Color repetition makes for harmonious home

When I was a kid — even a teenager — I had an odd way of picking out clothes. I had no idea that certain shades looked better on me than others due to my natural complexion, hair, and eye color. Thus, I would shop for clothes according to what colors I already had vs. didn’t. Let me demonstrate: “Hmm, that’s a nice mint green sweater, but I already have something in that color. Scratch. But here is a shade of pink that I’ve never bought before. Score!” Then, poof, it was added to my Rainbow Connection… er Collection. My wardrobe was literally a smorgasbord of every imaginable hue. Unfortunately, I borrowed that strategy when decorating the rooms in my first house.
While I didn’t have a blue room, green room, and red room, I did decorate as if each room was disconnected from the other. As a result, my house did not “flow well.” It was choppy. Bad feng shui. A bit schizophrenic. Although I’m not a fan of everything in a wardrobe or home design being overly matchy-matchy, I am a firm believer that there must be some consistent design elements, including color, which pull it all together.
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Not only is this more aesthetically pleasing, but it is practical, too. Once you pick some foundational shades, pieces in your home become interchangeable, letting you switch things up once in a while without having to reinvent an entire scheme. Pick a few neutrals as a foundation and then select a handful of colors which work well together, sprinkling them throughout. This doesn’t mean you can’t add other pieces not in your main palette, but you do want to make it look like there is a method to your madness — some type of underlying plan that makes your home appear cohesive rather than a hodge-podge of completely independent room units.
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For the last few years, I’ve gravitated toward a black, white, and greige (grayish beige) base, with a good measure of turquoise, orange, and yellow accents, in varying degrees of saturation. It’s simply what makes me happy — pure personal preference. However, I will say that most people who come to my home comment on how everything works well together and leaves them with a feeling of harmony. It’s more about the repetition of colors and patterns than “magic” colors, I promise you.
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I do like variety (as evidenced by my colorful past!), so I move furniture and trade out pieces fairly regularly. It keeps things interesting and inexpensive, yet always in synch. I don’t have to stay married to all of these colors forever, either. Styles and fashions come and go, just as do personal tastes. If and when I want to try a new look, I can merely replace one or two accents with others which still work with the remaining. Paint is the cheapest way to pull off the switch. No need to buy all new things!

What’s the best way to learn what colors look best with each other? In my opinion, it’s by example. Look around you. There’s no shame in being a copy-cat when you’re doing so in good taste. Find some photos or color schemes you like and replicate their essence. Then, add your own personal touch. Just remember, less is usually more.. and rainbows look better in the sky than in your closet or house. :-)

Go out on a limb: Try sticks for kicks

The other day, I found myself in a checkout line behind a woman who was buying sticks. That’s right, sticks. A nice bundle of them, too — each labeled with a price tag of $3.99. Were they magical sticks… or at least painted a cool color, with twinkly lights attached? Nope. Just plain sticks. I wanted to grab her arm and say, “You know, you can find a huge quantity of those, free-for-the-taking, right in my backyard… and probably in your backyard, too.” But I didn’t. I let her walk out with her sticks and realized a blog post was about to be born. (I’m not quite a Craft Interventionist yet, but I’m getting there.)

It’s the tail-end of winter here in Louisville, Kentucky; and let me tell you, sticks are aplenty. The tree branches are bare… everywhere, I swear! (I’ve always loved Seuss.) It’s perfect stick-gathering time. The snow is melting, and branches, big and small, have fallen. They can either be bundled for the curb or for your own craft projects. I’m choosing the latter.

It’s always great to bring part of the outdoors inside. Live, green plants are lovely; however, if you’re a non-green thumb like me, sticks may be more your style. You can’t kill “dead.” :-) I love the variety of colors, textures, sizes, and shapes. They are versatile for use, as well, and can be placed in mantle vases, floor pots, or even in frames as wall art.

If you want to liven things up a bit, you can always spray-paint them, gild them, add lights, or other embellishments. I once mounted a large branch on my daughter’s bedroom ceiling using clear fishing wire and a screw hook and, then, hung beautiful bird and butterfly ornaments from it. No cost, no fuss.

I realize that not all parts of the world have trees. If you live in such a place, then I guess you are stuck buying them in a craft or home decor store. But if you do have trees, the next time there’s a breeze, go out on your knees, and pick up sticks, please! (Ah, Seuss.) As always, send in photos of your creations so that I can share them with others on my blog. You’ll be glad you went out on a limb. :-)

Photo credits in order of display: Home of Blogger; Decozilla; Remade Simple; Sunshine on the Inside; Free Home Decorating Ideas; Curbly – Mod Home Ec Teacher

Perk up! Coffee stations at home make low-cost hot spot

IMG_0946I didn’t begin drinking coffee until I was 40. Somehow, that milestone age found me more tired than usual, and I succumbed to caffeine as the safest addiction to get me through the day. However, I didn’t slip into that dark dependence easily.  Enter all the modern-day accoutrements: sugar, cream, syrups, whipped cream, drizzle.

And it came at a cost, too.  Frou-frou drinks ain’t cheap, especially when you buy them at Starbucks or whatever hipster cafe you haunt.  I would do a little back-of-the-napkin math, from time to time, to compute how much this little habit was dipping into the kids’ future.  Hmm… mom’s $5/day cup o’ comfort vs. college fund.  So far, I’ve landed on the side of:  Kids might not survive ’til college if mom doesn’t get her java, so first things first, right?

SavvyCityFarmerOne “cheat” I have found is to open up shop in your home.  In other words, make a coffee station in your own humble abode.  By this, I do not mean setting up your Mr. Coffee machine in a dull corner on your kitchen countertop.  You’ve got to create some ambience (with props!), people, lest you incessantly keep turning over your dollars to vendors.  This can be fun, simple, and inexpensive… as well as provide you an opportunity to personalize your space a bit.

You can buy your coffee accompaniments at almost any grocery, Target, TJ Maxx — you name it.  Along with the usual suspects of coffee, tea, and hot chocolate, pick out some fun or stylish mugs, storage containers, and syrup dispensers. Embellish your coffee and your stand with cinammon, honey, and stirrers.  If your set-up is on a different floor from your kitchen, try a dorm fridge to hold any cold items.  Add a vintage sign, chalk board, or picture to top it off and, voila — instant coffee… er… coffee station.

with white cupsIt doesn’t take up much space in your home, and you can readily find small painted cabinets and quaint coffee racks on CraigsList or at second-hand shops.  My particular version of a coffee bar found its way into my loft bedroom.  I may not have breakfast in bed but, by gosh, I will have hot coffee!

Whatever you do, make it your own.  Inviting, interesting, inspiring.  Perhaps your own little sanctuary.  Or a humming social center, replacing the water cooler, for your family and friends to gather.  Whatever you like.  Just make sure you want to come back for repeat business.

Photo credits (in order of use): Brittany’s Big Sky Blog; Savvy City Farmer; Two Poodles

Update to “Accessible accessories” — Bring back the bling

This blog post falls under the category of “better late than never.”  By that, I mean that it’s taken me over a year to keep my promise of actually ditching my unsightly old jewelry cabinet in lieu of a more creative way to display my baubles.

The cabinet, which I referenced in my earlier post, “Accessible Accessories,” screamed ’80s country oak catastrophe, devoid of charm, taste, or beauty.  In fact, it was so ugly (“How ugly was it?”) that I draped linens on top of it and relegated it to hidden corner of my sitting room, as if I had put it in Timeout.  Then, because it was “out of sight, out of mind,” I never opened it up and stopped wearing jewelry!  You may think I’m kidding for comedic effect but, unfortunately, this is a true story of my decline from bling to boring — all because I procrastinated an easy project!

So this weekend, with a bit more time on my hands, I unloaded my jewelry cabinet, apologized to my long-neglected lovely things, and decided to proudly display them so they would be easy to see and select forevermore.  A wooden-framed chalkboard was the unlikely hero which came to the rescue and became the backdrop for my new arrangement.


This was one of the easiest, most inexpensive projects I’ve ever done — merely using push pins at the top of the wooden frame and hanging my necklaces of varying lengths upon each pin.  Not only are the necklaces easy to see, but they look like an elegant tapestry of color and texture against the black background. And no more tangles!

I placed my bracelets, rings, and brooches in the small metal bins at the bottom of the chalkboard where you would normally find chalk and erasers.

Whatever happened to the Cabinet of Shame?  She currently sits curbside where, no doubt, some junk peddler will nab it in the night, thinking he’s found a gem…er…gem cabinet which will sell quickly at his store.  Meanwhile, my jewelry is happy and free from its confines, and I’m gonna bring the bling like never before. :-)



Cool organization solutions for cool-weather scarves

Fall is my favorite season. Crisp weather, hot coffee, vibrant trees… and lots and lots of scarves to add some fashion flair to our outfits! Over the years, my collection of scarves has grown, but my storage space hasn’t. So this year, with scarves literally hanging around (and all over) my bedroom, I researched some ways to organize them.

Over the door towel rack with shower curtain hooks

Over-the-door towel rack with shower curtain hooks

Coat hanger with shower curtain hooks

Coat hanger with shower curtain hooks

Upcycled ladder turned scarf rack

Upcycled ladder turned scarf rack

Drawer cubbies (even with cut PVC pipes!)

Drawer cubbies (even with cut PVC pipes!)

All of these methods are easy, inexpensive, and take little time. Have any other scarf organization ideas? Send them my way!

Photos Credits: Towel rack; Hanger; Tension rods; Ladder; Drawer cubbies

Clutter chaos? Pick a pocket

A couple of years ago, I conducted a little domestic experiment. I decided to not “pick up” sundry items lying around the house and see how long they stayed there. You know, miscellaneous things left out on the kitchen counters… tables… floors. I could only stand it a week when I realized that if I wasn’t proactively being the Tidy Tyrant, I would quickly find myself living in Clutter Castle.

Tired of being the consummate pick-up artist, I figured out how to get my messy family members to “put away” before Mama became “put out.” Enter: Over-the-door pocket organizers.

Do I want these plastic contraptions hanging over ALL of my doors? No way. Do I want them in discreet locations to keep their socks and my sanity intact? Hell, yes!

And so it came to be.

MittensWant one inside a coat/shoe closet to house:

  • Winter gear (mittens, toboggans, scarves, earmuffs, ice scraper)
  • Small sports gear (volleyball knee pads, soccer socks, swim goggles, baseball caps) or
  • General outdoor gear (sunglasses, binoculars, camera, sunscreen, visors, bug spray)? Why, yes, please.

    Or how about one on the back of the kids’ bedroom doors to organize Transformers or stuffed animals? Lovely. I’ll take two.Transformers
    Need a simple way to organize school supplies or craft/art paraphernalia? Boom! Slap one on the inside of a pantry door near a kitchen table and, voila — instant harmony in your humble abode.

    school stuff

  • So I say to all of you out there: Get it together! No, wait… correction: Let THEM get it together. Just buy the plastic pocketed “enablers” and make it easy for even the most rebellious of your lot to stay clean and clutter-free.


    Photograph credits: The Happy Housewife, Day Crafts, and Org Junkie

Nice flight to 40

Recently, I hosted a 40th birthday party for my boyfriend, who loves airplanes — especially vintage ones.  I wanted to use this as a theme for his party but not in an overly cutesy way that is reserved for the toddler set.  With some Internet sleuthing and some ingenuity, I think I earned my wings on this one. :-)

First, I created the invitation in the style of a vintage airplane ticket. Sealed in a “Par Avion” envelope with a vintage biplane stamp, what better way to set the stage or the… er… runway?

InvitationThen, it was all about creating a party atmosphere to drive home the theme.  Having a photo booth area in the garage (“hangar”) labeled, “Passport Photos,” with some great travel-related props was a great way to get everyone in the mood… AND provide some mementos from the evening.  Props included a plane propeller, world map poster, actual vintage airplane seats (for only $35 off Craigslist!), a globe, a steamer trunk, bomber jackets, and goggles.

Photo BoothPassport Photos

Signs also added some whimsy — “Welcome Aboard,” “Baggage Claim Area” (for coats and purses), and “In-Flight Snacks” for food and beverages.  I also used a “Lavatory” sign for the bathroom, as well as “Authorized Personnel Only” for areas of the home I wanted to keep private.

Welcome SignPlanning the menu was so much fun and gave way to lots of creativity — including Soda Suitcase (a vintage one bought at Goodwill for $2), Cumulus Cupcakes, Jet Fuel (pumpkin pie martini), and Air-Devil Eggs, just to name a few.

Soda SuitcaseCumulus CupcakesJet FuelAir-Devil Eggs








I had planned to use mini-laminated map luggage tags for parting gifts, but they did not arrive in time.  Instead, I had a door-prize drawing for a basket filled with travel-sized items and an “In-Flight Movie” (DVD).

Travel Size Gifts & In Flight MovieWhen it was all said and done, I think everyone had a good time. All items were purchased or made on a minimal budget, and clean-up was a breeze.  A good take-off… a flight without turbulence… and definitely a happy landing. I’m ready for my next adventure.



Thinking outside the box: Homemade gift-wrapping

Since stores have showcased Christmas decorations since the end of their “Back-to-School” promotions (ugh!), I’m giving myself permission to post a blog about Christmas/Hanukkah crafting pre-Halloween.  And this time, I’m asking you to think outside the box.  Literally.

Years ago, I had a friend who gave me the most amazing homemade gifts. What impressed me the most, however — and has stayed with me all this time — is how she packaged everything:  With hand-crafted wrapping paper and embellishments.

She was my Secret Santa at work and, each day, I found a uniquely wrapped box on my desk.  One day, it was a box wrapped in plain brown paper, with white snowflake stenciling and a sprig of evergreen tucked neatly under a ribbon. Another day, it was a package in white, with cut-outs of words and pictures from newspapers and magazines.  My favorite was one in which she took three heart doilies and stacked them, with the largest on the bottom, to resemble a Christmas tree; she used different-colored buttons for the ornaments!

This “special treatment” is an inexpensive and creative way to show your thoughtfulness and stand out during this giving season.  Below are some great ideas to consider.

Snowflake or folded-paper cut-outs and doilies make for easy designs.  Use a piece of twine or string in place of a ribbon for an old-fashioned look.

DIY Paper flowers     doilies-loves-kraftpaper_free-printable_wrapping-paper_simpletwine

How cool would it be for your family members to identify their gifts by the photos you used to tag them?  (And the photos are gifts, too!)

Photocopy photos and use in place of gift tags

What about a collage of color photos?  Take your design to a copy center to print it on larger sheets of paper.

Homeade wrapping paper. Just made this for my boyfriend's birthday!

Why not be silly?  Clip images from magazines or use stamps to make a repeating design.  Perfect for kids and teens.


Give yourself license to do something different this holiday season and wrap your gifts in style.  There’s nothing like a “grand opening.” :-)


Photo credits:  DIY Pinterest; Daily Suze; Our Suburban Farm; Originals; Top Inspired; Sweet Paul Mag



Old Maid new

OldMaidCardWhen my sister and I were kids, we spent countless hours playing cards with our grandmother, affectionately called “Gaga” (long before the pop-star made the name fashionable!).  Our favorite game, bar none, was “Old Maid,” and oh how we cackled when our worthy opponent drew the unenviable card!

This week, my sis turned 40, and I wanted to give her something special — a nostalgic present that meant something to just the two of us.  What better gift than a set of those vintage 1970s Whitman playing cards from our past, in all their whimsical (albeit, now non-PC!) Old Maid glory.

When I first saw a set for sale on eBay, I was ecstatic.  The colorful playing card “characters,” including Diver Dan, Fifi Fluff, and Postman Pete, jumped right off the screen and instantly summoned all my preschool memories of careless days, passing time on my grandmother’s screened-in porch. What a bargain for only $6.00, plus shipping & handling!

DiverDan   FifiFluff   PostManPete

But rather than simply give my sister the deck in its original plastic case, I wanted to display the individual cards as wall art.  After considering a multi-baseball trading card frame (trading cards are the exact size as playing cards), I chose a collage frame which was originally intended for 3×5 photos.  Naturally, I made the Old Maid card the centerpiece.

ArtWhile good ol’ Gaga passed away many years ago, her memory lives on with us in numerous ways — and now, through this loving keepsake. Maybe this idea has inspired you to take some other retro playing cards and frame them for a child’s room, a family game room, or a gift for a childhood friend.  Regardless, it’s a great way to celebrate a meaningful, perhaps-waning, American pastime in a simple, creative manner.

P.S. Sis — I promise the Old Maid theme was not a jab at your single status on this milestone birthday!  Hope you had a great one! :-)

Open Sesame! Cabinets exposed

There it was before me — my undeniable mess of “stuff” shoved in my kitchen cabinets, seemingly taunting me for my inadequacies:  Chipped bowls which didn’t match; a few nice glasses amidst cheap, neon plastic ones of the “Big Gulp” variety; and miscellaneous cake mixes and baking ingredients which mysteriously migrated from their proper place in the pantry to go slumming with my disorderly dishes.

Ah, but there was one saving grace:  Cabinet doors, which I could close at any time — lovely Doors of Denial, safeguarding my peace of mind and fooling my house guests into thinking I had it altogether. Bwah ha ha!

Kitchen243But, of course, there was a problem. There’s always a problem.  I have a small kitchen and a very open mind. My cabinet doors began to make me feel more boxed in than my free spirit demanded.  I found myself in my kitchen, late at night, wanting to tear the doors off their hinges and shout, “Be free my dishes!  Be proud of who you are (you Big Hot Mess!) and let the world embrace your uniqueness and diversity!”

Well, maybe that’s a bit too strong, but you get the picture.  I was compelled to find a way to make the Open Cabinet concept work for me, come hell or high water.


Much to my surprise, this was not an unsurpassable challenge. For me, the first realization was that I needed a compromise.  I may still need to keep the cabinet doors on some of my shelving, but I could open up a few — the select, chosen ones. The second realization was that I needed to do a bit of triage:  Get rid of the worst of the worst; keep the workable; and buy some new pieces to pull it altogether.

Additionally, as I surfed the Internet for inspiration and validation, one rule-of-thumb seemed to prevail:  Color coordination.  Whether you opt for a neutral color scheme or one with color, you need some sort of consistency and pattern so that it looks like there’s at least a method to your madness.

imageI opted for a neutral palette of white and clear dishes, intermixed with some browns and stainless steel.  Woven baskets are always a great way to collect a few things that may be too hard to display openly (e.g., I used mine to contain my small baking ingredients, which I can now pull down easily in one fell-swoop).

Most of my new items were purchased very inexpensively at Big Lots and The Dollar Tree. I’m aways amazed at the decent pieces of stoneware and glassware at rock-bottom prices at these discount or closeout stores.


spring 11 029I love the idea of using a contrasting paint color or material on the backside of the cabinets to really make the dishes and other contents pop. Here, chalkboard paint was used, which complements the black granite countertop below.  A few personal items such as plaques and photos add interest.


opencabinets2[6]If you opt for using colorful pieces, you can find plenty of ways to make them look lovely without sacrificing functionality. Glass-front cabinet doors can add a little more formality to the look but still allow your dishes to peer through. Bonus: a bit more protection against dust.

While you don’t have to use all one color, make sure the colors you choose work in harmony, as opposed to a chaotic assortment which will only make your shelves appear… well, disheveled. :-)

Start with a small section of your kitchen (or bathroom, for that matter).  Clear your cabinets and your mind.  Add items one piece at a time, subtracting away when it begins to look too cluttered. Add a small plant… a clock… or anything else which might add some variety without transgressing to the Land of Knickknacks.  Your kitchen will look brighter, lighter, and more open.  Your cabinets will be functional pieces of art, with little to no maintenance. And you will feel like a Dish Display Diva, ready to grace the pages of Architectural Digest.

C’mon, you can do it!  Take those cabinet doors and let ‘er rip!


Photo credits:  Black cabinets – Inspiration For Decoration. White and clear dishes – Pretty Easy Living.  Chalkboard-backed open cabinets – Creatively Living Blog. Yellow dishes display – Pinterest post.