Wednesday, December 17, 2014

9 beautiful menorahs for Hanukah

Tonight is the second night of Hanukah, so I wanted to share 9 beautiful Menorahs (or "hanukiot" in hebrew) that I found online.
I find it interesting that candles and lights are such a major part of all three major holidays we celebrate here in the US at this time of the year: Hanukah, Christmas and kwanza.
Other than their unique symbolism in each of these holidays, the proximity to the winter solstice must have had an effect on the evolving customs of these holidays. The warmth and festivity of candles lifts our spirits when the days are short and the weather is cold.
Here are some cool Menorah's I've found:

contemporary Menorahs

Hanukkah Menorah Modern geometric Judaica - White ceramic Contemporary $115

Hanukkah Menorah Gift Guide: Pea Menorah
Pea Menorah / Pea Chanukiah - Aluminum
Jonathan Adler Menorah - Utopia Reversible Man/Woman Menorah, $147.99

Nature inspired menorahs

Michael Aram Judaica Botanical Leaf Menorah, $199

Pomegranate Menorah 2 pieces made out of nickleplate and oxidized bronze
     Menorah round up

Happy Hanukah and happy holidays to you all!


Monday, December 8, 2014

My thoughts on PANTONE color of the year 2015

Every year, Pantone selects a single color that is supposed to reflect and influence the current trends in fashion and home decor. Is that so? it depends on the year.
Some years the chosen color became very popular and showed up everywhere in fashion and decor (like Tangerine in 2012). Other years, like last year's Radiant Orchid, it was almost ignored.
This year Pantone chose Marsala

Here's how Pantone explained their choice:
"Marsala enriches our mind, body and soul, exuding confidence and stability. Marsala is a subtly seductive shade, one that draws us in
to its embracing warmth.  

Here's my take on this color choice.
I can definitely see this color making it's way into fashion. It's a flattering color for both men and women. 
And for those of us who don't feel comfortable wearing bright colors, the last few years have been difficult to shop for clothing (colored). Other then the basic black, gray, white, most accent colors have been too bold for some of us to wear.  
So if you're like me, you stuck to the basics: Black, gray, white etc. 
Having a choice of a muted color like Marsala is refreshing. It may even bring in a whole new trend of softer, less bold colors in fashion.


As for decor, it will be hard to mix this muted, earthy color with bright, fresh colors that we've seen all over in the decor world. So my prediction is that it might be too early for this color to be incorporated into the current trends (bright and fresh). 
Will this muted color is a sign that we will  moving slightly away from very bright to somewhat more subdued, muted hues? maybe.
what do you think?


Friday, June 13, 2014


The question "when will we choose the wall color?"  comes up at the beginning of almost every redecorating or renovating project I work on, often with a hint of panic in my client's voice. "Should we choose the wall color at the beginning, middle or end of the project?" Nine out of ten times, my answer will be this: 
The wall color would be the last thing we will select (most of the time)
Why? There are thousands of paint color choices to choose from, but way less choices for upholstery, rugs, tile counter top etc, so it's easier to match a paint color to all the elements in a room then vice versa. It's much harder to commit to a wall color first and then look for a sofa, chair, window treatments, tiles or counter tops that will match that wall color.
It's important to understand that usually, the wall color juxtaposes or "touches" everything in the room: the flooring, furniture, window treatments etc. If that color clashes with any of these elements, it will be noticeable.
So basically, once everything in a room has been selected, I pick out a color that will work with all these elements.
What if you can't find a color that will work perfectly with all the elements in a room?
That's when you need to prioritize, and decide what is more important and what is less.
Proximity - anything that is in close proximity to the wall color, like window treatments, back splash tile, sofa, cabinetry is more important then what's "floating" in the room (a chair, table, small rug). 
Size - the large items like your sofa, window treatments, large rug, wall tile, floor tile etc. will have more impact on the overall look of the room then the small items.

In short, if the wall color clashes with the window treatments or large rug or sofa, it will be way more obvious then if it doesn't quite work with a small chair floating in he middle of the room.

The exception to the rule - when to choose color first
When the wall color is the major design statement in a room, that's when you want to pick it first, or at least have a few options which you will revisit as the other components are selected.
For example, in this teenage girls bedroom, I selected a bright blue, which is what this girl really wanted. It had to work with the existing carpet, but pretty much everything else in the room was selected after it was painted.

Last, although I usually recommend to leave the final choice of paint color to last,  I will always consider which color family will work best, and make sure my clients are happy with this direction. 
Happy decorating!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

why choosing a trendy wall color makes it easier to decorate

This is old news, but for anyone who isn't in tune with the current home decor trends, and plans to redecorate soon, I'll fill you in: Grays and bright fresh neutrals are in. Beige, tans and brown earthy tones are out. 

                                                   earthy tones (previous trend)

fresh and bright tones (current trend)

If you walk into any home decor store, you'll notice the bright pop colored decor pieces, and gray or light fresh neutral walls as a background. If you haven't decorated your house in a while and plan on doing so, keep reading.
Is your home is filled with earthy muted tones: beige, reds, rust, golds tans and browns? Are your walls painted beige or tan? you might have already noticed it, but you will have trouble mixing in any trendy bright colored decor piece like pillows, rugs, accessories etc into your earthy colored home. Why? because earthy muted tones (like the ones below) don't mix well with bright colors. Your beige/tan/ brown walls will look "dirty" next to the bright, fresh tones of all that trendy decor.
For example, a very popular wall color in the previous "brown and beige era" was benjamine Moore shaker beige HC-45 or Lenox tan HC-44. These colors pair well with earthy tones like beige, tan, browns, like in the photos below

earthy colors (previous trend)

      Bright and fresh (current trend)

The cheerful bright colors you see in stores right now pair beautifuly with light and bright neutrals like off whites, light neutrals and especially grays (light or dark). They do not work well with any "muddy" neutrals like a medium colored beige. So if your wall colors are more the ones above (beige, tan or brown) pairing them with bright colored decor pieces, will make your walls look dirty.

You might think "oh well, I like earthy tones, and so I'll simply redecorate with earthy muted tones again and just stay with the same wall color. Well, you could do that if you buy all custom pieces. Otherwise, you will have to work with what's current and trendy, which of course works best with the current and trendy wall colors: grays, white, off whites, pastels, light neutrals or medium dark grays.

So which wall colors work with the current trend home decor ? 
Light grays: Revered Pewter HC-172 is a light warm gray that works well with many colors

If you are looking for a cool gray, Stonington gray HC-170 is a good option

HC-169 is another cool gray that pars beautifully with pops of color like yellow

If you loved the earthy era and not really warming up to bright colors, but still want a fresh look, simply introduce grays to your decor. Gray stained wood pieces instead of dark brown, or gray upholstered pieces will instantly change your decor to an updated look. As for the walls, you can keep them beige, or repaint with a gray, gray-beige, or a light neutral like an off white.

Monday, January 6, 2014

How to cozy up your home for the winter

The holiday season is over, and the long cold north eastern winter is still ahead. Yet, as much as I dislike the long winters around here, it feels good to spend time at home with my family when it's warm and cozy inside. Does your home feels the same?

A warm and inviting room feels that way not (only) because its been heated up to the right temperature. Colors, lighting, textures, all of these have an effect. Food is a good analogy. It's visual appeal affects how we perceive it. Warm colored foods will taste warmer then cool colored ones. Aesthetically appealing dishes taste better etc.

So here's what you can do to cozy up your home for the winter:

1. Lighting - a dark rooms feels cold, so add a few more lamps, preferably with fabric shades. Fabric diffuses light more softly than glass. Sometimes all you need to do is change the bulbs to higher wattage ones. Be careful not to load too much wattage. Having more lamps with lower wattage is better than fewer lamps with higher wattage. 

Even though the ceiling is high, this room is cozy and warm. Why? the wood ceiling, warm tones of the walls and furnishings, low and warm lighting (lamps, walls sconces, candles), conversational seating arrangement, plants, all make this a warm and inviting space.

Indirect lighting (like the one in the picture below) adds a soft, sophisticated and mysterious ambiance to a room.

2. Rugs - a bare floor is cold to the feet and the eye, so now is a good time to purchase a rug. When in doubt about the size, go larger rather then smaller. A large rug in a small room will do wonders to that room - contrary to what you might think, it can make a small room look larger and definitely cozier. The best material for rugs is wool. It has the best feel, luster and durability.

3. Window treatments - at night, bare windows "suck" the light out of the room, and leave you feeling exposed and cold. A few tips - get two panels for each window, and hang them either from ceiling to floor or a few inches over the window trim down to the floor. Lined curtains can also add some insulation. If you are not a fan of curtains, try roman shades or wove shades and mount them inside the window frame to keep the architecture of the windows exposed.

Amy Lau Design

5. Fireplace - I know. It's obvious, right? lighting up your fireplace in the winter is an instant fix, but what if you don't have a fireplace, but want to create the look and feel of it?
Here's a great idea I found on houzz.

4. Accessories - floor and toss pillows, blankets, scented (or non scented) candles are obvious choices for warming a room. Accessorizing is also a way to introduce more color and personal style. If your color palette is predominantly neutral, you can accessorize with warm colors for the winter and cooler for the summer.

That's it! Simple. If you decide to try these suggestions (the first three are the most important) I would love to see the results.

Stay warm

Friday, December 27, 2013

How a design mistake turned into an invaluable learning experience

A few weeks ago I took an online course/webinar ("Design webinar") with Maria Killam and Penelope Trunk, which has been excellent. Maria and Panelope are two amazing women, each running their own successful blogs and businesses, so they teamed up together to share their insights with us.

During one of the sessions, Maria said something really interesting about learning from failure: "when you succeed, you have no idea what you did right, so its not much of a learning experience, is it? but when you fail...oh well, that's when you go "ahahh!!"
So that made me think: What if you didn't get that "aha moment" right away? what if you didn't really understand why you failed so miserably and how you can avoid that from happening again. 

I'll be honest with you. When I make a mistake or feel I've failed,  I don't immediately go all "positive" and take it as a "learning experience". First, I feel really terrible (especially if it affected other people) and then I obsess about it for days on end.
But here's the good news. I realized that obsessing is actually a good thing, because it makes you think really hard and intensely about what just happened and then maybe, just maybe, figure out what went wrong, why it did, and how you can avoid it from happening again.

Sometimes, I "get it" right away and sometimes the "aha" moment comes much later. The point is - it's never too late, and if it doesn't come right away, there's a reason for it. You simply might not have the experience and knowledge to understand why something you did went wrong.

Like with that blue sofa and love seat choice I made many many years ago, after dragging my poor husband to each and every furniture shop in Tel Aviv, not knowing what I was looking for (sounds familiar?), which was the crux of the matter. 
So when the delivery people placed the blue sofa and love seat in my empty white living room, my heart just sank. Did I not know it was the wrong color then? YES, of course I did! did I understand why I chose the wrong color and why it was wrong? no, I didn't.  But how could I know? I didn't know anything about design back then, or color, lighting etc. I just knew it was important to me, and that something went wrong. Here's what the sofa and love seat looked like.

So what did I do? I warmed the room up using other design tools
1. I bought a lovely terracotta wool rug (this time showing my husband just TWO choices).
2. I Added some colorful pillows that picked up the rug colors (gold and terracotta and red).
3. Hang sheer off white curtains.
4. Added lighting -  a floor lamp with a couple of table lamps.
Did it help? it did, but it wasn't enough.

Had I walked into this situation today, I would have "fixed" the problem in a slightly different way, simply because I have way more knowledge and experience then I had back then.
what would I do?
1. Paint the walls - I would paint the walls a warm off white or light neutral such as muslin, white linen (benjamin Moore) or aged parchment (sherwin williams). Walls take so much of the space, painting them would have the a greater impact then adding pillows for example.
2. Pick out a different rug. As much as I love foliage colors and that specific rug I bought, a sisal or warm neutral would have worked better with the blue sofas. 
3. More lighting. a single light fixture is never enough for any room. I would have added more table lamps and/or wall sconces and make sure they are positioned so the whole room is lit with a soft warm light.

The "I get it!" moment should be clear, not fuzzy, and if you don't get it right away, it's ok. It might come later, so keep thinking and searching for answers. When you are more knowledgeable and experienced it will suddenly come to you. just like that. boom! 

Happy new year everyone!


Friday, December 13, 2013

My recipe for a successful party

It's the holiday season and some of us are hosting parties. So what makes a successful party so awsome? the food? the drinks? your fabulous new outfit? not so much. It's the people, you and your guests, and how welcome and comfortable they feel in your home.

Imagine this:
Your guests feel at home the moment they arrive.
Everyone to has a great time and stays until the end.
Afterward, they can't stop talking about it.
Wouldn't that be great?

So what can you do to make your space feel warm and welcoming?  there's a LOT of things you can do, and two of the most important are these: 
1. Conversational seating arrangements.
2. The right kind of lighting.

Conversational seating arrangements 
What's most popular living room seating configurations? the L shape sofa and a love seat (at right angles to each other). This may work well for watching TV, but not for conversation. For people to converse comfortably, they need to be seating close and face each other. In the L shaped arrangement, it's only the ones seating at the end of the sofa/love seat that can talk to each other relatively comfortably. Why relatively? because they need to twist and turn to face each other. All the others will find it uncomfortable to converse across the room.
so what's the best conversational seating arrangements?

A sofa + two chairs (and a coffee table in between) 
Why does that work?
  1. Everyone is close enough and facing each other so it's easy to converse. The "chair people" are directly facing the "sofa people" and close enough to each other.
  2. Flexibility - chairs can be moved so it allows your guests to move them around as needed.
  3. Casual, comfortable feel - if the chairs are at a diagonal, the room feels more casual then if they are placed at straight angles. It's easy to switch between a formal to informal look, simply by moving the chairs.
  4. Visually balanced look - from a design point of view, it's a balanced, symmetrical look that can be easily switched over to a more formal look by placing the chairs at right angles to the sofa or next to each other (facing the sofa).
  5. It's best to have a combination of sofa's and chairs so everyone finds their own comfortable spot, whether it's seating close to their spouse on the couch or keeping their personal space with an individual chair.

Where  would that seating arrangement work best? everywhere, but especially in small to medium living rooms. 

Two sofas facing each other with a coffee table in between.
Why it works? People are close enough and facing each other, like around a rectangular dining table.
Where would it work?
In a large open space living area with a focal point facing the coffee table (like a fireplace). This is why it's not a very popular plan around where I live, where most houses are traditionally built, with smaller spaces confined by walls. In these houses, "floating" two sofas in the center of a room would most likely stop the flow. Contemporary, high ceiling, open spaced rooms often feel too expansive and open, so floating furniture would "cozy up" the room without breaking the traffic flow.

U shaped seating (for large living rooms)
This one has many variations: sofa plus love seat and two chairs facing the love seat, a sofa and four chairs (two on either side), sectional plus two chairs etc. Again, this works because everyone is in close proximity and facing each other, much like around a square dining table.
If you ever noticed the lighting in upscale restaurants? it's warm, somewhat dim, no shadows or dark spots, the kind of lighting that makes you feel better about your looks. That's what you'd like your living room to feel like. Contrary to what you might think, you don't need to spend thousands of dollars to achieve the kind of lighting that will make your guests want to move into your living room forever. Basically, good conversational lighting means: creating a warm, slightly dim lighting all around. No shadows and dark spots.
Here are some guidelines to help you achieve that:

  1. Flattering light - which kind of lighting is more flattering?candle light or strong bright light? the answer is obvious, and everyone feels more confident when they look good, especially the ladies. Your guests would naturally gravitate to where the lighting is warm and dim, and away from the bright, cool light.
  2. Table and floor lamps cast a warmer light then recessed lights do. "Down lights" like recessed lights can create unflattering shadows on people's faces.Dim your recessed and ceiling lights and turn all the floor lamps and table lamps on. 
  3. Pay attention to the color temperature of your light bulbs - if you're using fluorescent (CFL) bulbs, choose the "soft white" and not the "daylight" (the daylight have a cooler light spectrum).
  4. Multiple light sources - better to place multiple lamps around the room on medium wattage then just one or two strong ones. They allow to control the mood. No one feels comfortable talking under a strong light source.
So to cap it all up, just remember this:
People feel comfortable talking when:
1. They are close enough and facing each other, but still maintain their own personal space.
2. When they have choices (between cozying up on a sofa or keeping their personal space on a chair).
3. Flexibility - being able to move around chairs, ottomans will allow people to move around and not get "stuck" in one single conversation.
4. Don't skip the coffee table - it's not only there for glasses and plates, but it anchors the whole seating arrangement. You should have about 18" clear space between the chair/sofa and the coffee table for comfortable reach and walk through.
5. Lighting

Monday, December 9, 2013

Having doubts about your decor? try this simple trick and you'll know

I'm a DIY kind of person, always experimenting. It's no wonder that my previous career was a molecular biologist. Experimenting was what I did every single day in the lab. 
Anyway, I've recently stumbled upon this article about how to pull together an eclectic room. It's not so simple to get it right, because its easy to cross that fine line between whimsical charm to hodge podge.
That is why you need to experiment until you feel it's balanced. 
What if you're not sure, or simply confused? this is when you take out your camera and snap some shots. Take a break from the whole project and then look at the shots. You'll be surprised how much clearer it will be for you to see what's off balance or just "not working" and what's good. 


I've been using this trick forever, and it just works! anything that wasn't clear in "live view" becomes much more obvious when you look at the photos. I use this trick at different stages of a project and especially when I photograph a completed project for my website. I take a LOT of shots to get just a few right. 

Why can we see clearly in a photo what we couldn't quite get looking at it "live"? I'm not sure.
Perhaps it's the isolated single angle that makes it obvious to the eye, or the fact that we are not moving around and getting distracted. Well, whatever the reason is, it works! and that is what's important.
Here's a beautiful eclectic room. Contrary to what you might think, even for the pros it can take a lot of experimentation, and "failed" attempts to get to the point where an interior can look almost effortless, like this one below.

Olive Interiors - Home
If you wish your home to be a place you'll always love coming back to, but not sure how to create one, contact me at 617-584-9965 and I will help you make it your own.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Flower arrangements for thanksgiving (or any other festive event)

Yes, I know I've already posted lots of ideas for your thanksgiving table decorations, but I cant resist adding even more... Below are some flower arrangement ideas. All are simple and easy to create. However, repetition is crucial to the success of a simple idea, so pick out an idea or two from below and repeat the theme a few times along your table. "Variations on the theme" are welcome (different height containers, different flower colors etc.), but keeping a common theme will make it look cohesive.

Pick out some glass containers with varying heights, fill them with green apples and place some white and green hydrangeas on top.

ciao! newport beach: autumn dinner party ideas & decor
glass hurricane vases with apples and hydrangeas

Or do the same but with chestnuts and flowers of your choice.

Easy Fall Arrangement
gourds as flower vases

Butternut Squash Centerpiece
butternut squash as a flower vase
Your vases don't match? Forgot to get glass vases? here's an original idea - use peppers for flower arrangements. My guess though is you have to a "last minute" kind of person, because these arrangements won't hold for long. Also, you would probably need to place something heavy inside them so they don't tip over.

Flower Arrangement with Bell Peppers
very original - using peppers for flower arranegements
Simple glass jars and bottles (remember to play with different heights) with bright colored pink and purple single flowers pair well with a neutral linen table cloth.

#dahlias in little #jars - #pretty

No need to run to the art store to fill us your glass vases. You might find something in your pantry that will work just as well, and even better. see the example below. so pretty! 

Eye Candy Friday : v30 {simply beautiful floral arrangements} — Brenda's Wedding Blog - stylish wedding inspiration boards - affordable wedd...
simple and pretty - sliced lime as a "filler" for glass vases
Fall leaves on branches are not flowers, but can be just as colorful.

Fall Branches in Vase

Let us all be thankful for what we already have...not only on Thanksgiving, but even more so on the day AFTER Thanksgiving...:)

be thankful!

Happy thanksgiving