It isn’t too difficult to create seamless transitions of style, color and personality in your home

Have you ever noticed when you’re in a well-designed space that one room seamlessly transitions into another, even if some of the styles or colors are changing? Well, that’s flow — a very important design concept to me.


Particularly when it comes to smaller spaces, you want to consider your transitions — and it’s not that difficult to do.

When Catherine Lin approached me to decorate her penthouse apartment in the Waterfront Towers, I was elated. Catherine has a spitfire personality in a petite package, and as the publisher of Nihao Hawaii, she wanted a high-style, comfortable space that she could enjoy with her daughter as well as use to entertain clients. I wanted it to reflect her feminine yet dynamic personality.

The unit had been designed with a Mediterranean feel, which Catherine loves. After talking a bit, we decided to go for a mix of styles, which you know I love! The mix we came up with? Mediterranean-Hollywood chic! And after finding out her favorite designer is Dolce & Gabbana — known for its sexy silhouette dresses with peek-a-boo leopard skin fabrics — I was ready to go.

Catherine knew she wanted color. In the living room, we wanted a comfy yet dramatic space for relaxing and entertaining. Since one of Catherine’s favorite colors is blue, we decided that our color palette would be cream, brown and gold, with accents of cranberry and blue. To ground this space, I brought in a silky nylon blue rug that added glamour and a pop of color.


Then we flowed our color palette into the next space, bringing the blue into more prominence in the dining room. A third of the room was lined with floor-to-ceiling windows, while the opposite side was lined with built-ins. This limited not only available wall space but also to what effect we could use that space. To bring in maximum drama and atmosphere, I took the dusky blue accent from the living room and put it on the wall. Blue suede dining chairs reinforced the color scheme.

We also carried over the Mediterranean-meets-Hollywood style. There was room for a dining set and nothing else, so that set had to make a statement in a way that repeated our styles. The dining chairs were vintage Hollywood, the table Mediterranean with its elaborate base and glass top, and the centerpieces simple glass cylinders accented with light-blue glass cubes and blinged-out branches that added Hollywood drama and femininity to the scene.

So as you can see, it’s not that hard to carry the flow of style, color and personality from one space to another. You can do this in your space. Here are some tips on color and flow for smaller spaces:

Tip 1: Limit your color palette. Smaller spaces can especially be a challenge, because you don’t want to live in a Rubik’s cube. With too many different colors on the walls, the overall space will feel chopped up. If you want more colors than you can put on the walls, bring them in with area rugs, art and accessories — and keep these colors flowing from room to room.

Tip 2: Switch your colors. Probably the easiest, safest thing to do in transitioning from one room to the next is to pick a dominant color and a secondary color, and switch the dominant and secondary in the next room.

Tip 3: Switch high and low. If you’re going with a lighter neutral color palette, you can create a subtle but flowing contrast by choosing one color for the walls and one for the ceiling in one room, and reversing the colors in the next room.


Next week, I’ll show you more of Catherine’s spaces when I cover the basics about how to style up your lighting.

Cathy Lee is president and designer of Cathy Lee Style and Cathy’s Marketplace, a furniture and accessories showroom with design services at 1110 University Ave. To find out more, go to