Yellow… a lot or just a little

January 10, 2013



Craving a little warmth on this barren January day?


There is always… yellow.



via National Geographic


In its pure clean form, yellow can be overpowering on walls and tricky to work with. But when designers get it right, it can sing.


I love it on the walls of this dining room at  Monticello, balanced by other strong elements (heavy white trim and dark wood furniture and doors). You can read about how this paint color, Ralph Lauren’s ‘Monticello Yellow’, was chosen here:



via Elle Decor


And the designer, Mary Douglas Drysdale, is brilliant at the use of strong yellow on a large scale.



via casart



via the french tangerine


Personally, I love it in very small doses and, like other saturated shades, it can actually be just as powerful used this way.

Take a look.


via houzz



via decor 8



via the style files


via Elle Decor 



source unknown





I hope that warmed you up– a lot, or just a little!

Happy New Year  !





Railing against the “Chair Rail”

November 5, 2012



Well, here in Virginia, the center hall colonial is everywhere.  This architectural style is really quite lovely and the decorative trims found in it, when properly scaled, usually enhance the space.  And I do take a very deep bow (or curtsey) to Mr. Jefferson, whose Monticello (below) is perhaps my favorite house in the world.



via Elle Decor


And there are the historic townhouses I encounter in Old Town, Alexandria and Georgetown where the original trims have been replicated in restorations or are still intact. Those get a total pass.

But, I can’t tell you the number of homes I tour, where trims and moldings do NOT enhance the space. They often make no sense in terms of architectural context or are simply not scaled properly. Trims such as crown, window casings and base are not as noticeable when the scale is off.  But then there is ~chair rail~ .  According to master carpenter,  Brent Hull, “Chair rail is the most misused and abused molding in new houses today.”  Well put, Brent.  In the images below, we see spaces where chair rail works–  usually paired with wainscoting.



Here the proportion feels right, with the wainscoting  grounding the hallway. The color treatment is subtle with contrast (dark floors) and the focus on texture.



And in this beautiful room (below) designed by Katie Rosenfeld,  scale, balance and furniture placement make the high contrast horizontal line work.


via Katie Rosenfeld Design


In this space the trim is hefty and substantial and works to “section” the space.


via Hansen General Contracting


So, trims look fabulous in these spaces.  But what doesn’t work is the flimsy, psuedo-colonial, high-contrast horizontal line which does nothing but distract and draw the eye.


via Houzz



via Flickr


I have, on occasion, suggested that the chair rail be removed.  But another way to make it “go away” is to simply paint it out in the wall color.  The designer Sheila Bridges did this in her own gorgeous Harlem apartment. Notice how the eye goes to the striking mantel, tile surround, furniture and art. The wainscot adds weight and texture without being a distraction.


via NYSD



via NYSD


And here, designer Kay Douglass “disappears” all of the trim except for the mantel. There is no hard and fast rule for painting trim. I have many great examples of trim and walls in the same color on my Pinterest board here.

Just keep in mind that the eye is always is drawn to the area of highest contrast.  It is often best to highlight beautiful trim but not always.


Kay Douglass via Veranda



So… long live the gracious center hall colonial and its decorative moldings… but only when scale and color are right.



via Brooke Gianetti


Reveal: Out-the-back-door

April 20, 2012


I have an “iffy” relationship with my “out-the-back-door” world.  It’s nice.  I’m fortunate enough to live on top of a hill– a really lovely, private and woodsy sloping lot .  My deck is elevated with a treehouse view of towering old oaks and a mature stand of mountain laurel and dogwoods. I’m in Virginia, with an agreeable temperate climate. It is nice — but just some of the time. Which is why I’m not quite sold on the “outdoor living room”  idea. But I’m experimenting with it. : )




First, there is my fickle relationship with the hibiscus plant. In Virginia these would be classified as annuals– showy, exuberant  beauties that are enjoyed during a short summer season. I love them. I buy them every year with high hopes but usually watch them wither and fade away by July.  But I try– so  last week I carted a pair of lovelies off the lot at Home Depot, determined to make them thrive.  Of course, what caught my eye was the gorgeous egg-yolk-yellow color of the blooms (with a brilliant red center)– a new variety. Triple swoon. Perfect.  Form over function every time. : )



A snap after a rain shower today ~perfect~



And by late this afternoon, three blooms had unfurled…shockingly pretty (no, Photoshop not involved)!



So had to capture things at their most perfect because I ‘m guessing the blooms will drop in like 3 days– total peak (MiracleGro -enhanced), including the purple ‘May Night’ salvia that wintered over in its clay pot this year. Color trifecta.



And it’s also time to enjoy my new sunken “living room” on the lower level of the deck… just off the truck from Ballard Designs and unpacked.  LOVING IT so far.  But not sure how it will truly hold up with the onslaught of sticky tree sap, rain and coffee/wine drips. When I first experienced these sorts of outdoor spaces while living in San Diego and Sydney, they seemed so sensuous and indulgent.  Rugs and cushy sofas outdoors? Well it made sense there because this stuff stayed outside year round w/ little rain. We will see. But for now, I’m enjoying morning coffee and evening vino out here.




The colors all came together… a dark green market umbrella, neutral cushions on the furniture, an old outdoor Safavieh rug in an over-scaled red medallion pattern and a pop of color in pillows (World Market).



My girlfriends have christened the new space with Pinot Grigio and gossip.  And the cat approves.  All is colorful, waterproof, blooming and good in my little corner of the world… today.




photo via Mik Caravan



Happy April weekend!



Beverley Hills Beauties

April 16, 2012




Spring has come a few weeks early here in Virginia.  It is the most beautiful time of year in my little hilly and woodsy neighborhood.




Azaleas and dogwoods thrive under old towering oaks that make the soil acid-rich.  The  mature azaleas are often massed together and the pink, coral and red blooms are real show-stoppers.




I had to also snap some of my favorite little Beverley Hills cottages with gardens at their best.








This shady enclave of older homes in Alexandria, Virginia is just north of Old Town, west of Del Ray and  only 15 minutes outside of Washington, D.C.  And we’ve got a stellar “walk score”.


Come take a stroll and get a healthy dose of ~pink~