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Archive for May, 2009

Lilac Love

LilacsI’m a sucker for fresh flowers. 

Most interior design gurus will tell you that adding live, natural elements do wonders for the feel of a room, but since I have a serious black thumb, houseplants are out (honestly, I killed a cactus last year…do you know how hard that is to do?).  So instead, I try to pick up fresh cut flowers whenever I remember — at the grocery store, farmer’s market, whatever — and put together a few bunches around my house.   

This week, mother nature started delivering one of my favorite flowers, and a single stem needs nothing more than a simple vase (even a water glass!).  Lilacs, with their intoxicating scent and gorgeous shades of lavender, blue, purple, pink and white, will peak in New England from now until the end of May.  This weekend, I’ll be hunting down some blossoms to add new life to my home, and officially welcome the arrival of Spring.

Image credit: Arnold Arboretum

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Great White Towels

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Looking to replace your towels?  We were this winter when we realized that the reason ours were looking so shabby was that they were over ten years old.  We decided we could justify replacing them (we recycled our old ones as gym towels), but I couldn’t quite fathom spending what most good quality towels cost (mostly because I would have rather spent that dough on sassy new heels).  The problem?  The quality of most “budget” towels stink.  But I found the exception to that rule at the holy land of designer labels at reasonable prices (that would be Target, of course).  The Thomas O’Brien Vintage Modern towels are fantastic — plush, with a velvety softness that has stayed put even through a whole lot of washes. 

I bought all white — simple, classic, perfect with every bathroom and best of all, bleach ’em and they look new.

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DIY Art: Books

dsc00226Last summer I was poking around a bookstore in Vermont and came across Mice, Morals & Monkey Business, an incredible children’s book filled with gorgeous block prints by artist Christopher Wormell.  As soon as I saw it, I knew I had to have it – not for our kids’ library, but for my kitchen wall.

When we got home, I hit my fab local stationery shop and picked up decorative paper that coordinated with the prints in the book, along with several LP album frames (thin metal frames with plexiglass fronts meant to showcase vintage vinyl).  Using the frame backer as a template, I cut the decorative paper to the exact size of the frame.  Then I went to town on Mr. Wormell’s masterpiece.  First, using a box cutter (an X-acto knife might be better, but I don’t have one on hand) and great caution, I nicked the seams throughout the inside of the book, loosening up most of the pages.  Then I carefully took apart the binding of the book with the knife.  I trimmed the rough edges of the pages I wanted to frame and using double stick tape, attached the pages to the decorative paper.  After repeating the trimming and taping process with the rest of the pieces, I popped them all into the frames and hung them up.

With a book, box cutter, straight edge, a couple of hours work (including shopping) and about $150 for the book, ten frames and paper, I had stunning, custom-made art!

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Kid-Proof Rug

dsc00208I really wish we had a mudroom, but since we don’t, we relegate our shoes, coats, and the seven-or-so bags that arrive home with our little family every evening to a 30-inch “mudspace” right inside the entrance of our home.  To help define the space and give our two kiddos a little more room to walk in, stretch out and take off their shoes, we purchased Pottery Barn’s Diamond Outdoor Rug made out of polypropolene (yes, it’s plastic!).  This hip, neutral rug is supersoft underfoot and fit perfectly with our décor, our budget, and the total lack of time we have to devote to cleaning – it can be hosed down outside and still look fabulous.

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Last week, my husband and I rearranged our bedroom furniture.  The fresh look of the room was great, but the new arrangement left about 12 inches on my side of the bed.  Ultimately, this was a good thing, since my bedside table is really just a depository for stuff that gets cleared off and organized once every six months or so, but the lack of space for a table proved challenging when I got into bed that night and had no light for my wind-down magazine perusal.  So I went hunting in the house for something that might serve as a good stand-in. 

Using an extra child’s dining chair that we had on hand, a pretty stack of hardcovers (most of which are works-in-progress since I never read one book at a time) and the perfect little lamp from my original side table, I had a functional resting place that adds visual interest to the room – all without spending a dime.

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Family Dinnerware

 When my oldest son started eating solid foods, I couldn’t get enough of the adorable baby dishware covered in dinosaurs, trucks and bugs.  If Target came out with a new line for Halloween, they were in my cart faster than you could say “boo.”  But after years of staring at that technicolor plasticware multiply on my shelves, clashing with the hip artisan vibe that I am trying to create in my kitchen, I decided it was time to move on and have the whole family eat from the same dishes.  That’s why I love this melamine dinnerware from Working Class Studios. At $6 for a salad plate and $8 for the full dinner size, I got eight of each and now they’re all we use, even for entertaining sans kids.  The mix-and-match patterns work with all kinds of décor, and the sturdy, lightweight melamine means they’re not going to break if the kids drop them when they’re helping set the table.  Hey, at least I can dream.

Wrought Irony Melamine Dinnerware available at www.shopscadonline.com.

Image credit: shopSCAD

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I believe that window treatments are like mascara for rooms – you don’t have to have them, but when you do the room looks finished.  I’ve had a long, sordid history with window treatments – not really loving most inexpensive pre-made ones and having limited ability to make more unique ones because of sub-par sewing skills and (cue the standard motherhood excuse) a lack of time.  However, my latest affair with window treatments ended beautifully, both for the wallet and the creative ego.  The key?  A shower curtain.  The cotton beauty came from eBay (for under $20 including shipping), and with a pen, a pair of scissors, some fusable webbing (it’s like permanent tape for fabric), an iron/ironing board, straight pins, drapery clip rings and a rod, I had new curtain panels in under two hours.  Shower curtains make it easy because they already have finished hems and you don’t need to go through the process of pre-washing the fabric because it’s already done.  Here’s how I made mine:

  • Hang the drapery rod where desired (I chose to hang mine right across the top of the window molding)
  • Place clip rings on the rod (I used 10 for each panel)
  • Mark the center of the shower curtain by folding it lengthwise and making a small pen mark at the top
  • Hang shower curtain from the rod, spacing clip rings evenly across both halves
  • Determine how long you would like the panels to be by folding the bottom of the curtain and pinning
  • With hem marked, take curtain down and lay flat on the floor or a table
  • Make one long straight cut where you want the desired hem PLUS 2 inches.  For example, if it turns out you want 60 inches between the top and bottom hems, you should cut a straight line at 62 inches.  A yardstick or ability to follow a line in the fabric pattern helps in cutting a straight line
  • Once the bottom hem is cut, make a straight cut from the mark at the top all the way to the bottom hem; now you have two panels
  • Take one panel, and working the long side first, fold the edge over ½ an inch and iron all the way down.  Then, following the directions on the fusible webbing, make another ½ inch fold over the webbing and iron the seam shut
  • Following the same directions as above, iron the bottom seam, except this time make the first fold ½ an inch and the second fold 1½ inches (it looks more finished when you have a wider hem at the bottom)
  • Repeat for the side and bottom hem on the other panel
  • Hang them up and enjoy the satisfied feeling you’ll have from making one-of-a-kind window treatments for your home!

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My home décor philosophy?  Real life and a beautiful home can co-exist.  Sometimes it takes a little bit of time, or a little bit of money, or a little bit of elbow grease, but I believe that everybody can have a comfortable, lovely home that includes all the messiness of real life – kids, animals, whatever.  For me, real life is two wild and delicious boys under 5 (dirt), an incredible husband who is an avid mountain biker (more dirt), a 70-year old home in need of updating (crooked floors and pink tile), working outside the home four days a week (almost no time) and a tight monthly budget (you get the drift). 

Through this blog I plan to share great products (Shop It), Do-It-Yourself ideas (Make It), ways to use what you already own (Reinvent It) and other inspirations that I have experienced myself or that I pick up through my near-addiction to home design magazines (don’t even get my husband started on the piles). 

Oh, and before you read any further, I want to give a special shout-out to my longtime friend and aptly-titled Chief Creative Consultant, Christine Koh, who not only seems to have the answer to every question I have about blogging, but designed my rockin’ logo (isn’t it great?).  Visit her at www.BostonMamas.com and www.PoshPeacock.com to get some for yourself. 

Hope you enjoy…

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