Money Saving Tip – Kitchen Remodel

January 4, 2017 | Melinda Miles

Keep appliances, plumbing fixtures, and lighting in the same location if it works with the new design. Moving water, gas, and electrical connections can be a big added cost to an update, that doesn’t add visible value to the project.


For this ranch kitchen update, keeping the location of the sink, dishwasher, cooktop, and ovens in the same place, allowed the customer to put all of their budget into new finishes and save a lot of money. The existing oven and microwave connections were located on the backside of the adjacent family room fireplace surround, and would be even more expensive to move. Instead, the layout of the kitchen stayed the same, with all new cabinets and appliances installed in the original locations. The old brick surround was replaced with Austin stone.  A custom copper vent hood and hand-painted tile backsplash finished the look of the new cooktop. New wood floors, paint, and light fixtures completed the transformation.


A Great Trick with Tile

January 4, 2017 | Melinda Miles


If you want to capture the look of this gorgeous bathroom by Dallas Design Group Interiors, don’t overlook one of the most important elements–the tile on the walls. Applying tile part-way up to chair rail height, like wainscot paneling, is an affordable way to add the look of an expensive upgrade.

Linear bathrooms are a great place for this treatment. They can look unbalanced when all of the fixtures and elements are lined up along one wall and the opposite side is simply a blank sheetrock wall. The tile adds architecture, three-dimensional depth, and expands the look of the room. Adding tile wainscot to this one wall can often cost less than $100, but makes it look like you spent thousands more.

The height for this treatment is usually between 32” and 42” from the finished floor, depending on the size of your tile, the height of your ceilings, and other design details. Try to use whole tiles as you go up the wall with trim pieces as the top row, like a bullnose or chair rail to give a finished look. For example, if you are using 8 x 12 tile, you could do 4 rows of tile and finish at 32” high from the floor plus the width of your trim. If you are using 12 x 24 tile, you could do 3 rows of tile finishing at 36” plus trim from the floor.


If you are doing some sort of linear border or listel design in your shower or tub area, consider running your tile design along the vanity as your back splash instead of the usual 4” countertop back splash. Continue that tile all around the room at the same height. The height of your vanity plus the width of your design will determine the finished height of your tile on the walls. It will start at the vanity and run horizontally around the room, connecting the vanity with the walls, shower, and tub area for a great customized look.

5 Tips for Choosing Carpet

January 30, 2015 | Melinda Miles

Photo 5c- 1

Choose the best-quality carpeting you can afford.

Wall to wall carpet is a hard-working surface that covers a large portion of your floors, contributing greatly to your comfort by providing insulation and warmth. Carpet needs to offer high performance by being soil and stain resistant, easy to maintain, able to withstand foot traffic without crushing, and retain its original appearance. Wool is the highest-performing, but very pricey choice. Nylon ranks next for performance, and is an affordable option. The other synthetics, such as polyester, acrylic, orlon, and olefin, do not perform as well as nylon, and are not cost-saving in the long run.

Photo 5c - 2

Neutral colors are the best investment.

Since carpet covers the most area in any room, the color and texture of your carpet make a significant impact on your décor. Neutral floors that are neither too light nor too dark and that don’t dictate a particular color scheme are the best for resale value and design flexibility.


Determine how light or dark to go based on your decor, maintenance, and sun exposure.

Light color carpet opens up a space, doesn’t show fading from sun exposure, but will show dirt and wear. Dark color carpet cozies up a large area, won’t show dirt and wear, but will show lint and dust, and can fade when exposed to sunlight. Keep in mind that carpet with texture will look darker because of the shadows created by the texture pattern.

Photo - 5c - 3

Select your carpet from large samples viewed onsite after the walls and trim are painted.

Don’t try to work off the sample boards with 2” squares. Showrooms offer larger samples that can be checked out to take to your project so you can view the carpet in context. Most carpet styles have over a dozen choices in the neutral range, but even though these colors look neutral, they have subtle undertones that can lean toward pink, green, yellow, gray, brown, etc. These undertones are hard to discern in small samples, but they become all too obvious once the carpet is covering the entire room. The pattern in a textured carpet will also affect the appearance of the color and impact the decor, and this effect cannot be seen accurately in small swatches.

When working with carpet colors, it is critical to select your carpet color in natural light, and not in a showroom with artificial lighting. Color is influenced by the setting and light source. The light sources in your home will change the way the carpet color appears. Also, the paint on your walls, depending on the color, can actually reflect onto the carpet, altering its cast.

Photo - 5c - 5

Patterned or bold-color carpet can be used to create a design statement.

Media Rooms, Game Rooms, Home Offices, or Children’s Playrooms are the best areas to let loose and express your creative urges with non-traditional carpet choices. In these areas, creating themed décor can actually add value and increased interest to your home. Carpet in bold colors or patterns becomes the most dominant design element in the room, so in this case, choose the carpet first, and select the other decorative finishes to work with it.


ePerfect Project in the News

January 26, 2015 | Melinda Miles

dmn pix

This is an excerpt of the recent article by Rhona Schwartz that appeared in the Dallas Morning News featuring the ePerfect Project website and the Perfect Project companion ebook. Read what Rhona wrote.

Satisfy Your App(etite) for Design Using Digital Tools

(Excerpted from the Dallas Morning News)

Internet tools make it easy to amass home decorating ideas, contemplate wall colors and move furniture around. Their volcanic effects are also changing the way interior designers do business.

The Internet has made customers more product savvy and informed. They want convenience, efficiency and waste reduction, said Dallas interior designer Melinda Miles. By using a smartphone or tablet as a shopping companion, they’re “forcing residential professionals to look for ways to improve their process and efficiency.”

Miles’ contribution to the remodeling and building arenas is, her new website, which allows a project team– homeowners, builders, interior designers, subcontractors and suppliers – to store and share product information.

“After years of seeing selection decisions not written down, scribbled on Post-it notes and scrap paper or lost in texts or emails, I decided there had to be a better way,” Miles said.

“The selection process can be overwhelming for clients. Giving them a way to keep track of what they are doing makes the whole construction experience so much better for them,” she said.

The core of is the customizable Design Center, which organizes a project by categories (including plumbing and appliances) and room, creates a virtual shopping list and allows photo uploads.

“The format guides homeowners through the selection process and prompts them to include all the information necessary to specify materials and finishes correctly and to not leave anything out,” Miles said.

Down the line, this system makes it easy to order replacement products, like tiles, and buy the correct color paint for touch-ups. Plumbing and hardware fixtures often have a lifetime warranty and can be replaced for free if they can be identified via the manufacturer’s name, model number and finish.

Because the builder, interior designer and installers can log into a project and see what was chosen, they have the information they need to do their job. The system also helps interior designers keep their clients on track.

Miles’ companion Kindle book, Perfect Project: A How-to Design Guide for Your Home Building Project, is a workbook to use while shopping for appliances, cabinets, flooring, doors, trim, paint, wallpaper, hardware, glass and many more finishes.

“The book takes readers through the design and selection process just as if I were working with them in person,” Miles said. “It covers the most universal design issues and questions that seem to come up with every client I work with who is building or remodeling their home.

“My goal is to give homeowners the right information and tools to increase their confidence and ability to make selections, prevent project mistakes and enhance the design of their project.”

Rhona Schwartz ( is a freelance writer based in Seattle.


Avoid the 7 Biggest Lighting Mistakes

November 18, 2014 | Melinda Miles

Lighting mistakes












#1 – Too many fixtures in one view

With the popularity of open floor plans, room views can extend from one area to the next. If more than one fixture will be visible, both need to be related in style, color, and size and not too close together, so they don’t compete or look too busy. For example, in a kitchen there needs to be adequate space between the island and the nook to have two separate fixtures hanging in the same sight line, and they need to coordinate with one another.

#2 – Visible light bulbs

Always check the view of a fixture from the height at which it will be installed in your home. Visible light bulbs are not attractive and cause uncomfortable glare. Bowl lights, for example, hung low over a dining table or in a two-story foyer allow you to see over the top down into the fixture, and view the bare light bulbs. This style of light fixture needs to be used in areas where it can be placed up high, close to the ceiling, and viewed only from underneath.

For globe fixtures like the ones used for vanity lights or ceiling fan light kits, clear fan light bulbs will look best. These bulbs are shorter and don’t extend past the outer edge of the globe. The clear glass gives a much more attractive appearance than a frosted bulb.

#3 – Fixtures too small for the space

Two-story foyers require an over-sized, dramatic fixture large enough to fill that aerial space. A chandelier-style foyer fixture would need to be at least two-tier and possibly three-tier to fill the two-story space—approximately 30” – 45” high. A dining room chandelier should be only 6” – 12” smaller than the narrowest width of the dining table, or measure three-quarters the width of your table.

#4 – Fixtures too big for the space

Island lights should not extend the entire length of the island, but instead be about 2/3 – 3/4 the length. General guidelines for ceiling fans are:  bath and utility rooms – 42″ fans, secondary bedrooms and studys – 48″ fans, family rooms and master bedrooms – 54″ fans.

#5 – Fixtures hung too high

Chandeliers over dining tables should be hung so that the bottom of the fixture is approximately 30” from the top of the table in a room with 8’ ceilings, 3” higher for each additional foot of ceiling height.

Bathroom vanity lights hung too high above the mirror don’t give quality light for grooming. The ideal height for bath bar lights is 78” above the finished floor. If the globes cast the light in only one direction, the globes need to be aimed down, not up at the ceiling.

#6 – Fixtures hung too low

Pendants lights can hang too low if they are suspended from rods that cannot be shortened. Product descriptions often don’t include the chain and canopy required for mounting. This can add up to an additional 5″ to the height of the fixture. Pendant lighting in kitchens should hang above standing eye level, about 32″ – 36″ above the counter and bar tops, to avoid blocking sight lines.

Ceiling fans hung too high or too low don’t give the desired air circulation. Fan manufacturers recommend hanging fans with the blades 8’ – 9’ above the finished floor for best results. If there is a light kit on the fan, the bottom of the lights should not hang below 7′ from the floor.

#7 – Fixtures without dimmers

Controlling the amount of light increases comfort, sets the mood, and creates drama. Plan dimmers on recessed cans and decorative fixtures so you can control the amount of light in a particular area, depending on your needs. Choose fixtures and light bulbs that will accommodate dimmers for areas where you want lighting control. Dimmers cannot be used with some CFL, LED, and other light bulbs. If used improperly, they can affect the performance, shorten the life span, or void the warranty of these bulbs. Check the details on the product you are using.

Get out there and shop!

November 16, 2014 | Melinda Miles

Upscale bath

Shopping is the key to creating great interiors. You need to see everything there is available in order to be inspired, informed, and prepared to make good decisions. There are five key shopping strategies that will make your decision-making process easier and get you the home of your dreams.

Strategy #1

Shop at high-end showrooms for inspiration. No matter how limited your budget, do not shop low-end stores for ideas. Go to high-end, high-quality showrooms first. At high-end showrooms you will find the newest market trends, latest product innovations, and the best design advice. You may be pleasantly surprised at the selection of beautiful upgrade items you can afford. Any ideas that are totally outside your budget can be translated into more affordable interpretations without losing the impact of the original design. After you have seen the best ideas, you can take what you have learned and adapt it to what you can afford by shopping at more budget-friendly resources, if necessary.

Strategy #2

Shop before your architectural plans are finalized. Finish selections influence the design, and certain selections require changes to the blueprints.  Take into account every piece of equipment and furnishing that you expect to have, and go check it out. Even if it is too early to purchase these items, know what you want and plan to use before construction begins. Waiting  until the contractor actually requires  your final selection information for appliances, plumbing fixtures, lighting, etc. will be too late.

Shop to avoid expensive changes like these:

Changing from an electric cook-top to a slide-in gas range impacts the gas lines, venting, and cabinetry.

Going from a double oven to a single convection oven with a warming drawer can change the electrical locations and the cabinet design.

Sink, faucet, and tub selections can change the location of the plumbing.

Media equipment can affect the electrical plan and built-in cabinetry.

Strategy #3

Shop for every selection before you make the first decision. Shop for tile before you commit to the plumbing fixtures. Shop for granite or other countertop materials before you pick your tile for backsplashes. Shop for light fixtures before you commit to a plumbing fixtures or hardware finishes. Each finish impacts the next, and you might find something down the road that you want to use, that will not work with finishes that were previously selected.

Strategy #4

Shop like a pro. Take photos of every item, layout, and idea you plan to use.  Create visual references so you don’t have to rely on your perception and memory. There are too many details to assimilate.  Get specification sheets, samples, and swatches from every resource, for every product you consider. Carry a measuring tape and sketchpad with you as you shop. Verify sizes, sketch up ideas, and confirm layouts and details.

Create and share your visual aids with the builder, architect, and sub-contractors, to help them better understand the look you have chosen. It is amazing how a verbal description, no matter how accurate, can be interpreted in a dozen different ways. A photo, sketch, or mock-up can quickly convey a concept and eliminate mistakes.

Strategy #5

Shop at local showrooms. Making selections from photos, catalogs, and internet graphics can lead to unhappy surprises and costly mistakes. It is too hard to know the actual color, texture, finish, or subtle details that can make all the difference. Whenever possible, see and touch the real thing.

Beware of color names. They are often misleading. Granite colors vary dramatically from slab to slab, even though the color name is the same. It is important to see and touch the actual slab in natural light. Creative color names like “Mystic Silver” or “Austrian Gold” used for finishes on light fixtures or hardware may not be what you were expecting. Choosing these items based on color names can lead to incompatible finishes and disappointing results.

Building a Custom Home

October 20, 2014 | Melinda Miles

Custom home

A true custom home is a one-of-a-kind product, designed specifically for you, with the style and amenities you desire, laid out to fit precisely on your lot. A custom-designed home has never been built before. Every interior finish will be created for you, the client, including custom paint colors, tile designs, and cabinetry. There is also a semi-custom home, which is easier and less expensive to build. Builders develop several versatile plans that will work for a variety of clients and lots, and they use this plan several times throughout a development. This means fewer surprises and on-site problem solving, lowering the cost. The same money-saving approach is used for the interior design selections, limiting the clients’ options to four or five choices for each finish.  Both types of new homes are handcrafted on site by construction crews, from a set of two-dimensional drawings and elevations. It is a creative collaboration of experienced professionals who combine their talents and expertise to craft a beautiful, high-quality house that conforms as closely as possible to the clients’ conceptualized vision of their dream home.

Behind every new home is a team of talented professionals who take on the challenge of transforming ideas into reality. Most often consisting of the builder, an architect, an interior designer, and a construction superintendent, these professionals use their experience to develop the blueprints and specifications, render technical information and advice on the myriad of decisions that will need to be made, supervise the process, and create the vision of how the finished product will look and function.

What Does The Builder Do?

The Builder, or general contractor, is the main figure responsible for overseeing the entire project.  The builder assembles the home building team according to his unique strengths and focus. There are as many different ways to organize this team as there are home building companies, and every company seems to offer its’ own personnel mix. Some builders are architects specializing in signature home designs, leaving the bricks and boards to the superintendent. Many large builders are primarily developers who focus on planning new communities, offering architect and interior design services on an in-house or contract basis, with superintendents following the day-to-day project specifics. Other builders are hands-on craftsmen who enjoy supervising the construction aspect of their projects themselves, using independent, free-lance architects and interior designers with whom they have established a working relationship. There are builders who leave it up to the client to choose their own architect and interior designer to bring to the project. But, typically builders who don’t offer the design service professionals necessary for a project are able to make referrals for these resources.

Do I Need An Architect?

The Architect draws the detailed blueprints that will determine what your home will look like and how it will be built. These are very detailed and must be accurate as they will lock-in many aspects of the house that are very expensive and problematic to change later. Everyone involved in the project will be working off these plans. An architect needs to be a good listener as he will draw your home according to your wish list of needs and wants. His input as far as maximizing space and traffic flow, as well as attractive design, are invaluable and what he gets paid for, but you determine what goes into the house according to your lifestyle and preferences. The interior designer is often at these design sessions with the architect, and I highly recommend it. Countless details for the interior finish-out have to be considered at this time and will affect how the house is designed and the plans are drawn.

Doesn’t The Architect Design The Interior?

The Interior Designer takes over where the architect leaves off, at the inside walls. The finishes, details, and materials are not usually included in the blue prints. Every component of the custom home’s interior must be selected by the homeowner in accordance with the production schedule to prevent costly construction delays. This can seem like an overwhelming task, so a big part of what the designer does is break this process down for clients, making it a step by step progression with each decision leading to the next. Designers pull it all together, making sure that the all the choices the client has made will work to create a cohesive interior scheme. They also create the special features that give clients’ homes a true custom look, such as intricate tile patterns, furniture-style cabinetry, and faux treatments. They have the skills to assemble samples, sketches, and mock-ups to help clients visualize how their choices are going to look, and the resources to research and locate any unique products a client wishes to use that might not be available from the usual suppliers. Working with a designer allows clients get to make their selections at Trade Only showrooms that offer more cutting-edge design ideas, better technical information, and wider selections than the resources generally available to the public.

What Does The Superintendent Do?

The Superintendent is the manager on-site, overseeing every aspect of the construction process. He manages time, communication, and money. It is his job to make sure that the sequence and timing of the work adheres to the production schedule, the timetable established to build your home by the completion date. He coordinates men and materials so that they are on site at the appropriate time and are staying within the budget. Quality control and building codes are also his responsibility, regularly walking the project with building inspectors or the client. An experienced superintendent has creative solutions to the inevitable problems that arise when a two-dimensional drawing is translated into three-dimensional form, or when the client says, “Oh, I didn’t realize it would look like that!” His technical knowledge and attention to detail are reflected in the quality of your home.




Tips to Create Your Decorating Style

October 14, 2014 | Melinda Miles

Identify Your Personal Style

Gather ideas. Tear out, or “pin,” or “add to an idea book” every picture you see that has even one item in it that resonates with you. It may be a whole room you love, or just one item as simple as a pillow. It might be a kitchen, but you’re redoing your master bedroom. It doesn’t matter. Details from any room that speaks to you can be re-interpreted to fit whatever room you are doing.

Look at enough rooms to create a profile of what appeals to you. With enough idea shopping, your style will emerge and crystallize before your very eyes. There will be a consistent trend in what appeals to you. Specific design elements, colors, patterns, shapes, and treatments will keep showing up in the interiors you are drawn to. This is your style—the look that you enjoy and need to be surrounded by in your home. Use this information as a blueprint for all of your selections throughout the house.

Take style cues from your surroundings. If you are remodeling, look at all of your existing finishes; moulding profiles, wood tones, wall textures, and window styles. What style do the existing architectural details suggest? These elements need to influence your project design direction, and help you make decisions. If you are building a new house, consider any existing furniture and accessories that you will be taking with you.

  • What style are they?
  • What design motifs will need to be accommodated?
  • What color story have you already established?

Make sure everything works together throughout the entire house. While it would be boring for every room to look the same, and certain rooms need to have special features, the overall look and design of the home needs to be coherent. Think through how the finish choices in every room will connect with the finishes in the next areas. Will your selections have a natural flow, or do they make your home look like a sporadically updated rental property?

Seeing the total picture is especially crucial with remodeling projects done over time. Not planning ahead with remodeling causes homeowners to end up with too many different finishes and materials throughout their house. This leads to bad transitions for paint colors, texture, or moulding styles. The worst results are abrupt flooring changes where one type of tile butts directly into another type of tile, or where every bedroom gets a different carpet color, and they are all visible from the hallway that connects them. This is a huge negative factor for resale.

Even if you are doing one room at a time and won’t get to the last room for five years, have a comprehensive plan that includes every room, even that last room and the hall leading to it.


The Secret to Choosing Paint Colors

October 13, 2014 | Melinda Miles

Choosing Paint Colors

Before you pick your paint colors, choose your furnishings for the room. Rugs, upholstery, drapery panels, pillows, accessories, and artwork are the best inspiration for your color scheme, and the easiest method for choosing the right paint colors. Textile and paint companies spend a fortune to research and develop the best colors for products. Most products come in a limited color palette that is the result of determining the most popular, workable, and universal colors, then refining them for the current market trends. Colors that work well together are used in prints and patterns that show you what colors you can combine in your home for the most pleasing effect. These color combinations will show up in fabric, rugs, and accessories, as well as the project materials for your home, and they can serve as your inspiration for your design schemes.

Look to these free sources of expert color direction:

Interior paint colors

  • patterns in upholstery, bedding, drapery panels, rugs, accessories, artwork
  • wallpaper patterns
  • patterned and mosaic tile
  • wood blinds and shutter colors make good trim colors*
  • metal and vinyl window colors make good trim colors
  • standard, pre-mixed paint color schemes from leading paint manufacturers

*If you plan to use blinds or shutters on your windows, it will save you time and money to match your trim paint color to the standard colors of the blinds, shutters, or other window treatment products you intend to use. Not only will you be assured that you are painting your trim a pleasing, universally accepted neutral color, but you won’t be ordering a custom product and paying more just to match the color.

Exterior paint colors

  • metal garage door colors are good siding or trim colors
  • metal gutter color options are good siding, trim, or accent colors
  • standard, pre-mixed paint color schemes from leading paint manufacturers

Occasionally you can’t find the exact color you want on the color palette, and you need to get more creative. If you have narrowed it down to two color samples in the same family, but you just can’t decide between them, try this approach: mix these two colors together using equal parts of each to get an entirely new color that blends the best elements of both colors. This often results in getting the perfect color that is customized just for you. Paint this custom color on a large 2′ x 3′ sample board and put it to the test. See how it looks in daylight and artificial light in the actual room where it is going. Bear in mind that new texture on walls makes paint colors look twice as bright as they will look once there are other colors and finishes in the room. If this color sample works, take that sample back to the paint store and they can color match it to create a formula just for you. The paint store will even let you name your color.

If you do use a custom color, keep a record of the formula, or else you may not be able to match the paint or stain in the future. Some paint stores will keep your formula on file for awhile, but they will eventually dispose of it. An easy way to keep a record of the formula is to take a photo of the label on the top of the can where the formula is printed. Be sure to first write the room name where the color was used on the label with the formula.