An Environmental Design Firm Specializing in Interior Design and Landscape Architecture

SHERRI JAMES Interior Designer

About Us

The design profession is about passion. It is an artistic endeavor that combines a lot of knowledge, engineering, and creativity. The passion of Michael and Sherri James is the thrill of implementing designs that bring joy to other people. Both are graduates of UC Berkeley. Michael studied landscape architecture, and Sherri studied interior design and art history. They formed MJDT, an environmental design firm, 25 years ago and have designed numerous residential estates, private homes, executive offices, and historic buildings. They can work within your existing architecture and your personal style to provide your family with living spaces tailored to your way of life. Or, they can remodel to a new look! Michael makes the garden an extension of the home. Sherri makes the home “green” and more comfortable. She does this with the harmonious use of colors, fabrics, furnishings, and accessories. Having raised 5 children, they are qualified to provide a safe and pleasant environment for your growing family.

Drawing of the Travolta's Great Room with his plane framed in the curved window

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

PERSONAL STYLE - There's No Place Like Your Home


My design assistant and I watched a jumbo jet land a hundred feet away from where we stood behind a curved wall of glass in the living room of our latest project. We had just put the final touches of plants and flowers in place. Our clients were seeing the completed house for the first time, but we knew they would love it. After all they had been involved in every design step.

We had used black & white line drawings and colored renderings (see sample above) so that they could imagine what the room would look like. They had visited the furniture in showrooms, rubbed the fabric swatches, and walked barefoot on the carpet samples. Every effort was made to make the house their home and not a designer's dream.

Your house and garden above all else should be comfortable for you, your family, and your guests. In addition to comfortable places to sit or lie down, comfort in spaces consists of harmony of color, pattern, geometric shapes, and style. My pointers will help you to achieve your harmony in your own home.

Your house should be your own creation reflecting your style and personality. This does not mean you should never use the services of professional interior designers, landscape architects, or architects. As my husband and I are professionals in those fields, I would certainly not say that! But professionals should assist you in achieving your vision even if they have to help you tune it in.

As a designer, I work to create spaces that reflect the personalities and the style of my clients. I do my best to understand what they want their offices or homes to say to others or about themselves, and then assist them to achieve that communication.

Your personal style reflects that part of your personality you wish to share with others, how you want others to see you. I use the word style as a noun to describe a way of doing something that expresses an attitude or communication.

We can also use style as a verb meaning to give something a particular shape or design. Our goal is to give the elements in your house a style that expresses your attitudes and what you wish to say to others.

This blog will layout simplified steps of the design process for you to follow. In this chapter we discuss personal style. The rest of the chapters in this section contain the steps for putting your style into your home.


Art, the result of creation, is communication. In order to create art you need to say something. This is best achieved if you know what you want to say, or have a message. Therefore the first step in creating artful spaces is to decide on a message.

There can be more than one message, but there needs to be a certain continuity to the messages in order to avoid disharmony. For example, it would be difficult to say both "welcome" and "private, stay out” in one room.

You first decide on the primary message such as "Welcome" then accompanying messages that fit with that such as friendly, cozy, and warm.

Here are some other examples of messages:
cool and elegant
rich, old money
bohemian, arty
worldly, sophisticated
casual comfort
family home
intellectual, educated
rustic, outdoorsy

Or the message can be much more complex. For offices I have had clients request everything from "I am really just a down home regular guy" to "Don't mess with me" to "I am very well educated". Corporations have asked for messages that their interiors "reflect the international scope of their business" or that "even though we are an international organization we cater to local customs,” You can say nearly anything you want with your house.


Write a list of every thought you have about your house. Take into consideration the style of the building. Think about your desired lifestyle. Formal? Casual? Children? Pets? If you entertain business associates in your home, what to you want your house to say to them? The sub messages will be different in the various rooms. While your living and dining rooms will speak to your business associates and guests presumably your bedroom will be more personal. Once you have written down the over all message, write a sub message for each room.

If the other members of your household are interested in this process, this would be a good time to get their input. Once you have agreed on what you want your house to say, deciding what furnishings to use is easier in that each piece can be judged on whether or not it forwards your message.

For example, let's say you've decided that you want your house to say rustic and outdoorsy. You are using rough surfaces, lighting fixtures that resemble stag horns, dark aged metals such as bronze and rusted wrought iron, plaid blankets, natural vegetable dye colors, and other furnishings that would look at home in a mountain log cabin. Aunt Gertrude offers to give you a gold and crystal chandelier. The chandelier doesn't fit your message.

As a note, a few items that don't fit your message can be included to emphasize your style by accentuating it. But accents should never be the most dramatic, strongest element in the room so a big, bright, shiny gold and crystal chandelier wouldn't forward your message. Tell Aunt Gertrude you appreciate her generosity but the chandelier, beautiful as it is, doesn't fit your style.

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Drawing of an Estate Living Room in Summer Slip Covers