Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Day in the Life

Ever wonder how decorators and designers just have all the answers so easily?  How they seem to appear out of nowhere on those great TV shows and transform a whole house in one day with their magically-appearing drawer full of just the right fabrics, paint colors, furniture and accessories?  Well, let me tell you....

A day of locating those "just right" fabrics and similar products starts like this (and let me say first that I really love what I do, and apologize if the following truth takes some of the glamour out of it for some of you): (1) carefully select outfit and shoes for a day of shopping in design centers, which means comfortable pants to bend down in, since we are often crouched on the floor digging through racks of hanging fabric swatches and large libraries of trim books.  Wouldn't do to be wearing a dress or skirt that flashed a revealing view upon squatting down!  Also consider shoes... hauling large bagfuls of samples, heavy sample books, handbag, water bottle, etc. while covering many thousands of square feet of designer showrooms requires footwear that is professional, fashion-forward (since what we designers are selling is style, after all), and will not induce an ankle-rolling while arms are loaded down with aforementioned bags; (2) ensure all samples of existing client finishes are firmly in-hand for proper color matching, style and texture matching; (3) stack of business cards and necessary business documents packed along to ensure shopping privileges at designer-only showrooms; (4) healthy lunch options bagged up and brought along since I will be in my car when my lunchtime hunger pangs start and I promised my husband I'd forego drive-thru fast food during Lent this year as a testament to doing something to better myself.

Then the pursuit for the most perfect products ensues.  Row after row, aisle by aisle, showroom upon showroom we scour every display wing of hanging fabric samples, pour over books of swatches, like eagles hunting for a mouse for lunch we squint our eyes and quickly take in the view before us trying to hone in on the exact shade or tint of color, tile sample, or furniture style for which we are scouting.  At the end of it all, we end up back in our offices with armloads of goodies and begin editing.  Not this, not that, doesn't look as right in this light as it did in the artificial showroom lighting.... on and on, until we are confident that the handful of options we carefully narrowed it to are appropriate to show our client with full confidence that we can create the intended outcome that we and the client have both envisioned from this project's outset.

My husband watches me occasionally as I sort through these piles of furniture spec sheets and piles of fabrics and asks, "you really like doing this?" to which I reply "are you kidding? This SO jazzes me!  I LOVE doing this.".  I hope you love beautifying your home, or working with your designer or decorator who loves it, as much as I do.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Art: Like Jewelry For Your Room

Artwork falls under that category we decorators and designers call accessories.  What is ironic about that is that many times the artwork is the inspiration for the design aesthetic.  A single small canvas painting or print or piece of sculpture can influence the color scheme and simplicity or complexity of what else is chosen for the space.

Consider a carved wood figurine found while vacationing in Indonesia, purchased and carefully transported to it's new owner's home because of the "feeling" the new owner got when he or she found the piece and couldn't walk away without it.  Translate that "feeling" into some specific emotional reactions such as happy, delighted, intrigued, relaxed.  We have now identified exactly the emotions we designers will want to incite for the room's owners (and hopefully, also for it's visitors) and have a "jumping off point" from which to start and can identify appropriate furniture and textiles.

Now imagine a very large, graphic, abstract and brightly colored painting, and how different the space around a piece like that should feel: exciting, fresh, avant-garde, untraditional, etc.

Most often, however, the artwork and accessories are like the finishing touches on a carefully selected outfit: the jewelry that adds the interest and conveys the overall feeling of either traditional or contemporary, funky or timeless and so on.  Whatever point in the design process your art enters the scheme and regardless of it's monetary value or origin, the most important factor is that you really, really love it. (One of my favorites - because of my love of design and decor - is this drawing of a chandelier, by Daniel Schneider and available through www.artinteriors.ca)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Happy Chinese New Year - and Hello Red!

For those of you out there recognizing and celebrating the start of the Chinese New Year (Year of the Tiger, for those keeping track), I wish you a prosperous and healthy New Year.

An important part of the celebrations for Chinese New Year includes adorning windows and doors in red.  Let's talk about using red in decorating your interiors on an everyday-basis.

Red is one of those hot, "pay attention to this!" colors.  It boosts our appetites and raises our pulse and breathing rates when used in large areas around us.  It is a great color to use in dining rooms for these reasons, and it keeps conversations active since our physiological response to it is to get more active.  For these same reasons, it is an obvious less appealing choice to paint the toddler's bedroom!

Designers will often inject a little red into a scheme through smaller details (think vase, book, pillow, flowers).  The trick to doing this well is to have an odd number of items in this color, and sprinkle them around the room so they eye keeps moving around the room.  If you were to cluster your only red accessories in one area of the room, the eye is drawn to them like a "bulls eye" and your eye would stop there.  The goal in a great design is to keep the eye moving around the room and view the whole space as balanced.  Keeping red in three or five small accents in various places will accomplish just that.  See the photo below of the home office of one of my fave designers, Sarah Richardson.   Plus, who knows what luck and blessings it may bring to the room's occupants during the Year of the Tiger... Gung fat hee choi!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Did Someone Say Countertops Are Boring? Not here!

Updating or renovating kitchen and bath areas are (as you probably all know) the most expensive rooms in the home to outfit.  The number of surfaces and fixtures that have to be selected can be overwhelming, especially as the industry keeps showing us newer, better, stronger, and more streamlined products.  Countertop materials used to be very limited (tile, laminate - remember when Corian (TM) was the new and most amazing product we'd ever seen for our counters?).  Check out the latest product from Caesarstone (TM) that combines texture, pattern AND the quality solid surface, low maintenance, durable materials that they are known for.

The new Motivo (TM) line shows us a feminine lace pattern or masculine crocodile print in quartz surfaces - instant design and texture.  I can't wait to see these in use and how the use of light and shadow can play off these amazing finishes.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Don't Forget the Windows!

WINDOWS... whether you have many or few, they make such a statement in every room.  They allow us to see the outside world, whether the sun is shining, rain is falling, or snow is piling up.  They show us the environment our home sits within, whether a beautiful beach or nosy neighbors in close-range.  For all of these reasons, in addition to considerations like heat control and UV ray protection for our interiors, there are a wide array of products available to dress our windows appropriately.

While there aren't any "wrong" or "right" window fashion designs, there are some key considerations when dressing them.  First, if you have a view that is one you want to enjoy and want to draw attention to (city lights, water or mountains, an emerald green lawn) then choose your window dressings in a color that is a soft blend with the walls and furnishings in the room.  If you decide on blinds, you will also want something that can easily be moved of off the window and out of the way of the view.  This keeps our eye moving past the window treatment and out to the view beyond it.  Conversely, in places where the view is not your room's best feature, you can choose something more dramatic or colorful or opaque to keep the focus on the inside.

Hunter Douglas (TM) has a wonderful website with a short survey to help you identify some needs and appropriate products from their line of window fashions, which can help get the process started if you're really not sure what features are important to you. http://www.hunterdouglas.com/

Sunday, February 7, 2010

As any good cook knows, having good workspace in a kitchen is vital.  Solid surface countertops are very popular right now, mostly because they provide beauty, function and minimal maintenance - and for the cooks out there, it means a wonderful work surface free of grout lines (have you tried to roll out pastry over a countertop covered in grout lines every 4"?).   If you are not lucky enough to have solid surface countertops yet but have the room for a free-standing piece, this island by Crate and Barrel furniture stores is amazing.  It provides traditional French styling and the always-welcome marble work surface for the real baker in the family.  Marble is a porous surface though, which does require some diligence and care (especially when it comes to acidic foods which can damage it), but just imagine how this could conjure up images of a French bakery right in your own home when it is stacked with copper cookware on the bottom shelf and topped with a vase of fresh lavender stems and a domed plate filled with homemade croissants!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Chairs, Chairs Everywhere

I love how a single chair can make an enormous statement: it can capture an entire design aesthetic in just four small legs, a seat and a back.  Take these Louis XIV-style chairs - the same styling and yet completely different applications.  Finished in high-gloss, glamourous and dramatic black lacquer, or natural wood grain, or European modern acrylic make them all exquisite in their own right but each speaking a different design language.  Consider what a single desk chair can add to your bedroom, office or living area and choose something that tells the story of your design style.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Desk Obsession!

I am completely obsessed with this desk I saw yesterday at Room Service in Newport Beach (www.roomservice.com).  It has the right mix of mid-Century modern styling, classic form and a bit of glamour... and it would look amazing in my own office! I'm already scheming a jaw-dropping wallpaper to provide the right backdrop, and some striking color accents to give the right balance of contrast.  As I've mentioned before, you never know where inspiration can come from, whether it's a tiny ceramic vase, a piece of fabric, or a stunning piece of furniture that "speaks to you" and gets your creative juices flowing.  Keep your eyes and your mind open - just like looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right, these things usually appear when you least expect them and provide the catalyst for an incredible design scheme.