Friday, December 19, 2014

New Sophistication for a Connecticut Bachelor Pad

For his first home, Tom Thulin wanted what most people want: a place where he could relax and unwind. The busy 38-year-old bachelor and owner of a large distributor of baseball equipment chose a three-bedroom, three-level contemporary home built in the 1990s in Danbury, Connecticut, along a beautiful lake.

But before he could kick back, Thulin needed to make the home his own. Since he rarely cooks, he decided to delay changes to the kitchen and instead focus on the two areas of the home where he would spend most of his time: the family room and the master bedroom. With no experience with interiors, he hired designer Beth Rosenfield to help him update both spaces. The goal was to take advantage of the commanding lake views outside while also creating comfortable rooms with a good dose of sophistication.

BEFORE: The existing family room had arched golden oak cabinets, a golden oak floor and a marble fireplace surround that didn’t fit Thulin’s style. “Since I knew I would be spending so much time in there, I wanted it to be upgraded and done right,” he says.

AFTER: Opening up the family room’s doorway off the front entry maximized the impressive view of the lake and deck outside, seen from the double French doors. Refinishing the existing golden oak floors with a custom driftwood gray stain gave the room the fresher, lighter look and modern feel that Thulin wanted.

Next came a redesign of the fireplace wall; it now has clean lines and reinforces the room’s more contemporary style. The wall was a complex project that required several tradespeople, including a concrete fabricator, a mantel craftsman and a cabinetmaker. It includes a floor-to-ceiling custom cherrywood media cabinet that replaced the oak cabinets. An open shelf with recessed lights provides space for display or for a bar tray. While the wall is the focal point in the room, it’s also designed to draw your eye outside. “My number-one priority was taking advantage of the lake view,” says designer Rosenfield.

BEFORE: Here is what the original narrow doorway into the family room looked like, blocking the beautiful views of the lake outside.

New Sophistication for a Connecticut Bachelor Pad

New Sophistication for a Connecticut Bachelor Pad

Houzz Tour: Much to Like About This Traditional Beauty

Interior designer Jules Duffy had a running start when it came to decorating this northern New Jersey home. “This is such a beautiful home,” she says. “The proportions of the rooms are absolutely perfect.” Not only that, but the previous owners had recently finished an extensive renovation that was so good, she didn’t need to change a piece of molding, a cabinet or even any of the wallpaper they had chosen.

When it came to understanding her clients’ lifestyle, Duffy also had a big head start, having already decorated their previous primary residence as well as their beach home. Because they were leaving both behind with their move to this residence, she had an extensive mix of familiar inventory to pull from. She cataloged every piece to figure out which ones they could repurpose here and see which new pieces they would need. The result is a beautiful and comfortable home that’s new to them yet comfortingly familiar.

Houzz at a Glance
Who lives here: A married couple and their 2 teenagers
Location: Northern New Jersey
Size: 6 bedrooms, 4½ bathrooms

The home has beautiful colonial revival architecture. “The former homeowner had impeccable taste,” Duffy says. “There wasn’t one wallpaper we got rid of.” While they kept the wallpapers, she created custom glazed, textured walls in some of the rooms. The key was to give a lot of the existing pieces a makeover to fit in here, and accentuate them with new pieces to round out the design.

The birds on the wallpaper here have very tiny splashes of blue, which Duffy picked up on with the artwork. This is a preview — touches of blue in different shades create cohesiveness through the house. The sculpture is sludge glass from the Ball Glass Company. A local metal artist created the stand for it.

Duffy repurposed the drapes that were left behind in the dining room in here. The table was handmade by Glendale Architectural Wood Products, a woodworking shop in New York. A handblown Murano glass chandelier and a dash of zebra introduce visitors to the new homeowners’ style as soon as they walk in the door.

The main goal in the family room was to keep it light and add lots of comfortable seating. One of the homeowners fell in love with the embroidered fabric seen on the large throw pillows when Duffy presented it to her, and it wound up inspiring the color scheme for the entire room. Duffy custom designed almost all of the upholstered pieces.

Tip: Change up your sofas with blankets. The linen blankets across the sofas keep them from getting soiled and add a comfortable equestrian-style-inspired touch. The spring and summer side of the blankets is light blue, while the other side is a darker gray-blue. This allows the homeowners to darken the color scheme a smidge in fall and winter.

The new lantern’s large scale makes a big impact and lends a casual feel, as do the new sconces over the mantel and the large leather ottoman. The shell-encrusted table lamp adds some sparkle. The rug was a hand-me-down from one of the homeowner’s sisters. “I loved that the colors in the rug complemented the room without matching everything,” Duffy says.

See more of this house… 

Houzz Tour: Much to Like About This Traditional Beauty

Have a Festive, Sun-Drenched White Christmas

Do you dream of having a white Christmas but live in a climate that’s too warm for snow? There’s no reason you can’t embrace your own style. The traditional red and green combination can look out of place when it’s hot outside. But by using fresh white pieces, keeping decorations to a minimum and sticking with a limited color palette, you can cool things down for a fresh and chic white Christmas.

Use Lots of White

There is nothing like an abundance of cool, crisp whites to help bring the temperature down, and this principle can apply to your Christmas decorating, too. It is best to include as much white as possible for a warm-weather white-Christmas theme.

Use white objects with varying textures to maintain interest and avoid monotony. White wood, fabric, marble, clay ornaments and candles all have surfaces that help break up the repetition of white.

A crisp white tablecloth is the perfect base for this Christmas table setting. White napkins, vases, flowers and dishware all work beautifully together here, and the varying textures provide points of difference between the many white pieces.

The rustic burlap table runner adds some softness to the table and just a touch of warmth, saving the scene from feeling sterile.

Restrict Your Color Palette

Limit your color palette to white and natural tones, with accents of silver and glass. Focusing on neutral tones doesn’t have to be boring — as long as you include a variety of shapes and textures, the look will always be interesting. A good mix of textures will add depth and fullness to your Christmas decor.

For this simple, minimalist style, a variety of textures can mean the difference between a stylish, cool interior and one that is boring and without feeling.

Continue reading Have a Festive, Sun-Drenched White Christmas

Have a Festive, Sun-Drenched White Christmas

Monday, December 15, 2014

Vintage Sleds Bring a Dash of Winter Nostalgia

Nothing conjures up winter nostalgia like an old-fashioned sled. That’s no doubt why many people break them out around the holidays. Now that these sleds are being used for decor, their blades may never touch the white stuff again — but that doesn’t mean they won’t provide hours of enjoyment.

Jeff Hume is co-owner of Vintage Winter, an online marketplace and museum of antique and vintage winter sports items, and he understands the attraction. “A lot of us remember the thrill of accelerating down a hill or piling onto a sled or a toboggan and heading down with our best friends,” he says. “Sleds appeal to us.”

Interior designer Leanne Michael of Luxe Lifestyle Design enjoys decking the halls of her clients’ homes. For the hanging arrangement seen here, she adorned a wooden sled with evergreens and a pair of skates. “Helping our clients to create beautiful, lasting memories through the wonder of holiday decorating is always a pleasure,” she says.

Lucid Interior Design set the wintery tone in an entryway with two small sleds. The cool lines and warm wood make a sculptural statement against the white walls.

This is the kind of discovery many of us dream about. “We found this old sled in the firewood pile when we bought the house,” says Janet Black of J. Tight Interiors. “Our daughter had the idea to turn it into an entry light.”

Read more about Vintage Sleds Bring a Dash of Winter Nostalgia

Vintage Sleds Bring a Dash of Winter Nostalgia

Room of the Day: Art an Inviting Presence in a Formal Living Room

How to Decorate for the Holidays When Your Home Is for Sale

Some folks think they have to stifle the spirit and eschew traditions entirely if their house is on the market in November and December. Not true. You can celebrate the season and still make your home attractive to potential buyers. Here’s how.

1. Clean and declutter before you decorate. If your house is already full of knickknacks and furniture, piling on the holiday decor and plopping a blinking, tinsel-laden tree in the middle is a sure way to turn a potential buyer into Scrooge. The cardinal rules of home staging apply, no matter when you list your home. So give your house a good, deep clean and pack up those everyday tchotchkes before you haul out the holiday bins.

2. Less is more. Ornaments stuffed into every nook, twinkle lights dripping from walls and gutters, and that rooftop inflatable Santa may seem bright and festive to you but are likely to turn off, not dazzle, your buyers.

You want them to be impressed with your house, not distracted by decorations. So keep it simple this year. If minimizing the “ho ho ho” cramps your style, just remind yourself that you can go all-out next year in your new home.

3. Treat all the senses. Wintery, holiday scents are welcoming, but use them judiciously and avoid the cloying and artificial. Try a nice basket of scented pinecones, simmer cinnamon on the stovetop or simply allow the subtle and fresh smell of a fir wreath to tantalize and mesmerize.

That being said, no matter how many cookies you bake, nothing will hide the smell of kitty litter or wet dog. So refer to tip No. 1 — deep clean andthen use scent to enhance the cozy vibe.

Read more tips on How to Decorate for the Holidays When Your Home Is for Sale

How to Decorate for the Holidays When Your Home Is for Sale

You Can Kick That Ugly Filing Cabinet to the Curb

Friday, December 12, 2014

How to Use Full-Scale Decor to Make a Small Space Feel Bigger

A Short History of the Sunburst Mirror

You can hardly flip a page in a design magazine without coming across one of these gilded creations — but today’s passion for sunburst mirrors is hardly new. With design roots in the Middle Ages and Versailles, the sunburst mirror has a fascinating (and long) history. Read on to satisfy your curiosity about the story behind this popular decor item.

The 17th-century Gate of Honour is one of the noteworthiest features of Versailles. The wrought iron gates are adorned with gold leaf, fleur-de-lis, crowns, cornucopias and an Apollo sun mask, Louis XIV’s personal emblem.


The sunburst as a decorative motif may have its roots in the halos surrounding figures in medieval religious art. During the 17th century, the Catholic church began using elaborate monstrances — decorative stands used to display the communion wafer — adorned with gilded rays. Churches in Italy (most famously St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome) often had gilded sunbursts above the altar.

There is a rare depiction of a convex mirror with a sunburst motif in the background of theArnolfini portrait by 15th-century painter Jan van Eyck, suggesting that sunburst mirrors have been around for a long time indeed.

Early mirrors were small and convex; it wasn’t until the late 17th century, when Louis XIV established his own glassworks in France, that the world saw a significant improvement in the quality and size of mirrors.

But even then, mirrors of any kind were rarities — antiques expert Judith Miller notes in her book Furniture that a 40- by 36-inch mirror sold at the end of the 17th century would have cost the equivalent of $36,000 today.

The Sunburst King

Known as the Sun King, Louis XIV chose the head of Apollo surrounded by rays of light as his personal emblem. During his reign many pieces of furniture and architectural features were decorated with the sunburst motif, notes Miller, while the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles took full advantage of the new and improved methods of mirror production.

The mirror frame shown here is Italian, from the late 18th or early 19th century. 

Antiques dealer William Bloomfield, of Jacqueline Adams Antiques in Atlanta, says early sunburst mirrors were often used in churches as symbols of God overlooking the parishioners.

“I have seen one in the pope’s palace in Avignon, France, which dates back to the 16th century,” he says. Sunburst pieces “often have cloud symbols and rays. The center is sometimes mirrored, reflecting the light — a symbolic gesture. Others may have a carved eye in the center, a dove or an upside-down triangle.”

According to design historian John Pile in his classic reference, A History of Interior Design, the early 19th century saw a resurgence in popularity for the small, convex mirrors used centuries before. By this time mirror production had fully taken off, and mirrors became a popular decorative and functional accessory in the home, both in Europe and America.

We can’t be sure when or where the first sunburst mirrors in the style popular today were produced, but a quick search of online auction sites turns up numerous examples dating from the 19th century straight through to today.

Read more of the Sunburst Mirror’s history.

A Short History of the Sunburst Mirror

How to Artfully Introduce a Watercolor Motif

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