The Most Important Thing To Have for Good Design (In My Humble Opinion)

This is very subjective and the title of this post was meant to be a little provocative, but across the board, I find myself drawn to design that has strong but balanced contrast.

The best contemporary eclectic designs find a balance of contrasting opposites, achieving complexity and depth without clutter and busy-ness.  Contrast of color and tone is just another way of telling your eye where to stop and pay attention.  Contrast of pattern, texture and scale adds richness and depth to a room.  It’s like going from looking at a still to a moving picture.  And finally, a contrast of perceived design styles not only adds character to a room but can make a good room great. It’s like going from seeing something on a screen to seeing it in real life.

The most basic way to introduce contrast is through color and the most fundamental way to contrast color is through black and white.  When I say this, I in no way mean simplistic or easy.  Stripping away all the noise and distraction of color leaves you no room to hide in design.


Darryl Carter is a master of this, paring down color so the contrast brings your attention to the detail of a piece of furniture or the line in a painting on the wall or the texture of a floor:


But color contrasts can also be achieved very well by pairing opposites on the color wheel.  I do this often when choosing coordinating fabric for furniture pieces.   I love throw pillows that are opposite on the color wheel from the piece they sit on but also in a contrasting pattern (stripe on a solid, geometric on a more organic line, etc.).  This is also true for pattern scale.

Another way to achieve contrast is through opposing design styles pairing masculine/feminine, rustic/elegant, vintage/modern, etc.  This pull and tension makes a room feel sometimes inexplicably well-done.  Just think of the enhanced beauty of a delicate antique when paired with a rustic stone wall and a contemporary light fixture.  Or the turned leg of an antique table paired with the sleek lines of a mid-century chair.  Not only does this juxtaposition prevent a room from ever feeling themed or staid, it also adds a level of sophistication and complexity and implies that a room has a story to tell.


Source: via The Urban Orchard on Pinterest

What design elements do you find yourself gravitating to?  What makes good design to you?

Birds Eye Maple Dresser

I was lucky enough to have a friend give me a beautiful dresser recently that someone she knew was getting rid of.  It’s an antique birdseye maple with beautiful lines and claw feet but as usual, the finish had seen better days.

The top was in the worst condition but the sides were also stained and peeling.  The drawers however, looked pretty good–except for an interesting choice for pulls and some damage they had caused:

After refinishing the top and repairing the finish on the drawers, I painted the frame in ASCP graphite and replaced the lion pulls with some antiqued brass button knobs.  I just couldn’t paint over the maple on those drawers!  Here is the after:



I’ll be listing this one for sale on my shop page as well.  I love the masculine feel of the maple and graphite with the soft lines on the top and drawers.

I hope it finds a special home!

Design: Where Do We Go From Here?

If in the 1960s you had told someone that interior design in the early 21st century would bring a renewed interest in the arts and crafts movement, they would have said you had been breathing too many fumes from your hovercraft vehicle.  Still, here we are with words like “farmhouse” and “eclectic” ruling the day and most people wanting an antique of some kind somewhere in their design scheme.  Vintage furniture couldn’t be hotter and techniques of previous centuries such as needlepoint and milk paint have found their way into the most contemporary and sophisticated of designs.  But also, “modern” in the classic mid-century context has now become vintage–almost quaint really.  Can it really be that the sleek modern designs that took the world by storm over 60 years ago are now nearly antiques themselves?



Why is this?  What about our current situation has made us yearn for a connection to the past?  We must feel so uncertain of the future that foundations from previous generations feel comforting.  This doesn’t feel like a time where we want to charge ahead with “progress” and innovation but maybe retreat from the world for a while and curl up with a good book in our great grandmother’s antique quilt.  What used to be considered wear is now called “patina” and provides a greater context for our lives in this moment.  I see a water mark on a dresser and I know hundreds of hands have touched it before mine, and somehow that gives meaning and comfort–something many people are struggling to find in our sometimes frightening and always uncertain present day.  We want to move to farms and grow our own vegetables and raise our kids in meadows and sunshine.  But we also want to have smartphones and blogs and be connected everywhere we go.  Design is reflecting this very real cultural and political paradox.





We want all white kitchens so we can have a blank slate.  We want contemporary farmhouse style so we can have our laptops on our antique desk.  We want mid-century eclectic so we can remember that previous generations forged ahead after hard times and really did progress and innovate.   We are intrigued by the deconstructed pieces of Restoration Hardware but we haven’t totally given up or become that cynical yet.   We seem to have one foot in the future, and one in the past.



So where do we go from here?  Maybe darker colors will start to replace the bright and light filled rooms of the last five to ten years.  We will create our little caves to wait out the storm.  Maybe even more patina with brass becoming the metal of the day, even reforming old aged brass into sleek contemporary fixtures to complement warm woods.  Perhaps no more Italian, French  or even Scandinavian, but English design influences will become more prevalent with traditional English prints and fabrics to replace soft colors and neutral palettes.  Heavy drapes will replace airy linens and rustic will give way to elegant.



And I could see us retreating from open floor plans–we will start to want rooms.  Private cozy rooms.  Before we tore down walls but we may start to rebuild them.  Maybe pony walls at first or floating walls to just to try it out and then committing with closing off our dining rooms and maybe even building little libraries in the middle of our downtown lofts–just to create a place that doesn’t feel quite so overwhelming.

And when we re-emerge who knows what interesting design influences will rule the day?  What amazing traditions from some as yet not totally familiar culture will have seeped into our consciousness through the glow of our lit computer screens? What hot colors or traditional craftsmanship will be absorbed and incorporated like so much 18th century blue and white Chinese porcelain?  Whatever it is, people really do seek out beauty and there is plenty to find.


What are your predictions for the future of design?  What trends will reflect the cultural changes you see?




Rich Color for Fall

I mentioned in my last post I am really intrigued by dark paint colors on walls lately.  Don’t get me wrong, a bright, light, neutral is classic and fresh all at the same time and can do wonders for an already dark space.   Perhaps it is the impending fall weather, but I’m loving the idea lately of being enveloped by a rich intense beautiful color.  Here are my current favorites that I have either used or am dying to (all colors are Benjamin Moore):

Dark Harbor:

This deep rich peacock-turquoise would look gorgeous with a creamy camel colored leather chair.  I can also see it mixing sumptuously with golden yellows, brass fixtures, creamy accents and warm honey wood finishes.  How lovely would it be in an entryway or powder room?

images via

Hale Navy:

This is a beautiful, dark, tailored navy.  I can see it with white for a classic look or paired with linen and blood orange for something more vibrant.  It would also look lovely with greens and would be a rich neutral paired with so many colors.

image via


I love this green and am considering using it as an accent in the boys bedroom redo.  This would be gorgeous with navy and dark wood finishes.  I had a hard time finding good images of it on the web–has anyone out there used it?  Here’s one:

image via

Deep Creek:

A rich brown-gray, it has warmth unlike so many dark grays.  I used it in the bachelor pad redo I did in the spring:

As you can see, I love it with turquoise but could also see it with green, red, orange, etc.  It’s a great, rich neutral.

I used it in the bachelor office as well:

Mountain Ridge:

I love this Belgian looking aubergine.  How pretty and calming with a light washed linen and some deep blues or greens.  I couldn’t find any photos of it in a room–has anyone out there ever used it?

Dark Pewter:


I love this chameleon-like color!  Sometimes blue, sometimes green, it’s versatile and can make almost anything look good.  Colors that change with light as much as this one are usually sure things in any space.  Definitely one of my can’t-go-wrong colors.


image via

What dark rich colors would you add to the list?  Any you’ve tried or maybe haven’t worked up the courage to yet?



I feel like I say this every time I sit down to write a post lately but things have been a little crazy!  Nothing I can’t handle but I do feel a little stretched these days.


You remember from my last post how my front porch was filled with furniture.  Well, I did get the bed painted and I think it’s going to work in our bedroom, I just have to buy a new mattress.  John is traveling for work right now so that purchase will have to wait until he gets back which means I won’t have pictures for you for a a couple of weeks.


The bed looks good-I used ASCP Old White–but now I need to change the whole bedroom!  There were a lot of things I had been meaning to fix up for a while but as usual, had been putting off, but now that we have this new gigantic bed, it’s time to deal.  Here’s a photo from an earlier post of our master:

This photo is about a year or so old–before I knew how to take, style, edit, and light photos.  But it’s a pretty accurate representation of how our room looked a few days ago.  This little four poster was my bed growing up.  It’s a double.  John is 6’2″ and I’m 5’10”.  It was supposed to be temporary but 5 years later we were still sleeping in it.  The new bed is a CA king (which I always thought was just bigger than a king but is slightly narrower and slightly longer) so our room is feeling a lot tighter with the new bed.


The Old White is pretty on the new bed but now the room has too much white in it.  I either need to get darker curtains, paint the walls darker, or repaint the bed darker.  I am truly struggling here with what to do!  Lately I have been loving the look of dark rich walls and could see going in that direction but do I really want to paint that room right now?  Then again, do I really want to repaint a bed I just painted?  New curtains will help but I don’t think it will be enough.  It’s always like this with me–I change one thing and it’s a domino effect.


So to distract my mind from swimming with this new dilemma, here are some pictures of really beautiful bathrooms from my Pinterest board:


Source: via The Urban Orchard on Pinterest

I hope I helped distract you for a few minutes there–Thanks for stopping by!

Some Before and Afters and Possibly In Over My Head…

I know I have been a bit behind with blogging lately and I’m trying to get back on track these days.  The end of summer and school starting has definitely made blogging a bit harder but really it is that I have several design related projects happening these days that are taking up extra time.  It’s great, but I’m trying to find a balance because I enjoy blogging so much.

Some furniture finds have kept me occupied lately and since we are short on storage I wanted to go ahead and paint what I could so they wouldn’t be sitting out for too long.  One was this antique dresser:

Pretty messed up but such good bones!  It is so well made and has its original casters and hardware.  Besides the finish it was in excellent shape.  And here is the after:

Below you can see a close up of the original hardware with a beautiful patina…

And I love the way this old varnish accepted the paint.  It made a nice speckly crackling in several areas…

The top has been refinished with tung oil but still shows some patina…

This is a really special piece and I will list it for sale on my shop page but will also plan to take it to the flea market in November.

The other project I finished was a pretty little pedestal side table.  Here is the before:

The shape of it is really pretty–curvy but not too delicate.  It’s in excellent condition but just needed some updating…

This would be such a fun side table next to a pretty upholstered chair or even as a display table in a hall or small bedside table.  The size makes it really versatile.  The top is now simple and warm with a wax finish.

This little table will also be listed on my shop page.

And finally I had to share these two photos because this is seeming to be a theme in my life lately:

This was my grocery cart at Costco the other day when I was just over halfway through!  I really don’t know how I made it to the car and into the house with all this stuff.  And then, where does it all go?  We will eat almost all of this before you know it…

And besides the dresser and the table, I found a few other amazing goodies while out shopping the other day and they got delivered today so here is my front porch at this very moment…

Do you detect a theme?

Behind the bed is yet another dresser–that’s three dressers, a table and a bed!  I think I have got to start looking for a workshop or something–my projects are taking over our house.  But isn’t that bed gorgeous?  Or at least it will be.  I love the barley twist posters.  I’m hoping it will be our bed but it might be too big for our room.  I may end up listing it in my shop when I’m through if we can’t get it up the stairs.

Thanks for stopping by and stay tuned for more transformations!

Containing Bamboo

If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you’ve heard me refer to the fact that our neighbor’s house on the south side is about six feet from ours.  Our eaves practically touch we are so close!  Luckily, we love our neighbors and get along well with them, but they and we would still like to maintain privacy.  When we first moved in four years ago we hurriedly bought three bamboo plants and stuck them in the ground in front of a low point in the fence that divides our two yards:


(Excuse the terrible grainy camera photos).  The house looming over our storage shed there is our neighbors.  See–SO close!  The fence behind John is where we planted the bamboo.  We didn’t research or ask anyone.  We just wanted something that would give us privacy and not take 20 years to grow in…

Well, we have some good friends that have been dealing with a bamboo invasion for the last year or so and it was enough to scare us into taking out the bamboo and putting it in planters today.  I knew bamboo was fast growing but I didn’t realize how invasive it could be.  I have seen shoots of it growing up through the sidewalk of a house near us that has a hedge of it–literally breaking up the concrete.  Apparently it doesn’t grow deep but it grows horizontally very fast and aggressively.  I think we did it just in time as when we (John) dug it up today, there were a few roots snaking out headed under the fence and our house…

While John was busy digging out the plants, I ran to OSH and bought three of the biggest containers I could find.  That wood planter above was plan A but we were worried the bamboo would grow right through it as the wood softened and aged.  The ones we ended up with aren’t all that pretty but I figured I’d deal with that later.  The blue/gray isn’t working for me with all the brown shingles.  And the decorative swag is a bit much too.  But they were only about $35  piece and are ceramic.  I plan to paint them but just didn’t have time before we got the plants in.

The light is so bad here you can’t even see the containers (a good thing)  but you can see how the bamboo already blocks that window and creates a pretty divider between the properties.  This yard is the last big thing we have to tackle in our house and I have big plans for it but replanting the bamboo couldn’t wait!  I hope we will be able to do at least some of the yard in the coming year.  In a city, every spot of usable outdoor space is valuable.

Have any of you had experience with bamboo?  How did it go?