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Colors and How you want to live

Have you ever wondered why certain colors become popular? Have you ever wondered why when you go into shops all of the sudden they are showing similar colors? Since planning a stores selection takes months of development and all these stores don’t know each other to talk about then what’s the conspiracy?

Stores try to be directional, but one area doesn’t lead the pack anymore. Just ten years ago you could go to London and find trends that were six months ahead of the New York shops. I used to say you were only as good as your last trip to Paris, during my merchandising days. Globalization has eliminated the leg up London had over San Francisco on fashion trends. This is good since we now look to many countries for inspiration not just Europe.

Why think about color anyway I ask myself. Well because it is invigorating, it adds refreshment to our routines, it can soothe our soul and lend peace during havoc. It can make us laugh and bring on memories of love, family, and friendship. This is what I love about color, design, and texture; no pun intended but it is the fabric of our lives.

We’re not trying to predict the colors of the future and get on the color forecasting wagon. But we are going to mention what colors or we have been seeing or responding to that appeals to our Napa Valley lifestyle.  There are a number of trends, some new and some continuing with new mutations or merging together to create a fresh perspective

Neutrals are still with us, while going into several directions, away from or in addition to the beige or beige tones, which are still popular. There is a reason for this. Neutrals are comfortable to live in, make a great backdrop for adding color or artwork, and can be easily be updated and changed as the mood strikes. Neutrals are also evolving into much stronger versions-rich browns, ochres, deeper colors, all creating a statement. There is both a rustic and sophisticated feel to this palette. Schemes of white-white with stronger color accents are also making a come back

Retro is very strong, not in style but in colors.  A lot of bright colors are showing up-lime to pea greens, oranges in various hues, electric blue, true reds, pinks from soft to shocking, and yellows. Sometimes these are used sparingly as accents or together as a backdrop to white. It might be a particular combination that is fresh like brown with icy blue

Hot-reds, reds on top of pink, and lots of pink with orange and yellow is an exciting range which can be used in a muted or bold way. When muted and not used in the retro way this palette can be earthy and almost reassuring. It has the feel of our Napa Valley on a hot late summer day as the vines are changing color from green to red, orange and gold.

Serenity colors evoke a soothing meditative feeling. The look has been here for awhile and will continue.  Various versions can be played but more often than not you will see soft cool tones; such as pale aqua, steely blue, soft sages, and beiges. One of the keys of this story is that it is monochromatic and low contrast-that’s what makes it so easy to live with.

In Napa our outdoor spaces can be updated with color too. It should be an inviting space for good food and friendly talk. An outdoor room doesn’t have to be big, in fact a smaller space can be more intimate and inviting. You can create a cozy space by defining it with stone or wood flooring. Flagstone, brick or gravel can be combined with mosses or grasses and scented ground covers. Think about adding a roof to your room. It could be of fabric for a tent like enclosure or build a pergola with climbing grape vines or wisteria. Don’t close in your room with walls, but using potted plants or small trees in container to enhance the feeling; spacing them in various heights thereby adding visual interest. If you want to hide a poor view using portable bamboo fencing or trellis of fast growing vines.  As a final touch add soft lighting scattered amongst the plantings or along a path. If you have a fixed roof a chandelier would add magic or lace string lights amongst the vines for soft ambiance.

Use color in your outdoor room also. Think of your favorite palette. Do you like plants in warm red, oranges and purple why not add copper pots as metal accents.  If you like cooler tones of white, light blues and pale pinks then use rustic aluminum pots to bring in the cooler tones of grey. Just keep in mind that simple is better and not to combine too many schemes.


Barefoot Entertaining

As we move into the barefoot lazy days of summer most of us want to take our entertaining outdoors. How about thinking in terms of making your outdoor space an extension of your living room or kitchen? With a little preplanning you can easily create an inviting setting to entertain. First decide the purpose of your gathering; is it a club tea, a casual party with neighbors after the game or an anniversary celebration for your parents. Next decide on the amount of people to invite and at the same time look at your space and perhaps move the furniture around by arranging existing pieces to create additional conversation areas. By reviewing you space you can host small teas, fun team parties, raucous graduation events, summer brunches, or elegant evening cocktail parties. As a last planning step decide if the event should have a theme. If you can use a theme for the party it gives you clearer direction for your choices about outside decorating colors, menus, drinks, and music styles.

Picking your outside colors can be put together with your linens, additional potted plants, and centerpieces. Dress the table with colorful linens or add a special element from the garden to coordinate the mood. Tablecloths don’t have to be formal, but you can find great fabric at local shops that will be a fresh addition to the mood. Cloth napkins are great and can be cut from yardage in a wild pattern. Big napkins perhaps 18” square would be a good start and you would only need 1 ½ yards of fabric to make nine napkins. Roll the edges and top stitch to clean finish the edges, but if you are not a craft person then you can pink the edges or fringe the edges by cutting off the selvedge and leave the edges raw. Make sure your cut piece is cut on the square (I call it on grain) or when you fringe the napkin it will be crooked.  I prefer cottons or linens which make great fringe rather than polyesters. Polyesters wash well, but I don’t like the way they feel. Your fabric choice will help solidify the theme and mood of the party. Solids are more formal while a print can be perfect for a child’s birthday celebration or casual party. One of my favorites is a tablecloth with a map showcasing all of the states. It is a great icebreaker for conversation with quests that are getting together for the first time. When dressing the table don’t hesitate to use flowers from your garden or use a centerpiece that ties back to your theme. If you have a quest of honor perhaps they have a special hobby that can be incorporated into the centerpiece. Sometimes name cards are helpful when new people are meeting and you are trying to start conversation. Use your glassware and dining utensils rather than paper plates and cups. The food will look and taste better especially for special occasions.

The next step is selecting a menu. As the hostess people are coming over to see you  so make your life easier and more enjoyable by being  creative but simple as well. Do what gives you the opportunity to enjoy the party as well. Don’t try out new fancy recipes that keep you in the kitchen at slaving over the grill. Serve your friends and family what you like to eat and chances are they will like it too. Consider making several items earlier in the day like chilled salads, marinated vegetables, and a simple dessert of farmer market fruits and cheeses.

Even in smaller spaces experts agree that entertaining will be easier if you set up a station for drinks and another station for food. These stations will get your quests to move around and not congregate in one group; while it can enliven the conversation as people move about.  Large tin tubs filled with ice and various drinks make great party containers for beer, soft drinks, juices, or water. Offer a selection of local wines in red and white or create a sangria making use of our delicious local fruits. If you decide to serve mix drinks keep it simple by offering one or two signature specialty drinks that can be related to your theme, Margaritas or Martinis anyone?

Grilling being ever so popular automatically makes you think of beef or chicken as your menu choice, but why not add several foccacia to the grill?  It easy and tasty as you let quests sprinkle a selection of cheeses, marinated tomatoes, and various herbed olive oils on the grilled warmed bread. It will be a new hit with vegetarians and meat eaters alike.

Enjoy your time with your friends during these warmer summer months and try this refreshing new salad at your next outdoor fete.


Creating a Sanctuary

In the hustle and bustle of today’s busy lifestyle wouldn’t it be nice to come home to a relaxing spa of your own.  Turning your existing bathroom into a space of comfort and sanctity can help to revitalize your senses and revitalize your home.  Bathrooms are no longer just functional cold spaces, they are places to relax and unwind.  People across the country are remodeling their homes and adding value at the same time.  Ever stayed at a luxury hotel or seen a bathroom in a movie that you just loved?  Well, it is possible to create a space like that of your own, and companies are making it easy by offering more and more creative solutions to bathroom design. 
The most daunting things when starting a remodel are all the numerous choices available to the consumer.  From glass, to metal, to rare stone sinks, the possibilities are endless.   The best advice is to do your research.  Explore magazines, and the internet, looking for things that catch your eye. Pick one main item that attracts you and use it as a focal piece to choose other selections around.  Be it the vanity, the floor tile, a beautiful faucet or even a shower curtain that you truly love.  Once you get started things will start to flow, but you have to get started.

There are many items to take into consideration when starting a remodel.  You will need to address the following items and even some I may have missed. Start thinking about these things and how they will function in your space. 

The Vanity

Will it be a built-in cabinet, a free-standing piece of furniture, a pedestal sink, or a floating shelf?

The Sink

Do you like undermount, vessel, farm, or drop-in?  Do you want it to be porcelain, glass, metal, or stone?

The Tub

Do you want a free standing, a built-in, an undermount, or a Jacuzzi tub?

The Toilet

Do you want a one piece or two pieces?  Do you want it to be white or colored?  What about the flushing system is that important to you?  What finish is the trip lever?

The Flooring, Countertops, and Tub Deck

 Do you want tile, natural stone, concrete, Ceasarstone etc…?

The Plumbing Fixtures

Make sure your existing plumbing is ¾” to allow for the water pressure to work the luxury plumbing fixtures that are out there.  Nothing like installing a beautiful large shower head that the water will only dribble out of.  Plumbing is a science all its own and make sure to use a reputable plumber.  The fixture styles available are tremendous and style and finish choices will have a huge impact on the overall design.

The Storage

If you want a pedestal sink, where are you going to store all the necessities?  Is it logical to have or should you choose a free standing furniture style piece that has some storage below?  Is it stylish yet at the same time function able?

The Lighting

Task lighting and overall room lighting are two different things.  Make sure you have plenty of both and that they turn on at separate times.  Is there adequate lighting for putting on make-up? Don’t forget all the options in fans out there, you no longer have to feel like a jet plane is taking off in your bathroom to get proper ventilation.  Think about the amount of natural light and how much light you will actually need.

The Shower and Tub Enclosures

Do you want glass or fabric?  Do you need it to close, or would a splash guard be acceptable? Do you need handicap accessibility?

The Wall Treatments

Are you prepping for Wallpaper or paint?  Is the wall covering washable or susceptible to mildew and moisture?  Do you want texture or pattern?  Do you want a wainscot of tile with a shelf on top for decorative items?  Wall space is a premium so think about towel bar and shelving locations in advance.

     As you can see there are a lot of items to consider. Make a scrapbook of the things you like, and then head out there to investigate the options.  Try to be creative.  If you use large stone tiles on the floor try putting a small mosaic accent tile in the shower pan.  Run a decorative border along the vanity splash or as an accent in the shower.  Think outside the box, run liners vertically between large tiles, add glass to your floor, put a copper undermount sink in and use bronze fixtures. Using one color natural stone throughout the space in a variety of patterns or sizes can feel very “Zen like”, simple and clean yet interesting due to the texture.  Pick colors that soothe your soul and enrich your environment.  Take pictures in nature that appeal to you and then use those color hues when choosing your selections.  If you invest a little research and time into your project it will pay off in the long run.  Imagine soaking in your tub thinking “Oh what a beautiful day” instead of “Gosh I need to scrub this old tile again!” 

Be creative, and remember you can always ask a Design Professional for advice.  It will not only help you avoid costly mistakes but it will give you that second opinion that everyone needs.  Designers are trained in the latest products and probably have some great suggestions that you have not even thought about.   Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed and make sure to get Contractors and Trades people that have strong past references.  Have fun with it!


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