5 Tips to Custom Furniture and Millwork

Author: Sydney Piwowar

Often for whom this is their first time working with an Interior Designer freak out at the idea of custom furniture. They want to see in front of them exactly what they are paying for, before they pay for it. This is often not the case in our practice. Nearly all of the millwork (cabinets and built ins) we design are custom. This means combinations of designs, colors, and patterns never done before. By nature, you will not be able to understand its full glory until completion. If you are working with a good and transparent designer, she/he will take the appropriate measures to ensure you have all the tools necessary to feel comfortable with your investment. 

To create peace of mind for our clients at JTD, I have come up with a 5 step system to ensure you are happy with your purchase. 

Designed by Jen Talbot Design

Designed by Jen Talbot Design

  1. Adequate drawings

Not every interior designer has experience with construction drawings or details. It is important that no matter how creative your designer is that they are able to successfully communicate their design intent in these drawings. This will maintain total control of the design and limit the amount of miscommunications and damage control later. 

Designed by Jen Talbot Design

Designed by Jen Talbot Design

2. Renderings

Some more complex or large installations should be conveyed in 3D or color 2D renderings. This will help you start to imagine how form and function are working together in your piece. Some designers who do not offer this as a service should be able to outsource it or complete themselves at an additional service fee. 

Designed by Jen Talbot Design

Designed by Jen Talbot Design

3. Samples

If your designer does not provide you with samples for all materials, they are not doing their job. You should see all finish materials for metal, woods, and upholstery. It is custom that they do not show you building materials that are not visible in the finished product though. 

Designed by Jen Talbot Design

Designed by Jen Talbot Design

4. Contractor’s portfolio

For those who are hesitant to pay for an additional service or contractor for their custom piece, it helps to review their existing portfolio. You can see their craftsmanship and previous experience this was to create peace of mind. 

Designed by Jen Talbot Design

Designed by Jen Talbot Design

5. Trust your designer

At the end of the day, they know what they are doing. Designers have a muscle in their brain that allows them to envision spaces and forms without any external support. Many people without this muscle struggle to trust. If you have never worked with this designer before, or have never worked with a designer before, it is ok to ask about their experience with custom furniture. Ask to see some of their other work. This will not only allow you to see their capabilities, but the level of originality and practicality of their custom designs. 

Design Details: Cement Encaustic

Author Sydney Piwowar

We have seen and heard of cement tiles for years - that is nothing new. What is special about the ones we are seeing today is that they are Encaustics. Encaustics are paintings and ceramics using pigments mixed with hot wax that are burned in as an inlay. Each tile is handmade and dries slightly different from the next, with variation in depth or bleed at the edges of the pattern. The inconsistency adds to the overall beauty of the tile when laid. There is a slight variation and shadowing in the tones of each tile, when installed in mass the result is pure sophistication and character! These beauties can be used for indoor/ outdoor flooring, in bathrooms and kitchens on the walls or floor and splash backs.

Check out these uses of my current favorite color: soft dove grey. It literally makes the space glow!

Photo Courtesy of Studio Ezra

Photo Courtesy of Studio Ezra

Photo Courtesy of SF Girl by Bay

Photo Courtesy of SF Girl by Bay

5 Monochromatic Tile Color Palettes

Author: Sydney Piwowar

I call it the “Modern Mural”. Artists used large scale murals to tell the most elaborate, and beautiful, stories through tile mosaics. So many different cultures have done this through the years and I think America has found its own. It features clean lines, purposeful choice of grout colors, and a hand made nature, expressing the amazing new technologies we have to impact our spaces. I have curated a few of my favorite images and combinations to inspire you and a tile guide to inspire your next renovation.

Photo Courtesy of Remodelista

Photo Courtesy of Remodelista


Tips on Subway Tile Patterns

In the last 10 years of its rise, we have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of subway tile. Everyone loves it though - its simple, easy to clean, and inexpensive! Despite its versatility, I cringe when clients ask for the classic subway pattern. There are so many amazing ways to lay tile, why should we limit our selves to the Running Bond pattern? I say no. I say get creative. If you aren’t sure where to start, I have curated some of my favorite LUXURIOUS & MODERN ways to lay the classic tile.

Cross Hatch


The 4-Stack Parquet

Different Scales


Combination: Traditional + Diagonal Herringbone


Stacked Bond


Vertical Stacked Bond


Deep Colored Walls- Powder Room, Family Room, Library... Oh My!

California can have it's light, breezy SoCal vibe with all white walls and boho splashed in. Fresh exciting, bold things are happening with deep, dark colored walls. Paint or wallpaper are all in.


Think of London library vibe.


Shake of the norm. No wall is permanent. Be brave and go for it.

xo, Jen

Jen Talbot Design
Jen Talbot Design
Jen Talbot Design
Jen Talbot Design

Tween Boys Black & White Plaid Bathroom

We just wrapped up one of our favorite bathrooms to date! With twins and older brother started to out grow the families current bathroom situation, we revamped a former laundry room for the girls bathroom (details in another post to come) and renovated the existing bathroom to focus on the tween boys and a space they could grow into.  

We fell in love with this plaid stone tile, which became the jumping off point for inspiration for the rest of the space.

Can we all collectively say #bathroomenvy?!


Jen Talbot Design .jpg
Jen Talbot Design.jpg
Jen Talbot Design .jpg