31 March 2009

Garden Stools -- Not Just for Gardens Anymore!

I’ve never been a gardener, but I’ve long enjoyed the versatile appeal of garden stools! Maybe you’ve heard of these clever items -- sometimes called drum tables -- as they’ve gained quite a following lately. (It’s both frustrating and vindicating to see them show up as the design tool du jour everywhere I look lately!)

I thought I’d share these flexible seating-occasional table-plant stand-pedestals with you, my readers, as they are a wonderfully colorful, clever way to decorate both your outdoor and indoor spaces!

Here are a few of my recent faves:

From Art & Artifact,
a pair of Lattice Garden Stools combines to serve as a coffee table grouping

At West Elm, their Morroccan Drum Table doubles as a nightstand

Wisteria features
go-anywhere Metallic Chinese Garden Stools in silver and gold

Pottery Barn takes their Ceramic Garden Stool
back outside as a chaise end table

Z Gallerie kicks it up a notch!
Palmer Stools in green or orange add energy to your indoor or outdoor living spaces

Williams Sonoma Home goes traditional
with Decorative Floral Embossed Floral Garden Seat
serving as a side table

While FineGardenProducts.com goes modern
with Angular Ceramic Garden Seat in five colors

Tonic Home gets a little wild
with the Zebra Garden Stool working as a plant stand
(note - photo from Ballard Designs, which is no longer carrying the item)

HOMEdeco-direct makes it rustic
Cinnabar Ceramic Garden Stool could bring Asian flair to country cabin

25 March 2009

Collecting Lust... In Honor of Elton John's Birthday Today!

I've been a huge fan of Elton John's music since I was nine years old. He's been a fan of fun, funky eyeglasses for almost that long. As a collector, Elton needs a place to keep all of those spectacles. So, in honor of his birthday today, March 25, I've decided to create a blog post on storing and displaying your collectibles.

Greatest Hits from my Fave Hit Maker!

The first consideration, as in Elton's eyeglass example, is whether the collection is in use, for display only or a combination of both. That will determine its location and storage method.

The second consideration is the collection's value. Does it need to be locked and alarmed because of its high cost, or irreplacability?

A third, related, consideration is maintenance of its condition. Some collections, like books, wine, quilts and art, need to be protected from direct sunlight. Others may be subject to breakage in an earthquake-prone environment, or one with active children or pets.

Last, but not least, are collections that are intended to be eye candy for a room. What is the best way to arrange and light such a display?

Let's look at each scenario.


A collection that's in active use is one that needs to be strategically located in easy reach of its owner, where he or she is most likely to need it. This could be eyeglasses, watches, purses or shoes. Any one of them could be stored with the collector's other personal effects, or in a convenient spot close to where they will be used most regularly.

For example, if the homeowner collects designer sunglasses, an alternative spot to his or her dressing room is at the garage entrance in a suburban home, or at the most-frequently used entry door. In most cases, sunglasses would only be used outside, so being able to access them on the way out would be ideal. Another point-of-use collection would be wine. In many cases, it will be enjoyed in the public areas of one's home, with friends, neighbors and relatives. Therefore, wine storage is often located near the dining and living areas. An especially valuable collection will be climate-controlled, and may be secured in a locked room.

Custom Residential Wine Cellar by Wine Cellar Innovations

Shoes and purses that are regularly worn would work best in a dressing area. Fabric models need to be stored away from direct sunlight, which can fade them over time. If you saw the Sex and the City film last year, you saw the ultimate dressing room for protagonist and shoe goddess Carrie Bradshaw.

Carrie Bradshaw's To-Die-For Closet in Sex and the City Movie

Watches, like fine wine, may require more security. Many also require winding. A secure room off a dressing area just for your watch collection may be called for, especially if most of the collection is regularly worn.


Some watch collectors - especially those preferring antiques - will display, rather than wear, most of their collection. In this scenario, the watches won't be stored in a dressing room, but in the area of the home where the collector will enjoy it most. This might be a den, library, billiards room or home office. It will likely house other collectibles, as well, that are meaningful to that homeowner. The watches, however, might require greater security. Locked, shatter-proof glass-front built-ins could be the approach for this collector.

Custom Collection by ORBITA Watchwinders

Rare books are another example of a collection to be publicly viewed. However, sunlight, dust and finger oils could prove damaging to such a collection, so their display must be carefully planned. I'd suggest displaying them behind UV-filtered glass to protect them from the sun's harmful rays and dust. Those that are especially rare and precious can be locked up, as well.

Other types of collections are enhanced by light. These include pottery and crystal. If your collection is mainly intended for display, rather than food or flower use, you can display it in LED-illuminated glass-front cabinets for maximum effect. Often, this is achieved by planning built-ins in your kitchen, dining room or living areas. (If they're intended for your kitchen, be sure to locate them outside of your key work areas, where storage should be dedicated to workware.) Sculpture and large-scale pottery show beautifully on illuminated pedestals or in well-lit niches.

Pottery Collection Illuminated in Remodeled JG Client Kitchen

If you live in an earthquake-prone area, consult with your local museum's conservators about how they secure their artwork for available local resources.


I'm a collector myself. My vintage postcards fill an album in our living room. My nature photographs adorn the stairway wall. My architecture and history books line shelves in our loft, dwarfed by my husband's humongous library! My white pottery collection lives on a plant shelf in my office. The green pottery and crystal occupy space in our dining room hutch. I'm not an expert in this area. I just like collecting stuff, especially when vacationing!

Bob Timberlake's Shell Collector's Cocktail Table -
Great for Displaying Trip Souvenirs

To gain some expertise, I consulted three different experts on incorporating collections into your surroundings. Here is their input:

An Architect's Perspective

Dean Larkin, AIA - Dean Larkin Design, West Hollywood, CA
  • For exceptionally valuable collections, I recommend a secure room built exclusively for their display.
  • If you're building a new home, climate, lighting and security features can be incorporated into the walls or cabinetry where the collection will be displayed.
  • Clients who are avid collectors are getting home plans where square footage is being dedicated to their passion. When you have so much money invested, it's smart to dedicate an area to them. That way, they can be cared for and enjoyed in the proper environment.
  • To choose among public spaces to display a collection, I'm going to find out where the client spends the most time with guests and that's where we're going to find a spot for it.
  • Here are some additional display ideas for a collector with multiple passions. For the dive watch and scuba enthusiast, for example: Wouldn't it be great to have a saltwater aquarium built into the walls with adjacent niches for your dive watches? These niches would be lit in blue or green tones to give them an underwater look that coordinates with the neighboring aquarium. With LED lights you can replicate almost any color. They're pretty amazing technology.

An Organizer's Perspective

Susan Layden - Susan's Organizing Solutions - Tampa, FL
  • When displaying collectibles, such as pottery, paperweights or blown glass - think in groups of odd numbers (three, five, seven). Put out your best or your favorite pieces to keep it really special or unique. Vary the heights of items, if possible, by putting them on clear risers for added interest. Greenery, fabric or some other textural element may add interest or dimension depending on the items being displayed.
  • Think about the scale of the table, shelf or wall you are going to display on versus the number and size of the pieces or picture art you are putting out. Is it well-balanced? Is it crowded or does it look lost in a sea of too much space?
  • A piece of furniture may serve a dual purpose, such as a bookcase, which may serve to help divide a room, while at the same time holding collectibles and books. One well-displayed piece will call more attention to itself than many things, which will just get lost amongst each other.
  • Lighting (uplighting and downlighting) can also create visual interest and drama for your collectibles. Simple cup hooks and fishing line can be used creatively in many display cases to great benefit with certain pieces of art.
  • To prevent your collections from overtaking your home, try to keep focused on only one or two things. If you collect every blown glass vase or figurine that you see, your home will look like a flea market. Keep your focus narrow in scope through color, style, artist, etc. Group the items on a mantel, shelf or tabletops while smaller items can be displayed in a shadow box, display case or sometimes on a window sill. If you have a large collection, consider storing some of the pieces and occasionally changing the pieces out so they can truly be appreciated.

A Decorator's Perspective

Charla Lagasse - Drab to Fab Interiors - Brandon, FL

  • I always like to spread pieces around, so that they aren't all in one spot.....this tells a nicer story for each piece displayed
  • Place your more valuable pieces in a curio/display cabinet for safety. This will protect them against wagging tails and running children.
  • Try to use a down or up light when displaying large pieces for a very dramatic look. Go ahead and show off your treasures
  • You may have many pieces of one collection, but that doesn't mean you need to display them all at one time. Choose five to seven of your favorites to display at one time. Put the rest in safe keeping. Then, periodically or seasonally, rotate them in and out of display.

Charla's kitchen buffet, designed by JG and decorated by Charla,
illuminates her glassware collection

Thanks, guys... Now I've got to go move some stuff around the house! See you here again soon.

Coming Soon on Gold Notes:

Next Week: I love garden stools!
Following Week: Passover-inspired Kosher Kitchen posting

17 March 2009

Irish Design Post... In Honor of St. Patrick's Day

Everyone's just a wee bit Irish on St. Patrick's Day, aye? Assuming so, I decided to enlist the good will of Ireland's patron saint in an exploration of Irish interior design. Here are some of my favorite images, classic and contemporary, rustic and refined. Pull up a pint and enjoy!

Old World

Ceiling Detail at Strokestown

Kitchen at Strokestown

Ceiling Detail at Charleville Castle

Old World Meets New

Armada Hotel, Spanish Point, Co. Clare
Millimetre Design

Dalkey House Bedroom by O'Connor Design Partners

New World Design

Luxury Apartment Kitchen by O'Connor Design Partners

Bedroom by Collins Design

Pilot Point Bath by Millimetre Design

Old Crafts, New Attitude

Glass Art by Elke Westen

The Philosofa by Paul Berg

Fabric Art by Jacinta Scully-Usher

Irish Design Trend Notes

* While it's hard to travel far in Ireland without coming across one of its classic castles, Irish designers aren't enslaved by their traditional lure. Inspired yes, but innovating in their own style!

* Many Irish designers favor contemporary styles for kitchens and baths. You'll find them in new construction and rehabbed older buildings.

* Wallpaper appears to be popular in Ireland, showing up widely in bedrooms and foyers.

* Irish craftsmen (and women) are updating the country's traditional arts with new forms, new interpretations and a whole new vitality.

PS: I'd like to give special thanks to Corey Taratuta of travel company, IrishFireside.com for pointing me to the beautiful Old World images above.

PPS: If you're traveling to Dublin, check out this wonderful design guide to the city on Design * Sponge.


Coming next week on Gold Notes:

3/25 - Displaying your collectibles - in honor of Elton John's birthday
4/8 - Discover the Jewish holiday of Passover... In design

11 March 2009

Top 10 Reasons to Remodel in this Recession

Almost everyone I know has seen their home values fall. It is a total downer, I know. However, there is a silver lining to this economic downturn for some of you lucky folks. It's an ideal time to remodel your house. Now, read carefully here, this does not apply to everyone! If you're at grave risk of losing immediate household income or if you have no equity whatsoever in your home, please read no further.

If, however, you have been wanting to remodel for a while, plan on remaining in your home for the next ten years or longer, or want to be a more competitive seller in this buyer's market, now can be an excellent time to begin a remodeling project.

Here's why:

1. The best builders, contractors and trades have much greater scheduling availability right now, which gives you access to professionals you might not otherwise be able to get. As the New York Times put it, during the boom years, "Good contractors were as hard to get as celebrated doctors." Their knowledge and skill are unchanged. It's just that many have more down time at the moment.

2. Given the laws of supply and demand, the drop-off in work has driven down prices on some goods and services. This gives you the upper hand in negotiation. Consider, though, that the best folks are still going to cost more in labor than the less skilled ones. However, they very well may save you money - and aggravation - in the long run, as you won't have to hire someone else to fix amateur mistakes or a lawyer to bring them to heal.

3. Many of the weaker players are being weeded out by the economy before you ever meet them. The remaining pros are better project managers with stronger referrals. This will reduce your chances of running into the kind of con artist that's drawn to a boom and moves on during a bust.

4. New rules make it easier for senior homeowners to finance their projects through reverse mortgages. Contact one in your area to see how this can bring you a new kitchen, bath, addition, etc.

5. There are excellent, new products on the market that will help you save money on water and energy. By building them into your remodeling project, they could help pay for themselves, and make your home more appealing to future buyers. According to a recent study by McGraw Hill quoted by the Wall Street Journal, "One-third of home buyers say they are willing to pay a premium of $20,000 or more for a green home." (Helping the environment is a plus, too.)

6. On a related note, local laws in some areas and new federal incentives may offset costs for water- and energy-saving products you incorporate into your remodel. Please visit this excellent St. Petersburg Times article detailing the Stimulus Plan-based tax incentives. It's a must-not-miss, in my opinion.

7. If someone in your home has respiratory issues, changing to more indoor-air-quality-oriented products can improve their comfort and well-being. There are terrific products on the market now to assist you - and them - in that regard.

8. If an aging relative moves in with you, or you're looking at staying in your home into your senior years, upgrading your home with aging-in-place features can improve your safety and enhance your home's livability and resale value. (Less than 10 percent of American homes are built with aging in place features, while millions of Americans are getting ready to retire! You do the math!)

9. Unlike the house flippers we saw remodeling in recent years to keep up with the Joneses, those of you who have been in your home for a while really know its strengths and weaknesses. You also know what truly makes sense for your lifestyle. This will yield a more successful outcome on your project, more suited to how the home can best be improved for its residents and guests, not just better branded or trophy-filled.

10. If you're spending more time in the house these days, as many folks are, improving your home will provide some anti-recessionary joy. And who couldn't use that taste of sunshine these days?

Photo Note:

A recent kitchen remodel helped this Tampa home sell in less than 30 days last December, at asking price, in one of the nation's hardest-hit housing areas.

Coming Next on Gold Notes:

3/17 - Irish Design... In honor of St. Patrick's Day
3/25 - Storing and Displaying Collectibles... In honor of Elton John's birthday

05 March 2009

Tick-Tock, Tick-Tock... It's Soon Time to Change Your Clocks!

When you change your clocks twice a year, do they return the favor?

Or is it just another humdrum chore of going around your house, room to room, moving hands or pressing buttons? This time around -- this weekend, in fact, for many of us -- that time change exercise can be a style change, too!

Don't think of your timepieces as just functional. Incorporate whimsy or elegance, fun or fashion. Make a personal statement with your clocks, so that checking the time can be as enjoyable as it is necessary.

Here are some I've found online for your horological consideration. Click on any image to learn more.

For the Modernist

For the Lover of Whimsy

Final Thoughts

Sometimes, it's the small details that make a big impact in a room. If I haven't displayed the clock of your dreams, find one on your own this weekend. Check E-Bay, CraigsList, Freecycle and other sources in your neighborhood. One of my personal favorites is an antique mantle clock my parents found at a flea market years ago.

Find your own favorite, too -- and set it an hour ahead on Sunday morning.

Coming Soon on Gold Notes:

3/17 - St. Patrick's Day posting on Irish Design
3/25 - Showcasing Your Collections - Inspired by Elton John's Birthday

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