moving on to 2016: a look at design trends to ditch

As an interior designer who loves a good remodel, I’ve seen a lot of dated design trends meet their end.  Eventually, I’ll come across one that is embraced, like in the case of a Mid-Century Modern Ranch we restored, resurrected, and modernized classic Mid-Century design elements, right down to the crinoline, triple pleated draperies.  More often, however, it’s a matter of a client having a very strong aversion to what is going on in their home.

Here are some trends that I would not be opposed to saying farewell to:

Text as Décor.  We’ve all seen it.  The inspirational ‘family’ or ‘love’ or ‘EAT’ written on the wall in a scroll-y font that is meant to personalize a space.  In this age of constant stimulation and engagement,  I’m voting for more serene, visually peaceful environments.  And I love design elements that don’t state the obvious.  A collage of family photos is much more personal than a literal statement.  Careful color selection is more likely to make me want to dine than a verb.

The Chevron.  It’s such a bold and overused pattern. Herringbone and Parquet, are are similar, but timeless and much more subtle.  Chevron is very hard edged, graphic, and noisy. It’s like a visual alarm.


Faux Finish and Faux Looks.  Having worked as a faux finisher in Tucson while going to design school, it’s ironic that I now think it’s passé.  But in our region, it’s often dated and overstated.  Also, having seen enough sponged walls to last me awhile, reminiscent of the original DIY movement, I’m going to advise to DIY a solid, solitary, lovely coat of paint instead.  Digital imaging has made it possible for anything to look like any other thing, but I’m still fond of materials that aren’t trying to be something else.   I do, however, love faux fur to add warmth and texture without having to lose the life of a critter.  Here’s an example of a faux finished kitchen:

Microwave Hood.  Having a microwave dangle above the cooktop is heavy and somewhat ominous. Microwave design has advanced to include more options than just on the countertop version or above the hood.  Consider a microwave drawer or housing it in an unused upper cabinet that has close proximity to the fridge.


Tiled / Grouted Countertops.  I’ve had a tiled countertop in a kitchen.  The grout lines are a nightmare to keep clean, surface was uneven and tippy, and it looked drab, dated.  I don’t recommend tile countertops with grout lines unless you’re really set on no other option.  Some tile manufacturers are offering very large format porcelain tiles that are nearly slab sized, like from Oregon Tile & Marble.  Using a run of large formatted tile instead of marble eliminates having to seal the stone or worry about the stone.  Large format tile can be used to create a beautifully clean, modern, and seamless aesthetic when tied into the backsplash well.

Here’s hoping you have a fresh layer of snow, an optimistic outlook, and an inspiring New Year.

Thanks for reading,


Update on Scolatti Girls’ Home Addition and Remodel

The holidays are here and things are moving at breakneck speed on this charitable addition and remodel project, thanks to the hard work of JM Moran & Company Construction and the generous help from our subcontractors.  Framing has all been done, aided by a crew of family friends that came up from Arizona who contributed more stylized accents including a groin vault in a hallway and other details.  Anatoly Levchenko has roughed in all of the plumbing, generously working after hours.  Alex at Anchor Electric spent several days laying out the lighting and switching plan we’ve thoughtfully arrived at. Windows and doors were installed, donated by Boyce Lumber. Matt from Fire and Ice is spray foaming insulation today and tomorrow, so we’ll be ready for that inspection in the next few days.  We’ve come up with a fantastic kitchen design with appliances donated from Fred’s Appliance and with the help of ABC /FOX Montana, Kalee’s work family.  Talented Logan at Boyce Lumber and I finalized the kitchen plan and cabinets are on order, also donated by Boyce.  Tyler, from JM Moran & Company Construction and I are ordering interior doors and all door hardware today.  Will and Chad, owners of Independent Roofing , are ready to put the roof and siding on shortly.

Here are a few pictures of the progress.

Future Kitchen, framed and renderings:

philips 2.0

Entry, opening up into the living / hangout zone:

philips 2.2
philips 2.1

From the open concept hangout zone / kitchen area looking through to the bedrooms and bathroom:


And, exterior view:


I am still incredibly impressed with the generosity of the members of the Missoula building industry and I am so proud to be able to work alongside REALLY GOOD people who I am honored to consider my friends.  This project has humbled me and also proven to me what community can accomplish.  It’s been a lesson for me to keep running forward, make good decisions, and not get bogged down in details or perfect presentation drawings.  It’s moving so fast because of compassion and love, and I’ve had to hustle to stay a step ahead with immediate decisions, for sure!

Thanks for reading and Happy Holidays.


white is so….white

“Black and white are absolute…expressing the most delicate vibration, the most profound tranquility, and unlimited profundity.” — Shiko Munakata.

Benjamin Moore color experts have deemed a white as the 2016 Color of the Year, OC-117 ‘Simply White’, to be exact.  My younger self would be appalled, as I’ve always navigated in heavily saturated tones, but now, to my complete surprise, I’m undeniably drawn to whites, off-whites, and cream whites.  What’s changed?  Personally, I’d have to point to the presence of chaos in recent life events, more stressful obligations, and my absolute disdain for turmoil, aggrevation, and discord.  I don’t like to argue, like I used to.  I don’t like to live in clutter, like I used to. I don’t mind complete silence, which I used to avoid.

I’ve gone white.

Color psychologists argue that the color white evokes peacefulness and is reminiscent of goodness.  It’s clean, quiet, and airy in interior environments and has been shown to aid in mental clarity.  In my own practice, I’ve seen it used widely with clients that are embarking on a new beginning or significant life change after loss, sadness, chaos.  In Chinese culture and Medieval Europe, white is the color of mourning, unlike black in Western culture.

And let’s not forget the significance of raising the white flag.  Known as a universal sign of truce, I would argue that, for a multitude of horrific reasons, humanity may be craving more peace.

Thank goodness for the color of white.  Bring it on.


a project from my heart

I’ve said it many times: Design Matters when it comes  to what educated, licensed interior designers can do to help people heal and dream, be comfortable, healthy, happy, and safe.  I’ve embarked on a project for dear friends that I consider part of my extended family, and it’s becoming the project I am proudest of.  On May 6th of this year, my friend, Kalee, and our friend, TJ, were killed by Kalee’s estranged husband who then turned the gun on himself, leaving their three daughters orphaned.  Kalee’s mom and dad, our close friends and neighbors, were granted custody of the girls, but were in desperate need of more space.  Heartbroken over the loss of this remarkable mom, friend, and professional, this incredible community of kind-hearted people immediately began asking what they could do to help.

I knew what I could do right away.  I had to help to deliver them an addition and remodel.  I reached out to friends in my industry and we assembled a team of the most generous, kind, thoughtful people who wanted to contribute everything they could.  And it’s been astounding.  Erin and Brian at Encore Construction and I arrived at a design that is stylish but economical, yet exceedingly functional in regards to space planning and circulation. We were able to achieve my goal: It gave each girl a room of her own.  Beaudette Consulting Engineers graciously engineered the project and created construction documents which I then brought to my pal, Jeremy at JM Moran & Company Construction, who agreed to build for no fee.  From there, we’ve been honored and surprised by the level of generosity given from subcontractors offering labor and materials for free or at cost.  Most incredibly, has been Boyce Lumber, who has offered to donate everything they have access to, which spans from windows & doors, to sheetrock, to siding, to kitchen cabinets, to paint and well beyond!  Boyce Lumber is truly a marvel and I will encourage everyone I come across to shop there for a multitude of reasons.

I write this post as testament to humanity and to community.  My faith in people is stronger than ever.  I am honored to call Missoula my home, surrounded by such an uplifting, industrious, and inspirational group of humans.  I’ll keep you posted on our progress, as things are moving quickly.  Here are a couple of pictures of the site, the massive excavation mass, and the progress with the ICFs (Insulated Concrete Forms).  Yes, the front of the house is torn off and they braving it.  Jeremy has the back portion of the house blocked off and created a mini kitchen for the time being.

If you’d like to show support to the family here’s a link to the GoFundMe site:

Thank you for reading.   BB


my biophilia

As a person who thrives in nature and outdoors, I find a little irony that my greatest passion is creating interior environments.  But it’s beginning to make sense to me. When I’m indoors, shades are up, doors are wide open if it’s not freezing outside, windows open sometimes even if it is freezing, plants and flowers surround me, and my dogs are always close. In my practice, my favorite and most used approach to the interiors I create for people is to intuitively interject natural elements everywhere I can.  Whether it’s through natural finishes like real stone or organic cotton, or sneaking in day-lighting where possible, I love spaces that remind me, even if just subtly, of being outside.  Turns out, I’m not alone and all these billions of dollars in studies are stating the obvious:  What feels good to us-  gardens, animal companionship, views, sunshine, are actually proving to be good for us.  Duh.  And it’s catching on in a massive fashion. Empirical evidence shows that even a brief experience with nature can elicit a restorative response in humans.  Biophilic design is design of the built environment that reconnects us with nature and it’s been shown to be essential for providing people healthy environments that produce less stress and actually contribute greatly to the users’ health and well-being.

The term, ‘biophilia’ literally means, ‘love of life or living systems’.  Unlike a ‘phobia’, which are aversions and fears that overtake people, ‘philias’ are attractions and positive feelings that people have toward habitats, organisms, and natural surroundings. As humans, we have an innate biological connection with nature.  We are captivated by a crackling fire, sunrises, crashing waves, and for good reason.  We can’t not love these things.  But for decades, we’ve created sterile built environments doomed with interiors that are plain, toxic, devoid of any daylight, and causing us to die a slow, painful death both psychologically and physically.  I’m thrilled that biophilic design is not merely a trend, instead, it’s going to be how we design built environments from here on out.

Next time you are in a commercial or hospitality environment and REALLY feel good, ask yourself why and try to pin it down.  Every time I am having this experience I can unanimously point to natural elements whether it’s actual green things growing, daylight, natural materials.  Then, next time you’re in an environment you are bummed out by and loathing, try to figure out why.  Sometimes, it’s the colors of that environment, sure, but bad color comes from bad lighting a lot of the time.  Bad lighting is not a part of biophilic design.  Sadly, I’ve found myself going through this analysis often in medical settings- environments that should feel the best to us.

Here’s a great paper on biophilic design if you’d like to learn more:

Above is a kitchen I designed using many biophilic elements: maximized views; controlled day-lighting; natural materials in walnut cabinetry and flooring, travertine, granite, metals; plants and flowers; non-synthetic fabrics.

Thanks for reading! BB

sneak peek of details in my master bath project

I’ve been accused of being a perfectionist.  It’s also been insinuated that I am a control freak when it comes to details..  I’m okay with all of that because it returns results like these!  Of course this level of thought and execution could not happen without collaboration with the best tradespeople.  I like to surround myself with people with the same level of drive for excellence, because when I do, the outcome even surpasses my expectations.  Take a look:


In Line Drain with pillowed glass tile inlayed.


Cut pillowed glass mosaic to fit stone cladding seamlessly.


Winter Sky Marble niche in Island Stone Cladding.

fireplace facelifts

We’ve been doing a lot of fireplace updates lately with several more in the queue.  Understandably, since the fireplace is THE focal point of the room that it lives in.  And when it’s dated and / or out of scale, it screams it.

Here’s a glance at the transformation of one we did last year.  On this project I had the picklewood ceiling stained to a walnut tone and  eliminated the bulky built-in that greeted entrants immediately as they entered the living room which also blocked the incredible view of the entire valley.  I added outlets in the boards that create the sunken floor so that the owners could easily float lamps in the space without cords everywhere.  I had the walls painted a sophisticated light grey, and added a Big Ass Fan. We covered the face of the fireplace with black slate cladding and replaced the dated brass insert with a modern and clean Mendota gas insert (wood fireplaces are banned in the city of Missoula due to air quality issues).  Then, designed a custom built-in into the left end of the fireplace to house the clients’ large amount of stereo equipment, now easily accessible, well insulated, and no wires or cables ever seen.  We will be facing the hardware-less door with a piece of art.  Since we were driving for a more approachable modern look, we opted not to add a mantle or hearth, just kept it clean and strong.  Lastly, we furnished the space with timeless pieces such as an Eames Lounge and Ottoman and a custom made Joybird sofa.  Big change!


Good Interior Design Makes a Difference

One of the primary reasons I chose interior design to be my calling is my passion for designing spaces that improve lives.  Good design lowers stress (decreased blood pressure), improves mental health (aids in fighting depression or PTSD), minimizes toxins that contribute to health issues (decreases risk for cancer), encourages movement (improved heart health), and enables people to stay in their homes as they age or suffer from a disability, among other good things.  Healthy homes are an essential need in the human experience, no matter of socio-economic status or neighborhood.

Recently, I attended a forum in Boston discussing a partnership between ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) and the Clinton Global Initiative uniting to advance Health and Wellness by engaging 11 important partners in order to establish protocols for heath and wellness in design.  Interior designers have always been able to tell you that a space feels good with arguments of scale, balance, proportion, etc.  Now, as a result of these strong partnerships, new research is emerging daily supporting these claims with FACTS.  As a true design nerd, I find this era in design to be extremely exciting.  I love being able to support my design decisions with solid explanations.  It’s a great time to be a designer, and an even better time to hire a qualified and knowledgeable designer.

Here are just a few design solutions to ponder:

  • Increased daylighting in hospital settings has been found to greatly reduce healing time among patients as well as greatly reduce the burn-out rate among nurses.
  • Eliminating high sensory objects and design details in an environment where the user or users have autism reawakens their ability to interact with society and discourages disconnection.
  • The American Cancer Society released a report in the American Journal of Epidemiology stating that men who sat for six hours or more per day had an overall death rate that was nearly 20% higher than men who sat for three hours per day or less.  Women who sat for more than six hours per day had a death rate that was almost 40% higher! And dedicated exercise showed no neutralizing effect. Designing corporate work environments that encourage mobility will lead to more productive, healthy, happier people who live much longer.

Here’s a link describing the ASID / CGI partnership along with the 11 organizations helping to create health and wellness protocols that will help us all in our built environments:

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