Author Archives: Denise Smith

What I’m Doing Now

Filed under Uncategorized

The Fruits of Labors

Filed under Arlington Rooftop, Current Projects

The Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill opened today.  Quietly, but not without notice.  ARL now was there:

“The restaurant is a bit hard to describe: it’s a mash-up of a number of different styles. The oldies pumped through the speaker system, the Prohibition-era woodwork behind the bar, the generally upscale, modern surroundings and the reasonably-priced menu — together defy easy comparisons.”

I like that the blogger used ‘mash-up’ as I am a huge Glee fan.  I don’t, however, think he/she has any idea how hard pulling that off was.

I didn’t realize how stressful it would be to read the comments on the articles.  Being a blogger and a regular commenter and a stir-the-pot Facebooker, I thought I would be immune. 

I haven’t been there yet.  I did notice from the pictures that my custom wallpaper is not hung.  I have no idea why.  I missed the Friends and Family event yesterday because I am in the midst of my second professional production

I took these photos from the ARL now website. 


Filed under Trend Spotting


Just a little thing that has been bothering me…

I read decorating blogs now and again.  Not anywhere like I used to a few years ago, when I had a long list that I tried to keep up with daily, but still there are a few I check at least weekly.   Sometimes I am surprised by what I read.

Two bloggers whose sites I regularly visit design homes professionally.  Both have done a series of posts on decorating rooms based on another decorator’s work.  In both cases, the decorator/blogger has used a photograph of someone else’s work and tried to recreate the room.  In one case the decorator is using the picture she found online and duplicating it to the best of her ability in her own house, and in the other a decorator has remodeled a bedroom for a client using structural and design elements copied from a room showcased on HGTV.

I think this is so weird.  Three things:

1)       Why not come up with your own ideas? Take a few suggestions or ideas here and there perhaps, if you must.  But especially for your own home-that place that should be a unique, inspiring, relaxing haven -shouldn’t it be a reflection of your own tastes?

2)      If you don’t think your ideas are as good as someone else’s than why are you in this business?  Isn’t it a little embarrassing to have to show your clients someone else’s work, and then ask for payment?

3)      If someone was using one of my rooms and copying it for a client, I would at first be flattered, but I think I would quickly become PISSED.  People pay me for my ideas.  Someone else shouldn’t get rewarded for something I did. 

I hope this doesn’t make me sound like an egomaniac.  It’s not MY rooms these women are copying, so I guess I really shouldn’t care.  Ok.  Rant over.  Moving on….

Stripes and Semicircles

Filed under Arlington Rooftop, Current Projects

I just realized I never showed you the furniture I designed for The Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill.  The shipment arrived from New York in August while I was at the beach so I missed all the excitement.  A crane had to be rented and a bank of windows removed in order to get the semicircular booths inside. 

I am very happy with the final product.  They arrived looking pretty much like they did inside my brain, which I have to be honest and admit surprised me.  The order of the stripes on the booths isn’t exactly what I remember, but when you consider the designs were described in English and HANDWRITTEN in Cantonese, well…

Instead of looking at these crappy iPhone photos, why don’t you head over there and view the whole shebang yourself?  I let you know the minute the doors open for business, I promise.

Impersonating a Graphic Designer

Filed under The Undecorated Life

This is my second year of  formatting the athletic program for my daughter’s high school.  I took it one step further this time and coordinated the whole fundraising campaign. The final result was an 80 page program and the funds to buy portions of new uniforms, varsity warm-ups, lots of big, fancy hair bows and a new cheer mat. 

I am pleased with the outcome, both artistically and monetarily.

Ann’s Dilemma

Filed under Color, Design Principles, Individualized Advice, Other Dilemmas

Remember Ann from Friday?  She was kind enough to respond after I posted the answer to her paint color question with pictures of her home.  Here is my response:

Ann, your new kitchen is GORGEOUS.  The Sahara Mélange glass tiles paired with the Sierra Madre Silestone countertops and the natural tones of the wood cabinets are very good, very livable choices.  You should be very proud of your decisions.  I do agree with your plan to extend the wood tiles to the kitchen as well.  The current white squares are not in balance with the open feeling to the space. 

The reason you are having trouble finding a color from the-ahem-multiple swatches of colors you have used is because all of these colors are too saturated.  They are competing with the wonderful elements you have, rather than enhancing them.  Choose a color that allows the combination of the tiles and the counter to be the center of attention in the room.  The Behr Winter Wheat (the longest and largest swatch at the top to the right of the table) is probably the closest to what you should aim for, but even it is too harsh. 

Tyler Taupe may work, and I can see by your inquiring about it that you, too, are realizing the need for a calmer, softer color.  I like the idea of working with a color with a green tone, which will serve as a nice compliment to the red accent wall opposite the kitchen and will contrast with the brownish tone in the new addition.  Your thought to paint the entire entry area an orangish color is also a good one. This would give you the punch of color you are looking for. 

Since you mentioned the Affinity colors from Benjamin Moore, let’s keep it simple and choose a few from this palette.  My first choice would be the grayed green, Elemental.  Of course remember that I am looking at snap shots on my monitor, but sitting here at my desk in Virginia, this looks like what you need –not too much green and not too much color, but still deep and rich and luxurious.  The color seems to coordinate well with the Sahara Mélange tiles. 

A bold choice for the entry would be Buttered Yam, but honestly, Etruscan, a much more mellow brownish orange, may serve to better balance the Elemental and still allow the red accent to be the focal point. 

Finally, I would not add a chair rail to the entry area, or anywhere in the pictures you sent.  There are already a lot of breaks in the wall spaces. Your home appears to be more contemporary.  Thick base boards would be a better use of trim and would harmonize better with the style of your home, but these are not necessary. The vaulted ceilings?  Leave ‘em white. 

Good luck and remember to update us as you make progress!

A Letter From Ann

Filed under Color, Individualized Advice, Other Dilemmas

“Hi there Denise!

I’ve been googling for Benjamin Moore Aura paint sample pictures and came across your blog. Thank goodness, I soooo love your blog, it’s heaven sent :o )

I’m in the middle of choosing paint colors for my kitchen, dining nook, living room and foyer (they all come together as one big room so imagine my dilemma of what paint color to choose!). I probably have to send you pics so you know what I’m talking about because I need some serious help. I’m really clueless and I’m just hoping you’d be able at least find and reply to my email somehow.

I sooo love midtone & deep colors (greens, yellows, oranges) and I knew I wanted to pair whichever I decide on with some brown. My favorite green right now is Behr’s Winter Wheat (PMD-60 — I will just have to color match it with that of Ben Moore’s). I just can’t seem to get the right brown color. I have jars and jars of sample paints and they’re all wasted :o (

Anyways, I want to ask you what kind of brown color did you have on one of your blog’s wallpaper pictures (with an orange sofa and an adorable little dog sitting on it).

I am definitely sending you another email with pictures of my kitchen/dining nook/foyer/living room sometime this week and hopefully you could help me decide which paint to choose (I hope it’s ok).

Appreciate your time and your help. Keep up the good work on your blog!

Thanks and take care,
Ann Goya”

I received this email last week and I am pretty proud of the fact that I am actually responding to it.  I have quite a few reader emails lingering in my inbox and I would like to make a public apology for ignoring them. Please, Ann, send me some pictures.  I promise to address them here.  This year, even. (That’s only eight weeks…)

Ann’s question is pretty easy.  Even though I don’t have a Design Recap for this job, I do remember the color.  This project was many years ago, before I was officially Decorate Your Space.  My client was a parent at my daughters’ school, who had heard from a friend of a friend that I could help her with her new house.  And that my favorite color was orange.  She had red hair, too.  We were a perfect match.

The wall color is Tyler Taupe HC-43 from Benjamin Moore.  It’s strange that I can remember so many of the colors from this house at the top of my head.  There had been so many less back then.  Now I can’t remember the name of a color I picked yesterday.

Let me warn you, Ann, about those little paint samples. I believe they have led to a lot more confusion than clarity.  It is very hard to imagine the final result of a color choice when it is painted in isolation on a wall already painted another color, even if that color is the palest cream.  Get 15 more little boxes of color surrounding it, and it becomes impossible.  To truly see how a color will look, the whole wall should be painted. If that seems too intimidating, the online tools most paint manufacturers have on their websites are a much better way to preview results.  Some even let you download your own photos. 

For paint samples gone horribly wrong, click here.


Filed under The Undecorated Life

To try to come up with a poster and a logo for our fall show, The Wizard of Oz, I concentrated on the many iconic images from so famous a movie.  The Wizard of Oz holds a firm grasp on the American culture; I found I needed to make a list. 

I knew I wanted the background to be a nice deep Oz green.  And the typography was easy, too.  Somewhere online I read that Patrick was similar to a font used in Baum’s books.  

I had a pretty long list of possible images.  After working through a few, I decided I couldn’t decide.  So I narrowed it down to 12, then shaved that down to 10.  (A Glinda based one, and one with Toto in the basket didn’t make the cut.)  The order is based on when they appear in the script. 

One friend whose opinion I respect didn’t care for  my use of white space, but the woman who owns the art gallery in Old Town Manassas did.  She gave me a lot of praise, took the ones she liked best, and called me an artist.  As one not usually too terribly affected by flattery, I have to admit she made my day.

Painting and a Place for a Pea

Filed under The Undecorated Life

My younger daughter auditioned with the theater company that shared the space we had used to perform our spring show, and as a result, that directorial team saw the sets I had designed for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.  After my daughter was cast in Vpstart Crow’s A Princess and a Pea,  it only took one rehearsal for me to be asked to paint a backdrop.  I knew my life was crazy, but I said yes.  I about fell over when the day came to load the sets and I saw that the backdrop was 12 feet high and 20 feet long.

Once I got about half way done, I went home wanting  to start over.  But I have already invested about 7 hours, and I really didn’t have the time.  The hours involved may make it seem otherwise, but I worked fast.  I got the whole thing done in about 15 hours, over the course of  three days.  When it was finished and the lights were on it, I was much less disappointed and was glad I had worked through my doubts.

Now the mattress were another matter.  It was dress rehearsal, and the production team was still without a believable set piece.  I knew I was to be at the theater the entire next day, since I was already there producing a children’s day camp.  I volunteered to come up with–well–something!  I ended up running to the fabric store for a couple rolls of batting, and ripping my daughter’s old bedding into shreds.  I had a piece of plywood cut to wedge between the two mattresses of a bunk bed, then stapled the tops the strips of fabric width-wise.  I tucked the batting in, fold the bottom under, and pushed in a couple more staples.  I was done by lunch. 

Did it look like 27 mattresses?  No, not to anyone over five.  But I did hear a little girl exclaim as the stage hands pushed it out, “That must be HEAVY!”

Excuses Excuses

Filed under Current Projects, The Undecorated Life

It’s been forever, I know.  You’re probably sick of my reason…I have been busy.  Just so you don’t think I am full of excuses, let me try to explain.

In the past four months:

  • Spent weeks where I visited the Arlington Rooftop Bar and Grill jobsite at least 4 days out of the week.   Made a million little decisions no one will notice and few big ones that everyone will.
  • Painted a 20’ x 12’ backdrop, and saved the show by redoing the Princess’s 27 mattresses the day before opening night. 
  • Produced four weeks of theater day camp, one of which ran simultaneously (during the day) to The Princess and the Pea (performing in the evening).
  • Produced another full scale musical, The Wizard of Oz.  Created a series of ten posters and hung them everywhere that would allow me. 
  • Agreed to be the Producer AND to assistant direct (what the…) The Christmas Carol.
  • Began another big project, a 30,000 sq/ft grocery store.
  • Went to the beach. Three times.
  • Organized and managed an ad sales fundraising program for my daughter’s high school, formatted the resulting 80 page football program, and created 5 covers to grace the front.
  • Agreed to be the lead parent for my daughter’s cheerleading squad the year they finally have a winning team. 
  • Saved a dog from the worst possible conditions

Even with all that, I can say I probably COULD have blogged.  I certainly had a lot to write about.  But last April I got serious about finally sticking to an exercise regimen.  I began running every day, and I have to be honest and say that hour replaced the hour I would have otherwise spent writing.  I feel great physically, even with the little voice of guilt telling me I should carve out time to Design Strategies.