ALL POSTS TAGGED "decorating"

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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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Fall is officially here, and along with the cool, crisp air comes the urge to spruce up and bundle up every room.

Fall DecoratingDesign by Ana Donahue

We polled our amazing Facebook fans and compiled their four best tips for easy, affordable fall decor along with some from our trend-watching arsenal. Get our must-do ideas, then tell us how you’re decorating for fall.

Declutter Before You Decorate
Getting organized might not be the most thrilling part of a fall spruce-up, but it is one of the most important. It’s also pretty darn satisfying: You’ll feel a lot better about being cooped up indoors when you can 1) actually see your cute new throw pillows and 2) find fall clothes and decorations.

Organize what you plan to keep, and get rid of what you no longer need. Facebook fan Carla is planning to donate items to alleviate clutter and highlight her new bedroom accessories. “My bedding will consist of a leopard blanket and newly-purchased red pillows, and the rest of the space will be simple and clutter-free.”

Switch Out the Accents
If you keep your larger pieces neutral, it’s easy and affordable to change the accents every season. Facebook fan Sandy uses her townhome’s neutral walls and furniture as a backdrop for seasonal accessories: “Each season of the year, I switch out all the accents: area rugs, throws, toss pillows and candles. Fall’s colors in my home are russet, gold, rust and dark green,” she says. Even one small change makes a difference: “I put an orange pillow on the sofa – instant autumn!,” says Facebook fan David.


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After I spotted this silhouette pumpkin on Design Happens last week, I was totally inspired to find ideas for black and white Halloween decorating and entertaining. I am loving what I’ve come across and thinking I may just have to go with this striking palette for my mantle this year. Do you think you could decorate for Halloween without orange? C’mon, get crazy!

black and white halloween ideas

Shelley from The House of Smiths shows us how to create a Halloween vignette of mostly black and white on a budget. This knotted black ribbon wreath immediately caught my eye on Pinterest. I love how simple, yet glamorous is it. Donna from Party Wishes added a few inexpensive touches to her porch to get in the mood for Halloween. And here’s the silhouette pumpkin tutorial featured on HGTV that inspired this post. Isn’t it fabulous?

The white foam pumpkin embellished with a decal and jewels is an easy project with a spooktacular result. My printable cupcake toppers lend to a glam black and white color scheme. Pair with a plastic spider for a creepy look. I spotted this gauze mummy wreath on Etsy and love it. Do you see the skeleton hands hanging down from it? Spooky. Spiders are a must when choosing this black and white theme for decorating or a party. This downloadable print is part of Shelley’s Halloween shelves.

black and white halloween

These creepy plates are freaking me out! Scare your guests by covering up the illustrations with food only to reveal body parts while they’re eating. Talk about freaking out! These real scorpions mounted in a display box will gross everyone out. Living in Arizona, I’ve seen a few in real life, and it’s not pleasant. Need a party favor? How about sending your guests home with a tub of embalming cream? Good news, it’s pumpkin marshmallow scent. Yum. Greet your visitors with this life-size ghost that you can easily make yourself with this HGTV tutorial.

Have I inspired you to decorate with black and white this year or do you think orange is required for Halloween?

Let me know by commenting below!

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Susan Fredman is one of Chicago’s premiere interior designers. For the past 30 years, she and her team have designed grand homes and estates in the Windy City, around the Great Lakes and on both coasts. The Susan Fredman Design Group delivers luxurious designs that also embrace a client’s passions. This month’s tour takes us to Wisconsin where we step inside the home of a client who loves traditional style but wanted to avoid anything stuffy and uninviting. It was important for them that the house worked perfectly for entertaining and day-to-day living, as well as lending itself to curated collections. The result is a brilliant manor with plenty of personality and surprises, like hidden passages and secret rooms. All design work was done by Susan Fredman, Aimee Nemeckay and Barbara Theile.


Susan says: The appeal of this residence begins as soon as you pull into the driveway. This classic manor looks like it’s set in the English countryside. Who would guess that it’s actually located in the middle of Wisconsin’s agriculture center.

Next, the Dining Room

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What room in a home do we spend the majority of our waking hours in? I think we can agree it’s the living room. And because it’s the first room you see when you enter my humble abode, I’ve spent the majority of my spare time decorating it, from the bookshelf display to the cat-friendly sage slipcover that hides hideous floral upholstery. (The sofa was free, thanks to Mom, so I can’t really complain.) But my living room still lacks that “wow” factor.

My official decorating savior is the simple step-by-step instructions and DIY projects that make up’s Fast Fix Living Rooms. The first project on my to-do list? Get rid of the beige walls and give them some ultra-chic revamping. This sophisticated stenciling is the “wow” I want:

Janell Beals Stenciled Focal Wall

Or maybe this chic contemporary fabric wallcovering, below? (Your suggestions, please!)

Brian Patrick Flynn Fabric Wallpaper

Here’s a peak at just a few of the other stylish projects that make up’s Fast Fix Living Rooms. Be sure to check them out, and give your living room the va-va-voom you’ve always wanted.

Fast Fix Living Room DIY Projects

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Colors for Your Home: 300 Designer Favorites (Hearst, 2010) is a go-to guide to help you easily select colors for your home. Based on House Beautiful’s monthly color column, this book brings the color specialists straight to you. It includes more than 300 paint formulas with fun, inspiring names like Smashing Pink, Blue Angel and Perfect Pear.


Benjamin Moore's Smashing Pink and Blue Angel; Dunn Edwards Perfect Pear


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You don’t have to be a decorating pro to make your space gorgeous. From color theory and fabric basics, to displaying art and using area rugs, we’ve got you covered.


First things first – what’s your design style? Browse through our Design Glossary and discover the style that best suits you. Are you sleek and contemporary or funky and eclectic?

These color palettes are a perfect team for any space. Colors do more than just appeal to the eye. Learn how they affect your mood.

Take a course in fabricology. Discover the best places for cotton and silk in your home.

Create balance (and a stunning display) with your artwork.

The perfect rug can make a bold statement.

For more decorating basics check out the Design 101 guide.

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Art photo by Tim Irving

Art photo by Tim Irving

May is National Bike Month, and next week (May 17-21) is Bike-to-Work Week – initiatives to encourage people to drive less and pedal more. It’s a good time to dust off my 2-wheeler and search for fabulous bicycle-inspired decor.

I’m in love with this ethereal art photograph by Tim Irving of cyclists on a Spanish landscape. An inexpensive way to add wow to a wall, even with the cost of a mat and frame.

More Bike-Inspired Decor

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Cold weather has disappeared, but that doesn’t mean your fireplace has to gather dust. Here are some decorating tips for making your fireplace the focal point of the room even when there’s no fire.

Arrange candles in the hearth for the fireplace glow without the blazing fire.

You don’t have to take wood out of the fireplace entirely. Arrange driftwood for a beachy, natural touch.

Put empty flower pots in your fireplace for a springtime flair.

I’m a major bookworm, but have little space to house my immense book collection. I love this idea of using the fireplace as book storage.

Greenery or spring floral arrangements in vases and urns brighten up an unused fireplace. These pure white ceramic ones from West Elm would be great in front of the hearth.

If your bedroom fireplace remains fireless, even in the winter months, consider turning it into a headboard.

Check out this photo gallery for more warm-weather fireplace ideas and inspiration.

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Designer Vincente Wolf

It’s one thing to see a top designer’s work, quite another to read what he or she has to say about it. Here are some of our favorite blogs by interior designers.

Vincente Wolf offers a behind-the-scenes look at his fabulous work and life.

I can get my NY fix reading Habitually Chic by Manhattan designer Heather Clawson.

Arkansas-based designer Tobi Fairley posts a delicious amount of eye candy. I love that she was inspired by a new line of electric fingernail polish.

See 10 More Designer Blogs Who Made Our List

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Tax Day, the day we all love to gripe about. The NY Times reported 47 percent of Americans owed no income tax for 2009.

I’m in the 53 percent who did write a check to the IRS on April 15. I won’t gripe. Taxes pay for civilization. If you want to see what a country looks like where no one pays taxes, go to Somalia. I’ll take interstate highways and public schools for all, thank you. I can dream about what goodies I would have bought with a tax refund, though.

1. At the top of my wish list is a Manhattan Leather Club Chair from Pottery Barn. In Berry Red. I know, I know, PB isn’t wildly cutting edge and this chair has been around for a decade, but I adore it. I’ve coveted it in PB catalogs for years, from the days when it was only available in Cognac and Black. It’s voluptuous and lusciously Art Deco. I could lay sideways in it and read a book. My dogs could jump on it and not harm that supple, full-grain leather. Maybe I should cave and order one right now. Fiscal prudence be damned.

PB's Manhattan Club Chair was inspired by vintage 1930s chairs found in a Paris flea market.

PB's Manhattan Club Chair was inspired by vintage 1930s chairs found in a Paris flea market.


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Lots of tax-day freebies out there in the food world. Anyone seeing anything in the home category? They seem kinda scarce, but so far, I’ve got:

Free Companion Airline Ticket with $100+ Purchase at (more like a tax-week freebie)

Free reusable bag from Target on 4/18 — this one’s for Earth Week, but I’ll count it

BTW, if you’re getting a refund and you’re spending it on your house, tell us what you’re buying. Let’s compare notes.

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Ah, spring! The perfect time to freshen up decor, and a great place to start is your mantel. For tips on balance, symmetry and more, check out this post by Lovejoy Designs. But not before you take a look at some of our favorite mantelscapes.


I’m in white-hot love with this design that could be customized easily each season. Green accents pop against the crisp wall and the rustic wooden mantel.

A Soft Place to Land posted pictures of her lovely white and green mantel and asked fellow bloggers to share their own springtime mantel designs. Too many beautiful ones to mention; keep reading for some of our favorites.


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