Rhode Island Pros Share Spring Home Refresh Tips

For projects large or small, inside out out


After months of cozy hibernation, we’re ready to fling open the windows, shake out the rugs, and refresh our living spaces. With the days slightly longer and the temps slightly higher, the motivation to make some changes is on. They say the weather for a perfect golf game (low wind, low humidity) is also perfect for painting – so perhaps you’re thinking of taking that on yourself or hiring a pro. In this special Spring Home & Garden section, you’ll find advice from experts from around the area on everything from choosing paint, to hiring a landscaper, to selecting a rug. An interior designer shares what went into her choices to transform a small lakeside house into a coastal retreat for its owner, and did you know you can test drive cabinet pulls? It’s all here. 

Refined Palette

By Elyse Major

Working with neutrals takes skill and one that the team at Moore House is building quite a rep on. The family-helmed business based in Tiverton and New York City was recently featured on the Magnolia Network & Discovery Plus show Point of View: A Designer Profile, where an episode was devoted to a full-scale design, renovation, and furnishing of a coastal cottage in Maine. CEO/principal Blair Moore is the mastermind behind the designs, which are based on respect for historical architecture and often infused with unexpected materials and elements; think unhemmed linen for curtains, plaster on walls, worn oars as stair rails. This inventive take on minimalism and a neutral palette results in spaces that are imbued with warmth while a mix of durable and luxe materials adds to the casual-meets-elegant vibe.

“Choosing the right paint color and finish is a key piece in creating a balanced material palette,” says Moore. “There is more that goes into choosing a color than whether or not it makes our eyes happy.”

Moore notes that they always begin with a slew of paint swatches because natural light and surface material play a big role in how color appears in a space. After selecting swatches in a general palette, they embark on a process of elimination to find the color(s) that work best with other material selections. 

“Always order eight-ounce samples of selections to brush on the walls,” says Moore, who notes that this will help gauge both the true paint color as well as how many coats will be needed to achieve the desired finish. Though paper swatches are great tools to keep on hand, paints can sometimes look different when applied to a surface, so it’s important to test them before fully committing.

Moore also advises that color affects color. “Sometimes a forest green will bring out the red in a tan, or a gray will look pink next to a brown. Be sure to look at your color choice with all other existing elements in your space like your rug, floor color, hardware, and chairs.”

Another biggie: “Always make sure you’re testing swatches on the same plane for which they are intended,” says Moore. If you’re looking at floor colors, paint a 6”x8” swatch on the floor or look at your paper swatches lying flat on the ground. This will give you a more accurate idea of what the paint will look like from the intended direction. And, if you’re looking at wall colors, be sure to paint multiple swatches on every wall as the light will vary throughout the room. 


If you’re hesitant about committing to a certain paint color or bringing in a new decor element, you might want to consider more than just a 2”x3” color chip. Harry Adler of Adler’s Design Center & Hardware in Providence has options. “When it comes to paint, there are a few different types of samples to choose from: Rent-A-Color of any C2 Paint, purchase a pint of C2 Paint, or buy an Ultimate Paint Chip – an 18”x24” chip made from actual C2 Paint,” he says. “Adler’s offers samples in several departments. You can rent cabinet hardware from the decorative hardware department or order samples of fabrics and wallpapers.” Adler’s also offers at-home or office design consultants available to come to your home or office to offer design assistance. “We know the best general contractors, painting contractors, and other reliable tradespeople, and would be glad to recommend one.”

Learn more at AdlersRI.com

Outdoor Design

By Andrew Grossman

If we’ve all learned one thing during the pandemic, it’s the invaluable role outdoor spaces play in our lives. Whether for relaxation, socializing, or simply as a balm for our collective mental health, spending time out of doors has never felt more important. Now, as the days lengthen and the temperatures warm, many people emerging from the confines of their homes are setting their sights on outdoor projects.

 Whether confronted with a blank slate following a new construction or an overgrown yard, some property owners may feel intimidated by the prospect of undertaking an outdoor renovation on their own. Others simply don’t know where to begin. It’s at these times that contacting a landscape professional might be the best course of action. If you have a very definite idea as to the scope of your project and what you intend to accomplish, you may simply be able to hire a contractor, be it a stonemason, landscape contractor, or irrigation company. However, most builders will expect you to have a clear plan in hand and won’t help much with design. 

For assistance with outdoor design, it’s best to engage the services of either a landscape designer or a landscape architect. Although basically interchangeable, designers often excel at residential work and plant selection. A landscape architect, however, might be a better choice for projects that require extensive engineering or permitting.

Once you’ve decided on the type of professional that best suits your needs, you may want to interview a few different design firms. To get the most out of your first meeting, it’s useful to provide potential candidates with as much information about your project as possible. Here’s four questions to help you organize your thoughts. 

What are the issues you would like to address on your property?

These may include creating privacy, assigning a play area for children, designating a space for dining or lounging, the layout of gardens or foundation plantings, installing a swimming pool, etc. Be sure to include everything on your wish list and arrange the items in order of importance.

What is your budget for the entire project?

This question is key as your budget will affect what you can accomplish and may eventually help you to streamline your wish list. Having little idea as to what different projects cost, some people may feel daunted by this question. Much like purchasing a new home or car, however, it helps to give serious thought to the total amount of money one feels comfortable spending. To that end, it may also be useful to consider the resale value of your home or the price of other houses in your neighborhood. Bear in mind that nothing sells a house faster than “curb appeal” and these days homes with beautiful grounds and swimming pools are in demand. In fact, since the onset of the pandemic, pools have become such a hot ticket item that many installers are booked months, if not years, in advance.

What is your maintenance level?

This question relates primarily to plant selection since hardscaping (walls and patios) usually doesn’t require much care. As a rule, trees and shrubs require less attention than perennials or annuals. Of course, there are exceptions; tea roses, for example, top the list of high-maintenance shrubs. So, if you plan to manage the property yourself, do you like to garden? How much time can you commit to working in your yard? If you intend to hire a maintenance service, what is their skill set? Sadly, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find knowledgeable workers that can do more than mow the lawn or trim bushes into balls. Also, it’s vital to remember that new plantings are often expensive and must be watered almost daily during the heat of the summer. Failure to do so for at least a few years may result in loss. It might come as a surprise that, despite the need for weekly mowing and consistent watering, the lawn is probably the lowest maintenance and least expensive planting option available today.

What are your aesthetic leanings regarding landscape design?

Do you have a particular landscape style in mind; formal or informal, modernistic, English Country? Images gleaned from websites, books, or magazines that reflect your taste can both solidify your desires and convey your aesthetic preferences to a design professional. When it comes to your front yard, it may also prove worthwhile to consider the architectural style of your home. For instance, I probably wouldn’t install a Japanese garden in front of a Tudor house. In your backyard, however, I encourage you to let your imagination run wild. 

Floor Show

By Kim Valente

When you don’t want wall-to-wall carpeting or bare floors, an area rug is the perfect choice, but it can be hard to know where to begin. Area rugs are a great way to add coziness to your home with pattern, color, and texture, and can be used in all rooms of the house, including entries, living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms. Adding runners to wood stairs not only adds visual interest to the stairwell but makes the hardwood stairs less slippery and safer in stocking feet.

Open Concept

In an open floor plan, you can add a lot of visual interest by using differently patterned area rugs in the open rooms. The keys to creating a balanced look are to vary the scale of the patterns and to keep a common color between the rugs. If you have a living room, dining room, and entry all open to each other, use a large-scale pattern in one room, a small-scale pattern in another room, and a highly textured rug in the third room. The rugs could have different overall color palettes, but if they each have one color that ties them to the other rugs, they will feel cohesive. 

Material Matters

Wool rugs are great for high-traffic areas because wool is a durable and naturally stain-resistant material. Area rugs made from polypropylene are also designed for high-traffic areas and easy to clean, they’re also less expensive than wool. When selecting a rug for a high-traffic area, especially one where food will be consumed, look for a low-pile or flatweave area rug. 

Size and Shape

An area rug acts as an anchor for a room and when all of the pieces of furniture are on the area rug, it helps them feel connected. There are a few rules of thumb to follow for selecting the appropriate size of an area rug. In a living room or sitting room, the area rug should be large enough that at least all of the front legs of the chairs and sofas are on top of the rug. The rug could be larger so that the entire chairs and sofas are on the rug, but the area rug shouldn’t be so large that it goes wall to wall – you still want at least 12” - 18” of wood flooring showing between the edge of the rug and the wall. In a dining room, the shape of the rug should be based on the shape of the table – a rectangular rug under a rectangular table, a round rug under a round table. The rug should be large enough that the legs of the chairs are still on the rug when they are pulled out to sit down. 

Researching the Blues

By Elyse Major

After years of renting, Silvia Miller was ready to buy a place of her own. The systems administrator found a charming ranch-style home on a tree-lined street in Coventry, steps from Tiogue Lake. “Living near the water and seeing a beautiful sunset and all the colorful birds, how can you not want to have the same type of theme in your house?” she asks  with a smile. At 808 square feet, Miller wanted to be mindful of choices to maximize space, add much-needed storage, and create a breezy coastal vibe. Also in the mix: keeping her comfy blue couch. 

“My client was having problems with storage,” says Michelle Parenteau, interior designer and owner of Johnston-based Michelle Lee Designs. Only one side of the kitchen had cabinets; and there was  zero countertop space and an extremely low ceiling. The solution: the kitchen layout was reworked with cabinets on both sides of the kitchen walls, and a peninsula was added for more work/eating space. The ceiling was raised and a wall was cut back so a pantry cabinet could be installed. Pendant lights and recessed cans were added over the peninsula. The old wood laminate floor was removed and vinyl plank was installed. A beautiful glass tile backsplash was added behind the stove.


Taking a cue from the deep blue couch, Breezy and Repose Gray (Sherwin Williams) were selected for the wall colors. I wanted to stay neutral so I could go bold with the tile and countertops. The quartz countertops have multi-tonal blues that look like the inside of a mussel shell.


The stools are custom two-toned metal and the chevron fabric was chosen to coordinate with the glass chevron tile backsplash. 


I love mixing it up! Adding the ocean blue subway tile against the glass chevron tile pulled the entire space together. I decided to carry it all the way to the ceiling for a huge impact when you walk through the door.


When adding cabinets, it's always great to add glass so the space doesn't feel heavy but not everyone wants to show off what's in their cabinets. Frosted glass gives the open feel but still hides what's behind them.


My client wanted a floor that was soft on the feet and durable, so a vinyl plank with tones of driftwood was installed. The rug was chosen with various blues that resemble ocean waves.


To break up the linear elements, I had geometric shaped pendant lights installed over the peninsula, and to keep with the ocean vibe, a circular pendant in a washed wood finish was installed over the sink.

Rhody Resources

Parenteau has a solid rep for using local talent – including herself. The painting above the couch was done by the designer/artist. Other local vendors include EastCoast Countertops, Lighting & Design by J&K Electric, contractor Jason Thomas, Rhode Island Design Center, Rhode Island Tile, Sherwin-Williams Paint Store and Supply New England (various locations). “I strive to use the best quality of materials. I listen to my client’s needs and wants and try to bring that vision to life.”

Learn more at MichelleLeeDesigns.com


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here