How to Entertain Like a Designer

Holiday Tables by Orange County Designers

Interior designer Hugo Flores rocked a Moroccan vibe at his colorful and inviting table scape, one of my favorites from this year’s Entertaining by Design event.

Just in time for turkey and all the trimmings, we have some holiday table setting tips from top southern California designers in Orange County.  The annual Entertaining by Design event held at the Laguna Design Center,  November 6 and 7 this year, shows you how to entertain like a designer when it counts the most.


Let’s all give thanks for the little things, like chocolate! This winter wonderland table was a surprise a minute. Layers of gold rimmed dishwater were placed on a sunburst mirror at each seat.  Design by Interior Creations by Lana

Over the top fabulous is never too much during the holiday season.  And this year is no exception.  Now is when you bring out the “good” dishes to go with the good food.  What this show taught us is that you may have items in your home to work with that add unexpected touches to the table.


PH Design Interiors used metals, stoneware, and touches of blue to complement this traditional Mexican themed tables cape.

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

And just like we welcome the occasional unexpected guests, a bit of tongue in cheek played out at the venue this year.  Guess Who’s Coming to dinner?  Look at the next two table settings.  Comment below when you spot the guests who came to dinner.


Elegance, Luxury, Simplicity & Knowledge at table inspired by famed French model, Katoucha, designed by Interior Designers Institute students.


Holidays are fun. So keep the giggle going at dinner. Snow, white table ware and an unexpected guest calls for a double take.

Holidays are fun. So keep the giggle going at dinner. Snow, white table ware and an unexpected guest calls for a double take.



Trending big this year was cobalt blue, one of my faves. The colors tie in beautifully with winter holiday celebrations



Make sure that you put an interesting guest over to keep the conversation flowing a la Chris Kittrell & Associates Interior Design.

Now you have inspiration on how to entertain like a designer.  Call Mary Etta Designs at 714 974-6571 if you would like help getting your house in order before the guests arrive.  Happy Entertaining!

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Fringe In Couture Fashion Comes Home


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There’s no secret that fashion and home interiors are now BFF’s.  You see one, and you know the other got the style memo on how to dress for the party.  Even the colors in the elaborate necklace above by London based accessories label, Anita Quansah, reminds me of the spicy fall colors of those gorgeous tiebacks.  This fall season’s trend of fringe in couture fashion comes home.


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These peep toe shoeties not only have fringe, but the beige version also uses a touch of the equestrian buckle that’s rocked the runways in recent seasons.  Just like the medallions in the valance window treatment, a feminine mix with a hard edge says have fun with your couture, be it home or fashion.

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How many trends do you spot in this dress from  Proenza Schouler Spring 2015 Ready-to-Wear collection?  Menswear tweed at the bodice and fringe on the leggy skirt of the dress.  Tweed is a classic that works well in home decor.  And the throw has that obligatory fringe on the end.



This Alberta Ferrari outfit shows that a BoHo girl can dress up and still feel comfortably chic. And I picture her home featuring a window treatment just as comfortable and chic. This draped look on the window to the right gives a nod to the oh-so-popular BoHo Chic style. It’s very unconventional, yet it works!

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Swish, swish of the skirt above mimics the feminine tassel shown at right. Inspiration in fashion moves right into home decor.  Couture comes home.  And it’s a beautiful friendship.

Does your home reflect your personal style?  Let me help you turn your home into the nicest place you go.  Give me a call at 714 974-6571 and together we can perform a Re-Design in your home just in time for the holidays.


Belly Up to New Bar Stools


As I write today, I’m listening to Jennifer Hudson wail “Whatever Makes You Happy” from the soundtrack of the wildly popular television series, Empire.  And what makes me happy is that now I can belly up to new bar stools this fall.  Small changes make for big impact in our homes as you and I prepare to spend time indoors during cooler weather.

Before Mary E

So I finally attacked my pitiful bar stools at our bar and kitchen counters in preparation for holiday entertaining.   Stools of substance can cost upwards of $800 to$1500.  That’s why I elected to have my favorite upholsterer not only recover the seats of the ones shown above, but also perform some much needed surgery on the legs and braces of a couple of them.

After Mary Etta Designs bar stool

As you can see, they are more than ready for the next person who will belly up to the bar.  And when we tiptoe from the fridge to the counter in the kitchen, we can perch on my favorite newly designed  kitchen barstools. Before the remake, though similar in color,  they didn’t really match.

Mary Etta Designs Before Kitchen Bar Stools

It was so much fun to mix the geometric fabrics from Maxwell with the linen-like fabrics from Fabricut.  The nail heads elevate the chairs to the  casual elegance that I enjoy. I wanted a solid fabric where stains were most likely to occur.

Mary Etta Designs Kitchen Barstools

The fall makeover is just beginning.  Stay tuned for more fall updates at my home.  If you would like help with redoing things around your home for the holidays, contact me about One Day Re-Design.  Details about this new service offering can be found here.


One Day, One Room, Re-Design

Yes.  One Day, One Room, Re-Design and Done.


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You’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year? Yikes!  Its time to get cranking on returning your what is now a dumping room back into a dining room.  Sign up for my new service designed just for you and your home or office.   One Day, One Room, Re-Design

You’ve thought about it all year.  In your mind, it would only take a minute to find a fun new fabric for that chair that the kids have climbed all over with muddy shoes, chocolate covered hands, and their favorite crayons and glue sticks.  And…it is time to brighten that corner of the family room so you and family can get cozy during the fall and winter months.  

So why are you dragging your feet?  Why?  Because your plate is full.  And all you need is one more thing piled on to make you topple over from the stress of getting ready for the winter season.

This year, get the help you need.  Let Mary Etta Designs help you to make that one room that you want to look balanced, warm and inviting a reality this year.  After all, the holidays are just around the corner.

Sign up for my new service designed just for you and your home or office.  Call Mary Etta Designs for  the service of One Day, One Room, Re-Design.   Together we can tackle the floor plan, shop your home for items to be repurposed, declutter, and discuss options that you want to incorporate.

Sign up as soon as you can because my calendar is filling up. There are just a few days left before we welcome the holidays.  Let’s do this!

White Pumpkins – My New Boo!


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Cool white pumpkins are my obsession this season.  The natural white skin of pumpkins with names  like  Lumina, Cotton Candy or miniature Baby Boo, have been bred by pumpkin growers, and seeds for specific varieties. And they’ve become a fall favorite for me to use on table top displays.


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I have to admit. I’m a bit, no a lot, lazy when it comes to decorating for the fall holidays. The change of season is definitely welcome, especially this year in Southern California with unusually hot days. I’m thinking that fall decor at least will trick my mind into thinking its cooler weather.


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So this year I decided to at least give a nod to the harvest.  I love the white pumpkins.  It’s just a nice change compared to what you usually see.  It’s like an early start to the shiny Christmas decor.  All of these are for those of you who might have caught me without fall decor in years past. And oh yeah, the table scape  at the top is yours truly!

I’m also thinking a white pumpkin would not look out of place positioned among evergreen boughs and could take me right into holiday season decorating.

Happy Fall Y’all.


Decorating a Room? Where To Start ?


Where Do You Start When Decorating a Room?

               W.R.A.P. Your Room

It is getting warm and you’re ready to spruce up the nest at home, right?  Are you are ready to start decorating a room? But where do you start?  You can stop turning around in  circles going from floor to walls to floor again.  I have a really simple W.R.A.P. method that I suggest you follow.


Living room design.
It should come as no surprise that I like to start at the windows with window treatments in a room. Why?  It is the single most defining element in your space.  Windows are the eyes to your home. Our eyes naturally go to the light of these openings.  It can definitely be a finishing touch or the jumping off point. Pattern, texture or colors can dramatically affect the design of a room.

Do you need privacy, sun protection, heat control? Or do you need sound absorption, easy lifting controls, or a decorative finish? Once you answer these questions, what form the window treatments take is made easier.


precious Middle Eastern rugs Handmade wool for sale in the antiq
Another textile that can be an inspiration for style direction is the rug you choose.  Rugs ground a space, defining where key furniture pieces will be placed.  Though rugs act as a backdrop, that is a foil for how important a part rugs play in color and texture in a space. Start with your choice of rugs and the choices you make for paint, accessories and furniture can flow easily.

interior details in rustic style

Definitely the most fun part of decorating, accessories should tell a story.  We get to know who you are, what are your interests and where have you been in your travels.  Accessories should reflect your authentic self.  This is the last step in the order of decorating a room.  I list it here so that the W.R.A.P. list makes sense.


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While this is not your very last step, it should not be your first.  It should follow your selection of textiles.  You will make the process of decorating so much harder trying to find fabrics that match your wall color. Start with a pattern taken from your draperies, furniture, rug, or pillow fabrics.  Pick colors from one of these and adapt it to your paint color.

Follow the W.R.A.P. method to decorate a room and you will be able to plan your decorating with less confusion.


Anaheim Hills Interior Designer

Mary-Etta-Designs-Hunter-Douglas-ShadesRecently, a colleague asked me how I became an Anaheim Hills interior designer with a specialty in custom window treatments.   And it made me think.  Maybe some of you are wondering the very same thing.

Mary Etta Designs actually started in West Chester, Ohio –  a suburb of Cincinnati.  While living in the Queen City, I began design work at the urging of a counselor that my husband and I hired for one of my teenagers.  Not a bad kid,  just teenage stuff that we as parents could not figure out without some guidance.

The counselor noticed that what was really needed was another focus for me besides my kiddos. Having left the corporate workplace, I needed more than carpools, sports and directing all of my attention at people who could not appreciate grown-up points of view.

He knew that I wanted to work as an interior designer and he was building a new house.  He asked me for some direction in finishing up his home’s interior design.  And he said, “I think that you ought to pursue design as a career.”  That did it.  His encouragement got me started and I am so glad that it did.

Casually, I started helping some of my neighbors with decorating challenges.  And I began to get so busy with jobs, that before I knew it, I was booking appointments, charging for my time, and solving their design dilemmas.  I’ve taken courses, gotten certifications, and quite a bit of OJT – on the job training.  

Custom Window Treatments is a specialty that found me.  I honestly believe that it is the single most dramatic change that you can make in a space.  Window treatments can be a focal point or an absolute finishing point in a room.  Blend it in, pop it with a pattern or color.  Whatever you do, a room is better with window coverings.  Otherwise, you have giant holes of glass that call attention away from the beauty of the room.



Three years into my new business venture, we moved to Cal – i – forn – I- A.  Talk about a bummer.  I said goodbye to customers, contacts, and vendors that I worked so hard to acquire in Ohio.  Everyone was happy but me.  And when Mama ain’t happy, well, you know how that goes.    But a couple years into the move, and a couple of trade shows later, I was off and running.

Yes, there has been a recession and a couple of jobs in the design field in between.  But my passion to help you achieve the look you want in your interior spaces is still strong.  I love helping you, my clients, solve energy, privacy and preservation problems.  It’s what gets me up in the morning.  And I go to bed with ideas of your homes and offices swirling around in my head.


So when you need an Anaheim Hills interior designer (and I will work all of Orange County) think of Mary Etta Designs.  I not only help you with window treatments, but also with space planning, color consultations, or a general consultation on how you can proceed in your design journey.

Feel free to contact me here and check out my website here. Have a wonderful weekend and try to stay cool in this heat.


Three Easy Apartment Decorating Secrets


Sofa with colorful pillows in room


So….some of you noticed that I was MIA for the month of July. I was supposed to be on vacation in Ohio. But I did do a bit of research on three easy apartment decorating secrets for you apartment dwellers . Let’s just say a wedding, a funeral and surgery for one of my daughters wiped out most of the month. What should have been a fun time with family, turned into a longer, less relaxing vacay.

The wedding of hubby’s nephew -wonderful.  An unexpected funeral made for somber family time in my hometown.  That visit was cut short by an unplanned trip to Atlanta.  Our youngest daughter had a long overdue, poorly timed (for me), tonsillectomy.  Let’s just say, as an adult, that surgery is not the fun, popsicle and ice-cream-eating time off from work that you’d expect.  It’s rough and you need a nursemaid.  Mom to the rescue.

Ten days in her apartment, staring at neutral walls, had me dreaming of what I could do if only I could get my hands on paint, accessories, and a day to shop for something other than mashed potatoes, popsicles, and soup.

What would I have done, design-wise, in my young twenty something’s apartment?  Well to start, I would have attacked the walls to give her place some interest, movement and and express her individuality.

Wallpaper for Renters.  A friend who lives in an apartment told me about this and I am a fan.  You can make a statement with wallpaper in an entry or on a feature wall without worrying about how you will take it down.  Companies like Sherwin Williams have washable, eco-friendly Easy Change Wallpaper.  Who knew?

Take it outside.  And then, her “outdoor space” would have been next on the list.  Don’t tell me you have an itty bitty balcony.  Fresh air can be had for the price of that extra dining chair and a piece of fluffy sheepskin.  Plop down a small woven rug and side table and you can sip Starbucks all day Saturday without the “cell yell” environment.


Chalk it Up.   An organized space gives big returns in small spaces.  Maximize a small wall the way that Jenna Burger of SAS Interiors did so well here with her family’s chalk painted wall.  Enhanced with  calendars, file holders, and clipboards, it can prove to be  the hardest working spot in the home.


Source BHG’s Jenna Burger

I’m happy to say that my daughter is doing much better, is back to work, and even managed to move to another apartment since I left mid-July.  It’s a good thing that I didn’t act on any of these fun projects.  But now she has a new place for me to help design.  Sounds like I need a road trip.  Atlanta in the fall?


Save Energy, Control the Light


Hunter Douglas Designer Screen Shades

How is my Apple iPhone 6+ connected to helping an office save energy, control the light, and increase productivity?

In my last blog I  mentioned a problem that sent me to South Coast Plaza Apple Store.  Remember the faulty camera on my Apple iPhone 6+, that problem?  The upside was that I happened upon a great Home and Garden Show.  My phone took great pictures. See those pics in the blog post below.  Today’s post is proof positive of how much that camera was in need of repair.


What should have been the best “before and after” shots of an installation of solar window shades for Mary Etta Designs this year turned out less than perfect.  Think of last week’s  pictures as an “after” testament on the wonderful repair Apple Genius Bar employees performed on my iPhone 6+.  And this week’s photos, sadly, are the “before” pix.

That being said, I am still proud of the installation of Hunter Douglas Designer Screen Shades for my clients at Emerson Process Management in Irvine.

Emerson Process Management – Before Mary Etta Designs

Companies worldwide turn to Emerson Process Management for technologies, services, and expertise to solve problems that are immediate and important to them.  The last thing that this state-of-the-art company needs is reduced productivity amongst its employees because of the light and heat at the windows in their beautiful, newly renovated facility in Irvine, California.


Before – Sheets of Paper At the Window, not the best solution for heat and direct sunlight.

Before, not only was there glaring sun streaming in on the East side of the building, but the Southern California heat was making concentration a bit hard for some.  I proposed a solution in Hunter Douglas Designer Screen Shades. The goal was to allow a level of view-through so that employees would not feel claustrophobic.  But I also wanted to help reduce the amount of heat coming into the office to help control energy costs.  Additionally, controlling the direct sunlight would greatly reduce the glare on monitor screens and into employees’ eyes.

Installation Day is a Happy Dance Day.

Installation Day is a Happy Dance Day.

Now that the Hunter Douglas shades have been  installed, energy costs will be positively affected.  And light control and increased privacy has immediately contributed to increased workplace productivity and comfort.  Emerson Process Management employees could not be happier.


No more glare in her eyes at sunny times. But still light and pleasant in the office.


Cooler, more comfortable and productive.

The Result is a Cooler, More Comfortable and Definitely a More Productive Environment.




At Home In The Garden

Pottery Barn and Back to Natives

Pottery Barn and Back to Natives

What does a trip to the Apple store have to do with being at home in the garden? Everything if you were in one of Orange County, California’s premier malls this past weekend.   Arguably one of the most sought after designer destinations, South Coast Plaza  sports stores like Prada, Tiffanys and Loubitan.

It also has my fave Apple Store employees. The camera in my phone was giving me fuzzy pictures. While I waited for my (yay!)  in-warranty fix, I had to go back into the mall corridors to check out this year’s Southern California Spring Garden Show.  It’s always a surprise to me every year.  No.  I just happen to be in the mall every year when it happens.

What first caught my attention was the zen experience that The Pottery Barn and Santa Ana’s Back to Natives nursery created with aptly titled “Taking a Break” vignette.  Candles and Moroccan influences immediately drew me into a space that would be mesmerizing at a summer outdoor soiree. The seating area on the other side of the candle display was a destination worth thinking about being at home in the garden.


What I found most fascinating, and oh so creative, was the display by Williams Sonoma and The Potting Shed of Orange.  Jack Carlisle, horticulturist,  focuses on found materials. He repurposes them and juxtaposes them with nature. Their focus was on “The Freshness of Spring.”


Look what they did with his piece of Massey-Ferguson farm equipment repurposed as a table surrounded by plantings. And the dual purpose workbench and serving hutch has been backed with tarmac from a WWII airfield surrounded by an original 100-year-old gate from Old Town Orange. Genius!



Are you ready to throw that garden party.  Visit your local nurseries for gardening and your favorite furniture haunt for backyard lounge ideas.  Invite a few friends over for drinks and appetizers.  Keep it simple. Create some memories.  Spring is just the beginning of outdoor party season at home in the garden.

The show ran April 23 – April 26. Other show participants included: Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams, West Elm, Crate and Barrel, Room & Board, Sur La Table, Z Gallerie.