{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.


{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. You can even spice it up with interior painting services.

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

{Giveaway} Shabby Chic accent table worth $180

FOF Rachel Ashwell is giving away a Shabby Chic® distressed hand painted accent table from her new QVC ‘Treasures’ line launching October 26th. To enter, tell us in the comments below: What is your decorating style?

Shabby Chic® Queen Rachel Ashwell is at it again! Her new line, “Treasures by Shabby Chic® for QVC” inspired by her favorite flea market finds, launches next week.

Known for her deliberately distressed, mismatched and imperfect furniture, bedding and fabrics, Rachel got her start as a Hollywood movie set designer and stylist more than twenty years ago.

In 1989, Rachel dreamed of opening a small shop where she could sell “pretty things,” without spending much time away from her children. Her first shop in Santa Monica, California, became the cornerstone of her “Shabby Chic” empire. Today her products and textiles can be found in Target, Michaels, and most recently QVC, and the term Shabby Chic®, is used to refer to an entire style of decorating. Rachel has written half a dozen books on decorating in her Shabby Chic® style.

‘Treasure” hunting is in Rachel’s blood. Her mother was a restorer and seller of antique dolls, and her father was a rare book dealer. They introduced Rachel to flea markets and antique stores at a young age. Her all-time favorite finds were the inspiration for her newest collection and book, Shabby Chic Inspirations and Beautiful Spaces.

Enter to win a shabby chic accent table from Rachel Ashwell’s new “Treasures” collection for QVC by telling us in the comments below: What is you decorating style?

(See all our past winners. See official rules. See QVC’s official rules. One winner is chosen at random from all those commenters who answer the question. Contest closes October 27, 2011.)

Thank you for entering. This contest is now closed.

{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.


{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.


“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.”


“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.”


“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.


“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.


“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.”


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

{Poll} Which FOF celeb home would you most want to move into?

These five FOF celeb homes were recently listed….. If money were no object (it’s fun to play pretend!) which one would you move into? Answer our poll below.


Remember the breathtaking Malibu beach house in Sex and the City, where Samantha Jones lived with her beau, Smith Jerrod? That was no movie set. The five-bedroom, six-bathroom beachfront shangri-la is real… and for rent! You’ll need to shell out $55,000 each month, but, hey… you can’t put a price on fame…er… pretending to be famous. Then again, you’ll hardly need to pretend — it comes with all the original furniture from the movie. Strut like Samantha, passed your enormous glass wall with breathtaking ocean views to the bar (cosmo…anyone!?).  Unfortunately, Dante, the showering next-door neighbor, is not included!

Joan Rivers’ Upper East Side apartment is certainly a Piece of Work. The 5,190 square foot apartment, on the market since 2009, was featured in a 2010 documentary about Joan, by that name. The pad was restored to its original architectural detail by museum-trained artisans, “unlike Joan’s face,” according to a New York Magazine article which goes on to call the décor “surprisingly old-lady Versailles.” Still, the penthouse boasts a suite of superb reception rooms, a dramatic two-story gallery, a light-flooded living room, a spacious paneled library and a formal dining room. To top it all off is a terrace with majestic views of the city and Central Park…umm, “can we talk?


Was T.V. queen Sharon Osbourne off-her-rocker when she bought this Hidden Hills home in 2003? She and Ozzy have barely stayed there, renting it out to tenants for $25,000 to $40,000 a month for the past eight years. This year, just weeks after the British pair were slapped with a $1.7 million dollar tax lien, the 4,500 sq. ft., 5-bedroom, 5-bathroom home was listed for $10 million. No rock paraphernalia here, but you will find a huge gourmet kitchen, a garden terrace, a hot tub and a large master suite with walk-in closets and a marble bath.


In 2009, 92-year-old Hungarian-born actress Zsa Zsa Gabor was reported to have lost $7 million in the Madoff Ponzi scheme. On top of that, the ailing actress’s “medical bills are mounting,” according to The Guardian. Did she list her Bel Air mansion to increase cash flow? Whatever the reason, the estate, once owned by Elvis Presley, was built in the “Hollywood Regency style” and has four bedrooms, five and a half bathrooms, a pool and about 6,000 square feet of living space. But, is the property, currently listed at $15 million, cursed? The home was burglarized in February, and in late 2010 Prince Frederic von Anhalt (Zsa Zsa’s husband) thought he saw a massive snake on the mansion’s grounds. But, who cares about a little bad karma when you could be lounging by the pool where Zsa Zsa swam naked every morning, or entertaining guests where the Reagans, Bob Hope and Frank Sinatra partied.


When a 1938 hurricane wiped the Hepburn family’s summer home off the map, Katharine used toy blocks to show builders exactly how she wanted the house rebuilt. Now, Katharine’s dream home is on the market for $28 million. The sprawling waterfront Connecticut estate, where the actress died in 2003, has been extensively renovated by the current owners but maintains much of the historical integrity. If you’re not spooked by the prospect of Katharine’s ghost, then you may want to consider making this 8,000 square foot, six-bedroom, seven-and-a-half bath oasis your home. Stalled by the steep price tag? A sweeping view of the Long Island Sound and the original fireplace where Katharine was often photographed may seal the deal.

Sources: The Real Estalker, New York Magazine, AOL, Associated Press, The Guardian, TMZ, The Huffington Post, Shoreline Times

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

{Art} Gorgeous art that you can afford!

A perfect storm of factors has resulted in amazing steals on top-notch art. First, there was the recession (“I had to come way down in price when the recession hit,” says FOF artist Patty A. Baker) and now, the mass-migration of artists from brick-and-mortar galleries to the web (“The galleries take up to 50%,” says FOF artist CheyAnne Sexton. “Never go to a gallery to buy your art. Buy it directly from artists online,” says Patty A. Baker.)

Case in point: these 7 fab prints and paintings, all by FOFs(!), for under $100….

1. Lanscape24 by RozArt. Signed 16″x20″ print using on high-quality Fujifilm crystal archive paper.

2. Plumin’ Around in Silver by JNociforaStudio. Signed 6″X6″ oil painting on linen canvas panel.

3. Harvest Art Fruit Print by WatercolorByMuren 12″x12″ print on 100% cotton, fine art paper.

4. Just Blue, Antwerp Blu by CheyAnneSexton. 11″X14″ original watercolor on Arches 140 coldpress paper with Winsor & Newton paints.

5. VillefrancheSurMer by marionbermondy. 6″X4″ print on acid-free Strathmore© digital texture paper.

6. Still Life with Palisade Peaches by pattyabaker. 8″X10″ giclee print on premium, archival quality photo paper with satin finish.

7. Piggy by workingwoman. 8.5″X11″ print on premium archival fine art paper.

One of these artists made $87,000 selling her art online! Find out which one and discover the secrets to her success.

{Poll} Which artist’s works would you hang in your home?

If money were no object, which artist’s works would you hang in your home?

Legendary impressionist Mary Cassatt was born in Pennsylvania in 1844. She attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts against her wealthy parents’ wishes. Mary was frustrated by the school’s rules, which forbade female students from painting live models. Eventually she moved to France where she studied the masters and made extra money by copying and selling famous paintings at the Louvre. Edgar Degas, one of the early founders of Impressionism, became Mary’s mentor, and brought her into the fold of the Impressionist movement. Mary is best known for her oil paintings, which explore the intimate moments of women–especially the bond between mother and child. They have sold for as much as $2.9 million.

Twentieth century Mexican painter, Frida Kahlo, is best known for her colorful and sometimes disturbing self-portraits which have been described as “surrealist” and as “folk art.” “I paint myself because I am so often alone and because I am the subject I know best,” said Frida, according to biographer Andrea Kettenmann. Her paintings capture emotional moments of her life, from her tumultuous marriage to artist Diego Rivera to the (physical and emotional) pain she endured after a bus accident left her barren. They have sold for as much as $5.6 million.

Georgia O’Keeffe was born on a dairy farm in Wisconsin in 1887. She attended a top art school in Chicago and won several student prizes, but eventually stopped painting entirely, and became an elementary school teacher in Texas. There, she began painting again, and those works–abstract flowers, rocks, shells, animal bones, and landscapes–became the basis for her first gallery show in New York. The gallery owner, famed photographer Arthur Steiglitz, fell in love with Georgia and left his wife to marry her. By the 1920s, Georgia was considered one the America’s most important artists. She continued painting right up until her death at age 98. Today her paintings sell for upwards of $6 million dollars each.

Helen Levitt (1913-2009) was a famously reclusive photographer who live and worked in Brooklyn, NY. She was known for her New York City “street photography,” especially her photos of local “children living their zesty, improvised lives,” as noted in her New York Times obituary. Some of her most famous photos were taken in the 1930s, because, Helen said: “That was before television and air-conditioning. People would be outside, and if you just waited long enough they forgot about you.” She took photos for 70 years before her death in 2009 at age 95.

Sorry, there are no polls available at the moment.

Images via Girls Explore, The Art Institute of Chicago, Frida Kahlo Foundation, Biography.com, The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, Laurence Miller Gallery, and BlogArts

{Giveaway} “Reinvent Your Room” Makeover + $250 Ikea gift card

Whether you are starting a new business, sending your kids off to college or hosting an aging parent, there’s no better time than now to reinvent a room to suit your new FOF life. FOF Founder Geri Brin recently converted her bedroom into a walk-in closet/office. Now it’s your turn….

We’ve partnered with IKEA: The Life Improvement Store and Use What You Have Interiors® to bring you the ultimate FOF room-reinvention giveaway. FOF Lauri Ward, founder of “Use What You Have Interiors” or one of the members of her network of decorators (the Interior Redecorators Network®) will provide a room re-design consultation to the winner.

IKEA Design Spokesperson Janice Simonsen is giving a $250 gift certificate to IKEA to help you fill in any “holes,” further reinvent your space and better your FOF life.

To enter to win the Reinvent Your Room makeover with a Use What You Have® decorator plus a $250 gift card to IKEA: The Life Improvement Store, comment below and answer: What room would you reinvent and how would it improve your life?

(See all our past winners, here.)

Contest closes Thursday, January 27, 2011.

Thank you for entering. This contest is now closed.

[click here to find out more about Lauri Ward of Use What You Have Interiors® and Janice Simonsen of IKEA: The Life Improvement Store]

More about the designer:

In 1981, FOF Lauri Ward decided she wasn’t happy working in “conventional interior designer mode.”

“I didn’t feel comfortable telling my clients they had to buy expensive things to make their homes look beautiful,” says Lauri. She started her company, Use What You Have Interiors® and developed her own system of decorating, to help clients use what they already have in their home to create a fresher, updated and more elegant look for a starting flat fee of just $350 per room.

Over the past three decades, she’s trained hundreds of decorators and has formed a worldwide network called the Interior Redecorators Network®.

“Anybody should be able to have a beautiful home, not just wealthy people,” says Lauri.

The concept is simple but the instant gratification that a one-day room makeover delivers is what Lauri says has garnered major media attention (including Oprah, The Today Show, The New York Times and House Beautiful Magazine) and kept her company thriving for three decades.

“The comment we hear from everyone is ‘Gee, I never would have thought of that. I’ve tried this 10 different ways and none of it worked,” says Lauri. “We show them the 11th way.”

More about IKEA’s FOF design spokesperson, Janice Simonsen:

FOF Janice Simonsen, design spokesperson for IKEA “reinvented” herself many times throughout her career. She started out as a graphic designer, owned a successful interior design business and then transitioned into a position as design spokesperson for IKEA U.S. where she lends her interior design expertise to any topic ranging from small space living to designing a dream kitchen.

IKEA – The Life Improvement Store – understands your life at home and designs products to meet your needs, and make your life better. It’s important to have your home work for your lifestyle – and sometimes that calls for “reinvention” as we go through different stages our lives. Whether you are transforming a bedroom into an office, or making room for a new addition at home, IKEA offers well-designed products that suit every style (and budget!) to help you improve your space, and your everyday life at home.

{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.’”


Images by Jennifer Levy