Be Nice

I love reading the Velvet-and-Linen blog, just google it because I have not figured out how to link to other blogs yet.  The writer is an interior designer who (I think) has her own store as well as a gorgeous husband who is an architect.  They have a gorgeous house in a sunny, clearly gorgeous section of California and everyone is nice and they all have perfect taste.

In her latest post she illustrates how she transformed a non-descript living room (easily 20′ x 20′ with cathedral ceilings) into a fabulous space.  And she did a great job and sadly I must say I am green with envy.  Not so much of the end result but the fact that she never mentions money or having a budget, nor was there any sign of a ranting husband, delayed deliveries or screwed up orders.  That must only happen in New Jersey.

My week got ugly fast.  The handsome young man, who asked for and got a great deal on a table, started to give me grief and ask for an even better deal when he finally came to pick it up.  After examining it minutely he found a small dent on the side that he accused me of concealing from him.  As if!  At may age I can hardly see anything besides which, as many of you already know, most of our furniture comes dented on purpose–if it isn’t truly old we like it to have it made to look old.  I told him he might be happier without the table altogether and left Keith in the hot seat
while I took a long walk around the block.

Then my accountant called with the good news–we made a profit in 2009–and the bad news–not a very big one.  Fortunately the children are grown and have great jobs so we don’t have the expenses we once did–even the dogs and horses are all in heaven now. (Although sadly Laird has closed our joint bank account; I loved looking at her robust balance!)  Fortunately sales have been strong so far in 2010 so things are looking up.

Sales have been steady but…if it would only stop snowing!  I didn’t even bother to go to work today.  After our fourth snow storm in as many weeks the winter wonderland thing is getting a little tiresome.  Maybe the secret to bliss is sunny southern California, how can you be crabby when the sun is always shining?

It’s time to love your bedroom

Decorating is about making decisions and for many of us it is finances more than aesthetics that dictate the choices we make. You can easily spend $35,000.00 on a high end dining room or you can buy a folding table and some folding chairs, a table cloth and a funky flea market chandelier and you’re in for under a 1000 bucks.  Either way you get the job done.  A little candlelight and a lot of wine and you have atmosphere no matter how much you spent.

But the bedroom is another story completely.   Keith delivers all our furniture and comes home with horror stories about the way people actually live in their private spaces.  Maybe in the heights of passion it is possible to ignore crappy sheets, lumpy mattresses, piles of clothes all over the floor, dust dinosaurs and gross wallpaper but this could also be why someone is not getting any.

How can so much energy go into public spaces–like dining rooms–yet the marital bedroom is complete squalor?   And this goes for singles too, your bedroom is not a dumping ground on the way to the laundromat–it is the stage before sleep, it’s the space that informs your dreams and launches you into the next day.

Spend some money!  There is simply no excuse for not having a decent mattress, a lovely bed, chests of drawers that actually work, closets that are organized and a soothing color on the wall.  This cannot be faked!   In fact in Scandinavia it is not uncommon to spend $10,000.00–or more–on a mattress.
The reasoning is, we were told, is if you are going to spend at least one third of your life in bed–it should be a good one.

And if you managed matching crib bumpers and comforters for the baby’s room, you can apply the same effort to your own bedroom.  After the mattress start with all cotton sheets–a dust ruffle is required only if you are hiding stuff under the bed–and then pile on the pillows and comforters.  Mix and match, the more the merrier.  For great bedding go to Susan Fowler’s Down to Basics in the Galleria in Red Bank.  On a budget, try Marshall’s, even Target has a wide selection of linens.

Probably a coat of paint wouldn’t hurt either.  And that is the cheapest way to transform a room.  In this day of not doing it yourselfers–anyone can paint a room.  BM’s calming aloe, polar sky, swept away, winter wheat…are all fabulous colors.  Calm, bright, and pleasant is what makes a bedroom special.  Save the dramatic hues for the dining room; you are the drama in your bedroom so get to work!

In Retail Land it Always Snows on Saturday!

This is what is going on outside as I type.  It is just after noon and the snow is not expected to stop until 7 pm so it looks like a great day to get my filing done, but first a few thoughts. 
Since I’ve been more attentive to my web site, people have been asking me for design advice.  Although I am always quick to say I am not a decorator, I am always happy to express an opinion.  After all there can be no wrong answer–if you like something then it is the right thing–even if I think it doesn’t go.  In fact that is what makes decorating interesting, taking what you love and making it work for you in your space.
Anybody can take a beige couch and two beige chairs
and put it in a linen white room with  a brown coffee table and it will look just fine.  What interests me is when the person adds grandma’s old desk, a worn oriental rug and some over-sized black and white candid photographs of the kids at play.  Now that is what I call decorating.  It is the icing on the cake, the stars on a cloudless night, it is what makes your house your home.
Like wearing a coat from Old Navy with your Hermes scarf, not everything has to be super expensive, and clearly function and style play a part.   I have people balk all the time at paying three or four hundred dollars each for a kitchen chair; a chair they and their loved ones will sit in for hours every day all year long.  Never mind that they spent twice that for the dining room chairs that see action exactly twice a year.  What kind of sense does that make?  None.
Dining rooms are an interesting topic in themselves.  In fact, twenty five years ago when Keith and I started importing antique pine furniture I imagined we would be hugely successful selling this casual, yet classy European country style to our thirty something peers–no way.  Instead we sold hundreds of pine farmhouse tables and hutches to fifty and sixty somethings who happily handed off their high maintenance formal dining rooms to the children.
Personally I’ve owned at least 14, maybe more, dining room tables and none of them have ever been high maintenance.  Both Keith and I have large families and we like to entertain. The dining room in our old house was huge with a fireplace and many, many nights were spent in that room eating, drinking, playing games and doing projects, and never once did I worry about ruining a finish.  They were all waxed pine and there was nothing a little steel wool and Briwax couldn’t fix.  Another nick or scratch?  No problem there were so many already one more never mattered.
Over the years I’ve noticed a decline in sales of our pine tables.  I think it is because this new generation of twenty and
thirty somethings cut their teeth on knock off, knock down pine tables from big box stores, that scratched and chipped and looked like crap after just a few years.  The first thing they ask when they come to the store is how hard or soft my table tops are; then do they need pads, can they be scrubbed and with what.  In the old days I would just hand the customer a can of wax and that would be that.  Now we have polyurethane finishes that are water proof and scratch resistant, but the tops don’t develop that special patina that comes from waxing a table regularly. 
In my new house I have a fruit wood table from our new collection of French Country styles.  It kills me not to have a big old farmhouse table but my dining room is a speck of space in a great room and my children have grown up and out of the house so for just Keith and me a 78″ table is fine.  When company comes we can turn it around, flip out the internal butterfly leaf and have room for 14.  The table is made to look old; and has an almost industrial strength poly finish so finally I have a no maintenance table!
Time to go shovel some snow!