Friday, October 12, 2012

A Beautiful Board


Yesterday, I got the brilliant notion that I needed to put together a board with my latest set of "go to" colors. As I fancy myself a creative, arty type of person, I wanted this board to be arty. Of course, included in the project, as with any design piece of this nature, is the need for function, form should follow function. It needed to be light weight and portable and have the right chips, at least right for me.

A Beautiful Mind

After gathering my supplies, I set to work. I did have to get some more loose paint chips, I am not about to start hacking up my fandecks, after all! About mid-afternoon, I found myself in a bit of a funk. If the images above haven't given you a clue, I began to feel as though I had sent myself down the useless design project rabbit hole. To salvage it, I peeled away the chips that were there because "somebody else" had recommended they be used. Whew, project saved.

The Board

It is functional, and in my eye, it is beautiful. Only time will tell how far down the rabbit hole I fell.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Closet Reno

I know I promised that the very next post would be the closet reno, then, well time slipped away and other thoughts grabbed my attention. This reno was really, really simple. Made simple by not having had the amount of money necessary to buy the "optional" windows when we built the house, so there was space to expand the closet. My least favorite term, in house construction, "upgrade". My house is well built, but there were a lot of things that the builder didn't do to best advantage. The kitchen, for one, and the Master Bedroom closet for another.

The closet was laid out in an L shape, with a long wall of double rods, a worthless shelf area and a small section for long hanging. It had a rather poor 33 square feet. The shelf held one and one half pairs of shoes or three-quarters of a sweater per shelf. I tried hand bags, they fell off of either side.
To reconfigure the closet the only thing needed was to move a wall one foot and move the wall from the bedroom side to the adjoining wall, which made it face the hall. This gave us the ability to have three walls of hanging space rather than just one-ish. The other change, not evident from the plan, was to move the light fixture back so that the hanging space below was illuminated. Previously, it was closer to directly over the clothes, thus the clothes on the top rod had to be pushed out of the way in order to see the clothes on the bottom rod. Replacing the door would be nice.

Something antique or at least antique in appearance.

Then there is the door knob. Again, antique in appearance or antique.
At least the function is improved, which is the important piece!

Be sure to head back to Susan's for more metamorphosis Monday!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Designer Tips Nos 1 & 2

Albert Hadley

The first thing I learned in Design School is, if you are on a budget, Paint is cheap. Furniture isn't. The second thing I learned is really just an extension of Lesson Number One, choose your expensive items, furniture, floors, etc. in neutrals. Finally, use your expensive fabrics as condiments, on small chairs, on pillows, etc., to use less of it, thus keeping costs lower. One yard of $200 dollar a yard fabric is a far cry from twenty yards!

This is a reverse of what realtors suggest, which is to paint in neutrals. I have nothing against painting in neutrals, in fact, my family accuses me of contemplating beige with too much frequency. Realize that your paint choice is dictated by your sofa choice. If you choose a highly patterned, brightly colored sofa, you are pretty much stuck with painting neutrals. If your sofa is a mid-toned neutral and your paint is the same mid-toned neutral, you have a very blah design. If you choose the wrong neutral to go with your neutral sofa, then your sofa and your walls are in constant conflict. A truly adept hand is needed to effectively complete a design using predominantly neutrals. I recommend choosing your flooring first, then your sofa, then choose the paint. Always have your samples with you when you plan and shop, ask for samples before you buy or remnants when your carpet or wood floor is installed. Put them all together in a zip lock bag or other clear slim container for future shopping.
Light neutrals can be a bit of a problem in a household with pets and children. A busy pattern makes it less of a problem to hide the things-children-and-pets-do-to-furniture. Another solution is to make use of slipcovers. Hence one reason for their recent popularity. One difficulty with slip covers, especially those not made for the sofa, is that they, well slip. It can take you two out of three falls to put one on and it tends to sag over time. Better to get a slip cover made for the sofa in a prewashed fabric.

Pottery Barn Slipcover straight out of the package

What sofa is best? The best sofa is eight-way hand tied. This system of tying coils makes the sofa durable and comfortable. As this process takes time, it is also more expensive.
As a young couple starting out, we were fortunate to have done our shopping just as Haitian Cotton became a trend. So we had the neutral down pat with this one. We were not knowledgeable enough to know that the springs in the sofa we purchased were, well, missing. Apparently, as a cost cutting move, a sling of fabric was used to hold the cushions. This is what happens when you just sit on the sofa and don't examine it. Good thing we were young and thin. Miraculously, this sofa lasted about seven years. Moral to the story is, pull up the cushions and feel the springs, you should be able to feel the round spring. Then count each knot on each spring, verify that you can feel eight knots. If you don't see springs at all, or if you feel springs which resemble a sine wave, then it doesn't have eight way hand tied. Our second sofa had trendy arms and sinous coil springs, these are flat and won't last long. The sofa lasted about eight years, because we couldn't afford to replace it, it stayed in the house and limped along for two more years after that.

The frame should be solid wood. There are various hedge words which are used to suggest that what you are buying is solid wood, such as, all wood, meaning that wood products were used but not solid pieces of wood, solid wood and select veneers, meaning the legs or other parts which are round are solid wood and the rest is wood products with veneers applied.
All of this quality and labor increases the price of the furniture. One solution is to troll consignment stores, estate sales and charity shops for sofas. Check for what type of springs are in the sofa. If the dust cover is missing or slightly loose, look underneath. But, be respectful and don't remove the dust cover! Reupholstery may still be required, so watch the price. Especially as, in certain high cost areas, some of these shops set the price way too high to start.
Another way to find a sofa is to watch the ads for sales. Make sure you read all the words in the ad, don't be distracted by the pictures. Luckily as consumers have learned more, more and more retailers are carrying eight-way-hand-tied upholstery.

Lastly, consider the cost per year. Our third sofa purchase was an eight-way hand tied sofa made by a division of Century Furniture on sale from an area retailer for around a thousand dollars. It was purchased fifteen years ago. The arms are a Lawson style which has been in style for, umm I think forever. Dividing the cost by the fifteen years it has lasted, it has cost me about $67 dollars per year. After fifteen years, the sofa needs reupholstery and new foam, but otherwise it is still in excellent condition. As you can see, my previous two sofas lasted half that long. Using the inflation calculator, I calculated the inflation adjusted dollars spent on each sofa to the year that sofa number three was purchased. In inflation adjusted dollars, sofa number one cost us $1076, sofa number two cost us $1015. As you can see, both of these were about the same cost as sofa number three! This surprised me, though it really shouldn't have. Being uneducated, we paid far too much for these two sofas.
Of course, there are times when one has to purchase an inexpensive sofa, meant to get by for a few years. Ikea has an Ektorp sofa with enough style to fill the bill. It is reasonable to buy such a sofa and start a savings plan for the long-term sofa.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


When we first moved to this house, I wanted to Espalier the west side of the house in Pear trees. My favorite is the Palmette shape. A close second is the Belgian Fence design.

This has not happened.

Mainly, this is because the person who needs to help with that process is just not as enthusiastic. Mr.Mise en scène does not share the same genetic code which stirs one to dig in the dirt. Not to mention he appears to have an aversion to actually using the levels we have purchased.

To espalier a tree, you need to begin with a "one year whip". A one year whip is flexible and can be trained onto the ligature. Of course, before the training can begin, the ligature has to be constructed.

This requires digging. Lots of digging. Not only do you need the garden bed, but also, as we do not have the type of siding on our house to which things can be anchored, we may need posts to hold the wire have to be raised. For those you need to dig.

But I can dream.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Albert Hadley

Sadly, the world has lost a design great. I learned, via Habitually Chic, that Albert Hadley has passed. Mr. Hadley was graduated from Peabody College. As an aside, I know something about that august university, it was fully named Peabody College for Teachers. He was a graduate of Parsons School of Design, worked at McMillen then co-founded Parish-Hadley, Associates. He was inducted into the Interior Design Hall of Fame in 1986. He has always been in my hall of fame. Included above are some of my favorite designs of his. His apartment is for sale, find the details at Brown Harris Stevens.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Fabulous Fish

This isn't really about fish, it is really about Nancy Lancaster's fabulous yellow drawing room done by John Fowler. Atop the bookcases are a pair of Ginger Jars, which are the perfect touch to bring the Yellow out of the realm of potentially cloying.

My master bedroom is Benjamin Moore Weston Flax, a similar, but more subdued yellow. The color is richer than appears in the photos. Other colors in the room are raspberries, peaches, greens, blue-greens. Yellow is a strong color. It truly demands a determined approach. If one backs down or shies away, yellow will just scream and pout and look over the top or pathetically insipid.

I have a fantastic upholsterer who created the pillow above, which was one of the early changes. It used to be an inexpensive retail purchase standin, below, until I could find what I wanted for the bed.

There are more major changes which need to happen, the carpet needs to go, for one. I have been contemplating ways to update the room without a major overhaul. I still adore the green lamp, but its companion, which is not shown, is less exciting. The ginger jars atop the bookcases in the Nancy Lancaster drawing room have inspired a search for red orange ginger jars.

On ebay, I found this inspiring pair. At over $1300, ouch!, they are completely 'oh-oh-bee', that is, out of budget. Still, they are inspiring, and, along with the ginger jars above, serving as the basis for what needs to happen in the room.

Next, the closet metamorphosis!

Be sure to head back to Susan's for more metamorphosis Monday!

Monday, March 19, 2012


Back when I had a design business, I had wonderful samples books which were easy to organize.

Now, I have a lot of small fabric samples which I have picked up over the years since we moved to this state and our current house, so I decided to sort them. That is not quite accurate. This started out as an adventure, I was looking for a specific fabric in order to check it against a large paint sample. Along the way, I found myself sorting the fabrics, muted-reds, yellows, golds, greens, blue-greens, etc., etc., laying them out in a color wheel, in a similar fashion to the wheel above. You can see the greys radiating out from the black in the center with the undertones as closely approximated as possible to red, violet, yellow and green undertoned grays.

Red placed at the top,

muted reds below that,

green directly across from red, yellow green to the left of green,

blue to the right of green, with blue green in between,

yellow to the left of green,

orange across from blue and between red and yellow,

violet between red and blue,

blacks in the middle,

gold tans between black and yellow.

Before I knew it, I had a fairly complete, and rather crowded, color wheel.

Also, I found the fabric which I wanted!

Lastly, to keep this organization intact, I labeled Ziploc bags with the color tones of each set of samples and placed them in the bags. Then I popped the bags into a basket. Much Better!