All posts by Tamara

Turning a New House Into a Home

You know that moment right before move-in when you walk through your new but empty home? It’s devoid of furniture or possessions, and maybe there’s an odd color choice on the walls, but all you see is a blank slate and possibilities. Such was the case with a young couple I recently worked with in Myers Park. Their 1940’s home was totally adorable but it needed a little freshening up and a strong dose of style to truly make it their own.

From empty and lifeless…
Cozy and bright
…to cozy, bright and fun

We worked together for about six months, on a mostly DIY basis – I supplied plans, ideas, and color palette – and they did most of their own shopping, with a few exceptions for some custom-made items. The final result is full of personality and warmth, and is a perfect reflection of the kind-hearted and gracious couple I have come to know. Here are a few of the ways they turned their new house into a unique home:

A palette of warm grey, burnt orange and deep blue was built around a set of original antique architectural prints of the house (shown framed). A zebra stripe rug brings a fun and modern touch.
A console table was placed to create a welcoming entry and a drop zone for keys and mail. Wood flooring was re-finished to a darker walnut stain throughout.
The couple opted to refresh the kitchen rather than undertake a full renovation. Pale grey paint freshened up the cabinets (formerly stained oak) and new backsplash tile and countertops made everything crisp and bright.
A custom fitted banquette was built into a nook and filled with colorful cushions for total coziness.
Most of the existing light fixtures were updated, including this beautiful chandelier in the dining room. I love the dark blue-grey wall color against the fresh white wainscot.
This great antique bed was a special family piece that found a home in the guest bedroom. Mixing new and old furniture gives a room interest and character.
Perfect perch: a custom bench cushion and roman shades dressed up this little dormer window and provided kitty with his own lounge spot and place to keep watch over the street.
The yellow, white and grey palette made the master bedroom cheerful and pretty.
Custom-built shelving made the most of a tiny closet with a sloping ceiling. Every square inch is utilized to the fullest!

Since we finished decorating and furnishing their house, this young family has grown from two to three, as they welcomed their son into the world last spring. I know their home will continue to evolve as their family grows, and I’m so pleased to have been a part of their journey.


Photos in this post provided by homeowner and by Emanuela Goldenberg Photography.


Tamara Leicester is a licensed interior designer and owner of Tamara Heather Interior Design, LLC. She designs casually elegant interiors with an artistic sensibility, often drawing upon the talent of local artists and craftspeople in her work. Dreaming about updating your space? Learn more at

Summer of Growth and Change at Tamara Heather Interior Design

img_3069Summer 2016 was the busiest time ever for Tamara Heather Interior Design. Business grew, the office got bigger, and new talent joined our practice. The workload was such that a little vacation from blogging was demanded. Clients come first always. Lazy days with a good book come second, wine and chocolate are third, then blogging. Such are my priorities. I’ll jump right back to sharing juicy tidbits from the world of interior design next post, but first some vacation photos and highlights from my summer.


Speaking of lazy days with a good book…here is my son enjoying his favorite book of poetry, Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein. After a fun summer of karate camp, Minecraft, and Lego building, he’s just started fourth grade.


We started our summer with a family trip to Seattle. The Japanese Gardens (pictured above) are delightful.


Also delightful: Seattle’s cat cafe, the Meowtropolitan. One solid hour of cat-petting will lower the ol’ stress level.


Then in July I moved to a new office: bigger, better, brighter, with breathing room galore. I have space for furniture now! Fortunately I know a designer who can help with that.


Wait, what? Is that a dollhouse in the background? Why yes, it is my childhood dollhouse, finally seeing the light of day after a decade kept in a friend’s basement. It is badly in need of renovation, complete with 80’s era wallpaper chosen by my pre-teen self. This will make for a fun mini-design challenge! I’ll blog updates as I go.


In August my expecting clients welcomed their twins into the world (one month early)! Here is a sneak preview of the nursery I designed for them, taken during installation. Umm, that folding chair is not part of the design. I’ll post the final results soon, it’s the cutest!


And last but not least I would like to introduce my lovely and talented new design assistant, Payal Bansal, who joined me this summer. Payal moved here from India and recently finished her design degree at CPCC Charlotte. Already she is making me wonder how I ever got by without her.


Tamara Leicester is a licensed interior designer and owner of Tamara Heather Interior Design, LLC. She designs casually elegant interiors with an artistic sensibility, often drawing upon the talent of local artists and craftspeople in her work. Dreaming about updating your space? Learn more at

How to Shop for Furniture

I recently attended High Point Market, North Carolina’s bi-annual furnishings trade show. It’s a multi-million SF venue for those in the trade to see new products and test out the comfort factor of chairs and sofas. Due to my broken leg, I rented a scooter to get me around for the day. My heroic husband came with me as crutch-bearer and navigator. I’m so sad I forgot to get a picture of myself driving the scooter, which embarrassingly beep-beep-backed up like a truck, but it looked like a less-sporty version of this:


As a designer, High Point Market is an invaluable resource for developing relationships directly with the furniture manufacturers, so that I can recommend and specify furnishings for my clients. And while a lot of my clients hire me to source items for them, I also have many clients (the ones I call my DIY’ers) who prefer to do their own shopping. I get that, because shopping is fun! But it can also be confusing and overwhelming if you’re not prepared. So I thought I’d share some of my tips for having the best possible shopping experience – and avoiding big mistakes.

Here's my handsome guy, taking a work call in this powered leather recliner from NS Designs.
My handsome guy found himself quite comfortable in this powered leather recliner from NS Designs. Those are my crutches there in the background!


(1) Make a Shopping List

Just like going to the grocery store hungry is a bad idea, so is going furniture shopping without a very specific idea of what items you need. It’s too easy to get distracted by all the shiny pretty things. Take the time to assess what you have, what you need, and what, precisely, you are looking for in terms of style, size, and color.

IMG_2675(2) Have a Plan

And by this I mean an actual floor plan, measured, with a layout of the furniture in the room and dimensions of the items you need to purchase. Also take note of the width of doorways/stairways through which any new purchases will have to fit.


(3) Bring Pictures

In addition to your floor plans, it will be helpful to have photos of the rooms you’re shopping for with you, which will aid in visualizing how new pieces will look in your home.


(4) Eat Your Vegetables First

Accessories like throw pillows and candle holders are like the candy of the furniture store. They’re so temptingly displayed, and it’s easy to justify just one or two. While it’s ok to buy an accessory if you see something that completely rocks your world, generally it’s best to wait until you’ve found foundation items like the sofa, rugs, and dining table. The problem is that buying accessories too soon will limit what you can do with the main furnishings, which will make your shopping task that much harder.


(5) Don’t Try to Do it All at Once

Wouldn’t it be easier just to buy the first matching set you like at that big-box furniture retailer? Yes it would, but don’t do it! Start with the biggest or most significant piece in the room, like the sofa or rug, then allow yourself to find complementary pieces over time, from different stores and sources. After all, the homiest of homes look collected over time, not straight from a catalogue.


(6) Think Outside the Big Box

Pottery Barn, Crate and Barrel and IKEA have some nice things, but they’re not the be-all-end-all of the furniture world, to say the least. The internet is a wondrous thing. Peruse Houzz, Layla Grace or Wayfair to identify brands and styles you like. Then, if you prefer to see things in person, look up the manufacturers whose styles you like best to find a local retailer. Nine times out of ten, manufacturers will list their local vendors right on their website. And, consider vintage or second-hand furniture sources too – a few vintage or antique items thrown in help create that collected, personal look that will make your home unique.

Psst! All the photos in this post were taken by me at High Point Market, so if you see something here you like, just ask.


(7) Buy the Best You Can Afford

This is age-old wisdom that happens to be true. If you buy a piece that’s only good-enough-for-now, you will soon be tired of it and needing it replaced. Better to save up and buy the very best things you absolutely love that can live with you for a long, long time.


(8) Be Like Goldilocks

One thing I ask my clients before shopping for upholstery or seating is, what are your ideal seat proportions? Most people don’t know the answer – and in this case I suggest we start measuring! Find the most comfortable seat in your house, and take note of the seat depth, width, arm height, back height. Also note your preference for seat firmness/softness and arm style. Everyone’s ideal seat is different, so you may want a variety of different styles/sizes so that everyone in the house has a chair that fits just right.


(9) Request Samples

Absolutely request samples of fabrics and wood finishes before making your decisions. You’ll need to see the colors and try out the textures within the context of your home to really make a good decision.


(10) Don’t Shop Under Time Pressure

I feel like I could keep going but I am going to stop at ten, and this is probably the most important: do not shop for furniture under deadline. If you absolutely must have a new dining set before you host Thanksgiving dinner, give yourself plenty (and by plenty, I mean 6-12 months) of lead time. Finding pieces you love takes time, ordering custom items takes even more time, and life has a way of throwing curveballs. Plus shopping under pressure makes you more likely to make decisions you later regret.

I hope my shopping advice makes your next furniture foray easier and less stressful. But if furniture shopping is not your super happy fun place, then well that’s one of the reasons interior designers exist. Give me a call and soon you will be relaxing with a glass of wine while I do the hard part. Cheers!

Tamara Leicester is a licensed interior designer and owner of Tamara Heather Interior Design, LLC. She designs casually elegant interiors with an artistic sensibility, often drawing upon the talent of local artists and craftspeople in her work. Dreaming about updating your space? Learn more at

Don’t Learn to Decorate the Hard Way

Last week, while skiing in Colorado with my husband and son, I fell and broke my leg. I wish I could say I was attempting a particularly difficult trail, that it was my first black diamond run. But actually I was on a beginner slope, and the fall was due to my own lack of skill and inexperience. It was humbling to be splinted and strapped prone into a sled, and pulled the rest of the way down by Nate, the 19 year old ski patrol dude. On the way down I tried to distract myself from the pain and nausea, by focusing on what I could see through my snow-frosted goggles, mainly the tops of pine trees, and intermittent glimpses of the underside of the gondola lift. The next six weeks will be focused on healing, and claiming what little measure of self-sufficiency I can muster while confined to one working leg and crutches. Humbling indeed.


My point in sharing this story, if I may spin it in a design-oriented direction, is that being a beginner often means making mistakes. When I was beginning my design career twenty years ago, I occasionally made mistakes. Even with a design degree, I wasn’t fully prepared for the lessons I would learn on the job, through trial, error and experience. By this point I’ve selected hundreds of colors, I’ve space-planned countless rooms, and I’ve guided dozens of renovations. I know what works, I can put my finger on just what a rooms needs to come to life, and I can visualize how a space will look when it’s done. What some may call intuition, “taste” or talent is really the summation of twenty years of living and breathing interior design.


One design mistake I made about 12 years ago, and I’ll use my own home for example, is the brown chair shown above. We recently bid adios to this set of not-terrible chairs from Thomasville. With this purchase, I got a few things right and a few things wrong. The sandy brown color was fine, and the size of the chair in the room was okay (I knew enough to do a space plan first). But the fabric choice turned out to be terribly wrong for a cat-household. The nubby texture on the sides of the chairs was like catnip to eager paws. *Note the high-tech cat scratch deterrent, a.k.a. packing tape, on the edges. Also, the boxiness of the mid-century style was all wrong for the room, and worse, the high arms were not to my liking or comfort at all.

living room

I’ve learned a lot since then. And applied that knowledge to the chairs’ recent replacements: a lovely set of wingbacks with graceful lines and leather wrapped backs which our cats don’t like to scratch. The indoor-outdoor grade cushion fabric is soft to the touch yet fade-resistant, cat-scratch resistant, and stain resistant. Because I don’t enjoy furniture I have to worry about. The height of the new chairs is much better proportionally for a room with ten foot ceilings. And they are comfortable. At least, as comfortable as possible with a broken leg!

living room flowers

In the realm of design and decorating, mistakes don’t usually result in loss of life or limb, thank goodness. But they can be expensive and time consuming, and give you a really icky uh-oh feeling, kind of like nausea, when you suddenly realize the sofa that just arrived is too big, or the room that was just painted is the wrong color and you hate it. That’s why there’s so much value in having an experienced design professional by your side to guide you through the numerous decisions involved in any home improvement. Someone to stop you before you make that bad decision, someone with the know-how to prevent you from falling. I am hopeful I’ll ski again someday, but when I do I think I’ll be taking some more lessons first. Because you can learn to ski, or decorate your home, or just about anything, the hard way. But you don’t have to.


Tamara Leicester is a licensed interior designer and owner of Tamara Heather Interior Design, LLC. She designs casually elegant interiors with an artistic sensibility, often drawing upon the talent of local artists and craftspeople in her work. Dreaming about updating your space? Learn more at

Our Blue Ridge Retreat Featured on Houzz

In 2008, with our then one-year-old in tow, we began searching for land in the mountains near Asheville, our first step towards realizing a long-term dream of a vacation home in the area. The house was finally finished, furnished, and decorated in 2014. The result is a refuge of peace and tranquility far from our bustling lives in Charlotte. I’m thrilled to have our mountain retreat, which we named “Seven Ridges” for the views, featured in an article on Read the full article by Bryan Anthony by clicking the link here: A Modern Retreat in the Blue Ridge Mountains, or by selecting the Houzz slideshow below.

T.Leicester High Res-4

In addition to the credits given in the article, I would like to also give kudos to our wonderful builder, Anthony Roberts with Anthony Roberts Construction. Having a builder who understood how to execute contemporary design details and who listened and followed through on every detail was priceless. Between Anthony and his crew, and all of the artisans and craftspeople involved, we were fortunate to work with so many wonderful and talented folks in western NC who helped make our dream a reality.


Tamara Leicester is a licensed interior designer and owner of Tamara Heather Interior Design, LLC. She designs casually elegant interiors with an artistic sensibility, often drawing upon the talent of local artists and craftspeople in her work. Dreaming about updating your space? Learn more at

My Favorite Before & After Photos of 2015

B&AI am excited to wrap up 2015 by sharing some of my favorite before & after images from projects completed and photographed over the past year. Each of these photos represents a transformation in the life or lives of the people living in these spaces. As our families grow, as children mature, as we retire or change jobs, so our homes must evolve to support our changing lives and needs. One of the most gratifying aspects of my work as a designer is the chance to be a part of that transformation in my clients’ lives.

Trecek KitchenThe kitchen renovation shown above was designed for a retired client who was ready to embrace big change. Her children had grown, she had recently become a widow, and her home no longer felt like a place that represented the person she had become. I worked with this client to create a space that more fully expresses her current personal style while providing the functionality and storage she requires day-to-day.

Brad's Bedroom





Brad's BathroomThe bedroom and bath above were designed for a family with three boys. Their oldest son had just become a teenager, and he needed a more mature and private space to call his own. The new bath was built out from a large closet, providing much functionality for this busy family.

Orbock Living


Orbock Dining RoomThe living and dining room above belong to  a young professional couple who was ready to shed their “starter” furniture and create a more polished, finished space that reflects their success and style.

Note: All “after” photos by Stephen Wilfong Photography.


How might your life change in 2016? How might your home evolve to support those changes?

Wishing everyone a very happy new year!


Tamara Leicester is a licensed interior designer and owner of Tamara Heather Interior Design, LLC. She designs casually elegant interiors with an artistic sensibility, often drawing upon the talent of local artists and craftspeople in her work. Dreaming about updating your space? Learn more at


Both at the Maison & Objet show in Paris and more recently at High Point Market, I had the opportunity to attend several presentations on trends in home furnishings. Trend reports are always good fun and I manage to take them both seriously and not seriously at the same time. Seriously, because I’m fascinated by the ways cultural, economic and political events influence our collective appetites for different colors and styles in our home environments. Not seriously, because it’s hard to keep a straight face when fed such nuggets of wisdom as “antlers are out” and “Caesar busts are in”.

The Maison & Objet trend seminar was actually one of the more abstract and conceptual ones I have attended in my career. Phrases such as “the transcendence of nature”, “the tension between minimalism and maximalism” and “the odor on the moon” were some notes I jotted down during the presentation. I’m not sure what those things mean in terms of home décor but they sounded like sophisticated thoughts one might sprinkle into a fancy conversation, if one wanted to sound au courant.

tea room
In this capsule space from the Maison & Objet show, a  tea room is decorated with a metallic print wallpaper created using NASA space image photography.

I am going to try to break down some of the overarching trends in color and home decor that I observed in my multi-show tour through High Point and Maison & Objet this fall. I have to start by saying that the thing that surprised me most, actually, was the degree of consistency in the trends between the US and Europe. I had expected Paris to be far, far out ahead of us and didn’t really see that. It may be that in the age if Instagram and Pinterest, design ideas are making their way across the pond faster than they used to. Or maybe we are just catching up because we’ve read that book about why French women don’t get fat and we now know all their secrets.

Now Trending: Luxury

The overall theme of the Maison & Objet Show this year was Precious.  Precious as in, things that are rare, valuable, or require great skill or time to make. It seems that this craving for things that are “precious” may be influenced by decreasing access to natural resources, such as fresh water, in some parts of the world. It may also be driven by our increasingly hectic and technology-driven lives, the idea of quality time with loved ones as a luxury.

jeweled box

In décor terms, the precious theme translates into use of gold, semi-precious stones, marble and other minerals to embellish home furnishings.  Metallics continue to be a huge trend, especially raw or natural gold. Though the jeweled box above (a “phylactere” actually) is from the Louvre’s 13th century collection, it is right on trend now. Run out and buy yours today!

blue box table

This modern trinket box (actually a side table) is the very epitome of the “precious” theme, with its gold link chain legs and gem-like blue crystal case perfect for displaying .giant mollusk fragments because, of course.

upholstered chest

Wrapped into the luxury trend are all sorts of plush, sumptuously textured fabrics and textiles like fur (faux and real), velvet, plush knits, brocades, and even lace. Even casegoods receive the luxury treatment, like this dressing table upholstered in thick patterned velvet.


This shearling-wrapped bench seen at High Point plays right into the ongoing trend for luxury hides in décor. But forget about those antlers! So passé. Oh, wait, I think those are horns, I’ll allow ’em.

Also Trending: The Decorative Arts

blue room

I guess this is where the Caesar busts come in (note Chaddock’s showroom above). There has been a resurgence of interest in the decorative arts, and we’re seeing a return of ornamental details inspired by Greek Classicism to Art Deco and everything in between. In general I think there’s a slight fatigue with the mid-century modern mania of the past decade. So long, Don Draper. It doesn’t really mean mid-century goes away entirely, but maybe becomes a less prominent feature within an overall collected mix.


When I talk about decorative arts as a trend, what I really mean is pattern, detailing, trim, ornamentation, or, frou-frou, to use an industry technical term.  It’s all the stuff the modernists tried to do away with in the first half of the 20th century when architects started building glass box houses with like, one chair inside, if they were feeling generous. Today’s look is collected, with carefully considered layers of ornamentation. It’s not over-the-top fussiness, but rather about creating a tension between minimalism and maximalism (see how I did that? This blog just got FANCY.) The photo above is like a jewelry box filled with decorative handles for cabinets by Tritter Feefer.


inlaid bone chest

Pattern, color, and ornamentation becomes a key design feature in interiors, and you see it popping up in so many different ways, from these fun and colorful wood floor tiles from Mirth (top photo above), to the bone inlaid chest (second photo) from Harden.

klaus red pillows

The decorative arts trend looks to cultural as well as historical sources for inspiration. The folk arts of eastern Europe, Scandinavia and the far east are reflected in patterns and motifs, particularly in textiles. The top photo above shows folk-lore inspired prints designed by Finnish designer Klaus Haapeniemi, who has also done extensive work for Finnish tableware company Iittala that I absolutely adore. Below that are beautiful red vintage embroidered linens from Hungary. Embroidery and needlepoint (both vintage and contemporary) are another area of the decorative arts that has seen renewed interest.

Some Thoughts on Color Trends

gold and black vases

side table

Really color needs its very own blog post but let me summarize here: Gold. Gold, gold, gold, gold, gold. Are you sick of gold yet? Cause we are juuuuust getting started. I realize gold is a metallic but there is always going to be something metal in any room, whether it’s a lamp, faucet, knob or what-not. I went looking for a nickel lamp the other day and was hard-pressed to find one, that’s how far the golden pendulum has swung. By gold of course, I mean anything gold-toned, which might include brass, bronze, or rose-gold or even copper. Gold paired with black (like the vase from Eur Decor above) and gold paired with marble (like the second photo showing a side table from Caracole) are particularly on-point trend-wise.

red bed

black and red room

One major distinction in color trends between Europe and the US was I noted a lot more deep, saturated colors and jewel-tones in the US market. I saw vivid lacquer red like in the four poster bed from Harden above, sapphire blue, coral, emerald and fuchsia. On the neutral side, these colors are balanced out by strong black and white as seen at Chaddock (second photo above), and a continued emphasis on grey.

Illums Bolighus

On the other hand, I saw a lot more muted colors, natural neutrals, and macaron-hued pastels in Europe. And lots of pink. Although it could be mistaken for Barbie’s Dreamhouse, the above photo is actually a store window in Copenhagen. I saw a lot of this particular shade of pink in Paris as well, and won’t be surprised to see it headed our way soon.


So there you have it, my world-tour of trends. I’m brewing my afternoon coffee and it smells heavenly, like the odor on the moon.


Tamara Leicester is a licensed interior designer and owner of Tamara Heather Interior Design, LLC. She designs casually elegant interiors with an artistic sensibility, often drawing upon the talent of local artists and craftspeople in her work. Dreaming about updating your space? Learn more at