Pssst… Do You Want to Know a Secret?

Eleven interior designers divulge trade secrets and even their embarrassing design choices.


Paint: Benjamin Moore, for the range of colors—subtle, sophisticated, understated, and a great price. You can’t beat the historic colors.
Fabric: Nubuck
Window dressing: Shutters and half-shutters. Window dressing is folderol—who needs that?
Must-have item under $50: A Tempur-Pedic pillow
Best-value product: Stone countertops, if you’re planning on keeping your kitchen for centuries. People ask, ‘Does it last?’ And I say, ‘Have you been to Versailles lately?’

Lyn Peterson
Motif Designs, 718 S Fulton Ave, Mount Vernon (800) 431-2424

Wallpaper: Grasscloth

Favorite design trend: Open-grain woods; the return of oak and pine.
Worst design mistake: Painting moldings grass-green
Chair: I’m into motion these days, so a recliner, swivel, or rock-swivel.
Candles: Colonial or Yankee Classics in ivory

Décor book: Mine, of course! I have three of them—Lyn Peterson’s Real Life Decorating, Lyn Peterson’s Real Life Renovating, and Lyn Peterson’s Real Life Kitchens—all loaded with information.
Color: Red. It’s like a neutral—goes with everything.

Flowers: Whatever’s in season. What’s appropriate is what’s growing now. Today, I did masses of bittersweet.
Local museum: Hudson River Museum in Yonkers
Local antiques store: Briggs House in Mamaroneck
Local housewares store: HomeGoods in White Plains is amazing. It’s like a treasure hunt.
Local lighting store: My own warehouse
Local restaurant décor: Larchmont Tavern. It’s seventy-five years old, and where it’s renovated, it’s done very softly. It’s wonderful.
Local hotel décor: Larchmont Yacht Club guest rooms. It’s quite charming—it’s a beautiful old mansion, and the rooms are in the modern wing, so they’re convenient and comfortable.
Kitchen gadget: A good cheese slicer
Design period: Next year. We’re on our way back to a great period of eclecticism, like in fashion, where you can do anything. Home design is behind, but we’re on the cusp of a broad and accommodating period with lots of styles and genres.

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Home accessory: Lamps. Nothing looks good without good lighting.

Home TV show: I hosted one, but most are too painful to watch in terms of the nonsensical things they do. But I liked Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. I thought Thom Filicia was great.
Luxury home item: A cashmere throw. Mine’s Ralph Lauren and it’s at least twenty years old. We use it constantly. My kids made tents with it, and it’s still immaculate.
Kitschy item: Hooked rugs in front of the kitchen sink. I have an oval one with a floral design in the center.
Online design site:
Embarrassing object at home: I’d rather be legless than have the wrong shoes on, but I have four children, so I don’t embarrass too easily at home. I’d have to say Great Uncle Oscar’s portrait in the dining room. He bears a striking resemblance to the less attractive members of the royal family, with a weak chin, a thin aquiline nose, and wispy blond hair.



Nicole Aversa Pushkal
Nicole Interior Designs, 91 Main St, Tuckahoe (914) 793-4414

Kitchen gadget: An apple corer

Color: Orange
Paint: Farrow & Ball
Fabric: Vervain. They’re just so unique and beautiful. They’re just very different.
Window dressing: Relaxed Roman shades or simple panels with some embellishment, like bandings and trim.
Must-have item under $50: Fresh-cut flowers
Best-value product: Faux wood blinds. You can make them look great and they’re inexpensive.
Home accessory: A great ottoman with good fabric
Chair: Any Eastlake chair
Sheets: Any soft cotton. I look for a good thread count and go by the feel.
Scent: Issey Miyake
Candles: Beautiful tapers, thin and long
Flowers: Peonies
Décor book: Jane Churchill’s books on English homes
Local antiques store: We don’t have many any more. I’d say Chatsworth.
Local gallery: The Fine Arts Gallery in Bronxville
Local housewares store: Chef Central in Hartsdale
Local lighting store: They have great stuff at Patdo Light Studio in Port Chester.
Local museum: Dia: Beacon
Local hotel décor: Restaurant 42 at the top of the Ritz-Carlton in White Plains is pretty.
Design period: Late Victorian
Home TV show: I hate those shows; they make it seem so simple and it’s not. I like the garden makeover one, though.
Luxury home item: A cashmere throw

Local restaurant décor: Well, I have to say Toscana in Eastchester, because I decorated it.

Wallpaper: Thibaut and Farrow & Ball (above). I’m a color girl!

Kitschy Item: Flowerpots with crazy faces or nutty salt and pepper shakers
Worst design mistake: Choosing the wrong fabric or pattern for a window treatment. Window treatments are so in-your-face.
Embarrassing object at home: A flying monkey chandelier. It’s a repro of an old English one and I had to have it. I hate it now, but my husband bought it for me so he won’t take it down.


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Color: Coral-y red
Paint: Benjamin Moore
Fabric: Sister Parish Design fabrics [her own company]
Wallpaper: Desmond by Sister Parish Design
Window dressing: Shutters
Must-have item under $50: A nice straw wastebasket

Luxury home item: A cashmere throw

Best-value product: Pretty water glasses
Favorite design trend: I don’t like trends.
Home accessory: Artwork
Chair: Paley chair
Sheets: D. Porthault
Candles: Timothy Jay’s celadon
Flowers: Peonies
Décor book: Vogue Living
Local antiques store: Briggs House Antiques
Local gallery: Mamaroneck Artists’ Guild
Local housewares store: Target
Local lighting store: Arrow Lamp & Lighting in Larchmont
Local restaurant décor: Plates in Larchmont
Local hotel décor: I know nothing about local hotels.
Kitchen gadget: A hen-shaped timer from Anthropologie
Design period: The 1980s
Home TV show: I don’t watch them.
Kitschy item: Clocks that look like cats with their eyes going back and forth and their tails wagging—I love those

Scent: Opium by Yves St. Laurent

Local museum: Boscobel

Online design site: The blog StyleBeat
Worst design mistake: Curtains that are too long. The dogs sleep on what’s on the floor and they get filthy.
Embarrassing object at home: People magazines



Patricia O’Shaughnessy
Patricia O’Shaughnessy Design, 67 Kensington Rd, Bronxville (914) 346-8786

Flowers: I love them all, but zinnias are awfully cute.

Color: Red
Paint: Pratt & Lambert
Fabric: Pierre Frey, and over-scaled patterns are favorite designs.
Window dressing: The new solar shades. They’re very tailored and much more residential-looking now.
Must-have item under $50: A great-looking tote bag
Home accessory: Original paintings. At our house, those include whimsical ones by my twelve-year-old daughter—they’re really cheery.
Best-value product: A halogen reading lamp. They’re cheap but cute and really handy.
Favorite design trend: Mixing contemporary and traditional looks, and the fact that eclectic is becoming accepted.
Chair: Ginny’s Tight Back Lounge by Edward Ferrell. It’s a great small-scale reading chair.
Sheets: Garnet Hill. Their sheets are so perky and fresh-looking. Mine are fuchsia with apricot pillowcases. The bed looks so peaceful and then you turn it down and there’s this rampage of color.
Scent: Lavender
Candles: No particular brand. I don’t like scented candles, except maybe gardenia.
Local gallery: I’m very impressed with the quality of the shows at the OSilas Gallery on the Concordia campus in Bronxville.
Local housewares store: Silk Road in Bronxville is charming.
Local museum: Hudson River Museum in Yonkers

Décor book: I have to be a little obnoxious and choose the one I worked on that launched my career. It’s called Formal Country Entertaining by Pat Ross. I also love the books by Tricia Guild—they’re very inspiring.

Wallpaper: Thibaut. They have a sophistication and a quirky color sense, and together it’s totally World of Interiors.

Local restaurant décor: Blue Hill, but I’d really love to get out more to find others.
Kitchen gadget: My Japanese teapot, so I can have loose tea.
Design period: Now!
Home TV show: I like them, but I don’t watch them. I prefer Masterpiece Theatre and mysteries.
Luxury home item: Cashmere throw
Kitschy item: Turkey salt and pepper shakers for Thanksgiving
Online design site: Can I say my own? It’s, where I focus on small-space decorating solutions. I also like, which is a wonderful resource to the trade.
Worst design mistake: Sometimes I’m too cautious with a client’s money. I spend their money as if it’s mine. I should present more luxury items.
Embarrassing object at home: Everyone’s loose shoes. There are only three of us, but two of them seem to have no idea where shoes go.



Kaja Gam
Kaja Gam Design, Inc, 125 Main St, Ossining (914)923-2393

Paint: Farrow & Ball; their sensibility is great. Or Fine Paints of Europe—a superior product. And Donald Kaufman, whose principle is to mix in the full spectrum.
Fabric: John Hutton—anything from glittery fun to animal prints. They feel luxurious. Or Sandra Jordan for her Prima Alpacas, made in Peru.
Wallpaper: Graham & Brown has some great patterns these days.
Scent: Thyme

Home accessory: Pillows are really important, and throw blankets.

Window dressing: Natural wovens, panels, or Roman blinds, like the ones from Conrad.
Best-value product: Toto bath fixtures
Favorite design trend: My own, of course! Let’s call it mid-century modern with contemporary and a homey flair. Taking what I grew up with in Europe and Scandinavia and then bringing in truly American elements, like deco and Shaker. Mixed the right way, you have a fabulous place.
Chair: The Eames Lounge
Candles: Danish candles from Trader Joe’s. They’re dripless and extinguish before they ruin your candlestick. No evening meal should be without lit candles.

Color: Variations on ultramarine blue, really deep. It’s a color that holds so many aspects of other colors so it goes with many things. It’s very soothing.

Flowers: I like orchids. It’s a very patient plant that doesn’t die on you so easily. Then tulips.

Sheets: Area. I love white.
Décor book: Lighting is so underestimated so Living with Modern Classics: The Light by Elizabeth Wilhide.
Local museum: Katonah Museum of Art
Local antiques store: Two: Michael’s in Pleasantville, because he has lots of funky things you can fix up yourself without feeling it was too expensive, and, for more Victorian and turn-of-the-century European things, Melita’s in Ossining.
Local gallery: Kenise Barnes in Larchmont
Local housewares store: Crate & Barrel
Local lighting store: Hi-Light in Yonkers
Local restaurant décor: The Boathouse in Ossining because it’s a cozy nest rather than a design wow.
Luxury home item: Heated bathroom floors
Home TV show: I don’t watch them. I like Mad Men.

Must-have item under $50: Chocolate from Heidi & Arthur in Rockland County

Kitchen gadget: My juicer, a hand-held wooden reamer. Also, Ellen Sirot’s Hand Perfection lotion
Design period: 1950s to the 1970s
Kitschy Item: Christmas decorations year-round. I have a little gnome, and every time I try to put him in the box, he looks at me. And I have iron-rusted snowflakes on the end of my curtain poles. Also Amy Sedaris’s new book, Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People
Online design site:
Worst design mistake: I used to underestimate the power of color.
Embarrassing object at home: Electric toothbrush. If you want everything to be clean and neat, you don’t want that out—it’s an eyesore.


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Joseph R. Stabile
J.R. Cattington Interiors, 585 Pleasantville Rd, Briarcliff Manor (914) 762-7722

Color: Presently, light blue
Paint: Benjamin Moore
Fabric: The Kravet line
Wallpaper: Thibaut
Window dressing: Sheer draperies in cream or white

Candles: Beeswax spirals—tall, thin tapers from Knorr Beeswax Products

Must-have item under $50: Beeswax candles
Best-value product: Furniture from Schnadig Home is a very good value.
Favorite design trend: At present, Beau Nouveau contemporary, with that 1930s flavor.
Home accessory: Lamps. Lamp lighting is so soft and ambient.
Chair: French arm chair, like a fauteuil
Sheets: Egyptian cotton, 600 count
Scent: Lilac
Flowers: Lilacs
Décor book: Veranda magazine
Local museum: Hudson River Museum in Yonkers
Local lighting store: Hi-Light in Yonkers
Local housewares store: I really shouldn’t tell anyone, but Home Goods, even though it scares me because you see how cheap the stuff is.
Local restaurant décor: We did Augie’s Prime Cut in Mohegan Lake in a style that’s just beautiful—contemporary but a little funky, purple and orange and green and yellow with neon lighting.
Kitchen gadget: Mandoline
Design period: 1930s
Home TV show: I despise them. They make me crazy. I can’t say there’s one I like better than the other.
Luxury home item: Chandeliers
Kitschy item: Beaded throw pillow
Worst design mistake: Choosing the wrong scale for furnishings or window treatments. Once you do it, you don’t do it again.
Embarrassing object at home: The blanket and pillow on the family room sofa

Local hotel décor: The Ritz-Carlton, Westchester, in White Plains



Karen Kline

Spice Hill Interiors, Croton-on-Hudson (914) 271-0813

Color: Dark brown
Paint: Benjamin Moore, because it’s the most readily available.
Fabric: Any natural fiber blends
Window dressing: Long curtain panels, from the ceiling to the floor
Chair: I like A. Rudin chairs, and chairs by Swain.
Must-have item under $50: A corkscrew and a nice glass! Plush bath towels

Flowers: I love tulips, orchids, and irises, but I also think some of the prettiest arrangements are just botanical and don’t have flowers in them at all.

Best-value product: Woven blinds
Favorite design trend: Simplicity. People call it modern, but it’s more a clean, uncluttered look.
Home accessory: Old or multi-cultural artifacts. It could be simple carved bowls or something colorful — anything that’s sentimental or symbolic that personalizes a space.
Sheets: Archipelago
Scent: Lime
Candles: Luminary, because they have soft, non-cloying scents
Décor book: No favorite book, but I like Elle Decor magazine.
Local museum: Donald M. Kendall Sculpture Gardens at PepsiCo’s headquarters in Purchase
Local antiques store: M.S. Antiques in Tarrytown
Luxury home item: A sauna
Local gallery: DeMarco Studios in Peekskill
Local housewares store: Chef Central in Hartsdale
Local lighting store: For vintage lighting, Powell Accessories in White Plains
Local restaurant décor: Blue Hill at Stone Barns
Local hotel décor: Ritz-Carlton in White Plains
Kitchen gadget: A corkscrew! No, really, a microwave.
Design period: Can I be so bold as to say 1920 to 2010? There’s a lot of good stuff in there.
Home TV show: Candice Olson’s Divine Design. She’s pretty good, and she has fun doing it.
Kitschy item: Curly lamb pillows
Online design site:
Worst design mistake: Ordering a sofa for a client that wouldn’t fit in the elevator
Embarrassing object at home: My fuzzy Ugg slippers. Or the Duraflame logs; they’re pretty bad.

Wallpaper: Romo



Hope Simkowitz
Hope Simkowitz, LLC, Waccabuc (914) 763-3346

Color: Blue
Paint: Benjamin Moore
Wallpaper: Osborne & Little
Window dressing: Simple, unconstructed Romans
Must-have item under $50: Nothing costs less than fifty dollars! Okay, small, silver-plate cups for flowers. You can get them for about twenty-five dollars.
Best-value product: Furniture from Room & Board. You get a lot of style for not that much money.

Favorite design trend: The trend of keeping it clean, simple, and neutral

Candles: I love Laura Mercier Crème Brûlée.

Chair: A comfortable, upholstered chair with an ottoman. There’s one from Baker that I love.
Sheets: Matouk. I like white ones with a colored border to match the décor in the room.
Fabric: Lee Jofa
Scent: The milk-scented diffuser from k. hall designs
Local museum: Katonah Museum of Art
Local lighting store: No favorite
Local antiques store: Yellow Monkey Antiques in Cross River
Local gallery: No favorite
Local housewares store: Consider the Cook in Bedford
Flowers: Peonies
Local restaurant décor: Moderne Barn in Armonk is fabulous.
Online design site:
Local hotel décor: Bedford Post Inn
Design period: It’s hard to pick a favorite. I’d say Postmodern.
Home TV show: House Hunters International. My husband is irritated because I’ve got him hooked, too.
Worst design mistake: If I made a mistake for a client, I’ve erased it from my memory. But I once designed a fireplace mantel for my home and it was so bad I had to get rid of it. I think I turned it into firewood.

Décor book: Rooms by Mariette Himes Gomez

Kitchen gadget: A zester
Kitschy item: I’m not a kitschy person, but, in someone else’s house, I might put Jonathan Adler pottery, something with funny faces or three heads.
Luxury home item: A beautiful box on a coffee table
Embarrassing object at home: That’s a really funny question! Two pictures in my dining room—a pair of floral motifs. They’re not so terrible but I really hate them.



Georgene Mongarella
The Color Schemer, 18 Coralyn Rd, Scarsdale (914) 725-4075

Color: Purple
Paint: Benjamin Moore
Fabric: Robert Allen velvets, chenilles, damasks, and textured fabrics
Wallpaper: I don’t use much wallpaper—I tend to do more faux finishes. But Schumacher.
Window dressing: Full, beautiful drapes with decorative rods and decorative trims
Must-have item under $50: A beautiful candelabra. It sets the mood for a room, and you can get them inexpensively from Home Goods.
Best-value product: Plumbing supplies from Consolidated Plumbing in Mount Vernon. Great value.
Favorite design trend: Transitional and eclectic, mixing old and new
Home accessory: Art
Chair: Hepplewhite dining or occasional chairs
Sheets: Egyptian cotton, with a higher thread count. No particular brand.

Scent: Angel by Thierry Mugler

Flowers: Tulips
Décor book: Architectural Digest
Local antiques store: I go all over, but Chatsworth in Mamaroneck is good.
Local housewares store: Hi-Light in Yonkers for accessories and lamps and small furniture. They’re really reasonable.

Candles: Buttercream Vanilla candles from Pier 1

Local lighting store: Hi-Light
Local restaurant décor: I like formal and classy, so Le Château, Buffet de la Gare, Equus.
Local hotel décor: The Castle at Tarrytown
Kitchen gadget: The Cuisinart, because I’m a cook. Mine is thirty-seven years old, and I use it four times a week; it’s still really powerful.
Design period: That of the Renaissance or Medieval period because it mixes everything
Home TV show: Divine Design. Candice Olson is the best. And David Bromstad, who does Color Splash.
Luxury home item: Real Oriental rugs
Kitschy item: Leopard pillows
Worst design mistake: Promising someone on November 1 that they’d have their furniture by December 23, back when I first started. Believe it or not, it did come in, but there was so much stress I couldn’t get my shopping done.
Embarrassing object at home: My home is so decorated, that’s a hard one. I might straighten up my husband’s desk.
Local gallery: No favorite gallery, but I like West Art in Yonkers for framing.

Local museum: Hudson River Museum in Yonkers



Sarah Chapin
Chapin Interiors, 6 Midland Gardens 1B, Bronxville, (914) 361-1157

Color: Taupe, but that’s not very exciting, so Granny Smith–apple green.
Fabric: Cotton and linen fabrics from Rogers & Goffigon. Terrific colors, luscious and muted.
Wallpaper: Grasscloth in all of its various forms. Jack Lenor Larsen has gorgeous grasscloths.
Window dressing: Draperies on custom-finished iron poles. I particularly like a gold wash over a silver pole.
Must-have item under $50: Fresh flowers
Best-value product: Umbra drapery poles
Favorite design trend: The broader selection of wood finishes. For years it was all about rich, dark wood; now there are all sorts.
Home accessory: Vintage glass candlesticks
Chair: The Rolling Frame desk chair by Alias
Sheets: Crisp, white, Italian sheets from Dea

Paint: I really love Donald Kaufman. The colors are really rich and luminous, especially at night.

Scent: I wear perfumes sparingly and they tend to be spicy. Otherwise I love the scent of fresh air, or after a rain.
Local museum: Katonah Museum of Art
Candles: Unscented straight white candles, not tapered, or hand-rolled ivory beeswax
Décor book: It’s out of print, but it’s called the Antiques Directory of Furniture by Judith and Martin Miller. It’s an encyclopedia with 7,000 photographs, and I refer to it all the time.
Local antiques store: Yellow Monkey
Local gallery: Kenise Barnes in Larchmont
Local housewares store: Crate & Barrel

Flowers: Peonies
Local restaurant décor: The outdoor terrace at the Red Hat in Irvington. I had dinner there this summer on a gorgeous night and you’ll never guess who was right next to us—Bill and Hil! It was cool!

Local lighting store: Accessory Store in Stamford, just across the border.
Kitchen gadget: The phone, to call for takeout.
Design period: Now. Mixing all the periods with what’s happening now
Online design site:
Luxury home item: Gorgeous Italian bed linens
Kitschy item: Vintage table lamps can be fun.
Worst design mistake: When I was very new, I ordered the wrong ‘colorway’ in a carpet, but the client ended up loving it. It was serendipitous, but it was a big lesson.
Embarrassing object at home: I just renovated, but I still have the very rustic painted Early American chest that I call a coffee table. It’s a work in progress.



Beata Buhl-Tatka
Beata Buhl Interiors, 428 Main St, Suite 3, Armonk (914) 273-7323

Color: White and navy blue
Paint: Benjamin Moore or Sherwin-Williams. Also Fine Paints of Europe.
Fabric: Plain linen
Wallpaper: Grasscloth
Window dressing: Straight panels
Scent: Anything citrusy

Flowers: All white flowers

Must-have item under $50: Good soap in the bathroom
Favorite design trend: Modern and contemporary, which is coming in quickly
Candles: Jo Malone grapefruit
Décor book: Moderne: Fashioning the The French Interior By Sarah Schleuning
Local museum: Katonah Museum of Art
Local antiques store: I like them all.
Local gallery: Canfin Gallery in Tarrytown
Local housewares store: Albano Appliance
Design period: Early mid-century modern, the ’40s and ’50s

Local restaurant décor: Moderne Barn in Armonk

Kitchen gadget: I love my classic KitchenAid that does everything. Now it comes in these gorgeous colors, from lime green to black.

Chair: Herman Miller Aeron chair

Luxury home item: A movie theater
Worst design mistake: In my own home, I put in a terra cotta Mexican tile floor, and it was a huge mistake not to use the best brand. I used a cheap one and now I’m paying for it. In general, it’s always a mistake sacrificing quality to save money.
Embarrassing object at home: Bad frames on my kids’ pictures.

Home accessory: In my home, a collection of antique silver


Lynn Hazlewood is a freelance writer living in High Falls in a home without a cashmere throw, something she hopes to remedy soon.

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