Thursday, April 22, 2010

Giving Thanks to our True Home

In addition to Earth Day being an occasion to raise awareness that every day we should all be doing something good for the earth, I believe that this is a day in which we should all take a moment to reflect on this little blue ball that’s hurtling through space at a mind-boggling speed, and remember that it’s our true home. There is no other. We can change the roof over our heads, but not the ground beneath our feet.

As the recent challenge to life in earthquake zones and the disruption to air traffic because of a volcanic eruption showed us, Mother Nature still writes the rules.

This place that we call “home” before all others deserves our respect and needs to be honored.

Take a moment to pause, think, and appreciate that this little blue ball gives us life. Without it, there would be none.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Make the Most of the One Bathroom in the House-Part 2

Now that we’ve addressed the storage solution in your one bathroom home, let's look at the walls, windows and tub area. 
I'll assume that everything is structurally sound and clean, but might not be as attractive as it could be. 

What can be done to make these hard surfaces look better? 

If painting the walls is an option, select paint colors after you choose the shower curtain because it’s the largest visible element. Paint stores are wonderful about helping you match colors. If you can't paint, select a shower curtain that complements the colors already there.

The shower curtain dominates any small bathroom, and, at the same time, provides an opportunity to be creative. Remember that the mirror over the sink usually reflects this large element, making it appear twice in the room.

Bath and home-decor stores like 
Bed Bath & Beyond sell ready-made shower curtains in a wide variety of styles and colors. Select one that pleases you, and buy a waterproof liner. From this choice, all other decorative decisions will be made, so choose carefully.

With your new shower curtain in hand, select a paint color or wallpaper that complements it, whether it blends or contrasts. It's a small room, and big colors will make it appear smaller. If you use wallpaper, choose one that can handle moisture.

Next, the window treatment. Privacy is paramount, so make sure that what you select maintains it. If you choose a natural fiber shade, include a privacy backing. The shade shouldn’t impede the function of the window - good ventilation prevents mildew. Some shower curtain manufacturers sell complementary curtains, so that might be a good option.

Towel bars and tissue holder are practical room jewelry and add a bit of sparkle. Include art on the walls to complement the overall effect.

Lighting is an important element. If you can change the fixture, select one that can be put on a dimmer switch. Guests don't need full light for their needs. And, of course, candles. They create a relaxing mood for your end-of-day bath and give your bathroom that “powder room” feeling for guest.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Make the Most of the One Bathroom in the House

The bathroom: temple to hygiene and cleanliness, warehouse for myriad products that we use to fluff, buff and maintain ourselves, and a very personal room that guests sometimes need to use.
If the counter is occupied by bottles, boxes and equipment (think hair dryer, electric toothbrush, etc.), guests have to navigate through this just to wash their hands, and they really don't need to see your hairbrush en route.
So how does one provide an appropriate facility for guests, the euphemistic "powder room," yet keep a semblance of privacy and still be functional for you and attractive for guests?
That's the challenge of the one-bathroom home.

Imagine you're a guest in your own home. Walk into the bathroom. Aha. See the problem? This little room is telling everyone your hygiene and beauty secrets (and the world thought you were a natural beauty!).
Start by taking everything that's sitting on a flat surface out. Remove it from the room entirely.
But where to store everything?
Go to a retailer where baskets, boxes and other decorative items are sold. The Container Store and Pottery Barn are perfect places to gather a combination of items that will work well together. Think outside the box. Find decorative boxes to store makeup, pretty jars for cotton balls, and silver toothpick cups are perfect for Q-Tips. A set of stacking baskets can do the trick, too. Put the things you use every day in the top basket, and those you need less often in the bottom.
Add flowers and a scented candle for the finishing touch.
Now doesn’t that look better? You bet it does!

Saturday, April 3, 2010


Let's say you designed that special room 10 or 15 years ago. And it's lovely; just the way you like it. Always has been and always will be.

But, when you look at it objectively, you can see that it's a little tired; maybe the carpet has a trail worn in it from the door to the closet that no matter how many times you've cleaned it, it's still there. And the paint looks a bit dingy, especially around the light switches and doorknobs. And maybe, just maybe, overall it looks little bit dated.

It's counterintuitive to say that if you love a room and it needs to be refreshed that you should redesign it. There's no rule that says you can't just make the old look new with a fresh coat of paint and a similar carpet.

But taking a well-designed room that's tired and making it look new takes a bit more than just repainting it the same color and replacing the carpet with the same color and style. After all, the same hairstyle that you had 15 years ago may no longer be appropriate today. It needs to be modified, if only slightly, to look its best.

Look carefully at the room, and then think about rooms you've seen in magazines. Compare your room with what's in the pictures. For example, look at the scale of the crown moulding and the details of the recessed lighting. Notice the difference? These little details can date a room. But with a little bit of work, they can also refresh the look of a room without changing its design. It just updates it.

If you already have crown moulding, an updated look can be achieved with a new style of moulding that's larger and more in keeping with today's housing trends. It can be installed directly over the existing moulding. Any good lumber yard, Home Depot, or Lowe's has an expert who can guide you with what will look best in your home. Work with a good carpenter to make sure your design is installed properly. If you don't already have moulding on the ceiling, consider adding it. This change can make a huge difference in any room.

If the room has recessed lighting, the units installed in the mid-'90s probably have black inserts, called baffles. That was the style then. Now these inserts can be updated by removing them, painting them white with a heat-resistant spray paint, and putting them back in place. Voila, an update for the price of a can of spray paint!

If the room doesn't have recessed lighting, it's not difficult to add it for an updated look. Then think about putting in dimmers to give your room a totally updated look. Lutron is the maestro of lighting switches, so start on their web site for good ideas. Make sure to work with a licensed electrician as this is a technical job that needs to be done properly and meet building codes.

When you're planning on repainting the walls and trims, think about how to update this aspect as well. Use the same color on the walls, but by changing the trim color ever so slightly you'll give the room an updated look. If the trim is white, think about a different white - there are only about 100 variations to choose from. If you used a bright white then, now a softer white will reflect the change in decorating styles. For example, if you go to Benjamin Moore Paints' web site, they have a "Virtual Fan Deck" where you can look at all their variations of any color, including white. It's a small difference, but one that brings the house into the new century. And, for the wall color, if you don't remember what color you used or have a paint can in the garage or basement from all those years ago, they can make a perfect match from your existing color just by bringing a small piece of it to the store. It might mean taking it off the walls with a knife, but since you're repainting, you can do a small patch as part of the prep. Home Depot and Lowe's paint departments can also do this for you.

Finally, new carpeting. To match exactly what was a standard color when the room was designed, the new carpet might have to be custom dyed. Or, you can use this opportunity to choose a newer carpet that's more in keeping with today's home trends. Stay in the same color palette to maintain the good design, but select a carpet that's ever so slightly different. This might also be a good time to go "green" with a product that's more environmentally friendly. There are lots of choices out there; it just takes some research and working with a good vendor. A good place to start is "From the Floors Up," a blog site that's filled with useful information about carpet and flooring products.

Bottom line; for not very much money you can transform a well-designed but tired-looking room into a fresh-looking room with all its elements intact and updated with fresh paint, new carpeting and lighting, and current moulding. You can also use this time to put your plants in new containers and rearrange your well-loved accessories so they look fresh to you.

Good design always stands the test of time: it just needs a little help to stay good looking.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Question: Please help me with the furniture arrangements in our small house. We have some furniture and would like to purchase a few new pieces but don’t know what. We also want to maximize seating for our Daytona 500 party.


Santa Clara, CA

Answer: In a nutshell, you want comfortable, uncluttered living with additional seating when necessary. The layout I've created for you has some interesting furniture solutions that just might fit the bill: the furniture has several functions and is attractive at the same time.
Let's start with the entry; the long wall is the perfect place to put a console cabinet. This closed piece of furniture provides attractive storage space, a much-needed commodity in any small home. Over this console is a tall mirror that makes this tight space feel more open. Moving into the living room area, we'll put the recliner near the window on the left of the fireplace. Next to it is a small, round end table, and behind the chair goes a floor lamp that provides good light for reading.
A tall, thin plant behind the recliner adds interest to this corner.
In front of your draped window is a 7-foot sofa. This will be the single largest piece in the room. I've put its back to the window to create the beginning of the seating area for entertaining and socializing. Two people can sit comfortably in it, three people when necessary.
Next to the sofa is a pair of end tables. These are closed pieces, so you have a place in which to store coasters, napkins, etc. On one table you can put a small vase of flowers, on the other, a nice piece of sculpture or a small piece of art on an easel.
Behind the sofa is a console, or "sofa," table. You will see in the floor plan that two little squares are indicated behind it. These are two small ottoman seats that are tucked under the console. When you need additional seating they can be pulled out and brought into the room. If they're on casters (little wheels), moving them will be that much easier.
On top of the console table is a pair of 30-inch-tall lamps that illuminate the sofa area. At night they will cast a lovely light onto the drapes.
In front of the sofa is a 4-foot-square coffee table. But it's not just any table. Remember, I mentioned that the new furniture will have many functions. Well, this table has four seats tucked under its surface. When needed, they come out and become seating. The entertainment unit on the long wall is made up of three sections that are shallow. The side units have shelving for books, DVDs, CDs, etc., and the middle unit is the TV. The new dining table is close to the kitchen and has six chairs with it.
I suggest that the table's top be glass so this small room doesn't start to feel too cluttered with furniture. The six chairs should be upholstered slipper chairs. They'll look nice when brought into the living room to serve double duty when you have an audience for the races.
By now, with the large sofa, the two ottoman seats that move into the room, the four seats under the coffee table and the six dining chairs, you have enough seating to invite a lot of friends to watch the Daytona 500 with you. This doesn't include the recliner, which can be swung around if absolutely necessary for one more to join in the fun.