Essential Elements of Interior Design: Contemporary Powder Room

When I see a well-designed space that I viscerally respond to, I deconstruct what I see to understand what it is I find so appealing. It is the same thing that I teach my new clients to do as we go through the style discovery process together. I hope I can teach my clients to see the elements that make up successful and satisfying design.

In the image of this dramatic bath, I find appealing the contrast created by the dark gray geometric shape with light and dark shapes created by lighting. They are well-proportioned, geometrical shapes. The photo incorporates dynamic symmetry, and the concept of the golden section.
The definition of golden section, or golden mean, is “the division of a line so that the whole is to the greater part as that part is to the smaller part (i.e., in a ratio of 1 to 1/2 (√5 + 1)), a proportion that is considered to be particularly pleasing to the eye.”

Human beings find this dynamic symmetry inherently attractive and pleasing. The relationship between the sides of the golden rectangle is 1 to 1.68. These are principles of symmetry successfully used by Greeks in buildings of their design.

Notre Dame and the Parthenon are built using the golden mean. Human faces are in golden section proportions. The more proportioned, the more attractive we find a particular face.

In this design, there’s a deliberate repetition of one particular shape – the rectangle. The wall is light gray marble with a mirror. There’s a sense of depth, which is created by color and its different shades, color and the play of light creates depth. Taken together, these four elements: mirror, vanity, wall and accents, look rich and intriguing. The vanity serves as a base for a beautifully constructed visual presentation. It is a stage for beautiful shapes – understated, yet sophisticated.

The sink is high polished stainless steel by Callista, and is proportioned correctly for the overall effect. To me, the proportion of the faucet is just a bit small. It’s a missed opportunity for more of a statement. I would use a black faucet to heighten the contrast with the white marble countertop, and stain the white oak floors a darker color.

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Recent Happenings at Larisa McShane and Associates

We are excited to tell you about the recognitions we’ve received from a variety of sources these past few months:
Our “Teenager’s Dream Bedroom” won a 2016 Interior Design Award from the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Pennsylvania East Chapter. Thank you to the judges and to the ASID for the honor.

Larisa Mcshane
Teenager’s Dream Bedroom, Project by Larisa McShane and Associates

Also, has awarded Larisa McShane and Associates a “Best of Houzz 2016” Service Award for client satisfaction for the third year in a row. And, proving that the language of design is truly universal, our remodel of a teenager’s dream bedroom was recently featured in a Houzz Ideabook on futuristic spaces – in Russian!

Here’s the article in its entirety; the photos are fun, even if you can’t read Cyrillic:

You can see our entire portfolio on

Finally, we are pleased to be included in the Build Direct “The 15 Best Interior Designers in Philadelphia.”

We invite you to follow us on Facebook for all the latest news about Larisa McShane and Associates.

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Essential Elements of Interior Design:Pebble Beach Dining Room

 By Larisa McShane

To the untrained eye, it’s often difficult to understand why a room design works so well. Intuitively, you know it does. There’s something inherently pleasing about it; you want to spend time in the space, you feel inspired, and comfortable being there.To help you to really understand why you feel a certain way in a space, you can dissect the design elements that went into creating it.

Take a look at this room…It gives off an airy, refined, sophisticated vibe, while still retaining casual.

Pebble Beach Residence contemporary dining room
Doug Dun / BAR Architects

Glance at the photo and you’ll see that the breezy, airy feel comes from the large opening to the outside, as well as the large open window to the kitchen. Look closer and you’ll notice that even in the doorway to the kitchen, the transom allows light and air to pass through. The high ceiling gives a sense of expansion upwards, as the wood planks recede into the sky. However the ceiling fixture drops down in two tiers, closing in the space, and bringing an intimacy to the dining table.

The refined sophistication is created by the consistent repetition of geometric elements with a variation of scale across all the surfaces. The lighting fixture consists of rectangular shapes, which is mimicked by the rectangular tiles in the floor. The contrasting grout on the wall brings out the rectangular shapes of the wall tiles.

You might also sense that the dining room table feels ungrounded in the space -like it’s sitting alone in too large of a space. Placing an area rug under the dining room table, or a contrasting tile design which overflows under the table,  would give the table more emphasis in the room and a solid visual base to rest on.

As you think about the re-design of your home, look at photos of spaces which appeal to you and ask yourself these questions: How does this space make me feel? Which design elements evoke those feelings? How can I use those design elements to create the mood I am looking for?

Larisa McShane and Associates is an award winning full service interior design firm in Villanova, PA.  For more personalized ideas, call us to schedule our signature personal style discovery at  610-772-0445 or visit


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Five Ways To Make Your Living room More Exciting

                                  By Larisa McShane

What is the first thing people notice when they walk into your living room? Is it the striking piece of artwork, your impressive fireplace, or is it the TV on a blank wall? A focal point in any room is the element which attracts interest and attention, it is the thing that makes your guests stop and say “wow”, it inspires an interesting conversation. You can use a focal point to make the room more exciting, it is a wonderful way to bring balance and cohesion to a room. The easiest way to create a focal point in a room is to accentuate an existing, strong element within the space. Here are some ideas:

Accent the Fireplace
A fireplace is a natural gathering place, so make it the center piece of the room. Center the main seating area in front of the fireplace and make it cozy with an area rug. You can use color or materials to make the fireplace prominent, paint or tile the fireplace shaft rather than the mantel for a more striking effect.

Emphasize the View
There is nothing more inviting than natural sunlight streaming in. If your room has a large window, you will want to emphasize the natural beauty as your focal point. If your window faces another building, consider putting up a living wall outside the window to create an ever-changing view. As with the fireplace, be sure the seating is arranged to highlight the view. Create a U shaped conversation area and anchor it with an area rug. Graceful full length drapes also help bring attention to the windows.


Prioritize the Furniture
A large antique, custom or brightly colored piece of furniture can make an excellent focal point. A unique dresser can be accessorized with an arrangement of mirrors, sconces and accessories.  Use a distinct upholstery fabric or faux animal hide on a lounge or uniquely shaped chair.

Feature a Wall
If your room does not have an architectural focal point such a large window or fireplace, you can create one by featuring a wall. Painting one wall a different color is a common way to do this but don’t rule out other materials such as a textured stone, slate, tile, wood  or textured panels, a mural or a built-in library. If you want to be really bold, make the ceiling your focal point by painting it a daring color and adding unique lighting fixtures.


Play Up a Work of Art
A well-chosen work of art can help pull all the colors and elements of a room together. If you are completely re-designing a room, you can start with a work of art and build the entire design around it, pulling colors and textures from the art and working those elements into the upholstery, draperies, and furniture.

When choosing your focal point, ask yourself, which element do I find the most interesting? Use the natural strengths of the room to your advantage. Be creative and confident in your choices and have fun!



Visit our website to watch a video about our design process for a living room with before and after images.


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Interior Design Ideas by an Interior Designer…

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Whether you’ve decided to redecorate one room, re-design the whole house or you’ve just moved into a new place, figuring out where to start your interior design project can be overwhelming. Should you start with choosing the wall color or … Continue reading

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Challenges of Contemporary Interior Design: Physical Space v. Digital Space

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Technology has created some interesting challenges; it has changed how we connect with people and how we work. It has also changed how we understand physical space and how we approach contemporary interior design with that new understanding. As everything … Continue reading

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Creating Flow with Wabi-Sabi

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When it happens, everything falls away.The moment becomes effortless. You glance up at the clock–it’s hours later, and you haven’t eaten all day. Suddenly, reality rushes back. You, my friend, were just in a state of flow. You may have … Continue reading

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Patterns in Islamic Art and Personal Relationships

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In Islamic art, the repetition of basic geometric shapes serves to concretely symbolize the infinite. These patterns allow a semblance of order, offering the possibility of infinite growth and a wonderful sense of freedom within the constraints of mathematics and … Continue reading

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Conscious Emulation of Nature’s Genius and The Future of Furniture

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We are often looking for more ways to feel connected to nature, but with the kind of nature we like, the kind that pleases us. At home, we work hard to keep the bugs out but let the sunlight in. … Continue reading

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I am silver and exact…

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“I am silver and exact. I have no preconceptions. Whatever I see I swallow immediately Just as it is, unmisted by love or dislike. I am not cruel, only truthful- The eye of a little god, four-cornered.” – Silvia Plath, … Continue reading

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