Design Journal

Kitchen Stories: An Artist's Kitchen


Last  fall, I went to an art show opening to see a friend’s work as part of an Emerging Artist Series.  Her colorful and original art was fantastic and the show was a huge success! While I was there, she told me she was going to call me in another year or so because she was ready for  a kitchen renovation. To my delight, she called a few months later to tell me she could not wait any longer  to change her dark kitchen into a lighter and brighter space. She is an artist and loves color and wanted to push the envelope a little, but also wanted to create something timeless that would not date.  Her cabinets were solid wood and in great shape, so we painted them instead of tearing them out  and made a few cosmetic changes like cutting out the appliance garage among other things.  We  pretty much gutted and replaced  everything else  in the kitchen with new appliances, light fixtures, tile, sink, faucet, hardware and countertops.   She wanted light grey cabinets that felt light and bright but had a little more color then white.  We found a beautiful soft  grey that fit the bill.  Since we didn’t  go too crazy with color, we added some of her personality by finding some special tile and light fixtures that were a little unusual. The first tile  she liked was from an Australian company and we loved it but could not find it locally.  We  searched high and low for something similar and after a pretty extensive search, we found a perfect geometric shape.  We had our cabinet maker build  a custom bulletin board into her desk to display  pictures of her children. We then added some bright color with chartreuse fabric on the bulletin board and a fabulous striped rug. The final result was a classic look with some unique twists. I absolutely loved working with her!   She knew exactly what she wanted but was completely open minded to new ideas and even  encouraged them. She smiled all the time even if I had to deliver unpleasant news. You get to see a person’s  bright or dark side when you are tearing apart their kitchen and they can’t access water or use the stove for a few days. I can tell you that this client, who is a physically beautiful woman, is just as beautiful on the inside. Thank you #projectivy for being a dream client!




After: New appliances, tile countertops, hardware and paint
















Before Desk area:




After:  New desk area with custom bulletin board and a shot of chartreuse!



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With gratitude, Debra

Random thoughts...

In the spirit of how we receive information these days, I am introducing a new series of “quick hit” topics. It will give me an opportunity to share things that I really enjoy. Sometimes I want to write briefly about something I love but don’t want to write a whole post about it.  So here it is….




I have been taking a lot of long weekends this summer to look at colleges with my oldest son and we have been having so much fun visiting many towns and cities together.  It is a sweet moment that I am savoring knowing that this time next year he will not be living with me full-time anymore.  We were in Philadelphia this weekend and enjoyed a delicious dinner at Oyster House, a Philly institution.  Besides the delicious oysters, I really loved  the space.  It had the spirit of an older restaurant without looking tired and worn.   Painted white brick, to the ceiling subway tile, old fisherman lights and large floor to ceiling windows gave the space lots of character.



I loved the refined millwork with the rough painted white brick and the charming vintage oyster plates that hung on the wall.  It goes to show you that timeless design is always a winner!


Speaking of winners, Acme in Carrboro rarely disappoints.   I decided to “cut back”  on my meals after really enjoying my summer vacations.  August is a great time to eat fresh and healthy foods because almost every restaurant has the most amazing tomato plates on their menu.  One of my favorites has been the heirloom tomato plate at Acme  that comes with a creamy deviled egg on the side.  I eat about half of it and I am totally satisfied and don’t feel deprived at all. You must try it before tomato season ends!





I did sneak a piece of their scratch-made skillet cornbread.   It was amazing…just a piece won’t hurt too much!





And finally, we are putting the final touches on one of my kitchen renovations…a custom bulletin board in the desk area and new light fixtures are getting installed next week.  I can’t wait to see  how these look over the island!




Please subscribe to my blog for updates! I have lots of projects that I can’t wait to share in the next few weeks!


With gratitude,




Outdoor Inspirations: Gravel Pathways

Patina FarmBrooke Giannetti’s enchanting Patina Farm

Velvet and Linen

As much as I love designing interiors for clients, I am completely obsessed with landscaping.  Curb appeal can be instantly transformed with beautiful  gardens, mature trees and shrubbery.  I can only dream of having landscaping like Brooke Giannetti’s  Patina Farm, above.  Her home, gardens and outbuildings on her property are amazing. It is newly built, but because they designed their home around mature trees it has a sense that it has been there for a long time.  Visit her gorgeous blog Velvet and Linen to see her home that she and her architect husband Steve  built.

I love how they have gravel pathways all around the house.  Gravel gives  a relaxed charm to gardens. Gravel also gives you the ability to create wide and narrow paths and not stick to a specific outline.  I grew up in Florida where the landscaping is lush and tropical.  I had a tiny garden outside of my bedroom window with a gravel pathway and hibiscus bushes.  Even though a road was not far from my window, it was like a little hidden secret garden. Right now I am scheming up some ideas for my own secret side yard garden complete with a gravel pathway.


I loved this gravel side garden at The Sanctuary in Kiawah Island where we stayed for spring break.




The stone edging and steps that integrate with the gravel in this villa is beautiful. I showed my husband’s company landscaper this gorgeous inspiration photo and told him the plants, trees and shrubs that I liked and he kind of chuckled knowing what my husband would think …$$$$$$.


Velvet and Linen

I really love the landscaping in the front of my house that my sweet friend Shelley Cook from the Carolina Garden Company installed.  I was going for New England charm with stone walls, pathways and hydrangeas to complement my shingle house.




My favorite time of year is when my viburnum trees blossom in my yard!




Unfortunately, the rest of my landscaping does not look like the front of my house.  Here is a tight shot of my side yard when I was unsure of what I wanted to do and stopped.




In reality this is what I really have to work with….my poor neighbors!!! I became paralyzed with what I should do and the final result is…nothing!





I am working on a design that will have a gravel pathway  and hope that I can have it  installed it in the fall.  I’ll keep you posted!  In the meantime, I will keep dreaming that I can come up with something as charming as Patina Farm.

High Point Market 2015

IMG_3408An amazing vignette by Chapel Hill’s own Tommy Mitchell

One of my favorite times of year has come and gone and I have the blisters on my feet to prove it.  The  High Point Furniture Market is amazing, exciting, exhausting and overwhelming. I feel  lucky to live in Chapel Hill, an easy 1 hour drive to High Point.  I easily could log 6 miles a day searching out the latest and greatest products from people who are true artisans. Friends  who know me know that I really do not care about going to parties or events and am very happy with my little circle of friends.  However, when it comes to High Point, I definitely suffer from fear of missing out.  I think if I don’t go to that building or walk every single floor I may miss out on the perfect piece for ______.




IMG_3530Aerin Lauder’s lighting and furniture line are so pretty and refined

One of my first spots was to CR Laine to see my design consultant Tobi Fairley’s first furniture collection and let me tell you she knocked it out the park! I really loved every piece, but my favorite was her perfect shade of pink bedroom.  I absolutely loved the soft leather bench at the end of the bed.


Tobi Fairley’s gorgeous new line for CR Laine

Another amazing find were these gorgeous painted wood tiles that are just as durable as an engineered hardwood floor.  I grew up in Florida where tile floors are king and let me tell how hard they can be on your back when you are standing and cooking for long periods of time. I was just having that discussion with someone who is remodeling their kitchen and wanted kitchen tile when I stumbled across these beauties.


Julia Lynn Photography





It is fun to meet the designers who create these beautiful pieces and to find out what inspired them. Windsor Smith (Gwyneth Paltrow’s interior designer of her amazing L.A. home) introduced her new line. Her lighting was so beautiful!


Windsor Smith’s new line for Arteriors.



I love light fixtures and really think they are jewelry for the room and just like real jewelry, I want just about every piece!




 This stunning flush mount was just scooped up by one of my favorite clients and will go in her gallery.



IMG_3195Kelly Wearstler’s new lighting line for Circa

It is really hard to order upholstered furniture for clients if they are not able to sit in it and test it out. Unfortunately in High Point, you are not allowed to bring clients. One showroom did allow me to bring clients in the day after the show was over so we took them up on it!
IMG_4071Testing out dining room chairs




IMG_3063A perfect bedroom by Mary McDonald




Should we go light and fresh…




Or dramatic and moody….


Check out a future blog post to see what we decide!

Kitchen Stories: Kitchen Remodel



Debra Zinn Interiors


We are just wrapping up our kitchen remodel at the  #rossburnproject. The homeowner is still making light fixture, breakfast table chairs and window treatment selections, but the actual kitchen is finally complete!  The homeowners wanted to remodel their kitchen, but knew that they could move a few years down the road,  so they wanted something that would look timeless. What I love about their decision is that they wanted to enjoy the kitchen while they still lived there.  So many improvements happen when homeowners are about to put it on the market and then they fall in love with their home again…right when they are moving out (something I have been guilty of myself)! Initially they only wanted to replace the  countertops and backsplash, but after talking about their overall vision of the space we agreed that we really needed to make more updates.  By refinishing the cabinets instead of ripping them out, we managed to save tens of thousands of dollars.  I also suggested flattening out their island from the two-tiered one they had.  It was not very functional, blocked off the view in the kitchen and made it look smaller.  We were able to customize the island and now the room  looks so much bigger and opened up the entire space . Marble is a beautiful timeless stone but can be high maintenance. We found a gorgeous quartz that looks like marble and it is virtually maintenance  free. The husband is an avid cook so I  knew they would enjoy having a deep sink instead of their shallow divided sink. We added a new faucet and hardware and the kitchen has been transformed.   The cherry on top…..the family I worked with could not have been nicer or more fun to work with!





 Debra Zinn Interiors



BEFORE: Back of Island

BEFORE: Front of Island

BEFORE: Back of Island

AFTER: New Custom Island

AFTER: New Custom Island



BEFORE: Kitchen Desk

BEFORE: Kitchen Desk

AFTER: Kitchen Desk

AFTER: Kitchen Desk

 Debra Zinn Interiors

The Great Outdoors

 MONTCLAIR.02Debra Zinn Interiors


It hit the 70’s today here in North Carolina and no one is more thrilled than me to get back outside! My husband lit up the grill tonight for our dinner and it felt great to know that spring and summer are around the corner. I always prefer entertaining outside and love to wait for warmer weather to invite friends over because everyone seems more  relaxed out in the fresh air.  I am currently helping a client revamp  their screened porch to make it more inviting to eat, read and nap and am finding so many wonderful outdoor products.  It is easier than ever to  make an outdoor living space that feels like a room in your home. There are so many gorgeous outdoor fabrics and rugs that are so soft to the touch…they can easily be used for indoor use and no one would know the difference!


Yes you can use white outdoors!


  Kathleen DiPaolo Designs



Add an outdoor chandelier to really make your space special

21-Patio2-1024x673[1] Kathleen DiPaolo Designs



My designer friend Heather Harkovich from Heather  Scott Home and Design loves to use  outdoor fabrics inside. Look at this gorgeous chair!

customchairwithSunbrellafabricandcontrastvelvetband_thumb[1]Heather Scott Home and Design



Add an  amazing outdoor rug


Dash and Albert 



and make yourself this delicious spring drink that my beautiful cousin created


Nikki Ganz


Rhubarb Simple Sauce:

3-4 stalks Rhubarb – cut into 1/2 inch pieces.

1 Lemon (juiced)

2 cups water

1 cup Honey

 Add  2 oz Vodka up or on the rocks



Another beautiful space by the talented Heather Harkovich. Enjoy the view!


 Heather Scott Home and Design

Mixing High and Low, Old and New


Suzanne Kasler masterfully mixing old and new
Suzanne Kasler Interiors


Last week at this time, I was in Atlanta attending my Mastermind Design  group with Tobi Fairley  and had the opportunity to hear the design philosophies  of Brian Patrick Flynn and one of my top design idols, Suzanne Kasler. Suzanne and Brian are about as different as you can imagine but equally inspiring.  Suzanne was so warm and welcoming and shared her love of antique shopping with us.  Brian is one of the funniest people I have ever met and is literally brimming with energy. His stories about how he rolls around in bed before bedroom photo shoots to give  linens that perfect  lived in look had us rolling on the floor!  One thing Brian and Suzanne did have in common was their common practice of having high and low  and antiques and modern pieces in one space. These different elements keep a room interesting and stop it from looking like a showroom or model home. I personally love mixing these design elements into my own spaces. It is what gives a space personality and makes it personal to you.





Antique sconce from Paris paired with Matisse lithographs and new upholstery
Debra Zinn Interiors




Gorgeous Tobi Fairley design incorporating vintage emerald Murano lamps with modern Phillip Jeffries wallpaper and art
Tobi Fairley Interior Design



Brian Patrick Flynn mixing new and industrial pieces Flynnside Productions

Brian Patrick Flynn mixing new and industrial pieces
Flynnside Out Productions

Kitchen Stories: Farmhouse Sinks

Welcome to my first blog post! I hope you will join me each week as I share my love of design with you!  Since designing and remodeling kitchens are a passion of mine, I am kicking off my blog with a series called Kitchen Stories.   The one element in the kitchen that  seems the least exciting is the sink. I have rarely had a client get excited over their stainless steel bowl.  There is one sink you can be enthusiastic about and that is the simple and timeless farmhouse sink…also known as an apron sink.  Shaw’s original farmhouse sinks were designed more than 100 years ago and are still a classic choice for any kitchen. It is a sink that adds charm and with a pretty window, it can become a beautiful focal point in your kitchen.

Fireclay Farm Sink

Debra Zinn Interiors

 Love the timeless look of this farmhouse sink!


Tobi Fairley Interior Design

Tobi Fairley Interior Design

 This farmhouse sink is the perfect complement to this warm and inviting kitchen




 Great drain space incorporated into this Waterworks apron sink


Bradshaw Designs

Bradshaw Designs

 This deep stainless steel version adds a sophisticated and modern touch