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Patti Cowger

Dear readers,

After writing nearly 200 Demystifying Design columns, I now find myself at a loss for words. It’s not that I can’t write about any topic under the interior design sun, it’s that I don’t know what topic would be of any help at this moment. Color palettes, fabric patterns, architectural details, etc. just don’t seem suitable right now. So today, I’m sharing random thoughts and suggestions and also a few upcoming plans.

You may know that every other week, I answer readers’ questions. For the next month, or however long it takes, I’ll answer a question every week. So, if you have one, email it to me — the more specific the better.

I’m also working on a front-page feature that will be published in the next week or two. It will offer guidelines in hiring and working with general contractors and sub- contractors.

For those who will be in need of their services, I realize that you might be anxious and willing to hire anyone who answers your call. But I want you to be in the hands of good and caring contractors. And, if any contractors are reading this, please feel free to send me your own suggestions or describe what makes a successful client-contractor relationship.

To completely change the subject, as I was scrambling to pack important items two Mondays ago, I was happy that I had done something earlier this year. I had copied important files onto thumb drives (external computer storage devices). This included my business bookkeeping and client files, photos, and even my family trees.

I had worked on these trees since I was a child pestering my grandparents, “Tell me about Italy, Nonie. Tell me, tell me.” In recent years, with the help of the Internet, I have been able to research all four branches with some dating to the 15th century. The point is, you have priceless documents, too, so you might think about thumb drives. I keep all of mine in a box and it was easy to scoop them up in a matter of seconds.

Although our air quality has improved, it’s still not a bad idea to change your home’s air filters including those in appliances and air conditioners. Also check doors and windows for drafts. Caulking and replacing old weather stripping where there are gaps will help keep out smoky air and also help with your energy bill this winter.

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Add a few large-leafed plants to your rooms. They’ll not only help to purify the air but live greenery always adds a nice decorative touch.

Avoid spray or plug-in air fresheners. Even if you miraculously found one that smells good, they fill your air with toxins. Instead, opt for essential oil diffusers. I like the ones in decorative containers that are both plug-in and battery operated. I’ve tried the oil-absorbing sticks that sit in glass bottles but they don’t seem as aromatic. Or, you can do as my resourceful friends doe and spread cinnamon on a cookie sheet and bake on low heat. As soon as the aroma permeates the air, she turns off the oven and enjoys the cinnamon scent for hours.

Next week, I’ll be back to giving design advice. Send me your questions and let’s start anew. Take care, everyone.

Patti L. Cowger is an award-winning, credentialed, Napa-based interior designer and owner of PLC Interiors. For more information about her design services, visit her website at call (707) 322-6522; or email