Episode 291

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Summer is a time to liberate yourself and to think outside the box.  I recorded this episode wearing a crop top – what are you leaning into this summer? I want to hear all about it!  My business is going through a time of significant growth and development, and we have even more exciting news to share soon.

In the meantime, I’m digging into the mailbag to answer your questions.

This episode, I answer questions about…

[5:31] An eye-catching kitchen renovation for a vacation rental home (Derek)


I’ve listened to your podcast for over a year, and when I heard about your poop water incident, I had to write in.  We have a vacation rental in Palm Springs, CA, and last month we found out that the upstairs unit flooded our place with – you guessed it – poop water.  Everything the water touched, we have to replace.  We are losing carpet, rugs, furniture, etc.  The silver lining is that our place was built in the 70’s and it did look a bit dated.

So we are going to do a whole renovation and insurance will cover a lot of the costs, but trying to manage this from our home in Denver, CO is a huge headache.  I don’t hear a lot on your podcast about Airbnb or rental property.  Since we get rentals based on pictures, we are drawn to dramatic colors or styles.  I’m sure you are aware that Palm Springs is the capital of mid-century design, and we want to lean into that.  It’s a little over the top and it’s not what we would do in our own home, but guests love the mid-century vibe of our unit (you can find the link to check out the condo at affordableinteriordesign.com/links ).

We will be getting rid of the laminate flooring and we’ve decided to go with a polished concrete.  We will be replacing the dining area with a burnt orange, since the red is not really a mid-century color, and we want to tie in the orange living area with the dining area.  We’re going to do the kitchen ourselves with an IKEA kitchen.  We want to do white gloss cabinets and have gold accents throughout.  Since our kitchen is a small galley kitchen, we thought white would make it feel better.  I’m in love with gold sinks and a gold faucet.  I’m confused – if we go with a white mid-century modern backsplash, is that something you would suggest or should we go bolder with maybe another color?

I feel like the white, clean look with hints of gold will be good, but I worry it won’t stand out in pictures.  It may be too boring.  What do you think?  Are we being too boring with white on white on white?  Another issue with the kitchen is that all the appliances are stainless steel.  Is it ok to do a gold sink, faucet finishes and light fixture with stainless steel?  And if so, I’m worried about trying to match all these golds.  There is brushed gold, brass gold, and just gold gold.  How close do we have to match light fixtures with the faucet?


I totally agree with Derek’s style choice.  When people are going to Palm Springs, they expect a mid-century modern look – especially if the architecture is from that era.  So I think leaning in is the right thing to do.  With a rental property, it is definitely important for the pictures to pop.  Looking at the pictures, everything is really stylish and looks super inviting.  My one worry is that everything is very warm.  It may be overly orange, and we need to be thinking about our 60/30/10.  We need a mix of warm and cool colors.

For the kitchen, I do think white IKEA cabinetry is a good idea.  Keeping the backsplash a white tile, however, is a lost opportunity in my opinion.  I would keep the space neutral with maybe a new countertop that has a marble effect, and then do something more exciting with the backsplash.

You do not have to match the stainless steel with the gold fixtures, but you do need to keep the gold throughout.  So looking into the living room, the doors, the hinges, things like that – you would want to change those out for gold as well.  Right now it appears that the knobs are silver, and I do not mix cool and warm metals (cool being silvers and warms being golds or brasses).  I will mix black or dark metals, like wrought iron or oil-rubbed bronze, with either the silvers or with the brasses.

Brass might open up quite a few issues.  With brass accents and light fixtures, silver door knobs and hinges, I’m wondering how much change they want to make.  I would lean into the silver instead and I would do the silver/black combo to give it a little bit more personality.  I think the silver/black is going to be a much stronger and more timeless choice than the brass gold.

If someone wanted to commit to the golden brasses, I would say that as long as you stick with the warm metal family, I’m fine with mixing polished and brushed.  I do the same thing when I’m dealing with silver.  You can mix brushed nickel on door handles with chrome in the bathroom.  Anything in the cool metals family is fair game.  Anything in the warm metals family can be mixed, no matter the finish.

Good design is not about being matchy matchy.  It’s about picking things that go well together, but didn’t come together.  We don’t want it to look like a kitchen set.  So use that creativity, but maybe think about something other than gold.

[14:49] Painting interior doors (Derek)


We are considering getting some fun doors for our bathroom and bedrooms.  How do you feel about painting doors black or other colors?  Since this is not our permanent home and we come here on vacation, as do our Airbnb guests, we are thinking about painting the doors a bright color.  It could be fun.  We also want a door that’s not basic.  Maybe it has some windows with glass, it’s translucent.

You can see in the original picture that one bedroom has bright, primary colors.  That’s a nod to pop art and Warhol.  We want to paint that door a bright red.  The master bedroom is a nod to Hollywood stars that lived in or visited Palm Springs.  We would paint this door and the master bath door black.

I think the look would be dramatic.  The last door from the hallway is the guest bathroom.  We are thinking of going walnut wood with blue tiles in the bathroom, so we’re thinking of painting that door blue.

What are your thoughts on painting interior doors?  Can we get away with it in a vacation rental?


So the question is, should you paint your interior doors bold colors that seemingly don’t relate to each other?  I talk about the two-word phrase – the style of your space as well as the feeling of your space.  That two-word phrase is really that place that you always come back to; the place where you check in and say, is the piece I’m thinking of using evoking “cozy mid-century modern” (for example).  If it’s not checking one or both boxes, it has to go.

In the Academy, I added a third word to that two-word phrase.  So you keep the style word, you keep the feeling word, but no matter what you are selecting, you add a third checkpoint.  Is it sophisticated?  This word is important in the Academy because we’re interior designers trying to give an elevated look.  We’re trying to take it beyond just residential, or what you might see in a neighbor’s home.  We want to make it look magazine-ready.

With that in mind, do I think having a variety of colorful doors fits the mid-century vibe? Maybe.  Do I think it aligns with a feeling word like “whimsical” or “fun”?  Yes.  Do I feel it is sophisticated?  Absolutely not.  I think it might look a little tacky and I’m worried it would detract from the pictures and make the place look gimmicky rather than high-end.  Gimmicky isn’t going to get you top dollar.

I also think it adds a number of issues in terms of, what color are we painting the trim around the door?  When a door gets opened and shut a lot, sometimes the paint wears off on the side and now we’re able to more clearly see imperfections because the colors are so bold and saturated.

It’s a hard no for me, but I do appreciate your willingness to step outside the box.  Just make that bold choice with a backsplash and not with a door.

[19:30] The most important skill in interior design (Moni)


What is the most important skill in interior design?


I teach the Interior Design Academy that teaches people who want to become interior designers all the skills they need to both become an interior designer and have the business acumen to start their own thing within ten weeks.  It’s the same program that I use internally with my own designers when I’m training them to work for me, with additional business modules.

I have lots of thoughts and feelings on what is the most important skill in interior design.  As I’m teaching new designers, whether they work for me or are going through the Academy, I’m thinking about whether they are going to please the clients.  Is this person going to be making changes that help the client’s space or hurt the client’s space?  I’ve given a lot of thought to what sets an interior designer apart from somebody who just has a good eye or nice taste, and I have one distinct answer.

The most important thing that an interior designer can learn is space planning.  I don’t care about how great your space looks or your amazing eye for design.  If the walkways are tight, if I’m hitting pieces of furniture or bumping artwork because there isn’t enough space to carry groceries or a baby down a hallway, or if I have to reach way over to put down my iced coffee because there’s not a good relationship between the height of the table and the height of the sofar arm, that’s not good.  The space feels uncomfortable and it looks amateurish.

So, the most important thing is space planning.  How does a room function?  Because even if I create the most beautiful space in my mind, I may have a client who hates it.  It doesn’t resonate with them, it doesn’t reflect their personality, or maybe they just don’t like the design.  But nobody can dispute a good layout that flows, that maximizes the room, that reuses pieces in a seamless way while integrating new pieces that make the room make sense.

That is something that has to be learned, but it has immense value.  The whole room will feel good, and it will feel comfortable.  Of course I want the room to look attractive, but if it doesn’t have a good layout then it’s not a good design.

My program has ten modules and the middle two modules are a hundred percent devoted to layout.  If you cannot create a good layout in every single room, every single time, you are a bad designer.








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