What Your Front Door Says About You

Before buying a house in Brooklyn six months ago, I lived in apartment buildings for my entire adult life, so I never gave a second thought to the front doors. Apartment front doors wouldn’t win design awards, even in luxury buildings in Manhattan, and you’re not permitted to change them.

The front door to my new house was downright ugly, from the design, with a little “window” that was better suited for a prison, to the depressing brown paint.  It also was smaller than the original front door, which was actually a double door that stood an imposing 8-feet tall. Some of the houses on the block still have their grand original doors, dating from around 1899. And, my door had a hideous black iron gate in front of it, probably dating back to the days when the neighborhood was, unfortunately, riddled with crime. Both doors had to go!

Every time I visited Brooklyn before I even contemplated moving here, I’d love to look at front doors in the borough’s distinct neighborhoods. Each door imparted a different vibe, so I had a pretty good idea what I wanted by the time it came to choosing one of my own. A rep from Home Depot told me there wasn’t enough space to have double doors, and even when I pointed out the double doors at the same style house a few doors away, his opinion didn’t change. I later learned that Home Depot doesn’t do custom doors in unconventional sizes (at least by today’s standards), so the guy fibbed rather than risk losing the sale. He lost the sale anyway, because Santos (who built my kitchen and bedroom closets) told me that, of course, he could make tall double doors that resembled the originals.

I originally wanted  black doors, but decided to go with blue because it’s happier, but still looks smart. Consulting with the people at Farrow & Ball, I chose their Cook’s Blue, which isn’t too bright or too subdued. The new steel rails leading up to the door are painted in a slightly darker shade of blue. The whole effect is sunny and welcoming, even on a bleak January day.

Each of the 11 doors we’ve photographed below, in New York and LA, conveys a unique mood. We’d love to see a photo of YOUR FRONT DOOR, with a note on what it says about YOU. You can email your photo to [email protected].


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Your Priciest Purchases Of 2016

One FOF did something wonderful for 50 of her dearest friends and relatives. Another is treating herself to the same thing, 12 times! We asked about your most expensive purchase of 2016, and the answers were as varied and interesting as you are!

“I retired and bought myself a horse, brand new truck and horse trailer so we can travel together! All told $62k. Aaarrggghhhhh!”

Shannyn Scassero

“2 puppies @ $300 each. In my defense it was also my dumbest purchase! One would have been enough work but nooooooo, like a genius I had to double that.”

Jodi Smith Rasar

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The Smartest, Simplest Way To Pay For Your Home Improvements

This is a “sponsored post.” LightStream compensated FOF with an advertising
sponsorship to write it, and provides more information at LightStream.com. Regardless,
I only recommend products or services I believe will be helpful for our readers.
All insights and expressed opinions are my own. —Geri Brin

Ed Note: This article is a must read for 57 percent of you who own a home and plan to spend money
on home improvement projects this year.

David and I were forced to leave our rental apartment in New York three years ago because the building was being converted into trillion dollar condos (OK, not trillion, but multi-million). We decided to move back into an apartment I’ve owned since 1992, where my daughter and her husband had been living. They were moving elsewhere. One problem: The apartment needed lots of work, since I hadn’t done anything with it in years.

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This 10-Second Quiz Could Change Your Life

Select one or more of the options below.

  • Something you create (i.e. jewelry, art, hand-knitted pieces) (40%, 293 Votes)
  • A service you provide (i.e. travel agent, recruiter, accountant, makeup artist) (30%, 220 Votes)
  • Your cherished items (i.e. antiques, jewelry, furniture, accessories) (22%, 161 Votes)
  • Products you represent (i.e. beauty products, clothing) (20%, 151 Votes)
  • Something else—comment and tell us below! (7%, 55 Votes)

Total Voters: 737

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The Sky’s The Limit

Let’s say you recently received oodles of money (as in money is no object). Perhaps you won the lottery or inherited a fortune. And let’s say you want to move to a new home and you’re leaving your mind open as to location, size and style.

Take a look at the layout of this place.

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{Home Tour} FOF Design Expert Janell Beals Offers Tips and a Tour

FOF Janell Beals is a true jane of all trades. She’s a skilled painter with a BFA from The School of The Art Institute of Chicago, holds a degree in Fashion Design, and even launched her own highly acclaimed women’s clothing line, Janell Beals Clothing.  When she finally took a break to raise a family at 40, she found it impossible to keep her creativity at bay. Four years later, she began working with clients as an interior designer. In 2008, she and her husband bought a 3,100 square foot outside of Portland, Oregon, and started documenting her remodeling process on her blog, Isabella & Max rooms.  The blog became so popular (with 5,000 page views each day) that Janell launched House of Fifty, a full-service online magazine full of helpful tips for re-decorating, DIY projects, inspiring success stories, and more. “The name and concept for the magazine came about after being turned down for another opportunity based on my age,” says Janell.  “I wanted to create something that celebrated the fact that women can live inspired lives at any age.” Here she shares tips on easy ways to redecorate your space without breaking bank, and leads a “virtual” tour of her breathtaking home!

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Can you offer some simple and inexpensive ways to redecorate?
Lighting fixtures and paint can go far when decorating a space. It doesn’t have to cost a lot.
You can [change light fixtures] easily with a conversion kit. Take a recessed light [with] a $10 kit from Home Depot. Once you install this, you can hang light fixtures from it. [It] helps to create that unique and interesting statement in the room. (See Janell’s step-by-step guide here: how to convert recessed light to hang a chandelier).

How can you keep your home decor up-to-date without overspending?
Accessories. If you’ve got the basic pieces, the simplest way to update things is with pillows, or by layering rugs over carpeting. Texture and pattern and color on pillows and drapes, even lampshades can transform a room.

What pieces should you splurge on?
[Splurge on] beds–it’s key to your well being that you get a good night sleep, and what could help that more than a great comfortable mattress? Sofas can [also] be so expensive, and it’s tempting [to save], but in two or three years you’ll have to replace it, whereas if you invest in a decent sofa that is well made you can have it for 10-15 years. When the material wears out you can get it upholstered.  Invest in a solid wood dining room table. I would often [try to get away] with veneer tops, but they just doesn’t stand up to the wear and tear of everyday life.  In the long run, investing in quality pieces that you can experiment with is the more affordable way to go.

What stores and websites do you shop at?
I like to shop at Ikea, HomeGoods, Ethan Allan occasionally, Restoration Hardware, and Mitchell Gold.

What blogs do you visit for inspiration?
Censational girl is amazing. It really focuses on affordable decor solutions and most of them are DIY. She really finds the best projects. Thrifty decor chick has great tips on decoration and great portfolios on her site.  [I also like] the nester.

How do you strike a balance between the pieces that you craft, and the pieces that you purchase?
It’s important that there be a mix. If everything in my home was DIY, it would look that way, even though I try to make them look as upscale as possible. Sometimes you do need to spend some money. [You need] that mix of high and low–a couple of quality or interesting standout pieces, whether it’s an antique light fixture or blinds or a nice table, sofa or chair, elevates the whole look. If your DIY projects are done well, the mix is going to be interesting.

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{Entertaining} 12 out-of-the-ordinary outdoor entertaining essentials

Memorial Day weekend marked the official beginning of outdoor entertaining season–are you prepared? FOF Jane Redman, founder of TwentyOne7, an online home decor and fabric boutique, and 20+ year-veteran of home design, scouts out 12 totally out-of-the-ordinary outdoor entertaining essentials to take your next gathering from bore-bbq to the best backyard bash on the block.

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{Interiors} Pillow Talk

Pillow Talk with FOF Suzanne Flenard of Square Modern
By Geri Brin

I adore Paris and I can never have too many decorative pillows, so when Paris-based Jeremy Schuster wrote to me about his partner Suzanne Flenard’s new pillow line, I became an instant fan.

An assortment of Suzanne’s Square Modern pillows displayed on a couch.

My “less is more” blog post from last month resonated with Jeremy because Suzanne takes the same approach to the way she lives. “She’s given me a great appreciation for mid-century modern design and allowed me to shed many things of the past, both physical and emotional, that I thought were so very important,” Jeremy wrote.

Suzanne’s distinctive pillows, made primarily from reclaimed, high-quality fabric remnants, are her first collection for her new company, Square Modern. They are produced not far from her and Jeremy’s home.

Geri: Give us some background leading up to your decision to design decorative pillows (e.g. what were you doing before? where? did you study design in school? how did you become interested in design?
Before moving to Paris, I was working at Design Within Reach for several years in New York City. While not formally trained, I have always had a passion for design and all things modern. This stemmed from my mother constantly redecorating our home while I was growing up.

Why pillows?
Since moving to Paris, I have struggled to find great, modern accessories. So, one day I decided that I was going to produce a product that I would like to have in my own home.

Why did you choose the fabrics you use on your pillows?
Some of the designs I use are from the Mid-Century Modern era for which I’ve always loved. Others are textiles that catch my eye that I feel will work well as a decorative pillow.

Where do you get the fabrics?
The fabrics are reclaimed designer remnants, purchased from a few select sources in the United States. Re-purposing rescued fabric that might have otherwise landed on the cutting room floor made sense to me, while providing an aspect of sustainability to the products. Each collection is produced in limited quantity, as these textiles are often found in limited supply.

Where are the pillows made?
All items are produced in Paris, in a small atelier located in the Sentier district.

What do pillows bring to an environment?
If a room in your home was a sentence, I think pillows would be the punctuation mark. By adding an accessory, like a pillow, you can immediately change the entire vibe of a space! They also provide personal style to a room.

What are 3-5 tips for choosing pillows that will look smashing in your home?
Pillows should be accent pieces, not something used to mask or overwhelm.  Try combining squares with rectangles, different color palettes, and mixing patterns together. (I created my collection so that all of the items can be used with one another) Sometimes, they can breathe new life into an old space.

Should decorative pillows also be functional?
Yes, I’m all about functional design. This is why I’m a stickler for the filling I use in my product. I use only feather inserts for comfort with enough filling to maintain the shape/look of the item.

How do you know you’ve gone too far and bought too many pillows?
Well, I’m a total minimalist and all about less is more. For the record, I currently have three on my sofa and two on my bed- so, I guess it’s a matter of personal preference.

Are you planning to work with other products?
I do have a few ideas up my sleeve to utilize these same fabrics in another format in the future. But for now, I’m strictly focusing on pillows.

For more information or to buy Square Modern pillows, visit their website: www.squaremodern.com.

Images courtesy of:  Suzanne Flenard, Love In The City Of Lights

{Home Tour} An FOF fabric designer works a lifetime of mementos into a sleek, modern space.

When decorating your FOF home, there are often two polar instincts:
(1) Surround yourself with the heartwarming photos, knickknacks, books, art, etc., that you’ve accumulated over 50+ years.
(2) Pare down, and create a calm, clutter-free oasis straight from the pages of Dwell magazine.


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Meet Lee Olson, who brilliantly managed to do both. FOF Lee is a textile designer and the owner of Yoma, a New York firm that creates fabrics for commercial and residential use. Her vivid designs all begin with her own hand-drawings and are inspired by her travels around the world, to India, Thailand, China and South America.

Her travels have also inspired a lifetime of . . . .shopping. Lee and her husband, Chandler Pierce, a leading architect and furniture designer, have collected a (small) museum’s worth of cultural artifacts and art, including books, brooms, buddhas and baskets.


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Twelve years ago, the couple purchased a building on a one-block lane straddling SoHo and Little Italy, just behind the former New York police headquarters. They renovated the attic into a 1500-square-foot residence for themselves. The space took six months to renovate so that it was “livable,” but the couple has continued to work on it over the years.

According to Lee, both the biggest asset and challenge of decorating their home was marrying her and her husband’s tastes. “We have different aesthetics. Design-wise he’s a little cleaner, slicker…I’m always interested in bringing in more texture, color, curvilinear shapes.”

The key, says Lee, was in the curation. She and Chandler carefully chose what to display and what to pack away in their large storage closet. “He edits me,” Lee says of Chandler, “I choose to display things that I’m really passionate about, and then he goes in and arranges them–almost like a set.”

The end result: “When people come there, they often say: ‘Wow it looks so clean and sleek, but when you start to look around there’s a lot of detail–a lot of warmth.’”

Left: Lee’s building used to be a gun factory, part of New York’s fabled gun district. Right Top: Lee in the Yoma office, wearing a coat by Juli Raja. Right Bottom: Each of Lee’s textile designs begins with her own hand-drawings.

The main living area is a mix of sleek, architectural pieces and quirky ethnic finds, like the tiny wooden chair from Guatemala and a collection of hand-woven purses from the Philippines. Couch: Ligne Roset, purchased on Craigslist. Coffee table: Broome, Chandler’s furniture design company. Rug: Warp and Weft.

A modern table is offset by rich, textural details, including a New Mexico-inspired painting by artist Lou Hicks and hand-painted Italian plates from Ceramica Direct.

At first glance, these “Afghan War Rugs” appear to be typical antique oriental designs, however if you look closely, you can see machine guns, missiles and war planes woven into the fabric. “It’s an amazing example of people incorporating what’s going on in their lives into their art,” says Lee, who inherited two of the rugs and bought a third from Warrug.com.

A tranquil bed from De La Espada seats beneath an original aquatint by artist Katja Oxman, who uses layers of fabric patterns in her work–much like Lee’s own designs.

Lee and Chandler began collecting handmade brooms ten years ago. “They’re mostly street brooms,” explains Lee, “handwoven by people in China and India who use them in the morning to clean. I’m interested in things that carry the spirit of the person who made them.” Red chair: Ochre.

Personal artifacts are carefully arranged in themed groups. Art (with crosses): Lou Hicks. Skull: Matter. Buddha: Vietnam.

Lee’s tranquil terrace overlooks the former New York City police headquarters.

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photographer: Katherine Miles Jones
gun shop & terrace photos courtesy of: ChandlerPierce.com

What do FOFs save and splurge on?

Some things are worth a splurge, such as cashmere sweaters, sustainable seafood and tweezers, according to our most savvy FOF experts. But other things, such as drugstore nailpolish, fashion watches and eyeshadow, are better when you buy them cheap.

Intrigued? Flip through this slideshow to see the beauty, fashion, food and home items FOFs splurge and save on. Then, tell us below, do you agree? Is there something you’d add to this list?

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