Choosing Your Perfect Sofa by Kimberly Reuther

A colleague of mine at a furniture store used to cajole customers with a spin on an used car salesman pitch, “What’s it going to take to get you in that sofa today?”  It was a nice, light-hearted approach to a process that some may equate to buying a car.  A sofa should be an investment and if chosen wisely, will continue to serve its purpose far longer than it is worth.  But how do you know what is right for you?

My approach to buying a sofa is to think of it like buying a good pair of jeans or the perfect little black dress.  You shouldn’t settle for something that doesn’t flatter you and it should be able to work in many situations.  Here are a few key criteria for my clients:

1.  Fit – This is different than what you might imagine.  I am seriously asking you to make sure it fits through the door/opening/stairs into the room you want.  You would be surprised how many people purchase a large sectional or even deep sofa and can’t get it into the house.  So, make sure you bring your measurements before you fall in love with something!

2.  Function – Consider how you like to use your sofa along with the other members of your household.  Does you husband like to put his feet up on an ottoman, could you do a chaise or sectional?  Do you need a sleeper sofa to accommodate guests? Can your whole family snuggle up to watch a movie?

3.  Fabric – This is important because the fabric often wears out before the sofa does.  Do you want easy maintenance but a soft feel?  Most people love the properties of leather but don’t like the “coldness” or how it feels agains their skin.  How do you feel about slipcovers?  They look better than you think!  Make sure to consult your husband or partner on this as I’ve seen very strong opinions on fabric selection that were unexpected.

4.  Form – Research the construction of the sofa and make sure you have customized the options to your specifications.  We all know 8 way hand-tied, kiln-dried frames are the industry standard for a quality product but there is a lot of variance in the cushions.  There are down and down-blend options and thankfully, a lot of eco-friendly alternative fills on the market today.

 5.  Flattery – Just as with the search for the perfect jeans, what works on your friend doesn’t always flatter your figure.  Evaluate the overall shape and scale of the sofa against other furniture pieces and architectural details in your home.  Does it blend nicely or stand out in a purposeful way?  Is it something you will like for the next 10-20 years or does it feel too trendy?

 Hopefully, that helps you narrow down your options and make an informed purchase that you will love and enjoy for many years!

Happy Designing!

This was previously posted on AT HOME’s website. View the original post here.  You can view more of Kimberly’s work by visiting her website.


by Derek Maschek (MASCHEK design and fabrication, LLC)

The problem; how to create a cost effective “green” home (or any other building) in the St. Louis area, and this includes renovating an existing building as well. This is ground that has been tread aplenty in recent years, and yet remains ambiguous to many home owners and professionals alike for some reason. I hope to simplify and clarify what seems to be an unnecessarily complicated and confusing topic, saving time and effort while hopefully helping to avoid predicable disappointments. As usual, there are caveats (i.e. “it depends”) that can complicate things again, but I think the overall strategy for accomplishing a cost effective “green” home is really pretty simple and straightforward, as it should be. Then again, I have a fairly practical view of the topic, not that I don’t love my trees. But if you are in the Show Me state, seems to make sense to me, to…well, show that it makes sense.

The first thing we need to do is clarify what it means to be “green”. This is an unclear and emotionally charged term, often meaning different things to different people. All the nuanced meanings are related conceptually, but are critically different when discussed and applied in reality.

Many professionals prefer “sustainable”; meeting immediate needs without jeopardizing a future ability to do so. I personal love this term, but it is a VERY high bar to truly accomplish, maybe more of an ideal than a reality. To truly be sustainable, a residence would not only need to be completely independent of any services (domestic water, sewer, non-renewable energy), it would need to give back in order to recoup losses used to construct the building.

Those more concerned with environment than return on investment (ROI) might prefer “ecological”; environmentally friendly in a “living building” sort of way. Look into the Living Building Challenge for more info on this, but prepare yourself for a college PHD-level exercise in research and calculations. This is just out of the realm of possibility for most people and businesses, but cheers to those that attempt it. We love you for you zeal and shall sing your praises to the heavens.

Those less concerned with the environment but are more focused on a quantifiable ROI prefer “high-performance”; basically meaning energy efficient. This is a great term, used more by engineers, builders, and product representatives that sell energy efficient systems. But because of the practical and simplistic nature of it, it is probably also the most befitting my approach. My only regret is its limitation in that it excludes environmental concerns beyond those directly related to energy consumption. To me, that misses the bigger picture of what it means to be “green”, and so I find it wanting.

I prefer to just say “smart”. It’s a better way of designing and building, with numerous benefits over conventional methods, both economic and environmental, and anybody can take this as far as they want to with more or less zeal. Who doesn’t want to build smart after all?! Every situation and client is unique with different wants and needs, opportunities and restrictions. Done right, it’s actually cheaper than conventional construction methods initially and performs better over the long haul to boot, regardless of location. And feel free to throw in as many of the environmentally beneficial products you feel are appropriate, and get a little warm and fuzzy along with the cost-balancing stuff.

In order to determine which variant of “green” is best for you, answer a simple question; is your priority economic or environmental? Most want a balance of the two of course, but only one can and always does prevail. I usually hear something like “we want to be as environmentally responsible as we can afford to be”, which to date has always translated to an economic priority. It is the very rare committed few that pursue “green” driven by environmental altruism, although God bless them and I hope to work with one some day.

Now, I’m begging you to please, please, please be honest with yourself. Your answer is the foundation of an entire design and construction process. Some call it “concept” or your “level of commitment”. Regardless, if it is not addressed truthfully, expect disappointment and frustration, and in all likelihood wasted time and money for all involved.

While I discuss both aspects in this series, there’s definitely an economic priority to my input as that seems to be the usual driving force behind any “green” project I’ve been involved with. Frankly it’s just less messy overall, more easily explained and understood, and filled with less ambiguity. Don’t feel guilty for not being primarily environmentally motivated, as we live in a real world with real limitations. Designing smart is still environmentally conscious, it just acknowledges and embraces the cost-benefit equation.


Prepare yourself by reading my blog on Designing Small is Designing Smart.

great clients = great projects by derek maschek

Frank Lloyd Wright's Fallingwater Masterpiece

As I get ready to do something I’ve never done before (to “blog”), I’ve been pondering what exactly I will be talking about. Let’s face it, blogging is just editorializing, talking about stuff that could be anything from pure opinion to well researched short topics. It’s conversational, topical, ideally informative, and preferably entertaining. One topic continues to rise to the top as an item of critical importance to those of us in the design service profession; the client.

Clients are critical, for without them we literally have nothing to do. Even if we’re designing our own dream homes, some theoretical super “green” high rise, or even a floating city as a movie set, there is a client involved. This client may be imaginary, but there is still a list of wants, needs, and limitations that make up the foundation of the problem that any project proposes to solve. Design professionals are in the end, just problem solvers, so no problem, no solution.

What I’ve come to really appreciate about great architecture, and all its design cousins, is that the resulting physical thing (the answer), while attractive and meaningful, is servant to the problem statement, the question being asked. This question is the foundation of the project, and it lives in the mind of the client, although it is the job of the design professional is to help discover it truly and describe it thoroughly. This is a collaborative process where the design professional is critical, but where a forthright, cooperative, patient, and trusting client is invaluable. Without the client fully embracing their role, their responsibility in this partnership, the designer is limited to making it up and mailing it in.

Fallingwater Interior

As I want to salute and define what it means to be a great client, let’s assume a talented, experienced, and thoughtful design professional is on board. I’ll talk about design process in the future, defining what the differences are between bad, average, and great design professionals.

A great client is an active partner in a process of problem discovery, willing to accept that the initial problem statement may be partially or even completely wrong. “I need a two storey addition on my house because I need a master suite and new kitchen, and it should be built on the back right here.” It’s a great place to start, a very necessary step, but what should happen next is a lengthy and thoughtful process of understanding what is and what needs to be, as well as what limitations and opportunities exist that will impact the project. Afterwards, we may learn that an addition wasn’t necessary at all in order to accomplish a renovated kitchen and a basement master suite.

As we all know, time is money, and thinking takes time. Particular in tough economic times (now), with tight budgets (usually), or with challenging schedules (often) this phase is often truncated or eliminated in order to expedite the next phase (design and documentation). While understandable on the surface, does it make sense to rush into battle without some understanding of your enemy, the field, the weaponry available on both sides, and then of course the role of this battle in the bigger war? It is critical to think before leaping, and that takes time. To inadequately plan is to just roar your battle cry and go charging down the hill and hope for the best. Almost any professional will keep a client out of harm’s way, giving you something safe and functional, something adequate. But such thinking does not make for great projects.

Fallingwater Exterior

A great client also trusts the design professional and the discovery process. If there is no trust, the whole design process is irrevocably broken and the result will be mediocre at best. Trust does not mean being led by the nose or letting the professional have their way. It means allowing the process to work, for questions and answers to flow, and then questioning answers, even when they seem obvious. Depending on the complexity of the project, there could be numerous formal rounds of this, although truly the questions never cease to come until the project is built.

Lastly, a great client is a thinking client, one that challenges their design professional and is willing, even asking, to be challenged themselves. For the process to work best, all parties involved need to be offering up their best, while insisting that their partners are doing the same. You would be surprised how opportunities are uncovered and obstacles are hurdled by honest and thorough collaborative deliberation.

So, what makes for a great client? Time and Patience. Trust. Thoughtfulness.

Done properly, this process results in projects exceeding expectations. You’ll see I’ve included images of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. This is the first time I remember learning of a project achieving such awe inspiring timelessness because a client offered an inconceivable amount of patience and trust to the architect. The client wanted a vacation home that celebrated their family’s favorite swimming and picnicking spot, and trusted Mr. Wright to give it to them while they vacationed abroad. What they got was totally unexpected and completely restated the original problem statement. Their house was built over, on, and around their favorite spot. Their house became their favorite spot.

Fallingwater Exterior

Fallingwater Interior

To read more of the history of Fallingwater, please visit the website.

Please contact Derek via email for more info or questions about a specific project. 

Working With An Interior Designer by Victoria Dreste

Gone are the days of the interior designer who comes sweeping into your home declaring everything hideous and demanding the removal of everything you own.

Today a designer is more likely to meet with you, ask questions about your likes and listen carefully to what you have to say, helping you to discover your personal style.

If you are the kind of person who finds it difficult to communicate what you like but are definite about what you do not like, good. That is a great place to start.

Your sofa doesn’t have to look like every other sofa you see. Furniture, area rugs and window treatments can all be produced to exact specifications. A professional will design and customize your home to define and achieve your style.

Working with a designer gives you the opportunity to purchase from sources that are specific to designers and architects. This bedroom has fabrics and wall coverings from Osborne & Little.

This gorgeous bedroom was customized with the client’s collection of framed botanicals. I also love the rustic beams with the sophisticated chandelier.

This living room setting includes furniture with custom finishes. Selecting specific finishes allows you to design the exact look you want for your home. 

In this sitting room new furniture is mixed with vintage to create a slightly bohemian style.

A mix of furniture and fabrics create a chic dining style. 

With the guidance of an interior designer you can have a home that is your personal style.

You can see more of Vicki’s work here.

Where It’s At: FORM 2011

So, if you haven’t already heard of this amazing contemporary design & furniture show, you may be living under a rock…

Last year, The Luminary Center for the Arts debuted an event that brought hundreds of underground modernists out for speculation and awe.  In a city so unusually traditional, I was amazed to meet a great number  of unique and interesting individuals at last year’s show.  This year is shaping up to be nothing short of a spectacular sequel!

Still not convinced?  Those of you that have attended our monthly “speakeasy” events probably recognize a few names on last year’s list as our surprise raffles.

For me and DesignSpeak, FORM was a huge success.  But more so for St. Louis.  It is so refreshing to see cutting edge design and designers embraced and encouraged.  On that note, I encourage you to either attend or show off your stuff.  We want to see your faces!  :)

Here’s all the relevant info:

FORM is presented by The Luminary Center for the Arts as a forum for exceptional designers to showcase
their work, connect with a community of other designers and sell directly to supporters. Proceeds from the
event will go directly to the designers and to support The Luminary Center for the Arts, a 501(c)(3)
nonprofit artist resourcing platform created for the production and presentation of innovative art, music and cultural projects.

Early bird applications are due April 25th – all applications are due by May 23rd and may be submitted online at For more information, please contact Brea McAnally at

Only 2 weeks left to apply! Deadline for all applications May 30th!

*Booth spaces begin at $200 with a 20% discounts to students and recent graduates.

*100% of all sales go directly to exhibitors

*Exhibitor perks include an online designer listing, 1/2 page full color listing in exhibit catalog, discounts on travel and hotel stay for  our of town exhibitors, exposure to 2500+ attendees and more!


DIY Upholstered Headboard Wall – Part 1 by Andrea Beckman

Every design starts with a vision.  This vision is often inspired by a particular piece you love…a chair, a table or piece of artwork.  Whatever it may be, it begins to set the tone and direction in which you design; but sometimes certain things such as layout or window placement can hinder that vision.

Prior to moving into my new apartment, I had a vision for my bedroom and it included wall lights.  Refined and somewhat industrial looking is what I had in mind.  So when I came across these wall lights (on sale + coupon) it did the trick.  I bought them and set them aside for my future space.

wall lights

Now, let’s fast forward to the apartment that I found and am currently living in…..

Challenge: There is only one wall that works for the bed to go on.  That wall has windows on it…well how about that!  Now where do I hang these wall lights that I am committed to using?


Solution: Create a “headboard wall”.  Build a headboard that has end pieces extending past and in front of my windows.  Mount my wall lights to the side extensions.  To complete the look, cantilever shelving to act as bed-side tables.


My thought…this will create a dramatic focal point that is cozy and most of all, house my wall lights!  When I shared this with a few others, their response was, “And cover up the windows”?  Well yes,  I figure the windows are tall enough where they can still allow for plenty of light in the space, and because they are tall you’re still able to appreciate them.

This is no new concept, but it is new for me and my assistant (dad) to build.  Important Note: Whether or not this turns out is still TBD…it’s not complete yet!!  I have only completed the first phase which is the upholstered headboard.  You will have to stay tuned for my follow up post which will include the finished product.

Now we begin, DIY Headboard – part I, creating the actual upholstered headboard!

Step 1: Decide what you want your headboard to look like.  Is it going to be arched, scalloped, squared?  What material do you want to use…solid, striped, patterned? Do you want to add any details?

Because I knew this would be next to my lampshades and wood planks I wanted a material that would provide a nice contrast.  I chose a heavy textured linen in a charcoal with blue undertones.

My inspiration:

West Elm: Nailhead Upholstered Headboard

When I came across West Elm’s upholstered nailhead headboard I loved it!  It was exactly what I had in mind.  While this headboard is reasonably priced and I’d love to have the ‘real deal’, it was still more than I could afford.  I already owned a huge roll of imitation nailheads that I bought years ago and this would give me a reason to finally use them.

West Elm: Nailhead Upholstered Headboard

Step 2: Create your frame:  We created a frame out of 2×4’s.  Three verticals and two horizontal with an overall dimension of 26″ x 60″.  This is for a queen size bed.


We then covered the frame by running 1 x 6’s horizontally to create the face.  You could also use 3/4″ plywood along with many other material options.  We used 1×6’s because we already had it to work with.

Step 2

Step 3: We adhered 2″ foam to the face and left a 1-1/2″ perimeter along the top and two sides.  We did this to allow for the nailheads.  To attach the foam to the wood we used a heavy duty spray glue.  That baby is going no where!

Step 3

Step 4: We then stretched an inexpensive white backing material to cover and give the backside a finished look.

Step 4

Step 5: We stretched 3/4″ backing material over the foam and stapled to the backside.

Step 5

Headboard with the batting on it.

Head board with Batting

Step 6: Finally the fun part, attaching the fabric….or maybe the not so fun part, five re-dos over!  Because my material had a very distinct weave in it, it was very difficult to keep it perfectly perpendicular and strait.  When stretching it, the slightest pull too hard in any one direction would make the whole thing look crooked and off.  My material also had some natural give to it that made this even more challenging.  The more tout the material the easier!!


Before adding nail heads

Finished product!

Completed Headboard


close up


Stay tuned for “DIY headboard – Part 2” to see the finished product and how it all comes together (cross my fingers)!


Area Rug Inspiration By Victoria Dreste

Thinking of buying an area rug? What will it do for your room?

A rug can define the areas of a large room. It can add definition to a small room.

Color, pattern and texture are important elements in interior design. An area rug can add each of these to a room. A rug. of course is about texture. A beautiful rug over a tile or wood floor adds texture and softness. The texture is also great for acoustics and ambiance.  The texture of the rug will absorb sound and create a more comfortable room.

The color palette for a room can be determined from the colors of a rug you love and purchase. In the rug you will find the colors for walls, furniture, window treatments, lighting and accessories.  If you choose a rug with a strong pattern you can add furniture and fabrics in solids and still have an interesting room.

A rug with a pastel palette enhances the look of this creamy white room.

The deep green of the walls is an accent color found in the Peacock patterned rug.

The classic key pattern is updated for this contemporary rug.

A beautiful blue fretwork pattern adds elegance.

The green leaf pattern with a brown background grounds the room and establishes the color palette.

A monochromatic modern setting is brought to life with a bold, bright area rug.

A traditional Ushak pattern in deep blue is a wonderful contrast to the aged pine table.

A rug with a lovely floral pattern is complimented by deep teal walls and white furnishings.

In this room the rug is there to compliment the beautiful, rich wood of the walls and furniture.  The pattern is interesting but it doesn’t overwhelm the space.

The vibrant swirl pattern adds boldness to an otherwise sedate room.

Modern elements in a traditional setting bring an updated, fresh style.

When adding an area rug find one that you love. You can design your room around your amazing new purchase.

Photos from The Rug Company You can see more from Vicki here.

5 Questions with Ann of Expressions Furniture by Victoria Dreste

In our effort to get to know our local resources, Vicki asked Ann Tipton, who owns Expressions Furniture, to answer a few questions about design & what she appreciates in most in life.


Vicki:  What in your background brought you to this business?

Ann: My sales experience started in media. I was selling air time for radio.  Sales is natural for me. It is the family business. My dad, Charles Tober, owned retail businesses for many years.

My first contact with Expressions was as a customer. I purchased furniture for my family’s new home. It didn’t take long before I wanted to work there. I loved the furniture.  Retail! At first I was part time ( I started when I was pregnant). After a few years I became full time. The combination of design and sales was great. A few more years go by and I was interested in being the owner of Expressions. I talked to the owners and eventually it happened.

V:  What inspires you?

A: I am inspired by people, by listening to them and finding out what they want. I like figuring out what someone else likes.  That they would come to me to give them what they want is always inspiring.

V:  What trend do you like?

A: Linen. Linen is a timeless trend. It is relaxed and natural. I especially like the classic, elegant look of blocked prints on linen.  That is a trend that could go on forever.

V:  What can’t you live without?

A: Candy especially jelly bellies, hot tea with cappuccino foam, telling stories and making people laugh, my kids; they’re older now but I still like knowing they are there.

V: What advice do you have for someone wanting to purchase new furniture?

A: First I would say—Come to Expressions. You will be inspired. It is not a big box store; it’s more of a boutique. You will receive guidance from design professionals in the store or in your home. We offer selections on style of furniture as well as size, fabrics, trim and finishes. You will make the furniture your own, not what someone else thinks you should have. You will stay true to yourself and have fun finding and creating your furniture.


guest post: Luminary Patrons GET ART by James McAnally

Introduction by Kimberly Reuther:

DesignSpeak is committed to supporting local organizations and interior design. I founded it with the goal of connecting homeowners with our local resources and talented designers and I am already pleased with its success. A connection of mine recently introduced me to the owners of The Luminary Center for the Arts, Jame & Brea McAnally. I was immediately enamored of their vision for the artist community and felt it was very similar to my goals for DesignSpeak. However, they are way ahead of me! Here is one of James’ programs for local artists. I thought it would be great for our readers to learn about another way to give back to the community!

Without further ado, here’s James McAnally’s program, in his words.

luminary patrons get art

The Luminary’s Patron Program is an innovative approach for individuals and organizations to support the creation of new work while establishing lasting relationships with some of the most talented emerging artists. The program puts the patron in direct relationship with the artists they are supporting, allowing them to follow the process of the work being created as well as growing a deeper understanding about the process of artmaking. Through this process, patrons come to ‘get art.’


For the same amount that one would spend on a single piece of art, an artist’s time in The Luminary’s Residency Program is subsidized, allowing an entire body of work to be created, as well as giving them access to many other resources and opportunities provided them during their residency. In addition to dedicated studio space and financial support, The Luminary’s staff mentors the artists, advocates for them in the art world, and helps the artists to advance their career through individualized professional development plans. With the Patron Program, we also connects them with much-needed relationships with collectors, interior designers, architects and more who are invested in their career on a personal and professional level.


The artists in The Luminary’s Residency Program are consistently among the most exciting emerging artists working today. Recent applicants have been drawn from 5 continents and have shown at some of the most prestigious institutions in the world. However, what makes our program unique is that we intentionally work with artists in the early stages of their career, whether through our annual MFA/BFA graduate program or through the open application process targeted at emerging artists.

Research has showed that fewer than 10% of artists continue their work 10 years after school. Due to lack of support, too few opportunities and the absence of an active community, 90% of all artists are led to quit making altogether. Investing in emerging artists through opportunities such as The Luminary Patron Program ensures that artists continue pursuing their craft and lay foundations for continued growth.

how to get involved

How to get involved:
If you are interested in becoming a Patron, contact us at to begin the process. We work with each Patron to identify what kinds of artwork would be of interest and send images of available work as they arrive. A typical residency lasts between 3 and 6 months and requires $150-$200/mo for local artists and approximately $300-$500/mo for national and international artists. As a 501(c)(3) organization, we are also able to offer partial tax write-offs for in-kind and cash donations. Our Patrons ensure that great art thrives and new ideas flourish. The Patron Program allows that direct interaction that sustains dialogue and changes both the patron and the artist.

Inspiration to Design: Orchid Flower by Victoria Dreste

Bountiful color is all around us. I have a new favorite color at least once a week. Taking these glorious colors and using them in your home can be a bit tricky.

I have put together inspirations and designs to show how to take the wonderful color you see in the world around you and bring it into your home.

Inspiration Photo

This inspiration here is glorious orchids with strains of vibrant color from pink to purple. They also show softer colors, orchid, white, gold, cream and taupe.


Color Scheme Design

The selections I have made take those colors and use them to create a well designed balance home.


The design includes (left to right): an embroidered silk fabric, creamy velvet, brush fringe, small scale stripe, lattice wool carpet and a printed damask on linen.

The Sherwin Williams paint colors can be used in rooms as vibrant wall colors or soft colors with vibrant colors as accents.

Listed in order (top to bottom, left to right):

SW6274 Destiny

SW6977 Queenly

SW6128 Blonde

SW6555 Enchant

SW7009 Pearly White

SW7064 Passive


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...