Posts Tagged ‘decorating’

A desk in the office, a dresser in the bedroom, and a hutch in the dining room. This is the way most of us live, and all of them are perfectly logical choices, but what if we decided to change it up a little?

Redesigning a home is so much more than moving furniture and displaying your favorite things. It’s about seeing what isn’t there, and imagining what could be. To believe that a piece of furniture has a single place and purpose is  limiting its use, and denying you and your home a whole lot of fun (and function).

When you take a piece of furniture out of its natural environment, not only does it continue to be useful, but it also appears more important, and the room that it is moved to becomes far more interesting. Take the photograph above for example; if that desk were in an office, it would look very pretty (but obvious). By placing it in the Living Room it continues to be a very practical piece, but it also brings an extra dose of personality to the corner.

To be fixated on what we “should” do, restricts what is possible. Why not:

– Have a desk by a window in your kitchen, a corner in your Living Room or on your sun porch during the Summer?

– Move a hutch or china cabinet into a large master bedroom or family room. Display your family treasures in it, fill it with books, or take out a shelf and tuck a small television inside.

– Use an end table, or vintage trunk, as a nightstand.

–  Put a dressing table by the front door. The mirror is perfect for last-minute-checks, and the drawers can store gloves and hats.

When you have time, take a few moments to think about your furniture – they are, after all, the ultimate working accessory.

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

Thanks to Janie Hirsch for the beautiful photograph (check out her portfolio, it is very inspiring).

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I recently went to New Zealand to visit my friends and family. While there, I couldn’t help but be inspired by the homes that I went into. Regardless of time or budget, everyone was always working on their home (or, at least dreaming about what they would like to do). I decided to write a sentence or two about each place that I visited. 

  • A lovely home that was changed, discreetly, to accommodate a wheel chair. A rose garden, immaculately tended by an 86 year old who cares for his loving wife.
  • Encased in sunlight and flowers, minimal but beautiful; this home makes me feel like a child again, taken care of and nurtured.
  • A window seat in just the perfect spot, a place for dreaming. Random swatches of paint have become optimistic pieces of art.
  • Years of memories are lovingly displayed in a grand, mahogany cabinet. Each piece is personal, and tells a story.
  • Welcoming, wide open spaces (and cupcakes) lead to a stream and a stone bridge. Built by hand.
  • An iron gate, flanked with tall, blue flowers leads to a family of chickens with funny feathers on their toes. The wooden porch is home to a very healthy, persistent passionfruit vine. Inside, the house is filled with comfort, laughter, kittens and dreams. Outside, the children climb fences and search for fresh eggs.
  • Close to the beach, and surrounded by trees, a home has speckled, soft (yes, really) concrete floors. I have to stop myself from lying down on them, and try to be content to just touch them with my bare feet….

Wendy Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/2012/01/your-home-your-story.html  Photograph of Hobbiton (from The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy, filmed in New Zealand)  borrowed from http://wandermelon.com/2011/10/24/silver-screen-sojourns/

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Even though it is the Holiday season, many people are still trying to sell their homes. Always a daunting process, I thought I would share some ideas, hopefully made easier from a more personal perspective.

Several years ago, I was faced with the possibility of selling my own home. During the process, I had to get several realtors in for assessments. One of them told me that it was a wonderful old house, and would appeal to a quirky owner (the thought of 10 cats and a cupboard filled with an infamous canned food, beloved by Monty Python, came to mind) and the other, was not shy in saying that my house was cozy (small) and shabby (without the chic).

What was good, is that it gave me the chance to see my home through the eyes of someone who saw it from a very different perspective. Some of it seemed quite harsh, but truly, they were giving me the reality of the housing market, and I learned a lot from talking to them:

The first thing I learned, was that selling a house is about filling the needs of as many people as possible, not about how much you love the crooked staircase and your quirky gargoyle collection. It is no longer about you, it is about a commodity.

The second thing I learned was to be realistic. eg.  A mansion, in a not-so-good neighborhood, no matter how much money you put into it, will probably never get you the return that you hope for. Likewise, a small home will always appeal more to couples or young families looking for a “starter” home.

Depersonalizing was the next thing. Not a bad word, it just means that you have to edit what you have, so that the house is the main event. Family photos and “stuff” are a distraction. At the very least, keep mementos corralled in one area, not spread all over the place.

Clean it up – the outside and the inside. Buyers are fickle; first impressions can prevent someone from even wanting to look inside (put garbage cans, broken Halloween decorations and green hosepipes in the garage). Also, a house that is tidy looks bigger, welcomes you in and makes you want to see more. 

Make your home feel cared for. Open the curtains, fluff up the pillows and let in the light. Water your plants, and get rid of ones that are past their prime.

Every room should have a purpose. Spend some time making sure your rooms look like what they are supposed to be (computers in the office, baskets of clothes in the laundry room, television and photos in the family room etc).  A spare room that is filled with “leftovers” puts people off – it needs an identity.

If you want to fix things prior to the sale, be wise in your choices. Many states have mandatory inspections, and you may have other things to repair that are far more important (and expensive).

Finally, your home should smell good. At the absolute least, change the kitty litter, empty the garbage and open the windows (no air-freshener please!). If you can, bake something in the stove or light a natural scented candle. Make people feel at home with these favorite, comforting scents:  Apple pie, cinnamon, coffee, vanilla, chocolate chip cookies…. 

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/ Lovely, airy photograph from: http://www.softlineonline.com/blog/?m=201104

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Do you ever gasp at things that make you happy? An image, or a color, that is so perfect you can’t believe it existed without you knowing about it?

The other day I fell in love with a curtain. Yes, a curtain! For those of you who know me well, you know that the curtains in my living room are, in fact, cream blankets from Walmart; a solution that happened on a cold February day, after weeks of looking for the “perfect’ curtain. Not my first option, they ended up being what I love the most; hanging casually from old, copper pipes with distressed curtain hooks. In fact, the process was so time consuming that I had no option but to write about it. http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/2009/05/cautionary-tale-of-curtains.html Anyway, I recently saw some curtains that I loved, and it reminded me once again how difficult it can be to choose them.

I think, the first thought should be whether your need is driven by beauty or function? Of course, ideally, everything in life should be a combination of both, but in reality that rarely happens; to get there can take far more time than any of us have. Regardless of why you need them, spend a little bit of time wondering about your curtains before you buy.

In my living room, for example, I have three very large windows, each over 10 feet wide. I wanted a curtain that insulated the room in the Winter, but was not so decorative that it conflicted with my need to scatter random pieces of art onto the walls. Hence the cream blankets; they are simple, but warm, and I love the thick texture against the painted walls.

Like most things, we can get bogged down in the thought process, but going forward is always easier than we think. Decorating your windows should be fun, just ask yourself a few easy questions before you begin:

Do you want the curtains to be purely decorative – a statement of color or pattern?  Then choose with no restrictions. Buy what you love. Remember to open the packet, and hang them up (or lay them out on the floor) before you throw away the receipt. Any curtain will look totally different when it is opened up into a 4 foot by 7 foot panel.
– Are they something that you are buying because you “have to”?  Be understated/neutral/classic in your decision. For total anonymity, try to match, or use a shade similar to the wall color.
– Is keeping in warmth, or shutting out sunlight, important?  Spend extra time researching speciality curtains. They may cost a bit more, but will definitely solve your problem.
– How much do you want to spend?  Be realistic with your budget. Don’t be lured into things you cannot afford. Find your favorite, then see if there is a less expensive option available.
– Is your room large or small, ceilings high or low?   If it is small, then choose curtains that are similar (or complimentary) to the wall color. Hang them above the window for extra height. Too much pattern, or opposing colors, will break up a room, making it appear smaller. If ceilings are very tall, check the length before you buy.

The gorgeous photograph above is from http://searchingforstyle.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html A lovely blend of pinks that are elegant and feminine, without being too “precious”. The curtain is crushed silk.

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/ and www.thebluegiraffe.com


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I went to an event the other weekend, and they were handing out magazines and supplements. One of them, which I had not read before, was “T”, from the NY Times Magazine. It was their Fall Design issue. As I flicked through it, I fell in love. Yes, it was filled with over-priced art and fancy furniture (many of them labelled, price upon request – which means, if you have to call you can’t afford it), but it was beautifully done. Luxury was definitely the theme, but it’s accessibility made me want to pour myself inside and roll around the pages…

For someone like me, who thrives on budgets and spray paint, this magazine was not my usual read. Often, formal rooms go too far, and I (we?) are scared to go inside, worried we may crease the pillow or ruin the design. But, done right, it can be a wonderful, comfortable option.

One article in particular really struck me. The home was based on an 18th Century design, complete with spindly chair legs, gilded mirrors and original artwork from hundreds of years ago, but it was livable.
As I looked at the pictures, I could see how cleverly this couple had worked to create a home, not just an elegant showpiece. My favorite photograph is the one of the bookshelves, deliberately built with bowed wood, to make them look older than they were.

If you lean towards the elegant, and want to live with formality, here are some easy ideas on how to do it:

– Paint the walls a warm color (a bit darker than you dare).
– Use “real” things; wood, artwork, floors and light-fixtures shouldn’t be fake (or plastic). Be authentic.
– Furniture should be comfortable to sit on, and not flimsy. Even if you are inclined towards very formal, classic pieces, consider adding a modern, bulkier chair or sofa to bring some weight to the room.
– Group your accessories very tightly together (closer than you would think). This is a clever way to show off your collections, but make the room feel comfortable at the same time. Scattering them around just leaves them looking homeless and confused.
– Keep curtains simple and classic (avoid trends, and too many doo-dads).
– Make furniture groupings deliberate. Use a rug and coffee table as your centerpiece, and bring sofa and chairs up close to them. (Think about a doctors waiting room – if it looks like that, change it).
– Layer non-matching pillows and blankets on the sofas for added softness.

Remember, you have all these beautiful things, enjoy them!

Wendy E. Wrzos  http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/2011/10/formal-living-made-easy.html

Thanks to Mr and Mrs. Goldman, who inspired me to think good thoughts about formal living http://tmagazine.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/09/30/the-contrarians/?ref=design-issue

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Do you remember when Televisions started to get bigger?
When we all wanted one, but didn’t want to see them when they were turned off? Their size, and bulk, dominating wherever they were placed? Too heavy for a small table, everyone struggled with what to do once they had bought one.

As quickly as they appeared, Furniture manufacturers came up with a solution. The entertainment Armoire; an  even bigger piece of furniture that enclosed our new purchase, and hid it away until we decided to turn it on. Not the best solution really. Yes, it hid the Television, but it created another problem – where to put the new piece of furniture. Entire walls and corners were filled with an often overwhelmingly large, wooden structure.

What seemed like a necessity for most homes, became obsolete quite quickly, as Televisions got larger and larger. They also became thinner, and we no longer needed to accommodate their bulk into our decorating plans. Before we knew it, the Television had outgrown the Armoire; it was dismantled, or set aside in a basement, waiting for goodness-knows-what. Many of them were expensive, and still in great condition, so we were reluctant to throw them away.

I really believe that we should re-use things if we can. If not, maybe it can be donated, and someone else would appreciate it all over again? But, until you decide what to do, why not try one of these solutions for that fleeting, but usefully wooden, piece of Television history.

  • A perfect pantry or extra storage in your Kitchen.
  • Small closet for a baby.
  • Take the doors off and use it as a bookshelf.
  • Remove all of the shelves, add a hanging rod at the top, and use it in a Mudroom or Entrance hall for coats and gloves etc.
  • Easy storage for games and crafts (leave the doors on?)
  • Put your sewing machine in there, and store all of your threads and fabric.
  • A Home Office. Your computer would easily fit. Cork-board glued to the inside of the doors would be useful, and there would be plenty of space for files etc.

Here are a few photographs to get you inspired!

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

Thanks to House Beautiful and Country Living for the photographs.

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Although I live in an old-fashioned house, my heart palpitates with the thought of Industrial spaces that have been turned into homes (or, at the very least, spaces that mimic this idea).
I think it is my love of opposites that fuels this fascination with hard, factory pieces juxtaposed with warm, organic life.
I still stop the car when I see abandoned factories; their sad history, and complex use of man-made components, makes me wonder about how they were made, and why they are now left alone. Metal, in various forms, has been around for many years, but wasn’t used in mass production until the 19th century, when inventors found ways to harness the complicated elements and make them into various materials of strength. I can’t pretend to understand the science that goes on behind it, but I did just look it up (am being honest), and, really, it is pretty amazing to know that something so natural can be manipulated into being such a powerful part of our infrastructure.
Once, so expensive, the process is now simple, and most metals are available for everyone to buy. Which makes me wonder about homes that embrace an Industrial influence. Too much metal, and the home will appear to be cold, but, with just a hint, the space will automatically become more interesting. Traditional iron pieces, like birdcages and hooks, are easily added to a home, but what if you want to go a little further?

Designers have fully embraced this trend, and have provided us with many options to bring into our homes. Here are just a few of them to help you bring a little bit of the Industrial look into your life (without feeling as if you need a blow torch or an extra largesewing machine).

Metal Baskets for mittens, mail or groceries.

Perfectly simple - glass, metal and light.

Use an old filing cabinet as a “new” filing cabinet

Not for the faint-hearted, Stainless Steel grows more beautiful with every scratch

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

Thanks to: www.housebeautiful.com for the photographs.

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The "after" photograph

Last week I hated my Living Room. Truly hated it. When I looked at it, all I saw was a sea of brown, surrounded by some brightly colored artwork that just seemed to show up the dull “brown-ness”. I had become my own worst client, I couldn’t see past the ugly.

My Living Room has a big, picture window at the front. Most things fade quite quickly; I have the curtains drawn, widely, and I like to have as much light as possible in my home. As a result, everything fades and the fabrics erode quite quickly from the sun (rather odd when you remember that I live in New Jersey, not exactly the sunshine capital of the world).

The furniture had faded over the last year, and as I re-decorated the room for Spring, I took out most of the plants and colorful blankets that had been the accessories for the last few months. I guess, in my haste to remove the Winter, the room was left feeling colorless and boring, lacking in life. The life and color now being outside, instead of inside.

In my head, it became the worst Living Room that anyone had ever seen. A vintage (old?) golden, brown sofa, an old (vintage?)  brown chair, an old, collapsible oak table and a vintage (genuinely old), standing radio sitting alongside a nicely rusted, generously sized, wrought iron chair from outside.  The entire combination had morphed into a 1940’s sitcom, with all the good bits taken out.

As I panicked in my brown-ness, I mentally scanned my house for replacement pieces of furniture. There were none I could use. There was no hope, I decided I MUST drive to the store right that very second before I was swallowed up by the awfulness of it all.

I drove to the store, really fast (but not over the speed limit) and I found a purple sofa and a lovely, oversized slipper chair with an exaggerated pattern of zinnias bursting with orange and dark green….perfect (!?) I looked at the furniture as I took out my credit card, and I walked out of the store.

A cafe mocha, no whipped cream, and a half hour later reality hit. I was calm as I made the list of what I wanted, needed and didn’t want in my Living Room. With list in hand, I went home and began to empty the room. The old, brown chair was the first to go….

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

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She wants to move the furniture,
On a Sunday afternoon.
It’s always fun to decorate,
But first, she empties the room.

The room looks dull, so she gets some paint,
Decides to tape off a square.
Big and gorgeous, chalkboard black,
Perhaps, she’ll paint a pair?

The paint is drying, furniture is out,
The rug she brings back in.
It’s old, it’s small, but has to do,
Now for the fun to begin.

She pushes the sofa across the room,
Moves the rug at an angle.
Amused, she decides to vacuum the floor,
After finding a fork and a bangle.                                     

Thought she was careful, but not enough,
Looks down at the scratched wooden floor.
No need to fix it, just cover it up,
By moving the rug some more.

The sofa sits on the rug, looking big,
She sits on a chair next to it.
The chair is old, the fabric worn,
And now, she’s gone straight through it!

She picks it up, and throws it out,                                       
With a strength she never knew.
Another chair is quickly found,
Lucky, she has quite a few.

Another chair, another side,
The sofa is moved again.
She stops, and moves it back some more,
some more, then more again!

Decides to have a cup of tea,
To think of lots of things.
Looks at the mess, and dreams of poems,
Of Cabbages and Kings.

Up she gets, and washes her cup,
Determined to finish the room.
She checks the paint, and sees that it’s dry,
Sweeps the floor with a broom.

Brings in a bookshelf, some lamps and a painting.
Pillows, photographs, china and tables.
Arranges flowers and washes the floor,
Straightens the curtains, and opens the door.

The afternoon over, she smiles, at the the end.
Her home is now different, but not a penny did she spend…..
Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/ Thanks to Alice in Wonderland by Walt Disney and House Beautiful for the images.

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Years ago, when I was taking my Redesign classes, we were each asked to decorate an empty fireplace mantle in a clients home. When it was my turn, I was paralyzed with fear. I whispered to Ann (Anderson) that I couldn’t do it. The house was not my style of decorating, and, naively at the time, I thought that every piece had to be perfect (my idea of perfection, not theirs). She whispered back to me “It’s not about you. Stop thinking. Just do it.”

Once I had recovered from the shock of being told it wasn’t all about me, I knew she was right. We all have different ideas of perfection, it’s what we do with those ideas that matter. The other thing I learned that day was to  “Just do it!”  A mantra that now carries me through life, teaching me to analyze the important, but not to hesitate with the easy or obvious. 

Which is where Interior Redesign comes in. Unless you are painting a room, or knocking down a wall, most decisions can be reversed within a few hours. Looking at a room, fully dressed (both you and the room should be fully dressed, it’s easier that way) it is almost impossible to understand how it will look with a different floor plan.

Even if a designer can “see” it in their head, it is often difficult to explain, and sometimes, well-thought-out ideas may change once the room is emptied. It is far easier to begin moving things around, it gives you a better sense of how the room should be. Often the plan changes; the symmetry may be wrong, or the floor plan impractical. If that happens, just keep moving. Play with the furniture. Try every conceivable idea. Don’t stop and theorize about why you should, or shouldn’t, do something. It’s furniture, it’s moveable. Just do it!

(By the way, I wish I could say that I designed the above room, but I didn’t. I love the eccentric calmness that manages to combine several functions into one space. Beautiful and practical)

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/   Thanks to  www.dreamhome-design.blogspot.com for the great photograph.

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