Nancy, the winner of our Design Rules book giveaway, had asked this wonderful design question-

-Does one paint a dark room a light color or enhance the no light factor with paint?

And Elaine Griffin, the uber talented interior designer (and author of Design Rules), so kindly answered it!  And we, of course, had to share her very informative answer to this commonly asked decorating question.


Exxxxxcellent question!!!  As a designer, questions about paint colors are the number one topic I get asked!! (I did a whole “cheat sheet” chapter on color in Design Rules.)  And I understand– color can be intimidating, even if you’re a DIY veteran!

Here are some Insider Secrets about color to help demystify the whole enchilada:

–Does one paint a dark room a light color or enhance the no light factor with darker paint?

The answer is both!!! Here are three factors to take into consideration when choosing your wall color (beyond the most important one, of course, which is what colors please YOU the most in general!!!)

1) What time of day will you be using the room the most (day? night?)

2) How much natural light does the room get (southern exposure= loads of afternoon light; northern exposure= not so much, etc.)

and finally 3) How long will you spend in the room when you’re using it (powder room= 5 minutes; dining room= 2 hours, so let drama rule; den or family room= endless hours on end, for ions to come, so don’t LOSE YOUR MIND with bold, intense colors unless they Truly, Truly, speak to you (as they do to me!!!).

Dark colors can look breathtakingly stunning in the bright light of a south-facing room.  They also look great in any room at night, well-lit by soft puddles of lamplight (don’t forget a lamp in every corner, sugar, for your rooms to GLOW!!).  They can look a little forlorn in dim light, but then again, it just takes lamps to create instant glow (but do decide if that’s the mood you want in your north-facing room at 11:00 am, doll).

Rooms with little natural light can get an artificial glow (alas, you’ll still need to get your lamp game on 24/7 though) via wall color that mimics the sun: yellows, oranges, reds.

Tiny rooms that are Just Plain Tiny can become adorable jewel boxes when painted deep or bold colors.  Avoid painting mid-sized (i.e., just the other side of small) rooms the boldest sunny colors (bright red/yellow/orange) because the walls WILL seem to advance and the space will seem clausterphobic (Paler versions of these hues are fine).

At the end of the day, though, I always tell clients that it’s important to please yourself, first, no matter what trends, light or room size dictates.  If chocolate makes your heart sing (wheeeeeee!!!), then go for it!!! (And adjust your light accordingly.  TRADE SECRET: Darker colors “eat up”/absorb more light than paler ones so upgrade your wattage accordingly in darker rooms (unless you, like my husband, are a vampire who flourishes in dimly-lit spaces).)

–Will it look the same on the wall as it does on the paint chip???

YES! (Unless you have antique paint chips.) Although, you’ll be seeing a lot more of it, so nothing beats painting a Giant 3x 3 Swatch of Your Chosen Paint Color in the room it’ll be going in, and observing how it looks in the actual light of the space (at 10,000 different times of the day and/or night).  Here’s a secret: Even design pros make mistakes with color.  So don’t ever be disappointed should you happen to, too!  It can always be corrected with a couple of new coats of paint!

–How to tell what colors go together?

Pas de probleme, sweetie!!!  Nature’s palettes offer flawless color combinations everywhere we look.  If a color combination exists in a landscape, a flower or a fruit, it will work perfectly in your home.  Think colors of the beach (turquoise, beige, ivory, sunny yellow) of the fall forest (oranges, ochres, browns, greens), the sunrise or sunset, etc, and you’ll never go wrong.  Layer colors in a room the same way you do an outfit– think dominant color (suits/pants/jacket) + complementary colors (blouse, shoes) + citrus or sherbert accents (they’re the universal, go-anywhere hues, perfect for throw pillows)= accessories/jewelry.

Take care and good luck!



Last night I attended a very special event here in Dallas.  I got to tour my highschool’s original building (formerly known as Merici Highschool)

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I know what you are thinking…it must be some stark, commercial space devoid of any character…well, it couldn’t be further from that!  Luckily it was a little more exciting because the location is an actual residence that someone lives in today.

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The house resides off of Strait Lane and is the former “home” of Ursuline Academy (the oldest school in Dallas, dating back to 1874).  The Strait Lane location is  just a hop, skip and a jump from its present campus location off of Walnut Hill (where it moved to in 1950).

The house was featured in House Beautiful‘s October 2001 issue.  How much fun to see it as it was eight years ago compared to how it looks now!  It really hasn’t changed all that much.





I was pleasantly surprised from my visit- the house just had so much charm.  It was a very traditional home but with stylish, updated touches.  Just look at that leopard carpet! The yellow walls brought a bold punch of color to the space and were the perfect backdrop for the sophisticated black and white urn pictures.

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You know how much of a sucker I am for black and white checkerboard flooring! This entry was right up my alley.

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The formal living room (while not in a style that I would typically flock to), was beautiful nonetheless.  Soft pastel colors paired with gold accents made for a very pretty look in here.

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I love anything in a series or grouping.  Plates, art, wall shelves, vases- you name it!  Groupings make a room feel more organized and cohesive.  As you can see in the Merici house, lots of thought was put into the placement of their collected items.  I think this is what really gives a home character- rooms that look like they have been put together over time.  This house definitely has history!

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A Schumacher wallpaper envelopes the warm and inviting sitting room.

I spy the diamond patterned Stark sisal rug…a blogger’s dream! (and what a nice, up-to-date touch in here)

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I love the cozy “library” feel that the dining room had.  Walls were lacquered in a deep shade of green, antique sconces adorned the walls, and colorful printed screens were displayed throughout, tying in the dramatic wall color.

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Creamy white balloon shades cover the dining room windows and are surrounded by the soft natural glow of candlesticks.

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The wooden beams and recessed walls nooks, displaying blue and white porcelain in the kitchen, give the visitor some elevated eye candy.

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The house was so interesting in that the majority of the windows and doors were in very irregular shapes.

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My favorite view was from the second floor looking into the master bedroom suite.  It’s hard to believe that this used to be a school! I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind learning chemistry next to a sunburst mirror and some wallpaper….ahh a girl can dream!

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The master bedroom was another one of my favorite “pretty” rooms.  It was a bit more on the feminine side (notice how even the vents are wallpapered!) That pristine white bedding definitely had me at hello.

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It was almost like being in a quaint, life size dollhouse.

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Wallpaper covered doors throughout the house and even vents! You barely even notice that the doors below exist- they are camouflaged so well!


The study was another notable cozy area.  Globes, antique books, artwork, and wood paneling makes you feel right at home.

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What a fun and interesting tour it was.  I can’t deny that I love seeing into other people’s homes (especially ones with such history to them!)

Well, actually Velvet and Linen blog does.  Brooke of Velvet and Linen is hosting a Restoration Hardware Brickmaker’s coffee table givevaway on her blog and this past weekend, the Material Girls were among other design bloggers asked to judge the 170 room entries that she received (readers were asked to send in a room where they would use the table- and trust me it was not easy judging as Brooke had so many great entries!)


We selected our top five rooms that we thought would be enhanced by the Brickmaker’s Table.  After all of the bloggers’ votes were in and tabulated, ten rooms were named as finalists in the contest.  But the contest isn’t over yet…the winner depends on the opinions of YOU dear readers!  So be sure to stop by Brooke’s blog and vote for your favorite room (one vote per person).  The voting window will end Wednesday morning at 8 am.  The top three will each win a Brickmaker’s Table.

Here are the 10 finalists-











See what I mean- it’s not an easy decision!

And We Have a Winner!

Posted By Emily-Dallas | Nov 22, 2009 | 1 Comment | Category: Color, Contests, Paint

Nancy from North Carolina won our Design Rules book giveaway!

Her question was- “Does one paint a dark room a light color or enhance the no light factor with darker paint?”


Stay tuned for the answer to this question AND all of your other fabulous questions once Elaine gets back from her book tour!

Thanks to everyone for your great comments and questions.  We will post the answers here soon!

While perusing F!D Luxe the other day, I came across a Schumacher wallcovering collection that I hadn’t ever seen before.

It comes on panels and is called “Nest”.  This richly colored collection is comprised of twenty four wallcoverings created entirely from feathers!


Designers all around the country are raving about it…in this month’s House Beautiful column entitled the Next Wave, at least two designers named it as the “most inspiring thing they’ve seen lately”.

Being the wallpaper fanatic that I am (and I am using that term lightly), I may have to take a trip down to the design district just to get a look (and maybe a sample or two if they have it!) of this fabulous wallcovering.


All of that color+ all of that texture= so very drool worthy!

(And, according to Schumacher, these feathers were in fact gathered humanely, so hopefully we won’t get any comments on this post from PETA!)

Light to Dark

Posted By Emily-Dallas | Nov 15, 2009 | 13 Comments | Category: Designers, Kitchens, Magazines

Choosing a grout color for the subway tile in your kitchen, is definitely something you want to take the time to consider.  Do you want white grout to create more of a seamless effect or light/dark gray grout for added contrast? I am partial to a little contrast myself!


(White on white- Decorno)


{Gray on white- Absolutely Beautiful Things}

But how often do you see black-grouted subway tile?  Yesterday I came across this New York City kitchen (below) that was designed by Miles Redd and  all I could think was wowza!  The black grout is such a statement maker!



The black gives you that extra bit of graphic punch in the kitchen and coordinates wonderfully with the black honed marble countertops.

And if that wasn’t enough to make your head spin, how about those black glossy cabinets in the butler’s pantry? Gorge!


It’s amazing how different the black-grouted kitchen looks compared to the gray-grouted kitchen.  Which grout color suits your fancy?

For more fabulous photos of this apartment, that was featured on the cover of the December Elle Decor, click here.

Today I received an email from an MG reader wondering if I knew the paint color that was in Audrina Patridge’s bedroom?


Dear reader, unfortunately I do not…however, I am so glad you sent me the link to these photos from In Touch magazine of Audrina’s Hollywood Hills home.  I can’t tell you how long I have been looking for a glimpse into either Lauren’s, Heidi’s, Audrina’s, Lowe’s, Stephanie’s, or Kristen’s homes!


I have never been able to find any photos of the “real” homes of the Hills cast.  And with all of the talk about the show being scripted and fake, it makes you wonder if the homes are in fact staged and just part of the Hills’ set design!  But apparently these actors (excuse me, I mean these girls) really do live there.



What do you think of Audrin’a digs that her mom decorated? I personally love the rich plum paint color in her bedroom paired with her crisp white bedding and curtains…however, I think other parts of her house could have used a real decorator’s touch.  What do you think?

If anyone out there knows what brand of paint/color is used in Audrina’s bedroom, please leave a comment with the info!

It is a sad sad day for interior design aficionados.  I just got word that 36 year old Metropolitan Home is closing up shop and the December 2009 issue will be its last.

Alain Lemarchand, President and CEO of Hachette Filipacchi Media, announced the upsetting news today but quotes that they “will boldly focus our resources and investment on ELLE DECOR which is the ad-page leader in the U.S. market.”


{Met Home’s final cover}

How many more upscale shelter magazines will continue to shut down?  In a few years will magazines be completely obsolete?  In the meantime, I’m praying and hoping that my other precious magazines- Elle Decor, House Beautiful, and Traditional Home will continue to ride out the storm.

I took a trip to the Neiman’s downtown today to get a last minute glimpse of the exquisite Jan Showers’ room that has been on display for the past few weeks.  The “living room” vignette is on the second floor and the display ends November 5th!  (yes, tomorrow!) So go check it out if you are in the area.

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The room is wonderful of course (as are all her rooms) and you almost forget you are standing right in a department store!

Neiman Marcus

1618 Main St., Dallas- 2nd floor

What if I told you that a notable interior designer (who was named one of House Beautiful’s Top 100 designers in the country) was willing to share all of her deepest design secrets with the public?

I imagine you would be pretty excited (as would I!!)


Well, that notable designer is Elaine Griffin and she did recently share her deepest design secrets with the public.   All 238 pages of them!  Her new book, Design Rules: The Insider’s Guide to Becoming Your Own Decorator, comes out November 3rd and we couldn’t be more excited.  I was sent a sneak preview of it (ok, it wasn’t really a preview, I read the whole thing in two days!) and I was so thrilled that someone so credible FINALLY came up with a “step-by-step practical approach” (in the words of Colin Cowie) to home decorating.  It is SUCH a great reference.  I had always wondered why someone hadn’t written a book like this sooner.


Yes, we all have the book, The Time Savers Standards for Interior Design and Space Planning, and don’t get me wrong, it’s a classic, but that book is like lifing weights (on a good day!)  It’s not easy to tote around and almost has too much detailed information in it that it makes my head spin.  And not to mention the fact, that Time Savers doesn’t address the reader with terms of endearment such as “honey”, “sugar”, and “baby” (like Elaine does).  Elaine makes the reader feel very comfortable.  Reading this book is like having coffee with your best friend (ok, your very talented and knowledgeable best friend).


Not only is it entertaining, Elaine’s book “demystifies the process with a smart and savvy, no-nonsense decorating primer” (in the words of Margaret Russell)

So why am I telling you all this?  Because one lucky reader will win a copy of Design Rules!


To enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post (between now and Sunday November 8th at 11:59 pm), stating a design question that you have ALWAYS wanted to know the answer to.

One reader will be chosen at random and the winner will receive a copy of Design Rules through the mail.

**Even more exciting, Elaine will answer each question that was posted and we will be featuring the answers in an upcoming blog post!**

(When leaving a comment, please leave your email address or a way for us to contact you in case you win)





{Images from Elaine Griffin Interior Design}