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Posts Tagged ‘Interior Decorating’

I confess, I can be a bit stubborn, and, sometimes, when someone says that it can’t be done, I ask “Why not?”.  To me, decorating belongs in the Land of “Why not’s?” – a place where rules are simply things that other people made up.

Don’t get me wrong, when I started out on my decorating  journey, I also followed the guidelines about what I should (and shouldn’t do). Because, that’s what you do when you don’t know. I put up flowery curtains, painted all of my rooms cream, and bought a platter that said “Turkey” on it. (For my first Thanksgiving dinner, of course. I wouldn’t have dreamed of serving turkey, unless I had the appropriate platter to put it on).

Fortunately, after a while, we all decide that we really do (or do not) like flowery curtains, and we start to sift through our own style. We may, or may not, keep the Turkey platter, and we decide to paint the walls a darker shade of cream. We watch design shows, and pour over paint samples, but now and again we hesitate, and we wonder if what we want to do is really okay. Here is a list of some design things that really are okay (despite what you may have heard).

  • Hang artwork at whatever height you like, wherever you want to. (And, use the smallest, most effective hook you can. Art weighs a heck of a lot less than you think).
  • Go ahead, use dark paint in a small room, and add big furniture (but less of it). Makes it cozy and dramatic at the same time.
  • When buying/remodelling a home, consider whether or not you want a formal Dining Room. Many people don’t use it, and it can become a clutter collector. Don’t have one “just because”.
  • Not every room has to have a “pop of color”. Really. There are lots of neutral rooms that are truly beautiful.
  • It’s okay, put a bed in front of your window if you want to.
  • Give the Master Bedroom to your children, or use it as an office space. Do you really need a gigantic bedroom?

As you can see, the point is that design rules are just guidelines to get you started, or, as the late, great Katherine Hepburn said  “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun!”

Wendy E. Wrzos  

Gorgeous bedroom from Bungalow at Home

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A seat by the fire, a table for your lap-top, a mantle for the cat, and notes hanging from a defunct light fixture. No matter how pretty a room is, it has to function for who you are right now, giving you what you need to enjoy where you live.

Many of us are tremendously lucky to have more room than we need, but often, we don’t take advantage of that space. We have spare bedrooms filled with things that are waiting “to be put away”, or a living room overflowing with remnants of a life that we lived 10 years ago. Wouldn’t it be great if you could store things there that you really needed, or have a lovely living room that you couldn’t wait to sit in?

I know it takes a lot of time to undo these things, but the pay-off is worth far more than we realize. Keeping things that we don’t use, want or need, and having spaces that don’t nurture our current way of living, is a waste of who we are, and what we have.

Next time you have a few moments, take a wander around your home, especially the places that you don’t use very often. Take note of what you have, and make a list. Sit down and ask yourself why those things are there, and if you still need them. Write down what you wish you had instead, and what is really important to you. Then, figure out what you can do to change it. Here is a (fictitious) example to get you started.

THE LIVING ROOM

China cabinet and buffet filled with wedding china and silver. Two sofas and a chair. A big box of toys. Ridiculously oversized, dried flower arrangement. A dining room chair. Collection of crystal elephants.
Why are they there?
I haven’t redecorated this room in over 10 years. Brought in the dining room chair last Christmas, and forgot to put it back. My son used to play with his toys in here when he was little (he is now 15). It is my ex-husband’s collection of crystal elephants (I got custody of them in the divorce). I bought the dried flower arrangement at a flea market in Woodstock, NY. It was handmade by a woman who looked like Janis Joplin (my favorite singer) and it was so big I had to tie it to the top of my car to get it home.
Do I still need them?
No. My son is grown, I don’t like elephants, and I can’t be bothered to dust the dried flower arrangement.
What I wish, and what is important to me:
I want the room to be less cluttered, and for it to have things in it that I like now. I would like a place that feels more friendly when people come over. I want to be able to sit and drink tea, read a magazine and daydream.
What can I do to change it:
Take out the dining room chair, the toy box, the dried flower arrangement and the elephant collection.
Display my crystal giraffe collection instead.
Bring in a table (or two) for my cup of tea and magazines.
Display my current china and serving dishes in the china cabinet. Store the wedding china and silver out of sight, in the buffet.
Buy some fresh flowers at the supermarket. They can be changed all the time, and don’t get dusty.

Be inspired to change your home to suit your needs as you go along. The apartment in the photograph above is just 400 square feet of carefully placed things that are well loved and lived.

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

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“Have you heard of Juju hats? I must have one for my house! You must blog about them!”, a friend wrote to me earlier this week. Of course, I googled them, not knowing what they were, but presuming they weren’t some type of archaic medicinal type of voodoo device, that was worn on the head to scare away the bad guys. 

Up popped these wonderfully whimsical, feathery concoctions hanging on beautiful, large walls. I knew why she loved them. After seeing the price (originally handmade in Cameroon), we instantly started wondering if we could make our own, what color we would use and where we would put them. Eternally optimistic, we added it to our wish list.

Later that night, I was flicking through a magazine, when I came across an entire line of accessories made from Shagreen. Again, I hadn’t heard of this. Apparently, years ago, the skins of sharks and stingrays were used to make cigarette holders and the like, giving an exotic appeal to something quite ordinary. Now, it is being reinvented in a kind of faux way (with the assurance that they are no longer being made from real shark or stingray).  A strange, pebbly texture, it seems a bit like suede, and is now being used for all sorts of things, but mainly decorative items like picture frames and vases. 

Not sure if the Juju and Shagreen will be a long-lasting trend, but the point is to suggest something new; they make us stop and think, pass them by, or fall in love with them. It’s up to us.

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

Gorgeous, gerbera type Juju hat picture from the Brown Button blog (who, in 2010, was further ahead of the trend than I was).

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Have you noticed that television shows, furniture and clothing are all being re-introduced to us with a healthy dose of 1960’s reality? So what if it doesn’t reflect 2012, maybe it just simply makes people feel happier. When life feels complicated, we crave simplicity, we reminisce about how things used to be.
 
Even people who say they don’t like retro are drawn to the occasional piece that is totally out of character; suddenly finding themselves being cheered up by a square, orange teapot, or a ridiculously, impractical new dress. Typically, the colors back then were brighter, and the designs more streamlined. TV shows from that era depict an old-fashioned view of life; men and women had defined roles, and families spent more time together. People drank a bit too much, and smoked without worrying about getting sick. Technology and cars were limited and expensive, making your private life very public, and forcing teenagers to rely on the availability of their parent’s old station wagon.
 
Of course our nostalgia removes all of the bad bits, but a retro life, on the surface, just sounds less complicated. Incorporating our lives with these quirky, bold reminders makes us smile when we are over-scheduled, forcing us to take ourselves a little less seriously.
 
Some trends are deliberate, forced upon us by bored designers, but I don’t think this one is. I think it was born from an emotional need to cheer people up when the world became a little glum!
 
How can you be worried when your sofa is lime green? Living with a little bit of retro makes you feel like it can all be fixed with a pie in the oven, a good hug, an Elvis record and a shiny, pink Cadillac!
 
(Lovely photograph courtesy of Kate Bingham, UK, with a little bit of Elvis added in for good measure)

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I have a confession to make, I am becoming a furniture snob. As you know, I love anything that relates to decorating the home, especially furniture; my heart beats faster when I see a quirky, vintage chair, or a table, so exquisitely built that my sense of reason (and budget) is momentarily lost. Take me shopping, and I will touch everything that catches my eye, thinking of inventive ways to take it home, strapped to the roof of my car if necessary. I will obsess over it, creating stories in my head that explains why I must include it in my life. I may not take it home, but I can guarantee that I will dream of it that night …
 
But, recent experiences have tilted me towards furniture snobbery, and I hope it makes you feel the same way. Have you bought a dining or bedroom set lately? Did you see the signs that said “Wood”, and the description that said it was “Cherry”? Automatically, you would assume that it is made of wood from a Cherry tree. Right? Wrong. I just clicked to the website of a very well-known furniture store. Went to Dining Room sets, and hit the Cherry option. A 7 piece set (which is code for a table and six chairs, go figure) was $2,300. Go to the product description, and you find out that Cherry is the color, and it is “…..crafted of hardwoods, cathedral cherry veneers and exotic avodire veneers”.
 
Don’t get me wrong, veneers and composites are a wonderful, and possibly sustainable (?) way to produce furniture, but it is also a way to cut costs and create things that appear to be what they are not. If stores are going to use them, and charge those prices, then say what they are, don’t try and trick the consumer into thinking they are getting a quality, solid wood piece of furniture. Veneers and composites have more parts, therefore they will automatically have more issues than solid wood – the veneer may lift up, the glues can come apart, and the stain will often wear off more quickly. I did contact the company about their $2300 dining room set. With your purchase, you get a free one year warranty that covers manufacturers defects, or, you can spend an additional $230 to get their 5 year warranty. This will cover all sorts of spills, dents and normal wear and tear.
 
It used to be that wood was more expensive than veneer, but somehow that has shifted a little. I found a comparable, solid wood dining table and 6 solid wood chairs for $1600, at a very good on-line home store. In my opinion, solid wood has a couple of advantages. One, it will wear well (there is nothing to peel off or come apart), and two, it will probably last longer, and definitely look better as time goes on. FYI, soft woods (pine) will dent easily, whereas hard woods (oak, mahogany etc) will resist dings.
 
Whatever your preference, promise me to do some shopping around before you buy. If you are buying from any store, ask about the warranties and look for feedback on their website. Consider on-line catalogs and home stores; these used to be a lot more expensive (and style specific) but are now much cheaper, and offer a lot of solid wood choices. Also, if time is something you have to spend, go to some local thrift stores or second-hand retailers – older pieces tend to be more solid.
 
Furniture can be an expensive, and permanent, purchase for your home, so don’t be afraid to do your homework first. And, if you’re wandering the stores, undecided, just give me a call!
 
p.s. Photograph of this lovely, mis-matched, reclaimed dining room set is from House Beautiful

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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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When a client asked me to help her choose colors based on the Color Wheel, I was a little unsure. Yes, I have an Interior Design Color Wheel, but, personally, I sometimes dig my heels in when I am told what I am “supposed” to do. I guess the Color Wheel falls into that category – being told what to do…

So, we sat down, looked at the front, chose our color, spun the wheel, then started to read the back of the card. We both burst out laughing, neither one of us understanding what to do next. We put it away, and chose the colors based on her favorite things instead. If nothing else, it was a lesson; it gave me something to write about, and left me wondering if I could explain it to my readers (just in case you’re curious).

Did you know that the Color Wheel was invented in the 1600’s by Sir Isaac Newton? It was originally based on sunlight – he separated the sunbeams with a prism, which created different colors (just like a rainbow), then joined them back together to show the natural progression. So, does that mean that if I look at the color sequence of a rainbow, and turn it into a circle, it will look like the color wheel? Well, I just tried it, and it does! The colors of the rainbow are red, orange, yellow, green. blue, indigo and violet …

Now that I know where it came from, I understand it even less. Why are we basing our judgement on a rainbow? Does that mean that we should decorate according to all natural combinations? If I wear green and brown together, won’t I just look like a tree?

Anyway, back to the story. The premise is that by spinning a wheel you will be told which colors go together, therefore, you will know exactly how to decorate your home. It begins with you highlighting the main color that you want to use. Once you do this, it will automatically bring you to the coordinating set of colors, based on a few guidelines. Complimentary (the color opposite the main color), Monochromatic (any shade of your main color) Split Complimentary (the two colors either side of your Complimentary) and Related (any shade that is either side of your main color). Confused? Don’t be. If you are a bit cautious, maybe tones of the same shade would be a good beginning. More adventurous, choose the complimentary or split-complimentary colors.

If you buy an Interior Design Color Wheel, my advice is to read the directions, let it guide you, but most of all have fun playing with the spinning circle.  After all, it is just a round rainbow…

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

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Do you remember when you got your first apartment, or the first space that you paid for all by yourself?
No-one to tell you what to do, a decorating nirvana for you to fill with whatever the heck you wanted. Paint colors as limitless as the stars, and dreams as big as the Milky Way. Your head spinning with ideas…

Then, it began. The bills, the decisions and the confusion. If you were lucky, you had a few hand me downs from friends and relatives – a sofa, a coffee table and an old bed that you wish you hadn’t taken, but were too polite to give back.

It’s tough sometimes, making a place look like a home when you have limited resources and a beginners salary. Often, you are not allowed to paint the walls, and some spaces feel much smaller (and dirtier) once you carry that last box of stuff inside the front door.
Regardless of your new situation, there are ways to brighten it up and make it feel like home, without spending a lot of time or money!
Here’s what I would do……..
Make a list (see below) of what I really needed to make my place feel like a home (quickly), then, visit all of the inexpensive chain stores (Walmart, Target, Cosco, Ikea, Warehouse etc). Quality is nice, but not always affordable the first time around; basic, functional items, in classic colors, look more expensive – save the bright colors for accessories. If I had time, I would also go to Thrift stores and garage sales looking for good, old pieces of furniture. Finally, I would ask friends and family if they have any (useful) odds and ends in their home that I could borrow for a while.

Then……
– Buy an inexpensive, colorful rug and a few pillows that don’t match my sofa.
– Add art on the wall, above my sofa. About 2/3 of the width of the sofa and almost as high (no wimpy installations please). If possible, make it personal; photographs, prints, postcards, children’s art, letters, collections etc. If doing a collage, buy black, plastic frames to make it cohesive. Lay them out on the floor first to see the size etc. (A staggered, layered look is easier to hang than a grid pattern).
– Find at least one side table, dresser or bookshelf with storage. I always check on the side of the road; wooden furniture is the most common item thrown away, and re-cycled. It can be painted, stained, or at the very least, cleaned up and polished.
– Unpack books and photographs, stack my magazines and display all of the things that I love.
– Bring in some plants. They add warmth and energy. Ask friends and family for cuttings of their favorite indoor plants, put them in a glass with some water.
– Get curtains. Go to dollar discount stores and look at their curtains, blankets and single sheets. Be creative, until a more permanent solution comes along. These are also great places for inexpensive curtain rods (or, get copper/steel pipe at the hardware store for a more casual, industrial look).
– If I just want the illusion of curtains, but they don’t have to be functional, I would buy a panel (cut it in half) or two, and use the tiniest of nails to (artfully) attach them to the wall, either side of the window. No-one will ever know!
– I never underestimate the potential of a decorative, sturdy, storage box (a trunk, crate, ottoman etc). It can hide anything you don’t want to see, be a place for your coffee cup, hold your table lamp and display your favorite photographs.

Finally, don’t be put off by waiting for the perfect solutions, they don’t really exist. Decorating a home is a process that will constantly change with you. In the beginning, it’s about feeling settled in your home, being surrounded by what you love and maybe, “making do”…

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/                  Original photograph from www.apartmenttherapy.com

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I remember wallpaper, growing up, to be either anaglypta (a thick, embossed wallpaper) large brown and green squares or, sometimes, a very flowery concoction that reminded me of prairie dresses and things that were overly cute. Their job was to decorate the walls and cover imperfections.

After many years of this, wallpaper was exiled; people were tired of the busyness of it all, they wanted cleaner, more neutral spaces. Thoughts of scraping someone elses glue and paper off the wall sent home owners searching for simpler ways to decorate. Paint became the de rigueur.

Now, like any good fashion trend, wallpaper is back again; gracing the covers of magazines, with the designer elite singing its praises as a beautiful and bold way to accessorize our homes.
It has now become Art.

I am glad; anything that makes decorating easier, and can be put on a wall, makes me very happy. Now, the wallpapers are easier to apply, and, more importantly, easier to remove. As a statement on a wall, or a backdrop for another piece, designs are made to be graphic, but tasteful – adding to what you already have, with just a little bit of star power, rather than stealing the entire spotlight.

Bringing modern freshness to all styles of homes, this old idea may just become your new, favorite piece of paper!

Wendy E. Wrzos http://wendyandthebluegiraffe.blogspot.com/ Gorgeous photograph from http://www.elledecor.com/

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