Monday, September 30, 2013

How to frame a work of art

This was one of my first real lessons in decorating:

I was in my early twenties and had picked up a pair of original watercolor fashion illustrations, and I was having them framed.  I took them to a place on Union Street in Park Slope Brooklyn, where the man took them out of their cardboard sleeve gently, as if they were significant works.  He used small felt sandbags to hold down the corners while we talked.

I started to tell him about my decor, and how I wanted to frame them to go with, well, with whatever my fancy was at the time.  (This?  Maybe this.)

Oh no, he said.  You have to frame a picture for the picture, not for the room it will hang in.

He selected frames I never would have imagined, frames that suit the era evoked in the paintings as well as the color and the texture of the watercolor.

Not only are the frames just right, but they have worked in each of my subsequent homes because they are not trying to "go" with the decor.

There are exceptions, of course, but this rule always works.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


Look what came in the mail!

Now, what else can I put on my (apparently very effective) blog wishlist?

Just kidding.

The girls LOVE it.  It's a little bigger than I expected and a tiny bit tight for the space, but when I suggested using it for myself they looked at me aghast.  It has already "eaten" many clothes, and they are debating names.  (I could also send it back for the medium size, but it would lose some of its fun, I think.)

I was impressed that the hamper comes with a liner/bag that velcroes to the inside top for easy removal, and the thing is really well made.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Years ago, living in NYC, I splurged on a pair of hand blocked pillowcases from that revered emporium of all things home, ABC.  I made several major investments at the ABC outlet in the Bronx over the years, but this lone pair of pillowcases was my only purchase at the store proper.  I loved the colors, the Indian motif, and the little quilted triangle design at the edge, which made the cases feel both hand-made and high-end.

After years of washing, the beautiful cotton finally gave way, but I couldn't bring myself to toss the cases out.  (Weird?  Maybe.)  They lived in this bedroom in Park Slope over a decade ago

Moved to this bedroom in our South Slope row-house

(yes, we have had some intense bedroom wall colors!)

Skipped our house in Boulder, but found their way into my current house's guest room's very early (very unfinished) schemes

And stayed in the room even when the walls went dark,

At which point they really finally bit the dust.

I love a well-traveled textile or accessory, don't you?  Just goes to show how collected pieces can give us a sense of our own history while changing with their surroundings.

Anyway, when working on this bedroom, I stumbled upon the website of Kerry Cassil design.  I loved the prints and patterns, and the (relatively) reasonable price tag for such individual-feeling pieces.  And then I noticed something.  The little quilted triangle detail at the pillowcase edges.  

Boom: Kerry Cassil is the designer of my favorite-ever pillowcases!  (you can see the quilted edge best on the stripes, just above.)

Now that we've been reunited, this will quickly become one of my favorite bedding sources, putting so many of these (and these) sheets and shams to shame.

Go forth and purchase.  You will be happy for years to come.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

To my husband, 8 years married

To my husband:

Filler of hand soap and bike tires
Builder of headboards (and little bike riders)
Changer of filters and light bulbs and vacuum bags
Teacher of fractions and reading (and gags)
Fixer of dryers, dishwashers and computer parts
Caulker of things that need caulk (including, sometimes, my heart)

To my husband:

(Kind) ignorer of mock ups in cardboard
Steadfast and patient when things get too hard.

(Careful) avoider of design conversation
Yet greatest supporter of my inclinations

Stepper-overer of art on the floor
Sticker-arounder when my talk is a bore

(Reluctant) acceptor of seasonal bedding
Can you believe 8 years have passed since the wedding?

To my husband:

Bill payer
Software upgrader
Garden grower
Lawn mower
Bread Baker
Iced Tea maker
Cocktail shaker
Kite flyer
Tool buyer
Tie dyer
Rare crier

Joke teller
Great feller

I love you.

Happy Anniversary.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Retail Wallpaper

It's no secret that wallpaper is back in a big way.  So perhaps it should be no surprise that the most trend-forward big box. catalog retailers are getting in on the action.

There have been a few retail sources for to-the-trade papers for a while now, most notably Walnut Wallpaper, and Anthropologie was early to the table with a tight selection of some designed-elsewhere papers.

Now, West Elm and Serena and Lily are out with their own collections, available direct to the consumer.

Serena and Lily's collection has 25+ designs, most in various colorways, and retail for a reasonable $88/ 27' single roll, which is similar to many of the trade papers I sell.

West Elm's papers are pretty pricey at $299 for an 11-yard single roll, but they are low-VOC and, it appears, removable, making them an option for apartment dwellers and all you DIY types.

So, are you craving wallpaper these days?  I seem to be choosing a lot of it for clients lately.

And P.S., Serena and Lily is having a huge sale right now.  Just use code GOODSAVE at checkout to get $100 of $500, $500 of $1500, and various deals in between.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Master Suite Three Ways

Bam.  Casual Glam.

Bam.  Modern Organic.

Bam.  Happy Mod.

White stained wood floors, white walls, wall to wall sheers behind the bed.
Floorplan here.

Which would you choose?

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Finding another way

I think I say this a lot:

There is ALWAYS more than one option.

I will admit that every once in a while when walking into a project, I fear that I won't know what to do.  A master suite that I just started working on (for these guys) falls in to this category.   It is HUGE and sort of awkward, long and narrow with various appendages, including a big closet, a bathroom, and a little niche with a fireplace.  More than anything, it was clear that this space--an addition to the house--had been designed with a pretty clear layout in mind.

The window placement on the long wall felt like it dictated the bed placement.  (And yes, both the client and the previous owners had the bed there.)  There were various options about what to do in the zones created by dividing the room this way, but the bed felt like a given.

Except!  There is ALWAYS more than one option.  (Okay, for you sticklers out there, with very few exceptions.)

By placing the (king sized) bed on the wall in front of the bank of windows, the layout actually completely opens up and allows us to float a seating area in the middle of the room.  The dresser on the wall is close to the closet (logical), but can also serve as a media console as needed, with a TV mounted above.  We then designated the little niche for family game night, with a small table, 4 chairs, and some built in storage on the wall.

Before, the large space felt pretty purposeless.  Now, the room will have three distinct zones and functions.  My client kept coming back to this one, saying "ooh, it feels like an upscale hotel suite,"


And for the record, that fear that I won't know what to do has not yet been fulfilled.  In fact, solving these problems is a huge part of the fun of my job.

But still: Knock wood.

Oh, and I will show you three initial design directions for this space tomorrow.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Big Dog, Little Dog (an allegory for a practical tip)

Have you read the children's book Big Dog Little Dog?  There is a good lesson in it.

A big dog and a little dog (Fred and Ted, if you must know) stay in a hotel.  One room has a big bed and one room has a small bed.  The big dog ends up in the small bed and vice versa.  They toss and turn and sleep terribly all night.  The next morning, they go for a walk and swap stories about their challenging night.  They are so tired!  They can't figure out what to do until a helpful little bird happens by and tells them to--get this--switch beds.  Big bed for big dog, little bed for little dog.  And they lived happily ever after.

Here's the thing: the solution was pretty obvious to the bird (and the adult reader), but not to the dogs.  Sometimes we get pretty set in our ways and can't see the obvious solution that is in front of us.  Here's a real life example.

We have two clothes hampers in our house.  One is sturdy, round, rattan, and sort of heavy.  It was a wedding gift from our registry and it is "our" hamper.  The other is canvas, lightweight, and embroidered with the word "laundry."  I had it made when my older daughter was a baby and it is our daughters' hamper.

Our master bedroom is on the main floor and the laundry room and the girls' room are upstairs. Currently, I haul the heavy hamper up and down the stairs to the laundry room.  Then it stays up there--it is big enough to hold a couple of loads of laundry.  So we end up tossing our dirty clothes on the floor where the hamper should be.  Meanwhile, my girls toss their clothes on the canvas hamper, but since it is soft sides they end up with a big pile of clothes ON TOP of the hamper.

Do you see where this is going?

I switched them.  Boom: happily ever after.

Now I carry a light laundry bag up and down the stairs, and since it hold about one load, we don't end up with a pile on the floor.  The sturdy rattan hamper stands open at the ready, and my kids can easily toss their clothes in.  I didn't think of it three years ago because I had fixed notions of belonging around these hampers, rather than practical notions of function.

This makes me think of this advice, which is so simple, so obvious, and yet so many of us haven't thought of it or don't follow it.

Tell me: do you have any tips for a functional home that seem obvious but may not be?  I'm getting down to brass tacks around here to make things really work for us.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Someone please buy this for me

Because it is obvious that

a) I need it 


b) I can not in any way under any circumstances justify its purchase.

For the girls' bathroom, obvs.

Size large, color natural, just in case you were wondering.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Enough with the 9 year old girls!

Just kidding.  Nine year old girls are my favorite clients. (And I do hope to show you more of this soon soon soon.)

This nine year old wanted blue walls--I heard aqua, but she really did mean more of a soft teal.  I got with the program.  We're going to wallpaper the ceiling, too, I think, and make it super duper cozy.

We will repurpose an existing iron bed, and paint it black and add a little silver to the florettes.  Kinda like this.

Oh, yes.

Also, she is a swimmer, and it was really fun to think about incorporating that passion in to the art.

Look 1 has a gallery wall of wonderful swim-related prints.

Look 2 is a take on the framed-vintage-bathing suit thing, but I found a local artist who actually paints vintage bathing suits on boards.

And look 3 uses a large scale vintage-inspired print of a swimmer performing the various strokes.  You will never guess where I found that one!

Sent revisions off yesterday, can't wait to see this one come together!  Right now the room is pale pink and pale green and gingham and pottery barn kids (cute when she was three).  It will be quite a big change, don't you think?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Buying Sanity

I recently dropped a lot of bank at the Container Store.  Somehow, our walk-in pantry had gotten to a point where you could no longer walk in, and I had had it.  I was tired of the mismatched containers and the confusion of pearl barley in an old couscous bottle and the bags of pasta that seemed to slip and slide everywhere.  Tired of digging out a snack for my kids from behind, well, from behind whatever.

I did a test run with the dried fruits and nuts shelf and liked the result so much I went back for more.  As the check out guy rang up my dozens of plastic boxes (BPA free!)  we got to talking.  When I mentioned that my husband was not particularly happy about the price tag for this little project, he said two things that interested me.  First, that there is usually a less enthusiastic party in any organization project, but they always, always come around to the "after."  And second, that what I was buying was sanity.

You work in the right place, I said.

But I think there is some truth to this.  My husband has already admitted that the pantry is better.  And when I watch my 5 year old help herself to some pistachios, and then return the container to the shelf, I do feel a little more sane.

I will admit, it can be hard to divert a portion of your home budget to the "boring" functional stuff, but in the end the right storage solutions mean that clutter is held at bay, and everyone can function just a little bit better.

What do you think:  are you a Container Store junkie?  Or do you go for more of a catch as catch can approach?

Friday, September 6, 2013

When all else fails

throw everything at it.

And when in doubt, post a picture of your guest room.

Seriously though.  (My 5 year old says it the cutest.  I need to catch her on tape.  Yes, tape.  I am approximately one hundred and four and I remember the 8 track.)  As much as an "editing eye" is a wonderful beautiful thing, sometimes more is more.

This room has had many, Many, MANY iterations, but this one, with ALL of my favorite bits and pieces all thrown in there, is my favorite.  It needs a printed bedskirt, doesn't it?  And once I decided on a leopard rug for the living room, the jute can be layered back in here for just a little MORE more.

I know.  I make it look so EASY, don't I?

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Vintage Modern Dining Room

One of the challenges with designing for a client from scratch is creating personality when there are no personal items to bring it.  I always feel a little strange creating collections for people, or even selecting objects--some things in your home (as man as possible!)  should have a story.  Your story.

I'm working on a project right now that is an absolute breeze because the client has "story" pieces for each room.  Slowly but surely, we are taking the house where she grew up and making it her own, but keeping the mid-century treasures her parents left behind.  Like amazing danish modern rope dining chairs, a mid-century china cabinet, and a cool tree stump coffee table.

Here are the dining room looks.  (I'll save the before, with the 80s era burgundy and hunter green floral wallpaper, for the big reveal.)  The room is smallish and squarish, and will house the aforementioned mid century china hutch.  There are four rope chairs, similar to those shown here, but a bit more substantial and refined.

The final result?  Number one, with the table from number two.  Can't wait to see it come together!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sneak Peek

I recently realized that I do a lot of little "sneak peeks" around here, but not so many "full reveals."  I'll tell you what: I finally understand why designers who work a lot don't always have a ton of spaces in their portfolios.  Many projects come together piece by piece over a long time, AND photo shoots are expensive, time consuming and a lot of work!

I have a ton of work wrapping up (or recently wrapped) that I'm proud of, and hoping to focus on some portfolio photography this fall.  Though I am pretty sure I said the same thing last fall.

At any rate, loving this bedroom as it comes together:

Ceiling, walls, and bedside chests happened a while ago, bed treatment and roman shades went in last week, lamps and upholstery still to come.  But how fun is that canopy??  The best part: we reused some old target curtains that had been on their windows to create softness behind the bed.

Can't wait for the final reveal on this one.

Hope you all had a lovely, restful labor day.


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