Archive for April, 2011

Taking the Indoors, Out!

Spring has sprung for those of us below the 35th parallel and that means it’s time to take the indoors, out!  Unfortunately, few people find themselves in a financial position to focus on their outdoor living this year. For those of us who recharge in the great outdoors, we’d furnish our patios before acquiring a table for the dining room. Whether or not you fall into that category I’ve got some tips and inspirational pics for spicing up your outside spaces for any budget.

There are 3 basic rules to decorating an outdoor space: color, clusters, and lighting. Any sized space can utilize these guides although most of us are limited to about one seating group and a place to park the grill. Some readers may be limited to a meager apartment patio just wide enough for a potted plant or two. Remember that outdoor living is much more casual and you can get away with much more whimsy than indoor decorating typically. So how do you implement the 3 rules?

Color trends come and go but when decorating outdoors the key is to use it. Find a color that inspires you. Maybe blue/greens remind you of a tropical paradise or bold reds and yellows take you back to trips in old Mexico. Last year’s faded furniture can be reinvigorated with a new accent pillow or a bright tiled side table. In tight spaces I find it best to bring in “over the top” kind of items- space is limited so make each piece make a statement. Unusual pieces make great conversation starters!

Next, make sure that there are designated “areas.” Cluster seating together to promote conversation. If you are grilling for guests locate your seating near the grill so you can participate in the conversation and your guests can drool in anticipation of the delicious meal to come. Set-up appealing groupings of plants, pots, and outdoor conversation pieces. I support local nurseries but if you’re in a bind Lowe’s or Wal-Mart will sell you a gallon hibiscus for around $16. Find a bold pot to plant it in or if money is tight buy a plastic one and a can of spray paint. Adding a small garden statue or trinket on the ground next to it will make an interesting height variance.

Finally, lighting is the most important element in outdoor environments. Decide if an “area” is for cooking (more light), dining (maybe difference levels for different occasions), or conversation (less light). Create the appropriate lighting level keeping in mind that fixtures should be appealing when lit and during the daylight hours. Bring in some of your own flavor with decorative strand lighting, classic Christmas lights, flamming torches, or outdoor pendants. Get creative and hide wires out outlets with a cluster of plants or under an outdoor rug.

If you need some help in finding the perfect outdoor pieces for your space, check out this article from Freshome (I’m a loyal Tweet Away! follower!).

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Color Me Crazy

Interior designers see trends come and go as often as consumers see fashion waves roll in and out of department stores. Some trends are fun, funky, or functional enough to return (like side ponytails) while others, upon reflection, make us wonder why we even jumped on that wagon (my parachute pants have YET to sell on eBay). Interior Design Magazine’s March issue has several great examples of the latest direction in home trends: color!

While beige has its place, there is a special place in my heart for spaces that show life and personality through unique color palettes and unexpected color placement. ID’s editor in chief invites readers into her eclectically vibrant home in “Make Yourself At Home.” Large scale patterns are made more casual with saturated, high contrasting colors. The area becomes not just a sitting room but an actual living room that is sure to spark conversation with all of your guests.

You don’t have to live in a rainbow room to enjoy the benefits of a little color. ID’s “Small is Beautiful” article features a monochromatic “base scheme” that is enlivened with punches of bold accents to bring a calculated whimsy into this beautiful home. Designing with a neutral base scheme creates a unique opportunity to alter the color scheme as often as the homeowner pleases. A simple change of throw pillows or area rug would completely redefine this space for a special occasions or continue to keep the room feeling fresh and new.

Featuring a less traditional take on the average home, “A Container for Creativity” takes basic shipping container and turns it into a homey escape from the suburban household. A striking primary palette is utilized throughout the entire home. Being such a small space, the continuity of the colors unifies the space and dismisses the conflict that can arrive when utilizing several different schemes within a single home. The mind translates the continuous colors as a single space and will make this tight fit feel larger.If you’re interested in a change but not looking for a complete overhaul, paint or accessories is an affordable way to try your toes in the water. For example, an all neutral-tones room might benefit from a cool-toned accent wall (such as lavender) and dark grey or brown accents such as pillows or lamps. This allows a minimal investment with a slight tonal and hue contrast for variety. Not all colors are for everyone, but even a strategically placed accent wall or centerpiece can take your room from bland to va-va voom!

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Matchmaker, Matchmaker…

Interested in having the help of an interior designer on your next project? Great! Now how do you go about finding the right one for you? While this can be a tricky question, I have a few tips to finding a good designer to match your needs and your style.

1. Ask around. Ask your friends, neighbors, and even co-workers if they have ever worked with an interior designer. Maybe they have someone they recommend! Maybe they know who you should stay away from. Most people are happy to tell you about their experiences (good or bad). Contact those designers and ask for references you might call.

2. Inquire about qualifications. Decide if you want/need a Registered Interior Designer (RID) for the job (please see my previous post  “Designing Mind”). Sometimes you need an RID to draw up plans to get permits, etc. If you need something minor done, you might not be interested in their degree or work history- just whether or not their work appeals to you.

3. Browse their portfolio. Designers will be more than happy to show you their work if they are proud of it and have happy clients! Be wary of a designer who doesn’t have any visual documentation of their designs. Seeing a variety of completed jobs can help you to understand the designers style, taste, and approach to design. Find one that matches your own taste or that has the knowledge of a style you are striving to achieve.

4. Show me the money! Some designers ask for a retainer or a deposit for larger jobs. It is NOT common for a designer to ask for 100% up front. Make sure to ask ahead of time for how the designer is paid whether its commission, flat fee, hourly, or any combination of the sort. This will ensure there are no questions later and you are left with an unexpected bill in the end.

5. Schedule a visit. Once you’ve narrowed your list to 1-3 designers request for a visit to the job site or meet in person to discuss the project. See if you can socialize comfortably, if they return your calls in a timely manner, and compare each cost estimate to help make your final selection.

Don’t get me wrong, even when following these tips a few bad eggs can slip through the cracks. But in the end just use your own judgement. There are so many variables in the selection of a designer that sometimes just finding one you can work with might be the best choice . Best of luck and happy hunting!

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