the return of paneling

I’ve been seeing a lot of woody paneled rooms lately. For the past few years we’ve all been avoiding the dark, traditional den look. But the new paneled rooms have some great twists that have me craving a library room of my own.

From Elle Decor by John Saladino:

The lighter coloring of this paneling and the punch of color on the furniture keeps this room from feeling heavy, serious, and dated. Aside: I just love the arch detail of the doorway.

Similar to this room, which also features a lighter wood finish, and spare eclectic furnishings to keep the mood light as well. From Elle Decor:

Vicente Wolf’s Library Room in the Kip’s Bay Showhouse also puts a spin on a room with dark paneling by adding white, modern furnishings and photography, for a graphic effect.

These rooms work today because the wood provides an earthy, warm feeling, a sense of history, and a point of contrast to other lighter rooms in the house. The key is finding the right elements to keep it updated.

What do you think? Have you done anything interesting with a den or paneled room in your house?

beauty and transcendence

I have been dealing with a loss this past week, and it has been a bit rough. It has caused me to question many things in my life, but it has also forced me to learn what can make me feel better even in the midst of a painful moment.

My simple observations:

1. spending time with children keeps you focused on the present and joy

2. acknowledging the importance of all the relationships in your life, releasing grudges, and remembering to tell people you love them as often as you can matters, a lot.

2. music can be cathartic, empowering, uplifting, and absorbing-to stop your brain from spinning with too many questions. It also brings you into the present.

3. creating something helps too. a room design you can’t wait to share with a client, a neat costume and cool paper spiders for halloween, a blog post : ). Again you’re in the moment.

4. beauty matters: To be in nature, to see a work of art, or a beautiful object. For these moments the mind stops its churning and simply appreciates. And that experience of transcendence truly matters.

the NY Times Alexa Hampton interview

Someone forwarded me a link to a recent interview of Alexa Hampton in the NY Times. She said some very intriguing things that I’ve been thinking about more.

Here are some snippets:

Alexa says: “I heard someone say they hated the trend of making rooms look like hotel spaces, and I disagree. When I talk about having my bedroom and office feel like a hotel suite, what that translates into isn’t that it is impersonal and cold. It translates into, “I feel as though on holiday, catered to and taken care of.””

I fully agree with Ms. Hampton here. Great hotels always influence the way I view design projects. Every time I stay in one I want to package the feeling and reproduce it into something that can be experienced daily. We should feel indulged and transported in our own homes. The bones of a room should promote restfulness and create an air of transformation. There will be plenty of room for personal artifacts when this is done.

Alexa on modernism: “[Y]ou begin with modern in your youth because you can’t afford swags and jabots. You can afford a West Elm parsons table, which can look chic in your orange room with your geometric fill-in-the-blank. As you get money, you collect and get stuff. And stuff when it gets into critical mass needs a setting that embraces it, so things become more elaborate.”

Personally, I somewhat disagree. First, I think the overall trend in design is toward simplification. I always harp on this, but we live overly stimulating lives and so we need interiors to be a bit less present. Second, and on a related note, having a child for me has been motivation to peel back. I have been paring down at home so that all the stuff that accompanies having a child does not add to a feeling of chaos in my home.

Alexa on her socialite parents: “I am a homebody, while my mother and father were very social. It’s a different universe now — people don’t live the way that generation lived. Dinner parties? I don’t know a lot of people who throw those.”

A dinner party perfect dining room by designer Alexa Hampton.

I think what Ms. Hampton says is true. I also tend to be a homebody and rarely entertain anymore. But I LOVE dinner parties! I think we should start a movement to resurrect them. And redefine them so they fit the way we live today.

One small example from my life, we started a ritual of having Sunday brunch with my cousin and his kids. We take turns hosting, set a big table with china for adults and kiddie plates for our tots, and cook way too much food: omelets, pancakes, huevos rancheros, scones, banana bread, fruit salads, whatever seems fun. Then we engage in a few hours of eating and some playtime. And we always feel so happy and full of joy and food when we are done.

How are you redefining home and entertaining to fit the way we live today? Please share!

a few Boston views

I wanted to share a few snaps from my recent trip to Boston. As we headed to Newbury street for shopping and lunch al fresco at Tapeo, we stopped to look at the Old South Church. The  Gothic Venetian architecture was striking. I loved the juxtaposition of the church against the city and found a few cool angles.

This type of contrast in styles is very prevalent in interior design today, where we see Old World motifs combined with elements of sleek modernism. Mixing captures our desire for future and past simultaneously.

One of our favorite moments was a meditative ride on the Swan Boats in the Boston Common Gardens. A great example of an amusement from an earlier era that is still enjoyable today, a classic. We bought “Make Way for Ducklings” to  top off the whole experience.

On a harbor cruise we took a quick float by Old Ironsides and I was very sorry that we did not get to visit the ship. I was totally impressed by the longevity of the construction and the aesthetics of the ship. Good design!

upstairs, where the living is easy!

As we head inevitably towards colder weather, I’ve been setting my sights on hibernation! The upstairs of  a house provides the warmth I crave in the cold months.

Addressing your bedding is an obvious choice, but over the past few years I have seen a few homes featuring upstairs family rooms and this has become my gold standard. My dream house has one of these along with a great big upstairs office where I can work freely should I get creatively inspired in the middle of the night. Here are a few ideas I’ve been collecting.

I first read about an upstairs family room in Elle Decor 2 years ago. The obsession began.

Then I saw an upstairs sitting room by Marshall Watson in House Beautiful. Further intrigued.

Since many of us, even with large homes, may not have a spare room to use upstairs, the idea of really decking out extra space in an upstairs master would do the trick.  Here is a bold space featuring a sectional in the master (from Elle Decor by designer Waldo Fernandez):

I also really love this custom shelving and desk surface arrangement in this space by Laura Kirar:

The concept of appointing space upstairs with furnishings for waking life seems to make sense as so many people now blur the lines between home and work, and family life takes such center stage. The idea to me is so intimate and luxurious and really makes sense for how I actually do live. How about you? What indulgences would support the way you really live?