Property Potential: How to Find a Great Fixer Upper

Designers wear many hats… and sometimes that can even include a hard hat! Many times I work with client’s who are considering purchasing a fixer property in need of a major overhaul. They will often have me go with them to scout the property to layout design options, identify potential issues if any, and to determine if the existing structure can lend itself to a modern day makeover. Obviously there are a lot of steps to evaluating and identifying whether a property has potential. Buyers can often write off a diamond in the rough because the renovations and unknowns can seem overwhelming. That’s where I come in and help my clients navigate the space to see if we can ultimately construct the home of their dreams from a fixer. Since I’m a professional fixer upper of sorts, I can’t seem to turn off the “fix it” switch when it comes to scouting for properties with potential. The other day I was cruising the neighborhood with my little dude and came across this Spanish Colonial gem for sale.

spanish colonial home pasadena california This home is located in the historic Prospect Park District of Pasadena. It’s walking distance to the Rosebowl and just a short drive from  Old Town Pasadena which makes the location superb! At 4,000 sq ft, and with 6 bedrooms and 4 baths, it’s quite spacious too. However, though lovingly maintained, being that it’s a historic property built in 1922, it is in need of some modern day updating. Let’s take a closer look shall we? spanish colonial fixer homeWith quintessential markings of a Spanish Colonial home, the living room features beamed ceilings and saltillo tile. The french doors give the space a very indoor outdoor feel, which is esssential for SoCal living.Spanish Colonial fixer kitchen The kitchen has an awkward layout and is clearly in need of demo.  Paging the Incredible Hulk….  yeah, um, we need you to do that “HULK SMASH” thing you do… thanks! And in more demo news…. I present to you vintage bathrooms complete with original tile. Sometimes vintage tile can be downright amazing and preserve-worthy, but in this case I would replace it with something fresh but timeless so that it feels straight out of the period of the house.vintage bathroom original blue tile fixer upper home renovation blue vintage bathroom original tile fixer upper

The master bedroom, is spartan, but that’s ok, because I view it as a blank slate. We can probably get by with cosmetic improvements and enhancements without ripping out walls, and perhaps keep the existing floor which looks like it’s been well maintained.   spanish colonial historic home fixer upper master bedroom Ohhh how I’d love to soak in this pool right now! I could do some serious outdoor decorating damage right here. I love that the lush grounds make it feel very private.

spanish colonial home exterior backyard pool If you are considering purchasing a fixer, fear not, there are several tips I can share to help ensure you don’t judge the book by it’s cover! I highly recommend the following:

Check if the house has ‘good bones’. Look at the architectural style and floorplan and consider the potential for the layout. Does the layout need to be changed? If it feels choppy, can you easily create a more open or flowing space by eliminating a wall? Ideal fixers are homes that primarily need cosmetic changes – paint, drywall, refinishing flooring, and even kitchen or bath updates. But, if the location is amazing, the home has character, the lot and space have potential, and the comps are right, sometimes a huge overhaul can be the perfect way to get exactly what you want in a home.

Lastly, consider that sometimes that dream fixer does not necessarily mean dream budget. Often remodels can exceed the cost of new construction if you are creating something that is very specific, detailed, and luxurious. But, I firmly believe the devil is in the details and like most things in this world, you get what you pay for!

But before I go, here is my vision for our sweet Spanish space. I would keep some of the original elements that reflect the period, such as the beamed ceilings, but would update the space into a modern Spanish retreat. Here is this property’s potential…..

White home with Spanish/Mediterranean flair - Large landscaped front yard - Ryan Street & Associates

1926 Spanish Colonial hacienda

Arch over range, countertops, tall cabinets, subway backsplash

modern spanish style. dining I love this idea except the goose would have to be a peacock

glamorous and sophisticated in a very elegant way - that blanket is divine.

beautiful soaking tub white cabinets marble traditionalspanish colonial blue tile beamed ceilings

Riviera Residence - mediterranean - Pool - Santa Barbara - Josh Blumer :: AB design studio, inc.

One of my hugest pet peeves as a designer are homes that are what I call ‘contractor specials’. You’ve seen them – the house has been flipped by someone who has gone to Home Depot and bought everything on clearance and then thrown it together in the house. Then they list the house way overpriced because it has been ‘newly updated’. Ugh! It’s such a travesty because it undermines the architectural integrity and period of the home.

Personally, I love the challenge of finding that little gem that is the most dated looking house in the best neighborhood and doing it the justice that it deserves! If you’re on the house hunt, don’t overlook these hidden treasures! Open your mind and creatively visualize what the home could be with the right kind of finishing touches. Give it a chance, give it a life, and make it a part of yours!


Emily Makers & Tastemakers Unite!

Like any designer with eye candy ADD, I’m a glutton for gorgeous product. I will go to the ends of the earth, virtually speaking anyway, to find the perfect pieces for my personal home and my clients’ homes (thank you internet gods for making this possible!). When it comes to selecting the right decor, it can often come from several sources and take a lot of time and research to scout the best in class. Fortunately, that’s when came into my life and made it so much easier to not only showcase some of my favorite makers of quality goods, but to also allow you to personally shop from my curated boutique! I am a big fan of hand crafted goods. For one, it supports small business, and makers are quite literally, the fabric of our country and our world. Secondly, when you purchase directly from an artist, it immediately gives you a sense of personal connection. The shopping experience is elevated to a different relationship that transcends buyer and seller. You are interacting with the individual who spent careful time preparing and creating a piece for you to enjoy for a lifetime. End of story… and yes, that is the best part; there is a story behind the purchase which makes it that much more sentimental! Ironically, the timing couldn’t have been more fitting, since I just spent the weekend at Renegade Craft Fair- LA, which is essentially an event based version of much of the items you will find on There was so much to see and explore, I literally got lost in rows of fabulous prints, hand made jewelry, beauty products and textiles. Aside from the oppressive heat, it was divine! If you’re fortunate enough to live in a major metro where these fairs are offered one weekend annually, you are lucky enough. For the rest of the 51 weeks a year, is a fabulous way to find these kinds of items from the comfort of your home computer. So let’s take a moment to look at some of the beautifully crafted pieces from the makers that define style, set trends and make, well…. great!

hot pink brush stroke set of 4 cocktail coasters a sensible habit

Hot Pink Cocktail Coasters 

circle and pop navy chasing paper

Navy Circle Pop Wallpaper

gold inverse mini air plant pods sea & asters

Gold Air Plant Pots

triangle series 1 jane denton

Hand Stitched Triangle Art

animals mealtime set bobo ceramics

 Animal Mealtime Set

renee nixon watercolor giclee

Watercolor Giclee

fireflies original acrylic painting diana willard

Original Acrylic Painting

Go ahead, give them some love! Are you digging what I’m dishing? Please visit my boutique to see more of the delicious pieces I’m craving.  For more of my Renegade Craft Fair faves, please check out my Makers & Shakers Pinterest board. You deserve a big slice of style!



YAY for Yellow

Since we’re in the peak of summer, it’s only fitting that my color crush this month is lemon yellow! Funny thing about yellow though- while most people will agree it’s bright, fun and fresh, many are afraid to use this happy hue it in their home! It’s ironic that a joyful color like yellow can also feel like an intimidating color choice when designing a room. Why is that? And more importantly, how do I stop this madness?  When balanced correctly, yellow can totally live up to it’s sunny disposition. Yellow delivers high energy, but it can be the pop of perfection to awaken your room.

Need proof? Yeah, I figured I’d have to back up my claim! And since I try hard to challenge myself and my readers visually, here are some fresh takes on how to use yellow. There will be no tried and true yellow/ gray or yellow/ blue combos here, we already know that works. You deserve to be visually inspired!

Ready? Here are three fresh takes using lemon yellow and how you can get the look at home:



Mention the words yellow and black together and what comes to mind? Bumble bee… run for the hills! Who wants a room that looks like a stinging little bugger? Unless you’re decorating a themed nursery, but that’s a different story.

When balanced effectively, you can achieve a really elegant space with just the right impact. I put together this board to show you how:


By grounding the rest of the room in black and white, yellow can take center stage. The gold fixtures work nicely with the yellow to enhance it’s sophistication. Here are some of my favorite examples of this look.


Jackson Paige Interiors


Emily LaMarque Design Studio


Image Source

When paired with the right combination, yellow suddenly becomes chic, elegant and sophisticated.  Buzz off bumble bee!




emily-lamarque-design-studio-green-chartreuse-yellow-concept-boardI love this combo because it is decidedly vibrant and fresh. These two colors work effortlessly together and feel both clean and sophisticated. Take note though to be careful when it comes to selecting the right green. If the green is too soft, it can come off as juvenile (i.e.: mint green). If you want a rich look, try a deep kelly green or emerald hue as shown here. Adding shiny white lacquer, silvery chrome, or bright brass pieces add that extra bling which will really make the whole room shine!


 Jonathan Adler Interiors



Finally, this combo, perhaps the trickiest to pull off, reminds me of a warm summer sunset; which is fitting given that we are on a sun filled theme! Adding the fuchsia and coral  create a nice balancing act and allows our bright yellow star to take center stage.emily-lamarque-design-studio-fucshia-magenta-yellow-concept-board

8fa4d448359cf1bd3370abc0bac5fef6Image Source 

I’ve been seeing yellow pop up a lot lately in showrooms, design magazines, and pretty much everywhere. Perhaps it will be the new color of the year for Pantone (wink wink)?! Who wants to place your bet on yellow with me? Hey, just like any other gamble- go big or go home! Fortunately a small investment in a yellow object will yield a big impact in your home. Go for it!



Beach Photography

It wouldn’t be a Friday if this Cali girl didn’t have beach on the brain! Maybe you’re lucky enough to be hitting the sand this weekend, but if not, today I’m talking about beautiful beach photography that is sure to take you there in spirit.

When I first discovered iconic photographer, Massimo Vitali, I knew I was completely smitten with beach photography. Growing up in Southern California, spending long days at the beach from sunup until sundown, I can literally close my eyes and feel a day on the beach. These nostalgic photographs pull you in and make you smell the salt air and feel the sun on your skin. They’re all about color, shape, form, and repetition in the visual sense and all about getting blissed out during the summer.

Here’s a round up of some breathtaking beach scenes. Invite these images onto your walls and they will literally become a portal to the pacific!

Massimo Vitali, where it all started for moi…




American photographer, Slim Aarons, who made beach and pool photography iconic…Can’t you just taste the glamour?slim aaron | Tumblr

Slim Aarons



Beautiful beachscapes from Chicago photographer, Judith Gigliottioverhead water series #16 judith gigliotti beach rock ocean swimmers photograph

judith gigliotti beach umbrellas photograph

judith gigliotti beach umbrellas photograph


The latest man to hit the sand, rising star, Gray Malin, who is making beach photography a household staple these days…

Gray Malin Pink umbrellas art deco miami

Gray Malin bondi beachGray Malin australia ocean

And my new favorite, favorite, favorite Cheryl Maeder…I love the ethereal quality of her photographs. I SO want one!
Francesca Ritchey California Dreamin


Cheryl Maeder

Cheryl Maeder Dreamscapes La Mer III

Cheryl Maeder SeaI’m digging a day in the sand and a dip in the ocean, aren’t you? Let the memory making begin!




Defining a style: Bohemian Elegance

One of the main questions that is often asked in interior design is “what’s your style?” It is practically an industry pick up line! We love defining style so much there are even quizzes on the subject. You may have heard of modern, traditional and contemporary before, but you may have no idea what that means and you may not necessarily conform to any one of those standards. After all, your individual style is both unique and subjective. So when my client came to me with multiple style preferences, we decided that her unique style should be called Bohemian Elegance.

I have been working with my client for two years and counting on her home remodel. We have redesigned the bedrooms and added on a new master bath…. more on that later.  Now, we are in the stages of finalizing the plans and designs for a new kitchen, laundry/mud room, family room, game room, play room, office, and guest bathroom. It’s been more of a Phase I and Phase II remodel, and they have even welcomed their third son to the family in the process!

What I particularly love about working with my client is that she is very specific about what she needs and what she needs to avoid. What flies and what doesn’t. But, she is conflicted between her styles. On one hand, she appreciates elegant, refined, modern, clean-lined, chic beauty, yet also appeals to natural, rustic, earthy, grounded, hippy, bohemian, spiritual bungalow style. Two very contrasting concepts! A challenge? Yes! But a very exciting and worthy one.

….And on this day, we give birth to a new style…

… She shall be sharp yet soft, classy yet casual, clean lined yet cozy, she shall be pencil skirted on the weekdays and fringey on the weekends…

…And we shall call her Bohemian Elegance!

Here are some BEFORE Pics for you. A little taste of our jumping off point…emily-lamarque-northridge-entry emily-lamarque-northridge-livingemily-lamarque-northridge-dining-1 emily-lamarque-northridge-family-1emily-lamarque-northridge-family emily-lamarque-northridge-kitchen emily-lamarque-northridge-office emily-lamarque-northridge-office-bath

And here are some inspiration pics that we have been gathering that range in style…

grey toned kitcheneclectic kitchen by Venegas and Company


bright + balanced



white black gray game room


Bathroom. Incredible bathroom with gray herringbone tiled. #Bathroom #Herringbonehorizontal marble stripes

like the window seat with storage underneath

kids built in desk workstation with pencil drawers

Amazing tree house

must be heavenly to lounge in this Balinese style gazebo...

And last but certainly not least is the style board I’ve put together so you can see what’s to come!  If you’re craving more of this design style, please visit my Design Dish board on Pinterest.


As a designer, working with clients is so personal and individualized because every client is unique and has their own style, personality, and way that they live. Tailoring an interior to a client’s specific lifestyle is such a crucial part of the process because that is where the project transforms into something AMAZING – something creative, well-thought, and detailed. Not your cookie-cutter, tract home, contractor-special house flip. It’s the details that define. It’s inspired, yet original, just like you!