minimalism, simple living, stress free living, serenity

Minimalism & Living Simply; Part 1


This isn’t a one and done blog topic but rather an introduction to a new, more satisfying lifestyle for those seeking simplicity.  Are you downsizing or leaping excitedly into a tiny house or cottage?  Maybe your cluttered or full rooms make you feel overwhelmed, like they’re taking over?  Or, do you enjoy looking at bare counter tops, sleek furniture, and tidy rooms?  The beauty of minimalism and living simply is that you get to define it by how it makes sense for you and your lifestyle.  Most likely you know where you fall on the minimalist spectrum as it covers furniture design, home decor and design, fashion, lifestyle and personal processions.  Terms like simple, streamline, uncluttered, pure, serene, calm, bare, and essentials, will resonate with you and you’ll strive to enact these principles into your life.  Welcome and keep reading!

minimalism, living simply, serene


I was asked recently how does someone live minimally when their spouse wants to hoard and keep everything?  This situation is a common frustration among couples.  Luckily, the solution is simple: start with your own stuff.  This will help relieve some of your burden and lighten your load.  Hopefully, along the way, your spouse will join you in your efforts.


In two of my previous blogs Making room in your rooms and Evolving rooms and flexible spaces.  I discuss how to clear out the clutter.  For those who are ready to start really simplifying its time to purge the surplus from your home or business.  Below is an outline of categories I’ve cultivated to reference when starting to reduce:

  1. Clothes, shoes, coats, & seasonal gear
  2. Bags & luggage
  3. Furniture & decor
  4. Bedding & linens
  5. Pans & baking dishes
  6. Pantry & refrigerator
  7. Tupperware & food storage
  8. Cleaning supplies
  9. Toiletries & medicine
  10. Office & desk
  11. Bills, mementos, & mail
  12. Books & media
  13. Electronics, gadgets, & small appliances
  14. Junk drawer & tool box
  15. Holiday decorations
  16. Toys & sporting goods
  17. Car & gardening supplies

Spend time clearing and reducing items from these categories until you only have your desired and used items.  Some categories may be very easy while others may require more time.  Once you’ve exhausted this list, you should feel emotionally and physically lighter.  Arrange a charity to pick up your items, sell them, or pass them along to someone you know, just free yourself. minimalism, living simply, meditation, stacking stones, serenity, calmness


Now, its time to start putting in place some principles that maintain your newly found freedom.  What may seem like discipline will quickly come routine.  Additional resources are abundant on this topic.  Two that I am familiar with and follow are the Minimalists Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus and becoming minimalist  by Joshua Becker.  If you want to learn more in depth on the living minimally then these three gentlemen are a great go to resource.

A few principles that are constant throughout any minimalist reading deal with the accumulation of new things once you’ve purged the old.

  1. 1 in 1 out Rule. If you bring something into the home then an old thing needs to go.  Example, if you buy new shoes, then toss out the old ones.
  2. Stop Leisure Buying.  Going shopping at the local mall used to be a common Saturday activity.  People have accumulated a vast amount of clothes that they rarely or no longer wear.  The too tight designer jeans bought on clearance, the leather boots that make your feet hurt, the wet suit you bought for that one vacation,  and the wool ski sweaters that make you itch, its time for them all to go.  Now, with the help of online shopping, the impulse of casually browsing is reduced. Only shop when you need something.
  3. Getting Unusable Gifts.  Receiving a gift from a loved one is wonderful, if you can use it or want it.  However, if its not your style or useful to you, thank them, keep it for a while you’re comfortable with and then pass it along.
  4. Keeping Nostalgic Items.  This one is very difficult.  Some people want to keep everything because of its meaning.  Ask yourself “If I get rid of this item, did that event/person change?” You still have your memories, the situation still occurred.  Baby clothes for example, keep the “coming home” outfit and your favorite onesie and then pass along the rest.  Teens’ sport/activity t-shirts are another nostalgic category.  Memory quilts are popular options for sentimental clothes and then can be actively used again.  If you or someone you know doesn’t sew then there are companies online that will make the quilt for you, simply mail the clothes to them and six weeks later, your memory quilt is ready.  Children’s drawings and artwork is another tug at the heartstrings.  Every year, purge out the ones you and your child don’t really care for, take a photo of them and toss them.  Keep only the ones that you cherish and frame them or place them in a memento box.
  5. Saving for “One Day If…”  It makes financial sense for children’s clothes to be kept for younger siblings but if you’re hoarding things in the garage and your basement is bursting, its time to reevaluate.  “You might need that one day” is a slippery slope.  Use it today, plan for tomorrow, but never keep for what if.  Your house is a home to live in not a closet to store stuff.
  6. Traveling Light.  I’ve heard this from so many seasoned travelers, travel light.  Once you start this practice, you’ll never want to travel burdened with big suitcases again.  People who travel heavy need to have a lot of options and feel completely prepared for any situation and don’t make outfit decisions before they leave.  Check the weather for your trip, make outfit choices that mix and match and leave the rest at home.  If you have access to a sink or bathtub, then you can do laundry.  When I studied abroad for four months in college, I packed one week of warm weather clothes, one week’s worth of cold weather clothes, and travel sized toiletries to cover the first few days there.  All of my clothes layered with each other.  I had space in my luggage for my art supplies, souvenirs and items that I bought there during the four months.  For a regular vacation, a small 19″ carry-on and a backpack will work for you just fine, you’ll see.
  7. Capsule Wardrobe/Uniform.  Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs made wearing the same thing everyday trendy.  Their wardrobe of a gray tshirt and black turtle neck respectively, with jeans became their signature looks.  Who would dare comment to these two successful gents if they wore the same shirt yesterday?  They’re tech icons and they rock the “uniform” idea.  A capsule wardrobe (~30 items) is much easier for many people to get on board with and adopt.  I’ve even read about seasonal capsule wardrobes, however I feel that idea is stretching the concept beyond its intent.  The idea of a capsule wardrobe harks back to the 1900’s where people simply didn’t own a lot of clothes.  Instead, they owned only what they loved, choosing quality over quantity and maintained them. Don’t fear judgement as you embrace your freedom and lighter lifestyle.  A minimalist wardrobe will simply be another aspect to your lifestyle and extension of your beliefs. Your coworkers will see your tidy workstation and your friends will see your uncluttered home, then understand your capsule wardrobe as completely logical.
  8. Minimalism & Interiors.  I’ll continue this blog next month to cover minimalism and interiors in depth as many people have a preconceived notion that minimalism has to mean modern, not necessarily so.  Any style of interior can be minimalist by simply not getting lost in the details and decor.  Tune in next month for a more in depth discussion.

Remember that minimalism is a lifestyle, a practice, and a way of life that alters the way you see your possessions and environment.  Set them free and they will set you free.


Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ

Studio Owner & Interior Designer

Daricilar Design Studio    –    Medway, MA

Join in August: “Minimalism & Interiors

wedding themes, wedding decor, interior decorating, interior styling ideas, decor ideas, baby rooms, vacation homes, themed weddings

“How to Style Simply & the 4 Offenders.”

As I sit down to start writing this month’s blog, it’s 92 degrees outside with a heat index climbing to 100.  It’s time to take a break from the heat and discuss a lighter interior topic: styling.  More specifically, style overload, as I call it.  When an idea is created for the inspiration of a project and accessory styling takes over turning the space into a themed space.  Leave the theme parks to Disney, they’re professionals, they do it very, VERY well.  Everyone else hold back!

The difference between theme and inspiration is how simplicity is implemented and the quantity of themed accessories used.  Inspiration equates to a hint, an idea, or suggestion to the viewer.  A theme however, leaves no doubt what the concept is, its obvious and blatant.  Besides getting a bit kitschy when styling the accessories, themes detract from the main event, induce stress, and consume resources such as time and money.

The biggest offenders of styling overload and themes are:

1. Wedding Receptions

By far, the biggest offender!  Take the idea of a rustic inspiration for a minute.  OK, you’re a sassy cowgirl who loves teal.  Your bridesmaids will wear teal dresses and brown cowboy boots while you wear teal ones under your gown, go on and bring out that personality!  You’ve found the perfect reception hall, its a beautiful candlelit barn with tulle hanging from the antique rafters, so romantic, you’re doing great, keep going!

rustic barn reception, rustic wedding, beautiful barns, farm wedding, country wedding

Now, for the seating, you thought hay bales draped with riding blankets, the table settings will be wrapped in twine, the bouquets and boutonnieres will be secured in burlap, the invitations will be printed on gunny sack embossed paper and will have teal horseshoe icons at the bottom.  Careful, we’re in dangerous styling territory now.

rustic wedding, burlap table settings, wedding decor ideas

While you’re at it, cowboy boot charms will dangle from every nook and cranny, when you two kiss everyone will yell “Yee Haw!” and toast you with their mason jars filled with moonshine cocktails.  Too far cowgirl, too far!  You know what works well for seating? chairs.  Do you know what’s difficult to untie when you’re hungry? twine knots.  Leave the mason jars to your pickles and preserves.  Besides, what are you going to do with 250 cowboy boot charms after the wedding?

Another reason for keeping the themed inspiration in line is it will help reduce stress during preparation before the wedding and focuses the resources on the bigger ticket items like food, drink, hall rental, and music.  Wedding planning arguments prior to the wedding get more and more ridiculous as the day gets closer.  The topics are petty and the details don’t matter in the long run.  Save the decor budget from the craft store and put it towards the reception.  Guests want two things in a wedding: witness the happy couple get married and then attend an awesome party.  They’ll remember the fantastic food and the complimentary bar long before they remember your time consuming, intricate centerpieces, handmade butter cream mints and custom inked, hand embossed wedding invitations that you and your crew spent weeks designing and making.

simple wedding decor, orange and white weddings, tangerine wedding decor, simple wedding themes

Simplicity is key in wedding planning.  Choose one color as a subtle accent, sprinkle a few flowers petals, light the candles, and keep the themed details few.   A concept wedding is fun and lively, but should provide only a backdrop or atmosphere, not the main focus.  When the couple enters, they should be the center as intended.


2. Baby Rooms

Similar to themed wedding receptions are baby room themes.  Many couples get inspired for a room once they discover the gender of the baby but run crazy with it.  From themed cribs and bedding, hand painted mural walls, custom designed art, special light fixtures and curtains.  That’s a lovely dream but let’s get back to reality, eager parents.

For the first few months, your newborn’s vision can’t see more than black, white and primary bold colors, then after that, they’re into faces, shapes, and bold patterns.  The baby’s room for the first year is for you.  It needs to be functional and stress free, while providing a safe place for your infant to sleep and play.  They don’t understand themes and decor, save that for later when your preschool aged prince or astronaut wants to sleep in a castle or spaceship, then do the theme room.  Keep the decor basic however, children’s interest change like the seasons, so replacing themed decorations constanly gets expensive. 

baby room ideas, gray and pink baby rooms, themed baby rooms
Pay special attention to items placed above the crib and changing station for reaching hazards.  Nothing besides the fitted sheet should be placed in the crib and window coverings should be cord free.
When decorating a baby’s room, also think of how the room will evolve through childhood to the teen years and then to a guest room when they’re an adult.  I always advise skipping the twin bed for example.  After the crib has transformed to a toddler bed and is outgrown, go straight to a double /full bed.  Its just over a foot wider than a twin, most rooms can accommodate the extra width.  The bed will be more comfortable for childhood reading and snuggling, then lounging as teens, and a guest bed as an adult.

3. Vacation Homes

Yay! You have the vacation home of your dreams!  It’s walking distance to the beach, you can see the water from your bedroom windows and you can bike to quaint shops and awesome restaurants. Now, hang on a second before your start decorating it, don’t spoil it!

Vacation homes located by the beach, for the obvious reason, conjure ideas of surfing and fun in the sun.  A jar of collected seashells from family walks is cute nostalgia, a coir  walk off mat for sand by the back door is practical.  Go ahead and cover all the furniture in durable canvas, but please pause when you want to hang fishing nets, lobster cages, and buoy floats above your mantle. That’s a theme, not inspiration.

California living, beach house, vacation home, second home, dream house, outside living room ideas

Another trend that ruins the calmness and serenity of a vacation home are bright pastel color palettes.  In a previous blog I mention color schemes in regards to location. (Beyond the Beige Box; 6 ways to create curb appeal and exterior detail.)

If you’ve traveled anywhere to a different climate you may have noticed the buildings are painted very differently.  Mainly to do with weather conditions, cultural influences, but also to do with the sun, particularly the quality of sunlight.

I recently read an article in a decor magazine recommending coral painted walls with mint striped upholstery and brass accessories for coastal homes.  Not even the quaintest ice cream parlors should tackle that color combination.  Unless your house is located in the heart of Key West, would I recommend bright pastel colors.  Even then, do it with caution and a light touch.  Vacation homes should sooth and relax you, not jolt you.  Bring out your bright personality in more subtle ways like your dishes or bedding, not floor to ceiling all over your house.

4. Staged Homes

Any real estate agent will tell you that a staged home sells easier, assuming its done well.  My concern is when staging turns stale.  It is well established that neutral color palettes appeal to more buyers, but a bit of color can make the space feel lively.  Accent colors are often used in staging for this purpose, however, sometimes incorrectly.  Monochromatic accent colors (only using one and the same one) throughout the house makes the staging seem fake and stale.

house staging, home staging ideas, turquoise decor, real estate

For example, say the chosen accent color is turquoise.  A bright refreshing turquoise shag rug is laid across the entry, contrasting the wood floor, cheerful!  Turquoise accent pillows get strategically placed to the armchairs, the large painting above the sofa gets swapped for one that has turquoise, then a set of tall glass vases containing turquoise beads and baubles is placed on the mantle.  Now walk into the kitchen, turquoise table linens dress the dining table with a large turquoise bowl overflowing with fruit is placed on the kitchen island.  The bathrooms all have a turquoise hand towel and a matching turquoise candle.  The master bedroom is beautifully dressed in fresh white linens and dark wood furniture, but now there’s a strategic turquoise blanket folded at the end of the bed and a specifically placed stool at the bedside…that’s, you guessed it, turquoise. Enough!


home staging, house stagings, turquoise decor, gray dining rooms, silver accessories

If using accent colors when staging a home, use two to three in different combinations throughout the home.  This makes each room stay united but still feel fresh.  Second, don’t get too crazy with the accessories that are brought in for the staging.  People don’t have that many vases, lamps, bowls, and sculptures so strategically placed around their home, (especially in the bathrooms!)  Remove the clutter, arrange the furniture, sprinkle a few fresh color attributes and then…STOP.

In general, when styling a space, the point is to celebrate and honor the interior not overwhelm it.  Perusing professional interior design videos posted online recently regarding styling of accessories, I was shocked at the finished room examples.  They were so full of accessories, styled to the hilt, that the room could pass for a shop.  Add price tags and the displays were ready.  Its time to scale back the tchotchkes.  Yes, the occasional decorative bowl or vase adds detail, however not on every surface and shelf.  Make it pretty but keep it simple.  Remember, inspiration not theme.


Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ

Studio Owner & Interior Designer

Daricilar Design Studio    –    Medway, MA

Join in July: “Minimalism & Simple Living

Break Out Of The Box; No More Cubicles!

Every day we hear the terms Baby Boomer, Gen Xer, and Millennial in reference to the impacts each one is making in working world.

“Baby boomers are retiring.”

“Gen Xers are taking over the reins” 

“Millennials are redefining the work envrionment” 

With each one of these generations, comes their preferential work place stereotype: Boomers want offices, Gen X’s comfort is in cubes, Millennials thrive in coffee shops.  Mix in tech businesses and hip start ups with their funky lounges, inside gardens, gyms, and complimentary kitchens, standard office design has been turned on its head.   Now add extrovert and introvert social preferences and the latest discussion on emotional intelligence awareness in the workplace.  Its a wonder anyone is productive.  How’s a company supposed to find a comfortable balance without jumping on every new trend? Suffice it to say, creating an office environment for all different types of people to succeed is a challenge.

History of Office Design

Office design started in the beginning of the 1900’s because of several factors and key individuals.  With the development of steel production in building construction, larger spans and more open spaces were possible.  Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Larkin Admin Building,  considered to be one of the first business oriented buildings.  Henry Ford took the idea of the assembly line for his office layouts, lining up desks end to end, with managers at the end and corners for supervision.

Fast forward to the 1960’s and the German idea of “Burolandschaft” or office landscaping blossoms.  The social movement of the time evolved top down supervision to a more natural and collaborative flow.  Managers desks were mingled in and rigidly lined up rows of desks were free flowing in meandering organic lines.  Plants were introduced as dividers and the atmosphere focused on the people.  The late 1970’s introduced dividing panels to bring back privacy and improved acoustics.  By the 80’s, the cube farm was in full force and remained the standard until the tech industry upped the ante in the late 90’s and early 2000’s.

Before the tech industry, a typical office break room had a microwave, fridge, coffee maker and maybe a vending machine with cafeteria style seating for lunch.  Now its full complimentary kitchens, basketball hoops, pool tables, swings, and even napping rooms. People’s workstations are personalized with their bikes suspended on cables, inflatable palm trees in the corner, and their dog sleeping under their desk.

office atrium

The NEW Standard

The Layout

Private Offices- One of the biggest financial burdens of a company is the office itself.  Rent of office space is figured per square foot.  Private offices are less efficient than furnished workstations because they require a bigger footprint for that one person.  Modifications are more difficult as its real construction vs. moving furniture.  Private offices still conjure up a sense of status and that is a hard mind frame to break.  The quintessential corner office of the baby boomer generation meant that you finally made it.   Needs and wants are different when considering using an office.  For the most part, confidentiality should be the only reason a private office is needed.  Areas such as Human Resources, medical, financial, or legal are the only fields where privacy dictates hard offices.  Beyond that, a private office is a want and simply a reward of status.  Give a director or officer of a company a large swanky office where they spend most of their day in conference rooms or traveling, makes no sense financially in regards to rent and usable space.  A company must ask themselves when designing their office layout, are offices necessary?

Workstations- Clustered workstations are the new version of the old cubicle.  The typical 5′-6′ high cubical wall has all but disappeared in office furniture showrooms.  When used, panels are now 3′-4′ high to allow cross communication between teams.  File cabinets nestle underneath desks and double as guest seating.  Desks are typically coupled into clusters of 4-8 people creating families. Bookcases and cabinets usually border the clusters and create aisles flowing to community lounge spaces, conference rooms, and break facilities at the perimeter.

Hot Desks- Another aspect of what type of desk or work area is to analyze the duration of the employee being on site.  Would a “hot desk” environment work better for traveling or telecommuting staff?  Employees who are frequently away from the building might simply need a desk compared to their desk.  Sharing desks or drop-in desks (hoteling) also allow for visiting employees from other branches to use.

Open Studios- Studio style offices are typically done with one long table divided into each person’s work area.  Collaboration is free and occurs constantly.  Open studio style layouts have become very popular however they do come with their drawbacks.  Noise and distractions are top complaints among this set up style.  Introverts for example, may desire quiet time and seek refuge in far corners.  With an open studio style office, private alcoves and nooks are necessary as employees do make personal phone calls during the day, people do get stressed and tears do flow.  Thus, provide a place for  decompression and emotional intelligence awareness.

Conference Rooms- Community gathering spaces both casual for breaks or formal for meetings are still placed in central locations.  Aquarium style conference rooms are popular (all glass fronts), people can see if the room is occupied and the room doesn’t feel isolated.  However, if privacy is needed some sort of partial window film or electrochromic glass that frosts on command can be used.  Aquarium style conference rooms may seem off putting to some but their driving concept of open communication and lack of barriers hones the community vibe.

Co-working Spaces- Maybe you are a small company, whether starting out or fully established and a co-working space is a better fit.  With these configurations, your company shares main, larger facilities such as conference rooms, restrooms, and kitchens with other businesses.  Your area remains sectioned off and secure, but you mingle with other businesses in the common areas, reducing the size of your individual rented space and overlapping in communal facilities that are easily shared.  Cambridge Innovation Center is just one of many co-working spaces in the Boston metro area.

co-working space

The Furnishings

Ergonomically designed furniture is standard.  Today’s office chairs adjust up, down, back and forth.  Armrests go in all directions also.  Seats are cushioned or mesh with adjustable springs and lumbar support.  You don’t need the designer line, just make sure its adjustable and durable.  Workstations are now available with height adjustments, allowing for standing.  Treadmill desks and under desk peddles are also commonplace.  Physical comfort is paramount.  Your employees work hard for you, don’t make their back hurt.

Anyone who has worked in an office for any length of time knows that when someone leaves, their space gets ransacked by the remaining staff.  Anything from a better stapler to the newer chair gets snatched up.  When this occurs, the remnant work areas and cubes are bleak and then casted off to the next hired worker bee who comes along.  Nothing says “Welcome!” better than the oldest computer, wonky chair, and a broken stapler.  Joking aside, part of a company’s on boarding standards should be establishing a standard workstation.

Technology is monitored by IT departments, but who monitors the furnishings?  Some companies do have facility departments, but they receive direction from someone else. All items have a life cycle and they need to be placed on a replacement schedule with allocated budgets.  Cost of commercial grade office furniture being what it is can be a difficult expense for a company to justify.  There are now furniture companies out there that re-purpose and and reconstruct your existing furniture to your new desired aesthetic.   Davies Office is one such company.  From adjusting file cabinets to lowering panel heights to reupholstering chairs this company can assist in reusing what you already have, thus reducing the full replacement costs.

The Company Culture

In a previous blog (Making room) I discuss first impressions a company’s furniture can make on a client, visitor, and potential employees:

If you advertise your business as being current or cutting edge, but your conference room screams 1990, that’s a confusing message.  Your physical office counts just as much for your branding image as your logo, webpage, and slogan.

Create a Vibe- Office furniture doesn’t have to be fresh out of a showroom, however it does need to be presentable and in line with your company’s image and desired impression.  Along with the selected finishes such as wall coverings and flooring, the furnishings dictate the style of business you are and create a vibe.  What’s yours?

Baby boomers, Gen Xers, and millennials are blending in the work force, each bringing their own work comfort zone.  If a company hasn’t established its company culture, different work styles will often clash.  Human Resources, medical, financial, or legal fields for the most part dictate a more serious company culture.  For the rest of the working world, offices have relaxed.

Staffing Issues- Another aspect of your office design impression effecting company culture is in regards to staffing.  Is your business having difficulty with employee retention, ownership transition, or simply hiring new employees?  They are hugely impacted by the office design.  For example, a candidate could choose to turn down an offer because the office and in turn business feels stuffy, deciding your competitor is a better fit.  An existing employee can start interviewing elsewhere because the environment has slowly made them feel oppressed and uninspired, leaving you for your trendy competitor.  Current owners could have a difficult time promoting and encouraging upper staff to take over the reins because the business feels out of date.  Often with new ownership comes remodeling and re branding for a reason.  Become that desired competitor.

modern office space

The Outside Environment

Biophilic Design- A new movement is growing in office design and architecture in general.  Its more than just potted plants and windows, its the re-connection of people with nature.  A wonderful film about biophilic design  explains the principles of this building philosophy that is being practiced by successful businesses world wide.  More than just businesses are benefiting from this idea; hospitals, schools, and entire city neighborhoods are bringing nature back to the forefront.

Exterior Campus- Continuing the idea of biophilic design, businesses are developing their exterior campuses.  Roof top gardens, picnic plazas, and dog parks are being installed.  Headquarter campuses are connecting to the surrounding neighborhood, blurring the boundaries into communal outdoor spaces.  If you Google Amazon’s new headquarters going up in downtown Seattle, for example, they have altered the entire city block.  By doing this, they enhance the surroundings and bring a new life to the neighborhood.

Roof top garden

The Building

In addition to office design, buildings themselves are improved.  The LEED movement of construction has brought awareness of Sick Building Syndrome and improving building efficiency.  Lights are now controlled by daylight sensors, motorized window coverings monitor heat gain and solar glare.  HVAC control air quality and circulation.  Interior finishes are more pure by reducing toxic chemicals and content.  Low flow plumbing fixtures are installed and rainwater harvesting is designed into the outside landscape.  Buildings now have recycling programs, bike storage and electric car charging stations.  Buildings don’t have to officially use the LEED certification program to benefit from its design standards.  Simply following the guidelines alone can produce a healthier and more environmentally sound building when utilized.

Office design and the working environment is very different today compared to 30 years ago and unrecognizable from the 1950’s.  A company needs to find its balance that’s inline with their values, their employees’ expectations, and their sector’s impression.  The furnishings and finishes of a business cannot be a second thought, going hand in hand with the logo and slogan,  to create the culture and outside image.  Very few have the resources of Amazon.  However, take what they do and scale it down to something you can easily implement: open up the doors, change the music, and offer free k-cup pods.  Then, set a schedule to replace the chairs, paint the walls and tear out that corner office.

The point is to bring life back into the office. We all have work to do, let’s enjoy it.


Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ

Studio Owner & Interior Designer

Daricilar Design Studio    –    Medway, MA

Join in June: “How to Style

10 Key Factors You Must Consider When House Hunting.

Most people when buying a home, walk around inside and out for an hour, fall in love and make an offer.  If the offer is accepted, then they hire a home inspector to catch the flaws and create the sellers’ “fix it” list.  Fast forward to the successful closing, the excited owners move into their new home.  However, after the new homeowner honeymoon of about the first two weeks is over they start to notice things, a lot of things!  That’s when unnoticed issues become real and hidden problems become expensive.

“What does this switch do?”

“Why does the water drain like that?”

“Who would put that cabinet there?”

“Why is this room so cold?”

The strange, odd, and broken things start showing up while the flow of the floor plan starts becoming a reality.  Do you have to duck under kitchen cabinets to talk to someone at the dining table? Maybe you have to peak around a wall to see the little ones playing.  Does your garage get a puddle every time it rains?  Are you always tripping breakers or maybe your septic system can’t keep up and what’s that weird smell?  The point is, buying a house takes attention.  Having to get beyond the distraction of the beautifully staged home to search every nook and cranny in one fast hour is impossible.  If a second showing isn’t possible due to high demand and offer competition then you HAVE to use your only hour wisely and strategically.  I’ve categorized the 10 areas that I feel as a designer will cover the bulk of the hidden problems…

empty house icon

1.Basic needs

Before you even start house hunting, make this list.  These are the deal breakers, the “don’t even walk through the front door if they’re not there” items.  Make a list of your requirements for why you are even looking for a new house.  Some examples might include: # of bedrooms & bathrooms, an attached garage, a bathtub or fireplace, central air, dedicated office space, open floor plan, master en-suite bath, private yard, location, and waterfront views.  The point is to know your personal list and only look at those that qualify.  Don’t waste time looking at a house that doesn’t tick your major must have boxes.  Yes you can renovate, but buy your basics that you need already in the house.

lodge living roomopen floor plan

2. Flow & Orientation

Once you’ve set foot into the house that fits your needs start looking at the flow and floor plan of the house.  Is it open concept or a historic home with walled off rooms?  Pay attention to the sight lines, especially from the kitchen and to the living room.  Remember the kitchen is the hub of the home, how does it relate to the rest of the rooms?  Is there a breakfast bar in the island or a separate dining room?  How’s the home’s main entrance?  Is there a “landing station” somewhere near for keys, mail, and chargers?  What about a mudroom/coat area?  As you walk around the flow of the floor plan, imagine how you would live in the layout.

The next step, and often missed, is to figure out which side of the house faces south as this side will get the most quality sun during the day.  Not only is it your perception of your house being bright and sunny vs dark and dreary, sun orientation affects lighting needs (therefor your electric bill), heating/cooling impacts (your bill again), snow melting rate for your driveway, and growing success in your yard.  Some people may disregard sun orientation however they won’t when they realize they have to have all of their lights on during the day and their living room is sweltering in the summer.  In colder climates, south facing main activity areas are preferred.  Giant windows facing north will be very chilly come winter time and large west facing windows will increase cooling needs come summer time.  Learn the direction of the sun.

orange tabby catscreened in deck

3. Stairs

You’ve walked around the main floor, now are there stairs?  Is it a split level?  If so, how is it arranged room grouping wise?  What floor is the laundry room? Where is the master bedroom in relation to the other bedrooms?  For safety reasons, notice the stair railing spacing and height.  If they’re too wide or low, they’ll need to be replaced.  For outside access, are there stairs from the deck?  If you have older pets that go out or young children to play outside, a flight of deck stairs might not be for you.  Do you even want stairs?  If you’re buying a house later in life, it may be wise to avoid multi story homes for ease of use in the long term.

finished attic space

4. Storage 

First and foremost, don’t buy a house because of its storage.  Purge your stuff before you move and preferably before you start house hunting.  Do you have old sports equipment, out of date/outgrown clothes, rusty baking pans, old shoes, leaky hoses, rusty tools, old paperwork, or threadbare/stained linens?  None of this should move with you!  Many people get too busy at moving time and simply box it up and take it with them kidding themselves they’ll sort it when they move in.  Do you know what happens then?  People don’t sort it out, they shove that box in their walk-in closet, tuck it in their attic or by the furnace in their basement right next to the other boxes from previous moves.  Thirty years later, those boxes haves accumulated and the storage monster has gotten out of control.  Eventually, your storage nightmare will fall to your next of kin to handle because you didn’t. Love your loved ones and sort your own stuff.

Purge every season, every year, and before every move.

Now, analyzing storage needs that have purposeful functions including: garages, finished attic/basement, and walk-in closets.  If you’re buying in a four seasons climate then a garage is a blessing, especially an attached one.  Finished attics work great for offices, libraries, hobby rooms, and teen hangouts. Finished basements are great for wine rooms, home theaters, playrooms, rec rooms, and gyms.  Walk in closets are typically coveted for master suites and fortunate in children rooms.  However, based on your amount of clothing and whether you use dressers, you may be able to use standard sized closets found in older homes just fine.  Is there a linen closet or a coat closet?  What about a garden shed, third stall garage or driveway apron?  All of these support additional storage areas for active needs and routinely used items, but NOT your old boxes of stuff.

modern kitchenoak cabinets, traditional kitchenwhite shaker style cabinets, transitional style, white kitchens

5. Finishes & Materials

This item is usually what home buyers focus on the most.  Rightly so, it dictates the feel and age of the home.  For the interior, it can include: cabinetry, counter tops, lighting, wood trim, doors, metal hardware, tile, flooring, ceilings, paneling, skylights, window treatments, paint and wall coverings.  For the outside, it includes siding material, deck vs. patio, windows, doors, garage doors, porches, roof and foundations to name a few. Buying a home that is still in a previous decade and not in a good way takes a lot of work and money to update.  Know your limits and tolerances when buying a home like this.  Maybe you don’t mind painting or want to install hardwood floor regardless.  Can you afford a remodel or do you have time or tolerance for renovations?  In more expensive real estate markets, buying an older home and renovating it can be the only way to get into that desired location and therefor necessary.  However, build that construction cost into the price of the home to make sure its still comparable to the area.

All finishes have a lifespan and each material has its pros and cons.  One may be easier to maintain or more efficient for utilities while another one is better for your lifestyle or aesthetic preferences.  The point is, analyze the upkeep or replacement of these materials and take it into consideration when choosing the right home for you.

wood frame consruction

6. Utilities

These are the bones and brains of your home.  Unfortunately, when these system go, they require tearing apart your house.  This category includes: wiring type, electrical panel amperage, structure/foundation, air conditioning method, oil vs. natural gas, solar panels, geothermal, radiant floor heating, radiators, mini splits, septic/plumbing, piping material, well vs. city water, fireplace and chimney, radon mitigation, sump pump, water heater and softener, kitchen and laundry appliances, and insulation.  When touring a potential home you should ask yourself if you’re comfortable maintaining that type of system and equipment.  New homes win hands down in this category for being built up to current codes and higher standards for energy efficiency.

A separate blog could be written regarding each one of these so I’ll just touch on a few key factors that perspective home buyers should take note.  When touring existing and older homes, look for ones where systems have been updated and recently replaced.  Ask about the type of heating source’s monthly cost, water quality, fireplace inspection, and age of all appliances.  Are you familiar with the systems in the house you are touring?

A special note regarding radon as many people are oblivious to this danger:

Radon can be in any home in any location.  Even if it’s not in your neighbors it can be present in yours.  It is odorless, colorless and long term exposure is the second leading cause of lung cancer.  Ask for a test if a mitigation system is not in place. 

paved patio, landscaping, colorful pillowsmaintenance free fencing, healthy lawns, landscaping, privacy fencecottage, landscaping

7. Yard Maintenance

Now it’s time to turn your attention to outside matters.  Stroll around the yard and take note of the landscaping.  Do you like to garden or do you want minimal work?  Are you looking at a condo or is there an HOA, as both have rules regarding the yard upkeep. Notice the trees in relation to gutters and in colder climates for fall raking.  What’s the age and material of the deck or patio?  Are there railings that need to be updated?  Is there a pool to maintain and if so, a fence around it?  In many locations a pool alters home owners insurance costs so be aware.  Do you want a fence for privacy or security? Maybe you enjoy planting vegetables or herbs, where would they go?  Does the property back into woods or conservation land?  Are there utility poles visible or are they buried? Again, like the utilities and finishes, know what your capabilities are in regards to maintenance and upkeep.  If you’re moving from an apartment to a house for the first time, the yard is definitely an area you’ll want to consider.

Seattle, drainage, house maintenance

8. Drainage

Unless you live in Arizona, you’ll have to consider drainage.  Different soils in different parts of the country drain differently so know your region’s soil type.  Driveway construction should be noted: gravel vs. paved, concrete vs asphalt, as well as slope if you live in an icy or rainy climate.  Is the house situated at the bottom or top of a hill?  Does it have retaining walls that you should check for cracks?  Is there a body of water nearby and are you in a flood plain?  What’s the yard slope and are there French drains installed?  When inside, inspect the lower level corners and walls for past leaks.  Walk the perimeter and feel the “squish factor’ of the soil, standing water is not your friend.

yorkie puppytoddlers, touch a truck

9. Neighbors & Roads 

This one is a lot more subjective based on your lifestyle and preferences.  Is the house located on a child friendly road vs. main road?  Is it a connector street or cul-de-sac?  Is there road noise outside that can be heard from the deck?  Are there any barking dogs outside?

What are the neighbors’ houses like and how does your house compare to others in the neighborhood?  Is it the most expensive, comparable or the least expensive?  What are the nearby adjacencies?    Are you a walker, if so, are there sidewalks?  What are the neighboring streets like?  What’s around you?  Knowing your neighborhood will help you not only make a secure decision but also when its time for you to sell, the return on investment, knowing your house is comparable to the area and not drastically different.

aerial, neighborhood, commute time

10. Travel 

If you lead a very active lifestyle and are always coming and going you’ll need to take note of where the house is in relation to all the places you need to go.  These include schools, work, errands, leisure activities, friends and family.  Do you travel for work or leisure frequently?  Where’s the nearest freeway, airport, and commuter train station? Tolerable commute time is very subjective and up to the individual.  Its a common choice between a great house and a great location.  This item works as a tie breaker to choose between houses.

A problem in any of these areas isn’t necessarily a deal breaker as every buyer decides what they can learn to live with or fix themselves.  The problem arises when many of these items are evident, then the buyer must think to themselves how much do they really love this house or can they wait to buy something later?  No house is perfect, but the house you buy should tick many boxes and be a “wise buy”.

Buying a house is one area where your heart should not make the final decision, your head should make the ultimate call.

Check out my companion blog regarding preparing the inside of your home for a showing here. How to prepare your house for a showing.

Next month I will discuss office design trends and how office furniture has stepped away from the classic cubicle.


Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ

Studio Owner & Interior Designer

Daricilar Design Studio    –    Medway, MA

Join in May: “Break out of the box, no more cubicles!

downsizing, real estate, interior design

Beyond the Beige Box; 6 ways to create curb appeal and exterior detail.

Another season has started, real estate season!  In Massachusetts, this year’s season seemed to start February 1st with the dripping of melting icicles.  Many parts of the country may not get going until May, however out in Boston and the surrounding metro area, people are thirsty for new property as they move up, downsize, or try to shorten their commute by 20 minutes.  Open houses out here are busy and the buyers compete.  Just like a job interview, first impression is key and for property that’s curb appeal.  Even if you’re not preparing to plant that powerful “For Sale” sign in your front yard, creating curb appeal for your home is important for maintaining property value, neighborhood feel and fundamental homeowner pride.

The most expensive purchase you’ll ever make should be made to shine.  As an interior designer, my focus is inside a building, however I also have a background in city planning and urban design where I focus on enhancing the aesthetics of buildings and streetscapes.  So let’s go outside for a minute and take a look at what’s going on out there.

1. Style Basics & Color Schemes

Studying the style and architecture of your home is the first step in analyzing the color scheme.  All styles come with a feel and look that makes them work or makes them clash.  Searching online for the style of your home, you can quickly gather color ideas of tried and true combinations.  Another factor to consider is your weather and climate.  If you’ve traveled anywhere to a different climate you may have noticed the buildings are painted very differently.  Mainly to do with weather conditions, cultural influences, but also to do with the sun, particularly the quality of sunlight.  Northern climates tend to favor gray and beige schemes as the sun intensity is greatly reduced during winter months.  A brightly painted house would almost glow in the dark come January.  Move slowly south, the “Painted Lady” Victorian house starts popping up with bits of colorful trim.  Finally, go to tropical locales and you have fuchsia, turquoise, and canary yellow being acceptable and common place.  Historical and iconic locations such as Rome and Santorini even have building covenants in place limiting the color schemes to maintain the look of the area that visitors and residents expect and love.  Note: if you live in a condo community, check with your HOA for an official list of approved colors prior to painting, many communities have rules regarding color schemes.  Once you have developed a color scheme, use that inspiration throughout your project for continuity.  Painting a house or choosing siding is expensive and not done very often in the lifespan of a home.  This is not a time to reinvent the proverbial wheel in color schemes or combinations.

Washington DC townhomes, row house, historic neighborhood

Santorini Greece
Washington DC vs. Santorini


Netherlands, Amsterdam
Caribbean vs. Netherlands

2. Windows & Doors

Once your color scheme is established, its time to pay attention to the main features of your house, the windows and doors.  Accent colors tend to be used on front doors and shutters (if installed).  Front doors should also indicate what’s to come on the inside. Classic black indicates traditional style, bright colors usually indicate a more modern style, and complimentary or neutrals usually indicate a more transitional or casual interior. Styles of front doors should also be considered when enhancing the architecture of your home.  Cohesion is key to creating strong curb appeal.  Mullion and muntin lines in window profiles lend to the architecture style of the house, choosing the correct one is imperative.  Windows can cost up to 20% of the cost of your home, getting the style wrong is expensive and not a mistake that can be undone.

Yellow front door, curb appeal, historic homes

Notting Hill, Beacon Hill, Black front door, curb appeal

3. Wood Trim & Gingerbread

Victorian homes shine when it comes to wood trim or “gingerbread” when the correct colors are applied.  The term “painted ladies” describes the post card row houses of San Francisco, what many people envision with the term Victorian home.  Craftsman homes are another style where color palettes can greatly improve the wood trim appearance. Using more neutral and earthy tones in addition to stone accents can really enhance these homes.  Like idea #1 above, this is not a time to reinvent the proverbial wheel in color schemes or combinations.

Victorian home, restored homes, historic home, painted ladies

San Francisco, Painted Ladies, row house, historic homes
“Painted Ladies”

4. Details & Hardware

A quick way to enhance to the appearance of your home is with door hardware.  Its an up close detail that can add a lot of charm and character for relatively little cost.  Many home owners think of new door knobs and locks as the only option, however this category also includes items such as door knockers, hinges, brackets, kick plates, and house numbers.  Again, stick to the common architecture style of your house and stay in the same “line” when choosing items at the store.  Decisions to consider are the metal finish, profile, intricacy, and style.  For house numbers, the font choice will also need to be considered.  Just like letters, the font of the letter depicts a feel and style that needs to correlate to the overall style of your house.  If placing it on your house, by your front door or by the garage are typical places, make sure its legible from the curb.  It may be necessary to place another set on your mailbox or on your landscaping nearby as it needs to be functional as well as aesthetic.

door knockers, antique brass, door hardware, hinges

5. Landscaping & Hardscaping

Flowers and landscaping is usually what most people think of when they think spring house projects outdoors.  Many people enjoy adding the bright colors to pots and along their walkways and driveways.  Don’t think you have a “green thumb”? You don’t have to be an avid gardener to plant a pot of flowers.  Start simple with one bright color in one pot on your front step.  When starting out, look for two things on the flower’s label: 1) amount of sun needed and 2) duration of flowers.  You don’t want to buy a flower that requires all day sun that stops blooming in June when you have a semi shady spot and want color all summer long.  If you’ve planted flowers before start analyzing your arrangement style.  Do you want more height or like trailing flowers that seem to overflow?  Hanging baskets and window boxes allow for the trailing feel on porches, while planting spike plants in the center of pots creates a sculptural feeling and provide height.  Consider colors that coordinate like your clothes but also add drama from the curb.  Consider your house color as a backdrop for the flowers and choose contrasting colors to add drama or similar colors for a more serene, calmer feel.

When it comes to hardscape, price quickly adds up.  Paved patios of rock and brick can become pricey.  Many revered English gardens use basic gravel for walkways, trailing into simple stone steps then disappear into the lawn.  Trimming the edge of a perennial garden with bricks or stones end to end can create a crisp border line and ease lawn mowing.  Build your garden slowly, maybe the first season you plant a couple of trees and outline the flower bed with some bushes, then add some perennials and a couple of potted annuals by the front door, finally adding the trim, decor and details.

colorful planters, purple flowers, petunias

English garden, landscaping ideas, park flowers

6. Fencing & Mailboxes 

Whether for safety or privacy, the aesthetic of the fence you choose is important.  Cost directly correlates to the material chosen.  Are you dealing with an existing fence or a mixture of fence styles? Consider adding tall shrubbery to the side you don’t like or want to block and open style pickets or rails to the side you want the view.  Specific rules need to be considered when installing a fence in consideration to the neighbors and location on property line.  Generally, the “finished” side faces the neighbors and the “back” side faces you.  Fence companies in your area should be familiar with these courtesy rules as well as your local building department regarding fence permits and allowable styles.

Finally, your mailbox should be considered.  This is the first thing someone notices when pulling into your driveway, don’t just stick a box on a post in a bucket of Quikrete and call it good.  If your mailbox is leaning and peeling, or the numbers are faded or missing its time for a face lift.  Also consider posts with planters included.  Flowers at the mailbox add obvious curb appeal because its…at the curb!

fencing, white lawn furniture, day lilies, mixed fencing ideas

mailbox ideas, flower pot mailboxes, yellow flowers, curb appeal


Using all or any of these six areas can get the creative curb appeal juices flowing.  Plant a flower, add some new numbers and paint your front door.  Maybe you spray paint your old patio furniture, replace your mailbox, and throw down some fresh mulch.  The point is to refresh and revitalize your home.  The exterior of your home takes a beating from the weather and needs care.  Landscaping needs grooming and the painted finishes need refreshing.  The curb appeal of a house is like a person’s face, make sure its smiling.

Next month, I’ll move back inside as I focus on what to look for when you’re shopping for a new house.


Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ

Studio Owner & Interior Designer

Daricilar Design Studio    –    Medway, MA

Check out my previous blog regarding preparing the inside of your home for a showing here.

Join in April: “Buying the Right Home.

house boat, tiny house movement, tiny house designers in Massachusetts, tiny home designers in MA, interior designer in Medway

TINY Housing Alternatives

Beyond single family homes, apartments, condos, and downtown lofts there are many housing alternatives for those who desire something different.  Cottages, cabins, houseboats, dome homes, earth homes, and even communal living are all decades old concepts but are still a niche market.  However, within this niche market there is a growing movement raging on called Tiny Homes. Occurring world wide, tiny homes (commonly defined as being less than 500 sf) are offering incredibly sensible solutions to a diverse population for many reasons.  The main factors driving this trend are:

  • Those looking to buy are priced out of the market to shoulder the crippling and heavy mortgage burden, however still desire the high demand locations.
  • Those wanting to reduce their environmental impact and carbon footprint, live off grid, or live a sustainable lifestyle more in tune with nature.
  • Those yearning for a simpler life with less stress by reducing the required upkeep of a larger home, limiting the consumerism ideals of wanting and buying more, or living minimally with only necessities and truly desired items.
  • Those desiring to travel and need a home base to return to at the end of a journey.  Many tiny homes are mounted on trailers for this reason, thus the owners can then take their home with them on road trips.cottage, tiny house movement, tiny homes, tiny house designers in MA, tiny home designers in Medway, MA, interior designers in Medway, MA

Whatever the reason is, many of these tiny homes are simply beautiful!  When the concept of a home is streamlined to the basics the finesse of a well thought out design occurs due to spatial necessity.  Still utilizing standard building materials of stud walls, insulation, shingles, double pane windows, skylights, wood floors, tile and so forth these homes can hold their own in style and craft way better when comparing to its cousin the RV, built of plastic, laminates and vinyl.  However, due to the small size of these buildings, creativity is also needed in working with current building codes.

Many of these homes are mounted on trailers for this reason but then cannot be considered homes. Being mounted on trailers, many tiny homes average 8 ft wide by 24 ft long, and 13.5 ft tall due to DOT road regulations.  To maximize interior space within these confines, many work out to be 150 sf-200 sf with the addition of loft spaces.  Placing these homes permanently on a plot of land is another hurdle they face.  In many municipalities they can only be classified as secondary dwellings or auxiliary spaces.  This means they cannot be the primary residence of the land owner and have to locate on someone else’s backyard.  Additional workarounds often have to be considered such as skirting the trailer wheels from sight, proper utility hookups, waste water management and so forth.  However, those who are fortunate enough to be able to locate their tiny homes on open land without zoning restriction and completely off grid are living large!  The lifestyle freedom these tiny homes bring is phenomenal and the views from their windows can be breathtaking.

living on the water, houseboat, longboat living, living on the water, tiny house movement, tiny house, tiny home designers in Massachusetts, tiny home designer in Medway, MA, Boat designer in MA

As I mention on my website, my design studio is also the combination of the hobbies that keep me up at night.  One of my guilty pleasures is watching tiny house videos on YouTube.  As a designer, I analyze the homes’ level of craftsmanship, layout efficiency, and sustainable practices/environmental considerations.  My favorite video producer by far is Bryce Langston and his “Living Big in a Tiny House”  project based in New Zealand.   With many kiwi residents either priced out of the expensive Auckland housing market or have fallen victim to the massive earthquakes in Christchurch, tiny homes are becoming a fast trend and valid housing solution.  With his friendly interview style and genuine interest in tiny homes, Bryce’s videos showcase different tiny homes all over New Zealand.  The additional scenic aerial drone shots are breathtaking and just add to the videos’ charm.  He also includes construction tutorials from his own tiny house building project that are very informative and supportive of those looking to build their own homes.  I can’t wait to see how his tiny house ends up and look forward to viewing his new videos this year.  He’s currently interviewing in Japan and is coming to the USA this spring to learn more about the American tiny home trend.  Learn more about Bryce and his living big project at

There is also a subset within Tiny Homes called Micro Homes.  These differ slightly as they usually average under 100 sf!  These are super stripped down and answer the requirements of absolute basic living.  Extremely portable, these homes have also offered some larger cities solutions with helping the homeless find transitional housing for example.  Watching YouTube videos on this topic, names start to repeat and those in the Tiny House community refer to each other for design assistance or inspiration.  One such name is Dee Williams. Found at, she has downsized her 80 sf micro home to a new vardo gypsy wagon style under 60 sf.  She’s truly a minimalist and revered in the tiny/micro community.

While my design specialty is historic preservation and renovations, I have always enjoyed making floor plans more efficient, analyzing every nook and cranny for unused space, and removing unneeded open space.  My internship back in college was even analyzing the spatial efficiency of a hospital of 3 million sf to see if they were maximizing their space utilization. Buildings are priced out per square foot, so I like to make sure every one of them is used effectively.  Designing a large building is easy but many times the functional space remains the same and circulation space (walking around) is what increases. Many daily activities occur in spaces less than 100 sf and human interactions occur within 10 sf. Shrinking that large building down and still maintaining all functions becomes the challenge, where the creativity begins! Hence, why I love studying tiny homes.

tiny house living, tiny homes, cottages, downsizing, interior designers in MA

The American dream used to be buy a large chunk of land, build a big impressive house and feel satisfied saying “I’ve made it, I’m a success.”  However, I feel that idea is shifting. With land prices soaring, the environmental impact becoming more evident, and lifestyles becoming much more mobile, that dream has new ideas.  Cities are being more gentle with natural resources with recycling programs and encouraging water conservation with many states facing droughts.  Solar panel installations are becoming  increasingly popular and hybrid/high efficient cars are now common place.  Businesses too are downsizing, people are now working remotely or on location, thus reducing the amount of office space the company needs to lease.  Now, with the tiny house movement, cities have a new option to create affordable housing that can also be a lighter burden, if they choose to accept them into their zoning.  I’ve recently read that tiny homes are becoming an appendix to the International Residential Code for 2018.  Its still in the review and adoption process by the International Code Council, but the induction is finally here.   Many building officials currently don’t know how to approve Tiny Homes as they’re in no mans land for building codes. Yes, restrictions will then occur for the DIY’ers but only through code regulations will municipalities be able to bring main stream acceptance. Then, tiny homes could exist on their own yard screaming “I’ve made it, I’m a success!”


The idea of home is many things to many people.  At the end of the day however, all you need is protection from the elements, a cozy place to rest and cuddle with a loved one, a way to prepare nourishing food, and a facility to refresh.  How you define those is what makes your home truly yours, whether its big, tiny, or somewhere in the middle.  Go find your tribe, the home and community for you is out there.


Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ

Studio Owner & Interior Designer

Daricilar Design Studio    –    Medway, MA

Check out my previous blogs regarding making homes multi task here and how to declutter your life here.

Join in March: “Beyond the Beige Box; creating curb appeal and exterior detail.”

reducing construction costs, how to save money during a renovation, construction expenses, construction help

10 Budget Busters; How to Reduce Construction Costs.

The holiday season is over and the new year has begun.  Most of us will now buckle down for 2-3 months of cold weather and inside activities.  If you’re already thinking to spring and house projects once the weather gets warm, now is the time to plan and prepare. We’re stuck inside anyway while the snow and wind blow outside so let’s get out the pencil and paper and start brainstorming.  Construction projects cost money, its a no brainer. And let’s just put it out there right now and get it over with…there will be additional, hidden costs in any building project.  Always and forever, no matter how experienced the construction team, no matter how many times the designer checked & measured, some hidden cost will show up.  Now the secret is out, let’s move on to how to reduce them, avoiding as many as possible.

I’ve listed the top ten reasons why I believe construction budgets get blown or surprise cost increases occur.  There are others, but these are the biggies to anticipate and avoid.  They’re not listed in a weighted order as each one can cause large headaches depending on the project.  In addition, many items can cause others creating a ripple effect.

1. Making decisions incorrectly This directly ties in with not having formal plans.  Whenever decisions need to be made, its best to decide them at the beginning and with the entire project in mind.  Delaying a decision, rushing a choice, spreading out finish selections, or changing your mind on a selection causes problems.  Also spending money inappropriately falls into this category.  Your milk and eggs don’t need luxury. Don’t break the bank on dreamy appliances.  All fridges stay cold and all stoves get hot, so you’re spending several thousand dollars more for a little metal logo with a good marketing campaign to store bottled water and soda?  Walk away, don’t do it.   While you’re at it, skip the cabinet fronted appliances or secret drawers.  We all know kitchens have appliances, they’re not embarrassing so save the money and stop hiding them.

When making decisions in your project, take a step back and ask yourself how important that item really is and establish a want vs. need list.

2. Informal plans When there is no formal plan, decisions get made on the fly, without notice.  Then situations and outcomes arise and there is no damage control.  Miscommunication occurs constantly as different people interpret discussions differently and everyone remembers conversations in a slightly different way.  When you have a professionally drawn plan, more details get discussed and written down prior to any construction.  Always work the problems out on paper first before swinging a hammer.  With professional plans, you’ll get more accurate quotes, avoid miscommunication, and make cohesive design decisions.  Yes, you’ll spend money on the designer themselves in fees, however, the gain is work clarification, a professional eye on your side, and an adviser.  Just like lawyers, physicians or dentists; architects and interior designers provide a professional service when people need something so use them.

3. Loose budget & scope creep – From the first moment you begin your project you should have a budget in  mind.  Partnering a firm budget with complete plans greatly reduces the potential for scope creep, or increasing the size of the project by adding additional work.  Paint the hall, refinish the doors, tile the fireplace surround all on top of the kitchen remodel and suddenly your house is a mess, your project is never ending and your budget has walked out. Pull back the reins on the project that you initially started and stick with it.  If you want to add additional phases discuss that at the planning stage not during construction.

4. Updating & relocating major utilities & fixtures – Additional costs in this category is almost unavoidable.  Partnering it with #5, opening walls, the unknown Pandora’s box will be released.  The building’s past life is buried in the walls, ceiling, and floors and almost always has to be dealt with for code reasons.  Swapping out older infrastructure and modernizing to current code standards can bring financial headaches.  Project priorities will be challenged and allocation of funds will be necessary.  With aesthetic creativity however, the same outcome can be achieved, no matter what utilities have to remain.

5. Opening up walls/removing walls – In addition to opening up walls for utility access, removing walls for floor plan changes and space expansion usually involves structural additions.  Lintels, headers, columns and beams are costly but necessary parts of the building. Reframing openings sometimes require a change in design particularly the ceiling. Many people have aversions to beams as they feel it breaks up the space into segments. Treated correctly they can either enhance and create character or made to blend into the ceiling.  Don’t sweat the structural changes, they’re necessary.  Concentrate on them being done correctly and then aesthetically.

6. Historic details – When dealing with replicating and restoring historic details, often times it requires hand tools and meticulous labor.  This is one area where specialty and experience comes into play.  Custom molds may need to be created, relics restored, and layers of history removed or stripped away to reveal original beauty.  All of this meticulous work requires additional funds, but many times necessary for historic properties.  Particular attention needs to be made when working with the local SHPO (State Historic Preservation Office) and the National Registry of Landmarks in order to register your building.  Original building features need to be preserved and considered during design and construction.

7. Mother nature & uncontrollable factorsWeather can wreck havoc on an addition that has yet to be enclosed.  Storms can delay delivery, rain can postpone crews, and ice can snap power lines.  In addition to the weather, other items out of our control is processes and paperwork.  By this I mean applications for financing, grants, historic preservation registration, ordinance waivers, code reviews, permits, inspections, and so forth.  The submission and approval process is frustrating and slow going, but necessary. Simply do your part and go with the flow.  Get copies of documents and ask ALL your questions.

8. Hiring cheap labor – There’s a reason you should always get at least 3 bids/estimates for your project. If your choice is to go with the cheap one, there’s a reason they’re cheapest especially if it’s by a lot. Again I mention this, in a previous blog about surviving construction, see the link at the end of this post. In public funded jobs the lowest bidder usually has to be accepted, but in private funds, the owner can choose, so do so cautiously.

9. Failing at the DIY method first – When a home project goes well, it can be a money saving success, however when work needs to be redone, torn out, corrected, or recalculated the price adds up quickly.  Kuddos goes out to those who try first but know your limits then call in the pros.

10. Custom orders – Many people think custom is better and implies quality and they’re wrong.  Custom simply means someone made it especially for you and you’re paying for it, dearly.  As a designer the term “custom kitchen” drives me crazy.  I was trained that unless the dimension is obscure and aesthetic is unique, use standard issue cabinets. The worst is when I see a generic kitchen that has standard dimensions and the client or realtor says “it’s custom!”. I’m thinking, no it’s a rip off.  Do not equate custom with better. It might very well be better constructed or highly personalized, but if you’re simply looking for white or basic maple kitchen cabs buy quality store ready ones   As long as the doors close correctly, the joints are sound and the boxes stay on the wall go with store bought and splurge on the granite or quartz counters that you really want, your dishes won’t care!  This also pertains to custom made furniture too.  I once had an upholsterer tell me that he was making a custom sofa for a designer that cost $5,000 to make and that with the retail markup she was going to bill her client $11,000!  Let me tell you, I had a physical reaction in my gut.  Even he admitted it was a rip off and it was his sofa.  When ordering furniture from a retail store, you may get offered custom fabric or COM (Customer’s own material) where you can choose any fabric under the sun.  Three questions always to ask when deciding whether to do this 1. How much more does it cost? 2.How much time will it add to the order? 3. Is it necessary?

Someone will always be willing to sell you something more expensive, you as the consumer/buyer need to know when its not necessary.  

Juggling these 10 construction balls can challenge any project’s budget.  Some are unavoidable but some can be managed.  I may rant on some hot buttons, but money and resources get wasted so easily in construction.  I try to educate and provide pros and cons to my clients for them to make the right choice for themselves and their project.  Everyone comes with their own priorities and we all value different things.  You may enjoy luxury line items and that’s OK, however those items should fall by the wayside when new drainage lines or wiring updates need to suddenly be made.  People only like spending money on the pretty finishes as those are what you can see, however what’s on the inside of the walls is vital for success. Then, feeling good on the cash you saved, bank the money and apply it to the mortgage.

Check out my past blog on Dust & Debris, Surviving Construction for additional construction survival tips.  Don’t be afraid of construction, design well and build smart!


Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ

Studio Owner & Interior Designer

Daricilar Design Studio    –    Medway, MA


Join in February: “Housing Alternatives

Twinkle & Sparkle

The holiday season is upon us.  Its time to decorate the house, consume an abundance of decadent food, exchange gifts, and celebrate the Holy with friends and family.  Many, many years ago, I wrote a satirical poem regarding certain styles of holiday decorations considered then to be tacky.  It was full of sarcasm and snarky comments about plastic Santas, deflated snowman, and fallen down reindeer statues to name a few.  Fortunately, the poem met its bad karma and fell victim to a flood in my parents’ basement a decade ago in a waterlogged school keepsake box.

Since then, I’ve gained acceptance and opened my mind to all tastes of holiday decor and have attempted to write a new version of my holiday poem.  Please enjoy with an open heart and a laugh in your belly.



May all of your ornaments find a place, although arguments may occur on where that exact place is, remember they are all precious to someone.  No matter what your taste in holiday decorations, what’s important is that you enjoy the time with loved ones.  I wish you a healthy and happy holiday season.  Until next year, plastic Santa, Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!!!santa


Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ

Studio Owner & Interior Designer

Daricilar Design Studio    –    Medway, MA


Join in January: “Reducing Construction Costs

Making room in your rooms

In the month ahead, we are about to consume a ton of both food and money.  Let’s talk about purging our stuff and needing to make more room.  Just as our stomachs only have so much space, so do our homes, businesses, and even our minds.  Let’s first be grateful for all that we have but its time to declutter…

There’s a simple reason we need more space, we have too much stuff.  Our rooms are not too small, there are simply too full with too many things in them.  Try shifting the paradigm, instead of being persuaded to get rid of something, try having to defend why you should keep it.  In my August’s post about Evolving rooms and flexible spaces. I mentioned that I would discuss storage in general at a later date.  Below is an excerpt from that post:

Purge all unused items out of your space, it’s too expensive to fill with stuff you don’t use. Sell, donate, pass along, throw out, just make it leave.  Clothes that don’t fit, rusty baking pans, old books, uncomfortable shoes, anything that doesn’t bring you joy or used daily is taking up expensive real estate in your home.  Let it continue its journey and set yourself free!  I recommend every season to get the stuff under control and from then on once a year to maintain the balance.


  • Bedroom- Use closet organizers for clothes by type.  Establish hanging vs. folded, stacked on shelves or in drawers.  Buy a double bed for kids instead of twins for sleeping options flexibility.  If you don’t have a linen closet, store bedding in each bedroom in the closet or in totes under the bed.  To reduce furniture in small bedrooms, use wall mounted shelves, sconces, and place dressers in closets if needed.
  • Clothes- Only keep clothes that are either sentimental or actively worn.  Definitely keep hand me down clothes for your children in the future but not for yourself.  If you no longer fit in an item, it has holes, stains, irritates, or is out of style then donate or toss it.  When styles repeat as they always do, they are never the same.  Your 80’s & 90’s clothes are just that, not the new 80’s and 90’s.  Keep the classics, toss the trends.
  • Kitchen- Raid the pantry cupboard and fridge for expired or forgotten food, then toss and donate.  Keep your kitchen counter clear apart from appliances used daily.  If possible, buy a table with self storing leaves or extensions.  If there’s no basement, stash extra kitchen chairs in bedroom corners or use as desk chairs.  Donate the collection of generic glass vases, warped baking pans, and old dish towels.  Purge the Tupperware, mismatched mugs, and the fridge magnets.
  • Bathroom- Toss out old toiletries,  donate old towels, install hooks and wall shelves.
  • Living/Family Room-  Furniture should be scaled for the size of the room, first identify travel patterns and then arrange the furniture around those.  Sort through old books and magazines, CD’s and DVD’s, then donate or sell.


  • Paper- start a “touch the paper once” rule: pick it up, use it and file/recycle it.  Shuffling papers around your desk wastes time and doesn’t help.  Take photos of documents, use cloud software or external/jump drives for storage.
  • Electronics- Organize cables and chargers, establish a home or station for them.  Simplify the gadgets: multiple phones, tablets, laptop and a desktop is too much.  Unless your job requires separate devices, scale it back.
  • Furniture- Old office furniture is not a comforting look for your clients.  Once you’ve depreciated the value on your taxes, no longer need it, and its way out of style, donate or trade it in to resale or refurbish.  If you advertise your business as being current or cutting edge, but your conference room screams 1990, that’s a confusing message.  Your physical office counts just as much for your branding image as your logo, webpage, and slogan. You wouldn’t wear a suit 25 years old so don’t make your office wear one either.  If you can’t afford to replace all the furniture, be strategic in where the new furniture should go.  Your staff’s daily comfort and  the first impression of clients are paramount.  Focus on ergonomic desk chairs and pleasant reception areas first then move on to replacing conference rooms and cubicles.  I’ll address office furniture in more detail in a later post.


  • Social media and email- Set a stopping time for the evening.  Move to a relaxing activity such as listening to calming music or taking a shower.  Sip a warm drink and start dimming the lights to induce a sleepy environment.
  • Running errands- When going to and from errands, incorporate short walks to the end of the street, pause and stretch, then continue on your journey.
  • Eating- Put the electronics down and really taste your food.  Be aware of the speed you are eating, and look around you.  Talk to the people you’re eating with and come out of the trough mentality.

In general, retain only sentimental and very useful items then either donate, toss or sell the rest. Resist the thoughts of “what if one day…” or “what if I might…”.  Live in the now and make space for tomorrow.  Not everything is sentimental, useful, or necessary.

Also, don’t feel like you have to do it all at once or that you don’t have time.  If you watched tv last night, then you have time for one item, one cabinet, one room.  I think you’ll find that once you start you won’t want to stop.  Free yourself from the heavy emotional burden of all this clutter in your life and let the real you breathe.  Just as roots need space to grow, people need it too.


Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ

Studio Owner & Interior Designer

Daricilar Design Studio    –    Medway, MA


Join in December: “Twinkle & Sparkle

Favorite Finishes; a designer’s choice.

I have been looking forward to writing this month’s entry ever since I created my annual list of topics during the summer.  The following is  a culmination of all the finishes that I love to use as an interior designer.  Obviously, not all would make it into every project as the owner/users, project budget and function of a space dictate what’s appropriate.  Also, trying to be a well rounded designer, all interior styles and materials are workable and feasible.  HOWEVER, if I had to pick signature items for myself, these would be it…


I’ve grouped my favorite picks into categories.  Many overlap and work in other groups like the texture helps depict the style or color scheme.  But I’ve tried to group them into cohesive ideas.


Please also check out my curated style boards on Pinterest: DDS Style Boards.  I have boards for interior finishes, decor ideas, historic preservation, and mid century modern, as well as plain/simple, modern for the modern shy and a new tiny house board.

Now back to my list… let’s take a look at some examples of my favorite materials assembled together:

brick wall interior, cafe, renovated historic building, loft living

courtyard, white lights, cafe dining, al fresco dining, brick and limestone, restored property

When you layer different elements you create depth and richness, both physical and visual.  Using complimentary colors and a diversity of materials you create a balanced environment.  If you’re like me you enjoy the beauty and richness that can be found in older pieces too.  The trick when using vintage pieces is to mix them with new up to date materials around them bringing the interior to present day.  If using all vintage pieces, the interior will appear just that, dated.

Now, to briefly address items I don’t like: paisley, chevron, and herringbone patterns.  I don’t like polka dots much either, but for the right room I could squeeze a few in here and there.  For reproductions, I’m not a fan of digitally printed or vinyl imitation of materials, it always looks flat and too perfect.  Real authenticity brings dents and dings, scratches and scars, patina and dirt.  However if your budget does not afford all of the real things, don’t worry.  To quote from my July’s blog post Decorator, Designer, Architect…which one to choose? :

Never let a designer tell you that you need a bigger budget for a better impact.  Creativity and imagination can go a long way for a limited budget.”

Real materials can cost more, but can still be showcased just in smaller quantities.  Also,  function often requires something more durable, such as vinyls and polyesters, this is not a problem either.  Today’s commercial materials can deliver a similar desired aesthetic and meet the building code requirements and durability standards for the location.

When choosing materials and finishes, create depth and interest.  Interiors are to be experienced and enjoyed.  The physical environment provides a visual energy, make sure its amazing!


Sarah Daricilar, NCIDQ

Studio Owner & Interior Designer

Daricilar Design Studio    –    Medway, MA


Join in November: “Making room in your rooms