10/01/2011 12:00 am
I don’t really have a clear idea of what it means when they say, “Woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” I do know that if my husband does not get enough sleep, there will be a lot of crankiness and confusion in the morning. He may have to spend the early morning hours seeming possessed; turning every molehill into a mountain, and just irritable about every little thing. That is his version. For me, what guarantees a bad morning is waking up to a messy kitchen. When I wake up and start a brand new day, I want the kitchen to be perfectly neat and spotless, a blank slate.
Or how about when they say we all need our beauty sleep? I guess that means that unattractive bloodshot eyes and dark eye circles aside, a sleep-deprived, half-functioning, grouchy person is just not a pretty sight.
Obviously, both of us can make sure these mornings don’t happen by taking care of it the night before. We try to get enough fitful sleep, and I make sure I tidy up the kitchen before I hit the sack, not matter how tired I am.
Still, a lot of things can go wrong even before we get up from bed in the morning. There are factors in our bedroom that prevents us from getting the rest, sleep and relaxation that we need. Sleep is one of the most important factors for good health, yet it is also one of the first things we neglect when life gets busy or stressful.
You want to greet the morning light, instead of the other way around.
My bedroom faces east. That means that plenty of morning light enters, as soon as the sun is up. Whether we are ready for it or not, there it is. It can be pleasant and glorious some mornings, yet sort of rude, shocking and blinding on most. Especially in the summer when the days are really long, so much light enters that sleeping-in becomes impossible. I am a person who typically likes light, except in the bedroom. It is really hard to get some sleep in an very bright room. Our circadian rhythms have wired us to wind down in the dark. Researchers who wanted to probe further found that light can greatly affect one of our body hormones known as melatonin. This hormone is secreted inside our body and helps in regulating the wake-sleep cycle which is very important for good health. The hormone works like a biological clock and allow us to wake up and sleep on time. However, the production of melatonin gets affected if any kind of light is on while we are asleep. Hence, you should never have any kind of light when you are sleeping like mobile phone light, alarm clock light and (gasp!) even night lamps (You can, however, get and LED one at any Home Depot that emits a soft blue light and experts say that’s okay.)
Therefore for us, the solution was simple–blackout drapes. They block about ninety percent of the daylight, and just as importantly, at night, the light coming from street lamps. At night, the room is completely dark, and in the early morning hours a comforting hazy greige. We get to control the light in those hours when we are not yet quite ourselves.
You can also install a dimmer switch that works via remote control. A company called Lutron (http://www.lutron.com) , makes dimmers that allow you to select your favorite light level for any atmosphere.
Far from being counterproductive, a bedroom that beckons you to linger is just what we need in this stressful, harried world. Our bedroom should be our sanctuary, an extremely restful place to unwind and rejuvenate.The state of our bedrooms can influence the amount of relaxation and sleep we are able to get out of it. Remove clutter such as clothes, shoes, papers, laundry and other things. Keep laundry in the dresser and hamper, put magazines and books in shelves or trunks, and don’t shove everything under the bed! Clutter, unnecessary objects and misplaced furniture makes the room look busy. Leave only artwork, photos and personal objects that have pleasant meanings for you.
When it comes to furniture, less is more. Think hotel rooms. Even though you spend most of the time on the bed, plenty of circulation space around the bedroom contributes to a sense of restfulness and serenity that renews body and spirit. It allows the room the ‘breathe.’ Have only pieces that are necessary for the activities you need to do. If you like to read, have a comfortable chair, reading light and a table. Look around your room and re-assess your needs. If you are finding yourself constantly piling clothes, books and other stuff on that chair that’s supposed to be for sitthing down to read, this means that you might need hooks inside your closet, or boxes, a set of drawers or trunks to store things that you constantly use.
Don’t skimp on bed linens. There is nothing soothing nor romantic about stiff, scratchy sheets. Buy the best that you can afford. With proper care, good quality sheets last a really long time. The right pillows and soft sheets and blankets suited to the temperature contributes to a fitful sleep.
Colors are scientifically proven to affect our moods and perceptions. For a restful room, opt for cool, calming colors and keep palette to a minimum. If you must have color, add them sparingly in splashes, such as a small pillow, a throw, or a rug.
For a restful palette, think monochromatic with a few splashes of color.
A lack of sleep can lead to more than just sluggishness and under-eye circles; research shows that it can weaken the immune system, cause weight gain, and impede overall health, not to mention shorten your life span. While you can’t build more hours into your day, you can tinker with your bedroom environment to improve your chances of getting a restful night’s sleep.
09/24/2011 12:01 am
“We have a new member in our family!” remarks my good friend the other day over lunch. An hour later, I was at her home ready to ‘meet’ this newest addition. Her name is Becky, and she greeted me from the depths of the kitchen and great room in the back of the house as soon as I entered the front door. She was pretty loud and feisty for her size, and she didn’t hide any reservations she had on meeting me for the first time. It did not take long though (I have always had this particular charm) before she warmed up to me. Then my friend said, “Wanna have her? My husband is not too happy about her.” At this Becky seemed to understand, then left us to take her comfortable perch on the sofa.
“Wow, she has sofa privileges!” I said. The pretty golden sectional was very new, which is why my friends husband gripes, “So what, we got a new sofa for the dog?”
Becky is an adorable little daschund, the new apple of the eye of this family, including the dad, even though he hasn’t fully admitted it to himself yet. She is an indoor dog, too little to be kept outside, and so her home is the family’s kitchen and family room, kept from the more formal spaces of the house by a doggie gate. She does not shed much, though, dad sometimes complains of the smell. Nevertheless, Becky is a smart and pretty well-behaved dog, deserving of her family’s love, and sofa privileges.
If you have a dog (or cat) who loves to snuggle (and watch TV) on the couch with you, there are a few things you can do to minimize upkeep and potential damage. Therefore the first question is:
What is the best sofa upholstery for people with pets?
If the cat or the dog rules in your home and are allowed on the furniture, you need one that will hold up to it. Cats and dogs shed hair, and ridding the sofa of them can be a nightmare. Claws can get caught on loosely-woven fabric. There are going to be dirt marks.
The best solution? Obviously, surfaces that are easy to remove hair from with a lint roller or vacuum are an obvious choice. The verdict is up on microfiber, because although it is very stain resistant and easy to clean, pet hair has been found to stick to it. The highly-recommended choice is leather. Hair slides right off, and there are no threads or loops that can get pulled. You just have to be diligent in keeping their claws trimmed to avoid tears and scratching of the leather, and anywhere else for that matter. It’s even been said that in general, most cats and dogs loathe leather, so there you go.
As for the color, lots of pet owners say that matching your pets hair to the sofa color and/or pattern will at least hide most of the hair that do tend to get stuck on them.
Hair will slide right off a leather couch, and this color will hide most dark pet hair as well as dirt tracks.
Matching your sofa color to your pet can hide hair.
The second best choice is microfiber. If you can live with a synthetic material sofa, this is a good choice. It holds up really well to dirt marks and stains, clean-up is easy and the non-woven nature of the fabric makes removing hair a lot easier.
Photo: Leather sofa, Pottery Barn
What about the smell?
Inside pets bring their own odors into the home and sometimes leave a more or less undesirable ‘scent’ on your furniture. You can get rid of odor as well as hair and dander by using a vacuum with a HEPA filter. To remove pet hair and its odor from furniture, combine 1 part of liquid fabric softener with 3 parts of water in a spray bottle and spray the mixture liberally on the affected area until it is well saturated. Once the area is drenched, wait two more hours before using a vacuum cleaner with the floor attachment tool to remove the dried mixture from your furniture.
If your pet has an accident on the carpet, and it is difficult to get rid of the smell, The Humane Society recommends odor neutralizers and wet vacs.
I am not there yet, but I know this much: Living with an indoor pet requires a lot of love, understanding and loads of patience. If all else fails, there’s the good old training and re-training. Otherwise, remember that you can always get a new couch, but a loveable, loyal and intelligent dog is hard to come by.
09/17/2011 8:05 am
I noticed something strange at my local Target the other day. Wandering around the shoe section, I noticed a low shelf on which lay half-opened boxes of rain boots and little girls’ flats all done in the same striking colorful zigzag design. Looking closer, I saw the sign that said, ‘Missoni for Target.’ Apparently, Missoni, the high-end Italian brand known for it colorful patterns, debuted its Target line that day, and what I was looking at were the measly remains of the collection. According to the LA Times, the collection caused such a mayhem in stores and online. Shoppers eager to bring the stuff home were lined up outside the store at dawn, and the Target website actually crashed due to the ‘unexpectedly overwhelming volume of response.’
A zigzag cardigan retails at Saks Fifth Avenue for around $600. If you went to Target this past Tuesday, or shopped their online store, you could have your very own Missoni items for about $40.
Protee B&W collection by Missoni Home, www.allmodern.com
This original Missoni Home pillow retails for about $250
What Is It About Those Zigzags?
Target has had many designer collaborations in the past, but the response to Missoni is just remarkable. Plenty of the shoppers of course are just Ebay sellers looking to make a little fortune out of reselling the goods online, but that does not take away from the fact that the somewhat psychedelic abstracts and stripes hold great allure to many. Perhaps because it is an Italian brand–there’s something luxuriously exotic about it. I reckon that the very thing Missoni is known for, the kaleidoscope of colors, as well as the abstract and geometric patterns speak volumes to a lot of people. It is also an alternative. It’s print, but it’s not plaid. It’s striped, but it’s not nautical. It’s floral, but it’s not your Grandma’s chintz. It’s bold but it’s not gaudy. See? To people who are tired of plain, gray and black and white, it expresses color and pattern in a chic and laid-back kind of way with a little hint of vintage thrown in there. Somehow I think it is not too different from Paul Smith’s colorful swirls and waves. It just says, ‘Bohemian with great taste.’ Below are some examples of classic Missoni patterns.
For the home, their throws and pillows are beautifully crafted and brilliantly colored, just be what a tired neutral sofa needs.
A Missoni throw from the Target line
Have a cupboard full of restaurant-like white plates and platters? Mixing it up with the line’s colorful plates add a little excitement.
Melamine plates from the Missoni for Target collection
A Word of Caution
Like all its other high-low designer collaborations in the past, the collection is limited. Except for items available from people returning items, it is unclear how much more of the line will be available. Target originally planned to have it run through October, but the collection was wiped out in virtually a day. On Ebay, by Wednesday afternoon, there were more than 32,000 Missoni for Target items available, with some hawkers asking as much for their Missoni for Target as Missoni for Missoni would cost! This is incredulous because even though the designs and patterns on this collaborations are authentic, the quality of the materials used as well as the craftsmanship are still big box store cheap, otherwise, Target would not be able to sell them at such a low price. In the end, the only thing similar between a polyester Missoni for Target throw and the real deal 100% wool Missoni throw, is the pattern. But then again, if you’re just going to throw it on the back of your sofa, who cares?
07/23/2011 12:00 am
One of the worst half-truths that most of us have been told as children is that, aesthetic taste is wholly relative. If adults truly believed that, parents and schools would not waste time and money exposing children to high forms of art like Picassos and Van Goghs, and there would be no argument that music by heavy metal AC/DC is on par with Tchaikovsky. After having been told for years that everyone just likes to do things their own way, we are supposed to mature, and reach for the conclusion that a great artist is someone whose body of work is so much better than others that it is used as a measure for our own artistic endeavors.
It therefore makes sense that if we are to go anywhere in our quest for designing or finding things of lasting beauty, it helps to know ‘what to look for.’ After all, scientists have said that as humans, we are genetically predisposed to be attracted to beautiful things, and when they used the word ‘beautiful’ it was not at all subjective. Rather, ‘beauty’ is based on precise attributes that can even be mathematically determined in the form of symmetry. Yet when we are attracted to somebody, we do not really go, ‘That guy is cute because the distance between the bottom of his nostrils and the top of his lips are so and so.” Rather, we are attracted to the most obvious attributes such as a nice smile, gorgeous hair, a great body. Even if the smallest details vary from person to person, the qualities that make us attractive are basically the same.
So what if you’re buying furniture? I think that buying furniture can only go two ways. The first way is the easy, no-brainer way. It’s like buying a bottle of ketchup. Brown, basic, no-frills. This is the sofa that is neither pretty nor ugly. It’s just your average, basic sofa. Nobody can say that you have bad taste, but nobody will complement you on it either. The second way is the hard way, an exercise in judgment, taste and even persuasive skills. This is where you are so focused on your personal taste, and where you may even have to defend for it. The result? It’s either a hit or a miss. It’s the sofa that is either loved or loathed. But you don’t care, because you like it.
The way I see it, there are no right or wrong choices. Only poor ones. If we knew what to look for then we would be able to pick a great piece, no matter the style. Good design is made up of some pretty basic principles that have nothing to do with age, or genre.
Here’s a short list.
1. Good design is simple. Simple means that the object is devoid of ornamentation that has no apparent purpose, or that impedes function. A great example is the Google logo and its interface. Enough said.
2. Good design is timeless. Since most designed things like furniture and clothes are defined by era, it is really hard to find something that truly stands the test of time. When we try to be creative, we cannot help but be inspired by current themes or present-day culture, thereby dating our creations. Timeless-ness I guess, resides in the ability to adapt to changing times and tastes. If something can be ever so slightly varied and tweaked as to hold its appeal, then that, is timeless.
A timeless piece does not have to be antique. This chair's inspiration is vintage, yet the lines are slightly tweaked so that it's both timeless and current.
Above: Grayson Chair by Williams Sonoma Home, www.wshome.com
3. Good design solves the problem. The complaint in most if not all kitchen renovations is ‘lack of space.’ This area of the house is chockful of every conceivable gadget and appliance. We land into our kitchens excited to cook, but not without first having the right blender, the right toaster, the right mixer, etc. Pretty soon, the counters are overcome with them that there is little space to actually prep and cook.
Vacuum cleaner king James Dyson is at the forefront in terms of innovation and he wants to “compactify” our kitchens and hopefully beautify them in the process. In a US patent application file, Dyson and his colleagues Peter Gammack and David Campbell thought of a way to save space on overcrowded kitchen worktops by radically changing the design of the gadgets that typically clutter them. The team says the trouble with today’s kettles, toasters, juicers, food mixers and coffee grinders is that each type of gadget tends to have a different space-hogging design. Typically, users must leave a large “footprint” around each appliance so that their handles and controls can be easily reached. In their patent filed, one of the ideas is to make all free-standing gadgets like kettles, toasters, juicers and food mixers in the shape of tall cuboids that can easily be pushed together on a worktop, with no wasted space between them. Genius.
What will he think of next?: Sir James Dyson, designer and inventor extraordinaire.
4. Good design makes form follow function. A great house is one that allows its inhabitants to live in comfort and efficiency; it is designed to adapt to their needs and not the other way around.
5. Good design is well thought-of. James Dyson said, “If you invent something, you’re doing a creative act, like writing a novel or composing music.” A hallmark of great design in this age is one that is backed by tremendous research and study, which results in a product that looks so simple but is anything but. Case in point, the Apple iPad. I am not really a gadget-tech-y kind of person, but everyday I never cease to marvel at the beauty of my iPad. Before it, I was never one to reach for the latest phone, to me, if it rings and can allow me to call home, it works. I also never liked spending too much money on things like this. Then I saw the iPad One. That was the first time I looked at a gadget and really said, “Hmmm.” Hmmm, it’s small, light, super-portable. It lets me read books, check my email, go on the internet, jot down notes and listen to music. You can literally take it wherever you go, and can Facebook in unmentionable places. Moreover, the interface was sheer genius. Why have buttons that protrude when you can have a touch screen?
6. Good design is sometimes revolutionary. My iPad was a birthday present but I think I would have gladly spent my money on it myself. In this category, there are very few things I have come across that truly justifies the cost. True, it is not a necessity, but with what it can do, there is simply nothing like it. That is good design.
07/16/2011 12:00 am
One lazy summer afternoon, my son and I paddled a kayak on a lovely lake in our area. We got drawn to the sight of the lakefront properties that we passed by. These were huge, million-dollar homes on a prime location, each with their own docks and boats to match. There were a few dozen homes, done in different styles, all obviously custom. It was also apparent that the homeowners’ association allowed for a great variety in style and color. There were two or three that had some pretty nice, distinct styles–Cape Cod, Modern, Italianate, Cottage. Then there were those that looked like it couldn’t decide what it was and those that simply didn’t have any style at all. However, what they had in common was that they were all pristine, with well-kept lawns, decks, outdoor furniture and docks. These were people who took great pride in their property, even if it included weird columns covered in tile that aesthetically had nothing to do with the rest of the house. That being said, there is truly no accounting for taste. It’s all subjective. If it’s a million dollar lakefront home and the owners had enough cash to install unsightly ‘end to end, side by side and all around’ floor to ceiling windows, chalk it all up to taste.
So, if taste is subjective, then how else do we arbitrate for good taste? Does it really matter? After all, nowadays what may seem as ‘weird’ or ‘vulgar’ at first (look at Lady Gaga and Snooki Polizzi), ends up being the next big thing anyway. So what does it really take to be classified as ‘tasteful’ or ‘tacky?’
Chances are, you probably know a person or two in your life that you are just dying to nominate for the show ‘What Not To Wear.’ Chances are too, that you won’t, because you would like to think that it’s better to leave this person alone, blissful in his or her ignorance. The nice person in you allows you to be tolerant of this person’s taste (or lack of it)–even though you truly think it stinks. Are we really doing them a favor?
As children, we are taught not to make fun of our friend’s creative expressions. If you poke fun at the funny way your classmate colored her picture, you promptly get scolded. We are taught that any creative expression is personal and subjective and we do things our own way. Then it gets confusing. We get introduced to fine art; works by geniuses that are supposed to embody what is beautiful.
If there is such a thing as beauty, don’t we need to be able to recognize it?
Yet, whenever we talk about taste, most of the time everybody agrees that ‘taste is subjective.’ Maybe we believe this because this is the way it feels to us. When we like something, most of the time we have no idea why. It may be because it’s beautiful, or because someone we know has one, or a celebrity has one, or because it’s expensive. The reasons why we are drawn to something are many and often unexamined. Perhaps this is why we are hesitant to criticize other people’s tastes; if they are so personal and subjective, so innate and primal, who are we to judge? When we were children we were discouraged from doing so to stop us from bickering. Then as grown-ups, we are trained to avoid it in order to be polite and politically correct.
Saying that taste is just personal preference is a good way to prevent arguments. The trouble is, that’s not always true. If taste is just a personal preference, then everybody is already perfect; we like whatever we like, and that’s that.
The simple truth is that despite what we like to think, there are hallmarks that define good taste and good design. There are things that will stand the test of time and things that won’t. There are things that are truly beautiful and things that are just well, ugly. Most of us are not immune. Even those with a lot of cash to burn sometimes buy things that are yes, expensive, but tacky. For if there is something truer than ‘Taste is personal,’ it is, ‘Good taste cannot be bought.’ It can be cultivated though.
So how do we recognize good taste and good design?
Keep posted next week, and I will attempt to help us how. In the meantime, try not to buy anything, and if you do, save the receipt!
They say money cannot buy taste, but can justify eccentricity.
07/09/2011 12:00 am
Pretty for pretty’s sake got old. Indiscriminate accumulation of repetitive items and compulsive buying are thankfully, going out of fashion. A 2010 Post-Recession Consumer Study done by international advertising, marketing and public relations agency, Ogilvy & Mather, showed that 73% of Americans would rather own fewer, but better-quality items, rather than have more of lesser quality.
How long is it going to be before you are sick and tired of it?
Obviously when cost is not an issue, the choice is clear. Stick to better quality materials that last. But what to do when on a tight budget? It may be cliche, but I would say that it’s time to get creative. Even during tough times, it is unwise to buy cheap, poor quality housewares and furnishings. They may look pretty when new, but they do not last and by the time we are done with them they are so broken and unserviceable that no thrift store will take them. We’ve all at some point, dumped something huge on that curb that we hoped somebody would pick up. If you know that you will be needing said item for a long time, the next best thing to top quality new is good quality used. For example, there is absolutely no need to make do with cheap, plastic plates the likes of which are in such enormous quantities at Wal Mart it’s ridiculous. If you’re low on budget, stores such as Goodwill sell used ceramic, stoneware and even porcelain plates at dirt cheap prices. They often come in sets, or you can be creative and mix and match.
For those times when your home really does need an upgrade, it does not necessarily mean walls need to be torn down, or a whole suite of furniture needs to be purchased. De-cluttering, rearranging and a little imagination may be all it really needs. In the case of most homes in this country, the problem lies not in having enough stuff to go around, but rather in having too much stuff. It’s really hard to appreciate the beauty of certain things when they are lost in a senseless cacophony of a space filled with unrelated materials. I always advice friends and clients not to buy unless they have a place for it.
If you need to purchase something new for an update, start with something big. Larger pieces such as a large mirror, a big beautiful rug, a tall bookcase or a chest of drawers serves as an anchor to all the other elements and grounds the space. The result is a less-cluttered feel, because we are not filling the room with a bevy of small, often, non-essential pieces.
When we buy something such as engagement ring, we are willing to shell out the big bucks because we are convinced of the value of the ring, or the diamond on it. We buy the best that we can afford because obviously, we do not buy it with the idea of one day replacing it. Like the spouse that comes with it, we select it for keeps. Perhaps this is the approach we should take when buying (at least) most of our stuff. We need to plan more, give it more thought. We should walk into that furniture store with a clear idea of our needs and our styles. We need to look beyond trends and buy for quality and usefulness. Sometimes, we even need to hold off on a purchase, if this means being able to come back and take home something that will last longer.
Sometimes however, we just need something right away, but don’t necessarily have the budget at present to buy ‘the one,’ or ‘the best.’ The best thing to do in this situation is to buy something that will serve the purpose temporarily but is still quite durable so that it can be re-purposed, moved to another room or donated.
Well despite our best intentions, bad purchases happen. Funds are insufficient and we sometimes become slaves to fashion and give in to our impulse. I have been quite a bit of good advice on this subject, and over the years have come up with several rules of thumb:
–If the purchase is not a necessity, don’t buy it unless you really love it.
–If the purchase is a necessity, like (most) shoes, buy the best you can afford. It is not fun to walk in pain due to bad shoes.
–If you cannot afford the best, buy something for the meantime, but let go of it before it’s so broken that you have to throw it away. I do this with shoes. When I have gotten the most use out of it, I donate it while it is still serviceable so that I do not have to throw it away. Unlike clothes, shoes take a lot more abuse and can no longer be worn when broken, unlike a faded shirt.
–If you have to buy something simply for looks, be pretty sure that it goes with the rest of your stuff and that you have a place for it.
–Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale.
07/02/2011 12:09 am
Eclectic. That is how I would describe the style of most of the homes I’ve ever been too. This is a style that can be described as ‘mostly this, but a little bit of that.’ Though I have been to some homes that are straight up and down done in one distinctive style, most homes I’ve seen fall under at least two categories. For example, classic and neutral, but also a little bohemian. Theatrical and unconventional yet spare and modern. Mixing it up keeps things interesting, more original and up-to-date. Limited to one genre, a room and appear artificial, sort of like a showroom. Layering and mixing styles keep it real. One trick is to choose a key piece, like a large console table or a sofa that is cut in the style that you want then surround it with other things. One great piece may be all you need to convey your idea.
Fashion guru Tim Gunn has this to say on color. Save the brighter, more offbeat colors for classically cut pieces, and keep trendier silhouettes from looking cheap by buying them in neutral, classic colors. Alber Elbaz, designer for Lanvin, reinvents heavy, sumptuous fabrics like taffeta, and silk by going heavy on the yardage, keeping edges a little rough and unfinished. Traditionally stuffy fabrics are given a modern edge by giving them a touch of recklessness. Meanwhile, young designer Jason Wu, wowed the world with his very modern take on dresses. Though cut quite classically, he uses bright, saturated colors in unconventional combinations.
Top: A bridal gown by Alber Elbaz for Lanvin, Left: A Jason Wu gown.
The roll arms make this sofa quite traditional, but the exposed legs, low back, pillows, shorter length of 68″, and most of all the deep blue upholstery keep this piece up to date.
Kendall sofa in Indigo, www.roomandboard.com
Top: Traditional pieces look edgy and not stodgy when mismatched and done in pretty bright colors. www.housebeautiful.com, Bottom: Modern and spare living room in classic monochromatic gray. www.roomandboard.com
06/18/2011 8:34 am
It is such a giant cliche (especially in a parenting/family-oriented) magazine to say, “Once you become a parent, your life is changed forever,” but I’m gonna say it anyway. Having children means that your world–which consists of your personal agenda, daily schedule and short and long-term plans–now have to coordinated and followed around the needs of the little one(s). It is a complete and total paradigm shift.
Everything changes. Suddenly you become acquainted with new feelings such as indescribable awe, joy and contentment. There is also frustration, doubt and the occasional embarrassment (such as when your baby wails and screams at a public place). Then of course the weariness, exhaustion and that dreaded state of sleeplessness during the first few months (in most cases). You, who were formerly so sure of yourself, so confident, now sometimes lay awake at night fearing for this kid’s future, afraid for him going out into an increasingly crazy world, doubtful if you’re doing right by her, giving it your best shot, being enough, being there enough. There are endless questions, perhaps never to be fully answered for a long, long time.
Then perhaps the most visible changes that occur once parenting begins (no, it’s not just your girth) happens in your home. Your once pristine and well-coordinated living room becomes overrun by colorful gadgets and baby furniture.Your outlets get covered and cabinets safety-locked. The floor is littered with toys. It’s amazing how many items manufacturers have managed to invent to convince us that they are all absolutely, positively necessary for the health and wealth being of your child! Swings, rockers, saucers, high-chairs–four different types of seats and it does not end there. In the middle of it all is the baby, with whom it is next to impossible to keep everything neat and tidy, all the time.
Despite this, baby equipment and paraphernalia is big business. Manufacturers and retailers are never short on the latest and chic-est stroller, crib or baby sling. Magazines are full of swanky celebrity nurseries outfitted and decorated in uber-luxurious fashion. These are breathtakingly beautiful rooms that are not your typical pink or blue or ultra-colorful Disney. They are very modern and contemporary, and curiously lacking the usual cartoon characters.
Decorating a stylish nursery doesn’t have to require dipping into your child’s college tuition fund. There are ways to help keep costs low, but style high. The most important element is color, which has gotten more sophisticated in recent years. Pink and blue have been replaced by silvery greens, pale yellows, grayish lavenders and even straight gray tones. Rooms are no longer cutesy or gender specific, and can go with the rest of the apartment, because parents are more fashionable than ever before.
Simple with one striking feature.
A perfect blend of whimsy and sophistication.
The key to designing the best baby nursery is balance. You must balance between your baby’s need for tons of sleep along with your baby’s need for brain stimulation. A nursery is both a bedroom and a playroom. Just like any other bedroom in the house, you’ll want colors that help your child keep calm and snooze well in the crib. Soft, soothing colors such as light blues, greens and pinks instill calmness. If you want something more contemporary, go for muted grays and silvers. Something in the middle would be a neutral color such as sand, punctuated with the more traditionally livelier pinks, blues and yellows.
Soothing green prevails in the nursery.
Murals also do wonders for nursery walls! It can set the entire theme/mood of the room and personally I think, with a spectacular mural in place, there is little need for much else in the way of decoration.
Murals transform and transport.
Another way to up the sophistication factor is lighting. Do this by adding a mini-chandelier, or a modern table lamp. Add a lamp and a reading and or rocking chair that picks up the general furniture scheme of the home.
This room is both playful and modern at the same time.
I know a great muralist. I have worked with her and she is awesome. Her name is Jeanine Hattas of Fresh Murals. Check out her website at www.getfresh.biz
Keep posted! More on this topic next week.
Next week: Selecting furniture for your nursery.
06/11/2011 11:16 am
If you read last Saturday’s blog about whether to reupholster an existing sofa or buy a new one, and decided on neither, then your sofa must be ‘unsalvage-able’ and this article is for you. What do you do when your furniture simply has to go?
Goodwill and the Salvation Army won’t take it. You left it out on the street for three days and no one took it. You added a “FREE!” sign and it was still there. Animals are starting to live on it. What to do??? Just like that car that you ran into the ground, there are times when something is simply not re-usable anymore.
The cop-out is to call waste management for a bulk disposal pick-up, and you know where that sofa will end up. Obviously, this is not the best solution.
I searched around and found some sites that do something called De-Manufacture. They take the parts apart, screws, etc., and save what can be used. In my opinion any recycling that involves the use of automotive transport (which ultimately means fuel and carbon emissions) and any type of machinery to flatten or artificially decompose a product reduces the green benefits of the recycling done by using energy anyway. For example, instead of having to recycle plastic bottles, why don’t we just not use them in the first place. The upside of recycling though is, we are not contributing to the landfill problem.
Check out these links for more information:
You can also check your community for charitable organizations that will take worn sofas and do the repairs themselves.
06/04/2011 12:01 am
I got this question today:
“Should I re-upholster a sofa or buy a new one?”
Undoubtedly millions of discarded and unwanted sofas end up in landfills. There is the option of donating, but centers such as Goodwill and Salvation Army will only accept items that are in generally good, sell-able condition. In other words, if your sofa has stains or tears, they will not accept it. So you are only left with two options–toss or repair.
Don’t be surprised: Unless what you have is a high end sofa upwards of about $2,000, the cost of reupholstering will always be higher than what you had originally paid for the sofa in the first place. If you are not planning to upgrade, you will most certainly find a replacement that costs a lot less than reupholstering. Why? Fabric is not cheap. Remember that the cost of the original fabric on your sofa cost a lot less coming from the factory. This is the same way that a custom-made dress costs more then an off-the-rack creation. Then there’s the cost of filling, repairs, and the labor.
Choosing to reupholster though gives you more choices as to the quality of covering material you want, texture and pattern and filling. This options are all available at most showrooms, though it will also increase the price of your sofa.
Check if your sofa is worth saving and how you use it. The true value and lifespan of a sofa lies beyond the attractiveness of its shape or covering. It’s the bones that matter! A good quality sofa is worth the expense of re-upholstering.
Above, left: 4-way hand-tied springs, Above, right: 8-way hand-tied springs
- Weight: Lift your sofa. Heavier (note that sofa beds will be heavier because of the bed frame inside) generally means better. The sturdiness of a sofa has to do with the frame–the type of wood and the construction. Sofas made of hardwoods such as oak and mahogany last longer. You can easily reupholster these sofas and keep using it for as long as the life of the new upholstery.
- Springs: The best kinds of sofas are crafted using a method called “8-way hand-tied.” This is a labor-intensive process that produces the best quality springs. The cheaper ones use clips or 4-way ties. Ask your re-upholsterer about the quality of your sofa’s springs and if it can be re-tied to relieve the sagging.
- Cushions: A super-quick way to determine the quality is by opening the zipper. If you open it and the polyurethane foam is right under the fabric–you’ve got yourself a cheap cushion. Better cushions have layers consisting of an inner core of springs or foam, surrounded by batting (quilting material) and covered with a liner fabric. Again, re-upholstering allows lets you upgrade on this.
Above, left: Inexpensive cushion with inner polyurethane foam and Dacron batting. Above, right: Better cushion with inner springs, foam, and outer layer of feathers (Note: Ikea now also carries lines that are feather-filled!)
- Level of use: If the sofa is in a high-use area such as the family room, it needs to stand up to the wear and tear. In this case, re-upholster if you have a good sofa in your hands, and just buy a new one if you really don’t (unless you’re hard-core on the eco-factor). The cost per use of a new and better quality sofa will be less than salvaging a sofa with poor bones. If the sofa is in a formal living room where hardly anybody sits, it does not matter so much. Recover it in a pretty, new material and you’re good to go.
- If you’re worried about the eco-factor: Consider that if your sofa is on the lower end of the price spectrum, re-upholstering it also puts the old foam, the batting and the fabric in the landfill. Toss in the light woods used in it and it’s not that big of a difference. Chances are, you will end up having to re-upholster again. On the other hand, upgrading to a better quality sofa gets you one that will last longer. The better quality also means you may not have to re-upholster for a long time, so it really is more eco-friendly.
Calico Corners–offer material and re-upholstering services.
Five-Star Upholstery and Drapery
23854 Vía Fabricante
Mission Viejo, CA 92691-3153
25782 Obrero Drive
Mission Viejo, CA 92691-3103
Mid-range stores–such as Pottery Barn, Crate & Barrel and Ethan Allen all offer sofas with good-quality woods and eight-way hand-tied construction. When buying for a high-use area, consider spending a little more–again, think cost/use. For a formal living room, you can just go for the looks and shop at the lower-end of Ikea or the likes of Pier 1, Living Spaces and Easylife.
Homegoods–will sometimes have good-quality furniture if you’re willing to work with the limited selection.
Consignment–stores always have better quality furniture on stock. The price point will almost always tell you about the quality of the furniture. The store should also have information about the brand and origin.