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If there is one piece of furniture that I’d say almost every room in the house could benefit from is a table—more specifically, a bureau. Bureau is a term used in the Northeast (New England especially) for a chest of drawers or a commode (The French equivalent) like this one located in artist, Sally King-Benedict’s home. Read her full story here.

Let me take you room by room…

The Kitchen – Opt for banks of drawers versus cabinets when you can. Drawers allow you to see things and get at them more easily than digging around in a dark cabinet. I use the large drawers in my kitchen for cutlery, gadgets, linens, and storage for bags and other various containers and wraps. If you don’t already have this feature, use a free-standing piece instead. Place it along a wall, or consider reconfiguring it into an island. Add casters (wheels) or replace legs altogether to make it taller. Place a pre-cut piece of granite or butcher block on top. (Paint the back with chalkboard paint.)

The Living Room – It’s the perfect TV or stereo stand. Fill the drawers with DVDs and CDs. Use it as a bar for entertaining and have all of your entertaining supplies on hand…napkins, dishes, candles, coasters…the list is endless. Use it to store games and blankets, then decorate the top with collectibles and art like you see above. You can also use it to store magazines and books you’d like to keep but don’t necessarily want on display. 

The Bathroom – If it fits, it can stand in for a linen closet and house towels, sheets, and beauty supplies—even toilet paper.

The Bedroom – Of course you can use it for clothes, but what about extra linens, pillows, a guest room basket filled with essentials, lingerie, and more beauty supplies. The master bedroom is usually a dumping ground for all those extra things you just can’t seem to store anywhere else. Consider using a chest of drawers to hold miscellaneous items like photo albums, baby books, keepsakes like your child’s works of art, letters and concert programs.

The Office – Home offices don’t need to look like one, use real furniture instead. I keep mail, printer paper, reference materials, and all of my student supplies like paint decks and manuals in a chest of drawers near my desk. On top sits a Grandmother clock, a topiary, and a decorative cache pot. Now my office looks like any other room in my home.

I’m all about function. If a piece of furniture doesn’t serve a real purpose, there’s no need to clutter the room. Think about how each room needs to function, then decide what pieces are going to provide storage—a necessity in every room of the house.

This is why the bureau is my favorite piece of furniture.

Find more inspiration at Domino.

Photo: Domino Magazine

The End of the Bed

sofa at end of bedDo you sit down quietly to get dressed, or do you rush around the room, trying to wiggle into whatever looks clean, before you pound down the stairs to grab a coffee and head out the door?

I think, that furniture at the end of the bed creates an illusion for many of us. It lets us imagine slow mornings of deciding what to wear, while anticipating a happy end to the day, with neatly folded pajamas and a closing of some very grand curtains.
We often put a comfy chair in our bedroom for the same reason; it makes us think of curling up with a book, and long, cozy nights by a warm fire. Whether or not we sit in it is irrelevant, it’s the knowing we always can that makes it so welcome in our small corner of the world.

A vintage wooden trunk, while great for extra storage, is really beloved because of the connection to the past that it gives us; who doesn’t want to be reminded of travelling to exotic places, looking for secret treasure, and planning all sorts of childhood adventures before your mom calls you in for dinner?

It might seem frivolous, but some things should be there just because of the way they make us feel. So what, if our mornings are littered with early phone calls, yelling across the hall, and kicking our toe on the sofa at the end of the bed, we should always make room for things that cheer up our day, and give us sweet dreams at night …..

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/
p.s. Photograph borrowed from Liz Marie Blog

The Teenage Bedroom

vw-bus-camp-bed-indoors

One of my favorite rooms to redo, is one for a teen. I love finding out what they want, and what is really important to them.

Their initial response is often “I don’t know”, which is quickly followed by a flurry of ideas from the parent, and a lot of arm nudging and eye rolling from the teen. After a few moments, it all slows down, and the talking becomes easier. A few questions gets them interested, and they realize that this could almost be fun (and, let’s face it, they would rather talk to me than the person who is constantly telling them to brush their teeth and find their pet python).

Teens are all different, yet they are all the same; I won’t go on about what they need, and how misunderstood they feel, but I can tell you that their room usually means more to them than they realize. No, it should not become a health and safety hazard, and wearing underwear is always non-negotiable (how clean it is, is their issue) but, after that, it should be a room that is somewhat practical, and comfortable enough for them to want to spend time in.

So, when it no longer serves its purpose, and you are both at your wit’s end, here are a few thoughts that might help you navigate through the teenage bedroom….

  • Have a conversation when you are both in a good mood (and you have enough time to talk).
  • Be nice, and try not to roll your eyes.
  • Ask them what they don’t want in their room, and offer to remove it (donate, sell or store somewhere else) as soon as possible. Decide on a day to do it, and write it on your calendar.
  • Check out the basics that they already have, and talk about anything else that you both think they may need (or want). eg. a desk, a bigger bed, floor seating, space to hang things on the wall, a reading area, more or less storage, better lighting, a docking station etc.
  • Encourage them to be creative, and shop your house before you hit the stores (eg. a table can double as a desk, and a newly painted dresser or filing cabinet, can easily store books, tech gadgets and homework).
  • When buying new things, have a budget in mind before you begin. Let them go shopping with you, or, at the very least, go on-line and give them some options to choose from before you head out.
  • Be as open and lenient as you can be, and follow through with what you promise.
  • If you have to say no to something, try to offer a compromise (or, tell them the honest reason why you are saying no).

And, if it doesn’t go according to plan, take a deep breath, wade through the debris, ignore the python, quietly close the door …. and still love them.

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

p.s. The VW Camper in the photograph is from the VW Camper Blog (of course!).

Finding Your Style

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We sometimes wonder if we don’t have any, or where we can get it, but really, your style is who you are. It’s that person sitting in front of the computer, the assortment of things on your kitchen table, and all those weird thoughts bouncing around in your head.

After watching far too many decorating shows, we are told that we should fall into one of four or five design style categories; we want to identify who we are, quickly attach a label to it, and claim it as our own. But, narrowing down a style from a choice of four is about as easy as choosing a shade of white paint for your wall. (I truly believe that there are more shades of white in the color-sphere, than there are blades of grass in my garden).

Despite what they tell us, it isn’t that easy, but, it is a lot more fun than you might think…

There is a show on television where the designer asks a series of questions, then comes up with a personal name for the style of the homeowners. Honestly, she has great ideas, but the wacky names alone make it worth watching; it is always something weird and interesting, like Urban Industrial Pancake, or Bohemian Rustic Amphibian (which means that you are a little bit of a hippie, who likes being outside, and your favorite color is green).

As funny as it is, she is giving them parameter’s to work with, so that instead of floundering in a sea of generic adjectives, they now know that their style is, Urban Industrial Pancake (which means that they like things to be graphic and bold, with a few squidgy, flat surfaces).

Maybe we should all take this approach, and instead of having to choose between Traditional, Classic, and whatever else is thrown out there, we can make up our own label. No two people are alike, which means that our decorating style will always be a little different. Why don’t we just string a description together for ourselves, instead of having to decide on just one? I think we should all have at least three words for our style. I think mine, at this moment, would be Eclectic Organized Purple Teacake. What’s yours?

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

p.s. The photograph above is from B&B Italia, and could be called Modern Castle Chic.

p.p.s. The television show is called  Secrets from a Stylist with Emily Henderson. I think she is very talented, and I adore her style, but Urban Industrial Pancake and Bohemian Rustic Amphibian are made up, and were never actually featured on her show.

Unexpected Storage

shoe cabinetIf I had lovely feet, I would display my even more lovely shoes in a glass cabinet! Actually, even with my average feet, I would be very happy to display my average shoes in this gorgeous vintage cabinet.

To me, it is far more sensible to store them this way than cramming my size 11’s into those hanging shoe pockets, or balancing my coveted Doc Martin’s onto a wobbly wire shelf that is only a few inches deep. And, it is so unexpected, that it would always be a joy to put them away. It would be my own version of art; not quite Alexander McQueen status, but easy art in a tiny house.

Shoe pockets are absolutely great for everything – except shoes. I used them for toys when my daughter was younger, for craft supplies later on, and now, for jewelry, things that smell good, and accessories. Somehow, they never quite worked out for my shoes.

When I need extra storage, I always start with what I need, before going to the store. I wonder about whether or not I want to show the world what I have, or tidy it away somewhere. Do I need it to be perfectly organized, or can I settle for good enough?

Then, I shop my house to find out what I am bored with, and what do I want to see more of. It’s like a game to me; last year, my fancy china (never used, and didn’t really like) got stored away, and replaced with my crazy doesn’t-match-in-any-way dishes. At first glance, it may not be as pretty, but it is definitely more practical. And, more importantly, pulling open a keyed glass door, to get a 25 cent flea market plate, makes me smile every single time.

Using (and enjoying) what we have should be a priority, so why not display your shoes in a glass cabinet, or keep your favorite perfume in a shoe pocket?

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

Photograph borrowed from I Love Design UK

Plain and Fancy

cottage3

When I was little, all the cookies and cakes were divided into two categories – plain and fancy. The plain were for the everyday kind of eating, and the fancy (usually with chocolate, or a vanilla cream inside) were just for special occasions (when we had guests over, or it was someone’s birthday). Packets at the supermarket were often labeled “Plain and Fancy”, just in case our parents couldn’t make up their mind.
Now that I am older, I find that I am a mixture of plain and fancy. I love to dress up, but I am also a homebody, who wants to lie on the floor and watch old movies in my favorite t-shirt.

Homes are a bit like that as well; we have to have the plain, in order to function, but we need a bit of fancy, just for fun. To have one or the other gets a little mundane, so pairing the two is as comforting as having a cup of tea and a warm slice of cake.
With that in mind, here are some more of my favorite plain and fancy combinations:

  • Leather furniture sitting next to an over-sized, slightly worn, vintage rug.
  • Fresh herbs and flowers floating in a pitcher of store bought iced tea. (Looks ridiculously fancy, and a lot of effort, but it isn’t).
  • A simple, bold lampshade almost overwhelming a formal dining room table.
  • Garden’s decorated with old mirrors, windows and chandeliers.
  • Using the best china and silver for every meal (especially takeout).
  • Filling a modern kitchen with a big, squishy sofa.
  • Sleeping outside; pretending you are camping, when really you are in a beautiful, breezy, outdoor bed (without the creepy crawlies).

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

p.s. The photograph is of a small Summer cottage in the Catskills, originally featured in the NY Times

The Joy of Moving!

I know lots of people who are moving house at the moment. Whether they are moving for work, or changing towns to be nearer to family, it can be overwhelming trying to remember everything.
With the amount of stuff in my home, I know, that if it was me, I would probably fall into either denial (or panic) mode. Neither of which is good, but, I do have a few ideas that would also make it a whole lot easier on myself:
  • Look at it as the perfect opportunity to get rid of as much as I can. If I don’t love it, or have to live with it, I will donate, sell or throw it away.
  • Have fun with my (slightly) obsessive tendencies, and write as much information as possible on those cardboard packing boxes. (It’s about priorities; I know I will be so grateful when I can find my favorite spoon for the mocha chocolate chip ice cream at 2am).
  • Make a list of what I have to do when I first move in (contact utility companies, buy ice cream etc) along with a list of any important phone numbers.
  • Charge all electronics the day before, just in case.
  • Check my calendar for the next week or two, and keep it nearby (it’s easy to be distracted, and forget to pay a bill or keep an appointment).
  • Be nice to the moving men, and ask for as much help as possible. Write down ahead of time where the big and heavy items need to go, and post it for everyone to see (in case I’m not there when they try to park my baby grand piano in the middle of the worlds tiniest kitchen).
  • Have a first and second day plan. Know where I will sleep, what I will eat (we know that already), where the shampoo and toothpaste is, and where my clothes are.
  • Embrace my inner teenager, and accept that I might be living in chaos for longer than I would like.
  • Play with the placement of my old furniture before I rush out and buy something new. (It will look different in a new house, and we both need time to adjust).
  • Try to have at least one room that feels almost “done” to me. A room where I can take a break, sit with my ice cream, and remember what I forgot to do….
Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/

p.s. The photograph of Audrey Hepburn is a publicity shot from the movie, Sabrina, taken in her home by Mark Shaw in 1953.

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