Sunday, March 31, 2013

Cheap n Chic: Seagrass Water Hyacinth Baskets

I love a good-sized storage basket made of natural materials such as Water Hyacinth or Seagrass. Not only are they functional: you can use it practically in any room of your house, may it be a throw basket in your living room, or for storing plush toys in a nursery, or for scarves and hats in your mudroom; they also look great by adding a touch of warmth and rustic nature to your décor.

The best types are those with handles for easy portability.

Pottery Barn's Beachcomber Extra-large Round Basket at $165 is definitely worth the splurge.
You can stow away a ton of stuff in its generous 21" x 23" size.
West Elm's Oversize Seagrass Basket at $138 is charming, warm and functional.

World Market's Water Hyacinth Jessica Basket is a Pottery Barn Beachcomber lookalike, smaller but at an affordable $35.

My favourite goes to Indigo's Sweater-Weave Basket made of natural seagrass and is just the right size I was looking for, at a cheap-and-chic price of $39.50.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

Dining Room: Roman Shades or Blinds

These are the windows in question, and there's not much view outside of them other than our neighbor's redbrick house. 

When we first moved in, I put through a massive order for these blinds to dress up all the windows throughout the house. I like that they look great, practical, easy to clean and resilient to weathering. However, they might also look too utilitarian for a formal dining room I am trying to put together.

So I am contemplating of changing them to roman shades. Did you know there are tens of different types of roman shades, such as the most popular flat roman shade, the classic shade with all the panels folded up and visible in the front, and the slouchy relaxed type. Combined with fabrics, the choices are unlimited.

I am thinking of something like this:

Or something modern and geometric like this:

So would you swap the white blinds I have for my dining room windows with roman shades, or would you leave them as is?

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Dining Room Design Board

The attempt to only swap out the dining room chandelier has triggered a domino effect - I've now decided to decorate the entire dining room! Soon I probably should be writing a book titled "Confession of a Serial Decorator".

So this is what I have in mind our new dining room would look like. I might even be sending the two armchairs for a paint and re-upholstery job such that they wouldn't be so matchy-matchy with the rest of the dining set.

With rug.

The white hutch display cabinet and mirrored chest also soften the overall look. I will tell you more about the white hutch display cabinet you see here shortly .

So what do you think? Is there anything you'd change in this design board?

Monday, March 25, 2013

Decorating with Maps and a Giveaway

As a kid I used to collect maps of all the places I had been to. Growing up now into interior design, I see maps as great decorative objects. Because maps have such graphic quality with their sweeping lines, color blocking, and typographic elements, they will work so well decoratively. Map on textile, or the so-called "tourist textile", has been popular for centuries. The use of these map tea towels or napkins are unlimited in today's decor. Just take a look at the following:

Mat them: unexpected but totally works right? It complements the picture by reminding you where it was taken.

Via Martha Stewart

Frame them: they seriously work in any room of a house and make such a worldly statement in the space.
Via Martha Stewart
Remember I framed Alanna Cavanagh's tea towel for my kitchen. I am still loving it.
Hang them: or how about turning them into a roman shade?
Via Martha Stewart

So here is your chance to win this true vintage Hudson's Bay Company Map Tea Towel made of 100% linen, sponsored by Monica from Reminisce Vintage. The tea towel measures 30" x 21", has never been used and is in mint condition. It would look great framed for a nursery, a kid's room, a man cave or a home office.

Here are the simple steps to win this tea towel:

  • Leave a comment on what you plan to do with this tea towel and where you plan to use it;
  • Leave another comment if you tweet about this giveaway (@ AM Dolce Vita). You will receive two entries for this (please leave the same comment twice).
  • Follow my blog by clicking the link here and leave a comment to let me know when you've done so.
  • You will receive one entry for each comment you leave.
And that's it.

Contest is open to US, Canada and European Union, and a winner will be selected on Friday April 5, 2013. Good luck!

Sunday, March 24, 2013

New Project: Basement Office Game Room

A while ago I blogged about turning an empty zone in our basement into a game/craft room but it was put on hold due to other priorities. I am thinking about it again and this time have decided to go through with it.

This is the space I referred to, a pretty good-sized 15' x 10' area. It's the zone outside of my husband's media room, a.k.a. his man cave.

I know I absolutely have to do something when I noticed the space had been turned into a warehouse of late, my wall of shame.

We think we are going to need an extra office so we've decided to turn the space into a basement office/game/craft room. Essentially this is going to be a very flexible and versatile space that will get a lot of use in the future. We would have cabinets run along the 15' wall, put a rectangular table in front of it for game nights or crafting. So here are the options along this long wall.

Option 1: 2 x desks, 1 x built-in bench, and upper wall cabinets. This option is symmetrical and may look the best.
Option 2: 1 x desk, 1 x built-in bench, and upper wall cabinets: we really don't need two desks down there, plus the desk on the right side is going to be too short for it to make any practical sense.

Option 3: similar to Option 2 with 1 x desk, 1 x built-in bench, but NO upper wall cabinets: we really don't need the extra storage from the upper cabinets, and they are usually not deep enough to store anything else but books. Also, our basement ceiling is not exactly that high (touching 8'), so adding wall-to-wall 30"-tall cabinets might be too overwhelming. What we can do though down the road, is to add some wall shelves.

Option 4: 1 x desk, NO built-in bench or upper wall cabinets: I also thought of this option in which we'd go with a very long 5-foot desk centered around the window, flanked by base cabinets. We can still add a long rectangular table in the front. However, this design would require a continuous 15'-long countertop. Assuming we were able to get it custom made, we still wouldn't be able to get it down to the basement (or through the window). We are also concerned that there's not enough support in the middle where the desk is and I don't want use any metal legs.

At the end of this exercise, it seems like we have a clear winner without having to compromise aesthetics or practicality. Could you guess which one we've decided to go with? Which option would you choose?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Clean Happy is having a sale on Method at 35% off until March 31. I am a big fan of green cleaning products so I've already stocked up. Use promo code CLEAN35 at checkout.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Guest Post at Sadie + Stella

Today I am guest-posting at the fabulous Sadie + Stella design and lifestyle blog. Lindsay, the brain and a stylish total package, runs a very interesting series called "Favorite Room Feature". Please head over to Sadie + Stella to say hi. 

Hello Sadie + Stella readers! I am so thrilled to be part of the Sadie + Stella's Favorite Room Feature series. My name is Michelle Shen, and I am the blogger/designer behind AM Dolce Vita. My design blog started out as a chronicle to document our house renovation projects. It has since evolved to an idea repository where I share and help friends and family as well as online reader community with their design questions and plans.
It's so hard for me to pick a favorite room in my house as I love most of them, but I should say my living room is probably my first most successful transformation project. Four years ago when we moved into our custom-built house, our living room was in serious need for character and life. The walls were white, the floor was laminate, and it also warehoused some old furniture we brought with us from our last house. I will spare you some eye sore from the "Before" pictures, but in case you are interested, you can check them out here. After a few iterations involving getting rid of pretty much everything from the room for a clean slate, I came up with this design board.

I had a vision what I wanted our living room to look like, and a design board like this helped me visualize it.

First of all, I wanted white walls. There is no other better way to add character and impact to a room than moulding, which creates an always-there type of appeal. I went with full-wall wainscoting throughout the room then painted them in antique white.
I also wanted the room to be fresh and airy, classy and elegant, classic but also timeless. An Edwardian lantern I scored from HomeSense (HomeGoods in the US) not only set the tone in the room, but also complemented the framed antique architectural prints. The wood top from Urban Barn's Lumex coffee table introduced warmth to the overall white space, and the clean-lined box legs didn't compromise the airy feel that I was trying to accomplish. 
Blue is one of my favorite colors, and I wouldn't pass on using it in a room I decorated. These blue silk drapes not only added luxe factor to the room but also a touch of fresh color. The Martha Stewart trellis wool rug added that understated and muted elegance I was so after. 
The classic tone was carried out to the other side of the room with the antique artworks on the wall. A more contemporary curved-arm couch then gave the room a more intimate and relaxing ambiance. 
Adding some pretty coffee table books is always an easy way to add colors and sophistication to your living space.
My rock collection not only added some color pops but also served as a great conversation piece.
It was a painstaking (and costly) process to take our living room to a state which I am completely happy with. I am a true believer of "cost over convenience" when it comes to designing your own house. You should take your time learning what you want from a room and envision what you want it to look like. Don't be afraid to rip out a page from a magazine and start to design a lookalike; leverage design boards like what I did or Pinterest to help you visualize what a room would end up like with all the elements you pick out. That way you are very likely going to enjoy your design longer and more.
You can read more about my living room project here.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Major Score: Hargett Table Lamp

This past weekend Anthony and I made a trip to Prima Lighting in search for our new dining room chandelier and buffet lamps (spoiler alert: a brand new design board on the way). Unfortunatley the Visual Comfort chandelier I was hoping to buy was not on display in the showroom. I feel a bit uncomfortable buying such a statement piece without seeing and touching the real thing. Anyhow, I didn't end up ordering it but decided to wait until the whole dining room's design comes together.

A while ago when I was researching online, I found this gorgeous Hargett Table Lamp in Antique Brass that would be perfect as a buffet lamp.

It's available through Circa Lighting or Elte in Canada. It's so versatile that it would look fantastic in any setting.

What's not so perfect about it though, is its $500+ price tag. After much consideration I've decided to bite the bullet: I love it more each time I look at it; it's made of solid brass so I am paying for a good-quality lamp with a timeless style which I am going to enjoy more and longer (back to buying quality over price). I decided I would buy them the same time when I order the new chandelier.

As fate would have it, this past weekend when I was browsing some local classified ads for vintage dining furniture inspiration, I came across this very same lamp, at a price so unreal that I had to pinch myself! My heart was racing when I called the seller, and it nearly jumped out of my chest when they said it's still available. I didn't even ask why they wanted to sell it because I was so afraid they'd change their mind. Who would want to part with something so gorgeous right? The best part is, they are moving to a new house near us so they could deliver it. A few hours later this beauty is mine, mine and all mine.

For the time being it's sitting in our living room. I do still need to order the other one to make a pair for our dining room buffet, but at least I've saved tons from this major score. If I was to act on impulse and order the pair a few months ago, I'd probably be kicking myself now. Patience pays off, right?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New Coffee Table Book

Was Marilyn Monroe ever out of date? I don't think so. Her legacy became more hype than ever when 2012 marked the 50th anniversary of her passing. Last year was also when Smash, a new musical-drama series following the creation of a Broadway musical called Bombshell (a.k.a. Marilyn Monroe) from the initial idea onward, premiered on NBC.


Smash is like a grown-up version of Glee but with a much more sophisticated script and tons of Broadway-worthy numbers. A couple of episodes into the Season One, I was completely hooked by all the songs and the storyline, so much so that I decided to redeem some Amazon points for a new coffee table book - Marilyn Monroe: Metamorphosis.

The book is packed with mesmerizing photos of Marilyn together with euphemistic writing about her life, easy to read and eye-pleasing.

So I think now I am finally completely happy with the coffee table book stack in my living room.

Do you watch Smash?

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