Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Interior Styling III

After the house frontage (I) and entryway (II) we are today focusing on

The Living room.

The thing is that a lounge, or living room, takes a bit of work. Most people tend to fret about the seating, the carpet/flooring and possibly the drapes. Especially the drapes can bring up discussions as they are surprisingly personal.

Where to start?

a) overview: draw up a plan to scale. (Yes you heard me get the tape measure out ok)

b) review

  • get a friend, neighbour or colleague to come in and quickly dot down what they notice about the room in an honest manner. (This may prove hard so ask someone that is allowed to hurt your feelings. Remember they're here to help you.)
  • at the same time make a quick list about your own gripes and loves of the room. What have you wanted to do to it and why?
  • Compare results

c) Think big: what feel/image would you like to create? How does this contrast with the existing scenario? Gather clippings from magazines to distinguish what you like.

d) Foremost: think practical: do you have kids? How many people in your household? Do you want that tv blaring while you have friends over? Is the kitchen close by? How 'easy maintenance' do you want the house to be? Do you have pets? Where is the scratching post to go if you have one? Where do the kids play? Is there access to the garden? Is there a deck outside? How about your privacy? You may be able to have sex on the couch and then again the retired couple next door might get offended. Lots to contemplate. Does the dog sleep here or in the wash house/garage? Yep, more to consider!

e) Flooring: we always start from the floor up, so: carpet, timber, tiles or other? Do your homework on benefits/maintenance and comfort.

Many New Zealanders love carpet whereas Europeans rip it out and love their timber floors. Having some rugs can be a happy medium. [Note: kiwis tend to take their shoes off at home walking barefoot or on socks so carpet makes more sense, Europeans tend to keep their shoes on so whatever flooring there is it will work. This is a taste and cultural choice.]

f) Walls: if you have kids, be aware of crayon drawings so wallpaper might be not so convenient unless your can be very strict (and still be surprised). Vinyl wallpapers could work.

What are the benefits of paint over wallpaper? With paint you can change a room quicker, (and paint over crayon) but wallpaper creates more of a statement. (Yes there is scrubable paint and wallpaper - yay) Personally I think wallpaper works well if your interior is more contemporary bland, but if the furniture and artworks are quite colorful and distinct then it makes perfect sense to stick to paint to balance. I think Designer Guild works only if you have more of a Zen approach to seating arrangements.

g) Now: drape. Golden rule: if it's NOT a hallway or bedroom we are working WITH the walls. Meaning: we pick on the colour of the wall and carry this through in the curtains. Why? This way the curtains do not visually brake up the walls but continue on which creates a calming effect and the room feels connected and 'incorporated'. Also the focus will now not be on the windows at night but on the interior, which I always think is a much better idea. [The vilest drapes I've seen are loud, cheap and have a gazillion colours. Please burn these as they break every rule in the sophisticated household. Really! Yes really.]

h) Now that we discussed the choice of flooring, walls and curtains we get to: furniture.

Again: what do you ACTUALLY require? What seating favs does the family have? What do you like? My husband for example likes recliners as so many men do. I think they are generally horrendous - big blobs and no design. [Funny; most interior designers feel this way, especially women!] In the end though it takes figuring out 'who will use what' and what size would fit in a room without clogging it up. I suggested an Eames chair to Nico with a footstool opposed to a 'big blob'. Also I am in favor of asking my employer to make a custom made stereo/player storage piece that will fit the wall opposed to Ikea.
How much furniture? This is where your scale plan comes in: cut out the size of the settee you are thinking of and check to see if there's space to move around. Do you need a coffee table? Maybe not. One side/lamp table may suffice or a coffee table with a nest tucked in the sides for when visitors arrive. Whichever way: you need to be able to walk around on your plan without bumping into anything quickly.

Corner units work in awkward areas and big rooms. I don't advise it if it takes up literally half the room. There are ways to work with smaller spaces. No coffee table maybe or one that changes into a dining table. Get creative. Big rooms: think what you need first and only THEN start filling in suggestions, not the other way round.

So! Buy what style you like and STOP MATCHING. The whole 'matchy thingy' has been done to death. Choose a settee/couch and different chairs, which is more interesting. And try not to make it look 'his and hers' either: choose well and choose design. Save and buy it over time if need be.

Tip: you can also use an ottoman as a coffee table or something else that is interesting compared to a square or rectangular box.

i) Lighting: we tend to forget this element yet it's vital in the living room. Get it right and the room feels warm and cozy, light and airy: whatever the flavor: create ambiance and personality. And please: don't use the centre ceiling light! That's a mistake, we only use a ceiling light when we get home in a daze on weekends and try to plunk the keys on the table when we're on the way to bathroom and bed. We do not use it for anything else. Just pretend you don't have any.

What to use: standing lamps, pendants and table lamps. Don't go completely nuts on trendy designs: let one light be a feature, let the rest work in as a soft background noise. Try different shapes and heights to see what effect they have. You can even use them as you would a standing art work.

Overall reminders:

think cohesive: designs that work like a charm are those that work together and do not fight over attention. Also I will let out an interior design secret here:

if you start with using only 3 colours for the whole room you will create balance, use four and you're in trouble as that is much harder to get right. There's a talent to bringing rooms together and in my styling days in Auckland I learned that whatever I did, if I stuck to the 3 colour rule it'd usually work. Tested and tried. Of course if you're going for a monotone that's different and typically done in bedrooms, not in living rooms as that is the cozy vibrant area.

Material choice: Leather over fabric? Both have advantages and disadvantages, some people say leather is easier to maintain: it depends on the quality and finish. Leather is like skin: it fades or cracks if not maintained! Fabric nowadays comes in UV resistant swatches that work extremely well for the downunder market. The more man-made generally the better wearing but look for the Martindale rub tests etc that will tell you a lot about how long it will wear. Also: Hemptech sells hemp and linen that will take an 8 out of 9 in the fading tests. Brilliant. Leather in winter can be cold, fabric is cozy.

Conclusion: use a plan and think before you buy. Do your homework. Go with what you like and play around with ideas.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

the conversation

Why do it? It adds value and connections. RT (retweet) @LizzHarmon Tip:
In social media age, getting better at PR means getting better at relationships vs. publicity.
So you decided you want to market your business better. How? You market yourself. Online and offline.

Gary Vaynerchuk –the social sommelier- is a great example of how social media can create a killer boost in sales. It’s also about being genuine. As Gary puts it: “Get up there and network. Connect and care about your users. The only way to succeed is to be completely transparent. It starts with the mirror: what do I want to do? It’s not about 9-5, f* that.” The guy is hardcore but clever. He turned his family's small New Jersey liquor store into a wine empire that grosses over $60 million a year. (See excellent video and info here)

Of course many of us network already 'live', and is it effective? What value do you bring? What problems do you solve? Do you educate? What makes you stand out? Most of all: what do you do for others and how is it actually different? It’s about what you can do for someone else that matters. If you chase cash instead of passion it's not gonna work.

What social media to choose:
Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin come out on top, there’s also others like Digg, Delicious, Youtube, Flickr etc. Each one has a different demographic core. Yeah you know the stuff, do you use it?

Connecting, information, chat, leads.

What are the benefits of using social media? Beside meeting other professionals and like minded individuals to network with I have found it an excellent news & information source. On twitter things pop up that conventional media pick up on later. Also there’s excellent reads to learn more about subjects of interest. Suddenly it’s possible to talk to anyone.

"Social media is about sociology and the understanding that with the new social tools available to us, we can more effectively observe the cultures of online communities and listen to and respond directly to people within the communities.” Source: Brian Solis,

So what to do?
You don’t have to become a social media expert to use it. Just start and see what you enjoy best. Give it a month or so to get a feel for what works for you. This Internet fluffy chat stuff is not going to go away. It’s all about the conversation now. More on http://gapingvoid.com/

Want to learn some more?
Essential sources:
1. Seth Godin: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/ number *1 read blog.
2. Gary Vaynerchuk: http://garyvaynerchuk.com/ social media sommelier.
3. Social media strategy and marketing: http://www.gallucci.net/
4. Social media guide: http://mashable.com/
5. Twitter tips: http://www.fastcompany.com/blog/dan-macsai/popwise/report-nine-scientifically-proven-ways-get-re-tweeted-twitter/
6. I have found the NZ http://www.businesstalk.co.nz/ to be very useful too.
7. Last resort: http://www.amazon.com/Social-Media-Marketing-Dummies-Singh/dp/0470289341

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sweet surprise

Warren Buffett is declaring that he feels the worst is over of the big R word in the US (terrorist attacks permitting). Elton John is considering adopting an orphan with his partner and has various folk in uproar and Ralph Lauren showed his latest farmland oasis collection: denim on denim on denim. (source)

As you can see the little house on the prairie is shown in full luster. Sweet, fresh as a daisy, clean and American.

Ralph Lauren himself phrases it like this: "I believe in the resilient spirit of America. Hard times seem to sharpen our capacity of idealism and optimism that tomorrow will be a better day."

That suit above reminds me a bit of the 30s/40s. Interesting.

That reminds me of Britney Spears.
Still: it's quite the surprise. Usually we are shown collections that are slighty askew, wacky or layered (sorry CREATIVE) and that's interesting but to counteract it with this 'sweetness' is well, NEW. I am baffled actually that I like it. O jeez it must be the farmerswive-thing popping up. Crikey.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Interior styling II

To continue from the previous post on house styling/fluffing/decorating/staging's HOW TOs: The hallway.

What to do with it? Hmm... too hard basket?

Often forgotten or neglected, adored or hated but we must all pass this entryway on the way to the interior cave that is our living sanctuary. What does it look like? Barren, shoes everywhere? Too many family portraits? Trip over the dog or cat? Only a ceiling light? Space to hang coats or would you rather choose a closet for that? Wallpaper or paint? Furniture or no, mirror? Carpet or tiles? Again; smell-check, you'll be surprised with how scents influence what we think and feel.

Right: after having made an assessment of the hallway we can change it if we feel that is necessary. One way to make a hallway interesting is lighting. It gives a surprise which I think is always a good idea for the hallway as these usually tend to be predictable and 'safe'. Art is great, I wouldn't suggest you smother the hallway with it as this can feel as being to forceful and can give an overbearing impression. The idea is to create an ambiance that is welcoming, warm and safe. So scrap the idea of having your daughter's fav goth pop group in there.

The hallway my dears is like the gossip alley: what to expect after this? It gives the first impression of your tastes and personality after visitors have seen the front of your house. (Of course you decorate for your own comfort and bearing in mind what a visitor would say helps pick up on hidden and forgotten aspects.)

So! Get to work:

  1. make a list of your observations
  2. make a sketch or ground floor plan.
  3. make notes of what you would like to see there:

furniture, lighting how and wall preference.

I found this company on the net Fun on the floors. Isn't that cheerful? Reminds me very much of Marimekko. I wouldn't expect everyone to like it but it definititely makes a statement and they have done well with the white as that creates a counterbalance for all the zingyness.

Now: depending on size of hallway:

Choose: small hallway? A wallpaper with a pattern can make it look smaller so stay away from that. Plain wallpaper or paint would be preferable, choose an artwork or designer light to get the wow factor. Larger entry? Wallpaper is fine but then choose a timeless light and I always prefer a table lamp somewhere which softens unless you have a very attractive chandelier...

Don't forget practical stuff as that comes first: where is the floor mat if you like one and where does everyone leave there jackets? keys? is there a mirror so visitors can check their appearance? Note: don't hang this opposite the entrance preferably as people don't like to be confronted with their own image unexpectedly (and apparently the feng shui is not improved by it either. Something about the energy entering the house doing a U-turn and dashing out again.)

So to sum it up: there's no 1 cure solution for the hallway but the essentials are:
  • clean
  • smell good
  • mirror to bounce light if needed + handy for visitors (on wall left/right)
  • solution for jackets & keys
  • inviting> have adequate lighting but soft preferably
  • don't use a standard ceiling light! (chandeliers are the 1 exception)

The one thing that creates the all-in-one-spot-on-effect unfortunately only comes with experience... that's how you learn what works and doesn't, but this will give you an enormous head start. Good luck and feel free to email me how you get on.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

jewellery and design trade fair in Queenstown

The new jewellery designs are in and they are stunning! I'm very pleased with how the kiwi and the pukeko have turned out, but most of all the pieces are in nz plywood which I think will do better then the acrylics. I'm keen to develop and grow in the eco/organic market of the niche of high end sustainable new zealand design. More about that in the next few days...

Through twitter I've met the lovely musician and jewellery designer Boh Runga who's been kind in recommending a wholesaler to me for chains. I decided to visit her stockist Kapa Design Gallery in Queenstown and see whether my work would appeal to them to sell, as I was there for the day yesterday. Jackie and Mark turned out to be incredibely nice and we hit it off. They got excited about my designs and we agreed I'm going to supply them with my work. Yay! I'm confident they will sell well there. Their gallery Kapa Design is located in Rees street and -of course- beautiful. I'm very proud to have my work on display there.

As you can imagine I'm quite the bouncy fluff bunny today and Nico had to laugh as I'm still fizzing. He joined me for the day to Queenstown to visit Furnatex which is a furniture/interior design tradefair held once a year there. It was wonderful to see the new fabrics and furniture designs. We were particularly taken with a clever coffeetable Davies Furniture came up with that transforms in a small desk/table. Very handy for lofts and small appartments. Today I've been busy with clients coming in who require furniture or solutions for their interior with drapery and wallpaper. It's all good and I'm happy.

Wallpaper by Harlequin

furniture and accesories by Kovacs

More new furniture by Montreux

Saturday, September 12, 2009

interior styling

You are probably an avid reader of the online game as much as me. I read anything worth reading pretty much. Bottom line? It's too much to read! What to choose? Hmm.

I'm happy to share interior styling suggestions to you and am in the process of developing free E- downloads that will help shape your children's bedrooms and improve the look of your humble abode in general. My experience in interior styling and designing helps to create flowing atmospheres so why not help you in creating the room you long for? You don't have to pay any hourly fees. Fancy indeed.
During my house staging antics I learned the absolute value of:
  • clean entrance & de-cluttering inside

  • color rules/balance/textures

  • importance of lighting

  • proportions and most of all

  • common sense
So today we start off with you going outside and looking at the place where you live. We don't often do this consciously and it might surprise you what you pick up once you pay attention. What would visitors see when they come to your house? Is there lighting? What does the driveway look like? Is your house number clearly visible? Where's the letterbox placed? What does it smell like outside? Is it nice? Does it look inviting? Hedges? State of the lawn?

Hmm, maybe it needs some work. Give it some thought and let me know how you get on. If you pick up on something that you feel could do with a change then it's worthwhile thinking what can be done to improve it.

Interior fluffing doesn't start inside; it all begins at the gate. Have fun!

(above pictures are from houses I worked on in Dunedin)

Thursday, September 10, 2009

counting to 10

Our kune kune pig Spunky is a very in-your-face-type-of-girl. I think she's convinced she's a Diva and needs to be treated as such. Food! Now! Right.... she's also capable of apologizing and making amends which to me shows signs of intelligence. Why do I like her? She's such a personality and clear as a bell in saying what she wants. I guess I envy her. I'm still finding my way.

What to do with Divas? Counting to 10 seems to help. Divas have benefits in the sense that they help you identify where your boundaries are. Quickly. Their demands leave nothing to be questioned. They can be very entertaining and colorful. I'm not a Diva even though I can be a handful. I guess I'm still too nice. (Bugger!)

I both appreciate Divas and find them tiring. It's a funny combo, I guess that 2 sides of the coin comes into play. With Spunky it's easier to handle. She can't hop over the fence (!) but just protest from the other side. Loudly. With humans though that's another story. Battlestar Diva-galactica is stressfull... Sometimes I wonder whether giving in is easier, but that must be the feeling that tired mums have when their kids start screaming. I think the best way to tackle Divas is to stand my ground and not to give into their antics, otherwise you're utterly stuffed (as they say here). Once a Diva knows she can play you, you're toast. Counting to 10 is definitely a trait I need to practise on... even with the pig. Sigh.

Monday, September 7, 2009

short and sweet

I was reading Seth Godin's blog on the effects of positive and negative thinking. Really it's what we do and how, that ends up being the result of what we think. On the one hand we like to wallow occasionally but eventually we realize that nothing comes of it. Our state of mind determines our happiness and our success levels.

The fact is that even though stuff happens (or not) it's not helping to continue to mope. A lovely weekend helps to change perspective. But a few minutes can achieve the same result once we know how to. Having a rest helps too. And being dosed with vitamin A by the sun. So too is the growing necessity to keep things short and sweet. People do not have the patience anymore to listen to long stories. No wonder twitter is 140 characters.

I needed to get the goats hooves done and also needed to inoculate and drench them last weekend. It's like a work out for me, as some are not keen on pedicures so I have to chase them in a pen a bit to hold them. Picture holding a wriggling goat with one arm and shortening 4 hooves at the same time. As we do not have a goat race yet we work with what we have. It's our forte. I don't mind it but try to do the work while keeping the intelligent animals happy. The trick is to do the work decisively and quickly.

Focus and get things off the list, say what you want and treat others well, take notice of your surroundings: yes I think that'll do nicely.

Picture by Daisy Janie

Friday, September 4, 2009

Transcending culture

Yesterday I was having an interesting conversation over coffees. There is much to be said for our cultural heritage as it's got rich stories and flavours which makes us identify with where we're from. I mean that in a fun way, not something that should limit us. I wondered out loud whether the European nations are better off as one big melting pot (economically obviously yes) where not only borders have ceased having any meaning. Is it a good thing or bad to lose our individual culture as a nation, in the way of stories and traditions that will be lost more and more, or are all of us on this planet quite happy with becoming one culture as eventually all our unique aspects will dissolve naturally? My coffee companion was pointing out that favoring such a thing as 'cultural heritage' can in fact get us stuck in a time warp and create more headaches and problems that are good for us as human beings. My feeling was that he was also referring to dictatorships and harsh ruling in the name of good ol' tradition. Excellent point.

More and more we find that the world is becoming a smaller place in the way of communication and perception. At the same time the need for making connections in Real-time in Real-life are still valued. There are Twitter evenings where people who live in the same area meet up, the same goes for Flickr, Facebook groups and other online congregations. The need for seeing each other face to face remains evident.

So what will our own identity become once it becomes quite meaningless where we are from? I can see for myself that Nico and I have stopped using Dutch traditions already, probably to the bafflement of our dear family. We feel it doesn't feel right to keep up things from our past when we live in a different culture in the present. Only a few things we really like will remain, which are more habits then anything else.

Most likely all of us will start using different points of reference once previous 'anchor' points have gone. It probably doesn't matter except what it does to us, what meaning we need for ourselves. As humans we do have the need to bounce off other people to recognize and evaluate where we are in the world of today. As everything becomes more of the same, what will stand out? Will globalization mean that we are all just Earth folk or will the desire come to the forefront to create smaller communities again as, let's face it: it's hard to really get to know everyone we meet globally. We do like to go back to our essentials as more and more people stop watching the news on television and spend time with their loved ones instead.

The more able we are to adapt and integrate those cultural values we like, the easier it is to move around and talk to others in order to get to know them. Will we really need any place to hold on to as our identity and stories reside in ourselves? It most likely will make us flexible and more open to change.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

the R word

We are still in the recession. I think it's also the one R word that people now hate the most. Mars has come up with a way to help. The real Chocolate relief act. (Found through Cowgirls.) They say: "times are tough and we at Mars want to help".

It is known that chocolate contains alkaloids which make us feel oh so nice. It has been linked to serotonin levels in the brain. Dark chocolate is the best, as it has a substantial amount of antioxidants which reduce the levels of free radicals. So one could argue that Mars is keen on influencing the whole of the USA with the oozing happy effects of the dark liquid. It will have a positive effect on Americans. God knows what good things will happen next?

Dunedin based chocolate manufacturing company Cadbury recently had a battle on their hands: Dunnies were up in arms regarding the unexpected replacer Palm oil that was found in their beloved milk chocolate. The rainforests would suffer! The taste was crappoli! Oh dear, absolute turmoil broke out, aside from the occasional couch burning by students we never saw anything worse. Cadbury had to go on their knees and solemny promise to not make boo boos like that again. Or else! They obviously bit off more then they could chew. But they too, mention that especially in tough economic times, their customers desire to find the best value in chocolate.

One thing is certain, chocolate manufacturers are sitting pretty: they have got a product that will survive these times: chocolate is recession proof.