Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Making a Home Away from Home


This week we are on Marco Island in southwest Florida. Notwithstanding a few family Disney trips, this is my first time in the land of palm trees and pelicans.

And it is adults-only. Which is good because our arrival (after nearly 24 hours in the car) coincided with warnings about Hurricane Isaac. Lucky for us, we just got a little rain.

Our room at the Marco Resort and Club is a small suite, nearly 500 square feet in size. The screened porch area, which faces the pool, opens into the living area through a large sliding glass door. The living area is part of a larger room that also has a full kitchen. Through another door, heading straight back is the bedroom, and the bathroom is at the end of the unit.

There is one large drape in the living area. It goes all the way to the ceiling which creates a nice dramatic effect. The pattern repeats on the bedspread and window valance in the bedroom. It is sea-themed with images of fish and shells on lots of blues and greens. For such a small space, repeating the pattern does a great job of unifying the different spaces. 

As nice as our room is, a place doesn't really feel like home to me without a few elements. To make this home-away-from-home a bit more homey, I would add the following:

1. Throw pillows and a blanket
A couch just feels cozier with some throw pillows on it and a blankie to snuggle under. It's also another way to add visual interest to a space. For our unit, I would add a few pillows in a solid citron. It picks up on one of the colors in the drapes yet doesn't contrast with the pattern of the drapes.

For the snuggling blanket, I love everything about this cashmere throw from One Kings Lane. It is bright pink, which is a great tropical color reminiscent of pink flamingos (read this great history of the yard ornament). Pink makes a nice contrasting color against all the blues and greens in our unit. A small bit of a contrasting color in a room can be unexpected and fun!

2. A rug
Our unit has tile floors, which surely is meant to keep the place cleaner with all the sand that is tracked in from happy beachgoers. But I like the way a rug feels under my feet. A rug can soften a space, which otherwise can feel hard and sterile without it. The right colors can also tie together two separate spaces (as in this case where we have a living area and kitchen together).

I would choose the reclaimed indigo Oriental rug from Viva Terra. Made from recycled plastic bottles and packing materials this pretty rug doesn't absorb stains, can be easily cleaned with a garden hose or sponge, and won't trap water or mildew. Pretty awesome for a room that will see up to 52 different residents in one year alone!

3. Art
There is something about the way the bed in this unit fits against the wall that reminds me of being on a ship. There is a soffitt over the bed and swing-arm lamps on either side of the bed, which creates a compartment-like feeling. A fun addition to one of the bedroom walls then would be a wood-cut anchor, painted navy blue. 
It should be fairly simple to download a clip-art file of an anchor, increase the size and trace it onto wood, and then have someone handy cut it out. But since I haven't actually tried doing that, I think equally cute would be a wooden wreath form with stripes painted on it to resemble a life preserver. Here is a sample for sale on eBay (perhaps we'll skip the message on ours. Sounds a little risque to me ;)

4. Stuff that smells good
We bought a strawberry shortcake-scented candle and hand soap during our hurricane stock-up shopping trip. While the candle was a necessity if the power had gone out, it reminded me how much I like things that smell nice. Other options are scented cleaners like Mrs. Meyers' Clean Day Counterspray, fresh fruit, or a vase of fresh flowers. 

5. Collections ... and extra storage
It occurred to me last night that I am homesick for my books. There's something about having stacks of well-loved books that makes me feel at home. We did, however, collect lots of shells at the sugar-sand beach yesterday, and this makes a lovely collection all laid out to dry on our counters. 

Extra storage in this space could be an ottoman in the bedroom to hold a suitcase or a basket for the chargers for all of our gadgets in the living area. 

We have a few more days here before we head back home. I'm sure I'll be ready once we leave, but for now it's fun pretending to live in paradise.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Busy busy

It's been over a week since my last post. While I haven't totally forgotten about design, I've had that busy feeling that can quickly morph into hyperventilating and unsuccessful multitasking.

The balance between work and home. Projects to support the family and caring for that family. Office and laundry room. Sometimes it's all a bit much. 

Rather than blogging about my decorating and organizing experiences--or even trying to have any such ideas--my creative outlet over the past week has been different. I went to yoga (twice!), walked my dog and played at the park with the family, cooked with a friend, had dinner with my parents, checked out a gazillion books from the library, and am headed out on a big vacation with my lovey starting tomorrow night. 

I also discovered that a new season of Sarah's House starts September 1st on HGTV. We definitely love TV in this house and I love Sarah Richardson's designs. Below is a sneak peek of her new kitchen. Per The Inspired Room, this season Sarah and Tommy are transforming a builder's beige box into a dream home. It should be interesting since I am living in a newer construction with plenty of the builder's design choices as my decor.

I hope to have some more interesting, joyful posts in a few days once I've truly caught my breath. For now, I'm headed off to color some Barbie pages with my little-loose-tooth girl, print the invitations for a work event, and continue to tackle that mountain of laundry...

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

French Faves

This morning my news feed was full of my favorite bloggers posting about Entertaining in Provence. Filled with fun ideas and tips of how to use what you have to create a similar look, photos of beautiful Provençal rooms & a recipe for an omelette cake, and fantasies of the castles in our mind and what our own homes represent to us, all the posts link to a sale on One Kings Lane. 

The sale is a partnership with the editors of Martha Stewart Living who are turning the Provençal-inspired story from the September issue (I told you it was a good one!) into an exclusive get-the-look sale.  

There are so many pretty things in this sale that even though nobody asked my opinion, I am going to share it here anyway.  :)  Some of my favorites:

1. I've been really into the look of caning on furniture lately so the Virginia four-drawer storage unit popped right out at me. I think it would be great in an entry way filled with all the stuff you need for on-the-go. It's petite enough at 29 x 14 x 30.25 that it doesn't take up much room but still provides stylish storage.
2. The Italian handthrown canister (there are three of these in the sale, all numbered) would also be great in an entry. A neighbor gave me a stone canister a few years ago, and lately I've been thinking a lot about bringing it inside. It would be great for storing umbrellas (or baseball bats and lacrosse sticks).
3. Carolina Beach II. This is part of a trio of photos shot by Big Fish off the Carolina coast. I love the colors and my blood pressure goes down just looking at this serene picture.
4. The Hewitt dining table. Every table in Provence has to be made for a feast. I love the curved legs. They make the table appear so much more elegant than its rustic finish. The interplay of elegant and rustic makes for a more interesting room and is pretty indicative of the Provençal style.   
5. The Philippa chair looks like France to me. And in Provence I think you can get away with mixing the finish on this chair and the natural wood of the Hewitt dining table above. Since I'm daydreaming, I would add three of these chairs to one side of the Hewitt and shop for a bench in the same finish as these chairs. Maybe one with a bright, graphic patterned cushion...
6. This green handthrown pitcher is already in another member's cart--just a reminder that when you want something on one of these sales you have to move FAST! I love the vibrant green, however, and you can't go wrong creating a Provençal setting by mixing in some pottery that could have been used by your ancestors.
7. This galvanized ice bucket could be used for so much more than just ice cold drinks. Plant holder, flip flops at the front door, the sky is the limit...

8. These surprisingly affordable chairs ($199 for the pair) are simple and clean-lined. They would be great around a kitchen table or in an entry.

9. One last item since we're talking about affordable purchases. I love this olive print! In the sale, the print can be found on tablecloths, napkins, an apron, dish towels, pot holders, and an oven mitt as well as non-fabric items such as olive oil cruets and small dishes. Prices range from $10-$29.

There are so many beautiful things in this sale, and while many are pricey (my Hewitt table above is nearly $2,500. Ouch!), there are many smaller items that would make perfect splurges or would be great for gift-giving. I encourage you to go check it out because ogling is so much fun!

One Kings Lane requires membership. But signing up is easy peasy and you earn credits when your invitees join too. Let me know in the comments if you have any trouble getting on the site. 

Have fun shopping!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Organized Home

Besides looking good, a well-designed home should be organized. This requires a plan for how the space is going to be used. I LOVE to organize! It's fun and I definitely love getting new ideas for how to do it better. There are so many places in my home where I feel I could be more organized, more streamlined.

Yesterday I attended a free class at Pottery Barn on "The Organized Home". The fabulous instructor, Chelsea, covered the gamut of home organization. She discussed storage solutions for basements/attics, closets, kitchens, offices, and kids' spaces. She relayed personal stories about growing up with an uber-organized mom. And she managed to organize her thoughts well enough that she addressed the individual organizing needs of all of the attendees (for me, this was most impressive).

"How to Get Organized: Storage Solutions for Every Room" is the informational booklet that all of the attendees received. The staff at Pottery Barn put it in a bag with the schedule for upcoming classes, the brochure for the Fall Decorating class, and a Benjamin Moore summer paint swatch packet. It was very cute and fun!

While I don't think I can do justice to the thoroughness of the class, a few of my favorite tips are highlighted below. I should point out that these are my interpretations of what was said, and not a Pottery Barn-approved message (and they certainly did not sponsor this post--darn it!).

1. A little time spent figuring out how you are going to use the space (pre-planning) will save you lots of time, money, and frustration in the long run.

2. Determine what kind of storage you need before you go shopping. 

3. Buying lots of baskets (even pricey cute Pottery Barn baskets) does not equal organizing.

4. Take measurements of the space (drawer, closet shelf, etc.) so you can buy the right size basket, bin, whatever.

5. Choose a monochromatic color scheme if you want your "display" (clothing, towels, sheets) to look catalog-perfect. 

6. Make a diagram or take photos of holiday displays you really like so they can be re-created year after year. 

7. Label your stuff. Whether you use a professional label maker or just a note stuck to a Rubbermaid bin with masking tape, it will help you figure out later what is inside all those boxes in your basement. 

Note: Chelsea's mom (I have a feeling I am going to be using that expression A LOT) actually has inventoried lists of what is inside all of her basement boxes. Which reminds me of the episode of Will & Grace where the gang travels to Will's childhood home, and get stuck in his mom's attic. Played by the incomparably lovely Blythe Danner, Will's mom had the most organized storage I have ever seen. Every box was the same size, shape, and color, and they were ALL labeled. It was heaven! 

Anyway, I went into yesterday's class hoping to get some new ideas for organizing paperwork. This area of our kitchen is designated as the home office. The land line (I am so old school!) is here; the pencils; phone books; and our bulletin board. Craft supplies for the kids are in one side of the cabinet below.

As you can see, it can also be a bit of a dumping ground. (This photo is titled "eyesore" in my online folder, just so you know). Getting it under control is important for my peace of mind: I can see this mess from the sofa when I'm trying to relax. It's also on the edge of the kitchen nearest our dining area, and can be used as a serving area if we entertain.

And with school starting in three weeks, the heat is on! Just buying the classroom supplies for my first- and fourth-graders this weekend required focus and concentration.

Recently I bought these four keepsake boxes from Michaels. I love the designs and they were in the clearance bin for less than $2 apiece. I bought two starfish boxes and two octopus boxes. I didn't have a good plan for where to use them, but figured the size, look, and price were good enough to justify the purchase.

Voila! The solution to our paper problem is to stack these four boxes on the corner of the cabinet. They can be labeled with each of our names. The boxes are catchalls for the papers and other items that get jumbled into a messy pile.

As an aside, as much as I adore organizing, I don't think I ever want to sort LEGOs by color. Do you?? God bless IHeart Organizing and all the moms like her. I honestly felt like I was being a good mom by not vacuuming up stray LEGO pieces. The parenting/organizing bar has been raised...  :)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Happy birthday, Martha!

Today is Martha Stewart's birthday. She is 71 years old. Can you believe it?? She looks amazing!

The latest issue of Martha Stewart Living (September 2012) is one of the best in a long time, in my humble opinion. Besides the adorable photo of her and granddaughter Jude in the fun playroom on the cover, there are articles on using bold color to transform any room, mini-makeovers for lots of different spaces, and a feature on Detroit's own Corktown!

Griffin's Turn

I couldn't very well do a room for Bela and not do something for Griffin, now could I?? :)

There's something about bunk beds that just screams "boy" to me. In fact, part of the reason for wanting to give Bela a new bed is that I want to reunite her bed with Griffin's; they are part of a bunk bed set.

I like how the bunks in this inspiration photo have book racks and reading lamps by each. That's a great solution to not having a nightstand, especially for a boy like Griffin who enjoys reading before bed.

In anticipation of the bunk bed reunion, I've moved Griffin's bed to the one available long wall. I gave him a more grown up looking blanket on his bed that coordinates better with the rest of the colors in his room. The blanket was actually the one I had on my dorm bunk bed during my freshman year of college.

The display shelf was already on the wall and to it, I added some of Griffin's favorite books. I also hung some other things above and below the shelf to take up more of the wall space and create a focal point that is the right scale for the size of the wall. When there are bunk beds there we won't need as much stuff on the wall but for now the amount of wall from bed to ceiling is pretty huge.

This display works from a design standpoint because there are an odd number of pieces (five): calendar, pennant, shelf, self-drawing, and Harry Potter wall-hanging. Less obvious from this photo is the way the colors pull your eye across the entire vignette. So the blue of the pennant on the top is replicated in the HP wall hanging below and across; the bright colors of the calendar appear in the book cover for Eric Carle's Mister Seahorse on the shelf.

Griffin has a few very special pieces in his room, all with a special connection to his grandpa (my dad). The first is his castle bookcase, built for him when he was a toddler.

It's pretty large so it gets its own wall between the bedroom door and the closet. I added a Zelda shield that Griffin bought with birthday money a few years ago to the top. To me, it recalls the Knights of Camelot. To Griffin, it will mean something else entirely. ;)  

I filled the shelves with his books, trading cards, action figures, and other knickknacks, including a globe. 

The color scheme for the room is inspired by the globe and maps on his wall. Since most of the furniture is gray with touches of green, this works pretty well.

Griffin's Lego table (built by grandpa as a Christmas gift a few years ago) was moved to the area by his windows. When the blinds are open, he has a gorgeous view of our backyard. It will be nice for him to be able to play and look out at nature.

This photo looks pretty boring to me. In the future, I want to add some drapes to these windows. Right now, I imagine them to be dark blue (to coordinate with the color I want to paint the walls) and have rugby stripes. I also would like to paint the base of the Lego table gray to coordinate with the bookcase and desk.

The top of the desk was built by my dad. It lifts off and the bases can be moved. Pottery Barn has sold this style of desk in its stores and catalogs, but my bases are hand-me-downs.  The drawer pulls are from Pottery Barn, though. I bought them for a kitchen many houses ago. When they didn't work there, I added them to this gem and I love how it turned out.

So what do you think?? Will it suit a nine year old boy?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Working With What You Have


 Some of you may remember this post from last summer. When I thought about the idea of "working with what you have" for the Emily A. Clark link party, this is the one that came to mind. It was one of the first ones on this blog, so things have evolved since then, and will evolve even more. But I think it is a great example of how little changes can make a big difference; most importantly to our attitude.


There's a saying I try to live by, "The happiest people don't have the best of everything, they make the best of what they have." I think it pretty well sums up my decorating philosophy, too. So after writing about my ideas for Bela's bedroom the other day, I was motivated to go in and make some changes.

1. Moved her bed in front of the window. To make it look more like a daybed, I lined up her large stuffed animals (all dressed by her :) against the window.

2. Created a reading nook in the corner. Instead of purchasing a pouf, I used a large jack o' lantern pillow that I bought at an after-Halloween sale a few years ago. It's plush, round, and orange. My kids love it so it has never stayed in storage.

3. Placed a small bookcase that was already in the room in the area where I would be placing a desk. I filled it with books that had migrated throughout the house. Bonus: I put a few favorites on top to replicate the idea of the wall shelves. 

Another thing that I did was to put all of Bela's Barbie dolls in an old suitcase that she likes to play with. I placed it next to the bookcase and propped it open. In the old design, she would play with toys right by her door, which meant that there were always toys on the path to her bed. I wanted to find a way to get her to play more inside her room, rather than on the periphery. It worked and an unexpected benefit is that Bela actually put the Barbies back in the suitcase when she was done playing with them yesterday. WOW!

I also cleaned everything really well. The big guy helped me fix some things and hang a shelf for tiaras in a new spot underneath Bela's mirror. My amazing family sent me links to less expensive pieces and offered the talents of my dad (a carpenter) to try to replicate some of my ideas. And a friend from way back sent me an email to tell me how I could make my own flower hooks for much less. :)

Overall, I may not have been able to give Bela exactly the room I envisioned but the encouragement from all of you and the awareness that what I did made Bela feel special and loved is more than enough!


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