Archive | December 2010

Orange Interiors Are Still Hot This Winter

Even though the coolness of fall has finally given way to the crisp, frigid winter, it doesn’t mean that our love affair with warm autumn tones has vanished. Take a look at these divinely orange room designs we spotted on A Punch of Color. Orange vases? Check. Orange blooms? Check. Orange oranges? Check. We can’t tell if this is a kitchen or a common living area, but it really doesn’t matter. This color has the power to bring any room alive.

Look closely. You’ll notice here that the accent colors on the bed and nightstand are actually red. So the orange fabric foot stool adds a definite pop to this simple bedroom.

Another tasteful way to add visual interest to a black and white themed room is by adding one simple burst of color. This orange framed mirror hung over the mantle brings this room together in a classy, delightful way.

Contact CMR Interiors today for help adding touches of orange to your home!

Photo Credit: Elle Decor


Part 1: Building custom homes or large scale renovations

Why Hire an Interior Designer with Project Management Experience?

I often get frantic calls from clients who are knee deep into a project , but have no idea what to do or how to fix a bad situation.  These are clients who thought they didn’t need a designer, and suddenly begin to see the value that a designer could have added to their complicated project AFTER they are along in the process, are frustrated, and are not getting the results they dreamed of.

In terms of custom home building I find that the client often hires a builder based off of a spec house they walked though, yet they wanted that spec house builder to do their house “better” and more “custom”.  Yet they don’t know specifically what that means for them. They may know what styles they like,  but to put that into a plan that flows nicely and works room to room is time consuming and not in their professional work realm.  And they don’t understand that trying to make a spec builder into a design-build type of builder is NOT for the inexperienced because it’s comparing apples to oranges. The two different types of professionals each have completely different methods of working on a project, and different philosophies on building. I will explain the difference in a later article between the two different types of builders because I think its a very important distinction.

When the client has a full time job of their own, and can’t spend it taking care of their project,  and also will not spend money hiring a professional, he or she often finds that the house is not turning out to be the house of their dreams, but rather an extra job that they feel unqualified to make decisions for. Sadly, the client starts to bemoan how hard it is to build, when in fact building & renovating is exciting and fun for the most part– especially when you have qualified assistance in all the decisions it takes to bring the project to fruition with the look the client dreamed of.

If you have an interior designer who has great management experience with similar projects that they took under their wing, with great photos and references, then you will have the necessary component for fielding MOST daily questions from the contractor and subcontractors, and will have a qualified pro who can deal with job site  headaches– which are very much part of building and renovation–no matter how fabulous the designer or builder is. But it’s the details that make spaces great and without the right designer and project manager to hold those contractors and subs responsible for the details, many of the details are not implemented  at all, or incorrectly.

We designers work on behalf of the client, and their interests.  Yes, we definitely help the spec builder and design build firm in getting our clients to make timely decisions,  and to also make experienced decisions.  But we are specifically focused on the client and making sure they understand the questions, concerns of their builder and contractors, understand what something will look like, and in order to facilitate decisions we draw up specifications for the client to review and the subcontractors so they know how we want tile laid out, what the grout color is, provide millwork drawings and specifications on finishes, provide trim profile mock ups and samples so that the client can better understand what they will be seeing and provide consultation and opinion on hundreds if not thousands of decisions for homes. So its worth the investment to have someone by your side who works directly for you, to make sure that your dreams are turned into reality and all the work, that this entails.

Merry Christmas from CMR Interiors!

CMR Interiors would like to take a moment to send a big “thank you” out to all of our readers from over the past year. Merry Christmas to you and yours and have a happy and prosperous 2011.

3 Simple Tips to Clean out the Clutter This Holiday Season

While some folks opt for the proverbial spring cleaning in the months of February or March, the winter is also a great time to clear out the clutter and make room for items to come in the New Year. It’s also a great way to make space for the loads of Christmas presents that you and your family has most likely amassed. The folks over at Good Housekeeping have put together a great list of their top 25 ways to clear the clutter this holiday season. CMR Interiors encourages you to take a look at top 3 favorites!

Visit Good Housekeeping to view the entire list of tips!  Great article.


Books that you've read, especially paperbacks, or whose pages have remained unrifled for more than a year. Why not mark the boxes of yard sale candidates now with the prices you plan to charge? 50 cents for paperback? $1 for hard covers? Consider giving art books and good-condition hardcovers to a local library, school, or college.


Whether giving away the goods or saving them for a sale, package them now in clearly marked cardboard boxes that can be stashed in the attic, a dry garage, or your basement until yard sale season commences, or until you have time to visit your local charity drop-off center. Be sure to keep an inventory list of what you donate to share with your accountant at tax time. A write-off is very likely.

Family Photos

Place family snapshots in acid-free archival albums ( to make sure they'll be in happy-to-hand-down condition for generations to come. Remember to make prints of your digital photos so they don't get lost or forgotten on your hard drive.

Photo Credit: Good Housekeeping

Top 4 Color Trends for 2011

If you’re like most style-conscious individuals, you’re more than likely interested in staying abreast on the latest design trend predictions for the year ahead. Luckily, the experts at Merida have pulled together their top 8 color trends for 2011 to help with all your interior design planning. With the help of top fashion and interior design magazines and as a member of the Color Marketing Group, Merida’s gained a reputation for being pretty on-target with their predictions from the year’s past. CMR Interiors encourages you to peruse this list of colors when orchestrating your home’s interior color scheme.

#1 Midsummer Night’s Dream

A dramatic combination of Boudreaux reds mixed with rich plum and olive greens

#2: Daybreak

The washed out acidic tones of celery greens, chartreuse, corals, blush and camels are refreshing and new.

# 3: Forrest

Olive oil and army greens ranging from light lime to deep avocado are paired with each other in the same palette.

# 4: Mystic Blue

The unusual combination of indigos, icy grays and camel tones define our Mystic Blue category.

Photo Credit: Merida

Contact CMR Interiors today to learn how we can help create these color schemes in your home.

DOs & DONTs of Purchasing Condo Property in Chicago

Lets talk about condos, fellow buyers. When you buy a condo, you need to understand that you are not just buying a condo unit. You are buying a share (%) of an entire building and that any problems that the building has you will share in those costs based on your % of ownership. People don’t really look condo ownership this way and then they learn the hard way what it really means to buy into a condo building and its association.

There are so many clients in the city of Chicago who have had to pay huge special assessments for seemingly hot market buildings with fantastic amenities and great interiors. For example, I had a friend who lived in this amazing loft building in the West Loop where all the units got stuck with a huge bill for masonry tuck pointing and fixing: about 80K per unit!  That was back when people could actually get equity out of their homes. Now they would not be so lucky. Then there was the huge loft building on Michigan Avenue where each unit was specially accessed over 50K per unit to fix the balconies per unit!  When you start educating yourself in condo management and go and talk to other owners, your hairdresser, friends, clients, you find out that these special assessment horror stories are fairly common these days.

Chicago unfortunately has a lot of bad buildings that really need work. I’m sure overlooked construction laws and codes were a problem all over the country in this recent boom/bust. There were so many inexperienced developers trying their hand in real estate,  and for many residents, they unfortunately live in a product of these developers first endeavors–which tend to have problems. These were developers who didn’t have a clue about project management and did not know the true costs of quality construction, so they often had to cut corners on the properties. Where they cut, you usually find out after moving in.

Furthermore Chicago has been far too lenient on bad developers and bad materials. The city also doesn’t have enough people working in the building codes department. So it’s up to the buyer–NOT your realtor, NOT your real estate attorney–and it’s NOT up to the city codes department to protect you. It’s all on you the buyer-and how disciplined you are will determine the outcome of buying a home that will be less head ache free. Because lets face it, anyone who has ever owned, knows there is no such thing as headache from when it comes to owning your home,  but to me its all worth it if the investment is done wisely.

Buyers definitely need to be super diligent, take their time, and hire the right experts to help them navigate the process of buying a condo, townhouse or single family. You will need, no matter what your realtor tells you— the following:

  • certified structural engineer with excellent reputation
  • a very experienced real estate attorney
  • a very experienced “buyers” Realtor

This is the most important factor,  and its also not cheap but well worth the investment! Expect to spend about $300-$900 depending on the structure of the building which determines the time they have to spend accessing it.
Please don’t depend on the banks building to protect you. They will not!  I can guarantee this. I know from experience. And the inspection on the other side is mainly there to “inspect” cheaper items like dishwashers, faucets, hot water heaters….check for weird things like bad electric work, or a toilet that doesn’t work. Sorry, these things are important –but not nearly as important as structural items like masonry, roofing systems, windows, and plumbing that cost your life savings to fix instead of a months salary. If I were a resident, I would take a leaky faucet or replace a new dishwasher over dealing with a new roof rip off any day of the week or bad masonry!

If you don’t find the “big” problems that later come up, then that is quite unfortunate, because you are responsible for paying for them, and typically not the developer. And you can’t just sell and get out of the place scot free. You are legally bound to let the next person who is considering buying your unit, know about the buildings past and present problems and issues with your unit.  Chances are you will not be able to sell unless you have paid for the entire special assessment for that potential buyer. Hence why you need to keep reading.

#2:  Do investigate into Condo Board Matters: Has your building that you love, even had their first condo meeting?  Do Board members have any condo management training?

Believe it or not, there are many small 3, 6 and 12 unit buildings who try not to form a condo board because they fear higher assessments. Or are just too lazy to get it together as a group. Meanwhile, the building doesn’t get maintained and then they can’t figure out why their roof leaks, why their hallways are shabby, why no one cleans the hallways or why they don’t have lawn care or snow removal. For one, there must be a formed association or you run away from the building. You want to know who is President, Secretary and Treasurer. They should be a formal nonprofit corporation . Has this been done?  Check on this with the state or have your real estate attorney check on this. Also very important: Do Board Members have any training on condo management from CAI, or ACTHA? To me, ACTHA has great classes taught by condo management experts. Their Learn and Lead condo management course is excellent for people who want to be on a board and know what they are doing.

#3:   Do get 2 years of condo meeting minutes from the condo board. This is a normal request by a savvy investor so don’t take no for an answer. You want to know what the condo board has on the table coming up as far as expenses but may not have voted on, and you want to know what has been worked on in the past and other past building issues.

#3:  Do check to see if there is a Reserve Study of the Building: Condo 101: Buildings must have a reserve study which is the study of the building, by an structural engineer, instrumental at determining an accurate cost of upkeep of capital costs for that building. So for example you have a roof….the engineer can tell it will last approximately x amount of years and that it would cost x amount to replace. And they do this with all systems all around the building. Then you work backwards to determine your assessment. So that condo associations avoid special assessments and instead are putting the right amount of money away monthly to accumulate the reserves needed when things go wrong. And things always go wrong and systems fail. Especially without maintenance.

Many buildings try to do a reserve study on their own -and often don’t do it correctly–or don’t even know they need one if they are self managed and have no training in condo management. This is dumb because it leaves the board and the building vulnerable to being sued for mismanagement down the line. And it also means that residents often end up with a huge costly special assessment later. Problem with this these days is that people can’t even get home equity loans. So what to do if something really goes wrong?

I was taught that assessments are not determined by what you can afford to pay, but rather the capital costs of the building along with maintenance cost and then you work backwards and split between % of owners. In other words, you start saving for a new roof and things that go wrong the minute you buy into the building. Plus you have maintenance costs  per year like garbage, lawn care, etc. If you don’ t do a reserve study and something goes wrong with the building, and its so costly that residents don’t have the cash (or equity) lying around to pay the special assessment –then the next thing that board members do is go to a bank. The first thing a responsible bank manager is going to ask for who deals with these building cases is the reserve study. The reserve study is a must and very important. It’s proof of professionalism and a high level of organization with the condo board and condo building in general. But ONLY if the correct amount of reserves are put away in  a separate account monthly. There should be two accounts: monthly maintenance and reserves. Banks NOW want to see 30% above cost of maintenance, put into the reserve fund, and not touched.

#4: Don’t wait to move in to see what soundproofing measures have been taken in the construction of your potential building. Be aware of where the unit is and where the loading docs are, garages, etc. This is very important. There are few to no codes on soundproofing condos in the city of Chicago. You can’t tell when you look at the units because the model doesn’t have people living above it or beside it. You only find out about sound issues after moving in. This is a major problem if you can hear your neighbor walking above you, hear their phone conversations. Also soundproofing issues cause discontent among neighbors for obvious reasons.   You don’t typically have to worry about this with a tall high-rise since they use concrete between each floor. But if you buy into a 6 flat and its been remodeled you need to ask what is between each unit and if there is 2″ of concrete between each unit and proper installation for hardwood floors to minimize sound transferring.
Do find out about insulation between each unit because the typical cheap pink insulation doesn’t have good sound proofing properties that other insulation brands like Roxul –do have and having double layers of drywall or using quiet rock….

#5: Kara, my neighbor, made this great point: “The challenge with new construction is that the buyer may not be able to meaningfully inspect anything, as the building may not be constructed enough, which is a consideration in and itself that a buyer should think about before entering into a contract.”. In my opinion: don’t buy new construction until the building is built, and proper inspections can be done.

#6. Don’t buy a building just because it has low assessments. I once knew a real estate attorney who never let his client buy into a condo building under 10 years of age because those buildings are always underfunded because their assessments are too low. Then all of a sudden, something happens and the assessments go way up or there is huge special assessment for the next buyer. So don’t buy into a building that has low assessments. You are going to be paying for all the work that the previous owner didn’t have to do. And the building has not been properly maintained if it has low assessments and is behind in capital improvements typically because noone wants to put out the real dough it takes to fix everything and make the building the best it can be and still have their regular maintenance costs.

#7: Termites:  Okay, termites are more common in some areas than others because of the amount of sand in the soil. The south side of Chicago  and other areas happen to be more termite friendly. Termites are expensive to treat because you often have to drill right through the drywall and sides of the building and the foundation to treat. Obviously, someone may be living in these areas. For our building it was 20K to treat. Plus the cost to fix all the hardwood floors for the units we had to drill in. What a mess. We found out we had them by seeing tiny little black holes in molding and there is usually a tiny bit of sawdust around those holes. Now when you are dealing with a structure where people live, and they live in the basement, the termite guys have to drill through the slab….so the person can’t live there while this is going on. So that is a major consideration. Many Southside homes need framing work if the building is old because of this. You can’t just gut to the framing because the framing is usually pretty hollow after a while. I suggest framing buildings in steel…because then termites are never a huge issue. But definitely have your inspectors and your structural engineer be wary of termites and definitely see if the building and soil were ever treated for them.

#8:  Hire a designer before you buy the condo to access accurate replacement costs of elements you don’t like so you can accurately compare apples to apples when shopping other condos. When you hate the kitchen cabinetry or various aspects, to replace costs far more than most people realize.  That “easy fix” you think you understand cost on is usually not an accurate cost assessment 70% of the time. When it’s a high rise, labor costs more because the building has more laws and it’s not so easy for them to get in and out and do their work. Plus they typically have to carry more insurance and be a more professional outfit to work in nicer buildings.

#9:  Do be firm with your REALTOR about only  looking at buildings that have a financially sound high reserves on hand, and an organized condo board that also have a strong positive knowledgeable management taking care of the building.

#10. Do pay a lot of attention to the grounds of the condo building before you go in because the outside is very representational of management and owners in the building. If there is trash on the ground out front and in the back, then there is not enough neighborhood pride to be living there to begin with– or respect for owners. It also shows that people in that building don’t even respect their own building/property enough to pick up the garbage around them. That’s a bad sign. Secondly, if the grass isn’t being kept up, that is a sign of a struggling association or a cheap & negligent association. If the gates are rusty (how expensive is paint??) then also this is a sign of slacker like management. Look at the masonry, the sidewalks, does the buzzer work, etc? Also what about the hallways?  How does the carpeting and walls look?

Also a designer, I can completely see the pro’s and con’s that a client may not even notice and can spot the space where the interior has the most potential for the clients wants and needs.

As long as the rest of the building is up to par..and free of management and structural defects. I have saved many of my clients from making huge condo mistakes.  They were a little bummed at first and then thrilled when they get the full knowledge and reports back on the building that they had been saved from probably a series of major financial headaches. And now they are all in homes where they are happy and have minimal problems.

Best Buys for Christmas!

To me, nothing is better than comfort and classic goods/staples as gifts,  that you will use year in and year out and think about the person who gave them to you on occasion. A little indulgence is nice once in a while too. Not a must but on occasion–lovely!

Okay, I know you are saying “Wool socks? ”  Yes, Wool tights are amazing for warmth with dresses in this subzero weather and I have tried almost every brand of wool socks and NOTHING beats SMARTWOOL. They are a luxury that you will be thanked for later!  SMARTWOOL!

Stackable rings from Cathy Watermann at Ylang23 or Barneys NY:

Jockey updated version of “thermal underwear” (modal is what makes splendid tshirts feel like cashmere):

Forget the sweater–how about 100% : Cashmere Lounge pants by JCrew:

Stay Flexible and slim this winter:

A cat from Hyde Park Cats: (take the pick from the chico at the bottom–long haired kitchen):

For Kids:

Little Girls:

Start em young:

And of course, Ugg for kids.

Neiman Marcus Hooded cashmere cape :

For the home: Great coffee table book and pictures worth framing!

For Men:

Citizens of Humanity Jeans-Dark Wash-Barneys NY

Moncler Field Jacket-Barneys NY

iPad Case:

Here is a “luxe” version:  Silver Fox fur and bison leather:

More Practical version:

Mens boots by Sorel for REI:

Mens Wool T-shirts by Smartwool:

The Do everything with dream dremel for the “do it yourself-er”. You gotta start somewhere and this is the best tool for starters because it’s so user friendly. Check it out on You Tube!

Flat collar tshirt by Hanes for Men (lays flat and crisp) :

Ruthie & Charlie -Adopted at last.

I am so relieved to have Charlie and Ruthie adopted by such nice people. This is not good weather for cats since they often get dehydrated and ill in subzero temperature. This lovely woman found Charlie from the Hyde Park Cats blog. She and her husband came to get Charlie and one week later I had coaxed them into taking his sister as well. I got the update the other night and both are sleeping together happily–in a very large Victorian style home in Hyde Park.

Penny checks out her new digs

Now their mother, Penny, needs a home so she can get out of this nasty weather. We started building a cat condo for our condo cats three weeks before Charlie and Ruthie were adopted. It has a few finishing touches (corners of the house need cladding) and I have to put straw inside, but other than these small details, it’s ready to go outdoors.

Orange Cat loves the lady cats-- but these girls fight him...his nose is often like this.

This house is framed out, then tyvec was put over it, then rigid insulation and foam for any cracks, then caulked seams, concrete board on the sides of the house, marine finish on all the wood, sisal on the leg and tar paper and roofing shingles. We are waiting for the plastic flap door and I’m going to be straw in the bottom of the house or a cat bed. Straw works better than anything because it dries super quick and stays fresh. Anything else stays wet and damp and is not good for the cat.

Penny on the left, Ruthie right

The roof comes off so we can clean out periodically. I think Orange Cat (who is HIV+ but very healthy) & Penny would not be able to share since she can’t stand him but I could  cut another door and make two units in there instead of one larger one.

I just got bought a heated dog bowl from amazon for our  front porch because cats get dehydrated easily and must have water or they can get sick. So this will stay on my front porch and I will feed them on the shelf under the house. The Cat Condo entrance is high enough to keep out the raccoons.

If anyone is interested in a sweet female cat–who is about 2 years old, has her shots and is fixed, let me know! I think Penny is perfect for someone who only wants only one pet . She is an attention hog and doesn’t like other cats and is scared of dogs.  Thanks!

Photo Credit: CMR Interiors

Conrad Shades & Odd Shaped Window Applications

I love the look of  Conrad Shades for Chicago and suburban homes.  They are a unique product that is fantastic in homes ranging from modern, minimalist, transitional and even to the more traditional homes. These shades are understated, yet warm with an earthy organic look to them. So many times men are not crazed about the thought of window treatments. But even the guys I show these to happen to appreciate the look.

Conrad shades are certainly not the cheapest of shades….they are a higher end woven product somewhat similar in price to what Hunter Douglas refers to as their “wovens”. But that is as far as it goes in the comparison of the two products.

However Conrads are far nicer in various details that typically make up a woven shade.  For one, control versatility is high on this product. And because each window treatment is custom, they can make their shades for odd shapes and sizes of windows, bowed or curved windows. Also for the high rises where there are ceiling floor to ceiling windows, conrads are a perfect installation because they can make the shades in wider runs and higher heights than other company who have limited sizing. Conrads have smaller 1 inch by 1 inch headers –which are more discrete and attractive at the top of a window than other brands too.

Another benefit of these shades is adding texture to rooms that may have little architecture or too much drywall everywhere. So it gives the room nice  texture.

For those who love motorized shades I like the conrad motorized shades where they can be controlled easily with a buttom, panel or from a computer.

Please take a look at these pictures from the Conrads website of installations.

Photo Credit: CMR Interiors

Photo Credit: Conrad Shades

Drapery and Window Treatments

An often overlooked aspect of interior decorating that gets put on the back burner are window treatments.

Since they are the perimeter of the room –they completely add and detract from overall architecture of the room. So all the details of a window treatment are very important. The fabric, the color, pattern or the texture , hardware or hidden hardware, the style, length, controls…….or adding layers.

Here is my philosophy on drapery: Houses without window treatments can be fully decorated with art, accessories and gorgeous furniture. BUT the rooms don’t feel like a home without window treatments–the house will still look and feel like a spec house :  austere and somewhat cold and empty without window treatments in the house.

Many of my modern clients are initially against covering their windows. Especially in high rises. But window treatments and drapery are about control of light, not about frilly fabrics and trim. You can have super sleek and modern window treatments , which my clients like because it gives them control over privacy levels, light levels, and draperies even block out street sound and absorb sound  in rooms.

Here are some examples of a simple modern sheer in a Dallas highrise from Architectural Digest, and other photos that show a layered window treatment in various styles of homes. I also frequently install and am a great fan of Conrad Shades for the home which are my favorite to layer under draperies in these highrise homes that have little architectural character, and lots of drywall–where texture is very much needed!

Kips Bay Showcase Charles Pavarini--layered with draperys, a roman and sheers

Architectural Digest: Dallas Highrise Loft with modern ripplefold sheers

Elle Decor picture with boxpleat draperies and sheer romans

Contact CMR Interiors today give your windows an update!