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 masmith@masmithinteriordesign.com 


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 masmith@masmithinteriordesign.com 

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
creating 
and putting
 those exceptional
pieces
together"
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!

An Architect's Best Advice If You Are Buying, Renovating or Rebuilding a Coastal Home




Note: The article below is published by permission of Jim O'Brien for the purpose of sharing vital information to Jersey Shore homeowners,builders and real estate companies.
Featured Guest: JIM O’BRIEN ARCHITECTS
"Major Considerations Buying, Renovating and Rebuilding a Shore Home"

"As Architects we work with homeowners to select properties, buy, redesign, or rebuild homes at the Jersey Shore. The shore today is a new world with many factors driving its evolution in flux. Many local, state and federal decisions that will regulate our built environment are being made quickly, being revised and reconsidered (or delayed), or are simply in the offing out to the years of 2014, 2015 and beyond. 

When consulting on buying, renovating or rebuilding a shore home in this environment we focus on three major categories where we are experiencing major changes.  

First there are the financial aspects of buying, building/rebuilding, financing and insuring a home. Decisions there now have bigger ripple effects, many yet without precedence here, on the real value of these properties in the real estate market, both while one owns a property and when it comes time to sell.  

Secondly, the techniques of building at the Jersey Shore have evolved almost overnight. Newly widespread at the shore are previously uncommon factors now common to every structure’s permanence, storm-resistance, allowable height and allowable renovation or new construction techniques.  

Thirdly, we see the changing considerations for our sense of aesthetics & lifestyle at the shore. With many parts of the shore having been wiped away or drastically damaged, we know they will come back in a different fashion. The look and feel of our shore communities is about to change.   

From the experience of the rebuilt and modified boardwalks, to the replenished and relocated dunes we see as early as now and this summer, to the changes in home styles and ground floor uses we’ll see in rebuilding in every community each year to come, our choices are new once again for how to make things beautiful and how we want to live.

Below are the important issues in these three categories we are commonly seeing and discussing at this time: 

1. Financial Aspects

The financial aspects of the fact that we now coexist with higher flood levels at the shore. The Jersey Shore’s new Base Flood Elevations (adopted by Gov. Christie) don’t just add cost - they do save the value of Jersey Shore homes. 

·         Base Flood Elevations, recommended by FEMA, are put down onto Flood Insurance Rate Maps that determine your flood insurance premium. If you have a property with flood insurance and at anytime it suffers damages totaling 50 percent or more of its market value, you are required in your rebuild to elevate your home to the base flood elevation, if you wish to continue having flood insurance. In so rebuilding and elevating a home flood insurance offers up to $30,000 for that work under what’s called Increased Cost of Compliance coverage.
·         If you are with a mortgage, your bank will require that flood insurance, so this rebuild and elevation described above is required.
·         If you are with no mortgage, you are the owner in full of your property, you can opt not to comply with any raising requirements, even if your home’s storm damage is more than 50% of its value. You will pay more in flood insurance. But until new rates go into effect, possibly in early 2015, insurance premiums will not be affected. When that time comes, according to FEMA, a property that’s four feet below the advisory elevation in a high-hazard area could cost the owner roughly $31,000 a year for flood insurance. The premium drops to $7,000 if the home is at the new standard, and falls to $3,500 if the house is built two feet higher.

·         The financial aspects include consideration of these questions: What is the market value of a well built home if it is for sale, and is not compliant with the base flood elevation? Are there many buyers for this home? Are cash buyers motivated to buy such a home because they do not have a mortgage bank requiring them to buy flood insurance on such a home? Are higher flood insurance premiums for non-compliant homes affecting the sale price of that home, etc.?

2. Techniques of Building

Shore homes most vulnerable to storm damage and flooding lie in what flood maps have labeled the “V” and “A” zones. The most vulnerable homes are in the "V" zones, which are waterfront areas at the highest risk for flooding and likely to have up to 3-foot breaking waves coming through land areas during a storm. These “V” zones require costly pile foundations be used in any building/rebuilding. The "A" zones covers much of the Jersey Shore just next to the “V” zones. The “A” zones aren’t as vulnerable as the "V" zones but are still subject to major storm damage. 

To withstand “V” and “A” zone-strength storm, wind and flood surges without damage to the house’s structure itself, we use all the engineering principles we know; from pre-planned concealed openings throughout the ground level for flood water passage, to hurricane-rated windows, doors and shutters, to internal wall bracing and structural ties from roofs to footings, elevated mechanical systems, and deep pile foundations (of wood, helical steel, and hydrojet-installed reinforced concrete). 

“Lifting” an existing house is a major preoccupation for many homeowners now. A house lifting association of contractors doing this work suggests the range of $14 per square foot for a simple and small house to $22 per square foot for larger and more complex homes as an estimate of the cost of raising a house up to 6 feet. The cost of raising a foundation and exterior stairs to meet the new raised house floor, and of utilities re-connections, and of any other incidental work needs to be figured in addition to that. 

The Allowable Building Height in each municipality is also a major preoccupation for many homeowners now. Some municipalities have raised theirs 2 to 3 feet. Many are considering that, to facilitate lifting homes and building new ones reasonably similarly proportioned to the 2-1/2 story configuration we are accustomed to seeing. 

3. Aesthetics & Lifestyle

Homeowners look to maximize their livable space within the allowable building heights. This can change the architecture and appearance of many Jersey Shore communities by creating homes with parking or storage on the ground floor, living areas on the second & third floors, and several options for the design treatment and use of the roof level. 

Contemporary and Traditional Designs: PROS/CONS: 

The use of roof levels. On roofs: pitched roofs (traditional) with half-hidden terraces, vs. flat (contemporary), walkable roof terraces or “green roof” surfaces. In either case roofs capture access to the sun, breeze and wonderful views. If some choose a contemporary flat roof style, we will see that approach replace some of the pitched roof cottage styles so common at the Jersey Shore. (See image of a contemporary design.)  

The Ground floor use: parking, storage, low-capital-investment living spaces, due to higher base flood elevations and likelihood of flood and storm damage here.  The Ground floor look: breakaway vs. permanent. You do have a choice. Ground levels below a base flood elevation present a fork in the road for the design of a home.
Do we accept the look of impermanence with breakaway walls of cement panels or plywood (see FEMA image attached), and/or the look of piling as “stilts” with no walls around them and a “home” placed above them? Does that drive a contemporary design solution? Or a podium for an awkward- or challenged-traditional home placed above it?  

On the other hand, likely at greater expense, do we design the ground level with a sense of and with materials of permanence? (See images attached of 3 design versions of this approach.) In this approach even a base flood elevation a full story above grade results in a house design rooted to the earth, as we use good design plus all the engineering principles we know (from pre-planned concealed openings throughout the ground level for flood water passage, to hurricane-rated windows, doors and shutters, to structural ties from roof to footings, and elevated mechanical systems,) to withstand possible storm surges thorough the ground floor with no damage to the structure itself."
For further information or to inquire about architectural design contact:

Jim O’Brien Architects LLC Architecture and Interiors
Certified Interior Designer NCARB LEED-AP
NY, NJ Architects License AIO12605
JERSEY SHORE | NEW JERSEY | NEW YORK

Tel : 973.993.5800


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
M. A. Smith Interior Design 
masmith@masmithinteriordesign.com


Allied Member ASID
Member of Greater Toms River Chamber of Commerce
Member of Kiwanis Daybreak of Toms River

http://masmithinteriordesign.com
Blog: HouseZenGarden and Best Design Coach

Five Steps to Refresh Your Home 


The season is finally at our doorstep - yay! But wait, all those projects you thought you were going to do last season  - are they still not done?

The painting of the guest bedroom or the new window treatments or even a new furniture plan are still on your to do list. I understand life gets in the way and other things beckon. But, nothing will change unless you do the following steps that I do to get started:



  • Start with a writing a list of the ONE thing that needs to be changed 
  • Create a file of pages of rooms, homes or gardens that you think look just great (use a Pinterest)
  • Break the list into steps needed to complete your project
  • Add dates to complete each step onto your calendar
  • Call the one person who can help you complete the steps


For instance, our Master Bath cried for a renovation. However, I am so busy helping my clients with their renovations, I have little time to spare. But making our first appointment with the contractor, my plumber and my tile installer, put us at the starting gate to get things going. 

Now that our Master Bath is done, our Master Bedroom is next on our list. Our ONE thing that needs to be changed is the paint color. I'll keep you posted with what I have in mind, but for now, I've got to go and do the ONE thing on my exercise list for today.

Call for professional help, for a nudge to get started, for the best year ever:

732 690-2030

M. A. Smith Interior Design
1288 Beauchamps Place, Toms River, NJ 08753
E-mail: masmith@masmithinteriordesign.com
Allied Member ASID

http://masmithinteriordesign.com
Blog: HouseZenGarden
Blog: BestDesignCoach.com
Serving New Jersey and Metropolitan New York City




Need a 'Brush-up on selecting the perfect Paint Color?


Photo courtesy of Coastal Living Magazine
Color is a hot topic nowadays. From Pinterest to Houzz and HGTV to Facebook, everyone is talking about a particular room they saw and loved  - and the color that was used on the walls.

It sounds so easy. Just point and click. Use that blue that a designer chose at a designer showhouse featured in Traditional Home magazine. Or, follow the lead and paint your walls that 'shade of gray' you loved in Elle D├ęcor.

The problem is that it doesn't translate as well in real life. Your home has different light than the home you saw in House Beautiful. Maybe your floors are dark and your wood furniture has a different stain color than the picture you so want to replicate.

What do you do? Put down that color chip and go to your nearest paint store or call your favorite designer and choose a variety of tones in that shade of blue, for instance. You may need a warmer, grayer blue than the one in the magazine.

Some colors appear reflective. Other shades may be more recessive. You may need a contrast in your room rather than a basketfull of neutrals that will put you to sleep.

It will be trial and error. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes it takes a few go-arounds till you settle on the color of your dreams.

Whatever you do, take your time. Understand that there is a color for you. It's just waiting for you to discover it and love it!