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



Sunday, November 24, 2013

More design ideas for your thanksgiving table decor


More design ideas for your thanks giving table
It's that time of the year, when the days are getting shorter and shorter, so candles are a great way to spark up your table. 
Here are some cool and unique ideas for candle holders and candle decoration. Get some glass containers and candles. stick with the same color for the candles, preferably a contrasting color to your table cloth. Fill up the glass container with anything from corn kernels, to lentils, chestnut and cranberries, and you've got a pretty display. Remember - repetition is a very effective design trick, so no need to do it all. pick one or two ideas and that's it.

1. Tea lights embedded in grains. Dried corn kernels, beans, lentils, rice can all work because the colors are fall colors.

Super cute  for Thanks Giving table setting!
Tea lights embedded in corn kernels

ciao! newport beach: autumn dinner party ideas & decor
candles in glass filled with grains

fill up a glass container with chestnuts and a candle

2. Mixing candles - same color, but different sizes and heights works well. Mix in some fruit, branches or gourds and you've got a beautiful center piece.

beautiful table
tall, short, fat and skinny candles, on a reclaimed wood, surrounded by fruits and leaves

same candles, different glass containers, plus fall leaves and gourds

If you're worried that someone will knock those candles, fill a wooden box with candles. Add natural decor around the candles (branches, gourds, etc.) for a festive but safer decoration (see below).

Fall Table Centerpiece - made from old fence boards and filled with candles, pumpkins and gourds.

3. Simple and cheap  idea - glass hurricane vases wrapped in layers of tissue paper for a soft, glowing effect.

hurricane vases are wrapped in layers of tissue paper for a soft, glowing effect.

3. Cranberries - fill a jar or glass bowl with cranberries, with or without water, and float some tea candles over them. For a Christmas dinner party, add some greenery and a white table cloth.



4. Instead of filling up a glass jar, you can also wrap something around it.


Need more ideas? in the next post will show you some cool flower displays.
Happy decorating

Additional readings

flower arrangements for thanksgiving


Thanksgiving tablescape ideas

Are you hosting thanksgiving this year or helping out with the table setting? do you need some simple ideas for your table setting? if you do, please read below what I've shared.

Getting ready for the holidays; Thanks Giving home decor idea :) ~Julie Leblanc Oct 10 2013 MDS Blog Hop
Even though it feels as chilly as the dead of winter today, it's still "officially" fall, so why not decorate with nature's gifts? gourds, fall leaves, branches, mums or even cranberries.

Does the table setting below looks too elaborate? it might, but if you look at the photo carefully, you'll realize that it would be fairly simple to recreate something similar. Most of the decorations on this table can be found outdoors (branches, pine cones) or purchased at your grocery store (gourds, rice/assorted grains to fill up the glass vases). Tall glass hurricane vases are cheap and easy to find, as well as large candles.

Pumpkin Tree Tabletop Decoration
oh, so pretty!
Decorating with gourds 
Gourds are great for decorating. They come in different shapes, sizes and colors, so will look fabulous in groupings for a center piece, as candle holders, filled up with flowers or branches, as name tags on plates, or any other creative idea you can come up with.
here are some I found online: 

1. mini pumpkin as name tags

Isn't this little gourd/pumpkin an adorable place setting?
mini pimpinks as name tags are so cute!

ciao! newport beach: autumn dinner party ideas & decor

2. Gourds as candle holders
Thanksgiving Home Decor Ideas
using gourds as candle holders
3. Mini pumpkins filled up with flowers
mini pumpkins and mums
mini pumpkins filled them with flowers are so festive
ciao! newport beach: autumn dinner party ideas & decor
gourds used as vases

4. Displayed freely at the center of the table. 

Go With a Saturated Shade - Our Favorite Thanksgiving Table Setting Ideas on HGTV
use gourds in different shapes, sizes and colors as a center piece

5. Displayed on white or black dishes or candle holders, they look fabulous.

ciao! newport beach: autumn dinner party ideas & decor

ciao! newport beach: autumn dinner party ideas & decor

So, have you got enough ideas? if not, take a look at my next post. I will share some ideas for decorating with candles and unique, simple candle holders. 


ciao! newport beach: autumn dinner party ideas & decor

flower arrangements for thanksgiving


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Pin it! how to create a lighting plan for your living room

I've taken my last post on "how to create a lighting plan for your living room in four steps" and shrank it one image you can pin into your "how to" idea board on your pinterest account. This way you can get a reminder of the main ideas I mentioned in my previous, more lengthy post.
If you click on the image, it will lead you to Pinterest, or you could use your "pin it" button on your computer bookmark bar.

how to create a lighting plan for your living room

happy pining!


Friday, November 22, 2013

How to light up your living room in four steps

How to create ambiance in your living room - lighting is everything
Beautifully designed interiors look great only if the lighting is right, and the opposite is true just as well: even the most beautiful decor would look kind of "blah" in bad lighting. I think the reason why so many of us overlook the importance of lighting is because it's sort of like your body. You don't really notice it, unless it hurts. when looking at a beautiful room from a magazine, you probably don't notice the lighting, but you sure will if the lighting was not done right.
So how do you create a lighting plan if you're not an expert.

Let me start with a few important guidelines to remember:
1. Layer your lighting - add lighting at a variety of heights and directions. For example: a table lamp usually sits low and shines up and down. Recessed lights shine down from the ceiling, wall sconces can shine either up, down, or to the sides.
2. NEVER rely on one single light fixture in a room, even if you load it with 300 watt. You'll have a "glare bomb" and lots of unflattering shadows.
3. Dimmers - always install dimmers on fixed lights, so you can easily change the mood of the room. When you have guests turn the lights down a little to a softer, warmer feel. Try and remember your favorite upscale restaurants. They are often dimly lit, so people wont feel too exposed, and will more likely feel comfortable talking to each other. 
4. Use soft warm light bulbs - "day light" CFL's are actually cooler then the soft warm kind.

How to light your living room in four steps 
Let's focus on the living room, since its one of the most important rooms in every home, and perhaps at the top of your list of rooms to invest in good lighting. 
Below is an illustration of a living room which I sketched for you. We will add up lighting as we go through the four steps.

living room (before)
1. Start with task lighting - if you like to read, play an instrument or board games with your family in that room, you'll need bright focused lighting. Typically, I use table lamps, task lamps and floor lamps for that purpose, simply because they are fairly cheap and movable. You need that flexibility to direct the light exactly where you need it most. This step is the cheapest of all steps, but probably the most important.

Task lighting (table and floor lamps)

2. Next - accent lights. These are intended to light anything you want to accentuate, such as artwork, architectural features like an alcoves, high ceiling, built ins etc. You might need to install (directional) recessed or wall sconces for that purpose. This step is obviously more expensive the the previous.

accent lights ( directional recessed , alcove wall sconces)

3Decorative lighting - Decorative lighting is any lighting fixture that adds style and artistic flare. The focus is on the looks, not necessarily the amount of light, but obviously you can combine both form and function and find lighting fixtures that have both style and sufficient wattage for your needs. Decorative lighting examples: table lamps, floor lamps, wall sconces and ceiling mounted pendants or even flush or semi flush ceiling lights.
decorative lighting (ceiling pendant, table lamp)

4. Ambient lighting - this is essentially what we call "general lighting". It's a fairly low amount of light, enough to see your way around a room. 
Now, at this point of your lighting project, you might already have enough lighting, so you can skip this step.That's why it's the last step, not because it's less important, but because it might already be taken care of.
However,if there are still dark areas in the room, your best options for lighting them are recessed lights. or ceiling mounts (flush/semi-flush mounts). 

ambient (general) lighting - recessed

Lighting is an art, and you never know EXACTLY how a room will look and feel with the lights on, until they are "on". That's why adding lighting in stages, is a safer, more economical way to go. You start with the easiest, cheapest method and add on as you go. Play around with the "movable" lamps (table lamps and floor lamps), and make sure the light bulbs are of soft warm lighting.
If you need further help with picking out the right lighting for your personal style, or figure out exactly where to install those recessed lights, contact me 617-584-9965,