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I know black walls have been a design trend for at least a year. But it still takes courage and conviction to decorate with black. I still can’t get over the fact I chose two black-framed mirrors for our house – I thought I was being so bold!

But I’ve come to realize that there are some lower-commitment ways to decorate with black. If you love the drama of black but don’t want a moody look, check out some of these ideas.

Glossy black wood door and window frames, with lots of white and a bit of glass, keep the space light.

black paint

Just a few pieces of black furniture, like this coffee table and bookshelf, allow you to dabble in black decor, without going the whole way.

black and pink

Even an entire wall in black wallpaper looks light when it is punctuated with an open doorway.

black wallpaper

A black armoire sets a classic tone for a white room decorated with black accents.

white room, black accents

Just a single piece of black and white fabric injects drama into this muted bedroom.

black pattern

Black walls are an easier option when you have lots of windows. I also like the cozy effect for an office. I like to think it would aid concentration!

black walls in study

I love black in kitchens against all that marble and chrome.

black kitchen

In bathrooms, it looks so decadent – even when you only use a tiny bit of black.

black bathroom

Talk about making a statement. Black doors and a simple black table make this otherwise all-white entryway fabulous. I love lilac accents (in this case the flowers) too.

black and white entry

A dramatic black and white canvas breathes life into a space.

black and white art

This room demonstrates solid commitment to black – but the soft textures (drapes, velvet sofa) make it more inviting.

black walls

This really pretty pendant looks great against the more austere black wall and stone fireplace.

black wall

Or reverse the look with a modern black pendant against a pretty backdrop of traditional white walls and fixtures.

black chandelier

I love the graphic appeal of a striped rug and lots of black picture frames.

black and white

If you don’t like the idea of painting a wall black, who could resist the luxe appeal of black wood?

black wood and copper pendant

With paneling it’s even more effective.

black and red

Or pick out an architectural feature – in this case the staircase – in black.

black staircase

Or how about switching things up and painting the wainscoting black and the upper walls white? It has the effect of grounding an almost white space.

blackwhiteviaslitensymfoni

Have you tried decorating with black? Do you still love it?

Credits:

1 & 2 – Decorpad, 3 – Apartment Therapy, 4 – source unknown, 5 – Apartment Therapy, 6 – Peacock Feathers, 7 & 8 – Pink Wallpaper, 9 – Simplified Bee, 10 – Peacock Feathers, 11 – This is Glamorous, 12 & 13 – Graham Atkins Hughes via Desire to Inspire, 14 – The City Sage, 15 – Apartment Therapy, 16 – The Rug Company, 17 – Door Sixteen, 18 – A Life More Fabulous.

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Every once in a while you find a place that somehow restores your spirits. Of course, if you’re lucky, your home has that effect too. But I’m talking about finding another place, perhaps a B&B you escaped to one weekend or the home of a friend who hosted a weekend wedding party. Somewhere that still evokes happy memories many years later. Well, I have a feeling the house in which we stayed in the Hamptons this month is such a place.

Perhaps it was because we were so exhausted when we arrived. Or maybe it was because this was the first time our whole extended family had been together for over a year (and the first time ever since my nephew was born). But a big factor in our enjoyment was certainly the house itself. Now that I’ve finally downloaded all the photos, I thought I’d share a few. I hope you can see what I mean when I say this was an unforgettable vacation…

Exterior

Well, that’s it there. Beautiful isn’t it? The house was actually built in three separate phases, spanning centuries. The original structure is on the far right. The central and left portions were added later by subsequent owners (and, in some cases, descendants of the original owners). Part of the building was even shipped from Pennsylvania. It also reminded me of the houses you see scattered around the English countryside.

Entry

This is the entry hall. You can see straightaway that this is first and foremost a home. Yes, it’s a big house and the exterior is stunning. But the interior is not at all ‘grand’. It’s sweet, charming and comfortable – although, admittedly, every room does also have enviable proportions and light. The style is slightly Gustavian – the whitewashed floors, striped walls, lots of pale painted furniture. But it’s also uniquely personal. This is a home occupied by artists and you can see evidence of that in every room.

Entry

We were in the house over July 4, so these little figures on the hallway mantelpiece were quite fitting!

Dining room

This is the dining room. It’s the heart of the house physically and metaphorically. It’s supremely practical (you can walk over those white painted floors in your bare feet straight from the garden and the table will stand up to a child’s idea of table manners – and then some). But it’s also really pretty. I love that wallpaper and the chandelier.

Dining room

This little bar area in the dining room is so cute. Brilliant use of colors – and yet it doesn’t look at all contrived.

Dining room

Yet another dining room detail. I love the way this painting is propped up casually on a child’s chair.

Living room

We didn’t spend much time in the living room (couldn’t move off the patio or out of the dining room!). But this is probably the perfect beach house blue.

Sunroom

We did, on the other hand, spend a lot of time in the sunroom. This covered porch is a later addition to the house but it’s perfect for cooling off when the sunbathing gets too much (!).

Sunroom

More Swedish style in evidence. And those lamp bases that look like milk pails are a stroke of genius.

Library

The oldest part of the house includes a library. I can imagine this would be a great snug for winter. I’m partial to walls of books, so here’s a little hint of the room for those who, like me, hanker after floor-to-ceiling reading material.

Master bedroom

The master bedroom is also in the oldest part of the house. The windows are the best vantage point in the house for spotting deer in the garden!

Bathroom

I love this wallpaper in one of the bathrooms. With the dark blue tiles, it looks sharp, not chintzy.

I hope I’ve done the place justice. I’m no photographer. And you can’t capture all the details that make a house so welcoming: the paintings with personal notes from the artist, the collection of old copper kettles in the hallway. But, at least you can see how the owners have eschewed the showiness of much of the Hamptons and instead created a stylish home that makes you want to kick off your shoes and settle down to a great book. Now that’s a restorative vacation…

If you’re interested in renting this house for a vacation, you can do so through CyberRentals. I guarantee you’ll return home a new person.

That’s it. I’ve discovered interior design utopia. For some interiors photographs that can only be described as ‘achingly beautiful’, check out stylist Lucyina Moodie’s portfolio here. I first heard about Lucyina via SanityFair (also a great read, full of pretty pictures).

Lucyina Moodie - dressing table

Lucyina Moodie - living room

Lucyina Moodie - dining room

Lucyina Moodie - stairs

Lucyina Moodie - stairs

Lucyina Moodie - dining room

The use of color in these images is so effective: Neutrals dominate but the little touches of blue and green inside cabinets, on teacups, vintage urns, candlesticks, books and on the occasional wall are really pleasing. I love all the uses of texture and pattern too. That cushion in the first photo, for instance. Simply stunning…

Also check out Sanity Fair’s post on this – with more details about Lucyina. Thank you, Sanity Fair, for introducing me to her work.

I thought I’d provide a quick round-up of some of the pics that most inspired me this week from some of my favorite design blogs. Enjoy.

This is from Apartment Therapy‘s post on Paul Raeside‘s interiors photography. I love the colors and the tiled wall.

Paul Raeside

Door Sixteen has a great post on designer Frederic Mechiche’s loft. She’s absolutely right, this loft is stunning from every angle.

Loft

Casapinka has a hilarious post on her two year-old son’s pole dancing habit (you need to read it). But the pics she chooses to accompany it are great too. I love these two in particular. Look at that chandelier in the first one. And the colors in the second are just so fresh and cheerful.

Living room

Living room

Decorology is always a fabulous source of interiors inspiration. I like the warm, sunny hallway in the photo below.

Hallway

Craft and Creativity‘s photostream in Flickr has some really pretty interior shots. I like the way this vase looks against the floral wallpaper.

Vase

Finally, A Room Somewhere posts about Ruby + Stella‘s pillows. I love this shot – great choice of colors. I’d love this in our bedroom.

Stella + Ruby

To some, a home is just four walls and a roof. To others, it’s a showcase for a lifetime’s achievements. To a few, it’s a canvas for artistic expression. To me, it’s a refuge and a source of comfort. It’s also a lab for design experiments, some of which go well, many of which don’t.

That’s the real reason I started this blog: to record the changes in our home, capture the things that inspire those changes; and document the disasters so I never repeat them!

To some people, I suppose our home looks finished. Or maybe it looks like we’ve barely started. But to me, it’s a work in progress. So here are the first photos of our home – finished or otherwise.

Living room

We live in a San Francisco Edwardian. There are three stories, including the basement garage. The living room is at the front and is open to the hallway via a double-width arch. We’re lucky to have tons of natural light, with windows on two sides – although that does make it chilly on winter evenings. The sofas are from IKEA (when we moved to the US seven years ago, we had to furnish an entire apartment in a weekend so most of our basic items are from IKEA – and still going strong, I might add). The ottoman is from Pottery Barn and has been absolutely invaluable – there’s nothing better than kicking back in front of a movie with this as a footrest. Good for extra seating too when we entertain. The shades are raw silk from the Shade Store (excellent for reasonably-priced custom shades). The mirror and lamp are from Pier 1 and the apothecary chest is from Gingko, a little store in Soma that makes items to order for a great price – mostly from reclaimed wood. I also have a beautiful Louis chair (out of shot) covered in cream velvet, with silver gilt arms. It’s rather ornate but balances out the two boxy IKEA sofas. The challenge here is keeping the effect modern while indulging my preference for vintage, gilt and shiny things. Seems I’m constantly teetering between the two.

Living room / hallway

Ok, this shot is taken from the sofa under the bay window, looking through to the hallway and then dining room. Here’s the Louis chair. The painting is by Chris Hankey. We asked for contributions to an art gallery for our wedding gifts, and this was one of the pieces we eventually purchased. If there’s one thing in our home that helps me relax, it’s this.

Dining room

Dining room

The dining room wall color was a major change for us – it’s quite a cool blue/green/gray. It’s Iced Marble by Benjamin Moore and seems to change color depending on what you put next to it. But it looks great as a backdrop to the wave painting. The table is (of course) IKEA, but the chairs are from a, now closed, store on Fillmore Street. I loved the leather but couldn’t justify buying six of them so two are in a charcoal fabric instead. The sideboard, just seen, is from Gingko again. I had trouble deciding what to do with the front door, which is glass. I didn’t want to block out the light completely, but also didn’t want passersby peering in while we ate our dinner in the evening. The laser-cut paper screen by Tord Boontje seemed to be a good solution – and, somehow, we’ve managed to prevent our toddler from tearing it to shreds.

Just off the dining room is a tiny sitting area, which we use as a playroom. I’ve already shared my excitement about the West Elm zigzag rug in an earlier post: I’m loving how it contrasts with the more somber dining room.

Master bedroom

This is the master bedroom. It’s above the living room so we get the same great light. But we had to invest in extremely well-lined drapes and shades to keep the warmth in in winter. The bed is IKEA again, as are the lamps. I feel like we should replace the lamps with something more visible against the light-colored drapes. But the light they give is so warm it’s perfect for a bedroom so I can’t bear to part with them. The pomegranate painting was another wedding gift and was the inspiration for the colors in this room.

Bedroom dresser

Ok, I’m no stylist. But I like to see this little collection of things on our dresser in the mornings. The photos are of my father as a child, the handheld silver mirror (lying flat) was an 18th birthday present, the mother-of-pearl inlaid mirror is from Wisteria and was a source of much soul-searching (should we really spend the money?) but it was the best price I’d found for this type of mirror and I absolutely love it. The domino box is also from Wisteria and was a present from my sister (with some strong hints…). The large paper flower was made by my two-year-old at his daycare and is, quite frankly, the best thing about this collection (in my humble, doting-parent, opinion!)

Guest room

Last but not least, the guest room. The photograph isn’t great, but the room itself is really relaxing to be in. The wall color is Morning Dew by Benjamin Moore – a really pale, creamy green. The drapes are white linen and from the Shade Store again. The bedside tables were an absolute find for $140 each in a local antiques store (Past Perfect on Union Street – same place I got the Louis chair). Somehow they work with the IKEA bed and lamps. The rug is from South Africa, a gift from my parents.

In another post, I’ll try to show some pics of the nursery, office and kitchen. The latter is definitely a work in progress – we’re contemplating a renovation.

So, that’s our home. I hope it provides some ideas – even if only what not to do!

I’ve spotted a few examples of trompe l’oeil recently, with a rather unexpectedly modern feel. I would never normally consider using trompe l’oeil, but these pictures made me think again.

trompe l'oeil wardrobe

This is Mary, Mary, quite contrary, watering her garden – it’s quirky and humorous but the black and white gives it a graphic appeal and prevents the room from looking too sugary sweet.

Here’s a similar effect in author India Knight’s home, from Livingetc.

India Knight

The mural is by Charlotte Mann. It actually goes all the way up the stairs and features favorite items belonging to the family. This is a really great, albeit unusual, alternative to wallpaper – much more personal without being gaudy.

For more by Charlotte Mann, check out her site. I particularly like this piece – perfect for turning a tiny, windowless room into something inspirational.

Charlotte Mann mural

I’m not quite sure if I’d have the courage to do this to a wall in my house yet. And I’m imagining it might be rather expensive. I haven’t found anywhere that sells wallpaper like this and a custom piece is not in the budget right now! But definitely one for the inspiration files…

The design discoveries and dilemmas of a Brit in San Francisco as she turns a house into a home.
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