Friday, May 30, 2008

Cozy Cushions

[Photo credit: pillows by Ruth Singer; heart ornaments by LilFishStudios; handbag by Weezi In Canada.]

Did I mention I really love re-purposing? I think I got it from my Mom, aka MacGyver, who I swear has an alternate use for just about anything.

So, this week's idea comes courtesy of Flickr where I came across this great photo pool called 'Made From Recycled Sweaters'. Its members are a group of crafty ladies who upcycle old sweaters into items like soft toys; handbags; hats; and my favorite, throw pillows!

Even if you only sew by hand the sweater cushions look like a doable weekend project. What an awesome way to re-purpose that favorite sweater you inadvertently shrunk in the wash :-) You can even add sweet little touches like the flower applique in the top left photo. So go ahead and pull those old sweaters out of storage you may be in for a sweater surprise!

Have a fantastic weekend!


Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tropical Punch

There's just something about the color, coral. Evocative of a Caribbean getaway, it's an intoxicating mix of red and orange that I liken to a refreshing tropical sipper.

In the urban jungle that is downtown Manhattan, I recently found myself drawn to this sweet, but not saccharine, hue. At Jonathan Adler, a pretty pale-coral sofa was the perfect foil for bold pillows. And my mouth was agape at the gorgeous coral-colored accessories I spied at Emporio Armani. Pack it all to go please! I also made a pit stop (lengthy detour) at Anthropologie. What pretty goodies! Although, many things were priced out of reach, affordable items like the drawer pulls above ($6.00 - $18.00) provided Anthro cache for not a lot of cash.

So, it got me thinking of other ways we could incorporate this great pop of color into our homes.

Below, coral wallpaper makes a dramatic headboard in a bold geometric print. Throw pillows in contrasting, smaller-scaled prints add balance.

[Photo credit: Inside Out]

An oversize painting provides an instant 'pick me up' in this neutral bathroom.

[Photo credit: John Granen]

Below, coral upholstery is the focal point of this outdoor space. Cabana stripes in the same color add a fun yet cohesive touch. Quick tip: if you want to add a shot of coral without the commitment just add flowers. As you can see, even a few posies make an impact.

[Photo credit: Domino]

Over-the-top antler chandeliers make this traditional kitchen memorable while the painted counter-stools help ground the room. For a more modern look, try swapping boxy linen pendants like these beauties from CB2 ($19.95). And in lieu of clear vases, add shapely opaque planters such as these from Target ($14.99 - $24.99) for a bold punctuation point.

[Photo credit: Civility Design]

[Photo credit: left, CB2. Right, Target]

Are you feeling this punchy color too? How would you incorporate coral in your home?


Friday, May 23, 2008

Seeking Simplicity

[Photo credit: Michelle Laine]

I read somewhere, can't remember where, that you can't organize clutter. You can move it around from place to place, but truly, it just has to go.

In our 2-bedroom home decluttering is essential to our sanity and is sometimes the topic of debates as to what exactly constitutes clutter. To my husband, it would be my lovingly curated vases. To me, it would his large, empty sea salt buckets - we have a aquarium. As you may imagine, these things aren't going anywhere soon. So in the meantime, we will turn our focus towards greener pastures.

Right now these items are on our out-box list:
  • outgrown clothing and toys
  • ill-fitting outfits
  • small household items
To jump start the process, I contacted a local charity to schedule a pick-up this weekend. Do I have my bags full and ready to go? No. But I did commit to two bags of items. So now, it puts the onus on me to do just that.

If like me you sometimes feel stuck, a home-organization site like FlyLady is an invaluable guide for steering you through the clutter. With her system, it all starts with keeping your kitchen sink clean and slowly expands from there. She also has great tip sheets like How To Declutter, here.

In any event, creating a organized and serene home won't happen overnight. And in fact, I think it is an ongoing process. But I know that when those two bags leave my home tomorrow I'll be one happy woman.

Have a wonderful Memorial weekend!


Thursday, May 22, 2008

What I'm Loving Now: Slipcovered Sofas

[Photo credit: Pottery Barn]

To me nothing says laidback luxury like a slipcovered sofa. Even if a room boasts other precious pieces, the mere presence of a comfy, slipcovered sofa says, "My home is meant to be lived in and enjoyed. Relax and stay a while." That's a heck of a lot for a couch to say, right? ;-)

[Photo credit: Lisa Romerein, Sunset Magazine. Designer: Michele Adams, MiGi]

Anyway, I absolutely love this type of furniture in crisp white but I don't have the nerve to try it in my own home with two toddlers on the lam. However, I secretly admire those who do. Yes, you always hear that you can just throw a white slipcover in the wash or bleach it if it gets dirty/stained. But I am convinced I'd be doing that everyday! Can someone really spill the beans and tell me that white slipcovers are not as easy as folks claim? Nevertheless, it looks fabu. However, if you're a mere mortal like me, a darker neutral or even a bright hue may be more functional.

[Photo credit: Jean Allsopp, Southern Living]

Color aside, slipcovers are a great way to pull together mismatched furniture or to change the look of your room on a whim. Slipcovers are certainly easier to clean than regular upholstery and cheaper than reupholstering in general. In fact, what makes the pieces I have shown similar to upholstery is that they are customized to fit the shape of the sofa and also feature separate back and seat covers. This creates a tailored fit that is very elegant.

Photo credit:

Custom-made slipcovers are of course more expensive depending on the materials chosen and the complexity i.e. lots of curves vs. a clean-lined silhouette. However, if you are handy with a sewing machine, making slipcovers are a snap. Otherwise, pre-made slipcovers like the ones shown above (natural cotton duck cover, $49.99) and below (merlot cover with box-seat cushion cover, $89.99) are another budget-friendly choice.

[Photo credit:]

Feeling nifty? Click here for this tutorial (found via Apartment Therapy) that explains how to slipcover a reading chair. The directions would actually work for virtually any type of furniture and are quite detailed. So happy sewing!


P.S. I've been working on a slipcovering on my own sofas with the immense help and talent of my sister-in-law who is a sewing wunderkind. I will post before and after photos when it is complete.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Plant Love Part II

Yesterday I posted about saving my plant (thanks for the tips Simone!). Seemed Desire To Inspire also had greenery on the brain yesterday. Here they wrote a great story on decorating with large plants. Check it out!

Photo credit: Paul Whicheloe

Save My Plant!

Does anyone have this lovely plant? My sweet hubby got it for me as a Mother's Day gift. I love it but am at a loss as to how to care for it. According to hubby, it's a lily but he's not exactly sure what type. I thought it might be a peace lily but the pics I've seen online show much smaller plants.

In the interim, this big baby is beginning to look not so perky. As you can see, I haven't re-potted it yet because I was told to wait a little while to let the plant acclimatize to our home environment. However, I have moved it to a more shaded and spacious spot and have watered it once per the plant vendor's instructions. Any other ideas? The bottom leaves are dying and I am worried the upper ones will soon follow. Would love to hear from you green-thumbs out there! Thanks!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Organizational Heaven!

Howdy folks! This weekend's inspiration comes via Apartment Therapy. It's there that I was introduced to and floored by the awesome home of Benita Larsson. In addition to all the gorgeous eye-candy, Benita provided her top 10 tips for staying organized.

Tip #10 - 'Buy white', really resonated with me. According to Larsson, she always buys "day to day supplies in white, no print, no color, just pure white. Paper towels, toilet brush, dish towels, laundry pegs, toilet paper, candles, napkins, the list goes on. White looks clean and fresh and doesn’t draw attention to the boring day to day stuff we all need. Also with white you see when it gets dirty and needs changing."

Truer words were never spoken. In my home we have three white cotton bathmats that we rotate weekly. When I bought them I quickly realized that they served as a true barometer of how clean our floors really were! Using white items around your home forces you to stay 'honest' and keep things nice and clean. So just in case you need a push in that direction white is for you!

Anyway, just look at how white looks so fresh in her home. Not stark at all but really a great neutral palette that minimizes the mundane and makes her pretty things pop! You can read more of Benita's organizing tips and see additional photos of her lovely home here.

Have a fab weekend!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Shady Deal-ings

I don't know about the rest of you, but when I pore over the glossies my eyes immediately hone in on the special touches that make the room. So of course when I espied a Noguchi reverse pod lamp (shown here from Room and Board) in this Domino story, I couldn't get it out of my mind.

I love the Noguchi's organic shape, texture and warm glow. But the $275 price tag - not so much. But the great thing about paper lampshades is that they are available at every price point so you don't need a big wallet to get the big wow factor. So I'll file away the reverse pod for now.

In the meantime, it got me thinking about other affordable options. For example, two of these bedside table lamps from Target ($19.29) would look great flanking a modern bed and setting a romantic mood. While this overhanging lamp from IKEA ($39.99) would be so chic in a reading corner. And although not task-lighting, this orb floor lamp from Homeclick ($80.50), would also look handsome in a living room.

A great idea from Living Etc. is to use a grouping of inexpensive paper lampshades at various heights in lieu of a chandelier. Look at the wonderful impact it has! A couple of these lanterns from Overstock ($29.99) would be a great choice as well.

Pretty*Practical tip: If you have kids in your home, a floor lamp placed in a corner might be the best solution for getting the look you want while avoiding sticky fingers and knocked over lighting. Having a family doesn't mean you have to comprise entirely on style, just making simple adjustments can result in a win-win!

Clockwise from top: Room and Board; IKEA; Homeclick; Target; Overstock; Living Etc.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Look For Less: Canopy Living

Hope everyone had a great weekend, and of course, that all the Moms had a great Mother's Day. Speaking of being a mom, on Friday I got a catalog in the mail for Canopy - the new home furnishings line from Wal-Mart. It was not immediately apparent that Wal-Mart was the producer/vendor so I was initially drawn in by the lifestyle shots and copy that suggested a better life awaited with Canopy. What mom wouldn't fall for alluring words like: "Pets on the sofa, toys in the living room floor and dinner guests arriving any minute - we understand how life works...Relax, it's Canopy." Well, I sure did.

Anyway, the whole look and feel of the catalog suggests that Canopy is Pottery Barn/Crate and Barrel's budget-conscious cousin. While I wasn't crazy about the look of the upholstered furniture pieces (finishing touches like the piping looked a little wonky), I was pleasantly surprised by the wooden furniture items which looked substantial and appeared to be of a nice quality. Prices range from about $130 for an end table to $700 for a king-size sleigh bed. Although my tastes run more modern, I can see Canopy's offerings working well in most homes. Because it's all about the mix, isn't it?

Has anyone seen this new line in person? If you have, what do you think? Is Wal-Mart onto something with a branded lifestyle collection or should it go back to the drawing board? In addition to furniture and upholstery, the Canopy collection also includes bedding, bath and tabletop. You can see more of the Canopy line here.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Quick Fix: Window Dressing

As we head off into another busy weekend, I'd like to introduce Pretty*Practical's first 'Quick Fix' feature. In terms of household projects, I am all about instant gratification, so you'll see plenty of fixes that can be accomplished in a few hours or less.

Today's 'Quick Fix' involves improving the rather uninspiring view of my neighbor's unpainted cement wall. With a $3:00 roll of repositionable film from Ace Hardware in hand, I quickly went to work doing the following:
  • cutting the film to size
  • moving the film around on the glass until I had an even fit
  • running my hand across the film to eliminate bubbles
And voila! Insta-privacy that is pretty and still lets light in. In fact, the windows look as if they were purchased this way.

What projects will you be working on this weekend? If you'd like to showcase your DIY successes you can email your pics and a little commentary about your project to Can't wait to see what you come up with!

In the meantime, have a fab weekend guys!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sweet Storage

I am a fool for cute storage ideas especially ones that involves repurposing. I love this idea found via Sfgirlbybay. It involves using cupcake tins to store jewelry. This system would also be great for housing other small items like your sewing notions or crafting goodies. So clever!

Monday, May 5, 2008

Color Me Happy

I never really appreciated the impact of color on my mood and quality of life until about a year ago a party guest innocently commented, "I really love all of the brown in your place".

This observation came as a surprise to me because I love color. But, it made me look at my surroundings with new eyes. I indeed discovered a heavy dose of brown accents throughout my home such as chocolate curtains; dark African masks; earthy ceramics and sepia-toned art. And truth be told, this color-scheme reflected the way I was feeling at the time - kind of blah.

So I quickly set about changing all that. And now this spring, my home reflects a mood that feels just right - a warm neutral base with pretty pops of color that make my heart sing. Which brings me to my new favorite inspiration.

The May 2008 issue of Domino features actress Julianne Moore's design project for her wardrobe stylist, Leslie Fremar. This makeover perfectly illustrates the power of color to transform a 'brown' space into an inviting home. The muted blue sofa in the living room and the bright lemony yellow curtains in the bedroom are perfectly balanced by crisp white accents and organic touches such as the woven basket used as a stool. You can see more of this lovely home, here .

Do you think the colors in your home impact the way you feel? If so, what ways do you use color to make your home a cozy haven?

Photos: Paul Costello - Domino

Thursday, May 1, 2008

May Day

Hello everyone. This first post is going to be a practical one. I have just put a toddler who refuses to sleep back to bed and must make a midnight deadline. Why today? Because I promised one of my best friends that today would be the day; May 1 is a national (labor) holiday in many countries; and most importantly, another dear friend gave birth today. All in all, it just seemed auspicious ;-)

I promise my next post will focus on the pretty but I must take the first tentative step into blogland. So, here it is. Welcome to Pretty* Practical!