Outdoor Decor: Choosing the Right Outdoor Furniture

When it comes to completing your deck, porch or outdoor patio, furniture is the main event. Down here in the South, y’all know we love an outdoor space! But no matter where you happen to live right now, we’re willing to bet your outdoor space is getting a lot of extra use at the moment, especially as we move into the summer months. A refresh for outdoor seating and dining, space-planning for an existing outdoor space, and choosing the right furniture items for an outside living area have been hot topics among both our commercial and residential clients as of late, and something we wanted to given attention to here on the blog (and, it gives us a good excuse to bring back a few images of our favorite outdoor projects!) So let’s retreat to the terrace and talk shop on some of the things that make for the perfect outdoor pieces.

What’s on the (outdoor) Agenda

When our team is looking at an outdoor space, one of the questions we always start with is what clients will be doing with the space. It’s great to have nice-looking furniture in your outdoor area regardless, but as we’re strategize-ing how to bring in some design TLC, functionality is always at the top of our minds. If you love to lay out on a chaise chair but you have no desire to serve meals outside, there’s not much reason to have a big outdoor dining table that will sit unused. From both a space and budget standpoint, we always emphasize what will be used and enjoyed the most, and let those items take center stage. If you’re going to splurge on certain pieces of furniture, this is where you want to do it- those work-horse items that will garner all the wear-and-tear that naturally comes along with well-loved pieces. Thinking about how you will spend your time outside and what brings you that outdoor-joy is a great place to start.

Backyard styling - By Cat French Design

Space and Place

One thing we see often with outdoor spaces is that they can be a challenge to organize. Sometimes the unintentional result is that a lot of random things get parked out there (we’ve all done it!). From couches to tables to storage- there’s a strong temptation to try to cram everything into one place. But, we know from a lot of experience that a crowded feel or having to constantly move things around whenever you go out there can be a big drain on time and energy. And let’s face it- if it’s not an enjoyable place to be, it won’t get used. Defining the areas is a good way to think about what furniture you will need, and what will serve you best in the space. This is where we see a lot of clients come to us for help. Deciding on the best type of furniture and doing some strategic planning goes a very long way to making the space functional + enjoyable. Do you want a full outdoor living area, complete with couches? Or, do you need slimmer profile seating and attractive toy storage areas for your young family? We love digging into the creative work of solving the functional problems and finding beautiful pieces that meet every need.

Cozy Screen Porch Furniture - By Cat French Design

Turning Tables (and chairs)

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Market and Moss! The Big Update – Part II

If you’ve been following for a bit, you know that we have been working on a completely novel and unique commercial design project for Market and Moss, a brand new restaurant located right here in Southern Village (if you’re catching up, read our first update here!). This Chapel Hill eatery, a new concept kitchen by local entrepreneur Annie Johnston, has been in the works and slated to open later this year. Even though there have certainly been some unexpected circumstances over the last few months, we have been able to safely continue progressing toward the complete renovation of the space, and it’s looking amazing, y’all! Read along below for a full update on how things are coming together in this beautiful space!

Creative Commercial Design

We’ve been talking a bit lately on the blog about our work in Commercial Design. Here at CFD, we have been very fortunate to also work with Annie on another incredible Chapel Hill eatery, the beloved coffee spot and cafe LaVitaDolce. Of the many things we love about her, Annie has phenomenal taste, creative style, and a business drive that truly inspires. Aligning with her vision and dream for this new restaurant, we have worked closely with her for months to create a truly inventive, unique space. It’s a concept that you won’t find anywhere else- the product of Annie’s business acumen combined with a whole lot of CFD design innovation, out-of-the-box thinking, and that little dash of the unexpected that keeps things interesting.

Updated bar area with copper accents - Cat French Design

The Right Angles

At the time of our last update, all of the tile work was being completed (and oh my, does it look amazing!). One of the major tasks-to-be-tackled since then has been the completion of the interior painting. Seeing the full-color story coming together has been a sight to behold. The custom palette created for Market and Moss is distinctive, and meant to showcase every part of the restaurant with a look that is sophisticated and memorable. This space has a great deal of custom trim and woodwork on the walls throughout, and for us, that means there’s all the more room for creativity. Elevating the visual interest with color and contrast while playing up the angles and curves of the woodwork lets the color pop even more vibrantly, making the space feel full of life already.

New stamped tin ceiling tiles - Cat French Design

Trades in Spades

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Commercial Design: Creating Business Interiors that Work

For us here at CFD, Commercial Design is all about helping business owners and supporting our local economy. Commercial Design is a key part of our own business here at the studio, and today we’re giving it the spotlight on the blog. Right from the start, businesses of all shapes and sizes have come to CFD looking for help creating a more functional, beautiful, usable space. Whether it’s employees or customers, commercial spaces are places where people spend a great deal of time, and where so much important connection happens- and to us, that means great design is in order. From enhancing productivity to elevating customer appeal, we believe that workspaces should work hard to make the business the best that it can be.

Concept and Commercial Design

Work and consumer culture, and subsequently commercial spaces, have gone through a lot of transition over the last few decades. From individual offices and millions of half-walls to wide-open plans to multi-use spaces- there has been a whirlwind of evolving trend. Even if we think of restaurants years ago with the maze of individual booths and tables versus the scene we see now in local eateries, it’s a noticeable renaissance. That progression provides an opportunity for so much creativity in re-thinking the status quo and designing purposeful spaces that truly WORK. Every business is unique and we know that with each custom space that we design, getting to know the business, their team, and their customers, is the first building block to creating their perfect space.

Commercial Office Design in Raleigh - Cat French Design

When Commercial Gets Custom

No doubt, we’re all familiar with the Office Space-esque rows of identical cubicles or the blank feel of lengthy store aisles. One of the great parts of working with business owners is that we get to create custom spaces that are novel, unique, and strategic. In other words, it’s designed to fit what that business is actually doing in the day-to-day. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in our process, and this helps us to create spaces that foster identity, teamwork, and maximize consumer appeal. We’re thinking about every inch of that space and how it impacts everyone inside- whether they’re working, shopping, eating, or meeting. When we’re getting to know a business owner, we’re talking about not just immediate needs, but also their goals, vision, and plans for where they want the business to go, so that we can create a space that will help them get there and showcases their brand.

Restaurant Design in Chapel Hill - Cat French Design

Wearing many (hard) Hats

We’ve talked a little bit before in this post about Full-Service Design and what that means for us at CFD. This plays a huge role in our work with businesses. We are often working with teams of folks in the business itself, from C-level execs to committees to advisory boards- as well as contractors and a huge variety of other tradespeople. Communication is crucial when we’re looking at a large-scale space and scope. Project management? We’re on it- that’s one of the many hats we wear. Timeline, prioritization, and operating closely with installers and vendors across all types of projects has become our wheelhouse over the years. These are relationships that matter, and with each new project, we work hard to establish that “dream team” of professionals who work closely together and share the same common goal of making an incredible outcome for the client and space.

Commercial Residential Design in Carrboro - Cat French Design

Working Smarter

Everyone enjoys a space that is beautiful (us included!) but Commercial Design is about SO much more than just looks. Function is always important, but is even more critical in a space that needs to be primed for productivity. For example, when we’re looking at spaces like restaurants or retail stores, we’re mapping out every move that employees and customers are making in the space- what is the flow of movement and how can we streamline it to enhance business objectives? Capacity, code, and materials that will stand up to constant use are critical touchpoints in the process. We’re also looking strategically at aesthetics- and everything that meets a customer’s eye is considered, from the lighting to the color scheme, all the way to the cash wrap- every part matters. If you’re thinking this sounds like a whole lot of work and planning- you’re right. But if it means a space where business can thrive, then it’s well worth the front-end effort to get that design exactly right.

Office Space Design in Durham - Cat French Design

Dynamic Design

Places where employees gather, such as conference rooms and offices and even that gorgeous CEO suite, are more than just a box with a desk. Smart and strategic Commercial Design can create an environment that promotes the things you want- whether that’s a space that is inspirational and creative, quiet and relaxed, busy and vibrant- there is a great deal of theory and precision that a skilled, experienced design team can bring to the table. Believe it or not, great design can create spaces that encourage communication, collaboration, and relationship-building while also enhancing individual productivity. Businesses are far from static; things are always moving and changing (and growing!) and dynamic design is one of the ways we create spaces that adapt to change and stand the test of time.

Executive Suite Design in Chapel Hill - Cat French Design

Cat was recently featured on an expert discussion for the Chapel Hill Chamber of Commerce discussing how businesses can adjust space and design to ensure employee health safety at work (lookout for more on this via our Instagram!).

We love helping business owners create incredible spaces. Check out some of our past commercial design projects on the CFD Portfolio Page, as well as the CFD blog! If you’d like to know more about our Commercial Design Services, you can always reach us at or via the short form on our Contact Page. For more up-to-date happenings and goings-on of the CFD team, check out our Facebook Page or follow us on Instagram @catfrenchdesign!

Paint by Design: Creating your Custom Palette

When it’s time to paint the interior of your home or business, there’s more than meets the eye as far as choosing colors. We’ve probably all been in the same situation a time or two- you go into the paint store with a firm idea of what you’d like….but as your eyes scan the millions of *slightly* different little sample squares, they start to swim and blend together (who knew there were THAT many different kinds of white, anyhow?). Creating a beautiful, unique, and streamlined color story in your home can be a huge task, and if the wall color conundrum has ever happened to you… well, you’re not alone. In fact, help with paint colors is one of the most popular requests we get around here, and it’s one of our favorite ways to help clients create a beautiful home.

The Best of What’s Around

Paint on the walls seems like a fairly straightforward thing, but wow y’all, it can make a huge impact on how every item in your home looks. Think of it this way- the tone of the walls will bring out certain colors in everything- from the furniture to the artwork to the rugs and even to the trim. That painting you love that you’ve built your living room around can look completely different when it’s set in a freshly painted room. Because it’s covering such a large area and has so much presence in any given room, the paint color will pull out tones from everything- and you want to make sure they’re the right ones. Considering carefully which colors you want to be highlighted from your existing items can go a long way toward making it all work.

Interior Paint color selection - Cat French Design

Listening to the Light

We all know that colors can look different in lighter spots vs. dark. But when it comes to the play of light on your wall colors, this is actually a pretty deep well. Most folks have windows that face in different directions, meaning they will get different types of sunlight at different times of the day. But even more than that, light coming from different directions (i.e. Eastern versus Southern, etc) can also completely change the way a color appears. It would seem that more light would always make colors appear brighter but that’s often not the case- sunlight can transform color to everything from super-saturated to completely washed out depending on the strength and direction. Considering how a space will look at all times of the day and the way that light will play on a hue can make the difference between “it looked great on the sample” to a tone that truly works and goes the distance in your space.

How to make all of the paint colors balance in a space

What’s Time Got to Do With It

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Flora and Decor(a)! Adding house plants to your home

We’ve got big feels for house plants over here- and for good reason! They’re the accessible, affordable, mood-lifting-and-brightening addition to your home that never gets old. There’s something undeniably cheerful (and often comforting) about having some green-life hanging around. Whether you’re a long time plant lover or just thinking about making the leap into plant-hood, one thing is for certain- plant people are on to something, and today we’ll dive into why and how those loveable green babies can add so much to your space.

Love at First Sprout

Interestingly, it turns out that the age-old human affinity for flora is more than just preference. That little succulent on the counter or windowsill herb garden could be doing much more than you think. In fact, there’s a whole field of study devoted to the science behind “biophilic design”, which means, how greenery and natural elements in our spaces positively impact our minds (read a bit about it here!). No doubt you’ve also heard the old adage “dirt therapy”, the long-time catch phrase born out of the happiness that comes from caring for plant life. Folklore? Maybe not- there’s some pretty fascinating data for this as well. But regardless of the underlying reason, bringing the outside in is a great way to add beauty and vibrancy to any room.

Follow the Light

With a few exceptions, most indoor plants still need a LOT of light- usually more than we might think. There’s nothing more demoralizing than bringing home that beautiful plant baby…and seeing it meet its unfortunate demise within a week. So to keep them healthy and happy, a good way to start is to take a big-picture look at your space and see where the light is. If possible, arrange it so that plants can be right next to a window that gets direct sunlight for at least half of the day. If you’re looking for a plant to go specifically in a lower-light spot, consider the zz plant or a spider plant, which have a much better track record away from direct sun. Also, be open to letting the plants travel a bit- i.e., maybe that plant hangs out on your desk some days, and then it spends a couple of days right by your sun-drenched patio door. Just like us- the flora can also enjoy variety and a change of scenery.

Shape it Up

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Follow us to Great Design! The Master Design Plan

The Master Design Plan! It’s also known as the magical playbook we create to turn vision into reality here in CFD-land. If you’ve been reading along for a bit, you’ve seen our series called ‘Follow Us to Great Design!, where we’re sharing a bit about what we do (see part I here!). We’ve gotten so many requests for this post, and our whole team is excited to dive in with tons of insight into what the Master Design Plan is and why it matters- and most importantly, how it can help you turn your new build or addition into a true custom space.

The results of a master design plan.

It’s never too early

First things first- one of the biggest questions we get when clients contact us, “is it too early to get started?” and the answer is almost always the same: it’s never too early! There are so many benefits to having a full-service design firm review your plan sets before you start construction on a new home or even an addition. Getting our eyeballs on every inch of those drawings gives us the opportunity to evaluate and make adjustments that will tailor it just to you. Jamie, our Design Tech says, “Most architectural plans are designed for general use. We will listen to you and understand your specific needs and recommend adjustments to your plan set to accommodate your specific furniture, lifestyle, and needs.”

The team building out a Design Plan

Getting it right from the Get-Go

There’s no doubt about it- we love getting to know our clients. One thing we always ask when we are in the initial stages of a new-build design with a client is, “what’s on your must-have list?”. Everyone has those certain features they’ve always wanted in their dream home or special pieces they have taken with them to every place they’ve lived in. But, if you’re going to spring for that gorgeous 6ft soaker tub or a beautiful zero entry shower, a standard bathroom is not going to accommodate them without major modifications to the building plan- all of which need to happen well before construction starts. Once plumbing and walls are in the stages of completion, modifications after the fact will hit the budget hard. These are key items to consider when we are reviewing building plans with a client, and one of the main reasons it’s worth the time and effort to have an experienced full-service design firm as part of your team.

Cat measuring equipment in a cafe to develop the master design plan.

Digging into the details

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Cat’s Pro Tips: The Great Gallery Wall

Whether your walls are expansive or small, there’s no better way to gussy ’em up than a gallery wall. But when you’ve got dozens of pieces and parts staring you down, getting them up in a cohesive fashion can seem like a very tall order- but it doesn’t have to be. We’ve got Cat’s tips and tricks for how to make it a beautiful and unique feature in your home.

Check the Stockroom

It may be that you want to order all new items for your gallery wall, but lots of folks actually have plenty of things already on hand. Maybe you’ve got pictures floating around from a prior living space but aren’t sure where to put them in a new home. Maybe you’ve been gifted a lot of family photos over the years of varying sizes. Or, maybe it’s some of everything! Gather up any and all items that you think you might want to use, even if you aren’t quite sure yet how they will fit- give yourself lots of choices and wait until you’ve got everything together to decide what belongs.

Alternate Gallery Wall Ideas

Think outside the Frame

If you like a more classic look, you could consider black and white photos, matching frames and mats, or grouping similarly sized items. But if that’s not your style, or you have a variety of different items you want to display, that’s perfect too- this is where getting creative is a good thing! You can even include non-picture items such as beautiful plates or pottery, canvases, mirrors, or even wall planters and hanging plants. Loosely arrange your pieces together on the floor and then keep moving things around until you find a combination that gives you the happy feels. Add balance and symmetry by alternating smaller and larger items. Looking for a common thread (such as items that have a similar color) can sometimes be helpful to achieve the look you want.

Gallery Wall - Cat French Design

Let it Travel!

Some of the most stunning gallery walls are those that have an element of flow. This could be the items moving across a corner and onto an adjoining wall, or moving upward in tandem with a staircase. Galleries that go above and around lamps or follow the shape of nearby furniture can also add major impact. In other words- don’t feel like it has to all fit into a square or go on one wall. Make it fit your space in whatever way works best for you with the items you have, and let it bring you all the gallery-joy.

Gallery Wall over doorway

Tools of the Trade

Break out that measuring tape (or ruler) and a level, if you have one! Consistent spacing is one of the key components for making a gallery wall look complete and polished. To get things started, Cat says, “Consider placing items a consistent 4-5 inches apart from each other (top and bottom and side to side). Or, if you’re creating a tighter cluster of items, try 2-3 inches of space between items.” Once all your items are in place, grab your level to help you make adjustments for the perfect finish.

Make it Your Own

At the end of the day, the element of customization is what really makes the gallery wall great. It’s eternal favored status is due in no small part to the fact that you can really do it any way you like, with any items you like. Taking the time to think about the look you want, taking stock of the items you have, and doing some good ole’ planning and measuring can go a long way to making it all work. But that being said- the secret sauce is all about personality. Fill it with things that make your home feel like you, and you can’t go wrong.

All images were styled by the Team at Catherine French Design, LLC. All photographs were taken by J. Sinclair Photography and Melissa Hebert

Looking for a bit more help? You can always reach us at! Or, view our brief new client questionnaire here. Want to keep checking things out? See even more images from past CFD projects on our Portfolio Page!

Follow us to Great Design! Initial Steps at CFD

We get a great many questions from folks about what all we do here at CFD. There are lots of things to talk about, and so many details involved in doing the custom design work we love. As a Full-Service Design Firm, our role is a little different than what you might see at other places (and we think that’s a good thing!). Our joy comes from creating a completely unique space for every single client. We’re going to share a little insight into our process and how we connect with clients to make each space that perfect one-of-a-kind fit.

You had us at hello

We have found over the years that most clients are looking for not just a designer, but an advocate and someone they can trust. Homes and workplaces are precious spaces, and it can be a big thing to invite someone in and make changes. Our relationship with clients is the most important part of what we do- and it begins long before we ever meet in person. From the second a message comes into our hello@catfrenchdesign inbox, we are starting the process of learning what a client needs and wants.

Doing our homework

After our initial contact, a more detailed, thorough client interview is what usually comes next. Or, sometimes clients just want a chance to ask questions before they dive in (we get it!).  We nicknamed this our “discovery call” and it’s a no-strings-attached way for both of us get to know each other a bit. The relationship between our team and the clients is a crucial part of the process, and we always want clients to feel like they’ve come to the exact right place. Moving forward means scheduling a time to come out to the space (or these days, view it via videoconference). Walking through each piece and part with the client, taking exact measurements and completing a full inventory of exactly what will make it their dream space.

Side by Side

At CFD, the design process is a two way street.  We work closely with each client throughout the entire project, from start to finish. Taking the time to listen carefully to what an owner is telling us- not just color and style, but everything from budget to timeline to exactly when and how they use each piece of furniture in a room. Listening closely to clients is one of the building blocks of how we customize each detail. Working closely with general contractors is also something we do on the daily, for everything from renovations to new builds. Planning an addition? We’re on it. Building a home from the ground up? We love that too – working as a team with other professionals is one of the ways we can make incredible spaces come to life.

CFD Custom Creations

When it comes to custom design, there is SO much to choose from- the options are endless, y’all! There’s no pre-fab production or templates here- each design is created in house by our team, and is fully unique to the client and the space. For us, creativity lives in this process of selecting just the right items, from flooring to lighting to fabric to finishes and everything in between, and then getting down to the nitty-gritty details to make each one just right. And, choosing pieces that will stand the test of time, from both a style and functional standpoint. It’s an ongoing conversation between the team and the client throughout the phases of making a space come together, and it’s one of our very favorite parts.

Inspired Design

As we share images of different projects, one of the things clients note is that there is a huge variety- no two projects look alike, and that’s our “normal”. We have clients all over the country who are as varied as the day is long- and one of the VERY best parts of our job is getting to know each of them, and figuring out together how we can make their space become all those things that feel just right- a place they can love and live in for a lifetime. Bringing their vision to life is the thing that makes us tick, and seeing clients enjoying that perfectly finished space makes it all so worth it.

You can always reach us at! Or, view our brief new client questionnaire here. Want to keep checking things out? See even more images from past CFD projects on our Portfolio Page!

Cat’s Pro Tips: Easy Ways to Improve your Outdoor Space

Spring and summer are the prime time for outdoor living, at least here in NC. But wherever you happen to be, we’re hoping the weather is turning nice in your neck of the woods as well. Family time, relaxing time, or (these days) even an alternative WFH spot-  there is so much wonderful-ness about having an outdoor space to call your own, and we’ve got some tips to make it an even more enjoyable (and usable!) addition to your home.

Sit down, Gather ’round

Whether you’ve got a small space or a lot of area to work with, part of making the outdoor space usable is seating.  You don’t need a full furniture set out there by any means- even just two simple (but comfortable) chairs will do. Orient them within glass-clinking distance of each other so you can enjoy an outdoor cocktail hour with a friend or significant other. Add a small table for convenience as a landing spot for your book, coffee cup, or laptop. 

Ask about Design Service for your Outdoor Space

Rollin’ in the Green

A plant can add a ton of life to the space and are a great bang for your buck.  Placing it as an accent in the corner or near the seating area creates an eye-pleasing transition between the inside and the outside spaces.  No need to get out your gardening gloves or maneuver a spade if you don’t want to- there are plenty of wonderful low-maintenance options.  If you’re new to plants, try the easy-to-please zz plant. They’re available anywhere, come in varying sizes, and are basically indestructible.  Pick a pot with some color or texture that pulls from your house accent color.

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Introducing CFD Live: Virtual Design in Real-Time

The CFD team is so excited to announce the launch of CFD Live: Design in Real-Time! This new line of services includes a full range of options- all completely virtual. Same amazing design service, with no in-person visits required. Read on below for all of the details!

CFD Virtual Design Services

The CFD Connection

There’s no doubt about it- things are a-changing right now. We are feeling it just as we know you all are too. Even though we’re not making in-person visits, we’re still hustling like we always do to keep projects moving forward for each client. Truthfully, virtual design is familiar territory for our team and has been a part of our work for some time. We have clients around the country who aren’t able to pop into the studio, and over the years we’ve become well-versed in communicating with them via whatever means necessary- be it phone, email, or online. Working face-to-face with our clients is one of our favorite things on the planet- but when circumstances prevent it, we connect in other ways- whatever it takes to get the job done right.

Lysol wipes handy and separated by glass (social distancing!). But we’re still elbow deep in that design process, and connecting with our clients day in, day out.

How We Can Help

During this time of working and being at home, chances are there may be a few things you might like to change- That place in the house that just needs attention or maybe even a pesky project that you’d love to get off your list. We have had so many people reach out to us and ask about how they can access design services right now. We know firsthand that creativity and collaboration can happen in so many different ways. The CFD team has been working hard behind the scenes to bring a new service to life, and we are so excited to begin offering CFD Live: Design in Real-time- Virtual Design options available to both existing and new clients.  

Virtual Design Styling Assistance - Catherine French Design

Design Direct to You

 Each session will include a videoconference call with one of our talented designers. All you need is your ideas, questions, and a tape measure!  It’s easily done using your tablet, computer, or phone- whatever is most convenient for you.  CFD Live will be the same robust, creative, and personalized service CFD is known for, but all done via video.

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