Your home is where the shared space of the world ends and your private sanctuary begins. What could be more sacred than the space in which you begin and end each day? Creating a peaceful environment that honors what you love and who you are, isn’t really about four walls and some furniture.
Whether it’s family photos, glittering crystals, or a bowl full of shells you’ve collected, you add to spirit and love to a place by adorning it with beautiful and meaningful things. The word “sacred” means different things to different people but I use the word to mean highly valued and important : deserving great respect.
You don’t need a large area to create a sacred space. If you have is a shelf on a wall, you can turn it into a Blessings altar by adding to it tiny things you are thankful for, remind you of happy times or people you love. Sacred does not have to mean religious, although you may include religious icons if that is important to you.
In a 6 x 5 foot reading nook, I created this wall altar for a client as a private way to honor her Indian heritage. When she settles into the chair to read, she often lights the candle and uses those few seconds to think about her family. Those thoughts keep her close to important people in her life and give the nook a feeling of serenity.
In my own home I have several vignettes that are ever-changing. None take up much space and all provide touch points that remind me of moments, places, people and the general beauty of the natural world. My kitchen windowsill is an unexpected place to put special objects, but I stand there multiple times a day to use the sink and am always looking at what’s there. Right now I have a small collection of things brought back from my favorite beach – a place that holds everything my heart has ever felt.
Creating a cabinet of beautiful things is also a great way to add a sense of sanctity to a room. All together it looks like a piece of art but when you stand in front of it and really see the individual objects, it becomes almost meditative. Noticing each and every thing takes time, and if all of the items have meaning, you can’t help but feel their importance.
Setting aside a small corner of a room where you sit quietly reading, taking in the sunshine and letting the day slip away doesn’t require fancy decor or objects of spiritual significance. The sense of calm, warmth and safety you feel when snuggled under a warm blanket flipping through a magazine can be sacred in the sense that it refreshes you, centers you and removes you from daily stress. That is a space worth creating!
I would describe my personal design style as being a bit dark and stormy. While I can appreciate things like country cottage and shabby chic, the sweetness of it isn’t something I naturally gravitate toward. Whether a room is traditional, contemporary or completely eclectic, I’m always looking for a bit of strangeness, something that can counter-balance the perfection. To me, dark and stormy style is all about finding that thing that makes a room edgy, interesting, and mysterious. It’s a room with a sexiness that makes you feel sexy by being in it. It doesn’t have to be a Goth-themed space. I’m not talking about darkness in the context of death and scary monsters, I’m talking about darkness that evokes a naughtiness, curiosity or steaminess.
It’s hard for me to believe that in ten short days Christmas will be upon us. By now, you’re probably done decorating, but if you’re like me, you just keep decorating until the holidays are over – and they’re not over for me until New Year’s Day. So if you’re really done (is that even possible?), then I hope this post inspires next year’s decor. However, if you’re hosting a holiday shindig, or feel like you’re lacking a little sparkle and intrigue, read on for tips on how to bring a little extra bling to your Christmas or New Year’s surroundings.
For so many reasons, Fall is my favorite time of year. Although we don’t really have an extreme change of seasons here in California, there’s a chill in the air, leaves on the ground and families come together to share love, laughs, and warmth. In my opinion it’s also the best ever when it comes to seasonal decor! I’m always looking for unexpected ways to evoke the feeling of Fall without going all thematic with it. You’ll never find a turkey or Pilgrim in my house but you’ll probably find a whole mess of twigs, branches and fantastic gourds in vintage urns, bowls and baskets.
When it comes to creating gorgeous seasonal vignettes the first place you need to look for inspiration is outside your front door. Fallen branches are my go-to every year for Fall decor because they’re perfect for bringing the outside in. It’s really windy where I live and branches are all over the ground most of the time. If you like a little more bling and a little less rustic, you can spray paint the branches gold. It’s a great metallic to mix with the oranges, browns and yellows of the season.
Whether they’re blooming, studded with acorns, flame-colored leaves or bare as can be, branches add dramatic elegance. When used in a simple vase, their height and shape are all that’s needed to make a statement.
I’m in love with the spare simplicity of this beautiful vignette. Pulling together objects you already own and displaying them in a different way is a great way to start. You can get this chic and welcoming look by arranging a grouping that includes a rattan basket filled with dried hydrangea, metal containers, a branch or two, an old black and white portrait or an offbeat oil and the single white pumpkin. It’s welcoming and interesting and can be changed up so easily by adding elements such as pine cones, or gold objects.
I was late in getting this post up but I adore this vignette. Something about the tiny bones, art and single spray vine says just enough to let you know it’s Halloween without having to try hard. I think it’s mysterious as well as melancholy. I’m always looking for beautiful natural objects to add to the mix. Found animal skulls, empty bird nests, naturally shed antlers..all of these things say “change of seasons” to me and I love the grace of things we don’t usually see, touch or understand.
I am ALL about white pumpkins. Stacked, grouped, piled in a basket, I think they’re absolutely stunning on a Fall mantel or used as a table centerpiece. They can be romantic when mixed with dried flowers, weathered architectural finds or mercury glass. Carve a white pumpkin and use it as a vase. Mix store bought nuts still in their shells such as almonds, pistachios, and walnuts with mini white pumpkins to add the sense of Fall in an unexpected way.
I’m also a fool for feathers! Pheasant, Crow, spotted Chicken…When grouped loosely in a vintage container they can totally change the feel of a vignette. By themselves, the papier mache white pumpkins allude to Halloween, but adding pheasant feathers to a modern white vase is decidedly Thanksgiving. Again, it’s the simplicity of the grouping that makes me smile. So much can be said without having to be over-the-top with your displays.
For a little more traditional Fall display, you can add vinyl transfer letter to small gourds, pumpkins, burlap garlands or even vintage clock faces and spell out phrases and welcome guests. Empty frames layered on top of one another is an awesome way to add depth. Look for worn, chipped frames with age and patina and add in a few rustic objects to finish off the vignette.
Milk glass is always perfect for any vignette but filled with dried wheat, grasses, or millet, as shown above, makes a perfect Fall addition. The great thing about dried elements is that you don’t have to worry about soil or water. A collection of smaller objects surrounding a milk glass urn such as dried leaves, small gourds, dried flowers and even seashells would speak to Fall warmth and wonder.
Even something as easy as a grouping of vintage glass bottles in autumn colors becomes a pretty little vignette when you add delicate branches of bitter orange.
You definitely don’t need a lot of objects to make an impact and add beauty to your space. Think creatively, forage outdoors for found objects and make sure to use things that inspire you. Use color and shape to guide you – warm tones and soft curves – and play with different groupings until it feels right to you.
The past several months have been filled with blessings and challenges both personally and professionally and updating the blog has fallen woefully behind. Whereas I used to send out monthly newsletters keeping folks up-to-date on our wanderings, I’ve switched over to daily musings and updates via our Facebook page. If you haven’t already visited us there, we’d love to see you! I’m also really excited about my weekly columns on Houzz. Reader response has been fantastic and I’m getting to know so many amazing people through the sharing of design expertise and experiences. To read each week’s piece, make sure to check out Apartment 46’s idea books.
In May I finished a large garden project in the San Mateo hills, as well as worked on a complete renovation in Sunnyvale (ongoing), began the master bedroom of a Hayward Park home, put more touches on a San Francisco apartment, and did a few garden and home refreshes here and there throughout the Bay Area.
I’m still working on the Sunnyvale home, have started a second Hayward Park home, a Hillsdale home, and will be starting a San Jose garden project as well as a Hayward Park backyard. The San Mateo Hills garden project has been expanded to include more of the property so that’s happening this weekend and we have a Millbrae home on deck. It’s an understatement to say I’m blessed by the work because the clients I’ve been lucky enough to design for have been some of the kindest, funniest, and most interesting people I could have hoped to meet. I know there’s a definite design rule about crossing the client-to-friend border but it can’t be helped. The folks I know are just too damn awesome!
The shop is still doing custom floral and we’ve had the opportunity to do several super huge bouquets over the past couple of months. I really don’t believe that a house is a home without fresh flowers and greenery. Floral arrangements are something we’ll always offer because we feel it’s such an intrinsic part of making a space more lovely.
Our relationship with One Kings Lane is going strong and we’ve continued to sell unique vintage items in their weekly flash sales. If you haven’t already made an account, please click on the OKL banner on the right of our blog and make one. Registering through our page helps our small business and lets OKL where you heard of them. They never spam and they always have beautiful things on offer.
I’ve been really focused on vintage art and have so many great pieces in the shop at any given time it’s impossible to post them all. This 1970’s era black, white and gold abstract is currently for sale. Although it’s over 30 years old, it feels fresh and modern and would be gorgeous above a console, leaned against a larger piece on a mantel or even put in a guest bath as a point of interest. Every home needs “real” art and it doesn’t have to be something big and expensive to be meaningful. Art is a room-changer. Whether you’re into abstract, illustrative or oils, there are as many ways to add art to your space as there are artists. I personally think gallery walls are an exciting way to mix various smaller pieces to create an interesting tableau.
Sometimes the smallest accents make the biggest impact. Many times I’m hired to provide the finishing touches to homes that have all the basics — sofa, tables, television — but are missing the warmth. It’s so important that a home reflect the people who live there and I am thankful every day that I get to continue doing what I love most, which is adding beauty to Bay Area homes and gardens.
I’m hoping to post photos of my recently completed projects very soon and if you haven’t been by the shop in a while, you know we’d love to see you.
A reclaimed wood cabinet does double-duty as both a mail/key drop off area and bar in the entry space.
A custom Moroccan pendant hangs in the entry space and casts gorgeous shadows on the ceiling and surrounding walls.
A 36 x 36″ image of abalone was printed onto sheet metal and floated off the grass-cloth covered entry wall. It is the first thing you see when you open the front door.
The step-up entry sitting area includes the first of two window seats, and is fitted with a custom velvet window cushion.
The organic hemp pouf acts as an ottoman or extra seating for the kids when necessary. The striped carpet is made of Flor carpet tiles and can be changed up on a whim. Perfect for kid-friendly family spaces.
The children use the low coffee table and floor cushions as a place to get creative.
The second extra long window seat cushion is custom made of chenille velvet.
Vintage crates provide both storage for art supplies and display space for meaningful items.
The large kitchen island is topped with a gorgeous slab of reclaimed wood.
The eat-in kitchen includes a larger-style dining table flanked by antique Korean scrolls that are family heirlooms. Ziggy wanted to be in the photo so he got to stay.
The small-scale subway tiles laid-out in a Chevron pattern compliment the modern polished cement kitchen counters.
The large sectional provides a comfortable place for the family to watch movies together. The over-size jointed steel floor lamp provides unexpectedly soft lighting.
The industrial-style media center keeps the space interesting.
A San Mateo couple with a young daughter requested that I do a makeover on their space utilizing existing furnishings where possible. Art and accessories warmed up the space and gave the rooms a more finished look. Husband and wife have somewhat divergent styles, so finding a happy medium and incorporating family heirlooms was key to the project’s success. The rooms needed to welcoming, reflect who the couple is at this stage in their lives, and be able to withstand their energetic little girl.
I painted an antique cabinet to use as a bar.
The leather sofa and chair, as well as the coffee table, were purchases the couple previously owned. The tables were topped in tempered glass with polished edges to stand up to the daughter’s toys and activities.
The fireplace will be re-surfaced eventually. The 70’s brass and iron mesh curtain was removed and an updated flush fireplace screen was put in its place.
The side table was something the family already owned.A bronze mirror was cut for the top and it was stained darker.
The leather-covered bench was placed against the wall to be used as optional seating for guests.
The family has a number of heirloom carpets. A smaller one was used to create a reading area within the larger living space.
The addition of art will be an evolving process for the homeowners. A 1968 screen print titled Leili and Majnon was finished in a nondescript frame so it was gold-leafed and distressed to add more depth.
The grouping of vintage fruit prints is on the dining room wall. The room is still a work in progress – Above and below is a sneak peek.
A handmade baby outfit from Puerto Rico was shadowboxed and hangs at the entrance to the daughter’s bedroom.
The vintage painted shelf in the daughter’s room allows her to display her ever-rotating treasures.
Vintage unframed art adorns one wall.
A pouf matches the custom draperies, and sits underneath two long shelves holding the daughter’s books. A bookcase would have taken up too much room on the floor, and the walls were a great use of space.
The layout of the room includes an extra door that is never used. It cannot be removed because of code so it was papered and hung with framed chicken wire that displays the daughter’s artwork with clothespins.
The stuffed animals occupy a painted vintage suitcase.
The bedroom furnishings were a present from the in-laws, the mirror is vintage.
The antique pharmacy jars hold the daughter’s wide selection of hair clips, ties and accessories.
Let’s put it on the table straight away. I love wallpaper. Would I paper an entire house? Probably not. For one thing, the paper I covet is probably the most costly available, and for another, I am a renter, so I’m saving that indulgence for my very first home. It’s not for everyone, but the paper above? The monkeys? That’s definitely for me.
The first time I saw gorgeous, hand-painted wallpaper used in a design magazine, I had just started high school. Up until that point, my only exposure to wallpaper was what I had seen peeling off the dentist’s office walls and the hideous bright yellow floral that adorned my bedroom when my mom first bought the house.
Nothing about the magazine photo stayed in my memory except the wall-coverings, which were a vibrant Chinoiserie scene that included flying birds, cherry blossoms, pagodas, butterflies and branches, and was painted on a soft silver background. It took my breath away. Furniture was inconsequential next to that art. I filed it away in my head with other beautiful things that have left their imprint on me. de Gournay hand-painted wallpaper is, to me, the epitome of luxury and timeless chic.
Walls are a very personal thing – both physically and metaphorically. The way you adorn (or not), the walls of your environment says volumes about who you are, and what you are about. While I love the look of great and eclectic art on bright, white walls, I also really, really love faux bois wallpaper and think that I would love to do an entire hallway in it. Nobilis does the most realistic I’ve ever seen.
Then again, I also really like the more playful and topographic-map looking faux bois as it would look gorgeous in a modern, minimalist or contemporary home.
But here’s the thing, I am also obsessed with textured walls, and thus, organic wall-coverings. There was a time back in the 70’s and early 80’s when textured wall-coverings were pretty commonplace. I remember my mother painting over some textured brown grass cloth, turning it white, and I thought that wall was the coolest thing I had ever seen afterward! Texture creates a warm elegance that a flat wall just doesn’t have on its own. My favorite place to use texture is in an entryway. Grass cloth is perfect for creating an interesting, high-end and earthy-feeling space.
It can be really subtle, (or not) depending on the color and whether it’s metallic. There is nothing quite like metallic grasscloth. It’s absolutely stunning when mixed with masculine and industrial-style pieces.
I have to admit I also have a little bit of a thing for pricess-style wallpaper. You know, the soft, fuzzy kind that Cinderella probably had when she moved into the castle? Yeah, I love that too. Design Your Wall has an awesome collection of flocked velvet wallpaper that makes me fall in love a little bit more every time I see it. The ultimate in textured paper, it definitely evokes a retro-brothel feel that I think would be so wicked in a small bathroom or a woman’s dressing room. It’s fun, unique and definitely over-the-top princessy.
If I were going to forgo wallpaper, I would probably opt for large-format art for my walls. I am completely smitten by the look of a single wall done in one giant, graphic image. Like a feature wall, but without the paint. I was digging through a pile of old design magazines and found a 2009 issue of Elle Decor UK, (now called Elle Decoration) and re-discovered Tektura, a UK-based company that turns digital photographs into large-scale vinyl wall coverings. Although it’s a 4-year old idea, it feels fresh to me, and I’m pretty sure I need it. In my future dream home, I will have them turn the below image of a fighter-pilot’s helmet into a floor-to-ceiling piece of art – and I will love it madly. I have carried this image with me for years, knowing that one day, it would be on the wall of my home.
Photo-realistic Charcoal Rendering
Seven years ago I learned about Flavor Paper in NYC and went a little bit mental ordering samples. I decided that there is definitely a project out there in the world that requires me to install their hand-screened Elysian Fields paper in a nursery, counseling office, or some other totally cheeky place. The black and purple colorway almost made its way onto the walls of my shop, but I am constantly nailing things to the walls and that wouldn’t be good for the paper.
Just saying the word “wallpaper” used to bring to mind a grandmother’s house, or a stuffy, cold manor on a bog. Today’s bold patterns and modern colorways have given new life to wallpaper and a new opportunity to do something different and graphic in your space. Dwell Studio has a line of wallpaper that’s both modern and edgy. My heart beats a little stronger for their Snake Chain pattern, which looks like basic curled “S” shapes until you get up close. LOVE it.
I am going to be experimenting with some of Tempaper’s removable wallpaper in my dining area. For us renters, it’s kind of a dream come true! My dining space is very small, and very boring, and I’ve painted it more times than I care to admit and it still makes me sad. I’ll keep you posted on how it turns out and whether it was really “removable.”
So next time you are thinking about refreshing your space, consider adding a bit of interest with wallpaper. Whether your style is conservative, traditional, playful, eclectic, or minimalist, there is a paper in this world for you. You just have to pick one you like and get it up on those walls!
Danielle and Joe Portelli were married in Burlingame, California in August, 2012. In an exciting twist, I did not do the floral arrangements for the day, but was brought on board as a wedding coordinator and decorator for the entrance hall to the reception room. With only two weeks to get it everything from the church programs, to favor labels, to the guest gift bags together, it was definitely a challenge!