Friday, May 28, 2010

A Happy Place to Play

This weekend we are visiting our son, his wife, and their two adorable children. My daughter-in-law, bless her heart, has given me carte blanche to decorate the kids' playroom. What a privilege! Nothing could please me more than to create a happy place for the most adorable little girl and sweet-natured, little boy to play.

Not wanting the room to be either feminine or masculine, I chose a color palate of bright colors. Several months ago, I was getting rid of a wing chair, and I had it slip-covered for the room. Because this is a room where children paint, snack, and play, I shied away from popular neutrals. I found a fabric with yellows, blues, pinks, oranges, purples and greens to use as the only pattern in the room.
My husband and son will paint the walls with a satin-finish paint for ease in wiping off tiny hand-prints. (Maria, at:, would approve of the color-choice, because--following her advice--I put the fabric on a large white paint sample. The colors died against white. Next, I tried a beige paint sample, but against this background the fabric looked dirty. However, the buttery cream color was perfect--light, but with yellow undertones which complement the fabric.)
A major challenge in any playroom is what to do with all the toys. Even at thirty percent off, the storage bins at the Pottery Barn outlet were prohibitively expensive. Hum...what could I re-purpose for toy bins???

I drove over to a fruit-packing company, bolstered my courage, and found a foreman who sold me new apple crates for eight dollars each. What a deal! The sturdy wooden crates are the perfect width to sit on the shelving in the room. I am painting them the happy colors in the fabric colorway!
Furthermore, they are just the right height to serve as seating for the play-table.(I found the play-table at the Pottery Barn outlet, marked-down as a discontinued item; besides, a Memorial Day sale added twenty percent off the outlet-on-sale price. I love a bargain!)

The next dilemma was how to make the crate-seats comfortable for little bottoms. Out came the staple gun and fiberfill. I wrapped the crates in vinyl as if they were a present, stapling as I folded. Two pink and two blue benches are perfect.

Here is the sample board for the room.

I received a lot of joy in doing this creative project for my son and his wife. Isn't it amazing how true St. Francis of Assisi's words are: "for it is in giving that we receive"?

I'll post before and after pictures when we get back.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lots to Celebrate

Over the weekend, my husband and I flew to attend the first birthday party of our oldest grandson, Will-John. He was named after his two grandpas.
The lime green party invitations focused the party theme and color scheme.
Zoo animals,
zebra print,
and bright colors followed.
Rachel thought of everything...from favor bags with a toy animal for each child...
to Ghirardelli-chocolate-filled favor bags for the adults.
The kitchen was decorated with blue candles and pink peonies.

On the island was a display of individual baby photos plus three--that's right three--albums, Rachel put together of Will-John's first year.
Brunch was served in the dining room where paper pompoms by Martha Stewart were suspended from the ceiling.
For dessert, guests moved to the hearth room where chocolate fondue for dipping fruit and homemade chocolate and vanilla cupcakes waited. Because the birthday boy has barely tasted anything with refined sugar, he found the cupcakes worth the wait!
When Rachel, her sister, and brother were little, I coordinated colors, cake, and napkins for their birthday parties. But Rachel's party for Will proved the saying: "What you do in moderation, your children will do in excess." Even Will-John's blue outfit with zebra motif coordinated with the party theme!

As all four grandparents watched Rachel and Curt this weekend, we celebrated the adult parents they have become. The day after Will-John's birthday, they promised to bring him up to know and love the Lord...just as their parents had done for them.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Garden Bones

Architectural elements and large plantings are the bones which define a garden structure. In one section of my garden, a fifty-foot length of white post-and-rail fence is the foundation of my design.
Each post is an anchor for a large plant.
Peonies were my choice for the anchor positions for several reasons. First, this area of the yard is not used in winter, so an evergreen was unnecessary; a flowering perennial works beautifully.
Second, over time peonies become substantial plants, and at the crucial dividing positions, I wanted plants of size.
Finally, peonies were ideal, because although the blooms last only a couple of weeks, the foliage stays green all summer, giving my garden substance when we use this space.
After choosing peonies, I ordered an assortment from Martha Stewart picking white and pink varieties to compliment my interior color scheme.
Annually, the frothy blossoms give me another reason to be happy with my selection. In my opinion, peonies are one of the easiest flowers to arrange. Cut the stems in equal lengths, place in a narrow-necked vase, and voila a snowball of petals.
As spring turns into summer, I enjoy the profuse blossoms at each fence post dividing the fifty-foot long flower bed into nine mini-gardens. The peonies create side walls for narrow outdoor "rooms". In each space, I repeat colors with a variety of flowers to give a measure of rhythm and balance to a rather informal summer flower garden.

What bones define your garden? What plants anchor your space? Why did you choose those particular flowers and colors?

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Above, Below, Over, Under, and Beside

I spent the last eleven years teaching college freshman Composition and upperclassmen Writing for Publication and News Writing. Basically, I showed students how to manipulate English words to capture their reader's attention and make a point. A good designer does the same thing with space.

Remember the prepositions-of-place, words like:
above, below, against, behind, around, beside, between, in, on, over, under, through, without and within?

Well, good designers fill these spaces with interesting, artful objects. Wouldn't our homes be empty without pictures on walls and objects in shelving?

Often it is the "above" and "below" spots which are forgotten.

Below the sideboard and above the corner cupboard in my dining room are hand-painted Chinese wedding boxes. Chinese wedding boxes are the hope chests of the East. Actually, young women in the West borrowed the custom from their eastern sisters, because in China, the hope chest is over a thousand years old.

Although many Chinese wedding boxes were made from wood which was then lacquered, mine are made of a sturdy cardboard. I couldn't resist buying them when I spied them in an antique store window, because they are the colors of my dining room. I am not sure how old they are, but they are a set--one larger than the other.

Another room with "above" spaces is the kitchen. I hung antique copper molds in my kitchen to add a warm sparkle to the space above the cabinets. The small copper molds were used for making chocolate candy, while the larger molds were for steaming pudding. Below the copper molds is a copper sterilizer used by the first woman graduate of the University of Virginia medical school.

I think that the impact of these copper pieces is heightened by two larger copper containers on either side.

On the right, above my refrigerator is a large copper apple butter kettle. The large copper kettles held between 20 and 40 gallons. Needless to say, it took hours for that many apples combined with cider to slow cook until the sugar in the apples caramelized, especially over coals outside!

On the left of the copper molds is an English, covered coal hod or scuttle. These decorative receptacles held a supply of coal for a fire. Made of brass or copper, they came into vogue in the late-eighteenth century.

Below the coal hod, I display a collection of copper coffee and tea pots, as well as a sugar and a creamer. The whole vignette gives a warm glow to my kitchen.

In this Sunday post, let me share some biblical prepositions-of-place with you from the Psalms. I hope these truths give a warm glow to your heart as they do to mine.

King David, in Psalm 16, says, "...because the Lord is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." In Psalm 139, David thanks the Lord for being behind, before, above, and below him. "O Lord...You both precede and follow me, and place your hand of blessing on my head...I can never get away from my God! If I go up to heaven, you are there. If I go are there."

How comforting to know the Lord is beside, before, behind, above and below us.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

New Take on Old

Your grandmother's jewel-toned Tabris inherited by your mother...

probably isn't exactly what you had in mind as a topper for your seagrass or sisal underlay.
More likely, a muted, light-toned antique Oushak would be on your wish list.
However, don't let what is in vogue today tempt you to sell a work of art at pennies-on-the-dollar. Jewel-toned rugs will once again be sought after, when vivid colors are back in fashion. (And, this may happen sooner than you think!)

In the meantime, how do you bridge the dark, strong colors of antique orientals with your lighter interiors? Here are a couple of ideas:

First, use the jewel-toned rugs in rooms which can handle the color--say in a nursery designed around this creative felt globe from
Or, unexpectedly, place the treasure in a child's playroom. Actually, a hand-knotted, dark, patterned rug is durable and forgiving of spills. Couldn't you see a red and blue rug in this playroom with wall art designed by Word Candy Vinyl?
An antique jewel-toned rug would look fabulous in a basically white child's room with a touch of red.
Or, think outside the traditional dining room box, and by adding contemporary chairs (like these called "Nastro by Pianca" designed by Alessandra Pasetti)turn your formal space into a more youthful, casual eating area.
Or, if you are very daring, step onto a small jewel-toned rug when you climb out of a tub in a bathroom designed like this one found at:
Ok, maybe this is a little too wild. Here's a second idea. You can still use the treasured heirloom in your living room while maintaining a light color scheme. Bridge the dark carpet to a companion rug with a white field and just a border of intense color. This antique isphahan would be an example.
Whatever you decide, don't e-bay something you will regret parting with later. Remember your history is your story!

(This post was written in response to a reader's dilemma.
She wanted a new lighter oriental in her dining room, but was trying to decide what to do with her dark rug in the living room. After careful deliberation, she decided to buy the lighter rug she loved and later move the jewel-toned rug to another spot.)