Wednesday, December 26, 2012

O Christmas Tree

This year, with our home's post-deluge renovations, I made some major changes to our Christmas tree: Out with the wine and rose-colored ornaments; in with white, silver, and gold decorations. Before I began, I studied Christmas trees in New York City.

and in Washington, DC.

From my observation, there are basically two Christmas tree styles. The first is the over-the-top design where ornaments completely hide the evergreen. A second style of tree trimming, and my personal preference, features the fir.  Ornaments merely adorn, not obliterate, the tree.

Probably the most famous opulent styling uses ornaments produced by the Christopher Radko company.
"As the legend goes, the Christopher Radko Company started with the falling of the family tree. After more than 1,000 vintage mouth-blown glass ornaments were broken to bits, Christopher tried to replace them by looking far and wide in the United States and by scouring Polish glassware markets. His quest did not produce even one replacement ornament...Christopher enlisted a Polish glass blower and together they went to work, trying to recreate his family’s lost heirlooms...Today, after a quarter century..., the Christopher Radko Company has produced more than fifteen million fine European glass ornaments."

Here is a snapshot of a Radko tree found in Saks Fifth Avenue in NYC.

The flagship store also displayed trees a little more simply dressed with branches visible.

After seeing New York's trees, we went to Washington to tour the White House. Interestingly, the rooms of the "people's house" feature both styles.  Here is the official White House tree gilded completely.
Each year this tree features ornaments from around the country. This year the decorations were made by families of deployed troops.

However, in other rooms green firs were center stage with ornaments merely enhancers.  
photo from Michele Obama's bloodspot
After studying the trees, it confirmed my preference for the more simple version. Here is the Christmas tree in our home.
So, whether your Christmas tree features ornaments or the evergreen branches, it does not matter.  Stylists aren't definite, so you can trim your tree anyway you like.

But don't forget the reason for the season. In New York City, angels at Rockefeller Center herald the coming of the Savior.

And the East Room of the White House features a beautiful creche depicting the Christ child's coming.
Aren't you thankful for the foil of Christ's pure light against the darkness in this world?  As you sit and enjoy your twinkling tree this holiday, be thankful with me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Anchors: A Weight Grounds a Room

"Every room needs an anchor."  This is a truism in design.  Just as an anchor keeps a boat from being carried off by the tide, so too, a heavy, dark or tall piece of furniture grounds a room.

Below are some examples of room anchors in our home.

In the dining room, the corner cupboard grounds the room.

In most kitchens the stove with hood are the visual weight. Is this true in my kitchen? What about the large Subzero refrigerator?  Because of the hood over the range does not continue to the ceiling, it is a bit morphed by the frig.  I'd vote for the frig as the anchor in this room.

In our sunroom, the bird prints which fill the main wall act as the focal point. Individually, they aren't large or dark, but when hung as a set of six, they definitely command the room.

Our living room is an interesting example of the "anchor" design principle with several heavy pieces of furniture and a fireplace. I wonder what you would say is the weight? Look at the room from a couple of angles, before you vote.
Actually, I waffle on this. The tall bookcase has the greatest height and visual weight.
However, it is counter-balanced by the bulk of the black piano on one side and by the fireplace and grandfather clock on another corner.  I could never figure out why this room arrangement works, but as I analyze it, I believe the three large pieces form a balanced triangle.  So, maybe there isn't one anchor in this situation, but three.

The library, too, has more than one large, dark element, but the bookcase/fireplace wall wins hands down as the anchor, because the other bookcase has no where near the heft.

Now, let's inspect the bedrooms.  Our main floor master bedroom has a tall piece of furniture opposite the bed.  However, the volume of the bed makes it the anchor, rather than the armoir.

master bedroom
The same is true for the uptstairs bedrooms. 

upstairs bedrooms
And the lower level guest room follows the same rule.
lower level bedroom
Finally, in the family room a stone wall with fireplace is the room's focal point and weight.
The single anchor-less room in our home is the exercise room.  The heavy equipment floats in the room without any heavy or dark or weighty piece.  Do you have a suggestion for changing this dynamic?
Design principles often have parallels in life.  What is the focus or anchor in my life?  How I spend my time and money reveal what I weigh as important.  If my time and money usage don't reflect what I want to be the most important things in my life, maybe I should make some changes.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Bless This House

Thankfully, our home was not damaged by this year's convergence of the hurricane, Sandy, and the Nor'easter.  However, my heart goes out to those who were not spared.  Recovering from water damage is overwhelming, as we found out last year.

Viewing images of the devastation on the New Jersey shore led me to ponder a prayer I  prayed as a child.  Maybe you said it, too.  "Bless this house, Oh Lord, we pray; make it safe by night and day."

I am sure many of the east coast home owners prayed for protection from the hurricane, but the storm destroyed their homes in spite of their prayers. Why?  In this world, storms are a fact of life. We don't always have an answer as to why some are hit and others spared.

However, truth-be-told, most often our houses are safe, not destroyed. Catastrophes are not the rule, but the exception.
When we are safe and warm, we need to be thankful and not take for granted our protection.

A fellow blogger posted a prayer from the Lutheran prayer book to help us verbalize this thanksgiving:

"Lord God, our home is among the most precious gifts we receive in this life...Make us ever grateful for this shelter from life's storms...According to Your will, protect this home from the spiritual assaults of Satan, but likewise make our home a fortress against the calamities of nature and the wickedness of sinful man...May all who dwell in our home be blessed by Your presence and Your peace, and may all who go forth give thanks for the grace they received from You...We receive Your loving kindness in our home as a reminder of the eternal home we inherit through your Son, Jesus Christ, in whose name we pray. Amen."

Such modeled prayers are helpful in prompting me to be specifically thankful.  They remind me of what could seem ordinary.  Consequently, I have consciously placed pictures and plaques around our home as prompts to praise God for his love and protection.

In my office hangs a picture of the dove that Noah let out of the ark after the rain stopped.  The caption beneath the print reads:  "And the Lord did not forget."  What a wonderful reminder of God's unfailing faithfulness, even after a deluge!

A plaque on my kitchen counter also makes me aware of the Lord's supremacy over the lives lived in these four walls.  My in-laws purchased the original plaque in Haiti many years ago and graciously had a copy made for us.  Translated from French it reads:  "The Lord is the chief of this house, the unseen host present at every meal, and the silent auditor of every conversation."
Yet another reminder to be aware of and thankful for God's provision is found above my stove.  The words, "Give us this day our daily bread" are cross-stitched cues that every meal is a gift from God, not to be expected, but to be acknowledged with thanksgiving.

Then in one daughter's room is a Pat Buxley Moss picture of a little girl praying.  Hopefully, this reminds whoever is passing by to give thanks in all circumstances.

In the other daughter's suite hangs a print illustrating the tender care of the Good Shepherd.
Finally, there is a cross-stitched Scriptural quotation, "God's love endures forever", to remind us that even when storms hit our homes his love is present and active.

Monday, October 15, 2012

China on Dining Room Walls

Trying to find appropriate, but not over-used, dining room wall decor can be a challenge. I wanted something unique to fit within the perimeters of our room.  I finally settled on mounting china on the walls, but not in the form you might expect.

 On one wall in the room, we have a lovely family painting.  

But across the room, on either side of a corner cupboard I had two blank walls.

 I considered a mirror or an arrangement of plates.  Both struck me as too predictable. What to do?  Once I had drapes made for the room, the fabric became a starting point for my creativity.


I remembered in Baltimore seeing a graphic shadow box display at Patrick Sutton Home.

That amazing collection of sea urchins in the shadow box was unforgettable.  But, hmm....dead sea creatures?  That didn't sound very appetizing for a dining room.  What could I substitute?

Then I remembered the white porcelain flowers my daughters had given me for Mother's Day.

They are the perfect size and are fabricated of a matte china. How perfect is that?!

My next problem was finding a large quantity of the porcelain. A call to the shop where my daughters had purchased my Mother's Day gift only yielded a few flowers--not enough. After much searching on the web, I located the china flower distributer on the West Coast.  (Now, I will admit that it took courage to pull the trigger on placing an order large enough for what I had in mind.  What if I didn't like the outcome? I was fairly certain the finished product would look good, so I took the plunge and ordered--fifty china blossoms!) 

When the flowers arrived, I visited several frame shops looking for just the right shadow box to compliment the frame already in the room.  

I chose a simple gold frame which also matches the chandelier in the room.

In discussing my idea with the owner of the frame shop (The Right Angle), she suggested using a thin white filet inside the frame to draw out the white flowers. Great idea!  It really makes the display cohesive.

Next, I took home several mat samples to hold up against the wall color.  The one I chose is a very soft pearl-toned silk mat, a subtle contrast to the white porcelain, while still allowing the flowers to stand out distinctly from the background. In addition, the silk mat's sheen provides a subtle contrast to the matte finish of the flowers.

Finally, I decided to have two shadow boxes made, because the corner cupboard cried out for something on each side.  (I am partial to balance.)

Well, what do you think of the final product?  Should I produce more china-in-a-shadow-box for marketing?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Dining In

Our home has several places suitable for eating.  Now that we are empty nesters, cozy spots for only two have been added to the "dining rooms."

Breakfast, when we take the time, is at the bar.  This pass-through between the kitchen and sunroom is ideal for a quick bite.  I love using different placemats depending on the season.

Lunch is sometimes at the zinc topped table between the kitchen and sunroom.  The placemats were a splurge I couldn't resist because the aqua and white polka dots matches my wallpaper perfectly!

True confessions:  Our evening meal is often eaten off trays in the library, so we can watch the evening news.  (Now doesn't that age us?)

In spite of all the little spaces, I must say that my greatest delight is having a table full in our dining room.

Ok, it's your turn for honesty-hour.  Where do you eat in your home?