Monday, April 30, 2012

Playing with Photo Composition

Today, I want to show you two photos of a desk that my neighbor Lane at Urban Orchard Interiors just refinished. 

One is very good, the other is fantastic, in my opinion.

Want to guess which I liked better?  Which is your favorite?

Photo No. 1

Photo No. 2

They're awfully similar, right?

Both photos were taken low to the ground and straight on at a 90 degree angle to the desk.  Notice the that camera is perfectly level too,  I haven't discussed this yet, but I think it's vital to keep your camera level when taking a picture of an interior. 

Lane nailed the styling here too.  She's got the chair slightly pulled out, the pillow faces more of the viewer than it does the wall.  Both the chair and the basket help to draw the eye to the floor.

I also really like how she arranged the items on top of the desk.   The tallest piece is the lamp, which is is diagonal to the taller item on the floor -- the chair.   And the shape of the bird cage is similar to the diagonal basket.  This criss-cross creates nice balance.

There's a little story to be told with the styling here too. What story do you get out of it?

Are you waiting to find out which is my favorite of the two photos?

It's this one.

I just really like this tighter shot.  It is slightly off-center which almost gives it a more mysterious quality.  I love that you can't see the entire chair.  We also don't see the tops of the curtains or the picture to the right of the desk, which is a bit counter-intuitive to me since I've written so much about composing to draw the eye around the photo.

I also just really love how we see the light playing off the vintage typewriter and the book pages in this tighter shot.

The lesson I've learned from Lane is to take the same photo closer in and then back up a bit.  

Like all opinions, mine is subjective.   Do you prefer the tighter shot, or the one that gives a larger sense of the room?

(Want to see more photos of the beautiful refinishing job?  Click here.)

To see more posts about composing photos of interiors, click here.  

Friday, April 27, 2012

Fun blog and great rugs!

I hope you'll excuse me if I'm late to the party, but have you seen the blog  

Suzanne and Lauren McGrath

 This mother/daughter duo with great design credentials has come up with a brilliant idea for a blog.  Together they chose great pieces of furniture with good bones -- classic enough to always be in style, and here's the kicker, versatile.  Meaning the the furniture item they recommend can be moved from room to room and apartment to house to house and used in so many different ways.

Take this love seat which was the perfect fit for Lauren's first small apartment.  The investment in this Mitchell Gold piece is one that will last a lifetime because when Lauren moves, it can later be put at the foot of a bed, in a breakfast nook, sunroom, or even a foyer.

How smart is that?  I want to know why I didn't have the good sense to buy a quality loveseat when I was in my early twenties.  Because off the top of my head, I can name three spots in my place where a loveseat would work.

The two also have a book coming out soon with the same name, Good Bones, Great Pieces, which you can pre-order on Amazon.    You can bet it's on my reading list.

It was also through reading their blog that I came across these gorgeous, inexpensive rugs from Urban Outfitters.

Sorry for the poor quality pictures.  This is the best I could do from their website, but you should go there for better photos.  Anyway, the price is $74 for a 5x7 rug (the only size).  Not bad a bad price for a great looking rug.

{Click on photos for sources}

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Curb Appeal, Pleather, and a Big Mess

I want to give a shout-out to my baby sister.  When I was visiting New Mexico last week, I was so impressed with her DIY curb appeal skills.



She made the gate out of a wooden door she sawed in half.  Then she attached some 1x6s to get the correct width.  Isn't that clever?
To see how she did it, click here.

In other news, the painters have been diligently scraping the crusty and peeling paint from all the exterior windows on our building in preparation for the newly painted trim.
I'll be sure to post pictures of that when finished.

We also now have a newly installed back door sans the finger-sized hole!

And they've torn down the entire ceiling in our living room.  Which made the dining room look like this:

 No place to eat, no place to sit.

Even with the colossal mess, it immediately felt right to have the couch in here.  Even my husband remarked that it seemed cozier, so I think I'm going to try a little living room/dining room switcheroo and see how it goes.

And finally, when I temporarily upholstered the top of our antique coffee table with faux leather (pleather) to protect it from my little ones, I had no idea how durable it would be.  This stuff gets a daily beating from grubby fingers, ballpoint pens, crayons, and spilled snacks.

It wipes right up with some water and a microfiber cloth.  It's really kind of amazing stuff.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Absence and Trim

Please excuse my absence.  I just spent five (kid free!!) days in Albuquerque for my sister's baby shower.  It's her first and I'm so excited to become an auntie for the first time!

Since I've been gone, our landlords have started what will be some pretty extensive work on our building in California.  The first thing they're doing is having the trim painted!  
Of course, I asked if I could pick the trim color.  I spent weeks driving and walking around the neighborhood looking for good trim examples and taking pictures.  If you read this blog, I bet you won't think me too crazy for doing such a thing.

This was the inspiration picture I found online and sent to the landlords.

 Our 1920s duplex is about this shade of grey.  While I love the green trim, I felt it would be a bit much, but I do love the way the outer trim is painted white while the inner window casing/sashes are a darker shade.  You see that a lot on houses in our Craftsman era neighborhood.

The day before the painters were set to come, I was told I could pick the trim colors.  So with the help of my friend Lane from Urban Orchard Interiors, who knows a lot about the history and architecture of our shared neighborhood, and who endured about three million emails from me, we agreed on the trim colors. 

We picked the upper warm white sample and the lower dark grey/blue sample.

Here's a picture further back painted on the back door.  You can see that the trim is currently painted a shade almost identical to the stucco.  The new trim color is going to make a huge difference. 

I painted the samples on the back door because it is going to be replaced.  People who haven't visited us and have seen pictures of my house on the blog don't believe it's in bad shape.  Photos have a great way of showing the good bones, but disguising the shabby finishes.

When the contractor came over to inspect the place (due to a major leak in the roof) he took a look at the back door and said, "That door looks rotten."  With the landlord standing there, he bent down to push on the lower panel and stuck his entire finger through it! 

I think that made an impression on the landlord.    Hence all the work that's going into this place.
If you look closely, you can see how badly the trim needs repainting.  It's awful. 

But, we're getting a good deal on rent in a really great neighborhood, with landlords who are kind enough to let me do what I like with the place.  It enables us to save money for a down payment on a house, which in the Bay Area is no small sum.  And I can practice my home improvement skills before we actually own, so in the end, it will all be worth it.  At least that's what I tell myself! 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Photo Styling for Point-of-View

Both of these photos of were taken in the stunning home of interior designer Grank K. Gibson, who lives just across the Bay from me, and who I admire immensely!

While they were both taken from the same area in the room, we see two very different pictures, don't we?

The purpose of the first photo is to get a view of that entire side of the room.  While I normally prefer a 90 degree angle, using a slight angle is a good way to capture a larger part of a room.   Also notice that the photo is taken at a height higher than the second.

The purpose of the second photo is to get a shot of the little writing desk and large oil painting.  The photo is taken low (right at table height) and at a 90 degree angle to the subject -- it's that studied gaze which I've written about before.    A chair is placed slightly askew.  The placement of the rug has changed.  It's almost as if the zebra tail is pointing to the desk as if to say, "Look at this!"

But what makes this comparison of photos really interesting to me is how the entire skirted console and framed picture from the first photo have been removed for the second.

The lesson to be learned here is that photo styling sometimes involves removal of objects, even furniture, depending on point-of-view.

Have fun looking for other differences between the photos.  There are a lot more! 

Monday, April 16, 2012

Look Alikes IX

 {click on photos for sources}

Same bathroom, two ways.  

I've had the first pinned for months and just came across the second on Pinterest.

After a bit of digging,  I found out that both photos originated with Martha Stewart mag.
The bathroom is from the NYC loft of  (now? then?) Deputy Decorating Editor, Rebecca Robertson.

Obviously, the decorating/styling is very different, but I'm wondering the photographer is the same?  Notice that the photo was taken just above the level of the faucet handle in both.  In other words, lower than eye level.

Which version do you like better?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Kitchens: Decorating (and Photo Styling!) to Distract

Recently, I've been helping fellow design blogger and antique lover, Jacqueline from Tokyo Jinja to come up with some ideas for the dated kitchen in her recently purchased stateside beach house she visits from Tokyo each summer. 

Eventually it will be gutted, but in the meantime, the name of the game could be decorating to distract.

Here are a few plain or dated kitchens (some belonging to famous designers) that have been decorated to distract.  Let's take a look.

Sarah Tuttle's apartment kitchen.  With all that saturated blue and the strategically placed moss ball, mirror, and blue china lamp, you practically don't notice the faux wood laminate counters and plain cabinets. 

This kitchen has those oft-despised 70s era laminate cabinets with wood trim.  But when you are faced with a huge chalkboard wall, fork decal, and chandelier, it's easy to overlook them.

I spy more faux wood laminate and a sink and faucet reminiscent of my own.  But with the zebra pattern hallway and shiny black cabinetry, the counter tops and standard issue stove are easy to miss.

Same goes for Michael Penney's apartment kitchen. (Love him!)  There is lots of brilliant decorating to distract here, from the wallpapered wall, to the light fixture, to doors taken off the upper cabinets, to the baskets above the counter tops.  Even the dark trim on the window keeps your attention away from standard issue counter tops, appliances, and cabinets (which by the way were those 70s era wood trim cabinets before he painted them).

At first glance, you see this kitchen and think, Whoa!  Chic!  The Moroccan rugs, fancy stools, chandelier and counter top styling all say look at me!!  But again, this is a fairly standard kitchen with some upgrades. 

I recognize those cabinets, hinges and stove hood! They're the same as my own in my 80's era rental kitchen.  Here, a sweet little frame has been put directly onto a cabinet door, and most of the focus goes to the beautiful (and newly? installed) butcher block counters, sink, and window with glass shelves.  The hot pink flowers in the sink take it to the next level.  I love it when stylists put flowers in the sink.

In my kitchen, I chose cream paint for the upper cabinets to help hide the fact that the almond stove hood does not match other white appliances.  If I had chosen to do cream lower cabinets, the white appliances would have stuck out like a sore thumb.  The mix of finishes helps to distract too.

The above is no standard issue kitchen.  It is stunning.  But I think that mismatched stool has been intentionally placed in front of the dishwasher to distract from the black hole it creates in the photo.  We are meant to see the fireplace and beautiful windows instead.

Again, old-school cabinets (notice the painted over hinges) and laminate counter tops with standard over-mount sink.  But with all of the amazing decorating (picture frames and sconces) and styling (flowers, flowers, flowers), you'd never notice at all.  

Hear that, Jacqueline?  Just keep an abundance of flowers on your counter at all times.  No one will ever notice the rest!  ;)

{I'm trying something new today.  Click on photos for sources.}

Oh, and one last thing.  According to my sources (thanks, Rachel), this basket from my previous two posts has been marked down from $40 to $25. 

Go get you one.

Monday, April 9, 2012

My First Client!

Recently, a member of the local twins club put up a message on our forum asking for advice.

With three school-aged kids, Rachel was desperate to do something about her entry:

She had just been to an education store outlet and talked herself out of buying storage lockers like these.  They were on deep discount for $300.

I emailed to tell her I could create the same amount of storage, but nicer looking and for less money.
So she took me on!







The entire makeover cost a total of $210.  Which is a nice savings over the coat lockers Rachel was going to originally buy.

The console/storage unit on this wall cost at total of $55.
Just this side alone would cost about $55 to build.  That's $15 for each shelf unit from Home Depot and $10 for the 12x8 board I had cut to fit and stained with some leftover stain.

Each child gets their own shelf unit and large basket.  There is one extra shelf unit that the whole family can use for overflow.

 We reused the hooks from the original configuration and mounted them on the side of the shelf units for the same function as the coat lockers.

The huge baskets from Target ($40) are a really an important part of the design.

My twins aren't school age, but I was a teacher before they came along, so I know that it takes a lot of effort to get kids to hang things up.  The baskets are sturdy and large enough to hold balls, backpacks, extra coats, shoes, lunch boxes etc.   

The kids can come home and dump their belongings in the baskets, which will keep things off the floor (see the before) and contain the mess.

I have to give credit to Lane at Urban Orchard Interiors for the basket idea.  She keeps large baskets in her entry for each of her three children.  

 The shelf acts as a console for pretty things and more storage.

 I found the mirror for the $30 at a local junk shop, which I thought was a good price for such a large size.  It looked like this before I painted it with leftover navy blue paint: 

$30 junk shop mirror, pre-makeover.

Rachel's older son is thrilled to have his own area across from his little sisters.

  Since he is so much taller than the twins,  we mounted his hooks on a 1x4 scrap wood which I painted with leftover paint. His scooter folds up and will fit inside the basket too.  These baskets will hold anything!

DIY chalkboard from a dollar bin magnetic list pad.
 On of my favorite things is this DIY chalkboard.  It is made from the cardboard backing of one of those magnetic grocery list pads you pick up in the dollar bin.  I just took the paper off the pad, painted it with chalkboard paint, and added ribbon.

This previously unused area became a place for the adults to put their things. 

Like so many in the Bay Area, Rachel and her family rent their house.  This configuration allows everything to be easily be dismantled and used in a different way if they move.  The shelf units can be stacked and put into closets and the baskets can be used anywhere in a new house.

 Rachel got more storage and organization than she would have had she bought the storage lockers, and for less money spent.  Now she and her family are greeted by an attractive, user-friendly space when they walk into the house!

To see the Pinterest board I created for Rachel's entry with direct links to some of the sources and other ideas I gathered, click here.

And if you are local to the Bay Area, check out Lori Fuller Photography, the talent behind the gorgeous black and white photos of the kids you see in these pictures.