For me, decorating for the holidays is also about the gift wrapping. I celebrate Christmas, complete with the tree and the beautiful presents underneath. But I also know the gift wrapping is temporary, often ending up in landfills after the holidays. And as a lover of eco-friendly redesign, I really do my best to make sure that happens as little as possible. But without sacrificing beauty. So here are a few of my favorite ideas . . .
Wrap your gifts in something useful. For the "paper" use a dishtowel, handtowels, a pretty antique handkerchief. Something that will be used again or cherished for its beauty. Use craft paper decorated with stamps. Get the kids involved as a fun craft project. Go one step further and make your own potato stamps. (Follow this link from HGTV to find out how.) Use pages from books or magazines you no longer want such as coloring books, maps, or old picture books.
When it comes to the "bows", use nature instead. Dried berries, evergreens, leaves, and pinecones all make beautiful decorations. Use leftover fabric trim instead of ribbon. In fact, bows can be made from all kinds of material you may have on hand. Try headbands, yarn, string, pipe cleaners. Get your creative juices going!
Granted, these ideas aren't completely eco-friendly. There will still be "remains". But in the process you'll be finding new uses for old things - and having fun doing it!
More and more of us are working from home offices, at least part of the week. And while this may seem a strange time of year to write a post about home offices (isn't everyone focused on the holidays?), year-end is a great time to spend a little time and energy getting ready for the new one. And having an office that works for you - and that you also love - is a great goal.
As any good designer knows, you have to start with function. Otherwise the pretty part doesn't matter. And in a home office that means a work space large enough to accommodate your work, a comfortable chair, effective storage systems, and good lighting. But as long as all of these function as you need them to, bring on the pretty!
Make it your "style". Prefer a shabby chic look, surrounded by things that inspire you? Do it! Prefer a more industrial look? Make it yours! Prefer something more traditional? Who says you can't have it!
Just a few added suggestions. If you aren't fortunate enough to have a beautiful window view, make sure what you see every time
you look up is something that makes you smile, inspires you, or motivates. Beautiful artwork, photos of loves ones, your favorite cartoon - you choose.
Piant it a color that works for you and your work. If you are high energy and need to slow down a bit when you're in your office, a soothing blue/gray might be the color for you. Need more energy when you're in your office so you don't go for that afternoon nap? What about a hot pink? Don't worry about what anyone else thinks. This is your space, your working environment, and it should reflect you. And make going to work every day a whole lot more fun.
I love autumn. I really do. The crispness of the days. The beautiful golden light. The leaves turning. Fires in the fireplace. But . . . I miss my screened in porch. I sit there every morning before jumping into my day. It helps ground me and prepares me for the busyness ahead. I end most evenings out there, no matter how late. Just a brief touching base with the quiet and the night helps me relax.
But that becomes difficult when it gets really chilly. Sure the fire pit is nice, but not in the morning. And it requires some work, so it's not good for a few minutes of quick evening relaxation. So I started thinking of ways to make summer last - at least on my porch.
Of course I start with throws and blankets. Not the kind I use in summer for a chilly evening, but something more serious. And in fall patterns and colors. Fall sometimes requires wrapping up. just ask my cat.
And then a friend suggested a patio heater. What a concept! For not a lot of money I can warm the porch well into autumn. There are tall styles, tabletop styles, hanging ones, lamp lookalikes, ones that make a design statement . . . I had no idea! They come in sleek metal, stainless steel, wicker, bronze. My porch is small, so I think a small table top model will do. I'm thinking something like this, although the cute wicker one might work. Or the one looking like a pharmacy lamp.
Now all I have to do is add mums and decorative kale in place of the annuals, maybe a pumpkin or two for interest and I'm good to go well into the fall.
Hmmm.....wouldn't watching the snow fall from here be nice? I wonder how expensive glass over the screens would be?
Okay, I may not have had a client need it quite that quickly. But I will say I have had any number of clients who call on Monday and say the painter is coming Thursday and ask my availability. And that's a problem for a number of reasons . . .
Selecting a paint color can be very tricky. First, the sheer number of choices can be overwhelming. When I visit a client I bring fan decks for Classic Colors, Preview Colors, and Aura, along with eight rings of 2x8 Preview samples in a case that looks like this - only much bigger. All in all there are over 3500 colors to choose from. So although my job as a designer is to narrow those choices for my clients (hopefully to three), it might take just a little bit of time. Once the color selections have been made (always in the room to be painted), clients need to see larger samples in the room - and in different locations. So I order large (8x8) paper samples that then must be put on white poster board so that the white shows around the edges. Those poster board samples are placed around the room in strategic places: the darkest wall, the lightest wall, the place where your eye goes when you enter the room from each entry - and anywhere else that is important. This usually involves placing 5-8 sample boards around the room. Then the clients need to look at the boards at all times of the day and night. Seeing the boards in direct daylight, under artificial light, on cloudy days, and at all times of the day and night (because the lighting will be different). This process generally takes at least several days. And to show why, here are three photos of three different rooms all painted in Benjamin Moore's Powell Buff.
At this point the clients may have a color selected. It's taken a lot longer than a day - or three. But the really good news? The chances are very good it's the right color. And that makes everyone happy. Except perhaps for the painter, who was looking to get paid repainting.
I think there used to be a magazine by that name . . . maybe there still is. But rather than sharing the best flea markets or how to spot the best flea market finds, the "style" I'm referring to is the actual shopping style you use . . . the one that makes sure you come home with only those things that are truly important to you.
And of course flea market time is upon us. So (surprise, surprise) I have a few suggestions . . .
First, if at all possible make a list of things you are interested in buying. Want to add to your collection of Fiesta ware? Write down specifics - color, type, style - that will enable you to focus on what you want. And not come home with duplicates or something that just doesn't work.
If it's not a specific item you need, but something of a certain color or shape or size for a specific place, then be open. But if you find something that's close but just not quite right, pass it by. You really won't be happy with it.
Have a budget. Know just how much you are willing to spend. And stick to it!
Don't get distracted by that one shiny object. If you see something you must have, walk away from it. Sure, there's a chance it might not be there when you get back. But step away anyhow and really think about it. Does buying this piece mean your budget is gone? Make sure you're okay with that. Do you have a place for it? If
not, can you find a place for it? Will you use it? (I'm sorry but I'm not sold on the idea that if you love it you'll find a home for it. I've worked in too many homes that have too much stuff or stuff that just doesn't work.) If it's still calling your name, buy it. But still stick with your budget. And make sure you find the perfect place for it in your home.
Oh yeah . . . and just have fun! Enjoy the weather, the food vendors, chatting with the vendors. Flea markets are a fabulous way to spend a summer day!
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.