CNI Houseplant Guide Part Two: Easy Low Light Plants

Many clients hesitate to add plants to their homes because they are worried about keeping them alive.  The great thing about the two plants in part two of my houseplant blog series is that the upkeep is minimal and the results beautiful.

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas Zamifolia)

This plant is an easy one to care for and its beautiful emerald green shiny, waxy green leaves are a crowning touch in any room.  This plant likes light but can grow in low light which makes it perfect for the guest room or den that doesn’t get as much light or foot traffic.  Do not over water the ZZ plant, it can go for a week at a time without much water.  Overwatering will cause the roots at the bottom to rot and the leaves to turn yellow.

Snake Plant (Sansevieria)

This is another plant that is easy to take care of for those of us without green thumbs.  Snake plant, also called mother in laws tongue, plants can deal with lower light but if you want the leaves to grow taller place next to a bright window but not in direct sunlight.  Overwatering can cause rot so make sure to plant a snake plant in a pot that drains well.  Make sure to water along the sides of the plant and not directly onto the plant.  Water only when the top of the soil has dried.  These plants have a very modern feel and go well in this modern Japanese Loft.

Photos by Erika Bierman

CNI Houseplant Guide Part One: Fiddle Leaf Fig Tree

I add plants in nearly every room that I design.  Plants are a very important element of design that add the final and most organic touches to a home.  Plants beautify rooms, bring a bit of nature inside and they also filter toxic elements from the air.  Below is the first installment to a guide to some of my favorite houseplants and ones that I use the most on projects.  There are dozens of houseplants to choose from on your projects and I will be writing about those in the coming weeks so stay tuned.  Please keep in mind that if you are local to the Pasadena area CNI can source plants and pots for you.  Call 626-441-4288 if you want pricing and information on custom potted plants from Charmean Neithart Interiors.

Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus Lyrata)

This is perhaps one of the most popular house plants and a darling of interior designers.  Its beautiful large leaves provide a beautiful splash of green and they can grow to be very tall especially if the plant has more than one stock or stem.  This is not the easiest plant to take care of but well worth it for its beauty.  This plant needs bright indirect light.  Fiddle leaf figs are great next to a window with a sheer window treatment.  My best suggestion is to water each time the top soil seems dry to the touch.  The leaves are large and tend to collect dust which can hinder growth.  I suggest that clients gently clean the leaves with a damp cloth monthly to keep them healthy and beautiful as well as trim dry yellow leaves at the bottom off of the plant.

Photo by Erika Bierman

An Organized Pantry

When I first started using Houzz I posted a picture of a pantry I designed at a transitional center for homeless foster youth.  Venice Beach is home to hundreds of runaway teens. The crash pad, right off the boardwalk, aims to provide them with a haven to help them restore their lives.  The project included redoing and organizing a pantry for the home.  I posted a photo of this pantry on Houzz and it has been the single most shared, clicked photo on my feed.  I think it’s because everyone deep down wants an organized pantry but I believe it’s a struggle for any busy, normal person.

Wouldn’t it be lovely when it was time to plan dinner if you could walk into your pantry and find everything at your fingertips?  Instead, I am sure many of you, like me, have to sift through bags of rice, jars of oil, maybe even some sprouting potatoes.  I am here to help with some pantry organizing ideas.

Baskets/Clear Jars:  Use decorative (but sturdy) baskets and clear jars to organize items that would otherwise be free floating or roll around, such as fruit, potatoes, snacks and even cans.

Wallpaper:  If your pantry is walk in or if you just want it to look pretty when you open it, consider wallpaper between the shelves.  We used a cool blue Kravet pattern for a calming, uniform effect.

Organize like items by shelf:  Perhaps one shelf is for goods that are more perishable, another is for grains like rice, grains and flour and another is for snacks and treats.  Create whatever system makes sense to you but making sure that like things are placed together will help the pantry stay clean.

Labels:  Use the labels on the items as a helping hand.  Make sure like labels are next to each other and make sure that they are facing out and easy to read.  Stack boxes and cans if possible to save room.

Air freshener:  Make sure that there is something keeping the air fresh.  I like something simple and safe like a diffuser on a shelf.

Lighting:  If possible, add lighting to the space so you can see everything.  The modern pendant from Lumens adds a modern touch to this pantry.

Inventory:  If you have time, perhaps the most important element would be to take inventory of what you have on your shelves and clean things out before you go to the grocery store.  You can even plan recipes around these items to make sure you are really using what you have.  I recommend doing this every month or so.

Small, Spanish-Style Kitchen

We recently remodeled a small kitchen in a cute South Pasadena home.  The finished product is one of my favorites because of the creative touches we used to make it look unique.  As someone who loves to cook and take pictures of my food every day, I see the kitchen is the heart of the home.  Most families spend so much time in the kitchen, therefore it is a great place to start a remodel.

Choose a style and stick with it

Our clients have a Spanish style home and wanted that reflected in their kitchen.  That gave us plenty of inspiration for colors, hardware, tile, lighting and other design details.  If your home has a defined style on the outside I always say to stick with that style indoors as well.

Color Your Cabinets

If you don’t have a lot of space but you want to make the kitchen a focal point I suggest going with a pop of color on the cabinets.  We used Benjamin Moore’s Spellbound 1659 to create a bright blue that draws the eye into the kitchen from the laundry room and the dining room.

Have Fun with Hardware

We added fun and funky hardware to compliment the blue cabinets.  The pieces have a twisted, aged and hammered look.  Don’t be afraid to go a little wild with your hardware, it’s a great place to add flair and intrigue.  Also, as styles change it’s the least permanent part of the remodel and can always be updated and replaced.

Use Tile for Texture

A tile backsplash adds glamour and can be used in small kitchens to enhance custom details.  The client wasn’t sure about this Tabarka Studio tile because of its rustic look.  She finally came around to the organic beauty of it when she realized each piece was handmade like art.  It adds character and texture juxtaposed against the clean lines of the slabs and cabinets.

Keep Counters Clean

In order to create the illusion of the most space we went with a clean and simple white slab in this kitchen.  In a small kitchen it’s best not to get too busy with colors or veins in your slab that will just take away from all the other details. We used Caesarstone 5000 London Grey for this project.

Hide Your Dishwasher

In a smaller kitchen, appliances take up most of the room.  As you can see in this kitchen we were able to put a panel over the dishwasher to create a cleaner more streamlined look.  Also, investing in counter depth fridge and a range with ovens below will also add space to your layout.


Our clients’ hearts were set on a Moravian Star pendant.  We loved the look because it tied back to the Spanish style of the house.   This also draws your eyes to the window and up away from the floor and adds a soft layer of light to the kitchen.

Window Treatments

I have always felt window treatments finish the room.  Not only do they allow for privacy, they are the frosting on the cake.  I also added a whimsical trim that tied in the white with the blue.  Trim is an easy inexpensive way to make roman shades look dressed up and custom.

Photos by Erika Bierman

Workplace Music

8:05am You get into the office, you make your coffee or you are sipping your morning smoothie.  Now what?  Working in a design office naturally brings a lot of inspiration.  There are beautiful pieces of art on the walls, a back warehouse full of rugs, furniture and accessories and a library of every fabric color and pattern you can imagine.  But it’s hard to get absorbed in projects if all you hear is the clicking of the keyboards and the phone ringing. Music is a big inspiration for our days at Charmean Neithart Interiors.

When I designed our office I knew I wanted music to be a part of the environment. We use Sonos and take turns switching off what days we play different genres.  Monday and Tuesday are generally very busy days at CNI as we are fielding calls from clients explaining issues that arose over the weekend and getting updates from contractors about what is going on at job sites for the week.  For these days we need music that will pump us up.  Our associate designer, JR, is great at playing the tunes that make you want to dance but also make work fun.  Sia, Beyonce, and Chainsmokers are just a few of the artists on his lineup.

Our project manager, Liv, likes to play the smoother tunes.  She is a millennial but grew up listening to the songs of the 60’s and 70’s.  James Taylor, Fleetwood Mac and The Beatles provide a calming throwback to ease you into the day.  It’s amazing how classic music connects generations.  These songs also are great food for conversation since everyone has a favorite tune and memory of when they first heard it.

Our business manager, Tracy, loves country jams especially when we are working on projects in the back of the office where we can really rock out.  There is nothing better than listening to the sweet crooning of Blake Shelton or Luke Bryan when organizing the many drawers filled with memos of fabric or moving furniture around for the next installation.  It’s amazing how music can transport you.  It’s almost like being at Stagecoach.

I  like lyrics so anything with a story is my preferred music genre.   Singer songwriters like John Mayer, Alicia Keys, Joni Mitchell or Ed Sheeran give me ideas for my designs as I listen to the stories they tell with their lyrics.

What are the soundtracks to your days at the office and what music inspires you?