Wednesday, August 31, 2011

By Candlelight

I've heard it said that everyone looks better by candlelight. And, I've got to agree. Whether over a hushed dinner, or by a votive flickering on your night stand, a candle can instantly project a mood of serenity, intimacy, and spirituality. In fact, candles were one of the spring boards for my love of interior design. I used to frequent Pier 1 Imports for Asian Spice candles so often, that I slowly began branching out into other venues and accents in the store, and the rest is history.

Asian Spice in all its glory

Anyways, in part, this post is a bit of a lament. When I first began purchasing candles, approximately 8 years ago, candles were everywhere- in every design magazine, and on every tablescape. Candles were the go-to accessory for home decor for years. And as the scene has changed, I've certainly noticed the departure of candles as a forefront design element. Why is that? Are we too afraid of burning our houses down to enjoy their glimmer and subtle fragrance? For myself, the lure has vanguished a bit, because, in the candle world, there really isn't much newness or variety. Sure, there's decorative holders and an array of colors, but, the design portion of the candle never really changes. You just get 4 sizes: stick, tea light, votive, and pillar. I also am a bit inclined to suspect that the popularity of the LED light had something to do with the decline of the candle. With LEDs, there is no mess, and a product that'll last for much longer for a better price. Call me old fashioned, but I'd still prefer the candle. There's something timeless and even mystical about it, that transcends all boundaries, and I believe is an item that can seamlessly fit into any decor scheme.

Here are some products and companies who are keeping the candle dream alive and flickering through creative interpretations of the candle holder:

Root Candelabra, West Elm $49

Boxes Wall Sconce, CB2 $59.95

Muse Noir, Jonathan Adler $68

Dauphine Candleholders, Rosanna Inc $70

love this!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tray bien!

I have this weird obsession with trays. I rarely use them and hate to leave them out on the counter... but I love how they can inject a punch of color, pattern, and imagery, and are non-committal for the long term. Come to think of it, the only time we ever really bust a tray out is when we have guests over for cofee/tea. I can't help but feel a little guilty by covering a tray up with objects- like I'm hiding some great art piece or something. But they can also be great catchalls for random finds and a place to corral easily misplaced items. Nevertheless, buying a tray is a fun little treat to get on a shopping trip, and is visually pleasing, as well as purposeful.

Here's a round up of some great trays priced from low to high:

BĂ„RBAR tray, IKEA $4.99

Picknick small tray, Newhouse Textiles $35.31

Check out the link above, there's some great options on this site!!

Fez Tray, West Elm $49.00

Large acrylic tray, Jonathan Adler $98.00

Monday, August 29, 2011

Yarn Jewelry Holder

Last night, before we headed out for a nice date of white chocolate cheesecake <3, Jackie busted out this simple, but interesting DIY for an earring holder.

The glass broke off this black frame that we had from IKEA, and it's been sitting in our closet for the past year, collecting some dust.

Jackie tightly wrapped some chartreuse colored yarn around the frame, in a haphazard design and ended up with a framework that she could use to hang her earrings from.

We hung the frame in our bathroom- as it was a practical place to keep the jewelry, and the yarn really popped against the gray walls.

The project itself literally took less than 5 minutes to complete- maybe 10 if you count us trying to hang the thing too. But I'm a really big fan of the look. I also love that it was free to make, and upcycled a broken frame- something that would've likely been tossed away because we had no use for it. And, because the project is so quick to complete, we could easily switch up the color at our leisure. So, there you have it: functional art at our fingertips. And maybe I should get her a few more earring pairs to fill the jewelry holder up a bit more. :=)

Sunday, August 28, 2011


On my daily walk to work, I come across a string of bus stop benches, decked out in advertisements of local realtors. The ads are usually just a shot of the person's head, enlarged 3.5x with cheesy slogans. Anyways, the routine of the week goes like this: on Sunday evening, someone will graffiti the signs with spray paint and markers, and on Friday afternoon, someone else cleans it off. The graffiti will consist of anything from tags to racial slurs to hitler moustaches drawn on. Graffiti is one of those taboo topics that generally gets labeled as bad. When you drive into a big city, the best reaction to provide by driving past graffiti-ed trains is "that's horrible! who, on God's green earth, would do such a thing!?!" But, I can't help but be fascinated by it.

2 other forms of graffiti that I've come across lately are yarn bombing and seed bombing. In yarn bombing a group or individual will get together and knit/crochet a large covering to wrap around a large monument or item.
This tree will be warm and snug come winter!
In seed bombing, a individual will hurl balls of soil compacted with seeds all over a city- or in areas lacking vegetation. It's like a green-graffiti-anarchy-sort-of-thing.

Seed Bomb. Ka-boom!
I look at the three examples, and then I look at my ethos of wanting to make all spaces beautiful- not just interior, but everywhere, and I wonder: where do you draw the line?-

What makes yarn bombing more acceptable than seed bombing, which is more acceptable than spray paint graffiti?

And, if you too are in a journey to make spaces beautiful as well, how do you differentiate? It's a pretty slippery slope (and I'm halfway down the hill with no skis on!). I guess I'm wondering if you can accept one without accepting all of them. Sorry for being political and such. Regular non-politcal-decorator-Steve will be back tomorrow, I promise- hopefully with a new project to show off!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Paint Chip Names for Men

Last week, while I was attempting to leave the washroom at work, the following sign, posted on the door, caught my attention:

In case you can't read the image above, due to its small size, it reads "given the right name, he'll agree to any color", and that beautiful peony colored swatch is name "razor burn"....

I have to admit, after using the washroom, I was a little startled to see that sign, but I did find it humorous as well.

As I went back onto the work floor, I was stopped by our CIL paint rep, who showed me the following video on her BlackBerry:

CIL Paint Chip Names for Men from alex fong on Vimeo.


I'm not 100% sure if the video was staged, or if those were actual interviews, but it caught my attention. I see this almost every day: The female chooses the color, and the man gets hindered by the name *heaven forbid his man cave should be painted in Spring Mist*. Studies do show that while the woman does make the initial choice in paint color, it's the man who does have the final say (I guess it has something to do with the whole bread-winner mentality). Therefore, this contest is actually ingenious.

And then a bunch of brochures started popping up everywhere:

To enter the Paint Chip Re-naming contest, head over here. There's a few options of colors to choose between, and you can re-name whichever swatch color you'd like. Other people get to vote for your name, and the most votes wins a $10,000 Ultimate Home Theater Makeover. And, just by entering, you get a $10 off coupon on your next can of paint. The top 10 swatch names will get printed up in a special brochure.

And, in the rules and regulations, I have recently discovered, that because I work for Home Depot, I am not eligible to be involved in this contest... which sucks, because naming paint swatches is my dream! (or, at least, one of them...) So, on my behalf, please check it out! You've got until the end of September to get in on all the manly-paint-naming-action!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Color of the Week: Pink Eraser

It's time to think pink!

Pink Eraser 2005-50
Doesn't it just reek Back-To-School-nostalgia?!
I'm not sure when the crossover happened for it to become perfectly acceptable for someone to paint their living room baby pink, and not have judgment passed... But, I kind of like it. At the end of the day, it's all about how you style it.

For example, I'm definetly digging the cover of the latest issue of House Beautiful:

The room is lathered with 4 different shades of pink, and yet it isn't overwhelming. There's:
1) a "strawberry milkshake" shade in the ottoman
2) a deep coral throw pillow in the corner
3) a collection of hot pink peonies on the mantel
4) and the pink of the framed print, which has a lilac undertone.

So, what exactly makes the room work, without feeling like a Barbie dream house?- The dark brown wallpaper and fabric is very strong and has a masculine tone to ground the pink, and the creamy vanilla accents and mantel subdue the room without appearing too stark (such as a brilliant white would).

Again, this is yet another example of how "there are no bad colors- only bad combinations". And, given the right combination, I'm sure you could get even the manliest man to cave for pink.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Color Matching 101

Here's a question that a customer asked me the other day:

What's the weirdest thing you've ever been asked to color match while working at Home Depot?

1) A CD Cover booklet
2) a piece of carboard
3) a brown paper lunch bag
4) an apple
5) a quilt or bedspread
6) a big pink stuffed animal platypus

For years, Home Depot used to have this ad on TV of a parent bringing their daughter and a large purple stuffed animal to the paint department to get the thing color matched. And, guess what? It worked perfectly! The happy little girl ended up with an identical shade of purple in her bedroom.

I don't want to be the one to do this... but that commercial is a lie!

Unfortunately, when it comes to color matching, there is no disclaimer. There's no little yellow warning sign for customers to read stating "WARNING: Color may not match 100%". All they have to go on is the glimmer of hope found in that blissful commercial.

Martha in the orange apron. Classic.

So, what exactly is color matching? In theory, how it works is: you can bring a sample of old paint or found object into a paint store that offers the service, and they can mix you a brand new gallon of paint in that exact same color (or close to it).

Who gets color matches? 2 types of people: tenants trying to touch up holes they made in their walls to get their damage deposit back, and crazy people who want Starbucks green, or the red of their tomato that was on their sandwich at lunchtime.

Technically speaking, a color matcher is a shoebox sized machine with a small round hole on one end for a sample to be pressed against to match. The color matcher (or spectrophotometer), illuminates the sample with white light, which in turn, reflects back into the machine and onto a small wheel. This wheel is a color analyzer, and filters the projected image and breaks the color down into a code and transfers it to the computer for the custom color to be dispensed. The technology is not perfect- and is about 95% accurate- which I have never seen advertised on any literature, just what I've gleaned over the years.

A Spectrophotometer...ours isn't nearly as slick,
and used to be black... now its a jumble of colors...

Essentially, a color matcher zeroes in to a pin size of the sample provided. And, if there is any dirt, texture, or opportunity for shadow on that sample you have- it can essentially be making that color instead of the one the naked eye sees. I've had many color matches gone awry when the customer brings in a sample of wood decking, and wants that stain color matched. The spectrophotometer picks up on one of the little "valleys" in the wood grain, and makes the darker color. And then there's this awkward silence, because I've just made a $30 gallon of paint that I have to try and sell, and the customer knows he won't take it because it's not the color he needs.

The most common misconception with the process is that when a color is matched, that the spectrophotometer will direct the user to the closest color on the wall of swatches. What actually happens, is a brand new custom color is made. The danger is, that as a paint mixer, I don't even get to see what that color looks like until it is dispensed and mixed! Ahh! Scray stuff!

If color matching is a must for you, I recommend bringing in a clean, smooth, large sample. It will give you the clearest reading possible. (unlike the lady who brought me tiny slivers of dried paint in a Tic Tac container yesterday...)

My advice: after working with this damn machine for almost 5 years- and seeing all the disasters that have come about from using, I urge people to find a swatch that best represents the color they desire. A swatch can be guranteed. A color match, not so much.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Death of the Faux Finish

I'm not exactly sure when the whole faux finish trend began (sponging on, sponging off, ragging, color washing, etc). Over the years I've seen people run anything from a whicker broom to stinky old rags over their walls to acheive a desired look. I think it originated sometime in the 80s. I remember as a child, getting my own "big boy room" when I was 10- and having the option to paint it any color I wanted. I opted for 3 shades of mint green sponged on top of one another. The look I was going for was a mint-chocolate-chip-ice-cream-motif, and boy, did I ever get it!

So, why did people ever start blending paints and glazes in the first place to achieve such finishes? My theory is this: For hundreds of years, wallpaper was the staple for wall coverings- especially with the rich and stately. As a wider pallette of colors emerged in the 70s/ 80s, and especially with the emergence of water based paints- people began to turn to paint more than wallpapers. Wallpapering was a nightmare to accomplish, especially with the stubborn adhesives that went along with it. Through the magic of faux finishes, folks could switch up the finishes at their own leisure, could replicate similar effects to wallpaper, and could easily paint over it if they didn't like it.
In 2004, Ralph Lauren paint tried to modernize the faux finish by introducing faux glazes and special tools that produced denim, faux linen, and leather finishes. The trend didn't take off as expected, and most consumers were frustrated by the level of difficulty of the execution of the faux finish. In all honesty- I have yet to see a fauw finish executed properly in a home setting. True, it looks marvelous in the brochures, but that's the extent of it.

Ralph Lauren Denim Faux Finish

And now, the trend of wallpapering has come full circle- as many seek to use it as an alternative finish for feature walls- especially with the added ease of removal, and pre-pasted options. Through faux finishes, one sought to replicate the pattern and depth of wallpaper- but, generally failed, as it was very difficult to have any consistency. Thus, wallpaper has made its triumphant return in the decorating world.

The question remains: will faux finishes ever make an evolutionary comeback, or are the days of sponging finally complete?

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Fabric Mob

There's a Quilting Store a few blocks away from us that we frequently visit. It's a guilty pleasure for us, as most of the fabrics there are priced at $15 a metre... In the real world, that's a good price- but a little out of my budget for most of our projects- but it's always fun to visit. A month or so ago, one of the workers dropped a hint of a sample sale that would be coming up. Basically, designers send the store sample books, and they are cut up into smaller swatches, and sold by the pound ($13/lb). We drove past the store on the Saturday sale morning, on the way to drop Hazel off at Grandma's house.

It was an hour before store opening, and there was 2 people lined up already. When we arrived back 30 mins later, there was 15 or so people. Jackie began to warn me of how large groups of women can get crazy when there's a sale. I shrugged the warning off, and found it hard to believe that a group of women could be, well, un-ladylike. The lineup soon doubled behind me. And at 10 am, the doors opened, and a group of middle aged women, and Jackie, and myself (the lone vessel of testosterone) piled into the store. There was 4 tables stacked a foot or so high with stacks of fabric swatches. And they were on a mission! I withdrew from the crowd, and retrieved swatches when Jackie's hands were full. It was intense! At one point, Jackie encouraged me to get in on the action... and I tried to break into the swarm a bit, but kept getting butted out (literally).
One of the many great finds of the day!
Finally, I noticed this coral and white print swimming past- and no one was going for it. I lunged, and retrieved the swatch, and the lady to my right elbowed me out of the crowd and shoved me back. I was apalled!! I tried shoving back a bit, but it didn't work out so well. We ended up scoring a whopping 2 lbs of fabric swatches (and came back a few more times this week for more) and got some pretty sweet pieces. We're planning on using some of the swatches to make Hazel a quilt for her bed, and may venture into making a patchwork slipcover for our nasty TULLSTA chair.

The one that almost got away!

I learned two things from this experience:

1) Most of the women there picked ugly samples. Next year, I might just wait a few hours to go until the madness has subsided- that way, all of the fun trendy pieces will be left behind and all the ugly cowboys and christmas tree prints will be gone.

2) I will never get in the way of a group of women and a sale again. Or, at least, I will reluctantly and will be emotionally prepared to do so. I learned something that day: There is an inner crazy person that is fueled by estrogen within every woman. And being around other women when excited by a sale, feeds off one another and internalizes into an ultimately-crazy-mob.

All in all, it was good fun, and in all seriousness, I actually can't wait to go back again next year and do it again.

P.S. Happy 100th post to me!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Brass Attack!

Dear God, please say it isn't so!

Brass is making a comeback....

My question is: For something to make a comeback, that means that it must be sought after or in high demand from a group of people... and if so, who are these people? Who is actually seeking brass to become a part of their daily lives? Or perhaps this is some cruel joke, and the whole design world is getting Punk'd....

Just check out this round-up of current brass resources:

Meurice Square Table Lamp:

Why, Jonathan Adler?! Why?!

Oval Door Knocker:

Bashful Brass Hook:

Meurice Chandelier:

Some shades are a little more offensive than others. For example: antique brass (see the hook pictured above)- that I can live with, and if featured in a rustic or period style room, could look quite fitting. On the other hand, the true, bright brass in all its yellow glory... definetly can't justify that one.

While on the topic of this brass catastrophe, a month ago, while at a thrift store, we stumbled upon some brass drawer/ closet door knobs. The had this lovely floral design, and at 25 cents each, we picked up for a rainy day project, and planned to spray paint them a glossy bright color (I'd include a picture of these knobs- but I think they're still hanging out in the trunk of our Versa). But, they just seemed a little too familiar to me. Later that week, at Jackie's parents' house, I was opening the pantry door, looked down, and found myself embracing that exact same knob. I took a look to my right at the hall closet doors- same knobs. It was too ironic and funny- the same knobs that we thought needed a makeover were at my inlaws'. In her defense, my mother-in-law did claim that she is planning on switching those out to a more modern, brushed nickel finish.(Which means that we might end up with even more knobs for that rainy day project).

Brass is definetly not my thing. I could see it working (maybe) in very small doses. I still don't think I would peg it as trend-worthy. Just saying. Oil Rubbed Bronze, on the other hand... :-D!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Changing It Up

Frequent visitors of this blog probably will notice a few changes on your next visit. First, I dropped the journal-type template and went with something a bit simpler. The former template was restricting any comments or followers. And so, now that it's changed, feel free to follow and drop as many comments as you like! I've also updated it to sport the new logo that Jackie made for me- it's a series of paint swatches in my favorite colors- how fitting! It's also a teaser at something that I've got in the works- stay tuned for more details. In the meantime, I am continuously blown away by the amount of visitors here- so, thanks for reading, and feel from to comment sometime!!

The Doorknob (and my new ORB obsession)

I think I'm beginning to fall in love with vintage design. I see old suitcases turned into side tables, and distressed antique white mirrors, and crystal chandeliers- and it makes me weak in the knees. I used to despise that motif- but, isn't that just the way?- especially for me... the things I hate the most tend to be the ones that I end up pursuing. Anways, all this goes to say, that the topic of doorknobs has come up at our place a few times. Jackie hinted a few months ago that she was digging antique doorknobs. And we found a few really sweet ones over here. But, I just couldn't justify spending $40 on a doorknob (in hindsight, as I've learned a great deal about doorknobs in the last month, $40 really isn't that bad of a price). I began a small quest to find a new door knob for our bedroom- something vintage-y and pretty. By fluke, I stumbled upon these bad boys on a lunch break at work: Vintage Glass Door knobs! *drool* Only a few bucks each, and they came complete with a mortise lock hole! Awesome!

Clearly the whole brass thing had to go- definetly wasn't my style. And so, I painted them with my new favorite spray paint! Oil Rubbed Bronze! (or ORB as it's affectionately referred to). It's real purdy. You should check it out the next time you're at a Home Depot. I started with a grey spray primer, and did two coats of the ORB. It really complimented the glass feel. And so, With my 2 knobs, back plate, and spindle, I attemped to install my first door knob! wee!

mmmmm.... Oil Rubbed Bronze

Our current hardware is pretty modern and looks nice. But the ORB Glass Antique Knob would be a piece of jewlery for our place! So, I unscrewed the door lever, and removed both handles, leaving the latch in place. I threaded the spindle through, and attached the glass knobs. Beautiful! It was a little stiff at first, but seemed to do the trick. I tested the knob out a handful of times- and then did the big test: making sure the door could latch shut and then open properly (I had this fear of Hazel waking up in the middle of the night screaming, and me running to get her, and being latched shut in our bedroom because my installation job sucked). And so, I closed myself out of the room, with Jackie on the inside. And... the door didn't open. I spent 10 mins trying to unscrew the knob while Jackie was locked in our bedroom (even though I didn't say a word, I'm pretty sure she knew that I locked her in). At which point, I realized that I was going to need a new door latch as well. Typical: there's always a setback.

The next day, I went to the door hardware section at work to buy a latch. And: there wasn't any! We sell all the parts for this product: knobs, screws, locks, eye holes, hinges- but noooo latch! Infuriating! I went online to investigate, and found the latch part number. I called the company to see if I could special order the part to Home Depot. Turns out, the part is only available in the U.S. and the only company that carries it is Home Depot USA........*there are no words*...... fortunately, Jackie's family has a box to ship to over the border. I ordered the piece for $6 (and cashed in on free shipping!).

A week or so later, the part was in my hands. I also gave it an ORB makeover, and attempted to install. I unscrewed the handle (yet again) and also removed the latch plate (piece that attaches to the wall opposite the door), and plugged in my brand new latch. Guess what? It was 1/2" too short. The spindle didn't even attach. And the latch also stuck out a 1/4"- and didn't fit with the door..... At this point I was speechless.... actually, I'm pretty sure that I was full of speech- just with nothing good to say. In all probablity, I could probably get a saw, cut a piece out of the door and find an extension for the latch to fit, but I'm just not that handy, and occasionally too proud to ask for help with simple DIY projects.

And so, there really isn't a resolution to this story. I think I'm going to save the doorknob for our next place, as we hope that our next home will be a house- and someplace for us to invest a few years in. For now, unless anything changes, the door knob will remain a hopeful reminder and ambition for that next place.

P.S. If you're feeling handy-man-like and up to a challenge, feel free to swing by and see if you can make it work- we'll make you dinner, or something.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Return on the slightly absenced Decorator Guy!

So, I guess I've been MIA for about a month or so. I expected to come back to this old thing with cobwebs and dust- and expected them to have de-activated my account after the absence... But was pleasantly surprised to see that this old thing still gets almost 50 hits a day from all over the world. It's pretty flattering. Moving forward, and after hearing varied responses from readers of this blog, I think I'm going to alter the purpose of this blog a bit. Rather than focussing on interior design in general, and throwing in a few home-reno projects here and there, I'm going to strive to make this more about those renos, with the occasional tid-bit or two. Why the change? Well, it's apparently what people would rather read about, and I'm secretly hoping that this will be motivation for me to get on that never-ending list that I have compiled for myself. And, for a preview (and as a reminder to myself) of the projects that you can expect to see in the coming months, here it is:

-Finish Closet Renovation
-Make Hazel a play kitchen
-Construct a headboard for our bed
-Find a bathroom storage solution
-Paint the front door
-Hang Pictures (Hazel's room, our bedroom, and hallway)
-Finish lining Hazel's toy box, and donate un-used toys
-Cover the dirty Tullsta chair
or- sell the chair, and find a new seating option
-Sew some throw cushion covers
-Re-secure the Curtain Rod in our bedroom
-any other miscallaneous project that we come up with on the way!