Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A Space of Your Own

For those of us whose only office is in our home, having a space of our own to do that is extremely important. But even without working full-time from home, many more of us do at least a part of our work from there, whether it's telecommuting, having a sick child, or simply overtime needs. And that space of our own is still important. It gives us the privacy we need and encourages others (particularly family members) to take us seriously. And it keeps our business from being mixed in with the rest of the family's "things".

But how do you do that if your home is already full - and there just doesn't seem to be any space? Get creative! And that doesn't mean putting a desk in the master bedroom, a very bad idea. Instead, think of space you don't use as effectively as you could or one you could perhaps do without.

In some cases that may be the dining room, which can be a little used room except for the occasional holiday dinners. Why not make it the office, while still keeping it functional as a dining room on those rare occasions you might need it? Pretty shelving, perhaps a chest to hold filing and papers, and a table that can works well as a desk, but converts easily to a dining table may be just the ticket. Casual or formal - either will work.

If you are lucky enough to have a "bonus" space such as a large landing on the
second floor or an extra large hallway, use it! Out in a desk, perhaps a small bookshelf, a cabinet or special built-in for your papers . . . that's all you need to make a space your own.

Courtesy: Country Living
And perhaps the best idea? That closet that does nothing but hold junk can be able into an adorable office, especially if the door will close or it's out of the main living area. You can truly make it your own with lighting, colors, perhaps wallpaper . . . the options are endless.

So use your creativity, both in figuring out the space to use and in designing it. Not only will it give you the office you need, but you'll have fun going to work!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Who Has Enough Dining Chairs?

Real Simple
With the holidays upon us, dining tables often expand . . . but unfortunately, the number of dining chairs stays the same. That means we use mis-matched chairs from other rooms, bring out the folding chairs, or even use chairs from our outdoor dining set. But with a beautifully decorated table, it's nice to have pretty chairs as well - which really is possible with a little creativity.

Of course if the extra chairs you are using are pretty, it's perfectly fine to mix and match. In fact, that can add interest to the setting. Pretty wicker chairs from outside look right at home when brought inside. Using matching wingbacks or other upholstred chairs at the ends of the table add an elegant look. Even bringing in a bench from the entry or a loveseat from the living room works well.

But for those times when that's just not possible and it's really a chair menagerie, it may take a little more work for a pretty look. If the chairs are similar enough in some ways (size, color, style), wrap a large ribbon around the back where it meets the seat. Tie a pretty bow, attach a sprig of something festive from the outdoors such as holly or winter berries, and you're done.

And if they are very different? You may need to cover a bit more of the chair. Slipcovers will of course do that. While they can be a bit pricey (especially if they are custom), it's easy to make your own. Buy inexpensive fabric (painters' cloth from the hardware store looks great and cleans easily), cut large enough to cover the entire chair to the floor, then wrap the ribbon the same way. If you have rough edges on the fabric use fabric glue to hem them.

Or to keep it really simple, use one long piece of fabric (table runners would work or cut your own) and cover the entire front and back of the chair, leaving the sides open. Use the ribbon idea above to keep it secure or attach ribbons on either side for pretty ties.

Whatever you do, remember it isn't about the chairs. It's about the joys of sharing your home with family and friends. And that's what they will remember.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

There's Nothing Simple About White

By now you probably know that Simply White (OC 117) is Benjamin Moore's Color of the year. While I think it's, shall I say, an interesting choice, it sure beats Pantone's Merlot. And that horrible Emerald Green that was someone's choice a couple of years ago. And if you read the narrative on the Benjamin Moore website and see the photos (you can do that here), the rooms certainly are lovely.

But there are two things that niggle me: I really like white more as a background color, and there's absolutely nothing simple about it. If you've ever tried to select a white anything, you know just what I mean. Benjamin Moore itself has a whole separate ring in its color kit just for the whites.

I do realize that Simply White is the name of this particular white, but I can't help thinking that, by choosing that particular white, they are trying to portray white as a simple color. But even when I choose a white for trim, the shade of white I select depends on the color on the wall. The undertones in the white selected must go with the undertones of the wall color. And that's not always easy to determine.


Having said that, there are some ways I absolutely love to use white, beginning with kitchens. And by that I mean cabinets. (And no, I don't care what anyone else says. For me, there's nothing better.) Granted, you have to warm the space up, perhaps with wall color, backsplash, or (as in the photo) warm woods. But if you do it right, it's warm, inviting, and lovely.
Country Living

I love white furniture when it's set against a beautiful wall color. In fact, that's what I've done in my office. And just look at how the lovely wall color sets off the rustic white furniture in this photo! The warmth in the walls and the wear of the furniture makes this setting cozy and inviting.

And of course I do love how white trim sets off wall colors, making them pop. And it's not always just the wood trim. The white in this paint treatment makes the different colors stand out even more dramatically.

So yes, I do love white in many of its incarnations. I'm still not quite sure about it as a color of the year . . .

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Skyline Effect

I read an interview with Brian McCarthy where he mentioned learning in his early career about using the furnishings and artwork in a room to build a skyline that moves the eye around the room. I love the term skyline, by which he means the varying heights of the furnishings and artwork guide the eye around the room. It really is like a skyline in that you are seeing it as you first take in a space. I learned it as a wave - your eye should travel in a gentle wave-like motion around the room, with no drastic jumps up or down. While I think it's more common now to talk about the rhythm of a room including all the elements (colors, textures, shapes, positions) which guide your eye through a room. But I am still a believer in the importance of the basic "skyline" effect.

An example of this is the bedroom at left where, if your eye was going around this room from left to right, it would start at the lamp, go up to the artwork, straight across then down to the lamp on the right. To be truly effective, this gentle wave-like motion would continue throughout the rest of the space.

Windows and window treatments should also be incorporated into the skyline. This can be a little trickier with very tall windows, but a little careful planning should do the trick.
As an example, the stripes on the panels in this living room, while not only raising your eye, also lower it into the room. So the rhythm in this snapshot begins with the artwork, down to the lamp, up to the window panels, straight across, then the stripes lead you back down into the room.

Of course there are many variables that are included the rhythm of a room. But I believe the "skyline" is where it all begins.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Longing for a New Cigar Box

I used to love getting ready to go back to school in the fall. It meant everything was new, and not just my clothes. Not only did I get new notebooks, but also pens, pencils, crayons - and that wonderful new cigar box to hold it all. Those days are long past, but when September arrives, I find myself yearning for things to help me organize my office, but (just like that cigar box) aren't necessarily intended to do that. So assuming some of you have a bit of the same yearning, I've taken the liberty of sharing with you a few of my favorite repurposed office organizing tools.
This is a great office organizing tool!

One of the things I love is the 3-tiered hanging baskets often used in the kitchen to hold fruit. While useful in the kitchen, they work very well in my office to hold things that clutter up my desk, like checkbooks, mail, and Post-Its. And while the more traditional style works just fine, and comes in all kinds of different materials (even copper!), I really like this cutie.

Mason jars are also great organizing tools. While I love them for outdoor summer decorating, they are wonderful ways to corral paper clips, pens, and scissors in my office. Egg cups are also a clever way of organizing smaller items like stamps. And if you set up a pegboard, you can easily attach either of them to the board to keep them off your desk. For the Mason jars, put them into a wine rack to keep them together in one place.

Gym baskets are a great tool to keep projects separated. Whether it's notebooks, folders, or (in my case) fabrics, photos, paints, and miscellany for different clients, putting what I need separated by client makes life so much easier. If  your "clients" are different projects, they work just as well.

Of course there are all kinds of beautiful, colorful tools ready-made for office organization. But for me part of the pleasure is in finding unique uses for objects I love. Whichever you do, just make sure it brings a smile to your face every time you see it. That can make an office day a fun day!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

How Can I Make These Go Together?

This is the top question I've been asked by my clients in recent weeks. It seems we all have things we have collected, inherited, been gifted, or purchased at different times in our lives that we just plain love. Or at least like and are not quite ready or able to part with for whatever reason. So this means we may have quite an interesting mix of colors, fabrics, textures, or styles that need to work together in a room. 
This neutral palette and repeat of shapes makes a very cohesive
and comforting room.
And there's really no secret to making that happen. Simply find a common denominator or two to pull it all together. That could be something as big as carrying a fabric through a room on two very different chairs, with perhaps a throw pillow or two on the sofa. Or keeping the basic palette neutral (think floors, walls, large furniture), with perhaps a small touch of color - or lots of color. Either way, the room feels very pulled together.

The white walls, flooring, sofa, and dining chairs
are the perfect backdrop for the color, making
all the furniture "go" together.

Despite being very different styles, the furniture
in this room works because it's all the same color.
And of course painting the furniture, or refinishing it so the finishes blend works. It's amazing how different furniture styles can suddenly work when they are the same color.

So if it works for you, make it work in the room - with just a few simple tricks!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Design "Rules"

I really dislike talking about the "rules" of design. But I realized there are a few things I do consider important - keeping in mind of course they may not work for everyone. So I'll call them suggestions - Ann's Suggestions.

Similar sofas......

Two different looks
First, choose a neutral sofa. That doesn't mean boring. But a sofa may live through a few incarnations of a room, so select one that will transition easily. That means a "neutral" color that will go with different colors over time. And a fabric that will do the same as well as go with different styles, should you decide to shake things up a bit.

Second, stop listening to those other voices in your head, telling you what you "should" do. Just because your mother loves it, or your best friend, doesn't mean you have to. Does your mom see beautiful red accents in the room? You really prefer orange and yellow, but maybe she's right....she isn't. Go with what you love. As long as you're using it for accents, you will be fine! And much happier.

Too much black? Keep just the mirror.
And finally, a touch of black really can be grounding. A little or a lot, it adds not only grounding but sophistication.

Enough of "rules", although maybe there are a few more to come .. .

Friday, March 20, 2015

If Loving It Is Wrong, I Don't Want To Be Right

Silver Dollar
When we moved last summer into a house we love, I decided to paint the guest room - one of three rooms upstairs - a beautiful Benjamin Moore color called Silver Dollar. I paired it with accents of deep yellow with hints of orange. Then I painted the room next door which is my office (the third room is a bathroom) Henderson Buff and paired it with - you guessed it - gray accents.
And I LOVE it. Silver Dollar looks absolutely gorgeous - and totally different -- in all shades of light and at all different times of day. And when I'm in my office, I feel like I'm inside a warm, light-filled cocoon. And the transition from one to the other is fabulous.
Henderson Buff

And then I read an article by an industry "expert" who said gray is now out and beach-y (read pastels) are now in. Really? Now what do I do?

I do exactly what I tell my clients to do. If you love it, buy it, use it, find a place for it, live with it. Because nothing makes us happier than being surrounded by things we love. And nobody else has to tell me - or any of us - what those are.

Of course there may be appropriate ways to use the things we love. We want to make sure there is a connection, a way to pull everything together so that it feels like it belongs. In my case making the smallish rooms in a smallish space flow together makes the space feel connected and larger. For you, it might be fitting in that beautiful antique piece you had to have, despite the fact that your home is mid-century modern. Of course it will work! Just make sure there is something to tie your special piece with the rest of the room. That could be a color, a texture, a shape - something that makes the room feel tied together despite the disparity.

So if you love it, it's yours. And don't let anyone else tell you differently. And to see ideas and ways to make disparate pieces and styles work together, check out my new board on Pinterest.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015


It's  hard to believe spring is really just around the corner. Despite the birds singing and chasing each other, there's still a LOT of white outside. Even when it feels a little warm, there's no place to sit as everything is still covered with snow. But a quick trip into Target past the towel aisle reminded me of the gorgeous colors that will soon be coming our way. Seriously, it was the towel aisle at Target that got my juices flowing.

And now I really must have some color around me. Yes, it still has to be inside. And no, I don't want it to clash with my decor. And no, I'm not talking pastel Easter eggs. I want COLOR!

So I started with some tulips, mostly yellow. I'm a sucker for yellow and gray, so I think they are lovely in the guest room, despite the winter photo in the background. 

But this is the guest room......what about the rooms I see all the time? Maybe a little forsythia. That says spring. Of course I can't find mine under the snow, but Pier 1 has lovely fake stems. And I'm that desperate.

There seems to be a yellow theme going on.......but yellow is a neutral, isn't it? And it's so warm! But it needs to be very vibrant or it does border on pastel. So I'm thinking some brighter colors. Colors that really jump out at me. Colors that remind me of those beautiful towels in Target. In a room where I spend a lot of my time.  And then I realize how easy this is. I can surround myself with every color of the rainbow - deep greens, blues, purples, yellows. Spring colors that ignore the white out my window. Colors that make me smile. File folders!

Okay, so I'm easy to please. But those file folders will make me smile every day! Looking for a little inspiration to make you smile? Something perhaps a little more exciting than file folders? Check out my latest board on Pinterest.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Focus On What's Important

I was recently interviewed on a local television program and was asked what room in the house I thought people neglected the most. This is a no brainer.......the master bedroom. We usually focus on the rooms people will see, rather than the room where we spend the most time and need the most to rest, relax, and get a good night's sleep.

I understand why we all want to make our public rooms pretty. But it's very easy and not expensive to have a warm, inviting, comfortable bedroom. And I think it's important to our overall mental health.

Photo Courtesy BHG
The first thing to do is remove clutter. Waking up every morning to the laundry that hasn't been put away, yesterday's clothes on the chair, and disarray on all the surfaces isn't the best way to greet each day. Not to mention making it difficult to sleep at night because of the guilt. Don't make your bedroom the catch-all room. De-clutter once, then spend a few minutes each day making sure it stays that way.

Keep your bedroom the place where you rest, relax, and retreat. That means remove the exercise equipment, office/work area, and - dare I say it - the television. If you're addicted to watching television from bed, I probably won't get far with that one. But there are many, many studies that equate watching television from your bed is not a good thing for a number of reasons. But it that's not a change you're willing to make, do what you can about the other two. Get creative about using other space, especially for your office. What about a staircase landing? Or adding shelves and a desk to a little-used closet? If it has to stay in the master bedroom, at least make sure it's in an area that can be separated from the rest of the room, if only by an attractive screen. I purchased a great Shoji screen for a client at a very reasonable price from Target, which has plenty of other styles to choose from as well.

Add some texture. Bedrooms are lots of hard surfaces, other than the bed. So add panels at the window (make them stationery if you don't need them for privacy), An upholstered chair is always a wonderful touch if there is room (as long as you don't use it to hold yesterday's clothes). And so are decorative pillows, a throw, and a live plant. Even round shapes can soften the hard lines, so change your lamps or bedside tables to
softer lines.

The bottom line? Find the peace you deserve in the room that matters the most. And without breaking the bank.