Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Fancy Hanging Lights


I don't know if there is a fear of electricians out there right now, but there seems to be an increase in overhead lights that can be plugged in, instead of hard-wired to the ceiling. Of course, it is easier than wiring what you already have (and less expensive) and some homes don't even have ceiling lights to begin with (which I am still not used to, and I don't quite understand why they build them that way).
But, as much as I am all for quick and easy decorating, I wish these had been designed by real people, and not manufacturer's grabbing onto a trend, throwing it into a factory, and spitting it out at the public. 

Lighting a home isn't just about being able to see; if it was, then we would all just have cheap lightbulbs hanging everywhere, or a constant supply of flashlights in our pocket. We want it to look good, and, from a design point it should somehow enhance the room, instead of looking like some temporary solution on our to-do list. 

I love the idea of making decorating easy, but it is the execution and design of these lights that is wrong. They should come with instructions, and a lot more care, so that they really will look like the picture on the front of the box.
Let's be honest, every single one I have seen lately is hanging from a wiggly cord, looped across the ceiling, and dangling awkwardly down the wall, like a really bad Andy Warhol exhibit. 

So, in my effort to save you from the awful, fancy hanging lights, I have a few suggestions....

- Open the box before you buy it. If the cord is white, wrapped tight, and looks bent, don't bother.
- If you know an electrician who can add a chain to it, and/or a thinner/clear cord, then go for it.
- Please don't wrap the cord in fabric, but you can paint it if that makes you feel better.
- Consider where you are going to hang it, and how you will drape/hang/celebrate/disguise the cord. 
- If the photograph shows just a chain, and no cord, they are fibbing. It still needs electricity.
- Most of them do look better draped (in a designery kind of way) instead of pulled taut (like a bad facelift). 

p.s. If you have a fancy hanging light that you really do love, please send me a picture of it, and I will share it on my business Facebook page. 

Photograph from Amazon

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Things in Jars

 
One of the oddest things that I love, and I don't quite understand why, is a jar (preferably with a lid). Yes, I'm inspired by art, nature, and everything else, but a jar to me is like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia; it is so ordinary, but its possibilities are infinite (and unknown). 
 
I will often buy something at the grocery store just because I covet where it lives (we don't really need the imported peaches, but the upturned sides on the small, round jar is hard to resist when the days are short and I need to grow a daffodil). 

Crazy as it sounds, jars trigger my imagination, and I don't even know why anyone would want to throw them away. Maybe if I ate a lot of jarred things I would feel differently, but for now it is a very manageable obsession, and I am always happy when I scrape out the last bit of whatever is stuck to the bottom of the glass.

To me, they are the perfect starting point to giving someone a present; the packaging is there without any effort, and all I have to do is fill them up with lots of goodies. On a practical note, it is also nice because I can put in smaller things that may get lost in a larger, more decorative bag. Somehow, a jar makes everything seem more important, and it is fun to look through the glass and see if there is anything that we didn't notice the first time.

Because I don't eat pickles (which come in really big, useful jars) I often buy new ones (jars, not pickles) at the store. Although they are meant for storing flour and dog treats, it shows that you really do like someone if you are giving them a present that is new, and not an old one that smells like something you ate with yesterday's lunch.

By the way, when I was looking for a photograph, I Googled 'things in jars", which I wouldn't recommend; my jar-filling ideas are definitely less macabre....

  • Winter Spa Jar - Lip-balm, Shea butter lotion, a bar of chocolate, and a body scrub.
  • Get Well Jar - Vitamin C drink sachet's, fuzzy socks,  tissues and a mug.
  • Happy Birthday Jar - Some of their favorite things, plus a balloon and some candles.
  • Housewarming Jar - Things from your pantry, layered like colored sand, to wish them good luck in their new home e.g. Flour - so they may never go hungry, Sugar - so life is always sweet etc. Write a label on the outside to explain what they mean. 
  • Firefly Catching Jar - A great last minute gift for a child (or grown-up) on a Summer's night.
  • Teenage Girl Jar - Fancy spa things, popcorn, diary, sleep socks and nail polish.     
  • Teenage Boy Jar - Lots and lots of snacks. 
  • New Baby Jar - Cute outfit, chocolate for the parents, and a rattle or soft toy. 
  • Gardener's Jar - Flower seeds, trowel, gloves, and plant markers.
  • Just Because Jar - Anything you think someone would like that will fit inside the jar.
p.s. Photograph of Firefly catcher, and instructions on how to make it, are from Southern Living.

Friday, October 3, 2014

A new use for old books ....

 
 
This week I reorganized two home offices; a client's, and my own. He was a businessman who had recently stopped commuting, and I was catapulted into the 21st century with the gift of a new computer and monitor (so fast that it makes me feel like Laura Ingalls being asked to choose what type of coffee she wants at Starbucks. Some days I feel like it is typing the words before I have even thought of what I wanted to say).

Although we are in this world of portable media, some of us still need a place to sit and work in order to stay focused. I am one of those people, and, apparently, so was my client; I can't travel from sofa to sunroom with a laptop, and actually get any work done. It took me years to understand the concept (discipline?) of working from home, and I know it could very easily be undone if I wandered around the house in my fuzzy pajamas, looking for the sunniest, softest, most comfortable place to type.

My client felt the same way; he wanted his job to stay in once place, and not share office time with his family unless it was absolutely necessary. But, he felt disorganized, and although his office had plenty of space, he felt the room was working against him instead of for him. So, this is what I discovered during this last week ....
  • If you have the luxury of working from home, then for goodness sake enjoy it, and make your space as efficient and practical as you can. 
  • Your chair and desk should be comfortable, and your back, neck and head should not ache at the end of the day. This sounds obvious, but if something hurts, you need to figure out why. If you have a bad back, then a new, ergonomic chair may be better than the traditional squishy one, elevate your feet on a stool if you need to, and adjust the size and glare of the text on your monitor if it makes you squint all day. 
  • Have what you need all the time within arms reach, and be flexible until it feels right. Jot down notes about what does and doesn't work for you. (eg. If you have to get up every time you use the printer, and you use it often, then maybe it should be nearer). 
  • Store away as much as possible, and consider the less obvious place for things; can you put your scanner and filing cabinet in the closet, or stack letterhead paper in a drawer?
  • Remove things you don't need, or use very rarely, and keep personal items to a minimum. I know this seems contradictory to what I usually say, but if it is a dedicated office space, then it isn't a place for excessive daydreaming. The idea is to keep it separate from your personal life. 
  • Do have motivating things in your office. Whatever your field of work, surround yourself with things or words that inspire you about your career, or remind you of your goals.
One of my own changes this week was to put my monitor on two books, because the new one that was gifted to me (thank you, you know who you are) was too low for my old desk. The irony of the solution wasn't lost on me; the books are from 1905, gorgeous, heavy and gold bound, but although I thumb through them every now and again, they usually sit with my favorite dishes in a glass cabinet.
Moved to my office for a practical reason, I now get to look at these beautiful pieces of art every single day.

So, whether you are catapulted into a new world, or doing the happy dance because you don't have to commute any more, make the most of it (and don't wear fuzzy pajamas while you type - well, maybe just now and again........)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Like Peas and Carrots

 
As soon as I earned my first paycheck, I started to buy clothes in green and purple. In hindsight, I think it was a reaction to wearing a school uniform that consisted of brown, cream, mustard and red; it literally took me about 20 years before I would wear any of my school colors again.
So, green and purple became my automatic favorites; in fact, I think I spent most of the late 80's wearing purple and green sweater's over leggings (well, that, and an over-sized graphic t-shirt inspired by Frankie Goes to Hollywood).

Now, I've forgiven my school, and I love it when I see unusual color pairings that just work (even though we sometimes think they shouldn't). The color trend is more about showing your personality, instead of following design rules, because really, rules are like words in the Dictionary; they are a wonderful base of knowledge, but they still need to be updated every now and again.

Like peas and carrots, these color combinations may not be your first choice, but they will always  have a certain unexpected charm....


 
 
Thank you to:
 A Sweet Pea Chef (Carrots), The Smithsonian (Peas), Chictopia (Dress) Acute Designs(Flowers) Pixi Wishes  Forehead Kisses (Cake), Pinterest (Door and Sea Glass)
 House Beautiful (Living Room).

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Easy Organizing


Did you know that my birthday is almost the same day as Martha Stewart's? Hmmm....maybe that is why I label everything in my freezer, and have a cracked flowerpot in my fridge to hold the garlic.

To me, being organized sounds like a lot of work, and it gives off an expectation of being perfect, so, I prefer to call it something else. Not sure what, but I will let you know when I think of it. Anyway, the more I can do ahead of time, the better I feel, and the more time I have to spend doing the most important (and fun) things that I actually want to do.

If you come to my house unexpectedly, it is never super clean, but it is tidy. Perhaps that is a bit backwards, but it just has to please me and my daughter, not the dust and vacuum inspector. And, I always have fresh flowers, and a geranium or herb growing in the front window, which hopefully will distract you from the dog hair twirling in the corners, and the sofa that the cat has scratched.

But, late at night, or early in the morning, I will multitask like a crazy woman; doing things in my pajamas that will ease the monotony of every day chores. Maybe this is where the Martha in me comes out; I will label things, sort them into categories, and find all sorts of containers for all sorts of weird and wonderful things. Not because I want to impress someone who opens my cupboard, but because I want to be able to bake a cake at 6am, or write a letter without searching through a pile of debris on my kitchen table.    

Everyone seems very busy right now, and work is overwhelming for so many, that I think we shouldn't be afraid to use the shortcuts that make life easier. Here are just a few of mine....

- Run as many hot-water things together as you can. I will often take a shower while I run the washing machine and the dishwasher. (This saves so much time and money).
- If you see something that needs doing, and you have a few moments, do it without perfection. (A five minute vacuum is better than waiting for the stars to align, and the "right" time to present itself).
- Transfer pantry food (rice, pasta, flour etc) to see-through container's when you can. (It makes it easy to see how much you have left, and the contents will keep much longer).  
-  Clean as you go. (Whether it's Thanksgiving Dinner dishes, or a pile of Take Out containers, they don't get better with age; no matter how tired you are, get it done, and you'll be so grateful in the morning).
-  Ask your children to help you with something, and set the timer for a ridiculously short amount of time (eg. ten minutes). Do this often, and they might still complain, but they will get used to helping out.
-  Take food for the entire week out of the freezer on Sunday - it will take a day or so to defrost, and will be fine in the fridge for several days.

Well, I still can't think of a better word for organized, but I do know that whatever it is, it is worth doing...

Photograph from www.whydidyouwearthat.com

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Spider Webs and Fading Sunlight

I was wiping the spider web off the front door again today, when I thought about how much that first impression counts. I'm not talking about grand gestures of statues and manicured lawns, but those few minutes when you're standing, waiting for the door to open. The moments where you notice the cobweb, and the pink geranium that needs some water.

Those are the parts of a home that I find most interesting. The tiniest of details that go unnoticed, but are seen by people every single day. No-one knows that I wipe off the spider web every morning, and that my geranium doesn't like a lot of water, all they see is what is there.

Don't worry, I am going somewhere with this. I promise. What I mean is, that taking a few minutes to stand at your front door may be a good idea now and again. It says a lot about who we are, and even in the worst of times, it should feel cared for.

Like I said, it isn't about fancy, or even decorating, but it is a little about making an effort. Even if your paint is chipped (me), and the walkway has seen better days (also me), you can still put a cheery plant on the step, or a welcome sign out front.

This time of year, I always think the front door needs a little extra help; the flowers are on their last legs, and with daylight fading early, nothing seems to look as bright as it did last month. Sometimes, I start to panic a bit, worrying more about the upcoming snow than what is happening right in front of me.
When this happens, I take an hour or so to hurry around and keep up appearances. I'll prune the plants, wipe off the cobweb (again), grab a pile of empty terracotta flower pots (one of my favorite things in the entire world) and hang an old chandelier or birdcage from my trusty cup hook.

It doesn't take much, and it won't win any design competitions, but it will look cared for, and my friends will always feel welcome...

Photograph from: www.wyevalleyholidaycottages.co.uk.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Egg Cup


I never had Egg Cups in my house until I had my daughter. To me, soft boiled eggs were a memory from childhood, and definitely not part of my grown up life. Trying to coax the perfect egg yolk from a pan of scalding water was far too complicated for my decaffeinated, morning brain; I considered breakfast a success if the coffee was hot, and I could catch my toast before it jumped onto the less-than-clean kitchen floor. But, when my daughter came along, food became more important, and I knew it was time to tackle the nostalgic, runny egg.

Growing up in England, soft boiled eggs with toast soldiers were often on the table; lots of butter, a knife to crack it open yourself, and the smallest of spoons to fit inside. Sometimes, as we got older, we were allowed a sprinkling of salt.
I think it was the ritual that we loved, and perhaps the excitement of opening it up. Not sure why, because we always knew what would be inside, but cracking an egg felt like the beginning of an adventure (just the other day, I got a double yolk when I was baking, and I was so excited that I didn't want to squish them with the whisk. So, I admired them for a while, made a wish, then made my cake).

Anyway, determined to be the perfect Mom, I decided to get a couple of Egg Cups and make the perfect soft boiled eggs. Unfortunately, like most things, the experience wasn't the same as I had remembered; I would make them too hard, or too runny, and what seemed like hours of preparation would end up being thrown into the woods, eaten by some lucky squirrel who didn't care who had made it, or how it had arrived in his home. 

Disappointed, I put the Egg Cups on a shelf, and frowned at them for several months. Eventually, my stubbornness gave way to logic, and I realized it wasn't their fault; they were really just miniature containers, and they didn't care if they ever held an egg again or not.
Now, I use them for all sorts of things; from serving small amounts of ketchup and dip, to mixing a few highlights for my hair (not the same one, of course).
And, lately they have been holding tea lights, which reminds me of a midnight vigil from a Tim Burton movie...

(p.s. I still can't cook the perfect soft-boiled egg).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

I Want a Tree House


Doesn't everybody want a Tree House at some point in their lives? I'm not talking about one of those fancy, I'm-in-a-tree-but-I-really-am-a-house type, I mean a platform that I have to navigate up to from a wiggly ladder.

It would be very high up, but not too high that I would get scared (or mistaken for a bird).
It would be a place to hide (but you could find me if you really wanted to), and it would have a small roof to stop spiders and snakes from dropping on my head.

I would never mind if it rained, and when it snowed, it would be the best place ever.
I might read, but mainly I would just sit in my tree, and watch everything go on around me. (I would feel like the only object standing still in a frantically shaken snow globe). I would feel very small.

I would like the platform to be big enough that I could lie down on my back and look at the sky. Which means I might need a pillow. The squishiest, biggest, brightest, flowery one I can find (in outdoor, vintage fabric, of course. Just because it's practical, doesn't mean it can't be pretty).
And a blanket. In case it gets cold.

Oh, and a pencil and a notepad would be nice. So that I can jot down things when I think of them, make a list of what to do next, and explain to myself why I haven't done anything but sit in a tree all day.....

Tree house photograph from Gozetta Decor.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

How Warm is your Television?


If you ask any decorator what they find difficult to work around, most of them will say it is the television (and La-Z-Boy recliners, but that's another story). For many homes, it is the focal point of the family room; we watch it often, so it is placed in the spot where we can all see it. Unfortunately, they are also more than twice the size that they used to be, so they can't be squished into a corner, or moved around on wheels when company comes over (did we ever do that, or did I just make that up?).

Anyway, a while ago, new home contractors got creative and came up with the idea of putting televisions above the fireplace. A hole was cut out, and wires left dangling for installation. It made sense from their perspective; the room now had a clear focal point, it saved space, and the flat screens were supposed to mimic the look of art.
I don't know what the repercussions are from having your television above a roaring fire, but I do know that many of them were too high up to be watched in comfort. Good for chiropractors, but not fun when you want to lie on the floor and watch cartoons on a Saturday morning.

That trend is now leaving, and people don't want to see a television above the fireplace. So, we're back to hiding them. The concept is, that we cover the ugly television with something decorative when we're not watching it. But, we end up drawing more attention to it, which kind of defeats the purpose.....Whether it's a piece of art, a map, or a small barn door levitating above the mantle, it looks awkward. We know your television is hiding behind there, and now you have just added more stuff, and some weird railings either side of it all.

I am also not sure of the practicality of it all. I wonder if it deter's people from watching? Especially children; if they can't open the decorative thingamajig will they be forced to kick their SpongeBob habit (which doesn't seem quite fair when their life revolves around playtime, what's for lunch, and the adventures of a happy, yellow sponge). And, will the taller people entertain themselves by opening and closing the contraption just because they can? I know I would (just a few times, at least until the novelty wore off). What if one side doesn't slide back as far as the other, what if it doesn't quite stop at the end, falls off, or goes crooked in the middle? What if it hits the television, or it gets stuck halfway? What if someone falls into the fire, or accidentally trips while reaching for it?
That's a lot of questions before you can enjoy a cartoon....

Photograph from: www.centsationalgirl.com