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Top Ten Room Energizing Updates

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We’re stuck indoors while another polar vortex/arctic blast whips through. To avoid going stir crazy with my five year old I perform two of my favorite tasks: purging and rearranging. My daughter loves it because she thinks I’m making furniture forts in the middle of the room just for her. It’s a win win.

But it’s not just a busy activity. The process of purging, rearranging, cleaning and balancing gets the chi flowing. And flowing chi is energizing. Who doesn’t need a dose of that on a gray and blustery day.

Here are my top ten favorite ways to invigorate a room:

10. Deep clean. It is so effective in changing a room’s energy. Don’t just wipe down bookshelves: dust every book, picture frame, knick knack, and then wipe down the entire cabinet. While you’re at it, toss the used paperbacks in a bag to give to your local charity. Wash floors underneath the rugs. Clean the webs from the corners. Prune dead leaves from plants. You get the idea.

9. Purge. Rid surface areas and drawers of unwanted mail, old magazines, paid bills, stacks of school artwork. Find places for the things you want to keep (file cabinets, poster boards) and toss the rest. Get rid of clutter. It takes up too much energy to ignore it.

8. Vacuum. Kinda goes with #10 but without the deep clean. A simple vacuum gets the carpets looking great again. Don’t forget to vacuum the couch and fluff the pillows.

7.  Decorate with what you already have. Stack two or three books on that nicely cleaned surface and add a pretty bowl on top. Buy some inexpensive branches or flowers and display them in your prettiest vases. Arrange books so that some are stacked horizontally and others vertically. Grab a home decorating catalog, see how they do it, and replicate.

6. Rearrange furniture. Pull that sofa away from the wall and try using it on a diagonal in the room. Try a different seating setup in front of the TV.  Try the rug on an angle. Put a narrow desk behind a sofa. Start seeing the room from a different angle.

5. Replace CFL bulbs with LEDs. Or halogens. Or incandescents. Anything but horrible CFLs. The colors in your room will change instantly.

4. Light candles.

3. Put on music.

2. Add pillows in bold patterns to sofas and/or chairs.

1. My favorite? Invite friends over. Friends, laughter, conversation: all this will elevate the chi instantly.

Holiday Decorating

I recently helped a client get her dining room ready for Christmas. When she called me we had just under four weeks to make the room feel more inviting and warm before 18 relatives descended upon her. She was a quick decision maker and excellent notetaker,  so while I gave direction, she quickly executed. We started with a new wall color  - a warm gray. There was a nice sized hole in one of the plaster walls and no way to get a painter in by Christmas. My client patched and painted by herself like a pro. Next we pulled new drapes in a bold pattern and a wool rug with soft lines to give the room more texture. A print on one wall was replaced with a striking mirror that added a lot of interest and helped bounce light around the room. Vases, lots of red and silver accents, holiday plants, and lights strung from the drapery rods added holiday charm and warmth. Good job CM!

Napkins I’m Loving Now

This past year I started using cloth napkins instead of paper ones at mealtime. I used to only use cloth napkins for dinner parties, Thanksgiving, etc. Not sure why. At every meal I would use nice plates, nice drinking glasses, nice flatware and…paper napkins? I changed my tune after reading this quote from Erma Bomback, who wrote of things she would have done differently after she found out she was dying from cancer:

“I would have burned the pink candle sculpted like a rose before it melted in storage.”

That stopped me. What was I saving these silly napkins for? They were meant to be used, not treated like some priceless heirloom. So I started using them.  But I am not 100% sure if washing napkins multiple times is actually better for the environment than using paper ones. I hope it is.

That is why I was so happy to find these 100% cotton and linen disposable napkins, available from Suzanne Cummings, a Chicago floral designer. They offer a chic option to paper and cloth. They come on a roll, so they are handy to store.  They can be washed. They can be reused, several times. They also come in several colors, like this fabulous orange. I got the dinner napkins, but they come in cocktail size too. So now I alternate between cloth and these fabulous finds. Now if only I could get my meals to look as good…

Pretty storage bench

If you are looking for a cute + affordable coffee table/bench seating/storage option, then check out Ballard Designs Amelia storage bench!

It comes in lots of different patterns, colors, fabrics, so you can find something for every decor. The construction is solid and I think this looks a lot more expensive than it is. It’s the perfect height & width for a coffee table and it’s stable, sitting on substantial solid feet. Check it out!

Beautiful custom lamp shades

It’s been awhile since I posted, but that’s good, because I’ve been busy! I’ve got lots of cool things to share during my hunt for items, but for now I’ll start with these beautiful lighting options from Stacy Garcia, available through lampsplus.com.

Stacy is know as a surface pattern designer, and her beautiful designs are actually custom prints, done through a specialized ink jet printing process. I’ve been looking for some floral lamp shades and she’s got lots of nature inspired designs with great pops of color.

Plus, the price points can’t be beat. Really affordable, cute lighting options. Go shop!

 

Fireplaces and TVs

I am about to start work on a family room for a new client. The room will be used for TV watching and enjoying fires (and occasional napping). It has a gas fireplace with a stone mantle that is about three feet wide. I am not kidding. This mantle could probably hold my family room TV, which looks like a screen stuck on the front of a VW Beetle.

My client’s TV is a 42″ flat screen. It currently sits on a nice stand in the corner of the room. She would like to mount it above the fireplace. It would certainly be convenient for me: something that is 40-46″ inches wide (screens widths are measured corner to corner and not horizontal across) is a bit of a challenge to work into a design. The large fireplace wall lends itself well to handling the height and width of the TV.

But as a decorator, I must ask myself: is this really a good idea?

There are two key things to consider when mounting a TV over a fireplace: heat and height.

You can read lots and lots of complicated information about how heat affects plasma and LCD TVs differently (believe me. I have. It’s been a slow Monday).  But I will keep this simple: heat and electronics don’t mix. You need to know how hot it really gets around your fireplace after you build that roaring fire and settle back to watch two hours of American Idol.  To determine the heat, do a simple test: place a thermometer on the wall above your fireplace.  Now light a fire and kick back and enjoy. After it’s been going for a while – a couple of hours at least – check the temperature. If it’s above 90 degrees farenheit, congrats! You now know where NOT to place your television! It may take a few fires, but if you insist on mounting your TV here despite the heat, eventually your flat screen will look like those tapes you used to leave in your car in the sun all day. (Yep. I said tapes. I am showing my age here but you know exactly what I’m talking about.)

The other consideration is how high you should mount your TV. After reading a lot on this subject I’ve decided I should start handing out cards for my chiropractor friend when I visit people’s homes and I see flat screens mounted above fireplaces. Why? Most TVs are just hung too high. TVs should be placed at eye level. Anything above this and you are either straining your neck or you are slumped down in your sofa so far your practically sitting on the floor. If your fireplace wall passes the heat test and you still want to mount your TV there, then spend a bit more money and get a wall mount that allows you to tip the screen down, minimizing the strain a bit.

The last thing to consider when deciding to mount your TV about the fireplace is how far back you should sit from the screen for proper viewing. This post won’t go into the intricacies of that because it depends on the number of pixels your tv is and whether you have a plasma or flat screen and quite frankly, all that math makes my brain hurt. My best advice there is to google the type of TV you have and follow the recommendations given by the manufacturer. For example, if you have a 1080p 40″ LCD flat screen, then you could sit about 5 feet away and get a great picture. But if your sofa is five feet away from your fireplace wall, and your TV is mounted about 4-5 feet up the wall, you’re straining your neck to watch TV. But if you are sitting 10 feet away, it’s easier on your neck but the picture might not look as good. See what I mean? Math.

So what will my decorating plan be for this job? I think am going to look for a lovely piece of art to hang about the fireplace and keep the tv at eye level  – somewhere else in the room. I’ll just create two seating areas: one for tv viewing and another for enjoying fires. My client can then use the money she saved on wall mounts and hiding wires on wireless surround sound. Or perhaps some more decorating.

My favorite rug (for now)

I’ve been doing  a lot of rug shopping lately. Besides the fabulous custom choices I have encountered at the Merchandise Mart, I have come across some wonderful mid range retail price options. My number one favorite? The Asimi rug by Crate and Barrel:

This is a wonderful, 100% wool rug with an oriental flair of flowers and vines woven in a warm pattern of chocolate brown, sage green, gold, red and steel blue hues, making it extremely versatile.  It would be perfect in a living room or dining room, either a contemporary or traditional setting.

If you require two rugs in a room or in rooms that flow together, pair it with the Library rug from Room and Board:

This is a durable rug, made in 100% New Zealand wool, making it great for a family or living room. What ties these rugs together? They are unified in hue and intensity even though their patterns are disparate.


Shoe storage solutions for an entryway

I just finished a floor plan for a client who’s back door leads from the garage immediately into the family room. There is no closet in this space, nor is there any type of hallway or foyer by the door, so shoes were lined up along walls in the family room and in front of the door. With the granite hearth fireplace, butter walls, french doors leading to the garden and honey colored wood floors, the room lends itself to a relaxed elegance design for fires and tv watching. So what to do with those pesky shoes that I had to work into the design?

I created an entry way using this piece from Pottery Barn:

I placed it horizontally along the arm of the sofa, so it created a right angle with the back door. It helped create a barrier between the sofa and the entryway, and underneath, I threw two large baskets:

(These were also from Pottery Barn but you can pick up baskets anywere). I have a size 10 shoe, so I practiced with my shoes first, and they fit nicely. I got about six pairs of flats in there! They have lids too, so now when they come in the door, they can toss their shoes in a basket and throw on the lid and no one is the wiser.

I liked this solution because it doesn’t look like shoe storage, it helped divide the entry way from the living space,  and it fit the decor of the room. Just throw a little rug in front to complete the space. Winter boots can stay on a boot tray in the garage so no worries there.

Coat Hooks

I’ve been looking for some coat hooks  in my ongoing attempt to stay organized and I’ve found several ones that I like. Even the smallest detail, like a wall hook, can make an impact in a room.

 

Tembo Ceramic Hook from Nkuku

Eames Hang it All from Room and Board

Knax walnut coat hook from Nest Living

Ceramic Melon Hook from Anthropologie

 

 

Fresh Flowers

As I watch the crocuses emerge around my house – yay spring! – I am reminded about how much difference flowers can make to a space. Fresh flowers are such an easy yet impactful decorating tool to create beauty and drama. I purchase flowers every week from our local Trader Joe’s. I see them right as I walk in the door and they cost about $5.00 a bundle, sometimes less. I keep them on my desk, in my living room, and in a little vase next to my kitchen sink. For me, they infuse a space with instant drama. No one can walk into a room and not notice even a simple arrangement of fresh flowers.

Notice how I keep saying fresh flowers? In feng shui, dried flowers are a no no. They have no chi – life force or positive energy. Dried flowers are dead, and in feng shui, you don’t want to place anything in your space that signifies neglect or death. So try to avoid using them, especially in areas that you are trying to enhance – career, wealth, health, etc. If you think fresh flowers are an extravagance, then purchase potted geraniums or other flowering plants. Even a simple jade plant, with its vivid green, will give a space a boost of color and drama.