Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Composing Photos: Styling to avoid the Tunnel Effect

This is kind of an odd post about composing photos of interiors because it's really the merging of decorating and styling, which I tend to think of as two separate things.  In my mind, decorating means to adorn for what looks good in person and styling means to adorn for what looks good in photos

So let's talk about the tunnel effect.  Where does your eye go when you look at this photo? 

 Does it go to the tunnel?  That's the first thing I see.  And when we take a photo of a room, we don't necessarily want our viewers to find a tunnel and go there.

In this photo the strategically placed basket and the potted grass act to block your eye from going into the tunnel made by the open space under the island. 


Sometimes the object (metal basket) is used to fill the tunnel or dead space -- the place where your eye might go to rest -- because the goal of any good interior stylist or photographer is to get you to look around the entire photo.


It's very possible that the above photos are decorated this way normally, because a good decorator seeks to fill the dead space too sometimes, but I'm going to show you a few photos where I feel that a stylist specifically put something in the "tunnel" to block the eye from going there.

If that cute stool weren't placed exactly there to pinball my eye upward, I'd probably look a lot more closely at the black bed skirt, which in this photo, easily fools the eye into thinking there's dead (and dark) space under the bead.

I've shown the last two photos in my "put something on the floor" post.  I think they're good examples of photo styling to encourage the eye to travel, but also to block the eye from moving into the tunnel and getting stuck there. 

Now for some extra credit.  Who can find the picture that was photo shopped?  I'll be completely honest, I have NO idea why it was done because it seems to be completely contrary to what I've written here!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Good Bones, Great Pieces Giveaway Winner

Congratulations, Kelle Dame!!  You were comment number 35, which was what popped up on

I know you will get so much out of this book, Kelle!  Thanks to all of you who entered.  If you can't stand that you didn't win (me), you can get your hands on a copy of Good Bones, Great Pieces for $20 here.

And huge thank you to Susan and Lauren McGrath, who so generously offered a copy of their for this giveaway.  You all are the best!


Friday, May 25, 2012

Claremont Finders Keepers

My neighbor Wendy I are excited to announce our new online venture -- Claremont Finders Keepers.  We both love to treasure hunt and transform what we find, so now that we have enough inventory, we're ready to share with the world. 

The stuff we're selling runs the gamut from furniture to kitchen accessories.  You'll find lots of styles too -- from rustic and primitive to Hollywood Regency.

So now that we have enough inventory, we'd love it if you visited our new blog, where you'll find before and after pictures of the our creations, including this table, which used to be a homely little thing.

Most of the blog entries also have links to our new Etsy store too.

To visit Claremont Finders Keepers blog, click here.  And keep checking back -- we're working on some really great items that will be finished soon.

Thanks for taking a look and if you are reading from the U.S., have a great Memorial Day weekend!

And don't forget to enter my giveaway of the design book, Good Bones, Great Pieces.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Design Book Giveaway

Who wants this?

Comments for this giveaway are now closed.

Mother/daughter design duo Susan and Lauren McGrath have graciously offered a copy of their new book Good Bones, Great Pieces for a giveaway!

The book details the seven essential pieces of furniture to buy -- furniture that qualifies as a lifetime investment because of its versatility.  Love that idea in this throw away world. 

Perhaps you saw the McGraths recently on Martha Stewart?

Here's what others say about the book:

“A must-read for first-timers and seasoned home decorators.” – Traditional Home

“Chock-full of sound wisdom regarding how to get your money’s worth.” – Country Living

“Their richly illustrated volume provides readers with some of their most seasoned and stunning design tips.” – Lonny

Do you want to read it as much as I do?

How to Enter:

1) Leave a comment.  (One per person please.)
2) Be sure there is some way for me to contact you should you win -- either through your blog or through email.   

You can leave comments until Monday the 28th.  I'll use to pick a winner and announce on the 29th. 

Until then, have a gander at the McGrath's blog, Good Bones, Great Pieces.  I've been following and really enjoy it!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Peek at Parker's Room

After I designed and installed Rachel's entry, she asked me if I would spruce up her son's room.  Parker is almost eight, so in a few years he'll be leaving little boyhood behind.   This space is designed with transition in mind.

Here are a few before pics that Rachel sent to me:

 She wanted to keep the loft bed.

And this red desk in the corner of the room.  Rachel's main request was better storage and organization.

Parker also has a green upholstered chair (which you can just see in the corner of the above pic) that Rachel said we could remove, but I wanted to incorporate it into the design as a place for Parker to escape and read.

This is my main inspiration picture which I picked to incorporate the existing red/green colors of the furniture and wall color, and the wooden textures of the loft bed.


Phase 1 -- The Bed

I added these striped curtains (which I sewed myself!) to the lower section of his loft bed.  Parker also got new red ticking stripe bedding. 

quick iphone pic
Parker does most of his playing on the floor under the bed.

quick iphone pic
Rachel really wanted Parker to be able to see his toys so that he will play with them.  So we moved the stuff from the constantly-falling-apart wire bins next to his desk into these clear containers from Ikea, which I attached to the side of the loft bed next to the wall.  Parker can easily see what's inside, but the toys are hidden from view by the curtains. 

quick iphone pic
The plastic bins rest on cup hooks screwed into the wood.  This allows the plastic bins to be removed so that Parker can play with the contents, clean-up, and (hopefully!) hang the bin back up on the hooks.  I tested the bin-on-cup-hooks strength by putting a container of liquid laundry soap in and leaving it for a week.  It held, no problem.

Phase 2

Tomorrow I am installing Phase 2, which includes more storage for larger items like board games, Transformer stuff, as well as shelves to display P's 3-D projects from school.

Inspired by this way expensive ($118!) large rolling crate from Serena and Lily,

I went in search of and found this huge vintage/industrial crate at one of my favorite local haunts for $20!

Eat your heart out, Serena and Lily!  The rough parts got sanded down and it got a good scrubbing with some soapy bleach water.

Tomorrow it's getting casters added to the bottom.  I spent the afternoon working on something like below for the bottom of the crate.   It's a flexible system to keep the toys separated so they can all be seen.  As the toys change, so does the organization. 

Can't wait to show you pictures after I get all the stuff inside it!  A place for everything and everything in its place.

Phases 3 and 4 will happen in the next two weeks, and then I'll show the finalized room.

Until then, here are my design boards for the space:

To see my Pinterest board for more boy's room ideas, click here.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Real Estate vs. Mag. Pics Part 2

Real Estate Photo

Well technically, this is not a real estate photo.  I back-tracked it to the website of the cabinetry/kitchen design company, but I can tell you it is typical of real estate photos.
  • angled shot 
  • taken at a higher height  (we can see part way into the basket)
  • perhaps a wide angle lens?
  • artificial light
  • decorated, but not styled (see kitchen appliances on counter)

Magazine Photo -- Elle Decor
  • straight shot 
  • taken at lower height (we cannot see into the basket)
  • natural light
  • styled (cutting boards replace appliances, chair is placed next hearth in what we know to be a doorway from the previous photo, different decor above hearth, copper pots replace previous items on the antique bottle drying rack, etc.)
What I'm trying to figure out is the difference in color.  In the first photo, the cabinets appear to be a bluish grey and the walls a cool white.  In the second photo, the cabinets look like a cool white, while the walls appear to be creamy.  I'm guessing the Elle Decor photo is truer to life?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Our Living Room

Our living room ceiling has finally been replaced after being ripped down (leaks) and the whole room got a fresh coat of paint.  I tried switching the living room furniture into the dining room just for fun, but it was a disaster.  So everything went back the way it was.

I took this picture while playing my friend Lane's super-duper fancy camera today.  I would love to have a nice DSLR camera.  Are you reading this, Husband?  Maybe for my birthday?

Anyway the (unstyled) photos make me realize how much I really do need to spend some time working in here again.  A year ago, Emily Clark helped me to come up with some ideas and I've been so busy working on the kitchen and other parts of the house, I've totally neglected the plan.  Here are the two most glaring changes that need to be made:

  • that brick on the fireplace has to be painted over
  • the 80s era burgundy slipcover on the antique upholstered chair in the corner needs some serious updating
My husband's books are pretty important to him, and though I would love to style those bookcases, it's really his one request decorating-wise that the bookcases be for books only -- organized by type and author, of course.  I try to respect that.  I'm actually ok with it.  I kind of like the crazy pattern from so many colorful spines. 

Here's a view of the windows looking out to the street.

Even though there is still work to do, the living room has come a long way from where it started.

Here's a picture of it semi-decorated for Halloween (raven and little pumpkins on the mantel) when we first moved in.  Blech.  A junky mish-mash. 

I didn't even know what a design blog was at the time this photo was taken.  Nor did I know to check my lens for fingerprints, much less how to take a photo of a room.

I'll probably look back at the current pictures in a year or two and say, What was I thinking!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ideas from Blogging Friends

Ashley from Meet Me in Philadelphia spray painted this CB2 lamp gold for a super high-end look.

Elizabeth from Little Black Door used wrapping paper and ribbon to give the look of wall papered panels.

Heather from My Many Moments took a coat of dark grey paint to her white closet and look how it makes her clothes pop!  Looks like a boutique now.

This living room reveal by Lindsay of Ladybird and Fellow is pitch perfect.

You people amaze me!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Design Consulting and Jessica Helgerson

I've had the best time working on three, well four, projects lately.  I'm designing a a little boy's room, consulting on a kitchen facelift, working on inventory for a little vintage/upcycling venture with my neighbor, and gathering ideas for an upcoming photo shoot which I've been asked to style! 

I absolutely love doing all of these things, but it hasn't left as much time to post and visit my blogs. 

I was just going to write a little post to tell you I'm taking a break until Monika, the woman who's getting the kitchen facelift, pinned an interior by Jessica Helgerson onto her project pinboard

So instead of posting to tell you I'm going to take a break, which I might still do soon, I have to post some of Jessica Helgerson's work because I've been meaning to anyway and because there are elements in most of these rooms that relate to Monika's modern/bohemian style.

Black metal windows.

Vivid colors.


High contrast.

Clean, bright white.

(You might recognize the next teensy house from a recent issue of Martha Stewart.)

Warm woods.

Comfortable, casual family living with kid pleasers -- like a loft.


To see more of Jessica Helgerson's work and read more about these houses, you can visit her website here.