Archives for August 2012

Garden Stools Come Inside

This is a really fun trend – Chinese garden stools used indoors in myriad ways. They’re great on the patio or deck too, as originally purposed in China:

They’ve been showing up inside the home for a while now in all kinds of ways – as side tables:

garden stool as side table

.. As extra seating, while doubling as a design element while they wait to be pressed into service:


garden stool as extra seating


You can use them in every room; think outside the box! (or tub, or inside the shower!)


garden stool in shower


garden stool


garden stool as bedside table

A truly versatile piece, inexpensive, at home inside or out, easily movable, can change functions in a flash – unexpected guest, run out of chairs? The stool that was a side table becomes an extra seat in a second. And the variety of styles, materials and colors out there is endless. I seem to have posted lots of pictures of white ones, so here’s some more variety. The three below are all from

garden stool, design elementgarden stool, design element

garden stool, design element










So do you have any of these in use in your home? Have you thought of other unique purposes for them? Do share!

Nuevo Retro

What is that saying about all things old being new again? That is so true in the design world.  For instance, take the “mid-century modern” trend.  Being a child of the 60s, the den in our house on Long Island comes right to mind! These retro pieces are showing up in today’s homes to provide that simple, sleek look that’s a sort of Danish-with-an-American-twist look that was so characteristic of the mid 1900s.



The renaissance of the hippie look is also something I’m getting a big kick out of. This dress in the window of the local Anthropologie store caught my eye:

It’s a more embellished look, maybe not so in-your-face as the flower power and love beads look of the 60s, but a more refined aesthetic with the definite flavor of that style. In home decor, places like World Market and Pier One have a lot of ethic offerings, as in this throw that reminds me of what we called “Indian print bedspreads” back then:


And this trio of accessories from West Elm, reference African culture in the spirit of one-world inclusiveness that is prevalent in the decor world today.




 Masai Chokers West Elm



What all this says to me is that the style police are off the job. There are dozens of different looks out there in fashion, in accessories, in home design. Yes, some are trendy right now. But you can choose the look you like without fear that it is not “in,” because everything old is new again, after all, and whatever your taste is, suits you just right.




Harmony with Color

Color is a show-stealer.
It’s the topic I get the most questions about: how to use color, what color will work here, how much of a color is too much, will this color go with this other color?

So I thought I’d write a series about color schemes. Let’s start with the basics, which you may remember from school:

Colors next to each other on the color wheel are called analogous colors. Colors opposite each other on the color wheel are called complementary colors.

Here’s an example of a room done in analogous colors: yellow / green / blue.

House Beautiful


Using analogous colors is an easy way to ensure harmony. They “go” together because they’re neighbors. Yes, there are other factors, such as the purity of the color, whether it’s a shade, a tint, is a light or dark value – all topics for a future post. In this room the neighboring colors of blue, green and yellow are all muted – i.e., none of them are pure colors, making for a calmer look.

Here’s another room done in an analogous color scheme: red / orange / yellow, with a very different feel, because the colors are very vibrant.

House Beautiful

They are purer, without any gray mixed into them. Maria Killam, the Canadian color expert, calls these “clean” colors versus “dirty” ones. The ones in the previous room, the green/blue/yellow, were dirtier because they’re muted with gray or black. These cleaner ones are purer and thus brighter, more vibrant, more energetic. A bolder look, but still an analogous scheme.

A third example of an analogous color scheme: orange / yellow / green.

 Somewhat more muted, but a lively mix that is harmonious at the same time, owing to the analogous colors.

Any two or three colors that are adjacent on the color wheel, used together, will create a look that is harmonious and unified. You can mix it up by using brighter or more muted colors, or lighter or darker colors.

Next time: Complementary Color Schemes.

Porch Sitting

The allure of a front porch – what else says summer, ease, timeless afternoons with no agenda quite as well?

We spent a week in Chautauqua, New York recently. All of the houses are wood-frame New England style homes and almost every one of them has a front porch.

Some of them have side porches as well. These porches are outdoor rooms which expand the living space of the house during good weather. And one thing that’s wonderful about a covered porch is that you can sit there in the rain as well.

Here in Virginia we spend a lot of time on our deck, weather permitting. Fall and spring are when it sees the most use, as the hot and humid weather make being outside most of the summer unpleasant here. I loved that the humidity was low in northern New York, so we were out on the porch a lot. Here are my daughter and her cousins and friend on the second-floor porch of the house we rented.

Another thing that’s different about a front porch versus a deck is that generally the deck is on the back of the home. That affords more privacy, whereas sitting on the front porch gives you more sense of community. It turned out the fellow who was teaching the improvisation class that my husband took at Chautauqua was staying across the street from us. We wouldn’t have known that if we hadn’t been sitting on the porch and seen him coming and going there. It felt very neighborly to hang out on the front porch and be aware of the activity in the street – bicycle riders, walkers, folks across the street enjoying their porches too. I’m definitely a fan.

As is the dog!