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When I first spotted this home, designed by Jessica Helgerson Interior Design, I felt it perfectly captured that easy summer vibe we all crave at this time of year. Cool white furnishings accented with oversized arrangements of foliage and classic summer textiles like linen and seagrass – it’s like a little sun-dappled picnic spot.

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But look a little closer and it turns out this space is the perfect year-round home. Take away the fresh green accents and you have a completely neutral, yet highly imaginative, interior that can be styled differently for every season. I love the use of classic black and white throughout this home – in just the right doses.

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White is used to blend in storage while black denotes key decorative pieces, feature surfaces, or this stunning kitchen island.

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This space has a mid-century feel tempered with antiques, such as the French glass bottles, contemporary and eco-inspired furnishings, like the kirei board cabinets below.

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It’s like a modern day treehouse! Perfect for a summer’s day – or a winter evening.

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All photos via Jessica Helgerson Interior Design. Her portfolio is a joy so do check it out.

These rooms are all perfect for cocooning on a winter weekend. White and light and airy for some much-needed vitamin D, yet cozy and inviting for blustery days.

Modern living room sectional

I can’t get enough of this room. The genius combination of leather and felt on the sectional, paired with a kilim rug and marble table. Wow.

Modern living room shelves rug

Gorgeous ceiling, another kilim rug, bench seating and those shelves…

Modern living room sofa pillows

I’ve got to sort out the pillow situation in our family room. I have my new velvet pillows but this picture tells me I’m far from done…

Modern living room sofa pillows

Herringbone floors, brass accents and a bit of greenery – the perfect way to ease into spring.

All of these photos are via this wonderful Flickr photostream.

I’m spotting gorgeous white rooms everywhere I look these days. Maybe it’s a January thing – fresh new beginnings and all that. But these snowy palettes are definitely speaking to me. Here are three of the very best – each of them illustrates perfectly how to keep a whiter-than-white space from looking like the inside of a refrigerator.

Wood tones and textures

A live edge coffee table, squashy leather chair and patterned rug (is that hide patchwork?) signal lived-in comfort against that white backdrop. By designer Kelly Behun via Desire to Inspire.

Glamorous gold

Gold is a great way to warm up white – yet it still reads as a neutral. More to the point, though, an utterly glamorous ceiling takes any chill out of the white. Ornate crown molding, wallpaper or a darker shade of paint on the ceiling would achieve a similar, if less dramatic, effect. Via Residence Magazine.

Brick and stone

Raw brick and polished concrete are all this black and white kitchen need to feel characterful. Of course, it’s not an easy to replicate if your place doesn’t already have these features. But a stone tiled floor or even wall with lots of texture can achieve the same effect. The lighting in the recess above the stove helps too – pools of light seem so much more inviting that a completely even glow. By photographer Stuart McIntyre.

Three gorgeous spaces – I’d live in any of them.

I am a huge fan of neutral interiors. Huge. Those people who say beige is boring can’t have seen it done right. To me, nothing is more soothing and elegant than a beautifully balanced scheme with whites, grays, taupes, chocolates and charcoals. So this post is both a defense and a celebration of neutral interiors. Here (in no particular order) are my top ten all-time favorite neutral interiors.

1. Contemporary cool

Neutral modern living roomModern living room with tan leather sofas

My number one room is actually two adjoining rooms, designed by Charlie & Co Design in Minneapolis (via Houzz). Each has a slightly different feel but the overall effect is very cohesive. I love the concrete fireplace, tan leather sofas and mixed material cabinetry.

2. Eclectic organic

Hallway with neutral Moroccan tiles

Entry halls are difficult to make interesting because there’s limited space for furniture and accessories. So making the most of the surfaces is important. This hallway uses an eclectic mix of Moroccan-inspired tiled floors, period molding and organic materials and shapes such as the branch mirror (and the woodblock table and Jonathan Adler lamp in the adjoining room)  to make a stunning neutral space. Apply the same lessons to other spaces and use pattern and texture to liven up a neutral interior. Via The Marion House Book.

3. Modern lodge

Contemporary ski lodge

I’ve featured this room before but had to include it here because it’s such a great example of neutrals done right. The only splash of ‘color’ is in two tiny pillows, but this space is anything but drab. That’s because the color actually comes from the use of lots of honey-hued wood. Interesting shapes and lots of tactile materials such as linen, rope (or cane?) chairs and felt. House designed by John Maniscalco Architecture via Houzz.

4. Fashionable classic

Collette Dinnogan living room

Here’s a neutral space with a completely different vibe. This is the former living room of fashion designer Collette Dinnigan, featured in Elle Decor (via LiveBreatheDecor). There’s virtually no color here at all (unless, is that a pale lilac throw…?) and yet the space is both interesting and beautiful. The pale furniture lets the period fireplace take center stage, while the modern floor lamp keeps it all from looking too saccharine sweet. If you have a strong feature like this mantelpiece, an uncluttered neutral scheme – with plenty of negative space to let it breathe – is a good way to make the most of it.

5. Upscale artistic

white living room

This space is a work of art – and not just because of the huge canvases. I love the herringbone wood floors, gently curving staircase, uneven turned wood floor lamp and the balance of black, white and beige. This is a great example of how unique shapes can enliven a very straightforward color scheme. The bentwood ball, on the other hand, just makes me think of tumbleweed… Via Canadian House and Home

6. Urban luxury

Klly Hoppen loft

No neutral round-up would be complete without a room from the Queen of Taupe herself, Kelly Hoppen. This designer is renowned for her stunningly luxurious interiors, characterized by acres of taupe linen, black wood and polished crystal. I personally like her own London loft (above) best as it’s more accessible and yet still inspirational. This is one room to study if you want to know how to make beige sumptuous.

7. Nature-inspired

white living room with plants

One way to bring a neutral interior to life is with lots of plants. The greenery adds color without it actually ‘counting’ as color. I love the way this contemporary space uses frothy ferns, a hide rug and sequined pillows to make a more industrial loft friendly and inviting. Via Apartment Therapy

8. Understated glamor

Neutral living room

The thing about neutral spaces is that you can go completely OTT on glamor, but it will never look kitschy. Take this stunning apartment, featured in Lonny Magazine. Opulent chandelier? Check. Herringbone hide rug? Check. Faux antlers? Check. Both Bertoia AND Calvin chairs? Of course. This is the epitome of glamor and yet it’s tasteful (and gorgeous) because the palette is so subtle.

9. Relaxed Californian

White and wood living room

Well, if you know me, you know I love this room and come back to it time and time again. OF course, it’s the living room of Julie from Remodelista. What do I not love about this space? White cathedral ceilings, wood shelves, an Eames rocker. But the reason I think it’s a great example of a neutral room is that it shows how the right layout and the emphasis on a few key features (in this case the shelving) can make all the difference.

10. Hamptons classic

Thomas O'Brien Hamptons living room

Where else to search for the ultimate neutral interior than a designer’s Hamptons retreat? This is the home of Thomas O’Brien, via Habitually Chic, and is a great example of how different warm whites, layered expertly, with a little dark brown or black to anchor it, can create a casually-styled look. O’Brien is a collector at heart and his rooms always have an inspiring mix of pieces – from stacked books to unusual lamps. If you want to make a neutral space warm and personal, start here.

So, what have I missed? Any other stunning neutral spaces that should make it into the top ten list?

I’ve been busy sourcing fixtures and fittings for the kitchen renovation. As a reminder, we’re looking for a kitchen that combines matte white cabinets, white quartz countertops, and warm-wood flooring and shelving.

This Bulthaup kitchen has been my inspiration for cabinets:

And these two stunning kitchens from Houzz show the type of wood finish I’m looking for, except here it’s used in much greater quantities:

(By Schwartz and Architecture)

(By John Maniscalco Architecture)

I’ve found that Alno, a German manufacturer of kitchens has some great options. Here’s one in wood-effect glass. It’s not the one I’ll choose (you’ll have to wait for that!) but it gives you a good idea of the style.

So, in trying to put it all together, here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Of course, we’re still getting all the contractor bids together so haven’t even broken ground yet. But at least I know what kind of cereal bowls we’ll have….!

We are in the market for a new kitchen this year. It’s going to be a huge relief to finally get rid of the ancient cabinets, cracked floor tiles and crazy layout. I’ll try to record the process here and will get the first few ‘before’ shots up soon. Meantime, I’m at the inspiration-collecting stage. I know I want a streamlined white kitchen but I don’t want it to look too clinical. So I plan to introduce some warm wood tones, probably in the flooring since that will also provide continuity with the adjoining rooms. And, you know me, a little bit of sparkle wouldn’t go amiss either… Anyway, here are some of the images currently fueling the creative process…

This one doesn’t have the wood floors, only a wood countertop. But the open shelves are great. Via Eloisa & Abelard.

This is one spectacular kitchen, via Design Manifest. Probably not exactly what I’m looking for as it has no wood at all and uses Shaker-style cabinets. But I do like the steel (or is it zinc?) doors.

This is a very streamlined kitchen but still manages to incorporate warmth with the taupe walls and pendant lights. I’m not looking for glossy cabinets, but they do reflect the light beautifully here. Via Living Etc.

This one has a much more organic feel with open shelves and wood-framed doors. Stepping out onto a deck with a pool wouldn’t be bad either…! Via Coco and Kelley.

Another lovely light kitchen, which shows how well the white cabinets look against the flooring. Via Desire to Inspire.

This wall of cabinets is cute, but it’s the wide drawers that really appeal here. Photo by Per Magnus Persson.

What a great mix of old (herringbone flooring and cornicing) and new (lots of horizontal lines, wide drawers and the Moooi Random light fixture). Via this photostream.

Now I’m probably not going to end up with a Bulthaup kitchen, but if I did, I’d like it to be this one.

This kitchen mixes materials very effectively. The Carrera marble makes a stunning backdrop to those open shelves. I’m also a big fan of the ‘waterfall’ countertops down the side of the island. From Canadian House and Home.

Not a fan of the flooring or the countertops here, but the chandelier light fixture adds just the right amount of sparkle. Also from Canadian House and Home.

Ok, this isn’t exactly a kitchen, but I do love the combination of white chairs and vintage wood table. By Vicente Wolf.

The last two are via Houzz. Lots to love about this kitchen: the unique hood, the little floating block shelves on the backsplash, the high stools, the mini pendants over the island.

More beautiful Carrera marble, dark wood floors and some striking glass pendants.

No doubt there will be many more twists and turns in this particular design journey, so watch this space…

If I’m going to continue the theme of red-accented spaces, this unique house is the perfect place to stop next. It’s the home of portrait photographer, Emily McCall.

Why do I love this house? Because it intrigues me and is truly one-of-a-kind. For a start, you’d think a palette of black, white and red would be brash and in-your-face, but instead it’s quiet, almost monastic, but with a twist.

Great mix of textiles from Suzani to sackcloth to leather.

Any place that can combine a white bust with a Panton chair and look great is ok by me!

The bedrooms are like negatives of each other (how appropriate for a photographer!) Here’s the light and airy white bedroom, with a few graphic punches in the form of the pillow, lamp and quirky clock.

And here’s the black bedroom – a perfect foil for a vintage bus route sign….

…and a red velvet wingback chair! Genius. Makes me want to break out the black paint.

Thanks, Emily, for allowing me to post photos of your lovely home. Hope everyone else enjoys them as much as I did!

Check out Emily’s blog here.

There’s so much to like about this red-accented space that it almost makes me want to redecorate our entire house from scratch (family – don’t be alarmed, I said ‘almost’).

There’s nothing quite like joyful, juicy red, used in just the right quantity. Here, because the space is so light and easy, the effect is uplifting. I’m a huge fan of the kilim rug combined with a very simple, blocky white table.

The central shelving unit looks like a clever disguise for a load-bearing column. Doused in red, it brings the entire space together.

The Asian elements, such as these meditation chairs, the Buddah, rush mats and Japanese-inspired screens below, bring order to a small space and prevent it from looking cluttered.

Is there any smarter combination than red, white and charcoal? That dark wall works well to ease the transition between living area and kitchen.

A perfect study in red.

From MiCasa via DigsDigs

As you can probably tell from my lack of posts recently, life around here is a bit hectic. Birthday parties, babies, schools, travel and lots and lots of work – frankly I’m amazed we’re keeping it together. It’s at times like this that I crave a home that is an oasis of calm. Of course, that’s not easy when you’re slowing disappearing under a sea of toys and laundry. We manage it for a few hours each week, after a major clean-up and when everything is sparkling and tidy. But, for the rest of the time, I have to resort to my favorite books and blogs to find the kind of simple, streamlined, relaxing interiors that make the perfect antidote to a stressful day.

Here are a few of my recent favorites.

This kitchen, featured in Skona Hem, via Emma’s Design Blogg, sums up my idea of restful design. Although it’s predominantly white, it’s not spartan (which I try to avoid as it just makes me feel uneasy). It has honey-colored wood, sloping ceilings, organic shapes, and some symmetry (those beautiful yellow and white glass pendants), all of which contribute to the sense of simplicity and calm.

A calming living room is the perfect balance of formal and casual, organized and relaxed. I’ve found the ideal combination in this room, from Greige, found via Fondly Seen. The art is what really sets the tone. But the comfortable chairs with a touch of formality, the slightly distressed wood paneling, the tall multi-paned windows – they all combine effortlessly to create an ideal of lived-in luxe.

A calm space doesn’t have to be entirely clutter-free. This living room (via Lilac and Gray) manages that relaxed feel, despite having open shelves. The neutral color palette helps but it’s the choice of materials that really creates the mood here: linen, cotton, wood and seagrass and the use of unpretentious and unchallenging ticking stripes, give the place a soothing, shoes-off vibe.

Can you have such a thing as a relaxing dining room? After all, isn’t a dining room’s design supposed to invite conversation, hilarity and stimulate appetite? Well, not in my book, not today at least! I like this dining room, from Elle Decor, via Arianna Belle, because it combines furniture styles and materials so effortlessly, is pretty and yet simple, and it combines striking full-height windows with softer drapes and chandeliers.

It sounds counter-intuitive, but for a relaxing bedroom, I like a lot of light. It doesn’t make any difference to me if the sun’s rays burst in at dawn because, with two young kids, chances are I’ll be up by then anyway! But I do like the sense of space and calm a light room provides. I don’t think I’ll ever have a canopy like this over my own bed, but the effect here is pretty dreamy. With the soft blanket, acres of white bedlinen and simple furniture, this is pretty much the perfect place to retire after a busy day. Via BeautyComma.

Now, for bathrooms, I’m going to have to go with this one (also from Emma’s Design Blogg). It has the cool neutrals, plenty of greenery, symmetry, organization and storage, but a relaxed organic feel, especially with the slate floors.

So what makes a calming room? Answer: whatever relaxes you. For some people that might be features like open fires or soft rugs, for others certain colors relax, for others it’s all about organization. For me, it’s neutral colors, plenty of negative space and light, a touch of greenery, organic shapes and textures and an effortless mix of styles that looks like it has evolved over time.

What about you?

I’m always drawn to modern white spaces with the simple, uncluttered look. But, at the same time, I know if I lived in one I’d long for a splash of color and a more casual vibe. This house is, to me, the perfect compromise. The combination of white gloss, horizontal lines and low-slung furniture with characterful accessories in fresh pink and green is just stunning. It would feel like summer year-round in this house, wouldn’t it? (From Micasa Revista via Achados de Decoracao).

The key to this space is the styling. The essentials are all neutral but it’s the pillows, blanket and flowers that inject color. The boxy sofas are tastefully restrained but the tropical print cushion and the chartreuse floor pillows just say ‘relax’.

A glimpse of the kitchen shows it’s just as minimal, with glossy white cabinets and a stainless steel hood. The use of drawers instead of traditional cabinets creates more horizontal lines to echo the living area’s low-key, loungy feel.

I love these blue-gray light shades in the kitchen. I bet those bar stools actually live on the other side of the island though and are just placed there for the photo…

This bedroom actually has many of the things I tend to steer clear of: very low beds, multiple pillows, teeny tiny rugs… But the effect here, in the context of the rest of the space, is great. And that color palette again!


Now this is a bathroom to hang out in! Huge limestone tiles and sleek white drawers create yet more of those horizontal lines. And, yet again, it’s balanced with a little bit of handcrafted character in the form of the crochet basket and perfume bottles.

Although it looks effortless and laid back, this space is actually a triumph in attention to detail. The fact that there’s so much continuity from room to room no doubt adds to the relaxed feel. And the fresh colors and abundant light make this place almost as good as being outdoors on a summer’s day. Almost!

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