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Archive for August, 2009

Fence FabricJust a couple of months after my husband and moved into our first home, giant metal fence posts showed up on the side property line separating our house from our neighbor.  First, we were concerned — had we done something wrong?  Had we offended him?  But then we got annoyed.  We were first time homeowners, so we didn’t really know any better, but it just felt wrong that a neighbor would but up a giant, u-g-l-y, chain-link fence in the front of our property without, at the very least, leaving a note on our door.  

So we gathered up our joint gusto and headed next door, trying to convince him that the chain-link monstrosity was not the way to go.  How about a natural barrier of shrubs? Um, no, the decision has already been made to have a fence.  Then how about a nice extension of our beautiful backyard cedar fence…our treat? Sorry, the posts are already in and my mother is paying for it. (hmmm…) 

We’ll never really know why he (or his mother, I suppose) wanted to put up that dang thing, but we sure wish we had known about Fence Fabric at the time, because a faux stone wall, some everlasting foliage, or heck, even a cow pasture would’ve been better looking than that thing he put up.

{Thanks, Rochelle of Studio G, for the great resource!}

Photo credit: “Brent Wood Wall” by Fence Fabric

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A couple of weeks ago, I had a chance to spend the better part of a day with my good friend Marianne, helping to create a beautiful, practical space in her home.  About year ago, Marianne and her husband Jim had a carpenter build three walls of bookshelves in a small pass-through room that would become part-playroom, part-library.  But after having the shelves installed, life took over, and they became a mass collection point for anything and everything…books, piles of the kids’ artwork, kitchenwares that were too big for the kitchen cabinets, toys, even laundry.  It was time for an intervention.

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In four hours, using items Marianne already owned, we transformed her stuffed shelves into works of art.  Here’s how we did it:

1) Cleared the decks: Using tables in the adjacent rooms, we cleared off everything from the shelves and made distinct piles — framed photos, accessories, art supplies and artwork, books, and so on.

2) Decided on an approach: I quizzed Marianne….did she care how her books were arranged?  By author?  By genre?  Did she care if I mixed accessories among her books?  Was there anything that was critical to remain on display?  Nope, she said, the only thing she wanted was to be sure that her cookbooks were together.  Other than that, I had free reign.  

3) Checked the angles:  After the shelves were clear and I knew my parameters, I stood back and took in the views.  Because of the central location of the space, it could be seen from almost everwhere in the house, so I needed to be sure that I was taking the purpose and feel of adjoining rooms into consideration.

4) Created vignettes:  This is the part that is trial and error, more art than science.  I reviewed the piles we had made (which were many), and began creating vignettes among the shelves.  I started with the knowns — she wanted all of her cookbooks to be together, and I knew I wanted to group their many, many travel guides.  I knew I wanted the children’s artwork and art supplies to be accessible (low shelves) and breakable items to be inaccessible (high shelves).  I knew I wanted the wall that faced her coastal-inspired living room to be calming, artistic and elegant, and the main wall of the room to be filled with energy and color.

4) Hunted for treasure: After establishing the vignettes on each shelf, there was still a lot of space remaining (there were 28 shelves to fill artfully), so I went treasure hunting around Marianne’s house.  After hijacking a painting from a bathroom, a chinese teapot from her office, and a few other items, I filled the empty spaces and the shelves were nearly complete.

5) Assessed the situation: After finishing all the shelves, we took a hard look at what was missing, and it was only two things: a container to keep drawing paper accessible (but not all over the place), and a basket to hold the work of Marianne’s prolific little artists.  We made a quick run to the Container Store, and voila!, the space went from messy to marvelous. 

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Oval Nested Woven Nylon Bins from Container StoreToday, I’m sharing my latest contribution to the stylish and sophisticated BostonMamas.com, *the* resource site for moms in Boston and beyond.  Enjoy!

Before I (or any of my friends) had children, I remember walking into the houses of those who did and being horrified…blocks in a tumbled-down heap on the kitchen floor, dress-up clothes strewn all over the couch, cars under the toilet.  My house will never look like this, I thought.  But just a few years and a couple of kids later, I realized that toys creeping out from the requisite toybox is inevitable, and takes a huge amount of energy to combat it.

Since that moment of realization, my husband and I have tried a slew of products meant specifically for organizing toys, but it was only recently that we faced the truth.  It’s not the product but the process that can free you from having toys take over your home.

1) Purge, divide and conquer:  Take a good hard look at the toys in your home. Does your four-year-old use the Fisher-Price farm set?  Do you have two dozen puzzles? Too much stuff can be really overwhelming for kids, not to mention the adults who have to live among it.  Once your child has gone to sleep, spend an evening dedicated to purging the toy collection and organizing what’s left based on the way your child plays (dolls and clothes together, trains and tracks together, Legos separate from Duplos, etc.).  If there are items you can’t make a decision about without the child’s input, make a pile and review in the morning.  Donate or sell the rest. 

2) Choose a home:  You don’t have to have a playroom to have a “primary residence” for toys.  Dedicate a corner of the living room, your child’s room, or a room in the house that’s not used very often.  Depending on how your home is laid out, you may want to select one more “vacation home.”  This allows for distribution of different types of toys, particularly if your child plays on two different floors.  For example, the majority of our sons’ toys are kept in our sunroom on the first floor, but we keep big trucks and the bowling and ring toss sets in the basement.

3) Store based on your décor:  Where you store your child’s toys doesn’t have to be plastic and primary-colored, but it does need to be child-accessible or else you’re going to be called to action whenever your child wants the Duplo blocks.  Consider where in your house you’ve chosen to store toys.  Go vertical with shelving and baskets if you have enough wall space.  A console with sliding doors works nicely in a room that isn’t just for toys.  A storage ottoman is terrific for a living room. 

4) A place for everything and everything in its place:  In our house, we use IKEA shelving with a combination of plastic beverage tubs (to hold chunky toys like bristle blocks and train tracks), plastic lidded boxes (to hold toys that have smaller pieces like Legos and Playmobil), and built in rattan baskets for puzzles, games and dress-up clothes. Once you’ve selected your storage system, explain where everything “lives” to your child (if he or she is old enough) – this will go a long way in both playing and cleaning up.  If you have the time and inclination, take pictures of the contents of each container, then laminate and affix them as labels for pre-readers (even better, include the word and the picture).

5) Collect in key areas:  It’s inevitable – toys will make their way from where they’re stored to other areas of the house.  Figure out where those areas are (for us, it’s the kitchen and the car) and create runaway toy collection spots

6) Get on schedule:  This is the key step, because the first five won’t mean a thing if you don’t get into a regular clean-up schedule.  Whether it’s every night or the end of every week, you and your child can work as a team to clean up – return the runaway toys to their homes and pick up the main play area.  If the system is working, and every toy truly has a place, this part shouldn’t take much more than a few minutes each night or 15-30 minutes once a week.

Image credit: Oval Nested Woven Nylon Baskets, The Container Store

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3073_orla_kiely_classic_med_tote_hatch_multi_front_853_generalNo decorating tips today, so just go ahead and file this post under “things you might find inside the mudroom”  — it’s the latest bag I’m coveting.  This Orla Kiely tote is functional, bright and seasonless — just the kind of bag I love.  Works for the office when I’m toting around research reports, or on the weekend when I’m toting water bottles and bags of goldfish for the boys.  And the best part?  Right now it’s 35% off the original price at Orla Kiely.com.

Seems like the perfect way to celebrate being officially diaper bag-free now, don’t you think?

Image credit: Orla Kiely Multi Cross Hatch Stem Medium Tote, Muse Ten

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This past winter, our kids were given beautiful Tibetan prayer flags by one of their grandparents.  As we returned home from the festivities, I thought briefly about absconding with the flags and adorning the outside of our home with the bright colors and messages of peace and good fortune.  Remembering that the flags were, in fact, a gift for the boys, I adorned the inside of their rooms instead.  With a push pin here and a push pin there, the flags have added movement and joy clear across each their rooms (and up from their often-messy floors).

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And it got me thinking, wouldn’t life be more fun with more flags?  Like these…

Pottery Barn Marine Flags

or these…

Wallies Flags

    or even these?

Country Living Tea Towels

 Have you ever decorated with flags?

Image credits (from top to bottom): Paige Lewin, Pottery Barn, Wal-Mart, and Country Living 

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