Our Greatest Design Secrets

So we’ve decided to reveal some of our hard won design knowledge featured in Andrea’s personal monograph, VIBRANT INTERIORS: Living Large at Home (Gibbs Smith, 2022), one of the best interior design coffee table books. The pages abound with aesthetic advice she’s curated over decades in design. And we’ve found they apply to all sorts of spaces—whether you’re decorating your first Manhattan studio, a Santa Barbara beach cottage or a sprawling ranch on 4,000 acres. Here, a few favorite design tips from the chic coffee table book that will help you live large.

Bring Home a Sense of Architecture

architectural details in Denver home remodel

Most people tote home souvenirs on their globetrotting adventures; We’ll find a way to ship home an archway. (Seriously: we once placed a carved antique Rajasthani archway at the entrance to our clients’ shower). For someone like Andrea, the child of a peripatetic, world renowned virologist who spent her childhood everywhere from Nigeria to Boston, there’s almost nothing more magical than bringing the world into your home.

To create a truly transportive entrance in this Colorado home’s private office, shown, we installed centuries-old hand-carved antique doors from China. By adding glass panels to their interior surface, they supplied a bit of sound protection and privacy, while the intricate woodwork drops jaws both on Zoom calls and IRL.

Tap Your Roots

Rustic ranch remodel curated by Colorado interior designer author

In the best case scenario, every design choice in your home will have meaning and a story behind it. Pillage your family heirlooms for decor ideas. Why not photocopy pages from your great-great-grandfather’s Civil War journal and have it printed on upholstery for throw pillows? Or frame your grandmother’s carefully curated stash of costume pins for a graphic (and blingy) statement wall?

Andrea’s own grandmother, the artist Elizabeth Monath, lived in Paris and was an understudy of Fernand Leger and Salvador Dali in the 1930s. She’s taken some of her artwork transformed into wallpaper that is not only stunning, but it reminds us—and her grandchildren—of her every time they see it.

Mirrors are Marvels

Tuck a mirror behind glass shelves in your home bar, and you’ve not only visually doubled your stemware…you’ve created a glitzy moment that summons the Baroque Hall of Mirrors at Versailles. (Mirrored tile can have a similar effect, while adding a textural, graphic quality). Take advantage!

Try Unexpected Art

Interior design coffee table book image of cowboy hat art

Nothing against a standard issue landscape painting, but we love finding that perfect piece—the one that suits both the homeowner and the place. For a rambling Wyoming compound, we transformed the homeowner’s collection of cowboy hats into a de facto wall sculpture (that he can borrow from at his leisure). For a Colorado empty nester, we added eye candy to her primary bedroom with butterfly sculptures hand-made from recycled pop cans found in New York City by artist Paul Villinski. They’re not typical art, and that’s what makes them so special.

Set the Scene for What You Love

If you’re a social butterfly who loves inviting guests over for cocktail hour, make sure your sitting areas reflect that with comfortable seating (no more than 120 inches apart for the best chit-chat) and a table to rest a drink by every chair. Or put together one of our trademarks—a “conversation starter”—with four lounge chairs ringing a 24” tall tea height table. These are the perfect place to kick up your heels (and kick back a negroni) with friends, and at a round table, no one is at the “head.” To encourage lingering conversation and the confidence boost needed to bolster unfettered dialogue, keep the lights on a dimmer—and soft and warm (2700K light bulbs are often perfect) for a flattering effect.

Introverted? Set the stage in your bedroom for prime “me time.” A canopy bed always feels indulgent, like a room within a room. Pair one with sumptuous linens and hand-painted and embroidered silk wallcovering, as we did in a recent Colorado project, and you’ll never have FOMO by spending the night in.

Every Detail Counts

Denver back kitchen renovation by Colorado interior design architect

No design choice should be overlooked, even if it’s small. Spend time finding something that sings to you. For the working kitchen tucked behind our primary “showpiece” cook space in Colorado, Andrea found antique brass ring pulls and corner trim that made each cabinet drawer look like a campaign chest from the 1800s. They’re just as functional as standard drawers, but so much more evocative to use… even if all you’re doing is hunting down sugar for your tea.