Decorating with Green

I just did my first post on my other design blog on the color yellow today. Yay! It was in reference to how yellow helps one concentrate on tasks, so it’s a good color to have at your desk when you need to work.

Image from Elle Decor. Decorator Joe Nahem.

Conversely, ElleDecor had a great article today on the color green. Green relaxes the mind and calms the spirit. It’s a great color for bedrooms and bathrooms, anywhere you want to just kick back and unwind. A bold green, like a kelly green, can renew the spirit; a pastel green will have a more soothing effect.

From a feng shui perspective, it’s good to use green in your health area. It will enhance the chi for good health, whether it be healthy relationships, healthy souls, or healthy bodies. The green can come from paint color, furniture, pictures, or other accessories. You can further stimulate the health chi by bringing in natural (green) plants and wood.

So yellow gets the creative juices flowing, and green calms you down. Got it? Good!


A good tip for putting the right color on the right wall

A quick (but very useful) tip when painting, and when you hire painters and want to make sure the right color gets on the right wall:

Write both the name of the color AND the room that the paint is going in on the paint lid. Example: Airway 828 – Master Bedroom.

Why should you do this? Have you ever tried to read the name of the paint in the teeny tiny lettering on the label on the side of the can? Now try it with paint dripped all over it….

Having the name of the color right on the lid comes in extremely handy when you are painting with similar hues.  It also keeps you from tipping an open can on its side while you try to read the label (You’ve done that. We’ve all done that.)

If you are using painters, it’s an (almost) foolproof way to make sure the painters use the right can for the right room. If you are using more than one paint color in a room – say different hues above and below a chair rail – specify that on the can: “Litchfield Gray   – dining room – below chair rail”.

It may seem like an extra step, but you just spent all that time picking the right color (or hiring your fabulous decorator to choose a color for you) so why not make sure it ends up in the right place?

Happy painting!

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.

Paint and Lighting

This week I attended a great discussion given by Benjamin Moore on lighting and paint. As you may already know, color looks different under different lighting sources –  incandescent, flourescent, halogen. From a design perspective, incandescent lighting –  the old school light bulb – is the best in terms of color rendition. But from an energy perspective, it is the worst lighting option. So much so that it is going away. Completely. Beginning next year, you will no longer be able to buy the 100 watt light bulb. And in 2013, you can say goodbye to the 75 watt. Following that, no more 40 and 60 watts.

Many people have already switched their bulbs to compact fluorescents (CFLs) – those squiggly bulbs that often don’t fit in your lamp properly, sticking out like a sore thumb so you can actually see the bulb.  CFLs are great on energy efficiency but terrible on color rendition. To see what I mean, take a paint swatch and hold it under an incandescent bulb, then do the same under a CFL. Notice how your paint color looks flatter, duller?

So incandescents are going away and CFLs make color look dull. So what is the best option? If you have the choice, go with halogen. Halogen light offers the same type of color rendition as incandescents, but much more energy efficient. If you don’t have the option for halogen, then try to look at your paint color under CFL bulbs before selection.


Is your room like a polar bear against a snowy backdrop? Or is it more like a periwinkle hydrangea set against green leaves? If you feel your room is blah, there may be a quick fix: contrast. Take a look around your space. What color are your walls? How about your sofa? Floors? Are all your surfaces smooth and shiny, like leather sofas and glass tabletops? Or do you have a mix of textures? Is there enough contrast between the elements in your room?

Sometimes having little contrast is a good thing, like blending into your environment to avoid getting eaten. It can also help minimize the appearance of something that you don’t want to call attention to, like a support beam in the middle of a room. But if you want to create more interest and depth, add contrast in the form of color and/or texture. Add some soft, patterned throw pillows to that sofa. Swap out that glass table for distressed wood. Put a potted red geranium in a clay pot on a black side table.  It may take a little bit to play with textures and colors, but have fun! You don’t have to change the big stuff: just add a few accents here and there to create more interest.

Accent Walls

When should you paint or paper a wall different from other walls? The quick answer is: when you want that wall to stand out. Just make sure that you really want it to stand out. When a wall is a different color or texture from the other walls, your eyes will definitely jump to it. That isn’t a bad thing: in decorating, you want to give a room enough interest that your eyes travel around the room and rest for a few seconds on everything. But just make sure that it’s cohesive. Everything should flow together. If there is nothing else to tie the accent wall to the rest of the room, it will just look odd.

Even decorators get the blues

Lately I’ve been working on a project of my own: updating our sun room. We’ve lived in the house for almost three years now, and with the exception of hanging some embarrassingly cheap window treatments, I’ve done zero in here.

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The room faces east and gets amazing sunlight due to windows on three walls (hence the name). We use it mainly as our computer room, but because the back door is there, it also serves as our dumping ground for shoes, bags, etc.

Last weekend I finally had enough of the white walls and the hideously-old- and-terrifyingly-dirty berber carpet. We (the room and I) needed a change.  The rest of the house is fairly contemporary with lots of neutrals, so I decided it was time for color. It’s a small space and not seen from the rest of the house, so why not just go for it.

First, the design. Because the room has exposed rafters, a ceiling fan, and lots of light, I went with cottage. But I wanted a bold cottage, not a muted shabby chic kind of affair. I want Caribbean, or West Indies, or something hot and tropical. I wanted turquoise, to go with all my red accents (it’s my relationship corner, so the red accents had to stay. Well, the red is mostly in the adjoining bathroom, which is a terrible place for a relationship corner, but that’s another discussion. Sigh.) There isn’t a lot of wall space here, so I could use a big color without overwhelming the room. I chose Benjamin Moore’s Laguna Blue. This is a serious blue. This is an all out, better have your coffee before you enter, take no prisoners kinda blue.

On to the floor. Buh bye Berber. I think I pulled about 1,000,000 carpet staples out of my floor in the past two days. I mean, it was like the carpet installers thought that the carpet was going to suddenly take flight at night and run off, never to be seen again. This carpet was locked down. But after several hours of hammering, pliers and lots of internet radio, I finally said goodbye to the carpet and hello to…fake brick linoleum. Fake brick plastic floors. You know, I wasn’t holding out for wood floors per se, but this really threw me. I mean, fake brick.  Like, was brick in such hot commodity forty years ago that everyone was running out and getting imitation?  But whatever. It’s there and I have to deal with it.

My first choice was to cover the floor with a lovely seagrass carpet. The neutral tones and the texture would go so wonderful with the bright walls. But seagrass carpet wasn’t in the budget, so I went with my second choice: Flor carpet tiles in 2 of Hue Cream. It has the same color and texture as seagrass, as well as being as eco friendly, but it was way cheaper.

Before I can lay the tiles though, I need to address the giant gaps that now exist between my floor and the walls. The old carpet hid the gap somewhat, so now it’s gone I can really see the major difference. I first filled the gaps with some aerosol insulation but now I need to replace the wimpy baseboard with something more substantial (and prettier). I decided on 4 inch baseboards. They add some interest to the room as well as cover up those gaps.

While waiting to get the baseboards, I went ahead and reupholstered an old favorite chair of mine. A discount coral fabric was all this chair needed to make it into the new space. This chair is going to look awesome against the blue walls.

My budget was tiny and I used all the existing furniture. The only piece I bought new for the room was the fan. I really like the room now: it’s pretty and interesting and a nice place to sit and have coffee and check emails.

Marble, yes? Marvelous!

Okay, that wasn’t very clever but it’s late and I have been shopping for a client all day and I’m pooped. But I am so excited because I found a fabulous countertop solution for my client. The challenge was that she loves marble, and she was thinking about marble for the bathroom. She loves all things marble: its striations; its elegance; its inherent richness. I, as the responsible designer that I am, have to do my job and dissuade her: marble is soft and porous. It will stain. It will get damaged. It will not last the bathroom. No marble! Think of me, ala Joan Crawford, looking  all crazy eyed with the wire hangers…no more marble in the baaathroooom!

Sorry. I told you I was tired.

But I want my client to love her bathroom, so I kept shopping for marble like alternatives, and today I found two options that I hope she’ll love:

Bianco River by Silestone. The picture doesn’t do it justice. You have to see it in person. So lovely and veiny. And so practical for the bathroom! It’s non porous and antimicrobial. And because it’s quartz, it’s super durable too.

Cirrus White by Dupont Corian. This one is actually more veiny than the quartz even though you can’t tell from this picture. It’s also cheaper than quartz, and I know my client will like that. Again, very durable and perfect for the bathroom.

My client won’t get to see the samples until she gets home from her business trip, so I have to wait in anticipation for her response. Hopefully it’s a good one and she’ll love me and my choices and we’ll sing and dance together on her new countertops and drink champagne from each other’s shoes.

Whoa. Did I mention I was tired?

Let’s Go Alfresco!

I know it’s not officially summer yet but I’m calling it. This past weekend I pulled out my Orla Kiely Target melamine dishes and my patio cushions.  We may have to still use the fire pit to eat outside, but I don’t care. Summer’s here!

What dishes will you use this summer? If you’re still looking for some nice alternatives to  paper or (gasp) disposable plastic plates, here are a few of my favorites:

Bambu makes a set of disposable plates from bamboo. If you must use disposable, this is the way to go. They are more expensive than paper plates, but they are organic.

Bongenre melamine coral plates. My mother has been on a coral kick lately. She will love these. Bongenre offers melamine plates in many styles and colors. The only thing to remember with melamine is that it is NOT microwavable. You can throw it in the dishwasher though.

Corelle Bamboo Vitrelle glass plates. The best answer I’ve found to melamine. These plates are made from hearty glass, microwavable and dishwasher safe. Some say indestructible. I say they are just plain lovely.

So go forth and shop. But if you see Orla Kiely at Target again, you’d better tell me!

Seeing Things

Howdy. Just a quick post today with a tried and true painting trick for all you Spring decorators out there!

To make a narrow room appear wider: paint a wide horizontal stripe  in the middle of the wall. The stripe should be a color slightly lighter than the walls.

Another option is to paint the end walls of a narrow room a shade darker than the other two walls. It helps to bring in the walls visually, so the room doesn’t appear so long and narrow.

Happy painting!