Belle Maison Interior Design

Thermostat With a Mind of its Own


I’ve heard about the Nest thermostat for some time, but now I have a client who’s installing them in his renovated home so I’ll see how it works firsthand.

If you don’t know about Nest, it’s a company founded by the guy who designed the iPod, and there’s an Apple form follows function look to it. Basically, it’s a smart thermostat, with algorithms that learn how you live to maximize comfort and minimize energy use. Based on your initial input and sensors that know when you’re around, it will turn on and off the heat or AC to be exactly the right temperature when you’re home, and turn if off as much as possible when you’re not to lower electric and gas bills. It knows what kind of system you have and factors that into its decisions. And, if you’re away you can control the Nest through the inevitable online app. While it’s not cheap at $250, it will save money through efficiency without any sacrifice in comfort. Plus, like an Apple product, it’s easy to use and looks cool.

It does remind me a bit of the malevolent computer HAL in the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.” If it decides to take control you can always unplug it.

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A Kitchen is Transformed From Frog to Prince



This kitchen is the centerpiece of an addition that, while not adding significant square footage to the home, dramatically enhances its appeal. The plan is more open and unified, and the home feels appreciably larger. The outside deck at the back of the house is now slightly smaller, but we’ve created a family room, expanded kitchen and dining area. The project is still in progress but the kitchen is finished and the before photos give you an idea of the change. The window in the before shot is located where the cook top is now.

We removed the wall with the double oven and fridge in the before picture and created the counter top wing with double glass dark wood cabinetry, which serves both the kitchen and dining area to the left. The kitchen scheme started with the choice of granite, which determined the colors and textures of the wood floors and cabinets, cook top with oven underneath, and ceramic tiles with the center square arrangement. The center square tiles are outlined in a mosaic of glass, stone and ceramic.

I’ll share more photos when the dining area and family room are complete. Meanwhile, the top photograph shows how striking the improvement can be when a kitchen is transformed from frog to prince. Click here to see other kitchens I’ve designed.


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Paris Eye Candy

Watching this short video makes me homesick for Paris. Through some camera trickery, the elegantly detailed outside of Parisian buildings are seen projected onto the inside of a high ceilinged, empty apartment. The exterior design mirrors the interior design. It’s an intriguing perspective on the breathtaking beauty of the City of Lights.

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Come on in…


Entryways should entice the visitor into a space, offering an intriguing taste of what’s to come.  In this entryway I created a mini gallery, featuring a painting, etchings, a decorative wall pocket, sculpture and blown glass. The gold painted recessed ceiling casts a glow that reflects the wool cheetah design rug and chest of drawers in a crocodile lacquered finish. It’s like a perfect hors d’oeuvre that gives you a taste of the delicious meal to come. Click here for more entryways. 

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You Have Just Entered The Twilight Zone




(Cue the eerie music at the beginning of The Twilight Zone)

You’re walking down a typical picturesque avenue in the City of Light, not a care in the world, when you turn a corner and there it is, a building that seems to sag and bend and ripple like a bowl of surreal jelly. Has someone slipped LSD in your Beaujolais? Or is this Paris trip nothing but an elaborate dream? Not to worry. Trompe l’oeil, the technique that fools the eye into seeing something that isn’t there, is a national hobby in France, and this building under construction has been draped in a mural that Salvador Dali would be proud of. Not recommended for those under the influence of mind-altering substances.


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The Right Spindles (Cont’d)




Recently I posted about a Tudor renovation where it was necessary to change the staircase spindles. In these photos you can see the results. The top photo shows our test sample for size, not finish, being pointed to by the intrepid craftsman, with the old spindles on either side. Believe it or not, the thin, characterless mid-century spindles were actually painted white, against all the gorgeous oak wood of the foyer. Our detailed, properly sized spindles in natural oak finish give the staircase the graceful sense of style the original must have had.

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Feel the Tension Disappear


I’ve posted pictures of several other rooms in this condo apartment, and the bedroom fits into the light, clean, contemporary scheme. The dominant tones are cream, as paint colors, carpet and primary bedding; the shagreen finish and upholstered headboard of the bed carry the tone further, helping to create a calm serenity. We’ve added crown molding to the ceiling and created soffits to house the sheer panels above the windows. Chrystal lamps give a soft glow, while adding transparent detail that appears almost weightless. The cream theme also provides an ideal backdrop for the warm wood tones of the veneered night tables, framed artwork and faux leopard pillows. You’ll notice the placement of the darker tones adds symmetry to the design, which also inspires the orderly, tranquil mood.  Forget meditation or Xanax; entering this room is guaranteed to calm the spirit.

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Dinner Parties and Dining Rooms

Considering my love of cooking (and eating!), dining rooms are very dear to my heart. My favorite form of entertainment is the dinner party, gathering a well-matched group of friends, creating a flavorful menu, and enjoying the fascinating discussion that ensues. In designing a dining room the dynamic of the dinner party isn’t far from my thoughts: no matter the size, shape or style of the room, there should be a warmth, intimacy and sense of occasion conducive to a convivial group of friends enjoying food, wine and good company.



For this Fall dinner party I used a white tablecloth with champagne stripes, antique limoge china with a pattern I love, multicolored antique glasses, candelabras, a sprinkling of red flower petals, embroidered antique napkins, and mini pumpkins. I often work with clients to assemble evocative compositions of china, linen, flatware and accessories that make a dining room glitter for special occasions.



As we strolled through her new country home my client mentioned that she needed a dining room that could support large sit down dinners. Our tour of the home made the design solution clear: her family room was the perfect dining room. The fireplace, mantel and wall above were remodeled. I chose a country table with plank top, accompanied by a large country sideboard with fluted pilasters. A dramatic French tapestry highlights the lofty 18 foot ceiling and delicate, oversize lanterns seem to float over the scene.



An archway leads to a dining room I designed in the traditional French style. An Aubusson rug provides a classic platform for the mahogany table. The chairs are custom Louis XVI covered in Nobilis, the crystal chandeliers by Vaughan. The eye is drawn to the openness and drama of the elevated trey ceiling through the use of a light, sky blue paint color, while the yellow damask on the walls adds a subtle pattern and radiance in the formal French manner.



Iridescent striped wallpaper, pearlescent glaze paint and a Thomas O’Brien hand knotted wool and silk floral rug encircle the ebony finished trestle table. I used a long, narrow vase filled with stones and fresh moss to show of the willowy flowers. All that’s missing is the tinkling of glasses and polite murmur of conversation.



This stately dining room began with the choice of a bold red fabric from Coraggio to upholster the walls. Counterpoint underneath was created using a dado panel and a bench under the bay window. The table is an English traditional double pedestal, with Chippendale chairs, under a magnificent crystal chandelier. The rug is custom, the round table an antique, and the walls feature the owners extensive art collection. But it all started with the wall fabric and the color red.

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A Soupçon of Oriental Flair


Here’s another photo of the condo apartment I’m in the process of finishing for an empty nest couple. This sitting area is part of a large open space that also encompasses the kitchen. I’ve continued the cool, clean look of the rest of the home. The wool-textured rug provides a plush platform for the comfortable sectional sofa. The two leather ottomans are both practical and decorative—they add additional seating if required and fit under the sideboard perfectly. The original mid-century cocktail table is by Isamu Noguchi, the free form 3/8 inch glass and two piece ebony base giving a soupçon of oriental flair to the scheme.


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The Right Spindles




I thought it might be interesting to post updates on my Tudor project as it progresses. Today the subject is spindles for the two staircases. At some point characterless mid-century spindles had been installed, totally wrong for Tudor style. For the rear staircase we chose a simple, classic design, squared on top and bottom, with just enough detail to provide visual interest. We painted them to match the trim.  For the more imposing front staircase, the spindles are bigger, thicker, more detailed and a lot of work to stain. Every element in a design is important, and the sweep and drama of the stairs are punctuated by the elegance and detail of the spindles. I’ll post photos of the finished staircases.


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