Yes, your closet can bring you joy! Organizing and figuring out how to stash your belongings is a common challenge to all my residential clients, so this week I want to tell you about the Elfa Closet System - which is a fantastic place to start.
Here is a photo of the Elfa System I just designed and installed this week (with the help of the closet design experts at the Container Store, the local retailer for Elfa) in a walk-in closet in a new apartment that one of my clients is moving into. Don’t you just love the look of a fresh well-designed and efficient closet? I can’t say enough good things about the Elfa system…but read on, I’ll surely try.
To back up a bit…three of my current clients are working with new-build construction, and they all have the “golden opportunity” to start fresh with a closet system like Elfa. One project is a gut renovation and expansion, one is a two-bedroom luxury apartment, and the third is a whole-home new build.
Thinking through how they wanted to use their closets was the first step in my design process with them. We then progressed to detailed planning sessions to refine their storage needs, pinpoint critical design factors like who would be using the closets and their physical height and reach, and of course measuring the closets in detail to get every last inch of space working in an efficient manner.
Because of my client’s needs I’ve recently looked at several of the closet organization options on the market, and for my apartment clients recommended the Elfa system. Now that the Elfa system has been installed in the apartment, I can happily report I am even more impressed for the following 5 reasons:
You can check out the Elfa system on-line at:
If you have a Container Store near you, I suggest you visit them to check out the displays in the store. You can get a better sense by seeing the system in person, and you can get an idea of the cost for what you need from the sample displays. And for your shoe lovers, check out these cool shoe trays…I love it! Now couldn’t your master bedroom or mudroom closet benefit from a makeover?
Please note: I am not affiliated in any way with Elfa or The Container Store, so this is NOT advertising—I am just a happy designer/consumer. This blogpost is a product review. But I can help you figure out a closet system like Elfa for your particular storage needs.
Developing a Design Plan - 10 Steps Toward Success and Sanity in Decorating a New Home or Completing a Home Remodel
During the 17 years that I’ve been helping clients transform their houses into homes I’ve noticed that there are several critical steps that need to be undertaken to successfully decorate a new home, or significantly remodel an existing home. In my experience, missing any of these key steps can cause issues and delays in the decorating effort.
It all starts with assessing your home inside and out. Does the interior design go with the exterior design? If not, do you want it to? What are the “givens” of your situation – e.g. the things that will be harder to change? Are you ok with these or are you willing to spend the time, effort and money to change them?
Next, what’s your personal decorating style? Do you have a single design point of view that you want carried throughout the house – or do you like a variety of styles?
What do you need to do to plan for your living needs? Do you entertain frequently? Inside? Outside? Do you need a place for the kids to play or designated homework area?
Have you spent any time figuring out your budget? Decide your priorities. Start with the basics, like what you will sit on and function with initially, then move on to the smaller items and design accents.
I know that this is a little bit of a teaser since I’m not going to give the internet all of the steps and details that I’ve sorted out over the years. So, if you want to receive the detailed 4-page approach that I’ve written to cover this topic, please email me on the "Contact" page and I’ll send it to you.
Until next time, I hope that your Summer was great and that as Fall arrives you have time to enjoy the splendor of the changing colors; especially here in New England!
It always happens…around the second week of August we get that sinking feeling that summer is slipping away. And then back-to-school ads come out, and we’re really bereft and utterly panicked. Nooooo! We need summer…we need summer freshness and promise and relaxation! Let’s make it last a bit longer…like until Halloween? Well, let’s just say into September…well into September (which is actually quite lovely weather-wise in Massachusetts).
So, is it possible to extend that summer feeling by enhancing your surroundings and décor? Yes, I think it is. Since our environment really impacts our mood let’s discuss 10 ways to keep summer around longer with a few decorating touches. There is hope after all, keep reading.
10 Tips to Extend Summer With Your Décor
1) Frame and display those summer vacation photos NOW so you can relive the happy mood you just experienced. Put together a new vignette on your console table or shelf or refrigerator in the kitchen, where you see it all the time. We take so many photos on our phones now, but how many do you actually print? Seeing smiling faces all lined up in your photos (especially if taken at the beach) can’t fail to lighten your mood while sipping your first coffee in the morning.
2) Decorate with real succulents inside. I know, those fake ones are really cute, but you can’t beat the happy factor of seeing real succulents with their cool shapes in your kitchen or family room. Here’s something my daughter created, a succulent basket (with lights!) for our kitchen table. In the evening, while watching TV, it has a firefly/fairy lights effect. There is clear connection between real plants enhancing our health (and air quality) indoors, and green plants both inside and outside our homes can only extend our summer great mood. If you don’t have a green thumb you might try succulents, or easy care plants like philodendrons, that even I have mastered keeping alive.
3) Display your shell collection in a glass container or fillable lamp. Did you go to the beach and collect shells or beach glass this summer? I bet each treasure was carefully chosen on the beach, and then when you got home, you tossed the sandy bag of shells in the garage where it still sits today. If you went to the effort of collecting them, then let’s think of a good way to display them without being too “beachy.” You know the look we are trying to avoid…’nuf said. To bring a small taste of your beach holiday to your “town” residence, add this year’s trove to a collection in a lamp or jar you can add to every year. Put the lamp in your office so you can get that good vibe when you work…priceless! And easy. But make sure you get one that you can fill from the top, so you or your kids can add to their collections. Here’s the “Wallington” from Birch Lane that would be great: https://www.birchlane.com/lighting/pdp/birch-lane-wallington-glass-table-lamp-bl7855.html
4) Repaint with a blue-green color. All summer long we see serene blue greens at the shore, lake, pool, in magazines, and of course at all the summer shops at our vacation destinations. With these colors, we feel clean, fresh, and rejuvenated. Well, let’s decorate with these hues in hardworking rooms in your home that could use a lift all year long - like your mudroom or laundry room. I love, love, love Benjamin Moore Gossamer Blue (2123-40) and its lighter cousin Ocean Air (2123-50). Talk about evocative names! So, I am painting my mudroom next week in a hue special mixed by my local paint store that is somewhere between Gossamer Blue and Ocean Air - call it my Goldilocks moment. I particularly love that the paint store clerk put the name “Ocean Air-ish” on my can of paint. I’ll share photos soon as an update to this blog!
5) Paint the Underside of a Porch Ceiling an Airy Blue-Green. If you have a covered porch, lucky you at this time of year! Take a clue from Southerners and paint the underside a cool blue or blue green to simulate the sky, and some say ward off the spirits (Haint Blue). This topic actually deserves a separate blog to recommend colors and provide lots of photos…so I’ll put it on the list for a later blog. So choose an airy color, paint the ceiling, and get those rocking chairs going under your new porch roof (even if you need a throw or afghan to take off the chill by the time you get to in coming weeks). Here’s a great blogpost on this topic from Elizabeth, at Blue and White Home, who writes an awesome blog (and has spectacular photos): https://blueandwhitehome.blog/2017/06/13/haint-blue-porch-ceilings/
6) Install an Outdoor Fire Pit. Talking about taking off the chill, now is the time for you to shop for a fire pit your family can enjoy until the snow comes. They are available everywhere for you to purchase, and at this late date, you might be able to get a deal. I have clients who say evenings around the fire pit with their teenagers are magical (the adults’ sentiments, maybe not the kids’). But the family is together, and there’s something primeval about fire… Here’s a great option from Frontgate, a catalog company that has quality items I have enjoyed recommending to my clients: https://www.frontgate.com/copper-fire-pit/156406
7) Add some blue stripes to your indoor décor. I love a stripe, especially blue and white. Blue and white striped pillows in our family rooms or on our window seats can lend a soft summer vibe to this month of August. And blue and white (and stripes) are utterly classic! Don’t think of them as too coastal…they are fresh and now and happy!
8) Throw an Outdoor Party. Fun, friends, family, food, outdoor fun…what could be better than a summer BBQ? String lights across your patio to make the evening festive and set up the battery-powered candles for no fuss and no worry. Set up tents in the yard for the little ones to explore and hide out in. Inaugurate your new fire pit. Maybe inaugurate a new BBQ grill (they are on sale too to make some room for the, ahem, snow blowers (low blow, sorry!) I find that just getting ready for a summer outdoor party puts me in an ultra-summer mood, even if the evenings are growing shorter. From a decorating perspective, you don’t need to be too elaborate. Invite them, they will come. Really, people don’t seem to entertain much anymore, and offering your deck or patio to grill some burgers and serving simple fare is a happy way to extend the season. Even if you can’t get your friends together until after Labor Day, have an outdoor party. Everyone is always around the weekend after Labor Day, right?
9) Fill your fireplace. To make summer last, fill your fireplace with more “coastal” elements—candles, lanterns, shells, and other reminders of the shore. Battery-operated candles are perfect for this purpose. And your house will look stunning when your guests are leaving your outdoor party (see tip #8) well after the sun has set, and your fireplace is aglow in candles. Here’s a link to some interesting fireplace ideas from DigsDigs.com.
10) Paint some furniture in white or light gray. There is still time to do a DIY project or two, like painting an old bench with fresh white chalk paint. Or, head out the September Brimfield Antiques Show in central Massachusetts (coming up soon – 4 to 9 September, 2018), and pick up a new piece to paint. The September Brimfield Show is always a delight. If you want to know more, here’s a link to my blog post from when I visited Brimfield last year.
Well that’s my wrap-up on 10 ideas to extend your summer feeling. Isn’t there some song to that effect? I hear music…oh, it’s coming from the portable speaker on my deck! It’s beautiful out there, gotta go!
It’s glorious summer, and if you have children, perhaps they’ve completed a week or two at camp. What fun! Now they’re home, and you have the results of their creativity - artwork galore - sitting on top of your dining room table. Perhaps at the very bottom of the stack you also have the artwork that came home when school ended this year. Are you wondering what to do with the cream of the crop?? Well, it’s time to display some of your kid’s creations, and there are 4 ways you can do that without adding endless nail holes to your walls or committing to displaying your kid’s “early works” forever. Are you ready? Here’s how!
#1: Walker Display System
You’ve probably seen this kind of display system at libraries and galleries, and it makes total sense to create a hanging system in your home to enable a changing display of your children’s artwork. Yes, you have to have framed pictures to pull off this look, but it’s pretty easy to get inexpensive frames at Michael’s that come with mats, and complete the “framing” yourself. Almost anything looks better with a black frame and a white mat, especially vibrantly colored artwork. As shown below, the vertical rods holding up the pictures slide along a permanent horizontal bar affixed to your wall, thus allowing easy reconfiguration, addition, and subtraction. And it’s quite doable in your own home with simple components you can order on-line at: www.WalkerDisplay.com
Here are the components and how they work together.
Here’s an example of the Walker Display System featuring my client’s artwork in her eating area nook.
Here, on the left, is a third floor play space that has been outfitted with Walker System’s horizontal rails, ready for hanging. On the right you can see the vertical components and hi-hooks, which can catch a saw tooth or wire hanger on a frame. All ready for some terrific artwork….
#2: Easels for Displaying Art
Stand up easels are really handy for displaying your kids smaller pieces of art on tabletops among other photographs and accessories. Here is a still life oil painting my daughter created that feels right at home in our dining room.
#3: Picture Ledges
Pottery Barn, Ikea, and other on-line and retail stores sell inexpensive ledges for displaying pictures. Installing a few picture ledges at various heights on a wall in your kitchen, entry, landing, or playroom can give a nice perch for new art, including sculptures. Here’s a vignette from Pottery Barn using some rustic wood ledges. With the ledges, you can switch out the artwork in the frames and create a new vignette every few months. Maybe each child has their own ledge and makes the decision on what to showcase? You could also put your children’s names (with alphabet blocks) on the ledges to properly attribute the work to the artists. Maybe switch out art at every major holiday through the year—perhaps every time the kids get a Monday holiday off from school? The key is to make it EASY to switch things out…and fun for your kids.
Ikea also has versatile and long picture ledges, and there seems to be a whole part of the internet dedicated to Ikea hacks…ways to upscale and repurpose “basic” Ikea components into clever pieces. In 2015 Lauren Smith of House Beautiful wrote about 12 ways to use Ikea ledges for ingenious organization:
I just love the ideas for hacks, and can envision lots of college students getting their dorm accoutrements together this month… We have an Ikea in Stoughton, and I bet it is super busy with college students this month!
#4: Easy Swap-out Frames
The fourth way to provide an easy way to display kids’ art is with a special frame that allows easy addition and removal of new pieces…without taking the frame off the wall. Available at Amazon, the “Lil Davinci” is a special frame that holds 8.5” x 11” artwork AND stores up to 50 sheets in the frame itself. Gotta love this easy idea and the name!
So, whatever mechanism you decide on to showcase art, I hope you and your little Picassos have a wonderful time creating and arranging your home’s gallery. Kids’ art is so precious and imaginative…and very worthy of display! Ya just gotta do it…
Well it’s July, and like all of you, I’ve been busy for the first half of 2018. So, for today’s blog post, I looked back through the 40+ interior design projects that I’ve finished so far this year to see if there were any trends. As I scrolled through all the photos there was one trend that really jumped out at me; geometric fabric patterns.
Geometrics are definitely hot right now, with diamond and ogee patterns very popular in fabrics, rugs, and banding. Summertime is so perfect for geometrics…think waffle cones and sails and gingham napkins in your beach basket…bicycle tires and the endless straight road ahead on your cross-country road trip, with various shapes of road signs to point to fun and adventure. To show you different incarnations of this trend, here are photos of 10 of my very recent projects that feature interesting geometric fabric patterns. (Click on any photo to enlarge it and to scroll through all the photos):
Personally, I enjoy using bold geometrics in my clients’ designs, and I make sure to center the geometric design on the pillows or pleat-to-pattern on the draperies (see my prior post on “Pleating to Pattern”).
Did you also notice a blue trend among these photographs? Blue, especially Navy Blue is big this year (see my prior post on “The Color Navy – Both a Trend and a Classic”) for more ideas on that cool hue.
Whatever you’re doing this summer, I hope you’re having a wonderful time. While you’re relaxing at the beach or the lake, check back for our blogs in the coming weeks, because Barbara is very much working this summer, since our clients are busy with lots of renovation projects and planning ahead for fall redecorating. You might even call renovation another trend in the Boston area now too…lots of great design going on!
Overnight guests -- Yay!! However, some folks might say “well…truthfully…nay…we’re not ready…”
Whether you love to entertain guests and provide them with accommodations that mimic a 5-star resort, or just “get through it” to provide a reasonable bed for the night, one thing is for sure: having a nice guest room at the ready goes hand-in-hand with summer. You really do want your guests to have a great night’s rest. Invite them, they will surely come!
Here’s some guest room inspiration for you…our hotel room in Lisbon, Portugal from 2 summers ago. This suite was a delight, and so generously appointed, especially the bath.
You might not have as much space as this hotel room to dedicate to your guest room, but it’s always nice to envision a heavenly place that you have stayed at when you embark on designing a special retreat for your guests.
There were several elements which I really enjoyed in this hotel room. First, the draperies were sumptuous silk, and the many layers of drapery, sheers, and shades made for maximum privacy and light control, including blackout for sleep. Second, the room felt special, very European, and while the color scheme was not my most favorite, it had a cohesive design “point of view.” When you examine your own guest room and recognize that it’s furnished in non-coordinated cast-offs, maybe it’s time to actually think about improving both the style and functionality of the room. Making these kinds of changes will certainly put smiling faces at your breakfast table each morning when guests stay over.
For the ultimate in packing in luxurious function for your guests’ every need in a small space, cruise ship cabins are just the ticket for inspiration. Here is a photo of our cabin on the Crystal Serenity on our latest European cruise. I particularly liked the sleek and neutral color scheme and tactile touches…and functional amenities everywhere. And having a cabin steward was pretty nice, too!
To help you out with your planning here are 15 Tips for a Terrific Guest Room Experience:
Of course most of these suggestions are really common sense and adhere to a golden rule of sorts, “Provide for your guests as you would like to be treated as a guest.” In fact, I often recommend to my clients who are embarking on a guest bedroom renovation that they sleep in their guest bedroom for a night and solely use the guest bath. There is nothing like walking in your guests’ shoes (or bedroom slippers) to clearly assess your guest accommodations and plan ways to improve their experience in your home. I hope this blog has given you some food-for-thought and impetus to make your home more friendly for your guests.
It’s summer, and I know lots of you are headed out on vacation. Safe and happy travels to you all! And if you are home and doing the “staycation” thing, I wish you fair weather and a minimum of road construction delays for all your outings and get-togethers. See you next week on the Center Stage blog!
During my local travels to find accessories and artwork for my Boston area clients, I came across a shop in Waltham, MA, which I recommend highly as a “must visit” for my readers in New England:
May’s Gallery at 1377 Main St (Route 117) in Waltham, MA
May imports porcelain vases, jars, bowls, and sculptures directly from the current-day porcelain studios and kilns in Jingdezhen, China. The selection is spectacular, quality is tops, and each piece is a work of art. Here’s a photo of May Lynch, the owner of May’s Gallery (whose family is from Jingdezhen, China) standing in front of some of her beautiful wares.
From a decorative aspect, you will notice blue and white porcelains everywhere in interior design, especially since the color navy and the desire for “clean and crisp” interiors is so popular today. In my Feb 2018 blog post “The Color Navy - Both Trend and a Classic,” I showcased interiors with blue and white porcelains as accessories. So I guess that it’s high time that I gave you some tips on where to shop for these accessories, especially one-of-a-kind pieces of the fine quality offered by May’s Gallery.
I interviewed May and Kevin Lynch about their business and what makes Jingdezhen porcelains so unique. They explained that Jingdezhen, in the Jiangxi Province by the Yangtze River, is the place where the art of porcelain began in China, thanks to local sources of kaolin clay and petuntse (china stone). These “secret ingredients” were combined and fired at temperatures as high as 1,300 ˚C (2,375 ˚F) in local kilns, producing an incredibly strong material that could hold up in even the thinnest of vessels. The colors aren’t limited to blue and white, with celadon green, reds, grays, and other colors being produced and perfected through the centuries by the artisans in Jingdezhen.
May’s offers a large selection of porcelain in traditional Blue and White and reds, celadon, and multi-colored items. I was particularly amazed at the variety of their offerings, especially large items which would be near impossible to have shipped from on-line sources. You just have to see these authentic pieces to appreciate the artwork and fine craftsmanship - and the prices are very fair and reasonable. May’s also offers contemporary designs from the artists of Jingdezhen to complement the traditional styles that make Jingdezhen Porcelain internationally renowned.
On their website, May explains her selection of porcelains:
“Why Jingdezhen Porcelain?
“Where is Jingdezhen?
Here is a link to the website for May’s Gallery if you want to read and see more: http://maysgallery.net/index.html
While doing research for this blog, I found out some interesting things about Blue and White porcelain and the whole “China Trade” of Porcelain. I know, I’m such a history nerd - but it all makes sense to understand why Chinese porcelains became so popular in the Western World (including Europe and America) back in the 1,700’s, and why these fine ceramics have had a place in practically every decorating style across the last 300 years. In a nutshell, the West had to import from China because, until the early 1,700’s, western potters had not discovered the secret ingredients and techniques to make hard shell porcelains. If you would like to know more about this topic, please see the article “History of Chinese Porcelain In America and Europe” by Bruce Richardson:
I always say that you need to showcase any accent color in your home in at least three places in a room, and those accent colors (like red) can be done easily in ceramics. Here’s a particularly beautiful green and white vase I had my eye on for my own dining room in Sudbury which is decorated in shades of green and teal and features many treasures we have picked up from our international travels. As you know, we recently returned from an amazing trip to Japan, Korea, and China, but we were unable to bring back breakable items like ceramics. The scene on this vase is so peaceful to me, and reminiscent of our lovely and peaceful trip.
So, if you are looking for that special accessory for your home, please do yourself a favor and visit May and Kevin at May’s Gallery. I’m so glad I found May’s Gallery as a unique and top-quality local resource, and I hope you’ll visit there soon.
If you were wondering why I didn’t write a blog post last weekend – well I was in Florida on my bi-monthly visit with my Mother. This visit was especially important since during it we celebrated her latest birthday! Yea Mom!! While I was visiting my Mother I got to thinking that I should write a blog about how your age impacts the design of your house. So here it is.
You may have heard the term “Aging in Place,” meaning you design or renovate your home to accommodate future physical mobility and strength issues to enable you to remain in your home as long as possible in old age. An added plus to implementing “Aging in Place” measures during your healthy years is that you’ll make your home safer now and thereby prevent potential accidents and falls (which are the root cause of many senior mobility issues in the first place!).
You might be wondering what specific knowledge and expertise I have in this area. Well, I studied all these ADA and Universal Design guidelines in design school, and have had a few clients over the years where we made deliberate changes to accommodate mobility issues. But it all came into practice in a huge way helping my mother reconfigure her apartment after a major fall more than 2 years ago. Talk about “up close and personal and immediate!” After a long stay in the hospital and a rehabilitation facility, she came home with permanent balance issues which require her to use a walker, wheelchair or scooter. She gets around great with her walker, wheelchair and scooter, and she continues to live life independently, but boy have life and previously simple tasks changed for her. Here we are at her place just last week when I visited for her birthday—we had a lovely time! She is such a treasure, and it was nice to see her feeling well and happy.
This getting older is truly a bummer…but that’s the reality of it. I’m sure many of you have older and/or disabled relatives and friends whom you worry about and look after. It’s amazing how once a relative’s physical infirmity impacts you, you see your home and all its “danger zones and hazards” in an entirely new light.
So, what can we do when we’re healthy and contemplating a remodeling project to make good design choices that could enhance safety and livability later -- WAY down the road?
Here are 6 Simple Remodeling Choices to Make NOW That Will Benefit You Aging in Place LATER
So, a little dose of practicality in today’s blog, just some things to think about if you are doing a remodeling project and want to use some good design principles. Actually, “Aging in Place” principles go hand-in-hand with “Universal Design,” the idea that products and buildings should be both aesthetically appealing and inherently usable to the widest possible audience, including people with disabilities and mobility issues. And if you sell your home and buyers are attracted by the fact that your home is already conducive to handle a visitor with special needs, perfect!
Above is a photo of my mother’s shower area in one of the two bathrooms in her apartment. You can see the rocker switch on the wall and the extra vertical grab bars we had installed inside and outside the shower to enable her to safely step over the threshold. It was a simple matter to install a hand-held shower head to her original wall-mounted shower head and add the plastic shower seat. It might not look so pretty with all that silver hardware, but the bathroom was designed large enough she could maneuver with her wheelchair to access the toilet, sink and shower, so the changes were straightforward and low-cost. We didn’t have to move any walls or do any major construction in her apartment remodel, thank goodness. We just had to add the grab bars, improve the lighting (so important), rearrange things to lower cabinets for accessibility, install low (commercial style) carpeting to allow for easier wheelchair use, move the washer/dryer, and basically “rethink” every task and unsteady step she would need to take. The occupational therapists were superb and helped us in planning for this new reality.
In addition to all my other efforts I am currently working as the “On-Site Designer” with One Wingate Way in Needham, MA (http://onewingateway.com/), an independent living community very similar to my mother’s. It’s a great concept, and as a family member, a living arrangement I highly endorse for safety, peace of mind, and enjoyment. At One Wingate Way, I provide new residents with any interior design services they may need to make their well-appointed luxury apartments their own. It’s certainly a pleasure to partner with One Wingate Way and get to know their residents! Above is a photo of the showroom I have set up in one of the apartments at One Wingate Way:
For more information on Aging-in-place, I encourage you to visit the following website from the National Council on Aging Care and check back on my blog for future posts. Next time we’re in this category I’ll cover super-helpful gadgets. Who doesn’t love a gadget in this day and age? Here are some great tips on making sound decisions for your bedroom redesign:
If you would like to read the detailed report prepared by Marianne Cusato, HomeAdvisor’s Housing Expert and a Professor of the Practice at the University of Notre Dame’s School of Architecture, you can find it here:
In addition, here’s a terrific article from Jon Gorey published in the Boston Globe on Nov 25, 2016 “Don’t wait until it’s too late to make your home accessible”: https://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2016/11/25/how-build-your-home-now-accessible-for-all/HzVhDRFlKQy6naihhQGaFJ/story.html
That’s all for now. If this “Aging in Place” subject is of interest to you, write to me and tell me what issues and questions you have, and I’ll address them in future posts.
Until next weekend - be safe and happy!
This year Memorial Day is Monday, 28 May, officially a day of remembrance honoring the men and women who died while serving in the US military. It used to be called “Decoration Day”, which originated in the South where graves were decorated in memorial, and then became an official US National holiday in 1971. It’s also the “official” start of summer… of when you can wear white (an arcane rule for sure), plant your annuals here in Massachusetts, and other key milestones linked to summer. Glorious summer - we are so ready!
Today, my topic is about military veterans and buying products made in America. This is not political, I promise. It’s a celebration of American spirit, work ethic, and service. When someone asks “How do you thank a veteran for their service,” I always say, “give them a job and hire them.” That’s putting American dedication and know-how to work! Good business for all of us.
If you have three minutes you should this watch this business video on a NY company, Tidal New York, who hires veterans to make flip-flops. It will probably make you smile:
I’m a veteran. Did you know that? I retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Air Force with 10+ years of active duty service (to include time in the Pentagon), then 15 years in the Air Force Reserves. My Air Force experience was fabulous, and I was one of the lucky ones who had a great career and retired with all my body parts and head still intact. Sadly I can’t say that for many of my comrades, God bless them.
So what does Memorial Day have to do with my Interior Design blog? Well, I’m privileged to sell products from two companies that go the extra step to make their blinds and shade products in America: Comfortex (Albany, NY - https://www.comfortex.com/) and Lafayette (West Lafayette, Indiana - http://www.lafvb.com/).
You might think it’s a simple matter to select vendors that manufacture their products in America, but sadly lots of custom window treatment products (yes, custom, not only mass-produced, but custom) are now made in China, Mexico, and other nations with lower cost labor. Bravo to these two American companies, Comfortex and Lafayette, and their terrific American-made products. And it always makes me smile when I get the packages with the red, white, and blue labels as shown on the box below:
As I reflect on the real meaning of Memorial Day I am drawn to the images of the American cemetery in Normandy, France (which we visited in 2015 - 71 years after the Normandy invasion) and the sacrifices that the soldiers made storming the beaches and the cliffs.
Have a great Memorial Day weekend. And thanks to all veterans out there, and to the families of the fallen comrades that we honor this Memorial Day. Your sacrifice is supreme, and we salute you.
Powerful stuff - glad to be an American today and always.
If you love interior design or DIY, you may remember the “Trading Spaces” design show on TV from 2000 to 2008...probably most memorable for the ridiculously impractical and out-there designs of Hildi Santo-Tomas (hay on walls, furniture mounted upside-down on the ceiling, and sand on the floor indoors, oh my) and the launching point of some of today’s big name designers and TV personalities: Genevieve Gorder (TV host of over 20 shows, plus her own branded line of interior design products), Vern Yip (“Design Star” TV show judge and designer of lines of décor, lighting, and fabric and trims), Ty Pennington (personable carpenter who went on to host Extreme Makeover: Home Edition), and Laurie Smith (who continued to design and branded lighting and fabric lines), among a few. These folks all showed their design and client interaction talents for the world to see on the first Trading Spaces, and the world (including the design community who you would think would scoff at DIY) responded approvingly. Here’s a link to what all the designers have done since the iteration of “Trading Spaces” left the air 10 years ago:
Photo courtesy of TLC and Usmagazine.com
I loved watching Trading Spaces years ago, but please know I didn’t exactly love all of the makeovers. Actually, I probably only liked about a third, because you know, some of it wasn’t actually good design, plus it’s just so easy to be an “armchair decorator” and second-guess things after the big reveal. For the show’s first iteration, I think the best part was the spirit and attitude necessary for the designers, homeowners, and friends and relatives (who were usually 100% novices at DIY) to … just do it! For me, the show had a terrific mix of energy, problem-solving, and people interaction skills that was always entertaining. If you want some laughs and want to revisit some of the “worst” of the first season (which ran 2000 – 2008), check out this recent article from House Beautiful magazine:
The formula for the new iteration of Trading Spaces is essentially the same as the original show: Two teams of two people trade houses, and with the direction of a designer and carpenter and a budget of $2000 provided by the show, they transform one room in each other’s homes. Paige Davis is still the host, and she has always done a beautiful job as the upbeat host with a sympathetic ear and kind spirit…good psychologist too.
There was quite a build-up in recent months for the new show. On the televised reunion show, Vern Yip remarked “Trading spaces opened up design to everyone.” And Genevieve Gorder said the best compliment she receives are from 25-year-olds who come up to her and say that Trading Spaces inspired them to be designers. Well, TS sure convinced me way back in 2000 when I was finishing up my Interior Design studies at the University of California that there was inordinate value in formally studying Interior Design (and learning what not to do). I’m so glad I was actually academically trained…it has really helped me give my clients a great design experience.
So what’s my review of the new Trading Spaces on TLC now that it has 5 episodes under its belt? Excellentl!! The mix of all the things that made the first show successful are still there, but I have to say the designs now are more polished, sophisticated, and look feasible for the homeowners to actually live there after the production crew has departed. The rooms on the new season have been pretty ambitious. Further, the new show demonstrates clearly that selective and small “craftsy” projects are feasible, but need to be impeccably executed. (And Hildi’s recent painting of leaves all over basement walls were not well executed, IMO). Also helpful and challenging is the $2000 budget (per team) for materials (versus $1000 in the original show). Of course, both old and new shows get the luxury of TONS of additional free labor, including a carpenter. Homeowner reactions are still a hoot…some love their new rooms, some cringe, but all homeowners thus far are gracious and appreciative of the work their friends did. It’s all about expectation management.
The best episode so far this new season was Episode 3 - “Feng Shui & The Golden Nook” - where Vern Yip and Genevieve Gorder, my two favorite designers, designed master suites. Both rooms were superb. Since it’s no secret that these two designers love fabric (and now design and market their own fabrics), it was a natural show for me to love. Vern did the orange Feng Shui room, and Genevieve the gold room.
Here’s a link to the episode - Season 9/Episode 3:
I totally agree with the good reviews the new show has been getting in the press. Hank Steuver wrote the following in a 6 April 2018 Washington Post article titled “Trading Spaces” returns to TLC, as comfortable as an old sofa’
“Trading Spaces” returns us to a safer, saner space of amateur willingness and neighborly bonhomie. Aesthetically, though, it seems Doug and Hildi haven’t moved a stone in 10 years. When the couples open their eyes, there’s no mistaking that both rooms look very much like the rooms that were revealed all those years ago.”
I couldn’t have said it better myself. So check out the new Trading Spaces on TLC, or DVR them and binge watch when you need a bit of a fix. As a side note, you might be surprised at the other famous designers you may see on the new show--well-known designers who didn’t appear on the first iteration (like Clinton Kelly from “What Not to Wear”, Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent) are showing up to do rooms now…that speaks volumes to the popularity and fun of the Trading Spaces concept. I applaud these designers (who are already stars and probably millionaires) for giving this format a shot, and being super good sports given all the constraints….like the time and the budget… Go figure, time and budget constraints like in the real world.
And, finally, major foot stomp here……
If you happen to work for TLC (The Learning Channel) and are reading my blog, please know I am totally ready to be a guest designer on the new Trading Spaces! Call me!!
Barbara Phillips, interior designer and owner of Center Stage Interior Designs, has delivered impeccable window treatments and design services to both residential and commercial clients in Massachusetts since 2001.