Monday, December 16, 2013

Easy Entertaining Ideas

It's the time of year for entertaining, whether it's a small family gathering or something larger with family and friends. Rather than become stressed, keep things simple.

Courtesy HGTV
Start with simple decorations If you're house is already decorated for the holidays, you're all set. If not, make it easy and green with things from the great outdoors (or the supermarket). Fill glass bowls with fruit spray-painted in holiday hues (pine cones work as well) and add a few ornaments. Sprigs of winterberry and holly in small vases scattered throughout the house are lovely, as are sprigs of fresh herbs.
Gather branches and spray-paint white, gold or silver and place in large vases, then add a few ornaments for additional interest. And, of course, plenty of candles everywhere.

Serve food buffet style - and don't hesitate to buy heat-and-serve or better yet, foods best served at room temperature. Stores like Costco and Trader Joe's offer wonderful prepared appetizers and dinner courses. Enhance them with your own special touches of spices or herbs, even just for decoration.

Keep your choice of dishes simple and easy as well. While paper may not be the best "green" choice, there are lovely tin dishes available that can easily be mistaken for "real". Or buy an inexpensive set of white dishes that go with everything. It won't matter if one breaks.

Now, sit back and enjoy spending time with your family and friends.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mirrors, Mirrors, Everywhere?

Much as I love mirrors, I've learned to really pay attention to where I hang them. They really do have a function. They can be hung to reflect something pretty, like the light of a beautiful chandelier. (But make sure they don't reflect the people eating.) Or to double the impact of a vase of fresh flowers or it candles.

They  can be hung where they are useful. Bathrooms are the most obvious of these places, but what about entry halls? Isn't it nice to do a quick check before you go out the door? Or perhaps the entry is on the small size. Nothing like a mirror to open up the space and make it feel larger and lighter.

And they can be used as art. But even as art, unless you are doing something fun like this creative grouping from Real Simple, be very careful what the mirror reflects.

Placing mirrors on mantels can be a great idea - as long as the ceiling isn't reflected. And that dining room mirror? Hang it high enough so the chandelier is reflected, but not the diners (unless you aren't sure you have enough to feed everyone). Above the sofa? long as the main thing you see is yourself - or others - walking by. It may be that an eye-catching piece of art is a better idea.

Want more reflections on mirrors? Check out my board on Pinterest.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Something Different For Fall

I know there are a lot of nice decorating ideas for fall. But sometimes they can seem a bit similar. So I started considering a few things that may bring a little difference to our decorating.

The first I came up with is a different take on a table runner. I love burlap and most of its incarnations, but webbing? Now this is cool! And HGTV gives you instructions on how to make it. 

What about changing the color of traditional fall decorating? Instead of the usual red and gold, what about a deep purple (think cabbages and eggplant), greens of late season peppers and gourds (those can be pretty bright) or even the browns of Indian corn? (Check out for most recent board on Pinterest for a lovely take on a brown and cranberry table setting.)

Another idea: select fall patterns instead of just fabrics for your pillows and throws. Fall fabrics are of course sumptious (although you might consider tweed instead of something more "traditional" like chenille). But a houndstooth pattern has always said fall (and Overstock has plenty of it).

There's also nothing wrong with the tried-and-true at this time of year - just consider a twist on the theme. If you've ever seen pumpkins on a stick (Trader Joe's and Whole Foods always have them at this time of year), they may become a fall decorating staple. And nothing beats traditional pumpkins used in slightly less traditional ways (think vases, candle holders, and serving stands).

The good news is that there are as many decorating ideas for fall as there are leaves on the pick your favorites and have fun!
And if you need a little more inspiration, check out my latest board on Pinterest.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Winter Bedrooms

Nothing is better during the winter than settling into a nice cozy bed - in a nice cozy bedroom. Although I'm a believer in the sanctity of the bedroom at any time of year, it becomes even more important during the cold winter nights which are almost upon us.

Courtesy BHG
Many of my clients consider their bedrooms last in their decorating priority list. But I encourage them to at the very least consider easy, cost-effective changes to make this an inviting sanctuary at the end of the day.

One of the easiest changes is layering. Use a white quilt - no duvet cover is even necessary. Cover it with a lighter weight coverlet to add color and interest. Or fold a beautiful blanket at the end of the bed for additional warmth as needed.Add a wool throw pillow and you're ready for chilly nights!

Courtesy BHG
If you prefer a colorful duvet, it can be easy to make. Simply sew two sheets together on three sides and add velcro or pretty ribbon ties on the fourth to keep it together. Fold it at the end of the bed or use it as a spread for a pretty, colorful change.

Courtesy BHG
But don't stop with the bedding. What about adding a soft, textured cover to the bedside table?This may be in the living room, but it would still be at home next to the bed.

And of course, there are a flokati rug will add coziness, a bit of a warm, dramatic color, soft lighting, get the idea. For more winter bedroom inspiration, check out my new board on Pinterest.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Maybe You Need a Little Texture.......

Sometimes a room really seems to come together........except there's something that just seems to be missing. If you can't quite put your finger on it, that missing element may be texture.

Courtesy BHG
Texture can be easily overlooked so it often plays a quiet - but very important role - in our design plan. It creates interest, helps to set the mood of a room, and helps us to "feel" the room (because we remember how textures feel when we see them).

Typically, more traditional rooms have softer textures than those that are a bit more modern.Notice in the photo at left how the soft texture of the sofa contrasts nicely with the smoother texture of two of the throw pillows. The smoothness of the coffee table blends nicely with the textured sofa - and woven rug underneath adds another element. The smoothness of the lampshade helps balance the smoothness of the coffee table and the floral arrangements add their own very unique texture to the entire room.
Courtesy BHG

In a more contemporary room texture tends to play more of a minimalist role because of the sleekness of the style. However, even in this room, the chairs add a softness without the nubby comfort of the more traditional room. And all of the smoothness of the room is offset by the very plush rug, but without taking away from the contemporary look and feel of the room.

When incorporating texture into your room, keep in mind a few basic tips. Carry the texture story around the room, just like you do with the color story. Similar textures placed around the room will help carry your eye through the space, just as color does. In more colorful rooms, less is probably better with differing textures. The color statement may be so strong that a variety of textures may overwhelm the space. And finally, don't be afraid to do something a bit dramatic if it seems to be called for in the room. Just as that special accessory can add the punch a room needs, so can a very interesting texture.

If you'd like to see a few more examples of texture, check out my new board on Pinterest!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Late Summer/Early Fall Outdoor Entertaining

I know a lot of people consider Labor Day the end of summer. But there are actually still a few more weeks of summer. And even more weeks than that to enjoy the outdoors. In fact, late summer and early fall get-togethers can be some of the best of the year. You don't have to worry about a heat wave. Yummy fresh, local food is available, making recipes simple. People are looking for something to celebrate now that summer vacations are over. So now is the perfect time to have an outdoor party. Just keep in mind a few things to make it even better.
A great way to light the stairs

Because it gets dark earlier, have plenty of outdoor lighting. Bring lamps from the inside to the outdoors for the evening. Have plenty of candles in hurricanes or other protected containers that still give plenty of light. Place solar lighting in strategic locations. Make it safe for people to navigate while creating a warm ambience.

Prepare for cooler evenings. Have blankets and throws available. Set up a fire pit or a chimenea for both warmth and ambience. Invest in a heat lamp, especially if you would like to do this often.

Decorate for the season. Use apples, mums, pumpkins, acorns, leaves. Get creative and use these items for centerpieces, to hold food (hollowed out pumpkins make great soup bowls), as candle holders or as place cards.

Then relax..........and let the fun begin! And if you like these ideas, check out more on my new Pinterest board.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Importance of Vignettes

I had the opportunity to stage a small but light-filled vacant condo in Milford, CT last week. Of course it was on a limited budget, which meant lots of creativity with the accessorizing. Then when I saw a fabulous vignette posted by Jill Hosking Cartland of Hosking Interiors on Facebook, I realized just how important accessorizing and vignettes are - regardless of the budget. They are truly like the icing on the cake.

So what does it take to create a memorable vignette? For one thing, not overdoing it. That means to let the display items speak for themselves. The simplicity of this arrangement allows each of the items to work together without one of them standing out. And the colors work perfectly with the rest of the room.

Courtesy BHG
Scale  is also important. Not only do the accessories need to fit the space they also need to work with each other. If implementing the rule of 3, think small, medium, and large.

Creativity in vignettes really makes them personal. Adding items that are important to you and your family add meaning. And mixing styles and textures can also create interest. And don't forget the artwork! Including artwork when appropriate completes the "picture".

Color, textures, shapes, creativity in selection - all go together to create something memorable. And for additional ideas, check out my new board on Pinterest.

Monday, July 29, 2013

That '70's Look

I'm not sure I'm wild about it, but it seems to be making a comeback. Having started my first away-from-home decorating experiences in college during the '70's, it can feel a little old to me rather than retro. Having said that, there are some things from the '70's I'm glad to see!

I love, love, love "shag" rugs. Now called Flokati, modern shag, or longer-pile rugs, they have a softer more appealing look than those of the '70's, despite being a bit difficult to clean.

While avocado green isn't a favorite, there is something to be said for harvest gold, especially when paired with brighter, more up-to-date colors like this light green and orange.

IKEA has fabulous offerings of the '70's retro look. Complete with floral coverings for their sofas and chairs, interesting coffee and end tables
(remember metal carts?), and very cool lights, it may just be the go-to place for that '70's look. I love this table!

And finally, lighting.....think swags, chrome, lava lamps........ Okay, forget the lava lamps. But don't hesitate to swag your pendant lamp. And if you're looking for a desk lamp, what could be cuter - or more retro - than this?

If you're like me and thinking maybe the '70's decorating wasn't all bad, check out my new board on Pinterest.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

What Vacation Will Do For You!

I've spent a little time away from my computer over the past month. Not necessarily from emails, but from social media as well as this blog. I took some vacation time, but also just spent time doing a bit more relaxing - some of it in my own backyard. And those who say this can get the creative juices going were right!

After spending a little time in nature I feel like my color palette was completely refreshed. When I sat in my backyard enjoying the color, I realized how beautifully everything worked.I'm not a photographer, but I hope you can imagine the beauty of the purple Baptisia, the brilliant pink of the coral bells, the yellow of the day lilies, the purple and white iris, all the different shades of green in the vegetation, and even the pale blue-gray of the sky. What about using them in a room?

DesignbyInspiration did just that in this room for HGTV. Sure, the colors are bolder than those usually found in nature (at least all together), but this office would certainly inspire me!

You don't have to be quite so dramatic with the colors to have a colorful room. The addition of colorful pillows, seat cushions, and rug to the white background take this dining room beyond cheery. What a great place to spend some time on your laptop, chatting with your family, or simply lounging on the banquette!
Designer Todd Klein for HB

I know rooms this vivid may not be everyone's cup of tea. But staying open to color choices and combinations at least keep things interesting. Even a spot of unexpected color in, say, a bowl on the table, a single flower stem or a pillow can add just the refreshing energy that keeps a room from feeling boring to fun.And if you spend just a little time outdoors at this time of year, you'll see Mother Nature isn't afraid of a little color!

And if you would like to see a few more colorful rooms, check out my latest board on Pinterest.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Family Rooms Are For Families

Family rooms.......there's a reason they are called that. It's where the family hangs out. Sometimes it's immediate family only, sometimes it's extended family, and sometimes it's friends who feel like family. Because it needs to work for the family it serves, there aren't any hard and fast decorating "rules" to follow. But here are some ideas that just might make yours a little more fun!

Roger Davies
Have younger family members? Rather than putting their art on the refrigerator, what about framing and using it in place of more traditional art? Simple frames in black or white won't interfere with more colorful art and make switching art projects easy.For art that can change more often, paint a large piece of plywood (make sure it's been sanded) or even the wall with chalkboard paint. Frame it and keep a basket of colorful chalk nearby and the "art" may change daily!

Need lots of seating? Use poufs as side tables, store small ottomans under console tables for extra seating, use a bench as a coffee table, decorate
with large pillows that transition easily from the furniture to the floor.

Place less emphasis on the television by having lots of games handy. Store them in an armoire or in baskets or bins, but make sure they are easily accessible - and there is room to play them.

Family rooms should have family memories. Keep a basket on the coffee table of photos from family vacations through the years. Or cover the coffee or side table with photos, then cover with a glass top to preserve them. Or decorate with treasures picked up during these trips. Fill a glass jar with seashells collected while at the beach, make a collage of leaves found during a fall foliage tour, or hang a map of the state, the country, or the world and put a decorative pin in all of the places the family has traveled.

Whatever you do, make it yours. Family rooms are all about families, so make sure yours reflects the love of the people who live there........and inviting to all those who visit. And if you would like more family room ideas, check out my board on Pinterest!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Preparing to Sell.......or Stay!

Two years ago my husband and I decided to downsize, so we made some upgrades to our  home. And guess what happened? We decided we really liked what we had done, so we were going to stay a little bit longer. This spring, the downsizing idea came around again. So we started making a few changes and........we'll see what happens, but it's looking pretty nice around here. So why didn't we do some of these things earlier? Good question. So in case you're considering selling - or staying - here are a few inexpensive (and mostly) easy ideas that will help you enjoy whatever time you have left in the house. And make a good impression on your potential buyers when the time comes to sell.

Paint the grout. We have an off-white tile in our foyer and kitchen which originally had an off-white grout. But over the years the dirt built up, making the floor look old and dated. Rather than regrout, I cleaned the old grout with a special cleaner, then used a combination grout paint and sealer to bring back the old color. For a fraction of the cost of new tile the floor looks fabulous!

Paint or cover dated tile. If you're selling your home, dated kitchens and baths can be deal-breakers. But removing dated tile is very expensive. Instead, try painting it. You need to cover the tile with a 2 JANE. They offer some solid colors and some patterns - with a frequently expanding selection. I've used them for staging clients and have just ordered some for my kitchen backsplash.
special adhesion primer, then use an epoxy-based paint on the tile. If painting tile is a bit more than you want to do, try Tile Tattoos from

Paint the brick fireplace. You can do this one of two ways. To simply tone down the color, use a rag to lightly cover each brick, which will tone down the color but not cover it completely. If the fireplace is really unsightly, use a color that matches the walls.

Paint the cabinets. Talk about an instant update to kitchens and baths! Change the hardware and you've got a whole new - and updated - look!

Paint paneling. Nothing dates a home faster than old, worn paneling. For a simple update, use a milk-based paint to cover the defects. To get rid of the wood-look completely, fill in the cracks between the panels, then paint when dry. Hard to tell it's wood.

Use vinyl tile. If you have a floor that really needs updating, vinyl tile may be an easy, inexpensivesolution. Now available in many different styles, it looks like the "real" thing, as you can see in this sample from Armstrong.  If you are putting it over an old floor, just make sure doors can still open and close properly.

If this seems like a lot of work, break it into manageable chunks. The results will be well worth it!

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Yellow is the Color of......

Yellow usually brings to mind the sun, happiness, energy. I remember sunny yellow kitchens of my childhood, with cafe curtains blowing in the breeze. I have friends who painted their yet-to-be-born babies' rooms yellow thinking it was a good solution when the sex was unknown. (Unfortunately it wasn't as yellow has too much energy for babies, keeping them from sleeping soundly.) But yellow has moved into the 21st century, becoming a sophisticated version of it's happy-go-lucky 50's self.

Because it's a primary color, it can be used with almost any other color, depending on the look, feel, and mood you are going for. Want to pair it with tried-and-true blue? One of the other primary colors, so of course it works! Orange? Wouldn't be a color without yellow! What rooms can you use it in? Whatever rooms you want! It certainly still works in kitchens. Look at this beauty from BHG! The style of the cabinets and the shade of yellow tells you this isn't your grandmother's kitchen.And the pop of orange shows you how well those two colors blend.

Courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens
And despite the high energy nature of the color, you can still use it in the bedroom. If you want serious yellow, you may want to select the guest room, where you can go all out. But even in the master bedroom yellow works very well, although smaller doses may help you sleep a little better. Why not pair it with something soothing like brown? The brown wall makes the room cozy while the yellow makes sure you'll face the day bright-eyed and bushy-taled (as my Grandmother used to say). And the white pulls it all together, bringing a sense of calm to the space.

Do you like yellow, but aren't sure you want a room built around it? Then use it as an energetic accent! This bookshelf adds just the pop this room needs! Seeing the neutral wall color behind the shelves keeps the room from feeling jumpy, while the yellow accents on the shelves and the table keep your eye moving. And there's that new take on "traditional" blue and white!

What if you do have your grandmother's furniture? Yellow can give it just the pop it needs to make it a focal point of the room. This beautiful Victorian chest looks wonderful when painted two shades of yellow. And it can be used in any room of the house! Certainly a bedroom, but what about an entry hall?What a way to welcome your guests! It would also work in the dining room as a small buffet, or in the kitchen to hold your linens, in the bathroom to hold your towels........wherever you use it, it's sure to bring a smile. Because that's what yellow does.

Want some more ideas about decorating with yellow? Check out my new board on Pinterest Not Your Grandmother's Yellow

Monday, May 13, 2013

Decorating Small Spaces

It seems the fever for McMansions is waning a bit. People are buying and building smaller. And downsizing is the name of the game, at least for Baby Boomers. But that can present challenges. First, buying smaller furnishings can be tricky, especially since everything looks smaller in a large furniture showroom, but probably isn't when you bring it home. So how do you make a small room work like a larger one without feeling cramped?

In a living/family room, get creative with the seating. While you may be tempted to buy a sectional,
that may not be the most effective seating arrangement. While several people can sit on a sectional, can they really do so comfortably? And sectionals generally have one way to be placed, which limits any other arrangements of the furniture. Instead use ottomans for seating flexibility. They can be used with chairs for more comfortable seating, as a coffee or side table (with a tray), or as additional seating when the need arises.

If you prefer a hard surface for your coffee table, use two smaller tables rather than one large one. This not only increases maneuverability in an otherwise tight space, they can also be moved easily around the room as the need arises. Or get really creative and use garden stools. They provide a flat, steady surface as a table, or additional seating if necessary.And notice the armless chairs. Another great space-saving idea.

There are other ways to make your furniture multi-task. If you need space for guests to sleep but don't have an extra room, use a daybed instead of a sofa - no need to have the space to open it (unlike a sleeper sofa). Instead of a bedside table, use a lowboy or small chest of drawers for additional storage. Cover a console table with a long tailored cloth to hide storage.

A few more suggestions........color and pattern are fine, but keep them to a minimum as they can go a long way in a small space. Use them in an accent chair, pillow, or rug. Let in as much natural light as possible, which means keeping window treatments to a minimum - and no dark colors! A strategically placed mirror (say, across from a window) brings in light while expanding space.

Like these ideas? Check out my Pinterest board Decorating Small Spaces.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Pillows - A Definite Decorating Statement

A design tip I often hear (and use) is to make a quick but dramatic change to a room, change (or add) pillows. As we move into spring and summer, using this tip can move a room from drab winter into bright sun. These beautiful pillows from Company C will brighten any room! The colors are divine.......and will go with almost any neutral. In fact, with a solid fabric, you can use them all together to bring summer sun into a room. Are you working with a lot of pattern in the room? Then use them to keep the color story going, while toning down the pattern.

Do you prefer patterns to solids? If the background is solid, don't hesitate to mix and match different patterns to create interest. See how these patterned pillows from Pier 1 in various shades of green enliven a beige sofa? To keep things from getting too busy when you have lots of pillows, try using a pair or two. Just keep the pairs at opposite ends of the sofa or on different pieces of furniture in the room.

Even outdoor furniture needs pillows. While it's probably a good idea not to compete with the landscape, simple pillows in subtle colors can add softness, comfort, and interest to outdoor furniture. Look how these pillows make this seating area more comfortable and cozy, while blending with the beautiful view.

Just a few simple "rules" to follow: odd numbers of pillows are usually a bit more interesting as are pillows of different sizes. Just don't have too many different sizes - two usually works fine. And don't forget about texture! Vary the textures of the pillows with that of the fabric they are on - and with each other. Then sink into the sofa and say "ahhhh". And if you like these ideas, visit my Decorating with Pillows board on Pinterest!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mix It Up a Bit!

While I can't really say that contemporary decor is prevalent in the northeast, it is certainly true that clean lines are making quite a statement. And I love mixing a more contemporary look with furnishings that are a bit more traditional.

Jackson 2-Piece Chaise Sectional
Olivia Cocktail Table
I'm also thrilled that West Elm has opened a store in Westport, which means I no longer have to drive to Massachusetts to shop for reasonably priced clean-lined furniture. Their beautiful Jackson sectional fits with contemporary furniture as well as more traditional. Change the rug and pillows for something more traditional, switch the coffee table for something like this one from Ballard Designs and voila! A fabulous blend of contemporary and traditional. What's not to love?

Barrel Cbair
Sometimes all it takes is a statement piece.  Regency Shop has some fabulous furniture to do just that. Add one of their beautiful contemporary pieces into a more traditional room and you've got an interesting room, one that looks as if it's been put together over time.  This Barrel Chair ( a take on traditional Mission style) would look wonderful in a room with leather furniture, wouldn't it? Or what about this very contemporary Bertoia Chair surrounding a farmhouse table? Wouldn't that make a statement?
Bertoia Chair

So don't be afraid to mix it up! Add a little tension, a hint of edginess, and you've created a room that feels good, looks good and reflects you!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Bookshelves........Not Just for Books

Bookshelves play some sort of a role in most homes. Sometimes they have a simple function of, well, holding books. Strictly utilitarian, but very important. But that doesn't have to be the case. Why not add a little spice?

Bookshelves can be a great place to display collections - and not just family photos. Collections have more of an impact when they are displayed together, so why not distribute them throughout the shelves? Incorporate books as display stands, pay attention to colors and textures, and you can have a bookshelf as beautiful as this one designed by Emily Henderson.

Feel like your bookshelves are a little boring?Why not decorate the backs of the shelves with paint or wallpaper? Books and accessories will stand out beautifully and voila - no more boring bookshelf.

Design by Emily Henderson
What about making use of the front of the shelves as well? While you don't want to forget the function of bookshelves, hanging a piece of art on the front of shelves can be interesting - and can perhaps hide some of those not-so-pretty items stored there. Or better yet, perhaps this is an interesting place to showcase an interesting collectible. While you may not have anything quite likethis around your home, think creatively!

And don't forget about children's bookshelves! While these can provide invaluable storage for toys and books, make them colorful and fun.

Just a few tips to keep in mind when styling your bookshelves. It's a good idea to keep the  heavy items on the bottom. This keeps the bookshelves from looking like they may topple over. Put the prettiest books and accessories at eye level. These are the things you want people to really notice. If you have paperbacks, put them in baskets rather than displaying them on the shelves. And finally, if you have side-by-side shelves, try making the width of the shelves on each side vary just a bit. This can keep things interesting, as long as there isn't too much disparity.

Like these ideas? I've posted photos of my favorites on Bookshelves I Love on Pinterest so check them out!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Is Now the Time to Paint?

After the  holidays, our decorating often focuses on filling in the bare spots left by the removal of our holiday decorations. What about taking into consideration the paint colors on our walls? While we may not think winter is the time to paint interiors, with the wonderful variety of low and no VOC paints, there is very little odor involved. So you don't need to spend time in your beautiful new space inhaling paint fumes. And now you also have the help of a lot of websites, including Benjamin Moore. With their Color Stories, you can see a variety of tints and shades of colors you love put together in a beautiful gallery. Look at these gorgeous blues!

Color Pizzazz
Neutral Nuance

Sherwin Williams also designs Color Palettes for different styles of homes and lives. Here's their beautiful take on an upbeat passion for life called Color Pizzazz. Or if you prefer something a bit calmer, check out Neutral Nuance.

And there are plenty more colors, ideas, and websites to help you with your choices. What's important is that you love the colors surrounding you - and the paint colors you choose are a big part of that. So have fun - and make the colors surrounding you a reflection of you!