Sunday, November 29, 2009


As an interior designer and decorator one would think that during the holidays my home would be “over the top” with Christmas décor! But you might be surprised to know that mine is not, in fact it’s just the opposite. Why? Because I've realized through the years that if the decorations are over done, it looks and feels contrived. It can also start to feel overwhelming and cluttered. I've decided I still want my home to look and feel like my home, but with a “touch of the season”, not a “touch of department store or shopping mall”.

Here is some sage advice for keeping your home’s décor simple and understated for the Holidays.

• Start with the front entrance, use simple greenery to adorn the door: it’s your Happy Holiday welcome.

• Real pine garlands and sprigs from your garden will go a long way to bring in a touch of the season and small hints of that wonderful aroma.

• Loosely wind some pine garlands around your banister. Pull the pinecones up on top then wind small white lights and ribbon through it.

• Place a rope garland of greenery on your mantel. Let it hang loosely off the ends.

• Evergreen picks are great for sticking in bowls, urns and containers and will transform any centerpiece into a festive one.

• Use lifelike picks to fill in your artificial or real Christmas tree. (Yes, mine is artificial!)

• Mix your pine greens in with other arrangements that you might have for an instantly winter transformation.

• Bring in some oversized pine cones for texture, beauty and drama.

• Buy some holiday ribbon and use generously in and around your decorations.

• Use ribbon to tie napkins, tie up tableware, to hang ornaments on tree, and to hang ornaments from chandelier.

• Try glass and crystal ornaments as they reflect the lights so well.

• Clear glass containers and bowls are great for candles, potpourri, Holiday decorations and just about anything you want to display.

• Little white lights displayed on the mantel will draw your eyes to it and become the focal point.

• If you have one keep logs burning in the fireplace whenever you can, nothing says Holidays like a warm fire.

• Place a tray with a “Hot Coca or Tea Set” on the coffee table. You may already have one in your hutch; why not turn it into a centerpiece!

• Appeal to your other senses, smell and hearing. Play soft instrumental Holiday music and plug in the Glade Holiday room oil. Place a bowl of Holiday Potpourri in simple white bowls, or burn Holiday candles.

• Throw a real red or white wool throw on the sofa or chair. It will beg your attention.

Now curl up in the throw, have some hot cocoa, smell the cinnamon and pine in the air, and listen to the music and be thankful that you are not at this moment in a shopping mall! Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving from your Decorator

Doesn't seem possible that it's that time of year when we all join together to give thanks. But it is and I am one very thankful lady for so many reasons.

We are all gathering at my house this Thursday and I'm cooking up a storm for friends and family. I can't wait to dig out all the old recipes. But if you are hunting around for a new recipe I have one to share with you here below. It's a crowd pleaser for sure! And I threw in a new prayer (who couldn't use a prayer?) that I came across. Written in 1860, it couldn't be more true today!

At this time of Thanksgiving I count among my many blessings your friendship, loyalty and support.

I am so very thankful for the confidence you have shown in me and my work. And I wish you and yours a most bountiful Thanksgiving Day !

Thanksgiving Creamed Corn Italian Style!

I give thanks to my Tennessee mother in-law, Ruth, for the best creamed corn I've ever tasted. But a few years ago I tried this recipe for creamed corn and everyone in our family raved about it. I think it's because it calls for "Romano" cheese and the Italian-Americans out number the southerners at our table! ! So here is my recipe!

1/2 cup butter
2 tablespoons flour
2 (16 oz.) packages frozen corn
1 pint half-and-half cream
1 pint heavy cream
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
1 cup grated Romano cheese

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2. In a large pot over medium heat, melt the butter and blend together with the flour.
3. Add the corn, half and half, heaving cream, salt and sugar. Stir and heat until mixture begins to thicken.
4. Stir in cheese and pour into a 2 quart casserole dish. Bake for 20 minutes.

Happy Thanksgiving and Tanti Auguri,


Saturday, November 14, 2009


Now that we've said so long to daylight saving time, what can we do to make our homes brighter? Lighting is the easy, affordable answer and it will allow the introduction of dramatic design elements and upgrade your life.

Lighting does more than perform a illumination duty. It also creates atmosphere and expresses personal style. Whether you hang a chandelier, install accent lighting outdoors or simply plug in a beautifully designed table lamp, lighting can make or break a room.

Here are some illuminating tips to help you choose the right lighting:

• Illuminate a room in proportion to the space. Lighting designers figure proper illumination by first multiplying the square footage of the room by 1.5. For example, a 15-by-20 foot room is 300 square feet. Now multiply that number by 1.5. In our example, 300 times 1.5 is 450, so that's the amount of wattage you need to properly light a room, dispersing that 450 watts through lamps, ceiling lights and task lighting. For concentrated task areas such as work spaces, multiply by 2.5.

• For great lighting accents, install wall sconces about 60 inches above the floor and spread them 8 to 10 feet apart in hallways, fireplace walls or flanking a dining hutch.

• Place a 20-inch tall candelabra lamp stick with a dark shade on each side your fireplace mantel, the console behind the couch or in the hallway for an elegant glow to the room. The dark shades will add a sense of masculinity to the space.

• When deciding what size chandelier you need, add the rooms dimensions together, but substitute inches for feet. For example, in a 12-by-16 foot room, you would add the 12 to the 16 to know that a 28-inch diameter chandelier would be ideal. To determine the diameter of a chandelier that hangs over an existing dining table, just divide the table width in half. For example, a table width of 48 inches would accommodate a 24-inch chandelier nicely.

• To hang a chandelier in a dining room with 8-foot tall ceilings, the bottom of the chandelier should fall 30 inches above the tabletop. Add 3-inches for every additional foot of ceiling height.

• If many of your existing light fixtures need replacing, new inexpensive lighting from a local home improvement store will work wonders. They show lighting in grouped collections for just this purpose.

• And my very favorite: Buy small silk shades in alternating colors that work with the color scheme of the room. Use these to replace the old grungy glass light covers most often found on your dated 1970s brass chandelier. They just snap right on the small bulb. You can also paint the shiny yellow brass finish in a gold, silver, bronze or black metal paint, for that wrought-iron look and a wonderful way to update and change the whole ambience of a room.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


For you DIY'ers here's a fast, beautiful, and inexpensive centerpiece to make yourself in one hour max!

At your local craft store, buy 7 branches of Bittersweet, 3 branches of Persimmon, 2 woody twig type branches for height, and a small piece of Styrofoam. Use any solid colored (non glass) vase you may already have or purchase a new inexpensive one at the craft store.

Randomly cut each of the branches a different length (as in nature) but leave the 2 woody twig ones nice and long. Beginning with the longest ones first and working down to the shortest, arrange them carefully in the vase that has the piece of Styrofoam in the bottom. No need to glue them into the Styrofoam, it will hold them gently as they lean against the vase. The idea here is to have the centerpiece look as though you just went out and cut these beautiful branches in the woods, brought them indoors and stood them in a vase. Which is exactly what you are doing, you're just going to the craft store instead of the woods for the branches!

Voila`! I made mine in less than an hour and its costs was minimal. My inspiration was one I had seen at Pottery Barn for about $335.00. Ouch, that was inspirational! This one is just as pretty and fits my pocket book! Now go make yours, you've got exactly one hour!


Freshen up your old candlesticks! Purchase or make small grapevine rings to use as a base, or bend a piece of coat hanger into a circle. Next, wire on small stems of berries, leaves, and flowers using thin wire wound tightly around the base. Use fresh flowers for a one-use decoration. Or find pretty silk blooms for a longer-lasting design. Perfect for the food presentation at the buffet table!


What better way to celebrate the Thanksgiving harvest feast than by creating a centerpiece using gorgeous green vegetables. To make the asparagus and green bean wrapped candles, stretch two sturdy rubber bands around a white pillar candle, then insert vegetable stalks underneath the band. Cover the bands with a circle of satin ribbon and arrange on one of your platters with a few white mums and coffee berry sprigs. To make the artichoke candle base, just gut the inside of an artichoke and insert a smaller pillar candle! This delicious centerpiece works well at the table as it is low and streamlined. For large gatherings use two to three of them on the same table!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


I love how corsets look on the body. They tighten the waist, accentuate the bust and give a nice curve to the top of the hips. They are flirtatious, playful and elegant and being a Fashionista at heart, I thought I'd share with you a little corset history!

Though commonly associated with the Victorian upper class, corsets originated in the 16th century and, by the 19th, had become a hallmark of fashion for nearly all females. Practically essential for women of aristocratic birth, corsets were also adopted by working middle class women aspiring toward similar ideals of fashion.

So, what happened to the corset? In 1960, DuPont introduced Lycra to the manufacturing process, making whalebone or metal-framed corsets obsolete, and transforming the corset proper into the girdle. Then in the 70s bra-burning feminists brought cries for less restrictive, more natural feminine fashions. But the corset never completely vanished, no it's still here and it's still absolutely the hallmark of fashion!

What has all this got to do with window treatments you might ask! Well, if you like what a corset does for the feminine body, you might like what it can do for your window fashions!

Rev up your windows with the same flirtatious, playful and elegant look that corsets give the feminine figure! And guess what Marie Antoinette I have discovered fabulous drapery tiebacks reminiscent of feminine corsets. Check out these, one laces up the front through grommets, the other features button and ribbon closures at the center and yet another in leather, left untied teasingly at the top for that, well, sexy look. Perfect for a dramatic dining room or luxurious bedroom, these corset tiebacks can add a little bit of "Glam" to your room!

My friend Liz Ware created these "corset tieback" patterns for her company "Details Pattern Company". Her original couture pattern designs are inspired by runway fashion and Hollywood glamour, and her patterns capture those same beautiful dressmaking details for the window fashions industry.

And if you think you'd like to see your window dressed in one of Liz's designs give me a call. We can select just the right fabric appropriate for your style and give your window a flirtatious, glamorous look. Call 925.862.9064 or email for an appointment.

Does fashion matter, of corset it matters!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

'DESIGNING EYE" Window Dressing Secrets

THE BEST WINDOWS are well-dressed. If you've seen one, you know instantly that it didn't just happen by chance. No, it took time and some planning to pull it all together.

Think of dressing your windows as you would dress yourself for a special occasion.

Take time to look at home decorating magazines to see what the latest fashion is. Plan a shopping trip to several stores that offer ready-made draperies to see if they will accommodate your particular window size.

Call in the help of a designer or decorator to brainstorm some ideas for your windows that you might not have thought of. All this preparation and research will result in a great window treatment, special occasion or not.

For fabulously well-dressed windows that are just irresistible, here are five window dressing secrets:

Don't be afraid of color. Many people play it safe and select neutral window treatments. Mixing two colors in window treatments is a simple way to inject energy and excitement into a room. Select tones from opposite sides of the color wheel — pair golden linen shades with deep wine cotton velvet panels — to brighten and add punch to your windows.

Vary textures when mixing neutrals. If bright colors don't appeal to you, mixing subtle colors in wonderful textures can instantly bring elegance and ease to your rooms.

For example, combining rich silk in an earthy bronze with delicate, sheer georgette in a creamy color results in a beautiful effect that goes with any décor.

Woven reeds, grasses and bamboos used in roman shades perfectly complement any textured neutral panels.

Use a corner to your advantage. In homes with wall space between two corner windows, use panels or draperies with one side stacking to the left, the other to the right. Panels meet in the corner for the dramatic look of one continuous window.

In contemporary homes where windows meet without wall space in between, designer screen shades are a wonderful solution. When closed, the windows appear as bold bands of color; when open, shades virtually disappear for an unobstructed view.

Give small windows big impact. Don't be stumped by small or unattractive windows. One terrific way to make small windows appear larger and dramatic is by using light-colored panels that start well above the window and puddle onto the floor.

To enhance the width of a narrow window, use panels significantly wider than the window and hold them open with tiebacks — the effect draws the eye outward. Build on the visual impact with details such as ring tops, prominent wood poles, finials and brackets or grommets.

Design in stages. If your dream windows are a little out of reach right now budget-wise, don't fret. Designing windows is an evolving process that doesn't have to be finished all at once.

When you move into a home, privacy and light control are most important, so focus on installing functional blinds and shades that will be the foundation for your window treatment masterpieces later. Then, when time and budget allow, layer luxurious panels and draperies or add architectural details like cornices and sconces.

Reach Toni Berry at Marie Antoinette Interiors, 925-862-9064 or For more design advice, go to

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Dark, cold, cluttered, and dated, the offices of Asset Management Group in the Danville Livery begged for some help and a serious make over!


Make these offices brighter, warmer, and more stylish without replacing the mix of office furniture. Two adjoining offices with a clear view of each from the other. Two different types and style of furniture in each; one Antique Golden Oak, the other Modern Cherry.

Worn grey green carpet, dingy white walls, charcoal colored mini blinds at the windows, outdoor barn light fixtures providing shadowed and little light, and vaulted ceilings with a lot of exposed brown beams to which all the electrical conduit was attached and visible. Ouch!


First, we selected a new wall color that went well with both the oak and cherry furniture. Benjamin Moore’s Richmond Bisque is a soft light cream with a little yellow tint to it. Red accent walls, one in each office, in #1259 Beaujolais. This warms the space and gives each room a much needed focal point, giving both offices continuity. All the beams and the electrical conduit were painted in the same wall color to make it disappear visually. The window, doors, and all other trim in a Bone White for a brighter cleaner look.

Second, new red carpeting was chosen in a smart small geometric pattern. The deep red color anchors the rooms while giving both spaces continuity.

Third, leaving most of the office windows bare allowed in a lot more light and the beautiful views of the oak trees out side. The few interior windows were covered in 2” bone white wooden blinds to match the trim color, updating the look and brighten the space.

Fourth, new lighting and lots of it. Simple semi-flush opal glass light fixtures were attached to the bottom of the painted beams. Allowing light to illuminate from the top and the bottom of the fixture, eliminating shadows.

Fifth, the final decorative touches. Nature prints matted and framed to give a sense of professionalism to the space. Plants, vases, wood carvings, and even a jar filled with candy for the reception area was included.

The make over was meant to complement not distract from the existing office furniture. By adding bright colors, textures, lighting, and accessories the office now has a professional ambiance to it. After all it is an office and quite an Asset to the Danville Livery Mercantile I might add!

Visit The Danville Livery Here

Friday, September 4, 2009


Nothing has a greater effect on the look of upholstered furniture than the fabric. It's the most visible indication of fashion and quality. It's also the part of an upholstered piece to show soil and wear fastest.

So how do you select a fabric that has the style, durability and feel that you want? It's all in knowing what to look for, and what questions to ask. First, I'll point out some basic decorating and shopping considerations, and then we'll look at the differences between fabric types.

Things To Consider When Selecting A Fabric

Style - First, the fabric should be appropriate to the style and character of the piece it is covering. A traditional frame will usually look best with a more traditional fabric style. Second, the scale of the pattern should be appropriate to the room size. As a rule, large repeating patterns look better in larger rooms. Also consider whether the fabric color is warm or cool, and be sure it's the right "mood" for the room the furniture is going into.

Color - Color is probably the number one reason people select certain fabrics. But certain color fabrics may not be the best choice for durability and stain resistance. If you have small children, you're probably better off choosing a color that won't show dirt easily.

Durability - Will the furniture be in an area of the house that receives the heaviest traffic? Pieces subject to daily heavy wear need to be covered in tough, durable, tightly woven fabrics. Generally, fabrics that have their pattern "woven in" will wear better than printed fabrics.

Thread Count - The higher the thread count, the more tightly woven the fabric... and the better it will wear.

Fade Resistance - Will your furniture be exposed to constant direct sunlight? To reduce the chance of fading, make sure your choices include fabrics that are sunlight resistant.

Cotton -This natural fiber provides good resistance to wear, fading and pilling, but is less resistant to soiling and wrinkling. Surface treatments and blending with other fibers often compensate for these weaknesses. Durability and use depend on the weave and finish. For example, damask weaves are formal; canvas weaves such as duck and sailcloth are more casual and durable.

Linen - A great, fresh look. Best suited for formal living rooms or adult areas because it soils and wrinkles easily. While it won't withstand heavy wear, linen does resist pilling and fading.

Silk -This beautiful, delicate fabric is typically used in formal areas but it can be very strong when backed with another fabric for durability.

Wool - Sturdy and durable, wool and wool blends offer good resistance to pilling, fading, wrinkling, and soil. Generally, wool is blended with a synthetic fiber to make it easier to clean.

Acetate - Developed as imitation silk, acetate resists mildew, pilling and shrinking. On the other hand, it offers good resistance to soil and tends to wear, wrinkle, and fade in the sun. Not a good choice for furniture that will get tough, everyday use.

Acrylic - Developed as imitation wool, and resists wear, wrinkling, soiling and fading. Low-quality acrylic may tend to pill excessively in high-wear situations. Better-quality acrylics are manufactured to resist pilling.

Microfiber - A term used to describe a new category of upholstery fabrics with a velvety, suede-like surface. Made from ultra fine polyester fibers, Microfiber fabrics are durable and pleasant to the touch. An excellent value, durability and clean ability.

Nylon - Rarely used alone, nylon is usually blended with other fibers to make it one of the strongest upholstery fabrics. Nylon is very resilient; in a blend, it helps eliminate the crushing of napped fabrics such as velvet. It doesn't readily soil or wrinkle, but it does tend to fade and pill.

Polyester - Rarely used alone in upholstery, polyester is blended with other fibers to add wrinkle resistance, eliminate crushing and reduce fading.

Regardless of color, fiber, thread count or grade, upholstery fabrics should always be chosen to serve your needs, both fashionable and practical. There are countless choices out there, and I carry most of them in the Robert Allen Upholstery Fabric line. I always order several sample memo of the fabric choices for my clients so they can live with them for a few days. Makes all the difference in the decision making process!

Most important, be sure to pick a fabric that you can truly LIVE with. And, if you grow tired of it in a few years, remember that virtually all upholstery can be re-covered!

Do you have a sofa or chair that needs re-covering? I'm offering 20% off Upholstery Fabric for the entire month of September! Call 925.862.9064 to see how much you can save!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

ASK A DESIGN QUESTION? Should I reupholster the old, or buy the new?

Q. DEAR TONI: We have a sofa and chair that have seen better days and we're considering reupholstering them. Is it smart to invest in reupholstering or just buy new? Colleen.
A. DEAR COLLEEN: Reupholstering is a great way to refresh your sofa and chair, but you need to take a couple things into consideration first. Reupholstering most times is less expensive than buying new. I say most times because there are a couple price factors involved in reupholstering that will affect the total cost to reupholster a piece. First, are the pieces you're considering the style you want to keep for the next 10 years? If you're going to invest in reupholstering pieces, you'll want to keep them for quite a few years in order to recover the costs.
Were they good quality pieces when you bought them? Are the frame, springs, and cushions still in good condition? In my opinion, unless the pieces were good quality pieces to start with, I would NOT suggest reupholstering them. An exception to that thought is if the piece has sentimental value to you. Today you can purchase fairly inexpensive sofas and chairs, so if you paid less than around $1,500 for the two pieces to begin with, they are probably not worth reupholstering because you can buy new.
In estimating how much it will cost to reupholster, let's look at your sofa and let's assume it is an average size sofa of 86 inches long by 36 inches deep, exposed feet, loose back cushions in good condition. The two costs that you'll have are fabric and labor. If you select a plain solid fabric that is 54 inches wide, you'll need approximately 15 to 17 yards of fabric depending upon the style of the sofa. If you're looking to select a print fabric that has a pattern repeat, you'll need to add another 10% to 35% more fabric depending upon how large the pattern repeat is. Now fabric has a very wide price range, from just dollars per yard to over a hundred. Let's take an average price of $35.00 per yard which will give you a good selection to choose from. Along with the fabric, you have your labor costs. Reupholsters range in price also from about $50.00 to $80.00 per labor yard.
So let's do the math, using the average yardage needed, fabric and labor costs so you can compare reupholstering to buying new. If your sofa needs 16 yards of solid fabric, the fabric costs $35.00 per yard, the reupholster charges $60.00 per yard; it will cost $1,520.00 to reupholster your sofa. If you only paid $1,000 for the piece and it does not hold any special memories, I would suggest buying new. But if you originally purchased a good quality piece for a couple thousand dollars or more, that still has a good tight frame and the springs and cushions are still in excellent condition, YES you should reupholster it. I have many clients that have reupholstered a piece two or three times because it was a good piece or has special sentimental value to them.
Reupholstering is a wonderful way to transform a piece of furniture and extend its life, but do the math first to make sure you're investing wisely!
Do you have a sofa or chair that needs re-covering? I'm offering 20% off Upholstery Fabric for the entire month of September! Call 925.862.9064 to see how much you can save!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Contra Costa Times: Designing Eye: Picking a paint color

Designing Eye: Picking a paint color - By Toni Berry
Contra Costa Times correspondent

Editor's note: Today we launch a new column by interior designer Toni Berry. Each month, Toni will focus on a topic to give us some quick tips to make sure we're spending our money wisely as well as getting the most style that we can. View Full Story

Sunday, August 16, 2009

$ TIPS For The Perfect Porch !

Don't you just love a good porch! Most of us are so busy we sometimes forget to use that outdoor space or room to nurture ourselves. My friend Kate has a sun porch at her home that is to die for! When you have lemonade on her porch you are transported back in time to when life was simpler. You're a child again and it's summer! The level of relaxation you experience is so healing and you don't have to spend a lot to catch that feeling again.

Here are some tips I picked up from Kate and others who have great porches;

· Use old wicker with lots of pillows and cushions for seating. Nothing says "come and nap a while" like an old wicker sofa. $ TIP, any small outdoor settee will do and Orchard Supply has them for under $50. Just make sure you lavish it with pillows.
· Make use of accent and end tables painted in soft colors like sherbet orange and green. $ TIP, don't worry that they don't match, they're not supposed to! Get indoor tables and paint them with outdoor paint.
· Add a sisal or grass rug under the furniture grouping, a clean area designated just for bare feet. $ TIP, Walmart has the most inexpensive outdoor rugs available, but you can use your old indoor rug, that has seen better days, too.
· Include baskets of magazines, books and journals to write in. Once you're settled you may not want to get up again for these things. $ TIP, use an inexpensive laundry basket, they're bigger and look neat and tidy on the porch floor.
· And you simply must have a tray with a pitcher, glasses and festive napkins on one of those tables. $ TIP, you can pick these up at any discount store for $10.00 or less. Just make them colorful and playful, remember the porch is where you unwind.
· Add outdoor candles or small lamps for the evenings. $ TIP, use an old lamp. Paint it a soft cream color. Replace the shade with an inexpensive paper shade from Target. Paint the shade a soft color similar to the color used on the table. Run an extension cord to the nearest outlet.

If you're trying to decorate on your own strength and running out of ideas, enlist the help of a decorator like myself. My "TIPS" could save you time, energy, and $ in the long run. Call Toni Berry at 925.862.9064 to discuss what you're looking for!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Blessing On Your Doorpost!

On a recent visit to a new client's home I noticed a funny little brass bar affixed to the frame of her front door sash. I thought it might be a security mechanism and I took note of it because it had some writing on it and I was curious as to what it meant. I didn't ask her about it, but wished I had.
A few days latter I went to another new client's home and there it was again! A little metal bar, the size of a cigarette affixed to the doorpost of the front door. Now that I've encountered two of these in one week, it's time to find out just exactly what these little gizmo's are!

So I asked my client, she smiled and said "why that's my Mezuzah"! She went on to explain that every Jewish home displays them as a sign of their faith. And inside each of these little cylinders or bars is a small piece of parchment inscribed with the biblical passages of Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13- 21, "write them upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates". Because I had never heard of or seen a "Mezuzah" I took a picture of it and thought I'd share it with all you.

As we spend time, money and effort on our homes to make them beautiful it's also nice to stop and regard our homes as a real blessing to ourselves and to others, don't you think?

And here's wishing all of your homes a beautiful blessing;


Sunday, July 5, 2009


Paint is absolutely the least expensive decorating product you can purchase to dramatically change the look of your home's interior or exterior. But For many it comes with a high price: color anxiety.

Some may call it paint paralysis - frozen in fear of using paint color inappropriately. But we make color choices every day - and often with confidence we are unaware of. We may be able to dress ourselves, our kids and our husbands, but an entire wall of color can be irrationally intimidating. It seems so easy to get it all wrong, so you freeze, right!

If you're losing your way in the quest for color, agonizing over countless paint chips that are now looking all the same and overwhelmed at the amount of time you're spending on indecisiveness, then you'd be wise to enlist the help of a color consultant. If you think this might be too expensive, think again. The cost of a color consultation will save you hours of time in repainting if you don't like it and find you've made a mistake in the color choice.

In a little over an hour, the color consultant visits you in your home, takes an overview of your spaces, your lifestyle and your personality. Out of that discussion you develop together a paint strategy that will tie everything together by:
*enhancing your home's decor through the use of well-chosen paint color
*creating a beautiful space making the most of your furnishings
*developing an entire color plan which you can work on room by room over time or simply fine-tuning your great beginning

At the end of the color consultants visit you will have a 3"x 5" color card of each of the colors specified. You will know exactly where each color is to be painted, trim, ceilings, niches, baseboards, windows, ect. ect. And you will also know what sheen each color will have. This knowledge goes a long way in keeping the paralysis and anxiety at a minimum!

Are you paralyzed and anxious about what color to paint your rooms? Have you painted only to be unhappy with the results? Get some peace of mind and make a Paint Color Consultation appointment. Let me help you get just the right color, in the right place, at the right price! Call 925.862.9064 for an in- home Paint Consultation!

Get more information at Benjamine Moore Paint

Friday, May 29, 2009


Yes it's true, Marie Antoinette is my real name and Toni is just a nick name that I adopted in junior high school because Toni was shorter, easier and way cooler!

I was born in Italy and customarily the first born is named after a grandmother. In as much as I had a grandmother named Antonia (father's side) and a great grandmother named Antonia (mother's side), they named me Maria Antonietta after them both. Grandparents and other family members called me Nietta for short.

After our arrival to America and when I started grammar school, the nuns of Saint Callistus Catholic School decided to translate my Italian Maria Antonietta to the English version Marie Antoinette. It was their attempt to Americanize me! From then on I was called Marie Antoinette and my childhood friends called me Antoinette. My parents however spoke only Italian in our home so they continued to call me Antonietta. When my younger siblings learned to speak my name they couldn't pronounce Antonietta so they formed the name Teta in baby talk. The baby talk stuck because they still call me Teta and so do their children. My niece and nephews call me Auntie Teta!

When I hit Junior High School in the late 60's Marie Antoinette or any version of it was just too "square"! And writing the entire name on homework assignments was a pain. So as in the masculine version of Anthony, Tony is a short nickname, I did the same with Antoinette using the feminine version of Toni. From that moment on I have been known as Toni. But my family in Italy still calls me by my Italian name, Antonietta.

When I started my business in 1984 I named it the English name "Marie Antoinette Custom Home Interiors" just to keep it simple. Yea, right!

So here are all my real names in order of appearance! Maria Antonietta, Nietta, Antonietta, Teta, Marie Antoinette, Antoinette, and Toni.

And yes that is my real name, driver's license, business license, passport and Social Security Card, Marie Antoinette.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

WHEN IN ROME, DO AS THE ROMANS DO...and get 15 % off doing it!

Ever wonder where the term Roman Shade came from?

Evidently in the heyday of the Roman Coliseum, the crowds would sit through a day-long program of events in the open air. The sun got pretty hot up in the stands (And if you've ever been to Rome you know how hot it can get!) so long awnings were constructed that opened into the arena and offered some sun protection. The awnings were held out on poles that extended into the stands. When they were not in use the shades pleated back on themselves, much like our modern Roman shades. The difference was that the original Roman shades hung horizontally out from the wall. Today's Roman shades hang vertically in front of the window.
Roman shades, regardless of their place in history, still offer excellent sun protection, privacy and unlimited design options. Roman shades can provide the finishing touch in rooms from casual to traditional to cutting edge contemporary.

If you have never tried roman shades they make a handsome addition to any room. They are versatile and come in a variety of elegant styles. You can use them for insulating your windows instead of mini blinds, pleated shades, or verticals. Roman shades can be light filtering or they can be used for darkening a room by using a blackout liner. It really depends on what you want your window treatment to do. Generally you can fit custom roman shades into any décor style beautifully!

There are a variety of styles for your roman shades. The most popular include:
Plain: plain styles are great for rooms where you want the window treatment to fit in with the rest of the décor by not emphasizing the window. These have horizontal pleats that fall in a uniformed pattern every six inches. They usually come lined and you can choose the type of liner you need.
Flat: the flat folded style of this roman shade will be a great way to showcase a variety of fabric patterns whether they are large or small.
European: this is true European style with a versatile shade that has a relaxed feel to it. The sides of the shade curve up so that when it is drawn it creates a casual and soft ambience to your room with beautiful random folds.
Soft Fold: many people like the soft fold style because it gently cascades down the shade. It gives a gentle fold every six inches and makes a more uniformed look.

If your windows need a face lift, give them a Roman Shade lift. We're having a sale on them now, "15% Off", through the end of June, just in time for the heat of summer! Call me now for your appointment. 925 862-9064 or email to to set up a time to see samples and fabrics for your new Roman Shades!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Summer's Around The Corner, Welcoming Guest Rooms

Yeah, it happened again! I'm absolutly trilled, what an honor! This is the second time AVA LIVING has featured me, Toni Berry from Marie Antoinette Interiors and one of my rooms on the landing/cover page of their web site. If you love Interior Design you'll love AVA LIVING! Desginers from all over the world post their work. And it's a great place to get ideas for your own decorating and design projects. Check out and see more of what you're looking for!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Announcing The Winner of Project Color!

The Fourth Annual "PROJECT COLOR" Painting For Charity Giveaway! After entries from all over the SF Bay Area, MB Jessee staff voted...and the WINNER is The Mission Neighborhood Health Center in San Francisco.
Mission Neighborhood Health Center is a 39 year old community based health center , and a cornerstone in the Mission community. It is a leader in advocacy efforts for culturally and linguistically competent health and human services for Latinos in San Francisco and the greater Bay Area. It humbly serves over 13,000 patients and renders over 66,000 health care service visits annually.

Toni Berry from Marie Antoinette Interiors donated the Paint Consultation for the new colors to enhance and compliment the existing Murals that flank the front door to the center. MB Jessee employees, friends, and associates will donate a full day to paint the center on June 20, 2009. This is a "before" picture of the building as it is today. Check back for an updated post of the "after" transformation!

Learn more about the Mission Neighborhood Health Center and MB Jessee Painting !

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Decorating Tips From Our Italian Moms

Many of you know, I have a beautiful Italian mother. She lives in Trieste Italy, but for years while raising her family, she lived here in the US. I remember affectionately all that she taught me about keeping a home and decorating (one in the same) too. After all I learned all my skills and everything I do well from my mother Lucia! So with that in mind I asked my Italian girlfriends, what they fondly remember about their mother's teachings of home keeping and decorating. Here's what they said;
Maria C. said, "The most important decorative part in my mom's house has always been the "centrini all'uncinetto", all around the house at the bottom of vases or ceramic decorations or a big one at the center of the table." These were traditionally handmade by any woman in the house and this craft was also a big part of the "housewife learning skills" before getting married."
Enza said, "The two tips I remember from my Mother the hand embroidered linen sheets and pillow cases. She would fold them over so the embroidery would show. And she always had the formal rooms wall papered."
Maryanne said, "She loved white or cream colored lace tablecloths. She always kept one on our dinning room table. When we ate outside, she would use a plastic white lace tablecloth! My grandmother was fond of very ornate furniture. The more curves it had, the more she loved it. I remember them very well because it was mine and my sister's responsibility to polish these ornate pieces and it would take us forever to do them. My mother in law loved intricate glass figurines that she kept on her tables, buffets, dressers, etc... Many were Murano glass."
Maria M. said, "She keeps a lace ecru runner on the dining room table with crystal which goes with everything."
Annette said, "My Italian grandmother's concept for home design was that everyone should feel comfortable and welcome in your home. She chose her furnishings for comfort first and style second. She also decorated with eclectic style using family handed down items along side drawings from grandchildren and photos of family to fill her space. And of course everyone was always greeted with a big hugs and the loving words "are you hungry honey, I have some fill in the blank (soup, spaghetti, meatballs, etc) in the kitchen I can heat up."
Theresa said, "She was a pretty plane Jane and kept everything and didn't throw away anything."
Rosie said, "She did everything, very well and with pride. From painting the house to making the mattresses, cleaning, cooking, washing everything by hand, making curtains, bedspreads, knitting, crocheting, etc. She liked to paint white the antique furniture pieces that we had. Oh, oh, she took Ikebana classes and made wonderful arrangements. She loved to cook savory and sweet. There is so much she could do.... I am tearing up so I will leave you with this: her favorite decorating tip was to love everybody, being sweet, sweet, sweet, caring and generous."
It was clear to me after reading my Italian girlfriend's responses that Italian moms decorate from the heart. They keep the home in good running order, and they make it look lovely at the same time. This is a gift, and this is our gift by virtue of birth. Thank you friends, and thank you to our Italian moms!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Ask A Design Question, Hardwood vs. Carpet, Which Is It?

Dear Toni, You have visited our home a couple times and I am just getting ready to put down wood flooring. Love the wood. My question is, I have a drop down living room and stairs as you enter. I think I want to keep carpet on the stairs (safety and to keep costs down), but I am trying to decide whether to do wood in the living room or carpet that as well.


Anne Reed

Dear Anne,I remember your beautiful home very well, and am so glad you asked this question! You are right about carpet on the stairs to keep the cost down. And yes, I would definitely do Hardwood floors in the living and dining room. Here's why, by using one unified floor (Hardwood) throughout, the space will appear larger and more gracious. This adds a sense of grander proportion to your small entry (because from the entry all the spaces can be seen) that adjoins all the rooms. Hardwood always adds a warm richness to any room and will increase the value of your home. Hardwood is classic, durable, elegant, and comfortable. Keep in mind the color of the wood should complement the wall color and the furnishings.
So Hardwood it is!


Saturday, April 25, 2009

Ask A Design Question, What Color To Paint?

Dear Toni, we need a new paint color for our living room. We live in a Craftsman Home with walls which are two thirds wood paneling on the lower and one third off white on the upper. We'd like a warm color to complement the wood and update the look of the room. Any suggestions? Clueless in a Craftsman

Dear Clueless Craftsman, Orange is this year's hottest color. Whether your main wall color or simply an accent, it's always warm, vibrant, and cheerful. In this picture you can see that using orange on the upper third of the wall really helps to warm the room without overpowering it. They took the color one step further by using it on the sofas as well.
This room's orange is from Benjamin Moore's Paint, called Soft Pumpkin 2166-40. The warmth of orange will really give the wood in your Craftsman Home a new look.
Go for it,~Toni

Does The TV Really Have To Go Over The Fireplace?

THE ?: Does the TV have to go over the fireplace?

Dear Toni, My husband and I have a large 13 x 24 ft. family room, he loves TV and I love to read by the fire. Presently we have the TV placed to the left of the fireplace and we fight for the space. We are shopping for a larger screen TV and my husband insists that it must be placed over the fireplace. I do not agree. My question is, does the new TV have to go over the fireplace? Is this the only place we can put it in this room?
Thanks for your advice, Ann

THE SOLUTION: Divide and Conquer!

Dear Ann, No, you don't have to put it over the fireplace! Here is a great solution to your problem. Typically, we like one focal point in a room. But that rule can be broken by having two, one less prominent than the other.
Since your room is a generous 13 x 24, you can easily create two cozy seating areas with specific purposes instead of one large space that does not allow for different activities.
As my floor plan above shows, the main focal point is the TV area. By placing the TV on a large console and by positioning the sofa in front of it with a side arm chair you have created a larger more prominent area. The secondary, less imposing area is the fireplace hearth/reading area. Place just two chairs and a bench to further separate the space. Both areas are anchored by the two area rugs in the same color. One smaller by the fireplace and one larger by the TV. Using furniture in the same color family and texture makes both areas relate to one another nicely.
This is a good start on designing a space plan that works for you both. And if your husband will wear wireless head phones while he watches TV you will be able to hear the crackling fire while you read! Good luck Ann! ~Toni

Are you stumped, can't figure out where or how to make your furniture work in your room? An hour of advice can save you money and time. Call 925.862.9064 for a "Design Consultation Appointment by the Hour"!.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Throw Pillow Fight. Is Your Interior Designer Really Putting Your Health At Risk?

Hi Friends, I just love a good Pillow Fight! For some time now the powers that be would like it if they had no competition! So they are passing laws that would make it illegal for some Interior Designers and Decorators to do business. Watch this video of a designer that was hit pretty hard for her illegal decorating!

I just hate to be bullied, don't you?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Fabrics Go Green In Pure Style!

Remember back in the day when we all had cotton curtains? I remember in the 1960's, my mom washed them by hand in the bath tub, hung them on the clothes line to dry in the sun, brought them in, sprinkled them with a little water, ironed them and hung them back up! Now that was 'Eco-Friendly".

Today's beautiful fabrics come in many colors and qualities and now one of those qualities is Eco-Friendly!

I recently attended a "Fabric Trunk Show" given in San Francisco by Robert Allen Fabrics. They have introduced a new line of 'Eco-Friendly" fabrics for the home called 'Pure Style" Everything from alpaca, bamboo, mohair, hemp, wool, cork and of course our favorite, cotton. These extraordinary fabrics are all made of recycled, organic or sustainable fibers colored with low-impact dyes and finished in environmentally responsible treatment processes. Now that's saying a lot.

These exquisite fabrics are designed for making a conscious choice to reduce our environmental impact without sacrificing one bit of style.
To see and read more about these great fabrics just click on the link below, then click again on the "Pure Style" thumbnail!

Is it time to refresh your draperies or curtains? If so call me for a window treatment appointment. I'll bring to you the very latest in "Eco-Friendly" fabric books for you to see and feel right in the comfort of your own home! Call 925.862.9064 or email me at

Beautiful 'Eco-Friendly" Fabrics from Robert Allen...