April 30, 2010

small & sweet: top 5 tips for a tiny kitchen

From the inspiration files, this kitchen featured in House Beautiful years ago is timeless—a favorite example of how to use small space wisely and do it up beautifully. No doubt, there's a lot going on here, but for covering so many functions this sweet little space still feels totally relaxed and effortlessly stylish.

Everything has its place. You've still got your work triangle, with little more than a step between the compact range, farmhouse sink on the right, and refrigerator drawers on the left. Keeping the fridge low frees up counter space and makes a kitchen feel more like a comfortable room and less like a workspace dominated by appliances.

Open shelving is brilliant here; no upper cabinets means no heaviness imposing on the space. Instead the tiny square footage gains breathing room with floating shelves to display all the pretty stuff: stacks of plates, glasses, pitchers, leaning platters. Add to what I call tableware and servingware art actual art and you have a recipe for great design. I love art in the kitchen. After all, this is a room that deserves decoration as much as any other. And the mirror above the range? Perfection. It reflects and expands—a great design trick for any small space. And thus, a tight kitchen that most would envision as entirely uncomfortable is anything but—it's a completely inviting, sophisticated room.

Top 5 tips for a small kitchen:
1. Use small-scale appliances. Get an undercounter fridge. Choose the 30" range instead of the 36".
2. Ditch the upper cabinets. Open up the room with floating shelves.
3. Organize. Group glasses, cups, plates, and pitchers together.
4. Keep it light. Soft colors on cabinets and countertops keep the eye moving and expand the space.
5. Don't forget to decorate! Lean platters and trays, add framed pictures and canvases, hang a mirror.

April 28, 2010

lighting love

Some days there's no good reason for you to be shopping: no projects to buy for, nothing you need for home. Oh, who am I kidding? You always need something for home. It's just that you don't always know it. Yesterday I was browsing TJ Maax, with nothing in particular in mind, when I found this beauty.

And I had no idea where it was going but I knew it was coming home with me. Still looking for a spot for it, and it may end up in Mom's house, but it's so adorable and so affordable (just $40) I knew I had to take it home. That shapely base. That printed shade. Love. 

I really like stores like TJ's, Marshall's, Home Goods and Target for lamps. You'll find on-trend styles and below-budget prices. Here are some other lighting finds I'm into right now.

I have long pined for their Hundi lantern.

I'm a fan of clear glass. These are from Roost.

All things block printed—especially Galbraith & Paul's pendants.

And another unexpected source: Pier 1. Beyond affordable and great styles. Their coral lamp has been widely featured but is still a fave. Perfect for summer!

Don't forget their great paper lanterns too, for a party or, heck, even for everyday. So cool.

April 27, 2010

tuesday tip: decorate with maps

I love vintage maps, nautical charts, road maps, all maps! Decorating with them is a fabulous, inexpensive way to add a dash or more of character, color, and interest to walls, doors, and almost any surface. If you already own the maps, even better. Dig them out from under your car seats and pull them down from the attic. Because although this trend has been around a while, I for one think it's not going anywhere.

This is the image that got me started, one of the most beautiful uses of maps I've seen, from the 2009 Charleston Idea House. Beautiful soft colors. These are real nautical charts bought at a bargain from a South Carolina Habitat for Humanity ReStore. My point? This designer look is totally diy- and budget-friendly. 


Steven Gambrel's boy's bedroom with map walls, via House Beautiful. Maps make a perfect match for the fun and casual styles of kids' rooms.

They're not just for kids though. Love this relaxed office papered with city maps.


Ideal in an entryway.

Pottery Barn

Or a hall. Love the soft colors here.

This hall, and the bedroom wall below, covered with old maps feel like they could be in a cabin on a lake somewhere. Or maybe the maps show the region your lake house is in, and you bring the maps home to remind you of vacation!


And maps need not cover the entire wall to do the trick.

Southern Living

Hang antique rolled maps as shades. Brilliant!

I would give this gorgeous map pride of place above a bed as a headboard.

And my favorite idea: paper the panels of a door. I so want to try this!

{all uncredited photos courtesy nibs and fric and frac}

April 22, 2010

gracious living: cloth napkins

Remember the days before rushed meals, tv dinners, microwaves, and drive thrus? No, neither do I. But I can imagine. It was a more gracious time, when people had time—made time—to sit down for a leisurely meal with family and friends, to converse, to laugh, to share. Maybe you passed the dishes around the table. Maybe you lingered over dessert or wine, telling just one more story. These days some of us have those meals just one or two times a year. And I, for one, think that's not a good thing.

Part of the specialness and the holiday feel of these brunches and lunches and dinners comes from the dinnerware we use, and also from quality flatware, and from cloth napkins. A cloth napkin has weight, literally and symbolically. Its heft feels good in your lap, it lends style and substance to your table, and it stands for permanence, heritage, timelessness. I say why not use cloth napkins for every meal? Not only is a cloth napkin a key to gracious living, it's practical, long-lasting, not something to be thrown away at the end of a meal. It's eco-friendly that way! And a perfect tradition to start this Earth Day, for every day.

I like linen for the look and the soft, worn feel it gets after many washings. Consider monogramming to add even more style and create a family heirloom in the process.

Another favorite of mine is a block-printed cotton, and not just limited to Provencal style.

And don't forget the cocktail napkins. You'll need those too! Bon appetit!

April 20, 2010

tuesday tip: inexpensive art thanks to the kiddies

I'm back to work {sigh} and back to blogging but was lucky enough to spend last week vacationing in Florida with my family. The best part? My two adorable nieces, both of whom love to draw and who inspired this post.

First there's Livi, who loves drawing with markers and getting lots of color on the page. But she loves to mug for the camera even more.

Then there's Maddy, the real artist, who is currently into portraits—and is actually really good!

She did this seascape for me, though, at my request, and as soon as I got home I knew I wanted to give it a special place (after it had been pitifully folded up and in my suitcase for days). I also had an empty spot on the wall and an inexpensive Marshall's frame I thought would look cool with it.

If these were my kids, I know I'd have a constant display of their art going on. Not only does a wall display give kids a place to show off their talents, it's a supremely affordable, colorful, creative way to decorate your space. Display can be as simple as a wire or clothesline and some clips. It's also easy to rotate the collection this way, so that the art can be updated as quickly as your child's talents.

The clothesline look is also ideal for odd-size pieces and three-dimensional works that are hard to frame.

via your decorating hotline

Cork tiles create a gallery and make quick changes easy.

via cookie

White frames and mats lend a crisp, professional look.

via oregonlive
Dynamic Frames are hinged and allow for a clean look and easy addition of new art—just lay your latest artwork on top of old and close the frame.

And not as affordable, but the most incredibly awesome solution to growing collections of art, Jan Eleni will scan your child's art and create a clean, professional collage. What a beautiful way to archive your child's talent!

Where does your child's art go? I'd love to hear and see how it decorates your walls.

April 15, 2010

fire outside

April 13, 2010

tuesday tip: get crafty with casters

So what do you know? I decide to start a regular weekly feature and immediately forget about it. Sorry for missing last week, everyone. But I got pretty excited about posting the bath before and after. This week, Tuesday Tip back.

And today's is simple: Get yourself some casters. Add them to whatever furniture you've got around the house to add mobility and versatility (think kitchen island or bath storage). Even better, you can create your own furniture for next to nothing if you're willing to think a little creatively. See below: some clever someone created a platform bed with casters and a large slab of wood.

And even less expensive, two pallets are secured together and turned into a daybed with the addition of some heavy-duty casters.
Hmm, this money-saving tip even ties into the industrial chic trend. I like it! Find more ideas and buy casters at coolcasters.com.

April 12, 2010

7 elements for your dining pleasure

Oh wow, how I am loving this space by Kenneth Brown. It's got so many elements, in such a clever eclectic mix, that I adore in a dining room.

How much do I love this room? Let me count the ways, from the floor up:

1. Graphic striped rug
2. Nailheads on chairs
3. Heavily distressed table
4. Colorful glassware
5. Fresh flowers (bonus!)
6. Abstract art
7. Sparkly lighting

You could mix these up and put them in another room too—living room, library, bedroom, office, and kitchen. They just work. You'll see.

April 8, 2010

roses, everywhere roses

I've been noticing lots of bright yellow forsythia, lots of buds on the trees, and lots of green things poking their way out of the soil. This has me hungry for—no, desperate for—spring flowers. And not just spring flowers—I'm moving right past spring to summer roses. I'm wishing for profusions of roses. My backyard has a big empty fence all along it's back border just begging to be filled with the likes of this...

Well, it might take more than a few years to get this full and luscious. In the meantime, I am dreaming...

and shopping at heirloomroses.com for this...

Abraham Darby


Constance Spry

But really, how can I choose? The one climbing rose I planted last year is doing nicely. But maybe it needs more than one or two new friends. How are your gardens growing?

April 6, 2010

my house: bath before & after

I thought it was about time for a little look into my home. As anyone who knows me could tell you, the bathroom is one of my favorite rooms—a place to revive, relax, and get pretty. I love a good bubble bath with a book; I love lighting candles. Could you imagine doing any of that in this bathroom? No. This bath started out my worst nightmare.

Really, the bathroom when I moved in was pretty scary: that unflattering green paint,the flimsy little pedestal with zero storage, no mirror, the cheap faucet, and that dark wood beadboard, that to add insult to injury was just on one wall, giving the tiny room an odd, unbalanced feel.

Sorry for the small pic. I think I sized it smaller for email at one point and didn't save a large original. In any case, you really don't want to see it any more closely than this! As I started to dig into transforming this room, the first thing to go was the carved molding topping the beadboard panel—it was overly heavy and traditional. My thought was to replace it with something simpler and more modern, and then to freshen it all with some white paint. Look what I found behind the trim!

Apparently, someone took the easy way out of bad tile by slapping some beadboard over it. And because of time and budget, I wasn't about to completely tear apart this room either. So, I had some new beadboard installed on the opposite wall to balance out the room, and painted it all. Then I enlisted a local furniture-maker friend to custom-design a more updated trim molding with enough of a ledge to lean pictures and things on. All I gave him was one little picture from Country Home magazine...

And he gave me this gorgeous finished product...


 Isn't the trim lovely? And here's a better view of the whole room.

First of all, isn't it amazing what some white paint can do? The paneling and trim are Benjamin Moore White Dove, a nice, soft, not-too-bright white; the walls are Martha Stewart Araucana Blue.

The new vanity is more practical, not to mention better-looking, than the original pedestal. It's got a countertop to spread all your pretty things out on and a storage drawer; yet it still feels light because it's up on legs. There's room for a big basket for towels (old house=no linen closet) to stow underneath. The vanity came from Home Depot at a bargain $179; the granite top with integral undermount sink came from Lowe's and was equally budget-friendly at about $230. More storage comes thanks to the mirrored medicine cabinet from Pottery Barn.

The faucet was a compromise; I resisted the urge to special order a $300 Kohler faucet and instead opted for the nicest off-the-shelf $99 Delta I could find. In the end, I'm totally happy with it, and with Dad's help (what would we do without handy fathers!?) I had a new bath vanity, sink, and faucet installed in a day.

What I did splurge a bit on was the lighting, and I have no regrets there either. If you're going to spend in one place, lighting is the place in your budget to do it. Good lighting can give a room a richer, higher-end look; I think it's the lighting here that really gives this budget room the look of a much more expensive space. The light is the Campaign triple sconce from Restoration Hardware. But even at a splurge it was still only about $250 with shades. When I went to order it, I wanted white linen shades but they were backordered for months. So, I reconsidered and went for the flax. What a lucky break; I love the color of these shades, and I think they really give the room depth and contrast; they also pick up on the colors in the granite. The white, I can see now, wouldn't have worked at all.

What really works is that wide trim atop the beadboard. Instead of the typical towel bar, I thought it'd be fun to place some hooks in a row instead. It's one of my favorite little touches in the room. But the room is really more than the sum of its parts. I love spending time here now. And I'm sure you can see why.
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