How Interior Design Is About Balancing The Right Choices

 |  Filed in Profiles In Excellence

For Dana Lyon, founder and principal designer of The Refined Group (formerly Palm Design Group), interior design is about making sophisticated choices to reveal the unique beauty of her client’s taste and style. This means every project goes through a literal process of refinement, where colors, materials, and finishes are selected and balanced to allow one signature detail, also known as “the hero”, to come forward and define the tone of the room.

DSC experienced Dana’s refined design process firsthand, not only during the creation of her Profile in Excellence, but also when Team DSC® had the opportunity to partner with her during the building of her home, Provencal Serenity.

“We aim to achieve a balance between simplicity in interior design while bringing in the unique nuances of our client’s personality. Aside from interior design, we guide them in refining what they ultimately want for their home while not overwhelming it. Some clients say, “Let’s have this and let’s have that. Let’s just decorate everything.” Before that happens, I believe a good designer will communicate the reason why a client should or should not bring in certain elements into their home.”

~ Dana Lyon
Principal Designer of The Refined Group


The first step we take in the design process with our clients is to look at the bones of the house. The image above is a residence we recently completed that was very dated when we first started working on it. It had stained glass windows at the upper story and wood beams called vigas that weren’t in keeping with the taste levels of my clients.

We completely gutted the space and put in a long, cylindrical, custom-made fireplace to set the tone of living in a contemporary space. My client is a woodworker, and he made some amazing sculptures for the room, which we set off with glass beads behind them. Now they look amazing when they light up at night. They considered some wall mounted lights to continue this effect, and though they found examples they adored, in the end, they were very happy with the fireplace and some other finds. For a more quirky and unique look in the home, investing in custom lighting fabrication is an excellent choice, with an opportunity to add personality to the home while brightening up the place. Nevertheless, it’s clear that this particular family was content with the fireplace as a form of lighting. His wife is a painter, and I suggested she paint a piece of art for the wall. With their combined creative output, it became a very personalized space.


Next we picked colors from the desert for the pillows to create a pop of color while everything else remained neutral. As you can see, this helped accentuate the view to the outside desert, which became its own form of art – a hero, if you will. As you can imagine, with all the stained glass, there was no hero in the room because the colors were constantly in conflict with one another.

In the master bedroom we incorporated another custom-designed fireplace that was again a collaboration between my client and our interior design team. We took advantage of the soffit by creating the master headboard and made use of the outside landscape as our hero. We also completely redid the bathroom and made it more contemporary with the floating bench, the shower, and some very nice fittings.


This was the clients’ first contemporary residence, so we relied on a real partnership where we worked together on what this home could become. We learned through trusting each other to really execute the design process in a proper way.

Obviously, no one is more interested in a home than the homeowner. If you can guide them in the right direction, you can get a spectacular product. This home is an example where we really exceeded our expectations in having a very contemporary, very timeless interior that will last the homeowners quite a long time.


Interior design is about refining and curating the process where we lay out our choices, colors, and materials to determine, “Do these all go together? What needs to go? Is anything in conflict here?” We’re continually rechecking our progress along the way, and I think it’s the same process for a custom home builder like Desert Star Construction. They get a set of plans and ask, “Is this set of plans perfect? If not, what do we need to do to make them perfect?” There’s a constant give and take that we both go through in the building and designing process.

One thing that’s nice to do is mix different materials like glass, wood, and stone. When we start designing a room, we ask ourselves, “How do we create a mixture of materials and not make the room too dark?” For example, if this was all wood and there were additional wood objects on top of the cabinets, it wouldn’t look as good as the glass we chose because there’s so much wood down below. It would create too much brown.

Because the countertops are so dark, we used very light white countertops underneath to keep the openness of the kitchen. The pop color I chose for this room is green, which went nicely with the outside. We added the green laminaria color using glass to lighten the feel of the materials.

If you notice, there aren’t a lot of colors. You can’t have too many colors or it overwhelms the interior design. You have to say to yourself, “Okay, I’m going to limit myself to this palette that I find soothing.” With this in mind, when I find a color I want to use, I rely on neutrals as my palette so the pop color really stands out. By keeping it simple, you allow the colors and materials to speak for themselves.


Most of the time I don’t use fine materials. Instead, I use indoor/outdoor velvets and pleather because they’re durable. The chairs we sit on at the office are made of indoor/outdoor velvet. After ten years, they’ve really taken a beating, but they still look really nice despite being used again and again. You can even scrub them down with soap.

A lot of times we’ll incorporate this same concept when we make pillow fronts with finer material. The rest of the material will be something extremely durable. Clients love alternatives like this because there is not a discernible quality sacrifice in the look and feel of the material.

Sometimes I’ll look at leather and I won’t know whether its made of real leather or not until I really examine it. Materials have really come a long way, and the options we have available today are fantastic.


“About 12 years ago, I was looking for great shutters for another home I was working on. As I was exploring different neighborhoods for inspiration, I happened upon The Ambassador, which was in the middle of construction at the time. So captivated by the home’s exquisite build, I decided to wander inside on my own and the project manager was like, “What are you doing in this house?” I replied, “I’m looking for you. I’m trying to find out who built this.”

Team DSC® was extremely busy at the time, but my husband told Jerry, “You’ve got to do our house,” and they were kind enough to take on our project. If you can imagine, Jeremy was a lot younger than he is today, so I saw the beginnings of him. He was digging ditches in our den. Building our home with Desert Star was a really fantastic experience, and every room is an inspiration to the quality of life that my husband and I live to cultivate every single day.”