Budget Series Part 2: Designing for a Short-Term Investment

Whether you’re renovating an older home or simply making a few cosmetic changes, it’s important to make cost effective decisions. In this post, I am discussing some tips to add the most value to your investment.

I recommend starting by understanding and researching your neighborhood. Focus on the house style first, not your style. It is important to gain insight into what homebuyers are looking for in that area. For example, are the homes contemporary or traditional? What is the standard quality of flooring, countertops, appliances, etc.? Your neighborhood comps will help you choose the right style, color, and materials for your home. It is important to have a comprehensive understanding of expectations. This will ultimately help you manage your budget and choose appropriate and affordable materials that will help add value to your home.

An experienced designer will be able to design by celebrating the original style of the home and neighborhood while adding in new elements with an upgraded, high-end feel. Focus on open floor concepts and minimalist designs which tend to be favorable for new buyers. This may mean you spend your money removing walls to open up spaces or refurbishing old hardwood floors. One important area to focus on that can make or break your home sale is your kitchen and bathrooms! Most home buyers are in search of homes with quality upgrades on cabinetry, appliances and plumbing fixtures. 

Don’t go overboard! A few accent pieces can impress home buyers and complete the look. Homebuyers want something unique. They want architectural details and pieces that look and feel one-of-a-kind. You can infuse pops of color through artwork, photography, accessories, window treatments, and even greenery. I love adding plants and flowers to any home because they bring warmth! Accent walls with tile, stone, wall paper or reclaimed wood are a fun way to add visual appeal to a home. A few unique lighting fixtures are a wise investment and placement can create a focal point for the eye. Maintaining a neutral and light color palette and avoiding trends will make the home feel warm and inviting and create a timeless look. A good designer will help differentiate this.

The home pictured below was purchased as a short-term investment. I worked with the homeowners to re-design the exterior of this home for curb appeal and the interior space for functionality and visual appeal. The homeowners were very wise and understanding when it came to investing in the right items. A few changes on the exterior including a new front door and garage door, helped to update the homes look while maintaining uniformity within the neighborhood. Because shiplap is what I would consider a classical trend, the homeowners invested in a beautiful accent wall that that will help the resale value for years to come. We resourcefully saved money by reusing old flooring to build a sliding barn door; a unique architectural element. Money was well spent on quality plumbing fixtures and ceiling fans (one thing I always suggest spending the extra dollar on since they are used regularly and can get costly to replace). We carefully selected affordable yet beautiful light fixtures in order to avoid standard options. Complete upgrades were made to the kitchen and bathrooms (take a look at those walnut vanities from Troo Designs!) adding major value to the home. All said and done, this renovation cost around $150 per square foot. Check out the before and after photos below!

If this is your first renovation then I highly suggest you work with a designer! We understand home trends and have resources that can help you see a higher return on your investment. With an eye for detail, small items are not overlooked, ultimately lending to perfection for the homebuyer.

Budget Series Part 1: Expectations vs. Budget

In this budget series we’re discussing the topic that everyone dreads: your decorating budget. Whether you recently moved into a new home, are flipping a home or maybe just want a fresh look, there is one inevitable question: How much is this going to cost? Renovating, redecorating, or even just staging a home to sell it can be an expensive undertaking. Whether you have $10,000 or $100,000 to spend, you can create a beautiful space – the key is setting a realistic budget that fulfills your needs and expectations.

If you’re starting to explore a renovation, you may be asking yourself the following questions: Where do I start? What is worth splurging on? What even is my style? How do I attain what I envision my place looking like while staying within a reasonable budget? The reality is designing your home, finding your style, and building an eclectic collection that fits you is tough. It is time-consuming. You may have been inspired by images found on Houzz or other social media outlets, but the reality is, it’s way over your budget. Here is where I recommend starting:

1. Understand your space. 

For example, are you designing your forever home or simply flipping a home to gain profit? Before you can start looking at the potential cost of your project, you’ll need to figure out exactly what you want your space to look like. Create a list of items you like and dislike about your current design. It is important to carefully align your needs with your budget. Make a list of items that are absolutely must-haves, and ensure that their costs are covered first and foremost. This is a great time to put a story board together to help with your must-have list!

2. Determine the costs in comparison with your budget. 

It’s important to be realistic with your budget expectations – you don’t want to get halfway through your project and realize that you just can’t afford to keep going. Determine an amount you would feel comfortable spending even if you don’t know the exact costs. Most likely you have a figure in mind to get started. As you continue to develop your final budget, refer back to this number to make sure you’re staying on track. This could also be a collaborative process between you and your designer. Almost everyone tends to go over their budget so it’s important to create a breakdown that provides a contingency of about 15 to 20 percent. I recommend having this to cover unforeseen issues that may arise during a project.

3. Show your cards. 

From firsthand experience, it becomes tough to give you what you want without knowing what you want to pay for it. By showing your designer your budget, they’ll be able to tell you if the amount is reasonable and help maximize your funds. A professional designer will also be able to tell you what is cost worthy and ensure you’re spending wisely! 

Stay tuned for future posts in this series where I will explore tips and costs associated with designing a lifelong ‘dream home’ and also costs associated with a short-term investment property. I will discuss where best to spend money in both situations without skimping on quality, along with ways to prioritize. For more help getting started on your design project, contact us. We’d love to work with you and make sure that your investment pays off with a functional, aesthetically pleasing space!

Lighting with a Purpose

I love discussing the importance of lighting - one thing I feel people often underestimate. I always recommend going big and focusing on layers of lighting. Natural light is obviously the most efficient way to brighten a room but when your natural light is limited, there are many options for setting the right mood. Each space in your home has different needs. Understanding the space’s function is key to lighting design and determining the mood and vibe you want to create. This is where it get’s fun!

Adequate lighting isn’t a novel design concept but there is certainly a shift in the way spaces are being designed around it. Lighting is far more involved than putting in a few recessed lights and a couple of floor/table lamps. Over the last few years I have seen a decrease in free standing lights and with most re-models or new builds, custom built-in lighting features are a priority. Inadequate lighting may leave your space feeling dark, incomplete and aesthetically unpleasing. Each type of lighting including ambient, task, accent, and decorative all serve their own purpose.

The kitchen is a great place to combine aesthetics with functionality. The kitchen below features the perfect combo! Decorative pendants over the island offer task downlighting for dining while under cabinet lighting provides ample light for cooking and prepping. Lighting below the custom shelving highlights the decor and if one is looking for minimal light after dinner and entertaining, the uplighting above the cabinets can provide the room with a warm ‘kitchen closed’ feel.

The kitchen is a great place to combine aesthetics with functionality. The kitchen above features the perfect combo! Decorative pendants over the island offer downlighting for dining while under cabinet lighting provides ample light for cooking and prepping. Lighting below the custom shelving highlights the decor and if one is looking for minimal light after dinner and entertaining, the uplighting above the cabinets can provide the room with a warm ‘kitchen closed’ feel.

Since bedrooms are mainly used in the evenings, I choose decorative pendants that can easily be used as reading lights and that look warm and pretty at night. These gorgeous pendants make the room feel relaxing and cozy! 

What I love most about this style is its quiet drama. The uniquely shaped Edison bulbs follow the slope of the stairs and demand attention. You can’t help but love their elegant yet unassuming charm. So often, we feel like we have to fill a space with dramatic moments, but sometimes what’s most dramatic is unexpected subtlety.


This bathroom is layered with lighting including natural light provided by the thoughtfully designed window above the mirrors! The under cabinet task lighting not only functions as a great night light but also highlights the stunning tile flooring. Sconces spaced around the mirrors are perfect for make-up application or shaving because they reduce glare and shadows. Who doesn’t love great lighting in a bathroom?

Decorative statement lighting is my favorite and going big is one great way to make a statement! I enjoy playing with the proportions of lights in conjunction with the other elements in the room. If you’re looking for more lighting inspiration, be sure to follow me on instagram and check out new projects posted weekly!

Tile: Beyond the Basics!

Tile has long been a mainstay in bathrooms and kitchens, but there are so many other spaces that can be spruced up to provide a unique look, sure to catch the eyes of everyone walking by. With the many varieties, tile is both durable and adaptable. My favorite part of tile is that you can create designs that reflect your personality and style! Playing with depth, dimension, orientation and color are all ways to mix things up.


I love a tile accent wall! I use them frequently in bathrooms, bars, and even in bedrooms and creatively in other spaces. Tile costs vary depending on the intricacy of the design and the availability of materials. Accent walls or niches can be very budget friendly since you can avoid having to cover large surface areas. Below are a few of my recent tile projects done locally in Austin, TX.

This built-in mini wet bar I recently designed was a perfect way to take advantage of unused space under a staircase and create a statement with a minimal amount of material. 

Niches create a put-together look that makes your entire design seem well thought out. Not only are niches beautiful, they can also be functionally necessary for small spaces and can be designed in any room of your home.  I created this niche specifically for my dogs (Louie and Girlie!) on my kitchen island because they are my EVERYTHING and I felt it was important to think about the functionality around their everyday routine. I was able to expand the kitchen island since dog bowls no longer consumed floor space and also give them their own built in area for food and water. And of course the combination of tile and Cambria surface allows for an easy clean-up and helps contain any mess! Win, win!


Let the stairs do the talking! I find stairwells often feel simple and dark, with the occasional decorative railing. This is a great way to spruce things up. I thoughtfully applied a geometric tile on the rise of the stairs to set a playful yet sophisticated tone for this home and give the eyes area to move.

An accent wall to feast your eyes on! The stunning iridescent tile sets the mood with its dark tone and adds a touch of glam to the space. This bathroom was designed with the perfect lighting to highlight its three dimensional characteristic. I was thrilled with the outcome of this bathroom!

If you’re eager to experiment with tile design, I recommend starting where it’s easier to take more risks and do something different such as a laundry room or pantry. I often remind clients that a little goes a long way. If you love something, you can always find a way to incorporate it without overusing it. Leave your guests wanting more! Think outside the box, don’t be afraid to go bold and create a space that showcases your personality and adds function. As you can see, small spaces, niches and accent walls are perfect areas to begin. There are so many possibilities!! I am always open to collaborating with clients on designs and ideas so reach out if you’re in need of design assistance! :)

Black is the New Neutral

This kitchen is one of my most recent East Austin projects and demands to be noticed. Its dramatic black cabinetry, proper lighting, unique accents and lighter surfaces were the secrets to its success. Most home owners tend to worry that black cabinetry will make a space feel smaller, which nobody wants, but I’ll explain how I made it all work…


But first I have to mention how this client actually loved color and patterns, blue being her favorite color! If you can’t tell from my work, I personally love color too so this neutral and minimalist design was quite the balance needed in the home. We decided to save the fun patterns and bold colors for the four bathrooms (see photos below!) and designed the kitchen to be the grounding center with one major piece as a focal point…the stunning royal blue La Cornue oven.


Choosing the right flooring and counters to keep the space neutral and airy was a must! Not only was the countertop material important on this project but the design of the material. I quickly fell in love with the vision of a marble like quartz counter wrapping both ends of the island, tucking black cabinetry underneath. The same quartz was also used as a backsplash. This sleek effect lightened the center of the space and created a comfortable seating area. The engineered white oak wide plank flooring was light enough to stay subtle but unique enough to complete the room by creating balance.

Lighting played a huge roll in allowing the space to feel open and who doesn’t love a well lit kitchen? Natural light flooded this space and with the use of a few stunning light fixtures there was little to no concern of feeling dark. The two acrylic and gold pendants over the island quickly became a conversation piece and some of my favorites.

With the La Cornue range as the focal point in the kitchen, I was mindful in keeping decorative elements at a minimum. Brass hardware and elegant plumbing fixtures were beautiful accents to the black cabinetry. Large vases filled with a touch of spring brought comfort to the space as finishing touches. Happy Spring!


Pictured below are a few of the bathroom tile designs I did, bringing color and personality to the space.

The Tile That Inspired Me

I found this image on the internet in 2014 and fell in love.

I found this image on the internet in 2014 and fell in love.

When I was searching the internet in 2015 for inspiration, I didn't realize this very image above would make such an impact on my design career. 

I didn't know what this tile was called, but I was on a mission to find it. I was designing my very first shipping container studio for myself, so I wanted every single design element to reflect me. I couldn't stop going back to this image without getting excited. It was the color, the pattern, the shape that was just so perfect. Just a few months earlier I had been to this wonderful tile shop in North Austin called "Clay Imports". I decided to take a visit to the store and I kid you not, as I was walking up the steps to the front door, there it was, the single tile waiting for me. 

There it was. Waiting for me.

There it was. Waiting for me.

Needless to say, I placed my order right then and there for 100 square feet of "Dandelion" cement tile. So, step one, finding the tile and its name was complete. Now, step two, incorporating it into my shipping container. Here I go. 

I wanted my studio to feel light and bright, natural yet energetic. I wanted a lot of natural wood elements with pops of color and bold patterns. I thought it would be overwhelming to cover the entire floor with the Dandelion pattern, so I came up with a mixed design of natural wood tile 3"x 36" planks in a herringbone pattern (sketch below). It sounds crazy, but little did I know I would have clients years later reference this floor pattern. Nor did I think it would be featured on HGTV, used as an advertisement for "Clay Imports" in Austin Monthly Magazine and be published in Austin Home Magazine. 

I recently went into the new Google office in Austin and walked into a bathroom that was floor to ceiling covered in the Dandelion pattern. I'm not going to lie, I felt a little honored haha I would like to think I started this fabulous trend in Austin, even though I know I 100 percent did not. 

I am very happy to see my personal studio celebrated in so many ways. I am grateful for the image that caught my eye and inspired me. I hope my design continues to inspire others. 

Capturing light and bright. Photo by Julie Holder

Capturing light and bright. Photo by Julie Holder

Austin Monthly Magazine 2017. That's me! Photo by Julie Holder

Austin Monthly Magazine 2017. That's me! Photo by Julie Holder

Another One To Be Thankful For

Unit A Kitchen - Natural Hickory mixed with Painted off white cabinets

Unit A Kitchen - Natural Hickory mixed with Painted off white cabinets

I have many feelings today, completing my latest personal project located in East Austin. I am excited, I am exhausted, I am anxious, I am thankful. I am excited to show the world another artistic twist on a spec home. I am exhausted after 12 straight hours of staging with my mom (what would I do without her!). I am anxious to see what people think about the quirky details of the home. I am thankful to be able to express myself 100% through design. 


I never like to duplicate a design. I see duplexes as a huge opportunity to give two homeowners their own special space. 

Unit B Kitchen - Black, Hickory, Painted Oak Cabinets by Troo Designs 

Unit B Kitchen - Black, Hickory, Painted Oak Cabinets by Troo Designs 

We used shipping containers as the entrances to the homes (this is a duplex). We collaborated with Starbucks' senior designer Victor Melendez to create the coolest murals EVER! We stepped it up a notch on our back-splash selections and we pushed the envelope on the cabinetry colors and mixes. All cabinetry provided by my company Troo Designs KBI. 

Shipping Container Entrance - Photo by Scott Gordon

Shipping Container Entrance - Photo by Scott Gordon

So thankful for the future owners of the special project 

So thankful for the future owners of the special project 

Unit B shipping container entrance 

Unit B shipping container entrance 

Ever since I laid eyes on Victors work at Starbucks, I knew I had to work with him on a project one day. These murals are his perspective of Austin. I enjoy the Mexican inspiration. 

Unit A - Austin Mural 

Unit A - Austin Mural 

Unit B - Electric Guitar Mural 

Unit B - Electric Guitar Mural 

I cannot thank everyone enough on all the help and support I constantly get. Everyone encourages me to push the envelope, which results in original homes just like our Reyes project. These homes are on the market now and now we anticipate a great offer and a smooth closing. I am so thankful.

How can you resist all of the colors? I believe color gives you positive energy. I always want my homeowners to feel energized and inspired by the design surrounding them.