Monday, March 22, 2010

home decor - ur doin it rite

So it occurs to me that as I'm browsing through pictures of houses (I usually can't afford) to buy, I occasionally see something that's exactly the way it should be done. And then I forget which house listing it was on, and the house sells, and the picture vanishes from the internet; and with it all record of the exactly correct shade of blue for a kitchen (this has already happened once). While designed interior shots from the likes of houzz are awesome, there's something particularly inspiring about pictures of homes that don't look perfect or professionally designed (or super-expensive), but nevertheless have a look that I would be serenely happy if I could achieve in my own home. So I'm sharing some.

(BTW, I did find a quasi-castle for my happily-ever-after. It just went on the market and I am afraid it will sell lickety-split. But it's just out of our price range. And my dh still doesn't have his job locked down. Oh I am impatient. But if St. Joseph found me the house, he will line everything else up too...)

Perfect item #1: the cellar

Everyone is now aware I like old houses. Often these come with a concrete basement that is really better described as a cellar. The contemporary fully-finished basements are certainly nice, but for just a few hundred dollars (maybe $1000?), a cellar can be long on storage and short on scary. This is all it needs:

Perfect item #2: the kitchen

I want a traditional kitchen. Sometimes old houses have kitchens that were remodeled in 1985, and you have to start from scratch. Even if you have to gut and start clean, you can still do traditional beautifully (I am forgiving the stainless because it actually is a classic material, despite its current trendiness):

Although I would probably lean really traditional myself (for continuity with the rest of the house and so it wouldn't go out of style and have to be redone), one can do a traditional-minded kitchen with contemporary flair that's just beautiful. I am confident this one was very expensive, but check it out:

Yeah, that's really nice.

If you have the original kitchen, though, it would definitely be worth keeping:

Perfect item #3: a traditional bathroom

This is in the attic of a two-story Victorian, so we know there wasn't a bathroom there to start with. If you're already putting in (or gutting) a bathroom, you can get a traditional one for less than the cost of an ordinary bathroom. The clawfoot tub (this looks like a standard 5-footer) and the shower bar are available all over craigslist, and can be found for around $200. The arts-and-crafts stained glass pieces can also be craigslisted. I think they bought the arts-and-crafts molding and the reproduction pedestal sink new; both can be found at the Home Depot, but you can also find an antique pedestal sink (for less) on craigslist. I could really do this (with some help from a plumber)!

Oh, and I'm not recommending this as the ideal bathroom, but somebody is clearly a genius here, so I had to share:

Perfect item #4(a): gifted with color

Some of the houses I've looked at seem to have been decorated by the color-blind. Obviously professional decorators do these things well, but sometimes I see a house that actually needs some work - and yet the person who chose the colors obviously has a gift. Clearly, I should exploit that gift for my future home:

(Of course, having those magnificent floors didn't hurt here.) They did a good job with blue, too:

Perfect item #4(b): gifted with contrast

I see lots of gorgeous, artistic, trendy all-white interiors with fascinating decor elements ("pops of color" - sick of that phrase) on and elsewhere. They're lovely. I'm not an artist and I doubt they would work in my home. But the clarity and contrast they're going for can, it appears, be captured in a design that doesn't need to be updated every six months. This house is expensive - but it doesn't look like a professional designer was involved. I am seriously impressed here:

I mean, yes, they started out with high ceilings, and transoms. But they didn't go nuts and paint everything. They didn't even refinish the floors. Those aren't the most pricey antiques I've ever seen. And anybody can buy black and white paint. If you have an old house (or an ornate one), you could totally do this.

The aesthetic that inspired the above room can be overdone, of course. Even with the somewhat riotous excess, this kitchen makes me really happy. I think it might need only a bit of editing (perhaps removal of all the purely decorative items - wrought iron rooster silhouettes and the like):

I've also seen a couple of exterior colors recently where people were clearly doing it right, which is a cheap trick. If I'm painting a house, I'm finding out exactly what color the people used who have the pretty houses. Costs the same and looks better. It seems to me that sometimes the right color is more than just a pretty color - it magically transforms the whole house! I'm going to have to get out my camera and take a drive to show you those finds, though, so maybe later.


  1. ooh, lovely pics. I especially love that blue bedroom. It's the perfect blue, IMO. adn those dark wood floors & that new/old kitchen? Also darn purty! Hope you find your ever-after home soon!

  2. My favorite picture is that last kitchen! Love it!!! It just looks so homey :).

  3. Love the last kitchen also! the brick and the fireplace! yeah, I can dream. :)

  4. I’ve got to comment on the blue room which was done so well. It is hard to find the right shade of blue. I tried and tried (in a small bathroom at the old house) and it always came out looking terrible. In my current house, I have a turquoise room . . . I kid you not. It looks like a fishbowl. (It was a pre-teen’s room so they weren’t going for classy, but still, words cannot describe this hideous room!)

    Great pictures. Can’t wait to see the exterior pics you’re going to take.

  5. I love the pictures; you have great taste. The blue room is actually about the color of my living room, which I love.

  6. I love your commentary with each of them. It is SO hard for me to identify my "style" and I really admire that you know what you like.

  7. I have a room I'm at a loss as to what to do with it. Can I send you the pics for some much needed help? Can I fly you to OKC and just let you have free reign of my house?