Archive for category Advice

Outdoor Essentials

With the changing of the seasons the time has come for outdoor festivities and grilling for guests! While most of us greet the season with great anticipation it can still be overwhelming when sprucing up your outdoor space. I’ve detailed my list of outdoor essentials in hopes that my checklist might help to ease your backyard burdens this season.

How many of us fall prey to flashy displays and end up with too many outdoor items? Guilty as charged. The first step toward avoiding buyer’s remorse is to remove furniture covers and pull the cushions out of the shed. Assess the damage from winter storage and spring rains and make your plan of attack before heading to the store. Throw out the items beyond repair and note pieces that might benefit from a fresh coat of spray paint. Keep a list of the items you need to purchase with you in your purse or wallet for easy access.

My must haves are the same year to year. My checklist ensures that I don’t forget something and I’m fully prepared for my first shindig. Honestly I couldn’t live without my GRILL. I make a survey of the parts and tools I need before anything else. Sometimes you need to order special parts from the manufacturer and this could take weeks so plan ahead. Gas grills or great if you don’t want the hassle of charcoal but for the diehards I recommend the Big Green Egg.

Next I make sure I’ve got plenty of SEATING for myself and my guests. I have a lounging area near the grill so I can converse with my guests while preparing a meal and a tall bar stool to rest my rump. Then of course I need a table big enough for everyone to eat together. I can’t get enough of teak furniture- holds up to the weather and is built to last. A little pricey, but if you watch there are great deals to be had! Although, I can see wisdom in the philosophy of buying cheap cushioned furniture and replacing it each year.

As an entertainer it becomes an obligation to have items to keep your guests cool and comfortable. I love multi-function items. This rustic COOLER from Cabela’s is the ultimate outdoor indulgence. It functions as a serving table, storage unit, bottle opener, and of course keeps your drinks ice cold. Strategically placed box fans on a low setting help move the air and keep it cool without being so loud to drown out the conversation.

Next, a seemingly obvious item on my list is PLANTS. I can’t tell you how many outdoor spaces I visit that don’t have a speck of life around. Somehow it doesn’t feel like the outdoors to me without plants. Unfortunately I was not given my mother’s green thumb and I find myself repotting nearly half my plants each year. Ensure that you have color and height variance that can tolerate the conditions and sunlight in your area.

Almost there, it’s time to LIGHT the space! Some find that a few strands of Christmas lights fulfill their lighting needs. I prefer the clear globe stands because they somehow remind me of my time in Tuscany. More decorative options are available seasonally at outdoor stores and my all-time favorite: Target. Tiki torches with a little citronella in them are a great way to create atmosphere and keep away unwanted pests.

Now the only thing missing is the ACCESSORIES. I always leave this for last in my budget because you can spend as little or as much as you want here. Never underestimate the power of a welcoming lawn gnome or a whimsical pink flamingo! Colorful pillows and cushions can enliven your space as well as coordinating place mats and tableware. Outdoor rugs invite customers to take off their shoes and get casual while providing comfort from rough concrete patios. However you accessorize just be sure that you don’t get carried away and blow your budget along with all that hard planning!

Check out my other outdoor decorating posts while you’re here. Finally- just be sure to send an invite my way for your next backyard party!


Leave a comment

Not Just For Window Dressings

Draperiesn. coverings, hangings, clothing, etc., of fabric, especially as arranged in loose, graceful folds.

Curtained WallNowhere in this definition is the word “window” utilized! So stop relegating these beautiful fabrics to window openings. Draperies have several uses throughout the home. Whether you are looking to add beauty or function, creative use of draperies can enhance your space with personal flare and style.

Fabric can add a visual depth to any space. Rooms with a monochromatic color scheme most benefit from visual texture but most rooms can successfully integrate fabric hangings into the design. The actual weave of the fabric can also effect the feel of a room. Gauzy linens can be classic or casual while embroidered patterns and silks appear more sophisticated.Velvet Curtain

Whether utilized as a curtained wall or room divider, a carefully placed drapery can help to absorb sounds reflected off hard surfaces. Tile, stone, even gypsum walls and ceilings reflect most of the sound vibrations that hit its surface. Full fabric folds absorb the most sound but straight hanging drapes still help to contain the noise level within a room.

Gauzy Canopy CurtainsDraperies not only create privacy from the outdoors but can also create areas of privacy within the home itself. Canopies or ceiling hung draperies around a bed add elegance and even enchantment for any bedroom. Adding a curtained off “changing area” in a large bedroom can provide privacy for a quick wardrobe change as well as conceal unsightly jewelry, laundry, or shoe storage. Draperies function as a beautiful transition from room to room and provides privacy as necessary, such as between a dining room and a messy kitchen for dinner parties.

Starting a drapery project of your own? We’d love to share your before and after photos here on our blog. Submit your photos to and share your project with our readers!

Leave a comment

Affordable Patio Decor

If you read my last blog on “Taking the Indoors, Out!” you might have started asking yourself, what are some affordable ways to spruce up my outdoor space? It’s your lucky day. I’ve collected a few of my ideas from my project book and tried to hunt down some photos on the web for you. Let me know what you think.

One of my favorite ways to bring life to a patio is with plants. I recommend groupings of plants of all different shapes, colors, and sizes. Single pots tend to look lonely without a partner or other object to keep it company. Those ceramic plant pots can add up fast so for the budget conscious there are several plastic and styrofoam alternatives. These can be quickly dressed up with a can of spray paint to be boldly colorful, metallic, or rustic to match any style.

If you are looking for something a little more unique try finding old cups, glasses, or large bowls in garage sales to put smaller plants in. A cute mismatched teacup set would be a great place to plant herbs to use in your cooking without the major maintenance of a garden. Even old sinks with faucets left on them can be perfect for planting and provide a great conversation piece.

Curtains provide a glamorous look for the outdoors and can also function as necessary privacy screens. Stringing wire or clothesline from trees or patio ceilings provide an efficient “curtain rod.” In areas protected from wind or rain, shower rods make a good place to hang a curtain from as well. Keep in mind you’ll need to wash outdoor curtains about once a month and should be taken down during the harsh winter season.

While seeking out photos for this article, I ran across this cute idea. It’s a simpler technique for bringing whimsy into your outdoor space. Dainty handkerchiefs adorn this clothesline to provide some color and nostalgia into this simple space. The coordinating seat cushions help to unify the space and make it a defined area. Utilizing a few LED Christmas lights intermittently would jazz up the look even more (and keep the bulbs cool for fire safety).

For a finishing touch use any plastic container as a cooler for party beverages. Spice things up by putting them in hanging baskets or a plant stand. You can also use a nice oblong watermelon in the same fashion for an evening. Cut an oval in the top and clean out all the pulp (or serve to guests). Slice off a portion of the bottom for a flat surface so the watermelon doesn’t rock back and forth. Fill with cans, bottles, and ice- voila!

Hopefully this will help you with your patio at home or inspire other projects around the home. We’d love to see pictures of your outdoor space! Post them on the blog or e-mail them to us and we’ll be sure to share them with the web.

1 Comment

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!).

1 Comment

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!

Leave a comment

Designing Mind

After our last poll, it is clear that there needs to be a brief discussion about the interior design profession in Texas. A recent law passed has changed what the title of “interior designer” entails. This new legislation states that ANYONE and everyone can be an interior designer. Absolutely no formal education is required to hold this title. However, a “Registered Interior Designer” (or RID) is someone who has been approved by the National Council for Interior Design Qualification (NCIDQ) as well as the Texas Board for Architectural Examiners (TBAE) as having enough experience and knowledge to obtain this title.

So what kind of experience can you expect from a Registered Interior Designer? The current requirements include a 4 year degree at an accredited university, followed by 2 years apprenticeship under a RID, and completion of a standardized exam over all the aspects of interior design. RID’s are directly charged with the task of caring for the health, safety, and welfare of our clients and the general public. RID’s are also required to have annual continuing education classes in order to maintain their registration. While an interior designer might be capable of putting pretty elements together, it is this responsibility and knowledge that separates RID’s from designers.

There are several ways to tell if someone has obtained their registration as an interior designer. One way is the letters behind their name. RID, IIDA, and ASID are common titles. IIDA (International Interior Design Association) and ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) are societies RID’s can join in order to meet other design professionals and contribute to the profession. You can also research online at TBAE’s database to find a Registered Interior Designer. The easiest route would be to directly ask a designer you are interested in hiring. Most registered interior designers are proud of their accomplishments and are more than willing to discuss the process and their qualifications.

If you have more specific questions about registered interior designers or the profession please feel free to leave comments or write me an e-mail!

Leave a comment

Comparing Flooring Materials

How do you know which type of flooring is right for your home? There are so many options- it can be a daunting decision to take the plunge into updating your floors. Today I’d like to overview some of the most popular flooring types for tackling this task.

Tile or stone is arguably one of the most durable floor surfaces available. Several varieties of materials, colors, and patterns provide countless installation combinations. A “rectified” tile offers a crisp edge for smaller grout joints while a tumbled tile requires larger grout lines. Depending on the hardness or pitting of the stone, initial maintenance and long-term care needs to be a factor into your selection.

Maybe a hardwood would better suit your needs? A quality hardwood floor will be a lasting, durable surface that is cleanable and simple to maintain. It’s warmer on bare feet than tile and area rugs can add color and cushion in living areas, corridors, and bedrooms. As a hardwood ages and wears, it can also be reinvigorated by refinishing to look new several times throughout it’s lifespan.

Carpet is usually a more cost-effective solution to updating your flooring or maybe it just better defines your sense of “home.” Consider upgrading to a stain-resistant fiber. It’s a big selling-point for family home buyers and might give you some peace of mind when creating the guest list for your next holiday meal. A solid urethane pad provides a luxuriously cushioned step and can extend the life of your carpet.

Even vinyl flooring has made several advancements in recent years. If you like the durability of vinyl but hate your outdated peel-and-stick there are several grains, stains, and plank sizes that mimic wood. These “luxury vinyl tiles” or LVT can resemble nearly any kind of flooring to achieve a much more appealing style without sacrificing ease of care.

Your best resource is to seek advice from a flooring professional in your area. Be sure to find someone knowledgeable and understanding, who addresses each of your concerns. If you find yourself being pushed by an impatient salesman- leave! Locally owned businesses count on customers to survive so it’s in their best interest to make sure you’re satisfied. Also, do your homework. Research on-line, talk to friends, and visit a few showrooms to see where you feel most comfortable spending your hard earned money.

Leave a comment