kathy ann abell interiors

The Sofa Blog: Top Tips for Choosing the Right Sofa

If your sofa is looking a little sad or you’re in the market for a new couch, then this is the blog for you! In design, a sofa that looks great is always the goal, but it also has to check the boxes of comfortability, support, as well as be comprised of high-quality materials. After all, a sofa is likely to be the biggest investment you make in your living room or family room, so choosing a piece of furniture that will last for decades is ideal. If you need a little sofa guidance, look no further—here are our top tips for choosing a sofa that will last!



Dimensions are crucial for comfort and support. Low couches offer little back support, so we suggest 36 to 38 inches high. Depth is similar—too short and you’re sliding off the edge. Look for a depth of at least 36 inches, and if you want a sofa with extra comfort, then 42 inches is ideal and an excellent size for family rooms!



Comfort is key to a well-loved sofa. Start by choosing loose backed cushions rather than a fixed back. Unless your sofa is in a more formal setting and won’t be used much, loose backed cushions are going to provide more comfort. As far as the interior goes, we like something that has a foam and spring core wrapped in down. It’s comfortable, offers excellent support, and still has that loftiness. For exterior durability and great design, we love a couch that’s covered in a linen blend fabric.



The way a sofa is made determines the quality. When choosing a couch to last for years to come, look for Benchmade and 8-way hand-tied. Benchmade means it’s going to be custom pieces made to order—the term comes being created on a carpenters bench rather than factory-made. 8-way hand-tied refers to the spring foundation of the couch. While every sofa has springs, this means the way they’re tied together is done in every direction possible, making it comfortable and highly durable. Because it’s a labor-intensive way to create a couch, it does kick up the cost, but it also means you won’t need to repurchase a sofa for decades.


Finally, once you find the right sofa for your space, remember to rotate those cushions! Doing so will extend the life of your couch. We hope this gives you a great starting point for choosing the right sofa. Thanks for reading!

A Cultivated Office Space

When the owners of Cultivate: A Counseling Collective approached us about designing a new office space in University Heights, we couldn’t wait to get started. At their first meeting with designer Daniel Merk-Benitez, the owners shared that they wanted the space to embody their vision of becoming “a warm and inspiring path to wholeness.” Based on that goal, we knew that the space needed to feel more like a home than an office. Daniel’s hope was to create an environment where every time a client entered the lobby, they could immediately relax, breathe easy, and feel comfortable.


We’ve all experienced an office space that’s cold and uninviting, so we made sure to run far in the opposite direction. By choosing furniture pieces that created a homey feel, artwork that was whimsical, and placing plants everywhere, we designed a space that truly welcomes people in. Beyond that, the Cultivate team wanted to infuse youthful style throughout the offices, so we added touches of brass, blush, and funky pillows. To keep things fresh and airy, Daniel used his favorite shade of white, Dunn-Edwards’ Whisper, and left the open beams and ducting to make the whole space feel more casual.


The Offices





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When he first started designing the space, Daniel fell in love with this photograph of a quizzical giraffe. He knew he had to use it and it ended up setting the tone for the entire space. Every client sees it at the end of the long hallway, and it screams—”This is NOT your typical office space.” In fact, a few weeks after the space opened, a young child came with their father for a first appointment. Upon entering, the child exclaimed, “Dad, this isn’t a doctor’s office! It’s a home.” Based on those words, we feel we can say mission accomplished!

We’re also happy to report that a year after Cultivate opened this space, they began construction on a second location in La Mesa Village. We were honored they asked us to collaborate again, and we can’t wait to share it here soon. Keep an eye out and thanks for reading!

Design by: Daniel Merk-Benitez

Tropical Transitional

These next clients have been a part of our design family for a while—since we designed their vacation home around 10 years ago! We were thrilled when they asked us to come refresh their full-time residence, requesting that we make it more intentional and functional with a tropical transitional flair.

Because they hold a weekly Bible study at their home, the front living space needed to be an area that was easy to gather and have conversation. With a patterned ottoman as the center piece, we added bright chairs and fresh, nature driven art to create a lush yet relaxing vibe. Warm tones balanced with pops of green make the space colorful without being overwhelming.


Design Challenge:

Because the living room and family room are both so visible from each other, a challenge we ran into was making both rooms feel cohesive. They needed to be separate spaces with different purposes but also compliment each other. To accomplish this, we used patterns that played well together in both rooms and kept the art color within the same tone. Though both rooms have bold chairs, they don’t compete which makes each space feel like it’s own.


Our client wanted to be in her kitchen while also conversing with guests in the living room—so we added these lovely green swivel chairs to make sure people could remain comfortable no matter which way they needed to face. Also, a great little detail is the lazy susan in the middle of the coffee table—perfect for snacks or hors d'oeuvres when entertaining.


It was clear to us from the beginning that our clients are warm, kind people who are generous with both their time and space, and they wanted their house to reflect a welcoming attitude to family and friends. Their home is a great example of how design can truly maximize any space while making it beautiful in the process. The end result is a place where guests can feel at home too! Thanks for reading!


Classic Coastal Renovation

We always love when clients return and we get to work with them on a new project. This next design was like a little family reunion as one of our longtime clients had us come back to remodel her upstairs. About 6 years ago, we turned her downstairs living area into a classic coastal space, and she wanted to carry that same feel to the rooms above. We were overjoyed to work with her again as well as some amazing contractors to help finish the design. Of course, what’s a remodel without a little before and after? Take a peek at the rooms just as we were starting to demo them and keep scrolling to see them in their final glory!

The Guest Room




We wanted to make the guest room feel inviting while designing it to fit the rest of the house. We gave the room a fresh coat of paint, brought in new furniture and accessories, and created a space that would welcome any guest who comes to stay.

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The Guest Bathroom




While the guest bathroom was certainly functional, it was outdated and had no specific style. We completely demolished the room and then removed the wall separating the shower. With a new vanity and bright fixtures, the guest bathroom feels airy and spacious with a touch of coastal ambiance.

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The Master Bathroom




Who doesn’t dream of a beautiful master bathroom? We were so excited to make that dream a reality for our clients by removing everything and starting fresh. Bringing the wall out into the master bedroom, we were able to create a larger walk in shower and give the bathroom some more space. From the vanity, to the tub, to the finishes, we gave these clients a master bathroom they could truly love.

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The Master Bedroom




The master bedroom definitely had a lot of space and good natural light, but the room still felt dark. To brighten things up, we repainted the space and added white trim work behind the bed. The fireplace also got an update with new tile and trim which gave it classic character. Window treatments and curtains were kept light as well to add onto the airy feel and using blue hues as our pop of color, the room is simple but definitely classic coastal.

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We absolutely loved giving these wonderful clients a home design that carries throughout the entire house. They were a joy to work with and we hope they enjoy their design to the fullest! Thanks for reading!


Mid-Century Modern With a View

Getting a little piece of the ocean is the San Diego dream, but for these next clients a view of the sea was a surprise! After searching for the perfect piece of land, they found a little plot that ran right along the edge of a beautiful state preserve where the natural beauty of neighboring trees and boulders would be their backyard. Little did they know, by building up, they’d find a view of the big blue. Of course, this was more than a chance for an ocean view. This was their chance to build their dream home—a two-story mid-century modern vision—and it was our team who came in to see that the design fit that vision. 

From the beginning, these clients wanted comfort while still being modern. Our goal was to help them achieve that welcoming feel and contemporary style while keeping it timeless. They trusted us and were willing to try out ideas which made the process an amazing experience. From paint and flooring to knobs and accessories—the design required that every detail be planned and executed with intention. While we worked on keeping the design on track, the architect and contractor moved step-by-step through the red tape that surrounds building a home next to a nature preserve. After three-and-a-half years, we finally moved in their furniture and placed every carefully planned accessory to bring them the home of their dreams!

The Guest Bedroom

When it comes to Mid-Century Modern design, accessories are minimal but crucial. Because the design needs to be kept simple, the details need to be chosen with a purpose. Throughout all of the bedrooms, we made sure to use art and minimal accessories to create a strong style without overcrowding.

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The Guest Bathroom


A Modern Staircase

A staircase is of course functional, but it can also be a statement. With the rich colored wood and metal details, this staircase provides access to both floors and contributes to that modern look.


The Media Room

Extremely cozy and a little retro, the media room provides a comfortable place to hang out. Complete with a small kitchenette for drinks and snacks, this is the room where “Netflix and Chill” is meant to happen!


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The Bathrooms


Beautiful yet simple, these bathrooms are definitely show-stoppers. Using beautiful tile and rich textures, each bathroom has it’s own unique and modern twist. (Psst, take a look at that bathtub in #2—I think we could all use one of those!)

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The Dining Room

Hello, windows! This home was meant to invite the outdoors in through the use of floor to ceiling windows. We love how the dining room is framed by the nature preserve and features natural textures and colors to compliment the beautiful surroundings.

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The Living Room

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The Kitchen

We love a bright and airy kitchen. This one is not only lovely but it connects to the living room and upstairs patio making it just right for entertaining.


The Entry


The Designers

Lead Designer: Kathy Abell

Assistant Designer: Daniel Merk-Benitez


We absolutely loved working on this project and poured our hearts into every detail from the ground up. We have to say, there’s no better feeling than seeing what you’ve worked on for so long come to fruition. Plus, it’s even better to see your dear and beloved clients finally get their dream home. They were amazing to work with and we were honored to be their design team. May they enjoy their beautiful home for years to come! Thanks for reading!

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Modern Hawaiian Remodel

After twenty-five years in the original design of their house, our clients were ready for an update. We had already redesigned their downstairs living space, which you can check out HERE, so this time we moved upstairs to remodel their master suite and guest room. Living only a few miles from the ocean and being lovers of Hawaii, we knew their master bedroom needed to be serene and resort-like. We began with muted colors and created a modern fireplace for an atmosphere that’s inviting and calm. Adding in a relaxing sofa and cozy reading chairs, we transformed the room into the ultimate at-home getaway. Finally, to get a touch of the island, we made sure to use warm lighting, natural textures, and tropical greenery.


When it came to the master bathroom, we wanted to create a spa-like atmosphere. The dark wood closet doors are reminiscent of what you would see on the island, while the stone detail on the tub brings in a sense of serenity. Of course, the sea glass chandelier is what completes the look with a bit of ocean detail. 


Our clients wanted their guest room to be relaxing and inviting for friends and family that come to stay. Using robin’s egg blue and lighter fabrics, we carried over that same sense of calm from their master suite so that future guests feel that same resort-like ambiance.


We love that this design makes our clients home feel like a sanctuary and we hope it’s now a place where they can truly relax and unwind. Thanks for reading!

A Bright and Airy Update

Older homes often come with plenty of potential, and if you’re willing to put in the work, that potential can turn into a home with tons of charm! That was the case with this historic coastal home. After designing the master bedroom and family room (which you can see HERE), the living and dining space was up next. Beginning as a fully wood paneled room, it felt outdated and dark. We believe preserving history in an older home is important, but we find that it has to suit a client’s lifestyle in order to be enjoyed. This room had great features like the wood beams, fireplace, and french doors, but with so much orange-stained wood, the space wasn’t inviting and all of those special features just blended in. We decided that instead of preserving the entire room, it would suit the clients and the space better to highlight the best features and bring the rest up to date. So, with lots of creamy white paint, natural colors and textures, along with fresh greenery, we brightened it up and created a space with timeless coastal charm. Check out the before and after photos below!





While we designed the rest of their house to be kid-friendly, our clients requested a more formal room where they could entertain. Of course, the layout of the space meant it was too big to be just another family room, and we really wanted it to be functional as a more formal space. So, we had the idea to make two rooms in one. On one side is a comfortable tone-on-tone sitting area, and by the fireplace is the formal dining space. To finish it off, the lighting fixture acts as a defining detail making the two spaces feel separate while remaining complimentary.


Now bright and airy, the best features of this room have come out of the woodwork (so to speak) and are now showcased in this timeless space. It’s now ready for good conversations, scrumptious meals, and new memories to be made! Thanks for reading!


 Design by: Julie Benitez

Elegant Outside

Bringing a backyard to life is about more than making sure there’s enough seating for BBQs and get-togethers. We take into account the purpose of the space, the size, the way it connects to the interior of the home, and of course, the elements. Once we’ve figured out those aspects, it’s time to bring our vision to life and create a space that invites its owners to enjoy the outside.

We recently finished the interior of this elegant home (which you can check out HERE), but to make it the complete package, we needed to carry on its cozy coastal features to the outside. One of the great qualities of this home is its ability to open up. The patio connects to the family room through glass french doors which creates an outdoor extension to the room. These clients love to entertain and host family and friends, so we wanted to enhance the patio’s ability to connect to the inside by using complementary colors. Just open the french doors, and it becomes one continuous space. The clients wanted a firepit, so we found a great one that doubles as a coffee table when not in use.


With cream, navy, and robins egg blue acting as the primary colors for the interior, we carried this palette out into backyard as well. The pool area was already beautiful, but with so many hard surfaces, it needed to be softened. Using fabric as our means, we placed custom upholstered pieces throughout the space which adds both a cozy and useful flair. The seven umbrellas also soften the space while creating shade and dimension.


Just off both the family and the living room is this outdoor dining terrace. With enough seating to host friends, it’s ideal for scrumptious dinners on cozy evenings. By finishing the area with a large rug, this area feels inviting and complete.


We love that this backyard has been transformed into a place that’s useful and welcoming. From pool party to elegant dinner gathering or enjoying the rising sun with a cup of coffee, it’s genuinely become another cherished part of the home. Thanks for reading!


Not Your Mama's Southwest Style (Part 2)

Welcome to part two of Not your Mama’s Southwest Style! (You can check out part one HERE). As I mentioned in part one, Southwest style can get a bad rap, so if it makes you think of the 80’s—erase that idea. No peach, no turquoise, and no white wicker here. When it comes to today’s Southwest style, we want to create a natural look with pops of color and character. Here are a few tips if you’re looking to integrate this fun style into your own home. First, mind your color palette. Choose a variety of warm and cool earth tones. The desert has tans and terra-cotta, but it also has cool navy blues too, which we used in this particular design to balance out our colors.


Second, find a few statement pieces and have fun with them! We used antique wooden shutters, the clients favorite artwork, and other wooden tidbits with character to really add in that southwest flare. As with any style, always think scale, proportion, and balance. Make sure your furniture and accessories are all big enough to fill your space. Every detail should compliment the scale of your home.


Texture can also be brought in through patterns. With lots of natural fiber and neutral hues, adding in pops of colorful, patterned fabric ties in the art and creates that modernized southwest style.


We loved bringing together this southwest home and creating a fresh style for this family to enjoy. We also hope you’ll never think of southwest the same! Thanks for reading!


A Playful Project

Whenever we get a new client, they become a part of the Kathy Ann Abell Interiors family. After all, they allow us to bring our creativity and influence into the place they call home, the very space where they make memories and live everyday life. So, of course, whenever we get the chance to revisit a past client, it’s like visiting another part of our design fam. This next project meant visiting longtime clients and friends who, after having us design most of their home over the years, called us in to do something special for their own family…their two kiddos! Now, while a master bedroom might be all about relaxation, a kid’s room is all about vision! It might be based on a favorite color, a special jersey, or the princess that currently takes up the T.V screen every morning. And, really,  it’s all about making a kid feel like it’s their very own special place.

The Girl’s Room

The first room up was for a very sweet girl. Her requests were the colors of light pink and mint, or, in her own words, “I want my room to have the colors from this sign, please,” as she held up a little portrait with a painted mint green bike on the front, complete with a basket of pink flowers. (See inspirational sign below). Her wish was granted by painting the walls “Sea Salt” from Sherwin Williams, and adding pink and mint accessories along with custom pillows and drapes.


This cute bike sign was the inspiration for the whole project!


The Boy’s Room

For their son’s room, we kept to his favorite theme–sports! Through art, cool knick-knacks, and a lounge area we created a space perfect for just hanging out. We also added custom pillows and blinds to create a more unique and cohesive look.


What a fun project! We gotta say, we had a ball creating these special rooms for two sweet kids. The best part, of course, was seeing how much they truly loved the outcome of their very own spaces. Thank you for reading!