Suite Retreat

At some point you have probably yearned for a place of tranquil reflections and peaceful repose; a place that lets you get away from the chaos and be quiet for a little while.  Everyone deserves at least a little corner of their world to recharge their batteries.  Your bedroom is, or should be, that haven!

If your bedroom doesn’t offer you a respite from the hustle and bustle of the day, then now is the time to transform it.  The time and money you invest now will pay off in big dividends in the future.  Especially if it means you will be a little less stressed and better prepared for tomorrow’s challenges.

Here are three key ingredients of a sweet retreat:


Too many things in the room will distract you or overload your senses when you are trying to relax.  Your eye will move from one item to another, stimulating your senses even when you aren’t aware of it. De-cluttering can have the biggest impact in creating a retreat, and it costs nothing except time to do it.

Review every item in your bedroom and decide if you need it in your retreat.  This is not the room you should use for watching the news (when is the last time THAT was relaxing?) or folding the laundry.  If your dresser and closet are overflowing onto the floor of your room, it is time to wean the wardrobe down to only what you have room to properly store.  You can store off season clothing in plastic bins, but don’t keep the bins on the floor of your bedroom.  Move all unnecessary trinkets off of your dresser.  Simplifying the space is the single most important thing you can do for yourself to create that peaceful atmosphere.  If you just can’t do it yourself, call a friend or a professional organizer to help you.


Now you are ready to personalize your space.


In your search for solitude, you might consider using Mother Nature’s color palette.  There’s nothing quite as calming as bringing the outdoors in.  Blues and greens from nature are some of the most relaxing colors.  Using colors from the sky, water, and plants may be as close as your bedroom will get to a quiet forest or a still pond, or it may just reflect the view out your window.

Variations on blue, such as blue-grey or purple, can accomplish the same effect.  Try staying away from “hot” colors, such as orange or red, except as accent colors.

Since the bed is usually the center of attention, your bedding will set the tone and color scheme for the room.  Pick your color and pamper yourself with bedding that provides comfort and fits your sense of luxury, whether that is smooth cotton sateen, plush faux fur or silky soft pleats.  If your idea of a cozy retreat is an unmade bed, then invest in a perfectly wonderful set of sheets.  If you like lots of pillows to prop yourself up and read, then select an odd number of accent pillows in a variety of textures and shapes.


Visualize the types of activities you will want to conduct in your personal get-away haven – letter writing, reading, drinking coffee, morning meditation, or a late night glass of wine – all types of activities that require peace and quiet to enjoy.  Then ask yourself….can your bedroom, with the given amount of space you have, accommodate all of these needs?  The answer is usually yes, although you may need to take advantage of some clever pre-planning.  You may need a reading chair or a chaise lounge.  How about a small desk or an electric fireplace?  Somewhere in your bedroom you can find the space for your little haven.

Decorating your dream bedroom can be fun and special.  You deserve to wake up each day to a beautifully appointed bedroom, and to enjoy the end of the day in peace.   So by all means, let your imagination and creativity be your guide.  The SWAT Design Team can work with you to provide everything you need to create your very own special retreat.  From draperies to bedspreads, accessories to new furniture – we have it all!


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Setting the Holiday Table

There is something special about the end of the year.  When the skies are getting grayer and the weather gets colder, we count our blessings, dust off the dining room table and entertain friends and family at home.

Holiday traditions frequently center on food.  Thanksgiving HAS to include Grandma’s stuffing recipe IN the turkey, green bean casserole, and a layered cranberry salad.  It wouldn’t be the same without them.  Those traditional foods remind us of happy times together.

The same goes for decorations. Repeating our own holiday traditions like the smell of pine, or the sparkle of lights, make the time together a joyful one.  In decorating your table this year, start with your traditions, but try getting a little creative with them.

Here are six important pieces of a great holiday table:

  1. Start with a table cloth. If you don’t own one, rent or purchase a plain white or ivory machine washable table cloth.  It will be easy to add layers to it for any holiday. Measure your table with all of the leaves in it so that your table cloth is large enough to cover the entire table with at least a 10” drop on each side.  The longer the drop, the more formal the table will look.  I like to rent linens from Weinhardt party rental where a 60 x 120” plain linen is only $6.25 to rent, and I don’t have to wash it or iron it!  They also have many other decorative options to choose from.
  2. Dress up a plain or solid color table cloth with a “topper”. This can be as simple as a piece of fabric purchased from the local fabric store, or a rented luxury linen topper.  For a round table, purchase 1.5 yards of a fabulous fabric.  This will give you a 54” square table topper.  For a rectangular table, purchase a length of fabric as long as half your table + 12”.  Cut the fabric down the middle lengthwise and sew the two strips together.  You now have one long table runner to put down the middle of the table.  If necessary, you can hem the edges.
  3. I also like to use chargers underneath the place setting. This is another opportunity to add color to your plain linen, and it helps keep the linen a little cleaner.  Chargers can range from $1.00 each for a plastic one at discount stores, to $50 each for fancy glass, metal, or wood chargers.  (You can rent those too for $2.00 each).  Round placemats also do the trick but take up more room on the table.
  4. Napkins are another opportunity to add color to the table top. You can either give them a fancy napkin fold, or use a napkin ring to dress them up.  Napkin rings can be as simple as a piece of ribbon or trim tied around the middle.  I love to use fabric napkins because they make the occasion seem that much more special and provide enough fullness for a napkin ring.  If you elect to use paper napkins, splurge on the thicker rectangular folded dinner napkins which come in a variety of colors at the party store.
  5. Always have some kind of centerpiece, but it doesn’t have to be a floral arrangement. Centerpieces at family tables should not be more than 12” high so that your guests can see the people across the table from them (unless the tall segment is narrow enough to see around).  For a rectangular table you can layer greenery on top of your runner, then add votive candles or pillar candles of varying heights, and mix in ornamentation in contrasting color or texture.  For ornamentation choose either pine cones, fruit (apples, oranges, or squash), or shiny Christmas ornaments.
  6. Now all that is left is your china, crystal and flatware. At this point your table will look so fantastic, that it won’t matter if you use Grandma’s Christmas china or your everyday plates. When planning your table, do try to keep in mind the color scheme and level of formality of the plates you will use so that the rest of the table décor is consistent.

(originally printed in Streetscape Magazine Holiday 2017)Purple Dining Table TopDazzling Tabletop 2

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How to Buy a Sofa


Buying upholstery is sometimes like a guessing game because much of the craftsmanship is hidden beneath the fabric.  Much like buying a car, many important features are out of sight.  The color and style may attract our attention, but our long term satisfaction will depend on how well it is made.  So how can you tell you are getting a good sofa?   Here are some tips to look for and ask about.

Good tailoring on the outside probably means good components on the inside.  Look for uniform padding and even straight lines.  Welt cording should be crisp, straight, and evenly applied.  Seams should be so tight that the thread is barely visible.  Fabric patterns should appear in the same place on each arm and in the center of each cushion.  Cushions should be snug fitting.

A good hardwood frame is the “skeleton” of your furniture.  Your sofa should have a frame of at least  1 ¼” thick kiln-dried hardwood.  Kiln-dried means that the moisture level of the lumber has been mechanically reduced to control warping and shrinking.  Hardwoods hold fasteners securely so joints will not loosen and fabric staples will not slip out.  Major joints should be double dowelled, reinforced with corner blocks, glued and either screwed or nailed in place.

Steel springs provide quality comfort.  Sinuous wire springs in seat backs and coil springs in the seats themselves are the standard for fine upholstery.  Your sofa should feature eight-way hand tied coil springs under the seat cushions.  There are other, less expensive ways to craft upholstery, but no other technique gives better support and comfort.   Test the springs by bouncing on the seat to check for squeaks and support.

The padding gives upholstered furniture its final shape and comfort.  Seat cushions should feature foam with a density of at least 1.8 lbs per cubic foot.  Dacron polyester blankets wrapped around the foam core add down-like softness, round the seat cushion edges, and give them a shapely “crown”.  You may have the option to add down or other luxurious materials to the tops of the cushions as well.   Beware of shredded foam in seat and back cushions.  It will compact and settle over time.

Every edge of the hardwood frame should be covered in padding.  Firmly explore the top of the back, the top of the arms, and the front of the arm.  You should not be able to clearly feel edges of the hardwood frame.

Selecting the fabric is largely personal.  It has to look good and feel good to you, and fit your lifestyle.  A quality upholstery manufacturer will have hundreds of beautiful fabrics to choose from in a wide range of prices.  Since so much fabric is needed to cover a sofa, the price of the fabric can have a big impact on the price of your sofa.

Information for this article was provided by Taylor King.  Sofas and upholstered furniture from Taylor King and other fine manufacturers are available through Decorating Den.

Call 636 244 1623 to make an appointment for a personal upholstery consultation.

Mention this article for SPECIAL PRICING on a new sofa from Taylor King.

originally published in St. Charles Women’s Journal Fall 2010

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Using paint to define narrow space

Often, the key to a successful makeover is not a beautiful piece of furniture or the most complimentary shade of paint, but finding a way to utilize the space to its fullest. In the case of this  room, the space was a long and narrow living room with a front door that opened directly into the room and an alcove almost entirely composed of windows.

To make the most of this space, the designer split the room into three areas, each painted a different shade of grey: a seating area, an entertainment area, and the alcove which can serve as a foyer. This alcove has open space for mingling, with only a simple, round foyer table in the center of the floor.

The grey area rug, with silver highlights, is one of the few cool elements of the room. The warm, cream-colored sofa and lounge chairs in a sleek, modern design dominate the space, as do the many bright yellow and gold accents. Another common décor theme is the espresso wood, present in all of the wooden furniture in the room.

The window treatments also factor significantly into the new look of this room. The bare windows are now adorned with cream velvet drapery panels over a sheer, silk roman shade with a crossed pattern that is repeated in some of the golden throw pillows and the finials of the acrylic rod supporting the draperies.

The room extends into a space for more entertaining with a buffet for serving drinks and snacks (not pictured). The rich colors and luxurious fabrics come together to create one lavish, unified space to share with family and friends.

Room designed by Yelena Gerts.

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Beat the heat

July’s featured room is the perfect place to beat the summer heat. The homeowners wanted a relaxing sunroom next to their new pool that they could share with their children and grandchildren. The bare bones of the room are the hard cement lanai and the geometric lines and angles of the screen enclosure, which resulted in a room devoid of softness.

To soften the look, the columns along the lanai were covered with ivory sheers, supported by durable and weatherproof PVC piping. The rest of the furniture and accessories are also sturdy enough to withstand the elements: from the warm, honey-colored wicker sofa and chairs to the black damask-print rug. The furniture is arranged to accommodate intimate conversation, but there is ample space for the whole family. The lime green seat cushions add a punch of vibrant color, but also blend will with the surrounding greenery – the homeowners’ live plants, which add a final personalized touch.

Room designed by Kathie Golson.

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Variety of textures

This multipurpose sunroom is both bright and cozy, but what makes it really stand out is the varied, but complementary, textures throughout the room. Before the makeover, the room was almost a blank slate – with creamy yellow walls and marbled tile in a terra-cotta shade.

This neutral beginning provided the perfect backdrop for an explosion of color and texture. The most obvious example of textured décor is the rattan and wood sofa, chairs, and ottoman. They add to the warmth and earthiness of the room, but in a more contemporary look than traditional wicker. Nearly every element of the room has a different texture, including the bamboo screen separating this part of the room from a craft table and chairs (also partly bamboo), the woven fabrics in the furniture, the throw pillows in a variety of fabrics ranging from leather to beaded and embroidered, all the way down to the lamps and accessories.

Even the gauzy floor-to-ceiling draperies have texture. More importantly, however, the sheer buttery-toned fabric covering the windows softens the room and gives it privacy, but still allows enough sunlight in to satisfy the plants. The plants are right at home amidst the color palette of oranges, browns, and beiges, and the use of so many natural materials.

The furniture, particularly the ottoman and end tables have a more modern look, but with round edges, instead of the sharp angles generally associated with contemporary design. Any harsh angles would be jarring in a room meant to reflect the more organic shapes of the outdoors. Instead, the client’s contemporary tastes are reflected in the clean lines of the furniture and the simple geometric patterns in the fabrics and accessories. All of these elements come together to create a room with contemporary style and casual elegance that still satisfied the client’s desire for a warm and inviting gathering space.

Room designed by Kristy Falcone.

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Neutral with a splash of color

In this modern living room, the homeowners received a dramatic makeover with minimal color. The original space was narrow, awkward, and lacked architectural interest. The first major upgrade involved installing satin white crown molding to the ceiling to give the illusion of additional height, as well as visual appeal. The walls were painted a soft neutral tan to give the room a little bit of warmth without being overwhelming.

The clients wanted a Metro Chic space for watching TV and entertaining. To achieve this look, a color palette of mostly black and white was chosen to give the room a crisp, modern feel. While the sleek white leather couch anchors the seating arrangement of the room, an eclectic mix of accent chairs and dual-purpose black leather ottomans allows the clients to arrange the furniture to fit the occasion. Grommet panels in two coordinating black and white fabrics add texture, as well as privacy. White shag carpet and the two accent tables, in a nickel finish, continue the monochromatic look, as do the two large pieces of 3D art above the sofa, which feature engraved metal medallions.

The room is not completely devoid of color, however. Punches of red – in the swivel accent chair, textured pillows, and accessories – have been used sparingly throughout the room, but with maximum effect. The touch of color throughout the room ties it together and keeps the room from looking too plain or washed out. In this case, a little color really can go a long way.

Room designed by Barbara Elliott and Jennifer Ward Woods.

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