the spaces for living life very well

In the last two newsletters I have been detailing elements of “the look” of Furbish. Today I would like to talk not about “a look,” but about an ethos, a whole way of living that defines my entire point of view on interior design. Yes, big stuff. But let me tell a simple story to explain:

One recent Friday night, after a crazy, raucous dinner with three kids under the age of four, two sets of parents broke new ground.

We put the kids to sleep all together, enlisted a trusted babysitter, and took a completely spontaneous drive into Manhattan to get dessert and drinks. Our wound-up toddlers didn’t fall asleep until well after 9 PM. By the time the two mommies in question dusted the fingerprints off our jeans and slipped on some heels and lipstick, and the papas in question decided whose car to take, which way to go, and where to park, it was 10:15 PM.

The lovely, friendly, and casual atmosphere of Ayza Wine Bar got the bleary out of our eyes real quick. Forget the fact that we had already eaten dinner. The food looked good. We ordered rounds of appetizers, drank really good Lambrusco and Malbec, and shared plates of dessert. We talked about business and life, and the fact that the last time we’d all been in the city together without the kids, the eldest of the 3 toddlers was still in her mama’s belly!

By 12:30 AM someone noticed the time, and we all knew we were doomed the next morning. Surely the kids would wake up somewhere around 6 am and show no mercy. Ah the woes! We rushed back across the Hudson river. At least there was no traffic at this hour.

At 1 AM I was carrying my sweet, sleepy little son from the car to our house. He was awake and I was questioning the sanity of our little excursion. Just then he said, “Look Mama, the moon!” There it was. I walked into the middle of the street and together we stared up at the sky. I showed him the planet Mars, glowing low to the west, the trees rustled in the breeze, and my heart was beyond happy. This, I suddenly thought, is it! This is the life I live to build a stage for.

What does a room that captures all the needs and wants and aspirations of a life like this look like? Can an interior capture happiness, optimism, comfort, energy, and all the little bits of the practical and the impractical in our lives?

The way we live today is basic, but not. The style we want is dressed up, but not. Our lives are full of demands and pleasures, and interests that we squeeze out precious time to pursue. Ultimately, our spaces need to pull off the same balancing act that we do, reflecting all the realities and hopefulness of living a very full life very, very well.

elements of the furbish look, part two

Last week I detailed 3 of my personal rules for interiors. Here are 3 more:

1. Go for a mix of styles: Contemporary interiors are fundamentally eclectic. The key is to avoid having your space resemble a Hilton hotel room, where everything matches and there is no variation in furnishing styles or wood finishes. This can be one of the hardest things to pull off well, but it is SO important. I will be talking a LOT more about this in weeks to come.

2. Accomplish an overall feeling of light and air in a space: I have an absolute preference for paler, lighter colors for walls, especially white. I love the feeling of light and air sweeping into a space, overtaking it, and becoming a central component of the design. That being said, if you are doing a house full of light and airy rooms, it is cool to have a space that is in a bit of contrast. My favorite way to do this is by adding deep earthy color on textured grasscloth wallpaper in one central room in the home.

3. Make it feel unique: There are many sources today for accessible mass market furnishings that are style-conscious. We should embrace these, but beware of creating spaces that feel generic. Some of your furnishings and most of your accessories should come from small boutiques like Furbish, flea market and antique sources, and things found on travels. Buy things because you like them and have a clear idea of how you will use them in your space. Don’t worry too much about doing the “right” thing. The only thing that matters is that the items you add reflect your aesthetic preferences and make you happy. That alone will make your home unique.

I hope these tips are useful to you! Feel free to let me know what you think by posting to the blog.

3 elements of the Furbish Look, part one

I don’t believe in “rules” in decorating per se, but at Furbish we definitely have our own set of rules that permeate how we create the looks for the store and for our clients.

These are 3 of my personally crafted, time tested elements of the Furbish Look:

1. Every room must have velvet. Seriously. No other fabric has the ability to capture such depth and richness of color, to look like a jewel, to refract light so beautifully, to be so snuggly tactile. I honestly cannot imagine many rooms without the velvet touch.

2. Go for texture. I will strive to add an array of contrasting textures to any room. If we do something with a chunky texture in one place we will look to do something with a tighter weave elsewhere. If there is a lot of texture can we add in leather or something with a sheen to it. Linen is close to being a must have fabric for me as well because of the earthy, textural component it brings. The juxtaposition of linen with velvet, by the way, gets the right dressed up/dressed down look that so epitomizes what we strive for with every project.

3. Add some sparkle. For most people wood surfaces in their homes go without saying. Hardwood floors, hardwood tables, side tables, etc. Design today is a lot about playing different elements off of one another to avoid looks that are too one note. I will always look at a space and figure out where can I add some glass, polished metals, crystal, mirror. You can have too much of a good thing here. What you are looking for is the right bit of shine to help bring in a more fluid energy into rooms that would otherwise be heavy with fabrics and woods.

I invite you to the showroom this week to observe the presence of “the rules” everywhere. You can also check out some big changes we made to the layout of the store. Be sure to watch out for the next post detailing more elements of Furbish style just for you!

living with generosity

A favorite newletter article from March 2009:

I am sitting in the Millburn Public Library, which is just a few blocks from furbish. I just left a busy, noisy café in the area where I tried to sit and write and think, but it didn’t suit my mood or the level of introspection I needed at the moment. I came here on a whim and I am more than pleasantly surprised. The library, while not glamorous, is blessed with magnificent arched windows that stretch two stories from floor to ceiling. Seven of them sit in perfect symmetry with brick-laid panes of glass adding more geometry to the effect. The view outside these windows is an expanse of trees: the foot of our very own South Mountain Reservation. As of yet these trees are bare. But they are still beautiful in every shade of gray-green to grey-brown one can imagine. And there are thousands of them. THOUSANDS of trees! Right here outside these windows! All of them preparing to send out their first buds for the spring. The wonder of this profusion of trees. The generosity of it. The pure generosity of nature.

The best interiors always have an underlying element of generosity, like these towering windows. I always find that nature is the clearest sign we have that we are meant to live in beautiful spaces and live generously too. Think fields of flowers in an unimaginable array of colors, oceans with such depth of color that stretch for as far as the eye can see. Skies that grace us with a kaleidoscope of colors at every dawn and dusk. Mountains so tall we can see them from a hundred miles away.

Windows, light, and space fundamentally give a feeling of generosity. But even the simplest interiors can be generous. Being generous is about giving to us what we need to live and feel our best. It is about celebrating abundance, which we have even when we think we do not. Think richness of color, collections of treasured items well-displayed, a house filled with things we love, or one done with masterful detail. All are shows of generosity. A bowl of oranges on a dining table, a vase of gerber daisies by the bedside, carefully selected pillows, glasses, and tableware. These are all details which add generosity. Paintings and accessories which give us great joy. Spaces which function exceptionally well. Soft comfortable fabrics made of natural materials. Comfortable places to sit or breaking a room up into a variety of sitting areas is generous. How will you add a feeling of generosity to your home? Consider some of the tips below.

3 tips for making your home feel more generous

Make accommodations for the things that make YOU feel like you are living the good life. If you love to read, set up a nook with a comfortable chair, a good reading light, a spot table, and a nearby bookshelf. Get some nice tray tables so that you can have breakfast in bed. Make storage space for the baby’s toys in every room in the house so you always have something on hand to entertain them. Buy beautiful glasses for the wine you love to drink. Get storage custom-built for your record collection. Whatever you love, whatever will make your life function more smoothly, or make you feel like you are being treated, make a special place for it.

Find a design element you love and repeat it. Maybe it is a bright accent color repeating itself in several places in your room. A row of three matching bud vases sitting on a window sill. Matching table lamps in a striking shape flanking each side of the sofa or the ends of a buffet table. A series of black and white photographs. The repetition makes the accent more of a key element and it looks intentional rather than accidental. Make it about giving yourself MORE of something you really love anyway.

Be prepared to entertain. Have a game plan ready for when well-loved visitors are in the house. Is spare seating readily available or is there an easy way to rearrange furniture to facilitate conversation instead of TV viewing? How about keeping a tea tray and snacks on hand. Or wine and nuts and a block of cheese. Impromptu entertaining always feels very generous, and it is fuss free! Here’s the cool thing about how others view your home: If you have taken the above steps, your home will naturally feel generous to others because you have already been generous to yourself.

gen-er-ous adj.

1. Liberal in giving or sharing.

2. Marked by abundance; ample: a generous slice of cake.

3. Having a rich bouquet and flavor: a generous wine.

go GLAM. or what happened to formal decor anyway?

As part of this month’s attempts to catalog all the old newsletter articles on the blog I am posting this favorite from October. The message has never seemed more relevant to what Furbish stands for than now. We can live casual lives and still have a bit of sparkle and glamor too. Enjoy!

Interiors in everyday homes have changed over the past few decades, drastically, and in many ways for the better. I just do not miss floral chintz in peach and seafoam green : ). But what about the whole trend towards less formality in decorating? I may risk colliding with some of you on this, but I just don’t think the trend towards casual is all good. Interiors have changed to accommodate the way we live, but we also have the task of shaping our interiors to represent our ideal lifestyles as well, and don’t we want just a little bit of glam?

Let’s speak for a moment about casual lifestyles so we know what we are dealing with here. A good place to start is with the open floor plans that proliferated through the 1960’s and into today. These open plans with “Great Rooms” allow for kitchen, living, and dining spaces to open into one another so that various members of the family or guests could all commune while doing different activities. The move to open floor plans epitomizes the shifts in the way we live. Television and media were centerpoints. Cooking now more of a social activity. Entertaining includes children. Another basic trend we have seen is the increased importance of home offices and media rooms over the past two decades. These changes do reflect real changes in how we live, but can you get a sense of how function has perhaps been overriding form?

There is another trend I’d like to throw into the mix, that I call the “barrel and barn-ing” of interiors, or mass produced, mid-end, fairly style-conscious furniture. Ok. Someone did need to do something about the floral chintz and simplify our forms on a mass scale, but hasn’t this come at the expense of unique personality and charm in many of the houses we see today? Sometimes when I do the whole Sunday open house thing, I feel like I’m witnessing the un-decorating of America. People hardly have any furniture because they are trying too hard to be uncluttered, or everything in the home has a generic, seen this before kind of feeling.

In the meantime quality has surely suffered. We are furnishing our homes in the most ecologically unsound ways imaginable. We buy furniture we know will only last a few years and then contribute it to the landfills. We opt for quick fixes instead of taking the time to really know and express ourselves in our homes.

And what does all this come to mean for our lifestyle? I think we really might be losing out here! Many of us are not giving ourselves the space to host great parties, or space to live with a little bit of luxury, or space to express ourselves, or space to be just a little bit glamorous. I am not the queen of practicality, but if you wanted that you probably would not be reading my newsletter! I like my interiors just a little bit glam. I believe every room should have something that might seem impractically beautiful in it. It is my invitation to myself to aspire and know a little bit of transcendence.

In the end, I think all this is about wanting things in life to be a bit special. People do not use dining rooms very much anymore, but hardly anyone I know wants to repurpose the dining room or buy a house that doesn’t have one. Why? Because dining rooms are about holidays, entertaining, enjoying family and friends, good food and wine, and pretty much all the best that life has to give.We don’t want to let go of what the dining room symbolizes.  And that is really very glamorous in my book.

I have put together my own personal rules of decorating that I use for all my projects…”The Furbish Rules.” They represent a great step towards getting us just the right bit glam, while still leaving room for a more relaxed lifestyle. Keep an eye out for my email introducing them! In the meantime, check out my go GLAM tips below.

5 ways to GO GLAM at home

1. Add some wallpaper. I love my clients and I learn at least as much from them as they do from me. Several of them have asked for wallpaper in one or two of the rooms in their home. We’ve been doing gorgeous textured paper, like grasscloths and other weaves, and modern prints. Both totally glamorous. Wallpaper went on the decline because it felt dated and people wanted a cleaner look at home, but textural papers and the new designs out there keep things clean, fresh, and just a wee bit fancy.

2. Don’t skip out or skimp on window treatments. Many of you are afraid to adorn your windows, feeling like drapes are too dressy and valences too fussy. The reality is that nothing adds polish and finish to a room the way a window treatment will. Here’s the secret: do simple panels or roman shades in a simple fabric that has beautiful texture or color to it. Skip prints if you are not sure what feels current today. Another great option if you like really modern looks is solar shades or higher end roller shades. If you need help you can use our window treatment consultation.

3. Do something custom. It could be a sofa or a chair,  your windows treatments, commissioned artwork, or some built-ins. Even custom ordered pillows. There is something SO luxurious about knowing you have ordered something that is unique and special just to your room. And it DOES make a difference. People will know and it will likely be the most talked about element in your room.

4. Dress up your casual spaces. I love rich velvety fabrics in family rooms. What better fabric to snuggle into? Beautiful little spot tables or stools in interesting shapes or materials are like jewelry for your room. Woodframe chairs to set off a comfy sofa will dress up a comfy space.  And definitely do not skip accessories in your every day spaces. This is where you spend all your time. Great artwork, lovely lamps or mirrors, vases will all give you plenty to look at and enjoy while you live in your space.

5. Add some shine! This is one of my most valuable decorating tips. You need to break up wood and fabric surfaces with materials that are more shiny. A little crystal or porcelain in the lighting. Some mirrored surfaces, metal and glass. Even fabrics with a bit of sheen. You need to figure out where to get the shine from in each room in your house. This is the glimmer that keeps the eye entranced without it knowing why. True glamour.