Backyard Retreat

We are in the process of decorating our backyard deck so I pulled these pictures from Pinterest for inspiration.* Outdoor spaces can be tricky but I’m applying my design philosophy (see Decor Secrets blog post) to help me figure out what to do. First up, is to decide how we want it to function. Mainly, I want it to be a quiet sanctuary where we can sit with a cup of coffee or glass of wine and relax. Because of our busy schedules, we need a peaceful retreat but we also like to entertain, so it needs to work for more than the two of us.

Next, I have to settle on a style so I can decide what furniture and accessories we need. Fortunately, I like shabby chic and cottage style so nothing has to match. I started out with a teak bench and a round metal table and a few metal side tables. To that I have added a mish mash of furniture from a wicker settee and chairs to an old door and a chiminea, all scored at yard sales. I just found a funky distressed red shelf with a chicken wire back which adds a pop of color.

The color scheme is based on red and bright green outdoor pillows that I already owned. To tie it all together I spray painted the small side tables apple green and bought a matching umbrella. I also spray painted the large round metal table espresso brown. The wicker furniture is tan and white and I’m leaving them as is but at some point I will give them a coat of clear varnish to protect them. Most of my other outdoor cushions are off white so everything works together nicely.

To create an entertaining area I decided to re-purpose one of my potting benches into an outdoor bar by adding a bottle opener and using the drawer that holds the dirt as an ice bucket. And for now, I’m using the old door to hang signs and bird houses because that works best in the space but it can be changed out later. The large round table is in the corner of the deck near the potting bench and it can be used for dining or set up as a buffet.

So the current arrangement is the teak bench with the settee on one side and the two wicker chairs and a side table on the other side facing each other. There is a small coffee table in front of the bench and a side table next to the settee. It’s important to have a table near each seat so you can easily set your drink down. The potting bench and red shelf are on either side of the teak bench. I am still working on where to put the chiminea but it will become a focal point once I fill it with outdoor candles.

Plants and the rest of the lighting are still to come but I wanted to share the inspiration and thought process behind creating our backyard retreat. We will keep you posted… in the meantime, happy Spring!

*Note: Flea Market Gardens 2017 also gave me lots of creative ideas for using junktiques outdoors.

Resources: outdoor pillows (Pottery Barn), Apple Green and Espresso Brown spray paint (Ace Hardware), Citron umbrella and stand (Pier 1 Imports), potting bench and outdoor candles (World Market), Flea Market Gardens 2017 magazine (Lowes).


Cottage Living

We renovated our waterman’s cottage a decade ago and since then it has evolved from a beach house filled with hand me downs scored from trash bins, basements and second hand stores into our main residence. We have added family treasures (a walnut sideboard and majolica from my mom, childhood cowboy boots and paintings from his mom) along with colorful furniture from India and some Pottery Barn pieces, all tucked into a 1200 square foot house. It’s cozy and perfect for the two of us.

Cottage style is my favorite decor because it can be coastal, bohemian, modern… or all three combined to create your own eclectic style. It is also small space living, another favorite trend of mine. Every room is lived in and enjoyed, including the outdoor spaces. It is a way of life that celebrates the past but meets your current needs whether you are empty nesters or living by yourself. It should be relaxing and informal.

There are certain elements that embody cottage living. One is hard wood floors. You want floors that can be swept clean of sand and dirt because there is a lot of running in and out. A porch is another key element. Whether screened in or not, a porch needs a few easy chairs and maybe a table for playing cards. A lamp for reading, doing crossword puzzles or knitting and baskets to hold books or yarn. A couch for napping is a bonus but a nice addition. Add in a few house plants and you have created a peaceful retreat inside your own home. Heaven!

Many cottages have eat in kitchens and a wood table (round or a long narrow farmhouse style) plus roomy, comfortable chairs work best. I emphasize comfortable because this is the heart of the home and where you will spend lots of time… whether drinking coffee and chatting with your neighbors or cooking dinner for friends. We also love our open shelving which makes serving and cleaning up a snap. Entertaining in a cottage is about last minute cookouts, cocktails in the garden or Sunday supper with a few good friends.

Beadboard or wainscoting is a common feature on cottage dining room and bathroom walls. We used it as the backsplash in our kitchen and as custom panels on the refrigerator. And we had our porch ceiling bead boarded to give it a more vintage look. It is all painted a clean, crisp white. We also left the ceiling on the main floor open to expose the beams and had them white washed. This is a great way to create the illusion of higher ceilings in a small house.

We like to say we have a small house that lives large… it is open and has good flow from room to room, it is uncluttered and easy to maintain and it nurtures our hearts and souls… what more could you ask for in a home?

Discover Your Style

The layout of a room is determined by a few things: 1) it’s function and; 2) the placement of the furniture. (For more tips, check out the blog post Decor Secrets.) But where do you go from there? The next step is to figure out what you love and how to develop your own unique style.

What ideas appeal to you and what do they have in common?

For many years, I cut out pictures from catalogs and magazines and filed them away and if a specific project came up, I would create an Inspiration Board. Now there is Pinterest where you browse ideas and save them to various boards by category. The advantage is that you can search by what interests you, choose from millions of images and easily save them to one of your boards (i.e. Home Decor, Cottage Living, Entertaining, Feng Shui). Once you see them all together the recurring colors, textures and motifs should pop out.

How is your personality and life style reflected in your home?

Artwork, photography and film can evoke feelings and help you hone in on your personal style. The works of Georgia O’Keefe and Henri Matisse helped me realize my love of vibrant colors. The movie sets in Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated intrigued me because they were so thoughtfully curated to reflect the personalities of the main characters. Utilize that creative thinking in your home and tell your own unique story through artwork and family photos to tchotchkes and treasured mementos.

Where do you get inspiration and how can you re-create it in your home?

There are decorators whose designs speak to me and I study them carefully. Two of my favorites are Mary Emmerling and Kathryn Ireland. Some of their work is featured in the montage above and they share a common vibe… white walls, pops of color, texture and the layering of accessories. In these rooms, I can imagine myself snuggling in with a good book or having an al fresco meal on the patio. That feeling (also called hygge, pronounced HOO-gah) is something I try to emulate in my home. Find those things that give you that warm glow of inner peace and contentment and spread them around.

The beauty of this entire process is that by exploring and discovering the things you like, distinctive themes will naturally emerge. So take the time to figure out what you love and surround yourself with ONLY those things following the wise guidance of Marie Kondo in “the life-changing magic of tidying up” (see the blog post Feng Shui Journey). It’s a philosophy that will always serve you well.

Flea Market Finds

Hollyhocks decor is an eclectic mix of store bought items mixed with vintage finds. Some we inherited from family but it’s also fun to hunt for treasures at flea markets, junk stores or even Etsy. See below for some of our favorite finds.

Wood Benches: you really cannot have too many benches in every size. Use them to hold plants or books or stack them for a one of a kind shelving unit. Place small ones in the bathroom by the sink, medium ones in a guest room to hold folded towels and large ones at the foot of the bed for putting on shoes and socks. They are incredibly functional and the chippier, the better.

Crates and Wire Baskets: they combine functional storage with an aged patina. In the kitchen they can corral cutting boards, utensils and cooking supplies. Crates stood on end can be used as end tables or shelves or they can be stacked to create an entryway system. Wire baskets can be attached to a ladder to create extra storage in any room.

Mason Jars: these are easy to find, relatively cheap and can hold everything from  Q-tips and cotton balls in the bathroom to rice and beans in the kitchen. They can display seashells, sea glass or rocks collected on nature walks. We use them as terrariums and hanging lanterns at the shop and they are charming additions to every style of decor.

Flower Frogs: this is my particular obsession but I think they are super cool. They can be placed in the bottom of vases to hold flowers but they also look great stacked on a table next to a little garden gnome. Use them to hold vintage postcards or black and white photos or your grandma’s favorite recipe card.

Vintage Books: something about a grouping of old books with a similar color scheme makes me smile. Hunt for children’s books, gardening books, poetry books or cookbooks to create a unique collection. Open up to an interesting page, place a magnifying glass on top and set out somewhere to be admired.

Suitcases: if you need a place to store photos or memorabilia, find a few old suitcases and stow them on or under a bench or console table. If space is super tight, stack them up to make an end table. They can store winter hats and scarves in the off season or leave one open in the spare room filled with guest essentials.

We also collect yardsticks, bottles, metal signs and frog figurines. All of these things mixed together adds up to an abode that is lived in and well loved. Welcome to the Hollyhocks home!

Pantone Greenery

Pantone’s 2017 color of the year, Greenery, is one of my favorite colors for two reasons: 1)  it is actually a color found in nature and 2) it adds life and energy to your home. The zesty lime green shade works well with neutrals (black, gray and white) as well as other saturated colors (red, orange and indigo blue).

Below are some ideas on how to incorporate this breath of fresh air color into your surroundings.

Paint Color: Benjamin Moore’s Pear, Stem and Potpourri Green paint colors offer a range of hues from muted to bright. If green walls are too much, try painting the inside of a door or a cabinet, a side table, small bench or even your kitchen chairs for an unexpected pop of color.

Fruits and Vegetables: this is the simplest way to add green to your living space. Place a wooden bowl with bartlett pears or a wicker basket with artichokes on your kitchen table. Add a tiered display or glass vases filled with clementines, limes and lemons for a punch of citrus colors.

Accessories: now this a cool treasure hunt. Go to your favorite junk store, flea market or Home Goods and look for items in vivid green. Teapots, cutting boards and colanders for the kitchen; napkins and candles for the dining room; throws and pillows for the den or bedroom.

Plants/Flowers/Botanicals: plants and leaves, whether real or reproduced, with their spring green tones are perfect (see the blog post Botanical Style). Plus they can be scattered throughout every room of your house and tie together all of the green elements from paint to fruits and vegetables to accessories.

Resources: Benjamin Moore paints (check their store locator but Wallops Island Building Supply carries it locally); teapots, cutting boards, colanders and pillows (Home Goods); wooden bowls, wicker baskets, faux pears and artichokes, napkins, candles, throws and botanical prints (Hollyhocks).

Botanical Style

Botanicals are the perfect way to blend your interior space with the natural world outdoors. Botanical illustrations which depict the color, form and details of the plant species can be found on prints, posters, fabrics, etc. The beauty of botanicals is that they work with a variety of decorating styles from traditional to shabby chic and the gorgeous green hues complement most color schemes.

In the kitchen botanical pictures of fruits and vegetables are a natural fit. Pots of flowers or herbs on the window sill and bowls of fresh fruit enhance the look. Kitchen towels by Michel Designs feature botanical designs and their foaming hand soaps and room sprays have herbaceous scents such as lemon basil and lavender rosemary. Majolica pottery with its plant motifs and vivid colors of cobalt blue, rose, yellow and green works beautifully with botanical style.

On the porch or in the potting shed a botanical poster hung or tacked to the wall is unique and interesting. To enhance the rustic feel in the potting shed, use vintage fruit crates to hold terra cotta pots and gardening tools and Mason jars for storing seed packets, twine and garden markers. On the porch, wicker baskets can hold pillows and blankets and Mason jars can be used to store tealights and matches. A jute string with botanical inspired postcards clothes pinned along its length makes for an adorable garland in either location.

A series of 6-8 botanical prints creates a cohesive grouping in the bedroom, dining room, foyer or living room. If you have blank wall space and a limited budget this is an easy and elegant solution. Add mirrors in varying sizes and candle sconces for a gallery wall effect. To tie it all together, place a tree branch dotted with butterflies in a large vase for a stunning visual. A terrarium with a miniature orchid or moss and toadstools on a side table will further capture the enchanted feeling of bringing the outside in.

Botanicals combined with natural elements is a classic combination and is only limited by your imagination! For more  ideas, read Botanical Style by Selena Lake (see the blog post Hollyhocks Inspiration).

Resources: Michel Designs products, Cavallini postcard tins, mason jars, framed botanical prints, mirrors, candle sconces, tealights, terrarium kits, butterflies and toadstools (Hollyhocks), Botanical  Style book (Amazon).

Decor Secrets

Define the function of every room in your house. When you define the rooms function, there is only one logical way to set it up. If you want the living room to be your main TV room, then the focal point is wherever the TV fits best with the couch and chairs arranged facing it.

Design Tip: a great way to cleverly incorporate a TV into your living room is to hang a gallery wall around it.

By defining the function of each room, it will also ensure that you use them every day. This is what gives your home energy and life! If your sun porch is where you want to read or knit then put a comfy chair and table with a lamp nearby. Then add a small bookshelf or a basketful of colorful yarn and a few plants and you will have created a cozy oasis.

Rooms should serve multiple purposes whenever possible. For example, a guest room can double as an office or den which gives it a feeling of warmth rather than an empty room waiting for someone to show up. I firmly believe there should be multiple napping spots throughout your house… lots of couches and daybeds with fluffy pillows and throws, all ready for an afternoon siesta.

Decorate for the way you live day-to-day. I have a friend who designed her home for entertaining. While that’s all well and good, it didn’t work when she and her husband were there alone which was most of the time! The couch and chairs were oriented away from the TV and it was uncomfortable. We figured out a way to make it work for both purposes by moving the couch and bringing in swivel chairs from another room. A simple fix that didn’t cost a dime!

So make a cup of tea and take a few minutes to think about how you use your house and how it can be the re-arranged to better suit the needs of your family based on the simple concepts laid out above.

Resources: Lamps, baskets, side tables, pillows, throws, Porch Rules sign (Hollyhocks).