January has just ended and I bet a few of you took the start of the New Year to clear out some of the clutter from your homes. Bravo! Since the Winter weather was in full force here, we also cleaned out several things from our house, and now it’s time to get rid of these items for good. How? Let’s explore “Five Ways to Happily Get Rid of Stuff”. (Although the specific agencies cited below are local to Sudbury, MA – there are similar organizations in every town).
1) Donate. Two clients asked me this week for names of local charities that accept household and décor items – part of the reason that I chose the topic for this week’s blog. If you want to donate items here are just a couple of the charities in the Boston area that you should check out:
a. Habitat for Humanity ReStore: I’m sure that you have all heard of Habitat for Humanity, but did you know they have stores in West Roxbury, Tyngsboro, and Worcester where you can both donate and buy household items INCLUDING building materials? Yes, Habitat for Humanity will take your old cabinets, light fixtures, chandeliers, blinds (but not draperies) and all sorts of furniture and things. I became acquainted with the Habitat for Humanity ReStore in Worcester last year when I contacted an on-line retailer about returning an incredibly heavy marble-top table that was most definitely not true to the online photo. The company said their policy was to donate returns to Habitat for Humanity and asked that I deliver it to the Worcester ReStore, and they would credit me. Nice! If you have just undergone a renovation and have lots of tile or other building materials left over, and have no interest in keeping it piled up in your basement or garage, consider donating it a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. Here’s the link to their Worcester location: http://www.habitatmwgw.org/restore/
b. Household Goods: Formerly Household Goods Recycling of Massachusetts (HGRM), Acton MA. Household Goods provides a full range of donated furniture and household items, free of charge, to help people in need make a home. This organization was founded 24 years ago by a local couple who saw a need and filled it, beautifully and profoundly. Check out what you can donate at: https://householdgoods.org
c. Cradles to Crayons (for Kids’ Stuff): Cradles to Crayons (C2C) is a non-profit organization that provides homeless and low-income children living in Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago with the essentials they require to thrive - to feel safe, warm, ready to learn, and valued (text credit to Wikipedia). I heard about Cradles to Crayons through my church in Sudbury, and it’s one of the few local organizations that take children’s clothing, strollers, and baby items. Be sure to check out what they do and don’t take at their Boston location at: https://www.cradlestocrayons.org/boston/take-action/donate-goods/items-we-accept/
Don’t you just love those “Letgo” app ads on TV? Have you seen the one a woman is letting go (in mid-air) of her sewing machine….gasp…what is she thinking???? Well, that brought my attention to the whole business and genius behind the Letgo site. One person’s trash (and taking up valuable space at that) is another’s treasure…and the internet is chock full of ways to link up buyers and sellers: Letgo, OfferUp, Dealo, Varage Sale, Trove Marketplace, Ebay, Craigslist and many, many more. But today I wanted to highlight three consignment shops in the MetroWest area of Boston that are all top-rate. They each have a high turnover rate for the furniture they sell, which is terrific for both sellers and buyers. They are also pretty discriminating at what merchandise they take in to sell, which is a good thing too.
There are so many ways to repurpose furniture, too much to go into this blog. But suffice to say that if you are thinking of getting rid of something, give a little thought to repurposing it first. A nightstand can change into a charging station, a coffee table can morph into an ottoman with an upholstered top, and a desk can serve as a console table behind a sofa. Let me help you think through the options and get the right people on the task if you aren’t up to doing it yourself (and that’s perfectly okay…)
4) Give it to Friends, Relatives or Strangers
Of course you can plain-old give your stuff away and it doesn’t have to be to a charitable cause. College students are always looking for furniture at the end of summer and will take a “lesser quality” than you might think. There are many local “Freecycle” groups and networks in Massachusetts that are dedicated to recycling stuff…Google your town and “Freecycle” as a starting point or go to Freecycle.org. Here’s their listing for towns in Massachusetts: https://www.freecycle.org/browse/US/Massachusetts
5) Trash….for some things, it’s really just time. Local hauling companies will cart your junk away, and if you have a mountain of it and a free weekend, you can rent a dumpster to be put in your own driveway. We’ve used 1-800-Got-Junk. Their prices are based on the volume of the junk that they cart away – so for all that loose stuff they are a great option: https://www.1800gotjunk.com/us_en
The bottom line is that getting rid of stuff is usually cathartic to your overall mental health and frees you up to make all those beautiful decorating changes that have been rattling around in your head. Although I put today’s “how to happily get rid of stuff” post in the Seasonal Decorating category, it’s more like Seasonal (Un)decorating. Sometimes you have to clear things out to think fresh. Groundhog day was just a few days ago and the verdict was six more weeks of winter…so while we’re stuck inside for a few more weeks, being productive and clearing out all that clutter will make you feel great.
Let me begin by wishing all of you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year - as I write this post about a crafty idea to hang your Holiday cards. By now you have probably received a few Christmas or Holiday cards and might be searching for an easy way to display them. A way which doesn’t destroy the cards themselves (keeper photos!) or your walls, cabinets, or furniture with tape or nails.
Here is an idea I came up with years ago to make ribbon holders that slip over the doors in my home—full size doors like this, and also cabinet doors in the kitchen. The key is to use elastic and craft ribbon (sewn together or attached with safety pins) to make a stretchable sling. Then I just attach small binder clips to the ribbon with straight pins (old technology) or a tag gun (newer technology, and advisable if you have small children). So, no tape, no nails, nothing permanent, and totally usable for next year.
Here’s what the back side of the ribbon holder looks like. I have sewn the elastic to the ribbon at the top, and used a safety pin at the bottom. It is advisable to use a fabric ribbon rather than a paper or plastic ribbon.
It really couldn’t be simpler. And I’m very surprised I have never seen this commercially available…though I have Googled it and have seen some other clever ideas, but never on exactly like this.
FREE OFFER! Here’s a special offer for all you readers out there!!! I am happy to send one of my card holders FREE to the FIRST 10 people who request it. Just contact me by clicking here and sending me your address and the height of one of your doors. Most doors are about 80”. Also please tell me if you want it the ribbon to be more of a Christmas colors (reds) or neutral (silver or gold).
Thanks for reading my rather crafty post today. I hope that your holiday decorating and shopping are going well! In eastern Massachusetts we got almost 7” of snow yesterday and that definitely puts me in a fine Christmas spirit. Now if I could just find some energy to send out my own Christmas cards….
Today’s post is about the dining room - making sure your lighting and tablescape are ready to give the right ambiance to your holiday meal. With Thanksgiving coming up this week, and Christmas just around the corner, I have been thinking about ways to make dining rooms more comfortable and inviting, thereby enticing your guests to linger at the table (and rave over your delicious food, funny jokes, and ultra polite children, naturally!)
In conjuring the image of a holiday table that delights and invites, I initially think about the all-important element of lighting. Most dining rooms have a single chandelier over the table. How high should that chandelier be mounted? A good rule of thumb is that the lowest element should be 30” to 32” above the table in a room with an 8’ ceiling. If the ceiling is over 8’ tall, then the chandelier itself can be a bit taller (to visually fill the space more dramatically) and it can be mounted an additional 2”-3” higher for each additional foot of ceiling. Also important is the diameter of the chandelier. To arrive at a ballpark chandelier diameter (assuming a round chandelier), add the length and width of the room in feet (say 10’ + 14” = 24), and that will give you the best diameter (in inches) for your chandelier. So, in our example of a 10’x14’ dining room, a 24” chandelier is a good bet. But it is also important to consider the width of your table, and a chandelier should generally be at least 12” narrower than your table, to ensure that your guests don’t hit their heads or have to sit uncomfortably right underneath a light. Some designers use the convention of ½ to ¾ the width of the table for the proper width of a chandelier, but most definitely make it narrower than the table. The most important part of the dining equation is that the guests seated at the table can see each other and don’t have to dodge a crystal fob or metal arm to make eye contact that says, “That drumstick is clearly mine!”
Here is a beautiful transitional fixture from Uttermost, the Boreas 7 light chandelier. What a lovely art piece that softens the room. And did you know I am an Uttermost dealer? (I know that’s a shameful promotion, but hey, this is an interior design blog after all and you are probably looking for design solutions.)
Another important factor in dining room lighting ambiance is the use of a dimmer on the chandelier and using other lighting sources in the room, like candles and lamps on a sideboard. You see, the light shining down from an overhead chandelier will cast harsh shadows on faces…and light sources lower to the table will counteract that effect. Who doesn’t look better in candlelight, anyway? Another solution to soften the light is to use individual shades on the chandelier bulbs or select a drum shade chandelier. Just like lighting in a bathroom where sconces on the sides of mirrors give a better glow to the face instead of a fixture directly overhead.
Perhaps you are considering a rectangular or oval lighting fixture? I love all the options for rectangular and oval fixtures available today, and the abundance of these shapes will give you many options for a rectangular table, especially one that is narrow. Below is a photo from KW Designs (Del Mar, CA) which features a Jonathan Adler “Meurice” chandelier in a mid-century transitional setting. I love the use of wood in the room and the live-edge table (which, by the way, you can get here on the East Coast through me at Harden Furniture).
Another popular lighting option is the hanging of multiple smaller mini-chandeliers or pendants over a dining room table. I much prefer it when 3 or more are used rather than just a pair (just a designer thing……)
Other proportion advice for the dining room: the area rug. For your dining room, you must find a rug size that allows the table and chairs to completely sit on the rug, even when the chairs are pulled out. For most dining room tables an 8’ x 10’ rug may be sufficient, but most certainly a 9’x12’. Of course, circular tables require round rugs.
Here’s my last piece of advice for making your dining room comfortable for guests; nothing says “gracious entertaining” more than an arrangement of fresh flowers. Because it’s the holiday season yesterday I visited an Open House by Isabelle Zee, a floral designer in Sudbury who creates the most spectacular arrangements, each a sculptural work of art you wish would last forever. You can learn about her business, Les Bouquets Du Grillon, at her website:
Here are photos of some of Isabelle’s custom creations that she showcased during the Open House. Amazing! Just remember the rule that your guests should be able to see each other across the table and therefore any center floral arrangement that you put on the table shouldn’t be too tall.
And here is the arrangement I purchased from Isabelle for my own Thanksgiving table. I guess that I will have to use the “good china” to do justice to this centerpiece!
While attending yesterday’s open house it occurred to me that this coming Saturday, Nov 25th, is “Shop Local Saturday”. Since I heartily agree with the concept of supporting local small businesses in your town I wanted to share this news with all of my clients, especially those who in Sudbury and surrounding towns of Concord, Acton, Maynard, Wayland, and Weston. Sudbury has some wonderful artisans and shops for décor items, and I look forward to sharing news of other local business owners with you through my blog. It seems like great new small businesses are popping up in Sudbury and the surrounding towns all the time. Since I can’t seem to keep up with them all I’m grateful to my friend Ellen for introducing me to Isabelle Zee of Les Bouquets du Grillon.
Buy Local!! Happy Thanksgiving! I have much to celebrate this year. Blessings to you and yours for a Happy Holiday.
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.