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,, call (707) 322-6522, or email

I’ve developed a new routine lately. I’ve been writing my weekly column in my head, while driving in my car. I have a lot on my plate these days and sitting in Napa’s ever-growing traffic causes me anxiety. I wasn’t blessed with the patience gene, and all I can think about is getting to my d…

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:We’re going to be painting our master bedroom and getting new bedding. We have a few acryli…

A personal note before continuing with today’s topic. I’ve just discovered that emails sent by readers through my website have been lost in cyberspace for months. After inviting you to sign up for my newsletter or send a question to be answered in a future column, I then appear to have ignor…

Our house has three bathrooms. The master has a tub. The other two do not. We’re planning to remodel the master this year and can’t decide whether to keep the tub. Would it be a mistake to remove it and not have one in the house at all?

Whenever clients ask me what my favorite style is, I can’t really answer – for two reasons. One is that I like many styles and the other is that my favorite style should not influence what I create for clients. My role is to deliver their favorite, not mine.

What could I possibly mean by “genealogy meets home décor”? One of my reasons for writing this week’s column is to offer an idea for wall art. Another is to advocate’s DNA test. The third reason is to tell you a wonderful story.

I always feel invigorated when helping clients with their remodeling or new-build projects. And, when it comes to helping those who lost their homes in the October wildfires, I feel an added layer of emotion, especially if I was part of the pre-fire team.

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:What is the difference between wood, engineered, and laminated floors?

It’s not often that couples tell me, “We have the same taste, the same ideas, and the same goals.” So, a few years ago, I created an exercise that helps resolve conflicts before they arise and before choices, assumptions, purchases, and mistakes are ever made. I ask couples to do this exerci…

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

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…