Thursday, January 28, 2010

Design Friday: Balance

My feature of the Elements and Principles of Design continues. Today I am covering the principle of Balance. It's easy to understand the concept of objects physically balancing, but perhaps a little more tricky to apply it visually. It's really the same concept though. Balance can be applied in furniture arrangements, mantle accessories, wall decor, etc. It is achieved in a room by arranging components symmetrically, asymmetrically, or radially. (On a side note, I would have loved to have had more time to hunt down more examples to illustrate each idea, but I think these do a good job.)

Symmetrical balance is basically a mirror image. It is easy to achieve and contributes a sense of order, predictability to a room, and has a more formal/refined feel.

Symmetrical Balance. If you divided the room in half, it would mostly be a mirror image of itself. Also, note how the coffee table appears to be small in scale without much mass, despite its actual size. Photo from April 2007 "Architectural Digest".

Asymmetrical balance is using objects of differing size to achieve a balanced scheme. This is a bit trickier to obtain, and takes a lot more practice to achieve. It involves arranging objects of different mass and scale to form a pleasing arrangement. Asymmetrical balance creates a more informal feeling in a room.

Asymmetrical balance. While the furniture is arranged symmetrically, notice the groupings on the mantle are not. They are arranged in a way that the heights and colors of object are balancing, as opposed to being identical sizes, etc. Photo from May 2007 "Architectural Digest".

Radial balance is balance found in objects radiating from a central point.

Radial balance. The furniture is arranged around the coffee table. A dining table would also be a good example of radial balance. Photo from May 2007 "Architectural Digest"

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Got Juice?

"In my experience I have never found it necessary to avoid a social situation because of the Word of Wisdom. If there wasn’t an easy way or a humorous way, there was never anything wrong with the direct way: 'No, thanks.'"

This is a quote from a 1984 Ensign article, "Observing the Word of Wisdom- Politely" by Elder Robert E. Wells, that I came across some time ago. I thought he had some good ideas for navigating social situations (that almost always include alcohol) with nonmember friends or business associates that do not have our same standards, without being awkward or preachy about it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The People's Seat

Well, I know I'm a week late posting this but I still think it's significant. As everyone knows by now, Scott Brown won the Senate election in Massachusetts. During his victory speech, I was impressed by his point that, "this Senate seat belongs to no one person and no political party - and as I have said before, and you said loud and clear today, it is the people’s seat." (which he also made clear at the Massachusetts Senate debate when moderator, CNN's David Gergen, referred to the Mass. senate seat as "Kennedy's" seat). Isn't it great to live in a country whose leader's are not determined by hereditary secession?

While it seems that the current health care bill's progress has been slowed (luckily!) I hope that we can use the steam we've built up to find a wise solution for our nation's health care woes.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Super Bowl Party in an Alternate Universe

Just in case you thought "going green" only applied to cars, cleaning agents, and holding your breath, you can think again. In January 22-24th's "USA Weekend", Vicki Kriz enlightens us on "How to host an eco-friendly Super Bowl party". The absurdity of the title alone is beautiful. Somehow, though, I don't think Vicki needs to worry so much about this. Her article seems mostly irrelevant to a man's way of thinking or concern... at least the men I know. But just for fun, let's dissect her suggestions:
  • Send an e-vite rather than paper invitations (I know my husband spends weeks planning the layout, coordinating scrapbook papers, and hunting for the perfect di-cuts for his invitations. Thank you Vicki. This will really take some pressure off my guy, not to mention help us save the world at the same time. Whew!)
  • Downplay the decor, steering away from big, earth killing, Super Bowl banners and focusing more on centerpieces of fresh fruit or flowers. (Are you joking?)
  • Go organic and local, serving beer from your local brewery ("It's a great conversation piece!"), and help your guests eat healthier by serving vegetarian "junk food" like meat-free chili or vegan cookies (Somehow, "junk food" takes on a whole new meaning when you throw "vegetarian" in front of it. Maybe I should try out my famous "Broccoli Bread" too. Our guests will be so grateful for our help.)
  • Avoid paper products, put out recycle bins for guests to use, and "do a little homework to find out what you can and cannot recycle". Ask friends to bring their own containers for leftovers, and find a homeless shelter that will accept your leftover food. (Thank you for giving me loads of dishes to do, Vicki. I'm new at this... do you also suggest that I lecture my guests every time they throw their aluminum can in the wrong bin? Is that grounds for dismissal from the party? Well, since I'll be serving crap food anyway, I better plan on forcing people to take it home. And I have a sneaking suspicion that the homeless want nothing to with meatless chili and vegan cookies. In fact, I'm pretty sure shelters turn those away...)
So there you go. With a little planning and forethought you can throw a party that will earn a reputation that attracts friends back year after year... unless they have previous plans.

But hey, who needs friends when you're saving the world?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Design Friday: Scale and Mass

This week I'm covering the Principle of Scale and the Element of Mass. I'm covering them together because they are pretty closely related). Scale is the actual or perceived size of a room, piece of furniture, pattern, etc. It is also one of the most abused principles.
The most relative example of Scale in an interior is
furniture. Furniture should be the appropriate scale for the size of a room. If you have a huge room, dainty furniture is going to look silly and dwarfish. You could also apply it to wall decor. If you have a huge empty wall, a small scaled painting will look really out of place by itself.

The ottoman and chair are the appropriate scale for each other, but look oddly small next to the bed and side table.

There are ways to play with scale though, and that's where Mass comes into play. Mass is the actual or perceived weight, density, or relative solidity of a form. If you have a smaller scale couch, you can actually make it appear more massive by covering it in a darker color (and vice versa). A glass coffee table will appear lighter scaled then a solid coffee table of the same size. Furniture on legs will appear less massive then furniture that is solid to the floor.

The above table's glass top, thin legs, and light color make it appear light in scale and less massive, as opposed to the dark, solid wood, and bulkier table below.

Massing is another strategy to create the illusion of larger
scale. Massing is when you group furniture or objects together to create more mass. If you don't have a large picture for a large wall, you could group some pictures or objects together, and together they will appear to be the appropriate scale. If you have a small chair and a couch, you can group the chair with a side table and lamp, to give it a more appropriate scale.

Even a mass of frames the same size look heavier with a darker matting (below).

If you feel like you don't have an eye for appropriate scale or mass, just take time to observe store displays, model homes, etc. Compare the actual scale of objects to their surroundings, and notice how colors affect their perceived mass. Then play in your home. Also, sometimes taking pictures of arrangements and looking at the picture is easier to analyze than the arrangement itself.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

True Colors?

They say that moments of great crisis are the time you can judge a person's true character. If that's the case, I have reason to be concerned.
I have always felt confident that if I could survive growing up with brothers, I would be able to handle an intruder or attacker no problem, or that I would swiftly come to the rescue of another being assailed.
But, twice within the last week my husband has come home at an unexpected time and both times I was so startled by the door opening unexpectedly that I gasped/whimpered pathetically and froze in a cowering position while my heart nearly leaped from my body.
In addition, I remembered my reaction when a mouse came running out from under the refrigerator of our old apartment. I am not a squeamish girl, but before I knew what had happened, I found myself standing on one foot atop a kitchen chair while the mouse ran by me. As if- as my brother later pointed out- the mouse was seeking out my ankles to attack them.
Anyway, I've been reviewing these experiences and was disappointed in my lack of valor. I'm hoping to refine my instincts and presence of mind from that of defensive to offensive in surprising situations. My husband better watch out, or he just might find himself karate chopped in the neck the next time he comes home early!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

You Can Lead a Paperwhite to Water...

Towards the beginning of December, I was motivated by this article to force some paperwhite bulbs for display in our home. I have always wanted to do this and was excited to make my dream a reality. There's not much to it. You just buy bulbs from your local nursery and place them in a dish with gravel and water. It's pretty exciting that such little effort can produce such a beautiful display.

picture from Design*Sponge

It takes about 2 weeks for the bulbs to develop a root system, but once they do, they really take off. (You should actually probably start these in November, for them to be ready by December).

After about 6 weeks of care and anticipation, you will be rewarded with a beautiful floral display that did not cost much money to create at all.

And the blooms are just exquisite!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The House by the Side of the Road

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road-
It's here the race of men go by.
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are
Wise, foolish- so am I;
Then why should I sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

-Sam Walter Foss

Saturday, January 16, 2010


The next time you or your husband sit down to watch an NFL game, perhaps you'll find these facts interesting. The Wall Street Journal recently broke down how NFL games use their time on TV. I found it... enlightening.

67 minutes: Players standing around/huddling
60 minutes: Commercials
17 minutes: Replays
11 minutes: Actual playing time!
3 seconds: Cheerleaders

(**WARNING: If you present this information to your husband, you may be met with irritation and denial**)

Friday, January 15, 2010

Design Friday: The Elements and Principles of Design

Continuing with the idea of making design relevant in our own lives, I thought I'd take a break from the regular approach, and try to highlight the basic foundation of design, aka: the Elements and Principles of Design. (My main resource will be "Interiors: An Introduction" by Karla J. Nielson and David A. Taylor).
You might think you must have an innate ability to have good design sense, and if you weren't born with it you have no hope. I don't think that's necessarily true. An innate sense certainly helps, but I think with enough studying and practice, anybody can develop good design sense.
Design shows are fun to watch, but not always helpful in educating (at least the ones I've seen). If you know and understand the elements and principles, hopefully it can give you a way to verbalize what you like, don't like, or what's missing.

  • Scale
  • Proportion
  • Balance
  • Rhythm
  • Emphasis
  • Harmony
  • Space
  • Shape
  • Form
  • Mass
  • Line
  • Texture
  • Pattern
  • Light
  • Color
For the next 15 weeks, I'm going to take time each week to highlight each individual element or principle to help give a better understanding of what makes successful design. It'll be a good review for me anyway.

I hope I haven't bit off more than I can chew!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I have an ancestor whose wife died in childbirth. Years later, in discussing the subject in a letter to his estranged daughter (who survived the delivery but was later adopted) he expressed, "The anguish of soul that I felt at this time you may try to imagine. I was bereft of a tender companion, a feeling mother, a good housekeeper and one that I love and yet love the memory of her."

I've always thought she must have kept an immaculate house, for her housekeeping to be missed so dearly by her husband. Personally, I've always found this sentiment a tad bit unromantic. I mean.... in my passing, I wouldn't really want my housekeeping to be a major source of my husband's grief.

Luckily, I have the power to keep that from happening.

(I'm just kidding, mom)

Monday, January 11, 2010

Climb Every Mountain?

Two weeks ago we watched this 60 Minutes segment on "Birdmen". My son was fascinated by it and showed sincere excitement in pretending to be a Birdman (ready to take a leap from my mom's couch)- which led to a 10 minute lecture about gravity, not jumping head first from things, special flying suits, and the use of the phrase "We don't try that at home," about 10 times.

A few days later we saw an IMAX film about the Alps. What I thought would be a scenic film of Alpine beauty mingled with yodeling, was actually a fascinating documentary about a man who climbed to the summit of Mt. Eiger (of the Bernese Alps) 40 years after his father died attempting the same feat. It is 3 days of pure ice climbing- including sleeping on the edges of sheer drop offs and hanging from crumbly ledges with an ice pick. The film reenacts the father's fall to death, and also includes footage of the troubles and near falls that the present climbers encounter. It was pretty intense for my son to watch. So intense, in fact, that towards the end of the movie he leaned over and whispered to me, "I'm never going to be a mountain climber." I assured him that everything would be okay... and then I inwardly breathed a sigh of relief.

What movie shall we watch next...?

Friday, January 8, 2010

Design Friday: The Kitchen Faucet

This week I really wanted to discuss something that exemplified design's relevance in our daily lives. It's inspiring to study chairs and architecture, but I wanted to highlight something more practical. My attention was brought to my kitchen faucet.

Perhaps one of the most important places in our homes that good design is a requirement is the kitchen. The kitchen is such a busy place, it makes sense to put thought into the items you will be working with all day long. Really think about your needs and try to find something that will meet them. It is rewarding to have something that works just the way you need it to. Remember the mantra, "Form follows function".
I love my kitchen faucet. I never thought I could love a kitchen faucet, but I do, because it meets my needs. Here are some considerations for a kitchen faucet based on my experience (but everyone's needs are different). Let me count the ways...
1.) Handle: Those retro dual handle faucets are cute, but it doesn't make sense to me to have separate hot/cold handles at the kitchen sink. Turning on the water and adjusting the temperature with my wrist is so convenient when my hands have salmonella on them and I need to wash them.
2.) Pull-out Spray vs. Side Spray: Having the spray function pull out is so much more convenient than pulling it across the sink. Also, the sprayer is easily maneuverable (some are like little shower heads!)
3.) Faucet Height: The high goose neck makes handwashing large pans or pots or filling up a pitcher so simple.
4.) With those needs met, I love its clean lines (aka: form).

Good design can should be a part of even the most practical aspects of our lives. We are all worthy of good design in our lives, and since you have to buy something anyway- make sure you love it.
You'll be grateful every time you use it

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

For dinner last night, I made our all time favorite recipe for cold weather- Cincinnati Chili. My mom first introduced us to Cincinnati Chili when she came into town to help when my son was born. She picked up some seasoning packets during a layover in Cincinnati, and we were instant fans. It's rare we have a layover in Cincinnati, so luckily my mom found a recipe given to her from a former employee. Now we can make it whenever we get the hankering!

Words can not describe how delicious this recipe is. It is true comfort food. There are a lot of ingredients but most of them are spices, so there's little prep work. Just throw it all in the pot. Since it simmers for a couple of hours, your whole home fills up with the aroma- a fun way to surprise a husband home from a long day at work. So, for all of you out there suffering from the cold (and I'm pretty sure most everyone is) I share with you my recipe. Hopefully, you'll enjoy it as much as we do.

Cincinnati Chili
1 lb. ground beef
1 qt. water
6 oz. tomato paste
3 garlic cloves
5 bay leaves
1 onion chopped
2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. cumin
3 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp. allspice
1 1/2 tsp. vinegar

Crumble meat directly into water. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, and then simmer for 2 hours or until thick, stirring occasionally. Serve on spaghetti and top with cheddar cheese.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Happiness in Motherhood

Here are four questions and answers from a talk titled "Daughters of God" by Elder Ballard on simple ways young mothers can feel successful and happy in their demanding work. (I've simplified the answers into bullet points).

What can you do, as a young mother, to reduce the pressure and enjoy your family more?
  • Recognize the joy of motherhood comes in moments. Live in the moment.

  • Don't overschedule yourselves or your children.

  • Find time for yourself to cultivate your gifts and interests.

  • Pray, study, and teach the gospel.
What more can a husband do to support his wife, the mother of their children?
  • Show extra appreciation and give more validation for what your wife does each day.

  • Have a regular time to talk with your wife about each child’s needs and what you can do to help.

  • Give your wife a “day away” now and then.

  • Come home from work and take an active role with your family.
What can children, even young children, do?
  • Pick up toys and help with chores- without being asked.

  • Say "thank you" more often.

  • Put your arms around your mother and tell her you love her.
What can the church do?
  • Be especially watchful and considerate of the time and resource demands on young mothers and their families. Know them and be wise in what you ask them to do at this time in their lives

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Reinventing the Juicer

Last night I was looking through Better Homes and Gardens, when I came upon this gem of advice:

Really? Helllooo, haven't we evolved beyond the stage of using rocks as tools? How about THIS as an efficient way to juice something!

Or if we're going for the natural, "one with the lemon", electricity is lazy approach, at least give me something that won't cripple both of my hands and get me and my surroundings all sticky. Something like... say... this:

Life doesn't have to be difficult, and it doesn't make the juice taste any better if it is. Don't waste my time. Seriously.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Back to Reality

I was in a discount retail store the other day looking at all the leftover Holiday merchandise that was not chosen, and I thought to myself, "Isn't it funny how this stuff all had the glow of gift-potential before Christmas, and now it just looks sad?"

We had a great Christmas, welcomed in the New Year, and are now in the state of what I have come to think of as a "holiday hangover". The end of late nights, far too many sweets, routine thrown to the wind, fun to the point of exhaustion, and packing up Christmas decorations all have me feeling a little melancholy. Are there any home remedies for this?
Does vacation really have to end?