Category Archives: decor

How to Prep Older Walls

If your dream house has character and charm it is most likely moe than five years old. And it is most likely full of not so charming problems. While every episode of Property Brothers goes over the internal problems that need professional attention there are plenty of cosmetic ones that add days to your prep work.

Yes, days.

I recently painted my room after a long lead up and I was excited to get into it but once I moved all the furniture out and took down the wallpaper I realized the walls were in terrible shape. So began nearly 72 hours of wall prep.

1. Wash the walls. You’ll be amazed at the grime and glue that will come up. Don’t use too much water, this is more like an exfoliation. The sponge will snag on uneven surfaces, clumps of dust won’t get in your paint, and you’ll get an idea where you need to spackle.

2. Sand down bumpy areas and scrape places the wallboard is peeling. You want to be very careful not to punch a hole in the board, the goal is just to stop the peeling. 

3. Spackle every hole and even out dips around bolts (these often settle and jutt out through the paint). You may need to even the areas you sanded as well depending on how bad your peeling was. 

4. Wash your walls again so your paint adheres well.

5. Keep these materials handy while you paint – you’ll probably find more holes and rough patches (particularly if you’ve ever had the room wallpapered).

These steps are a pain but once the paint goes up it will look much better. If the walls have serious problems (like holes) a painter or handyman can usually fix these for you. You can also cover some damage by choosing a light color in a matte that will hide damage. High gloss and eggshell will show off any wall damage.

Embrace a little “damage”. You have an older house with charm and this means some bolts will show like the house of Frankenstein. You can hide bolts behind art or furniture or you can leave it front and center as signifiers of age like the rings of a tree.


The Independence of (Federalist) Design

Happy Fourth of July! July is by far the best month, and not just because it houses my celestial birthday. (woot!?!) This month also owns a pretty awesome color scheme.
Red white and blue are classics. Especially when you’re trying to convey that modern federalist vibe, but they can be intense for a bedroom or small kitchen. Federalist is so often interpreted with heavy floral fabrics, thick carpets, and clunky furniture covered in dust and delicate china. What would a boho Federalist look like you wonder?
Choosing the appropriate range of color is important, a bedroom would benefit from bright blue and pinky reds, while a study has the capacity to go into a deep crimson and navy. The most important thing here (which I found after repainting my Union Jack (now Chinoisie) dresser three times) is to keep the red and blue in the same family – teal with cherry and maroon with blah-bleh blue. Even though I changed my dresser design for something a bit lighter (and vertical-friendly) I kept the Union Jack with a mirror DIY and I added some Americana via a Georgia O’Keefe red, white, and blue skull DIY.
While this worked well for my room, Tommy Smythe hands down did the coolest Federalist room ever.
A few key elements of Smythe’s space, which was shown off on Domaine, were
Those Chairs! Yes, they are snow leopard print and Martha Washington would have been all WTF? instead of all OMGILI! but the wing-back style is perfect.
There is a lot of dark wood to anchor the space but the light accents, like a white table top, makes it easier on the soul.
There’s a kickin gallery wall. Which is actually very Federalist (Federalists were the original hipsters?).
Brass is back!!!! Remember when it was all silver, silver, silver? Well, no more! Largely inspired by the discovery of little brass animals at flea markets…, brass has made a comeback and looks amazing with black and white interiors.
The giant adorned mirror in the back left side, the flag pillow, and the black lampshade bring this design home – not to mention the Hermes throw…

Single Girl’s Guide to: Decor

Elle Decor recently published a much re-tweeted list of the 10 things a woman needs in her home. While Elle pretty much nailed the aesthetic of an effortlessly chic grown woman I couldn’t help but add to the list.

1. Find your happy colors.

Most people have two standards of color comfort for their home; happy chic for the living room and a calming cool for the bedroom. It seems like a simple formula until put into practice. Finding a calming bedroom color that is neither grating nor too pale is tricky and many people end up hating it simply because it is too calming. Trying to center yourself and be as cool as Cucumber or as serene as Serephina blue is a lot of pressure. In your own place the color is entirely up to you, so what is your version of calm? For some it is a dark red that entombs you like a mummy and for others it is a shiny white that reads nothing but simplicity.

2. Before committing to a wall color buy your other accessories and then pick a wall color that compliments those. This is nothing you haven’t heard before but here’s the twist, you’re not just buying accessories. Every table and appliance can now be tailored to you and your fleeting emotions. A hot pink bed can punch up a grey wall-scape and a set of crisp white sheets can change the narrative of a bright orange or dark purple walls. Use the space to appreciate your own opinions and taste’s, no one else gets a say so you can experiment at will.

The living room is your space to express yourself. Guests will see this space and it makes for a good place to test out new sartorial ideas and see how comfortable you are with them. While the ultimate ideal may be complete 100% self-respect in which we never second guess a style decision, we still want a space that conveys who we are. Your living room is open for interpretation and opinions that allow you to see yourself through the eyes of friends, family, and the pizza delivery guy.

3. Find space for your things

Make-up, hair “thingies”, balms and salves. Who really knows what is in their make-up kit? The discovery of a new product is celebrated with the same acclaim as the loss of your first baby tooth, now that you’re in your bachelorette pad why not throw a dinner party on behalf of that new perfume that is finally “perfect”? OK, actual parties may be a little too much (although if Carrie Bradshaw can marry herself and get a few Manolos…) but if you love your products and want to remember to use them leave them out in artful little displays.

Brushes sit nicely in vases, shadows in trays, and mascara and liners in pencil cases; I find lipsticks are the easiest to store away since they are usually applied last (for me it is after that first cup of coffee and the commute) and then tossed in a hand bag. Placing these by the door in a beautiful box (Cynthia Rowley has been out doing herself in home decor this summer) makes for one stop shopping on your way out.

4. Find space for your wastes of space.

When the space is all yours you can waste it as you like. Those beer cozies you got free at every music festival ever – yeah you have a place for those. They may not be high-end or particularly chic but the items that I’ve come closest to throwing away have made the best conversation pieces.

5. Embrace your feminine side.

I don’t know why women are so averse to being feminine (oh wait, yes I do, I took history 101) but enough already. Most of the women who swear off the F word let alone the G word (girly) will tell me of their masculinity while wearing a pale purple lace dress and heels. While the gendering of objects is outdated and ultimately unfounded we each have those ideas imprinted in our minded, all tied up with precious memories. Instead of focusing on male or female and then trying to strike a balance of the two, figure out what you like and balance those styles. (Take a page from the ultimate dream house diva BARBIE). After all we all have a little hard and a little soft. A brutalist metal bookcase will sharpen its tongue when placed next to a textured lace pastel sofa and a re-purposed wooden coffee table will lend itself nicely to a fairytale/granny chic aesthetic when positioned in front of floral furniture or drapes. Even industrial pillars can be livened up with some hot pink cashmere. Sometimes a feminine edge is exactly what we want to come home to at the end of the day.


Designer Betty Lou Phillips

Florence Welch and Eternal Cool

We all know Florence Welch is cool, from her career as front women of Florence and the Machine to her red hair and crazy-classy-cool style. I’ve been rocking a serious girl-crush since I found out her mother is Evelyn Welch, which may mean nothing to people who have social lives but if you’ve spent days locked in a library working on a thesis involving costume design, you’ll know her mother is the shit. Florence has certainly inherited her mother’s sartorial appreciations and she involves them in her red carpet looks and her home. Domaine Home gave us a quick peek into the singer’s London place and I’m enamored. But how does one recreate these looks without funds or multi-generational knowledge of textiles?

Step 1: Clutter

It sounds contradictory to design but in order to achieve “granny chic” you need to have a lot of clutter, read that as curated clutter. Florence Welch isn’t hoarding dirty McMuffin wrappers and her place doesn’t appear to have a speck of dust.

Florence has Gothic crosses and Victorian hand mirrors strewn about, these items are uber specific to her style and can really range in price. Gothic crosses can be found cheaply at a garden shop – they won’t really be vintage but will emote just as effectively, Victorian mirrors and bathroom items are easily found in antique shops but I’ve found the best deals on them to be garage sales. (I’ve never actually bought any though cause old hair brushes give me the willies).
Once something enters the realm of ‘interior designer favorites’ they get really expensive in thrift shops and really loose their ROI. Instead, I examine the lines and emotions of each piece and think up my own bespoke element. While the Gothic crosses are lovely, what I really like about them is the ceramic feel, their inherent darkness, and their Celtic roots. Having a collection of them the way Welch does gives polish to an unwise unruly design element. I’d probably get a few mini terracotta cactus pots and find small shelves to install them along the wall.
Curated clutter is one place where travel souvenirs really come into play. These souvenirs don’t need to be from the other end of the world, even if you haven’t found your way across state lines yet you can still pick up a match book from your favorite dive bar, buy a mug from your Alma matter, collect rocks by your favorite stream. Basically amass all the crap we purchase while on vacation on a local scale.
What about her travel prints and tapestries? To be honest a tapestry without a secret passageway hidden behind would always be a disappointment to me, but I can certainly respect the appeal. The easiest way to get the look is to shop online at museum stores like the MET, the British Museum, the V&A, or a national museum of whatever culture’s textiles you like the best. These items can be a bit pricey so a blanket is the next obvious step. Usually 1/4 the price, the blankets can have the same weave and weight as a tapestry reproduction. Use a piece of wood to anchor the top of the piece and hang it high enough that the bottom is unobstructed, this will keep it from feeling too heavy in your modern home. Prints are the easiest to get your hands on, from originals to knock offs they are in every antique shops and really run the gamete on pricing. Look for piece you love first and them use them to anchor the space and to dictate the size and shape of your wall arrangement. If you have a single poster you want to showcase but aren’t sure what prints to put on the size, head to the dollar store and buy some cheap frames. This will help you decide size and you can use magazine tear outs, family photos, or doodles as place holders while you search for your ultimate piece. Once you know the size you’re looking for you can whittle down the unbelievable hoard of available prints to just the ones that will suit your needs. Don’t forget to consider matting and size of frame while determining these sizes, if you want to frame a postcard with matting and a thick wooden frame you may need to plan out the space using a 8×10 frame.
Don’t compromise on what you want. If you love it, it doesn’t match your crosses, it isn’t the right size for your wall of prints, buy it anyway. The beauty of curated clutter is that there is often a single element that begs the question ‘where the f did that come from’. This whimsy will really take your place to a very Florence Welch level, rules are for fools right?

Organization Tip of the Day: Bento

Jewelry is a pain to organize. I want it out so I can remember each thing I have and will wear it, I also want it hidden and stowed somewhere safe in case a party guest has sticky fingers. (People steal what they want not just what they can sell so if you love a $1 plastic brooch put it in a safe place. Weirdest thing I’ve ever had stolen was a DVD case – they left the DVD. This is especially true in a college dorm where someone may play drunken dress up and forget to give it back.)

Jewelry boxes either take up a lot of room or you buy one of those organizer things that just turn into carrying cases for thieves. I have four jewelry boxes but since I like everything separated I’m constantly out of room. The idea to use bento boxes came from a restaurant that actually called them ‘jewelry boxes’ and served up brightly colored noshes in each square. If you have an unused drawer (or a deep drawer you can create a double floor with a piece of plywood then just lift the wood up and glory there’s all your baubles) line up a few boxes and augment with ring props and bracelet cylinders. Happy happy!