Open House: Design tips from Regan Ruiz Interiors

Interior designer Regan Botts Ruiz shares the decor secrets she uses in her own home in Southeast Washington.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 14, 2010

Interior designers have their own quirky preferences, challenging spaces and limited budgets. Three local stylists share the strategies they use at home.

A third-generation Washingtonian, Regan Botts Ruiz, 44, discovered her talent for design during a 20-year stint as an event planner. "There's a lot of interior work that goes into galas," says Ruiz, who staged fetes with furniture, backdrops and linens. "A lot of design elements I learned from that translated naturally into my design business."

But Ruiz, who turned to full-time designing three years ago after working with a series of mentors, prefers to call herself an interior artist. "I feel like my work is art."

Ruiz shares her single-family home in Hillcrest, in Southeast Washington, with her husband and 6-year-old daughter. After buying the 72-year-old house in 2002, she applied what she calls an "urban elegant" aesthetic to it. In the living area and kitchen, she cultivated a serene and sophisticated mood, using neutral hues, classic furnishings such as a baby grand piano, and glass, crystal and Lucite accents. The dining room is a vibrant deviation, with a vivid fuchsia on the walls. "It's for the 'wow' factor," Ruiz says.

"I want a space to be functional as well as beautiful," she says. "A lot of times, space is an issue, especially in older homes or condos. I try to incorporate functional storage or work space. It can be something as simple as using a lot of baskets around the house, or turning a closet into a built-in bookcase or china cabinet."

Ruiz considers the area's conservative customer base her greatest design hurdle, but from that challenge stems her favorite aspect of the business: the Big Reveal. "It's amazing to see the reactions of a client -- it's an unexpected element of my work," Ruiz says. "I didn't realize how life-changing it is for people, and how they think of themselves differently in a new space."


1. In the main living spaces, Ruiz creates a sense of continuity by using a limited selection of colors and materials. "The lighting in my living room is either crystal, glass or Lucite, but all the lamps are different," Ruiz says. That helps create"a uniform feeling without being boring." Ruiz cites and West Elm as her top sources for lighting, as well as antique shops, Eastern Market vendors and boutiques on the Eastern Shore. For the budget-conscious, she suggests Ikea and Target for simple glass and Lucite options.

2. While a carpenter was installing built-in benches in her dining room, Ruiz had an epiphany: Create hidden storage space by using removable wood bench tops covered with upholstered seat cushions. "I don't think you can ever have enough storage -- I figure if you can sit on it, you can store something in it." The project cost roughly $10,000; she estimates that custom banquettes range from $4,500 to $40,000 for a high-end piece. A less expensive option can be found online, where retailers sell ready-made banquettes starting around $1,500.

3. "I love metallic paint because of the light it reflects," Ruiz says. The designer painted her kitchen walls a cool platinum, while the master bedroom walls are a warm, glowing copper. Ruiz used Benjamin Moore Studio Finishes Metallic Glaze 620 ($37.99 per quart; visit for retailers); for a more subtle result, she recommends pearlescent paint.

PHOTO GALLERY: See photos of Regan Ruiz's home

PLUS: More interior design tips from Marmalade Interiors and Chad Alan Designs

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