My Favorite Things

I am a lover of all things musical: West Side Story, Gypsy, An American in Paris, and of course The Sound of Music.  This blog pertains to” My Favorite Things” a song that for me relates to style and fashion.  My obsessions range from dreamy little slip-covered loveseats to tulips displayed haphazardly in Ball Brothers glasses.  My list, perhaps a tad long shall be shortened for the sake of those readers (in my age range that require glasses much stronger than they are willing to admit).

Burlap pillows, preferably with obscure sayings in French that has little meaning in my real life, always add that “je ne sais quo” to any style sofa (well not any).  Iron, oh iron; from baskets, to jugs, to corbels, to drapery hardware creates that industrial feel to even the most modern of spaces. Pocket watches (which I collect) are placed lovingly in a Waterford bowl I inherited from my Grammy Jean and if you look closely and listen with both ears, they tell of times both lost and remembered. It’s a treasure to be passed down from generation to generation (in my case a potential daughter-in-law since I gave birth to two awkward boys (let’s hope I like her)!

The beauty of old cameras, typewriters, or any of those things used prior to the creation of Microsoft and Apple present perfect bric n’ brac for shelves and end tables.  Any well-done cottage, farmhouse, boho, or shabby home must carry at least several of these items otherwise their tributary must be revoked.  Riding trophies (tarnished, of course) and ribbons, another fondness of mine since I rode hunter jumper for so many years, adds unpolished beauty and that vertical height often needed for layering bookshelves.  Sweet little bird prints, painted wood signs, Venetian glass mirrors, framed sheet music, kid’s drawings, book jackets, crosses, metal file holders all create an inexpensive way to showcase a little of yourself to your guests and fills up a wall with something far more interesting than that landscaped inherited from Uncle Ray.

 

Other musts in my home include framed chalkboards of varying sizes, French mannequins (to hold my extensive collection of necklaces that I never wear), and perfume bottles, because their beauty is unique and since I’m “quote” a difficult person to buy for, started a trend for those unfortunate yearly birthdays.  And let’s not forget the glass, the alluring, the appealing, the luxurious clochs that hold a threshold of treasures (too many to mention.  And need I even say, the cowhide rug.  No home, no matter what style, can be complete without a deceased animal floating on a wood floor.

Every kitchen needs open shelves, a farmhouse (or apron sink), a built-in fridge, a usable island, and something fabulous on the ceiling (tin, wood, mural).  Oh and lets not forget the aged beams.  Two of my faux painters once fashioned planks into the most glorious Tuscan inspired ceiling columns that I almost wept with joy (until I say the bill).

I will end my diatribe with one of my most cherished finds; old lockers done in my beloved chippy paint.  I popped them into a mud room and from backpacks to baseball bats, they serve both style and function.  One last must have; a bench, (weathered, covered in fabric, the color and material mattered little.  Never forget the architectural goodies, those delicious salvage columns, corbels, and ladders one finds at the local flea shops.   I would gladly offer my children for the right piece.  Any takers?  So what are some of your favorite things………….

 

 

Mix It On Up

A bag of tricks used by designers to create a personal space in any home tends to weave together a set of rules bequeathed by the “STYLE GODS of yesteryear.”  For example, investment pieces (those that cost more than your child’s first year in college) should be placed front and center where visitors can ogle and whisper about the price.  We learned from the great Albert Hadley that the sofa often fulfills this glorified need, so never forget to pile on the pillows for that extra luxe as well.  It also makes it simple to change out those little poufs depending on look, season, or boredom.  The neighbors will be aghast.  Also never skimp on certain items of seating or translating that into “marriage speak” means that immediately after the honeymoon, remove any item hubby attempts to bring into the home.  And by the way, you can forget contacting Goodwill; they have their standards.  For my sake, think neutral, flexibility is important in all areas.

Lush and lavish window treatments seem to be an oddity of the past.  Today, we favor simplistic panels to add a splash of color, texture, and height.  But I must admit, I find yards of pretty fabric as a compliment such as a good set of pearls used as a finish for that little black dress.  The can amplify neutrals through use of materials, provide privacy in case of nosy neighbors, add warmth on colder days, and finish a space beautifully by highlighting specific hues.  HEY DESIGNERS go to the floor with drapery (or at least a pant break) as it makes the look appear complete (no high waters for the clients).   

When painting, remember that you have five walls (in case your expensive stylist forgot).  Look up!  Embellish your ceiling with a medallion, a mural, or a slightly lighter (or darker) color than the wall.  And don’t be shy, enamel the molding, the crown, even the baseboard.  Let the space dictate the use, and your furniture determine the colors.  And always, always, always, place a rug under your dining table.

For more interesting rooms, mix and match eras, periods, fabrics, textures, and art (this precludes neutral or tone-on-tone lovers).  And here is a great big DESIGN secret, you can mix gold and silver.  Embrace the unusual.  Always follow the rules without following the rules.  Your home should celebrate how you live much like a mirror reflects light.  Don’t be nervous about a wall of clocks or mirrors or religious crosses.  Amplify small spaces by treating them as large.  Appropriate open shelves.

Use galvanized steal, shiplap, or wallpaper (yes, I said wallpaper) in unusual ways.  An empty corner makes a great little space for an architectural piece.  Take your dining room table to from a place to eat to unforgettable by utilizing different patterns of china and crystal.  While DESIGN should follow certain dictums, always remember that you are unique, SO BABY, mix it on up.

 

 

I’m Displaying My Wares As A Designer?

The two biggest challenges I find that most young designers face in their careers are groupings and displays (or is it displays and groupings).  The culprits; children, pets, functionality, cleaning, collectibles, and finally feet on the coffee table with the greasy popcorn bowl on a Saturday night.  In another words, the homeowner has opinions on this decorating dilemma and it doesn’t always include pretty.  As designers, stagers, or stylists, we push art, clocks, crosses, or plates; setting a stage that often proves difficult for even the most seasoned professional.  It’s a love that needs to be cajoled and caressed (not just with product but with the couple involved).  No matter what style; busy or clean; English country or Regency glam, a table needs to be used (and when I say utilized, I mean with a little French oil on a plate stand, two antique candle holders with pillars, and a funky riding cap just because it adds that certain je ne sais quo.  It also helps to remember that regardless of the owners taste; industrial, retro, mid-century modern, or vintage; the principals of design remain the same; create an interesting space that affords the client a chance to learn to live with their three remote controls intermixed with some non-functional yet stunning knickknacks.  Perhaps with time, little punches of glass wear, an antique clock, or coasters embossed with horse heads will fill the space without causing the owners to hyperventilate.

Included in this décor wish or pie in the sky, the design might possibly turn to the obvious built-in shelving, fireplace mantle, or sofa table (we will not yet address the bar cart, decorative ladder, or architectural salvage piece that looks oh so perfect in that corner spot by that bank of windows behind the Chippendale sofa).  This may take time but with a bit of repartee, a smattering of humor, perhaps your homeowner(s) might share some pillow talk.  Now I’m not talking sleep-over, just a form of communication that goes beyond Madison’s latest soccer game and Kyle’s guitar solo (that gave off a Jimi Hendrix vibe) at the middle school concert.  Who knows, maybe (fingers crossed) those two wonderful people might begin to enjoy some clutter.  After all a good display always exudes a touch of shock and awe.  It’s the accessories that make a house feel like a home.  So work skillfully.  If the husband is an accountant or engineer, treat the situation as a math equation.  He will eventually catch on.  Remind the wife that chalkboards enhance a wall desk and give a cohesive look to galvanized seating the same way storage tins bring her that much closer to that Chanel wallet because of the money saved at the discount shops.  Glass cloches (found at Hobby Lobby) protect precious mementos as well as the hideous bric n’ brac received by the mother-in-law brought out only on holidays.

Group mirrors of different size and shape together and see how the light becomes more reflective in both smaller and larger room.  Soon you will using blinds, sheers, and draperies to protect those Peeping Tom neighbors.  Present with great fanfare your family’s crest of honor, your Uncle’s self-published book, or your child’s spelling bee medallion.  But just don’t forget to add height by using a few coffee table books to give that extra lifts to Aunt Esther’s coffee cup collection.  Highlight that farmhouse sink, that cost way too much money, with a lovely display of stoneware, sure to make every wife jealous at the next work related get-together.  So novice designers, learn the lessons of those of us over forty years of age; by enticing, sweet-talking, even seducing because any of us in the design profession know that displaying and grouping make a room feel complete and express hidden secrets about the family who live in the house.  I’m displaying my wares as a designer, hey stylists and do-it-yourself lovers, how about you?