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!

wall to wall carpeting

How Can Rugs Complete Your Decor?

Rugs are one of the easiest ways to add color, texture, and warmth to a space. It is an important choice to consider, though, because a rug has the power to change the look and feel of a room. Even the what the rug is made of will determine its functionality and longevity.

Wall to Wall carpeting

Carpet pattern by Madeline Castaining, Room design by Jacques Grange

Rugs are more versatile than wall-to-wall carpet and offer a good way to soften a hardwood or tile floor, which, although practical, can sometimes be noisy and cold.  Area rugs are the perfect foil to the ubiquitous wooden floor, and can be swapped out seasonally – providing warmth and color in the winter, and a lighter, cooler look in warm weather.  Rugs can also be taken up and cleaned more easily than carpets, and can be used to highlight or section off a space.

purple matching area rug

Courtesy of http://www.mgaarchitects.com/

A rug should be one of your first considerations when furnishing a room. Remember that it’s usually easier to match paint or wall coverings to carpets or rugs rather than vice versa. That said, before you consider colors and patterns, you’ll need to decide what material the rug should be.  Some basic questions to help you choose the best kind of rug for your home include: what is the room used for? Who uses it – pets?  Kids? And how often? Rooms that are formal might be well-suited for a silk or viscose rug, but in areas where children play or food is likely to be spilled, more durable fabrics like wool or cotton blends, or even synthetics, make sense. Thinking about the traffic in the space will inform the decision about which material is best suited underfoot.

For the most dramatic impact, you should always buy the largest dimension rug your space will accommodate.  Try arranging your furniture around the edges of the rug, but place all your furniture on the rug – at least the front feet – to create a look that says the rug belongs in the space. And if you’re using a rug in the bedroom, use runners on both sides of the bed, or choose a large rug that will not only go under the bed, but also be visible beyond it.  Meanwhile, the rule of thumb in a dining room is to make sure the rug goes beneath the table and fully under the chairs, even when they’re pulled out.

patterned area rug

Courtesy of http://stirlingdesignassociates.com/Stirling-Design.html

Finally, rugs have the added bonus of providing sound insulation (especially when paired with an underlayer) and protecting the finish of the floors beneath them.  It’s a win-win when you add a rug to your room.

 

Decluttering for spring cleaning

Getting Your Home Organized for Spring

With the arrival of spring comes a sense of renewal; the air is crisp and fresh, new buds are flowering, and your home…well, your home is a dirty disorganized mess after a long winter, isn’t it?  Don’t worry, this is a common seasonal problem and luckily there are lots of solutions for tackling it.  Here are some ideas to help make your home summertime fine.

Declutter

If you don’t love it, or you don’t use it, then it’s clutter. Spring is an ideal time to embrace Feng Shui, the Asian art of uncluttered living.  The main tenet of Feng Shui is that if energy can easily flow through a room, your life will be happier and more harmonious; clutter is the most basic obstacle to reaching a calm and relaxed state. Be ruthless when it comes to decluttering. Getting rid of excess knick-knacks, pieces of non-functional furniture, and kitchen appliances you never use means you’ll have less to dust, less junk to look at, and an easier time finding the things you do use regularly.

Decluttering for spring cleaning

Make a Donation

Once you’ve done all that decluttering, anything you’re getting rid of that’s in good, usable shape is a candidate to sell or donate.  Gather these items together in boxes or plastic bags.  If you choose to donate, consider giving them to a local Salvation Army or Goodwill, or even a shelter in town.  Many organizations will even pick up your donations at your doorstep.  If you would rather sell, consider a yard sale, and see if any neighbors want to join in.  Or, take digital photos of the items you’re looking to sell and post them to a site like eBay or Craigslist, or even to Facebook – and watch things disappear.

Donate for spring cleaning

Checklist

Make a master checklist of all springtime cleaning/organizing jobs that you only do once or twice a year, like bringing large comforters to a laundromat, or dry-cleaning drapes or winter coats.  There’s also the seasonal clothing changeover, and things like checking batteries in smoke alarms or dusting hard-to-reach light fixtures and ceiling fans.  If you commit these odd jobs to a list, you won’t forget to do them. Then, try to do one or two of these chores per week throughout the spring, (and assign some to your family!) so you’re not overwhelmed with the list all at once.  The physical act of crossing items off the list and seeing progress on your to-do list is both satisfying and motivating.

to do list

Drawer Organizers

A quick and easy organizing hack that will tame disarray is drawer organizers for the kitchen, bathrooms, and office.  Divide and conquer the clutter and keep order by kitting your drawers out with wire or wooden organizers to keep small, loose items tidy and contained, and help you find that cheese grater or cookie cutter in the kitchen drawer jungle, or the paper clips or Sharpies in your office. If you can’t find an insert that perfectly fits your particular drawer, create a custom setup by lining the drawer with small containers or trays that fit next to each other like a puzzle, or divide the drawer in half.

organized drawer for spring cleaning

Courtesy of Cambria Bold at http://www.thekitchn.com/

Downsize your Bedside

You should prize your sleep, which is why it’s in your best interest to create a restful environment around your bed — and a cluttered nightstand does not help. An avalanche of books or magazines, lotion, device chargers, cups and tissues does not promote rest and order.  Instead of attempting to make space for every possible item you might ever want on your nightstand, consider using a more petite table that fits only what’s essential.  If you love to read in bed, choose one book.  The others can wait on a shelf.  If you like to write before bed, place your journal and a nice pen there. Make room for a glass of water and that’s it.

 

Clean night stand

Courtesy of http://hominicious.com/

Central Message Board

No, we aren’t talking about something online; make space in your home for a multitasking message board.  A message board will ramp up efficiency in a kitchen or home office. Not only does it act as a quick reference for everyone’s important appointments, to-do lists and must-revisit ideas, it also boosts organization and productivity.  Consider including a calendar on the board or giving each family member a dedicated corner. For added practicality, use a board you can write and tack/tape papers on, like a white dry-erase board or a magnetic chalkboard.

Incorporating even a couple of these ideas into your spring-cleaning routine will improve organization and get your home ready for the warmer seasons ahead.

Flower Power – Incorporating Floral Prints in Your Home Decor

There is nothing more classic in home decorating than the floral – it never goes out of style.  Floral prints can be botanical and iconic, or colorful and modern, and they provide a fresh, feminine sensibility to a space.  In honor of spring and all its heady blooms, here are some ideas for incorporating the floral into your decorating.

 

A Bright Accent

If you’re not sure about committing to floral prints, you can test them out with some bold floral accent pillows on your more neutral furniture or a pretty flower-patterned tablecloth in your dining room.  Swap out some wall hangings you’re tired of for a pair of garden-inspired framed botanical prints.  These are all easy and low-risk ways to try florals in your home.

Floral print throw pillows

Courtesy of http://nestprettythings.com/

Here we have a beautifully done example by Tamar at Nest Pretty Things where the throw pillows have a subtle touch of floral print that really blends in with the room. The goal is to not be overwhelming with this pattern, and Tamar has done a wonderful job! Check out here awesome blog and accessory designs over here!

In the Bedroom

A floral duvet cover or another bedding is a great way to introduce a bouquet into your sleeping quarters and adds femininity to the room.  The same can be said for floral window treatments, lampshades, or a headboard upholstered with a floral fabric that complements the bedding.  If your aim is to keep the space more gender-neutral, pick a floral on a grey or tan background.  Finally, the bedroom is a lovely and unexpected place for fresh flowers by the bedside or on a dresser.

Floral Duvet Cover

Courtesy of http://www.smartstyleinteriors.com/

Phoebe Oldrey of Smartstyle Interiors has done a fantastic job with this master bedroom! The blue shade makes is not overwhelmingly feminine, but still gives a classy touch of floral. The matching color wall and curtains tie the whole room together, making this an excellent example of floral print being used in the bedroom. Check out her blog  for some very insiteful design tips with her English background and style!

Wallpaper

Garden-inspired prints are classic wallpaper subjects, but there are just as many bold and modern floral wallpapers on offer.  Consider an accent wall of paper behind your sofa or your bed, to bring florals in without overwhelming a space.  Small prints look great in bathrooms or kitchens, but you can also use papers with bolder patterns and colors as an alternative to tile in a kitchen – bonus: most wallpaper is more durable than paint for use in food prep/cooking areas.

Floral Print Wallpaper Kitchen

Courtesy of http://www.lisawolfedesign.com/

Lisa Wolfe used floral wallpaper as an accent wall in this kitchen to bring this eclectic, bohemian kitchen to life! While it is not behind the cooking area, this pattern makes this an interesting and unique kitchen design without overwhelming you with the floral pattern. Check out her blog for some cool design tips and lifestyle tricks!

Pattern Mixing

If your sofa is a checked pattern, that doesn’t mean you can’t use florals in the living room too.  In fact, layering patterns is a chic way to sophisticate a space. Traditional florals on classic upholstery are one of a decorator’s favorite tools. Try matching your accent chairs and sofa pillows to tie together a cohesive look. The key is to use patterns of differing scales; if your floral is a large cabbage rose, pair it with a smaller more geometric pattern for balance.

Courtesy of http://www.wesley-wayne.com/

Courtesy of http://www.wesley-wayne.com/

Texas based designer Carl Wesley Lowery executed this technique with ease and class in this living room by matching his chairs with the throw pillows on the couch, contrasting the leather footrest in between. Well done Carl!

Try Floral Underfoot

Artful floral prints on the floor are another way to use this style. Awaken a room with pale neutral walls by adding a lively color palette underfoot.  Use the colors from the floor covering as inspiration for accompanying textiles. Floral kitchen rugs are an excellent way to add pattern, color, and warmth, and a bright print effortlessly livens up a white or neutral kitchen.  Area rugs in the kitchen should be durable materials that can withstand traffic and spills – an added plus is that floral prints tend to hide stains!

Floral pattern kitchen rug

Courtesy of http://www.bannercarpets.ca/

These Canadian carpet experts have managed to place this carpet strategically by the island for cooking prep, and doesn’t let the pattern make the kitchen feel too cluttered. Wonderful job!