Morrocan hotel room-finishes and finished

My camera -finally- came back from the repair shop, so I can now share with you my finishes board from the Moroccan hotel room project I recently completed. The color palette is supposed to evoke the natural contrasting elements of Morocco- desert sand and ocean waters.
This board represents the major materials that would be used in the room. I had no idea what a production it would be to create a board like this: foam core, T-pins, batting, industrial strength velcro, spray adhesive, photo paper, mat board, hot glue, and more hot glue!

Craigslist in person

This isn't directly related to color, but I wanted to share with you anyways. Being the internet nerd that I am, I jumped at the chance to go hear Craig Newmark, founder of, speak last night in San Francisco. Thanks to him, I've found my house, countless pieces of furniture, tickets to shows, even a few jobs along the way since I started using craigslist back in '97.

Here my husband and I are, waiting in line to get in. (I circled us) We got there super early for good seats.
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A humble, unassuming man, Craig said he just "figures out what feels right in terms of basics," staying true to his gut instincts and core values. This, from someone whose creation has 20 billion page views per month from 500 communities in 50 countries!
I even got up to ask a question, which was nerve-wracking, but exciting. I asked how Craig managed to avoid the temptation of "selling out", so to speak, with advertisements, banner ads, the glitz and glamor offered by larger companies who offered to buy craigslist. His response, "Regarding alot of money and power, what's the point of all this? You do okay, and that works out well-enough. So it's not noble, not altruistic, just getting some idea of what matters."

Want to learn more? You can see the talk or read a summary of the evening. I'd like to hear your thoughts!

Reader Dilemma: home gym results

Reader Rachael wrote in last October asking for advice on color for her home workout room.
She just completed the make-over, and emailed me to share the exciting results.
Before and after shots: Nap time to work-out time!
Curious about the color? It's Benjamin Moore Aura in Lemon Drop
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Rachael took her inspiration from the yellow room in my original posting. She says,
Even though that one has a window and my gym is in the basement, sans window, the color felt bright and energetic. I am really happy with how it turned out and enjoy spending time down there. I'll get around to hanging some artwork eventually.

Thanks again for all your help,
Rachael also wanted to mention that she discovered an awesome alternative to taping, and says it works like a charm.

P.S. Be sure to check out her blog- Rachael is a talented photographer based out of Maryland

Bay area color expert examines the low-down on low VOC paint

My latest issue of Dwell magazine has a mini review of several low to no VOC (volatile organic compound) paint lines, ranging from Benjamin Moore Natura (their top choice) to Mythic (their least favorite).

BM Natura, Yolo Colorhouse, AFM Safecoat, and Mythic are reviewed.

The review is by no means a complete list of environmentally-friendly paint available on the market today. The important thing to realize is that most low to no VOC paint have limitations with their color range.

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Why? Universal tints (the colorants that are added for pigment) are traditionally oil-based. Acrylic-based paints then have to add a solvent to the base in order to break down the oil so it can bind to the base properly, and not separate, like oil in natural peanut butters. The solvents add VOC, so this degrades its environmentally-friendly composition. The deeper the color, and the more pigment needed, the more solvent is used. So a lot of environmental paints only offer light to medium colors. Some brands have come up with their own proprietary tinting systems that are water-based, and so there is no need for solvents in the bases.

Apartment Therapy put together a great article on low VOC paints.

I am still learning more about environmentally-friendly paints, so I'd love to hear what you know about these products. Please share your knowledge!

Happy St. Patty's Day

I always wondered about the origins of wearing green on March 17th.
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Did you know St. Patrick's Day used to be associated with blue? Before the 20th century, St. Patrick was usually shown wearing blue robes, not green.

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According to legend, St. Patrick used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish. As a sign of Irish nationalism or loyalty to the Roman Catholic faith, people would wear a shamrock on their clothes, known as "wearing of the green". (source) The slogan stuck, and green became the color of the day.

If anyone has more details about green on this holiday, we'd love to hear what you know!

How would you use this material?

My latest class assignment involves designing a hip, modern hotel lobby for a small downtown San Francisco boutique hotel. We were each assigned a different "inspiration" material around which we are to base our concept, and really showcase that material.
I am totally stumped by mine, a triangular mosaic ceramic tile in beige with medium tone raised striations of browns running horizontally and vertically.

Any ideas? What does this material say to you? If you were to build a hotel lobby concept around this finish, what would you do?

Jazzing up baby's nursery

Just wanted to share with you my latest project, a tree silhouette for a toddler's nursery. Her parents loved the idea of an image that she could grow with, something understated, yet lightheated and friendly.
The tree spreads over two walls, arching above the doorway and over her crib. I loved the rich yellow ochre walls, so we went with a tint of the wall color to keep it cohesive and not too busy. This way, if they want to add decorations to the walls, the mural will not get in the way. I picture staggered frames, maybe hanging from ribbons on the branches. Or, it could be decorated by attaching little silk flowers, fabric butterflies, plastic toy bugs... you name it.

I was really pleased with how it turned out, and so are the parents!

Cubicle nightmares and easing the pain

Have any of you done time in a cubicle? I experienced cubicle living for a brief time many years ago. I think I might have lasted a mere week at that temp job before I begged for a "non-corporate" project. To give you an idea of the scope of this office, I was directed to head towards column C4.
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A sea of gray fabric-covered boxes stretched out before me. Even the columns demarcating sections were gray. I thought I would suffocate before even beginning to navigate this maze.
Talk about sucking the life force out of you...

Mick's cube
But there is hope for us worker bees! Lifehacker had a great post about an ad agency who allowed, even encouraged and supported, workers to personalize their cubicles.
Heagan's cube
Yes, it's true, these cubicles are much bigger than your average workspace, with room for a detached desk, bookshelves, even couches.
Brian's cube
But the philosophy of allowing employees to personalize their spaces through color and design is to be commended.
Carol's cube
I think my eyes might hurt after too much time in all this vibrant red... Talk about instant caffeine. Which leads me to wonder if they've tested employee productivity after the cubicle overhauls. I put out an inquiry to the agency to try and get some more detail, but haven't heard back from them.
Cassie's cube
It's also interesting to see how each person interpreted "work environment" and really customized it to make them feel comfortable (and hopefully more productive).
Holly's cube
From rugs, paint on the walls, artwork...even drapery and light fixtures, people really pulled out all the stops.
Tina's cube
You can definitely get a sense of each person's personality from the color choices they made, don't you think?
Lynne's cube
From somewhat sedate celedon
Trey's cube
to a more spicy palette of paprika and chartreuse, everyone started out with the same gray box, and gave it his or her own spin. This should encourage you to do the same with your home- make it really yours- don't be afraid to go all out.

Aren't they fabulous? Which space are you attracted to the most? Let's discuss our favorites!

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Save the pink bathroom

While procrastinating doing my taxes, I stumbled upon a hilarious blog called, "Save the Pink Bathrooms". Relating to the hideousness that is my own salmon pink bathroom, I couldn't resist poking around.The goal of the site/blog is to draw attention to and preserve vintage Mamie Pink bathrooms, a huge trend from the 1950's.
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The author is passionate about retro revival, and bemoans demolitions that eradicate the perks of pinkness.
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"How sad it was to catch a TV makeover show that ripped out a perfectly beautiful vintage bathroom...Seems like a bunch of the rest of the world — well behind our curve — actually dislikes vintage pink bathrooms. They will regret what they have done," she vows.
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Retro certainly is colorful!
They even have a flickr site where you can upload pics of your own retro pink bathroom.

Do you have a passion for pink powder rooms?

Interactive school walls

Reader and artist Sónia wrote in to share with us a recent project she just completed.
"First of all, let me congratulate you on your fantastic blog. I am a reader for about 1 year. I love the way you talk about color and especially the quality of your expertise in that subject. I am a Portuguese ceramics designer living, of course, in Portugal. Your post about schools got my attention and I felt like sharing with you my most recent project - dressing up the walls in the 'living area' of a school using ceramic tiles I've developed."
These whimsical, tactile tiles have a textured surface that is just impossible to resist touching.

With fun, edible names like 'Lemon Scales' and 'Blueberry Scratches', they're just ripe for the picking.

Running down stairways and enlivening communal areas of the school: what a wonderful, interactive design for children.
Go ahead and touch, it's okay!

Morrocan hotel room

My materials of interior design class recently finished our midterm assignment of designing a hotel room prototype. I settled on the Moorish period of Moroccan architecture and design, setting out to create an exotic retreat for tourists craving authenticity and a taste for foreign places.
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Here's a mock-up of my initial mood board, to capture the feeling of the space I wanted to create. Following are a smattering of inspirational images from which I drew ideas, palette, ambiance...
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Loved the ambiance created by mood lighting, low lying seating, and textiles galore.
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Mosques have been the biggest inspiration in Moroccan design. Dating back to medieval times, key elements of Moroccan/Islamic architecture include light, symmetry and water. A highly-ornate style, vaults, cupolas, arched doorways, niches, and riads, or interior courtyards, are principle features. Ceramic tiles are used extensively, from floors, to walls, to table tops. Traditional Moorish design is very ornate, so I knew I would be toning it down somewhat for a modern translation.
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Just as textures and patterns are layered one on top of another, the color palette is also a study in sharp contrasts, with subdued natural earth tones of the desert contrasting with cool watery tones from the bordering ocean. That's the look I was going for.

So, here's what I did with the hotel room space:
This is the entryway of my room, with hand-made Moroccan mosaic tiles from the floor up to 4', then Venetian plaster-looking vinyl wallcovering in rich brown up to the ceiling. The intricately carved wood door sits in a rectangular door frame, but has an arched opening from the inside.
Through the arched door way you enter into the main bedroom. On the near wall is a built in niche for the low-lying bed, and across on the other wall is a wrought iron and wood framed window with a banquette in the corner for lounging. The mosaic pattern from the entryway is carried through to the main room, swapping out the brown for golden honey toned upper walls.
The bathroom is clad in blue mosaic tiles with lattice wood screen/panels on the counter face. It's hard to tell, but the tiles in the shower/bath are shaped like fish scales, which were not specifically traditional Moorish design, but I couldn't resist. The mosaic pattern in here is the blue version of the same pattern from the hallway and bedroom areas.

Now that I immersed myself in Moroccan design, I am dying to go stay the night somewhere like this, to get the full-experience.