Bathroom, Bedrooms, Dining Rooms, Kitchen, Living Rooms

Color Pop

Have you ever been to Maine?  We go every year, and in my travels, I have learned that the least sad way to leave a beloved vacation spot is to bring something home with you.  This year, I brought home inspiration!

Maine is a beautiful place.  I use that simple sentence because it sums it up so well.  Mainers really have life figured out.  They live outdoors; biking, shooting, canoeing, paddle boarding, sailing, surfing, skiing, you name it.   But they aren’t spoiled by month after month of perfect weather.  Nope, Maine’s perfect summer lasts about 10 days at the beginning of August.  The rest of the year is a variety of rain, cold, mist, snow, you name it.   So you can either stay inside and feel sorry for yourself, or you can suit up for the weather and get outside and have fun!

One of my favorite things about Maine is it’s perfect little balance between New England and the Midwest.  It’s not considered East Coast; in fact, there are somewhere around 70 miles of usable beach on the southern end of Maine.  The rest of the place is logging forests, lakes and rocks. I think that’s what makes their style so subtly unique.  They understand that basically nobody lives in the perfect spot because no place is perfect year round; you just make the best of what’s around you at the time.  It’s that thought that is why, a month after getting home, I am still so inspired.

What happens when you live in a place that, for centuries, made it’s living off of logging?  You have a lot of natural wood interiors to work with!  So Mainers have mastered the art of the color pop.  In the imperfect weather that can sometimes drag on, they gravitate towards refreshing influences of reds, blues and yellows.  But it’s not always in ways you expect:

This is a great example of adding a punch of color to the rich neutrals on the walls, and the natural wood vanity.  I think this is from Minnesota, but the same concept applies.

Moving to the dining room, chairs are such a fun, non committal way to add color to a room!

The chairs are a nice reminder of how gorgeous the ocean is on a clear day.  I love the loads of natural wood, too!

A look in a bedroom is a sweet color surprise mixed in with tons of wood…

And then let’s look outside, where most people have an idea of what New England homes look like.  Is this what you were thinking of?

If you are looking for a fun Instagram account that has mastered the art of color popping, check out Jackie Greaney:


I just love Maine!







Adult, Bedrooms, Child, Lighting

Window Benches

Some of the features that make homes unique can also provide a design challenge in finishing a space.  Bay windows, overly large rooms, or any odd angle in a room all add character to a home, a lot of times for what they look like on the exterior elevations.  But they also present a bit of a pause when it comes time to specify furniture and finishes.

These spaces are never a problem, so to speak, because a design challenge is always an opportunity to come up with an amazing solution.  Let’s take a look at a room that had such an opportunity, and did not capitalize on it.

This is by Sarah Richardson, and I include this option because she DID use window benches at other places in this project, and her decision to not use one here may have been budget related.  In other words, I bet she has a very good reason why she didn’t.  But what we are looking at is the inset windows with two chairs and a small upholstered table between them.  It looks beautiful, but more could have been done.  So let’s look at another room in the same project:

The bench under the window is adorable.  And here is why…window benches allow for several added layers of decoration.  You have your traditional window coverings, but then you add in the details of the bench, upholstering the pad on top, and the pillows that go on top of it, and it’s an opportunity for so much more.  Further, what’s placed under the bench adds interest.  And as always, the lighting makes the space it’s own little moment in the bedroom.

The use of shiplap is subtle texture, which also take the eye out to the view.  Brilliant!

Love the use of the inset shelving on either side of the niche and drawers underneath!

Here is a very large room with an opportunity created by the ceiling lines.  Love the use of grass cloth and the addition of storage closets!

Maybe electrical isn’t in the budget…this is a great use of lamps in the space!

Last but not least:

Orange is a bit dramatic for a bedroom…most people want soothing colors for the place they recharge their batteries.  But this niche is so cool: the lighting, both recessed and pendant, is perfect.  Excellent use of texture with the natural fiber window covers.  Love how the orange gets carried around the room.  Such a fun space for an early teen girl!


Bedrooms, Dining Rooms, Living Rooms

Layered Rugs

When I redid my living room, I specified all new furniture in a different formation.  The room has always been a head scratcher for me from a space planning perspective.  It’s too large to put the furniture against the walls, has a fireplace and spectacular view competing for your eye on 2 separate, adjacent walls, and a turret off of one corner.  Seating arrangement was relatively easy to land on.  But the tried and true obvious answer for carpet size would have required a HUGE carpet, and the fabric I carefully chose for the chairs and sectional would have been no competition for the miles of wool on the floor.  Nope, that wasn’t going to work.  In the end, we decided on a smaller rug for the sectional seating area.  And then I went back to scratching my head for the chairs, until I realized the answer was so simple…a second rug.

Most home owners face a similar dilemma at some point in their quest to ‘finish decorating this house’.  Whether the perfect carpet remnant by your favorite maker is, like, only a foot too small, or you loved a bold pattern on line and on the ground it’s making the room spin, or the room is really more of a long, wide hallway shape than anything else, there are ways to calm the inevitable drama that results from the fact that stock carpet only comes in certain sizes.

Keep an open mind here.  In researching this topic, I saw plenty of rooms that could be classified as ‘we couldn’t decide on just one’.   That’s not where I am going.  The root of layering carpet almost always starts with a floor that begs for softening.  Be it wood, or concrete, or tile, it needs something.  You could bring in a local broadloom guy and he will bind a carpet for you in whatever size you want.  But that’s not as fun!

The most conservative step into layering is to start with a large, natural fiber rug.  Be it sisal, jute, or something similar, from a space planning perspective, all of the furniture fits on this basic layer.  Natural fiber can be rough on the feet, and lack color, so by itself it’s not the most appealing floor covering.  But it’s usually inexpensive, and makes a beautiful backdrop to show off another rug.  Put it this way, if finishing a floor is like framing a photograph, the natural fiber carpet is the matte.  Indented and on top of that, is the photo.

These are great examples of how the natural fiber rug makes a seating area whole, whether it’s utilizing the hide rug, or making a smaller rug work, it’s a great staple to make any room beautiful.

Now let’s kick it up a notch and layer some pattern on top of pattern!

This room seems to be a bit of an odd shape, in that it’s long and not very wide.  I love how they did two separate patterns on the floor.  For a kids room, it’s the perfect amount of whimsy.

I went back and forth about including this one, because it has the base sisal, and both carpets seem adequately sized.  But I decided to show it because, even though I might have done it differently, it’s a nice representation of different ways to present carpeting.

The second layer seems to be bringing the chaise back into the seating arrangement.

Finally, the cherry on the sundae, this was taken from an article on Houzz about how to decorate a living room.  I think he was referring to contrasting neutrals in the room, but I just could not stop loving the carpets!

Bedrooms, Child

The Beauty and Danger of Target

I loooooooooooooooooooooove Target.  I don’t get there as much as I used to though.  Back in the days, when my kids were babies and were in any combination of diapers and pull-ups, I was there at least once a week.  At least.  A friend joked that she knew she was done shopping when her cart could hold not one more thing.  And when my local Target became a Super Target, well, I nearly sobbed with glee.  I probably did, actually, I wasn’t sleeping a ton back then.  What was there not to be thankful for?  I could now purchase literally everything I need in one place!  It was BEAUTIFUL!

As each of the kids have taken their turn joining the ranks of the full time educated, the press for being able to get everything fast has eased, and has allowed for what I like to call ‘mindful shopping.’  I now had the time to put a little thought into what I was buying, and making sure it was what I needed, not just what was in front of me.  (Really, it’s ‘mindful insert word here‘, because that phrase applies to literally everything. But that’s another topic.)  Which brings me to the danger of Target:  buying things you think you need because they are right in front of you.  Beware the One Stop Shops!  They have a few pitfalls to be extremely aware of.

First, the sizing is odd.  If you have ever brought home a piece of furniture, or adult t-shirt, you know what I mean.  They have odd proportions.

Second, it’s mass produced.  And all of your friends shop there, too.  So buying décor from Target is a great way to hear, “Hey, I have that too!” or even worse, “Did you get that chair at Target?”  (“Yes.  It fit in my cart next to the Tide and bananas but then the cart was full so I had to leave.”)

But hang on there.  Let’s not count the place out.  Because they have been collaborating with well-known designers lately, their vignettes are beautiful, welcoming, relevant, and on trend.  I hadn’t been in there in a few months, and was walking through when I saw one vignette, and literally finished a room.  Here you go:

The lighting and side tables are from Target!  Here is how you can make a successful buying trip to Target:

  1.  Know what you are looking for.  I knew I was looking for metal side tables, lighting,  gold finish everything.  Sconces are necessary in a bunk room because they direct light, minimizing glare on neighbors.  The ceiling light means no dark corners.  Perfect.  I did not know I was looking for these things at Target. It was a happy coincidence.
  2. Know your proportions/measurements.  It’s fine to take a breeze through Target’s furniture section, but make sure you know how high of a back, or wide of a table you need for your space.  Carpets look huge rolled and standing in a store, but tiny on the floor.  A lot of times, a 36 inch back chair is called for.  Target has smaller furniture.  You won’t know that until you get it home and in the space if you don’t measure.  If you are looking to fill a space at home, keep a tape measure with you.  You don’t know when you might come across a treasure.  Could even be on a curb!
  3. Understand the specs of what you are buying.  Lighting…is it hardwired?  I was excited because these pieces were not.  Meaning, I did not need an electrician to install them.  That’s important!  Can this cup be microwaved?  The shiny gold handle might heat up.  Are these wine glasses dishwasher safe?  Read the boxes, tags and manufacturers specs if you can before buying.  It’s not saving you time or money if it requires a professional to clean up after your attempt.  You might as have invested in the pro in the first place!
  4. Color.  Make sure it’s the exact color you want.  Close enough is not close enough.
  5. Which brings me to my purely sustainable perspective, I am not in favor of buying things you don’t intend to keep.  It’s when you look at something and say, “Almost, I will use this until I find the one I really want.” Target (and it’s not just Target) uses a lot of composite material to keep costs down, which is great, but means when you are done with it, you cannot recycle it.  Please, please donate.  Or better yet, leave it there, and buy ‘just the thing’ when you find it!