DESIGN SCHOOL: French & French Interiors

Hello and welcome to our Design School series! If you are new to the blog or the series, this is where we feature a leading interior design firm and ask them to answer 20 quick questions to share insights gleaned from years in the business. We’ve interviewed a mother-daughter team in the past, but today is our first husband-and-wife design duo. I’m excited to welcome French & French Interiors to the blog!

Heather and Matt French are two of the most creative, kind and down-to-earth people I’ve met in the design industry. We all met at High Point Market in 2018. They are so fortunate to be living and working in the beautiful, mystical and natural landscape of Santa Fe, New Mexico. They run a full service interior design firm, have a boutique showroom/shop and have started their own lighting line.


I love popping onto their Instagram feed and seeing all the color and pattern used in Santa Fe, so different than the grays and neutrals of the Midwest! Their natural surroundings are so inspiring as well; I like to take “virtual” walks with Heather as she films their acres of a backyard.

french and french interiors elegant rustic bathroom

Here’s our interview with French & French Interiors:

Heather – The most difficult aspect of my job:

Well, I think it’s the pace at which we, as a team, have to produce. I find that really challenging, but over the years have figured a way to delegate to our employees to make it all work. I still find this challenging though!

Matt – What I love about my job:

I love Heather, our clients, our team, our vendors and their products, creating new fixtures and working with other makers and artisans in the community.

Heather – Every room needs:

A sense of cozy.  Homes are a place to feel great in your environment and I try to make every space I design feel like you could stay for awhile!

Heather – What I love about my job:

I love the transformation it has for a family. We can take a chaotic family space and give them a gathering space so they can spend quality time together. To me, that’s the ultimate goal!

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Style Library Announces Partnership with Centered by Design as 2019 Brand Ambassador

william morris print dress

Style Library Announces Partnership with Centered by Design in Chicago as 2019 Brand Ambassador


MARCH 2019 (New York, NY) – Style Library USA, home of six of the finest British interior design brands, is excited to announce that Centered by Design, a top Chicago-based design firm, is the company’s 2019 Midwest brand ambassador. Style Library, which includes heritage brands Zoffany, Harlequin, Sanderson, Morris & Co., Scion and Anthology, will work side-by-side with interior designer Claire Staszak and her team at Centered by Design to curate spaces and installations as well as events in close partnership to bring to life the brands represented by Style Library.

“We are thrilled to embark on this project with such a talented firm as Centered by Design,” explains Paul Colley, President of Style Library USA. “Claire and her team have been a fans of our brands, using the fabrics and wallcoverings in creative and dynamic ways for residential projects. It is exciting to partner with them in such a capacity.”

The ambassador program seemed a natural fit, as Centered by Design has been discovering the Style Library brands since the Chicago showroom opened in the Merchandise Mart a year and a half ago. Last year, Style Library and Claire Staszak partnered on a promotion of the Morris & Co fashion collection with H&M. Claire and her team showed the true influence the home products are having on fashion design.

As part of the initiatives for this year, Claire and Centered by Design will lend their talents to the Oak Park/River Forest Kitchen Walk on April 27th, renovating a kitchen using Style Library products to raise funds for New Moms, an organization that helps young mothers living in extreme poverty. The design team will also serve as one of the trend spotters for Style Library during this spring’s High Point Furniture Market and Claire plans to travel to Style Library’s archives and factories in the U.K. to view the storied patterns, molds and materials from the brands’ past that inform the present for future designs. Additionally, Claire will share her design expertise during Style Library’s D&D Spring Market panel discussion Women in Design: Past, Present and Future on May 22nd and during Design Chicago in the fall.

“My love affair with Style Library began with the Morris & Co line,” explains Claire Staszak, head of Centered by Design. “Its classic patterns feel fresh and relevant with a whimsical nod to the past, perfect for many of my clients. From there, I’ve discovered the breadth of all the brands, which allows me to fill my design needs. As a business owner and mother, I’m always in need of time savers.”

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Marble vs Quartz: The Great Countertop Debate


Should you choose marble, quartz or granite in the kitchen? The great countertop debate begins right here! Put on your scientific researcher hat as well, because some of these natural stone facts may take you back to geology class.This post will give you insight on the components of the different types of stone. It will also help you understand the pros and cons of the various options such as: marble, dolomite, granite, quartzite, and (man-made) quartz.

Also, and probably most importantly (!) I’m sharing designer feedback on the different countertop materials and what you can really expect in terms of performance, water stains, scratching, heat resistance and more. A few of my favorite kitchen designers from around the country weighed-in with their opinions.

Bria Hammel, of Bria Hammel Interiors in MN says, “I always tell clients if they want a perfect looking countertop then marble is not for them. Marble lasts forever, but it is not meant to look perfect – it’s meant to look lived in like it’s been around 100 years. If that is not their style, then marble is not for them!”


A Bria Hammel Interiors kitchen with Cambria Quartz countertops.

All About Marble: 
  • Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite.
  • Marble is found all around the world but today four countries quarry almost half of the world’s materials. They are: Italy, China, India and Spain.
  • Marble ranges in price, but is generally more expensive than granite or quartz. It is comparable in price to most quartzite.
  • Marble needs to be sealed and taken care of correctly. It will react with acidic foods, absorb water stains, scratch, etc. It is recommended that you seal every few years, use cutting boards, coasters and wipe up spills immediately to keep marble pristine.
  • In my opinion, marble is absolutely stunning and gives a depth and character to an interior that other stone is hard pressed to compete with.

All About Dolomite:

  • Dolomite is a marble, but with the added mineral magnesium.
  • Dolomites are harder than the average marble, but are still softer than granite and can etch and scratch.
  • They are heat and pressure resistant and make great countertops, but need to be sealed to help prevent staining.
  • Super White Dolomite is a popular option for countertops and backsplashes. I love the look of Milano Venato Dolomite.

Milano Venato Dolomite

Texas-based designer, Carla Aston, another fabulous kitchen designer says this about natural stone, “Natural stone is natural stone and no matter how dense, does absorb moisture to a degree. The lighter the countertops, the more likely this might show as well. I have one project where I used a light gray/white quartzite, and some oily/moist foods left on the counter do occasionally leave a mark. It usually disappears after a time, but nothing is totally impervious!” Don’t miss Carla’s insightful and educational blog post about natural stone countertops in the kitchen.


Kitchen by Carla Aston Design Studio. Countertops are Macabus Quartzite.

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Modern White Kitchen Reveal featured by Monogram Appliances

modern white kitchen with breakfast table

We are lucky to have the Merchandise Mart here in Chicago and the ability to easily visit and partner with incredible vendors. This modern white kitchen, completed by Centered by Design in 2018 (and part of an entire home remodel) was recently featured on the Monogram Appliances blog. I wanted to share the INTERVIEW and also detail a few modern white kitchen design ideas for you, plus show you a few before photos!

Here is a before picture of the kitchen, the floor plan is not terrible but there is certainly room for improvement! Here are some of the design issues we addressed when trying to create a modern white kitchen design:

  • The soffit had to stay and so we needed a way to more seamlessly blend it into the cabinetry.
  • We wanted to create a built breakfast nook and get rid of the dated desk area.
  • The proportions and functionality of the hood and stove top needed improvement. We created a custom white wood hood, wrapped with a stainless band detail and in turn, created a nice centerpiece and focal point for the kitchen.



modern white kitchen design

white wood hood metal band

Other ways we modernized the space from a design perspective include:

  • Recessed cabinet doors instead of raised panel
  • A stone countertop and backsplash, pale grey with white veining (these are Caesarstone Alpine Mist)
  • Updated Monogram appliances
  • Modified island to not have seating (it impeded walkway) and with the addition of the built-in banquette (breakfast nook) it was not needed for this family.
  • Improved lighting placement and choices
  • Addition of crown molding and back band over soffit (also reduced depth of the soffit in areas)

glass front white cabinets butcher block counter

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Getting Organized with NEAT METHOD

It’s a brand new year – happy 2019 friends! In honor of starting the year off on the right foot (and motivating you to get organized too!), I’m sharing a little office organizing makeover we did with neat METHOD. If you haven’t heard of neat METHOD yet, I may be about to change your life. This woman-owned business has locations all over the USA and takes home (and office) organization SERIOUSLY. They take on jobs of all sizes from moves across the country to simply re-organizing your pantry or closet.

I have referred several clients to neat METHOD and the Chicago team led by Brooke Nieman. They are absolutely fabulous, fast and professional. I was so impressed with how well they had helped my clients with their kitchen organization, linen closets and home offices I decided I needed their help as well. You can see why below! While the front of the studio looks pretty good on a daily basis, our back work area and library was becoming a total mess!

Front of studio view:

Behind that pretty black and gold wallpaper, my desk and sample area was looking scary! All of the bins and baskets I had originally purchased were overflowing and nothing was easy to find or labeled. Here are three of the before photos from Brooke.

With a new assistant and intern starting I needed everything in tip top shape. I had a few simple goals that I communicated to Brooke via email such as, dedicated client storage drawers, better use of space and simply more storage! She did one site visit, took my feed back and looked for preferred additional storage options, which she emailed me for approval on. Then she showed up on our scheduled makeover day with everything needed to get organized and labeled in one day!!

I am so pleased with how everything turned out. Larger baskets, labels, new file folders, additional hanging storage and new clients files (not pictured – need to get a photo!) have made sourcing and sampling much easier. We also have additional storage cabinets that aren’t pictured and remained the same, but we really needed to maximize storage around the desk area and neat METHOD came to the rescue!

Brooke and her team do the shopping and organizing for you at an hourly rate and also bill you for the cost of the storage items agreed to. I spent about $1000 total on the baskets, boxes, file folders, labels, hooks and client storage files (ALEX 9-drawer units IKEA). It was totally money well spent for ease, peace of mind and a more organized office!

Here are two Centered by Design kitchens from last year that neat Method organized:

Thanks to Brooke and the Chicago neat METHOD team. If you need even more organizing inspiration check out Marie Kondo’s new Netflix series, tidying up can be life changing stuff!

If you’re interested in working with Centered by Design visit our Contact or Services page, we’d love to hear from you!


this post is partially sponsored by neat Method but all opinions and re-counting of the experience are my own. thanks to the partners that keep this blog running!

Holiday Gift Guide 2018

December 13, 2018 Tips + Resources 0 Comments

Hello friends, happy holiday season!

It can be tough to find fabulous gifts and new trusted brands, so I always turn to my favorite bloggers for ideas. I realized I’ve done a bit of research this year too, so I want to share a quick sampling of what’s on our family list this year.

It’s been really fun shopping for Willa for her first Christmas! She loves music, colors, anything that lights up and I’m getting her a first baby doll. Check out the fabulous German brand I linked below, they have wonderful dolls for all ages. Old school Nintendo is back and Luke can’t wait to relive the old days! I’m always looking for things that are pretty, comfy and smell great – total product junkie right here. Do not miss picking up that brown sugar body polish, it feels so good on your skin. Added a few of my favorite new books and holiday home decor too! You can easily shop this post by clicking on any of the pictures – it will take you direct to the product.

Don’t forget your animals! Our kitty Izzy might be getting some amazing cat furniture from this new brand I discovered, Tuft + Paw.

Affiliate links are used, and help keep the blog running! Happy Shopping!

Lead photo credit: Camp Wandawega

ON CLAIRE’s LIST: Faux fur coat, moto boots and body polish

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Design Blog Hop Holiday Cookie Swap


Get ready for a serious does of delicious my friends. Today I’m sharing how to make mini tea cakes for your next holiday party. I was invited to participate in the sweetest virtual idea I have heard of in a long time. A design blog hop cookie swap! Say that 3x fast : ) Some wonderful design bloggers (all linked below) have each shared a standout recipe for your holiday eating pleasure.

I encourage you to click through as there are so many beautiful cookies shared. I should also admit upfront that I did not ACTUALLY make these mini tea cakes you see displayed. An incredible food blogger, whom I worked with on a recent holiday table decor shoot, Paige Adams of Last Ingredient baked the tea cakes and is sharing her recipe with us. It’s so easy and professional looking that I promise I will make them, as I am hosting my first Christmas Eve for family this year.

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This Chic Holiday Brunch is Beautiful and Delicious

chic holiday table decor

Happy Holidays friends! Christmas music starts playing in my head just looking at these gorgeous images. It was so much fun creating this chic holiday table setting, complete with eclectic textiles, floral centerpieces and delicious recipes.


I’m going to give you the rundown on how to recreate a similar chic holiday table. In this post, we will cover:

  • How to mix traditional holiday prints with non traditional fabrics.
  • Easy floral centerpiece ideas and my new favorite flower that looks especially gorgeous on a holiday table.
  • Why WHITE dish ware always wins…
  • RECIPES! I’m not the best cook or a food stylist, so I called in expert Paige Adams of Last Ingredient to share her amazing fare with us.
  • Paige graciously let me look like the hostess with the mostest! First tip of holiday hosting, outsource a few things to make it easier and more enjoyable.

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“Metropolitan” Color of the Year 2019


Benjamin Moore, my personal go-to paint company, just announced Metropolitan AF-690 as color of the year 2019. I usually don’t pay a whole lot of attention to these “so called” colors of the year, but our dining room happens to be Metropolitan! I thought it would be helpful to show some views of the dining room, and link back to a post from last year with my favorite gray paint colors.

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william morris wallpaper 2018

“Think first of the walls, for they are that which make your house a home.” –  William Morris (1832 – 1896)

If you’ve never heard of William Morris, below is a brief history lesson. A central figure in the Arts & Crafts movement William Morris wallpaper, fabric and his iconic prints live on today through an extensive archive managed by Style Library.

william morris fabrics

william morris original block print

Original William Morris wood block print from the Style Library archive.

william morris wallpaper collection

Morris & Co. / Style Library recently partnered with clothing giant H+M to launch a line of H+M clothing with a selection of iconic Morris prints. I was SO EXCITED when I was contacted to be a part of the launch! I have forever loved the romantic folk art quality of W. Morris prints AND to be able to wear them – how cool.

I chose the Trumpet Sleeve Dress based on original William Morris wallpaper print Pimpernel. I love so many pieces from the collection and they are very affordable! This dress retails for $34.99. As a side note, I think H+M does an amazing job with prints. I wore an another H+M dress I found at a consignment store for our maternity photos, which got SO many positive comments! I’d never seen anything like it before.

claire staszak interior designer

Here’s the Trumpet Sleeve Dress based on William Morris wallpaper – Pimpernel

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