Outdoor theater under a pergola creates a staycation paradise.

Turn Your Backyard, Porch, or Patio into a Staycation Paradise!

One thing COVID has done is force most of us to re-focus on our homes and how we spend time in them. And this new focus has led many to consider how to turn their backyard into a staycation paradise.

Lockdowns – and even a hesitancy to leave our property – had us spending more time away from others besides our immediate family, and seeing the pros and cons of how we’re set up at our homes.

I know many people who have actually decided to look for a new place to live, once they realized their home wasn’t providing them with the comforts they desired.

That’s a pretty drastic response, in my opinion, although in the real estate market it’s an excellent time to be selling your home…but remember you have to then buy one as well.

All of this new focus on our existing abodes has given me a reason to expand my own business into what I call “Outdoor Living” and how to help my clients basically reinvent their backyards, whether it’s a deck or patio area (or what some people might call a porch), as well as their backyards beyond the immediate rear of their home.

Depending on your situation, you may have a lot of area to work with or a very limited space…but either way, I’m here to tell you that any situation can be customized and upgraded to create a special environment for your personal comfort and enjoyment.

While we’re all easing back into the mainstream of our lives, getting back out there to shop, dine and connect with friends, many people have also looked at their backyard situation through new lenses.

There are many opportunities to enhance what you have and turn it into a permanent “staycation” – and why not? We live in Florida, a tropical environment that many envy as paradise or the perfect vacation to begin with.

Most people feel it’s important to have an outdoor space they love. Their backyards need to be a place to escape to, and unwind, and relax.

backyard sanctuary

The pandemic has made our outdoor spaces more important than ever, and many people have already started sprucing things up.

Maybe that’s you?

Maybe you’re looking for ways to tie it all together or find that key element that says “staycation” to you.

Whether you’ve invested in some big-ticket items already, or not, many people are finding that it’s often also the smaller things, those finishing touches, that can turn their backyard spaces into environments they love to spend time in.

Here are some tips to turn your backyard into a staycation paradise:


Probably the most important thing is to decide how you want to use your space.

Do you want to dine, lounge, entertain, outside more?

Many of my clients want their patio to feel like an extension of their home, with a little “we’re on vacation” thrown in, and they typically purchase a large sectional set.

When the weather is nice, they’ll use that area as an outdoor living room. I know it’s summer, but there are ways to make Florida’s summer months enjoyable.


Start with seating

Seating decisions should be tied to your overall desire of how you want to use the space, and I can help you map out the best way to arrange things for your specific goals, desires, and needs to turn your backyard into a staycation paradise.


The summertime in Florida is hot and humid. One of the most important things my clients desire is having adequate shade.

Consider a pergola over your patio or a freestanding cabana or pavilion or even outdoor shades or awnings to cut down on the heat, allowing you to greatly increase the time you spend outdoors. Even umbrellas can be an excellent and stylish alternative.

Speaking of pergolas and cabanas, I’ve had the pleasure of teaming up with Orlando Outdoor Living, a company that is the Central Florida representative of StruXure, which manufactures the finest pergolas and cabanas I’ve seen!

These structures are changing the way people are enjoying the outdoors. These wonderful structural products ensure that outdoor family gatherings, parties, and cookouts can be successful in any weather conditions, rain or shine.

Enhance your backyard with a covered pergola or cabana

To whet your appetite with how nicely they can enhance your outdoor living experience, all of the covered structure photos appearing in this post are created by StruXure.

If these images capture your attention (and the creative ideas are flowing), I would be glad to meet with you to show you all of the ways that these products can transform your outdoor spaces!

I place a high value on creating functional and beautiful designs tailored to each home environment. This is only possible through my close collaboration with my select partners.


Sometimes lighting is overlooked when designing an outdoor space. Adding the right type of lighting can really increase the amount of time spent outside and help create a nice mood.

The right lighting sets the outdoor mood

It is often not terribly expensive, and easy to install. With so many choices available,

I can show you which ones would make the most sense for your environment and your needs.

Consider A Poolside Pergola or Cabana to turn your backyard into a staycation paradise

If you already have a pool, it’s always a great idea to add a structure that turns your backyard into that staycation paradise.

It gives you space to enjoy quality time with your family and friends and gives you the opportunity for even more relaxation by your poolside.

Pergola at pool entryway

And you can build a bar in your pool house or create an outdoor kitchen or a lounge area with a grill to complete your personal backyard pool house retreat.

Add a Fire Feature

There’s nothing like an evening sitting around a fire roasting marshmallows and having a cocktail.

Add a fire feature for an extra dash of warmth

A fire feature is perfect for those evenings under the stars when it is chilly, or after popping out of the hot tub or pool.

Choices range from a full-blown fire pit to a fire table…or even some torchieres.


An outdoor movie theater might become one of your favorite additions! What about a screen that pulls down from your pergola and a projector mounted from the rafters.

A mounted TV keeps everybody happy!

Sounds fancy, doesn’t it? But something like that can be very affordable.

A large mounted TV is also a great way to set the kids up outside while the adults get some alone time indoors. And everybody loves watching movies outside under the stars!

Add Some Color

There’s a reason outdoor furniture is designed to be extra-durable: Exposed to the elements, it must withstand harsh sun, rain, and wind. But over time, it does eventually get weathered.

A fresh coat of an unexpected color of paint is a great way to revive weathered patio furniture.

There’s a saying, ‘When your rattan gets ratty, just paint it and it looks new again,’ and that’s not an understatement.

painted rattan furniture

To capitalize on injecting a splash of a nice, new color, you might also consider painting other outdoor furniture, sofas, tables, and shutters, and/or picking up some of that color in fabrics or accents.

painted chair and side table sets the mood

Anything that’s looking bad, give it a coat of paint and you get another couple of years out of it.


You know that wonderful feeling you get when your house is clean and organized?

You can also get that same feeling when everything is decluttered and cleaned up in your outdoor space.

The key is to make sure the things you keep out and visible add joy to your life and won’t be yet another thing you need to maintain.

These are just a few things that help people make their outdoor spaces more enjoyable.

I would love the opportunity to help turn your backyard into the staycation paradise of your dreams. Just contact me for a consultation. You can message me here, right below this blog post, or click this “contact” link, or you can also email me at: carmen@sohointeriordesign.com And, of course, you can always call me anytime at (407) 743-2399.

Happy Summer, everybody!

Let’s connect and discuss your vision!

Choose one of the 3 easy options: schedule a call with me, call me right now, or if you’re just browsing, let me email you my newsletter.

Schedule a Call with Me

Click the calendar button below to view my calendar, and choose a day & time, and
I'll call you then.
I look forward to discussing your vision!

Call Me Now

Click the phone button below to call me now or to send me a text.

I look forward to discussing your vision!

Subscribe to My Newsletter

Looking for ideas? Want more? I publish a monthly newsletter you’ll love. Click the button to subscribe.
I look forward to discussing your vision!

Read more
Cabana or pergola? This is a cabana.

Cabana or Pergola? What’s the Difference, and Which is Right for You?

If you’re looking into a cabana or a pergola for your backyard, you might at this point be wondering, what exactly is the difference? 

The biggest difference between the two is the coverage, or, the amount of shade provided. 

While a pergola will give you about the same effect as if you were sitting under a large oak tree, a cabana will provide you with complete shading from above. 

For the ultimate outdoor living experience, consider a cabana or pergola for your backyard.

Pergolas are large structures, typically with beautiful and innovatively designed architectural features. 

When built into a home, pergolas are great for extending the living space while also gaining an outdoor seating area, or depending on what you like, even an outdoor cooking area, or an outside bar.

Pergola creating a nice outdoor living environment

Since summer is here, many of you are trying to escape the Florida heat while still enjoying your outside area. 

To help with that, the shade and comfort of a cabana might be what you need. 

Whether you are wanting to enjoy the sun without the sunburn, watch the kids swim in the pool, or even if you just love sitting outside and listening to the rain during a summer thunderstorm, then a cabana might be perfect for you. 

Cabana creating meditation or yoga space.

No matter what time of the year, cabanas can give you a cozy, shaded outdoor area that will help you get the most out of your backyard. 

Cabanas are freestanding structures that are built on even sets of columns, with a full-coverage roof. 

They are great for adding outdoor living space, kitchen, fireplace, bar, dining area, etc. 

Pair of cabanas offering shade from the sun.

Many times, they are accented with light fixtures, ceiling fans, heating features, fireplaces, TVs, refrigerators, grills, etc., to enhance the beauty and usability of your outdoor-living feature. 

To offer the best option for cabanas and pergolas, I partnered up with Orlando Outdoor Living and StruXure, which manufactures the finest pergolas and cabanas I’ve seen! 

These pergolas and cabanas are definitely changing the way people are enjoying the outdoors. 

StruXure pergolas and cabanas both have louvered roofs that are motorized to close fully when needed for changing weather conditions. 

A pergola adds shade covering to the pool area.

When it comes to your covered outdoor living area, you want a stylish but also trustworthy roofing system. 

Manufactured entirely in the US, the StruXure system is engineered to withstand high winds and comes in a wide range of colors, materials, and finishes. 

No matter what sort of unit you are looking for, free-standing or attached to an existing structure, the StruXure system is bound to enhance any area and compliment any architectural style to give you perfect sun and weather control. 

Cabanas and pergolas are both beautiful and useful additions that add value to your home or your and enable you to enjoy your outdoor spaces for many more months out of the year. 

StruXure is also great to extend dining areas for restaurants and bars. Create outdoor seating areas for Airbnb properties and vacation rentals.

Pergola creating outdoor comfort and ambiance.

What about a cabana or pergola for your backyard? I’d welcome the opportunity to meet with you and show you how these stylish and functional StruXure products can transform your outdoor spaces! If you’re interested, you can message me here, right below this blog post, or click this “contact” link, or you can also email me at: carmen@sohointeriordesign.com And, of course, you can always call me anytime at (407) 743-2399.

Let’s connect and discuss your vision!

Choose one of the 3 easy options: schedule a call with me, call me right now, or if you’re just browsing, let me email you my newsletter.

Schedule a Call with Me

Click the calendar button below to view my calendar, and choose a day & time, and
I'll call you then.
I look forward to discussing your vision!

Call Me Now

Click the phone button below to call me now or to send me a text.

I look forward to discussing your vision!

Subscribe to My Newsletter

Looking for ideas? Want more? I publish a monthly newsletter you’ll love. Click the button to subscribe.
I look forward to discussing your vision!

Read more
Landscape screen, pergola style defined space

Consider a Landscape Screen for Your Backyard

Find out how this versatile outdoor element can serve as both a design feature and an outdoor problem-solver

A landscape screen is more than a practical problem-solver. With the right materials and design, it becomes an eye-catching focal point in your landscape. It also gives you a chance to experiment with different looks without a landscape overhaul. Read on to learn more about how to use a landscape screen and the numerous choices you have for design and materials.

The Purpose of a Landscape Screen

Landscape screens can be highly practical, simply decorative, or, ideally, a blend of the two. Because they’re generally a smaller element in your landscape, screens allow for plenty of flexibility in terms of looks and size. You may find that a single screen or a set of screens will serve several purposes at once.

Provide privacy. One of the most popular uses for landscape screens is to shield your property and people from passersby and neighbors, especially in front or side yards, dining areas or pools, hot tubs or spas, and outdoor showers. To soften the look, use a more open design that might allow glimpses in and out of the yard.

landscaping to screen and provide privacy

Block a view. A screen can also block a less than ideal view. Place one or more where they can hide anything from an adjoining deck, nearby building or road, or an unattractive eyesore. You can also add a screen to your own landscape to hide a storage area or where you stash your trash and recycling bins.

One closed wall effectively blocks a view.

Temper the elements. Sometimes the issue is not neighbors but rather Mother Nature. The right landscape screen can mitigate the wind and sun, allowing you to enjoy your outdoor space more often. If you want to block the wind but preserve the view, consider adding a screen that’s made of clear glass.

screen to temper the elements

Define a space. A landscape screen will add some definition within your landscape. It can help you define different areas within a yard, creating the feeling of a garden room or a set of rooms. “It acts as an outdoor wall,” says fencing and screen expert Deanne Clough of Clough Construction in San Rafael, California.

defining a space

You don’t need to screen in the entire space to create the intended effect. Instead, add one panel to one side of a pergola, along a deck railing, or behind a spa or fountain.

Add interest. The right landscape screen can also boost your landscape’s design. Here’s a chance to turn a boring spot into a focal point. It’s also your chance to add some drama to your landscape. “Something playful will stand out,” Clough says.

A landscape screen adds visual interest and style

Grow a vertical garden. A landscape screen is a perfect backdrop for plants of all kinds, from rows of succulents in small points to a vining masterpiece to a living wall. Just be sure the material you choose can handle the weight and the moisture of the plants themselves.

Vertical garden as landscape screen

Large plants growing in pots can give you the look of a vertical garden as well. If you’re willing to wait a while, many shrubs, bushes, and trees can easily reach 4 feet or more to give you a living screen.

Plants as landscape screens

Finding Your Screen Style

Stylish landscape screen wall

Taking a cue from other hardscape elements, especially fences and gates, will create a cohesive feel throughout your landscape. You can also go the opposite route and add an unexpected look or contrasting material to highlight a part of your landscape and create a focal point.

Varying levels, heights, materials as screens

Screen Material Options

Almost any material can be used for a landscape screen

Almost any material can be turned into a screen. Wood and metal may be the first things to come to mind, but take the time to explore other options, from vinyl to bamboo and glass.

Wood and wood composite. Wood is sturdy, easy to install, adapts to almost any design or style, and can be left natural, stained, or painted. Wood is also one of the least expensive fencing materials, especially if you choose a wood that is native to or grows easily in your area.

Wood landscape screen

Redwood and cedar are naturally rot-resistant but are also higher in cost. Southern pine, spruce, and fir are other popular wood options, but you’ll need to check if they require some sort of treatment for use, especially for posts. Treated wood, especially pressure-treated wood, isn’t available in some areas. Look for sustainably harvested wood for any choice.

Wood composites are made from a variety of materials, including recycled plastic. They are more durable, rot-resistant, and long-lasting than wood. They also hold up to extreme heat and cold and hard wear better than vinyl. Color options that closely mimic wood are becoming more available, and they can also be painted. Care consists of periodically hosing the boards down.

A wood screen will require regular maintenance, which can include sanding and sealing, re-staining, or repainting. It can also expand or warp over the years, especially if left natural. Expect a wood screen to last at least 10 years, likely longer with regular upkeep, but you will need to replace it eventually.

Inventive use of wood landscape screens

Wood composite is more expensive than wood at the onset. It also can fade over the years. You may need to replace a wood composite screen every 25 years or so.

Metal. Aluminum and steel are compatible with almost any design style, whether traditional, rustic, or modern. Weathering steel will give you an immediate rusted touch. You can also look at other metal options, including corrugated galvanized iron and rebar, which fit in well with rustic, natural, and modern garden styles. All can be shaped or cut to work with your design.

Open pattern metal landscape screen

Corrugated galvanized iron and rebar are the least expensive metal options. Both aluminum and stainless steel are more expensive than wood, falling in the midrange for prices. Weathering steel is your most expensive option. The costs will vary depending on the design and how you’re using the material.

Metal screens are long-lasting and won’t fade over time. They’re also a good choice for those living in cold climates, as they can handle temperature extremes.

Wall screen made with succulents

Aluminum is lightweight and rust-resistant but not as sturdy as stainless steel. Steel, including stainless steel, is a stronger material than aluminum. Steel can rust and stainless steel can also rust if chipped. It may need regular polishing if you’re looking for a brighter feel. It is also very heavy.

Bamboo. Harvested bamboo is gaining popularity as a landscape material. It is a fast-growing plant, which makes it an eco-friendly material, but you need to be sure that the bamboo you’re choosing is sustainably grown.

Natural curved bamboo landscape screen

Bamboo’s density and thickness allow it to stand up to moisture much more readily than wood. It gives a landscape a rustic, natural, or Asian feel. Adding a wood frame around the bamboo will give it a finished look. Bamboo stands up well to heat and snow and can be cleaned with water.

Bamboo can be stained or left natural, although it will fade with time and you’ll need to renew the stain. Bamboo can dent, chip, crack or split, so periodic repairs may be needed.

Bamboo is more expensive than many other materials. Expect a bamboo gate in a frame to last at least 20 years, although a natural-look installation may show signs of wear sooner.

Glass. Glass is a stunning and versatile choice for a landscape screen, lending a contemporary or modern look.

Glass is an excellent medium for etching or for mixing and matching different colors. Choosing translucent glass will offer some privacy while still allowing light into your yard.

Glass privacy wall as landscape screen

You’ll likely need to clean both sides of the glass at least as often as you’d clean windows in your home. The glass can also mar and scratch. It can also be expensive, depending on the size and look you want.

Concrete. Concrete is a strong, durable, low-maintenance material. Color choices and finished, from smooth to textured, are almost unlimited. It can blend well with almost any landscape and architectural style and creates a great wind barrier.

Concrete wall serves as landscaping screen

Poured concrete used as a screen probably will be more expensive than wood or metal due to labor costs, but it will also last far longer, up to 50 years with sealing and maintenance. Although concrete is used in many regions, particularly for retaining walls, it will do best in a mild to moderate climate. Always work with an experienced concrete professional who will be able to advise you on best practices for using concrete in your region.

Concrete is both heavy and permanent. Once it’s in place, it will take considerable effort to remove it. It also can erode unless waterproofed and sealed regularly. Keep an eye out for chips and cracks.

Vinyl and PVC. Vinyl is more expensive upfront than wood, but it also lasts longer. It’s a good choice for warm yet damp climates. It doesn’t warp, rot or shrink, is immune to insects, and doesn’t need to be painted.

Vinyl is very low-maintenance, only requiring periodic hosing off and occasionally scrubbing stubborn grime with a diluted dish soap mixture. Expect a vinyl screen to last 30 years or more.

Vinyl-PVC landscape privacy screen

Vinyl traditionally has had a fairly limited color palette, but more color options are becoming available, including ones that mimic wood tones. It also is more limited in terms of design. Repairs can be difficult and vinyl can be damaged when exposed to extreme elements.

PVC looks similar to vinyl and costs about the same price, but it isn’t as durable and won’t last as long.

Plants. Plants have functioned as living landscape screens since time immemorial. They blend into the landscape and provide a beautiful screen on both sides. You can include them as part of your overall landscape or set them apart in planters or pots.

Plantscaping as landscape screens

Shrubs, bushes, grasses, trees, and vines are all good choices for living screens. For a dense screen, choose plants with foliage that starts at the ground level and are, ideally, evergreen. If you want a more open feel, you can use deciduous plants. Plants with barbs or thorns can provide an added bit of security. Vines will need some sort of support structure.

Check with local nurseries or landscape designers to determine which plants will grow well in your area and will fit your needs.

Foliage wall as landscape screen

Plants are living entities, which means you’ll need to give them continual care, especially when they’re first planted. This will include not only providing sufficient water but also doing pruning and cleanup. Plants are also subject to pests, diseases, and death. If you choose smaller options, it may take time, even years, before they reach their final height.

Caution: Live bamboo is lovely but a true garden thug, taking over whenever it gets the opportunity. Clumping bamboo is less invasive, but you will still need to use a barrier to contain it.

Attractive lattice wall as landscape screen

Other Considerations for Adding a Screen

Permitting and codes. Every locality is different, so you or your contractor or landscape designer will need to check with your local building department to find out what’s required for your project, including setbacks, materials, and permits. “We always apply for a permit, as screens typically fall under the category of fences in village codes,” Algozzini says. You should also check with your homeowner’s association, if you have one, for what is permitted.

Multiple elements acting as various landscape screens

How long it will take. The biggest factor affecting the timeline of adding a screen will be the fabrication time, whether it’s pre-made, fabricated on the site, or elsewhere. Once the screen is ready to site, the installation will usually be pretty fast.

If adding a landscape screen is something you’d like to explore, please let me know and I can help you determine what approach would make the most sense for your outdoor space, and what you’d like to achieve. You can message me here, right below this blog post, or click this “contact” link, or you can also email me at: carmen@sohointeriordesign.com And, of course, you can always call me anytime at (407) 743-2399.

Let’s connect and discuss your vision!

Choose one of the 3 easy options: schedule a call with me, call me right now, or if you’re just browsing, let me email you my newsletter.

Schedule a Call with Me

Click the calendar button below to view my calendar, and choose a day & time, and
I'll call you then.
I look forward to discussing your vision!

Call Me Now

Click the phone button below to call me now or to send me a text.

I look forward to discussing your vision!

Subscribe to My Newsletter

Looking for ideas? Want more? I publish a monthly newsletter you’ll love. Click the button to subscribe.
I look forward to discussing your vision!

Read more
An outdoor fire pit to enjoy outside

Opening Your Spaces Up to Outdoor Living

More and more Homeowners want to seamlessly blend their indoor and outdoor spaces with a beautiful and functional Outdoor Living Area. And whether you are looking to update your patio or you’re ready for a total makeover, here’s a great selection of photos that are sure to spark your creativity.

A Covered Patio lets you enjoy breezy sunsets and weekend afternoons from the comfort of your incredible outdoor living space. And you can design the covered patio area to be your perfect dream spot.

A covered patio lets you enjoy the great outdoors in style

Covered Porch & Fireplace – An extended patio makes quiet evenings and social weekends an exceptional joy.

Covered porch and cozy fireplace for family time

An Outdoor Fire Pit will be a cozy retreat for you and your family to enjoy on a cool evening.

Outdoor fire pit

Enjoy family time in a cozy Covered Patio area – maybe even gathered around a stone outdoor fireplace. Home is where the hearth is.

A covered patio with a stone fireplace for cozy gatherings

Cover Part of Your Backyard – A covered place to relax in your backyard might be a desirable addition to your home. Just imagine how comfortable that backyard space is now.

A covered place to relax in your backyard.

Spend your evenings bug-free in the Screened Lanai, perhaps with a hot tub overlooking delightful backyard views.

A screened-in lanai for bug-free enjoyment

Consider a Freestanding Structure that functions as a pool house or extended enclosed area for entertaining.

A freestanding pool house for entertaining

If opening your spaces up to the great outdoors appeals to you, please let me know and I can consult with you on how to make your outdoor spaces perfect for your needs. Just message me here, right below this blog post, or click this “contact” link, or you can email me at: carmen@sohointeriordesign.com And you can call me anytime at (407) 743-2399.

Let’s connect and discuss your vision!

Choose one of the 3 easy options: schedule a call with me, call me right now, or if you’re just browsing, let me email you my newsletter.

Schedule a Call with Me

Click the calendar button below to view my calendar, and choose a day & time, and
I'll call you then.
I look forward to discussing your vision!

Call Me Now

Click the phone button below to call me now or to send me a text.

I look forward to discussing your vision!

Subscribe to My Newsletter

Looking for ideas? Want more? I publish a monthly newsletter you’ll love. Click the button to subscribe.
I look forward to discussing your vision!

Read more
Carmen photographed at her Heron Drive residential project

My Client and I Discuss the Heron Drive Residence Project

This was an exciting project, designing interiors for the key rooms in Ellen and Herb’s new home purchase. My task was to make it truly their home, merging some of what they had with a lot of new furnishings and accessories. They are very happy with the results. So much so that I arranged an interview with Ellen, and then a brief interview with me, about the project, as well, along with some photos of the rooms I designed.

What did you want to achieve for your spaces?

I didn’t really know when I started. My husband and I downsized houses to a smaller space. It was not only smaller it was very different than the previous house. Unlike our old place, our new home has very tall ceilings and open spaces. It has large windows at the rear of the house facing the lake. I just knew that my collection of more traditional furniture would not work in the new home.

What drew you to hiring Carmen?

I already knew Carmen from our Jazzercise Center. I had talked to her about her family, read some of her sister’s books, and felt comfortable in her presence. She has a great sense of humor. I’ve worked with decorators in the past that my husband didn’t get along with but that was never the case with Carmen (even though he is a Seminole and she is a Gator).

Talk about the end result.

When we set our moving date from our Winter Park house we had very little time to think about what we’d need in a new home. We hadn’t purchased a new one yet so I was panicky. My husband and I had to temporarily move to an apartment and so I had this house full of stuff but didn’t know what I wanted to bring with me. We had an estate sale and got rid of a lot but we still stored so much stuff (at great expense) for 3 months. In the end, we gave away or sold much of our old stuff. If I had it to do over I would have contracted with Carmen before we sold our home. It would have undoubtedly saved us money in furniture storage fees.

At the time of my first meeting with Carmen, we had placed a contract on our new home. Although we loved the new place I was nervous about where to start and what to do to pull it together. I felt a big weight come off my shoulders after our first meeting, as she explained her process and fee structure. I liked that it wasn’t overwhelming to me because she would select just a few carpet samples, kitchen tile samples, pillow fabrics, or rugs and I would pick from those few. If I didn’t like any of the selections she would find some different choices for me to review. For budget purposes, we worked on the master bedroom, kitchen, and living room first and then moved to other areas.

I worked with Carmen on rooms in most of the house with the exception of my office and my husband’s office. Our home is now so relaxing, comfortable, clutter-free, and beautiful. The look she created takes advantage of the big windows and the lake view with a theme of “Coastal”. We already had some art from our former Sarasota condo so she was able to suggest placement for some of those pieces to enhance the Coastal look. I had an heirloom fern stand that I wanted to keep and she contacted a painter to give it a new look. She suggested that a few of the items we didn’t use from our old place could be sold at a consignment store.

What was the biggest surprise – or delight – from living in the newly-designed spaces?

Every day when I wake up, when I move l from the bedroom to the kitchen, living/dining room area I say “WOW! This is my house!” It still surprises me. My husband, Herb says, “Nice place you’ve got here El.” We haven’t had scads of guests this year because of COVID but the ones we have had are truly delighted and impressed at the end product.

Carmen Discusses Designing New Home Interiors for the Heron Drive Project

So then I was interviewed for my thoughts and inspiration on the project. I discuss a few things that guided my thinking.

What did the home suggest to you at first viewing, first impression?

Well, it was definitely more of a coastal casual home, it has a beautiful view of a lake. My client, Ellen, wanted a change from her last home, which was more traditional, and wanted this home to have a totally different look.

Did you develop an overarching or foundational creative inspiration? (was there a particular kind of inspiration or vision that guided you throughout the process)

The inspiration came from the great view they had of the lake. The exterior facade also had a coastal look to it with the exterior paint color of the house and front deck. Nice high ceilings and a clean palette to work with.

Was there a big “Aha!” moment during the project?

Incorporating 2 pieces of photography artwork for the sunroom, was an “Aha” moment. It was photography artwork that they purchased from a local artist that lives by the lake. The artist captured beautiful images of the lake, so we had them produced and framed appropriately for the room.

Do you have a favorite space in the home? Something you particularly responded to?

I LOVED all of the rooms!

If you think you’d like to explore a “coastal casual” look for your home, or have been wanting to fall in love with your home again, just reach out to me, that’s what I’m here for! Here’s a link to a House Beautiful article on the coastal design style, which gives a good little synopsis of the general approach. And if anything you’ve seen here creatively inspires you, please let me know and I can consult with you on how to make your spaces perfect. Just message me here, right below this blog post or click this “contact” link, or you can email me at: carmen@sohointeriordesign.com And, of course, you can call me anytime at (407) 743-2399.

Read more
Bright, cheery living room area, inviting home!

Why You Need a Real Estate Agent Who is a Home Stager & Interior Designer

As both an interior designer and a realtor, I can help sellers maximize the market value for their home and get it sold faster. My staging and design skills are an added bonus and come in handy when helping a buyer imagine how a home could look.

Over the past 60-days, I managed the renovation of a home located in the Colonial Town area. After the construction was completed, I staged every room, except one bedroom. I researched recent home sales in the area. The owner and I agreed to list the house just under $300 per sq. ft.

Carmen selling home staged property

Within 48-hours we had eight offers from pre-qualified buyers. The house is under contract and set to close on March 25. Here’s the good news, the final offer went $10,000.00 over the asking price.

Let Me Show You Why Home Staging Works! 🙂

Take a look at some of these before and after photos from the offering of the staged property.

before staging: 3 D's: dirty, dingy, and dark

The home is well lived-in and rather dark overall. Not very inviting for buyers to see possibilities easily. Now, check out the results from AFTER my remodeling and staging work:

It starts with the very first impression

It all starts with the very first impression…

inside the front door

Bright and cheery, right?

entering the living room

comfy, inviting sofa

dining area

kitchen 1

kitchen 2

kitchen 3

spacious inviting bedroom

settle into that bed

bright airy, attractive bathroom

As you can imagine, I see many homes packed to the gills, closets overflowing and cereal boxes stored on top of the refrigerator. It doesn’t show well or let potential home buyers feel there is room for their stuff.

The staging skills I employ have helped my buyers use their imagination to what a home could look like with certain arrangements of furniture or color. I think you’ll agree, the “after” images make a BIG difference. That’s the power of staging.

While there aren’t a lot of us interior designers who are both a realtor and offer home staging, we certainly bring a lot to the table, especially in terms of selling speed and higher prices realized.

The Real Estate Staging Association reports that 90 percent of all staged homes successfully sell within a month of hitting the market.

Also, the National Association of Realtors conducted an in-depth home staging survey a few years ago which showed that 49% of buyers’ agents cited that home staging had an effect on most buyer’s view of the home. It also showed that 21% of respondents stated that staging a home increased the dollar value of the home between 6-10%.

Even a little Home Staging can go a Long Way

My experience has shown me that a little home staging in a listing goes a long way. In most cases, the seller is more than willing to let me enhance their home with the possessions they already have. Decluttering is essential.

Being an interior designer and realtor who offers home staging r cross-pollinates to help me do better as a real estate agent. My education as an interior designer and my work doing home staging helps me establish immediate communication with my sellers. It’s important to have a good rapport with whoever you’re working with, and I’ve found that, professionally, staging and real estate work go hand in hand.

My ability to either use a homeowner’s possessions for staging or using my own inventory or furnishings and accessories to give life to an empty home greatly helps my real estate seller clients.

For those purchasing a home, my resources and discounts as an interior designer help my real estate buyer clients, especially since I make some of my commission available to them for my interior design services.

Home staging is an excellent method of letting buyers see the potential of a home. So many times, I’ve seen typical buyers unable to “see” past an owner’s possessions – there’s a lot of clutter inherent in a “lived-in” home. All that gets in the way of a buyer being able to envision the home as theirs. Buyers today want a move-in-ready home. Staging gets rid of the mess and highlights the focal points of a space.

Also, marketing a staged home becomes a much easier task than one that is empty or cluttered. Photographs can be done with wide-angle lenses to capture everything that is important to buyers.

There are many misconceptions about home staging and redesign. Many sellers, buyers, and agents think that staging is about bringing in furniture. In my experience, it is more about reorganization, deep cleaning, and repurposing.

Sometimes just staging a few rooms can make a big impact. Entry points are most important when home staging a house for sale. The first impression starts at the curb.

Real Estate and Staging is a very Natural Marriage

Staging can often begin with fixing up the porch, painting the front door, planting colorful flowers or a planter, mowing the lawn, trimming the bushes, and putting new lights up, or getting a new mailbox. If people aren’t attracted to the front of the house most likely they won’t be stepping inside the door (unless they are flippers).

As an extension of my interior design work and knowledge, staging goes hand in hand with my real estate practice. While It takes a bit of time to prepare and implement a staging project, real estate and staging is a very natural marriage.

Soho’s home staging brings out the potential of a home while staying as neutral as possible – so that each prospective buyer can imagine the home as they would decorate it. Let’s transform your house into someone’s dream home. Call me at 407-710-9949 and let’s have a conversation. And check out my home staging page on my website at this link.

Read more
Warm, bright, colorful interior

Interior Design Trends to Know in 2021

With all of us having to stay in our homes and turning inward, the past year has created a push towards new interior design trends for 2021. It used to be that our homes were a place for just a part of our lives. Much of the day was spent at the workplace, with a commute by train, bus, or car on either end. Often, we’d have plans for before and after work too: maybe an early morning spin class, or a dinner at a favorite neighborhood restaurant. Simply put: many of us weren’t actually in our houses or apartments that much.

The coronavirus pandemic changed all that. Now, much of America is working, socializing, exercising (and, well, doing almost everything that ends in -ing) from our homes. And as we adjust the way we live, we’re also adjusting the spaces we live in.

So it makes sense that when several top interior designers were asked what home trends we’re likely to see in 2021, one word dominated above all: comfort. “Comfort, practicality, and making your home your sanctuary on every level,” says Martyn Lawrence Bullard. “Comfort in all forms is becoming more paramount,” says Timothy Corrigan. “Comfort over concept,” says Roman and Williams co-founder Robin Standefer. “The importance of comfort, wellness, and sustainability will continue to be a priority,” says Sheila Bridges.

comfortable sofas, living room, calm colors

2021 interior design trends: It’s All About Comfort – So What Does Comfort Look Like?

What does comfy look like, exactly? Think plushy, sink-into furniture, chestnut woods, warm colors, overflowing bookshelves (but not the color-coordinated kind, rather, ones stocked with tattered covers of novels you’ve read and loved). Less mass-produced furniture and more reworking of passed-down family pieces or ones you already own. (There’s nothing more thrilling than giving new life to ancestral pieces,” says Kathryn Ireland.) Fluffy towels, luxurious candles, objets d’art from local artisans rather than e-commerce giants. Essentially: “The trend is to embrace what lasts, what’s well made, and what makes you smile,” says Standefer.

We will also be reworking our homes to, well, work: as offices remain closed across the country, people are investing in making their own Zoom-friendly spaces.

As a result of our newfound focus on 24/7 livability, some previously hot trends are falling fast out of favor. The decline of mid-century modern, once the design choice du jour, continues: “While the mid-century look was very popular, now that people are actually hanging out in their living spaces for hours at a time, there is a strong trend towards furniture that is big on soft, comfy sofas and chairs that allow you to lounge with ease,” says Timothy Corrigan. Robert McKinley also predicts a similar fate for another style: minimalism. “I think minimalism will begin to go by the wayside in 2021,” he says. “As we spend more time in our homes, we need more objects to hold our attention. All that empty space can be suffocating.” Oh, and perhaps back off of the beige. “The all-beige catalog look is out,” proclaims Ireland. “Be bold and decorate with conviction.”


How the Experts See Interior Design Trending for 2021

2021 interior design trends

Seven experts share how unprecedented times will affect interior tastes and the trends they will usher in.

“With everyone spending more time at home, there is a renewed emphasis on rooms that not only look good but can live up to increased use. Durability will continue to be more important and we will see a rise in using outdoor materials inside the home: there are so many great outdoor fabric options that allow you to make a mess and not worry about the clean-up, without having to sacrifice beauty.” -Timothy Corrigan,  Timothy Corrigan Inc.

“Wallpaper and pattern play will continue to dominate rather than subtle, more monochromatic schemes.” -Sheila Bridges, Sheila Bridges Home

“As we spend more time in our homes, we need more objects to hold our attention—all that empty space can be suffocating. I’m not advocating for clutter, however. I’d say that 2021 will be a year of attributing meaning to carefully selected pieces—the year of the craftsperson, the artist, the artisan.” -Robert McKinley, Studio McKinley

statement piece of furniture

“Most of us used to just sleep and shower in our spaces, but now people are really investing more time, money, and energy into decor details, bringing meaningful small goods and statement pieces into their homes. We’re paying attention to everything from what we’re drinking water out of, to the kind of bath towels we use.” -Harry Nuriev, Crosby Studios

Bringing More Warmth into Our Environments

“We are loving warm cinnamon and marigolds. Those rich oranges, chestnuts, warm woods, bring some heat and spice to a room.” -Robin Standefer and Steven Alesch, Roman and Williams

the warm chestnut colors, woods

“Real decorating is back in—colors, textures, a mix of old and new. Repurpose things. Shuffle artwork around. Move furniture to another room. Re- accessorize what you have rather than starting over. Keep the pieces that have meaning.” -Kathryn M. Ireland

“Out for 2021. . . rooms with no purpose, rooms only used for high days and holidays, furniture that has no other function but to make a statement. In 2020 we learned our lives are for living and need to be lived out in the best way we possibly can. Needless excess is out, functionality and duality in the home is in.” -Martyn Lawrence Bullard, Martyn Lawrence Bullard Design

“We will see less beige and grey and more green, pink, and my favorite color, blue.” -Harry Nuriev

“Everyone can be transported through the use of pattern and color (muted and grounded shades mixed with brighter and more hopeful colors like yellows or bright greens).” -Sheila Bridges

bright cheery colorful walls and furniture

Brighter Spaces Putting Smiles on Faces

“Crisp, clear colors are continuing to grow in popularity with yellows, light blues/turquoises, and greens being used to brighten up spaces and put a smile on your face during these challenging times.” -Timothy Corrigan

comfortable furnishings living room

“I think we will move away from grand, sweeping styles and towards a rawer, more casual aesthetic. Homes will become textural and layered with elements of warmth—grounded elements. I expect that we will see design that is more regional and place-based than ever.” -Robert McKinley

“With people spending hours on Zoom calls, there has been an increase in popularity for table lamps that provide a soft glow on your face and counteracts the harshness of recessed overhead lighting that is found in so many homes today.” -Timothy Corrigan

“Sustainability is a consideration in design that will remain important—2020 slowed us down and made us take stock of our consumption. Sustainable, durable brands will continue to grow in prominence, especially in the home space.” -Robert McKinley

If you would like to introduce any of these interior design trends for 2021 into your space(s), I’m always here to help you with that. Just message me here, right below this blog post or at the “contact” link, or you can email me at: carmen@sohointeriordesign.com And call me anytime at: (407) 947-7718.

Read more
Quadrille wallpaper in living room with red chairs.

Classic Interior Design Treatments that I Love!

I thought you’d enjoy seeing some of the things that I love, in my interior design work. Some of these are trending, but they all are classic treatments with staying power. Most of what you see here will just be the tip of the iceberg, in terms of what’s available, or possibilities, so if you like something, let me know and I can help you bring it into your life.

Quadrille Wallpaper (and Fabrics)!

Quadrille fabric and wallpaper have been a long-time favorite home resource of mine. Because I’m such a big fan of these prints, whenever I need to consider a fabric or wallpaper I always take a look at Quadrille’s selection on their site. While Quadrille is “to the trade” only, let me know if you are interested in using this in your space and I can make it happen for you. I hope you like the styles as much as I do. Here are some lovely examples.

Quadrille blue & white bathroom wallpaper

Quadrille orange and white wallpaper, bedroom

Lovely Quadrille blue and white trellis design

Lime & white Quadrille wallpaper in bedroom accented with pink.

Blue and white trellis background Quadrille

Decorative Books

These handmade parchment, vibrant metallic, and leather-bound books are some of my favorite accessories to decorate any bookshelves. I use them in my own personal spaces as well. If you want to explore these for yourself, visit their site: elawrenceltd.com The examples I’m giving here are just the tip of the iceberg.

Metallic binding adds touch of luxury.

Turquoise marbling on bookbinding adds another shot of color.

Art quote made up of decorative bound books.

Personalized geo location on decorative book binding is a neat touch.

Old world style decorative books add a nice antique touch.

Humorous literary quote made through stack of decorative books.

Custom Draperies

Draperies can be a key element in a room’s design. From adding a splash of color to completely pulling a room together, drapery is as beautiful as it is functional. Windows offer so many possibilities to add beauty and style to a room, and custom draperies can perfectly accommodate any space or functional situation, especially in conjunction with other window treatments, to create a unique impression. With custom drapes, you never have to settle – they are made just for you!
Elegant sweep of custom draperies.
Box cornice with custom draperies.
Tri-tone color and pattern for a fabulous look!
Sculpted valance and custom draperies add unmatched elegance.
Two-tone solid and pattern custom draperies combined with other window treatments for a look that ties everything together.
Old world elegance with these sophisticated custom draperies.

Custom Bedding – One of the True Classic Interior Design Treatments

The bed is the centerpiece of every bedroom, and the core of every well-designed bedroom, anchoring the overall theme throughout. I love how custom bedding can layer on some wonderful colors and textures, pulling the room together beautifully. More so with accessories, headboards, or other treatments, few things immediately impart “luxury” as nicely as custom bedding. And don’t discount the”snuggle factor” either!

custom bedding 1

custom bedding 2

custom bedding 3

custom bedding 4

Maybe some of my favorite things can become your favorite things too! If anything you’ve seen here lights a fire, please let me know and I can show you how to add any of these classic interior design treatments into your space. Just message me here, right below this blog post or at the “contact” link, or you can email me at: carmen@sohointeriordesign.com And, of course, you can call me anytime at: (407) 947-7718.

Read more
Attractive use of red in interior design

How to Decorate with Red (and What to Avoid)

The color red mixes well with almost any color scheme, but how do you decorate with red without going overboard? Here are five quick and easy ways to add red to your home based on the kind of style you’re considering, followed by some thoughts on what to try to avoid.

Most of us don’t wear red from head-to-toe on a daily basis, so why do this to your walls? Consider how you wear red and translate your wardrobe to your room. While red is the color of passion if you’re too passionate about the color you may be seeing red (literally) in your home. Red can go everywhere from cheery and happy to angry and aggressive. You don’t want to overdo it and, conversely, you don’t want to be wimpy with it either.

Red art, red sofa in living room

Red works very well as an accent color in everything from lighting and candles to pillows and walls. Accents of red can be used to draw your eye to other areas of the room that might ordinarily be overlooked. Entice, intrigue and invite with red – it’s an excellent vehicle for that.

red side tables jazz up turquoise interior

Consider adding a single piece of red artwork to your space. When it comes to red, less is often more. Red also goes a long way to adding drama and eye-catching appeal (like a high-gloss red front door.

Inviting red front door

When considering the shade of red to use as a focal point, look to your decorating style and your house’s architecture. Red should be well-thought-out, as well as the shade itself.

Choose Your Style to Find the Right Reds to Decorate with

Contemporary Design incorporates neutral elements with pops of bold color, often red.
On the door: Bold, bright red
Inside: Bright red shades in a pillow, rug, or throw

Modern Design calls for all kinds of reds: from primary hues to classic shades with burgundy or brown undertones.
On the door: Any red you love that makes a statement.
Inside: Consider injecting red through a painting or piece of art.

Traditional Design stays away from primary reds and instead involves burgundy or black tones.
On the door: A deep, rich red
Inside: Decorate with Oriental rugs injected with darker reds.

Deep shades of red in traditional living area

Transitional Design relies on a neutral palette, a perfect canvas for pops of red.
On the door: Match this red to hues you use inside the home, or skip the red door entirely to keep a more neutral (transitional) theme.
Inside: Choose a softer and more indirect approach like a red lamp or piece of art.

Country Reds are chalkier and softer: Think barn or scarlet reds. Choose reds with pinkish and purplish hues, like the color of a ripening apple.
On the door: Barn red
Inside: Accessorize with country reds in knickknacks and fabrics.

Here are a few beautiful examples of red used selectively so as to not overpower a room:

Subtle use of red in patterns and prints

Red chairs that make a room sing!

Use red to tie everything together – luxuriously.

Some Style “Don’ts” to Decorate with Red

Remember, red is a tricky color to decorate with. Along with many attractive and eye-catching effects when decorating with red, there are definitely ways you can go wrong with this pop of color. Here are a few “don’ts” for you to consider, and remember, nothing is sacred, so go where your (red) heart moves you! (the pictures aren’t examples of what’s “bad”, but they may move your red needle in one direction or the other, too much or too little)

Don’t Stick with One Shade

Red art, chair and in a rug, in a modern setting.
A common misconception is that you must stick with one particular shade of a color when choosing a color scheme for your room. You want to avoid this even with muted colors like grays, blues, and whites, but you especially want to steer clear of this when you are incorporating red into your home’s interior. Using only the same shade of red or any color in one space that you are designing will become overstimulating (and overused) quite quickly. When looking to decorate with red consider a variety of shades, from softer choices to more flamboyant options. Using several shades will give your room a sense of depth and variety, which won’t make your space visually overwhelming.

Don’t Overdo or Over-Emphasize

For some, this may be too much red.
As I’ve indicated, designing and decorating with the color red is a constant balancing act between using too little and using too much. You can start by asking yourself one of two questions: Do I have enough red? Or do I have too much? If you find yourself asking the latter, you’ll want to take a step back and identify where you are over-emphasizing the red. If you feel that sense of being overwhelmed and your walls are not yet red, a way to pull things back is painting the room’s walls in earth tones or dark browns. The earthy shades will help ground any red in the room and also provide a viable contrast.

Don’t Retreat into Minimalism

Beautiful red cabinet, with red accents and in the art, adding dramatic boldness to the space.
Adding pops of color to an interior styled in a very minimalistic sense usually will add some good visual contrast. However, when you decide to decorate with red decor or red paint, you are probably not thinking “minimal” in your approach in general. Red room designs will be very visually dramatic. Golds, mirrored items, and bold window treatments will complement the drama found in the shades of red you’ve decided on throughout a room. Red shines in styles that are typically over-the-top, glamorous, and chic. For more drama, use over-the-top red-accented decor to play up a room’s bold display, and you’ll likely create a daring space in your home.

Don’t Be Too Timid

A red Oriental rug with other touches of red in accents can nicely "set" a room.
Just like sticking with one shade, using one piece of red-accented decor won’t add much more than a slight pop of color to an area. You can be as bold as the color red itself. Red stimulates attraction and appetites, so why not integrate red into your kitchen and dining rooms? When decorating your home’s interior with any red decor or paint you need to be open to taking a risk and be confident in your choices. If you aren’t ready to commit to painting, several red (remember, different shades) decorative accessories may have the same effect. Red room designs often come across as warm, inviting, and dramatic. So don’t be afraid and know that the thing to master when using red is to find the middle ground between beauty and function.

Once you’ve made the decision to decorate with red and incorporate multiple shades, try to be bold, dramatic, and confident in styling your interior. Take your time, find your own middle ground, and if you feel you’re over-emphasizing the color, dial it back, but still accessorize more than what minimalistic styles call for. When decorating with red, remember to design a space you’ll love living in!

I’d love to know your thoughts on decorating with red, especially some of the styles shown here! Is your home currently decorated with red in one form or another? Do you feel it needs some help? I can show you how to pull it all together, or we can start from scratch, of course. Just message me here, right below this blog post or at the “contact” link, or you can email me at: carmen@sohointeriordesign.com And, of course, you can call me anytime at: (407) 947-7718.

Read more
Cozy up with orange - living room accents

Cozy Up with Orange!

Orange is a contemporary, fun and warm color, but it can be tricky to decorate with. No worries, here are some sweet ideas to inspire you in decorating with orange! With my help, you’ll soon be an expert on how to decorate with orange to add some contemporary flair and warmth to a room.

So, how to get started decorating with orange? First of all, you don’t have to spend a fortune or redo your house to add orange. The color works beautifully with earth tones and neutrals such as taupes, beiges, and grey. It is such a vibrant and eye-catching tone that a little can go a long way. And because of that, you don’t have to commit to a lot of orange to make things work nicely, just choose a few elements instead, starting with some of the ideas below.

Let’s Start with Your Front Door

Painting your front door orange expresses positivity to your neighborhood and draws people to your home! Its festive warmth is very inviting!

Decorating with Orange in the Kitchen Area

Look how fun this is!  Orange pendant lamps add a cheerful vibe to a transitional open kitchen space.

Living Area Space

A well-balanced variety of orange home accents includes wall art, throw pillows, an area rug, and porcelain vases.

Dining Space

Orange leather dining chairs are carried forward into the large vertical artwork that adds height to the dining room.

Dining Space (part two)

How about adding a burnt orange rug under a dining table to make a subtler statement.


Now, this is fun (and stylish)! Whimsical ocean-inspired wallpaper is enhanced with s few bright orange elements on the vanity to help draw attention to the orange fish.

Decorating with Orange in the Bedroom Space

Paint the interior of an alcove in a bold, vibrant orange for a fresh, modern look. The color is repeated in a lovely mix of fabrics that support each other but don’t overwhelm.

Autumnal Orange Palette

Here is a nice paint palette I selected if you choose to use it as a starting point. You may not see a lot of color differentiation between these colors, but lighting (natural and artificial) can make a huge difference in selecting the right color for the right mood; finish makes a big difference too. Talk to me. I can help guide you to the perfect palette for your specific space. Just reply to this email.

Let me know your thoughts about working orange into your holiday decorating – as well as your general decor, I’d love to hear what you think. It’s a great color to start with and works beautifully with very muted complementary, analogous colors and warm creams, grays, and beiges – or even greiges (it’s exactly what you’re thinking it is; the ratio of beige to gray in your greige determines whether it is a cool or warm neutral).

If you would like ideas for decorating with orange (or adding in just the right touch of this fun color) in your home or office space, let me know. It all depends on your taste for orange in general, but it’s a delightful color to add some pizazz to your decor this Fall – or any – season. I’d love to hear from you, just click the contact link on this website and message me here, or you can email me at: carmen@sohointeriordesign.com And, of course, you can call me anytime at: (407) 947-7718.
Read more