Archive for February, 2010

Home Design and Trends: Decorating with Brown

February 22, 2010

Decorating With Brown
By Nicole Sforza

Use it to make a bold statement―or as a modest sidekick to brighter hues.

Blend red, yellow, and blue (the primary colors) and you get brown. “That’s why every color goes with it,” says New York City interior designer Elaine Griffin, a huge fan of this hardworking neutral. “With dark brown paint, the walls are the star and the objects play second fiddle. With light brown walls, the reverse is true.” At either end of the spectrum and anywhere in between, brown is known to make people feel safe and comfortable, grounded and at ease.

Light Brown Walls

As calming as a sandy beach, light brown is “the next step up from white or ivory,” says Los Angeles interior designer Kyle Schuneman. “It offers minimal risk but much more impact.” A perfect background for blues and greens (think beach again) or dramatic jewel tones, it also brings refinement to a neutral room when it’s paired with crisp white woodwork. (Photo by: William Waldron)

Dark Brown Walls

Womblike, cozy, and luscious, dark brown makes you want to curl up with a book (or drift off to sleep). It’s also woodsy, which lends it a magical, deep-forest quality. Dark browns look fantastic paired with super-saturated bold colors, such as orange (shown right), or as a counterpoint to muted colors, like pale pink. In a sunny room, they can take on very different tones at different times of the day; observe closely when testing out.

Brown With Yellow

Friendly and inviting, this sunny combination can feel both retro and―with simple, clean-lined furnishings―contemporary. Deep brown goes particularly well with buttercup yellow; you can bring in stronger acid yellows with small objects.

Brown With Lavender

Soft, feminine purple brings a masculine gray brown to life. (“These are the colors of a perfect field in Provence,” notes Griffin.) The key is to keep the lavender to a minimum―accent pieces only―so it doesn’t overpower the earthy, neutral shade with its inherent girliness.

Brown With Blue

Even in an eclectic setting, the mix of warm brown and cool blue feels natural―think earth and sky. The gamut of combinations work (navy with camel, turquoise with terra-cotta), but a rich royal blue and a dark chocolate is especially current.


Home Design and Trends: Speaking of Spring Cleaning…

February 15, 2010

As I was taking a break from reorganizing all my clutter (see last week’s blog) I was thinking that I have some serious dusting and sweeping to do! But, I am so tired of some of the chemical cleaning supplies with the toxic smell, what it does to my hands, and who knows what else to the environment!

I was doing a little research and found some natural cleaners – some that you wouldn’t expect!

1)  White Bread and Ketchup
Use white bread to:
Dust an oil painting. Gently dab a slice of white bread over the surface to pick up dirt and grime.
Use ketchup to: Remove tarnish from copper and brass cookware. Squeeze ketchup onto a cloth and rub it on pots and pans. They should go back to their coppery color in minutes. Rinse with warm water and dry with a towel.

2) Oatmeal
Use it to:
Scrub very dirty hands. Make a thick paste of oatmeal and water; rinse well.

3) Rice
Use it to:
Clean the inside of a vase or a thin-necked bottle. Fill three quarters of the vessel with warm water and add a tablespoon of uncooked rice. Cup your hand over the opening, shake vigor-ously, and rinse.

4) Tea
Use it to:
Scour rusty garden tools. Brew a few pots of strong black tea. When cool, pour into a bucket. Soak the tools for a few hours. Wipe each one with a cloth. (Wear rubber gloves or your hands will be stained.)

5) Club Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide
Use club soda to:
Shine up a scuffed stainless-steel sink. Buff with a cloth dampened with club soda, then wipe dry with another clean cloth.
Use hydrogen peroxide to: Disinfect a keyboard. Dip a cotton swab in hydrogen peroxide to get into those nooks and crannies.

6) Cornstarch
Use it to:
Clean grease spills on carpets. Pour cornstarch onto spots and let sit for 15 to 30 minutes before vacuuming.

7) Rubbing Alcohol
Use it to:
Erase permanent-marker stains from finished wood floors or solid-surface countertops. Pour rubbing alcohol onto a cotton ball and apply.

Home Design and Trends: Clutter-Busting

February 10, 2010

I know that it’s snowing…and I know that we have to wait for spring to do some spring cleaning. But I can’t help but start to think of getting organized. Who’s to stop me from doing it now? Perfect idea for a snow day – free help from the kids. At least for 5 minutes!

Here are a few strategies from Amanda Hinnant to get rid of all the things you don’t want, need, or even like.

1. Act Like You’re Moving

Say you had to uproot and relocate. What would you take with you? You don’t actually have to pack up anything―just set aside the few things that you love and use and see what’s left over. “Chances are, you use only 20 percent of your stuff regularly,” says Sally Allen, owner of A Place for Everything, an organizing service in Golden, Colorado.
(photo by: Tara Striano)

Toss-It Tips

  • Envision your home as a prospective buyer might: Uncluttered spaces make the best first impression. They’re also a lot easier to keep clean and dust-free.
  • Imagine the potential buyer (or, worse, a relative) going through your closets or drawers. What would you not want him or her to see?
  • Buy containers and baskets only after you’ve decided what to keep. This way you’ll have a much better sense of the kind of storage you need.

Why It Works

  • You don’t have to get rid of things you love or need―you just have to determine what those things are.
  • If you’ve ever packed and paid for a move, the motivation for paring down your possessions will be all too clear.

2. Assess Your Rooms

Walk through your house with a pen and a notebook, writing down the activities that take place in each room and the items associated with those activities. “Then ‘purpose’ your space,” says Vicki Norris, president of Restoring Order, an organizing company in Portland, Oregon. “Note your desired use for each room, even if you are not using it that way currently.” Remove anything that doesn’t relate to your proposed activity for that space.

Toss-It Tips

  • Start with one room, but keep the whole house in mind.
  • Think of rooms that have multiple purposes as several smaller areas, so it’s clear where items should be returned if they stray. If gift-wrapping is the designated activity for a certain part of the study and you find a spool of ribbon in the kitchen, you’ll know exactly where it belongs, and so will other family members.

Why It Works

  • This strategy lays the foundation for long-term change. “By taking an `aerial view’ of your entire home, you’ll see how certain activities and their supplies are strewn throughout the home―like paperwork, memorabilia, or toys,” Norris explains.
  • Tackling clutter without knowing your priorities can be counterproductive. “People who take a `tidy up’ approach are actually rearranging rather than organizing,” Norris says. “Sooner or later, the space relapses to its original condition.”

3. Clean Out for a Worthy Cause

Getting rid of things will be easier if you can picture someone else benefiting from them (instead of how they just signify wasted money for you). Pick an organization to donate to, and learn as much as you can about it. Read the literature, check out the website, and visit the facility, if possible. (photo by: Mark Lund)

Toss-It Tips

  • Don’t just leave your stuff outside the charity’s storefront or in a donation bin, to be ruined by the elements. Deliver it in person, or find out if the organization will arrange a pickup from your home.
  • See if there are specific items the charity needs; this will make those things easier to give up. If it doesn’t accept certain items ask if it knows of a group that does.
  • If an item is truly worthless or beyond repair, don’t make the organization deal with it. Find out the proper way to junk it instead.
  • Get your kids involved, too, so they can see what it’s like to give.

Why It Works

  • Discarded items will most likely be used, worn, or appreciated a lot sooner in someone else’s hands than they would in yours.
  • You can earn a tax deduction for donated goods. But you are responsible for keeping track of donations, determining their worth, and itemizing them on your tax return.

Home Design and Trends: Lighting

February 1, 2010

Okay, I’ve tried going green. The thing is, sometimes those energy-saving lightbulbs just are too harsh when it comes to lighting my rooms. I like the soft glow an incandescent bulb gives off. I also have different uses around my home – nice bright light for my desk, something softer when dining or entertaining guests, and a cozy, warm light while reading in my cozy chair.

In doing some research, I’ve found a few recommendations that I’m ready to try:

Best for pendant lamps: n:vision Soft White G25 (14 watt), $10 for two.
How long it lasts: 8,000 hours (or about six years).
Why it outshone the rest: This globe-shaped bulb looks great in a hanging fixture and casts a soft, flattering light that, one tester said, is “ideal above a dinner table.”
To buy:

Best for track lighting: TCP Springlight BR30 (14 watt), $14 for two.
How long it lasts: 8,000 hours.
Why it outshone the rest: Testers liked the “easy on the eyes” pinkish tone that stayed consistent from the get-go. (A few other bulbs got lighter or darker as they warmed up.)
To buy:

Best for floor and table lamps: GE Energy Smart 60 Dimmable (15 watt), $11.
How long it lasts:
10,000 hours (or about 7 1/2 years).
Why it outshone the rest: Most bulbs were too dim to use under a shade―but not this one. Although it’s bigger than a standard bulb, it will fit most shades.
To buy:

Best for task lamps: Sylvania Daylight Extra (13 watt), $5 each.
How long it lasts: 8,000 hours.
Why it outshone the rest: The clean, white light will “illuminate your desktop without giving you a headache.” It took just 15 seconds to reach full brightness (some took 80).
To buy: for store locations.