travel & experience

The Best Version of Yourself

Besosa Designs is a lifestyle blog that is part design resource, part inspiration resource for mazimizing your life adventure.  I invite you to  “Design Your Life.”  Areas of Life Design include goal setting,  personal fulfillment, travel and adventure, and life experiences. My Facebook page is my way of creating a community of people to support eachother on their Life Adventures.

Fun friends vacations beach conceptIstock: molchanovdmitry

In my blog series, I offer inspiration and advice to help you plan and enjoy those experiences that will result in your best personal adventure.  This means something different to each person.  Success means entirely different things to different people and even to ourselves depending on the stage of life we are currently in.

I invite you to become the best version of yourself.  You are special and unique —  there is no one who can ever take your place.  Please join me on this journey of adventure and discovery.




Residential Design

Lovely Autumn

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year.  I adore the glorious colors of fall foilage and the cooler temeratures bringing on increased energy.  Perhaps it is the association of the new school year that I associate fall with a fresh start.  Or it might be that kick of temperature change along with seeing nature let go of summer with such a graceful transition that autumn inspires taking on new adventures in our lives.

PEXELS FREE autumn-colorful-colourful-33109Image via Pexel 33109

“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all.”                 –Stanley Horowitz


There are so many ways to celebrate the season.  The cooler weather encourages us to clean out our homes, taken on challenging chores, visit orchards, perhaps even start something new that is good for us like a hobby or carving out some time for ourselves.  Give yourself plenty of time to plan for and enjoy Halloween.

PEXELS FREE boys-carved-pumpkin-celebration-1371178Image via Pexel 1371178

A thousand flowers baked by the sun

Their scent dampened by dew now that night has begun

A distant church bell’s toll is eerie tonight

Young children notice all take takes flight

Close friends and neighbors we don’t recognize

Until small friendly voices dispel their disguise

A pumpkin, a candle, a sheet becomes ghost

Our path is so marked by our spooky host

With mild trepidation we approach the next door

Each house has become a free candy store

The night fills with quick footsteps, the shouts that we utter

A spring in our step, inside us a flutter

The beauty of autumn, the mystery of lore

A witch on the wing, a bat hangs from a door

Countless enchantments to be heard, felt and seen

On its once a year visit, once again — Halloween

Poem by Adrian Jennings

PEXELS FREE art-autumn-colorful-33577Image via Pexel 33577

Autumn is such a fun time for crafts or and adding fall decor.  You can let your personality shine, such as with this adorable porcupine set in a nest of warm color –shown above.

IMG_4995 by meImage & Design by Lauren Richardson

Head to your local craft store and grab a grapevine wreath, some colorful leaf stems, berry stems (anything to add interest and texture), your favorite ribbon (with wire) and a bow maker (it’s easy after a few practices), wreath hangers and make yourself a dazzling wreath.  I love to have one for the outside of the front door and one for the inside of the front door.

IMG_4997 by meImage & Design by Lauren Richardson

Crate and Barrel’s Suki Collection offers a modern and fresh take on autumn and Thanksgiving table decor.  The Suki Collection hosts runners, tablecloths, and napkins in a fresh, stylized floral in two colorways.

If you like the idea of adding acorns to your decor, be sure to pop them in an oven for a few minutes to remove any organic material or purchase faux acorns from any variety of retailers.,eid-ko

Enjoy the season.   Enjoy your blessings.

Kitchen Design, Residential Design

Planning and Designing Your Dream Kitchen

Stunning kitchen and dining room in new luxury home. Wood beams and elegant pendant lights accent this beautiful open-plan dining room and kitchenImage by hikersterson via Istock

An Investment

Planning a kitchen renovation can be daunting in terms of scope and budget.  The good news is that realtors estimate that 80% of the investment you make in your kitchen upgrade will be recouped when you sell your house.   Whether you are ready to take the plunge for your own benefit or for resale value, below are some guidelines to help save you time and money with designers, make the process smoother and get you the end results you desire.

Take Inventory

Before getting to far along,  go through all your kitchen appliances, dishes, tools and cookbooks and give away or toss anything you don’t need.  Does your waffle maker just sit there 364 days a year?  Do you really need four sets of measuring cups?  Do you have mismatched dishes and cups that just sit on the shelf?  Once you know exactly what you need to store, finding storage solutions will be more targeted.


The most expensive part of a kitchen upgrade is in appliance reorientation and custom cabinetry.  Depending on the extent of your renovation, it can cost anywhere from $15,000 to $75,000 (or higher).  Consumer Reports offers a monthly membership for $7.95 per month or you can purchase magazines that will get you up to speed on costs.

Form Follows Function

Mom with daughter on kitchen.Image by Vasyl Dolmatov via Istock

Do some research.  Visit kitchen showrooms and gather materials.  Learn what’s possible. Until you do some exploring, you won’t know that you can’t live without that certain something.  Even Home Depot and Lowes have great catalogs that help you understand some of the organizational tools available with cabinetry upgrades.

Create a list of “must haves” and “would like to haves.”  If you are a couple, try to have individual lists as well as a shared list to help designers hone in on those items that are paramount to your happiness.

Consider amenities such as a wine cooler, a gas fireplace to keep you cozy in the wintertime, and storage solutions that will save you from sitting on the floor and digging through cabinets for that certain appliance.  Corner cabinets with lazy susans are wonderful.  Maybe you’re an avid baker, and over the fridge vertical storage will make it easy access to large,  flat pans.  Perhaps having a pull out spice cabinet would make life sunnier.  It may be that a pegged dish drawer would make the daily chore of setting the table and putting the dishes away a breeze.  Consider your height, back issues, arthritis and any disabilities when putting together your wish list.

Function Checklist

  • Will the family eat in the kitchen or dining room?
  • How often do you entertain?
  • How do  kids and dogs impact your layout and amenities selection?
  • Will there typically one cook or more?
  • Where do you prefer to do prep, cooking and clean up? (Your designer will plan your kitchen triangle of refrigerator, sink, and stove and overall layout with these preferences in mind.)
  • Do you need extra counter space?  A bar counter?
  • Do you need a double oven?
  • Will one sink suffice?
  • Do  you have a good-sized pantry?  Do you need extra storage for pots, pans, spices, or wine?
  • Are you interested in switching from electric to gas?  Extending a gas line can be expensive and electric cook tops have improved over time.
  • Do you need additional task lighting?
  • Do you need a home/office area?
  • Do you need a family calendar/scheduling area?
  • Would you like more natural light in your space? (skylilghts, additional windows, enlarged windows, sliding doors, etc)

Base Finishes

Create a file, notebook (digital or paper) or Pinterest page of kitchen designs that you find appealing.  Your designer won’t copy these, but they will provide insight to your taste.  Strive for  7 to 10 images that represent your style.  Try to understand why the images appeal to you.  Isolate the components.  Is it the light?  Copper bowls?  Stone tile?  Dark wood floors contrasting with crisp white cabinetry?  As a couple, strive for images that reflect a combined style. This may be difficult and could require the assistance of your designer, but the clearer you are on what you want, the less time you will spend with a designer.

Base finishes include flooring, cabinet finish, countertops, backsplash and paint.  Appliances should be coordinated as well.  They don’t have to all match but they should coordinate (i.e, black stove and dishwasher with stainless refrigerator).

Finish Upgrade versus Remodel

If you are merely changing finishes, you can do this own your own or hire an interior designer.  If you are remodeling, be sure to hire a certified NKBA planner.  Your kitchen planner might be able to offer you a highly coordinated finish scheme, but different types of designers have different specialties. so be sure to see some of their work.  You might want an interior designer to work with your certified kitchen planner, particularly if you are coordinating open floor plans and want coherence between the kitchen and adjacent rooms. Consider, in particular, any flooring material that will be adjacent to the kitchen flooring material.

Kitchen Flooring Choices

Are you keeping your existing flooring?  Try to get a sample of it so that this can be viewed in the quartz showroom with your other finishes.  You might be able to pull a chip from the corner of a pantry or closet.  If you are making a change, you will likely either choose tile or hardwood.  Tile is easy to clean but can be hard on your back.  If you don’t spend a lot of time cooking, this could be a good choice for you.  If you do select tile, ensure you specify narrow grout lines and a medium to dark grout.  If you have a light-colored grout, you will spend an enormous amount of time cleaning the grout, even if you seal it.  I prefer Carlisle wood flooring for its beauty, but if you are pressed for budget there are many other options.

Don’t purchase budget bamboo — a low price typically indicates bamboo that has not been allowed to harden and it will dent once installed. The article below details more choices and outlines  pro’s and con’s.


Don’t select granite for your countertops.  While it’s fine to use a granite offcut for a small vanity, granite can break upon installation for large pieces.  Quartz, on the other hand, has binders that offer just enough give that their will not be a break upon instlalation.  If you are looking for something subtle in a grey, white, or cream, Corian Quartz® (formerly Zodiaq®) offers regular specials on several colors.

However, if you would like more interest, visual “movement”, and something a bit more lively, Cambria® is your vendor of choice.  You can see Cambria® designs on your own countertops and islands, and more with the  Augmented Reality (AR) app.  How it works it you use your device to scan your counter, then select the design you want, and you will see how it looks in your space.

Visit a quartz showroom to see quartz options in full slab size.  Never, ever order your kitchen countertop(s) based on a small sample size.  Quartz often has wide variation, visual movement, and multiple colors that will not be evident in a small sample.  Consider two coordinating quartz colors if you have two or three countertops.  Once measurements are taken for fabrication, have your designer check with the fabricator to see if there are any offcuts that can be made into a desktop, vanity, or occasional table.  You will pay for the entire slab, so get your money’s worth.


If you want something custom, visit some local cabinet makers.  They should have samples of their work and be able to show you the quality of construction as well as paint and stain choices.  If you like more traditional designs, consider Enkebol architectural wood carving designs to enhance your cabinetry with carving, overlays, fluting, and molding.  Hoods offer another ornametal option.

Kitchen showrooms will offer you many styles of cabinetry, palettes and details to suit your style.  Consider some well-appointed glass cabinet fronts.  Antique glass offers sparkle without a stark view into the contents behind them.

beautiful kitchen with lights on in new luxury home with island, pendant lights, and glass fronted cabinets, and view of dining roomImage by hikesterson via Istock


While backsplashes are not required, and you can simply create a backsplash with your chosen quartz, a coordinating tile can add interest to your kitchen design. Don’t limit yourself to Home Depot!  There are so many beautiful tile designs available through your designer.  Have them take you to a showroom so that you can gather some ideas or ask them to bring you some selections.


While you can purchase refrigerator doors with wood fronts, most of us will select white, black or stainless.  The best selection will be based on your other finishes but keep in mind that stainless will show smudges, so if you have little ones under your roof, be prepared to be wiping appliances down often should you choose stainless.

Plumbing and Cabinet Hardware

Sinks and faucets might be on your renovation list.  These should be coordinated with your cabinet hardware.  Sherle Wagner and Carpe Diem are worth investigating for outstanding hardware selections.

Lighting and Electrical

In addition to offering a planned and coordinated design, another advantage of hiring an interior designer for your kitchen upgrade is to coordinate lighting that will showcase your new space.  Recessed lights in the ceiling, undercabinet lights, lights to showcase displays behind glass, and new fixtures over your kitchen table or island will be important components of a complete and pleasing design.


While this is an easy finish to change, paint color is still one of the items that should be chosen in concert with your other base finishes.

Final Selection of Base Finishes

Before signing on to any of your base finishes, have your designer meet you at the quartz showroom with the following samples: cabinet door, flooring sample,  backsplash and paint.  Ease of cleaning is of utmost importance in considering  all of your finish selections.

Adding In Your Personality

Crocery and roses bouquetImage by Svetl via Istock
Various bottles setImage by Svetl via Istock

Most of your base finishes will be neutral.  If you are selling your home, ensure you select classic, neutral finishes.  If this is your forever home, you can suit your own taste.  Have you dreamed of having a Mexican kitchen since you were 15?  Go for it.

Create another file of images that captures your personality.  Do you love Italian ceramics? Mixed colors of dishes?  Ceramics can brighten up your space.  Think of a kitchen with soft creams, whites, or greys and a bright blue vase with yellow flowers.  Or lavender orchids on a black countertop.  Kitchen mixers come in fun  colors like aqua, red, and copper. You can bring fabric, pattern and color into your space through upholstered seating areas, window treatments, chair covers, table cloths, runners, napkins, placemats, and artwork.  These items will add texture,  color and personality.  The more information you provide to your designer at the outset, the more successful he or she will be at giving you your dream kitchen.  Good design has so much to do with planning all the components together.

Action Items

To recap: visit some kitchen showrooms to think outside the box and see what’s possible, create your wish list of functional and style preferences, create a folder of images for overall kitchen design, base finish ideas, and personality ideas.  Hire your NKBA kitchen planner and interior designer.  The links below will connect you to organizations that can assist you in finding your designers.

Care and Maintenance

Once your new kitchen is installed, be sur eyou have warranties on hand and understand the care and maintenance of your new finishes so that you can enjoy them for some time to come.  In particular, understand proper care of your quartz countertops and islands.  Quartz is non-porous and hard to stain but you should avoid abrasive cleansers and cleansers that contain bleach.   Although quartz is very scratch resistant, you should always use a cutting board and never put a hot pot or pan direclty on the surface as this can cause discoloration.


travel & experience

Maui Jim Sunglasses

Ditch the Glare

My life improved significantly when I took my eye doctor’s advice and purchased a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses.  The glare of the Atlanta sun can be bothersome at the least, and debilitating at best.  Too often the sun would give me a headache, even with an off the shelf pair of sunglasses.

Color, Clarity, Detail

Maui Jim sunglasses have six technologies to pop color, enhance clarity, and reduce glare.  They come with a bit of a price tag, but you only get one set of peepers, and this is one way to take care of them and enhance the beauty around you.

dog surfing on a waveImage by damedeeso via Istock

Recommended by Eye Doctors

There is a reason you will find eyeglass retailers offering these outstanding sunglasses.  They are the best at protecting your eyes.  Check out Maui Jim’s web page and learn about these top rate sunglasses.  You can find a retailer near you or order from  to find your perfect pair. They offer free returns.

Tips for Eye Health and Preventing Macular Degeneration

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a nutritious diet that includes green leafy vegetables, yellow and orange fruit, fish and whole grains. (Tip: load 1/2 your plate with veggies and fruit, 1/4 with protein, and 1/4 with carbs.)
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Maintain normal blood pressure.
  • Exercise regularly.

See for Yourself – Maui Jim’s are Different

Treat Yourself

Treat yourself to a pair for your next vacation or just your next walk around the block.



Boutique hotel design, hospitality design, Management and Policy

Successful Project Management for Your New Build or Renovation

Hotel signImage by BrianAJackson via Istock

Common Problem — Lack of Regular Communication

I attended BDNY 2017 last year.  One the plane ride home, I read the Editor’s Note from Hotel Boutique Design.  Editor Christina Trauthwein had just returned from High Point Market’s Hospitality at Market.  Interestingly enough, the main theme of the two conferences was the same:  getting all the relevant players on the same page and  ensuring communication throughout the process.

So what does that look like and how can you, as a hotel owner or operator, influence this critically important and ongoing task?

Understand Your Architect’s Project Management Skills and Resources

When  first interviewing architects for your project, ensure that the firm has stellar project management skills and adequate staff.  Ask about their project management process — how they manage and measure their projects.  Find out if the firm has a full-time construction manager.  In most architecture firms, there is usually one senior staff member out getting business and another senior person overseeing projects and staff back home.  If you hire a small firm, there needs to be sufficient manpower in place.  Find out what role the office manager plays — often that person is key in getting construction documents moving to the right people in a timely manner.  Ask to speak with former or current clients about the project management ability of any firm you are considering.

architectural drawing paper rolls of a dwelling for constructionImage by Kwanchai_Khammuean via Istock

The Building Process: a Fast-Moving, Continually Shifting, and Difficult Process

Architects are the unsung heroes of our time.  It takes great skill to juggle multiple projects through the various phases and ensure all the right people are being pulled in at the right times.  Moreover, the actions that you witness as an owner/operator are just a fraction of the activities and conversations an architect, interior designer, and other design-build professionals must coordinate to ensure completion of a successful project.

Regular team members include the architect, contractor, project manager, owner/operator,  interior designer, civil engineer, and mechanical/plumbing/electrical engineers.  Every time a single change is made to any of your construction documents, all these people must update their documents to reflect the change.  Revision, revision, revision is a way of life and your final building is a result of all those little details being correctly coordinated.  In addition, the architect must facilitate conversations with county  and permitting officials.  Construction is a fast-moving process that requires unyielding oversight to ensure the end result — your hospitality project — is built the way you want and in a timely manner.

Keep It Simple

I worked for four years with an architect whose project management process was straightforward and did not involve complext software, but it did include consistent communication with the appropriate team members at the correct times.  Different design-build professionals were included at different times depending on the job phase.   As the interior designer, I was involved in conference calls during design concept, and consistently toward the end of the project, as finishes were being installed, right through the walk-through after the close of  the project.

Owners would be expected to be on the weekly call and if not available, to have a representative or substitute join in on the call.  Having a substitute was the exception, rather than the rule.   Below is a checklist I put together that aided me in filling in for the architect when he was not available.   I would take notes and send any unanswered questions to the architect.  Outstanding questions were handled with quick calls or emails with the appropriate people.   Notes from the call, including responses to questions, would be emailed to the entire team by close of the business day.

Weekly Conference Call Prompters — A Checklist

Businessman Video Conferencing With His Colleagues On ComputerImage by AndreyPopov via Istock


  • update from GC – on site this week – project progress
  • pay application status
  • utilities: electrical, cable, telephone,  gas
  • civil, building, fire sprinkler, slab, framing, footer, grading
  • exterior: awnings, other
  • delays, anticipated delays; schedule tracking ok?
  • areas to be addressed from last week’s GC report
  • items in need of resolution
  • outstanding permits (site, sign, exterior)
  • request for information/change order proposals
  • submittals outstanding


  • Art, TV locations, need for blocking, power


  • Interiors


  • ___________


  • Audio/video, TV, voice data, security
  • Equipment


  • Next site visit: ____
  • Off line calls with : ____

This is not a long or hard to understand list of items.  It is weekly attention to these key areas that makes it a useful outline.

Tips on the Bidding Process

Perhaps you have a contractor that you feel comfortable with and would like to do the work for you.  Consider taking the advice of your architect, who has worked many jobs with many contractors and will have a good idea of how they will perform overall.  We would generally send the bid to 5 or 6 contractors.  Not all contractors invited will submit a bid.   You will, hopefully, have 3 to review.  Ensure that your architect issues a standard bid form, to compare apples to apples as best possible.  There will be a low, middle, and high bid.  Be sure to look at the details and how each contractor priced each item.  I’ve seen bids where the final numbers were almost identical but the individual components were off by tens of thousands of dollars.  Do not rush the bidding process.  Allow at least two, if not three weeks for contractors to contact their subs and get solid pricing.  If you issue a bid during a holiday, add in another week as nothing happens during holiday weeks.

A Note on Contractors

General contractors have a difficult job.  It’s such a juggling act to get business, keep business, and manage business.  Low priced contractors have lower overhead, and can therefore offer better pricing but availability can be an issue — particularly when your job has already been secured and they are striving to get new business.  You can feel left out in the cold.  Alternatively,  higher priced contractors have more staff and deeper pockets and you can be fairly certain that your job will be attended to until completion, but you pay a premium for that.  Before you select a contractor, ensure you understand who you and your architect will be working with during the duration of your job.  Often, the person who bids the job is at a higher level in the company and you will be assigned a project manager from the company.  You want to be sure you understand this person’s abilities.

professional engineer worker at the house building construction siteImage by Kwangmoozaa via Istock

Protecting Specified Finishes

Not all contractors will accommodate this request, but if you can get your contractor to purchase each and every finish and warehouse these items until the building is ready for their installation, the interior design will retain its integrity.  If this does not happen, and items are not available, substitutions to original finishes will compromise your design. The more threads that are pulled (the more finishes that are substituted) the more your design will suffer.   The finished look for your guests deserve that you make this a priority with your contractor.  Even if they do not have warehousing of their own, there are so many options for short-term warehousing, that there is no reason to omit this important step.

I recommend that you do not  impose an immovable final deadline on your architectural and construction team.  While  a soft launch can be used to work out logistical flaws, this should be a flexible event.  Of course deadlines are important, and a certain amount of pressure needs to be administered, but things happen in the building business all the time.  If you create a deadline that cannot be moved, all of the finishes, which come in very late in the game, can end up getting replaced by items that are on hand but are sub par.  For a boutique hotel, this is unacceptable.

Fire Marshal

The American with Disabilities Act (ADA)  ensures that individuals with disabilities are able to dine or work at a restaurant as well as an able-bodied individual. The Department of Justice enforces the rules that apply to a restaurant’s building and facilities.

The fire marshal can keep you from opening if the requirements of ADA are not met.  One of your architect’s important tasks is staying up to date on any changes to ADA.  However,  it is still wise to add to your own checklist that all requirements for ADA are address very early on in the process.  For example, you obviously need to include accessible seating into your hotel restaurant but if your restaurant design does not include bar type seating as part of the general dining area, then the bar itself must provide accessible seating.  This includes a companion seat.  If your architect is well versed in restaurant design, this should not be an issue.  Trust but verify!

You Don’t Have To Be An Expert

While you don’t have to be an expert in architecture, the construction industry, or even project management,  you have power as the owner/operator.  You can be the momentum that keeps these conference calls going should that becomes necessary.  Just 10 or 15 minutes a week is usually enough to keep everyone on target and in the know.  You cannot, nor are you expected to manage all of coordination and communication  that must take place among your design- build team, but these regular conference calls can be a key element to keep it all moving forward.

You Got This!

Your role as owner/operator is varied and demanding.  However, you are in your position because you are smart, willing to learn, flexible, and you have a strong stomach!  Recognizing the complexities of the building process will better help you to manage this part of your business.  If you can appreciate the skills and knowledge of the professionals that are making your project a reality while expecting competence from them in return, you will strike a good balance.  Don’t forget that your ability to manage projects and keep a positive attitude can benefit your design-build experience as well as your relationships with other team members.

Don’t ever be hesitant to ask questions if you don’t understand something in your construction drawings or have questions or concerns as the process unfolds.

Owners tend to be euphoric at the beginning of a new build project and angry at everyone by the end.  A good process and realistic expectations will help you to navigate the stress that inevitably takes place at the end of a construction project.  In addition, once you have been through one new build or renovation, and are becoming familiar with the components of the building process, you will have more insight and ability to weather the phases of any future projects.




Michael's Simply Cozy Collection, Residential Design

Simply Cozy Collection at Michael’s

You have likely noticed the oh-so-soft mauves appearing in apparel and design.  Check out Michael’s Simply Cozy Collection.  It’s a mixture of whisper whites, dreamy blushes, and greys that make you want to snuggle up with a book.

This collection would be perfect for a guest bedroom (you can strive for gender neutral by leaning toward the creams and greys or for a ladies’ getaway corner — feel free to lay on the florals — you have no one to answer to!


Image by Lauren Richardson

Here are a few Sherwin Williams colors tha twould make great accents to coordinate with these soft mauves.

sw 6288 rosebud   (are you blushing yet?)orchid SW 0071

Consider SW 0071 Orchid for an accent if you want to emphasize the masculine components of this collection.  Opt for a grey rather than an offwhite or cream  as the main wall color to further enhance the masculine feel.

Check out the creative accessories in this line:

IMG_4906 (1)

Image by Lauren Richardson


64045-ibis-white-sw-7000.4b8bc8dcdd210c534c0bffb77d7e7fedSherwin Williams Ibis White SW 7000 is a dreamy, creamy white that would make a great primary wall color.  It’s the perfect backdrop for these subtle, scruptious tones.

Image by Lauren Richardson

Sw misty 6232

Sherwin Williams’ Misty straddles both the soft and deep greys in this collection.

Image by Lauren Richardson


Here is a link to Michael’s snuggly collection — offering rest and comfort for both ladies and lads:

They’re offering 40% off at the moment!   Go see for yourself.

Residential Design

French Country or Country French?

French Country and Country French are terms that get tossed around with abandon these days.  Have you ever wondered what the difference is?


Rococo, a style that was popular from 1730-60,  has had a tremendous impact on interiors.  This period produced intricately carved wood panels, ormolu mounts, extravagant marquetry inlays, and the trumeau (wood framed mirror).  It was fanciful, lavish, based on nature, and all about curves.

Rococo in the Country: French Country/French Provincial

What has become French Provincial style is basically a simplified version of French Rococo.  In the countryside, simplification was a result of smaller budgets as well as fewer skilled craftsmen to produce furniture pieces and wood paneling.  It developed when the woodworkers attempted to imitate the style of decoration that originated in the provinces of France in the 18th century.  The imitations were less ornate than the styles that were the rage in Paris.  Furniture was more simply carved as were decorative moldings.   Printed cottons called toile de Jouy were very popular then as they are today.  Iron was used in 18th century decorative interiors and still finds a place in today’s French interiors, especially for light fixtures.

French Country or French provincial offers a French manor type of look.  Decorative moldings create the perfect backdrop.  You will often see antiques with a French flair, even gilded furniture, lush traperies, rich textiles.  In short, this look is elegant and even opulent, but never glitzy.   French country incorporates details but they are never overdone.  Colors are subdued.  Soft creams are abundant, and soft green, soft gold and soft persimmon pair beautifully with the creamy base.  Accessories are simple but there is a place for gilded touches, a few ruffles, or anything that offers a touch of romance. You can mix French country with transitional and even contemporary pieces.  In particular, the soft curves of Rococo  and light, delicate Neoclassic furniture pieces sit perfectly in this setting.

Luxury and elegant french living room.Image by Tempura via Istock

Always romantic, ever elegant, but never glitzy — as seen in this room above.

black living roomImage by vicnt via Istock

You can have it all — a reminder of the past and contemporary furniture styling.  Modern furniture in subdued neutrals against a backdrop of soft green decorative wall moldings.  The creamy parquet floor offers visual movement.  Windows are unadorned by fussy blinds and framed by elegant draperies.

Country French

Country French is easy to remember because the emphasis is on the first word — country.  It is more of a feel rather than a specific stye and incorporates a mix of pieces from various periods of French history.  This is more of a farmhouse look, a rustic safe haven.   However, this style is enormously popular for good reason — it’s incredily homey and welcoming.  Oversized furniture invites people to sit and relax.  Rich, warm colors such as sunflower yellow and soft reds soothe while violets, soft greens and blues balance the palette.  Accessories are more rustic — hanging pot racks, earthenware, and hand crafted pottery give a personal touch.  Open shelving invites objects of personal affection to be displayed. Copper fits in nicely.


bKitchen with various breads on the counterImage by de-kay via Istockphoto

The rustic charm of this kitchen is apparent.  It is inviting and unassuming.

Rustic HomeImage byIPGGutenbergUKLtd. via Istock

A generous use of white is one way to ramp up the charm and comfort level of a Country French interior and keeps the interior from feeling too confining.

Definitions aside, if you are interested in having an interior designer create either a French country or country French look for your home, use a wide variety of images to convey your sytle preference as these two styles are often used interchangeably in practice.

Further reading:

Unistakably French, Betty Lou Phillips

French by Design, Betty Lou Phillips

The French Inspired Home, Carolyn Westbrook (this book contains images for those who love to use white in their interiors, as well as a chapter on French Modern) Continue reading “French Country or Country French?”

Residential Design

Benjamin Moore Color Stories Paint Colors

When I am looking for color that offers a special richness, I grab my Benjamin Moore Color Stories fan deck first.

This special paint formulation blends about five to seven pigments in each color.  Each color in the series has no black or grey.

ben moore tandoori

Paper Lantern CSP-1150 is a true, clear red.  It contrasts beautifully with black, white or cream as an accent wall for a dramatic bit of pop.

ben moore tandoori

Tandoori CSP-1005 evokes an Eastern flair, and works beatifully along with teals and greys.


CSP-745 mystic lake ben moore

Mystic Lake CSP-745 is a hue that has enough teal to make it interesting yet is grounded with a softness that evokes calm and tranquility.

ben moore green hydrangea

Green Hydrangea  CSP-850 is a fresh, clean green.  If you want a range of monochromatics, combine Green Hydrangea with  Lime Sherbert CSP-845 and Lillana CSP -855 .  These greens pair well with white, off-white, or cream.


My favorite Color Stories soft neutrals are below.

cappucino froth ben moore

Cappucino Froth CSP-1055 (a warm cream)

crumb cake ben ooore csp 1010

Crumb Cake CSP-1010 (offers lovely golden undertones)

crisp linen ben moore

Crisp Linen CSP-305 (as the name indicates)

CSP-215 cake batter ben moore

Cake Batter CSP-215 (a hint of grey —  soft, lovely)


ben moore pressed violet

Pressed Violet CSP-520 (falls somewhere between violet and grey)


For popping art in gold or silver frames, consider a burnt umber for a backdrop such as:

ben moore kentukcy birch

Kentucky Birch CSP-265 or

CSP-270 dark chocolate ben moore

Dark Chocolate CSP-270

For trim, doors, or a dramatic accent wall consider :

CSP-30 espresso bean ben moore

Espresso Bean CSP-30 (hovers between black and deep brown and never disappoints).

These are just some of the exquisite colors in the wheel of 240 colors.  Order your Benjamin Moore Color Stories fan deck from Amazon or other retailers.  You will be delighted.




Management and Policy

The Power of Employee Ownership & Participation

Every industry is poised to capture the power of employee ownership and participation.  However, the hospitality industry, given the proximity of employees to customers, has a particularly powerful opportunity to harness employee ownership and participation.

Asian Businesswoman Leading Meeting At Boardroom Table

In short, ownership gives employees an interest in their company and its success beyond a paycheck;  participative management channels that interest into action.

Having worked for the National Center for Employee Ownerhsip (NCEO) for several years, I had the opportunity to reserach and interview companies making headway with employee ownership and particpative management.

Participative (or participatory) management, otherwise known as employee involvement orparticipative decision making, encourages the involvement of stakeholders at all levels of an organization in the analysis of problems, development of strategies, and implementation of solutions.

Below is an excerpt from an interview with the founder of NCEO, Corey Rosen and ESOP Marketplace.

One of the first big things we found out was that corporate size, industry, demographics of employees – it doesn’t matter if they’re young, old, highly educated, poorly educated, high income, low income – it doesn’t matter what kind of job they do, none of these things independently affect the success of an ESOP.

Q: So what does (affect the success of an ESOP)?

Three things. First, you have to make enough contributions to an ESOP, so that it’s meaningful to people. Second, you need to communicate it well enough so that people actually understand what they’re getting. And the third, most important and hardest, you need to create a high involvement, open-book culture.

These are companies that share a lot of financial information and other corporate performance information with employees. They tend to devolve a lot of authority to employees in terms of things like employee teams, self-managing groups, and ad hoc committees. Ther approach is that, management is going to make many fewer decisions and employees more about how work is done.

It doesn’t make what business you’re in, if you can get people engaged at that level, where they understand the business, understand how the business makes money, and have opportunities to translate that understanding into ideas on how to improve the business – you’re going to make a lot more money.

After leaving the NCEO I was hired by a mid-size manfuacturing firm to impact the ownership culture of the company.  I didn’t have management experience but I did have sufficient examples of how successful employee ownerhsip companies involve employees and a genuine respect for each indivdual and the value they bring to the company.  I was positioned in a customer service/team leader position so that I had daily contact with the manfucatuirng employees and customers on a daily basis.  The first thing I did each morning was go out onto the shop floor and talk to the machine operators to find out what happened during night shift (their counterparts would pass on the night’s highlights) and see if any material had been marked as potentially nonconforming.  I would visit night shift before leaving for the day as well.

Just providing daily commincations opportunities created an open dialogue about what was working, what wasn’t and employees were given a chance to have their ideas heard about what could make things work better.  Who better to comment on and influence daily operations than the people at the front lines everyday?

Another benefit of this daily dialoge was an opportunity to give employees feedback on how their work was received.  The most common question posed to me by operators was always, “Was the customer happy with my work?”

There were other opportunites to connect these employees, who worked hard every day but were in the background, with customers.  One method I used was biographies about our employee owners that were mailed to customers.  In addition,  management invited customers to the plant to hear  presentations by employee owners on various aspects of the company.

Extra work?  Indeed.  A team leader’s presence is by no means the only connection that matters.  Top management must be seen and heard as well.  The culture goes to the top.  However, it also doesn’t take a rocket scientist to makes these things happen.  Participative management can offer many benefits such as ensuring that quality issues come to the fore and get addressed, boosting motivation, improving communication, and creating avenues so that each employee owner is able to help grow a bigger pie.

This is great news for hospitality.  Employees can make a big impact given their close contact with customers.  In addition, an ownership stake can help retain employees, who often leave in their thirties in search of better wages and more stable employment.  This means not having to retrain a new, young workforce over and over.

Portrait Of Confident Restaurant Staff

If you are too small to consider an ESOP, profit sharing is just as powerful.

The link below shows a table on the main differences between ESOPS, profit sharing plans and stock bonus plans.

For more information on employee ownerhsip and participation visit The National Center for Employee Ownership.

NCEO  offers affordable publications, workshops and conferences on employee ownership and participation as well as referrals to advisors and lenders.  The NCEO can assist you every step of the way.




Boutique hotel design

Boutique Hotels: The New Hangout

Blurred Lines

More, now than ever, the line between our work life and private life is becoming blurred.  We take work home, our smart phones only get turned off (if at all) right before it’s ‘lights out’.  We want our office spaces to be more residential, and our homes to offer the function and simplicity that was once relegated only to our work spaces.

The Wow Factor

Given access to so much beautiful design via the internet, it’s no wonder we look to boutique hotels and restaurants to scratch that itch we have for the “wow” factor.  We might not tolerate so much bling, so much color, so much richness in our homes, but it’s nice to escape to a space where fantasy runs rampant while we take that weekend away, meet coworkers to review the next presentation, or catch up with friends over a meal.

Entrance lobby of a luxurious hotelImage by Blair-witch via Istock 

Private to Public Consumption

No doubt, our homes must become ever streamlined and functional as we rush in and out of our domiciles.  We land long enough to take care of the essentials such as laundry, dinner, and school permission forms.   Our interiors must support our pace, as well as our ever growing craving for technology and function.  Millennials, as well as those of us rethinking our proiorities and relationship with materialism, are searching more for experiences, rather than stuff.  We might not be quick  to invest in our own interiors.  So if we aren’t putting the divine details into our residences, it is no wonder that the boutique hotel and restaurant phenomenon has taken off.  The wonderful thing is that rather than sublime design being created for a wealthy few, it is now available  for public consumption.