Wednesday, February 27, 2013

How to Get Chic Style in a Country Home

Designer Nancy Toon has lived in palaces, estates and posh townhouses but found a way to make her big style shine in a small country house. She shares her tips for getting chic style no matter where you are.

  • I like starting out with large-scale furniture. In a large room, it is substantial and provides a good foundation; in small spaces, it creates warmth and coziness.
  • Then I like to add textures in the fabrics. I use a lot of linens and white denim because it’s very practical, and neutral backgrounds allow you to change and update your look. I add patterns in pillows, and textures are found in the woods I use and peeling-paint patinas in accessories.
  • Working with today’s much simpler palettes, you have to layer, otherwise the look can easily fall flat and feel cold. Use a variety of textures and subtle patterns.
  • If you mix new with old you get comfort of newly designed items with the depth of antiques.
  • Accessories are what really pull your look together. I like to use metals with great textures. Antique mercury, hand-blown glass candlesticks, natural corals from the beach— these are elements that add unique style and personality.

Working at Home

Nancy uses her home as a testing ground for her new projects and merchandise.  “I use my house as a workshop,” she says. “It is very important to me that I only offer my customers things that I would want.”

This rotating array of items also helps to keep her design stimulated and evolving. As things make their way in and out, it helps to keep Nancy in touch with how her clients live and what they would want.

“Being based in the Hamptons, our clients come to their weekend homes to relax with friends and family and so our design is based on their requirements for casual but sophisticated rooms for elegant living and entertaining,” she says.

By Jickie Torres
Photography by Jacqueline deMontravel

Victorian Home Office

In the 19th century, there was no such thing as a home office. Or at least there was no single room that bore that name. In the humblest households, all the work of running the home was done by the woman, and her workspaces were scattered about, often carved out of spare space. She had separate areas for her main tasks—cooking, cleaning, ironing and sewing—but the nerve center of her operations was the Victorian version of the computer: the chatelaine, that brass or silver ornament that held pencil and paper, penknife and scissors, needle and thread handily at her waist.

victorian home
{Image courtesy of}

Her well-heeled sisters didn’t have it much better. They might have a writing desk or escritoire in the bedroom or—later in the century as posh gentlemen’s clubs reared their vainglorious heads—a place to work in the library while the husband of the house was out on the town.

The Victorian library, which sometimes also functioned as a schoolroom, office or study, tended to be decorated in a somber manner befitting its function. Furniture was simple, colors were dark and the prime focus was on the artful and efficient display of books, whether they be rare and beautifully bound collector’s volumes or the popular tomes penned by novelists like Twain and Dickens.

home collectibles
Photo by Jaimee Itagaki

When designing her home office, Marcia Sola wanted, like the Victorians, to balance the artful and the efficient. Two ways she did were selecting the perfect drapes and desk.

The drapes in Marcia Sola’s home office are high on looks and low in cost. For about $300-$430 for the discount fabric and $130 for rods and tiebacks—she turned two plain windows into elegant and opulent focal points.

The drapes get their good looks from the combination of three fabrics that play off the wall colors: a burgundy undercurtain made of shimmering taffeta, a pink-and-white toile and a brown and blush floral.
“I layered the fabrics to get a fuller effect,” she says. “They do actually close, but I never draw them. I use the shades to provide privacy.”

Gathered gracefully in a pocket rod and looped back over rosette-style tiebacks, the draperies look like vintage ballgowns.

The library table remains one of the better choices for an office desk because it is so versatile. Simple and stylish, it is perfect for a laptop or computer because it has a spacious flat top. When it is not being used for office work, it can be used for other more leisure purposes: It makes a great dining table, baking or food prep table (buy a heavy pad to protect its surface) or a buffet sideboard.

Then again, you may actually want to use it for what it was intended: a place to read a book or two—hardback, paperback or even electronic.

by Nancy A. Ruhling
Photography by Jaimee Itagaki

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Why I Love Flea Market Decor

I visited a flea market for the first time when I was eighteen years old.

I was eager to feather my first nest, and the deals couldn’t be beat. If my finds weren’t perfect, fixing them up was the fun part.

Even know, all these years later, giving a new home to a cool cast-off is my decorating style of choice. The office in which I write is filled with furniture and accessories from flea markets, antique malls and thrift stores, including a $30 wooden desk and a $45 buffet that were both transformed with paint and elbow grease. Among the mix you also will find an old brass lamp, a collection of cool vintage frames, original flower paintings….the list goes on. So, working on the Flea Market Décor website and print issues is always a labor of love.

Let us introduce you to spaces decorated in a variety of styles—from eclectic, romantic and farmhouse to mid-century modern, French, or a blend of two or more. Peruse our extensive directory of the best flea markets across the country and the world. Check our list of hot collectibles before you head out to search for your next big find. Follow our how-to guide to upcycling the next vintage piece you bring home with a horrid finish and beautiful bones.

Whatever you need, if you love flea market décor like me, we’ve got you covered.


By Rebecca Ittner

Source : Flea Market Decor

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Design Tips for Dramatic Landings and Terraces

While some may wish for a one-level garden, designers like Jill Benshoof and Gary Baker of Plân-aire, a Laguna Beach, California-based landscape architecture and planning firm, are grateful for a many-tiered one. Follow these tips for creating drama in your own yard.

  • Designers use changing grades and levels to create intimate, private areas in the garden. (Think about the mood created by a sunken living room and employ the same idea outdoors.)
  • Steps and staircases allow for gentle transitions between each distinct space.
  • Use each level to showcase a collection of objects, pottery or plants.
  • A small bridge or employing a variety of path paving materials—crushed shells, pebbles, wood chips, stepping stones—in different areas will add interest.
  • Enclose patios or terraces with vegetation to softly screen the space and create a sense of mystery. Rather than a dense hedge, plant a mixture of evergreen and deciduous shrubs. Light can flow through the openings; niches and gaps offer glimpses of the interior views.

  • Landings and thresholds are small but useful “stages” for displaying your favorite plants in containers.
  • Provide a place to sit and enjoy the quiet setting. A low chaise, a built-in bench or ledge, or even a cushion placed on the steps invite lingering.
  • A free-standing arbor, a gazing ball on a pedestal, and fruit and ornamental trees can serve as focal points and delineate areas with color and height.
  • Add sensory details. Make your garden a place for inhaling sweet fragrances, hearing sounds of water and wildlife, touching the appealing textures of leaves, and more. A birdbath or fountain can serve as a focal point as well as invite a variety of songbirds to hear and watch. Cultivate flowering plants that have alternate blooming seasons to provide a constant fragrance. Temporarily place books, pillows, blankets or baskets to invigorate sitting areas.
By Debra Prinzing
Photography by Jaimee Itagaki
Styled by Hillary Black and Jacqueline deMontravel

Monday, February 18, 2013

Tips I have Learned from Flea Marketing

•    Those wheeled carts are not just for grannies who buy their groceries wearing slippers. They allow you to shop freely, and there’s enough room for bags of apples and fresh produce on top.
•    Ask the seller questions. If a piece is of worth, a good knowledgeable seller can share the piece’s provenance and tips for care. Phones are also handy if you want to search the Internet on a particular collectible.
flea market
•    Bring cash. Even though many vendors accept credit cards, money is the best currency if you want to make a deal. The asking price does not have to be the same as the selling price.
•    Take measuring tape if you are shopping for a larger item, such as a piece of furniture. Additionally, many sellers in city flea markets work with movers who can transport such pieces, as transportation is not as accessible.
•    Investigate. Read the bottom of china, silver and crystal to see where the item was made and if it is attached to a noted designer.
•    Bad weather days could mean more chances for a better bargain, as there is less competition from more shoppers.
•    Go early for the best selection. Closer to closing time, vendors are more likely to strike a deal.
•    If a piece speaks to you react to your emotion. The luxury of putting something on hold with a day to think about it does not apply.
•    For more information on the Upper Westside Green Flea visit

By Jacqueline deMontravel

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Victorian Garden Inspiration for Spring

Here’s how landscape designer CJ Forray of California-based Cottage Garden Design
softeneda medieval-style garden’s geometry by using rounded shapes and strategic plantings. 

victorian garden

• A curved walkway along the back portion created two halves of the garden. The curved path uses 12-inch stone pavers.

• Thyme, chamomile, blue star creeper and dwarf strawberries knit together the stepping stones with their tiny leaves and surprising scents.

• Interlocking half-circles of silvery-gray santolina and glossy green germander (Teucrium sp.) form the parterre.

• Planted inside each of the three crescent-shaped sections is a tapestry of edible and ornamental herbs and perennials.

For more landscape ideas and expert advice from CJ Forray, visit

By Debra Prinzing
Photography by JaimeeItagaki

Posted by : Victorian homes

Monday, February 11, 2013

5 Steampunk Events You Won’t Want to Miss in 2013

Discover the fun side of Neo-Victorian design style by checking out these upcoming exhibitions and events.

victorian style clock
Image(Credit in caption: Photo courtesy of

April 26-28, 2013
Cincinnati, Ohio
The Steampunk Empire Symposium will gather musicians, fashion designers and writers to discuss ideas and share their work on the ultimate Steampunk website. Visit

March 8-10, 2013
Tuscon, Arizona
Also produced by The Steampunk Empire, the Wild Wild West Steampunk Convention promises more “high adventure and exploration.” Visit and click “Events.”

May 17-19, 2013
Piscataway, New Jersey
Last year, the world’s largest Steampunk festival welcomed more than 4,000 guests. Join in the fun this spring by visiting

July 26-28, 2013
Salt Lake City, Utah
With music, art and expert panels, the Salt City Steamfest is the place to delve deeper into Neo-Victorian ideas and design. Learn more and register for the convention at

October 12-13, 2013
Waltham, Massachusetts
The International Steampunk City will submerge Waltham in a tidal wave of a whimsy: five stages, two city streets, three Victorian mansions, two Industrial Revolution museums, and more than 15 other venues for live music, art galleries, storytellers, scholarly lectures, workshops and theatrical performances. Visit

By Elaine K. Phillips

Save Money on a Custom Home

Architect Steve Giannetti shares his tips on saving money on building your own home.

French doors - We used standard T.M. Cobb French doors, which are about half the cost of custom doors.

Pine floors - We used 10-inch pine shelving boards, nailed and glued to the plywood subfloor, for the look of old floors.

– There are 2 by 4s for the eaves’ overhangs. They are inexpensive and old-fashioned looking.

Interior doors - The interior doors are standard French doors with sandblasted glass in them for an inexpensive, unique look that lets the light in.

Patios - The front porch is concrete with some beach shells cast into the surface and lightly sandblasted for an Old World look.

Paving - All the paving and site walls around the home are broken concrete reused from the old driveway.

Insulation - Denim insulation was installed in all the walls and ceilings, and a foil liner under the roof to keep the attic cool.

Skylights - An operable skylight in the middle of the house provides natural light and, when open, natural ventilation that keeps the house cool all summer.

Tile - We used only one kind of white 3- by 6-inch tile in the house and Carrera marble to keep costs down and maintain consistency.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tips for Owning a Cabin Home

Secret Garden

Hilde Leiaghat shares her tips as the homeowner of a vacation cabin in the mountains.

• We kept the kitchen as it was but changed the cabinet hardware and painted the walls, which had been a faux-wood color, immediately. We painted them a historic green color that we bought at the hardware store.

• Make sure your home is insulated really well. We replaced the aluminum windows with weatherproof windows to keep the cold out.

• We threw out the furniture and redecorated. It had ugly brown carpeting and ugly reclining chairs from the 1980s. We built a new deck around the cabin; due to the amount of snow, the old one gave way.

• A cabin could be a good moneymaker if you rent it out when you know you won’t be using it.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Valentine’s Day Sugar Cookie Recipe

Take the time to bake delicious cookies as a sweet gift for Valentine’s Day this year. They are quick and easy to make and, most importantly, from the heart!

Sugar Cookie
Sugar Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
1 ½ cups sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt

Cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla, and mix well. Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl; gradually add to the creamed mixture.
Divide the dough in half and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for two hours. Roll the dough out to about ¼-inch thickness and cut with cookie cutters. Leave one inch of space between cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350 degrees.

Cool for one hour before frosting.
Valentines Day Sugar Cookie

Icing Glaze

4 cups of powdered sugar
4-6 tablespoons of milk
Stir until smooth (the icing should not be too runny)
Add more powdered sugar if necessary to thicken the glaze
Tint with food coloring
Use a separate bowl for each color needed

Frost the cookie with the icing. Smooth the top with a spatula dipped in water. Use the edge of the spatula to scrape off any icing that has run over the edge of the cookie. 

The icing glaze hardens in a couple of hours.

Written and photographed by Jacqueline deMontravel
Produced by Diane Sedo