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Front door - wyevalleyholidaycottages.co.uk

I was wiping the spider web off the front door again today, when I thought about how much that first impression counts. I’m not talking about grand gestures of statues and manicured lawns, but those few minutes when you’re standing, waiting for the door to open. The moments where you notice the cobweb, and the pink geranium that needs some water.

Those are the parts of a home that I find most interesting. The tiniest of details that go unnoticed, but are seen by people every single day. No-one knows that I wipe off the spider web every morning, and that my geranium doesn’t like a lot of water, all they see is what is there.

Don’t worry, I am going somewhere with this. I promise. What I mean is, that taking a few minutes to stand at your front door may be a good idea now and again. It says a lot about who we are, and even in the worst of times, it should feel cared for.

Like I said, it isn’t about fancy, or even decorating, but it is a little about making an effort. Even if your paint is chipped (me), and the walkway has seen better days (also me), you can still put a cheery plant on the step, or a welcome sign out front.

This time of year, I always think the front door needs a little extra help; the flowers are on their last legs, and with daylight fading early, nothing seems to look as bright as it did last month. Sometimes, I start to panic a bit, worrying more about the upcoming snow than what is happening right in front of me.
When this happens, I take an hour or so to hurry around and keep up appearances. I’ll prune the plants, wipe off the cobweb (again), grab a pile of empty terracotta flower pots (one of my favorite things in the entire world) and hang an old chandelier or birdcage from my trusty cup hook.

It doesn’t take much, and it won’t win any design competitions, but it will look cared for, and my friends will always feel welcome…

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

Photograph from: www.wyevalleyholidaycottages.co.uk.

Master-bedroom-fireplace-detail-LR

If you ask any decorator what they find difficult to work around, most of them will say it is the television (and La-Z-Boy recliners, but that’s another story).

For many homes, it is the focal point of the family room; we watch it often, so it is placed in the spot where we can all see it. Unfortunately, they are also more than twice the size that they used to be, so they can’t be squished into a corner, or moved around on wheels when company comes over (did we ever do that, or did I just make that up?).

Anyway, a while ago, new home contractors got creative and came up with the idea of putting televisions above the fireplace. A hole was cut out, and wires left dangling for installation. It made sense from their perspective; the room now had a clear focal point, it saved space, and the flat screens were supposed to mimic the look of art. I don’t know what the repercussions are from having your television above a roaring fire, but I do know that many of them were too high up to be watched in comfort. Good for chiropractors, but not fun when you want to lie on the floor and watch cartoons on a Saturday morning.

That trend is now leaving, and people don’t want to see a television above the fireplace. So, we’re back to hiding them. The concept is, that we cover the ugly television with something decorative when we’re not watching it. But, we end up drawing more attention to it, which kind of defeats the purpose…..Whether it’s a piece of art, a map, or a small barn door levitating above the mantel, it looks awkward. We know your television is hiding behind there, and now you have just added more stuff, and some weird railings either side of it all.

I am also not sure of the practicality of it all. I wonder if it deter’s people from watching? Especially children; if they can’t open the decorative thingamajig will they be forced to kick their SpongeBob habit (which doesn’t seem quite fair when their life revolves around playtime, what’s for lunch, and the adventures of a happy, yellow sponge). And, will the taller people entertain themselves by opening and closing the contraption just because they can? I know I would (just a few times, at least until the novelty wore off). What if one side doesn’t slide back as far as the other, what if it doesn’t quite stop at the end, falls off, or goes crooked in the middle? What if it hits the television, or it gets stuck halfway? What if someone falls into the fire, or accidentally trips while reaching for it?
That’s a lot of questions before you can enjoy a cartoon….

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

Photograph from: www.centsationalgirl.com

 

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

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