Virtual VS. Reality

My grandfather, George E. Minton, was the lead architect for the city of New York back in the 50’s and 60’s. He worked on many projects including LaGaurdia airport, Gimbel’s department stores and many parts of the 1964 World’s Fair. He would often take me to his office at the Department of Marine and Aviation on the west side of Manhattan overlooking the Hudson River at Pier 57. To this day a plaque with his name on it remains on the building.

(photo courtesy Pinterest)


I have such vivid memories of the 3d scale models and drafting tools everywhere. He gave me free reign to “play” with anything I chose to; the wax pencils that you sharpened by pulling a string and peeling the paper, the erasers that were like a big ball of Silly Putty, and the extremely sharp drafting tools. The thing I was intrigued by, though were the blue prints rolled up everywhere in bins and laid out on large drafting tables. At that time blue prints were exactly as they were called; BLUE!

                                                        (photo credit Pinterest)


As the years have gone by and technology has taken over, the art of hand drafting has unfortunately almost become a lost art. I’m not sure if my grandfather would be disappointed or impressed, but CAD (computer assisted design) seems to be the method of choice. As an Interior Designer it is important to keep up with the trends especially when working with a younger generation.

Between Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter, blogging and Instagram, I have all I can do to constantly keep up with social media. It took me a very long time to figure it all out and just when I think I’ve got it, something new comes out and it’s time to relearn yet another platform!

One of the most important tools I have had to learn is virtual space planning. There are many different programs out there and it took me a while to find the best one for my needs but I think I finally got it. Basically, I had to find a way to best convey my vision to a client before they bought anything.  If people didn’t need this sort of help, they wouldn’t need my services, so it’s my job to make it as easy as possible for them.

Almost all jobs require a floor plan. A floor plan is drawn as if you were looking down into the room overhead to see how everything fits. This is a basic plan that I started off with for my client’s room.

RoomSketcher Level Image.jpg

This is a very helpful tool for furniture placement. However, in the case of this room, the client wanted a complete overhaul which involved ripping out an old mantle, installing sliding barn doors for noise control, and wallpapering the entire room. They wanted to have comfortable seating to watch t.v., but also a bar area with pendant lighting for entertaining.

With this program, I am able to draw the room in 3d and then move around the room as if I am walking in it. I am able to take photos of individual areas or single walls. After all is approved by the client, we begin the actual construction necessary and purchasing of furnishings.

This is the concept drawing of the fireplace. The client wanted to remove old tumbled marble and put up brick instead. They also wanted to get rid of the existing dated mantle and replace it with an aged wooden beam. Using real brick would have been costly and messy, so we decided on a wallpaper that truly looks like real brick.



and the REALITY!




 The bar unit would also have a wooden shelf installed at counter height with two pendant lights installed above. Shelf units would eventually be put in for glasses.

                                                                        The CONCEPT…

1 (2)


and the REALITY!



I absolutely LOVE how the sliding barn doors came out! They separate the room from the kitchen to keep out noise.

This is another virtual angle of the room including the television. A custom unit was built for a large screen. Cornices will be going over the windows to match the big ottoman fabric.




The finished product…




this is another angle which includes the barn doors to the kitchen…..



again, the finished product…




This shot is  looking towards the sliding doors that lead to the outside. You can see the cornices wrapped in plastic that will be hung on the windows and slider.




This is one of my favorite rooms I have done so far. It is time consuming to learn these types of programs but worth it in the end. It is very important to me to help my clients visualize as much as possible when planning a project. I was excited to share it and show just how far technology has come. I can’t imagine how much more we will be able to do in the future such as holograms and virtual 3d.

My grandfather would certainly be amazed!




Six Days Until…

The holidays started very early for Hubby and I this year. We visited our son in Houston, Texas for the first time since he moved there.

For our long weekend we stayed at the Houstonian Hotel which in itself was an experience. It is a very large and beautifully furnished conference center also located in Houston. Visitors are greeted by this impressive two story fireplace in the lounge.


Our son bought us all tickets to go to the “Nutcracker Market” which is very famous to the city of Houston. I have never heard of the Nutcracker Market, but from what we learned, it promised to be a fun day.


These words, taken from the website of the market, explain how this yearly event came to be:

“In 1981, visions of sugar plums inspired long-time Houston Ballet supporter Preston Frazier to approach the board of Houston Ballet Guild with a new concept and means to raise much needed funds for the Houston Ballet Foundation, its Academy and scholarship programs. His dream of a holiday market in the tradition of a European or Latin American street market has grown steadily and spectacularly ─ from humble beginnings in a church bazaar setting to a four-day shopping extravaganza at NRG Center. In 2017, over 104,600 customers with a strong passion to shop spent over $19.8 million at more than 280 national and international booths ─ each offering unique items for the entire family, including home décor, gourmet food, apparel, accessories, toys, garden items and much, much more … and all of this just in time for holiday shopping!

From the moment former First Lady Barbara Bush cut the ribbon at the opening of the Nutcracker Market, and through the many successful years filled with a lot of enthusiasm, imagination and dreams, the Nutcracker Market has become an annual tradition that kicks off the holiday season in Houston, Texas.”

(picture courtesy Nutcracker Market website)


We all went out for a big southern breakfast, and with comfortable shoes on, we made the trip to the NRG center, next to the Houston Astrodome.



Overwhelming was an understatement. Booth after booth of Christmas decor, Christmas attire, Christmas crafts and Christmas food were everywhere.
















And EVERYTHING was for sale!












Even Elvis made an appearance…



We spent about five hours browsing aisle after aisle. We managed to leave empty handed, knowing whatever we bought would have to be put on the plane ride back.

But I certainly got a lot of ideas for our yearly Christmas party…

The day after the market, the boys had enough shopping so the girls decided to go out and explore the town. We had  a lovely outdoor lunch at “Tiny Boxwoods”, a very popular and well known place for great food.


Pastry Chef Vanarin Kuch of Tiny Boxwoods - Houston, TX

After eating, we went to the newly completed Restoration Hardware.



The company has completely redone their marketing strategy. They are now only located in major cities and in large, iconic buildings, be it an old post office library or bank. The stores are now made to look as if you are in a multi level estate with each different room showcasing oversized pieces in a grand manner.





Gone are the days of walls covered in doorknobs and handles. They have really evolved into a virtual display of well made furniture with a true WOW factor!




The most impressive part of the showroom is the rooftop terrace.




It showcases all of the outdoor collections RH offers. The combination of the 85 degree temperature that day with the view of the Houston skyline was such a delight!









This space would be perfect to rent for private parties, but the manager said they were not equipped to do that for now…

But speaking of parties,… even though I left Houston empty handed, I knew as soon as I got back it would be time to start planning our annual Christmas party. I had so much inspiration from the Nutcracker Market dancing in my head. I had centerpieces to make and decided that this year’s theme would be all gold.

I made lit Christmas trees that stood on pedestals with little wrapped presents at the base.



On December 9th, we celebrated the upcoming holiday with family and friends, thankful for another year together.




So, with six days to go, all that is left to do is wrap presents, welcome the kids back, and prepare the menus for the day. I am very grateful for another year of doing what I love with Design, and having health, friends and family to make me smile.

May you all have a blessed holiday season and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!



More “Reality”

Reality Television has come to the Niblo house for the second time this year! Our first debut was this past summer with my episode of Flea Market Flip.




This time around will be this coming Thursday’s episode of “CHOPPED”

My friend and chef extraoadinaire, Tara Cianella and owner of Tara’s Italian Cucina was chosen as a competitor on the show. For the past three years she  has catered our Christmas party much to the delight of our guests.

Tara called me and asked if she could use my home to film the cooking segment of the show and I quickly agreed. The crews spent the entire day at the house filming. I was not allowed to be present and I have no idea of the outcome but I am looking forward to watching.


Good luck Tara..we hope you win!



And It Begins…

Usually I am the first one to start when a showhouse is in the works. This time has been really different for me. With a September 27th deadline, today was the first day I began working in my room. I think the reason for the delay was the theme I decided on this time; a Swedish/Gustavian style sitting room. The following two photos are from Pinterest and are very typical of Swedish style;





I thought it would be nice to pay tribute to two parts of my ancestry through design. Having Swedish heritage, I have always loved the light and airy style associated with the region. My thirty something years of collecting antiques afford me the opportunity to showcase my pieces in that style, while also highlighting my British heritage with the use of pieces from my extensive colllection of Minton china ( which is my maiden name).

This year’s showhouse is new construction; a nicely detailed home with many tasteful amenities. I was awarded the sitting room, which is right off the kitchen. It is a bright and sunny room and has been pre painted in a very soft grey color.


I decided to keep the color as is and just enhance it with a border stencil from The Stencil Gallery in England which is appropriately named “Gustavian”





Following is a sample of some of the pieces that will go in the room…




There is much more to be done but I am excited for this year’s room as it has a lot of special meaning.

More to come….

Showhouse News

Once again, I have been selected to participate in this year’s Saddle River Designer Showhouse. I will be designing the Sitting Room off the kitchen in a brand new traditional style home in Saddle River, NJ. My mind is already racing with inspiration as I plan the space which opens to the public October 4th through November 12th.

If you are in the Tri State area, please plan to attend. This year’s charity benefits the Department of Patient Care: Patient Experience at the Hackensack University Medical Center.

I will be updating my progress as usual with a lot of “behind the scenes” photos on my blog and social media. I am looking forward to another successful event!




As they say, “Better late than never”,  and so it goes for my room at this year’s Mansion In May. Although it is already over, the house opened on the first of May preceded by a fabulous and fun Preview Gala under a tent on the property of the stately Alnwyk Hall in Morristown, New Jersey.


The theme of the gala was ‘The Great Gatsby” which was a perfect compliment for the room I chose on the first floor which I named “The Ante Room”


The space was small, but strategically placed between the living room and grand reception hall. I imagined visitors being asked to wait while the lady of the house came downstairs to greet them. I decided on an Art Deco theme from the very beginning. The room had two ceiling fixtures in place which would call for a pair of matching chandeliers, small in scale but grand enough to make a statement. Looking at the BEFORE photos makes it hard to imagine that this room could be transformed, but I had hope. Structurally, it was intact, it just needed lots of architectural interest.


My sketches for the room included crown moldings to house cove lighting, chair rail, a fake fireplace mantel, mirrored boxes and decorative corner details.


After calculating how much wood was necessary, I dragged Hubby and my power tools to the room to begin. He would cut and I installed. The room was only 10’6″ x 13′ but the ceiling was 9′ so I needed his help to hold up the crown while I nailed. We make such a good team!


The dropped ceiling in the room did not hide an older decorative plaster ceiling as in the rest of the house, so I chose to keep the ceiling and just paint it all black. Between the air ducts, speakers, fire sprinkler and light boxes, there were just too many things going on to try and disguise them, so the black made them all disappear.

I purchased two 100 light strings of white LED Christmas lights and attached them to the crown molding to put indirect lighting onto the ceiling, creating a glow.


After the moldings were finished, I was able to paint the upper half. I chose a shade of blue from Benjamin Moore, who was the paint sponsor of the house. It turns out that mostly everyone on the first floor chose blue without knowing we would all match.


The wallpaper was chosen because it looked like the walls were tufted, but for a fraction of that cost. 12″ mirrored tiles made it easy to direct glue to the insides of the boxes.


I made Art Deco decorative corner pieces to apply over the mirror and applied high shine silver tape for an added detail.




The carpet in the room was removed to reveal a badly damaged parquet floor, so that was replaced with a smooth paint grade plywood. I sketched out my design,


I copied the pattern using green “frog” tape as it does not let the paint bleed like the popular blue kind.


I then painted the diamonds alternating black and white.  I only needed one coat of each color as it was heavy duty exterior patio paint.


When all was done , a simple pull of the tape reveals nice clean edges. I finished with four coats of polyurethane.


Because the room was so small I knew I would have very little room for furniture, so my accessories also had to make a statement. I decided to make a copy of a painting from the very well known Art Deco artits, Tamara de Lampika, except with my own twist. This is the original that I chose to copy;


And this is my 36″ x 48″ version. I dressed her in hot pink for a fun pop of color!


and hung on the wall


Some closeups of room detail…ceramic buildings


I had cornices and drapery panels made to give the illusion of windows and to cover unsightly items on the wall.



A 60″ round custom banquette was made for the center of the room


Calla lillies in a silver vase…The photos of my grandparents have gone into every showhouse I have done since the 80’s!


The crystal chandeliers were a perfect fit for the room as were the decorative peacocks.

And the finished product! (photos by Wing Wong Memories TTL.)

_W1A1262-70 Sue Niblo Space 6 (from door to inside) sm

_W1A1271-78 Sue Niblo Space 6 (to painting) sm