Do You Have an Empty Wall?


I recently attended an artist exhibit at Fez, 227 Summer Street in Stamford. The event was part of their Artist in Residence Program, and it featured Kathy Muir, a Scottish photographer and singer. The room was filled with people discussing initiatives to increase venues for art and cultural experience throughout the state. I am interested in these initiatives since they impact quality of life in CT, which impacts demand for real estate and property values. I had a few questions for Kathy, especially since her photography is truly “wall worthy” and would enhance any room in your home. Her photos are mesmerizing representations of nature, people, places and still life. You can see them at


Can you share the story of how you became an artist?

That is a great question. In all honesty, the first time I thought of myself as an artist was only three years ago when I moved to the States. I had been writing for oh, at least 20 years but had never gone out there and performed. The reason for this was quite simple: I wrote songs because I wanted to write, never really thinking about financial reward or otherwise. I often draw a parallel to a painter. I mean, a painter paints because he needs to; it’s in his creative genes, not because he expects to make money.

Anyway, when I moved to the States a friend of mine heard my music and thought I was really good. He called me an artist. I denied it at first, but over time I finally gave in!

With that newfound belief, I have been pretty relentless in expressing my art as extensively as possible.  I think I am in the studio working on my 35th song.

First and foremost, I am a singer-songwriter. However, I enjoy writing not only lyrics but short stories, stories inspired by images, or poetry inspired by images.

With regard to photography, like many folks I have always taken photographs. Again, I only started to pay more attention as to how I was taking my shots in the last four or five years. I think that with any art form, or any skill for that matter, it takes many hours of effort to actually hone. I found myself increasingly drawn to black and white imagery combined with a square format instead of the regular 4 x 6 type format. There is something about the square format that is challenging and more satisfying.


How do you think art improves communities?

I often say that art is not a creative delicacy it’s a creative need. Often people can think that “art” is fancy; that it is only for a select few.  In fact, art is for everyone and it is this alone that helps to create a bridge for communities.  There are so many ways in which art can be embedded in a community. I know of a church group back home in Edinburgh called Messy Church.  On Sunday afternoons moms and dads come to the local community center and watch their children paint, draw, play games, and even join in themselves! There is a group in Boston called ArtLifting that empowers homeless and disabled individuals through the sale of their artwork.  These are just two examples.  Closer to Stamford we can’t ignore the wonderful work done by the Loft Artists Association, a diverse group dedicated to sharing their appreciation of the power of art with the community in which they work.

As you can see, Art is everywhere in the community!


What advice would you give home owners in regard to choosing art for their homes?

I would say it is a personal choice. Also, I think that you should consider the space in which you are showing art. The setting of a painting, drawing our photograph can either dilute or enhance the energy of the art we see before us.

I would say consider the light in the room, any reflections that may hinder the appreciation of the art; and consider how much space should be given around the art. If you are still unsure, go to galleries in and around Fairfield County as they give some great examples of framing and the space between.


Here’s the info about the Artist in Residence Program at the Fez:

The Fez supports artists of many types, both musically and visually. The Artist in Residence Program allows artists to proudly showcase local artists in our restaurant through exhibition in our dining room. The restaurant, moderate in size, offers an intimate viewing. Most important, the space offers excellent exposure with a steady stream of new patrons.  The Fez seats at least 350 people per week.

Current Exhibit: Featuring the Photographic Genius of Kathy Muir
“PLACES IN OUR MINDS”  February 8th – May 14th

You can learn more about Kathy at

Luxury Design is for Every Home

I recently caught up with Beth Krupa, an expert luxury home interior designer. She has brilliantly transformed the homes of my clients into functional, modern spaces that still feel warm, natural and inviting.

She will be featured in East Coast Home & Design magazine in the February edition and participating as a panelist at the Women Empowering Women networking event this coming February 25th at the Stamford Sheraton. Here are a few questions I posed to help my clients on their design journeys.

Aside from using more expensive materials, what differentiates the luxury design process from the design process that mid-range home buyers go through?

For us, what differentiates the two is the amount of help and service we provide. A more luxury design process includes the walkthrough, generally weekly meetings to go over new design selections, construction floor plans if needed, on site assistance with contractors and written specifications for them to have clarity about the project. We then specify every item, fabric, trim, furnishing, window and floor treatment, lighting fixture, accessory, etc. We then procure it, track the status of delivery, manage placement, etc…and take full responsibility to correct any damages or problems that can arise. We even end with a celebratory big reveal champagne party if that’s what the client enjoys.

A more mid-range home buyer might prefer to work with some of their existing pieces, and/or have a consultation with a plan they can implement themselves. This client would be more apt to buy at retail rather than take on the expense and time involved with customizing. The selections are more limited if they don’t work with a designer, but the results can still be amazing if they have a good eye and enjoy shopping. Most of the luxury clients appreciate the deep pool of resources we can provide that the vast majority don’t know exist. They want us to use their preferences but trust our direction. They don’t have the time or the desire for shopping, and they appreciate that we control the process and project.

Experienced designers who enjoy working with clients with various budgets know how to manage the scope of the project, so the mid-range client can utilize their design advice without the full process the luxury design client needs, thus avoiding costly mistakes.

Can you tell me the latest trends in high-end design that you see most often in Fairfield County?

There is a huge return to antiques, but done in a more modern fashion. We love to mix them with new and contemporary pieces and utilize them strategically instead of a roomful. We love a room to look collected and not overly designed.

Another trend that has been around but has real staying power is pale, soft, neutral walls and changing accessories and pillows seasonally with bright pops of color. Design is more fun and whimsical than it has been in the past. An unexpected element is a fun conversation starter. Mixing metals within the same space is expected now. Mixing texture and warmth with hides or Mongolian lamb pillows, for example.

Have baby boomers had an impact on the concept of luxury and what defines it? If so, fill us in.

Baby boomers who are currently working with designers are looking to the younger ideas and not stuck in the old patterns and ways of doing things. This impacts the younger client who is also no longer looking at old rules or ways of doing things. Boomers lean toward uniqueness and design for themselves specifically, and are not drawn as much to labels and brand image.

Buyers in every price range often want to create a luxurious feel to at least one room in the home. What advice would you give someone on a limited budget?

Paint, paint, paint. Nothing changes a room with more impact and the least expense. Changing light fixtures has a huge return too and there are many great online resources at lower prices. Update pillows and accessories. Change out a rug and opt for something more minimal and on trend like a hide. De-clutter and think minimal and fresh. The basic rule of thought is to take away anything that doesn’t define or romance your space.

For more expert design advice and services check out Beth’s website,

Before you Hire a Contractor, Ask the Right Questions

Selecting the right contractor to work on your home is an important decision. Before you make the hiring decision, you should make sure the company can do the work proposed, will take care of your home in the process, and will maintain an adequate level of attention to your project. This checklist has been created to help you make the contractor decision that’s right for you and your family.

1. Get three estimates to ensure that you get a well-rounded view of project issues and costs.
2. Make a selection based on overall value and not just cost. Spending a little less to get an end product that you are not pleased with or will deteriorate quickly is no bargain.
3. Understand at the onset that your building project will probably cost a little more than you initially think and that it will probably take a little longer than you think. Going in prepared will help you keep your peace of mind.
4. Ask each contractor for proof of insurance, licensing, and local references.

o Make sure the contractor is a licensed and registered contractor in The State of Connecticut.
o Check that the contractor has the appropriate insurance coverage to protect your interests.
o Create estimates and contracts that detail exactly what will be built, specific materials used and cost.
o Make sure that each contractor is bidding on the exact same set of specifications and plans.
o Make sure you understand the plans and specifications that the contractor gives you as part of the contract.
o Check to be sure the contractor is not running too many other jobs concurrently with yours.
o Make sure the contractor has obtained any necessary building or zoning permits.
o Always ask for and check out the contractor’s local references.
o See some work that the contractor has done that is similar to your project.
o Develop an open channel of communication right from the start.
o The contractor has a change management process that is logical and easy to understand.
o The contractor listens to your concerns, has a pleasant business manner, and you can communicate effectively.

These tips were provided by Patricia Rattray and Ben Velishka, Founder Dayton Builders. You can reach Dayton Builders at (203) 667-6266