Monday, January 28, 2013

Bookshelf Makeovers

           Most of us have bookshelves in our homes.  They can become catch-all spaces for papers, keys, and odds and ends.  They can also be unimaginative, holding only the books they are designed for.  During your post-holiday cleaning this year, take a fresh look at your rooms and think about making your bookshelves look more interesting.  You can combine storage and display functions for a colorful new look.  Start by organizing your books by subject matter, then by size and color.  Organizing books by color is prettier and more pleasing to the eye.  Stack your books both vertically and horizontally.  Alternating directions will give your displays more personality.  You can also place objects on the horizontal books to create a still life.

             Next, look around your home for objects that are attractive or meaningful.  A collection of similarly themed items works well, but don’t be afraid to mix things up.  For example, books, fine china, and family photos can all work together.  Choose only a few of the items to display; keep it simple.  Resist the urge to cram your shelves until they are over-full.  Limit your selections to three or four types of items at the most to create unity.  Too many objects can be overwhelming to the eye and cluttered-looking.  As you work, treat each shelf as its own vignette while taking care to relate it to the shelves above and below it.

            As you arrange your collection, put larger items near the top and bottom of the bookcase.  Place smaller objects at eye level.  Group items of different scale on different shelves and place items slightly off center.  Step back occasionally as you are working to assess the overall effect you are achieving.  Distribute items by their visual weight, rather than by their dimensions.  For example, metal items will look heavier than glass.

            If you have large shelves, try layering your treasures; it will give your bookcase depth.  Use a colorful book, photograph, or a piece of art as a backdrop to other items.  Placing colorful frames around the displayed art gives it more prominence.  You can also lean plates against the back, anchoring them with books or heavier objects in front.  Place smaller items near the front of the shelves.  If you want to give one favorite item attention, place it on a shelf by itself.

            If you must have loose papers or smaller pamphlets on your shelf, use pretty storage boxes or baskets to hold them.  Repurpose small wooden crates or metal locker baskets to hold sundry items and give your shelf a more industrial look. 
            If your books and collected items are not “popping” the way you want them to, you can also freshen up the bookcase itself by painting it a vibrant, contrasting color.  A dark color will make the bookshelf look larger.  Another trick is to paste an attractive wallpaper, fabric, or scrapbook paper onto the back wall of the bookcase to create visual interest and to draw the eye inward.
            Change items or rearrange them occasionally to keep your displays looking interesting.  Instead of merely being functional, your bookcases will give your rooms character and warmth, and you will have created a new decorator look at little to no cost.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Mirrors 101

          The use of mirrors in home décor has resurged in popularity in the last few years, and home owners are finding that beautiful frames and decorative details make mirrors works of art on the wall.  Mirrors can be used to create an illusion of space, to add light, or to add a decorative sparkle to various spaces.  They can also create depth on a flat wall or lighten the visual weight of a bulky wall.  Mirrors make long hallways feel broader and can enhance architecture by extending a line of sight.

            You can steal an interior designer’s trick of making the eye believe a small room has more square footage than it actually does by propping a large mirror on the floor against a wall.  The mirror should be at least ¾ as tall as the wall itself. 
To go for a collector’s look, try grouping mirrors on a wall featuring different frames or borders.  To create another “window” in a darker room, hang a mirror opposite the existing window to reflect light and make the space brighter.  Strategic placement of a mirror opposite a piece of art gives the painting or sculpture more importance.  Mirrors that reflect lamplight help make a space more intimate and warm.

            Mirrors may also be used in unconventional settings.  For example, place a long door mirror down the middle of a dining room table to reflect candle light or centerpieces.  And how about that fireplace that goes unused during the summer?  It’s a perfect space for positioning a mirror behind pillar candles.  It will create the illusion of a soft, flickering light without any of the heat.

            There are a few rules you should follow when working with mirrors.  Rule #1:  When hanging a mirror, make sure you consider the height, which is critical to getting the best reflection.  If the frame of the mirror is more important than what the mirror is reflecting (such as a starburst mirror), hanging it at a higher level works well.  Rule #2:  Unless you plan to use the mirror for primping, it looks best when it reflects light from a window or lamp.  Rule #3: You can pre-check the reflection of the mirror by standing where it will hang and looking at the opposite wall.  Rule #4:  When hanging a mirror, use picture hangers placed on both sides of the back of the piece rather than a wire.  This will cause the mirror to hang flat instead of at an angle that may distort the reflection you are trying to achieve.  Rule #5:  Be careful not to reflect too much glare from exposed light bulbs or the sun.  More light is great, but blinding flashes are not.  Rule #6:  If your mirror hangs above a counter or table top, clear the clutter.  You don’t want a mess magnified!  And lastly, Rule #7:  Consider the color of the room when you hang your mirror because that color will be intensified when reflected.

            Mirrors are available in all shapes, colors, styles, and sizes.  Your home will become “the fairest of them all” when you use them as decorative highlights throughout your rooms.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Beautifying the Boudoir

           Common decorating advice dictates that bedroom décor should be restful, neutral, and a place of sanctuary.  But who wants sleep induced by boring surroundings?  You can turn your bedroom into a stylish escape with a little do-it-yourself handiwork and some imagination.

            Large furniture pieces tend to set the tone of a room, while choices of accents, lighting, and color define personal style.  Nothing provides a focal point in the bedroom like a great headboard.  Before you run out to a store for a typical bed, however, consider making your own headboard out of unconventional materials.  Here are some ideas to get you started:

1.       Cut an inviting headboard shape out of vintage wallpaper and paste it to the wall at the head of the bed.  Modern vinyl decals can be used for the same look.  (Try

2.      For an upholstered look, start with a piece of plywood, some padding, decorative fabric, glue, staples, and embellishments like upholstery nails.  With little to no sewing, you can create a plush headboard in endless patterns and colors.  (For help, go to marthastewart  For a more rustic look, try burlap or canvas.  Too much work?  Hang a colorful quilt from a rail over the head of the bed.

3.      Turn an old door sideways after removing the hardware.  You can distress it for a shabby chic look or paint it any color you like.

4.      Attach an old picket fence section to the wall.

5.      Connect several shutters together to match the width of the bed.  They don’t necessarily need to be the same height or all the same colors.

6.      Connect wooden pallets together and attach to the wall.  Position them all horizontally, all vertically, or mix and match slat directions.  You can keep the roughhewn surface, or sand the wood and stain it for a smoother finish.

7.      Screw several old boat oars together at varying heights and attach to the wall.  Have fun with colors and patinas as you collect your oars.

8.      Find a large, old metal or wood advertising sign for some fun color. 

9.      Use a tailgate from an old pickup.  Make sure you connect all heavier pieces to studs in the wall so you don’t damage your drywall.

Now pile on the pillows, and when you choose your bedding, don’t be shy about mixing
patterns.  Vintage quilts or chenille spreads make nice accent throws.  If you can’t decide where to start, find inspiration in the places, colors, and styles you love.  Your new headboard will make your bedroom inviting and fun, and you’ll sleep well because you didn’t over-spend to create your new look!