Answers to Your Most Common Interior Design Questions, Feat. Expert Kristen Fiore
February 21, 2024

Answers to Your Most Common Interior Design Questions, Feat. Expert Kristen Fiore

In this Guest Blog series, Lyon Real Estate has joined forces with Kristen Fiore, the founder of Kristen Elizabeth Interior Design. Together, we delve into the profound effects of interior design decisions and interview Kristen to provide valuable advice for homeowners at every stage of home ownership.

Photo courtesy Rikki Snyder

What are some of the most quick & efficient upgrades you can do to your home that will result in the most Return on Investment?

Before making any upgrades, it’s essential to consider your budget, local market trends, and the preferences of potential buyers in your area. Making small but meaningful improvements can help you sell your home faster and for more money – in addition to creating a fresh new vibe in your living space! Here are some quick and efficient home upgrades that often provide a good return on investment (ROI):

  1. Painting: Probably the quickest and absolute biggest impact you can make to your home is a fresh coat of paint, both the exterior and the interior. Painting the exterior in an on-trend color and trim creates a memorable impression and differentiates your home from the rest of the neighborhood. It is the first step in creating a look you want and an appeal to a fashion-forward new buyer. Keep the interior paint neutral and crisp. A bright home feels clean and inspires creativity. To really take it one step further, retexture the walls. Many of the local homes were built in the late 80’s to 2000’s, when Orange Peel was the contractor’s choice du jour in selecting drywall texture, an outdated and agitating choice. Make the investment to smooth those walls either to an imperfect smooth or full flat, back to classic. You will thank me every day you live in the space, happily ever after. 
  2. Landscaping: Nothing makes a first impression like paint and plants. Create a clean and welcoming home by investing in some colorful ceramic pots with plants to add color to entryways and life into the home. It’s so easy! Choose plants with long bloom times to enjoy fresh-cut flowers inside your home. Engage all the senses with blooms and select flowers with a soft, but not overpowering, scent. It is welcoming and thoughtful for guests, you, and your neighbors. 
  3. Exterior Lighting and Signage: Rounding out my suggestions for easy updates to add value and curb appeal is to replace your home’s exterior lights with those that are architecturally compatible with the style of your home. Consider lighting that casts soft lumens in an up or down direction and illuminates at least ¾ of the front of the house. In terms of numbers, replace house numbers with a modern, clean font. Get rid of bubbly old-fashioned numerals and upgrade the finish to a brighter, on-trend brushed brass. 

As for the interior, below are my suggestions for small and large investments you can make to improve the value of your home:

  1. Flooring Improvements: Many homes feature the original flooring they were built with. Flooring, in my opinion, is considered a part of the skin of the home. It creates a mood and feeling; refreshing the floors creates a foundation for everything else. Despite budgets, I always select a high-quality, long-lasting floor option like engineered hardwood flooring. An engineered hardwood will add value and warmth to your home for many years to come. Stick with neutral colors in a natural stain and avoid gloss. Select wide planks and lay the boards in the direction you walk towards – this creates a fluid and spacious feel to the home. No matter what you do, avoid luxury vinyl flooring. It is an environmental disaster and actually devalues your home. 
  2. Energy-Efficient Upgrades: Installing energy-efficient appliances can reduce utility costs and help save on your tax bills. Integrating smart home technologies, like thermostats and security systems, can be appealing to buyers and provide safety for your home and family. 
  3. Smaller Updates: Replacing lighting fixtures throughout your home can instantly make your home feel up-to-date and thoughtful. If your cabinets are in good shape, simply changing out the hardware also freshens up the space and quickly creates a new look.  

Big ticket items, but big movers in home value are kitchen and bath renovations. These two areas are probably the best things you can do to improve the value of your home in the long run. Updating kitchen fixtures, cabinets, and appliances and modernizing bathrooms, including fixtures and tiles, can offer a very significant ROI. Plus, you will enjoy the new look of your home. It ultimately brings joy and happiness to you and your family. 

Photo courtesy Stephanie Russo

What are some simple yet effective methods to personalize and enhance builder-grade or newly constructed homes?

Personalizing your home is about adding elements that reflect your taste and lifestyle. It’s usually the small details that turn a generic space into a personalized haven. If you are going to keep most of the permanent fixtures in place, such as cabinetry, there are a few tricks you can do to create warmth and define the space to your aesthetic. Textures and layers are the two decor pieces you want to focus on to create personalized and individualized spaces.

  1. Windows: If you have hurricane shutters, remove them; they are dark and heavy. Consider replacing them with window treatments personalized for your space. You can add color and texture, shade and privacy with a little effort.
  2. Flooring: If you are stuck in a new home with tile everywhere, add rugs! Add runners in hallways, area rugs to main living spaces and smaller accent rugs to entryways and bathrooms. Rugs are so versatile that you can layer, mix, and match styles and patterns. They come in traditional, modern, and transitional styles. In terms of materials, I like wool versus synthetic – it’s classic, easy to clean, helps keep rooms insulated and reduces noise.
  3. Plumbing Fixtures: Usually builder grade is the lowest investment possible when selecting plumbing fixtures. Often, you will see bathrooms and kitchens with a basic chrome finish for faucet selections. Consider replacing the faucets and shower heads with more up-to-date finish options like polished nickel, black, brushed champagne, or even brushed brass. It elevates your spaces and defines your style.
  4. Feature Walls: A very easy way to integrate materials and textures is to apply them to walls. Create an accent wall using shiplap, wallpaper or reclaimed wood. Create a full effect with wrapping an entire room in a material that differentiates the rest of the home. A paneled entry hallway makes a powerful statement. Adding wallcoverings to powder rooms is a fun way to express your own individuality.
  5. Built-In Storage or Shelving: A higher investment choice that adds value to your home and an elevated look is designing a built-in media or storage cabinet in a family room. 
  6. Crown Moulding: If you don’t have it, add it. Case your windows, doors, and ceilings with modern, clean trim or crown molding. It finishes off a space and adds details to a home that is architecturally significant. It adds charm and character to your home. 

Photo courtesy Kat Alves Photography

What is your secret to guiding clients in discovering their distinctive design styles? 

The secret is not so secret. I tell people that if they have an immediate visceral reaction to a look good or bad, you know you are onto something. If you look at an image and it makes you feel a certain way, calm, happy, excited, follow that feeling and lean into it. 

From there, we can create the look you want, knowing what styles to avoid or look deeper into. If an installation makes you feel like you walked into every other house on the block and that is not what you want, keep looking! We will find it; it is our job to flush it out and create an interior you love coming home to! 

Photo courtesy Kat Alves Photography

What timeless design upgrades can homeowners do to captivate today’s buyers?

  • Add crown molding
  • Add a statement entry door
  • Add French Doors or an indoor/outdoor wall feature
  • Use natural materials like hardwood/engineered wood and natural stone
  • Create a smart-home environment with automation and energy-efficient solutions to heating, air, laundry, and appliances 
  • Properly insulate your home for maximum comfort
  • Add  solar
  • Add an electric charging station to your garage
  • Add a pool! It’s hot here in the California Foothills & Valley!
  • Outdoor shower if a pool is out of the budget

Photo courtesy Kat Alves Photography


About Kristen Fiore / Kristen Elizabeth Designs

Photo courtesy Shoop’s Photography

From a young age, Kristen was passionate about design. Growing up outside New York City, she had a wealth of inspiration and resources at her fingertips. After gaining experience in New York and learning from some of the best in the business, she moved to California to pursue her dream and studied Interior Design & Interior Architecture at UC Berkeley and received her degree in Interior Design with honors from American River College. In 2015, she founded Kristen Elizabeth Design.

To Kristen, design is not just about creating beautiful spaces — it’s about manifesting joy and tranquility while fostering well-being. Inspiration comes from a spectrum of meaningful moments to the smallest details. For instance, her travels throughout Europe, a 14th-century building with beautiful mosaic tile…or the seasons in Sacramento, the soft and bright hues of spring dahlias…and even her favorite artists that blend vibrant color with painterly brush strokes to create striking impressionist landscapes.

Kristen finds fulfillment in creating personal and stunning spaces that her clients love. Her award-winning work has been featured in prestigious design publications including Architectural Digest, Design Et Al, Home & Decor, Casa Vogue, Sac Design, Elle Decor, and Sacramento Magazine.

Category Home Inspiration, Real Estate

Lyon Real Estate

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