Friday, August 24, 2012

Go With the (Color) Flow

"Flow" is one of those design buzzwords you often hear, but the term is so nebulous it's not well understood, and its importance is often overlooked. The idea behind it is simple: flow is continuity. When it comes to interior colors, achieving flow can be a challenge because: 

  • Most people choose interior colors one at a time as they paint a particular room, often without considering how the new color(s) work with their existing choices. 
  • Colors also are chosen without making sure they work with permanent features, such as flooring, counter tops, tile, stone, etc. 

These two factors work against creating color flow, which is a component of the overall design goals of unity and harmony. Always keep in mind that your house shouldn't look like a collection of unrelated or conflicting ideas, it should look as if all the rooms belong under the same roof.  
When it comes to color, there's a very simple way to create flow, and that's through repetition, which creates a connection between spaces and makes them come together as part of a harmonious whole. 

Easy Ways to Create Color Flow

  • Paint the trim in a single color throughout the house.  It does not have to be stark white!

  • Pick a team: choose a color plan for the walls based on either tints (a hue plus white) or shades (a hue plus black or an earth tone). See my earlier post on this topic for more information: Mixing Tints and Shades-Proceed with Caution .

  • Select three to five of your favorite colors to be your "Core Colors". Be certain that they harmonize with all the permanent elements in your house. Use each color more than once. For example, if you love red, use it for the dining room walls and in the powder room or den, or on the back wall of built-in bookcases, or on a wall at the end of a long hallway. Find red accessories and use them throughout the house, especially in those rooms where you haven't used any red paint. Follow this approach with your other "Core Colors"

  • Use Expanded Core Colors. To have more color options, go to the paint store and find the strip for each of your core colors. Use lighter and darker versions of each color. A light version of the red in your dining room might be the perfect pink for a girl's bedroom. A darker version of that color might be perfect for the den.

  • If you're stuck for color inspiration, don't re-invent the wheel. The major paint companies have done all the work of finding pleasing color combinations. Look at their brochures and visit their web sites.  Benjamin Moore also has created a brochure on color flow with several excellent examples:  Color Flow . 

  • Paint all the ceilings in the house in the same color. (Your ceilings not only don't have to be stark white, the color should be chosen to harmonize with, or be one of, your Core or Expanded Core Colors. With color on the walls, stark white ceilings look "wrong", or as if you forgot to paint them. Repetition of both ceiling and trim colors throughout makes it easier to paint the walls in each room a different color, if that's your inclination, without sacrificing color flow.

  • Transition or connecting spaces such as hallways, foyers and stairwells need a color that works with all the rooms that adjoin them. Notice the rich red in the Benjamin Moore Bold Color Flow diagram, and the neutral in the Soft Color Flow diagram. As you see, either approach can work.

  • Pay special attention to contrast and harmony in an open concept plan. If you can see colors in adjoining spaces, make sure they're on good speaking terms. Extreme contrast can stop the eye and disrupt flow, which is fine if drama is your style, just be sure you want to live with it. One way to know exactly how much contrast there is in your Core Colors is to note their LRV or Light Reflectance Values and work with colors that have similar LRV numbers. To read more on this subject: Light Reflectance Values.  

  • Create a simple diagram of your house and test color relationships. Cut samples from paint strips and place on your diagram in the room where you might use it. This example and the ones from the Benjamin Moore brochure show at a glance how the colors work together. Notice the use of repetition in the example below.

Color flow is more than a buzzword. It's an essential part of creating an attractive color plan for your home.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Elusive Tsanya

Cupid's Bower
I went to an antique show years ago and found this 1920's print in its original frame with the signature "Tsanya" in the lower right corner. I loved the colors and romantic design, and since it was an affordable $25, I bought it and began looking for other Tsanya prints. 

Peacock Garden and Love Triumphant

It took ten years of searching high and low, but eventually I found three more. Because the original frames were in bad condition and the prints were deteriorating, I had to have them re-done, even though I was well aware that it would reduce their value. 

Today they hang on the wall between the master bedroom and bathroom where I can enjoy them every day.
You can't tell from the picture, but the prints are mounted on black velvet with a brass fillet between the velvet and the print, and they're covered with a so-called non-glare glass. 

Cupid's Bower and Fountain of Love

During my search for prints, I also looked for information about Tsanya, and the plot began to thicken. To this day I don't know with absolute certainty who she was, but there are several contenders. At first I was told that Tsanya was a pseudonym for Glad Houser, an American puzzle maker who was said to have used the prints to make her puzzles, although I've never seen any. This theory has been pretty well discredited. Next I discovered another intriguing candidate in a post by Cheryl Maltby of Queensland, Australia who said her mother Peg Maltby had lots of these prints, and told her that she'd done the originals under the  pseudonym of Tsanya. 

The third contender, and by far the most likely, is Marion C. Crowe (1886-1979) of Sussex, England. What's fascinating about her, is that she's supposed to have painted under both the name Tsanya and the name Mary Gold.  One source says that the real identity of Mary Gold ..."was a mystery until 2002, when her personal papers, scrapbooks, copies of prints and original artwork started to appear on the market in Scotland."  

As it happens, I have several Mary Gold prints too, and while there are many similarities between those works and the Tsanya prints, I see differences, making it fairly easy to distinguish them at a glance. The Tsanya pictures are more refined and detailed, and many of the people have long, angular faces. The Mary Gold pictures are simpler and most of the faces are round. This is a typical Mary Gold:

Love Melody
Although Tsanya prints are few and far between, there's currently one for sale on ebay with a Buy It Now price of $100. Ebay listing  It's definitely a Tsanya, with the same harlequin as Cupid's Bower. There's also a print described as by Mary Gold/Tsanya (it's definitely in Mary Gold style) that's offered at a starting bid of $34.99. The difference in pricing says a lot about how each artist's work is perceived, so it's ironic that the prints likely were done by the same person.

Recently I discovered that Tsanya images are readily available on line in a variety of products. You can buy an Iphone case or a coffee mug, a sweatshirt or an ornament, a mouse paid and much more. Just visit

I wonder what Tsanya would have thought about all this. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Candice Olson's Divine Colors

The list of television designers whose work I admire is very, very short, and Canadian designer Candice Olson is at the top. For years I've watched her programs on HGTV, and I can think of only one instance where the result just didn't work for me. I suspect the client was responsible for those questionable choices because Candice Olson knows her stuff.

For this reason when I heard that she'd been asked by Benjamin Moore to create a palette using her favorite Benjamin Moore colors, I was very eager to see them. With thousands of colors to choose from, she selected forty to create a signature collection described as "... a look that is current yet timeless - fresh, yet familiar." The colors are "a sophisticated, nature-inspired collection of timeless, unique color combinations for any room in your home."

Take a look at the palette and see what you think:

Here's Candice in a YouTube video talking about her favorite neutrals:

Most of the colors in the collection are neutralized, and all are easy to live with. Many would work well together, making easy to choose a coordinated color plan from her selections.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Low Cost Solutions for Skimpy Crown Molding and Baseboards

Typical Skimpy Crown Molding
It used to be that even modest homes featured well-proportioned, somewhat elaborate trim, including baseboards, crown moldings, wainscoting, chair rails, mantles, picture rails and more. However, beginning in the post-World War Two era, these details fell out of favor in the rush to create affordable housing. The sad result is that today many if not most homes lack all but the most basic trim, and rooms often feel like a series of bare boxes, with narrow baseboards and skimpy crown molding, if there's any crown molding at all. Builders who do install trim seem to do it without thought as to whether or not it's the right design for the architecture and correctly proportioned for the height of the ceiling and the size of the room.

When trim is too small, a room feels "wrong". When it's too large (which I've never seen), the room can feel cramped. Even in smaller rooms with eight foot ceilings, the standard 3.5" builder grade baseboard looks undersized. I think baseboards for these rooms should start at five inches and the crown should be a similar size for balance. In larger rooms with taller ceilings, wider base and crown are needed. To determine what's right for your house, buy sample pieces of trim or make cardboard strips of varying widths and see what you prefer. 

But what if you're not building or remodeling and your budget doesn't allow for installing the crown molding and baseboards of your dreams? Let's look at some low cost solutions:

Low Cost Solutions for Skimpy Crown Moldings and Baseboards

Crown Enhanced with a Small Piece of Trim
  • Add a small, inexpensive piece of trim below the crown molding (or above the baseboard) to make it look larger. Paint the crown or base, the space in between and the new trim in the trim paint to create the illusion of a much larger molding. This picture is from a blogger who did it herself, and you can too...

Crown Enhanced With Paint
  • Create the illusion of larger trim with paint. Extend the depth of the trim by defining a new outer edge with masking tape, and paint the new area with the trim. Be sure to use low-tack masking tape designed to create crisp edges. 
  • Use a stencil or wallpaper border in a design that mimics classic trim, (not ones with flowers or circus animals). I almost didn't mention this option because stencils and borders are currently out of favor in most areas, so make sure anything you do is easy to remove when it's time to sell...

The Easiest Solution of All:

Don't accent skimpy baseboards or crown. Paint them in the wall color. There's no rule that you have to accent trim because it's there, and it's especially unwise to call attention to undersized trim by painting it white, or some other color in high contrast with the wall color. When you treat trim as texture by painting it in the wall color, it has the added benefit of raising the perceived ceiling height and making the room look larger.

When You Have No Crown Molding and a Tiny Budget

If you have no crown molding and want to create the illusion that you do, use masking tape and paint. Start the crown illusion on the ceiling by creating a line at least two inches in from where the ceiling meets the wall, and make the section on the wall at least five inches deep, even in small rooms with low ceilings. Test the proportions on one wall using masking tape, before you commit to the design.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Smart Home Selling In Landrum, SC

I wish more sellers were as smart, open-minded and hard-working as Jim and Lisa Murphy. Here's the story of how Roger and I collaborated with them to transform their rental property into a warm and inviting home, ready for a new family to move in.

A Charming House in Landrum is Prepared for Sale

Here's what they had to say when the project was finished and the house listed:

"We found both Sandy and Roger to be extremely knowledgable in their respective areas of expertise.  Sandy's eye for color and advice was 'spot on', made a lot of sense and looked great on the walls when Roger finished his wonderful work.

We had both taken the 'Smart Selling' course and found it extremely helpful.  Working with Sandy and Roger then helped to make the transformation possible.  Some of Sandy's staging ideas cost very little, and in general, her advice helped us to maximize the effect of the money we did have to spend.

After a lot of hard work on everybody's part, we feel we have an awesome (and very marketable) house that we hope will appeal to many potential buyers.  It's better than new and in 'move-in' condition!"

Jim and Lisa

Friday, August 3, 2012

How Wet Should Your Deck Be?

This summer has been a frustrating time, with daily afternoon storms that make it impossible to schedule deck refinishing projects. The wet weather got me thinking about all the things that can happen to decks, and what it takes to care for them properly.

Do you know the most common reasons that many deck finishes fail prematurely? Improper workmanship and exposure to the elements are the chief culprits. Since you can't control the weather, if you hire someone to refinish your deck, make sure they know how to do the work the way it should be done. This means, among other things: 
  • correct and thorough preparation.
  • use of the appropriate material, based on the existing finish.
  • application of the new finish when the wood is sufficiently dry to accept it, and when weather conditions are right, including the temperature and the prospects for rain. If the sun shines directly on the deck all day, the weather needs to be relatively cool while the material is being applied, or the finish might not look uniform. There should be no rain in the forecast for at least 24 hours, preferably longer.
When you’re getting estimates, there’s a simple way to test the contractor's deck expertise: ask what the moisture content in the wood should be when the finish is applied, and how he plans to determine when your deck meets that criterion. Discuss how the weather will affect his plans for doing the work, and what type of finish he recommends, and why. Do your homework first by asking one of the experts at your local paint store for his product suggestions so that you can discuss the options with the contractor.

 Ideally, the contractor will test the moisture content in the wood with a moisture meter. That's what Roger always does. The water content should be less than 15%. Every manufacturer’s label will specify how the material is to be applied, and under what weather conditions. The contractor should be familiar with the requirements of the product he recommends.

Even when you apply premium grade materials and the work is done correctly under perfect conditions, you must accept the hard fact that decks are a routine maintenance item. The conditions at your house, including the age of the deck and how well it was built, the exposure, the wear and tear it receives, the type of finish you choose and how diligently you maintain it, also will affect how often the deck will need to be refinished.

If your deck needs a fresh start, call me to schedule an estimate. Roger has been a “deck doctor” for many years, and can give your deck a new lease on life. All he needs is good weather."

You can reach me at 828-692-4355.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fabulous Farro

Although I'd heard of farro, also known as Italian wheat, I'd never tried it until last year when I found this bag from Earthly Choice at Costco. Roger and I immediately fell in love with farro's delicious taste, chewy texture and incredible versatility. Farro goes well with sweet or savory ingredients and can be eaten hot for breakfast, cold in salads, as a substitute for pasta, in risotto, pilaf, soups and much, much more.  

What is Farro?

Farro is an unhybridized grain that has been used in many Mediterranean and Mid East cultures for thousands of years, dating back to the Egyptians, Assyrians and Etruscans who brought it to Italy where farro became a staple of the Italian diet, including the mighty Roman army.

Farro is available whole (intact grain), cracked (whole grain cracked into smaller pieces), pearled (perlato), or semi-pearled (semi-perlato). Nutritionists prefer the whole or cracked form, where the grain, including the bran, is still intact, or the semi-pearled because it retains more of the bran, where the nutrients and fiber are found. The Earthly Choice farro is pearled, which shortens the cooking time to around 15 minutes+/-, making it very easy to prepare.

Because it's apparently not easy to grow and low yielding, farro fell out of favor for a long time. However, it's enjoying a new popularity today for its nutritional benefits, versatility and great taste. Farro is a high fiber, high protein, slow release carbohydrate, rich in other nutrients. A half cup of raw farro is about 170 calories. While I'm glad that it's a healthy food, we don't buy farro for that reason. For us, it's all about how good it tastes.

Where to Buy Farro

I was very sad when Costco stopped carrying farro because I had a tough time finding it locally - until last week. To my great joy, farro (pearled) can be found in the bulk department at the Hendersonville Community Co-op for about $3.59 a pound. Similar stores are a good prospect for finding it where you live. When you consider how many things you can do with a pound of farro, it's a bargain.

Recently I made a farro salad by cooking it in chicken stock, then while it was still warm, I added dried cranberries. When the berries were plumped and the farro had cooled, I added finely chopped parsley, diced green onions, jicama, celery and fresh blueberries. I tossed the salad with a home-made orange vinaigrette and put it in the refrigerator to chill and develop the flavors. When I served the salad, I topped it with diced fresh peaches and chopped pecans. Roger had been out taking down trees, so he was more than ready for lunch. It didn't take a lot of this salad to make him feel full and energized again, and he kept saying how delicious it was.

It's hard to go wrong with farro, so try it for yourself and see how many ways you can use it. If you need inspiration, there are loads of recipes on line.