Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Making the case for wood.

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It is ever so popular to paint over wood with a fresh color like white, or turquoise, or yellow.

Or to paint the wood a nice a soothing grey or a contrast-y black.

And while all of these applications have their place and can make a huge transformation, sometimes it's too much of a good thing if every piece of wood in a room is painted.  For my taste anyway.  (Feel free to disagree, it's what makes decorating interesting!)

When I look at each of these images and imagine the wood painted in any color, it just wouldn't (woodn't?) look as great. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Green Curtains

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Does it fool the eye into thinking one sees green through the window?  If my view was of city streets or buildings, the first thing I would do is hang green curtains.

What do you think?

Green with envy?
or
Green with disgust?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

How to make do with a point-and-shoot.

When it comes to taking pictures of interiors, I wish I knew more about photography, but the fact is that I know squat.  F-stop? What's that? Aperture? You might as well be speaking Greek.

One day I will get a manual camera and take a class, but until then I have to make do with this point-and-shoot:

It's actually a pretty great little point-and-shoot.  But to compensate for my overall picture-taking ignorance, what I do is study professionally shot interiors.

Let's study these pictures of beds.


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What do you notice?

Here's what I see:

1.  The picture is composed so that a little more than half to less than half of the bed is shown in the shot, with a full view of the nightstand.  This speaks to a greater compostion theme, which is leave some of the item out of the frame.  No need to include the entire room, couch, table, or whatever.

2.  More often than not, the picture is taken of the right side of the bed, rather than the left, though there are exceptions as you can see in the last two photos.

3  The shot is taken straight on, not at an angle to the bed, and the photographer makes sure to show the very end of the bed in the shot.

4.  The shot is taken low down.  Go back and look.  In every single shot, I can picture the photographer crouching or kneeling down. (Or more likely, putting the camera low on a tripod --which I do not have.)

5.  Now look at the windows.  Can you see trees or shrubbery or anything out of them?  Nope.  Many professionally shot interiors have blinding light coming through the windows.  In fact, you can barely, if at all, see the mullions.  (In the first picture, which shows no window, there's even a blinding white spot on the covers.)

For us novices, that means taking the picture during the day with the flash off, which I know you probably already know.   And if you have a point-and-shoot and cannot slow the shutter speed (or whatever that thing is called) to allow more time for light to enter the camera, you've got to do the next best thing, which is edit the photo.  I pretty much edit all my photos for exposure using our very simple Windows photo program, but there are lots of free online sites that will allow you to do this.  I just dial up the exposure until the light through the window looks blinding and/or when the photo starts to look too grainy. I know that you professional photographers out there will be aghast at that comment, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

 6.  Last, notice that the lamps are off.  I think we have a tendency to want to turn on the lights because we want more light, or it looks prettier that way in person, or because we see it on HGTV, which is video rather than still photography.  But I challenge you to find professionally shot interiors with the lights on.  They are out there, but they are few and far between.  Having lights on messes with shadows and colors and all kinds of stuff. 

I'm hoping to do more of these "What-I-Notice" posts as I am constantly studying interior photographs to compensate for my novice picture-taking and my non-manual camera.

Ok, your turn.  What do you notice in these pictures?  Do you have point-and-shoot tips, or any photography tips to share?





Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Coat Rack

 Now that back-to-school and Fall are upon us, we'll need places to hang our coats, hats, and bags.   What better place to do this than a coat rack?
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Who else watches TV shows and movies with an eye on the interiors?  We're knee deep in Mad Men now, I recently I've been very distracted by the coat racks in every scene.  Those men needed a place to hang their hats.

Around the same time, I noticed that I had been pinning (Pinterest) a ton of photos with coat racks in them.  A subtle influence from Mad Men?   Who knows.
But think about the coat rack.  It's a functional way to hang many coats, hats, bags and takes up very little space.  And they call to mind so many other lovely items:  trees, chandeliers, a vase of branches...

I'm keeping my eye out for coat racks at thrift shops, antique stores and on Craigslist for our unfinished entry stairwell:



My only worry is that it would so quickly be loaded down with items, it would cease to be attractive!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

I'd love to get your opinion.

Recently, I've been helping my friend, who just moved around the corner, decorate her new place.  It's a Craftsman, like mine, and has some ridiculously wonderful details.

  How'd you like to have this built-in in your breakfast nook?  Yes, please.

And how about this gorgeous, original tile in the bathroom?  I love, love, love the tile. 

Right now, we're focusing on the living room, which is appearing a bit too beige for Heather's taste.
The room color now is like coffee with a healthy (unhealthy?) dose of cream in it.  I suggested painting this room white for more contrast with the beige sofas, which she is keeping along with the rest of the furniture.

The problem is that the room doesn't get a lot of natural light, and Heather is worried that painting it white will only make it appear dingy.  She may have a point.  What do you think?

Here are some more pictures.
I want her to paint the fireplace and insides of the bookshelves white too.  (Isn't the fireplace gorgeous, though?)

Heather has two huge and lovely antique horse prints that will go here.

To the left of the fireplace.

I'd like to see floor length curtains hung wider than the window sill to allow them to be pulled completely off the window.  Because the ceilings are coved, she can't hang the curtains much higher, but I'd like her to take them as high as she can.

Looking back toward the front door.  Heather just picked up from the cleaners one of the most gorgeous oriental rugs I have ever seen, which will anchor this seating.  It has reds and peacock blues in it, and we'll use those colors to find new pillows, throws and other accessories. 

Heather is renting this house. (Paying a mortgage here is more than three times what it costs to rent a comparable place, prompting the NY Times last year to name Oakland the worst of US cities to buy versus rent.)

Because she rents, like me, she can make only a few small cosmetic changes to her house.  The landlords did give permission to paint, however.

So what do you think about paint colors?  Should we go light?  White?  Grey?  Other colors?

More decorating suggestions?

I'd love to get your opinion.  


Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saltillo Tile

Some call it terra cotta.  Others say saltillo.  Having grown up in New Mexico, I prefer the latter.

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This age old tile is earthy.
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It's rustic.

Cottage 52 Foyer & Stair Hall mediterranean entry
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But classic enough to use in traditional interiors.

Cottage 52 Foyer & Stair Hall mediterranean staircase
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It's durable.

Hacienda Kitchen mediterranean kitchen

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A great alternative to hardwoods.
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(I love pattern and color used here.)

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Saltillo is epecially great in the kitchen where it hides dirt like no one's business, although don't drop a plate on it.

This tile is so hard-wearing, you can even use it outdoors.
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Avila Valley Estate mediterranean landscape
I can say all of this with authority because I have lived with it. 

How do you feel about saltillo tile? 
Would you ever use it in your home?