Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Step Up Your Storage

Plenty of storage options with room to spare to display picture frames, knick-knacks plus other items that need to stay within easy reach. Light, airy and works in any room. These non-traditional shelves and tables are truly a step above the ordinary.

Feng Shui principles say that if two people are using the bed, matching bedside tables add stability and protection in the relationship.

Left: Reynolds table, bottom, right: Travers stepped console,
A lot of people have taken to storing things under their beds that there are now merchandise such as bed raisers (to increase the space under your bed for storage purposes) and thin storage boxes that slide under the bed. However, I found out that Feng Shui states otherwise! According to Feng Shui principles, a bed must  have a good height above the ground. This allows for a balanced feng shui chi or energy to flow under the bed. In addition, you must not have built-in storage drawers underneath your bed!  The reason behind is that, the energy or chi needs to circulate around your body when you are sleeping, which is not possible if the space underneath your bed is being blocked.

In Feng Shui, stairs convey motion and energy or chi from one level to another. Chi is brought up or down and distributed throughout the house using the stairs, and thus the placement of the stairs affects family fortune and unity.

Left: Marseille Stairway accent table,


Tips for Arranging a Ladder Bookshelf
Go from small to large. When arranging a ladder bookshelf, place the larger, heavier items on the bottom, going lighter as you go up the steps. 

Arrange the shelves so that all parts of a collection are kept together. This will help balance out the entire group of shelves and attract the eye toward specific colors or shapes.  

Right: Studio wall shelf,
Create interest. Place one or two eye-catching items on each shelf so that the eye moves throughout the vignette. Strive to create balance by making sure both left and right sides are more or less equal in terms of visual weight. If you have a large piece on the left side, balance it by placing two or three small items on the right side.

Left: Hampshire step table,
According to Feng Shui, Chi can miss the corners of a home and create a lack of energy. By filling an overlooked corner of the house with an object such as a plant, a lamp or a table, energy is attracted. How about a corner bookshelf?

Right: Sawhorse Collection corner bookshelf,

Feng Shui or otherwise, the open design of these shelves take storage and display out of the ordinary.

Left: Logan 4-tier shelf,

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

How To Put Colors Together

One of the most refreshing things I see everyday are little toddlers dressed in the most outrageous color combinations. They do not stop to think about which color goes with what--when allowed to dress themselves, they usually pick out whatever strikes their fancy. When she was a toddler herself, my daughter would always declare that 'rainbow' was her favorite color. As we grow older, we somehow turn into color-phobic adults. We paint our homes beige and feel our most dressed up in black. We lose our ability and our moxie to put together fresh, colorful and (gasp!) playful palettes. We resign ourselves to a neutral environment because, "I just don't know which colors go with what."
Looks as good as a box of crayons: A row of colorful houses in Baltmore, Maryland.

Does black go with navy? Does pink go with red? Does red go with purple? Can I mix gray with brown? Yes to all.
Saturated jewel tones go together on a white sofa. Photo credit:
Swirl rug,

When putting colors together, there are two basic things to remember: saturation and tone. Most colors will go together nicely as long as they don't clash in terms of saturation and tone. Saturation is the intensity or value of the color. For example, a pastel peach may be a de-saturated version of a bright orange, and a rich eggplant is a saturated version of a pale lavender. Tone is the underlying color beneath a color. For example, a spring green fern frond has yellow undertones and a dark green pine tree has more of a blue undertone. Colors will go together nicely when they are more or less of the same saturation and similar undertones. Several pillows covered in different colors but in the same intensity will still look nice together. Another option would be to stay in the same color family and vary the intensity of the color, like in a monochromatic scheme. Yet another option would be to have different items of different colors but the same undertone, for example, a green with blue (emerald) undertones and a purple that leans more towards blue than red (eggplant).  The trick is to have one thing that unifies them--saturation, hue or undertone. The result? Interesting, unstudied and never boring.

One color using very slight variations in tone create a cool, soothing and quiet mood.  
Rich and deep purple and orangey gold look smashing together.
 Photo credits above:

Jonathan Adler is perhaps the best designer when it comes to breaking out the crayola colors. His rooms always look put together, and yet gorgeously unstudied. He achieves this in part through the use of unexpected and playful color combinations that look 'thrown together.'

Adler's design for Barbie's Malibu dream house

Adler's own condo

Another one by Adler: Several colors, similar saturation: Vibrant and interesting.
Photo credits, top to bottom:

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mad Men Style

There is a certain madness about 'Mad Men.' As a show depicting the changing moods and social mores of mid-century America, it transports viewers in an entirely different world, one in which the loosened morals, family struggles and insecurities are sugar coated in a dazzling array of beautifully dressed men and women. Like many other book and film depictions of this era (Revolutionary Road, Stepford Wives), it is mostly about a time and place where the veneer of nice homes and neatly pressed, fashionable everyday attire, conceals any unhappiness or any trace of imperfection.
The  beautifully styled characters on Mad Men

This universe is so different from our own reality and therein lies the fascination. The perpetually crisp suits and perfectly coiffed hair--it is hard to believe that such a time really did exist. As we languish in our own economic depression, the 1950s glossy images slick as Brylcreem depicted in this show provides an irresistible escapism. The furniture always gleamed, everyone's lipstick is always applied flawlessly and no one has apparently heard of the fact that cigarettes give you lung cancer.

Some baby boomers still alive may have a different spin on it, but if movies and books are to be believed, life then was fine. According to Wikipedia, it was a time when most people were happy with their lives and thought everything was perfect. Most men had jobs, wives, kids and cars--four things they perceived was everything they needed. The economy was doing great. The world had just survived two world wars. Everyone was suddenly able to enjoy a higher standard of living. Nobody worried about war anymore, nor about how they were going to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads because the economy was just dandy.
Character Don Draper's office on Mad Men

To tell the story, 'Mad Men' is set in nicely-appointed, stylish rooms always beautifully lit (and clouded with cigarette smoke). The palette of wood and muted colors provide a backdrop for the pops of color in the characters' clothes. Most of all, the furniture used are all stunning examples of classically refined and understated mid-century modern style. The show's dazzling array of gorgeous and glamorous rooms, stylish men and women has induced somewhat of a nostalgia, enough to inspire redecoration projects and provide enough fuel to rekindle lust for a style that, unlike smoking cigarettes, never really went out of fashion.
January Jones as Betty Draper on Mad Men

Living room from a Room & Board catalog,

Living room from a scene in the movie, Revolutionary Road
It's got the legs: Chloe chair,
Left, Boxy sofa,, Middle, unknown, Right, Goetz sofa,

Top, Astoria chair, Bottom, Ventura cocktail table,
Parker chair,
Mid-century rocking chair,
Grove cabinet,

Friday, February 11, 2011

Furniture Buying Guide

"Buy less, choose less, and mix it all." -- Vivienne Westwood

With spring comes the urge to clean and replace old with new. However, in a 'recessionista' and eco-imperiled world, we can no longer afford to replace things simply on a whim. Throwaway impulse buys are so 2005!

So, if you're planning to redecorate a room in your house, or just want to update with a few new pieces, it helps to go about it with a defined list and a strategy. This helps you end up with a room you really want and will be able to appreciate for a much longer stretch of time.
Illustration by Ruben Toledo

Before you make a shopping list, there are some important questions that needs to be answered. This helps you select the furniture that is appropriate for how the space is going to be used.

1.  In the case of a living room or dining room: How many people do you need to seat in the room?
2. Will the room be used for entertaining, just for family use or both?
3. Do you have pets?
4. Do you want to be able to put your feet up on the coffee table?
5. What kind of activities will take place in the room?

Reuse and Repurpose
Once you know what kinds of furniture you need for the room, assess what you already own. Decide which pieces can still be used and which ones need to be replaced. Search other rooms in your house for some pieces that can be used in a different way. This is called, 'repurposing,' forget about what something is called and think about how it can be used. For example, a dresser can be used beside a bed as a nightstand.
Park Mirrored Dresser,

Remove clutter
Before you add any more new things, take stock of what you have and remove unused items and general clutter. This helps you see the room in better light. Clutter reduces focus  and energy, and creates stress. After you've cleaned out the clutter, resist the urge to replace them with new ones! Keep in mind how great a room looks when you have just what you need, well-organized and displayed to their best advantage.

Think Quality
Avoid buying poorly made pieces that will most likely fall apart after a few years or a couple of moves. If you're short on budget, there are a lot of well-made second-hand pieces available in home consignment centers, Craigslist, Salvation Army and even Goodwill! Also remember that sometimes, you just have to pay good money for furniture that will get a lot of use and will last you a long time. A good rule of thumb is this: If you're going to splurge, ask yourself whether you want to have that piece for a long time. If the answer is yes, go for it!

Don't forget size and scale
Remember, furniture always looks different not only on the internet or on the catalog, but most importantly in the showroom. Most showrooms have cavernous ceilings and the lighting is very different as well. A sofa that looks terrific in the store can look horribly overscaled in your own living room. Tips:
       -Take photos of your room and take it shopping.
       -Lay painter's tape on the floor to represent the size of the piece you want. This gives you a realistic
        idea of just how much room you have and what sizes of furniture will really fit in your room.
Don't get stuck with something like this!

Buying furniture is a lot like buying clothes. Ninety percent of the time when buying new, you get what you pay for. However, with some research and patience, you can land yourself some pretty outstanding pieces without going over budget. Always the goal is to have a room that looks more expensive than it really is. Cost is not an indicator of a room's timelessness and elegance.

Nina's book: Great to have or to browse.

Project Runway's Nina Garcia has this to say on her book: "The Style Strategy." I think it bears noting and remembering. Note: The book is worth checking out.
CHEAP: Even expensive can look cheap. Cheap makes people wonder how little you spent on it. Cheap is tacky and poorly-made. Example: Polyester-blend percale bedsheets that pill, turn really scratchy and fade horribly after two washes.

INEXPENSIVE: Inexpensive does not make people wonder how much you spent. These are well-made, yet low-cost items. Inexpensive is a good thing. Example: All-cotton,  400-thread count bedsheets from the Target clearance aisles. These can be had for as little as $30. They are silky, smooth and will last you a long, long, time.

BARGAIN: Bargain items are well-made, expensive items that you snatched at a great discount. Before people even start to wonder, you already want to tell everybody. Bargains are great. Example: Cotton-sateen 500-thread count, hotel quality bedsheets from TJ Maxx. Typical price point? $45 -$50. Go out there and see for yourself.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Exposed to the Elements

Donna Karan, courtesy of
Minimalistic designs are back in a big way and how. Austere unadornment has never looked better. The chosen material is the focus, translated in sleek lines and simple silhouettes that are low key yet elegant.

There is an artisanal shape and texture to each piece, and your attention is held by the sheer beauty of the material--whether it is silk, wood, glass or metal--and the interesting way it is shaped and simply allowed to be itself. Updated details to look for include irregular edges, hand finishes and organic shaping. The natural beauty of the materials are allowed to shine through. If it's fabric, there is little to no embellishment. The fabric is allowed to drape and fold naturally. If it's wood, the grains are allowed to show.  There is just nothing compared to one simple element, transformed into something functional while allowing it to remain totally looking like itself.

If it's fabric, there is little to no embellishment. The fabric is allowed to drape and fold naturally. If it's wood, the grains are allowed to show. 

Left: One of my favorite examples. No embellishment except two cascading folds of fabric. Soft Tank from the Modern Design collection,

Hammered metal: Serveware,

Leather: Unadorned except by color. Tiffany Reversible Tote,
There is just nothing compared to 
one simple element, transformed
into something functional while
allowing it to remain totally 
looking like itself.

This month, designer Donna Karan teams up with Lenox and bringing her impeccable design aesthetic into the home. The result is a lot like her clothes: easy, basic, versatile, modern and sophisticated.

The collection inspired by Donna's heritage of "Seven Easy Pieces", which include details that reflect the spirit of the brand – sophisticated, interchangeable pieces designed to live with you wherever you are.
Ceramic: Dishes from Donna Karen Lenox,

The extensive collection will include pieces crafted from porcelain, glass, wood and metal, with pieces reminiscent of the artisan's touch.  Like her fashions, Karan's collection is earthy and organic. She wanted her pieces to have a handcrafted look, and that was certainly achieved. Woods, metals, glass all played prominently in the new line.
Wood: Maganda vase,

Terracotta: Lombok Pottery,
Glass: Opal vases,