Thursday, May 26, 2011

Nate Berkus Comments On Adding Antiques To Your Home Decor

In 2002, Nate Berkus was invited to make over a small space for “The Oprah Winfrey Show.” From there, Nate became a featured design expert for the show and continued to garner national press in publications such as ELLE décor, US Weekly, People, O Magazine, Lucky and Domino, to name a few. In the fall of 2005, Nate celebrated the release of his first book, “Home Rules: Transform the Place You Live into a Place You’ll Love,” (Hyperion), which went on to become a New York Times Best Seller.

A year later, in 2006, Nate debuted his radio show, The Nate Berkus Show on XM’s, “Oprah Radio” channel, where he talked each week to celebrities, callers, and in-studio guests. In 2008, Nate hit prime time as the host of the movement-making hit show, “Oprah’s Big Give.” On September 13th, 2010, The Nate Berkus Show launched in households across America, and Nate couldn’t be more excited about his new daily series dedicated to living beautifully.

My friend, Beth Anderson over at Chic Galleria was lucky enough to get a chance to interview Nate.  During the hour long phone conference, Nate answered numerous questions from all of the participants.  She said he was so gracious and friendly. Here is part of that interview.

BA: Hi, Nate. How are you?

NB: Hi, Beth.

CG: I have to tell you that I love how you give such positive suggestions and advice to people. I think your warm personality is contagious.

NB: Oh, thank you.

BA: Some of my readers sent in questions and I’d like to ask you just a couple of them.  Nadia from New Jersey said, “Home is where the heart is. What is your number one tip for personalizing your living space?”

NB: Books and framed photos and I’ve never seen a well-designed room without either.

Pink Pig Bird Photo Frame
BA: Great.  Joanne from Oklahoma said, “My home is full of furniture passed down from previous generations. I don’t feel that it all fits my style, do you suggest I try to update these pieces or just get rid of them?”

NB: Definitely update. One of the first things that I do when I’m hired to design a space for somebody is taking inventory of what they already have and repurposing and reusing. And, you know, adding a coat of paint and new hardware on a chest of drawers or painting the frame of a vintage looking chair a bright color and recovering something or making a slip cover for it, to me those are the things that add layers to a room.
It’s very hard to have a beautiful space when everything is new. In fact, I would say it’s almost impossible. And I’ve never been a fan of very modern interiors that – even though I think there’s great modern design out there, I always mix it in with pieces that have patina and have some history and have some age and have some meaning, because otherwise I think that it’s a real miss design-wise, and also the room just never feels right.

BA: Sometimes it’s nice to have grandma’s pieces tucked in with new things

NB: I think it’s imperative, to tell you the truth. If you aren’t lucky enough to have things from grandma, then that’s when it’s time to hit the flea markets and the yard sales and the estate sales to start building a collection of things that come from different periods and different times.

BA: Right. And then, things you can then pass down to the next generation.

NB: Yep. I mean, I’ve had my sofa in Chicago for 15 years. I’ve recovered it once. And, you know, it’s – for me it’s a – just, you know, buy classic, timeless pieces and the personality comes from what you add to it, and those pieces that are hand-me-downs, you don’t have to use all of them.  I mean, if it’s a dining room set and you really – you’re not into the whole look, then, you know, store the chairs or give them to a family member and buy yourself a set of new upholstered chairs that are more contemporary to use at the table, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Pink Pig Brass Accent Table
BA: Well, that kind of leads into my next question from Shelly in Texas. She basically wanted to know if one was going to make an investment, what’s a timeless purchase for your starter home?

NB: I think there’s a few, actually. And I think the most timeless is a beautifully well-made simply upholstered sofa. Don’t go for a trend. Don’t go for pattern. Don’t go for color. Do it in linen or in leather or in cotton duck, something that’s just durable and is going to stand the test of time, and the style that works with whatever you evolve to be, as far as your sort of design personality as the years go on.

Second to that, a vintage or antique chest of drawers will last forever. You can use it in the bedroom, in the dining room as a side board, in the entry, and also a beautiful mirror is something that is really hard to get tired of.

BA: I have one of those sitting in a closet, actually. It was passed down from my grandmother. I’m trying to figure out what to do with it.

NB: Oh, great.

Pink Pig Antique Country Dresser
BA: One last quick question. Lisa from Michigan said that she’s on a very, very tight budget, but that she feels like her home décor is just outdated. What is the single most important thing that she should go look for to try to update her home décor? She’s thinking a sofa is such a big investment, but like lamps or pillows or pictures? Is there one thing on a budget that you would suggest that she go for first?

NB: You know, the thing is, if you really want to have a beautiful room on a budget you have to do some leg work, and I’ll give her a few ideas. One is, go to Goodwill and thrift stores and things like that buy dresses or old cashmere sweaters or beautiful printed shirts, and turn them into pillows.

Another would be to update your lampshades. You can go to Target and get a new lampshade that will completely change the look of your existing lamp. And another tips is to paint the inside of the lampshades a soft color, pale blue, pale pink; pale gray, which changes the whole feeling once the light is one.

Then, you know, adding pottery, a collection of pottery in an accent color. All the same or like a rainbow of greens — for instance — on your mantle that you can find for under $5, $10 a piece if you go to a few different thrift stores and yard sales and the sort of inexpensive antiques malls and things like is another great way of adding huge impact for not a lot of money.

But, it takes effort to have a – to live beautifully and not spend a lot of money on it.

Pink Pig Ironstone Pitcher
BA: Well, thank you, Nate, so much. I really appreciate you answering all these questions for me.

NB: You’re very welcome.  My pleasure.

Check local listings for your viewing times and channel. Visit  You can find Nate Berkus on Facebook and Twitter.


Monday, May 16, 2011

The Pleasure of Paint

by Barbara Kavovit

Painting is a relatively easy and quick way of breathing new life into a room. The key to achieving a professional look on your own, however, is preparation. Taking a little extra time to ready a room for painting will pay off big time once you get started. And learning about the different kinds of paint and the kind of effects they can achieve is essential. There are so many ways to achieve paint finishes available these days, and each one will result in a different mood, texture, and reflective quality.

I love colors, and luckily there are many of them to choose from today. If you don't like the million plus paint chips in the store, you have the option of bringing in your favorite sweater or skirt, comforter, or vintage image for a computer color match. The creative options are endless. And once you have painted a room, believe me, you'll be bitten by the home improvement bug forever.

I'll spare you the scientific details of paint composition. Basically, paint is a combination of color (pigment) and a binder that allows it to be spread evenly on a surface. But there are certain terms you should know because they will help you choose the right paint for the project.

Paint Types:

Here are the basic types of paint you're likely to encounter.

ACRYLIC: Acrylic paint is a water-based paint commonly used in small painting jobs and craft projects. You can buy it in small bottles in the craft store. It's excellent for painting small details on furniture and accessories. If you find a color of acrylic paint you love, you can have the paint store make a match with latex paint. Brush fuss: Use synthetic or foam brushes.

LATEX: Latex paint is popular for its ease of use. Latex paints are water-based and have low fumes. Cleanup can be done with liquid soap and water. And dried paint can usually be peeled off of a paint bucket and roller tray surfaces and simply thrown away. Manufacturers have improved the quality and durability of latex paints over the years for indoor and outside applications. Just be sure you are buying interior or exterior grade paint. You might choose to use gloss latex in bathroom and kitchen applications because it has protective water-resistant qualities. Brush fuss: Use synthetic or foam brushes.

OIL-BASED: Oil-based or alkyd paint is thick and sticky, making it somewhat difficult to work with. Oil paint also has a strong smell. You absolutely must work in a well-ventilated room when working with any oil-based product. It also requires special products for cleanup, such as paint thinner (another smelly and often dangerous chemical). Because manufacturers have made such great strides in latex paint quality and durability, I don't think you need to use oil paint for most jobs. But gloss oil paints, which were commonly used in kitchens and baths because of their water-resistant quality, have a sheen and reflective quality that gloss latex paint just can't match. So if you are dead set on a certain finish, oil gloss may be the only way to go.

You can also buy oil paints formulated for use on hot surfaces, such as ovens, exposed hot water pipes, and radiators (but make sure the products are heat-resistant). Many spray paints are made specifically for appliances, as well. And there are oil-based paints suitable for painting over tile and porcelain that simulate a ceramic finish. The upside to oil paint is its durability, especially on window trim and in kitchens and bathrooms. Today's oil paint is easier to clean, and newer formulations make it less likely to yellow over time. Brush fuss: Use natural-bristle brushes.

SPRAY PAINT: Spray paint is oil-based and perfect for painting garden furniture, wrought iron, and just about anything that's made of metal. They even make spray paint that will cover plastic without peeling. Spray paint is easy to use and does not require the prep work that oil paint in a can demands.

PRIMER: Primer is used to prepare surfaces for paint. "Raw" drywall needs to be covered with drywall primer before paint goes on top. Primer basically readies the drywall to accept paint. Primer can also be used when going from a dark to a light color or vice versa. In those cases, you want to ask your paint mixer to create a tinted primer with a color close to but not exactly like the topcoat. This will reduce the number of coats you have to give your wall or ceiling. Primer is also essential if you are covering an oil-based paint with a latex paint. A latex primer will create a suitable surface for the new covering. If you leave out that step, the latex paint will pull right off the oil-based surface. Ugh!

You don't always have to use primer: If you are painting flat beige or off-white walls, you can generally go right over the paint with your new color. One more thing: If you are using spray paint to cover old metal, buy spray paint rustproofing primer to cover the cleaned surface before you put on the paint.

Barbara's Best-Kept Secret:
If you are doing a painting job over a weekend and using oil paint, you can wait until the very end to clean up the brushes with paint thinner by using this simple mid-process storage trick. Wrap the paintbrushes in aluminum foil, place them in a plastic storage bag, and put the whole thing in the freezer. The brushes will stay pliant, and the paint won't freeze. You can go right back to painting and then clean the brushes out when the job is completely done!

Paint Finishes

These are the different types of paint finishes you have to choose from.

FLAT: This matte surface paint finish is usually used on interior walls. It helps hide small imperfections because it doesn't reflect light. (Shinier paint highlights bumps, dents, and patches.) Flat paint is generally hard to clean or scrub, but some manufacturers are making flat paints that are more easily washable. Still, you have to be cautious when going after scuffs and dirt on a flat-painted wall.

EGGSHELL: This finish has just a whisper of sheen. You could hardly call it shiny. It's good for interior walls, especially if you have kids running around, simply because you will have an easier time cleaning it than a flat-painted wall. However, an eggshell finish still looks somewhat matte, and any imperfections will remain subtle if not invisible.

SATIN: This smooth, somewhat shiny paint is perfect for children's rooms because it's so easy to clean. Kitchens, bathrooms, and high-traffic areas will also benefit from satin finish paints because they hold up under light scrubbing.

SEMIGLOSS: Semigloss paint is most often used on doors, trim, and cabinets in kitchens and bathrooms. It's easy to keep clean, and its subtle shine is rich looking and especially crisp on trim when set against a flat-painted wall. Surface preparation is important, though, because semigloss will show imperfections. So be sure to fill all holes and gouges, smooth surfaces, and sand trim to be painted. Get rid of built-up paint layers and dried drips, too.

GLOSS: Gloss paints are super-shiny. Most people don't use them on interiors, although I have seen ceilings in gloss, and the reflection is amazing. Light bounces off a gloss-painted ceiling, adding a glamorous feel to a room. But that's a daring and very modern look, so know what you are getting into before you go for gloss! Gloss can also look very fresh on bead board wainscoting and on cabinets, trim, and furniture, especially in contemporary settings. A front door painted in high gloss looks stylish and formal, especially when done in a dark color such as forest green or even black. A warning: Gloss paint highlights every surface imperfection, so be sure your plaster or drywall surface is completely smooth before using a high-gloss paint.

Barbara's Best-Kept Secret:

The only paint finish that you can spot retouch successfully is flat. When retouching shinier finishes, from eggshell to high gloss, you will need to repaint the entire area surrounding the imperfection. Otherwise, you will see the retouched spot because glossier finshes never spot-dry in a uniform manner.

Other Paint Terms

These are two more paint terms you need to know to be a painting pro.

CUTTING IN: This simply means painting around doors, windows, molding, and baseboards with an appropriate brush. After you've completed cutting in, you do the rest of the wall-painting job with a roller.

KEY: This slight roughness to a surface allows it to accept paint. For example, if you are planning on painting over a glossy surface, even if it's with more glossy paint, you have to prime it first to give the surface key, which will accept the new paint. Otherwise, the paint will peel off.

Copyright © 2005 Barbara Kavovit

Barbara Kavovit is CEO of barbara k!, a comprehensive lifestyle brand that offers solutions for women through innovative home enhancement/repair and automotive products. She is also the home improvement expert for AOL Coaches and author of the inspirational fix-it handbook Room for Improvement. Barbara has been featured in the New York Times, USA Today, Real Simple, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others, and has appeared on numerous television and radio programs, including Today and Good Morning America. She lives in New York City with her son, Zachary.  Visit

Photo credit © Kuzma |


Friday, May 13, 2011

Shabby Chic: Blurring The Lines Between Elegant Taste & Old Junk

Pink Pig White Coverlet
by Jennifer Hicks, C.I.D

Fans of the decorating style known as Shabby Chic aren't exactly rule followers. Probably because when it comes to defining this style there aren't many rules.

What some may view as just another grandma's attic these style savvy enthusiasts see as a little slice of heaven- however covered in dust it may be. Those who appreciate the style are drawn to it for a slew of reasons; it has all the charm of an unassuming country cottage with the sophisticated touch of Great Britain's elegant chintz and fine linens. Its simple. Its comfortable. And can usually be very affordable (I'm talking garage sale affordable).

Ever since the term "Shabby Chic" in the 80's pro and amateur decorators alike have taken liberties with their own versions to create a style that changes constantly. While others may get bogged down in trying to decorate within the constraints of their style, Shabby Chicers buy whatever feels like home. If a wire basket found on the side of the road invokes nostalgia then it comes home to start a new life as a towel holder or mail basket. A mirror frame that has been beaten into submission by years of sun fading and nicks from multiple moves is just the thing to hang above the buffet. There are few rules and for this loyal fan base, if its faded, tattered, bleached, soft, or distressed in any other way, it has potential.

Pink Pig Hotel Key Rack
Now while there may not be text book outlines for this style there is a line to be crossed and that line we shall call "Junk". I know what you're thinking: "Isn't every one's definition of 'junk' different?" To a degree, perhaps. I've already listed some of the things Shabby Chic is. Now let's talk about what is isn't.

*It isn't broken trash. Bringing home items that simply look old isn't going to cut it. Broken items that you have no intention of fixing do not count.

*It isn't torn linens. Faded, yes. Ripped, no.

*It isn't neon colors. Think pastels or colors that look like they have been in the sun for years.
*It isn't from one era. This look is blended, collected over time and from many regions.

*It isn't just florals. Think like an adventurer; what would you bring home from your travels? Some iron, a little coral, old leather bound books- it isn't all roses and ruffles!

Pink Pig Mason Jars
Shabby Chic has been blurring the lines between elegance and just plain old for generations. My advice to anyone finding themselves enthralled in the charm would be this: follow what feels good. Whether you buy it 20 years aged from an estate sale or brand new from your favorite retailer, remember that Shabby Chic isn't simply a decorating style... its an attitude!

After studying interior design for four years in Oklahoma and becoming registered as a Certified Interior Decorator, Jennifer Hicks' passion for breathtaking rooms led me to introduce Designing Diva Interiors LLC. "I believe in livable, affordable homes that reflect the unique style of each of my clients and their families. A beautiful room can transform your life, and I truly love being a part of that process. With each new project arrives a new opportunity to create a space that will welcome you home at the end of a long day, or provide a cozy corner for rainy day reading, and everything in between!”


Thursday, May 5, 2011


Maybe it’s the weather or lack of time that makes it difficult to cook a complete meal.  In both cases, salads are a natural, allowing quick assembly and colorful presentation.  Often the cooking process is little more than boiling some water for pasta, grain or blanching a vegetable.  To satisfy the appetite and for delicious versatility, bulk salads up with fresh vegetables, fruits, flavorful cheeses or a handful of nuts.  This tasty salad, plus three combinations below, is simple to prepare and easy on the budget, too.


6-1/2 ounce jar marinated artichoke hearts with liquid     
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 rounded tablespoon country-style mustard
1/3 cup chopped marinated sun dried tomatoes
8 ounces tricolor pasta, cooked al dente
½ cup pine nuts
1-1/2 cups shredded Jarlsberg or Jarlsberg Lite cheese
1-1/2 cups celery root, cut matchstick style
1-1/2 cups chopped green (or yellow) pepper

In large salad bowl, mix first 4 ingredients together.  Add remaining ingredients, toss and serve.  Serves 4 - 6.  If you’d like, add chunks of albacore tuna or grilled chicken.

Creamy BLT Salad:  Cook 8 ounces fusilli pasta until al dente. While warm, toss with ¼ pound chopped cooked bacon (or prosciutto), 2 cups cherry tomato halves, 1 packed cup fresh chopped basil (or baby spinach), 1/2 cup chopped walnut halves and 1 4-ounce log fresh goat cheese, crumbled (we like soft unripened chèvre, from Woolwich Dairy).

Cool Green Bean Salad:  Blanch and immediately cool 1/2 pound skinny string beans.  Chop and combine with cooked couscous (enough to serve 4), 1 large can albacore tuna (drained), ½ cup slivered almonds, 1/4 cup chopped marinated sun dried tomatoes and 2 cups (small cubed) Jarlsberg. Whisk together ¼ cup fresh lemon juice with ½ cup olive oil, ½ teaspoon mustard and, to taste, sea salt and fresh ground black pepper.  Tip:  If you don’t care for couscous, use cooked, cool potatoes instead.

Blueberry Penne Pasta:  Cook 8 ounces penne pasta until al dente.  While warm, toss with 1/2 cup each coarsely chopped pecans or almonds and grated Jarlsberg, 1 packed cup baby arugula, 1-1/2 cups blueberries and 1/4 cup golden raisins (or chopped dried cherries).  Toss with “Cool Green Bean” vinaigrette, adding a touch of honey to it.

Story and recipe courtesy of Jarlsberg, a semi-soft part-skim milk cheese with large “eyes” and mild, mellow-nutty flavor.  A product of Norway, Jarlsberg is traditionally produced and aged, completely natural and an excellent source of protein and calcium.  Substitute Jarlsberg in almost any recipe calling for cheese—you’ll love the delicious results.  

For more information, visit

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