Collect the Beauty
I recently visited Harry’s Beach House on Alki Beach in West Seattle. It was an unusually sunny and clear day for mid-February which made everything in the light and airy café stand out beautifully. I’ve been to Harry’s quite a few times but there was something about the sun and the view of the restaurant interior from where I was seated that really impressed and inspired me this time.
The décor is a combination between beachy and cabinlike with some old school touches thrown in. One side of the bar has this fabulous handmade tile that I could sit and study for hours. Heavy wood furniture and a rustic fireplace combined with the light and buoyant wicker light fixtures provides an appealing balance. The space itself is open and airy with lots of windows, thankfully lacking blinds or treatments of any kind, allowing the light to flood in and the incredible views of Alki Beach and downtown Seattle to steal the show.
I love the gallery wall of old school nautical artwork, which adds a kind of heaviness juxtaposed to the white walls and neutral fixtures. There is so much to look at, yet the space still feels uncluttered and breezy.
When trying to define a style or look for your home, you need not limit yourself to home décor. Finding and collecting inspiration from restaurants, hotels, public spaces and even naturescapes is a great way to define your style. Anything that speaks to you and captivates your attention can be inspiration for your home. Consider creating an album in your phone of design inspiration photos. Even if you’re not sure why or where you would use something, the fact that you love it and were caught by it is enough to make it worth saving.
At Housewarming, we love when our clients come in with any kind of inspiration that can help us to help them determine their style. Even if you think you don’t “know your style”, anything you like can be a tool to define the look that will bring you the greatest joy and comfort. Some of our clients have shown us a piece of artwork that they love or some wallpaper they’ve picked out, a piece of fabric, photos of places, even just a few colors that are appealing to them. Personally, I have been inspired by outdoor murals and public art, and colors and textures found in nature on my travels, as well as in my own backyard.
Whether you’re going about your day in your neighborhood or perhaps wandering the globe, keep an eye out for the things that captivate your attention, and collect them. Wouldn’t it be lovely to have an album of images that you find inspiring and beautiful?
Collect the beauty! It may be the style definer that you need to create your perfect space, or it just may be a beautiful place to browse for a few minutes when you need to feed your soul.
Welcome to our new blog series Nuts & Bolts. This series is geared toward our contractor clients and vendors but, of course, open to all who wish to learn how we work with our industry partners and what makes us an expert in our field.
Relationships are everything to us at Housewarming. We are, of course, in the interior design business but first and foremost, we are in the relationship business. We value the relationships we have with one another internally on our team, with our clients and certainly with our partners with whom we work regularly. Our general contractor and subcontractors are an integral part of who we are. We recognize that when we are brought in to assist with a client that we are like an extension of their company. We are representing our organization as well as the contractor’s organization. We do not take this lightly.
In an effort to continuously improve our internal team’s working relationships with one another, we recently all took a DISC Profile test https://www.discprofile.com/what-is-disc and shared our results with each other. The purpose of this is so we can better understand how to communicate most effectively with one another. We learned which of us tend to be big picture thinkers and who tend to prefer to study the data and analyze situations before acting on it. It is so great to have a combination of both within our team. And it’s even more important for us to understand each other and know that certain communication styles may not always be right for all of our team members. We respect that about each other and are doing our best to honor it all times.
In a similar way, we take the time to get to know our business partners. We want to know how it’s best to communicate with them and their teams. Are regular weekly meetings the best way to stay in touch? Are email status reports a better solution? Whatever it is, we are happy to accommodate and adapt our systems to work with and within theirs.
With several of our contractor partners, we sit in on their weekly production meetings so we can address in real time the status of
the projects that we are actively engaged with. We are given access to some of their online project tracking tools so we can provide real time status and schedule updates.
The more we can stay in step and in communication with our partners, the better it is for each of us and in turn for our clients. We strive to communicate effectively and professionally with one another and with all of our clients, partners and vendors. We choose relationships first and take the time to get to know the people with whom we work.
If you’d like to learn more about how we at Housewarming work with our general contractor partners, please contact us firstname.lastname@example.org or 206-719-1662. We’d love to get to know you better and/or meet you and learn about your organization and what’s important to you and your team. Our office is located in Georgetown next door to the Seattle Design Center. We’d love to host you for a visit but we’d also be happy to come to you. We look forward to seeing you soon!
Cheers to nurturing our relationships and creating new ones in 2024.
Laramie, Wyoming: Next Time I’ll Be Driving a Truck
Travel and design are two of my favorite things. I recently went on an incredible journey across the United States. I visited 19 states and drove 9000 miles (actually 8999) in a month. Along the way, I had a lot of time to think especially while driving through places like Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas. My son used to travel through those states when he was playing sports in college in Boulder. He aptly described Eastern Colorado “as more Kansas than Kansas” and he added that “the only thing to do in Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas is to think.” He was right.
I’m not sure if I began to flesh out the travel-design blog series while driving across the Great Plains but it was definitely somewhere between Seattle and Arkansas.
There were so many things that struck me as interesting and inspired me on my journey. One of the things that struck me was how many Americans drive pick-up trucks. And one of the things that inspired me was the amount of amazing public art especially outdoor murals in small cities and towns across the United States. Laramie, Wyoming really stands out for me, both in the mural and truck categories.
Laramie is a small city with a population of around 31,000. I learned when I was there that it was also where the first woman to vote in the United States cast her ballot. In 1869, Wyoming became the first state or territory to give women the right to vote. I learned this at the beautiful Wyoming Women’s History House on 2nd Street in Laramie.
In addition to this treasure of a little museum, I found Laramie to be quite endearing with its iconic Western downtown and charming small town mom and pop shops. The outdoor murals were plentiful and beautiful showcasing Native American history and culture as well as nature, outdoor recreation and Western themes. I was intrigued by a particular mural that featured a woman holding a flower in each hand and including the phrase “De Aqui De Alla”, which roughly translates from Spanish to “from here and there”. In addition to the beauty and unique nature of the mural, the colors…teal, turquoise, burnt orange and black were stunning under the vast Wyoming sky. I always gravitate towards teal and turquoise but the combination with black and orange was inspiring.
As I learned, almost everything in Laramie is closed on Sundays (apparently for church and football). Lucky for me, a fabulous store called The Bent and Rusty was open. They bill themselves as America’s Largest Craftsman Co-Op where, according to their website, they “create, repurpose, and remake objects, pieces and furnishings that may be the future history we work to document”. I wandered around in there for over an hour trying to figure out how I could incorporate this fabulous western décor into my beachy-ish Seattle home. The place was packed with reclaimed materials, both human-made and natural, crafted into beautiful art and décor. In a back corner I came upon a collection of old doors that was swoon-worthy and had me imagining driving the rest of the way across the country with one of those strapped to the roof of my car.
I restrained myself and settled on purchasing two lovely glass liquor decanters, one etched with an image of a cowboy riding a bucking bronco and the other with a buffalo head. I love them and they are now filled with artisanal Reposado and coffee liquor I picked up at the Pottery Pub in Santa Fe, New Mexico (more on that in a later post).
Laramie and all of Wyoming was breathtaking. I drove through a rain and electrical storm that I was watching for many, many miles before we reached each other. The vastness of the landscape and the skies in that part of the country are incredible; words can’t do it justice. Also, I paid $3.30/gallon for gas in Wyoming, as compared to over $7/gallon in a couple of places in California. Yee-haw!
Laramie is the gem of the high plains and The Bent and Rusty is a western décor dream. Someday I’ll have a reason to come back to shop there again and when I do, I’ll bring a truck.
“Forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet and the winds long to play with your hair.”-Khalil Gabran
The importance of being in nature and getting fresh air cannot be understated. Research has shown that people who regularly spend time outdoors even just socializing or relaxing tend to have lower stress levels and generally experience better health. Peter James of the Harvard School of Public Health explained that “biophilia—our innate human instinct to connect with nature—may be why being outdoors helps us feel better. The ability to recover from stress is better in natural settings, because that’s where we are meant to be. Just the idea of getting out, being in nature, looking at a tree—the theory is that this helps you to recover from stress, improves your mental health, and improves cognition. It’s just a direct pathway.”
It’s no secret that the pandemic heightened the value of outdoor spaces, and it seems it wasn’t just a passing fad. In Seattle, our restaurants and bars have, for the most part, kept the outdoor dining spaces that they installed in order to follow the local regulations during the Covid-19 crisis. The outdoor dining options in our city have vastly increased since 2020 and despite the reason why it happened, it’s a welcome change. Even in our dreary, rainy winters, people enjoy covered, heated spaces all around the city.
Home-bound folks became creative and focused on outdoor spaces at home, as well. At my house, we added outdoor heaters on my covered front porch and regularly gathered with neighbors and friends even during the inclement weather. We also installed heavy duty rods and outdoor curtains on the porch to provide a little break from the rain. They still remain today and create a cozy ambiance when they’re closed, and nicely frame the porch when they’re open and tied back.
There are so many great options for bringing the indoors out, especially with the use of weather-proof area rugs, cushions and accent pillows. Firepits of all sizes, shapes and styles are available and can enhance the gathering experience.
The same rules apply to outdoor spaces as they do to designing indoors. How will the space be used? What do you like to be surrounded by? Think about layering, texture, height and lighting. Accent pillows and throw blankets can be used for layering on patio furniture as well for adding the cozy factor. Outdoor lighting is a key to setting the stage for entertainment. Uplighting in gardens and around feature plants or trees offers dramatic effect. Torches and candles can fire up the romance. Task lighting can allow you to play games or cards and strings of party lights can jazz up your outdoor dance floor.
Of course, plants and trees are the spotlight steelers on patios and in gardens. Think of layering and height when you are mapping out your garden design. Don’t forget about the power of scent and the allure of welcoming wildlife. I have the most beautiful honeysuckle vine that takes me right back to my childhood when it’s fragrance wafts through my yard. My lavender plants invite bees for pollinating and salvia and fuchsia attract hummingbirds. Fresh herbs provide beauty and scent and can be harvested for cooking and making tea.
Water features, sculptures and whimsical art can make your space unique just like artwork on the walls of your living room. There are so many great options for outdoor speakers that can bring the party to life or chill the evening with relaxing tones.
All of the comforts, coziness and character that make your space HOME can translate to your outdoor spaces, as well. The outdoors awaits and it can be your oasis away from the stresses of the world. Just think about what makes your heart sing and PLANT IT, LIGHT IT, FIRE IT UP!
A lot of people get hung up on artwork; how to place it, what size is the right size, is there such a thing as too much.
The first thing to know about placing artwork is that, ultimately, the art is for you. If you’re happy, then it doesn’t really matter. It’s still a bit tricky and can be daunting, so here are a few tips and tricks to not get hung up on hanging your artwork.
For a single piece of art on a wall with no furniture, hang the piece about 60” from the floor to the center of the piece. This is average eye height and will ensure that most will not have to strain to look at the piece.
If you’re hanging art above a sofa or other piece of furniture, make sure it’s not too close. Somewhere between 4”-6” above the furniture is usually a good rule of thumb.
If you have other accessories or other décor in front of the art, the rule of 4-6” can be broken to ensure you aren’t blocking your art.
If you’re worried about the scale of a piece in relation to the size of your sofa or when you’re placing it above a fireplace, consider choosing a piece that is no more than 2/3 the size of your sofa or fireplace.
It’s always best to hang art after furniture is installed in the space. It’s important to think about placement. For instance, if you have a cool floor lamp that takes up a lot of space, you don’t want to hide art behind it. When you have multiple pieces, you’d like to install in the same area, consider placing them at two different heights. This helps make the space feel thoughtfully designed.
There are a few different types of Gallery Walls, the “Art Gallery” wall, the “Eclectic Gallery” wall and the “Elaborate Gallery” wall.
The “Art Gallery” Wall
You typically see symmetry in an art gallery or museum, the key is to ensure that you have the same frame for all of your photos and art. If your art itself is different sizes, picture mat can be used to balance the art in the frames as we want to ensure the wall is cohesive. Place your gallery collection 60” floor to center (of the collection) and placed equidistant from each other. This will result in a very polished and almost formal presentation… If you don’t know where to start, you can buy pre-planned gallery wall frames that you fill with your art at many large retailers. We like this one from Target (pictured above).
The “Eclectic Gallery” Wall
The key to a successful eclectic gallery wall is to pick one cohesive factor. One easy way is to choose the same frame color. This will help everything flow together, while still being able to mix and match shapes and sizes. Even though this doesn’t need to have the uniformity of a formal gallery wall, placement is still important. Lay out the art on the floor first to see how you like it.
The “Elaborate Gallery” Wall
This is where most people get a bit nervous, because this type of gallery wall requires you to put a lot more thought into how it’s laid out. This wall will have different sizes, colors and shapes. The key here is planning. If you feel as though all your pieces are cohesive together, just worry about the general layout. An easy way to do that is to create a paper model of your wall and art, I use graph paper to draw it out. Once again, placing the art on the floor the way you will place it on the wall gives you an extra chance to see how it will work before hanging. You’ll be able to see if you have all your gold frames on the left or you realize that the colors in one of your art pieces completely takes over and distracts from the piece you planned on putting next to it. Even with planning ahead, it’s okay to accept that you may need to patch and paint your walls if you need to move things around. We’d rather have you do that than not take a chance on the elaborate gallery wall if that’s the look that you are going for.
Keep in mind that you can also add other items like plants or sculptural elements to your elaborate gallery wall to add an extra level of interest instead of just framed artwork only.
Still completely stumped and not ready to tackle your art installation on your own? Give us a call, we’ll be happy to come and help you create a plan and hang your art!
Credit: Jersey Ice Cream Co.
You know that feeling when you’re scrolling Instagram and you see a living room decked out with ceramic pots filled with beautiful plants and indoor trees? Or a rainy cottage kitchen with windowsills overflowing with succulents and ivy? For some, that feeling is a core memory; An ancestral call to surround themselves with life in honor of the earth. For others this may elicit worry about creepy crawly bugs.
As designers, we believe in the power that plant life has on interiors and on humans. In addition to providing that finishing touch to make our decorated spaces feel complete, there is a very real and scientific connection to reduced blood pressure and increased energy. We also know that keeping our plants alive and our homes pest-free is another way to help with blood pressure. Finding the right balance is essential. There are countless ‘how-to’ blogs on keeping plants alive, so I will instead focus on the considerations we, as interior designers, make when introducing plant life and how to make the best choices when bringing the green into your home.
Credit: Gabriela Herman
Size & Shape
One of first tools designers use when designing a space is called the ‘schematic phase’. This is when we evaluate the layout and aesthetics of the space to determine where things will go, without deciding specifically what those things will be. In this phase, we want to sketch (or just imagine) the visual blocks of the space; What’s tall, what’s short, what’s long, what’s useful, etc… and place them in attractive groups. Round looks good next to square, long looks good next to tall, useful items work best near other useful items, and continuing on going with what feels right. This schematic planning is a great way to narrow down what species of plants to select. If the “long” is your sofa, then the “tall” might be a new snake plant.
Credit: A Beautiful Mess
Which plants to choose?
Another big consideration for choosing plants is to think about what will thrive in the space. We, at Housewarming, pay extra attention to this, as the gothic gray of the Pacific Northwest can make many species of indoor plants just plain unhappy. Access to light, the safety of our pets, and ease of care are all questions that need answers. Once you’ve selected the size and shape you want, research such topics as “medium-sized plants for low light” or “is ____ safe for animals?”. These results will help you hone in on specific species, and from there you can research how to care for your leafy new housemates.
Credit: Hilton Carter
Maintenance and Care
With houseplants, the single most common phrase we hear from our clients is “I love plants, but I kill everything I touch.” We know the struggle! A home full of empty planters and dead leaves quickly builds lost hope. I would be lying if I said, even with my green thumb, I’ve never killed a plant in my life. I’ve killed many. The best tip I can give is this: Most plants don’t need your intervention as much as you think. Our anxiety to keep them alive can often lead to overwatering, too much movement, or inconsistent lighting routines. Many plants will tell you what they need, when they need it, and will give you plenty of time to react. Leaves going yellow? Too much sun. Leaves dry and crispy? Time to water. Leaves soft and limp? Too much water. Once you’ve cared for them, give them a few days to adjust before trying anything else (This is where many anxious plant parents slip up). Change the soil once a year, water once a week, and take a couple minutes to research the plant before purchasing. If you want a plant that is so dramatic that it tells you what it needs weeks in advance, try a peace lily! They’re safe for pets, thrive in most lights, and can propagate easily.
Credit: Ralph Anderson
Picking the right planter
This is for aesthetics, but also very much for care and maintenance too! First and foremost, ensure your planter has a drain hole at the bottom. These are not standard for many planters you find in department stores, so take a peek just in case. Drain holes will ensure that water doesn’t stagnate at the bottom of the pot after watering, which can cause root rot and pests. Most plant boutiques will have them, or will offer to safely drill one before purchasing. We also suggest a plant saucer that complements the planter, as this will allow water to drain directly into the saucer rather than requiring you to move it over a sink first.
For aesthetics, consider the planter as you would any other piece of décor. Does it want it to stand out as a piece of art, or would it rather fade into the background? Do its patterns, colors, and shape complement where it sits in the room? Do they complement the shape and color of the plant? We’re using our design brain just as before here!
With these few considerations in mind, we designers can invigorate a home with new energy and offer a therapeutic routine for our clients. Plants are living, breathing entities; Ones we evolved instinctively to be custodians for. When we invite them into our spaces, they return gifts of health, peace, and a connection with our natural self. They’re also sometimes the only thing that will look good next to that battered suede sofa we’re waiting to give away, so design freely!