Design Ideas for a Stylish Entryway

The entryway to our homes can often get overlooked. Like a sturdy handshake or friendly smile upon meeting someone, your entry or foyer gives off the first impression of your space! What’s your entry space saying at the moment? Does it jive with your style and how you would like to present your home/apartment? If not, read on because I’ve pulled together some easy and (in some cases) affordable design ideas for a stylish entrance.

First, we’ve got a Centered By Design entry project. We have worked with two clients on entry styling lately. This first project is finished and you can see the before and after photos below. The second project is still in the works and involves an awesome stencil. Can’t wait to show you that one too!

This project involved a fairly typical Chicago entrance. It has that loooong entry wall supporting the staircase and a whole lot of empty space. Our client had searched high and low for a table long enough to fill the wall, but could not find anything in the right size. And so, she commissioned a table from Centered By Design’s woodworker (a.k.a my husband Luke). The table top was built from a single salvaged floor board that we sourced from the Rebuilding Exchange. It was also custom stained to match closely with the floor and banister detail.

entryway styling ideas

BEFORE: Sad entryway…getting better with addition of the custom table.

entryway styling ideas

AFTER: Affordable updates make for a welcoming and artful entry!

I styled the table using two pieces of artwork the client already owned and added a third (the gold print) to accent the black and white art. I also used the two matching baskets, the vase on the right and the marble accessory from her collection of items around the house. By adding a third basket (striped basket from IKEA), using a few flea market finds (suitcases and dress form), tossing in another gold vase and small accent star the entry looks much more cohesive. Also, if you look closely you will notice we were able to hide the thermostat behind the tallest frame.

More detailed shots of the refreshed entry and custom table.

Alright, onto some other ideas for your entry! These photo pairs all offer some great examples.

RUNNERS: Try using a bright or graphic runner/rug to make an impact upon entry. This works especially well if you’ve got a very narrow space and furniture is not really an option. I like the company FLOR for graphic rugs especially. You can order samples online, or if you happen to live near a brick and mortar location you can practice creating your own runner design in the shop.

WALL TREATMENTS & SCONCES: Faux finishing (teal wall) or cheery wallpaper both work as bright accents here. Both designs are working to create symmetry with the use of a console table, a mirror and sconce lighting fixtures. If you have the space and some sort of division in your walls that creates a break where it would be appropriate for an accent wall this is bold and unforgettable option. (This look is harder to achieve in an open concept space like the above client).

STORAGE UNITS: A practical solution especially if you have kids and some depth in the entry hall. I like units that attach to the wall and mostly keep items hidden. You can still add artwork, a mirror and/or other personal touches.

UNIQUE MATERIALS/TECHNIQUES: A detailed stencil and wood paneling add a unique texture to the space. Options like these create a strong focal point and communicate the home owners style right away. Not for the faint of heart, detailed project these can be DIY, but I’d recommend a professional in most cases.

Hope this gave you some entryway ideas to ponder! Would love to hear some of the adjectives you think describe you and your “dream” entry.


Photo sources for paired examples: the chronicles of home, ty pennington, hautekhuuture, better homes and gardens, ikea, apartment therapy, hgtv, lonny.






Centered By Design is featured on The Everygirl

For those of you who may not be familiar with The Everygirl, here’s a little introduction. The site is run by two lovely women (Chicago transplants) who have a passion for informing, educating and inspiring young women. I think the site is kind of like the older sister I never had. There are excellent career profiles, current event updates, lifestyle/decor articles, home tours and more!

I especially love the career profiles and home tours of course, so I took a shot at submitting some photos from our apartment and explained that I recently started my own business and blog. Lo and behold they were INTERESTED!

In cased you missed it, you can read my full interview and see all house tour photos at:

Here are some of my favorite shots, captured by the wonderful and professional Jennifer Kathryn Photography.


A Beginner’s Guide: Loving Kindness Meditation

January 31, 2015 Yoga + Lifestyle 2 Comments

What first comes to mind when someone says, meditation? I used to picture monks in orange robs who lived far away in a tranquil monastery. Maybe you picture a yoga studio, or dark room full of candles. Meditation seems like something you’ve heard might be good for you, but seriously who has time for that and who wants to sit still for that long? Right? Wrong!

As someone with a non-stop mind and frequent bouts of anxiety, finding a meditative state is literally something my mind and body reject on a daily basis! Calm is NOT my natural state. I am actually convinced this is why I became a yoga teacher, because I knew I needed to chill the f*** out.

Meditation has countless health benefits and I think we need it more than ever in this fast-paced world. It is the number one thing you can do (easily I might add) to reduce your stress level.

In my experience, traditional meditation techniques such a simply focusing on the breath or “quieting” the mind are really hard, especially for beginners. The following walks you through the steps of a loving kindness or metta meditation. Metta means kindness towards yourself and others.

This is a quick, but powerful meditation! I encourage you to find a comfortable place sit, either on the floor or seated in a chair. Use pillows to make yourself comfortable, sit up nice a tall and make sure you can breathe easy. I like to light a candle to focus my gaze and dim the lights. You can think about and internally say the dialogue, or try saying some of the refrains out loud.

Here you go, off to meditation land!

  1. In the first stage of the meditation, you feel metta for yourself. You start by becoming aware of yourself, and focusing on feelings of peace, calm, and tranquility. Let these thoughts grow into feelings of strength and confidence, and then develop into love within your heart. You can use an image, like golden light flooding your body, or a phrase such as ‘may I be well and happy’, which you can repeat to yourself. These are ways of stimulating the feeling of metta for yourself.
  2. In the second stage think of a good friend. Bring them to mind as vividly as you can, and think of their good qualities. Feel your connection with them, and your liking for them, and encourage these feelings to grow by repeating ‘may they be well; may they be happy’ quietly to yourself. You can also use an image, such as shining light from your heart into theirs.
  3. Then think of someone you do not particularly like or dislike. Your feelings are ‘neutral’. This may be someone you do not know very well. You reflect on their humanity, and include them in your feelings of metta. Repeat ‘may they be well; may they be happy’ quietly to yourself. You can also use an image, such as shining light from your heart into theirs.
  4. Then think of someone you actually dislike — an enemy. Trying not to get caught up in any feelings of hatred, think of them positively and send your metta to them as well.
  5. In the final stage, think of all four people together — yourself, the friend, the neutral person, and the enemy. Then extend your feelings further — to everyone around you, to everyone in your neighborhood; in your town, your country, and so on throughout the world. Have a sense of waves of loving-kindness spreading from your heart to everyone, to all beings everywhere. Repeat ‘may all beings be well; may all beings be happy’ quietly to yourself.

Gradually relax out of meditation. Take 10 deep breaths and bring yourself back to the present moment. Notice how you feel. It may have been challenging process, just notice what came to the surface. Try to acknowledge and accept your feelings. It may have felt really good. Either way radiate some love towards yourself – you tried something new!

Let me know if you tried the meditation and how you liked it / what did not work.


Meditation script adapted from The Emotional Intelligence Institute 

loving kindness meditation


Best of Houzz 2015 Award

January 22, 2015 Interior Design 0 Comments

Remodeling and Home Design

I’m excited to share that Centered By Design received a Best of Houzz 2015 badge in the SERVICE category for our 5-star client reviews from 2014.

You can read our reviews in full HERE. We’d love to make you our next over-the-moon happy client! Let us know all about your project HERE.


Here are a few highlights from the reviews. Many thanks to our lovely clients!

  • “Claire was amazing to work with. She has a great sense of style and took us through the entire process of turning a living room that had sat empty for two years to a space that we now use all the time. We were initially struggling to balance the character of our century-old home and our more modern tastes. Claire helped us to first clarify our overall design aesthetic and vision for the project, before working with us on turning that vision into a reality.” – Sarah & Steve, Oak Park

  • “I love the way Claire incorporates antique with modern, eclectic with mid-century. She has a great eye and an even better attitude. I would not hesitate to recommend her to anyone for any job, big or small!” Shana, Bucktown

  • “I would recommend Claire to anyone wanting help to make their space into a home.” Maile & Andrew, Logan Square



DIY Ball Jar Light Fixture

January 16, 2015 DIY Projects 0 Comments

January is probably my least favorite month of the year, or at least it used to be. I don’t like to slow down and January always seems to know how to mess with a girl’s schedule. The snow, the boots, the general I don’t want to leave the house mood! But as I get older, I’ve begun to embrace the slower pace of January. Being at home isn’t boring, it’s actually nice, and it gives me to time to work on all those DIY projects I’ve saved countless screen shots of. Here is one of those quick and easy projects for you to try!

I want preface this DIY Ball Jar Light Fixture how-to with a nod to my amazing hubby Luke. He was the brains behind this project, and he’s my general handyman on every project. Luke you’re the best babe!

Alright, with my acknowledgments out of the way let’s get down to the details.

*Supplies Needed:
  • Ball Jar (I love the blue ones) with lid
  • Edison bulb, or some other clear, open filament bulb
  • Pendant swag kit, with extra shade holder ring (see link below for what we used)
  • Drill
  • Hammer
  • Hole saw drill bit (buy this after you have your pendant fixture, so you know what size hole to drill)

This is a pretty quick project. First you need a hanging pendant light fixture. We found a very cheap option ($9.99) at Cost Plus World Market.

The only catch with this particular fixture and project is that you need and extra piece that doesn’t come in the kit. You need an extra one of these rings with the grooves on it. You need this so you can secure the lid from the top and bottom. These pieces are on all the light fixtures at Cost Plus, and we just asked for a few extra from broken lamps or floor models. Worst case scenario, you’re going to need to buy two fixtures.


Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 4.29.11 PM

Lid. If you have a vintage ball jar like mine there is glass on the inside of the lid. You must break out the glass that is on the inside of the lid with a hammer. Then, you need to drill a hole in the center of the lid with the drill and hole saw bit. You need a fair amount of downward pressure to make this hole, so drill it over a flat, stable piece of scrap wood. After drilling the hole there is bound to be some sharp edges. To deal with this, we ran the edge of a screwdriver along the edge to dull it just a bit. In the finished product, the sharp edges will be covered with the fixture anyway.

Assembly. The swag kit couldn’t be simpler. Just make sure you install a holder ring on both the inside and outside of the lid. This allows you to then hang the jar directly from the lid. Once your lid and the fixture are connected put in a light bulb, screw the jar onto the lid, plug it into the wall, and you’re DONE! Our light hangs out on the three season porch and creates some nice mood lighting over our little bistro table.


*Safety note: this method should be plenty safe for occasional use. However, there is no breathability for the bulb inside the jar. Therefore, I wouldn’t use more than a 40-60 watt bulb. And, I’d never leave this fixture on for extended periods of time, so make sure to turn it off if you’re leaving the house/area.

Let me know if you give this a try. I think clustering several clear jars together would look awesome!


Colorful & Modern Kitchen Decor Update

January 10, 2015 Interior Design 0 Comments

I’m working with a client who has recently moved into their first single family home and it’s three times the size of their past condo. This is fabulous for their growing family, but tough on the pocketbook. That’s a lot additional space to decorate!

The house is new build construction that is fresh and clean. It has excellent fixtures and cabinetry, but the space is painted boring builder’s beige…EVERYWHERE! This might be a nice option for the color averse (and good for home staging/selling), but it’s a decorator’s dilemma – especially with a narrow open concept layout and a tight decor budget.

The client’s have a great modern sensibility and are ready to inject some color into their space. The first spot in the house we need to make more functional is the kitchen and eat-in dining area. You can see some of the first level floor plans from these rough scaled computer renderings. In the first view, you’re looking straight into the center of the first floor. The living area flows directly into the kitchen and eat-in dining area, which can be viewed more easily in the second rendering. (These are basic space/furniture plans. The items placed in the rendering are place holders for the final pieces that will be chosen).

kitchen design board

Interior view as if you were looking straight through the front of the lower level of the house.

kitchen space planning

Interior view of the kitchen. Cabinetry is not picture, just roughed in.

The family loves blue, and it’s an easy color to pair with different accents to create the feeling of separate spaces on the first level. It also worked with their existing living room couch. To save on costs, we decide to paint some focal walls instead of using multiple paint colors on the first floor. This creates a nice effect from the living room, where you can see both blue focal walls together. (More on the living room design in a future post).

The wall color is Naval by Sherwin Williams. The next step was to find affordable and family friendly furniture that wouldn’t break the bank. Naturally, we turned to IKEA. Another local (and national) recommendation is FLOR. Their carpet tiles hold up very well and are easy to swap out if damaged or stained – perfect for under a dining table! Here’s the final design board for kitchen area.

kitchen design ideas

See the links below for product information.

We chose a dark table, which as extendable leaves for holiday gatherings. I paired the table with a lighter chair, and a colorful rug with blues, browns, blacks and a pop of yellow, which is our main accent color for the first floor. We also chose a similar, but not matching FLOR tile runner to run along the kitchen alley way. Mod bar stools and a Danish inspired floral complete the look.

Budget Friendly Tips to Consider:

  • As I mentioned above, painting a focal wall saves time on materials and labor. It’s not usually my first choice, but it’s certainly a good option – especially if you won’t be doing the painting and need to hire out.
  • Save on shipping costs! Ordering the rug and floor runner from the same retailer saves on shipping from multiple locations. Also, while one trip to IKEA may seem impossible, but knowing everything you need, having a list and item numbers will save you time, and probably money (if you stick to your list!).
  • Add custom touches by spending a bit more on smaller items such as the curtains, light fixture, and plant life in this case.
  • If you can DIY, give try it! The home owner tried making her own no-sew roman shades and they turned out great!
no sew roman shades

One of the lovely no-sew shades!

Excited to show you finished photos from this space, we will probably wrap up later this summer. There are many rooms being worked on little by little. Let me know what you think. What are your go-to places for affordable furnishings?

XO – Claire

Perfect Palette: Color Inspiration

Hello there,

I hope everyone had a lovely holiday celebration, and got a special gift you love! I have been inspired by one of my Christmas gifts to start this new post category – Your Perfect Palette. I sent my mom about ten Amazon links for design books I’d like as Christmas gifts (another post with design and styling book recommendations coming soon), and she was going to pick a few books to surprise me with. I was really crossing my fingers for The Color Scheme Bible, by Anna Starmer, and I got it! Hence this new blog series has been born!

The book is chock-full of unexpected, inspirational color combinations, and tried and true color rules such as, green can often be used as a neutral to balance a space – especially softer shades of green. Another good tidbit – all reds go together, as do all pinks. And soft oranges almost always feel warming.

Now, I am usually a believer that all rules are meant to be broken, but it’s nice especially when you are learning to have some guidelines. So, with each Perfect Palette post I’m going to focus on one unique color combination, and a room where this palette might look fabulous in your home. This week is all about a BOLD bathroom and contrasting colors.

When you contrast dramatic colors, your end result often creates an energetic environment. And I don’t know about you, but I could certainly use a jolt of energy each morning, as I groggily step into the bathroom.

In this bathroom, the main wall color is a bright marmalade (or orangey-red). The butterfly image is perfect for color inspiration, or could be blown up and used as artwork. When working with bold colors remember to keep decoration to a minimum. The colors are doing a lot of work, so you don’t need to add lots of artwork or extraneous decor.


This is Valspar Marmalade Satin Interior paint.


The main accent colors are mint, turquoise, and deep red (think blood orange or ruby red). You might think that red and orange clash, but here they are similar enough in tone and saturation to work together. The cools blues serve as the perfect accent to balance all the warm orange, and then the deep red highlights the orange – injecting an even hotter and energetic color into the space.


Earthy yet dramatic lighting fixture.

Lush red towels feel regal.

Lush red towels feel regal.


bathroom tile

Ultimate gorgeousness in turquoise shower tiles!

blood orange vase

Perfect accent decor with flowers, or as is.

Silver seemed like another perfect highlight for lighting fixtures or mirrors, and I felt the imagery was beginning to take me to Morocco. I continued on that theme with a few ornate mirror options.

moroccan mirror moroccan mirror silver

And there you have it! A BOLD and ENERGETIC bathroom that feels like a trip to Morocco each morning (haha, a girl can dream, right?)

XO – Claire

color palette for moroccan bathroom

Elegant & Eco-Friendly Holiday Table Decor

Christmas and New Year’s Eve are just around the corner. If you’re having guests over, and ready to stray from the typical poinsettia you might like my elegant and organic tablescape idea! It’s easy to create a show-stopping table setting with items you have on hand, by simply adding greenery and fruit into the mix.

The added bonus of table decor like this (or the endless variations possible) it that everything is reusable and organic – no paper goods or silly plastic decorations to throw away. My florist friend Kate of Fleur Du Jour first inspired this idea when we discussed the idea of creating a table runner out of greenery. This was the inspiration photo:

image via

image via

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Dishware – dinner plate and salad plate
  • Silverware
  • Stemmed glassware
  • Cloth napkins
  • Greenery (about 25 stems – I ordered mine through a local florist)
  • Fruit (1 per/person)
  • Candle Pillars / candles
holiday table decor items

A few items on my table included this Nambe Dinnerware in Butterfly Marble Swirl – smoke color (purchased at Macys), Convivial Production Candle Pillars, and Napkins from Dot & Army ( both found on Etsy).

Step 1: Assess the length of your table and how much greenery you’ll need to create a runner the length of your table out of the branches (20 – 30 stems should be plenty). I used a combination of olive branches, blueberry cedar, and rosemary. You can use whatever is in your backyard! Pine, cedar, and holly berries would be a classic holiday combination.

herbs used for table decor

Step 2: Place your candleholders along the length of your table. Arrange the branches in an organic way, creating a table runner out of the greenery. Try to mix and layer the different branches.

how to layer table greenery

Step 3: Begin to set the table layering plates and napkins. Make sure your place settings are correct! The fork goes on the left and the knife, spoon, and wine glass on the right.

Step 4: Add a piece of fruit to everyone’s plate. I used a small orange (playing off the tradition a Christmas orange), but you could choose pears, persimmons, pomegranates, or even figs – just use the same item on each plate to bring cohesion to the table. You could also add place cards at this stage if you choose.

greenery as table runnerhow to decorate a organic holiday table table with greenery runner


Step 5: Light your candles, turn down the lights, and wait for guests to ooh and aah over your gorgeous table. You can even let guests take a branch or two as a party favor – especially if they are usable herbs like rosemary!

Hope you give this one or a similar variation a try! Let me know what your favorite greens and fruits turned out to be.

XO – Claire

Oak Park Living Room Transformation

Woohoo! I have my first before and after project to share, and this room was a dream to decorate. This living room was a total blank slate, and my clients were very trusting of my recommendations once we talked through the color scheme and styles. Below are some before photos (old furniture was all donated, there was not much but a rug and couch).

Sarah and Steve had moved into a gorgeous prairie style Oak Park residence (designed by E.E. Roberts) about two years ago. They have two young girls, so decorating the formal living room was not really a priority upon moving in, but with the holidays quickly approaching they were ready to get the space updated and ready for family and friends!



The room had great bones. Lots of symmetry and beautiful wood to work with. The fireplace and radiator covers were looking a tad tired, but after some debate we decide to leave the historic elements of the home untouched. Main considerations for the decor included the following:

  • family friendly space for playing games and reading
  • contemporary/modern feel that still blends with more traditional aspects of the house
  • nod to the industrial history of Chicago
  • rustic wood and steel elements
  • leaving the wall opposite the fireplace empty for a future piano!

With these creative considerations in mind here are some of the design decisions I made:

  • darker walls to ground the room and create a masculine/modern feel
  • accents of pecan colored wood and ivory velvet drapery help balance the dark wall color
  • steel/industrial accents in the lighting and furniture
  • coffee table with ample storage for game night
  • comfortable and affordable furniture for the growing family
  • we used a pop of color in the chairs, which the easiest item to re-cover if you grow bored with the fabric over time
  • black metal picture wall/gallery to showcase family photos in a contemporary way (black and white photography adds to the modern feel)

Here are a few after shots. You can see the full portfolio here.

Claire Interior Shoot-Web-JTP_3171Claire Interior Shoot-Web-JTP_3184modern living roomClaire Interior Shoot-Web-JTP_3174 modern living room

Here’s the lovely review Sarah and Steve wrote about working with Centered By Design. I think we are going to do their family room next!

“Claire was amazing to work with. She has a great sense of style and took us through the entire process of turning a living room that had sat empty for two years to a space that we now use all the time. We were initially struggling to balance the character of our century-old home and our more modern tastes. Claire helped us to first clarify our overall design aesthetic and vision for the project, before working with us on turning that vision into a reality. Her work encompassed all aspects of the project; from setting a budget to picking fabrics and colors, as well as styling the finished project. Claire is very easy to work with. She balanced keeping us focused on the project, while respecting our need for time to reflect on certain key decisions. Claire was also very respectful of our busy schedules and, just as importantly, our budget. The final result is a space that reflects our personal style and that we love to spend time in with our family and friends.” Sarah & Steve – Oak Park

XO, Claire

Branding Your Small Business

December 1, 2014 Tips + Resources 1 Comment

Hello, I’m so excited to welcome you to the Centered By Design blog! I’ve spent the past six months developing my personal brand and business. I thought a fitting first post would be to explain and demystify this process. I think anyone can brand themselves or their small business idea. I’d love to share with you the insights I’ve learned during this process.

I am certainly not a branding expert, but I have a work history in marketing that includes brand management for notable organizations with strong brands, such as Habitat for Humanity and REI. I’m fascinated by the idea that our typography, color choices, tone, and messaging can have such an impact on how people perceive and respond to our brands.

Here is a mood board sample, which I created to help communicate the “feel” of my brand to the graphic designer creating my logo. I think whether digital or analog, getting your ideas and inspiration into a cohesive visual statement is important.

Step 1: List five adjectives that will help you define the tone of your brand. Then search for imagery in magazines, on Pinterest, or the web and create your mood board. My adjectives were Artistic, Organic, Down-to-Earth, Clean and Calming. I added my final logo into the board after the fact – but the brilliant part is that it looks like it was a part of the board all along! Arriving at a final design is not easy. It took three design rounds to get the logo right. See below for an earlier iteration (there were at least 20!). This is why it’s so important to define your tone. You can’t get side tracked only by what you respond to visually. You need to make sure that what you are creating represents what you are saying your brand represents. It sounds easy, but it’s kind of hard!

  • Side note on creating a mood board. Don’t be intimated by fancy ones, just ripping pictures out from a magazine or creating a new Pinterest board is perfect! If you want to learn exactly how I did this board in Photoshop, you can take a Skillshare class. It was a little bit complicated at first, but it’s a skill I’m glad to have.
mood board branding template

Mood boards are a quick way to visually communicate!

Screen Shot 2014-11-07 at 4.56.31 PM

Here’s an earlier logo iteration. I loved the hexagon and font, but it did not aline as well with my brand message. It was deemed to bold and sharp.

Step 2: I encourage you to expand on your brand identity by writing a Creative Brief. This is simply a one-page document that further expounds on aspects of your brand. Sometimes it helps to write in the third person. Imagine you were trying to explain the brand/business to someone you’ve never met. You could include categories such as your background, company objective, target audience, market competitors, distinguishing characteristics, and other creative considerations. This information will not only help your graphic designer, but it can serve as a reminder to help you stay consistent/connected with your brand. Here are some examples from my brief:

  • Distinguishing Characteristics:

    • Background in the arts means Claire has an appreciation for handmade and artisan touches.

    • Claire is a unique combination of highly organized, entrepreneurial, creative, collaborator, down-to-earth, and calming presence.

  • Creative Considerations:

    • The color wheel is very inspirational to Claire, and the circle could also represent being “centered” to a client. Claire believes good design can make you feel more centered, more comfortable in your space, and happy too! Would be great for the graphic designer to explore ways to work the color wheel into the logo. Claire likes the painterly quality of the image she submitted.

Step 3: Get a few select outside opinions. When you are really close and connected to something it’s hard to be objective! Talk to a few people you trust, preferably people with graphic design or branding experience to see if what you’re saying resonates with them. Look for resources online, at your local community college, or entrepreneurial hub for classes or presentations to aid you in the branding process.

Okay – I hope this gets you started in the right direction! What do you think? Anything that I’m missing? Any branding experts out there who’ve got more tips?

Thanks for reading! I’m so excited my first official blog post is DONE.

XO, Claire