Inspired Design

Iris Interiors – Designed by Us, Inspired by You


A Sea of Red

high school graduation

I’ve reached a milestone! The last of my three children graduated from high school last week. While I sat in the stands watching the ceremony, I noticed something striking. All of the students were wearing red graduation gowns. It was a sea of red, which obviously got me thinking about red interiors (after focusing on my daughter receiving her diploma of course!).

When used in interior design, red has the ability to bring a space to life. Depending on the shade, it can evoke a sense of warmth or impart serious drama. Whether the color is splashed on the walls, used in furniture, or sprinkled throughout a room with a handful of accessories, it definitely makes a statement. Feeling fearless? Here are some of my favorite examples of red:

The vibrant red lacquered table and mirror add glamour and contrast to the dark gray monochromatic room. It’s restrained and unexpected.

Between Audrey Hepburn and the vibrant red walls, this dining room is elegant and exciting. I can’t imagine the dinner parties are ever boring. As an added bonus, red is thought to stimulate the appetite meaning guests will be too hungry to notice if a side dish turns into a disaster.

The painting is likely the inspiration piece. When combined with red walls, a bright yellow chair and white bench, it looks crisp, contemporary and playful. Definitely not for the faint of heart!

The cool grey floor tiles and airy white are offset by unexpected red stools. The apple red seating is a quirky touch for an uplifting, whimsical kitchen.

The darker garnet red is evidence the color isn’t always bright and attention-grabbing. In fact, the red walls aren’t the focal point of the space. They are a backdrop for the global pieces and patterns in the boho chic living room.

Love the primary colors and adorable knickknacks in this nursery vignette. The red is so cheerful. A collection of red accessories doesn’t have to be limited to a nursery, however. It can energize any space.

Red even works in a more traditional kitchen. The red walnut island is sophisticated but still a show stopper. It’s understated and warm.

red bathroom

Via Lonny.

Provocative isn’t a word typically associated with bathrooms, but I think it’s an apt description for this one. The traditional pedestal sink and eclectic artwork are well suited to the red walls. The powder room is an excellent small space to experiment with daring color.

Red and black equals instant glamour. The red silk curtains are a romantic, sexy touch.

This is one of the most innovative uses of red I’ve seen. It makes the bright, open space inviting and different.

Is red part of your color scheme?

If you’re interested in a daring, unique space, Contact Iris Interiors.

Interior Designer NJ



Angry Interiors

Over the weekend I headed to Boston for a wedding. As it was my first time driving there (by myself), I blindly followed my GPS and the 4.5 hour drive turned into a 9 hour nightmare! At one point while sitting in traffic, I noticed a small truck in front of me with the words “Angry Orchard” emblazoned on the back. I’m not a hard cider drinker so I was unaware of the brand. The unexpected combination of “angry” and “orchard” struck me. When I think of an orchard the words apples, healthy, organic, family, warm pie, etc. come to mind. But angry? Not usually.

With nothing else to do but contemplate for hours upon hours, I started thinking about “angry interiors.” What would they consist of? Dark colors, industrial design, hard lines, the absence of soft accessories? Would anyone want a space that felt angry? Instead, I think a room that combines two completely contradictory styles can be interesting and elegant. To me, the name Angry Orchard conjures up a style like “rough luxe.” The concept is similar to a beautiful orchard with a bite to it.

ripped denim

J Brand jeans via Shopbop.

Purposefully torn jeans embody the idea. When done right, they’re tasteful, sexy but still a little undone and anything but frilly. Could this be pulled off through a chic chair with slashed upholstery?

industrial decor

John Pomp Studios via Dering Hall.

Industrial design definitely gives the impression of stylish rebellion. This space illustrates this with the old brick walls, exposed beams and distressed wood floors.

The stripped down aspects, like the peeling walls and scuffed wood floors, are moody and the luxurious bedding and tufted headboard are more contemporary and completely unexpected. This is the epitome of an Angry Orchard interior.

The architectural elements have been preserved and the color palette is serene, but there is a dilapidated, tough feel. The dissonance is creative and stunning.

This space is actually from the Rough Luxe Hotel. Opposites attract with glamour, modern art and soft colors mixed with the original, distressed walls and antique pieces that capture a moment in history.

This Amsterdam home is a former factory. The dining area is a mix of rustic, industrial, vintage and contemporary. The raw materials, weathered table and concrete walls paired with mismatched chairs, a gray color scheme and an opulent statement chandelier make it quirky and textured. It’s surprisingly inviting.

What do you think of unpredictable combinations? Can you reconcile opposites, like Angry Orchard or rough luxe (or I-95 north of NYC and smooth traffic)?

If you’re interested in an eclectic space with unexpected details, contact Iris Interiors.

Interior Designer NJ


Create the Perfect Mudroom

It’s still snowing in New Jersey and spring showers are soon to follow, which makes it difficult to keep muddy, wet footprints at bay. A well-designed mudroom is my favorite solution. Whether the space is its own separate room or a corner outfitted with storage, a mudroom not only keeps floors clean, it’s also an excellent way to stay organized. Need some inspiration? Look no further:

equestrian mudroom

Photo via HGTV.

An equestrian-inspired mudroom complete with cubbies for each member of the family and drawers to keep clutter out of sight.

A DIY version using crates and hooks. Perfect for a small space.

mudroom dog washing station

Photo by Peter Sellar via Houzz.

A dog washing station to prevent pets from tracking in dirt. Love the subway tile.

This rustic mudroom pulls double duty as a laundry room.

The ventilated closets allow air to circulate, ideal for storing items like rain coats or sports gear.

colorful mudroom

Photo via Houzz.

Add interest to a traditional entryway with bold color.

Choose durable flooring for this high-traffic zone. The pastels give it a whimsical feel.

Keep it simple with a bench to encourage family members to sit down and take off their shoes.

Very family and pet-friendly. The bulletin board and chalkboard ensure nothing is forgotten when running out of the house.

Don’t let any space go to waste. Turn an under stairs storage area into a mudroom with bins, hooks and a bench.

What are your musts for a mudroom?

If you’re in need of a functional, yet fun, space, contact Iris Interiors.

Interior Designer NJ


Best of Houzz 2014

I am very excited to share that Iris Interiors LLC was selected by the Houzz community as a winner of their 2014 “Best of Houzz” awards for the third year in a row! The award is based on a variety of factors including ratings and reviews by Houzz’s 11 million monthly users. Thank you for all of the support!

Check out our Houzz profile:

Houzz: Iris Interiors LLC

If you’re interested in one-of-a-kind, timeless interior design or exquisite window treatments, feel free to contact me.

Stay warm,

Interior Designer NJ


Designed by Us, Inspired by You!

Throughout 2013 I had the opportunity to work with some wonderful people and I thought I’d share an interior design project which we completed at the end of last year. When I begin revamping a space I look at the homeowners’ existing belongings so I can incorporate pieces that bring back fond memories or hold special meaning in order to tell their personal story.

In this case, the priority for my client and her husband was making some overdue home improvements while adding their own personality to their home. With two active boys and a dog, we wanted to keep the home as functional as possible. When we first met, I immediately noticed some beautiful quilts that my busy client somehow found time to make. There is nothing better than a unique handmade item, so between a favorite original painting from an Etsy artist (seen over the mantel) and her quilts, we quickly identified the inspiration for the open family room and kitchen space. Additionally, it was also important to my client to represent the boys heritage, as they were adopted from Cambodia and the Philippines. Souvenirs from their trips to bring the boys “home”, such as a beautiful tablecloth purchased during one of their travels further defined the color scheme in the dining room.

Throughout the home we carefully selected vibrant colors in combination with clean white accents or backgrounds. Each room as an interesting and beautiful “quilting block” on its own, yet as a whole to enhance each others colors and beautifully flow together.  We even carried out this theme on the exterior of the home by painting the front door red in the fashion of traditional log cabin quilts, where the red center symbolizes a warm fire inside the home. This perfectly represented the warm, close-knit family, appears inviting to guests, and added some contrast to the exterior.

Here are some before and after pictures (amateurish taken by me) of the Ringoes, NJ interior design project:

Family Room Before:

Interior Design before and after

Fireplace Before

Family Room After:

colorful family room

Notice the inspiration quilt draped over the sectional.

custom throw pillows

Custom throw pillows designed by the client.

mantel vignette

Inspiration artwork and updated fireplace.

We kept the original furniture because it was in excellent condition. The space was updated with rich color and a variety of little details.

Dining Room Before:


Tablecloth acquired on the client’s travels. (Construction has already started, as you can see in the box on the floor)

Dining Room After:

dining room design

Ringoes NJ interior design

Back of cabinet covered in orange faux silk to add contrast and interest

I love it when my clients are brave enough to go with a bold choice, such as in this new chair fabric! If you look closely, you can see the blue contrast welting we chose.

DIY wall art

Plates mostly purchased from Etsy and eBay.


We updated the mission style furniture, which appeared too stiff and formal for this fun family, by reupholstering the dining room chairs in a funky fabric, switching out the knobs on the hutch and buffet with an eclectic set from Etsy and adding orange to the back of the hutch. This complemented the new chandelier and window treatments. The color scheme was inspired by some of the ethnic pieces, including her tablecloth.  Plates were purchased to supplement items which the family had brought back from Asia, as well as support the color scheme.

Kitchen Before:

kitchen makeover


kitchen makeover

Kitchen After:

eclectic kitchen

interior design kitchen

eclectic kitchen

colorful backsplash

Wii Room Before:

messy family room

Wii Room After:

family room design

interior design nj

Playroom Before:

messy playroom

Playroom to Functional Home Office:

Home office design

And the Superman Bathroom for the Boys:

boys bathroom

superman bathroom

Hope you enjoyed! If you’re interested in a custom, unique look that conveys your personal story, call me!

Interior Designer NJ



Houlihan Interiors_Dining Room-11 (3).jpg

You can go into a store and buy a sofa. Or window treatments. In a good store, there may even be a “decorating” staff there to help you.

So why do you need a designer?  You need a designer because…

A designer is there to consider the big picture, and help you see it, too. A designer knows what comes first. That a simple, cosmetic change can pick up a whole room – or just as easily put it out of balance. And you don’t want to do that.

 A designer knows what to choose to create the right effect. When the lower cost choice will be just as good. And even more importantly, when it won’t.

A designer can take your ideas and inspiration…and turn them into a reality that is far better than you could have even imagined. Because a designer is able not only to imagine … but envision. She knows how it’s all going to look together, because she can see it. Even when you can’t.

When you hire a designer, you are working with someone whose primary interest is to create an environment that both suits and delights you. A designer is looking for your satisfaction – not her next sale. That makes a big difference in the recommendations you’re likely to get.

A designer is your insurance against shoddy workmanship. Unfortunate choices. Hours wasted looking for things you can’t find; and learning things you didn’t realize you needed to know.

When a designer says… “You should really think about that,” you should listen. Because, when it comes to creating a home you’ll love to live in, a designer knows what’s she’s talking about.

In short, a designer is part artist. Part educator. And part genie. And the reason why you should hire a designer is simple:  because it’s a very good idea.

Iris Houlihan is the owner of Iris Interiors, a boutique interior design firm specializing in residential interior design, custom window treatments, and equestrian inspired design. We help our clients express their own unique story, one design at a time. Iris lives in Central NJ, near Princeton, with her husband, children, and pets. 

Are you downsizing, updating your current home, or just purchased a new home?  Call Iris at 908.265.7688 for a complimentary phone consultation.

Houlihan Interiors_Kids Bathroom Final-24 (2).jpg


Inspiring Women in Design: Pharaoh Hatshepsut

Hatshepsut Temple

Temple of Hatshepsut. Photo via Memphis Tours.

One of the reasons I’m so passionate about interior design and architecture is that it’s so much more than technical knowledge or a skill set with practical applications. It also takes creativity, vision, and talent to design buildings and interiors that not only serve a function, but provide beautiful visuals as well. These visuals have the ability evoke a range of powerful emotions, such as joy, happiness and a sense of awe, all while telling a story. Though the fields were originally dominated by men (initially mathematicians and physicists by training; later architects who would also design the interiors including furnishings), women too have played a role in both design and architecture throughout the centuries.

One such pioneer was Hatshepsut, who became the first female pharaoh in approximately 1479 BCE and reigned during the 18th dynasty of Ancient Egypt. As a ruler she was intelligent, diplomatic, open-minded and innovative. She also happened to be a prolific and talented builder. She erected and renovated temples and shrines that included details such as the four granite obelisks at the Temple of Amun at Karnak.

Her greatest legacy is her own funerary temple, the Temple of Hatshepsut. The structure took 15 years to complete and building began seven years into her reign. Though Senenmut, her most trusted loyal servant and (most likely) lover, is credited as having been the chief architect, I believe that Hatshepsut provided a lot of direction and input for the design considering her position and their close relationship.

Hatshepsut’s Temple is one of the best examples of a rock cut tomb and the first of it’s kind, expressing the unique architectural trend of the New Kingdom, which moved away from traditional pyramids. The temple consists of three colonnaded terraces with wide ramps on the center axis. By placing the ramp or causeway directly in the middle of the whole structure, perfect symmetry is achieved. The free standing square columns on each of the three tiers is the first use of columns not solely for practical reasons, but also to provide visual interest and decoration, which became common in structures after this one. The equally distributed light colored columns and dark spaces in between provide a mathematical rhythm that draws attention to the horizontal lines, while the causeway and the three tiers set against mountains draw the eyes up. The visual upward movement and tiers have symbolic meanings as well, with the lowest tier representing the pharaoh’s divine birth; the middle tier showing the pharaoh’s greatest acts as ruler; and the top tier connecting the pharaoh to the god Osiris and serving as the transition into heaven.

Temple of Hatshepsut

Photo via Trip Advisor.

Originally, individual gardens, comprised of flowers and vegetation from both upper and lower Egypt,  lined either side of the causeway on the second tier. This is the first known use of landscape architecture. The temple resonates with me, because it is more than an ancient tomb. It tells the story of Hatshepsut herself. My own design philosophy revolves around telling the client’s story. The mortuary temple reflects so many “firsts” and is truly innovative and inspiring.

While the temple is thousands of years old, it has influenced contemporary architecture and design. Frank Lloyd Wright, for example, was inspired by the strong lines and dramatic design. His iconic Robie House was constructed using multiple horizontal planes (his trademark). In the dining room, he designed tall vertical dining chairs to balance the visual effect.

Frank Lloyd Wright Robie House

Robie House. Photo via Boca do Lobo.

Robie House Dining Room

Robie House dining room. Photo via Modern Art with Professor Blanchard.

Could Hatshepsut possibly have imagined that even today decorative columns are a popular design element? It does remind us of the endless opportunities possible in architecture and interior design. Decorative elements, when utilized in the right way, can be timeless and sophisticated, fit for a King or the average person like us, modern (illustrated by Frank Lloyd Wright), traditional as shown below, or anything in between.

So the next time you see columns I hope you will pause for just a second and think about what an amazing person Pharaoh Hatshepsut must have been. And if you want to create your own unique look in your home that tells your amazing story, call me or one of my talented Interior Designer colleagues!

Be inspired,

 Interior Designer NJ