Monthly Archives: March 2010

Decorating Demystified: Traditional

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We often get questions from our readers about the terminology we use in our descriptions of different room styles so we wanted to create a segment in which we give a detailed explanation of the terms along with visual examples.

In this first instalment we will focus on one of the most common decorating styles: Traditional.

Traditional decorating uses colors, objects, textures, and arrangements inspired by classic designs of the past.  While the term is broad enough to encompass everything from Ancient Egyptian to Art Nouveau, for our purposes we generally use the term to describe the style of decorating that features elements and concepts dating from the early 1700s to the early 1920s.

Still a very popular decorating style, especially along the Eastern seaboard and in the South, many of the elements and pieces referred to as traditional are timeless classics that look as stately and elegant today as they did a century ago.

Traditional upholstered pieces generally feature ornate exposed-wood trim and legs, curved arms and backs, and button tufting.  Fabrics are usually heavily patterned with floral, tartan, or striped designs and have a silklike sheen and smooth texture.

Traditional case-goods (hard wooden furniture) tend to be constructed of tightly-grained hardwoods (maple, oak, and mahogany) in a dark stain, and feature ornately carved detailing and curved wooden legs.

Traditional floor coverings often consist of large, heavily patterned area rugs placed over dark-stained hardwood floors.  The rugs may feature highly contrasting colors and fringe detailing on the edges.

Traditional accessories consist of an eclectic collection of carved wooden curios, decorative plates, and ornate glassware.  Artwork is generally hand-painted and framed in thick gold or dark wood frames with wide matting.  Leather-bound books, globes, and other intellectually themed accessories also add visual character to a traditional room.

Traditional lighting is soft and muted in nature, with table and floor lamps featuring opaque shades to obscure the source of light and to provide an ambient glow.

Traditional furniture arrangements are often formal in nature and based on symmetry radiating from the main focal point of the room (a fireplace, window, or archway).

Traditional window coverings almost invariably feature a combination of elements, such as blinds or shutters layered with sheers, curtain panels, swags, and upholstered valances.  They also tend to feature decorative trim, beadwork, or tasseled tie-backs as well as intricate fabric patterns and rich colorways (often designed to coordinate with the upholstery or wallpaper).

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For more clarification on the definitions of various decorating terms visit our Glossary page.

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Evolutionary Design

A friend once beautifully said that “a home is never static, it ebbs and flows with our life”.  How true.  Nothing ever looks as good or creates that awe factor when you see it everyday.  I am not saying trash everything and start again every 6 months, I am saying change things up a bit every once in a while.  Move the sofa, rotate your artwork, change the throw pillows, a new perspective may make you notice (and enjoy) the room again.  If that statement has you stumped try seeking professional advice for fresh decorating ideas.  This may seem like a shameless plug but our styleIT decorating package really is an affordable way to start you off on a new path and make you do a double-take the next time you walk past your amazing new room!

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Spring Fix: Quick and Easy Ways to Add a Fresh New Look

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Bedding: Warmer temperatures make sleeping under heavy fabrics uncomfortable.  Microfiber, satin, mohair, and chenille throws and duvet covers not only feel heavy, but tend to add visual weight to a bedroom as well.  Natural white or off-white cotton or bamboo linens provide a crisp, cool texture and a fresh, airy look.

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Area Rugs: Switching out dark and heavily-patterned area rugs for natural or synthetic sisal visually lightens the space and provides a low-maintenance alternative to fussier wool rugs, ideal for casual warm-weather entertaining.  Choosing a rug with a colored fabric border is a great way to add a subtle punch of your favorite hue and to tie-in your other accessories.

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Flowers: Regardless of the time of year, fresh-cut flowers are always a more pleasing focal point than dried or artificial arrangements, but this is especially true in Spring and Summer, when our outside surroundings are bursting with vibrant natural colors.  Flowers in lively shades of pink, yellow, blue, violet, and white add a splash of happiness in any room, and for those with a green thumb, nothing beats cuttings from your own gardens.

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Toss Cushions: Switching out toss cushions on sofas, chairs, and beds is one of the most inexpensive ways to change up the entire look and feel of a room.  Use plain white or off-white for a simple, sedate look, or fun candy colors for a more playful appeal.

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For professional advice on adding a fresh new look to your space check out our SERVICES page!

The IT List: The 10 Worst Interior Decorating Trends!

Throughout the years as decorators we’ve seen it all: the good, the bad, and the ugly (and we mean really, really ugly!).  The sad thing is that many of the worst interior decorating faux-pas were committed with the best of intentions…and often in response to the hottest trends at the time.  Here’s a list of some of the most reviled interior trends of our generation:

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1.  Over-scaled hanging utensils: Everyone old enough to remember the first Darren on Bewitched will recall the over-scaled wooden fork and spoon set that adorned many a suburban kitchen.  So out that they’re almost back in again!

2.  Crocheted bathroom-tissue covers: Often featuring a doll’s head and arms protruding from the base, these hideous handicrafts were apparently conceived before the invention of that other handy device for hiding extra toilet paper rolls, the cabinet.

3.  Round beds: Sleeping on a round bed is only ever fun if you’re under 8 years old, or you’re on your honeymoon in Las Vegas.  Otherwise they are uncomfortable, awkward, and incredibly difficult to make.

4.  Carpet in bathrooms and kitchens: Seriously, what were we thinking?  Take a moisture-filled room, where spills and stains are guaranteed, and fill it with bacteria-trapping, impossible-to-clean wall-to-wall broadloom.  Ewww!

5.  Inflatable furniture: First pioneered with the advent of more resilient types of PVC in the mid-1960s, inflatable furniture was inexpensive, easy to ship, and quick to assemble.  Unfortunately stiletto heels, lit cigarettes, and large houseguests could quickly destroy entire rooms within minutes.

6.  80’s Brass and Black: Granted, it was the era of power suits, big shoulder pads, and Dynasty, but there’s just something about too much bling that makes even the most expensive surroundings look cheap.

7.  Faux-finishes gone awry: In the late 1980s and early 1990s there was a trend to marble-ize every imaginable interior surface using “creative” paint techniques and a variety of sponges, rollers, and paper bags to create a luxurious textured look.  More often than not though, the look ended up being more silly than sophisticated.

8.  Macrame planters: In the mid 1970s everyone’s mother or grandmother took an adult-education class in making hanging macrame planters, and their progeny, in turn, received the results as birthday, Christmas, and housewarming gifts well into the early 80s.  They can now be found at every garage sale in North America in the “FREE – Please Take” bin.

9.  “Sunshine” ceilings: Another 80s creation, the Sunshine ceiling featured a series of suspended plexiglass panels lit by fluorescent tubes to mimic natural sunlight, and was found in many “designer” kitchens of the time.  Instead, the horrible light managed to make even the most elegant kitchen look like an office lunchroom, and turned the most beautiful meals an eerie shade of greenish-grey.

10.  Animal heads: We know we’re gonna get flack for this one, but we stand resolute.  There’s something a bit creepy about a large animal head staring down at you from the wall.  Plus, from a feng shui standpoint they are the epitome of bad chi.  Save them for the hunting lodge.

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If any of these past-due trends look overly familiar check out our SERVICES page ASAP!

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Hello Martha…are you listening?

When I was younger I had grandiose dreams of whipping up the perfect peach pie, made from flour that I ground, with eggs that the hens in my backyard laid, served in the pan that I hammered by hand and baked in the wood fired oven that I built…HA.  I knew that life was pure potential and by the time I was 30 I would have mastered everything…HA.

30 has come and gone now, and I have come to realize that the more I learn, the less I know.  The value in that little tidbit is that yes, I can learn just about anything if I commit enough time and resources to it, but I don’t have the time to do everything anymore; I have to choose what is important to me and focus my energy on that.  So my advice to anyone who is listening is to hire a pro; they are better, faster, and know more, thus producing better results.  And on that note I have to go, my Accountant is calling.

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IT’s on Sale – This Week’s Hot ITems!

This week we’ve chosen a few elegant classics to appeal to our transitional sensibilities.  Each of these pieces are versatile enough to blend seamlessly into a traditional roomscape, or add visual contrast in a sleek modern space.  And the best thing is they’re each an EXTRA 10% off our everyday DESIGNER-DISCOUNT prices for the next week!

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Metallic Lamp: A polished mirror-like finish adds a swanky elegance to this glitzy table lamp.  Available in silver or gold. Regular $237/Now $159!

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Cone-shaped Italian Cypress: This collection of lifelike Italian cypress bushes makes a charming accent to a front entrance or patio. Regular $127-$215/Now $85-$144!

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Alto Black Mirrored Console Table: An ultra-glam foyer table with a black mirrored top and base.  Regular $589/Now $396!

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Visit the STORE to check out these and other fabulous finds!

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Vintage Style

I’ve always been a huge vintage buff.  There’s just something very cool and comforting about coming across kitschy items from the past.  Over the years I’ve gone through my vintage clothing phase (including a brief stint as a “picker” for a vintage clothing store…which mainly involved trolling charity thrift stores and diving into bins of donated clothing in search of hidden gems), my vintage furniture phase (of which I still have several classic pieces), and my vintage design-magazine phase.  It was while thumbing through one of my old mags (the April 1977 edition of Architectural Digest) that it struck me how many of the room styles look just as elegant and contemporary more than 30 years later.  A well-designed room really can be timeless.  The basic principles of good design don’t change with each passing trend; scale, proportion, balance, and basic color theory are universal.

The mix of textures and complimentary colors in the corner sitting area create a restive oasis. The push-button phone is the only thing that gives away the real age of the photo

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A secondary conversation grouping was created using three matching armchairs centered around a square coffee table. The chairs are a classic Le Corbusier design that has remained the height of chic since 1929

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Low-level ambient lighting creates a moody glow in the space, and the floor-to-ceiling bookcases add an elegant visual contrast

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A neutral color-scheme and a brilliant layering of textures, from the coarse sisal broadloom to the soft textiles on the bed and the glossy Parson's bench, create a soothing retreat in the luxurious modern bedroom

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Ask IT: Which is better, “Veneer” or “Solid Wood”?

I am in the market for a new dining room table and I’ve noticed that some are listed as “solid wood” and some are “veneer”.  I had always thought that veneer was just something manufacturers used on cheap furniture, but I’m noticing that the veneered tables are often more expensive than the solid wood ones.  What’s the difference, and is one really better than the other?

Joel

Camden, NJ

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Hi Joel,

Thanks for the message.  Yours is a great question, and one we encounter a lot in the decorating world.  To start, we’ll explain a bit of the process involved in creating a “veneered” furniture piece.  The veneer process involves placing a hardwood tree with a tight, aesthetically-pleasing grain onto a horizontal roller, and then “shaving” it with a long knife as it rotates on the roller to create a long, ultra-thin sheet with a repeating pattern.  This thin sheet, or veneer, is then applied over a solid surface (of either laminated solid wood, particleboard, or medium-density fiberboard) using adhesives, to create a uniform pattern and appearance.

“Solid wood” pieces, especially larger pieces like tables and dressers, are not technically solid.  Since most trees do not grow several feet wide, the only way to create large sheets of wood is to laminate several smaller pieces together using adhesives and high pressure.  You can always tell a solid wood tabletop by the strips of wood that you see when you look at the top of it.

Toscana Dining Table $821-$1052

Now, back to your question.  As for which is better it really depends on both the process and construction that is used and on your personal aesthetic preference.  If the veneer is placed over particleboard or other composite materials, or if an insufficient adhesive is used the veneer may peel off or crack, resulting in a compromised appearance.  On solid wood tables, however, the differing grains of the laminated pieces will always have a less uniform look and tend to appear more “rustic” or handcrafted, which is fine for a country-themed look, but may not be suitable for a contemporary look.

Nancy Dining Table $1052

Decorative veneers have been used since ancient Egyptian times and are featured on many of the most expensive heirloom-quality furniture pieces in the world (Chippendale, Hepplewhite, and Biedermeier use veneer and inlays to create their elegant appearance), but are also used on many low-priced assemble-it-yourself pieces as well.

So, ultimately, the choice is yours.  If you want the uniform appearance of a veneered piece, choose a high-quality one in which the veneer is laid over a solid wood base (such as our Nancy Dining Table).  Of, if you prefer a more rustic look, choose a table made from laminated solid wood (like our Toscana Dining Table).  Good luck with your selection!

If you have a question for our design team email us at: AskIT@decorateITonline.com.  If we feature your question on our blog we’ll send you a gift certificate for $25 toward any purchase of $100 or more from our STORE!

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I Confess…I’m Cheap!

Although I love the look of things that are shiny and new, I am, like most people, confined by my pocketbook and forced to upcycle some of my decor items.  The positive side of my nature actually likes this challenge: How good can I fake it?  Will anyone know that this is a hand-me-down or thrift store find?  The truth is, yes, there are certain items that can take on a whole new life with a good scrub-down or a fresh coat of paint.  One of my all time favorite displays is comprised of a mismatched set of empty picture frames that I paid $1 each for.  A simple coat of paint and a haphazard wipe down with watered down black paint produced an artificial antiquing effect and a striking result that eventually inspired a poem from a friend.  So what is the decorating advice here?  Grow your design as the budget allows, mix the shiny new pieces with some old treasures and create a truly personal design for your home without breaking the bank!

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IT’s New!

Check out the rest of the hot new items we just added in our exclusive new line of solid bamboo furniture!  Wow, it really is possible to be both beautiful and responsible (who knew?)!

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Drop by the ECO-FRIENDLY section of the STORE to see our entire line of guilt-free goods!