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I’ve been very busy these days putting together my son’s birthday party and working so I haven’t had too much opportunity to work on my own place.  I did finalize the family room and still want to share how my living room has ended up.  I also chose the wallpaper that I’m going to be installing in my dining room tray ceiling.  I have also decided on window treatments for my master bedroom and bathroom which I haven’t even touched yet as a discussion topic.  I will regroup and share more of the work done on my home in my next post but for now I did want to share some great information about theme decorating.

You may think its cool to have a room that looks like you stepped off the plane and into a Hawaiian lu au or like a bomb of West Virginia football parafanilia exploded in your man cave but the reality is, hardcore theme decorating is simply outdated (sorry honey, I know you love your WVU football).  The new face of theme decorating requires much more restraint, a bit of creativity and leaving something to the imagination.  If you want to have a beach themed home (like my client in the photos in this post) you can do so without making everyone who enters there feel like they should put on sun block.  Here are five simple rules to follow when you want to have a themed decor in your home, without over doing it:

1.  Leave a little to the imagination – a themed room is a little like good abstract art.  You want people to contemplate it without its meaning being slam blam in their face.  For example, in my client’s living room we used an accent table made of carved wood.  This table serves the function of an accent table where a lamp can sit but it also is reminiscent of a piece of driftwood washed up on the shore.  The sofa is the color of sand.  The artwork could be waves, or maybe not.  Depends on who’s looking at it.  The lamp is made of turquoise, it acts like artwork without screaming beach.

Subtle touches of the beach make this city row house feel like a comfy vacation at home.

If you are doing a man cave, perhaps some abstract photos of the stadium nicely framed and hung in a collage could provide interesting artwork and a conversation piece.  If your theme is Asian, simple using grasscloth wallpaper on a couple of walls for texture and adding a red accent wall with black and red accessories can get the point across.  You get the idea.  Subtle and abstract is much more powerful than in your face and obvious.

2.  Don’t over do the accessories – a few themed pieces can be thrown in to the accessories, such as the black and white photos of the beach we put on my client’s walls.  We mixed that in with some simple white vases and some white accent pillows with what appears to be pussy willow on them.  Some stones simply placed on a turquoise plate offer a bit of texture and interest.  No where do you see a bunch of sea shells or sand or seaweed.  Go subtle with your accessories, but try to use things considered reminiscent of your theme.

Subtle accessories get the point across without overdoing it.

3.  Paint can go a long way – that man cave can represent WVU, or North Carolina or whatever your flavor is, with its paint colors.  You don’t need to actually paint the big WVU logo on the wall, use the blue as your wall color and use the yellow as your accent color in fabrics, or artwork, or other accessories.

The yellow of the dining room pops against the blue and white stripes.

The moral of the story is that themed rooms can be fun and interesting if they are done with care.  Gone are the days of the basement tikki bar.  Today’s themed rooms are much more subtle and abstract than ever.  So enjoy your theme room decorating but do so with caution and restraint.

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I love accent chairs.  If it were up to me, the whole house would be full of beautiful accent chairs in all sorts of fun and funky fabrics.  I guess it is up to me, however, having a home full of fun and funky accent chairs would not be very practical for my growing family.  So I’ve settled a few beautiful accent chairs in interesting design styles and textures to finish off my living room and family room and am excited because I have found the perfect fabric for some accent chairs that I will one day have in my master bedroom.  Accent chairs are a great way to add additional, movable seating to a space and to add pops of color, texture and/or interest to as space.  Because they are usually a bit smaller, they can easily withstand a bolder fabric that really reflects you style.  Because they are smaller they are also easier and less expensive to reupholster if you happen to get sick of that bolder fabric. There are many incredibly beautiful chair design styles you can use in your decor.  The slipper chair has become quite popular in recent years as a great accent chair choice.  Here is a picture of a pair of slipper chairs I have used in my family room.  If you read my blog this is not the first time you’ve seen these.  Recently we purchased the second chair to match and finish off the seating in the living room.  It is the Bassett Furniture Chandler Chair in Raffia. You’ve also seen the beautiful, t-back exposed wood chairs upholstered in a blue knit fabric.  These finish off my family room so nicely.  The fabric is actually quite soft and the chairs are really comfortable.   Yes, I said I was done in there but honestly, my work is never done.  We switched the wood coffee table we had in the family room to the living room and bought the Peekaboo Coffee Table (www.cb2.com) CB2 last week.  We love how it opens up the space and allows a full, clear view to the fireplace. Here are other beautiful accent chairs from other projects we’ve worked on:

5248 Chair from DR Kincaid for a client in Alexandria.  The black chair in the
background is the 8196 Chair also by DR Kincaid.
Traditional wing-back chair in office of client in Alexandria.
Flychair from BoConcepts for bachelor pad in Arlington, VA.

As I said in my last post, reupholstering old pieces is a great way to give them new life and to recycle.  It can save the piece from being tossed and in some cases can save you money from having to buy a new piece all together (depending on the fabric you choose, if you embellish, etc.)  So how do you know if a piece is worthy or reupholstery?  There are few tips that I can provide to help you decide.

*How is it holding up?  Are the cushions deflated, flattened or lumpy?  Has it basically retained its shape over the years?  How are the cushions constructed?  There are many materials from which your cushions could be constructed, including: down (most expensive), down lined with Decron Polyester fibers or Blendown (still expensive), and polyurethane wrapped in cotton or other fibers (most reasonable) are among the most common fillings.  If your cushions are made of high density, good quality foam they will not have broken down (or would have broken down less) over time.  Even your cushions are not holding up, however, there are other factors to consider in the construction of your sofa so don’t let this be the only deciding factor.  A good upholsterer can always provide you with new cushions to replace poor quality ones (of course, this will add to your overall price).

Client's reupholstered antique settee.

Here is another picture of the 50’s sleeper sofa I purchased and had reupholstered in a linen blend fabric…

1950's Sleeper Sofa reupholstered in linen blend. It was in excellent condition and is an incredible quality piece. The cushions needed to be remade and we replaced the mattress. We are very happy with it.

*Does it have good, solid bones?  If the piece is sturdy, strong and well constructed, you should definitely consider giving it a facelift. One of the tell tales signs of a quality piece of furniture is the joint system.  Good quality pieces have mitered joint systems or are dovetailed or tongue and grooved, and the frames are often glued and screwed together.  If the piece is made of particle board or plywood and the frame is held together with staples, it is probably not worth investing in reupholstery for the piece.

*Quality of exposed wood – if your piece has any exposed wood (dining chairs, sofas with wood legs, etc.) what kind of shape is the wood in?  If it has a few knicks and scratches it can probably be repaired fairly easily or these can add to the charm of the piece.  If the wood is rotted or broken or falling apart, you may want to reconsider as it may be costly to repair the piece.  Painting or restaining exposed wood is also an option but you may have to do some heavy sanding to remove any top coat that has been added so that the piece will take new paint or stain.  Here are pictures, before and after of my breakfast room chairs which I got from an old neighbor when I fell in love with the back design and I repainted and reupholstered them to be more interesting and updated.

Unpainted, pre-reupholstered dining room chairs I got from a neighbor. They are over 30 years old and were in great shape except for some scrapes and scratches. I had reupholstered them when I first got them in a paisley fabric.

My chairs now, painted in a blue metallic paint and reupholstered in brown polka-dotted fabric.

*Does it, or can it work with your existing or new decor?  It is important to consider if refacing a piece will allow it to fit more nicely into your decor.  There are some very creative things that can be done with old pieces to bring them up to date and give them updated style.  You can get creative with your fabric choice.  I love seeing traditional wingback chairs in very contemporary or graphic fabric patterns and colors, for example.  Don’t discount a piece because it simply looks dated.  Think about how you could make it into a contemporary piece that is perhaps fun and funky, or unique, or almost art like.  Paint can take furniture a long way these days.  Take a look at these pictures…

Traditional chairs in contemporary silk fabric from a project I completed in Alexandria.

I have these fantastic chairs that I actually got for free from a neighbor at my old house.  I drove by them in the morning and fell in love and they were still there when I came back in the afternoon.  They were with a circular dining table (which I regret not getting) and I asked him if he would sell the chairs alone.  He told me to take them.  He mentioned that they were 30 years old.  They have seen better days but are in good condition.  I loved the detailing on the backs.  The fabric on the seats was atrocious but I was able to look past that at their potential.  When I first got them I reupholstered them in a more traditional paisley fabric.  But when we moved here I decided I wanted to do something more fun and contemporary with them.  My solution, I had Andrew at Vienna Paint of Gainesville help me to paint them in a metallic blue color.  Vienna Paints sells a great metallic product that can be used for walls, furniture and other things.  On the walls you typically want to use a sprayer as painting this product with a brush will leave streak marks.  It is a glaze so you have to give whatever you are painting a base coat of regular paint and then go over that with your metallic glaze product.  I love the way it looks.

So I painted two of the chairs.  It took Andrew a while to get these two painted because it seemed like every time he started to paint, someone came into the store and needed help.  This product dries quickly and will leave streak marks if you are not careful so starting and stopping was not a good idea.  He finally got two of the four chairs completed.  Now I’m trying to decide if I want to do the other two in the same color or if I want to be creative and do them in a brown metallic, or a regular brown paint color.    I would love to hear thoughts if anyone has an opinion on this either way.  I am leaning towards doing all four in blue but I’m not so sure…

I changed the fabric on the two chairs that I had painted once more to a more contemporary circular pattern design in a brown that matches more closely with the rug that the chairs sit on.  Take a look at the before and afters..

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Another view of the chair newly painted and reupholstered.

I love finding beautiful old pieces and giving them a new life.  You would be surprised how unique and updated an antique piece can look when you place it among more contemporary furnishings.  I have acquired this beautiful antique sofa that was made for my great, great grandmother in the Dominican Republic.  It is a beautiful sofa that has more traditional lines.  However, I have decided that it will have a home among my more contemporary and updated traditional furnishings.  I have happily placed it in my living room.  It patiently awaits a new coffee table which I have yet to find.  I am having some beautiful accent pillows made to compliment the damask fabric that my aunt reupholstered it in.  It is a piece of my past, that has been handed down from family member to family member and I so honored to have it my home.  I personally think it looks fantastic here.  Check it out.

Here is a photo of my great, great grandmother's antique sofa in my living room.

I love the traditional lines and the detailing on the arms and legs.

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