Monday, January 31, 2011

Simple Valentine Centerpiece

We have had a series of Sunday snow events here with lots friends and family. My philosophy is if you are buried in snow then play in it! They have all seen my winter center piece and a quick and easy way to have something new is to change the center piece. Our home is designed on the great room concept so the kitchen flows into the dining room which flows into the living space. Changing the center piece affects all three spaces.

I decided to experiment with an original DIY concept using wired ribbon. I combined it with some of my Crate and Barrel tea candle holders and paper doilies. It took about 20 minutes to create.  That even included clean-up! Guests that came to snowshoe and enjoy lunch with us are planning to copy the idea. I'll include quick steps below.

The wired ribbon is one long piece with hearts shaped equally spaced along its length. I created five hearts and then used four tea candle holders in between to weight them down, hold them in place and add the romantic candle light. I created the hearts in three sizes with the middle one being larger than the ends.

How To Steps:
  • Supplies:

  • Cut a piece of cardboard 9 x 3" long to use as a template to help space the hearts evenly.
  • Use it to measure in 9" along the ribbon.
  • Bend the ribbon over the cardboard edge to get a crisp bend and shape a heart.

  • Place a glue line along the base where you see my fingers pinching the heart together gluing the two sides of ribbon in place. I used Glue lines but I expect a glue gun would work just as well.
  • Use the cardboard template to measure out 9" from the base of this heart and fold the ribbon back over the template.
  • Create heart #2 repeating the steps in heart #1. You can make the second heart a little larger and the middle heart another increment larger but be careful.  They do have trouble standing up if you make them too large.
  • Repeat these steps until you have five hearts.  You could have three for a shorter table or seven for a longer table.  Generally it is best to stick to odd numbers in design.
  • Place a row of paper doilies along the table (or a white runner if you have one). 
  • Position the ribbon row of hearts on top and place the tea lights to weight it down and hold in place.
  • Once in place you will probably have to reshape the hearts.

Now it is time to plan a romantic dinner to go along with the candle light.

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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Funky Furniture

This certainly made me smile with its funky posture.

It would fit where I want my mitten storage unit to be but would still have the problem of exposed cluttered.  And the color - oh so popular now but just doesn't fit in my house.  I don't redecorate each time the color scheme changes.  That often makes it a challenge to find matches.

I found this funky, fun bookcase by Scott Blackwell over on  Etsy.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Storage with Style

Although I am earnestly trying not to be a saver I do like considering the storage options in all things. This set of birch boxes at CB2 caught my eye.

Simple. contemporary AND useful!  

Friday, January 28, 2011

It Tastes Better If....

Part of living creatively is thinking about design and visual appearances all the time. I enjoy cooking and I do a little creative cooking but on a very minor scale.  I always consider presentation when I serve dinner. Last night I made a new crock pot recipe sent from my daughter for dijon pork chops.  She noted that she was loving cooking in the crock pot because of her work schedule but that so many of the dishes, although delicious left a lot to be desired in visual attractiveness. As the recipe was cooking away I did a quick peek (generally a no-no with slow cooking) and she was right. This one was going to need some help when put on the table.

It was all white. Even though I'd left the skins on the red potatoes it was white pork, white potatoes, white onions and white dijon sauce.

To serve it I avoided my white dinner plates and decided to use my new pasta bowls with the gorgeous blue and green glaze. I also sautéed some fresh asparagus to combine with the main meal. The presentation included the potato-onion-sauce mixture first covered with asparagus arranged in a fan topped with the pork thinly sliced and drizzled with more sauce and chopped parsley. I also added a romaine-strawberry salad to get some red into the meal.

Added note: Wine and Candles make any meal look beautiful!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Branching Out

I just need to record and share this beautiful design.  It was created by designer Oliver Dolle and is a DIY project.  Either you create it for yourself or use the idea as inspiration for another project.  It does start the creative juices flowing.

Post credit to Curbly

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mitten Dilemma

For those of us lucky enough to reside in snow territory, the mittens, gloves, hats dilemma descends upon us annually. We need them every time we leave the house and we want the mountain of them to be kept in a convenient location, out of sight or at least neatly stashed.  It never happens. One of my current design challenges is finding a new solution to the situation and I have some ideas but first I'll show you various solutions we have tried in the past.

The Current Solution:

We built a new entry and have a wonderful coat closet there but it has sliding doors.  We currently have a couple of baskets - one for gloves and mittens and one for hats on a low shelf in the closet.  Neat and out of site.  We never use it. The gloves get left on the boot bench.

The Closet Door Solution:

My previous coat closet was in an inconvenient location but it did have a swing door. I attached rows of grosgrain ribbon with a staple gun, added clothes pins and we had storage for many gloves and hats.  

This system was a wonderful solution for years. One of the benefits was wet accessories would dry while hanging there. In reality the kids never put their mittens on it but I would and things would be tidy. I would use this system again if the location were right but the closet has been repurposed as a tool closet. I do recommend it for those that have a swing door. It has been the system that stored the most in a way that was easy to see. It was also very inexpensive to implement.

The Cute House Solution:


Years ago one of my collections was little houses and I purchased this one at the Christmas Tree Shop.  I don't think it cost more than $20. You know the ditty - "Everyone loves a bargain!". The door opens and gloves and mittens live inside. 

It just doesn't have enough space and I have outgrown both its size and its cutesy exterior. So my design challenge is a new solution to the mittens, gloves and hats dilemma. I'll keep you posted on my progress and appreciate any ideas.  I am leaning toward funky, DIY, and colorful.

Idea collection begins:
I was inspired by the post on Apartment Therapy today about creative storage solutions. I especially liked the circular shelf unit from the DYI book Home from the Hardware Store. The comments indicated many people want a solution that hides the clutter, not organizes it in the open.  My years of experience with mitten mountains makes me agree.  But I may very well use this idea for a different display. And I think I might buy the book.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


When Easter rolls around I'll do a post on the Easter Egg bowls I create but I am ahead of myself.  My egg collection has diminished over the years but I forget to prep in time.  This post is a reminder to start blowing eggs now.  I eat so few that I need to start many weeks in advance. Although part of the problem is that I also find a basket of undecorated blown eggs a gorgeous accessory on a side table.  This one is out year round.  I need to prepare enough to allow me to add to this collection and have a bunch to decorate.

Eggs - or more precisely their shells are a beautiful shape and create an inexpensive solution to a creative arrangement.  Here is a link to a wikiHOW article on blowing eggs. Start collecting them now and use them in a basket arrangement until needed for decorating.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Yaktrax - Old but worth mentioning again

The current condition of our 400' driveway made bringing out the YakTrax a necessity. Although the snow is beautiful, it is solid ice under it and walking is treacherous.

Yaktrax are not new but, whenever I use them, others want to know what they are and how to get them.  Given the current weather pattern in the northeast and the fact that many of us won't see ground again for months, it is time to list them as one of those design solutions that are a must have.  Out of the box they are a mystery.

You stretch them onto your boots or shoes and they add grippers that prevent slipping on ice.  Once you reach your destination - the car, the subway or work - they slip off and fit in your pocket.

Yaktrax are conveniently available from Amazon.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Negative Space - Or the case of the missing table

I love the concept of this table. It is just the paint - spilled paint no less. The table is missing and the result creates a humorous tension in the negative space. I don't have the room for this but I'd love to see it in end table or coffee table size. The bright red is perfect.  If you are going to spill, it might as well stain.

Photo credit -

When I saw the blog post on Curbly highlighting the above table by John Nouanesing it joggled my memory of a plastic illusion side table I saw in person in an art gallery several years ago in NYC. It wasn't on display but was part of the gallery furniture.  I have no memory of the art work on the walls but the table was firmly embedded in my memory.  A little Google searching found it at Huset, a Scandinavian Design site. It too is missing the table.  It is available in in both clear and white acrylic and known as the Essey Illusion Side Table. Definitely on my wish list.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Beauty of Boiling Water

We discovered this design gem while visiting my daughter's in-laws in New Hampshire.  They have this Capresso electric tea kettle that is pretty just sitting on the counter.

But the secret of the design becomes truly apparent once the water begins to boil. Visitors of all ages are drawn to it. We all comment on how a watched pot never boils.  I never realized the beauty of watching a pot boil! Not only a lesson in good design but one in science as well.

• The tea kettle is available from Amazon.  
• The teapot is part of my collection of handcrafted pottery.  This one was a gift from a former student back in the '70's. We have been looking for an equally beautiful handcrafted teapot for years.  The proportions and glaze are perfect.  
• The mugs are from the Earth and Sky series from Sunset Canyon Pottery.  We purchased our first few at New Morning Gallery in Asheville, NC then completed the set (and purchased replacements) online.  They come in a variety of shapes and glazes.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Snow Design

This is what our home looks like today from the snowshoe trail through our backyard. My husband, David and I designed and built our own house back in 1978.

That was shortly after the Oil Embargo and an earlier energy crisis. We designed an energy efficient, passive solar home. Many of the techniques we incorporated were new ideas back then and we have been testing them out for over thirty years.  I expect I'll be using our home as the subject matter in many of my blog posts because so much of my creative living is centered in and around it - or to it!  One of the main energy design features is that it is a berm house - backed into a hillside with much of the first floor below grade.  From the northwest it looks like a snow home but the other side is full of windows catching the winter sun. I love the interesting roof lines.

This photo is a little farther along the trail on the other side of the house.  One only needs to open their eyes and look to see beauty everywhere on a day like today!

Little Green Apples

I love green apples as a design element. Combine them with a beautiful piece of wood and dynamic design and you've pleased me.  This long, elegant shelf is crafted by Richard Judd.  He has other stunning woodwork at his site.

Unfortunately, he doesn't publish prices on the website so I am lacking enough information to know if I am loving this from a distance or possibly here at home. I have numerous skinny walls that would shine with this accent piece.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Magnet Magic

Refrigerator doors are meant for display space. I know that everyone enjoys taking a moment to peruse the latest additions to that highly visible place. It brings smiles, starts conversations, shares news.  I found this stylish spider magnet and thought, "Oh! Nice!". But then I looked at the price.

I like buying entertaining things for the fridge but I also like to be practical.  Instead an Amazon search will quickly reveal that you can get 50 Rare Earth Magnets for $2.99. I use those for my "art" gallery.  They are unobtrusive and allow me to quickly change the display.

This month my freezer is covered with the personal photo cards we received this Christmas.  I am learning to not be a saver (goes against the genes) but I do enjoy these photos and thought, "Why not display them for a few weeks?" I don't have to keep them forever but I can enjoy them for awhile.  And they did start fun conversations with friends and family that came for a cross-country ski day this past weekend. It is important when designing living space to keep it personal. A collection on the fridge door is one of those touches that communicates "home" to me.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Centerpiece #2- Winter Ice

The pears of the last centerpiece ripened and we ate them so my centerpiece was gone. I generally like to get some fresh, bright yellow flowers for the table during January.  What better way to bring a little sunshine in but alas that was not meant to be.  The flower selection at the grocery store was sad.  Out here in the country we do not have the flower options one sees in the cities.  One of the things that amazed me when our daughter lived in NYC was the incredible flower stalls on so many corners.  It was easy to have exotic blooms in any season.  Not so around here.

I decided to put together another non-holiday centerpiece from things around the house. The theme - winter, ice, snow - exactly what is visible out the sliding door next to the table.

I selected a random grouping of clear glassware - old vases, a hurricane lamp, some of my mom's crystal. I was looking for a variety of shapes and heights.  The shapes were easy to find but they all seemed to be one or two heights. I did some combination work including stacking a vase on a low-ball glass to increase the variety.  Into each I put a white candle from my collection. (I buy candles whenever they are on sale or I visit IKEA!) I included pillars, votives and tea candles. The result is a sparkling display......

That truly shines once the sun goes down.  It makes for wonderfully romantic evening dinners on these dark winter evenings.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Another Collection • Puzzles

I love puzzles. I love solving them, collecting them, sharing them and displaying them.  I especially like the combination of wood, three-dimensional design and geometry to create interlocking puzzles and I have my collection scattered through out our home.

The above design was acquired during an Artists' Open Studio weekend in West Medford, MA. John and Jane Kostick combine mathematics with construction and create beautiful puzzles, stars, furniture and architectural structures. This puzzle is a favorite because it is beautifully crafted.  Putting it together has a special tactile feeling because the wood is so finely finished and the pieces hug together so snuggly.

This is another classic geometric puzzle nestled in among other collectibles.  By understanding the roll  puzzles play in my life already you'll understand why I was taken by these tables recently shared on Design Milk.  All are by Architect Petar Zaharinov of Sophia, Bulgaria.

Both of the above designs are based on the Burr Puzzle concept.  Burr puzzles are composed of interlocking pieces. Stewart Coffin has designed over 140 interlocking puzzle designs and is highly regarded in the puzzling world. He has also written The Puzzling World of Polyhedral Dissection. The book is out of print but available here on the Internet.

A quick search on the Internet will direct you to many sites selling Burr Puzzles. This one below and many others are available from BartArt if you are interested in starting a collection of your own.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Zig-Zag Wood Cuts

For years I have used a nifty letter holder created from a block of wood sliced in a crosscut pattern. The cross cuts provide slots for the letters but also give the block a spongy, bouncy quality. It is only one of the unique items clustered in my workspace.

This technique of cutting blocks of wood in an alternating zig-zag pattern with careful precision has been explored in greater depth by Seth Roland. I first saw his fan-folded wooden bookends in the gift shop of the Museum of Art and Design in NYC but was more recently drawn to a vase series on his website. I am tempted to redesign my bathroom to provide a shelf for this design. Stunning!

Exploring his website further I found the tables and oh my!  I think I need to work on other rooms as well. Below is one of many interesting side, hall and coffee tables.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Gears and Wood - Dynamic Combination

After reading this entry you should meander over to Wood That Works and view my husband's sculpture. You'll understand why this post on Design Milk caught my eye.  The combination of wood and machines creates a visual conflict that I find interesting. Combine that with a touch of whimsey, and even a little pop art and you've designed something I take note of. Not to mention - it has gears!

Simple, straight-forward and fun!

The Windmaker was created by Luc van Hoeck, a designer from The Netherlands. I first became aware of his work through Design Milk, a blog I follow.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Geometry by Nendo

Design Sponge showcased the work of Nendo on January 12, 2011.  I am drawn to the geometry in the designs. Geometry is a recurring theme in my work and my likes - is this a by-product of being concrete sequential?  I also appreciate the whimsey and motion in the storage unit. I can think of no fewer than four locations in my home where I could use one of these shelf units!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

I collect.....


I collect many things especially from nature but the joy is using my collections in design. I decorate with them, create with them and collaborate with them.

Today the sun came out after a record 24" snow fall and the world is absolutely beautiful. I spent the morning snowshoeing about taking photographs. Snow transforms many things in stunning ways and I often create thinking about how an item will this look after a snow fall. Below is a collaborative sculpture created with my husband David and daughter Karen using found rock. Today it is in it's winter wear.

But the cold finally drove me in and with camera still in hand, I noticed that the sun shining on the snow bouncing into our living space was creating beautiful visuals with some of my other rock creations as well.  Here is a close up of a lamp created with David. This will have a future post with more DIY info but for today I was just enjoying the beauty in the the design when combined with the light.

And in a different nook of our living room is a stack of small stones picked up from the beach at Provincetown stacked to give them personality.

I do lots of decorating with my many collections and, when I stop and think about it, most are free!