Neutral but Never Boring

December 10, 2012 § 2 Comments

Does your home scream 1972 when you enter the front door? Are you stuck with metallic wallpaper on the ceiling in the guest bath, orange shag carpet in the basement, or an avocado bathtub? Then maybe it’s time to update. But this time, instead of hopping on the latest hot new trend (I could name a few here, but I’ll resist), how about giving your home a classic re-do. Something that will stand the test of time, or at least a decade or two, without branding your home with a particular year. For that kind of longevity, we turn to a neutral palette, but neutral does not have to mean beige and it’s hardly ever boring.

-The key to a neutral palette is texture. You could have an all-white living room but if that white includes fuzzy white pillows, a shiny white marble table top, and some warm white chenille upholstery, then the room will have plenty of interest.

-Neutral does not have to mean just one color either. In this room, the walls are a latte color, the sofa is dark brown leather, and there is plenty of color in the books and objects on the white bookshelves. What makes this room work so well is that the stonework on the fireplace is a feature and because the other furnishings do not stomp all over the subtle colors in the stones, the room’s palette includes peaches and golds and grays and tans and taupes — more than enough colors.

-Neutral allows you to bring in color in the art, pillows, and other more temporary furnishings and accessories without clashing with a strong wall color and a brightly colored sofa.

-Neutral allows you to change your accessories with the seasons and the holidays without overpowering the existing color palette or the holiday decorations.

-And when you’re selling your house, neutral allows potential buyers to see themselves in your home and that is critical for a successful sale.

So as you choose tile and furnishings and paint for your newly updated space, consider neutral because neutral does not have to be boring.

Green Decorating: Tackling an Ottoman

July 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Bartering can be a wonderful thing — especially when you acquire a piece of furniture in need of only a little facelift and you’re up for a fun project.

The fabric on this ottoman (photo above right) was soiled and worn so I removed all the nail heads, cut a piece of scrap fabric (from a massive fabric store sale), and stapled the new fabric to the frame. I even used the same black & white gingham buttons for tufting. Since I didn’t have a special long needle, I used a long metal skewer from my kitchen drawer to draw the heavy duty thread through the stuffing and poke it through to the other side where I fastened the thread to a wad of cotton batting to secure the little button. The only thing I purchased was the new trim (also on sale) to cover my many staples along the bottom edge. I chose a brown fringe to go with the wood and a black piping to go with the black buttons.

Next on the conquer-furniture list? Slipcovers for two big upholstered chairs!

Three Tips for Staging your Empty Condo

August 2, 2010 § 1 Comment

Selling a condo is hard enough, but in a buyer’s market, it’s a challenge to distinguish yours from all the others out there, some even in the same building. And if you’ve already moved out? Oh, forget it! There’s nothing worse than a vacant unit where the fingerprints on the walls and the spots on the carpet become the selling features that buyers remember.

If you are trying to sell your condo, here are three basic tips to get you started. This is not an exhaustive list of “to-do’s” for your space but if you do nothing else, do these.

1) Play up the saleable features. This condo has a fireplace and it happens to be the focal point of the room. But without drawing the buyer’s eye to it with art and chairs, the eye wanders from window to window and aimlessly around the vacuous space. With a couple of chairs, an ottoman, a piece of art hung on the wall (with no nails), and some accessories to warm up the area, potential buyers can picture themselves sitting there reading a book and enjoying their home. And that’s what we want.

2) Pay attention to the kitchen. The sellers were unwilling to upgrade cabinets or countertops so we picked a warm wall color that would blend the old-style cabinets and formica countertop. Doing that took the focus off the dated features highlighted by the white walls and made the kitchen look bigger — a selling bonus. The sellers had also painted a burnt orange accent wall that would not appeal to all buyers so we toned that down to a warm cognac brown that coordinated with the woven shade in the window and the wood trim on the cabinets. With a table and two chairs, the kitchen turned into a move-in ready space, despite its vintage.

3) Define your living spaces. The only way to tell where the dining area was in this condo was the lonely light fixture hanging in the middle of the room. So we added a table and chairs and set the table with a contemporary color scheme that tied in with the art and furniture in the adjoining living room. The dining area was defined and set up for guests — again, allowing buyers to picture themselves entertaining in their new condo.

Don’t leave your condo vacant and expect it to sell unless you live in a penthouse in Manhattan. Most cookie-cutter condos need some personality injected into them to attract serious buyers, but a little paint, a few pieces of furniture, and some well-placed accessories will help you create the atmosphere you’re trying to sell.

Quick Headboard or Wall Panel for Art Display

March 21, 2010 § 2 Comments

Is your artwork getting lost? One of my favorite pieces just seemed to float above the sofa in a sea of beige until I rolled out a piece of fabric and found my solution. I stapled the fabric right to the wall and trimmed it out with three pieces of painted moulding cut on a 45-degree angle with my miter box (handy little gadget!). Voila! Some drama, instant matting, and a terrific way to add color and contrast to an otherwise quiet palette. Especially good if your furniture and wall color are the same!

This technique is also a great way to create a headboard over a bed. The fabric adds height to the room and texture to the wall, and it is more interesting than a square of paint (although that will work too).

Once I decided what I was going to do, purchased the moulding and painted it, the whole project took about an hour to install.

Paint Your Old Golden Oak Cabinets!

October 19, 2009 § 10 Comments

kitchenbefore_1Saddled with old golden oak cabinets? Why not paint them. I did and it was very easy (though time consuming). I started by removing the doors from the cabinet base and unscrewing all the hardware. Then I lightly sanded all the surfaces. A good primer like Zinsser’s Bulls Eye 123 covered easily and provided a great base for the finish coat.

I used Valspar’s Kitchen and Bath Enamel in a Ben Moore color called Antique Parchment on the top cabinets and a Valspar color called Jekyll Club’s Cherokee Rust on the bottom cabinets (there, I plugged both companies). The cabinets looked great but I wasn’t done. In our house with kids, etc, etc, we tend to bang things up a bit so I mixed up a glaze that included some Cognac Snifter 1148 (a Ben Moore color used in an adjoining room) for the top cabinets and Branchport Brown HC-72 for the bottom. I painted the glaze into the seams and cracks in the doors and wiped it off with a rag. The look is rustic but cheerful and allows the new oil-rubbed bronze hardware to finish the room. And any future little scratches will not show. I love it!!

I tiled the backsplash (white primer in the before photo) with simple white subway tiles from Lowe’s. Not an expensive project, but I did purchase a wet saw for cutting the tile. (Looks like I have more tile projects in my future or maybe I can rent the saw out to my neighbors!)  I am very happy with the end result, imperfections and all, and I do not miss my golden oak cabinets! I would highly recommend painting cabinets if a total kitchen re-do is not in the budget or if you’re planning to sell your house and you have ugly kitchen cabinets. The project will be worth it!

Basement “Man Cave”

July 11, 2009 § 28 Comments

Back Door AfterThis basement renovation project started with a request for a palette of brown and purple. Coming from a couple with impeccable taste in furnishings upstairs, I knew this would be a fun challenge. We inserted some green into the mix along with a touch of copper and brushed nickel and ended up with more of an upscale version of the typical “man cave” (obviously there had to be two large TVs in the space along with exercise equipment, a bar, a kitchen, and a pool table).From Back Door

We started with two support beams in the middle of a large space so we built a granite-topped bar between them and divided the space into a media area, a pool table area, and exercise gym.

Instead of putting the large TV on the focal point wall, we decided to build bookshelves flanking a gas fireplace with a metallic tile surround. The Monet print above the fireplace is a nod to “The Thomas Crown Affair,” the homeowners’ favorite movie and the movie of choice on “Opening Night.” The purple and brown leopard print on the little bulbous rocking/swivel chair is my favorite piece in the room. And it’s so comfortable!


Reviving Old Furniture with Wall Color

May 13, 2008 § 16 Comments

Do you have a sofa from the 80s that looked great back then but kind of looks sad at the moment? Of course, you can slipcover it, but how about punching up the color behind it. We took a living room with blah beige striped wallpaper and pastel patterned upholstery (in good condition) and brought it to life with a soft blue-green paint color (Benjamin Moore’s stratton blue HC-142) and some new pillows. What a difference. All of a sudden the sofas looked intentional and the room came alive.

furniture twoThe trick here is to pick a wall color that is rich but subdued. You need a greyed down shade for this effect to work. Otherwise, a bright wall color might just make your furniture look even older. But a nice tasteful splash of wall color will give your furniture a few more years of life. And in this age of recycling, re-purposing, and reusing old stuff, it’s all about making what you have work.

Before you drag your old furniture off to the consignment store, try painting your room.

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