Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Best of Affordable Design Week: Lamps

Here are some great affordable lamps to update your space.

Pier 1 - very chic in a bedroom or living room.
Pier 1 - Great as a statement piece or in a coastal house. Would also be great oxblood red.

The classic Pottery Barn. Always great in a bedroom.

Crate and Barrel - Mercury glass is always an elegant choice.

Garnet Hill - The finish is fabulous and or so Belgian.

CB2 Pendant - At the incredible price of $49 you can afford to use more than one. Just trim out the shade with ribbon or cover it in the fabric of your choice.

CB2 - Great kitchen or office pendant

Just a couple I found as thought starters. Ikea is always another great source for pendants or office lights.

Hope you had a great holiday weekend.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Best of Affordable Design Week - Area Rugs

Now that you've found that perfect sofa, now it's time to find the perfect affordable rug.

Rugs are difficult to select. First, measure your room. If you don't want to have a custom size made, you have to work within the standard rug sizes of 4x6, 5x8, 6x9, 8x10. If you are working with the standard sizes you want to make sure the rug grounds the furniture in your room. However, all the legs of the furniture DON'T need to be on the rug. That will make things look forced. It's okay to only have the two front legs on the rug. The rug should anchor the room. It's better to have a rug that's big vs. a tiny rug just under the coffee table.

If you are okay have a custom size made (usually in a natural material i.e. sisal, jute, seagrass) you can maximize the layout of the room. Look at keeping it an equal distance from the walls. I like 3- 6" from the wall, some like up to 3 feet. How much hardwood do you want to see? It's up to you. You can also buy a piece of broadloom (wall-to-wall) carpet and have it bound if you are looking for something with better stain resistance.

So - how do you choose what kind of rug is right for you? Evaluate your lifestyle and look at the rooms you're attracted to. Do you gravitate towards the coastal look and like tonal rooms? If so, the sisal/natural rug is for you. Do you like a more layered room and are you worried about wear and tear? If so, traditional persian/oriental or contemporary graphic rugs maybe for you.

How do you make sure all the rooms of the house flow together? Pick a look and use it throughout the house. That doesn't mean that you have to use the same rug in each room. Just something in a similar style. I favor natural rugs as I like the tonal consistency they have from room to room.

So, what are the best affordable rugs out in the market. Here are my picks:

Natural Rugs:
I love the look of sisal, but don't like how it feels on my feet. Get a sample of the rug your going to order to make sure your okay with the texture. I like Jute as it's much softer and easier to clean while still giving me the sisal look. That said, I didn't list any chain stores where the texture of the rug is too hard. If you like the look of sisal/jute but are worried about wear and tear - look at the indoor/outdoor options. I have used those in high traffic areas like the kitchen as they are so easy to clean.

Pottery Barn Jute/Chenille Blend - This will give you the look without the scratch.

Restoration Hardware - Sisal/Wool Blend. Again, it's the softness that counts.

West Elm - Diamond Jute

Dash & Albert - Indoor/Outdoor. This is my favorite indoor/outdoor of all time. Great for a kitchen. Wisteria - Diamond Rug. Pattern without a bold statement.

Custom Sizes:

The best traditional area rugs for the value can be found at Ballard Designs. The colors and quality are incredible. Here are two of my favorites.


Garnet Hill - Fun and whimsical.

Garnet Hill - Tonal floral. A little tradition, a little whimsy.

Garnet Hill - Love the giraffe print. It's the newest take on zebra. It also comes in great colors. The teal and ice are my favorites. (sorry, I couldn't add them to the post)

Dash & Albert by Annie Selkie. Comes in a great colors.

West Elm - Zig Zag Rug. Great for any room in your house.

Pottery Barn - Tonal Coral. Gorgeous.

Garnet Hill

Dash & Albert - Annie Selke. House Beautiful loves this rug.

Ballard Designs

The best stripes are from Dash & Albert. The range of colors and patterns is amazing. The prices will amaze you as well.

How cute would this be in a girls room?

Hope you enjoyed my selections.
Have a great day.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Best of Affordable Design Week

Keeping with the theme that you don't have to spend a fortune to create a beautiful house, I thought I'd do a daily post dedicated to the best, easy to find, good quality classics.

First up: Sofas, the foundation of a room.

Here are my affordable favorites.

Classic Upholstered:

Restoration Hardware. A classic roll-arm sofa. Great in leather or fabric. The scale is just right and the nailheads and legs add an upscale detail.

My favorite sofa offered through a specialty retailer. The proportions of this english roll arm from Williams Sonoma Home are perfect! Most of the others on the market don't have the right legs, the right height of the arms, and too much of a slope on the back. Plus, this one has eight-way hand tied springs which means it will hold up to years of use. (I believe this is made by Lee Industries) This sofa shape can work with almost any style. It's timeless if done in a neutral fabric.

Another English roll arm, a little less expensive than the Williams Sonoma version. This is much larger than the WS option - with the length being 96" and the depth being 45". The proportions aren't as good as the WS option but if you have a big room, this may work better for you.


Great modern, clean shape from Crate and Barrel. It's also made of sustainable hardwoods and cushions for the eco-conscious consumer. I think this is made by my favorite mid-price point manufacturer - Lee Industries. You can't get better quality and customer service for the price.

Ballard Designs Slipcovered sectional. The proportions and fabric selections are great. It's an incredible value.

Ballard Designs Slipcovered Sofa. This is the same as the sectional. Great shape, great choices, great value.

A couple tips for purchasing your sofa:
1) Make sure the shape and size work in your room. If necessary, take a newspaper and cut out the overall dimension to make sure it's not too small or too big.
2) Love the shape. Can you look at the shape for the next 7-20 years? Most people don't replace a sofa any sooner than 7 years, if ever. If the quality is good, you will just want to recover the sofa if your takes change instead of replacing it. I have some sofas that were purchased in the sixties and have been re-done into new shapes because the quality of the hardwood was better than I could purchase today.
3) Make sure to get a swatch of the fabric before you place your order. Look at the swatch in your room during various times of the day to make sure the fabric is the color you want.
4) If you are going to purchase a sofa from a mail-order or specialty retailer find out who manufacturers the sofa for them. Find out their policy on warranty and customer service. One of the reasons I love Lee Industries is they will replace cushions if they break down. You can also order a new slipcover if something happens to yours or you simply change your look. I've been to their showroom in North Carolina on numerous occasions and their product is beautiful. They also have a line from Bobby McAlpine which has incredible, modern shapes. Okay, I'll stop pushing Lee Industries...... But, my point is, you wouldn't by a car without knowing who made it would you? The sofa is a big purchase and you want to make sure it's right.
5) Buy the most expensive you can afford. Don't skimp on quality or fabric.

Hope that helps. Check back tomorrow for another post on affordable foundations.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Fifteen musts for every house

What are the essentials for making your house a comfortable and relaxing home. I've put together my list of the things you shouldn't live without. They are not listed in any order of importance - just how they flowed out of my head.

1. Lights on Dimmers - Essential for changing the feel and mood of a room. Most lights are too bright without a dimmer. They are especially important in the kitchen, dining room and living room. Good light makes everyone look better.

2. Down Throw (if you live in a cold climate) or Cashmere Throw (if you live in a warm climate)- No family room or media room should be without a blanket that you can curl up under. I've created duvets for my down throws so they can easily be washed. This has been a savior with my two boys. Twin sheets sewn together make a great inexpensive duvet.

3. Upholstered Ottoman - No family room or media room should be without a soft ottoman to rest your feet. I'm partial to tufted leather or a textured linen. It's durable and so much more comfortable than a regular coffee table.

4. Storage - Need I say more? Organized storage is a must. Whether its beautiful built-ins, a walk-in pantry/closet or just a space under your stairs or garage. Organized storage is the key to living a less complicated life. Carve out a little space, buy some metal rolling racks and start organizing. The day to day tasks will become easier - I promise.

5. Small Movable Tables - No living room should be without 2-3 small movable tables. When you have extra company at the holidays or for a party, these make it easy to make sure all your guests have somewhere to put their drinks. You can even move them into a bedroom as a bedside table. The options are endless.

6. Small Movable Chairs or Stools - Again, no house should be without at least 3-4 movable chairs or stools. You can move them around a dinner table, or add extra seating to the living room. When combined with the movable tables, you can add true seating to any entertaining situation.

7. Large Down-Filled 20x20 or 22x22 Pillows - These are a staple for any sofa, whether its in the living room or family room. Down-filled pillows allow you to relax into the sofa without springing off like you do with a poly-filled pillow. Plus, they look better over time as they add a relaxed, casual element. Go to your local craft store and buy the insert - find the fabric you love at your pricepoint- and have someone make you a custom pillow. It's worth the extra money as it will change the look of your sofa.

8. Great Wood Windows and French Doors - I know, wood isn't always the most practical, but they are the foundation of your house. They add instant architecture and character to any room. They can dramatically alter the appearance and value of your house. While they are more expensive and may entail more work down the road, they are worth it! Don't skimp on your windows and doors. I never meet a wood-mullioned window I didn't like.

9. Personal and Authentic Artwork - I think artwork that evokes a personal reaction or connection is essential to making your house, your home. Forget all those mass produced posters or prints. Take your time, buy authentic, and buy what you love. Shop antique stores and thrift shops. Shop your local arts and craft fair and support a local artist. It doesn't matter where you find it or how much it costs - it only matters that you love it every time you look at it.

10. Wainscoting - Whether it's bead board or the more traditional picture-frame molding, every house could use some wainscoting. It warms up the space, adds texture, and finishes the room. It can also help define the space for pictures or artwork in a hallway or staircase. Try it in a powder room - it will elevate the space immediately.

11. Real Plants and Flowers - Nothing beats the real thing. No fake flowers or plants allowed - ever. If you have a brown thumb like me, look for easy care plants like Ferns, Orchids, Boxwoods, Cypress, or Peace Lilys to name just a few.

12. Easy Care Dining Chairs - This is an essential ingredient for a house with small kids. I can't believe the great options available today in faux or real leather. It comes in all colors, metallics, textures, patterns and price-ranges. When your kids or guests spill, you just wipe them down. I have faux crocodile on my kitchen chairs and it's been a life saver. I don't have to worry about washing slipcovers or spot cleaning anymore. Its so elegant - no one will ever think you are being practical.

13. Great Books - Every house needs great books. Bookcases filled with novels and coffee tables stacked with coffee table books. You will never have an excuse to not sit down, curl up and read. Plus, books tell the story of the person who lives in the house. Without them, you might as well live in a hotel.

14. Serene Master bedroom - Everyone needs a room that is clutter-free and relaxing. A space they can call their own. A room where they can hear themselves think. For me, this is the hardest room in the house to keep uncluttered and serene. However, when I can get it to that point, it makes a difference about how I feel in my house. Remove the piles of magazines, pair-down the amount of pictures, organize your closet. Only have what you need in this room. Make sure you have great comfortable bedding and good lighting.

15. Wine and Cheese - For me, no house if complete without a good supply of wine and cheese. Life's little pleasure. With a supply on hand you're ready for anything or anyone.

What do you think? Did I miss something that you can't live without?
Hope you're having a good weekend.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Big on Style

I had to post this two-storey 1,100 square foot townhouse as it has flawless flow and appears larger than the square footage implies. The designer, Kelly Deck, wanted to create a luxe, elegant and ever so slightly french feeling.

For the foundation of her goal, she used a soft dove grey on all the walls and then varied the shade to aid in the flow of the rooms. The kitchen cabinets were done in a flannel grey to enhance the french feeling of the space. I love the warmth and coziness of this room

The use of wainscotting throughout the space also gives it a classic feel and adds the necessary detailing to a standard townhouse. I love how she used a X-panel to modernize the built-ins in the living room. It adds an unexpected and modern touch, yet still blends with the rest of the house.

Kelly used clean, slightly modern silhouettes to furnish the space. The most unifying element is that she stayed with a single color palette and then used pops of colors in flowers and pillows. Even the drapes are a tonal variation of the sofa and chairs. Since it's a living room - dining room combo she chose a low-backed sofa to define the two spaces but still unify the room as a whole.

Well done. This space is beautiful and functional.

All images via Canadian House and Home.

Wonderful flannel-grey kitchen. Great use of space with cabinets to the ceiling and built-in wine rack. This is a great idea when you have a small space left due to cabinet layout. The white quartz countertop is a great balance to the grey cabinets and helps lighten up the space.

Love the use of a mirrored coffee table to add some light and reflection to the room.

The living room conveys elegant french style at its best.

Love the use of doilies for art on this entry wall. (And I don't like doilies) It's so graphic yet simple.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Affordable Sunburst Mirror

I couldn't believe my eyes this morning when I opened the new Ballard Designs catalog. Sure, they have some great classics but I wasn't expecting this beauty.

This sunburst mirror is an incredible value for $279.00. And, it's larger than most of the knock-off sunburst mirrors on the market with a 46" diameter.

It would be great in a powder room, above a fireplace or two placed side-by-side in your standard builder large mirrored bathroom.

What are you waiting for. Order one today. At that price you can afford to get tired of it. But chances are, you won't as its a classic.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Camel Leather

Leather is always a good option for families. It's durable and easy to clean. So it's no wonder that designers are always using leather for clients who have young kids. I'm not a huge "ready made" brown leather customer. It doesn't have the warmth or patina of a custom piece and it looks inexpensive.

However, I love the use of camel leather. It adds a welcome element of warmth and it's so unexpected. It also works with almost every color. It's still as kid friendly - but it's more sophisticated. Long live camel leather.

Camel leather on an antique chair in Schuyler Samperton's house.

Beautiful dining chairs with wonderful patina. Just wipe them down when you aunt spills her glass of wine.

You can never have too much of a good thing. This would be a perfect family room if you have young kids or teenagers.

Great update on the leather lodge chair. Unexpected yet classic and contemporary.

What do you think?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Great Kitchen

This kitchen is great on many levels. First, the lamps are classic yet whimsical. I can't get enough of them. The antique butcher block second island adds charm and great storage for cookbooks and extra seating. The thick marble countertop main island is beautiful and offers incredible counter space. The chairs add my favorite woven texture.

I love the idea of the double islands - that way you can cook with company in the kitchen but not on top of you. Also, it gives you the added storage space for all your entertaining platters and items you don't use on a daily basis. How can you not love extra storage! Give me a double island any day of the week.

The colors were selected to complement the views of a South Carolina river where the house resides. The best interiors always take the location into account.

To sum it up, this kitchen is warm, cozy room - not just a functional kitchen. Wonderful.

Designer Deborah Van Plew

Monday, May 4, 2009

Paint Colors: White

Choosing a color, especially white, is a difficult process. First, everyone's eye sees color differently. Second, it depends on where you live and the kind of light you get. Do you face East, or West, or do you like in the Northwest or Southeast? Third, it depends on whether or not you are looking for a crisp and bright white or soft and warm white or cream. Most importantly, what is the overall feel you want your house to convey?

With all this in mind I've gathered up some of the best whites, creams, and non-white neutrals on the market to try and simplify the process for you.

Soft, Creamy Whites: (works with everything)
White Dove - Benjamin Moore (the most commonly used white I found)
Steam - Benjamin Moore Affinity
Cloud White - Benjamin Moore
Moonlight White - Benjamin Moore
Picket Fence White - Ralph Lauren
Pointing - Farrow & Ball
Swiss Coffee - Behr

Bright Whites: (clean and crisp)
Design Studio White - Ralph Lauren
All White - Farrow & Ball
Decorator's White - Benjamin Moore
Super White - Benjamin Moore
The Right White - Restoration Hardware

Creams: (warm toned, but still in the white category)
Vellum - C2
White Tie - Farrow & Ball
Linen White - Benjamin Moore
Navajo White - Benjamin Moore
Seashell - Benjamin Moore
Mediterranean White - Restoration Hardware
Polo Mallet White - Ralph Lauren
Riveria Terrace - Ralph Lauren

Some designer's favorite non-white neutrals:
Dimity - Farrow & Ball (Canadian House & Home)
Clunch - Farrow & Ball (Ina Gardens' barn decorated by Robert Stilin)
Abingdon Putty - Benjamin Moore (Susan Ferrier)
Seawind - Benjamin Moore (Phoebe Howard)
Horizon - Benjamin Moore (Phoebe Howard, Steven Gambrel)
Titanium - Benjamin Moore (Darryl Carter)
Gray Owl - Benjamin Moore (Darryl Carter)
Slipper Satin, String, Stony Ground - Farrow & Ball (Belgian Style via House Beautiful)
Elephant's Breath - Farrow & Ball (Kim Alexandriuk)

Did I miss one of your favorites? Let me know and I will update the list as paint colors are always changing.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Family Friendly - Seriously?

Family Friendly - Seriously......

Yes, this is the house of a family with two young boys. I can relate since I have my own two growing boys. Every surface of my house gets heavy use. And I mean every surface if I'm not constantly monitoring them. For example, the rug in my kitchen is used as a wrestling ring as I try to make dinner. I've had heads (or baseball bats - not really sure) punch through my plain drywall. Hence, one of the reasons for the wainscoting. While I may need to do touch-ups at least I won't have to repair holes.

I think neutral houses are the most family friendly. As long as you use material that can either be washed, bleached or hold up to heavy use like leather, vinyl (there's some fabulous vinyl now) mohair, washed linen, sisal or seagrass.

Nothing in this house, designed by Bellacasa Designs, is too precious that it can't be lived in. The patina on the furniture, floors, and woodwork lends itself to sticky hands and growing boys. Also because everything is neutral it can be moved from room to room as the family's needs change. Less is more in my book.

Incredible Great Room. Love the modern leather chairs and the botanicals above the fireplace.

The side of the great room closest to the kitchen. Love that the room isn't filled with furniture just for the sake of filling the space.

Living Room. Great antique pieces mixed with durable new Oly chairs.

Dining Room. All the elements can stand up to the heavy use of kids or guests. The wood paneling adds the right amount of texture and color. The chandelier is natural yet whimsical - the perfect balance to the french chairs.

Master bedroom. Simple and serene. No sign of boys here!

Classic antique armchair in the master bath. The tub is incredible.

On another note... Here's the update on the projects I've been working on this past week:

Well, the wainscoting was primed for the dinner party. I was a walking zombie the entire day leading up to the event. The next day, my husband decided that he was going to add wainscoting to the hall bathroom and the dining room. Needless to say, he's still sawing away outside. So, I don't have pictures yet, but I promise I will post before, during and afters this coming week. Now we just have to paint everything! My hands are still killing me from the priming - I can't wait.

I'll also post the before, during and after pictures of my dining table. Now, I just need to re-do my dining room chairs since they don't work with the table. It never ends.

Hope you're having a great day!
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