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Giraffes As a Design Motif

Zebra patterns were discussed here recently, so I thought we’d explore the Giraffe a bit today. When I thought of them as a motif years ago, I pictured the straight-off-the-Serengeti living rooms of the 80’s, decorated with Africian masks, hide throws galore, and lifesize giraffes carved from wood, in deep reddish tones (like this). Some people still dig safari style and they have every right to enjoy it, but I was never a fan of the look. I’m just not big on themed rooms as a rule, and cringe at the thought of all those themed kitchens of the past complete with wallpaper borders, usually sporting a rooster or a hen. So when I think of bringing animals into a space, whether it’s a cute owl or a graceful giraffe, less is really more. True, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we all have our collections, but a word of caution here: avoid the dreaded theme park decor because it can go from sleek to cheap the more you pile it on.

Outside of the Serengeti, giraffes are a constant trend for the nursery, mostly in yellow or orange… And I dare to break my own rules here and say that for baby, you can go with a little theme if you wish, but again, proceed with caution. You want to make sure to keep that baby of yours happy, and this may sound snobby, but you also want the room to fit your home. I’ve been in places that had these ultra swank interiors, and immediately upon stepping into the nursery, you question what they were smoking when they designed the nursery.

As motifs go, you have the owls, turtles, trees, you name it — they’re all center stage at the moment. Even the little koi has his day. But what about the giraffe? Should this leggy beast be limited only to the safari look or a nursery? Or can we bring him out into the living room, dining area, even the kitchen? When I think of adding a little giraffe action to my home, I picture lighter, brighter colors, vintage wallpaper silhouettes, a playful pillow, and Jonathan Adler and his amazing lamp. Oh that lamp, what a charmer he is. Let’s now look at it inside the home of a stylish twentysomething designer. Oh, Lena? Where are you?

Ah, here she is. Textile designer and illustrator Lena Corwin, successfully incorporates the giraffe lamp from Jonathan Adler into her largely mid-century modern flat in Brooklyn. Very grown up, this doesn’t read ‘safari’ or ‘nursery’ at all. It reads hip and fun.

I love Lena’s space, but that lamp adds an extra spark that completes the room for me. It’s a bit of a quirky, unexpected touch that tells us that Lena has personality, she’s a bit playful, doesn’t take design too seriously, but also has exquisite taste to be able to mingle a giraffe lamp into a room with tree wallpaper, contemporary art, and mid century furnishings. But enough gushing about Lena. We don’t want to make her uncomfortable. :)

Okay, maybe one more gush. Lena designed a travel plate with a giraffe on it that shows how well one can use this animal in an adult space. Unfortunately though, we don’t see enough of the giraffe in adult rooms, and I think it’s a shame because we’re limiting this beautiful animal with the silhouette of a super model. And when we see the giraffe pattern used in decor or fashion, it’s always in either deep brown and white or black and white.

Please designers of the world, let’s allow the giraffe to mature a bit, while keeping him modern and playful. Let’s show his pattern in chartreuse against a pale blue background for textiles, I’m thinking of this pattern from Judy Ross, only with a close-up view of the giraffe hide. Let’s bring that Adler lamp into an adult space a little more, and for fashion, let’s see the giraffe pattern in hot pink against white, turquoise, lime, for handbags, dresses, and the interior lining of luggage. C’mon — let’s turn up the dial and see what fun can result.


Joy by Mel Lim wrote to me last week about her newly expanded line of paper products that have actually grown into a collection of gift wrap, children’s clothing, t-shirts, and pillows that I’m 100% in love with. Joy turned things up by using her imagination, seeing this leggy beast in a different way. She enjoys incorporating fish, ducks, and our tall friend in her designs, and I enjoy seeing it. Immensely.

Of course, seeing the giraffe on paper is never a bad thing. Especially when done right, like these Sweet cards from Elsewares, the personalized stationery, journal, and enclosure cards from Rock Scissor Paper, and cards from Five Fold Ink and Mini and Emma.

Next, you have these stretch canvas prints by Avalisa, again, more for the kids than the grown ups, but it’s still pretty cute and I love all the colors that it’s available in.


How cute is this mini print from Repro Depot shown in two colorways, giraffe mania! I can’t see this working as pillows or curtains (eek!), well except again, in a child’s room, but it is a terrific little print.

Tory Burch has giraffe bags in her latest collection (not shown), but these box totes from Neimans’ are adorable. I’d put magazines in them and tote them around my house. This $4 giraffe business card holder, handmade by Etsy seller Mirkah is super cute for your handbag, I like the lemon yellow with the tiny white grapics.

Cute dress (imagine this print somewhere in the home, wow!), pillow, little juma, and glasses from Anthropologie. I really can’t take my eyes off of that dress. The print is exactly what I’m picturing when I think of a more modern take on the giraffe.

And from Etsy: A very funky patchwork toy from While She Naps, a Veronica Press wood book, Maxine Dear tote, and an Okins mid century plush.


Of course, it’s back to the kiddies again with a slew of softies, but they are a bit hard to resist… Even for a grown up space. Dwell Baby pillows from Giggle are super cute (and huge) and another plush from Zid Zid Kids with a Moroccan edge.


Wallpaper giraffe silhouettes, available in a gadzillion patterns from Inke, really appeal to me. But I don’t know if I’d use animal silhouettes like this in my childless abode, on a wall. Although strangly enough, I can see it in a kitchen somehow. Don’t ask me, I just can. But of course, I have a very modern, white and light blue interior in mind, a space that reads very contemporary and cool. In the right pattern, this giraffe may rock it behind a bistro table with this capri genie pendant.


I think these Inke patterns would work in an adult space, they feel a bit more grown and polished to me.

More giraffe love (not shown): Here’s a giraffe lamp from Illums Bolighus, retro badges from Fluffington, and coasters from Kate Black.

Are you a fan of the giraffa camelopardalis? Do you have any in the home? What are your thoughts, hot or not?

Posted in Trends on April 11, 2007

Zebra Patterns – Do You Approve?

Nothing inspires us like nature, which is why we so often gravitate towards patterns that resemble those found outdoors. If you’re thinking of adding maximum impact to a space, look no further than the stylish Zebra (please, go faux). And along with the Chinese ceramic stool craze we’re seeing, Zebra rugs are a big hit too, making a continued appearance in some of today’s hottest interiors. Need a bit of inspiration before you decide to add a bit of safari chic to your space?

If this image from Domino doesn’t make you see Zebra prints in a new and exciting way… I’m afraid there’s no hope. :)

Nothing inspires me like a deal and of course, going faux. You can find a Zebra pattern stenciled onto a hairhide rug for $515 from Horchow. Of course, it’s still from an animal and some of us aren’t into animal hides at all (like me). If that’s you, opt for something in wool, like this one from Home Decorators ($129-299). If you need something smaller for an entry or beneath a sofa table, this 5×7 rug from Urban Outfitters is perfect, and a budget find at $69. It’s cotton, so we know animals weren’t hurt for this little guy, and your wallet won’t feel a thing.

When I think of Zebra rugs, Jonathan Adler ($875) always springs to mind. With his dare devil bolder-than-thou designs, I admire how perfectly he works such a bold pattern into his interiors. Having all that color courage, coupled with extreme self-confidence from his ‘been there done that’ experience in the design world, Adler is super contagious. He has a happy virus that more of us need to catch. Explore! Dare! Yes, go there!

Designer Jan Showers gives us more eye candy, helping us see the pattern in a variety of settings… A more ‘medicated’ approach to Adler I must add, but beautiful and certainly more friendly to the neutral fans out there.

And did you catch the lovely Zebrine wallpaper in Domino magazine from Rose Cumming? It’s making another appearance in interiors with it’s bold, whimsical charm. It makes a definite statement in crisp blue and white, doesn’t it? This image is of Ashley Whittaker’s home, courtesy of Domino, 4/07 and The Peak of Chic.

The Peak of Chic loves Zebrine wallpaper and tells us, “Glamorous pedigree aside, this print is certainly a stylish but bold statement. I love animal prints, but one has to use them with restraint. All other design elements of a room- furniture, artwork, and accessories- have to be toned down when paired with such a gutsy pattern.” Photo from Robin Bell’s living room, courtesy of House Beautiful, 1/05 via The Peak of Chic.

Inspiration from Domino and Living Etc. There’s even a Zebra ottoman in the mix, and a chair, below. For me, if I’m going Zebra, there’s nothing I like better than combining the color turquoise with a crisp black and white faux Zebra print rug.

So tell me… What’s your take on it as either a rug, wallpaper, textiles, etc.? Do you approve? Have a little love/hate? Run screaming?

Posted in Trends on March 26, 2007

Chinese Ceramic Garden Stools – Yes or No?

Domino (April) arrived over the weekend and I couldn’t help but feel left out of the hip ‘n trendy Chinese Garden Stool Club. Michael Bargo had one in a lovely green, the amazing Lulu de Kwiatkowski sported one in her home (in what appeared to be orange), Tom Scheerer incorporated a perky lime stool into the drinks table arrangement that he pulled together (in classic Scheerer style), and Jennifer Marsico had two white ones in her living room alone. But no worries my fellow design addicts. For as little as $69 USD, you can join the Garden Stool Club, too.
Here’s a floral ceramic stool used by Burnham Design in one of their rooms, it looks inspired by the Chinese garden seats, just a bit more dainty and detailed. I wasn’t able to find an exact copy of it, but if you spend some time on Google, I’m sure you’ll find something like it. Check with your local antiques dealer, too.

Why so appealing? They can do it all – the true multitaskers. They fuction as a foot rest, small table, plant stand, place for kitty to sit, or just for a little eye candy – a bright burst of color. They are also small enough to not give commitment phobes a showroom freak out, it’s just one itty bitty stool. Slightly larger than throw pillows. About the same price. We love a good ole barely-break-a-sweat purchase.

Also know as ‘tea stools’, ‘chinese stools’, and ‘porcelain garden seats’, the big sellers seem to be those in solid colors, circular, with intricate, but spare, cutouts (vs. the ornate hand-painted or square varieties). Although, I have to say that I love the hand-painted stools in blue and white, like the one shown a few images down from Wisteria for $179.

My #1 stop, Oriental DestinAsian on eBay. Prices range from $69-119 for solid colors in blues, greens, yellows, and of course, white. With a flat rate shipping anywhere in the U.S. for only $35, you can’t go wrong for a repro. Keep in mind that just like anything else, you can pay more and find something really unique and one-of-a-kind straight from artisians in China, or you can opt for reproduction pieces inspired by traditional Chinese garden seats if you’re on a limited budget.

Although the stools I’m seeing in magazines and designer’s portfolios aren’t nearly as ornate, if you love to mix things up, opt for handpainted or these cutout floral patterns from The Company Store ($108), or Mecox Gardens. For a one-of-a-kind seat, Red River Trading Co. in Boston’s South End has imported stools straight from Hunan, China. The two shown above in teal were handmade and fired in a kiln which means that are totally worth $350- each.

Try these gorgeous stools from Wisteria in your space. I can’t help but think they’d add that perfect touch. Or for ones with a bit more detail, go with these from Gumps of San Francisco.

Additional Ceramic Garden Stool resources: Tonic Home, Clipper Trading, even Pottery Barn is in on the trend with a Jade green stool for only $99. You can google for “Ceramic Garden Stools”, “tea stools”, “chinese stools”, and “porcelain garden seats”, and find hundreds of other sources. Use those as search words on eBay, too.

Can you spot them in these rooms? Some are much less obvious than others…

From: Domino, KWID, Kelly Proxmire, Todd Romano, Timothy Whealon, Kemble Interiors, Burham Design, and Kenneth Brown Design.

So what do you think – Are you into these, or do you run screaming in the opposite direction?

Posted in Trends on March 26, 2007

Trends 2007: Beachy Keen

Surf’s Up! We kicked off our trend report with Mad About Morocco and The Nurturing Naturalist, but with so many other hot looks out there, let’s explore a few more. For this trend, think beach parties, palm trees, and lots of California cool, and relaxed interiors. You can even support the environment by incorporating pieces that are eco-friendly, especially with Beachy Keen because so much of the look is based on what’s au natural. We’re talking more Denmark or coastal Maine faded vs. Lily Pulizter preppy.

The Look: Serene and subtle, natural shapes and finishes, sun-kissed. Images of sea, sand, pebbles, driftwood, and raw raffia come to mind. The look incorporates light and medium wood tones, and plenty of organic materials and fibers. Try to find sustainable, durable products when you can. Beachy Keen can be relaxed and soft (slipcover sofas, for instance), or streamlined and contemporary (a chair in wicker and chrome). Look for pieces with clean lines and uncomplicated, organic patterns. Bring the outdoors in to immerse yourself in a total resort-like atmosphere with lots of found objects neatly arranged. It’s all about personal preference.

As with any look, don’t lay it on thick… You want your home to function and breathe and it can’t if smothered to death. Think of the coast when it is quiet – a few people, some gulls in flight, you, the sand and surf. Nice vision, isn’t it? Now think of the beach during peak season with wall-to-wall bodies, so packed you can barely see the sand. Not as relaxing a thought. Same with your home. Packing a room with too much visual clutter isn’t the goal here, Beachy Keen is about good organization and well thought out displays and a smart floor plan. Lean on having too little over an abundance. If you have collections you’d like to use in the room, pottery or jars of shells that you collect, group them together in one place so they can be appreciated. Scattering them doesn’t show them off nearly as well. It’s hard for the eye to appreciate any one object in a room that is too busy. Examine the images below for further confirmation. Aren’t they soothing?

To create your very own peaceful escape, here are some beautiful pieces to get you started, from lighting to linens. Have fun!


Furniture – Wood, wood, wood! In blonde or acorn, monkeypod, walnut, bamboo, driftwood, teak, elm, wicker, rattan, or painted in white or pastel. Lacquered works if it’s pastel, acrylic if it’s clear, and glass top tables with a wood base work fine as well. You can mix periods – think fusion bohemian. Lines can be raw and natural, traditional (mid century European pieces, such as Finnish or Scandinavian pieces) or clean and contemporary. Here are some examples. In addition to options below, try Maine Cottage for some painted wood furnishings that may suit your tastes. I’m more of a clean, contemporary girl myself, so most of what is featured in this post are items I would own or suggest to my clients.

Beautiful teak from Lekker Home in Boston’s South End.
Furnishings from West Elm

Furnishings from Pottery Barn

Furnishings from Pottery Barn

Chairs: Top row: Hawaii dining chair from Anthropologie, Neptune chair from Anthropologie, Driftwood chair from Bleu Nature, Scalandia chair from Pier 1. Bottom Row: Easy rattan armless chair from Pier 1, Sophisticate chair from Inmod (a real deal for $114, free shipping, and 10% until 2/23) and the Nandor chair from IKEA.

Clockwise from top left: Concentric coffee table from Z Gallerie, Bradenton Cube End Table from Pier 1, Lyabak pouf from Bleu Nature, Akta stool from Bleu Nature, rolling table from Excel DK showroom.
Benches and tables, clockwise from top left: Barn Beam tables from Viva Terra, Truck Tarp ottoman from Anthropologie, and the Z Bench from Branch Home.

Plenty of sun-washed hues – Blues, greens, sand, grey, pale pink, pale yellow, lavendar, cream, white. Visit the coast for inspiration, snap photos, open your eyes to the sights and sounds. Pay attention to the colors so you can bring similiar hues into your space. (If you’d like to spice things up a bit, incorporate deeper tones of these hues, add a burst of teal, for instance.)

Prints range from organic shapes to wood grain, palm branches, stripes, sea fans, and bamboo. Keep metals to a minimum, although a little silver or gold goes a long way, especially hammered or in a matte finish.

Textiles from Kerry Cassill.
Linen and faux suede pillows from West Elm add color and texture.

Top row: Fish pillow from Jonathan Adler on sale for only $29, and Curvature pillow from GH Interiors. Bottom row: Gato and Easton pillows via Angela Adams.
Pillows from Hable Construction

Merino Wool Bobble pillows from Mirror Mirror and assorted Simplemente Blanco pillows.

Bedding: Let’s look at a few bedding options. I’m sure most of you can figure this out on your own by now, especially with all this visual inspiration, but here are a few of my favorites.

Swim bedding from Judy Ross and the Tamarind bedding from Anthropologie.

Paraati/Nora and the Marina, both from Crate and Barrel.

Cozy throws add warmth in more ways than one. Chunky Knit throws from Nate Berkus at Linens ‘n Things, and the Lucy crochet throw from Anthropologie.

Handmade quilts from Sweet Felt Goods in Rhode Island.

Contemporary and clean Waves bedding from West Elm. A great gender neutral option.

For flooring I suggest hardwood or bamboo, berber carpeting, creamy white shag rugs, stone, anything made of natural fibers, really. If you want modern, opt for most of Angela Adams’ rugs. She’s from Maine so her designs are inspired by times spent on the shore, and they are made of 100% New Zealand wool. If your budget won’t allow an Adams splurge, look for similiar patterns at a big box store, like Pier 1 or Target. Chiasso is another one to visit.

West Elm Frames shag rug and wood block rug.

Roost pebble felted wool rugs and Roost bamboo flooring via Velocity Art + Design.

Rugs from Angela Adams via Design Public.

The Comma
or the Seed Pod rug from Anthropologie.

Paint suggestions? Try soft, barely-there hues for paint (Bright and Early #834 is heavenly) to lend a sense of spaciousness. If you fancy texture, add grasscloth wallpaper (I love the papers from Twenthy2 shown below) or papers made from another natural fiber. If it’s drama you crave, paint your walls in a dark blue-gray (like Sea Reflections #1664) and trim everything out in pure white, like Decorators White, or trim things out a few shades darker than your wall color. This works well in a formal dining room. Another gorgeous blue is Palladian Blue, it’s one of the most beautiful Robin’s Egg ever. (Colors are from Benjamin Moore.) You can also try Farrow + Ball’s “Elephants Breath” #229, it’s somewhat of a grey and beige combined, aka greige. It’s subtle and gorgeous.

Walls: Never forget the power of wallpaper! Grasscloth is ideal. Think of non-tacky ways to bring the sea home without it becoming a theme park. You can do it!

Grasscloth wallcovering from Twenty2.
Coral with Eyeflowers wallpaper from Rollout, and white algae from Vitra via Velocity Art + Design (I love this in white, makes a terrific, airy room divider).

Windows: Keep it simple, fresh, and no frills. If you can find something with texture, or made from natural materials, all the better. Linens, cottons, bamboos… You get the vibe. This isn’t rocket science, so don’t stress. Trrain you eye and develop your taste. We all make progress as we complete projects, so keep at it when you decorate!

Natural woven waterfall shades from Smith + Noble and 3-D Gap laine felt blinds from Anne Kyyro Quinn (love!), and the Lapis and Wave Motif curtains are from Anthropologie.

Now let’s move on to lighting. There’s a lot out there that works with this look. Good lighting is one of the most important features of a well-designed space, but so often neglected. Here are some good options…

Surprise! These light fixtures are from Pottery Barn.
I’m so impressed with their selection this season.

Surprise! More Pottery Barn beauties. I love these.

Think tactile. The felt loop lighting by Anne Kyyro Quinn is gorgeous, as is the Giacamo driftwood lamp via Zia Priven.

Pendant love! Top row: Coral chandelier from Moth, and Igniq from Bleu Nature.
bottom row: Shell Chandelier (hey, why not?) and Galbraith and Paul Stripe Pendant from Room + Board.

Clockwise from left: Zia Priven Groove lamp, Capiz chandelier from Pier 1, Gold leaf sea fan table lamp from Horchow, Glass Boulder lamp from Anthropologie, Phantom table lamp from CB2.

Accessorize! Now let’s move on to some accessories that fit this look. Colored glass may be on trend right now, but it’s also timeless, so you can feel confident in your purchase. Patterned glasses (especially etched), serving plates in pastels, dinnerware in interesting shapes, ceramics (textured, cut out or pierced designs are in), and plant orbs. Who doesn’t love plant orbs?

Dusk Chellie glasses from Angela Adams, Kahla Cumulus Aerius dinnerware from Lekker, Staxx dinnerware from Crate and Barrel.

Medium Teal Seahorse pillow, Wood Plant Orb, Glass Orbs (great for succulents), Turquoise Gloss Chi planters, all from Sprout Home.

Clockwise: Water Hyacinth placemat, Riverstone napkin ring, Smoked Bamboo placemat, and the Cerchi dinnerware from Pier 1.

More great tabletop options from Pier 1. Mother-of-Pearl Salad Servers, Capiz Charger, and the Pansey napkins.

Driftwood Trivet from Viva Terra and Porcelin Driftwood pieces from Greener Grass Design.

Bubble Bud vase from Rare Device, Surf Stripe grommetted gift tags from Hable Construction (sweet to hang around the neck of a pretty glass bottle), knit ceramics from Loop in London, and vessels from West Elm.

Ceramics from Papa Stour in Scotland.

Glassware from West Elm

Soap, soap leaves, and candles from Simplemente Blanco

Pretty blown glass from Rock Paper Scissors, Hable Construction canvas desktop storage box from Rock Paper Scissors, and ocean paper weights from See Jane Work.

One point to stress… We’re not talking theme-y looks here with starfish and sea urchin everything. Try to not ‘go there’ when you decorate your space. You’re simply bringing your favorite place indoors by creating a spot that brings you peace and joy, using what happens to be a trend, so it’s easy to pull together. Please avoid shopping yourself into a coma (or debt!). There’s more to life, like stretching your imagination and getting creative with what you already have. Mix in smart, new finds with your current space to freshen the mood. You’re smart and confident, you’ll pull off something gorgeous!


Hope you’ve enjoyed this trend report. I’ll be adding a few more trends in the next few weeks, so stay tuned!

Psst: I highly suggest picking up the current Domino magazine, it’s all about going green. You can even find their green list that Graham from Treehugger pulled togther for them. It’s packed with resources from furniture to rugs, many of which would fit nicely with your new ocean-inspired decor.

Posted in Trends on February 22, 2007

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