Happily, I’m healing well and looking forward to returning to work. My amazing staff has done a masterful job and everyone has given me great support. In the months that I have been confined to my home, many wonderful and caring people have helped me. One of my health care aides gave me a compliment in the first week of my confinement that I’d like to share with you. She said, as I lay in bed, dopey from pain meds, that she was impressed to find my home so organized that she could actually find an item where I told her it would be! Surely no one thinks about what would happen if they couldn’t do things for themselves in their own home – but let’s imagine it happened to you. Would you be able to tell someone else where to find articles of clothing, toiletries, food and kitchenware, and important papers, if necessary? As a designer, I have always believed that organization is that important first step before decoration. Being organized saves time and energy in the long run, and brings a sense of order to the family as well as the home itself.
As I gradually was able to get around my home and spend time while my body healed, I saw that the peace and order around me helped speed my recovery. Ironically, I have always valued my home as my refuge and special place after a seventy hour work week. Now I have seen its value as my daily companion. So dear readers, just a gentle reminder that while summer is a great time for outdoor entertaining and socializing, perhaps on the next rainy day that you are free, you might decide to tackle an organizational project - the front hall closet - your pantry – or your bedroom drawers. If you’re inspired now, move on to parts of the garage or basement, especially if you’ve been complaining you lack storage. Cleaning up and cleaning out is wonderfully freeing and the end result can be more than you’ve ever imagined. If you don’t think you have the “organization gene” – don’t despair – it’s a learned mechanism. Here are some hints to help you:
I often feel the loss of my mom but especially on Mothers Day. I recall what made my mom so special with mixed feelings of loss and love and why she is so dearly missed.
My dad would be the first to tell you that my mom was no great “bahlehboosteh” (homemaker). She went to work and ran a clothing manufacturing company for her boss while my grandmother, who lived with us, cooked the chicken soup and my Aunt Sylvia made the pot roast. She didn’t have a lot of time or money to entertain guests, either, but my earliest recollections of our first apartment and subsequent homes were one of style, order, and beauty. My mother had a “knack,” as people would say, of putting things together. They were never really expensive things, except my Spinet piano which was the only new purchase in our first home in Queens. Perhaps that is why I always try to include, whenever possible, a piano in my design projects. I know how much music brings to a home, and today, pianos can play even if the people who own them can’t.
So when Donna Reed and Beaver’s mom were the norm, my mother wasn’t there to give me milk and cookies after school, which is true of many working moms today. Yet, she set the tone and the routine, creating the backdrop for a well-run household with love and encouragement. Grandma was the disciplinarian, Aunt Sylvia was the big sister I never had, but MOM was the final word, always.
So, what made our house a home? What was the secret my mother knew that all moms seek to discover to bring love and beauty to their families? How did she create order before Feng Shui, even if we think that living then was less hectic and complicated? Her life wasn’t easy by any means – a child of the depression, along with my dad, responsible for a widowed mother, mother-in-law and much younger sister. Perhaps it was old fashioned common sense mixed with a fierce determination that her family would live the American dream. One thing for sure, her priorities never wavered in good times and bad – family & home – and my mother always kept her eye on the ball. Until a year before she died, she was interested, involved and supportive of everything in the lives of her 4 generation brood.
As an interior designer, my mission and passion have been to bring these same values to those whose lives I touch. I have had the advantage of training and the blessing of being able to boast of years of experience, but I know, now, as never before, how much of my life and work have been influenced by the love, inspiration and encouragement of a truly wonderful mother. Thank you, Mom. I hope you know how many people, whom you’ve never met, I have left with a little part of you.
By Natalie Weinstein, Allied ASID
I’m ripping up my carpet and putting down a wood floor. I don’t know whether to use real wood or engineered. Is one better than the other? - John
Real wood or solid wood is 100% wood from lumber. Because it is solid hardwood and milled, it can shrink or expand with temperature changes or moisture. It is very durable, can be sanded and refurnished for great longevity, but can’t be used in basements or anywhere there is water, like bathrooms.
Engineered wood flooring is made up of layers of wood that are fused together. It’s very stable so it won’t shrink like solid wood and can be installed below ground level so it can be used in basements, ½ baths and baths where solid hardwood can’t. The top layer can be maple, oak, cherry, hickory, birch, etc. and the layers underneath are usually plywood.
There are different wood species, but there are also exotic woods from which to choose, like brazilian cherry, mahogany, tiger wood, etc. which give a less uniform look to the floor. There are also different plank sizes from narrow (3” or less) to wide planks (5” and more). This also makes a difference in the look. Narrow planks generally are seen in more traditional rooms, whereas wider planks look best in more rustic or contemporary settings.
Engineered wood floors can either be nailed or glued down just like hardwood floors, but it can also be installed as a “floating” floor where the boards are attached to each other and not the existing floor.
Solid hardwood floors can be stained and refinished many times over the course of many years, whereas engineered floors can only be refinished once or twice. The cost may be more, but not always. The conditions of your existing floor may affect the cost as well. If you are planning to install the floor yourself, engineered wood floors are more user friendly, but I would advise that you get a flooring expert to give you an estimate, as well.
There are also laminate floors which mimic the look of real wood (ceramic, or stone, etc.). They are less costly and have a top layer that protects the floor, a layer that is a photograph of wood, stone, etc., an inner core and a backing. It is durable, but obviously cannot be refinished like a real wood floor.
Remember, your flooring decision will be one that will last you as long as you live in your home, so while budget will certainly be a factor, choose wisely for the long haul and for your particular design style and location in your home.
I’d love to do some things in my home, but I don’t know where to start. I know what I like, but I get very overwhelmed. Every part of my home seems to need to be redone. My house is a small 70’s, 3 bedroom L ranch with a finished basement and nothing has been done since we had our kids and now they are teenagers! Thanks for your help – Cheryl
You are not alone! But if you take it step by step, you will make progress. First make a plan (of priorities) and then a plan (floor plan, that is). Look at your rooms and see how they meet your current needs. Remember your old living room can now be a den and your kitchen (I’m assuming it was never redone) can now be open to a casual dining room with a center island dividing the kitchen/dining room if you remove the wall between. If this plan works for you, get some estimates for removing the wall and getting new cabinets (and perhaps new appliances). They will be your major expenses. Your existing furniture can be used as placeholders and you can purchase new when money is available. If you don’t mind putting some “sweat equity” in the mix, you and your family can repaint the space for a great spruce up. If finding the money to do your largest project is difficult, perhaps a home improvement loan or line of credit might be arranged, especially if there’s not much left on your mortgage.
My advice, if you’re overwhelmed, is to bite the bullet and get assistance with the largest project first. If you spend money in dribs and drabs when you have it for smaller changes, you might never get to the one that will make a really big difference and add value to your home now and when you decide to sell. I know you won’t believe this – but once you begin to tackle the hardest project first, your confidence will soar and you will look forward to the next one and be willing to wait for it to happen. Good luck and remember how important your home is to your family. Positive changes in it affects everyone, so go for it and don’t be afraid! Professional help is always there if you need it.
Natalie Weinstein, Allied ASID
As we are now settled into the new year and look back again at the past year – on our accomplishments and our intentions, we now continue to move ahead. Perhaps in the past few weeks you were able to reflect on friends, family and other special people who have loved and inspired you throughout the year. In your gratitude, perhaps you’ve also been thinking about ways to be a better person to yourself and others in the coming year. At a recent gathering we talked about ways to begin anew with your home.
Think about how your home makes you feel and what you would change if money was no object. Make a "wish list" and "needs list". You might discover that some easy fixes would make you feel a lot better. Then maybe you would be willing to wait for the bigger projects if you put in some “sweat equity” to get your home in shape.
What happens when there are improvements in our home and we discover the real connection between our home and ourselves? For example, when the kitchen is improved, we want to improve our cooking and eat healthier, which is the best way to lose weight, feel fit, and start an exercise program that works for you.
While renewing and redoing often begins in the New Year with resolutions, remember it is just beginning! And to continue with new beginnings, here are a few tips for your home renovating project:
The two most often made New Year's resolutions are to lose weight and clean up our clutter. Theses generally go by the wayside before the month is out. Perhaps that's because both messes took a long time to get into and we're all looking for the quick fix to get them. Also, most of of us are suffering from post holiday and winter blues - not a very good time to undertake major life changes. Well, we could move New Year's to March or April or we could make a plan that helps us change, even if we falter.
For over 40 years, our firm has been helping folks change by creating home environments that empower and liberate. Decorating is clearly not just about putting pretty things together. It’s also not a race to spend the most money. So what is it about and what should we do to our homes to help us create a better year for ourselves and our family?
Let’s start with clutter control – a topic most people prefer to avoid whether you’re The “Felix” or The “Oscar” in your family. Your stuff is sacred and you don’t want anyone messing with it. But mess is the operative word. I often chuckle when people defend their mess. “I know where everything is,” folks will say or “I may be messy, but my house is clean”. One might wonder if these guys are delusional or just very forgiving of themselves. I know better, because I have dealt with the problem many times. It’s deep seated and difficult – but not impossible.
The most important obstacle is to get people to admit there’s a better way to live and to be willing to change, with or without help. Professional organizers are great teachers as well as doers. They not only come in to your environment and work hands on with you, but leave you with new habits and strategies. Interior designers do the same on a broader scale. Many people committed to change can do it themselves, as well, with a few tips:
Even if you don’t have a lot of funds, try being your own labor force. The winter is long, so take your time and see if you might have been a painter, upholsterer or cabinetmaker in another life. The trick is to follow the same plan.
So what’s in store for us in the New Year? They say “Time will tell.” I say, take the time to make the plan and create the change. Hang on to your resolutions past January, even if there are some potholes in the road ahead. Come next year we’ll be able to look back with pride in our accomplishments big and small.
At this time of year our “social selves” are on display. With all the stresses of the holidays – shopping, extra traffic, winter weather colds, sleep-over company (some welcome, some tolerated) and general time constraint pressures, dressing the holiday table and the room it’s in may take a back seat, especially when you’re worried about actually cooking the meal. From my vantage point, however, decorating the dining room for the holidays has gotten me, personally, through many mediocre meals with flying colors. My guests were so dazzled by the décor that the food, by association, seemed better than it really was.
So, here’s a “non-cook’s” recipe for a successful holiday dinner party.
P.S. – If your home needs some new furnishings or accessories and you want to be sure you will have it in time, visit Uniquely Natalie, our beautiful quality consignment shop right in St. James for immediate delivery and a great new look for your home with amazing prices. If you have items that others might enjoy and which you no longer consider part of your treasured possessions, consign them with us and give it a good home with someone else for the holidays.
Fall is upon us and that means the holidays will soon be approaching. I love this time of the year because the colors of fall are so warm and inviting and the change of the season turns us inward to our homes in a very special way. Gatherings around the fireplace, and a kitchen with the wonderful smells of apple pie and cinnamon (even if you didn’t bake it from scratch) bring families indoors and beckons visitors as well.
Even though I don’t have children at home, I still love to decorate with fall touches to acknowledge the season. I always start with the fireplace mantle and a draping garland of colorful leaves. I like to add a cornucopia and a few candles between my ever-present family photos and pull out my favorite warm and cozy throw and toss it over a leather chair.
One of the other things I’ve collected over time is a front door banner which I place on the outside of my door between living room and the glass storm door using two narrow brackets. It’s embroidered with pumpkins, gourds and other fall fruits and vegetables on a rich burgundy background. Next to my bench in the hallway, I have two adorable Raggedy Ann and Andy scarecrow dolls sitting on a haystack surrounded by pumpkins. My dining room table on which there’s always fresh flowers, now has a fall arrangement and a basket filled with candles with delicious scents of vanilla and cinnamon (Yum!)
On my kitchen table sits two small fall topiary trees flanking a colorful ceramic dish filled with fresh apples. My placemats are seasonal and very special. I made them with my grandchildren a few years back. We collected falling leaves on a nature walk and I took them to a copy center, where we arranged them and had them laminated between two pieces of clear plastic. I then cut them to placemat size and I have been using them every year.
Fall touches touch our lives and make our homes the special place we need and deserve. Take the time to enhance your surroundings, perhaps adding a little each year and enjoy the change of the seasons.
September is back to school, back to work, back to routines, changing of the seasons and the perfect time to plan your decorating project. Save these tips for getting you started at any time, but know that fall is the most productive time to begin both long and short term projects.
Enjoy the process of decorating. It really can be fun, enriching and satisfying. You’ll be less stressed with a plan and you have the years ahead to reap the rewards of your efforts.
I’ll never forget my first college dorm experience as my son David embarked on his freshman year at Carnegie Mellon. I had read the brochure. I was smart. I was organized. I was ready to take my first-born to the nether-land of higher learning in style. Was I ever clueless! Today, I look back and chuckle at the remembrance of my husband and me “walking” a newly purchased occasional chair through the streets of St. Louis to the Washington University freshman dorm for my younger son, Jason, only to find that it couldn’t fit in his room when we got there (Me – the designer and great space planner!). You’d have thought we’d learned something by then. But no one, absolutely no one, designer included, can imagine how small a dorm room shared by two students, two beds, two desks, one infinitesimal closet, a refrigerator, a microwave (if allowed), mounds of books, luggage, computer equipment and sundry other clothing and necessities can be – and the dorm rooms seem to have shrunk! Maybe you can when you realize how unbelievably small they are with nothing in them!
So here are some tips (from someone who’s been there twice) to help the “getting ready and setting up a viable dorm room” stage of life for you and your college bound student.