Monday, March 25, 2013

Diana Vreeland's Bookshelves

Diana Vreeland's Bookshelves
The late, great Diana Vreeland (1903-1989) brought singular style to every aspect of her life.  As the Editor in Chief of Harper's Bazaar from 1936 to 1962, and of Vogue from 1963-1971, then later as the adviser on costumes to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she lived an exceptionally glamorous life. Her clients ranged from Jacqueline Kennedy who adored her, to major and minor royalty, movie stars and the very wealthy. The surroundings Vreeland created for herself, notably the red living room she described as "a garden in hell", became part of her legend.

This glimpse of her bookshelves that I found on Pinterest* tells you quite a bit about her worldly, creative, complex, rich point of view, and provides a few design lessons, as well. When you study the shelves, you'll notice that they aren't neat and tidy, or obviously styled. Vreeland placed some things with intent, while she placed others just because she found a spot for them. You can tell that she wasn't a design snob, because you see art and treasured photographs, along with quirky mementos. The drawing of her by famed photographer Cecil Beaton is behind the horn on the right side. 

Notice that the basic structure of the shelves didn't limit how she used them.  She hung things on the back and on the outside frame, and she placed some things horizontally and other vertically, with things on top of other things. There was a similarity of hue in the contents overall, but with a pop or two of red, her signature color. Of course there are books, but a couple of books appear to have post-it notes! Diana Vreeland's bookshelves reflected who she was, and they served her well. 

Here's what I learned from Diana Vreeland's bookshelves:
  • DO: Use every side of the structure. Don't limit yourself to the shelves.
  • DO: Display a variety of objects, but choose ones that relate well to each other.
  • DO: Use repetition of color, content, form, etc. to create a cohesive look.
  • DO: Make it personal. Choose things that have meaning to you. 
  • DON'T: Be too serious. Allow room for a little humor or whimsy.
  • DO: Allow more breathing room for the contents of your shelves than Diana did.
DV in her famous red living room. 

In this room, too much wasn't enough, but considering the name she gave it, you know that she was in on the joke. 


Monday, March 18, 2013

"How To Choose Interior Paint Colors" at Isothermal Community College in Columbus

When color decisions are made one room at a time, the overall result often lacks harmony, and the look and value of the house suffers...

Have you ever had trouble finding the perfect color for an interior painting project? Maybe you thought you'd found the right color, but it looked completely different once you painted it on the walls. Or perhaps you're one of the many people who decide to avoid the pitfalls of color selection by painting everything white, plain boring white.  

If any of this sounds familiar, you'll want to mark your calendar to come to my latest course, "How to Choose Interior Paint Colors", being offered at Isothermal Community College in Columbus next month. My special guest is paint expert Tommy Williamson of Williamson's Paint Center in Landrum. 

Learn how to make a fresh start with an overall color plan that works for your house. Here are some of the topics we're going to cover:

April 9, 2013

  • Color Basics
  • Creating Your Color Plan

April 16, 2013

  • Color Schemes
  • Enhancing, Re-shaping and Camouflaging with Color
  • Choosing the Right Paint
  • Hiring a Painting Contractor

Isothermal Community College, Columbus Campus

Tuesday evenings April 9 and 16, 2013, 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Registration:  FREE, but registration is required.

To register, call Isothermal at 828-894-3092 x10.

For course information, call Sandy LeRoy at 828-692-4355.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Your Fireplace Mantle Is A Little Theater

Family Room Mantle - Winter 2013
There's a two-sided fireplace in our house, with one side in the great room and the other in the family room adjoining the kitchen. I think of them as theatrical opportunities, little stages to celebrate each season and add personality by rotating a changing group of accessories, old and new, fine and funky. Some things are permanent, and some come back at the appropriate time each year, like the stockings that hang at Christmas, but the displays are never exactly the same, and for me, that's part of the fun. I don't strive for design perfection, I care more about associations with people and places that have meaning to us, and things Roger and I simply enjoy.

The family room is a homey space, and the things I place on this side are in casual, asymmetrical arrangements, like the one you see here. There are copper pieces that came from the home of my beloved Uncle Bob and Aunt Joanne, including one that I use as a container for some black pussy willows, two Fitz and Floyd chickens, a picture of a Tiffany window that I had framed years ago and some ivy trailing from a ceramic container. No two items are the same, so I used repetition of color and materials, a variety of shapes and heights, plus a touch of green, to make it look reasonably cohesive, and to coordinate it with the rest of the family room.  For example, the blue mat in the picture is the same blue as in the area rug, and there are other copper pieces and Fitz and Floyd creatures nearby.

On the living room side, it's a different story. The space above the mantle has three permanent occupants, a papier mache carnival mask of the sun and the moon that was a present from Roger the year we happened to be in Venice on my birthday, and two cement sconces filled with silk greenery. The basic arrangement is balanced, making the look more formal. All I do is add a few seasonal items to the sconces, as you see below: 

Great Room Mantle - Autumn 2012

Great Room Mantle - Winter/Holiday 2012

Even though the design on this side is more formal, tweaking the contents of the sconces with the seasons keeps it from looking static, and takes only about ten minutes.

How to Give Your Fireplace Mantle A New Look

If you'd like to update the look of your mantle, here's how to go about it: 
  • Decide what approach suits you and the room. If you want a formal, traditional look, consider a symmetrical arrangement with one or more pairs of items, such lamps or candlesticks, placed on either side of a large focal piece, as I did in the great room. If you like informality, create an asymmetrical design, as in the family room. You can still use a pair of items, just don't put them on either side in a mirror image, and use an odd number of things in total.
  • Consider what, if anything, will hang above the mantle. Think beyond the expected large mirror or painting. I like maximum flexibility in the family room, so I keep the space open and lean a mirror, tray, plate or painting against the wall, instead of hanging it.  This allows me to use objects in a variety of heights, and easily change them.
  • Coordinate the mantle with the rest of the room. It's a good place to repeat color used in furniture or other accent pieces, or to use something from a collection featured elsewhere in the room.
  • Use a combination of materials, including metals, glass, ceramics, art, etc. to make the display more lively and interesting. Vary size, height, texture. 
  • Include one or more types of organic materials. Place a trailing plant to spill over the edge of the mantle (one of my favorite things to do), and also use something upright, like flowers or branches.  I also use dried grasses sprayed with metallic paint, which makes them last forever. 
  • Layer and overlap objects.
  • Use "lifts and levels", a merchandising term that refers to placing props in a display to create areas of different heights that add interest and create a focal point. You can use a small stack of books, for example, to do the same thing when your design needs height, or you want a smaller object to be more prominent. 
  • Consider scale. Don't use things that are too large or too small for the space. If you want to display smaller items, cluster them so they read as a single, larger object. Placing them in front of a larger object such as a plate helps with the illusion, and is a way to use layering to solve a design problem.
  • Repeat color, materials, shapes, etc to create rhythm and build a theme.
  • Use contrasting color, materials, shapes, etc. to make individual pieces stand out.  
  • Use a variety of textures, rough, smooth, shiny, matte.
  • Experiment, but practice a little restraint. A few well-chosen things are preferable to a crowd. When you're shopping in your home or in a store, don't be limited by the original, perhaps utilitarian use of the item. Re-purpose it as decoration. There are no horses in our house, but next to the family room mantle hangs a brass and copper currying comb from England, another gift from Uncle Bob and Aunt Joanne.
  • Stand back and check the composition of your design, from time to time. You can't tell how well you've done unless you look at the mantle from a distance. I like to leave the room and do something else for a while so that I have some objectivity when I look at the mantle again. 
Start thinking of your fireplace mantle as a little stage, and see what productions you can create. Have fun with the process and change the display with the season to keep it lively and interesting.