Banish Old Brass with Paint

August 5, 2010 § 6 Comments

Brass will be back at some point, but there are lots of alternative metals on the market these days that make shiny, brassy… well… brass seem really dated and ordinary. I see these brass candelabra chandeliers everywhere. I even had one in my own home until I decided I couldn’t stand it anymore.

I suppose I could have replaced it at relatively low cost, but then I would have to take it down, etc, etc. I decided that the quickest fix was to paint it. So I got my tallest ladder, moved the table out of the way, and primed the brass. All of it. Then I gave it a coat of matte black acrylic paint. (I was liking it better already.) I then drew on the inner artist somewhere in me to apply several different colors: dark brown, burnt umber, lighter brown, in kind of a faux finish of sorts to make the finished product look more like oil-rubbed bronze (my version).

I even painted the little candlesticks a creamy yellow, found leather-like chandelier shades at my local home improvement store, and used a scrap of fabric for a chain cover. There. All set — I love it. Time to put the ladder away.

If you have old lighting in your home, you can either replace it or paint it!  Just remember when working with lighting of any kind, turn off the power first!

Light and Color and Your House Paint

July 31, 2010 § 3 Comments

Sometimes color appears out of nowhere and dazzles you — even for only a few moments — like it did the day I snapped this photo in the late afternoon sun.  The yellow of this barn grabbed my attention and said, “Stop where you are and look at me — I am gorgeous!” A few moments later, the barn was in shadow and the intense color was gone for another day.

When you’re choosing a house color, be sure to paint some sample colors on the house and look at them in various lights — early morning, late afternoon — and on cloudy days as well. You may see the color change. That might be a good thing or maybe not. I once watched my living room color change from tan to gray to green to pink all in the course of a 12-hour period. To a color person like myself, that experience was horrendous. I had the primer out within the week. (The color I painted my living room was taupe — the mysterious color that accepts other hues around it and changes like a chameleon. Some people actually like that — I have clients who do — but not so much for me at least on the interior.)

Color depends on light. And light or the lack of it can change your perception of the color itself. What you thought was one color in the paint store or even when you opened up the can turns out to be quite something else once it’s applied to your wall, whether it’s inside or out. Use your sampling time to see how light affects not only the color you’ve chosen but also the “value” of the color (how intense it is). If the color attracts too much attention for your taste, move more toward the gray side of that particular hue. Dull it down a touch and you’ll get it right. Color will be more intense on a large area anyway, like the side of your house. Check it out first before the painters arrive.

Details Make the Difference at the Front Door

April 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Say nothing of the new Arts & Crafts windows, textured roof, earthy natural taupe siding color, crisp white trim, and fresh landscaping, the entryway of this renovated colonial is a knock-out.

The homeowners took their time to get all the details right. The enlarged portico with dry-stacked stone porch and columns, the tapered pillars above, the arched wood ceiling, wide chunk white contrasting trim, a period pendant light fixture, and the solid wood door with period wrought-iron hardware. There’s even a little black door-bell (with undoubtedly a charming ring on the inside).

What can I say…  there goes the neighborhood…

Lighting Makes All the Difference

March 11, 2010 § Leave a comment

This yellow historic New England barn has lots of terrific architectural elements —  cupula, weathervane, clerestory windows over the door, even a windmill in the back — but find the light fixture on this massive building! It’s the tiny white squiggle right above the big green barn door. Rats! A missed opportunity to finish this grand piece of history in style.

Here’s another example of a big barn (it also has a cupula out of view), but it has an appropriately scaled light fixture above the door. This blue barn has my vote. Nice!

Choosing Exterior Lighting

March 6, 2010 § Leave a comment

Stand at the curb and take a look at your lights on the porch and garage. Do they stand out or can you barely see them unless they’re turned on? Most exterior lights are too small for the scale of the house. In many cases, they look absolutely puny from the street. Not good…

The light fixture pictured here is a Medieval Dragon Lantern from and it really makes a statement. The scale of this lantern (it’s 51″ high and 32″ wide) fits its grand home. But even if you don’t live in a castle, your lights should be large enough to fit the scale of your door. Here’s the guideline:

A light next to the front door should be about 1/3 the height of the door and placed at least 66″ from the floor. If you have two lights, one on either side of the door, they can be a little smaller (1/4 the height of the door).

When in doubt, keep searching for the right lights. You may not find them at your typical big box stores, but they’re worth hunting for! You’ll add a real touch of class to your exterior with appropriately sized lighting.

Light Up the Holidays

November 24, 2009 § Leave a comment

What’s the one thing that separates this holiday season from all other holidays throughout the year? The sparkle and shimmer of lights. Regardless of what holiday colors we use to decorate our homes or even the particular holiday itself, decorating with lights tells everyone we are celebrating. Traditionally, we hang candles in the windows and string lights across the bushes to enhance our holiday curb appeal. We decorate with lights on the inside as well: the warm glow of firelight, candles on the dinner table, and maybe even a magnificent sparkling tree.

This year, instead of altering your color palette for the holidays with the reds and greens of Christmas or blues of Hanukkah, focus on adding light to your home. One easy and “green” way to add light is by using reflective metals like silver and lots of glass. All the silver and glass will bounce light around the room and help to make any color scheme ready for the holidays. Look for old treasures from the attic or even the consignment store, especially silver ornaments, glass ornaments, silver candlesticks, glass candlesticks, mirrors, and silver trays like the one shown in this photo from Country Living Magazine ( Add white candles, white twinkle lights, and some evergreen cuttings from your yard,  and voila! For maximum light reflection and a real wow factor, hang a giant mirrored ball (yes, disco) from the ceiling. Okay, you get the idea…

Enjoy your holidays!

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!


Garage Doors Have a New Look

February 13, 2008 § 41 Comments

garage-door2.jpegGarage doors rival the front door for attention these days as the look of the garage door becomes increasingly sophisticated and worthy of notice. This particular garage door even has lights trained on it to show off its beauty at night. Who could imagine that the old standard garage doors whose plain and often tennis-ball-dented faces needed camouflaging would be replaced by such distinctive architectural specimens.

Having said all that, please note that if you have one of these carriage doors or plan to get one or two or three, go ahead and show them off. But if your garage still has the garden variety garage door, you are best to paint it the house color with trim color around the outside and refrain from highlighting it. Continue to focus all eyes on your front door.

Before You Color Your Walls, Check the Lighting

October 19, 2007 § 12 Comments

chandelier1_1.jpgYou may not have a chandelier quite as grand as this one for your dining room or entryway, but take a look at your current lighting situation. Although it may seem obvious, good lighting is critical. You need light to see color so before  you paint your walls chocolate brown, check to see whether you have enough light in the room to see that gorgeous color. Otherwise it will fade out to gray or black.

 You also need adequate task lighting like lamps for reading and pendant lights for cooking. You need some overhead lighting, like recessed cans for highlighting artwork, or chandeliers for mood lighting. But there are other kinds of lighting as well.

Wall sconces are ideal in the bathroom if hung at face level for optimal shaving and makeup application. Sconces are also wonderful for hallways and beside the fireplace to enhance the warm glow in the room. An uplight under a plant in the corner is a quick way to add drama to a room. The light shining up through the plant sends all kinds of interesting shapes onto the ceiling. “Fantasy lighting” creates a mood in a room but is inadequate for actually seeing anything. Soffit lights around the edge of the room give a soft, almost night-light feel to a room. If you’re redesigning a room, look at the lighting first.

Here are a few tips:

  • Unless it’s a table lamp, install dimmers on everything from the chandelier in the dining room to the recessed cans in the kitchen. There’s nothing that kills the mood quicker than somebody coming into a room and throwing on the overhead light switch.
  • Set up a triangle of lamps. Don’t have all your lighting on one side of the room. Balance it around the room so there aren’t any really dark areas.
  • Replace that single bulb in the middle of the ceiling with either a semi-flush-mount light fixture in an up-to-date metal finish or some recessed cans around the perimeter of the room. All on a dimmer.
  • Make sure your table lamps are the right scale for your tables. Small lamps are great for the bedroom, but larger lamps really go better in the living room. And tall skinny lamps look good on sofa tables and buffets.
  • Don’t forget a floor lamp, excellent for a reading nook.
  • And torchieres, like other uplights, throw light up onto the ceiling where it is reflected. Torchieres are a good balance to all the other light that is pointing down into the room.

Have fun with the lighting in your home. You can save money by using energy-efficient bulbs wherever possible, especially in lamps that you leave on a lot. But just remember that those energy-efficient fluorescent bulbs cast a cooler light than either halogens or incandescent bulbs and may change the color of your walls at night. Keep that in mind when you choose your wall color.

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