Inspired Design

Iris Interiors – Designed by Us, Inspired by You


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


The Cat Killed the Christmas Tree!

Yesterday morning we awoke to a loud crash when our Christmas tree was knocked down and tons of ornaments shattered.  We narrowed it down to two possible culprits (two out of five cats – the dog confirmed she didn’t do it!). After a quick trip to the local drug store we managed to find some very basic replacement ornaments, which will unfortunately have to suffice for this year’s Christmas.

I guess this will be a good reason to come up with a totally new tree design for next year!


The tree is back up.  Interrogation of the suspects to continue…


When is the last time you changed your holiday decor including the color scheme?

Happy Holidays,

Iris Interiors

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Happy St. Nikolaus Day!

Happy St. Nikolaus Day! According to the German tradition, children (and perhaps some adults) put out their Nikolaus-Stiefel, or Nikolaus boot, last night. Those who were good woke up this morning to a shoe full of treats provided by Nikolaus himself. Hope everyone is continuing to enjoy the holiday season.

Iris Interiors


Headboard Alternatives to Make a Dull Bed Divine

Guest room

It’s cold outside making it the perfect time of year to hit the snooze button an extra time (or two) to avoid leaving your warm bed in the mornings. A beautiful bed makes it even more fun!  The above headboard was constructed using reclaimed wood and two sconces from Pottery Barn. For additional inspiration, check out the following post and pictures from Houzz:

Headboard Alternatives to Make a Dull Bed Divine.

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DIY Decorating Horror Stories


Photo via

Halloween is fast approaching and everyone loves a good horror story. But this year we’re not talking ghost tales or Freddy Krueger. Instead, we’re focusing on DIY design horror stories! Here are a few from readers that will make your hair stand on end:

Stepbrothers bunk bed fail

Via Gif Bin.


The bedroom in my first off-campus apartment in college was tiny. To save space, I decided to purchase a loft bed so that I could place my desk underneath. My sole task was to measure the room. I don’t remember if I actually measured the room, or perhaps I didn’t do it correctly. I guess I thought all ceilings were pretty much the same height. After a trip to Ikea, my mom and I returned to my apartment to set up the furniture. We put together the bed, which was no easy feat, only to find that the mattress was approximately an inch from the ceiling. There was no way I could fit up there.

Ikea didn’t allow returns for this particular piece and we were stuck. My mom is extremely handy so we sawed a few inches off of the legs. The final product was wobbly and I have an irrational fear of heights. It wasn’t a good combination. I tried to sleep up there but eventually gave in, bought a futon, and squeezed it into the space. I slept on the futon for my remaining two years of college.


My mother created a drop ceiling using plain white tiles. She wanted the tiles to have texture so she removed them and painted them using a thick texture paint. When she put the tiles back in place, she discovered the paint had added too much weight and part of the ceiling came crashing down.


A few years ago I moved into an older house. The baseboards and trim in the bedroom looked a little dingy. I didn’t have much experience with painting at the time and didn’t use a primer as I was simply painting white over white. When I was finished, the room looked refreshed and I was happy. However, I was unaware that the previous owners had used oil paint. My latex paint apparently didn’t adhere properly and the paint started peeling. My hard work went right down the drain. Eventually I called in a professional.

For even more DIY horror stories check out the hilarious blog Pinstrosity, which chronicles failed attempts at recreating DIY projects found on Pinterest. Here’s an excellent example from one of their posts:

The Original Pin:

DIY decorations

Photo and tutorial via Hostess with the Mostess Blog.

The Finished Project:

DIY disaster

Photo via Pinstrosity.

Have you experienced any DIY disasters?

Feel free to contact me if you’d like to remedy any mistakes or avoid decorating disasters altogether!

Iris Interiors


Avoid Design Disasters!

Window treatment scale

Window treatments done right! Photo from Coco + Kelley via David Collins, who sadly passed away.

Window treatment mistakes

Either they didn’t order enough fabric or fell into the short curtain trap! Photo via Artistry Interiors, LLC.

Mistakes in interior design can be extremely costly, which is why in the long run hiring an interior designer can actually be a cost-effective option. Even the most well thought out plans occasionally go wrong and a professional has the experience to deal with the unexpected and remedy issues quickly. I ran across an excellent article on Huffington Post that outlines how to dodge common pitfalls and stay away from just plain design don’ts. Take a look at “How to Avoid Decorating Disasters.”


Germany: Inspiring Exteriors

Your front door is one of the first things that people see when they approach your house. It tells guests a little bit about your personality, your home, and can make a stunning first impression. On my recent trip to Germany, I couldn’t help but notice the incredible doors, flower boxes, and windows, ranging from ornate to rustic. Enjoy my photos:

Beautiful Front Door

Photo by Iris Interiors LLC.

Gorgeous blue door. Love the texture and pattern.

German Architecture

Photo by Iris Interiors LLC.

A close-up of a decorated door.

Wernigerode Germany

Photo by Iris Interiors LLC.

Hand-carved front entrance along a shopping street in Wernigerode, Germany.

German Architecture

Photo by Iris Interiors LLC.

A green exterior door with window details in Wernigerode, Germany.

German Design

Photo by Iris Interiors LLC.

Ornate hinges.

Entrance flowers

Photo by Iris Interiors LLC.

Flower boxes and a unique door create a welcoming entrance.

German Architecture

Photo by Iris Interiors LLC.

Blue and white door with pops of primary colors and painted design.

House Number

Photo by Iris Interiors LLC.

An inscription above a door in Bad Sachsa listing the owners/residents as well as the year the house was built (1750)

German Design

Photo by Iris Interiors LLC.

Brown front door with more hand-painted patterns.

Traditional German House

Photo by Iris Interiors LLC.

A traditional house with a decorated window.

Yellow Mailbox

Photo by Iris Interiors LLC.

An old-fashioned mailbox in the traditional yellow color (postal vehicles are also yellow).

German window boxes.

Photo by Iris Interiors LLC.

A rainbow of flowers make this home in the Harz Mountains stand out.

Which one is your favorite? How do you add interest to the entrance of your home?