Those white stools are the closest thing my kids will ever have to owning a pet.

I know there are design experts out there who claim neutral furniture is paramount in building good design. And it’s true. For some people. Some of the time.

But a good design plan becomes a truly great space when you add personality to the mix. If you love something, it will work. That’s how I got Andy Blackford.

As much as I love Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel (and I do), I don’t want my house or, frankly, my clients’ homes, to look like page 78 in the spring catalogue. (Can we talk about the catalogues. Seriously. Enough with the catalogues.) Sure, the look is safe. And pretty. But it’s boring. Who needs boring?

We recently updated our own living room. I knew what I wanted – more seating, bright colors, gray walls, gold sconces, simple linen curtains and a white piano. I had a vision. But then I did something I rarely do: I chickened out.


Our old living room with my favorite couch. Notice the brown piano in the back. It’s so brown.

So instead I bought two pretty white couches and oh how I tried to love them. I tried so hard. Really. I’d sit in the living room and drink champagne and make witty conversation with them. I’d invite fun groups of friends over hoping to bring those white couches out of their dull shell. I tried to woo them with upbeat music and make them laugh with some of my best jokes; but they were so booorrrring.

The white couches that were beyond boring.

The white couches that had zero personality. I mean, nothing.

Maybe with the lights on? By the way, those lights came with the house and my friend Cody just told me “I always hated those lights.” Really? It’s been eight years. Tell me a little earlier next time.

I was exhausted. I started to really hate those white couches. I avoided making eye contact with them and told the children to not waste their time getting to know them. I pretended to be busy in the kitchen. I started entering and exiting the house through the back door so I didn’t have to feel guilty ignoring them like the dinner guests who refuse to leave.

Even my husband, who either has zero opinion about this stuff and/or is smart enough to keep his mouth shut, wasn’t a fan.  He said he felt like he had aged thirty years when he walked in the living room and saw those couches. He was right. They had to go.

Maybe if I looked from this angle?

Maybe if I looked from this angle?

So I called Macy’s and sent them back, even though it made me a little sick to pay the return fee. Then I called Juan Ramirez and had him paint the piano. Our conversation went something like this:

“You want me to paint the piano, Stephanie?”


“The piano?”

“Yeah, the piano.”

“What color is it now?”


“And you don’t like it?”

“God. No. It’s brown.”

“What color do you want it to be?”

“White. Like John and Yoko. Remember? From the record? Juan? Juan?”

Low sigh –  “Okay, Stephanie.”


Maybe the kids will practice now? (They won’t.)

So we painted the piano. And also the mantle. We installed beautiful sconces and window treatments, moved around artwork and reoriented the furniture, and added two gorgeous bright GREEN velvet couches and voilà! A space we truly love. A space that isn’t beige. Isn’t dull. Isn’t on page 78 of the latest catalogue.


Henry’s masterpiece. The matting is leftover wrapping paper from last Christmas so we can spend more on what matters – large bottles of liquor.


Going green. This room looks so good when I stand on the dining room table to take a picture.


Based on the smile, Jackie O clearly approves.

Be brave, readers – and see you next time at The Neighbor’s House.

Also, follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Because there is no better way to spend your time than ignoring your job or your children or both by scrolling through social media.


Sources |

Stools: HomeGoods (I repainted the legs) | Couches: IKEA | Sconces: Wayfair | Tables: bought years ago at auction house but you can find similar at One King’s Lane | Jackie O artwork: Z Gallerie | Piano: a gift from my husband’s parents | Picasso artwork over the piano: a gift from my mother (she called it a loan but I think she meant gift.)