Welcome to Design track mind by Melissa Gulley

I am an interior designer from Newton, MA having a lot of fun writing this blog between client appointments, kid stuff, kid school stuff, dog stuff, husband stuff, husband's company stuff (http://www.fueldog.com/), life stuff, old house stuff, family stuff, extended family stuff and the rest of the detail stuff. I am not a writer (clearly) so please ignore the typo's, spelling mistakes and desperate need for proofreading.

Enslaved by Possessions

So who wants to be held hostage by your possessions?  I think no one!  No one enjoys worrying 24/7, whether the silk covered sofa will survive another day. 
What about the white carpeting? (I’m enough of a stress case, that would put me way over the edge!) 
The kids, the dog, the sun- oh my!

If you’re like me (I need to think someone is), you yell at your kids enough.  Some days more than enough.  Why add unnecessary things to yell about (silk sofa, for example).  We do have rules in our house, all food stays in the kitchen or dining room, no arts and crafts in the living room and NO SPORTS in the house. have-children-or-get-a-dog-kids-and-tv-covered-in- Other than that we are pretty lax (the house is drip dry)- my kids have lived with beautiful things all their lives and have a healthy respect for them (read: fear of me) as long as most of the stuff in our house is more carefree.
The things kids, dogs, and in my case messy husband, tend to stay clear of are: Window treatments, light fixtures, art, mirrors, accessories on mantles (occasionally on tables) and case goods (side tables,bookcases,secretary's,sideboards etc.).  These are areas where I can have my Interior Design fun and splurge.
With all this said, to keep stress to a minimum and not sacrifice style, here are some areas where you should consider going almost industrial: Coffee tables, carpets and upholstered furniture.

Coffee tables

These vital pieces should not be so precious that you can’t put your feet on them, my advise is to look for something upholstered (ottoman with tray), weathered, painted (you can always repaint), metal and defiantly distressed.  Wear and tear on distressed furniture only adds character but a scratch on a slick piano finish table – it’s ruined!  Don’t set yourself up for constant care and militant discipline of your family if you’re not that type of person. This is also a piece that does not need to “match” the other tables- it should be interesting- have fun with it.  Even if you already have polished wood just accept that you will have to refinish and let it go- Live!
elle decor leather sofa


1. Sea grass- durable, chic, affordable and can be layered upon with other area rugs like zebra hides or orientals (certainly to hide stains if they occur, but no need admit to that motivation).  It also looks great and takes on character when worn. 
2.  Another work horse is hand-knotted, 100% wool carpets.  The more pattern the better, but stay away from adding silk to the pattern (cleaning nightmare).  These carpets have been getting the job done for hundreds, if not thousands of years.  Literally, you can’t kill-em. 
3.  My last suggestion is something for traditionally more casual spaces –  (However I used really fun ones in my formal foyer- LOVE THEM) they are Flor carpet tiles.  We live in New England so there’s always mud, snow, rain, etc. (plus I have two dogs in addition to my kids) and these carpet tiles kick serous New England Butt!  You can even pull one up and wash it in the sink- really!  I chose a great texture and colors and threw them under formal antiques and love the playfulness.
zebra stairs

Upholstered furniture

The big one - sofas , chairs, ottomans etc.… these get major abuse!  Some hints to help are:
1) SLIPCOVERS that can be washed- ok really this one is huge and has saved my house.  Slipcovers are no longer big sloppy loose, baggy sacks over furniture, but tight beautifully made covers that fit like gloves.  You may not even be able to tell that something is slip covered anymore.  This may seem crazy but the real work-horse of slip cover fabric is pure white denim or linen.  It can not only be washed but bleached as well (think of the possibilities).  If you used yellow or green or blue you can wash but we all know some stains just don’t come out- UNLESS you can bleach it.  If you plan to wash your slipcovers please be sure to wash and dry the fabric prior to having them made in order to pre- shrink it.  There is nothing worse than slip covers not fitting after washing.
country_living yellow LR
(country living)
2) Leather!  Leather is so great and if already slightly distressed it will only take on more character when used.  You can wipe offending spills and dirt right off and dog hair doesn't stick- hooray!
dog on leather tufted sofa
3)Other fabric options some more and/or less expensive and fab than others: wool mohair (you can find antique chairs with the original wool mohair still intact- seriously tough and deliciously fabulous stuff), Toray Ultra suede (the real ultra suede- not the cheap micro suede version) and finally some manufacturers are introducing indoor outdoor fabrics that are finally not like sand paper- these do the job incredibly well.
Ryan Korban leather sofa
(Ryan Korban)
When I grew up my parents didn't decorate the way people do today and I dreamt of the beautiful house in which I would someday live.  I love beautiful things and need spaces that are visually appealing to mostly adults but not at the cost of my kids and dogs not sharing them with me.  Keep some things easy care and go fabulously nuts with the rest without the stress of being held hostage by your things.

Museum Room

Did you grow up in a house with a museum room?
1970 formal living room
1960 living room

Any of these rooms look familiar to you
A room that no kid was allowed to visit unattended.  A room that your parents only used when company came.
Talk about useless real estate- seriously was your house so big that you could give up an entire room to guests you want to impress???  While we’re talking useless real estate then lets mention the McMansion.  If we had any intention to continue with the Mcmansion concept then we could also perpetuate the museum room, there is more than enough room and wasted space in the run of the mill McMansion’s to leave completely unused rooms for company. I’m not sure what’s more ridiculous - the McMansion or the museum room. Are we so insecure that we save a chunk of real estate in our houses for what others think- Really?
What would company think if there was a stain on the living room sofa from years of use or wear marks on the coffee table where our feet were- Oh god, they might think we put our feet on the furniture, how low class! Seriously speaking, what would happen- would the other mom’s at school talk behind your back, get kicked out of the country club, not get that promotion at work???  In this day in age- repeat after me- USE your house- every inch of it!!!  Really use it!!!  Let the kids live like you value them being part of the family more than what your company might think, drink red wine in every room, put your feet on whatever is going to make you most comfortable. What’s the worst thing that could happen- you spill (that’s what Oxyclean is for) or you wear a piece of furniture so much that eventually it needs reupholstering or refinishing? Seriously- who the F%$k cares at least you lived fully in YOUR house that YOU worked hard to pay for. Isn’t that what working like a dog to afford this house and it’s contents is all about- living!
Coming soon – a post on how to create a formal space that doesn’t make us slaves to our possessions.


To me experiencing color can literally change my mood, my day and inspire my thoughts.  The idea that by giving my house “flow” and “continuity” might require me to have an overall color and style theme connecting all the rooms is such a kill joy!  Sometimes I need warm and cozy, or fun and wacky, or serene and tranquil all in the same house and all within the same day. 
Wake up to sunny and pretty:
alexa Hampton yellow bedroom
Make the kids lunch and eat breakfast in sunny, uncluttered and clean:
brookegiannetti wht kitchen
Go to work in exciting and vivid:
Jessica Clair yellow office
Kelly-Wearstler111-739607 colorful office
Then come home, Pour a glass of wine, read a magazine, open mail and return emails on the laptop in warm, familiar and sophisticated:
JaneMcGarry_9 fireplace
Homework with the kids and dinner in warm cozy and casual:
sunny_breakfast lucite amanda nesbit
Kids in bed, watch your favorite TV show with Hubby, just before retiring for the night:
steven-gambrel-urban-loft2 yellow ceiling
Then so sleepy you go to bed in the coziest bedroom ever:
dark warm cozy bedroom
Now how you go to sleep in dark, warm and cozy but wake up in Sunny and pretty………….well that’s why you hire a designer!

My life as a professional Scavenger

Many many years ago (In what seems like a different life) I worked as a photo stylist- It was tons of fun, tons of stress and very exciting.  I remember being asked to find a solid crystal globe.  It could be anywhere from 3” to 12” in diameter but had to be etched like a globe.  This was pre- internet (dating myself I know) you can only imaging how hard this was to find.  I was paid three day rates to complete this task.  This was the hardest item I’ve ever had to find.
glass globe
Now in 2010 it would take me about 2 seconds to locate the item on Google and a simple overnight delivery charge and presto- task done.  Total cost to find globe about $50.00 Vs. $3000.00 PI (pre- internet).  My kids can’t believe I used to go “Old School” searching- they think it’s hysterical.
Now I’m addicted to all the fun ways to shop and there are seemingly new ways popping up daily, my favorites are:
Lately I love searching in auction listings, and I can blow threw hours at:
Some of the antiques directories are fun:
I have had great luck finding art for clients as well as the perfect unique accessory- Check them out and have fun!  This is just a partial list of the possible fun out there, What are your favorites?

Obsessions: Opaline

Now many of you know I have various things I collect.  Entering my house you are, of course, struck by the vast turquoise accents.  Many of my collections were inspired by my Grandmother Alice.  One such collection is Opaline Glass and it started with these lamps that I adore- my family is so afraid to break them that they make me put them in a place where they rarely go (whatever- as long as they stay intact).
Grandma's opaline lamps
Opaline is a semi opaque, hand blown, hand polished French glass that began in production in the early 1800’s.  White and blue are the most popular colors but the other colors pink, green, yellow, red, black and lavender are more expensive due to rarity.  Although Italy and England have produced glass similar to Opaline, real Opaline was only produced in France.
Below see some examples of the blue color which can range from an intense medium blue to turquoise and aqua.  The picture of the lamps shows a particularly translucent variety.
V and M opaline

Christies opaline
blue opaline decanter set
blue opaline urn lt blue opaline lamps opaline_glass_crystal_boxth
White Opaline was the first color Opaline, and is created with bone ash which gives it the white color.  Opaline has a very high lead content and with oxides of anatomy and arsenic the other colors can be achieved.  When you hold the white Opaline up to the light you will see a red color radiating from where the light shows through.
white opaline dresser set white opaline perfume bottle white opaline scent bottles
Here are some examples of pink:
Pink opaline lamp 
Pink Opaline box
pink opaline sewing box
pink opaline snake vase
pink opaline set of lamps
Even though the glass looks so translucent you would think it’s paper thin, it’s not and actually has some heft to it.  It is much thicker than you would imagine.  Here are some green and yellow examples:

opaline box green
baccarat_glassth opaline

yellow opaline vases yellow_opaline_glassth Yellow opaline box lime green opaline box
And of course red, lavender and black:
FrenchOpaline red Lavendar opaline vase black opaline lamps
Information gathered from House Beautiful article on Opaline Boxes, January 2001.