13 November 2012


Thank you!

Three Tips from New Kitchen Ideas That Work

I'm excited to share that my first book, New Kitchen Ideas That Work, is ready to ship on Amazon.com!  Here are three tips from its 224 tip-heavy, full-color pages.


Got a new iPhone 5 or Kindle Fire recently? Integrate it into your kitchen design. We all spend more and more time with our hot, new portable gadgets. Explore ways of integrating these new “appliances,” as well as your WiFi, television and desktop computer into your kitchen. 

Hide your iPhone safely away when it's not in use
(Photo Courtesy:  S-Box)

There's a whole spread in the Appliances chapter on integrating your electronics into the kitchen!  


Reduce the spread of cold and flu germs with hands-free kitchen faucets. These public restroom staples have been redesigned for stylish, practical kitchen use. Not only do the new hands-free kitchen faucets reduce the spread of cold and flu germs, they also reduce the risk of food contamination and water bills. The newest models come in popular finishes with convenient features like pull-out functionality and multiple spray settings. 

A hands-free faucet brings convenience, water savings and germ spread reduction to  your kitchen
(Photo Courtesy:  Moen)

There's a whole New Vision spread on the New Sensor Faucets in the Sinks & Faucets chapter!


Create a family landing zone for reduced clutter in this busy indoor season. The dark days of winter are when families spend the most time inside, and are likeliest to get a bit stir crazy from the clutter of everyone’s needs. A family landing zone can ease the stress and keep your kitchen organized year round.

Even a small cabinet with drawers and bag space for each household member can become a family landing zone
(Photo Courtesy:  Grandin Road)

There's a beautiful case study featuring a full-scale family landing zone in the Layouts chapter, and this very same Grandin Road Springfield cabinet in a Working with What You Have section in the Finishing Touches chapter.

06 November 2012

Beyond the Kitchen - Post-Sandy Links

Yes, the horse is out of the barn now and the barn might be buried in water or burned down, sad to say.  That doesn't mean that the topic of disaster preparation shouldn't be addressed now -- if only because disasters strike everywhere.  I live in California, which is earthquake-prone.  I've lived in Florida, where hurricanes are a fact of life.  I've also lived in Northwest Louisiana, where tornadoes strike with little warning and devastating impact.  No area is immune to disaster, unfortunately, and help can take days to arrive.

I'm a volunteer for the American Red Cross.  (I started with them in 1992 after the Los Angeles riots; being involved made me feel less vulnerable.)

Here are some useful links from the Red Cross web site:

Prepare your home and family for a disaster.  This section includes how to plan and what to have on hand.

Emergency preparedness for your pet.

Helping a special needs and/or disabled person in an emergency.

Donate money to help disaster victims.

Donate blood!  It's always needed, but especially after a disaster.

30 October 2012

MOLTEN GOLD - Mock Croc Totally Rocks!

I love a luxurious crocodile accessory as much as the next gal... Maybe more. Crafted into a fine handbag or sumptuous pair of shoes, this distinctive leather feels sensuous and exotic, (two of my favorite flavors). 

So imagine my glee when I discovered mock croc in a bathroom line! This brand new series of bathroom furniture from Topex Hardware came into my in-box last week, and I just couldn’t resist sharing it with you! 

Leather Collection in Dark Crocodile
(Photo:  Topex Hardware and Armadi Art Aqua Collection)

The series is called the Armadi® Art Aqua Collection and comes in Dark and Light Crocodile.   (Boy, would I love to see red, black and a few other shades!)  Here’s another tasty tidbit: these sexy sets also come complete with hardware, countertops, sinks and mirror.  

In addition to the vanities, there are also coordinating storage and medicine cabinets, (sold separately). 

Leather Collection in Light Crocodile
(Photo:  Topex Hardware and Armadi Art Aqua Collection)

Armadi® Art Aqua Collection

For the Leather collection, Topex uses a leatherette similar to the one you'll find in nicer cars. The entire collection is scratch-resistant, waterproof and humidity resistant, making it suitable for even busy bathrooms.  In other words, you don’t need to limit it to powder room use, though it would look sensational in that setting.  I can definitely see specifying a pair of these for a modern master suite.

Even the cabinet interiors are water-resistant and – cool factor, here – lined with faux leather, too. The glides on these one- and two-drawer vanities open and close with silent, soft-close technology, (which is a sweet, sleep-friendly feature for an en suite bath). 

Delicious Dark Crocodile Vanity
(Photo:  Topex Hardware and Armadi Art Aqua Collection)

About Topex Hardware

These fab furnishings are brought to market by a new, unlikely player. Topex Hardware is an international company providing high-end decorative hardware products, including Swarovski Crystal bath accessories.  (Love those knobs!)  I consider this debut series a great expansion of a quality brand and hope they continue to croc on, bringing even more colors to market. 

Light Crocodile Vanity Close-up
(Photo:  Topex Hardware and Armadi Art Aqua Collection)

The Facts 

Specifications:  Available sizes: 24-, 28-, 36-, and 42-inch sizes  

Price: Range from $3,185 for a 24" vanity with one drawer to $4,025 for 36" two-drawer vanity. 

Warranty:  Five year limited warranty.

Web Sites:  Armadiaqua.com  and TopexHardware.com.

23 October 2012


My first book, New Kitchen Ideas That Work, (Taunton Press, 2012) is currently available for pre-order on Amazon.com and will hit store shelves the first week of December. (You know all of those kitchen books at the front of your neighborhood Home Depot and Lowe’s store? Mine will be among them!) 

New Kitchen Ideas That Work - Look for it at a Home Depot or Lowe's near you
(Photo:  Taunton Press)

Here are some Sensible Style tips that you can find handsomely illustrated and explained in this full-sized, full-color volume. 

Layout enhancements 

It’s much more affordable to improve an existing layout than it is to change it entirely. Moving vents, electrical and plumbing often require permits, demolition and skilled trades persons. You can increase your storage potential, improve your appliance performance and update your style, all while keeping everything in its current place.     

  • Increase your storage potential with cabinet accessories and backsplash organizers.
  • Update your style with new hardware, refacing, paint and lights, all while keeping everything in its current place. 
A backsplash organizer adds storage without remodeling
(Photo: IKEA)

Fixture enhancements 

Do you have a builder grade kitchen sink and faucet? These are fairly easy to upgrade, unless your sink is under-mounted in stone tops. As so many older homes still have laminate counters, there’s a good chance you have those, too, and can easily upgrade your fixtures. 

  • Improve your prep and clean-up efficiency with a modular, accessory-equipped sink. 
  • Add convenience and reduce germ spread with a hands-free, sensor faucet. Multiple spray functions improve its usability, too. 
Enhance your clean-up zone with a hands-free faucet
(Photo: Moen)

Appliance enhancements 

Everyone wants performance appliances, but you probably don’t have the space for a 48 inch pro range. The good news is, you don’t need one to get better cooking capability. 

  • Add another oven to your kitchen with a microwave that does more than reheat and defrost; it brings convection, warming and speed cook features to your home.
  • Replace an inefficient radiant cooktop with an induction model. It will give you professional class performance with amazingly easy clean up and improved safety. 

Improve cooking performance with an induction cooktop
(Photo:  Bosch)

More enhancements 

New Kitchen Ideas That Work covers the entire kitchen, from ceiling light fixtures to flooring options. Here are some additional Sensible Style tips to consider for your home.

  • Replace outdated incandescent track lights with LED-equipped versions for better style and energy savings. 
  • Replace a worn, stained rug with an outdoor-rated version that will freshen the kitchen’s style and be a breeze to clean. 
Add style and low maintenance with an outdoor-friendly rug
(Photo:  Ballard Designs)

I'm proud to share that my first book has 224 pages of Sensible Style-inspired tips, 370 photos and 14 case studies of real kitchen projects around the country to educate and inspire you.

16 October 2012

Molten Gold - Mad for Plaid

I love patterns in decor: Animal prints, florals, stripes, paisleys, checks and, of course, plaids. My own home is full of patterned elements, but it’s rare that I get to design them into client projects. 

This is not because my clientele is resistant, but because you seldom find patterns in the kind of built-in elements I typically specify. 

Well, that just changed. Big time.  Thank you, Sara Baldwin and New Ravenna Mosaics. (New Ravenna happens to be one of my favorite tile companies, too, so their latest release was a double-header for me!) 

McIntyre by New Ravenna

About the Collection 

Sara’s new Plaid and Gingham Collection is comprised of five classic designs -- Rory, Hamish, Bonnie, Conner, and McIntyre -- all inspired by her Scottish ancestors and rendered in jewel glass and natural stone mosaics. 

Each of the five designs was created by hand-cutting and assembling the individual pieces into mosaics. They are then customized for every installation. 

Rory by New Ravenna

Hamish by New Ravenna

About the Tile 

After being assembled, the tessarae, (individual pieces), are held together with clear tape. The mosaic is cut like a jigsaw puzzle with each section numbered. When it arrives at the destination, the tile setter applies it to the surface and then grouts it in place. This creates a seamless design, one of the hallmarks of a mosaic. In glass, the mosaics can be used for any interior vertical surface application. In stone, the mosaics can be applied to floors and walls, indoors or out. 

Bonnie by New Ravenna

About Sara Baldwin and New Ravenna Mosaics 

The mosaics are hand-crafted in Virginia, where Sara grew up, established her company and trained a team of more than 100 artisans in the ancient art of mosaic. In the process, she has provided job training, economic development and employment in her local community. 

More than 200 Sara Baldwin designs can be found in tile showrooms throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and Dubai. More than likely, one or more of those designs will find their way into my next “forever” home, too. 

Named for the epicenter of Italian-Byzantine tile work, New Ravenna Mosaics are sold through exclusive designer showrooms across the country and internationally. The company also provides design services and on-site installation supervision. 

Hamish by New Ravenna

The Facts 

Specifications: On website 

Web site:  www.newravenna.com 


Starts at... 
Connor Glass: $58/SF 
Hamish Glass $ 104/SF 
McIntyre Stone: $86 SF 
Rory Glass: $ 91 SF 
Bonnie Glass: $48 SF 
Bonnie stone: $55 SF

09 October 2012

Dishwasher Discord

I thought this slightly edited (by me) info from Bosch's PR pro was rather amusing, so I thought I'd share it with my Gold Notes readers, especially the married and co-habitating ones! (Thanks, Heather!) I'm also going to share it with my relatives who insist on wasting water pre-rinsing.  


Bosch recently launched a survey that found that while infidelity and financials are frequently cited causes, a new culprit is creating tumultuous relationships in homes across the country—the dishwasher. 

In fact, the study found that more than 40% of Americans fight about loading the dishwasher. Is loading utensils into a dishwasher becoming a knife through the heart of your marriage? Is the bond between you and your mate disintegrating faster than a plastic container on the bottom of a dishwasher? The top five reasons men and women fight about loading the dishwasher are listed below. 

No fights on this front... This Bosch 800 Series ultra-quiet dishwasher is the one I want next!

61% fight over whether dishes should be pre-rinsed or not 

Nearly two thirds of all men and women cited this issue as their leading cause for argument, proving the pre-rinse, rinse debate to be a universal annoyance. The truth is that you should not pre-rinse as the detergent needs to cling to food to avoid scratching your dishes. 

41% clash about separating dishes or cramming as much as possible to tackle a larger load 

Perhaps a case of Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Women (48%) are more likely to fight about doubling together dishes than men (33%). 

39% argue over placing sharp knives point down or point up 

Out of the group of women who were concerned with this issue, 43% argue about whether knives should be placed point up or down, compared to 34% of males. Using safety as your guide, the final say is to load knives point down for safety, while forks and spoons can be placed either handle up or down.  [JG:  I vote for forks down for the same safety reasons.] A third rack can separate utensils to make it safer and easier to clean, load and unload. 

34% insist on placing cups on the top rack and plates on the bottom rack while their mate believe it’s every dish for themselves 

The biggest division in the dishwasher deliberation comes in the form of organization: nearly one third (32%) of all females who fight about loading the dishwasher insist that cups and plates not mix. Like any good relationship where each person needs their space, each dish should be separated by a dishwasher’s tines. Often, couples can keep the peace by splitting up large loads of dishes into smaller loads. A half load option tackles smaller loads so dirty dishes don’t sit in the dishwasher. 

30% debate about placing plastic containers on the top rack to prevent a major plastic meltdown, or placing containers wherever space is available 

You may think that loading the dishwasher could smooth over a fight, but your efforts could have the opposite effect if your dishes are ruined in the process. If destroying an entire collection of plastic storage containers has plagued your marriage, Bosch dishwashers feature a concealed flow-through water heating element to prevent plastic containers from dissolving, no matter where they are placed.  [JG:  I left this specific "commercial" in because I thought it was worth noting.]

The survey also revealed that almost four out of ten men (38%) admit to finding excuses for getting out of loading the dishwasher altogether. 

Perhaps a tactic for avoiding the dreaded dishwasher dispute, the most common excuses included deferring the cleanup because they cooked the meal and demand chore equality (16%), blatantly admitting to being too lazy to clean the dishes (12%), and feeling as though their time is too important to be spent loading the dishwasher (10%).


FYI, I've specified more Bosch dishwashers than I can count... And they've won scads of awards, so I'd consider them a legitimate authority on this topic.  Wouldn't you?  

Furthermore, I'd like to dedicate this post to my lovely stepdaughter, Megan, whose dishwasher loading and unloading skills were beyond reproach and are greatly missed now that she's at college and I'm 2500 miles away, doing that chore myself.  

02 October 2012

Gold for Guys

I'm writing this on a Friday evening.  I talk to my favorite guy -- my 83-year-old father -- every Friday afternoon after the stock market closes.  (He still day trades daily!)  We talk about what he's up to, what the market is doing and what I've got going on. I look forward to these conversations every week.  Today, we talked about his house, which he has on the market in San Francisco.  (Anyone want to buy a lovingly-restored Painted Lady?)

This got me thinking about the spaces (and gear) men enjoy that you or your guy might, too.

My architectural advisor (and BFF) Dean Larkin, AIA, tipped me off years ago to the sex appeal of a great garage.  I don't recall the exact wording he used but a penthouse for your Porsche was the impression I came away from that conversation with.

Here's one for your consideration:

Most of the guys I know love watching movies and sports on big TVs.  And sprawling comfortably while they do it.  Here's a space they might enjoy if (a) the sofa fabric was stain resistant so they didn't have to worry about spilling beer or food on it, (b) there were some trays around to set glasses, bottles and snacks on, (c) there was a fridge nearby to keep the drinks chilled and (d) a bathroom next door.

Wanna play?  Whether it's billiards or poker, guys enjoy having a place to play at home.  Here's one with Bond-worthy style, don't you think?

Don't want a chubby hubby?  Give him (and yourself) a wonderfully-equipped home gym!

What "Guy Gold" would you like to see next time?

25 September 2012

A Post Inspired by Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, begins at sundown today, Tuesday, 26 September 2012, and ends at sundown tomorrow.  It is one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar.  

I decided to share some Jewish-themed design elements, not specifically tied to Yom Kippur, but inspired by its arrival this evening.

Here is an organically-inspired candelabra that would make a beautiful Chanukah menorah, updating the traditional festival of lights for modern living.  

(Photo Courtesy:  West Elm) 

The Jewish Sabbath is called Shabbat, and runs from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday.  It is observed with several rituals, including the weekly lighting and blessing of the Shabbat candles.  Crystal candlesticks make that lovely ritual even more beautiful, in my opinion.  This pair from Tiffany was a wedding gift that I still cherish.

(Photo Courtesy:  Tiffany)

I love this Kiddush cup, used for blessing and drinking ritual wine at synagogue or family dinners on Shabbat and holidays.

(Photo Courtesy: Amazon.com) 

Another significant Jewish holiday is Passover, the celebration of Exodus.  Ritual foods are placed on a Passover plate.  While most of them are elaborately and colorfully painted, I really like the unique beauty of this hand-crafted silver plate from Melanie Dankowicz, an award-winning artist on Etsy.com.

(Photo Courtesy:  Etsy.com )
May everyone observing Yom Kippur have an easy fast and be inscribed in the Book of Life for the New Year.  

18 September 2012

Smart Appliance Technology -Guest Post by Alan Gregory of Appliances Online

One of the benefits of having an ongoing blog presence is getting guest post queries.  Regular Gold Notes readers know that I find global trends fascinating, so when Alan Gregory of British-based Appliances Online asked me if I was interested in his sharing some insights from across the pond, I replied with a hearty American 'heck, yeah!'  

You may not find everything he writes about available on this side of the pond yet, but the trends and technological advances are worth noting.  Ask your local appliance guru about specifics that interest you.  (I do need to note that I'm personally not in favor -- or favour, if you prefer -- of leaving appliances on when not at home.  That's my paranoia, though, and it might be seriously dated... Just saying!)


Fifty years ago, kitchen appliances were about as technologically advanced as a pencil. If you were lucky, they did one thing and if they had feet, you’d be showing them off to your neighbour with a giant smile on your face. Wind the clock ahead to 2012 and kitchen appliances are like something you’d expect to find in a NASA Laboratory. 

Laundry Technology 

With washing technology turning to smartphones, users will be able to control their machine from a mobile app. You’ll set the wash so that it finishes as you arrive home from work and not have to stick a peg (JG: clothespin) on your nose because of the mouldy, damp smell from clothes sitting in water for a full day. 

Siemens' machine has the I-DOS feature, which uses sensors to detect dirt levels and wash load. This allows it to manage the dosage of powder and softener needed for the best performance. It stores enough to run 20 wash cycles, which also saves time and effort. 

Hotpoint’s Colour Care technology keeps the colour locked in, enhancing the life of your clothes. There’s nothing worse than buying a nice new shirt and having the colour fade in a couple of washes. 

LG has been quiet of late but, this isn’t a bad thing. The Direct Drive technology on their F1480RD Washer Dryer means that there is no need for the drum to be belt driven, which reduces noise, wear and tear and allows the washing machine to have more control over the spin of the drum. This is great for hand-wash programmes. 

Samsung’s Eco-Bubble technology means that stains can be cleaned better without the need for extra energy consumption. The suds gently soak into the fabrics first, which Samsung believes treats stains more effectively. The diamond drum, along with the protection from the bubbles, means that fabrics are treated with extra care. 

Photo Courtesy:  Siemens

Cooling Technology 

Many fridge-freezers are becoming flashy centre pieces for the kitchen. Some have touch screen computers on the front, which can manage shopping lists, food expiry dates and help you know which day it is with a helpful calendar. 

LG has a Smart Eco Door, which is a mini fridge built into the refrigerator door. It’s designed to hold drinks and other foods that are used regularly so that you don’t have to open the main door each time. This helps keep the temperature cool inside and doesn’t need as much energy to run the appliance. It also looks great! 

Beko (JG: This brand is not generally available in the US yet) has created a great technology called Active Fresh Blue Light. This special light uses less energy, which will save on the bills and help reduce your carbon footprint. It’s also designed to keep the food inside the fridge fresher for longer. 

Samsung’s Multiflow technology, which is similar to Multi-Air Flow technology from other manufacturers, cools the fridge freezer on all levels evenly so maximum freshness is supplied all over. Older methods would cool from one air vent which may not be able to get all the way down to the bottom of the fridge, which meant some foods would not be as fresh after a few days. 

Maytag has gone one step further with their Intellisense technology. Having tiny sensors throughout the fridge freezer keeping the temperature constant, helps keep the food inside looking, tasting and smelling as fresh as the day you bought it (within reason). 

Photo Courtesy:  LG

Cooking Technology 

Ovens have certainly become easier to use and more efficient, too. In the future, we’ll see ovens that can be controlled from your iPhone but, for now we have technology that can separate one oven into two compartments for different meats or foods that may need cooking on two separate temperatures. 

Neff (JG: This brand is not generally available in the US yet) and a few other manufacturers have implemented the best technology, in my opinion, with Pyrolytic cleaning. This great feature means that you don’t have to clean the oven again. This feature burns the grease and grime off and all you have to do is sweep the ash pile away at the bottom. Not something for everyone but, the Sabbath Setting is designed for Jewish people (JG: who keep Kosher and) aren’t allowed to cook anything during Sabbath. It keeps the oven on a constant heat that allows for heating pre-cooked food, so that hot meals can still be enjoyed on that day. 

Dual Convection can be found on Samsung’s new compact ovens. It allows for evenly-heated cooking throughout, meaning no burnt edges or unevenly-cooked foods. With Programmable Timers found on most ovens these days, you can set the oven to cook food for when you’re coming home from work so that you’re not wasting too much of your valuable spare time cooking when you get home. As you can see, there’s a lot to choose from when picking your kitchen appliances but, choose your appliances sensibly and it will pay off. 

Photo Courtesy:  Neff

Final Thoughts

Choosing an appliance these days requires a lot more time and thought than it used to. Some of these features may never get used by some families, whereas some families can’t live without them. Picking the best features and technology for your needs will make life in the kitchen easier, cheaper and more enjoyable. 


This article was written by Alan Gregory. He writes for Appliances Online by day and hunts down new kitchen technologies by night. He likes cooking but hates cleaning and you can follow him on Twitter @AlanJGregory.

11 September 2012

9/11 Observance

This post will publish on the eleventh anniversary of 9/11.  It is the first time since I started writing Gold Notes four years ago that my regular publishing schedule falls on that fateful day.

Rather than share design content on this sad occasion, I'm dedicating this weekly post to the thousands of victims, survivors, first responders and caregivers who were in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pa. and the hijacked planes that day.  Nothing else feels as right or important to me today.

My connections to 9/11 run wide, deep, long and strong.  My brother worked for Cantor Fitzgerald for almost 20 years in the firm's Los Angeles office.  He lost more than 600 colleagues in One World Trade Center that morning.  (He often worked from the New York office when traveling; that day, he happened to be at his Chicago office instead.)

I was working for Gannett's Shreveport, La. daily newspaper as its Online Director on September 11, 2001.  I walked into our building and my assistant said, 'a plane just hit the World Trade Center.'  I pictured a misguided Cessna, not a hijacked jetliner filled with passengers.

Like millions of others around the country and world, we watched the ensuing TV coverage in horror. We were also working feverishly to cover it from our own corner of the crisis. (That was also the day the Extra Edition died, in my journalistic opinion.  All of our coverage went online as fast as we could update it.)

You may recall that President Bush landed at Barksdale Air Force Base after leaving Florida.  That was the base where my then-husband was stationed in the Shreveport-Bossier area, and the reason why I traded one LA for another.  Because he landed in our backyard, we had the President's whereabouts on our site before any of the majors did, and news footage of that day will show friends of ours in his local security detail.

A month or so later, we would watch other friends fly their bombers to Afghanistan to crush the Taliban and Al Quaeda.  Those massive planes carrying their massive bombs into the Southern night were a surrealistic sight, one that haunts me still.

This is a photograph I took last Spring on my most recent trip to New York, the city where I was born and lived until my late 20s.  The building under construction is the Freedom Tower rising at Ground Zero.

I've been to that site on almost every New York trip since 9/11. The first time was December 2001 and the air was still filled with the stench of death and destruction.  We debated on cancelling or postponing the trip, due to the events just a few short months before, but decided to go.  We wanted to support New York... And I needed closure.

I watched the original buildings on that site, the Twin Towers, being built as a child, had my first grown-up date in Windows on the World, (their famous restaurant), worked in their offices as a college temp, traveled regularly through their subway stops, and visited the Observation Deck on various occasions, including the day of the New York City blackout in July 1977.  

It was good to see a new building rise from the memory of those ashes last year. We are a resilient nation.  My next trip will take me to the 9/11 Memorial which, I believe, is still under construction.  In the meantime, let me share these final words:

May those who lost their lives that terrible day rest in peace.  May those who mourn them take some small measure of comfort in knowing that their memories are not forgotten.  May those who gave so much of themselves that day accept my thanks and those of a grateful nation.  

04 September 2012

Autumn Inspirations

I grew up in New York City, where Labor Day meant school was about to start again and Fall was in the air. It didn’t matter that the thermometer and official calendar still read Summer. As far as we were concerned, Autumn was officially here.

Now I live in San Diego, where it’s pretty much summer all year round. (Not complaining.) As the days grow shorter, though, I know the fall season has begun.

In that spirit, I thought I’d share a few Autumn inspirations today.

Lustrous wood cabinetry and furniture
(Photo: Bornholm Kitchen)

Jewel-toned paisleys
(Photo:  Kravet)
Warm brick-toned walls
(Photo:  Sherwin-Williams)

Cozy, whiskey-warmed leathers
(Photo:  Pottery Barn)

Lustrous bronze and crackling fireplaces!
(Photo:  Pleasanthearthfireplacedoors.com)

Cuddly, chunky wool throws
(Photo:  Pottery Barn)

28 August 2012

Home candy

I'm in a random mood today. All of my focus these past few weeks has been dedicated to a big project I'm working on, so I thought I'd escape into some of my favorite interior delights, the objects I crave for how they look and feel.  Home candy.

Pewter and peonies

I love the soft blend of silver pewter and pink peony petals. Peonies and tulips are my favorite flowers.  The vase is from Match, an Italian-based company that crafts their beautiful pieces by hand.  I want one!  (Or one for each room!)

Match pewter vase with pink peonies
(Photo Courtesy:   Match )

Wool and silk rugs

One of the best gifts I've received in recent years was a handmade wool and silk Persian rug hand-carried back for me from Iran.  (Thank you again, Dean and Paul, and Dean's friend who acquired and brought it back from her family visit!)  It sits at the end of my bed and caresses my feet whenever I step on it.

Incidentally my love for wool extends to Karastan carpets and flokati rugs.  My tootsies (and eyes) love 'em all.

Animal prints everywhere

Animal prints show up everywhere Chez J, especially cheetah.  They're on pillows and a matching ottoman slip cover, sheets and a vase sitting on my wine cabinet.  Chances are, they'll show up somewhere else some time soon.  (Or in my next place on a carpet, like the one shown here... Yes, I definitely would!)  Animal prints are just sexy.  Always have been.  Always will be.

PS:  I love patterns, in general.  Animal prints, florals, stripes, plaid, checks, paisley, you name it!  Mixing them together is even more fun.


I love its rustic warmth and practicality.  Leather is livable and very Sensible Style.  My next couch will be leather. And my office will get a leather recliner in the not-too-distant future, too.

Lancaster couch offers sink-deep comfort
(Photo Courtesy:  Restoration Hardware)


Rich and touchable.  Soft but strong.  Elegant and durable.  The ultimate Sensible Style fabric.  I own a velvet couch that's seen more naps than I'm willing to admit to.  And I've been shopping for a velvet duvet cover for my bed for a while, thus far unsuccessfully.  I also love velvet drapery panels and my next home will probably have some.

Velvet panels add luxe privacy
(Photo Courtesy:  Pottery Barn)

Seagrass, rattan and wicker

I love strong woven textures like these.  I have them in storage baskets throughout my home, in a living room area rug and a hamper.  They all say 'coastal' to me, and I love living on the coast.  No reason not to bring that feeling indoors.

Last, but definitely not least... Art 

No home is complete without art -- certainly no home of mine would be!  I'm not talking about posters chosen because their colors match your couch either.  I'm talking about pieces that speak to your heart and soul, whatever medium and price tag they happen to fit.

Art doesn't have to be expensive.  It doesn't even have to be an original one-of-a-kind piece.  It can be a vintage McCoy vase you picked up at a garage sale that makes you happy.  Or a beautifully-composed photograph of a favorite pet, person or vacation.  Art should make you smile when you look at it.  That's its job.

I have three framed Clyde Butcher photographs in my office.  I see them whenever I walk into my townhouse.  They're hauntingly beautiful pictures by an artist considered to be the Ansel Adams of the Everglades.

I love remembering breakfasts on my screened lanai in Florida watching the herons, egrets, ducks, cranes and wood storks land on the pond behind our house. Art inspires memories.  That's its job, too.

This original photograph of Amelia Island reminds me of a wonderful vacation there
(Photo Courtesy:  Clyde Butcher)

Thanks for sharing my visual escape with me today.

21 August 2012

Stairs and Stares

My life is filled with stairs.  Always has been.  The house I grew up in had three floors, including our after-school basement playroom.  The staircase leading from the main floor to the second had bookcases that my dad built in.  They held our World Book Encyclopedia set. 

The first condo and homes I owned each had two.  My current townhouse, affectionately known as Chez J, has three.  And if running up and down those to work, eat, relax and sleep isn't enough, my regular exercise path takes me up and down a triple flight of stairs 10 times.  Love 'em!

My ongoing relationship with stairs inspired today's post on some fabulous staircase ideas.  I hope you like them. They're all from Houzz.com, one of the sites I've contributed to this year.

I've always adored decorative tile and traditional Spanish architecture.  Here, those two elements come together in a stunning tiled staircase.    Fantastico!


I love how the space below this traditional staircase is optimized with both display shelves and a coat closet.  

This home also takes advantage of under-staircase space to create a family landing zone.  Despite how clearly well-used it is, the clean lines of this built-in make it feel uncluttered.

I lean toward traditional and transitional in my personal design taste, but I thought this modern staircase was really sharp.  

I love pattern.  Be it florals, animal prints, plaids, stripes, whatever.  Just absolutely love it!  Here's a fun black and white runner kicking up the fun on this classic staircase.  

14 August 2012

Create a Ma'am Cave

Last week in this space, I shared some tips for creating a football lover’s man cave. This week, I’d like to offer some insights on creating a getaway for the woman of the house – especially if you (or she) needs an escape from all the rowdy testosterone surrounding her. 

This is a space that should nurture and embrace its occupant with comfortable furnishings and lighting that enhances the room’s activities. It should be private, if possible, and closed off from the noise and hubbub of the house. It should be filled with artwork that inspires its resident to pursue her passions. Its color scheme will relax or stimulate, depending on the room’s primary purpose. 

As an example, my writing/design studio is painted red, a color that stimulates creativity. If I were using it as a yoga studio, I’d probably have chosen a soft sage instead. While every retreat is different, here are some general multi-purpose ideas to hopefully inspire you. 

Appropriate lighting 

Layered lighting is probably your best bet, especially if your retreat does double duty as a work and play space. Consider dimmable ceiling lighting and a table or floor lamp next to a chair or on a desk. 

This Atrium Glass Table Lamp from Pottery Barn illuminates your  space while displaying sentimental collectibles

Comfortable furnishings 

Even if your retreat is mainly dedicated to paperwork or exercise, it’s wonderful to have a comfortable chaise or chair with ottoman for relaxation. 

You might also want a writing surface, depending on how you’ll use your space. This could be a desk or a table, depending on your needs. Attractive storage solutions are available for files, if necessary, that could be hidden under a skirted table. 

I love this Baldwin Chaise from Ballard Designs for its style and comfort

Sound system 

You don’t need the kind of big-speakered system your boyfriend had in college. A compact player with good sound quality that lets you enjoy your work or play music is a great retreat enhancer. 
A Bose SoundDock or comparable system can serenade your  retreat

Sensible Style flooring 

How you primarily use your space will determine the type of flooring you choose for it. If you regularly work with paints or clay, consider low-maintenance materials that can be easily wiped clean, like rubber or vinyl. If you do yoga, ballet or Pilates, consider flooring that will be soft and comfortable underfoot, like linoleum or cork. If you just want a quiet place to read, meditate, relax or write in a journal, consider something cozy underfoot like a wool or flokati rug that you’ll enjoy digging your toes into. 

Nothing feels cozier underfoot than a flokati rug
(Photo: Flokati-Rugs.com )

Inspiring and engaging visuals 

Whatever your private passion, surround yourself with mementos or artwork that inspires it, or just delights you, and display your pieces handsomely. Consider a framer with archival experience for professionally preserving your valuables.

This signed, numbered photo is one of three Clyde Butcher  images archivally framed on my writing/design studio wall

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