Month: July 2016

Kitchens with Character, vol 2: Surprising Islands

Welcome to vol. 2 of Kitchens with Character.  In my last post, we examined 6 kitchens made extraordinary with wallpaper.  Today, let’s take a look at delightfully surprising kitchen islands.  Since the island is a large mass that sits in the middle of this formerly utilitarian space, it only makes sense that, as home decorators start to turn their attentions kitchenward, the island becomes a breeding ground for bold experimentation.  Following are 8 kitchens, in which, the island is the focal point.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

Jean-Louis Deniot composed designed this unexpected kitchen island with stainless steel, blackened, and mirrored panels.  The result is a chic patchwork of lustrous surfaces that simultaneously blend in and stand out in this neutral-hued kitchen of grays and metallics.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

In this kitchen, the island echoes the backsplash and totally steals the show.  Gold, silver, and gunmetal mosaic tiles compose and up-to-date, oversize floral pattern.  Stunning!

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

Meghan McCain’s favorite piece in her apartment is her kitchen island.  I can see why.  Instead of an ordinary boxy island, she had a custom table from Phillips Collection built to appropriate portions.  The free-form piece is Brutalist-inspired but with a lustrous, mother of pearl-like finish.  It utterly breaks the mold.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

What happens when two designers decide to spend their lives together and share a home?  That home becomes impossibly cool and stylish.  And, in the case of Nate Berkus and Jeremiah Brent, their kitchen is no exception.  In particular, their kitchen island is clad in perfectly patinaed brass, radiating warmth in the largely black and white space.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

Here’s an easy hack (and one I might soon employ): just paint it!  Peach may be an unexpected color choice for this kitchen bar, but it certainly draws the eye.  As an added bonus, it also makes those barstools pop.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

This kitchen island may be a more traditional choice, but still makes a statement.  Painted black, pinstriped in white, and adorned with glamorous brass hardware; one can’t help but be drawn in.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

Industrial, Brutalist, organic…  It’s difficult to nail down this kitchen island, the handiwork of Jeffrey Alan Marks.  Regardless, it’s undisputedly the focal point of this Sonoma kitchen and beautifully crafted to boot.

Kitchens with Character vol. 2 | Surprising Islands | Motley Decor

The mirrored island in this kitchen reflects light and adds a dose of panache.  It’s an unexpected by welcome compliment to the blue cabinetry.

If you’re in the process of trying to infuse your kitchen with a bit of your sparkling personality, I hope this post inspired you to take a second look at your kitchen island.  If not, I’ve got more kitchen design ideas coming your way.  So, don’t be shy…subscribe!

Kitchens with Character, vol. 1: Wallpaper

Even in the most beautiful homes, kitchens have (historically had) a tendency to feel sterile.  Expensive countertops and elaborate backsplashes can only go so far in imparting personality to a space.  Happily, this is changing.  More and more, I’m seeing kitchens with character.  After all, more and more entertaining is taking place the kitchen.  Thus, art, accessories, unconventional furniture, and textiles are creeping in.  Notably, wallpaper seems to be an emerging trend in kitchens.  Here are 6 reasons why…

Kitchens with Character | Wallpaper | Motley Decor

This kitchen in Sydney looks both tropical and inviting thanks to vibrant, palm-printed wallpaper hung on one wall.  With the white bar and cabinetry, the punch of color and pattern is a welcome addition.  Mai Tais, anyone?

Kitchens with Character | Wallpaper | Motley Decor

William Morris wallpaper gracefully envelopes this Scandinavian style kitchen, offsetting warm wood finishes, mixed metallics, and white subway tile.  Both fresh-feeling and traditional-leaning, this kitchen feels like the kind of space outputs raw kale salads and grandma’s famous cookies in equal quantities.  Yes, I got all of that from one wall display.

Kitchens with Character, vol. 1: Wallpaper on Motley Decor

Who can resist a little Fornasetti?  Not I.  Doesn’t it make the perfect backdrop for open shelving in this neutral-yet-uber-cool kitchen?

Kitchens with Character | Making a Statement with Wallpaper | Motley Decor

This is the kitchen of two artists living in Paris.  Not surprising–is it?  The gorgeous and elaborate wallpaper was hand printed by the couple and conveys a sense of soul.

Wallpaper in Kitchens with Character on Motley Decor

A beacon of malachite is visible through a cutout that reveals the kitchen of Juan Carretero’s apartment.  The green wallpaper calls to one in a way that makes one understand where Jay Gatsby was coming from when he gazed across the bay at the Buchanan’s dock each night.

Kitchens with Statement Wallpaper on Motley Decor

Channeling a Moroccan vibe, this wallpaper is easier to install than tile.  It also makes ordinary kitchen utensils look like an artistic still life.

Clearly wallpaper is one way to lavish style on your kitchen.  This blog post is titled “vol. 1”, because it’s not the only way.  I have a few more to share with you over the coming weeks.  So please stay tuned.




Overwhelmed at Ikea? Here’s Your Shopping List…

A trip to Ikea can be a daunting endeavor.  The showroom is an exercise in sensory overload, where many of us lose all sense of time and flee to the cafeteria to seek comfort in Swedish meatballs and $1 ice cream cones.  Still, there are great deals to be had in this black-hole-of-a-furniture store.  The key is to plan ahead.  Explore the website, create your shopping list, check inventory, and–by all means–clear your schedule that day!  Having just made a fruitful expedition to Ikea yesterday, I’ve done most of the work for you.  Here’s what I recommend you check out…Overwhelmed at Ikea? Here's Your Shopping List Courtesy of Motley Decor | 1. Graphic Black & White Accessories

Graphic Black & White Accessories

Monochromatic Scandinavian rooms are a bit of  thing these days and–true to their Swedish roots–Ikea is answering the call with cool, graphic, black and white textiles and accessories.  This is just a sampling of my favorites: Sillerup rug,   FLÖNG rug, VÅRGYLLEN cushion cover, and Tickar plate.

Overwhelmed at Ikea? Here's Your Shopping List Courtesy of Motley Decor | 2. Furnishings Made from Natural Fibers

Furnishings Made from Natural Fibers

This is probably the category for which Ikea is most celebrated: natural fibers.  The quality is on point and the prices are ridiculously fair.  Sisal rugs and wicker chairs are staples in their inventory.  However, right now, they are also carrying some eye-catching baskets in their Viktigt and FLÅDIS lines.

Overwhelmed at Ikea? Here's Your Shopping List Courtesy of Motley Decor | 3. Paper Shades & Lanterns

Paper Shades & Lanterns

Another perennial score at Ikea is their collection of paper shades and lanterns.  These big, bulbous beauties can read mid century, Scandinavian, Asian, modernist, and more.  They’re also simple enough to melt into a variety of other styles.  Pendants are especially striking–whether hung alone or en masse.


Overwhelmed at Ikea? Here's Your Shopping List Courtesy of Motley Decor | 4. Cork Pieces

Cork Pieces

From serveware to furniture, Ikea’s currently carrying a ton of unique, cork pieces.  Cork is a great way to introduce an new, natural texture to a space that’s perhaps a bit wood-heavy.  It will blends in equally well in neutral and colorful spaces.

Overwhelmed at Ikea? Here's Your Shopping List Courtesy of Motley Decor | 5. Untreated, Solid Wood Furniture

Untreated, Solid Wood Furniture

Ikea’s Ivar collection will make you feel as if you’ve died and gone to DIY heaven.  These pieces are inexpensive and constructed from solid pine.  They are completely untreated, inviting you to apply your own custom finish.  The fact that the furniture comes unassembled is actually a plus in this instance, because you can paint or stain each piece individually to assure maximum coverage.

Overwhelmed at Ikea? Here's Your Shopping List Courtesy of Motley Decor | 6. Other Miscellaneous Goodies

Other Miscellaneous Goodies

And, of course, there were various other treasures and steals I couldn’t quite categorize.  Sheepskins are all the rage right now and available in authentic or synthetic versions at Ikea.  There’s also the Satsumas plant stand with a sculptural, minimalist bearing.  The Fado table lamp offers a modern take on globe lighting.  Their Tobias chrome-and-lucite, cantilever chair comes in  clear, gray, or lilac.  Lastly, Ikea’s Giltig glassware is nearly irresistible with its pretty cobalt-to-clear ombre effect.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home

If you follow me on Instagram (and if you don’t, I wish you would), you may have seen that I’ve been visiting other people’s homes a lot lately.  I snap pictures of objects and decor that catch my eye and inspire me.  More times than not, it’s the personal touches that steal the show.  Those intimate artifacts that aren’t likely to be found in anyone else’s house (or apartment) are what make it a home.  Here are some highlights from my visits and the web…

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Travel Souvenirs

This is a little shrine my mom erected to showcase the souvenirs she and my dad picked up on their trip to China a few years ago.  For them, it serves as a reminder of a thrilling and enchanting vacation.  For visitors, it’s an attention-stealing focal point in a Southwestern style home (think Native American drums, Mexican textiles, and rustic pottery).  Rather than feeling out of place, this Asian-inspired vignette functions as a conversation starter and a testament to the kind of people my parents are: adventurous, curious,  and appreciative of other cultures.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Repurposed Antiques

I wasn’t able to find the original source for this photo, but it’s all over Pinterest.  Here, an antique church pew is repurposed as a dining bench.  Think of how much history is ingrained in that wood.  Isn’t it a much more interesting choice than something that came off an assembly line earlier this year?  One wonders: is it a family heirloom?  Did the church it came from have special significance to the homeowner’s family?  How did he or she come to own the pew?  (Coincidentally, my parents also have an antique church pew–placed in their foyer where we sit to put on and remove our shoes.  So, naturally, this image struck a chord with me.)

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Seashell Wall Hanging

Those crimson shells against that dusty turquoise wall instantly drew my eye.  Wall hangings are definitely having a moment and this nautical-themed one is a fresh take on the trend.  However, it was only when I thought about its owner that I truly appreciated how perfectly this piece fit into her home.  She’s an environmental scientist who spends her working days commuting around on a seaplane to sample and test the waters of Washington state.  She and her husband were married on a boat and–most weekends–that’s where you can still find them.  To put it plainly: she loves the water.  She’s built her life around it.  And so, in her home, seashells aren’t just pretty little curios.  They bear witness to a life spent seaside.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Not Your Average Floral Arrangement

This is designer and celebrated entertainer Windsor Smith’s entrance hall.  A monochromatic palette of cool grays, sparkling silver, and white give way to the warm, gold raffia-clad great room beyond.  Flanking that beacon are two zinc, peacock-shaped planters perched on tall etageres with tails of cascading greenery that welcome guests.  Talk about making a first impression!  This scene sets the tone for a night at the Smiths’, where everyone is greeted with a cocktail, served appetizers straight from the oven, and summoned to the dining room by the ringing of sleigh bells.  Smith compares entertaining to choreography and goes to great lengths to ensure that her parties are luxurious but relaxed affairs.  So, it makes sense.  A hostess of this caliber doesn’t just buy a large flower arrangement and set it on a table in the foyer.  She creates a unique, dramatic floral statement that echoes her whimsical entertaining style.  Besides, table space is better used for mixing cocktails.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Collections

Collections also tell volumes about a home’s inhabitants.  Here, a collection of framed, antique spectacles sits on the mantel.  This may seem like odd way to decorate what is perhaps the home’s utmost place of prominence.  However, when you consider that the home decorator is a retired ophthalmologist, the choice seems appropriate.  But it goes deeper than that.  This collection previously belonged to a relative who worked in a similar field, long before these objects of apparatus were considered antiques.  This a deeply personal and sentimental collection that befits the stage on which it sits.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Guest Graffiti

At this end of this hallway–studded with museum-worthy art and costly furnishings–is a fireplace covered in graffiti.  Why?  While renovating the space, Manolo March simply could not resist the urge to throw a party and wasn’t going to let a little thing like unsightly construction stand in his way.  So, he erected (what was supposed to be) a temporary wall in the spot reserved for a mirror-surrounded fireplace.  Next to it, he placed a basket full of spray paint and encouraged party-goers to let loose on the “canvas”.  Well, maybe it was a particularly good party, because–in the end–he couldn’t bring himself to tear down the wall and proceed with his original plans.  Instead, he just cut a hole in the wall and let the impromptu art serve as the fireplace surround.  And that is quite possibly my favorite decorating story EVER.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Waste Not Want Not

Visiting my sister earlier this year, I was very impressed with how she topped her mirrored nightstands with faux fur runners.  It provided for great, textural contrast and a heavy dose of glam.  When I asked her how she got the idea, she admitted that it was not exactly premeditated.  She had purchased a length of faux fur fabric for another DIY project (to create an animal-shaped rug).  However, the fabric had cost her much more than she had hoped to spend as a full-time student and she had significant portions leftover after completing the rug.  Still salty about the expenditure, she was determined to use every last piece of fabric and get her money’s worth.  She took the smallest of a trio of nesting tables and turned it into a an upholstered, furry stool.  Then, with the final remaining pieces of fur, she casually tossed them on her nightstands and voila!  She’s not only stylish, but clever too and her apartment is a reflection of that.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Motley Decor | DIY Seashell Bed a la Marian McEvoy

Another DIY gone right, glue gun wielding Marian McEvoy took all of our DIY goals to a new level when she went wild with hot glue and thousands of seashells.  Above is a bed in her guest room, painted black and adorned with white seashells arranged in striking, symmetrical patterns.  Think about the hours of work that went into completing that bed.  And think of how honored her guests must feel to sleep in it.  It’s an understatement to say that there’s a little piece of Marian in that room.

How Personal Touches Improve a Home | Framed Family Recipe | Motley Decor

And one final example of adding a personal touch…here is a wall in my kitchen.  Above my knife display is a handwritten recipe that I framed.  The recipe is from my Tata (grandfather) and explains how he makes his famous pickled jalapeños, which are so good that people in my family actually fight over jars of them.  I am constantly referring to this recipe and adapting it to pickle various other vegetables.  So, having it on the wall is both convenient and sentimental.  Having trouble reading it?  That’s intentional.  This recipe is a family heirloom and top secret!

So, frame your own family recipe!  Or put something else deeply personal on display in your home, because it’s those touches that will make your space exceptional.



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