Holiday Gift Guide 2020

The holidays are always a special time. But after a year like we’ve had, we’ll all cherish the coming weeks more than ever, no doubt. This year, the Centered by Design team has put together a décor-focused interior designer gift guide to share with you.

On top of all the decorations and lights and celebrations, I always love the holidays because of how much I enjoy buying gifts for people. Gifts are such a personal, nice way to show loved ones how much you care about them. I think a lot of people get nervous about buying décor for someone else because they’re worried it won’t “go” with their home or fit their style. That’s why each piece we’ve curated here is meant to be classic and timeless — and to fit perfectly into anyone’s space.

And if you still can’t decide for the choosiest loved ones on your list, you can’t go wrong with a book. We’ve included some of our favorite selections below for the Entertainer, the Decorator and the Art Lover.

 

For the Entertainer

interior designer gift guide 1 Glo Linen Placemat, $29, ABC Carpet & Home 
A set of these neutral placemats makes an elegant table setting you can dress up or down.

2 Itza Wood Gathering Tray, $98, Bloomist
Whether it’s used to wrangle keys, cell phones and masks or added on top of an ottoman with a vase of flowers, this simple tray is always chic.

3 Color Key Rectangular Tray, $84, Jayson Home
This multicolored tray is pretty enough to stand on its own or gather odds and ends on an entryway table.

4 Beldi Glass Collection, $5-$34, Jayson Home
We love these multifunctional pieces, which can be used as decor or actual servingware.

5 Key Bottle Opener, $48, Jayson Home
Jazz up your wine ritual with this snazzy opener that’s sophisticated enough to leave out on the bar.

6 “Barefoot Contessa Parties,” $23, Amazon
You can never go wrong with Ina Garten, the woman who gifted us all giant cosmopolitans during quarantine.

Wood Gathering Tray from Bloomist


For the Decorator

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Meet Our Design Team!

Chicago interior design firm

You know the old adage, “it takes a village”? Not only about raising children, this holds true at Centered by Design, too. Far from a one-woman business, I have to hand it to my amazing team that helps to make our Chicago interior design firm a success. I truly could not do what I do without this crew, who inspire both our clients and me every single day. We thought it would be fun to get a little personal today and share more about who we are, how we got here and what makes our design-loving hearts flutter.

Claire Staszak

Title: Principal, Owner and Creative Director

Chicago interior design firm

What I actually do: As a small team, we all wear a lot of hats! I consider myself part entrepreneur, part creative director and part personal renovation coach at our Chicago interior design firm.

Where I grew up: North Shore of Chicago

Education: BA in psychology and journalism from University of Dayton; certificate in kitchen and bath design from Harper College; and several years in the business learning the ropes (this is where the real lessons are learned!).

How I got into interior design: In my late 20s, I felt unsatisfied in various jobs I’d held. I worked in marketing and events for REI, and development and marketing for a local art center called Lillstreet. Long story short, my now-husband and I took a year sabbatical to live and travel in Australia and New Zealand. All the down time during our travels made me realize I was extremely creative and visual and that I wanted to be an entrepreneur/business owner. When we returned stateside, I went back to school and started this blog at the same time. Centered by Design naturally grew as I gained experience and eventually went out on my own.

Favorite color palette: I could never pick just one! One of my go-tos though is classic black and white; it looks good with a pop of any color. I’m also always drawn to blues, greens and pinks.

My personal design aesthetic: I like to think of Centered by Design as old souls creating timeless interiors, helping you find your personal sanctuary. We design based on the client and the architecture. I’m driven to help people determine how they want to live and what feels like sanctuary to them. Sanctuary is not reserved for the yoga studio or mountain top—we can derive a great sense of peace from our home. This can look colorful and bright to some clients, or neutral and soft to others. My aesthetic comes from training my eye over the years and understanding what does and does not work in a space. We also love millwork, antiques and designing spaces to not feel brand new.

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The Warwick Reno – Fall Home Tour 2020

Chicago+Bungalow+Centered+by+Design

Today I’m excited to share our fall home tour! But first, let’s talk about 2020. It goes without saying that this has been a really tough year for everyone. Now that we’re nearing the holiday season, I’m looking forward to what positivity and newness 2021 will bring.

This year was one of great hardship and change, but I’ve been looking for ways to find the silver linings— namely, more time with family and to think about how to design the best spaces to fit our lifestyle. Since we are all spending much more time at home lately, I decided we should update ours — a 1932 Tudor-style brick bungalow in Chicago — and bring some more happy patterns and colors into the house.

One of the things I was missing from our current design, I realized, was nature. Sure, we had greenery sprinkled throughout the rooms, but we live in the city, and it’s hard to get out and truly feel like you’re getting away from it all. So I decided to find ways to bring nature into our home instead to try to recreate some of those blissful, relaxed feelings I get from spending time outdoors.

fall home tour

I thought it would be fun to give you a peek at the updates we’ve made in 2020. While not a ton has changed since our last home tour — mainly, just the dining room and the playroom, with a few furniture swaps here and there — doing this made me remember how enjoyable it is to photograph your house every few years, if only to help you see it in a fresh light. One thing I discovered through this process: Redoing even a single room can give your entire home a lift.

See what I mean below — I hope these ideas inspire you!

Fall home tour

How We Updated Our Dining Room

Previously, our dining room was centered around casual elegance. I brought in blush, black and gold tones mixed with sophisticated patterns (Greek key and marble) to make the space interesting, but the walls were medium gray and I was craving more pattern and color. My goal in updating the dining room was to bring the outdoors in! And to also help it to feel more cohesive with the living room, which has touches of green already. Read more about my wallpaper choice here.

Fall home tour

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Willa’s Playroom Reveal

Chicago_Bungalow_Centered_by_Design

Today, we’re talking all about playroom design, and I’m going to take you behind the scenes in my daughter’s special room. The first thing to know about our playroom is that it wasn’t always a playroom! Originally, this space in the back of our house was my home office. Because it’s right off the kitchen, it became a natural place to have our daughter, Willa—who’s now two-and-a-half—play, as I can keep an eye on her while making breakfast, dinner, etc.

When we started calling it a playroom, though, we never really made any updates specifically for her. We’d just thrown a changing table and some shelving in, added a rug and tons of toys. It still had my office vibes and once we were stuck inside so much due to COVID, I wanted to remake this room into a happy space that felt more intentional for Willa. Take a look at the design board, below.

 

playroom design

Choosing a Playroom Color Scheme

Red is her favorite color, and I knew that her cousins already had a super-cute red kitchen from Pottery Barn (similar here) that we wanted to bring into the room. When I came across this wallpaper from Schumacher, called the Carly, it felt so happy and ’70s. It went great with the red theme, without being too red—almost a sophisticated yet playful take on the color. This was important because even though it’s no longer my office, I spend a lot of time in there, too, and wanted it to be a room that would be a pleasure to be in.

playroom design

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Our Greatest Hits: Wallcoverings

cole and sons fan wallpaper black+white

Not sure what to do with your blank walls? Wallpaper is a great place to start. It’s majorly back in style, and a far cry from your mother’s harvest apple border and stripes. Plus, the options available now are nearly limitless. In addition, the color palette set by wallpaper can help you pull other elements of your room together, resulting in a designer-worthy space that will bring joy and inspiration to your home.

Are you are looking for the best places to buy wallpaper, along with art, pillows, bedding and more? Check out Our Favorite Resources for Interior Decorating, where you’ll get details on more than 65 unique sources (with links!) to get that designer look in a range of interior styles.

12 Best Places to Buy Wallpaper

I often get asked about the best places to buy wallpaper and I’ve used a TON of it over the past few years. Today I’m sharing more than a dozen of my favorite sources with you. Below are my favorite spots to shop wallpaper and lots of links for more information. Happy pattern hunting!

My No. 1 piece of advice for wallpaper is to not be afraid of patterns! Do your research and spend time looking at and figuring out what types of patterns you love. The one you choose should ultimately be one that you want to spend a lot of time with. Even small spaces can benefit from a jolt of pattern and color (see these ideas from another favorite source Common Room).

If you’re nervous about committing to a wallpaper, or you are a renter you can try many of the peel-and-stick options available. My favorite source for peel-and-stick wallpaper is Chasing Paper.

If You Love New Traditional Style Try:

Cole & Son – Manufacturers of fine printed wallpapers since 1875.  The Cole & Son archive consists of approximately 1,800 block print designs, 350 screen print designs and a huge quantity of original drawings and wallpapers, representing all the styles from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. Amongst these are some of the most important historic wallpaper designs in the world. Cole & Son has provided wallpapers for many historic houses including Buckingham Palace and the Houses of Parliament.

Centered by Design Portfolio, Cole & Son Feather Fan wallpaper

Centered by Design Portfolio, Cole & Son Feather Fan wallpaper

Morris & Co. – “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” —William Morris

Read all about artist, poet and figure of the Arts and Crafts movement, William Morris and his talented daughter May Morris in this blog post from last year on the launch of their latest collection.

Centered by Design Portfolio, Morris & Co. Pimpernel wallpaper

Centered by Design Portfolio, Morris & Co. Pimpernel wallpaper

Centered by Design Portfolio, Morris & Co. Pimpernel wallpaper

Centered by Design Portfolio, Morris & Co. Pimpernel wallpaper

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How to Update a Kitchen Without a Total Gut Rehab

North Shore kitchen, after - Centered by Design

A major kitchen renovation usually means a major investment. While a brand-new kitchen designed to fit your family’s lifestyle is a wonderful addition to your home (and a good return on investment should you decide to sell), you can also update a kitchen to improve the look, feel and functionality of your existing one.

Especially while homeowners might be feeling a little more budget-conscious right now, in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, updating your kitchen without a total gut rehab is a smart thing to do. It might cost half (or less!) of what an entirely new kitchen would be, and the results can be seriously impressive.

How do you know if a kitchen update, versus a renovation, is right for you? The key is in the layout. If you feel like your kitchen floor plan is already good and functions well for you—and if you have good quality cabinets, as well—then there are many updates you can do to create a fresh new kitchen.

Here, I’ll walk you through nine ways to update your kitchen working with a smaller budget and an interior design mindset to help you get your dream space.

butler's pantry

Vintage Cutch Colonial, Centered by Design

Paint your cabinets.

This is the No. 1 high-impact update. I recommend you hire a professional to do this, and get referrals, as cabinet painting is different than regular painting (and not every painter offers this service). You want to look for someone who specializes in cabinetry and millwork—ask friends and family for referrals. Painting cabinets works best when you already have solid-wood, high-quality cabinets and you’re planning to keep them for another 5-10 years or so. (Note: Don’t try this if your cabinets are particle board or MDF.)

Do strategic cabinet surgery.

I’d strongly recommend working with an interior designer or a cabinet-specific showroom or builder on this update, as it’s usually not something a homeowner can do on their own (unless you’re a skilled carpenter!). Think of cabinet surgery as a way to go beyond painting to change the functionality of your kitchen by making tweaks to your existing cabinet footprint (i.e., hanging doors on open shelving, or vice versa) that will work better for your needs.

North Shore kitchen, before

North Shore kitchen, before

North Shore kitchen, after - Centered by Design

North Shore kitchen, after – Centered by Design

Remodel (or add) an island.

An island can really change the feel of your kitchen. If the perimeter of your kitchen is working well for you, then thinking about changing your island in some way—whether that’s painting, adding a different top or doing a form of cabinet surgery on any shelves or cabinets—can freshen up the space. It’s less costly than replacing your cabinets, too.

Below you can see two different applications for changing your kitchen island. In the North Shore kitchen (with the blue island) we painted, re-stained the butcher block and added new hardware. The all wood kitchen needed a new island and we choose to design something new and more modern, but that fit within the existing space and layout.

North Shore kitchen, Centered by Design

North Shore kitchen, Centered by Design

North Chicago kitchen, before

Lincoln Square Kitchen – before, Centered by Design

North Shore kitchen, Centered by Design

Lincoln Square Kitchen – after, Centered by Design

Get new appliances.

Appliances are very personal—what works best for you depends heavily on how (and how often) you like to use them. In many kitchen renovations, appliances are chosen first and the kitchen is designed around the appliance list. But if you’re thinking about replacing an appliance, whether due to age or functionality, it’s may also a good time to update your kitchen. This way, you can consider the appliances you really need or want and how to make that work in your space, versus trying to find a new appliance to fit in your existing space.

Lincoln Park Kitchen, Centered by Design

Install new countertops.

Another super high-impact, big change that will give you a good return on investment if you sell is installing new countertops. Almost everyone these days wants quartz countertops, which is a man-made material that’s very stain resistant. It may cost you anywhere from $5,000-$15,000, so you’ll need to have a larger budget to consider this update. But again, it’s going to make a huge difference in your kitchen.

Change the backsplash.

This is a project that could be done in a long weekend, and you might even be able to DIY it. The backsplash is a great spot to add pattern and color to an otherwise-neutral kitchen, too. If you don’t know what you’re doing or don’t feel confident you’ll be able to get professional results on your own, hire an installer.

Switch out your hardware.

The easiest kitchen update you can do, switching out your hardware can be done in a day if you plan ahead. You may not realize just how many knobs and pulls are in your kitchen until you look into making this update. I always say to count three times and make a drawing so you’ll be sure you buy the right amount for what goes where! (Find more detailed instructions on how to count your hardware in our Insider’s Guide to Kitchen Design.) Be sure to do your research on what you’re looking for and determine your price range. You can find great hardware at Home Depot, or you can spend tons of money on luxury hardware. It all comes down to the look you’re after, hardware can be a great place to save or to splurge!

North Chicago kitchen, after

North Chicago kitchen, after

Replace your vent hood.

If you have a kitchen where the hood can be changed, that can be a great visual improvement, as a hood can act like a centerpiece of the space. This is something that will require the help of a contractor or a handyman, because it’s not as simple as just replacing the hood itself—you’ll need someone who understands all the pieces that make it work, including the blower and the liner, plus how it vents! You might want to work closely with your appliance vendor to understand what you need functionally in your kitchen while transforming the look of it. (Of note: If you have a microwave over your range, it’s often in a cabinet and it can be more complicated to “swap” to a hood design). It really depends on the upper cabinet layout. Consult a professional on this one!

North Shore kitchen, before

North Shore kitchen, before

North Shore kitchen, after - Centered by Design

North Shore kitchen, after – Centered by Design

Swap out lighting.

Lighting can really make a statement in your kitchen, and it’s so easy to switch out if you already have the electrical in place. You can swap out pendants or decorative fixtures pretty simply on your own, but if you’re doing a bigger overhaul (i.e., adding or reducing lighting), you’ll need to work with a designer or good electrician to put together what’s called a “reflected ceiling plan,” which will show the placement of all light fixtures. Be sure to check the temperature of your bulbs when you’re replacing fixtures, as well. I like to use 2700K bulbs, which mimic natural daylight. If bulbs are too warm or too cool, it can throw off the vibe in your space.

We love to play with scale when thinking about lighting. Sometimes going big or going small on purpose helps create an interesting design. There is no perfect size for lighting, but I think these tips from Circa Lighting are really helpful.

Lincoln Park Kitchen, Centered by Design

Cover of Insider's Guide to Kitchen Renovation Questions

If you want even more in-depth tips on how to update your kitchen without a total gut rehab, take a look at our Insider’s Guide to Kitchen Design. This 50-page PDF is packed with advice and all the answers to your questions about kitchen renovations from an interior designer, and will walk you through the kitchen renovation process, step by step. Get a copy here.


Your Kitchen Renovation Questions, Answered in Our New PDF Series

At Centered by Design, we’re big believers that interior design—including all those kitchen renovation questions you might have—doesn’t have to be complicated. And even if hiring an interior designer isn’t in the budget for you right now (or perhaps you just really love to DIY), you should have access to tools and resources that can help make your home—and your life—more beautiful. That’s why we’re thrilled to announce the launch of a big project we’ve been working on: Designer Advice Made Simple.

White kitchen

What is Designer Advice Made Simple?

A collection of thoughtful, educational PDFs (plus interviews with industry pros and an accompanying IGTV video series), Designer Advice Made Simple is all about equipping you with the expertise you need for improving your home, from style guidance to practical advice on renovations. We developed this series to help answer many of the most common questions we get when working with homeowners on renovations and interior decorating, drawing on our depth of experience in the Chicago interior design world. 

butler's pantry

Who is Designer Advice Made Simple for?

If you don’t have hours to spend on the Internet researching questions about a kitchen renovation and want the help of an interior designer—at a fraction of the price—these PDFs are for you. The advice we’re providing through Designer Advice Made Simple is all-encompassing, designed to help homeowners in any stage of life envision and execute the look of their dream home. Our hope is that novice decorators, or anyone doing a kitchen renovation, will find valuable insights in these PDFs.

bedroom with gray nightstand

What does Designer Advice Made Simple cover?

Our largest, most comprehensive PDF is all about kitchen design, one of our favorite areas of expertise. In the Insider’s Guide to Kitchen Design, you’ll get 50 pages packed with interior designer advice on renovating your kitchen, from planning and budgeting to construction and the finishing touches.

We’ve laid out this PDF in a way that feels friendly and accessible, like you’re learning from a friend who happens to be an interior designer. We believe that design shouldn’t feel overwhelming or stressful, but curated, personal and fun—and this PDF will walk you through it, step-by-step, to help make the process of renovating your kitchen enjoyable, and the results just what you dreamed of.

Cover of Insider's Guide to Kitchen Renovation Questions

Already have your perfect kitchen? That’s excellent! We have more resources that might be helpful to you in other areas of your home. For example:

Our Favorite Resources for Interior Decorating

Stop scrolling Pinterest endlessly when you learn interior designers’ favorite sources for sourcing wallpaper, art, pillows, lighting, bedding and more in this must-have guide. Included in this PDF are more than 65 resources—at varying price points and styles—to get a designer look throughout your home.

favorite interior designer resources

Insider’s Guide to Decorating with Color

We’re all staying at home more than ever. If your neutral walls are feeling less than inspiring lately, turn to this PDF guide for an interior designer’s paint color recommendations for every type of room—plus an explanation on paint sheens and how color can transform the feel of a room.

guide to decorating with color

Insider’s Guide to Decorating with Window Treatments

Windows can feel like a blank canvas—and also overwhelm when it comes to decorating. If you’re stumped on drapery styles, Roman shades and pleating (to name a few), these PDFs will demystify window treatments and help you to find the best style for your room, as well as provide tips on installation.

decorating with window treatments

You can shop the full collection of our PDF design guides here

Want to learn more about why Centered by Design is a top resource for kitchen design and renovation? Check out this post from DIY Playbook, who we recently worked with on a top-to-bottom kitchen redesign. You can also get more free kitchen advice by tuning into this Q&A on DIY Playbook’s Instagram with our founder and owner, Claire Staszak.


Kitchen Design Essentials with Studio Dearborn

August 23, 2020 Interviews 0 Comments
white kitchen cabinets with wood island and vintage runner

If you’re a regular around here, then you know that our team is no stranger to interviewing our fellow talented interiors designers! In fact, we relish the opportunity to get an inside look at where our industry peers are finding inspiration and learning about what makes them tick. Today we are so excited to share our interview with Sarah Robertson, design founder and principal of Studio Dearborn, who has built her kitchen renovation and design firm by mastering storage and organization while never sacrificing form for function. In other words: She’s our kind of gal.

griege kitchen cabinets with chevron wood fridge

On top of her obvious talent is admirable work ethic that has earned her industry-wide recognition, including back-to-back 2019-2020 wins in the National Kitchen and Bath Association national design competitions for Overall Kitchen Design. It doesn’t stop there, though. Her work has also been featured in House Beautiful, The Washington Post, Apartment Therapy, Luxe, and HGTV Magazine (among others).

Have I convinced you that she’s the real deal? I thought so! Keep scrolling for some tried and true kitchen design tips from Sarah, and don’t forget to follow her on Instagram for plenty more inspiration.

blue kitchen cabinets and tiled stove backsplash in an eclectic kitchen

What are your top three pieces of advice to someone starting their very first kitchen renovation or remodel?
1: Invest in the planning process–it requires time to conceive the best layout for your kitchen, and a designer cannot do all the heavy lifting for you.  The layout is critical, and I see a lot of clients getting distracted by finish selections–tile, lighting, hardware–the fun stuff.  The layout is what is really going to make or break a successful renovation.

2: Invest in top quality cabinetry–Kitchen renovations are expensive, and its easy to try to save money by going with less expensive cabinets.   But in the long run, you will get much more longevity out of quality cabinetry, and I just don’t think the savings, in terms of the overall budget, really justify the loss in functionality and quality.  I try to encourage people to go with fewer cabinets, not cheaper.  Better cabinets minimize air space and can hold more stuff!

3: Expect headaches and stress. Kitchen renovations are complicated, time consuming and expensive.  But on top of that, I think they are emotionally challenging.  It feels a bit like open heart surgery for your home.  And I think that aspect can take people by surprise, and the stress and emotions can make the entire process harder, and the entire team miserable.  It’s important to acknowledge the stress rather than brush it off as “first world problems.”

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FEATURED: Luxe Interiors + Design June 2020

eclectic living room with white painted built-ins in Luxe magazineWhen my best friend since high school asked if I would redesign her historic, North Shore home to suit her growing family, I immediately said yes. Coming from a family of antique collectors, Shana already had an incredible design sense. She grew up going to art and antique shows with her mom! However, (in her words) “…if I were to put them together myself, it would look like a garage sale.”

Obviously that wasn’t exactly the look we were going for, and in the end we created a cohesive yet eclectic home that’s just as functional as it is beautiful. We were so excited when Luxe Interiors + Design decided to feature the project, and even more excited when they made Shana’s living room the front cover of their latest issue. *Cue the champagne*

eclectic entryway with vintage rug and painted blue door

Shana and her husband moved into the home a couple of months before our work began. They were eager to create a more functional and beautiful kitchen space. The previous layout was small and cramped with tight passageways and honey wood cabinetry (keep scrolling to see for yourself). This left plenty of room for improvement. Soon enough, the progress in the kitchen led to us creating a character-filled, light and bright design plan throughout the rest of the home. The wallpaper in the dining room was a major jumping off point for the color story. The William Morris paper also brings a historical touch to this Dutch Colonial Revival, which was originally built in the 1930s.

KITCHEN BEFORE:

honey wood kitchen cabinets

KITCHEN AFTER:

white kitchen with wood island and commercial hood

Find the full feature from Luxe Interiors + Designs in their latest online issue, or head to their website for the featured home tour. We hope you love it as much as we do!

Credits
Interior Design: Claire Staszak, Centered by Design
Builder: Jeffrey Levin, Plumb Properties Construction Co.
Cabinets: Studio 912
Architectural Details from earlier renovation by Cohen & Hacker Architecture
Photography: Aimee Mazzenga


ER Nurse Jenny on Staying Healthy and Well During COVID-19

April 9, 2020 Uncategorized 0 Comments
covid19+ER+nurses

One of our own, our design assistant Jenny, is a registered nurse who also works part-time in the Emergency Department of a major Chicago hospital. Jenny graciously helped put together this post to provide all of us valuable information on staying healthy and well during COVID-19.

Jenny has all of our love and support right now, as well as a heartfelt thank-you that extends to all the other healthcare and frontline workers for the work they do everyday–and especially now during this crisis. 

Due to her role as a healthcare professional, we want to share resources that have helped educate us, give us comfort, and offer ways to support our local community. Jenny has gone back to nursing almost full-time since the crisis began and I’m personally in awe of her dedication, spirit and love for others. We LOVE YOU Jenny!!

covid19+ER+nurses

Jenny’s hospital team – THANK YOU healthcare and frontline workers!

During periods of isolation it’s more important than ever to check in with yourself, your friends and family, and your community. There is a lot of pressure on ourselves right now, and we want to tell you that it’s okay to feel what you’re feeling. Know that we will get through this together!

Multi-talented Jenny on the left – Design Assistant and ER nurse. Claire – Creative Director/Owner, middle. Iga – Lead Designer, right.

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