Sunday, May 31, 2009
To me recycling is a bit like leftovers; I don't want to have the same roast beef dinner two days in a row, but if on the second day it is cubed and stir fried with fresh vegetables it will seem like an entirely new meal. Recycling in your home is the same way. Be innovative when you think about how it could be put to better use. Don't be predictable and just add any old fringe onto the bottom of a lampshade. Take the time to think about what you would really like eg. match the color of the trim to the lampshade, make it look very deliberate and not like you have mottled together a bunch of old junk on a Saturday afternoon. It's the details that make the difference.
With that in mind here are some easy recycling/redesign ideas for you to try:
1. Paint it. If you hate it enough to throw it away then you have nothing to lose by painting it. If it's metal use a can of spray paint, if it has a wood finish sand it down a bit then paint away with whatever is hanging around the house. Remember gloss stands out more than matte. (I use black chalk board spray paint on anything metal - it works like a dream and has a black iron look to it when dry).
2. Bring it inside. If it's an outdoor piece of furniture consider how it would look/function inside.
3. Take it outside. Same idea - maybe it could be waterproofed or polyurethaned and put outside or even used in a covered porch area. If it fades or warps after a few years does it really matter??
4. Replace the knobs on anything. Try to use the opposite texture/element of what you already have. If they are wooden try a metal knob, metal try glass, glass to wood etc......
5. Take off the doors. Remove cabinet doors in the kitchen and you instantly have some open shelving to
display plates and glasses. If you don't like it just put them back on again.
6. Use old chipped china dishes and cups to hold watches, jewelry, pencils, plant pots etc.
7. Recover a pillow (or even a small chair if you're brave) with fabric, hot glue and safety pins.
8. Revamp your sofa. Take the fabric skirt off the bottom to expose the legs. Replace the legs if they are dated (most just screw on underneath and a variety can be found in your local home improvement store). Adding taller legs can also update an old sofa that is too low.
9. Remove the glued on appliques from your dresser or china cabinet. Take a flat head screwdriver or a knife and pry it under the applique. Tap with a hammer and usually the applique will pop off. If necessary patch afterwards with a bit of spackle and paint or stain over it.
10. Paint the inside of any cabinet a contrasting color to the outside. Any type of paint will do, your cabinets will have more depth and the contents will look more cohesive.
Finally, don't be afraid to try anything. If you are considering throwing it away then why not take a little time to try and fall in love with it again?
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I think of this story often because putting color on the walls is a daunting task for most of us. The walls take up so much space in our homes that we want to get it right, we don't want our homes to look boring but neither do we want them to look cartoonish.
When I moved into my home I painted every room in the house cream. Because that's what people did. After a few years I got bored and decided to paint my kitchen green. Not just a light green but a dark, mossy green. The minute I painted it I loved it. My kitchen is tiny and dark but it has been green for over 10 years. I have changed the counters and the cupboards many times since then, but I have never tired of the green walls.
After the kitchen I began experimenting in other rooms. I knew that if it didn't work I could always paint over it. Although my living room is still white, several of my other rooms are now quite colorful. All of them are very small rooms (8 x 10 at best) and all of them have colors that we would traditionally shy away from with smaller rooms. Interestingly enough I found that having color on the walls created personality within the room, the shapes became more interesting and the room was easier to decorate.
At the moment I really want to paint my living room. Well, I don't really want to paint it, I want to decide on the color, then pay some nice person to paint it for me! But that's beside the point. As I've mentioned in previous entries, my living room, although edited, is still filled with a lot of stuff and a lot of color. Its the color that is already in the room that keeps tripping me up. It is starting to resemble a Frida Kahlo painting and I think there is a fine line between eccentric and downright strange. I love Frida's work but I don't want to feel that I am living in one.
With that in mind I decided that choosing paint would be an interesting topic for this week.
The first and easiest option is to go with your gut, choose a color for no reason other than the fact that you like it and want it in the room. If you are making a drastic color change then I would recommend getting a sample of it to try before you commit to the whole room. I know it seems like a lot of work but it is important to see how the color looks in your home, with your furniture and surroundings. Buy a small sampling of the color. Some paint distributors have testers available in the form of a sachet or a miniature bottle (I saw some the other day for just $2.97 each and they had them in every color). These will usually cover a three foot square area. If you don't want to paint the actual wall with your test color then paint several pieces of paper (even newspaper) and hang them up around the room. While not perfect it will give you a visual reference that no tiny paint card can.Live with the color for a couple of days and then make your decision Also, I hate to say this, but if it is a very dark color you may need to prime the walls first. I did not prime my kitchen and bedroom but I can honestly say I was foolish not to. Both times I had to return to the store to get more paint. To get the true color I had to apply three coats of paint, it took me longer than if I had primed it in the first place.
The next color option is always white and cream. Although these are often frowned upon they do have their place (downstairs in my living room apparently). The good thing about these colors is that they are a blank canvas for your home, anything you put against them will stand out. My only caution would be to think carefully before you use bright white paint. The difference between cream and white is subtle but if you use cream (or a light butter color) your home will look warmer. Of course there can always be beautiful white rooms but take extra care in how you decorate them, without the right accessories it can be a bit harsh.
My absolute favorite way to pick paint is from something that inspires me. I need to touch or see the color first before I tackle all those tiny paint cards. I need a starting point. My strategy is that when I see a color that I love I will try and do whatever I can to remember that color. I'll rip the page out of the magazine, pick the flower, photograph the window, write a description, anything. Once I have what I need I am ready to go to the store.
When I get to the store I head straight to the color matching scanner in the paint department. These are ingenious; take the item that you have and hold it against the screen, it will analyse it and give you the coordinating paint color. Once the formula has been printed out the store will mix up the color for you. You'll be surprised what they can process (fabric, old paint cans, flowers, magazines etc). For my kitchen I matched the inside border of a painting, for the bedroom a piece of suede on a quilt that lay on the bed and for my bathroom I took a photograph of the wallpaper in the hotel that I was staying in and matched that.
You can begin with anything you want. Maybe the stitching on a pillow is the perfect shade of green, or maybe when you got a special gift you decided that the silver jewelry and the blue box were exactly what you were looking for. Once you start looking to be inspired you'll be surprised at how much there is right in front of you. The world is filled with color and there is nothing better than something you love to get you motivated.
Sometimes you'll find that an item can't be color matched with the scanner (eg. a car, the belt on a strangers dress, clouds) but at least you know what you like and how to find it. Knowing what you want is half the battle.
I meant to keep this post short but alas I am not very good at editing myself. One thing I forgot to mention was to look outside for inspiration too. Colors from nature always go together and are always, well, natural. Maybe you want some color but are afraid of being too bold. Try shades of green, brown, red or yellow and see if they would fit into your home. Experiment by bringing branches or flowers inside. Anything you can do to create an image will help you make a better decision.
As for me, I think I want to paint my living room a very light yellow. I wonder if I can scan a piece of cheddar cheese.....
Sunday, May 17, 2009
After a few years of this, my house, as you can imagine, became very crowded. It was so filled with "stuff" that I no longer knew what I had, never mind what I liked. My home had become a museum of strange items that I dusted around but no longer understood. I felt disconnected from my own belongings.
My immediate reaction to this was that I had no power over the situation, I just had to live forever with my ostrich feathers and dusty tables. Well, I lived with this thought for about an hour or so, then I decided to take everything off the walls. A day later my home looked like a very disorganized flea market. I was horrified at what I had accumulated and I decided to try and make sense of it all. After analysis and a cup of tea I knew there was no meaning at all to what I had done, I was just someone who had a lot of stuff.
So, I decided to approach my home the way that they do style makeovers on television. I began to weed out what didn't "fit" me anymore. It sounds so simple but I was amazed at how many things I either didn't like anymore or had never liked in the first place. I have to confess that amidst the debris were a lot of unwanted gifts from people who love me very much.
Which brings me to the title of my story. Fifteen years ago I was given a wooden duck decoy as a present. Even as I write it I stop and pause, I still can't believe that anyone who knows me would think that I would enjoy a duck decoy. I don't hunt and I don't collect ducks. Did I mention that the wings lifted off to reveal a swiss army knife nestled inside? Opening this present tested every bit of my English upbringing. I knew it was given to me because the person truly thought it was cute and that I would love it as much as he did. I said thank you very much and took the duck home.
I stared at the duck for a week. It could not live in my house. This didn't mean that I did not like the person who gave it to me, it just meant that I did not like duck decoys.
Fifteen years later I was surrounded by metaphorical ducks.
One of my dearest friends told me that she accepts a gift knowing that it is given with love. This does not mean that she has to like it, or keep it. When she said this I was shocked, it seemed so callous and ungracious. I was even more shocked when I realised that some of my gifts had obviously joined her relocation program. How could she not love all of my presents? But as I thought about I knew she was right, she wisely kept only the things that she genuinely loved.
With this in mind I began to fill my home with things that had meaning; books I wanted to read, photographs of places and people, rocks, shells, vintage jewelry, anything that made me smile. Many things are just enough to provoke a memory and some have been passed down from friends and family. I can tell you what everything is, where it came from and why it matters to me.
It's been a few years now since I took the museum pieces of the wall, and I still change my home when I need to. I have became almost childish in my endeavours to inject personality into my home. I gleefully tell myself that it is my house and I can do what I want. If I want to paint the bathroom aqua, hang giant clocks on the wall and decorate the living room with rusty furniture then that's what I will do.
I am happy to have it reflect who I am, a canvas that I can adjust or direct as needed. The ostrich feather dress has been moved upstairs, but it still hangs on a wall; I never tire of looking at how beautiful it is and I know that one day I will put it on and dance around the house..............just because I can!
Sunday, May 10, 2009
I am annoyed at the curtains. They are custom fitted to the walls with anchors, a pulley system and funny little fixtures that I can't even begin to understand. I am alone on a Saturday night and I am determined to take them down. Armed with a step stool and a screwdriver I climb up to the curtains. I take off the end pieces and am horrified to see they are not even real finials. They are plastic and they are only half a finial! It's important to note here that had I ever washed the curtains during my 20 years of living here I would have known they were plastic!
I take them off and try to slide the curtains off the rod. They won't come off. There are about 20 hooks attached to a separate hook on the inside of the curtain lining. I start to unhook them. As I do I realize the curtain is still attached by a piece of string that is enclosed in the (plastic) curtain rod. I try to remove the string from the curtain rod. It won't budge. I end up having to cut the string piece by piece with a pair of scissors. As I get closer to the end the entire thing slides off and whacks me in the face.
I take a deep breathe, iced my face, and go back into the living room. It took me 4 hours to take down the two sets of curtains...............
I shoved the whole mess into garbage bags and went online to look for new curtains. I decided I wanted curtains that were colorful, patterned and outrageously fabulous! Not beige.
The next day I begin my search for new curtains. My budget of 100 dollars quickly turned to 400 as I measured the windows (one was 10 feet wide and the other 6 feet). I bought curtains from 4 different stores and rushed home to try them. My excitement was short-lived as I saw that I had forgotten something really important. I had thrown away the curtain rods when I took them down (they were also plastic and were damaged when they fell. I held the curtains up as best as I could and I hated them all. Hated the one in duck egg blue, hated the cream damask and really hated the paisley green one. Maybe I needed something orange.
So, I go back to the shops, return the curtains and start to look at curtain rods. There is no way I am paying that amount of money for a curtain rod. I think I'll go industrial. It should balance out the formality of my sofa and the colorful paintings. Off to the local hardware store I go. I find two copper pipes, caps for the end and copper anchors to attach to them to the wall with. A total of $27. dollars. I go home, measure the pipes and cut them with a pruning saw. But now they look too new for my living room. I take them outside, sand them down with sandpaper and spray them with lemon juice. I wait about 3 minutes (am getting impatient with the entire process) and nothing happens. I get bleach and spray over the lemon with the diluted bleach.
Back to the store I go looking for curtains. I finally found some I really loved. Brown curtains with gorgeous orange zinnias and green leaves all over them. I cringed as I paid nearly $500 dollars for them, convincing myself it was worth it to have my living room look all lovely filled with orange zinnias. I rush home and check on my curtain rods. I decide to rub some dirt on them and then spray some black paint on them. The black paint reacts with the bleach and dirt and makes it look all mottled. I decide to leave them out overnight, in the rain.
The zinnias look ridiculous. My living room looks like a mess of murals and craziness, but not in a good way. My living room is already pretty colorful so to add about 16 feet of orange zinnias was not the best idea. I nearly cried as I remembered the nice, beige curtains I had thrown away. Now I was sitting like a fish in a bowl for all the world to see, curtainless and cold.
A new day and the curtain rods looked great. I decided to return the zinnias, but I did so love the pattern. My solution was to keep one curtain panel and recover my chair in it. An ode to the zinnia! I got a bit distracted and did that for three or four hours before I returned the other curtain panels. Happy to see the credit go back into my account.
I decided I needed beige curtains afterall. Back to another store I went. As I was going in I saw a sale of blankets and throw. Dozens of them in beige and cream. $8 dollars each for a King size blanket. I got 4 of them in cream. I bought curtain rings with little clips in black and copper. I think I did a little dance as I left the store.
When I got home I hemmed the bottom of the King size blankets and sprayed them with liquid starch. I sanded the curtains rings so that they all looked about the same color.
After two days of being outside the curtain rods had discolored. I mounted them to the wall and attached my new "curtains" to the curtain clips. I slid them along the copper piping.
They made the best sound.
Sunday, May 3, 2009
One of my favorite things to do on the weekend is to sit down with a cup of tea and a magazine. The other day I settled into the sofa with a gigantic fashion magazine (you know the one I mean - it has about 400 pages). I was trying to find the beginning of the magazine, sifting through literally a hundred pages of ads trying to find the contents page. As my mind started to wander I noticed how beautiful some of the pages were. I began to tear the advertising pages out of the magazine.
I never read the magazine. Instead I spent the next two hours tearing out pages and looking at the fashion layouts. The obvious link between Fashion and Interior Design made my head spin with new ideas.
The pictures that tended to have the initial shock value were the ones that were more eclectic. These tended to be filled with a mixture of color and styles. For example red leather shoes, yellow cotton pants with a ruffled purple blouse, bohemian necklace and a fedora! On a feminine shape this worked. Yes, it was eclectic but the styles were all so bold that they coordinated into an interesting and appealing picture.
The other layout that tended to dominate the fashion pages was the monochromatic look. Layers and layers of clothes and accessories in the same neutral color palette. The key to this look was to use different textures. An example of this would be a brown and cream houndstooth skirt, brown leather boots, cream t-shirt, gorgeous layered scarf and a tiny caramel colored cardigan.
As I looked through the torn out pages I finally understood why photographers and fashion designers were also artists. It was all about symmetry, shapes and color.
These ideas are so easy to translate to our decorating lifestyle. If we want a more monochromatic look we should remember to layer the color with different textures. Similar textures of the same color can often look harsh and one dimensional but opposite textures create a subtle richness that makes it beautiful to look at. For a more eclectic and carefree look use different patterns and colors; pair unexpected items together but make sure they have some character to them.
Fashion is just like decorating. Choose something you love, apply basic design principles and create the look around that item.