Thursday, July 30, 2015

A Daily Dose



These last few weeks have been a bit topsy turvy, 
and last night found me just wishing for a few serene hours;  
with nothing more to think about than what we were having dinner,
 and whether or not I should tackle the gray hair that keeps peeking at me through the mirror.  

While I try to keep current with my media work, 
I have to confess
that my business Facebook page has always been my daily dose of comfort and indulgence. 
At first, I worried about pleasing everyone, and I wanted to fit my posts into an exact design formula, but I quickly realized that all anyone wants is for you to be yourself.
They want to get to know you, then decide whether they like you or not. 
If you just show one side of who you are then people get bored,
and it all starts to feel a little fake. 

I like not planning my posts.
Being able to go from sharing a quick recipe for the perfect scone,
 to gushing about a favorite new designer and exploring the latest trend in treetop homes.   

Of course, not every post will knock your socks off, 
but it isn't meant to. 
It is merely a snippet of a little something that will hopefully make you smile as you pass on by. 

If you want to check out my blue giraffe daily Facebook page, just click the title below, 
and, if you would like some help creating your own one blog or page, just ask.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Beauty of Ordinary Things


The other day I went to sleep with most of the windows open. It was one of those deliciously breezy nights, where I almost didn't care whether I slept or not; all I wanted to do was listen to the trees, feel the cool air, and dream of sweet, Summer days.

But, because of the breeze (enough to send a vase flying, and knock almost everything off my desk) I balled up a t-shirt and put it against the bedroom door to stop it from slamming shut. As I lay back in bed, thinking my lovely thoughts, all I could think of was that I had just crumpled up one of my favorite tops. Yes, it needed a wash, but now it would also be covered in dog hair, the cat will probably sleep on it, and the image of it being on the floor didn't exactly fit in with all of my idyllic imagining.... So, I got up, put it in the laundry hamper and grabbed a favorite rock off my dresser to place against the door instead (everyone has rocks in their bedroom, right?).

This week, inspired by my favorite rock, I wanted to share with you some photographs of a few ordinary, beautiful things.



Photograph Credits:
CHANDELIER - 
Wendy's,  BUTTONS - Kate Kessling,  HELLO MAT - The Store,  PLATES - Pinterest, SOAP DISH Pinterest,
MASON JAR SOAP DISPENSER - She Knows,  EGGS - 
Wendy's,  SHAVING CUP -  Butcher Shop Glasgow,
STRING TIN - Pinterest,  I LOVE CAKE - Pinterest,  ROCK DOOR STOP - Shelterness,  DUTCH OVEN - Ebay

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Memory Dance


I was watching the Rachel Ray show the other day, where uber Organizer, Peter Walsh, was talking to Regis Philbin about how to declutter his memorabilia room. Regis, a collector and a celebrity, is the recipient of so many awards and accolades, and had an entire room filled with wonderful memories; everything from autographed football helmets to vintage posters and designer clothing. But, for all his celebrity status, he was just like us, and his biggest fear was that Peter was going to see it as "too much stuff", and tell him to get rid of it.

But he didn't, because it wasn't about value, or taking up too much space, it was about memories, and I loved seeing the relief on Regis' face when he was told that everything could stay (but it just needed to be a little more organized). Nothing was going to be thrown away.

This was Peter's philosophy...


I have paraphrased what he said, but Peter is right; if something is that important (or sentimental) that you want to keep it, then give it meaning, and put it away safely, or display it well, and, most importantly, have it accessible...... Be able to find it. If you can't find it, or see it, is it really that important?

Watching the show reminded me that I will always be a sentimental clutterer, and I don't have to force myself to live in a spartan house or get rid of things that seem too old, all I have to do is honor my memories, visit them often, and use them to feed and nourish my happiness ...

Friday, July 3, 2015

A Day in Bed

Every designer and health guru will tell you to take the technology out of your bedroom. It should be a retreat; a peaceful space to begin and end your day, to sleep, read, and do whatever else makes you happy. No clutter, no clothes on the floor, no unmade beds, and definitely no television.

But bed can be a wonderful place to be, and binge-watching television has become a current, cultural addiction, so put them together and the odds are that many of your favorite shows are probably already being watched in bed.

We all know a bedroom should be quiet and calm, but it can also be a place to indulge, so if you want to spend a day watching television, why not make a plan, order the pizza, pull up the covers, and have some fun.

Ideally, choose a day, write it on your calendar, and tidy up your bedroom the day before. The point is to make it as minimal and calm as you can, so you can concentrate on whatever you are watching, and feel a little spoiled at the same time. If you can't be bothered to clean properly, just grab everything and get it out of sight; put it in garbage bags if you want, shove it in the closet, or hide it in your teenager's room (they might not even notice).

Then, I would make up the bed with clean sheets and pillows. I know, I know, it's a pain sometimes, but there is nothing more blissful than getting into a freshly made bed. Plan what you will wear, and again, it should be clean, not that shirt that you cooked dinner in last night, or that the dog has been sniffing at all day.

Run the vacuum if you are inclined, or not, but pick up any rubbish or things that shouldn't be lying on the floor in the first place. By now, it should be looking quite nice, and you may even feel a little tempted to go to bed already, but you need to think about food, drinks and snacks.

Plan ahead, and buy some things that you love (finger food is best); you don't want to spend your day rooting around the refrigerator for leftover's, or having to decide between cooking an entire chicken or spooning up an old yogurt. And, do you have a night table to put these things on, or do you need to bring up something? Are you a fancy tray person, or are you a shove everything in a bag type of person? Even if you are the bag type of person, you need a hard surface, within arm's reach, to put your drink on in between scenes (no matter how thirsty I am, I can't hold a drink and watch Sons of Anarchy at the same time. And, I can't watch it at night either, but that's another story...).

So, you have your bedroom ready, and your snacks are organized. Oh, while I think about it, do you need a garbage bin somewhere nearby? Perhaps a little one, just in case your snacks are of the crinkly bag type.

The other thing I would probably do is turn off my phone, but that is entirely up to you. It's your day, and if you don't mind fielding calls and texting then go right ahead.

I think that's about it. Oh, one last thing..... don't feel guilty. For goodness sake, there is no point in planning a day in bed if you are going to feel that you should be doing something else, or that you are being some drain on society because you're not running all over town like an organized chicken with your head cut off. (The world will really be okay without you).

We do all need some time off, and if you decide to spend your time watching television in bed, then that could very well end up being one of the best day's ever...

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fire, Fun and a bit of Fear


If you put a bunch of teenagers in front of a fire pit they will always have more fun. The parents might get a bit wobbly about it (like I did) but it kind of makes them feel like we are letting them do something dangerous, while the crackling wood and dark skies give them the veiled illusion of privacy.

As a fireman's daughter, I think I was probably about 23 years old before I dared to light a match; I never thought I was afraid of fire, but I definitely had a healthy respect for what a spark could turn into. Of course, my housewarming present was a fire extinguisher, but when I actually had a small fire in my house it was the baking soda that I reached for (low tech that I am, I couldn't follow the paragraph of instructions on the fire extinguisher, but I could quickly open a box....).

When we had just moved into our house, I decided to entertain on an epic level, and I filled my Living Room with lots of candles for a fancy dinner party. Beautiful, hand-rolled beeswax candles were placed on top of vintage wooden spools, mismatched silver candlesticks were clean but not too polished, and dozens of tea lights were tucked inside newly bought mason jars.

For an hour or so it looked beautiful, until the wax started to drip (a lot) and the candles started to soften and fall. I hastily blew them out, just as we heard a couple of very loud cracking noises; apparently, the mason jars were for decoration only, and the barely warm heat from the tea lights was just enough to make the bottoms crack.

Fortunately, the glass didn't travel too far, but broken glass is not a happy time at anyone's party. We cleaned up the mess, the romance was gone, and I immediately fell back in love with the glow of a light bulb.

With Summer here, the lure of cozy fires and charcoal on my food, makes me once again reach for the matches. I want to make like my favorite magazine and spend long evenings sitting outside with friends, talking over a chorus of frogs, and festooning my trees with dozens of flickering candles and miles of tiny fairy lights.
But I can't, because in real life my trees would catch on fire, and the fairy lights would probably get eaten by a passing squirrel, so instead, I will invite friends over, we will toast marshmallows on sticks, get bitten by mosquito's, use tortilla chips to start the fire pit burning (try it, it really does work), keep a jug of water nearby, and be sure to keep the lid on very, very tight....

Saturday, June 20, 2015

What Every Room Needs


You know that I cringe at rules,
but now and again we all want a simple answer to something that we can't quite figure out.
We want to know what the magic is, what other people have,
and how we can get it before we have to run off and do something else.
I do it myself, and in a mad moment I will find myself googling the most ridiculous of things.

So, in answer to what I got asked twice this last week, 
here are seven things that I think every room needs.



SOMETHING BLACK 

A room can't breathe without a touch of something inky dark.
 It doesn't have to be much,
but a smudge of black here and there (even a squiggle on a pillow) 
will add something that is almost inexplicable but so necessary. 

CURVES

Nature rarely does straight lines. 
Organic curves and shapes will bring warmth, life, 
and a natural, reassuring comfort to your home.   

HISTORY

Something from the past.
Whether it is an old photograph, a vintage piece of furniture, 
or a beloved book from your childhood,
it will always invite a question and a story.  

A FAVORITE THING

Represent yourself in a very personal way. 
Old or new, you must have something that you absolutely love, 
beyond a shadow of a doubt, in every single room. 

SHELVES

You don't even need to own a book.
 Shelves will instantly add interest to your room, 
while organizing your endless collection of bits and bobs
 into a neat, confined little rectangle.

BEAUTY

We are a fickle bunch, and we like to look at pretty things.
But we don't need a designer. 
If it makes you happy, and you like the way it looks, 
then it will be beautiful to you. 

GREEN

Every home should have some. 
It feels calming, balanced, and energizing all at the same time. 
For moments of green without commitment, 
grow a plant, use apple scented shampoo,
draw a picture with a green crayon,  
and spend at least fifteen minutes wondering why people eat artichokes.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Take A Picture



My phone is not very smart, and I still have to open it up like an old-fashioned, mirrored compact; it isn't in a hurry, can take several hours to get a message, and when it finally arrives it will have been jumbled into neat little piles of 140 characters or less. I know I am holding onto it a little too tightly; resisting change, and dreading the time when checking my email might become more important than noticing a flower, or driving my car in a straight line.

But, I can barely see the screen, it no long likes to type the letter m or b, and it doesn't take photographs anymore. Well, it does, but they are the size of a postage stamp, and by the time I have squinted enough to see what I am doing, it has gone back to some random setting and politely asks me if I want to send a message. Some days, I am not sure who is more confused.

And, I need photographs. Whether it is stored in a cloud (don't ask me, I don't even know what that means either) or in a basket on my dining room table (much better) I need memories and art in my everyday life.

They are also one of my favorite things to use in decorating. It is so hard to be objective about our own space that taking a photograph will instantly help you to see what others see. Like they say, the camera doesn't lie; it might add on ten pounds, but it's okay if your sofa and chair are looking a little plump that week.

A photograph gives you time to sit and look at what you truly have. It's a captured moment of your life, and even though you walk through your home a dozen times a day, it is a rare person who will actually notice what is there.

If you're selling your home, it is also the absolute best way to see your house from a buyer's perspective. Try to imagine that you are the Realtor, and take photographs from across the street and all throughout your home. Be honest, or show a friend, and ask yourself how it really looks. Let these photographs be a reference, and use them for making a few changes, and tidying up a little before you put your home on the market.

The same goes for decorating your home. If you feel stuck, and don't know what it is about a room that you don't like, or you do but don't know how to fix it, take a photograph. You will be amazed at how different your home looks through a lens (it's a little like buying skinny jeans with your eyes closed, then coming home and realizing that the view from behind could traumatize small children).

Ironically, to be able to take photographs is probably the only reason that would push me to get a new phone, which is kind of funny, because then I think the obvious solution would be to actually buy a camera....

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Blending Houses into Homes

http://housology.com/Smart-cardboard-toys-for-boys-and-girls-by-Trzymyszy

I don't like labels at all; they make me feel confined, and I don't want to assume that something is the way it is just because we have put it into some preconceived category with barely a second glance. Life is never that simple, and we are always evolving, so hopefully most labels will become a thing of the past as we discover new, kinder words for what we see.

But, blending is a word that I like very much. Whether it's about mushing all sorts of odd and wonderful things together, or sipping the perfect vanilla milkshake on a Summer's day, it's a happy word, that sounds good when you say it.

To say the definition of family has changed is an understatement, and while some are moving apart, there are even more who are joining together; blending the people that they love into a new family, and very often, a new home.

The process of combining homes often means that everything (and everyone) is piled into a truck, bedrooms are assigned, and boxes are stacked; how you plan to decorate seems so unimportant compared to everything else that it usually doesn't even make it onto the "Honey Do" list. But, once the dust settles, you realize that you just have too much, and what seemed like a good idea several weeks ago now means that you have more sofa's than people, and you really don't want to keep using that one bar of soap in the communal shower.

It's a wonderful thing to join lives, but joining homes can be a challenge. There are a million guides to tell you how to do it right, and how to divide things up and plan it all out diplomatically, but honestly, every situation is different, and no amount of negotiation is going to make someone give up their favorite La-Z-Boy recliner. So, I think the best way to do it is to just know that there will be a few bumps in the road, and pretend like you are little kids again.
  • Be kind.
  • Don't forget to share.
  • Take turns.
  • Laugh often.
And, when in doubt, have a snack and go to sleep.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

A Change of Plans




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 21, 2015

How to Find your Decorating Style



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

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy the rest of your week!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Fun with Chips and Dip


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, May 7, 2015

If You Give A Mom A Minute......



 Once upon a time, when my daughter was little
someone asked me what the heck I did all day.
These are just the bits I could remember...


If you give a Mom a minute,she'll want a cup of tea and a magazine.Reaches for her favorite mug,but starts to unload the dishwasher instead.

While putting away the dishes,
she rearranges the cupboards.
Decides to put some dishes aside for a garage sale.
Calls her friend for advice,
but forgets to ask about garage sales.

Goes to the toilet, and notices the shower is dirty.
Sprays and scrubs the shower stall,
while she reorganizes the body scrubs and shampoos.
Throws away expired medicines,
and cleans the bathroom cabinet.

This reminds her to call the Doctor for a check up.
On the way downstairs to get the telephone number,
she notices the floor needs vacuuming.
Gets the vacuum cleaner,
and sees all of her handbags.

Distracted, she starts to look inside them.
Throws out a a pile of old lists,
seventeen hair ties and a melted lollipop.
A dirty cigarette packet,
but knows she doesn't smoke.
Puzzled, and embarrassed,
she remembers picking it up off the lawn months ago.

Thoughts of smoky handbags remind her to wash the laundry,
and she forgets to call the Doctor.
As the laundry spins,
she begins to tidy the cellar.
Makes another pile of things for the garage sale,
wondering why on earth she agreed to do it in the first place.

The laundry done, she hears a drip,
but decides to ignore it.
Folds the laundry, opens the mail,
and fills the tea kettle with water.

As she waits for it to boil,
she absently wonders why the water is still running.
Perhaps the washing machine has turned back on,
or maybe it is starting to rain.
A lot.

She hears more noises in the cellar.
The cat is crying, and the phone is starting to ring.
So she just stops listening.
Her child is sick, at school,
and must be picked up immediately,
if not sooner.

Before she hangs up,
she is sweetly reminded that she has to bring four decorated cakes,
473 dark blue napkins and 8 dozen bottles of water to school.
Tomorrow. By 7:30am.
It's Children Appreciation Day.
Oh, and don't forget -
no gluten, no sugar, no peanuts, no dairy, no food coloring, and absolutely no mushrooms.

She drives to the school,
brings her child home, and puts her to bed.
With a bucket.
Which reminds her of water, and the crying cat.
Marooned on a shelf,
he is watching as the water steadily laps around the basement floor.

Calling the Plumber reminds her that she never did drink that cup of tea,
so she decides to turn the tea kettle on,
and takes that minute....

Written by Wendy E. Wrzos (Copyright 2012). The photograph is of my daughter, after she had baked her first batch of Butterfly Cakes, and the poem was inspired by Laura Numeroff's wonderful books for children.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

5 Spring Things

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


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

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

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

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


MOROCCAN BLUE

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

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

METAL AND STEAMPUNK

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

LOTS OF SHELVES

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

NATURE

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


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

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Home Staging Class Tuesday May 5th


To register for this, please click here for the Community School link, or if you have a question just email me at wendy@thebluegiraffe.com. Thank you! 
                                                                               - Wendy






Friday, April 24, 2015

Cabinets of Curiosity


Did you know that most people will peek into your bathroom medicine cabinet? Apparently, in a survey by someone, more than 75% of people have opened up someone else's cabinet just to see what is in there.

This has never occurred to me, until I was recently talking to someone and she started complaining about the messy state of a friend's bathroom cabinet. As I listened to her, I was taken aback by what she had discovered in what seemed like just a few minutes. When she paused to take a breath, I asked her why she had opened it in the first place, and she replied, "I always look in them, don't you?"

No, I don't. Because really, I don't want to know what's in there, and, silly me, I always assumed it was private (it took me years before I would even look for a spare toilet roll in my best friend's home). But, I have to admit, that shortly after our talk I did go through all of my cabinets and drawers; unbeknownst to her, she had single-handedly shattered my naive view of snooping, and I will probably never invite her over for a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon.

People are curious, and whether it is a casual party, or a formal Open House, you should be prepared for unwelcome eyes. I could suggest a trip wire, or a small alarm attached to your medicine cabinet, but that might be a little extreme (and embarrassing for everyone concerned - but funny. A bit like that additive that is supposed to turn blue when you go to the toilet in someone's pool. We're not sure if it really exists, but who wants to take the chance?)

Anyway, it's impossible to hide everything, but a few containers, and a little bit of organization, will probably make you feel better and distract the people who can't resist; wouldn't you rather have them marvel at your neatness than share all of your ailments over the next cup of morning coffee?
So, if you want to divert the curious, here are some quick ways to tidy up your medicine cabinet, and keep the gossip at bay...

  • Consider using your medicine cabinet only for things that you need every day.  
  • Adjust the shelf heights (if possible) for more space and flexibility.
  • Clean it out. Toss any duplicates or expired items, and take out things that are too big, too personal, or rarely used. 
  • Store prescription bottles in a closed container that can be easily lifted in and out.
  • Put generic items in small containers, drinking glasses, tea-cups, decorative tins or jars. This keeps everything neat, more visible, and will save you so much time and space. If you are worried about things breaking, buy acrylic containers. 
  • Separate items according to whom they belong to. 
  • Keep similar things together (e.g. toothpaste, toothbrush and floss).
  • If you want, you could even line the shelves with decorative paper. 
  • Add a picture, decal, chalkboard, or a funny cartoon to the inside of the door. 


Lovely photograph of real cabinet of curiosities is from Homelife Insideout.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Home to Love

Buying your first home is a bit like having a baby; you read all the books, ask everyone for advice, decided what you will do, and then it all changes the moment you walk in the door. Suddenly, what seemed important isn't, and what you should have paid attention to is now staring right back at you.

When we first started looking for a home, we had no idea what we wanted, other than a low price and the right neighborhood. It turned out that our favorite neighborhood was not so great, and the low price led us to some less than ideal homes (one time the homeowner answered the door in a towel, and we could see the shower water still running from the front door. Because we had an appointment, the Realtor said we had to go in anyway, so the woman just excused herself, and went back into her shower while we pretended to walk around and look interested).


I still live in my first home, and while I didn't know what I wanted, I knew the moment we drove up that this was the one. It was obviously love, because when we went inside I wasn't dissuaded at all by the bright blue Formica, the faux paneled walls, and the fact that no-one had changed the cat litter in a very long time.

When we closed on the house, we were happy just to have a larger home; moving from a one bedroom apartment, made a 1500 foot square home feel like a mansion, and we happily lived with the quirky interior for a few months as we settled in. After a while, the quirks outgrew their charm, but I didn't know anything about renovations, so I decided to start by putting up some wallpaper.

Armed with my new flowery wallpaper, I wanted to cover the old flowery wallpaper in the kitchen. Obviously mine was better, but unfortunately, the previous owners (too many to count) had done the same thing, and after I peeked through the seventh layer or wallpaper, I found that I could see right through to the bathroom next door.

So, I patched it back up, added my flowers to the pile, and now the kitchen has eight layers of wallpaper. A few weeks later I found a linoleum that perfectly matched the wallpaper (blue and pink flowers everywhere!) which was not the smartest move I've ever made.

As soon as it was installed, it looked awful, and the following week I bought stick on tiles and covered the offensive linoleum with faux slate squares. It honestly did seem like an improvement at the time, and while sticking down the tiles was ridiculously easy, it made me feel invincible in the DIY department; for the next twenty years I was determined to fix, decorate and repair everything that stood in my way.

I could tell you all of the wonderful things I have done in my home, but it is always more fun to share what went wrong. So, here are some of my favorite mistakes....

  • Applying textured paint to the bedroom. Apparently, years ago, texture meant sharp little pieces of grit were added to the paint can. (Even now, despite sanding and more paint, if you brush against it, it will scratch you). 
  • Painting my sofa with cold coffee to age it. (Not only did it look weird, but it took days to dry and smelled for months). 
  • Buying a sofa without measuring first. (It wouldn't fit through the front door, so we had to lift it through the sunroom window. It then couldn't turn the corner, so it is still in the sunroom). 
  • Finding an old dress mannequin on the side of the road, but when I brought it home a nest of baby mice fell out onto the living room floor. (It pays to check inside anything before you pick it up off the side of the road). 
  • Thinking I could remove all of the living room carpet myself in a day (while I had my one year old daughter toddling and crawling around). 
  • Drawing pictures and words on the walls with a sharpie for my daughter when she was learning to read (I can still see the outline of a chair, and the word "chair" in the living room). 
  • Painting a really gross brown color on the bathroom wall (I couldn't get back to the hardware store quick enough). 
  • Putting my wool rug outside onto the patio seemed like a good idea, until it rained. (It took three people to lift it up and many weeks to dry). 
  • Painting the side of the garage dark green, and drawing silhouettes of trees on it. 

For me, I never thought of this as my starter home; I thought of it as being my permanent home, which I think is a better way to approach buying a home. You never know what will happen, and I think if you go into a home dissatisfied from the beginning, or seeing it as a temporary solution, then you are not even giving it a chance, and you might grow to regret it.

I went with my gut when we bought this house, and while some things weren't exactly what I wanted, it had a good feeling about it. When we bought, there were very few homes online, so we relied on appointments, sheets of facts on paper, and a map. But things are different now, and I love that we can do more research before we buy, and see what neighborhood's are like, and whether or not a certain style of home would really suit us.

Some companies have taken it to an entirely different level, and they want to give potential homeowners as much information as possible before they even step out the door. Such a smart idea; many people are short on time, and it is so easy to be blinded by a pretty home when you really should be checking out the nearest train station, and how far it is to walk to school. I like it when an industry adapts to the needs of its client, and one of my favorite websites to visit (even if you aren't looking for a home) is Compass; they really want to share information, and help people to find homes that they love. Plus, they give you a snapshot of what you should know about each neighborhood (including pros, cons, maps and photographs). They also try to match the client with the agent who best suits their profile (which is a great idea when you think about it).

So whether you are driving around with a crumpled sheet of paper in your hand, or scrolling through pictures of houses on a screen, think about what a home really means to you, and start from there.

p.s. Photograph above is my own.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Find the Funny

Yesterday afternoon found me balancing precariously on a stool, skirt tucked into my undies (my outfit of choice when I have to immediately repair, paint or make a mess in my house) trying to spackle some holes in the ceiling; bits of old plaster were falling into my eyes, the new spackle plopped onto my hair, and the neighbor drove by and waved at me through the front window. The cat had just stuck his paw into the spackle (which was very nicely pink), and the dog had decided it was time to lick the plaster dust off my toes.

It was at this moment that I rolled my eyes, looked over, and saw the fork in my geranium. It made me smile to see the gorgeous salmon pink geranium with its vintage fork sitting in the dirt. I had curled the silver tines with a pair of pliers, and intended it to hold up the geranium, but instead it had just become a decoration that I move from plant to plant. Last month it was sitting in the rosemary, and today it was sharing space with the geranium (looking far more clean and organized than I was).

Whether it is a fork in a plant, or a book that makes us laugh out loud, we should always make room for less serious things amidst the decorated pillows and the careful placed sofa's. I love placing (and discovering) unexpected things in a home that makes us smile; it doesn't have to be a rubber chicken hidden in a cupboard, but we should always design some laughter into our house.   

I have a book called Zombies have Issues that sits next to my favorite inspirational books; I did it on purpose, just because the title (and the entire book) makes me laugh. Whenever I reach for inspiration, I can guarantee you that I will always pick up the zombie book first.

It doesn't have to make sense, but adding a touch of humor to your home is always a good thing.

Photograph of mice on stairs from: http://www.homedit.com/halloween-decorating-tips-that-you-can-enjoy-with-kids/

Friday, April 10, 2015

Notes on a Shelf


When I moved into my house, I knew immediately that I wanted open shelves on either side of the kitchen sink. Instead, I had lovely (new) oak cabinets.

Not wanting to be ungrateful, I accepted the cabinets for years, because that seemed like the right thing to do; they were good quality, and they showed absolutely no sign of growing old. But, I never stopped wanting shelves; my kitchen is very small, so I knew that shelves would make it look larger, and I wanted to add some character to the well-used, but slightly neglected space. 

At the mere mention of open shelves, the first word I get from anyone is a very adamant no. It is the sudden fear of having to be neat and tidy. It's true; it does mean that our dishes have to be stacked, and cups need to be sitting on something, but don't we do that anyway? Most people don't shove their plates into a cupboard, slam the door, and hope that nothing falls out when they open it again. I really don't think we are all as messy as we think.

The next protest comes from the worry that our dishes might not be pretty enough, or as luxurious as the ones we see in the magazines. I don't agree with this at all, because even if we live on paper plates and little packets of stolen ketchup, they can still be stacked neatly or put in a decorative container. 

Lastly, the other open shelf worry is that things will get dusty, which leads to more cleaning. The funny thing is, when we have things out, we tend to use them more, which means they have to be cleaned. And, if we don't use them, they will probably get dusty and dirty anyway, so either way they will have to be cleaned at some point.

I am embarrassed to say that this assorted jumble of thoughts sat in my own head for nearly ten years, until one afternoon when I really hated my kitchen, and decided it was time to stop worrying about the oak cabinets. Last I checked, they didn't worry at all about me, and I knew I had been taking good care of them for a very long time.
Ripping them out was my first instinct, but as that was more than I was willing to tackle, I settled for taking the doors off and pretending to myself that I had just discovered shelves. Within minutes the doors were off, and it turns out that I was never that messy after all. An hour later I was organized, and my kitchen looked twice the size, and so much more interesting than it had before I had eaten my lunch (and, the dishes that I have aren't fancy or remotely coordinated).

The next day I spackled the holes, and decided to paint the cabinet frames cream. Why this all took so long is beyond me, but my (new) pretend shelves were definitely worth the wait.

Sadly, the beautiful photograph at the top is not of my kitchen - it is from www.bhg.com via Pinterest.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

How to Stage your Home to Sell your House

 
Classes are being held next Tuesday, April 14th, and Tuesday May 5th, from 7 - 9pm.
To register, click here on the Roxbury Community School link, or email me at wendy@thebluegiraffe.com if you have any questions.
 
 
 
 


 

Friday, April 3, 2015

A Desert Island List


You know when people ask what three things you couldn't live without if you were stranded on a desert island? I am embarrassed to say that my list has always been the same; an oversized white shirt, a never ending supply of matches, and toilet paper. I figure I can wear the shirt to stop getting burned to a crisp, it will dry quickly when it rains, and I can use it as a distress flag if I ever see a ship and manage to climb the highest peak. The matches would be helpful until I finally learn how to light a fire with the sun, some twigs, and a shard of something shiny, and, the toilet paper, is, well, just because I like toilet paper in my life.

Thinking of desert islands got me wondering about what we really need, and was there anything, decoratively, that I could label as a must-have. We are pretty spoiled in the d├ęcor department, but I would say that there may be some things that I would not want to live without.

CHALKBOARD PAINT

I like knowing that the opportunity to express ourselves is always there. Anyone is welcome to pick up the chalk and draw whatever they want; certain pictures and words are treasured and revered, yet I gain immeasurable comfort in knowing that there is always room for more.

A TABLE

What is on a table tells a short story about who we are, and is also an invitation for other people to share who they are; it kind of says to come in, bring what you want, put it down, and make yourself comfortable.

ROSEMARY AND A GERANIUM

A geranium is not a very exciting plant, but it is reliable, and will live happily all year in my Living Room. And, in the dead of Winter it will give me flowers to brighten up my day when I least expect it (and, it thrives on neglect, which is lucky for us both).
Rosemary is one of my favorite herbs; the smell reminds me of my favorite kitchen's, of slow roasted chicken and potatoes for dinner, and that when I grow up I want to be just like Juliette Binoche in the movie Chocolat.

A SOFA AND A BLANKET

Whether I am reading a magazine by the fire, listening to music, or watching television, every sofa feels better with a nearby blanket. I may not always use it, but just knowing it is there makes me feel warm and reassured.

Have you ever thought about your favorite things in your home, and why you wouldn't want to be without them? In hindsight, almost everything that I want is about emotional comfort; in some ways they all seem quite simple, but then again, if I was that simple I should be able to live on a desert island without toilet paper....

(p.s. If I was being indulgent, I would definitely add one of these breathtakingly beautiful photograph's by the very talented Karen Knorr to my list. I couldn't decide which one to use, so the giraffe seemed like the obvious choice, but please check out her website to see more of her amazing work).