Thursday, June 30, 2011

Featuring "Decidedly Chic" Throw Pillows

Finding the right throw pillow for a space is a great way to add color, texture, and style, without a big commitment.  It's the most affordable way to quickly transform a room.  I love changing out throw pillows, to add punches of color and great patterns, go with the seasons, or just to create a different mood.  I love having a solid-colored couch in a family room or living room, because it allows you to get creative with accents, without blowing your budget.  My style has changed since my first apartment, and I like easy, affordable ways my rooms can adapt with me.
Decidedly Chic is an Etsy shop that offers an eclectic mix of affordable throw pillows. Customize your home with handmade throw pillows and accessorize without having to fall back on mass-produced items to stay on budget.  Click on any of the photos to find them for purchase. 


I asked Dixie, the designer behind Decidedly Chic, what her inspirations is.  She says,
"Ethnic art - textiles & architecture inspire me.  I really appreciate handmade crafts from small villages or towns from different parts of the world. Their artwork, as well as their architecture, is intricate, detailed and originally their own. It is the unique cultural contribution that influences the styles I seek out for my pillow covers, such as the ikats, suzanis, and geometric patterns, with the trellis and lattice designs being some of my favorites. "


I love this Ikat pattern.  On trend right now, and yet the soft tones make it timeless. 
Dixie loves her work, and it shows.  She enjoys every part of the creative process, designing, and sewing her pillows.  I asked her to describe her style.
"I love to mix and match from different styles, cultures and try to find an exotic, yet modern vintage edge. You will notice many florals mixed in with exotic patterns in contemporary colors in my shop."
For a more traditional aesthetic, I love the crewelwork on this pillow.

Visit her shop, and you will find traditional floral fabrics, along with modern and more contemporary pieces.  I love the vintage feel of these damask pillows.  The pop of orange brings just enough color to this calming, neutral bedroom.
Her mix of styles and colors makes her shop fun to browse through.  There's truly something for everyone.  I asked her what designer she admires, and she says, 
"I admire Diane Von Furstenberg for her contribution to functional and highly fashionable clothing for women. Her fashion forward sense is also noticed in her new venture into the home d├ęcor industry. I can see myself mixing and matching to my eclectic heart’s content."

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Decorate Your Dorm

If you're starting college this year, get ready for your new adventure, and all the studying and fun that goes with it!  And also get ready to transform your institutional dorm room into your new home! 


The decorating fun begins!  Pick out some great bedding first to bring color to your new space.  Then, hang something on the walls.  A corkboard is a great idea, because you can use it to hang photos of your old friends from home and the new friends you'll be making.  You can also use it to get organized by hanging your class schedule and calendar.  Change it out whenever you want.  And don't forget the pretty push pins.  Make your display one-of-a-kind!


Click on any of the photos to be directed to the websites to purchase the items shown here.


Here's a great option for bedding from Bed Bath & Beyond.   It's extra long, made just for a dorm bed.
Since you can't paint your dorm walls like this photo, to warm up your room, add a framed, fabric-covered corkboard.
This antiqued white frame comes with other fabric options that would work with this bedding as well.
All you need are push pins to truly personalize your space. These are one-of-a-kind sets I sell in my Etsy shop, and they are repurposed vintage jewlery. 


This handmade duvet cover will add a luxurious feel to your new room.  The texture makes it unique and beautiful.  Take good care of it, and it will last throughout your college life and beyond. It  fits as easily in a dorm room as it does into an apartment or home.  It can be completely customized, with various colors and finishes.  

Again, all you need to warm up the room is the right fabric on the wall.  This corkboard coordinates perfectly and can stand on its own as framed art, if you don't want to use it to display your photos or to-do lists.

If you do use it for display, here are some great push pins.   No one else will have your one-of-a-kind display.  This silver vintage jewelry repurposed into push pins looks great with the fabric and frame.
Or bring out the yellow with gold tones.

Another great idea to customize your dorm room is to create a jewelry display.  All you need is a corkboard you like, then hang your jewelry with tacks, like this.  Your jewelry will turn into a new form of art.  Mix contemporary and vintage jewelry for the best effect.

If you don't want to put nails into the walls of your dorm or apartment, I recommend Command Picture Hanging Strips.  Used correctly, they are easy to use to hang corkboards and take them down, without damaging the walls or the frames.  Just make sure you follow the directions properly.  
Good luck and have fun!  Starting college is an exciting time of life.  Let your dorm room show off your personal style!

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Love of Lavender

Lavender is not only one of the most soothing fragrances, it makes a beautiful garden.
It also makes the best tea I've ever had.  Check out serendidpTea's organic lavender tea, and you won't be disappointed.
As you might be able to tell from my profile picture, I have very curly hair.  I fight it and straighten it most of the year.  But my husband prefers it curly, and in the summer months, I give in and let it curl!  "Curly Girl" by Lorraine Massey writes a convincing argument for why you should let your curls loose and how to care for them.  

Taylor Swift doesn't present a bad argument either with her beautiful, natural curls.

And I love when Sheryl Crow goes curly.

So if you want to give into your natural curl this summer, here's a DIY Lavender Mist that Massey says " not only makes your hair smell like a lavender field in Provence, it's indispensable for cleansing and reviving your curls."  Curly girls out there, try it, and let me know what you think!  She suggests making it in quantities, so you can make enough for 3 spray bottles, to use in the shower or to take with you for on-the-go touch-ups.  These spray bottles from The Container Store are only $1.99/each.  Click on the photo to be directed to their website for purchase.
The recipe:
1/2 gallon water
5 drops pure (not synthetic) lavender essential oil
To make:
1. Fill a large pot with 1/2 gallon of water
2. Cover, bring it to a boil, and simmer for 1 hour to purify.
3. Remove from heat, add lavender oil, stir, and replace lid.
4. Let steep until cool.  Pour into spray bottles and spritz as needed.

Whether for your garden, tea, or hair, lavender has many uses in addition to its calming scent.  Let me know how you use lavender.  I currently use lavender room spray, and I love the way it makes my home smell like an English (or is it French?) garden.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Repurpose Vintage Items

One of the best ways to achieve a truly customized look for your home is to use vintage items in new ways.  It's a great way to add layers of history and beauty to your home and bring new life to old items.


In My Home:
I use an antique mirror as a vanity tray in my master bathroom, where I keep my perfume bottles, my husband's cologne, and my crystal ring holder.  I love the antique touch it adds to my otherwise modern bathroom.
Also in my master bathroom, I use an antique picture frame, with paper behind the glass, to place antique perfume bottles that were my great-grandmother's.  I love the layer of family history and beauty it adds.

In my Etsy shop: 
This is a vintage china creamer and sugar bowl from my Etsy shop.  Click on the photo to be directed to it.  Not only can they be used as intended, but they make lovely bud vases.  I just cut these magnolias and lilacs from my garden and placed them on a cobalt blue charger to highlight the china pattern. 
I also repurpose vintage jewelry to create push pins that will upgrade any corkboard to make your display one-of-a-kind.  Click on the photo to be directed to my shop where you can find many options to fit your decor.
I have been lucky enough to find some great vintage milk glass that I also sell in my Etsy shop.  This candy dish, in the highly collectible Argonaut Shell pattern, can be used as intended.
Or in a new way, as a candle holder.
On "Real Simple":
Click on any of the following photos to be directed to Real Simple.  Take your bangle bracelets (the older, the better!) out of your jewelry box and use them for your next dinner party.  What a pretty way to set your table and show your style.

A vintage (or new) cake stand can be repurposed to display candles.
Wrap your gifts in a unique way.  Use vintage newspapers, magazines, or maps as wrapping paper.  Or copy and blow up an appropriate word from the dictionary to wrap your gift.
Here, you will see a ladder used as a rack for newspapers or magazines.  Salvaged ladders can be repurposed as towel racks, end tables, or shoe organizers as well.
For your next party, whether it be a wedding or any special event, use rocks as a guest book.  I have large rocks I collected on the beach as a child to create a vintage collection.  But you can buy polished rocks for formal events.  Or use your child's rock collection for a kids' birthday party. 
Repurposing items is one of my favorite ways to customize your home and live a little more beautifully.
Decorating Insanity

Monday, June 13, 2011

My Search for the Perfect Bed

I am searching for the perfect headboard for my son's room.  As I show you the options I'm considering so far, you'll find some DIY ideas that are so customizable, they work for an adult's bedroom too!


I have two young boys.  My younger son will soon be ready to transition from his crib to a bed.  It's an exciting milestone, but it comes with lots of decorating decisions.  When my oldest son made the transition, I went all out and bought him a bit of a pricey bed and dresser.  His changing table that converts to a dresser, along with his room and just about everything in it, was going to his new baby brother.  I wanted us both to love his new, big boy room.  We do.  His bed is the full size version of this bed, by Stanley's Young America line:
I was not prepared for how quickly the cost of the new bed, dresser, mattress, bedding, and all that goes with it adds up!  We were able to reuse all of his nursery furniture and decor for our new baby, though, so it seemed reasonable to splurge a little.

You live and learn, though, and now I want a more affordable, but equally good-looking bed for my younger son.  So, here's my dilemma...do I purchase a new bed or get creative and make something myself?  Here are some options I'm considering.  Let me know what you think, and what your ideas are for decorating boys' rooms.

My son's changing table converts to a large dresser, so I want to keep that in the room.  It's a beautiful espresso finish from Pottery Barn Kids.  I could spend about $725 on the bed that would match it.
 
But, I'd like to mix it up.  I'm not particularly fond of matching bedroom sets, and the price is higher than what I'd like to spend. 

Pottery Barn Kids also offers another great option.  Imagine this pirate sail mounted on the wall behind just a mattress and frame.  For only $100, it makes a fun alternative to a headboard.  The drawback here for me, though, is that he will eventually outgrow it, and it will need to be replaced down the road. 
If I don't go the retail route, I've found lots of creative ideas to truly customize the space.  Here's a simple and easy alternative. 
It's just a painted faux headboard.  Click on the picture to be directed to "Real Simple" and find the easy instructions to create this look for around $20.  I could even use wall decals to personalize it and easily change them out according to his interests as he grows.  It would make his bedding stand out, and it would look great with his blue walls.  My only concern is, would it look as nice in person as it does in this photo?  Would it end up looking like we just forgot to paint a huge area of his room?  It certainly looks clean and modern in this photo, but would that translate well for a fun boy's room?

With a little more work, here's another DIY project that creates a unique look.  These are 3 closet doors, painted and installed to create a custom headboard.  Click on the photo to be directed to "Better Homes and Gardens" for step by step instructions.

Browse through their DIY section and find another, easier alternative - mount a fabric-covered canvas on the wall behind the bed.  You can also see a 6-paneled door, turned on its side and mounted to the wall, which makes a great headboard as well.

I love the look of this photo, also from "Better Homes and Gardens".  I'd be happy to have it in my room, but it would also be great for a kids' room too.  I could display his much-loved stuffed animals and books on a salvaged mantel like this one.


Or with the right fabric and bedding to fit a little boy's style, here are photos from a fantastic tutorial on the blog All Things Thrifty on how to make your own upholstered headboard.  Takes some time and patience, but the result is beautiful and completely unique.  Click on the photos to be directed to the blog, and you'll find lots of great DIY tutorials and decorating ideas.

So now, I just have to decide on what would work best in our home.  How much time and money do I want to put into this project, and what look would work best for my son?  To be continued...In the meantime, let me know your thoughts!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

10 Commandments for Business Failure

I came across a book and wanted to share it with those of you that are business owners.  Although the book is written with anecdotes and lessons learned from very large corporations, as an Etsy seller, I could see very clearly how these "what-not-to-do's" apply to my business.   As the book states, you can read many books on how to succeed in business, but there's no real secret to success.  What's key is knowing what it takes to fail.  (And then avoiding it, of course!)

Donald R. Keough wrote the book, "The Ten Commandments for Business Failure."  Keough was once the COO and director of the Coca-Cola Company.  He now serves on the boards of several companies, including Berkshire Hathaway, and Warren Buffet wrote the foreword to this book.

Here are the Ten Commandments for Business Failure, and then my take on how I apply it to my Etsy business.

1. Quit Taking Risks
First of all, it's a risk to buy supplies, make products, and set up an online store.  You can't be sure anyone will ever buy anything.  So by simple opening up shop, I took a risk.  Then, you can't grow without being able to take more risks.  Testing ideas, products, techniques, marketing plans, branding, networking options.  I learn from each mistake I make along the way.  I also feel as a very small business owner, it's important to be mindful of risks and manage them properly. 
2. Be Inflexible
If I want to make products just for fun, that's one thing.  But if I want to make some money from it, I have to learn what people want and are looking for and tailor my products to meet customers' needs.  For me, I have to like what I sell.  But it also has to be what someone wants.  I also have to be open to new ideas (like this new blog), and submit to the fact that I will learn and grow every day, and that often requires change.
3. Isolate Yourself
For large corporations, he is refering to CEO's who are unreachable in their large offices and lose touch with employees and customers.  For me, working from home, it can be very isolating.  Etsy is a great forum to connect with others and learn from other Etsy shop owners.  Facebook and this blog allow me to interact with customers and sellers.  Social media is priceless when you have an online store.  It's also important for me to stay on top of trends.  So I consider shopping, reading magazines, reading other blogs, and even watching TV and movies "research" for my work. :)
4. Assume Infallibility
I've been humbled.  I'm not always right.  I make something I think will sell in a heartbeat, and it doesn't.  I make tons of mistakes.  There are people out there who are way better than me at what we do.  I've learned not to make excuses when I'm not finding the success I'm expecting, but to go out and find more ways to succeed.  Accept responsibility for my ups and my downs.  Don't blame others - the economy, customers, the season, the weather today...you get the idea..I take ownership of my business and am willing to learn, grow, and work harder.
5. Play the Game Close to the Foul Line
Instead, I try to offer superior customer service, deliver what I offer, and do my best to ensure people trust me.
6. Don't Take Time to Think
If you're reading this, you probably do not make this mistake.  Those of us on the Etsy forums, seeking advice and support, constantly think about their businesses.  Try something every day to improve it in some way.  I want my business to grow, and as it does, I will regularly take a step back and re-evaluate.  Even for the top sellers selling thousands of items, it's important to take time to breathe.  Especially for an artist.  Finding inspiration, new creative ideas, or business strategies requires thought and mindful actions.
7. Put All Your Faith in Experts
I've reached out countless times to top Etsy sellers and have received invaluable advice.  Without question, it's helped me to get better.  But, everyone has an opinion.  What works for one shop or person, does not work for another.  So while I value advice, I also am learning to rely on my own instincts.  Trust myself. 
8. Love Your Bureaucracy
This one clearly applies mostly to large companies.  Their bureaucracy gives them a false sense of security.  That what's so great about Etsy as opposed to mass-produced goods from chain stores.  There is no bureaucracy.  There is no middle man.  Business owners and the designers behind them work directly with their customers ALL the time.  Custom orders can be the most fun, because you work with someone else to give them exactly what they want, and the art behind your product benefits.
9. Send Mixed Messages
Branding is important for an online business.  Staying clear and consistent to develop an online presence is quite a challenge, but it's important for success.  While I sell not only handmade corkboards and push pins, I also sell vintage accessories and housewares.  But even with the variety in my shop, I want people to get an idea of my style and find my niche.  I want my customers to know what they will get by visiting my shop.  Variety is part of the branding, so I've found it to be a complex task.  But necessary.
10. Be Afraid of the Future
Fear will stop you in your tracks.  If you're not optimistic about the future, and if you don't truly believe in  yourself and your product, you will fail.  Successful people believe that their hard work will pay off.  While all businesses experience ups and downs, optimism is what ultimately drives you to keep going. 

This is just an overview of the book and only scratches the surface.  Click on the title of the book and be directed to Amazon to buy it if you want to read more. 

Please comment and let me know what you've learned NOT to do.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Featuring Avec Dieu Couture

Couture for your home, at a high quality and reasonable price.  What more can you ask for?  

Avec Dieu Couture Custom Drapes
Meet Amanda, the designer behind Avec Dieu CoutureAlways creative, as a child, she designed clothing and home decor for her Barbies.  Shen then grew up and put her creativity on the back burner, as she became busy with her career in counseling and her family life.  About 4 years ago, she came up with the idea of a home decor business.  Upon prayer and great reflection, she decided to go for it, and started with a notebook of ideas.  Avec Dieu Couture was born.  She has achieved great success on Etsy, and she even had her drapes featured in a room remodel on HGTV!

She makes custom drapes, created just for you, for under $100.


Damask Drapes

What is your inspiration?
"I like the idea of a unique modern look. Fabric stores often have the same boring floral designs, and home decor stores often just have the same solid drape options. Since it was difficult to find a unique option, I decided to make that my focus....The idea behind my products was quality and a couture look that couldn't be found in the stores. Stores often use a thin cotton lining and all of my drapes are lined with a high quality liner to protect them from sun damage. "

She also makes pillows, ranging from $15 to $30.
Blue Haze Pillows

How would you describe your style?
"I would say my style is a bit eclectic, but mostly modern. Even with traditional looks, like to add a modern twist." 
Wine Bags
 Her biggest influences?
"My biggest influence has been God. My life has been transformed in ways I never could have imagined myself. I have found that when I listen, there is guidance to my next step. I would also say my parents. My parents are wonderful people and have taught me how to act to others and the importance of caring. They also told me I could do anything I wanted in life over and over again :-) That had to affect my willingness to take on the things in my life that I have. "

Spring Bloom Cloth Napkins

Amanda gives back.
 "I originally chose Uganda because I read there was a great need for wells and financial assistance with the orphanages. Being a counselor, I really feel for people in need and believe everyone should help each other out. It is a good virtue to have to give, and when you do and eventually find yourself in need, then you will be surprised how people around you will help. I have also donated to Haiti and to Japan after the earthquake. I usually pray on where the money should go before donating." 

Amanda offers a wide range of products. Nursery and childrens' decor, shower curtains, bath towels, ring bearer pillows, and even political satire wall mirrors, which can be customized according to size and political views!

Thank you, Amanda, for letting us take a look at your beautiful shop and products! A perfect example of how we can all live a little more beautifully, by customizing our homes to get exactly the look we want, and by giving back to those in need.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Weddings, Handmade by Etsy Artists

I loved my wedding and wouldn't change a thing about it.

But if I were to get married now (to the same man, of course!), I have found some ideas I would use.  Everything you'll see here is handmade by Etsy artists.  Click on the photos to be directed to the item and shop.

Let's start at the beginning - the proposal.
I don't know about you, but I haven't seen such a creative idea as these nesting dolls. What a unique way to ask for someone's hand?  Not sure how many men are reading this blog, so ladies, show your friends' men!  This is sure to get a "Yes!" and probably some tears.  

Now let's move on to The Dress.  Here's what I would wear:
Simple, but not simple at all.  Lovely.  Perfection.  And to me, all it needs is a simple, unadorned cathedral length veil.  Like this:
Next, a bride needs her bridesmaids.  When I got married, nearly 8 years ago, I just asked my best friends to be my bridesmaids.  They're your best friends after all, so formality is often overlooked.  But you are asking the women closest to you in your life to stand by you during a ceremony before your God and all your family and friends while you make the most important and sacred vows you will ever make.  Why not make your request a little more special?
Now these ladies deserve special dresses.  So get them some couture that won't cost them a fortune.  You'll often hear brides say they want their bridesmaids to be able to wear their dresses again.  It's an honest wish when you know your friends have to fork over a couple hundred bucks or more.  But how many times have you re-worn your bridesmaid dresses?  These are under $200, and I bet you'd wear these to a party:
Or let your friends pick their own design.  These dresses are coordinated enough to show off your group of ladies, but each will feel comfortable wearing her own style.  These next photos are from the same designer, and the dresses cost around $100.
                                           

What gift can you give these special ladies that they can use during your wedding and after?  These custom clutches.  They come beautifully wrapped, and the designer can even make a beautiful clutch for you too!
Let's not forget the little ones who make our ceremonies so special.  My favorite part of the wedding party are always the kids.  If you're getting married this summer, your ring bearer will look like the handsome little man he is in this.  And it even comes with a hat. All he needs is a beautiful pillow to deliver the ring.

Your flower girl will feel like a princess in these dresses.  For a more casual wedding, I'd choose this.  It's remarkably only $20, and she can wear it all summer or for Easter.
For a more formal wedding, I'd pick this dress.  Still only $55, and she can wear it again for first communions, Easter, family portraits, or any special event.

Now that everyone is dressed (except for the groom, who, depending on the formality of the wedding will probably wear a suit he owns or will just want to rent if he doesn't own a tuxedo already), it's time to party!  For a bridal shower, here's a modern, but still lovely invitation.
As an alternative to real flowers, here's an artistic option for shower decorations that will last forever.
Now on to the wedding invitations and program.  To  me,  these are perfect for a summer or fall wedding.


During the wedding, if there are any messages you would like to give your guests, chalkboards make a pretty and functional option.  Direct them where they need to go, display menu options, or just use it as a sign to commemorate the event.  This chalkboard is from my shop, CMB Display Designs.  A table easel is all you need to set it up for any use.

For wedding decorations, I would rely mostly on fresh flowers.  But to mix it up, I'd re-use the pink flowers from the shower and add these paper flowers.  Give them as wedding favors to guests and bring them home to decorate your house.  I would generally advice against fake flowers, but as you can see, these do not fall into that category.  They're true works of art.
When the wedding's over, you will have a lot of thank you notes to send out.  Think ahead, and use these props during the wedding.  You'll be able to use the photos to create custom thank you cards.  But be sure to write a handwritten note inside.  No amount of creativity can replace good old-fashioned manners, which are too-often overlooked, in my opinion.  This is for more formal weddings.
And this is for more casual weddings.  As a side note, loving this bride's yellow heels!
If you're a soon-to-be bride, I hope you've found something that inspired you as it did me.  Most of all, have fun planning, and here's a toast to a lifetime of happiness!