Patti Cowger is an interior designer who opened her first design studio in San Francisco in 1989. Back in her hometown of Napa and owner of PLC Interiors, Patti writes Demystifying Design every other Saturday. She invites you to visit her website, plcinteriors.com, call (707) 322-6522, or email plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net.

I’m seeing a lot of plaids lately. From winter flannel shirts to cookie box wrapping paper. This strong pattern gave me the idea to write about patterns, in general, today. How does one mix them in home décor without making a space look too busy or conflicted? Do all patterns suit all design…

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An eclectic style is hard to describe and even harder to create. It’s a careful mix of treasures, travels and memories reflected in furnishings and techniques. And, it usually takes years to develop. Last year, I had the pleasure of helping new clients add a few final layers to their eclecti…

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Does the launch of a new year inspire you to make changes in your life? You probably know that your environment, your home in particular, affects the way you feel and function. So, it makes sense that successful life changes might well start best at home. The changes in your home don’t have …

Dear Readers, this column is just for you. Every other week, I’ll answer one of your interior design questions. Just send me an email with your question and I’ll reply right here. This week’s question:

The upcoming gift-giving season is arriving just in time. If you’ve been feeling blue lately, there are a couple of cures that are sure to help: spending time with loved ones and surprising them with gifts. I have two out-of-the box ideas that accomplish both.

When clients Jeff and Cathy asked me to help them remodel their kitchen, I did what I always do. I asked them to write a list of their goals and vision. I also asked that the list include three columns under these titles: “must haves” “wants,” and “bonuses.”

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A visit to the Donum Estate, tucked in the heart of Carneros, may be the healthiest of prescriptions for destressing and rejuvenation. At least, that is how I felt after spending an afternoon on this 187-acre property with its expansive, rolling vineyards overlooking the San Pablo Bay and th…

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There’s no doubt about it, tile stores have become the playground of many home improvement projects. So many new, exciting, and fun options. Where and how does one begin to choose?

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In February, 2012, I made my debut as a columnist in Home and Garden with this opening paragraph about art, “You spot the piece … it’s caught your attention … it’s calling your name, making you sigh, laugh or cry. You love the colors, the drama, or maybe it expresses a subtlety you recognize…

In a couple of weeks, I will be writing a story about tile: how to choose it, use it, or lose it. I’ll take you through one of my projects explaining why my client and I chose the tile that we did and why we laid it out in an elaborate pattern. In the meantime, I thought I’d write a bit abou…

Dear Readers. This column is just for you. Every other week I’ll answer one of your interior design questions. Just send me an email with your question and I’ll reply right here. This week’s question:

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When my client, Bev, told me that her kitchen was turquoise, I thought, “cool.” I thought “fun.” I thought she was referring to her wall color or her countertop or her backsplash. She was — and more. Her cabinets, appliances and kitchen table were also turquoise. And now, as the original own…

At the end of a recent meeting with a client, I said, “I’m going to write about this.” Not only had Coco Chanel’s words come to mind (which I will explain shortly), but my own words had underscored them.

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The year was 1965. “My Fair Lady” won eight Academy Awards. Muhammad Ali knocked out Sonny Liston. Sandy Koufax pitched a perfect game. Lyndon B. Johnson was president. The world lost Winston Churchill. And, Devine Paint Center opened in Napa where the Premium Outlets are now. To say the lea…

Editor’s note: In editing Patti Cowger’s column over the years, I found I was increasingly guilty, each time she filed her column, of acknowledging it with a question for her, as in “Thanks for the column; by the way, do you think I should buy a shower curtain with a giant octopus on it?”

There’s a Stephen Sondheim song titled, “A funny thing happened on the way to the forum.” That’s how I felt on my way out the door after meeting new clients for the first time. They had asked me over to discuss the remodeling of their master bathroom.

Whether large or small, interior design projects entail a series of decisions. And, whether large or small, each decision can make or break the ultimate outcome. Good judgment, clear vision, restraint, and even courage make for the best decisions. A slip in these qualities can derail your de…

In Part 3 of our downsizing discussion, we take a look at what remains after the trash and recycling has been taken out and the high-ticket items (furniture, art, collectibles) have been divided and conquered. What remains is usually clothing, kitchen supplies, sports equipment and memorabilia.

Today I’m writing about two topics instead of my usual one. I hope the first inspires you and the second saves you from costly disappointment.

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There is an age-old phenomenon, a fine pattern of dense cracking called “craquelure,” that sometimes occurs on the surface of oil paintings and ceramics. It comes from the French word craquele. The Italians call it crettatura, and today we call it “crackle” or “crazing.”

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Is improving your front door on your seemingly endless list of home improvement goals? After all, it’s part of your curb appeal, and curb appeal is the first thing that your guests, neighbors, and potential buyers see. It’s not just an introduction to your home, but to you as well.

A few questions recently came up while working on a kitchen remodel. I’ve been asked them before, so today I’m answering for anyone else who might wonder.

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If you were asked to describe the style of any one of your rooms, you’d probably first look at its furnishings. But, just as dark, carved mahogany, clean-lined maple, scrolled iron, teak, rattan, gold gild, and walnut inlay all convey different styles, so too do fabrics. Fabrics can also con…

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Editor’s note: Today’s centerpiece concludes Patti Cowger’s 13-part series on the history of architecture, art and design. If you missed any part, or would like a handout of the entire series, along with illustrations, send her an email at plcinteriors@sbcglobal.net.

During these past weeks, I’ve written about the progression of many architectural styles and have described the reasons for their evolution. Throughout the ages, buildings, furniture and art have been a reflection of a region’s geography, culture, natural resources and political power.

My history series has taken us from Egypt and Turkey to Europe and Britain. Today we’re coming home to the United States. If you’d like a handout of the entire series along with illustrations, send me an email.

Today’s column is part 8 in my series. If you’d like an accompanying handout of the entire series along with photos, send me an email.

Today’s column is a continuation of my series. If you’d like an accompanying handout of the entire series along with photos, send me an email.

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What comes to mind when you think of rainbow sherbet? Do you feel a light, cool sense of refreshment? Does it remind you to slow down and enjoy a quiet and delicious moment? Or does it give you a sweet pop of energy? All of these thoughts and feelings came to me when I opened my latest shipm…

I’ve been on a rug kick lately. Writing about the intriguing patterns and origins of those from the Far and Middle East, the exhilaration of custom-designing Tibetan rugs from Nepal, and even describing how to use their sizes to define a space. Today, I’m exploring two rugs that have deep ro…

Awhile ago, I wrote a column about Oriental rugs. Intrigue, history and tradition crafted into art. It’s a topic that could cover volumes of books and take a lifetime to write. But whether you have one of these treasures or a variety of alternative rugs, there are a few guidelines in choosin…

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What would 30 centuries of intrigue, history and tradition look like? Imagine patterns and colors filled with symbolism, folklore, and tribal culture. Imagine exotic treasures passed down from family to family and village to village. Oriental rugs are such treasures that capture the skill of…

A friend recently asked me to recommend a contractor. A simple request but not a simple answer. Was she remodeling a house or adding a light fixture? Putting up shelves or tearing down walls? Did she need a new roof, a new water heater or a new kitchen countertop? Basically, did she need a g…

While enjoying an Easter feast a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of the many holiday celebrations spent around kitchen tables. No doubt, the kitchen is the heart of the home and the place where a lifetime of memories are made. I have a special story to tell that makes such memories and c…

You may have noticed that I occasionally mention proportion in my column. It’s an essential ingredient in good design. It is the relationship between the size of one part of an object and another part of the same object.

Have you ever encountered quirks in your home? Have you ever been stumped wondering where to put a television, how to dress your windows, or have you ever fought a nagging traffic flow?

Tarot cards? You are either intrigued or rolling your eyes. But stay with me. This will be fun and interesting. Not scary and foolhardy. We’ve just entered 2016. The sum of these numerals is nine, the number represented by the “Hermit” tarot card.