Karen Forrest


Rule #1 (and the only rule): STAGE IT! The most important thing to do when you are selling your home is to take your personality out of it. When buyers look at a house, they want to be able to see THEMSELVES in it, not you. Take down all personal photos, certificates, wedding and family portraits; even those fabulous nick-knacks you found on your travels! All toys, crafts, and any kind of clutter should be boxed up. [You can see my article on how to de-clutter for help with that.] Make sure your home is spotless. It is worth it to get a cleaning crew, get stains off the carpet or anything that might turn a buyer off. Buyers are looking for a house that is move-in ready, even if they want to change things. Be smart, spending a few hundred dollars can get you thousands more in the end.

Since paint has always been, and always will be the easiest way to improve your home, paint! Paint color is very important because you do not want your home to be gender specific. Remember: neutral, neutral, neutral. Gray, green, blue, beige, and white and all good colors as long as you choose the right ones, and the right ones depend on your furniture and the color palette you decide upon. An easy way to change the look of personalized furniture (and by personalized I mean that is in a very specific style that is personal to you) that might not appeal to the average home buyer is to use a slip cover. Not every loves a brightly flowered couch, or a couch with palm trees, and it not sophisticated either. Which brings me to style. Ideally, you want to have an updated sophisticated contemporary feel, you want to have correct furniture placement, and you want to have updated light fixtures. These are inexpensive ways to make your home more appealing.

The next thing you need to do is to make sure the rooms in the house are being used for what they were intended. If you have a three bedroom home, be sure you have it staged with three usable bedrooms, so the buyers can visualize how the bedrooms will look. If you have an office, be sure to have a desk in it, so the buyers can understand, "this is an office." Do not for get the windows. Window treatments are very important and you can get great deals on them. Installation is very easy. If you do not have the correct furniture for all this "staging," renting furniture is always an option. After you have done all this work, you will sell your house very quickly.

You might want to hire a designer to help you stage your home. Personally, I love doing it. There are professional stagers as well, if this all sounds too overwhelming. They are generally pricey, however, they bring in all the furniture and accessories and will show you samples of their work. I have used them many times before. There are many to choose from and the prices vary greatly depending upon the size of your home, the quality of the furniture they use, how much experience they have, and so on. Staging your home will definitely make the difference between selling it quickly, and not selling it at all.


If you are thinking about buying new furniture because you are tired of your old furniture remember that they do not make furniture the way they used to. I am sure you have heard that expression before. It applies to furniture as well. The workmanship in furniture today just is not what it was 15 years ago even though it might look fantastic. When most people think of recovering their furniture, they think of changing the fabric. But, oh ... you can do so much more! You can even change the style completely. The important thing is that you have solid "bones." It will still cost half of what new furniture costs, and it won't be instant gratification, however, in the end it will be worth it.

Let us say you have a traditional couch and you would like it more modern; or you bought a new place and it your furniture is not big enough; maybe you would like to move the couch and the arm is on the wrong side. All these things can be changed with a good upholsterer.

To change a traditional couch all that needs to be done, depending on your particular style, is to redesign the arms, the bottom and the back. Upholsterers make furniture from scratch all the time so this is nothing for them. Next is the easiest one: if your couch is too small, just add a section! It is best to do this when you are changing the material as well, so that it comes from the same dye lot unless you have left over fabric. As far as changing an arm from one side to the other, as you can already tell, this is easily done.

Before you rush out and buy furniture, look at what you already have or ask your designer, and see if you have good furniture that you can redo.


​For a while now, there have been many programs out there that will show you the paint color you choose on the wall of your home. This seems like such an awesome idea. It will take all the guess work out of choosing colors and make the decision stress free. I have seen it on the home improvement shows and I wonder, "why doesn't everyone have that?" So I started investigating. I found out that now they even have programs where you can take a picture of your client's room and show them the color in their own home. With so many people traumatizing and losing sleep over what color to use, this seems like the perfect solution, and it is. With so many painters helping the clients to understand which colors are best from a two inch square, it also seems like the perfect solution, and it is. The hardest part of a paint job, or any relationship for that matter, is communication. Even when your painter understands what you want, you do not always trust him. I always say painting is the least expensive way to improve your house, and it is, however, it is still a big investment if you are doing the entire house, and once it is done, you have to live with it every day. So for some people, not all, choosing color is a difficult decision. That is why a color software program such as the one I have outlined above can be such a fantastic tool.

Or at least it will be some day. Right now at least, it seems as if the colors are not true to life. You might be able to get an idea of how it will look but remember, what you see is not exactly what you get. Colors look different on different computers, which makes sense, because everyone's setting are not exactly the same and all computers are not the same. Not only that, people see color differently and there is the light factor. A computerized image may not look the same to some people as a live image. Think about how people look on television. When you see them in person, they often look quite different. To relate that to color, their hair may look a different shade as well as their eyes.

So although some day this may be the perfect tool, right now these programs are not perfected yet.

*Sidenote: If you trust your designer, go with the color she is sure of. Even if you do not think you like it at first, within one week you will love it! Probably even less! It is amazing how different you feel after living and relaxing with a color.

Start with a room you spend a lot of time in. First get some packing boxes and start putting the things you do not need in that room in them. For the things you do think you need, have beautiful baskets and shelf containers ready to store things, so they do not show. Be organized! In the kitchen, clear the counters. This is a must. You can leave out the toaster oven and the coffee maker, but find a place for the blender, mixer and other appliances by organizing your cabinets and also getting rid of things you do not use in the same way as above. Once you start, you will be amazed at how many things you have accumulated that you do not need. Rule of thumb: If you have not used something for 6 months to one year, you do not need it! (This applies to clothing as well.)

After you de-clutter, you will be able to design your room and reorganize your furniture just the way it was meant to be. Now you have the space to do it.

Side notes: 1) A good way to keep things off the ground is with some great decorative hooks. These can be placed creatively; behind doors, in corners, pantries, kids rooms, even by the couch. The best place for hooks are in the closets and by the garage door or in the garage. I always say, "you can not have too many hooks!" 2) For the collectors: Try to find decorative shelving units that you can hang on the walls for your collections. You can find them in thrift shops and antique shops. This will contain the collections and get them off the tables, provide art for the walls at the same time, and keep them at eye level for you and your guests to enjoy. Below is an example of a shelf unit. This one was found at a furniture store and look how beautifully it shows off this Betty Boop collection! (Written November, 2010) 

Artificial lighting can also make a difference in how you feel about your house. It is very important. I always say, "You can not have too many lights!" (My mother told me that, and she was right). If you can not afford to have recessed lighting installed right now, there are many new track lighting fixtures that are coming back in style that can also do the trick. Remember, bright is beautiful; just remember to install dimmer switches for those times when you want to set a certain mood.


Morning Colors: Comfortable, warm, relaxing environments are very import in our busy lives today. It is nice to wake up and have our breakfast in a serene place to get ready for our day ... our kitchen. The large paint companies know by their sales which colors are the most popular. I work with many painters and always ask them about what they are doing also. This year they are honey-like hues such as tan or pale gold, coral , yellow and mineral gray.

Nighttime Colors: When it is time to go to sleep, relaxation and peacefulness is the most important thing. When we think of nighttime, we think of the night sky and we naturally look up for the moon and the stars. Naturally, our ceiling is the place to start when it comes to relaxation. Painting the ceiling a darker tint, tone or shade of the walls will work as well as using pastel hues. This especially works well in the bedrooms, bathrooms, and can warm-up a family room. The most popular colors have been pastel hues, particularly pale blue or shell pink for ceilings, as well as midnight blue, eggplant and wine this year. Also, painting the ceiling one shade darker than the walls can give it a feeling of height, which contrasts from design ideas in the past.

We will continue to keep you updated. Remember these are only suggestions. Only use colors that you love, no matter what the trend. At the end of the day, you will be happiest with what makes you feel the best and what you love. (November, 2010)


When you look at your garden (or the one next door) you will find it filed with inspirational colors! When I walk in my neighborhood, I can not help but notice all the beautiful flowers. Right now in September 2010, Iceberg Roses are blooming like crazy. When I consider white, I have to put my thinking cap on. For world travelers, or antique and art collectors, what perfect "backdrop" for the walls than white? It doesn't detract from the beautiful art, it shows off all those intriguing pieces of furniture as well as the interesting things from around the world. With drapes, area rugs and fabrics, you have the ideal setting.

Color Trends, Color and Design Ideas for Your Home






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We changed the drapes, gave them more romantic colors with an accent wall behind the head board, crown molding here also, as well as a little reading area. This room was much bigger than it looked. The before pictures were taken with a wide angle lens and the after pictures are all taken with a regular lens, however, you can still see how much bigger it looks. Colors really make the difference! Now they have their romantic boudoir. Again, they owned the furniture, and I made it work just by using the right paint color and fabrics. 

The Kitchen:

You can see how we enlarged the fireplace to make it a focal point with wood and granite, put in a media wall, more dramatic window coverings, a huge couch, darkened the walls, and made the ceiling even a darker shade (added crown molding) as well as the carpeting; using all the furniture they already had. We just had to recover a few things. We added a chandelier over the dining table and defined that room with drapes instead of romans. It is hard to tell it is the same room!

This is what we did in the master suite:


One thing that people seem to have a hard time doing is visualizing paint color onto the walls. If you are one of those people, you can always search the web for a room with the color you are thinking of, however, it is not going to be YOUR room in YOUR house. This makes it even more important to hire a designer that you have a good repoire with, understands you, and has a feel for your taste, and works with a great painter.  Most professional painters and designers have seen almost every color on the walls a multitude of times. If he/she has good taste (and they will since you hired them), they will let you know if you are making a big mistake. It is my personal opinion that sometimes you can go for a color even if you do not agree with them; after all, it is your house and your choice. There are times when designers play it safe.

One thing I do when I am trying to visualize a room, although I have also seen a lot of colors, is first take a really good look at the room. Then I stare at the color sample very carefully to make sure I know exactly what the undertones are and the level of color. Level of color means the color saturation; the amount of color. Then I close my eyes and imagine the color on the walls, around any window casings, around a fireplace if there is one in the room, etc. For drapes and furniture put the sample near them to see how it goes. I might do this process several times if need be until I have a decent idea of what I think the color will look like. I try to be objective and keep an open mind about the color. I can not tell you this is an easy process. It is not. Most of the time, if you like the sample color; you will like it on the walls. Even if you do not at first, you probably will in a few days. In a few months, you will not even notice the color! You will only notice the level (how dark it is or how light). The wonderful thing about paint: you can always re-paint. It is the most economical way to change your house.


A lot of people wonder, "which house should I buy?" When looking for a house that is going to become your home, one of the most important things to have is vision. It is easy to walk into a model home and see how well that house can work for you, however, you also have to be able to visualize how that house is going to look without all the fancy upgrades and built-ins, and all the beautiful decorating. On the other hand, when walking into a house that has no furniture and just looks "blah", it is a good idea to take your time and visualize what you can do with it. So before  you even go house hunting, write down the things that are important to you in a house, the things you feel you need so you can be happy. For instance, a large master bathroom, or an eat-in kitchen (this is a kitchen with an eating area). A three car garage, a formal dining room, finished bathrooms so you do not have to do the work, a fireplace. Think about how many bedrooms you want, these are the things you need to consider before you go looking. This way, you will know what you want and you can tell if that house will fulfill your needs. It is still a buyers market. If you find a house you like and do not get it for some reason, do not worry about it. It just means it was not the right house for you. There will be a better one around the corner. 

As a designer, I have had the opportunity to consult with people on which home to buy. I had some clients ask me about the house below. It seemed awkward to them with one big great room and they could not visualize it's potential. They loved the area and the view, however, could not figure out what to do with the house. They loved the size of the kitchen although they saw some major problems (they thought). They liked the size of the bedrooms and the fact that each one had it's own full bath and large closet. They thought the master bedroom was too small, even though it had a retreat with a fireplace and an enormous closet. They were afraid it would take too much money to make it their own.

​When I went to look at the house, I could see right away the potential it had. It had been on the market a long time and the buyers wanted to sell, so I knew they could negotiate a good price. I knew the great room would be fantastic for them, because they loved to entertain, and a separate living room and family room would be wasted space for just the two of them.

Here is what we did with the great room:


I changed the wall color first and made it a low sheen including the ceiling for a more elegant look. I bought a new piece of different granite for the center island for contrast and made an overhang that fits 2 - 3 stools. I added a chandelier over the island with a wine glass rack and had the bottom cabinets faux finished to set it apart from the rest of the kitchen cabinets. The windows are curved outward and the husband was from Hawaii, so I found some Hawaiian material and made little inside awnings to obliterate the window problem. They look fantastic. I used the husband's Hawaiian art piece to tie it all together and he was thrilled. It still goes with the colors in the dining room and he has his reminder of Hawaii every morning in the kitchen. They both loved it.


Anyone reading this article wants to live in a beautiful home. Many of us live in a world of clutter and we do not even know it. We do not see it because we are used to it being there every day. Little by little it builds up and all of a sudden, you go to prepare dinner, and all the counters are full. Or when you bought your home, you thought it was so big and now it seems small and you do not know why. 

To keep your house beautiful, first you must make sure you have enough storage space for the things you need to live your life. Secondly, you have to be able to throw or give away the things you do not need or at least pack them in boxes and store them in a storage unit. When you get that bill every month, you might consider getting rid of something. Do not put more than one to three decorative items on a table, depending on the size of the table. Accessories can make a room, however, they can also break a room. It can be better to have nothing on a table than to have too much. Larger accessories are more pleasing to the eye if you can use them.