Monday, January 30, 2012

Composing Photos: Real Estate vs. Mag Pics

Before I became a stay-at-home mom, I was a teacher for a little over a decade.  One thing I learned is that you have to be exposed to the same information over and over again before you start to remember it and begin to integrate it into your own thinking.

In that vein, I was thrilled to see that Bryn of Bryn Alexandra had stumbled across a real estate listing for a house which was recently photographed for the House Beautiful article "Jazz it Up!".


Because it is the perfect illustration of so much of what I've been writing about in my series, Composing Photos of Interiors.  Be warned though.  This is a lot of info to take in at one time.  You can see it broken down into smaller, easier to understand bits by clicking on the link for the series. 

So, here is the compare and contrast of the real estate and House Beautiful photos.

real estate photo
  • The picture is taken at a wide angle so that the focal point almost becomes the corner of the room.
  • Lights are on.
  • Homeowners things (cookbooks etc.) appear to be left in place.
  • No styling on the table.
  • Stools are centered on table legs.

House Beautiful photo
  • Photo is taken close to the subject at a 90 degree angle.
  • Lights are off and the exposure makes it look as if blinding light is coming through the windows reflected in the mirror.
  • The styling brings movement of the eye to the photo.  The eye moves in a C pattern from the pendant light to the vase of flowers, which is placed off center, to the stools. Notice that the stools have not been centered around the table legs. So overall, a bit of asymmetry has been introduced.
  • The homeower's cookbooks have been moved to the left of the photo which counterbalances the wooden bowl on the right.  This reinforces symmetry, yet not in a rigid, identical way.
  • A story is being told with the styling:  Everyone is about to sit down to lemonade in the kitchen. 

real estate photo
  • Again, the photo is taken at a wide angle so that we see the corner of the room.
  • Photo is taken at the height of the photographer's head as evidenced by the amount of table top we can see.
  • We see a large expanse of the ceiling and the light is on.
  • Chairs are perfectly tucked into the table.  We see the back of the chair closest to us.
  • No styling on the table top.

House Beautiful photo
  • The photo is taken low -- almost as if the photographer, and by proxy you, is sitting enjoying a view of the room.
  • This is a tight shot taken close to the dining room table.  We do not get a full view of the chairs, and curiously, not of the mirrors either.  Nor do we see the left window which is shedding natural light into the room.  The light is off.
  • The chair closest to us has been pulled out and angled slightly so that we can see the pedestal of the table.  Also notice that there are five chairs in this shot, not the eight we see in the above photo.
  • Obviously, the table has been styled.  The flower arrangement does sit dead center, which is unusual in styled photos of round tables.  I think that is because the table has been arranged to tell a specific story.  What is the story?

It should be noted that the real estate photos are not unprofessional.  They simply serve a very different function.  The real estate photos are taken at a wide angle to show the potential buyer as much of the room as possible.  The lights are left on to show where they are located, etc.

However, I'm not sure that the real estate photos flatter or highlight the work of the designer
in the best possible way.

 If you were Lindsey Coral Harper, the interior designer responsible for this amazing work,  which photos would you use for your portfolio?  

How about you? Are you highlighting your work in the best possible way? Goodness knows that I am not, and I may never take a picture again for fear that I'll disappoint you! 

A huge thanks to Steve of An Urban Cottage and Traci of Traci Zeller Designs, who have generously directed their readers for these kinds of posts.

 To see more of House Beautiful photographer Ngoc Minh Ngo's work, go here.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Friday Flower School: How to make a hand-tied bouquet.

A hand-tied bouquet is simply a bouquet of flowers made in the hand, rather than arranged in a vase.

Here's how to make one:

I used three small bouquets of tulips (buy them closed and they'll last longer), scissors, and

pearl headed pins

All of the above are available at craft stores.

Step 1
Remove all but one leaf on each tulip stem and set aside on the plastic you've opened up to keep your work surface clean.

 Then give your stems a good rinse to remove all the dirt and sand.

Step 2
Using your non-dominant hand (my left) add one stem at a time so that the flower heads are all even with one another, but...

the bottom of the stems are not.  Some will be shorter, some longer.  That's ok, because you're going to whack off the longer stems to even it all up later.

Step 4
Continue adding stems until you are holding them all.  Notice that my left hand acts as a vase.  I can literally arrange the flowers in my hand by loosening my grip and pulling them out, tucking them in, etc.

Step 5
This is a trick I like to use with bunches of long-stemmed, single kinds of flowers. Grab both ends of the stems and twist like you are wringing a wet cloth out.  Only do it gently.  It will exaggerate the umbrella effect you are going for at the top of the bouquet.

Step 6

Secure the stems with floral tape, stretching the tape as you go.  Tulips are one of the few flowers that continue to grow after they are cut, so I try not to bind them too tightly.  Normally, I would bind the bouquet very tightly.

Step 7
Cover the tape with a length of ribbon, folding the cut edge under.  The waxiness of the floral tape helps to keep even satin ribbon from slipping.

Step 8
Secure with a pearl-headed pin by pushing the pin at an angle directly down into the stems.

Trim the stems at an angle (for placing in water).

But first,
Florists like to pride themselves on their ability to stand their hand-tied bouquet up after making it.  If you can, it is balanced and that twist effect did its job.

You can place the stems in a small amount of water to keep them alive -- and if you plan to transport them, this is a great way to do so without getting the ribbon wet.

One last picture of my work station in the dining room, just because it turned out to be kind of a pretty mess.   And you can see, the different materials I experimented with before settling on a hand-tied bouquet.

A few things about tulips:

1)  Because tulips continue to grow after they are cut, don't try to arrange them perfectly.  They'll turn toward the sun and do all kinds of things you don't want them to do.  That's the beauty of the tulip.  She's wily.  She's got a mind of her own.
2)  Flowers that originate from bulbs prefer to sit in a small amount of water rather than a full vase, unlike roses and hydrangeas, which drink through their stems and petals.  Just be sure to watch the water level and change it daily to keep them fresher for longer.

To read more tips for arranging flowers see my Flower Arranging tab at the top of this page.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Decorating the Kitchen

This is a follow-up to my post,  "A little decorating is all it takes", about decorating a plain/ho-hum kitchen to make it look much better than average.

I would be remiss not to include the kitchen from An Urban Cottage because while Steve did a bit more work than simply adding decoration, he did not completely overhaul the kitchen, and the results are still pretty incredible.



Here is what Steve did to the space:

  • Painted walls, cabinets, and the tile (yes, he painted the tile)
  • Installed inexpensive stock oak cabinets (which he painted) to either side of the stove with butcher block counter on the top
  • Added shelves above the stove
  • Purchased a vintage work table for an island
  • Put up bamboo blinds on the windows
The accessories really make the space, and my absolute favorite part of the transformation is the perfectly sized mirror over the sink.  I wrote about using mirrors in kitchens here.

 And speaking of kitchens, I realized that though it has been months and months since I painted our rental kitchen, I never have shown pictures of the hardware installed.


After cabinets were painted.

After cabinets pulls were installed.
Apologies for the grainy pictures -- the light was bad.

The point of this post?  You don't need a ton of cash, a contractor, and months of renovation to make your kitchen look better if you are unhappy with it.  All it might need is a little decorating.

But, you know, I wouldn't mind a gorgeous Wolf range and hood, some subway tile, pretty pendants, an island...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Flowers inspired by interiors.



Since I love interior design and floral design, I thought I'd create this little hand-tied bouquet based on interiors (two look-alikes) that I've been drawn to recently.  

Both have a light-hearted, springtime feel -- which appeals to me this time of year!  While the colors are not an exact match, both the interiors and the bouquet use a complementary palette of green and red/pink with touches of yellow and stripes.  

Also, I unintentionally mimicked the shape of archway in both interiors with the overall shape of the bouquet.  A happy oops.

I'll be posting a tutorial for this hand-tied bouquet on Friday for a momentary/non-growing season return of Flower School.

In the meantime, 
I'm linking to Small But Charming's 

Friday, January 20, 2012

A little decorating is all it takes.


When I first looked this photo of a kitchen, I thought, Wow, this is awesome.  I LOVE this kitchen. 

And then I inspected it closer to find that the cabinets are probably from the 50s, the appliances are all your standard white, that's no fancy-schmancy counter top, and I'm betting the floor is vinyl made to look like tile.

Goes to show how far good decorating can take you.  

The focal point made from a vintage photo and perfectly hung copper pots really draws the focus away from the everyday materials.  And the useful but beautiful accessories on the counter tops don't hurt either.  (How cute is that teensy stool on the left counter?)

Update:  Several people have commented about the wine bottles on the floor.  I can't be sure, but I'm betting that's the photo stylist's trick to draw the eye to the floor.  I think a basket would have been a better choice there.  To read more about how stylists decorate to move the eye around a photo, click here.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stella and Dot Giveaway

 Heather, a Stella and Dot Stylist and author of My Many Moments blog, is offering 
these gorgeous earrings for a giveaway.

They're called Marchesa Studs and are from the new Stella and Dot spring line.

Here are some other pieces from the line that I LOOOOVE.

Pyramid Double Wrap Bracelet

Compari Necklace

Here's the kicker.

Heather and her husband Matt are currently raising money to help them adopt a little boy from Ethiopia who will soon fill these shoes. 

Any proceeds from the sale of jewelry through her page will go toward that end. 

To Enter the Giveaway:

1) Place an order for a piece of Stella and Dot jewelry here.

2) Or, leave a comment on My Many Moments telling Heather you've become a follower or are already following.  Just be sure to leave contact info in case you win.

What a great way to find out more about Heather and Matt's adoption journey and keep updated on new pieces added to the Stella and Dot line.  Plus, if you enjoy The Vintique Object, I think you'll love My Many Moments.  Heather is a design kindred spirit of mine.

Good luck!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bathroom Vanity Organization

This is the only bathroom in our 1920's rental.  It serves our family of four and thankfully my girls are not old enough to want/need/know about brushes and curling irons and make-up because we'd have no room to store it.

The vanity is the only storage in the bathroom other than the medicine cabinet and though the drawers are in good shape organizationally, the under sink cabinet was a mess.
As you can well see.

Yes, those are paint bottles at the bottom right.  They're a mix of  non-toxic Crayola paint and baby shampoo for finger painting in the bathtub.

For the kids.  Not for me.

This is everything shown in the previous picture (minus an empty box of baby wipes) reorganized with the help of a new $5 wire shelf and some tupperware.   Wondering what's in the paint bucket?

It acts as a handy tote/organizer for cleaning supplies and can be used to catch water in case there's leak.  Which there was once. I use these paint buckets under the sink in the kitchen too for cleaning supplies and recycling.  And for toy storage in the playroom.  Please excuse the stained microfiber cloth.  It's had hard life.  

Also, I am now noticing the bits and crumbs on the floor of the tile.  What can I say?  My three-year-old twins walk around the house shedding stuck-on food from their hands, clothes, hair... 

(Sure, blame it on the kids.)

I screwed cup hooks into the top of the door (where the wood is thicker) to hang this "As Seen on TV' purse organizer I got suckered into buying at the local drugstore.  It didn't fit in my diaper bag (for the kids, not for me), but works perfectly to store my hairdryer and brushes.  You can even adjust the length of strings. 

This is no earth-shattering post about organizing.  I mean, it's nothing close to this:

At one time, I used to make myself crazy trying to organize things beautifully like Martha.  No, no I can't buy that neon orange toothbrush!  It won't look pretty in my medicine cabinet.

Look, we can sometimes be organized without being pretty in the yucky, dank and hidden places like under-the-sink cabinets.  Can't we?

I have too many areas of the house which need my attention and are not hidden from view.  So I'm focusing my decorative attention on the parts that can be seen.  

Next up in this bathroom, order a pair of extra-long shower curtains to draw the eye up.  Will black suck too much light out of the room?

Linking up to:

Cottage & Vine

...where I know I'll find TONS of organizing inspiration and clever tips to get going on the rest of the know, for when I get to it!

Friday, January 13, 2012

January Brunch

Does this table not say January brunch to you?  

So fresh and simple.

This weekend it's our turn to host a monthly brunch with our neighbors.
 Grapefruit halves will be on the menu for sure, along with quiche which is probably one of my favorite foods on this earth.  And maybe some roasted rosemary potatoes.

I wonder if I can find some striped runners like these before the brunch?

Speaking of runners, did anyone see the House and Home TV table runner made from brown kraft paper?  If you didn't, be sure to watch because I bet you'd also love he modern country kitchen featured before the table runner DIY.   It's a stunner.

I wish House and Home (which is quickly becoming my favorite mag) would publish photos to go with their TV episodes so I can pin them!  Is there some hidden cache I don't know about? 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Opposite of Pink

In my last post, about the color pink, there were a number of folks who commented that they love it.  But there were a few dissenters too.  

I love honest opinions.

And I aim to please, so this post is for the dissenters.






Every single one of these photos feels very masculine to me, whether they use a dose of navy, orange, or brown.

And actually, let's talk about brown for a minute.  I am also loving brown lately, despite the overall demise of chocolate in interior design.

  It feels so fresh when paired with bright white and strong black.  Go back and see what you think.  

Barbara from Hodge Podge, this post is dedicated to you.