Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Rose by Any Other Name

 It was said that Albert Einstein gave a flower to a stranger every day. The release of endorphins created by that chance encounter were locked into his long term memory and, in his words, "Insured that he had at least one new memory ever day".

 Since I talk about the importance of emotion in my design quite frequently, and once again the temperature at ground layer has dipped below the level at which any respectable flower would even consider peaking her head through, I though it might be nice to reflect on how flowers in the home bring about a sense of peace and happiness (and perhaps a distant memory of warm destinations).

The Power of Flowers

 If you haven't been over to aboutflowers.com you are in for a treat. It's filled with insightful ideas and concise little papers on the effect that flowers have on the home, the workplace, and even on men (you guys get your own article!).

In a recent issue they discuss a wonderful study that was done by Rutgers University on the power that giving flowers has on a person. The research team was awestruck by the results. Every single one of the recipients reacted with a Duchenne smile, you know, that real heart felt smile with your eyes, and your cheeks, and your mouth. A 100% of the time kind of smile. 

 It appears that the simple act of giving someone flowers can have a profound effect on their psychological well being. The act of intimacy sparked a lingering connection, well past the moment of the gift. 

And it goes beyond giving. Even if you choose to give yourself flowers (as well you should) the effects were similar. A feeling of long lasting satisfaction and gratitude were reported as well as a drop in depression and anxious feelings.

So, what are some easy ways to elevate your mood, help you feel connected and foster intimacy?

  • Flowers are a great way to bring big, luscious, I might be afraid to put these colors up on my walls, color into your life. Step out of your comfort zone and go big. Bring in bold gerberas, peonies, zinnias,  or tropical flowers such as bird of paradise.
  • Place your flowers in areas of the house where you are most likely in interact with them. Greet people at the door with an arrangement in the entryway. Place a bouquet where the kids do home work or you gather for meals as a way to celebrate family. According to aboutflowers.com a low, clustered floral arrangement in shades of pink symbolize an opening of the heart. Who knows, it might just bring you more romance.
  • Feel free to mix up your flowers with other natural components. Move beyond the classic glass vase and incorporate stone, galvanized steel or even a lined library catalog (ok, yes, I did make one of these).
  • Spend a little time learning about what different flowers symbolize~
    • Daisy symbolizes innocence
    • Sunflowers beam with adoration
    • Lilac is first love
    • And yellow tulips are for those who are hopelessly in love 

However you choose to accessorize with flowers, go forth with the confidence that you can, scientifically, make someone's day 100 % of the time. 

That's good enough for me!



*The beautiful flowers posted here can be found at our own local outlet of happiness~
Cymbidium Floral in Exeter, NH

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

How to prepare for your first meeting with an interior designer.

Hiring an interior designer is a big decision for most people. There are a lot of factors to take into consideration before you sign a contract and begin work. Recently I wrote about some questions YOU may want to ask your designer, but equally important are the questions your DESIGNER may ask you! If you have never used the services of an interior designer, you maybe a little intimidated at your first meeting. Keep reading for some helpful tips to prepare you and enable to feel comfortable and prepared for your meeting.

1. What's the overall look you want to give your home?
There are many ways to answer this question....are you looking for a casual look or more formal? Is your style Contemporary, Traditional or somewhere in between? Are you looking to create a coastal look or a vintage or cottage look? Do you like soft, muted colors or are you more bold? These are all things you need to consider and communicate to your interior designer.

If you have trouble putting into words what you are trying to create (as many of us do!) start by creating a notebook full of magazine pages you have ripped out that you like. Go to the paint store and grab some paint chips that you like.

If you are more computer savvy, check out Houzz.com and Pinterest and start putting together "Idea Books" with pictures that you like. Take a look at my Houzz profile Mandeville Canyon Designs on Houzz

2. How will the space be used? 
This is where I encourage you to do some deep thinking. There are certain ways we many want our space to be used or how we may want it to look, but the reality is we are all busy and have families. So, what we may picture in our mind may not actually be realistic.

Give this some deep thought. Does an office need to couple as a guest room from time to time? Do you entertain a lot? Do you need your dining room to also function as a homework station for the kids?

These are very important things to think about and discuss with your designer so that the end result is not only beautiful, but it's functional too!

3. What is your budget?  This may be the hardest question to answer, as you really may have no idea. My husband once warned me to never give them a budget because they will always spend it! The truth is, a good designer will use this as a valuable tool in determining your overall design. Even a ballpark figure allows for everyone to stay on the same track as far as materials and labor, and helps to prioritize. Thus allowing you to get the most bang for your buck!


Working with a designer is sort of like courting someone. Being honest and upfront about what you want and what you are trying to create will ensure a healthy relationship. Sometimes you yourself don't even know the answers to the questions a designer may ask until you really spend the time thinking about it!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

What can you do to chase away the winter blues?

A good friend on the west coast humbly displayed a photo recently of his peach tree in almost full bloom. I found myself proclaiming, “Awesome” out loud, followed quickly by a mumbled, lower toned, “awesome” as I remembered the prognostication of a certain rodent that will remain nameless. Yes, groundhogs are rodents, no surprise!

So, while everyone in the northeast patiently awaits an invitation to view said peach tree up close and personal, what can we do to chase away the winter blues?

 I thought it might be fun to approach the question as it pertains to interior design.

As you probably know, good design has a way filtering in to your mind….color, scent, sound, light, and physical space all play a part in your daily life. So, it stands to reason that if you can make some adjustments based on say, seasonal changes, you could vastly improve your outlook during that season.

 So let’s start with some obvious changes….

Let there be LIGHT!

v  Pull back the curtains and throw up the shades. While insulated drapes are a great idea to keep in the heat, anytime you offer up more light into a space, you will improve your outlook. If you have a chance to move your workspace closer to a window and you have a view of nature, you can get a double dose of happy (more about that later!).

v  While I am a big proponent of the move to LED, seasonally I still like the idea of replacing some of my bulbs with full-spectrum lights. These bulbs carry all wavelengths that are useful to both plants and animals and most closely resemble sunlight. Try Verilux or GE Reveal for a boost of sunlight indoors. For those suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, Verilux also makes some great personal devices to help reduce the effects of winter’s light, or lack thereof.

Color me happy!

v  Orange is invigorating and refreshing.  Yellow is energetic and sparks conversation (although not a great choice for studying. Leave that to your blues and greens). Green is the most prominent color in nature and in a world temporarily covered in the absence of color, it is a natural choice to mimic the great outdoors. And don’t forget your browns. A great grounding neutral that also mimics nature and brings about a feeling of security.

v  If painting a room is not in the offing, you can always try just a focal wall. Sometimes this is a good practice run for the more timid of color. Even painting large inexpensive canvases allow a temporary boost of color when its needed most and work well if you are renting and don’t have control over the color of your walls.

Here is a photo of a room we did up in Maine. While this is a seaside cottage, fully half the year is blanketed in white fluffy stuff. Dining in this room provides you with more than your daily requirement for vitamin c!

v  Don’t downplay the importance of accessories in brightening up a space.  Splashes of color and beach inspired visuals are sure ways to keep the blues at bay. Even better are personal artifacts that remind you of warmer days ahead.

Here are some ideas from a presentation board I am presenting for a doctor’s reception room. We want to keep the space light, colorful, and warm all year long. Everything can be drawn from nature, so even though there is no natural light in the space, our choice of blues, oranges, and creams will help reinforce the comfort and pleasure of the seaside.

Get out!
“It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men’s hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old tress, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit.”  ~ Robert Lewis Stevenson.

 I know I promised to make this about interior design, but since so much of my design work is about bringing the outdoors in, I thought we should spend a moment talking about how important it really is to be out in it. Really important.

Nothing we can duplicate will have the same effect on the mind and body as being outside, even if it is cold. While the colors of nature are reduced in the winter months, those that do exist are sharper and more prominent. Take note of the cobalt hue of the sky, the ebony and chocolate of the tree trunks and branches, and the mature greens of the pines that stand as watchful guard over the tender sleeping flora down below.

 According to Your Brain on Nature, in 1982 the Forest Agency of the Japanese government launched an ambitious program to reintroduce a stressed and overloaded Japanese work force to the great outdoors. Almost 64% of Japan is blanketed with forests, so it seemed to make sense that getting reacquainted with the landscape would be a good idea, being that it was quite literally all around them.

Shinrin-yoku, or Forest Bathing, in these cedar forests has had marked and lasting health benefits. Just 40 minutes a week walking in the woods reduced blood pressure, relaxed the cerebral cortex and allowed for more productive work and, more importantly, play.

All right, so after you have done your 40 minutes of Forest Bathing each week, how about if we bring some of that mental and physical utopia indoors.

v  Many indoors plants can provide real health benefits as well as being esthetically pleasing. Aloe Vera absorbs toxins like formaldehyde as well as spider plants that also absorb VOC’s from paint, CO2, and even xylene, which is a solvent used in the printing industry. Gerber daisy’s are a winner on their looks alone, but add that they help remove toxins like trichloroethylene which is found in those dry cleaning bags and you may want to finish reading this after you have run out and bought a dozen.

v  Take it a step further and add a living wall. They can be as simple or complex as you have the care to give and the rewards are immeasurable.

v  Wood, wood, and more wood. There are so many studies out there now that are touting the virtues of natural wood in the indoor environment. Natural wood lowers blood pressure, creates a connection to nature and even relaxes the prefrontal cortex, allowing your body to take a much-needed mental break. Have you ever walked into a house that has wood beams or wood ceiling (ok, not the faux paneling faux pas) or seen a photo in Houzz and thought, “Ahhhhh”? That’s your brain on wood!  Try a wood table or island to sit at for meals or as your desk.  It is a great way to connect to the outdoors and also add the benefit of texture to your sensory experience.


Sound Off

Winter can come with the welcome peace of quiet, but even the greatest lover of silence can use a boost of sound to elevate their mood. 

v  According to Mindful Design Consulting sounds of nature, such as birds, help create a feeling of reassurance. And you know that if you live in a snowy region, any bird that is willing to brave the cold and serenade you, for even a moment, can be as uplifting as seeing green below the white.

v  There are great sound machines and apps that come encouragingly close to the real thing. Ocean waves have the same rhythm as a sleeping human body’s breathing. Apps like Sleep Pillow allow the layering of  sounds so you can have your beach and spa music all in one.

v  For a real splurge, I have been suggesting wireless sound systems similar to Sonos for amazing room-to-room sound experience. They are simple to set up, use, and expand and it can allow for an endless array of sounds, podcasts, and music (perhaps a little Vivaldi’s Summer?).

Depending on where you live in the country, March 20th might actually be cause for celebration. A cherry blossom tree in bloom, impatiens still requesting a bit of shelter from an abiding tree, or a peach tree past it’s blooming prime and beginning to offer up a spherical sweetness bound to please come early summer. For the northeast it’s the MSRP of the first day of spring. It’s a starting point, a bargain, a negotiating tool.

Here’s hoping that while we patiently wait, as New Englanders do, you now have a few new tools to help while away the winter hours. And my back up plan is a recipe for a killer peach mojito.

Naturally yours,


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Tuesday Tips: What to ask your interior designer.

What should you ask your designer?
Welcome to "Tuesday Tips"! Look for a new post from Mandeville Canyon Designs on Tuesdays! It will be chock full of useful decorating tips and information.

This week I thought it would be helpful to provide a  few tips to prepare you for your first meeting with your interior designer.

Redesigning a room can feel like a daunting task. Hiring a professional is a smart way to avoid mistakes and to be sure you love your end product. However, there are a few things you should consider before hiring an interior designer.
  • Ask to see a portfolio: My portfolio is sort of like my resume, but with pictures. Take a look at other projects your designer has done. See if you like my style and the work I've done for others. Find me online! Check out my portfolio on my website, find me on Facebook or Pinterest. Read my blog. There are all sorts of ways for you to check out my work.
  •  Make sure you understand rates & billing: The worst thing that can happen is to get a bill that you weren't expecting. Be sure you understand how you will be billed and how often. What additional charges may occur, etc.?  Discuss your budget so that you can avoid surprises down the road.
  • Ask for references: Any good professional will be happy to provide you with references. Ask your designer if they can connect you with someone they have done a similar project for. References are a great way to learn about your designers work ethic, personality and style. You want to make sure this will be a successful relationship!
  • Understand timeframes: In our modern world, we have been conditioned to think that everything can get done immediately. And we can easily become frustrated when that isn't the case. Be sure to find out how long your decorating project will take. Some items can take several weeks to arrive once ordered. Also, ask your designer how busy they are and if they are working on any other projects that may impost on your schedule.
Hiring a designer is a big decision. You want to make sure you are working with someone whom you think understands what you are looking to accomplish. It's a very personal, yet fulfilling relationship. Be sure it will work for you!
Happy Tuesday!