ALL POSTS IN Decorating Guides

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I remember when I was a child, flipping through the pages of my mom’s fashion magazines and seeing the models and celebrities dressed head-to-toe in these stunning designer outfits. It didn’t take long until I was in my own closet trying to replicate the look. Years later, I still see how close I can get to that Marc Jacobs silk blouse on the cheap, but I’m even more fascinated with pulling off a budget-friendly look in my home. How can I nab that golden-yellow, tufted linen chair from Anthropologie without paying almost two grand?

At first I was purely concerned with convenience. You know, “I’ll just grab this lamp, even though it’s slightly more expensive, because it’s right here.” But now, I’m on the prowl for a better price and refuse to settle until I know it’s the absolute lowest I can get. With all the money I save by sticking to a budget, I can eventually splurge on my dream area rug or that midcentury modern table I’ve had my eyes on for months. So, imagine my joy when I flipped open this month’s issue of HGTV Magazine (on newsstands now!) and saw the article on chic look alikes with drastically different price tags. I was instantly dying to find my own budget-friendly look-alike like these. Check out my favorite high-low finds – you won’t believe the prices! (Do you think you can spot the steal? Give it a shot before reading the caption.)

high low target look for less

Currey and Company :: Z Gallerie

The turquoise glass chandelier on the left costs $840, while the similar aquamarine beauty on the right is a steal for $399. The budget-friendly option features more exposed bulbs and a greener hue, but portrays many of the same shapes as the other.

high low target look for less

Bungalow 5 :: Target

For $338 you can choose from one of eight glossy hues for this curvy stool/side table (left). With a similar shape and style, Target offers a green, metal accent table for an incredible steal — $70!

high low target look for less

LL Bean :: Ace Hardware

The heavy-duty, all-weather Adirondack chair on the left can be used all-year-round for $299. But for just $26, you can buy several of these lightweight summertime chairs (right) to dress up the patio.

high low target look for less

Fun 1TM :: PBteen

The luxurious table lamp on the left features three tiers of mother-of-pearl disks for a price tag of $1,500. You can get a similar beach-chic look for a much lower price with this capiz-shell lamp on the right that costs just $99.

We’ve shared some of our high-low finds, so now it’s your turn. Have you found the budget-friendly twin to your high-end dream buy? Share your shopping tips and tricks in the comments below!

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When Lara Spencer, coanchor for Good Morning America, says that it’s easy to get “addicted to the hunt,” she’s not talking about stalking celebrity news stories. She’s referring to her off-the-clock passion: finding raggedy, outdated, neglected furniture via yard sales, thrift stores, flea markets and yes, even dumpsters, then transforming it and using it to create amazing, high-end rooms on a budget.

I can totally relate, because her lifelong addiction to “sale-ing” is my brand new one: Since I bought my first house, I’ve been a Craigslist and estate sale addict, and the thrill of finding (and transforming) that amazing piece is intoxicating. New to the hunt? Lara’s new book, I Brake for Yard Sales, shows you how to find furniture gems in the rough. (Get more of her tips tonight at 8/7c in her HGTV special!)

I Brake For Yard Sales Cover

Thrifting runs in Lara’s family — she spent nearly every weekend as a child hopping from secondhand shop to yard sale to auction with her mother and siblings — so she’s nailed down the tricks of the trade. She starts by helping you define a your style, then offers tips for how to recognize quality pieces (and duds.) She also shows you how to use the pieces once you get home — a vintage sign becomes an industrial-chic focal point in this space filled with modern, graphic touches.

Sign Transformation

From flea market find to living room showpiece.

And as Lara reveals how she makes over and styles each piece, she also tells you how much she paid for them: Can you believe she picked up an Eames lounger for just $150 and a pair of Picasso sketches for $30?! (So. Jealous.) This collection of medallions set her back only $20, while the ornate “musical” chair was a mere $50. Looks like a million bucks, right?

Yellow Wallpaper Antique Furniture

Retro yellow wallpaper gives traditional furniture a modern look.

The book also shows off some of the interiors she’s decorated with flea market and budget finds. My favorite: This living room in comedian Kathy Griffin’s house that’s decorated in a style the friends jokingly call “Palm Springs gay man going through a midlife crisis in his midcentury home who wants to attract the hottest guys to come over.”

Kathy Griffin Living Room

Kathy Griffin's living room, designed by Lara Spencer.

And Lara is full of ideas that take decorating outside the (reclaimed and repainted) box. After recovering her kitchen chairs one t0o many times, she found the perfect budget-friendly solution to two messy kids: cover the chairs with shower curtains!  She used one heavy-duty plastic curtain per chair, and hid the seams with chrome upholstery tacks.

Shower Curtain Dining Chairs

Dining room chairs recovered with high-end shower curtains.

When you finish the book, you’ll want to drive off and slam on the brakes for the nearest yard sale…I know what I’ll be doing this weekend!

Take a break from furniture scouting tonight at 8/7c to watch Lara redecorate her best friend’s home on the HGTV special I Brake for Yard Sales.

Happy bargain hunting!

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Is everyone ready for the big game tonight? It’s the Giants vs. Patriots, and I’m rooting for the football. Ha!  Let’s face it, for many of us the best part about Super Bowl Sunday is the food and drink that comes with such an occasion. Did you see all the nifty bowls Briana delighted the other day? They’re perfect to fill with your favorite munchies for casual, at-home gatherings like tonight. And since Briana found the perfect party bowls, I’ve been on a quest to find the most amazing football-themed, Super Bowl party decor. My findings may have turned me onto the sport even more just so I can incorporate football-shaped food into my shindigs come fall. Adorable.

super bowl 2012 party ideasHostess with the Mostess

super bowl 2012 party ideasHostess with the Mostess

super bowl 2012 party ideas football centerpiecePizzazzerie

super bowl 2012 party ideastheKitchn :: Scrappin’ Memories 4 U

super bowl 2012 party ideasWants & Wishes

super bowl 2012 party ideas football cupcakesMini Baker

super bowl 2012 party ideas cupcakesKara’s Party Ideas

OK, is anyone else feeling hungry? I definitely wouldn’t mind eating chili from a mason jar (being from the South and all). Our friends at FoodNetwork.com have plenty of game-day recipes to keep you satisfied while the Giants and Patriots battle it out.

So tell us, how will you be watching the Super Bowl? Are you hosting a big-game bash?

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Winters in NYC usually make me want to get away, and though my mind wanders to warmer climes, maybe the best plan is to embrace the season for its own particular magic and virtues. A trip to the Hôtel de Glace in Québec — the only hotel in America made entirely of ice and snow — seems like just the thing to change my tune.

ice hotel

Photo: Luc Rousseau

This Narnia-esque creation is 500 tons of ice and 1,500 tons of snow to be precise, yet it still has all the amenities you’d expect from a high-class hotel, and then some: theme suites, hot tubs and saunas, an ice bar, a café that can be turned into a chapel for weddings and even a “Grand Ice Slide” for kids and adults alike.

ice hotel

Photo: Luc Rousseau

Part of what makes the Hôtel de Glace so special and wintery (aside from the gorgeous, glacial decor, of course) is that it only runs until March 25. Now, if I could only get a guarantee that it would feel like spring by then…

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First, pat yourself on the back because you made it to Christmas Eve in one piece. Second, put down your to-do list, kick back and relax. It’s your holiday too, you know. And for anything now and last-minute you can come to us and we’ll make sure you’re covered, from decor and crafts to recipes and gift wrap.

If you’ve been running around this season like a maniac, it’s finally your turn to enjoy the glowing lights and and beautiful decor. Plus, we have some ideas hidden in here if you’re a bit behind. Grab a cup of hot chocolate and enjoy some of our favorite around-the-home holiday ideas:

tobi fairely pink christmas tree8 Festive Christmas Tree Themes

handmade christmas gift wrap10 Creative Gift Wrap Ideas

marian parsons handmade Christmas stocking hanger17 Glowing Holiday Mantels

handmade owl christmas wreath10 Christmas Wreaths

marian parsons snowflake chandelierClassic Silver and White Christmas Table Decor

For more Christmas inspiration, check out all of our holiday features:

  • Hosting the Holidays >> Learn how to entertain like a pro with simple yet festive do-ahead projects, recipes and table decorating ideas.
  • Handmade Holidays >> From gift wrap and cards to handmade gifts and ornaments, you can skip the store and make it yourself.
  • Deck the Halls >> Make your home feel festive both inside and out with these creative decorating ideas.
  • 12 Days of Handmade >> See all of Liz‘s handmade project picks from her Christmas countdown.

Happy holidays from everyone here at Design Happens. We hope you have a truly wonderful holiday weekend. Cheers!

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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 Ford Lego

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.
Kid Craft Bedroom

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.

Ralph Lauren Red Green

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?

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I know what you’re thinking – there’s no way we can make holiday entertaining simple, stylish and stress-free. Why yes, yes we can. The holidays may naturally be a hectic time of year with out-of-town guests coming to visit, presents to buy and beautify and the general end-of-the-year hustle and bustle, but we promise you can add professional holiday hostess to the list, too. Here’s how:

Dress Your Dining Room

dress your dining room for the holidaysDress Your Dining Room for the Holidays

Start with the chairs (simple, yet festive embellishments will do) and then add decorative details to the table, chandelier and buffet table. Handmade place cards, a restaurant-style menu, centerpiece and table runner will top off the look.

Create a Festive Holiday Tablescape

holiday centerpieces and table settings1. Rustic Christmas Settings 2. Tiny Boxwood Centerpiece 3. Silver and White Settings 4. Sparkling Pinecone Settings 5. Mossy Gift Box Centerpiece

You know those drool-worthy tablescapes you find on some amazing website that look too complicated to create so you end up pulling out the holiday paper plates instead? Well, we have killer table settings and centerpieces that you can put together on your own without a long supply list. (But I promise guests will easily think you spent much longer perfecting every detail.)

Concoct Crowd-Pleasing Cocktails

pumpkin pie martiniPumpkin Pie Martini

There are very few things people love more around the holidays than pumpkin pie. Turn that into a cocktail and you have an instant favorite. Discover 15 Holiday Cocktail Recipes >>

Make Your Guests Feel Right at Home

holiday hosting and decoratingGetting Ready for Holiday Guests

Whether hosting Christmas brunch or housing overnight guests, discover creative and clever ways to make everyone feel right at home during the holidays.

Find more entertaining tips, ideas, inspiration and more in our Hosting the Holidays feature.

What’s your secret to stress-free holiday hosting? Tell us in the comments!

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It’s hard for me not to turn my review of The Perfectly Imperfect Home: How to Decorate & Live Well (Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 2011) into an out-and-out love letter to its author, Deborah Needleman. Full disclosure: When I claim that I live with “approximately one million old shelter magazines” in my bio on the blog, 3/4 of those are the mag she founded, Domino. If you were also a fan of the dearly departed Domino, you’ll find a lot of its guiding whimsy and wisdom in these pages.

perfectly imperfect home cover

The main premise of Needleman’s new second book is that great homes showcase signs of life, not a meticulous look that a decorator has crafted for its inhabitants. In each of the chapters, she touches on the elements you need to make your place stylish, yet preserve its warmth at the same time.

The practical tips on things like bed height and proper placement of a rug in a room are helpful, but the book really shines when Needleman encourages personality. “Jollifiers” (i.e., “sentimental things that spread a little joy every time you cast your eye upon them”) and “Cozifications” can easily be neglected or ignored if one is too busy worrying about more superficial aspects of decor. The book is a great reminder to have fun with your spaces and focus on getting the best possible set-up for the life you actually live, peculiarities and all. The cute watercolor illustrations by Virginia Johnson have a charmingly dashed-off feel that further highlight and embody the casual-chic spirit of the book.

I’m thinking The Perfectly Imperfect Home would be a wonderful “jollifier” to add to any design junkie’s coffee table this holiday season.

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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.

Stick In A VaseDON’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.

PlantDO: 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.

Floating RugDON’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.

RugDO: 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.
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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.

Mega Print

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.

Mega Print

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.
Butterfly Elements

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 Scan Forest
Blik Scan Branches

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.

Sissy Little Spinosaurus

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.)

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