Archive | April 2012

Pillow Talk

One of the easiest ways to freshen up tired old furniture, or brighten up any room in the house, is with pillows. Pillows are like candy for your room. They range from inexpensive to luxurious, hand-woven to graphic, and can punch things up. It is hard to mess up with pillows, and you can experiment here and have some fun.

This is a place where you can add texture, bold pattern or color that you might shy away from otherwise. Or, if you have an underlying addiction to textiles like me, display it here. Needlepoint and embroidery, hand-woven or quilted, ruffles, tassles or braided cords and trim; the sky is the limit.

A designer friend once dished out this little tidbit that I have never forgotten: Buy neutral furniture and you will not tire of it. Change the cheap things like paint and pillows and your furniture will have staying power. So simple and smart.

I recently bought this big, old wooden bench from a yard sale. It is carved and, well, . . . hard. It was a good find and I instantly thought, “this is my chance to show off all the pillows!” Even still, I have to sew a cushion for the seat. It is on my to-do list, right after “get sewing machine back from my sister.” Either that, or it has just been added to HER to-do list. I am not sure which.

Old wooden bench.

I am going to reveal to you the depths of my pillow problem. I stacked them up on the living room floor and….

Pillow problem revealed.

These are my choices for the bench. I also love the burlap bag look and so I bought rice from Costco and shoved an old pillow inside the bag it comes in. Cut off the tags and handles and it is instant art. Technically, if you eat the rice, it is also free.

Bag of rice.

Here is the old bench dressed up a few different ways:

Graphic pillows, minimal color.

A little rug and some turquoise pillows.

Traditional look with rice bags for pillowcases.

My pillows are generally down or feather-filled for maximum comfort. Changing the covers is easy and there is so much room for creativity. Spice up your space and go a little pillow crazy. You won’t regret it.

© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio.

Advertisements

The Other Woman

There is another woman in my life. I snuck her into my home, only hoping my husband wouldn’t notice. She served the dual purpose of beauty and function in one. I was intrigued by this see-through lady and wanted her to hold toilet paper rolls and the clothes I was constantly discarding all over the bathroom floor. What a fabulous find!

Me and the wire lady.

I know I am not the only person out there who is tired of waiting for Rosie to come around. Growing up with “The Jetsons”, we have realized so many of their futuristic fantasies including cell phones, flying cars, and machines that dispense food. But alas, where is Rosie, the Robot Maid? This wire lady is the closest thing I have to Rosie, holding up my clothes and keeping the toilet paper within reach. I can’t ask for anything more than that.

Glimpse of the wire lady in the mirror.

I found her at Marshall’s and could not leave without her. I had been looking for a solution to the toilet paper problem and here it was standing before me. I had considered a free-standing birdcage, but I just knew when I laid eyes on her that she was the one. She was a steal at only $50.

My husband gets annoyed by extracurricular pieces of furniture. This is why I had to sneak the lady in. I thought for sure he would understand once he saw her in place. Besides, isn’t this some version of every man’s dreams?

He did grumble and still does on occasion. But the next day, I went into the bathroom, surprised to see her adorned with….

The Other Woman.

This represents peace in our house. At last, she had worked her wiry charms on him.

© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio.

The Garden of My Dreams

Spring flowers in a pitcher.

I don’t know what causes creativity, but sometimes it is a curse. The monsters under the bed can be so real! A creative person might be willing to believe any story they hear because for them, it is not necessarily out of the realm of possibility. As a child, I may have held the world record for being the most gullible and I had a hard time sleeping at night. My dad had me convinced for more than a year that the stains on the carpet came from our pet monkeys. I do not need to go into the details of this, but needless to say, I think I can blame at least part of my creative streak on him.

It is ironic that I don’t like to garden. I am fond of gardens in general, and when I was little and had a bad dream, I would run to my mom’s bed and we would talk about “my garden”. She neglected to mention how much work it is to have a garden and it was just somehow always beautiful and serene. She would describe the climbing roses and the flowery scents wafting by and how much fun I would have with my monkey (this one stuffed!) together in our garden.

Tamarins, Cape May Zoo, New Jersey.

One night I was terrified of some shadow in the room, and I was at my dad’s house instead of my mom’s. I ran to his bedroom and curled up between him and my stepmom and wondered how I was going to calm down because this was NOT the routine. My stepmom just rolled over and went back to sleep and my dad said, “What does your mom do when you can’t sleep?” So I told him about the garden. I went into great detail because he had never been in it before. Finally, he says….“Where are the cows?” and I said “What cows?” “Cows are smelly and leave piles of manure, why would I want those?” He said, “Don’t you need manure in a garden?” Funny thing is I was so distracted by all of his silly ideas that I eventually drifted back to sleep. From then on, I ended up with the occasional cow popping through my garden.

My house here in Beltsville has a wild sort of garden. I think the official title for that type is “cottage”. We have all sorts of interesting plants because the original owner was a botanist at the nearby Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. He is responsible for poinsettias lasting through Christmas and other magnificent plant-type contributions.

Here are a few highlights from my garden, the one I am in no way responsible for. I hope to one day tame it a little.

Momma Red Maple. She produces many little seedlings.

Spring flowers in the garden.

The ivy is hiding a root cellar.

Spring is a beautiful time to be outside. Take your allergy meds and appreciate the beauty unfolding before you. Cut some dogwood, lilac, camellia or quince and bring a little piece of spring inside.

© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio.

Movin’ on Up

Wall of Coffee, The White Hart, Lynchburg.

I like to hang things from the ceiling. I use the vertical space in my house as a way to stretch out the floor plan. My ceilings are high, and using the vertical space draws the eye up and makes the room feel bigger. It is practical as well, adding storage while keeping the surfaces and floor clear of clutter. This area is the third dimension in your design and you can take advantage of this space.

Kitchen pot rack.

I searched high and low for a wooden ladder I could use as a basket rack. I eventually found a rickety one in a consignment shop. I hung the ladder from the ceiling with twine, added stainless steel S hooks to the rungs on the ladder, and hung the baskets on the hooks. It is a space-saving solution that adds a hint of country charm inside my back door.

Ladder as basket rack.

Ladder love: The Urban Merchant, Lynchburg.

Alexander Calder invented the mobile. He tinkered with wire and bits of this and that until he had made a hanging creation. What a fabulous way to bring art into your vertical space. You can hang an abstract mobile from the ceiling and bring 3-dimensional art, reflecting light or color, into your room. I have a wire sculpture that I call the “flute lady” that hangs from my ceiling. I added the eyelashes (at the gift-giver’s specific instruction) to make her look more like me. It is music and art wrapped up together in a portrait and I love it.

The Flute Lady.

Utilize your vertical space. Think outside the box and draw your eyes up.

Vines twisting up the column, Enchanted Antiques, Lynchburg.

What can you do to add the illusion of height to your space?

© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio. All rights reserved.

Profile of a Bookworm

I have always loved books. I once read that you burn more calories reading a book than watching television. Perhaps because your brain is so active imagining all the possibilities while you are reading. Or maybe your brain is just busy digesting information, whether it is fiction or not. I love to read and I cannot get rid of a book.

When I walk into a home full of books, I know that I will connect with the inhabitants. I love to see what people have on their bookshelves or on their coffee table. It is a glimpse into their world and gives me an idea of who they are. Maybe I am prejudging them, casing the joint, performing some sort of bookworm profiling. Books say a lot about people, and I am fascinated by this.

This presents a practical issue when decorating. Where do you put all of those books?  I have books tucked away in every nook and cranny of this house. They are stuffed in cabinets, stacked under the coffee table and piled up on nightstands. Inside of the closets you are more likely to find books than clothes.

Family room nook.

Inside of Sam’s closet.

I recently found this incredible poster from Charles Scribner publishing. It combines several things I love: peacocks, books, and art, all in one. I decided to hang it over my bookshelves in the foyer. I love the uncluttered look of the poster above the clutter of all those books. It is perfect and inspires me.

There is a movement afoot in the decorating world to fill shelves with knick-knacks, pottery, art, or anything else but books. I have even seen them covering the spines with paper so they all match. I find this offends my inner intellectual. I think books should have a place in the world of design and it should be a place of honor. Add other things with the books to create interest on your shelves, paint the back of the shelf a fabulous color, and let the books tell the story about who you are, for the nosy bookworms out there like me.

© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio. All rights reserved.

Sore Knees + Math = Awesome Floor

Sometimes math provides clarity. When I am surrounded by chaos, I find myself enjoying paying the bills. Something about the order of it all and how numbers always make sense. They are low maintenance and low drama. I love numbers.

I have a strange ability to recite numbers in order, forwards or backwards. This was only discovered when I was poor and willing to do just about anything for money while in college. With electrodes strapped to my head, the NIH researchers studying my brain said, “Wow! You are not normal.” This was meant, I think, as a compliment. Talk about skills you have no idea what to do with.

You may be wondering what this has to do with design, but I promise you, it does. I find I have to use math frequently. For example: when tiling a floor or backsplash, painting stripes on a wall, judging the scale of furniture or accessories to place in a room, or when painting a checkerboard floor, geometry abounds.

This is a lesson in geometry. If only my high school math teacher had used design to teach, I would have been a star student! With a few simple tools, some floor paint, and at least one crisis you are trying to avoid in your life, you too can do it. You will get into a math zone, I think similar to the runner’s high I know nothing about, and everything will come into focus.

First, prime and prep the floor. Make sure it is smooth and ready to receive paint. Use a good quality floor paint (I prefer Benjamin Moore). Then paint the entire floor, with a roller, the base color. I painted the floor green first.

Now for the math: find and mark the center of the room. In my case the room was not square, so I divided it into two imaginary rooms and marked the center of each section, which was about 8 x 8. This made it so the checkers were square and not elongated like the shape of my room. Then draw a line, with a yardstick as a straight edge, from one corner to the other, going through the center mark and creating an X. Moving from the center towards the edge of the room, draw parallel lines to the center line. You will get a checkerboard all the way to the edges.

Find the center of your room.

Now divide your room into a square and mark the center of the square.

Draw parallel lines to the center lines for the square. Voilà! A checkerboard pattern.

Using frog tape, tape off the squares along the outside of the pencil mark so you don’t have to erase any marks. With a tapered PURDY brush (please do not attempt to use any other type of brush to paint) fill in the opposite squares with your contrasting color. Now comes the zone part: continue to paint until your knees hurt. Or you can use one of those garden pads.

sore knees + math = awesome floor.

 A part of me would like to add a disclaimer here that says, “Don’t try this at home.” But where is the fun in that? I say instead, “Go for it; it’s only paint.”

© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio

The Great Wall of Beltsville

My wall started as a collection of black and white photographs. The very first two were from a photography studio in England and given to us as a wedding present from a dear college friend.

The photographs have grown to fill up the space over my sofa. Each photograph has a story or represents a place that I love. The grouping has pops of red here and there and in the center is not a photograph at all, but a chalk drawing of a Thai dancer done by my great-grandmother. The unifying factor is that all the frames are black. Together, they make up the “Great Wall of Beltsville.” I can almost hear the “Great Wall” shouting at me, each picture telling its’ story over the other, like children vying for attention.

I have balanced the “Great Wall of Beltsville” with a single large photograph across the room. It is a way to add calm and to quiet the room. The scale of it alone commands attention and the x-ray plant radiates some sort of photosynthesischic.

Grouping art together can evoke the feeling of a gallery. The center of the group should hang at eye-level. I love the way my collection stands out on the painted orange wall. If you want a more formal look, hang the pictures symmetrically, side by side, like in this grouping from a Starbucks.

Art is complicated, but in a good way. It is versatile and can change the look and mood of a room. It can enhance your style or help create contrast. A group of art with a similar thread tying the pieces together can be more cost-effective and have just as much impact as a large-scale piece.

© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio