Sunday, January 30, 2011

Unify your Home...Decor Tips, Exploring Heritage for the"Ours" brand - Part 3

So far we have created some descriptions to develop inspiration for the “Ours” brand from our favorite memories and destinations (Part 1), along with cues from the items we already own (Part 2). Plus we have as a practical side effect a great list to tuck away for insurance purposes in case the unexpected…happens. This week for the last stage of our inspiration exploration we will look back into our personal heritages to discover one last facet to make “Yours” and “Theirs” into “Ours”.

Chances are someone in your family tree at some point has come from some place known as "there"…to where you now call "here".

I took a tourist trip to New York years and years ago. The most memorable of our destinations from that trip was Ellis Island. Ellis Island was the United States’ premier federal immigration station responsible for processing over 12 million immigrant steamship passengers. This trip to Ellis Island resonates within me to this day and spurred an interest in my family’s history.

I come from a mix of predominately German roots, with a bit of Black Irish and Polish to make things interesting. If ethnicity is important to you, you can certainly draw from that. Family crests are usually pretty easy to look up.

This is the one for Gallagher was found here…take a moment and look up yours.

But... I am here to encourage you to go just a bit more personal than that…especially if your heritage is a bit harder to uncover...

My husband knows very little about his ethnicity, we jokingly refer to him as the Man from the Land of Tall Pale Men (being that his is very thin, tall, fair and red-headed). Guessing about his ethnic heritage is an amusing conversation at times…your initial guess is Irish because of the red hair, but I suspect he has a bit of ancient Viking in him with his love for seafaring ships.

My husband’s immediate personal heritage begins when he was born in Washington DC. A few years later his parents moved to Virginia when the infamous race riots occurred in 1968. His father and mother’s charismatic nature were critical attributes toward their success as active socialites in the burgeoning Northern Virginia communities during the ‘70s. My husband’s parent’s rural West Virginia roots bespeak of hard work, his blue jean sensibilities, and always admirable patience.

Apparently his tall height, red hair, charismatic nature and musical abilities come from both sides of his family. I had the great personal fortune of meeting his six foot tall red-headed grandma shortly after I met him. Her sense of humor immediate acceptance and warmth was astounding for this very reserved and somewhat shy girl to experience. His relatives’ adventures in Motorcycle antics, radio broadcasting, moonshine running and bare knuckle boxing back in the day, bring a colorful and intriguing mix to the Our brand that we have created together.

As you can read... I am not talking about extensive research generations upon generations back, by all means if you have the time for this I encourage you to do so, but it isn’t really necessary. For me it was as simple as asking those closest to me about themselves.

My father for instance…started off as a set painter for the Muny Operahouse and painting aircraft for McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis, Missouri. He went through the school of hard knocks to establish himself as a meeting planner and self made marketing communications guru. Now in his retirement we share the same artistic interests: gourmet food (our Sunday dinners together), interior design (his is kitchen design focused).

My father’s mother was an early feminist (although she may have never realized it) with her tenure as a “Rosie Riveter”.   My Grandfather proudly served our country in the Navy by fighting the war in the pacific in WWII.  My sister is the proud owner of his King Neptune Certificate from his line crossing ceremony.
This is close to what it looks like...more information about the ceremony can be found here

Way before that, my grandfather was a “Cookie” on the western range. His early teenage years was spent waking up early to cook breakfast for the cowboys and then driving a wagon ahead of the cowboys and cooking the beans for their arrival in the evening. My great-grandfather used to tell me stories working in a tavern that turned speakeasy in the 20s. He had to speak German to his grandfather and I remember one story he told when I was very young about his grandfather’s gunshot wound in his shoulder from the civil war.

So I encourage you over the next few weeks to make time for a few more nights out, or just make some phone calls. Because, this time I want you to really dig your hands into the roots of your family tree. Capture, while you can, your unique snapshot view of your family’s history and jot down some descriptions in your inspiration book, then take this inspiration to develop a room that reflects who you are as a couple…a room that reflects the “Our” brand.

If you have a business or know of a product that you would want highlighted on the Amusing Reflections blog, leave a comment or email me here and I will investigate it for a future story.

In the meantime…remember
Be Bold, be Brave, and be Uniquely You!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Unify your Home...Decor Integration Tips, Developing the "Ours" brand - Part 2

Alright so presumably at this point you have taken my advice in Part 1 of this series and have a notebook started with descriptions from your explorations of memories from your favorite destinations together.

This week we are going to add to that list by taking cues from the items we already own. Even if you have won the lottery and plan to design your “McMansion” from scratch the furniture, kitsch, knick-knacks, art, antiques and even our wardrobes provide a bevy of insights that are critical to developing a sustainable décor foundation.

So let’s get those notebooks back out and start first with our current inventory. Write down what you currently own. A leather couch, an antique sewing machine, heirloom china, jewelry, etc. If you have already prepared this list (for your insurance company) then you are already ahead. If you haven’t already done this, do it now. If a fire or flood ruins all your possessions, you will be thankful you don’t have to rely upon your memory during an emotionally devastating time.

While you are creating or reviewing this practical list, I want you to create a separate list that is more cued to design. What I want both of you to do is write down a summary description. It doesn’t have to be long, it just needs to describe the colors, textures, and the emotional investment you have in the items you both already own. Here is an example to get you started:

  • From my furnishings list: Leather, suede, dark wood, substantial bulky pieces that hold up well to kid traffic, David Moon’s ironic cat lithographs, iconic religious works, few antiques, Visual centric components – large TVs and video games, platinum and white gold, jewel tones of reds and blues. Vibrantly artistic, hectic, family oriented and busy.
  • From my husband's furnishings list: Subdued tweeds with pastel stripes, highly polished pieces with clean lines, black, white, navy blue, and gold predominate, tech heavy and tooling Frankenstein computers, Audio centric components and musician related pieces – guitars, stereos. Nautical, crisp clean, blue jean practical, orderly and serene.

Again, don’t worry if these lists appear to be diametrically opposed, we are still discovering and exploring the components that will become the foundation of the “Our” brand at this stage. Next week we will explore one more facet of ourselves and create one more list. Then the nuts and bolts planning spaces will follow.

Last week, Ajira @ Ajira Darch Photography supplied her decorating tip.  She recommended that we sit down with our partners and describe what your ideal dream home would look like.  Then collect pictures of rooms that are appealing to both of you.
I thought this was a great idea to explore what core design styles each of you gravitate toward (e.g. Midcentury Modern, Victorian, Arts and Crafts, Shabby Chic) and use as inspiration to inject your personalized sense of style.

I know there are a lot of interior decorating blogs out there that provide that type of visual inspiration, if you have a favorite, take a minute, share the wealth and put a link in the comments.  In the meantime, I am curious to know what you think will be the next and last subject for the “Our” brand components list?


Saturday, January 15, 2011

Unify your Home...Decor Integration Tips, Exploring destination themes for the "Ours" brand - Part 1

Last week, I began exploring a dilemma many of us face in designing our interior spaces and decided to start this series, when “Yours” and “Theirs” becomes “Ours”. If you missed the first post, take a moment to read it here. This week I am going to walk you through an activity you can do as a couple to get the creative juices going and develop some unifying “Ours” themes for the home.

Before you start sorting your furniture to goodwill or garage sale status pile and waaaay before you start getting out those paint brushes...pause a minute and explore what you have in common as a couple. Sit down and reminisce about your experiences together. The whole point of this exercise is to gain some insights as to become inspired by how a couple’s personalities and different tastes (the “Yours” and “Theirs”) can translate into a brand of “Ours”.

You as a couple are two sides of the same coin, your strengths and weaknesses together complement each other…otherwise you would be together. This same insight on what makes your relationship work is transferable into some very cohesive interior design inspiration. I highly recommend incorporating this exercise into your “date night” activities.

Yes, interior design planning can be fun and romantic! 

One of the suggestions I have for finding inspiration to develop a unique “Ours” brand to incorporate into your home is to take cues from your favorite travel destinations, dining experiences, and hobbies you share together. During these conversations explore what you liked best about these experiences, how both of you felt, what each of you saw. Overall were your experiences together exciting, relaxing, romantic, daring, or even competitive…While reminiscing think about the colors you remember seeing, the types of foods you ate and how they tasted. Were they spicy and vibrant...perhaps you had comfort foods...or maybe they were even a bit nutty, like trail mix?

The end goal to these explorations is to come up with a descriptive list of who you are as a couple. Write some key words from your conversational explorations down. I have provided a few examples from mine and my husband’s “Ours” list to get you started. 
  • Caribbean vacation, walking on the beach, romantic fires, pineapple and mangoes for breakfast, seafood for dinner, amazing sunsets of red, orange, and purple, the sea glass green of the sea, cool lotion on sunburns, feeling completely in love…
  • Visiting our favorite pub, billards and darts, chess games near the fireplace, ice cold beer, awesome chili cheese fries, live music, dark colors like kelly green and maroon, cozy competitive and excited…
  • Weekend Biking trips, early morning start, coffee…coffee…coffee…being one with nature, trail mix for energy, sunlight flashing off the chrome handles of our bikes, moving at breeze speed, the bouquet of flowers picked, feeling energized, alive and in nature…
Don’t analyze this list yet, it shouldn’t matter right now if some of the descriptions are at odds with other descriptions. No worries, I will guide you through the next steps…in the meantime, leave a comment and let me know what other ideas you use for inspiration in designing your interior spaces.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Unify Your Home...Decor Integration Tips, When "Mine" and "Theirs" become "Ours"

It seems to be a common dilemma...

Two households unite to become one and inevitable there are fixtures, furniture pieces, and objects d'art that end up homeless...orphans relegated to the trash pile, or sold to the highest bidder on eBay, or your garage sale. All because neither of you can figure out how to combine that seven foot long country plaid couch with the Queen Anne style settee and the dogs playing poker lithograph. Negotiations begin, sacrifices are made and more often than half of the couples tastes prevails. The opportunity to showcase yourselves as the power couple you are has been lost...Your home is no longer uniquely yours...the cookie cutter approach to decorating ensues.

It doesn't have to be this shouldn't be this way...

You can and should work to integrate your unique tastes into a harmonious environment that reflects who you are as a couple. Unless your partner was living in a cave, with egg crates and cardboard boxes as furniture accessories, chances are they do have an opinion, style, and pieces that are worth incorporating with yours.

Trust me, it can work...but it is work.

Through the next few weeks I will guide you through some of the techniques I use to ensure that homes are the unique statement that reflects their occupants. The most important (and in my opinion) most fun step is what I call the Discovery and Planning stage. I think this part of designing interior spaces is so much fun because it invites couples to explore and learn more about each other. I often think that sometimes decorating our homes are an afterthought…there is a rush to establish a couple’s life together…and the end result is the dilemma I described in my first paragraph.

Let’s stop the madness now, shall we? I am here to help!

Stay tuned…my next post will describe a technique I use to develop common themes. This is what I use to start integrating all the existing pieces of “Mine” and “Theirs” into “Ours”.

In the meantime, leave a comment and tell me about your experiences in combining households.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Thinking About Going Green - Off-Grid Green Living Center

Happy New Year!
At the end of December, I wrote about my resolutions for 2011. I was so inspired by the idea of sharing information with you about local Richmond, VA businesses and organizations that pertain to hearth and home that I impulsively stopped by a location on Monday evening called the Off-Grid Green Living Center

Boy, oh boy! I am I happy and excited that I took the initiative and stopped by because the local area is really going to benefit as this organization continues to take off and grow.

Note: I am not affiliated with Off-Grid Green Living Center the opinions expressed here about the organization are my own.

There is simply so much to tell you about what Off-Grid Green Living Center has to offer the local area that I scarcely know where to begin. So I think I will start off small and create an ongoing series of postings as I get to know the people behind scenes and learn more about the Off-Grid Green Living Center at 11010 Midlothian Turnpike in Richmond, VA.

First off, the Off-Grid Green Living Center is more than a retail storefront for unique sustainable building products and solar energy kits that you simply cannot get at the local big box stores. They also are home to the Virginia Renewable Energy School which provides training and classes that prepares professionals transitioning into “green” jobs for NABCEP certification. Some of the graduates of the courses then work for Solar Trackers USA which is another division of Off-Grid Green Living Center that sells and installs renewable energy systems in and around the local area.
(There are some pictures of installs on their website - so go check them out here)

But what I am most excited about is the Green Living Education Center of Virginia which is a non-profit resource of information on renewable energy and sustainable green living.

Phase I (now open)  is the indoor renewable energy center in the Log Cabin building. I spoke briefly with Charles Bush while I was there and he explained that there is an interactive media center with two mini-IMAX theaters, a classroom-style education area with hands on demonstrations and learning sessions.
(hint - one pertains to the power of wind - and sounds like a lot of fun).

These learning sessions are conducted by people experienced in the fields of renewable energy and sustainable green living. Charles is very friendly and enthusastic about their future plans and took the time to show me some of the blue prints for future projects they have for developing the outdoor area to be kid friendly and really, really cool.  This underscores my opinion that the Off-Grid Green Living Center’s most valuable assets are their family friendly and personable personnel who are happy to provide answers to all your questions about everything that is “green”! 

So if you are in the area, you might want to take the opportunity to stop in, speak with Charles, take a look around and get excited!