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Sunday, September 17, 2017

No to Art. Yes to Purple


She opened the door, threw her arms in the air, and said, "Here it is, don't make me put anything on the walls. I hate art!". 
It was a funny beginning, but as we started to talk I realized that her objections were to classic paintings; formal pieces that were carefully chosen to be a very deliberate, status statement - one's that she remembered as not being very cheerful to be around and could be unreasonably expensive to boot. 

After the appointment, I started to think about what art meant to me, and I have to say that my interpretation is so loose that I am sure I would be kicked out of most academic discussions. In my mind, there is art everywhere we look. From where I am typing right now, I am surrounded by art - the endless shapes and colors of the fallen leaves, the jagged silhouette of the trees against the blue sky, and the worn-down coloring pencils crookedly sitting in my favorite cup. They are all small pieces of art because they are beautiful to me. So, when we're decorating a home, I always think the lines were meant to be blurred, and anything we consider beautiful can (and should) be considered art. 

My theory has always been, if I love it, and I can hang it on the wall, then it is art. From an old wooden air-vent to a child's stick-figure drawing, as long as it gives us joy, we can decorate with it. It's like if you want something above a sofa, why do you have to search high and low for the perfect painting that "goes"? Why can't you take your baby daughter's hand-print, enlarge it to ridiculous proportions, and have it matted and framed in a simple, yet gorgeous black frame? 
Of course, if you find the perfect painting it's a wonderful thing, but if you don't, then why not change what your definition of art is, and put that on the wall instead. 

But, all of this belated, romantic theorizing didn't help my client when we met for that first appointment. The truth was, that she said she hated art, and she just didn't want any of it on her wall. She had invited me over because the room felt cold and unwelcoming. Still living with the white that the contractor had chosen, we talked about how she wanted the room to feel, and what she needed for it to be comfortable. Labelling herself as a minimalist, I could see that she wasn't going to let me put a single nail in the wall, but we had to cozy up the room somehow. 

As we settled into our second cup of coffee, she surprised me by bringing out a scrapbook of decorating ideas. She wanted me to see what she liked, rather than just what was there in front of me in her home. You could have knocked me down with a feather. The rooms she showed me were rich with color, filled with a dark, moody elegance that in no way reflected my client or the room that we were sitting in. 

I cannot tell you the excitement that started to build as she turned each of the pages. With each turn, she started to talk more and more about what we were looking at, and why she had pulled the pictures. She spoke for a good half hour while I stayed quite silent (which, for those who know me is not quite normal). 

When we had finished, I just looked at her and said, "Let's paint the walls dark purple!". The purple would be the warm background, and the shapes and color of her furniture would become the art. It was so obvious what we needed to, and she didn't hesitate. Within a week, the painter had arrived, and her room was complete. 
It was the perfect compromise. The room could remain minimal and clutter free, but it gave her a very elegant and cozy, designed space. Now, almost a year later, she still writes me emails telling me how much she loves her art.

p.s. The photograph above isn't her home, but it is the color that we used. We used Shadow (2117-30) by Benjamin Moore. 

Ideas for decorating with a very dark color.
Have large, open windows. A dark colored room needs plenty of natural light. 
Keep drapes and curtains light and breezy. Avoid heavy fabrics.
Brighten up the floor with something colorful and cheerful. Don't match the colors to your walls.
Make it modern. It can be tempting to go a bit Gothic with the rest of your colors and design, but be careful not to go too dark and moody. Add modern accessories and clean, fresh shapes and colors to bring balance to the space. 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A Little Overdue


Joyful and overwhelmed. I never quite knew it was possible to be both at the same time, but here I am. Behind with my blog, missing coffee breaks with my friends, and sitting at a laptop with my cell on one side and my house phone on the other side. A funny predicament for a technophobe.

So, it has been a little while since I blogged, and I wondered if I needed to explain myself to those who read it. Of course, I don't have to, but I want to. Just because. Because this blog is such a large part of who I am, and is still one of the dearest gifts I was ever given. And because Stephanie's mom was starting to ask if I was okay.

Y'see, I am okay. I have just begun doing some extra freelance, writing work, which I absolutely love, but the last month has just been more than I anticipated. More creative than I expected - which is great, and I am working with a truly, lovely bunch of people. Couldn't ask for anything better. And busier than usual (good grief, I hate to use that word) as my daughter and I navigated the preparing-to-go-to-college malarkey. It wasn't complicated, it was just a lot. And a wee bit scattered.

With my daughter off to college, the freelance work fits perfectly into the newly opened gaps. But for the first time in a very long while, I am having to learn to balance my life all over again.

Normally, I adjust pretty easily - I might wobble around for a minute, but I right myself back into position, and move forward.This time, not so much. I naively thought that there would be no adjustment, but being a mom and juggling two creative jobs became a bit of a challenge.
So, I found myself doing the only thing I knew how to do. Just going with it. I stopped trying to fit everything into my neat and organized idea of what I thought it should be. I had to believe that if I did the best I could, then it would all sort itself out. And it has. The fact that I am even writing this brings me so much happiness (and a welcome sigh of relief). Y'see, things always change. And as scary as change can be, it will happen again and again, often when you least expect it.

A friend once told me that it's better to be a cork than a rock in the river of life. She was right. Digging our heels in and protesting doesn't help anyone. It's exhausting fighting against the current. So every now and then we have to remind ourselves how to float.
We have to enjoy the delicious freedom of not knowing where we are going. We have to close our eyes, ignore the bossy voices, and allow ourselves to drift into the direction of wherever it is we need to be.

When the days feel too long, it's okay to put our pajamas on at 6:30 pm. Not that I have done that yet, but I have dreamt about it. I have lovingly, carefully, made my bed in the morning. As I smooth the sheets down, I may even have fallen on top of their coolness for a few seconds, as I imagine the sheer bliss of turning them back over and climbing into the soft, warm comfort of bedtime.
Because it's okay to dream of bedtime. It's okay to wonder what the heck we are doing. It's okay not to have a five day plan, never mind a five year plan. It's okay to eat a slice of smoked Gouda for dinner (standing at the open fridge) because you're too tired to cook.It's okay to just be who you are at this exact moment.

So, if you're still reading, you might be wondering what this all has to do with design. I guess it doesn't directly, but in many ways it could. Homes, like people, are happiest when they are allowed to develop at their own pace - slowly and organically. Transitional times can be uncomfortable and awkward. But, it's really just a way of preparing us for the next step. If there is a change in the air, or life is feeling a little bit complicated, maybe it's also time for you to let go of something for a little while. Do only what is important right this very minute .... and remember how beautiful it is to just float.

p.s. Thank you for reading - the blog will be back to normal next week :-)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Sharing the Bedroom


Toby shares the bedroom with me. A kind and lovable, vertically-challenged German shepherd, who doesn't mind how I decorate, as long as the air conditioning is on, we go to bed by 11, and I stay quietly on my tiny edge of the bed. But others aren't so lucky (?) Many people I know have to share their bedroom with another human - one who speaks and has an opinion, and might even care (a lot) about the number of threads they can count on their sheets.

So, how does this work? Do we really need to compromise in the bedroom? I think we do. I was struck this last week by several couples who had decorated their bedrooms as if they weren't sharing it at all. The one who had decorated it firmly believed that the opinion of the other person who they slept with wasn't important. I have to say that it was mostly women - they assured me that their husbands didn't care, and several of them even said that their partner had no taste, so why on earth would they even consider letting them be involved in any of the decorating and design decisions?

But taste is really subjective, and I strongly believe that if we're sharing a space, then it should reflect who we both are, and, at the very least we should ask what our partner does (and doesn't) like before we steamroller ahead. Even if they say they don't care, then shouldn't we still choose to care enough about them?

The bedroom is one of the most important places in our home - it's where we are all supposed to recharge and relax at the end of the day. It should be a peaceful and welcoming space for everyone who steps inside.
The benefits of sharing our ideas is kind of obvious - if someone feels comfortable in a space then they want to spend time there, and, if they can see that their taste and opinion really does matter, then that makes them feel cared for. Both of which makes for a much happier relationship (both in and out of the bedroom, of course).

Monday, July 17, 2017

5 Dorm Room Essentials

'Tis the season, and if you have a college-bound teenager then you just might be in the middle of your very own personal hell - surrounded by a peripheral madness that you are trying really hard to resist, every email and letter that you receive pushes your anxiety to new heights, and you wonder what on earth this experience is supposed to be about anyway.
Of course you don't want them to go, but why are they suddenly telling you that your child must have a printer and a matching pair of salt and pepper shaker's? Oh, and you must send her a welcome kit of candy, delivered straight to her room - with a sweet reminder that if you don't, she will be the only candy-less, unloved child on the entire campus....

So, with all these thoughts floating around in your head (not mine, of course) I thought I would give you five of my favorite dorm room essentials. They won't rescue you from the madness, but all are readily available, all are infinitely useful, and nothing is over thirty dollars.


Bed Lifts are not the most glamorous thing on the planet,
 but they will give your messy teen an extra 6 - 7 inches of space under their bed (and, it makes it feel less like a twin bed). The new ones even come with an AC outlet and USB charger. For less than $30, it will help them be more organized, or at the very least they can just grab some storage bins and stash everything under the bed when you go to visit them. 

This seems odd, and I absolutely trust all the little darlings who will be attending college, but a space to hide something is not such a bad idea. Something unexpected, like a hidden drawer, an old book, or even a pair of funny toe socks, is not as obvious as a dorm room safety box, and may come in useful now and again. This one is from Amazon, and is about ten dollars.


Another cheapie - this isn't really glass, but it does just what you need it to.
Available at almost every inexpensive, large retail store, it needs no installation, and just hooks over the back of a door. As well as needing them to look into, a mirror makes the room seem a bit brighter, which can be a necessity in some of those dark, crowded, Vitamin-D deficient  dorm rooms.   


Clear, hanging shoe pockets are not just for shoes.
If they can fit it in there, that's what they can use it for. From toiletries to underwear and gadget chargers, these are indispensable for every type of student. They're extremely durable (and even washable, if they need to be). Yes, the fabric one's are cute, but the clear pockets are so much more practical. 


Forget the fancy bath buddy's and cute shampoo organizers, 
a shower container has to be waterproof, durable, drainable and easy to carry. Do you really think they are going to stand and put everything back in the right spot, and leave the mesh out to dry for three days to avoid the mold? No. Keep it simple with these adorable, colorful, tough $3.99 totes (which would also be great for holding so many other things).  

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Shoo Fly! Shoo!


As a rogue fly whizzes around our house, I quickly run downstairs to find my old-fashioned, umbrella food tent to protect the cake that I had just pulled from the oven. Eternally squeamish about flies (thanks, Mom) it is rare they get into our house, but when they do I won't rest until they are either outside again (or very obviously dead).

Not into using chemicals, I will chase them down with a can of hairspray, or grab a catalog to frantically (maniacally comical, perhaps) swat at them - well aware that I am amusing everybody except for myself.
Insects and flies (Are flies actually insects? Yes, I just checked) both fascinate and repulse most of us. Some people like to watch scary movies that involve them (Jeff Goldblum will always be my one and only favorite fly) but we don't want them in our homes, or casually landing on our freshly, unpacked ham and cheese sandwich.
So, with creepy crawlies on my mind, here are a few, non-deadly ways to keep them away from you this holiday weekend.

WASP CATCHER

A traditional, glass Wasp Catcher, filled with all sorts of concoctions, will lure flying insects into them, making it impossible for them to escape.
If you don't have one of these, you can quickly make your own with an empty, plastic soda bottle (instructions here).

 FOOD UMBRELLAS

So simple, yet so effective. With a bit of a retro vibe, 
mine were bought at a Fair many years ago (for about a dollar each).  
These adorable mesh umbrellas are still very inexpensive (usually less than five dollars), and are available on-line,
or at many nearby home and garden stores.

FANS


Most flying insects prefer it when the air is still, so a fan will keep them away for most of the afternoon. Install a permanent one on the inside ceiling of your porch (extra points if your ceiling is pale blue, as that is supposed to deter insects too) or grab your favorite one from inside, and point it towards your picnic table. 

PLANTS AND HERBS


There are many plants and herbs that are said to repel mosquitoes and flies. 
Citronella is the one we hear of the most
(usually found in candles) but you can also buy this,
and many other repelling plants, at your local garden center. 
 For best results, you may want more than one, so for a full list,
check out these plant ideas from Natural Living.

COFFEE GROUNDS, LEMON AND CHALK

Common garden ants are rarely more than a passing nuisance,
but if you don't want a small army of them invading your next outdoor party, 
there are a few precautions you can take. 
Although they often seem to be the Houdini's of the insect world, they are also easily deterred by the most harmless of ingredients. Try stopping them with a path of chalk, a squirt of lemon or one of these other unexpected household items.

 SHOOFLY PIE

It didn't seem right to finish this blog without a recipe for traditional Shoofly Pie, but there were so many recipes that I just chose the one that I have used in my own kitchen. The story of its name seems to vary, with some saying it was named after people yelling, "Shoo fly!", and others say that it was named after a type of molasses that was called Shoofly. 
Whatever the origin, it is simple and delicious
- in spite of its very unfortunate name.