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A Change of Plans

dandelion dreamanityOver ten years ago we had a sun-room added to the back of our house. I was lucky enough to be able to design it, and it instantly became my most favorite room. Whether it was pouring with rain, covered in snow, or just too hot to think, I could sit in that room and the world instantly became a better place. With windows all around and skylights up above, it was a small piece of paradise leading from my back door.

Then, one day, the air hockey table arrived, and my dream was gone. No matter how much I decorated around it, I could still see it; it ruined my view, and the flowered tablecloth looked so uncomfortable with the intrusion of the noisy, plastic, over-sized toy. I briefly considered moving it into the dining room, but in reality the logistics of eating at an air hockey table were a bit odd, so I wondered if I could put a plant on it, or disguise it with some books and a blanket.

After a while I gave up, and accepted the room with the new addition, but I didn’t like it, and what had seemed cozy and eclectic, now seemed cluttered and dismal. I liked to play air hockey, but curling up with a book was never quite the same when I had to stare at the sea of plastic, and check for flying discs before I walked in the room.

So, I did the crazy thing that some of us do; I moved everything around and around, like a ridiculous Rubik’s cube that I couldn’t solve, refusing to accept the 4 foot by 8 foot toy that took up half of the room. I was reluctant to take anything out, because it was my room, and I knew from the beginning how I had wanted it to look.

But whatever I did didn’t make it look better, so I gave the room over to the cat and the dog. I gave up because I was annoyed, stuck in denial, and letting go of my idyllic room was still not on my agenda. Now and again I would walk in, frown, and leave, until this past week.

During the Winter I had decided to store the wood for the stove in the entrance of the sun-room. (A well learned lesson from the previous year, when we got wood delivered, threw a tarpaulin over it, and promptly had a snow and ice storm. The next day we lost power, so you would have seen us standing on the ice, chipping away with shovels until one of us (me) fell through the wood pile and gashed her leg open). Anyway, bringing the wood inside before the snow meant that we always had wood for the fire, and no-one got damaged in the process.

So, last week I was stacking the leftover wood into neat piles, frowning at the sun-room, when I finally realized that it was just too crowded, and the air hockey table wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. I needed to let go of my old ideas, and I knew I could make it just as nice if I tweaked it a bit.

As soon as I took out a few pieces of furniture it all started to make sense; I had been so stuck in my own head that I couldn’t see the reality through the fog and clutter of my own thoughts. It’s funny, because it was so easy to change, and took no time at all, but I had become so emotionally invested in that room that I felt like I had been told to give up something important. My stubbornness had actually stopped me from adjusting and enjoying the room.

Now, I am happy to spend time in my sun-room, and while it is different than before, the differences have merged, and it has become a usable, lovable space again.

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

Photograph from: Dreamanity

decorating style
Sometimes, we don’t know what we like until we like it, but, if we don’t know what we like, then how do we know what we like?

We are all indecisive (and decisive) in different areas of our life. It’s a strength that I have with decorating, but am woefully lacking in almost every other department. Ask me what I want to eat at a diner, and I will always choose one of three things; the choice is overwhelming, and asking me to decide from more than two hundred items on a menu will have me quickly ordering the grilled cheese before you have even turned the page.

Finding our decorating style is a bit like reading the diner menu; we can’t decide, then, when we finally do, we wish we had what the other person was having. But, if we had just ordered what we wanted instinctively, without too much thought, we might really like our choice, and we probably wouldn’t be drooling over the other person’s spanakopita (well, we might, but I am sure if we asked nicely they would share a piece with us).

So, if you’re not sure what your decorating style is (and, like me, diner menu’s make you close your eyes and order the grilled cheese) here is a great little quiz from Houzz that might just help. Unfortunately, you do have to make a few decisions here as well, but I promise you, it isn’t hard at all, and no-one is holding a pen and a notepad over your head waiting for you to finish.

Honestly, I was going to make up my own quiz, but I found this, and it seemed pretty fun and accurate when I took it (it labeled my style as Eclectic), so I thought you might enjoy taking it too.

Just click on the picture at the top, and it will take you right there.

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

cabinet of curiositiesDid you know that most people will peek into your bathroom medicine cabinet? Apparently, in a survey by someone, more than 75% of people have opened up someone else’s cabinet just to see what is in there.

This has never occurred to me, until I was recently talking to someone and she started complaining about the messy state of a friend’s bathroom cabinet. As I listened to her, I was taken aback by what she had discovered in what seemed like just a few minutes. When she paused to take a breath, I asked her why she had opened it in the first place, and she replied, “I always look in them, don’t you?”

No, I don’t. Because really, I don’t want to know what’s in there, and, silly me, I always assumed it was private (it took me years before I would even look for a spare toilet roll in my best friend’s home). But, I have to admit, that shortly after our talk I did go through all of my cabinets and drawers; unbeknownst to her, she had single-handedly shattered my naive view of snooping, and I will probably never invite her over for a cup of tea on a Sunday afternoon.

People are curious, and whether it is a casual party, or a formal Open House, you should be prepared for unwelcome eyes. I could suggest a trip wire, or a small alarm attached to your medicine cabinet, but that might be a little extreme (and embarrassing for everyone concerned – but funny. A bit like that additive that is supposed to turn blue when you go to the toilet in someone’s pool. We’re not sure if it really exists, but who wants to take the chance?)

Anyway, it’s impossible to hide everything, but a few containers, and a little bit of organization, will probably make you feel better and distract the people who can’t resist; wouldn’t you rather have them marvel at your neatness than share all of your ailments over the next cup of morning coffee?
So, if you want to divert the curious, here are some quick ways to tidy up your medicine cabinet, and keep the gossip at bay…

  • Consider using your medicine cabinet only for things that you need every day.
  • Adjust the shelf heights (if possible) for more space and flexibility.
  • Clean it out. Toss any duplicates or expired items, and take out things that are too big, too personal, or rarely used.
  • Store prescription bottles in a closed container that can be easily lifted in and out.
  • Put generic items in small containers, drinking glasses, tea-cups, decorative tins or jars. This keeps everything neat, more visible, and will save you so much time and space. If you are worried about things breaking, buy acrylic containers.
  • Separate items according to whom they belong to.
  • Keep similar things together (e.g. toothpaste, toothbrush and floss).
  • If you want, you could even line the shelves with decorative paper.
  • Add a picture, decal, chalkboard, or a funny cartoon to the inside of the door.

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

Lovely photograph of real cabinet of curiosities is from Homelife Insideout.

5 Spring Things

I never thought I would be so happy to see a dandelion!

dandelion

It is so nice to be able to run outside with no shoes on, and grab the mail without getting frostbite and sprinkling ice melt ahead of me. The sunshine is a welcome change, and despite what we might be thinking in the darkness of February, Spring does always manage to find its way back to us.

People are happier, they are shopping, and they are decorating; we are all so grateful to grab onto the feeling of warm, blue skies and fresh, green grass.

Someone asked me the other day what the trends are for the season.
It’s a question I get asked a lot, and my answer is to often look to the runway; design seems to follow fashion, and in Spring I think the biggest trend anywhere always ends up being a celebration of life.
I don’t mean in the deeply spiritual way, I mean literally.

After six months of Winter we become nostalgic for what we haven’t had;
we want to be less restricted in our clothes, we want softness and color around us, lots of warmth, and we want to be surrounded by things that
feel more alive and organic.

So if you can’t find a dandelion, and you need a little bit of design inspiration,
here are five of my favorite Spring trends.

outdoor-morrocan

MOROCCAN BLUE

Bohemian fabrics, a relaxed style, and the color blue are here to stay.
Not too precious, the slightly worn colors are still saturated enough to be our favorites, but comfortable enough for every day.
If you’re not quite ready for a pile of floor pillows on your Living Room floor, why not update your patio or deck with a more temporary take on this gorgeous global inspiration.

flowers - roses

A FLORAL MOMENT

Flowers are dominating the fashion and design houses this year.
If you don’t want a sofa covered in daffodils, or a brightly colored floral dress, buy (or pick) yourself a bunch of roses.
A very formal flower, they look their best when they don’t look like they are trying too hard; snip them down to a smaller size and pop them into a jar (skip the baby’s breath).

steampunk

METAL AND STEAMPUNK

Influenced by the vintage military and automaton trend, steam-punk has gone mainstream; what once used to be on the fringe of the design world is now the perfect way to add a small amount of quirk to your home, without committing to a certain industrial style.
I think that every home should have some elements of metal in it, so I am happy that our options are endless and pieces of metal can easily be mixed and matched into any room.

nigella-lawson-library-1

LOTS OF SHELVES

Maybe it’s baby boom nostalgia, but shelves are back in style.
Whether it’s for storing your collection of books, or a place to keep your favorite coffee cup, we now want to see what we have.
Of course they are great for organizing, but they are also the simplest way to add personality to your home; why not share your randomly found objects, remember your treasured vacation souvenir, and use your now defunct wedding china.
Enjoy what you have, and if dusting all those open spaces is a worry,
then don’t dust.

cotton

NATURE

The opposite of so many things,
a pile of something natural is often the best trend of all.
When I first saw cotton growing in a field, I had to stop the car.
It was breathtaking to see acres of pods bursting with pure, soft white balls of fluff. To this day, it is still one of my favorite things in the whole world, and I have a small bundle of it in a glass bowl in my Living Room.
Whether it is pine cones, twigs, cotton, rocks, or a fallen, abandoned bird’s nest, adding something raw and organic will always be beautiful,
and never go out of style.

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

Photographs borrowed from: M.inmagine (Dandelion)  Houzz (Moroccan) White Flower Farm (Roses) Restoration Hardware (Steampunk), Bookmania (Bookshelves) and Vertboitex (Cotton).

Find the Funny

stairs with miceYesterday afternoon found me balancing precariously on a stool, skirt tucked into my undies (my outfit of choice when I have to immediately repair, paint or make a mess in my house) trying to spackle some holes in the ceiling; bits of old plaster were falling into my eyes, the new spackle plopped onto my hair, and the neighbor drove by and waved at me through the front window. The cat had just stuck his paw into the spackle (which was very nicely pink), and the dog had decided it was time to lick the plaster dust off my toes.

It was at this moment that I rolled my eyes, looked over, and saw the fork in my geranium. It made me smile to see the gorgeous salmon pink geranium with its vintage fork sitting in the dirt. I had curled the silver tines with a pair of pliers, and intended it to hold up the geranium, but instead it had just become a decoration that I move from plant to plant. Last month it was sitting in the rosemary, and today it was sharing space with the geranium (looking far more clean and organized than I was).

Whether it is a fork in a plant, or a book that makes us laugh out loud, we should always make room for less serious things amidst the decorated pillows and the careful placed sofa’s. I love placing (and discovering) unexpected things in a home that makes us smile; it doesn’t have to be a rubber chicken hidden in a cupboard, but we should always design some laughter into our house.

I have a book called Zombies have Issues that sits next to my favorite inspirational books; I did it on purpose, just because the title (and the entire book) makes me laugh. Whenever I reach for inspiration, I can guarantee you that I will always pick up the zombie book first.

It doesn’t have to make sense, but adding a touch of humor to your home is always a good thing.

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

Photograph of mice on stairs from Homeedit

Yesterday, class was all about color (pattern and texture)! Students learn how to read (see) select, and coordinate. And that’s the key to color. So how do you read color? By learning about how colors are mixed, whether that means with another color or adding an analogous hue like black, brown, or white. By combining these together, colors now have what’s know as an undertone. If you can identify what the undertones are, you’ll be able to put an array of color combinations together with ease. One of the ways the students learn how to do this is by using a color wheel. The color wheel is a valuable tool that allows you to see how colors can be used together and what combinations will give you the look you want.

Do you see those arrows? That’s a guide (cheat sheet) to be able to create endless color palettes. However, it does have its limitations, so it’s just one of the tools we use to uncover how to coordinate.

The photos above is from Thrifty Décor Chick. She’s chosen to paint the cabinet blue, but surrounded the cabinet with shades of green and violet. This is a color scheme used to enliven a space (clearly), but do you know what it’s called?

Answer correctly and you will receive a special color analysis. I will choose a person randomly from the correct replies. Good luck!

(Contest ends Friday and I’ll announce the winner on Monday. http://beautifullivingstyle.blogspot.com/2015/04/its-all-about-color-its-class-week.html)

Notes on a Shelf

kitchen - open shelving1When I moved into my house, I knew immediately that I wanted open shelves on either side of the kitchen sink. Instead, I had lovely (new) oak cabinets.

Not wanting to be ungrateful, I accepted the cabinets for years, because that seemed like the right thing to do; they were good quality, and they showed absolutely no sign of growing old. But, I never stopped wanting shelves; my kitchen is very small, so I knew that shelves would make it look larger, and I wanted to add some character to the well-used, but slightly neglected space.
At the mere mention of open shelves, the first word I get from anyone is a very adamant no. It is the sudden fear of having to be neat and tidy. It’s true; it does mean that our dishes have to be stacked, and cups need to be sitting on something, but don’t we do that anyway? Most people don’t shove their plates into a cupboard, slam the door, and hope that nothing falls out when they open it again. I really don’t think we are all as messy as we think.

The next protest comes from the worry that our dishes might not be pretty enough, or as luxurious as the ones we see in the magazines. I don’t agree with this at all, because even if we live on paper plates and little packets of stolen ketchup, they can still be stacked neatly or put in a decorative container.

Lastly, the other open shelf worry is that things will get dusty, which leads to more cleaning. The funny thing is, when we have things out, we tend to use them more, which means they have to be cleaned. And, if we don’t use them, they will probably get dusty and dirty anyway, so either way they will have to be cleaned at some point.

I am embarrassed to say that this assorted jumble of thoughts sat in my own head for nearly ten years, until one afternoon when I really hated my kitchen, and decided it was time to stop worrying about the oak cabinets. Last I checked, they didn’t worry at all about me, and I knew I had been taking good care of them for a very long time.
Ripping them out was my first instinct, but as that was more than I was willing to tackle, I settled for taking the doors off and pretending to myself that I had just discovered shelves. Within minutes the doors were off, and it turns out that I was never that messy after all. An hour later I was organized, and my kitchen looked twice the size, and so much more interesting than it had before I had eaten my lunch (and, the dishes that I have aren’t fancy or remotely coordinated).

The next day I spackled the holes, and decided to paint the cabinet frames cream. Why this all took so long is beyond me, but my (new) pretend shelves were definitely worth the wait.

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

Sadly, the beautiful photograph at the top is not of my kitchen – it is from www.bhg.com via Pinterest.
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