10 Ways to Be A Little Bit Country

Like Marie Osmond (didn’t she have a hit called Paper Roses that hit the charts?), I enjoy country.  Over the years, though this genre of decorating never hit high on my list of requests, I learned a few tricks to make any kitchen stand out and sing Toby Keith or Carrie Underwood (if you prefer).

  1.     Use reproduction appliances (currently hotter than the Las Vegas Strip in August).  A recycled potbellied stove, a super cool fridge that looks like a 1950s model (an all the rage according        to the magazines).  Retro baby, you can do no wrong.
  2.     Never forget the apron or farmhouse sink.
  3.     Use glass fronted cabinet doors or better yet open shelving made from reclaimed wood.
  4.     Industrial light fixtures add a nice modern touch but stick to the aged oil rubbed or bronze chandeliers.
  5.     How about brick floors, reclaimed wood, or distressed manufactured.
  6.     Antique, barn, or glass doors.
  7.     Subway tile (never goes out of style).
  8.     Beams and more beams.
  9.     Movable island, preferably painted in some funky color.
  10.     Beadboard or shiplap your walls painted a creamy white

Please remember the bric n’ brac; cookbooks, cutting boards, wooden spoons, cookie presses, Mason jars, metal canisters, tea towels, spice racks, candy/cake tins, rolling pins, metal breadboxes, milk cans, metal memo boards, and all the other fabulous stuff that can be found at your favorite flea market, garage sale, antique store, Hobby Lobby, and Home Goods.

Give Those Windows a Double-Take

 

I Candy

Forget what your mother told you about staring.

Get interiors that you can’t take your eyes off of.  Designs that are drop-dead gorgeous.  From furniture and accessories, wall coverings to window treatments.  Laura Buhrer Interiors can help you create rooms that promise a double-take. (Jill Bagby)

 

                                                     

 

The Yoko Factor or BoHo in SoHo

Boho Chic is a style of design that fits perfectly with the just graduated, don’t have much money, can use a paint brush, addicted to Pinterest kind of gal.  The vibrancy of colors, the play on fabrics, the mix of textures, the wind chimes…….Boho tends to be a jumble of mid-century modern, hippi dippity,  shabby chic , cottage, flea market, Middle-Eastern, with a nod to Mary Quant kind of look.

The Bohemian Style embraces a sense of freedom from conventional design and infuses what we picture to be the European Gypsy look.  Usually referring to an unconventional and certainly artistic life, one thinks of free spirits who love this genre.  Anyone with a good case of OCD may want to skip this unconventional approach to living but for those that love those 64 box crayons…Fill your space from top to bottom with a bold and energetic palette.

 To achieve this style, one must mix old with new, vintage with modern, lacquered with weathered.  In other words, throw everything including the kitchen toaster into the pot.  The idea of achieving variety and diversity in color and form requires thinking outside the box (and drilling a whole lot holes in one’s walls).  Use books, fabrics, braided rugs, funky lighting, pillows, throws, plants, lamps, and sculpture to express your individuality (and don’t forget the handmade).   And as a nod to Mother Nature never hurts with REAL plants and herbs playing a central role.

I find the eclectic look works best in small spaces, cozy nooks, and tiny apartments where young people travel to after their formative college years.  BoHo is also a great way to avoid cleaning as it’s expression usually involves a great deal of clutter.   For me, I visualize a budget friendly indie recipe with a smattering of charm.  Think Yoko Ono.  Break it up, hold a love-in, and screech out a few records.

 

 

I’m Giving Tips on How To Paint Furniture…but I Oversee, Manage, Hold the Reins

I try to admit my relatively few faults.  I can be impatient, sharp-tongued, overbearing, and inevitably right…but crafty…not so much.  I prefer supervisor, more of a bigger picture kind of gal.  Believe this often creates exhaustion as much as getting on a tall ladder and hanging a 120 pound chandelier or perfectly cutting straight seems on a drapery panel.

One of my faux painters attempted to teach me how to add a few hues to a nightstand.  Words fail to do this piece of crap justice.  She even gave me pointers but I, the supervisor extradinaire, the inevitably right idea gal chose not to listen.  Please note her tips because they sure never applied to my abilities.

First, always clean the piece you intend to paint, distress, or revive.  Dust and apparently oil fails to help primer adhere.  This causes an object to peel and chip (though isn’t that distressing?).

Next, use the proper primer (which is code word for expensive).  Cheaper brands affect paint much like a t-shirt from Walmart clashes with your Louboutins.

Then fill any and all holes and cracks (hey not referring to my face the day before my liquid injections appointment).  She even suggested using a flashlight (I just found out the my iPhone can turn into a shiny object) so that eyes over the age of 40 cannot miss that 1 1/2 inch gap.

Never use an inexpensive brush (note Walmart/Louboutin comment).  Feel the bristles, caress them, rub them against your skin.  The softer the better.

Finally, find that perfect color.  Shading and underlining hues can grab a tone and turn it upside down.  Grab some chips from your preferred paint store or even buy a small jar of the color being considered.

 

 not my work

Remember life is living regret-free.

(damn, needs some hardware)

Shiplap

  

HOLY SHIPLAP BATMAN!

 

 

(last pic courtesy of Chip & Joanna Gaines, Magnolia House, Fixer Upper, HGTV)

 

Junkyard Dog

No this little missive has nothing to do with our furry friends, but with a book I recently purchased on the sales rack.  It’s a lovely read with glorious photos by Leslie Linsley  (between you and me, I would have paid full price).   The author delves into the ease of using “junk” or “salvage” items to give your home that farmhouse feel.  What did we do before Joanna Gaines?  Anyway, Leslie offers wonderful tips and cost-saving ideas on how to beautify your abode.  Starting with the unexpected (lol, I have always wanted to use that abbreviation when writing, you’re just lucky I didn’t add emojis)  reclaimed woods and beams (which are now premade by every flooring and tile company so skip the chill in New Hampshire) to add that certain patina that ages a home in a unique and creative way.  She, like many designers today, prefers a kitchen with open shelving and thus allowing for more areas of display.  (I assume they have cleaning people coming in once or twice a week).

Good lighting plays an important part in any room and one should occasional shock by doing the unexpected.  Personally I am huge fan of anything galvanized but I also fancy a lovely crystal chandelier. 

Try the unexpected like mixing wood with copper.  A proper industrial looking aged bronze fixture can not only be functional but a tremendously wonderful detail.  The author recommends using baskets and vintage tin boxes (here we come Hobby Lobby) to hold fruits, chocolates, tea bags.  And let’s not forget the apron sink and workable island.    Things to display include small appliances, wedding flatware, cookbooks, wooden spoons and bowls, vintage cookie presses, blue Mason jars, antique wire soap dishes, metal canisters, colanders, wall mounted wood spice racks, vintage teapots, enamelware, and chopping boards in wood (of course)  To go even further, you could mix and match your island stools, barring the fact that you have an island.  Leslie is a proponent of using open shelving on narrow walls which allows one to display collectibles such as breadboxes or scales.

Show & Tell

So you live in a place that’s short on space.  Not uncommon for college grads, big city dwellers, or idiots (like me) that had to pay their ex-husband alimony.  You want high ceilings, intricate crown molding, iron fireplaces, weathered floors, open shelving, essentially a Parisian apartment in the 50s.  But let’s face it, you live in Des Moines in a mass produced, overpriced 1 bedroom, 1 bath that leaks every time it rains.  What’s you going do???

Add a focal wall (paper, paint, mural)?  Use nesting tables instead of one big bulky coffee console that overfills the room?  Buy poufs, benches, ottomans, even folding chairs for more versatile seating?  Throw in a fabulous chandelier or a stunning floor lamp?  Contrast colors to give the idea of defined space?  Place a mirror behind a loveseat to reflect light and create the illusion of something more grand?  Hide your technology?  Use corners for bar carts or architectural oddities?  Layer rugs to define and separate?  Mix textures, metals, and fabrics?  Use different design styles like mid-century modern and boho with a touch of industrial farmhouse?  Spend high and save low?  Accept that garage sales and flea markets occasionally let lose that little slice of heaven in what seems a pile of junk?  YES, YES, & YES!  Because show and tell requires creativity not size (at least not in design).

 

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?