26 Oct 2016

Why Your Teenager Wants a Black Room

Yes, teenagers were put here to test us. In fact that is their modus operandi. It is a near decade and sometimes more of fierce individuation that helps us grown-ups work on the virtue of patience.

Naturally, the best course of action is to pick your battles. Your son got his license yesterday and wants to take the car loaded with half a dozen pals across the country to a massive music festival? Maybe not. He’d like to quit school and start a garage band? Probably no. But he wants to turn his room into a black cave so he can brood over these injustices? Why not? It’s only paint.

Here are a few more reasons why they might want black:

1. As self-expression becomes more important, kids — especially tweens and teens — search for ways to make a statement and stand out in a crowd.

2. A desire to maintain control.

3. Black makes them feel less vulnerable, forming a protective shield and anonymity around them, private and safe.

Besides, black walls are current and chic. Style aficionados like J Crew’s Jenna Lyons are painting their rooms black. It is the ultimate in cool, what teenager doesn’t want that? And it looks great with classic white or wood furniture and all kinds of graphic posters and concert memorabilia imaginable. Balance it with a light graphic area rug, lots of white textiles and some reflective surfaces. Add a pile of clothes and some casually stashed electronics and voila, the perfect disheveled cool.

killamBlack is all cool and reserve yet black rooms certainly have drama. But since it is technically neutral, it is not as intense and fatiguing as say a scarlet red or hot pink room.

While it can be heavy and require some visual balancing, it is surprisingly easy going and works well with neutral tones, pales and brights alike. It mingles well with all kinds of wood tones and warm and cool metallics too.

Black chalkboard or magnetic paint on one wall can also be a compromise and then it’ll get covered with posters anyway!

You can actually have a lot of fun decorating a black room. But, ahem, of course you will want to leave most of that to your fiercely opinionated teenager.


The teen years are somewhat of a chrysalis, a heavy black cocoon to shut out the overstimulation of the world and focus on her budding inner life might be just what’s called for. It is her private space and if you hate the way it looks, close the door.

But you might find that it makes you want to watch French movies and dress like Kate Moss.

Maria Killam is the Founder and CEO of Understanding Undertones. She is a decorator, author, speaker and internationally sought after colour expert. Transform the way you see colour at mariakillam.com

15 Oct 2016

Fall Festivities – Wow Without Breaking the Bank for Halloween and Thanksgiving

You can sense the seasons already changing as the air feels more crisp and the leaves start to turn those beautiful warm colors. Oh so I hear, since we just experienced record breaking heat in Southern California and we are getting ready for another Indian Summer.  Although us SoCal residents may not be changing out our summer clothes for boots and sweaters just yet, that doesn’t mean we do not get into the festive mindset.  Making some minor edits to your home to embrace the Fall season doesn’t have to be cumbersome or expensive.  Below are some great things I’m seeing done that will get you into the Fall spirit.

Pumpkins, Pumpkins and more Pumpkins

The easiest way to set the mood for a great Halloween or Thanksgiving party is to add multiple pumpkins to your décor.  They come in all different sizes and colors so layering and mixing and matching can be done easily.  You can add larger pumpkins to your front entrance to set the tone right as your guests arrive to your home.  In lieu of flowers, use smaller pumpkins to create a centerpiece or use mini pumpkins on your table setting to create an entire look.  Your fireplace mantel is another great spot to spruce up for Halloween and Thanksgiving as it is usually the center of your living space.  You also don’t have to settle with the color orange.  You can glam up your pumpkin using white and gold paint or get creative and start drawing or adding text to your pumpkins. What’s great about adding pumpkins to your home decor is that you can turn it into a fun family experience by visiting your local pumpkin patch.  You can also make an activity out of it with the kids and do some pumpkin carving.  So many great ideas can come from a simple pumpkin!







Another great way to instantly turn your home into a festive Fall environment is by adding plaid throughout the home.  You can start off by incorporating plaid into your kitchen with linens and kitchen towels.  Add it to your table setting by using a plaid runner or fabric napkins for an instant pop.  If you want to take it a step further, you can easily change up your decorative pillows, window treatments and throw blankets.  This will completely change the look of your formal and living room without breaking the bank. Move into the bedrooms and add some plaid bedding.  Bathroom towels are also an easy fix!  Below are some fantastic things I’ve seen done with plaid.






Fun Appetizer

Because I’m a foodie, and you’ll need to keep those bellies happy during the colder months, below is one of my favorite recipes from shewearsmanyhats.com. It’s tasty, easy and festive! Enjoy and Fall in love with decorating your home… pun intended.



  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • Caramel Sauce
  • Toffee bits
  • Slices apples, pears, pretzels for serving


  • Place cream cheese on a serving dish. Pour as much caramel sauce as you want evenly over cream cheese. Sprinkle with a generous helping of toffee bits.
  • Serve with sliced apples, pears, or pretzels.




26 Sep 2016
14 Sep 2016

How to let the kids get involved in decorating their room…and keep it tasteful

I believe a child’s room is their personal space, while your house is technically your personal space where you entertain your family and friends.  If you let your child decide on the wall color, instead of this tasteful green that my nephews bedroom ended up being painted, it might have been a neon green.

Usually, a kid will choose a bright, screaming color in much the same way as adults do if we don’t know how a 2″ paint chip will look once it’s painted on all four walls.
Don’t trust the pretty paint chip. Know that the color you choose will end up twice as bright and light once it’s up.

Here are 5 steps to keeping your child involved (but still keeping it tasteful):

1. Find the bedding first.

Before you cringe and paint your child’s room that neon pink, purple or orange, they’ve just chosen, go shopping with them for bedding. It’s much easier for both of you to agree on the final wall color if it simply coordinates with the bedding or artwork you’ve purchased first, before the painter arrives. This ends any unnecessary debate because it makes the color choice obvious.


2. Get creative with storage to keep floor space for games and toys.

After the bunk bed was installed for my two nephews, William and Markus, we had space beside the built-in bookshelf for a reading corner. They love greens and blues, so I found the elephant art along with the blue ottoman and green pouf for this corner. It leaves the rest of the floor space open for their city of Legos. William loves storing all his special collectables underneath his bed in the two drawers.


3. Don’t forget lamps.

If you count, you’ll see that there are seven lights in this room (including the string of lights on the wall above the bunkbed). The kids turn every single one of them on when they play in here because they love the atmosphere ambient lighting provides. I truly am a lamp tramp and this bedroom is proof!


4. Paint the furniture.

Mix up the look of your furniture by painting a dresser an accent color. Miraculously, we found this on Craigslist, already painted the exact color found in their duvets so we were lucky, but an old dresser looks amazing with a fresh coat of paint.


5. Be involved in choosing your child’s artwork.

What makes this room look tasteful is the elephant picture with the blue ottoman. It creates a fun and colorful focal point. Then when your kids hang up random posters and calendars, there’s still a place for the eye to go even among all the random stuff. Markus and William chose the Big Hero 6 print along with the Minions art when mom was out and about at the supermarket with them. And they love the ‘death star’ light from IKEA.

killam_sep_8    killam_sep_9


When your children are involved it can be a happy and colorful collaboration!

08 Sep 2016

Leaf Rubbings for the Whole Family

If you’re looking for a simple, fun activity for weekday afternoons before all the leaves turn crunchy, leaf rubbings are an easy way to bring the outdoors in. The best part? You and your child can arrange your creations in all sorts of ways to create beautiful, easy to print “art!”

For simple leaf rubbings that your child can hang on the wall or save in a special ‘observations’ journal, all you need are…

  • A few stiff leaves
  • Tissue paper or vellum
  • Colored pencils or crayons
  • A special place to keep them


Some things to keep in mind before you get started:

  • The stiffer the leaf, the better, because soft leaves don’t produce very prominent rubbings
  • The thinner the paper, the more detailed the rubbing
  • You don’t have to press hard, but you might have to lightly go over the same part of the leaf a few times. Pressing too hard will tear the tissue paper
  • Always rub the back of the leaf (The front is too smooth for a proper rubbing)


If you want to create printable photographs, there are lots of ways to do it. In this case, we lay the rubbings and leaves in different arrangements on a piece of large canvas to create an interesting background texture, and then snapped an iPhone picture from above. Imagine how pretty a picture like that would look with your child’s signature along the bottom.

Added perk – these are very inexpensive to produce and make great gifts!

The possibilities are endless, so have fun!

30 Aug 2016
27 Aug 2016

Does Mud Need a Room?

Mudrooms have become a status symbol today, like driving a Range Rover or wearing expensive British rain boots. How many of us actually drive across our country estates and wade through the wet marshes to return to the manor covered in mud? But we do have backpacks, coats, sporting equipment, dance shoes, keys, permission papers, gifts – I could go on, but I know your share my pain.

Everyday clutter tends to land in our doorways. Sometimes I come home to piles of shoes, jackets and backpacks right in the doorway, and while this is helpful to see who is home (I have 5 children) and how many extra children have gathered in my house that day, it is a hazard and more clutter than I want to deal with on a daily basis.

I have addressed doorway clutter in my home by creating easily accessible coat hooks in our back hall with baskets underneath for shoes. Backpacks, lunch boxes, keys and papers go onto shelves in a back hall closet. I can ring an old, antique cowbell I keep in my front hall for just such occasions and point to the pile and everybody knows what to do with their belongings. Once you set up the system, your child can maintain it; he might need an occasional reminder. I reserve my cowbell for just such occurrences.

Yes Spaces interior design by Barbara Miller

Yes Spaces interior design by Barbara Miller

Mud does NOT require a whole room: look for a corner, a hallway or an empty wall in your laundry room. Use any space close to the direct path of entry to your home. When families ask me to design mud rooms for them in a space they have in a remote corner of the house, I know those rooms will not be successful. I point out how far they would have to travel each time they come and go and I point out where the shoes, car seats and backpacks were currently deposited. They form a trail like breadcrumbs from the front door to the kitchen. When I see piles of belongings with no home, I know the homeowner is not messy; rather, their house is not serving them. A mud room is a way to serve how your family functions on a daily basis. So choose any space close to the direct path of entry to your home. You will have much more success in maintain your organizational system if it is right in front of everyone’s eyes and easy to reach.

Yes Spaces interior design by Barbara Miller

Yes Spaces interior design by Barbara Miller

You don’t need to have an English country estate to feel good when you come home to an organized space, with accessible storage for the things you need every day. You can begin and end your day without the frenzied Easter egg hunt for that second soccer shoe. Of course, an estate would be OK too!

24 Aug 2016

Ready. Set. Go

It’s Back-to-School time.

Are you ready? Are you + yours set up for success?

It’s always a good idea to think ahead to get properly prepared for the new school schedule and activities.  We all get the long lists of back-to-school supplies, but in addition to getting their backpacks filled with everything they need, here are a few suggestions to get a little more organized and have some fun in the process.

For those of you with preschoolers + young ones, do yourself a favor and head to an art/craft store to purchase a large portfolio or make your own like the one below (your little ones can help decorate).  Portfolios are perfect for stowing all their artwork + memorable school work. Plus you won’t have all those piles of paper stacking up on your kitchen table.


For those with older school-age kiddos, you can plan ahead by setting up a homework station before school begins. Get them involved in putting together a work area at their desks in their rooms … or wherever the after-school work and organization happens.

desk           round table

I like both of these portable ideas.  A tray or caddy contains all of the essentials needed for after-school work. Be sure to include extra lined paper, plain paper, pencils, pencil sharpener, markers, index cards, glue sticks, scissors, rulers… try to remember all those essentials you ran around the house looking for last year. Having a portable station is a perfect solution to keep all the resources contained in one spot, and you get the added bonus of being able to move it to wherever the homework is happening.


caddy2              caddy1

(Check out these great caddy ideas from Lemons, Lavender and Laundry and The House of Smiths)


In addition to the portfolio + portable homework station ideas, I scouted more back-to-school DIY inspiration for you. There are so many great ways to get your kids excited for the new school year and prepared – all at the same time.  I love these simple ideas for personalizing pencil pouches + notebooks.  Your kids will love the chance to create their own personalized graphic notebook …(or many different ones, maybe a different color theme for each subject).  They are both fun DIY projects for all ages.


pencil pouch              notebook      notebook2


Sharpies + shapes = instant colorful coolness to a pencil pouch.  Or, create a graphic statement on notebooks by using tape and paints…or, use magazines + glue to create a collage cover for a notebook. Click on the links for the DIY how-to. Whatever way you choose to prepare for the new school year ahead, here’s wishing you great success + some creative fun along the way!



19 Aug 2016

Personalizing Backpacks

Back-to -School is always bittersweet in my family.  We’ve enjoyed the looser summer schedule, more free time to spend outdoors, a (mostly) relaxing family vacation, and the opportunity for the kids to follow their extracurricular passions in camp. But when the end of summer rolls around, we are all ready for the return to structure, and the children are excited to reconnect with friends and meet their new teachers.  We get our list of school supplies and shop the week before, buy some new clothes and if backpacks need replacing, we buy new ones, and label EVERYTHING.  That got me thinking about making their bookbags unique and recognizable, how they love personalizing their things, and fitting it all in one last summer afternoon craft session.

I invited friends of my son and daughter to come to the Trim Queen studio for an afternoon of backpack decorating. I bought a few plain ones and they brought ones they wanted to embellish.  As happens when kids create, there is no hesitation to digging right in.


 Reese and Roger draw their button designs.

Roger masters the button-making machine and Reese is ready to pin her backpack!

Roger masters the button-making machine and Reese is ready to pin her backpack!

The little kids went right for the button-making machine. I borrowed it from Wilton’s teacher Holly as I’d seen the success of her “button table” at local craft fairs. It’s so easy! First you make your drawing in the paper circle, then you layer the metal circular mold, artwork and mylar, and press the machine and it sucks up into the shaft of the button press.  Then you rotate to the second shaft and add in the pin mold, press again, and voila! it’s a real, professional button!  They wanted to do it again and again. Wilton said, “It’s like seeing my name in lights!” (He just finished his first theater workshop and has the drama bug).


We made a ribbon “R” for Roger and ironed on a “W” for Wilton. Reese proudly models her colorful new creation.

The older girls stood at my work table with their backpacks as canvases, layering trimmings, pompoms, ribbons, buttons, tassels, and consulted with one another like real pros. They used hot glue to affix the embellishments, and stitched down the corners to secure the edges.  I was so preoccupied with the little ones that the girls didn’t get much help from me, but turns out they didn’t need it.  I love how these turned out!  Each one unique and apropos to their personality.  My daughter Giovanna gets “annoyed” with my trim-centric sensibility but this afternoon her sophisticated design really made me a #proudmomma.


Giovanna and Zia work away!

What you will need:

  • Backpack
  • Trimmings: ribbons, tassels, pompoms etc.
  • Scissors
  • Needle & Thread
  • Iron
  • Hot Glue
  • Badges or Iron on letters
  • Button Making Machine (buy or borrow)
  • Paper
  • Markers or colored pencils
  • Stickers (optional)

Of course you can decorate with whatever is on hand, using your backpack as a blank canvas.  Please share photos if your children enjoy this craft, I’d love to see how they express their creativity. Tag it #TrimQueen #BackPackArt.

I hope your summer has been enriching and relaxed, and getting back-to-school is an easy, joyful transition.

Happy crafting!

18 Aug 2016

Back to School, Organizing for a Successful Year

Although it seems as if summer just started, it is already that time of year where those skin kissed kids need to get ready to head back to school.  I know they don’t want to hear it, but as parents we are already preparing and maybe even a little excited to get them out of the house again.  Whether your kids are heading off to college or entering a new school year, preparing can be a fun and collaborative time spent together.  With one daughter in college and one who just graduated college, I have some great experiences on how to organize for a successful year. Below are my tips and items you can implement in your home and lifestyle.

The perfect workspace

If you have room in your home to create a workspace for your kids, do it!  Just like adults who may work from home, your kids need a place that inspires a creative mind.  The workspace does not need to be limited to a desk, although there are some great desk options available.  Below are some phenomenal workspaces for kids or even adults.



Click the image to learn more about creating this cool workspace.


A great option for small spaces!

A great option for small spaces!


Check out this and other creative options for creating unique workspaces both you and your kids will love.

Check out this and other creative options for creating unique workspaces both you and your kids will love.


Two's company...check out this great idea by Coco Lapine Design.

Two’s company…check out this great idea by Coco Lapine Design.


Whether they're heading to pre-school or pre-med, the right space can inspire creativity!  Check out some of my favorites from Brit + Co.

Whether they’re heading to pre-school or pre-med, the right space can inspire creativity! Check out some of my favorites from Brit + Co.


Desk Organization

With new stores and new online retailers popping up every day, it’s easier than ever to stay organized within your workspace.  Even fashion companies like Kate Spade and interior designers like Nate Berkus are joining in on the fun with their own line of office supplies.  The same way you organize your kitchen or your closet, keeping your things tidy will help you be more effective in your studies or work.  Below are some great desktop organizers, drawer organizers, storage boxes and beyond.


Back2School5               Back2School13Back2School4Back2School3