As an interior designer, I am constantly in beautiful spaces surrounded by stunning furnishings only to be disappointed when coming home to my own home.
The same is true with a few bathrooms that I have recently had the pleasure of working on, and I think it is time for an update.
Updating a bathroom in your home can be an overwhelming process, but breaking it down into steps can help - and it is as simple as knowing a few numbers.
Do you remember the most beautiful bathroom that you have ever seen? I still remember the bath at a Las Vegas hotel with a double door entry that took my breath away.
There is no reason why we can't have a few of those elements in our home, and for that reason I am writing a bathroom renovation series to help you to update your bath with troubleshooting tips on how to select items, avoid mistakes and, even worse, avoid the dreaded regret.
Like most successful projects it is all about the planning. Please do not begin ripping out your bathroom without having a plan for what you are going to do. I recommend that no work take place without everything you need sitting in the garage or basement. For this step you will need a piece of paper and a tape measure. Let's take a look at the size needed for most of the items and tips on how to lay out a great space.
It is all about the numbers
Let's begin with the space that is needed for items and how to plan correctly before we discuss design and finish options. Renovations that are simply switching out new products and replacing pieces with the same size sinks and tubs are generally easier and cost less in labor. Once you decide to move things around, that is when things get tricky. I would recommend bringing your measurements with you to the bath center before making any purchase, or calling an architect or designer for a consultation.
The easiest place to make a mistake is when sizing the area around the toilet. It is not as simple as whether the toilet you selected will fit. Generally the minimum of clear space around the toilet is 30 inches, but 36 is preferred.
Not all toilets are alike. There are now at least two heights and two seat sizes to select from. You need at least 24 inches of space in front of the toilet, so a standard size is a safe bet and the newer comfort height is especially the way to go if there are people in the home with mobility issues.
Elongated seats are 2-3 inches longer and would not be the best choice if space is tight. I just designed a beautiful bath in a waterfront home and we used a new toilet from Rohl that was not only one piece but was a flat surface. And it did not have the molded shape of the water flow area under the seat that we are all used to.
My client liked the look as well as the thought that it was easier to clean. They are twice the price of the basic two-piece toilet. But let's face it, only you can determine if it is worth the splurge. There are toilets with catchy names and funny commercials. (Have you heard of the Vormax?) Some mount on the wall and others on the floor. Seats now self-close and others heat up.
One shower, hold the tub
There is another trend with people removing their tub units and replacing them with just a shower. Be sure to leave one tub in the house for resale purposes. Most tubs are 60 inches long and 30-32 inches wide. Depth ranges from 14 to as many as 20 inches. I recommend my clients consider a tub like the Kohler Archer Collection unit. It's deep enough to soak in on those days where a shower is not enough to relieve the aches, but is not so deep that it is difficult to step in for a shower.
Showers come in all sizes, but if you are unable to find a base that you like then your contractor will likely make one for you that will take your favorite tile. (We will talk about tile later in the series.)
When splurging for glass doors be sure to consider the way the door will swing. Installers want to be sure that the door hinges on a wall, so consider how you will turn on the water before stepping into a cold shower. Think about how you will reach the towel when stepping out; whether it is a wall or on the glass doors, be sure to measure for the proper size towel bar.
Towel bars mount 36-42 inches above the floor. If you prefer those enormous bath towels called "sheets" then raise the bar to 48-50 inches.
The one mistake I see often is the placement of the toilet paper hardware. You should not have to be a gymnast to twist and turn to get the paper, nor should it be the first thing you look at when you walk into the bathroom. Sit on the seat and place it where it won't hit the knees of your tall uncle. Consider it on the side of the nearby vanity if it makes the most sense. Do not not do it because you don't want to make a hole.
Searching your favorite style magazine or an online resource like houzz.com will give you the inspiration you need to narrow down the many choices. Houzz allows you to create idea books and refer back to images later. You can even share your idea books with your designer or contractor and many of the images provide you with the shopping information that you need to buy.
Next month we will talk about the many different sink styles and vanity types as well as lighting options to give your own bath that wow factor that will take your breath away.
Children's bedrooms can be one of the most fun decorating projects. My children have such fond memories of their bedrooms when they were young - before the teenage years took over and turned them into hoarders.
My son was interested in Peter Pan and watched the movie almost every week. In his room I papered a pirate map on the wall behind his bed and, by using two oak curtain rods, created a ship's mast with a muslin sail above his headboard. It was perfect for him and made him happy for years.
My daughter's room was done in pink and white polka-dot with a crown canopy above her bed. It was a room fit for a princess.
There are fantastic resources available now for those interested in decorating children's spaces. The Pottery Barn Kids, Garnet Hill and Serena & Lily catalogs are great resources, as is one of my favorite online apps, houzz.com.
Houzz is a free website that allows you to spend hours flipping through beautiful images of rooms from all over the country. You can look for children's spaces with something as specific as carpets, canopies or ceiling fans. It gives you the option to save images that you like to Ideabooks. My clients share their Ideabooks with me so I can see what they love and, often, what they don't.
Houzz had an interesting article on children's rooms that received the most saves to Ideabooks, and interestingly enough the rooms tended to be classic ones that offered something extra, like a color on the ceiling, a lofted play space or a brightly colored rug.
If you are looking for inspiration to start, select one thing to play off of: a fabulous rug or a pretty ceiling fan, for example. One thing I recommend is not overdoing the decor: There need not be vinyl stickers on every wall. If you want to get the most time out of the space, the key is creating a grown-up look with whimsical accents.
Kids love secret hideaways and a loft bed can be a great idea if your ceiling height is greater than 8 feet. IKEA has a number of styles and most of them are under $460 and include storage and a homework station below the mattress. They are available in a number of different colors and even different heights to accommodate younger ages. I find that in order to make these beds you have to have performed with Cirque du Soleil, but the good news is that they are hidden by the support walls.
One more tip, do not let your child pick out the wall color. I know this must sound harsh but I can't tell you how many rooms have been ruined that way. Instead, consider making a few selections on your own by putting the swatches up in the room and offering your child a few "approved by you" choices. Their affection for that color will pass before the paint is dry and by controlling their selections everyone will sleep better.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to Houston to work on a new house and had only nine days to do it. By researching my favorite furniture brands I found a large furniture store called Star Furniture that had a variety of styles. Everything on their floor was available for delivery in three days! In nine days I finished the dining room, living room, TV room and two bedroom-bath combinations.
In addition to finding the nearest HomeGoods, my client brought me to Hobby Lobby. Have you ever been? What a great resource for people like me who like to decorate on a budget. There was an entire aisle of just knobs!
One of the first things I did when I returned was bring one of my designer friends, Beth, to the Seekonk store. As we walked the aisles we decorated an entire children's room in our heads with a fun carpet, wall accessories, lamps and fabrics for the windows. There is another Hobby Lobby in Warwick; check them out when you are in the area.
Before you shove that furniture against the wall or cover that couch with pillows, keep in mind these 10 common decorating mistakes that people make and what you might do instead.
1. Furniture against the wall with a floating rug
Try to avoid the natural inclination to place all of the furniture up against the wall to maximize the space in the middle of the room. This backfires and what you are left with is often chairs that are too far apart and rooms that do not function well. Instead, consider the largest direction of the room and consider running the couch or largest piece in that direction. Create a conversation area that does not require yelling across the room. The rug should actually be under the front legs of the furniture and this will help make the room seem bigger!
2. Too many pillows
If there are so many pillows on the sofa that it takes five minutes to move them before sitting, then that is too many. Same goes for the bed. Also, karate chopped pillows only exist in photo shoots. Instead, consider placing a larger one behind a smaller one and control the number so they need not be moved before sitting.
3. Harsh lighting
It is wonderful to have various levels of lighting in a room. Each seat should also have a light source and a place to rest a drink, but no one is doing surgery in the living room. Simply put everything on dimmers. They are inexpensive and allow you to control the amount of light you need at different times of the day.
4. Hanging art high
This is a common mistake. People assume that the height of the art should accommodate the tall people in the house! I remember learning about this in a class at the Rhode Island School of Design and called my friend at Providence Picture Frame for the scoop. Geoff Gaunt and his team not only create beautiful frames, they also hang art for designers around the Northeast. They have even hung the art in Attleboro City Hall and the city's public library. Geoff explains that "in general, the center of the image should be 60 inches off the floor. Multiple pieces should be hung by aligning the centers for a more appealing look." Also, keep proportion of the piece in line with the space you are hanging. A 12-inch frame does not carry enough weight to cover an 8-foot wall. Nor would a 36-inch frame work in a 42-inch opening.
5. Toilet rugs
Sorry, Grammie, these are no longer in style. Opt instead for a rectangular rug placed in front of the toilet (if you must).
6. Out of place themes
Have you ever walked into the home of a friend who was in her animal print phase? Or know someone who went to Hawaii and wanted their home to look like a beach house on Waikiki? Try instead to keep the main pieces simple and use a few well placed accessories to remind you of that trip or your favorite fur.
7. Keeping things you hate
When you really hate something in your home, get rid of it or donate it to charity. If you cannot afford to replace it then head to a consignment shop, or simply remove some of it. For instance, one of my nicest clients is staging her Cape house for sale and has a dark table and china hutch set that I would describe as what they used to call "Early American." My recommendation was to remove the top piece off of the hutch and keep the buffet base, and replace the two chairs at the head of the table with something colorful from HomeGoods. The colorful item drew your eye to the chairs and made a huge difference, and also updated the look by 20 years.
8. Furniture that doesn't fit
Shopping for furniture can be a real challenge because showrooms are always much bigger than your living room. Be careful, and be sure to bring your room measurements with you. It is better the buy a small sofa and two well proportioned chairs than a large sofa and an oversize chair alone. If you cannot afford to bring along a professional then bring along a tape measure and use it on the furniture you are looking at. Beware of pieces with enormous arms.
9. Too many colors
When I am asked how to begin with decorating an entire first floor, I explain that each room should have its own look and color scheme, but a well designed space flows from one room to the next. Try to avoid a red room, a green room and a blue room, etc.
10. Pattern overload
Also be careful when using too many patterns. Pattern proportion is important and the secret to doing it well is varying the size of the patterns. Have you ever driven by a yard with so many objects of art that you are dizzy? There's too much to look at. Think of your eye like the ball of a pinball machine. If you are going from one thing to the next without end, you have overdone it. Keep things simple and change accessories when you want an update.
Bonus mistake: Dreaded drapery
Here's an interior decorating faux pas I've touched on before in my column, but it bears repeating:
Draperies should not be too short or too long. Anything over 2 inches short is too short and even the White House does not have draperies that "puddle" on the floor. Sorry to repeat myself, but draperies done well hang off the window, covering the wall and not the glass. If you do not want to have them adjusted then hang them higher.
After we all muddled through what seemed like the longest winter in history, isn't it nice to see the snow melting away?
For those who have ventured out, stores are now displaying spring and summer goods. And seeing the new porch and patio display at Target recently really gave me hope that summer may come after all.
Here are a few ideas that will hopefully bring a little of that spring excitement into your home.
1. Give your space a quick color makeover.
Either paint a room or simply the wall behind the sofa or bed for an immediate pick-me-up. Choose a light tone of aqua or a spring-inspired color.
It needn't cost you a lot or take much time, and leaving the warmer tones of winter behind will help to shed those doldrums.
2. Pick up a bouquet of tulips at the market.
It's a sure way to usher in the season.
3. How about a faux floral arrangement?
My favorite kind of plant is a fake one. While checking out the new HomeGoods in Westwood, I came across a display of NDI brand florals I thought were reserved only for designers and high-end florists. It's a very high end and pricey line. I found a small arrangement of peonies from NDI and brought it home to liven up my house.
Whether it is a large pot of orchids or a single stem - a faux arrangement can brighten your dining room table, kitchen or bath. (OK, they will not smell, but they also will not die.)
4. Roll up an old carpet and put down a new indoor/outdoor area rug.
The outdoor carpets of old resembled AstroTurf, but new polypropylene rugs are softer, fashionable and who doesn't love a carpet you can take outside and hose off?
These rugs are available virtually everywhere and many online sites have a great selection. Compare FrontGate with HomeDecorators and Ballard Designs for great selection.
When selecting a rug be sure to measure first. If you are trying to bring furnishings into a space (like those chairs on the other side of the room) then be sure to get an area rug that is large enough to reach the front legs of those chairs. Try to avoid using a number of smaller rugs in the same room because it can chop up the space.
Another thing to remember is that when using an area rug under a dining table, be sure that the rug is large enough to cover the space used when pulling out a chair. in other words, try to avoid having chairs spill off the rug onto hardwood.
Rugs that are 5-by-8-feet seldom work under a table. Instead, opt for a 6-by-9 or 8-by-10 one depending on the size of your table. Use it inside until the weather improves.
5. Shop for something new for outside your home.
This can be as small as a new outdoor pillows, a garden stool or new outdoor furniture. Selection is great. Garden stools also make a perfect side table or can even be used in a walk-in shower. Who doesn't like a few new pillows?
6. Buy a new wreath.
You can display it on the inside of the door until the weather gets better.
7. Clean out a closet or pantry.
If you are tired of the clutter in that closet then try your hand at designing a new storage system. I have had luck with an online site called Easy Closets. Many professionals use it, but it's easy for even the novice to use.
The key to success is measuring your items (yes, count the number of shoes in your closet) to be sure that your design is right for you. If you are worried about the installation then hire someone to install it for you. If you are not comfortable with the DIY option then hire a professional. There are solutions in every price category.
Why not redo your closet while switching out your clothing to your spring wardrobe? This is a project that will make you happy all year.
8. Change your window treatments.
This is one of the surefire ways of brightening up a room. You can even remove them and replace with a matchstick-style shade. They are easy to find and even Christmas Tree shops, Lowes, Home Depot, Target and Walmart have a selection of them.
Why is it that we would spend hundreds and sometimes thousands on a sofa but want to get a great window treatment for $39.95? If your windows are in the 32 to 38 inches wide range, then using those inexpensive ready-mades can really work for you.
The key to window treatment success is all in the installation. Here is how the pros do it:
The first thing I notice is the space under the draperies. One-half inch is the rule of thumb. I am not a fan of puddling. I've see it done on HGTV and it drives me nuts.
A friend brought me to her son's room to proudly show me her drapery efforts. The drapes were about 14 inches off the ground. Ugh. That is just wrong.
Buy longer drapes. Ready-mades can be found at 84 and 96 inches long. Better to get the longer ones and raise the rod height than go too short.
If your rod hardware is mounted on the window casing, that is WRONG. You want to frame the window with draperies, so do not be afraid to install the rods 6-8 inches off the frame.
If you want to give the illusion of taller ceilings then consider mounting rod hardware higher to the crown or just a few inches below the ceiling. You will be surprised what a difference it makes.
Although the trend is to use simpler and tailored valances, similar rules apply. Do not mount the rods on the frames! Install the rod higher so that the bottom of the valance covers the window frame and grazes the glass and does not cover half of the window. Professionals calculate the length of the window and determine the proper length of the valance for the window. This is generally more than 25 percent but less than 35 percent, as a general rule of thumb.
Hire a professional for a perfect look. You will be surprised how long lasting the right solution will be.
My mom used to change her curtains every season and could not understand why I didn't until I made one for her. She loved it so much it stayed up for years.
By Karen Corinha, for The Sun Chronicle
Designers from 76 countries and all 50 states descended upon Las Vegas this month for the Winter 2015 Las Vegas Market, an event that provides a glimpse of what's in store this year for furniture, lighting, home decor and gifts.
In January, leading home decor manufacturers roll out their new lines of furnishings, and one area I always have my eye on is lighting.
There are so many styles of light fixtures that choosing among them can be overwhelming. But it's worth the effort, because lighting is a sure way to update your home and it can be as simple as a new lamp or replacing that old light fixture (we all have one somewhere).
Let me introduce you to the lighting trends for 2015 and show you how you can incorporate them into your own home.
While searching the Boston Design Center recently for table lamps, I noticed that glass fixtures are everywhere. Not just the clear glass that you have been seeing for a few years in stores like Restoration Hardware and Pottery Barn, but a handmade, sculptural glass type of look. They have an artsy sophistication and can range in price from hundreds to thousands.
As I have been writing in recent columns, finishes are changing. I have been recommending to my clients that they stay away from satin nickel for the last year and choose a polished metal, such as chrome or polished nickel. The difference is subtle. Polished nickel has a depth to it and a slight pinkish cast while chrome is simply silver.
Gold is good
Gold is making a comeback as well. Unfortunately, the new gold is not the same as the one we saw in the '70s. It is a gold leaf finish that is antiqued and flat. Rose gold, which takes on a coppery color, is also being introduced. I have not used this yet and am cautious to mix too many metals in the same space, but I bet this would look fabulous in the right room.
Wood and resin will continue to make an impact in 2015. Light fixture manufacturers are introducing a lot of wood, which is an interesting way to bring a rustic and warm element into a space. This, combined with the trend of the industrial, or loft-like, look, can work well. We are still seeing a lot of these industrial-inspired fixtures that use the "retro" bulbs that are actually expensive and not all that long-lasting, in my opinion. Feiss just introduced a pretty wood globe fixture with a glass cylinder inside. It has an almost retro feel to it and I am going to use it over the reception area in a restaurant in Boston I am working on. This fixture would also look great over a round kitchen table. Globe fixtures are fun and work in a variety of settings.
Lanterns are hot
One of my favorite trends is the use of lanterns, and they are now available in every shape and color. I have used four over a long kitchen island or even as the staircase light in a foyer. They are perfect for a relaxed look in a beach house or a whimsical look when used in color. (Replacing a clear bulb with a frosted one can help control the glare.)
New light for bathrooms
Bathroom lighting trends are changing the way we use one of the most functional spaces in our home. Gone are the days of having a single fixture mounted in the middle of the ceiling, which forced us to make do with less than adequate lighting for make-up application and grooming. If you are still staring at that ugly gold light strip with the exposed bulbs in your bathroom, now may be the time to change it - it is not coming back in style.
Cross-lighting, an industry term, places lighting fixtures above, below and on both sides of the mirror to avoid shadows beneath the eyes. I recommend using recessed fixtures over the sink and then, on a separate switch, flank the mirror with two sconces that are at least 60 watts and dim-able.
I recently replaced the fixture over my kitchen table with a new LED crystal ball. I loved them in the Ethan Allen catalog and found a way to use a beauty just introduced by ELK in my renovated kitchen. I know it is not for everyone, but I like the bling. I have to caution you, however, to not jump into the LED craze without first seeing the type of light it creates. It is a very white light, and unless it is dimmed my family has to wear sunglasses at the table. It is certainly energy efficient but also can produce a light that is very cool and different from other fixtures in the house.
Tips for choosing
So here are a few tips for selecting new fixtures for your home:
Kitchen table fixtures tend to be a little smaller than those in the dining room because the table is generally smaller. Use a 24- to 27-inch fixture over a standard-size kitchen table and have it installed 28 to 32 inches off the table.
Be careful not to hang island pendants too high. Depending on the fixture, 42 inches off the counter is generally an acceptable height.
Consider a 26- to 29-inch-tall lamp beside the bed with a pull string type of on/off switch. It is so much easier when you are in bed to reach for the pull chain than a switch located directly under the bulb of the lamp.
By Karen Corinha, for The Sun Chronicle
Here are a few design topics for you to ponder in 2015. I hope that they bring you success and prevent you from making design mistakes that can cost you money, emotional distress and potential discourse with the people that you live with.
1. NEVER CHOOSE A PAINT COLOR WITHOUT BEING IN THE SPACE REQUIRING PAINT
For anyone who has read any of my columns, forgive me for repeating myself. For those who are new, please, if you only take one piece of advice this is the one. Do not use a color because it looked pretty in someone else's house or great in the store without putting up a chip on your wall and looking at it in the different lights of day. Most manufacturers give away color chips. I can order them for free from Benjamin Moore and usually send three or more to my clients in an 8-inch size for them to place around the room. Ask at the paint store. Even if you have to pay for them, it is worth it in the long run.
Consider the trim color and make sure the colors work together. Your color should also not glow in the dark. How many yellow rooms have you walked into thinking the sun was coming up? Tone it down a level and remember that if you want to love it in your home for years take the time up front to get it right.
2. IF YOU ARE UNSURE ABOUT IT, AND IT CAN'T BE RETURNED, DON'T BUY IT!
Even with years of experience, there are things I have purchased for myself that I regret. My biggest was an expensive carpet from Restoration Hardware Outlet that cost me three months' salary. It looked great in the store, but not so much in my family room. Knowing that I could not return it just left me feeling horrible every time I looked at it. (It is now living a happy life in a friend's dining room where it looks great.)
3. DON'T BUY FURNITURE WITHOUT FIRST INVESTING IN A TAPE MEASURER!
My clients tell me that furniture shopping brings them the most anxiety. It is difficult in the showroom to sense proportion. Something might look like it will fit beautifully until you are trying to get it up the stairs to your apartment or in the back door. Ad it is not always large pieces that can give you trouble. Last week, a client could not get a storage piece into the office because there was not enough swing in the hallway to make the turn.
Measure the piece of furniture you are interested in and cut a piece of newspaper the same size for your room. You will be surprised how it looks. All furniture stores can print out a tear-sheet for you of the pieces with dimensions. If you are ordering online, be sure to view the piece from all different sides and don't forget the height.
4. A BARGAIN IS NOT ALWAYS A BARGAIN
How many times have you seen a great piece at a great price and put it in your cart? It can be easy to buy something because it feels so good to get it at the price on the tag, but if you do not have room for it or it requires you to completely redo your space at home to accommodate it, then it might not be a wise decision.
5. INVEST IN YOUR HOME
For people who rent, invest in pieces for your home that make you happy and are portable, meaning you can take them with you and use them again at your next place. Some examples: a beautiful drapery panel, furniture piece or framed artwork that you love. For those who own, consider investing first in the "structure" of your home, creating a beautiful backdrop for your furnishings like a stunning tile for the bathroom or beautiful wallpaper for behind the bed. The big box stores have a terrific selection of tiles that echo the look of the expensive brands. It doesn't have to cost a lot to make a big impact.
6. LESS IS MORE
If your space is small, keep that in mind before filling every inch. The fewer the pieces in the room, the larger it will look. A small living room, for example, will function better with small pieces. Look for these on display in the bedroom section of a large furniture store. Keep chairs under 32 inches wide and apartment-size sofas to 72 inches wide with two cushions instead of three.
7. DRAPERY PANELS SHOULD NOT BE A FOOT FROM THE FLOOR!
When you hire a professional to do your window treatments they should install them to hang one half inch off the floor. (Don't even get me started on puddling.) It is so easy these days to buy beautiful "ready mades" everywhere. I have even seen them at hardware stores. The key to making these look their best is in the installation. Install the rod so that the fabric frames the window and if you have the room, mount the brackets on the wall six inches beyond the window frame so that the drape grazes the glass and does not cut off all of the light from the window, turning your room into a cave.
Another tip: Many of the "ready mades" out there are made with grommets on the top in place of pinch pleats or rod pockets, and grommeted panels require a deeper projection to look their best. What that means is that you may have to adjust the bracket so that it sticks out from the wall as much as possible and the grommet has room to fall behind the rod.
8. GET INSPIRED
Inspiration is available everywhere! I tell my clients to pick up a beautiful magazine or spend time on Houzz before they embark on a renovation project. Sometimes it is enough to host a party to be inspired to spruce up the place a little or finish the projects that are not finished. I was fortunate enough to be invited to a party recently at a home that was so spectacular I was inspired to come home and clean my office, closet, basement and garage.
9. UPDATE THIS YEAR!
Updating is as easy as bringing in a new lamp or two. Give away that old piece you hate that you are only holding onto because it belonged to a great aunt. If giving it away is out of the question, then paint it. Changing out a dated light fixture does not have to cost you a lot. There are a few online sites that I think are filled with bargains.
I could not afford to redo my kitchen but desperately wanted a change. I researched and then painted my cabinets a pretty gray from Benjamin Moore called Bone Black CW-715, replaced the hardware with a polished nickel and single-handedly put up a new tile backsplash of glass. The result is very pretty, much more current and, best of all, affordable.
10. IT IS YOUR LITTLE CORNER OF THE WORLD, IT SHOULD MAKE YOU SMILE!
What is it that makes you happy with your home? One of my designer friends tries to have fresh flowers in the house at all times. That could become costly, but it is a great reward for a cleaning job done well.
The holidays are approaching and decorating your home for the season is a wonderful way to spread some cheer. Most people love having it finished but often do not enjoy the process and the challenge of wrapping the lights and pulling it all together.
I have had the privilege of watching the pros do it and am going to share with you a few techniques to bring into your own home.
Decorating the White House for the first time in 2011 was a magical experience for me. I applied for the privilege in the summer of that year and was notified by the Social Office in the fall that of my acceptance.
I had spent a great amount of time decorating the homes of some of my favorite clients through the years and I thought I knew a lot. The scale is certainly grander than most homes, but the techniques are the same.
Decorating the White House is a seven-day event and the first three days are spent at an off-site location where the teams are assembling all of the items for each space. The last few days are spent at the White House with the puppies running around and the staff going about their business.
While at the off-site location, homemade pieces are created and traditional ornaments are glued and prepared. The same ornaments are used year after year. They actually remove the strings from most of the ornaments, glue the cap to the ornament and restring them using craft wire.
This is the first recommendation to bring into your home. Consider using a craft wire cut into 8-inch lengths and stringing it through the hole on the top of each ornament. This will allow you to get it exactly where you want it to fall on a tree or garland and also do what we did at the White House, which was to wrap three ornaments together. Instead of placing them under the branches they were placed on the top of the branch and wrapped with the wire.
Last year, I was honored to be asked back to decorate the White House and was assigned to the prestigious Blue Room. Apparently this is a coveted position, but decorating a 32-foot tree is no easy task.
My team was made up of nine people and some were assigned a section of the tree while others were the eyes on the ground ensuring a consistent look.
We began decorating each tree by reaching in deep and placing the ornaments that are to be used in the background and layering one by one until everything had its place. The garland was one of the last items to be placed and it was made up of hand-embroidered state pendants and photos of service personnel homecomings.
The tree skirt used in 2011 was actually hand-sewn with the buttons of service personnel uniforms. The volunteers spend thousands of hours bringing meaningful decorations that represent people from all over the country.
This year I am a member of the decorating team at the Newport Mansions, which was next on my bucket list after the White House. I got the gig using contacts I made decorating the model home for the Rhode Island Home Show and my experience at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
This is fun and much more low key than the White House experience. If you have the chance to get to the mansions this year for the holidays, you will see a lot of changes.
I have decorated the mantel and tree in the Elms Great Hall. The tree is artificial but the result is stunning. We started with large gold leaves that were hung deep into the tree and then hundreds of dried hydrangea were inserted inside the tree to fill in and block the light from shining through. If you are fortunate enough to have a hydrangea plant in your yard, give this a try; it really looked beautiful and the result is quite spectacular.
The mantel is adorned with 12 topiary trees of various heights, some real and others not. Those plastic hooks that mount to the wall and can be removed by pulling the tab are used at the mansions and can easily be covered with an ornament or ribbon. Decorations used there are selected by a historian and curator.
I will be decorating the Billiard Room this week and was asked to bring along ribbons and items that I would like to use. No pressure.
It will be done with a strong masculine flair. I am thinking bronze ribbons and an animal head (fake, of course.) Stop by The Breakers to see the finished piece after Thanksgiving.
Consider putting colors together that are not a match. Here are a few images that show you how the mantels were done in the White House and will hopefully inspire you.
The Red Room with the portrait of Dolly Madison is displayed with all different shades of red on the mantel. The Green Room was a stunning display of plums, pinks, gold and green. Here they used that technique I mentioned of clustering the ornaments and stringing them together with wire and then applying them onto the garland. Bows are sometimes placed in the center and streamers worked in, and in some rooms bows are only used along the sides and are left to dangle.
Nice ribbon can be found everywhere - The Dollar Tree, Target, HomeGoods, or even craft shops and hardware stores. Do not let making bows intimidate you. Last year, I made the bows for the Oval Office as well as all of the wreaths outside. By the 50th one, the novelty had worn off but instructions are easy to find online.
I create loops and pinch the center, layering one over the other until you cannot hold another. Then take a 12- to 15-inch piece of wire and wrap tightly. You can add the streamers by using another wire behind and in no time you will get the hang of it.
Garlands over a door or mantel are a real way to bring drama and can be adorned with holiday cards from last year. Or use children's ornaments intermingled with small drawings from the school year or even candy.
Consider looking online for inspiration or in a catalog for images that you like and try something new. You can try something different each year without buying new things just by separating colors or bringing in some new element. Most of the ornaments used at the White House and the Newport Mansions are used year after year and are combined with different colors to create a unique look.
Pine cones are an easy and low-cost element and can be sprayed with paint. Consider dried fruit slices to add to a garland or dried flowers. Bring natural elements in from outside, but be careful about fire safety.
I hope that you find these images helpful and they inspire you to bring a little White House or Newport Mansions into your own home.
By Karen Corinha for The Sun Chronicle
Wallpaper is back in a big way! Some may say that it never left, but I have seen the number of lines decrease significantly in the last 18 years and even saw one of my favorite companies (Eisenhart) go out of business.
But all that has changed. Pick up any design magazine and you will once again see wallpaper on the walls, whether in a rustic farmhouse or contemporary waterfront home.
Wallpaper has evolved and is no longer the same product that you may remember from your childhood. Of course, there are still collections that have large patterns, or toiles, but what I sell the most are simple, textured patterns and small prints in lots of beautiful colors.
Using wallpaper in the kitchen or bathroom is a great way to add some visual interest to a room. Be sure to select a washable paper or even a vinyl. The new vinyls are not like the mirrored metallics of the '70s.
I often use a collection of vinyls from Thibaut Wallcoverings that are shown in their Textured Resource 4 book - named Bankun Raffia - an embossed vinyl paper that comes in 11 beautiful colors. We used it in orange in a beautiful white kitchen in Foxboro and it is really stunning.
Why not just paint? The paper adds an interesting element of texture that works with other large and small patterns in the room but does not overwhelm. In addition, it holds up better than most paints and, unlike the eggshell paint on your walls, is scrub-able and adds depth and dimension.
If you are lucky enough to live in an older home that still has grass cloth on the wall, do not take it down. Grass cloths are back and are can be found in hundreds of colors. I put up a grass paper in my dining room that even has a printed geometric pattern on it. They are showing grass cloths with a pearl glaze that reflects the light and others with metallic strands worked through it.
Another type of grass cloth is made from real woven palm raffia and is versatile enough to work well in a formal or casual setting. Its natural irregularities are what they say "create the beauty of this textured paper," and the natural straw color works well with all different kinds of furnishings.
This week, the largest interior design show in the country, called "Market," is being held. Home furnishing manufacturers all descend on High Point, N.C., to debut what they predict will be in your local stores next year and hopefully your home after that. Designers and buyers walk miles and miles through furniture, lighting, artwork and accessories, and carpet showrooms choosing collections for next year, and are often on the lookout for new vendors or solutions for their customers.
One of the newest trends is furniture made with a coating of textured paper! Thibaut, my favorite wallpaper line, also manufactures furniture and is debuting a line of parson's-style tables with textured patterned finishes. HGTV's home furnishing line has a couple of these pieces already and they work with a variety of personal styles.
If you are considering changing a room color, why not look at the beautiful wallpapers that are currently out there? How about papering the wall behind your bed?
Looking for inspiration? Houzz is a wonderful site that you can get lost on with thousands of images of other people's homes. Thibautdesign.com is another wonderful resource. Both of these websites will inspire you.
By Karen Corinha for The Sun Chronicle
Choosing paint colors for any project can be stressful. People tend to select a color while at a paint store or even at a furniture store.
Stop doing that!
Sometimes you see a great color in someone else's house and want to use it in your own space expecting the same result.
Stop doing that!
People often forget that colors will look completely different in the same room depending on the wall, light and time of day.
Stop doing that!
Lastly, most of my customers expect to begin a project by selecting the wall colors.
Stop doing that!
I love choosing paint color. When I first started in this business 18 years ago I was cautious, as most people generally are, forgetting that a gallon of paint does not cost that much in the scheme of the project.
I have a profound respect for those who paint as a profession. I will admit that I thought I could paint, and remember telling my painter friend, Bob Moore, that I went to art school, as if that made me qualified.
The good ones do far more than apply paint to a wall in a neat way. (I also thought I could wallpaper before I met Joel Whitcomb of Wrentham and Dan Burns of Foxboro, but that's for another column.)
So not everyone can afford to hire a professional, but if you can it will contribute to the success of the project - especially if you are using a dark color and getting that ceiling edge right is important to you.
When to Select the Color
I cannot tell you how many times I am brought into a decorating project to select paint colors as the first step in the process. That is not the correct way to do it.
If you are renovating and the contractor tells you that the painter is coming in the morning and you need to have all of the wall colors done that day, I hope that you have given thought to what pieces will be in the room - whether it is furniture, bedding or window treatments. If you have nothing chosen then you are going to regret it when you bring the color chips used into a store and nothing goes with them.
It is always best to have a plan. Keep in mind the items that you plan to use - that sofa you inherited, for example - or go shopping for something that you love first, and do not be afraid to ask for a small sample of the fabric.
When choosing colors for the main living spaces, I tend to stay on the safe side. This allows for the colors to be up for a long time and will work with many different types of furniture. For instance, I painted my family room Manchester tan (Benjamin Moore HC-81) in 1997. That color has taken me from black leather sofas through my sage green phase to my current pallet of straw and lavender. (HC stands for Historical Color, and this collection is a great place to start.)
Professional designers and decorators approach color selection like this:
Step 1 - Look at the space and how colors flow from room to room.
Step 2 - Plan everything out on paper. Begin with something the client loves, be it a carpet, piece of furniture or window covering.
Step 3 - Assemble items that work together, keeping in mind the amount of color each piece brings and proportion of color in the room.
Step 4 - Choose wall color.
Step 5 - Accessorize.
Rule number one! You must be standing in the space to select the paint color.
What Colors Are Hot Now
Before selecting a wall color, be sure to have the trim color in your hand. You must use a color that has a small hint of that trim tone in it so they work together. For example, if your trim is a golden oak color then selecting a cool color like a steel gray or blue can spell trouble.
Afraid to use a bold color on all four walls? Consider using it on one wall. Just be sure that the wall is the correct one. In a bedroom, the wall behind the bed should be the focal wall. In a living room, choose the wall carefully.
Have you ever walked into a space and the wall color appears to have a pulse? The colors glow even when the lights are off. Again just a change from one paint chip to the next one on the chart can change that.
Yellows are notorious for that. Yellows go with so many different colors and accessories and look great with navy, red or even purple. So if you are interested in a yellow wall look toward some of the colors that may have cream in their name, like Philadelphia Cream HC-30 or Windham Cream HC-6. But trust me, they are not really cream.
There is a strong influence of gray now. The new grays are warmer but still work well with the beiges. They are even being used together. Benjamin Moore recently introduced a new palette of color called the Williamsburg Collection, and if gray is a color you are considering, be sure to check out these warm grays - CW-45 York Gray and CW-50 Tyler Gray. You do not have to be an antiques collector to like these colors. (CW stands for Colonial Williamsburg.) I just used both of these in a home in Dover and the colors look great. They are neutral but also look stunning on their own.
Color Trends for the Future
For those who are not familiar with the Boston Design Center, it is a marketplace on the Boston waterfront that is eight floors of furniture, fabric, tile, lighting, kitchens and baths - a design professional's Disney World. You can find everything from garage doors to patio furniture.
In preparation for this article I went and took a look at the many beautiful displays of furniture, fabrics and accessories. What I saw were a lot of blues, which is interesting because they have been showing teals for a few seasons. Grays and yellows are also a trend that appears to be lingering. I saw a lot of bold colors. In the Kravet showroom window, for example, I found hot pink, gray and black.
I asked my Carole Fabrics representative, Cathy Wilkerson, to lend her perspective to this article. She works for a company that sells fabrics for the trade, and predicts what you will buy next year. In addition, she teaches at the Rhode Island School of Design. Cathy focused in on three categories: brights, neutrals and metallics.
Big bold colors are being infused on big bold patterns, especially in prints. Bold blues, reds and greens on clean white backgrounds were seen at the European home furnishing fairs this past spring.
Neutrals are still growing and are ever important. Softer tones of whites, creams and taupes are growing. Platinum grays are at an all time high and dominating the neutral market. On the rise is a very soft icy shade of aqua. Another growing trend on the neutral front is combining warm neutrals with cool neutrals to create a serene, clean look.
Metallics are taking their cue from apparel and are showing up in our home furnishings as a soft and glazed look, especially over linen. Antique brass and platinum are the metallic looks on the upswing.
Metallics will make a great subject for my next column. Cathy is correct that brass is making a comeback and all I see are polished metals. The very high end kitchens are showing polished nickel cabinet hardware and if you flip through the pages of Veranda or Architectural Digest, there is not a brushed nickel light fixture or cabinet pull to be found.
One important thing to remember with selecting color for use in your home is that it only matters that you love it and that it makes you happy to be home. Not every design choice will last 16 years (like my FR paint color), but after all, it is only paint.
By Karen Corinha for The Sun Chronicle
I believe that there are attractive design solutions available at every price point. Let's face it, anyone can create a luxurious home with an unlimited budget.
Designers worth their salt do it by combining a client's personal taste and lifestyle with budget-minded solutions. The key to doing it successfully is knowing where to splurge.
Splurging is relative. Your splurging may be different than mine.
I had the privilege of redoing a bathroom about eight years ago in Concord where the homeowner wanted a spa-like bath similar to one she experienced at a Ritz Carlton. Every detail was perfect and the space was stunning. It was the first time anyone had spent over $100,000 for a bathroom on my watch and I oversaw every detail as if the money was my own. Now that is splurging! Every project has some details that should be carefully chosen and others that can be less selective. Here are a few of my tips when undergoing a project of your own.
Family room splurges
Say you are going to redo your family room. It is the one space that everyone hangs out in and it's the place where everyone watches TV together. This is one place where you should consider splurging on a nice quality piece of seating, a high-quality sofa that will stand up to daily wear. In this scenario, I would think about the sofa as being the one piece in the room that should not be skimped on. A carpet, side tables and accessories can easily come from a discount shop, but the couch or sectional should be a good brand. One of my personal favorites is a company in North Carolina that is a family-owned furniture business called Wesley Hall. They use quality fabrics and match patterns better than anyone else. You may notice that most of the couches you see in the catalog store displays are made in solid fabric. That is simply because it is easier to produce. It takes craftsmanship to match pattern well and uses a lot more fabric. Another important thing to think about when selecting a sofa is that for TV watching, the piece should be a little higher in the back than in a room without a TV. A sofa with a higher back can cradle your head and make for a more comfortable TV-watching experience.
I recently worked on a beautiful family room in Lakeville. The client removed everything from the space and wanted to start again. It was a very large room so they were in need of quite a bit: new furnishings, a carpet, end tables and a large coffee table. They used a projector TV setup, and this was to be the room they gathered to watch television. I advised them to splurge on the quality of the family room sectional, since they would be sitting on it every day. They also needed draperies, artwork, chairs, bookcases to hold their large collection of books and new lighting. We ended up selecting a beautiful oriental carpet as our design inspiration and matched with it a Wesley Hall sectional as our splurge pieces. A Sam Moore chair, end tables from One Kings Lane and bookcases on sale at Arhaus were chosen, and lamps from JCPenney completed the space. Their splurge pieces were really the carpet and draperies. They cost the most but also added the greatest amount of bang for our buck and tied the entire room's color scheme together. The sectional was Wesley Hall in a textured navy. The lamps were inexpensive but were perfect for the space. A few accessories from HomeGoods and the room was finished. The result was a beautiful space that reflected the client's tastes and worked well with the rest of their home. They were thrilled and that is all that really matters to me.
I work on a lot of kitchen projects, and they are so much fun. Clients are often overwhelmed with all of the many choices and how to make them work together. Splurging in the kitchen can mean different things. For instance, often it can be the backsplash tile that sets the tone for the kitchen and is the focal point. For some people it is the countertop. If you are planning a kitchen renovation, be sure to check out the new quartz products, like Cambria and Viatera from LG. (The colors and textures have come a long way and the patterns look like granite.)
The kitchen in the pictures atop this column is in a lovely home in Mansfield. The client chose a fabulous cabinet line called Candlelight. Not the highest price nor the cheapest, but well made and with all the bells and whistles. The countertops were Cambria and had a lot of color and sparkle. We let that be the focal point of the space but added a pretty tile backsplash and a glass detail behind the cooktop for a little pizzazz. The lighting was another interesting element - not expensive but stylish, and it worked well with the countertops and focal point of tile. The challenge is knowing how many focal points or splurges should be in the space. For many, it is the budget that determines that, but for others it can be a challenge. My advice is to consider what you want to notice first when you enter a room. In this kitchen, your eye moves from the counter to the focal wall of tile and then to the lights. They work well together, not overpowering each other.
Karen Corinha is an accomplished and regionally recognized interior designer who specializes in creating high-style, affordable solutions. She is also a regular columnist for The Sun Chronicle.