For the last half of 2020 my workroom has been buzzing with lots of activity since so many people have turned their focus to updating their homes this year. I'm very lucky to have so many new and repeat clients that want to work with me to transform their decorating visions into finished rooms. Here are some photos from a few of the projects that I have recently completed.
While you’re looking at the photos if you see anything that strikes your fancy, and you want to start a new project of your own, give me a call. I would love to work with you too! (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
Lately I've been busy shopping for new furniture for several of my clients. Consequently I have been to many of the furniture showrooms and specialty stores in the Boston area, and during my travels I've run across several clever furniture ideas that I thought I would share.
1. Furniture that fits our digital world and our need for electrical power. Does the following scenario sound familiar? You haven’t updated your family room furniture in years, and there’s no way to power your electronic devices when sitting on the sofa or relaxing in your chair, short of unsightly extension cords.
If this strikes a nerve, you might want to take a look at some new low-cost end tables, like the one shown below that has a handy (and hidden) electrical port at the back. I found this end table at LazyBoy furniture when I was searching for a “power” footrest sofa for some elderly clients. This is a simple solution for your family room to keep everyone happy and well-charged. If you look around these clever “powered” tables are everywhere these days.
2. Nesting Coffee Tables. Although this isn’t a new concept, there are now many options for space-efficient and versatile coffee tables, like the round nested tables shown below, on the market. Some even come with marble or stone tops that add lots of versatility - the children can play and do writing projects, and your friends can safely set down a cup of coffee or drink. Yes, after Covid, we will eventually have guests in our homes again! Plus, introducing a stone top provides interest and dimension to your family room in addition to beautiful functionality.
3. Expandable Bench. I came across this clever bench at my local Jordan’s Furniture in Natick, MA, and thought that the idea was just ingenious. They show it at the base of a bed, but I can also envision it in a mudroom or entryway, neatly compacted down like in the last photo. The wood top would be perfect for you and your children to take off winter boots after playing in the snow. Then, when you have company and need to expand your dining room seating to accommodate more people, you can expand this bench to seat at 3 or 4 people. And look at the price Jordan’s is charging, amazingly low for such a versatile bench.
4. Space-saving console table with stools for back of the sofa. A year ago I blogged about the clever “Gathering Island” concept: “Furniture for Gathering in the Family Room”. Below is a photo of a similar concept, that I recently found at Jordan’s, where a flip top panel at the front is a terrific additional feature. You can put this piece behind a sofa that might be floating in the room, and then be able to work on your laptop while sitting higher than your family members who have scored the comfy sofa seats. Convertible furniture is really nothing new, of course, and college students and city-dwellers face this kind of challenge all the time when trying to determine how to live in an ultra-small space. For homeowners, however, we seldom think or look for adding space saving ideas to enhance our existing spaces. Additionally, if we are lucky enough to live in a moderate or large size house, we might not even contemplate googling “space-saving” furniture. (But then that’s what you hire me for - helping you envision the possibilities.)
5. Having it all in a coffee table. Upholstered ottomans in front of a sofa are very popular nowadays. Really, who doesn’t want to put their feet up at the end of a day? But relying on a tray set upon the coffee table to hold drinks and snacks seems like an unstable proposition for everyday use. Here are two coffee tables which combine the ottoman idea with the hard-surface idea. The first is from LazyBoy, with a pull-out table top, and I spotted the second, with a hard shelf, at Boston Interiors.
6. Another versatile coffee table. By now, you can tell I’ve been shopping for coffee tables, right? Here’s a coffee table I found at LazyBoy which beautifully combines the need for drawer storage of TV remotes and such, but still has a glass top for functionality and durability. It doesn’t dominate, but is a happy “supporting player” in a family room.
7. Storage ottoman that converts to a chair. This is a clever piece that I thought would be perfect in a family room or basement play room; found at Jordan’s. I can envision storing throws (or Legos and action figures or dolls) in the piece which would be easy to move around a basement.
I hope that seeing some of these clever furniture ideas energizes you to examine your own spaces, particularly your family room. Let’s face it – we are all spending lots of time at home as we get through the Covid morass, and this is the time to at least identify where you could be more comfortable and productive in your home.
You might not know it, but the furniture industry is booming during Covid - all the manufacturers are working, and interior designers (such as myself) are happy to help you make your home more comfortable and aesthetically pleasing while we ride this all out.
So call me, and let’s do a virtual walk through of your home, or a socially-distanced in-person visit.
I just returned from 17 days touring the Midwest, and one of the most pleasant surprises was seeing so many farms in Wisconsin, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Arkansas and West Virginia with custom "Quilt Blocks" on their farms as their signature brand. Here are a few photos of some the barn Quilt Blocks that we saw during our trip (click on any photo to start the slideshow):
Although barn quilt blocks have been around for many years, there's been a spike in popularity in the past 20 years. "From humble beginnings in Adams County, Ohio, the idea has spread to 49 States with more than 9,000 barn quilts organized into more than 120 Barn Quilt Trails - and surely thousands more that are not mapped." - Suzi Parron, author of the books "Barn Quilts and the American Quilt trail Movement" and "Following the Barn Quilt Trail”.
As detailed in a John Deere Homestead article (https://www.johndeerehomestead.com/2016/09/04/barn-quilt-craze/), the Barn Quilt Block idea dates back to Maxine and Donna Sue Groves of Manchester, Ohio. “In 1989, my mother and I moved to a small farm that had an old - and very plain looking - tobacco barn,” says Donna Sue. “Mother was an avid quilter so I promised her I would brighten up the barn by adding a quilt square. Friends and neighbors chided me into actually following through and I had a Snail’s Trail quilt square painted and hung in 2001, but in the process a group of us decided to paint a bunch of them in hopes of developing a tourist attraction. We put quilt squares on twenty barns (the number of squares in a typical bed spread) and the idea took off like wildfire.”
Barn quilts are generally chosen from a family's own colorful quilt pattern that has been passed down through the years. Then the family's quilt pattern is turned into public art on their own barn or other building, and it becomes part of a quilt trail.
If you want to read more about this interesting phenomenon, here are some links to browse through:
Finding design inspiration can be difficult, and the challenge is different for everyone – but luckily inspiration sources are actually everywhere. Might it be lurking in all those travel photos and mementos that you have stashed away waiting for a rainy day?
Right now we could all use some inspiration, and many of the clients that I’ve reached out to recently say that they’re using this “pause” to look at old photographs and finally organize them. What a wonderful endeavor - one that often gets sidelined after a trip or special occasion. It’s remarkable that even organizing today’s digital photographs can get set aside, even though our devices and computers make the task as streamlined as possible. Perhaps it’s that we take too many photographs with the magic of digital photography, and the sheer enormity of just deciding which of the 1000+ vacation photos to print becomes a chore for the “do it later” pile.
As you know, I love to travel with my family – to far-off exotic places, cities, national parks, grand vistas, historic sites all over the globe, you name it. Over the years, one of the things that I’ve found is that after we return home, our photographs become a marvelous source of inspiration for new design projects, both in our home and on my client engagements. For example, after we returned from a trip to Japan (you can see that blog post here – “Design Impressions from Japan”), my daughter and I embarked on a project to redesign our Massachusetts backyard into more of a Japanese garden. Ironically we happened upon more Japanese garden inspiration later that year on a trip to Acadia National Park in Maine where we found the beautiful Asticou Azalea Garden, a Japanese stroll garden built in 1956/57. I marvel at the peace and calm of the photo every time I see it. The ducks in the photo apparently appreciated the wonderful setting too.
Another inspirational trip for us was our journey to Paris, Giverny (Claude Monet’s home), Bordeaux, and Lisbon. In a previous blogpost (“A New Fabric Line That Is Perfect for Summer”) I shared some photographs from that trip where we marveled at the beautiful architecture of the churches, monuments, and all the gorgeous detail.
However, that’s not so say that you have to travel half way around the world to find inspiring sights. For example, here’s a photo taken inside a lighthouse in Maine that echoes the beauty of the architectural form I love so much, albeit in a much more rustic fashion.
In the Boston area, architectural splendor and design are all around, and in sometimes seemingly unlikely places like the Waterworks Museum in Boston, which I featured in a previous post (“Waterworks Museum: Worth Visiting for Industrial Design Inspiration”) and in trips to local area parks and preserves which have also produced an abundance of design inspiration for me. Who can dispute the beauty of the natural form in budding branches that are so welcome outside our windows right now? Here’s a photo of the Kanzan Cherry tree in my front yard from last year:
I can’t wait to see what this Spring’s display will be this year. Blossoming branches are a terrific way to refresh your interior, as shown below in a Pottery Barn photo of their Faux Sakura Cherry Blossom branch in a kitchen setting. Are your forsythias in bloom right now? Are your local pussy willows peeking out their fuzzy buds? Is your lilac bush blooming? To brighten things up you might take some of these budding branches, put them in vase with water and celebrate the resilience of Springtime inside your home right now.
Of course I’m also fortunate to be surrounded by numerous nature preserves. During a trip with my daughter to a local park in Marlborough last Fall we saw a line of trees that struck a design note with me since it reminded me of Monet’s painting “The Four Trees”.
So my message to you today is clear – if you’re looking for design inspiration you already have inspiration at your fingertips in the photos of the people and places that you hold most dear. If you see a pattern in the things you photograph (like seaside scenes, or branches, or interesting doorways) you can use these images as design inspiration to make wholesale changes in your home (e.g. paint, wallpaper, furniture, light fixtures, window treatments, etc.,) or, on a much smaller scale, you might consider developing a photo montage for a gallery grouping in your home.
But that’s a topic for my next blog where I’ll give you my advice on composing a gallery wall and installing it easily and perfectly by yourself; a great project that you can easily accomplish while you’re stuck at home. Needless to say, with all the on-line resources for printing your photos to any imaginable size and medium these days (like Shutterfly), it’s an easy DIY task to move your inspiration from your computer screen to your walls so that you can be surrounded by the images you love.
In fact, the online systems have grown so sophisticated that I’m happy to say that my very artistic daughter has been putting her own artwork and designs on-line via Redbubble.com so that other people can also enjoy her paintings, drawings, doodles, colorful "word art" and photographs by having them made into products. What kind of products - well almost anything to include: coffee mugs, stickers, phone cases, wall art prints, T-shirts, pillows, acrylic blocks, coasters, postcards, greeting cards, tote bags, drawstring bags, water bottles, shower curtains, and spiral notebooks. She even edited her photographs in Photoshop and uploaded them to as large format photos (~25 MB each) so that they can made into large products such as throw blankets, shower curtains, pillows, laptop cases and skins, scarves, notebooks, etc. The Redbubble website is really nice since it shows exactly what the product will look like with the selected artwork. So check it out! She is an amazing artist and entrepreneur. As you might guess I’m so proud of her. Here’s the link to my daughters Redbubble Shop and a few of her photos as they would look transferred to various products:
In closing, here’s a little design inspiration for you – a photo of my daughter’s latest oil painting: “Old Keys and Flowers”
One thing’s for sure - we could all use some inspiration, encouragement, fortitude and togetherness-in-spirit right now. Hang in there and God bless all of you.
Today I would like to introduce you to Stickley Furniture’s totally ingenious piece of family room furniture - “The Gathering Island.”
As you can see in the photo below, Stickley’s Gathering Island is essentially a high table, perfect for counter-height stools, that can also serve many functions in your family room. It fits behind a sectional or sofa with ease, provides extra seating with stools that tuck away, and serves a perfect storage spot for accessories, remotes, lamps, and other electronic necessities of today. The Gathering Island also comes with electrical outlets so you can perch above the sofa, with your laptop on the tabletop, and plug in all your essential devices. As important as the “kitchen island” is in today’s kitchens, this “Gathering Island” is a stylish and functional piece of hardworking furniture for your family room.
I especially like Stickley’s Gathering Island with the stone top (shown below); so much so that I recently recommended it to one of my clients. I featured that client’s family room in a previous blog post (“Backdrops for a Perfectly Styled Bookshelf”) and in that post you can see the gray Stickley Gathering Island my client eventually selected, with the stone inlay top.
Of course you can replicate this idea on your own by selecting an appropriate-height sofa table (34” tall is ideal), but such a table is not always easy to find. So, if you’re searching online, look for “sofa table” or “console table,” and then narrow down the list to options that give the proper height and have unobstructed space underneath.
Below you can see I utilized this idea in the basement of another client’s home, where the client wanted some extra seating for game-days. My client installed a stone top over the console table we selected, an Uttermost piece she purchased through me, which unfortunately is not available anymore.
However, the currently available Uttermost “Mavis Table”, shown below with a 34” high top, would be perfect for a “Gathering Island”: (https://www.uttermost.com/Mavis-Console-Table-R24894/?SelectedSKU=R24894)
You can see the full selection of Stickley’s Gathering Islands at their website:
I have to say, the term “Gathering Island” makes me smile as I sit in my design studio/workroom and look at the snow-covered scene we have for Christmas this year, since it makes me think of friends and family sharing time together.
Best Wishes to everyone for a wonderful Holiday season! May your family gather, rejoice and be happy in 2020.
Blogs, Pinterest, Houzz, On-line magazines…... The on-line collection of inspirational home décor resources is astounding. And, many of my clients tell me, overwhelming. Sometimes that’s precisely why clients hire me - because in this digital age, information overload is a constant tax on our attention, time, and psyche – and they want a professional to help them sort the wheat from the chaff.
I’ve discussed this before in my blog…the dizzying array of home décor products and our impetus to track down “just the right one,” which sometimes leads to delay, procrastination, and sadly, not getting it done - except when you get that phone call that you are having out-of-town company for Thanksgiving, and now you really need to get it done.
So, in today’s post, I’d like to share some of my favorite sources of on-line inspiration, specifically other bloggers who I follow (in no particular order, they are all wonderful). The blogs of these four interior designers are my absolute favorites:
All of these women are talented designers and successful entrepreneurs. Enjoy!!!
Erin Gates, Elements of Style
You have heard me enthusiastically compliment Erin Gates, a fellow Boston area designer, for her creativity, design style, authorship of books, entrepreneurial style and all around terrific blog. What an inspirational success story on her life and her work. Anyway, check out her blog and her review of the new Serena and Lily store in Boston.
Yes!! the West-coast “go-to” furniture source has just opened a showroom in Chestnut Hill (220 Boylston St., Chestnut Hill, 617-795-5999, serenaandlily.com) I’m looking forward to checking it out very soon myself.
Tobi Fairley, Designer, Entrepreneur, Southern Style Aficionado
Tobi Fairley is one of my favorite designers and I love that she is also an entrepreneur dedicated to helping other designers find a profitable and creatively meaningful place in this digital age which has literally rocked the interior design business, good and bad.
So, we are now seeing famous designers like Tobi reaching out to help other designers through podcasts and coaching. You’ll want to check out her blog, it’s divine!
Sarah Richardson, TV show host, an all-around talented designer, and inspirational interior design professional
I have spoken before on this blog about my admiration for Sarah Richardson, and I have collected all of her design books now. I saw Sarah speak at a Design Conference about 8 years ago, when she was the keynote speaker, and I was struck by how genuine and inspirational she was. Her revamped website and blog are terrific, and she provides the sources of the products she recommends. Just lovely, all around!
Laurel Bern, Laurel Bern Interiors
No presentation of “favorite blogs” would be complete without my absolute favorite, the master, Laurel Bern! You will find Laurel’s wit, design style, and helpful advice right on target. She’s terrific, and I look forward to getting her blogs in my in-box several times per week. I especially love how she combines traditional styling (including historic art) into her posts.
You all know how much I love window treatments, and it appears Laurel does too. I am spot on with all her perspectives on what to do, and what not to do. Here’s a post she wrote that I totally resonate with:
What do all these designers/bloggers have in common? They are generous with their advice, they have all published multiple books, they are excellent designers, and they are truly inspirational. Check them out!
And if you follow other bloggers and want to compare notes personally with me, please email me from my "Contact" page. I don’t have a “comments” section on this blog, but I do respond to email inquiries, just reach out. And of course, keep reading my blog too!
Since this is my 75th blog post, I thought that I would touch on a topic that many of us, both clients and designers, sometime struggle with when we want to decorate our homes; finding the inspirational ideas and visual designs that excite us and motivate us to transform our living spaces.
One way to get started is to look at what other people are doing with their homes. Since we’re halfway through 2019 here’s a look at what they’re up to (from mymodernmet.com).
In my experience many of us have a basic idea of what style (Traditional, Contemporary, Art Deco, French Country, Mid-Century Modern, Shabby Chic, Minimalist, Costal, Feng Shui, etc.,) we want our home to be. Most of us even have a broad idea of what color category (e.g. blue, green, off-white, yellow, etc.,) we want to the space to be. So what’s the hold-up?
I find that having these two significant elements, design style and color category, are a great starting point – but then everyone gets bogged down in the next steps; the specific details and turning a high-level vision into an integrated design – especially if there are time and/or budget constraints. And why is that? Well I think that many people just get overwhelmed by all the activities required by a full-blown interior design project. Activities that include:
1) Choosing the overall colors
a) Both the main color and the accent colors
2) Defining the room layout
a) Furniture type and sizing and traffic flow
3) Lighting design
a) To include overhead fixtures, lamps and window shades
4) Choosing the finishes
a) Including where to source them from
5) Sourcing furniture that meets the design esthetic
a) Both locally and online
6) Selecting window covering styles and fabrics
a) Including where to purchase them or have them custom made
7) Styling and accessorizing
a) To have enough but not too many accessories
8) Trying to visualize how the end result will look
a) 3D visualization or sketches, fabric samples, wallpaper samples, carpet samples
9) Finding and communicating with the trades
a) e.g. painters, wall-paper hangers, furniture painters, upholsterers, handymen, electricians, plumbers, carpenters
Honestly it can all be a little overwhelming at the beginning. So what’s a good place to start? I think the answer to that question falls into a couple of categories: 1) general approaches to style and design, and 2) information on the current trends. So, to help you out, here are a few links to more detailed discussions on those topics:
- Everything You Need to Know: 20 Interior Design Styles Defined in 2019
- Tips for Choosing Interior Paint Colors
- Interior Design Trends for 2019 to Upgrade Your Home Décor
- Interior Design Trends to Watch in 2019
- 2019's Biggest Interior Design Trend Predictions
- The Home Trends You're About to See Everywhere
- 10 Interior Design Trends for 2019
Since I’ve been helping my clients resolve their unique design challenges for almost 20 years, I’d love to help you with yours. So give me a call, I have lots of ideas and materials to help inspire you.
Greenhouse Fabrics just introduced a fresh new fabric line called “Anna Elisabeth” which I am very happy to bring to you. The Anna Elisabeth brand “is brought to you by a diverse team of women here to assist you with fabric selection, research, and insight. Each with a unique design background, ….”
I love the tag line on their website: “It’s time to make a statement.” Yes, indeed!
The Anna Elisabeth line is inspired by Paris, and the Greenhouse website will delight your sense of adventure for fabric and travel. I really love that you can use their website to easily sort the line by color, style, category and usage – or search it by keywords.
I have the complete Anna Elisabeth sample collection in my inventory, so let’s explore this new line together for your indoor or patio decorating project. If you are not sure if Paris is a good source of inspiration - here are some of my photos of a wonderful trip that I took to France with my family a couple of years ago. It was truly inspiring.
So give me a call and let’s bring a touch of Paris to your interiors.
If you install window treatments, like I do, you have to be a dog lover!
Here are a few of the furry friends that I’ve met during some recent installations: Champ, Maverick, Tucker, Bubbles, Curly and Barkley. They are always very curious about my sample bags, and tools - and of course whether or not I have any treats stashed away.
I just love these furry residents of the beautiful homes that I decorate. It’s always nice to make new friends.
So, we’re just a couple of days away from 2019 and you’re thinking about doing wallpaper this year? What a lovely idea to freshen up any nook or room in your home. But, like fabric shopping, there is just so much out there and it’s hard to know where to begin to find the wallpaper of your dreams.
For starters, take a look at this beautiful bedroom from Serena and Lily, which is both classic and updated at the same time. Looking closer at the wallpaper (Wentworth in color blue), it’s a lovely tile-inspired pattern that works well to soften the white architectural elements in the room. I just love a blue bedroom (I have one myself) and this one just makes me smile.
Here’s another example, in this case a beautiful mural wallpaper displayed at the Schumacher Showroom at the Boston Design Center (BDC). It’s a perfect example of how wallpaper can make a stunning statement in your home. It’s so fresh and inspirational, perfect for your more formal living room, dining room, or master suite. Can’t you envision this paper adorning your home and totally transforming your look (and outlook)?
As you can see in the photo below from the Lee Jofa/Brunschwig and Fils showroom at the BDC, the Chinoiserie motif and a blue/white color palette pair wonderfully for an elegant current look.
My super savvy and stylish executive client Alison recently completed a full-gut renovation of her kitchen and dining room, and I was privileged to help her with the lighting, wallpaper, furniture, and window treatments. We selected a fun Serena & Lily wallpaper (Luna Stripe in Color Ocean) to introduce a bold and happy blue to her dream kitchen. Below is a sneak peek at the dining room side with the wallpaper and the new window treatments that I fabricated and installed just before Christmas. As you can see, the space is still coming together, and we are expecting the chairs and accessories this week. I’ll be sure to update you with more photos once it’s all finished - wait until you see the kitchen side of the space! But the main point is that the wallpaper is the star of the dining room for sure. I just love the offerings that Serena & Lily has in blue and white.
While on a November 2018 visit to the Phillip Jeffries showroom at the BDC, I was intrigued by this gorgeous handcrafted wallcovering with real wood called “Against the Grain”. I have a sample of this wallcovering in my Phillip Jeffries sample books, but the small sample doesn’t do the paper justice. Can’t you envision this in a home office, den, or basement teen and man cave? Talk about a statement. And isn’t that just what wallpaper is supposed to do for a space -- make a statement unlike any paint can?
Ditto on the “make a statement” remark for the beautiful Thibaut paper shown below, also seen in large format at the Thibaut showroom BDC. It combines several elements which I love -- grasscloth background, a medallion pattern for interest and harmony, and a metallic touch, which I’m afraid you cannot truly judge just from the photo. We’ll just have to see it in person together.
Finally, here’s a photo of another Thibaut paper (Ming Trail) that a client and I are currently considering for a nook in her master suite. She's a landscape architect and this inspiring bold pattern would certainly conjure the essence of her craft all year long.
Shopping In-Person for Wallcoverings
Definitely THE BEST place to shop for wallpaper and wallcoverings here in the Boston area is in-person at the Boston Design Center with me as your guide. The showrooms at the BDC for Phillip Jeffries, Thibaut, Cole and Son, Schumacher, and Lee Jofa/Brunschwig and Fils will give you the absolute best selection and largest portrayal of the pattern and colors for your most time-efficient selection process. Wading through on-line photos of wallpaper is not the best use of your time (believe me!) and I can help you streamline the process to pinpoint the very best options for your interior project. Plus, the helpful designers at the BDC will give us samples right there, and we can coordinate the papers with the multitude of fabric vendors also at the Boston Design Center.
So, if you still think wallpaper offerings are “so yesterday,” I invite you to join me on a shopping expedition to the Boston Design Center in 2019. Send me a note and let’s schedule an excursion today. The BDC has recently undergone a total renovation and I would love to show you around.
To help you with a starting place for your wallpaper search, here are the websites of my five favorite wallpaper and wallcovering manufacturers and vendors:
My very best wishes to you for a Happy New Year! May 2019 delight your senses, bring you peace, and bestow on your family blessings and joy.
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.