Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Designing the Perfect Closet

Yes, Mr Mayer? This closet just won't do. 

How often do you think about your closet? If you’re like most folks, it happens about once a day. Even then, you’re probably wondering more about what to wear than what the closet space looks like. And you’re also probably half asleep, so that might not count anyway. I was recently introduced to Compass, and that's where I found the inspiration to design my dream closet.

So.  What if you could have any closet in the whole wide world? 

You don’t need a cavernous space that echoes when you shout inside to have a really cool closet. All that you need is a space, large or small, that works for you. 

Maybe you don’t own a hundred pairs of Manolo Blahniks. Or John Fluevogs (Oh, merciful swoon!). Doesn’t matter. A great closet is one where everything fits and you can find what you need without turning your bedroom into that scene from 27 Dresses

Here’s what I would have if money and space were no object:

What I love about this closet are the built-ins and the creative use of space. Look at the way the cupboard and drawers tuck under the slanted gable ceiling line. That’s a spot people have fussed over for an awfully long time. 

Awkward chests never fit quite right, and a chair wouldn’t use it to its best advantage. This type of corner was just made for recessed storage. Brilliant!

I also love the neutral colors. No matter what you’re wearing, the backdrop won’t compete while you’re getting dressed and doing your makeup. The only thing that I’m not crazy about is the placement of closet door mirrors. Not much to be done about that here. But in the mornings, you’d be lit from the wrong side while checking your reflection. The vanity placement might make up for that. Who doesn’t want natural light for putting on makeup?

This closet is handy X 1,000. It’s not especially big or over-the-top. It’s really just two walls of double hanging bars and a hefty shelf overhead. What’s awesome is the placement and size of the little chest. That, I love. 

My house is 125 years old and the rooms aren’t big. You wouldn't call mine an open-plan house. Because of that, Mr. Vagabond and I decided a long time ago not to use traditional bedroom storage. There’s just no room for it, not without making our bedroom feel cramped. Instead, we keep most of our clothing in the laundry room. Yep. That's right.

This little chest would give me plenty of storage that doesn’t look cheap. (Wire racks, you’re outta here!) And because it’s under a window, there’s a perfect spot to check for an errant stain that made it through the wash, and to make sure that I’m really wearing two black socks. Not that I’ve ever worn a black and a blue one. I can imagine that little chest being the handiest spot in the whole closet. 

Now, this one goes against almost everything that I’ve said so far. First, unless I convert one of the spare bedrooms into a closet, there’s no way this would work in my house. Second, the vibrant colors could make getting ready in the morning a bit difficult. The orange-reds and peacock blues would affect the lighting and the way that nearly outfit looked. 

But, my. Isn’t it beautiful? Just look at it for a second. 

This is just a reminder that a fab closet doesn’t have to look like anything that’s trending right now. It doesn’t need perfectly matched, custom built-ins. And it doesn’t need a jewelry display that makes the space look more like a boutique than a home. This closet is fun. I’d totally hang out there. 

Holy giant mirror! This closet has a little bit of everything. Except, of course, a neutral color scheme. What’s really amazing is the size of the mirror and its placement on the floor instead of mounted on the wall. You can clearly see your whole outfit plus shoes. 

I love the table at the center of the space, too. It’s a bit cluttered and wouldn’t be useful to me as-is, but without a series of bowls you could lay out your clothes for the day and have them handy. 

And can I just say that I want all of those Wellies? All of them. In every color. I'd keep them someplace else, though. More on that in a bit.

Ok, forget everything that I've said about a neutral closet backdrop. Can I get an Amen for this little jewel box? 

Look close, and you’ll see that this space isn’t anything extraordinary dimensions-wise. It would work in just about any standard walk-in. You know the kind, the ones with a wrap-around hanging bar and a wire shelf overhead.

Rip out the prefab closet hardware (does anyone really like wire racks anyway?) and go with shallow cabinets instead. And then paint them a funky color! Love the giant mirror, and love the little bench. Love this whole closet, even if this one is devoted to a little girl’s room. I can be a little girl at heart, right?

Now about those shoes. This is how I’d prefer to store mine. If you’ve noticed that most of my closet ooohs and aaahs have little to do with shoes, you’re right. 

I am not fan of storing shoes with my clothing. I’m just not. I think it’s icky, and I don’t like it. There. I said it. Icky. 

Shoes can get smelly. Yes, anyone’s shoes. And they have dirt on the bottom. And even the cleanest feet on Earth don’t smell like roses. I don’t want my clothing to smell like feet. With a separate shoe closet, they can get the air circulation that they need without sharing space with my clothes. I would actually have a closet like this in my foyer if I could. Who wears shoes in the house, anyway?

Closets can make or break any home. Too few, which is what I have in this old house, and you're constantly looking for creative ways to keep everything tidy. But too much closet space isn't much better. At least not if it's underused and inefficient. 

I know that Spring is the classic time to clear out closets and work on organization, but I propose a whole different idea. Autumn means spending more time indoors. And it brings with it heavier clothing that takes up more space. 

Maybe this time of year is a better time to rework closets and make them something amazing! I'll just add that to my agenda right now. I've got plenty of time on my hands, right? 


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Small Bedroom Interior Decor Can Be Gorgeous!

Bedroom interior decor hasn’t changed much over the past decade or so, or even longer. And if you have a small bedroom, you might be sticking with old traditional advice. Stop it. Stop it, right now. 

We’ve all heard it. Scale down on furnishings. Don’t use heavy fabrics. Avoid dark colors. And the classic, shove everything against the wall to maximize floor space. I think that all of this evolved out of the best intentions. When you’re working with a small space, you don’t want to feel like you’re in a cave. 

But I propose that you take everything that you know about small bedroom interior decor, tie it up in a neat little bundle, fashion a pretty bow, and then throw it out the window. To misquote Billy Joel, we love you, little bedrooms, just the way you are. :-)

Instead of looking at a tiny space as a deficiency in your haven, why not embrace it?  That doesn’t mean accentuating the smallness of the space. It just means forgetting about outdated ideas that say little bedrooms can never be as nice as you’d like. Bah, and also humbug on that. 

Here are some of my favorite ideas for transforming a blah diminutive bedroom into a space that you really, honestly, truly love. We’ll start at the walls and work our way in. 

Bedroom Interior Color Matters

White is always fresh, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But the sanitary, blue-toned white can feel awfully hospitalish. It makes me feel edgy, and definitely not relaxed. There’s so much more that you can do with white to soften it. Check out this white palette, which I created from a classic white-on-white bedroom image. And there are about a million more shades than this. You can get the clean look of white without any of the edginess. 

But you don’t have to stick with white. Forget about the fact that the square footage is small. Think about which colors you’d love, and just run with it. It’s true that darker walls can make any room feel smaller. So if you’re devoted to avoiding that, pick a color and move to a lighter shade in the same family. Easy peasy.  

Do you love the warm colors of autumn?

Or maybe a soothing neutral palette?

You really can use any colors that you like. 

Click here to learn how you can create your own color palette from any photo.

There’s nothing wrong with a tiny bedroom saturated in bold color, either. It will make the room look a bit smaller, but it can also look incredibly special, like a little jewel box. And if you don’t want to hose down the room in purples and golds and reds, you can always stick with paler walls and go all out with soft furnishings such as your bedlinens, draperies, pillows and rugs. 

Or, go opposite with dark walls and light neutral soft furnishings. I’m in love with the mushroomy gray on these walls. This is such a soothing bedroom. I’d love to nap there! 

Check Out the Ceiling

When was the last time that you noticed your bedroom ceiling? If it was probably when you changed a light bulb, you’re like most folks. But when you use the ceiling as a design element, you give the room a lot more personality. More important, you draw the eye up. Up is good. 

Beadboard ceilings are classic, and I happen to love them. And glossy paint gives it that much more dimension. If the pale cottage look is a bit too sweet for your taste, you can stain the wood or leave it natural and seal it. It doesn’t have to be white to draw the eye up. 

But what’s really got my attention these days are decorative ceiling treatments. OMG, check out the pic at this link! Yes, it’s a large room. But imagine this detail on a smaller scale on your bedroom ceiling. 


When you use the ceiling as another bedroom interior decor element, you get more mileage out of your space. And you also give the eye something else to focus on besides mini proportions. 

Don’t Let Your Furniture Suffocate the Walls

If your furnishings touch the walls, you probably have the opposite effect from what you really want. It seems like a space-maximizing trick, but instead it makes the room look cramped.  

Space behind furnishings won’t make the room look smaller. The shadows between furnishings and the walls gives the room a sense of depth. Without shadows, everything looks flat and dull. 


Your headboard might need to fit close, but you can still leave an inch or so. As for everything else, let the furniture and the walls breathe. 

Try to Incorporate a Chair

If you’re battling for space with a small bedroom interior, the last thing on your list of must-haves is probably a chair. But a bedroom chair boosts its comfort level about a million percent. It also looks awesome.

It doesn’t have to be a huge chair. A small one in what my mother calls “lady-size” is ideal. Plush is good, and it’s also a great spot to read. But it doesn’t have to be a tufted chair. Even a small wooden chair with a cushion on the seat makes the room look well appointed. 

If a chair won’t work, what about a bench? You can situate one at the foot of the bed, under a window, or along any awkward wall. Seating is good.

Think Vertical for Bedroom Interior Storage

Take a look at your bedroom and notice how much wall space isn’t being used. It’s probably a lot, at least if you don’t count any of the artwork that you might have.  You can claim any of it for storage, and it’s easier than you might think. 

A bookcase like the one in this photo can fit between the wall studs. It doesn't have to project out as much as this one does. If it recesses into the wall, it takes up virtually no floor space. Situated on the left and right of the bed, you can bump out the lower portion of the book case to make built-in nightstands. 

A typical wall has about 4 - 6 inches of empty space depth between the studs, and the studs in most homes are about 12 - 16 inches apart. The location of the studs might not be ideal for centering your bed between. But if you choose a wider section, you’ll have room to center the bed and trim molding can make the whole area cohesive. 

The only place where I don’t recommend between-stud cupboards is on an exterior wall. You’d have to ditch the insulation, and that’s just a bad idea on an outer wall. But any interior walls are perfect. Just remember that there are wires inside most walls, so your contractor might have to re-route some of them. It’s not really a big deal for a professional.

Tiny, diminutive, itty-bitty, little bedrooms can be enormous on style and function. You can’t change the square footage. And tricks of the eye only go so far. So instead of ignoring a small bedroom and not even trying to make it great, or worse — using mini-furniture in the hopes of making it appear larger, just roll with it. 

A small bedroom can also be flat-out gorgeous! 


Saturday, August 1, 2015

Pick my Folk Victorian House Paint Color! The Winner is...

My house is gonna be red.

Red, red, red.

Scarlet, oxblood, currant.

Garnet, wine, or maybe even tomato.

I'm just not sure which red, at least not just yet. I am sure that the Mr. will have an opinion. Just as soon as I tell him which color I've chosen, that is.

It wasn't an easy decision to come to. There's white, which is universally tidy and clean. And that was what I thought I'd land on when this whole process began. White is also much cheaper than red, since contractor-grade is readily available in white. And then there's the slate blue, which I do like a lot.

But, no. There's a reason why red keeps turning my head. And so, there you have it.

I love all of these houses for different reasons. The one at the top is a personal favorite because it doesn't scream red. It more suggests it, with a bit of mellow brown mixed in.

I think I like this one so much because it looks so happy. White trim, and happy little white picket fence.

This house appeals to be because it's more subtle. I would probably go with a more red-red than this (It almost looks coral on my screen), but I really like the taupey-gray trim.

Now, this is a house!  It's definitely bold. But the Mr. would love it. He has three favorite colors: red, black and gray. As you can imagine, that severely limits my ability to paint or otherwise decorate inside or out without making him do the frowny face. I'm not sure that I could live with this much black trim. I do, however, think that when he sees these choices, this one will be his pick.

This one, I like because it's also more mellow. The putty-colored trim softens the red and makes it not quite so bold. At least that's my take.

But now, if I had to choose a favorite, this one might actually be it. This looks nothing like my house. But there's something about the play of red paint and natural cedar that makes my little heart flutter. My house was originally all cedar. And it's still under the old Masonite someplace. Seeing this combination makes me wonder whether I could pull off a similar combination here.

I still don't know when I'll be able to paint. I would love to start tomorrow! But alas, it has to wait. At least a little while longer. But one thing is for sure. It's definitely gonna be red.

What do you think? Do you have a favorite among these reds?



Thursday, June 11, 2015

Exterior Paint : It's Gotta be Done

I’ve been thinking a lot about paint these days. Exterior paint, to be exact. My poor old farm house still looks like it always has from the outside. And while that’s been a definite asset for our property taxes, it really would be nice to pull into the driveway and smile instead of sigh. My neighbors would probably be happier, too. 

Three very different directions have been rolling around my head. First, there’s the clean look of white. 

My brother tells me, “Sis, a nice coat of white paint makes all the difference in the world. Everything looks nice and tidy.” He’s right, of course. And my house is definitely a prime architectural specimen for white paint. This old folk Victorian has plenty of peers the same color. Plus, there’s something nice about a simple white house. 

But then my bohemian side pokes out her head. She likes bold colors. She likes RED! That’s a new thing with me. I spent over a decade clinging to all things taupe and taupe-adjacent. A former landlady used to laugh and say that no matter where I lived, she would always know my home just by walking in the front door. Because every house of hers that I lived in, and there were a few, I painted taupe. 

Or taupe-adjacent. 

I do love this red, though. I’m not a fan of cherry red or burgundy red, but I love a warm, sort of barn red. 

Once that’s settled down, my sensible side kicks my bohemian side in the shins and says, “No, no, no. You want blue!” Ok, not true blue, not primary color on the color wheel blue. But blue adjacent? I think grayed-down blues are very nice. I remember a long time ago, seeing a paint chip that was called "Federal Blue," and that's always been my bar for gray blue. 

And with white trim, blues can also look very clean. It’s the contrast, I imagine. I really do like the idea of a blue house. And the neighbors might not be as shocked as they would with red.

Oh, but then I remember my poor hubby. He likes red, but maybe not for the whole exterior. He is “meh” about white. I can't even consider anything in the same zipcode as brown, since he hates it so much. And I’m not sure what he thinks about blue. What he likes is gray. 

Not grayish something. Just plain old gray. Battleship gray. Bless his heart. But I do think that maybe, with the right level of gray, that might work, too. Especially with a bright colored door. 

I’m just not sure. I mean, I am sure that the house must be painted. Baby poop brown, which is what I've got now,  is nobody’s favorite. And I really am tired of having the ugliest house on the block. 

What do you think? 

This really shouldn’t be as difficult as it is.


Paint can image credit: United Soybean Board https://www.flickr.com/photos/unitedsoybean/ 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

DIY Bohemian Country Kitchen Remodeling Ideas

So lately I have been thinking about reworking my country kitchen. Again. I know, I already did that. But the foundation is sinking again, and all of the cherry cabinets that I didn't even like in the first place are separating. Now, I could fix the house and try to wedge the cabinets back together. But since it’s making me a little madder every day, I’m just about over the whole thing, and looking for remodeling ideas. 

There is no more sigh of happiness when I walk in that room. What I feel is a little closer to despair with some ennui blended in for good measure. It bums me out. Big time. The problem, of course, is funds. I'll fix the house, because that has to be done. But I'm not loving the idea of keeping everything else as it is. 

I am so in love with this kitchen that I don’t even know where to begin.

Now, money and I have never been great friends. That might be the reason why the mishmash, eclectic style that I am most comfortable with evolved. I have different names for it on different days, but it’s a bohemian, shabby, gypsy, witchy, bohemian farm house sort of thing. Some people love it, others hate it. Meh. It’s my house. And because I change things in my house the way I change my nail polish, I rarely have commitment issues. If I hate it, out it goes. Eventually. 

Some of you can decide that you want a new kitchen, and you’ll just head on out to the Home Depot and make it happen. My life has never really been like that. I have learned patience over the years. It’s the joy of the ride, not just the destination. 

I save my pennies. I shop sales. I scour thrift stores. I buy things on lay-away, paying small bits at a time toward whatever it is that I need. I habitually visit the Habitat for Humanity ReStores, both in Knoxville and Oak Ridge. Knox Rail Salvage and I are old friends. I try never to buy anything full price or on credit if I can help it. These things have served me well. 

I’m increasingly interested in freestanding cupboards instead of built-ins. 

So on my bohemian, eclectic, country kitchen, I’m trying to come up with some remodeling ideas. I can build cabinets. That’s not a problem, and I know how to do it on the cheap. And when I say cheap, I mean that each new cabinet would cost me no more than about $10, $15 tops if I by new hardware, which I probably won’t. I’m a major fan of reusing what I can. 

I could build all that I want and need for no more than about $100. I didn’t leave out any zeroes there. I already have a garage full of lumber. Full, I say. 

Seriously enamored with deep red and open shelves these days. The beadboard ceiling is nice, too.

I’m trying to tap my inner inspiration fairy. I am positive that the black granite countertops are outta here. I might reuse it elsewhere, or I might sell it. I haven’t made up my mind on that just yet. Mr. V. loves it, but I don’t think it fits with this house. 

So when I have some spare time, which is increasingly rare but also increasingly divine, I think about my sad little kitchen. Well, sad big kitchen. It's huge. 

Blue isn't half bad, either. And again with the mismatched cupboards, which I love.

What will it look like? How will it function? I have no idea just yet. I wish I was still in contact with my former landlady. She really knew how to take a bad kitchen and transform it into something that not only looked great, but functioned so well that it was a pure joy to be there. I wish I had even half her talent. She wasn't as enamored with the eclectic country kitchen look as I am, but she'd probably indulge me. 

Until I’m ready to dive in, I’ll peruse Pinterest and Houzz. At least there I can get lost in dreams about my new kitchen, if only for a little while until I have a work deadline to meet. 

If you have any ideas on what I should do with my kitchen, please don’t keep them to yourself!  Did I mention that I'm in need of inspiration?