Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Change of Plans

Over ten years ago we had a sun-room added to the back of our house. I was lucky enough to be able to design it, and it instantly became my most favorite room. Whether it was pouring with rain, covered in snow, or just too hot to think, I could sit in that room and the world instantly became a better place. With windows all around and skylights up above, it was a small piece of paradise leading from my back door.

Then, one day, the air hockey table arrived, and my dream was gone. No matter how much I decorated around it, I could still see it; it ruined my view, and the flowered tablecloth looked so uncomfortable with the intrusion of the noisy, plastic, over-sized toy. I briefly considered moving it into the dining room, but in reality the logistics of eating at an air hockey table were a bit odd, so I wondered if I could put a plant on it, or disguise it with some books and a blanket.

After a while I gave up, and accepted the room with the new addition, but I didn't like it, and what had seemed cozy and eclectic, now seemed cluttered and dismal. I liked to play air hockey, but curling up with a book was never quite the same when I had to stare at the sea of plastic, and check for flying discs before I walked in the room.

So, I did the crazy thing that some of us do; I moved everything around and around, like a ridiculous Rubik's cube that I couldn't solve, refusing to accept the 4 foot by 8 foot toy that took up half of the room. I was reluctant to take anything out, because it was my room, and I knew from the beginning how I had wanted it to look.

But whatever I did didn't make it look better, so I gave the room over to the cat and the dog. I gave up because I was annoyed, stuck in denial, and letting go of my idyllic room was still not on my agenda. Now and again I would walk in, frown, and leave, until this past week.

During the Winter I had decided to store the wood for the stove in the entrance of the sun-room. (A well learned lesson from the previous year, when we got wood delivered, threw a tarpaulin over it, and promptly had a snow and ice storm. The next day we lost power, so you would have seen us standing on the ice, chipping away with shovels until one of us (me) fell through the wood pile and gashed her leg open). Anyway, bringing the wood inside before the snow meant that we always had wood for the fire, and no-one got damaged in the process.

So, last week I was stacking the leftover wood into neat piles, frowning at the sun-room, when I finally realized that it was just too crowded, and the air hockey table wasn't going anywhere anytime soon. I needed to let go of my old ideas, and I knew I could make it just as nice if I tweaked it a bit.

As soon as I took out a few pieces of furniture it all started to make sense; I had been so stuck in my own head that I couldn't see the reality through the fog and clutter of my own thoughts. It's funny, because it was so easy to change, and took no time at all, but I had become so emotionally invested in that room that I felt like I had been told to give up something important. My stubbornness had actually stopped me from adjusting and enjoying the room.

Now, I am happy to spend time in my sun-room, and while it is different than before, the differences have merged, and it has become a usable, lovable space again.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Find your Decorating Style

Sometimes, we don't know what we like until we like it, but, if we don't know what we like, then how do we know what we like?

We are all indecisive (and decisive) in different areas of our life. It's a strength that I have with decorating, but am woefully lacking in almost every other department. Ask me what I want to eat at a diner, and I will always choose one of three things; the choice is overwhelming, and asking me to decide from more than two hundred items on a menu will have me quickly ordering the grilled cheese before you have even turned the page.

Finding our decorating style is a bit like reading the diner menu; we can't decide, then, when we finally do, we wish we had what the other person was having. But, if we had just ordered what we wanted instinctively, without too much thought, we might really like our choice, and we probably wouldn't be drooling over the other person's spanakopita (well, we might, but I am sure if we asked nicely they would share a piece with us).

So, if you're not sure what your decorating style is (and, like me, diner menu's make you close your eyes and order the grilled cheese) here is a great little quiz from Houzz that might just help. Unfortunately, you do have to make a few decisions here as well, but I promise you, it isn't hard at all, and no-one is holding a pen and a notepad over your head waiting for you to finish.

Honestly, I was going to make up my own quiz, but I found this, and it seemed pretty fun and accurate when I took it (it labeled my style as Eclectic), so I thought you might enjoy taking it too.

Just click on the picture at the top, and it will take you right there.

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fun with Chips and Dip

If you've been to my house before, you have probably had food served on something that wasn't meant to have that particular food on it. It's not that I am trying to impress, but if I like you, and you stop by, I have found that even the most simple food will feel far more special if I plonk it down on something pretty and give you a cloth napkin.

When I first started to entertain, I bought all the correct dishes, including a turkey platter to put the turkey on at Thanksgiving. I was convinced that nothing else would hold my turkey, except the platter that was about two feet long and had a picture of a turkey on it. The same with chips and dip; I had to buy a chip and dip bowl combination before I could serve anyone chips and dip. It never occurred to me to just grab two bowls that I already had in the cupboard. Never once.

Over time, I noticed that other people had the exact same chip and dip bowl that I had, that the turkey platter was not really my favorite, and that it was far too big and heavy to pass across a crowded table. So I decided to rebel (okay, so my rebellious streaks are often giant hurdles for me, but smaller than most children's tantrums) and I got rid of most of my dishes, and decided that I didn't want to be told what to do anymore.

I started to look for things that were more interesting to me and my kitchen; whether I was at a garden center, a flea market, or at a home store, I tried to imagine the less obvious choice. My one rule was that if I couldn't use it, and I didn't love it, I wouldn't buy it. I found that I loved the adventure of mismatching everything, and over time, this conglomeration of seemingly erratic purchases turned into my own beloved haphazard collection.

Now, I have pieces that are so different, but they all go together. None of them are food specific, and if I am not sure about their age, or what they are actually made from, then I just pop a napkin or extra dish inside them.

I couldn't tell you my favorite piece, because I love them all, but my most unusual one is a distressed copper planter tray that came with a clear plastic liner (actually, I think the liner was just meant to separate the trays, but I asked if I could keep it anyway). Originally intended for plants, I bought it new and would never dream of putting a plant in it. I guard the plastic liner as if it were pure gold, because it sits so nicely inside, and protects food from touching the questionably aged copper.

My most used piece has to be a simple, glass pedestal trifle bowl. It was inexpensive, and as boring as they come, but you can fill it with absolutely anything and it just looks good (watermelon wedges, fresh vegetables, muffins, a giant pile of french fries - yum - chocolate mousse with a giant spoon, clementine's, pretzels, wrapped candy, nuts still in their shell, utensils, fried chicken etc). I bet you could even put kale in that bowl and it would look appetizing.

With picnics and parties in full swing, why not look outside your normal entertaining standbys? Blend the old with the new, and search your home for unexpected (and more fun) ways to present what you have. Even if you are serving the most mundane of foods, if you serve them in a different way, it will look more interesting, and make you and your guests feel just a little bit more special...

p.s. The only dip I ever make is the one I learned at school (a packet of Onion soup mixed into Sour cream or creme fraiche), otherwise I buy a store bought one, and pop it in a nice bowl. 

The photograph of the artfully displayed potato chips is from Pinterest via For The Love of the South

Saturday, May 2, 2015

5 Spring Things

I never thought I would be so happy to see a dandelion!

It is so nice to be able to run outside with no shoes on, and grab the mail without getting frostbite and sprinkling ice melt ahead of me. The sunshine is a welcome change, and despite what we might be thinking in the darkness of February, Spring does always manage to find its way back to us.

People are happier, they are shopping, and they are decorating; we are all so grateful to grab onto the feeling of warm, blue skies and fresh, green grass.

Someone asked me the other day what the trends are for the season. It's a question I get asked a lot, and my answer is to often look to the runway; design seems to follow fashion, and in Spring I think the biggest trend anywhere always ends up being a celebration of life.
 I don't mean in the deeply spiritual way, I mean literally. 
After six months of Winter we become nostalgic for what we haven't had; we want to be less restricted in our clothes, we want softness and color around us, lots of warmth, and we want to be surrounded by things that feel more alive and organic.

So if you can't find a dandelion, and you need a little bit of design inspiration, here are five of my favorite Spring trends.


Bohemian fabrics, a relaxed style, and the color blue are here to stay. 
Not too precious, the slightly worn colors are still saturated enough to be our favorites, but comfortable enough for every day. If you're not quite ready for a pile of floor pillows on your Living Room floor, why not update your patio or deck with a more temporary take on this gorgeous global inspiration.
                                                             A FLORAL MOMENT

Flowers are dominating the fashion and design houses this year. 
If you don't want a sofa covered in daffodils, or a brightly colored floral dress, buy (or pick) yourself a bunch of roses. A very formal flower, they look their best when they don't look like they are trying too hard; snip them down to a smaller size and pop them into a jar
 (skip the baby's breath).


Influenced by the vintage military and automaton trend, steam-punk has gone mainstream; what once used to be on the fringe of the design world is now the perfect way to add a small amount of quirk to your home, without committing to a certain industrial style.
 I think that every home should have some elements of metal in it, so I am happy that our options are endless and pieces of metal can easily be mixed and matched into any room.


Maybe it's baby boom nostalgia, but shelves are back in style.
Whether it's for storing your collection of books, or a place to keep your favorite coffee cup, we now want to see what we have. Of course they are great for organizing, but they are also the simplest way to add personality to your home; why not share your randomly found objects, remember your treasured vacation souvenir, and use your now defunct wedding china.
Enjoy what you have, and if dusting all those open spaces is a worry,
 then don't dust.


The opposite of so many things, a pile of something natural is often the best trend of all.
When I first saw cotton growing in a field, I had to stop the car.
It was breathtaking to see acres of pods bursting with pure, soft white balls of fluff. To this day, it is still one of my favorite things in the whole world, and I have a small bundle of it in a glass bowl in my Living Room. Whether it is pine cones, twigs, cotton, rocks, or a fallen, abandoned bird’s nest, adding something raw and organic will always be beautiful,
and never go out of style.

Photographs borrowed from: M.inmagine (Dandelion)  Houzz (Moroccan) White Flower Farm (Roses) Restoration Hardware (Steampunk), Bookmania (Bookshelves) and Vertboitex (Cotton).