Design directions: what designers want to change in your home

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press •September 10, 2016

It happens a lot. I am often asked what I most want to change in client’s homes. And there have been a lot of articles recently about “what designers dislike most.”

As a Southwest Florida interior decorator who goes into lots of homes, I can tell you a little secret: there are things that make us cringe and they may not be what you would expect. The good news: most of them are easily corrected and some can be done before the end of this article.

So, if your home is not feeling quite right, you may want to read through this list.  What bothers your decorator or designer is likely what is keeping you from loving your home.

Welcome or go away?

Starting at the front porch, there is nothing more boring than an entry that says nothing. It makes me think that this must be a really sad house that needs my help. Try this: Paint the front door (outside and inside). Hang a seasonal wreath on the door. Pottery or plans on either side of the door. Pretty (welcome) mat. Chair or bench with plants. Good lighting. Clean the cobwebs and the glass fixtures.

Who lives here anyway?

A reclaimed wood console table is the perfect base for building a collection in an entry or family room that reflects the owner of the home. Artwork, greenery, books, lamp and natural touches including natural seagrass beachcomber baskets that are beautiful and perfect for storage. All anchored by a handwoven diamond-wrapped jute rug. Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn. 

The minute I step inside, I want to know who lives here? Someone who loves art, the beach, the outdoors, collectibles, vintage pieces, eclectic design? If I don’t have a few clues in the first few minutes, we need to get to work, which is why you called me. Try this: Style a table in your entry to reflect who you are and your lifestyle. Lamp. Plant. Shells? Books. Artwork. Mirror. It can be anything as long as it reflects YOU. This is what makes a house a home.

 Decorative painting.

Don’t try this at home. If you must have something sliding and sticking out from your walls in a strange glob or “unique” treatment, let a professional give you some suggestions and do the work for you. As designers, we have access to experts who provide faux and other finishes to accent your walls, so please leave this one alone.  Instead: If you have the DIY bug from too much unreality TV, paint your walls in a beautiful color and call it a day.

Fake flowers and greenery.  

If you have these in your home, please stop reading this article and remove them immediately!! From the top of kitchen cabinets and armoires, in pottery, table centerpieces and any place else.  They don’t hold up, look fake and accumulate dust.  Try this: Purchase a few real plants. They are good for the air in your home. If you have a not-so-green-thumb or maybe do not live here all year, use something else. And honestly, if artwork doesn’t work above your kitchen cabinets, the empty space is not so bad.

Furniture smashed up against the walls. 

Disclaimer:  there are absolutely times when this cannot be avoided.  But those times are few and far between.  Instead: arrange your furniture in a U-shaped configuration with a comfortable conversation area. And don’t worry about the back of your sofa showing.

Everything matches.

Sofa. Chairs. Ottoman. Coffee table. End tables. Okay. We know that planning a room takes some creativity. But if you just walk into a furniture store and purchase everything in the display, you likely aren’t going to be very happy in the long run because, well, your living room looks like a furniture store. Instead:  Add a vintage piece, or something eclectic to break up all of the “matching furniture.  Break up the sameness in color with throw pillows (that don’t all match), fabric window treatments, recover the sofa or the chairs and add some texture to the room.

Nothing matches. 

The eyes like pairs and pairs are needed to create a restful space. So if absolutely nothing matches, try this: Purchase matching lamps.  Add solid color pillows to help tie the unmatched grouping together. Coordinate a rug in a solid color to anchor the room.

Every room in the home is a different color.  

This one makes me smile. There is a pattern here. When most homeowners move to Southwest Florida, they want a tropical look. In-your-face-brights. I did this myself. But after a couple of years of that, most of us are ready to something calm and soothing. Try this: Go with neutral paint colors in the main living areas of the home (kitchen, family room, den, hallways, office). Incorporate color through accessories, fabric or window treatments, as well as an accent wall with paint color or wall covering. In the bathrooms, go bold with paint color or wall coverings.

Contemporary and traditional empire scroll rug has the look of an antique time-work work of art and ties this room together as it fits under legs of chairs and sofa.  Notice the pillows, pair of paintings and pair of chairs that also make this room cohesive. Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn.

The floating rug.

A rug should be used to anchor a room.  But in most homes that I visit, a much too-small rug floats beneath the coffee table like a magic carpet. This is easily fixable when you are planning your room (most rugs are too small) and there are lots of variables but a general rule of thumb: Extend rug beyond the coffee table and at least under the first set of legs of sofa and chairs.

Drapes that are hung too low.

If you make an adjustment on this one it will completely change the room. Try this: Hang drapes as high as possible just below the ceiling or crown molding. They should also come all the way to the floor. Don’t be afraid of too much fabric. A tiny amount of puddling is better than too short!

Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator, A.S.I.D. associate and certified gold member of the Interior Redecorators Network. She has helped homeowners throughout Southwest Florida with timeless, affordable ways to create beautiful spaces and to solve decorating problems. Her column appears the first Saturday of each month. For more information visit her website at Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail For more decorating tips, articles and photos, visit



Designing by the book

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press •August 6, 2016

There was a time when my Southwest Florida decorating clients wanted to know what to do with all of their books. Donate them? Sort through them and keep a few? Or for those who were downsizing, how to go about the painful task of deciding what to keep.

But these days, decorating with books is a huge trend. So much so that I find myself actually ordering books in specific colors to accessorize client’s homes. If they are running short.

And maybe it’s a trend because in a time when technology has taken control of our lives every minute of each day, we simply find comfort in the feel and touch of a book. As much as taking the time to relax and get lost in a story that takes us someplace away from all of the day-to-day stress. I don’t think there’s anything better than escaping in a good book.

Tuscan flush bookcases with heavy crown molding, allow the look of custom built-ins at a fraction of the cost. And offer plenty of space to arrange books as well as accessories. Photo courtesy of Ballard Designs.

In my own home, I love to incorporate books into my décor. I find that my own books fall into three categories: decorating and design, travel and those favorite books that have been signed by the authors.  I keep most of them in a large antique armoire that allows me to open the doors when I want to look at them.  My decorating books, I keep in a nook on a printer’s desk at a height where I can see them when I need to refer to them (daily).

And my special, most treasured design books, I use on coffee tables, as lamp bases and on nightstands.  I like to see them and each one is a memory. Of meeting the author, usually a well-known designer or from a trip to High Point Market, always a good place to collect books. And of course, I am always searching through bookstores. I can’t imagine a room without the inspiration of books.

Grayson coffee table with modern lines fits narrow spaces while giving a nice surface for a pretty display of vases, flowers, books and a lamp. Photo courtesy of Ballard Designs.

If you need help styling your books and working them into your design plan, a few of my favorite tips that I use with my clients include:

Bookcase as an accent wall.

Paint the wall a pretty color and place a bookcase on the wall so that they color shows through as a backdrop for your books and accessories. I like to use a mixture of arranging books vertically and horizontally with accessories.

Not enough books?

Photo courtesy of Books by the Foot.

No problem! Shhhh. This is a great designer secret. For my clients who do not have enough books for a shelf or if they want a specific color combination to match their décor, Books by the Foot (see above photo) is my answer. You can order real or faux books in more than 30 types of books. They are shelf-ready and make curating your selves a lot of fin. And pretty. Visit

Curate a coffee table.

This is where you get to have a lot of fun and let your personality, hobbies and interests show. If you have souvenirs from a trip, arrange them with a book from your trip. Or select any theme and arrange the table around that theme.  Also: stack a collection of books with the same theme in the center of the table and arrange accessories that complement the books.

Use a library cart for display and storage.

This is one of my favorites if space is short and you have a collections of books. The cart (see photo with this article) allows for an interesting display with the spines angled so you can see the titles. And I love this one because it’s based on a traditional bookseller’s cart/shelf in London.  Takes you back to a time when books were considered treasures (and still are). 

The library bookshelf is based on a traditional bookseller’s shelf in London’s Portobello market. It holds books at an angle so the spines are easy to read. Photo courtesy of Ballard Designs.


Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator, A.S.I.D. associate and certified gold member of the Interior Redecorators Network. She has helped homeowners throughout Southwest Florida with timeless, affordable ways to create beautiful spaces and to solve decorating problems. Her column appears the first Saturday of each month. For more information visit her website at Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail For more decorating tips, articles and photos, visit


Bring home design tips from favorite boutique hotels

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press •July 5, 2016

Have you ever stayed in a hotel that you loved so much that you wanted to just live there?  Like the capricious, six-year old Eloise who lived on the top floor of the New York Plaza Hotel?

Even though we can't all be Eloise, (although you can now book the Betsey Johnson-decorated Eloise Suite for a night or two at you can bring a little of that special lux  hotel vibe back home with you.

As a Southwest Florida interior decorator I work with homeowners on the details that go into creating a blissful home that makes them happy. And like most of us, I have my own favorite hotel ideas that I like to work into overall design plans.  It’s all about taking luxury hotel ideas and creating inexpensive style for your personal space.  

Create the ultimate staycation

With some careful planning, it’s possible to accomplish the same Zen resort feeling in your home. There is much to learn from hotel décor: a relatively small space has to make a huge and impactful statement during your stay so every color, accessory and piece of furniture counts.  So with this in mind, you may find these easy-to-incorporate tips helpful in creating your own boutique hotel feeling.

Dreamy bedding inspires peaceful sleep in this bedroom using creams and whites for a calm effect. A fabric headboard, layered strips of fabric keep the overall effect light and airy. Camille duvet cover and sham from Pottery Barn. Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn.

Fabric headboards, soothing neutrals and minimalism

Start with just these three items and you pretty much have it covered. Most hotels that give you a calm, luxurious feeling, incorporate these. And they are easy to do if you plan carefully.

Color palette: Stick with creams and whites

It takes all of the guesswork out of the process. Timeless and elegant. If you have a sofa that is upholstered in a color or print, you can have slipcovers made to fit and switch them out seasonally.

Lux drapes

This is a big one. Elegant drapes…silks, linens, damasks…all with blackout liners are used in the best hotels. And you know you love them. Splurge on this one and you will be glad you did.

Layers of creams and white with a pop of color from this Pottery Barn Derry matelassé duvet cover and sham along with curated art, a sofa and luxurious drapes turn a bedroom into a sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn.

Layers of creams and white with a pop of color from this Pottery Barn Derry matelassé duvet cover and sham along with curated art, a sofa and luxurious drapes turn a bedroom into a sanctuary. Photo courtesy of Pottery Barn.

Say goodbye to the mess

Granted, when you stay in a hotel, you don’t have your knickknacks, books, lots of papers and collections taking up space. And the lack of visual clutter is what makes a hotel so calming. We aren’t suggesting that you throw everything out, just tidy it up a bit and put things away in cabinets and other out-of-sight storage.

Incorporate your favorite style

What was your favorite vacation or hotel? The tropics? Ski lodge? An old London hotel? Hip SoHo accommodation? Give it a stamp of your favorite experience with the right accessories (just a few).

Create an entry

Chances are, your favorite hotel had an entry, even a small one, that said “welcome home.” Create one in your own home that includes a table, mirror, lamp and flowers. It’s those little touches that count.

Speaking of little touches…treat yourself

Shopping list: special soaps in the bathroom, candles, towel warmer, fluffy white towels and Egyptian cotton sheets.

Something about the glow

The lighting in our favorite hotels is almost perfect. You need: chandelier, table lamps, sconces. All on dimmers. No to overhead lighting.

Spa bath

Paint it white. Add a huge mirror. Update your vanity. Add music and a bubble bath and transport yourself to your favorite vacation retreat.


Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator, A.S.I.D. associate and certified gold member of the Interior Redecorators Network. She has helped homeowners throughout Southwest Florida with timeless, affordable ways to create beautiful spaces. Her column appears the first Saturday of each month. For more information visit her website at Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail For more decorating tips, articles and photos, visit


Quick Decorating Tips for a Happy Home (some are free!)

Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press •June 4, 2016

Try something new with color with this perky blue and green setting with a large-scale graphic pattern (Midland) that has a leaf-like motif and gives a nod to old Federal style wallpaper. The wallcovering shown here is Troy, a small-scale texture with characteristics of a basket-weave. Photo credit: Courtesy of 

There are a few things that really drive decorators and designers crazy. But the good news: the minute we walk into your house, we can spot them and help you correct them quickly. Today, I am sharing my short list with you and guess what? Many of these can be corrected before you finish reading this article and you don’t even have to get in your car to drive up and down 41 looking for more “stuff” to bring into your house! 

So, if you’re happy with your home sweet home but it doesn’t seem quite right, read on and maybe the one little tweak that you need is listed below. 

Be realistic about a budget.

I've never been into a client’s home that I couldn’t improve.  As a Southwest Florida interior decorator, I have seen it all. Realistic budget. No budget. Tiny budget. I base my decorating on affordable solutions for home décor and I’ve had lots of practice of making a home look great without wrecking your finances. 

It’s important to keep in mind that reality home shows are not a home interior professional’s friend. They give the impression that a designing couple can breeze through your home, redo it from the inside to the outside, all for a song. Quick, beautiful, cheap, fast. It’s just not so and what they do not include are the behind the scene costs and a realistic, honest budget. 

Pretty painted chest set against the backdrop of Thibaut’s Portofino wall covering. These large, stylized, flowers and other fun details make this a striking accent wall. The wallpaper is rotary screen printed, which uses a lot of ink to make the flowers slightly textured. Photo credit: Courtesy of Thibaut.

So having said that, whatever your budget, be realistic and honest with yourself. A lot of my tips below are free or require little $$. Others may be something to work toward (phase two, as I say!). The more realistic you are, the happier you will be with your home. 

No plan? Then it doesn’t matter where you are going.

Now that you have a budget nailed down, take some time to get your thoughts organized and develop a plan. This is key to a happy outcome. What are the priorities? What can you do without spending a lot? Do you need a total redo or will a good design plan help to sort out where to begin? Do you need the professional help of a designer or can you do it yourself with a plan? No plan? The result will be a house filled with rooms that all have a different look. 

Please: Say goodbye to these. Now.

Refrigerator magnets. Fake flowers. A lot of junk on top of kitchen cabinets. Enough said about this. 

Pull furniture away from the walls.

Get rid of the uncomfortable conversation area and create some space. A U-shaped arrangement is best.  Sofa and two chairs or two sofas.  We realize the sized of the space dictates placement. Give it a fresh look. 

Declutter. Declutter. Declutter.

I know, I talk about this all the time. But you have to do it over and over. Things have a way of accumulating when you aren’t looking. And without this key element, you may as well not try to make a change. You will just be rearranging the clutter. 

Create a palette: don’t just throw color around.

If you get the color palette right, everything else falls into place. This is my most popular service and the one that homeowners have the most difficulty establishing. And here’s why: it’s not all about putting paint on the wall. It is about creating a color scheme for the entire home and carrying the color throughout in fabric, accessories, window treatments, pillows, etc. This is definitely the tricky part of decorating. The fun part and the most important after your budget and your plan.  So spend some time on this one.   

Decorating: it’s all about you.

It’s not about your neighbors, your relatives who come to visit each year, your bridge club or a friend who has a daughter who is a decorator in another state. We hear these sources of input all the time! Filter out the noise and keep in mind this is your home and your opinion is the only one that counts. 

Curate your own art gallery.

Take a fresh look at your art work. I like to select a space on a wall and make it look like a museum gallery. Place everything on the floor. With painter’s tape, mark off the area you wish to cover on the wall. The best height for your key pieces: eye level. This is usually 57-58 inches from the floor. Once you have the arrangement, you are ready to create your gallery. 

Paint your entry door on both sides.

If you don’t have the time or budget for anything else, give your home a lift and do this one. And here is a tip: paint both sides of the door for a professional design look. My advice: if you love a color but are afraid that it just will not work in your home, use it on the door. 

Don’t fear wall coverings!

For a long time, we focused on paint and textures for walls. It seems that wallpaper (as it was called) went by the wayside. But it’s back and it’s fabulous. Textures, sheens, feathers. Take a fresh look and at least try it for a powder room or an accent wall. 

Don’t love it? Paint it or pass it on.

Have an antique that you no longer love? Like an armoire or chest? Paint it! What good is it if you no longer want it in your home? Our tastes all change and color can change everything. Otherwise, pass it on and let someone else love it. 

Think about white.

It looks beautiful in magazines. White walls. White sofas and chairs. Gorgeous and carefully styled. Do you have the lifestyle for all white? Will you be able to accent with beautiful artwork and accessories to carry it off? If the answer is yes, go for it! If not, rethink this commitment. 

Come into the light!

We can never have enough and right now your home is likely lacking in this area. Because all of us seem to overlook this important element in our homes.  Check all four corners of your rooms for proper lighting. Remember: we need overhead, task and ambient lighting. Make sure you use dimmers and if this is not possible, plugin adapters work fine.  Chandeliers, floor lamps, mirrors and glass doors also reflect light. 

Decorative painting. Ugh.

This was a trend that has (thankfully) passed on. I am not speaking of the beautiful treatments for recessed ceilings. Rather the unfortunate fad of things like sponge painting, globing things like wadded up paper on the wall, stenciling and other horrors. When it comes to wall treatments: a good quality paint in a beautiful color and finish or the most outrageous wall covering you can afford on an accent wall. 

Say goodbye to your unicorn collection.

We all have collections that made sense at one time. But time is the problem. It may be time to say goodbye. If it’s not a priceless collection or one that you absolutely love, it may have outlived its value. So when you are doing your decluttering, you may want to say goodbye and let someone else love it. 


Wrenda Goodwyn is a Southwest Florida interior decorator, A.S.I.D. associate and certified gold member of the Interior Redecorators Network. Her @home article appears the first Saturday of each month. Visit her website at Call her at 949-1808 or e-mail For more decorating tips and photos, visit