Interior Design: 3 Tips for Creating an Outdoor Space That Feels Like Vacation

Karen Mills' blog

 

When I daydream about the beach, it’s usually one of my favorite vacations like this one on St. John’s island with great views, fabulous restaurants, and wonderful friends.
When you’re planning your own outdoor space, why not recreate one of your favorite vacation spots that you can enjoy in your own backyard whenever the weather permits.   I did and here are my 3 tips accomplishing that.
Tip #1  Create a dedicated space outdoors with the feel of a room – floors and maybe a ceiling or walls.  Then add seating and possibly a table for meals.
Here in this photo above, the floors are tiled and a roof lingers overhead along with pillars that become the walls of the space.
In my own backyard, I designed a pergola to recreate that look but made one that was my own style.  I still mimicked the round pillars at St. John’s and a partial roof overhead for a similar feel. Then I layered in palm trees and tropical flowers to recreate the laid back island vibe.

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2. Select a look or style that reminds you of one of your favorite vacations.  To accomplish that look in my own backyard space, I mixed in found antique metal seating fitted with custom white cushions along with a couple of new wicker chairs to achieve a more collected aesthetic. Then I threw in a weathered old trunk on wheels for a coffee table and placed a tray of shells from diving trips and walks on the beach on top.
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3. Add a specific element that reminds you of your favorite spot.  That element for me was a touch of romance so we added LED lights at the top of the pillars to create a wonderful ambiance at night and accessories in turquoise to remind us of the blue blue ocean.
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Interior Design: 3 Tips for Creating a Sophisticated Rustic Style

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Interior design by Karen Mills/Photography by Nick Schale

The romantic lure of the rustic style home or cabin is undeniable.  Maybe its because of our rich heritage of building log cabins to protect our families from the weather. Or maybe its the way rustic homes connect us with the outdoors with their rough hewn beams, simple style, and organic materials like stacked stone fireplaces.

But even though we still love our rustic home, sometimes we crave furnishings that are more refined and luxurious to offset the rugged architecture for that perfect mix of masculine and feminine.  If that’s you, here are my 3 tips as an interior designer to help you create a beautiful blend.

  1. Select a muted color scheme that picks up the hues reflected in your finishes.  By picking up existing colors in the home’s architecture for the furnishings, the overall design style is strengthened and the furnishings connect better with the hard surfaces .  Here in this photo, we pulled out the beautiful gray blue and taupe color scheme from the hues found in the stone fireplace.   By selecting furniture with a softer hand and more luxurious feel, the room also took on a more timeless complex look that adds interest.

Layering in an area rug with an organic pattern in those same hues brings everything                   together while the lighter colors of all the furnishings help bounce around much needed               light in the room.

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Interior design by Karen Mills

2. Keep it simple  Because of the rugged nature of the rustic interior, to create a sophisticated feel its important to balance the mega sized fireplace, wood columns, and other rough elements with furnishings with cleaner lines and softer edges to create the perfect balance of rugged and sleek.  Here the softer lines of the sofa and tables help balance the rough hewn fireplace and stone columns.

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Interior design by Karen Mills/Photography by Nick Schale

The same is true with this family room where the textural pillows, shag rug, and airy swivel chairs add texture and light to the darker hard surfaces of the fireplace, floors, and leather sofa.

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Interior design by Karen Mills

3. Layer in organic materials that coordinate with the room’s rugged finish to soften room such as natural cottons as seen in the bedding and the casual fabrics on the chairs.  The textural rug also adds light and interest to the room.

 

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Interior design by Karen Mills/Photography by Nick Schale

A beautiful simple pale blue shimmery wallpaper in an organic pattern provides a nice juxtaposition against the stone columns and paneled wood ceiling.

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Interior Design: How to Make Your Room Live Larger with Acrylic Furniture

If you love acrylic furniture check out the Associated Press article I was recently featured in that’s already made appearances in ABC, The Washington Post, Yahoo and many more titled  Clear Favorite: Acrylics a Versatile Furniture Option .

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Interior design by Karen Mills, photography by Nick Schale

Our project in this photo that was part of the Associated Press article shows how acrylic furniture can be used in a room effectively which I also talk about in the interview link above.

 

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Photo courtesy of Allan Knight furniture

Coffee tables and nesting end tables are one of my favorite pieces to use in a project too, especially in a smaller space like this photo  where they don’t take up room visually but still serve a function.

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Photo courtesy of Century Furniture

Dining rooms like this photo offer another opportunity to include acrylic whether its the table, chairs, or a bar cart.   Here the Century table almost disappears in the room keeping the space light and airy.

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Photo courtesy of Spectrum Limited furniture

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Interior Design: 5 Tips for Injecting Spring into Your Interior

The first day of spring has arrived in the United States and it’s a joyous time for most of us in the colder climates because it marks the end of a season of cold, ice, and snow.

 

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Photo courtesy of Jonathan Charles

As I walked through my yard this last weekend I saw green buds appearing everywhere from bushes and trees to perennials.   So of course that motivated me to perform my semi-annual tradition of packing up heavy winter decor and ushering in spring with lighter decor.  If you would like to lighten your interior too, here are 5 tips for injecting spring into your home.

  1. Add life with fresh flowers and seasonal plants like this photo by Jonathan Charles furniture above.  Lighter finishes also help enhance the spring feel of this room along with an infusion of sunlight.
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Interior design by Karen Mills. Photography by 29 Pixels.

2. Add fresh pops of color in pillows and decor like the room above.  The shell and lantern beach inspired decor also add to the warm season feel.

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Photo courtesy of Jonathan Charles

3. Replace dark heavy items like rugs with lighter options  like shown above or go with a natural rug like a sisal.  If that’s not possible, opt for removing the rug altogether.

Light pillow covers in natural fabrics also add to the appeal along with fresh flowers and light upholstery.  If you don’t have light upholstery, consider adding a slipcover for spring/summer weather like the dining chairs we had slip covered below.

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Interior design by Karen Mills

Karen Mills' blog

Photo courtesy of Circa Lighting

4. Lighten up in the bedroom by replacing heavy dark bedding with light natural fabrics in cotton and consider using sheer drapery panels instead of heavy drapes.

5. Spring Clean  Remove all the extra items that have accumulated over the winter months and do some spring cleaning so your room feels fresh and fabulous.  Now you’re ready for spring!

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Interior Design: 3 Tips for Warming up Modern Living Room

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Photo courtesy of Design within Reach

As I’ve matured as an interior designer I’ve come to love clean simple design that stands on it’s own.  Of course it’s much more difficult to attain a modern look because each piece of the design has an important role and you don’t want the room to become sterile.    So if you’re looking for more simplicity in your life without sacrificing warmth, here are 3 tips for creating an inviting contemporary look.

  1. Add texture to your room.  In this living space shown above a  textural rug was layered underneath to ground the seating area along with a throw, books, and plant.  Textural fireplace tile, art, and wood logs also add more interest to the room.

In this modern contemporary living room below texture is introduced through the fabrics on      the upholstery and pillows along with the sisal and fur rugs underneath.  Wood furniture also      plays a key role in adding warmth.

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Photo courtesy of All Modern

Karen Mills

Photo courtesy of Design within Reach

2. Introduce live elements like the branch cutting shown in this living room create a more inviting feel.  Other live elements you can introduce include fruit, flowers, and plants.  Pops of color also help warm up this living room along with a book, art, and color.

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Photo courtesy of Design within Reach

3. Use Color  to warm up a room especially if its a orange sofa like the space above.  The tree in the corner, wooden spools, and pillow also add warmth to the room.

Karen Mills

Photo courtesy of All Modern

In this modern living room above the leather chair, pillows and sofa all add texture and warmth along with the rug and wood topped coffee table.

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Interior Design: 3 Ways to Use a Vessel Sink in Your Bath Design

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Photo courtesy of Link a Sink

Vessel sinks add energy to a bathroom’s interior design because they’re elevated to a place of importance on top of the vanity.  And they add style with their unique shape, color, pattern, finish, or material!

Vessel sinks come in an array of materials from stone or ceramic to glass, metal, wood, and more so the options are endless considering that you can also have an artist create an one of kind piece for you.

So if you’re considering redoing your bathroom to include a vessel sink, here are 5 ways to incorporate them in your bathroom design.

1. To enhance your design   In the photo above, the vessel sink by Link a Sink plays a wonderful supporting role in this dramatic powder room design, keeping the room from getting too busy.  But if you have a more neutral bathroom without much pattern or color, a  vessel with an interesting shape could be the perfect solution.

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Photo courtesy of Signature Hardware

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Photo courtesy of Copenhagen Sinks

2. To add texture

By adding a rougher finish like this carrara marble sink show above by Signature Hardware to a bathroom full of hard shiny surfaces, you can make it more inviting .

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Photo courtesy of Kraus

3. To introduce color  

In the photo above this blue vessel sink by Kraus offers an exciting pop of color for neutral bathrooms.   I’m particularly fond of the faucet shown with it designed by a former Mercedes Benz designer to look like an auto stick shift.

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Photo courtesy of Copenhagen Sinks

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Interior Design: 5 Tips for a Budget Kitchen Makeover

 

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Interior design by Karen Mills

If you want to update your tired old kitchen but don’t want to invest in a full remodel, here are 5 tips for freshening up your kitchen for less.

1. Refurbish your existing kitchen cabinets.   If your cabinets are in good shape and not too dated, sand, repaint and seal them.   In this kitchen above we painted the cabinets different colors, added a mitered (thicker) edge island counter top, and replaced some upper cabinets with live edge shelving to create a more interesting look.

If your cabinet door styles are dated, have them refaced with new doors and fronts.  You can also add glass inserts, replace your dated moldings and add crown molding overhead to completely transform them.   Plus pull out those dated appliance garages housed in the corner.

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Interior design by Karen Mills/Photography by 29 Pixels

2. Replace your dated or worn appliances with more updated ones you can find for less in a clearance section or replace appliance fronts only if that updates the look.  In this kitchen above we also painted the cabinets, added a vintage chandelier the homeowner already had for a Hollywood Glam feel along with new light fixtures above the table which she had finished to a more grayed out rustic look.

3. Update your hardware finishes  by replacing pulls or knobs, your sink faucet, and light fixtures.  If you don’t have the budget for new light fixtures, have your old ones spray painted or do it yourself.

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Photo courtesy of Circa lighting

4. Replace your dated counter tops and back splashes ensuring you add under cabinet lighting to show them off.

5. Refurbish your existing floors by refinishing hardwoods or by replacing flooring with stone tile found on clearance and install yourself.  As an interior designer, I’ve used faux wood tile more than once on kitchen remodels to create a cozier rustic feel when wood isn’t an option.

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Interior Design: 3 Secrets to a Comfortable Living Space

 

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Photo courtesy of Century Furniture

Is there anything better than a comfortable relaxing space at the end of a long day?  Not for me.  That’s why my focus at home and with interior design clients is just as much about comfort and function as beauty.  So here are my three tips for creating a comfortable interior design.

1. Comfortable seating.  To begin make sure that you’re selecting upholstery that’s comfortable for long periods such as the custom furniture shown.   When seated on a sofa or chair ensure your legs are able to touch the floor and that your thighs fit the seat depth so you’re not having to lean back uncomfortably. Plus consider adding an ottoman for a late afternoon snooze or to relax while watching TV.
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Interior design by Karen Mills

2. Layer in texture  in everything from area rugs and/or soft window treatments to accessories like pillows or throws remembering that each layer of texture creates a cozier feel.
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Photo courtesy of Century Furniture

 3. Select a color scheme that includes elements of warmth whether that’s on walls, ceilings, floors, windows, or accessories.  For example on a wall you might add textural wallpaper or go with a warmer color.  On the windows you might introduce a bamboo window shade under draperies.  And finish off the room with textural pillows.

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Universal Design: Bathroom Trend of the Future

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Photo courtesy of Moen

Whether you’re planning to grow old in your home or not, you should seriously consider incorporating some universal design practices into your home.

Why? Because universal design is becoming more in demand by an aging baby boomer generation, plus universal design features can add value.

Glass enclosed showers make your room not only appear larger but large zero entry showers can usually accommodate a wheelchair or walker.

Interior design by Karen Mills  Zero entry shower

For years, homeowners have thought of universal design as utilitarian or ugly like the white bathroom grab bars and plastic bath benches, but the good news is that universally designed homes, especially bathrooms have become beautiful thanks to the interior designers and those savvy architects or builders who understand universal design and how to make it beautiful.

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Interior design by Karen Mills

Karen Mills' blog

Interior design by Karen Mills Zero entry shower

Some additional considerations besides large walk in showers for a more universal design include wall mounted sinks, 36″ wide doorways and grab bars that look like towel bars.

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Photo courtesy of Kohler

I also love the idea of the bathroom melding into the bedroom to become one large space.

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Interior Design: 8 Ingredients of Timeless Design

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Photo courtesay of Bernhardt furniture

Timeless spaces are beautiful, sophisticated, and understated. They tell the story of their occupants and their belongings like nothing else can. Plus they hold their value and memories of loved ones for years to come, as they bring family closer to live, love, and grow.   That’s why I love to design timeless spaces. So if you would like to avoid trendy decorating and have a more enduring design too, here is an informative article I wrote on Friday for Houzz .  (Click link below to read)

8 Rooms with Staying Power

Kansas City’s interior designer Karen Mills