Step up ways to utilize space under your stairs

Under the stairs office niche by Sage Design Studio (photo credit: Leslie Goodwin Photography)

Under the stairs office niche by Sage Design Studio (photo credit: Leslie Goodwin Photography)

The space underneath stairs in homes is often left underutilized by designers and builders.  This area in the home is actually a great resource to gain a few more square feet of functional space in your home. The more common but “boring” use of this space includes coat closets and pantries or even a small bath or laundry room; however, I’ve come across some really great projects and found several more unique applications for utilizing space underneath stairs.

Sage Design Studio, Inc. in Toronto, Canada carved out a study niche underneath the staircase shown here. There was plenty of space to create an ample built-in work surface with drawers for storage below as well as open shelving above – a great place to store invoices, statements and other important records in the magazine file boxes shown here. This project also happened to be a basement level renovation that included relocation of the laundry room, creation of a new powder room, and the owners requested a nice playroom for the kids with a TV area as well. This built-in office niche was a fabulous bonus that wasn’t part of the initial plan.

Meanwhile Brillo Home Improvements Inc. (Milwaukee, Wisconsin) completed a basement level renovation and used this space to create a custom wet bar featured here. The bar comes with built-in wine rack, beverage refrigerator, sink, and puck lights underneath the staircase. A stacked stone veneer backsplash completed this niche. Before renovation, this space was concealed with dated side paneling and the room felt more like a dungeon. This transformation was amazing and NARI thought so too. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry presented Brillo with a gold award for this project in 2012.

Brillo’s  under the stairs  wet bar after renovation (photo credit: Brillo Home Improvements Inc and Edmunds Studios)

Brillo’s under the stairs wet bar after renovation (photo credit: Brillo Home Improvements Inc and Edmunds Studios)

Before Brillo’s renovation, staircase space was hidden and concealed with dated paneling.

Before Brillo’s renovation, staircase space was hidden and concealed with dated paneling.

Last but not least I’ve seen several designers use this space to create pet caves or playhouses for the children in the home. If you’ve been pondering a renovation for your home, the internet can be a great resource for ideas to come up with your own unique way to utilize otherwise dead zones in your home. Projects like these can be found on HOUZZ.COM, PINTEREST, Bob Vila Nation, or other inspirational home décor sites online.

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Eclectique Market Celebrates Two-Year Anniversary in Lake Norman


Lillian Vandiver Hoopaugh, Owner Eclectique Market

Lake Norman area Eclectique Market celebrated its two year anniversary in March. If you haven’t visited this small home décor and furniture store yet, it’s worth the stop! Many shoppers claim they have driven past the stores Hwy. 115 location hundreds of times before finally visiting for the first time only to regret that they hadn’t stopped sooner.

This quaint home décor shop carries a variety of vintage furniture pieces and home décor accessories. Not only is its inventory unique, but the prices are very affordable. During my last visit to the shop, there were several eye-catching pieces displayed for sale. The first was a portable wine bar on casters that was constructed from a pair of shutters and hand-painted wood. There was also a vintage Thomasville High Boy chest of drawers hand painted in midnight blue and a traditional dresser by Basset that had been painted in a custom red finish. Not only are these pieces unique, but they were well-made unlike many of today’s mass produced pieces made overseas.


Handmade portable bar on casters painted in red


Vintage Thomasville High Boy chest hand painted in midnight blue

Vintage Thomasville High Boy chest hand painted in midnight blue

Store owner Lillian Vandiver Hoopaugh hand picks her pieces from estate sales, thrift stores, CraigsList, and local yard sales. She used to custom paint all the pieces herself but as her business grew she needed to bring on three additional custom painters and part-time interior designer (Al Bell) to keep up with demand. In addition to furniture, the store carries an assortment of gifts including jewelry, soaps, candles, custom signs, and purses crafted by local artists. Hoopaugh says the soaps were a huge hit during the Christmas holiday shopping season.

Large gift assortment

Large gift assortment

While business has temporarily slowed the past several weeks due to weather, the store expects sales to pick up again with warming temperatures this spring. And even though business has grown significantly since opening two years ago, Hoopaugh plans to keep it small and eclectic at 502-B Old Statesville Road.

Red Bureau


White Bench

Posted in Decor, Decorating Tips, Interior Design, Lake Norman Home Staging | Tagged ,

Decorating with area rugs

area rugs can break up busy tile flooring patterns

Use area rugs to break up busy tile flooring patterns.


If your house needs a fresh new look, you could start with a new rug or two. Not too long ago I found a wool area rug I loved at Home Goods on clearance for $88! Since it was such a steal, I was able to spread out my decorating budget. The rug served as a focal point for a family room decorating project. From here I was able to select paint colors, furniture, window treatments, and other décor.

Not only are area rugs a great way to introduce color to a space and enhance the overall décor, they are also highly functional. They create warmth when installed on hard surfaces such as tile or hardwood floors. When staging, I often use area rugs to break up busy tile flooring patterns. I also use them to define large spaces or open floorplans.  Larger size rugs can define dining areas and smaller rugs can be used to create intimate seating areas.

When decorating with area rugs, here are a few tips:

  • Avoid layering area rugs on top of carpeting. Over time the carpeting will discolor from sun fading and unevenly wear the more permanent carpeting underneath. When it comes time to sell your house, you most likely will need to replace carpeting in this room.
  • If you have new hardwood floors or recently refinished hardwood floors, you need to let the floors cure for an appropriate amount of time before placing rugs to avoid discoloration of the flooring underneath. Shift your rugs slightly every few months to avoid long term discoloration.
  • If you have several area rugs in your home, you want to avoid rugs with busy and competing patterns or styles. For example, you shouldn’t have an oriental style area rug in your formal dining room and a modern geometric style area rug in the adjacent great room. Instead it is best to have rugs that complement each other such as a pattern rug in one room and a solid color area rug of a similar color scheme in an adjacent space. Too many rugs can also create a cluttered look throughout the home.
  • Lastly, consider using rugs of varying sizes or shapes such as a larger or round rug in your dining room and a smaller rug in your living room (for example, a 5×7’ area rug underneath your cocktail table).
area rugs can define spaces in large open floor plans such as this dining area

Area rugs can define spaces in large open floor plans.


Refresh your home by rolling out the rugs in your living space. By following these tips, you can introduce a rug (or two) to spruce up your home, and give it a fresh, stylish new look.

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Interior Stone Trends

Carr family fireplace wrapped in dry stacked stone veneers

Carr family fireplace wrapped in dry stacked stone veneers

If you’re looking to update your home, why not try something different. I’ve seen the use of stone increase in popularity in a variety of applications. Rick and Diana Highter purchased their home in Robbins Park two years ago. Because it was a spec/inventory home, they did not get a say in the products used to finish their home. Now that they are settled, they have started making several changes to make the home their own. Most recently they installed a stacked stone veneer on their island. Not only is it a beautiful, but it is also functional because it aids in wear and tear from people’s shoes when sitting at the island bar. They also installed the same veneer on their fireplace at the opposite side of the room in their open living/dining floor plan concept. Having stone in both areas balances their large open floor plan. For their stacked stone veneer, the Highter’s chose the distinct look of Buck County southern ledgestone. Rick happens to be a buyer for Graco Distributers in Mooresville, NC and purchases cultured stone and outdoor living products for a living. These products get distributed to home improvement stores, builders, lumber yards, and masons.

Buck County southern ledgestone island

Buck County southern ledgestone island

Meanwhile on the other side of town, the Carr family is in the process of making several improvements to their home. Like the Highter’s, they liked the look of dry stacked stone veneers. They updated their kitchen backsplash with the product as well as the fireplace in their great room. The Carr’s shopped very local and purchased their fireplace stone from Carolina Tile and Stone, Inc. on Statesville Road in Cornelius, and their hearth floor was purchased at Surface Products on Northline Drive, also in Cornelius. Their mantle was custom made at Boone Lumber in Lenoir, NC. The kitchen backsplash is from Lowes.

Carr Family Kitchen Backsplash

Carr Family Kitchen Backsplash

If you’re looking for a way to add pizzazz to your own home, consider the trending concept of stone veneers.  Not only does it look great, but it is very functional and versatile. It can be used in a number of applications, holds up well, and does not need to be maintained.

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Less is more when it comes to selling your home

Example of warm, yet neutral Sherwin Williams Kilim Beige

Example of warm, yet neutral Sherwin Williams Kilim Beige

My grandmother in Wisconsin recently mailed me very amusing column clipping written by Joel Stein in TIME magazine called “Decolor My World”. It was essentially a satire piece highlighting the writer’s recent experience of selling his home and working with a realtor and home staging company similar to mine.

Stein jokes that the first problem was their walls were painted in “personal colors.” I want to clarify that the answer is not white to correct this problem. White or vanilla colored walls are very sterile and can be just as bad in many cases as those personal colors. Instead I recommend warm yet neutral colors that will appeal to buyers. I am still having great success with Sherwin Williams Kilim Beige or Universal Khaki. If your rooms are smaller or lack natural light, go with the lighter of the two. I also often recommend tranquil spa-like colors for the master baths and even secondary bathrooms to differentiate the home.

Stein next jokes that he had to take away all his “gross personal stuff” for several months and replace with a way less number of staging accessories. A few years ago Duke University conducted a study on the effectiveness of home staging. The #1 staging principle the participants concluded was that personal items need to be removed from bathrooms. These items include but are not limited to used bars of soap, razors, and toothbrushes. They create clutter, reminds buyers the house is “used” and prevents potential buyers from imagining the home as “theirs”.

The take-away from both his column and mine is that “Less is More” when it comes to selling real estate. Less bright colors, less clutter, and less furniture. Try to create a traditional setting when staging your home to sell – not too contemporary and not too antique. You want your house to appeal to as many buyers as possible of varying demographics.

If you’re not sure how to accomplish this task, you can hire a home staging professional for a one hour consultation. He or she can create a home staging plan that you can implement yourself to save money. The ultimate goal of staging your home is to sell more quickly and for top dollar given current market conditions.

Posted in Charlotte Home Staging, Home Staging Tips, Lake Norman Home Staging, Real Estate | Tagged , , , ,

Thanksgiving Tablescape Inspirations

I was shopping in IKEA mid-October and couldn’t believe the store already had a Christmas tree on display in their restaurant! When I was researching this topic for my monthly home decor newspaper column, most of us were still working on installing our Halloween decorations. Retail stores seem to have forgotten that we had two more holidays to get through before we can begin to think about Christmas.

I’m personally happy about Thanksgiving being late this year on November 27th. That means we get extra time to prepare for the holiday, and this includes planning your tablescape for this very special meal of thanks. I would like to share some of my favorite inspirations I found online in hopes that they will inspire you too!


What I like most about this tablescape is the Fitz and Floyd turkey centerpiece. When it comes to centerpieces, I often visualize hand-crafted floral arrangements, or in the case of Thanksgiving, a cornucopia. I like how she used a colorful ceramic turkey canister as her centerpiece. I also like the warm fall color palette used and amber glass stemware.

blovelyevents-thanksgiving table

This tablescape skips the formal cloth tablecloth and opts for leaf placemats instead. This table also features a turkey in the middle as a centerpiece with a runner of leaf garland, gourds, and wheat. I love how this designer used miniature pumpkins to hold name cards at each place setting in case you’re not sure where to sit.

ladykatherineteaparlor-thanksgiving table scape

This tablescape is also fairly casual but happy with lots of fun and bright colors! This set-up shows how you can mix and match different types and styles of dishware, and the plaid table cloth ties it all together. And here’s that cornucopia centerpiece that I was talking about earlier!



Posted in Home Staging Tips, Interior Design, Lake Norman Home Staging | Tagged , , ,

Hidden Gem Bebe Gallini’s Celebrates 10 Years!

Enchantment for home, garden, and soul…Bebe Gallini’s recently celebrated ten years in business with a “sip and shop” event at their store in Oak Street Mill. Like many other local businesses in Cornelius, construction of the diverging diamond interchange has slowed business for this small and unique retail store. Fortunately the store has many loyal customers that continue to support their business during this down time and helped co-owners Beth Phillips and Carole May celebrate their store’s anniversary in September.

If you’re not familiar with Bebe Gallini’s, you’ll be in for a treat. The store sells one-of-a-kind furniture pieces, home décor, original art, and a large assortment of unique gifts that you won’t find in other stores.  Bebe Gallini’s also features and sells the work of many local artists:

Beth Phillips (co-owner) uses reclaimed wood from former cotton mills to build custom dining tables for sale in the store. She pairs the refinished wood surfaces with varying styles of new legs to create a custom unique table that would look great in any home.

Dining table constructed using reclaimed wood from former cotton mills

Dining table constructed using reclaimed wood from former cotton mills

Sharron Goheen and Gina Kilgour, Cornelius artisans and owners of “Arabella Grey,” a company that creates and sells hand-crafted decorative throw pillows and chairs using recycled fabrics and frames. These artists find their chairs at local thrift stores. They then take the piece all the way down to the frame and rebuild them into new custom pieces of furniture.

Former sleigh bed turned into bench, constructed by Amy Weisharr. Decorative pillow by Arabella Grey.

Former sleigh bed turned into bench, constructed by Amy Weisharr. Decorative pillow by Arabella Grey.

Caroline Simas is a Charlotte artist who has licensed her brand “Multiple Blessings” which is known for inspirational art and faith-based messages. Bebe Gallini’s sells original art by Simas and also carries her Inspirations for Life candle collection. The candles are made by Bridgewater Candle Company, and the sale of each candle helps feed a hungry child!

Amy Weisharr is a local Cornelius artist who owns ” A. White Hare Designs” and specializes in architectural paintings and custom furniture. Weisharr has a refurbished mantle for sale in the shop that she literally saved from a dumpster. When she researched the mantle corbels online, she was shocked to discover that they were worth in the neighborhood of $200 each.  The finished mantle is a bargain price at $475. She also has two refurbished armoires for sale in the store. One she has converted into a wine bar and the other is a French styled reproduction piece which was inspired by Tara Shaw Maison.


French inspired armoire by Amy Weisharr

I encourage you to go check out Bebe Gallini’s and other stores in Oak Street Mill in Cornelius including The Dry Sink or The Marketplace. Oak Street Mill is a former cotton mill and glove factory repurposed into stores and businesses, similar to how many of these artists use reclaimed wood in their projects or turn abandoned pieces of furniture into works of art!


Artist Amy Weisharr with Bebe Gallini Co-Owner, Carole May

This blog post was originally written for Cornelius Today newspaper in Lake Norman, North Carolina.

Posted in Art, Decor, Interior Design | Tagged , , , , ,