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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Finding your niche and decorating it too.

Houses in Arizona are famous for having open spaces above cabinetry and architectural niches throughout the home. The number one call I receive from potential clients is "I don't know how to decorate high, open spaces." To further complicate matters the spaces often have slanted ceilings. Here is a typical "before" picture:




"After": I always remove everything and measure the space. I also look at how the client uses the surrounding space and what their style is. I liked the original picture, but wanted to move the plants to a place where they were easier to water. I then selected other objects found elsewhere in the home that were more appropriate in height and balance.


Built in entertainment centers can be both a positive and negative focal point. They do eliminate the need for additional furniture, but they can be tricky to decorate. In the "before" picture below there is a certain heaviness to the bottom shelves and scale is not bring used correctly.




After: Visual weight is evenly spaced and grouping like items together provide more of an impact. (I apologize for the flash bouncing off the bottom picture.)







Always consider a room and its use of space when decorating. I look at this "before" picture of a kitchen space and cannot help but sing, "When the bough breaks the cradle will fall..."




As I was arranging the space I remember the homeowner saying, "I can't believe you are going to hang a picture way up there." My response was, "I always try to think outside the box. I promise it will look great. After all, the little girl in the picture is praying before she eats, and we are in a kitchen. " (Smile)



OK, obviously this client had lighting as well as balance and scale issues in this "before" picture.



After: Yes, it is ok to put a lamp in a niche if it has an outlet. Make sure you select pieces that are in scale with the space. These niches required huge pieces to really work in the space. Painting the niche a different color than the wall color is also a great idea.




Don't be afraid to bring the outdoors in. Garden statuary, orbs, and baskets can work indoors as well as out.




Let's talk about faux greenery. It recently made the top 10 in HGTV's "DON'T" category. It's true that I (as would most designers) would prefer to have a live plant versus a fake. But, as we all know there are exceptions to every rule. If you live in a hot climate and are decorating a space that is 10+ feet above the ground I think we can safely assume most plants will die because they will not get the watering that they need. But please, if you do use faux greenery, make sure you clean it at least once a year.

This grouping below works well because of the use of similar colors and scale.




Below is an area I am struggling err decorating in my own home. You saw this cabinet a few posts back. I have now painted it a celery green. I am in the midst of filling it with various combinations until I find the one that "works". I decided to turn the cabinet upside down.



From the ground you couldn't see the darling legs. Perhaps I will keep it this way.



Quick tip: Create an inexpensive topiary to fit high spaces.

Begin with a wire form. This one was found at Ross for $14.99. You can often find them at end of season sales in garden centers for even less.

Wrap some faux greenery garlands around the form until its fullness and coverage is to your liking. This garland was purchased for $2.59 each on sale at Michaels. Four garlands were needed to cover the piece.

Even at the discount stores, a topiary of this size, with greenery, will run $40-$50 dollars. Instead you can easily make it for $25.00.


How do you decorate your niches?

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Last week's quote:

"Lately, I have been thinking how comfort is perhaps the ultimate luxury."

Billy Baldwin, designer

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Sew, how are you?

I am feeling the pressure to get a few items crossed off of my "to do" list. I will soon be returning to school and my free time will then be minimal. I have wanted to make some curtains to hide an open shelf in my laundry room. I had some extra fabric left over from my bedroom project. (Which I will be showing you soon.) I think this solution works for now.
I can pull the curtains all the way closed, but left them open a smidge so that you could get an idea of the boring before.



As a decorator I am surrounded by fabric. I generally have a bit of fabric left over from client projects as well as fabric books that contain swatches that are no longer available. For the life of me I cannot bring myself to toss such loveliness out. Each summer I come up with an idea of how I can use the fabric to create holiday gifts for my clients and friends. In past years I have made wine/cider bags, candle bags, and muffin mix bags. This year I decided to make lavender sachet bags.



After the bag are filled and hand sewn shut, I will embellish them with a few trinkets and ribbons. I try to make sure each client receives their own original fabric.



My next sewing project will be two pillows for a settee in my bedroom. This is a very old piece of silk that has been hand embroidered. Pictures do not do it justice. It was part of the treasures that I brought home from my grandma's house.






Here is a close up of the stitching. The back is almost as pretty as the front. The triangular piece will become an envelope flap for an 18 inch pillow.








This pretty piece of cotton voile was hand embroidered by a young girl. When she joined the pieces together, the top line was placed upside down. I think this adds to its charm. I am going to make a kidney pillow out of it.




What do you do with your fabric finds?
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A big "Merci Beaucoup" to Celita from The Spices of Life blog.



She has bestowed the "Wylde Women Award" onto me. The purpose of the award is "To send love and acknowledgment to women who brighten your day, teach you new things and live their lives fully with generosity and joy."

I have to say that this award gave me a wee small lump in my throat. Thank you very much!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Favorite Things

Cindy from My Romantic Home is hosting "Our Favorite Things".


Cindy thought it would be fun to see favorite collections, vignettes, or one big item. It has to be a material thing not a person. (I smiled at that.)
This was a challenge for me. I am very blessed to have many, many favorite things. My favorite things also change from day to day. But hands down the item that I have loved for several years now, and it continues to be a favorite, is our antique Belgian China Hutch.



The hutch itself was purchased while we lived in Germany. It is part of a set that includes a sideboard and a gorgeous table and 6 chairs. I searched for three years in numerous flea markets, bazaars and antique shops before coming home one Saturday and announcing to Mr. Decor, "The search is over, I have found the object of our desire." (Don't you love the "our desire" part?) His heartwarming response was "How much?" I then said, "Well, you know how I have been looking for 3 YEARS, and we are soon set to move back to the U.S. where I just know we would pay three times what they are asking." His reply, "How much?" To which I said, "May I add that you will not have to buy me a birthday, anniversary, Valentine, Mother's Day or get out of the doghouse gift for five years." Being the smart man that he is, Mr. Decor picked up his wallet and keys and came home loving the set as much as I did.

The items filling the hutch are favorites too. I collected each piece of English transferware one by one. Transferware is available in blue (which is the most popular) green, brown, red (also known as pink) and a combination of the colors.
While all of my pieces are red and white, most pieces feature a different scene as they are from many different companies. I generally paid no more than 5 euro (Around $4.50 at the time) for each piece. Some of the most rare pieces are the children's china (pictured).
The hutch also contains my husbands red glass hurricane candle lamps that belonged to his great aunt and my maternal grandparents wedding crystal. I accented a few of the shelves with vintage and antique handkerchiefs that have amazing lace and embroidery.
What is your favorite thing?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Let's go shopping...

I am off doing a bit of research for a few upcoming historical decor posts that you all seem to like so well. In the meantime, I have left a post of a few of my favorite websites for you to peruse.

First up is Bell'occhio. I have been to this wonderful shoppe that is located in the heart of one of my favorite cities, San Francisco. They carry a wide range of things such as these Happy Hampers.



I love this teacup. I see endless gift ideas spilling out of it.




In the "Papeterie" section they carry yummy ribbon, among other things.



Hop on over and click on "Maison" where these cute birds can be found.


Love the pearl earrings in the Beaute' section. Love~ love~ love! Very Mary Antoinette. While you are there, smile at the "Mouche Packets".



Next is the "Look all you want, but don't touch per Mr. Decor" site that is Origines. They are located in France and carry wonderful architectural antiques.

I adore this piece.


Mmmm so many wonderful possibilities. The photo reminds me a bit of the Winchester Mystery House: staircases that lead to nowhere.




Mantles, cornices, and andirons, oh my!




Can I also have the home that went with this?





My cousin sent me a link to a site called "Old Plank". It features an assortment of antique and reproduction pieces.

I'd like to have this on my bed.



This would fit right in with my collection of antique wire baskets.




I would FIND a place for this, I promise.





They also appeal to the wee small child in me.



Sigh.



Another favorite site is: French Blue & Co. Go and ring the doorbell.


For the fashionista's:
This portion of the program I have entitled "Skirts for the Hip". Living in Phoenix it is hot in the summer. Yes, that is a bit of an understatement. I find that I like wearing skirts. They keep me cool and yet still look professional. I come from the small waist/curvy hip gene pool. It's often a struggle to find something that fits without alteration.
Enter "Made with Love by Hannah" to my rescue.
I knew I was going to love her because some of her best friends are gnomes.

She sews and silkscreens lovely confections such as these:

I ordered the blue tree top skirt complete with bird brooch and the limited edition "parfait skirt" seen below. When I first wore it my daughter said, "Mom, I don't know whether I should sing "Lollypop Guild" or ask you to play Candyland."
I also have my eye on the red mushroom necklace. It reminds me of when I lived in Germany. There, the mushroom, as well as the ladybug, is a symbol of good luck.



The lovely Hannah also has a blog, Knick Knacks and Ric Rac. She truly is "Queen of the Oh So Cute Knick Knacks". On the blog you can learn to make these:

She also shows you her home and "office" where the magic happens.



Happy Shopping!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Curbside creativity inspired by spray paint

Once a month we have bulk curbside pickup in our neighborhood. I'll admit that I stalk other peoples piles of trash. If I see something I like I usually knock on the door and ask if it is ok if I take it. I have never had anyone tell me "No". The up side is that my neighbors will now often ask, "Do you want this?" before they toss it. This is probably because they don't want to hear me talk about the benefits of Freecycle again . Hey, it's not easy being green.



Here is the loot from a recent dumpster dive, two camp chairs from the 1950's. Ah, they don't make 'em like this anymore. Mr. Decor and I love to entertain and we never have enough outdoor seating.
So, a bit of spray paint ( a favorite tool of mine) and some leftover fabric from my daughter's curtains and voila!




My daughter adores this Ung Drill frame from Ikea. For months I heard about how much she loved its shape and would ask if I could think of any way that she could use it in her decor.
Given that her bedroom is very modern in style I began looking at her bathroom. It features a double sink that is topped by one very large mirror that I am not very fond of. OK, I'll be honest, I hate it. In general I like to see more a decorative mirror over a bathroom sink. But even a decorator can't have everything. As moving is in our future, Mr. Decor would like to stay away from unnecessary expenditures.


I decided that I would take the backing off and just use the frame itself over each sink. Of course a brand new perfectly good mirror in black wasn't working for me, so I picked up a can of jade spray paint.


As I wanted an aged patina, I added a bit of stain once the paint was fully dry.



The interior of the frame was visible in the mirror so I covered it by adding some braided trim that I found at Hobby Lobby. It was originally white.



Nothing that a wee steeping in a bit of strong coffee can't change. As we don't drink coffee ourselves, this is 2 heaping spoonfuls of instant in one cup of boiling water. The trim sat for about 15 minutes and was line dried and then hot glued onto the mirror.


I recently purchased these two pictures online. The seller had excellent photography skills that masked that the frames were very beat up.





So, I taped off the front pictures, grabbed a can of aqua paint and went to town. I think it's an improvement.




The close up shows that I distressed the frame with a bit of sandpaper. Now the dilemma is to sell or not to sell. (smile)



Here is my next victim... err project. It will soon be prairie green.



The cabinet was fairly dirty and dirt is your enemy when spray painting. Make sure your surfaces are clean and you'll also want to use a bit of sandpaper to smooth out any rough spots.

Ventilation and patience is the key. I use a huge tarp and either my (opened) garage or the back patio.

For those of you that live in humid areas, wait until the fall. Your paint will NEVER dry. Because it is so hot right now where I live, I get up at sunrise (5am or so) and am able to get one to two coats on before it gets to hot and the paint won't set.

The key is several light coats for a smooth, even finish. Given my temperature restraints the piece above will take about 3 days to be fully finished.

That's where the patience comes in.