Friday, July 30, 2010

When You Inherit a Green Couch with an Orange Shag Carpet…Make it work

We have all been there at some-point in our lives, if you haven’t then count yourself lucky. Whether you are just starting out, or just starting over sometimes you don’t have the luxury of choosing your furnishings. I’m talking about those occasions where you end up with someone else’s hand-me-down furnishings. What would you do if you inherited a shag orange carpet and a green couch and throwing them out isn’t an option?

Here is what I think…if you have no other choices, then you might as well embrace it. Think creatively about the elements you have and what they bring to mind. What you are doing when you go through this mental exercise is that you are developing a theme for your room...A theme that is based on your experiences and interests. So, for example…when I think of green and orange together I think Florida Gators....the IZOD alligators on polo shirts…Paul Gauguin and his visions of Tahiti…or even early 1970’s (anyone remember harvest golds and avocado greens?).

Let’s go with my personal favorite of the themes I thought of a moment ago…Paul Gauguin/Tahiti. I would probably pick up a poster print of Paul Gauguin’s “Deux Thaitiennes Accroupiees” and at first just frame it with an inexpensive poster frame. Later I when I have the spare change I might invest in having it professionally matted and framed.

Then I would pick up some orange and white Hawaiian print fabric and some foam pillow forms from either e-bay or the local arts and crafts store and make some pillows (really it is not that hard – you can even hand sew them).  On another wall (because most rooms have four walls) I might do a montage with a sisal welcome mat with some flip flops glued to it.  Perhaps I could mount an accompanying a boogie board (I can’t surf but I can boogie board) next to it and oh and while I am at it I might just hang a Hawaiian lei off it too.

Hmmm...I could get a few silk palm plants of various heights and flank my "Homage to Tahiti" montage I just created by placing them in the corners of my room (place an up-light behind them for visual interest). Put some bamboo roman shades on the windows and my room is starting to come together as I add design elements that pertain to my theme.  It’s not difficult once you start associating colors with your interests and experiences. Go ahead, give it a try…

Design a room that is uniquely you!
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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It’s Your Home; you determine room use, not the floor plan!

     If you have been following this blog, or even glanced at my “About me” by-line, then you know I am a huge advocate of having your home reflect your personality. I have talked about decorating with colors that you love and make you feel good to create ambiance. I have even touched upon choosing decorating accessories that tell a story or remind you of a cherished person’s act of kindness. Today I am going to talk about room use and hopefully embolden you to consider stepping out of the architect’s idea of how your home should flow.
     Some of the selling points for choosing our home in Richmond, Virginia were that it had a “Country Kitchen” (an eat-in kitchen), a large dining room, and an equally large room with a bay window and a fireplace. This large room (with the bay window and fireplace) was designated as the “Living” room on the floor plan and initially we used it that way. However, after a month or two I began looking at the flow of the house, and re-considered our predetermined floor plan for room use. The “Living” room with the bay window and fireplace was bright and sunny and tucked away from the front entrance to our home. The “Dining” room on the other hand was naturally shaded vis a vis our long front porch.
     My husband and I are avid movie buffs and completely are on the same page that the main room we relax in should have a view of the front door so we can keep an eye on the comings and goings of our teens. This made the decision to relocate the living room to the darkest large room in our house for optimal movie viewing easy.
     We are also a very musical family, nearly everyone in our home plays at least one instrument. We almost always end up having an impromptu “jam session” at least once a week, which is more often than we would ever use a dining room. So after a bit of discussion on room use we made the decision to eliminate the formal dining room altogether in favor of a large music room. On the occasions where we host a dinner gathering it also serves as a unique dining room that quickly can be transformed for after dinner entertainment.
     Below is a picture of a typical set up for a holiday dinner with extended family. This summer my daughters and I will be sewing covers for the folding chairs for a more finished look.

Bottom line, we decided what would work best for our family…and no one has sat down in our living room and asked…Isn’t this supposed to be the dining room?
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Friday, July 23, 2010

Decorating challenge – Lime green and Purple Bedroom for a Teenager!

My children love to challenge me. Sometimes this can irritate me to no end, especially during those instances when “Because, I said so” is the only answer that will end the constant haranguing. Other times though, they can come up with a challenge that is well…challenging, but fun.

My children have grown up with my penchant for constantly re-designing and decorating our rooms and have adjusted quite well to the never ending furniture re-arrangements. At this point, I do believe they have turned it into a game called…Let’s Stump Mom!

My daughter approached me one day and asked if I could design and furnish a green and purple room for her birthday. Whoa…green and purple…together?!? I ask because I am a little uncertain if she is serious…it turns out she was serious and a little curious if I could manage to make these very particular colors work together.

So I pull out my “Home Pallet Book” (which is a sketch book with all my decorating thoughts and paint swatches) and I ask myself am I currently using green or purple? Hmmmm…no purple, but we do have a small amount of green, and I begin thinking hey…I might be able to pull this off. So we head over to the local paint store. On the way we discuss how she wants her room to look. I get the typical teenager response, I just want it to look really, really cool.

That’s not a lot to go on…so I decide to focus on just her color selections first. To my surprise, we settle on a brilliant yellow green that compliments the soft yellow that is predominate in our home. As we are moving the furniture away from the walls, inspiration strikes. My daughter’s furniture was handed down to us from a grandmother and is circa 1960 in styling. I start thinking retro, then Woodstock, and hippies…out comes the sketch book and viola! Two coats and many assurances of “trust me”, we completed the paint job. With less than a month to go before the big “B-day” I start searching online for all the accessories I need to bring the vision to life. One black light, a new bed set, beaded curtains and some groovy lamps later…we had one cool room for a teenager.

I am happy to say that my daughter was pleased, and that I have future orders to come decorate her home when she is all grown up.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Contrast in context...choosing trim colors

Sometimes, you can get so excited once you have found the perfect paint color for you walls that you can completely forget to take into account coordinating your trim (baseboards, chair-rail, and crown moulding).

A few posts back I wrote about color, and how it magically changes dependent upon the light conditions of the room and with the placement of other colors next to it here:


Most likely, the trim in your room is your basic white...designed to be inconspicuous...until you decide to pick a bold dramatic color for impact.  Now suddenly that white trim around the doors is glaringly white!  You no longer really see the bold color...just the contrast! 

Now...don't get me wrong...I love context.

What do I mean by that?  Well, consider what else you have in your room.  White trim and bold colors will work well in a sunny room filled with light wicker furniture but, if the furniture in the room is heavy and dark and your have perhaps wrought iron table lamps and dark wood might want to consider the opposite of white and go for a dramatic black.

Like this example of black trim used in an entertainment room:

If black is too big of a leap for you…or if you have mid-toned furnishings (oak for instance) you could consider trim in the same color family just a few shades lighter or darker. If conventional white still is your top pick…this is okay… 99% of the homes I visit (and some of the rooms in my own) utilize white for the trim color. But consider this…white is a color…so, is your existing white trim the right white?

Yes, white is a color with cool tones and warm tones. Warm tones generally have a hint of yellow in them and cool shades a bit of blue. So if the white trim in your room isn’t quite feeling right, you may need to experiment with a warmer or cooler shade.

Embrace color, this includes the color white….and experiment.
(and just for giggles try saying "right white" fast five times)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Don’t forget the walls

Living rooms/Family rooms are aptly named; no other room in the house gets as much “face time” as a living room. These rooms (generally equipped with conformable seating arrangements, a TV, and audio system) are designed to entertain guests, watch movies or your favorite TV shows, perhaps play games with the family or simply hang out with the family and relax.

Many an hour and dollar are invested in picking out the perfect entertainment system, comfy furniture for these rooms, but sometimes you can forget an important feature…your walls.

Walls should do more than define the confines of a space; they deserve to be the space where you express yourself. Are you an antique lover? Consider one family I know that loved to spend their weekends visiting antique shops and picking up old farm implements because it reminded them of their roots. These antiques were prominently displayed in groupings on each of the walls of their living rooms. Focus was brought to each of the groupings by artfully placing rough sawn oak paneling in-between the displays. When this family entertained, guests invariably had a comment or question about the antiques, and thus a lively and fascinating conversation would ensue.

Another you can think about walls beyond the background of your room is to express a theme for a room on the walls. In the picture below, the owner of this room decided to express her love of travel. The long 17 foot wall was the perfect canvas to express her homage to places she had been and places she planned on going. A trip to the local arts and crafts store resulted in a procurement of 8 posters featuring vistas of Ireland; Sydney, Australia; Venice, Italy; Athens, Greece; Paris, France; San Francisco, California; New York, New York; and even the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Inexpensive poster frames were bought and within an hour the long blank wall was transformed. 

Are your walls a blank canvas with too much white space or have you painted an intriguing picture for your guests contemplate?

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Focal Points for Foyers

“You only have one chance to make a first impression.” This old adage not only applies to meeting new people, it applies to your home as well. Take a moment and think about the foyer of your home, is it simply a means to enter and exit or does it contain something that catches your eye?

Some foyers are rather simple and small, consisting of a narrow hallway that steers you toward the other rooms of the house and a set of stairs. Rather bland and boring but…It doesn’t have to be that way.

This is the purpose of a focal point.
Instead of seeing a narrow hallway with a door in front of you and stairs off to the left, and thinking ho hum, your eye is drawn to the focal point and your perspective has now been broadened. It is even better if whatever you choose to have as your focal point also has a story behind it…now you have a conversation piece.

Below is a picture of a focal point where I chose to ironically have an imitation of life, imitating art. Better yet, when guests comment about it, I get to share the humorous story of its origin.

There was a yard sale…my two youngest at the time were at that brief tender age of 5 and 7 when buying stuff with your own money was really cool. The next thing I know, there is a mighty struggling at the front door with this gargantuan circa 1970’s plaster wall art that weighs almost as much as the five year old!

It was my mother’s day gift they exclaimed proudly as they huffed and puffed.  I was deeply touched and horrified at the same time! I could not not display it; but figuring out how and where was a challenge my heart would not let me walk away from.

After deciding that the colors in the picture worked particularly well with the existing colors of the foyer I asked my husband, who is master of all things mechanical and manly, to hang the heavy piece for me. Once it had been sufficiently molly bolted into the studs I pilfered our "e-bay special" chess table from the living room to create a grounding effect for the heavy piece. The multicolored lindenwood inlays in the table plays off of the other colors in the art. The final touch shows my humorous taste for the ironic…imitation life imitating art…sprigs of silk plants in roughly the same configuration as the art.

Total cost…less than ten bucks...

Remembering that day every time I walk through my door…priceless.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tips for...Sprucing up your Kitchen this Summer

Painting your existing kitchen cabinets and swapping out the old hardware is an easy and inexpensive way to spruce up your kitchen. take some time to do some prep work first.

No, this is not an article about how to clean the cabinets, sand the cabinets, applying primer and then one coat of semi-gloss paint before sanding ever so lightly again and then applying the final coat.

What this article asks you to think about is how you use your kitchen before you go out and select that paint for the cabinets.

Do you have children? Then do yourself a favor and consider choosing a dual color pallet for your kitchen cabinets where the upper cabinets are a light color and the lower cabinets are in a dark color. Trust me, as a mom of five; I know what I am talking about.

Ever see a kid crack an egg for the first time? What about Kool-Aid? I swear if they ever made a paint that held up like a Kool-Aid stain you would never have to paint again. I’d like to tell you that as the children get older the fingerprints, spaghetti sauce, jelly, and other assorted food based stains start to reduce…but alas and alack… even teenagers still manage to make some stupendous spills on the cabinetry and they never seem to wipe up every last drop. Ponder this suggestion…if you paint your lower cabinets a darker color, you will not only hide some of the hardest to get out stains but you will also provide a focal point and just a bit of drama to your kitchen without overpowering, especially with smaller kitchens.

Here are some intriguing ideas to get your creative juices going. A deep hunter green works particularly well with a beige toned or wood butcher block style counter and will lend a “Country Kitchen” feel to your cabinetry. I have personally used this color scheme in a home with great success. Black or cobalt blue works particularly well with concrete or stainless steel counters and screams “Modern Progressive”. A deep brick red color nestled under a dark granite counter can invoke impressions romantic evenings nestled in some quaint café far away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

The point is to think creatively and gain a practical benefit. Create your space and live in it fearlessly.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Resist the "Easter Egg Home" syndrome...Create a Home Pallet Book

Never under estimate the role of color in creating ambiance. Color is magic, but you must use it for good and not evil.

Have you ever walked into an “Easter Egg” house? Those homes where you traverse the rainbow spectrum from front door to back? Each room a complete island unto its own, the bold welcoming foyer in a sunny yellow, off to the left is the romantic dining room in deep magenta, the kitchen with its cobalt blue accents, and the living room in with its relaxing mint green hues. Oh yes, we have all seen them…maybe even some of us live in them, don’t worry your secrets safe with me.

It’s not your fault; we love color because it evokes feelings…it is the foundation for building ambiance. The key to using color responsibly is to take a holistic view of your home and always remember this point…

Color is transient which is why you have no color memory.

Our perception of color relative to its current environment.  Next time you are in the local paint store take a paint chip and place it on a five different colored pages of construction paper and you will see this intriguing effect. The same color on a white background will look different if a black background is then substituted. It gets even more interesting as far as intensity and hue if you place a different color behind the paint chip. Then consider lighting...The light as it changes throughout the day will also affect color. A yellow placed in a sunny kitchen will most like take a deeper golden hue if used in an upstairs hallway.  This is why the local paint stores provide those lovely paint samples and why most paint sales associates will advise you to take the chips home and observe the chips on the walls for several days before choosing your color.

So go to your favorite paint store and pick up a pallet and then boldly choose the color you like best. But let’s go one step further after you have picked the perfect color and painted your room…keep the paint chip!

Consider buying a small notebook and title each page with the rooms in your house, obviously it will be easier to carry this into the various furnishing stores than the entire wall from your living room. It will also save you a lot of time and frustration if you need to freshen that coat of paint a few years down the road. But most importantly, this “pallet book” will be indispensible in avoiding the “easter egg” home syndrome as you move from room to room in your house. Order the pages to mimic the natural flow of movement through your home. As you contemplate your color choices for each room take the time to paste the paint chip in this notebook. Then try this, flip the pages rapidly and contemplate how you feel as you progress through the pages. Do the colors flow harmoniously…if not you may need to reconsider hue, tone or tint of your color choice. 

Try it out and see if it works for you.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Exactly what is the coffee table for… Coffee, Tea, or Me?

Coffee tables are the nemeses of living rooms. Please don’t get me wrong…I am a self proclaimed coffee snob and I am sure our local Starbucks most likely survives upon my clan’s weekly procurement of "Sumatra" beans…but I do not…cannot abide the coffee table.

I love coffee, the thick Mississippi Mud variation of the brew is my favorite way to have it. My coffee is my best friend in the morning, with its smoky tendrils of steam wafting up my nose it politely but sternly tells me to stop hitting the snooze button and get on with my day. It also greets me in the evening after a long day at work and reminds me that one job has ended and another now must begin…coffee pulls me through the dinner preparations, the homework checking, and the endless errands and promises to keep that are miles to go before I sleep.

So why do I detest the coffee table? Coffee tables are the black holes of living spaces, with their insatiable desire to collect veritable mountains of discarded magazines, pizza boxes, and vessels half full of some sort of liquid (but generally not coffee). This is their every day purpose, they only get dressed up when company is coming over and even then they are concealed with the artful coffee table book. I mean, really does anyone actually come over to your house and say… “Oh, what a lovely coffee table?”

I think not!

Have you ever noticed how the inherent height of a coffee table is perfectly proportioned to take a bite out of your shin as you maneuver around it to sit down at the sofa? Its corners are also magnificently fashioned to create those sexy intriguing white lightening scars you occasionally see in rugged men’s eyebrows. Oh, those men may tell you that the origins of the scar was a particularly bad bar-fight (which I am sure they said they won), but odds are…they were just learning to walk as a babe and the nefarious coffee table could not resist.

So why do so many people have coffee tables? Do they feel it helps center a room as a focal point? Is it a convenient place to eat dinner while watching TV? Does it serve as an adjunct library for the bathroom down the hall? Or was it simply because it was part of the living room suite you had to have at the local furniture store?

Leave a comment and tell me why you have a coffee table, this inquiring mind wants to know.