Monthly Archives: March 2011

Design Vocabulary: Carrara Marble

Question: What do this statue

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

and this bathroom

Image courtesy of neworleansshowroom.com

have in common? Answer:  They both require nakedness. Also, they are both made of carrara marble.  Same product, different uses.

Carrara marble comes from the city of Carrara, in the beautiful Tuscany region of Italy.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

The marble is quarried from the mountains of limestone and dolomite that run throughout the region.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

A little science reference: Marble is a metamorphic rock, meaning it is formed from other rock (limestone and dolomite) as it transforms under the pressure and heat. The pretty veining that is so identifiable in marble are actually flaws, made up of residue from other rocks and sediments that were trapped on the porous surface when the rock started to change. Also, because it is a porous surface, marble gets unhappy with stains and direct heat, but you can get can get special gel coatings to seal them up. It just requires a little extra home maintenance. Okay, science lesson over…

Carrara marble is very special, because it is famous for its clean, creamy white color. It has been a treasured material for sculptors and masons for centuries. Because the material has been used through so many design eras, it has become a classic, almost timeless, neutral in interior design.  You can really put anything against carrara marble and it works. Doesn’t it make for beautiful kitchens?

Image courtesy of bramco.co.nz

You find all kinds of beautiful forms of carrara marble for your home.  Take a look:

Image courtesy of marcmaison.com

Image courtesy of merchantcircle.com

Image courtesy of Amazon  ($9,000+, although I doubt it qualifies for free shipping.)

Image courtesy of merchantcircle.com

Image courtesy of indomarbles.com

Image courtesy of moderndesigntrends.com

Voronoi marble bookcase is designed by Marc Newson Image courtesy of chictip.com

Do you like carrara marble? Would it work in your home? Are you surprised by all of the modern pieces available?

Sakura Season

Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Where I live, it’s cherry blossom season. It’s cherry blossom season where a lot of Americans live. US cities that boast large collections of cherry blossom trees include:

  • Portsmouth, NH
  • Philadelphia, PA
  • Seattle, WA
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • San Diego, CA
  • Macon, GA
  • Belleville, Bloomfield, and Newark, NJ
  • Brooklyn, NY
  • Washington, DC
  • The National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, DC celebrates the 1912 gift of cherry trees from Japan.  This year’s annual festival is the 99th, and concludes on Sunday, April 10, 2011.  For more details and event information, click on the image below:

    Most people associate cherry blossoms with the nation of Japan, although the flowering trees bloom in several countries in East Asia. In Japan, the cherry blossoms are known as “sakura”, pronounced: sah-KOO-rah. While these trees do not produce fruit, the flowers are sometimes used in Japanese cuisine for special teas, condiments and confections.

    The annual Japanese ritual of viewing and picnicking amongst the cherry blossom is called “hanami”, pronounced: hah-NAH-mee, and dates back to the early 700’s. (No, that is not a typo. Hanami has been a part of Japanese life and culture for around 1300 years.)  Cherry blossom imagery can be found in film, music, textiles, sculpture, poetry, literature and fine art.

    "Evening glow at Koganei Bridge" (1838) by Hiroshige

    In Japan, the cherry blossom season moves across the map from south to north. Weather forecasters track the cherry blossom front as the new blooms appear in each region. In every area, the flowers are on the trees for around two weeks. January brings the first flowers to Okinawa, while Kyoto and Tokyo see their first flowers in late March or the very beginning of April.

    Image courtesy of japanprobe.com

    The first of April is the beginning of the school year and the fiscal year in Japan. The blooming season is associated with the similar back-to-school Fall feeling we Americans get when we see the first tree leaves start to turn gold, red or orange. Many public institutional buildings have cherry trees planted in front of them as a symbol of strength, renewal, and hope.

    Image courtesy of newnaturewallpaper.com

    I would be negligent in writing this post if I did not discuss Japan’s current earthquake/tsunami crisis. Understanding the history and poignancy of the cherry blossom is a solemn reminder of the thousands of communities in need. If ever Japan needed an extra helping of hope, it is now. If you can send some hope their way, please click on the link I’ve created below.

    If you would like to bring some cherry blossoms into your own home, I’ve linked some timeless decor items below to browse.

    "Cherry Blossom Candle" by Red Envelope

    "Cherry Blossom Spa Collection" by World of Gift Baskets

    "Cherry Blossom Duvet" by West Elm

    "Cherry Blossom Earring Tree" by Red Envelope

    "Cherry Blossoms" A look at Japan's national flower in art across the centuries

    Have you ever been to a cherry blossom festival? Do you have cherry trees in your area? What marks the beginning of Spring for you?

    Mood Board: Garden Nursery to grow

    Today’s mood board comes from a client couple expecting their first child, a baby girl. They wanted a nursery plan for a small room that wasn’t too “girlie pink”. They also didn’t want to spend a lot of money on furniture or decor that would be outgrown by the time their daughter was 3. “Not too theme-y” was the way they phrased this need and I couldn’t agree with their sensibility more…

    First, we chose a warm, neutral wall color. This color offered a gentle transition from the hallway wall color and other upstairs rooms. By choosing a color the parents like (the baby won’t notice the color for quite some time), it will be a calm soothing place for everyone at 3 am feedings. Years from now, when they have a 7 year old who changes her favorite color every other week, the wall color will still be a great, unifying neutral.

    On a similar note, with the exception of the crib, none of this furniture screams “baby nursery”. Swap the crib for a twin bed and this nursery becomes a child’s room through high school. The antique-looking dresser can be used in this bedroom indefinitely, regardless of the age of the occupant. The chair and side table, while perfect for story time now, can be relocated to a guest room or a corner or a the family room as needed. Classic furniture pieces can make a room feel timeless.

    For our dresser/changing table, the detachable changing pad is easy to clean and remove all together when no longer needed. A small, inexpensive lamp was added, identical to the one on the side table, to balance out the task lighting in this area. The seven drawers in this dresser should also allow for plenty of handy supply storage as a changing table.

    Next, I wanted to put a few pops of color into the room. The room should feel cheery and a slight mix of patterns in always adds depth, for adults and children. I chose the area rug first.  The room had a nice light beige carpet, but I wanted some vibrant color for the baby to enjoy when they were playing on the floor. The busy, bright flowers on the rug also offer some real stain forgiveness, which is always welcome in child’s lifestyle.

    Pulling the light blue color from the rug gave me chance to mix some cool colors into this cosy space. The blue gingham floor cushions are practical for the room and help fight the “girlie pink” feel the parents wanted to avoid. Similarly, the blue, petal-patterned shade on the ceiling light fixture brings in a cool, modern feel, with a slight nod to our floral rug.

    The art on the wall is a lovely collection of ABC flower prints that provide color and a happy feeling in the nursery. All of the flower prints are framed in identical white frames. White frames look clean and fresh on any wall color. Keeping all of the frames uniform will help show off any art the child wants as they grown older. School art projects, concert programs, prom pictures, even cork for a bulletin board can be easily swapped into the same frames.

    The cheery tone-on-tone yellow curtains mix well on the wall with the flower prints, but are also easy to wash.  To hang these rod pocket panels, we used an inexpensive curved metal curtain rod.  Should the baby ever really pull on these panels, there will be no heavy hardware coming down on top of them.

    By choosing classic furniture pieces, these parents got a nice room that fits well into their existing home. By choosing cheerful, simple patterns and colors, we have given the baby a room that will easily grow with her as she becomes a lovely young woman.

    Unique, affordable, comfortable living.

    Hammer time

    Whether you are building or repairing something or just simply hanging one picture frame, everyone should know how to use a hammer in the proper, efficient way. This might seem like the MOST obvious thing in the world, but it is one of the most common things I find I need to teach my design clients. Based on that, I thought a little DIY know-how might be a handy post. Let’s get started…

    Get out your hammer. Any old hammer, whatever kind you have, get it out of wherever you keep your jumble of tools. Mine live in a tool box at the bottom of a closet. Here’s the one we’re using for this post:

    Pick up your hammer. How are you holding it? If you are holding it like this:

    then this is the problem we are about to fix for you forever. Keep your hand on the middle of the hammer handle, for now, just where you have it. Draw the hammer back by bending your wrist upward, as if you are just about to hit a nail. Just like this:

    Now swing the hammer forward to hit a (imaginary) nail in a wall. Do it few times. Watch your wrist. At the end of each movement your wrist is straight, almost tight feeling, in line with the rest of your arm, right? Okay. When you make the motion to hammer, this is the arch of motion from the hammer head:

    When the hammer head reaches (roughly) the point in the arch shown by the second arrow:

    the weight of the hammer head takes over the forward momentum from your wrist muscles. You should be able to feel the hammer handle kinda shift forward in your hand as the hammer head takes over the weight. Practice a few times to notice that weight shift. That weight you feel shifting is the real force that drives the nail into the wood/wall/etc. and it is called “torque” and is pronounced: TOR-k.

    Torque is defined as, “the tendency of a force to rotate an object about an axis, fulcrum, or pivot .” (Thanks, Wikipedia!) In our application, the “pivot” is your wrist, and the weight shift you feel is the “force”. Fascinating, I know, but hang in there for my point: Torque is your friend. No, really. It will actually do the hammering for you. Let me show you. We are going to use hammer correctly now. Pick up your hammer again, but this time hold the handle properly, by its end. Like this:

    Okay, we’re gonna swing the hammer again but with a few changes. First, move back a little from your computer. (No computers should be injured in the reading of my posts.) Next, you’re going to draw the hammer back again, but keep your wrist loose this time. Very loose! Let the weight of the hammer head drop it back toward your forearm. Like this:

    Now, when we swing the hammer, use wrist muscles to start the swing, but don’t try to stop the swing with your wrist muscles. Just let torque work. Ready….swing!

    Do it a few more times. See how much bigger the arch of motion from the hammer head is:

    That larger arch brings more power to your swing. Your wrist went further, too. Didn’t it? Try it a few more times. See how your wrist is more relaxed at the end of these hammer swings? That is because the torque is doing the real work, the heavy weight lifting work. And the weight shift has happened much earlier in the arch of this swing. See:

    Can you feel the difference? If the answer is yes, congratulations! You may still need a little aim experience, but you can now hammer like you mean it!

    It will now only take you half the quantity of your previous hammer swings to hammer anything. Maybe even less. And your wrist won’t get tired. And you can say to others, “What are you doing with your hammer?! Let me show you…” And you can pretend you’re one of these guys:

    Image courtesy of This Old House

    Next time you’re watching good home improvement show or find yourself near a construction site, watch how the real pros do it. An experienced contractor will start their hammer swing with their elbow bent and the hammer head almost back at their shoulder. That is some torque at work!

    Was this an eye-opener for you? How will you use your new technique? Would you like more DIY tips like these? What do you need help with?

    Problem solver: Green Cleaning

    The “Problem solver” series deals with little real life problems around the house. We’ve talked a little about real living (you can read that earlier discussion here), so it should be fun to share some real problem solving ideas for the home, too.

    Image courtesy of Scientific American

    Does this scenario seem familiar?:

    You have to clean your house. You want to use greener/less toxic cleaning products because you know it is the right thing to do. You want the house to be truly clean when you’re done cleaning. You don’t want to spend a lot of money in a whole new set of cleaning products. You wish you could just find something that cleans everything.

    Believe me, I have been there, too. And I found an answer:

    Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day All Purpose Cleaner

    Image courtesy of Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day

    Hold on!  If this is starting to sound like a big commercial, let me assure you it is not. I do not accept any compensation, monetary or otherwise, to mention any products or services on this blog. (You can read my detailed position on this in the “About” section of this blog, linked here.) I only mention products on this blog because I really like them. Now, back to the cleaning discussion…

    The 32 fl.oz. bottle pictured above is a concentrate. It runs about $8 per bottle in Target, Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, Amazon and many other stores. I know what you’re thinking, “What happened to ‘not spending a lot of money’?!” Take heart, that bottle on your screen makes 16 gallons of cleaning solution. 16 full gallons. When was the last time you bought a gallon of cleaner?

    To make the most commonly used solution, you mix 1/4 cup All Purpose Cleaner with 1 gallon of warm water. Clean anything:  Wood furniture, stainless steel surfaces, toilet bowls, kitchen floors, door handles, tv remotes, etc.  They really mean “all purpose”. When you have used up your gallon of cleaning solution, mix up another one. That’s all there is to it. (You can even use this bottle undiluted for really hard stains, except not on hardwood floors or natural stone.)

    Oh, and it smells good, but the smell doesn’t linger forever, either. They have all kinds of scents to choose from (basil, lavender, lemon verbena, geranium, baby blossom, honeysuckle and apple), including an unscented version. We love the lemon verbena!

    Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day make lots of different products. They all have the good-for-the-planet-ness that we should all look for, too. Full disclosure: the All Purpose Cleaner does everything at my home, so I’ve never tried the rest of the products. Here’s my bottle in every day use:

    Does this suggestion help?  Do you want more green cleaning ideas? (I have them to share!) Do you have some handy around-the-house tips you’d like to share?  Leave a comment!

    BIG House Tour: Fallingwater

    A popular post on many home and design blogs is a house tour. This can be of the blogger’s home or another reader’s home, there are many options. I am a big fan of these tours, because I’m nosey. No, because I always like to see how other people live, what their tastes are, etc. So, when I was planning this blog, I thought, “How can I improve of the house tour idea? How can I kick it up a notch?” This is what I came up with:

    BIG House Tours

    I thought it would be interesting to go into BIG houses, important houses, and see how people live. I want to see where people have really lived or are living. So, I’ve set my sites on some famous houses to tour. BIG houses. (Okay you get the “big” part by now, sorry.) I’ll be looking for great homes all over the US and abroad. If you know of some great houses to visit, send them along to me!

    Today’s BIG House Tour is a house icon for architecture. Unfortunately, whenever people talk about it, you normally only ever see one exterior angle of the house.

    This one:

    Image courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

    Or, for variation, this one:

    Image courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

    “Fallingwater” was designed in 1936 by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Edgar Kauffmann of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Mr. Kaufmann was the owner of the Kaufmann’s department store, so he could afford Frank’s exorbitant design fees. (Full disclosure: I have visited this house and had a fantastic tour guide that gave us the real skinny on design details about this house. I’ll add the tour guide trivia in italics.)

    Anyway, the house was designed in 1936 (apparently after Mr. Kaufmann showed up at Wright’s studio and demanded to see the design he’d already paid for and which was many months late) but was not built until 1939. (Good stuff, huh?) What makes this house important to the architecture world is the way that it fits into the existing landscape. The house is cantilevered over an existing waterfall. The sandstone used for the building was quarried on the Kaufmann property and used with stacked stone pillars and reinforced concrete to form the structure. (A few years ago, the conservancy had to pay to have most of that reinforced concrete ripped out and replaced. Frank  tended to be stingy on the contractor and materials purchasing and the concrete had seriously eroded.) The house is much larger than it looks, as you can see below, and it is extensively terraced up the natural grade of the hill. Let’s go inside…

    Image courtesy of fallingwater.org

    Upon entering the living room, the first thing you notice about this space is the, well, s  p  a  c  e. I have used the guide-book photo to illustrate this point (please excuse the page fold), because my regular camera lens just wasn’t wide enough to capture it all.

    Living Room Image courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

    The light coming in from the windows on three sides of the room was beautiful. See the wet-looking flagstone floor? It is waxed every six months. I would have never thought of waxing bare stone, but is was very nice to stand on and felt a bit like a cork floor. Maybe I was just getting the benefit of around 142 wax coats. Frank Lloyd Wright designed all of the furniture for this house, as he did on many of his houses. There are window seats all over this house, which I love, so I loved the (most) of the furniture. (More about that when we get there.)

    Another noteworthy thing about this house was the ceiling height. It felt a little low for me, in every room. I’m 5’11” tall. Two of the other people in our group, those at 6’4″ and 6’5″ agreed with me, while the 5’6″ person in our group said it felt fine. (Frank Lloyd Wright was approximately 5’7″ tall.)

    Dining Area Image courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

    This picture was taken standing in front of the living room windows, looking back into the room. You can see the dining area on the far wall is framed along the ceiling with cantilevered shelves that also run along the living room windows. (Look at the top left corner of the picture to see an example of these.) Do you see the big red ball nestled in the fireplace wall? That is a giant metal kettle on an iron arm that can be swung into the fireplace to mull wine. (The Kaufmann family tried this only once before a holiday party, but the wine took 7 hours to get just slightly warm. From then on, they mulled their wine in great big pots on the stove in the kitchen and just poured it into the fireplace kettle right before the party started to serve their guests.) Next is the kitchen…

    Kitchen Image courtesy of the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

    The kitchen window was dreamy. Wouldn’t you enjoy your cup of coffee each morning with that view? Everyone in our group, however, agreed that Frank Lloyd Wright was probably not much of a cook. Hence, the kettle in the living room? A conventional layout with the standard cabinets and appliances of the day framed the room, but the countertop lighting was rather dark. We all wished he had at least put an extra window over the sink.

    Next, we take some stairs up to the bedrooms. Here’s a beautiful view of the private rooms all aglow from an outside terrace. Very cosy!

    Terrace View Image courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

    (Yikes! Can you see those cracks along the horizontal planes of concrete? Those are examples of what had to be repaired. And you can see why!)

    There several bedrooms stacked on top of each other with the exact same floor plan and furniture in each room. One of them was turned into a study, which you can see on the top floor of the previous image. I love this part of the master bedroom.

     

    Master Bedroom Image courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

    I really find the three-legged chair intriguing. I wish we had been allowed to sit in it. This is also a great image to point out the use of more cantilevered limestone built into the structural wall, yet providing ledges for everyday household use. I don’t have any pictures of any bathrooms in the house. They are all closed to the public and the guide assured us they were rather too small for pictures anyway. I was surprised. I thought if there was ever a house built for a soaking tub, this was it. Then we went to see this…

     

    Pool Image courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

    Did you know this house has a pool? Well, this beats a good soaking tub any day. The pool is terraced up the hillside from the main house and lives just on the front edge of the guest house terrace. There’s a guest house? I know, I had no idea, either. Half of the guest house actually contains the big 3-5 car garage and servants quarters. Ah, servants. This explains the kitchen a bit more, doesn’t it? Here are the guest apartment rooms…

     

    Guest Living Area Image courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

    I’d be happy to stay here. Roaring fire, popcorn, a few old movies on a big screen tv…sign me up!

     

    Guest Bedroom Image courtesy of Western Pennsylvania Conservancy

    Does this bed look short to you? We all thought it did. Okay, people were a little shorter 100 years ago, but still. So we asked the guide.  (Frank was not a man to mince words. He often told clients that he thought tall people “should be cut off at the knees.” Apparently, he designed all the beds in this house with this philosophy in mind. They are all several inches short than the standards of the time.) I sure hope the Kaufmann’s weren’t tall.

    I hope you’ve enjoyed our BIG House Tour of Fallingwater today. Would enjoy living at Fallingwater? What surprised you about the interior rooms? I think Frank would really appreciate us closing this post with a comment from him.

     

    Image courtesy of Wikipedia

     

    “No house should ever be on a hill or on anything. It should be of the hill. Belonging to it. Hill and house should live together each the happier for the other.”  ~Frank Lloyd Wright

    Real Living

    Have you ever been in a room that is “too decorated”? You know the kind of room I mean. You find yourself slightly afraid to touch anything. Everything is perfectly placed. There are no toys, newspapers or remote controls. The coffee table artfully displays books, plants, photos and an odd trinket box, but there is no room to set a drink down (and forget about coasters). A magazine could feature this room on any given day and their stylist would have no work to do.

    Real living comes with...junk mail and bills.

    When I speak to groups about interior design, I often get asked for some tips about finding the perfect style for a home. My answer: “Avoid the perfect.” There are lots of varied techniques to calculating the right measurements for this and that. There are lots of opinions about certain styles and how to use them.

    However, the very best tips are much more basic and simple to use. They’re tips that embrace really living in your home. But don’t just take my word for it. Read on to find some tips for real living by famous interior designers from over the past two centuries…

    Decorating is not about making stage sets, it’s not about making pretty pictures for the magazines; it’s really about creating a quality of life, a beauty that nourishes the soul.  ~Albert Hadley

    Have nothing in your homes that you do not know to be useful and believe to be beautiful. ~William Morris

    Nothing is in good taste unless it suits the way you live. What’s practical is beautiful…and suitability always overrules fashion.  ~Billy Baldwin

    Real living includes...bookshelves that need to be dusted.

    Furnish your room for conversation and the chairs will take care of themselves. ~Sibyl Colefax

    People’s lives are expressed in little details….The soap in the bathroom, the flowers in the garden, the books on the bedside table are all strong symbols of a life in progress.  ~Charlotte Moss

    Real living comes with...lots of laundry.

    A good room…should give one…the exciting feeling that the owner is a part of it and that it is for him a personal triumph, whether or not it follows a recognizable trend. ~Michael Taylor

    If every piece is perfect the room becomes a museum and lifeless. ~Nancy Lancaster

    Neither good taste nor wealth… can transform a house into a home, for a home does not consist in the quality of its architecture or decor, but in the quality of the lives that it expresses. ~Philippa Tristam

    Real living comes with...throw pillows thrown on the floor.

    Do any of these quotes speak to you? What are your favorite rooms in your home and why? What makes a room feel “lived in” to you?

    Design Vocabulary: Chevron

    Today’s Design Vocabulary is an easy one to learn. You can probably already think of a great example of a chevron.

    Image courtesy of chevron.com

    Yep! That’s an example of a chevron. In the logo, not the fuel station part. A chevron is a “V” shape, with the point of the “V” facing down or up. It can be used individually or in a connecting line, forming a zig-zag pattern. Simple, right? In fact, you probably see more chevrons than you realize. Here’s an example of a military insignia with chevrons:

    Image courtesy of Wikipedia

    This is the rank insignia of a Gunnery Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps. (Semper Fi!  Thank you for your service!) Chevrons in military use are linked back through history to chevrons in heraldry.

    Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

    Can you see the chevrons in the bottom left corner of the shield? In heraldry, the chevron traditionally symbolizes a builder or someone who has performed faithful service. There are also chevrons used in architecture. Here is one version, which is used decoratively.

    Image courtesy of pitt.edu

    Here is another version, used structurally.

    Image courtesy of sacreddestinations.com

    Can you see how those ceiling ribs come to a lovely point? Those chevron ribs, or arches, help to distribute the weight of the roof. You find these in many medieval churches because they were a savvy architectural solution for their day.

    As you can see, chevrons are an old shape that have been used for centuries. Recently, there has been a big surge of popularity for chevrons in home design. (For those of you who want sources for these decor items, I’ve linked all the pictures below directly to their online catalog pages. Happy shopping!)

    Image courtesy of West Elm

    Image courtesy of The Company Store

    Image courtesy of Amazon

    Image courtesy of PBTeen

    So now you know how to spot a chevron pattern like an expert. You can read a home/design magazine and exclaim with authority, “These chevrons are everywhere this year!” Do you like a chevron pattern? Where would you put one in your home?

    Mood Board: Bachelor Guest room

    This guest room was designed for a bachelor client. As a new empty nester, he had a new guest room that was full of leftover furniture from a teen game room, including a well-worn futon and the token over-the-closet-door basketball hoop. The client now wanted a grown up space that could host his elderly mom more comfortably and make her feel welcome when she came to visit. He had no idea where to start, but had clear ideas about how he wanted the room to feel. For the duration of the product, “comfortable, but not too feminine” became our catch phrase…

    This deep purple wall color has a nice, smokey, masculine feel to it. The client liked the color even more when I told him I would be filling the rest of the room in lots of neutral shades. By using a solid palette of mixed neutrals, the room also becomes easy to maintain. Items can be easily updated or replaced without worrying about “matching”.

    This room itself was a bit of a space challenge because it was so small. I started by centering the bed along the longest wall. The client had purchased a new bed and basic frame before he called me for help. There was also an existing white Roman shade on the window. As soft goods go, all we had to purchase were some new bed linens. I chose this grey and white bedding for the detailed pattern. It has a bit of old world style but still looks crisp and tailored when all the pieces are assembled together on the bed.

    A map is always a great piece of decor in guest room. Maps can really fill large spaces with interest for not a lot of money. We used this map of Paris as simple, but timeless focal point over the bed. The casual throw pillows for the bed include a pillow covered in an excerpt from a French poem. Once again, I made sure none of these pillows are part of a set and can therefore be replaced easily after wear.

    Storage was another challenge in this space. The client and I believe that the room was originally designed to be an office. To solve this issue, I chose two decently sized dressers to serve as both night stands and dressers for additional storage. The black finish and pewter hardware on these dressers give the room a very masculine grounding and flank both sides of the bed with just centimeters of wall space to spare. When there are no guests staying, my client also has the option of storing all of the guest towels and linens in a bottom drawer. This will make the guest room easy to prepare quickly when company is on their way.

    The table lamps on the dressers have a little pop of warm color and will make reading in bed easy for any guest. The architectural profile of the lamps ensure they won’t look dated several years from now. To spread more of the gentle lamp light around the room, two identical mirrors were hung on the walls above the dressers. This placement has the added bonus also giving the room a larger sense of space.

    The new ceiling fixture added a little fun pattern to the room and kept with the neutrals theme. While the table lamps will probably be used for the majority of light in the room, a decent overhead light can really draw the eye up to make the space feel taller.

    Finally, to make his guest feel welcome, I gave my client my “guest room stocking guide”. This is a list of tips on how to prepare and stock your guest room to make any guest feel welcome when they arrive. (I’m already transferring this list for a future blog post, so stay tuned!) You can see a couple of the must-have items on this mood board: a fresh water carafe and glass set and a small tray to safely catch any small, personal items (cell phone, jewelry, etc.) on the dresser.

    With some careful space planning and double duty furniture, this guest room came together without spending a lot of money. By keeping the patterns and palette simple, the warm feel of the room should be welcoming to any future guests.

    Unique, affordable, comfortable living.

    Let me know what you think! Would you find this guest room welcoming? What are things you appreciate as a house guest?

    Museum Hopping: The Thorne Rooms at the AIC

    Today, I’m starting “Museum Hopping”, a new series of posts that will appear from time to time. My goal for this little series is to highlight great places to see beautiful home design and/or home living. You might have never heard of some of these places or exhibits. Then again, you might find yourself closer to one than you realized and can add it to your list of things to see.

    Most importantly, “Museum Hopping” guarantees the following:  No waiting in line, no security search, no coat check needed, no impatient yet loud crowds, no overpriced cafe food and no marble-floor-tired feet by the end of this post.

    Our visit today takes us to the beautiful Art Institute of Chicago. It is important to mention that all of the images you will see in today’s post are courtesy of the Art Institute of Chicago, to whom I am most grateful.

    The Art Institute of Chicago was founded in 1879 and today attracts millions of visitors to their world-class collections and exhibits every year. I urge you to visit the museum whenever you are in Chicago. There is nothing quite like standing inches away from famous masterpieces. Speaking of which, let’s go inside!

    Mrs. James Ward Thorne, 1915

    The Thorne Rooms were created by Mrs. James Ward Thorne (1882-1966). Her husband was an heir to the Montgomery Ward department store fortune, which allowed the couple to travel extensively. At the time of their travels, there was a great popularity of museum “period rooms”. Period rooms were created to show realistic living spaces of a specific place in a past era.

    Mrs. Thorne, who had always been interested in furniture and home design, saw a great opportunity to turn her passion into a great American art exhibit. With her connections and her own money, Mrs. Thorne, hired the best artisans available to help her create her vision.  Here is an example of their work:

    "South Carolina Ballroom, 1775-1835"

    You can see the amount of planning that went into a room like this one. Rugs were generally custom created for this project. A plaster specialist was brought in for the wedding cake detailing around the ceiling cove. Fabrics were ordered for the specially reproduced furniture. There is no way one person could create this entire room alone.

    Fortunately, Mrs. Thorne was an excellent project manager and could afford the very best of materials for her craftsman. That’s not to say that she wasn’t working on these rooms. She rolled up her sleeves in the studio and painted, upholstered and cleaned windows along with everyone else. What vision to see this project though, right?

    Now, there was one more interesting thing I was going to tell you about these rooms. What was it? Let me think. Hmmmmm. Oh! That’s right!

    "South Carolina Ballroom, 1775-1835"

    All of The Thorne Rooms are in miniature. And there are 68 of them.

    "English Roman Catholic Church in the Gothic Style, Late 13th Century"

    The church picture above is one of my favorites. When measured, the room comes in at only 48 x 32.5 x 41.5 inches. Most of the other rooms are just slightly larger. The scale used was 1 inch = 1 foot. We may be revisiting more of these rooms on future posts when we discuss furniture or design vocabulary. Mrs. Thorne was hoping to allow museum goers to have an appreciation of the beauty of past eras, so I think she would approve.

    Now I’m going to just sit back and let you enjoy browsing a selection of the rooms. I’ve made the images extra large, so you can see the amazing detail, just like you would at the museum.

    "California Living Room, circa 1935-40"

    "German Sitting Room of the 'Biedermeier' Period, 1815-1850"

    "Tennessee Entrance Hall, 1835"

    "Chinese Interior, Traditional"

    "French Salon of the Louis XIV Period, 1660-1700"

    I hope you’ve enjoyed today’s field trip!  Weren’t those rooms amazing? Do you like the idea of the “Museum Hopping” series? Do you have any suggestions of places we should visit?

    Now, what is the very last thing you always do when visiting a museum?  Visit the gift shop!  Right here. Let me know if you find any great deals!

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