Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Beauty in the Simple Things

Many times, people walk into my home or shop and ask me how it is that I can make a place look so inviting. It is such a joy to hear that my surroundings are "inviting!" Frankly, I think that "inviting" feel has to do more with my husband's cooking and the wonderful smells that fill the house all the time, than from my own decorating skills. And thanks to my friend and client, Christine Smith, who works at Cook's Magazine, we've had plenty of amazing recipes that keep my husband busy in the kitchen with me obsessing about the house.

From the time I was young, I was always into decorating my surroundings, whether it was my apartment during law school, or my "space" in the one bedroom that I shared with my two sisters. With 3 of us sharing a room, every inch of private space counted and the lines were established early on. I remember when we first moved to the U.S., my mother couldn't afford new furniture for the house and she would venture to garage sales and thrift stores in search of furnishings. One time, she found an old sewing machine table that had a door and storage underneath, a headboard for my twin bed, and a small chest of drawers. I was 13 at the time and determined to make those, well, ugly things, look good. So I found a can of bright red paint (I'm talking lipstick red paint), that had been left over from one of my father's projects (maybe to paint a fire hydrant, it was that red). I painted all three pieces in bright red and then I took some gold paint (which my mother had for I don't know what) and with a rag, applied a thing coat over the furniture. I felt I had royally messed up because now the gold over powered the red. So I took that same rag, wet it, and rubbed it all over the furniture to take away the gold. What was left was a beautiful color which I cannot describe. It was a subdued red with hits of gold in all the right places. Well, I can only tell you that those pieces of furniture went with me every where -- through highschool, to my dorm in college, my apartment in law school, and then to my stepdaughter's bedroom (who was then a little girl about the age I was when I first got them). Unfortunately, Katrina did away with those pieces of relics and I wish I had taken photos of them to show you. But I tell you, sometimes it is what we do with a piece of furniture that gives it its value and one of a kind look.

As for the part that makes a house "inviting" as they say, it's really not in the furniture itself, but in the little things that you do with what you have that give it that feel of warmth and comfort. Open up those china cabinets and let the air in! Use those gorgeous silver trays and china platters you have stacked up and hidden away from view. And don't forget to bring nature inside. There are plenty of decorating ideas just outside your door. You may walk right past it and not even notice.

I'm fond of leaving books open on desks or side tables, especially in guest rooms that seem so stale and unlived at times. Tokens of open books or cups and saucers give the impression that someone was just there and you just missed them! There is a shop here in New Orleans that leaves open bottles of wine on side tables with a little wine in a glass next to it. Every time I go there, I get the feeling that I just missed the party! Where did everyone go????????

To me, the beauty of a half empty bottle left on a coffee table or shells tossed on a table top conjures up memories of things we have experienced in the past and like to rekindle. You see a handful of seashells on a book and you recall that time on the beach when you and your kids walked up and down the shore looking for hermit crabs and ended up with a bag full of shells instead. You see a pen on top of an open book and you think back to the time when you were little and you watched your mother, sitting at her writing desk writing out her Christmas cards. Sprigs of your rosemary bush or even a plain boxwood in a glass bottle makes you feel fresh and alive and that spring is right around the corner.

So look around your house and take out all of those little things that you have stashed away in drawers. Make use of your beautiful china or of a glass milk jar that you were about to throw away. All of these things make a home a "home." And you don't have to go farther than your own kitchen or backyard.

Enjoy some of those "little touches" in my shop:

Use old books to stack an urn or flower vase on. It's much more "inviting" that placing it directly on the table. Seashells around the bottom, give off that casual, beach time look.

Objets d'art -- Love them, can't get enough of them. Fragments of old frames??? Don't throw those away. Use pieces of old gilded frames and dried roses to add a touch of nostalgia to a desk top.

An open magazine on a writing desk makes you wonder who was just reading it.

Dried flowers are a great way to add color and texture to any setting. Vintage plaster covered book with gold number from "Fanciful Designs."

A book and piece of coral on a chair add a sense of "life" to an otherwise empty chair.

Plaster, pale green eggs in a bowl and hearth candles warm my farm table.

And sprigs of the boxwood I planted outside of my shop fill these antique Parisian perfume bottles. Place them on top of silver trays for that special look.

Now, go on and make your home "inviting."


  1. Hello,dear Karina!-)*

    You have to talked beyond intresting story about you extraordinary shop!!!
    I enjoyed these post very much
    You ´´little tuches´´from you shop are elegant,delightful!
    ´´Inviting´´home is an exquisite home!-)*

    Thank you very much for share these with all of us,Karina!

    Have a joyful tuching of spring days,

    Much love,


  2. This is a beautiful post and you definitely taught me this skill when you came to my home. In minutes you transform it from sterile to inviting. I find myself constantly moving accessories around now just to try it out and seeing how it makes the room "feel". I'm so happy to have learned this from you!

  3. Refined elegance in such a simple manner. At least that's how you make it all appear. We can't wait to add some of your style and warmth in to our home. So very glad we found you.


  4. Karina~

    Your special touches and ideas for the home are all so very true. I love how meaningful a simple touch can be and where it takes one and their thoughts.

    Thank you for the mention in this post! The books look amazing in your shop just as I pictured them. :)

    I love what you are creating..


  5. It is ever so amazing how little touches make a HUGE impact in everything we touch and see.
    Please stop by my blog, I am hosting a contest :)

  6. Hi Karina, yes Bijou is a real little white dove gal. She does follow me around walking and coos when she wants our attention. Our pups are curious about her and so is she, so I try to keep her close to me or in her cage. I never thought a bird could be so sweet and tame until now :)

  7. Karina, all of the special little touches that you do really do make a space look so inviting looking at your blog and pictures of your shop are so inviting.

    Thank's for sharing your spaces with us.

  8. Violetta, you are so sweet and always such a great supporter.

    Stephanie, I'm so glad you are feeling better!

    Dorothy, just you wait until we really focus on your house!

    Noel, your designs enliven my shop!

    BerlinDeluxxe, I stopped at your blog and I guessed at the trinket. How did I do? And I so love Bijou. I cannot believe it follows you like a pet. That is so adorable!

    And Gilstrapdesigns, I am on my way to your blog. Thanks for writing and reading my posting.


  9. Beautiful as always, thanks for divulging the tips!


    Sandy @ My Shabby Streamside Studio

  10. What a great post! I was looking for some inspiration and came across your weddings on the brain post and had to keep reading! I love this style of furniture and it really takes an eye to find diamonds in the rough and style everything together. Great job! Can't wait to read more!


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