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Desert Companion

Home: Zen-terior monologue

Zen-terior monologue

Home is a sanctuary — and interior design should embody this idea. That’s the focus of this architecturally complex MacDonald Highlands home, whose owner wanted a design that soothes and centers. Cary Vogel of Interiors by Cary Vogel gave the rooms a Zen look in which minimalist touches create maximum relaxation.

1 Vogel chose a monochromatic design to create an overall soothing effect — and to highlight the owners’ art. “The apricots, the jade greens, the blues, all the colors in this vast collection of art is enhanced with the paint color,” says Vogel. “Taupe has a soothing way, especially in our desert environment; you don’t get a glaring effect in the house.”

Note the continuity of color and form. This subtle touch is intended to create a sense of peacefulness. “The envelope of paint and marble flooring is the first thing that is going to create that Zen feeling,” says Vogel.

The walls, ceiling, and marble floors — which contain a lot of visual energy — are softened by a neutral taupe. But that doesn’t mean boring or bland: The play of shadow and light creates a variety of pleasing shades.  

Support comes from

Comfortable furnishings with soft, clean lines and simple embellishments add to the Zen-like vibe. Even the tossed pillows are monochromatic creams and tone-on-tone.

The gentle robin’s egg blue of the dining room chairs also weaves through the Tibetan rug to complement the spacious room’s soft hue and create only a subtle contrast. The -inch sand-blasted glass dining room table top generates more clean lines. 

5 The wall unit of rift-cut oak, by Castle Cabinets, hides the flat-screen television behind gray, glazed slab-front cabinet doors; the silver travertine marble surrounding the fireplace lends the unit just enough contrast to be interesting while remaining muted.

Zen-terior monologue 2

Candy for your walls

Wallpaper is back — but don’t worry. We’re not talking about the hideous floral nightmare of Aunt Carol’s kitchenette. Newly considered an affordable way to luxe up a room, wallpaper has come back hipper, cheaper and easier to apply than ever. Today they boast natural materials and interesting textures, like sea grass; bold patterns to liven up small rooms; and special designs for creating accent walls. Boutique wallpaper websites such as, and offer designs that are bold, novel and even outrageous.

In a way, wallpaper 2.0 is getting back to its roots as a token of taste. European royalty originally decorated their walls with elaborate tapestries to warm up castle rooms — literally: The thick fabrics held back drafts. Then, in the 1400s, the commoners followed suit with a cheaper substitute — and wallpaper was born. In the 1600s, the French revolutionized the industry, emulating fabric on paper that would line the homes of Paris’ poor. By the 1700s, talented artists had begun designing wallpapers that found their way into manors across Europe — perhaps forbears of today’s new wallpaper avant-garde. -- C.C.

Retro Remix

People no longer want to live in model homes. Maybe we’re still smarting from the housing crash; or maybe, as Andrea Miranda-Hall of Inspired Design ( suggests, we’ve discovered that the set-like feel of the model room doesn’t inspire individuality or comfort. Eclectic is now where it’s at. Here are her tips for diversifying your design portfolio on a budget.

Merge the old and new. Pair your grandmother’s coffee table with your favorite pieces that survived the economic fallout. Add some retro — a splash of teal or starburst — and you’re tapped into the latest designer trend.

Paint the town. To make your space groovy on a budget, Miranda-Hall says painting walls is easy and cost-effective. “We’re painting cabinets like crazy, too.” A gallon of paint will spruce up oak cupboards — then add a fresh backsplash to totally change up a kitchen. Get creative with Grandma’s table, too. “An out-of-the-box color like red or orange completely modernizes an old piece.”

Freshen up. Give an old chair a seat-lift with fresh fabric. Miranda-Hall suggests using less expensive fabrics for larger projects, then splurging on more elaborate materials for accents, like pillows and trim.

Prioritize. Like to entertain? Start in the kitchen. Seeking serenity? Spend your money on the bedroom. Then move on to the next project when your budget allows. “Build on what you have, pull in fresh pieces. Wean out, do some editing. That gives your home that lived-in, eclectic feel.” -- C.C.

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