Cliff May Homeowners Lead How Long Beach

Doug and Rochelle Kramer were ready to design their own dream midcentury residence. Realtors who specialize in selling and reviving Cliff May homes in Southern California, they knew precisely what they wanted. However, what they got was a bank-owned house using a swampy pool, outdated appliances and light fittings, an army of ants and a four-sided fireplace covered in crazy materials.

After taking the opportunity to fix up this 1953 home, the couple filled the house with midcentury stone, designing a room that contributes their Cliff May tract by example and exemplifies that the greatest in midcentury design and indoor-outdoor living.

at a Glance
Who lives here: Doug and Rochelle Kramer and their feline, Eddie
Location: Cliff May Rancho tract, Long Beach, California
Size: 1,950 square feet; 2 bedrooms, 2 baths, home office-study
That’s interesting: This home has been featured in the 2008 book Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The excellent room has two sitting areas bisected by a fireplace. The couple considers that side the casual family room, where they enjoy unwinding while viewing TV.

The neutral sofa and rug floor a Noguchi coffee table and vivid orange Modernicachair.

Rug: Dubai Vanilla, MAT; sofa: habit, David Galindo; paint: Sea Pine, Benjamin Moore

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

A wall of windows allows natural light into the living space. The glass divider is typical of houses in this region — the hallway behind it contributes to the master bedroom.

Lamps: vintage, Inretrospect; side tables: Email; credenza: teak, vintage, eBay

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The Kramers’ house remains true to open-concept midcentury design; the fireplace in the great room creates two separate living spaces while maintaining flow. “I will see the pool, pool, living area, dining area and kitchen all at one time, but it is not too open,” Rochelle says. “There is just enough separation of room to feel defined nevertheless still connected.”

White armchairs: 1940s-inspired, Twentieth; java table, eBay; pub rug: Tokyo White, MAT; seat: Case Study Museum Bench, Modernica; floors: moderate brown hard maple, Lauzon

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Each of the fireplace’s four sides originally was coated in another material — stone, drywall, tile and mirror. The Kramers stripped it all off and started from scratch.

Searching for a material that would balance out the smooth interior surfaces and the jagged stone out by the pool, Doug and Rochelle determined on this limestone from Thompson Building Materials. The double-sided fireplace is now the great room’s focal point.

Planter: Bullet, Hip Haven

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

A curated mix of accent pieces — like the glassware, artwork and ceramics on this dining area credenza — add character to the very simple house’s blank lines.

Credenza: Sussex, Design Within Reach; ceramics: Teardrop and Oval bud vases, Klein Reid; glassware: HomeGoods; artwork: vintage, Deja Vu

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The couple is really a driving force in bringing this closely knit Cliff May community collectively. They frequently host progressive dinner parties in the neighborhood. Rochelle also opened a neighborhood message board that now has close to 400 members, who post about everything from lost dogs to garage sales to builder referrals.

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Embracing their love of modern design and the architectural characteristics of their home — like the low, pitched roof and exposed beams — made the Kramers’ design choices easier. Each room makes use of one material or colour, rather than mixing different components.

Dining table: Baron, Calligaris; dining chairs: Globus, Design Within Reach; pendant: Nelson Saucer, Modernica

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The Cloud Couch from Modernica anchors the main living area. The curve of the coffee table perfectly complements the lines of the sofa, topped off by a round vase and bubble ground lamp.

The couple settled on Gingersnaps by Benjamin Moore for the living room’s main wall with the help of colour adviser Nancy Epstein.

Coffee table: eBay; pub rug: Tokyo White, MAT; floors: moderate brown hard maple, Lauzon; floor lamp: Cigar Lotus, Modernica; wall art: vintage, Long Beach Antique Market

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

A solid wall of windows and French doors conducts the length of the entire residence, making the interior feel like an extension of their outdoor space.

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Unlike in several midcentury houses, this updated kitchen includes ample storage and cabinet space without compromising on windows and natural lighting. But kitchens built in the ’50s frequently had dual wall-mounted ovens, and this one was true to form. One oven has been swapped out for a more modern appliance — a microwave.

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The kitchen has been the center of every home in the 1950s. Due to the improvements and expansions completed on the house from the prior owners, the generally small galley kitchen has become more spacious.

Clean surfaces keep with the modern design of the home. The backsplash adds a touch of color against the neutral canvas of their cabinetry and countertops.

Countertops: Cinder, Caesarstone; backsplash: prism glass mosaic, source unknown

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Playful kitchen fittings are carefully curated to accent the blue backsplash and white cabinetry. The countertop stove allows for storage underneath.

Salt and pepper shakers: Birds, Jonathan Adler

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The outside and indoor spaces flow flawlessly together in design and style.

Planters: Bullet, Hip Haven

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

When the couple moved, the pool has been “a shallow swamp,” in accordance with Rochelle. The couple restored the attractiveness and character of the original rock surrounding what they affectionately call the Flintstone Pool or Kramer Lagoon.

The lack of a true front door is a distinctive marker of Cliff May homes. Instead, a collection of French doors surrounds the perimeter of the house, making multiple entry points for authentic indoor-outdoor living.

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The couple fought with finding the ideal exterior color but finally landed on this calm gray-blue, which complements the pool and landscape.

Rochelle’s notion of gardening is utilizing low-maintenance plants, like succulents, followed by pebbles, stones and also a touch of grass to soften things up.

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Situated off the main courtyard and pool area, the master suite also has a solid wall of French doors.

Lamps: vintage, Deja Vu; shovel on dresser: Home Goods

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Because of the expansion function, the master suite is a lot larger than just one in a normal Cliff May home. The pitched roof and exposed white beams improve the open feeling.

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Eddie, the couple’s cat, makes an appearance to sunbathe. An heirloom teddy bear sits on a wing chair gifted by friends and fellow Cliff May homeowners Josh and Jen Amstone.

Curtains: Gate Jade, Robert Allen cloth; painting: vintage, Deja Vu; wall covering: Juicy Jute in Espresso, Phillip Jeffries; dressers: teak, vintage, Deja Vu; chair: Adrian Pearsall for Craft Associates

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The master bath and big walk-in cupboard lie through a set of louvered doors. Unlike many homes built at the exact same time, Cliff May homes comprised master suites with attached baths.

The television in this bedroom is concealed from the hall. A vintage wall sconce brightens up this chocolate-colored corner of the space.

Bed frame with attached nightstands: Meubles Mobican Furniture; sconce: Anemone Wall Light, Robert Abbey

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The master bath formerly had all-black fixtures, and there was no shower, only a tub. The Kramers redesigned the toilet in neutral and crisp colors, with both a shower and bathtub.

Countertop: Nougat, Caesarstone; tile: Gres Cemento, Neutra, CasaMood; cabinets: custom, Estrada’s Cabinet Designs

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

The pendant over the brand new tub helps establish the mood in this relaxing bath. The timber front to the tub makes it blend seamlessly with the rest of the bathroom cabinetry.

Tub deck: Nougat, Caesarstone; tile: Firenze Nicar, Porcelanosa; light fixture: Possini Sphere Pendant, Eurostyle Lighting

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

In the back of the house, Doug’s home office exudes midcentury warmth, connected to the lush greenery outside by a wall of windows. The neutral paint colour and jute wall covering complement the vintage teak furniture and make the room feel cozy and manly.

Coffee table: teak, vintage, Xcape; sofa: Room & Board; lamps: vintage, eBay; finish tables: teak, vintage, Xcape

Tara Bussema – Neat Organization and Design

Here, Doug and Rochelle Kramer relax in their everyday family room.

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Ethereal Glow in a Chic Montreal Penthouse

This 1920s art deco building in Montreal has taken on a new, contemporary twist, thanks to designer Julie Charbonneau. She originally purchased its penthouse as a showroom where she could flirt with fresh fashions in design. But if a fire burnt down her Toronto home last year, she moved herself and her daughter briefly to Montreal to wait out the rebuilding process. The spacious and bright attic has been home for today, and it embraces Charbonneau’s French design with fresh, high-contrast lines.

at a Glance
Who lives here: Julie Charbonneau along with her 8-year-old daughter, Alexia
Size: 3,250 square feet; two bedrooms, two bathrooms
That’s intriguing: This building once housed a printing firm.

Esther Hershcovich

Charbonneau maintained the structure as accurate to the original state as possible, including brick walls and the concrete columns. Following an unsuccessful attempt to salvage the first wooden floors, she replaced them with a budget-friendly white epoxy.

Charbonneau made this table. Its diameter that is 7-foot fits up to 10 chairs. The natural lines of the Bocci lighting fixture match the area’s industrial advantage.

Light fixture: Triede Design; dining chairs: Avant-Scène

Esther Hershcovich

The open layout is created for entertaining many guests. The lighting may be controlled to various mood settings in an iPad, courtesy of AVI Design.

Floor lamp: Tolomeo, Michele De Lucchi for Artemide

Esther Hershcovich

Oversize arched windows are the pinnacle of architectural interest in Charbonneau’s home. She opted to accentuate them by leaving them discovered in the primary living space.

Esther Hershcovich

An oversize shag rug helps to define the seating area. This space, with its own swivel chairs facing the dramatic custom wood media centre, is Charbonneau’s favorite spot in the home. She says, “It’s a wicked sound system, also.”

Gray swivel chairs: Triede Design

Esther Hershcovich

When guests come in, they visit this formal sitting area, with its Rauschenberg paintings, custom tiled chairs and wine collection on decorated glass shelves.

Esther Hershcovich

The foyer includes two charcoal drawings, part of Robert Longo’s “Men in the Cities” body of work. An upholstered leather bench helps make a gracious entry and offers a seat for pulling on boots before heading outside to the snow.

Floors: Saraceno Granite; paint: Chelsea Gray, Benjamin Moore

Esther Hershcovich

A tall coat closet made of rosewood sits in the foyer, also. “The idea was to not show the hinges,” says Charbonneau.

Esther Hershcovich

The kitchen strategy included an island with granite counters that were white. When Charbonneau was advised the bit of oil wouldn’t fit within her building’s elevator, then she covered half of the island. “Sometimes a battle brings out the best,” she says.

A wall has been brought forward just enough to put in a line of accent lighting to her cooking area.

Esther Hershcovich

A skylight and overhead spotlights make the glossy kitchen look extra bright. The kitchen also includes two dishwashers with pullout freezer drawers flush with the cabinetry.

Rosewood doorways beyond the kitchen match exactly the foyer’s coat closet design. These lead to Charbonneau’s daughter’s bedroom. The door on the right leads to the master suite.

Esther Hershcovich

Charbonneau made her master bedroom with light colours and luscious fabrics.

Esther Hershcovich

The upholstered headboard is custom designed to include a background for the two nightstands.

Table lamps: Flos; portrait: David Drebin

Esther Hershcovich

A large portrait by Martin Rondeau, a Montreal artist, hangs over a freestanding tub in the master bath.

Esther Hershcovich

His-and-her wall-mounted vanities face a walk in shower in the master bath. The spacious frosted glass door leads to the toilet.

Esther Hershcovich

Charbonneau designed daughter Alexia’s room with an extra twin bed for a visitor. A Paul Beliveau painting hangs on a custom wall-to-wall headboard.

Esther Hershcovich

An Egg Chair overlooking downtown Montreal sits in the corner of Alexia’s room.

Esther Hershcovich

Off the foyer, another bath ties in with the rest of the house with a rich, dark rosewood vanity and wood-lined wall.

Esther Hershcovich

A massive shower opens up the room and contrasts with the dramatic vanity.

Esther Hershcovich

The primary living room includes a view of St. Patrick’s Basilica, just a couple of steps away from her building’s front door.

Esther Hershcovich

Julie Charbonneau snuggles with Alexia on among her favorite swivel chairs. While both are living here just briefly, Charbonneau is likely to build a rooftop patio adjacent.

Show us your creative penthouse!

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Central Plains Gardener's February Checklist

We’re on the cusp of gardening season, and if you are excited there is a lot to do. But if you are a lazy gardener, like me, you do not need to do anything in the dirt just yet. February is the perfect time to find some major architectural work done on your landscape — function that will help your plants flourish and provide more wildlife value for one to appreciate come summer.

More regional garden guides

U. of Maryland Arboretum & Botanical Garden

Prune shrubs and trees. There are just two reasons February and March are good pruning months: 1. You can see the branches, since there are no leaves, and two. The plants have not awakened yet, so the sap is not flowing and harm is not as likely. Birch is one of the first trees to begin flowing, so get to it early.

Redtwig dogwoods are simple to maintain; just snip out one third of the oldest twigs near ground level to rejuvenate the shrub and ensure more young twigs winter. The twigs do not possess a color that is as vibrant and are the thickest.

Do not prune Spiraea species, that bloom on last season’s growth — wait till early summer. In fact, most shrubs that bloom in spring should be trimmed after the bloom.

Craftsbury Kids

Rustic Branch Hooks – $14.95

A general rule would be to cut branches on younger trees so the underside twenty-five of the back is just backward, no branches. This aids growth go up the tree toward the top, where it is most needed. Use a sharp pruning saw for larger twigs and branches, and a bypass pruner for smaller shoots and twigs.

This photo is of a few awesome coat hooks, but I put it here to show you where to not reduce the branch. See that grey arc at the bottom of the coat hook on the back? That’s called the branch collar that’s where you should cut. Saw the branch off at the exact same angle the collar is about the back, having the top of the cut meet at the top of the branch collar.

What else should you trim on a young tree?
Make sure that the tree has a single central leader branch — if it has two, cut the one that isn’t straight up and down, looks darker or will be coming off the other side of this trunk.Remove any crossing branches that are rubbing each other. Rubbing branches peel off protective bark and may result in disease.If you are pruning crabapples, go simple. The more you prune the trees, the more ugly water sprouts you will get (those thin branches that go up in the atmosphere ). My advice is not to make more than a few cuts each year.Read longer on winter tree maintenance

Paintbox Garden

Don’t birdhouses. Clean them out if you can. Though some birds keep warm in plants that are interior birdhouses, it will not be long before spring migrants will be looking for a new residence.

UP insides

Speaking of birds, feeders may add nice architectural flair to a garden. If you do not have one, consider where it may look nice — if it hang or be on a pole? It’s best not to have more than two feeders on a tiny suburban lot.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Watch for emerging blooms. Here in zone 5a, crocuses will be looking at the end of the month. I’ve hundreds. Can you plant any fall? They’ll spread gradually each year, eventually giving you a late-winter yard your neighbors will envy. They’re also one of the very first pollen and nectar plants for insects who are ahead of the match.

Benjamin Vogt / Monarch Gardens

Perhaps the groundhog saw its shadow; perhaps it didn’t. In any event, the snow and ice will melt think of the occasion such as a rainbow, a promise of renewal and hope.

More regional garden guides

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10 Fabulously Fanciful Bathrooms

I had so much fun looking at living rooms which broke the mould, I decided to do it again — now with way-outside-the-box baths.

While a few of us are prepared to go a little crazy with a shower curtain or colorful towels, those homeowners simply went crazy. And the results are extremely imaginative and different and enjoyable.

They are not for everybody, however they do show a great deal of courage and creativity, two qualities which never go out of fashion.

Covering a powder room floor to ceiling in dramatic red wallpaper is bold enough for many people. But when you add a backlit alabaster dressing table and chandelier sconces, you’ve created an altar.

Menter Byrne Architects

This bathroom inside this gym pavilion is so enjoyable, but it also has a beautiful, light-filled simplicity which makes it beautiful. It would be so much easier to get my kids into the tub whenever they could swing in.

I love the over-the-top gilded appearance in this area. Playing with style and scale can create unexpected and lovely outcomes.

Pepe Calderin Design- Modern Interior Design

This dark, metallic bathroom with its lit wall of figurines and clean lines is high-drama glamour. So Miami, don’t you think?

Sam Allen Custom Home Design

If King Henry VIII ever pinpointed, he did it in a room similar to this. Spare, fit for a king and grand.

erwin hawawinata / Hawawinata N Associates

All this marble, gilt and drapery is much more Napolean’s design.

Locati Architects

Luxury meets Wild West in a bathroom that combines natural substances, like rough-cut stone, with antlers and some very wonderful hardware.

Peace Design

More flair. Raw steel countertops and old license plates. It is like the sweetest, most tasteful truck stop toilet.

Stern McCafferty

A tub in an industrial white bathroom. Calming and hilarious all at once.

Watch more of this house and learn about this tub

DKOR Interiors Inc.- Interior Designers Miami, FL

This stunningly magnificent agate wall is really a large-scale waterproof panel created by Alex Turco. This bathroom demonstrates that slick, contemporary rooms can be produced with natural substances.

More: Dream Tubs for Bath Lovers

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Northeast Gardener's January Checklist

Perhaps you got some pruners or a fabulous gardening book as a holiday gift and are anxious to start reading, making notes and going to try new plants. Take some time this month to produce a fresh start outside. Here are a couple things to look at placing in your list of backyard resolutions.

Paintbox Garden

Shop plant earnings. Community plant sales are a great way to find bargains while encouraging local organizations such as garden clubs. Find out what’s offered in your town and mark you calendar so you know when to go — be all set for a few good-natured jostling in the start as everybody rushes in! Some of my favourite plants were branches bought at neighborhood sales with their names written on popsicle sticks.

Paintbox Garden

Grow more heirlooms. Old-fashioned plant varieties — such as these, sold by the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants at Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia — are most often overlooked but deserve a place in your backyard. By ordering seeds from plant centers such as this one, you also help to support the great work these organizations do to interpret historic sites and preserve plant records.

Go online and check out heirlooms from firms like Harris Seed, Landreth, Johnny’s and the Thomas Jefferson Center for Historic Plants.

Paintbox Garden

Go native. If this really is the year to tear an overgrown spirea hedge along a base wall, think about using native plants when you redesign. The beautiful oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia, sets 5 to 9) is among my favorites, with big and lobed leaves which colour well in the autumn, intriguing exfoliating bark and daring flower panicles.

Native plants are widely adaptable and often do well in poor soils or problem areas, and several are significant host plants to insect larvae.

Paintbox Garden

Support local beekeepers. With the honeybee population in decline, it’s more significant than ever to help support local apiary operators.

Bees need a lot of blossoms to produce honey, and wildflowers such as goldenrod, aster and Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) are crucial to sustaining the work of hives. The aptly named bee balm (Monarda spp) is a great perennial for woodland borders, meadows and mixed boundaries that’s offered in a vast array of colors.

You can also buy honey in the farmer’s market and give beeswax candles as winter presents.

Paintbox Garden

Have fun with salvage. Find ways to utilize old storage containers and other containers found in antiques emporiums or crap shops — and mix up the look with bold colours in combinations you haven’t tried before.

Look in your doorway and entry backyard and make an effort this season to have fun using unusual textures and colours in containers such as wagons, wheelbarrows, wine crates and old boots.

TruexCullins Architecture + Interior Design

Get into the library. Local libraries are a great place for browsing through magazines and books. Take along a notebook to jot down ideas or photocopy articles on topics of interest, then go home and find a comfortable chair to pore over everything.

You may also through your bookshelves and pick out backyard books you no longer want or need, then donate them to a library or a used-book shop.

Paintbox Garden

Join the Garden Conservancy. You can tour public and private gardens across the country through the Open Days program of The Garden Conservancy, a nonprofit that supports historic landscapes.

Look in the guidebook (sent to members) to discover properties in the U.S. Northeast or everywhere and go with a notebook and camera to get great ideas.

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Pacific Northwest Gardener's January Checklist

As much as I like the holidays, there’s something very satisfying about sweeping up the glitter, packing the decorations away and receiving the house straight once again. Additionally, it is an chance for a new start, whether it’s just switching out a couple of accessories or planning a major remodel.

Le jardinet

The garden is much the same. January reveals the backyard’s bones and provides us with an opportunity to contemplate what we might do differently this season: what might be added to bring a color to a dull corner, what new seeds we may attempt and which plants need a little TLC to continue looking their best.

Insert a winter cheer. A small retail therapy in the favorite nursery is always a good idea on a gray day. What can you pick your garden a lift and that will give you up? Winter jasmine (Jasminium nudiflorum) is a favorite scrambler of mine for winter its cheerful yellow blossoms last for many months.

This lax shrub looks best either being abandoned to tumble past a rock wall or tied up loosely against a fence or pergola and allowed to drape down in an explosion of gold stars.

Nurseries and garden centers also begin to carry pots of snowdrops and winter aconite (Eranthis sp, shown here) this month, two of the earliest bulbs to bloom.

Rainbow-colored primroses may also be found to add an immediate splash of color to your own containers or garden.

Renee’s Garden

Renee’s Garden Seed Packet

Check your saved seeds. As the holiday cards dwindle, the seed catalogs arrive! There is something so delicious about curling up by the fire poring over oversize photos of succulent tomatoes.

It’s easy to get carried off, so before you begin filling in those order forms, assess last year’s seeds for viability. Simply put five or six seeds onto a moist paper towel, then put it into a plastic container with the lid. Germination may take two to 10 days, depending upon the variety.

Should I get 75 percent or more germination, I use the seed. Less than that and that I either plant additional to permit for some losses or purchase new seed.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

Seeds for some plants and vegetables, such as parsnips, should be bought every year. Others, such as lettuce and radish, can easily stay viable for three decades.

The New York Botanical Garden

Dormant pruning of deciduous trees. Here is the time to sharpen your pruning tools and tidy up your deciduous trees. There are entire books written on pruning methods; this really is the fast and easy version.

1. Why today? In hot weather that the sap rises in the tree. Consider the the tree’s food supply. As soon as we remove branches in warm weather we remove the food that’s been taken to those branches. If instead we prune while the tree is dormant, no food resources are wasted.

Le jardinet

2. Which trees? All upright, deciduous trees — as an example, birch (Betula sp), maple (Acer sp) and ornamental cherry trees (Prunus sp) — may be pruned with those guidelines.

Le jardinet

3. Why prune?
to Permit air and light to penetrate the canopy — this helps to maintain a healthy tree
To remove dead or diseased branches
To contour the tree
To reveal interesting bark

Corona Tools

1-Inch Bypass Pruner – $31.57

4. How much?
Remove all dead and diseased branches first.
Then look for branches that cross others and therefore are chafing them.
Don’t remove more than 25% of dwelling branches — this is referred to as the pruning budget.

USDA Forest Service Northeastern Area

5. The way to make the cut? Always cut to the collar of this branch — this is the area where one branch meets another. Frequently there are what look like wrinkles at this stage; create a nice, clean cut just prior to that.

Small branches can easily be dealt with using hand pruners, while loppers can typically handle up to a 1 3/4-inch diameter.

Corona Tools

32-Inch Compound Action Anvil Lopper – $38.83

6. Do not:
Leave a “coat hook” or stub. Cut cleanly to the collar.
Paint the wound with any kind of sealer. Contrary to popular belief, this hasn’t been shown to prevent corrosion. In fact, it can seal in moisture and germs, which causes corrosion.

Jocelyn H. Chilvers

Weeds. Weeds don’t have any regard for winter rest. It may be alarming to see how fast the seeds germinate and disperse. Keep ahead of them by setting aside an hour or two per week to remove them.

Le jardinet

Container care. Spend a couple of minutes per week tidying up your own containers. Snip off dead leaves and blossoms, particularly those of pansies. Leaving these on the crops, particularly in the rainy season, can promote gray mold.

Paintbox Garden

From my house to yours, I want you a happy new year; will your garden fantasies come true.

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12 Decor Pieces That Kick Up It Southwest Style

From El Paso to Tucson, the American Southwest includes a unique and vibrant style that attracts homeowners and design buffs from all over the world. Its different decor — from Navajo rugs to cowboy boot lamps — could be found in houses from the Eastern Seaboard to the Northwest. Regardless of where your home is located, if you have any of these items, you might wish to consider reserving your next visit to the high and dry desert.

Nina Montenegro

Nina Montenegro

Nina Montenegro

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A Chicago Two-Story Circles the Globe

Graphic designer Meighan Depke spent much of her 20s and 30s exploring Europe, Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Twenty years ago she set down roots in Chicago and purchased a 1906 two-flat: a two-story brick building with different homes on each floor, connected with a common entry. Since then Depke and her partner, landscape architect Dave Bier, have now been renovating and filling their house with one-of-a-kind pieces.

Depke couldn’t shake her wanderlust, though, and her loved ones missed socializing with other travellers. So they chose to have the world come to them. They converted their downstairs unit into an urban bed-and-breakfast and guesthouse, which they rent out the majority of the year to international and U.S. visitors.

in a Glance

Who lives here: Meighan Depke, David Bier, Frances Depke (age 9) and kitty Stringer Bell
Location: Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago
Size: Each unit is 1,200 square feet and has 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom.

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

Depke and Stringer Bell like the dwelling room on the second level, in which the household resides.

The wall screens that flank the entrance to the master bedroom came from the mansion of this Brachs (of candy fortune) on the north coast of Chicago. They had been two panels in an enormous set that formed a part of Mrs. Brach’s elaborate walk-in closet.

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

“I always wanted a big, open area, and also a Chicago two-flat is the contrary of that,” Depke says. Undeterred, she knocked down walls and yanked out rugs and background to produce the open kitchen area. “I scraped and patched and painted for years, room by room”

The couple planned to use a rescued church pew by the rear door but discovered it was too large. Instead of despairing, the crafty DIYers just cut down the piece to match the space.

Kitchen cabinets: Ikea

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

Just off the kitchen is a living room which Depke lovingly calls her “world” Nestled against a single wall is a handmade sofa that consists of a mattress covered in fabrics. “I sit there a lot and see,” says Depke. “The corner is filled with colorful pillows, and I can see everything going on but still feel lonely.” Burmese terrace furniture, South American pottery and a gallery wall of framed travel photos finish the area.

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

Elsewhere in the living area, a wall has been removed to include storage and an eating place outfitted with a classic Paul McCobb table and seats.

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

Daughter Frances loves playing with the visiting kids who periodically occupy the downstairs area. In her room upstairs, Frances keeps her beloved doll collection and even made a doll bed to match her own bed.

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

The living area was converted to the couple’s master bedroom. Depke took advantage of the bay windows to create a sitting room and a place for a wooden desk that Bier made by hand.

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

The couple’s mattress sits atop a 100-plus-year-old rug from Depke’s grandmother, herself an avid traveler. Since the area wasn’t initially intended as a bedroom, Depke created her own closet working with an range of storage units and screens out of Ikea and Home Depot.

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

In this alternative view of this makeshift closet, it’s simple to apreciate Depke’s clever use of this little area.

Depke says that her biggest design dilemmas are little rooms and limited space. “A Chicago two-flat typically includes a railroad design of little rooms,” she says. “Finding furniture that fits is a struggle, and residing with a household in just 1,200 square feet and no storage is incredibly hard occasionally. I’d kill for a mudroom!”

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

In the first-level entrance, guests are welcomed with masks out of East Africa, fabrics from Guatemala and a chicken coop she found locally.

“I pick up lots of cool things when I travel and work them to our area,” Depke says. “I really like the colours of the Middle East, the cloths from South America and the clean lines of European design.”

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

The downstairs living area is traditionally used as a den. Depke paired a white leather sofa from Ikea with classic 1950s seats in a glowing orange color and additional shelving made of wood salvaged by a Dumpster and a refurbished coffee table located in their rear alley.

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

The dining area includes a dining table from Depke’s youth. Enlarged reproductions of photos from a trip to Peru hang on the walls, and metal lockers located at a used office store offer storage.

Depke admires the design work of Vicente Wolf and Tricia Guild: “Vicente Wolf because he chooses objects he has found in his travels and combines them in a beautiful manner,” she says. “His insides are extremely soothing. Tricia Guild due to her love of colour and texture.”

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

The first of the 2 bedrooms in the rental unit is painted in a daring yet inviting color, Greensleeves by Behr. Travel books, Guatemalan fabrics and lighting from Ikea warm up the area.

“I buy what I really love and make it work. It has been a gradual accumulation,” Depke says. “I try to group similar things and use colour in a repetitive manner, either in 1 room or several rooms.”

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

Cherry-pink walls serve as a background for a Guatemalan cloth wall bit plus a classic map in the second bedroom. A back, another classic find, sits atop a rug from Iran and functions as a side table. Depke made the pillow covers; the accent textiles on the beds are out of a repurposed old tablecloth.

“I adore [using] colour, maybe because I’m a designer and don’t believe in matching things,” Depke says. “If you put it together and you enjoy it, then to me it matches”

Wall paint: Mahogany Cherry, California Paints; pendant lamp: Fillsta, Ikea

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

In the kitchen Depke switched out the hardware, eliminated a number of the cabinet doors and painted the cabinets Million Dollar Red by Benjamin Moore.

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

The dining area, which opens up to one of two decks, is a clean-lined and neutral area which has classic Herman Miller office chairs and a little dining table from CB2.

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

Bier turned into a little yard into an urban oasis. “We rode across town in his big red truck looking for demolition sites and picking up lost bricks and curbstones to make our fountains,” says Depke. “Considering that the yard is now complete, we’ve begun to plant the street and tree lawns along the road. I’m sure people think we’re nutty!”

Valerie McCaskill Dickman

Although it arouses some curious stares from passersby, Depke painted her main entry a vivid custom blue. The bright color may be unexpected, but it sets the tone for her unique area and approach to design.

Depke offers this information to other homeowners: “Do not fear colour, and do not listen to anyone else when decorating. If you get something wrong, you can always fix it.”

More: When to Paint Your Door Blue

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Practical Style for a Family Home in Calgary

The perfect place doesn’t always have the perfect residence. This former two-bedroom bungalow at the Altadore neighborhood of Calgary, Alberta, is close to schools and dog parks, but the closed-off layout and limited bedrooms didn’t make sense for Jennifer and Derek Stuart’s rising family. Jennifer, an interior designer, redesigned the house along with Copper Brook Homes. By gutting the main floor, focusing on ecofriendly attributes and including a second level, they left a place that feels spacious, bright and family prepared.

at a Glance

Who lives here: Jennifer and Derek Stuart, their two sons and two puppies
Location: Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Size: 2,600 square feet, 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 baths

Copper Brook

The house was remodeled by Jennifer Stuart around its living room that was original. Because it had the most ordinary light, she took advantage of its own orientation and turned the space into a two-story space with massive windows. Double-paned glass using an SPF coating minimizes the heat gain and loss, as well as the fading effects of the sun.

She incorporated many eco-friendly features, but the family’s budget didn’t allow for the solar panels they had hoped for. Instead, Copper Brook Homes prepped the house for them by conducting a tube from the roof into the electrical panel, so they can one day be installed with minimal interruption.

Lamp: EQ3; coffee table: Florence Knoll

Copper Brook

Instead of investing in a costly sofa, Stuart bought an Ikea Karlstad sectional and replaced with the telltale wood legs with metal ones. Affordable sea grass rugs from Home Depot help specify the living and dining areas. “With a young family, it simply does not make sense to sink a lot of cash into rugs and upholstery,” says Stuart.

Vintage dining room seats were reupholstered in Ultraleather — a more durable and easy-to-clean leather alternative.

Mirror: Pier 1 Imports

Copper Brook

Marble tile on the fireplace adds a luxe touch; utilizing tile instead of slab cut down on cost. Stuart used the exact same Benjamin Moore Natura paint for both the walls and trim to make touch-ups easy.

Fireplace surround: Ames polished marble; hearth: concrete, Caesarstone

Copper Brook

The house’s clean appearance continues in the kitchen with custom cabinetry, the exact same marble tile from the fireplace on the backsplash and Caesarstone counters.

The oak flooring on the primary floor includes a vegetable oil finish. Not only is the end nontoxic, but it provides the floor a matte appearance, so scratches aren’t as noticeable. “The idea is that the floor will create character as we reside on it,” says Stuart. “It can be hard to keep in mind that as the dings and scrapes are actually happening, though!”

Backsplash: Ames polished marble; countertops: Caesarstone in Blizzard; cabinetry: Huntwood Custom Cabinets; light: Carrington Lighting; pub stools: Emeco 20-06; range hood: Roma, Zephyr

Copper Brook

A custom serving and storage area for wine and other beverages only off the kitchen’s work area helps keep guests from the cook’s path.

Beverage storage area: Calmark Cabinetry and Woodwork

Copper Brook

Stuart chose materials and finishes together with as many green and nontoxic characteristics as possible. These endings will also be designed to alter and earn patina over time, so the house will grow together with her family. “For me it is worth it to invest a little extra for the healthier option,” says Stuart.

Copper Brook

Much like the rest of the house, Stuart’s house office feels easy, clean and fresh. “I am trying to cultivate my house decor — finding paintings here and there and bringing them home,” she states.

Bookshelves: Billy, Ikea; desk: Ikea; seat: EQ3; chandelier: Carrington Lighting

Copper Brook

The restrained palette of white walls, gray tiles and wood tones enables Stuart to experiment with attachments. A very simple background within this sitting room makes method for seahorse pillows along with a zebra rug.

Rattan seats: Caban (currently closed); zebra rug: Home Sense; coffee table: classic; mirrors (left to right): Pier 1, Home Sense, classic

Copper Brook

The nursery sticks into the easy palette with a couple blue accents.

Dresser and altering station: Oeuf; crib: Nursery Works

Copper Brook

Aimee Wilder Pigeon wallpaper adds graphic interest in the older kid’s room. “I had wallpaper and a chair railing in my bedroom as a kid, and I believe I needed to replicate that for my own son,” Stuart says.

Dresser: Bermanfalk

Copper Brook

Stuart re-covered a classic chair from her husband’s grandfather in gloomy Ultraleather to get a sentimental but functional touch in her kid’s room.

Copper Brook

She had a bit more fun with colour in the kids’ bathroom. Red industrial lights, light blue walls and playful prints and fabrics add simple style which can be readily updated as the boys grow.

Lights: Barn Light Electric; wall and accent tiles: DalTile; print: John W. Golden, Etsy; wall paint: Polar Sky, Benjamin Moore

Copper Brook

Most of the wall artwork in the house appears in this bedroom. While she occasionally gets remarks about her relatively bare walls, Stuart wants to choose things she actually loves instead of fill the room with random pieces. “I am only waiting to stumble across the ideal thing,” she states.

Bed frame: Caban (currently closed); light fixture: Cartwright lighting; trunk: Pottery Barn; bedside tables: Caban; bedside lights: Home Depot

Copper Brook

The master bath feels soothing. A contemporary chandelier and industrial mirror lights add cheap visual impact.

Lighting fixture: Carrington light; floor tile: Euro Habita; wall tile: Euro Planks; mirror light: Barn Light Electric

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Guest Picks: Autumn Wreaths

Every year that I count the days before the New England foliage changes from emerald green to a kaleidoscope of fiery color. One of my favorite decor choices is picking an autumn wreath, but it’s often too hard for me to pick only one. As my wreath collection swells, I am discussing my favorites for fall and the approaching holiday season. — Erika out of Radiant Republic

Balsam Hill

Gourd Fall Wreath – $99

Authentic gourds and walnut leaves include stunning texture to this pretty piece. It is such a kaleidoscope of fall color.


Decadent Extra-Large Cranberry Wreath by The Wright Wreath

In New England, cranberries are a resounding sign of fall. Adorning a front doorway, they include a perfectly red punch of color.

West Elm

Paper Flower Wreath – $49

The combination of ivory and white paper blossoms is ethereal. This would be darling juxtaposed against my red front door or any doorway for that matter.


Fall Wreath by 2 Inspire You – $85

The hydrangea in my lawn have been trimmed back for the cold season, however, it doesn’t mean that I must go without them this Thanksgiving. I adore the trifecta of color in this fairly hydrangea wreath.

Mills Floral Company

Preserved Boxwood Wreath, Square

This square boxwood wreath is fairly on its own. I’d use it like an interesting frame for my favorite fall photograph.

Pottery Barn

Live Succulent Wreath – $99

This dwell succulent noodle takes the cake. With three kinds arranged together, it’s genuinely a one-of-a-kind piece.


Fall Wreath, Moss Monogram by Privileged Door – $89

Have you ever seen such a pretty monogram? I love the moss letters and burlap decoration. It may need to marvel this (nearly ) newlywed’s door this year.

Pottery Barn

Live Magnolia Leaf Wreath With Burlap Bow – $89

These hand-harvested magnolia leaves are reminiscent of a southern collapse. The burlap ribbon adds a welcome element of whimsy.

Contemporary Wreaths And Garlands – $49.95

If you are like me, you love pomegranates in the fall. Coupled with gold magnolia leaves, both combine the natural colours of fall perfectly.


Pumpkin Patch Wreath – $99.95

In the fall, I love to regular regional farms and pumpkin spots for color and decor inspiration. This wreath oozes the same rustic charm.


Grains Wreath – $49.95

This spectrum of fall grains is guaranteed to turn heads. I love the natural feel of this fairly wreath.

Garnet Hill

Red Pinecone Wreath – $108

This reddish pinecone wreath is a glamorous addition to fall decor. The pinecones are finished in a high gloss, which makes them shine like rubies.


Fall Fruit and Pinecone Wreath – $43.50

I love baking with fall fruit nearly as much as I love integrating it in my fall decor. The pears and apples on this wreath are subtly magnificent.


Star Wreath – $99.95

Step outside the box using a star-shaped wreath. This one will take a front doorway from collapse through the holidays.


Layered Wreath Mirror – $248

If you would rather maintain your wreath indoors, this chamomile wood wreath mirror is a charming addition to any area.

Pumpkin Harvest Wreath – $61.93

The colours of this fiery wreath allow me pine for pumpkin. I love the orange and crimson hues.



Fall Berry Wreath by Country Prim – $40

This twig-style wreath is almost too pretty to place outdoors. I love using a smaller wreath with an antique hurricane adorning the centre as a grand centerpiece.


Harvest Fall Wreath by DeLaFleur – $65

The foliage and berries adorning this wreath are fairly reminders of why fall is my favorite season. The colors blend beautifully.

Garnet Hill

Sparkle Pinecone Wreath – $58

The delicate appearance of this Sparkle Pinecone wreath makes me wax nostalgic for cozy nights and frost-kissed mornings.

Garnet Hill

Preserved Boxwood Wreath – $48

A wreath collage is guaranteed to be the envy of almost any neighborhood. The grouped wreaths add a whimsical touch to a fall tradition.

Next: When to Paint Your Door Bright Red

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