POSTS BY Hilary Johnson

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When the heat is as overwhelming as it’s been for the past few weeks, I can’t help but pine for France. I was lucky enough to spend an entire summer there when the breeze was constant and cool. Now, all I can do is stare at old photos and think of the gorgeous places I visited. (All the glowing buzz I’ve been hearing about Woody Allen’s film Midnight in Paris isn’t helping either.) While a Louis chair might be what pops into your head, here’s what comes to mind for me when I hear the words “French” and “design” — toile, bistros and Provence. Take a tour with me, and I’ll explain.

Toile Rooms

TOILE: When I was a child, my mom—she’s absolutely obsessed with anything French—introduced me to toile. Drapes, pillows, comforters, you name it, our home had it…in toile. Later when I toured Versailles, I experienced toile on a whole new level. One of the best things about decorating with toile is that it can go ornate or country French, Marie Antoinette or urban chic. Using it throughout a room can give any space a hotel feel like the guest room from HGTV’s guide to Global Design. The bedding and wallpaper match perfectly with the rich, warm tones in the wooden headboard and nightstand breaking up the busyness of the pattern. You can also use toile as an accent piece like in this transitional kitchen in a modern home in Sweden. (I’m seriously considering clearing out my kitchen and starting from scratch simply so I can include a toile accent wall.)

Parisian Cafe Table

BISTROS: One thing I learned while living in Paris is that, just like in the movies, from one street to the next, there’s always a cafe in sight. Recreate this Parisian cafe-style nook by designer/stylist Cheri Messerli on a small balcony or terrace patio, and you’ll be set from morn’ until eve’ (especially if you come across vintage fabric like that). In the morning, enjoy some coffee and croissants while talking with your beloved, in person or on Skype. Later in the day, wipe away any remaining crumbs and use the table for some craft projects or a reading break. Then at night, pull out the h’ors doeurves and candles, pour a glass of wine and relax with friends and family for a perfectly Parisian evening.

Provincal Kitchen

PROVENCE: Touring the French countryside with my mom, I fell in love with the authenticity of the locals’ homes that we visited, some of which were hundreds of years old. If you like rustic, then think Provence. This dining area I found on the blog Decor de Provence is a beautiful take on provincial style. I love the weathered and worn finishes on the furniture and pantry doors. To top it off, the purple flowers in tall glass vases add the perfect touch of country French. (I picture a jovial family get-together here. Maybe something like Russell Crowe’s friends and family at the end of A Good Year.)

To explore more French-inspired design, check out HGTV’s guide to global style influences. But first, what do you like best about France or French design?

Tell us in the comment area below.

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We almost had you guys stumped this week, but Nikki figured it out with “a place to organize office supplies.” I can easily see how Megan got “a cellphone docking station,” with all of the technology-savvy decor we have these days. And while this serene desk organizer looks like it’s one piece of folded blue rubber, you won’t believe what material it is made out of!

Anthropologie Desk Pencil Holder

The Anthropologie Desk Boat is handmade in Argentina from recycled leather by the company VacaValiente. They practice a technique that bonds leather fibers from industry waste that would typically end up in landfills and instead upcycle it into pliable sheets. (Did you know that most high-end books have binds made with this same bonded leather?) VacaValiente then uses the bonded leather sheets in their enchanting minimalist design creations, including animals and origami.

Could you use the whimsical Desk Boat for the office supplies scattered about your desk?

Let us know in the comment area below.

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This week’s What the…? object isn’t as (emotionally) heavy as the Styx song, Come Sail Away, but it has the perfect shape to catch a breeze. If you’re interested in navigating the open waters, this isn’t where you’d look. In fact, you probably couldn’t even fit your foot in it.

What the...?

Give your guess a whirl in the comment area below and be sure to check back tomorrow to see if you got it right.

Anchors away!

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Does Harry Potter die? What horcrux is next on Harry’s list? The Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 buzz in anticipation of the premiere is skyrocketing. Are you ready for the final film extravaganza? For you Potterheads and Muggles so filled with breathless anticipation that you can’t sleep tonight, make the most of your HP insomnia by crafting some Gryffindor handmade goodies. We love this easy, adorable handmade apron (and instant costume to wear for the opening weekend) from blogger Bakingdom.

Harry Potter Apron Craft

Hopefully, you’re also whittling away at a wand or knitting the last row of a Hogwarts’ House scarf. Nothing like DIY projects to work off all that nervous and excited energy.

If you’re hosting a HP7.1 viewing party before the 7.2 premiere, why not whip up some of Darla at Bakingdom’s cauldron cakes? She also has a fabulous recipe for butterbeer. (Yes, really!) I wonder if Daniel Radcliff, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint will be trying any wizarding world delicacies tonight?

Butter Beer and Cauldron Cakes

What are your special plans for the premiere of the final HP film? Flying a broom to the showing? Or have you already given a room in your home an HP style makeover? (Karli included awesome photos in her Harry Potter design post about the soon-to-come, interactive reading site Pottermore.) Here at HGTV, there are a number of us preparing for the big event with temporary dark mark tattoos (not to point anybody out, Kayla and Karli).

We’d love to hear from you. Let your HP-nerdiness shine through in the comment area below.

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If you haven’t already visited the Veranda UnVeils: The House of Windsor, it’s well worth braving the worst of L.A. traffic — aka “Carmageddon” — for the final weekend of this stunning house tour.

Veranda UnVeils The House of Windsor

With the help of  nine A-list, LA-based interior designers and landscape architects, designer extraordinaire Windsor Smith transformed the house into a masterpiece of comfortable modern luxury. (Check out coverage of the preview party at The Editor at Large.)

House of Windsor Kitchen

If you, like me, can’t make it to LA, the next best way to tour The House of Windsor is the gorgeous spread on 1st Dibs. After taking a photo tour of the house, I’ve decided this is absolutely my favorite room. I love a kitchen with a farmhouse sink, but a kitchen with a white and gray marble apron-front sink with matching gray cabinets makes my heart thump.

We’d love to hear which is your favorite room in The House of Windsor and why?

Tell us in the comments below.

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Brandi Armes was right on with her answer, “a toy chest.” Although, it doesn’t necessarily have to be used for toys. It could look really cool as a functional work of art in a modern living room. (Secretly, I love KatheryneNix’s answer, “the back of a toilet.”)

Design Happens - El Baul by Magis Metoo

Spanish designer Javier Mariscal created this funky trunk for the Italian home decor company MagisMe Too products, “a collection of objects and furniture for children between two and six years old.” This isn’t a typical throw-in-the-basement type of bin; El Baul, as it’s named, is made with a material called rotational-molded polyethylene. Golf balls and pink flamingo lawn accents are made with a similar molding process.

Would you use El Baul in the grown-up areas or children-oriented spaces in your home?

Tell us in the comments below.

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This week’s odd looking object kind of resembles a misshapen golf ball, but that’s definitely not what it is. In fact, it’s way too large to fit in a golf bag.

What the...?

If you think you have a clue as to what this strange object is, leave your answer in the comment box below. And be sure to check back tomorrow to see if you were the first to guess correctly.

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Would you rather have…
  1. HGTV interior designer Genevieve Gorder, Candice Olson or Vern Yip come over for an afternoon?
  2. Genevieve, Candice or Vern give you feedback on the way you’ve designed your home?
  3. Genevieve, Candice and Vern judge your original designs while you’re engaged in cutthroat competition with 11 other professional interior designers/contractors/stylists/artist on a hit reality series viewed by millions?

Season 6 Design Star Cast

If you picked No. 1, then watching Design Star is the next best thing. If you selected No. 2, have you considered auditioning for next season? If No. 3 was your pick, you’re a likely fit to join the ranks of 12 designers fighting to win their own show on HGTV.

The sixth season of HGTV Design Star premieres this Monday, July 11 at 9/8c. (If you need to catch up on previous years, no worries, we have episode recaps online.) See the drama unfold as mentor David Bromstad guides the talented contestants through their weekly design challenges and track their ongoing battles to impress judges Genevieve, Candice, Vern and surprise celebrity guests.

What’s your favorite part about watching the premiere? Meeting the new contestants? Guessing who will be the first to be eliminated? The tough mentoring and judging moments? Casting your fan vote based on the first episode?

Tell us in the comments below.

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Houston, we have a design problem… we’re loving! With NASA’s final space shuttle launch tomorrow, we can’t stop thinking about out-of-this-world decor. Look at the awesome accessories we’ve found.

Space Shuttle Launching Decor[Steel Fire Pit: Modfire, Moooi Moon Pendant: YLiving, Astrobot Wallpaper: Aimee Wilder, Star Jacquard Blackout Panel: Pottery Barn Kids]

If your young one dreams of space travel to Mars, be sure to check out this kid’s astronaut room, too.

Maybe the weather will delay lift off again, and we can keep on day dreaming about the cosmos and deep space inspired design.

What’s your favorite inspiration for space-themed decor? Moons and stars? Astronauts and rocket ships? The solar system?

Tell us in the comments below.

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With the long days of summer, I could do with a nice cold mojito like Whistlerpotpie who guessed that this week’s “What the…?” is a ”cocktail muddler.” But Laura Ostendorf answered correctly with “a toilet brush…that’s wooden for some reason?” This one happens to be made out of mahogany.

Studio Mama Skittle Toilet Scrubber :: Photographed by Richard Davies

Studio Mama Skittle Toilet Scrubber :: Photographed by Richard Davies

Designer Nina Tolstrup does amazing work with wood at her London-based shop Studiomama. Like much of Tolstrup’s creations, this household necessity is elevated by its aesthetically pleasing, modern-organic design. Tolstrup also has a passion for designing furniture out of repurposed wood palettes, a big trend in the DIY design community. Be sure to check out her awesome Palette Chandelier.

So, would you buy this design-savvy toilet brush? Or does the good ole practical plastic scrubber do the trick just fine? (I’m thinking it would be wrong not to have a beautiful toilet scrubber in a dreamy bathroom like this.)

Tell us in the comments below.

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