Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Downsizing - an apartment redesign

Here's a redesign from my "archives". Several months ago I helped a client who had recently downsized significantly and moved to a much smaller apartment. After getting rid of a huge amount of possessions, the client needed help bringing unity to the things she did keep. She also needed help integrating a large sectional and large entertainment unit into a much smaller space.


I started by breaking up the entertainment center. I placed the center section, with TV, in one corner of the room. Then, placed the two tall and skinny units together on the opposite side of room, where they could be used for book storage. Then, I broke up the L-shaped sectional and placed the two separate couches across from each other. This was the only way to keep parts of the couch from blocking off entrances into the room, but it also created a nice conversation area.

The living room had to function as the home office as well. The client had a large, country style armoire that was a great home office - but the light pine wood and country stylings didn't really go with the newer contemporary flavor we went for. I recommended the client paint it black, along with the coffee table. This made the country styling disappear and the armoire, entertainment and coffee table all coordinated better together, even though they were different styles.

the artwork by the client's daughter that inspired the colors of the room...
Personal momentos, and a flowerpot that adds more cheerful color...
My number one tip for adding to or changing the color of your room: new throw pillows and throws...

The client had saved money for a few Craigslist purchases (coffee table & dining table) and a shopping spree at Ikea for accessories.

Not only do I adore this client - she is so much fun and a good friend - but I loved helping turn her little apartment into a cheerful place, full of personal art and color. I got to be a "personal shopper" on Craigslist (love that CL!) and a personal shopper at Ikea. It was too fun!

Read here if you'd like to see more before and afters.

Monday, April 28, 2008

a girlfriends getaway

Wow. I just got back from the most wonderful weekend with my girlfriends. I was so sick last week - as was every member of my family - that it was touch-and-go as to whether or not I'd be able to make it to the beach with my friends like we had planned. Thank goodness I rallied just in time...this weekend was just what I needed! There are five of us who have been friends since we were twelve (a few of them even before that), and for several months we had planned to take off for the weekend to celebrate all our 30th birthdays this year. (I'd show you a photo of the five of us, but the only photo taken of all of us is on someone else's camera and I don't have a copy yet.) Anyway, I had more in-depth adult conversation in the last two days than I've had in about the last three weeks put together...it was fabulous! Just for fun, here are a few highlights from the trip...

I created little spa-themed gift baskets for each of us, in a different color palette for each person. They included pedicure & manicure sets, nail polish, body butter, a travel candle, some trail mix, an inspirational magnet, and my favorite Lindt chocolate truffles. They weren't expensive to put together, but were a lot of fun - Saturday evening I painted my toe-nails for the first time in...well...I don't know how long.

We spent the weekend at my friend's beach home in Astoria, Oregon. We happened to have perfect weather, and if you live in Oregon, you know how rare that is at the coast. One of the highlights for me was going to the most wonderful antique store in Astoria called Farmhouse Funk. Isn't that a great name? I wish I had taken more photos. It was in this great old house, and every single room was packed full of wonderful goodness...antiques, reproductions, new items like candles...even the bathroom was packed full of homemade soaps and lotions for sale. If you are ever in Astoria, it's got to be a destination for you. I was tempted by the extensive milk glass collection, with pretty reasonable prices. (Sorry, I forgot to get a pic.)

Here was a pair of bamboo chairs I spotted there that my friend Holly and I would have fought over, except that there was no room for them in our crowded SUV (what with five women and all their luggage). Only $29 each! How cool would these have been, painted some fabulous color? (I can see them in red for some reason...maybe in my dining room, or on the front porch?)

And speaking of red chairs...saw this little cutie for $34, in perfect condition. I would have been tempted to buy it for my kitchen if there had been more than one.

But the major purchase that actually made it home with me? This enormous hammered metal ice bucket, of uncertain origin and age, for $9. Why? It will most likely never actually be used for ice...I'm sure it will be used in some other fabulous way in the future. (Watch for it as a prop or serving piece at one of my future parties!)

Here are two of my girlfriends, Sarah and Holly, who are expecting babies this summer/fall...hating me for making them pose like this, but managing to smile anyway. Ah, they love me.

Sigh. All in all...a wonderful weekend with the most wonderful girlfriends a gal could hope for. We need this kind of thing every once in a while. I feel like I just might be able to handle what life will throw at me now...this week, anyway.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday's Fabulous Finds - Mother's Day gift ideas

Can you believe it's already almost Mother's Day? (Wasn't it just Christmas, like, yesterday?) Well, believe it, my friends, and celebrate it, with the help of this week's Fabulous Finds. Here are some perfect gift ideas to help you celebrate the mom in your life - whether that be your mother, wife, daughter, a friend, or yourself, for goodness' sake. This collection just happens to be in earth tones and blues...I'm telling you, sometimes the color palette is intentional, and sometimes it just works out that way. How do I do that? (Even I don't know.) Anyway, have fun browsing the shops of these uber-talented artists. Many of them have been in my "favorites" for a long time, and I've been just waiting for the right moment to showcase them.

"Mother - Your Love is a Song" necklace

"Grandma - A Garden of Love Grows in a Grandma's Heart" necklace

When I first laid eyes on these pendants, it took me about half a second to decide I adored them. On the front is collaged "mother" or "grandma" and on the back has the phrase listed above...but they are also customizable, to say whatever you'd like them to say....perhaps a name, or favorite verse, or simple message. Etsy artist Kellie0901 creates these little works of art for her shop, Charmed!. I had too many favorites in her shop to list them all here, so check it out for yourself and you're sure to find something.

recipe cards (set of 12) "from the kitchen of..."

This is a set of 12 recipe cards by wonderful Etsy seller Kiss 'n Tell Cards featuring illustrations of 4 different herbs: peppermint, thyme, fennel, and parsley. I like the elegant, old-fashioned look of these, and it's a unique idea for someone who is a good cook and has recipes that people want. (I'm not sure what that feels like, myself. :-) ) Although I would have a hard time giving these beauties away!

"Moon Flowers" - original textured painting
set of 2 abstract minimalist landscapes - original paintings
I discovered this artist a few months ago and was this close to purchasing one of her paintings, but it sold in the 24-hour period it took me to make up my mind to buy it. When you look at her work, you can see why. Etsy seller EarthArt produces a wide range of beautiful original paintings in a wide range of sizes and prices as well...nice for people like me on a tight budget, but it also gives me something to save for if I want to splurge on a larger piece of hers.
blue crystalline bud vase
I am such a sucker for vases...especially wheel-thrown blue ones that are one-of-a-kind. Hey, like this one! This charming wheel-thrown crystalline bud vase by PottersVision is a great little gift idea. Search the shop for other colors and vessels.

"Spring Tree" hand-finished print

Isn't this print beautiful? Etsy artist Slavko produces a large number of prints, paintings, and unique art pendants. I was especially drawn to this Spring Tree print. The artist explains that "hand-finished" means "added some paint by hand where it is needed to make it close to original in colors using high quality acrylic paint and acrylic gel, to have some visible strokes". Only $15 for a huge (16x12) hand-embellished print.

The Mother's Circle - customizable necklace

Cascade Mother (or family) necklace

I can finally showcase this beautiful shop - I've had it in my favorites for months and was making myself wait until Mother's Day to show them off. Etsy seller Birthdesigns offers a myriad of customizable jewelry and keychains for mothers, moms-to-be, grandmothers, daughters - really anyone that you would like to honor with custom jewelry. You select the names and one of their many styles that you'd like - Birthdesigns does the rest. I love sentimental gifts at Mother's Day, and this one definitely fits the bill!

There's your Fabulous Finds for this week. Thanks for all your well-wishes for my health (and that of my family). This is a nasty virus that is just hanging on longer than normal, it seems, and quarantine is getting old. That's why I'm so glad I have this little "escape" of window-shopping and writing and chatting a bit with friends I've never actually met. So have a great weekend, friends!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

decorating dilemma? ask the experts...

photo from Taverne Agency via Renovate + Decorate

As Germfest '08 continues in my household, I'm left with little time or energy for blogging. But I can't leave you without at least a little short post for the day, so I thought I'd send you the way of a friend of mine. Belinda is a website editor for the Australian magazine Real Living, and she writes a fun blog called Renovate + Decorate which I like to check in on frequently. Today's post asked readers to submit questions about decorating dilemmas. She will choose a few questions, run them by a panel of experts, and your question (and their answer) may be included in a feature she's writing for the Real Living website next month. Fun, huh? So head on over and submit a question. This could be your chance for fame and fortune and...well, perhaps that's exaggerating slightly. But it is a good chance to have your burning question answered by more than one expert. And that's cool.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Anne Harwell art sale - buy one, get one FREE!!

Second post in one day...it must be special (and it is!). I just discovered that one of my favorite Etsy artists, annechovie (Anne Harwell) is having a jaw-dropping sale. If you enjoyed any of her art that I featured in this Friday's Fabulous Finds, you'll want to get over to her Etsy shop. She's having a buy-1-get-1-free sale on her entire inventory. I, of course, had to purchase some notecards (featuring chairs, of course) before even posting this. :-) I may go back at some point and purchase a few prints, too. This one's my favorite. Just thought you bargain-hunters who appreciate beautiful art might like to know!

By the way, Anne's blog is also one of my favorites. Be sure to stop by when you get a moment - she has a love both for art and design that really appeals to me.

My Top 3 Life-Altering Gadgets for Under $10

Don't laugh at me (okay, go ahead!)...but, yes...I do consider these little gadgets to be life-altering. The kind of gadget that once you buy it and start to use it, you wonder how you survived without it all this time. In fact, how did anybody survive without it? You may think I'm being trivial (I am) or that I'm way behind the times (that too - I'd always rather spend my money on beauty over function) but today, just for fun, I thought I'd share my Top Three Life-Altering Gadgets Under $10. You see, I've finally succumbed to the nasty bug my daughter had...in fact, the whole family is down and out with fevers and sore throats, etc. So in celebration of Germfest '08, a Life-Altering List!
1. It's no wonder the Dark Ages were dark - they didn't have any of these! This is an apple corer-slicer from Ikea. Every single day I cut up apples at lunch for my kids. Had I known it would only require $2.99 on a trip to Ikea I would have purchased this LONG before I actually did. Hmmm, five seconds versus two minutes of meticulous slicing...I'll take the five seconds.

2. If you are a spray-paint afficionado like I am (I only tag ugly furniture, however), you are familiar with the cramp where your finger is permanently in a hooked position for hours after a long spray paint session. No longer! This Spray Can Handle by Rustoleum requires an investment of $3.79 - no kidding - and you'll be able to paint furniture for hours and hours without looking like Captain Hook afterwards.

3. If you're not an avocado fan, you won't be blown away by this. But if you do like avocado, even occasionally...oh my word, this is fabulous. My priciest gadget in the list at $9.95 (gasp!) this avocado slicer from Crate and Barrel was left in my stocking last Christmas and is probably one of my best stocking stuffers ever. (I've actually pictured the Target version here, which sells for only $5.99.) I have a baby who LOVES avocado, and the rest of the fam likes it too - so this gadget that removes the avocado from the peel while slicing it neatly at the same time is a winner.
What did I tell you? Life-altering, huh? (Boy, does my life need more excitement or what!)

Do you have any life-altering gadgets to tell me about?

Monday, April 21, 2008

What's Your Style?

Ever wondered what your style is? Does your home feel like a mish-mash of a little bit of everything? Are you ever befuddled by all the different style labels out there, like "traditional" or "country" or "modern" or "eclectic" or...etcetera? The benefit to being able to label your style is that as you shop and decorate, you can narrow your focus and be very intentional about what you're purchasing (or saving for). This will help you to eliminate that mish-mash look (unless that's what you're going for and your style is Bohemian or eclectic) and you can make your space look a little more sophisticated and pulled-together.

an inspiration book (photo via The Cottage Nest)

I recently spent a few hours at the small condo home of a very fun client. She had a variety of styles represented in her furniture, but had no idea what her true style really was. However, she had something most of my clients don't: a file folder filled with magazine clippings of decor, colors, furniture, styles, and fabrics that she likes. Gold mine! I really enjoyed looking through her "inspiration file", and more importantly, I was able to identify common themes, colors, and styles. Next, I looked at her most recent purchases of art and furniture, and voila! They all had something in common: contemporary style.

Have you ever seen that show on HGTV called Find Your Style? It's one of my favorites. Not only do I love the host, Karen McAloon, but I love the concept of a designer who comes and not only helps the clients identify their style, but then gives them shopping and decorating tips so they are able to implement their decorating style on their own. If you'd like a little more help on finding your style, read McAloon's Ten Tips to Finding Your Style.

Here are just a few pics from this wonderful client's little redesign:

living room before...

...this long wall is the first thing you see when you walk into the living room. I like that the client had her furniture off the walls (so many of us assume everything has to be touching the wall) but the arrangement was a little awkward and made the space seem smaller than it really was. The empty wall was a missed opportunity to showcase some lovely artwork.

living room after...
I found several prints around the condo that all had similar frames, colors and style. I brought them together and showcased them as more of a "collection" on the wall. Now it's a cheerful focal point when you first walk into the room. Also, the loveseat works a little better against the wall as opposed to splitting up the room. I suggested that in the short-term, the client make or purchase solid-color throw pillows; in the long-term, get the quality furniture re-upholstered rather than purchasing new. It's still in great shape, and with new upholstery and removing the skirts (showing off the legs!) this furniture can be much more contemporary.
Below is a cheerful yellow vase that was previously displayed on top of the fireplace. Because the walls are also yellow, it just blended in to the background. Now, it really stands out and brightens the dark wood of the coffee table. (That cute red fabric...it's a dish towel!)
Contemporary framed art that was recently purchased by the client and helped me identify her style. She has several prints with a similar style and color palette, which, along with her recent purchases of coffee table and end table, helped me determine her style to actually be "contemporary".The client had almost NO knick-knacks. Unbelievable! (Yet admirable.) Below is a cabinet that hides an air-conditioning unit. When I arrived it was almost empty. I rifled through the client's kitchen cabinets (I am shameless) and discovered several glass items that happened to be in similar colors that fit perfectly in the small shelf.

The client has an extensive "to-do" list now, with ideas on furniture to paint, curtains to hang, slipcovers to make, and pillows to purchase or make. She is a seamstress and therefore has a huge advantage to the rest of us poor souls who couldn't operate a sewing machine if our lives depended on it. The opportunity to have custom curtains and custom pillows is priceless - so if you sew - get to it! (And make me something while you're at it! :-) )

Read here if you'd like to learn more about redesign or see more before-and-afters.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday's Fabulous Finds - Wall Graphics

Happy Friday everyone. I have one very sick baby at home today, so this will be a shorter post than usual! (I've got few moments to myself between the coughing and crying and being thrown up on, so I've gotta make it quick.) Today I thought I would highlight some of my favorite Etsy artists that produce wall decals. Wall decals have really grown in popularity over the last several years as an alternative to the big commitment and large-scale patterns of wall paper, and a far more affordable and attainable option than hand-painted wall murals. I highly recommend that you follow the links and browse the shops of each of these artists. I only have time to post a few examples of their work, but take my word for it - the designs are varied in style and quite affordable. I wish I could be more wordy about each one but the pics and links will have to do:

1. Lewa's Designs - examples below...

2. MichelleChristina - examples below...

3. Elephannie's - pics below...

It was SO hard for me to choose which example photos to highlight here, because I love everything these three artists produce. As you can see, wall decals are no longer just for kids' rooms (although they're still a great option for children's rooms too). For those of us who are a little commitment-phobic when it comes to design, these are a great option. And for those of us who can't afford to hire a muralist it's fabulous too. Once again, I recommend you browse through these shops - there's something for everyone and every style. Have a wonderful weekend!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Real Simple Redecorates

If you've read May's issue of Real Simple, you can imagine there was a feature article that I loved this month. All about "re-decorators"...hey, that's what I do! It was really fun to read about redecorators and look at the four New York living rooms that got the professional touch. The article started out this way:

"If your living room looks the same as it did during the Reagan Administration…well, first of all, you’ve got a lot of company. Second, you don’t have to splurge on a fancy sofa or area rug to give it new life. Real Simple asked redecorators — you heard that right, redecorators — to whip four tired spaces into shape, using only the stuff that was there, and provide a play-by-play along the way. With their truly transforming tips, you, too, can usher in a new era."

To see the complete article, with all the befores and afters, read here. It's just refreshing to read about redecorating (especially in a major print publication), when it seems that every magazine I read is all about purchasing. The beauty of redecorating (if I may preach for a moment) is that it's OKAY not to have money to buy a new room or even a new couch. It's okay that some of your stuff is old and you keep it around for sentimental value. What makes your house a home has nothing to do with how much money you have or how frequently you purchase new items for it. You and I know that even though our homes may not look like a page out of a magazine, they are, by nature of the people in them, the central hubs of our families...filled with the light, love and warmth that comes from the relationships of their inhabitants.
That being said, I'm a firm believer in the way that a little redecorating can really lift your spirits. For those of you who've had the same furniture arrangement since the Reagan administration (you know who you are) or...let's face it...even the Clinton administration (hitting too close to home now?), don't underestimate the kind of lift you can get when you do a little rearranging. Try looking at your home objectively (I know it's easier said than done) and look for corners that are dark or wall spaces that are empty...then do something about it. Try to think outside the box on your furniture arrangement. And if you get really desperate, call someone like me (or someone like me who's located near you). I think you'll find it is SO worth it! I just want to see your home reflect who you really are, and I don't want to see people depressed or discouraged because they don't have money for expensive changes.
Okay, preaching over. Have a wonderful day, my friends, and head on over to the Real Simple article to get the full effect! And read here if you'd like to catch up on some of my own before-and-afters.