Author Archives: Aaron

Mid-Century Modern Endures

In design, the adage is that “everything old becomes new again.” Since the late 1990s, many designers and creative types have abandoned the “shabby-chic” ethos for 1950s-inspired mid-century modern. The clean lines and simple finishes of mid-century design are functional and beautiful, and now available at almost any price point.

Even though most design trends last a few years – see the aforementioned shabby-chic, 1920s Spanish, and art Nouveau – mid-century modern remains popular with designers and consumers alike.   You need only to flip through a home magazine or stroll through a mass retailer like West Elm or CB2, and it’s all variations on the Eames-chair-and-tulip-table theme.

mid-century
Photo from The New York Times

Why does mid-century remain so popular?  Its wide appeal makes sense, because it was designed specifically to be lived with, rather than show pieces – it is democratic and made in simple shapes with classic materials – so it seems timeless and goes with everything.  The pieces are beautifully functional and they lend themselves well to smaller spaces and urban environments like city lofts.  Its simplicity is universally understood and appreciated.  Mid-century modern is also uniquely American, so it’s easy to find – both the antique versions and reproductions at modern retailers.  

mid-century-1
Photo By Interior Designer Amy Lau

Designers caution that you should not use midcentury exclusively – filling a room entirely devoted to a theme looks too deliberate and not reflective of personal taste.  You’re not trying to recreate a ‘Mad Men’ set in your home, after all.  But melding mid-century modern basics with some personal, interesting pieces can create an elegant interior that’s uniquely yours.

Consider mixing a pair of clean-lined mid-century chairs in an otherwise traditional space, and add some mid-century accessories like drum lamps or a spiky-legged coffee table to tie it all together.  Or use mid-century seating against a rustic wood dining table for an interesting mix of modern and traditional.

Best Ways to Incorporate Antiques into Your Home

So you’ve found an amazing antique in a local shop or during your travels, and you had to have it.  Or even better, you were gifted or inherited a cherished piece of ceramic, an heirloom textile, or exquisite piece of artwork. Both the sentimental value and the quality of an antique is unmatched, but making them work with more modern décor can sometimes be a challenge. Below are some ways to show off those antique pieces in your home with the focus they deserve – and so they look like they’ve been there all along.

Think about how you will display your antique – using less formal display methods can give an old piece a modern look.  Propping artwork against a shelf or another piece of furniture, or resting it directly on the mantel can tone down the formality of the piece.

If you fell in love with, or were bequeathed, a large piece of artwork, properly display it by giving it a spot of prominence on a plain wall. Painting a bright color on the wall behind it will make the painting pop, and a bold, contemporary color on the wall keeps an antique painting from looking too formal or stuffy. Consider how you’re lighting the piece as well.

Bedroom transitional-bedroom

You can also use an antique piece of art to create a new color scheme in the room. Pull a color you like out of a painting, and incorporate that palette throughout the room to tie the old and new together.

vintage
Photo from CountryLiving-45 Ways to Creatively Display Your Collection

Perhaps your antique is not a painting, but an object, or a collection of objects like earthenware or ceramics. A collection of similar items can be beautiful to display and enjoy. Don’t hide them away at the back of a cabinet; group your antique glassware or pottery prominently on a shelf or sideboard, or consider an open cabinet whose inside is painted a color that lets your collection stand out.  Consider, if you have a single piece, starting a collection or adding to one – what makes a collection is special is that it’s eclectic and can be added to over time.

antique-sofa
Photo from Wall Street Journal-How to Turn an Antique Sofa Into a Statement Piece

Is your antique a piece of furniture?  A wonderful way to work an old, perhaps ornate piece of furniture into a modern home is to pair it with more contemporary pieces.  A primitive antique dining table, or a glossy mahogany one with turned legs, will look equally at home paired with modern seating – metal chairs or ones upholstered in a graphic print.  Flank an antique with newer pieces and it will become a cohesive part of your space.

Bold Decoration

Even the most expertly-decorated spaces can feel like they are missing something, especially when the palate is neutral and people are afraid to stray from the predictable.  But using bold color or pattern, even in small amounts, can really take a room to “wow” status, especially when that bold element is used somewhere unexpected.

bold-bedroom

Photo from Contemporist- Wall Decoration Inspiration

For instance, an attention-grabbing print on the walls can reinvent a featureless space. A modern graphic paper in a deep color delivers a powerful statement whether you use it on a single accent wall, or all four.  Try a boldly patterned wallpaper to highlight a feature like the fireplace wall, or use it behind shelving or build-ins.
If you don’t want to make the commitment to wallpaper, try using a bold paint color instead – if you decide it’s too much drama, paint is easily (and inexpensively) changed.  Try a deep jewel-toned hue like emerald green, cobalt blue, or fuschia on a wall to make the artwork or furniture pop, or to highlight architectural features in a room.

Presidio Heights Kitchen contemporary-kitchen

If color or pattern on the walls isn’t what you’re looking for, think about what’s underfoot to highlight the décor – go for bold floors! Colorful, patterned, stenciled, or boldly carpeted, floors can help you make a gorgeous statement and even become the star of the space.  Bold floors can add style and create ambience in even the most ordinary spaces, and it’s an unexpected way to use pattern.  If your hardwood is beat up and sad, consider painting the wood floors in a deep glossy hue like navy or chocolate, or painting a geometric pattern like stripes or chevron – this works especially well in small places like hallways or entryways, and provide a powerful first impression when someone enters your home.  If a painted or patterned tile floor is too permanent, consider a graphic print rug in a bright color, which can easily be swapped out.
Other quick, and less expensive ways to add bold style to a room include incorporating metallic decorative elements, like brass mirrors, side tables, and vases, or simply employing a bright color like coral or turquoise in your throw pillows, linens, and picture frames to give the space a punch.

Next Level Living Rooms

Because the living room is the place you go to unwind and watch TV, chat with family, and entertain company, that space has the sometimes difficult task of balancing style and functionality. So how can you make your living room welcoming and comfortable without sacrificing aesthetics and design? Here are some helpful tips for adding polish to your living space so it’s a place you’re happy to hang.

Large Mirrors

Modern Vibe

 

There’s a reason carnivals use funhouse mirrors – they are excellent at creating illusions.  In the case of your living room, the illusion is space: expand the look of the room with a massive mirror. A large mirror is almost like adding another window to the room, making it feel lighter and more spacious, and reflecting whatever you put in front of it.  Try positioning lamps or green plants in front of mirrors so they cast more light and reflect your greenery. Candles also look much more romantic in front of reflective glass.

Is Your Rug Big Enough?

In the living room, an attractive rug underfoot in a plush material is welcoming and cozy – and the bigger the rug, the better. Your furniture should all fit on the rug, but if it doesn’t, at the very least the front feet of each large piece should be on the rug. And if the existing rug in your living room is too small, don’t worry: you can add texture and keep the rug you love by layering it over a larger neutral carpet in a natural color or fiber.

Curate your Surfaces

where to buy fabric

Casual Elegance Collection courtesy of Curated Kravet.

It’s hard to decide what decorative elements to put on flat surfaces, beyond the ubiquitous stack of coffee table books.  A classic decorator’s trick is to use a mix of three elements — flat, vertical and organic —to create arrangements that are attractive without being too cluttered or fussy. Try using this trick to style your console or coffee table, or even your mantel.

For flat, think of laying books, a tray, or a favorite platter next to something taller/more vertical, like a vase, sculpture, or candle on a pedestal.  Add an organic element like a plant or flower arrangement, or a cool bunch of shells or piece of driftwood from a beach vacation.

Try a Dramatic Accent Wall

where to buy fabric

Park Avenue Parlor courtesy of Curated Kravet.

Painting a single wall in your living room charcoal, navy or black can bring the space into focus, without being overwhelming.  A true black can look too intense, but a deep charcoal gray or a blue-black, Like Benjamin Moore’s French Beret, reads black but isn’t quite so stark. One benefit of a dark accent wall is that if you hang your flat-screen TV in front of it, the TV virtually disappears when it’s not on. And if your black accent wall still seems too dark once you’ve taken the plunge and painted, try placing a lighter, bulkier piece of furniture in front of it to tone down the drama.

Refresh an Old Sofa

beckenstein fabrics custom upholstery work

A custom slipcover in the works.

Instead of splurging on an expensive new sofa, try giving your old couch a makeover instead.  Many manufacturers make slipcovers for their sofas, so if your couch still has good bones, check to see if any slipcovers are available.  And even if you aren’t that lucky, most local upholstery shops like ours can create a custom slipcover for less than the price of a new sofa. Or, for an inexpensive quick change, try swapping out your throw pillows and using a beautifully textured blanket or textile to drape over the back of your couch.

Modern Home Office Ideas

When it comes to a home office space, no single design idea will work for everyone –there is a wide range of different needs for a workspace, depending on the work being done there.  That doesn’t mean that you can’t create the perfect home office for you, though!  Here are some universally appealing suggestions to help you create a home office space that’s both functional and attractive.

Specific Task Areas

When envisioning a design for your home office, it’s important to take into consideration all of the activities you’ll complete in a given workday/week.  While a desk is an obvious starting point for most offices, to tackle paperwork or writing, those are likely not your only activities, so creating separate focus areas for tasks can be useful.

While your desk is the likely workhorse in an office space, don’t forget about incorporating a seating area for hosting and meeting with clients, and having a face-to-face discussion.  Additionally, if the office space hosts multiple users who need to share the office, you can help keep things organized and make the space work for everyone by giving each person an individual workstation.    

Home office seating

Courtesy of californiaclosets.com

Be Careful with Color

Since your office is a place where you need to be able to stay focused, it can be useful to set big punches of color — and the emotional responses they bring — aside. Instead, focus on choosing a largely neutral color palette that will allow you to put the bulk of your attention on the task at hand.  You can add small pops of color to keep the space visually interesting, with easily swapped-out elements like throw pillows or area rugs, but the more permanent parts of the design – furniture and wall color – should be calm and neutral.

Neutral color home office

Image courtesy of idekohome.com

Make your Office Personal

As much as we’ve emphasized that you need to be able to focus within your workspace, it’s also important to create an office where you’ll enjoy working and spending time. So while keeping the workspace décor neutral is key, so is accenting your office with things that highlight your personal taste and make you happy.  Those might be pieces of artwork, or items from favorite travels, for example.

An easy way to add personal elements and keep a cohesive scheme in the home office is to use your personal items as a jump-off point for accent colors in the room.  Draw out a bold color from a favorite painting on the wall and use that hue for pillows or a throw in the seating area, or mimic the pattern on a piece of displayed pottery in your window treatment or area rug.

Home office decor

A Place for Everything

Staying organized is a perpetual struggle in any office space, yet it’s crucial to efficiency. So for any workspace, and especially if you’re prone to becoming buried under your desk, it’s imperative to work lots of storage solutions into the design.  Ideally, if you have the space for them, built-in cabinetry helps store large items and hides clutter; you can repurpose a sideboard into file and supplies storage.  Bookcases and open shelves are also a great way to keep things organized and provide display space for both functional and decorative elements.

home office organization

Bearing in mind just a few important themes – organization, a neutral palette to encourage focus, task areas, and making the space personal – you can carve out a functional workspace in your home that you won’t want to leave.

Colorful outdoor summer chairs

Add Charm and Functionality to your Outdoor Living Space

This summer, as the temperatures rise and the evening light lingers, take advantage of your outdoor spaces – making an outdoor area functional is like adding another room to your home for a few months each year.  Here are some ideas for turning your balcony or backyard into a summer oasis.

A Container Garden

colorful outdoor garden plants

Photo Courtesy of KeystoneGardens.com

Adding pops of color and texture to an outdoor space is made easy with pots and planters of all shapes and sizes. Choose lightweight materials, or put planters on moveable bases or stands, to make rearranging them easier on your back. Anchoring the corners of your patio or deck with groupings of plants in colorful pots establishes the borders of your space, and swapping out a rotation of seasonal plants – tulips and hyacinth in spring, geraniums and begonias in summer, colorful mums in the fall – keeps your space fresh and bright.  Non-flowering plants with a variety of textures and shapes also add interest, and can especially dress up an outdoor space that’s lacking in foliage, like a balcony.

A Variety of Seating Options

An outdoor space is more functional and enjoyable if you provide multiple seating options; benches, chairs, a chaise: the more choices you provide, the more your guests will appreciate the space.  Even scaled-down stools work double-duty; acting as plant stands but also letting little ones seat themselves. Chairs are a flexible option as well; you can pull a half-of dozen of them around the table for an al fresco meal, or pair just two chairs together for a more intimate arrangement.  Adding colorful cushions in weather-resistant fabrics to seating makes the area more inviting.

Interesting Visual Elements

Even one or two accents, like a bubbling water feature or an architectural element, can make outdoor living spaces feel unique and interesting.  An old Radio Flyer wagon full of plants, a painted chair with the seat removed and a colorful pot inserted, or a piece of wrought iron architectural salvage hung on the wall can all lend visual appeal without costing a fortune.  Flea markets or yard sales are good sources for repurposing accents for your outdoor space.  And even if you don’t have the space or budget for a water feature, a tabletop fountain can add the soothing sound of moving water for a fraction of the price (and size).

A Fire Source

If you’re lucky enough have a fireplace in your home, then you know it’s where everyone loves to curl up on a quiet night, and where larger groups gather to fight the chill of winter. The same is true of outdoor living spaces: a fire draws people and creates ambience.  Consider a fire pit, fire bowl or chiminea, which are flexible and affordable.  Just be sure to check local building codes to verify fire safety and placement rules regarding outdoor fireplaces.

Overhead Lighting

outdoor lighting

Courtesy of HGTV.com

Twinkling outdoor lights are a perennial favorite in outdoor spaces for a good reason: they’re romantic, functional and fun, providing a soft light source that doesn’t distract. There are lots of backyard options in pretty shapes and colors; you can string them over a table and chairs, wind them through a railing or fence, or use them to wrap a tree – all providing instant charm and subtle sparkle.

Double-Duty Furniture

Since space is often at a premium in outdoor living rooms, furniture and accents should work twice as hard. Your benches should have storage cubbies inside or underneath; chairs and side tables can act as pedestals for container plants until they’re called into use for seating or surface space.  A long rustic or glass-topped dining table makes a great surface for potting or outdoor projects until it’s time for a dinner party.

Cooling Your Home Down without A/C

For centuries, older houses had no such thing as air conditioning for relief during the warmer months. Instead of flipping a switch, the following eco-friendly, old-school methods were used to get air flowing through the house during the dog days of summer.

Using the passive-cooling principles that hot air rises, and cool air moves toward warmer air, you can design or retrofit your house to make use of fresh air to stay cool and invite in those long hot days of July and August.

Open Up the Room

Open windows for ventilation in the summer

Since hot air rises, and cool air moves toward warmer air, a house that has vented openings on both sides of the building has a lot more airflow – and any air movement is a good thing. Using operable windows on the cooler side of the house, you can open them wide to draw the air through from the hotter side of your home.

Shutters Aren’t Just for Outdoors

Shutters can be useful inside too. Shutters aren’t just a decorative alternative to curtains and blinds, they’re also a green way to ventilate – you can open up the windows behind them to let in air, and close the shutters to keep out the sun, and voila! The room is cooled down the old-fashioned way.

It’s Obvious, but: Fans

living room ceiling fan

Courtesy of housesen.com

Fans have been used since ancient times to keep things cool, since any air movement is good and a fan can suck away the warm air and push cooler breezes around a space. Ceiling fans are available in every conceivable design, whether you want something unobtrusive or bold.  Fans are even offered in retro palm-frond styles, and most fans also offer a light fixture combination if you don’t want to lose overhead lighting when you install the fan. Look for fans with a reverse switch or feature for winter, which helps push warmer air (it rises, remember?) back down into the room.

Take it Outside

Screened in porch sunroom

Courtesy of jpandcompany.net

Screened-in porches have long been an architectural staple in hot regions, and they deserve a comeback. Consider enclosing your covered porch, or enclosing a deck with screens, and you will have created an airy, insect-free outdoor living space. You can use a screened room for months, provided you furnish it with pieces made from materials that can withstand some rain, like wicker or metal. Bonus: a generous couch with some indoor-outdoor cushions becomes an ideal spot to sleep on hot summer nights!