Monday, August 31, 2015

My favorite finds for August

On-line window-shopping often satisfies my need for beauty without actually buying. But here are a few items I saw this past month that I'd make room for in my 1,435-square-foot condo.

Flower & Bird School...

Sydney Mugs, set of 6: Hand-painted with bright botanicals, butterflies and birds, these mugs remind me of Chinese paintings with the colors pumped up a notch. They have contrast rims and curvy, heart-shaped handles. With a bird and a botanical in each luscious color, they might be just the trick to wake me up faster! Each holds 10 ounces and is dishwasher safe. Available here. 

...Fiji Appetizer/Dessert Plates, set of 4: Bright and whimsical earthenware plates feature tropical frog and dragonfly designs framed by scalloped borders. Dishwasher-safe, 8.5 inches in diameter. Since I plan to use these as part of a wall collage, I passed on the sweet matching bowls and teacups, but don't let that stop you from having it all. More information here.

Soft to the touch...

Boho Tassel Pillow: Multicolored retro-chic tassels surround a version of traditional Khadi fabric from India, woven with a distinctive wale, then finished to create a super-soft, inviting texture, front and back. Hidden zipper with polyester insert, 18-by-18 inches. Two please! One for each of the mid-century provincial-styled chairs in my bedroom. Available here.

Kingdom Faux-Zebra Shag Rug: I can picture this tucked under the foot of my bed and accenting the seating area in my bedroom. And I can imagine how great its plush, 1.5-inch-thick pile will feel against my toes. Playful and chic, this 5-by-7.5-foot rug is hand-tufted in India from 100% polyester. Available in ivory with either brown, charcoal, silver, taupe or turquoise alternating stripes. Turquoise for me, of course. Get yours here.

Hold that thought...

Quatrefoil Tray: A centuries-old design gets a modern makeover in this mango-wood tray. Hand-carved with whitewash detailing, it makes a sophisticated statement whether serving drinks or adding organization to a coffee table. The quatrefoil is one of my favorite shapes--very Marrakech don't you think?--and an enduringly practical piece I'd like to see on my own coffee table. 23.5-by-20-by-2 inches. Order here.

...Menagerie Cat Decorative Plate by Imm Living: I'm always a sucker for anything cat, and this wild puss with the crazy triangular spots, poking his head out of a white plate, charmed me from the get-go. At 7.5 inches in diameter by 5.75 inches high, it would make a great trinket tray for the desk or dressing table. Found here.

...Small Fish-Scale Box: Something in me always loves a small box. Is it the mystery of what's inside? No mystery why I love this ceramic what-not box with its vibrant green motif inspired by fish scales and metal findings. It will mix swimmingly with my Chinoiserie porcelains. Just 5.3 inches in diameter by 3.3 inches high. Purchase here.

What did you find and fall in love with this month? 

Post a picture in the comments with a purchase link, or just tell us about it. Did you take the plunge or go the "hint-hint-honey" route?

Friday, August 28, 2015

When is a frame not a frame?

When it's repurposed, upcycled or reengineered, of course.

Got some old frames collecting dust and taking up space in your closets? Unless you plan to open an art gallery anytime soon, maybe re-envisioning them as something else will perk up your home, save you some moola, and crown you a genius among family, neighbors and friends.

This hang-up is no problem...

So head on over to Margo's Junkin Journal 
for a complete  towel-bar tutorial.

Turn a new corner...

And check out this Cubist-inspired bulletin board

Tap into your shadowy side...

...with a funky shadowbox to house a collection. 
See/read more about this Jersey Shore home on Completely Coastal.
Check out this helpful frame/shadowbox tutorial.

Put jewelry to work...

...and use it to decorate your dressing table. 
Some pieces are just too pretty not to be admired daily.
See more storage solutions on Cool Mom Picks.

Go to the head of the bed...

This would work in a horizontal orientation too. 
Find instructions at HGTV. David A. Land photo.

1 + 1 = another great idea...

The repainted frames and candleholders on the left (from Dishfunctional Design
combine to make tabletop gallery frames like those on the right (from Dirt Road Decor). 
Glue a craft store wood knob to the top, paint to match, fill with images or display empty.

How about a change of scenery?

Frame a vintage or cherished possession (left, from A Cultivated Nest), 
or call attention to a terrific view (right, from Design Sponge). 
Yes, I know the frame on the right is an old window, but a frame would work, too.

You can even 'bundle up'...

...Frame on frame on frame makes for funky, fabulous texture. 
I found these on Elle Dee Studio.

The weekend starts NOW! Come Monday morning, I want to see what you made.

Share your projects in the comments.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

8 ways to frame up your unique point of view

When I lived in a house with gobs of closet space, I kept every old picture and frame that had hung in my house at one time or another. I reused some with different prints, and eventually most got knicked up over time.

When we downsized a few years ago, off they all went to Goodwill.

My walls now (fewer) are far from bare, but every time I see an empty-frame collage I wish I'd found a way to keep my stock on hand. If you're lucky enough to reap the benefits of my loss at a thrift store near you, here are some ideas to help make your arrangement more effective.

Rearrange and reconfigure...

Why it works: At least some of these frames have retained their original finish, but what variation there is reflects the color scheme of the room. Most are gold, a few are gray and blend into the walls, while just one is teal, like the bedside lamp. What we can see of the room suggests a subdued, elegant style, which the collage supports. The gold pops, but the gray and teal unify.

Wow factor: How the frames overlap--a true collage!

Why it works: Again, a color scheme is used, even though most of the elements are more vibrant than the previous example. The orange shade coordinates with the wall color in the foreground and pulls you forward, while creams, yellows and greenish-blues relate to the wallpaper backdrop. There is also variety of shape, size and texture. 

Wow factor:  Nested frames, rather than overlapped, prevent the display from being too busy against the patterned wallpaper. I also like that two small mirrors have joined the mix of open frames for added dimension.

Why it works: All the photos and comic books are hung close together in plain, rectangular frames. This makes them appear more as one unified work of art. The open frame stands out because it's hung with a bit more breathing room and because it's so curvy.

Wow factor: There's a lot going on here, but the one open frame with exposed brick showing through creates a place for the viewer's eye to rest. Psychologically, it's a girly-girl cracking a whip to bring the rowdy boys into line.

Source: See/read more about this home on Apartment Therapy.

Out of many, one...

Why it works: What we're seeing in these two photos (if you can take your eyes off that gorgeous custom coral cabinet) are opposite ends of the same arrangement of frames on a curved wall. The frames are obviously not the focal point, so it makes sense that all are painted white and assume more of a textural presence. The overall horizontal orientation leads you toward that gorgeous cabinet, where you can pause to hang up your coat and sit in that cute chair to take off your boots in bad weather before you move into the main part of the house.

Wow factor: Within the display, some frame shapes/sizes/styles are repeated, and the round, embellished teal mirror echoes (as well as reflects!) the curvy frames and, on a larger scale, the curved wall. So subtle but so effective.

Source: See/read more about this home and get a complete list of designers and craftsmen on House of Turquoise. (Hiya Papaya photo)

Why it works: Again, different shapes, sizes and styles of frame are unified with a spray coat of white paint, which pops again the cocoa-colored walls and echoes the bedding. I also like that only two of the nine frames are not rectangles, but one of those IS nested within a rectangular frame. This emphasizes the importance of the oval frames, which repeat the curves of the headboard.

Wow factor: All those cute little butterflies--on printed paper? fabric? This is a little girl's room, and what an interesting way to personalize the room for her. The perceived color is the same as the frames, but what a flutter they add! Be still my heart!!

Source: See more of blogger Jennifer Rizzo's summer home on her website.

Mellow drama...

Why it works: The arrangements both above and below follow the dramatic curve of the spectacular stairway. Not everything is the same color, but white, gold and silver predominate. This variation works because of the expanse of the display and the additional contrast of the dark railings against the light walls. I also like the mix of elements--frames, as well as mirrors, sconces, matted prints, and typography.

Wow factor: I love that the squares are alternately turned into diamonds. It creates a momentum that carries your eye upward (echoed in the ampersand). I also think the smaller collage above the bench acts as an exclamation point to the larger one and ties the two areas together. Altogether, a perfectly punctuated paragraph, says the former-English teacher.

Why it works: As discussed earlier, the colors of the collage elements repeat the room's color scheme. The mix is unified by the small A on the left inside a frame, a large A on the right on its own, and another A on the small bed pillow. The entire collage is connected by more of those sweet butterflies, and here, they swoop and flutter from one end to the other! (Did I just make a poem? Ha!)

Wow factor: I love the "twinkle" decal with a butterfly dotting the eye. This is an exceptionally sweet and sophisticated room for a young girl.

Source: Hyde & Chic Boutique, an Etsy Shop that sells frame sets for wall arranging.

Why it works: We often see art and mirrors leaned instead of hung, so why not open frames? Indeed. The larger, slighter black frame repeats the fireplace opening, while the smaller white frame it overlaps repeats the fireplace itself. Each frames other three-dimensional elements to create a charming vignette. The vase on the left repeats the wall color, while the smaller vases on the right repeat the white of their companions. Overall, a lesson in restraint.

Wow factor: Can I choose two? I love the tiny deer head with a bauble hanging from its antlers. I also adore the subtle inward turn of the twig in the vase on the right. It leads your eye in without a second thought.

Source: Go on over to Design Sponge to see/read more about this home and its owner, blogger Victoria Hudgins and husband Matthew.

Check back tomorrow for a look at some upcycling projects that reengineer old frames for startling and clever new uses.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

'China: Through the Looking Glass' red carpet reprise

I'm a little late out of the gate on this one.

After all, the gala opening for this Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit was way back in May. But I have an excuse: I didn't have this blog then.

So my news peg has become: Hurry to New York and see this incredible collaborative exhibit between the Met's Costume Institute and Department of Asian Art before it closes Sept. 7. It was scheduled to close Aug. 16 but was extended due to popularity. Check out my post yesterday, and you'll see why.

These red carpet photos of celebrities in haute couture at the Costume Institute's benefit and exhibit opening won't go quietly into the night either. The designs may have debuted way back in May, but they are still talking. And my picks for rooms inspired by some of these outfits are hot off the press. Enjoy!

Capes, coats and couture...

Kevin Mazur/Via Chinoiserie Chic

Actress, singer and producer Fan BingBing (above) donned my favorite ensemble of the evening. Here she dazzles onlookers in her floor-sweeping cape and glimmering Christopher Bu gown. The look is irridescent perfection--just like the room vignette it inspires.

Dimitrio Kambouris/Via Chinoiserie Chic

Dare I say it: GAGA over BALENCIAGA? Too late; it's out there. Lady GaGa intimidates the hell out of the runway in this Balenciaga ensemble. The trellis pattern of the coat is what inspires my choice of room on the right. The mirror mimics the shape of her ladyship's "crown" as well.

Larry Busacca/Scott Snyder

I'm no "Belieber," nor do I suffer from Justin Bieber fever, BUT...that is one bodacious Balmain ensemble he's sporting. The gold-embroidered jacket easily stands up to the elegant powder room, where I imagine him singing into a gold-plated hairbrush and winking at his reflection. The powder room is by Scott Snyder.

Larry Busacca
Though her beaded pyjama-inspired ensemble is by Thakoon, actress Sienna Miller looks made for this room in Coco Chanel's historic Paris apartment. Chanel was often photographed in this very same iconic white chair, and the Coromandel screen seen here is one of 32 she owned. She used the screens as room dividers, doors, behind sofas, around seating areas and in place of wallpaper. See more photos of Chanel's apartment here.

Off the wall, so to speak...

Dimitrios Kambouris/Dan Marshall

Model Hailey Baldwin makes some serious mini-mojo in this dress by Topshop. High fashion is always inspirational but not always wearable. This creation is both. And she looks as if she just walked out from the limited edition De Gournay wallpaper used in exhibit sets. The pattern is "Badminton," and it's done on paper gilded with 12 karat white gold. See more of the papers De Gournay produced for the exhibit here.

Rex USA/Via Decoholic

British TV host, model and Vogue contributing editor Alexa Chung was the essence of sweet in an Erdem gown that echoed another of the De Gournay wallpapers. Don't like wallpaper at home? Get the same look with paint on the walls and the chinoiserie print on the bedding.

Larry Busacca
The embroidered Prada gown and beaded cape worn by actress Emily Blunt float like the silk organza panels hanging in China Club Singapore. The panels are De Gournay's "Lotus" pattern. Blunt's jewelry is by Ann Hu Haute Joallerie.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Via Chinoiserie Chic

Singer/songwriter Katy Perry is still living the teenage dream in this graffiti get-up from Moschino by Jeremy Scott. I'm surprised museum security didn't make her check the can of spray paint posing as a purse. Her inspired room uses a mix of modern art and sculpture to achieve a similar, if more ordered, look. The patterns in the floor pillows echo those in the gathered skirt of the dress.

And over the top...

Dimitrios Kambouris/Digs Digs

I struggled finding a room to do justice to singer Beyonce in this barely-there Givenchy gown. The sticking point? The dress' gem-like beadwork (detail, inset upper right). I wanted room accents that pulled out those jewel tones. Finally, I decided less is more (wink-wink) and gave up. Beyonce in that gown needs nothing but a drop-your-drawers bedroom full of uptown glam.

Dimitrios Kambouris/Scott Snyder
No one drew more attention than singer Rihanna arriving in her Guo Pei egg-yolk-yellow gown--perhaps because she needed an entourage to carry around the endless train. This dress is waaaaaaay over the top for my taste, but it does make a to-die-for armoire, don't you think? Room design by Scott Snyder.

Lots more incredible dresses, gowns and ensembles to see here

How would you turn them into room decor? Post your favorites in the comments.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Chinese fashion and craft inspire Western fashion and decor

If you'll be in the Big Apple between now and Sept. 7, don't miss "China: Through the Looking Glass" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The exhibit features more than 140 examples of haute couture and avant-garde ready-to-wear fashion alongside Chinese costumes, paintings, porcelains and other art.

Here's a peek at the exhibit, then we'll take one step more along the design trail to see how these artistic creations can also inspire room decor.

Open the red envelope...

THE INSPIRATION...Detail of a court robe (above) from the 19th century, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), silk and metallic-thread tapestry (kesi) with painted details.


THE INSPIRED FASHION...The above evening dress by Tom Ford for Yves Saint Laurent was part of his fall-winter 2004-05 collection. 20th century Peking opera singer Mei LanFang inspired the dress below by John Galliano for House of Dior as part of his spring 2003 collection.

Steve Meisel for Vogue

THE INSPIRED DECOR...The use of "lacquer red" channels the most prominent color of the garments into the room below. Pops of yellow and black, playful patterns and bold stripes on the wall bring in the theatrical feel of the garments. A gilded mirror calls to mind the shimmery banding at the hem of the Galliano dress. Room design by Nick Olsen, found on One Kings Lane.

Maura McEvoy


Sing the blues...


THE INSPIRATION...Cobalt blue-and-white porcelain originated in China and still charms us. This jar with dragon design is from the early 15th century, Ming dynasty (1368-1644), and is an example of Jingdezhen ware.


THE INSPIRED FASHION...This Roberto Cavalli-designed Chinoiserie evening dress (above) incorporates some of the Italian influences of its creator. In fact, many of the garden motifs we associate with China were first popularized in the West as patterns on imported or domestic-imitation china and wallpaper. The blue-and-white bouquet gown (below) by Valentino is another example and was part of his fall 1968 collection.

Steven Meisel for Vogue

THE INSPIRED DECOR...Chinese porcelain never goes out of style and adds a traditional-leaning elegance to the entryway below. Blue-and-white pieces have the biggest impact when used in groupings, as in the vases on the table and the garden stools positioned beneath. Dreamy wallpaper acts as yet another nod to Eastern-influenced design. Design by Ashley Whittaker, found on One Kings Lane.

Eric Piaseki

Revel in the energy of yellow...

Jill Krementz/New York Social Diary

THE INSPIRATION...The semi-formal silk robe above was designed for the Xuantong Emperor, Pu Yi, circa 1910. Yellow represents earth in Chinese culture and is considered the most prestigious color, worn historically by the emperors. It also often decorated palaces, altars and temples, and hence was worn as well by Buddhist monks.

Metropolitan Museum of Art

THE INSPIRED FASHION...The stunning beaded evening dress above, based on the emperor's robe, was part of Tom Ford's collection for Yves Saint Laurent in autumn 2004. But the cinematic stereotype of the Chinese dragon lady in a tight-fitting sheath has haunted Hollywood since the 1930s in movies like The Bitter Tea of General Yen and Daughter of the Dragon.

Marc van Praag/The Interior Archive

THE INSPIRED DECOR...The Chinese saying that "yellow generates yin and yang" implies it's the center of everything and will bring creative energy to your decor, just as it does in the walls and draperies of the above room. A Ming-style trunk (by the far window) and a glazed garden stool (foreground), both used as side tables, lend a subtle but unmistakably Eastern flair.

Links to see/

Monday, August 24, 2015

Better Homes & Gardens needs better decor quiz

The word "better" as a modifier leaves much to be desired. The same is true of the "What's Your Decorating Style?" quiz on the Better Homes & Gardens website.

Still, it's short, easy and fun. Who can resist answering a few questions and being given some new insight about yourself? Even if the insight is just a guess, and a bad one at that. 

Basics first...

This quiz is only eight questions, with three photos to choose from for each. You're asked to select preferences among flowers, shoes, color palette, favorite chair, vacation spot, dog breed, celebrity closet, and dream home. 

Only three choices felt limiting to me. I don't think I'm that run-of-the-mill. But the real problem is that the three selections the quiz-monger provided sucked more often than not. Mostly, what I'd actually choose wasn't a choice.

Worst of the worst:

  • Dogs - Did the person creating this quiz not realize Americans own about 12 million more cats than dogs? Cats deserve to be on there as at least one alternative to lab, sheltie and poodle, but I'm thinking an array of cat breeds opposed to one mixed-breed pup might be more representative.
  • Celebrity's closet - The choices were Jackie Kennedy Onassis, Sheryl Crow and Jennifer Anniston. Excuse me, but are the last two known for signature looks other than slouchy? The photos of them looked like they just rolled out of bed after a night of debauchery.
  • Shoes - Choices were flats, cowboy boots and a wedge. Where were flip-flops, tennis shoes and high heels? C'mon, now.

Best of the worst:

  • Vacation spot - Paris, mountains and beach covered it for me, though I had a tough time choosing.

On to results...

I took this quiz a number of times, making random choices, so I could evaluate it. I uncovered four categories of results, though there could be more (just got tired of this ho-hummer):
  • Cottage
  • Country
  • French Country
  • Polished Casual
When I answered true, I got "cottage" as my signature style, which is a far-piece from accurate. Here's the "look" and its description...


The "laid back" part is true, but it stops there. No. This is so not me. Sweet and fresh, but not me. Lots of white makes me feel as if I'll float away. I am color, Color, COLOR!!!

The result that seemed to fit me best was "polished casual." See what you think...


I said close, but not a total match either. I do love to mix and match. I do have a clean-lined, neutral sofa, two dark leather chairs, and unfussy furnishings. I don't like slouchy. But again, the photo seems a little ordinary. Especially the print on the ottoman and drapes, though it's hard to tell in the size and quality of photos they give you.

Whatever result comes up, BHG provides a link to a "Style Guide" that downloads to your device when you click on it. Rather than a guide, it's just an article from the magazine about a home that uses that style. You do get to see other, better quality photos, and read about the home's design process through the eyes of the homeowner and/or interior designer, which may help you decide whether the results are accurate.

A word of caution: Before you click "results," make sure you really want to receive the extra BHG "free" newsletters they offer. If not, uncheck the subscribe boxes.



  • Fast and easy
  • "Style Guide" article link


  • Not enough choices
  • Lame choices
  • Inaccurate results
  • Poor quality results photos
  • Requires email registration AND tries to sneak in spam

If I had my 'druthers: Instead of the "Style Guide" link, why not a listing of several (all?) BHG articles that detail that look? 

Take the quiz yourself here.

What did you think? Share your results (and opinions) in the comments.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Gardens of possibility

Nothing holds as much beauty for me as a garden and as much mystery as a garden gate. Open or closed, it sets me to wondering about what's beyond. And no activity has taught me more about life and living in the moment than working in my suburban garden--turning the soil, pruning, plucking spent blooms, watching the wildlife. I have...

  • learned which plants were weeds and which weren't
  • uncovered the secret of (nearly) perfect grass (psst! It's nitrogen)
  • grown in patience by waiting the requisite three years to harvest my first asparagus 
  • seen bumblebees fall asleep on catmint blossoms at dusk
  • discovered a complete rabbit skeleton under the bough of a pine tree after the winter thaw
  • cried over ducks' nests raided by crows and raccoons
  • watched a hawk dive into my shrubbery to catch a bird hiding there
  • watched another hawk square off against a squirrel (and lose!)
  • captured and relocated chipmunks who were bound and determined to plant all the birdseed
  • watched a deer rest one morning under the tree in my front yard (I could see her sides heave and the fog of her breath in the morning air)
  • come face-to-face with a fox, crossing through my yard on his way home to the woods (the hair on the back on my neck and my arms bristled and sensed his presence before I saw him)
  • reached the limit to the punishment my knees will take
  • buried three cats and a part of my heart with each of them

I've watched some plants die and others flourish (some got out of hand). When I took master gardener's training from the county extension agency, I found I had to make a LOT more mistakes before I'd become a real master.

Through it all, I've never owned a garden with an actual gate. But as summer winds toward its close, I want to share with all of you the gates I see open and closed in my head, as well as some wisdom about gardens, life and possibility.

Found on Gabba Gabba Gorgeous.

"I could happily lean on a gate all the livelong day, chatting to passers-by about the wind and the rain. I do a lot of gate-leaning while I am supposed to be gardening; instead of hoeing, I lean on the gate, stare at the vegetable beds and ponder." (Tom Hodgkinson) 
Found on Better Homes & Gardens

"People talk about opportunity knocking, but the gate was always swinging in the breeze before I got to the door." (Rufus Sewell)
Found on HGTV.

“However many years she lived, Mary always felt that she should never forget that first morning when her garden began to grow.” (Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden)
Found on Better Homes & Gardens.

"It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll; I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul." (William Ernest Henley)

Found on Zsa Zsa Bellagio.
"The earth laughs in flowers." (Ralph Waldo Emerson) 
Found on Indulgy.
"Everything that slows us down and forces patience, everything that sets us back into the slow circles of nature, is a help. Gardening is an instrument of grace." (May Sarton)
Found on Bob Vila.
“How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live 'em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give 'em.” (Shel Silverstein)
Found on Spark Interior Style. Photo by Sue Lambe.

"If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need." (Marcus Tullius Cicero)
Found on Cabine 36. Photo by Carolyn Aiken.
"Both in thought and in feeling, even though time be real, to realise the unimportance of time is the gate of wisdom." (Bertrand Russell)
Found on Art Propelled.
"Love is the master key that opens the gates of happiness, of hatred, of jealousy, and, most easily of all, the gate of fear." (Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.)
Found on Pinterest. Photo by Judith Sharpe.

"No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or emotional appeal." (Marilyn Ferguson)
Found on Indulgy.
"If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody." (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)
Found on Google search.

"Trust in dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity." (Khalil Gibran)

Enjoy your weekend.

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