Designer James Farmer feels that when it comes to historic furniture, engagement goes a long way. "Remember what the pieces — a sideboard, a storage chest, a secretary — were intended to be. They were meant to be used! I like to use them today, whether for their intended purposes or to display collections. Whether it's painting the back of a secretary a nice color or filling a chest with toys, puzzles and books for the kids, the most important thing about living with antiques is continuing to use them. That takes the seriousness out of them."
Anyone who needs a quiet spot — whether Miranda’s preparing homeschool lessons or one of the kids is playing a computer game — can find it in here. Normally the wire shelves are filled with books and plants, but they got cleared out for an Advent calendar made of gift boxes, with a treat in each one. Ever the retro furniture fan, Luke found the military desk at a thrift store and the chair at a garage sale, then had it reupholstered.
Not sure what to showcase on shelves? First, consider what you love. Your interests and hobbies should come through in your accessory choices, says Debbie Wiener, an interior designer in Silver Spring, Md., who helps homeowners create spaces reflective of their everyday lives. "Kids' framed artwork, books, decorative plates, baseball cards or boomerang collections. Your home should look like you," Debbie says. Take stock of vacation mementos, crafts and items you're drawn to time and again when assembling accessories for a shelf arrangement. Design by Emily Henderson.
Save your old mailbox, even if it has a bit of rust. Designer Janna Allbritton reused a discarded mailbox and crate to fill out a mantel and to display dried flowers, a Bible and a small succulent in a pot. "Use the unexpected to create levels and keep the eye moving for a great eye-catching vignette. Old books, a chippy step-stool, an antique box, or a child's chair are great items to start with ... this will give you a great framework from which to build," she says.
Vermicomposting is a great way to teach kids about composting while they play in the dirt. To get started, add some holes for air and drainage to a premade bin or box, or make your own. You'll also need some worms--red wiggler worms, or Eisenia fetida, to be specific. As you add food scraps to the bin, the worms will eat them and excrete (okay, poop) castings you can use in your garden. The castings are great for amending your soil and fertilizing plants. Read more about how to care for the worms in chapter 7 of Balz's book (their needs are pretty simple).
A selection of exquisitely wrapped gifts are perfect for pop-over guests and for sprinkling around the house for touches of holiday spirit. "Welcome guests with a porcelain compote filled with tiny boxes of chocolate wrapped in colorful, patterned paper from a stationary store," home stylist Matthew Mead says. For kids, "cards, puzzles and mini games can be wrapped and trimmed with candies." He suggests keeping other little pre-wrapped surprises, such as books and gift cards, on hand as well. Photo courtesy of Matthew Mead.
This space hosts the two Stansell boys, who share this bedroom that could also be described as their own little well-curated museum of interests. Their personalities and evidence of their adventures are proudly displayed around their room. If you look closely you’ll spy that at least one of the boys is a budding chef. They also have a small family of hamsters between them, and they love yellow tractors. The boys’ room is a really good example of how I approach kids' spaces: always go monochromatic with walls and bedding. Between their toys, books, art, rugs, etc. there will be plenty of opportunity for stimulation/adding interest without becoming too busy. My fave in the room? The drapes are perfectly appointed: they look fun and put an exclamation point on the entire space.
Wool rugs are easy to clean and have fibers that contain lanolin, a natural stain repellent. They're a smart choice for family rooms, where kids and pets spend most of their time. "This open, second floor media room overlooks the living room below. We needed a strong anchor to be the foundation of the space and to define the character of the room. Merida's classic buffalo check was the perfect solution — boldly inviting guests to gather for conversation, nestle in with a book or cluster for watching movies. The check pattern instantly conveys a sense of warmth and familiarity. Additionally, our clients planned to using this space to watch sporting events — so we needed something to withstand rowdy sports fans and the beautiful, quality wool construction of this rug meant it was the perfect yet practical fit," says the designers at Foley & Cox Interiors.