Designing small spaces is a unique challenge. Like all good design, function, appearance, and comfort are all supremely important, but in small spaces, every inch counts.Read More
Happy May! FINALLY the snow seems to have retreated for a few months and the outdoors beckons. I LOVE this time of year even though my idea of being outside revolves mostly around drinking tea or working on my laptop on my deck. Outdoor rooms are the best part of the warmer weather because they allow a front row seat, literally, for the show that is nature! Whether you have a deckRead More
Spring brings with it spring cleaning, a season of holidays and entertaining, and the reminders everywhere of renewed life. And yet, here in New England it always seems to take forever to arrive! SO, while we are anticipating the ACTUAL arrival this glorious season of warmer days and fresh breezes, here are a few ways you can bring spring to your home even before the weather cooperates!Read More
Well, it's groundhog day and apparently we have 6 more weeks of winter. Honestly, no matter what the furry rodent says, we in New England KNOW that winter weather is capricious right up to (and sometimes into!) May. But spring is coming...eventually!
The good news? Trapped inside during winter is the perfect time to spruce up your house in time for the spring flurry (no pun intended) of activities. And one of the most effective ways to make changes is with paint.
There are many places where new paint will make a big difference:Read More
A well-designed room is alchemy…part science and part art.
Sure, we want our rooms to look good, but more importantly, we want them to be comfortable – to LIVE well. And the essence of comfort in a room is feeling good there. Comfort is about more than the cushion fill in the sofa. It also includes the convenience and functionality and welcoming FEEL of the space. Good design serves the occupants of the room, not the other way around.
Whether starting from scratch or reworking existing spaces, here are a few essential processes and principles:Read More
Trade Secrets: the do’s and don’ts of hanging draperies
It has come to my attention that in the wonderful world of decorators, most have jumped on the bandwagon of "hang ‘em high". I refer to, of course, the trend to hang the curtain rod for drapery panels well above the window to elongate the proportions in a room. And this does, in fact, work. BUT… like most things, this cannot be applied universally willy-nilly.
The advice is grounded in the notion that a longer line creates an unbroken vertical that makes the perceived height of the room taller. And while this is absolutely true, there are caveats.Read More
As the spring weather slowly warms up and freezing rain and snow appear to be left behind for the next few months, it is time to turn our attention to the upcoming season of road construction outdoor living. Designing spaces to live outside and revel in the warmer weather is even more important here in the northeast where we celebrate that we survived another winter and the gray, pre-spring months!
On my “must have” list for anyplace I live, is a slice of outdoor space. Whether you have a pocket sized balcony, a patio, a covered or screened porch, or a deck, make the most of it so you can enjoy the beauty of nature for a few months.
Arranging an outdoor space uses the same principals as arranging an indoor space – scale, color, and balance all apply. Here are a few key ingredients to keep in mind:Read More
A well chosen area rug can pull together a whole room. While there are many ways to approach decorating a room, starting with an area rug you love is one of the most logical. The rug you choose can set the design direction for the whole room and choices are available for every possible situation, from a trendy flokati to a classic oriental, and everything in between. That said, here are some guidelines to help you with your choices wherever the rug selection falls in your process.Read More
Sofa shopping can be intimidating. Choosing style details can be overwhelming, but comparing quality can be even more so since upholstery has a whole set of its own vocabulary, and the quality levels vary from store to store and even within a store or brand. Largely, price is an indication of quality level, but not entirely...there is some murky territory in the middle where many popular brands mix a few quality elements in with cheaper materials or construction so they may sound higher quality than they really are. Upholstered furniture can be found at pretty much any price point, so how do you determine how much to spend?
The answer to that question depends on a number of factors…Read More
Part of what sells a home is it’s feeling of hominess. Stripping a home of its character and emptying the rooms does not create the emotional appeal needed to sell a home. Careful editing and thoughtful arrangement does.
Here are a few key steps toward marketing your home in its best possible light:Read More
For the love of window treatments
Windows can be dressed in a variety of ways and what you choose and how you install it will impact the look of your room.
Here are a few tips as you make your choices:
- The simplest and most versatile way to dress a window is with drapery panels. However, nothing is worse than too short panels – they are the drapery equivalent of flood water pants. My personal general preference is a ½” to 1” break on the floor, but at least touching the floor is a must. For ball gown elegance, allow fabric to puddle 8”” to 18” on the floor.
- Hanging your window treatment above the window will instantly create the illusion of more height in your room. For ceilings in the builder standard 7’-8” range of years past, hanging valances right at the ceiling can do a world of good for the perceived proportions of the room.
- If you are using a window treatment like a pair of panels that covers the sides of your window frame, upsizing to a rod 12” to 16” wider than your window measurement will expose more of the glass to let in more light while creating the illusion of a more generous sized window.
- Use clip on rings or sewn on rings, or drapery pins to attach rings to panels and a coordinating decorative rod rather than gathering the panels directly on the rod, which can end up looking either frilly, if it creates a ruffled header, or sloppy if the pocket is much larger than the rod.
- Some rods are not meant to be seen. A functional traverse rod that doesn’t show when the panels are closed, leaves the utilitarian and decidedly not decorative rod exposed like visible underwear when the panels are open … either cover it with a valance or cornice, or use a decorative traverse rod that has the working mechanism on the back side and a decorative front face.
- Working fabric blinds, as well as many styles of tailored valances, should always be mounted on a fabric-covered board. Valances will hang correctly and blinds will function properly when secured to a solid surface rather than sliding around on a rod.
- For a professional looking installation, curtain panels and valances should have extra fabric that returns to the wall on the outside edges on the window treatment so there is not a gap between the curtain and the wall when viewed from the side.
I love custom window treatments. I am a self-confessed curtain snob … I don’t think most ready-made curtains are worth the money … sizes can be off by a substantial amount from panel to panel, panel widths tend to be skimpy, dye lots can be tricky, stitching is often poor quality, the lining is generally cheap if it exists at all, and interlining, which makes a HUGE difference is non-existent. That said, inexpensive panels and decorative rods from a discount store are a great option to use for staging a home for sale if windows are not already treated, or if the current treatments are heavy and/or dated. In a real estate staging application they are only used to create an impression as buyers pass through the rooms of a house.
Custom window treatments, on the other hand, are designed to do exactly what you need them to do for a particular window. Couture for your windows for a whole lot less than couture clothing and something your windows will wear every single day!
- They can be sized to exactly the right length and depth to work with under-treatments (like blinds, shades or shutters), and to take into account architectural details like millwork, or uneven floors.
- They can be made of any material or combination of materials and in a custom designed style so that they compliment and enhance both the window and the other details in the room.
- They can be designed, and sometimes layered, to provide privacy, light control, softness, pattern or texture, and color.
- They can be enhanced with dressmaker details, trims, and standout hardware that elevate the design of the whole room. Adding these details is like adding accessories to an outfit – they take it from ordinary to beautiful and unique!
- Custom hard treatments – blinds, shutters, shades – from a reputable company, will be sized just for your window (there is no “standard” sized window) and give you many, many years of service.
- Custom draperies are often not only lined but interlined with a flannel layer sandwiched between the face fabric and lining providing softer folds, and a sumptuous, elegant drape, and protecting the face fabric from the ravages of sun exposure. Interlining can make an ordinary or inexpensive face fabric look luxurious.
Questions about custom window treatments?
We would love to hear from you!
Making your house into a home can be a daunting task, and sometimes despite your best efforts it still doesn't quite evoke the feeling you want. Here are 5 common mistakes that may be coming between you and your perfect room.
1. Unflattering lighting
Nothing can take the down the atmosphere of a room faster than poor lighting choices. Consider how you feel in a discount store with fluorescent lights versus your favorite art gallery or boutique … totally different moods. Nobody wants to live in a Kmart.
Lamplight is more flattering than overhead lighting, and any overhead lighting should be on dimmers. Chandelier shades can cut down on glaring bare bulbs, and the type of bulb, lampshade lining, and placement in the room all affect the character of the light you will get. Choose wisely!
2. Stingy area rugs
When purchasing an area rug for your room, size matters! Remember that at least some if not all of the legs of each piece in a furniture grouping should be ON the area rug – it is the visual cue that collects the furniture into a group. Don’t go too small. (hot tip: sometimes turning a too small rug on the diagonal can connect all the pieces and save the day!) Rugs under dining tables should be large enough that the chairs don't catch on the edge when you pull them out.
3. Furniture lined up around the walls
Furniture lined up around the walls tends to look like a waiting room. Furniture belongs in “conversation” groups – think of it as extroverted…it wants to be able to talk to the other pieces without shouting across a vast expanse of empty space, so pull your furniture away from the wall and into groups so it can party on ... and the people sitting on it can too!
4. Poorly hung artwork
Almost inevitably, artwork is hung too high …. generally placed there by well intentioned tall people aiming for “eye level”. Artwork should relate in scale and placement to the furnishings below it, or if there is no furniture below it, then to the size of the wall. A too small lonely picture placed too high on a wall is just sad. Please don’t just hang pictures where there was a nail already … forge new and better arrangements that flatter the artwork and the room. Everyone will be happier.
5. Cookie cutter rooms
You liked the room in the store or catalog, so you bought all of it and dropped it in your house and now, even if you are lucky enough and it happens to be appropriately scaled for your space, you can’t figure out why it doesn’t feel like “home”. Home is an emotionally charged word – and to create it you need to curate rooms that reflect you and your family’s personality. Pieces culled from different sources and time periods keep a room from being static. Accessories and artwork, especially, should be unique and meaningful to your family. Take your time and put together a collected look from a variety of sources so that your room cannot be mistaken for anyone else’s!
What do you find most challenging about creating an inviting and comfortable home?
Let us know your biggest challenges and we’ll try to address them in future posts!
Selecting stone countertops
There is nothing as beautiful as natural stone countertops – and there are almost as many options as there are kitchen renovations! Kitchen counters are one of the most important and perplexing decisions to make ... you must factor in look, feel, color and function ... and it is a decision you will likely live with for a long time.
Some things to keep in mind when selecting stone:
1. Choose a good fabricator
Most fabricators can get stone from a variety of sources for you – choose someone knowledgable who delivers good service and cares about what YOU want, not just what they need to sell.
2. Look at the actual slab(s) you are going to buy
Looking at samples in a showroom is a good start and is essential to narrow down the types of colors and ‘movement’ (how swirly, streaky, or speckled the stone is) that appeals to you. However, do not EVER plunk down your hard-earned money without seeing the actual piece of stone your counter will be made from. Stone is a product of nature and as such, the colors that are most pronounced and patterns inherent in the stone are dependent on the environment in which it was created and where in the quarry it was harvested. Every piece is unique so unless the sample came from the ground right beside the slab you are buying, it may look quite different. Uniqueness is part of the beauty of stone. If you want perfectly uniform pattern and color, either choose a more solid color stone or stop looking at stone altogether and choose a manmade product instead.
3. Consider your lifestyle and personality
Different varieties of stone have different properties and different maintenance requirements … the “patina” that a Carrera marble inevitably develops with use might be a highly desirable attribute for one personality type and a maintenance nightmare for another. There is something for just about everyone from limestone to quartzite depending on the look you want and the way you want to live with it.
4. Have someone oversee the templating
Once your stone is selected and purchased, the fabricator will come to the installation site and create templates of exactly the shape the stone will be cut. Back at the shop they arrange these templates on the slabs like a giant Tetris puzzle. If you have particular sections of the stone you wish to highlight or mitigate, be sure someone you trust is there when they decide what sections will be cut from what parts of the slab. You can buy a slab that has one place you really don’t care for in the midst of stone you love and template in such a way that the undesirable section gets removed for the sink cutout, for example.
This stone has a lot of variation and on the template shown above, these two sections were to meet at a seam on the center of the sink. The templates were laid out so that where the seams met, they would not have an obvious contrast. In addition, we were able to locate the sink cutout on an area that didn't have a part of the pattern we wanted to highlight. The installed pieces, shown below, look just beautiful!
Enjoy the beauty of natural stone, nature's artwork,
in your home every day!
Throw pillows can add so much to a room. Of course, too much of a good thing is still too much, so use them wisely and keep in mind the look you are after. More minimalist looks might benefit from a sofa with only two throw pillows, while a more transitional or traditional décor approach might use up to five or more of varying sizes and shapes depending on the size of the piece. While arguments still persist in almost every household as to whether throw pillows are an asset or a nuisance, here are six good reasons to include them.
Throw pillows ...
1. add color and pattern to an otherwise boring sofa
You only buy a sofa once in a great while so, generally speaking, it is wise to choose a neutral or at least a livable color and a classic design so you won’t tire of it. That said, throw pillows are an opportunity to add style and color that will elevate the design and break up a large expanse of sameness. Just please don’t call it a “pop” of color … let’s reserve that as a verb more appropriate for balloons and bubblegum shall we?
2. add comfort to a deep sofa
So YOU might be 5’10” with legs that go to your armpits, but when your petite aunt Sally visits, wouldn’t it be nice if she could sit on your sofa and have her feet touch the floor? A handy throw pillow to put behind you allows you to have a nice deep sofa for lounging and curling up with a good book AND a proper and comfortable seat for entertaining an assortment of guests.
3. are essential for sofa lounging
At some point (if not regularly) SOMEONE in your house is going to want to stretch out or curl up on the sofa and lie down and they will need a comfy pillow or two for their head. Enough said.
4. are a practical way to use a gorgeous piece of fabric that is costly
You fell in love with the silk appliquéd, embroidered linen that costs more than your car payment … okay, so maybe draperies for six windows in it are out of the question, but a pair of throw pillows would only take a little bit. Bonus: cover the backs of the pillows in something inexpensive and soft so they can be turned over for use in sofa lounging (see item 3) – this uses even less of the expensive fabric AND makes them irresistible to cuddle up on!
5. are a great place to add custom details to a room
Dressmaker details like trim, pleats, braid, fringe, buttons, ties, contrast banding - all of these are easily added to pillows. These sorts of details can really customize the look of a room and on a throw pillow, they are on display in an obvious location where they can be appreciated. These couture details can help further the whole design of the room; for example, wooden buttons might help establish a casual feel where fabric covered buttons add some tailored elegance. The opportunities for creativity are endless!
6. are easily changed
Pillows don’t require an army to move, so you can change them any time you want to modify the look in your room without enlisting the help of anyone else. If you just buy or make covers for your pillows, they are even easy to store – keep the filler and change the covers seasonally or whenever the occasion or your mood calls for it. They are the ultimate décor with a purpose!
Some final advice...
Be sure you have filled your pillows with down inserts – buy them a bit larger than the pillow cover for a nice full look. Replace any of those poly-fillers with down inserts. They are totally worth the modest investment. Down pillows can be plumped in an instant and will look like new, and they are not subject to the ‘pancake’ syndrome that afflicts polyester pillows.
SO, go forth and add some well designed throw pillows to your life.
You will be glad you did!
Tablescapes are an exercise in visual storytelling. They are meant to be changed up occasionally so they are a great way to herald the current season, or inject some personality into your room.
Here are 5 tips to help you create fabulous tablescapes using things you probably already have somewhere in your house or yard!
1 Start with lighting
A single interesting lamp or a pair of buffet lamps (tall and skinny) on either end of the console or entry table will not only shed light in that area of the room, but provide some structure and a starting point for your tablescape.
2 Include something organic
No, we are not talking about pesticide free food here ... I mean something natural like flowers, a plant, branches, a nest, seasonal berries or greens, a bowl of fruit … a little something organic always adds life to a room or a tabletop.
3 Strive for balance rather than symmetry
While symmetry can be useful and is a great tool to create a more formal feel, for the most visual interest aim for balance. Huh? What do you mean? Rather than static pairs of things, I mean use odd numbers of like items in varying shapes or textures (candlesticks, frames, etc) and/or vary the height of similar or identical objects with decorative boxes or books. Items should relate in some way to other pieces without being mind-numbingly repetitive. The overall distribution of your selections should be visually balanced ... picture your tabletop like a seesaw - the goal is to arrange your objects so that it stays level!
4 If you are including framed photographs, mix it up
There is nothing more boring than a barren table top full of identically framed 5 x 7 portraits all standing sentinel at a 45 degree angle. Vary the heights, sizes, and orientations and even the shapes of the frames – I also prefer frames that coordinate (in style or finish), but don’t match for a far more interesting ‘collected’ feel.
5 Edit, edit edit
Too much of a good thing is still ... too much! Resist the urge to cover every square inch of space with stuff. You need to leave some blank space to give the eye a break and allow the viewer to appreciate your thoughtful arrangement.
Most importantly, have fun! Use things that have meaning and reflect your family’s personality. Keep moving things around and trying different combinations until it works!
1 Pick colors you like.
This seems obvious, but you would be amazed at the number of people who want to choose a color that is “in” at the moment. Just because the Pantone colors of the year are rose quartz and serenity doesn’t mean these have to be YOUR colors! It is likely you will be living with your choices for much more than a year! Look at the stuff you have that delights you and see if there is a common color theme. This picture is from a client's home office - she is totally smitten with all things blue and in this personal space, constellation blue was the perfect wall color for her.
2 Use color to visually change the perceived temperature or mood of the room.
Icy blue tones in a south facing sun-drenched room can make the space actually seem cooler. Conversely, a warm yellow, orange, or red toned hue can make a north facing or dreary space feel sunnier or cozier.
3 Pick paint last after other color selections like fabrics and rugs.
There are infinite colors of paint – if there isn’t a sample chip of a color you like, paint can be custom mixed as well – or even color matched to a physical sample of something that is the color you want. There are more limited choices of fabrics and rugs, so start there and then choose a paint to coordinate.
4 Take into account the more permanent finishes in your room.
Hardwood flooring, stained woodwork or paneling, stone, brick, tile - these all have color tones and your paint choices need to work with them. We were able to totally update this 70's harvest gold bathroom with carefully selected paint applied to the wall in wide stripes.
5 Get a large sample.
Get the largest size sample you can of the paint color under consideration. Buy one of those tester jars if possible and paint a 3’ square of the color – be sure to use an adequate number of coats or you will be seeing the color under it as well. I would also suggest painting it on a piece of wallboard or hardboard instead of the wall so that you can move it around. (See # 8)
6 Beware: Colors may look darker and more intense than expected.
Once there is a whole room full of it , that sweet candy pink may look like a bubblegum factory exploded…unless you were going for dramatic, err on the side of caution especially with clearer, more vibrant colors and dial it back a bit. Choose a color one or two rows up on the chip card. I used to suggest the option of having them half the formula when you have the paint mixed, but that doesn’t just cut the intensity, it totally changes the nuances of the color as well and can have disastrous results. That said, dramatic colors can be terrific in certain spaces and elevate the whole design - just be sure dramatic is what you were after!
7 Assess your sample with a neutral background.
Your perception of color and the undertones you see changes relative to other colors (remember the white and gold vs. blue and black dress controversy??) Put a white background under your sample to better assess the color without the current background interfering.
8 Check your sample in different lighting and locations.
Look at the paint sample IN the space to be painted and during both daytime hours, when the room is lit with natural light and night time hours when the room is lit with artificial light. Different bulbs affect colors differently and can TOTALLY change the color you see. Also, move your sample around the room - some colors can look very different in shady corners than they do on brightly lit walls. And always hold the sample against the wall in the same orientation as the surface you are going to paint…the color will absolutely look different on the vertical surface of a wall than on the angled surface of a dormer or the horizontal surface of a floor or table.
Paint is one of the easiest ways to freshen and dramatically change the feel of a room. Still not sure what to choose?