Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Off-Season Fireplace Fillers

While organizing this post, I realized it might be a bit premature for some of you in colder parts of the country. But Spring has definitely sprung here in Southern California. April and Easter are only a few days away, for goodness sake. Time to close up my fireplace. Bring it in line with the new seasons and my lighter, warm-weather decor.

However, as I'm proof-reading before posting today, it's dreary out and threatening rain. Perhaps this idea is premature here too! Maybe I'll have one or two more fires before closing it up this weekend and then... what?

What will I do to fill in that unsightly, unused fire box? What should take the place of the firewood-filled basket and hearth tools? Searching around in books, magazines and online, I've come up with lots of examples but still I'm not sure what to do here.

Part of the problem in my house is that I really don't want my fireplace to be the focal point of my living room. It's off-center and clumsily proportioned. We purposefully painted out the brick we uncovered in the process of remodeling so that it blends into the walls. I don't put much on the mantel either. A round, iron-framed mirror plus a couple of small prints propped up and some greenery or vase of flowers and that's it. Nothing that will call too much attention.

What I choose to fill or cover my firebox during the off-season will likely then be quite low-key. You, however, may have a perfectly centered, beautifully proportioned fireplace that is the star of your room. With that in mind as well, I've gathered a variety of options to inspire us.

One of the more traditional covers for an unused firebox is a decorative fireboard. A painted board or even an embroidered and framed panel does the job nicely in vintage surroundings. Plants and flowers, whether inside the firebox itself or placed on the hearth, are also classic choices. I might try a fern this year. But any fern in my living room will have to be faux. That corner of my living room lacks enough light to keep a real one alive. Dried hydrangeas or faux boxwoods in decorative containers are another alternative I might explore.

An obvious solution to covering the opening of an unused fireplace is a folding screen. Unlike the finely woven metal screens that prevent sparks and embers from escaping the fire, a carved screen like the one above, a painted screen or even an upholstered screen custom made to complement your room is purely decorative and should be replaced when fire season rolls around again.

Here's an interesting screen of sorts fashioned from the fronds of a sago palm. And while the fronds may be real, it appears that the fireplace itself is not. Placing items on the faux hearth of a faux fireplace lends authenticity to the overall look. On a real hearth, below, decorative objects and flowers soften the blackness without entirely blocking the firebox. Which is fine, I suppose, when the fireplace will be in use. But I'm not a fan of this particular flatscreen-over-the-mantel look. I would add something more to the hearth arrangement to further reduce (or eliminate altogether) the appearance of one black box on top of another.

Candles in the firebox are a tried and true solution to an off-season or non-working fireplace. I've never tried this myself though. Maybe this will be the year. No, I take that back. I know better that I'm really not a "candle person". I'd never bother to burn them.

I do like the look of these candle hurricanes set atop a chest placed in front of the fireplace opening. This particular arrangement seems meant for the winter holidays, but it could easily be replicated with branches and plants from our current season. The starfish and Nantucket baskets lend a seaside touch that can stay all summer.

A low chest or a bench placed in front of the fireplace adds extra seating while the fireplace is not in use. That's a smart use of a temporarily freed-up space.
Or move an entire seating arrangement and treat the front of your fireplace like any other wall in the room. I like this idea a lot for my own home. Since I have such a funky fireplace situation, I do tend to treat it more like a wall. There's a reading chair and floor lamp pushed right up almost against it now.

More often than not, I've taken the easy way out and simply plopped the basket that holds our firewood right into the firebox and called it a day. Expected but (sort of) effective. Decorative (kind of) but not intrusive.

I suppose I could expend a teeny bit more energy and stack the logs sideways in an artful arrangement. And make sure the room surrounding the fireplace is as interesting and colorful as the one below so the hearth is hardly noticed anyway.

Even more ambitious is this firebox packed full of... what? Is that wood? Shingles? Books? Whatever it is, it's a conversation starter for sure. Which is not what I want my fireplace to be. So, intriguing as it is, this won't work for me. (And does anyone else think of spiders when they see this? We have a lot of spiders here. No need to make them feel any more at home than they already do.)
This fireplace below, is, in fact, full of books. Sorry, but there's just something inherently wrong with this. Yes it's edgy and creative and colorful and solves a storage problem perhaps, but it's books in a fireplace! The implication really bothers me. Nope, not going to happen.

Something I have considered is making sure the room itself is so striking, so well put together and full of interesting furnishings and objects, that the fireplace becomes a non-issue. Unlike as we see it in the photo below - smack in the center of our view - I believe the fireplace here might be overlooked entirely by the occupants of this room. Now that's the effect I'm looking for!

The elements of surprise and distraction are definitely at work below. Neutralize the furnishings and windows and hang a big blue sail fish over the mantel. Fireplace? What fireplace?

I'll be working over the next few days to solve my fireplace puzzle. I have a set of small shutters that, with a new paint job, might be just the thing. I also have some wooden boxes, a couple of baskets, and maybe I'll go on the hunt for a faux fern just to see what that looks like. If I come up with anything blog-worthy, I'll show you next week!
In the meantime,
tell me -
What do you do with
your fireplace in the off-season?
Hide it or highlight it?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Color of Happy

Did you figure it out? Of course you did.
Yellow is the color of happy.
I'm fairly certain that it is impossible to be unhappy in a room that includes a little, or even a lot of, yellow.

I'm not talking about just any yellow though. In springtime, the most cheerful yellows, the yellows we've waited for all winter, are those that come in the form of rubber rain boots and baby chicks. Fresh, lemony desserts. The warming sun. Easter eggs and daisies. Butterflies, dandelions and daffodils.

Daffodil yellow is the color in focus here because the daffodil is the birth flower for the month of March. How lucky you are, if you're born in March, to have this eternally cheerful flower as your own. Symbolically, the daffodil represents rebirth and new beginnings. Ancient lore throughout the world recognizes the daffodil as a sign of winter’s end and as a lucky emblem of future prosperity. And while their botanic name is narcissus, daffodils are sometimes also called jonquils, and in England, because of their long association with Lent, they’re known as the “Lent Lily.” In Wales, it is said that if you are fortunate enough to spy the first daffodil of the season, your next twelve months will be filled with wealth. Chinese legend tells that if a daffodil bulb is forced to bloom during the New Year, it will bring good luck to your home.

The daffodil is also the traditional flower of 10th wedding anniversaries. And while a gift of daffodils is said to ensure happiness, you should always remember to present daffodils in a bunch – the same legends that have the bright flowers bringing good fortune and happiness warn that when given as a single bloom, a daffodil can foretell misfortune. Yet another fact contrary to the flower's optimistic disposition is that the daffodil can be poisonous if eaten. In medieval times, there was a belief that if you looked at a daffodil and it drooped, it was an omen of death. Thank goodness these are only myths! The truth of the daffodil is that of a dependable, easy-care garden flower, a magical sight when naturalized in the wild, and a perennial favorite for its long life, colorful blooms and sweet fragrance.

A yellow with the exuberance of the daffodil can be tricky to decorate with. As you can see in the two homes I've featured here, liberal doses of white and pale neutrals keep the yellow from overwhelming. And in both homes, black adds a sophisticated counterpoint to a crayon-bright color that could appear juvenile if not reined in. On the other hand, notice too how even the smallest accent of this bold yellow cheers and warms a space that might feel cold or somber without it. Yellow is the color of happy. Of smiley faces and springtime. Of optimism and sunshine. Daffodils, joyful surprise that they are each spring, will fade. Using their color in your home keeps them with you every day, in every season.

Click here to visit the New Hampshire farmhouse (top images) or here to learn more about the North Carolina bungalow (bottom), both featured on countryliving.com. Gorgeous photos by Lucas Allen and Keith Scott Morton respectively. Daffodil facts from teleflora.com and birthflowersguide.com

Monday, March 22, 2010

Book Giveaway Winner and a Time Out

Using the super-sophisticated method of writing the names on small slips of paper, double- and triple-checking to make sure none were omitted, folding them up tight and asking my able assistant to choose one with his eyes closed, we have selected a winner...

Sarah of My Yellow House

Congratulations, Sarah! Your new book is a nice fit for you. I received two copies over the weekend - one for me and one for you - and can say now that it's as good as advertised. Filled with great pics and advice for achieving all "The Comforts of Home" the title and cover photo suggest. I'll mail it off to you right away. Big thanks to all of you who entered! By the way, anyone reading who doesn't know Sarah and her 83-year-old home, should click on the link in her name above and pay her a visit. If you love clean, vintage, cottage style, you'll enjoy following along as she works to make her yellow house with a red door, literally her "dream home", a welcoming haven of personal comforts and luxuries.

In other news. . . I am having epic problems with my server (grrr) and will probably not be able to publish anything new for a couple of days. Because I can't just leave my office, climb into my car, drive to the nearest wifi cafe and hang out there for hours while I finish up the posts I've started and planned for this week. I'd love to, it's a beautiful day for patio blogging, but I can't. I'm only able to publish this one because I occasionally get a very weak signal from one of my neighbors that could fail at any moment. So I really should stop typing now and push "publish".

Happy Monday. Happy Spring! Back soon. . .

Friday, March 19, 2010

Luxury is. . .

. . .working at home on the day my first iris opens.

. . .camellias planted by our home's former owner that have continued to bloom faithfully every year.

. . .knowing that the last of our winter crop of oranges is waiting to brighten a few more breakfasts.

. . .this view from my office on a sunshiney day.

. . .a swing arbor covered with star jasmine vines that fill my house with their heady fragrance.
( I wish we had "smell-o-blog" so I could share it with you. )

. . .a brand new bicycle that's all decked out in pretty springtime colors!

Luxury is having a few extra hours of daylight at the end of the work day. For swinging... or gardening... or orange picking... or biking... or whatever else tickles my fancy. Luxury is having such beautiful weather and the time to thoroughly enjoy it on this first fine weekend of spring.
I hope you have such luxuries in your life.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

On the Occasion of My 100th Post... a Giveaway!

100 posts.
100 times I've had something to say. Something to show you. Something informative. Or just plain pretty. Something I hoped would help bring a little comfort and luxury into your home and your life.
100 posts.
Seems like a lot if you don't blog. Like nothing much at all if you've blogged as long as some. Still, I think it's significant enough to celebrate! I wish I could send a little something to every one of you who've visited me here. It's been so much fun! What I can do is say
and offer each of you the chance to win this:

"The Comforts of Home" is a brand new book by Caroline Clifton-Mogg. She's the author of other favorites that include "French Country Living" , "The White Home" and "Accessorize Your Home" According to the publisher's description, "The Comforts of Home" is "a book that enters into the spirit of how we want to live now, at a time when excess is no longer desirable. Author Caroline Clifton-Mogg puts a welcoming and beautiful haven within everyone's reach... from the welcoming hallway, to the cozy kitchen, comfortable living room, satisfying study, practical bathroom and peaceful bedroom - through to the garden. "The Comforts of Home" offers clever decorating ideas that rely on imagination and style rather than a deep purse and suggests ways of making the most of what we have to put the heart back into our homes."

If you'd like your own copy of this book, leave a comment here on this post before Midnight PST, Sunday, March 21, 2010. I'll select one name and announce the winner here on Monday the 22nd.
Leave one comment or a hundred, but I'll only count you once! (Please, don't anyone leave a hundred comments just to freak me out) And be sure to identify yourself by name in your comment if you don't have a blog or a google account or any of those other account-type thingies that identify you automatically.
••••• GOOD LUCK!! •••••

Comfort&Luxury is 100 posts old today.
Thank you for reading and writing and encouraging and critiquing and contributing in any and every way. I hope I'll continue to hear from you as I come up with one hundred more things to say!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sunday at the Rose Bowl with Eddie

Look! There I am! On a beautiful blue-sky Sunday at the Rose Bowl with Eddie Ross.

For just over two hours, Eddie led a happy group of 20 or so through the maze that is this world-famous flea market. Along the way, we stopped to listen and watch as he explained why he would choose a particular piece and what he might do with it once he got it home. These small chairs he liked for their paint potential—a glossy black, perhaps?—and the ease with which the seats could be removed and recovered. While Eddie was talking, I was totally distracted by those rush-seated, coral-red arm chairs behind him. They would be fantastic around a breakfast table and might have been mine if I had such a thing as a room just for breakfast.

This beautiful little chandelier was only $47. Click on the pic to see the details better. The combination of jade green and creamy white china was so pretty and look at the leafy accents on the arms. The fluting on the white areas gave it extra charm too. At that price, even if it had to be rewired, this light would be perfect for a bathroom, as the centerpiece in a feminine bedroom, or over a small dining table.

Eddie paused at this display of lavender glass to explain to us that it once was clear. An article I found that explains how that happens also warns of the possibility of fraud in this area of collectibles. Click on the pic if you're interested in buying only authentically sun-colored pieces. Or collect it anyway just because it's pretty. Beauty and even "antiques" are in the eye of the beholder so long as you're just decorating and not investing.

These gorgeous lamps were carved wood and quite large. Their patinaed white and gold finish was perfectly aged. A woman in our group snapped them up before Eddie was even done talking about them. Here's a good tip about lampshades Eddie gave us that I'll pass along: take a look at the Better Homes & Gardens line of shades available at WalMart. He said the shapes and fabrication are nice and that they're just as easy to customize or embellish with your own trims as more expensive shades so why not check them out?

What did I find for myself? Well, besides all the chairs that I coveted but haven't the space for, there were only a few things that caught my eye today. Two tablecloths (the bottom two of the foursome above) that I'll cut up and add to a pieced and patched table runner I'm thinking about making. And, below, an English J&G Meakin platter that will either become part of a wall display or a receptacle for jewelry on my dresser top, and an assortment of starfish and coral branches from the "shell lady" who is always there and has great items for what I think are really fair prices. (She sells her seashells at the Pasadena City College Flea Market too if you're in this area. First Sunday of every month.) With those small coral branches, I think I'll try my hand at making my own bottle toppers. You know what I'm talking about, right?

My treasures don't compare at all though to the fun of meeting Eddie and Jaithan and the opportunity to spend time with other blogger friends. My only regret is that I somehow did not get one decent pic of Jaithan as he was busy buzzing around herding the group and keeping Eddie on track. They're a pretty great team. ((Note to Jaithan: thanks for taking the perfectly-posed pic of Eddie and me!)) I was very happy to finally meet Janet of the Gardeners Cottage! She was there with her friend Melissa (visiting Janet all the way from Kauai) and they were both just as fun and genuine as I knew Janet would be. I also met another Traci (with an "i") who happens to live right here in Upland. Traci is a photographer who has recently begun a style and inspiration blog called muse margaret. Go pay her a visit. And while you're there, jump over to her professional blog and check out her gorgeous photography. So nice to meet you, Traci!

All in all, it was a very fun day! Gorgeous, perfect weather, charming hosts, loads of information and helpful hints, and new friends. Everything I expected and more. If you have the chance to attend one of Eddie's events, I say "do!".

Click here to go to Eddie's blog for his event schedule and more inspiration than you'll know what to do with. And I'm linking this post to Rhoda's Thrifty Treasure's Party over at her blog, Southern Hospitality. Click on the pic below to see what everyone else found over the weekend!