the same in every house. I've seen paint colors in my clients homes that I would have loved in my home. But, we have different light, floor color, furnishings and all that can change how a color looks. 

Mary Alice Smith of M. A. Smith Interior Design - an interior designer serving New Jersey, Ocean and Monmouth County, the Jersey Shore and metropolitan New York, CT 
To schedule an appointment call: 732 690-2030

Puzzled about designing your Home?

Today is like any other day as as interior designer. With a variety of projects to work on, it can feel overwhelming every once in awhile. It's like working with a puzzle. You have the finished work in mind, but it takes patience and concentration to pull it all together. 

I found this quote that explains the 'puzzle phenomenon' that can apply when decorating your home or to life in general. 

"Life isn't 
about finding pieces 
of a puzzle. 
It's about
and putting
 those exceptional
Glenn van Dekken 

So it's a good thing that I love puzzles! I love finding the pieces that bring my clients' vision together. And like working on a puzzle, it takes time and thought, patience and courage to finish the project. 

It's not any one piece of the 'puzzle' that is important. Every piece is important. For instance, it's not just a sofa that will transform a room. It's a medley of a number of things orchestrated together to give a room life, that will give it its soul. 

So, be patient with yourself (or your designer). The best things in life take time!