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.

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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.

Sprout new ideas with our home & garden newsletter

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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…

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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.

In my last column, I mentioned that crown molding will not visually shrink the height of a ceiling. In fact, it will give the illusion that the ceiling is actually higher than it really is. Anything that makes one look upward creates this same illusion. My own theory is that the “up” in upwa…

This is the time of year when well-intended, optimistic people start thinking about New Year’s resolutions. What are yours? What promises will you try to keep? What rules will you try to follow? How happy would you be if I told you to go ahead and break a few? Think of me as Santa’s own inte…

Have you wanted to make small improvements around the house but were overruled by procrastination and stagnation? Has time sped by so fast that you’re now just realizing that the holidays are around the corner — and you’re hosting a party? Whether a big Thanksgiving spread or an intimate nei…

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to extend my gratitude to all you readers who typically find me in the Home & Garden section writing about interior design. I enjoy writing on topics that make our daily lives more functional and beautiful, and especially enjoy getting your feedback.…

Today’s column comes to you by way of permission from three recent clients. Clients who, before undertaking do-it-yourself (DIY) projects, requested a consultation with me to point them in the right direction. They have kindly allowed me to share their goals and challenges, and my suggestions.

For the past three years, about this time of year, I’ve written about Napa Open Studios. I’ve suggested guidelines in building an art collection, described the difference between art and design and have even proposed logical itineraries to see the most amount of art during the two Open Studi…

While preparing for my upcoming newsletter, I noticed something interesting. I was looking through various photos of past client projects and saw that many contained pillows. Every style under the sky was represented — simple and modern ones in ultra suede, glamorous ones in silk and crystal…

Are updating and outdating two sides of the same coin? How can we distinguish between a trend and a lasting improvement? If you’re hoping that I’m about to list the top 10 ways to know the difference, I hate to say that it’s not that cut and dried.

Today’s column did not end up the way it started out. My intention was to write about the missteps in over-accessorizing, and quotes like “Less is more” and “Too much of a good thing” came to mind. But then my thoughts drifted to my Pinterest account where I had created an album of quotes th…

While red, white and blue wave in our flags outdoors today, how do you use these colors in your interiors? Here are some insights into these patriotic hues and some of my favorite applications.