Notes from Susan, occasionally updated.

Allegro AJC Article – Bringing Interior Design Outdoors

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently interviewed me for an article on transferring interior design to the great outdoors. That article was syndicated by the AJC and reprinted in news outlets across the nation, including Hawaii. Here’s the article, but it can also be found in many locations online by Googling: allegro interiors susan miles

Bringing Your Interior Design Outdoors

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA) – Sunday, July 1, 2012 Author: Linda Jerkins

Several years ago, Michael and Lillie Axelrod decided they wanted to redo the outdoor space of their Sandy Springs home. They had the deck removed and added a screened-in porch. The next step was to call their go-to interior designer for help. Susan E. Miles of Dunwoody-based Allegro Interiors came up with a plan to create a functional yet contemporary-styled outdoor space where the Axelrods could gather with family and friends.

“We had a vague idea of what we wanted to do,” said Michael Axelrod, a business consultant and retired attorney. “But we needed help executing that vision.” Using a variety of materials to create a stylish, livable space, Miles selected porcelain tile for the floor, a stained concrete top for the dining table and dining chairs made of brushed lacquered aluminum. She also coordinated the Sunbrella fabrics for the sofas and chairs with the other accessories, including wall sconces and ceiling fans.

The Axelrods were pleased with their new room. But they aren’t alone in wanting to extend the comfort and luxury of their homes to the great outdoors. The growing “leisure lifestyle” industry is now a $6.2 billion industry in the United States, up 5.4 percent from 10 years ago, according to the Hearth, Patio and Barbecue Association, a trade group in Virginia.

Outdoor spaces, such as decks, patios and porches, can add value to a home. But they take some planning, too. To create a space that is right for you, consider these tips and trends from Atlanta-area Allegro Interiors plus the HPBA, Kolo Collection and AuthenTeak.


Determine the size and how you will use the outdoor space (cooking, relaxing, entertaining) before you shop for furniture and accessories.

Allow the outdoor space to be a natural extension of your home’s interior design.

Research products online and check products at discount and home stores, plus specialty outdoor retailers. Sit on couches and chairs to determine comfort.

Make sure furnishings complement the exterior of the house as well as the outside trim, stucco or brick colors.

Select furniture frames made of brushed aluminum, cast aluminum, solid wrought iron or weather-resistant wicker.

Use worry-free fabrics, such as Sunbrella, for your upholstered pieces. The fabric dries quickly and is easy to clean. It also resists mildew and fading.

Consider canvas awnings and umbrellas — or shades to control sun.

Families might prefer bench seating because one bench can seat several children. Benches also are more economical than individual chairs.

Choose rugs made from acrylic or olefin. They are easy to care for and resist fading.

Create an outdoor room over a few years to accommodate your wish list if you are on a budget. During the first year, install the hearth products and define grilling and eating areas.


Outdoor fireplaces, water features and grills (and outdoor kitchens) provide natural gathering spots and can be handsome focal points for an outdoor area.

Larger decks and multiple conversation areas are popular.

Sophisticated lighting, such as sconces, chandeliers and lamps, help create a mood and allow you to spend more time outdoors.

Decorative low-voltage lighting, wired into the deck steps and posts or along pathways, adds an element of safety.

Draperies made from indoor-outdoor fabrics attached to stone or wood columns create a sense of intimacy.

Gray is a popular color group in outdoor furniture and fabrics in 2012, but browns are still in demand.

Colorful accessories and fun patterns, such as rugs and outdoor pillows (Elaine Smith pillows are top choices).

Families with young children are using newer outdoor fabrics on their indoor furniture.

Allegro AJC Article – Displaying Art

Over the years, I’ve had numerous questions from clients regarding the display of artwork. Since I was recently contacted by the Atlanta Journal & Constitution to do an article on the subject, I am passing on these thoughts and guidelines:

  • First of all, balance and scale are of prime importance when it comes to hanging pictures on walls. Large paintings should not be larger than the piece of furniture underneath them, and small paintings or prints should not be hung in isolation on a large wall.
  • In framing your art, I highly recommend triple matting for true elegance – though double matting can be acceptable in some cases. And, of course, color coordination is key. Never make your top (outer) mat the same width as the frame – vary the sizes. Do you have small prints or photographs that look boring? Use wide top mats to increase size and add interest. You can even mix black and white photos with color photos as long as you keep the top mats and frames the same to create a sense of unity.
  • Don’t hang art too close together or too far apart (2-4” apart is a good guideline) — or too high or too low. Respect the time-honored rule to hang artwork at eye level (i.e., hang art with the upper center of the picture at eye level for the average person).
  • Don’t be afraid of a blank wall – that in itself can be artistic. Don’t feel obligated to hang art on every wall – it will make the room appear too busy or too cluttered.
  • A hodgepodge of art that you’ve collected over time can be effectively integrated and become “museum worthy” by mixing materials and colors, and by combining them with mirrors, tapestries, decorative brackets, plates, and even flea market pieces. The frames and mats don’t have to match — again keeping in mind size, balance and scale.
  • When planning a collection of pictures over a sofa, first arrange them on the floor and trace them on craft paper. Cut-out the shapes and then arrange them on the wall with painter’s tape. If you have 8-10 pieces to hang, keep your spacing anywhere from 2-4” apart. Group small and large similar pieces together to make a greater impact.
  • And finally, hanging art on a staircase presents a challenge to most people. Usually the simple rule to follow is to hang the art along the same angle as the stairs. Here again, weight and balance come into play. If you have larger or heavier frames, they will look best near the very top and bottom of the arrangement with medium to small pieces grouped in between. Also, be careful not to display maps and manuscripts that invite reading, or artwork that draws a person’s attention to small details when descending or ascending the stairs. This creates a safety hazard and falls have resulted.


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