Toddler Decor for the Rest of Us

Michelle, from Peas Out Mama, is back, sharing some ideas for accessorizing with her son's books and toys to keep her valuables safe from her toddler. Take a read, I love her ideas as much as I enjoy her amusing style of expression.  As always, we'd love to hear your ideas, too!

In my last guest post, "Living With a Toddler in Your Living Room," I bemoaned my bare tables. Those poor, sad tables, accesssory-less, longing for some love and affection. After seeing a stack of my son's books hanging out on our living room end table, I became inspired and set out on a mission to find ways to intentionally incorporate his stuff into my home decor. After some careful book selection, I came up with this. Granted, it doesn't look anything like this as I type these words, but the idea is still there!

Board books kinda rock. No, seriously, who would've thought that Goodnight Moon made such a fabulous, functional coaster for a Super Bowl pina colada? Not that I'd know.

I then moved on to blocks. I love blocks. A lot. Like more than my kid. I grabbed a not-so-much used wooden salad bowl and voila!

Then on to Legos, also loved more by me. I took this beautiful basket (received as a wedding gift) out of the cabinet. I don't think this piece was intended to house Legos, but hey, things don't always end up as planned.

Just for kicks, I tried accessorizing my mantel with toys. I really like the results (stacking rings, Thomas the train, a sensory ball, and a glass vase filled with colored blocks), but they were oh so temporary. My son spotted it all and immediately started in with his demands: Want it! Want it! Also, the colors don't really work for my living room, so I was happy to oblige. Still, I think it's pretty cute.

In a quest to find some other ideas, I stumbled upon this. I have a thing for building toys (if you haven't noticed) and think this would look uber cool on a coffee table!

Or how about this next one? These look like vintage trucks probably not for playing with at this point, but could you imagine the fun factor with your kids' own trucks?

via Flickr

And here's another block display I love. Probably not something you'd let your shorty get her mitts on, but on a mantel or dining room table, it'd look adorable. I'm digging the muted colors, too.

Not feeling confident that displaying your tea set in reach of your kids or grandkids? My mom learned this lesson the hard way when my nieces and nephews had their way with her silver service. Yikes. Well, how about this little cutie?

Personally, I prefer something a bit more subdued. Like this:

Hmmm...I really like that set. Boy's second birthday is coming up and he would love this. What? It's not my fault he blurts out Mama get coffee every time we pull into the Dunkin's parking lot. This set would be a hit. Coffee, tea, whatever. It's all good.

In the spirit of fun, I had to share this next table with you. In addition to loving blocks, I also love xylophones. I may or may not have scored a xylophone one Christmas after sharing my love on facebook. Oh sure, technically my son's aunt and uncle got it for him. This table is awesome!

So do you think any of these ideas could work for you? Love 'em? Hate 'em? Have some cool ideas for accessorizing with toys? I'd love to hear them!

How To Choose An Area Rug

You've just purchased new furniture and your beginning to feel like your living room is almost perfect, but it seems to be missing something...... a rug!  Area rugs add texture and softness to a room while also giving you the opportunity to incorporate additional color or pattern but choosing the right might not come so easy to you. 

The two most important considerations that go into selecting an area rug for your space are size and material.  I want to give you some pointers, based on what my clients often report they struggle most with: how to determine the proper size and the best materials for your needs.

Jenny Keenan via Southern Living
Photo credits: Laurie W. Glenn
Area rugs are typically sold in one of several standard sizes.  These includes rugs as small as 2x3 or 4x6 to larger sizes such as 8x10 or 9x12.  In most rooms, one of the standard sizes should do the trick.  However, if you do need a custom size, your designer, decorator or local carpeting dealer will be able to create a custom bound area rug for you that is only limited by the width of the rug/carpet roll. [And in case its not obvious, yes, I can help you with this.]

Photo credits: Laurie W. Glenn 

An area rug is meant to finish a room and to draw all the pieces together.  To achieve this, the rug must be the right size.  A rug that is too small looks skimpy - I think we can all call to mind visions of rooms afflicted with this issue. An area rug that is too large covers too much of the flooring below, leaving you thinking, "you might as well have wall to wall carpeting".  The size of the rug will depend on the rooms function and the furniture in the space but here are some basic guidelines to help you win the sizing challenge: 
  • Bedrooms: you want at least three feet of rug on either side of the bed.
  • Dining rooms: a trick to figure this is to sit in the chair and pull it out, as you would in getting up to leave the table. What is that measurement? It usually ends up to equal the front to back measure of the chair plus about 12".   
  • Living rooms: you can choose to either have your sofa and chairs anchoring the rug half on and half off, or you can have everything completely on the rug.  It is a matter of personal preference, the size of the room and the placement of the furniture.  Sometimes I have left a minimal of 6" of floor around the perimeter in small spaces in larger spaces I've left 12" to 18" of floor space uncovered.

When all else fails and you still can't determine the best size for your space, you can use blue painters tape and simply tape off various sizes so that you can get a visual.  Works every time!

Once you've determined the sizing, the next big issue is the fiber content. Durability is an issue with all textile products, but especially with those that will be walked on!  

  • Sisal, jute, and seagrass rugs are a great look that continue to be a popular choice among many homeowners and designers.  They provide a rugged, textural look that is a fantastic contrast against both casual and more formal furnishings.  These natural fibers are eco-friendly and inexpensive, however, they are not the most comfortable material underfoot, do not stand up to high traffic over the years, and are not easy to clean so it is important to think carefully about the areas you want to use these. 
  • Wool rugs, as I discussed in a previous post, are amazingly durable and can last for decades, even in highly used areas of the home. Available in endless color and pattern options, you can opt for a solid that is basically bound carpet or an intricate oriental inspired pattern.  Let the rug serve as a neutral backdrop or take center stage.  Don't be afraid to try a colorful area rug on top of a rug for even more visual interest.
  • Synthetic rugs are also good options, especially if you are not ready to commit to a more expensive rug.  There are nylon and wool-nylon blends that are less expensive than natural fibers and also have other qualities in the pro list, including durability and stain resistance.  

Jeff Lincoln Interiors via Traditional Home

Remember when choosing an area rug for space, whether it is your dining room, bedroom, foyer, or living room, that the furniture and scale of the room should work with the size of the rug.  A rug that does not work can ruin the entire look of a room, while a rug that is perfectly proportioned with the other pieces can bring the whole room together and add another dimension of texture and comfort.

I'd love to hear from you; please let me know if these tips are helpful for your planning!

Wishing you success with your next rug purchase!


Storibook Designs: It all Began with the Overalls!

There is one question every new customer asks me, "how did you get started in this business?"  I've been sewing since I was a kid, somewhat out of necessity I think and somewhat due to my mothers' love of sewing. 


I am the 12th of 13 children and apparently, as you can see in the photo above, it was pretty difficult to keep 13 children clothed!  That is only partially true though.  The photo is pretty funny - and the overalls ridiculous -  but the truth is..... I looooved them!  My mother kept trying to get rid of them and each time, I would find them in the pile of "must go's" and sneak them back up to my room.  Days later I would come marching down the stairs in this attire with a big grin on my face.  Finally, she grabbed them while I was at school and instructed my brother, "take this to Goodwill right now because if you don't, she's going to find them again".   Really makes me laugh; I had fallen in love with the fabric, and what's even funnier is that to this day, I'm still always drawn to red with yellow!


Watching my Mom sew, I decided I wanted to try it out myself.  (After my earliest life memory, from about the age of three, when I sewed my finger with my Moms' machine) I started with doll clothes.  I'm pretty sure I taped the fabric on this doll but it was a start!   See the little doll with the crazy yellow hair? I realize now I probably should have been more focused on making her a hat as a first project!  I loved that yellow-haired doll because she had a heartbeat.   Funny though, as much as I loved her, I learned how to use a seam ripper on her.  I NEEDED TO KNOW what made her heart beat and that little tool let me right in on the secret.  Poor thing.  My mending was not at couture standards back then so you can imagine, she was never the quite the same.  (You may notice the black toile chair in the background, that was my Mom's slipcover in process.... the apple didn't fall too far from the tree I guess.)


For all you young readers: yes, this "water graffiti" was before computers. But this is what we had to look forward to for fun.....that, or Shirley Temple Movies (which by the way, I loved!).  That is me on the right sporting one of the first of my many custom outfits, hand-made by my Mom.

So, without the ability to pop in a movie or hypnotize us with techno gadgets my mother got us sewing.  It was a great past time to keep us learning... and clothed (remember... 13 kids?). Pretty much everything I wore as a kid was handmade by my mother and from the 5th grade on by me. 
Back then we shopped at this tiny store, Landry's, that was overflowing with huge rolls and bins of fabric.  The fabric was sold by the pound! We'd leave with a heap of fabric and the sewing would begin once we got home. 

As the years went by, I continued to sew - for myself, my grandmother and my nieces and nephews - and eventually I made the transition we all come to... an apartment of my own.  And so it began, the evolution from clothing designs to home designs. So there it is... a little bit about me and how I got started. 

What about you? Whether you are in the design business or not, if you sew, who (or what) got you started?

Living with a Toddler in your Living Room

Michelle, from Peas Out Mama, shares her journey into toddler-dom and the unfortunate results on her home decor. But she's on a mission to find a way to bring life back into her living room. I'm looking forward to seeing what she comes up with! Thank you, Michelle!  

It wasn't going to happen to me. I wouldn't let it. Once a child entered my life, my space, I would retain it. My living room would be mine. Toys R Us would not explode in there and have its way with my furniture and accessories. Mostly that's been true. My son's toys are pretty much confined to his room, which is not to say they never make an appearance elsewhere throughout the house, but to his room they return at the end of good days. And at nearly two years old, he knows it.

Parents have different philosophies about designing their kids' rooms, where the toys should go, and how to use living room space. I say whatever works for you works. For me, I like my living room to be ours as a family, yes, but mostly it's a place for me and my husband to unwind -- a place where our son hangs out and plays sometimes too. But it's not his playroom. He doesn't have one of those.

As a child, I played in my room. That's where my toys were. And somehow, magically, they all fit in there. The same goes for my three older brothers. I suppose that upbringing translated in my philosophy, if you'd call it that. We don't have anything uber-fancy in the living room, so if an accident were to happen, I wouldn't bawl my eyes out. Much.

I love the series Kirsten Krasen featured on 6th Street Design School. Dubbed "Good Design Kids in Mind," the series featured kid-related design questions answered by none other than a team of talented designers. With posts like "Incorporating Kid's 'Tacky' Stuff in Your Home" and "Can Kids and Nice Things Coexist?", the series offers real-life, honest advice. I'm fortunate that I don't yet have to incorporate tacky, but the question of my toddler's coexisting with nice things looms large. And for now, my answer is Sort of, but not totally.

This little creature called toddler is actually quite good with furniture -- not a climber (yet) -- so I consider myself lucky there. But you know those beautiful things (um, accessories, I think they're called by the outside world) that usually go on coffee tables, end tables and whatnot? Yeah, those had to go. They'd all be toast at the hands of a toddler. 

See this stack here? That'd never fly around these parts. Or maybe I should say they would fly -- onto the floor in a chaotic mess. Kudos to this fam with two toddlers who don't wreck that stack! The stuffed animals on the chair, though? Very cute and seems to fit this room's style perfectly.

nursery eclectic kids

I also really like the toys on the floor in this pic. Very sweet and playful. Still, those books scare me a little.
playroom eclectic kids
eclectic kids design by media and blogs Aesthetic Outburst via Houzz

Back to my accessorizing dilemma. I recently put the question out to my blog "likers" on facebook, asking whether they have coffee tables or end tables in their living rooms, and if so, what's on them. Seems we're all in the same boat more or less. Some of my favorite responses:

from KS: "I do! With bumpers on the edges. lol It's quite the decorating statement.  Um, crumbs from lunch and a Little People truck on top. A preschool laptop and Magnadoodle underneath. Do those things count? ;-)"

from JF: "Just put mine back in. I had one of those upholstered microsuede large ottomans that functioned as a coffee table too. [On it]: At the moment, a truck, a sippy cup, and a 2 year old. Usually, nothing. Pre kids, I liked to think I was stylin with accessories. Now? Not so much. They'd just be used as weapons or something to bang on the table."

from HB: "I also have the leather ottoman coffee table, and it currently houses two sippy cups, one pair of shoes, a snowsuit, and a rather grumpy dog."

from KK: "Yes...however it doesn't hold cups/ hold cars trucks and cute little tushies!!"

from EL: "Yes we have a coffee table in both our living room and family room. Our living room is gated off from the toddler, family room is not. Neither coffee table has any decor on it. Toddler uses family room coffee table as a diving board for jumping onto the couches."

I think it's pretty obvious we moms are rockin' the design world!

So...(sigh) tables are bare. And sad. And boring. Which makes me sad. And which got me thinking... What if I could figure out a way to use my son's stuff as accessories? Yup, accessorize with toys. On purpose. For real. You know, so if he touched stuff, it'd be cool. The idea came to me one day after noticing a stack of my son's books on our end table. They looked pretty cute. And now I'm on a mission to accessorize. Wanna see what I come up with? Check out my next guest post!

Blog Bites: Bedroom Designs for Discerning Teens

There's just something about working on a teen girl's room, helping her make that transition from a tween (or in some cases, little girl) space to a more grown-up place to call her own -- all while capturing her own personal style and without losing the fun! This edition of blog bites features some gorgeous bedrooms designed for teens. With such a fantastic array of designs, it's easy to see the style and personality behind each young woman. Can you imagine who's living in each of these spaces?

Our first post comes from Denise Willard at Dream Design Live. Love the title: "Girly Rooms to go Gaga Over." That's for sure! There's some serious eye candy in this post; you won't be disappointed!

Many young girls love bold prints and color. My young nieces agree; to them, this room is "cooool"! The investment in white is what keeps me loving this space. It works great to soften the bold. The mural is something young girls can get involved in too ~ great party idea (make up some stencils and let them have at it!).  Just enough fun, but a great place for homework too need to twist arms to get summer reading done with a window seat like that!

Source: DreamDesignLive       Designer: Unknown

This room is just gorgeous. Sophisticated, elegant, and sure to transition this young woman into young adulthood. The diamond paper creates such a dramatic backdrop so that headboard really takes center stage! The navy is quite chic, too! I must say though that I wish I could get in there to add a memo board behind the desk in a fun color and pattern. Don't you think that would look fabulous?

Source: DreamDesignLive     Designer: Unknown
I really appreciate this next one for its use of traditionally girly colors in a sophisticated way through the window treatments, headboard, and bedding. Check out the artwork, too. Pops of pink and purple add to the fun while black accents and leather (hello? love that piece!) ramp up the sophistication.

Amanda Nisbet, original source: House Beautiful

Laura Casey of Laura Casey Interiors features more beautiful rooms that, in her words, feature "great color combinations that can transition through the ages without losing any personality." Agreed!

Elegant, and a little bit preppy (to my eye anyway), and playful wrapped up into one room! I can't take my eyes off of those panels -- the gorgeous blue draws your eye up; bringing a sense of height, minimizing the angle of the ceiling! The playful butterflies, chandelier, and area rug make it clear that this is a young lady's room but the smart design with the neutrals throughout make it more sophisticated so it won't be outgrown.

I'm back to pink again with this next room. And yes, there's a lot of pink! I can't help myself though, it catches your eye! The wall color can be perfectly described as "bubblegum" and think really, what young girl wouldn't want that? 

In the next post, Brooke Giannetti takes us through the process of designing her daughter Leila's room. At ten years old, Leila was ready for a more grown-up room. And while she's not yet a teen, I think you'll agree this bedroom will carry her well into her teen years and beyond.

Brooke tells us that the design started with the area rug, which Leila spotted at Anthropologie and loved. That set the tone for the room and wall color choice. This room is definitely a gathering place with tons of comfortable seating (and super plush pillows) for friends.

And to remind us that this is a bedroom designed for a ten-year-old, a series of her own artwork adorns one wall. You know I love to see kids' art incorporated into design so you must know I fell in love with this wall! They can be rotated out as she creates new pieces -- a surefire way to allow the room to grow along with her.

Designing a young woman's room can be so much fun, but what's even better is seeing her excitement at the final result. What about your tween? Is it time to style her space with some sassy grown-up appeal?  As a parent or a designer, it can be easy to fall in love with certain elements and want to infuse our own design preferences, but the best room designs come about when we allow tweens freedom to express their own sense of style.  

I know, I know, you're thinking "what about the boys"?  Boys like nice things too and boys have definitive likes and dislikes just like the girls.  I grew up with eight brothers so I definitely know this to be true!! Stay tuned, there will be a special post delivered real soon that will be "all boy"!
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Craftsmanship: custom artistry by hand

Craftsmanship: custom artistry by hand
At Storibook Designs we create custom designs by hand; here it is not just sewing, it is art!