Thursday, April 29, 2010

Stop and Smell the Lilacs....

I was going to do part 2 of maximizing a small space, but as I was pulling out of my driveway, I noticed the Lilacs are starting to bloom!!! I had to stop for a moment to take a look and breathe in the lovely aroma!! They are just starting to sprout up. Soon the few small clusters of flowers I see will multiply to a full blooming bush. A Lilac stem to me is simple and elegant; so graceful in the way they bend in different directions when several are grouped together in a vase.

Lilacs, to me, are the epitomy of springtime; so fresh and new. Spring is a time of new growth and new beginnings. As my daughter put it the other day, "the world looks so beautiful with all the colors". She marvels constantly at the new flowers and tree leaves springing up. "Mommy, look at all the pink, look at all the purple, look at all the green..." I love to see this new beginning through her eyes.

In the spring people tend to focus more on their home. They talk about "spring cleaning" and new outdoor projects. It is a time when people come out of the winter doldrums and start to gather more often with friends. It is a time of renewel for the home, the yard and the soul. People's moods seem to lighten with the fresh air and sunshine. There is an excitement with the anticipation of summer and all the activities that go along with it.
But just like the spring, the Lilac flowers don't last long. Take the luxury of gathering a bunch and putting them on your desk at work or on a table at home and enjoy them while they last. I love the way the different shades of purple blend so well together and work with many different color vases. I love how the purples work with the blues of my pewabic vases (pictured above). I always place a few stems of the leaves in them also. Take a few moments to stop and smell the lilacs and bring a little spring into your home.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Small Space, Big Living

Breakfast Nook off of Kitchen

Built-In for storage

Mix of Fabrics

You don't have to have a large space for big living. In today's world, it seems like everyone wants things to be big; Big houses, big kitchens, big pools, big cars; it seems the more space we have, the more satisfied we are. Large spaces can be grand and beautiful, but if you don't have those in your house, don't think that you can't live large.
The eating area in my home is a space that works well for it's size. It is a multifunctional space. It has a space for eating, watching tv, lounging and storage; this little room is working hard!! This eating area is right off of my kitchen; I don't have a large kitchen and I know people always tend to gather there, so I wanted to treat this space as a place that people could sit comfortably when we are entertaining; So I added soft furnishings. I also have a dining room so I didn't want my kitchen to be surrounded by 2 areas of the same function. I love soft seating in a kitchen!! A kitchen is so full of hard surfaces, cabinets, countertops, appliances, that I think it is a great juxtoposition. Plus what better luxury is there than to sit comfortably in your kitchen and enjoy a meal?
Since my kitchen is small, I wanted this space to have storage. When we first moved in, there was a wet bar in this space, hideous!! It had oak lower cabinets, laminate countertops, a sink, smokey tinted mirrors and a fluorescent light fixture!! (I heard a rumor that one of the previous owners had a hot tub in this space!!) Can you say 1973? I designed the built-in, pictured above, to replace the wet bar. It has lots of storage for my overflow of dishes and serving pieces(I will blog about this obsession later!!) and space for a hidden microwave, a tv and a little display. I worked with the existing lower cabinets from the wet bar, to save money, and had it painted the same color as my kitchen cabinets to tie it into the space.
You will notice, that this small space has: a dark color on the walls, a mix of trim colors (stained and painted), a mix of patterns, a mix furniture styles and multi functions. Most people will say this is too much contrast for a small space. I will now tell you why it works. A lot of people are afraid of painting a small space a dark color, they are convinced it will make the room look smaller. The opposite is true, especially if you have rich colored furniture. The darker color makes the walls recede, blurring the line of the rooms boundaries. If you have rich colored furnishings and go with a cool, light color on the walls, it will call attention to them, by the sharp contrast and make the room appear smaller.
The baseboards, window and door casings and archways, in the kitchen are all stained oak; The crown moulding and ceiling, in the eating area and adjoining kitchen, is painted the color of the cabinets. This mix works because the trim color at the top of the room is tied in by the height of the cabinets that are painted the same color. The wall color is dark, the same tone as the oak, so the oak blends in with the walls!! Good tip, if you don't like something in your room, like my oak trim, neutralize it with the wall color. It will call less attention to it!!
I have a mix of furniture, but the styles are all married by the fabrics. I think I will blog more about the furniture and accessories in this room tomorrow!!
Things to remember when decorating a small space:
-Think carefully about how you want the room to function and plan it out carefully.
-Don't be afraid of mixing styles or colors. Keep it simple and you won't fail (we will talk more about this one tomorrow)
-Think about adding non traditional elements to make the room multi functional (like my choice of a settee in the eating area).
-Storage is key in a small, functional space. Make sure the storage ties in with the architecture of the room and is kept neat, otherwise there is too much "visual clutter" in the room!!
-Keep the "visual clutter" to a minimum.(Will talk about this more tomorrow too).
-Lastly, don't be afraid of color; It can be beneficial to pulling a small space together and helping it live large.
Space is a luxury, think about how you can maximize your small spaces potential today!!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

A Little Bit of Thanksgiving in the Springtime......

Today is a dreary spring day. It is cold outside, it is probably going to rain, I have a ton of laundry to do, I have a lot of things to figure out for work.... the list goes on and on. I decided I am going to sit back, with a cup of my new favorite blend of coffee, Starbucks Komodo Dragon, rich and bold with splash of Horizon's vanilla milk in it (yum!!), and take a few minutes to think about things I have to be thankful for today. A little bit of Thanksgiving in the springtime to help me recharge!!!
Even in the most stressful of times we all have a lot to be thankful for. In our everyday hectic lives, with kids having to be carted from one place to the next, work, laundry, dishes to be done, feeling there is no time for ourselves; I think we loose track of the bigger picture, I know I do!! Taking the luxury of a few minutes, in the midst of all that needs to be done, to have a relaxing cup of tea or coffee and think of the things that you are happy about or are thankful for, is like a refresher for the soul!!
The picture above is from Thanksgiving Day a few years ago. A few minutes, after the picture was taken, the table was full of food, family and wine!! We had 30 for dinner that year (there are other tables set beyond this one!!). It was a fun day. I had a lot of fun setting the tables, arranging the flowers and helping prepare the food. I like the simplicity of the table setting, I used drinking glasses for the vases, kept the flower arrangements very natural and free form, surrounded votive candles with little yellow pumpkins and used my Great Aunt's dishes, topped with a simple linen napkin (ironing 30 napkins was not so simple!!) I used wooden trays, on the buffet, to hold drink mixes and the red wine (the white wine was being properly chilled!!). I like to keep Thanksgiving tables simple and elegant because the day really is about food, family and friends!! I let the company shine!!
Taking a few minutes to think back to that day of fun, food, family and friends (not to forget the wine!!), has made me feel much better to take on all that this day has to offer. Today, take some time to give yourself the luxury of being thankful. It can be as simple as remembering a special event, as I did. A little bit of Thanksgiving in the springtime can go a long way!!!!

Friday, April 23, 2010

Mixing it up!!

Above photo: Mix of high end, low end and second hand finds.

One thing I love to do is shop Estate Sales, Antique Stores and used furniture stores for interesting accessories and table ware. It started when I fell in love with the turquoise colored McCoy pottery. I found my first piece years ago, before Martha Stewart made it popular and the prices go way up !! Then I started scouring antique sales looking for more pieces. The thrill of the hunt was addicting to me!! I was so excited when I'd find a piece that was in my color range, in good condition and an interesting shape. As I was searching for my pottery, I noticed that there were a lot of other good finds in these stores. If you have a discerning eye and patience, you can find lovely things for your home. You need time to do this, because you will have to search thru a lot of junk to find the gems.
To get an elegant look with Estate Sale or Flea Market finds, you have to mix it up. The mix is the key, unless you are going for a kitchy or Shabby Chic look. The above photo is an example of a mix of higher end retail items, lower end retail items and second hand finds. I will dissect the look and tell you why it works:
Dishes: Wedgewood china dinner plate (bought retail), Haviland china scalloped salad plate and cup and saucer (Estate Sale). Got a real find with the Haviland at an Estate Sale. Had to buy a whole set, most of it was chipped. I had to throw out all the dinner plates, but ended up with a nice set of salad plates, cups and saucers, cream and sugar and dessert plates.
Stemware: Vera Wang for Wedgewood champagne flute (bought retail), cordial glass and wine glass (Estate Sale)
Vases: Waterford tall vase (bought retail), round crystal vase and curved crystal serving dish (Estate Sale), fluted vodka glass, used as a vase holding 2 roses (Pier 1)
Candle sticks: Both retail, 1 Orrefors from a department store and 1 from TJ Maxx.
Linen Napkin: Estate Sale.
Why this setting works: The dishes are all in the same color range. The dinner plate is white and the cup, saucer and salad plate are slightly cream. The dinner plate is plain and the salad plate has a scalloped edge. The patterns and color are not competing but compliment each other; the modern look of the dinner plate is a nice compliment to the vintage look of the salad plate and cup and saucer and allows it to look current, not too vintage. The vases and crystal all have a similiar cut, but have interesting shapes, some tall, some short and have the same flower in them keeping it simple and not too busy. Varying heights help with the interest.
Remember this when shopping second hand and mixing it into your table settings; look for undamaged pieces, sometimes you will have to discard some pieces of a set to have a smaller set of nice, undamaged pieces. Keep it simple, a monochromatic color scheme works well when mixing from different sets, let the shapes shine!! If using a variety of vases, simplify the flowers, one type of flower in all the vases looks formal and elegant. Don't be afraid to use something for other than it's intended use, ex. the vodka glass used as a vase. Most of all have fun, buy what you like and experiment with mixing!!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

All they needed was a little love.... and the right fabric!!


One thing I love to do is find furniture, with good "bones", and re work it. Doing this not only counts as "green design", but is fun and allows you to have a completely custom piece; as long as you have a good upholsterer and access to good fabrics the sky is the limit!! (A good designer to help you through the process always helps!!) I think a re worked piece of furniture adds personality to a room. Even if I am working with a client who is buying all new furniture, I like to add a piece that has a little whimsy or is completely "one of a kind" to the mix. Chances are you have one hanging around your house that could use a little "love".
The above pictures are from a project I did a while back. The homeowner had the little green chair in her basement, it was in the condition of the before picture. She found it, liked the shape, but didn't think there was much hope for it. When I saw it, I was excited!! I thought it did have a great shape and thought it could be dressed up like a little jewel in the room. The homeowner is a lovely lady, who has a very kind, sweet personality and who also likes things to be fun. I thought the chair could be like her, very lady like, I added the full skirt to the piece, but with a very vibrant color and a rich texture, hence the raspberry velvet, for that pop of unexpected in the room. I think it turned out fabulous!!
The other chair I found at a antique's mall. I thought it had very graceful lines. I had the wood trim painted a neutral color (it was originally white with gold highlights, ugh!!) and kept the body of the chair neutral too, using 2 fabrics with very subtle contrast. The front is a textured beige fabric and the side and piping fabric has a slight sheen and an almost moss green hue. The combo is very subtle and very elegant. I had 5 fabric covered buttons added to the front that add a little interest without being too ornate. I love this chair too, wish I would've kept it for myself!!
Garage sales, estate sales, antiques malls, used furniture stores or even friend's basements are great places to look for pieces that have potential. New fabric, new stuffing and a new design direction can make an unwanted piece a coveted piece. It also lets you have something that is completely custom and truly fits your personality in your home. It is also so much fun to see the transformation!! Green design, the thrill of the hunt, the fun of the process, the luxury of a new piece of furniture that you created, now I think that's a little luxurious!!

Monday, April 19, 2010

I think that I shall never see; A poem lovely as a tree.

Nature is inspirational!! The lushness of a thick, green lawn; the gracefull ease in which a tall tree stands as its branches sway in the wind; the delicate pattern of a bed of flowers planted so carefully or the random pattern of a field of wild flowers. Design cues can be taken from all of these!!
Nature is the best designer. Look at how well she blends and combines colors!! The greens of the trees works with the blues of the sky, works with the browns of the soil and rocks, works with the pastels of the flowers.... She is not afraid of any color scheme and it is all done with such ease. You prefer monochromatic; look at the subltle hues of a group of shells. The varying shades of the light and bright neutrals along with the variety of textures, some nubby, some smooth, some crinkled, make for a very interesting display. The variety of textures and subtle neutrals makes for a palate full of life, not a sterile environment.
Granite or rocks are another great place to get inspiration for a color palate. There is a lot of color in granite that all blend so well together, browns, greens, blues, creams, all in the same hues, making for a wonderful display of color. Granite is like an art piece, colors and layers in such harmony you can almost see movement. If the color works so well together on the piece of stone, just think of how those colors can pull your home together; giving the flow of color from room to room, that so many are trying to achieve.
Next time you are stuck trying to select a color palate, take a cue from nature. If the hues of the colors please you there, chances are they will work in your home. Natures luxurious color palate can become yours!!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Little Luxury, simple comfort food...

Feeling a little down today; weather is dreary, lots on my mind, lots of places to be, lots of things to do, lots of lots!! Decided to take a few minutes for a little luxury in the form of indulgence - biscuits!! I love biscuits!! They are warm, flakey, rich and buttery little pieces of heaven. I love them covered in honey, to me the perfect comfort food for a down day.

I have developed a recipe that is as simple as it is delicious. You can roll out the dough and cut it into a shape, but I don't bother. I just scoop them onto a parchment lined baking sheet!! Could it be any easier? Paired with a cup of tea and a linen napkin, I am now ready to take on the day!!

Easy Biscuits:

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 stick butter
1 cup vanilla yogurt

In a big bowl, combine dry ingredients with butter until a course consistancy. Add vanilla yogurt. The dough will be wet. Scoop onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 20 minutes (turning sheet 1/2 way thru). Enjoy!!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Unexpected Luxury

I received a book, that I ordered, in the mail today. I have been waiting to get it. It is "American Modern" by Thomas O'Brien. He is one of my favorite Interior Designers, he has a very clean and eclectic style. He mixes styles and periods very well, using an almost monocromatic color scheme that works well because he includes many different textures. I flipped through briefly, the pictures are divine!! Makes me want to jump right in!!

This is an unplanned post and an unexpected luxury!!! My family, whom I love dearly, decided to go to a baseball game impromptly tonight. This leaves me home alone, unexpectedly!! So I have the house to myself, my new book, a glass of wine, salmon in the oven and a cool breeze blowing through the windows!! Photos above show my favorite place to sit in the house. My glass of wine is waiting for me by a vase of my favorite flowers, all I need is a candle!! I would say this is a little unexpected luxury at the end of a busy day. I hope you find one too!!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Life's little luxury... Flowers

I can't sing the praises of fresh flowers loud enough!! You will read a lot about them here in this blog. I think flowers add a bit of luxury to any setting. Add a vase of flowers to a dinner table, a bathroom vanity, bedside table, coffee table, window sill, etc... the atmosphere changes. The color, the beauty of the flower itself and the sweet smell automatically brighten my mood. Something as simple as flowers and votive candles on the dinner table on any night makes the meal seem more special. Most people wait until they have guests to add flowers and candles to a table, I think they bring a relaxed feel to an average dinner night. Doesn't having flowers and candles at the table make you want to linger longer, enjoying the time and company of your own family? Spending a few more minutes of family time, isn't that luxury?
You don't have to be an expert flower arranger to create a beautiful look, I'm certainly not!! Keep it simple!! I generally keep one type of flower grouped in a vase. If I want to bring more colors and types in, I group several like vases all with one type of flower together. This is very easy to do and adds a lot of interest. See photos above.
Add some fresh flowers to your house today. The look, the smell, the texture, the ease will make your room feel a little more luxurious!!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Beginning...........

The purpose of this blog is to talk about the things I am most passionate about, Design and Style. Being a designer, that works primarily on residential projects, I spend a lot of time thinking about how people live and use their spaces. Included in that, is helping people recognize and define their own personal sense of design and hone in on their ideas of what luxurious living is.

The Luxurious Life, to me, is not necessarily surrounding yourself with the most expensive, lavish and decadent items, but surrounding yourself with things that you love and that bring you pleasure everyday. It could be as simple as waking up an hour earlier than everyone in your house to have a rich cup of coffee while enjoying the silence curled up in a very soft blanket.

This blog will share my ideas on how to bring little luxuries into your everyday life and tips on how to recognize your own style. In my line of work, I see everyday, how people react to other's style and try to incorporate that and what is most popular into their home. This usually results in them not being happy with what they've spent money on and are living with because they have not listened to their "inner design voice". What they have created is someone else's vision of style. I believe part of knowing yourself, is knowing your environment and what you like about it.

This blog will also offer: tips for easy, elegant entertaining, menu and serving suggestions (my other passion), before and after pictures and anything else that tickles my design fancy!!