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Patti L. Cowger: Demystifying Design bids a fond farewell

Patti L. Cowger: Demystifying Design bids a fond farewell


Dear Readers,

I’ve been graciously given the opportunity to make today’s column a personal one. After writing more than 300 columns in nearly 10 years, this one is to be my last.

You’ll never know how much I’ve enjoyed writing for you, sharing my work as an interior designer, and answering your questions. I never would have imagined that I would meet so many of you if only through a friendly email. Some of you became clients and some of my cherished friends. I feel so fortunate.

The time has come to not only file my last story but to close the doors at PLC Interiors. I started my business in San Francisco in 1989, later moved it to Marin County, and eventually returned to my hometown of Napa.

I’ve had a thrilling and blessed career that gave me so many opportunities to meet people from all over the world and from many industries. I’ve had athletes, musicians, actors, and a heavy metal band as clients. The image of a leather-wearing, tatted lead singer, donned with pounds of chains and rings, browsing through delicate drapery fabrics was priceless. One pop singer never failed to ask me about my cat, Aldo.

I’ve also had the joy of seeing the sweetest of clients, without the greatest of financial means, jump with pleasure at their newly decorated surroundings. Those rewarding moments often brought me to (happy) tears.

It was an honor to participate in seven Designer Showhouses that benefitted Napa Valley and Bay Area charities. For better or worse, these occasions allowed me to unleash my creativity no matter how crazy my ideas might have been. While I overheard one guest walk through my room in Rutherford say, “Look at those gawd-awful closet doors,” my room in Ross was featured on HGTV.

Before saying goodbye, I want to let you know that most of my columns are archived on the Register’s website and also on mine under “blog.” I divided my blog into several categories: Construction-Remodeling; Kitchen-Bath; Tile-Countertop; Color, Art, Fabric, and Exteriors.

There are also two general categories: Furnishings-Product-Decorating and Symmetry-Scale-Balance.

My favorite columns are under “Client Stories” and “One-Offs.” The first is a collection of stories about clients and their projects.

The second collection is more unconventional in that I tie the Golden Ratio, Tarot Cards, the Knights Templar, Einstein, Feng Shui, Downton Abbey, genealogy, glassybaby, Donum Estate, RD Winery, Coco Chanel, Stephen Sondheim, and even Napa traffic to design.

So, if you want to be reminded of how to choose a contractor, a color palette, or even a ceiling fan, or if you want to know the history of French tapestry mills, Florentine paper, how to start an art collection, or create a formal garden, you know where to look.

By the way, since I was also given the opportunity to write in the Register’s Food section, you’ll find the one, and only one, true story of Napa’s malfatti along with two of my nonna’s recipes. Since my blog took years to build, I won’t be taking it down any time soon.

As I think back to what I wrote about most over the years, other than the technical “rules” of design, it was to fill your home with only those things that have a purpose. That purpose does not have to be strictly functional but can be a matter of enhancing the aesthetic, lifting your spirit or comforting your soul.

I must also have written a dozen columns urging you to declutter and to get organized. Lightening your load makes daily life (cooking meals, getting dressed, paying bills, absolutely everything) easier. And, by removing the superfluous, you allow your design and decorations to be more apparent.

I’m excited about my future and have discovered that writing is therapeutic. I have a mystery novel in my head. Set in the Napa Valley, San Francisco and Istanbul, it involves an interior designer-turned-sleuth and her client who has medieval, Byzantine family roots. I just need to figure out the ending. I’ll be writing this “masterpiece” in a new house and in a different state.

I can’t leave without expressing my gratitude to my editor. Sasha, I will miss our weekly email exchanges and our coffee dates. You took a chance on someone whose worst subject in school was English grammar and who had zero experience in the world of journalism. Thank you for all the interesting discussions, support, assignments, and for teaching me the proper use of quotation marks. I also extend my thanks to Kelly Doren and Tim Yagle from the Register copy desk and design staff. 

A 2,000-year-old quote by Roman philosopher, Pliny the Elder, now comes to mind. Simply put, “Home is where the heart is.” Wherever that home is, make it a cherished placed, comfortable, cozy, and clean. Make it a reflection of you, your history, and your treasures. Best wishes to all.

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Patti L Cowger is a two-time, award-winning interior designer. To read past columns, visit, follow @plcinteriors or contact her at

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