Truly Alive In My HOME

My recent post, Willingness… To Do What?, was about how I am choosing to be “willing” this year.  Willing to do what?  Well, many things actually.  My list of big things I am “willing” to do include to practice more patience, be more focused and a super biggy – finish my book.  Heck I’m even willing to cuss less when playing Spades on my IPad (my imaginary partner, Megan really makes D.U.M.B. moves over and over!)  Most importantly, I am willing to be me in all the areas of my life, no longer afraid to completely expose myself.

As a young girl I “felt” there was something I was supposed to do.  Perhaps many of you knew as kids or teenagers what your vocation in life would be.  I had no clue, only that there was something.  At the same time while growing up, I was a good Catholic.  I used my Rosary, went to Confession and Communion regularly and devoutly prayed daily.  It must have been weird because I’ll never forget one time I overheard my mother telling my grandmother (my dear Nana) that she was afraid I might become a Nun.  In my child’s mind I deduced that I was too religious.  Well, I’m here to tell you my mother worried for naught – I love physical intimacy way too much to be celibate (sorry kids but it’s the truth)!  Through the years I did stay for want of a better word “religious”.  In college I joined Campus Crusade.  As a married adult I was always active in church.  But for all the years and the various stages of my life my faith participation was in mainstream ways that kept me “safe”.  Even my “then” husband kept me in check.  To this day I can still remember him parking at church with our three kids in the back seat each Sunday.  More often than not after turning off the car engine he would turn and look at me.  He would then gently pat my leg and say, “ Now baby, you know you learn a lot more when you listen so please don’t speak up in Sunday school.”  Not speaking up kept me safe from potential criticism (at home and everywhere else) so I would stifle myself, certain that he was lovingly telling me I was too opinionated, particularly when it came to my faith.  Call it poor self-esteem if you want but I somehow saw my devoutness as a negative and wished I could be looser and more fun.  (Silly me!)

Understand that I’m not looking for sympathy here.  I don’t for a second blame either one of them for making me feel like whom I really was needed some toning down.  I’m the one who chose to take their words and let them affect me in a negative way to the point that I kept my deeply spiritual nature at bay.

Beginning at the age of 40 serious trauma-drama began to creep into my life over and over again.  Each new challenge strengthened my faith only I still kept my spirituality somewhat to myself.  So, I guess I had to get a huge roadside flare to get my attention.  That flare came on December 6, 2006 in the form of a woman from my past suddenly there to expose stuff.  To this day I am grateful for her and the far-reaching tentacles of consequences her talk with me created.  Many things in my life changed at that point and I truly, truly began to open up and express my spiritual side.  I started a Blog.  However, even with my Blog I was gingerly showing my true self trying to be ever so subtle with expressing my views.

All that changed when I received the email from Lori.  Lori’s word for me, “WILLINGNESS” reinforced the voice I had been hearing in my head for several months telling me to put myself out there once and for all.  I call it coming out of the closet because to me, I am choosing to tell the truth about myself much like others do when they have something important to say about themselves that they are afraid to share but can’t hold in any longer.  So here’s what I’m willing to say…

I am a deeply spiritual human being. I believe that my body is a vessel for my Soul.  I believe that this vessel should be as free of negative things like anger, hostility, jealousy and fear as possible to honor my Soul.  I believe that my Soul is more important than my Ego.  I passionately believe in God, the Universe and yes, even Angels.  I believe in goodness and want to be an active participant in spreading it.  Though I view myself as a simple Soul, I am an “Old Soul” with a deep understanding of things.  I believe that I have a purpose in life that is meant to be for the greater good of mankind.  I believe that I am a healer and have the gift of healing with my words.  I also believe I have the ability to heal through creating beauty spatially and when I work in people’s homes as a Decorator I feel the energy and know where it needs to be balanced.  I have no desire to attach myself to any specific denomination or creed, as I believe my purpose is to include rather than exclude.  While I will not hold tight to religious rules and regulations, I spend much of my time in prayer and would put on my Bucket List a chance to go on a pilgrimage journey.  (By the way I have no real clue what I mean by that – just that my heart and Soul yearn for it.)  I believe that our world is a changing and people like me want to show a better way through love and care.  I believe that Peace is attainable.  I believe that Love is attainable.  I believe that Harmony is attainable.  It is all a matter of choice.  Most of all my spirituality is part of every moment of every day and at the end of each day my hope is that it has shown in all my actions and yes, reactions to my life’s journey that day – including what I write on my Blog.

I read something the other day that really spoke to me.  “Many of us are struggling to stay true to what we know is the right way for us to be.”  That’s how I was for over 56 years.  I struggled with who I am because I thought I was weird.  No longer.  The rest of the time I have here on this earth I’ll be truly alive in my Home, my vessel for my Soul.  I’m finally free to be me.  Oh and after all these years I’ve figured out what I’m supposed to do as my vocation in life – encourage and promote Peace, Love and Harmony.

To being alive…

Simple Ways To “Ground” Yourself In Your Home

As an “armchair psychologist of the home” I believe that everything begins in the home – so much so that my design philosophy grew from this belief and so I approach each and every decorating job with this key premise.  No matter what we do or where we go in life, I believe how we act, react and interact in the outside world takes root from how we live in our homes.  To put it simply, how we live in our homes should “ground” us, giving us the foundation to make us emotionally and mentally stable to go out into the world.  This means your homespace is vital to your essence.

I have always been a lover of Nature.  Hiking, biking, camping, kayaking, horseback riding, spending time at the beach, boating, white water rafting or gardening – no matter what the venue, my most favorite times have been spent outdoors.  For me being outdoors was a pleasurable experience.  Only after some trauma-drama infiltrated my life several years ago did I understand the healing powers of Nature.  Nature is flat-out the best tonic out there.  Period.  With this revelation I consciously decided to bring nature into my home in every way that I could knowing that if it worked for me outdoors by golly, it would work indoors, too.

This newfound revelation also became an integral component to my design philosophy and ever since, I have incorporated elements of Nature into all my jobs albeit often in really subtle ways that are only picked up on subconscious levels.  This allows for “grounding” to occur.  I also share with my clients’ ways to infuse Nature in their homes themselves (after I leave their nests) and on a larger scale to audiences such as the readers of my blog as in my post, Two Colors Every Homespace Needs.

Think of bringing Nature into your homespace as being part of getting back to the basics of what the earth has given us, literally.  Call it “grass roots” decorating.  Or call it simplifying your décor.  Heck, you can even look at it as a version of what is called “earthing”, a fascinating concept of connecting with the earth in order to become more balanced.  Ironically, just the other day Susan Weems Muehl, LIPH’s Nature Photographer emailed me a bevy of new nature images (thank you dear friend) and also mentioned that she was practicing the concepts of earthing.  No doubt about it, Susan and I are birds of a feather flocking together!  Both of us absolutely positively get the importance of nature and the earth’s connection to our bodies.  (With all due respect, “earthing” is more about physically being grounded; I am merely relating it to your home and how to bring Nature into your space.  To learn more about “earthing,” read the book, Earthing-The most important health discovery ever? Or go to www.earthing.com as well. )  Whatever you choose to call bringing Nature indoors, just do it.  Here are some simple, sure fire ways:

  • Decorate your home with found things in nature
  • Open up the windows and let fresh air into your home
  • Decorate with live plants, wildflowers and aromatic herbs
  • Pay attention to the seasons and honor them in your décor
  • When building, purchasing or moving into a new home, choose a home that offers you plenty of natural light (sunshine is healing)

Like many of us, I have times I’m in a real funk. I was in one recently for more days than I’d care to admit to.  Focusing too much attention on issues I had no control over and magnifying issues tenfold in my mind had gotten the better of me and quite frankly, I didn’t even find myself good company.  It’s a darn good thing my David had been traveling during this funk or he would have been rolling his eyes at me constantly, ignoring me or worst yet, pulling out his gorgeous silver hair over my attitude.  While in my funk my niece, Marli called me to chat and just my tone of voice when I answered her call made her aware that something was amiss.  I ended up telling her about my seemingly endless days of funk and she listened attentively.  Then she disrupted my pity party by saying, “Aunt Jamie, do what you always say to do.  Go to the woods.  Go to Nature.  Let it restore you.”  Whoa, was she preaching to me what I always preach?  Yep, she sure was.  And guess what?  I took her up on it.  I got off the phone and headed to the woods.  I simply needed an extra large dose of Nature’s medicine – more than my usual daily amount!  I walked and I walked, breathing in all the wonderful smells of Nature as I viewed the changing fall scenery.  So long funk. So long pity pot.  Nature restoreth my soul and I returned home more in tune with the earth.  I filled my lungs with the scent of fresh lavender on the counter.  I enjoyed watering all my plants.  I paid attention to the breeze coming through my opened windows and reveled in the sounds of nature I could hear coming into my home.  Later, as I readied for bed, I felt free of much of my recent anxiety and internally thanked Marli for her advice.

I believe that we all must singly as well as collectively connect or reconnect with Nature in order to truly be balanced and healthy. Infusing elements of the natural world in your home helps to accomplish this and is the single best way to ground yourself.  Remember to bring Nature indoors.  It might seem simple but simple’s good right?  And it might be a small step compared to the “barefoot steps” of earthing but by doing this you will give yourself gifts of healing that only Nature can provide.

To Nature…

Ten Things To Remember About Your Home

For more than a year now I’ve been blogging about the importance of home.  And, throughout my articles I have written about home in terms of décor, color and design as well as how to truly live well in your home.  I’m grateful for all the readers that have supported me by taking the time to read my posts but my guess is that not everyone reads each and every post.  (Ya think?!?)  With that in mind, as another year begins in my world of blogging and because today is my birthday and I can do what I want to, I thought I would give you a quick list of my top ten beliefs about home that I think each and every person that dwells in some form of shelter should know.

I’ll make it simple and concise and leave it up to you dear readers to digest each of my top ten things to remember about home and interpret them for yourselves how best they fit your way of life.

My Top Ten

  1. When you decorate your home you decorate your life.
  2. Your home is an outward expression of yourself.
  3. A beautiful home impacts your mood and behavior.
  4. Elements of Nature radiate calming energy when used in your home.
  5. Much like the Russian Nesting Dolls (Matryoshka), your home should be beautiful layer after layer beginning with the streetscape.
  6. The décor of your home should be designed with a sense of “studied indifference” with things arranged in a way as if by mere happenstance.
  7. A beautiful home is not the result of material consumerism.
  8. Creating peace and harmony in your home will create harmony within.
  9. Living Beautifully + Living Peacefully = Living Well.
  10. Everything begins in the home.

My birthday wish today is that each of you have or aspire to have a home filled with peace and harmony!

And one more thing…

Here’s a very special shout-out to my dear twin brother, Craig Balzer.  What tremendous joy I have in my life to have been so blessed to share life with you.  It’s been a wonderful ride with you ~ from childhood having two cakes on the dining table for our birthday (year after year yours was all chocolate and mine was white with chocolate frosting) to spending Beach Week together with our friends when we graduated from high school to sharing the breakfast table each morning during our college years in our townhouse at VA. Tech (and on occasion watching you literally fall asleep with a spoon of cereal in mid-air from being up all night in the Architectural building) to watching our children grow up together and to now at the awesome age of 56 realize how truly alike we are (as I wrote in my post, Design From An Architect’s View).   Without a shadow of a doubt we have a wonderful bond between us.  Happy birthday, I love you!

The twins with Mom

The twins with Mom

Wellness Begins In The Home

For years I habitually dreamed of redecorating my home at 2831 Giverny Drive and by the way, I’m talking about even long after I moved on to another place.  Some dreams were about putting up new window treatments, others about rearranging furniture in the different rooms and still others focused on redoing the landscaping in my yard.  My dreams, teeming with brilliant colors and detail on occasion had to do with smells in my house and actual events like entertaining – all with a new décor as the backdrop of course.  These dreams came almost every single night and invariably left me fraught with anxiety upon waking each morning.  You see, night after night these dreams reminded me each morning that my house was out of kilter.  Why you wonder?  It’s because these dreams began soon after my marriage split up and believe you me they plagued me for years.  What I was “working” on in my dream state was clearly symbolic of the work I was doing on my interior self.  Feverishly each night as I slept I was trying to work through a renovation of my house in order to get back on track and feel balanced and well.  Funny thing though – a dear friend and counselor I know, Joyce Hennessy and I have had conversations about having dreams about houses.  She said that she has had many clients going through traumatic events such as divorce that have recurring dreams of cleaning their houses over and over again.  (Symbolic for cleaning up the mess or messes in life.)  But, my nightly dreams of redecorating were new to her.  Which obviously means that the “redecorating” in my dreams had other meaning- like maybe my home décor needed changing for other psychological reasons?!?

I am happy to say that for the last two or three years I have been free of these dreams.  I no longer have a single itty-bitty dream of 2831 Giverny Drive and hallelujah, what a blessing.  But, I had a conversation the other day with someone that brought all this back to me.  One of our projects for B&A Interiors was recently selected for a magazine article and so the writer interviewed me about my design philosophy.  I found myself explaining the principles of what I call “Psychology of the Home” and how important it is to create space for yourself that is not only peaceful and beautiful but is also the outward expression of who you are.  After I got off the phone it hit me like a ton of bricks.  That’s really what I was doing in my dreams.  In my dreams I was desperately trying to tell my psyche that my house didn’t match who I was and that it needed to become the true outward expression of myself.

Mind you, within a few days of becoming separated I began to change things in my house.  For example, as I mentioned in an earlier post, Our Homes Must Express Our True Essence, I had the landscapers remove a huge River Birch that was overtaking the front of my house completely obscuring the view outside.  Simply removing that tree changed the look of my house and said, “Hello world, here I am”.  Talk about liberating!  But for the most part it took a few years for me to fully express myself in my sanctuary and feel balanced through and through.  Along the way, I began to understand part of what I was doing in my clients’ homes.  I realized I was harmonizing their space with their personalities much like I did my own house.  Really, really cool!

Which takes me back to my interview with the writer of the magazine article.  I gave her some of the back-story of my clients, Katie and Seth, two young and very busy professionals who had a desire to create a beautiful space to live in that reflected who they are.  While talking to her I told her how happy they are now with their newly rehabbed uptown condo and that they can’t wait to come home to it every night after work.

Living Beautifully + Living Peacefully = Living Well

I happen to believe there are no coincidences in life.  This means that the dreams that plagued me for years were meant to teach me something about myself.  And, to take it a step further, I believe that the wisdom I gleaned from the dreams was to be shared with others in their own personal spaces.  That’s why I came up with the model I call “Homespace Coaching”.  Think of it as a formula for successful wellness.  Living beautifully (through choosing décor to fit your unique personality) plus living peacefully (through simple changes in how you live in your space) equals living well.

I live an incredibly blissful life.  I am well and whole.  I believe that my road to wellness truly began when I realized that everything begins in the home.  Sure, all the other things I do for myself like exercise, meditating and prayer enhance my life.  But the truth is, feeling alive and complete in my house created a home for me to thrive in and be well.

Through my dreams during a very painful and traumatic time in my life I was given a gift.  I was given the gift of awareness of the need to create for myself space that honors my true essence.  And now I am paying it forward by sharing this awareness with others.

Do yourself a favor – make sure you house is a home that gives you beauty and peace.  It’s the best wellness plan out there.

To wellness…

Conscious Living

Somewhere along the road of life I realized the deep, deep connection our homes we live in have to our being HOMES.  LIPH began as a way for me to write and speak to others about this connection of Home to our HOMES.  As a decorator I know first hand the beauty that we can create in our homes and furthermore, I clearly get the importance of making our space reflect our individual uniqueness.

B&A Interiors website

Our new website!

Recently my company launched a new look for our website.  By the way, a great big shout out to my fab team of designers that made it happen, Sean Kalooky and John Baxter of Big Sushi.  You guys truly created a look on the site that reflects our personal “branding” of our company.  (Check us out at www.bainteriors.com.)

Anyway, my point to this is that now that our new website has launched I feel I’m further on the road to fulfilling my dream of using stories of people, places and things that I’ve connected with to communicate to others the beauty of life- both in our spatial homes and our being HOMES.  I blog on the B&A website about our spatial homes specific to design and decor work.  LIPH incorporates HOME in all its interpretations – our spatial home, our being HOME and our Earth home.  I feel blessed to be able to share with others ways to live in peace and harmony through what I write, what I speak and what I design and decorate.  Honestly, I’ve had some really unusual experiences and chance encounters (some would make great story line for Lifetime TV) that have taught me valuable lessons of life.  In fact, if my son-in-law has told me once, he’s told me a gazillion times that I am a magnet for encounters out of the norm!  I believe that in sharing these encounters as stories in a way that blends Home and HOME, you can learn from these experiences as well.  I hope so anyway!

Part of my message in both my writing and my design work is what I refer to as “Conscious Living”.  I absolutely positively believe that in both spaces (Home and HOME) it is vital to your essence that you live consciously.  Living consciously allows you to live in perfect harmony – with yourself, with others, with mankind and yep, with our Earth home.

What do I mean to live consciously? I love vocabulary so let me start with a definition.

Conscious: Fully aware of or sensitive to something

Clearly, it’s important to have consciousness – of whatever the experience or situation.  Being conscious means you are feeling, understanding and honoring the situation- yep, you’re fully alive!  And, I believe that in order to live in perfect harmony we must live consciously in both homes.  But, it’s a clear choice to do so.  How to do it?

Conscious Living in your Home

Here’s a way to live consciously in your Home

Here’s a way to live consciously in your Home

Living consciously within your spatial home is fairly simple.  It just takes desire, determination and dedication.  Examples of ways to achieve this range from caring about the Earth and how you incorporate this into how you live in your home, how you act in your home and how you decorate your home.  Here’s my top ten ways to achieve conscious living in your home:

  1. Make your home a “No Shoe Zone” to shoes worn outside.
  2. “Go Green” every way that you can.
  3. Bring Fresh Air into your home regularly.
  4. Reduce Noise Pollution.
  5. Reduce Waste.
  6. Buy locally grown and locally raised foods.
  7. Plant a garden each year and better yet, make it organic.
  8. Reduce Conspicuous Consumption.
  9. Reduce Clutter.
  10. Decorate your home as a unique expression of yourself.

Conscious Living in your HOME

Living consciously within yourself, your being HOME is vital to your essence in ways that greatly affect everything in your life.

Jimmy consciously living his life

Jimmy consciously living his life

The best way to consciously live in your being HOME is to honor who you are and live your life accordingly.  One way to do this is to choose a career that expresses who you are.  My son Jimmy, a lover of the outdoors and in particular, fly-fishing has done just that.  His work mirrors his passion for the outdoors!  Another way to live consciously is to respect who and what you are and freely express it.  Be yourself!  As I’ve mentioned in many of my posts, I learned this for myself after a chance encounter on a plane in 2006.  Believe me, that encounter was a defining moment in my life.  It brought me the clarity I needed to live consciously- yep, absolutely positively fully alive embracing who I am on every level.  I will forever be grateful for the experience!

Living consciously in one home affects the other homes in your life.   It’s kind of like that domino thing you know. Your spatial home, your being HOME, your earth home – they are all intricately connected to each other and so the transition from one to the next must be smooth for proper balance to be obtained in your life and quite frankly, the lives of all you come in contact with.

Take the opportunity today to evaluate your life and ask yourself how consciously you are living.  Whatever you determine, I do know that there is more bliss for yourself and those around you if you are living it fully alive!  So, just do it ~ in your home and your HOME!

To conscious living…

Design From An Architect’s View

I spent some time the other day with an Architect that I greatly admire.  We quickly got into a philosophical discussion on Design.  Interested to pick his brain to gain some knowledge of how he views Home Design (his design work is stellar by the way), I asked him an opening question and prepared myself to sit back and listen.

My question was this:  “How do you approach designing a home for someone?”  Over an hour later after he finished talking I realized this man had given me more than a wealth of knowledge – he had given me a chance to deeply connect with him in a way that I wasn’t expecting.  But, hold that thought while I tell you what he said in answer to my question…

I’ve known this man for many, many years and have followed his work as often as I’ve been able to.  I know he excels in several areas of Architecture – Church Design and Residential Home Design being two examples.  He’s even designed a Women’s Prison, which I find utterly fascinating having a degree in Criminal Justice myself.  I thought I knew this man’s philosophy and I knew his mantra, “Design with Dignity”.  But, as I sat there and listened to him it got harder and harder for me to sit and only listen.  Everything he said absolutely positively mirrored my own design philosophy.  Caught up in an avalanche of emotions with goose bumps erupting up and down my arms and bubbles of laughter wanting to burst forth from my mouth, I found myself impatiently waiting for my turn to talk.  Word for word, everything this man said echoed my own design philosophy and I wanted to shout out, “Yes, this is exactly how I approach decorating a home.”

So similar are our styles in our professions and who knew until now?  For example, he told me that he never takes notes in the initial meetings with new clients.  Ditto.  We both keep everything in our heads.  And, I understood completely what he meant when he said,

“I listen intently to the client and quickly begin to understand better than the client what he/she is asking for.  I leave the meeting with all my notes stored carefully in my head and then go to my drawing board to put onto paper what I see in my head.  I give them what they don’t even know to ask for.”

Ditto again.

Then he continued, “My design tells a story.  The story is about the person or persons the space is being designed for.  In telling the story, the design becomes sensual so that every sense comes alive in the space.”

Now  – as a storyteller myself, I got it.  And ditto again.  When I design and decorate the interior spaces for a client, I, too tell a story about how and what makes this person tick.  That’s why I never want any two spaces to look alike.  As humans we are much like snowflakes – no two are the same so no two spaces should be the same.  Uniqueness – that’s where the beauty is and yep, that’s where the story is!

This man’s next words were more personal as he started telling me about the home he is designing for himself and his wife.  He readily admitted to me the agony of doing this, as working for someone else is so much easier.  It dawned on him that he needed to approach the project seeing the two of them as “the clients” and so late one night (while his wife was away) he wrote the story of their life together to begin conceptualizing the design.  He of course, is an Architect.  She is a Master Gardener.  Hence, he titled the story, “An Architect and a Gardner”.  I asked him if later he would email me the notes he wrote to tell their story.  He sent them to me a few days later with a quick note telling me that more than a story, his notes were a poem with phrases weaving together the parts of both of them that would be blended into the design plan.  He also sent me a sketch – the original sketch he drew to visually show what his words described.

If I wasn’t already blown away from my conversation with this man, I certainly was after I read his words and reviewed his sketch he emailed me.  What a beautiful story I saw in his words – the absolute spot on understanding he had of how to marry their two chosen careers into the design of their home honoring both of them in such an awesome way.  Poetic phrases to describe who they are, I hope you enjoy reading a portion of his poem yourself…

An Architect and a Gardener

A Life Together

A Transition In Life Together – A New Home

Sharing The Desire To Live Inside-Live Outside

   A House To Live Inside/A Garden To Live Outside

 

The Site… Offering Wonderful Vistas & Views

                   Springs, Creeks, Rivers, Lakes

 

The Residence

                A Continuation of Pathways/Entry

               A Sense Of “Arrival”

              A “Parkway” Setting

             A Transition From “Manmade” To “Handmade”

             A Transition From The “Required” To The “Desired”

            An Active Place Offering A “Canvas” For Continued

            Architectural Stories And Gardening – Always

          “Works-in-Progress”

 

An Architect and his twin

I have to tell you something about the conversation I had with this man. You see I shared my mother’s womb with him.  Yep, he’s my fraternal twin brother.  I’ve known him since the beginning of time – literally.  And yet, this unexpected philosophical discussion changed my entire relationship with him.  What started out as a question of how he worked turned into a defining moment in both our lives.  There we sat, the two of us middle aged and soon turning fifty-six and for the first time we both understood how deeply alike and connected we are.  How awesome life is!

If you’re looking for a moral to my story (since there usually is), there’s actually two for you.  First, let your home tell your story and let it creatively express your uniqueness in both the structural design as well as the interior design.  Second, take the time to really listen and take the time to really talk to the people around you that you care about.  Deeper connections are always ready for the taking.  I know.

To you Craig…

Please take the time to visit our new website for B&A Interiors by going to www.bainteriors.com. We just launched a new look and I hope you’ll like it!  And now that it has launched, I’m back on track writing again for LIPH.  I thank each and every one of you that takes the time to read the words that pour from my heart on LIPH.  Please keep reading and sharing your comments.  

Using Visual Cues In Home Décor

Everywhere we turn there are visual cues for us.  Driving along the interstate there are billboards after billboards – especially if you are nearing “South of the Border” in Dillon, South Carolina.  Anyone traveling to the beaches in this area knows what I mean- billboards advertising the retail establishments of “South of the Border” are one after the other, literally. I’ve heard there are about 175 billboards advertising for it.  Then there’s the visual cues on the screen at the movie theatres showing people eating yummy treats from the concession stands to wet your appetites and thirsts and compel you to purchase these things before the movie starts.  Drive-in movies were the big thing when I was growing up and somewhere I heard that within the movies there were even visual cues that were so quick they were seen only on the subliminal level, meant to get us to the concession stand for popcorn and treats without even knowing it.  My family – we brought our own. My mom would pop up a huge grocery bag of popcorn and load the cooler for all of us to enjoy while we sat in the station wagon watching two back-to-back flicks.

Anyway, back to visual cues.  Visual cues are a type of sensory cue that work on both the conscious mind as well as the sub-conscious mind to affect us in some way.  Some visual cues (such as the ones at the movies) are meant to entice on a short-term basis.  Others such as the arrows on elevators are meant to instruct.  (They still don’t properly instruct me!)  Regardless of what the visual cue is for, it’s clear that they affect us.

I’m sure most of you over the years have created visual cues in your homes.  If you have children you have at some point most likely posted “Potty Charts” or “Good Behavior Charts”. I had a doorframe in my house where we kept a penciled measuring chart of each of the kid’s growth progress as they grew.  Each line marked the new height and date.  It was wonderful to look at over the years and reminisce and then really, really hard to leave when we moved on to another space!

But, what I’m talking about is a much subtler form of visual cues and is actually part of your decor.  Meant to be part of the décor, these types of visual cues affect the subconscious level of the mind and make you feel good in ways you don’t realize.  Here are some great ways to decorate with visual cues to bring good vibes into your space:

  • Have an area such as a decorative chalkboard to write daily inspirational messages to yourself, your family and guests.  My daughter-in-law, Kathleen painted the entire wall of her mudroom in chalkboard paint.  She writes her grocery list there, her “to do,” list, Ben’s “honey-do list” and friends can write fun comments on it when they visit.  This wall is like a living history wall of the goings on in the Aliff abode and continuously creates happiness.
  • Display a collection that gives you instantaneous feel good vibes such as a wall of crosses.  Several of my nieces do this in their homes, a tradition passed down from their mother, Patty.  This “wall of crosses” has even spilled over into other family members homes such as my niece, Marli’s home.  What a lovely way to constantly observe one’s faith, reflect on it and feel the calmness wash over you!
  • Find a decorative plaque of a positive quote that speaks personally to you and hang it somewhere in your space that you regularly see.  Or hang a piece of decorative art such as a clock I saw at a lake home recently.  The clock was stuck on 5:00.  Talk about instant smiles and instant relaxation.  (And thirst maybe?!?)
  • Accessorize with decorative pillows that have special meaning to you.  Pillows with whimsical quotes are examples that bring on the smiles.

One of the most heartwarming visual cues I have seen in a long time is in the home of a family friend, Jennifer.  Jennifer lost her sister a few years ago and has memorialized her love for her with a frame that includes a quote about sisters.  It reads,

“Sisters…

           from childhood memories to grown up dreams”

Cameron Triggs Photography

Cameron Triggs Photography

This visual cue speaks volumes of love and every time I see it I smile and feel gentle chill bumps erupt all over my body – a sure sign from the heavens above if you ask me!

Marli’s wall of crosses

Marli’s wall of crosses

The sky’s the limit on ways to infuse affirming visual cues in your home décor.  After all, each and every one of us can use more positive in our lives.  Our homes are our sanctuaries, meant to vitalize and revitalize us for living in the outside world.  Take every opportunity to create feel good vibes in your space, subtle decorative visual cues being one of them. Your heart, mind, body and soul will thank you and your entire being will blossom from the wonderful surroundings.  I guarantee it!

To loving life…

Using The Color Green In Home Decor

It’s springtime so open your front door or simply gaze out the window and what color do you see?  Unless you look up, chances are you’re seeing the color Green – Nature’s very own!  Yep, springtime is the perfect season to witness Nature’s predominant color in its entire splendor.  And with all the feel good vibes that come with the green of spring, it’s no wonder that the color Green itself has positive emotional impact.

Green:

A secondary color on the color spectrum, Green is a blend of the primary colors of Yellow and Blue.  Green symbolizes Health, Well-being, Prosperity and Life.  Green is the color most favored by people in the helping and healing fields.

The psychology of Green

As I wrote in my post, The Power Of Color, the use of color is a form of non-verbal communication.  The color choices you make in your space greatly impact it and as I discussed in the post, colors not only symbolize certain feelings, they have the power to evoke certain feelings as well.

Studies have shown that Green has its own effects on us.  For example, using green creates a calming and soothing atmosphere.  Here are some other effects Green has on us:

  • Helps to alleviate Depression
  • Reduces Anxiety
  • Reduces Fear
  • Nurtures us
  • Fills us with a sense of balance and harmony

It’s no wonder that many hospitals and medical establishments use Green as the color of choice for walls and fabrics!

Several people I know infuse shades of green in their own homespaces.  Oddly enough they are all in the medical field!  My childhood friend, Julie has soft sage walls in her dining room and splashes of green throughout her entire homespace.  A dedicated nurse and a person full of compassion for others, I’m not the least bit surprised that she loves Green.  Then there’s my dear friend Jolie.  She uses the color Green in her homespace and her office is furnished with beautiful green sofas and club chairs.  Immediately upon walking into her office you feel a sense of peace and calm – important for anyone that seeks out her medical expertise.  Last but not less, one of my niece’s, Jackie uses green in her home décor as well.  And yep, she’s also in the medical field- she’s a speech pathologist and in her personal life she’s always smiling, always upbeat and one that couldn’t hurt a fly!

So knowing that these three wonderfully caring individuals are drawn to the color Green gives me pause to consider the question of the chicken and the egg – you know, which came first?  Did a childhood love of green subconsciously draw each of them into career paths of helping and healing or vice versa?  Now, stay on the path of connecting the color Green with how we act and react and that flat brings out the wanna be psychologist in me and makes me say…

Go green in your space

Infuse the color Green in your homespace.  After all, if green can have positive effects on us, for heavens sake, we all should consciously incorporate it into our decor.  There are a myriad of ways you can do this without going over the top or ignoring the color palette that truly speaks to you such as incorporating it into throw pillows and accessories, but the easiest and for me the absolute best way to add the color Green to your space is with living plants.  Bringing green into your homespace in such a natural way by far changes the energy of your space – not to mention the health of your space (as discussed in a post, Top Twelve Best Indoor Plants For Purifying The Air).

Live green in your space

In recent years it has become the politically correct thing to go green by physically caring more for our environment in ways such as reducing water usage, reducing electrical usage, reducing gas consumption and of course, by recycling all that we can.  Our planet and humanity just cannot keep handling all our excesses, uses and abuses.  Every day the news gives us more ideas of how to physically care more for our environment.  But as a decorator and a homespace coach, what I call a “psychologist of the home”, I cannot stress enough the importance of psychologically caring more for our environment, what I call “living green”.  By going green in our home décor, we live green by reducing anxiety, feeling calmer, more peaceful and relaxed.  By going green we live green and can more easily live in perfect harmony within ourselves as well as with greater mankind.

Living green connects us to Nature

Richard Louv, author of the book, Last Child in the Woods and his most recent book, The Nature Principle, has some very compelling thoughts on the importance of nature in our lives.  He calls Nature the best tonic we can find and says,

“The more high-tech we become, the more nature we need.”

I emphatically agree with Mr. Louv and have learned this for myself.  There’s no better medicine for me than to get outdoors and connect with Nature.  That’s why I also know firsthand the importance of bringing nature indoors as much as possible and so I highly recommend that everyone do this.  By infusing shades of green in our décor theme, we subconsciously connect to Nature.  It’s just that simple.

Early this morning I walked five miles at the park.  I was overwhelmed with the panoramic view of green around me.  With many of the trees in varying degrees of sprouting new leaves, the shades of green seemed endless.  I felt like Julie Andrew’s character, Maria in The Sound of Music as I realized my arms began stretching out to encompass the beauty surrounding me.  No, I can’t sing, but I sure come alive surrounded in green!

To living green…

Artfully Celebrating Family Life In Your Home Décor

As a decorator I have my own design and décor philosophy that includes some critical components to creating a beautiful sanctuary for my clients to live in.   Making what I call “positive impact statements” is part of this philosophy.  As I wrote in a recent post, Positive Impact Statements In Your HOME, one way to make a positive impact statement in your home is to artfully display family photographs.  Without a doubt displaying family photos is one of the things on my list that can take a home from ordinary to extraordinary.  Why you ask?  First of all, displaying your family life in this way is unique in that no one else will have the same pictures.  Everyone can have accessories from Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn, but your family photos personalize your space.  Second, displaying family photos gives your space comfy, cozy warmth regardless of your décor style, as these personal glimpses of family life are art from the heart.  Finally, displaying family photographs is what I call “decorating with intention”.  In other words, the family pictures are displayed with the specific intention of artfully enhancing your homespace décor.

Like any other form of decorating you do in your homespace, decorating with family photography needs to be well planned and well thought out.  Look through your homespace.  Pay attention to where you are displaying family photographs and ask yourself these important questions:

  • Do some of the frames look outdated or badly worn? Unless you are intentionally using antique or “repurposed” frames for your pieces, be aware that outdated and damaged frames will absolutely, positively take away from your artful arrangement of family photos.
  • Do the frames fit the photographs they hold properly?  Though this question might sound silly, you would be amazed at how often I go into homes and immediately notice that family pictures have been put in frames willy-nilly without really taking the time to carefully select the appropriate frame.  Remember that decorating (even with family photos) is in the details.
  • Are you displaying family photos in too many places and spaces?  If you truly want your family photos to become a part of your décor, choose very specific places and spaces to display them.  Two areas I specifically like are: a focal place such as a hallway wall and a focal space such as a piano, sofa table or bookcase.  Remember however my decorating mantra, “less is more” and steer clear of becoming over zealous with places and spaces you display your family photos.

A Wall of Family Life

A glimpse of the Balzer-Solganik family life

A glimpse of the Balzer-Solganik family life

My personal favorite way to display family photos is to create what I call a “wall of family life”.  Over the years I have enjoyed creating many of these in the homes of friends and clients. Here are some points to ponder if you embark on your own creation:

  • Consider a theme for your display. My favorite theme is to use all black and white photos with black frames. By keeping to a theme you achieve more than just a way to display family photos.  You also create unique art to accent the beauty of your homespace.
  • Consider arranging the pieces to create a family timeline or story.  By doing this, your display becomes a conversation piece to return to over and over again.  Best of all you can mix and match frames and photo content since the idea is to simply tell the story of your family.  My mother did this in our home growing up and believe me, the frames and the photos were a total hodge-podge.  But it worked!  And with six kids and dozens of grandkids my mother created a look that told a story on the wall of each family as the Balzer Clan grew and grew.  Talk about creating a space for walks down Memory Lane!   Talk about creating a space for interesting conversations!
  • Consider the overall look of your arrangement and what you want to express. Carefully consider what you are trying to achieve with the display.  Be as conscious of the pictures and the frames you choose as you would be when choosing what knick-knacks get placed where in your homespace.  Also, remember your audience that will be seeing your photos and thoughtfully choose which ones you share.  (For example, more intimate family photos such as “pregnant belly shots” make beautiful art in more private areas of your home.)
  • Consider hiring a pro.  If you are planning to display a large collection of family photos I highly recommend that you have your display hung professionally.  The average John or Jane doesn’t have the knowledge to properly hang a large grouping of frames of varying sizes.
  • Consider making a trial run of your display.  I highly recommend this.  Arrange your framed photos on an open space such as the floor so you can visualize what the grouping will look like on the wall.
  • Consider leaving what I call “room to grow” in your collage of photos.  This is particularly important if you have a growing family.

Have fun with this wonderful way to make a positive impact statement in your home.  You, your family and all those that get treated to your display will enjoy celebrating your family life, true art from the heart for years to come!

To celebrating family…

Carroll Family Life with room to grow

Carroll Family Life with room to grow

How To Best Display Children’s Artwork In Your Home

Almost everyone that has children also has the dilemma of what to do with all their artwork that they either bring home from school or that they do on their own time at home.   Children are proud of their work and nothing can bring a smile to their faces quicker than a parent proudly displaying their creativity.  To this day I have files in my cabinets of the artwork my children did over the years!  When my kids were young, I felt the need to display their art on the refrigerator so that they knew how proud I was of each new artistic endeavor completed and ready to be displayed for all to see.  Looking back, I remember feeling like my kitchen always looked messy and that at any given time during the day I was straightening, arranging and rearranging the pictures boldly overtaking the front of the fridge.  This might not seem like an issue to some of you, but I was and still am a tad bit on the obsessive side of being a neat freak.  Having the front of my refrigerator crammed with artwork all the time got on my nerves to put it bluntly.  But, I just didn’t see a better way to display their works of art from the heart.

With age comes wisdom or so they say and so clever me, once my children were grown and I wanted to find ways to display their childhood artwork, I finally got smart!  You could say that I also had one of those “if I had known then what I know now” moments for sure.   Instead of on the front and side(s) of the refrigerator, I came up with the idea to display their childhood artwork in other spaces that not only made for Walks down Memory Lane by highlighting years gone by, but also added immensely to my décor.  In fact, I will go a step further and say that this newfound way to display my children’s artwork became an art form in and of itself and piqued the interest of anyone visiting my home – a conversation piece just waiting to happen!  After I met my David and we joined households, our home became forever more a “Brady Bunch” of artwork.  It makes us both happy-sappy to see our children’s early years so beautifully portrayed in our homespace.

Children’s art speaks volumes from what is in their hearts.  I say honor this and display their art in your homespace in ways that make them smile and at the same time that is pleasing to the eye.  Simply choose very specific ways and places to do so.  Here are three of the best ways I have found to achieve this in my own homespace:

  • In the Laundry Room/Mudroom
  • On Bookshelves
  • In the garage

In the Laundry Room/Mudroom

Addison and Austin’s special art

Addison and Austin’s special art

Being a utilitarian space, most of us forget to decorate our laundry rooms and mudrooms. Yet, much of our time is spent in both spaces.  Years back I decided to frame selected pieces of my children’s early art in floating acrylic frames.  This was easy to do myself and very affordable.  You can do this for yourself by going to retailers such as Michael’s or Hobby Lobby.  Simply choose appropriate size frames for your artwork.  (By the way, using this type of frame gives you the flexibility of changing out the artwork over the years as your children age.)  Another way to display children’s art is on a corkboard that you can continue to change and update.  I have a handmade, hand-painted corkboard that traveled with us from Charlotte to Chicago.  In fact, I had the movers literally pack the corkboard exactly as it was so that once I unpacked it I had an instant connection to Charlotte.  You see we have our step-grandchildren’s works of art on it that they have made especially for David and me.  Addison and Austin’s art from the heart is the first thing we see when we enter our home from the garage.  By the way, I cannot wait to add our precious granddaughter, Ansley’s first piece of artwork on it once she draws something for us!  Talk about a love connection…

Gavin and Logan O’Connell’s Artwork on an old door

Gavin and Logan O’Connell’s Artwork on an old door

Here’s another example – one of my fave niece’s, (OK, so all my nieces and nephews- all 20 or so of them – are my faves) Jackie O’Connell has a brilliant way she displays Gavin and Logan’s artwork in the mudroom.  She has an old door hanging on one wall that she puts all their artwork on.  Jackie and Scott’s mudroom is the entry into their home from the garage where the kids put their book bags and shoes each day.  What a wonderful way to start and end the day viewing such personal art from the heart!  Plus, displaying their work this way makes things neat and tidy all around!

On Bookshelves

I am a lover of books so no matter where I live I make sure I have plenty of bookshelves for my books whether they are built-in or freestanding.  For example, when David and I moved to Chicago our home had a wonderfully large bonus room that I turned into a home office.  On one long wall I have placed bookcases from IKEA – inexpensive but classy looking – and mixed in the books I have arranged bits and pieces of our children’s artwork.  What fun to see these pieces of art from the heart each and every day I work at home.  Nothing could be better if you ask me!

Jimmy Aliff’s self-portrait

Jimmy Aliff’s self-portrait

In the Garage

The Blake Family Laundry Room

The Blake Family Art

I love to decorate all spaces in my home and I recommend to my clients that they do the same thing.  The garage is a great place to display works of art as well as sports pictures of your children through the years.  In the garage I tend to keep to the outdoor theme regardless of what pieces of my children’s art or childhood history I hang.  Whatever you do in this space, make it family-friendly and also make it a wonderful greeting to you as you enter your home and sanctuary away from the daily grind.

Regardless of where you display your children’s precious artwork  ~ true art from the heart ~ give it what it deserves.  Give it a place of recognition.  Furthermore, let it become part of your décor in a way that beckons others to look at it, marvel over it and make them want to head home to make space in their place for their own children’s works of art.

To children and their endless ability to love…