Best Wishes for the New Year

The Mall on Commonwealth Avenue, Boston
Image via Flickr

The end of a year always comes as a surprise to me. One minute there are lobster rolls, sandy feet and fourth of July fireworks and the next we are choosing a Christmas tree and shoveling the first snow fall. It's been a challenging year at times with the economy in such flux (to put it mildly), but I am grateful for the wonderful times and joys I've shared with loved ones and friends.

This blog was a new venture for me during the spring of 2009 and it's been a creative opportunity that I never thought possible. It's been a pleasure to connect with like-minded bloggers who share the same passionate interest in interior design and decorating. I've also been able to do some interior decorating work (but it certainly didn't seem like work), which was a delightful experience.

Thank you to all who have followed my blog here and there and left such kind, positive comments. It means so much to me to have an outlet for expressing ideas and inspiration.
I wish everyone a Happy, Peaceful, Prosperous New Year for 2010!

Less is More

This image is one of my favorite rooms decorated for Christmas. It's the home of Danish interior designer Tine Kjeldsen and was featured in the December 2002 issue of Homes & Gardens magazine (photography is by Case Study). Obviously, this issue of the magazine is one of my favorites---there are other images from this issue in one of my earlier December posts.

I like the simplicity of the whole room; the white linen window shades, natural linen chaise (behind the tree), white tiled Swedish stove and the blue gray table with peeling paint. The tree is decorated with silver ornaments and a garland of Danish flags. You'll notice there are also small lighted candles clipped all over the tree (eek!). The fine print next to the picture says "never leave lit candles unattended". Brave souls they were to try this. It looks beautiful, but I hope they had at least half a dozen fire extinguishers nearby for this shot.

Here is a better view of the table. The oil painting in the background is by artist Christina Lindell. The beautiful candelabrum is French and features porcelain and silver flowers. A rectangular white dish holds round mercury glass Christmas tree decorations.
So pretty and festive and no red or green in sight.

Mission Accomplished

So, the tree is up and decorated and has been for several days, but I only got around to taking a photo now. Please excuse the bare Christmas tree stand (although it helps remind me to add water to the tree)! Every year around holiday time I say I'm going to buy a new tree skirt, but I just haven't seen any that I really like. It would be nice to have something in neutral colors--not green and red or green, red and white or any combination thereof. When I can't find a tree skirt to buy, the idea of just sewing one comes to mind, but I seem to lack the time and my sewing machine is out of commission at the moment.

If you have a source or idea for pretty Christmas tree skirts, please let me know!

A Living Room Design for a Reader

About a month ago, I received the nicest email from a reader. She mentioned that she enjoyed my blog and understood from reading my profile that I had a day job, but asked if I ever did any private client interior design or consulting work. Naturally, this was a wonderful surprise for me since I would love to work in the interior design field full time some day.

So, this reader (whom I'll refer to as Mrs. W) and I spoke on the phone about what she was looking to accomplish with her home. To make matters even more serendipitous, Mrs. W and I live in the same neighborhood. Mrs. W was looking for some ideas and suggestions for improving her living room, which also has to function as a dining room at times. I visited her home to see what was at hand. Her home is a lovely nineteenth century house that had been updated by the previous owners who added a new kitchen and bathrooms. The kitchen opens to the living room, which must also serve as a dining room. There is a a separate family room with comfortable seating elsewhere in the house.

This was a an unexpected challenge for me since although the room already had many beautiful features including a great paint color on the walls (Benjamin Moore Manchester Tan), plenty of natural light, a beautiful marble mantel and working fireplace, hardware floors and a crystal chandelier, it is not a an overly large room as it measures approximately 13' x 13'. Mrs. W also already had some wonderful furniture that was to stay in the room including a large breakfront similar to this one, but not quite as large and with a drop down desk top:

The breakfront is obviously a large piece of furniture that can only fit on one particular wall of the room, so it had to stay in place. So from there, I set out to determine what other furniture could be purchased for the room and where to place it.

A mahogany drop leaf table, which is a family piece, serves as a dining table when fully extended.

A pretty blue and white ceramic stool with flowers and birds, similar to this one from Wisteria is currently near the fireplace.

Mrs. W also has a pair of lovely demilune tables like this one. I think these are elegant and so versatile!

And lastly, four Federal style chairs similar to this one, which are in various rooms throughout the house.

In addition to serving as both a living room and a dining room, the other requirements (in addition to the budget) for the room was that it had to be child friendly, include storage for children's toys, include a bit of elegance and comfortable seating for Mrs. W and her husband, plus seating options for guests. A custom cut and fitted wool area rug that looks like sisal (but is much softer) is being considered for the room.
So, after much thought and rumination on my part over whether to add a small sofa to the room or two love seats or two chairs, etc. I decided to start with two slip covered Crate and Barrel swivel glider chairs. The slipcovers are machine washable and are available in a variety of basic colors, plus custom fabric choices are also available through Crate and Barrel. The chair here is shown in "Sand", which I thought would contrast nicely with the Manchester Tan walls. These would be placed next to each other, facing the fireplace. The chairs can be moved to the back corners when the room is set-up for dining.

The chairs look very soft and comfortable, but to dress them up I suggested adding two matching pillows like these from BViz Designs, which are taupe silk velvet with antique gold trim and stump work. They are expensive and not very practical (not exactly the thing to have with young children about!) or but similar pillows would look great too.

To meet the toy storage/coffee table/extra seating requirement, I suggested this tufted (also available "untufted") storage ottoman from Ballard Designs.

Since Mrs. W already had the four dining chairs and needed more seating in the room, I suggested two reproduction chairs from Antiques on Old Plank Road. The upholstery on these chairs is too gold for the room, but the size and shape would be a good fit. These could be placed at either end of the dining table when the leaves are up. When the room is being used as a living room, one chair could be placed on one side of the doorway to the kitchen. The other chair would be placed in front of the drop down desk on the breakfront.

For additional lighting in the room that wouldn't take up too much floor space, this floor lamp from Circa Lighting would be placed in front of the breakfront at the drop down desk top. Mrs. W also has a favorite lamp shown above that would be placed on a concrete pedestal next to the drop leaf dining table so that she doesn't have to put the lamp on the floor when she brings sets up the table for dinner parties.

I suggested placing the demilune tables on either side of the fireplace and topping them with two "Fang Gourd" ivory colored lamps from Circa Lighting. A less expensive option would be to use two Gourd lamps from Pottery Barn. I love the shape of the Fang Gourd lamps and the gilded bases. The rectangular lampshade is a nice change from a standard round lampshade.

The mirror shown in the first photo is another piece inherited by Mrs. W and her husband, so that was to stay in the room. I suggested hanging it vertically instead of horizontally and lowering the chandelier a little (if possible to so do without walking into it) so the crystals would reflect in the mirror. To add a little greenery and reinforce the symmetry, I recommended adding two preserved topiary (from Ballard Designs).

The final touch would be to add some art to the walls on either side of the fireplace. I thought it best not to overwhelm the space with large prints, but for some relief to the symmetry one print or painting could be hung on one side and two prints or paintings could be hung on the other side. The paintings shown here are 19th Century French landscape paintings, used for inspiration. These are budget busting items for sure, but reproductions can be purchased at and local auction houses like Skinner, Inc. often have framed paintings for a few hundred dollars each.

So, that's it! I shared my ideas with Mrs. W recently and received a very enthusiastic response, which was a relief! I can't fully describe how great this project was for me to work on and how very nice Mrs. W is to work with, which makes all the difference. Hopefully, the results and any variations or changes will come to fruition shortly. My goal is that perhaps at the end of the project I'll be able to post some before and after photos of the room. I'll be sure to post any updates and thanks for reading this entire post!

Silver and Gold

Homes & Gardens Magazine. Photographed by Catherine Gratwicke

Thanksgiving has passed and we're very nearly in December, so I'm getting in the Christmas mood. Off to get a Christmas tree at the end of the week!

Here are some images which remind me of the holiday season. There's no Christmas tree in sight in the top image, but the silver and gold accents remind me of winter and the holidays.

Detail of Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Creche, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Homes & Gardens Magazine. Photographed by Michelle Garrett

Giving Thanks

Just a quick post today to say Happy Thanksgiving to all. I'm done with my pre-Thanksgiving dinner preparations, ready to put my feet up for the night and count my blessings!

The British Do It Best

British Homes & Gardens, Rosanna Peel, photographed by Kim Sayer

Thank Goodness It's Friday! (or Saturday at this point) It has been a long and hectic week at work and I wouldn't mind soaking in this tub for a little while.

Happy Weekend!

Speaking of Art.....

So, a
fter much debate (and after much time spent admiring artist Sarah Lamb's still life paintings) I finally decided to buy a reproduction portrait. The original portrait of this young girl was painted by French artist Jean-Bapiste Simeon Chardin in 1740. I figure this is a good way (well, actually the only way) to experience 18th Century art on a daily basis. I decided on this portrait for a specific reason. When I'm not blogging about interior design or working, I'm likely to be playing tennis and although the girl is holding a badminton birdy (I think that's the correct term!) and a badminton racquet, that was enough for me to associate it with tennis.
I decided to hang the picture above what has become my work space, but for this picture I cleaned it up and removed the laptop, papers and magazines that are usually spread over the top. The shutter doors on the cabinet hide the printer and stereo system. It all actually works out fairly well, considering this is the dining room and I don't have a home office.

Fall Bounty: More Sarah Lamb Paintings

Fall Bounty II
I can't remember exactly how I stumbled upon the paintings of Sarah Lamb, which I've posted about here before other than it involved searching the internet (as usual!) for "still life paintings" which yielded Sarah Lamb's extraordinary work. The artist is renowned for her still life paintings which to me, are reminiscent of those by the old European Masters. I am drawn not only to the fine life-like details of the paintings, but also to the simplicity of the subject matter--flowers, fruit, vegetables, shell fish and other delicacies or everyday objects like pots and bottles beautifully composed against a shaded background.
Three Squash
This group of her paintings represents fall to me with its shorter days, colder temperatures and fewer outdoor activities, but more time for cooking, baking and sharing time indoors with family and friends. Enjoy!
Jeff's Old Bottles
Sickle Pears Clay Pots
Mousse Au Chocolate
La Miche Polaine
Dusty Bottle
Eggs in a Wooden Bowl
Eggs With Copper Pot
Leeks and Earthenware
European Mounted Skull
Clam and Mussel Shells II
Alpine Fondue I
Stock Grange Apples

All Photos from Spanierman Gallery LLC


Robert Brown, House Beautiful Well, not really a screenplay today--more like screen play. Not many words here so mostly photos, but certainly a little drama. There is something about a beautifully decorated folding screen that never fails to get my attention.
Screen from Art Deco Collection,
It's a versatile enough to serve as portable art hanging on a wall or as a room divider.
Barbara Ohrbach, House Beautiful
Use a small screen to cover a fireplace opening when not in use.

Screen from Red Ticking,
Or, as a window treatment for extra privacy.

David Easton, Veranda
Or, really anywhere because no matter where you put the screen, it looks fabulous.