In which the author tells you how to run your life -- or at least how to make the most of the fun parts of it.

For instance, inside these pages you will learn how to weather a mortar attack in good spirits; how to avoid booking yourself on the Internet into a bed and breakfast full of twee quilts and dusty tchotkes; and how to plan a dinner party that will stun your guests with deliciousness and style and not destroy your will to live with the amount of work you have to do to pull it off.

These are things I know firsthand, and things people who know me often ask me about (though I usually just book them into bed and breakfasts myself -- identifying ruffled death traps is an acquired skill). I am almost always right about everything (food, style and travel-related, anyway, and often many other things) and if everyone would just do as I say, dinner would taste better, cupcakes would not be dry, your parties would be more fun (for you), and mortar attacks... well, they always suck. I can't do anything about them.

*except laundry. I can't manage my own laundry, much less yours.

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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

How I Love It When A Plan Comes Together: Memphis Jen

More about the above photo in a second. (Courtesy House Beautiful)

If you are just joining us, Jen in Memphis contacted me through this blog to ask whether I would have a go at giving her some thoughts on her living room. Have a read, then come back here when you are all caught up. And don't forget to read the comments because Jen is digging me telling her how to run her (living room decoration project).

We're going about this kind of backwards but... here are questions and answers I asked Jen in Memphis to try to figure out what her new living room needed to feel and look like, and how it would be used. These are good for anyone beginning to rethink a room...

1. How would you describe your style currently?
ummmmm, hodge-podge, mis-matched?, a mess. This is not how we feel, so our surroundings are not cohesive with our core beings. We have purchased a lot of furniture from estate sales and thrift shops, so we ended up with a mixture of strange things that have some of the elements I like, but everything doesn't work together. Maybe they can be used, but we are willing to change all the furniture. My husband and I are both artists and musicians. I had a huge garage sale recently and got rid of a lot of clutter, so now we have a nice free space to work with..except some pieces I kept that I thought might work somewhere. If I had to describe our current style in one word, it would have to be eclectic.
2. How would you describe the style you would like to have (if it's different)?
contemporary, eclectic, a nice mix of old and new, and most importantly, stylish and together.

3. How do you want the room to feel?
Cohesive. Stylish. Fun. Artsy. Comfortable. Neat and together.
4. How does it feel to you now?
It felt cluttered. Awkward. I had a huge sectional (gone now), it took up too much room and made the room look cluttered and messy...lots of loose pillows. I have a tendency to make clutter, I have to refrain from my urge to do that. I think that being an artist makes me want to put lots of visual stimulation around me from all kinds of sources. But there is a place and time for that..I don't need it all over the entire house! But what you are going to see now is what is left after we purged. (a weird rug that was the same color as the wall (too much!), and the sectional and the traditional style coffee table that was functional but I hated it, tons of knick-knack stuff...I condensed and put away..these things are all gone now.)

5. How do you want to use it? (if dining room -- family dinners? elegant dinner parties? if living room: watching tv with friends? napping/reading/relaxing)
Family dinners, fun but casual parties, relaxation time.
6. What time of day do you expect to use it most?
Evenings and weekends
7. How much natural light does it get?
A lot in the morning. You will see there are a lot of windows on the east wall.

(random eye candy. to break up all this writing. Jen is eyeing these Eames chairs in Memphis for her dining room. I am all for, with either a white glossy new dining table -- in fiberglass? powder coated metal? or a gloriously beat up antique... Juxtaposition R Us)

8. What do you like about it?

I like the vaulted ceilings, the open feeling it has. I love the windows and light. The simple layout. the big fire place, the big living room.

9. What do you hate about it?

The wall color(s). I used to like it, but I found it so difficult to hang art on the walls and
I like a clean, crisp look. I like this color as an accent color, but not a wall color. I do not like the dining room wall color with the living room wall color. I came to the conclusion that it doesn't seem to work to "split" the room wall colors like that. So...the color is not so bad, just not straight leading into the red looks kind of like Christmas where the two meet.
The way the dining room and living room are painted and the flooring...yuck! We bought our house as a fixer upper. When we bought it the floors were left as they were which was an unfinished mess. We want to put in new floors. Possibly ourselves. We have thought about tiling, wood, stone and everything in between. I like natural looking wood or slate tile...maybe?

10. Go look in your closet. What color do you see most?
whites, lots of shades of purples, greys and teals

11.What is your favorite color?

mine: green, purples and pinks and turquoise, greenish blue and bluish green...from top favorite down. He likes the same kind of colors. He likes yellow, blue, turquoise, purple, green and red. We both love bold, vibrant colors. Neither of us likes dark colors much. (such as dark green, navy blue, dark brown, etc. although I could consider brown as a leather sofa color)

12. Essay question~! why haven't you been able to get this room looking the way you want?

I am not certain how to answer this. I think we have been trying, mixing and matching..trying to come up with a look...but we had to many disparate elements thrown together. Now that everything is cleared out...its easier to think about. I really can't wait to see your ideas! We have ideas...but still are a little scatter brained about it. We are trying not to be in a hurry so we won't make any big mistakes.

13. Which words appeal to you most -- ie, words you would like someone who came to visit to use to describe the room after you are done:


14. What's your budget (be realistic.. if its $300, that's fine. $1000, that's even better)

Well, we see this as a work in progress, so our budget is pretty big. We won't be able to do all the big stuff at once, but we can afford to buy some big ticket things. I love anything that's a bargain...LOVE LOVE LOVE that is a big plus. But on some things we are ready to spring (such as a nice sofa...just to let you know what we've looked at so far...Room and Board...and Scan Interiors...average price...1800.00 to 4,000. I have also been checking craigslist for sofas that I could recover. Naturally, the cheaper the better, but I do want quality for a sofa. Let's put the budget at (ed: redacted for Jen's privacy!) dollars for now. We are looking for:

A new couch. (He likes comfort...I like style) and definitely not too big
lamps, tables, flooring, window treatments, paint, media center (or something that would work..even thought of custom wall bookcase), rugs, pillows, maybe chairs, mantle pieces, I plan to do paintings for our house, so we don't need artwork. (but what I like are abstract and whimsical pieces.) Our entrance hall, living and dining room all can be seen clearly from one another...somehow, they should flow together.

15. How much work are you willing to do (paint chairs? sew curtains?)

I can't sew, but my mom its possible that she could sew curtains. I am willing to paint furniture, walls, and install what ever I can. My husband is very handy, and can do a lot!

Jen and I have moved to e-mail because we have MANY things to discuss.

Jen will start painting everything white this weekend. She is considering an accent wall of an apple or mossy green. I tend to oppose accent walls, as I told her -- they look like you're not brave enough to commit to color. So I'd rather see the living room white, and perhaps the dining room -- which you can see from the living room -- green. (Update! I have granted permission to paint the back wall of the dining room green and the rest white .. .yes an accent wall.. because there is a strange point where the two rooms meet on a single plane. Hard to paint them different colors. ) And in the living room she should paint a large piece -- a wooden sideboard perhaps, with shiny metal knobs -- the exact shade of green she chooses for the dining room in semi or high gloss.

The entrance hall/ foyer could be the same green but in either a lighter or darker value... just move up or down the paint chip, if it is one of those traditional ones. I also really like fabulous wallpaper for entrance halls. Maybe something graphic in green and white. I feel a Greek Key coming on. Or a lattice. Definitely a lattice. Dig it! (and! If she gets bookcases or a glass fronted corner cabinet, she could paste the wallpaper in the back of the piece... a tiny little wink tying the foyer into the living room.)

For the place to feel airy, she's gonna need to limit the color palette -- otherwise it can get a little circusy.* I used to have a gorgeous pumpkin living room with an adjoining red study and they looked fabulous together but eventually were just too much Ringling Bros. for me.

*(that is, unless she does every room in the same strength of different colors -- say a pale blue in one room, a pale lavender in another, a pale green in a third. That can work. There is no jarring the eye when you move from one space to another.)
And super hooray she wants to cover the stone fireplace in wood -- something modern and sharp. That's where the above picture comes in. Something along the lines of that red wall could be built up around the fireplace with minimal trouble for a good carpenter. It could be painted that nice rusty red, or black, or white, or a glossy chocolate brown.

I found, and she wisely is going to buy, these fantastic tomato-red suede lamps. $99 for the pair.

And these wonderful couches are in Birmingham, Alabama. A couch and a love seat for $325! Jen likes and flirted with getting them to Memphis. I LOVE LOVE LOVE them and think they are fabulous in an Austin Powers way and should be purchased immediately.

But Jen is also enamored of these... so she's trending Midcentury. One is in Delaware, one is in Philly, and one is in...I can't remember. None are in Memphis. Sigh. But in any case, I want to see a long, low slung clean-lined couch in there, preferably in white. I pasted in a couch from Room and Board below that would work well - but she'd have to bite the bullet and spend $2,800.

And Jen JUST bought these totally awesome blue chairs (there is a pair.) FANTASTIC and just $50. While Memphis is slim pickins on Craigslist compared to New York, LA or DC -- when something cool pops up, there doesn't seem to be much competition. She can leave them as is, or have them reupholstered. I like them as is, flanking the above couch. In this case I might paint her existing sideboard cobalt blue and push it up against the back of the couch, with the two suede lamps. So cheap they make the above couch affordable! Jen, you must tkae pictures as you go along!

1 comment:

  1. This is fabulous! I so love your sense of style! I love that you're helping me do this! The wallpaper is to die for. Hmm which couch shall I choose..I'm in a sea of couches! I'm ready to are very motivational!