DDH Decorating Ideas

Arranging Objects by marygilliatt
September 16, 2010, 1:53 pm
Filed under: Decorating, Interior Design, Living Room, Mary Gilliatt | Tags: , ,

Actually, there are two quite different schools of thought on the possession and display of objects: the school of simplicity and the school for comfortable clutter.  The offering up of one or two exquisite and interesting pieces; or an accretion of possessions and collections that is often called, rather aptly, memorabilia.

"...possessions must also be organized to display it to its best advantage." Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

The trouble about the first school is that a few beautiful or singularly interesting objects really must be beautiful or singularly interesting. Or at least made to appear so by the way they are displayed or mounted. The difficulty about the second is that the ‘clutter’ or enthusiastic accretion of possessions must also be organized to display it to its best advantage. This involves a careful assemblage of texture and shape and color not to mention placement.  For after all, what you are creating still lives in just the same way as that of a painter or a photographer.

"Very small things like decorative shells or stones or marbles can be put into large glass goblets or specimen jars and displayed on windowsills or on shelves." Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

Collections of small objects should always be grouped together rather than scattered sparsely around a house or an apartment.  Very small things like decorative shells or stones or marbles can be put into large glass goblets or specimen jars and displayed on windowsills or on shelves.  Slightly larger objects, however different, should be grouped so that they have something in common such as color, national origin or period, or, alternatively, contrasted with larger, quite different things for the interest of the juxtaposition.  Add a plant for example, or a simple arrangement of flowers, or dried grasses, or a big bowl of dried lavender, or a pile of books.   If arrangements are grouped on tables that are also used for the practical dumping of drinks, food, or whatever, leave appropriate space so that the composition will not be ruined.

"Something sculptural will always add to the interest of a room." Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

If arrangements are on a glass shelf or table, lighting them from underneath with a small up light is effective.  If they are not on a transparent surface try lighting them from above with a table lamp or down light recessed into the ceiling, or a miniature spot to give extra brilliance. Interestingly, serious or at least energetic collections of quite commonplace or ordinary but unexpected objects often make for more memorable rooms than much rarer items.  Perhaps this is because one is less impressed by the effect of something one knows to be good, rare or expensive, than by something one had not much thought about before.  (For example, old irons, shoe lasts, small boxes of every sort, snuff boxes, card cases, china toast racks or tea pots or jugs, old commemoration plates, old bottles and pill boxes or jars, baskets, eighteenth and nineteenth century eye glass cases, old locks and keys and small tools, etc.)

Something sculptural, (whether it is from a young contemporary sculptor, or African or Oceanic, pre-Columbian or Oriental, classical figurative or abstract bronze, kinetic or a two-colored construction) will always add to the interest of a room. Mount small pieces on Lucite blocks. Almost all sculpture except standing pieces looks better on some sort of plinth made to scale, whether it is lacquered, painted or natural wood, marble, plaster, fiber or Plexiglass.

How do you arrange your collectibles?


Mary Gilliat Decor Dream Home


An Eye for Detail or Finishing Touches by marygilliatt
Mary Gilliatt: An eye for Detail

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

An eye for detail is the factor that lifts competent decoration to the memorable level and, as such, it should clearly be cultivated.  It is the ability to choose, place and arrange objects in a compelling way, grouping them so that they are seen to their best advantage. It is a feel for balance; the juxtaposition of texture and color; form and scale; height and width; solidity and lightness.

Equally, it is knowing what architectural elements to use with what style; how to make subtle variations on one color; what to light or highlight and what to leave; when to spoof and when to stop. It embraces humor in decoration; the sympathetic hanging of paintings and prints, photographs or posters or any other wall decoration. It is getting curtains and tablecloths to puddle on the floor to exactly the right extent; trims to be just right along with hardware. But above all, it is the gift for making personal, idiosyncratic touches to the completed framework of a room, the feeling for detail that makes all the difference. And although some people are born with an instinctive ability to dress a room exactly so; to make whatever they do to their own environment seem interesting and out of the ordinary, this ability, like a true sense of color, can be gradually acquired with the diligent study of rooms that particularly appeal to you and with a proper analysis of why they do so.

Mary Gilliatt: An Eye for Detail

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

If well-chosen and well-cared for furniture and soft furnishings are what make a room habitable, comfortable and easy on the eye, accessories and objects are the embellishments and elements that give it personality. But for a truly personal room, the objects must be personal too; they must be liked for their own sake, thought about carefully, collected or put together for some real reason, whether sentimental or aesthetic, not just any old thing chosen quickly to fill a space, or because some particular accessory is in style at the moment.

Mary Gilliatt: An Eye for Detail

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

Mary Gilliatt: An Eye for Detail

Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

A Sense of Balance

Lastly, always bear in mind the importance of balance. Repeat the same color here and there in a room. The color of a chair at one end can be repeated in a painting or pillows at the other. Colors in patterned ceramic lamp bases can be picked up in a plain ceramic lamp somewhere else. The tones in a painting can be echoed in a rug, or fabric or a particular wood or flowers. These are all small details but it is they that give the finishing touches.


International Designer Mary Gilliatt

How to Display Art by marygilliatt
June 17, 2010, 1:47 pm
Filed under: Decorating, Interior Design, Mary Gilliatt, Rooms | Tags: , , , ,
Mary Gilliatt: How to Display Art

Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

There are varied schools on hanging art just as there are on displaying objects

On the whole they are divided into those who want to make room for their serious collections, and those who want to use their wall space to its most decorative advantage. Those of the first school are always thinking of a wall as a means to an end – a support, a background – and moving paintings around as their collections expand or contract and their interests digress.  But the second group, who are thinking more of their walls, need to find some unifying factor for their different and often less distinguished possessions.

Mary Gilliatt: How to Display Art

Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

A miscellaneous set of nondescript prints for example, can be given a unity they would otherwise lack if each one is matted with the same distinctive color – buff, or deep green, or crimson or terracotta – whatever fits in with the room – and edged with a thin strip of chrome or brass or wood. Again, an oddly assorted group of works of various subjects and sizes will have a unity of their own if they share a predominant color – all sepia tints, perhaps, or all black and white.   In any case try not to hang things too high, or too far apart.  When there is a large grouping, keep at least the central pieces at eye-level.  Vertical arrangements will make a room seem taller, just as horizontal arrangements will make them seem wider or longer.  If a wall is strongly patterned, it is best to mount prints or drawings on very deep mattes so that the subject is becalmed in an area of its own and does not get lost in the surrounding background.

Mary Gilliatt: How to Display Art

Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

Juggle different sizes of pictures around on the floor beneath the chosen wall to find an arrangement that works best with other arrangements in the room, or with the space available, and mark out the area on the wall with an impermanent marker before banging in hooks.

What are some of your favorite art-hanging tricks?


International Designer Mary Gilliatt

Developing a Sense of Style by marygilliatt
Mary Gilliatt: Developing a Sense of Style

Mixing rustic, modern and classic is unexpected and fun. Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

A sense of style is an amalgam of two things:  first of all confidence in ones own taste and judgment and, second, knowing exactly what is suitable for a given place or situation. As Elsie de Wolfe, the famous 1920’s and 30’s decorator used to say:  “Style is… suitability, suitability, suitability…”  Meaning suitability to financial and family circumstances; to climate; to the type of home and to the area.  Of course there are occasional people who are sure enough of themselves to create some wholly unexpected interior in a wholly unexpected kind of home, but this requires rare confidence.  And confidence is exactly what we must try to develop…

Mary Gilliatt: Developing a Sense of Style

Modern art looks fresh near a traditional chaise, no? Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

Some fortunate people seem to be born with an innate sense of style and suitability, whether in clothes, or the interiors of houses and apartments, or both.  Although curiously, the one does not necessarily go naturally with the other.  Most of us, however, have to work at it, just as most of us have to work on a sophisticated color sense and the knowledge of how to build up color in a room.

Mary Gilliatt: Developing a Sense of Style

Large rooms can be surprisingly cozy. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

Luckily by diligence and by cultivating the habit of really seeing what you are looking at and then analyzing why you like it or don’t like it, it is quite possible to become more comfortable and sure of one’s own tastes; to develop new ones and even to experiment here and there. Don’t you agree?

Mary Gilliatt: Developing a Sense of Style

Maybe not your first combo choice, but this works anyway. Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt


International Designer Mary Gilliatt

The Importance of Storage by marygilliatt
May 21, 2010, 12:37 pm
Filed under: Decorating, Interior Design, Mary Gilliatt, Rooms | Tags: , ,
Storage with mary Gilliatt

Photo: Bedrooms by Mary Gilliatt

To the dictum that you cannot be too rich or too thin I always like to add the extra phrase  ‘or have too much storage’. For one of the major problems in any home – and particularly any family home – is how to achieve the neat but adequate storage. Even just thinking of the stuff that has to be put away for the average family makes the mind boggle. Just take a look at this list:

Clothes, shoes, coats and raincoats
Cosmetics and bathroom needs
Bed linens and towels
Cleaning equipment
Kitchen utensils, china, glass, tableware, kitchen linens
Push chairs, cots, portable cots, diapers and general baby and childCare necessities
Toys and sporting equipment like bicycles, skis, baseball, golf and tennis needs
Books, cassettes, CD’s, DVD players and DVD’s, videos, magazines and disks of all sorts
Files, personal papers, bills and receipts, stationary
Photographs, photograph albums (not always together, alas)
Brochures, newspaper cuttings, telephone books
General household paraphernalia
Musical instruments and music, and then some.

Storage with mary Gilliatt

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

However sparse possessions are to begin with they tend to grow with the years, and whether this is for ingrained reasons of thrift or prudence, security or sentimentality, lack of organization, or just  sheer laziness, is of little account.  What is of account is that storage space be given some concise thought as well as a concise budget from the beginning of any makeover, however modest.  And most especially, of course, in any room or any home that in anyway purports to be minimalist. You cannot have any sort of minimalism without the maximum amount of storage space.

Anyone planning on finding neat, good-looking and inconspicuous solutions to the stashing away of most if not all of the above (and its always wise to look ahead to children, if they are not yet in existence, or grandchildren if they are) might find that the following questions will clear the mind:

Should everything be enclosed? (Some people prefer to shut everything away). If not, what can be seen? What can be left out satisfactorily? What will look good on display apart from books, objects, clean pots and pans, casseroles and possibly clean towels on bathroom shelves (if various occupants can be trusted not to rumple them up)?


Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

Is there anything against having the same sort of storage systems in different rooms? The advantage of this is that it provides continuity in a small space. Many ready-made systems have enough permutations to take care of all requirements.

Is a move anticipated in the next few years? (one out of five Americans, after all, are supposed to move every year). If so this will affect decisions on movable (free-standing) or built-in (fixed) storage.

Are there any specific ideas on storage in general? Can foldable clothes: shirts, sweaters, underclothes, papers or toys be stashed behind one of the wire or plastic basket systems behind doors? Or would it be preferable for them to be stowed in traditional closets, drawers, cupboards and filing systems?

What sort of storage will you require in each room? Bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, children’s rooms, studies or libraries, bathrooms and utility/laundry rooms need storage facilities as a matter of course, but where are the general impedimenta going to be kept?  Tools, luggage, sports equipment, barbecue grills, light bulbs and the household necessities that can be bought more cheaply in bulk?

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

If storage walls are decided upon as the neatest way of stashing away a multitude of disparate objects in a living room (stereo, cassettes, CD’s, DVD’s, Videos, Files, papers, TV, computer, discs, stationary, books, magazines and so on) how far will this affect the proportions of the room?

If built-in cupboards and bookshelves are preferred (say in a period house), where can they be fitted-in to their best advantage? What corners and recesses could be used? Can cupboards be fitted around a window or windows in a bedroom, with a dressing table surface built-out from a window sill?  Or can closets or bookshelves be built around doors? These are often splendid ideas for saving space.

Can existing storage be improved upon in any way, or can one whole but small room be used as a spacious walk-in closet?

How much conventional storage will have to be bought and how much can be improvised? Cane baskets for drinks, for example; ordinary open shelves on brackets; cloakroom racks on wheels or castors for clothes; filing trays inside cupboards for socks, panty hose, underwear, shirts and sweaters; lidded window seats; an old bureau or desk with capacious drawers for periodicals, games, toys and papers; small, low chests of drawers which will act as Cocktail or side tables as well as storage for incidentals…

It is, of course, impossible to draw up a blueprint for successful storage which will satisfy everybody’s needs. The only certain facts are that more space should be allowed for the purpose than could possibly be imagined, and that any sort of storage should be as much sympathy with the basic proportions and feelings of the room as is tenable.


International Designer Mary Gilliatt

Contrasting Scale and Balance by decordreamhome
May 14, 2010, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Decorating, Interior Design, Living Room, Rooms | Tags: , , , ,
Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

Wild prints can modernize a traditional space. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

The importance of developing a good sense of scale and balance is often underestimated in decorating. By this I mean knowing how to contrast height and width with furniture; when to use large designs or patterns in fabrics and wallpapers and when small; when to balance solidity with delicacy; and when to offset an angle with a curve. All of these things are just as crucial to the final effect of a room as a sense of style and color, and the sort of sensitivity to a building and its internal proportions which will intuitively suggest the way it should best be treated.

Some people are born with an accurate sense of scale and balance just as others are born with perfect pitch or a useful color sense or automatically knowing what style to use where. But although perfect pitch is an absolute and is either there or not, a sense of scale and proportion can be developed with time and experience, just as one can develop a good sense of color and style, which is, at the very least, encouraging.

Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

A study in balance and contrast. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

As for all issues of decorating I would advise looking through books and magazines and analyzing rooms that you particularly admire, but this time for the arrangement of furniture and accessories and for the various contrasts of patterns and colors. Look too, at your own rooms and ask yourself these questions:

  • What flashes of color would be enhanced with a little repetition here and there? Could, for example, the color of a chair at one end of a room be repeated in a painting or decorative object, or flowers, or a throw cushion or a rug somewhere else in the room? Or could the colors in say a vase or a ceramic table be picked up by the ceramic base of a lamp?
  • Are there any nice contrasts you could make to vary the pace a little? Like a hard-edged marble of glass coffee table in front of a squashy sofa; a rug on a large expanse of Coir matting, or polished wood or limestone floor; a pattern on fabric repeated in a different color way, or in reverse effect, or in a larger or smaller scale?
  • What shapes can be effectively juxtaposed? A rococo or Louis XV1 chair with the straight legs of an upholstered stool? A tall, vertical screen with the jagged edges of a low, spreading plant set in a basket beneath it?
  • Do you have only one large piece in the room, say a long sofa, with a lot of smaller pieces? Or just one tall object, say a long case clock, with a lot of low pieces?

Although there is definite contrast here, in both cases it is a rather awkward contrast.
It would look better to balance such a sofa with a big desk or a sofa or work table, so that you have several anchor pieces around which the rest of the furnishings could revolves.  Equally, a tall piece should be balanced by a bookcase or storage unit, an armoire, a large mirror, or a big painting, or a group of paintings that starts high on the wall. Do not, however, choose a piece of art or mirror that is actually bigger than the piece of furniture below (like a chest, side table or dresser) or the effect will be top heavy.

Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

Mix styles for dramatic contrast. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Home Comforts with Style

  • Do you have just one lonely mirror or small painting on a large expanse of wall? If you do, try to expand the items into a group, or series of groups. A very large mirror or painting are fine on their own if the wall is not too large.
  • Are your pieces of furniture and accessories all one level or all on one scale? This can look needlessly boring. Always try to vary the height of furnishings. Have at least one or two taller pieces such as groups of art or a large painting or mirror as mentioned above, or a tall plant or two. You could offset a tall piece of sculpture or a screen in one corner of a room with a large plant, or a plant standing on a column or pedestal in another
Mary Gilliatt Interior Decorating Blog: Scale & Balance

Mixing scales and textures. Photo: Mary Gilliatt's Great Renovations and Restorations

Lastly, one fail safe way to make sure a room will work to its best advantage as far as scale and balance are concerned is to draw up the room to scale on graph paper, similarly draw to scale and cut out the various pieces of furniture and large accessories and move them around until you have found what you think is the best juxtaposition.


International Designer Mary Gilliatt

DDH Mother’s Day Contest Finalists – VOTE NOW! by decordreamhome
May 5, 2010, 11:36 am
Filed under: Contest, Interior Design

OK, so we know this was a quick contest to pull together and we didn’t get the submissions we were hoping for but I think you’ll agree that all of these contenders are worthy of the Grand Prize – but it’s you who gets to vote for who will win the Grand Prize – $500 DecorDreamHome.com Gift Certificate and design consultation!

Our first Finalist is Stephanie. This is what her daughter wrote about her mom:

My mom deserves a bedroom makeover that lets her wake up each morning with a fresh start to her day and a comforting space to relax in. Both my parents, especially my mom, have fought through what life has thrown at us. Our family has been through a lot of up and downs and she keeps looking towards the future. She is extremely supportive and giving. When I moved out into the world on my own she gave a lot that she had to me, so that I could live comfortably. She has always extended her hand to others never taking care of herself first. I believe if you can sleep and wake up in a comfortable space it sets the tone for the rest of your day, and will give my mom the energy to keep striving and hoping for the best. Everything that my mom has been through, I try to be there for her every day. I always feel the burden of what they are going through and feel like there is nothing I can do to ease the pain. I wish I could take all the weight off her shoulders, and take care of her for once, as she took such good care of me. So if this can be even just a little way to help I am certainly going to try. My mom deserves to know how much her children appreciate everything she has done for us, and how much we love her. Thank you.

Here is Stephanie’s bedroom:

ddh mother's Day contest 1

DDH Mother's Day Contest 2
DDH Mother's Day Contest 3

Our next contestant is Hazel:

I’d like to nominate… MYSELF! We recently moved into our DREAM home out in the country. We love it here but it is a really old house in need of a lot of work. The needs come before the wants at the moment.
With all the stress of running my own business and trying to make the house livable, I would love to retreat to a cozy spot at the end of the day! Thanks so much for offering such a wonderful gift! Good Luck to all the entries! Sincerely, Hazel

Editor’s Note: Had to share this wonderful comment someone wrote about Hazel:

Dear Voters~ I just want to share why i voted for Hazel. I know her, and she is a nice woman. She works like a dog from home and rarely has time for herself let alone her house. She has young kids too and is often focused on them as well. A few months back, she gave me some side work through her business which helped me out. Most; recently, my own property flooded in Richmond, KY and Hazel came to our rescue and offered to watch my little boys while we cleaned up mud. I would have not gotten as much done as fast without help like that from a real caring friend.

About her house: well, this place is an old beauty. It deserved to be loved by a new owner like Hazel. The last person in it really ran it down and damaged it. Hazel fits in there perfectly with her eclectic visions.

I hope she wins to create the space she needs, because she is well deserving, and I would be more than happy to go there to help her pull it all together.

Good Luck Hazel

I'd like to nominate... MYSELF! We recently moved into our DREAM home out in the country. We love it here but it is a really old house in need of a lot of work. The needs come before the wants at the moment.  With all the stress of running my own business and trying to make the house livable, I would love to retreat to a cozy spot at the end of the day! Thanks so much for offering such a wonderful gift! Good Luck to all the entries! Sincerely, Hazel
DDH Mother's Day Contest 5
Finally, we have Deb:

I am a married mother of 2 beautiful, busy children, 1 dog, and 3 cats and while I am grateful for all I have, I would love to have a room that is a retreat to come home to.  As you can see from the pictures, my room is A MESS!  I NEED help!!  I’m not one to ask for help but after viewing your website and seeing such beautiful, inviting rooms, I’d be foolish to miss out on such a contest.  So please pick me, I’d be so grateful!!

OK, so use this poll below to vote – you have until Friday at 2pm EST to vote!