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.
By Natalie Weinstein, Allied ASID
I just finished renovating my home. I have purchased furniture and love how it looks. I am struggling with how to accessorize. Can you give me some guidance? – Cheryl
You’re not alone. Most people find it really difficult to add those finishing touches, but they are what give a room personality and turn your furniture into a lovely and gracious home. There are so many elements of good design that go into choosing the appropriate accessory – style, color, size, proximity to other accessories and a sense of balance. It takes time, sometimes trial and error. What looks good in the store may not necessarily have the same effect in your home. So let’s begin. Now that the basic furniture is in the room, look at the wall space and empty spaces in bookcases, display cabinets and on tables, mindful that certain areas need a focal point to unify the furniture setting.
Go shopping at home first! Are there pieces you would like to display that you've always loved or have been in the family for a long time? Do you have a hobby or interest that has made you a “collector"? Perhaps it's old trains or dolls, or pen knives or owls, or photos you've taken of your travels, or posters you've collected from museums. As long as they are presented or framed well, they make excellent accessories.
When shopping for art, go to several galleries and shops or even Uniquely Natalie, our consignment shop that has great art for a faction of their value, as well as an art gallery with great art done by local Long Island artists. Speaking of art, I’m often asked how high to hang artwork. The rule of thumb has been to hang artwork so that it is at eye level when standing, but many designers and professionals prefer to place art slightly above eye level when seated. Generally it is between 8” – 10” above sofas or low units such as consoles, credenzas or tables. This not only enables the art to be viewed more effectively, but creates a cohesive arrangement with the furnishings surrounding it.
So how do you learn to accessorize like the professionals? Short of hiring personal professional help, accessory shops often have trained staff to assist you. Remember, they want to sell what they have, so make sure the final decisions are yours. Look at magazines and take design books out of the library to see how the pros do it. Go to show-houses where many designers do model room settings, as well as model homes, where accessories often “sell” the houses. In short, it takes time, education and patience, but the end result is worth it because the right accessories make all the difference. Don’t rush. The right piece is worth waiting or searching for, and the quest should be fun!
Having just come off Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday and looking towards Christmas and Chanukah (which this year’s first night falls on Christmas Eve), my mind and heart turn, as always, toward family and home. Far away from my family, I was blessed to have my younger son Jason and his wife, Terry, my dear Katrina and Neil and my “granddog”, Oreo, with me. We visited colleges on the east coast for Katrina and returned home in time for Terry to create her kitchen magic as she always does.
As we sat around the kitchen table, just the five of us, with Oreo looking up hopefully, we each said what we were thankful for – a scene not unlike many others on Long Island – but not all. As I basked in the wonderful holiday smells with the TV far in the background echoing the Thanksgiving Day parade or a long anticipated football game, I realized, once again, how lucky I am and how special these moments are in the life of my family.
This is the first year in a very long time that Jason, Terry, and the kids have all been here together. It was always Florida where my parents were and where Bernie spent his last years with me the constant traveler. This time, with no family there, we’d, hopefully, start a new tradition. Busy with work I scrambled to get the house picture perfect, knowing all the while it would be in a happy shambles of shoes, chargers, cell phones, ipads, and “stuff” in no time.
We visited friends and stopped at the office and store briefly, but mostly we were home, resting reading, watching sports (not me) and playing the ongoing favorite family pastime, dominos (and it can get nasty!!) I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way. We were warm, safe and full of good food. For a brief time, we all escaped from the hectic and often stress-filled lives we lead and just “vegged”! And we were together. The only thing that would have made it more perfect was to have my now Singaporean elder son with us. Still, I’m so grateful that he is well and where he wants to be for now – and there’s always next year.
I hope your Thanksgiving was as uneventful and wonderful as mine. I hope your home – the place where it all comes together for families – is what you want it to be – and if not, there’s always next year. But for some, there may not be a next year – for families to be safe, warm and together. While the stores are filled with shoppers and Cyber Monday sales were never larger, there are those who struggle with hunger daily – some in our own backyard. When asked to design a table setting for Island Harvest’s major donor’s dinner, I learned more about this amazing organization which feeds 10% of our population on Long Island. You can go to their website to learn more (http://www.islandharvest.org) and perhaps stop by our design firm at 459 Lake Avenue or our store at 176 2nd Street with any nonperishable items you might want to donate to make someone’s holiday happier.
My family exchanged Chanukah gifts early on Thanksgiving Day and I will miss them dearly during this festive holiday time but my home is filled with the happy memories of their past visit as if is filled with the memoires of holidays when Bernie carved the turkey with my parents looking on. I believe they still are – just as I believe, as Dorothy said in the Wizard of Oz, “There’s no place like home.”
On Thursday night, November 3, at the Harbor Club in Huntington, a gathering of some of the most giving individuals and business owners occurred. These special people were honored by Island Harvest Food Bank, an organization they help support, who supports Long Islanders who do not have enough food to eat. I was honored, too. I was asked to design a table setting for this auspicious event to commemorate a modern day Thanksgiving.
My staff, always busy, but always ready to take on something worthwhile, supported the idea, and brainstorming, we set a table in our Art Gallery, Studio 455, to simulate the table at the Harbor Club. I then enlisted willing and oh so talented “St. Jamesers” to help me create a table setting that was not only meaningful, but beautiful and delicious!
Our theme was “sunflowers”, the beautiful fall flower whose name comes from the sun, its warmth permeating and nurturing, giving life and strength – a perfect symbol of the giving of those who help sustain and nurture the less fortunate. I turned to our amazing art gallery curator, Arline Goldstein, consummate artist, for her rendition of our theme, as well as Florie Robinson of Florie’s Finales to provide delicious sunflower cookies. My neighbor, Debbie Powers, of Hither Brook Floral and Gift Boutique was my “go-to gal” for a centerpiece that would “wow”, and the folks at Pier 1 were most kind and generous in donating all of the beautiful table top accessories that I so enjoyed choosing.
My dear Sheila, Office Manager and all around “can do anything” person, helped do everything! (including creating the holiday message and credits on custom designed sunflower note paper). The day arrived and Sheila and I set off to set up, laden with all our special gifts created by such talented people for this Thanksgiving appreciation dinner. It was exciting and heartwarming to be a part of something so important and sadly, so necessary.
Did you know “that over 300,000 Long Islanders are at risk of hunger, 110,000 of them are children? Island Harvest distributes food to more than 570+ food pantries, soup kitchens, and other local feeding programs throughout Long Island. Since 1992 we have distributed over 90 million pounds of food, supplementing more than 75 million meals.” Our Long Island, the place we call home, where our families will be gathering to enjoy a hearty Thanksgiving dinner, has children who are sustained mainly by school breakfasts and lunches supplied by Island Harvest. Families who are struggling every day and veterans and seniors in need depend on the refrigerated truck deliveries of food daily and the food pantries supported by businesses, farms and individuals service over 316,000 people in need.
Clearly each and every one of us can help. From now until the end of December, both our locations in St. James, Uniquely Natalie at 176 Second Street and Natalie Weinstein Design Associates at 459 Lake Avenue will be “drop off” places for any canned or packaged foods (or checks) you might wish to donate to Island Harvest. You might also want to volunteer to help, along with your family, as your way of showing how thankful you are for your blessings. We often forget how much we all have for which to be thankful. In this scary world in which we live, our family, friends, neighbors and community are blessings we can never take for granted.
So from my family and staff – to all of you – may your holiday be ever more special by giving to others.
I’ve just redone the patio in my backyard and the rest is mostly grass with some bushes at the fence line. Now with all the summer sales on outdoor furniture, what do you suggest I look for?
This is a great time for bargain hunting for seating but hurry because merchandise is limited and often disappears until Spring. When shopping, think of your back yard as an extension of your home for entertaining and relaxing and not only in the summer. The early fall is often a wonderful time. So while you’re looking for comfortable sofas and chairs in outdoor wicker or light weight metals with all-weather fabrics like Sunbrella, (I would still keep cushions in an outdoor storage bench in the winter for longevity) think about a fire pit as well. It’s a great seasonal social magnet. Make sure you find a large enough dining table for your patio. Look for pull up chairs that are sturdy and can double as seating in the grass.
Many people are adding T.V.’s to their patios and there are speakers you can place in the garden that blend in and look like rocks so you can enjoy music outdoors. Seasonal plants in pots can add color if your garden is mostly grass but you can make use of the grassy area for badminton, croquet or bocce ball- or even a putting green! Perhaps later on you might like to add a small gazebo for additional shady seating. If your backyard is large enough, you might consider adding a water feature later or perhaps a swimming pool, hot tub or waterfall. These always add to a relaxing fun atmosphere.
Now that we’ve explored seating, along with other ideas- what are we eating? The trend today is to add an outdoor kitchen to your backyard plan. That can be as simple as a bar-b-que or as elaborate as a built in total kitchen with bar area for people to gather ‘round the cook.
Lighting is also very important and can take many shapes -anterns on the back of your building, overhead fans with lights, and lamp posts near the patio or in the garden. I also light flower beds and paths with low lights and feature lights on some specimen trees. Solar lighting can be used if you don’t chose to go for underground wiring.
So Susan, if you thought- after the patio and some seating- “I’m done”- you’re not quite there. Your backyard can be a great add- on to your living space and it has infinite possibilities for enjoyment. Consider contacting a good landscape design firm for a plan and layout based on your wants and needs (just like interior designers). Even if you can’t implement the plan all at once, you can do it in phases- and don’t worry about spending money on large trees and bushes. The good thing is with plants, unlike sofas, they grow!
I am working on changing out my window treatments in my den, which is connected to my kitchen. The issue is that my kitchen has a window with a window treatment on it that I want to keep, so I’m not sure how to handle matching the two? They are not next to each other, but can be seen from either room.
Any advice would be helpful!
Good question. With the open floor plan in many homes today, it is often an issue of co-coordinating without “matching”. The feeling and tone of your family room is an important consideration in choosing fabric, color and style for your window treatment. Also the location of your T.V. screen (for glare) in relation to your windows plays a part in the window covering which is different from the window dressing (area around the window or door).
Joan, if your den paint color, rug and upholstery fabric are the same in the same palette as your kitchen, (which would be ideal) your choices are simplified. If you’ve started your color scheme from the floor up, chosen neutral textural fabrics or leathers for upholstery and paint color next, it will be a lot easier to select fabrics for your window treatments. I often like stripes along with a mini or overall print to tie in all the colors. If the room is casual, use more casual cottons, if not, more formal designs are in order.
Cornices of varying shapes as well as simple top arrangements are often a good choice for dens because furniture is often placed against the window wall and draperies to the floor get lost and sometimes block the heat. The windows themselves are best covered with silhouettes, wood blinds (either real wood or vinyl look-a-likes), mini blinds or roller shades, all which can be hidden under the cornice or topper when not needed. Draw draperies with tab tops, on poles or under cornices are good for sliders or multiple sets of windows.
If there is a slider in both the den and kitchen, I’d use the same style window treatment. If variety is what you’re seeking, try reversing the fabrics and add some tassels or secondary fabric for trim. The goal is to color coordinate for flow and a sense of balance without being boring or redundant.
Here are some toppers you might like to consider: (By the way, it’s sometimes nice to add the topper to an over the sink kitchen window).
Check out these window treatment styles that are popular, both casual, transitional and classic.
If you’re sewing, pick fabric, measure yardage and get to work. If you need a good workroom that will measure and install for you let us know and we can refer a source in your area as well as help you select a fabric that coordinate with your room.
Good luck- Nat