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Inspiration: Sunburst!

(FYI: If you have any interest in winning a $155 gift certificate to any CSN stores, head over to my personal blog and enter my latest giveaway!)

…or should I call them starburst mirrors? I’ve seen the two terms used, pretty much interchangeably and with equal frequency. So I hope we can agree that both labels are correct. Sometimes what’s labeled a starburst mirror looks more like a sun, and what’s labeled a sunburst mirror looks more like a star, but I think that’s okay. I think they’re keen no matter what you call them!

Blue Room

Tobi Fairley

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Creating Gender Neutral Spaces

A little something for everyone

It’s more common to read about gender neutral decor in the context of nurseries and kids’ rooms, but what about for grownups? It’s probably a question that cohabitating heterosexual adults should ask themselves at least once: How can one create a space that’s appealing to both women and men? (Which, for the gay couple or roommate pair, can become: How can one create a space that’s appealing to both people living in it.) In the spirit of that question, here are five tips for creating gender neutral spaces in various areas of your home:

1. Go for balance. Mix furniture and accessories that have clean, strong lines with more delicate stuff. Think antique silver filigree on a parsons table, traditional feminine touches paired with modern art, and mix vivid colors with softer neutrals.

Branch out to include her or him

2. Ditch the florals, and replace them with botanicals, because there’s nothing quite like bringing the outdoors in. Branch patterns are beautiful, as are stylized leaf patterns. Just show some restraint, and don’t turn your bedroom or living room or bathroom into a forest.

3. Don’t make gender neutrality the focus of the room. Let’s say a hetero couple is decorating a bedroom – his nightstand might have a different lamp than hers, or they may simply have different nightstands. In the living room, the chair she uses most might be somewhat girlier than the other furniture in the room, which he has a favorite footstool that’s decidedly more manly.

It's the little touches we all add

4. Go for greens. It’s the color that so many parents gravitate toward (along with yellow) when creating gender neutral nurseries, but green is great for grownups, too. There are so many different shades of green and greens coordinate with so many other colors, that you’re sure to find a color palette you both like.

5. Keep it classic, because classic decor is less likely to start to get on one of your nerves. The more trendy your decorating choices, the more quickly it’s going to happen that someone in a couple will start to hate the colors or the accessories or the pictures hanging on the walls.

The Wrong Way to Decorate With Throw Pillows

Throw pillows are great, aren’t they? When your couch is just not supportive enough, throw pillows pick up the slack. They make a neat little seat when there is seating overflow, and really wee ones can use throw pillows for all sorts of things. And they’re pretty, too!

But really, enough is enough. If you really need twelve giant throw pillows to make your couch comfy, it’s time to get a new couch. Or if you find yourself sitting on the very edge of the couch, it’s probably time to reevaluate how you’re using throw pillows. This image above is not it, but there’s definitely a right way to use ‘em, so I recommend grabbing some cute throw pillows like these:

white throw pillowruffled pillowowl pillow
flower throw pillowraw silk throw pillowcute throw pillow

Are these sweet? Go on, click the pics!

Loft Love!

Those who love sweetness and light could do worse than to take inspiration from this very lovely Williamsburg Brooklyn loft. There’s not much not to like about it! It’s simple and pretty, but in a grownup way, and I think my favorite thing about it is that it doesn’t look like the lair of Hipsterus Americanus. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that look – it’s just not my thing.)

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Good Clutter vs. Bad Clutter

Is clutter always bad? There are some sources that say so, maintaining that there is absolutely no way to lead a productive, low-stress life if you don’t have a place for everything and everything in its place. Downsizing in the word of the year when it comes to stuff, and the simplicity movement asks us to scale down, maybe even to as little as 10 personal possessions per person. But while clearing out the clutter – physical, mental, etc. – is definitely a good idea, it doesn’t necessarily follow that ALL things labeled clutter are bad for YOU.

Who says, for example, that clutter has to be ugly? We’ve all heard of hoarders by now, but just because stacks of newspaper and bags of bottle caps make headlines nowadays doesn’t mean that clutter can’t be beautiful. If your clutter is a collection of meaningful things you’ve acquired over the years – especially things that make you happy and are cute to boot – then you absolutely shouldn’t feel obligated to stash it all away just to adhere to the popular aesthetic. Still feeling overwhelmed by your stuff, even though you love it? Maybe the answer is looking at your collections or art or photos or whatever it is that gets you going as a challenge. As in, it’s time to ask yourself how to turn ‘clutter’ into something awesome by incorporating it into your space in a different way.

And in a way, your clutter is you, or at least a record of where you’ve been and what has touched you enough to save. I’m not talking about all the stuff that really ought to get put away, like clean clothes, but rather the little mementos of life, like souvenirs from your journeys, letters, gifts from the people you care about, and so on. That book you’ve read a hundred times. The pillow you sewed in home ec when you were 12. That kind of thing. Is it clutter? Maybe, but it’s also the stuff you’ve chosen to keep when you’ve probably discarded plenty over the years. Personally, I don’t think that all that needs to go in the bin just because your home might look a little more spacious if it was gone.

Just make sure that your good clutter isn’t suffocating you or cramping your style. Just so you know, good clutter CAN turn bad – like when it’s getting in the way, making it hard to do what you need to do, or stressing you out. The best way to avoid falling into the trap of keeping bad clutter around is to periodically take a look at your life. Do you need X, Y, and Z? Maybe not. Do you still use, want, or love X, Y, and Z? If the answer is no, consider getting rid of it so it doesn’t end up doing all those things the anti-clutter brigade warned us about.

Wish I Still Had One of These…

…or, you know, the space for one of these. I’m not sure how it happened, but when I moved from an apartment into an actually house, I lost bathroom space. The old apartment didn’t have much going for it, but it sure did have a sizable bathroom, and a sweet free-standing clawfoot tub to soak in.

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Cozy Versus Cluttered

Here’s an interesting question: Is cozy a polite way of saying cluttered? Does it have to be? Cozy does frequently stand in for cluttered – it’s an easy way to brush off clutter or to elevate it to a higher status. “These books piled everywhere in my apartment? That’s a sign of my eclectic genius and what makes my home cozy.” It’s like the term ‘lived in,’ which can mean so many things good and bad.

Which isn’t to say you can’t have a lot of stuff without clutter! I think the difference between cozy and cluttered is a feeling more than anything else. Cozy to me means that a space feels inviting – it has signs of life in it instead of being a sanitized space that looks like a catalog or a museum display. A big house with lots of space can still feel cozy, for example. And a big house can be cluttered, too, if all that space isn’t used effectively. A cluttered home will feel different than a cozy one. It won’t be inviting, and all the stuff strewn about willy-nilly can even be a little anxiety inducing. Visitors are afraid to touch anything, for fear of knocking something over or losing their keys.

That’s what cozy versus cluttered means to – what does it mean to you? Can you separate the two terms in your mind, or does cozy always feel a little cluttered to you?

TIP: If you would like to downsize some of your stuff, check out Unstuff Your Life!. It’s not about trading in chaos for minimalism, but rather figuring out the best way to use the spaces you have.

Hauntingly Beautiful Images of a Downtrodden City

How amazing are these images of Detroit’s downtown captured by photographers Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre? It seems like a ghost town or the corpse of a city – and an eerie reminder of Detroit’s glory days, since so many of the structures they photographed are were obviously magnificent in their heyday.

Like so many of the visuals that comes out of this sad city, it’s depressing. But still kind of hauntingly beautiful.

You can see these and more in Marchand and Meffre’s book Ruins of Detroit – which is the result of a five-year collaboration started in 2005.

10 Home Staging Basics for the Noob

10 home staging basics

Whenever the topic of home staging comes up, I like to tell the story of my mother-in-law. She was trying to sell her house… a beautiful house, full of beautiful antiques and fine furniture. Prospective buyers would walk through, oohing and ahing, but no one put in an offer. Why? Because all the buyers spent all their time in the house entranced by all the nice stuff.

When did the house finally sell? After my mother-in-law put the majority of her nice things into storage.

Home staging, in case you haven’t maxed out on it watching the home and lifestyle channels, is the art of creating neutral, inoffensive environments that appeal to the majority of people (or at least don’t offend anyone) and don’t distract from the space on display. There are plenty of people making a living staging homes, but with a little trial and error, most people are capable of DIYing it.

Here are 10 home staging basics to help the noobs out there who are looking to sell a house or apartment:

1. Clean EVERYTHING. When The Beard and I were looking for homes, it was hard to see the “good bones” in the dirty ones. After viewing one home, all I could remember was the big pot of nasty… something… on the kitchen counter and the gnarly smell. In another house, the grime everywhere distracted from the house itself. When there’s no dirt to look at, people will look at the space for sale.

2. Nix the CLUTTER. Your stuff is almost as distracting as dirt. Not everyone can afford to put their stuff in storage like my mother-in-law, but put away what can be put away, and maybe start packing whatever isn’t necessary for daily living a little early. Boxes in the basement are less distracting than books stacked in corners.

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Office Inspiration from Turquoise

The home office can be an afterthought for a lot of people – that is, if you have the space to devote an entire room to working. This is especially the case among those who don’t work at home and would honestly rather not feel compelled to give up precious square footage to work-related gear. But since I work from home, I tend to empathize with those who do, too, and would probably like somewhere sweet to sit as they endure the daily grind. I used to have a nice home office, until I gave it up during the renovations, and now I fear that I’ll never again work from anywhere but the kitchen table. I’d prefer to be working in here, though:

Seeing this oh-so-inviting space designed by Turquoise makes me long for my old office. Oh, we’ll have another home office someday, but it will be shared and that means it will be at least halfway to messy most of the time. But a girl can dream, right? I’d love to know what your home office sitch is. Do you have one? Is it grand? Would you love to have one, but the space just isn’t there? Or are you content to leave work at work where it belongs so that extra room can stay a den/guest room/nursery/gaming space?

Image: Turquoise

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