Do you remember before the Internet when there were those paper things with words on pages? People called them books? Well, they still exist and there are some very good ones that are not only interesting but also useful.
When it comes to New Year’s resolutions, many people opt to change the world, embark on a new, healthy way of life, and/or possibly break old habits. Not me, I just try to embrace things in the design world that I previously despised. For example, six years ago I found muted color to be sleep-inducing and oh-so-safe. Flash-forward to my current portfolio and a person is certain to find muted greys and blues making up half of my body of work. This year, I have decided to stock my bag of tricks with yellow. “So what? Who cares?” you ask? Well, yellow is one color I’ve avoided altogether, simply because I find it kinda-sorta nuclear and impossible to work with.
In order to start playing with this sunny tone, I’ve tacked two tear sheets of yellow done right up on my inspiration board. One by my friend Tobi Fairley and the other by my friend-slash-fellow-Atlanta-resident, Lee Kleinhelter. For anyone else who’s avoided yellow to escape being blinded by the light, take a look at these successful doozies. Now get your sunglasses on and have a happy new year.
Tobi Fairley is a master with color. Whether it’s walls, furniture, artwork or accessories, it’s easy to spot a Tobi Fairley room mostly because of her ability to update traditional interiors with nontraditional hues.
In this living room, the overall color scheme is muted blue-grey; however, from the contemporary art to the silk throw pillows to the patterned area rug, yellow is the room’s overall motif. As far as what I learn from Tobi, it’s all about sticking with classic lines, then making them modern with pattern and unexpected tones.
Something I take away from the interiors of Lee Kleinhelter is her successful, noncommital use of saturated color; her spaces are vibrant but the color isn’t necessarily on the walls or even the upholstery. Most people [I assume] would look at this room and label it “The Yellow Room”; however, it’s pretty much all white/cream. Just a few jolts of bold yellow in easily removable elements, including window coverings and a sprayed paint finish on dining room chair frames, pack major color-popping punch — without creating an oh-my-God-my-retinas-are-on-fire situation. NOTE: Lee is very small, very gorgeous, very funny and, like me, she is obsessed with all things Real Housewives and Rachel Zoe. This is even more reason to like her.
Okay, anyone else scared of yellow?
Sure, we’ve all seen it: red and green for the holidays. While this famous combo may not exactly be fresh, new or unexpected, it’s obviously working; every retail store is covered in this complementary duo from floor to ceiling. Well, according to the color wheel, crimson and emerald are M.F.E.O. (made for each other, in Sleepless in Seattle terminology), and that’s enough credibility for me to love ‘em together.
But what about when it is no longer November 26th-ish or December 24th-ish? Does this very special pair still scream “Sleigh Bells and Santa Claus” or can it be used year’round with absolutely no tie-in to the most wonderful time of the year? You be the judge: Here are several examples of red and green that defy any seasonalization. Is that even a word? Who cares? It sounds good and seems like a great way to end this paragraph.
Bosch and Ford designed the Lego headquarters and pulled off the red and green combo. What seems to work best with their design is the actual shade of green they chose; it’s more grassy than it is mistletoe/Christmas-ish. An excellent non-Christmas-ish green for walls, very similar to this, is Leapfrog by Sherwin-Williams.
This bedroom packed with KidKraft furniture is an excellent example of how lime and green defy being typecast as holiday. Lime and fire engine red is an excellent pairing for a gender-neutral kids’ room.
Leave it to Ralph Lauren Home to make tartan cool, especially red-and-green tartan. In fact, this brand is a fantastic source for the red/green combo. From bedding and fabric to wallpaper, they’ve got dozens of examples that work year-round.
Okay, anyone else see any successful red/green wonders that defy holiday reference?
There is a four-letter word that takes all of the fun out of being a professional decorator: prep. It can literally take two days to find the right drawer pull for a teensy-weensy kitchen. But, then again, that’s why the pros are paid; they get it done, and they get it done right.
Lately, I have been mesmerized by the idea of what it was like to work as a designer or decorator decades ago, mostly because those poor people never got to shop online, which significantly reduces prep time. Particularly, they never got to experience Wisteria. Wisteria is a dream shopping destination for lovers of everything from European antiques to furnishings with industrial flair.
Many of their headboards, for example, rival those in high-end showrooms yet come in at a medium price point. Picking up the Louis XVI upholstered style here allows a homeowner to splurge on other key bedroom elements, such as linens or nightstands.
Although many of the pieces available on the site fall more into the traditional style of European furnishings, there are constantly surprising new finds with updated takes on traditional classics, such as these extra tall Windsor chairs. I may or may not like these even more because of my 6’5″ stature.
This industrial steel chair jumped out at me months ago, mostly for its lines and aged finish; however, one look at the price tag had me ordering it for a boy’s room I designed in Florida. NOTE TO PARENTS: Industrial chairs like this can really take a beating from your little guys. Plus, when he outgrows it and wants to change to something else, it can be used successfully anywhere else in the home. Investment piece!
Wisteria often uses unexpected materials in unique ways. This console table has an iron base and a top covered in black-and-white bone tiles. It packs graphic punch but with traditional materials, which also warm up a space.
Anyone else have any great Wisteria finds?
The other day, I was shopping for fabric and came across something hideously wonderful. Almost a week later, I still cannot decide whether I hate it or kinda-sorta love it. Imagine a creamy, nubby, organic fabric. Got it? Okay, now imagine it printed with creepy drawings of nudists, muppets and pimps. Yep, that would be what I am talking about.
Some design-related inventions have so much wow factor that they force you to think outside the box. For example: anything Kelly Wearstler. Other times, conceptual designs are best categorized as crazypants suckmasters.
Here’s that fabric I was talking about, by the way. Wow? Or suckmaster?
When my graphic designer, Ashley Bothwell, created this Up Dog pattern as wallpaper for a yoga studio, I instantly fell in love with it.
At first, it reads as a simple, graphic pattern. But look a little bit closer and see that the shapes are made up by several figures of women in yoga poses. Perhaps what makes it so successful is its less-is-more approach.
Anyone else see anything that’s totally “out there” yet awesome? Or something that’s equally conceptual but terriby awful? Do tell.
While, for many, traveling is the most amazing thing in the universe, it makes me want to clock myself over the head with a steel suitcase to avoid what I consider the Dark Side of Travel: canceled flights, cranky airport employees fed up with hearing complaints from travelers all day, people reclining their seats back on airplanes thus giving my 6’5″ self only 2.5 inches of breathing room, and of course, babies who save three weeks worth of crying for their airplane-seated audience.
But after 4 straight weeks producing, art directing and writing editorial for HGTVRemodels, I have learned to appreciate a great hotel like nobody’s business. When it comes to hotels, two words come to mind: Dorothy Draper.
Who is that? Well, she is one of the most influential professional decorators of all time. In fact, hotels were her thing.
After shooting a gorgeous home in San Francisco this past week, I mentioned the similarity of Draper’s aesthetic to said homeowner’s bathroom. This led me to Google the bananas out of Ms. Draper and look up all of her lobbies, most in New York City. What I noticed about her work is its timeless appeal; pretty much any of her hotel interiors could pass as having been completed in 2011. For those of you unfamiliar with the iconic work of Ms. Draper, take a gander below and become a friend of Dorothy.
The stripes? Large scale and high contrast. Very Hollywood. I bet you can name three of four super decorators off the top of your head who’ve done this themselves. And if not, oh well, I can.
How about the super dark colors? Insanely glamorous and packed with high contrast and some elements of masculinity although kinda-sorta overall a femme room, yes?
Super gigantic scaled- moldings! Yes, yes yes! While this may be something many decorators do these days, back then it was totally “OMG, did she really just blow the scale up that large? So edgy, that Draper!”
Got a thing for Dorothy, like I do? Share, friends!
Right now, I’m in San Francisco, a city which I’ve never been to before but have been dreaming of visiting. After a few hours here, my best friend texted me two images she found of our apartment back in the day. The timing couldn’t have been more perfect; it was she and I who’d planned to save up all of our money from waiting tables to come here and check out all the city has to offer. Well, there is something else I would like to offer: advice to my current self to the me that existed in 1997. My design skills back then S-U-C-K-E-D.
Even when I was in college with absolutely zero design experience, I was the go-to person in my social world for all things interior design and or do-it-yourself. Sure, things are different now, especially with 14 years of trial and error under my belt; however, I truly had one of those, “What the hell was I thinking?” moments when I got these two images.
One thing I like: The color blocking and simple dressing up of found-on-the-side-of-the-road-furnishings. A few things I am horrified by: Everything else. Above all, the one thing I took away from this trip down Bad Design Memory Lane is that being a designer or decorator is kinda like having vocal or acting talent; it’s always there, you just need experience and a little bit of training to fine tune it.
Anyone else have any old pictures of their first attempt at decorating and design that, although hysterical now, was something for which to be proud back then?
About two years ago, I embarked on a new chapter in my design/media career and started my own editorial site, Decor Demon, which is kinda like a shelter magazine in blog-roll format.
As a result of my work on DecorDemon and a chance meeting with HGTV’s site director, Jillian, I was asked to start designing full-length remodeling projects for a new HGTV site called HGTVRemodels.com.
While I have been in hog heaven writing, designing, producing, directing, prop styling and hosting decorating-based online content here at HGTV, the stuff over on HGTVRemodels is a whole new world. Everything has a remodeling slant, whether it’s floor-and-window update or a total gut job.
Although I have about 12 more projects on my to-do list before the new year, I’ve already got some favorites that are up and live on the front page. They include my own design studio remodel, my former assistant’s texture-packed attic apartment and a stunning library for an Atlanta jewelry designer.
I’ve gotten quite a few emails from friends who’ve been checking out the site daily for renovating ideas. Just like that Kevin Costner movie and its flag football field (that’s the right sport, right?), HGTV has built a beautiful sister site and the people continue to come.
So my production company is in Park City, Utah, shooting the online videos for the 2012 HGTV Dream Home. Um? Oh. My. Gawd. For any of you who’ve yet to experience this magical state, which is easily the most gorgeous place in the world, you are missin’ out, y’all! Everywhere you look, there’s picturesque scenery packed with to-die-for colors.
And although Utah itself is incredible, the 2012 HGTV Dream Home is just as spectacular. Designer Linda Woodrum has done it again. This time, the house is right smack in the center of a rustic piece of property, which looks out over the Provo River and onto gorgeous Utah mountains. The interiors are transitional and neutral, spotlighting the blue tones from the Utah sky, which Linda used in a subtle, sophisticated manner.
And although I’m stoked to be here working on it, I can’t help but think to myself, “It really sucks that I’m disqualified from winning it.”
All y’all who are eligible to win better plan to get crackin’ when the sweepstakes starts on Dec. 29, 2011, at 9am ET. (You’ll be able to tour the house starting Dec. 1 — until then, stay up-to-date at Dream Home Central.) A life in Utah would be the closest thing to heaven on earth there is. Stay tuned!
Short and sweet: I am absolutely buried lately between planning a temporary move cross-country to begin pre-production on an HGTV series and wrapping up my own clients in Atlanta. Amidst the short-on-time-ness of it all, I’ve become an avid user of Overstock.com. It may sound silly, but I had no idea that you can actually buy pretty much everything in the world on this site.
As I’ve been sourcing pieces for my own private clients and for HGTV.com makeovers, I’ve found that many of the styles I’m looking for in trade-only showrooms are actually available on Overstock.com at a fraction of the price. Um, yes please. Anyhow, I took note of some of the items I’m using and/or have recently used and am filling y’all in on some great stuff to consider if you’re putting together rooms on super tight budgets or if you wanna splurge on that one statement piece without going custom. Now, if I could only find an Audi A4 Wagon repairman on Overstock.com, I may be one step closer to trekking across the country.
If you can’t afford the Eames rocker, go for the next best thing, Vinnie Cradle Chair in blue. At just under $140, you can’t go wrong with this piece. Think of it as an investment, similar to those Beverly Hills ladies with new, puffy lips but without the plastic surgery or recovery period afterwards.
You know those types of people who refuse to eat at chain restaurants and/or look down on others for eating carbs or foods that are processed like Pop Tarts or cheese cubes? Well, I kinda realized I was the home shopping equivalent in reference to buying furniture from retail stores. Where the hell else would someone buy furniture if not at a retail store? Thanks for asking; the answer is flea markets, thrift stores, vintage stores, antique markets, Craigslist, high design showrooms and custom workrooms. But since I was introduced to the magical world that is Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams through my superstylist friend Annette, I can’t get enough of the national chain, and neither can my clients.
As a designer who often has insanely short timelines for projects meant for TV-based content, I kinda-sorta always need my furniture yesterday. Sure, there are plenty of retailers which stock most of their pieces locally; however, I’m OCD about not using sofas or armchairs people have seen fifty times in the past month. ENTER Mitch and Bob. Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams is packed with custom-looking pieces at medium-to-high price-points, many which are available in three weeks. This is way better than the average 12-16 week lead time it takes to have custom pieces done. For those of you unfamiliar with this genius brand, allow me to introduce you to some of the magic that is MG + BW. Well, after I scarf down some Pop Tarts, then share processed cheese cubes with my friends, that is.
Since a good amount of my clients live in the city, they’re usually tight on space. Well, unless they are filthy rich. In that case, their dogs and cats have more square footage than I do. But I digress, armless sofas are a godsend when trying to take up less visual space. The Rennie collection saves space stylishly with its classic pulled tufts and stocked color way of steel blue. PS: As of five weeks ago, I’ve been on a steel blue kick. I have no idea where the hell it came from, but I do know that violet and plum, my previous colors of choice, must really despise steel blue right now.
Right now I am very lucky to have two of the best clients ever. So much that I will give them shout outs: Alex, you are very, very good and fun and smart and nice. And J.D. (who has no idea who Alex is or vice versa), I especially enjoy your allowing me to cover your walls in crocodile and build a modern fireplace clad with faux horn. What the hell does this have to do with MG + BW’s Dr. Pitt slipcovered sectional? Well, I’m currently using it in J.D.’s place. Originally, we’d looked into custom sectionals in a very similar style which came to $9,000. Depending on the configuration, the Dr. Pitt can seat 8 to 10 people for roughly $5,000. As it’s shown in the picture, it’s more like $6,000, but not everyone needs the center section; I chose to leave that off. That ain’t bad for something that looks 100% custom, that’s also washable and doesn’t sacrifice comfort for style and vice versa.
Years back when I lived in a downtown loft, I painted my bathroom kelly green. It was about six months later that I realized people hated using my bathroom simply because it made them look ugly. How so? The green walls bounced a green glare onto people’s skin as they looked in the mirror. Throw in some bad lighting, and you’ve got a recipe for major image issues. Many times I tell people that this was when I learned not only how color affects moods, but also that lighting is sometimes the most important element in any space.
A few months ago, I discovered a (new to me) lighting company. Fast forward three months, I now find myself calling in orders about once a week. The company? Crystorama. From transitional style pendants to formal chandeliers, welded rose bouquet globes to iron style fixtures that look like helices, I’ve been using their well-made, phenomenally-priced pieces on projects from Brooklyn to Biscayne Bay. If you’re stumped on a source for lighting online that won’t kill your budget, take a look-see at some of the wonderful styles available from Cystorama. Thanks to them, I can possibly paint a room green. This time, light sage instead of kelly green.
The first style I fell madly in love is the Astro. It’s made of English iron and works beautifully in mid-century modern settings. Its graphic lines and fun ball-shaped finials really allow it to pop from the rest of a room’s design elements. Kinda like showing up to a black and white party wearing a hot pink dress with canary yellow shoes…in a good way. For an extra ounce of the unexpected, consider having a professional refinisher spray this hot momma in a bold-colored automotive, fixture-friendly finish.
Palla is made from silver leaf wrought iron. Its globe-like shape and range of sizes make it ideal for spaces both traditional and modern. Sure, the Palla is on the feminine side, but it’s an excellent way to add a gal’s touch to an otherwise masculine or gender-neutral room.
Hand polished crystal and wrought iron, anyone? If you said yes, then the Mercer is right up your well-illuminated alley. This show stopper, while not for everybody, is a much cleaner alternative to grand entryway chandeliers often too stuffy. Its sleek, clean appearance makes it ideal for just about any style of architecture.
Lately, I’ve been spending a good amount of time in Los Angeles for “work purposes”. And when I say “work purposes”, of course I mean to have lunch with big-shot designer and producer friends, then drive around aimlessly looking at Hollywood Hills mansions. Well, aside from these grueling tasks, I’ve become familiar with a designer who has kinda-sorta taken the Hollywood design scene by storm, Michelle Workman.
When I first discovered Michelle’s work, it was in the pages of Veranda for a full spread on her design of Jennifer Lopez’s home. My jaw hit the floor. Not from over-the-topness or mind-blowing high energy color. More for her understated, elegant take on Hollywood glamour. If you’ve ever thought about going Hollywood in your own home but were apprehensive of it being too, well, much, I suggest you check out Michelle’s work. Also, if you like Jennifer Lopez, I suggest you check out Michelle’s work. Now, take a look-see.
Michelle Workman is a California-based interior designer known for successfully blending glamorous Hollywood style with understated traditional elegance. She is also good at walking fast. Earlier this year, we traversed a seven-city-block power walk from Starbucks to the Design Star offices. She got coffee, I got hot apple cider. And when I say hot apple cider, I mean a donut.
In this project for Jennifer Lopez, Michelle masterfully layered different shades of gray to create a soft, serene environment that borders on being colorless. This layering idea is an excellent alternative to more expected neutrals such as cream or taupe. So the next time your significant other shoots down using hot pink or turquoise in the living room, pull out your power back up: charcoal and dove gray.
Elegant materials and finishes are often seen in Michelle’s spaces. In this dining room also done for Jennifer Lopez, Workman incorporated many touches of light and airy feminine elegance: the modern(ish) crystal chandelier, a metallic relief damask wallpaper, pure white draperies and upholstery in ballet slipper pink tones. For anyone considering going pink in their home, keep in mind that pinks with lots of gray undertones are a great way to sneak in color without a space becoming a bubble gum factory or a nail salon. An excellent pink paint color for understated elegance is Primrose Petals from Benjamin Moore.
When I was living in New York while working on Design Star, I remember season six winner Meg Caswell discussing her idea of a series all about design crimes. Up until that point, I’d never used that term. Well, I kinda love it. In fact, I would probably steal it and pass it off as my own term if Meg hadn’t created it in front of millions of people on national TV. (Her new show is called HGTV’s Great Rooms; I like that, too.) The term is rather silly if you think about it; how criminal can decorating get? Well, perhaps if you rob a bank and then use the loot to buy custom window treatments. But for the most part, the term “crime” seems rather severe when applied to an industry heavily focused on fabrics and chandeliers.
After stepping off a plane to Atlanta from Fort Lauderdale where I’d spent a week troubleshooting some kidspace and kitchen renovations, I started to make a list of decorating dos and don’ts. While I’m not the end all/be all expert when it comes to decorating, I have for the most part pretty much seen it all, the good and the bad. Sometimes, there are happy accidents, such as running out of vases, then using a soup can to hold flowers, which surprisingly turns out to be kind of adorable. On the other hand, there are wimpy, completely uncreative acts like throwing sticks into a vase, shoving them into a corner and calling that “decorating”.
From smooshing sofas into walls to turning master bedrooms into showrooms for matching sets, here are a few design don’ts to keep in mind before tackling your next project. And if the term “design crimes” will persuade you not to do them, let’s go ahead and steal Meg’s catch phrase for the sake of saving a room from possible incarceration. PS – Can you imagine getting twenty-five years to life for blocking a window with a bookshelf or using floral chintz in a bachelor’s master bedroom? Hmmm, maybe there should be decorating jail after all.
DON’T #1: Shove sticks into a vase and use them as centerpieces. This was invented somewhere, probably in hell, and it doesn’t make any sense or even remotely add anything to a room. Well, except for some sticks. And a vase.
DO: Use potted fiddle leaf fig trees indoors. As seen in this photo from The Marion House Book, they’re architectural, hardy, fill negative space beautifully and are an excellent choice for bachelor pads since they borderline on masculine.
DON’T #2: Throw an area rug into a living room just for the sake of throwing an area rug into a living room. In order for an area rug to do its job—to ground and/or delineate space—it needs to not look like it accidentally fell from a magic area rug stork.
DO: Choose an area rug large enough to encompass all seating in a living room. Ideally, select one that is large enough to tuck either halfway or all the way under the sofa and any other chairs or settees in the space. In this Charleston home featured in Veranda, designer Deborah Lipner used this technique to help create the feeling of a room within a room, similar to the way putting disparate objects on a tray makes them look like a uniform grouping.
You know those super by-the-book, overly nice types who preach things like “you shouldn’t use the word hate, it’s a very strong word, and it’s not very nice”? I really hate those people. Just kidding! In fact, I’m kinda-sorta one of those un-hateful types; I just have a pleasantly snarky side which I like to believe gives me an edge. But as a designer, there are some things I have been open about hating, specifically the colors purple and yellow.
Well, my former distaste for the dynamic duo has taken a 180—for the most part. I’m now officially a huge lover of purple, specifically violet, plum and lavender. Yellow is still gonna take some time to win me over, but I’m really trying to work through it. What I recently discovered about purple is that it’s uber-difficult to work with. Sometimes it’s too Austin Powers. It can often be so lilac-y that it screams “baby girl”; most of its hues seem childish or tween-ish. Frankly, there are not many combinations that make purple seem sophisticated. But when used correctly, the purply result can be uh-may-zing.
In small doses, purple works magically. It’s gender neutral and can take on a more modern appearance, albeit formal or casual, depending on textures and sheen. Here in the Italia showroom, I set it all against uber-neutral backdrops including dove grey walls, a white Natuzzi sectional, black club chair and glass/dark wood coffee table.
In January, I was introduced to the magical, hand-made world of seamstress/blogger/writer/supermom Susan Peterson of Freshly Picked. Her violet wool throw pillows were the stars of the space and can be purchased through her website. She also lives in Utah which is always super cool. For real, aside from Utahns, how many people do you know from Utah, really? PS – it may now be my very favorite state, not just because of Susan and her pillows but also because every single place you look is inspiring—kinda magic mixed with the taste of Pinkberry.
You know that one funny story you tell that friends and family members get a kick out of, so much so that they consistently ask you to recite it or perform it because it brings them joy? I do. Mine is this stupid story about how when I was 17-years-old and working at a toy store for extra Christmas money, a shady couple came into the store, then had a friend distract me while they ran out with about $275 in rubber dinosaurs and marbles. We never caught them, but hey… the joke’s on them. They stole rubber Stegosauruses and cheap marbles.
About three years ago, I swapped this yuletide tale for a design trick I did in my own home and in a restaurant I designed in Midtown, Atlanta. What was the trick? Rubber Pterodactyl and green marble wallpaper. Just kidding. I’m talking about ginormous wall murals, particularly those sporting photographs printed on vinyl. After about three back-to-back projects with clients requesting these, I made it a point to completely stay away from using them for the sake of not becoming a one-trick-pony. Well, since interior design is a business and businesses are all about making money, I recently got over this and started embracing the many fantastic super gigantic wall murals there are to choose from online. Cha-ching! From very big decals to custom photographs more than 11 feet tall, take a look at what I’ve found on the internets. And just for old time’s sake, I even included a dinosaur. But I left out the marbles.
If you are vain and have fallen in love with a particular photograph that captured you from that perfect angle, giving you a super defined chin you like to think that you always have, perhaps you can immortalize yourself on your wall with Megaprint. The company can print your personal photo as a larger than life vinyl mural. If you do this, keep in mind that black and white photos seem to have greater longevity, since they won’t tie you into any specific color scheme until you move.
In addition to photographs, Megaprint can also print large-scale graphics, an excellent way to add some colorful, branded life to your company’s office space.
Casart may be the most brilliant thing since sliced bread…seriously. I hate that saying because when people utter those words, they pretend it’s funny. Kinda like when someone pronounces Target [TAR jay] like they are the first to ever say it like that. Anyway, Casart creates murals, wallpaper and graphics that are, get this, RE-STICKABLE! Ah! This is life-changing for a designer who deals with tons of condos on a regular basis. I love these super-sized butterflies. Just one of these doozies paired with sleek, modern furniture is enough to quickly and affordably fill up a small bedroom.
Blik is the very first decal company I ever used back on a TV makeover series I used to design for. They have an enormous range of modern creations for kids and adults. The products come in clear packaging and include burnishers, which are all that’s needed to apply them. Two of their most timeless creations are To Scan A Forest and Branches.
Well whaddyaknow? A dinosaur! At least this time, it won’t include the aforementioned kleptomaniac toy store cheaters. Sissylittle carries a few giant-scale dinosaurs that are kiddie enough for the kids but modern enough for their parents to enjoy. Or cool enough for self-proclaimed mature geeks and nerds to decorate with in their apartments. (You know, those Big Bang Theory, long live Pluto types.)
I have a love/hate relationship with the beginning of autumn, almost as if I’m Robert Redford and autumn is Barbra Streisand and we live on a planet in The Way We Were galaxy. Hate: My allergies act up and throw off my productivity. Love: I’m instantly brought back to the late 1990′s during my college days in Tallahassee, Florida. While lots of people have fond memories of funnels and blacked-out blurs, I think of open windows on breezy afternoons, piles of leaves on the sidewalks and the very angry lyrics of one Ms. Alanis Morissette playing in my black/tan 1993 Jeep Wrangler. But above all, I think of the iconic style that goes along with college: tartan, plaid, varsity letters and the overall preppy vibe that is early-twentysomething-ness.
While sourcing materials for my latest bachelor clients, I’ve been noticing how drawn I am to all things preppy. There’s something classic and graphic that goes along with the style; it also works well with different aesthetics, from uber-traditional to contemporary or mod. As I compiled ideas for clients, I came across some textile-ish items sporting that collegiate look. Whether you’re looking for that perfect comforter or plan to cover your adult office in Ralph Lauren tartan, here are some collegiately stylish items available online that evoke that studious feel. You know who wishes he could be studying shelter magazines right now but he can’t due to his sinuses killing him? Me. The love/hate relationship with autumn is in full effect.
The Beverly Hills Polo Club Argyle 3-Piece Comforter Set in navy from Amazon.com is a cost-effective way to add a studios look to any bedroom. Add a few accents of hot pink to give it a girly edge or pair it with fire engine red or lime green for a colorful, masculine look.
Ralph Lauren has been King of the Preppies since the 1970′s. His Ethan Tartan wallpaper is insanely affordable and a great way to add classic, preppy elegance to just about any room. At $60 per roll, it’s possible to cover a teency weency powder room for less than $250. There are two options: green/blue and red/green. Personally, I’m drawn to the red since it’s a bit more gender neutral.
How many people do you know with plaid floors? Exactly! FLOR’s Pop Tartan adds a graphic touch of preppy right underfoot. This is exceptionally wonderful for students looking to dress up their dorms or for families with kids since the product is totally reusable. Just stick the carpet tiles down in whatever configuration is needed now, then pull them down and lay ‘em in your next place. If you get a stain on a square, simply swap it out.
You know the frustration of not being able to find a pen or paper anywhere in the house and instead having to scribble something important down on the back of a piece of mail with a carrot or lipstick, right? That’s how I felt a few months ago while trying to source pinstripe fabric to upholster a client’s master bedroom walls. No matter where I looked, I couldn’t find a decent pinstripe to save my life. What the hell is wrong with the world when a guy can’t find a decent pinstripe ANYTHING? Did Joan Crawford buy every damn yard of pinstripe in her heyday for her famous power suits? But I digress. As pinstriped products started to surface after some serious sourcing, I promised myself I’d try and make life easier for any other design lovers looking for menswear-centric materials. From discount fabric to ready-made window cornices, here’s a half dozen doozies sporting pinstriped perfection. Now that all is fine and dandy with my menswear quest, I’m currently sourcing pear, white and tangerine geometric wallpaper fit for a nursery. Guess how that’s going? Let’s just say there will be another post in a few months just like this one.
The Stretch Pinstripe Short Dining Room Chair Cover in black from Sure Fit is a cost-effective way (only $14.99) to add a menswear touch to existing dining chairs. Although available in several colors, the black color way looks the most chic.
As far as what I ended up using for the aforementioned master bedroom walls, I came across this insanely affordable 1/4 Pinstripe Suiting Fabric in Navy/Black from fabric.com for $6.98 per yard. When using fabric on walls, you can go two different routes: have an upholsterer add batting to the walls, then fully upholster them, or drop the fabric bolt off to be backed with acrylic. To budget appropriately, keep in mind that decent backing runs about $10 per yard.
Hands down, the best pinstripe fabric out there is British fashion designer Paul Smith‘s “Bespoke” line for Maharam. The Shade Store carries customizable cornices sure to give any window a tailored, menswear-inspired look. I will tell you what will not give a window a tailored look: plastic mini-blinds. Blech, I feel like those monsters sit perched in windows, peering at me just waiting to steal my soul.
American designer Thomas O’Brien is known for his classic, masculine style. Luckily for us, that style is available to all quite affordably through Target. The Menswear Duvet – Espresso looks like custom bedding; however, it’s mass-produced and less than a hundred smackeroos. Considering the fact that dudes can’t even get a decent pair of jeans for less than $100, I’d say this deal is superb.
After seeing my own penny-pinching parents trade in their hefty-sized home for a blink-and-you’ll-miss-the-living-room-sized apartment, it’s a given that many of us will be gearing up to live in tighter, more economical spaces at some point. Whether you’re moving into your first apartment, buying your first condo or retiring to a townhouse, you need my help. (If not, then congratulations to you and please send me a check for a third bedroom addition.)
Even after nearly 10 years working on home makeover shows, both behind-the-scenes and in front of the camera, I still break into a sweat every time I see a moving van or delivery truck pull up to a condo or apartment building and out comes a sofa. Why? No matter how much measuring is done beforehand, it’s almost guaranteed that a sofa will not make it into its intended room because of (a) tricky corners to turn, (b) way-too-tight hallways to pass through, or (c) rooms with sharp angles. Keeping in mind that most newer homes have 36 inch wide doorways is definitely a good rule of thumb to go by; however, it’s not the end all/be all for choosing a sofa sure to fit. ENTER the apartment sofa.
When I’m designing or decorating apartments or condos, I usually limit my sofa selection solely to those labeled “apartment size”. This often suggests a width between 68 and 72 inches versus the standard which is 84. Nine times out of ten, these will work. Their scale is more fit for smaller spaces, plus they are easier to lug up and down stairs. If you’ve never before heard of this magical sitting-pretty creation, allow me to introduce you to six superb apartment-sized sofas you can find online or through popular retail stores. And if there’s one thing Mr. Brian taught you about design, it’s to always measure doorway and hallway widths before shopping for sofas, right? Very good then.
Available in two uber neutral tones, granite and ivory, the Landon from Macy’s has a streamlined, transitional look that can easily be jazzed up with punchy orange, green or blue accents. Its loose back cushions are excellent for turning the comfy sofa into an overnight spot for guests to snuggle up. But if you’re like me and prefer guests not to stay the night, especially if they snore, just keep the cushions on and tell them there is a Motel 6 up the road.
The rolled-arm, slipcovered Baldwin sofa from Ballard Designs is ideal for the most traditional apartment or condo dweller. Control freaks like me will especially enjoy that it can be made with custom fabrics; this simply involves mailing them the bolt. If you happen to be known for spilling cocktails as much as feelings, keep in mind that its slipcover will be your new best friend.
Crate and Barrel’s Vaughn Apartment Sofa is my personal favorite. Its sleek, modern lines fit perfectly into minimally-decorated spaces. Available in neutral brown and grey tones, the Vaughn is an excellent choice for masculine spaces. So ladies, if your boyfriend opts for the Vaughn, you have creative license to pull out your girl card and pair it with hot pink Jackie O. pop art.
The Elton settee from West Elm is the perfect choice for girly spaces due to its tufted upholstery and dainty frame. Its diminutive stature at only 60 inches wide makes it certain to fit into just about any living room. Those interested in making it a little less of a girl thing will love the slate blue tone of the Marled Microfiber option.
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