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Walls

Recent project: removing wall paneling

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.

 

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!

Upgrading a stair railing

One of my clients has three boys ranging in age from 8 to 2. One of the first things I noticed on our initial consult was how unsafe the railing was at the top of the basement stairs. The railing would move if you leaned on it, and three boys were surely to lean on it and more. So replacing it was a priority. The stairs opened up to the kitchen and dining room. I wanted to better define the space between the two areas, but I didn’t want to block off the stairs completely, since the glass brick window over the stairs provided natural light. My solution was to design a sturdy half wall with a nice cornice and base molding to match the rest of the space. The wall was painted the same color as the main floor, but the window wall was a different color, again to help define the two spaces. The wall is beautiful enough to fit the space and sturdy enough to handle the boys.

2011 Fall Colors

Last week I attended a seminar on Benjamin Moore’s 2011 color schemes. These are not new colors; rather they are 18 existing colors that Benjamin Moore has arranged in three palettes of six to help you convey a certain mood in your home. The three moods are Dreamy- which has sophisticated, subtle hues; Spirited-a bold palette with high contrast colors; and Soulful-a selection of warm hues and rich tones. Pick two to three colors from each palette to create the color experience you want to create. The combinations are flawless: each color works perfectly with the others in its palette, so you don’t have to worry about picking monochromatic grays to match or using the right value of purple.

Which leads me to the 2011 Benjamin Moore color of the year: Vintage Wine. This is a sexy color. At times it looks like eggplant when paired with the chartreuse green in the same collection, but put it against some of the more subtle earthy hues and its brown tones really show up. Take a look at the Soulful palette below:

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Color Palettes

Dreamy

Genesis White 2134-70

Kendall Charcoal HC-166

Gray Mirage 2142-50

Porcelain 2113-60

Etiquette AF-50

Smoke 2122-40

Spirited

Storm AF-700

Lucerne AF-530

Royal Flush 2076-20

Paper Mache AF-25

Wrought Iron 2124-10

Grape Green 2027-40

Souful

Hush AF-95

Vintage Wine 2116-20

Etruscan AF-355

Casco Bay 2051-30

Wasabi AF-430

Amulet AF 365

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!

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.

What color should you paint your ceiling?

The short answer? It always depends. Some decorators use the 8 foot rule: If your ceiling is less than 8 ft high, then paint it 2 tints lighter than the wall color. (Tint just means the color has more white in it and is therefore lighter. If it had more black in it, you’d say it was a shade darker).

If your ceiling height is more than 8 feet, paint it 2 shades darker than the walls.

Other decorators feel that painting a ceiling white always makes it feel lower than it is. I disagree with this. It’s true that when you break up the color  -  when the wall color is different from the ceiling color – your eye notices the change. But if the ceiling is lighter than the walls, and especially if it has a semi gloss finish to it, it actually looks more expansive and higher.  But you may need to play with this a bit,  because if your walls are really dark, then the change from dark (walls) to light (ceiling) is much more noticeable and therefore the ceiling appears closer.

Another trick to make that ceiling appear higher is to bring the ceiling color down the walls a bit: paint the same color on the ceiling a foot or so down onto the wall. This makes the ceiling appear taller than it is.

Painting a ceiling is definitely a personal choice. There really is no wrong answer. Just decide the effect you want and go from there.  As I always say, if you don’t like it, you can always paint it over!

 

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.