Google+ Followers

Why to 'Never Say Never'

For over twenty years I've said 'I would never put a fence in our backyard.' I always loved to have a full view of the woods outside. Even though whatever I planted was eaten by the deer, I stood firm in my non-fence stance - until this year. 

You see, thanks to our new neighbor who just installed a new white fence along the property line, my world has changed. The area where the new fence was installed made our garden area look better than ever. Suddenly I realized that the hydrangeas we planted last year would really stand out against the white fence. 

But I still did not want to look at a 'white' fence at the back of our property line. So, we compromised and had a black (almost invisible to the eye) chain-link fence installed. The day after the fence was installed our deer 'friends' stood facing our house. You could almost hear them thinking "What happened to our dining room?" 

Sorry dear deer! I am finally able to plant all the flowers I love - more hydrangeas, climbing and non-climbing roses, butterfly bushes, even tulips in the Spring.

Our tiny world has changed and even our mascot Bucky has a new place to play. We are spending more time outside, getting exercise and smelling the roses. 

I'll keep you posted on our successes or failures on the progress of our new world. Next project - an actual patio in a 'bluestone' type of installation.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

5 To Do's for a Great Day

Spring is just a few weeks away!

How to put a little 'Spring' into your day:
  1.  Buy some bright pink, yellow or raspberry tulips for your desk or kitchen table.
  2. Wear a pink top or another bright color top in lieu of the usual gray, black or white top.
  3. Find a photo on Google of cherry blossoms in Washington and share it on Facebook. 
  4. Go to your favorite paint store and select a few shades of paint in a new color palette for your home that is brighter, lighter and cheerier.
  5. Schedule a nail appointment and paint your nails your favorite color for Spring.

Need a little help with your home? Call 732 690-2030.

M. A. Smith  LLC Interior Design
1288 Beauchamps Place, Toms River, NJ 08753
732 690-2030


Allied Member ASID
Blog: HouseZenGarden
Serving New Jersey 

In Winter - One of my Favorite Things

In Winter -
nothing is more beautiful than...

A place to light a fire and enjoy the
company of family or friends.

Fast Track Interior Design - interior design plan that gets your project to goal

M. A. Smith  LLC Interior Design
1288 Beauchamps Place, Toms River, NJ 08753
732 690-2030


Allied Member ASID
Blog: HouseZenGarden
Serving New Jersey

Keeping your Sanity during the Holidays

The Pros and Cons of Holiday Decorating from a Former Florist and a Busy Interior Designer

It's that time of year again when we are busy sprucing up our lives and homes with touches of holiday decor.

However, one of the past holiday decorating trends is the blanket of lights that some place over their bushes. Whenever I see one of those lighted bushes, I know someone wanted to take the quick route to holiday decorating and that's what it looks like! But, if they are busy and that works for them, it's okay. But, maybe next year...

Then, there are homes that just make me marvel at the beautiful simplicity of their holiday decorating within the home. Of course, it doesn't hurt that the room has a great fireplace or high ceilings or great furniture. But the real beauty of that style of holiday decorating is to keep things simple.

Whether you live in the northeast, the south or here at the Jersey Shore, the holidays can bring back that childhood wonder you so long to enjoy. So, go have some fun with it!

It was Confucius that remarked "Life is actually really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.” So true with holiday decorating. Every inch of space does not need to be covered.

See the beauty in simplicity and you'll enjoy the season, and your holiday decorating more than ever before.

Happy Decorating!

M. A. Smith LLC Interior Design

Do you feel Stressed about Decorating for the Christmas season?

Do you feel Stressed about Decorating for the Christmas season?

Photo courtesy of

It's the official start of the Christmas season! You say "Hooray!" and then you start to think about all you have to do in 
just a few days.
Then, in a second,"Hooray!" shifts to -
stress and anxiety.

What's a person to do, who has
no time now to keep up with just daily work, home and garden tasks?

The answer is complex yet simple - Lists=Organization= A Plan

Whenever I feel overwhelmed, I find the act of making to-do lists moves me into the can-do mentality. Mix a list with a calendar and you have the ingredients for getting things done and
 keeping things under control.

I would love to go on, but it's time to make my list, fill in my calendar and start enjoying the Christmas season!

Call interior designer, Mary Alice Smith in the New Jersey and metro New York City area at:
732 690-2030

Take a minute to check out my website and blogs:
M. A. Smith LLC Interior Design
Best Design Coach Blog

Fabian arts painting captured my attention with this painting  

How to Change your Perspective with Color

Did you ever feel like the day gets away from you - Or even a month?

This August flew by for me and it was a mix of lots of work with a touch of vacation.

Don't tell anyone, but I cannot wait for September. Maybe it's because the air is cooler in the morning.

But it's also the start of a new semester for school (not for me but the idea of it, in general) and the idea of a new fall wardrobe.

But its been pretty warm this last week of August and I needed to see something that made me feel refreshed and ... cooler.

I found this image from Fabianarts The painting is so soothing, it makes me feel relaxed and refreshed.

Ok, time to get back to work. Already I've enjoyed meeting a new design prospect, later I'll be working with a Renovation committee to help make some important decisions. 

Later... I think I'll look at some more paintings. 

Interior Design - Ocean and Monmouth County and Metropolitan New Jersey and NYC

732 690-2030

Go from Dark and Drab with a Little Pizazz

Photo courtesy of Nick Olsen and House Beautiful

One of the easiest ways to capture an updated look and add some pizazz to your home is by weaving a theme into your decorating scheme. Designer Nick Olsen did a fantastic job of this in a home he decorated for a client (as shown in the photo above).
He used bold green graphic lines throughout the home. For instance, he designed a white slip-covered sofa with the contrast of an emerald green welt.
Olsen also added a splash of green with a chevron design on a bedroom chest.

Another home that accomplished this successfully had a checkerboard theme. The checkerboard pattern was scattered throughout the house on walls, on floors and even on a sofa pillow.
For instance, a wall was painted in a faded checkerboard pattern. The pattern also showed up in a kitchen cutting board, a tile floor, a dining room tablecloth and on powder room guest towels.

But, what made it so successful was how it was achieved in a subtle manner

Repeating a graphic element has the power of pulling rooms together.

Define what shape you are drawn to (chevron, checkerboard, circles, triangles, animal silhouettes, etc.) and repeat it in each room. 

Choose and use your favorite shape or symbol and you'll make your rooms come together and come to life!
 Interior Design - Ocean and Monmouth County and Metropolitan New Jersey and NYC
M. A. Smith  LLC Interior Design
732 690-2030
Best Design Coach Blog
House Zen Garden Blog
How to Get Back on Track

Yes, I know I've been MIA from HouseZenGarden blog for quite some time. The truth is (and my excuse) that I've been truly very and gratefully busy with design clients. I threw myself into my work and could not stop for a moment to write, let alone think about writing here in my blog. So, I'll blame 'Sandy' for my absence here.

Since Super Storm Sandy in the northeast, it's been the busiest years ever with interior design clients. The storm caused many homeowners to re-build their summer homes. From the ground up they face daily decisions that have to be made during their re-build project.

What color siding or roof, how is the floorplan going to work and most fun - what tiles to choose in their bathrooms? Questions are everywhere and the answers are found after we talk and discuss what they really, truly would love to have in their new homes.

Lucky for me, they found me when they Googled interior designers in New Jersey. They found me because of my blog and what I wrote that connected to them and to what they were going through.

I can identify with all their overwhelming decisions, because I often work with a number of projects at the same time. The only way to sort through all the decisions is to have a plan, a list of items to tackle first. Just like the book suggests, do the ONE thing that needs to be done first.

And now I can really identify with my clients because my own Master Bath is under construction.
As I tell my clients, it's a process. It won't be finished overnight. But when it's done it will be worth all the work, the time and yes, the expense.

So, here we are now - almost finished with the tiling. The vanity, the glass enclosure and the light fixtures are ordered. And, next and favorite part - selecting the paint color for the walls.

Getting back on track - the only way to get to the things you know you must do is to just start. Start one thing today. Yesterday, we got 'back on track' at the gym. Today, back on track at the gym, this blog and later today - selecting our paint color for the bathroom after work.

What's on your list so you can get back on track?
Fast Track Interior Design - interior design plan that gets your project to goal

M. A. Smith LLC Interior Design
1288 Beauchamps Place, Toms River, NJ 08753
732 690-2030


Allied Member ASID
Blog: HouseZenGarden
Serving New Jersey and Metropolitan New York City

Goal Setting for 2016

With the holidays behind us, it's a great time to start thinking about the upcoming year. Like many of my clients, I have projects in my own home that are crying for help.

One of my projects is refinishing my wood floors. Another is to remove and replace the tile floors that flow from the Foyer into the Kitchen. I've pondered the best replacement solution for awhile. Do I replace the 12 x 12 tile with the ever popular wood plank look tile or install wood floors in lieu of the new style of tile?

Photo courtesy of Houzz
wood plank porcelain tile

Problem is either tile or wood could work. Both installations will take over a week. Also, my office has wood floors that need to be refinished. If I'm going to the trouble of replacing the tile, we might as well renovate and replace the kitchen cabinets.  

So you see, I'm right there with my clients who want to make a change this year. I can't go through another year with this to-do list on the back burner! What's a designer to do?

From my inspiration tear-sheet pages
Just love that transom window for the pantry
The first thing to get my project going is to gather my file of tear sheets from magazines of rooms and kitchens that 'call to me'. Second, I'm all about lists. So, I'll take out my lined pad and write down the pros and cons for tile vs. wood. The kitchen cabinet part is easy, it will be white cabinets. And, while the kitchen layout will remain the same, we will remove some upper cabinets and use floating shelves instead for plates, cups, etc.

Enough for now! Time to get back to work. In the meantime, what's on your list this year?

Fast Track Interior Design - interior design plan that gets your project to goal

M. A. Smith LLC Interior Design
1288 Beauchamps Place, Toms River, NJ 08753
732 690-2030


Allied Member ASID
Blog: HouseZenGarden
Serving New Jersey and Metropolitan New York City


Wipe On, Wipe Off. The Story Of An Unusual Restoration

Our Sailboat the 'Au Revoir' last sail day in 2011 before Sandy
 A Story about a Sailboat and Interior Design
The photo above was taken on the last great sailing day of 2011. It was a most beautiful day and probably the best sailing day of the season. It was also the start of a boat renovation project that seemed to expand every day until it was finished. Like home projects, when you revitalize one room, the adjacent rooms cry for the same attention.

The same experience works on a sailboat. When you start to make the teak railings look beautiful, the stainless steel fittings look dingy in comparison. As I started to restore the teak floor, the paneled walls looked dry and dull.

While I work on our yearly sailboat Spring clean-up, I am reminded of the stress, the courage and the hope my clients experience, when they take on a home decorating project. You have to be brave to say yes to making a change. But, the prize is there and the project will be finished, as surely as the yearly maintenance of our boat will be complete.

So, again this season I will work on the railings till they sparkle and my husband Jim will compound the boat till it shines. With every wipe on wipe off I keep the vision of our first day of sail to keep me going. And on that day I know for sure, that all the work was so worthwhile.

M. A. Smith, Ltd., Interior Design
Allied Member ASID
732 690-2030

Start With a Dream And Get Your Spirit Back

NYC's Incredible High Line - it began as a dream!

How You Can Get Your Spirit Back By Starting With a Dream

No matter where you are today, you may feel a lack of enthusiasm, or feel doubtful or anxious about the future. Maybe you are still a victim of the hurricane Sandy or out of a job, a home or a relationship or all the above. 

But at some point you will be anxious to get your life back. Where do you start?  You start with a dream.

Dream of a home that is warm, dry and full of family and friends. Picture yourself in a place that makes you smile. Go through old magazines and tear out pages with photos of that living room or open kitchen that calls to you.

Pin those pictures onto a bulletin board, your refrigerator or place them in front of you at your desk.

When I am working on ideas for clients and I need some inspiration, I have always researched using magazines or the Internet. You have to start somewhere!

Start today! Check out the links below. See if they can provide ideas to give you a glimpse of your new wonderful life and home. 

My bulletin board is crammed full of tear sheets that feature rooms, fashion and inspirational quotes. But the one thing that hangs on my bulletin board, that is the most inspiration to me, is a note from my mother. She wrote this message to me and I am now passing the message along to you:
I am proud of you today, 
 I am sure that the future will be great. 
You deserve the best!

Five Reasons To Go To The Jersey Shore This Summer

Painted Floor At A Beach House
In Barry Yeoman's article "Why The Beach Makes Us Happy" the words "You come back from a beach vacation (or day trip) and find that you've got a verve, an energy" mean so much to those who love the Jersey Shore. True, there is still devastation to be seen, but there is also progress in rebuilding the boardwalks, the restaurants, and the dunes.

If you've been hesitant about 'going down the Shore' because you don't think it's quite up to your old memories, here are five reasons to go to the beach this week, as described in Barry Yeoman's article from Coastal Living:

  1. The color blue (as in the sky over the ocean) has been shown to produce feelings of security and relaxation. (Who doesn't need that?)
  2. The sound of the waves has a calming, restorative effect.
  3. The tactile feel of sand on your feet has so much power, that it is often used in psychotherapy.
  4. A beach trip can produce lasting memories. Just thinking about your day at the beach months from now, can bring back those feeling of contentment or fun you enjoyed.
  5. Looking at the ocean can produce  "a special sparkling feeling" because we are looking at elements that are predictable like a boat, a seagull or just waves.
So, where are you going this weekend? The beach is waiting for you to return. Look past the streets and head out to the ocean to find yourself again.

See you at the beach!
Mary Alice Smith of M. A. Smith, Ltd. - an interior designer serving New Jersey, Ocean and Monmouth County, the Jersey Shore and metropolitan New York areas.
To schedule an appointment call: 732 690-2030 or email me at
M. A. Smith, Ltd.
Interior Design
732 690-2030
Allied Member ASID
Blog: HouseZenGarden and Best Design Coach
Serving New Jersey and Metropolitan New York

How to Slow Down and Gear Up For a Great Summer

It was two summers ago and we thought our family visiting would like the water park for some afternoon fun. I surprised myself when I said I'd try the slide, the high one, the very high one.
After the first ride, I was ready for all the slides - never laughed so much. It was the feeling of being a kid again that made it so memorable.

Photo courtesy of Casino Pier Breakwater Beach, Seaside Heights, NJ

There's something about summer that lends itself to doing things you just don't do the rest of the year.
Like now, for instance, I am sitting on our porch writing this blog. The breeze is swaying outside, birds are chirping, just came back from a walk and I'm ready for a summertime kind of day.

It's Lily of the Valley Week!

How Green Is My Valley (of Moss!)

Somewhere between the Ides of March and today, I start to believe we are really heading toward warmer weather. But it's not so much the weather that inspires me, it's the flowers and trees in bloom - at last.

Today, I head down the path to the side of my garden to see if they are blooming, the flowers that can change my mood in an instant.

Muguet de Bois -This all started with one bulb!

In particular, I'm moved by the tiniest flower called Muguet de Bois or - Lily of the Valley. My backyard garden is full of these tiny blooms that inspired a perfume to be created to immortalize their intoxicating scent.

Although I love to see them filling out my flower beds, these are my favorite flowers to cut and bring inside.
A nice way to start my day

Sometimes it's the small things in life that can bring you so much happiness.

How To Decorate Differently This Autumn

Photo courtesy of Debra Norton and Matthew Mead

If you're looking for some new ideas for decorating this season, try Matthew Mead's Blog.

White pumpkins, or fancy cats hats - whatever inspiration you need may be found a click away at Matthew's website.

Sometimes we just need a little boost from seeing something different, doing something different and sharing something different.

If you're still not sure what to do, look at the photo below and make a list of each item on the tablescape. See if you can copy that look and put a little pizazz in your life with a touch of creativity. You know, even the great artists copied or referenced other great artists.

The most important thing to remember, is that it's not that hard really. It just takes a little time, a little creativity and a will to make your life a little sweeter and a lot happier.