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article_1_coverreprinted from the

The Baltimore
Decorators – Design Journal

It’s a signature, not a trademark.

article2-1Although the men’s personal style will always have some impact on what is designed for a client and how furnishings are placed, each believes in the absolute right of a client to say no. Eventually a common ground is found for both the client and designer. Couples with disparate visions have often prevented an impasse by consulting Mr. Hale and Mr. Williams. Clients often want the same thing – a balance between masculine and feminine. Whether a highly sophisticated, romantic hideaway, a space for the children where they can put their feet up without concern for the furniture or an evening room in which to entertain family friends, Hale-Williams Interior Design provides a wealth of experience and expertise in home furnishings and fashion. Shopping for clients here as well as in Europe has given Robert and Tom a depth of resource not often found with local decorators and furniture shops. London has proven again and again to be a wonderful market for early 2oth century home furnishings. Biedermeier, Art Nouveau and Art Deco are just a few styles available here and in Europe for the collector of more recent furniture trends.

Mr. Hale and Mr. Williams say their work doesn’t have a trademark. Their design is often described as a tailored, clean and sophisticated ambience. “Everything we do is different. ‘The client dictates the look. We have been told, however, that our designs are somehow recognizable. It’s a signature, not a trademark.”


Ask Mr Williams Series

reprinted from the Carmel Pine Cone

What defines luxury for one is mundane for another.


Dear Mr. Williams,

My husband and I have decided to build a home on the Peninsula and are trying to define what we want. We know the size of the home we desire but can’t agree on the style. Both of us believe we want something luxurious yet comfortable. Is that possible? Also, what, exactly, goes into a “luxury” home?


Nancy Parks

Dear Mrs. Parks,

Like a fine wine or a chic motorcar, the precise definition of a luxury home is as ephemeral as young love and as subjective as gymnastics judging. Luxury is as much an expression of style as it is marble baths, granite countertops and a plethora of creature comforts. We have always tried to define every aspect of our lives and to expect objectivity in the area of luxury homes is to invite opinion and controversy from far and wide.

From the hackneyed phase “location, location, location,” to the insistence that each bath include a whirlpool the theory and experimentation of luxury has been evolving for many years. Certainly grand scale and architectural detail can be very much a part of any luxurious home. Fine paint finishes, 9-foot-plus ceilings and the judicious use of stone all add to the overall mix.

For many, a kitchen verging on the I commercial is the pinnacle of fine home design. For others, sybaritic baths finished in the latest fixtures, Whirlpools and double showers mean luxury, not excess. All of these things can be included in even the most mundane of homes. The very telling feature of luxury living is a personal expression of style and refinement.

From the moment one enters the drive, there should be an aura of manicured respectability. Like many well-run exclusive resorts, the landscaping should be a reflection of the lifestyle of the residents. One hopes the property will be large enough for a wonderful sweeping drive that mounts a small knoll and allows your guests to alight directly onto the exterior reception area. Plantings, foliage and flowers will all combine to create an oasis of calm.

Upon entering, the foyer should be large enough for all to be greeted properly and helped to remove any coats or outer wraps that have been brought along. A coat closet is essential. The remaining public spaces will be designed in such a way as to reflect the tastes and interests of the owners. For many, the more formal areas of the living room and dining room exude a serene opulence and understated sophistication meant to relax guests and host alike.

As there are many styles of interior design, no one approach to luxury is definitive. Whether a riot of printed chintz and studied English country style or a very tailored design with muted colors upon which to mount an art collection, the help of architectural detail and finishes within the area will define luxury as much as the decoration. Deep crown moldings and matching trim, rich finishes, numerous expansive windows and beautiful floors all help in achieving a sense of luxury.

For the more informal den or study and kitchen, stronger color and pattern mixes will define a warm club-like atmosphere or a light resort feeling. Again, large windows or French doors bring the outside in and help create a spacious interior. Large patios finished in brick or slate surrounding the pool, with spa, will enhance the living space and at the same time adds feeling of relaxed luxury.

The serene opulence and understated sophistication of this dining room serve torelax guests and host alike.

One of the areas in the home most noticeably changed in the past few years has been the master bedroom suite. The room should be large enough to have a king size bed, or even two queen size, as well as a generous area for sitting. A fireplace can add romance and a sense of relaxed and private serenity. The closets should be ample and spacious with totally fitted areas for the large and diverse wardrobes of the owners. The closets should also be attached to separate dressing areas that might have separate toilet and sink areas. A tub and separate shower accessible from either dressing room is important. The finishes will be beautiful granite or marble with top-of-the-line fixtures.

Some of the delicious extras I see in baths these days are heated towel racks, small refrigerators, separate steam rooms or saunas, shampoo sinks and seating in the bath itself. To heap amenity upon amenity is not necessarily to achieve luxury. Size and the number of rooms many times simply means a larger house. One must bring a personal sense of style and mode of living. What defines luxury for one is mundane and pedestrian for another. For many, predictability is the death knell of luxury. Luxury homes, for the most part, exude a wonderful sense of serene opulence and refined living. The creation of that atmosphere is best achieved in a home built to the highest standard and finished with the very best offered in the world of home fashion. Any home not meeting those criteria simply isn’t luxurious.

Tom Williams is a partner at Hale-Williams Interiors at the Crossroads Shopping Village, Camel. He has practiced residential interior design for more than 30 years in America and abroad. To reach Mr: Williams, call   760.464.6468

Personal expression of style.


It was also great fun to take what had been a Thai-style brass tray cocktail table, remove the base, clean the brass top, wire it and hang it on the wall as décor for the den. By adding additional new items we were able to create rooms with warmth and a personal expression of style.

I find many decorators and interior designers don’t have the subtle and refined touch necessary to help a client create rooms that are reflecrivc of their life experience and style. As a matter of fact, i always question my clients about the things with which they surround themselves and how they were acquired. Life experience directs my use of existing accessories and the purchase of new. I find many of my clients are very consistent in the choices they make for personal belongings and how they use them in their home.

Although I rarely include accessorization in the preliminary design of a space I always look at what is in use presently and what might be used in the new interiors. Like a little black dress with no jewelry, a room without the right accessories is unfinished and lacks the style possible with just the right touch of light and focus. Accessories are overlooked by many in my profession because of iexperience or an inability to see beyond the furniture, fabrics and window coverings. Good placement of accessories requires a second look at the whole project and sometimes requires the designer to revisit a space with a new eye for more intimate detail. I An interior designer who has a degree in design and is trained to work beyond the broadbrush basics of a quick furniture sale will also enhance
the experience of completing an interior project. By working with a professional you are guaranteed a finished integration.

Just because it is different from what was before doesn’t mean certain parts of your collections aren’t appropriate for the new interior. The decorator with whom you worked just forgot to ask what you might want to keep from the previous rooms.

As we discovered, you had many, many items appropriate for use in the new spaces. Indeed, a lot of the Asian art you had collected while living in Japan that was in storage became the focal point of the living room even though the overall style was more contemporary. By adding the Asian style touches you were able to bring the room back to what you feel is a more intimate and personal interior.

Collections of any type are an important part of accessorization and should always be considered for use in new interiors. I find most clients are very consistent in choice of items either for collections or furnishings. With judicious editing these collections become a desirable addition
to most settings.

I know you were also very pleased with the restyling of the lampshadcs in the master bedroom. By changing the fabric on the shade and adding trim at the top and bottom to match the drapery and bedding we were able to reuse a pair of lamps that were destined for the resale shop. The blue Staffordshire clogs found in Carmel were an extra bonus for the table.

Without the right amount of personal collections,…you might as well be living on a stage set.


Dear Mr. Williams,

I have recently finished renovating a home in which I have lived for four years. I am very happy with the look of the fabrics, drapery and overall appearance of the rooms, but they feel removed from my life and the way I like to live. I believe all the pieces are there but I, somehow, haven’t gotten them together in a way that is both pleasing and comfortable. What can I do?


Greta Markman

Dear Mrs. Markman,

This was a situation where seeing the rooms made all the difference for my assessment of the challenge involved. All of the rooms are, indeed, complete from a furnishings standpoint. The pieces are there and have been assembled in an orderly and refined manner.

That said, they are completely lacking in the personal touch you can provide. Without the right amount of personal collections, knick-knacks, dimensional accouterment and accessories you might as well be living on a stage set. Just because the rooms are fresh and nor that is created and thought through from beginning to end.

Accessories are not something that are thrown in at the last minute to “fluff up” a room; they are the very essence of personal expression and style.

Thank you for allowing me to help with the completion of your project. I know you will enjoy living with your beautiful and unique collections in your wonderful new space.

Tom Williams is a partner at Hale-Williams Interiors at the Crossroads Shopping Village, Carmel. He has practiced residential
interior design for more than 30 years in America and abroad. To reach Mr. Williams, call   760.464.6468

You never know when you will run into that ” find ” of a lifetime..


Dear Mr. Williams,

I have recently inherited a few pieces of furniture and need to know whether or not I should use them for a new space in my home. I have a tuxedo-style sofa, two matching chairs, two small French-style pull-up chairs painted white with gold accents, an Oriental chest, 2 Oak Mission style tables and a pair of brass lamps in an Early American style. I also own pieces I would like to use and it’s hard for me to imagine all this going in the same room. How do I start selecting what to keep? I also need to know what to do with the pieces I don’t use for this new project.

Maggie Drummond

Dear Ms. Drummond,

I am a firm believer in using pieces that worked before and can be reworked for today. I know it is difficult to decide what to keep, especially when some pieces come from other family members and there are memories attached. Be sure to assess your needs in the new room before trying to decide what to give up and what to keep. I would suggest you keep the sofa and matching chairs. The sofa, which at 78″ is easy to place and move, should be recovered. I would suggest creating two cushions instead of three. This will help create the illusion of length for the piece and at the same time eliminate the cluttered look three-seat cushions and backs can sometimes create. The two matching chairs should be recovered in a complimentary pattern to the sofa.

For each, I would also suggest you restyle the cushions to include self-welting. Welting is the small cording found on many cushions and pillows on upholstered furniture. The two French-style Bergere chairs should be stripped of their paint and re-stained a warm Walnut color. For the seat, back and arms choose a wonderful woven fabric in a pattern, once again, to compliment the sofa and chairs. The Oriental chest might be just wonderful on the larger wall coming into the room from the entry. You should consider placing a piece of wall decor over the chest. It need not be oriental in style and you might find something in a more contemporary look or even Art Deco in feel. Faint the walls in the lighter shade from the background of the printed fabric on the pull-up chairs. You might also consider washing the walls, after painting, in a pale celadon finish. The washing technique adds a bit of luster without using paint in a gloss or semi-gloss finish. Rather than using hardwood on the floor in the room consider sisal carpet used wall to wall as a fresh and interesting change from hardwood. With a large and very colorful area rug in front of the sofa the room will spring to life and you will have saved a few of the inherited pieces you love.

I don’t believe the tables and lamps should be used in this room.Finding a place to move along the other pieces isn’t as difficult as you might think. If no one in the family wants what is left consider sending the pieces to a consignment shop. For more than twenty years now we in America have enjoyed the benefits of consignment shopping for furniture. Before then one either shopped for antiques or what you saw was just ” old secondhand furniture “. I have made some of my best ” finds ” in consignment shops. Many consignment shops offer full room settings with lighting, wall decor and rugs all for one stop shopping. Most will take good quality furniture and furnishings in good repair. This is not junk and most consignment shops maintain rules about what they will take to sell. The share on the sale price will range from 1/3 to the seller all the way to 2/3 for the seller. Make your best deal. When I deliver a piece to consign, I often have trouble not buying something else before leaving. A good eye and knowledge about furniture will be very helpful here. Educate yourself about construction, upholstery and accessories. Don’t be afraid to dicker about the price on larger pieces.

I once bought a painted love seat in a shop in Baltimore for less than the $ 250.00 asking price. What I was able to ascertain before I purchased the piece was its’ maker; a well known New England company with whom I had dealt many times in the past. The frame alone, without upholstery, was worth over $ 2,000.00. Even after having the piece stripped and reupholstered I still had less invested than the price of the frame alone. Be willing to give pieces you find new finishes, fabrics and life. Although you will occasionally find a piece that is just right the way it is, you will usually have to change something to make the piece work. Like buying a home, look for good bones and the right proportions. I find this kind of shopping the most fun. You never know when you will run into that ” find ” of a lifetime. At the same time the frustration of not finding anything that works on a particular trip can be daunting. Most areas of the country have consignment shops and I find, when traveling, I will often look to see what is available in other parts of the country. One of the most interesting consignment shops I’ve seen recently was in London, England. Called The Curtain Exchange, they offered gently used drapery and fabric accessories at very competitive prices. As with most consignment shops, the goods were in great condition and ready to be used. Best wishes on you new room and I hope you have a great experience with consignment shop trading.

Create the look you are after and hire the most knowledgeable person you know to fabricate your dream.


Dear Mr. Williams,

With the recent move to a new home in Carmel I realize the upholstered furniture I have either doesn’t fit in the new space or needs to be recovered. Since a change is necessary I want to keep the fabrics and style of the furniture as easy care as possible. On the other hand I don’t want to loose the opportunity to change the pieces into a more adult and sophisticated environment. How can I accomplish all this and still have a home that is inviting to my grandchildren who range in age from 2 to 12 years?

Sincerely, Daisy Butler

Dear Mrs. Butler,

You would be surprised at the wealth of fabrics that will meet all your needs and at the same time are affordable and attractive. One of the first things to do is create a space plan of the areas you want to have redone. Once you’ve decided on how to place the furniture you will want to decide if any of the existing pieces can be redesigned and rebuilt to meet the new use. Not only can upholstered pieces be changed in size they can be completely restyled. It is possible to change the back, arms, base, legs and cushions on any of the upholstered furniture you have. The decision will be predicated on the quality of the furniture you now own.

Working with a knowledgeable professional will help you achieve the results both in style and durability you desire. The plethora of fibers and content, both man-made and natural, require an understanding of the weaving techniques employed as well as the performance characteristics of fabrics. Too often I have seen decorators and upholsterers specify fabrics that are not appropriate for upholstery. The customer is disappointed in the performance of the fabric selected and becomes even more wary of all home furnishings professionals; not just those fly-by-nights that have no real training with fiber content and fabric construction.
Although many fabrics are described as ” upholstery weight ” almost any fabric can be used to recover a piece of furniture.

The problem is not all fabrics will stand the test of durability once they are put back into use. Some of the lightest weight fabrics are the cottons and cotton prints. Printed chintz can help create pattern and color and, depending on the scale of the design, is great for drapery and furniture. Silk is another option but for upholstery use it, and many light weight cottons, needs to be knit-backed to provide stability and durability. There are many other natural fibers that also work well for upholstery. Wool, linen, mohair, cotton velvet and horsehair to name a few. Generally you will be pleased with the performance of almost any quality woven natural fiber. Man-made fibers, on the other hand, are often designed specifically to withstand heavy use but have little style or luxury.

For years the downside to many of these fabrics was the lack of really good design. Many were designed for the hospitality trade and were created to be very affordable. That has all changed today and we have a wealth of quality design and style from which to choose. Nylon, polyester, rayon, viscose, acrylic and polypropylene are a few of the names you will encounter. These fibers are often mixed with natural fibers to create a luxurious and stylish fabric. The Wyzenbeek Abrasion Test is the American standard by which fabrics are graded on their ability to withstand wear and rubbing. A score of 15,000 double rubs is medium for residential upholstery and will be very serviceable. Anything at or over 30,000 rubs will give you many years of use. Mohair, the long and lustrous hair of the Angora goat woven in a plush construction, often achieves a test result of over 100,000 double rubs. Wool is also inherently flame retardant.

Please do not overlook leather as a viable choice in upholstery. The color choice is expansive and allows for every type of decor style. Once again, the quality of the product will change from manufacturer to manufacturer. Quality upholstery leather is generally from cattle which have been raised on open lands without barbed-wire fencing and other sources of scarring and damage to the hide. Because leather is sold by the hide you also want to find the greatest area, per hide, that can be cut for the furniture. Although many firms offer leather covered furniture be very careful of the type of leather you are being offered. Sorry, not all leather is the same. The tanning process is lengthy and expensive. An 84″ leather sofa selling for under $ 5,000.00 will not provide the durability and richness you desire. Spills that dampen the leather might permanently stain or give off offensive odors. A quality tanning process allows for the leather to grow old gracefully and maintain its’ supple feel and appearance. Although expensive at the start leather, properly tanned, is extremely durable and will give many, many years of service. Once you have recovered or restyled your furniture the care of the fabrics is very important. No fabric will last forever and wear will be focused on those pieces used on a daily basis. There is nothing you can do to stop wear except not use the piece. You can, however, protect the fabric from stains and spots, which will also lengthen the life of the fabric. Name brand products such as Scotchguard and Teflon are topical applications and give protection for anywhere from 6 to 12 months before they must be re-applied. These sprays, which do not penetrate the fabric, must be re-applied every time the piece is cleaned. Another technique, which is more expensive on the outset but lasts for years and years is usually applied to the completed piece of furniture and is non-toxic. The same application can be used on rugs, drapery or any fiber used for the home. This application actually bonds to the fibers and becomes a part of the whole.

Dusting and vacuuming the pieces every 6 to 12 months will also help protect your investment. If possible keep furniture pieces out of direct sunlight for any length of time. Fading occurs naturally but sun and ultraviolet rays are particularly damaging to fabric. Sun reflected from snow or water is more destructive than normal summer sun. Fabrics and leather have been improved so much over the past few years that almost any style or color can be achieved in durable and affordable fabrics. Create the look you are after and hire the most knowledgeable person you know to fabricate your dream. Good luck with the re-do.