Creating the Perfect Patio Oasis

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How fortunate we are to live in a place where outdoor living is a possibility nearly year-round. As we head into the summer, it’s time to take stock or your outdoor living spaces, noting what could be improved. Invest in your outdoor living spaces, is almost like adding an addition to your home because, with the right furniture, accents and landscaping, you can considerably increase the square footage of your living space.

The following tips will help you create the perfect patio and outdoor oasis.

Add one of your fantasy hardscape features.

In a culture that can’t get enough of the HGTV home improvement shows, it can feel like every dream remodel or landscaping plan should be able to happen overnight. In the real world, it doesn’t work like that. Time and budget are always a consideration. Rather than having an all-or-nothing approach, have the vision and foresight to see that one change at a time will lead to your dreamscape within a handful of years.

This year, make it a point to add one of your dream landscape features. If you can’t afford a built-in fireplace or fire pit, create a cozy seating area around an attractive chiminea. If you aren’t able to create the large pond and babbling brook, use a wine barrel or huge ceramic pot, a small water pump, and a faux-creek bed with river stones. One feature at a time is a smart approach to the outdoor environment you want.

Create an outdoor lighting design.

Your flood lights and porch lights are not enough to create a patio or outdoor oasis. Just as your interior lighting plan utilizes a variety of light sources, so should your exterior lighting plan. Safety is the first priority, so make sure that walkways, pathways, stairways and unexpected obstructions are illuminated. Then add dimmable lights, hanging lanterns, landscape lighting and/or twinkle lights for ambiance.

Invest in high-quality furniture.

Yes, high-quality outdoor furniture can be a significant investment, but it is so worth it if you and your family plan on spending any amount of time outside. Many companies offer 0% financing options, which can help you get the furniture you want with minimal payments over the course of the next year. It’s the difference between creating a temporary resting spot or a bona-fide outdoor living room, dining room, etc., where you can comfortably hang out for hours.

Focus on native perennials.

One of the great things about being outside is enjoying the flora and fauna. The more flora you plant, the more fauna will visit. I always recommend meeting with a landscape expert or visiting a local nursery and taking notes. This will help you plan a landscape that provides year-round interest, rather than one that blooms all at once and then goes barren for the rest of the year.

The best landscape is one that uses native plants, which are adapted to the climate and require less water and maintenance than their non-native counterparts. By making the majority of your landscaping perennial, you won’t have to invest a lot of time or money planting new annuals every year. You can save your annual planting for the few flowers you want to have in your containers, hanging baskets and the borders of your plant beds. Another bonus of native plants, they are the most attractive food sources for pollinators, butterflies and birds.

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10 Common Decorating Mistakes That Will Haunt You

10-common-decorating-mistakes-that-will-haunt-youWe can provide all the lessons, tips and tricks in the book, but sometimes the examples of what not to do speak more clearly. There are common decorating mistakes that we see repeatedly in our line of work. Learning to avoid them in the first place will help you create timeless designs that enjoy more time in between interior design re-dos and remodels.

10 Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

  1. Overdoing it. This applies to virtually every aspect of interior design: color, patterns, furnishings, accents etc. There is a naturally pleasing effect created when these elements are in balance. When you overdo it, the eyes are confused, your room can feel cramped or overwhelming and it will be impossible to settle on a single focal point, theme or motif.
  2. Adding something that doesn’t quite fit. If it doesn’t quite fit, leave it out. That extra inch of couch that extends beyond the entrance space, the ottoman that leaves nary a foot between the and the adjacent wall, the television that’s too big for the old entertainment center, all of those have to go. We’re sorry – but those little “you hardly notice them,” rationales don’t work. We notice them, and so does everyone else.
  3. Not creating (and sticking to) a budget. When you don’t have a budget, you can get into serious design trouble, winding up with a half-finished room and no money left to finish it. Create a budget, add a 10% contingency cushion, and stick to it.
  4. Going all matchy-matchy. Yes, there is a place where matching matters, but when everything matches it can be overkill (see Number 1 above) and/or it can yield a space that looks more like a hotel room than a home. That’s not what you want. Use a range of both complementary and contrasting colors, patterns, textures, materials, etc.
  5. Low curtain rods. Hanging your curtain rods too low will shorten the length of your walls and can hide your windows. Instead, hang the rods closer to the ceiling, which creates a feeling of height and expansiveness and allows your windows to shine.
  6. Backs of furniture to the walls. Of course, it makes sense for some of your furniture and furnishings to be back against the wall. But pulling at least a few pieces forward creates a more intimate feeling in living rooms and other social areas. It can also improve traffic flow.
  7. No focal point. Each room needs a focal point or two. Our eyes need somewhere to rest. When your interior design has a mish-mash of stuff everywhere, it’s unsettling. Pick a piece of art, the fireplace, a unique furnishing – and let the rest of the design direct attention towards it.
  8. Photo barrage. We love to see pictures of your family, friends, pets and vacations. However, we don’t need to see all of them at once on the same surface.
  9. Poor lighting. Unfortunately, we find that lighting is one of the last things clients are thinking about when they are brainstorming design ideas. However, poor lighting can make a room feel harsh, smaller, closed in or grotesquely shadowed. Using a variety of light sources, overhead, lamps, recessed, sconces, etc., is a good way to enjoy a beautiful ambiance.
  10. Ignoring the foyer. We recommend starting with the foyer and working from there. Ignoring the entrance to your home leaves a poor first impression. Make it welcoming, interesting and like a preview of the visual highlights yet to come.

What are some of your biggest interior design mistake stories? We’d love to hear them.

Decorating with a Restricted Color Palette

It’s all well and good to read design articles and view pictures of “accent walls” or “bold paint color schemes” when you own your home, but what about situations where your color palette is restricted? Rental home and apartments come to mind, as do situations where one partner enjoys brightly colored rooms and a particular design style and the other one is less than enthusiastic about it.

Fortunately, there are a few tips and tricks you can use to decorate your home stylishly, even when your color palette is restricted. And in fact, many design aficionados – such as the late  author Edith Wharton – intentionally restrict their color palettes in order to allow furnishings and fixtures to take center stage and to create home environments that are soothing and relaxing, rather than busy and cluttered.

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6 Tips for Decorating with a Restricted Color Palette

Choose furniture with attractive lines and curves. If you are using a restricted palette, the features of your furniture and fixtures will stand out. For this reason, try to find furniture that is attractively shaped or has a unique visual appeal, as well as pieces that are comfortable.

Select softly-colored accents and textiles. Typically, a muted color palette will be predominantly white, cream, or perhaps a soft beige. Either way, any amount of color or pattern will stand out significantly more than it would in a more multi-colored design scheme. For that reason, select window coverings, accent pillows or textiles that are softly colored or have a very mellow pattern, to keep with the muted motif.

Think texture rich. If you aren’t careful, a muted or restricted palette can end up being boring and very one-dimensional. That is not the idea. Every living space should have a nice balance of texture and depth to make it more interesting. Use a mix of textures and fabrics such as cotton upholstery, a woven basket or rug, and a soft, fluffy throw. Furry pets are optional, but you get the idea. Mixing fabrics with wood, metal and or stone accents makes for a more visually appealing space.

Show off your art. Art is always an appreciated addition to any interior design, but with a muted color palette, you really have the ability to show it off. Even a large-scale painting, such as this equine print, can get lost in a room decorated with a darker or more busy color scheme. The simple muted tones in the living room link above help the black lines of the horse stand out, making it the focal point for the entire living space.

Add live plantsPlants and flower arrangements really pack a more powerful punch when they are used in a room with a restricted palette. They come to life, and every green leaf or petal will look that much more colorful when it doesn’t have any other real color competition.

Find one bold, funky or eclectic accent. Find and install one funky sculpture, an eclectic light fixture or an unusual accent. Play around with the placement to see how different locations alter the effect. In an already eclectic design, these items are par for the course. However, when they’re used in a more stately or restricted color palette, they give the room a little more personality.

These tips can help to keep your muted color palette interesting, rather than boring. As always, contact a professional interior designer and schedule a consultation if you feel like you are in a design rut, or would like a little assistance or input with your own interior design ideas. We are always happy to help.

Using Mirrors to Your Interior Design Advantage

Mirrors are one of the most under-appreciated elements in interior designs. Their reflective properties make small rooms seem larger, dark rooms seem lighter and can help one fabulous accent or furnishing pack double the punch. If you’re looking for simple ways to spruce up your interior, consider how a mirror or two can help.

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6 Tricks for Decorating with Mirrors to Boost Your Interior Design Appeal

  1. Give your room a view. Have a room in your home that lacks a window, or has a window too small to give you any view? Make way for a mirror. Buy a larger mirror with an attractive frame (or re-frame a mirror you already have) and hang it on the wall. Consider placing a large potted plant, like a ficus tree or a schefflera, on the opposite wall so some greenery is reflected. By playing around with the reflection, you can fake out the eyes and enjoy the space without ever noticing the lack of windows.
  2. Let there be light. Depending on available light sources and the angle of your mirrors, a small amount of light can go a long way due to a mirror’s reflective properties. This is why solar tubes work so effectively to bring natural sunlight into an interior using only a small cylinder of reflective/refractive materials and a glass dome, but we digress. The point is, you can brighten up your space with a clever use of light sources and mirrors. Play around with different arrangements to amplify the light factor without suffering the negative effects of a harsh glare.
  3. Add a little glamour. You don’t have to use a full mirror to benefit from the power of reflections. Look for mirrored accents that add a bit of glamor, sparkle and, of course, a little burst of light. Look how these pictures come to life with mirrored frames in a way they wouldn’t with plain wood or a solid colored version. Other mirrored accents that will add a little pizzazz include candle holders, mosaic tile work, or any design pieces with metallic accents.
  4. Make the room larger. Here is one of the best known and utilized mirror tricks – use the reflection to make the room seem larger. This can be done using almost any decent sized mirror. If you’re looking for ways to do it a little differently, try placing a floor-to-ceiling mirrorbehind a dresser or cabinet. Usually mirrors hang above a furniture piece or are used as a full-length or full-sized mirror. Something special happens when the right sized mirror is placed behind the furniture, making the room feel larger and it also yields a more interesting view.
  5. Decorative mirrors for decoration’s sake. Sometimes, the mirror is just the added bonus in an already decorative piece. Such is the case with a sunburst mirror, which works in just about every type of design, or mirrors with beautiful, got-to-have-them frames. You get the benefit of an art piece combined with the positive effects of using a mirror – so it’s double the visual impact.
  6. Double the accents. Speaking of double the visual impact, a strategically placed mirror can enhance any stand-out accent you have by making it appear in double. This is common in dining rooms, in order to reflect a gorgeous light fixture or unique art piece. Just as a mirror is used to make a room feel larger, it can also be used to reflect one room back to a next, echoing beautiful color motifs or design features.

Consult with a professional designer to make the most of the mirrors in your interior design.