Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Decorations Are Down......Now What?

I realize there's still a week to go before Christmas - and two for New Years. But I'm already not happy about the holiday decorations coming down. All the beautiful lights, shiny baubles, gorgeous trees.......and then the bleakness of winter. But there are a few ways I have found to combat the blues that come with January. In case you feel the same way, you might try a couple of these ideas.

One of my favorites is to bring nature inside. Of course, this is often a decorating strategy for the
holidays as well.So keep those pine cones in a beautiful bowl on the coffee table - and add some fresh evergreen. Or fill an apothecary jar with nuts, pine cones, cranberries or even pieces of bark for the dining table or on the mantel.

 While lights on a ficus may not be the answer, what about keeping bare branches decorated? Cut them from your yard, place them on the floor or the mantel, and line
them with white lights or silver balls for a beautiful effect, sure to warm the winter.

And just because Christmas is gone doesn't mean your wreath has to be. Substitute the holiday wreath with one made from herb leaves for look and smell to last through the winter. Not to mention the wonderful cooking opportunities!

So don't let the end of the holidays end your creative decorating. Keep the winter warm and inviting with a few of nature's gifts!

Friday, October 31, 2014

And So It Begins......

When my clients move into a new home, I frequently suggest they hold off on choosing paint colors right away. Rather, live in the space for a while, see how it feels, so how and where the sun hits the room, how it looks in the dark. But did I take my own advice? Of course not!

Don't get me wrong. The paint colors in our new-to-us house were not bad. In fact, the family room and kitchen were already the color I would have chosen - Benjamin Moore's Pittsfield Buff. It's a nice neutral that's not boring. And it has a hint of yellow-gold, something this house with lots of trees in the yard (making the rooms a bit dark) needed. I knew it would look very nice carried through into the living and dining room.

But the real issue for me was the woodwork. It was all a darker honey stain that had been badly polyurethaned, with lots of drips everywhere. I wanted it changed NOW! And it needed to be painted white to help bring in light.

So I made the decision to paint right away. Painting the woodwork meant also painting the walls, so I chose the colors after only living in the house a couple of months. I should say "we" chose the colors, because my husband does have a good eye for color and did have a say in the decision. And right now I'm thinking it was the right decision.
Here's the before with the stained woodwork.

After: Woodwork is painted as is the front door.
I'm very pleased with how light and airy the living room feels. The wall color is very similar, but with just a hint more yellow. It definitely makes me happy.

So to my clients, do as I say not as I do. Unless you're feeling the same way I was. Then make sure the choices you make are ones you can live with into the future. And be willing to paint again if you get new furniture, or find out the way the light hits the room in the summer is very different from the winter and the color you selected just doesn't work. But if you stick with interesting neutrals for the walls (please, no white) you should be able to live with them for a while. Then once you really know the house, you can make a different decision, if necessary. But if you're careful, you just may not need to change the colors for a long, long time.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Now I Know How It Feels

I realize I have been absent for a while, at least when it comes to blogging. I was very involved with the Association of Design Education conference in beautiful Lowell, MA. We had a wonderful time learning, growing, and sharing. I particularly loved Friday at RAW Furnishings 
owned by the very talented designer Debbe Daley. Her store is beautiful - here's a glimpse of it surrounding Sy Mahfuz (one of our great speakers). While you can't see just  how charming it is and  how many great things she has, I hope you can get a feel for it.

But more than just conference, in between my clients I've been working on our new-to-us house. It's proven to be quite the learning experience. While we certainly did a lot of work on the old house, because we bought it when it was being built, we made a lot of decisions during the building phase. Sure, we changed paint colors over the years, and did some updating. But it has been a very long time since I moved into a house and began making changes. Not necessarily big construction projects, but we've  had a houseful of workers nonetheless.

So rather than ignoring my blog, I've decided to share with you some of my experiences. I'll also share photos to get feedback and to show the results of my selections. So stay tuned. And let the journey begin!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Use Those Rooms!

I've been reading some interesting articles about the changing wants of the home-buying public. It seems it's not just baby boomers who are moving  into less space, but 20- and 30-somethings are also interested in using more of their space. While this doesn't necessarily mean the end of the McMansion, it just might mean reconfiguring current rooms so they are actually used.

Dwell Magazine
Dining rooms are often at the top of the list. Unless people entertain weekly, this is very often a little used room. They of course can make a great office space - and sometimes without making them less effective than a dining room.Bookshelves can add interest to a dining area. And it may not be necessary to have a separate desk. With the mobility of office equipment, using the dining table as a desk may work just fine, provided there is storage for everything when it's  not in use.

And what about guest rooms? Like dining rooms, they are often used sporadically. Of course they can make good offices as well, but what about other creative uses for a little-used space? They can make good dens, television rooms, or playrooms. To keep them functional as a guest room, use a sofa sleeper for sitting. Have furniture that easily moves (like this coffee table on wheels) and have a piece that has a duel purpose as a table and dresser.A mirror may also be a good idea.

The bottom line.......creative use of space is here to stay.And I for one I'm delighted! What creative ways to you have for your little-used rooms?

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Cool Summer Decorating

While summer is lovely, sometimes as we go into August the heat of can be oppressive. Unless you have a great vacation home or live on the water, you may feel hot, cranky, and just plain unmotivated. And all those great backyard get-togethers? I don't know about you but they lose a bit of their appeal on the really hot dog days of summer.So I've found a few things that help keep me cool, helping me enjoy those wonderful, relaxing, slow time of the year.

I've found having a water element nearby is very helpful. It may be something as simple as a birdbath, so you can take delight in the birds as they splash in their "pool". And you can make it a fun project by following instructions provided by HGTV. Who wouldn't feel cooler with one of these cuties in their backyard? And you might consider taking it a step further and putting in an outdoor shower for your own use. You can purchase kits in the camping section of your local sporting goods store. A great way to wash away the heat of the day!

 Since evenings are usually cooler, set up your porch or patio so you can enjoy them as the light fades. You can keep things simple by putting candles in mason chairs with a little sand to keep them straight, then putting them everywhere to light the night. Or  you can go all-out and bring out the, lamps, rugs, pillows......whatever it takes to make you want to relax in the night air.And you may find that it feels so good, you might just invite a few of the neighbors over for a cool drink.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Where Should the Money Be Spent?

It's getting close to move time! We will be in our new home shortly after the 4th of July. It's been a long while since I moved into a new home........16 years to be exact. I've been implementing suggestions I've used with my clients. And what better way to prove them true! Here are a few I've shared that are also working for me.

First, when buying new upholstered furniture, particularly the largest and most expensive pieces (such as the sofa) stay with neutrals. That means not only a neutral fabric, but also a neutral style. Neutral doesn't have to be borrowing, but it does  have to be something that can easily change as your tastes change. So when you want to change from the mod colors above to something a bit more formal and subdued, you can do so without having to spend a fortune on a new sofa.Or in the room below, plan for when the kids get older and their artwork is replaced by something more adult the sofa will still work. Simply change the coffee table and end table for something a bit more sophisticated and you have a new room - with the old sofa!

Keep window treatments simple. If you need privacy or light control, something classic and practical like Hunter Douglas Silhouettes or the rattan shades in these photos can be used alone. Ready for a change? Add stationery panels in fabrics and colors that give  you the new look and feel you are after. A much less expensive alternative to new custom draperies with all the bells and whistles. And an instant update to the room!

And finally, use area rugs to give you the color and texture you need, but don't spend a fortune. That way when it's time for a change in the style of the room, the rug can be a part of that change - and one you won't feel badly about.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

What I Learned From My House Sale

It's been a bit of a whirlwind these past few weeks.....we put our house on the market the day after Easter and one week to the day it sold. It had only been seen by four families during that week and one of them bought it. And then two others wanted it. We never heard from the fourth family but 75% of the people who saw it wanted it was good enough for us. And we hadn't even started looking. So that's been what we've been doing for the past few weeks. I'm happy to say we found one and closing on everything will be mid-July.

So now that things are settling down a bit I've had a chance to reflect on what I learned from selling my home - or at least what I learned about staging.

First, sellers really do envision themselves living in the homes they see. According to our Realtor, what made the decision a definite was the buyer sitting in my office chair at my desk looking out the window - and seeing himself working there.

Second, stainless steel appliances really don't matter. And neither does granite. This is something I've often shared with my seller clients, but not always successfully. The goal of staging is to draw the potential buyers' eyes away from any concerns and towards the things that might sell the house. So with the focus on the view out the windows, the mantel in the great room, and the spaciousness and cleanliness of the kitchen, the buyers had little or no concern about the white appliances and Corian countertops.

And finally, condition really is important. We made sure everything was in tip-top shape, including the barely finished steps into the basement as well as the basement itself. We also had an inspection done prior to putting the house on the market to make sure we were right about the condition. And guess what? The buyers didn't even bother to get their own inspection (something I wouldn't really recommend) but simply asked to use ours!

I'll admit, I had a few moments of melt-down. (How can the buyers not see that the refrigerator doesn't fit neatly into its space but sticks out too far into the kitchen? I know people with kids won't like our less-than-level yard!) But one week and three potential buyers pretty much says it all. Now if only I can use my experience to convince my staging clients.

Monday, April 14, 2014

What Makes a Desk?

Since reading Jennifer Hofmann's blog post from a few days ago about using tables as desks I've become mildly obsessed. I've also heard from a number of you that you also use a table in place of a desk. It makes sense for those of us who need a little more space. But I've really decided I love them just for their looks.

Courtesy HGTV
As an example, this one wouldn't work for me because of the size. But what a perfect desk for home use! If you do need a bit more space, a larger table like this would work just fine. With wonderful wireless technology, you can place it in the middle of the room so it really makes a statement.

Courtesy HGTV
I also love the idea of using a dining table as a desk. Keep it in the dining room so it has can still host holiday dinners. But use it the rest of the time as your desk. Or if you're lucky enough to have a great office space, a dining table still works very well. This is a great look - complete with dining chairs!

And finally, I'm a huge fan of sawhorse desks. I love the lines of the legs and the overabundance of space on top. I love that they are a contemporary look but can be used in a more traditional setting, like this one from William Sonoma. I love that the tops can be wood, or formica, or glass, or whatever flat surface that you choose. I love that you can even make one yourself if your so inclined.

Bottom line: think creatively yet practically  when it comes to your desk space. Tables of all shapes and sizes work very well in place of traditional desks. Just make sure you have the storage space you need elsewhere, then have fun!

Like these desk ideas? Check out my latest Pinterest board Unusual Desks for more great ideas.

Friday, March 21, 2014

New Purposes for Old Things

As we begin the process of getting our home ready to sell, I've come across some very interesting things. Things that at one time I thought could really be turned into something really cute, or very handy, or at least very different. It's become a bit of a challenge as I remember all the great ideas I had for some of these pieces.And now I really need to get rid of them for the move.

Courtesy Elle Decor
To try to come to terms with this very hard task, I thought I would share with you a few creative uses for old things I've come across, beginning with mason jars. I've had a thing for mason jars ever since going to a restaurant in Houston a million years ago called The Mason Jar, where they served their drinks in - what else? - mason jars. That's certainly one (not particularly creative) idea, but what about this adorable soap dispenser? And of course, there are plenty of others, like votive holders (hold the candle using colored sand in interesting patterns), light fixtures, especially cute when configured as a pendant light), and so many more.
Courtesy BHG

While mason jars are very simple, here's an entire desk with accessories made from repurposed items! From the table-turned-hanging desk, to the kitchen implements as storage and the wired frame as a bulletin board, this desk makes great use of old items.

And not all of the ideas have to be for rustic or country looks. What about using crystal wine glasses as candle holders? Turn them upside down put a pretty flower in the bowl of the glass and a votive on top for an elegant addition to a beautiful dining table. Beautiful bureaus can be turned into elegant bathroom washstands. And on and on and on.

This was probably not a good blog post to write as I'm getting rid of am I supposed to let these things go?

If you would like to see more fun repurposed items, be sure to check out my latest board on Pinterest.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Staging Tips You Can Live With

Spring really is coming......and now is the time many people are getting their homes ready to sell when the snow finally does melt. Many of these houses for sale will still be occupied, which means the home owners must still live in them. Not any easy thing to do when you have kids, pets, jobs and a life.But it is possible to make some changes that will help your home appeal to potential buyers - and also to you while you're still living there.

Begin with paring down. When you move, do you really want to take the boxes you haven't unpacked from the last move? Or the toys the kids have outgrown? The clothes you really (just face it) won't want or be able to wear again? Clean them out now, while the weather doesn't encourage you to go outside. Then enjoy the feeling of spaciousness that comes with less "stuff".

Make a few simple updates. Because we've been stuck inside you may have had the opportunity to look around your house ..... a little too closely. That's okay because now is the time to make a few of those changes that are bugging you. Changes that will also appeal to the next owner. Rooms need a fresh coat of paint? While you may want to wait until you can open the windows at least for a little while (although low VOC paints really don't have much odor at all), go ahead and pick out the colors. Don't play it too safe. White can feel very cold, can show all the fingerprints, and be just plain boring. Consider instead warm neutrals that flow from room to room. I'm a huge fan of the Benjamin Moore Historical Colors. Most are beautiful colors that go with anything.

While you may not want to purchase new furniture, take a look at what you've got. Will you be taking it to the new house? If not, now may be the time to get rid of it. While that may feel empty to you, live with it for a while. You may find less furniture open up the rooms, making them feel more spacious. If not, try rearranging the furniture. Remember the goal is to showcase the house, so a different furniture arrangement may not only make the house feel better, it gives you the opportunity
to showcase features of the house like the fireplace or the view to the backyard.

If the house still feels a little boring, add a few simple touches. Slipcovers may give your tired sofa a boost, new throw pillows may add a bit of pizazz, and a new duvet cover may update your master bedroom. Just remember not to decorate too much. It's the house you're selling not the furnishings!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Wallpaper - It's Back!

And while I wasn't sure about really wanting it back initially, I'm slowly being won over by some of the beautiful textures and patterns available - as well as unique places to put it.

Jute has always been a favorite of mine in floor coverings, but these beautiful colors for wall coverings would really add interest to a family room, a bathroom, or a child's bedroom.

Or what about the shiny texture of this wallpaper that comes from - wait for it - glass beads! Shiny and metallic finishes are quite popular and can do wonderful things with with lighting. Imagine the beauty of a dining room chandelier in a room with a metallic-finished wall covering!

If  you're considering wallpaper, pay close attention to pattern and scale as it relates to the room. Large scale patterns on all four walls can overwhelm a room, but may add just the right touch on the focal wall. If the wallpaper is delicate, it may be a good choice for a powder room, but not such a good choice for going up the stairs.

If you prefer a smaller scale print, it might get lost in a large room, especially when seen from a distance. Better to keep small scales in smaller spaces such as powder rooms and laundry rooms.

Hanging wallpaper can be a bit tricky. Walls may not be plumb, which means the seams won't align. Figuring out how much you need can also be difficult, particularly with intricate patterns. And some of the beautiful looks of today require exact hanging and measuring. It's usually a good idea to leave the measuring and hanging to a professional.

If you're still not convinced that wallpapering a room or even a wall is a good idea, what about the back of a bookshelf or inside the kitchen cabinets? Go as bold as you like and enjoy the pizzazz it adds to your home - just in smaller doses.

Interesting in seeing more wallpaper ideas? Then check out my latest board on Pinterest and see what you think.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Rugs Aren't the Only Answer for Floors

While I've never done it in my own home, painted floors are beginning to appeal to me. It started with a great article in House Beautiful.......and went from there. There are so many creative ideas out there!

Courtesy HGTV
If  your wood floor just isn't in good shape, a paint job may be just the uplift you need. And if you keep it simple not only will it be a fraction of the cost of refinishing, but you can also keep your area rug.

Courtesy House Beautiful
Want a little more interest? Think colors! A pretty color will add more pizazz and make a rug unnecessary. If you're afraid of going to bright in the house, what about a porch or patio? Nothing brings to mind summer skies better than a sky blue floor.

If you really want to get creative, consider a pattern. While this may be a little tricky for the amateur (but certainly not impossible), even the cost of hiring a professional is worth the unique patterns you can have. Your floor becomes truly one of a kind.

If your entire floor doesn't need painting (or even if it does), consider a painted rug. And just like a "real" rug, the wear and tear on a painted rug just adds a lovely patina.

If you decide to paint your floor, there are a few things to keep in mind. The floor needs to be completely free of dirt and dust before you begin. Otherwise, you'll have a bit more texture than you may have bargained for. If you're getting a bit creative, it's probably a good idea to paint a sample board. That way you can make sure you are getting the colors, patterns and textures you really want. If the floor is already varnished, that will need to be removed before painting. And a coat of polyurethane is probably a very good idea, particularly in high traffic areas.

Like these ideas but want to see more? Check out my Painted Floors board on Pinterest!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

We Need Lights at This Time of Year!

Lighting is critical in a good design plan. But even more so during the dark days of winter. While you may not have the budget to redo your home's entire lighting scheme, there are some easy changes you can make to make your home lighter and brighter at this time of year.

Begin with the entry. Even if you have a chandelier, a lamp on the entry table or a floor lamp beside a chair invite your visitors inside and set the tone for the rest of the home.

Check out the living and family rooms. Would changing lamp shades to a lighter color help? What about adding ambient lighting, such as a pretty accent lamp on a bookshelf or one or two on the mantel? Not only does this provide additional soft lighting to the room, they also help to draw your eye to a focal point of the room.

Dining rooms usually have a chandelier of some sort. (Design tip: your chandelier should be at least 12 inches narrower than the table and hung between 27" and 36" above it.) But what about buffet lamps? Would that bring a nice glow to the room?

Under-cabinet lighting is nice in the kitchen, but if you don't have it what about adding an accent lamp on the countertop? Ditto bathrooms, where having a lit lamp feels much warmer than walking into a dark space.

There are so many options available for lighting today. It's nice to know you don't have to spend a fortune if you don't want to! Want a few more ideas? Then check out my newest board on Pinterest Inexpensive Lighting Options