Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pillow Talk

Ok, so I am on a tight budget and I like to mix things up at my house on a very regular basis. I think the throw pillows in my den have changed 4 times in the past year. When you are in a decorating rut and your pocket book doesn't look much better, consider changing out small accessories like your throw pillows for a mini makeover. Invest in good quality pillow inserts and either buy or (if you are the ambitious, crafty type) make your own pillow covers. For pillow inserts, I really like a good down pillow. They have a nice weight to them, they refluff nicely, and they are pliable. When you get really fluffy polyfill pillows, they do indeed look nice and fluffy, but they are stiff as a board, and if you have slick furniture, like a leather sofa, it can be tough to get them to stay in place, especially if you like a lot of pillows nestled together in clusters. When shopping for down inserts, don't skimp! Look for inserts with a thick outer cover and a high fill power. Read the product description online carefully before purchasing. If the product says "down blend" this means the soft fluffy down is mixed with feathers. Feathers have quills, quills poke! If the pillow has a high ratio of feathers to down, the pillows are more likely to go flat over time and the quills will stick you through the pillow cases. Ouch! I won't go into great detail explaining the meaning of the down fill power, but for more info check out The Down and Feather Company! So much information here, and great products available to purchase also!

Now for the fun part- the covers!!! I loooooove me some fabric, and when I'm out digging through the discount fabric scrap bins and I stumble across a few lone yards of fabulous fabric, I feel like a kid who just found the prized egg at the Easter egg hunt. Is it weird that fabric gives me goose bumps? If you think it IS indeed odd, then please leave this site immediately. If you collect scraps of fabric like a crazy lady on an episode of "Hoarders", then by all means, please continue (and let out a little cheer because I salute you, comrade!) I love changing out the covers on my throw pillows. I like to change them out seasonally because it keeps my living room feeling fresh and keeps me from growing tired of pillow covers that at one point in time I just HAD TO HAVE. I like to keep a few neutral colors and patterns on 2 thirds of my pillows, and then swap out the other third seasonally with a fun print or color. (This is not a set in stone rule, it is just what works for me personally) If you are a pillow junkie, like myself, make sure you have pillows of varying sizes grouped together. Example, stack 16 inch pillows in front of 20 inchers so that the patterns and colors on each pillow get attention. If you like to mix patterns, make sure your patterns vary in scale.
Note the different sized pillows, and the varying pattern scales. The simpler, more neutral toned pillows make a nice backdrop for the show stopper yellow pillows in front. Texture is also a great way to make your pillows interesting. This nook has it all!
I particularly like this mixture of solids, stripes, and floral. The florals can be changed out periodically to give your room a more seasonally appropriate feel.     wisteria
Again, note the ratio of color and pattern. A little touch of a bold color or pattern can go a long way, and limiting the showy elements to a third or less of the pillows, makes it much easier to change the look of your room. (Keep the neutrals, swap out the bolds = mini makeover at a cost of 2 pillow covers!) kaboodle
Same principles apply in other spaces, like this bedroom. Three different patterns, all different scales and different shaped pillows.
If you have the attention span of a goldfish, and get bored quickly with your accessories, (this is meeeeee!) limit the number of bold pillows you have so that you can swap them out on a whim. If you can live with lots of color and pattern, you are tha bomb, go for for it! Just remember to vary the size of the patterns on your pillows so that each pattern can shine. If all of your pillows have the same size pattern on them, they look busy and confusing instead of standing out on their own. Consider mixing larger scale stripes, geometrics, or polka dots with smaller scale florals. An example of 3 different pattern scales would be a solid, maybe in a fun texture like velvet or burlap, a large scale stripe, and then a more detailed floral. Mix up the size of your pillows for added interest. Invest in good quality inserts up front, and you won't feel as guilty about swapping out the covers when the urge strikes!
So cliche' but I do love me some Pottery Barn pillow covers. Why? Because they always have a wide selection of patterns that coordinate, even from season to season. They usually have free shipping if you buy their pillowcases online, and you have the option to get them monogrammed as well!
Check out Pottery Barn's entire collection of pillow covers here.
For more customizable options, check out Ballard Designs. The pillows pictured here are actually outdoor fabrics! Yummy! You can pick your own fabric and trim.
Like Modern style? check out West Elm.
Like handcrafted charm? shop for unique pillows on Etsy.
Feeling brave? DIY with scraps of fun fabrics or even use vintage fabrics like tablecloths. So fun!

Cozy up and enjoy your cozy cushions!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

When Did My House Become a Daycare???

There was a brief period of time, let's say 3 years, when Larry and I had finally settled into our first home and I had ever so thoughtfully decorated it with care. I was so proud! Little did I know at the time that in less than a year my house would quickly go from looking like a Pottery Barn hopeful to a 24 hour drop-in daycare! Who knew that one beautiful little girl could acquire so much stuff in her first year of life. With the abundance of toys and clutter that come along with children, I can see why some parents opt to use their formal dining room as a space to stash all of that stuff. Sometimes formal dining isn't high on the list of priorities for families with young children! I have to admit, as much I would love to have a perfectly decorated dining room with linen upholstered chairs, salvaged wood table, and antique buffet, right now I don't have the budget for it. And if an empty dining room means I can get the Little Tykes Cottage and bouncy horse out of my main living room, I might opt to turn my dining room into a temporary playroom. (the linen chairs will remain on my "someday" wish list for now). While using your dining room as a playroom may not be the most visually appealing use of space, it makes perfect sense for the young family. The dining room is usually connected to both the main living area and then kitchen, which means mommy can keep an eye on the kiddos while doing her thang. Often times bonus rooms are tucked away upstairs, which is great when your kids are 15 but not 3. If you need to use your dining room as a playroom, you don't have to completely sacrifice looks for function. Keep asthetics in mind and also the fact that you will need to revert the room to its original use for staging purposes in the future.
If your dining room turned playroom is very open to the rest of your living space, keep the colors and style similar to the rest of your space. Consider using baskets to house all of those toys and trinkets. A pint sized table is great for play and arts and crafts AND still doubles as seating when you have gatherings! The kids need a place to sit too, ya know! I love this design because the kids always want to sit together and it gives the parents an excuse to have adult time together while still keeping a watchful eye on the little ones. architecturaldigest
Check out some of these sites to find tiny tables and chairs that fit your decor style:

If your playroom is tucked away in an inconspicuous area and it is indeed intended to be a playroom, then you have much more creative freedom. If you have converted a dining room to a playroom, you may want to keep the colors and finishes fairly simple. It will make your living area seem more cohesive and will make your life a lot easier when it comes time to stage your home for sale.
Storage, storage, storage! I can't get enough of it! Just because your children own 5 million toys, doesn't mean you want to look at them all the time. Invest in sturdy storage units and pick baskets or storage bins that coordinate with the rest of your interiors. Storage systems are available in many price points. Check out Pottery Barn Kids and Target. Even if you invest in higher quality units, you can purchase affordable baskets/bins to finish out the design. This featured unit has chalkboard inserts, which I adore. They now have chalkboard paint that you can use to transform a wall to a chalkboard, but I would not recommend doing this in a converted dining room because you WILL have to make it disappear before selling your house.,un-interieur-pratique-et-ludique-tout-en-deco,200458,52498.asp

Consider using an area rug if you have hardwood floors in your dining room. It will protect your beautiful floors from the dings and spills that go along with children at play.

Check out these carpet tiles from They can be pieced together to cover any sized floor, and if one tile gets dirty, you can pull it out and easily replace the one tile as opposed to replacing the whole rug! So smart for children's spaces! They come in a wide variety of colors and patterns too!

Keep in mind that today's tips for creating a functional and stylish playroom are intended for those of us out there who are using a dining room as a playroom. Of course there are tons of fabulous, creative ideas out there for playroom design that I didn't touch on today. However, the rules are a little different when your playroom is open to your main living space. If you invest in good storage, a child friendly area rug, and a few scaled down furniture pieces for your busy little tots, you will have a functional space that can easliy be returned to a dining room when needed! And at least you won't be tripping over teddy bears and stepping on legos in the middle of the night as you cut through the living room. Contain the clutter and you will feel less like a daycare supervisor and more like a domestic diva!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

I Got the Dining Room Blues...

So yesterday I asked for feedback from readers: Do you use your dining room for its intended purpose? I received great comments on the blog and on Facebook as well. We have some people who use it, some who don't, some who have never had a formal dining room. Each day this week I would like to highlight a different way to use your dining room to make it work for you and your family. Today's alternative dining plan is a home office. Often, a spare bedroom works great as a office/study. Then one child comes along, then another, then suddenly your husband is crying because you are making him take down his collection of Star Wars figurines and movie posters and pack them up to make room for baby number three. Eventually, the bedrooms have to be used as bedrooms, not guest rooms, not offices, not "man rooms", not fitness rooms. Where does everything else go??? Well, the thigh master and the Star Wars figurines may go in the next garage sale, and now you are desperately hunting for spare square footage to repurpose. Now the dining room that has set empty or unused for 6 years is starting to look pretty appealing...Even if you are not willing to completely convert your dining space to serve another purpose, there are great ways to make it do double duty! You can even keep the traditional look and feel of a dining room!
This dining room has built in's that hide all of the unsightly office gear. The dining table makes a great workspace to spread out large projects.
This large china hutch visually holds true to the style of a dining room, but serves as a bookcase instead. I think mixing books and serving pieces together in one cabinet is perfectly interesting and practical! If you are not a fine china owner, hutches like this can still be useful. Search for great finds at local secondhand shops, antique malls, and online sources such as craigslist.
Are you a book collector? My husband is; and he is proud of his books! Show them off by turning your dining room into a library. I love the juxtaposition of the traditional table with the super modern chairs. This dining room would be a cozy retreat for rainy day reading or an intimate dinner party.
This home office can still serve as extra seating when needed!
Another super traditional hybrid.
If you have no need for extra dining space, go all the way with a full blown office. French doors are a great way to allow a space to feel open when you want it to, and then more private when you need it to be.
For a sense of continuity and to really make your new home office feel as if it were meant to be there, keep your colors and design style consistent with the rest of your living space. This is especially important if you have a very open floor plan. Newer homes tend to have more open dining rooms, older homes like ranch style houses tend to have more closed off spaces. If you do have a more closed off dining room, this may work to your advantage if you want to use the space for something else like a home office.
Let's recap: If you want to maximize your square footage and need a home office, consider combining your formal dining room and study. You can use furniture pieces originally designed for dining rooms to store office components such as china hutches, built in cabinets, and buffets. Dining tables can be utilized as work spaces and project tables on a daily basis and then jazzed up for formal dining when needed on those rare special occasions. Adding french doors can create a sense of privacy and serve as a sound barrier when you really need to buckle down and work, but are also visually light enough to keep your space from feeling secluded from the rest of the house when they are open. If you have an extremely open floor plan you can still use your space wisely. Just keep furniture styles and colors consistent with your main living area so that the dining room/office flows seamlessly with the rest of your home. You don't have to sacrifice function for style; you can have both!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Formal Dining Rooms: A Necessary Evil?

Let me start this post by saying this: Larry Williams, you were right. Ooooooh it hurts to say it out loud! Before we got married, we had a "disagreement" on whether or not to register for formal china. I said, "Why wouldn't we?" Larry said, "What's the point???" Seven years later, I can finally give him his moment of glory by admitting we are NOT formal dining people. To those of you who are- I admire you! I think I had this dreamy picture in my head of hosting pretty dinner parties with a beautiful tablescape and me in an apron and heels saying, "Oh, its just something I threw together at the last minute..." Well, seven years later that has yet to happen once! We just aren't A) that organized and B) that sophisticated. In fact, most of our friends would rather eat on chinette and have disposable cups when they come to visit. Pulled pork BBQ doesn't really require fine bone china anyways. And I've also come to realize that when we do actually entertain at our house, there's usually too many people to fit around one dining table anyways! This brings me to today's topic: What are we REALLY doing with our formal dining rooms? If you know someone who has intimate dinner parties of approximately 6 to 10 guests on a regular basis then maybe they use their dining room a lot. For the rest of us, I am curious to know what goes on in there??? We all hear the phrase, "dining rooms are good for resale value!" Who are we selling our houses to? Don and Betty Draper? (that's a Mad Men reference, FYI) Chances are, more than likely, that when you sell your house, the dining room that you staged with your mother's old dining set (and actually used as a home office) will be purchased by a young family who says, "Ohhhh we have to have that house! It has a formal dining room!" and will then use it as a playroom for their small children. So, I have a theory that perhaps generations x and y may not be as interested in formal dining as our parents and grandparents once were. There are so many neat features that have emerged in home floor plans lately that have made the need for formal spaces even less of a necessity. Now, floor plans are so much more open concept that often the kitchen is wide open to the main living area. To me, this is a sign that we are embracing the prep area of the kitchen and acknowledging the fact that no matter how big your house is, 30 people will cram themselves around a kitchen island to gab and munch on snacks. Hearthrooms are another example of how the once closed-off, prep kitchen has finally earned its title as "the heart of the home." We've given the kitchen its own sitting room! I guess what I am trying to say is, if you have a formal dining room that you have never used for the purpose of fine dining, you are most definitely not alone! And for those of you who do use it, we look forward to coming over for dinner this weekend. Thank you. The truth of the matter is, the formal dining room is still a popular feature in new construction, and still considered a highly sought after feature in homes on the market. Whether we are using them for their intended purpose or not, they are present. So let's talk about the ugly truth of what's really going on in those swanky dining rooms! If you are a regular reader of this blog, this is the part where you leave a comment and share with us what you use your dining room for. Let consider this a support group of sorts. I will begin. "My name is Laura. I have been married for seven years and I have used my china once just to prove that we would indeed use it. That was six and a half years ago. I don't even live in a house that has a formal dining room right now, but I'm sure I will forget all about this blog and insist on buying a home that does indeed have a formal dining room several years from now, at which point it will probably be used as a nursery, home office, or playroom." . . . .Your turn!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Drool of the Week 2

Ok, it's time to blow off some steam and just enjoy pretty things today. Last week's drool paid homage to horizontal paneling and how it can be used to add warmth, texture and depth to a space. Today's "Drool" serves the same purpose, and I love it when paired with the horizontal paneling. I'm talking about sea grass wallpaper. YES, I said it- WALLPAPER! After years staring at borders with bunny rabbits and floral wallpaper in my bedroom as a child, and then painstakingly helping my family strip it from their house some years back, one would assume that just mentioning the "W" word would send shivers down my spine. I will admit it took quite some time for me to overcome this fear, but wallpapers are actually making a comeback in mainstream design. As I have previously mentioned, I feel that very bold, graphic papers have their appropriate place in smaller, more tucked away rooms. However, one type of paper that I adore, and feel is neutral enough to use in main living areas, is grass cloth.
The use of grass cloth in this bedroom helps add some warmth without making the room too dark. Paneling on the bottom brightens up the room and is durable, grass cloth on the top is beautiful but not overwhelming.
Even your local hardware stores like Lowes carry an array of textured wallpapers!
A grey tone paper was used in this gorgeous dining room.
This den designed by Sarah Richardson is a part of her farmhouse renovation. SUPER DROOL!
Grass cloths also come in a variety of colors for those who are not shy about using bold colors. But keep in mind that a wallpaper is not as easy to change out, so make sure you are in for the long haul if you use a papered wallcovering.

 These particular papers have a metallic sheen, which can lend an air of sophistication and elegance to a room.

 Some grass cloths can have very thick, heavy lines, and some are very subtle.

No shortage of variety here! All of these gorgeous wallpapers are products of Phillip Jeffries. Sigh....someday, Laura....someday....

As with the horizontal paneling, grass cloth wallpapers are a big commitment, both budget wise and design wise. However, if you are looking for a way to add natural beauty and depth to your space, they may be a good fit for you! Just be sure to have plenty of bibs for your house guests. You won't want all that drool to ruin your hardwood.


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Refrigerators Unite! Free Your Fridge From Clutter. . .

Finger paintings, birth announcements, recipes, magnets from every state in the continental U.S.- I know there's an icebox under there somewhere just begging to come out and play. Admit it, we've all shut the fridge door a little too hard before and sent artwork and magnets flying through the air. (Like we really need anything else drawing attention to the fact that we are sneaking a chunk of raw cookie dough as a late night snack.) So where do we display our most prized works of art and all of those sweet Christmas card photos??? "Anywhere but here!" Begs your pitiful Kenmore Elite. And yes, the sides of your fridge count too.

I was recently inspired to find alternative ways to display children's art while watching an episode of Design Star on HGTV. Design contestant Leslie Ezelle took a collection of colorful artwork and turned it into one beautiful collage that served as a permanent piece of art for one lucky family.

If you want to recreate this look for your own home, purchase a canvas from your local craft store along with a jar of Mod Podge craft adhesive. Select the artwork for your collage. I would recommend sticking with pieces drawn with crayons, cut from papers, or painted with durable paints. ****Before you Mod Podge over any priceless work of art, please test the Mod Podge on a "test" piece done in the same medium. This allows you to see if the colors are going to bleed or smudge beforehand. *** Now that you have a safe selection of artwork, experiment with their arrangent and lay them out on the table beside your canvas. Apply a thin coat of Mod Podge to the canvas, working in one small area at a time. Lay your artwork on top of the Mod Podged area. Apply another thin coat of Mod Podge over the top of the artwork to seal it in. Continue this method until the entire canvas is covered. Allow to dry and apply one more thin coat to the entire canvas. Voila! Instant master piece!
Here is another cute example from
If the Mod Podge scares you, you can always use double-sided scrapbooking tape and mount the art to a piece of poster board that has been cut to fit in a frame with glass. This is a little safer route to take if you don't trust your inner craft diva to handle the Mod Podge appropriately.

If the collage look doesn't tickle your fancy, frame individual pieces! Now you have the option to cluster your frames together or scatter them around your house for little "Proud Mama" pops in each room.

Creating a Brag Board is also a fun way to temporarily display your child's most recent work. For a beefy frame with lots of style, purchase an open back, ready made frame from your local craft store. To add pizazz, you can paint the frame in a bold, whimsical color. Go to your hardware store and have a corkboard insert cut to size. For even more pizazz, you can cover the board with a fun fabric; this just depends on how much pizazz you can handle. Your child's bedroom, a mudroom entryway, playroom, or bonus room are all great places to hang your Brag Board, and your children will love changing out their art themselves!
Ok, this one might have to be Mommy's Brag Board!
As for those pesky photos that slide down the front of the fridge every time you open the door, create an album exclusively for greeting card photos.
Now you have absolutely no reason to keep your exotic collection of magnets! Yippee!!! (And if you have a chip clip magnet, shame on you. Multiple layers of papers? Your fridge is not THAT cold. . . and yes, I am a guilty party.)

You've spent so much money on your gorgeous appliances, now show them off! And your kiddos will feel special too. =)