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crooked lamp andrew oliver

After a month with lots of weather (yes, that is what I have decided to call it now; not bad weather, a few Winter Storm’s, or the worst February ever, just lots and lots of weather) I found myself wandering through shops online, and trying to remember outfits that didn’t require a scarf and boots (usually my favorite thing to wear, but I think I am actually starting to scowl at them now when I see them waiting by my front door).

Internet shopping is so much easier than it used to be, and I am sure it is a favorite Winter activity for many of us, but in spite of its ease, large purchases for our home should probably still be approached with a small level of caution.

I wrote a while ago about redecorating my daughter’s room, and buying her a new bed, but what I didn’t mention was that the bed that she wanted (a low, black platform bed) had to be ordered online. It was a lesson that made me both appreciate, and fear, online shopping. I had never bought anything like that, sight unseen, but I feel fairly confident with a few tools, and the process seemed to be as simple as ordering a pizza with a few extra toppings.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t like ordering a pizza at all; a couple of weeks later it arrived in a box that was about 1 x 8 feet, and weighed almost 300 lbs. We had to pay extra to get them to bring it into the house (thank you very much), and an additional charge if we wanted it carried upstairs. Needless to say, the box sat in the Living Room for a week while I unpacked it and took the pieces up to her room a few at a time.

When I had got over my shock, I started to lay out the pieces according to numbers and letters. Of course, some of the numbers were missing, and I seemed to have 27 screws instead of 22, but I still knew that it wasn’t going to be that complicated. Daylight came and went, and I started to curse the reviews that said it was quick to assemble, and the instructions were easy to follow.

Umm, no, they weren’t. It took me almost two days, and a tube of extra strong wood glue, to get it to look like the picture. Maybe I didn’t need the glue, but by the end of the second day I wanted to take the entire thing and fling it out of the window, so the glue was definitely the way to go. The bed actually turned out great, but I would not recommend it to anyone with limited patience, limited time and a bad back.

In spite of my experience, I do still shop online, and I will recommend it, but I now have a check list before I click that final button.

  • I try to read as many customer reviews as I can.
  • Check measurements and shipping box sizes, to see if they will fit through my door, up the stairs, and around the corner.
  • Look at the shipping charges; especially if the item is particularly heavy, or a funny shape. If they are unclear, I call the company and ask.
  • What is the return policy? Is there a time limit, a fee, refund or exchange only?
  • Do they have a “Ship-to-Store” option? Would this be easier, or more difficult (it is usually free, but can also be more inconvenient as well).
  • If it is an upholstered or decorative accessory, can I see the colors and patterns clearly? Will they send me a sample before I order?
  • Will it be a lot of assembly? Do I have someone who will help me, and will I need special tools? Do they offer online assistance if I have a problem putting it together?
  • If it is a large item, ask what happens if I am not home to accept delivery. Do they leave it at the curb, or return it to the truck? Will there be an additional fee? (Sounds crazy, but I was honestly told that if we weren’t home, they didn’t need a signature and they would leave the 300lb box at the end of my driveway).
  • With case goods (chairs, tables etc.) I read the description, and make a decision based on my budget, what I really need, and how long I would like the item to last. (Try to find out if they use glue, veneer, paper-clips, hardwood, pine, bubble gum or screws to hold it together).
  • If I shop late at night, or the wee hours of the morning, I save the item in my shopping cart until daylight. Then, I check it all again, take a sip of coffee and click “Pay Now”….

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

Delightfully Crooked Lamp by Andrew Oliver

As I’ve said before….color is a language all its own. Anthropologie gets that, which is why you can find their colorful window displays all across the country. (Follow #AnthroWindows on Instagram to see what I mean.)

So let’s talk color. And since Valentine’s Day is just a couple of days away, let’s talk red…

Red is a very emotionally intense color. It enhances human metabolism, increases respiration rate, our appetites, and raises blood pressure. It has very high visibility, which is why stop signs, stoplights, and fire equipment are usually painted red. In heraldry, red is used to indicate courage.

Red gets you noticed, so consider using different shades when marketing yourself or your services. Red brings text and images to the foreground. Use it as an accent color to stimulate people to make quick decisions; it is a perfect color for ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Click Here’ buttons on Internet banners and websites. In advertising, red is often used to evoke erotic feelings (red lips, red nails…). This color is also commonly associated with energy, so you can use it when promoting energy drinks, games, cars, items related to sports and high physical activity.

There are many faces to the color red. It’s the color of fire and blood, so it is associated with war, danger, strength, power, determination, as well as passion and desire. Depending on its saturation in can represent joy, sexuality, passion, and sensitivity. Red signifies romance, love, and friendship. It denotes feminine qualities and passiveness. And it’s associated with vigor, willpower, rage, anger, leadership, courage, longing, malice, and wrath.

Bring some red into your life when you want: increased enthusiasm and interest; more energy, action and confidence; to go after your dreams; or protection from fears and anxieties.

You may also like: Meaningful Color, Coral Reef, and Ravishing Red. Go back to the home page (click on the BL logo above), then type in ‘color’ in the search box for more inspiration.

Home scrabble3

I read something the other day, and it became one of those Ah-ha moments; not exactly Oprah-worthy, but it definitely made me pause and wonder if it was really true. I decided that it was.

I can’t remember where I read it, but I think it might have been in my Dentist’s waiting room, so it was probably Good Housekeeping or something like that (so nice to be in a waiting room that had magazines for absolutely everyone – Popular Mechanics was sitting quite happily next to In Style and National Geographic. I liked that; he struck me as a very thoughtful Dentist).

So, what I read was that when we are decorating our homes, we should always try to have something from our past, present and future. Ideally, they should be where we can see them (a kind of effortless, subconscious nudge that appears when we least expect it).

I always knew that these were the necessary parts that made up the whole, but to hear it put so simply was a good reminder, and had more of an impact than I thought it would.  It actually makes so much sense. The theory being that we should be remembering, experiencing and dreaming all the time; that we can use our homes to help us fully participate and enjoy our lives, without becoming stagnant, or accidentally stuck in one spot.

I am not one for making up rules (especially when it comes to our homes) but I think I like this one the best.

Home scrabble from www.etsy.com

Don’t Declutter (yet)

piles of furniture from pinterest

He said that you should have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful. This was very sound advice from William Morris, a talented man and a wonderful poet; from what I have read, he could quote exquisite words of wisdom faster than I can swipe on cherry lip balm at a quick-changing traffic light.

I admire him, and others like him, who can speak meaningful words while subconsciously editing out the frilliness that some of us can’t resist; it is a skill that I will probably spend my entire life merely aspiring to achieve.

Editing our homes takes us back to that wonderful quote of his; it is one of the most popular sentences in the design world, because it is so simple and true.

Now is the time of year when we start to feel the conflict of motivation and hibernation. Stuck in the confines of icy paths and nose-freezing temperatures, I really want to follow Mr. Morris’ advice and declutter my cellar, but I don’t want to get frost-bite in the process. Then, if I actually do it, where do I put all my stuff after I have braved the frost-bite? Will I be able to fit it into the garage? Highly unlikely, considering I almost need a waving flag and an engineering degree to maneuver my car inside.

Just thinking about it is enough to make me put my pajamas back on.

So, for now I will be content to wait for warmer weather, but when I eventually do feel inclined, and my home starts to feel more blah than beautiful, I won’t go to the nearest self-help blog, I’ll decide on my exit strategy first. Sounds weird, but I need to know where things are going, before I start to sort through them; believe me, there is nothing worse than going to bed at the end of the day with an empty closet and a bedroom that looks like the final hour of a really bad garage sale. It does your head in, and it is a horrible thing to wake up to.

Decluttering can be an exhausting can of worms to open, so deciding (realistically) where your clutter is going before you start, is far more motivating than sorting random things into lots of neat little piles that have nowhere to go.
This is what I do before I do anything……

  • If I think I will be donating items, I choose a cause that I support and believe in. If I am really organized, I will call them ahead of time to see what their requirements are.
  • I buy heavy duty garbage bags almost before I even think about decluttering; this way, when I am ready to start throwing things away I can do it without hesitating.
  • If I am honestly not quite ready to get rid of some things, and I don’t want them cluttering up a certain room, I don’t feel guilty about it, but I do decide on new (hidden) spaces to store them until I am ready to get rid of them (cellar, attic, garage etc).

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

Photograph from Pinterest

Restoration Hardware dog

My cat’s litter box sits at the bottom of a pantry cupboard near my kitchen; it is the second biggest cupboard in my house, and it is prime cat real estate. My canned tomatoes and pasta have to squish on a small shelf in the other room, obsessively organized, all because my cat uses their cupboard. And, because the dog can’t resist eating his food, my cat now eats out of a handmade pottery bowl that blends into the living room, and sits on an old vintage dresser.

We all do strange things to make our pets feel at home, and designing around them, or in spite of them, is always interesting to see. For me, my vanity always wins, and I prefer to disguise their belongings, or hide them away; it doesn’t mean I love them any less, it just means that I don’t want to trip over a dog bed, or find myself waiting for the cat to finish sweeping up before I can take my turn in the bathroom.

So, with pampering in mind, here are some designs to make your pets life very comfortable….

PicMonkey Collage pets

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

Top Dog and his Fur Bed from http://www.restorationhardware.com/catalog/category/products.jsp?link=LuxeFauxFurPetBeds&categoryId=cat5090015
Fireplace Dog Bed from 
http://www.ethanolfireplacepros.com
Campbed Dog Bed, Egg Cat Bed and Wool Rock Cat Bed from
http://www.mybutteryfly.com/awesome-furniture-for-pet-functional-and-decorative-items
Retro Cat Litter Cabinet from 
https://www.etsy.com/listing/92348716
Kitchen Dog Bowl Cabinet from
https://www.pinterest.com/explore/dog-food-stations/
Blue Nightstand Dog Bed from
http://www.interiordesign2014.com/other-ideas/bedroom-rehab-nightstand-diys-that-will-leave-you-speechless/
Kitchen Dog Bed Cabinet from 
http://www.drivenbydecor.com/2012/07/stylish-built-in-dog-beds-and-kennels.html
Kitchen Cat Litter Cutout from
http://www.atticmag.com/2012/05/built-ins-for-pets-2/

Venice

I remember helping a friend to paint faux marble veins on her countertops with a feather. It was the days where decorating shows were obsessed with Venetian plaster, and we all wanted to create colorful Italian walls in our new 1990’s homes; when spackling on random texture was closely rivaled by the irresistible impulse to dab painted sea sponges onto the nearest empty wall. Honestly, we must have all been suffering from bad eyesight, because I think Venetian plaster should stay in Venice, and that sponge painting is far more fun in the bathtub.

Trends are like fashion; some create wonderful memories, and others are truly cringe-worthy, but they all seem like such a great idea at the time.

My least favorite trend is the bad pretend trend; when we want something in our home, and not only does it not suit us and our house, but we opt for the inexpensive version that really looks like the inexpensive version. If we’re going faux (I think I just like saying that) then it should look (and feel) close to what it is supposed to be, or, if it is a glaring imposter (and just begs to be prodded, poked or scraped with a curious fingernail) decorate with it discreetly, and place it in a spot where it doesn’t scream that it is pretending to be something that it isn’t.

I will be the first one to admit that I have linoleum tiles in my kitchen that look like they are slate, but they’re not. Do I love them? No, but the original was white, sprinkled with tiny pink and blue flowers that matched the white wallpaper that also had tiny pink and blue flowers. One of them had to go, and as much as I yearned for slate, or a gorgeous, aged brick, my tendency to drop things and my need for warm toes in the morning, made me choose the faux slate instead. Fortunately, my kitchen is the size of a large postage stamp, so if you are in it you are probably covering most of the floor anyway, and you wouldn’t notice what you were standing on.

One place where I couldn’t do the imitation thing was on my front porch. Again, it is a small space, and I was advised to get it made out of this great new composite material that looks like wood but lasts forever. As my house is basically built out of glue, hope and plywood, I was a little unsure about using such a modern product on it, but I was open-minded, and was happy to look at it when the contractor brought over the sample.

From a distance (ie. my neighbor’s living room) if you squinted, it looked exactly like wood, but up close it looked too new and plastic-like for my house. Being something that I would walk by every day, I knew it would bother me; I wanted the reassuring tap of wood, and to be able to screw in a cup hook for my hanging baskets wherever I wanted to. It was a very good imposter, but I could still tell the difference.
The contractor did a wonderful job, and the paint has held up for more years than I could have hoped, but it was truly a design choice to go with the real wood, not a practical one.

They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but I think, that when it comes to most things authenticity usually looks (and feels) better…

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

Photograph from: www.plentyofcolour.com

Polka dot artist Yayoi KusamaSomeone asked me the other day if I could just write design ideas, and not go into a long story. Oops. So, with inspiration from Yayoi Kasuma (the Polka Dot Queen) and a big cup of coffee, here are five of my favorites….

 

 

NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A RUG

Rugs give purpose to your furniture arrangement, and add warmth and character to a room.
By the way, it’s okay to have rugs in the kitchen, bathroom and foyer, even if they aren’t specifically made for that space.

 

ADD INTEREST WITHOUT COLOR

If your room seems boring, but you don’t want to add a painted “pop of color”, make it more interesting with something organic. A live plant, a bowl of rocks or pine cones, a bunch of flowers – even some twigs in a vase perks up a room without almost any effort at all.

                                     

HANG ART WITH A FRIEND
bert and ernie1
If you’re stuck on knowing exactly where to hang your art, recruit some help – let one person hold it up,
and the other step back to see how it will look. Take turns, until you’re both sure of where it should go; standing by yourself, with two crooked elbows and your nose glued to the wall, skews your perspective,
and isn’t nearly as much fun.

 

PLEASE COORDINATE INSTEAD OF MATCHING

Once you start matching your chairs to your curtains, and your pillows to your rug, you begin to fall down a designer rabbit hole; it will feel uncomfortable, things will start to blend together, and your home can feel dated very quickly.
Try to coordinate your styles and colors instead (which is actually easier).

 

 

SCUFF UP YOUR SHINY

Homes should look as if they have been collected over time, not as if you bought everything from the shop yesterday. Mix old treasures with new finds, and shiny hardware next to dull.
Don’t be afraid to change what you already have; scuff up a metal finish with a piece of fine sandpaper or kitchen scrubby, remove the jackets from all of your books, and dare to paint the inside back wall of your dated china cabinet.

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

Photographs from:
Yayoi Kasuma http://littleaesthete.com/yayoi-kusama-my-life-is-dot-lost-among-thousands-of-other-dots/
Bathroom –  http://www.popsugar.com/home/Midday-Muse-Bathroom-Rugs-1896372,
Living Room – Atlanta Home via http://www.nikiebarfield.com/
Bert and Ernie – http://www.kids-coloringpages.com/74/sesame-street/Coloringpages-Bert-And-Ernie.html
Buttons – https://www.pinterest.com/barbiedoll7/buttons-bows/ and http://www.katekessling.co.uk/blog.php

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