4 Tips for Downsizing

If you or someone you know is thinking of moving to a smaller home or a retirement community, here are some tips that will help make your transition smoother.

AFTER photo of small retirement apartment designed by Emery & Associates

1. Start a “TO DO” notebook

Here you will list the tasks that need doing, as well as names of professionals whose services you may need for your adventure. These include packers, movers, contractors, antique appraisers, collectable professionals, vendors, handy people, painters, professional organizers, and interior designers.

BEFORE photo of small retirement apartment. Can you believe the photo above is the same space?

2. Inventory your furnishings

Measure and photograph every item of furniture you believe you want to take with you. Purchase furniture templates at 1/4″ scale from an art supply store or download them from the internet.

3. Make a floor plan

Using 1/4″ graph paper, or working from a plan provided by your community (be sure it’s at 1/4″ scale) place each piece of furniture and area rug you believe you want to take with you to the new living space onto your floor plan.

4. Revise your expectations . . .

Unload anything that won’t fit. Determine which pieces you need to give up, and make plans to sell, give away, throw away, or donate each piece. Enjoy this opportunity to unburden yourself of anything that does not bring you joy (to quote Marie Kondo).

Should all of this appear too perplexing or arduous for you, please give us a call. During the past 25 years Emery & Associates have done numerous projects for clients who are “in transition.” We’ve done apartments and condos for seniors who are downsizing, as well as for middle-aged clients who are going through divorces or other kinds of traumatic changes, most often moving from large homes to much smaller living spaces. We are able to empathize with the client’s angst during these changes, and at the same time help them sort through their possessions with scaled-out floor plans in hand so we can show them what will FIT, literally, into the space, as well as what may need to go away or be replaced. We are confident that you will feel enriched rather than diminished by the experience.

3 Ways to Transform Your Master Bedroom

Recently we had the good fortune to transform a client’s master bedroom from lackluster to luscious. There are many ways to do this, but my top three favorites are:

1. Personalize your furnishings. These clients are avid birdwatchers, and recently moved to a condo overlooking the Willamette River that teems with local waterfowl, raptors, and many other birds. They have a large collection of paintings and sculpture that feature feathered creatures of all kinds, and I felt this interest was under-represented in the bedroom. My presentation of the large-scale, watercolor linen by Kravet (“Sparrows”) for drapery was a way to bring their major interest front and center. They loved it, and it kicked off all the other choices.

View of Willamette River from client’s condo

2. Add color! The “before” shot has a little bit of color (celadon green in the lamps and quilt at the end of the bed), but it’s not enough to make this room feel alive and interesting. I like a limited palette, in this case taken from the printed linen: taupe for the headboard wall, aqua on the upholstered headboard and pair of chairs, and a pop of red with flowers. The luxury bedding echoes the wall color and is a serene contrast to the vibrant drapery.

Master Bedroom BEFORE

3. Make sure the headboard is the focal point of the room. In the “before” photo the wooden headboard is mostly hidden behind the bedding, and the art above the bed lacks cohesiveness. We used an aqua chenille for the upholstered headboard (“KravetArmor”), and placed it against the slightly darker wall to create an intimate, cohesive feeling (this figure/ground reversal is something I love to do whenever possible). We also added contemporary night stands flanking the bed in a color lighter than the wall.

Master Bedroom AFTER

Now the room feels inviting, pulled-together, and reflects the clients’ interests and taste. They are thrilled with the results, which makes me very happy. If you feel stumped about how to transform your bedroom, give Emery & Associates a call! We would love to collaborate with you.

My thanks to everyone who worked on this project: headboard/pair of chairs by DFI Custom Upholstery; drapery, Euro pillow, bedskirt by Corby Watkins; drapery installation by Window Coverings Solutions; drapery hardware by Kirsch from Best Window Coverings; nightstands by Woodbridge from Parker Furniture; coverlet and pair of Euro Shams from Manor Fine Wares; painted headboard wall by Peter Weller.

Living in Your Living Room

DETAIL: A bouillotte lamp with black tole shade on the round leather-topped table in the bay window adds a traditional touch between a pair of English Regency-style chairs.

This inviting seating area in the sunny bay window looks like it has always been here, but truth to tell, it just happened last week. That is, the completion of the room happened last week, but was actually year in the making.

Let me back up to show you what the living room of this 1930s Tudor-style home looked like when I first visited the homeowners.


                                              BEFORE–Living Room (view from entry)

The homeowners told me they wanted to bring the painted ceiling beams back to the original wood color, replace the ceiling fan with a chandelier that fit the style of the house, and have some help with the furniture.  It was obvious to me that the bones of the room were good, and their idea of having the ceiling beams faux finished back to the color of the original wood was a good one (and more economical than replacing the beams).  Their collection of furniture desperately needed curating, since they owned many fine antique pieces that I felt should stay, but too much Victorian upholstery that made the room feel overstuffed and tired.  The one big lamp in the middle of the room gave the only light, so at night it was dark and cold.  It was the least-used room in the house, and since the homeowners had both just recently retired, they wanted to be spending more time in this room and to entertain friends and family here.  Addressing all of these issues resulted in the changes shown in the photo below:

                                                AFTER–Living Room (view from entry)

Moving to the opposite end of the room, this is what it looked like  BEFORE:

                                BEFORE: View from bay window end of living room

I suggested trimming out the arched opening to the entry with wood to match the existing wood trim.  I  can’t say enough good things about the artist who faux finished the beams and fireplace mantel:  Philip Emmerling.  The dark wood now emphasizes all the traditional architectural aspects of this space in a consistent and coherent way. I also found some handsome sconces that really made a statement on either side of the arched opening, and we added recessed lighting into the ceiling as well.

                                            AFTER: View of living room toward entry

                                 DETAIL: Sconces flanking arched entry

As with any remodel of an old house, this one took some unexpected twists and turns.  The homeowners had planned on having the floors refinished, the walls and ceiling repainted, and the beams and mantel faux finished.  What they had NOT expected was some expensive foundation work that became necessary, as well as having to replace the leaded glass windows in the bay.

The fireplace was another significant change.  Not only was the mantel brought back to look like the original wood, but the owners decided to convert the wood-burning fireplace to gas.  The new Batchelder-style ceramic tile from Pratt & Larson gives the fireplace a vintage look, and the iron fireplace screen adds a graceful curve.

                                                                          BEFORE: Fireplace detail

                                                                      AFTER: Fireplace detail

Because the owners wanted their living room to express their Scottish heritage, the craftsman who did the arch keystone carved a rose on the entry side and a thistle on the living room side.  We also added tartan fabrics for pillows, and a wool throw that represents  the homeowners’ family clan.  Lamps custom-made from porcelain temple jars repeat the color of porcelains in the homeowners’ collection.

                           DETAIL: Keystone carving of rose

The room now has a warm and welcoming look, with owners’ possessions beautifully displayed and mixed seamlessly with the new furnishings.

        DETAIL: Antique secretary open with antique French armchair

                                             DETAIL: Living room corner

Homes are always a work-in-progress, so there will probably be more items added to this casually elegant living room in the future.  But for now it feels comfortable, welcoming, and personal.

“Kathia was wonderful to work with.  Above all, she listened to us and sought to understand what we wanted and what style would fit both my husband and myself.  Kathia’s skills in finding colors, fabrics and an overall look were a perfect match for our needs.  We are so pleased with our new living room!  I find myself spending lots of time in it–much more than ever before.  It is so warm and inviting.”

When the client is happy, I’m happy!  If you feel the need to change your spaces from dreary to delightful, give Emery & Associates a call. We love making house calls.


Nothing Like a Party!

There’s nothing like a party to get things done around your house and garden.  When I was planning my son’s 40th birthday party in early May, I got busy making sure our deck was party-ready.  Deferred maintenance becomes really obvious when you start envisioning things from a guest’s point of view.  Here are four essentials for turning your deck into an outdoor room. 

  1.  Clear the deck: If your deck is stone, concrete or composite, give it a good power wash to get rid of dirt and algae.  If it’s wood, it may need cleaning, sanding, and refinishing.  Here’s my deck as it looked “BEFORE,” when we first moved in:
  2. Define the space:  Put down an outdoor rug to add color and define the space as a room.
  3. Add furniture:  If space permits, add seating and dining furniture.  If you have a limited budget, check out resale shops and garage sales.  If your old furniture looks tired, give it a coat of spray paint (my bistro table and chairs, above, have gone through many color incarnations).  I love textiles, and my  citrus-bright cushions warm up our north-facing deck.  The Sunbrella indoor-outdoor fabrics from Robert Allen are still going strong after five years.
  4. Add accessories: Pots of flowers, herbs, and trees give life to your outdoor deck.  An umbrella is a must for shade relief.  A serving cart, decorative trays, and candles in hurricane lanterns add a festive touch.  This year I saw a tablecloth in a catalog that looked like it would work perfectly as a topper over my lemon-yellow round tablecloth, so I sent away for it.  When it arrived, I was delighted with the way it not only added citrus accents (literally), but included a mosaic tile-like border of blue-and-white.


Since I have a lot of blue-and-white dishes, this 54″ square linen tablecloth gave me a wide range of options for setting my outdoor dining table.

DETAIL: Blue-and-white dishes on tablecloth

There’s nothing like dining al fresco with your family on a warm summer evening, or having a few friends over for drinks on the terrace in fine weather.  I hope these ideas give you some inspiration for creating your own outdoor rooms.



California Country Living, Victorian Style

Spotswood Farmyard

Winter morning at Spotswood House

On February 16, 2018, I was in Potter Valley, California, working on the historic Spotswood House, when I saw this view behind the house of antique farm equipment, with an enormous willow just beginning to leaf out. This photo perfectly captures the feeling one gets while being on a working farm that has been in operation since the 1880s.

In 2001 I helped to restore Spotswood House, whose grounds still include a working ranch (the homeowners raise prize-winning Arabian horses, as well as running a business in Ukiah).  When we began the restoration, the house looked like this:

Spotswood House BEFORE

After collaborating with architect Michael Garavalgia in 2001, the house was restored to it’s original Victorian Italianate magnificence, and now looks like this:

As with any home, the interiors are a continual work-in-progress.  On this latest trip I was working on several of the interior spaces, including the installation of new draperies in the dining room.  The embroidered sheer silk draperies that I installed in 2001 were exquisite, but had been ravaged by time and sun.

Sheer embroidered silk draperies, installed in 2001

The homeowner loves the texture of embroidery, so I presented her with a cotton fabric embroiled with a tree-of-life floral on an ivory ground. Here’s a detail the finished new drapery, edged with crystal-beaded tassel fringe.

DETAIL: Spotswood House new dining room drapery


The new drapery complements the dining room’s red walls, and brings in all the colors of the owner’s garden:

New dining room draperies for Spotswood House

We will be bringing you more photos of this memorable home during the next few months, as plans are in place for a kitchen remodel as well as redecoration of the master bedroom and home office.  Stay tuned!  Go to our Facebook page to see more photos of the grounds of Spotswood House.




Have you ever wondered what the difference is between interior design and interior decorating?  Using our home library as an example, I will illustrate the difference between these two essential concepts: interior design requires conceptualizing and outlining changes that require construction, whereas interior decorating refers to changes in color, furnishings, window treatments and accessories.  The photo above was taken the year we had our home on the Duniway School Holiday Home Tour.  This is an example interior decoration strictly for a seasonal affect. The silver mercury glass and chargers, glimmering bare-branch tree dripping with icicles, the tablecloth, fur throw and pillows were all brought in to create a winter wonderland look for the holiday tour.  I would not have been able to create this decorated effect if we had not already done massive interior design on the space when we bought the house.

So let me back up to a “BEFORE” photo of this room.  When we first bought the house in 2005, the library looked like this:  dated center light fixture, acoustical tile ceiling, previous owner’s furnishings.  I was not very keen on keeping the wood paneling, but I figured if we added built-in bookcases, heftier window and door trim, and put recessed lighting into the ceiling and soffits which replaced the acoustical tile and shed ceiling, the paneling would not dominate the room.

Here’s how the room looked AFTER my interior design changes.  The painting on the bookcase wall hides the window which is visible in the “BEFORE” photo, but you can see the two windows on the left that are the same.  The dramatic difference is brought about by the interior design changes (lighting, soffits, built-ins, new wood trim).  The interior decorating is the furnishings part–rugs, upholstery, tables, lamps, art, and accessories.

Some projects require mostly interior design (kitchens, bathrooms), some require primarily interior decorating, but most of the time they require some of each. If a design firm does both interior design AND interior decorating, they are known as “full service interior design.”  Emery & Associates is a full service interior design company.

Now please take another look at the winter wonderland version of the library. Can you see the Chesterfield sofa peeking out between the pillows?  The wood table is draped with a silver tablecloth, and set for a special midnight meal.  Magic!  Give Emery & Associates a call if you want us to work our magic on your home.



Realizing Dreams: Master Bedroom Makeover

A few months ago Helene Cogen moved from Miami, Florida, to Portland, Oregon, because her children and grandchildren live here.  She had owned a home here for years, but only used it in the summer, so it was furnished like a beach house–very casual, with lots of white wicker furniture.  With a permanent move, she wanted to use her elegant Miami furniture, as much as would fit, and asked Emery & Associates to help place her existing furnishings. We also helped provide furnishings where she wanted big changes.  The master bedroom is probably the most dramatic example.

Helene showed us photographs of her furnishings and art that were on their way from Miami.  It was clear from the moment we met her that she is a woman of great taste and sophistication, someone who truly appreciates art and beauty.  We presented a variety of palettes to see which ones resonated for her.  She likes neutrals, but is also very fond of aqua and deeper blue-greens.  When we presented the watercolor print shown in the detail photo below, together with the bamboo trellis wallpaper and teal wool plush for the headboard, everything came together.

As soon as the decision was made to go ahead, our expert craftspersons have been sewing pillows, bedding, and drapery; fabricating upholstery; repairing and refinishing wood furniture; painting, and hanging wallpaper. Today the draperies were installed, so I was able to take a shot of the room from the same angle as the “before” shot I took six months ago, below:

BEFORE: Helene’s Master Bedroom

Quel difference! This space now feels refreshed and updated, as well as dreamy and inviting. The Grange night stands and dresser are from Helene’s Miami home, as are the lamps and corner chair. We’ve added new carpeting, wall covering and paint, as well as the upholstered headboard, bed linens, and draw draperies.

AFTER: Helene’s Master Bedroom

Too often the bedroom is neglected in favor of decorating public rooms, which is why we are grateful to our client for her willingness make her master bedroom a priority. If your bedroom is making you tired instead of refreshing you, give yourself permission to have a beautiful boudoir.  Give Emery & Associates a call–we love helping clients realize their dreams.


5 Easy Essentials for Fall Decorating

Doesn’t have to be all orange.  I love to mix a variety of pomegranates, gourds, and flowers with blue and white porcelain and table linens.

Don’t forget the chandelier!  My favorite corvids grace the chandelier every year during Halloween season.  What else can you think of to put on yours?

Design principle for all seasons: repetition.  The tea tray in the dining room, with another crow, and another pop of orange.

Engage all of the senses . . .  Scented candles, cinnamon-spiced treats, and music are all essential to the mood of the season.

Sprinkle in some bling.  Tired of hay bales and dried corn?  Try adding a bit of glitz to your front porch with metallic spray paint and upholstery tacks.

Autumn is my favorite season, and Halloween is my favorite holiday.  Hope these decorating tips have inspired you to get ready for the change of seasons.  We at Emery & Associates wish you a happy fall!

The Doctors’ Decorating Dilemma

When I first met Drs. Lainie and Jon Yarris, both emergency room physicians, they had been raising their three children in this charming Craftsman home for eleven years.  When they weren’t working at their demanding jobs, they were doing activities with their children and with friends, who also have children.  Their dilemma was how to arrange the furnishings in the living room to allow guests and family to comfortably have conversations, play games, and read by the fire, since the front door opens directly into the middle of the long, rectangular room (see “BEFORE” photos, below).

“BEFORE” South end of living room (view of fireplace)

“BEFORE,” North end of living room

Since the front door bisects the room, I developed a furniture plan for each end of the room, using the front door as a room divider.  On the South (fireplace) end of the room, a sofa with a chaise end backs up to the open front door.  On the North end of the room, a sectional wraps the corner under the windows, and an upholstered storage ottoman adds additional seating.  New area rugs define each seating area.

To help the Yarris’s visualize the eventual outcome of the project, I did a sketch of what the fireplace end of the room would look like with the chaise-end sofa, round coffee table, and corner chair.  I also switched the position of their mirror and painting, and added lamps and accessories.

Kathia’s concept sketch for fireplace end of room

Here is the “AFTER” shot of the South (fireplace) end of the room.  The rounded shapes of the furnishings (table, lamp, vase, garden stool, curves on chair arms) help balance the strong vertical and horizontal lines of the architecture.  This space now invites four or five people to converse or play games.  The chair in the corner by the fire offers a quiet place to read.  Scroll back up to compare this to the “BEFORE” photo.


“AFTER” South (fireplace) end of living room

The North end of the room was equally transformed.  The sectional wraps the corner with comfortable seating for four (five if you squeeze), and the storage ottoman invites putting feet up to relax, gives additional seating, or holds a tray for drinks and snacks for entertaining.

“AFTER,” North end of living room

A word about colors and fabrics:  Jon and Lainie told me they liked brown, tans, and sage green–perfectly fitting colors for the Craftsman-style home they live in.  I showed them neutral upholstery fabric, saddle-colored leather for the ottoman, and pillow fabric with embroidered leaves in a variety of colors, as well as one solid in red.  Lainie was very taken with the embroidered pillow fabric, and I agree that it is stunning.  Once the toss pillows were sewn, I was inspired to introduce more shots of turquoise (the throw, vase, and garden stool), and shots of yellow and orange (flowers, throw), all colors taken from the embroidered pillow fabric.  The painting they already owned also has turquoise and yellow–happy colors for a happy room.

DETAIL: Pillow Fabrics

Now this casually elegant space provides a warm and welcoming atmosphere for family and guests. My clients’ response:  “Everything looks great. . . As we sit here we love it more and more.  Thank you!!  It feels really good in here.”  When my clients are happy, I’m happy.

If you need your spaces refreshed, give Emery & Associates Interior Design a call   We look forward to hearing from you!

Six Things I Learned Hosting My 50th College Reunion Kickoff Party

Planning a party is a great motivator to make improvements that you have been putting off.  We were expecting about 50 people on June 8, so in late May we asked our gardener to spread a coat of fresh mulch over all of our flower beds, and to power wash our driveway, upper deck, and lower deck, which were covered with a thick coat of algae.  He announced that our gutters badly needed cleaning, so he offered to do that as well.  He was at our house for four days, and as you can see from the photo above, our garden looked beautiful.  We also had our painter at the house for three days, painting interior trim that desperately needed painting.  I doubt if anyone noticed it, because they were all so engrossed in talking to each other!  They probably didn’t notice the cleaned gutters, either.

If the party is in June, prepare for rain (also known as the “Rose Festival Effect”).  We have a covered area below our upper deck with a round table that will comfortably seat eight.  Since we were expecting such a large crowd, the college agreed to loan us a tent, along with a large round table and 10 chairs.  We now had covered seating for 18 on our lower deck.  I’m sure the reason that it didn’t rain on our party was because we were so well prepared.

Hire the best caterer you can afford, even if you love to cook.  That way you can enjoy the party.  This was an “appetizers and drinks” event, not a dinner.  The college charged a $15 fee to each person who signed up.  The caterer did an amazing job!  I stole her from my next door neighbor.

The PARTY RENTAL place is your friend.  If you have an event for more than a dozen people, do you really want to be washing all those glasses and dishes?  We ended up having 70 guests, so I rented plates, wineglasses, and tablecloths.  We didn’t need silverware, as the appetizers were all finger food.  I opted for paper napkins because it wasn’t a sit-down dinner.  The rental company delivers the day before and picks up the day after the party.

Hire enough help.  The caterer was glad I had hired a person to help serve, pick up plates and glassware, and be an extra pair of hands.  When she heard how many guests were expected, she suggested I hire one more, so I did.

Wherever you put the bar is the place people will congregate.  Originally the caterer thought we should have the food in the dining room, and the bar on the lower terrace, so that people would circulate.  What happened is that people went down to the bar area, and never went back upstairs to get food, so we moved the food to the lower terrace.

This is by far the largest party we have ever hosted, and I learned a lot.  Having lovely surroundings and wonderful food and drink is a bonus, but my sense is that people who haven’t seen each other in a long time just want to be together, no matter what the venue. 

Au revoir!  Good night!  Hope to see you soon!

Photo credits:  Nina Johnson, Reed ’99

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