Friday, April 7, 2017

Spring Feel Good Tips

Here in the northeast we're still waiting for spring . . . the porch isn't open yet, the daffodil leaves are just poking through the still-frozen ground, and most people I know have cabin fever. But I've found the one thing that makes this time bearable for me is . . . to spring clean!

Okay, let me clarify. There are plenty of articles out now about spring cleaning. But I have to admit,  for me that doesn't necessarily mean my house is buffed and polished. Sure, there is a little bit of that. But what spring cleaning really means to me - and what makes me feel the best - is to do two things.

First, I get rid of the "stuff" that seems to be everywhere after a season of complete indoor living. So the old newspapers used to start fires in the fireplace are gone. All the unloved, unused, or broken things that accumulates in the garage are dump-bound. The leaves that bunch up around the garage doors and spend the winter under the snow are cleared.

And after most of the winter accumulation is gone? I switch my winter wardrobe to my summer and I start purging. The sweaters, pants, scarves, shoes that either weren't worn or really shouldn't live to see another season are gone. Ditto for the warmer weather things that for some reason I couldn't bear to part with last year.

And because I do some seasonal decorating in my own home (not counting of course the holidays), the same happens to my accessories. As I switch my mantels from winter to spring, those accessories that haven't been used recently go in the donation pile. The artwork I thought I just might use in the future when I put it away in the fall? Gone. The boxes of throws, decorative pillows, and bedding are sorted and purged. The shelves in the basement of accessories are edited fearlessly.

And for me, this is better than cleaning the windows or polishing the floors or wiping out all of the cabinets. Yes, I'll get to that eventually. But in the meantime, I enjoy the spacious feeling of the entire house. Even if the rooms still have the same furniture, it all feels so much more open just knowing the closets have more room and the basement and upstairs storage area are clearer. Somehow this makes even the winter cobwebs in my brain diminish. And now I'm ready to open the windows and let the fresh air come inside.

Now, about those windows . . .

Friday, March 3, 2017

How About a Little Spring?

Even though today is quite chilly in the northeast, the warm-up has begun. It's quite early, but it's definitely here. The sun hasn't quite come into its spring position in the sky, but it's still bright. And that makes me want to bring spring inside.

Quite frankly I get tired of all the articles about changing paint colors for spring, or fabrics, or overall color schemes. Most of us don't have the time or money to make such big changes every season. Nor are we interested in doing that. Sure, we can bring in a floral pillow, but the colors need to go with what we have going on in the room.

Having said that, I do like to bring in spring in easy, inexpensive ways. And of course flowers fit the bill. It's very easy to pick up a spring bouquet, put it in a pretty vase, and voila! But doing something a little different can be even more fun. Force a forsythia branch to flower (or other favorite early spring bloomer), put some beautiful spring bulbs in a pretty container. Or better  yet, make an arrangement with a variety of bulbs for a big pop of color. (Hyacinth, early blooming daffodils, or scilla are beautiful and easy.)

Don't just think inside. Clean off the front porch. Put the snow shovel away - or at least  hide somewhere. Chances are you won't need it very much anymore this season. And if you have porch furniture, add a little softness and color. I always put an outdoor pillow and a throw on the rocking chairs I have on my front porch. It may be a little early to spend much time out there, but it looks inviting and always brings a smile to my face (and to our visitors, I hope). An indoor/outdoor rug is also a great idea - and shouldn't
suffer too much from the exposure.

And finally, clean your windows. I know, I know. This is my least favorite spring ritual. But it makes such a difference. As the sun shines brighter through our windows, it's so much nicer to open the draperies, raise the shades, and enjoy the light streaming in. Before long, we'll be able to enjoy it on the outside!

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Winter Decorating - It's All About Texture

Some of the decorating ideas I see post-holiday may look beautiful but seem really impractical. They often involve bringing in orange or another bright color or adding plaid or another pattern that just isn't practical. Most of us already have a decorating scheme in our homes, so adding another color or pattern just doesn't work. And most of us (well, me and my clients) don't want to spend money on winter slipcovers or any other major (expensive) change just for a season.

But that doesn't mean there's nothing you can do to make the dark days of winter a little brighter - and softer. And it all starts with texture. Bring in something soft and cozy,something that makes you forget about the cold dreariness outside. What about a soft shaggy rug in a neutral color? White works just fine as does a soft gray. And it doesn't have to be large, just strategically placed. By the side of the bed, in the bathroom, or layered over another rug works just fine.

If a rug is too much, try a throw. Just make it warm and cuzzy (my mother-in-law's favorite word). Or pillows. For the bed, for the sofa, even for lounging on the floor. Make sure they are an inviting winter-time texture. (You can get these adorable ones at Etsy.) Keep your colors neutral or blend them with your current decorating scheme. As long as the texture says comfort and warmth, your home will feel cozy through the long winter.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Keeping the Holidays Around

Jill Hosking-Cartland of Hosking Interiors (someone I admire both personally and professionally) posted a tip on Facebook that is helping me face my post-holiday doldrums. She suggested keeping up those Christmas decorations if they have more of a winter feel . . . and I think those are words to live by!

Apartment Therapy
The tree should probably go. But that doesn't necessarily mean all the lights. Maybe the lights-on-the-fake-tree is a little old. But what about putting them on bare branches or limbs brought in from the yard? Or lining the doors of the china cabinet to reflect the crystal inside.

And just because the tree is gone doesn't mean greens can't stay. Wreaths still work, especially if they are smaller and can be placed strategically. These add color, texture, interest, and life to the bookshelves - without feeling like Christmas. Even the ornaments look nice and not too Christmas-y because of their colors.

And despite their color, pine cones and nuts in their shells can add texture and interest to your decor, especially when placed in pretty or unusual containers. If it looks a little dark, a touch of bittersweet or holly berries can add color.

Yes, it's a long time before we see color and light outside our windows. So keeping a bit of the holiday in our  homes might just be the tonic we need.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Anyone Feeling Stressed Yet?

I didn't think so . . . why at this time of year would anyone feel stressed?

Of course, stress seems to be behind every bell ringing and ho, ho, ho. There's a frantic need to get it all done, and done perfectly. The perfect gifts, the perfect decorations, the perfect parties. And as one who's been-there-done-that, I no longer believe it's worth it.

And after reaching that decision, I've grown to absolutely LOVE holiday decorating - in a way I never did when I surrounded myself with boxes and boxes of "stuff" to put out. I still do the wreaths, the mantels, the trees. But in a much simpler way than before. And I've found it works very well for me.

Now I do without the handmade wreaths covered in glitz and glitter. I love the simplicity of evergreen, perhaps with a pretty bow as the only decoration. If I'm feeling the need for a little more, a wreath of herbs to be used long after the holiday ends is both beautiful and useful.

Boxwood has become a favorite in wreaths and small trees. Whether real or fake, the shape and deep green/blue of the leaves adds a unique take on a traditional idea. Add a few pretty ornaments on a bookshelf or mantel and you're done!

If you want to kick it up just a notch, a string of white lights may be just the kick you need. Battery powered lights now give the option of adding them to displays wherever they may be.

Don't get me wrong/ Our main tree is covered with lots of colored lights and ornaments we've collected through the years, as well as one or two new ones that just speak to me. And there are a couple of smaller trees in other areas of the house, and both mantels are a little unique and . . . you get my meaning. But it really is much easier than before. And much more fun!

Here's wishing you and yours a relaxing, FUN holiday season, whatever holiday you're celebrating!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Make It Easy on Yourself

We are starting what for many of us is a stressful time of year. First comes Thanksgiving, a time of gratitude, sharing our bounty in the spirit of giving. And preparing a perfect meal with perfect decorations  . . . and having it with people we may love, but may not always get along with, particularly under stressful circumstances.

And that's just the start of the season!

Country Living
So I say do what you can to make it easy on yourself. Keep decorations simple. Do a little foraging for the perfect autumn look and feel. There are plenty of leaves available which will last well past the holiday with just a little pressing. Branches with or without berries look fabulous in simple vases. Purchase Pumpkins on a Stick from Trader Joe's for a real showstopper.

Elle Decor
Use your everyday dishes. Just do something a little different with them. Instead of napkins use dishtowels. Nicer than paper but without the worry of the "nice" napkins. Add a simple centerpiece of pumpkins and natural elements, with perhaps a candle or two.

And instead of the formal sit-down meal, serve buffet-style. No need to do anything fancy. Use the kitchen island and a couple of candles for the buffet. Let the meal take center stage.

And most importantly, remember what matters. Spend time with those you love. That's what everyone will remember long after the last of the turkey is gone.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

What Happens in Paris . . .

Actually didn't stay in Paris, but came  home with me in a surprising way.

We had the wonderful opportunity to spend a week in Paris recently. We stayed at a beautiful apartment in a neighborhood just as you imagine Paris neighborhoods to be, lined with outdoor cafes and shops selling fresh vegetables, flowers, bread, wine, and cheese (among many other enticing treats). We spent our days wandering museums, visiting beautiful cathedrals, and even managed a trip to Versailles. Our evenings were spent on one of our two balconies overlooking either the Eiffel Tower or Sacré-Cœur, eating our fresh market purchases and drinking wine.

When we returned  home, we walked into our by now unfamiliar home and were immediately struck by . . . the colors! Our home does not have vivid colors but I do like color. Color is on the walls, in the rugs, and in accent pieces to bring it all together. Our apartment in Paris was pretty devoid of color. The sofa was black, the chairs gray, the bedding white with gray, the stonework in the kitchens and baths gray - even the photos were black and white. We spent our days saturated with the colors (not to mention the sounds and smells) of Paris, then our evenings enjoying the beautiful colors of the views from our balconies. 

And what I realized in a very profound way is that the colors we live with inside our homes are very reflective of what goes on in our lives outside our homes. I find color inspirational, so having a home with colors that work for me but aren't overwhelming not only makes me happy but also helps me bring color inspiration to my clients. But in Paris, the color-less apartment was a respite from our very colorful days. So if our lives outside our homes are chaotic and "colorful", then less color may be much better inside our homes.  

And that awareness has helped me fine-tune my skills in working with my clients. So in thinking of colors, what do YOU want and need from the colors in your personal environment?

Do you need calm after your colorful days? A little stimulus to energize you for the evening ahead? Whatever it is, the colors you surround yourself with can bring it to you.