Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Client Project: Sneakity Peek

I've been remiss about getting "afters" of my finished projects for clients.  It's on my list of things to do and so this week, since I'll be wrapping up a client's living & dining rooms, I'll be sure to get photos.   Here's a shot I took today of the pen shell coffee table in the living room:

I'm slightly obsessed. 

xoxo, Lauren

Monday, 28 June 2010

Fox News.com

Today on Fox News' imagazine, I was featured in an article about decorating for young families and also in another little slideshow/ article with photos & tips.  I was interviewed by Brooke Eaton of Fox News and she's a very sweet, savvy writer and can't thank her enough for the article.   I was a bit nervous to be interviewed, but it was a lot of fun and Brooke made me feel instantly at ease. 

The focus of the article was on decorating for young families, particularly those with kids.  As you know, I haven't given up the fight for a pretty house even though I have two little boys.  (Although at times it feels like a losing battle ;)  It's funny to see yourself quoted in an article and I had to laugh out loud when one of my quotes when asked about design tips for parents with young children was, "It's your life, not your kids'."  hahahah oh boy...  But as harsh as that may sound, (as far as decorating / designing in concerned ;) I believe it 100%.  Design a house that still feels adult/ beautiful by keeping kids' toys to a minimum and providing attractive, accessible storage for them.  Kids' toys can be in every room of the house without taking over.   A running joke in the family is that one of the first things you say to your newborn baby when he arrives is "welcome to our world."

BUT- All joking aside, we love our little dudes- we just think they should keep their primary-colored toys hidden ;) ;)

xoxo, Lauren

To read both articles go:
1) here (decorating for young families) and
2) here (for the Pure Style Home article/ slideshow.)

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Paint Colors: In Photos vs 'Real Life'

I've gotten lots of emails asking for paint colors used in various rooms/ specific projects.  And I've been so terrible about answering them.  (I'm sorry!!)  My first excuse is that when I don't remember them off of the top of my head, I put off going down to where our paint is stored or opening a client's file and finding the name of color.  It ends up being one of those things that just gets pushed to the end of the list of things I mean to do... 

{Justin's nursery}

One of the rooms I never mentioned a paint color for was Justin's nursery.  I didn't do this on purpose (and never purposely withhold paint colors or sources) but the truth is that we used every last drop of the paint on the walls, ditched the empty gallon, and I don't remember the name of color!!!!  It was a crazy time for us and that's really all I can say.  If I got out the deck & went & matched it, I could figure it out, but my #2 reason/excuse for not being so dilligent about supplying paint colors (and the reason it gets pushed very low on the list of things 'to do') is because paint color look different in different spaces.  Light changes everything and although it will probably look close, it might not match exactly so the "perfect navy blue" in my house might be very different from the perfect navy in your house.  

I learned this lesson first-hand when I used this color as inspiration for my family room: 

{Design by Ruthie Sommers, photo by Don Freeman for House Beautiful}

When I got out the paint chip (Blue Seafoam by Benjamin Moore) it was so much more intense than it looked in the photos and I knew that it would look way darker on my walls than it did in the Ruthie Sommers house.  Here's a sample:

It was not what I wanted and I was shocked at how dark the swatch was.  I went a couple of shades lighter with a tad more yellow (in another brand- Freshaire Choice Color: "Midwest Springs") and got a very similar-looking color for my walls & exactly what I wanted:

{Our family room}

And here's the Ruthie Sommers room again for reference:

The paint swatches look very different when compared next to one another in person, but the wall colors in the photos of the rooms look really similar.  Photography, lighting, time of day, etc. all come into play when selecting a paint color and that's one of the reasons exact paint colors aren't very important to me when trying to duplicate the look of a room.  Knowing paint colors is useful for points of reference, but in the end, the color chosen on a wall needs to be specifically chosen for that room.    (I.e., knowing a paint color will get you close/ in the ballpark, but in the end go with what works best in your space.)  I can take a photo in a room of my house- morning, noon and night - and the color will look different in each photo.

I never mind getting questions about colors so of course keep them coming but if I don't answer you, please know that I've put it on my list of colors to check!!  Hope you had a great weekend & yay for summer!!!

xoxo, Lauren

Update-  Just to clarify:  I should mention that I don't do "trial & error" painting & you can train yourself to properly visualize the colors before they go up on the walls.  (Clearly trial and error would not work for clients, and it's years of experience and knowing how colors will look once they are actually painted on a wall as opposed to how they look on a sample that will get you the right color choices...  Because I knew how the Blue Seafoam sample would look if actually painted on my wall, I knew right away it wasn't the color for me.  What was shocking to me was how it translated in the photo...  As a much lighter color. :)  Hope that makes sense!     Check out Colour Me Happy for expert color advice & prefessional training!

Friday, 25 June 2010

Congratulations Class of 2010

This past week, Fairfax County's seniors, the Class of 2010, graduated.  My husband, David, teaches English at our local high school, and was voted by the seniors to give the Commencement speech at the graduation ceremony.  He was introduced at graduation as "hard & crunchy on the outside but soft & chewy in the middle."  The student speaker joked about how Dave used to make fun of a student because of his long hair, but they thought it was only becase he was jealous because he doesn' have any hair.  The student introducing him also told a story relayed to him by a teacher: "I mentioned to David that I was hungry in school one day & had forgotton my lunch.  When I got back from teaching my next class, there was a happy meal waiting on my desk for me."

{Dave with the boys}

I loved his speech and wanted to share it with you.  (I'm not including the ad-lib funny parts, because you had to be there for those ;)  I know it meant a lot to the kids & parents there...

{The Graduation at the Patriot Center}

"Ladies and Gentlemen, Distinguished Colleagues and Guests, Principal Bates and of course Class of Two Thousand and Ten, it is a great honor to be here before you speaking today.

Eleven years ago I sat where you are now, looking up at some old, bald guy telling me that he once sat where I was sitting... But I all I could think about was when is his speech going to end so I can get to beach week at where else? The Jersey Shore.

The moral of this story is that by the age of twenty-one this attitude had me bald with a terrible GPA and nothing but a couple of Beer-Pong Trophies to show for it. I made a lot of bad choices in my youth and I've spent the past seven years working harder than I’d ever thought possible to remedy them. Immanual Kant says ‘the only thing that can bring you morals are the starry sky above and the moral law within” and Saba (a student) has fallen asleep. Just like class.

Fine, I get it, no Kant. But seriously listen… you are the result of the choices you make. How about a Batman Quote?  It’s not who you are inside but your actions that define you. Better? It’s not who you are inside but your actions that define you. The scary thing about this is that half the time you don’t even realize the choices you’re making because you’re just doing what you always do- what you’ve always done. When you’re in a situation for the first time- that’s when you think about what you’re going to do and why. The first time you get too much change back at McDonald’s: Are you thinking, “Sweet, I’m sure I’ve overpaid before,” or are you thinking about that worker’s register coming up short at the end of his shift and that money coming out of his paycheck? Say you take the money, no biggie, fine- but the next time you’re given too much change, that money just goes right into your pocket; you don’t need to think about it. You’ve already had this conversation with yourself, why have it again?  You’re on auto-pilot. How about the first time someone calls you a bad name in elementary school?  You have to think about how you will react- you can:

A) call them one back – even though mom said not to call names

B) punch them in the face – they do have it coming


C) walk away – everyone’s going to make fun of you

You choose your action.  But no need to think about it next time. Next time you’re just going to react. Get it?   Re- Action- Repeat your Action. Eventually we all are faced with enough situations that we stop thinking about why we are doing something and just do what we’ve always done in that situation. This is now who we are. Sometimes people will observe our behaviors and label us. What a “Pyscho!” What an “Idiot!” She is such a “blank.” He such an “blank.”  (My speech got edited ;)   But you know what kind of labels are out there. And more importantly, what kind of behavior gets you those labels. The sad part is, when you got that label you probably didn’t even think about what you were doing, you were just reacting, doing what you always do in that situation. That’s why those initial choices are so important.

At twenty-one years old, I realized I didn’t like who I was. I met this girl who kept telling me “that’s not ok,” when I would do something morally wrong, and the funny thing was, deep down I knew she was right: How I was acting didn’t reflect who I was inside. I had to figure out why. I started thinking about why I was doing the things I was doing (like punching people in the face) and then I had to change how I handled those situations... (Actually she stills tells me when I’m not doing the right thing, but it's way less often now.)

I want to do the same favor for you. Class of 2010, you’ve made many achievements and accomplishments in your four years here at Herndon and I have truly enjoyed teaching you.... but… not all of you have been the model of good behavior. Secretly, I think that’s why you picked me to make this speech. You knew you would get honesty.... So some of those choices you’ve made these past four years: “That’s not ok.” So think about how you came to those decisions.

All of you are going to be faced with many new situations in college and in the “real world” and you are going to be in some familiar situations. When someone asks you to go out drinking what are you going to say? What about Sex? or Drugs? What happens if you say ‘yes’ to the first one, do you answers to the second two change? How about Cheating? Plagiarizing? Speeding? I’m just saying… think about where you stand on these things and why.   I’m telling you this because nobody told me this.  College is the chance to start over. You can change that label - You can change your answers to those questions, or if you like them, keep them the same. Just take this opportunity, Class of 2010, and think about who you've been the past four years. Do you want to be the same person? You are the only one who can answer this and you know deep down there is something you want to change.
Do it.
Make it happen.
Be who you want to be, not who you’re friends want you to be.
Let your actions define you proudly.

...And oh yeah- Congratulations! "

I'm so proud of him and won't go on about my feelings to save you from my cheesiness.  But Congratulations to all of you moms with graduating seniors and YAY FOR SUMMER VACATION!!!

xoxo, Lauren

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

My New Go-To Dress

Kayce Hughes, the super-talented designer of Pears + Bears, became a Pure Style Home sponsor a couple of months ago.  I was immediately smitten with her company and her iconic designs, and fell head over heels for her denim tunic dress.  I love Kayce's style and I'm crazy about her chidlren's lines too.  {Oh my goodness so adorable!! Best gifts ever!!}

I'm always on the look-out for "Go-To" clothes:  The pieces in our wardrobes that always work, that we're just guaranteed to feel good in.   Kayce's dress looked like one of those magic pieces to me and now that I have one, I can honestly tell you that it is!! 

Kayce & I swapped clothes for ads and I would so not do this if I weren't in love with her stuff.    ("Modeling" is not easy as I learned when taking these pics with a dying camera battery but VERY worth my new beautiful go-to dress!!  Thank you Kayce!!  I love it!!!) 

So, what are your favorite go-to pieces?  I always think how I would love to have a fairly modestly-stuffed closet full of only go-to pieces... 

xoxo, Lauren


ps-  Stacy just asked a good question in the comments:  It looks longer on me than it is on Kayce in her photo on the website.  I'm 5'8 and it hits me just above the knee.  I love it at both lengths and I am guessing the one Kayce is wearing is hemmed shorter, but as soon as I hear back from her, I'll let you know.   (ok eeek-  now I need 2!!  one long and one short!! hahah)

Monday, 21 June 2010

Justin's Baptism

We have family in town so I need to be quick but wanted to share a couple of pics from Justin's Baptism yesterday.  (above)

Also, I'll write more later about THE BEST SANDWICH EVER (pictured below)

Hope your weekend was great!!

xoxo, Lauren

Friday, 18 June 2010

Truth in Design

Honesty in art & design...  It's often a very elusive thing to achieve.  I find that I'm constantly searching for an understanding of how to create honest, true, "real" designs.  It's not an easy task and one that I've made it a goal to get better at through the years.   

{Darryl Carter in his DC townhome featured in Elle Decor, photo by Simon Upton}

Much of my design work comes from logic, careful planning & attention to balance, scale, color, harmony...  but then the other part of it comes straight from my gut.  (I think this is how it is with many people)  It's that "gut" aspect that can't be forced.  That has to be real & honest and current.  It's not a recreation of what's already there, but a new concept...  something created or incorporated to spark a feeling.  

{Our living room}

In his lecture Some Hints on Pattern Designing  (delivered on October 4th 1899)  textile designer, artist, socialist, and writer William Morris said, "Every work of man which has beauty in it must have some meaning also; that the presence of any beauty in a piece of handicraft imples that the mind of the man who made it was more or less excited at the time, was lifted somewhat above the commonplace; that he had something to communicate to his fellows which they did not know or feel before, and which they would never have known or felt if he had not been there to force them to it."

{portrait of Willian Morris by George Frederic Watts}

I haven't been able to get it out of my head because it's just so true.  The words "I'm so excited about..." come out of my mouth (and often onto the blog!) pretty regularly...  (Hence the overabundance of exlamation points you're used to seeing here ;)  Now I'm not saying that what I'm necessarily excited about is anything new to anyone else, but to me it's new, and the potential for beauty I see is exciting to me... My goal with every project I do is to create something that is new for my clients & provokes a feeling that they would not have without my design...  To spark a feeling, to create a mood, to set the perfect (in the realest sense) backdrop for my clients' lives.

{Women's Shelter bedroom by me & Rebecca Ilgenfritz}

To do this, a design has to be true & honest.  It can't be a copy or an imitated-version of another room.  Anyone can do that and I wouldn't want to pay someone to do it for me.  Because each person, each family is different, their homes should reflect their uniqueness.  One of my favorite parts of meeting new clients is helping them figure out their personal styles.  And then taking that style and applying it to the mood of a room, because even someone with a self-described "casual elegant" style may want a room that makes him or her feel happy or a room that makes him or her feel alert or relaxed or calm or whatever.  There are different goals for different spaces in a home, and I love figuring out the desired mood/ feeling in a space and to set about making it a reality.  Again, to create a truth or an environment that did not exist before the design came to life.

There are so many different levels and depths to decorating/ design.  So many goals and so many desires.  Some people's desires are more surface-grazing: a beautiful room that they and the people who visit their home will love...  It's well-designed and often complimented.  Others want a home that is updated and comfortable: Does it have hardwood floors? Check. Does it have granite counters? Check. Does it have my favorite color? Check. Does it have 'art?' Check.  Pretty and comfortable furnishings? Check.  Is it "pulled together?" Check. And this is totally okay! 

...  But there are others who want something deeper.  Honestly, it's what I'm after.  I want a feeling... It has a "pace" or "speed"...  a level of motion or a "pitch" if that makes any sense.  (See synesthesia if this isn't clear)  My desires for the feeling I want in a room change failry regularly... often seasonally.  But the essence of it remains.

{Our foyer at Christmas}

It can be a new observation or true appreciation for a type of art or a fabric.  When we laugh out loud because of a movie or something we're reading, we often find ourselves saying to ourselves, "that's so true."  (Think of Seinfeld...  observing life's daily monotonies and saying the statement/ observation out loud.  We laugh because of the truth of what he's saying.) 

We also feel other emotions when presented with truths like these in stories or movies, songs,  or to sum it up in all types of "art."  Honest representations have meaning or truth behind them.

{Iwo Jima by planetware.com}

Like many things there's the cheeseburgers and the prime rib...  (I think Stephen King said this??)  But sometimes  you are in the mood for a cheeseburger and sometimes you're in the mood for prime rib.  Although prime rib is widley regarded as "better" than a cheeseburger, the best cheeseburger in the world is better than a poorly cooked prime rib.  Think of design/decorating like that.  In honesty, in creating what is "real,"  you can create the perfect cheeseburger, and isn't that better than making a crappy prime rib?  My point is be what you are.  When you design, design for the space and the client at hand.  Beautiful things like crown molding exists, and when used in the correct spaces, are perfection, but just because crown molding exists and is beautiful and you can do it, does not mean it is right for every space and will necessarily make your space look beautiful.  (The same applies especially for granite countertops!! ;)  Honesty in design is appropriateness. Do what you do and do it well.  Don't worry about it being what everyone else is doing or what's "in" or "out."  It needs timeless appeal to you and/ or your client.

{image from babble.com}

Our house is a cheeseburger and we've tried to make it the best cheeseburger ever for us:  which would be one with lots of garlic and basil added into the meat, and even sometimes carrot puree.  A lot of people might not like all that stuff in their burgers...  So, even the "best" cheeseburger for us isn't necessarily the "best" to others and might not have mass appeal, but we love it and we live here. 

{The Something's Gotta Give Living Room via Cote de Texas}

However, many of the rooms that we (design-lovers) do fall in love with, are seemingly personalized spaces, because we appreciate how perfect and appropriate the space is for the people who live there.  (Think of the Something's Gotta Give House, above.  People (me included) feel head over heels for this it!!)  We appreciate the honesty in creating a space that's both highly personal and beautiful.  We take inspiration from these rooms and cherish our magazine tear pages. The inspiration should translate into learning,  reinterpretation, personalization and creating...  not necessarily copying if we're trying to actually create something new, something with its own soul....  something that wouldn't have existed if we didn't create it.


I am still learning and know it's a lifelong process.  I know there's still so much more to know.  There's a potential that I hope to reach and I know I'm not even close to it.  I don't say this to be vain, but because I'm sure you feel it too.  We all have this potential we're striving to reach...  to learn to create a truly honest design. 

Sorry to get all heavy on a Friday but I just had to get some thoughts out. :)  See you Monday and get excited about the weekend!!  ;)

xoxo, Lauren

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Outdoor Harvest Table

Last week my husband, Dave, surprised me with a huge truckload of weathered old barnwood.  A barn nearby had fallen down and the owners were looking to unload some of the wood...  And he made a massive (15 plus feet) outdoor harvest table!!

We currently have no place to put it but are working on a gravel or stone patio to put underneath of it asap.  (This is why I didn't take any full shots-  it's not so pretty right now but I promise to get some good ones as soon as I can! :)  We simply picked out the pieces we wanted and screwed them together and set the table top on 3 steel sawhorses.  Besides the thing weighing a million pounds, it was a really simple project and doable in only a few hours. 

Hope you enjoyed and can't wait to share pretty pics of it!!

 xoxo, Lauren

Monday, 14 June 2010

So pumped

I'm so excited about this Victorian wing chair I found at Miss Pixie's in DC.  I have been meaning to get there for the longest time but just haven't gotten out.  Several clients of mine have mentioned that I "had to go" and I'm so glad they did!  Just last week a client sent me a link to Miss Pixie's website for a possible piece in her own home and as I was scrolling through the items for sale, this chair caught my eye and has since come home with me:

Although I think the current fabric is pretty, it's not what I'm going for and so I'm having it reupholstered in something else for a new project of ours that I'm working on. 

{Of course I love that green velvet in back!!}

Will keep you posted!! 

xoxo, Lauren

Friday, 11 June 2010

Hosta in the House and Some News

warning: please ignore water drops & baby formula powder on counter! It's been a typical morning here! ;)

As you might know, I'm all for easy, simple prettiness.  I love using what we have to make the house feel good, and right now, we have some massive hosta leaves.  My mom gave the plants to us last year from her garden, and fortunately, they've gone wild!  Hostas give me a good feeling, reminding me of summertime at my Grandma Maestranzi's lake cottage as a little girl.  I used to love "popping" the purple blooms which are just now budding at out house.  I love using them to freshen up rooms, so I thought I'd share a few pics with you.  I placed a few leaves in the vintage drink shaker that used to belong to Dave's Great Aunt Stella.  I've always loved it for parties (so handy with recipes right on the glass!) but wanted to bring it out even when we're not partying because I think it's fun and happy-feeling.  In the background (below) you can see one of my favorite cut glass vases also filled with hosta leaves.

{How cute are the little martini glasses on the shaker?!}

Below, a chemistry beaker holds some more leaves on the lucite table in the living room.  (I know how this must surprise you! ;) ;)

I am crazy about this beautiful antique pitcher I found recently and I love its romantic lines in contrast with the modern-feeling hosta leaves.  I don't even mind the bug-munches:

One last more photo I couldn't resist taking because Ashby (below) wandered in to my "photo shoot":

{Poor little girl just want some loving}

Anyway, I just love the fresh, modern, summery feeling the hosta leaves have brought into our house, so if  you're in the mood for simple greenery, just grab some hosta.  It's so easy.

Have a great weekend!!

ps-  I wanted to let you know that I'm opening an online shop for my vintage & antique finds called "Pure Style Home."  I'm just working on getting the site up and running and can't wait to share it with you!!  My motto for the shop is "If I love it so much I want to keep it, it's worth parting with."  I am always out and about falling in love with things that I can't justify buying for myself, so I've tried to think of a way to share the finds and I think this is it.  Each & every piece will be something I want myself.  No exceptions. 

Can't wait!! :)

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

The Fun-Shed

We've pretty much finished our shed/playhouse project and we are having so much fun hanging out in it!  To check out all of the inspiration sheds, check out this post here.  When we bought the house (about a year ago) this shed (below) was on the property sitting on a concrete slab.  It leaked and a some sort of animal family lived in it:

Dave and his dad knocked it down and replaced it with 6' x 8' Hartland shed from Lowe's:

We haven't painted the outside of the shed yet to match out house but if you'll remember, we haven't even painted our actual house fully yet, so those pics will come this summer.  (Can  you tell interiors come first with me? ;) ;) 

We wanted to create a fun place for us and the kids to hang out.  It's part playhouse- part relaxing place for us to hide from the bugs...  I wanted it to be pretty enough for me to enjoy being in, but still appeal to little boys.  (Will I ever have a girl??!! ;)   Anyway, here's what it looked like inside before:

And here it is now:

We strung up our globe (a 23rd birthday gift to Dave from me) between the rafters and I love looking at it when we're laying down on the bench. 

For a little nod to our own kitchen, we decided we'd do white shelves above a black counter.  We don't really have any kitchen-y toys yet so we're using pretty fruit juice cans and an old olive oil contrainer.  I love their vintage-feel. 

We've displayed things we've collected over the years along with the things Christian finds on walks.  It seems sticks are one of his favorite. I've "let go" of what happens on these shelves (meaning I totally helped get everything up there but he whatever happens, happens)  and it's really refreshing to have a space out of my control.   He says he needs to put them up here so Ashby (our dog) won't get them:

 I think it'll be fun to use actual leftover food containers (like empty mini cereal containers) to add "food" over time.   I also thought it would be fun for Christian to play "bartender" when we have parties/ bbqs. (ok- yes, I know how bad that sounds but I'm not talking only alcoholic drinks here :)  We'll put the different drinks we have to offer up on the shelves - ie coke, bottled water, orange soda,  etc- for people to see their options and then they can tell the kids what they want so they can fish it out of the coolers for them. 

Christian has been "cooking" a lot and also sampling the honeysuckle that grows just outside:

{honeysuckle leftovers on chair}

The beautiful old adirondak chair was given to me by my friend Rebecca of Acanthus and Acorn and Christian just loves it! 

{I adore the crackly old vintage kitty on the floor}

The bass that hangs is the first bass I ever "caught."  I was 4 years old and my dad had it mounted.  It reminds of of the fishing trips I used to take with my dad when I was little - playing Barbie's and caring more about the surrounding waterlilies rather than the fish.  It has been moving from house to house with me with no place to go, and finally, it's found a home.  (ps- I'm not sure I've even caught a bass since...  my dad's an awesome bass fisherman and has even been on those fishing shows...  this apple falls far from the tree.)  The botanical prints are different plants (and weeds!) we have around our yard.  Christian & I picked them and photocopied them with the printer.  I labeled them and added some personal stories/ thoughts on any that have special meaning.  To see the how-to details, click here

My "spot" is the bench Dave built.  We used a cheapie outdoor chaise lounge cushion for the seat wrapped in an old natural-colored ikea curtain.  (very washable and we have multiples!)  The dog pillow (we've had for years) looks exactly like our dog Ashby and I propped an old water-damaged flea market painting on the ledge.  We painted the floors black and added a grapic outdoor rug.  The old wire basket under the bench given to me by a friend is great for coralling suncreen, baby wipes and other necessaries:

Do you spy the "real" tenant in the playhouse?  Just under the painting... "Spidey" earns his keep by eating mosquitoes.  This playhouse is not for the squeamish!

Justin enjoys the bench too but not as much as the plates...

Do you remember those old fisher price tea seats?  My mom had saved mine:

Here's a photo Christian wanted me to take of the "oatmeal" he made for me:


Christian has a great time playing in here...

...But I think Dave & I might  actually like the playhouse more than him.  We love seeing him have so much fun and being so excited, so in that sense, it's just as much of a gift to ourselves as to the kids.  It's funny how that works.

Anyway, hope you're having a great week & enjoyed the tour!!


Rug: "Matrix" rug from overstock.com
No VOC Paint: (a favorite) "Beach Pearl" by FreshAir Choice @ Home Depot
Globe: Rand McNally