Saturday, March 9, 2019

Colors of Winter

We so often think of winter as being rather colorless. Everything is gray or white or brown. But driving a few days ago after a snow storm I realized how beautiful the colors of winter really are. The white of the snow has so many variations (read undertones) that are truly gorgeous. There are blues and grays depending on the light and the shadows. Just like the icicles on the cliffs by the side of the highway. Or hanging from the porch eaves. And the sky! Not only are there blues and smoky grays but the intense pinks of a winter sunset. And the yellows of the sunrise. And these are just for starters!

And I realized that not only is winter landscape filled with beautiful colors,
they are colors that are perfect . . . for summer! We bring in warm reds and golds in the winter to warm our homes. The opposite works in the summer. The blues and grays of winter keep us cool in the summer. And because the winter sky is cooler than the summer sky (read undertones), even those warmer colors are cooler in winter - and perfect for summer.

And to keep the rooms from feeling too cool, as well as to bring in the beautiful colors of spring and summer accent in true yellows of summer sun, oranges of spring poppies, the greens of grass and trees. Then relax in your comfortable, inviting, cool space!

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Keep It Simple. . . and Soft

If you're like me, once the holiday decorations go down, the house looks a little bare. I used to feel a bit sad about that, finding the space just a little too cold and empty. But in recent years I have figured out how simple it is to add a little warmth and softness to my rooms, while keeping it simple.

That certainly doesn't mean stark. To warm the open spaces I use a lot of texture. Soft pillows and throws warm both the room and me on cold winter nights. Soft rugs underfoot make a big difference. But take it even a step or two further and wrap glass vases in something soft. And what a great use for an old sweater! (They may beautiful pillows as well.)

Lighting is important to me as well. For the holidays I have lights everywhere. On the tree, the mantel, the roping down the stairs. Some of that has to stay during the winter months, just in slightly different places. I love the battery operated small strands of lights that fit perfectly in vases instead of candles. They go anywhere - tabletop or mantel. And something to reflect the lights is important. Mirrors of course, but also metallic accessories are beautiful.

And if the starkness of the landscape really does give you the winter blues, force bulbs inside. You can stay with clean white like narcisus. I love how this beautiful mantel works for the holidays as well as into the winter. If it still feels a little much, remove the ornaments. The lights, the flowers, and the softness of the fabrics will easily carry you into spring. If you prefer a little more color, daffodils are a nice substitute. Or go all out with a beautiful amaryllis.

Bottom line for me, the softness of simple lighting, the coziness of warm fabrics, and the beauty of simple, natural surroundings make a beautiful post-holiday home. Time for a cup of hot chocolate and a good book. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

May Your Holidays Be Merry and Light!

My holidays have become simpler over the years. One reason is because of changes in family life. But a lot of it is choice. I am now much more interested in quieter times with family and friends, more experiences and fewer gifts, and smaller gatherings.

But something I still must have during the holidays are lights. Because it's the darkest time of the year, nothing cheers me up more than lights . . . and lots of them. Candles of all sorts, Christmas tree lights, lights on mantels, and roping . . . they all count.

And the more the merrier. I love, love, love candles. Nothing makes a prettier dining table than lots of candles (particularly tea lights and votives) scattered throughout. And the more creative the holder, the better. Pretty glasses, small crystal bowls, and upside down wine stems all make excellent votive and tea light holders. Add flowers in reflective vases, some greens (maybe with lights), and you won't need the chandelier.

Outside lights in the front of the house are a given. Even though we are on a hill with lots of trees, the lights twinkle through the branches as the cars drive by. And what a treat for guests as they drive up the driveway and the lights come into full view. I also love luminarias lighting the walkway. But again, maybe  not the traditional bags, but something a big different. Lanterns that decorate the porch in the summertime make beautiful luminarias in the wintertime. If there aren't enough for the walkway, then lighting the porch steps works almost as well.

And finally, I love outside lights that are designed to be seen inside. It's usually too cold to enjoy the porch in the winter, but I love lining it with lights that are clearly visible from the inside. And nothing beats lights on the boulders in the back of the yard. Or outlining the birdbath. Seeing these reminders of summer from my kitchen windows always brings a smile.

Which is why when January comes and the tree comes down, as well as the interior decorations, the lights in the backyard stay. I call them winter lights and they have made me happy on the darkest, coldest, snowiest days of January and February.

So this holiday season I am wishing for you a season of light - that lasts all through the winter!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Who Doesn't Love a Thanksgiving Table?

I have to admit . . . Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday. I take the entire week off so I can plan and cook - regardless of how many people will be around the table. It's such a great day of sharing food, drinks, laughter, without the drama of Christmas (which I also celebrate).

And a big part of the fun is setting the table. Although my "theme" usually revolves around the fall, there are still so many ways to bring in different looks and colors. Pumpkins are very often front and center. And why not? There are so many different ways to incorporate them into your table setting. I particularly love them as vases, but they can also hold candles or name tags, be painted or covered in fabrics, or just simply be.

The table can also be very simple if that's what you prefer, with the focus on the food and guests. The first Thanksgiving was rustic, so why shouldn't yours have some of the same elements?  Dish towels as napkins, a burlap runner, scattered pumpkins, pears, and apples and you have a simple, beautiful setting.

Or what about a combination? Muted tones, a more formal runner, burlap napkins, and rustic candles set into pretty florals can all work very well together to create a casually elegant look for you and your guests.

And don't forget the kids! If you want them to sit patiently while the adults dine, make sure they have things to do at their table. A craft paper tablecloth with crayons ensures they will be happy through dessert and beyond!

Whatever you decide to do this Thanksgiving just make sure you focus on the thanks . . . because that's what it's all about.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thursday, October 11, 2018

It's Fall Already?

Really, I mean it. Where does the time go? While the weather in the northeast may not have been too fall-like, it's very clearly fall. Leaves are changing (albeit slowly). The days are getting shorter. And if I try really hard I can smell that fall smell of gently decaying leaves. It's not cold enough for smoke yet, but still . . .

And it will be over before I know it. So I need some fast decorating ideas so the house will feel fall-like, but I'll still have time to enjoy it. And I
thought you might as well.

One of the easiest ideas I know is to place pumpkins and gourds just about anywhere. Add them on bookshelves along with or in place of other accessories. Pile them in a wooden bowl on the coffee table. Put them in candle holders in place of candles. Pile them on a cake plate under the glass top. You get the idea.

Use pumpkins as vases or candle holders. Carve out a little (for a candle) or a lot (for a vase). The candle should fit right into the hole you've cut. You will need to use another container in the pumpkin, so make sure you've hollowed the pumpkin enough so it will fit. And if you're entertaining, try this clever idea from HGTV for an ice bucket.

Snip mum blossoms (or other seasonal flowers) or branches (with the leaves still on) and place in pretty glass containers. Gather on a tray on a coffee table or dining table. Or place on your mantel for a fall touch.

The bottom line is there are so many simple ways to bring fall into your home. Ways that are easy, often right outside your door - and that ensure you won't miss the season!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Don't Make Labor Day About Labor

Don't make Labor Day about labor - at least not your own! While it is a day to honor working people, it is designed to be a holiday to have fun with friends and family. While that may mean entertaining, there are lots of ways to keep it simple so YOU can enjoy the day as well.

Make the menu simple. Shop at farmers' markets which are full of wonderful produce at this time of year. Grill corn on the cob, slice tomatoes with fresh mozzarella, and have watermelon, peaches, and other fresh fruit of the season for dessert. All you need to add are burgers.

Paper products are standard for barbecues but if you prefer being a little more eco-conscious use some of the great melamine patterned plates available now. If you can't find a pattern that works, simply use red, white, and blue. And instead of paper napkins, use dishtowels. Inexpensive and it doesn't matter if the barbecue sauce stains.

Have citronella-filled torches or candles to keep the bugs at bay. Not only are they mosquito protection, they will help light up the night as the party goes on. Or if you want some fun lighting, you could always use these star lights for a patriotic feel.

And finally, have plenty of pick-up games around. Croquet and bocce are entertaining for all ages. A couple of decks of cards (and someone who knows some easy, fun card games) works. And a few Frisbees are a must!

And finally, don't be afraid to ask for help. Have people bring their favorite picnic dish, assign people to prep and clean-up, ask your most fun friend to be in charge of games. And your Labor Day picnic becomes fun for everyone - including you!

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Make It Easy On Yourself

I'd put that to music if I could figure out how to do that on a blog. But that's my motto for summertime. Yes, I still like having guests over. And that usually means drinks and at least snacks, if not a meal. So I want everything to look pretty and be comfortable. But the difference is everything moves outside rather than inside, already making things easier. And clean-up is a snap!

Photo courtesy Pottery Barn
Still I do keep a few indoor "rules". There are nice conversation areas on the porch and deck with plenty of comfortable seating and candles for nighttime ambiance. There are plenty of pillows as well as throws for the cooler evenings. Storage for extras like blankets and games as well as for rainy days is available in a pretty wicker-look weather-proof deck box. I'm lucky to have a porch so rainy days don't force us inside. But screened gazebos work just as well.

Pier 1
One thing I love to do is go a little crazy with color. Indoors there are wall colors and the flow from room to room. Plus you have to live with it all the time. Outdoors is all about fun. So choose colors that make you happy.

I do love a rug. And lighting in the form of candles and string lights is a must. Accessories are simple and often come directly from nature. Think pretty pots of annuals or vases of flowers from the garden.

Because easy is what it's all about. I have a stash of pretty melamine plates and glasses that are indestructible and right by the kitchen door. The huge pitcher for lemonade or margaritas is easily accessible. I use pretty dish towels in place of napkins so who cares what happens to them?

And even the food is easy. I have the pizza restaurant just down the street on speed-dial and an assortment of yummy Trader Joe's prepared appetizers in the freezer. The basement refrigerator is stocked with soft drinks, wine and soda (love those spritzers!), beer, and margarita mix.

So yes, I still care about how everything looks. And I want to make sure my guests are comfortable. But without all the fussiness of indoor entertaining. Now if only I had a pool . . .