Saturday, September 29, 2012

Small Measures

Give an old chair a sexy edge: add criss-cross ties from seat cushion down the legs. Wide grosgrain ribbon would work, too!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Look what's coming to my house

Oh no!  the photo didn't upload properly the first time.  Here it is:

An old friend (and 2-day makeover guinea pig) has a sister-in-law who literally crated in palettes of home goods from India--and then downsized her home.  I am already the happy recipient of a pair of leather poufs from this stash, then at book club the other day, my friend asked if I knew anyone who might want the carved and inlaid coffee table.

Um, yes.  ME!

I love this quote I just saw at Pink Wallpaper yesterday:

I look around my home and I am so thrilled by all the stories the many pieces tell.  Pieces that have been gifted, handed down, loaned (and stayed), made for us, made by us, and even just found.  I was about to say it took 20 years of collecting to amass this treasure trove, but this is not exactly true.  I had a house full of unique things when I was 21 (and even in college)--some of them just cost less and there were fewer all around.  What maybe took 20 years was refining my taste and ability to mix and layer.

Can't wait to try this coffee table in my living room.  Here's hoping it won't be too much black!

What about you: any good hand me downs, gifts, or loaners lately?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Hello, Celerie Kemble wallcoverings!

Hot off the press: gorgeous new wallcoverings from Celerie Kemble at Schumacher!

Hello hand-printed patterns on natural sisal or grasslcoth!

Hello modern bargello in trendy mint and burgundy!

Hello hothouse flowers, re-interpreted!

Hello classic acanthus, updated!

Why hello, japanese-inspired deco cloud deliciousness!

I will take one of each, please.

Monday, September 24, 2012

20 years, 7 years

This weekend I celebrated my 20 year high school reunion.  I went to a small, private, all-girls school, and it was such a delight to see half my class back together 20 years later.

Last week, when I happened upon these cute Cynthia Rowley lamps at TJ Maxx

I immediately thought, oooh, if I was still in high school, I would build a bedroom around those!

So I did.

So cute!  I bet the 17 year old me would love this (though the real teenaged me did this.  At least I committed, right?)  This board was super fun.  I grabbed a desk from my small-scale desk round up, bedding from my smokin sheets and shams selection, a side table from my awesome and affordable side table list, a side chair that I considered for this client, slipper chair I had considered for this client, and one of West Elm's new rustic-modern pieces for a dresser.  (sources mostly here.)

What do you think: can you see a high school senior or college freshman digging it?  You know, in that sweet spot right before they dye their hair black and go through a goth phase, or whatever.

Oh!  Also.  It has been twenty years since college, ten years since I met my husband, and seven years (today) since I married him.  Seven years, and no itch.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Small Measures

Plain baskets + paint = fun, graphic storage.
Go here for the deets.  I'm thinking about doing this, if only I can find some good baskets to start with!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Use what you have: floor pillows

Moving from a small place to a big place sometimes leaves you with casualties.  Items you love and that worked perfectly in your old place may now be the wrong scale.

I have clients who moved from a small apartment in San Francisco to a large house in Minneapolis, leaving the with lots of empty space.  They had exactly one rug, and it was a 5x7.  With no place to put it, we decided to transform it into a pair of oversized pillows for their king bed, which will live on the floor much of the time.

We simply centered the lovely crewelwork pattern, used the rugs' canvas backing as the pillow backs, and voila.

Before you toss something you love, think about how you might reuse it!

Happy weekend friends.  It's my 20 year high school reunion tomorrow night, and I can't wait!  Any exciting plans on the books for you?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

At a loss with a big wall?

Big empty walls can be intimidating to fill.


Simply pin up a finished piece of fabric--a scarf, embroidery, or fanciful tablecloth will work.

Throw some fabric on a dowel

Or make your own his and hers banners

A quilt will do nicely, especially out of the bedroom.

And don't forget rugs.

How about an old flag?

Source: via Heather on Pinterest

Sire, why not?

And if you're feeling fancy, you can go ahead and frame a tapestry. Although that might just defeat the purpose of the whole save money, use what you have thing.

As a lover of "soft goods," this strategy totally floats my boat.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

When to use an Etagere or a Whatnot

I recently found myself recommending a pair of etageres to flank a fireplace.  The original intention was built ins, but the estimates were starting to come in and, well, it wasn't pretty.  My client didn't want to put his entire budget towards one project in the room, so I suggested doing the furniture, window treatments, etc, and bringing in a pair of etageres as a temporary solution on the fireplace wall.

To which he said "ay-tah-what?"

In modern terminology, an etagere is essentially a shelving unit, open on all sides, with decorative flourishes.  Like so:

Source: Meg Braff in via Heather on Pinterest

Out of curiosity, I looked it up in Decorating Defined and discovered that originally, an etagere was specifically: a pyramid of open shelves intended for the display of objects, better known in humbler circumstances, thanks to the Victorian era, as a whatnot.

Like so:

The venerable Albert Hadley via

Today it is a bit more generalized, but the idea is the same.  So when and how does one use such a thing?

Two general rules:

1) You want an etagere where presence is required without bulk

Or when a sculptural quality is called for.

2)  Etageres are still really for the display of objects, not books.


While objects make the most of the often elegant materials and more delicate profile of etageres, books can overwhelm them:

Of course, if book storage is what you really need, you can make it work. Just arrange the books in smaller, artful piles, and lay them both horizontally and vertically.

While they certainly work singly, I tend to like etageres in pairs. (Though I have a distinct leaning towards pairs, be they lamps, chairs, or artworks.) The can bring an added dose of balance to any room, and flank a doorway, media center, or, yes, a fireplace.

Source: Meg Braff in via Heather on Pinterest

Source: via Heather on Pinterest

I'm also a fan of the "mismatched pair," and love Nate Berkus's clever use of an etagere to match the verticality of the artwork in his Chicago living room.

And then of course there is this set of three...

Source: via Heather on Pinterest

Naturally, I've been rounding up some affordable options. There are truly gorgeous choices out there, and, frankly, I think an etagere should be stately and beautiful. For this project, however, the whole idea is to do something inexpensive, and there are certainly some worth looking at under the $500 mark.

coming soon....

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

On My Bookshelf

We went apple picking this weekend, south of the Cities, and on the way home we stopped in at Half Price Books.  I mine the shelves of our local branch constantly, but hitting a different location turned up a wealth of design book, cheaps.  Here's what I'll be reading:

I'm interested in the notion of "layering" right now.  Soto approaches this book with one "layer" per chapter.

In this age of pinterest and blogs, it's always fun to see interiors that are actually new-to-you.  This book looks to be full of them.

For all your over-the-top needs: Diamond Baratta.  While not exactly my cup of tea, there is MUCH to be learned here about color, pattern, mixing them up, and, yes, layering.

Laurie Smith was my all-time favorite on Trading Spaces.  I loved the way she approached her transformations through fabric, not just paint or crazy, couldn't-actually-live-with-it DIY.  In this book, she walks us through the approach to home renovation using her own home as the example.

As a self-taught designer, I'm always looking for great design books that will teach me something new.  This mix will keep my busy for a while!

Found any great design books lately?  I'd love your recommendations!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Heeding advice from Amanda Nisbet

"I should add's a mistake to let objects get too comfortable in their places.  I'm constantly changing artworks and moving accessories around the house; putting things in different locations gives them new lives--you see them in a new way, and experience the space with a fresh perspective."

I'm loving this advice from Amanda Nisbet in this month's Lonny.  I'm going through one of those periods of moving things about, testing and trying.  My graphic embroidered throw (African, I think), migrated from the back of the living room loveseat to the foot of my bed a while back, where it is resting nicely.  (You can see it in the gallery wall photos from last week--did you notice?)

We really can get stuck, you know.  I'm guilty of it with certain things, scolding "that's not where it goes." angling it the way it is "supposed to be."  It's easy to stop seeing the possibilities.

Two examples from the guest room.  Can you spot the changes in this little vignette?  (as if you're paying such close attention!)

There was a little wood chair in there that needed refinishing.  The plan was to strip it and stain it the same color as the desk.  But, of course, I'm lazy about that sort of thing.  It took me 10 months (TEN!) to realize that this other small-scale Nakashima-like chair (found here) was already basically the same stain as the desk.  The right scale and sculptural quality, a simple swap made me love this corner again, and freed up the other chair to be painted (so much easier than stain!) for my girlies' room.

And then there are the lamps.  I've been threatening to recover those shades forever.  (You want proof?).  At the same time I have been trying to find a place for these vintage block-print octagonal shades I scored at an antiques mall back in February.  I grabbed them for a project, but the background color was a little off.  I'm clearly a genius, because it only took about 7 months for me to put that one together (and this one was literally two plus two!)

Tell me: do you find the "perfect" place and leave it be?  Or are you  more of a re-arranger?  It's chronic around here, but I know many of you out there are worse!

P.S.  If you follow me on facebook, you know one of my recent "tweaks" was painting the fireplace wall black.  I promised to reveal it last week.  Oops!  Just one more little project in there before I can show you.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Small Measures

Another way to modernize a plate wall: stick it in the corner. Advanced skill: repeat a similar arrangement in the next room (see refrigerator.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Art wall, updated

I am tardy for good reason this morning: we have a new niece!  My sister-in-law went into labor in the middle of the night, and I went to stay with my nephew.  We had a busy morning getting all three kids to two schools, and I'm playing catch up before picking them all up and hitting my brother's 40th birthday party.  A busy day indeed for our clan.

Anyway, as promised. Voila.

I tinkered with the art wall last weekend, and am loving the results.

As a reminder, in the beginning, there was this.

Which became this.

Which, in hindsight, looks skimpy to me.

A while back, I added a black and white photo of my girls in a frame I unearthed from my wedding.  Then I wanted to add a photo from my wedding day and the silhouette Clio made me for mother's day when she was 3 (with the help of a teacher!)

I like how the silhouette is such a bigger scale than anything else.  Typically I would center the largest image, but I like how it thrown it just enough off balance.  I was very scientific in updating the layout: my major goal was to avoid lots of extra holes in the wall, so I used existing nails and ended up with a nicely "off" arrangement.

You can also see my little Moroccan table update.  Last you saw, it was red.

I kept the red underneath but went orange on the outside. Fun two-tone!

Back to the wall, I love have such a personal arrangement in the bedroom.  If you want my full on tutorial on the art of art walls, go right on over here.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

A Gallery Wall "Do."

I have hung a lot of art for a lot of people, and I have noticed a common issue:

People tend to hang their art too high.

Lately I've noticed a lot of gallery walls that form a long horizontal block that just floats halfway up a wall.  The arrangement itself is great, the pieces are fun, but it just looks wrong.  Here's the deal: you need you art to feel connected to something else in the room.  Now, I'm not going to show you examples of art walls that are "wrong," because a) who am I to say what's right out and b) at the end of the day it is a matter of preference.  But if you're thinking about creating your first gallery installation, allow me to make my case.

Here are some great examples of gallery walls that reach down low.

Just the right amount of space between the art and the furniture. Bonus points for the incorporated sconces in these three:


Love the asymmetry in this next one. The lowest piece on the left relates the whole gruping to the chaise, leaving negative space on the right, adding tons of energy. But without that low piece?  The whole thing would just float away.

Excellently placed negative space in this one--again, it works because the wall is grounded by the lower pieces, which connect to the desk.

It doesn't take much: see how just those two little hearts hold this whole arrangement in place, even with that high slanted ceiling? (I've been thinking of something along these lines for a girls' room.)

To be honest, I'm not sure you can go TOO low.


In fact, incorporate propped art as your lowest level, whether right on the floor, on a ledge, or on a piece of furniture, like these:



Of course, there are exceptions to every rule.

But the principle is still the same here: it's just that the works relate to the ceiling, not the (more typical)
furniture.  Though the low pieces here are much closer to the couch than a lot of work I see!

Tomorrow I'll show you the gallery wall in my master bedroom--expanded and, I think, better than ever.


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