Friday, December 2, 2016

The Dog Ate My Comforter

About eight years ago I found the most deliciously soft comforter cover in the entire world. It was the color of farm fresh cream; the softest, thickest, warmest cotton imaginable, and it was chenille; not that awful, shiny chenille that feels like something you would insulate your attic with, the lovely, old fashioned, grandma kind. The type of chenille that you want to lie on for hours, gently pulling out the short pieces of cotton when your mom isn't looking, then wondering how to cover up the little holes that were left behind.

That type of chenille. You know the one I mean.
And then we got a dog. A dog who was never technically allowed on my bed, but would sneak up in the middle of the night when he knew I was asleep (or too tired to yell at him). He wouldn't move, and he decided that if he avoided eye contact in the morning I wouldn't see him (kind of like when I take the garbage out in my nightie at 6am not wearing my glasses - if I can't see properly then I am sure that my neighbor driving by can't see me in all my disheveled glory).

So, eventually the dog and I stopped pretending, and he began to sleep on the bed while I was working in my office. And, he would lick the comforter (not so strange, because he also licks the polyurethane off the floors).
After a while, I noticed a bare patch where the chenille used to be, but I didn't actually twig as to what was happening; I just moved the chenille around, and assumed the washer and dryer had eaten the cotton. Unfortunately, about a year later, I had four giant, empty patches on my comforter where the dog had licked off the chenille, and it had gone from being the most beautiful thing in my bedroom to something extremely sad.

Because I loved it so, I kept it for another year, but the licking continued, and after several failed attempts to throw it away, I finally put on my big girl pants and put it in the garbage bin.
I looked for ages, but I couldn't find another one like it (well, I did see one on Ebay for sale, but it was in Australia and the cost was almost as much as an airplane ticket) so I made do with a cheapie that was dog-proof, kind of okay, and sort of went with the color of my room.

But it wasn't cotton - it felt unnaturally smooth, almost unpleasant to the touch, and cold all the time. I have no idea what it was made of, but the dog sure as heck wasn't interested in licking it.

Then, this last weekend, a friend was doing a Spring clean, and asked if I needed a comforter set. A bit adverse to comforter sets (visions of 90's polyester bed-in-a-bag still haunt me) I was prepared to not like it. And then she showed me the color and pattern; it was simply beautiful, but completely wrong for my small bedroom with the dark brown walls, so I said no thank you.

A short while late I was showing my daughter, and we decided to open the package and pull the comforter set out. Inside was the softest, coziest cotton that I had felt in a long time.
On the spot, I decided to take the gift, change my bedroom around, and repaint the walls to match my new comforter ...

p.s. We rescued Toby about five years ago; he is a German Shepherd mix, and loves cuddles, country music and chenille. 

Saturday, November 19, 2016

The Winter Garden

With the reluctance of settling my garden in for the Winter months comes the sudden, sweet joy of finding yet another reason to decorate.
Being a tad lazy, I am inclined to have decorations that will last from November to April; ones that aren't too themed, and will stand up to the snow and ice that could easily keep them firmly in place until Springtime. They have to be something that I enjoy seeing every day, and something that won't look misplaced in the middle of February (quite possibly the worst month of the year), and, if it somehow involves a gnome or a small, metal bird, then I may just have to wrap a plaid scarf around its neck.

For me, it is all about exploiting Mother Nature, and working with rather than against the harsh elements that could crack a favorite sculpture or topple a childhood tree. Nothing should be too fragile. I like to keep it simple, play with shapes that are already there, and use materials that will only look better with a good dose of age.

I am sure that my small gargoyle (made handily of resin) will last for many seasons, and that the verbena flowers can be left tall, holding onto their seeds, waiting for when the hungry birds will need them the most. The old trellis brings much needed height, while a small mason jar is able to sway, ever-so-gently in a nearby tree - holding a candle that may never get lit, but bringing the quiet magic of possibility to many of our cold, gray days.
Some berries and leaves have stayed vibrant and red, defying common sense with the stubbornness of a child that won't be ignored, holding on tight to their color next to the freshly fallen snow.
I actually don't like the cold at all, yet I find myself bracing the freezing temperatures for a few, stolen minutes outside; I am still amazed at the transformation when I stare at the harsh, brittle landscape - alternatively watching clouds and stars, gathering new images every day, and reminding myself of how simply beautiful the Winter garden can be .....

For more information on where the photographs came from, just click on the name:
Birdhouse, Topiary, Bird Feeder, Trellis, Flowering Quince, Verbena, Gargoyle, Glass Jar, Metal Orbs

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Decorating By Numbers

I like simple Math; tell me how much money is in my checking account, what I can spend on a new coat, and I am very happy, but please don't ever ask me how X multiplies into Z, or why Radicals are invading the privacy of my Square Root Quotient. See, even my brain just laughed at the mere thought of trying to figure all of this out.  
But, lucky for us, I escaped from the classroom a long time ago, and found comfort in knowing that not all numbers are boring, and we can even use some equations to help us decorate.
So, whether you like numbers or not, here are some of the tried and true one's that you may find quite useful.

How Close should my Sofa be to the Wall? 

Not that close. Pulling the sofa slightly away from the wall (about 6 - 8 inches) will do all sorts of wonderful things for your room - it will make your room feel bigger, cozier (strangely enough) and help to avoid that formal, Waiting Room appearance. 

How much Space do I really need between the Sofa and Coffee Table?

The minimum is about 18 - 22 inches. This gives most of us enough room to move around, but also is close enough for us to sit down and put our cup of coffee on the table without pulling a muscle or having to getting up every few minutes.

What actually is Eye Level Height when Hanging Artwork?

This is a useful guide for when you are a hanging a large piece on a fairly empty wall; the center of your piece of artwork should be approximately 5 feet from the floor (57 - 60 inches). The same goes for if you are starting a gallery wall - put the first piece around the 60 inch mark, and work out your designs from there. If you are hanging art above a sofa, then the bottom of the piece of art should be about 6 - 12 inches above the top of the sofa.

How Large or Small should my Ceiling Light be?  

For the height of a ceiling light, take the height of your room and multiply it by 2.5 - 3 inches (i.e. an 8 foot tall room can have a 20 - 24 inch tall light). For the width, take the width and length of your room, add them together, and that should be the approximate diameter, in inches, of your light (i.e. 10 x 15 foot room = 25 inch wide light).

What is the Ideal Height and Width of a Chandelier over my Dining Table?

The bottom of the chandelier should be approximately 30 - 34 inches from the top of your table, and about 12 inches narrower than your table. If your room is taller than average, add a couple of inches for each additional foot (i.e. for a ten foot tall room hang your chandelier 34 - 38 inches above the table).

How High should my Coffee Table and End Tables be?

Most of these are at a fairly standard 16 - 18 inches tall; just make sure they are slightly lower (or even) with the arm of your sofa, or 6 - 8 inches taller than seat level.

What size Coffee Table do I Need? 

Look for a coffee table that is approximately close to half the length of your sofa. The goal is that everyone can reach it comfortably, and it visually fills up the space.  

What Size Rug should I Get?

In a perfect world, in a perfect room, a rug should sit approximately 18 inches from the wall, however there are other ways to choose a rug that can help you determine the size you need.
-  Decide whether you want it just as an accent i.e. just under the coffee table, with the furniture surrounding it, but not touching it.
-  Do you want it to be a part of the seating area, but not taking up the entire room i.e. just the front legs of the furniture on it.
-  Do you want it to act a bit like a carpet i.e. all of the furniture on the rug. 
Because rugs are such a cumbersome item to buy and return, a good idea is to lay down a bed sheet, or mark the space with painters tape first to see what size and layout looks best in your room before you choose.  

What about Using a Rug in my Dining Room? 

This is probably the only rule that I never mess with. The table and chairs should all be on the rug, with the rug extending at least two feet further behind the chairs so that people can push their chair in and out without getting caught on the rug. If in doubt, use a bed sheet to map it out first. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Is Working from Home Working for You?

Every job comes with its own set of problems.Whether you work at the kitchen table, in a cardboard cubicle, on a building site, or in a gorgeous, glass office, none of them are worry free; the grass always seems greener, when really it is just a different variety of grass (with its own set of weeds).
But, working from home is still seen by many as the holy grail - the luxury of being able to type in your underwear, and the giddy thought of quietly trying to eat potato chips during an important teleconference.

When I began to work from home, the concept of saying I was "working" sounded kind of crazy (even to me). My daughter would see me, in my fun, little office, writing lists and updating my business Facebook page, and I know it didn't make a whole lot of sense. It barely made sense to me, so we had to slowly convince ourselves that just because I wasn't commuting, wearing a suit and waving around stock market tips scribbled on bits of paper (or whatever they do) it was still something that contributed to me earning a living.
It took me a while (a long while) but eventually I managed to train myself to work fairly effectively from home. It will never be a perfect system, but I have still managed to find several ways that make my work at home, office appropriate...
  • Have a designated office space where you just work. I know it goes without saying, but often, a laptop can mysteriously travel to the comfiest place, and you will find yourself curled up on the sofa. Before you know it, you find yourself simultaneously googling the latest Fall fashions and watching the Weather channel as if your life depended on it (which is ironic, considering you don't have to step outside unless you really want to).
  • Don't wear pajamas, work-out clothes or gardening clothes (me). This tells you (and everyone around you) that you are ready to do something else at a moments notice (take a nap, go to the gym, eat chocolate, or mow the lawn... ) and, you are not taking it that seriously.
  • Adjust your time to suit you. I admit, this is one of the perks of working from home. I am much more focused in the morning, so I can begin at 7:30am and do the most important things then. Late afternoon is kept for tasks that require less brain power, and the evening for nothing more than Pinterest and Facebook.
  • Surround yourself with items that support what you do for a living. Not what reminds you of home; what you see should motivate you to work, not distract you. If you work for a financial corporation, then you probably want to keep it simple and business orientated - framed certificates, the latest projection statistics, and a piece of classic art, is probably all you need. Likewise, if your job is more creative, vision boards, success stories and color may inspire you.
  • Indulge yourself by being organized and comfortable. Filing cabinets, shelves, noticeboards, a comfortable chair, and a desk or table, all contribute to a more productive work environment. If the space doesn't work for you, you're not going to use it. 
  • Have a routine. Commit to yourself that at a certain time you will always go to work. Ignore the laundry, walking the dog, or whatever else that you think should be done, because there is always going to be something to do around the house, and it is so easy to get distracted for an hour or two (or three).
  • Tell everyone that you are working from home. And mean it. Write dates and times on your calendar, so that you and your friends and family know it is important.
  • Take lunch and coffee breaks. Walk away from your office, have something to eat, and take a walk outside. Again, it might be a luxury that not everyone has, but when you are home alone it is also easier to park your bottom at the computer for four or five hours at a time without moving more than your fingers and eyeballs.
  • Schedule time off and mental health days. Stop work at a certain time, take a day or afternoon off now and again, and be aware when it is leaching into your family life. We don't get Sick days, Personal Leave, Weekends Off, or Public Holidays, so it is okay to turn off the computer, ignore the emails, and give yourself a break when you need it. 
  • Be grateful, enjoy your time at home, and (note to self) stop apologizing.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

At Home With Fur

A lady once sat next to me on the bus with a very large, full length fur coat on. The fur spilled over onto my own coat (a bright green puffer jacket which kept me warm, but I am sure made me visible from outer space, and made any movement feel like an extreme aerobic exercise. In fact, I bet I lost several pounds every time I wore it). Anyway, by the time we got off the bus, I was nauseous from the occasional touch of the fur, and the unusual smell that the falling, wet snow had created as it seeped further into the skin of her massive coat.

Never an activist, this experience has shaped my feelings about fur for the rest of my life, and it has taken me almost twenty years before I would even wear a dress with an animal print on it, never mind consider bringing a piece of fur into my home.

Now, it is different, and faux leather and fur are everywhere, and they are simply gorgeous. It is so popular that we are even changing the name from faux (fake) to Vegan Leather (thank you Stella McCartney) which sounds much nicer from a retail perspective, and almost makes us feel that we are doing something healthy for ourselves when we buy it.

Strangely enough, adding a piece of animal print, vegan leather or faux fur is sometimes all you need to update your home. The interesting thing is, that despite being a little unexpected they do actually go with every design style; never enough to throw your entire room into turmoil, you will find that they are just enough to up the decorating ante, while adding a carefully measured dose of personality that you never even knew you were missing.

I imagine there will always be real fur and leather in our lives, but if you are a bit like me, and can be prone to a weak tummy, just walk into any store, or check your favorite place online, and blissfully indulge in lots and lots of fabulous faux's.