Monday, December 19, 2016

A Christmas Poem

'Tis the week before Christmas, and all through the town,
Credit cards are up, and bank balances are down.
With the season of Giving getting into full swing,
The Children are wondering what Santa will bring.

Shopping malls are filled from morning till night,
As Everyone tries to find something "just right".
Houses are decorated, Menorah's are lit,
Too many snacks mean our clothes don't quite fit.

People are travelling, Cookies are made,
Presents still to be wrapped, and the table to be laid.
For some a religion, for many a Belief,
For some, when it's over, a huge relief.

The Holidays remind us of who we have lost,
Of what we have Done, and was there a cost?
We promise to be better, and have more direction,
Just one more chance, and we'll try for perfection.

Back to Shopping - just in case we haven't gotten it all,
Maybe it's time to drive back to the Mall?
That last minute sale - that Special thing we must get.
Are we trying too hard? Are we having Fun yet? 

Christmas Carols, parties and trees that are faux,
We are running out of Time, so we decide not to go.
It all seems so much, too many to Please,
And dammit, why is it so hard to put colored lights on trees?

But our intentions are good,
And we are sorry for freaking.
I guess our Joy got a little lost, and could do with some tweaking.

Because Children are happiest when they are with Us,
So forget all the shopping, and forget all the fuss.
Spend time with Family and Friends that are dear,
Add Kindness to your list, and have a Peaceful New Year!

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.

Friday, October 7, 2016

The Sweet Dreams of Reality

A friend recently asked me about decorating her bedroom. After living in her home for many years, her bedroom had become a transitional mess; a place for laundry (in all it’s stages), a storage facility, and a home office that was slowly reproducing technical equipment when no-one was looking.

Why do we put ourselves last? Bedrooms should be the simplest room to decorate; the focal point is already established, and the function is pretty much self-explanatory. More than anything else in the modern world, people are lacking sleep and relaxation, so wouldn’t it make sense to focus on these things before picking out kitchen cabinets, or deciding what book to carefully place on your coffee table?

I promise, that whatever the state of your bedroom, all it takes is an afternoon to make it a much better place to spend time in.
  • Why not start with the obvious, and take out everything that doesn’t belong in there. (I know this can lead to a horrible mess somewhere else, but I think your bedroom is more important than that other space, and you will be so much happier when bedtime - and morning - arrives). 
  • Minimize or eliminate all electronics (including your cell phone). 
  • Then, decide what you do (and don’t) want to see first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Close the closet doors, make the bed, straighten the dresser, and take a look at what is happening on the walls. What should stay, and what should go? Take them out now.
  • Remove family photographs. This is not a popular idea, but I think the bedroom should be an escape; your personal space to relax, and just be who you want to be. So why not take these down and move them to a family room, the hallway, or a small wall in your kitchen?
  • Add some artwork above the bed, but only if you think it needs it; don't feel that it has to be "decorated" - a minimal room can look beautiful too. 
  • Use color and texture for interest. I like bedrooms to be quite simple, but this is the perfect place to experiment with something a little unexpected and daring (not an afternoon project, I'll admit, but next time you want to paint, consider a gorgeous red or the deepest navy blue). Texture is also a great way to add interest without clutter - just use several things in the same shade family, and leave the rest alone.  
  • Have something warm on the floor for your feet, and don't be afraid to layer a rug over your carpet if it is looking a little worse for wear (this will also make your room feel more sophisticated and cozy). Shop your house for a rug if you don't already have one.
  • Be selfish, and only surround yourself with what will make you happy as you drift off to sleep - a worn love letter from years ago, soft, fluffy pillows and blankets, your favorite books, a piece of Art, silence, notepaper and pencils, flowers, an old stuffed teddy bear, plants, perfume, music, nothingness ...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Your Decorating Personality

Sometimes, knowing where to start is the hardest part. It's that first move that paralyzes us, and we over-think what we imagine may happen, or worry about doing something in the exact right order. In life, that can lead to some tricky decisions, but in decorating it is rarely complicated at all; hopefully, no-one will freak out if you put the chair in a different spot, and the children will still find their way home if the door is painted yellow instead of red.

But, it's the starting that gets us. I think that we say so much about ourselves without speaking, and if we just trusted that instinct a little bit, we wouldn't find decorating so hard. Okay, yes, it might still not be fun or easy, but if we can see what we like, then we are more than halfway there, and it gives us a visual blueprint to start from.

There are a gazillion sites and apps out there that will help us design our home, but I tend to go back to basics; partly because I like to keep life simple, but also because I want the ability to change my mind whenever I want to, without spending a lot of unnecessary time and money. Sometimes, by the time we have waded through the User Id's and help button, it seems far simpler to tear bits out of a magazine, scribble a note on a piece of paper, and bookmark a favorite room into a computer file.

So, as an experiment, I pretended I was trying to figure out my own style.
I set my timer for five minutes, and scanned through my photographs. Without thinking about why I was choosing them, I clicked and grabbed the images that appealed to me at that moment.
From these images, you get a quick snapshot of what type of person I am, so, if you do the same, you will see what appeals to you as well, and it might help you to have a clearer direction when you go to decorate your home.

At the top of the post are my pictures, and based on the result, it would seem that I lean towards Fashion, Flowers, Elegance, Quirkiness, Simplicity, Comfort, Nostalgia, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Color, Character, Texture, Chandeliers and a good dose of Organized Chaos.
You should try it, because for a five minute experiment, it's pretty accurate.

*  By the way, I used PicMonkey, because I find it ridiculously easy, and there is never any sign up or passwords needed. I went to Design, then applied canvas color (I kept it white) then went to the butterfly image on the left (Overlays), added my own images from my computer, then saved.

Friday, September 23, 2016

For the Love of Realtors

I think that Realtors must be some of the most positive people on the planet. Their job is to steer you in the right direction, and help you fall in love with a home; they earn your trust, build a relationship, and hopefully complete the deal. Before they know it, they have become the unsuspecting Matchmaker's of the work force.

And, they have their own love language. We all watch the selling, flipping and goodness-knows-what-else shows that are saturating television right now, but my favorite's are the international one's. It seems easy to sell the attributes of a seven million dollar loft in New York City, but when faced with a small pied-à-terre in the back of a rather questionable alley, the challenge becomes a little more real.

Sometimes, it can require an almost fairytale kind of imagination (and a very positive attitude). So, with respect and love to Realtors everywhere, I wanted to share some of my favorite words from their dictionary:

OPEN PLAN - No privacy. Ever.

COZY - Much smaller than you think, and not suitable for anyone over six feet tall.

CHARMING - Has not been renovated, repaired or cleaned since 1973.

A VIEW - It has a window that you can look out of.

OUTSIDE SPACE - If you go out the door, from the inside of the house, you will be outside, in a space.

NEEDS SOME TLC - Watch your step, sign the insurance waiver, and don't forget to wear a helmet when you visit.

PRIVATE - You will never, ever get any visitors unless they have a GPS, an overnight bag and four wheel drive.

LOW MAINTENANCE BACK YARD - A slab of concrete with room for a small, potted geranium and a white plastic chair.

VERY SPACIOUS, WITH AN OPEN PLAN CONCEPT - Larger than anyone could possible need, and please don't ask me how you're supposed to arrange your furniture.

LOTS OF NATURAL LIGHT - Bring your own lamps, because there are no ceiling lights (anywhere).

BUILT IN HOME OFFICE - An open shelf in a corner of the kitchen.

AN EASY WALK TO ALL AMENITIES - No garage or parking space for your car.

UP AND COMING NEIGHBORHOOD - One day it will be safe, but for now don't go out after dark, and don't remove the bars from the windows.

PARTIALLY FURNISHED - The current owners don't want to pay to remove the pool table, the beds have bugs, and they can't be bothered to clean out the refrigerator.

HAS POTENTIAL - Not for the faint of heart - contractors only, please.

MOVE IN READY - We are desperate, we've done all we can, and we have to leave.

UNIQUE HOME - Dad retired early, and decided to fix the place up; he bought a bunch of tools, a sledgehammer, a circular saw, a packet of 8-penny nails, and industrial strength duct tape (just in case).

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Fall Fashion - Fixing the Faux (Boots)

Not a design post I know, but still a DIY one.

This was the scene on my kitchen counter this morning - boots, shoe polish, glue and industrial strength clamps. I was fixing my Winter boots, and only one pair is leather.
The rest are fake; not plastic looking fake, but definitely disposable by design, and not really built to last. But they are comfortable, and I have had them for almost five years now.

There are a lot of articles on how to winterize your boots, but most of them are on how to preserve and care for leather, not the cheap one's that I have. So, I thought I would share a few things that I do to keep my beloved, inexpensive faux boots lasting as long as possible.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Feather Talk

Have we talked about feathers yet?

A few years ago, my friend gave me her lime green, feather wreath as a surprise gift. Maybe it was because I couldn't stop petting it, or maybe she had a secret pile of back-up wreaths in the cupboard, but when I discovered what she had done I almost cried with happiness.
I hung it front and center in the living room window, and kept it up for way longer than I should have. Seeing it every day was the most welcome of sights, and I never wanted to take it down.
As Spring started to arrive, the outside colors took over, and the green started to fade into the background; gone was the vivid contrast with the sharp, white snow outside, and I knew it was finally time to put it away.

The next year, all I wanted for Christmas was my feather wreath. Carefully placed in my office closet, I never gave it a second thought, but when I tried to bring it out in November, it didn't even come out in one piece. The foam was eaten, and the feathers were neatly piled into the corner, behind my paint swatches, surrounded by mice poo. Five hundred and seventy five million paper paint swatches, and they didn't even taste one; they chose to seek and destroy the wreath instead. Like me, they couldn't resist the soft feathers, and I am sure it made their Winter the most coziest one ever.

This year, I might buy a new one, but it probably won't be lime green, and it definitely won't feel the same, but I still find myself googling feather wreaths as I sip my morning coffee. I honestly never thought I was a wreath person, but this unexpected gift really changed my mind, and now I can't wait to find another one to hang in my front window...

A more subdued feather wreath from West Elm.
This is for the elegant, the quiet nod to controlled eccentricity
(and perhaps even for use year round?)

This Acorn wreath from Duncraft is so unexpected,
and would easily last quite happily from Fall to Spring on your Front door. 

(p.s. don't store this where the mice can get it)

Such a small and simple wreath deserves to be noticed.
Beautiful in its simplicity, this was handmade by Liz over at I Heart Naptime

Often used for decorating fancy parties and weddings, this boxwood wreath will last for months, and cheer up every cold, dark Winter's day. 

Is there anything that we can't buy over at Etsy?
(This birch twig wreath, decorated with natural cotton blossoms, is worth every penny!).

I don't know if I have favorite, but this one from Dried Decor comes pretty close.
I wouldn't put it outside (but then again, it is made of bird feathers,
and birds do live outside) but wherever you hang it, it will get noticed
(and your friends won't be able to resist petting it...). 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

DIY = Do It Yourself (as best as you can)

With Fall sprinkling the first yellow leaves onto my garden, I suddenly see a million things that need to be done. Some days, my attention bounces from one thing to another, imagining what I should be doing, while also getting lost in the moment (like being distracted by a small, red salamander, or wondering why I have a leak in my ceiling when the sun is shining down so brightly).

Today is one of those days; I walked the dog, dug up some weeds, threw down some flower seeds (then realized I should have waited until Spring), cleaned the garage, dragged some branches as far as I could, moved an outdoor table until the leg fell off, watched the red salamander, painted the back door, cleaned the grill, then came inside to work. All before noon.

Wait a moment, before you stop reading, don't be too impressed; none of them were done well, and most weren't completed, but my jumbled approach satisfied that urgent need to feel the cool change in the weather, get my hands dirty, and move a few things around.

Monday, August 29, 2016

I Don't Like Salad

People tease me for not liking salad, but I actually do enjoy vegetables, and while I have a similar aversion to decorations that match, a beautifully symmetrical room will always make my heart beat a little faster.

Symmetry is the sigh of relief in a room; the elusive thing that often makes no sense, but can take a mash-up of unexpected pieces and turn them into the most exquisite combination of comfort. It's a small detail, that bounces and balances what you have around the room, in a fluid, joyful movement; a harmonious dance of design and personality.

A symmetrical room feels more interesting, and the trick is to balance what you have, without following straight lines.
Play with opposites, balance a heavy piece with several small one's on the opposite walls.
Try to think more about shapes and sizes rather than finding things that look alike.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

DIY Paint Adventures

I would never profess to be a painter, but I am not afraid to open a paint can and dab away at a boring room or an old piece of furniture. The lack of fear doesn't necessarily make me do a good job, it just means that I am not afraid to try, and if I mess up, it is my own home, and I'll try my best to fix it.

From small picture frames to bedrooms and countertops, I have learned that painting is an unpredictable process (and there is a lot of "p's" in this sentence). Just when I think I have it all figured out, the color will not be as expected, a paint can will rust without warning, or I will accidentally spray sunshine yellow all over my new, black shoes.

Some things are best left to the professionals, but before you make the call there are a few DIY paint repairs and ideas that you really (really) can do yourself.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

A Quick Bathroom Update

Whether we like it or not, the bathroom is the place that we have to visit at least several times a day, yet we often neglect it; which is silly really, because it is one of the smallest spaces we have, and can be updated with very little time and money. Okay, so not HGTV updated, but freshened up enough that you might even like it, and you definitely won't cringe the next time you need to spend a little extra time in there.
By the way, this isn't about replacing taps and tile, or pouring your own concrete counter-top, it's about the things that you can plan while sipping a cup of coffee, and do with barely any skill or thought .....

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Visits with a Chair

I never took it flowers, or dressed up in my fanciest of clothes, but every week I would go to the old antique shop, say hello to the lady behind the counter, and walk upstairs to visit the chair. She said I was allowed to sit on it for as long as I wanted, but I never stayed more than fifteen or twenty minutes.

It was called a chair and a half; crowded inbetween the plastic flowers and the used books, the chair was covered in a riot of faded flowers and had seen better days. It was squishy in all the right places, fit me perfectly, and just seemed to teeter over the wrong edge of my budget.

She said that no-one would buy it because it wasn't new, and it wasn't as trendy as it used to be, but I still loved it.

Why wouldn't everyone want to put their feet up on a giant chair, and feel completely enveloped in comfort? Perhaps it reminded me of Alice in Wonderland, being a bit disproportionate for the average person, but delightfully dreamy for the rest of us.

One day, I went to visit, and the shop was closed.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Your Home, Your Story

There are some people we meet, and we instantly become great friends. While I have never met Stephen Thompson in person, what began as an introduction of designer parallels quickly become a friendship across the miles. Living in Tupelo, Mississippi, Stephen is the owner of Designer Connection, and a writer for the North East Mississippi Daily Journal; his article this week was so beautifully done, that I asked him if I could share it with you.
STEPHEN THOMPSON: Use the power of story to change your décor
Much like a voice constantly whispering in your ear, your décor’s story can either make or break you. You may not be listening to it but, day and night, your décor is talking to you, and it’s influencing the quality of your life.

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.

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.

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 :-)