Solutions: Tips and tricks that offer inspiration

Jeanine Matlow
Special to The Detroit News

Gratitude doesn’t have to come and go with Thanksgiving. Instead, we can try to remind ourselves what we have to feel grateful for long after the leftovers are gone.

Other than the obvious categories, like family and friends, I truly appreciate the fact that people are gracious enough to have their homes featured and photographed so that others might be inspired by something they see and hopefully motivated to take on their own projects.

I’m also thankful for the many words of wisdom I’ve encountered along the way when homeowners and pros share their personal stories and tips.

Here are a few of my favorite tidbits I’ve heard over the years:

The first is from Joseph A. Keenan, interior designer and owner of Joseph A. Keenan & Associates in Bloomfield Village, who has bought, renovated and sold numerous properties over the years.

He doesn’t change the contents; he reinvents them instead.

“I love new spaces. I get to transform them,” says Keenan. “It’s like Christmas. You take everything out of boxes and re-examine everything. Then you see it differently. It’s like getting new furniture.”

Though he plans his furniture placement in advance, Keenan continues to rearrange his accessories every now and then. “You get bored and you stop seeing them,” he says.

The talented designer also puts his fine arts degree to good use by painting scenic destinations and displaying them in his home. “I’ve traveled a lot and I try to paint wherever I go. It’s kind of like a photo album,” he says.

Another local pro, Shana Smith, interior designer and owner of S.L. Smith Design, has been known to showcase a variety of fun finds in her Oxford home, like a giant gumball machine from a video store that greets visitors in the foyer.

This particular conversation piece is very popular. “It’s the one thing that keeps me ‘Number One’ in the neighborhood,” she says. “All the play dates ask, ‘Can we go to the gumball machine house?’”

Distinctive details like these make a lasting impression. But it’s the way she displays everything that kicks the fun finds up a notch, like a large sign that conveys a special message: Embrace Imperfection. Smith ran with the idea not only by hanging it crooked, but off center, too.

When I told my daughter I was planning to include a few of my favorite design ideas and quotes in my column, she said, “What about mine?”

So I am honoring her request by repeating what she learned about the process when we redid her room and what she said when I asked if she had any advice for others working on similar projects. Her response: “Have fun and be patient because it takes a long time and the paint smells horrible.”

That’s why I love learning more about the way people live because a picture can’t possibly tell the whole story. It’s the thoughtfulness that goes into the planning of a home that offers the greatest insight of all and for that I remain thankful.

Jeanine Matlow is a Metro Detroit interior decorator turned freelance writer specializing in stories about interior design. You can reach her at