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A few weeks ago, my husband made some extra money on a side job, handed me $50, and said “Go buy something pretty.”  Because he is awesome.

Well!  Most of the time something pretty means something pretty for the house.

One of the major things I wanted to do after the living room makeover from MyDesign was to unify and strengthen the impact of colorful accessories in that room.   I had a brown, yellow, and rust-red scheme of sorts going, but the minute spring arrived it all felt dull and sad.  I ultimately decided to remove yellow from my color scheme and replace it with aquas and robin’s egg blue.  Much more lively and suitable for our climate.

With my $50 play money I bought some neat materials for throw pillows in rust red and light green-blue.

pillow fabric

Pretty, huh? 

And then came the blow.  I had purchased a New Lamp which my husband actually liked, but when I told him I was planning to repaint the base robin’s egg blue, he froze and let me know he hates light blues… of all shades and colors.  

Um. 

I knew he disliked baby blue, and so do I, but it never occurred to me that this hatred would extend to the greeny blue shades I love to wear and was looking forward to using in my, wait, it is actually OUR home.   I pointed out how the living room was currently all brown and red and that I desperately wanted some more color.  Since the Chief’s feelings are important to me, I suggested a compromise on the color palette by making my light blue-greens a 10% factor and bringing in cobalt blue as a more major player.  Keeping a masculine-feminine balance that we both like is hard, people!  

Anyway, I’m not sure what I’ll do with my rad asian turquoise print and hope I didn’t totally waste that money, but I was going for a feel like this:

Ha ha, like mine will come out looking that sharp!  But whatever pillow covers I end up with, they’ll still make me happy :)

Someday the time will come to buy a new sofa and I will no longer have to make do with very old and worn-out black leather bachelor sofas to set off beautiful throw pillows.  Ahh… I dream…

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I’ve started reviewing my batch of summer perfume samples!  It’s been a cool and rather damp spring with very few weeks consistently sunny and 70 or over, so I’ve had a slow start on my new options for summer heat. 

Annick Goutals’ Eau de Camille is one of those fragrances that has been on my to-try list for a long time, but for various reasons it never got purchased.  AG is a line that ought to suit me well.  Their design and marketing appeals to me and they have an emphasis on lifelike fragrance notes rather than abstracted/filtered versions of notes.  I’ve found that most of their fragrances don’t live up to my expectations, being either too sweet and naive (i.e. Petite Cherie) or containing a squishy herbal vegetative thread (Mandragore, Nuits d’Hadrien, Ninfeo Mio up close).  

Eau de Camille, I am pleased to report, is almost exactly what I’d hoped for.

Broken hedges, the crushed leaves of boxwood and privet in their springtime vitality, green green green, sap and leaf juices!  So enters Eau de Camille.  Maybe it’s the effect of hours in my childhood playing among the overgrowth in the vacant lot next door, sidling through the narrow passage behind our house lined with ivy and shaded by trees, but I do love a lifelike broken leaves note in a perfume. 

As the top notes drift away, the greeny leaf starts to play This One or That One with the scent of lilies, both the rich spicy-sweet white oriental lily and the small cool lily of the valley.   This part is really fun.  You get a sequence of leaf, candy lily, leaf, muguet, leaf.  The oriental lily is white and sugar-crystalled with a pink heart, yummy and intense while remaining in the realm of delicious rather than overwhelming.  It is very distinct but quite light: not an overpowering density of lily.  Honeysuckle is also a major component of the heart of this fragrance.  I loooove AG’s Le Chevrefeuille, a honeysuckle soliflore, and am delighted that the delicate honeysuckle found there makes an appearance in Eau de Camille.  Sometimes the honeysuckle is a vine wound amonst the shrubbery, and sometimes it is the nectar lifted on a breeze. 

As the perfume wears, the green eventually becomes a background, discernable as the underpinnings of a green floral.  The scent retains its light feminine heart nearly all the way through with that curious mixture of sweet lily and cool muguet.  It appealingly displays both the tenderness of feminine youth and the green vibrancy of life.  I can imagine wearing this on any summer day and feeling just about as pretty as it’s possible to get.   Apparently Annick Goutal created Eau de Camille in response to her daughter’s request for a perfume that smelled like their courtyard garden in the suburbs, and I think she nailed it. 

The sole reservation I have about Eau de Camille is that in the drydown, the flowers huddle close to the skin and the only notes apparent in the sillage are a greenish soap, sort of a clean and fresh sportiness that is not really in keeping with the sweet femininity up til then, and this stage lasts longer than I’d like. 

I am sure some people will find this perfume too aggressive in its greenness.  For myself, I love the green.  Eau de Camille goes strong for four hours or longer on me, plenty for summertime.  The sillage is perfect for my taste: enough that when I spray it on my wrist, I can smell it without particularly noticing where it’s coming from.  I’m reaching for it often on these early summer days. 

**** Four stars out of five.

Ok, there won’t be an “after” peek of the living room for at least a week – our house’s 70 year old underground pipes finally developed a slab leak, so the Chief spent the weekend running all new pipes for the whole house through the attic and walls.  I helped.  We are beat.  Thankfully the house has water again (yay! for a wonderful, skilled husband) but the drywall holes still need to be patched and the contents of three closets and cupboards are piled across the house.  So, no photos for a while. 

However, I’ve been wanting to share something awesome-smelling that happened to me!

I love perfume because scent is so evocative/ transporting/ atmospheric/ emotional.   As the seasons shift I start to yearn for different types of fragrances.  Here’s what some of my favorite late spring/midsummer perfumes “feel” like to me:

Annick Goutal Le Chevrefeuille: light, cheerful, dancing, sunshine yellow, flowers in your hair

 

Diptyque Philosykos:  On a hot day it smells like moist earth under a shady fig tree

 

Tauer L’Air du Desert Marocain:  Bone-dry incense in the desert, hanging in the still air

 

Dior Escale A Portofino:  A garden staircase arched over with honeysuckle and mock orange and sparkling dapples of sunlight

Now the exciting part – one of the best perfume blogs out there is Now Smell This, and it has a weekly feature called the Monday Mail.  Readers will write in asking for perfume recommendations based on what they’ve already tried and liked or disliked, and they usually get 40 to 60 responses from their fellow perfume hobbyists.  I’ve been dissatisifed with my current selection of summer-heat perfume options and a few months ago I decided to write in to get on the Monday Mail waiting list.  

You can find the whole post here.  I said I wanted something that would make me feel light and energetic, summery,  feminine but not too sweet.   I have to admit that my list of likes and dislikes got kind of long and picky, so to encourage the responders I made sure to be active in the comment section as I have noticed in previous Monday Mails that this makes people more willing to think their best for you :)  Including my replies, there were over 70 comments!

I’m very, very excited to try some of the new things suggested by people who are more familiar with the world of perfume than I am and I’ll definitely let you know what I decide to try and how it goes. 

The sad thing is, my turn on the Monday Mail came up more quickly than I’d expected – I figured I’d be up to bat in May or so, when the summer weather would be here to complement my request for summer perfumes.  Instead, my turn came in March literally a week after I received a big order of summery perfume samples that I had already had on my list to try, and the weather has been too cold to even try those until just recently.  So my Monday Mail gloryful list of stuff to try probably won’t even happen till the far end of summer this year.  But I console myself with the thought of how much good stuff I have to look forward to.

In my last post, I explained how the living room gave me a lot of trouble as I tried to find a furniture configuration that worked, due to its doorway placement and smaller size.  After 14 months of coming up empty, I finally consulted a professional interior decorator by using a free e-consultation service that they offer to new clients. 

Here’s what the room looked like at the time I applied for advice.  (I marked my problem areas for this post.) It was the best I had figured out, but it wasn’t good enough.  I knew I had to get the furniture off the walls somehow so I’d rotated my desk out from the wall.  The landing strip to the right of the front door was working pretty well for us, the painted backs of the bookshelves added depth, and the round mirror across from the  beautiful windows was a favorite.  Other than that, there wasn’t a whole lot I was loving about this room in terms of form OR function.   (Sorry for the phone pix!)

What to do to make this better?? Basically, here’s what they told me, paraphrased Julie-style:

  • Get some color in there!  Take the rust red in the drum seats and spread it around, and add another accent color to finish it.  Follow the 60/30/10 percent rule – 60% neutral/main, 30% supporting color, 10% spicy accent color. 
  • The desk at right angles to the wall is good, but move it to the right corner of the room so that the landing strip is less crowded and so you can put that small corner to good use.
  • Since you want the 6-over-6 double windows to be a focus, bring a loveseat into an L with the existing sofa, slipcovering to match.  No need for a coffee table as space is tight: the drum seats can double for that if needed by adding a tray to one.
  • The bookcase on the back wall is one of the first things you see, so de-clutter it, and switch out the mirror for a bigger one.
  • add two more sources of light for greater ambience and an inviting, layered look. 

A fresh, professional eye speaking to some of the room’s details, and the encouragement that I CAN fit more seating and did not need a coffee table completely re-inspired me.  I spent that weekend rearranging and editing everything in there, and started to come up with more and better ideas.  Around the same time, I discovered The Nester’s blog and was convicted by her posts about using lots of little junk to personalize a space when really you are just fussing because the big things about the room are bothering you.    Here’s what I came up with on my own, in addition to/instead of what the designer suggested.

  • Acknowledge that I hate the sofa, and make peace with that while saving for a new sectional.  Meanwhile, concentrate on making the rest of the room better and cohesive, so that the sofa doesn’t stand out so much.  Don’t allow it to dictate what else happens with the room, but make it fade away as gracefully as possible.
  • Make that bookcase into a substantial feature to love! by buying another of the same for cheap on Craigslist and putting them right next to each other, thus making one big piece instead of lots of little furniture bits scattered around.  I am really proud of this idea!
  • Switch out the beloved round mirror for a huge [frameless] rectangular one currently collecting dust.  Get husband to mount it and install a mitered frame around it.Use the loveseat and armchair from our sofa set for the L seating configuration, switching them out of our TV Watching Room in exchange for the sofa piece.   Since our bachelory leather sofa set is large, these smaller pieces will fit in the living room better and leave us room to breathe.
  • Turn squared off gallery collection into freeform gallery wall.   I’ve lived with this square configuration for several months and it feels too angular, too narrow, and hung about three inches too high, going from A to B: 
  • Add in robin’s egg/aqua/turquoise accents around the room.  Blue-green is my favorite color, so why not use it?  Plus, I always liked the combo of muted red and light blue-green.

Now this is a big room change, so I don’t have a fancy look-I-threw-$5000-at-it-and-have-a-new-living-r0om “after” to show you.  You knew that though :)  I’ll be back soon with a sneak peek at what’s changed in the few weeks since I got my Room-ReDo design advice.  Plenty more to do of course, which I will expand on in future posts.

Has someone’s tasteful advice ever gotten YOU out of a design dilemma, or even sparked a whole room redo?

The living room’s been an issue since the beginning.

At first this was mainly because we didn’t have very much furniture as we started our life together.  As I slowly found more pieces and began to move them around, I discovered that the room was actually rather difficult to put together well.

1.  It is 12×17 and has three doorways, creating a T-shaped traffic pattern that breaks the room into tiny areas.  Proof:

Living room traffic pattern

2.  It has a 17 foot blank wall that you see immediately upon entry through the front door.  Scroll up to the picture again and you’ll see.  You can’t put most furniture along this wall because it will get in the way of the pass-through traffic.

3.  Our sofas (besides being old and worn out) seemed too big for the only region of the room large enough for a conversation area.

I couldn’t even get things settled well enough to be able to see what other pieces the room would need to finish it or how to implement a color scheme.  It seemed like all the furniture arrangements that I tried either blocked traffic or made the conversation area hard to get into.  Why couldn’t I figure something out that retained an open, welcoming feeling and allowed people to sit across from each other?

It was depressing.

Being in the room was also depressing.  All the furniture was against the walls,  so it was basically a playground for the cats, and there was not enough color to bring things to life.

the cat’s meow

Sad corner with grandfather clock

full room view

After 14 months of struggle, I finally admitted that I needed a little bit of help figuring out how to make this room work. Luckily, I had an ace up my sleeve for that.

For a while I’ve been receiving design e-newsletters with great before-and-afters, plus truly useful decorating tips, from My Design Guide.  (They are not sponsoring this post in any way, I just think they do a good job and want to share.)  They offer a Quick Fix room re-design  as a free incentive to try their services, and I was Very Very Pleased with the quantity and quality of advice I got for free!  Their website is clunky to navigate, but I think worth it.  For the quick fix, you send them three or four photos of the room you want help with, and they email you back in a week with all their thoughts and suggestions.

In Part 2 of this post, I’ll tell you what they told me to do.  What do you think this room’s solution would be?