I'm So Excited!!!!

I just ordered our new dining room chandelier!!! It's made from coconut beads and is half off at Anthropologie. It reminds me a bit of Nina Griscom's ($5000) branchelier:

Obviously that's a bit out of our price range... ;) When my friends gave me a gift card for my birthday, I found the coco-bead chandlier & was in love. To be honest, few people in my "real life" seem to like this chandelier, but I was hoping you design divas would "get it." ;) ;) hahaha

Anyway, I'll be posting pics when it arrives!!



Tips for Taking Interior Photographs (non-technical!!)

I received a bunch of emails after my last post asking about tips for taking "after" pics of rooms, so I thought I'd share some that I've discovered over the years. (I am by NO MEANS a professional as you can tell though!! ) Since so many of us are obsessed with getting our houses looking pretty & have blogs, I figured it couldn't hurt! A lot of these might sound like no-brainers, but I really had no clue about them when I started.

1) Don't use flash. Here are a some of 'before and after' pics of our old house, where we moved just after the apartment, the townhouse. I took them when we first moved in, but some of the 'afters' are from a year or 2 later. Here are a couple of "flash" photos:

Images with flash end up being dark & cold & cheap-looking. (above & below)
Now, check out the "after" (below). It's light & airy and much better:

2) Shoot during the day when the lighting is good. (Unless you're specifically after nighttime shots like a Christmas tree at night or candles or something special like a city view.) Here is our living room when we first moved in. (With all of my lovely decor from my old apartment... eeeeeek) I didn't use flash on it even though it was taken at night: (which is good)

But check out the difference in the same room during the day: (no flash of course)
3) This one really should have been a no-brainer for me (but it wasn't!)... You should "style" the space. (ok, #1 clear out clutter... I think in the pic below that I must've just been trying to get a shot of the pretty roses from my husband -- not trying to get a room shot--- but it does illustrate this point perfectly. How can you even notice the flowers when there's junk everywhere?!)

How much prettier do these (below) look? No clutter, no flash... HUGE difference:

Some reminders for styling: ditch items like wastebaskets, newspapers... Hide your electrical cords. Tape them to the underside & down the back legs of furniture so you can't see them. Nothing is worse than a tangle of cords.

Styling for the kitchen: Sometimes people actually go too sterile when photographing kitchens. But, remember you can ditch items like your toaster (if it's not cute & takes up too much space), sponges, pot scrubbers, pens & pencils, etc. Consider having a pretty soap dish or dispenser, nice towels, good-looking cooking utensil holder, a bowl of fruit and/ or vase of flowers.

The pictures above & below are from when we sold our house so actually a few things are missing because staging is different from decorating (like the pretty towels & a few things that might warm it up) but we did set up a couple of bottes of Aquafina on the bar, which I always think looks nice. (I love Aquafina bottles & totally refill them with fresh water & stick them back in the fridge!!)

Styling for the Bedroom: Again, some fresh flowers or something pretty on the nightstands. (Even set up some colorful jewelry or books--- anything that's pretty & adds a little something)... Add interest to bedding. Think of Pottery barn and all their layers. Even just a throw at the end of the bed can do the trick.

Show personal, but not-too-personal-items that make the space look lived in: NOT the box of tissues but maybe a cool glass of water in a vintage glass or a pair of glasses on a stack of pretty books..

For living rooms, a lot of the same things apply. Use pretty pillows and interesting accessories. Get rid of any clutter that isn't attractive. Always add fresh flowers or greenery if you have time. You'd be surprised what a huge difference adding flowers/ greenery into the room does. Again, the goal is to make the space look "lived-in" but not cluttered.

Pottery Barn is awesome at styling in my opinion. I might not always be in love with what they're selling but I'm always so impressed with their styling. (above) For dining rooms, make sure there's something beautiful on the table. It doesn't necessarily have to be a set table (which does look gorgeous) but it could be something simple like a pair of lanterns or dinnerware stacked up as if it's about to be set with a little vase of fresh flowers.

Take advantage of tabletops & shelves. Every surface is a change to create something beautiful. It's important to train your eye. Scour catalogs & design magazines & notice all the details that are present & missing. You'll be surprised by how much you can learn & by how good you'll get.

4) Use a tripod or hard surface to set the camera on. I'm really guilty of not following this rule and it shows. This is huge because if you're not using flash, it's really easy for the photo to blur and any movement at all messes the photo up. (Virtually none of the photos I take myself are clear enough, probably because if this!! ok, I know what I need to go buy!!)

5) Leave out any unattractive features in the room from the shot... Depending upon the look/ mood you're going for, this could be anything from the TV, to speakers, to the chair that you just haven't had the time/ money to reupholster yet.

6) Shoot from lots of different angles & take TONS of pics. I'm not a professional photographer so I don't know which angle a shot will look best from so I take them all. This way, I get tons of photos of one room & I have my pick of which shot works best. I'm often surprised that the one I thought would work the best, doesn't. Get low, get high, go straight on... try it all. (You'll eventually get the hang of what usually works best & won't have to always take so many shots but it's good to start out this way to find out what you like. )

7) Figure out the style of photography you like & try to emulate it. There is a HUGE difference between Architectural Digest & Domino. I made the (HUGE!!!) mistake of spending $$$$s on a photographer who did work for Architectural Digest to shoot for my portfolio. His work was amazing, but totally not my style. The photos ended up looking static & serious to me, which was not how I wanted my work coming across at all. The angles were all straight on & I couldn't feel any movement in the room. I was able to use a few shots that I loved, but overall for the amount of money I spent, I was really disappointed. (They're all on my website now & it drives me CRAZY!!! arg!!) But the point is, it was my fault. I didn't have enough knowledge of the style of photography I wanted. If you can figure out what you like, you can immitate it. (country living image below)

So, there you have some info on how to get better interior shots. I know I didn't address any technical issues & that would be because I'm still clueless in that arena!!! (I have yet to read my camera's manual so that might help a bit!) Hope everyone had a great weekend!!!


We All Start Out Somehere: My First Laboratory

Let me start out this post by saying that I am trusting you here. I'm letting you in on where design all started for me, and it's not pretty. :) As designers/ homeowners, we all have our labs in which we experiment, our homes. I attribute so much of what I've learned today from my frist apartment after college. I think I did pretty much everything one SHOULD NOT do in decorating. hahahah I really probably shoudn't have even been ALLOWED near a paint can. So, I thought it would be fun to share some photos with you, but be ready for some scary stuff!

To begin with, let me tell you that I was aware that a home should have flow with colors & a tone that relates to one another throughout the rooms, but I totally disregarded this because I knew I would only be living there for a short time & I wanted to go crazy with colors, to experiment. And experiment I did...

We painted the living room was a bright olivey green (a fun color actually) I had lots of things from my grandparents who have travelled extensively in the East and got really "themey" around that. (like the Temple Rubbing, above.) I found the table below for $64 at my favorite thrift shop and was in LOVE with it until we broke it doing SAKI BOMBS on it. :( The poor little legs just gave right out!

I ended up replacing it with this one below. I also can't tell you how proud I was of the arrangement of mirrors. Virtually everything in the space was a hand-me-down so it never really felt like "me."

We painted the kitchen in a terra cotta and (here's where it gets bad) the dining room in BLUE. hahaha oh well... talk about flow! The rooms were fairly closed off from one another but from one point in the entryway, if you looked just right you could see all 3 colors at once. I kid you not, I kind of loved it & would stand there to see all 3 colors at once, telling my roommate, "Oh look! If you stand here it's like a rainbow!!!" hahahahaha

In the end, over the course of one short year, I painted my bedroom twice, my bathroom twice and the dining room twice, and I repainted my roomate's bedroom in a crazy mustard when she moved out because I thought I was going to stay there with my husband when we got married. (Although we ended up buying our townhouse.) At this point in time, I had "themes" for my rooms. (Please check out my post on kitsch here.) This room was going to be "Tuscan." :)

This was one of the most educational paint jobs we ever did. (To be honest, at the time I LOVED the bright mustard) We learned about faux painting & glazing & were able tone it down a bit more in our next house.

We also knocked over an entire gallon of paint on the white carpet and had to rip it out to expose the hardwood parquet underneath. Now, this was an apartment and when this happened, I did not expect to get my deposit back, but they did give it back!! WOW love them!

My bedroom started out a robin's egg blue. The color below is what I was going for & when the robin's egg blue went up I learned how much darker & brighter paint appears on walls than it does on the swatch. Again, really educational. The 4 poster bed was my first "real" purchase ever. It was from Bombay Company & I loved it.

This purchase & room redo happened about 10-11 months into the 1 year, so I wasn't there for long! Below, I also learned from studying these pictures, how to style. At this point, I didn't even read design magazines or books & really had no clue how to go about doing it. I just photographed the spaces exactlty as they were, without paying attention to how pleasing it would look in a photo.
When I painted the bedroom & bathroom a pale blue & got the Bombay bed, I would say it was at this point that I started getting a sense of what was "me." I repainted my bathroom a pale blue to match the pretty toile shower curtain I got from Restoration Hardware at a wedding shower. (below)

I wish I had photos for you of the dining room & kitchen. All the pics above were one of the first times I'd ever taken photos of interiors & I also have to say, I learned a lot about styling & angles & lighting from taking these shots. I learned you should try never to use flash (as I did in lots of these!! :) as it makes the room look dark & cheap. (But here's another trick-- I TOTALLY use flash in my "befores'!!! this is twofold: 1) the afters look way better in comparison, haha but 2) You get lots of detail when you're using them for referencing on projects)

Anyway, I think it's so interesting to see how we all start out at the beginning and have the ability to educate ourselves. It was through my experimenting & eventual education & reading-reading-reading that I began to grasp what good design was. I'm not going to kid myself though, I'm sure I'll one day look back on where I am right now & feel the same way I do about this apartment!! Our tastes are constantly evolving & we're constantly honing our skills.

I had to laugh when I read an article about Darryl Carter experimenting in his first DC condo and calling it his "laboratory." Well, his experimenting led to a spread in Met Home!! Like I said, we all start out somewhere!!



On the Homefont

I thought I'd give you an update on what we've been up to at our new house & share some plans for our family room.

Above, our yard is finally getting there... The flowers are getting big enough for cutting and my husband built a pretty fence around the property. Life is so much easier without having to worry about our toddler & dog escaping to freedom! (We're waiting for it to gray/ dull a bit with age)
My husband's been working like crazy...And Christian has to do everything his dad does... He has to "help daddy" as he so urgently tells us, so here he is below, shoveling and "making a garden."
Below, our favorite spot to hang is under the maple tree in our two adirondack chairs. The other night, after transplanting an entire truckload of plants from my mom's garden, (thank you mom!!) we put the little one to bed & just sat out in the chairs. It felt so good because we've been running around like crazy and it was awesome to look around & see all that we'd accomplished. Writing this now, I realize we need more of this relaxing time...

Our little guy's having so much fun out there & we have one of those really ugly bright plastic baby pools with the slide in them. He absolutely loves it, which is enough to make me not care about how bad it looks.

Our friends, Amy & Greg, made us this awesome vegetable garden!! (below) Yes, they actually came over & built it & gave us plants & everything. I can't believe how sweet they are & can't wait for those 'maters to grow!! yum! yum!

We've picked the paint color for the outside of our house, the gray below, and hope to get to it in the next couple of weeks.

And finally, my in-laws came this weekend to help again. yay!! My husband & father-in-law removed all the panelling in the basement/ family room, waterproofed it, changed some walls, added new insulation & put in a new drywall ceiling to replace the drop ceiling. We're closing up the walls today with paneling & will be carpeting the floor.

The sofa will go on the left wall:

And the hutch will go on the other, for the TV & toys:

Below is where I'll be putting my office. (The sofa pictured will be reupholstered & going upstairs.)

I think I'll use a table as my desk that can double as an eating & game area: (image from Country Living)

Below is another view of the room. OH SO PRETTY!!! hahahaha We have a woodburning stove that we'd eventually like to replace with an actual fireplace.

I plan to put two cozy chairs & an ottoman in front of it: (image below from Cottage Living)

Below is the cottage by Ruthie Sommers from House Beautiful that I recently posted on. I really fell for the color on the walls & we've already bought the paint. (I went a bit lighter than the actual paint shown but it looks the same- funny how photos work like that.) It looks awesome on the paneling. (It's much brighter than I usually go for but I wanted a fun, casual, bright vibe down there & I'm excited for a change.)

Here's another image from Real Simple, with a similar color scheme. I'm loving all the pops of white:

So, there you have it! I'll post after pics as soon as I get them!!! So, do you have any projects planned for summer??



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