The bathroom project is progressing nicely! The shampoo and soap niches are in after some minor positioning changes. The moisture barrier is up, all walls are sheeted and taped, electrical is done and ready for the sconces and ceiling fan. Next up – tile!
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.
I recently decorated a mid century style living room that had an open floor plan. One wall in the room was completely paneled, including a built in cabinet. Removing the wall paneling was the best thing I did to bring the entire space together. Once the drywall was up and painted, I moved the dining table from a small area off to the side to the more open space behind the sofa. I defined the area as a dining room by centering a fixture above the table and anchoring the table and chairs with an area rug. Having the walls all the same material and color made the room feel more cohesive and helped the stone fireplace stand out more. The paneled cabinet will be removed at a future date, so painting it the same color as the wall helped to deflect - rather than emphasize – the panels until they are finally gone for good.
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!
One of the things I enjoy most about my job is picking color. Changing the color of a room is the best way to give a room new life. Most people know this, but knowing doesn’t make the picking any easier. I spend a lot of time at my local paint store and I watch people stand at the paint chip kiosk, pick up a tiny square of color, stare at it for a minute, then put it down. Then repeat. It is really difficult to visualize this teeny swatch of color all over your walls. Not to mention that the light in the store is most likely different than the light in your home, so that color you’re choosing (or not) probably looks completely different in the space you’re looking to paint.
As a designer my job is to know color: how to combine colors, how color and light – both natural and artificial – interact, and how to use color to trick not so pleasant architectural features such as narrow hallways, low ceilings, etc seem more pleasing. It’s not a perfect science. Sometimes I have to try several tints and shades before I hit it on the head. But I always get there. I haven’t lost a room yet.
I use a holistic approach to choosing color. You may ask me to pick a wall color for your dining room. I’ll choose that wall color, but then also give you color direction for trim, ceilings, moldings, built-ins, flooring, artwork, fabrics, lighting, furnishings, hardware. Like nature abhors a vacuum a designer abhors a hue without a scheme, so to that end I recently had a neat piece designed by r3mg: creative boutique for my color consult clients. After the consult I provide a complete color scheme for the room, including wall, trim, ceiling, and any accent colors that would work well within the color scheme, all in a handy envelope. The color swatches are neatly tucked inside so that you can take them with you whenever you shop. If you see a rug or piece of artwork you like, just pull out your swatches and see if the rug color goes with your scheme.
Color consults are $200. I am excited to start using my new consult piece, so if you need to pick colors, please give me a call today!
I just finished sprucing up a living room and dining room in Oak Park. The homeowners are very sweet couple with two young children. They didn’t want to spend a lot of money on new furniture right now, waiting (rightfully so) till the child-lunging-off-sofas phase has passed. So I needed to work with the existing pieces: a sectional sofa, dining room table and chairs, and two floor lamps. They also weren’t up to take on any remodeling work, so the color on the walls and the position of the light fixture over the dining room table were staying. But even without making any color or major furniture changes I was able to create a room that is more pulled together and relaxing for the family.
Recently my husband painted the back steps. Exciting right? (Well the color* is! See below). But why I mention this is because the back steps sit in our wealth corner. Which means that our wealth corner is not actually in our house. It’s…missing. If you drew a line across the back of our house, it would run along the back wall, jog down about six feet where the back door sits, then jut over to the left about another five feet. Our finances have been a little missing of late too, so having everything else in order, I decided to tackle this issue. I hung a pair of wind chimes at the back door help to bring chi to the missing area. The tinkle sound is nice too and bonus – it helps to drown out the never ending hum of our neighbor’s AC. I also hung a clear crystal in the same area – I could have used a purple one, purple being the color associated with wealth – because crystals help liven up chi. And lastly I fixed that missing corner by literally drawing it in: I took some of my daughter’s purple chalk and drew a line across the steps and back to the house. Voila! Purple chalk! Good chi!
Wait! Rain! Ga! No more chalk. Well, I wasn’t that unhappy about the rain. We needed it.
Instead of redrawing chalk lines we painted the back steps. Purple. A lovely deep blue purple. And guess what? The next day the phone rang. It was a new client.
Normally feng shui isn’t this immediate, and it’s certainly not going to fix money issues especially if there are other major factors involved. But if you feel the energy is missing in that area, help it out with a little feng shui. And see what happens.
* Benjamin Moore Galaxy.
Feng shui is the Chinese art of creating balance and harmony in one’s surroundings by following the natural creative cycle of the elements – fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. The creative cycle goes like this: ashes from fire become earth. Earth creates the element metal. Metal captures water through condensation. Water feeds plants and creates wood. Wood burns fire.
Paying attention to the creative cycle above enhances chi, or energy. Chi can be thought of as a fresh summer breeze, or a breath of crisp and energized mountain air, wafting through your home, touching on every room, permeating and uplifting your space. A home with good feng shui is a home that has the creative cycle in balance.
If the creative cycle is disrupted, chi cannot flow properly and the energy in your home literally and metaphorically gets stale. A disruptive cycle would be one in which water douses fire, or metal chops wood, or earth dirties water.
For those of you who have ever practiced acupuncture, yoga or tai chi, you understand the benefits of getting blocked chi flowing. Energy flow is essential to a healthy body. Like the energy centers, or chakras, in the body, there are eight life areas in your home that require good chi in order to function properly. They are: fame, relationships, children, mentors, career, knowledge, health and wealth.
When chi is blocked and cannot flow freely into one of these areas in your home, such as your wealth area, problems can arise. These problems can manifest as lost business; unexpected expenses that keep arising; financial issues that never seem to get resolved; problems getting payment from clients; problems settling legal issues; and so forth.
To determine where the wealth area is in your home, you’ll need a ba-gua map. A ba-gua is an octagonal chart with its roots in the I Ching. Each side represents one of the life areas mentioned above. Standing at your front door and facing into your home, hold the ba-gua so that south is at the top. Now superimpose the chart over your home. Your wealth corner will be just to the left of the top of the chart.
How does the chi get blocked? There can be several ways, but the most common is when the creative cycle is disrupted. For example, you may have a bathroom in your wealth corner. This is a disruptive cycle, and water symbolically flushes finances down the drain.
How can balance be restored? Keep sink and tub drains closed. Fix leaky faucets. Keep toilet seat lids down. Then bring in aspects of wealth that enhance its properties, like the color purple. Purple is the color associated with wealth, so introduce it in the form of towels, soaps, picture frames, paint, or flowers (real or silk). Crystals help move chi by reflecting the energy, so hang a purple or clear crystal above your sink or toilet. Finally, if you have the room and natural light, bring in a jade plant because its leaves look like coins.
So if you find that your finances aren’t in order or if there’s another aspect of your life that seems disrupted, consider the balance of chi in your home, and then work to correct that balance through the practice of feng shui.
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…