Paint the Walls, then Deck those Halls

- Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Nothing Like Being on a Holiday House Tour to Expedite Your Home Improvement Projects

Paint the Walls, then Deck those Halls

I still cannot believe I agreed to it. I swore I would never do it again. I would not be persuaded, I would absolutely not let my guard down and give in, no matter how sweetly and politely asked. I had promised myself. And then she called…….

It was Heidi, a friend, neighbor, and fellow member of the Downtown Neighborhood Association of Savannah. I had, in fact, first met Heidi about 10 years ago when I had begrudgingly agreed to volunteer my home to be on the Downtown Neighborhood Association’s Holiday Home Tour. Heidi was a docent in my home on that year’s tour and we have been friends ever since. She is charming, intelligent, funny, and can be very persuasive.

Can you guess what her message was on my voicemail? Yep, you know where this is going. “Would you consider doing it again this year? Please?” she purred into my answering machine with her wonderful German accent. “You know it will benefit the organization and it contributes to the good of our community.” Oh, Heidi, it is so hard to say no to you! 

So of course I called her back and said yes. Like I said, she can be very persuasive.

The moment I hung up the phone I went into panic mode. Was I flattered? Well, yes, of course. How nice that someone thinks so highly of my decorating skills that they would ask me to participate on a tour. But when I did it before I nearly had a nervous breakdown in the process. I am working myself into a tizzy now just writing about it.

Many of you would probably assume that since I am an interior designer my house must always be in a tour-ready mode. Uh, not really. Granted, I do have a sense of pride in regard to my home and its decor. But, tour-ready? I don’t think so. I really live in my house and the day-to-day wear and tear shows. The Christmas decorations are the easy part, after all, I would be doing them anyway. But the glittery accoutrements and holiday bling can only truly sparkle if the background they adorn is neat and fresh and clean. Ugh!

The kitchen needs re-painting. Ten years of experimental cooking have left their mark. The front vestibule ceiling needs patching. When a chunk of plaster fell down and hit me on the head a few months ago was my first clue. My admittedly eclectic décor can be described in many ways, but I do not want shabby-chic to be one of them. The rewards of my spring-cleaning back in April have certainly worn-off now that we are past Halloween on the calendar. And then there is the clutter issue; the dead computer monitor and box of old clothes behind the stairs in the foyer have yet to make it to the recycling center and Goodwill.

All of these issues need to be addressed, tour or no tour. So what better motivation for me to get them done than an actual deadline? And if I think about it, it is no different from a client giving me a deadline for an interior design project. Besides, I now know that after the holiday cheer has waned and the decorations put back in their boxes and placed in the attic, I will have some freshly painted walls and spruced-up spaces to enjoy in my home. Can you think of a better way to start the New Year?

Formal Dining Rooms

- Monday, August 01, 2011

I love to entertain by hosting dinner parties in my home. Unfortunately, with my hectic schedule, I do not get the opportunity often enough. Inviting people into your home and providing them with a relaxed evening of food and conversation is both a labor of love and a wonderful gift of hospitality. Memories are made and celebrations happen around a dining table. While it can be daunting to cook a gourmet meal if you are not a professional chef, setting the scene for a special dinner is easier than you think.

One of the reasons I enjoy having dinner parties is because I get to use one of my favorite rooms in my house, the dining room. I have a small kitchen with just enough elbowroom at the center island for my household of two, so even an invitation for one extra diner dictates a change of venue. My formal dining room makes a dinner gathering feel special, whether it is a simple supper for four or a full-blown fancy feast for eight.

Dining rooms are evolving with our changing lifestyles. With the growing popularity of open-concept living, formal dining rooms are becoming a thing of the past in home design. Consumers often think of it as the least-used room in the house and one of the most expensive to furnish. Naturally it is one of the first rooms due for a “re-think” about its design and decor. A dining space does not need to be a separate room or big in scale in order to have a wow-factor. However, since it is an entertainment space, you may want to infuse it with a more dramatic décor. Why not take it up a level?

Consider the number of people you want to easily accommodate. Do you typically host small, intimate affairs or do you frequently invite 12 people? Maybe a combination of both? Then think about the size of your space compared to the scale of the furniture. Select pieces that offer flexibility.

The dining table usually takes center stage, so choose it carefully. They come in many different shapes and sizes and many can expand with center or perimeter leaves that allow you to provide room for a varying number of guests. I am a personal fan of the round table, if space and the shape of the room allows. I find it more intimate and conducive to conversation.

With the amount of furniture needed in a dining space it is important to employ different materials, so don’t match everything! Create a timeless look that will last for years to come. Gone are the days of matching sets of furniture. A dining room suite with Queen Anne-style cabriole legs on the table, chairs and sideboard will overwhelm the space and look like a furniture store vignette. Two highly ornate or stylized chairs make great host and hostess seats, but any more than that just gets busy to the eye.

Keep a common theme but have fun with it. Complimentary wood tones or styles will add layers of interest. Remember, you have to live there so you don’t want to get bored with it. Glass, wood, metal. rattan, fabric, and leather offer myriad possibilities to mix-it-up with the materials and the combinations are endless.

Remember to provide serving and storage areas. Where will you store china and serving pieces? Is there a space to lay-out a buffet or dessert?  Consoles, buffet tables, and sideboards present yet another opportunity design-wise for nuance and sophistication.

Color, lighting and accessories provide finish and set the scene. Formal or informal, bold or subdued, bright or subtle, you can create a backdrop that works with your style of entertaining at home. Colors can evoke a mood and wallpapers with luxe textures and tonal contrasts lend an aura of elegance to the background. A unique light fixture will cast a welcoming glow upon the table while a gilded mirror can add the illusion of space and reflect the glimmer of candlelight.

Selecting the right ingredients for your dining room will ensure the creation of a magical place to be enjoyed by your family and friends.

Showcasing Collections

- Friday, July 01, 2011

Almost everyone has a collection of something. For as long as I can remember, I have always been a collector. As a small child I was passionate about automobiles and building things, so it was Matchbox cars and LEGOS. I must have had over 150 of the miniature cars and enough of the Danish building blocks to create a small village.

In my early teens I discovered Art Deco and became obsessed with Fiestaware and similarly styled ceramic house wares and pottery. Going to college at SCAD put me in touch with other like-minded folk who enjoyed hitting the junk stores, flea markets, and yard sales for the thrill of the hunt. My Fiesta, McCoy, Bauer, and Haeger ceramic pieces were the start of my decorative object collections.

At some point after college I began collecting small, decorative boxes covered in mosaics of bone and horn. I just love the punch their intricate surface patterns give to a tabletop or bookshelf. Still to this day I am seduced by their exotic allure and will occasionally buy one to add to my growing collection.

Now, while I never decorated my space with my Matchboxes and LEGOS, I do celebrate my pottery and boxes at home. I specifically chose glass-door cabinetry during a complete kitchen remodel a few years ago so that my Fiestaware could be showcased within. I also specified rope-lighting (concealed behind the crown molding on-top of the cabinets) to highlight the water pitchers and planters displayed on top. I love how the festive colors and sculptural shapes play against the blonde maple cabinetry.

My mosaic boxes are grouped in clusters on the tops of tables and chests throughout the house, allowing guests (and myself) to more closely appreciate their beauty. The fact that they are decorative boxes is the unifying element, their various shapes, colors and finishes provide the interest.

In fact, effectively displaying the things we collect is sometimes more difficult than acquiring them in the first place. Frequently clients have collections that they wish for me to incorporate into the décor of their home. I always enjoy using someone’s personal collection to add character and personality. Sometimes this is an easy task and sometimes it is not. The key is to create or provide an interesting display of the items, not have them scattered randomly all over a room. A simple grouping of three like items creates a stranger composition than just one here and there. This way they also become a conversation piece.

Depending on the type of collection, walls or tabletops can be display space. Sculpture can be placed on pedestals. Consider framing or displaying items in a shadowbox. Also, if your collection is large and you are short on display space, periodically rotate items in your collection, such as framed photography on a shelf.

Collections can be functional too. I use my Fiestaware all the time for casual entertaining. And on my dresser upstairs in the bedroom, some of my mosaic boxes hold spare change, collar-stays, and watches, helping to keep me beautifully organized. And, remember, one great thing about personal collections is family and friends are never at a loss when it comes to gifts for the holidays or birthday presents.

Expressing Your Personal Style

- Wednesday, June 01, 2011

My cousin asked me the other day if I ever found it hard to be completely satisfied with my personal home décor when I am exposed to so many different styles in my line of work. We were talking about the changes I have been making to a weekend getaway cottage purchased about four years ago. She knew the condominium came furnished and I had joked about some of the really outdated and kitschy furnishings and accessories. I even emailed her some photos so she could have a laugh as well. Having grown up closely together, she knew how eclectic my tastes could be. In fact, they are a lot like hers.

It is true, my personal style is very eclectic. I am drawn to Art Deco, Asian, Neo-Classical, and Mid-Century Modern furnishings and accessories. I also have an appreciation for Early American antiques, rustic found objects, and sleek contemporary things. And, in my 1890 Victorian home in Savannah, I mix it all together in true eclectic style. For some people this may seem like disjointed clutter, but to me it is a feast for the eyes and a reflection of my personal style. To me, what makes it interesting is that it is a unique mix and not just suite of matching furniture and perfectly coordinated fabrics and accessories.

For many of us presented with the opportunity to design and decorate a new home, it can be both a dream come true and an overwhelming task. If you are starting from scratch and you see what you like on display down the street in some big-name furniture store, then by all means go buy it. However, I think most of us would rather do our own thing. Consider alternative choices instead of the matching sofa, matching loveseat, and matching arm chair. Do you really want it to look like a room at the Homewood Suites hotel? 

Use art, rugs, heirloom pieces, or personal collections to add layers to the design and composition of the décor. For instance, an uncluttered coffee table may be just your style. But you could also display a decorative serving tray on its surface, a few colorful glass bowls, some candlesticks and a potted orchid, or even a stack of art books. I have all of them on mine.

Remember too that things go in and out of fashion. Who ever knew shag carpeting would make a comeback? And do you think stainless steel is here to stay for kitchen appliances? The frayed stone-washed denim fabric on the sofa that came with my cottage had seen better days and screamed 1984. However, I absolutely loved the clean, classic lines of the frame, so I simply recovered it. The off-white cotton duck cloth I used will never go out of style, allowing me to easily change-out the pillows when I want to freshen the look with new pattern and color.

Regardless of the fact that the color turquoise it is quite trendy right now, I have always loved it. I find it bright and sunny for a blue hue but still cool and refreshing, the best of both worlds! It makes me feel good wearing it, thus I have a lot of it in my wardrobe. Over the years it has become part of my personal style that carries over into my décor at home as well. So I painted the vaulted ceilings turquoise to give them some depth and interest. It makes me feel good when I gaze up there.

After all, isn’t that really the point when expressing your personal style? Shouldn’t it make you feel good? For me, my eclectic tastes allow me to easily change and evolve my personal décor, making sure I am always satisfied with it. If you need help finding satisfaction with yours then contact a professional designer to help you.

Area Rugs

- Sunday, May 01, 2011

“I want a totally different look for the new house, but I’m not sure where to begin,” my friend, neighbor, and new client told me as we sat in the living room of her existing home to discuss her new project. She and her husband had decided to downsize to a smaller home and they had found an ideal one, literally down the street. Recently renovated, it was filled with light and she wanted her new décor to celebrate the open, airy, and modern feel of the home.

While we chatted about her desire for a fresh and bright interior for the new home I surveyed the furnishings and contents of the living room and the adjacent dining room. I made a mental note of the ivory sofas and beautiful antique side tables and chests. It was then that I noticed the gray rug pads on the floor where I knew beautiful Oriental rugs once resided. “Where are your rugs?” I asked her. She informed me they had been sent out for appraisal and cleaning, and she was hoping to trade them with the dealer for something new. “Well, that’s where we are going to begin!” I exclaimed. “That will be our stating point.”

I love rugs and relish any opportunity to look at them in a showroom, especially when I get to help choose them for a client. For me, when designing a room, the ideal situation is to start with a rug, whether it be an existing one the client already owns or the selection of a new one. An area rug can be the focal point and set the tone for a room or anchor it and subdue the palette.

Rugs can be both practical and decorative. In addition to providing warmth, color, and pattern, area rugs can also anchor the seating groups within a room to create an island and make it more intimate. They can give pop to a subdued space.
When choosing an area rug there are so many factors to consider and explore. Styles can range from traditional Orientals, to ethnic tribal patterns, to modern and contemporary. Natural hides or woven textural grasses and fibers like sisal and seagrass can also be selected.

Sizes, shapes, and placement are also important. Rectangular rugs are perhaps the most common, with standard sizes such as 6 by 9 or 9 by 12 foot being the most popular. Round rugs under breakfast tables or in foyers are also options. I found an unusual 10 foot square rug at an auction in Savannah to use under the round table in my dining room. Animal skins provide a unique, irregular shape to be used in conjunction with larger rugs or even layered on top of them. And a runner can add both interest and pattern to a hallway and some acoustic insulation to foot traffic.

If you cannot find what you are looking for then explore having a custom design made for you. It is easier than you think and probably a lot more affordable than you expected. Imagine being able to pick the pattern and motifs you desire executed in the colors you want to compliment your décor.

A few weeks later my client and I went to her rug dealer’s showroom to look at his inventory. We chose two complimentary rugs for the living and dining rooms in a very light palette with subtle tones of predominantly ivory, tan, and wheat. Subtle accents of watery blue and terra cotta are present in the patterns and I will play upon these in pillows and accessories in the rooms. The overall effect will be calming and welcoming and will not detract from the ivory walls and abundance of light streaming in the spaces. It will help create the new look my client is dreaming of for her new home.

“How to Mix Patterns in a Space”

- Friday, April 01, 2011

Are you timid about mixing patterns in your home décor? Don’t be, it is much easier than you think. It is not much different from a following a recipe or getting dressed, for that matter.

Can add a greater level of sophistication and interest, adds depth.

Bold pattern can give oomph to a space, but don’t stop at just one.

Trick is creating a look that is both classy and colorful without being chaotic.

Basic understanding of scale and density.

4 basic types of pattern:


Stripes can be bold or subtle, large or small. Vertical stripes can add height to a room just like they can add height to a short person. Horizontal stripes can add width to a narrow wall.

Checks can be either classic or modern, casual (country French) or formal.

Mod, op-art stuff.Polka-dots can be playful

Floral patterns can be realistic or stylized. Tend to be more on the feminine side, however I have seen many masculine “florals” of palm fronds and ferns. Masculine colors.

Motif designs consist of repeated elements or figures, used to inject a theme, think a Greek key or Chinese fretwork.

Pictoral pattern is more scenic in nature, think of a toile with its depictions of the French or English country side. Asian toile also.

Have seen rooms done entirely in one pattern and although bold can be “one note” as well.

Why not mix it up a bit.

Give patterns some space, you don’t need to use a pattern or print on every surface. Sometimes it works better to leave some space between patterns – plain drapery panels against a wallpapered wall, patterned drapery panels against a painted wall, and so forth.

Vary styles and scale, mix a large floral with a small geometric and a medium stripe.

Remember, the more pattern going on the more simple lined the furniture needs to be. White, or other light solid colors will pop against a colorful and busy pattern.

Do not forget about area rugs, artwork, pillows, even architectural details (like a coffered ceiling).

If mixing fabric use a common color denominator to keep the design from looking uncoordinated.

Mixing patterns doesn’t have to mean taking huge risks as long as you keep the volume down which designer Alexa Hampton explains as choosing one color and mixing different shades with it, The strongest statement in the room is made with texture.

Mixing fabrics isn’t that hard as long as you follow what you like which sometimes starts with a favorite color. Choose the main fabric fabric – often something out of the ordinary. This isn’t necessarily going to be used the most, but it’s the inspiration for the fabric choices to come. The others can be heavily patterned or plain as long as they have the same colors as the main fabric.

Pattern goes beyond checks, plaids, stripes, and florals. The shape of furniture influences how a pattern in in a fabric looks in your overall design and where that furniture is in relation to other pieces in the room.

Link patterns together with color and scale. Think about how much of a pattern you will want to see. I almost always use a more subtle pattern on large upholstery pieces.

Laundry Room Design

- Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Okay, raise your hand if you enjoy doing laundry. Yep, thought so. Don’t get me wrong, I love my wardrobe and take pride in the care of my clothes. I just do not enjoy the task of doing laundry. Part of the problem, for me at least, is the laundry facility in my home is less than ideal.

I dream of a light and bright laundry room. A modern and stylish space with new, efficient machines for washing and drying clothes, drying racks for the stuff I do not wish to put in the dryer, plentiful counter space for folding, a built-in ironing center, and lots of storage for cleaning products and other stuff.

Like I said, that is my dream. Unfortunately my reality is something totally different. The space I now have is dark and cramped. It is not a space where I want to hang-out. I plan on renovating the space in the future, and when I do undertake that endeavor I hope to utilize all of the latest technology available and design trends popular today to create an efficient and attractive space. I want a laundry room that will make the job of washing and sorting clothes more enjoyable.

If you are planning a new home or renovating an existing one, give your laundry space some thought. Some things to consider are:

LOCATION – If you home is large try to place the laundry facilities close to the bedrooms and bathrooms. Chances are you will be washing more clothes and towels than tablecloths and napkins, so it would make sense to have the washer and dryer near the bedrooms instead of the kitchen or garage. If the house is a two-story, place the washer and dryer upstairs to save the task of lugging heavy laundry baskets up and down a flight of steps. A recently completed project I designed in Windmill Harbour actually had a second washer/dryer set located in the walk-in closet of the master bedroom. How much more convenient can you get?

APPLIANCES – The advancements in technology for washers and dryers have come a long way. The new machines are much more quiet as well as energy and water efficient. Many higher-end units feature a steam-clean cycle that is less destructive to clothing fibers. Along with the better technologies are more options for the finishes, including stainless steel and other colorful metallics. Front-load units allow the machines to be placed under countertops to create more usable space for folding clothes. A front-load model also allows stacking of the units, helpful if space is tight.

STORAGE – Build-in as much storage as you can fit inside your laundry room. Work with your architect, designer, or cabinet salesperson to customize components to suit your needs. How about a built-in clothes hamper? Or perhaps consider a dedicated cabinet for the vacuum? For one of my clients I had a special cabinet designed to house her cats’ litter box.

LIGHTING – Consider adding task lighting hidden under the upper cabinets to help illuminate the countertops and supplement the overhead lighting. If the room is an interior space, look at adding a skylight to add some natural light during the day.

FINISHES – Cabinets, flooring, counters and backsplashes, as well as wall finishes, can echo the look and feel of the rest of the décor in your home. Just because the laundry room is a utilitarian space does not mean it has to look like one. Have some fun and express yourself.

EXTRAS – If you have the space and budget, why not install a sink? A cleverly placed hanging rod over a sink will allow you to drip-dry items not meant for the dryer. Another client of mine wanted a sink for the sole purpose of washing her beloved dog. A built-in ironing board is another great thing to plan for in a new laundry room.

With our ever-growing interest in good interior design, advancements in technology, and our desire for better living, the laundry room is being given more attention in our homes. Instead of being tucked away in a dark closet like an after-thought, this important space is being elevated to a more integral part of our home. I cannot wait to bring my laundry room into the 21st century.

Trends for 2011

- Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Can you believe we are already well into February of  2011? I am still getting used to writing 2011 as the year when I fill in the date. I am not sure just where the first month of this new year has gone, but I can tell you what you can expect to see more of this year for interior design and decoration. Having just attended the Atlanta Winter Gift and Accessory Market trade-show I can share with you some of the trends I found featured on display in the showrooms as well as insights from the industry professionals who created them.


To use that old cliché, what’s old is new again. Perhaps it is a desire during these challenging economic times to return to a more prosperous era or just our love of nostalgia, but there is a return to period styles popular from the 50’s, 60’s, and even the 1970’s. Whether genuine period pieces repurposed for modern use or new items designed to look old, vintage will be hot in the coming year. 

After years of producing big, over-sized upholstery and casegoods, furniture companies are reigning in the scale to create more svelte silhouettes. Think of those round, angled, tapered legs seen on the furniture from the Mad Men television show. Remember those highly stylized, graphic, Merimekko and Pop Art fabric patterns from the 1970’s? They are coming back in a big way. In one showroom, I ordered an old industrial cart, once used on a factory floor, to provide a mobile work table in my client’s new art studio.


It’s no secret I am a big fan of color, so I am happy to report color is in again, and in a very big way. Saturated hues like citron and pumpkin, grounded tones like earth and mocha, and metallic tints of copper and brushed nickel co-mingled in the showrooms with soothing neutrals in complex weaves and interesting textures.

Strong hits of color are going to be popular on accent pieces like side tables and pillows, lamps and vases. I found a striking turquoise colored, lacquered, 3-drawer chest to use as a bedside table for a client. It is a color she loves and will make a nice accent against the natural sand-colored grasscloth we used on the headboard wall of her master bedroom.


When designing the look of your room, look past the 4 walls around you and consider the floor and ceiling as opportunities to add drama to your décor. These often-overlooked 5th and 6th walls of a space can offer endless possibilities for interest.

More options for wood floors come to the marketplace every day. Renewable and reclaimed sources are providing alternative choices. Fancy a bamboo or antique parquet floor for your new home office? Both are easily accessible. Want to jazz-up that boring ceiling? How about embellishing it with some textured paper or a shimmering iridescent paint color?


I know you may be tired of hearing it, but green continues to be keen in the world of interior design. And deservedly so, as materials that can be recycled at the end of their lifespan will be more in demand in the year(s) to come. Efficient technology continues to evolve and enhance our new-found eco-friendly collective consciousness.

Environmentally friendly products like copper, bronze, and linen contribute to healthy indoor air quality. Using natural textures such as jute, recycled polyester, and soy silk will keep it simple but green. Efficient LED lighting will continue to light our way in the future and better fluorescent bulbs will use less energy, produce cooler temperatures, and last much longer.


It is a new year and a time for new beginnings. Did you make any New Years resolutions? Maybe some include embracing your past, adding some color or interest to your surroundings, or making a conscious effort to be more environmentally kind. The upcoming trends in interior décor will help you keep those resolutions and have some style and fun along the way.

Simple Elegance

- Wednesday, December 01, 2010

As I sit down to write this month’s column the downstairs of my home resembles a war zone. I am in the midst of holiday decorating, which I admit, takes me several days. Furniture has been moved around to make room for a ceiling touching twelve-foot tree that itself has been wrestled into its corner of the living room. It has been wrapped in strands of lights. Boxes of ornaments have been brought down from the attic and their contents strewn upon the dining room table, awaiting placement on the tree in the adjacent living room. It’s a process.

When all is said and done, I imagine it will be a festive display that will convey some holiday spirit. It reflects my personal decorating style, which is to say the least eclectic and multi-layered. With so much color, pattern, artwork, and objects on display any really simple, restrained effort would be lost in the mix. That’s OK. I have finally embraced the fact that it is Christmas.

But, of course, simple can be elegant and beautiful. This past Thanksgiving I was invited to an intimate holiday feast hosted by my friend Bob. He lives and works in New York but has recently finished renovating a weekend getaway condo in Drayton Tower located in downtown Savannah. For those of you not familiar with the structure, it is a landmark mid-century building constructed in 1949 in the International Style, smack dab in the middle of Savannah’s historic district. Originally built as apartments, the building is enjoying a renaissance as condominiums and Bob was one of the first to purchase a space. He was eager to embrace its clean, modern aesthetic, expansive views, and create something fabulous from its raw state.

And fabulous it is, exemplifying how much drama and elegance can be wrought out of a mere 1100 square feet with low ceilings and no elaborate moldings, fireplaces, original wood floors, or other details typically associated with historic downtown buildings. Working with another friend of mine, Sim, a fellow SCAD alum and Savannah designer, they have played up the corner unit’s most striking feature, walls of glass encompassing views of some of Savannah’s best architecture and tree-top vistas. Simple, period-appropriate furnishings, book-match mahogany veneer wall panels, cork tile flooring, and a sleek, unadorned open-plan kitchen assure the view takes center stage. Restraint and editing are used to the fullest effect.

I am witnessing a similar trend in the Lowcountry with some of my projects. I have noticed a desire for a more simple and pared-down approach to décor. Fading away are the “more is more” over-the-top design trends that gained so much popularity in the 1990’s. When properly executed, these simplified design schemes still convey warmth, sophistication, and make a statement without too much clutter or ornamentation.

Selecting a single design element to play-up and highlight in a room can often have as much impact as featuring several competing motifs or elements. For instance, if you are using a boldly patterned granite or marble in a bathroom or kitchen, the other elements such as cabinetry can take a backseat. An over-scaled, ornate mirror can hold center-stage in a powder room without needing support from the light fixtures or faucetry. A treasured collection of pottery on display or a single, bold piece of art can sometimes be the only accessory needed in a space. It just takes a little thought and planning to make it work.

Case in point: A current Sea Pines client expressed her wishes for a completely neutral color-scheme in her newly renovated home. She has a collection of oil paintings and primitive early American antiques and wanted them showcased inside a quiet cocoon of ivory and sand. I chose textured silks and nubby linens in natural colors for the upholstery and drapery. The only pattern is a subtle geometric hand-woven area rug in shades of aubergine, merlot, and charcoal. The artwork provides the punch and becomes the main focus in the serene space.

My client will not be here for the holidays but I imagine if she were she would decorate a tree in all white lights with a monochromatic color-scheme. As for my friend Bob, I have no doubt he would do a retro silver aluminum tinsel tree. While neither would be as over-the-top as mine, both would be an elegant expression of the season and compliment their decor.

Set Your Table with Style

- Monday, November 01, 2010

One of my favorite things to do is entertain guests – especially hosting dinner parties. I don’t consider myself a great cook, but I do enjoy having friends and family in my home for conversation and FOOD! And, whether the meal is as simple as a cookout from the grill or a more elaborate, hours-long preparation of some complicated recipe, I always set my table to contribute to the mood I’m after.

Any party or gathering that includes a dining should have a wonderfully set table. By the way, today we don’t set the table – we tablescape! Setting your table for a special formal dinner, or any food party for that matter, should be more than the practical arrangement of plates and flatware. Your tablescape should be a work of art that reflects your personality. Not only do you want to give your guests a warm welcome, but also create something special. You want to make beautiful and have fun.

Often when I am designing for a client I am asked to assist with the personal decorating details of china and silverware selection, as well as glassware and other tabletop accessories. These selections often relate to the room’s décor and color; however, I also encourage them to make flexible and adaptable choices to support a variety of looks. Here is where we have fun with  table linens, china, cutlery, centerpieces, and other accessories. When done carefully these clients have endless possibilities.

Sometimes it is best to begin with a consideration of the table. Its color and its shape can help dictate some choices. Since I love both the color and pattern of the veneer on my table I often forgo a tablecloth and use placemats. I have several sets in different colors and patterns to fit the mood of the occasion. Instead of buying holiday-themed sets of placemats I have purchased ones in colors that evoke the spirit of the holiday without featuring turkeys, Christmas trees, or Easter bunnies.This allows me to use them at other times of the year.  The same goes for napkins, of which I have different sets in varying colors and patterns that I can mix and match to fit the mood. Sometimes I enjoy using a tablecloth for a more formal setting. White works well but tossing other colors on top can add lots of delight as can the reflective glimmer when I bring out the chargers.

In addition, like many of you, I have several sets of very different china. All a different mood but also compliment the colors in my dining room and its vividly hued, unusually square-shaped Oriental rug. Sometimes I even mix them. Surprise can be festive – and if the dinner has turned out too well – a nice distraction.

If I am setting the table for a more casual dinner with the Fiestaware I will use my everyday stainless steel flatware. When using other patterns I break out the silver from the sideboard. Yes, it means more clean-up – dishwashers are not allowed! Anyway, what good is it to have it and never use it?  While my stemware is simple my water goblets are more substantial cut glass.

But that’s not all. Once the basics are on the table it is time to consider the bling -  decorative accessories like the centerpiece, candles, and any other items to add interest. The centerpiece will indeed take center-stage and can be as simple or elaborate as you wish. Fresh seasonal flowers are always a sure bet, just be sure to arrange them in a height that does not block the view of guests from each other across the table. Napkin rings, place-card holders, salt cellars, candles, and even figurines can help add sparkle and evoke a theme or mood. The goal is to arrange items in varied heights, textures, and colors to create a pleasing composition.

Think of setting the table in the same manner in which you would decorate a room. With a little thought, creativity, and personalization you can create an eventful visual feast for your guests to compliment your culinary feast.

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