Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Truth About “Fine” Living (As Seen In Magazines)

Did you know that architectural photographs lie?

Yep, they sell you a lifestyle, one you might crave, but is it one that is realistic?

When you find yourself drooling over a home in a design magazine, always take a closer look at the rooms you love. In this room, featured in the December 2014 edition of Elle Decor, this sweet bedroom looks complete and inviting - but notice that three or four of the six elements on the night stand are, in fact, temporary elements:

  • The purple sweet peas will quickly fade.
  • The decanter of water and glass would need to be collected and washed.
  • Theoretically that book would be picked up to be read. 

The lamp and artwork will remain lovely, but without the other items, the nightstand would look a little sparse. 

Credit: Elle Decor
When you aspire to emulate a staged photo in a decor magazine, consider whether you are the kind of person who’s likely to keep fresh flowers on the nightstand. I know I’d love to, but the reality is that the flowers would stay there long after they’d faded, and dead flowers are much worse than no flowers at all. 

To recreate this look in a lower maintenance way, think of a way to complete the vignette with elements that can stay put. Maybe a potted plant in a lavender container, and a glass figurine instead of the decanter of water. In this case I would also have looked for a lamp with a larger base to more fully balance out the generous size of the nightstand. 

Never be intimidated by the images you see in the magazines. Let them inspire you, but take them with a grain of salt. They are carefully staged to sell you the idea of a home - it’s okay to adapt the ideas to your real life.

Have fun, and here’s to being happy at home!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Decluttering: How much luggage does one girl need?

Seriously, how much luggage does one girl need? 

Last month I collected and photographed all my luggage to illustrate that we all have more than we need. I was only planning to do this for the photo and then put it all back, but in collecting it I realized - Whoa! I really do have too much luggage! 

We know that living with less fosters gratitude. Keeping extras "just in case" quickly moves from smart to stingy, encourages a habit of greed, and fosters a lack of generosity. But it doesn't always come from a place of bad intentions. I didn't have over ten suitcases out of fear, or out of desire to have it all for myself. They just kind of bred over the last 15 years.

Regardless of how it happened, holding on to extra stuff creates a burden in our home. It also prevents others from having something they could use when we fail to give it away to a better home.

So, after I wrote the article, instead of just packing it all away again, I selected and re-stashed the four bags that my hubby and I really use, and carted the rest off to Goodwill. I felt lighter not having the stuff in my house, and felt better knowing the bags will end up in a good home.

Let's rededicate ourselves to living lighter. Take a moment to inventory just one category in your home that is over-abundant. Perhaps luggage, blankets, coats, scarves, or tupperware containers? Decide how many you really need and use, and then take the rest to your favorite charity. You'll be happier at home, and make someone else happier, too. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

What To Learn From High End Design: Scale Is Everything

Whether the style of this picture (as seen in the December 2014 issue of Elle Decor) is for you or not, there is an important lesson to be drawn from this room. If you count the number of objects in the space, there are really just 11 elements in the entire room: a mirror, a ceiling fixture, end tables, table lamps, a sofa, a pair of chairs, a coffee table, a large piece of art, a rug, a vase of flowers, and a stack of books. Yet it reads as a fully decorated, done space. Why is that? Because each of the elements is large enough and interesting enough to do the work of decorating the space. When you have 11 strong elements, you don’t need any more stuff to make the room feel finished. 

Credit: Elle Decor
It can be scary to spend up for the larger rug or the more interesting lamp with a chunky, textural base but, if done with care, it can actually save you money because you need fewer things in the room to make it feel “done.”

Now, your level of “done” will vary, and you might prefer a more traditional room or more numerous artful objects in your space, but the next time you are deciding on things to bring in to your space, ask yourself - is this item really doing its job?

Have courage, and here’s to being happy at home!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

My Favorite (And Least Expensive) Way To Make A Bed

Bedding can be surprisingly expensive, and no matter how much money you spend, you often end up with a bed that looks:

•  too fussy, with lots of pattern and pillows, or
•  pretty generic and even hotel-beige, or
•  untouchable, with fabrics that you guard from the dog and the kids

Here is my favorite way to make a bed that looks interesting, is budget-friendly, and is easy to make and maintain:
  1. Choose a simple comforter or duvet as the main cover of your bed. Ideally, this layer should be easy to clean (which is why I prefer removable, washable duvet covers over a down duvet).
  2. At the head of the bed, have your two sleeping pillows (in fresh pillow cases) behind two decorative pillow shams.
  3. In front of the two shams, place either a single decorative pillow that makes you smile, or one long body pillow in a cover that is the accent color of the room. 
  4. At the foot of the bed, fold a blanket or quilt in the accent color of the room. Try to make this a durable element too, ideally washable, and something you’d want to pull up over you on colder nights. 

That’s it. To sleep you just remove the two shams and the single decorative accent or body pillow. In the morning you straighten the duvet and foot blanket and replace the three pillows. Now, if that is still too many pillows for you, just make sure your sleeping pillows are fresh and fluffy and that they are covered in fresh sheets that compliment the room, and then use the single body pillow for your accent. That can be enough on its own (and is, in fact, what I have in my own home, seen here.)

If your bed is a pain to make every morning, you probably won’t do it, but if you are craving an elegantly made bed, try this technique - it can be the best of both worlds! 

Here’s to being happy at home!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Craving Some Cozy?: Tips For Buying A New Space Heater

If your space heater is just taking up space instead of heating your space there's no better time than now to get yourself a new one and take advantage of end-of-season sales! Our latest edition of Consumer Reports included some smart shopping tips on heaters - which ones to buy and which to avoid altogether — and we’d thought we’d share them with you!

For both safety and convenience, you’ll want a heater that has:
 • a sensor that shuts heater off if it overheats or tips over (for taller models)
 • a label from a recognized testing laboratory (commonly UL, ETL or CSA)
 • a handle that makes it safe and easy to move it from room to room
 • a thermostat so you can set (and control) the temperature
 • a  fan that will help distribute heat more quickly and evenly

Want to heat an entire room? Go for a convection model. If you just need to spot heat a smaller space (under a desk is a personal favorite), radiant heaters are an ideal buy. Consumer Reports recommends we all steer clear of fuel-burning space heaters, except for emergency use.

Two of their top choices for small heaters were the Holmes HFH436 and Lasko 6462 . 

For radiant heaters, two of their favs were the Soleus Air HM2-15R-32 followed by the DeLonghi TRN0812T.

Last, for heating up bigger spaces, their highest ranging model for the larger heaters was the Honeywell HZ-980.

The good news, there are safe options for every price range and you can heat up an average-sized room for as little as $40!

If you want to know more check out Consumer Reports’ quick buying guide for space heaters (of all sizes), which includes recommendations of what specifics to look for, what heaters to skip altogether, and what you can expect to spend on a new heater.

Here’s to a happy, safe, and toasty-warm home this winter (and next)!

Friday, January 30, 2015

So Many Keys, So Little Doors: Getting Rid of Weight

Everything we carry adds weight to our lives. Today, take a moment to eliminate unused keys from your key chain. You know, those keys that “might” go to something important but you haven’t actually used in years, even decades? If you’re extra motivated, pull the mystery keys out of your junk drawer, too. Give yourself 15 minutes to run around the house and try to figure out what they go to, then pitch them. Afraid some enterprising person might dig through your trash and use the key nefariously? Assuming you just checked to make sure they don’t open the doors to your home, trust me, no thief is likely to figure out what they go to, either. 

Feel bad throwing all those keys away? You have options! There are online organizations that will collect your keys, melt them down for scrap metal, and donate the profits to charity — check out Key For Hope and Keys For Kindness. You might also consider giving or selling them to an etsy artist who uses keys in their artwork, like the amazing work by Michael seen at Check out his key bowls - they are amazing!  

Ready For Some Deep Cleaning?: Carpet Cleaners to the Rescue

Whether it’s time for spring cleaning or your dog just had an unfortunate accident, having a good carpet cleaner is important to the long-term maintenance and appearance of your home. No matter how good your vacuum may be, sometimes life calls for a deep cleaning. Here in the Seattle area we have three folks we love to recommend. 

Restore One and Nelson Carpet Cleaning are both small, family run businesses that both myself and my contractor-husband refer out all the time. We love having personal relationships with our subs and contractors, because we know they’ll go the extra mile for our customers. 

Mario at Restore One will also restretch your existing carpet if it’s buckling and needs some coaxing to lay flat again. (Note, buckled carpet is not just an eye sore, it’s also a safety hazard, especially in homes with folks who have reduced mobility or failing eyesight. Be sure to get that fixed - it doesn’t require having to get all new carpet!) I have also had him clean upholstered furniture I got off Craigslist - making my $50 steal of a chair worth hundreds once he did his magic.

Another fantastic resource is Alpine Specialty Cleaning. They are larger company but still provided exceptional service. They also offer a broader service list, and they are my go-to provider for drapery cleaning. 

So stop looking at the spills from the holidays, forgive your cat or dog its transgressions, and get your home ready for a wonderful year by having one of these carpet cleaning companies come out to your home. You might just be amazed at how new your home can feel!