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 . . .

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Spring: Less of This, More of That

In spring my decorating changes just a little bit. Okay, maybe a lot . . . but there are definitely some easy changes I (and anyone) can make that signify the changing of the seasons.

Start with less soft texture. The cuddly throws, pillows, and quilts go, to be replaced with smoother, lighter fabrics.

More (brighter) colors. The dark and cozy colors of the winter are replaced with turquoise, orange, yellows - whatever bright colors you love.

Less "stuff". Remove rugs, take out a piece or two of furniture, remove some accessories, and lighten the mantel.

Pier 1
More plants and flowers. Use in place of the inside accessories as well as outside on porches and decks.

Less formality. Take away the dining room centerpiece, the pretty candles in crystal holders, and the dressy cocktail table decorations.

More casual entertaining. Keep colorful melamine dishes ready for impromptu dinners outside. Light the night with candles in hurricanes and fresh cut flowers from the garden.

It's time to relax . . . loosen your schedule and your lifestyle. Enjoy the ease the warm weather brings!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The In Between Times

This time of year is always a bit difficult for me decorating-wise. It's not like the fall, when I want to bring in lots of coziness. Or late spring when it's all about decorating the porch and patio. I'm a little tired of being inside so decorating the house for this in between time doesn't interest me. Instead this becomes my planning time. Dreaming time. And it's all about the books.

If you're at all like me, you might enjoy a bit of inspiration yourself. As a fan of the old Domino magazine, I really enjoy Domino: The Book of Decorating. While it's not quite as much fun, I love some of the quirky, fun, and often inexpensive tips that are so reminiscent of the magazine.

If you're looking for how-to's like hanging artwork or picking the right sized rug, Vern Yip's Design Wise does it in spades. This is a good place to start if you want the look you want but you want it to be the right size, shape, color . . . it's information and inspiration filled.

Books about organizing are huge! Not only is it the time of year, but it also seems to be a subject many people are drawn to now. I must admit I'm not big on organizing books because it's generally more than I will ever do. I'm pretty organized and clutter-free but putting food in beautifully labeled containers instead of those garish grocery store packages is just more than I'm willing to do. Still I have enjoyed a couple of magazine articles. Both from March 2018, Good Housekeeping (I know, I know . . . I don't buy it but it comes unsolicited in my mail) and House Beautiful have very good articles on organizing. The advice comes from a variety of sources, several of which I pursued on their own. Most of the advice wasn't canned or typical.

And finally, I just had to throw in a celebrity book. I admit I haven't read it, but I am intrigued, although the reviews are mixed. The House That Pinterest Built by Diane Keaton is definitely on my list. I really love her sense of style and am curious about her new home. Of course it may be that kitchen from Something's Gotta Give that really makes me want to read it.

I'll let you know.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Pink Isn't Just for Girls

Pink has come a long way. No longer the girly-girl color of the past, pink has stepped into the sophisticated world of the fashion runway, business offices, and edgy new restaurants. Which means it can be used in any room in the house - as long as you choose the right pink and pair it with other colors and furnishings to give a WOW factor.

House Beautiful
Often considered a bedroom color (if it is considered at all), it works well in living rooms with vintage furniture, where it can look like a red that has faded over time.

Architectural Digest
But don't throw it out of the bedroom yet. Paired with straight lines in both furniture and fabric prints, it brings a softness to the room. And it doesn't hurt that it flatters many skin tones.

Afraid of being overwhelmed? Then use it as an accent color. Picking up the pink from a piece of art and using it in pillows or other accessories can certainly make a statement.

The bottom line? Don't be afraid of pink, especially when you use it in all new ways. You may just be surprised!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Wallpaper? Really?

I have long resisted using wallpaper. I tend to discourage my clients from using wallpaper. Not a good idea, I know, because it really is their choice. But I have seen so many issues in removing it - or worse yet, leaving it up even though it's way past it's prime because the removal is so tricky. And expensive. And generally a mess.

But I have come to realize those days are over. Wallpaper is back. But not in a paper-all-the-walls-in-cabbage-roses kind of way. Geometric prints are big. So is making your own digitally. Metallics and natural fabrics are in. And it's being used more for a statement instead of an overpowering design scheme.

If you are a little nervous or want to use it but in a smaller way, try using a pretty solid but with texture on an accent wall. It adds just a bit more interest than paint would.

Or if you're ready for some drama, save it for a smaller space like a powder room. You can have lots of fun but no one lives with it for very long because they aren't in the room for long.

Still not sure? Wallpaper the back of a bookshelf. Use it on a piece of furniture. Give your books a dramatic lift with wallpaper bookcovers.

Think creatively! With today's amazing choices, there are so many ways to use wallpaper for a brand new look. But without all of the problems of the "old" days.