It’s not the luck of the Irish we need. It’s a greener lifestyle. We are constantly bombarded with options for greener living today. The color green has been popular in Design for many years now, influenced by the movement toward a healthier way of life, a purer existence, a cleaner way of living. It can all be very confusing, but we do the best we can!
Green design has exploded over the years with products with low VOC paints and wallcoverings, energy saving appliances and lighting, and zero carbon footprint carpets. There’s up-cycled, recycled, and repurposed as design options. Many great sustainable and beautiful products with more and more options exist. It’s almost becoming a requirement to be LEED certified as a Designer in some markets. I continually tell clients that these products are usually more than the less environmentally friendly products. It’s more work, and more expensive to bring these exciting products to market, but worth it in the end.
Emerald Green was all the rage last year, as the Pantone color of the year, (see “Follow the Yellow Brick Road to the Emerald City -Part I“). We were flooded with images of green used in new and exciting ways in the home. Where green was always considered taboo in the kitchen, associated with rotting food, it’s now a fresh alternative and linked to the healthiest food options with power packing kale, spinach, and other “farm to table” selections that are so good for us.
Green is associated with nature and the color of Spring which we all so crave at this point in the year, When we use green inside, it brings the outdoors in, and we all love and need some organic qualities in our homes. Green brings us piece of mind, peace in our hearts (the color of the heart chakra), and a quite place to regroup and find our happy (and lucky!) place in our homes.
With the time change, we are all thrown off. Out of whack, out of balance. It’s funny how one hour can set you back, or forward in this case.
Angles are everywhere in design and in our lives. They help us with balance and structure, setting a strong foundation to grow and build upon. There is something about the geometry of design that either makes an object or space feel right or feel a little off. While we enjoy a little “imbalance” in our lives to shake things up a bit, setting a strong base, will keep us on track when the world is ever changing around us, or even simply when the time changes.
Last year, one of our best posts, was about the “chair” pose in yoga and the chairs that inspire us (See “Have a Seat..in Chair Pose“). I went again to my lovey friend and knowledgeable yogi, Carrie Green, who teaches at the Kohler Spa in Wisconsin. Here are her thoughts on angle poses.
Yoga is about balance. What starts as a practice in physically finding balance in different poses can ultimately lead to finding increased balance in one’s life. Each asana or yoga pose is created and built from the ground up. Energetically, a foundation is established, rooting into the earth. Moving through the body, physics is critical to balance.
The human body naturally creates these geometric shapes and angles. It is these foundational structures of the body that offer strength or sthira in poses. It’s complement is softness or sukha. The balance between sthira and sukha, strength and softness brings beauty to each pose. A weightlessness can be found when these two elements are combined through breath and awareness.
So take a breath, and be aware of the geometry and architecture of the world around you. You will be surprised what you discover, even in your own home. And embrace this transition into Spring, this transition in time, flow through it, you will find your balance, no matter what your angle.
So with all the Olympic Hockey these past few weeks, I’ve been thinking about the power Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway. While these countries certainly pack some skills on the ice, they also pack some stylish design trends.
We’ve all been in love with this look for awhile. From stark white everything, to minimalist furnishings, and black and white decors void of color, we have been loving this look. The idea is that functionalism meets modernism. Materials include form-pressed woods, plastics, aluminum and steel. And it’s not just the likes of IKEA driving this trend. While there certainly is a lot there to choose from, clients are asking for very complex version of this style in their homes.
But let’s evolve this. For one, those Nordic natives live in 6 months of darkness, they like color just like the rest of us to brighten things up. But I think the key is to present a white base, and stay focused on function.
So while we start with a black and white ground, warmth needs to be added in to keep the space warm, and invited. And while these furnishings may be simple, they are definitely full of details and style. Warm elements can be added back with warm colors such as oranges, aubergine, and soft pastels. Organic wood tones are important too, and can be everything from bleached whites, to veneered pecans and walnuts.
Lighting is definitely important too to brighten up those dark nights. While Scandinavian design has lots of super cool minimalist fixtures, don’t be fooled, it has the latest technology with white hot LEDs that are all energy efficient.
Many of you have visited our Dawn Cook Design and BlulensHouzz pages. And thank you for your reviews! Did you know you can see a complete listing of our design portfolios on Houzz? By clicking the houzz logo to the right on the blog, you can link through to all of my design photography and client reviews. Houzz puts out their awards annually in January, and we were honored to be designated Best of Houzz.
What did we do before this handy growing website? Not only does it have phenomenal photography, and easily searchable keywords, like “white kitchens”, it also have terrific editorial content, such as “A Mid-Century Style Home Provides Comfortable Minimalism” or the “How to Pick a Kitchen Facet” If you are undertaking a larger project, like an addition, or a kitchen renovation, Houzz is a great resource. Even little things, like how to finish a leg on a bathroom vanity, can be resourced and sourced well on this website. And Dawn Cook Design aside, it’s a great way to find local resources, like contractors, and even source product.
A lot of clients like to use Pinterest as well, which is like a file folder of design ideas. I love Pinterest because it is more artful photography, more edgy, more whimsical. I get a lot of Blog inspiration from Pinterest. Houzz is usually more professional shots.
If you think about what we as Designers do, we have to translate what is in your brain into a vision, or effectively communicate our thoughts to you. A picture is worth a thousand words right? Using these social media platforms help achieve that goal. And helps us be better communicators with our clients. What did we do before this resource?
Here is my words of wisdom about Houzz and Pinterest. They are great tools, but you need a professional to make the dream a reality. Also to source all that great product. I get nervous when I hear people say, “I can do it on my own with Houzz” . Just because you like to look on Houzz, doesn’t mean it works for you or your home. Also, The problem is some of these photos go viral, and we stop seeing creative ideas, it all starts to look the same. If you still open a shelter magazine, like Elle Décor or House Beautiful, you still see more inspiring ideas than the websites. There are definitely some drawbacks to these social media sites for consumers, but it’s an effective tool in today’s digital world.
As Designers, we are always looking for inspiration. It can come from color, retail therapy, vendors, vacations, magazines, nature, and architecture. It can also come from a good meal, a deep breath of fresh air, and a hearty belly laugh with friends.
Friends Rose and Karen in the Merimekko Store on 5th Ave.
I got all these things this past weekend, on an impromptu visit to NYC. It was a gorgeous sunny winter weekend away with my besties, and it truly energized my mental place, my zen, but most importantly my design brain! Sometime some unstructured time, helps us later “put all the pieces back together again” to create a design masterpiece.
Snowy skyline view of Central Park and on foot with Linda Smith, Blulens Design
Inspiration can be drawn from a culinary experience. And every meal in NYC was fantastic. From the Spanish lamb and tapas at Tartulia, to the complex ramen at Ma Peche, to the Italian street fair at Eataly, we ate well! Each of these experiences were truly unique, and very intimate all in the same sense.
Delectable dishes, and all sorts of debauchery in Chelsea
Walking around the city during fashion week #FWNY was a treat as well, with extra special window displays, and a buzz in the air with celebrities on every street corner. The link between fashion, interiors, and graphics is tangible, and something to keep track of. A trend on one side, is always and often quickly reflected on the other in the world of design.
We took pause to stroll around The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and enjoy a glass of wine overlooking Central Park, even in the winter this is a beautiful sight. Such a natural beauty within the concrete jungle is awe-inspiring and rewarding.
Truly unique culture is also where it’s at in New York. The performance theatre “Sleep No More” was just that. A dramatically soul wrenching voyeuristic personal experience. The recreated McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea was live performance art loosely based on the Shakespearean MacBeth, with mind-blowing set designs that the crowd participates in but not, there is no talking and you wear a mask…this cult performance was an experience and truly could set the stage for design trends to come. Dark, mysterious, and yes…sexual…my brain is still trying to figure it all out. See the New York Times review for more thoughts on this performance.
New York….where dreams are made of. And inspiration!
Tomorrow February 6th is my birthday, I turn 45! Good! How appropriate that it’s heart health month! Because I have a newly repaired “bionic” heart. Yes, I am old (ish). But I get to see another year. Another year with my kids and family, of health and happiness, of drama and woes. It’s ALL GOOD, because I am here. Yes I dread the wrinkles, and the grey hair, and someone calling me “middle age” (and they did), because I guess I am. It’s ALL GOOD because I am here.
On February 21st, I will be honored as a Heart Survivor at the annual Go Red For Women Luncheon and Expo. 1100 women, heavy corporate sponsors. I get to tell my story to the masses about how everything came to be. I can’t believe the company I am keeping. My story sounds “boring” compared to some of the other ladies experiences. But the American Heart Association assures me it is quite moving and important, and people will want to listen. Again, I am here to tell it, with a new and improved heart, when the situation could have been much different. I am truly honored and excited for this experience.
We are all obsessed. With the lovely Abbey, it’s Lords and Ladies, the servants, and all that delicious drama. The show is so visually stunning, with the fashion and set design it is truly a feast for the eyes. I feel like you could watch it numerous time to soak it all in.
Last night, I found myself fixated on a Queen Anne Chair in the background. It was so superb and set just so. Living here in Shaker Heights, we get to see much beautiful traditional design. But everyone asks for clean, simple, modern these days. Have we lost the art of elaborate, overdecorated, traditional design? Not if you are a DA fan, Hooray! So if you want to do it right, remember these rules.
Deck It Out – Windows and Trim: At Downton Abbey, the windows are layered in miles of silks, tapestries, damasks and more, and loaded up with trim. And truly, doesn’t that just look luxurious? I know we don’t want all that these days, but it does add a layer of elegance. So the take away, is attention to detail, layers of treatments, and elements of style. Clients sometimes are shocked when they get the bill for window treatments. No Pottery Barn panels are going to achieve this look. Custom window treatments with stellar pleats, tons of interlining, trims, and gorgeous hardware are expensive but worth it. Prepare yourself for sticker shock, but know that this makes all the difference in the world when it comes to finishing your Manor.
Load It up – Brocades, Damasks, and Velvets – Layers and layers of rich fabrics can be seen on all the elegant furniture, wallcoverings, pillows, windows, and beds at the Abbey. It’s astounding. I love the red velvet sofas in the Library at Downton, not to mention all those books and oil paintings! People are shocked at how much good design costs. But that’s because we have retailers that promote, and furnishings that come from China, and are truly disposable these days. Back then, they layered their walls in silk. I have not done this today, but I hear it is done. It is truly cost prohibitive for even the healthiest design budget. But even investing in a few of these fabrics and details will provide the elegance. We often have clients that want to stop after the furniture and lights arrive, the room needs to be finished to the last detail for a true Designer effect.
Pile it On – Bed Décor – Linens, fabrics, and drapery – Don’t you love how much time Cora spends lounging in bed, and at her dressing table,…and on her chaise lounge. To truly not have to worry about anything except where your next maid comes from. But don’t overlook those bed details. The carvings on the bed, the chinoiserie inlays on the nightstands, the layers of canopy design, are worth noting. You had to have beautiful things to look at while you lounged around back then. Even though we are always on the move now, it’s still nice to fall into a gorgeous bed of sumptuous linens and cottons. Don’t underrate the furniture and linens on your bed. Decking out a king size bed can cost in the thousands. Yes, I said thousands.
Pimp It Out – Crystal, Table Setting, Gilded Mirrors, and Floral – You have to be a good entertainer when you are English. I love the gowns these ladies wear to dinner. And it has been interesting to see how the fashion and room décor has evolved over the years at the Abbey. Elegantly and properly set tables, crystal, gold, and mirrored décor are a must for even the most casual of dinners. Crystal is on everything these days. Even my most modern-minded client said he would “tolerate” crystal in his master bath because it was true to the home. Even modern lighting incorporates crystal, but there is nothing like the real thing, such as Schonbek or Fine Art Lighting. As are as decking out the table, if you are looking for table and floral ideas see our post from November 2013, (Entertaining by Design II-Setting the Perfect Table).
Keep It Real – Classic English Furnishings – I think my favorite design element in Downton Abbey is the juxtaposition of Mrs. Patmore’s simply elegant kitchen with the big farmhouse table and the classic white pottery next to all the glamour above. We get asked for this look a lot these days because this is how we really live. Designer Jennifer Monachino of Monarch Interiors calls it “Modern Farmhouse”. We get asked for this look a lot these days, especially with younger clients. On the flipside, the upstairs stays true with authentic Chippendale chairs, that lovely Queen Anne chair I admired, and other elements of classic 18th and 19th century English furniture. Even if you aren’t an antiques connoisseur, it still is important to recognize the iconic design elements that still lend themselves to good design today.
OK. I’ll admit it. I’m a hoarder. I see you gasping in surprise. Yes, I can be a good Designer and still have a messy life. Dare I say the best Creatives are a bit messy? But more specifically, my strategy has been to pile the things I don’t want to deal with into the closets (yes this is a metaphor for life as well). I would shudder to recommend this to a client. OK ASID police, I hear your sirens. But there is some absolution in reveling this fact out in the open.
Now. That’s better. I can think.
Living in our Stockholm house for 17 years offers many opportunities for clutter. Growing up my family moved every year during my elementary years, my Mom and Dad still held on to items. Maybe this was some way to hang on to never established roots with all the moving. When my Mom finally moved out of her house, I had to clean out the desk, which held notes with phone numbers from 30 years ago, grocery lists, never attempted recipes. My Dad, in his neuroses can still spend a weekend trying to find that one thing that got filed away unexpectedly. Where is the therapy in letting it all go?
Clean Living. That’s a nice thought, but also difficult to come by. It’s so much harder when it’s your own stuff. I can edit with little tack when I am helping a client get their house on the market. My very first client, whom I adore, has made huge progress editing her piles now that she lives in a “big girl” house. I know she scuttles about clearing before I pop over for a visit.
Once of my favorite websites, Apartment Therapy, does a 30 day home cleanse called The January Cure. It’s worth taking a look to get you on the right path. It’s impossible to follow it to a T, but follow even a few steps and you are on the right path.
Even though I would never proclaim to be an organizing specialist, (there are people who do that!), I do have some go to remedies for my clients:
Less is More –as I stated in this article a few years ago, (see “A hardworking, tidy mudroom doesn’t have to be drab“). I know it is tempting to load up on hats, boots, and scarfs, but friends who have many children get it right; everybody gets one of each and you have to keep track of your own items. Why try to keep track of multiple items for multiple children. Although….mom is allowed to have a few extra pairs of trendy boots.
Ready Access – Why is that summer clothing still in the front of your closet? Unless you are heading for resort living, stash away items that you absolutely won’t be wearing for a period of time. Right now they just get in the way. Unless it’s a fashion statement, for example my red Kitchen-Aid Mixer which sits on the counter, stow away unnecessary objects.
Fashion Sense in the Container – There is a plethora of hip baskets, industrial bins, wire shelving, and memo boards that would actually make you want to spend time doing household chores. These items are everywhere from Target, to CB2, to trendy spots designer websites like canvas. And the mecca of all organization, – The Container Store, I constantly tell Brian this place is every woman’s fantasy.
Revel in the Negative Space – clear off those shelves. When we organize bookshelves, and yes we do this a lot, we take everything off, and artfully arrange the items that are important. Grandma’s collection, the loved, worn photography books, the antique bookends. Get rid of everything else. You can appreciate more with less.
As I make my own home organizing plans, know that we all do this. Some people are better than others, but know that decluttering your home, declutters your mind, and that is a good place to start the new year.
Happy Organizing! Best, Dawn
PS…this post is dedicated to Sadie, my assistant who keeps me organized and sane! Thank you!
It’s here. My favorite time of year. A new year, a fresh start. Whether it’s a New Year’s Resolution or a new beginning. It’s a wonderful time to reset, replenish, and regroup. Give your soul a break, or a jumpstart, whichever is needed.
This is the time of year that the entire holiday bustle comes down and we reflect on the blank canvas of our lives. Our walls? Or our beings? It’s time to reset the clock and take pause in who we want to be. Is it healthier, wealthier, or wiser? Or none of these? Can you look around the blank walls and just appreciate the now. The empty canvas. The who you are today, not who you want to be tomorrow.
Sometimes when the resolutions fall short, we look in the mirror and feel regret. But why? We do the best we can. We can stay the course, or try a new direction, but if we stop trying to test time, move time, or recreate time….sometimes the beauty is in the present. In being present, in living in the moment. That’s something I’ve learned along the way.
The Cook Family at the Gorge of Doan Brook in Shaker Heights, Ohio 2013
As we look forward to next year, we are excited to start the year off with a plethora of wonderful clients, tons of momentum from a successful 2013, and lots of great ideas to grow and expand the Blog.
All of our clients this year gave us great joy from artists to art collectors, whether big or small projects, we loved clients willing to take a risk and knock down a wall or just paint the fireplace a cool color. We got the pleasure to design master suites, teenager rooms, glamour kitchens, and swanky living spaces. Thank you for inviting us into your homes.
It’s a joy to do this job and always fun in the process. Even though our clients entrust their money in our vision, we always want the design to reflect back to the Homeowners heart and soul.
Gingerbread Houses, Mom and Daughter Holiday Event, 2013
A few days ago, Sophie and I made gingerbread houses with friends, and it was great fun and right up my alley to “build a house made of cookies”. So whether it’s a house made of brick and mortar, house of cards, or house of candy, this is my passion and I enjoy sharing it with each and every one of you.
Cheers to you and yours in 2014. May your days be Beautiful and Bright in 2014!