Friday, June 28, 2013

Simpler Times

We are in prep for our new lifestyle.  We are moving in a few weeks, but we are already starting to transition to some new patterns.  Our new house doesn't have a dishwasher, so we have stopped using our dishwasher even though we have one available for a while longer.  The transition has been easy so far, because the dishwasher in the townhouse we're renting is HORRIBLE!

Today I bought a dish drying rack and a dishwand where you can put soap in the handle.  Having the right tools has already made doing dishes very easy.  The best part:  our sink has been clean every night!  My kitchen feels so much more organized and clean!

Hopefully we'll still feel this optimistic a few months into our season in the white cottage in the woods!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Searching For Simplicity

Over the years, I have followed blogs and read books that encourage the simpler life.  Each time we've moved, I have pared down our belongings and made attempts to simplify our life in some way.  Ironically, moving in and of itself is not necessarily making our lives simpler in that season!

Recently, the hubbs and I have made some professional moves that have solidified our hometown situation.  No longer are we contemplating cross-country moves or big, dramatic life- changes in careers.  All of our moves have been helpful in the sense that they have helped us understand what we value and what works best for our personalities and lifestyles.  And so, we have made moves to relocate to the country.  We just signed a lease in a small, country town Southeast of Denver, just far enough to have some breathing room, and just close enough to commute to work and play.

Can I tell you how excited we are about this!

Here's the catch:  the house we're moving into is about 500 sf less than what we're living in now.  It is a smaller house, built originally in the 1940's.  It has so much charm and character, but our actual living space is shrinking.  Our overall storage space (it has a sweet garage) is expanding, though!  We're going to have to downsize even more with our furniture.  We're also going to have to get more smart about our storage (hello, IKEA!).

We know there will be adjustments to this kind of living, but we are excited about the fact that this smaller house will force us to have available only the things we need and love.  It will allow us to enjoy the peacefulness of nature and not be surrounded by consumerism as soon as we drive out of our neighborhood.

Expected Challenges:
*  Less Closet Space:  Let's face it - we both have a lot of clothes.  Even though I try to keep the 1-in-1-out rule, I still have a lot of clothes myself.
*  Less Counter Space:  Food Prep will have to be smarter.  I will have to be a less-messy cook!
*  No Dishwasher!  This actually might keep our sink cleaner because we will have to get into the habit of cleaning dishes after we use them, and not rely on a machine to do it later.
*  No where to hide!  There won't be as many places to place clutter and let it pile up.  We'll have to stay more diligent about putting things away!

Even with these challenges, we are excited for this shift toward simplicity.  We'll let you know how it goes!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Eye Candy Holiday Merchandising

Santa's elf was up early this morning.  I was so excited to pull together my vision for our holiday merchandising and decor at the optical.  The theme is "How Sweet It Is" and boy oh boy, it turned out "sweet"!

I chose to bring together a color scheme based on reds, pinks, lime greens, and kelly greens.  It is fun, bright, and whimsical.  Let me share a few of my favorite highlights from this sweet candy land:

1.  Peppermint Paradise:  Using two chinet cardboard plates facing each other, I drew peppermints with red permanent marker.  Then, using iridescent cellophane and pink ribbon, I created a "wrapper" over the mints.  For the lollipops, I used wooden dowels to create a lollipop stick effect.  These giant peppermints and peppermint lollipops now hang from the ceiling and adorn the doors in the shop.

2.  Funky Nutcrackers:  Lime green spray paint makes a modern statement for these fun nutcrackers.  It was a little bit of an experiment, but they turned out really fun and funky!

3.  Candy in glass jars:  It took a little bit of sorting, but color appropriate gum balls are perfect in this glass jar.  Large lollipops from a candy store and giant peppermint sticks bring the pinks and reds into the scheme!

4.  Sparkle and Shine:  decorative shiny grass (with little kids coming through, we may regret this one) and white/clear marbles give a bright backdrop to the colorful frame lines we featured.  The iridescent candy wrappers on the peppermints also bring in some sparkle and shine to the look.

Woodsy Wonderland

Remember those fabulous orange candles we used for Halloween at the optical shop?  Well, we were able to create a simple intermediate display for Thanksgiving/Fall without shopping at all! Here's how I did it:

1.  I used the two pillar candles I had purchased for the Halloween display.  I love that these candles are different heights and were orange scented (so fresh!).

2.  I gathered some oak leaves in peak colors and pressed them under some heavy books.

3.  I used what we had:  including some woven wood orbs, cork textured contact paper, & orange and clear marble stones.

4.  I featured wood-tone frames as well as some really neat frames that are made of actual wood and bamboo.  We also featured fall-hued sunglasses as well!

Remember to look for items you have around your house that might go well with other items.  I like to create motifs based on themes, rather than have everything match-matchy.  Here we created a woodsy feel using wood tones and orange hues.

Only a few days late, but have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Gothic Halloween

As the merchandiser for a local high-end optical, I wanted to make sure that any holiday decor stayed classy, yet still featured the merchandise well.  For Halloween, I had a $50 budget for merchandising/decor and I wanted to make that stretch as far as I could.  So...I hit the thrift store!  I found fabulous candle holders and a brass candelabra.  All were different heights and different shapes.  I also found gorgeous orange candles from Bed, Bath & Beyond and fake spider webbing from the grocery store.  A few coats of black spray paint later and a little creative arrangement made for an romantically spooky Halloween display that was perfect for the optical shop's all black frame line.  

Here is the final product:  

What we focused on with this project:
1.  Feature a frame line that normally gets left out of the spotlight, but is perfect for the Halloween season!
2.  Stay within budget...
3.  Create a clean, classy look that says "Halloween" without being too overt
4.  Reuse and repurpose items, rather than buying "all new"
5.  Create a display that has some versatile items that can be used in other seasonal displays (black candlesticks would look gorgeous with red candles for Valentine's...)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Minimalist Furniture

This article could not have come at a more opportune time.  We are in the midst of yet another move!  Yes, that's right.  We are moving across the country again!  Hopefully for the last time!  

Moving makes you really consider what you need and what to purge.  Fortunately, from all of our moves, the purge pile is actually pretty small.  We are on a constant search to simplify our lives of clutter, and moving has made that much easier.  We did a huge purge of furniture when we moved from CO to Nashville.  Now, as we look to move back, there really is not much furniture I feel we "need" to get rid of.  I still have in my mind, those lists of furniture pieces I would be fine with seeing gone, or those that we absolutely need.  It feels good, though, to know that we have just what we need.  It also feels good not to feel emotionally attached to furniture.  It is a very freeing feeling!  

While the writer of this article may be going a bit extreme, I think it's great to approach furniture like this.  It makes you really consider if you "need" it.  Here are some the pieces of furniture she said you don't "need" (my thoughts in italics):  

1. Dresser. Instead, try fabric shelves that hang from the closet bar. I use them myself for socks, undies, and folded clothes, and in my baby's room for everything from onesies and sleepers to bibs and washcloths.
I don't personally use a dresser.  I have plastic drawer bins and baskets that I use in my closet.  All of my clothes fit in my closet area.  However, if I had a dresser to use, I might use it, but I've been able to make do without.  
2. End tables. In my opinion, all those extra little tables that live in corners, and at the ends of couches, are just magnets for clutter.
Sometimes you need a place to set a drink.  We use our end tables, so I don't see these at clutter.
3. TV stand or entertainment center. I've eliminated the need for this monstrosity by ditching my television altogether. But if you're not ready to go that route, you can simply hang it on the wall.
In a rental, it's a lot of work to think about hanging a television, so we love our dining buffet-turned tv stand!  
4. Buffet or sideboard. Say sayonara to all the fancy table linens, and the heirloom (or wedding) china you never use, and skip this storage piece -- giving your wallet, and your dining area, a little more breathing room.
I keep my china stored in a secure bin and can pull it out whenever we serve a nice meal.  If I had a place to display them, I would, but it's not essential to me.  I also use my china teacups for things like holding baking soda around the house on shelves as air fresheners or to display a rose bud.  
5. Curio/display cabinet. Do away with the tchotchkes and knickknacks, and you can do away with this massive (and potentially expensive) furnishing. You'll also spend less time and money acquiring dust-collectors to fill it up.
Yea, no.  We don't like dust collectors, so I'm going to agree with this comment!  
6. Recliner. Sure, it's nice to put your feet up -- but not exactly a necessity.
We don't have one, but I some comforts in life are nice to have.  
7. Ottoman. See above.
8. File cabinet. Get a scanner and go digital for your non-essential paperwork. By minimizing the amount of paper that enters my life (and doing an annual paper purge), I'm able to get away with one box of "must keep" documents tucked away in a closet.
I scan all of our documents, but even still, our family is so complicated that we need to keep current papers organized, so my filing drawer is a must!  
9. Bookshelf. As a minimalist writer, I have a love/hate relationship with books; that is, I love the content, but hate the physical (heavy, unwieldy, difficult to move) format. Ebooks have been the answer to my prayers -- enabling me to forgo a bookshelf, and carry my entire collection with ease.
I agree with the love/hate relationship with books.  I haven't been able to jump on the digital book bandwagon.  I'm a purist when it comes to reading!  
10. Nightstand. If your bedside accoutrements are few, consider attaching a small shelf to the wall instead.
Need it!  Between alarm clocks, glasses, retainer, glass of water, lotion, and so much other stuff, I use my nightstand.  The floor is great to set stuff on, but when you have puppies, you want to make sure your stuff is up safe.  
Feeling inspired? Ambitious? Intrigued? Living without the next five items is a little more unconventional, but can save you a nice chunk of change (and some serious square footage):
11. Desk. If you use a laptop, you may not need a dedicated work surface -- you can surf, check email, and pay bills on your dining table, coffee table, sofa, lounge chair, or floor. In one of my apartments, I used adeep windowsill as a workspace.
I'd love to get rid of our desk, but until our desktop computer poops out, I feel like we need it.  I'd love to be back down to just laptops someday...
12. Desk chair. There's no need for a desk chair if you don't have a desk.
13. Sofa. It might sound crazy to go without a couch, but it's doable (and kind of fun!). The alternative: a lounge chair or two, or simply some cushions arranged on the floor.
We have to have a sofa!  It was the best investment we ever made.  Not only does it serve as comfort for us, but allows us to entertain, which is important to us.  And it serves as a really comfortable guest bed for the occasional guest who needs it.  Seriously, it's really comfortable.  
14. Dining table. Like a sofa, a dining table is typically considered a household essential -- but it doesn't have to be. If you don't mind sitting on the floor, a coffee table may suffice. In fact, in some cultures, a simple low table is the norm.
We need our table, but we only have one.  I like not having a dining table and a kitchen table.  Simplifies things!  
15. Dining chairs. If you don't have a dining table, you don't need chairs; if dining at a low table, a few cushions will do. Such an arrangement can have a serene, Zen-like feel, or if you're so inclined, a more bohemian, Arabian nights ambiance.

To see the full article:

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Eco-Friendly & DIY Christmas Decor

Now these are super late!  But it's never too early to start thinking about holiday decorations.  (Or in my case, in advertising, we're already shooting Christmas trees and planning for the holidays in July!)  These are some of the decorations I made for Christmas 2010 when I hosted my family.  My decorations were focused on using natural materials, reusing materials, or using items that can be used year-round.
*  Spray painted branches and used them in an everyday green-tinted vase
*  green tablecloth that I use all year round

* green tinted coke bottles (already red and green!) with ribbon as candleholders

* home made swag made of spray painted branches

* pine cones collected on our dog walk and ribbons