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If you haven’t seen the new online magazine from Ashley Furniture, Trend Watch, check it out. It’s practical and a quick read. (You can also subscribe to get it free every month). This month features a pretty cottage-inspired collection. Also information about setting up a great TV-watching room for fall.

Go to www.AshleyFurnitureHomeStore.com, or click on the link below for the current issue.

http://s7d3.scene7.com/s7/brochure/flash_brochure.jsp?company=AshleyFurniture&sku=AFHS%20Trend%20Watch%2DSept%2DFinal&config=AshleyFurniture/AFHSTrendWatch&locale=en

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Modern Craftsman, by Stanley Furniture

As if there’s not already a lot of reasons to love Craftsman style… here’s one more. The style is easily updated for a more urban look. That’s right! A style that set out to be sturdy, simple and smart can also be stylish!

More than a century after the first William Morris wallpapers and Gustav Stickley chairs, Craftsman style is anything but yesterday’s news! Seems sturdy furniture, smart features and simple, organic materials are just as welcome today! In fact, as rustic as it’s perceived to be, Craftsman style shares DNA with modern style! Beliefs that less-is-more and form-follows-function actually inspired Craftsman furniture designers before they did modern furniture designers.

So if your tastes run a litte more urban than rustic (but you love the warmth of wood!), check out these six ways to update Craftsman-style room designs!

  • paint the walls white or a cool, pristine off-white color; rustic, grainy woods look fresh and updated against very light colors
  • keep walls bare; use large, minimal accessories above furniture and keep the wall spaces     between pieces of furniture empty
  • add touches of black or iron on picture frames, lamp shades, chairs or placemats
  • hang botanical prints or black-and-white artwork in dark or light frames 
  • use polished hardwood floors in a light or dark finish
  •  lean rather than hang pictures; prop them up above mantels, ledges or sofa tables

Check out some updated Craftsman and Mission furniture collections in our roomplanners magazine.  

(If you’d like to receive our free online magazine every month, subscribe here!)

The summer might be almost over, but there’s still time to tackle a remodeling project or two before fall begins. Kiplinger.com has assembled a list of 8 DIY Projects To Add Value to Your Home By Labor Day, 5 of which are listed below. Each costs less than $500, requires less than a day’s work, and will increase your home’s value.

1)     Add a Backsplash
Estimated Price: $14 per 12-by-12-inch tile

The easiest way to add pizazz to your kitchen is with a new backsplash. You can go from country to modern in a snap with a variety of options for finishes and colors. To save money, time and frustration, consider the peel-and-stick tile options now available. The messier grout-and-tile approach will add $50 to $100 more in related supply costs but will appeal more to prospective buyers.

 2)     Install Vanity Cabinets & Toilets
Estimated Price: $200 (vanity), $250 (toilet)

Even relatively minor updates to your bathroom can produce a return on investment of 172%, according to HomeGain.com’s 2009 Prepare-to-Sell survey of 1,000 real estate agents nationwide. Because toilets fit neatly over existing plumbing, they’re surprisingly easy to install. Look for modern water-saving models that will both save on your water bills and appeal to energy-conscious buyers when it’s time to sell. If you’re feeling creative, save hundreds of dollars by using an old dresser as the foundation for a new vanity. Simply cut out room on the top to hold a basin sink and to connect pipes.

3)     Paint a Room
Estimated Price: $30 per paint can

It’s amazing what a fresh coat of paint will do to immediately transform any room in your house. You’ll earn a 250% return on your investment in freshly painted interior walls, according to HomeGain.com’s survey. Just be sure to test colors — Home Depot sells 8-ounce sample cans of paint for $3 — before buying the full batch of paint needed for the room. Limit costly mistakes and spills by splurging on drop cloths and painter’s tape.

4)     Install Crown Molding
Estimated Price: $5 per linear foot

Crown molding in your home compared with none in a similar home in your neighborhood could make a difference when it’s time to sell. You may not get the money back, but it’s a feature that most buyers appreciate when looking for a home. Fair warning: Installing crown molding might be the trickiest task on our list. There’s a lot of geometry involved — along with a nail gun and a miter saw. Follow the “measure thrice, cut once” rule to limit waste.

5)     Replace the Front Door
Estimated Price: $150-$500 or more

As the first thing prospective buyers will see upon entering your home, a new front door will more than recoup your investment. Expect a fat 129% ROI on a steel door, according to Remodeling magazine’s 2009–10 “Cost vs. Value Report.” Bonus: Buy a qualifying energy-efficient door and reap a tax credit of 30% of your cost (up to a maximum of $1,500 in 2009 and 2010 combined).

View all 8 DIY projects in this slideshow: http://www.kiplinger.com/tools/slideshows/slideshow_pop.html?nm=RemodelingValue

Sanctuary, by Hooker Furniture

We’ve become a nation of busy bodies. As nine to five become 24/7, our homes are fast becoming one of the few places we can disconnect from the world.

So how can you create a sanctuary, or private haven, in your own home?  Start by taking a look at your home in a new way. Look for ways to relax or unwind in comfortable, unexpected places. At the same time, look for ways to re-energize in open, well-lit places. The perfect private haven balances intimate,  private spaces with head-clearing open spaces infused with natural light.

Here’s some ideas!

  • look for unexpected (or missed) places you can unwind, take a nap or look out a window.
  • add more natural light or vary lighting levels with a dimmer switch or lamps in unexpected places.
  • think small and intimate; sometimes the most restful places are a place for 1 or 2 people rather than a crowd.

You’ll know if your home is haven-worthy if you can achieve each of these 5 private haven benefits in each room!

1. Get Comfortable
Getting comfortable at home means finding plenty of places to kick off our shoes and settle in. Adding upholstered chairs around a dinner table invites us to linger for hours. Adding extra bed pillows helps us sleep better. Choosing weathered furniture finishes or organic colors inspires a feeling of quiet calm.

2. Lighten Up
Adding mirrored surfaces and mirrors doubles the light Daylight rejuvenates and heals. Sheer or translucent curtains diffuse light rather than blocking it. Light or white walls recreate daylight, while mirrors and mirrored finishes double the amount of natural light in a room…  especially when placed next to windows and chandeliers!

3. See things in a new way
A change is as good as a rest, even at home. Leaning a   picture against the wall, mixing two wood finishes in the same room, using mismatched chairs around a table or adding a bar cabinet or chair in the bedroom feels fresh and new.

4. Embrace the imperfect
A perfect home no longer needs perfectly matched, new or polished furniture Time-worn finishes, uneven, natural weaves and unmatched accent  pieces make us more relaxed, connect us to nature and invite us to experiment without regret

5. Reach out and touch something!
Think how good it feels to walk barefoot in the sand. Creating similar sensory   experiences at home means choosing textures that beg us to touch them and feel good when we do… a wooly rug next to the bed, hand-scraped or waxed table tops, carved bed posts or nubby fabrics.

Click here for more information about the Sanctuary collection, including some inspirational photos!

Craftsman is a uniquely American interior design style… suiting the sturdy living, smart choices and  natural simplicity inspired by America’s earliest pioneers.

But Craftsman style wasn’t born in America. The story of this style begins in England… near the end of the Victorian era.

By the late 19th century, a movement was afoot in Britain to return to simplicity and authenticity. The elaborate, over-the-top look of Victorian had become just too much for at least a fraction of intellects and artists.

William Morris championed the epic new cause to eradicate Victorian excess. At a time when machines and synthetic materials were taking over, Morris argued for a return to hand crafting and nature-inspired aesthetics. Better quality, he believed, would equate to better morality and healthier homes, communities, and lifestyles.

Morris formed a company and a movement to produce simple hand-crafted textiles, ceramics, furniture, wall hangings,    metalware, stained glass, wallpaper and furniture.

His home, the Red House, became a poetic icon of the movement. Its rough-hewn red bricks and high hedges blended into the countryside; the picture of security outside a modern new world.

The term, Arts-and-Crafts, was coined in 1888, after Morris and friends were rejected by The Royal Academy. Much like urban artists frown on folk art, this high-brow art institute frowned on ‘craft’ as inferior to ’art’. Undaunted, Morris promptly created an Arts & Crafts Society to revive  interest in hand-crafting skills using local materials and   medieval building techniques.

But Morris’ simple, honest, undecorated looks found their greatest audience in America. In 1897, Chicago established its own Society of Arts and Crafts. A year later, American Gustav Stickley began production of settles and sideboards that featured the hallmarks of the style, including visible peg joints and flat wood slats. Stickley promoted the new look in The Craftsman, a monthly magazine devoted to the style and its ideals.

Frank Lloyd Wright also found inspiration in the style. His Prairie Style architecture and fascination with simple Japanese design inspired a use of natural materials and flat, horizontal lines.  Both were dramatic contrasts to elaborate Victorian architecture with its pointed turrets.

The simplicity of Arts & Crafts in America also meshed with native and Spanish-inspired Mission styles. The country’s rustic past made it open to simple hand-crafting and utility as inspiration for a product’s design.

 Today, Craftsman furniture and room designs are uniquely American in their use of sturdy, smart and simple products. The style may go by many names… Mission, Arts and Crafts, Craftsman or Southwest. But whatever you call it, one thing is for sure: it’s still one of America’s favorites.

Read all about this much-loved style in our Room Planners magazine.. Click on the magazine, or on this link to open: http://roomplanners.com/pdfs/07-2010.pdf (You can also subscribe here to receive our free online magazine every month).

Or check out our Craftsman RoomCue. It includes ALL the information and inspiration you need to pull together a Craftsman room like the pros!

There’s clearly no fear of using color in New Orleans homes! This is a city where multiple cultures, intense climate and fiery food aren’t just a daily way of life; they inspire unique, unforgettable paint colors.

But there’s something subdued about even the boldest colors used in New Orleans interiors. They seem elegantly aged by time, slightly romantic and even moody… as if seen under low light. This exuberant, but elegant palette reveals a touch of Paris, a smattering of the south of Spain, a whiff of  island style and a bit of bravado from Victorian London.

Some New Orleans colors are known by their French names… Paris green, Gros Rouge or Brun d’Espagnol. (It’s believed these pretty hues were intended to complement skin tones… trust the ever-glamorous French to think about that!)

Check out our New Orleans paint color palette in our special New Orleans magazine issue. (Click on the magazine cover to open the magazine!).

If visiting New Orleans isn’t in your immediate travel plans, check out these movies! They capture the street scenes and interior design of this charming city and style. (To read our special issue on New Orleans, including photos, furnishings, paint colors and ideas for recreating New Orleans’ interior design style, click on the magazine cover to the right, or on this link:  http://roomplanners.com/pdfs/06-2010.pdf ).

Here are our top movie picks for capturing New Orleans interior design, past and present:

* A Love Song for Bobby Long. If you haven’t seen this movie, it’s worth a watch. Apart from being a really good movie… it offers a charming look inside a Creole cottage!

* Interview with a Vampire. Ok, a little blood to deal with on this one, but the interior shots from the 18th century are rather spectacular.

* Double Jeopardy. Good New Orleans interior design scenes toward the end of the movie. Also good outdoor scenes in and around the French Quarter.

* A Streetcar Named Desire. Even in black-and-white, this movie captures the languid heat and interiors of French Quarter homes.

* King Creole. You get to see and hear Elvis Presley and see scenes inside his character’s French Quarter home. 

A Love Song for Bobby Long

A Love Song for Bobby Long

Interview with a Vampire

Double Jeopardy

A Streetcar Named Desire

King Creole

New Orleans’ music, muffeletta and Mardi Gras may  garner the most tourist attention. But until you’ve seen this city’s homes, you haven’t really seen New Orleans. Such a unique mix of homes… from Creole townhouses, cottages and shotgun homes to majestic Greek Revival mansions… is unlike anything you’ll find in any other city.

Second only to New York as the largest port of entry into America during the 19th century, settlers arrived in New Orleans from all over, bringing their style preferences with them. The French brought their love of dressy décor. The Spanish brought their knack for building houses that last forever and look better with age. Neighboring islanders brought their open-air living and breeze-management skills!  Americans of British descent (who flocked from the northeast to New Orleans after LA was purchased by the United States) brought their love of Greek Revival and Queen Ann Decor.

 New Orleans’ rich, varied history has left us with a style of home décor that really can’t be found anywhere else. In fact, there’s no one style of  furniture that identifies a New Orleans home. But whatever the influence, what’s common to the most historic New Orleans homes is a love of an elegant past; toned-down to suit a languid, tropical lifestyle.

Interiors renovated in ‘New Orleans’, or ‘Creole’ (French and Spanish) style today may follow the  relaxed traditional styles the city is famous for. But they’re also likely to mix old and new into a unique, very personal style. In many ways New Orleans offers fresh inspiration for today’s trend to eclectic, collected-over-time rooms.

 The charm of a New Orleans home is its atmosphere more than its style… a sense of oldness, sensuality and faded elegance. It’s a blend of aged patinas, plaster, brick, painted shutters, waxed wood, tarnished  metals and rich mahogany furniture that give a Creole interior so much charm. There’s no effort to conceal age or history here.

New Orleans French Quarter home

New Orleans Creole cottage

New Orleans Greek Revival home

For more information on New Orleans style decor and interior design, check out our special New Orleans issue of roomplanners magazine. Or sign up to receive roomplanners magazine free each month.

 

What makes New Orleans decor so seductive, nostalgic, exotic, elegant and memorable?

It can be tough to put your finger on what makes these one-of-a-kind interiors so mesmerizing, but we’re going to try! Here they are… eight things authentic New Orleans, or Creole, style interiors have in common. (You can read more about each of these (along with dozens of photos!) inside this month’s issue of roomplanners magazine. Click on the magazine cover to open the issue!) 

8 ways to create New Orleans style at home

1. Colorful Walls. Perhaps it’s being around all those Cajun spices… all that tropical sunshine that fades anything but bold colors… or that melting pot of cultures from Paris to Port au Prince, from Seville to Sierra Leone. Whatever the cause, the use of color in New Orleans is nothing short of fearless, both in the exuberant choice of colors and how they’re used together. In a Creole home, walls are covered in strong, elegant hues. Baseboards, planked ceilings, trim and doors are also painted  to preserve wood from weather and insects. 

2. Unmatched furniture.  It’s unlikely to find matching upholstery or  bedrooms suites in a Creole interior. An eclectic, inherited, collected-over-time quality is much preferred. French or English, city or country furniture from the 18th and 19th century are favorite choices and freely mixed. 

The parlor is the prized room in a Creole home, and it’s rarely without a shapely camel back sofa, a few18th century chairs, a well-dressed mantel, elegant drapes or tall shutters. But formality is always subdued, toned down with slightly faded colors, worn surfaces and a patina of age.

3. One-of-a-kind objects. Unique and disparate objects perfectly coexist in a New Orleans home. There’s little effort to coordinate them or to hide their age. A chipped or faded surface is welcomed; it gives objects an inherited quality or has a personal story. 

With each object possessing traces of the past, an agreeable harmony results. A penchant for displaying favorite objects is rooted in both a French appreciation for owning beautiful things that dates back to the 18th century, and a Victorian penchant  for collecting that dates back to the 19th.

4. Picture walls. Exuberantly covering an interior wall with a variety of framed artwork is distinctly New Orleans thing to do. Surrounded by so much artwork, Creoles regularly peered into the past. Such a museum-like tradition also recalls Victorians’ habit of creating ‘picture rooms’ that simulated art galleries, or hanging a variety of framed art together in an intimate collage.

Oil paintings with rich Renaissance colors and gilded frames have been favored in New Orleans homes, but any mix of size, shape or style of paintings adds to the New Orleans ‘picture wall’  effect, especially when they’re clustered together, or even  leaned against walls or mantels.

5. Tall windows & shutters. Tall, narrow and elegant French doors grace nearly all the buildings in New Orleans, recalling Paris apartments with their tall doors leading out onto tiny iron-clad balconies filled with flower pots.

Tall working shutters bracket both windows and doors; a clever and practical idea in a tropical, hurricane zone… and an undeniable hallmark of New Orleans style. Louvered shutters are believed to be uniquely Spanish; board-and-batten shutters more French.

6. Ferns and fans. Picture lush ferns enclosing lazy, tropical porches, filling rooms or hanging from wire baskets … tropical ceiling fans in every room… louvered shutters letting in a breeze… slipcovers       protecting furniture from perspiration and insects… hardwood floors with removable area rugs for summer seasons… and you’ve got the idea!

A New Orleans’ home feels summery and sultry, inviting us to slow down and cool off. With deep porches, windows clad with lush drapery, shutters or both, interiors look slightly dim… shaded from the sunlight and protected from the elements.

7. Iron furniture and furnishings. Were all those fancy iron balconies in New Orleans aa French idea? A Spanish import? A Victorian excuse to elaborate? No matter. Curiosity about the origin of all the wrought and cast iron in New Orleans is usually quickly replaced by an appreciation for how well iron it works as decoration rather than just structure!

In New Orleans, intricate, exquisitely detailed ironwork scrolls its way onto balconies, gates, fences, doors, planters, staircases, beds, lanterns, candelabras and more.

8. Brick, plaster & paint. Creole homes suggest centuries of attempts s to resist harsh weather and intense heat. Simulating something between old-world European ruins and color-rich Caribbean islands, the walls of many New Orleans homes uniquely mix brick, painted wood and     plastered walls.

Painting wood preserved it from weather and insects (and offered Creoles more places to add color!). Plaster was used to cover brick walls in city center homes after disastrous fires in 1788 and 1794. Today, painted wood trim and aged plaster walls suggest the romantic ambiance of bygone days.

To subscribe to our free monthly roomplanners magazine or find past issues, click here: http://roomplanners.com/join_us_DL_only.html

Check out our 7 home style trend predictions for the coming year. For examples of these trends,  click to read our May 2010 RoomPlanners magazine.

1. Hand-hewn materials
For 2010 and beyond, expect to see more raw and natural furniture    finishes and materials.

From weathered, hand-waxed or reclaimed woods to matt, nubby linens to hammered metals… we’re moving toward high-touch, irregular, aged and imperfect surfaces. The trend reflects our ongoing fascination with one-of-a-kind flea market finds, a more casual lifestyle and an appreciation for     products that look planet-friendly or recycled.

2. Bring in the reinforcements
After nearly 300 hundred years spent taking structure away from furniture to make it more elegant and lightweight, it seems we’re adding some of it back, with inspiration from furniture designed prior to the 18th century.

Carved, turned or heavy low stretchers in rich wood finishes are being attached to legs or central braces. The look is heavy, weighty, masculine and reassuring… perfect with hefty leathers, jacquards and nail studs, or updated with faux suede for a more contemporary look.                                      

3. Steely Resolutions
It’s hard to beat industrial furniture for its efficient, straightforward design. The clean lines of shelving, drafting stools and work tables  recall old city factories, art studios and lofts.

Industrial motifs are inspiring furniture for any room, but the look is retro and warmed up with aged metals, chunky wood in whiskey barrel, bucket or waxed finishes and hefty cross braces. The look is retro, reliable, masculine and versatile.

4. A Day at the Spa
In a world that feels chaotic, loud or way too busy, a hotel or resort-inspired style seems the perfect way to make our home feel like an oasis of calm.

Hotel and spa-styled furniture is drawing on contemporary lines, natural materials and Japanese influences. Clean, low and horizontal, it simulates the calming effects of the horizon line. Natural textures and light woods in dry, matte finishes seem to bring the outdoors in… and a lack of ornament creates the look and feel of quiet.

5. Unmatched living rooms
Mixing and matching fabrics and styles in our home isn’t a new idea. But that doesn’t make it any easier to pull off!

Professionally-designed coordinates have always been popular, but they’re getting more interesting… especially in living rooms, where matching sets are being re-thought. The loveseat is being inspired by the settee; a non-matching, wood-framed seat that doesn’t match the sofa. It’s also giving way to chairs with patterns and styles that complement rather than coordinate with the sofa and each other.

6. One-of-a-kind accents
Our desire to recycle, shop at flea markets, be unique or live with less decorating rules is increasing interest in one-of-a-kind items.

This collector trend is less about owning a precious 18th century antique as it is about owning unique, single accent pieces imbued with history, character or an interesting story behind its acquisition. An aged finish or unique feature alone can make them conversation-worthy. Contrasting plain and fancy materials and textures makes it easier to mix unique items successfully.

7. French-inspired glamour
Not to be outdone by the trend to more masculine, pre-18th century looks, the trend to unbridled glamour shows no sign of letting up.

The look is undeniably French-inspired, reflecting updated 18th century rococo and baroque influences mixed with 20th century art deco. Button tufting and gilded, silver or mirrored finishes add dressy opulence, but may be mixed with weathered woods, antiquing effects, or chic, neutral colors for a more relaxed look.

To receive our free online monthly magazine (filled with practical interior design tips), subscribe here.

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