How to find your Decorating Style in 2012

Why Beauty is always in the eye of the Beholder
when it comes to Decorating the Home

It never ceases to amaze me how my clients' eyes zero in on a particular fabric or piece of furniture, as we review options in the design of their home. Initially they may find it hard to describe what they are looking for, but the minute they ‘see’ it, they know that’s what they want, or don’t want.
Although we are all similar in many ways, we have definite choices or preferences in how we furnish our homes. I always look for that ‘aha’ moment or response from my clients to help me to define our plan for decorating.
Do you love a bold or classic look? Maybe zen and serene is your style. Refined and elegant may define you. But until you start looking at fabrics, furniture or kitchen designs you may be puzzled on how to capture a look that is yours alone.
Today, you can start to picture yourself in your dream home by simply ‘Google-ing’ fabric companies, furniture companies or room settings at Build a scrapbook of your favorite room settings. That’s the way to get things going. Your dream home may not happen overnight. But it will happen only if you decide today to take the first step.
Have a beautiful New Year!

Mary Alice Smith is an interior designer in the New Jersey and metropolitan New York areas.
She can be reached at 732 690-2030 or at

How to keep things simple this season, or at least manageable!

Robert Allen Fabrics
I wasn't sure what I was going to blog about today.

All day long I was on the road, looking for the best tile, the best fabrics, the best rugs for my clients.

When would I have time to blog and what could I say that I haven't said in past blogs?

I could write about the great tile selection I found or the rugs that caught my eye the minute I saw them. I could write about how I can pull it all together, so that a room feels just right and looks terrific. But when I returned home and checked my emails, a photo in the email grabbed my attention. I knew what I wanted to say in today's blog after all.

The email features a photo of fabrics from the Robert Allen Fabric line. The patterns are crisp and have that 'Joie De Vivre' look. I like the patterns because they can be used in almost any style home to get an updated look. They don't have to be in the blue color scheme. The patterns would look good in red, brown, or green as well. 

Life in general and decorating the holidays can be simpler, when we open ourselves to a few of these ideas:
  • Use one great and favorite color and pattern to make a room come to life. A little goes a long way. Make a statement with one large element. Don't decorate every inch of the room! (A red throw, runner, etc.)
  • Find place mats that are different - shiny; or wood instead of fabric; round instead of rectangular for this months place setting.
  • Use fresh evergreens from your backyard in tall vases. It's a refreshing switch from the 'plastic' Christmas trees, garlands. 
  • Large bowls filled with pinecones always look great, even after the holidays.
Less is more - keep things simple and you will finally enjoy the holidays for a change!

Mary Alice Smith, based in New Jersey, is an interior designer in the New Jersey and metropolitan New York areas.
She can be reached at 732 690-2030 or at

After you read this blog - check out my website and other blog:
M. A. Smith Ltd.,Interior Design
House Zen Garden Blog

Why a Shade different than the Usual makes all the Difference

Why a Shade, a Valance, Drapery or a Cornice
makes all the Difference in a Room
Photo courtesy of Samuel & Sons
Now that Thanksgiving weekend is over, I'm back to work on my interior design projects.  Most of the rooms I'm designing need new window treatments. It's always interesting to see how a room comes together, when the window treatment is installed.

So much thought goes into window treatments. Besides the function of the window treatment (control of light, heat, sound) is the decision on the type or color of fabric, whether it is lined or interlined and if it requires hardware (poles, rods, etc.) at installation.

Not only does designing a window treatment require alot of thought, it requires collaboration with the fabricator, the fabric suppliers and the installer. It challenges the designer to mix together all the elements of design for the purpose of pleasing her client's eye and transforming a space.

I can't wait to see the fabrics I'll find at the fabric showrooms this week - it's where the transformation of those windows will begin to take shape!

Mary Alice Smith, based in New Jersey, is an interior designer the New Jersey and metropolitan New York areas. 
She can be reached at 732 690-2030 or at

After you read this blog - check out my website and blog:
M. A. Smith Ltd.,Interior Design
House Zen Garden Blog

Confused over what Furniture to Buy for your Home?

Is the act of buying furniture for your home like looking the perfect shoe at your favorite store?
So many choices, so little time...
Photo courtesy of Elle Decor
It's so exciting at first. You have a goal to make your home beautiful. You start looking in magazines, websites and books. But, at some point you may get a sinking feeling that you are stuck, unable to make a decision and going nowhere fast with your dream home.

Just as in the photo of the shoes above, there are so many styles to choose from in home and fashion these days. How can you decide which is right for you? When you talk about your dilemma to friends and family it may only confuse the issue.

The good news though, is that you are not alone! Most of my clients start out this way with great dreams followed by apprehension. But what always solves their stalemate is actually simple - it's action! As Zig Ziglar once said: "...action follows goals".

When I work with clients, the first thing I do is ask them the questions that reveal what furnishings they need and then we determine what styles they love. Once I understand my client's goals, I can create a plan of action and before long, we are on the way to creating the home that will make them happy and glad they solved their dilemma!

How to turn a Rainy Day into a Red Letter Day

I know we need the rain, but that doesn't make me love a rainy day like today. So to lift my spirits, I pulled together a few things that bring an instant smile to my day.

1. A picture of a house with red doors. (Red's my color, just so you know.)

Photo courtesy of Collette's Cottage Blog

2. Red nail polish on my fingers reminds me of Chanel and everything glamorous, when I don't feel glamorous.

Photo courtesy of (Color: Fishnet Red)

 3. Red walls are tantalizing to see. I have used red on many a wall in my house, but now use red as an accent color (pillows, maybe my front door someday, throws, etc.)

Benjamin Moore's Million Dollar Red courtesy of Stellarspaces Blog

Question: What lifts your spirits on a rainy day?

Straight talk about Stripes in decorating your Home

Kravet Zebra Stripe
When I mention the word 'stripe' for fabric or wall coverings, most people think of vertical or horizontal stripes. But as you can see, the Zebra print above can be used as a stripe in your home too.

  • Stripes can be used for adding a pinch of pizazz in a room that has solid fabrics. Think about using a stripe fabric on a throw pillow, or on one wall of a room to make it the focus of attention.

  • This zebra stripe would look great on a three-panelled screen in the corner of a room or as a fabric for an ottoman or as a rug. Also, stripes can lead your eye 'up' and visually lengthen the look of a room's ceiling height.

  •  Remember that when using stripes in decorating, a little goes a long way to add that certain something that makes a room 'sing.'

Stuck in a decorating rut? Don't worry, be happy, read on!

Today, I'm working on design for a client's new home. However, a month ago this same client expressed some concerns, that might stop her from realizing her dream of the perfect bedroom space.
While my client's concerns were real, she was not alone in her concern about ever having her dreams come to life.

Interior Designers research many fabrics for a Design Project
At parties, organization meetings, in stores or just about anywhere I hear the following comments from people about their homes:
I can't finish or get to my decorating project because -
  • I can't make a decision and there are too many choices - it's overwhelming!
  • I am afraid of making the wrong choices, which will cost me more in the future to fix.
  • No one is listening to what I want!
  • It could take too long, and I don't have the time to work on it now.
  • I need someone to bounce ideas off who won't steer me in the wrong direction.
It's true, as interior designers we use our abilities and experience to create beautiful rooms. But our core strength is the ability to create a vision with a plan and then execute it so that the job gets done. It's as complex and as simple as that.
Maybe you know someone who is stuck in their dreams of the perfect kitchen or family room. Perhaps the best thing you can do for a friend and as a friend, is to point her/him in the direction of an interior designer.

It's as loving and as simple as that!

For more information on how to make your home beautiful without adding stress to your busy day -
Call Mary Alice in the New Jersey and metro New York City area at:
732 690-2030

You can turn over a new Leaf by doing this one thing Today

How to Save some Money in the Future by doing one thing Today
Photo courtesy of Lee Industries
Today I am turning over my sofa cushions for a very good reason. First, I've found that flipping over the cushions gives the foam of my sofa's seat cushions a break from constant wear. Secondly, the sofa cushion fabric has half the exposure from sunlight degradation as long as I flip the cushions at least once a year. 
Yes, I know most windows these days have UV degradation protective qualities, but you'd be surprised to know it does not completely solve the problem of fabrics fading over time. Besides using window coverings to protect your upholstery, this simple act of flipping your cushions can extend the wear from sun and constant use of your sofa for years.

But if you're in the market for a new sofa and flipping the cushions won't do the trick, check out
Lee Industries website for earth and people-friendly furniture. Do something good for yourself and our country (Lee Industries furniture is made in the USA) and the universe.

For more information on how to make your home beautiful without adding stress to your busy day -
Call Mary Alice in the New Jersey and metro New York City area at:
732 690-2030

Stressed out? Follow my Prescription for a quick Remedy

Lee Jofa Showroom at the Philadelphia Marketplace Design Center

Stressed and overwhelmed lately? My prescription is simple: Add a little color to soothe your soul.

Once upon a time, I visited the Lee Jofa fabric showroom at the Marketplace Design Center in Philadelphia and I saw something that truly caught my attention. It was the red on the walls that grabbed my attention and made me take a second look. Sure I love red, it's my favorite color. But it's that feeling that I get, when I see the color that I love the most.

For me red goes back to my favorite dress when I was a child. It also represents candy apples and Christmas and strawberries, all at the same time. When I wear red now, I feel confident. When I use it as a accent color at home, it makes my living room light up.

Color is personal. Some people gravitate towards blue or green for the serenity it suggests. Whatever color you love, make sure you use it at home or in something you wear. It doesn't have to be on a wall,  but it can easily be added as an accent color with a scarf or throw.

These days, stress can challenge our days, so make sure you come home to the color you love, to have the life you want to live.

M. A. Smith, Ltd.
Interior Design
732 690-2030
Allied Member ASID
Serving New Jersey and Metropolitan New York

Buying a new Sofa? A few things you need to know before you Shop

Photo courtesy of

It's right in front of you. It's that sofa you saw in your favorite home furnishings store. But before you get too excited, check a few details that could save you money in the future. While some furniture will last decades, some will fail too soon because the fabric was not durable for the use intended.

Besides obtaining the specifications on the structure of the sofa (8-way hand tied springs, kiln-dried hardwoods,etc.)  you'll want to know the performance rating of the fabric.

An easy way to know if the sofa fabric will last is to obtain the double-rub or fabric wearability rating.
For instance, the Kravet fabric shown below has a 30,000 double-rub rating. That's considered a sufficient rating for heavy duty wear of upholstered furniture.

I can just imagine the sofa with the fabric accented by a contrasting welt and the pillows that will have a beautiful print...

Kravet fabric with 30,000 double-rub rating*

(Note: This fabric included on furniture order as per E-Design Trade website)

For more information on how to make your home beautiful without adding stress to your busy day -
Call Mary Alice Smith in the New Jersey and metro New York City area at:
732 270-2676

How to solve pet Problems that make your Home look like it's "Gone to the Dogs"

We all love our sweet, cudly pets.
And, at the same time we want to have a beautiful home.
Photo courtesy of painter Nancy Spielman

So to keep everyone happy at home, especially our family and pets, here are some guidelines for easy-care decorating for pet-friendly living areas:

 Use ultra-suede fabric for upholstery.
My family room sofa can be scrubbed clean with a wet cloth in a matter of minutes.
I swear by its power to hold up to dogs, cats and even kids.

Robert Allen Fabrics Sensuade in Caramel

One of my favorite ways to hide pet hair (even long-haired cats)
 is an animal print for upholstery.

This Kravet fabric is rated 200,000 double rubs for upholstery

Stay relaxed with your rugs by using rugs made for outdoor use.

Photo courtesy of

Now - go play (with your dogs and cats) without worrying about the furnishings!

Why having a decorating Plan is better than having only a ‘Wing and a Prayer’ Plan

Why is having a decorating Plan a better Idea than having only a
‘Wing and a Prayer’ Plan?

Cartoon courtesy of

A few weeks ago a former client called for help with a room project. Simple enough, but the challenge was that it had to be completed in a few weeks. 

No small task, but approachable only through the habit of setting up a plan with detailed goals. As each goal is accomplished we check them off one-by-one.

Notice what Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith remark in their groundbreaking book The Dragonfly Effect  about goals and getting things done. In their book they remark, that when we achieve “…more, smaller success…” it serves to provide “reinforcement and sustains momentum.”

To sustain your momentum in your decorating and work projects consider the following:
1. Set detailed goals: short descriptions coupled with a completion date.

2. Mark off goals as completed.

3. Perform a weekly assessment of goal setting with every person involved in your project.
For those who have problems thinking ‘linearly’, check out this ‘Mind Map link to organize your step-by-step process. (For ease of use, you can use words rather than drawing objects!)

Have a great day!

Mary Alice Smith
M. A. Smith Interior Design 
732 608-7583

How to decide What to buy for your Home when your Choices are Limitless!

Red or Green, Traditional or Transitional - the choices are limitless. What will you do?
Photo courtesy of Microsoft Office

Recently, I visited the Marketplace Design Center in Philadelphia to choose upholstery fabrics for a client. With ideas in my mind, I pointed myself in the direction of my favorite showrooms for home fabrics, wall coverings and furniture.

Simple, you might say. But, I have seen clients freeze at the sight of hundreds of fabric samples on the showroom racks. However, after years of working for clients, when I see those fabrics I approach with a sense of calm and anticipation, rather than fright.

There is a problem for some people when they have too many items from which to choose. In his book the The Paradox of Choice, Barry Schwartz explains that " the number of choices grows further the negatives escalate until we become overloaded. At this point, choice no longer liberates but instead debilitates. It might even be said to tyrannize".

So, the next time someone near and dear says to you - "Why use an interior designer?", point them to the prologue of The Paradox of Choice. Then and only then will they understand the complexity of choice in decorating a home, amidst as Schwartz calls it "an overload of choice".

With that in mind, here is an idea to get you going on your project today:

Call an interior designer today, to keep your project manageable and organized.

Have a great day!

Mary Alice Smith
M. A. Smith, Ltd. Interior Design
732 690-2030