Articles

Susan G Spellmeyer was, for years, a featured, syndicated columnist with United Press International (UPI) where she had a large following and published hundreds or articles.

According to her features editor,

Susan’s “On Design” column was one of UPI’s most popular lifestyle features during the time that it ran on the national wire. The Q&A format not only allowed readers to get individual advice, but focused the column on real problems of real people and real design solutions from an expert in the field. The column’s practical applications won it wide play in many newspapers across the nation and ovearseas.

Some of Susan’s articles are reprinted here for your enjoyment, instruction, and inspiration. These articles are posted here as originally written. There has been no effort to update these pieces. Realize that design practices and trends can change over time, but SGS does try to steer clear of fleeting fads and trends. For more current assessments and advice, please contact SGS.

Colors should reflect use, mood, and personality

Color does affect your mood and should be considered seriously. Some questions you should ask yourself are: How will I use the room? How do I want to feel when I am in the room? Do I want it to relax or excite me? How do I want to feel when I am in the […] Read More»

Combine traditional with contemporary

How can we satisfy our own tastes without destroying the ambi­ence of the house?  It can be done and very effec­tively, but there are a few precautions and it is important not to de­stroy the integrity of the house. Walls do not have to be covered with Colonial-style prints, but don’t install foil geometric wallpaper, […] Read More»

Contemporary look is wrong in antique farmhouse

Modern conveniences are fine, but be sure that finishings — such as window coverings and lighting — have an old feel to them.Often when people update a house, they remove many of the things that make it so charming. You have a good strong shell to build upon and a lot of the things that […] Read More»

Converting an attic into living space

Before you begin any remodeling, consult with an expert to determine if the structural strength of the existing space is adequate. He (or she) will examine the rafters on the roof, the joists in the floor and other structural components of the existing attic. If any changes of this nature need to be made, the […] Read More»

Creating a comfortable room

It is obvious that the focal point of the seating area is the fireplace. With this in mind, I think your best bet would be to extend out from the fireplace surround and create a custom-built unit to house the TV, other electronic equipment and serving bar. If you make this low, only 30 inches […] Read More»

Decide needs before you start to redecorate the family room

Every room should be designed to serve the people who use it. Because every family’s needs and wants are different, so should the room reflect their individual personalities. In planning your room arrangement, be sure to leave a fair amount of open floor space. This is important for young children.  They have a lot of games, […] Read More»

Decorating the duplex by twos

The first thing to do is to determine the amount of mon­ey you will be asking for rent. This will be a major factor in your selec­tion of finishings. If you’re asking rent is considered on the high end of the scale for your area, your selections would be different than if the rent is […] Read More»

Design a teen-agers room with neatness and organization in mind

Most boys’ clothing — shirts, pants, jackets, sweaters, when hung, take up about 36 inches of space in length. This leaves approximately 30 inches of unused space at the bottom of the closet. Consider putting in two shelves that span the length of the space — one about 8 inches from the floor and the […] Read More»

Display, storage space can transform unsightly wall

Above the shelves on the left and the window on the right, I would in­stall two mini blinds which would be mounted under the valance. These will not only cover the window, but will not block any light when raised or tilted. They will also help to bal­ance the wall and conceal things stored on […] Read More»

Displaying artwork: Choose pictures that have meaning

Paintings, be they watercolors, oils or acrylics, often command a high price, but it’s not necessary to pur­chase a “known” artist. Often quality paintings can be found at local art shows, galleries and auctions. Artists from the area, or those just beginning their careers, often produce a high caliber of work for a reasonable price. […] Read More»

Don't let dark paneling cloud mood of your room

If the paneling is real wood, you may be able to sand it to remove the dark stain. Once you get it down to the bare wood, you can decide whether you want to apply a light stain or leave it natu­ral and merely put a protective coating, such as a polyurethane on the surface. […] Read More»

Expand master suite by combining two bedrooms

In graphing out your new room, I quickly came to the conclusion that if you could build a wall of closets to the left of the chimney stack.  Doing this would mask the fact that it protrudes into the room in a very conspicuous spot. You will also have increased the size of your closet by […] Read More»

Find more space in a teen-agers room

You have done the best possible job of arranging what you have, and it’s still not aesthetic or functional. I would suggest eliminating all the different pieces of furniture and consolidating their various functions into one basic unit. Leave the bed on the present wall but center it. Put it on a platform base that […] Read More»

Finding a solution to a long family room

I addressed the issue of how to solve the traffic pattern problem, and also add some warmth to the room. You mentioned that you were going to replace your vinyl kitchen floor with wood. Considering that, I would use the same polyurethaned oak strips and angle them from the garage door to the edge of […] Read More»

Fixing a problem room

The room is spacious and I like the unusual shape with the angled step down, but I can understand why you’re having difficulty with the furniture placement. You wouldn’t want to block the doors and the view outside by putting a sofa or any other large piece parallel to the windows. You also wouldn’t warn […] Read More»

Flexibility is the key in furniture for people who move frequently

Not knowing where you’ll be living makes the selection of furni­ture so much more difficult. You don’t know the space you’ll be dealing with and can’t make a floor plan, as one would normally do when one is fairly certain of being in one place for awhile. With a floor plan you know exactly what […] Read More»

Focusing on living room fireplace in a redesign

The fireplace is the logical focal point for your furniture grouping. Because it’s so far off center in the room, it does create some design problems. However, I have always felt, and still do, that the most difficult rooms often become the most interesting and most successful because they are so unusual. I graphed your […] Read More»

Forget labels on rooms when space planning

Just-because everyone perceives a space as a living room or dining room doesn’t at all mean it has to remain that. Why cant the living room become the dining room and vice versa? You need the larger space to accommodate serving meals and you don’t use the living room when you entertain a lot of […] Read More»

Home by the lake gets a new decoration

I can certainly understand why you’re having difficulty laying out your furniture. You have two focal points you would like to appreciate and there’s a lot of glass and little wall space. Because the 6-foot-8-inch window is 2 feet from the floor, it is difficult to put an upholstered piece of furniture in front of […] Read More»

Housing a teenager in a small space

The bed should be placed on the wall you have it on. The only other option would be on the wall opposite that one. There it would be directly in front of the door as you enter the room and you’d be constantly walking around it. It would be too cumbersome. It won’t fit anywhere […] Read More»

How to create an in-law suite

If you have two equally work­able arrangements in mind, it is generally preferable to have the bed facing you as you walk into a room. Merely because of its size, it becomes the focal point and pre­sents better if you can view it “head on.” In this case, such an arrange­ment is possible. I placed […] Read More»

How to decorate a temporary home on a small budget

This may sound obvious, but a lot of people are tempted to buy furniture that suits the space they’re dealing with at the mo­ment. They may also consider in­stalling built-in bookcases, car­peting or custom window treatments in an attempt to make the apartment more liv­able. If they think about the fu­ture, they do so in […] Read More»

Inexpensive draperies brighten an apartment

Get two sheets in a colorful pattern that together measure at least twice the width of the window. Feed a wooden pole, painted or stained, through the larger hem by merely opening the ends. Then baste the bottom hem up, without cutting it, to a length that just misses the floor. When you move, you […] Read More»

Innovate to make teen's room workable

I think this arrangement of furniture provides a lot more open floor space by utilizing the dead corners. Conse­quently, the room appears larger and more spacious. Even though the space is small, it should serve all of her needs and still use all of the existing furniture. As important, or even more so, it’s a […] Read More»

L-shape layout is challenging

I  see many homes with similar L-shaped living and dining rooms. The sizes may vary, but the basics that you mentioned are fairly standard. Even though it is a typical floor plan, these rooms are not always the easiest to arrange. Yours, being larger than most, is a good example. In laying it out, I […] Read More»

Make eating and cooking areas inviting

Facing south, a window would provide a tremendous amount of light, and you can deal with the privacy issue with the window treatments you select. For example, verticals, or any type of blinds, can be tilted to allow light in, and at the same time, prevent anyone from seeing into the room. I think this […] Read More»

Making a studio feel like more than one room

Even though the living space is essentially one room, you want to create different areas within it, so it feels like more than one room. You want a seating area, a dining area, a study area and a sleeping area — each with its own separate function. The seating area is most logically placed by […] Read More»

Making room for a child and his / her stuff

Small rooms, children and their “stuff seem to be forever a dilemma to many people. I receive many letters dealing with similar problems. Your son’s room is rather small and the dead space in the corner, due to the chimney flu, doesn’t appear to help the situation. However, when you graph it out, I think […] Read More»

Making your home extension of you

One of the first things I would caution you about is not to let yourself be influenced by fads in style and color. Fads are very fleeting. What is in today is out tomorrow. Remember the Mediterranean-Spanish phase from years ago when the only colors that seemed to exist were avocado and gold? If you […] Read More»

Map out your moves before furnishing a condominium

Sometimes when you’re starting from scratch, it can be more confusing than if you al­ready owned a few things that you knew you wanted to use. Having a detailed floor plan is definitely the way to approach it. In your large living/dining room, I would visually divide the two areas with a large, curved sectional […] Read More»

Mix of patterns creates carefree, friendly decor

Mixing patterns in a room is an excit­ing way to create warmth, friendliness and perhaps even a sense of humor. Hectic schedules often demand a more casual way of living and entertaining at home. A colorful, often playful combina­tion of prints is appealing for it seems to reflect that lifestyle. Rooms that work well appear […] Read More»

Mixing patterns takes planning to prevent disastrous results

Mixing patterns is a lot more daring than using only solids, or combining them with one print, which is the reason most people do precisely that. There are few risks. It’s safe. If done well, the effect of com­bining patterns is very appealing and can give you the warm and co­zy look you’re after. It […] Read More»

No curtains for you? Try plants instead

If you don’t need the privacy in the rear of your home and want to soften the effect of bare glass, the most obvious suggestion would be plants. Whether you use large floor plants, hanging plants, a shelf (or shelves) with smaller plants, or any combination of the above, they are always effective. Be certain […] Read More»

Open look requires special arrangement

With the placement of the TV established as a “given,” I would flank it with two glass-enclosed wall units, which could be used for display. Combining all three pieces creates a functional, but attractive grouping. Two comfortable chairs that swivel, and an ottoman, would be angled in front of the railing, opposite the TV. I […] Read More»

Pick out furniture that has several functions

This is a prime example. You want to use it the majority of the time with one furniture arrange­ment that suits your everyday life­style. For a small percentage of the time, you’d like to make a slight ad­justment to adapt to a different situ­ation. In graphing it out, I don’t see any reason why you […] Read More»

Proper piano placement hits right note for room

I see many homes with similar “L-shaped” living and dining rooms. The sizes may vary, but the basics that you mentioned are fairly standard. Even though it is a typical floor plan, these rooms are not always the easiest to arrange. Yours, being larger than most, is a good example. In laying it out, I […] Read More»

Redesign a kitchen

With the new plan, there are a lot more cabinets for storage. You have almost doubled your upper cabinets and, in addition, I’ve graphed in four lineal feet of tall cabinets which are 12 inches deep. These extend in height from the top of the upper cabinets to the bottom of the lower in one […] Read More»

Redesign that old bathroom for efficient use of all space

The main objective is to create a sink and counter top area, hopefully relieving some of that cramped feeling. Remove the linen closet and move the tub two feet to occupy that space. The existing plumbing can be utilized. It would be a matter of extending the drain pipe and water feeds, which should not […] Read More»

Remodeling trend blends family room into kitchen

In building or renovating today’s homes, many people choose to combine various living areas into one space. It could be bedroom, bathroom and sitting room, or the din­ing room and study. The most popular version centers around the kitchen, dining area and family room. What appeals to families and their lifestyles is having one large […] Read More»

Selling your home? Refurnish it to make it more marketable

First impressions are always important in selling a house. Potential buyers will immediately get a “feel” for the house when they drive into the driveway. Make sure the outside presents well. Consider putting a few pots of flowers around your front stoop that may relate to the color scheme in your foyer. This creates a […] Read More»

Space-efficient layout helps bathroom and laundry room

In presenting your question, you didn’t mention any plumbing restric­tions, so I am assuming that the fixtures can be installed where they are best suited. As I graphed out the room and read your requirements, it made sense to put the laundry room and future access to the back yard and deck close to the […] Read More»

Split-level living

In most split level homes, you enter from the outside to the living room, dining room and kitchen level. From there you go up a few stairs to the bedrooms or down a few stairs to a playroom and ga­rage. Naturally, there are variations, but this is the floor plan that is most common. Because […] Read More»

Tackling the second floor while renovating a colonial

Two weeks ago, I redesigned the first floor of a reader’s “new” 1873 vacation home that she planned to gut and renovate completely. This week I’ll continue with planning for the second floor of what I feel is a fascinating and challenging project. I have found throughout my experience in home design that providing storage […] Read More»

Turning a room into a masculine study

There are many things you can do to give your husband’s study a mascu­line feel. Probably the quickest and easiest, as well as the most reasonable, thing you can do is paint. If you’re not overly concerned about making the room appear as large as possible, painting the walls a deep rich color such as […] Read More»

Use color flow to smooth room shifts

The flow of color from room to room in a house is very important, and many people aren’t aware of it. Often they will feel comfortable or uncomfortable in a home. They know it works well or doesn’t work at all but don’t know why. Very often the use of color has a lot to […] Read More»

Wall patterns without wallpaper

Wallpapering a room is one of the easiest and most effective ways to add pattern to a room. There is such a vast amount to choose from. With some patience, you’re certain to find something that you like. Too much of anything is not good and it certainly applies to pat­terned wallpaper. Room after room […] Read More»

When siblings share a bedroom

Wall space in this situation is valuable, so I knew from the beginning that the area under the windows would have to be utilized. I also didn’t want either one of the beds close to the closet because I’m certain that a 19-year-old and a 9-year-old have very different schedules. I wanted the closet area […] Read More»

Which new home 'extras' help

The very basic components of the house, such as doors, windows, insula­tion, siding and roofing, should always be of the best quality you can afford. The roof will not be changed for a very long time, and in the case of doors, windows, insulation and siding, per­haps never. Also, a quality door or window will […] Read More»