Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Big projects loom ahead, and abelly!

So, you're not really supposed to move, change jobs, have a baby, and undertake a major house renovation at the same time.

But I don't really live by the What You're Supposed to Do Handbook. So that's exactly what I'm doing. I'm moving back to the Washington, DC area, where my husband and I met. My husband is changing jobs, and I'm having another baby, our third. And, arguably as hard as giving birth - we're going to renovate the house we're about to move into.

We're movin into a house we know well - we've owned it for ten years and lived in it before we had kids. Now it needs to work for three additional little people, and for my ever changing and morphing design sensibilities. I've gone through a big modern phase in my New York apartment chapter, and now I will merge all that accumulated urbaneness with the cottage sensibility appropriate for my little new old house.

And try to keep it all together with my two little boys who are somewhere in between being too young too trully help and just young enough to make every task that much more difficult or messy.

Should be interesting.

I'll keep ya posted.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Grandma on my mind

grandma & lukie, august 2010

My grandmother is 93. She recently broke her hip. As she's been in the hospital, I keep thinking how unhappy she must be not to be home. I don't that she misses the small condo she shares with my grandfather now that they are in their 90s, but I imagine she misses HER home - the olive-green cape she created to raise her family, the one she decorated vigilantly, and filled with her handicraft. I've been day dreaming about all the time I spent in her house growing up, with a lot of design nostalgia.

Her home was filled with braided rugs and flowery china pieces. Lots of floral chints curtains, handmade afgans, colored glass lamps not necessarily from Tiffany and friendly little figurines (everywhere) which, if they lacked in extravagance, they made up in homespun charm. She taught me that to have your own home was quite a priveledge, and you revel in that gift, especially as a woman, by making it as beautiful, interesting and clean (ugh, that part I learn begrudingly) as you can. These things remind me of her. Thanks etsy.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Kill the deadly ache: Who are you?

"There is no ache more deadly than the striving to be oneself." -Yevgeniy Vinokurov We all know that pretending to be someone else is painful, not to mention exhausting. What about your house? Is it too, pretending? This is often much less sinister than it sounds - the truth is so many people are after a "look" or an "effect" or, perish the thought, spit-up-in-my-mouth, a "theme." It's plenty ok with me if you copy right out of the pile of catalogues that come in the mail or right out of House Beautiful, if you are genuinely inspired and moved by the design on these pages. That's right - let's get Biblical with our houses. Wait until you are moved by something before you buy it, nail it up or have someone install it. This means it will be a more lasting feature in your home. This is also are a really nice way to avoid buyer's remorse, so common in big house decisions! So put down the mags and cats for now. Take a moment. Knowing yourself and making your home reflect this is quite possibly the greatest thing on earth. This is coming from a house-addict, an abode-lover, a dedicated devotee to all things related to residential design, but still, who out there doesn't like to come home? And what is more home, than a space that makes you feel good, that reflects you, and knows you? That's why the best education you can get to make your home more beautiful, is an education in yourself. What makes you smile? blush? smirk? snark? What makes you think of that first love? What makes you angry? What makes you think of childhood in a good way? What makes you think of childhood like a briar patch? What do you need to relax? recharge? recluse? These are the questions you should be asking waaaaay before you pick up a color wheel or look at a design magazine. This is hard work. That's certainly true. And if you aren't that sensitive to your surroundings, if you are "never home" or if you swear you really "just don't care," I think you're lying, but you can probably skip the questions above all the same. For the rest of you out there with a pulse, put the work + time in, and stick to your guns. It's sometimes hard to pick the wild green chair that makes you swoon, that's a little weird, or the chartreuse kitchen walls, or the gigantic brass gorilla knocker on your front door. But have confidence - the only audience that matter is YOU and guess what? You're watching.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

ironically, of course i'm very tired as I write this...

Interviewed again on the topic of baby sleep + the connection to interior design. (Which I believe is tremendous.) Enjoy - this time via Parents Magazine Online.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Mother's Little Helper: The well-designed nursery

Yes, it snowed today in Northern NJ. Really?

Now that I got that out of my system, on to the intersection of sleep/design. I worked with Nicole Johnson, founder of the ever-popular Baby Sleep Site, on this one. She's the sleep whisperer, I will do almost anything to get some sleep in my house, including making sure every decoration in my children's rooms works on my side. I wrote a piece for her blog - check it out here.

Monday, March 7, 2011

it's all tranny nowadays: transitional 101

I am working with several families now in search of the perfect transitional kitchen space. Not to get existential about it - but a transitional kitchen is neither here, no there. It is in a mode that straddles modern, traditional and has license to cherry pick from either side to achieve a balance that makes it impossible to really label it in any other way. When you can't pick a side? Transitional. When you don't know what you want? Transitional. When you are modern and your house is not? Transitional. When you have Victorian fantasies and a mobile home budget? Transitional.

The great thing about this transitional mode is that the rules are breakable and what's important to the owner, reigns. Designers are forced to allow people to actually inject what they want into what would naturally be a modern space, adding the feminine, the whimsical, the decorative - typically reserved for traditional kitchens. And designers are stripped of every trick in their fussy playbooks when a homeowner says, "I need to inject modern. But I still want white paneled cabinetry."

So I love it. I love design that break rules and is hard to pin down. Anything that says, "we're making it up as we go along, and it's mostly up to you, dear homeowner." I'm on board.

So what do you think about when you create a transitional space? Let's be honest, transitional spaces really begin in the land of the traditional. They begin with traditional shapes, that are tweaked or morphed or adapted with hardware and other tricks. You start with the basics of your kitchen - cabinetry that is simple, but probably still has panels, flooring, which is likely wood, and counters which seem to have a pretty neutral impact on where your kitchen lives in the mod-trad contiuum. From there, you can really switch things up with your choices of:

1) Lighting. Makes a real statement. Are you trying to mimic the French countryside, or are you bringing a little light industrial chic into your kitchen - say it with lighting. Regardless of the cabinets or the appliances, lighting sets a big tone- both in the shape, and how the light fills the space. Playing with chrome, glass and scale, can morph a traditional space into a more streamlined one. I also love lighting that uses traditional patterns or motifs in a modern shape, or vice versa, like the delicious Butterscotch Pendant from Euro lighting, below.

2) Hardware. Instant game-changer. These seem inconsequential and are a very annoying choice to make for renovation-weary clients, but knobs and pulls that simply enable you to open the door, speak LOUDLY when it comes to kitchens. In fact, if you have just $100 to update your kitchen, a can of paint anid new knobs will go a really long way.

3) To panel or not to panel. Cabinetry people LOVE to splash their panels all over the place - onto the range hood, the appliances, onto doors that aren't really doors. Heaven for bid we should have a flat surface in a kitchen! Breaking out of this -letting your stainless or black-glassed appliances show their faces is a big way to push the envelope, and your kitchen, into modern territory. Fewer panels skews modern.

4) Accessories - Believe it or not - I may notice your teapot before I notice what your countertop is made up of. Our kitchens tell people how we eat and live - and the accessories we use tell a lot about what kind of space we're creating. A sleek set of counter appliances and accessories can again, steer the ship to modern.

5) Color - I hate to say it - but color does play favorites. Cooler colors seem to spell more modern spaces - warmer colors have been hijacked by more traditional looks - probably thanks to our overinterpretation of Tuscany and Provence - we imagine anything from Europe dripping in yellow and sienna. We should all take a trip to Stockholm and the Swedish country side and take a look at all the fabulous transitional Scandi spaces. The scandinavians invented transitional. The colors are almost always light and bright - the colors slight and typically cool. These shades really do inhabit an ethereal in-between existence. If your walls are grey-green, you aren't really beholden to anything.
So go forth, break the rules - incorporate what you love and take advantage of the explosion of offerings from manufacturers who want to please all of us out there who like it both ways.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Cat (alogue) Call: Whoot Whoot! Design Within Reach's Latest

I actually hate almost all catalogues. Forgive me as I take a seldom-used opportunity to voice what I see as earth-abuse, at least mail-box abuse. I also hate the prolific use of acronyms, so you could say the deck was stacked against Design Within Reach, or DWR, as it's known by the design elite, or those who choose friends based on what chairs people have in their homes. I also find the name to be a bit of a misnomer - their wares are hardly within in my reach, nor the reach of my clients. But they sure do make a pretty catalogue. And unlike their completely whorish cataloguing retail counterparts, they only send one or two a year, max. I like that in a company.

And, I almost passed out, from love, at first sight of the most recent catalogue. Another thing I like about DWR (sorry - feeling lazy) is that it sells objects - not rooms. What I hate about the catalogue-ization of our design economy is that stores like Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware try to sell entire rooms and looks - they invite is to put our innate curatorial sense to sleep and simply "buy the room." DWR doesn't do that - it shows off it's wares like museum pieces. And they pretty much are - they each have a completely transparent and much-touted design story. (They should, considering their price tag.) If we all connected to the who-what-where of the design of our objects - we'd have less, and what we had would mean more to us. Less landfills, smaller craigslist-for-sale sections, etc. But I digress.

What captured my eye this time was the new Scoop Chaise Longue, designed by Mark Gabbertas, produced by Gloster, Scandis I'm sure. It looks an awful lot like rattan - but it's not - it's Textiline, which is basically vinyl. It looks an awful lot like rattan, but it gives more - no need for cushions. Love that comfortable minimalism. And no more mildew cushions or running out in the rain, cursing the damn summer cushions. Most of all - I love when modern meets feminine - when simple shapes retain curvature, movement and a liquid quality. Lastly, I like things that wear well - that's always worth paying for in my book.
I don't exactly have the limestone pool surround, nor a pool, in which to lounge on such a chair. DWR is most certainly aspirational -but it's also smart design. It's not superfluous - nothing extra, and nothing, we hope, that will end up in the trash because it can't be used for daily use.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Sit on this cylinder.

Perhaps it doesn't sound like a great invitation (title) and as I write this next sentence, it sounds more like phrase a doctor might say, but I love the idea of a soft stool. Seriously - call them poufs or cylinders - whatever. The idea of a backless stool, a formed beanbag, extra seating that could also support a tray of drinks - count me in. I'm a sucker for anything in my house that does double duty - seat + tabletop. I saw these Cayden Poufs at Crate and Barrel yesterday with my sons, and as I saw them jump and play with them, that lucky "ding-ding-ding" went off in my head - it's the sound I discover when something is both chic & boy-proof for my home. To get the "ding-ding-ding" for less than $100 is pretty sweet - as the Poufs at C&B retail for $80, but I can't help but think, can't I make those? They seem super easy to sew and they you would just need to fill them properly with the right foam. Finding foam is not the easiest thing. TBC on that DIY of gorgeous pouf pyramid below thanks to

Also, this very topic of soft stools was on designerpages today. Really.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Art School for Color

I know many of you have a love-hate relationship with the paint store. I can relate - I love color - I love the chips - I hate to choose. I do it for a living and I hate to have to narrow myself down to the ONE. It feels like a wedding day after a hasty romance. You're in the store, you bring the chips home, you spend a little time together, and then all of a sudden (longer for some feet draggers) it's time to commit. For most people, there is tremendous fear and anxiety about choosing the WRONG one, heaven forbid and having to get divorced, which in paint parlance, simply means painting over your first husband, er, color. I have never done a great job in convincing anyone that this is no big deal - "so you paint over it!" doesn't put people at ease. So instead, let's talk about how to make a good choice in the first place.

There are entire books - indeed entire libraries of books dedicated to color selection. There is traditional color theory that you learn in design school. There are color personality tests. Often overlooked are the personal color histories that each of us have. What was the color of your first bedroom? That room in school with the mean teacher? The stuffed animal you clutched everywhere at age 7? The color of grandma's apron? The color of the lobby of your first apartment building, the one you could barely afford? For me it was a dark peach, and I can never go there again.

It's important to look at the colors in your life - we experience color and smell and taste and sounds as associated with memories and experiences. I love Kohr Bros orange-cream from my childhood summers at the shore. I adore La Rocca grey from time in Italy with my husband. Mine your memories for colors you are drawn to. Invariably, the colors you have positive associations with will already be in your closet, and in the art work you've collected over the years.

"Alright, so I like grey. I like light smoky grey. WHICH LIGHT SMOKY GREY??" I can hear you asking me this, with expletives. I hear you. Narrowing down is hard when you're trying to envision a 500 square foot room from a 1" x 1" square from the chip wheel with thousands of colors and perhaps 100 greys. You need to cheat. You can go to art school, or, you can just look at the art you already love. Our favorite art work grounds our space, and says so much about who we are and what inspires us. It's what separates us from a hotel lobby - our personalities - where we have been in life - what we think about. So your art is an essential part of any room design - and it's also elemental in developing a color scheme.

Photo compliments to the blog deslightbydesign

I recently worked with an avid modern art collector who was stumped on paint color. Her walls were white. But she didn't live in a gallery - she lived in a home with two children and she deserved walls with more punch. So we plummaged the art. We found base colors, accent colors - even trim colors - all within the art she loved and planned to use for each room. There is something magical about color - it always finds itself. What I mean by this, is that if you use color from a work of art on the walls, your eye make the connection between the art work, with the woman wearing the yellow tulle dress, and the butter cream walls that surround and support it. Wall + art work are now cohesive to the eye.

I'm usually not a fan of accent walls. Nothing to me says, "I don't have the guts to paint the whole room this color," when you only have one citrine wall. But when you're using art as a reference, it makes sense. Art can anchor an accent wall - give it a reason for being. My client, the one I mentioned above, had a series of prints with the faintest hint of teal in a botanically-themed work that was primarily gold and black. Set against a teal wall, the teal came alive in the art and the accent wall was the perfect backdrop to highlight the art, and create an anchor for what is a very long room.

You never go wrong when you start with something you really really like. It doesn't matter if it's art from Pier I or a gallery in Chelsea from the 1960s. If you like it, use it as your guide - even take it to the paint store to find a matching hue - you can't go wrong.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Snowspirations: some praise for white

All this snow is making me like the color white again. I actually hate the snow - it's completely cumbersome with a non-walker and another child barely tall enough to peer over the drifts that line our driveway. But, it does make me think that the next place I inhabit and change will have more white in it. OK, I'm too much of a color addict - maybe not white-white - but certainly a light and muted palette. The snow, while annoying as a physical barrier, does provide some visual inspiration. Lighter, whiter tints illuminate and lift. My red room fantasies remain - for darker, interior spaces - enclosed dining rooms or powder rooms, vibrant colors and intense hues still reign in my book. But where we can use available light, lighter lifts and enables a more cohesive space for larger rooms.

I also like white and lighter colors because, like a great volleyball setter, they enable interesting objet and artwork jump out at you. This is why galleries use white for their walls, obviously, but you need not paint your walls white to get this same effect. I'd suggest using the lightest tint on your favorite art work to really make it pop on the wall - and connect it to the rest of the space.

Also, white and light colors really draw attention to texture, which is often overlooked when there are so many competing colors on walls and other large pieces in the room.

At the end of the day, light colors can be a delight, not a bore. This is no way my being complicit with the tired and frankly annoying sales advice given by the real estate industry to paint "light and bright" for any house on the market. True, lighter colors on walls make the spaces appear larger, because light reflects and seems to expand the boundries, not bring them into focus, as is the effect with say, a red room. However choose wisely - an interesting muted grey, a pale taupe, a bitter-lemon-yellow - test those walls and bring some snow inside, and not just on the bottom of your boots.