Ask an Expert: Anne Thull

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Victorian Flair

Right now my parents are living in an old Victorian. My dad has always wanted to redo the basement to have a super sleek modern feel, but is worried that it will be too different from the rest. How important is it to have a unified artistic vision/theme between rooms in a home? Do you think there’s a point where differing tastes become too jarring? Are there times when a stark contrast in tastes enhances the overall feel of the house?
 Thanks! -Matt-

A: Hi Matt, It is extremely important to maintain a unified design theme throughout the house; however, it does not have to be identical to what already exists in other areas of the home. The key would be to finish the basement with a "modern design theme that has a Victorian flair." Your dad would be enhancing the homes overall appeal and likely increase the property's value by adding this 21st century design-twist. The basement could easily become a favorite family living space because it's a bit 'different,' yet feels like the same 'Victorian' home – and this improvement doesn't feel out of place.

Image: 1960's home is traditional with a modern flair

Wall Mural

Q: Hi Anne,
 I would like to start a new project in my kids playroom. Specifically, I would like to figure out how to make the walls more playful or interactive. Should I start with art decals or what design inspirations could I begin to work with? Excited to get going! -Gina-

A: Hi Gina, this is a great idea! I think I'd take it one step further though – depending on how old the children are: Think about asking them what 'theme' they would like for their playroom? Then take painters blue tape and square off a space for each child to decorate themselves on one wall. This would allow the children to begin to discuss their theme with each other, and help them learn how to work together/team work. This will also help spark their curiosity and imagination, which leads to creative problem solving skills that they'll have for the rest of their lives. Keep in mind that their 'squared off wall section' doesn't just have to be limited to paint and stickers; it could also hold 3-D paper mache boats, cars, etc. Let them let their imaginations flow – let them have fun with it. This may be fun to continue to add to each year – another section for each child to add to their 'wall story'. I remember a watercolor painting I did once of a child making a sand castle. I titled it 'serious fun'. I believe that's how most children feel when they are 'at play'. It's amazing what they can create when they 'know/feel' adults are paying serious-attention to their ideas.

Food Pantry Image: Kitchen Mural

This small mural was created out of necessity. The flat wall in the front center of the food pantry was annoying to view each every morning. The painting turned it into a beautiful experience every morning. These problem solving skills begin with creative tasks allowing the imagination to flow during childhood.

Creative Light Fixture

Q: Hi Anne, 
I love looking through photos on design and fashion blogs but never quite know where to start. It can be overwhelming for people who aren’t strong with creativity. How do you start your projects and stay focused? -Ellen-

A: I need a purpose, a problem to solve to be productive. If I don't have that, then I think of what I want, or need, or how I can help someone else. If we don't have a need to create a solution, then we "float" – but floating, when we can relax and absorb knowledge of things that are of personal interest to us, is also well needed fun.

Light Fixture
Image: Art glass candle sleeve put on sconce

This was my first patented product, created to solve a problem in 2000. I needed a nice candle for a custom light fixture that would allow me to use a 60w bulb so I could maintain the good light source from the fixture. At that time only wax candles existed that were plastic or paper candles and slipped onto candelabra fixtures, or beautiful wax candles which allowed only a 25 watt bulb ( or the wax candle would melt) so you lost your source of light. The art glass candle allowed me to maintain the good source of light.

Art & Sculpture

Q: Anne,
 lately I’m pretty tired with wall paintings and with summer coming around the corner, I was thinking of switching up my art decor to something different like art statues. Do you have any recommendations or tips that would soothe the mood. Thanks! -Kavie-

A: Usually the best place to start is to first determine what 'you' personally like. What hobbies and interests do you have? Surround yourself with things 'you' love. You may want to keep some paintings, then add a sculpture with the same theme (example: vineyard/wine maker theme), and then purchase a furniture, a chair, rug, lamp with the same theme, etc. Before you know it, the room will be filled with things you enjoy using and being around, and the room will also have a timeless theme that never goes out of style. The crowning reward is that you will love being in that space because it makes you feel at peace and happy, which is the real "key" to successful interior design.

Image: Grapevine sculpture

I looked for a grapevine sculpture ever since I was a young girl, and never found one. Later in life I made my first sculpture; and without question, I knew it would be a grapevine sculpture – why? I never really paid attention to why – I just knew I needed to do it... but I also knew it had to be more than another sculpture. When I found out that LED bulbs emit very little I decided to add them to the sculpture. This allowed me to help people read their wine labels when they were in their dimly lit wine cellars – a few years later I remembered my grandfather made table wine from a grapevine cutting he brought from Italy when he immigrated to the USA in the early 1900's... now I know why I had to make that grapevine sculpture.

This Week's Ask an Expert: Dave Hime

Dave Hime, founder/curator of, has been an interior design addict for as long as he can remember. Dave seeks out online resources that would exemplify the interior design practices he's most drawn to: using color, texture and simple materials well. Bringing all of this together, along with his specific focus on providing interior design inspiration from a man's point of view, is Dave's mission: masculine design.

This week Dave will be answering questions about incorporating masculine and industrial design into your home. Click here to ask a question.

Dave Hime

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