It’s getting to that time of year when words like “cozy and intimate” come to mind. We think about the perfect small gathering of family and friends, the ideal getaway, and the quiet nook in our home to nestle into. But how about our upcoming holiday shopping experiences? It might just be me, but thoughts of big-box stores, mall parking lots, long lines and Black Friday make me run for the hot cocoa in front of our glowing fireplace.
So…for your upcoming shopping, you might want to consider the concept of “Small Business Saturday” which is Nov 24th, the day AFTER Black Friday. Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy and our local community. Where else can you get personalized service in today’s shopping landscape - and hope to actually see the same business owner years down the road?
In Sudbury, we have so many terrific small businesses! For my interior design clients, I personally love to do business with Carpet Carousel, Cavicchio Greenhouses, Hamill for Hire (Handyman) and Upholstery on Broadway (Kevin Kennedy). To see all the great small businesses in town take a look at the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce’s website:
Are you in a panic on what to give your sister, mother, or mother-in-law for the holidays? Consider giving them a “VIP Design Day” with me. It includes an in-home design consultation, shopping at the Boston Design Center, delicious lunch, and a follow-up plan. What could be more perfect?
Whatever you do, shop locally this weekend, and if you need holiday decorating help call Barbara at 978-440-7264. You know you want to! Make today the day you decide your home décor can be as exciting and vibrant as you are.
In September I came upon this sight at Home Depot - what a shocking reminder that the seasons are a-changin’ (if you don’t get this reference, you must be young). Witnessing how retailers switch in the blink of an eye from barbeques to snow blowers, I thought this week’s blog should address the similar changeover in our mental philosophy from Summer to Fall. Specifically, what 4 things you must absolutely do when Fall undeniably signals the change of seasons, at least from the home decorating perspective.
1) Get over it: Fall comes every year, and that’s a good thing. While you might want to preserve Summer forever (see my “Making Summer Last Longer Via Your Décor” from August of this year for helpful tips to make that exquisite summer feeling last longer than the calendar suggests), Fall inevitably comes, and that’s comforting and invigorating. Just look at how gorgeous the new landscaping in our backyard looks this Fall. We redesigned the plantings this Summer to be more like a Japanese garden after our spring trip to Japan. Watching the colors of the Japanese Maples and Red Maples come into their full glorious color in recent weeks has been uplifting.
2) Prepare Your Home Now for Holiday Guests: Today is Halloween, and you say you are having a Thanksgiving, Christmas or Hannukah get together? And your dining room doesn’t even have a table yet, your guest room is piled with your kids’ summer camp and school stuff from last school year, you need some kind of window treatments, and you need to have the painter fix last winter’s ice dam damage? Or perhaps your in-laws or college best friends are coming to celebrate with you in 4 weeks (oh my) or 8 weeks (better, but still panic city)? If that’s the case you might want to reread my blogpost from June titled “The Guest Room - 15 Tips for a Heavenly Stay”.
But let’s look on the bright side – this might also be a great opportunity for you to: (1) clearly define a project that you have been procrastinating on, (2) call me and (3) get it done before the holidays arrive. Now! In January, after everyone has gone home, you’ll be able to reap the benefits of the professional design from your family’s enjoyment…think of it as a holiday gift that you gave to yourself. So, if this is the situation you’re in make time to call me today (978-440-7264) or contact me if you’re serious about making some pre-holiday improvements that require getting on the painter or carpenter’s or my schedule.
3) Plan Ahead in Your Lighting For Winter’s Darker Days: The change of seasons reminds us that it’s prudent and emotionally calming to think, plan, and act ahead. Just like the squirrel that’s scampering in your yard right now gathering acorns and storing up for the colder months. What does this have to do with interior home design? One area you should always review this time of year is lighting. We get so used to the bright summer days that we forget our dependence on artificial lighting for much of the year, and just how much lighting impacts your home’s interior ambiance. If you haven’t shopped for chandeliers and lighting in the past few years, the options (as well as bulb technology) have really changed. There are beautiful fixtures out there, including this new one at Arhaus, where the bulbs are cleverly concealed so that it would be pleasant to have it hang over a dining room table, in the center of a room, or over your bed.
If you haven’t been to a lighting showroom lately, I strongly encourage you to take a look at the new options. Browse at stores other than Home Depot too, although Home Depot is a perfectly acceptable place to take a look too.
In that vein I have a new resource for lighting and kitchen hardware, Needham Decorative Hardware, a terrific to-the-trade showroom in Needham, MA (see the photo below). I enjoyed shopping there with a client of mine this week and both their product selection and their staff designers are terrific. So, if you’re in need of new lighting, let’s check things out together. I bet you didn’t even know I did lighting, did you? Some of my favorite vendors are Currey and Co, Visual Comfort, Jonathan Adler, Hinckley, Circa and Uttermost. I often think of lighting as an opportunity for jewelry on your décor - functional AND pretty, you can’t beat that.
4) Get Outside and Enjoy the outdoors: Enjoy the change of seasons because what’s happening out there this Fall is pretty spectacular. Every day this week while walking or driving in my hometown, I’ve marveled at just how gorgeous it is. The woods nearby our home change daily and it is so invigorating to take walks in this spectacular landscape. Comparing this exuberance of Nature’s daily changes in our surroundings with the world of interior design, I find they are very similar. When you come home and your new window treatments that you planned for a few weeks or months are actually up, it’s a nice feeling and a push forward. I have been doing lots of projects this Fall with folks who just wanted to finally do it, and I can see the happiness on their faces at the “reveal.”
Until next time, enjoy yourselves this Halloween! What a great day, when everyone can be a kid and dress up and embrace the wonder of stepping out of the everyday. After that, enjoy your change of seasons, wherever you live, because it reminds us of the refreshing cycle of nature. And don’t forget to prepare your home for the upcoming holidays - you will be glad you did.
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!
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.