Category Archives: Renovation


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.



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!


Poet Dylan Thomas wrote Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.  I’ve thought of his life-affirming poem several times recently working with a couple on a move to Spring Grove, Illinois.

Beginning with our original phone chat, I could tell this husband and wife team were going to be different from what I might have expected from a retiree couple moving into a new home.  Rather than our usual “senior move” clients, it was obvious from the get-go, they had no intention of going gently into any “good night”!

Instead of downsizing into smaller accommodations, they were actually upsizing into a larger home.  Wanting to make room for their adult children, their spouses and grandchildren, the couple had purchased a country home complete with a large finished basement and in-ground pool.

Far from a simple move-in operation, plans included substantial updates to the home to better enjoy it and share with family.  Plans were made for:  new hardwood floors, fresh paint, updated light fixtures, and kitchen updates.  Also, new furniture, custom window treatments, artwork and accessories were needed in many of the rooms.

Kitchen Table


Breaking large projects into smaller bites makes an easily overwhelming job more manageable for homeowners and us alike.  So, we started with the obvious.  Canvas work like updated flooring and fresh, on-trend paint set the stage for what was to come!

Ski Lodge Living Room


Next, we shopped for stonework and insert to update the lackluster fireplace.  Built-ins were removed to better showcase the beautiful new stone fireplace.  New lighting was ordered to replace the dated glass and brass and other “staging” fixtures that were left by the previous owners.



Stone Fireplace


Living Room


Ski Lodge Living Room


While these changes were taking place, I shopped with the couple to find beautiful, new furniture for their Living room and Master Bedroom.  While we planned to reuse some older pieces in other rooms, these clients wanted all new for these two rooms.


Mission Office


After selecting furniture from Penny Mustard, we were able to turn our attention to window fashions to coordinate.  New Hunter Douglas Silhouette™ blinds were installed on the front of the house.  We commissioned custom soft treatments from our amazing fabricator, Kasia of Claudia’s Draperies, to help frame and add drama and texture to the extra large windows in the Living Room and Master.

Master Bedroom Move In


Master Bedroom Corner


Finally the day arrived to bring in the remaining layers including rugs, lighting, art, greenery and accessories.  After a full day of styling, our clients returned home to see the end result.

At the beginning of every project, as a decorator, you know the most difficult part of the job will be getting into your client’s heads.  Good communication is key.  But at the end of the day, guiding open-minded folks like this couple to create a look that reflects who they are and what brings them joy was actually the easier part of the job.

Master Bedroom Before


Master Bedroom


I’m happy to report this couple was so thrilled with Phase One, we’ll be working on additional renovations and decorative additions into 2018.  “Exceeds expectations” is always a great way to have a client sum up your work.  And helping this couple “upscale” into a beautiful home to share with family definitely feels like we’ve done our part to help them go anything but gently into that good night!

Happy Decorating for all ages from Decor Designs, Inc!  815-245-2433


We’ve been working for a few months with a client in Palatine, IL to update and refresh the family’s kitchen.  Our goals were simple:  We wanted to reuse as much as possible, namely the cabinets.  More importantly, we wanted to make improvements so this somewhat dated kitchen would feel more updated like the rest of the home.

Since we had a large unused area by the fireplace, we started by designing a larger kitchen island that would accommodate at least 3 of the existing red counter stools.  We also wanted the island to house the microwave originally over the stove.  Steve with Royal Kitchen & Bath Cabinets in Niles, IL helped us configure and order the additional cabinetry necessary for the larger island.  Since we planned to keep and paint the existing cabinetry Sherwin Williams SW 7025 Backdrop, we repeated the shaker door fronts so the style of the new cabinetry matched as much as possible.

Next, new granite was selected for the island.  Since it would’ve have been practically impossible to match the existing granite, we opted for a totally different and lighter granite that still picked up some of the same colors from the counters in the rest of the kitchen.



The newly enlarged island begged for additional lighting.  Two large seeded-glass pendants were selected to add both light & drama to the space.   A new brushed nickel fixture was also added above the eat-in kitchen table.

The dated 4×4 sandy tile backsplash was replaced.  New, beveled subway tiles in off-white helped brighten the kitchen while complimenting the lighter island granite and contrasting with the darker cabinets.  Brushed nickel hardware was added to the painted cabinets adding bling and coordinating with the appliances and light fixtures.



Keeping with the warm gray and white, we replaced the kitchen table and chairs to coordinate with the new look of the cabinets and island.



The existing red stools were repurposed and provided the needed punch color in the monochromatic gray and cream kitchen.  A new sink, faucet, stove, range hood, dishwasher and microwave along with a beautiful two-toned Canadel kitchen table and chairs completed the overhaul.



Styling with new accessories and a wreath for the double-sided fireplace helped pull it all together.


While we saved the flooring for another day, the difference in this kitchen is night and day.  The owners are thrilled with their new kitchen and have received numerous compliments already.

With a fresh coat of paint (Benjamin Moore’s Litchfield Gray HC-78) on the walls and the painted cabinets along with a little work coordinating the rest of the look, we were able to bring this kitchen forward to a more contemporary look for a fraction of the price of replacing the entire kitchen.