Saturday, April 12, 2014

Laundry Room Dreams


My laundry is in the basement. It's filled with cold concrete, and at night we get those horrible cave crickets; their beady eyes pretending they don't see you, until they leap around in random directions, trying to scare you into leaving their home and turning off the lights. Needless to say, I don't do laundry after dark, unless I really have to.

It is one of those places where I don't stay long, so pretty shelves and a generous folding table have never been on the agenda. Clothes are sorted, washed, dried, taken upstairs, and dumped on my bed. Then, they are put away quickly before the cat and dog sit on them.

Whether we have a full household, or a family of one, we all have to do it, and I often wonder if a brightly organized room really does make it more enjoyable. Do cheerful walls make it less of a chore to pick the chewing gum off your favorite dress? Do pretty shelves and sorting baskets (made of blue and white ticking - handily labelled, lest you forget) make it almost fun to sort other people's undies?

I have to believe that it does, so, if I had my dream laundry, this is what it would be like......
  1. Front loading washer and dryer (preferably in the palest of blues).
  2. Fold down, full size ironing board (with a Nick and Nora cover - maybe gnomes or cupcakes).
  3. Some cupboards and shelves (for soap and things).
  4. A place to hang clothes to dry, and to lie them down (if they needed a lie down).
  5. Lots of windows (which open when I want them too).
  6. A radio (so I can listen to music).
  7. Marble counters (because I love them).
  8. Chalkboard paint somewhere (in case I needed to write myself a note, or draw a picture).
  9. White, porcelain, gigantic, deep farmhouse sink (because it's my dream laundry).
  10. Wide windowsill's (for plants and flowers).
  11. A vintage, aluminum, dual washtub (for keeping and sorting clothes).
  12. Nice, large, indoor-outdoor rug on the floor (to keep my toes warm).
  13. A (modest) chandelier.
Lucky for me, I already have number eleven, so all I need are twelve more....

Photograph from Family Circle Magazine 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

The Frog and I


I was passing a paving place (is that what you call them?) today, and right in the front they had a sign saying "Take Me Home", above a bunch of statues. I glanced at them, never really liking statues in my garden, then saw a meditating frog. It looked so peaceful, and it made me smile; as I sat at the red light, I wondered how much it was, and imagined where I would put it in my garden. But it was a frog, not the Dalai Lama, or some kindly gentleman in a complicated robe.

Apparently, meditating is such a trend right now, that everyone is doing it. I have always been one of those informal meditator's; I don't declare it from the rooftop, I try to do it often, but I sure as heck don't add it to my To-Do list (which is so funny to me - why would you add meditating to a list of things you have to do, potentially setting yourself up to fail? Isn't that creating more stress, which means you need more meditation?).

Anyway, statue's definitely don't create stress; love them, or hate them, no-one can be annoyed at a garden statue. They feel happy to me, and I always think it means that the owner is bold in their choices; not caring if they are judged, and wanting to express themselves in a very obvious way. I wonder if the same people have interesting rooms in their homes, declaring their style with lots of colorful personality and pretend concrete.

I know that some are for good luck, and many are a religious declaration, but others are just because they are cute to look at. I don't have one, but I imagine, if I went outside and saw a gnome every day, it would be a very good way to begin. Just a small gnome, hidden in the shrubbery.

Perhaps, this is why we need garden statues. To make us smile (and to remind us that even a Frog needs a quiet moment every now and again).

Photograph from Dutchmans Fountains catalog

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Design Class


As many of you know, I taught some Design Classes through the Roxbury Community School in February. We had so much fun, that we have decided to run them again, starting next Wednesday April 9th.

My idea for the classes was to share as much information as I could about creating a personal and beautiful home. It doesn't matter what your style or budget is, the process is very similar; with a little confidence, and a lot of ideas, you can learn to figure out what you want (and how to get there). 


"Your class was terrific, and I for one feel much more confident about
re-designing the rooms".
 

"Wonderful time, ideas, new friends... Thanks, Wendy!"
"Thank you so much for all the good advice " 

The first class will be held at the Roxbury High School, where we will chat about Design concepts - the basics, new ideas, and some no-fail secrets. The next two will be in Students homes. To me, this is the best opportunity to really understand how to decorate a home; I will answer all your questions, show you some quick fixes, and we can discuss what does (and doesn't work) and why.

If you would like to register for the classes, here is the link:http://www.roxbury.org/Page/1957  and, as always, if you have any questions, or would like some more information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Enjoy your week!
                          

Photograph from House to Home (UK)

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Tea, Coffee and the Table



It began as a Tea Table ("... used for serving hot drinks or putting down one's cup between sips"). It sounds so fancy, and really did begin, like most things, as a practical way to solve a problem.

Originally, they were hidden behind a sofa, and later, the legs were shortened (so you didn't have to strain your neck to see who you were talking to) and they were carefully placed in front of the tea-sipping people. Designs changed depending on the year, but gradually they became a common piece of furniture in everyone's home.

I suspect the term "Coffee Table" began easily; coffee became more popular, and tea was considered more of a formal, delicate occasion. A cup of coffee wasn't confined to a particular time of day, or needed to be accompanied by a biscuit and a civilized chat.

To me, I think a coffee table, or side table, is mandatory in any space where we like to spend our time. Not just for coffee, but for putting things down on. I don't quite understand rooms that have sofas and chairs, but no tables. From a design perspective, it balances out the room, but more importantly, from a practical perspective, it gives you somewhere to put your stuff.

I think, now that I am writing this, that it also goes back to comfort; a room with tables welcomes you in. It speaks to you, and says that there is plenty of space for you and your coffee, to read a magazine, or curl your feet up for a moment. Without a table, it feels like you must sit up straight, and hold onto whatever you came in with. It can be awkward, and not very relaxing.

Tables also fill the gap. Have you ever sat in a room staring at the blank space in the middle, where it should have been? Analyzing the rug, and clutching your coffee and handbag; you can't put them on the carpet, because you know they will wobble, (or you will kick them over) and you wouldn't dare risk a wet ring on the newly finished wood floors.

When this happens, your host might scramble for something (usually a tray table and an apology) and you feeling even worse for clutching your cup so tightly in the first place. Not how anyone wants to spend their afternoon.


Maybe it is the gathering at the kitchen table that has gently moved the coffee table aside, or perhaps we got tired of "designed" rooms that felt too formal? I'm not sure, but I do think that the original intention made a lot of sense; if you're going to sit down, have a table....


Photograph from: www.vnuks.com and quote from www.thecoffeetable.co.uk

Friday, March 21, 2014

Books on a Shelf


I love to watch a show called "Home By Novogratz". With seven children, and a busy Interior Design company, it piqued my interest from the moment it began. Then, when I learned their children's names were Breaker, Wolfgang, Tallulah, Five, Holleder, Bellamy and Major, I was hooked; creativity is definitely not limited in this New York City based family.

One thing I love, is that even though their clients usually have generous budgets, their design dilemmas are just as ordinary as yours and mine. Sometimes, even more so; space is at a premium in NYC, and it takes careful planning to marry unique (and beautiful) ideas with a practical floor plan.

Recently, I watched two episodes where the owner's had hundreds and thousands of books. Fortunately, the apartments had built-in bookshelves, but they weren't fancy, and they still had to make the higgledy piggledy collection fit into the overall design of the rooms.
Their books were a reflection of who they were; not artfully chosen by a decorator, and they weren't all pretty, sitting on a coffee table; they had been collected for all sorts of reasons throughout the years, and they were not being discarded to fit into someone else's preconceived design plan. They needed to fit into the home, regardless of the space they were given.

Book shelves are one of my favorite accessories in a home, and, like the Novogratz's, I don't think it matters what is on them, or what the books are about; every shelf can look good with a little tweaking. I know it may seem like a silly notion to spend time fussing over your books, but in reality, it actually makes you appreciate (and remember) what you have, as well as free up space for lots of other things.

After watching the latest episode, I liked how they simplified their approach to this massive amount of books. From what I can remember, they suggested three different ways to organize a collection:
Color, Subject and Size. Simple.





Thank you to Cortney and Bob Novogratz for your inspiration, and practical creativity!

Main Photograph from Suzanne Vega's home (by Novogratz), Middle Photograph from Dave Perler's home (by Novogratz) and Bottom Photograph from Canadian Home.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Paul, the Paper Clip

There is a paper clip on my floor, by the red cabinet. It has been there for over a week. It was there before I vacuumed, and it was there when I had finished. A little circle of dog hair has attached itself to the silver piece of wire lying quietly in the corner. I have called it Paul. Paul, the Paper Clip.

I wonder how long he will be there, and if he prefers the floor to the magnetic cube where he used to live. How did he get there? Is there a pile of papers scattered around, missing their link, or was he holding onto the packet of coconut that I opened last week? Should I be concerned that I have given him a name, or briefly thought of drawing him a funny picture, and attaching it to him for company?

Things, if we leave them long enough, become part of the decoration. Good and bad, they start to blend into the background; we see them, but somewhere along the way they stop making any impact, and we just accept and ignore them. Laundry and mail piles seem okay, fresh cobwebs morph into dusty strands, and cracks in the paint are shrugged off as just another thing that we don't have time for.

I think, this tends to happen more than we like to admit. Unfortunately, housework, and keeping up a home, doesn't stop. It is a constant, fluid in the most mundane way, and something that can overwhelm us when left to its own devices. It doesn't get smaller, it grows and moves whether we want it to or not. Some plan for housework, and others, just wait; hoping it will take control, and fix itself.
I like to do it when I am in the mood, which is a bit of a vague plan; relying on emotion does not always make for a clean house. It does, however, mean that when I am in the mood I get twice as much done in half the time, but, when I'm not, well, that doesn't move the vacuum cleaner very far.

Whatever your housecleaning strategy, sometimes it is good to take a look around, and see if you have ignored too many things. If you have, it's okay, we all do it, but now and again, if you find yourself thinking of Paul, the Paper Clip, it might me time to clean up a little...

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Cookie Jar and the Biscuit Tin



As a mom who has spent way too much time baking these last few months, I often find myself piling homemade cookies into a glass jar. Being in the kitchen is relaxing for me; I put on music, I am not organized in the least, and I wear an apron. I absently tie the strings as I search through the cupboards, never quite sure what I am planning to make; flicking through cookbooks, getting stuck on the stories, and caring more about the life of the person who wrote the book than the actual recipe.

My daughter laughs that I will start to bake after dinner, making sure we have something sweet to end the evening with; not good for my waist, but good for my soul (and does anything taste better than a warm cookie?). Easier than most people think, I add whatever I feel like from the pantry, but usually begin with a combination of butter, sugar and flour. I could never be a stand-up comedian, but I will happily improvise a recipe at 9:15pm in my nightgown.

Once they are cool, I pop what is left in a large glass jar, with a really tight lid. It takes a few seconds to screw open the top (and the noise will always get someone's attention) but it feels a little more special to reach in and take a cookie from inside the jar.

Regular cookie jars (you know, the ones that say Cookie Jar on them) while lovely if you are on Sesame Street, don't quite work in the real world. The seals (if they have them) never seal, and they are quite heavy and clunky; not good for a midnight raid with milk and a spoonful of peanut butter.

Growing up, we called them biscuits, and they lived in the Biscuit Tin. It was usually an old tin from Christmas, filled with very fancy English Biscuits or Chocolates, carefully sitting in folded paper cups. Once finished, the tin was filled with biscuits for the following week - usually one packet of plain, and one chocolate. It was sealed tight, and there was a measure of excitement to opening it up, never quite knowing what was inside. Disappointment set in if our favorite was gone, and we had to decide between something we didn't like, and having nothing at all. If there was only one left, we had to ask if it was okay to take it. In hindsight, it was more about the ritual, than about seeing how many you could scoff when no-one was looking.

I think, we should celebrate the most sweetest moments, and bring back the Cookie Jar and the Biscuit Tin...

Saturday, March 1, 2014

I want what she's having... (Color without Commitment)


One thing I get asked all the time is, "What color should I use on my walls?" This is often followed by, "Well, I want a color, but....".

Although many of us have a constant love affair with color, rooms really can be just as beautiful without opening massive buckets of paint. Often, we think that we should use color because of what we hear, and see. Conventional design theories say that everyone should have color, and if you don't have it, you're missing out. (Rarely do you see a magazine, or television show, embracing the life-changing impact of White).
Even the word color sounds more exciting, so we automatically want some, and we think we should want it all over our house. And we want it now, regardless of how we live, or what we like to be surrounded by.

It's this all or nothing that can get us into trouble. Let's be honest, color on the walls is absolutely gorgeous, and it gives a warmth that is difficult to imitate, but it isn't for everyone. That doesn't mean you have to live in a boring beige kingdom, wishing you were in the crayola castle on the other side of the street. Okay, I admit that sounds silly, but you know what I mean; definitely a cliche (but nevertheless true) a pop of color will do wonders for a home. What often scares people are big changes, so why not forget the perfect design picture, do the least you can get away with, and still make a difference.

Here are some ideas for those of you who envy color, and want it (but not too much...).

  • Let's start with the obvious. Yes, I'm saying it - buy a colored pillow or blanket. It will make a huge difference, and, if you're unsure of which color to get, just buy one you like (forget about it matching). If you still can't decide, go for a different texture (not technically a color, but it is a change). 
  • Break up a dominant set of furniture. Move a piece of furniture from another room in the house (one that doesn't match the wood, or the color/fabric). Different wood = different color.
  • Stack a pile of books or magazines on a table.
  • Hide a colorful Troll doll in your pantry cupboard.
  • Keep a vase of flowers in your home. Color without any commitment.
  • Paint the inside back of a bookshelf, or a single drawer on your nightstand. If a huge contrast feels too overwhelming, choose a slightly darker or lighter shade. It will be more subtle, but still perk up the room.
  • Buy a new lampshade. If in doubt, try a neutral - black, taupe or navy?
  • Buy one colorful casserole/lasagna dish.
  • Spray paint the base of a lamp. (What about one of the new metallic paints available?). Or, just change the finial.
  • Choose different colored towels for the bathroom.
  • Add Art. Your own photographs, framed, or something new. Try a single word (decal or a sign). A small metal or wood sculpture.
  • Paint the frame of a mirror.
  • Line the inside of a drawer, or cupboard, with wallpaper (or a lovely wrapping paper).
  • Paint an unsuspecting door (what about the inside of your closet door?).
  • Pile green apples, lemons, eggplant, tomatoes or oranges in a big, fancy glass bowl. Done.
Have a wonderful (colorful?) week!

.                                         
Room above (without the rose) designed by Alexander van Berge

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Delightfully Versatile Chandelier


I love this photograph. Have to admit, I know nothing about horses, but I do know that the composition is simply beautiful (good grief, I hope it's real, and not computer generated. If it is, please don't tell me. Bliss and ignorance are my happy spots).

Anyway, the photograph got me dreaming about chandeliers, and how far they have come. Who knew, that something so formal would gradually become the darling of shabby chic decorating?

Originally, they were lit with candles, and were a status symbol of the very wealthy. Massive lead crystal concoctions weighed hundreds of pounds, and were the precious focal point of many family estates. As years went on, the modern life of electric and gas took over, and acrylic would begin to take the place of crystal. They were no longer special, but they were still a required commodity in many new homes.

A victim of excess, they couldn't adapt, and we were trying too hard to make them fit where they didn't belong. The formality seemed hurriedly bought instead of carefully chosen.  

Thankfully, this trend didn't last long, and the beauty of the chandelier was found again. More practical this time, it is no longer an uncomfortable status symbol; it has become the perfect accessory to a more realistic way of living. A small touch of luxury for ever style and budget.

To me, the chandelier is best when it is playing with opposites, and not competing. So, if I had a horse and a barn, I would definitely put a crystal chandelier in it. (And, I would hold parties, and sleep there, and look at it shining against the old, wooden beams, and have romantic dinners, and play lots of music, and feel really special .......)
                                                                           
Gorgeous photograph from Casa Sugar

Saturday, February 15, 2014

A Wintry Mix


Truth is, I would rather look at snow, than gray dirt and brittle trees, but what drives me crazy is the eternal pile of boots and coats that seem to reproduce by my doorway. I organize them, I really do, and many of them are mine, but there is something about these cold, wet days that make us all so grateful to be inside, that we peel off our clothes (well, sort of) the minute we walk in the door.

Like many of you, I drool over those entrance ways with lots of hooks, and baskets for mittens and boots, but that isn't what I have; I have a front door that opens into my living room. With no apologies, and no place to hide, that is where the wintry pile has to go. So, I accept the small space, do the best I can, and on a good day, it all seems to work.

It's a busy place in Winter, and rarely does it look neat; wire baskets are jumbled with socks and shoes, boots fall in and around their trays, puddles melt into salty shapes, and coats hang crookedly on the back of the door. The only decorative bit is the assortment of vintage umbrellas, because they rarely get used, sitting in my umbrella stand (shaped like an umbrella, of course - one of my favorite things). Mary Poppins moment aside, none of it is perfect, but it is a system of sorts.

Sometimes, I think it is a good lesson in letting go, and slowing down; accepting that some things are out of our control, and a home will be messy if it is truly lived in. A pile of wet gloves could mean that you have been throwing snowballs at a friend, or building an igloo for your dog.

Even if you do have the perfect place (with a bench to sit on while you pull on your boots..sigh..how lovely that would be) it still might not look like the pages of a magazine;  most people have more than one scarf, the little, tiny loop on your coat is made to break after one season, and it takes time and effort to make those boots stand up clean and straight. Time that is often better spent putting on your pajamas, getting warm by the fire, and heating milk for hot chocolate.....
                                                                                                                                                                                                                  
(p.s. Maybe I should take up knitting, and keep my trees warm and colorful during the Winter months). 

This photograph was borrowed from the Urban Cozy Project