goodbye, golden oak


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The following is a public service announcement from Elizabeth Monical Design: Don’t let ’90s-era golden oak ruin your home or your life. Help is available by calling 402.660.7703.

A LaVista couple made that call a while back, and they’re brave enough to let me share their story here. The house in question sits in a neighborhood full of homes built 10 to 20 years ago (that’s not vintage, folks) and filled with golden oak wood. Trim. Cabinets. Doors. Flooring. Staircase. Everywhere.

After living there for a while, the couple, who share the space with two kids in high school, said enough is enough. They were ready to do what it took to love where they live instead of dreading it every time they come home and turn on the lights.

Their task list for me:

  • Update the trim and flooring
  • Paint
  • Install new countertops and tile in the kitchen
  • Update the traditional oak spindle railing
  • Update the old fireplace and window coverings in the living room without spending too much
This “island” had to go.

They also asked me to come up with a solution to their bat wing island (no offense to bats), which left half the kitchen useless and the other half busy when someone was washing dishes.

I loved the fact that the Golds (that’s what I call them) understood the value of their home and didn’t want to “over improve” it. They simply wanted their investment to be worth it at the end of the project. I couldn’t agree more!

One of my biggest design challenges was the kitchen cabinets. There wasn’t enough in the budget to buy new ones, so we modified some of the existing ones with new paint and doors. We also added new cabinetry that functions as overall storage, which they totally needed.

The unused dining room was converted into two functional spaces.

Another concern: they didn’t have a walk-in pantry. We decided to repurpose the dining room – which they never used – by splitting it in two. Half is now a huge walk-in pantry, and the other half is a foyer/seating area with a coat room on the other side.

Since the dining room windows were separated in the center, we were able to add the new wall without making any changes to the home’s exterior, thus keeping the expense low. Sometimes I amaze even myself at what we come up with!

This change allowed us to double the size of the kitchen island and add four new seats. We also removed an old desk and added a dry bar/beverage center to give the kids and their friends easy access to drinks (non-alcoholic, of course), even if their parents are cooking.

At the end of each project, I always look back and have a favorite part. With the Gold’s home, it’s the completely different emotional response you get when you think about what it was like and what it is now. We created a brand new house on a completely doable budget!


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Thanks to our M.O.D. partners on this project:

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.







a home that says ‘e komo mai’

In February, we introduced you to the Emerald project, a Nantucket interior remodel for a family who just moved here from Hawaii. They wanted a modern update for their Omaha residence, one that would showcase their love of books and collection of souvenirs from around the world.

Drumroll, please…we’re finished! Time for show and tell:

Storage galor’age’
This project was all about creating custom pieces, and this little storage unit is one of my favorites. It used  to be a doorway that led from the family’s living room to the garage hallway. The family desperately needed a “drop zone” for coats, shoes and backpacks. Now they can leave their winter coats by the garage instead of hauling them through the kitchen/dining room/living room to hang them in the front closet. (Chances are, they’d never make it that far.)

Double duty
The home’s sun room also serves an office. Our custom chest of drawers and shelving unit allow the client to hide her office supplies and display her books, which serve as inspiration when she’s working. This custom chest has file drawers, a printer pull out and plenty of space for paper, pens and you name it. Cool, huh?

On trend and functional
In addition to being on trend, barn doors are an awesome way to close off an area without taking up too much floor space. This door was originally a swing door that you couldn’t open if the front door was open – a design no no. If you have enough wall space and you don’t want to tear up an existing wall to insert a pocket door, the barn door is your answer. The other cool thing about them? You can use them as an accent/art piece. Versatile, versatile, versatile!

Groovy grid
If you’re ever looking to tie a room’s woodwork and walls together as one unit, paint everything white. We also added a grid pattern on the walls with flat boards to create some interest without overpowering the rest of the space.

Reading is fundamental
Custom bookshelves for the living room were a must – the entire family loves to read and enjoys adding to their collection. We also used them to create a second focal point in the room – they draw your eye up to the exposed rafters and – bonus – help hide lighting wires.

Shiplap, Joanna!
When a job throws you a design challenge, you get creative. The family’s dining table was smack dab in the middle of the walkway that connects the living room/entry area to the sun room. Here’s this month’s public service announcement: THINK ABOUT TRAFFIC PATTERNS WHEN YOU’RE DESIGNING A SPACE. By creating a bench along the back wall, we were able to shift the table to one side, which created a nice, wide path for travel between rooms (see second photo below).

In order to carve out pantry space for large cooking appliances, we created column cabinets that open on the sides and covered them with shiplap (shout out to Joanna Gaines). The cabinets created a great backdrop for sconce lighting – you can never have enough ambient lighting. The bench also has cubbies for baskets – you can never have enough storage.

Bad to the herringbone
A standard mantle simply wouldn’t do  above this fireplace, so I asked my cabinet maker to create a box backed with shiplap. It’s the perfect place to display art, sculpture, fresh flowers – you name it, and it has an outlet and a puck light that directs your eye to the objects in the space. We also removed the existing fireplace surround and used white marble subway tile to create an amazing (if I do say so myself) herringbone pattern from floor to ceiling. It’s fronted by a gorgeous porcelain tile that looks like dark cement and contrasts well with the subway tile. The porcelain runs the entire length of the fireplace wall to tie all the design elements together.

Pop of positive
We added a pop of color and whimsy to the living room with this beautiful rug, which we all fell in love with. It fills the room with positive energy!

Custom kid-friendly
For my last show and tell, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: custom’s not just for adults. The youngest member of the family wanted a “cool, grown-up” bedroom that was also conducive to studying. We created an industrial wood bunk bed with a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf and a huge desk surface lit by puck lights. We created the bed’s safety rail from black pipes, and the library ladder makes hitting the sack an adventure each night! BTW, I’m not showing my kids this picture because they’ll all want rooms like this (and who can blame them)!

Overall, I think we achieved the vibe we were going for: modern, relaxed, uncluttered – a place that says ‘e komo mai’ (that’s Hawaiian for “welcome”).

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM

Be Innovative, Not Expensive

Welcome to the Jennifer Radil Studio.

Adults who work full time in the United States log an average of 47 hours a week, according to our friends at Gallup. I know many who work far longer than that in seven days time, which brings me to the point of today’s post: the design of your work space matters.

When Omaha artist Jennifer Radil asked me for some thoughts on the look and feel of her new studio space in the Hot Shops Art Center, I jumped in with both of my size 10 feet.

I’m a big fan of Jennifer’s work – mixed media pieces that evoke another era.

First, I’m a big fan of her work – mixed media pieces that evoke another era, one steeped in the beauty and wonder of the natural world. Second, I couldn’t wait to tap into the creative energy that fills the Hot Shops, a downtown landmark that’s home to four anchor studios, more than 80 studio artists and multiple spaces.

For starters, Jennifer knew she wanted to add color to at least one of her studio’s two existing white walls. I talked her into a deep gray – Sherwin Williams Iron Ore.

She was a little shocked at first, but I assured her it wouldn’t feel oppressive in the space, which long ago had served as offices for the Serta Mattress Factory. I’m a big fan of this hue – I’ve got it in my home office and LOVE IT!

I love, love, love Sherwin Williams Iron Ore that helps showcase Jennifer’s work.

“She was right,” Jennifer said of the bold color choice. “The deep grey added an edginess and showcased my artwork beautifully.” We also agreed to leave an expansive plywood wall in the studio unpainted. Jennifer’s studio is a working space in a former factory, so it shouldn’t be too “pretty.” It needs to function as a gallery and retail space for her work plus shirts, cards, prints and other items.

Since the studio is at street level, Jennifer had concerns about maintaining privacy at night, which I totally get – how unnerving would it be to find someone peering in at you from the sidewalk? We removed the plywood from a large window and discussed a variety of treatments that might work. In the end, we went with the simple and most effective solution: placing a row of tall atlases on the deep windowsill along with a framed piece of vintage wall covering on an easel. Perfect.

A carefully curated selection of books, plants and framed art on an easel provide a natural buffer between Jennifer and those passing by on the sidewalk.
This corner of Jennifer’s studio is the perfect place for a retail display.

The final thing we did was rearrange the furniture and displays in a way that maximized both appearance and functionality. We created a display along a wall outside the studio that naturally draws people in. The kicker? We only used tools and art objects plucked from Jennifer’s belongings.

“Elizabeth’s changes didn’t require me to spend a fortune or even pick up a single new object,” Jennifer said. “This, to me, is the sign of a truly resourceful and innovative designer.”

Awww, thanks, Jennifer! Want us to do the same for you? Schedule a meeting today!

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM

Meet the Browns, Part 2

In my last post, I introduced you to my design concept for the Browns, an Omaha couple who loves international travel and minimal, modern spaces:

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Now I want to talk fixtures and finishes, as they’re an important piece of the design puzzle. Here’s what I proposed:

  • White gloss cabinets with a rich, warm walnut accent in the toe kick and proposed furniture
  • White quartz countertops with a simple white backsplash to achieve a minimal, relaxing look
  • A light wood-look tile for the flooring that’s also easy to clean
  • A cast concrete “makeover” for the old brick fireplace that includes a vertical inset shelving unit for display space
  • A matte black/gray finish on the cabinetry in the new sitting area/buffet and new powder bath to contrast with the white gloss cabinets
  • Irregular, dynamic cabinet door reveals to create a modern art effect
  • Cabinet panels to cover the majority of the appliances
  • Plumbing fixtures that will act as a graphic accent to the mostly white space – little bursts of “ooooh” in an “aaaah” space

Take a look…



With each large project, I love to work in a signature element that serves as a focal point for the overall design. In this case, I proposed a custom inset ceiling detail made of mosaic accent tile over the island. The inset will be lit by cove LED strip lighting – no pendants for this project!

Take a look at the ceiling inset example below…


Up next, an update on our actual progress.

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM





Meet The Browns: Part 1

I love solving design problems of all sizes. But I gotta tell you, there’s something magical that happens when clients entrust me to tackle the big ones – the kind that really change the way they live.

Today’s post is the first in a series that’s a step-by-step look at some of the larger projects I’ve worked on – it might give you the gentle nudge you need to address that big design challenge you’ve been fretting about for years.

So meet the Browns, an Omaha couple who loves international travel and minimal, modern spaces. The problem? Their home, constructed in the 1980s, didn’t reflect any of the above. We’re talking:

  • Pickled oak trim and flooring throughout the house
  • Laminate kitchen countertops
  • Appliances that have bitten the dust
  • No pantry storage (they were using portable microwave carts to store everyday dishes, which just makes me sad)
  • A small kitchen footprint that doesn’t jive with the size of the house
  • Lack of a true entertainment area (nobody uses the dining room and huge family room that are just steps away from the kitchen, which everyone crams themselves into during the holidays and other celebrations)

 See for yourself…

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 My concept:
  • Swap the existing kitchen table area with the sitting area in front of the fireplace to allow guests to sit closer to the kitchen during gatherings
  • Create a butler’s pantry by using about 25 square feet of existing garage space
  • Remove the kitchen peninsula and replace it with a long island to create an incredible cooking area as well as a secondary area for guests
  • Add full height cabinetry to store everyday items, household paperwork and entertaining supplies
  • Add an under-the-counter refrigerator drawer to the new buffet area so guests and grandkids have access to drinks without getting in the way of the cook

Take a look:

In Part 2, I’ll be talking about finishes and fixtures. Details and how they work together matter.

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM

sit and feel content

The left wall in the home's front entry is now a show stopper.
The left wall in the home’s front entry is now a show stopper.

If you read my blog regularly, you know I love giving advice – especially when it comes to making your home your castle (or whatever it is you’re into). So today, I’m going to share some advice from an extremely wise client of mine: “It’s awesome to sit in your home and feel content with your surroundings. In order to make a space perfect for you, know what you like/dislike, know your budget, and don’t be afraid to seek help.”

Wow – I couldn’t agree more.

Now I’m not judging, but too many of you spend too much time dreaming about what you’d do if your place was selected for a makeover on one of the many home improvement shows you watch instead of taking the steps to make it happen.

Take my wise client, for example. She and her husband had never worked with a designer before hiring me. They chose to tackle each room of their spacious, open house on their own. If they got stuck or disagreed, they sought the opinion of friends and family.

The design issue that no one could resolve? The couple’s front room entry. It contained old furniture that overwhelmed the space and created a  “first impression” vibe that didn’t fit the family’s nod to mod. As a result, they never used it except to enter and exit their home and feel badly about themselves while doing either.

My solution? Purge the old, stay simple, and make an impact. I helped the couple select a crisp, geometrically-inspired wallpaper for the west entry wall to showcase the sleek, freestanding wall cabinet they had picked out. The finishing touch? A whimsical black and white wall clock made by the male half of the duo (he also hung the cabinet). Oooh la la!

On the other side of the entry, I took full advantage of the home’s incredible windows by adding simple shades and fronting them with a pair of tufted white leather benches in an inverted L shape. A corner table displays a favorite metal sculptural piece, striped carpet tiles from FLOR laid in an irregular pattern give the room texture, and a simple wood desk and plywood dining chair tuck neatly into the space’s remaining corner – the perfect place for homework or catching up on email.

One of the other design challenges the couple (and their friends and family) never resolved was the fireplace wall in the main living room area. “It always felt off,” my client said. “We needed something to fill the space but just couldn’t wrap our heads around it.”

The issue? The fireplace was dead center along a 20-foot high white wall, and the brick – although lovely – only extended to normal mantle height.

My solution? A sleek and simple wood mantle that’s part of a larger wall grid constructed from the same wood. The grid bisects and trisects the mammoth wall and creates a series of well-defined areas for displaying 2D and 3D art.

Now that’s a focal wall.

I’ve got a few more gems to share from this job, but they’ll have to wait for another entry.

Until next time, I’ll be keeping an eye on design for you.

– EM




help bring them to omaha

Me and the boys.
Me and the boys.
When the EMD team travels, we travel in style.
When the EMD team travels, we travel in style.

As a mom of three little ones, it’s not often that I get to enjoy a meal without having to tell someone to eat.

It happened last week, which is awesome in and of itself, but where it happened made the occasion even more special – Rebuilding Together Omaha’s luncheon featuring Drew and Jonathan Silver Scott, known to millions as the “Property Brothers.”

I have to admit I didn’t know a lot about Rebuilding Together Omaha before the event, but I’m impressed by what I learned: this local nonprofit provides low-income, elderly and permanently disabled homeowners in Douglas, Sarpy and Pottawattamie counties with no-cost home repairs and accessibility modifications. Its goal is to allow these citizens to age in place while living in warmth, safety and independence – how cool is that?

As an avid viewer of “Property Brothers,” I did know quite a bit about Drew and Jonathan – tall, talented twins who’ve helped family after family find and renovate their dream home. They were as charming in person as they are on television, and the sense of humor they share is genuine.

Those tiny specks on stage are Drew (left) and Jonathan Silver Scott.
Those tiny specks on stage are Drew (left) and Jonathan Silver Scott.

Since we’re in the same business, I was eager to hear what advice they had for this particular audience, which was filled with a combination of Rebuilding Together Omaha supporters, realtors, and Drew and Jonathan fans (there was a ton of the latter). Here are my takeaways from the Scott boys:

  1. Be selective on where you spend your renovation money. Focal points like fireplaces or kitchen islands can have a big impact on the overall vibe and value of your home.
  2. Find ways to make your current home work for you rather than relocating (I love helping clients do this!). Every home is going to have issues, just like the people who live in them.
  3. If you’re trying to sell your home, do a light update to all areas instead of spending all your money in one spot, like a kitchen or bathroom renovation.

It was a great afternoon for a great nonprofit, and it was inspiring to see so many people passionate about design gathered in one spot. It was also great fun getting behind-the-scenes show scoop from Drew and Jonathan (like how the network decides which cities to film in), which brings us to the audience participation part of this blog entry.

If you, like me, want to see the Scotts film an episode of “Property Brothers” in Omaha, let HGTV know it! Let’s bombard all the HGTV social media outlets with ‘Come to Omaha’ messages, photos and video (tell ’em EMD sent you). We’ve even made it easy for you – just download this sign, take your picture with it (or take it to an Omaha location and shoot some video with it), and post in on:

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Until next time, I’ll be keeping on eye on design for you.

– EM