Friday, July 30, 2010

Creating A Foyer (When There Isn't One)

Falling in love with a room is not the same as falling into a room. Sadly, the latter is the case in many homes that lack an entryway or a foyer; you open the front door and you fall right into the living room. 
Call it a 'mini-lobby.' An entryway or foyer is a vestibule or entrance hall that acts as a barrier or transition space between the front door and the rest of the home. Aesthetically, it's supposed to be a physical pause for the entering guest, a few square feet to stand and be properly welcomed in. Functionally, it can be a place to stash keys, umbrellas, coats and bags. Without a proper foyer, shoes tend to gather unattractively on the floor by the door, and coats get dumped and draped on the backs of sofas. A small apartment or home looks even smaller because there is no visual transition from the entry and the rest of the house. There are no surprises and everything is immediately in view. Not good, unless you live in a loft.

How to create a foyer when there isn't one?

The main thing to remember when creating a foyer is that you need a physical or visual barrier between the front door and the living room or the rest of the house. The lack of space and the floor plan can be a great issue here, but there are several tools and methods that can be used. The goal is to visually stop the view from migrating further into the interiors of the home. A physical block literally obstructs the view, while a visual block, gives the viewer something to look at right upon entry, instead of looking immediately into the rest of the home.

A open shelving unit, an attractive screen or even a low bookshelf, can be used to divide the space behind the door and the rest of the room. An open shelving unit or a low bookshelf placed vertically by the entrance, hides the living room from immediate view. It can also be a great place to drop keys and mail. 

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If the entrance has a wall running perpendicular to the front door, use this wall as an accent that differs from the rest of the home. Use large scale artwork, a great mirror, dramatic wallpaper or paint that sets it apart from the rest of the house.

Use entryway furniture such as a console table, a bench, chairs or a coat rack to infuse the space with function and clearly marks the space.

Photo credits:,,

Mark a small square of foyer space by flanking the door with wall sconces, placing an appropriate size rug on the floor and or hanging a great (properly-scaled) chandelier above.

Photo credit:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Dorm Rules

There are a few essentials when it comes to outfitting a dorm room. This space that will be your home away from home is just a few square feet, consisting of a bed, a desk and a place to stash your clothes. You really have room only for the barest essentials, and yet you want to make sure this small corner of the universe feels warm, cozy, halfway home-y and conducive to resting and studying. Bringing a well-edited supply of bedding, necessary appliances and clothing, as well as a few key items that will make it feel like home is a great start.

The most important thing to remember when purchasing dorm room bedding is that pretty much all dorm room beds are twin-sized and extra long. Retailers such as Target carry lines like this, labeled 'Twin XL' or 'Twin Extra-long.' 
     Sheet sets, 2 sets - Sheet sets contain a fitted sheet, a flat sheet and a pillowcase. Invest in a good quality set, preferably 300 thread count 100% cotton or higher. They are softer and not scratchy, and will hold up longer than cheaper ones.
     Pillows, at least 2 - Down and feather-filled pillows are always a better buy. They are washable, and last forever, unlike polyester-filled ones that lose their cushiness after a few months. Down and feather filled pillows regain their shape after each fluffing and maintain it indefinitely.
      Extra pillowcases, at least 4 - Since a twin sheet set only contains ONE pillowcase, you will need extra ones. Since this is the surface you rest your face one, it collects dirt and oil faster than any surface on your bed, so you might want to change them more often.
      A quilt or light comforter - This comes in handy on cold nights as well as make for quick bed making in the morning. All you need to do is throw a quilt or comforter over the bed and you've got it made during rushed mornings. 
Above, l-r, top to bottom: Palms Organic Twin-XL sheet set, $24-59, Oceanside Patchwork Quilt and Sham, $35-$199,, Room Essentials Southwest Ikat Bedding, $50-$60,
Desk Items
     Desk lamp 
     Standing file organizers
     Cork board or magnetic white board
     Chair - Bring an ergonomic, study-conducive desk chair if not provided.

Above, l-r, top to bottom: Task chair, $90,, Shine-on Task Lamp, $59, Madison Desk Organzers, $9-$29,
Bath Items
     Flip-flops for the shower
     Portable shower caddy

     Hanging closet organizers - Maximizes closet space. Use for folded items, shoes, etc.
     Rolling drawers - for school supplies or small items such as underwear.
     Laundry basket or bag
     Laundry tablets - are easier to take to the laundry room than cartons or jugs of detergent
     Full length mirror - to hang behind a door or closet door

     Small fridge - If you can stock a fridge with healthy food options such as fruit, you just may avoid gaining the freshman 15!
     Small coffeemaker - Save money on your caffeine fix and brew your own java.
Above: Emerson Compact Fridge with Dry-erase door, $89,

Decorative Items
Make your space feel like home by bringing items that personalize your space such as:
     Framed photos
     Wall art or wall mural
     Small throw pillows
     A small area rug 

 Above: Wire Wall Loop, $9, Nouveau Wall Decal, $49,

Where to buy
The first stop is your home and your garage. Look for spare items that you can bring so you don't have to buy a new one. For bargains, head to Bed, Bath and Beyond, Target and IKEA, but do check out stores such as TJ Maxx, Ross and Marshalls for great deals on better quality items. If you have more budget to spare, you may want to browse online and get a few items from Pottery Barn Teen or PBTeen and CB2 by Crate and Barrel.



Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Take Your Toys To College (Or wherever it is you're going).

Finally moving out of my parents' house was one of the most emotionally-charged moments in my life. My move (across the Pacific to the other side of the world), involved a lot of tears, drama and considerable sadness. Even now, when I look back on those last few days, those unreal moments when you knew that the change was upon you, and that nothing was ever going to be the same; the memories repeat in my head in just the same melodramatic script. It was not a college move, one in which I could just come back on some random weekend, or on the major holidays. If I got into deep trouble, ran out of money or just missed the hell out of my family, it was not as if I could hop on a bus or a plane and go home. It was the final move, I was never coming back to live there again, and since I was moving nearly halfway across the globe, there would never be any of those impromptu things like a lunch here and there, or stopping by for dinner. 

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My sister was to immediately take over my bedroom as soon as I was gone. I had brought nearly everything with me except for the furniture. I filled my suitcases with every little thing that I possessed, cassette tapes, books, stuffed animals, everything. The room looked pretty sad once I was done, as all rooms and houses do before a move when everything is packed away. It's funny how the life and soul of its inhabitant is attached to the things we use to fill a room; my dad refused to enter it on those last few days because it was just too dreadfully sad. He asked me why I had to bring everything, and I didn't have a logical answer. Half of the things I brought I was never going to use again, but back then I felt like I just had to. Maybe it helped my resolve; bringing everything brought the move a finality, a complete break. Or maybe I had to bring everything that would fit in my suitcase, because everything else that really mattered--my family, and all my closest friends--I had to leave behind.

Well, it was not all sad. It was terribly romantic too, because I flew across the seas to be with the guy I loved. Also, it was not like I never saw them again. To this day, hardly a year goes by when one of them does not come to visit, or when my husband and I bring the kids there to visit. About all the 'stuff' I brought with me, it did not take me long to shed most of them, maybe because in America the first thing you discover is how easy it is to buy 'new stuff', or maybe simply because I did not need them anymore, in an emotional sort of way. The few things I chose to keep though, acquire more meaning as the years go by. Every time I pick it up, or use it, it's like an instant psychic connection to that other part of my life, to 'long ago.' It's like looking at old photographs, or chatting with my brother or my mom about times gone by. 

My son and my daughter each have a stuffed animal that they take with them wherever they go. Those toys have been wherever my kids have been. If it's just a long drive somewhere, they sit in the car. If we have to spend the night somewhere, or go on vacation, they come too. They are real-life 'Velveteen Rabbits.' My daughter's stuffed rabbit, which she calls 'Bunny' is so love-worn. Her fur is flat and matted, her button eyes long gone. Her ears are limp and her once-white face is gray. I asked my daughter once if she would consider giving it to me when she moves out, and she flat-out said, "No!" I asked her and my son if they were taking them if they had to live in a dorm for college, and as expected they said, "Yes."

Last week we saw Toy Story 3, the sequel where the main character, Andy, goes off to college. His room is emptied (to be taken over by his little sister); clothes and toys are either donated or sent off to the attic. His famous toys, Woody and Buzz Lightyear, reflect on the impending change, and devise ways to avoid being donated to charity. Andy was grown and didn't need them anymore. He was moving on to the new and bigger adventures of college life, where childhood toys and imagination did not have a place. The movie was filled with precious and funny moments, but most of all (to me at least), many wistful ones. For the most part, I thought the movie is about that time when the props and vestiges of another life are no longer needed and therefore shed. That time when one has to take stock of the 'stuff' and decide which ones to discard and which ones to keep.

One part of the movie that I could never figure out though is why Andy's mom had to totally empty his room out (aside from the fact that his little sister wanted to take over it). Maybe it's just my age, or my children's age, but I kept wondering, "Was he never going to come visit?" What about Thanksgiving and Christmas? Hmmm. I don't know yet what I'm going to do when that time comes for me, but for now I can see myself keeping my kids' room pretty much the same even after they leave, like a shrine to their childhood that I can visit whenever I miss them. When they are off and gone conquering the world, and I am old, I can just take a peek, or even go back inside and take myself back to that time, when they were little and so easy to take into my arms.

College. My son is going to junior high in the fall and so that train is coming fast. Then it will be my daughter's turn, and from there I hear that it just goes by so fast you won't know what hit you. I wonder if I will be ready by then. When they're on their own, I wonder how often they'd visit. Would they be excited or trepidated? I wonder if we've made our home life so that it will be something they'll long to come back to again and again. Just for the heck of it. I wonder if they'll miss their dad and I. The thing about being a parent is you're always steps ahead of your children. So when that time comes, all the excitement and emotion that it brings, you've already felt and relived hundreds of times over. When there's that sort of a good letting-go, it happens because you've done that move yourself, you've been to that place where they're going, and you know, you just know, that somehow just like you, they're gonna be okay.

Next: Off to college? Dorm room style.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Check out Art Attack

Check out this painting and others on Art Attack . Read on about the Art-A-Fair event at Laguna Beach, CA. 
Click on link below.

Above: "Summertime" by Katie Costello

Rustic Settings

Imagine if you can recapture the moods, colors and sensations in an exotic situation, such as a vacation, to the experience of first entering a room. Your heightened senses are stoked by the sounds and sights of a new place, and suddenly you are aware of everything--the way the light hits the floor, the way the floorboards whisper and creak, and how shadows collect in corners. Perhaps it is like when we play dress-up; when we deliberately take ourselves so far out of the ordinary and we find ourselves suddenly exhilarated and uninhibited. In the same way, a vacation out in the wilderness, or any other exotic locale, will always have that potent power to make us forget who 'we are' and maybe even forget our cares.

Evoke the feeling without being too literal.

The allure of a rustic interior resides in this very promise. Forget eccentric overstatements of woodland and coastal conceit, decorated with antlers or a huge wooden sailfish above the mantel. The better way to do rustic is evoke the feeling without being too literal. Nothing must seem contrived or overstated. 

Photo credits: Above:, Left,

Capture the theme without being too literal. Pair an intentionally roughed-up/rustic piece with clean-lined, contemporary pieces for opposition. The contradiction makes things more interesting. Just a touch of something is enough. Side tables made of antlers (the naturally shed ones), branches and driftwood, topped with cool glass, add an extraordinary element to the rest of the regular furniture.

Above, top to bottom, l-r: Antler Coffee Table,, Twig End Table,, Driftwood Coffee Table,
Below, top to bottom: Kilim Coffee Ottoman,, Kilim Throw Pillows,

Photo credits: Right,, Below, left:

Wood and the natural landscape colors dominate a rustic interior. For accent, make the colors pulse through the space like a beat, rather than overwhelming the room with it. An ottoman table or a few pillows covered in kilim weaves add very mountain-cabin feel. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Call of the Wild

Along California's backroad highways, the immense breadth and expanse of the state's territory could not be more obvious. The road stretches on and on, with nothing ahead in sight for miles and miles except for more mountains and more land. In these extensive stretches of land, caught in between this great nothingness of wild scrub and earth, one can drive for hours to some pretty amazing, somewhat inaccessible sights that takes hours to reach. Precisely the point: Once you finally got there, you've 'earned the view,' and you feel privileged to be in the middle of nowhere.

Then comes the arrival. The breathtaking views appear in full perspective, no longer obstructed by the trees that line the tiny and occasionally unpaved roads. Time expands as you look around. It is the moment that justifies hundreds of miles of travel; when all your senses come alive as you take in the scene. The mountains, with their time-softened peaks, speaking of an old, secretive beauty. A hike through the woods, that unfolds in a progression of changing moods, textures and light patterns. A brave, quick dip in a cold, alpine lake that looks like a Norwegian fjord. You spot several Canadian geese summer-ing in the area, and you just feel like the luckiest creature alive.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said that, "In the wilderness, we return to reason and faith." Nature's place in our physical, mental and spiritual regeneration, is something that we've always known. As far back as the 19th century, the receding wilderness has been a much sought-after retreat from an industrialized world that is becoming increasingly hectic and stressful. As the need for 'roughing it,' became more popular, the nation's most magnificent natural areas became increasingly accessible. Roads were built, allowing even those less-determined, easier access. When rustic lodges and hotels sprouted in greater numbers, the wilderness experience became more available to all, and not just the few who either had their own summer homes, or were truly roughing it by pitching a tent.

Photos top to bottom, l-r: South Lake Tahoe splendor. Emerald Bay's striking blue waters, View of Fannette Island from hiking trail, Canada goose out for a summer dip.

The wilderness experience must be complete, and accommodations, while being comfortable, must not depart too much from the rustic roots from whence they came. It can be a large lodge hotel or it can be a small cabin, but the requirements remain the same. It has to have that wild frontier image that captures the essence of the landscape.

This trip's first stop is South Lake Tahoe. This picturesque alpine hamlet perched on the easternmost corners of the Sierra Nevadas, appears out of nowhere after about four hours on the US-395. More popular as a winter ski destination, in the summer it is quieter, and the allure of the lake more pronounced, as its cobalt hue is made more vivid by the light of the season. Here we fell in love with the beauty of Emerald Bay, and found Vikingsholm, a 38-room idea of one (very rich) person's 'roughing it,' and one of the finest examples of Scandinavian architecture in the United States. Also nestled in the foothills of the Heavenly ski area is the Grand Residences by Marriot, a beautiful hotel combining traditional mountain architectural design with a modern finish.  

Vikingsholm: Built by Lora Josephine Knight in 1929, this 38-room mountain retreat features Scandinavian architecture. 

Top: The house nestled in the woods facing Emerald Bay, can be reached via a 2-mile (steep!) hike down to the beach, Top, left: All the wood and granite used in the house were from area. The intricate wood carvings and metal work inspired by old churches were hewn and hand forged on site. Top, right: The sod roof is traditionally Scandinavian. Round granite boulders embedded in mortar is reminiscent of old stone castles.

Top to bottom, l-r: Metal and wood details on doors, Servant's quarters and courtyard entry at rear of the property, Spare decoration and furnishings typical of Scandinavian design in one of the bedrooms.

The Grand Residences by Marriott: No rough -hewn logs here. 

Top left and right: The lobby areas feature traditional materials, height and scale with a much lighter and airier contemporary twist. Top bottom: A really cool lamp base.

Cabins and lodges provide a welcome retreat after a long time spent in the great outdoors. At its best, it should be a shelter, yet still somehow remain connected to the landscape. Its enduring allure resides in its ability to be so beautiful without ever completely upstaging its surroundings.

Next: Recreating the rustic feeling at home.