Category Archives: Remodeling


The folks at HGTV have a new show, Life Under Renovation.  According to their website,  “Five extraordinary families… capture the real-life experience of renovating with all the struggles and successes that lead to breathtaking reveals.”  Working on various renovations with clients over the years and having survived a few ourselves, we definitely understand the “struggles and successes” involved.   Here are a few thoughts and pics from a recent bathroom renovation we helped design and implement.

NEED VS WANT…. that’s always the dilemma.  Do you need a new kitchen or bathroom?  In the strictest sense, probably not.  “If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” is a common argument.  But, as we often tell clients, kitchens and bathrooms are usually, “tired in 10 years, dated in 15 and dead after 20!

Paint and other cosmetic touchups can definitely buy you some time.  However, like you’d get rid of a 20-year-old sofa, there comes a time when you need to “re-furnish” your kitchens and baths.  Current styles and your own taste will likely have changed in two decades.  Keeping up with those changes is easier when you do it a little at a time.  Everyone knows, renovated kitchens and baths help maintain your home’s value.  Rather than waiting to renovate just before selling, why not do it sooner so you can enjoy the changes too?

Whether you’re just redecorating a room or doing a full-on renovation, it’s always “ugly before it’s pretty.”   There’s no way around it.   Here are some helpful tips:

    1. Plan your work and work your plan.  The more you think about and plan in advance, the more smoothly the entire process will go.  Good planning helps speed up the renovation and minimize the amount of construction ‘ugly’ you endure.
    2. Work with a contractor who communicates well, answers questions, listens to your concerns and who pays attention to detail.  Put things in writing so there’s no misunderstanding.
    3. Coordinate with your contractors and order every single element in advance so it’s on-hand BEFORE demo day.   Yes, there are bound to be unexpected issues.  But, the last thing you want is to get into your project only to realize you don’t have one little thing which brings your project to a protracted halt.
    4. Assume you’ll be a little over time and budget.  The unexpected happens.  Job scope- creep happens.  If you factor in a little wiggle room, you’ll take the unexpected in stride.
    5. Don’t sweat the small stuff.  Construction is not an exact science.  As much as you want it to be perfect, if you look closely enough, you’ll always find something that isn’t.


Now you’re ready to begin your life under renovation.


As ugly as it sounds, demo is somehow therapeutic and goes surprisingly quickly.  Like decorating a Christmas tree, it takes much longer to put up than take down.  Depending on the scope of your renovation, a couple workers can have your space stripped down to the studs within a few hours.  The raw potential of your space will be laid bare and any hidden issues will be exposed.


With a clean slate, it’s time for any behind-the-scenes changes.  Infrastructure isn’t pretty but it’s the necessary, next step.  If you’re adding new walls, now they can be framed.  Plumbing and electrical upgrades follow soon after.  Once complete, drywall additions and repairs can happen along with surface prep for tiling and painting.


Finally, the pretty can really get under way.  Flooring changes and tile work are a time consuming and expensive part of any kitchen or bath project.  Avoid the temptation to skip these changes.  Both create a fresh new palette for everything that follows.


Now that your flooring and tile are done, fresh paint finishes the backdrop for the “furniture” phase of renovation.  Light and bright paint colors contrast nicely with darker cabinets and other fixtures.  While more saturated colors enhance white cabinets, appliances and trim.


Time to add the “furniture”.  Cabinets and countertops are the closest thing to furniture you have in a kitchen or bathroom.  Custom cabinetry requires some planning to make sure you have the right combination of doors and drawers to suit your day-to-day use of the room.  If you are making substantial changes, especially in a kitchen, working with a professional specializing in kitchen design can help you maximize every aspect of your new design.

It’s not uncommon to have a slight pause in your progress now.  Custom countertops are measured once the base cabinets are installed.  Depending on your source, fabrication can take 10 days or more before they’re ready to be installed.  NOTE:  Countertop suppliers are NOT plumbers.  They will usually attach your new sink to the countertop.  But, you’ll need a plumber to hook up the supply lines and drains.


By now, you should really be able to see your dream coming to life.  And while you might think you can coast to the finish line, the last phase is just as important as the first.  The fixtures and finishes bring function to your refreshed space.  In addition to being useful, faucets, tub fillers, shower heads and controls, toilets, tubs, shower doors, lighting, cabinet hardware and more all bring personality and pizzazz to your space as well.




Last, but not least, the finishing touches are the icing on the cake.  As with any other space, accessories are a crucial add that give the room its unique personality.  From artwork, to kitchen & bath accessories, towels and bath mats, to rugs and more, you finally have a chance to add softness, pops of color and cohesiveness to your creation.  Repeating bedroom colors in an adjoining bath or family room colors in the kitchen will make your new space feel like it belongs to the rest of the home and has been there all along.







While renovations can be overwhelming, you can help by taking time to formulate a detailed plan and following it, step by step.  Knowing what to expect, along the way, can help you avoid surprises.  And before you know it, you’ll have a beautiful, new space to enjoy.

Here’s to new spaces and a happier life under renovation.  Decor Designs, Inc.  815-245-2433


As a guy, in what most assume is a predominately female industry, it’s easy to find oneself competing against certain stereotypes.  Fortunately, creativity isn’t limited to a single gender, anymore than every element of interior design is fundamentally “girly”.

Original Space

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a great family in Wauconda, IL to help pull together a brand new look in their Family Room.  During their initial consultation, it was obvious these DIYers had already been hard at work.  Customizing their primary living space, they’d already added a new, stacked-stone fireplace & mantel, built-in cabinetry and recessed lighting in the ceiling.

After New Fireplace & Built Ins

As I got to know them and their vision for the space, I made several additional “structural” suggestions including floating shelves on either side of the stacked stone to balance the fireplace and give us a place for “things”.  I also suggested repainting the room, moving the dark, accent color from the window to the fireplace wall to help unify the focal point and accentuate the stone & shelving.   I recommended black quartz for the cabinet tops as well as painting the cabinetry and mantel white to coordinate with the black tv and fireplace surround.  Finally, to showcase their hard work, the homeowners wanted to replace all the furniture in the long, narrow space as well, keeping in mind it needed to be family and pet friendly.

After bouncing around a few ideas and creating a space plan to maximize seating, we decided on a new sectional sofa and console table, pair of swivel, club chairs and table, a leather ottoman as well as a new area rug, window treatments, lighting, botanicals, artwork and a few, new accessories.

Family Room Before

Family Room After

Family Room Before

Family Room After

Once all the furniture had been delivered, and we’d found every little detail we needed, I spent a few hours styling the space & layering in everything that gives a room personality and brings it to life.  With tonal, greige neutrals and pops of warm white & blue, the end result is family (and family dog) approved.

Puppy Approved

While cleaning up, we were chatting about how nice everything looked and how we looked forward to working together on future projects.  As I gathered my tools getting ready to leave, one of the owners added, “You’re the Queen”.  Caught slightly off guard, but without thinking much about it, I replied, “Well, wouldn’t be the first time I’ve been called that!”  We all died laughing when I realized she was talking about the dog, lounging like royalty on the nearby recliner, not me.

Family Room After

As I said before, stereotypes exist for a reason.  The family pet might have been the “Queen” in this particular instance.  But, if being called “the Queen” of decorating is the worst I’m ever called, I’ll take it!

In life, a good sense of humor is just as important as good decorating.  Here’s to the best of both whether for a dog, a queen or anyone in between.  Happy Regal Decorating from Decor Designs, Inc.  815-245-2433






A lot has changed in the last year.  The world has been turned on end as we’ve adapted our modern way of life to the challenges of, what seems like, a medieval pandemic.  Among other things, our patience has been tried as many of the things we thought we understood (and probably took for granted) have changed.  Home improvements have always seemed to take twice as long and cost twice as much as we plan.  But few, if any of us, have experience renovating during a pandemic.

Navy Pier in Winter

Chicago & Lake Shore Dr












We started this particular project last February, in downtown Chicago.  Our new clients had purchased a 39th floor, 2-bedroom condo in historic Lake Point Tower.  With gorgeous views and everything The Windy City has to offer at their feet, our clients planned a complete renovation of the condo during the Winter months of 2020 so they’d be ready in time to enjoy dinners out, museums, and concerts in the park by Summer.  Then… along came Covid.

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After

Kitchen Counter Before

Kitchen Counter After

Dining Room With Fractured Prism Wallpaper

The ink had barely dried on our contract before lockdowns went into effect.  With the uncertainty of how long the closures would last, we used the time to work remotely, deciding on every detail from flooring to cabinets, fixtures, finishes and furnishings.  That way, since construction was deemed “essential”, the trades could continue working while we planned and purchased the rest.

Guest Bath Before

Guest Bath After

Guest Bath

Master Bath Before

Master Bath After

Fast forward a couple months as things slowly reopen.  Having shopped exclusively online during the lockdown, we were finally able to meet our clients again, in person, to actually see specific pieces, test their comfort, verify fabrics, colors etc… and place orders.

Dramatically increased demand coupled with raw material & supply chain issues ensued.  Fortunately, our clients weren’t selling another property; so they were able to stay in that home while construction continued and we waited on new furnishings.  New flooring, kitchen cabinets, appliances, vanities, lighting and fixtures we gradually delivered and installed.  And still, we waited on our custom furniture orders.

City View

As stores slowly reopened, we could focus on the layers needed to give the space the “personality” our clients wanted.  We’d planned our “look” around a few pieces of artwork our clients already owned and wanted to repurpose.  Much of what our clients wanted to incorporate had been acquired from international travels.  So, our challenge was to blend a more contemporary design and furnishings with more eclectic, colorful art and accessories.


We planned for neutral, greige walls throughout to highlight the unobstructed views of the lake and city as well as to serve as our backdrop for the pops of color in both artwork and accessories.  Playing off of the primary & jewel tones, especially gold, we bought accent pillows and a few other key pieces to compliment the artwork and tie the space together.  For a punch of visual interest a gold-veined, prism wallpaper accent wall was installed in the dining area.

Dining Room Corner Before

Dining Room Corner After

Dining Room & Living Room Before

Dining Room & Living Room After

Living Room

In November, after months of waiting, and with some final construction still underway, we were finally able to see our progress and how closely the newly delivered furniture matched our plan.  No matter how right things look on paper, the look and feel of a space is difficult to capture in two dimensions.  On site, we could see the need for a few extra pieces to fine tune and finish the spaces.

Master Bedroom Before

Master Bedroom After

Master Bedroom Before

Master Bedroom After

Through the holidays, we took advantage of the downtime to order the remaining pieces & wait for them to be delivered.  We also made sure we picked up all the small details that make a house a home so we’d be ready when “styling day” came after the New Year.

Boys Room Before

Boys Room After

Last week, almost exactly one year after we started, we spent a few hours working our magic to finally put the finishing touches on the renovations and decorating plans we started 12 months prior.  To say our clients are relieved to have the lengthy project behind them would be an understatement.  But, as they say, good things always come to those who wait.  With any luck, their amazing patience and understanding while we were renovating during pandemic will be rewarded with many fun times and happy memories in their beautiful, new home away from home.

Happy Renovating from Decor Designs, 815-245-2433.



It’s hard to believe we’re ready to launch into a New Year!  It seems like only yesterday we were fretting the uncertainty of Y2K.  And yet, here we are almost 20 years later ready to do it again!

Time flies when you’re having fun!  And we’ve had a blast in 2018 helping over three dozen clients make the world and their lives happier & prettier by updating and restyling their homes and businesses.

While we all have a love-hate relationship with Resolutions, you can’t help but admit it’s a logical time of year to set goals for the next twelve months.  Or, at the very least, it’s natural to review the successes and disappointments of the past twelve.

There are the usual suspects:  Job, Health, Relationships & Weight!  But, how many times have you put decorating on your New Year’s to-do list?  If not, why not?  Planning to improve and beautify your surroundings can be just as important as working on more internal goals.  Numerous studies have shown that a person’s living and work environment can play a huge role in overall happiness.

So, as you start checking off the days on a new calendar, what are your decorating resolutions for the New Year?  Will 2019 finally be the year that you take charge of those interior decorating projects you’ve been neglecting?  Or will you finally set a new stage for your life by tackling the updates that have been nagging at you?

Time and tide wait for no man!”  So, what are you waiting on?  Add a few decorating updates to your list of resolutions this year.  And if you’d like some help staying motivated, accountable or just to make sure it gets done and done right, give us a call!  Like all our clients this and previous years, we’ll help ensure 2019 is a beautiful, happier one for you and your family.

HAPPY NEW YEAR from All of Us at Decor Designs!!!  815-245-2433


Homes come in all shapes and sizes.  From trendy “tiny” homes to urban lofts, to high-rise condos to sprawling suburban McMansions, each has its own inherent personality & character.  And while location & architecture certainly play a role, the owner’s personality and style can make a huge difference in the look and feel of a home.

This year, we’ve had the pleasure of working with a couple who purchased a two-bedroom condo in historic Lake Point Tower.  For those who don’t know, Lake Point Tower is the only non-public building on the East (lake) side of Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive.  Completed in 1968, it was the tallest residential building in the world until 1993.

Lake Point Tower

Obviously, this 50 year old high-rise has seen its share of interior updates.  While the home had been updated before, our clients wanted to replace the previous owner’s more traditional taste with more sleek and contemporary stylings.

The project began with construction.  First, the French doors to the guest bedroom were relocated to create more wall space in the living area.  New gray-washed hardwood floors were selected and installed throughout.  New cabinets and countertops as well as a mirrored tile backsplash were added in the kitchen.  Motorized roller shades were installed on the home’s 18 windows.  Finally, new light fixtures were installed and the home got a fresh coat of the ever-popular Sherwin Williams Anew Gray & Agreeable Gray.

Condo Living Room

Dining Room Living Room Before

Dining Room Living Room After

As a secondary residence, our clients were literally starting from scratch.  So, it took several months of shopping to find everything we needed to fill the 1500 sq. foot home.  New dining, living and bedroom furniture were purchased from Room & Board™.   Additional accent pieces were ordered from other local and online retailers including a custom tv lift cabinet to help preserve the city & lakefront views.  Multiple pieces of art, rugs, greenery and accessories were also needed to add the little details that make a house feel like home.

Master Bedroom Before

Master Bedroom After

In order to maximize storage and sleeping space, we purchased furniture with that in mind.  The platform beds in both bedrooms feature pull out drawers at the foot of the bed for added storage.  The full size sofa and matching chair in the living room are both pull out sleepers.

Guest Bedroom Before

Guest Bedroom Before

Guest Bedroom After

The single biggest change in the home, however, is the kitchen.  Gone are the more traditional painted cabinets and marble in favor of sleek, two-tone cabinets with waterfall countertops in pure, white quartz!

Condo Kitchen

Kitchen Before

Kitchen After

To quote our clients, the end result is nothing short of “amazing”.  Their newly remodeled and furnished, second home will be the perfect retreat for late nights at the office, weekend getaways to the city and more.  And who could blame them with views like this:

Dining Room with Amazing Lake View

A home’s style usually takes a nod from the location and construction of the building itself.  But, nothing stopped our happy clients from turning their new condo into a space that reflects their vision for their Chicago high-rise home!


They say, “Good things come to those who wait!”  You could also say, “Good things come to those who renovate.”  Our clients in Park Ridge, Illinois are living proof!  This week we were able to add the final decorative touches on a renovations project we started with them over TEN months ago.

Thinking back, it’s hard to believe we met with them for the first time in November of 2017.  During their initial consultation, we learned they’d been working on updating the house for a number of years.  Being hands-on and doing much of the work themselves, the renovations had taken more time than they might’ve had they hired out.  Fortunately for us, they did “hire out” when it came time to add the finishing touches to their hard work.

Their beautiful, two-story home with Spanish-tiled, gambrel roof was built in 1924.  As anyone who’s renovated a 100 year old home will tell you; you never know what you’ll find until you dig in.  Our homeowners had already completed many of the structural renovations in the home including new electrical, plumbing, a new kitchen, master suite renovations, a finished basement and more.

Basement Before Picture

Basement Before

With most of the “behind the scenes” work complete, the couple and their three teenage kids were ready to focus on more cosmetic aspects in their home.  They wanted a more polished and sophisticated look matching their lifestyle and interests.

They wanted the newly finished basement to serve as media & game room, bar and hangout for the entire family.  So, we started by selecting a gray leather sofa & love seat from ArtVan.  To those, we added a reclaimed wood-look media console, end tables, tin-top coffee table, accent chair with matching ottoman, cellular blinds, lighting artwork and accessories.  Of course, we made sure to leave plenty of room for their foosball and air hockey tables as well.

Basement After

Basement with leather sofas and reclaimed wood tile

Basement After

Basement After

Upstairs, new floor tiles were selected to replace the damaged terra cotta in the foyer and sunroom/office.  In the foyer, we recommended a dramatic Morrocan mosaic tile.  In the sunroom (and repeated on the Living Room fireplace hearth), we suggested a gorgeous 6×24 black slate to compliment the slate tile in the remodeled kitchen.  To complicate matters, we wanted the slate laid in a herringbone pattern.  It took a little convincing.  But, eventually they agreed to the tile suggestions and did an amazing job installing it themselves.  The updated flooring looks fantastic and is very in keeping with the architecture of the home.

Foyer Before

Foyer with Morrocan mosaic tile

Foyer After








Living Room Before

Having lived out its usefulness, the majority of furnishings in the Living Room needed to be replaced.  The main living space in the home was very large.  So, we created a traditional grouping around the television and fireplace with a new sofa, two matching chairs and two updated wingback chairs from Arhaus.  Behind the sofa, we still had plenty of room to reuse an up-cycled claw-foot dining table and six, new tufted parsons chairs from Pier One.  The more casual dining space is perfect for casual family meals and homework.

Living Room After

Living Room Before

Living Room After

Living Room Before

Living Room After

Along with the new living room furniture we added a new 8×10 rug, new coffee and end tables, two drink tables from Crate & Barrel, new lamps and minimal accessories while reusing the owners existing artwork and window treatments.  The end result is a space that is both elegant but casual and inviting.

In the sunroom/office (on the opposite side of the Living Room fireplace), we reused an up-cycled dining table/desk and chair.   Sue Lynk of Lynk Home Transformations in Arlington Heights helped us paint the corner china cabinet to compliment the desk and built-ins.  Other than the new slate tile, a new rug and lamp were the only items we added to the office space.

Office Before

Office with black slate tile in herringbone pattern

Office After

In the formal dining room, we reused all the existing furniture and window treatments.  A new 9×12 rug helped brighten the space.   We also added a new runner, boxwood topiaries and additional art in the room.  The homeowners had a large frame they’d found at a resale shop in the dining room.  Since we loved the idea of keeping it in the space, we encouraged them to follow through with their vision and have an antique mirror made for it.  To break up the long expanse of mirror and to keep it from looking too much like a dressing mirror, we added a dried-leaf wreath on a suction cup for added drama.

Dining Room Before

Dining Room After

Dining Room Before

Dining Room After

Finally, in the master bedroom, we simply added finishing touches to the homeowner’s amazing updates.  New blackout cellulars were added along with a slipcover for the toile loveseat, an area rug and a new storage ottoman at the foot of the bed.  Artwork, accessories, lamp and the space was finished.

Master Bedroom Before

Master Bedroom After

Master Bedroom With White Fireplace

Master Bedroom Before

Master Bedroom After

Waiting for renovations to come to an end requires a heck of a lot of patience.  Like Christmas, it seems to take forever to come around.  But, when it does, the wait is definitely worth it.  These homeowners have labored on their home for years.  We loved the opportunity to help them put the finishing touches on their hard work.  But seeing their faces and hearing the relief in their voices that it was finally done made the job and the wait worth it for us as well.

Happy Renovations from Decor Designs, Inc.  815-245-2433