Friday, July 29, 2011

Accessorizing 101: Fireplace Mantel

I had a request from one of my readers, (shout out to Angie!) to post something on how to successfully decorate a fireplace mantel, display family photos, and decorate a wall with high ceilings.  These are really common questions.  One thing I can say about accessorizing is that it takes practice to get it right.  There really isn't a right or wrong way when it comes to design, but there are some guidelines to achieve that look that you see in the magazines.

I thought I would do a series of three posts, starting with the Fireplace Mantel.  First, decide if you are trying to create a look that is formal or casual.  If your mantel is in a sitting room that is rarely used, perhaps you want to go with something that is a little more formal-looking.  If your fireplace is located in the family room, where the kids and guests regularly congregate, you can do something a little more casual.

When I think of formal fireplace arrangements, I think of symmetry.  For example a large statement piece in the center such as a mirror or a large piece of artwork, flanked with candles or  topiaries. I love this fireplace example from Martha Stewart.  It's simple and elegant, and the greenery gives it a touch of asymmetry to an otherwise symmetrical display.

Here are a couple of examples of asymmetrical fireplace mantels from REAL Simple.  I love how unfussy the look becomes.  Both are interesting, and the selection of objects is really artistic.  If you are going for this look, be sure that your accessories have some whimsy to keep it from being too serious.

I used to place everything symmetrical because I wasn't confident in creating an asymmetrical look that worked.  If you practice, you will eventually be able to create a look you love without over-thinking it.  Here are some general guidelines for creating a juxtaposition, or a grouping of objects.

  • Group Similar Objects:  When grouping objects, choose items that share the same color, shape, theme.  This will create a more unified look so that it doesn't appear as clutter.  
  • Rule of Three: There is a theory that three is the magic number when creating a small group of objects.  Things tend to look better in odd numbers - for example, a single stand alone item such as a large framed artwork, or a grouping of three candles or ceramics.
  • Vary the Height of Objects: You can create more interest if you group objects with different heights.  Pairs of objects at the same height can appear monotonous.  If you have smaller objects, try to raise them on a pedestal or stand so they don't get lost.
  • Create Depth: Placing objects in a straight line looks static.  I like to place three objects in a triangle, or place one single object next to two staggered items.
  • Choose a Focal Point: Try to arrange everything around one main object such as a mirror, or artwork.  This will pull everything together.  If you find that you have too many items, you can take away while maintaining a focal point.
  • Edit, Edit, Edit!: You may have to add and subtract several times before you get it right.  Be selective with your accessories, and you will pull together a pleasing arrangement without looking cluttered.
Oh, and one more tip, mirrors are always a popular above a fireplace mantel.  A mirror is a great way to bring more light to a room, and they come in endless sizes and shapes.  If you have high chimney with tall ceilings, you can play up the architecture with a large mirror.  

When displaying a mirror, make sure that the reflection is a pleasing one - you don't want a mirror reflecting a bare wall.  Position a mirror to reflect a gorgeous chandelier, a view to the outdoors, or a pretty floral arrangement. 

My advice is to page through magazines, and books for inspiration and try some of the ideas out on your own.  Here are a couple more that inspire me:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Decorating with Feng Sui

I am dedicating this blog post to my good friend, Lauren.  Today I asked her, "if you were to go on a design blog, what would you be looking for?"  She answered, "furniture layout - how to make the best use of a space, and promote positive energy."  This leads to the discussion of Feng Shui (pronounced Fung-Shway), and we both decided we need to Feng Shui our homes... and our lives...for that matter.

Most people are vaguely familiar with this ancient Chinese study.  But I wanted a dummied-down version, without all the technical jargon.  I went to Barnes & Noble and purchased Feng Shui for Dummies, so I could brush up on my principles, and share with everyone the basic guidelines for decorating with Feng Shui.  It doesn't get much simpler than this, folks!

Before I get to decorating tips, I have to touch on the the fundamental concepts of Feng Shui: yin and yang, and the Three Realms of Influence.  The ancient Chinese determined that the universe was composed of complementary energy principles - yin and yang.  You probably recognize the yin-yang symbol - it looks like two fishes - one black and one white, that interconnect to form a circle.

The yang is the white fish, and it represents the active side of nature - characteristics such as bright, hard, loud.  In contrast, the black fish or yin, represents passivity, silence, receptiveness, darkness and inwardness.  All things contain relative amounts of yin and yang energy.  The ultimate goal is to achieve a balance of yin and yang energy resulting in peace and harmony.

Chinese philosophers assigned three categories into which the yin and yang flowed - heaven, Earth and Human. These are recognized as the Three Realms of Influence. The philosophers studied many generations to discover how the categories could be manipulated to improve fortune, destiny and personal relationships.

These principles are the essence of Feng Shui.  You can achieve a harmonious environment by considering these principles when selecting the layout, color scheme and furniture for you home.
Many facets of interior decorating implore the ancient philosophy of Feng Shui.  You have to know the rules before you can break them!

Here are some basic tips for enhancing your home with Feng Shui principles.

  • In the interior of your home, the position of the bed is the most important aspect.  Create a commanding position in your bedroom by facing the bed as far away from the door as possible.  This asserts control over your space and your life.
  • The position of your master bed should allow the sleeper the largest view possible, as a diminished line of sight can reduce the sleeper's purpose and life vision.
  • You should be able to clearly see the bedroom door from your sleeping position; if you are lying on your back, you should be able to open your eyes, and immediately see the door without repositioning you body. Blocking the view to the door can leave the sleeper on edge.
  • Give careful thought to the quality of your bed, as it is the single most important piece of furniture in your home.  A new bed supports positive energy and vitality.  A used bed (from a previous owner), can create a lack of energy or lead to illness.
  • Seating positions in areas that are primarily used for socializing, such as the living room, should be conducive to conversation.  Try to create seating arrangements that allow groups of two to five people to converse in one area.
  • Avoid placing a major piece of furniture with the back facing the doorway.  Allowing guests a clear view of the doorway will make everyone feel safe and comfortable.  
  • In a home office, the position of the desk is critical.  Create a commanding position with your desk by making sure it is as far from the door as possible.  This gives you more control over your space, and conveys confidence.
  • Do not place the desk in the direct path of the doorway, and do not to have your back against a wall of windows if possible.  This can create some vulnerability, but is still acceptable.
  • Throughout your home, avoid furniture that dominates the space.  This can make less room for you and your energy to flow; it can hold you down and can be depressing.  Downsize large, heavy furniture for space saving solutions.
  • And lastly, cleanliness is next to godliness - a clean home provides you with clean energy to stay happy and healthy.
If you have a challenging floor plan, there are many remedies to the Feng Shui principles listed that can help reverse the negative energy in your home.  I recommend bringing Feng Shui principles to every room you inhabit.  The result is a home that feels as good as it looks. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Debut: Jamie Figari Design Custom Floral

I am excited to share a few of my custom floral arrangements.  I started making arrangements on a fluke.  I have always loved orchids, but am always disappointed by the arrangements at the department stores.  Not only are they usually very artificial looking, they are severely overpriced.  I  would love to fill my house every week with real flower bunches, but it becomes very expensive.

The first arrangement I created was a three-stem orchid planter.  I found the beautiful brass bowl at a vintage store in Austin while shopping with mom.  I fell in love with the bowl right away, and knew exactly what I would do with it when I got it home.  The arrangement turned out so well that I started making a few more, until soon after, my house was full of flowers!  

I love the creative process of making floral arrangements.  I can start out with one idea, but when I start putting something together, it often takes on a new direction.

I have hand-selected each flower to ensure each stem is as realistic as possible. I want people to look two or three times at the flowers to see if they are real. Another aspect that makes my arrangements truly unique is the container.  I scour thrift stores and vintage shops looking for one-of-a-kind vases that can be upcycled into planters for my flowers.  This orchid is perfect example of a thrift store find that has been transformed into a pretty flower pot.

This is a tulip arrangement that I created for a more contemporary look.  I wanted to do something a little different than what you normally would see in a store.  I think this would look lovely on a nightstand in a bedroom, or up against a mirror in an entryway.  The curly willow and the gray pebbles give it a fresh and modern look.  

Please contact me if you are interested in having a custom arrangement made for your home or office, or if you are interested in an item featured in this blog.  Both the single orchid and the tulip arrangement are available, and I can ship anywhere in the U.S. I can create a custom arrangement to suit any decor ranging from traditional to contemporary.  

This is just the beginning.  I am constantly creating new pieces each week, and can't wait to share them with you!