Sunday, July 24, 2016

Unmentionables and Moments of Frippery

When we reach a certain age, our lingerie drawer suddenly becomes an unrecognizable mess of fun and function; we lift, we tuck, we squeeze, and we spend a ridiculous amount of time rearranging ourselves into all sorts of things to make us feel pretty, and, dare I say it, youthful.
It's just not as easy as it used to be, and whereas some days make us imagine we could be Dita Von Teese (or is that just me?) others find us reaching for the vast sea of elastic beige that Bridget Jones regretted wearing on her first date with Daniel.

With these dilemma's comes a new sort of organization; one that says we are grown-ups, and that maybe it is time to go through our drawers before we sort through our closet. What we wear underneath is just as important, so let's get rid of what doesn't fit, what is hanging by a frayed thread, and throw away the sad, dull colors from years ago. Having everything that fits, and does what it is supposed to do, saves us a ton of time, and makes us feel better knowing that our underneaths are just as lovely as our outside.

One of my favorite things to do is to ditch the traditional tiny drawer at the top of your dresser; the one that is supposed to be for your underwear. I use that for my earrings and tights instead, which leaves the larger one below for lots of underwear, and plenty of space to stack my bras upright. Stacking bras vertically makes it easy to see what I actually have, and everything seems to keep their shape.

If you like to match all of your colors and styles, there are wonderful, inexpensive drawer dividers that slot right into place; they help us to keep everything separated and organized with no fuss at all. Many of the generic organizers used to be a bit small for the curvy figure, but fortunately manufacturers are becoming more aware of different sizes, so there are far more options than there used to be; these foldable drawers are one of my favorites.

Lingerie chests originated in the 1700's, and will take your organizing to an entirely different level (actually seven levels, one for each day of the week) and they can still be found, old and new, very inexpensively.    

If you are lucky enough to have oodles of
space, then hanging your bras in the closet is even better, and will keep them from getting smooshed and damaged.
Use a men's tie rack, or find coat hangers that have little clips on either side. I even found this sock dryer that I think would easily hold bras if you had the extra space to hang it; kind of like a bra chandelier.

For special occasion pieces, I would store them in a separate place, just to keep the specialness
of them. Some can hang on lingerie clips, or, for mere mortals like me who have limited space, a beautiful fabric bag is just enough. If you love vintage, then an old hat box or vintage train case could be perfect, or, if you prefer something new, check out the selection of decorative containers at your nearest home or craft store.

With those other necessities that are more functional than fun, I would treat them just as well as the pretty things, but hide them in the back somewhere; no-one wants to stare at their Spanx every time they get dressed, reminding us that perhaps if we didn't love ice cream so much we wouldn't feel compelled to buy them in the first place. So, fold them up sweetly, and put them in a small box in the back of your closet for the next time you need a little extra bit of reinforcement.

Organizing our underthings doesn't seem like a big deal, but once we do it we are left with a lot more time (and space) for fun, function and frippery ....

Saturday, July 16, 2016

A Spider at Home

When I walked into the bathroom there was a small spider hanging from the chandelier. I gently blew at him, and he scampered straight back up to the top. Within seconds, he dropped down again and started to hover in front of me. I looked at him for a few moments, then blew the tiniest piece of air at him again; like something out of a storybook, he swung back and forth a couple of times then quickly spun a line of silk and dropped to the black tile below.

As I watched him land on the floor and run under the cabinet, all I could think was that this spider (who had never read "The Power of Now", organized his closet, or contemplated the meaning of life) was probably so much happier than most of us would ever be. He lived in my chandelier (old and rarely dusted), jumped when he needed too, and created the most temporary form of beauty every single day.
I want to believe that he was looking at me, but I don't even know where his eyes were, all I know is that it felt like a magical experience, and I was grateful to see such a small creature do something so amazing.

Much of what we do is magical, yet rarely do we see it. When I visit people's homes, I am always astounded at how often they apologize for what they have, when all I see is a lovely room; it may not be exactly how they would like it to be, but there is so much more to like than they realize.
We are all guilty of doing it; our thinking often gets in the way of what we see, and we get so caught up in what we want, that it is easy to forget what we actually have.
Now and again, it is good to make a list of what we truly enjoy about our home, and why (kind of the opposite of a "Honey Do" list). We should remember what it was like when we first moved in, and how excited we were to do something, anything, just because it was completely ours.

We should revisit the memories, sit on our favorite piece of furniture, and take inventory of how far we have come. And we should take a lesson from the spider; love where we live, move forward as needed, create something beautiful (no matter how temporary)
... and stop thinking.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Home Offices for You and Me

It's funny, home offices are becoming more popular, but so are portable devices; people want a separate office space, but then they sit on the sofa to check their email and pay bills. Which to me, is a little like wanting a Kindle, then buying a cover for it that looks like a book. See, I've managed to confuse both of us in a single paragraph.

We want things to make our life easier (and less cluttered) but our mind and body still craves tasks that require some form of effort, and make us feel connected. It's a weird dilemma; like the difference between peeling an orange, and grabbing a glass of juice - peeling and eating an orange boosts our cognitive processes a hundred times more than if we just open the carton and pour out the juice, so we have to decide whether we want to peel the orange, take off the pith and divide up the segments, or should we just open the fridge and grab a glass? They can't compare really, and I forget why this reminded me of home offices, but I would always rather peel an orange than drink one.

Anyway, like many things, a home office needs to move forward in life, and the need for huge, sagging shelves and walls of metal filing cabinets has become unnecessary for most of us. Paper is used less, and while our workload hasn't been reduced, we use our spaces differently, and we want everything to work harder and more efficiently for us. And, we want it to look good.

This home office is all sorts of dreamy, and it still has everything you need to get some work done. The glass sawhorse table doesn't spoil the view, and it blends perfectly with the over-sized baskets and the modern lines of the simple, white chair.

If you need a bit more storage, you still don't have to scrimp on style; this inexpensive bookcase holds far more than you would imagine (and keeps you organized) while the comfy chair reminds you that you're not sitting in a cubicle.

This is perfect for someone who has to squeeze an office space into their main living area. 
Find a classic desk, a simple chair, and decorate it to your heart's content. Drawers hide all of your bits and pieces, and the shelves keep your books and files where you need them. A few minutes clean up at the end of the day, and it looks just like a picture.

This is a serious work space, but it has so much fun built into it. Spray painting the file cabinets costs next to nothing (which reminds me, I need to do my own. Note to self: It would have been much easier to paint them before I had filled them all up with papers) the notice boards give the homeowner endless room for notes, and the Mason jars keep small clutter under control.

I just had to include this one, because it made me smile, and one of the luxuries of working from home is that it is yours, and you are free to add as much (or as little) of your personality as time and space will allow .....

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Step Inside

We rattle on so much about curb appeal, and having a lovely front door, that we sometimes forget to talk about the moment that we step inside. The outside is all about keeping up appearances, and being nice to the neighbors, but the inside is where we have to live, and the first, honest impression that we give to ourselves (and others).

It doesn't matter whether you have a hallway, a grand foyer, an entrance, or the world's tiniest welcome mat, but it does matter what goes on there. An entrance doesn't have to be fancy, but it should feel cared for, and be as useful and bright as possible (no-one wants to fumble around in the dark, uncertain of where to go or what they might be tripping over).

Next time you go home, take a look at what you are really walking into. Are you dancing around slippery tile, dropping your groceries as you try to reach over the laundry to throw your keys onto the nearest flat surface, or do you take a deep breath, step inside, and feel happy to be home?

Whether you do it for yourself, or just to impress others, maybe it's time to re-think your entrance.

This makes me swoon!
It isn't a large space, but the luxuriousness of the wood and the leather just make me want to spend an afternoon here. Forget that it is an entrance, add a few practical elements,and decorate it just like any other room.  

Okay, so I know this is a bit dreamier than some of our homes (it is, after all, a bed and breakfast rental in the English countryside),
 but they have used the space so well.
If you have an odd area under the stairs, put a comfy chair there, or hang a few hooks for keys, coats and bags.

Older homes often have nooks and crannies that make absolutely no sense in the 21st Century,
but they can be still be incredibly useful.
A colorful wallpaper makes this spot look like it was born to be the perfect place for your coat and shoes. 

I love this because it is so easy, is immensely practical, and I love the quirky collage above the door!
What a perfect place to draw the eye up, share your favorite pics, and decorate at the same time.
If the idea of a vase of flowers worries you, buy some good quality, colorful fakes from the craft store,
and put them in a gorgeous, over-sized (garden?) pot.

A colorful door at the end of a hallway will cheer anyone up, and makes no apologies for being a smaller space.
The coat hooks and narrow table give you ample room to keep everything organized,
and the mirror adds a ton of light and practicality.

* Thank you to House to Home UK for the top two photographs, Home Away for the 3rd, Adorable Home for the 4th and 5th, and Freshome for the last.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Decorating with Books

I don't read as much as I should (or that I think I should) and I am more inclined to curl up with a magazine or cookery book on a Sunday afternoon, but I still can't imagine my life without books.
To see a book is to imagine something other than ourselves at that very moment, and to open one up invites us to stop whatever we are doing, and wonder about what may or may not be inside.

Books add an inexplicable warmth to every room, and are one of the most hard-working accessories you will ever have.

Whether you artfully stack your used books in a fireplace, or proudly display a rare edition of something old and precious, the only rule is that you shouldn't pretend. Please don't decorate with books that you have no interest in, because we will know. We will know that they are different from you, and we will see that they are not well loved. (We might even quietly nudge you into the land of pretentiousness, where no-one truly wants to be).

Show us your books because they have meaning, were your favorite read last year, or simply because you enjoy looking at them.

Even if you don't like to read, take another look, and let the promise of pictures and words gently fill the gaps in your home with life, style and curiosity.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Design Class on Monday June 13th

There is still time to sign up for our last design class of the season. 
If you have any questions, just ask, and if you would like to register just click anywhere on the picture.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Designs on Summer

The Perfect Lemonade

3 to 4 cups cold water (to dilute)
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup water (for the simple syrup)
1 cup sugar (can reduce to 3/4 cup)
1. Make simple syrup by heating the sugar and water in a small saucepan until the sugar is dissolved completely.
2. While the sugar is dissolving, use a juicer to extract the juice from 4 to 6 lemons, enough for one cup of juice.
3. Add the juice and the sugar water to a pitcher. Add 3 to 4 cups of cold water, more or less to the desired strength. Refrigerate 30 to 40 minutes. If the lemonade is a little sweet for your taste, add a little more straight lemon juice to it.


We don't get much personal mail anymore, so why not look for some postcards next time you take a vacation? 
Take your address book with you, and mail them from your favorite spot (even if it is just an hour away).Everyone loves to get a picture and a note in the mail. 
Even send one to yourself, and pop it on the fridge to remind you of a wonderful time!

I was coming home late one night last Summer, and I was shocked to see Casablanca playing on the side of an old family farmhouse.
What a wonderful idea!
I wanted to go and sit with them, but thought it might have been a bit cheeky considering I didn't even know them.
Movies at the beach are popular in the Summer, and our 
local High School plays movies on the side of their building.
 are even a few drive-in movie theaters still around, or you could even get your own projector and plan an outside movie night at home! 

Memorial Day is the official beginning of Summer,
and while I sit here patiently waiting for the music
of the ice cream truck, I am reminded that the holiday
is actually about the veterans, their family
and friends, and those who lost their lives while protecting our country.
Hopefully, we will all think of them more than once
a year, and while we can never understand what
they go through, we will always be grateful, and remember to say thank you as much as we can.

This week, I wanted to put together simple bits and pieces that were inspired by the warm, sunny weather we have been having. 
Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!
p.s. click on the pictures for more info and links.                               


Whether it is for your family, or a special date, why not pack a picnic, and drive to a scenic spot? 

Yes, it seems like a lot of preparation initially, but think of it as a full day out -creating a memory...
Many places will even do it for you.
 Bridgeton House, a luxurious bed and breakfast in Pennsylvania, not only provides the picnic, but also the perfect location.
(I am adding them to my bucket list).


Somehow, food outside seems to taste better, and make less mess (or maybe it's just as much, but we don't seem to mind?).
Crumbs get swept to the floor, and leftovers get given to the dog, or flung over the fence.
We use less pans, so we don't have to 
schlep them outside, and our kitchen stays relatively clean in the process.
What's not to like?

Visit a Water Park, or find a local park, lake, beach or faulty fire hydrant...
Take 5....
..... sunny things to do
  • Lie on the grass, and look at the clouds.
  • Blow bubbles.
  • Go fishing or kayaking.
  • Find a Fair, any Fair.
  • Chase an ice cream truck.

(No) Paper Plates 

Sounds crazy, but it is much easier to use the dishes that you already have in your cabinet.
Firstly, they are always available, so you never have to run out at the last minute, second, they are sturdier than paper and plastic, and thirdly (is thirdly even a word?) they cost you nothing because you already have them.


Google your towns name, then look for things that are happening during the Summer. Baseball games, Pie contests, Car shows, Music festivals, Antique fairs, Garden exhibits, Talks at the library, Book signings etc.
Even if it isn't your favorite thing, go anyway, you may still enjoy it (and it's not far to drive :-)
p.s. click on the pie to see what is happening in New Jersey this month.
BTW, can you guess which country has the most beach huts?  (click on the picture to find out)

Friday, May 20, 2016

Six Things to Throw Away Now

We are a culture of excess, and while I can't explain my obsession with vintage silverware (does anyone else sit and lovingly clean their silver on a Saturday night?) I have no hesitation throwing out that last piece of Tupperware that has no lid.

Being attached to our stuff seems to be part of our DNA, and while some pieces harmlessly serve to feed our soul, others just zap our energy by taking up unnecessary time and space.

As I push back at the influx of technology (slightly disturbed that my television is now smarter than I am) I have found that there are some things that we will always need, and some that we just have to get rid of. Here are six things that all of us should throw away right now.

That pile of old cables, routers, chargers and remotes that you are keeping just in case.  Let's be honest, your old equipment is not coming back, and your neighbor is probably not going to be drilling a hole and snaking the coaxial cable down through a hole in your ceiling anytime soon.

Vases, dishes, pots and pans that you have never used. Will you ever turn into Martha Stewart and spend days arranging flowers and cooking beef bourguignon? If not, keep your most beloved, but donate the rest, or make food in the pots and fill the vases with flowers to give to your friends as gifts.

Reusable Shopping Bags. How many do you really need? Five at the most? True story - for some reason, a person (who I won't name) gave someone in my family a reusable shopping bag that was covered in advertising from a funeral parlor. Some are simply not worth keeping, and others should never have been made in the first place.

Fancy soaps, body lotions, scrubbies and matching toiletry sets that you got as gifts or stole from a hotel over five years ago. I love this stuff, but some people don't, and it can go off quite quickly, which is such a waste. Either pop the soaps in your undie drawer, or, if the toiletries are in nice, new condition, donate to a local organization that will appreciate them.

Chairs and sofas that are uncomfortable, or damaged. Whatever the reason, frightening guests, or making it impossible for them to stand back up after a cup of tea isn't a good idea. Fix it, or send it to the curb.

Pens that don't work, pencils that you will never, ever sharpen, and promotional pens, notepads and post-its from your local bank.  Why do they do this? Do they really think it makes up for the hours we waste on the phone, and teller number seven who was absent on the day they taught them how to smile?

I was going to mention plastic containers without their lid, but it kind of goes without saying, and, as I am never planning on getting rid of my lovely old silverware, you are more than welcome to keep your mismatched pieces of Tupperware :-)

Monday, May 16, 2016

Designers are Weird

My very first design conference had me almost in tears with the amount of talent that could fill a room, but from the moment I sat down all I could think about was the light that wasn't working above Kim's head. The one that matched the one on the other side. The one that wasn't working. The neglected one that sat in darkness.

For goodness sake, we were at a design conference, and a part of the room was in shade. The room felt uneven, and I found myself wondering if I could slip out and run to the nearest hardware store to fix it. I wanted to listen, but my eyes couldn't help travelling to the sad, empty space at the left of the screen.

As she talked, I wondered if I was going insane, and I was mad at myself for feeling so persnickety over something so trivial. When she came to a close, Kim thanked everyone, gave a laugh, and asked, "Is anyone else as distracted as I am by the broken light behind me?". Relief washed over me, as I knew I wasn't alone in my madness. She would become one of my most endeared friends, but my first memory will always be of bonding over the broken light bulb.

When I was little, I thought we all saw the world the same way, but we don't, and designer's are no exception. There are some that must have everything match; the blue in the drapes must match the color on the wall, and the accent in the vase, and then there are others who go by the color wheel, always wanting everything to be the opposite, and insisting that orange does go with blue whether you like it or not. Some just want to make a bold impression, and others daydream of nothing but soft, baby neutrals.

A designer friend might casually make over your bookshelf in the middle of a conversation, and another will quickly turn your toilet paper the other way around when you can't see them (didn't you know that it should come from the top, not the bottom?). We are weird, and our minds work in strange ways.
There are designer's who won't go near a flea market, and will bring white gloves to every appointment (just in case) and others who lives for the excitement of a weekend, with a pocket full of crumpled cash and a rolling, rickety shopping cart.

To match, or not to match, brings out strong opinions, yet for someone who frets endlessly about a broken light bulb, I almost break out in hives if I am presented with a living room full of identical table lamps. I agree that it makes no sense, and I need, love and adore symmetry, but exact, repetitious matching kind of disturbs me in a way that I can't explain. That being said, I do honestly appreciate a beautiful room, and I know that an extravagant balance of coordination is a skill assigned to the talented few.

You see, the thing is, whether we live for serene white walls and minimal looks, or jump with joy at the mere mention of adding even more layers to a crowded room, we are all so different ......... just wanting the same thing.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Small Closet Organizing

Even though it is cold and rainy outside, I am optimistically determined to get my clothes ready for Spring.

With a closet that is smaller than most American refrigerator's, I have to be organized; my mom will tell you that it is the excessive amount of clothes that just makes my closet appear to be smaller than it is, but I am sure she is wrong, and have convinced myself that if it looks neat then I obviously don't have a problem.

Anyway, with Spring here, I wanted to share some easy ways to get you and your small closet ready for any new season.

  • It seems obvious, but take out everything that you probably won't be wearing for the next three months (eg. heavy sweaters in the Summer and string bikinis in the Winter).  Store these in airtight boxes, under your bed, another room in your home, or in the least accessible part of your closet (if you need them, you will know where they are, but they won't be taking up important real estate).
  • Do the same thing with your dresser drawers, coat closet and shoes, making sure to clean and repair shoes, coats and string bikinis before you store them away. (By the way, I still haven't got my favorite pair of boots repaired, so I spent all Winter trying to avoid puddles and changing out of wet socks). 
  • While you're at it, check for items that are worn, don't fit, or you just don't like any more; throw out anything that is damaged beyond repair, and donate the rest.
  • Place the clothes you love and plan to wear the most, in the most convenient spot of your closet (usually right in front of you, at eye level). The fancy and rarely worn items should fan out to the left and right, according to how often you reach for them (it is silly to be pushing aside your ball gown every week to reach for your denim jacket)  
  • Swap around your coats and shoes too; if it is Spring, make sure your light jackets and sandals are front and center, easy to get to, then plan out the rest according to when you think you might need them. (If your boots will be retired until Winter, then tuck them away in a corner underneath your wool coat). 
  • If you want to really go the extra, buy huggable hangers - these will double your small space, and the consistent color and style will make everything look a hundred times more neat
  • A hook or two, on the inside of your door, is handy for storing belts, scarves, necklaces, tomorrow's outfit etc.  
  • It seems a bit contrary, but if you can, try to leave the floor or shelf of your closet empty - some empty space creates the illusion of calm (and makes you feel impeccable organized ..... even if you're not).

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Difference Between a House and a Home

Today was "take your child to work day", and as part of the deal, I dragged my daughter around a furniture store looking for items for clients, then asked her to write a blog post for me. All I asked was that it had something to do with home, style, life etc. So, with immense pride, I am sharing her very first blog post with you.....

I like to believe that we live every day to go home every night.
Home is so commonly thought of as a place to live, a building, an investment, or the place that holds all our stuff. It has gotten to the point where the word "home" has become so superficially used.
Not every house is a home, and not every home is a house.
Houses are built with pipes and beams, homes are built with hand-signed memories and countless astonishing imperfections. It is because of this, that in my head, it only makes sense that a home can also be a person. What we all love in the concept of a home is the consistency.
The place that you will never cease to go back to. On the best and worst days of our lives, our homes are the places we run to first, and the people we go to tell.
Home is the place that we feel safest. The place you go or the person you see during an intense thunderstorm. The spot that you think of first when you are left directionless.
Home is a feeling, a consistency that is essential to our happiness. Homes are not perfect. Actually, it is highly unlikely that something perfect can be a home. It is when you leave, that you start appreciating all the imperfections. That one corner you always stub your toe on, the ever so slightly uneven floors, the chips in the paint on the wall, and the little piece of dust that always seems to find it's way back into the corner.
It is nothing less than amazing how at the end of every day, we have somewhere, chock full of beautiful imperfections and timeless memories, to call our home.                  

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Curate not Decorate

I can't take credit for the title of this blog; I read it somewhere recently, and I think my heart actually skipped a beat because I knew exactly what he meant. I know it was a designer who said it, and I think it was a gentleman, but it could have been in any one of the dozen magazines sitting in my china cabinet. Does anyone else store magazines in their china cabinet?

Any decorator will tell you that a home needs accessories, but I find that the word kind of reminds me of when my daughter was first told to study at school. Barely able to read, she said okay, went home and read her books; but she didn't know what studying was, or why it needed to be done. We just assumed that if they were in school then they must have known how to learn. Fortunately, her teacher's were wonderful, and it was a fleeting moment in time, but I sometimes think that accessories fall into that same category.

Waving our arms around, we say that you must accessorize, and while it all looks lovely and decorated when we are done, there is sometimes very little explanation about the magic behind the pretty room. In our haste, we forget to tell you the most important part.
Because accessories take time. They are the warmth in a home; the layers of comfort that draw us in, cozy us up, and tell us stories about the person who lives there. It's about a journey, and they should feel collected (not as if you got trapped in a home goods store, and when they found you they said you could keep as much as you could carry).

Accessories are the bits and pieces that say who we are; they bring us happiness by being so cherished, and they allow others to really get to know us. They don't need to be loud or provocative, they just need to be genuine; a carefully placed pile of books, no matter how beautiful, will always feel hollow if you bought them for looks instead of what was inside.
We want to know why you were compelled to buy that painting, or what made you love that rock so much that you didn't mind paying the extra fee to bring it home in your suitcase. If it's in your home it should matter to you.

If your need for accessories and doodads are few, then make them count; buy only for love, not just because it is on sale and someone said you needed to fill a space. Be open to looking in different shops, searching attics, and wandering through garage sales to discover what you are drawn to. Ask friends about their home, what they like, and why. If you still don't know, go old school and tear out favorite magazine pages, or create an idea board on Pinterest.

There are no rules about what you should (and shouldn't) like, but from a collected jar of pencils to the most exquisite piece of art, your accessories should make you smile, and they should be able to speak for you.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Joy of Junk Mail

Lots of people I meet have a hatred for the mail; it's shoved in drawers, overflowing from plastic bags, or abandoned in boxes for days on end. But my daughter and I actually fight to see who goes and collects the mail. We both rummage through it, as we slowly walk back to the step, seeing if there are postcards for her, or magazines and catalogs for me. Occasionally, there is a real letter, but sometimes it is just a few, official looking envelopes, screaming out for our attention, when they are merely clever impostors, pretending to be far more important than they really are.

We look at them together, and I roll my eyes at the credit card invitations, while she is excited at their promise of (seemingly) large amounts of money coming our way. I rip the plastic off the magazines, scan the headlines, and try to guess who is the latest beauty on the cover. I briefly believe them when they say that the new hair cut will make me look young and slim, then I put it carefully aside, coveting its promise for an indulgent, quiet read later on.

Getting the mail is a game to us, and I realized yesterday it's because our focus isn't on the bills and thoughtless, shiny pieces of advertisement (I always mean to take up the coupon crusade, but I just can't seem to do it). These, we can't avoid, but in the middle of the necessity is the fun of always having something unexpected to look forward to.

Yes, it may be setting the bar for enjoyment pretty low, but we never know what is going to arrive. Like everyone, I have had my fair share of devastating envelopes, but amidst the fear and breathlessness, the garden catalogs continue to arrive, and the fashion magazines still sweetly call my name.

I know we are supposed to cut down on clutter, and unsubscribe to everything, but I don't want my world to be that sanitized and pared down to exactly what I want. I control enough in my life, without knowing (and dreading) exactly what I will see every day. I like to be surprised; to have my eyes opened to something different, and to be allowed to wonder why on earth I have just received the latest bass fishing catalog .....

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Fairy Light Tales

Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a slight crush on Nigella Lawson; her cooking style is really similar to mine, and while I will never be as talented as she, I do tend to waltz around the kitchen at all hours, want everything to be delicious, and just know that daydreaming is an under-appreciated art.

One day, I was watching her cook, and I noticed that she had fairy lights around her kitchen window; assuming it must have been filmed during Christmastime, I thought they looked pretty, but didn't think too much about it. The next time I watched, they were there again, and I realized that they weren't just there for special occasions, she had them up year round. It was the first time, apart from being styled in magazines, that I had seen anyone use fairy lights in their everyday life.

It seemed so indulgent and fancy, that it just gave me another reason to like her even more. While I had often thought about buying my own fairy lights, I was never sure where I would put them, and I suspected that they might look a tad silly in my own corner of suburbia; after all, my home isn't featured on television, and I can only ever pretend to be Nigella.

So, I added them to my wish list, and went about my daily life, until a few months ago when a friend and I visited our favorite home and garden shop. When we walked through the door, the sky high room was literally dripping in branches that were covered in teeny, tiny fairy lights. Excruciatingly beautiful copper wires had been delicately wound throughout the shop for miles; we couldn't even see where each one began, all I know is that we couldn't stop smiling. and we decided that we must curl up in a corner and spend the night there.
We never did, but our reluctance to leave was a small price to pay for a few, giddy hours of happiness.

When December came, I had my Christmas tree lights on all day, and I started to wonder how it would be when they were gone. I would miss having the small sparkles appear at the press of a button, but I petulantly told myself that they were only for special occasions, and they would be plugged back in again next year. Besides, who buys fairy lights when there are so many other important (grown-up) things to worry about?

A few days after the tree had been taken down, my friend and I exchanged presents. Inside mine were glorious strings of copper, fairy lights, and the happy, grateful madness began. My inner child took over, preconceived ideas were abandoned, and I immediately put them on the small tree in my living room. Now, whenever I want to, I just press the button, and the room (and my life) feels just a bit more special ....

Thank you, Stephanie!

Sources: Top left: Pinterest Top middle: One Kind Design Top right: We Hang Christmas Lights 
Middle: Tesco Bottom right: Babble Bottom middle: Pinterest Bottom left: Home My Design

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Invisible Clutter

Just when you thought that you had read everything you could about clutter, along comes another kind ..... invisible clutter. So, now, as well as that pile of bills and scrunched up clothing that live permanently in the bottom of your laundry basket, there are things cluttering up your home that you didn't even know were there!

But, this is the easy clutter, the stuff that we can hide, or get rid of without any emotional attachment; it's not sentimental or overwhelming, but it does clutter up our homes unnecessarily. My thought is, that the workhorses of our home, the boring everyday things that we need, should be simple and classic, almost invisible, but still hardworking and reliable.

We all know that it takes just as much time to buy clear dish soap, as it does to buy the orange, but the orange yells at us from the supermarket shelf, and (unbeknownst to us) comes home and adds just another layer of clutter to our kitchen. It sounds so daft, but just give it a try; take away the orange soap for a moment, and see what a difference it makes. You should be drawn to something beautiful, fun or interesting in your kitchen, not a plastic bottle of neon orange liquid.

Of course, if you adore the scent of the orange soap (or you have an orange kitchen) I would never suggest that you change, but if you have some wiggle room, and do feel like your home needs a little less stuff in it, just try to simplify the look of the things that you use every day. Let the mundane blend into the background, and leave the fancy colors and patterns for the real decorations ...

p.s. Don't you just love the invisible vase floating in the main photograph?

The other photographs are from: Common Good and Co (dish soap) Apartment Therapy (toilet paper) Antique Farmhouse (soap dishes) Land of Nod (garbage can) Pinterest (towels)

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Living in your Living Room

I feel sad for rooms that are left alone and unused. It's funny, often the largest of rooms are the most neglected; initially praised for their existence, we save them for a special occasion, fill them awkwardly with family heirlooms, then discard them with barely a shrug because they feel too uncomfortable. Before we know it, we see them as a growing nuisance of a rabbit hole, falling into the center of our (seemingly) perfect home.

If I was a living room, I would want to speak up; curious to know why you had let me fall apart. All that potential, accidentally stifled by good intentions. If you didn't hear me, I would scream quite loud, and tell you to use me (well, that might sound odd, but you know what I mean) and ask you where all the joy had gone. I would perhaps even move the furniture around when you weren't looking; like a very decorative ninja, opening curtains, and making small, neat piles by the doorway.

I couldn't draw you a picture, because rooms can't draw, but if I could speak, this is what I would say...
  • Why not bring the furniture closer, so you can talk to your friend without raising your voice or leaning awkwardly towards her. 
  • How about a table and a coaster for that glass of wine?
  • Let's put that sofa over there, instead of here (don't ask me why, but that's what "they" always say, and if they say it then it must be true).
  • Open the curtains, it's a gorgeous day outside!
  • Why don't you put away some of those things you don't like, that you got from that person you don't like? 
  • Can you really read with that single, piddly light?
  • Let's have some fun, and invite someone over!

Monday, March 14, 2016

Hazardous Decorating

The other day I went to visit someone, and I knocked the end cap off their gate. Because I didn't know them very well, and it was in the dark, I hastily grabbed it and stuck it back on; mortified beyond belief, but also wondering why it had popped off in my hand so easily. Surely I was not the first one to do it?

When I watched a television show last night, a couple were "oohing and aahing" over a polished-like-glass marble floor. It actually made my heart beat faster (in a bad way) because as much as I dream of having marble counter tops in my kitchen, to look at it on the floor brought to mind images of me skidding on my backside and being carted off, in a very undignified fashion, in an ambulance. I could never wear high heels, children and dogs couldn't tear around in crazy confusion, I could never leave the shower to grab the phone, and I would have to come in from the rain in a very sedate way, placing my drippy umbrella in a stand, and removing my coat and shoes before I even decided to venture onto the beautiful, marble floor.

Decorating can be hazardous, and I wonder sometimes if the wonder of it all gets ahead of the quality and the practicality? Like most people, I want it to look good, but if something doesn't work for me, then the novelty wears off pretty darn quickly.

Along with my marble counter's, I would love to have a gorgeous, new front door, with no screen door in front of it. I even know the exact one which I would get, and the color I would choose. But I like my windows and doors open, and I use the screen every single day; if I got rid of it, I would have a beautiful front door, but it would either be closed, or a welcome invitation to all sorts of unexpected critters coming in and out of my house.

When I get an idea, I do always try to anticipate the pitfalls, but one that I never gave much thought to was ripping up all the carpet in my house. It started off as a small spot by the front door, then slowly spread to every room. Apart from the extreme amount of time that it took, I found myself in the middle of a renovation with my toddler daughter; I knew she was there when I began, but for some reason I never thought about how it would affect her. I guess my post-baby brain assumed that she would just sit and wait, while I spent weeks ripping up carpet and placing thousands of rusty tacks into little porcelain bowls. She was never hurt, but there were more than a few close calls.

What I also didn't think about was that my home would be twice as cold in the Winter time, that when the dog ran down the stairs it would sound like someone was throwing a barrel full of marbles, and that the floor would be so poorly built that when we laid on our tummies we could actually see through to the cellar below. Useful if we need to yell, or pass a note to someone, but not much good for our heating and cooling bill.

When Winter settles in, I wonder what on earth I was thinking and I crave being able to walk barefoot around the house on the squishy, soft carpet. But then Spring arrives; I forget my mistakes, and all I want to do is lie on my tummy, feel the sunshine warmth of the old, wooden floors, and watch the light peeking down through the cracks ...

Sunday, March 6, 2016

How to Sell your Home - Staging 101

Did you know that the Playboy Mansion (above) is up for sale?
$200 million is the asking price, with the extremely odd caveat that Hugh Hefner will continue to reside there until the end of his life. Negotiations on whether or not he will pay rent etc will be made at the time of the sale. 

While I am sure that the mansion is beautifully decorated (and that Hugh would be a very amiable tenant) I don't think that including a permanent resident is a very enticing selling point, and I wouldn't recommend it to any of my clients.  

On that note, a quick reminder that our first design class starts this week:
How to Sell your Home - Staging 101 
It is on Tuesday March 8th 6:30 - 8pm at the Roxbury High School, Room A102
For more information, or to register, go to the Community School website.

Thank you! 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

The Exit Strategy

They estimate that 1 in 10 Americans own a storage locker, and that at least 2 out of every 10 lockers will become abandoned and unclaimed. Apparently, we spend a tremendous amount of time and money storing things, and the older I get the less I understand why; it is frightful to me how much I have stored in my own basement, and on more than one occasion I have gone to look for something, only to find that it has been nibbled on by mice or become more than a little damp and damaged.

Some things, I honestly don't know why I even have them, but I am sure they made perfect sense at the time. I'm not so silly as to store rubbish down there, but after last Winter I was so afraid of losing electricity again that I began stockpiling cardboard to use in the wood-burning stove; fortunately, this year has been very mild, but now all I see is an endless, messy mountain of boxes when I walk down the stairs, and the thought of breaking them down makes me want to cry and lose the will to live. It made sense in a random doomsday prep kind of way, but now it is just something that feels overwhelming because of the sheer volume of it all.

There are a few things that I thought I would sell (which considering I have never sold anything before was maybe a tad ambitious) and an old cast iron sewing machine that I love, and is useful for putting things on, but far too heavy to make its journey back up the stairs.

So, while I understand the occasional need to store things, it is often my least favorite idea when it comes to organizing a home. I prefer to think of it as a temporary solution; one that should probably be stopped before it becomes a reluctant place to visit, a small habit, quietly fed with irrational doses of fear, cardboard and avoidance.

When the weather warms up, I will empty my basement as much as I can, and delight the recycling man with my impressive pile of cardboard, but in the meantime I must decide what to do with the rest. Don't ask me for my life plan, or even a 5 year plan, but ask me to organize something and I will be right there. It makes me so happy, and, I am sure that if my cellar was heated (and not jumping with cave crickets) I would be cleaning it out today.

I donate most things to Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Market Street Mission in Morristown. I like that they are local, they are friendly to deal with, and I know that everything is appreciated and used (or at least sold for their cause). I have found that it is so important to donate to something that you truly believe in, as that will make the process far more motivating and enjoyable (palatable?).

If you want to make money off what you have, there are places for that, but otherwise it is best to give freely, without regrets or conditions; not everything may go to the exact place that you imagine, but someone somewhere will always get the trickle down benefit from your donation, which, as Martha would say, is always a good thing.