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Colorful + Quirky Living

I am seriously digging this colorful, quirky home in a major way. From the painted ceilings to wall hangings and full-on saturated hues as accents and some as focal points, I can’t stop looking at the details! After a week of being sick in bed, this is just the interiors inspiration that I needed to come across today. It also didn’t hurt that my book made it on the bestseller list over at the Wall Street Journal at #2, Eek! I am so happy (thank you guys so much!). Between that extraordinary news of now authoring a best selling book and this fab home that I stumbled across below, I’m in 7th heaven (no reference to the kitchen ceiling at all, ha ha!). But I’m not here to brag about my book, or simply show a few photos and be on my way. Oh no. I want to talk about this amazing home and some memories from my past that I want to share because these photos took me back to a very special farm… a special place in my childhood. And I want to somehow spark your memories in the process.

The moment I spotted this home on the Room and Serve blog and found out that it is actually from Vårt Nya Hem (Swedish) magazine, I had to dig deeper into their website to see what else they have featured that I might want to have a look at. I also tried to figure out why it felt familiar to me and then memories of the large farmhouse belonging to my great, great grandmother came flooding in and suddenly I was transported to another time and space.

One thing that admire about this particular home shown in Vårt Nya Hem magazine is that, even with all of the color and pattern, each item seems to have been carefully curated and restraint was shown in both the floor plan and overall styling so it doesn’t end up looking like a massive interiors heart attack. I admire people who are this stylish, it’s quite amazing really and I’d love to linger in this space with the homeowners and really get to know the story behind each piece as I’m sure they have delicious stories to tell of travel, adventure and even a bit of danger. I love that the floor above appears to be stenciled. How grand (and doable!).

But yet, when I look at the kitchen I see a story from the pages of my own life. I’ll tell you it, if you have a moment. You see, when I look at this kitchen I see the farmhouse that my Polish great grandmother owned in southern Rhode Island in the countryside. She had very ornate floral wallpaper, vinyl and tile flooring, art nouveau touches, extremely colorful everything… and the layout was the same with the old-fashioned style of cabinetry and such.

She moved from Warsaw in the late 1800s to American to make her life in Rhode Island where she gave birth to my grandfather, raising him on a huge farm. Then, when he was in the military stationed in Chicago, he met and married my Irish/Scottish/Russian/Polish grandmother who was a cabaret singer there, and they made their life on the same farm in a coverted barn nearby where my mother was born and raised. I grew up visiting my grandparents on their farm, affectionately called “Baby Farm”, as my mother’s large extended family stayed there in the summers and someone always ended up getting pregnant – including my mother, with me! My grandfather’s sister married an Italian man and so the farm went from being Polish to Polish-Italian so I remember how this mix of culture affected life on the farm. I also remember braiding bread for my grandmother and rolling out dough and baking pies in a kitchen much like the one shown above. I remember thinking that my very Polish great grandmother, who only spoke Polish to my grandfather when she didn’t want us to know what she was saying (which was often), was extremely “different” because her decorating style was wayyy over-the-top. She didn’t have the typical country farmhouse – it was vibrant and filled with antiques from Poland that she brought over and of course flea market finds as my grandfather loved going to them religiously on the weekends. I also remember him taking me to massive flea markets along with my mother. I think that’s why I enjoy them so much today and am always on the prowl for a unique find.

Growing up I remember loving my great grandmother’s crazy farmhouse and enjoyed all of the color, pattern, massive floral wallpaper, taxidermy (oh yes), patterned floors, farmhouse sinks, minty green tiled bathroom, stacks of mismatched china in white cabinets with glass doors and the way the home smelled in the warmer months when all of the flowers were in bloom and the breeze drifted their heavenly scent through the home, usually through the kitchen where I was usually hanging out with my grandmother and great grandmother, and yes, my mom too. She lived to nearly 100 years old so I remember her in my life until I was 22 years old. I was lucky.

Maybe you’ll find some inspiration over at Vårt Nya Hem to motivate you on a home project this weekend? Or to connect you to bits and pieces of your past life or how you would someday like to live? It’s important when you find photos that inspire you to then pinpoint WHY you are connecting to them. What is it? Perhaps a window to your past? Or simply the colors? The style? The casualness? Think about this whenever you pin an inspiring image to your moodboard – it’s a great way to refine your personal style!

(images: vårt nya hem)

Posted in Decorating Tips on May 06, 2011

Inspiring Spaces From Decorate

I thought I’d share some inspiring spaces from my book, Decorate, that are currently floating around on the web (and some are part of this interview that Janet Reynolds had with me for her print magazine Life@Home) that you may actually want to add to your Pinterest account, desktop inspiration folder, or wherever you see fit. If you happen to own the book already, then you forever have these images in your possession, beautifully printed and bundled if I do say so myself. ;) But in case you don’t own the book you may delight in seeing these photos that were shot in beautiful homes in both Europe and the US by talented interiors photographer Debi Treloar. Debi shot the entire book using only natural light, something that drew me to her work in the first place years ago – her photos feel so inviting and casual as a result.

Ceramic pieces in Copenhagen home of ceramicist Karen and her husband Mads Hagedorn-Olsen. P.S. He makes the most beautiful insect art – see it here.

A sweet little girl’s space in London belonging to the daughter of stylist/author Sania Pell.

A bedroom nook in Los Angeles belonging to photographer Amy Neunsinger, Charlotte’s mud room (from RICE), Yvonne from Yvestown’s Belgium kitchen, a gorgeous London flat belonging to Sisley UK cosmetics executive Christine D’ornano.

Charlotte Hedeman Gueniau’s dining room in Denmark – I had fun styling this tabletop for the photo with mismatched things from mostly her company, RICE.

Debi was a saint to work with — she was such a lovely person to spend time with as we flew around for a period of four months working together, mostly her and I, in people’s beautiful spaces. I hope that you enjoyed a teaser peek into my book! If you use them on your blog or Pinterest, all I ask is that you say that they were shot by Debi Treloar, link to her site, and link to this page: http://decor8blog.com/decorate-book mentioning that they are from the book, Decorate. That’s all I ask. :)

Decorate stocklist here.

(images: debi treloar for decorate)

Posted in Decorating Tips on April 28, 2011

Gardener & Marks + Noticing The Details

I’m a huge Lyn Gardner fan so naturally, I love browsing her decorating portfolio over at Gardener & Marks. Their business is so intriguing to me, Gardener & Marks, because it’s a full service decorating and props firm in Australia and I think their work comes across as very relaxed and personal yet also with such care over the details that you want to examine everything you see.

What I admire so much about Lyn, aside from her wild and very big hair and quirky personal style is her decorating work — she is a very detail-oriented person and I love that. I delight in the details, I can get so hung up on them though! Are you keen on the little bits and pieces? The photos throughout this post are from Gardener & Marks and show homes that they’ve decorated, Lyn and her partner Amanda Hendersen-Marks (please read their bio here). So pretty!

By the way, have you heard of The White House Daylesford? It’s Lyn’s amazing property that you can use as a location home OR you can vacation there — it’s quite drool inducing — you simply must check it out here. As you are browsing, notice bedroom two with that gorgeous black and white toile wallpaper and hints of emerald green around the room – so pretty.

It’s funny, because I’m very big picture which is why I was once a project manager. But I’m also creative and imaginative — I’m big on details and I notice every little corner and creation whether I’m shopping, staying in a hotel, riding on a train… I see it all. My friends often say that this is the writer in me – to notice things that most people breeze right by. And it’s true. I can be with friends and they’ll be chatting or zoning out on their iPods and I’m chatting and on the iPod too yet I’m also scanning the room, noticing every detail of what each person there is wearing – stripey socks, cuffed jeans, man who looks bored, woman who has lost an earring, boy with a chipped tooth.

You’ll laugh at this, but do you remember that scene with adorable Matt Damon in the first Bourne film when he is in a roadside diner in France with German supporting actress Franka Potenta and he tries to “prove” that he isn’t normal so he immediately starts to recite each detail about their environment while looking straight into her eyes – and he gets all of the facts right – he had memorized everything including how many people were in the room? Okay so he’s an assassin, I’m not (ha ha), but I can relate to that scene so well as I can do the same thing when it comes to noticing everything around me. I don’t always remember things that were said, I’m more visual I think, but I do remember things that I see or words that I can see on paper… In fact, that is what is helping me to learn German — not to hear it but to see it on signs and in textbooks.

When I shop, it’s the same. I think lots of us creatives notice the details, from the Lyn Gardeners of the world to everyday people like me who love to decorate and write for a living. Perhaps you too? I see everything and often can scan an entire section, zoom in on what I’m interested in and disregard the rest — I’m not one to waste time as I know right away whether or not I’m attracted to something. I often got annoyed with this personality trait, to see everything, to notice the good and the bad, to be able to “weed out” things that I don’t like or need almost instantly. In some ways, I had to get it under control in order to live a productive life. What I mean is that by noticing everything I’d often return home feeling absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer stimulation of it all. Or I’d be so overwhelmed by what I’m looking at in a store that I’d leave empty handed.

It took me years to modify my behavior so that I could use this sensitivity of mine to my own advantage, and now that I’m older I definitely can see a huge improvement and my life is so much better now that I can edit and sort ideas, sensations, emotions, external data, all of it — quite efficiently without draining myself. I have noticed that one of the best ways to curb over-sensitivity is to simply acknowledge it first of all and then use it only in situations when you really need it. I use it when it comes to projects, work-related tasks, etc. I’ve learned to ignore it (sometimes to forcefully ignore it) when I’m in the train and everyone around me seems to be drunk or acting obnoxious which I find often on the train when I’m riding at night. I have to forcefully flip the “off” switch whenever I see things that cause me pain, annoyance or anger – those are the details in life that I’d rather not pay attention to.

A darker side to this though is that I pay attention to details but I also miss other things as I’m so intently focused on something else that the other important thing slips off my radar. My husband laughs, I have a short attention span, I am like a golden retriever in some ways — I can be running after a stick and the moment I notice a cat off in the distance, I start running towards the cat forgetting all about what I was retrieving in the first place.

I wonder, do any of you notice the details, even to a fault, and how have you managed this? Luckily, I’ve managed well over the years and now I feel very confident to speak about it publicly and to use it in areas of my life where paying attention to details matters, like decorating and writing. Please share your views, I’d love to learn more about you and creatives out there in general who are very detail-oriented and how you edit, sort, disregard some date, absorb others, etc. It’s a fascinating topic I think!

(images: gardener & marks)

Posted in Decorating Tips, real talk on April 27, 2011

Farmhouse Style at Dreamy Whites

Ah, farmhouse living. It’s both Rachel Ashwell (did you hear that she just opened a B&B?) and Atlanta Bartlett but it’s also online shop Dreamy Whites owned by Californian mother, decorator and blogger, Maria, who lives on a ranch (her husband is a horse trainer!) and has 5 children. I admire how she still manages to maintain her beautifully white home – where all of her product shots for her store were taken and shown below. Amazing, inspiring, OMGosh! How does she do it!? Lots of patience, bleach and a good bar of soap, no doubt.

Let’s talk about farmhouse style for just a bit, okay? To me, farmhouse style can range — it can be loaded with dark reds, navy blues, piled high with geometric quilts in primary colors and topped with plenty of dark brown wood furniture, carved or rustic with clean uncomplicated lines. The farmhouse that Maria at Dreamy Whites promotes though is the more French country style. Farmhouse style can be both country cottage and coastal chic, French and American (or any other country for that matter), white with pastels or whites with blues and reds come to mind when I think of farmhouse colors. The Farmhouse style that fans of Dreamy White love though is the more romantic, faded look that resembles what Rachel Ashwell pioneered with Shabby Chic and later with decorators like Atlanta Bartlett– the palette is mostly white, pale minty green, pinks, blues, in other words lots of unapologetic love for pastels and for all things worn, used, salvageable, repurposed and slightly chipped or with some patina (think old vintage mirrors or wooden tables with a faded old coffee ring here and there.



Also with farmhouse style you can find lots of floral prints (think dainty blooms laying next to larger scale roses for instance) and stripes (like ticking). Linen and canvas lay next to soft brushed or voile cottons that drape beautifully and feel like butter. Enamelware, French bed linens, pillowcases that tie, a slightly battered French wooden chair that folds… Flooring ranges from hardwood floors (the older the better), subway tile in white, penny tiles, old faded Belgium tiles in the entryway, wood floors painted in glossy white or gray. Furniture can include everything from white leather sofas with clean lines and slim legs to overstuffed white cotton canvas (very Shabby Chic). Vintage wooden dressers lined with faded vintage wallpaper, large wooden French cupboards painted in soft blue, benches stacked with blankets and pillows. Lighting runs the gamut as well — everything from ornate crystal chandeliers to clean almost industrial-style lighting and even the occasional punched tin lantern from Morocco — all have their place in the farmhouse these days as farmhouse style has evolved to allow in some elements of Asian decor, few but some — like large white leather or silvered leather pouffes for example.

If any of these things resonate with you, then you have to definitely check out blog and online shop Dreamy Whites. I definitely like some of the things shown above, like the lavender vintage glass bottles (my husband has a collection of them on his windowsill in his office) and I used them in my book to display flowers in Leslie’s studio in the “Attention To Details” section of Decorate. I also like all of the field flowers, so casual and uncomplicated, displayed in various vessels — mostly ones that were not originally created as vases like jars and tea tins… I also love the old French tin shown in the first photo above, it has gorgeous color and pattern, doesn’t it? I could imagine using it on a shelf in my office to hold business cards or extras like tape or staples.

It’s amazing to think about farmhouse style and all that it encompasses, isn’t it? What comes to mind when YOU think of farmhouse style? I often wonder how the perception varies according to where on lives. If you could mention where you live and then highlight some hallmarks of Farmhouse Style in your part of the world, that would be great! :)

(images: dreamy whites)

Posted in Decorating Tips on April 26, 2011

Books:

Some of my books...

Further editions available: Decorate published by Murdoch Books for AU/NZ, Decorar BR, Alt om indretning DK, Inspirace pro váš byt CZ, Dekorácie SK, La décoration FR, Lust auf Wohnen DE, Sisusta tyylillä FI and Sztuka aranżacji wnętrz PL.

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