Comments Off on Mismatched Written on April 20th, 2012 by
Categories: Decorating Ideas, Olive Blog
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It seems to be the style now to piece different fabrics together in a single chair or sofa.  Often, historically the backs of chairs might feature a jaunty mismatched pattern, say a stripe or check to contrast with the damask front. Being resourceful, I always had a lot of smaller pieces of leftover fabric and would often use them to make a whole chair or sofa cover.  And now I see this style in showrooms and magazines.

It can be very economical to find reasonably priced remnants- they are steeply discounted to reflect their bolt end status.  Recovering an upholstered chair requires up to 8-9 yards of fabric, and a sofa 16-22 yds.  These apricot and gold wing chairs were thriftily done with remnants for less than $200 and they look great as well. There were enough leftovers to make a window seat for the same room.

Often, I  use a contrast welting on upholstered pieces.  Not only do I like the contrast, but it can save a few yards of fabric as well, and if you are running it close to the needed amount, this option can help squeak you through.  But as shown on the gold chairs, you can “marry” two different upholstered pieces by having the same piping, as I did with the red welt on these chairs.  Ultrasuede makes fantastic piping, it is very durable, looks like leather, and comes in lots of colors.

I used lots of different fabrics and fluffy trim for a special chair for a little girl- we were trying to match a miniature chair she had been given as a toy.  (Just to be clear, this was NOT cost effective….but did produce the desired effect).

It can be a great way to change out upholstery that is problematic, the seat cushions are soiled or ripped and the rest of the sofa is fine, or as some complain, their kids keep sliding off the leather sofa.  I have suggested making just a new seat cover in a fabric that complements the whole sofa, and it is less costly than re-upholstering the whole piece.


Family Photo Dilemma

Comments Off on Family Photo Dilemma Written on April 13th, 2012 by
Categories: Decorating Ideas, Neighborhood Notes, Olive Blog
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Often when I am helping my clients with their spaces, we are re-organizing, as well as repainting. Disconcertingly we find layers of family photos on every available table top and surface. They sprout like mushrooms, in mismatched frames, and every one of them absolutely precious.Photo Grouping

If reclaiming the surfaces and decluttering is a goal, one solution I offer is to make groupings of family photos and hang them up. Sometimes we trail them down stairways, or they pop up in a dining room. Grouped this way they tell a compelling story, invite perusal, gladden the heart to see your family gathered around you.

My Photo GroupingThe family photos I have grouped in my dining room around the oval mirror feature Olive Van Vliet at the top, my business’ namesake. She has now been in various movies and TV shows, as the prop folks seem to like the arrangement when they use my house for film.

I have a client who has vintage photos from her girlhood in Cuba, I like to keep the black and white vintage photos in their own groupings, when possible. She had so many, and many of them were already framed, so we just went with the flow and kept the eclectic mix of frames.Wall Grouping

But often the myriad pictures are just the tip of the iceberg! Lurking in the back of the closet — or right under the couch — are boxes and boxes of photos. What to do with all of them, how to corral them, make sense of them, preserve the memories? I met a woman who does just that, Martie McNabb from “Memories Out of the Box”.

In her own words, Martie who is a member of the Association of Personal Historians, organizes and curates family photos and documents to tell the story of her client’s lives. She calls it “preserving their past and telling their story”, a story she learns from sifting through what’s often boxes and bags full of old documents and photographs. The intimate lens through which she sees her clients’ lives, the objects they deemed important enough to hold on to over years and sometimes decades, allows her to build their story.

Most clients ask that Martie compile their archives into a book. She says that 95% of the time, she does ends up making a physical book, but also creates multimedia displays shown on flat screen televisions or in digital frames. Each project she works on presents different challenges. She put together a book for one of her client’s sons, representing his life from birth through college graduation. His archive contained some of his early ”books” written in school, a tooth, airplane boarding passes and his father’s college id among other memorabilia.

Another client asked Martie to archive her grandfather’s story. A man who lost his legs and sight in World War II, the client’s grandfather managed to come back from the war impossibly positive and raised enough money for his family to survive.  Everyone in the client’s family wanted the book Martie created, so she scanned it, made seven copies and took the original to a book conservator.  At times, instead of creating new books, Martie works on things that are already made but in such bad shape that people can’t even touch them.

It is a fine thing to have personal historians among us, if not to personally curate for us, to remind us of our relationship to the past. I feel inspired by Martie, and am glad to recommend her to my clients yearning to break out of the box(es).


Tangerine Dreaming

Comments Off on Tangerine Dreaming Written on April 5th, 2012 by
Categories: Olive Blog, Olive Design
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Robert Wilson Associates ShowroomI was doing some furniture shopping at the 200 Lex building last Friday and I was reminded anew about the power of color to move people. I saw a lot of Spring colors and plenty of the new NOW color.

For some time I have been getting glimpses of this really powerful reddish orange, first bits and pieces and then more and more and then Whammo!Robert Wilson Associates Showroom

From the Pantone folks:

Pantone Reveals Color of the Year for 2012:

PANTONE 17-1463 Tangerine Tango

Dance into the New Year with this vivacious and appealing reddish orangeTangerine

CARLSTADT, N.J., Dec. 8, 2011 – Pantone LLC, an X-Rite company (NASDAQ: XRIT), and the global authority on color and provider of professional color standards for the design industries, today announced PANTONE® 17-1463 Tangerine Tango, a vivacious, enticing hue, as the color of the year for 2012.

Tangerine Tango, a spirited reddish orange, continues to provide the energy boost we need to recharge and move forward.

For more than a decade, Pantone’s Color of the Year has influenced product development and purchasing decisions in multiple industries, including fashion, home and industrial design, as well as product packaging and graphic design.Robert Wilson Associates

This new color it seems is everywhere. One of the showrooms I visited, Global Views, has gotten the message loud and clear. Their showroom was an homage to this delicious color. But it becomes, as Pantone tells us, a driving force. Not only do I see it in the home furnishings and apparel market, but as a back drop color in ads, like Gap Kids.

I have always been excited about color, as an artist I loved mixing it and creating with it, and as a textile designer creating various colorways for different patterns was always a welcome challenge. When I worked at Gear with Raymond Waites, I remember him telling us how important color was in selling the fabric.  No matter how fantastic the design, it was the color that moved the consumer. “90% of the appeal is the color” I remember him telling us in a design meeting.

Spring Colors

As an interior designer I know firsthand how much change a coat of paint can bring in a room. Color shifts things in a major way, sets mood and tone. Just a few nights ago I ran into a client from a few years back who told me she still loves the custom color I made for her dining room.

Bloomingdales Window

Our appetite for color seems to change seasonally. In addition to the new NOW color of tangerine, I see the Easter colors being trotted out as well. They remind us of Spring and are fresh and welcome after a dreary winter. They come to us naturally in the flowering trees and early spring flowers. I am ready to bring the flowers inside and enjoy the Season’s color in my home, while wearing my Tangerine Tango t-shirt.


More Is More

Comments Off on More Is More Written on March 28th, 2012 by
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Linear PhotosThe blank wall is a problem my clients constantly want help with. Many seem stuck on the idea of finding one huge piece of art to fill a wall. An easy way to sidestep this issue is to take a group of photos or pieces of artwork that you already have and hang them together.

An interesting grouping of pictures reads like one larger piece of art. The way that you hang them can be very dynamic and you can change the look of a wall while holding on to your favorite art or photos by just rearranging the pattern of frames.

Wall Art

My artist niece, Katie pulls this off with her usual flair. Pieces that are fine by themselves are more engaging as part of a larger work. The whole grouping draws you in.

I did a more linear version for a client that allowed me to include a series of antique prints she had framed juxtaposed over a tone on tone stripe.Bedroom


Motor View

Comments Off on Motor View Written on March 23rd, 2012 by
Categories: Decorating Ideas, Olive Green
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Occasionally I will have a client ask me about motorized shades.  I go to my friend and associate Steve Borodkin at Design Resources for all the answers.  When is it appropriate as a window treatment?

The first time I had even heard of such a thing was when I lived in North Carolina. A good friend of mine had Rheumatoid Arthritis.  When she built her “dream house” she installed motorized windows in her deck gazebo.  There may have been some in the main house as well.  I had helped design some easy-access clothing for Holly because of her disability and knew how daunting everyday tasks could be for someone with her disease. I was glad that technology existed that could help with this routine task that she found challenging.  But I had never really considered motorized windows as something used commonly.  (The new car I bought in 2005 was the first time ever I had automatic windows…Still sort of miss the roll-ups).

Steve rattled off a list of reasons why people would request motorized shades:

*Windows that are hard to reach

*Larger windows where the shade is cumbersome to operate

*Safety- no cords for kids to get tangled in


When you look at the technological advance with remote control access, there is a whole other raft of benefits.  I hadn’t considered that you could more effectively control heat/light by setting your shades to come down or up when you are away.  It can have energy savings as well.

Steve mentions the benefits on his website, Design Resources:

Whether operated based on pre-set times, temperature, light-sensors or centralized programming, motorized systems eliminate the necessity of traveling from room to room and floor to floor to monitor energy consumption.

No longer a luxury item, automated shading systems conserve energy by reducing air-conditioning demands, minimizing and maximizing the sun’s heat, enhance security, and protect your interiors from UV damage.

Today’s glass buildings make motorized shades a reasonable solution for energy savings and light control.  Steve estimates that programmed motorized shades pay for themselves in about 2 years in energy savings, keeping cooling costs down.

Not sure I am hurrying to install them in the homes I decorate in Victorian Flatbush, as I like the more traditional window hardware for our vintage aesthetic.  For these applications it would be for convenience rather than energy savings. There is a 30-50% increase in costs over regular window treatments which could be prohibitive if not offset by energy savings.


Rock Paper

Comments Off on Rock Paper Written on March 14th, 2012 by
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Countertop Stone AlternativeI first  heard about Richlite in  a materials class while I was studying Sustainable Design at FIT. It is basically layers and layers of compressed paper soaked  and baked in a phenolic resin.  Richlite looks like a matte stone of some variety, and is incredibly tough and heat resistant.  Yet it can be cut by a wood working shop (My cabinet maker trimmed it to my specified size).  It has a greater spanning strength than stone as well.  My supplier, Anthony Brozna from Eco Supply in Richmond, Virginia, tells me that a 1”slab can cantilever over 30” and gives designers a lot more flexibility than stone. I chose basic black, though Richlite comes in a range of subdued colors.

Detail of Richlite Material


While I was testing the product for my client, I  tried abusing and staining a handful of samples. The material seemed impervious.  I have heard complaints that Richlite scratches easily, but the small surface scratches that I see lend to its character, and the beauty of it is that it can be sanded down with an orbital sander and 150 grit sand paper and refinished with their rejuvenator. My supplier has given me a few squares to try out for lamp bases in place of marble.  I will need to get a carbon tipped drill bit and hope to try them out.

Alternative to Stone Counter

The Richlite site has information for getting LEED points through the use of their product.  While Richlite has been around for many years, it has recently grown more popular with the rising interest in sustainability.  A similar product, and newer to the market, is PaperStone.  It also comes in fabulous colors and their advertising brochure proclaims them “The Countertop with a Conscience”.


Suitcase Storage

Comments Off on Suitcase Storage Written on March 6th, 2012 by
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Studio StorageI always get comments on my storage solution in the studio.  I stack vintage suitcases I have collected and have easy access to my endless caches of “stuff”. Lengths of trim, samples of passementerie, vintage fabrics, carpet samples….easily and neatly stowed in  plain site.  I always thought I would get fancy and hang luggage tags on them to identify the contents, but never get around to that level of Martha-ness.Open Suitcases

I like the vintage suitcases with fabric and leather trim best, but also admire the antique leather ones which are often such great colors.  I gave one to my friend Maritza to put on top of the custom Armoire that we had built for her bedroom.  It was the perfect match to the cherry stain of the Armoire.  In order to make her room look better, we needed to stack a dresser, closet and storage cubby into one unit.  By using the suitcase on top, we managed to wring every last bit of storage space from that corner.Armoire with Suitcase


Cycles Recycled

Comments Off on Cycles Recycled Written on February 22nd, 2012 by
Categories: Neighborhood Notes, Olive Green
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Vintage Bikes

In the hope of Spring, and because this false winter has been so easy, I went bike shopping last weekend.  I was after a good solid bike for myself and one for my 11 year-old daughter.  The new ones I have looked at were either too cheaply made or the decent ones stratospherically expensive.  But as my style seems to lean toward yesteryear anyway, and I love recycling, I went for the vintage experience.

Brooklyn Vintage Bicycles, by Peter Whitley, is housed in a tent and basement store in Gerritsen Beach.  It’s a residential area and doesn’t look like anything from the street.  You call ahead and make an appt. with Peter.  I told him the two bikes I was after, my height and my daughters height and age.  When we got there I was amazed by the selection- more bikes than most bike stores I have visited.  All of them beautifully restored and ready to roll.  He showed us each about 4-5 bikes and we narrowed it down to a few that he and his partner brought upstairs so we could road test.Recycled Bikes

The caveats:  All the gears and cables are new or tuned up or reconditioned, everything works great, and there is a 30 day guarantee.  But remember these bikes are from the 60’s- 90’s and there are some dings, dents, rust.  You have to be into the style and value and not be hung up on it being shiny and perfect.  If you like vintage, this is probably not an issue, but just to mention.  The bike I was retiring was pretty decrepit; my new one is absolutely a Beauty Queen.  I will miss being able to lean my bike up against the side of a building and go in to do my shopping without any fear of someone swiping the bike (really, it was so unlovely that I rarely locked it!)  but the ones I bought last weekend are truly fantastic.  I ended up with an unusually colored brown Schwinn “Tourist” bike, and my daughter with a periwinkle blue wonder with chrome fenders.  We are really pleased with our purchases.  I consider them excellent value.  The two bikes together, with a lock for my bike ended up at $500.  Bikes I looked at ranged from $200-$280, all of them road-ready, often new tires and cables.Vintage Bikes

To make an appointment with Peter Whitley call him at 347.733.2079.  He says once the season starts he sells 35 bikes a week.  Stock is great right now.


Tivoli Mercantile and the Amazing Technicolored Chalkboard

Comments Off on Tivoli Mercantile and the Amazing Technicolored Chalkboard Written on February 15th, 2012 by
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Color Chalkboard PaintChalkboard doesn’t need to be the black or green from school days of yore. While I was upstate this weekend, I went to this wonderful store called Tivoli Mercantile in Red Hook, New York.  They carry Hudson Paint, which features chalkboard paint in amazing colors.  Pinks!  Blues!  Chalkboards have all new possibilites, if you were hesitant about creating a blackboard door or wall (see previous post) because the black was a little bit overpowering, now you have many more options.Color Chalkboard

Tivoli Mercantile also carries paint developed for doors and floors as well as a primer.  I’m going to try the Lime Paint, which the company describes in their brochure as- “one of the world’s oldest paint formulas mixed with today’s best technology.  Lime is our liquid stone.  It is naturally anti-fungal, breathable and zero VOC.  Lime can be used in interior or exterior applications and produces a matte textured patina specific to the surface it is applied to.  Revive your home with one of the most natural paints available.”

Color Chalkboard

The paint is manufactured for them in a factory in the Hudson Valley.

Its so great finding small stores with niche products, Tivoli Mercantile had all kinds of interesting gadgets and clothes, besides their proprietary paint. If you’re trekking upstate, worth a visit!  5 East Market Street, Red Hook, New York.


Fun Framing Ideas

Comments Off on Fun Framing Ideas Written on February 8th, 2012 by
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Fun Framing IdeasOnce you have filled up the front of the fridge, sometimes the Kid’s art needs to move onto the walls, and there comes a time when you want something a little fancier than scotch tape on the corners to hang it.  Then it’s hard to decide which pieces and the stuff just keeps on coming…

I developed for one of my clients a set of frames that can beautifully showcase your young Artists best work, and then, easily opened up to change out the artwork with a new piece.  I use metal turn-buttons on the back instead of fitting the artwork with points or brads.  You can change the look whenever a new batch comes home from school.  Best of all the artwork looks amazing when it’s showcased in a good-looking frame, and looks great on your walls.  Buy real wood frames for this project, as the pressboard varieties don’t take the hardware well, and won’t be as successful.  The wood grabs the screws better, and the frames are sturdier.

Fun Framing Ideas

See pics for tools and hardware needed.  I recommend plexi for safety.

A client I visited the other day, had a great display of framed work.  She used inexpensive frames from Ikea to showcase interesting papers that she had purchased.  Often grouping a set of framed pieces will function like a larger piece of art.

Fun Framing Ideas

She used them over the bed, which creates the visual drama of a headboard, and the white frames match the bedroom scheme. The same idea is used over the stairs, in black frames.  It’s an inexpensive way to get visual interest on the walls.  And as you are not invested heavily into it, you can feel free to change at whim.

Fun Framing Ideas