Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Using Books in Interior Design

The great decorator, Billy Baldwin, called books the greatest accessories. Books are one of my favorite ways to bring color, texture, height and interest into a room. Not just for lining library walls anymore, you can use books to add height and color to a tabletop display, place books in tea carts, on a server in a dining room - and much more.

If you are anything like me, you have more books than you have storage space. So, by default, I had to devise ways to 1) organize my books, so that I could find them and 2) use my books in other ways rather than just on bookshelves.

One of the first things that I had to do was to whittle down the number of books that I had. When I got married, I also married into my husband's books. And when my father-in-law passed away - we inherited his vast book collection! That was more than my little house could take! Several garage sales later - and then I had a somewhat manageable number.

A Christmas vignette on my piano.  Books add height, texture & interest

I didn't style the above picture yet in my great room, but I wanted to show how some of your larger books can be used decoratively on a table top.  They add height and color.  Plus people looking at this may think I am smarter than I am with that huge tome of Shakespeare!

Even in small spots around the house, a grouping of books adds a lively note.  On top of a chair next to your bed, stacked next to a reading chair or in piles on a large coffee table, books provide warmth and informality to a space. 

Think of books as accessories and even art!  I advise that you should take off the book jacket because most of the time it's a lot nicer underneath!  Group the colors of books together - and make sure they coordinate with your other accessories and room colors.  Also, combine books by category - gardening, design, travel etc to bolster a theme in a room. Use books to heighten other accessories and objects - you want to stagger the heights in a display for greater interest.

Margot Austin, the senior design editor of Style at Home - the Canadian magazine, uses the following books as her "go to" accessories.

1. I Married Adventure: The Lives of Martin and Osa Johnson

2. David Hicks On Living - with Taste
3. Slim Aarons, Once Upon a Time
4. Century
5. The Way We Live
6. The Garden Book
7. Axel Vervoordt Timeless Interiors
8. Tom Ford
9. The Hamptons
10. Chanel

I would add some of the larger books (like my Shakespeare in the first photo) plus...Domus, Wall Painting in the Roman House, anything by designer Tricia Guild (her books you can keep the jackets on - they are gorgeous) and two great books for the kitchen - Bouchon and the French Laundry Cookbook by Thomas Keller. I'd also add any fun and colorful Cupcake Cookbook - it will brighten up any countertop!

Books can also fill huge, otherwise empty and bland spaces. The hallway, above, would have
looked far too intimidating and vertical without the lively addition of the books.

Instead of filling an entire library, install bookshelves on one focal point wall.

In a family room, books share space with the TV, accessories and family photos

Or...use books to create furniture

Books can also be the subject of an artwork, as in British artist Su Blackwell's work...

So get your books out of storage or off the shelves and use them in interesting ways in your home.  Let me know how you have used books in your designs. 

Sources:  1 and 2) Linda Leyble; 3) Margo Austin 4) 5) Absolutely Beautiful Things 6)  Contemporist  7 and 8) LM Interior Design  9) Stylist, Grace Light of Poetic Home and 10) Su Blackwell

Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas to All: Remembering to Give Thanks

I just wanted to share some thoughts today on giving thanks for all the blessings that have come my way.  You can't package these things and tie them up with a bow and set them under the tree to be opened.  No - these are the wonderful heartfelt things that I sometimes forget and I take for granted. 

I am so blessed to be with my loving husband, Richard and his four children (my beautiful step children - Ryan, Dennis, Timmy and Megan -  who are more like my own now after over 10 years of marriage).  I am so happy that I found Richard (and I found him thanks to the Internet!) because my life was a bit too lonely and unstable beforehand.  I was happy - but I didn't know exactly how happy and fulfilled I could be until I met and married him.  He gave me the freedom to express myself as I never did before (with art, music and design) and he let my creativity run wild in his home that I moved into.  It never looked the same again - it is now unrecognizable to anyone who knew the house beforehand. Thank you for giving up your home as my laboratory.

Richard and I visiting my daughter in San Francisco

I give thanks to our growing family - we have two grandchildren and two more on the way.  I am so very happy that my little baby (my youngest daughter, Jessica) will be giving birth to a baby girl in April.  I can't wait to see this little bundle of joy - I know that she will be beautiful, like her Mommy. And Richard's son's wife, Kristen, will be giving birth to their second child in July.

My daughter, Jessica, and I in Sonoma...visiting some wineries

I am so thankful and proud of my oldest daughter, Krista, for raising my granddaughter, Meghan. She is such a talented and accomplished young woman. It was not an easy task - raising a child on your own.  My daughter Krista overcame so much adversity - I don't know how she did it.  Meghan is now on a 4 year scholarship to Stony Brook University.  I was looking at her chemistry homework the other night - my eyes glazed over this in compete ignorance - yet she understood it.  She's going into the pre-med program.  So proud and so thankful. She already has ideas that she wants to implement someday to cure cancer.  The world is a better place...and will be more so, because Meghan is in the world.

The cutest little girl...Meghan at around 3 1/2

My daughter, Krista...and Meghan

My daughter and Meghan at her HS graduation

These are gifts that I get to have and hold everyday.  "You can't get any better than that!" to quote an oft-repeated phrase of my mother-in-law, Jean - another gift that I am thankful for.  A wonderful mother-in-law!

Thank you to my entire family for being yourselves and giving me joy every day.

I also want to give thanks to all my blogging friends that I have met over the years.  Thank you for commenting and always encouraging me.  I would have never met any of you...had it not been for the Internet.  Amazing in itself.

I hope that we all have a beautiful Christmas and a joyous New Year.  Remember to think about the gifts that you get every day - the ones that don't cost anything.


Friday, December 16, 2011

Some Last Minute Christmas Decoration Ideas

I just started doing Christmas decorations in my home - meant to do them last weekend but the time just flew by.  I am having my daughter's baby shower this weekend at my home - so I guess that will be a little Baby Decoration Vs. Christmas and I don't know how that is going to fly - but as long as everyone has a good time, nothing else matters.

I thought I'd post some interesting ideas that you could whip up in this last remaining week.  I always need to do something new for Christmas and I liked these ideas.  Let me know what you think of them!

Ever have some old ornaments that have lost their lustre?  What not add some glue and glitter to them - to perk them up, as in these ornaments from Upscale, Downhome. You can buy Martha Stewart glitter at Michaels or any other glitter at arts and crafts stores.

But for a real treat, why not use some Meyer's Glass Glitter? It's ground glass and much thicker than all other glitters.  I've used it on chipboard letters and motifs - for any occasion, not just Christmas. You have to order it online here, but it is well worth looking in to. You can use the German Glass Glitter to add sparkle to pine cones too - these look great in a Christmas tree.

Here's another great idea that's fast and inexpensive.  Take some fabric and place it in a small embroidery hoop, then add a ribbon to hang.

A quick and easy floral decoration idea from Martha Stewart is to use cranberries in a clear vase as a beautiful base for flowers.  Make sure you use hard cranberries - or else you'll be in trouble!  Wash them well, place in a clear vase and you'll see that they actually hold your flowers together very well. Looks great on a mantle or on your table.
Or - use a cloche to hold any number of things: winter branches, pinecones, ornaments etc,

And...another great idea, incorporating greenery

For a fabulous centerpiece, why not place some white, or off white candles on top of a mirror.  It's simple, beautiful and it's double the glow.

An even easier centerpiece is one made of empty wine bottles and tapers.  Just make sure that either the tapers or the bottles vary in size.  You don't want them equal.  Very dramatic, I say.

Another great idea is to fashion a wreath into a different shape.  Do you live by the shore or do you know a boating enthusiast?  This anchor wreath would make a great door decoration or gift.  There's a tutorial on the site that will guide you in making it.
There have also been some great book page wreath ideas floating around the web lately.  Living with Lindsay (a great blog) has a tutorial on how to make it on her blog.  It will take a little time and patience, but I think it's worth it.
Isn't this beautiful?  Find out how to do here
Marion Parsons, aka Miss Mustardseed, has a great wreath tutorial on her site as well.  Her blog is so informative, you will find hundreds of ideas for Christmas and every day. Check out her site here

Artist, Barry Belcher has a great tutorial on how to do a book page wreath on YouTube (along with many other ideas).  He is extremely creative and his how to's are easy to follow.  Check out his wreath video...

So, I hope that everyone will be ready by Christmas.  As always, it came too fast this year!  Hope these decorating ideas help you make your homes look great this Holiday Season!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

What's Your Angle? Giving a Room Some Interest by Placing Furniture Diagonally

Hi everyone - sorry about my lack of posts lately, but I am in the midst of creating 2 or 3 longer, more arduous ones and so my page has been blank for a bit. I had a thought this morning when I woke up that perhaps a quick but very useful post might be in order.

One of the quickest, but perhaps most daunting, tricks to making your room more interesting - is to set a piece of furniture on an angle.  Some people argue that it takes up space and while that's true - what it creates is a more interesting room.  I don't know about you, but I would trade that any day. 

In my living room, I was just so unhappy with most of the furniture arrangements that I did.  I have an L shaped living room/dining room configuration - and it's one of the most problematic ones to make interesting.  I finally angled my sofa - which then necessitated that I make the corner up went the mural.  But, if you don't want to or can't do that, place a table behind the sofa and plop two beautiful lamps and a floral centerpiece and voila...a beautiful corner arrangement.

I also had a problem in that I have a baby grand piano in the living room also.  So, directly across from my sofa went my piano - on an angle.  I was never happy with any other place that I positioned it - until the angle.  I can now play my look out the window.  Before, I had the piano where the sofa is now and I had to squeeze into the seat, which was in the corner.  It was non-functional this way and guess what - I played less!

Now, it's my little music there's more light being by the window and I can see what I'm doing better!  So, the angling make my living room more functional as well as more beautiful.

I may have a tendency (and as my husband Richard says - an obsession) with putting things on an angle...but there's usually a method to my madness.  When we did our renovation and added a great room, I was never ever happy with how the furniture looked in this beautiful room.  The furniture was beautiful, the wall and window treatments were just as I wanted them - but I thought something was "off" in the room.  Because we made the room fairly high - with a cathedral ceiling, the sofa looked too small where it was.  This was because it was in front of one of the tallest walls that also had the Palladian window.  When I finally angled the sofa in the corner - the sofa was in scale because it now was in front of the lower part of the room.

A little hard to tell in this photo - but the wall behind the sofa is 8 feet tall. Before, the sofa was in front of the tallest wall and it just made this rather large sofa - look like a doll house couch.  So, in this case, the angling helped to balance the room because the scale of the sofa to the wall was off.

Try and experiment with putting some of your pieces on an angle.  I think that you will find it definitely makes a difference in the room. Let me know how your room looked afterwards.

If you need some help with your furniture arrangements, just give me a call at 631 793-1315 and I'd be glad to help.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

How to Really Pick the Right Paint Colors for Your Home: Tip #1

WHAT COLOR DO I PICK?? I get this question over and over again, so I thought I would hopefully give all of my readers a quick guide to choosing the right colors in your home. This will be an ongoing column in the blog, so I hope that you stay tuned to learn more.

It's a fairly easy process if you break it down in simple components - but I think that most people agonize over choosing a paint color.  Why?  Because there are so many colors to choose from and most people are afraid to make mistakes in their home.  You have to remember - it's only paint and it can be re-done.  So - no more worrying!  I'm here to help.

Here's Tip Number 1.

Eliminate Certain Colors Right Off the Bat:  One of the most simple, but mostly disregarded tips, is to eliminate a whole host of colors from the start.  I could write a book just on this one topic alone, but I will spare you from a lengthy post by whittling down to the basics.

  • Choosing Warm Vs. Cool: If you have warm oak floors or warm toned tiled floors or carpets, avoid cool colors (like mint green, ice blue).  Stay in the warmer tones, like a Tuscan yellow, yellow green, terra cotta, cinnamon for example. You will be much safer with this combination because warm tones blend easily with other warm tones. 

  • In the kitchen, you can eliminate certain wall colors as well. If your kitchen gets a lot of light, you can choose darker wall colors, especially if you have white or cream cabinetry - as in my kitchen.
    In my kitchen, which gets tons of lights, I chose a rich brown wall color.  Because the cabinetry and other items in the room are light cream, the dark color adds a punch.
  • Above, the warm tone of the wood floors started the color scheme.  The beautiful carpet then dictated the other colors in room - corals, pumpkins, ochres, brown and cream. The use of black grounds this room and prevents it from being too light. I love the traditional style of the room - and the punctuation mark of the modern painting on the mantle.
  • If you have very little light, opt for a lighter color on your walls.  Look at your granite or other countertop material - what is the main color in it? That will help you narrow down your choices. 

  • Above, this all white kitchen is stunning because of the pattern and texture in this room. The Carrara marble counters, modern backsplash and art...the graphic trellis wallpaper and the gleam of the faucets and appliances save this white kitchen from being predictable. The gray trellis pattern was probably chosen because of the colors of the backsplash and the marble.  
  • Look at your granite or other countertop material - what is the main color in it? That will help you narrow down your choices. If you have warm, golden sienna or cinnamon tones in your granite, eliminate colors that will clash with it - like blues or greens.  If your granite has some blue specks in it, you can choose a color like In Your Eyes by Benjamin Moore - and add white cabinetry for a beautiful blue and white color scheme. Then look at your cabinetry - is it cream or white? Don't wimp out and choose a light cream or white. Make the cabinets stand out by using a darker or a mid tone color - or do a beautiful damask, stripe or trellis pattern, as above.

  • Do you have dark cherry wood cabinetry?  Let that stand out by choosing a beautiful pale sage hue.  The red tone in the cherry will actually be more vibrant because of the green on the walls.  Using an opposite color on the color wheel bolsters each color.
  • If you have cooler colors - like silver, pearl, gray or blue - eliminating many warmer colors and plain white will help narrow down your color choices.

  • Above, in this living room we did in Melville NY, the furniture and carpet started the entire cool color scheme. The silver tone of the mirror, the gray/silver window treatments and the platinum and pearl strie on the walls bolster the sophistication of the color scheme. A white wall would have ruined the beauty of this space
A beautiful blue and white color scheme by Meg Braff Interiors.
This cool color palette of blues and whites works well in an elegant beach home.

  • Your environment can help you choose a color scheme.  Think of the sea breezes and the sand of a beach home in the Hamptons.  Above, designer Meg Braff used color to emphasize the beach and the relaxed environment of East Hampton.  Everything is there - the sand, the sea, the sky and the greenery. I can't imagine this room with darker hues and fabrics.  By contrast, the owners of this Hamptons home probably have gray-toned walls in their NYC apartment that reflect the exterior. 
  • What is your decorating style?  Your style can dictate a wall color and color scheme. If you tend to be more traditional, cream, beige, sage, linen and other neutrals will blend in beautifully with furnishings and fabrics that you already have. If vintage is your style, pastels, light blues and pinks, pale lavenders and yellows and other earth-toned neutrals will go well on your walls.  If you are more bold and contemporary, a deep rich cobalt blue, charcoal gray or fuschia pink could enliven your walls.
  • What mood do you want in a room?  If you want a happy start of the day in your kitchen, then choose sunny colors.  If you want a more serious tone in a library - choose deep forest greens or maroon walls with dark mahogany furniture. Mood plays a big role in deciding your wall color.
  • The function of the room also plays into what color you choose for your walls. If you want to have your children relaxed for bedtime, don't paint their rooms yellow.  Soothing colors like pale blues and greens will produce a calmer child - ready for bed.
So, through a process of eliminating certain colors, you can begin to whittle down your choices more successfully. This process really works - try it and let me know if it helps you.

Monday, December 5, 2011

How About a Little Vin Chaud for the Cold Nights Ahead?

There's nothing like a warm drink on a cold, cold night and those nights will be soon upon us. If it has some alcohol in it - even better!  The English have Mulled Wine and the Germans have a recipe as well - but since I have such a love affair with all things French - here's a recipe for Vin Chaud.

Recipes for the delightful winter beverage abound, so you can feel free to peruse the web and then change some of the ingredients.  Here's a great recipe to start with...

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes


• 1 bottle red wine

• 4 cinnamon sticks

• 1 5-inch by ½-inch piece of orange zest (white pith removed)

• 4 tablespoons granulated sugar

• 2 cardamon pods

• 5 whole cloves

• 1/3 cup Cognac


Cook’s note:For the best flavor, use a slightly fruity red wine.

How to make vin chaud:

Mix all the ingredients together in a large saucepan. Bring the mixture to just under a simmer over the lowest heat setting on the stovetop. Do not allow the wine to boil. The mulled wine is hot enough when the sugar has dissolved and pulling and lifting a spoon from the wine brings up steam. If desired, strain the spices from the wine by pouring it through a fine-mesh sieve or a cheesecloth-lined collander. Add 1-2 teaspoons of Cognac to a mug and ladle the mulled wine over it.        Recipe Source

Some people add honey or brown sugar instead of the sugar...and some use Cassis instead of Cognac (or - no extra liquor at all).  Let me know what you think of this!  I love it - and I'll be whipping some up on the first really cold night that we have!

My Top Artistic Cookies: For Gift Giving and Eating

Now that we are in December, my mind turns to buying unique Christmas gifts and, of course, to COOKIES.  Well, any kind of sweet is on my mind all the time but Christmas is a time for making cookies and also - giving cookies as gifts.

Cookie Boy Cookies:  If you have never seen Cookie Boy's work, you've been missing out.  He can make anything into a cookie.  The problem is - he's in Japan.  Here's a Christmas wreath celebrating the giraffe (but I am guessing it's the Toy R Us logo) that he made.  Take a look at his site - it's in Japanese but it's worthwhile looking at his incredible collections.

The Mona Lisa Cookie: I've been to the Louve to see the Mona Lisa.  I only wish that I was 7 feet tall, so that I could have had a better glimpse of her.  So much security and a glass partition - that prevents you from getting close...plua so many people in front of me that it was hard to see her.  This not exactly Mona - but you know who's the subject of the cookie - plus if you go to the site - there's a recipe on how to make it!!

Anyone for Van Gogh's Starry Starry Night cookies (my favorite). Who doesn't love Van Gogh?  I was so happy to hear that perhaps he didn't off himself, but rather he was killed by a teenager. 

The Camera Cookie Cutter.  For all budding and pro photographers on your list, this would be a great gift.  Make the cookies too and give them the cookie cutter along with them.

The Rubiks Cube and Jacks Cookies:  From Cooks Central, these would be great gifts for your 50s baby boomers for the Jacks and their children...for the Rubiks Cube.

I love these Victorian teapots with the Jane Austen cameo for all your tea loving - book loving fans on your gift list

She is a very inventive cookie designer - here's her "Year of the Rabbit" cookie

And here's another one of her designs...I could think of a few people to give this one to! What about you? 

And then there's the fabulous Amber Spiegel in the Hudson Valley upstate NY in her Etsy Shop, SweetAmbs.  She makes too many fabulous cookies - here are two of my favorites...

How beautiful is this "embroidered" cookie!  Sweet Ambs Etsy Shop

Eiffel Tower Cookies: This company, Ali's Sweet Treats, makes many kinds of custom cookies but the Francofile in me just had to add this one to the list!

And finally, just a little humorous tidbit of a video featuring How to Make Cookies - in Photoshop!  Share this post with your cookie and Photoshop-loving frineds and family.  It's so clever...and so funny.  The stop motion is great.  Click on the link below.

Enjoy this little list - let me know if you have some others to share!!!
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