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I’m always inspired by the ingenuity of lighting fixture designs. A lamp or pendant light is like art and can make or break a space. But these Roofer lights by Benjamin Hubert for Fabbian are so cute and versatile that they’d work in both grand and modest spaces alike.

roofer light green

The green is great fun (imagine it with brass accents or against a fresh white interior). But I would probably go for the gray.

Roofer light black

The Armadillo light by LZF  is another shingled design. The shingles are arranged more irregularly, giving this light a quirkier feel. This cherry red is the perfect color for the style.

Armadillo light

Anyone spotted any other shingled designs I missed?

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Do you keep mental lists of favorite and iconic design pieces? You know, those items that, one day, you’ll have in your dream home? Maybe you’ve even treated yourself to a few of them. But, if you’re like me, the list seems to grow endlessly. So I’m going to try and keep track of them by posting my all-time favorite lists here. First up, ceiling lights.

The Random light by Moooi is a firm favorite. I haven’t found a place for one of these in my home yet – partly because they’re so large. But I love the way this design seems to create order from chaos. Here it is in situ.

Via Fondly Seen.

This Alvar Aalto Golden Bell light has a retro appeal but would fit in so many schemes. This one is actually an updated version by Artek. But the original is forever etched on my mind because of this image from Living Etc many years ago.

Then there’s the Tord Boontje blossom branch chandelier.

Who can forget how great this looked over Gwyneth Paltrow’s dining table (Via Habitually Chic)?

The next one is kind of quirky. The goose feather Pluma Cubic light was designed by Heike Buchfelder in 2003.

I just think this would be great in a bedroom, although cleaning it would probably prove a nightmare! I first saw it in the bedroom of decorator Philip Gorrivan’s daughter, in Elle Decor, where it made a charming feature that was somehow both childlike and grown-up at the same time.

Not all ‘favorites’ have to be expensive designer pieces though. There’s something about an extra long capiz shell chandelier that is romantic and decadent – but this West Elm version is very affordable.

Then there’s the Moravian Star light. These ubiquitous fixtures work for industrial lofts or Victorian houses alike and come in all sorts of finishes. You only have to Google ‘Moravian Star light’ and you’re besieged by hundreds of choices of sites to purchase them.

My first encounter with the Moravian Star light is a bit of a story in its own right. I lived in a hilltop town in Italy for a year from 1994-5 and there were numerous workshops in the villages nearby where artisans made these lights. I had never seen them before and was smitten immediately. I thought about bringing some back to England but never did. Of course, a few years later they started popping up everywhere…

Now here’s a design classic you’ll definitely recognize: the PH Artichoke light by Poul Henningsen 40 years ago.

The Artichoke light is so recognizable that it’s easy to ignore its brilliance. No self-respecting minimalist loft would be seen without one.

Then there’s this chandelier, as seen in designer Fawn Galli‘s dining room.

I love the way it resembles a firework or supernova, adding a burst of energy to a formal dining room arrangement.

Finally, no all-time favorite list of lighting would be complete without a good old fashioned chandelier. I’ve said before how much I love the glamor of a  ceiling light dripping with crystals. But, there’s something even more special about a turquoise chandelier and this one still takes my breath away.

Although this image was all over the blogosphere after being featured on Chinoiserie Chic, I’ve never managed to track down a source for this light. If anyone knows, do tell the rest of us!

I’d love to hear about your favorites too. What would you add to this list?

I recently received an email from a reader who wanted to issue me a challenge: find some images and ideas to inspire the decoration of a house for three 21-year-old guys. Always up for a challenge, I decided to give it a try. As soon as I started hunting, I could see the quandry for men interested in design, especially younger guys and those renting or sharing a place. Most spaces that have been designed specifically for men seem to follow one of a very limited number of formulas.

There’s the industrial loft space:

Industrial-loft

The sleek, gadget-centric seduction zone:

Studio

Or the gentleman’s club, like this modern interpretation of a wood-panelled library:

Club room

Now, while all these styles can be great for inspiration, the reality is that it’s going to be very hard to recreate any of these looks faithfully in most homes. If you live in a three-bedroom house with two other guys, there’s little to be gained from studying pictures of an open-plan studio loft. If your place is a rental, you can’t exactly put up floor-to-ceiling wood panelling or scrape off the plaster to reveal raw brick walls.

So, let’s see what elements can be used – and what alternative styles are possible.

Strong wall colors are the easiest way to create a unified, impactful look that is still masculine. Whether furnishings are spartan or mismatched, the look will still be pulled-together. Grays and browns are ideal options and there’s so much inspiration at the moment for these two hues.

Gray study

gray living room

bedroom

gray dining room

Gray bedroom

Many of these rooms also have strong, sculptural elements. The easiest (and cheapest) way to achieve this is with sculptural lighting pieces, like the Nelson Saucer bubble lamp in the bedroom image, or the large pendant shade over the dining table.

If you really want to go with lighter colors (tough in a house-share) then these sculptural elements will be even more important. Keep the space simple, colors uniform and the focus on a few pieces with interesting shapes.

black and white room

Living room

white bedroom

Texture is an often over-looked element in decorating. Stereotypical bachelor pads feature a lot of smooth chrome and black leather. But this approach means you miss out on the benefit that a combination of rich textures can provide. Grainy woods, scuffed leather and thick wool can create a masculine and stylish look without too much effort. And you can do it without spending a fortune by buying second-hand furniture. Check out the impact of these wood pieces:

Steven Gambrel

sideboard

And the use of leather, wool and stone in these shots:

leather chair

home-for-hire-by-londons-graham-atkins-hughes-3

The other challenge facing house-sharers is where to store all your ‘stuff’. Fortunately, books, art, photos and other artifacts (maybe not snowboards or boat oars – I’m not kidding, our first tenants in our house in London were three male rowers!) can be a real design asset. It’s also a great look for the thinking bachelor’s pad. Industrial-looking shelves are a good option, like these:

Library

Or wood shelves (to borrow from the gentleman’s club look):

Library

I also really like the use of bookshelves surrounding a wall-mounted TV. So much nicer than just having the TV lurk there all alone.

TV and shelves

Similarly, group several photos or pictures together to create a more cohesive, strong display. Making these personal items a deliberate part of the scheme will definitely help the overall effect be more streamlined, even when you need to combine three people’s bits and pieces.

2e9e4d69612a84eece885bc2c1d07ec0

Picture wall

Office

When it comes to finishing touches, there several trends right now that have a masculine vibe without being cliched. Skulls, flags, maps, globes and vintage lightbulbs are all making appearances in homes. I’m personally a big fan of the Brit-chic look (no surprise there, as I’m British!)

Flag pillows

British flag pillow

So it seems that there are lots of ways to go when decorating for an all-male household after all. As long as you remember the four ‘S’s – Strong colors, Sensory elements like texture, Storage for books etc, and Sculptural pieces.

Anyone designed a house for guys and got any other tips?

Credits:

1 – Apartment of designer Christina Rodriguez via Design for Life; 2 – Freshome; 3 – Living Etc; 4 – Office of designer Monique Lhuillier’s husband, and CEO of her firm, as seen in Elle Decor, photos by Roger Davies, via ChicFreak; 5 – Living Etc; 6 – Artist Lincoln Shatz’s apartment via Apartment Therapy; 7 – via Vintage + Chic; 8 – Apartment of fashion designer Franciso Costa and De John Stefano via DigsDigs; 9 – photo by Patric Johansson via slipcoveryourlife; 10 – photo by Per Magnus Persson; 11 – Loft of designer Frederic Mechiche, via Door Sixteen; 12 – Room designed by Steven Gambrel on 1st Dibs, via Anh Minh;  13 – Living Etc; 14 – via CasaSugar; 15 – Home for hire by photographer Graham Atkins Hughes as reported on Por Homme (more photos featuring this home at Graham’s web site); 16 – via From the Right Bank; 17 –  via DigsDigs; 18 – Living Etc; 19 – Thomas O’Brien’s studio apartment as seen in Australian Vogue Living, via Design Files; 20 – via Vintage + Chic; 21 – via Apartment Therapy; 22 and 23 – via Living Etc.

I’ve always had a ‘thing’ for chandeliers. I mean the great big, jaw-dropping, sparkly, bejewelled variety. The type that, even if you could afford them, you’re unlikely to have the kind of house that would suit them. I spent the first two years of living in this house planning to get one for our dining room, only to settle on the much simpler (and cheaper!) Nelson saucer bubble lamp from Room and Board. So, for now, my dreams of owning one are on hold.

But I can still appreciate the sheer romance of a truly breath-taking chandelier. Take a look at these beauties which, I think, show that an over-the-top chandelier can still be stylish, elegant and modern. The first two are both from SmartAlec.

white-living-room-2

modern-white-interiors3

Aaah, a chandelier in the bathroom. Is there any greater sign of luxury? I’m not one for baths with views, but even I could handle this room! Via Lolla Loves.

bathroom

This turquoise chandelier hangs in the office of San Francisco designers Masucco Warner Miller. Quite frankly, I don’t think you need any more decor in a room that has this hanging from the ceiling, but to see what the rest of the space looks like, check out their fabulous portfolio here. Via Chinoiserie Chic.

turquoise-chandelier

This room is a magnet for magpies. Practically everything sparkles. Despite the fact that it could resemble the frosting on a little girl’s birthday cake, I love it. I think the symmetry prevents it from looking too sweet. Via Decorpad.

decorpad2

This dining room shows how you can take a traditional crystal chandelier and make it super clean-lined and modern. I love this sheer black shade: it looks as though it’s modestly covering up the ‘naked’ chandelier while still leaving a hint of what’s beneath. By Graham Atkins Hughes, Era Management, via Desire to Inspire.

dining room

This yellow and turquoise chandelier is just so cute. Shows that not all chandeliers have to be serious. Source unknown I’m afraid.

yellow and blue chandelier

This style of chandelier just evokes bygone eras. To work, it has to be a little tarnished though, like this one here. Via This is Glamorous.

blue room and chandelier

And finally, the chandelier I covet the most, a Swarovski blossom chandelier. This one’s from Gwyneth Paltrow’s house. Via Habitually Chic.

masl05_paltrow

I’m still happy with my Nelson lamp. But, one day, there will be a glamorous chandelier, dripping with crystals, hanging over my dining table…

Since I started blogging, I’ve gained an appreciation for the importance of personal style in interior design. Even the most flawlessly-executed design is incomplete without the owner’s unique mark. There has to be a sense of history, a character, a feeling that life is lived within those four walls.

So today I’m starting a new series that peeks into the real life homes of our friends and family and appreciates not only some wonderful design choices, but also their highly individual styles. When you ask people about their homes, you find that there are stories behind almost every item. It makes you realize just how valuable our homes are to us – and not only in financial terms. Something worth remembering, especially in times like these…and especially for those of us obsessed with interior design and all the materialism that goes with it.

Anyway, enough of the philosophy and onto the houses. In this first post, I was lucky enough to be allowed to take photos of a fabulous San Francisco house that combines great taste with a highly personal twist.

Living room

The house belongs to friends of ours, Alison and Eric and their two kids. It is an Edwardian home built in 1917, not dissimilar to ours in layout. It survived the 1989 earthquake intact so has nearly all its original moldings and rooms. This is the living room. The bookshelves were installed a few years back, replacing some very 90s granite, to cope with the family’s growing collection of books, games, art supplies etc. A wood fireplace surround was removed at the same time and the simple stucco one put in its place. This is pretty much the only significant remodeling that was done – and although it’s clean-lined and modern, it works because it still keys with the style of the house.

Living room

You can tell this is a creative, sociable family that loves art, music and travel (if you’re on their holiday card list you’re left in no doubt about the creative part!) The print above the fireplace is from a Louise Nevelson show that Alison’s father curated about 35 years ago – and it’s signed by the artist. I love it because it echoes the bookshelves perfectly.

Bookcases

The chairs either side of the fireplace are a stroke of genius. The red one is from IKEA. But the yellow one is actually a piece of art acquired in Germany over a generation ago. It’s made of an industrial spring and apparently is wonderful for lulling babies to sleep (as several babies in the family have discovered over the years). All I know is that these chairs are not good for the later stages of a party: after a few drinks the red one is impossible to get out of and the yellow one is impossible to stay in!

Bookcases

The painting over the sofa was another one from a show curated by Alison’s father more than three decades ago.

Living room

Here’s the dining room. This is a real lesson in color. The walls are a beautiful, vibrant green. The color has been continued onto the ceiling to show off the moldings, wainscoting and coved ceiling. You find these in a lot of the Edwardian houses in the area, although this is a particularly good example. The two Asian posters were from a flea market in San Francisco and are reproductions of pre-Mao Chinese advertisements, while the Air France one is from Paris. I asked about the tablecloth too and apparently it’s from Cost Plus!

Dining room

The stunning lamp was made by Alison’s step mother, Dez Ryan. You can see more of her lighting designs here. There are some real stand-out pieces – check out the Mint Condition collection. I like the way this particular one looks so perfect alongside the Nelson Saucer Bubble Lamp over the table. Here’s a closer look.

Dining room

Like our place, this home has a sunroom at the back of the house. Here the space has been painted this glorious sky blue. My photography really doesn’t do it justice (I’ve said before that these rooms are impossible to photograph). But you can get a hint of the architectural detail in these pictures below. There’s beautiful wainscoting all round the room. Often, homes in the area have this left as dark gumwood, but I think the white is much nicer.

DSC_0434

Many of the photographs here were taken by Alison’s sister during her travels in India.

Office

The stove and cabinets have all been left as they were when the family moved in. But the cabinet doors were all refaced by KitchenWorks. I love all the pots hanging down – I’ve only ever seen this done in enormous country kitchens with a central island but it works here.

Kitchen

From the kitchen you get a good view of the stained glass above the door. Again, this is original to the house. You can’t see it all but it depicts a windmill and hillsides. Apparently there are very few in the city that had this type of bucolic scene.

Hallway

Lots of the houses around here have these carved details in the stair railings. Ours has heart shaped cut-outs (Pennsylvanian apparently)! I’m guessing they’re influenced by the Arts and Crafts style that was popular at the time, even for Edwardian style homes.

Stairs

So, that’s the end of the tour. Hope you enjoyed it. I think this house just has so much personality. You can see how it would work for kids as well as entertaining (and, having experienced both, simultaneously, here, I can vouch for that!) This is not a place to tiptoe about and whisper in shushed tones. It’s a place to yell for more gravy on the table, thump out a few tunes on the piano (visitors that is, I believe this family is actually quite talented in the music department) or to help yourselves to cocktails. And here’s to that kind of interior design!

And, speaking of entertaining, I’m off to Julia‘s blog party again to see what everyone else has been up to this week.

It’s rainy, gloomy and no one wants to spend money. For the decorating-obsessed, this is a disaster. We’ve all heard the usual advice: paint a room, buy fresh linens, light a candle etc. All good points but somehow they don’t inspire me. So, having had much practice at finding ways to get my decor ‘fix’ without spending a fortune, I thought I’d pass on some tips. Here are my decorating pick-me-ups:

File, sort, trash

While the rain poured down throughout February, we got our house in order by going through, literally, every drawer, closet and cupboard. A couple of trips to OfficeMax and we had enough storage boxes and folders to open our own stationery store. But now all the books are on shelves, the drawers actually open and close and I can find my make-up in the morning. The odds and ends that never seem to have a home are now organized – even labeled, thanks to the label maker we scoffed at initially but secretly quite enjoyed using. We even have an ‘organization station’ (inspired by a recent issue of Domino) off the kitchen. Thank goodness. Now I feel like I can breathe.

Jonathan Adler

Ok, so this isn’t really a tip, just an excuse to talk about one of my favorite designers. But how can you not feel your spirits lift when you buy one of his joyous creations? If a funny fish plate for $20 makes me forget the frenzy of work these days and makes serving dinner more enjoyable, then it’s well worth it.

Fish salt and pepper dispensers: how can you not smile?

Fish salt and pepper dispensers: how can you not smile?

Change the lights

In a kitchen that desperately needs renovating (see more on that below), new lighting has made a huge difference. Ikea’s under-cabinet halogen lights cost a few dollars but have turned our kitchen from a gloomy throw-back to something resembling a modern kitchen. We also swapped the yellowing three-way spotlight fixture in the ceiling for a chrome bar with four halogen lights. Ok, so a bit retro but it brightens the place up no end. A cheap copy of the Le Klint pendant, found on eBay, gave our landing instant personality. Next stop, the florescently-lit bathroom…

Transformational buys

Ok, so I get it, buying something small satisfies the need to, well, buy something. But it doesn’t really solve the need to redesign a room you’ve fallen out of love with. A rug is one of the most room-transforming items you can buy. There are lots of very reasonably-priced woven rugs available that can make a room look completely different without breaking the bank. I just bought the espresso/ivory Zigzag rug from West Elm for the tiny sitting area off our dining room. Because the space is so small, and yet next to our very ‘grown-up’ gray-blue dining room, I’ve struggled to decorate it in a way that has personality without being out-of-keeping. This rug was the answer. Every time I see it I feel happy! My son loves it too because it doubles as extra tracks for his cars and trains. It cost $362 in the West Elm sale, which I don’t think is too bad for what amounts to a complete makeover.

West Elm's Zigzag rug - instantly lifts your spirits

West Elm's Zigzag rug - instantly lifts your spirits

Virtual decorating

Mydeco.com, launched by Brent Hoberman of Lastminute.com fame, allows you to design rooms using a sort of consumer, on-demand version of CAD. You can design a room in 3D, make a mood board, or furnish a photo without moving from your chair or spending a dime. Decorating therapy at its best – and cheapest.

Room design created on mydeco.com - love the photographic wallpaper

Room design created on mydeco.com - love the photographic wallpaper

Get planning

Today we had Home Depot come in and measure our kitchen. They’ll do a full design in 3D for $100, including an estimate. Ok, it’s still $100 which you might not get back (if you don’t buy your kitchen from them). But, unlike working with a designer, it’s a ‘no strings attached’ deal so you needn’t feel obliged to purchase. We desperately need a kitchen renovation but probably won’t spend on it until the market picks up. But at least we can plan. Then we’re all ready to go when we feel flush enough.

Start studying

An interior design course is a bit of an investment. But it needn’t be a fortune. The Interior Design Institute, for example, runs a 12-part course for $1,000. I’ve been doing this for almost a year (yes, I’m very slow – but I fit it in around other things at my own pace) and it’s a wonderful way to learn more and get my design fix. What’s more, it’s an investment I should get a return on as it helps me make smarter design decisions.

If the experts are to be believed, we’ll be in the thick of this recession until at least 2010, so I’m open to more ideas!

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