Wednesday, September 27, 2017

MISSED THE TARGET



After the much anticipated launch of the mid-century inspired line at Target, I decided to give the pieces a little test run.  Quite honestly, at least in my area, it felt like a huge build up to an event where no one showed up. Actually, I'd say it felt more like the election of 2016, but that would sound far too dramatic. Because I love Target for so many things...I loved the Orla Keily line of melamine dishes several years ago, I love the lamps and other textiles, I'm crazy about the seasonal decor, and while the Nate Berkus line (In my opinion) is blah and over-priced, I appreciated the unique designs and total anti-walmart taste level of it all. 62, however, left me feeling like they rushed to put the product out and forgot where to put it. It felt like Santa left the presents under a lamp...in JULY. Like poor Tom never catching Jerry, just coming ohhhh so close; something was off about the whole collection and display. At the end of the day I think they missed the mark just a tad with execution, but the product wasn't half bad: a cool leather-like mid-century chair was well priced at $125, dining room table and chairs with a bench for under $500 total wasn't terrible, but while I hate to cheat on one of my favorite stomps, I'm going to head back to other less expensive retail stores like World Market and Ikea for my mid-century fix until Target gets it together!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

AUTO-MATIC UPDATE

Why is it that every time I turn on my computer or cell phone it asks if I want it to perform a software update? On the rare occasion I click, "perform update now" by the time it's finished updating it's time to do it again! Or maybe I'm just another victim of the culture of today; the, I MUST HAVE IT NOW bunch, whatever "it" is at the moment. Have we really become that impatient? Maybe you're wondering right now, as you sip your whatever, WHAT IS HIS POINT? WHAT ON EARTH DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH DESIGN? Well, calm yourself down. I'm getting to my point. I've had the good fortune in my career to work for a mixed bag of clients; those who just want it done now, no matter the budget vs. those that task me with finding the least expensive light bulb for the cheapest lamp I've ever purchased. There are both good and bad in each side of the design spectrum, and last week I had the pleasure of working with clients who were fairly hands-off. In a relatively new country home they wanted a look that blended old and new yet looked fresh and inviting. The hook: they gave me one week to fill an entire house (which means no ordering furniture with long lead times, no building special pieces, no moving walls, etc.). While the clients are incredibly patient, their time frame is not, so I hit the ground running in every direction. With a bland backdrop of neutral colors in the house, the owners (from Miami) asked that I add pops of "Floridian flare" throughout...flamingos and yellow Cadillacs?? Nope, pops of aqua, orange, and yellows. In the northeast, our outdoor living pieces must endure humidity, passing summer thunderstorms and harsh winters. One thing I love to do is take flea market finds to the local auto body store and have them sprayed with high-gloss auto paint. Not only does the finish look incredible, it will withstand just about anything a tough guest (or storm) has in store! Traditional Adirondack chairs I've sprayed in high gloss navy blue. 1960's outdoor dining sets I've painted bright red. A dear friend of ours turned an otherwise unattractive side piece into a high gloss pink bar in her living room. For a touch of Floridan flare, I took a traditional farmhouse table to the local auto body painter and had them spray it turquoise and paired with more modern metal chairs. If you want a piece to pop and not crack, don't waste your time (and money) on thousands of spray cans, head over to your local auto body shop and let them perform magic. Prices obviously vary, but I've found that smaller town shops tend to be pretty reasonable (dining table was sprayed for $150)!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

A PENNY SAVED



I've often said one of the more challenging aspects of what I do (and sometimes most rewarding) is dealing with big ideas on little budgets. While managing budgets of any scale is an important piece to any job, managing expectations is key to keeping a project on track (and clients happy). This month I find myself with a lovely couple renovating their children's bathroom. When I first met them they asked if we could completely transform the space for less than the cost of a prom tuxedo rental. While I love a challenge, this one seemed a bit off...but, sure, why not? Paint is transformative (as I've always said), add a new mirror, lighting, artwork and you can make a huge impact if done properly. They were looking for a little more bang for their few bucks, so this is where my managing of expectations comes into play.  Things like tile and vanities can get out of hand in a bathroom and cause budgets to burst, so I explained that there are incredible choices at places like Home Depot and Lowe's (which usually leads to an eye roll or noise of some kind). So, I brought a few choices from an expensive tile store and one from Lowe's. I can't tell the difference, can you? While they wanted a shower floor with river rock, I explained that that's both overdone and slightly expensive, and these "penny tiles" come in a variety of colors, look beautiful and are incredibly budget friendly. This unique, cool, unexpected look was worth every penny!

Friday, September 1, 2017

ON THE MARK

A few weeks ago I popped into Target to grab a few essentials and before I reached the carts pivoted on my sneakers and headed right back out. The place was as packed as a Taylor Swift concert, jammed full with teenagers wearing inappropriate clothes, screeching like wild animals and oblivious to their surroundings while engaged in intimate affairs with their cellphones. To say I'm happy they're back in school is an understatement of grand proportions! Last evening I roamed the aisles of my favorite store in peace and quiet, grabbing a few things for home while shopping for clients...I've always loved the selection of lamps at Target, kitchen items are also of higher quality at great prices, bedding and bath items often compete with higher end retail stores. I noticed a new section that said "coming soon" and didn't pay any attention until I got home and flipped through my current Architectural Digest and found an advertisement for the new line at Target called "Project 62." Project 62 refers to the boom of mid-century design in 1962 and is the name of the new line Target will introduce online September 16th and in stores September 19th. The tease is already on www.target.com where everything from dining room tables, side chairs, bookshelves and lamps to dishes and sheets will be offered.  I'm always exciting to find cool things for good deals, so look forward to the launch of this line. In the meantime, I'm off to a junk store to see if I can find something to repurpose. STAY TUNED!

Monday, August 14, 2017

MY TWO CENTS

I'm in the middle of a (somewhat) tedious renovation project with a client and had to share a story from our adventures today. Our mission this morning was to set out and focus on items for three bathrooms. Because I know this lovely lady is about as distracted as a politician in a strip club, I decided we would only focus on SINKS. My feelings on sinks: they're SINKS for Christ sake, choose it and move on! A kitchen sink is one thing, but fussing over a bathroom sink, at least in this designers humble opinion, is a foolish waste on many levels. Have you ever walked into an overdone bathroom and thought, why'd they waste their money on this? Yeah, so have I! My client today was absolutely determined to find the vessel sink of her dreams for her master bath. As hard as I tried, I couldn't convince her to stray away. My issue with vessel (or counter-mounted) sinks is in the functionality; they are next to impossible to use. As luck would have it we popped into a restaurant in the middle of our search and they had vessel sinks in the restrooms...plopped ontop of be-glittered, be-dazzled countertops in an already overdone bathroom. So, I asked her to go in and attempt to USE it. Try washing your face, picture brushing your teeth (sans the smell of public restroom loveliness). In short, they're hard to maneuver around! After test-driving the sinks in the restaurant we headed out in search of the perfect oval undermount sink for her master bath!
TIP: WHEN IN DOUBT TRY IT OUT.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

RESTORING MY FAITH IN HUMANITY

While living in Los Angeles I did one of the coolest things I've ever done on a Saturday...I helped build a house in South Central LA with a group of friends for Habitat for Humanity. I spent the better part of the day on a hot roof installing tiles (sure, I did it wrong for a few hours until a supervisor corrected me, but I learned a lot). At the end of our hard work day the family that would occupy the home dropped by to check out our progress and to thank us. I can honestly say it was one of the more humbling experiences I've ever had and gave me a new appreciation for how we see (and define) home.  More recently, a friend of mine who antiques, owns an estate sale business and, well, just loves a bargain, introduced me to ReStore, a chain of retail stores run by Habitat for Humanity. To my shock and surprise there were incredible items...from plumbing bits and pieces removed from homes to dining sets, lamps, plates, beds and bookshelves...all at incredible prices. Inventory rotates and refreshes constantly and proceeds benefit the incredible work of Habitat for Humanity. Google "ReStore Habitat for Humanity" and find your local store.  Have a cabin to fill, a room to re-design or a college dorm to make cozy? Pop into a ReStore and find something good while doing a little good!

Monday, June 26, 2017

YOU SAY TOMATO, I SAY YUM!



Remember the time we had a President who challenged a kindergarten student about the correct spelling of tomato? And we thought that was pathetic! I digress...one of my favorite things to do in the summer months is to grill outdoors, and at least in the northeast, we grab onto every second of nice weather while it lasts, as winter is right around the corner! I also adore fresh vegetables, often hard to come by in winter months in our hood, so to combine fresh air, fresh veggies and grilling...what's better than that? Here are two ways I love to serve tomatoes, either to a group or just the two of us:
1.) We grill cherry tomatoes by preparing them indoors in a bowl with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic. Let them sit in the mixture before placing directly on grill, then continue rotating until nicely browned. Place back in bowl with olive oil mixture.
2.) This seems incredibly simple (and it is) and is wonderful as either a salad or appetizer. We find incredible tomatoes at either our local farmers market or grocery store, slice it up and lightly dress with olive oil, salt and pepper. The juicier the better!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

THE COMMON GOOD

Clearly I've been a bit lazy in the posting department, my apologies. Work has been nuts as the summer heats up and clients want to attack projects, and when the weekend rolls around we've been inundated with house guests. Don't get me wrong, I love entertaining, but it leaves very little time for posting witty, innovative TIPS. Several guests made comments about how I actually DO practice what I preach at home (yes, I do use my tips whenever I can). Last weekend one of our guests, and dear friends, introduced me to my new favorite gift website, www.uncommongoods.com. I LOVE maps and have several framed in our home, including a vintage school map on a spool hanging in our hallway. At uncommon goods you can personalize many gift items..from serving trays and throw pillows, to cocktail napkins and coasters. Our guest gave us coasters with our neighborhood on it and was able to personalize with our address and name of our home (a * indicates exactly where our home is on the vintage-feel map). Ms. Manners once said it is incredibly rude to search for the price of a gift, but because I plan on using this one for host/hostess gifts, I had to do my research. Custom maps with your neighborhood and town take a few weeks to fulfill and cost around $65 for trays, plates, coasters, etc. Next time you're staying with friends, leave a lasting impression with a cool gift!

Monday, May 1, 2017

RAISE THE ROOF




Contrary to popular belief, interior design isn't always about fluffing a pillow or buying overpriced wallpaper, sometimes it's about taking an ugly space and making it, well, less-ugly! Another contradiction of sorts; I actually prefer working with people who have budget challenges, because it forces me to be more creative and think way outside the usual idea box. Take the top photo, for example, is a challenge I faced a few weeks ago; how to make this basement bathroom less hideous with a tiny budget. THE FACTS: House was empty for several years so rodents had moved in (GREAT), bathroom in basement smelled like mildew, toilet leaked, vanity was dated, floors were carpeted, fan didn't work, ceiling was a musty drop-ceiling typically seen in basements. SO, how did we fix this?
VANITY: $169.00 at Lowe's
TOILET: $110 at the Home Depot
NEW FAN from the Home Depot: $29.99 plus installation
TILE FLOORS: $65.00 plus installation
PAINT: $25.00
NEW MIRROR: 19.99 (from Ikea, painted with high gloss paint, slightly darker than wall)
REPLACE CEILING PANELS WITH WOOD: $36.50
Because functionality often trumps beauty, we needed to keep the drop ceiling for a few reasons; A.) it concealed pipes from bathrooms above and B.) Sheetrocking would be cost prohibitive, SO, I decided to take this one into my own hands and ran to the Home Depot where I found 3/8" thick lightweight wood. I removed each panel, traced them and cut accordingly. I've not decided what color to paint the metal railing at this point nor what stain to use on wood (it's a bathroom, so stain, even clear, is essential to keep wood looking good). For now, however, an hour later and less than $40 invested, I think the results are great.
UPDATE: Upon closer examination, some of the wood pieces bow up and appear to not fit properly, a quick pop down to the hardware store for drop ceiling clips solved that. The key pieces here are the lightweight wood (so the frame will hold) and remembering to stain the pieces for moisture protection.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A FEW TIPS


This morning, as I sipped my cup of morning Joe and attempted to catch up on the days headlines on my iPhone, a message popped up, "not enough storage to view." I turned on my iPad where I saw the same message. My new iPad, charging, screamed, "downloading latest updates. 1 hour 20 minutes remaining." My iMac was also busy charging. And my incredibly sleek, totally cool desktop decided to take the day off.  Only a few sips into my morning, I wondered how it was possible to have a technological world so incredibly advanced yet completely unreliable? So, in a world filled with complicated checks and balances, I decided to revert back to a few of my incredibly simple tips today. I also happened to have a few minutes to kill this while waiting for my devices to wake up!
RUB-A-DUB-DUB:
We tend to shop at big stores like Cost Co and Sams club for home goods, so with that comes enormous, ugly packaging. Because I don't want a bottle of dish soap the size of bag of flour on our countertop, I use various smaller bottles to use in plain view. Several years ago I purchased beakers in various sizes to use as vases, water jugs for dinner parties and mixers for cocktails (often fun, for example, to have fresh lemon juice, freshly squeezed orange juice and other mixers out for guests during cocktail parties). For dish soap, I grabbed a smaller beaker and added a cocktail pour-spout to the top for a fun, simple holder of dish soap.
MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE:
I love to save interesting bottles for various future uses. In the past I've placed cool bottles on tree limbs so things like apples or pears could grow into them (then add vodka and let sit for a month for flavored vodka), I use them for water during dinner parties, vases, or water for guests on bedside stands. After cleaning them it's often difficult to get them to DRY. My quick tip to do that...roll up a paper towel in a funnel-shape and stick in the bottle. 24 hours later the towel will absorb the water and you'll be ready to go!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

THE BEAUTY IN UGLY

Please remember before emailing me about the poor quality of this photo, I'm NOT A PROFESSIONAL photographer! Now that we've got that out of the way, let's talk about a few secrets in house painting. Some people think I'm crazy, but I actually enjoy painting, and added bonus, save a lot of money by doing it myself. Last summer I painted the outside of our mostly-brick house (I used a special paint specifically for masonry, stucco and brick) and after my long-winters-rest I've started the process of painting the interior.  For this project absolutely every room, every surface (ceilings, walls and trim) need patching, priming and painting. In short, it's going to be a long road to the finish line, but the final results will be well worth it and save us around $10,000.00 by doing it ourselves. Grey tones have taken over the tans of the last several years, and Benjamin Moore has an impressive line of grey, from warmer (more traditional) to more modern darker greys. While most of my clients insist on using Benjamin Moore, I've never understood why; I don't think the product is any better than Valspar at Lowe's or Behr at the Home Depot and the average cost of a gallon of Benjamin Moore paint is $65 compared to $20 of the previous mentioned brands. For the amount of space I need to cover in our home I'd bust our budget if I used Benjamin Moore, so off to the Home Depot I went where their new services include matching ANY other brands color! I simply told them I wanted Benjamin Moore's "Light Pewter" and they matched the exact same color in Behr for $25/gallon. On some of our better looking trim surfaces I use high gloss (Benjamin Moore's high gloss finish is $85/gallon compared to Behr's $35/gallon). Because many of our windows are unremarkable (typical 1960's boring ranch trim) we didn't want to draw attention to them so we decided to paint the trim in the same color and same finish as the walls, essentially helping them disappear (note photo above...right side of trim shows painted version). While some people love putting lipstick on a pig, we'd rather let ours go au naturale.
BEFORE YOU ROLL, DON'T FORGET THESE TIPS:
1) If you like more expensive paints like Benjamin Moore or Farrow & Ball but would rather not spend the money, take the color and code to your local Home Depot and have them match it for you for more than half the savings. In addition to color and brand matching, Home Depot will also take any object you have and match the color. When we lived in California I wanted to paint our kitchen the color of one of my favorite yellow ware pottery bowls, so took it to the local hardware store where they did the same for me. Now the Home Depot will do it too!
2) If you have beautiful trim, show it off by painting it in high gloss. To really make it pop, paint it white.
3) High Gloss is different from Semi-Gloss and, while it gives a beautiful finish, surfaces MUST be prepped and primed as every imperfection will only be highlighted by the incredibly shiny finish.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

FROM BLUES TO BETTER HUES




I'm probably the only sicko who remembers a repulsive reality show from 2004 called "The Swan." In this repugnant excuse for entertainment (yes, I was addicted to it at the time) participants, all women, who were down on their luck underwent physical, mental and emotional "transformations." The overweight nerd whose husband cheated on her with her mother gets a nose job and new shoes. Ms. Sad Pants with one short leg gets an extension, new cheek implants and a tacky dress from Nine West. The skinny teenager gets new tits and a pair of sunglasses. Every episode, no matter what the story, the answer was PLASTIC SURGERY WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY. What a message to send, huh? It's no wonder the show only lasted one season. What in the heck is my point, you're wondering? Well, just because you're ugly doesn't mean a nose job will make you pretty and happy. Wait, nope, that's not my point. Drastic measures, like plastic surgery or expensive remodels, are not necessarily the answer to creating a happy space (and/or life). The photos above are one of the four bathrooms we recently renovated in my friends house (please note light green carpet in first photo...if it looks like pee, it smells like....). While she wanted to bust her budget on tile and vanities, this one bathroom cost less than $5,000 from tile to toilet paper. The big reveal proved to bring a big smile to her face!
WHAT'S OUT: We took one look at this old broad and new she needed a makeover from tits to toes, so we ripped out the carpet (yup, that's right), the hideous tile underneath, tossed the vanity, toilet and jacuzzi tub and installed a new subfloor and durock for tile (previous owner removed tub and shower to install jacuzzi and added shelf unit for towels. To create a space for the tile-enclosed new bathtub and shower AND to give more space to the master on the other side, we bumped into the bathroom two feet to achieve that.
WHAT'S IN: Lowe's actually has some incredibly good looking vanities and bath products, so we spread our wings and headed over to find a deep grey vanity with marble top, Kohler cast iron bathtub and splurged on a Todo toilet. For a unique twist, I suggested wall tiles for the floor that looked like brick pavers. Total spent with plumbing and electric work: $3,650.00

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

OH BUCKET!


Our President and his team seem to love using the word "robust" as much as I adore "repurpose," so guess what I'm doing today? Yup, you guessed it, I'm REPURPOSING. Because we've repealed and replaced our old coffee tables, I started a campaign to find better solutions. I love unique people and I love unique pieces, so it's only fitting that my friend Mackenzie (a pro at finding totally cool things) tracked down an awesome vintage storage bucket for me to use as a cocktail table. Last year I found a cool one in a consignment store in upstate New York for $10, so when I wanted more I reached out to Mackenzie, who tracked this one-of-a-kind bucket down in Connecticut. The house majority leader (Joe) loves it, so that's all that matters. While I won't try to swing your vote about blah coffee tables, I will attempt to sway you into thinking outside the boring design box and into something new, creative and unique!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

THE BEAUTY IN UGLY


If I can offer any advice to someone attacking a home renovation project of any size it is to PREPARE and BE CALM! Renovations are dirty, they're loud, they cost a lot of money and just like a relationship, sometimes you want to drop it and run away in the middle...but DON'T!  We are day one into a four-bath remodel and my friend is about to lose her marbles. Because she is living in the house during renovations, I told her to do three baths completely in phase 1 (leaving the fourth to use during construction), then loop back around and finish the fourth last. Impatient Patty we will call her, went behind my back and told the plumber to gut everything at once. Hummm. Not a great idea unless she has a composting toilet or lovely hotel nearby. So, here we are. The top photo is her tiny master bath which shares a wall with the main floor bath. Like an old Hollywood dame, this house has evidence of a few nips and tucks, one of which was the hall bath where the previous owner removed a tub/shower combo and replaced it with an enormous jacuzzi bathtub. At first glance I noticed an opportunity to push into the guest bath a few feet to allow the master to breath a bit, while not jeopardizing space in either one. My lovely friend couldn't picture my vision until the walls were gone, so now she's getting excited..as she taps her heel and demands the men work faster and harder. While I make her a cocktail to calm her nerves, if you're planning a project at home, log onto the APP store on your iPad or computer and download HOME DESIGN 3D. Well worth the $10!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

BEHIND DOOR NUMBER 2

After a long winters nap I think it's time to check back in with my friend in Connecticut and her ongoing renovation project (s). If you will recall, she opted to buy the cheapest house in the nicest neighborhood and do as much as she could with a sad ranch to make it more modern, roomy and fun. Last time I was with her, holding a hammer in one hand and cocktail in the other, we had accomplished many things (with the help of my great contractor); we removed several walls on the main floor to create an open concept living/kitchen area with brand new appliances, an enormous island housing a gas stovetop and double ovens, relocated the front door to create an extra bedroom, turned a porch into a dramatic dining room, removed hideous carpet to reveal (and redo) lovely wood floors, gutted the lower level and added windows, new floors, sheetrock, lighting and new fireplace, updated the electrical system, added air conditioning and painted the exterior. I'm exhausted! Now it's time to attack the refreshing of four bathrooms, each of which is more hideous than the other. The day I walked through this house with her last March I mentioned that EVERY SINGLE SPACE AND SURFACE needed attention, and I wasn't being dramatic. The bathrooms all have carpet over dated tile. The vanities all look like something you'd find in a crack den. The showers and tubs...same goes for them, and the toilets all look like they've had more action than most politicians in D.C. Need I say more? Because this isn't her "forever home" I suggested she NOT go nuts with the bathroom designs, yet make them look unique, comfortable and fresh. So, let's start at the beginning with a PLAN. What does she like? Well, she mentioned seamless glass doors for starters and I quickly whipped out my needle to burst her bubble. She referenced a bathroom I did a few months ago (photo above) in a basement. The seamless glass door cost $1,700! I told her I could furnish one entire bath on that budget. How? Well, let's start with the doors and a new find at the Home Depot. Delta just introduced seamless doors that are as easy as 1, 2, 3! Step 1) Choose door style and finish, Frame style and finish. Step 2) Choose glass type and Step 3) Choose knobs/handles and finish. The cost? $350!! Unlike the doors above that take up to seven weeks for install, you walk out of the Home Depot with these and pop them in the back of your wagon and off you go...with a few extra pennies for a Starbucks coffee!

Thursday, March 2, 2017

BUILDING A GOOD WALL

Contrary to what you may have heard, some walls are better than others. Pour yourself a little glass of something as this conversation could go on and on...are walls meant to keep things from getting out or protect from unwelcomed intruders? While I'm not a huge fan of walls of any kind (same way I feel about curtains or ponytails on men), sometimes they are absolutely essential. I know I've blogged about this tip before, but allow me to dip back into the tip jar today as I recently slipped and forgot this important tip. When it comes to projects in our home I tend to have zero patience and want it done immediately. On occasion, I've been known to pause a show I am watching and re-arrange an entire room (I call this Attention-Deficit Design...ADD). I've painted our front door after midnight because I couldn't stop thinking about it. A house guest got up from her chair one morning to refill her cup of coffee and I replaced the chair with a love seat before she returned. Yes, I'm a little nuts. This past weekend, however, my compulsive design habits caused me to skip a few very important prep steps before sanding our living room. After a few hours of patching and prepping the walls for painting, I sanded to my hearts content. Midway through my sand-fest it dawned on me that I'd forgotten to cover our BRAND NEW FURNITURE. As though turning around to a crazy old woman holding a meat cleaver, I spun around to find white, thick dust all over our lovely dark grey velvet sofa. Instead of throwing myself out the window I grabbed the shop vac and reminded myself about the importance of slowing down, taking time to prep and the need of a good wall of protection.
WRAP IT IN PLASTIC: For bigger projects at home, The Home Depot and Lowe's sell plastic walls that have zippers for easy access (don't let those dirty minds wander). For smaller tasks like mine I still prefer building room around my work rather than simply covering furniture. I get painters tape, plastic drop cloths and tape away. Spending a few extra minutes prepping saves a lot in booze...and frustration!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A STEEL OF A DEAL

I'm not a fan of granite. In fact, I think it's the Formica of today and before you know it more and more people will be searching for the next best thing. I feel the same way about stainless steel. In fact, I can't STAND stainless steel. Before you shoot me an email asking why I'm being so cantankerous today, walk up to your stainless steel whatever and tell me how clean it is....I'm waiting....In my humble design opinion it is similar to white paint and white carpet; can be lovely if you don't entertain, don't have children, spouses, animals or any of the above who act like animals. Quite simply, it's a pain in the neck to clean UNTIL NOW. I'd almost given up on ever having lovely, shiny appliances until I stumbled upon yet another product in the aisles of the Home Depot and decided to give it a try. While I love bar keepers for my stainless bar top (it's quite toxic and fume-filled, so be careful when using), MAGIC STAINLESS STEEL CLEANER ($4.99) has no odor, sprays on like Windex and leaves everything in its path looking like it's taken a lovely cleansing bath.
WHAT NEXT, YOU ASK? I know I've just shot down two major components to a kitchen today, so if I don't like granite or stainless steel, what do I think is the next hottest thing? I'm a big fan of Quartz these days as it comes in many colors and tones, is fairly budget-friendly and (for the most part) can take a beating. I also love stainless steel COUNTERTOPS (polar opposite of appliances, as I love the beat-up, used look of stainless countertops) and poured concrete is another favorite. As for appliances, I'm finding more and more clients wanting them hidden behind panels that match their cabinets. My problem with this option is A) they tend to be far more expensive if they're "panel-ready" and B) believe it or not, they can be a tad confusing. I recently spent a chunk of time in a beautiful kitchen with hidden-panel appliances and kept opening the pantry assuming it was the refrigerator, sliding open the drawer microwave thinking it was a drawer, etc. That gets old fast. Speaking of getting old, I'm not getting any younger so need to get back to my stainless steel cleaning before I replace them entirely!

Friday, February 10, 2017

FAUX REAL


I rarely pat myself on the back, and certainly would never hold a rally to praise my accomplishments, but I must admit I saw this trend coming a long time ago; tiles that look like wood. This certainly isn't the first time I've mentioned using these tiles, but I had to laugh when I read a piece in a high-end Interior Design magazine this week calling faux-wood tiles "the hottest trend in design right now." Really? I first started using them, not to trick someone into believing they were real, but because I thought they looked cool and different. I hate fake wood and I loathe anything laminate, but I adore these tiles because they're good looking, durable and affordable (depending on where you shop). The photos above are both examples of recent floor installs of wood-look-tile, the top was $1.79/square foot at the Home Depot and the bottom, from a custom tile store, was $8.50/square foot. To make an old barn look a tad more lively, we are installing these tiles in a herringbone pattern (stay tuned for photo) and in another home I installed these on a wall behind a vanity in a half bath for a little added drama. If you're looking to make a real impact, try going fake!

Friday, February 3, 2017

BASEMENT DWELLERS




Allow me to begin the way I do many conversations lately, with an apology. These photos were taken with my iPhone (which, at one point claimed to be one of the best cameras on the market..NOT). I'd also like to apologize for Elmer Fudd (my contractor) in the first photo. Now that we've got that out of the way, let's move on to one of my favorite spaces to design; the BASEMENT. While images of dingy laundry rooms, exposed pipes, haphazardly tossed Christmas decorations and old furniture left for dead come to mind when I think of basements, but tapping into unused square footage can be a major asset. At first sight this basement fit the profile to a tee; mouse traps, cinder block walls, abandoned furniture, and a stench of dampness filled the air. Now I won't act like a politician here and tell tall tales, as this project doesn't fall under the philosophy of this blog of great design at attainable prices. This 850 square foot space was transformed into the family room you see above with a fireplace, large windows, sliding doors to a pool, gym, laundry room, full bath and storage area. While my main goal was to take advantage of unused square footage to increase the functionality of this home, it was also to design a basement that didn't look, feel or SMELL like a basement. While the budget here edged close to the cost of some homes (mainly from expensive add-ons like heated floors, integrated sound system, expensive tiles, etc.) many of the items I incorporated into my design added big impact at a lower cost. THE LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL...at the end of this large room I added sliding glass doors the width of the room, flooding the space with light year-round. We cut into the cinder block and introduced large windows on either side of the fireplace (smaller basement windows let little light in). FIRE AND ICE: the addition of an electric fireplace adds warmth and a focal point in the space. POP OF COLOR: adding a splash of color introduces drama in any space and, guess what, if you hate it next year, CHANGE IT!

Friday, January 27, 2017

THE SIZE ALWAYS MATTERS


What a week, huh? I've never heard so many discussions about (crowd) size in my life! Guess what, WHO CARES!  The only time I care about the size of anything is when looking at homes and trying to figure out how to make clients happy.  Sometimes I'm faced with the dilemma of enormous, hideous furniture and squeezing it into a tight space, or large, cavernous rooms with zero furniture (and no budget to work with). Last summer I faced yet another challenge with the friend I've mentioned here...the one who bought the cheapest house in the nicest neighborhood with the goal of completely renovating it from tip to toe on a tight budget. To bring her vision to life she brought me in to help her FOCUS. Because we've done so much comparing of photos this week, I thought it was a great opportunity to compare some of my own. When walking around her house initially I tried to determine where we could gain square footage without busting the budget. I turned an entry way into a bedroom, reworked the basement space to add another bedroom, gym, bar, family room and hang out area and when I spotted this porch I immediately thought about how we could easily rework it and incorporate it as usable square footage. Because of the pitch of the roof line (hidden but the original, ugly vinyl siding) I knew we could make an interesting space with little effort and minimal expense. Now, don't get me wrong, I've got manual labor on my side (I helped my friend with demo) and an incredible team that worked for great prices. The total of this renovation? Just a tad over $5,000.00 with all materials and labor. Not bad for adding 300 square feet and a dramatic room! I'm also aware that not everyone has a back porch or extra space to play with, but my point is to re imagine the spaces you have and not be afraid to think out of the box.
PROJECT DETAILS:
After removing siding and ugly carpet, we installed a vapor barrier on the exposed concrete floor with a thin layer of insulation and plywood (to protect from mildew, changes in temperature and humidity, etc.). We insulated the ceiling and added sheetrock, installed two windows on the new exterior wall and repurposed the original porch door. We added shiplap pine to the back wall to tie in with other areas in the house where we added the same accent and installed unfinished hardwood floors from the Home Depot. We added new lights and outlets to code and brought the heat into the room with new radiators. The goal handed to me was to create a dining room where she could place a massive table able to accommodate at least twelve, and we achieved that!

Monday, January 23, 2017

ADD A LITTLE BRONZER

While I would suggest our new President lay off the bronzer, accessorizing with Bronze is IN! In fact it's popping up everywhere, from fashion to interiors, lamps to end tables, the new shades are quickly becoming designer gold! My only fear about diving head first into a trend, is when it fades away often your love of it does too! Wallpaper was hot in the seventies but not in the eighties. White appliances were in during the nineties and way out by 2000. All of the aforementioned, by the way, are back in style, so just like the shift in political parties, trends might go away and when you least expect they're baaaaackkkk!  Most of us, however, don't want to ride the wave of those off-trend years, which is why many of my "hard core" design elements (floor and wall tile, cabinets and countertops, etc.) are pretty evergreen. White subway tile, for example, will always be classic...a client a few years ago fought and fought for lime green tile in her 2,000 square foot kitchen. I suggested, if she loved lime green, go neutral on the tile and paint the walls a lime green. She opted for the lime tiles, and while she initially loved it, a few years later she spent thousands of dollars to change everything to white. My point? If you love something trendy, SMALL DOSES! This grey kitchen with white subway tiles is an excellent example of that. The bronze faucet, drawer pulls and shelves are all bronze and can be changed down the road fairly easily and inexpensively. In the meantime, they create the dramatic pop needed in this space.
FEW TIPS OF THE TRADE: the simple canisters are from Target, white plates from the Williams Sonoma outlet and oversized lights are from Ikea. The bronze faucet was purchased at Lowe's for $110!

Monday, January 16, 2017

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES



OH, unfasten those seat belts and chill out, I'm not getting political, at least not today! One of the many designer hats I wear is that of stager (actually, I kind of hate that term, so let's just say I get homes market-ready). Many times I'm able to come in and edit the things in someones house, sprinkle in a little space planning for good flow and then I'm good to go. If the furniture looks like it was pulled out of a dumpster in the alley of a crack house, however, then I need to get a little creative. Depending on the style of house, I'm often able to pick up incredible deals at places like Home Goods or Ikea. A few years ago, when I was inundated with staging jobs, I decided to test certain companies and products to see what would withstand the test of time (and aggressive little hands). Whether you're staging a house or trying to fill one economically, below is a list of some of my favorite spots to find deals and how their pieces have lasted.

CURTAINS:
I've purchased a similar set of curtains from Pottery Barn for $180/set and one at Ikea for $29.99/set. While the selection at Ikea is fairly limited to color and length, the quality is actually quite nice. If you're staging a house or just trying to cover a window with something simple, Ikea is the way to go! Silk curtains I purchased at Pottery Barn for $400 were misshapen, and after returning them twice and getting the same result each time, I gave up and headed for Ikea. TIP: The inexpensive curtains at Ikea also make great slip covers for chairs, small sofas and ottomans. I've often sprung for the slightly more expensive velvet curtains ($39-49/pair) and covered club chairs and ottomans!

DINING ROOM CHAIRS/BARSTOOLS:
My friend who did the total house renovation wanted new dining room chairs for her new dining room (I'll show you in a later blog). She wanted simple metal chairs that are popping up everywhere, from Design Within Reach ($350/each) to Crate & Barrel ($100/each), I found the exact look at www.overstock.com for $100 for TWO. They look and feel exactly like the expensive ones, took a beating over the holidays and still look incredible!

FURNITURE:
This is always a tough one for me, especially when shopping with picky clients. With sofas, chairs and beds especially, I always insist a client try in person. Buying online can be tricky (I've ordered sofas site unseen on overstock and the quality is CRAPOLA). Ikea's prices are creeping up, but the Ektorp simple sofa for $399 is a solid piece if you're staging, decorating a weekend home or furnishing your place for the first time. For the long haul I'd upgrade to Pottery Barn or Crate & Barrel (sofas are over $1,000.00 but last). Ethan Allen has also surprised me lately with fresh, new products and great prices (quick ship sofas are around $900 and have several fabrics to choose from). In a pinch I ordered a sofa from Bobs Discount Furniture (believe the company is only on the east coast), and while the service was impeccable upon delivery, the product was pretty cheap looking and in feel. Eight years ago I ordered to faux-leather chairs from overstock for $150 and have staged them in several homes, and upon retiring them moved them into mine. Only recently did I notice the tearing and chipping of the fake leather (photographed). For the price, however, and incredible use and abuse these have received, I'm pretty impressed!

ACCESSORIES:
When designing homes of any size on any budget, I love to mix and match. I pop into local antiques stores and zip into a Target whenever I see one. When I need inexpensive mirrors and accessories that like lamps and vases, Home Goods is my go-to!



Wednesday, January 11, 2017

MAP IT OUT


One of the many pieces that help a space come together is often completely overlooked, but can either make or totally break a design; wall hangings (art, framed pictures, etc.) I always find it interesting when people either hang one tiny item on a large wall or a small cluster of things close together as high as possible. Many people love floating shelves with random crap resting on it. Ok, no judgment (actually, that was laced with judgment), but mapping out what you put on walls in your home is just about as important as creating a floor plan for furniture. Similar to the struggle for many of choosing paint colors, hanging pictures can be just as daunting. Not any more!  Here are a few tricks I use when hanging pieces in clients homes or my own; and, no, I don't waste hours measuring like a crazy person, I get a general idea of what I want in a room, hall or bath and I just go for it and use these simple tricks to help it all come together.
1.) If I'm hanging a group, I'll often use grocery bags or newspapers to create cutouts of each print then hang them on the wall and tweak as necessary. On each cutout I'll indicate where the hanger or picture wire falls so I know exactly where to place the nail.
2.) Sometimes, like in a hallway, I'll want a perfectly straight line of prints, so to achieve this I place the prints on the floor to get an idea of spacing then measure end to end. I measure the wall space, placing a nail on each end to indicate the first and last prints in the collection and link them all together with painters tape or a string so I can easily hang all in a line.
3.) Before painting a room, I will play with placement of artwork, hanging over and over until I get the look I want (nail holes don't matter because I'm repainting the wall). Once I settle on a design I patch the unwanted holes and leave the ones I like, snap a photo of the finished look, paint the room then replace the nails in the open holes.
By the way, speaking of mapping out a look, I LOVE maps (and incorporating them into my designs) and recently discovered the US Geological Survey website, www.store.usgs.gov where county and state maps are available for as little as $5! I bought the top 24" x 36" copy of a geological survey of our county for $8 and will place it in a frame I bought at Ikea for $29! Less than $50 for a conversation piece on any wall!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

BACK WHERE WE STARTED

I chuckled earlier this week as I dragged our Christmas tree, drunk with holiday cheer, out to the curb for its next journey to a wood chipper somewhere down the road. The routine felt eerily familiar. Ten years ago, in an attempt to exercise away our post holiday depression, Joe and I went for a walk around our Pasadena, California neighborhood. As we passed one perfectly manicured lawn after another, each meticulously coiffed like the homes they introduced, the thread that wove it all together struck me...each one had a discarded Christmas tree in the driveway waiting to be carried away. As if they'd partied too hard on Bourbon street, some had abandoned ornaments dangling from their dead limbs, while others were draped with tinsel, like fancy ball gowns returning from a New Years Eve bash. Naturally, I started snapping pictures and when we got home I googled; "what happens to Christmas trees in Southern California?" When I found the answer I decided to start a little blog...over one thousand entries ago! What does the after life of a Christmas tree have to do with dining and designing, you might ask? Well, it was the spark that lit the fire under me to begin sharing what I do and how I do it. At the time Joe and I were in the middle of an exhausting renovation of our early 1900's bungalow. Thanksgiving that year found us chilling pies on scaffolding outside our kitchen. Doors were a mere suggestion in most rooms. Our unfinished staircase lead to yet another long to-do list. Tylenol PM was the only way for me to fall asleep without worrying about our wide-open attic (and what creatures were moving in). Our big expectations far outweighed our renovation budget, so to finish the house we had to take matters (and tools) into our own hands. Toss in the decision to move our lives to the east coast (and a deadline to do it) and our nights and weekends were filled with hammers, sawdust, battered limbs and bruised egos. We decided to give ourselves the week of Christmas OFF from hard labor, so we moved construction equipment out of the way to put up a tree...our first together as a couple. While we were too tired to dig most of our things out of storage, we did manage to find a few ornaments...one Joe made as a kid, a few he received as gifts, some I had made and a few family pieces. One night we huddled by our fire, warmed by our sweet dogs and a little scotch. I looked around at our hard work in progress and the wonderful tree plopped in the middle of all of it and thought to myself, these are the things that make a house a home. Not expensive furniture or high-end appliances, but the people, pets, moments and memories that turn living into a life. We met our construction deadline and in the process learned how to hang drywall, install custom made cabinets, hammer in cedar shingles, finish a staircase and the room it lead to. The night before moving trucks arrived we were still painting our kitchen, and as we headed east in a rented motorhome with our puppies barking at passing semis, we wondered if our hard work would pay off. Would a buyer see our vision and PAY for it? While it mattered financially, emotionally it did not. An exciting adventure was on the horizon. Are you still wondering how a Christmas tree started a ten-year design blog? I often tell clients that my approach to designing a home is similar to how I decorate a tree...a tree, at least in my house, represents where we have been and who we are; the ornament Joe made in kindergarten, the danish Santa ornament I bought in college when traveling through Europe, gifts from friends and relatives, photos of our dogs we adore and miss...our tree is the road map of our lives. A home, no matter how big or small, should feel like YOU. As sad as I was that year to say goodbye to Christmas and put away the ornaments, I was excited to move on to the next adventure. Where does the road end for Christmas trees in Southern California, by the way? Many wind up in the hands of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, where the officers sink them to the bottom of lakes where they help smaller fish hide from predators. Our discarded trees become habitats for local fish. How cool is that? So, as we wrap a pretty bow around 2016 and tuck it away, let's take what we've learned...bruises and all...and make the year ahead even better. Endings are sad, but new beginnings are incredibly exhilarating!

Friday, December 9, 2016

GOING GREY


Wow, here we are rolling right through the holiday season and I haven't written one thing about how to find inexpensive gifts or what to make for dinner. Why, you might ask? Because I'm absolutely sick and tired of morning "news" programs filling every minute of every hour with "new" ways of doing the same old crap. If I see one more segment on how I can make an inexpensive hostess gift out of recycled cans or listen to a therapist list the ways one can survive the holidays, well, I'm gonna lose my marbles! Don't get me wrong, I love the garish, campy, overly-garnished holidays more than anyone (I have five trees set up in our house and enough glitter to make even Liberace pink with envy!), but the explosion of holiday nonsense makes me insane. It's all enough to make my grey birthmark even more grey! Speaking of grey and new ways of doing the same old thing, I am working with a cool couple who bought a neat old farmhouse they plan on turning into a bed and breakfast. While they want to maintain the integrity of the traditional farmhouse, they want to make it slightly more modern and user-friendly. How can they achieve that fairly quickly and inexpensively? PAINT. Architectural Digest recently published an article on "new trends in white paint." Humm. Blues were hot a few years ago, pinks before that, and everyone seems to be talking about GREY lately. Thankfully, just like old saint nicks red coat, grey is fairly evergreen and won't go out of style any time soon. The wood trim in this house was already painted (several times, in fact), so I suggested painting the walls a light color grey/white tone and the woodwork a darker grey. Because this will be a heavily used home, I suggested tile that looks like wood in the entry in a herringbone pattern (original floors in this area were badly damaged from weather and adjoining rooms have wool, inlaid carpet, so this won't compete with real wood floors). What we achieved was a clean, simple, yet traditional look that will take a beating for years to come and keep on shining.

Friday, December 2, 2016

RUB A DUB DUB


I've said what I'm about to blurb so many times I'm even making myself crazy...it doesn't cost a fortune to make a big change in a room, EVEN a bathroom!  Yeah, yeah, yeah you'll hear over and over how expensive bathrooms and kitchens are to renovate, but if you do your research and find a good carpenter (or if you can do it on your own without destroying your home) then you, too, can have a space you don't despise. I've been working with a lovely couple who bought a weekend home in the Hudson Valley and initially hired me to buy furniture and choose colors for the walls. That evolved into a slightly larger project, but as I do with many clients and friends, I put the brakes on this one (well, I pumped them a bit) and suggested they LIVE in the space for at least a year before doing anything major. The master bath, however, looked like the set of an 80's sitcom and needed some attention. The leading lady of this home wanted to rip it out completely, but I suggested starting with what she wanted most...a new tub. Because the tub will remain a focal point of the new space when we renovate next year, I knew we could start there and not worry about tearing it out down the road. My lovely contractor removed the dated jetted tub and surround and took out the southwestern-inspired built in bookshelves. We painted a softer tone, changed drawer pulls on the vanity, added crown molding around the mirror and removed dated sconces. Total cost of this spruce?
Materials: (new sheetrock for behind bookshelves, molding around mirror, drawer pulls, paint, grout for tile we found in garage: $495)
Bathtub by Brisso: $2,250
Labor: $750.00