As the holidays approach it’s never too late to gain valuable insight on design for your home. There are many things to consider when taking on any home project. In hopes of preventing design mishaps and shedding some light on good design practice, I am featuring “Twelve Days of Great Design Advice” on Facebook at Each day features a recommendation focusing on great design. For my blog, I have consolidated it all so you have it as a resource. I hope you can take this advice and incorporate it into your design plans for the coming New Year.

Design Advice Day One: ALWAYS paint test swatches in several areas throughout the intended room before committing to color! Just because you fall in love with a color from a picture doesn’t mean it will look the same on your walls. For example, some taupe colors can appear more pink than taupe. Color can be tricky so beware! Be careful when you paint a swatch over a darker color. The color and/or change in the finish will show through the paint job unless you sand and prime.

Design Advice Day Two: ALWAYS paint the fifth wall! I have my clients paint their ceilings a shade or two lighter than the wall color. Sometimes I even have them paint the ceiling the SAME color as the walls, especially when using today’s lighter neutral shades. By painting the ceiling you will completely transform the room, make your trim work pop and create a warmer ambiance.

Design Advice Day Three: Never buy furniture until you have measured the room. Once you have the measurements for the new item, use painters tape to lay it out on the floor where you intend to place it. This will provide a true visual gauge whether the items are the correct scale for the space. While you’re at it, make sure it will fit through any entryway, doorway and/or stairs!

Design Advice Day Four: Never buy a “set” from a big-box furniture store, especially if it includes a loveseat. Great design doesn’t come in box sets. I label these types of purchases “temporary” – to fill a short term need. Many of these sets don’t fit well in the room intended. In fact, they usually take over the space. In addition, the quality isn’t great – you truly get what you pay for. The only time I would suggest a client purchase a big box set is when they have young children and plan to replace the set in a few years.

Design Advice Day Five: Never buy furniture unless you can first take home a cushion or fabric sample. Once again, the pattern and color of the fabric in the showroom may not look the same once it is in your home. Different lighting, paint color and flooring can affect the color.

Design Advice Day Six: Never attempt to buy an area rug before you are sure you have the proper measurements. This concept sounds obvious, however, I can’t tell you how many clients have made the mistake of purchasing the incorrect size area rug. If the rug is being placed under a dining table, you want to make sure that the rug is large enough to keep the chairs balanced when pulled out. Also, when using an area rug in a seating area, you want to make sure the rug covers the entertainment space properly – not too short or too long.

Design Advice Day Seven: Never purchase artwork or accessories just to fill a space. Buy what you love and find a space for it. For those of us who aren’t avid art collectors, I am a big proponent of utilizing artwork that has meaning or history. I often ask clients if they have anything personal we can re-frame or re-purpose for the space. Consider artwork which reflects a hobby or interest. Lastly, it’s always nice to look for artwork while vacationing. I have artwork displayed in my home from family vacations throughout the years. From prints purchased from street vendors in France (prior to children) to bright artwork purchased on trips to the Caribbean (after kids), each and every item has a story and a memory associated with it.

Design Advice Day Eight: Never leave subcontractors alone on a renovation. Try to be there 24/7. I understand we all have jobs and to take time off to be on-site can be a burden. However, catching a mistake before it is complete is a great deal cheaper than having to re-do it after the fact. There have been several times on jobs where the subcontractor deviated from the plan and the client and I were able to prevent a mistake before it happened.

Design Advice Day Nine: Limit the number of flooring types! Many of today’s homes’ open floor plans can create havoc on great design. Try to keep the number and types of flooring throughout your home to a minimum. Oftentimes clients purchase or build a home with a standard builder grade flooring. As clients renovate they update the flooring as well. Room by room they change out the flooring. However, failure to use the same flooring makes the rooms begin to appear chopped up and patch-worked. This takes away from the beauty of the open floor plan and flow of the space. Use the same flooring throughout the entire first floor with one or two areas having a large area rug or carpeted space.

Design Advice Day Ten: Never take the lowest bid to save money. Go with your gut. It always knows what is right for you. The old adage “you get what you pay for” runs true. Always obtain a few bids for the job and compare bids objectively.

Design Advice Day Eleven: Don’t do cheap. If you can’t afford it, wait. Use common sense. Some things are great when you can purchase them at a discount, but sometimes you will end up saving money in the end when you invest in high-quality goods. You won’t have to replace them. My words of advice ring true with this, “Do it right the first time.” Sometimes patience is golden and putting off that project for another year or two so you can do it properly will pay dividends later!

Design Advice Day Twelve: Never ever do something because it is a trend. Do it because you love it! Trends come and go but good design stays forever. Invest in timeless goods that will outlast a 10 year trend. Less expensive items like pillows and accessories can be swapped out after a few years. Furniture and pricey renovations you’ll want those to last much longer!

Design Advice – Spring Edition , April 2014

Lately I have been reading a great deal about spring cleaning and selling homes.  This makes sense, after all  spring is in the air and the housing market is picking up. Whether you are getting ready to sell your home or  have determined it’s time to unlock the windows and let the fresh air in, there are a few inexpensive things you can do which can make your home feel and look better.  Two simple changes you can make for your home are in the color and lighting realm.

If you read my last blog, “Design advice for 2014”, I mention the concept of a homes “VISION”.  Your homes vision encompasses the continuity, “the flow” of the rooms, which includes its color palette.  Determining a color palette for your home is one of the first steps you can take in creating an inviting space.  This doesn’t mean that every room needs be a different shade of beige or gray.  It does mean that each room should complement the other or should have  a consistent color element throughout.  This is especially true with todays open floor plans.  There are many ways to bring both warmth and continuity throughout these spaces via  the use of color.  We’re especially lucky today with all of the paint and finish options available.   Now you may think you have to go with the latest fad, but that’s not the case. There are warm whites like Sherwin Williams Fragile Beauty or the cool whites , a favorite of mine – Sherwin Williams Pediment.  These are no ordinary whites , they have depth, feeling and complexity.  So, if you haven’t painted your home in several years and your walls could use a fresh coat of paint, check out all the new paint options. Prior to painting any room, be sure to create a few sample sections and see how the paint FEELS in the room.  Live with it for a few days and make sure to take note how the color looks during the evening (artificial light) versus day (with sunlight).  Are the hues where you want them to be , does the color change and not work with its surroundings?  These are the types of questions you should ask yourself prior to moving forward with any painting job.

A second change you can make for your home is in lighting.  Two lighting options to consider – natural and artificial light.  While the paint color you choose will definetely affect the ambience and weightiness of a room, there are other ways to naturally boost lighting. A great start is by simply cleaning your homes windows!  This is an inexpensive, albeit labour intensive way, to let the light in.  It always surprises me after I clean my homes windows each spring –  how much brighter and fresher my home looks.  Secondly, take into consideration the artificial lighting.  Are all of your lights  original builder grade lights that came with the house when you first purchased it?  You don’t have to break the bank to upgrade a few light fixtures throughout your home.  Don’t overlook energy efficiency when your revamping your artificial lighting. Spring is a great time to boost your homes energy efficiency by replacing old, electricity-guzzling incandescent light bulbs with energy-sipping CFL’s and LED’s.  While these light bulbs may cost more to purchase, you’ll save money over their usable life.  That, plus the fact that the level, quality and color of light they give off far outweighs the small price tag.

Design advice for 2014…

You may have noticed more commercials for furniture sales this month. Companies that sell furniture know your spending a great deal of time in your home during these long, cold winter months (just heard there is another storm on its way!). They also know people are watching more TV now than during the summer months resulting in a captive audience. So, if you’ve found yourself looking at that chair in your family room or the table in your kitchen (whose seen a better day), they’re targeting you! But before you succumb to the advertising, here’s what you should do:

  1. Vision. Take a broad view of the interior of your home.  Do the rooms have continuity and flow?  Does your home feel warm and inviting?  Does it have a common color palette and design elements integrated throughout the home? You may be asking, where am I going with this? Did you ever see a magazine spread and just love everything about the rooms pictured, or visit a home where the layout and design just seem to have a flow and inviting feeling? That’s what you should feel like in your own home. So how do you get there?
  2. Prioritize. Even with the most extensive budgets, by no means should you expect your home to magically transform overnight. If you are fortunate enough to identify what elements your home is missing, you can begin to prioritize what should be done, and determine what it will take. Every purchase, upgrade or change to your home should be part of a master plan. Otherwise you’re purchasing a chair to replace a chair and not a piece of furniture to complement the living space.
  3. Set expectations. Unless you have the coin to buy it all at once (good for you if you do), think of your home as a marathon rather than a sprint. You need to pace yourself, think long term and budget accordingly. But honestly, even with a large budget, creating a truly magnificient space is a process and takes time.  Just like they say “ if it sounds too good to be true, then it is”.  Take the time to do it right, the first time!
  4. Determine a budget and then add 20%.  If you’re an HGTV fan, you’ll notice more often than not, the projects rarely come in on budget. It helps to provide a financial cushion for those “incidentals” that seemingly always appear out of nowhere.  Most people don’t take into consideration all the little things that tend to add up… remember the old saying “the devil’s in the details”.  I recently heard a homeowner actually coin the phrase while installing a toilet.

In future blogs, I’ll go into more detail on these points and provide some examples of my experiences..

Good luck with your next home project and should you consider some professional help, feel free to contact me. At the end of the day, it will end up saving you time, energy… and more than a few gray hairs (which will then need to be colored, further adding to your costs!).


“What I did this past summer”part 2


The exterior of the pool house finished; we have one small problem, the wet summer combined with repeated foot traffic, has created a muddy mess. So, we decided to move forward with landscaping rather than completing the interior. We didn’t want to finish the interior only to be walking through mud to get from the pool to the cabana.

Now the issue – the pool and hardscaping was built 10 years ago. How do we tie the new to the old? How far do we extend the patio off the existing pool deck, with what material, all while having it look like it was original to the pool installation?   The cabana was constructed on an angle in what was grass in the rear corner of the pool area. In addition, adjacent to the concrete decking was a 50′ x 10′ strip of grass which ran between the concrete deck and the fence.  This was a maintenance headache because a hand mower had to be brought inside the fenceline on a weekly basis and created grass clippings, which always found its way onto the pool deck as well as in the pool. In addition, when the grass was wet, any heavy traffic would create muddy areas which would also be dragged onto the pooldeck.  There was also a holly bush which would continually drop spiky leaves onto the pool deck further causing a maintenance headache… and it felt like you stepped on a needle whenever you stepped on one.

My solution – 1.extend and level the bed where the holly bush was and extend an existing EP Henry wall to prevent leaves from dropping onto the pool deck. This new wall/bed would run behind an existing gazebo seating area and provide further ambience in the evenings with led lights. 2. run EP Henry paver patio from the extended bed and pool decking along the fence line, around the cabana. We choose the same pavers, which were originally used in the pool installation and are used in the entry way leading into the pool area.  3. bring in 1/2 yard river rocks to create a river rock base along the right rear of the cabana for exterior storage of  pool toys and floats.  To further add to the design element we mirrored the arches and angles from the pool in the design of the walls  and paver patio/river rock areas (see photos).

We turned an unused “nice” but visually unattractive area into a functional, beautiful addition to our backyard. We knew we did it right when our neighbors asked, “what was here before?” Next, the interior.





Home Staging – what you should know and how it can help you!

Home staging – what is it and how can it help you?

Home staging is the act of preparing a home (and contents of a home) for sale, with a special emphasis on presentation and appearance.  It’s important to realize that preparing a home for sale and staging a home is not always the same thing.  For example, as part of your pre-sale preparations, you might go through the home to make small repairs where needed.  This is an essential step in preparing your home for the market, but it’s not the same as home staging.  Staging a home for sale normally involves things of an aesthetic nature; such as design, organization and overall appearance (as opposed to mechanical or functional improvements).

The goal of home staging is to improve the home’s appearance in the eyes of potential buyers, with the ultimate goal of selling the home more quickly and for the highest possible price.  Staging your home can benefit you regardless of the real estate market you are in.  In a buyer’s market, you will need every advantage you can get in order to sell your home for a decent price, so it’s important to stage your home effectively.  But even in a seller’s market, staging can help you achieve a quick sale for the maximum sale price.

La Bella Casa Interior Designs has partnered with Get Clean Stay Clean to offer homeowners, real estate agents and builder’s advice in staging properties for sale. Our service provides the following:

Step one:  Assessment and written evaluation of the property

Step two:  Provide a prioritized action plan to stage the property for sale.  Specific recommendations and documentation are detailed in the evaluation and action plan

Step three:  Assist in implementation and execution of the staging plan

Primary benefits of Home Staging:

Staging forces you to think like a buyer:  You will be looking at the home as if you were a buyer.  Adopting this perspective early on will help you in many ways when preparing your home for the market.

Staging forces you to organize and de-clutter:  Clearing away shelves, closets and cabinets is a big part of the home staging process.  It also helps with moving, because you will have to pack things away at some point anyway.

Staging increases the likelihood of a sale:  You must do everything in your power to increase your chances of selling.  This will give you an extra edge in selling your home quickly.

Staging reduces the home’s time on market:  The less time a home is on the market, the better.  This is especially important if you will be carrying two mortgages until the home sells.

Studies confirm that in this market, staging is KEY to sale:

Staged houses average a 169% Return on Investment (Home Gain Study)

Staged houses sell, on average, for 17.9% more money than comparable un-staged houses (HUD)

A staged house in on the Market for 85% -89% less time than an un-staged house (RESA)

Staging helps justify the asking price!  If you are in a seller’s market and you price your home correctly, you probably won’t have to haggle over the asking price.  However, in a market that leans toward the buyer, you need everything in your favor to justify the asking price.  Proper home staging can help you justify the ask price by positioning the home more favorably in the buyer’s mind.

Why hire La Bella Casa Interior Designs/Get Clean Stay Clean for your staging needs?

Over 13 years combined experience in the Interior Design and Professional Organization business provides you with the support and guidance you need to gain perspective in today’s unique selling environment.

La Bella Casa Interior Designs has been making homes beautiful for well over a decade.  With her “serious decorating” mentality, Lisa Griffiths takes the time to get to know your family and your home while weighing the needs of the project and taking budget into consideration. Stop updating and “re-decorating,” take the time and effort to do it once and do it right….

Get Clean Stay Clean works with the client to create a new, organized, and relaxing way of life.  Lisa Masciulli can help you determine what needs to go, what can stay and what should be donated.  In our modern and busy lives, organization is the key to sanity!

By combining our organization and decorating talents we can systematically target the “weak” selling points of your home and give you the competitive edge you will need to sell your home quickly.

Contact us at or call 215-287-0764 to set up your home staging appointment!

Lisa Griffiths                                                 Lisa Masciulli

La Bella Casa Interior Designs                     Get Clean Stay Clean 

Staging – tis the season!

Last week I attended a workshop on “staging your home to sell”.  I like to sign up for these types of classes to make sure I am “in the know” on the latest trends for the industry.  I’d like to say the entire experience was enlightening but I still can’t get past the woman in her 80’s who kept obsessing about her quilts…..

I was in a room with about 15 other interested parties and the gentleman presenting turned out to be a realtor. I gathered  his intention that evening was to  obtain new clients, meaning buyers and sellers.  All might have gone well,  if it weren’t for the sweet  elderly couple sitting in front of me trying to come to grips with what they need to do to sell the home they have lived in for the past 50 years.  That, coupled with the fact, the  wife (hereafter referring to her as grannie grace) is an avid, no perhaps I should say, professional quilter.  She brings up the subject about 20 times over the course of the evening.  Apparently, she has a entire room dedicated to the equipment she uses to quilt as well as several hundred rolls of fabric to choose from.  In fact, she states that she never needs to go to the store for fabric, she simply goes to her shelves and chooses whatever fabric she may need for a project.

This is  a “staging your home to sell” course,  so the presentor naturally tells grannie grace that she will  have to box the fabric rolls and store the equipment whilst she tries to sell because that room needs to be staged as a third bedroom.  Grannie grace was extremely agitated by this thought.  She quilts for cancer patients and underprivileged children, she cannot just stop what she does , that’s just not going to happen.  The presenter then remembered a comment from her earlier when she mentioned she had quilts hanging in many rooms of her home.  “These also should be removed” he tells her.  Grannie grace is beside herself insisting the quilts aren’t in every room….”one hanging in the quilt room, one in the dining room, quilts on the beds, one hanging in the basement……”

Enough said!  So this is how I spent my evening.  But even grannie grace and her neverending barrage of questions wasn’t what irritated me the most.  When grannie grace wasn’t asking questions about what to do with her quilts, the realtor went about presenting.  He mentioned  interesting facts about how a bedroom isn’t considered a bedroom unless it has an entryway and a closet (had to have a closet).  He states that a house has to have an oven to be considered a home (not a fridge but an oven).  He went on to discuss the difference between what he may offer a seller as far as staging versus an interior designer. He states “that if a seller hired an interior designer to stage she might paint your walls orange, or whatever was trendy that month. That a designer might recommend a fifty-thousand dollar kitchen renovation versus bare minimum to sell the home”…..

Naturally, I found myself responding to his comments in my head – jotting down key points so I would remember to put it in my blog.  Unless this realtor just has it out for designers, he must have had a really bad experience with an interior designer to come up with these comments.  Certainly he didn’t know that an interior designer is one of the key people a seller should consult with when it comes to staging their home for sale.  First, any good designer would never paint your home orange or any other bright pulpy color  knowing that you intend to sell your home.  Secondly, a great interior designer gets to know you because she wants you to call her again.  She wants your business not the one or two times you sell or buy a home in a lifetime but the endless times you need guidance and advice with your homes decorating needs.  Lastly, a designer keeps pace with the trends and knows when a re-do is a trendy upgrade or a timeless renovation.  Timeless meaning in ten years you shouldn’t have to rip it all out and start from square one again.

Below I have listed my top 5 must do’s in order to sell your home quickly:

1. De-personalize – yes, it’s true!  You need to remove all personal items from the home. That means all photos – on walls, dressers, shelving…everywhere.  You want the buyer to enter your home and feel like they can envision their family living there.  If they see cute pics of you and your kids they are not going to do that.

2. De-clutter – LESS IS MORE!  Rent a storage unit if you must , but pack away anything and everything that is not necessary in the next 2-3 months.  Use the opportunity to do the spring cleaning you haven’t done in years.  Items can be categorized in one of four ways:  Keeper (2 year window – used or tobeused), Donatable (tax write-off), Junk (throw it), and only if it can fit in a small keepsake box: Memorabelia.

3. FIX what is obviously BROKEN – any seller walking into your home is going to pass judgement immediately on how well maintained your home is INSIDE AND OUT.  If faucets drip, a water heater is rusty, walls are dinged, bathrooms are moldy, the yard is unkempt – the buyer will begin itemizing all the things they need to fix and they will not return!

4. Go NEUTRAL – make sure the paint on the walls is NEUTRAL, the carpet color is NEUTRAL, the furniture, window treatments – if in doubt , go NEUTRAL.  Neutral goes with everything so the buyer will know they can move right in and not have to change anything right away.

5. ODOR – you don’t want your home to smell like you and what your family had for dinner last night.  The buyer should enter and there should be no specific odor. Run lemons through the garbage disposal on a daily basis, take the garbage out everyday.  Clean the oven and air out the house daily.  The fresher the better.

That’s a pretty good start – but if you need more help – keep an eye out on my website and blog for new staging packages and a new partnership to be announced between La Bella Casa Interior Designs and another one of my partners in the industry “to be announced”


Keeping an eye out for creative ideas

Once the spirit and elegance of holiday decorating has passed, I wait in anticipation for springs flowers.  During those few lifeless winter months, I am always looking for new ways to bring beauty and life to my home.  I was inspired by an idea to use twine speres with artificial greenery in outdoor planters.  I have to say I have been pleased with the results!  For the two months when my planters would typically remain barren,  they are now filled with whimsy and color in anticipation of springs flowers .  The cover page on my blog is a recent photo I took……