Monday, October 30, 2017

Inspired Halloween Decorating Ideas From Martha Stewart

Martha Stewart truly loves Halloween. Aside from some amazing costumes, she and her team have dreamt up some marvelous decorating ideas over the years, many of which I have incorporated into my own Halloween décor.

Let Martha inspire you with the photos below...and click on the photos for how-to tutorials!

Cheesecloth Spiderwebs

Petrified Parlor with "Moth-Eaten" Curtains

Vampire and Bat Pumpkins

Happy designing, and Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 23, 2017

Ketra Invents Natural Light

I am amazed by this marvelous new lighting product from Austin Texas-based company Ketra. It took four years to design a light that changes color temperature throughout the day, starting with bright white light just sunshine to a warm firelight-like glow in the evening. Research has shown that this candlelight glow in the evening and night hours helps our bodies produce melatonin and prepare us for sleep. (Even the newer phones and tablets now have a "Night Shift" option where the light from the screens is warmed, eliminating the bright blue-white light that stimulates the brain, making it harder to sleep.)

Ketra makes a variety of fixtures and lamps (bulbs) along with interfaces and apps to control them. Watch the videos below to see the products in action.

Happy designing!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Snedker Studio's Marbled Wood Flooring

As part of Copenhagen's Snedker Studio, textile designer Pernille Snedker Hansen creates marvelous painted wood floors using the ancient handcrafted art of marbling (the technique used to create classic endpapers for books). By swirling paint onto a fluid surface and dipping planks onto the paint, the marbling design is transferred.

Her Refraction Series #1 fits together beautifully and can be configured in a bookmatched pattern...

...and Refraction #2 can be configured into a chevron pattern.

I think her Wave pattern might be my favorite. She says her aim with this technique is to invoke old-growth tree rings and this pattern feels wonderfully organic.

And for some curves, the Arch series creates a pleasing, rhythmic pattern.

Here's how she does it!

I would love to use these incredible, one-of-a-kind planks for a project. Anyone?
Happy designing!

Monday, October 9, 2017

Re-post: Four Easy Steps For Autumn Décor

Since I love autumn, but also because my blog metrics tell me this is a very popular post with lots of hits, I am reposting my 2013 piece about autumnal décor:

This is the time of year when the air chills, days grow shorter, and we turn to our indoor lives. Since the temperature is dropping, we desire warmth and comfort, we desire insulation from the elements, and we desire to cocoon ourselves in special places that allow for beauty and contemplation of the season. Below are four very simple--and inexpensive!--ways to bring a touch of autumn into your home.

1. Nature
This is the easiest, fastest way to achieve a rich, fall texture in your home. And there are a few ways to work with nature.

A trip to the produce section of your local supermarket will yield a bounty of decorative objects. Think of buying a bag or crisp red apples to put in a basket or on a wooden platter as a centerpiece for a table. Pick up a selection of pumpkins (large, medium and baby pumpkins) and gourds to arrange on an end or hall table. Red or purple grapes and fresh cranberries can be put into decorative glass bowls or vases. Even things like stalks of Brussels sprouts, artichokes, or deep hued purple eggplants can be effective in centerpieces or tableaux. Another wonderful element to use in autumn décor are nuts: walnuts, Filberts, hazelnuts, pecans... just pile them up in an amber colored glass dish or scatter around a table setting.

A trip to the florist or nursery can provide you with some beautiful autumn color in the form of cut flowers like autumn colored chrysanthemums or potted orange marigolds. You can also find dried flowers and greenery like hydrangeas or eucalyptus to use in vases or other containers (I have a lovely antique ceramic German beer stein that gets some dried hydrangeas around this time of year.) Many places sell colorful Indian corn as well to add to the mix.

Finally, the most accessible way of obtaining natural elements to use is to forage! Autumn leaves, twigs to bundle or gather into bouquets, pine cones, sheaves of wheat or grasses can be found almost anywhere. Keep your eyes peeled and if you see a pretty fallen branch with a bit of moss on the sidewalk, snap it up!

2. Candles
Candles add a wonderful ambiance any time of the year but they seem especially appropriate in the colder autumn and winter months. Display pillar candles on a platter surrounded by nuts and pine cones, put them in lanterns, arrange a bunch of candles of varying heights with apples and mini ceramic pumpkins on a dining table. If you have a non-operational fireplace, candles look wonderful grouped in the firebox, giving the same visual cue as a log-burning fire.

3. Texture
For added interest, turn to earthy or rich textures:
* woods like oak and birch (candle holders, branches, bowls)
* burlap (a rustic table runner or cloth)
* velvet (pillows, drapery)
* blankets or throws in thick woven materials or faux fur
* rich patterns like paisley (pillows, throws, rugs, tablecloths or runners)

4. Color
At this time of the year, we are naturally surrounded by a rich palette: rust, crimson, purple, russet, mustard, forest green, umber, sienna...Use these hues as inspiration for objects in your own home.

It is easy to change out pillows, add some earthenware vases, and display some autumn colored fruit.

The addition of a throw and some white mini-pumpkins along with branches and dried vines in rustic jugs on the mantel above a warming fire sets the stage for fall.

Warm autumnal tones and a large scale paisley print look cozy and inviting.

Branches with brilliant rust and brown leaves placed inside honor the crisp days of the season. Notice the blanket of leaves, apples, and a gnarled piece of wood at the foot of the arrangement.

Gourds, decorative mercury glass pumpkins, an antler, and lanterns with glowing candles make a textural, interesting grouping. Image from Pottery Barn.

Branches and a selection of pumpkins in various hues are displayed with antique rakes in an almost minimalist tableau.

This casual table setting includes cinnamon sticks on forest green glass mugs (a lovely touch), apples, pine cones, leaves, and a coarsely woven cloth in natural hues of linen and taupe.

I set my Thanksgiving table every year with some gourds, red leaves, and a dried floral arrangement studded with eucalyptus, dried lotus pods (I love their shape) and pheasant feathers. I also use my grandmother's pressed glass turkey candy dish filled with an assortment of nuts (although some years, it holds cranberry relish!). Photo by Jeff Fiorito.

Bare twigs in simple glass cylinders (available at any craft store or florist) are anchored by what looks like a mix of wild rices. Berries, moss and lichen covered branches, pine cones and mini pumpkins complete the festive look.

Hazelnuts act as vase fillers for copper mums. Brilliant.

The simplicity of a single leaf on a white plate still expresses the richness and bounty of the season.

Now that you are acquainted with some simple, available ingredients, I hope you are inspired to gather some of these elements and honor the textures, smells, and sights of the season. And remember my helpful guidelines for creating a tableau, previously here: think about the shape your grouping makes; include tall, medium, and low objects for a variety of levels; odd numbers work best; and most importantly, contrast brings interest (rough next to smooth, light next to dark, large next to small).

Have a wonderful autumn and happy designing!

Monday, October 2, 2017

History of Furniture: Charles Eastlake

For this installment of The History of Furniture, we are going to look at a specific sub-genre of the  larger Victorian style category. We have previously looked at what is known as a Victorian style sofa here, as part of the Know Your Sofas series. Strictly speaking, the term "Victorian" really only applies to a style in architecture, art, clothing, and interiors in Great Britain and not the United States, since Victoria's reign, from 1837 to 1901, only covered that realm. People use the term for a certain style of architecture here in the United States for homes that are actually more aptly termed "Italianate" but that is for another post.

During Victoria's reign--which was quite long (a record broken by the current Queen Elizabeth II)--several styles came and went. Interestingly, nearly all were revivals of some sort. The decades of her rule saw a Rococo Revival, a Gothic Revival, a Renaissance Revival, a Jacobean Revival, and digressions into styles known as Orientalism (look for a future post about Olana, one of the most famous Orientalist homes in the United States, coming soon) and an Egyptian Revival.

The Victorian style's hallmark is massive, heavy, phenomenally complex and ornately carved pieces of furniture but the sub-genre we are going to look at today deliberately eschewed this heavy ornamentation for a sense that was more aligned with the cleaner lines of William Morris and the Arts and Crafts movement.

Originally a proponent of Jacobean and Gothic Revival, Charles Locke Eastlake was an English architect and furniture designer (1836 - 1906) who believed that furniture and decor in people's homes should be made by hand or by machine-workers who took personal pride in their work.

The Eastlake style is derived from a book he published in 1868 called HINTS ON HOUSEHOLD TASTE IN FURNITURE, UPHOLSTERY, AND OTHER DETAILS. In it, he outlined his ideas for the reformation of the typical heavy, detail-laden tastes of the Victorians in favor of a lighter, more organic approach. He used incised wood, and geometric shapes as detail.

You can see how he avoided the scrolls and curlicues of Victorian Rococo in favor of straighter lines. There is a much more rectilinear sense to the pieces themselves in addition to the details they sport. Orbs, bobbin shapes, and bead shapes rest alongside minimally incised designs of leaves, vines, and simple rosettes. In this way, the Eastlake Style can certainly be seen as an important stepping stone toward Arts and Crafts, or American Craftsman in the United States along with its distant cousin, Mission Style.

Many years ago, I had the honor of refurbishing and reupholstering an heirloom Eastlake-style chair for a client. I think the traditional Victorian crimson makes the chair look like it must have in 1898.

Happy designing!