Monthly Archives: October 2014

Crushing on Dark Interiors

Carravagio painting

Painting by Michaelangelo Carravaggio, “Lute Player,” 1596  

Back when I was in design school, I was required to take art history and we studied the Renaissance and Reformation periods for what seemed like an eternity.  I appreciated the beauty and work that went into those pieces, but we spent such a long time there, and looked at so many paintings of Mary and friends that they were all beginning to look the same.  Thank Baby J one day the professor finally said, “moving on…” and with a click of the projector, (yes, it was a slide carousel. It did have a remote though, so see, I’m not that old.), a Carravaggio painting showed up on the screen.  I wiggled and perked up in my seat, eyes widening: Well hello there late 16th century Baroque and Rococco. Where on Earth have you been hiding?  If you’re not familiar, Carravaggio was an artist associated with this period and is often classified with the more well known Rembrandt, and some other Dutch dudes who are known for their dark, mostly black backgrounds and “spotlight” on the main subject of the scene (tenibrism).


Painting by Rachel Ruysch, Still Life with Flowers, Sun

The content was still religious for the most part, but now we were getting more still life and ordinary folk thrown in there too.  The colors were bright and beautiful against the black backdrops, and the subjects sometimes creepy and dramatic, which I admittedly enjoy in art.  You’re not so lame now professor. Way to pick it up.

Re-wind two years before this lecture, when I probably would have seen a lot of examples of this style had I gone to the Rembrandt museum in Amsterdam instead of hanging out in coffee shops forgetting where I was and the rules to a simple game of checkers.  That Dutch coffee is so weird Mom.  Anyway, I was kicking myself that day reminiscing on the missed opportunity.

I got the same excited feeling again, (the one from class, not from the coffee shop), when I started seeing these Carravaggio-esque interiors popping up this year. I’m loving this trend of dark painted walls, and dramatic florals against black backgrounds in wallpaper and art prints.  dark-floral-wallpaper

My fav wallpaper right now is this “Dark Floral” by Ellie Cashman Design. You have to check it out in this gorgeous bathroom here.

Dark floral throw pillow

That bathroom is everything. She just added these silk throw pillows in the same pattern too, which I would totally buy if they weren’t $200 a pop. I would sooo French this pillow like a 12 year-old girl pretending to make out with that hottie in Biology class.  Just kidding.  A little. dark floral etsy print

 Etsy print by kariharer, Flower Photograph No. 88242 


Anthro wallpaper

“Party Animals” wallpaper by Anthropologie.

I love how the dark walls make these rooms look sophisticated and cozy, not cavernous.  Just like the paintings, the wall colors are the backdrop and the bright, jewel toned furniture and accessories act as the “spotlight.”  The high gloss walls in this room are killing me right now.
dark floral HB photo

Simple dark charcoal:

dark floral elle decor 2

Luscious red, tufted goodness right here.  It looks great against those smoky blue walls.

dark floral elle decor


elle decor olive

I’m pretty sure whoever designed this room drew inspiration from this painting, one of my favorites by the artist Van Eyck:



You’re very welcome for the history lesson, and bonus: I took the liberty of gathering up some wall colors for you guys in case you’re thinking about doing a dark room:

dark floral paintsHowever, I can’t guarantee that these colors will look awesome in your space.  Check with your paint store designer for recommendations.

Have you ever been inspired by your favorite artwork when decorating a space? Any of you guys brave enough to do a dark room? I would love to see pics.


An update on our foyer, ’cause I know you’ve been wondering

painted front door swing insideSo…I painted the front door last week.  I was cruising around the internet one afternoon and came across one of those “simple-weekend-projects-that-can-change-the-look-of-your-home-so you-can-turn-around-and-sell-it-for-$100,000-more-than-what-you-paid-for-it” type articles, and it was talking about how painting your front door is “a simple and inexpensive way to add a pop of color…blah di dee blah blah.”  By the way, I swear that will be the last time you read “pop of color” on this blog again.

I’m pretty sure they were referring to the door’s exterior, but it gave me the idea to paint the inside of our door and bring some color to the otherwise neutral palette going on in the foyer.  This project was not even on my mile-long to-do list, but when inspiration strikes in this house, you drop everything you’re doing and go full steam at that project and never finish it. Yeah, that’s how we do.

Painting front door before picture

I realized that I haven’t showed you all recent pictures of the foyer lately, (or most of the rooms in our house for that matter), so I wanted to bring you up-to-date on what’s going on around here. I painted the walls a chocolate brown color right after we moved in 7 years ago, so not only were we way overdue for a change, (I can not believe a single paint color was on the walls for this long under my roof.), but I was also kinda tired of it being so dark in there all of the time.  We have a covered front porch, and only one window in this area, so combined with the color it was dreary city.

foyer redo before pic

foyer redo before pic stairs

I wanted to go with something way at the other end of the spectrum, like a light grey or cream.  On the first go ’round, I picked out the color “Penthouse” by Benjamin Moore.  Sophisticated and modern, clean and bright, a shade reminiscent of a chic top floor apartment overlooking Central Park, just like the name implies.  Sounds nice, right? But oh darling, it was not.  It was so, so wrong.  Jeff came home from work and did that little gesture, you know the one where you hold your hand up over your eyes to shield them from the sun?  “What color are you gonna paint over this primer?”  Seriously? This is the second time that an all-day paint job has been mistaken for wall priming in this house.  How did this happen again?  And why on earth did I go ahead and buy 2 gallons of the stuff without doing a test swatch first?

foyer redo first paint color

I headed back to the paint store with my tail between my legs; this time asking for help from their on-site designer.  I should have done that the first time, but you see, a lot of interior designers have this weird pride thing where they feel like a failure asking for another designer’s advice, which is really stupid because picking out paint colors is what this girl does all day long.  She’s an expert in her field.  Anyway, my paint store, and I’m sure yours, has a designer that specializes in paint colors and lighting and which wallpaper you should use in the bathroom. You can bring in a throw pillow or show her pictures on your phone, and tell him or her what kind of lighting your dealing with, and most of the time, they will help you find the perfect color.  In this case, it’s “Royal Flax”, and it’s a nice, non-blinding beige-y grey.

foyer redo stair runner

We also installed a stair runner, (how-to coming soon), and my in-laws got us the braided, jute rug as a gift.  We’re talking about building a mudroom on the back of the house soon, (since that’s where we enter the house most of the time), so then we’ll be able to get rid of those coat hooks and all the “drop zone” clutter.  I can’t wait to make a pretty table for in there and maybe add some molding and framed artwork up the stairway wall.

foyer redo coat hooks

So finally…after all that…back to painting the front door. I did a little prepping by cleaning with one of those “magic” sponge things and then I caulked the cracks between the moldings.  I wanted a minty green/blue color, but I didn’t want it to stand out too much because it’s next to, and open to the living room, which unfortunately has not been updated in a while and consists of dark reds and browns mostly.  I Google’d the Ben Moore paint color “Palladian Blue,” to see how it looked in other rooms, and if anyone had an opinion about it.  Again, I collaborated with my paint store designer, who agreed that it was a great choice.

Here’s the BEFORE again; since I’m positive you forgot about it after all that wordiness:

Painting front door before picture

and AFTER:

front door paint after shot

Much better, right? The color is a subtle blue; not too bold and doesn’t compete with the colors in the living room.  This weekend, I’m working on doing some kind of shade for the window. We’ve never had one on there, and maybe I’m getting old, but lately it feels too open.  I can’t go to the kitchen in my underwear, and if you’re already standing in the hall or foyer, you can’t hide from salespeople.  I’m kinda over it.

Have you completed any paint projects lately? What kind of window treatment should I do?  I’m thinking either a roman shade or dressing up one of those cheap-y roller shades.  Do they still sell those?

Tuesday Etsy Roundup: Halloween for the Home

Autumn is my favorite season.  Cool, crisp air and changing leaves…boots and corduroy…consuming mass quantities of pumpkin-flavored whatever.  Speaking of which, has anyone else noticed the pumpkin flavored/scented/spiced explosion happening this year?  This stuff’s everywhere. I thought I was having a weird nightmare when I walked into Trader Joe’s the other day.  Pumpkin bread?  I get it.  Mochi ice cream and body butter? Now the shit’s out of hand.

What you can’t have too much of though, are Halloween decorations.  That’s not true. You can… and you can keep them out way past their allowed time and annoy everyone on your street. Don’t be that guy.  A few festive items here and there are the way to go.

Here are a handful-plus-one of my fav decorations for Day of the Dead and Halloween:

Etsy Roundup Halloween

1.  Boo! Printable art print, by PrintableWisdom –  $5

2.  Handpainted Mason Jar, by RMSimpleRustics – $14

3. Black Cat coaster set, by Polkadotdog – $13

4. Day of the Dead hand painted ornaments, by Bones Nelson – $24.99

5. Felt Pumpkin Garland by FuzzonMe – $27

6. Ceramic Skull Planter, by Mudpuppy – $42

Do you decorate for Halloween? What are some of your favorite pumpkin recipes?  I make a delicious pumpkin cheesecake every year for Thanksgiving using this recipe here.




Fall Harvest: Creamy Butternut Squash and Potato Soup

butternut squash soup recipe 6

Remember when I told you all about the great summer squash takeover 2014?  Well, Round 2 is here in the form of butternut squash.  I’ve never planted butternut, so I knew nothing about it’s crazy growing pattern.  I planted a few seeds and two months later, a single plant appeared and took over the entire front yard looking like a giant green spider, vines going off in all directions.  They were wrapped around all the other plants, growing into the neighbors’ yards, and stretching out into the street. Insanity.

butternut squash soup 3

I’ve already harvested about 20, keeping a few for us and offering the rest out to random people walking their dogs and/or kids in front of the house at night.  Most turn up their noses; “No thanks, I don’t really like squash.”  I go on trying to convince them that butternut is kind of sweet, like a sweet potato, and it doesn’t have the texture of zucchini, and you can mix it with potato and make delicious soups, and please don’t be intimated by it’s shape and hard shell, and please, please take at least one because I have then coming out my ears people!!  Aaaah!

butternut squash soup recipe 2

Actually, there were a few takers and they all told me what their plans were for using it.  I heard recipes for risotto, casseroles, curries, and a few who knew that this particular squash can be stored for months, so they planned on saving it for Thanksgiving.

This squash pusher only has one recipe, (the original is from an issue of Cooking Light Magazine), and I’ve been making it for several years now.  It’s the first time I’ve had my very own homegrown squash to use though, and man, does it taste better than ever.

I put my own spin on the CL recipe, subbing onions for leeks, (I never think about buying those things), veggie broth for chicken, I threw in garlic just because every soup needs it, and I added almond milk instead of half-and-half because I’ve been trying to cut out dairy when I can, (I’m such a sucker for cheese though). And finally, the last couple of times I’ve topped it off with coconut bacon.  Have you all had this stuff?  It’s ahhh-mazing and a great substitute for newbie vegetarians like me who miss the crunchy/smokiness of bacon every once in a while.  Take a look at the recipe here.

butternut squash soup recipe 4

I’ve found the best way to cut up a butternut squash is to peel the skin with a vegetable peeler first, and starting from the narrow end, slice off 1″ pieces until you get to the base.  Cut that part in half from stem to base, and remove the seeds with a spoon.

butternut squash soup recipe 5

Creamy Butternut Squash and Potato Soup Recipe (adapted from Cooking Light’s, “Golden Winter Soup”)


2 tbsp butter

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

2 cups russet potato, cubed

4 cups butternut squash, cubed

4 cups vegetable broth

1 tsp Kosher salt

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

Optional garnish:

Scallions, chopped

Coconut Bacon (or regular bacon)


Melt butter on medium-high heat in a dutch oven (or stockpot) and sauté onions until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic cloves and sauté for one minute more.  Add the squash and potato, sprinkle with the salt and pepper and stir, cooking for 3 minutes.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes, or until potatoes and squash are tender.  Remove from heat and take soup out in batches and puree with a food processor, or leave it in the dutch oven and puree with a handheld blender.  Stir in almond milk.   Ladle soup into bowls and top with scallions and bacon.  Enjoy!

Butternut squash soup recipe

Do you have any good butternut squash recipes to share? Anybody planting fall/winter vegetables?  I just planted some radishes and beets for the first time. Crossing my fingers that I get at least one vegetable from this planting.