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


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.


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.”


Style Files: French Eclectic

Even if you’ve never set foot in France, it’s hard not to be drawn to the stunning, classic style. While we often think of French country or more opulent designs, French Eclectic melds formal and casual, dramatic and inviting, and past and present. If you’re drawn to antiques, the feminine curves of 18th century French furniture, classical Renaissance architecture, and rustic elements, yet still like to infuse your space with a chic modern sensibility and unexpected accessories, the French Eclectic style may resonate with you. Here’s a primer:

Louis XV furniture

Photo from flickr via Elle Decor.

This style often uses a light airy backdrop to allow certain pieces, such as this 1940’s chandelier, to act as a focal point. Louis XV-style chairs and a stool are updated with animal print. The faded, antique rug pulls the neutral color scheme together, while the ottoman (circa 1850) is a nod to the past. The curved shapes of the classic furniture are balanced nicely with the clean lines of the couch. As in any eclectic design, various eras and aesthetics are combined, such as the addition of a gallery wall comprised of American pressed botanicals.

This is the epitome of an eclectic space. The Louis Ghost chair is a modern classic and plays off of the aesthetic of the classic Louis XV armchair. When it comes to space planning with this style, conversation areas are a must, as illustrated above. The floor, distressed woods, and pops of white French country-inspired furniture are rustic touches. Antiques and flea-market finds are an important element and this room definitely gives the impression that its evolved over time. The chandelier is elegant, creating contrast with the more relaxed atmosphere.

This master bathroom falls more under Parisian chic than French countryside. Gold accents are another element of French Eclectic style. The refined mirror, a 19th century antique, and the beautiful chandelier both hail from France. To the left (not pictured) is a decidedly modern glassed enclosed shower. The two distinct styles are harmonized through the use of marble. which blends perfectly with the six-foot white tub.

French antiques

Photo via Creative Outpour.

Antique gold mirrors, classic furniture, and a sparkling chandelier are reminiscent of French royalty. As with most spaces decorated in the French Eclectic style, the walls are neutral, think white, grey, and creams. While a sedate color scheme is often accented with warm reds and golds, this space puts a twist on the theme with pale blues and greens.

French Eclectic interior design

Photo via

For those who don’t like the gilded look, wood-framed furniture in this style is often left untouched and natural or painted white. The vintage French sofa, rustic floors, modern floor lamp, and industrial style side table are a true cohesive mix of styles and texture. For a bohemian look, combine high and low accents. The easel gives it an inviting and artistic feel. Don’t be afraid to bring materials like wrought-iron in to the space to bring more over-the-top pieces down to earth.

Eclectic interior design

Photo via Anatomical Heart.

Classic French antique armchairs are paired with an antique rug, a modern table, and eclectic artwork. The funky chandelier is a surprising feature. The space also uses warm accent colors typically seen in the French countryside, such as yellow, orange, and red.

Vintage modern interior

Photo via Skonahem.

If you’re going to go eclectic, there’s nothing wrong with going bold. The hot pink chaise and combination of floral and pink fabrics makes this French Eclectic interior fun and unique. Modern elements are paired with French antiques, a stunning chandelier, and gold accents, making it quirky luxe.

Do you identify with this style? Which are your favorite spaces?


Secret Doors and Hidden Passageways

Hidden rooms

Photo via Pictify.

Hidden passageways and secret doors always seem magical. Hence, generations of children’s (and adults’) fascination with The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Whether it’s an armoire that opens into a playroom or a bookcase that gives way to a relaxing reading room, there’s something cozy about a secret space.

To see “31 Beautiful Hidden Rooms and Secret Passages,” check out Buzzfeed’s compilation.


Have a Pint! English Pub-Style Basements

English pubs, or public houses, have been the nucleus of communities, particularly in villages, for centuries. Patrons gather to socialize, enjoy a pint of ale or their favorite spirits, eat, and perhaps play a game of darts or billiards. The history of the pub can be traced back to Roman taverns. Through the years, the traditional pub has become an architectural gem. Low ceilings, layers of dark wood and stone, soft lighting, classic decor, and roaring fires, make these establishments a cozy escape from the world.

Many homeowners have opted to bring a taste of history home by fashioning a basement bar inspired by the old English pub. Vintage elements, leather furniture, lots of texture, and rich, dark colors are combined to create the classic appeal. Here is some inspiration to help you carve out your own spot for entertaining: British-style.

The dark wood and tin ceiling tiles epitomize the English Pub vibe. The fully-stocked bar allows liquor bottles and barware to serve as accessories. The vintage wall decor lining the beam evokes pubs of the past. For another view of this space see below:

The wall color, ornate pool table, and light brown leather couches contrast perfectly with the dark wood ceiling beams and bar. Love the watering hole, game room, library mix.

English style pub basement

Photo via ENJOY Co.

A rustic take on the traditional pub. Wood, a fireplace, distressed leather chairs, and a cowhide rug offer a comfortable atmosphere. The mantel is made of vintage metal and hand painted to look like stone.

Whether it’s a dartboard or a pool table, games are common in pubs. This Irish/English-style pub basement is fun for all ages. The combination of wood and brick and the adorable sign feel authentic.

A cheery, updated version of an English pub. Behind the bar is a fully-equipped summer kitchen for entertaining. Tarnished tin ceiling tiles and pendant lights warm up the space. The distressed walls and vintage wooden door give the polished basement some energy.

English Pub Basement

Photo via Hendel Homes.

Carve out a corner of the basement for a pub-style getaway. The stone arch, dark wood, and soft lighting create a space that transports you back in time. The traditional bar stools feature amazing craftsmanship.

Basement Design

Photo via Dennis Foote.

A vintage phone booth is a quirky addition to the brick basement pub.

This English pub/wine bar inspired basement features rich colors. A hand-carved, 18th century griffin is prominently displayed and acts as a focal point in the traditional design.

Interested in introducing some elements of English pub design into your home? Here are a few products to spark your creativity:

wooden pub stool

Oak and leather Pub Stool available at Iris Interiors Shop.

DIY tin ceiling

Antique copper PVC ceiling tile available at Ceiling Tiles By Us.

Engraved pint glass

Personalized engraved English pub glass available at
Home Wet Bar.

Leather Tufted Sofa

London Chesterfield Sofa available at Iris Interiors Shop.

Pub lighting

Murray Feiss Wrought Iron Bowl Pendant from the Pub Collection available at Lighting Direct.


Are You Brave Enough?

As seen in our last post, vibrant color can change the look of an entire space. One color often deemed too “girly,” is pink. While pink is associated with femininity, it’s perfect for summer and the right patterns, textures, and accessories can balance the hue. Take pink from a little girl’s room to the living room in a way that is grown-up and sophisticated, but fun. Do you dare to go pink?

Overdyed Rug

Photo via double g.

The vintage, rich pink rug serves as a focal point against white furniture and walls and imbues the eclectic space with a shot of glamor. The dark floors and black coffee table contrast perfectly.

Pink and red color scheme

Photo via Miles Redd.

Designer Miles Redd used pink to create a delicate touch, yet balances it with a dark, red tufted couch and metallic frames.

Light pink walls, once popular in historical homes, add a jolt to this living room. Black and gold accents prevent the color from appearing too candy coated. Traditional furniture appears aristocratic against the pink.

Geometric Fabric

Photo via Marcus Williams.

Add depth and lessen the frill-factor of a pink sofa with bold prints. These fabrics, from Stout Brothers’ new Marcus Williams’ division, tone down the rose shade and introduce a contemporary feel through geometric and Scandinavian-inspired textiles.

Eclectic living room

Photo via Elle Decor.

Muted pink walls can act as a neutral in an eclectic home. The color works perfectly with the classic elements, antiques, and more masculine wood floors. While some may think black is harsh against soft colors, the black frames actually bring elegance into the space.

Grey living room

Photo via Abigail Ahern.

Use hot pink for an unexpected twist. The charcoal walls aren’t depressing when a hot pink coffee table is thrown into the mix.

Have you used pink in interior design? How do you keep it from calling Barbie to my mind?