Monday, December 20, 2010

Out of Sight. . .12/20/10

I am a MAJOR neat freak. I can't go to bed until things are in some semblance of order, I don't leave things laying around or on the floor. You might say that I'm a bit of a perfectionist in that way. . .at least enough so that my husband likes to call me Monica Gellar. So, when I was expecting my first child I got a lot of comments like, "That'll change," "You'll be so busy with kids your house will never look the same," etc. To all those nay sayers, let me tell you my house STILL looks the way it did before kids. . .despite a few pieces of "furniture" like a bouncy and a pack-in-play that simply cannot be disguised, I live in a home that looks like children don't live in it. To be sure, my babies play all day in there but we pick up as we go and at the end of the day we have "clean up" time. Can you imagine what it would look like if we never did that and just let things pile up all over the place?? Mayhem!!

Well, all this to say that I think I might have a reputation for my organization/cleanliness because a dear friend of mine emailed me today with the following:

ok, what in the world are you currently doing for storage with all the toys...big and small? i seriously just broke down in tears tonight b/c we have no room for everything....help! what do you use??? i think we honestly need to get rid of some stuff, but i just need to figure out what's best.....toy chest......bookshelf....help! what are you doing to corral it all???

Here is my response to her and anyone interested in knowing how I keep things out of sight and out of mind in our home.

1) I use any and all available closet/storage space in our home for the things you REALLY don't use, such as baby swing, bouncy seats, portable high chairs, etc. If you are done with these and you know there won't be any more kiddos in your future, it's time to either give them away or put them on craigslist.com. I have things in guest bedroom closets, hallways closets, under beds, armoires, up high on unused cabinets, etc.

2) If you don't have extra closet space and need to use "out-in-the-open" space, Ikea has a great selection of matching colored baskets in all shapes and sizes for storage as well, so you don't have to spend a lot to keep a room clean and organized when toys are not being played with.

This is our upstairs play area. it's small but I store all of my son's toys in the two lidded baskets (from Ikea) and baby gear that our infant has outgrown in the armoire. I also keep unopened toys in the armoire because when Christmas and birthdays roll around, I ration the gifts so he gets something every few weeks and months. . .they don't play with it all if you give it at once anyway.
Up close. . .
This is a matching basket I picked up for books. It sits next to the sofa for easy story time access.
And another one for puzzles.
The smallest of the baskets in the matching set I use in my kids' closets. It's great for keeping things separate and organized. NOTE: all these baskets are sold individually. The ones above are only $5 each!!

3) I use decorative baskets in just about every room in the house because as much as you might try to corral kids into playing in only one specific area of your home, the truth is that they like to go where you go, am I right? So, my solution is the everywhere storage option: baskets. I have two baskets in our breakfast area that store 1) baby toys and 2) books. Twenty feet away I have an antique fisherman's basket that unbeknownst to outsiders, contains my older child's toys. Just flip up the lid and voila! He has his toys!

I found these cute baskets at Home Goods and they sit in our breakfast/kitchen area.
My fisherman's basket. You can use the ones from Ikea in the photo above.
Out of sight! Out of mind!! :)
This smaller basket sits in my bedroom. While I get dressed and ready, our youngest plays at my feet and in our carpeted closet area.
This is an OLD chest that sits at the foot of my son's bed. We don't use what's in it but it stores what's not in use now but might be if another baby every joins this family. . .

4) Kids can accumulate A LOT through Christmas gifts, generous grandparents and birthdays. They don't always love everything they get well enough to play with it for more than 10 minutes, so the reality is that every now and again we just need to purge closets, toy chests, etc. For me, I like to let me son know that Christmas is coming and he is going to receive new things so he needs to choose a few toys that are in good condition that he doesn't play with and we are going to give those toys to kids who don't have any toys. This is a two birds/one stone thing because it 1) helps me get rid of some unused toys (that are literally in perfect condition - some have never even been played with at all) and 2) provides a teaching opportunity where I can teach my son compassion and the joy of giving.

I hope this has helped you friend and you reader.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Details. . .12/17/10

In law school I had a professor who always said, "pay attention. . .the devil is in the details" and you know what, it doesn't just apply to legal details. . .take a peek at some of the little details around our kitchen and surrounding shelves. . .

This is a close-up of a dried flower arrangement - a combo of roses and hydrangeas (my personal favorite)
I found this rusted antique frame not too long ago and bought it with the intention of adding backing and glass but once I rested it on this shelf, I decided I liked it empty. . .
A rusted metal rose adds interest. . .
This crown is one of my favorite things in our home. . .as is the antique wooden rosary that is resting next to it. . .
Dried lavender is so fragrant! I try to have some spread throughout the house.
This antique Italian Florentine box is soooo beautiful to me because of the color combination! That blue and coral/peach look fantastic together!
A side view -
Another Florentine box. . .I love the patina on this one.
Years ago, I started collecting vintage silverware by accident. . .I just bought a handful of pieces and it sort of snowballed from there. If you like them too, just google "vintage silverware" - tons of hits come up at great prices!
I had to come up with ways to display the vintage silver so. . .
This is one of my china displays
And some mother-of-pearl salt shakers and spoon I found on our honeymoon in Hawaii
This is a simple vintage set I found at a small hole-in-the-wall antique store. I love hot tea so it's nice to have when friends and family pop over. . .
Another bit of lavender. . .TIP: when dried lavender is still on the stem, it retains it's fragrance. If the seeds are pulled for things like drawer sachets they are only fragrant when lavender oil is added. . .
The inside of one of the shelves in my butler's pantry
We have a lot of wine corks so I had to come up with a way to use/display them??!
I found this little set recently for $10 at an antique fair!! What a find!
A vintage glass and some velvet ribbon help me display some vintage silver. . .

What do you think? Email me pictures of YOUR home details. We'll post the most unique and creative displays on the blog :)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Heart of the Matter. . .12/15/10

If our homes were like parts of a body, the kitchen would undoubtedly be the heart. In most homes, the bulk of activities, be they social or otherwise, happen in the kitchen. We cook, we clean up, we entertain, we do homework, we feed, laugh, learn, and enjoy company in the "heart of our homes" more commonly known as the kitchen.

Today, for some inexplicable reason, amidst a long list of things to do, I randomly came across one of my many design and architecture books - this one in particular focused on designing and decorating the perfect kitchen.

To provide you with a little background, I grew up in a home where we always, without fail or excuse, ate as a family at the dinner table; we constantly had unexpected guests over for meals and because my aunt and cousins lived 7 blocks aways, we also always had them and/or friends over for tea, mate and pastries on any given afternoon. For this reason I have always considered it of utmost importance that when the time comes for us to build our "forever" home we focus on and end up with a kitchen fit to carry on such traditions of entertaining.

Although they are not necessarily how I would build or decorate my own kitchen, each of the kitchens below creates some aspect of my dream kitchen. . .if I could only combine all of them to create that perfect kitchen. . .

I love the open shelving on the side of the island here and the mantle above the stove. I also really love the mint green color of the island combined with the cream cabinetry and the pine colored floors. And unnoticed at first, I think the dark back splash is very interesting and the various cabinet sizes along the sides of the stove give the impression of easy access for any cook.
Speaking of interesting, I am besotted by the uniqueness and combination of the seating at this breakfast table. The half wall, the simple iron chandelier and the upholstery at the table opposite those on the pillows of the bench behind are all absolutely fantastic! It really adds dimension when fabrics in different patterns but like colors are combined. DO try this at home!!
This kitchen is so bright and cheerful it makes me happy just looking at this photograph! What's not to love? From the ceiling to the windows, the incredible stove top to the built in breakfast table via extended island - it's perfect for a family and kids! I especially love the extra storage cabinets on the side of the island. . .who doesn't need that, right? The only thing I would change here is the wall color - that brown is blah. Wouldn't a pale blue or a soft grey look outstanding here?!
I think that I was drawn to this kitchen by the 1) cabinetry color, 2) the open shelving on the island, 3) the bead board on the inside of the shelving and 4) the floors. This feels very cottagey and cozy to me. I look at it and sort of envision it as the focal point of a smaller home and in my head, I can already see a big dog sleeping on the floor while a baby crawls around. . .
At first I thought I would change the lighting, but upon closer examination, this kitchen has so much going on, a different light fixture would only make it feel busier and compete with everything else.
Where is Martha Stewart? The clean sterile white of this kitchen is INCREDIBLE! I love, love, love, the mantle over the stove, the FABULOUS second island in front of the stove, the industrial stools and lighting, the minimal use of color, the BREATHTAKING floors, the great use of storage up top over the sink. Let's face it, you'll never actually store things you use that high up, right? So, why not use it to add a little decor in an otherwise plain and simple kitchen?The blue plates on the mantle, lemons and green topiary add the small pop of color that makes an otherwise cold room feel warm.
As a side bar, for anyone who likes this look, it really only works if kept this way - clean and impeccably uncluttered.
This kitchen is not really "me" but I can appreciate the use of the french country color scheme, the open fireplace and the utility of the island doubling as a breakfast table. What feels off to me are the low ceilings. . .a few feet higher would change the entire room entirely.
I feel like I shouldn't even have to say it again, but I will: I loooove the open shelving on the island! I am also a big fan of the stools for extra seating - they are useful and as a mom, I can admit that if I had the option of using stools in my present kitchen, it would render our breakfast table completely useless. . .seriously, I'd NEVER use it! It is so much easier to just sweep all the crumbs from the counter top into the sink!
This kitchen is very reminiscent of a farm. The island/butcher block is great - I think I'd purposely start sitting piping hot things on it and cutting lots of fruits, veggies, meats etc. on it so as to build up that scratchy worn patina we all pay so much for! Kudos on the brick arch over the stove top. . .feels so cozy to me.
The blue oven here is very interesting and really pops against the cream, yellow and pine woods. I especially like that the doors are not painted the same color as the base board. . .really makes this kitchen feel old world and rustic.
This kitchen is lovely. I think anytime you are decorating while maintaining the same hues in a room, it keeps it from feeling sad and drab when one area stands out. Here that area would be the dark floors. It's a chocolate brown that feels right at home with the cream cabinetry and the greyish blue tone of the island. The chandelier is dainty, and details like the crown molding add elegance. Notice how this kitchen has at least three visible areas for sitting. . .they must like to entertain large groups too. . .
This kitchen is proof that you can have more than one wood color in a room. I think the "old school" way of people's thinking is that you choose one wood stain and every piece of furniture and flooring and cabinetry in your entire home must fall in line. This is not so. Playing with stains and colors (including actual painted wood as well) adds interest, dimension, and depth to a room. It also gives the sensation that you have spent time collecting unique antiques and pieces instead of shopping for your home all at once in the same home store. Don't be boring. Note too that the counter tops on the main part of the kitchen are a different color granite than on the island. Now THAT is playing it anything but safe!
Sure, this isn't a whole kitchen but I enjoyed it so much I felt it had to be included. It is very "Emily" - very monochromatic, clean, classic with a touch of country and the food scale adds just the right antique touch. The drawer configuration however feels like it should be in a closet but we'll let it slide because it's so darn pretty ;) In fact, this kitchen feels like it belongs in a beach condo. . .
Lastly this kitchen makes the cut for it's openness, it's classic styling (the high ceilings and the great light fixture get an A+), and the layout as it moves from kitchen to family room. I think that sort of layout is the ideal for entertainers because the truth is that inevitably whether a party starts in another room or is spread out among them, the party always ends up in the host's kitchen.
Growing up, we initially crowded around the kitchen with my family because we sampled the food being prepared, much to my mother's chagrin, then we stayed there because conversation always grew from there. Moreover, whenever a room feels like it breathes - such as this one - it makes the top grade in my book.


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Home for the Holidays. . .12/7/10

Christmas is my favorite time of year. It is the biggest birthday party around. . .for one, and secondly it is a special time when families, friends and even strangers can come together in an atmosphere of love, giving and memory-making. For me, it is a time of anticipation. I anticipate the actual holiday itself yes, but I also anticipate the music, the lights, the food, the decorations, the cards that come in the mail with faces of friends new and old; the celebration of christianity.

As for decorating our home, I have always historically done it in the exact same way: day after Thanksgiving, I wake up, coffee in hand, Christmas music playing (Amy Grant and Harry Connick Jr. holiday CD's) and start with the tree, then move on to the staircase and any other areas such as mantel, tabletop etc. This year however, with two babies, I am a bit energy deprived. I sleep but it's the constant moving, fetching, scheduling, playing, chasing etc that really depletes me. So, that said, I knew I needed/wanted to start earlier than post-turkey feast. Even with my preemptive move, I managed to take an entire week to decorate our tree and home. . .and I even slacked off a little - leaving several ornaments in the box?! Regardless, here is a glimpse of some areas I styled. . .know that I went about 50% on everything. Sorry :( I'll do better next year. . .

A close-up of our tree. . .this year it's enormous! 9 feet tall! We had to get a new one after part of our old tree was accidentally tossed in the trash. . .long story. . .As you can see, I do three garlands: one red berry strand, one burlap ribbon and also I buy vine wreaths and pull them apart to wrap around the tree as a garland. Have been doing it since my first tree :)
I know many people like to keep their tree consistent with the exact same balls, garlands, ornaments etc. but I like to use ornaments that are in the same "family" of style and mix in hand made items, family treasures and sentimental ornaments, such as my handmade burlap bows from last year and some hand-painted wooden ornaments made by my son :)
Not sure why my tree looks like it's leaning but here it is. . .note the strand of Froot Loops on yarn. . .compliments of my son. . .
My Rosemary plant wrapped in burlap with some raffia tied balls sits atop our coffee table. This is also one of my favorite antique rosaries. . .I collect them :)
I bought this hand-stamped ribbon on Etsy and didn't know what to do with it so it now adorns an architectural piece on a hallway table.
I added a galvanized zinc pot to this small lit tree by our doorway as a last minute bit of sparkle.
I found these three trees a few years back ay Hobby Lobby - they are super fragile so I placed them up high this year - away from the curious hands of small children.
My entry hall table displays vine and moss topiaries that spell the word J-O-Y. It's almost fitting that it would be near some of my favorite things - my antique crown, italian florentine boxes and one of my antique rosaries. . .all things that, like Christmas, also bring me joy :)

Hope your Christmas is merry and bright. . .filled with the spirit, peace, love and celebration of Christ's birth. Happy Christmas!!

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tabletop Feast. . . 12/4/10

Every Christmas my husband and I pay homage to our church pastors and elders by hosting a dinner in appreciation for all they do for their congregation day after day, year after year. On this, our fifth year to host, I wanted to create something more unique for the buffet table's centerpiece than the typical floral arrangement. I wasn't sure what I was looking for but I knew I wanted it to feel "abundant" and festive"; "cozy" and "inviting" so one afternoon while perusing the latest Pottery Barn catalogue, I saw the photograph above and was inspired. . . The price tag for all the birch and holiday candles however was not so inspiring.

So, as any thrifty woman would do, I searched for a way to make the design my own. In doing so I found off white candles in all shapes and sizes, wooden figurines (though not candles as in the PB photo), holiday sprigs, garland, pine cones, etc. and combined them all with my favorite pewter serve ware to recreate my own version of this centerpiece and you know what, disagree if you will but I like my version better ;) See below. . .

This is a small "flower" arrangement for the serving pieces. . .a few candy canes and berry sprigs literally thrown together at the last minute. . .
My Ballard Design french wire votive candle holders added holiday lighting. . .
A burlap-wrapped plant on our coffee table added fragrance and warmth to our evening. . .

There you have it? A few photographs of our dinner decor. . .and if you can believe it, after ALL the preparation, I took ONLY THOSE two photos of my abondante centerpiece!! I think I was expecting I'd take all the photos once the food was inside the trays and serve ware but once I did that, all my hosting duties flew into full swing and I forgot all about taking pictures until after I'd taken the whole thing apart. . .isn't that just sad?! Still, it was a lovely time and our pastors enjoyed their night. And as for me, I enjoyed serving them and taking quick peeks at my thrifty centerpiece. . .