Friday, May 17, 2013
One thing I get asked, time and time again, is how to pick a new color for a room. Many of us watch design shows, and are often told that everyone "should" have color on their wall. The theory being, that color makes the furniture and accessories "pop", it brings a room together, and it kind of says that we are not afraid to take a decorating risk.
We all covet a room that feels warm and welcoming, and often, the room that we admire in the photograph has more color than we would have in our own home. However, if you feel like a change, and decide to pick up the paintbrush, here are a few thoughts before you begin.....
- Cozy up your room.
- Enhance your furniture and accessories.
- Hide dirt, fingerprints etc.
- Be a definite style statement.
- Need more cans of paint to get effective coverage (and a colored primer).
- Show imperfections in the wall (spackle fixes etc).
- Appear darker in the Winter months.
How to choose a color:
Always find an inspirational piece to give you a direction - look through home magazines, watch design shows, choose a favorite painting, a color from a piece of clothing etc.
Get a sample (s) and paint it on a large (3 x 3 foot) piece of paper or cardboard. Move it around the room, in different spots, to see what you think. If you are not sure, try another color.
Upload a photograph of your room to a Room Visualizer on-line. While not perfect, it will give you a good idea of what your room may look like with the new color.
Benjamin Moore Paint Room Visualizer
Sherwin Williams Paint Room Visualizer
Thursday, May 9, 2013
And, as emotional as the roller-coaster can be, one of the frivolous benefits to having a child is giving myself another excuse to decorate. Not very deep and insightful, I know, but it gives me pleasure, and it gives my daughter a "new" room every couple of years.
Our recent endeavor was to make it a little more of a teen room, instead of a girls room. A bigger bed meant less room for "stuff", and more room for negotiation. Being a child who keeps everything, I knew it would never be a House Beautiful photo-op, but I knew I could make it perfect for what she needed right now. With a lot of patience (and some extra-strong glue), her room was re-done, re-designed and creatively organized.
I won't pretend that it didn't take a lot of time, but the time it took was worth it. We didn't spend a lot of money (just new bedding, and the bed, of course) everything else was sourced from her room, or other rooms around the house.
One of the items we re-used, was her old day bed. After eliciting a promise to not throw it away, I decided to indulge my romantic side, antique it, and use it in the Living Room. Who doesn't want a bed in the Living Room? As it turned out, re-doing her room was a gift; it gave me this wonderful bed to play with. I used all sorts of leftover paint to distress it - copper spray paint, brown house paint, craft paint, and a few speckles of blue-something paint. I then sprayed it with vinegar (not sure why, but it seemed like a good idea at the time) and left it outside in the rain for a few days.
When I put it in the Living Room, unfortunately, it looked like a "Bed in the Living Room", not a romantic thing at all. It was the sheets that were its downfall. So, I went on-line, and found a place that specialized in custom made Slipcovers for Daybeds. For less than $50, I found an elasticated, durable, patterned fabric in all sorts of warm tones. When it arrived, it was perfect! That, and the distressed copper, reminded me of one of my favorite childhood movies - Bedknobs and Broomsticks. (We even have the knobs that turn, on each corner - if you remove them, I wouldn't even mind if you decided to drop secret notes inside ...)
What this bed taught me, was that changing with your children, is a damn sight easier than digging your heels in and complaining; part of the fun is creating your own new adventure, indulging your own childhood dreams (and discovering that you really always wanted a bed in the Living Room......).
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Did you know that certain shapes, colors and scents will automatically make your home happier? Why not include some of these ideas next time you decorate, or, just for fun, incorporate them into a very small area of your life and see if they make a difference.
Use Curves - A circle will bring you more happiness than a square or rectangle. Consider furniture with soft lines and curves for a more lovable (livable) home
Add Yellow - Even if it is not your favorite color, looking at something yellow will give you a boost of energy. What about using a yellow cup to start your day, or planting a lovely yellow rose?
Look at a Bicycle - Not sure if it is the old-fashioned shape, or the prospect of adventure, but seeing a picture of a bicycle will increase your serotonin (those feel-good chemicals that we get from eating lots of chocolate).
Provoke a Memory - Use "things" in your home to subconsciously remind you of happy times as often as you can (a photograph, a rock, a shell, a treasured gift, anything that makes you smile and brings back a good memory).
Open Up - As often as possible, open your curtains and blinds. And, at least once a week, open up your doors and windows for as long as you can (even on the coldest days). Your home will breathe a sigh of relief, and you will feel refreshed.
Make your Bed - Studies everywhere say that if you make your bed, your day will be automatically happier than if you just left it in a big, crumpled pile.
Nurture Nature - Bring in fresh flowers and/or plants when you can, and take the time to care for them. They purify the air, release oxygen and lower your blood pressure.
A Hint of Vanilla - Anywhere you can use it, the scent of vanilla will cheer you up.
Just for Fun:
- Play loud music, and dance around the house when no-one is looking.
- Walk on your tip-toes.
- Give names to all the inanimate objects in your home, and talk to them for an entire day.
- Paint something you don't like, with a color you absolutely adore - see how it makes you feel.
- Buy a coloring book and crayons. Keep them near for moments when you need to de-stress.
Enjoy your week!
p.s. Beautiful bicycle from Lovely Bike Blog
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Many of you know that I am a devout gadget and technophobe. I would rather use a pencil than a pen (do pens count as a new fangled invention, or is it just me?) and I still just have one, very old television, which is barely bigger than my computer screen.
Like many creative people that I know, I run from some new things because I just don't understand them. Not because I don't want them in my life, or am unwilling to learn, but because my brain doesn't work that way. Ask me to design a room, or find a solution to almost anything else, and I can do it, but don't ask me to program your widget, or move the red coaxial cable to the black wot-sit, located second from the right. I am embarrassed to say, that these type of words don't even register in my brain; you could tell me seven times what a coaxial cable was, and on the eighth time I couldn't even repeat the word back you. Those who love me, know that I will never learn how to operate their electric can-opener, or remember how to jump start my own car. (Is it the positive to the negative, or the positive to the positive? Do I start the car first, or after I have connected everything. I forget (again).
This doesn't mean that I wash my clothes in a creek, churn my own butter (well, just on special occasions...) and try to control the television channels with a wire hanger. I do know that some inventions are worth their weight in gold, and for some reason that I can't explain, my favorite one ever is the dishwasher.
Which makes absolutely no sense, because I love washing dishes by hand. There is something really comforting about filling up a sink with hot, soapy water, taking your time, and seeing all the dishes come out sparkly and warm; stacked precariously, and waiting to dry. But, when I can tidy up my kitchen in a few minutes, press a button, and have everything be magically clean in an hour, I am the happiest person on the planet.
There are even days when I whisper to my dishwasher. The other night, I had some friends over, and it took three loads of washing to get everything done. Dish after dish went in, and as soon as they were done, I put them away on the shelves. Scalding hot, and lovely and clean. As he hummed away, I scrubbed the larger pots by hand, listening to the sounds of the cycle, and reveling in the warm water gurgling all over the kitchen.
Maybe it is the instant gratification that I enjoy (well, that is not a good thought), or maybe it is the nurturing simplicity of a task that signals the end of a lovely day (I prefer this thought). Who knows what it is, but the other night, I loaded him up, poured in the powder, said "Thank You", and told him that I loved him very much! And, I meant it.
Pink washing machine from Pottery Barn Kids.
Monday, April 8, 2013
At last count, I have 46 coffee cups on my shelf, and, I am the only one who drinks coffee. When I was younger, I began collecting them as souvenirs; an easy way to preserve a memory, and remember the places that I had visited. As I got got older, I traveled less, apparently needed more caffeine, and I started to search for larger cups to begin my morning with.
Even though travel was no longer a priority, I still liked the idea of having lots of different cups. Ever fussy, I decided the new cups had to have meaning - a saying, a symbol, or simply something that made me smile when I reached for it.
I don't know if other people do this or not, but I decide on the cup before I make my coffee; do I want a large cup, so that I can keep my hands warm when it is really cold, a special one that was a gift from a dear friend, or my ugly Frida Kahlo self-portrait mug that makes me happy because she was so talented, but sad to think that she thought so poorly of herself when she looked in the mirror.
They all have a story, and they are all precious in their own way, but they also need somewhere to live.
Years ago, we used to have Mug Trees that sat on our counter. Mugs came in matching sets, and often the tree was made of wood, with little wooden arms sticking out on an angle to hold the handles (I guess that is why they called it a Mug Tree). But, they did take up extra room on your counter, and I always worried that they would tip over if they weren't balanced right. I don't want to think about the careful placement of my mugs when I am putting them away, so I never quite embraced the Tree.
Another thing I have seen, is to find a wall mounted, or ceiling hanging, decorative holder. They are usually made of wrought iron or stainless steel, and it is a nice way to show off a few special mugs, while adding a bit of color to your kitchen wall. Even a pot rack, with those "S" shaped butcher hooks, might look interesting filled with cups and mugs in a lovely large kitchen.
Have to confess though, my favorite of all, is the simple cup hooks with the safety tab. They easily screw into the bottom of a shelf, give you twice the amount of space, and will hold cups of all shapes and sizes safely. (I have been using the same ones for nearly 20 years, and they are less than a dollar each).
I am sure not everyone spends time thinking about their coffee mugs, or confesses to having 46, but however many mugs you may have, and regardless of how you store them, why not enjoy them as a collection of memories instead of just things?
Friday, March 29, 2013
Last week, I wrote about Emotional Insurance; the small things that we all look forward to when we first walk through the front door. I got so many responses, that I just had to share them with you.
I do hope you enjoy reading them as much as I did.
Thank you for your constant feedback, and for making this blog such a pleasure to write!
See you next week,
Friday, March 22, 2013
This week has been unusually busy for me; I have felt like I was chasing the train, instead of sitting in a comfy seat traveling to my favorite destination. Not someone who thrives on feeling over-scheduled, I found myself dreaming of bed-time, or, at the very least, walking through the front door, and into my home.
I know I've said this before, but when you come home, it should be somewhere that makes you feel comfortable. It should welcome you in; your home should be your refuge, not a place that makes you roll your eyes as you turn the key.
One of the simplest ways to do this, is by placing some tangibles around your home that will make you feel happy straight away, with barely any effort at all.
When I come home, I look forward to seeing my pink geraniums, the daybed with my Union Jack pillow on it, and no dishes in the sink. These small things instantly remind me of life, family, and how grateful I am to have a dishwasher. (In my perfect life, there would also be dinner cooking, and a fire lit). Making sure I have these things, is like giving myself a little bit of emotional insurance.
Have you ever wondered what would give you a bit of emotional insurance when you walk in the door? Would it be:
- To see all the coats and scarves neatly hanging on hooks?
- A clutter free entryway, with all coats and shoes hidden from view.
- Seeing a favorite photograph before you even take off your coat?
- A vase of flowers, or a plant, on the table?
- A neat pile of books waiting to be read?
- A big basket for whatever you wanted to put in it until later?
- Having the coffee maker set, so all you have to do is press the button?
- Knowing your favorite comfy chair is free of stuff, so that you can have a sit down?
Write to me, I'd love to know what is on your emotional insurance list.....
(Squishy, comfy, patchwork chair from: Couch in England)
Saturday, March 16, 2013
I visited an Art room at school yesterday, and I didn't want to leave; it was joyfully cluttered, over-flowing with activity, and it smelled of warm crayons. The Art teacher looked so comfortable in her paint-splattered smock, and she welcomed me with such a big smile, that it made me feel like a child again.
Our children's lives are far more controlled now; school days start at 7:58am (not 7:59am, or you'll get a tardy slip), they are allowed exactly 1 1/2 minutes to go to the bathroom, and they are driven to sports activities that mandate entire days to practice for a game that is, well, just a game...So, when I walked into this colorful room, it really made me smile.
Don't get me wrong, I know that we all do our best, and we need rules, but we also need permission to be ourselves, at our own pace. The Art room is that place in school; a perfect oasis of mess, in a ridiculously formal environment.
It's not just about creativity, it's about having the freedom to discover what makes you tick, and not to be controlled all of the time. Children need to figure out who they are in-between the activities. Some crave organization, with straight, printed labels, and a place for everything, while others like to grow a mountain of stuff that crawls towards you when you open the door. Many want their favorite color from top to bottom, and others just want a place to play with toys or listen to music. (Strangely enough, they all seem to know where everything is).
I am a firm believer in giving children some place to be themselves, and letting them own who they are. And, I think their bedroom is often the easiest place for us to give up control. If I am decorating a child's (or teen) room, my biggest goal is for them to know that it is about them, and I want to create a space that they will love. Here are some ways to do the same thing with your child:
- Pretend to interview them.
- Take notes as they talk, really listen, and try not to judge their answers.
- Ask them what they love about their room the most.
- What would they get rid of if they could?
- What is missing? And, why do they want that in their room?
- Ask them to draw, or write, about their most perfect room.
Afterwards, take some time to read over your notes. Decide what you are willing to do, and why/why not? Be as open-minded as you can be. Consider alternatives to what they want. Wait a few days (this shows them that you really do care) and then write your own list.
- Offer solutions eg. more, or less, storage and organization, removing an old piece of furniture, storing childhood toys, creating a wall for posting notes and thoughts, painting everything a different color, getting new curtains, having a more grown-up theme etc).
- Consider giving them a small budget, and taking them shopping for some new things. Let them spend it any way they want.
- Don't promise them things you have no intention of doing.
- Plan how, and when, you will both work on the solutions. Schedule a start date.
- Explain what you cannot/won't allow (and why).
I know this might seem like a lot of work, but if we give them the time, and show them that we really care, they will learn how to embrace who they are, and create a place that they will always love...
Photograph of a Girl on a Swing, by the talented designer, Kate Jackson
Monday, March 4, 2013
Having a lovely home is personal, and we all have different styles, but no matter how much we love our home, we still have to deal with the ick factor. Sometimes, it's the utilitarian things that distract us the most, creating the biggest impression in the worst kind of way. Sadly, a beautiful room can be quickly undone, if we choose to ignore the things we don't like.
Useful things are the warhorses of our homes; they do so much, work very hard, and we need them.
Garbage Cans and Toilet Brush Holders are two of the worst design offenders. Even the words make us cringe, but every home has them, and just because we don't like them doesn't mean that their ugliness becomes invisible. We all use them, so why not give ourselves another excuse to decorate, and accept the ick factor on our own terms? Here are three easy ways to get you started.....
- Treat them as an accessory - a decorative feature that goes with your room. Be adventurous in your choice of texture, size, shape etc. Ignore convention in favor of good design.
- Make them invisible - blend them into your home decor. Buy subtle colors (or ones that coordinate with your room) and stay with low profile, classic, simple designs.
- Keep them hidden - store in a cupboard, or under a sink. Losing one cupboard to a garbage can may be worth it to you.
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
I am not French, but I do have a tendency to drool over shows that have that “C’est la vie” type of vibe to them. I know it’s not real life, but I find it relaxing, and I love to watch someone take hours to cook a meal (then spend several more hours eating it on a sunny terrace, with lots of wine and seventeen of their closest friends).
After watching too many episodes of “French Cooking at Home”, I decided that I would move to France, have a blue kitchen with copper pots, and grow lots of herbs on the window-sill.
In the meantime, before I got to France, I would pretend; I would pretty up the inside of my refrigerator, find a copper pot, and store my milk in beautiful glass bottles.
At a Home store, I found glass bottles with the work “Milk” on the side. Perfect. I took them home, and poured my milk into it (I can feel you rolling your eyes even as I write it – I know, what was I thinking).
This went well for a few days, until the milk began to sour. I didn’t understand why, so I would pour out the spoiled milk, wash the bottle, then pour new milk back in. It would sour again, and I would repeat the process. When I mentioned this to my Mum, she said that I needed to sterilize the bottle before pouring the milk in. (Why I never thought of this, I don’t know; I just continued to create my own little, repetitive bottle of bacteria – proof that Science really was my worst subject in school. Thankfully, no-one got ill during the process). So, I took her advice, boiled the hot water, poured it in, and the bottle shattered all over the kitchen sink. Undeterred, I did it again. Same result.
Not to be discouraged, a few days later I drove to a fancy store that sells milk in bottles. I found the bottles, picked one up, and cut my hand on the side. As it trickled down my hand, I tried to grab a band-aid from my purse, while trying to (discreetly) wipe the milk bottle. The more I wiped, the more I cut my hand, and the more it started to make a mess of me and the bottle. The more I panicked, the more ridiculous my whole plan was starting to seem. Why had I driven over an hour to buy a bottle for my milk, so that I could pretend to be French? I wasn’t feeling very relaxed, or very smart, at that moment.
Embarrassed, I managed to get the band-aid on, wiped the bottle on my skirt (of course) and took it to Customer Service. I bought two new ones, and took them home. A little stressed, not very clean, but successful.
The next day, I remembered to be French; I reorganized the fridge, put vegetables in pretty bowls and admired my bottles of milk. Was it a little silly? Maybe. Was it worth it? Yes. The (always sterilized) milk bottles are living happily in my fridge, I now have one herb growing on my windowsill, and I still dream of a blue French kitchen…
Photograph from the delightful Lilla Blanka