{Interiors} Your home is out-of-date if…

By the time Cathy Hobbs was called in to help stage one Columbia, M.D., home, it had already been on the market for a year. The FOF owner had been looking at her surroundings for so long, she didn’t realize her home had many out-of-date elements. Cathy, a New York-based certified home stager and HGTV “Design Star” finalist, helped bring the FOF’s home into the 21st century. Five weeks later, it sold. “I tell my clients, you need to neutralize, declutter and depersonalize your home before you can sell it.”

Even if you aren’t selling your home anytime soon, keeping it fresh can help you feel renewed and help simplify your lifestyle. “The current economic climate has led us to simplified, uncluttered and organic themes in home design, in direct contrast to the busy and bold decor of days-gone-by,”  says FOF interior design guru and New York-based designer Julia Vosler.

Use this checklist to help determine if your home is out-of-date, then read ideas for quick fixes from real FOF designers.

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{Interiors} One FOF’s living room makeover on a $350 budget

FOF Lauri Ward built her business, Use What You Have Interiors, on the theory that anyone, on any budget, can have a beautiful home using the furnishings they already own. A few months ago we put her theory to the test!

The challenge: Help FOF Marcia Robinson by making over her entire living room in three hours… with a $350 budget. Did she do it?

“Tired and uninspiring,” is how FOF Marcia Robinson described her living room when she entered our room makeover contest in January. Marcia has lived in her one-bedroom, Manhattan apartment for 25-years. Ten years ago she attempted to furnish it in one-fell-swoop with pieces she loved. “Everything went wrong,” says Marcia. “The glass came cracked on the coffee table, the wall unit was too small. It was a big hassle.” Frustrated, Marcia took to decorating the apartment piecemeal over the years. However, her mother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis, and a forced-retirement from her job at a management consulting firm, has put a hold on any recent updates to Marcia’s living room.

And as for the actual “living” that goes on in this room…there’s not much. “I spend most of my time in my bedroom where my computer is,” says Marcia. Lauri says the room’s “visual chaos,” is why Marcia might not find it relaxing. “When I look around, there’s no blank space to rest my eye,” says Lauri. “The good news,” she tells Marcia, “is that by correcting a few common design mistakes that most people make, you can update your living room without buying all new furniture. Your home should look as up-to-date as you do.”

Read on and discover the mistakes and quick fixes Lauri found for Marcia’s living room.

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“You can never have two many pairs,” says Lauri, who swapped Marcia’s mismatched lamps for a pair of lamps from IKEA ($69.99 each). She also added two IKEA throw pillows ($14.99 each) to the couch. “The more pairs you put in a room, the better it looks. You need the balance.”

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“The couches were set up in an L configuration with two chairs in the corner. This is probably the worst setup there is for comfortable conversation,” says Lauri. “Plus, the chairs were too far from the coffee table.”


“We took away one couch, and set up the furniture in a U-shape. Now, everyone can sit and face each other. You can put out hors d’oeurves on the coffee table and everyone can comfortably reach.”

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“You collect so much stuff over a lifetime,” says Lauri. “It’s nice to have all these things, but you need to edit what you own and accessorize effectively.”

“Reevaluate what you have,” says Lauri. “Keep the pieces you love. Donate everything else to charity and get a write off.”  She grouped similar accessories together to create collections and got rid of pieces that were misfits. Marcia’s plants are important to her, but the mismatched pots weren’t working. Lauri moved the plants into window boxes to conceal the pots and repositioned them under the coffee table creating an terrarium-like effect.

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“People think they should hang art at eye level,” says Lauri. “There’s no such thing as eye level since we are all different heights.”


“Follow the three inch rule,” says Lauri. “Hold art up where you think it should go, then lower it three inches.” By swapping the chaotic gallery wall for one striking picture, Lauri says the viewer’s eyes can focus.

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“Before, the rug was distracting and competing with the fabric on the sofa,” says Lauri. “This rug introduces a color that’s in the sofa’s fabric. When you have a patterned sofa you want to look for solids for everything else.”

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Mission accomplished! The result? A living room that Marcia can live in! “Now, you can sit in here and read,” says Lauri. “You’ll finally be comfortable.” What does Marcia think? “It’s quite a change!… I like it.”

IKEA shopping list: Two “Dagny” cushions ($14.99 each), Vejen rug ($89.99), Hosto flower box ($14.99), Felicia throw ($9.99), Vilshult picture ($59.99), Two Jonsbo Barby table lamps ($59.99 each)

Grand Total: $324.92

{DIY} High-Design DIY

For many, “crafting” conjures images of kitten sweaters, macrame plant holders and cross-stitch samplers. But a new generation of DIY-ers has created an online crafting Renaissance, of sorts, with sophisticated, high-design patterns and projects. Why check your style at the knitting-store door?  You don’t have to…. Here, our FOF knitting & sewing gurus recommend the websites that will inspire you to make something FOFantastic.

1. Deborah Purtell Coaster Squares. FOF Deborah Purtell designs delightfully preppy needlepoint canvases for beach totes, belts, glasses cases and more. Your family will be shocked when you DIY your own Lilly Pulitzer look-alikes.

2. Hazelwood by Robin Melanson Pattern and Budding Apple Shawl, (9). This nifty nautical sweater looks like J.Crew’s fall favorite but it’s actually a knitting pattern from Twist Collective, a carefully curated online magazine created in partnership with top knit designers and photographers. –Recommended by FOF Guru Diannerj

3 Purl Soho Color Change Scarf & (7) Purl Soho Pillow Purlsoho.com is the web home of Purl shop, a crafting mecca in Manhattan launched by two former Martha Stewart editors. The site is a beautifully organized archive of knitting, sewing and needlework ideas inspired by vintage clothing, folk art, modern art, Asian art, and of course, Martha.

4. Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Back, Henri Matisse, $8. Put down that “Home Sweet Home” cross-stitch sampler, and take a tip from FOF Guru Corky. “I love counted cross stitch, but most kits are mawkish. The Art of Stitching offers something totally different: fine art transferred onto cross-stitch canvass. The level of craftsmanship needed to create many of these masterpieces is very high. The results from some of the stitchers rival the finest Renaissance tapestries and anyone would be proud to display these works in their homes.”

5. Loom Knitting Bangles, free pattern. “I enjoy the work of Purling Sprite…a blog that includes lots of info on loom knitting (one of my passions!)” says FOF guru Dmhsny.

6. Penguin & Fish blog is a site filled with wonderfully quirky needlepoint canvasses designed by children’s book illustrator Alyson Thomas. Don’t miss her children’s alphabet series.

8. Brighton Bag from Knitty.com, FOF Amy Singer launched Knitty.com over ten years ago to showcase the gorgeous knit designs of amateur crafters across the country. As curator, Amy offers a discerning eye–and lots of fab free patterns. —Recommended by FOF Guru Diannerj

{Interiors} An “Empty Nest” NYC Apartment Makeover


When we put a call out this past August for an FOF in need of a home makeover, we got hundreds of responses. But the message from Sharon Nord was particularly compelling:

“I recently followed my grown children to The Big Apple. I brought two end tables and some pictures with me,” wrote Sharon. “I am completely changing my style, my address and my attitude. Please help me be FOF and not BOF (boring over fifty).”

We were curious as to what precipitated this major move. Turns out, four years ago, Sharon and her husband separated. “It wasn’t in my plans, it was a total life change,” says Sharon.

Sharon moved from an 11,000-square-foot house in Atlanta, Georgia, to an 1,100 square foot apartment in New York City’s Wall Street neighborhood.

“I really loved Atlanta, but I really wanted to be near my family. That’s more important than a big house and lots of furniture,” says Sharon. “It was a huge adjustment especially at my age (us FOFs are not so into adjusting) but I’m really learning to love it.”

This empty-nester’s new nest, a 2-bedroom apartment, was in fact… empty. The rental had beautiful views of the Financial District but looked more like a sterile office space than an inviting FOF home. Interior designer Jennifer Levy, of CAVDesign and The One-Day Design Solution™, helped Sharon warm up her downtown digs in a way that suited Sharon’s personality and new lifestyle.

“Using a palette of citrus, eggplant and mixed materials such as wood and marble, we created a comfortable, homey feel,” says Jennifer.




“My life has changed. I’m single, and I’ve never done something like this by myself or for myself,” says Sharon. “But I love what Jennifer did, all the clean lines and no-fuss decorations. I’ll go to unpack a box of stuff from my old life and then put it away saying, ‘No, no, I don’t need the clutter.’”

Resources

Images by Jennifer Levy

{Interiors} Karen Fisher Knows Design

Every eight-to-ten years, FOF design expert Karen Fisher revamps her Gramercy Park penthouse. Each design reflects a different stage in her life.

In the 1970s and early 1980s, Karen was an editor of top style and design magazines, American Home and Women’s Wear Daily. Her apartment was decorated in a “European Country” style: Provencal gold walls, rich eggplant furniture and oriental rugs.  “I wanted something showy,” says Karen. “I was dressing showier; I needed it more than I do now.”

In 1985, Karen started Designer Previews, a design matchmaking service that pairs residential and commercial clients with world famous designers. Shortly after, she decided her apartment needed a do-over to coincide with her new career. With a Rolodex of top decorators at her fingertips, Karen selected Clodagh to create an Armani-inspired haven. They chose taupe- and beige-colored Stucco Veneziano for her walls with furniture and accent pieces in grays, silvers and dark wood tones. “It’s contemporary and chic as hell,” she says. “I’m working with over 400 designers and overseeing 200 jobs–I don’t need any more pillows in my life.”

This year, Karen prepares to overhaul the 500 square-foot space yet again. What will it look like next? “I know it will have more contrast, dark floors, light walls, crisper color,” she says. “But sometimes it’s a surprise to me and that is the fun of decorating.”

Karen’s Take-Away Tips for Designing Small Spaces:

  • -Work with a designer who shares your aesthetic, has a personality that you enjoy, and will spend your money in a way that meets your approval. Read Karen’s guide to hiring an interior designer here.
  • -Think big, even with small space. In Karen’s own apartment, a low bookshelf in her living room allows for a large mirror, one she says normally would be used in a hotel lobby–not a NYC apartment.
  • -For workspaces, try vertical slats instead of filing cabinets. You will find they keep loose papers more organized and provide easier access to books and files.
  • -For small spaces, barn sliding doors take up less space than traditional doors.
  • -It’s a misconception that a ceiling should always be painted white. The ceiling should be painted the same color as the wall to create the illusion of boundless space.

Photos by Katherine McPherson for faboverfifty.com