Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Make design decisions with confidence

People ask design professionals a lot of questions. What paint color would you recommend? How can I make this space work better? What type of tile/furniture/window treatments should I look for? The majority of my clients are looking for design direction. They are happy to do the running around themselves, but just want to be confident that they are making the right choices.

The above space used to be filled with toys and bright colors. The children in the home were growing up (pre-teens) so the space needed to do the same. My suggestions included painting over an existing under-the-sea mural with a more mature bluish-gray paint color, then accenting with crisp black and white pieces. Designating certain areas for down-time activities like x-box, foosball, and chess, transformed this “playroom to “game room. Time invested? About two hours of design consultation. Then the homeowners were able to take care of the details on their own time.

With just blueprints for reference, these clients wanted to be prepared with new furniture choices when their home renovation was complete. I provided sketches on possible room configurations that incorporated their existing pieces with some new ones. Using these sketches along with images of “what to look for” my clients were able to go out and choose their carpet, two matching sofas and also purchased a favorite piece that I recommended, the Triple Bel Air Bench by Daryll Carter seen below. I love how this traditional piece fits right in with the modern architecture and provides additional seating without blocking the view of the lake beyond.

For this client, just a little freshening up was in order. She brought home some fabric books in colors that matched her existing couch which just needed a new slip cover on the seat cushion. I helped her choose a few that looked good with her chosen colors and then handed the project over to my workroom to complete.

With the leftover fabric, we had a couple of pillows made to update additional seating areas in the room.

If you need a “design coach” to steer you in the right direction, give me a call. I really enjoy teaching others how to make their design decisions with confidence!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tips on Container Gardening

Boston Flower & Garden Show, 2011

New England is finally warming up, and now is a great time to start planning for our summer landscapes. A good place to start is with a collection of containers, which when combined, create an above ground garden! Visit my latest post at Lynnfield Patch to get some professional tips on putting together a container garden of your own.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Y knot!

A while back I mentioned wanting to try my hand at creating patterns for fabrics, etc. What designer hasn’t searched for the perfect pattern in just the right color combination and wished they could just design what they were looking for?

With a background in illustration, graphic design, and print production, creating a pattern for fabrics (or other surface designs) seemed like a fun extension of the same creative process to me. After day dreaming about it for some time, I have finally given it a shot!

Y knot in White/Chocolate Milk, Small Scale
on an Alluminare
20 inch drum pendant light

This week my pattern
“Y knot” was introduced exclusively on! Now anyone can order a throw pillow, lamp shade, fabric or wallpaper in this modern-geometric typography inspired pattern (see the chain of capital letter Ys?)

What I love about Alluminare is that each pattern they offer can be custom designed with a variety of colors and pattern sizes. See how easy it is to transform Y knot into completely different looks from subtle to bold ...

Y knot in Black/Cantaloupe, Largest Scale

This last pattern, when blown up to its largest scale, reminds me of a monarch butterfly! This was not intentional, just a pleasant surprise as butterflies happen to be one of my favorite graphic design icons.

Look for them in the following design show spaces:

North Shore Design Show, 2010
(can you find 3 in this post?)

North Shore Design Show, 2009
(can you see 5 in one photo?)

Danvers Historical Society Design Show, 2010
(can you find one?)

I plan on creating more patterns and hopefully a collection or two in the future. Thanks to the creative minds at, custom pattern design is now a dream come true for me : )

Click here to see how you, too, can utilize the custom design features available at!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A few guest posts

Creating rooms featuring custom
designs from

• Three degrees of Jeff Lewis
• It’s nice to have choices

Arrange Flowers like a Pro
on Lynnfield

Words of gratitude from
Gathering Change, Inc.

This has been a busy week! Please visit the
above posts while I spend some time over the
next few days working on the next issue of
New England Finery Magazine : )

PS Click here to sign up for a FREE subscription of
New England Finery Magazine and you will be notified
by email when the next issue is available online!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vote today!

My friend Jennifer Scala, who you may have seen recently in New England Finery magazine, is in the top three today on the Bloomingdale facebook page style contest! Click here to vote for her (but do it before 6pm today!)

Good luck, Jenny!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Top 3 opportunities to give

Whether you give your time or your dollars, or choose to spread the word, there are so many opportunities to give. Here are my top three choices for this week ...

Event: Bloggers Day of Silence and
Disaster Relief Collection

Where: Click here for list of participating blogs

When: Friday, March 18, 2011
Collection Dates: March 14-31, 2011

Why: All donations will go towards emergency shelter
and life saving supplies to Japan via Shelterbox.

Event: Room to Dream Foundation
Carnival of Dreams

When: Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 7pm

Where: Artists for Humanity,
100 West 2nd Street, Boston, MA

Why: Donations will help provide chronically ill
children with healing environments.

Like Room to Dream
on Facebook

Event: Gathering Change Hunger Awareness
Fundraiser Breakfast

When: Saturday, March 19, 2011 at 9:30am

Where: Thomson Country Club,
North Reading, MA

Why: All donations will support local food pantries
and a percentage will be matched by the
Feinstein Foundation
One Million Dollar
Hunger Challenge

Like Gathering Change, Inc.
on Facebook

Have a great weekend
whatever you do!

xoxo yvonne

Monday, March 14, 2011

What do you need in a kitchen?

Would you like to start the day grabbing your cup
of coffee at a built-in coffee bar? My favorite part
is the cork backsplash. Very eco-chic.

This weekend, my sister-in-law Susan and I went shopping for kitchens. We are technically now in a race to see who can put their gutted kitchen back together first! She and her husband (with the help of their sons) just dismantled their kitchen over a week ago. If you have been reading my blog, you know mine was hauled away during let’s just say warmer weather.

Can you fall in love with a piece of stone? I love the
water-color like pattern on this brownish-gray granite.

While ours was barely hanging on by the hinges (in fact many drawer fronts had been glued back on repeatedly, some unsuccessfully), her big problem was an inefficient, dated layout (part of my problem, too) and not a lot of square footage (okay, that was also our problem). As they say, people always end up in the kitchen, so if the kitchen is small or hard to move around in without getting in the cooks way, then that can start to wear on you year after year, especially as our little ones become tall, hungry ones.

This kitchen featured cabinets made out
of sustainable bamboo. By adding a
farmhouse sink with a mosaic tile backsplash
done in a traditional running board pattern,
this Asian-inspired modern space
looks more early-American in style
(and feels “like home” to me).

While my kitchen has been relocated temporarily into our dining room, Susan is fortunate to have a second kitchen located on the third floor of her home. Having to cook and serve meals by heading up two sets of stairs each day (for Susan) or preparing family meals in shifts because the toaster oven can only fit so much on the tray (that would be me) is hardly an inconvenience when you think of what is happening in Japan right now. Even so, I will be very thankful when I our modest sized kitchen is back where it belongs, and I can cook and clean without tripping over extension cords and we can all sit down to eat a home-cooked family meal at the same time.

These cabinets look like they should be in my
100+ year old farmhouse. I love that they
are recessed, furniture-like, with a colorful
interior and vintage inspired hardware.

As I said to Susan, even if you have all the time in the world to wait to get it done (she is thinking by the fall or the holidays) it can be very unsettling to walk past a room that is down to the studs. It just doesn’t feel like home. When I see the footage of the homeless Japanese who are now living, eating and sleeping together in shelters, are missing loved ones, and no longer have their belongings or a place to call home, it truly puts everything in perspective. I have everything I need, all I am missing is a full sized stove. But soon I should be able to get out and use the grill again, so that will add some variety to our evening meals : )

With that said, I hope the photos on this post taken during our visit to Family Kitchens in Salem are helpful to you if you are planning your dream kitchen, or are a virtual field trip if you are in the mood to daydream. I think the name of their business says it all – our kitchens are a sacred room in which to honor our families (and ourselves) through nourishment. While bells and whistles are nice, what we basically need is an efficient space to easily prepare the meals that keep us healthy – and comforted – in our homes.

Do you like to watch cooking shows or the news
while you prepare your meals? A built in television
(or wall mount) will free up valuable counter space.

Do you bake a lot and need a place to store a large
mixer? If moving heavy equipment back and forth
is difficult for you, this might be a good option.

Is a martini bar a luxury or a celebration of the
unique design elements that are available?

Do you have ceilings that have seen better days
or would you like more light bouncing around
in your room? Tin might be a nice solution.

Does imagining a walk on the beach make you
smile? If yes, then this stone tile would be one
way to start your day off on the right foot.

Family Kitchens
262 Highland Avenue
Salem, MA 01970

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Fabric event this weekend

50% off these pillows at New England Fine Living!

I have been collecting fabric for a long time. If I see something that I like, I usually pick it up and save it for future design projects. The collection above was created by combining a
water-resistant seashell print with a couple of remnants from what used to be one of my favorite places to go to get my “fabric fix, the now long-gone Fabric Place.

This weekend at the retail location for New England Fine Living, I will be having a 50% off sale on all the pillows from the design collections that have resulted from my fabric addiction! Prices have already been reduced on each tagged item. Just look for the price tag with a key on it.

If you are a fellow fabric collector, I have also brought in a selection of fabrics that you can take home for your own home decor projects for just $10 per piece. Some of the designer fabrics are well over a yard, and many are in even more generous amounts. Below is a sample of what you will find (lots more colors and patterns are now available in the store). Come early for best selection!

New England Fine Living
106 South Main Street, Middleton, MA
Phone 978-539-8270

Open Wed. – Fri. 11am to 5pm
Saturday 11am to 4pm

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

7 things ...

As a recent recipient of the Stylish Blogger Award, I now have the task of listing seven things about me that you may not know. Trying to come up with this type of information when I have been sharing the details of my life and work on this blog for the past two years (just realized I forgot my anniversary – I started blogging on March 2, 2009) proved to be a difficult task. I needed a couple of days to think about something new to share. Here is what I came up with ...

I don’t love to exercise.
I am a sitter. I like to read and write and sketch and compute. I have to force myself to get up and move (when my kids were little and I was chasing them around all day, I didn’t have that problem) so I joined a doubles tennis team 3 years ago. Now I know I will fit at least a few hours of cardio into my schedule
each week because I made a commitment to my partner and the team to be there. What I enjoy most about tennis is that it feels a lot like meditation when I allow myself to focus on the tiny yellow ball and remember to breathe.

Sometimes I forget to breathe.
Do you ever find yourself holding your breath? If I am really concentrating on something I tend to hold my breath. I have noticed myself holding my breath when I am in engrossed in writing (not so bad) or when I am playing a game of tennis (definitely not a good idea here). When I catch myself doing it, I try to counteract it with a series of deep breaths. After taking in more oxygen, I feel calmer and much more capable of handling the job at hand.

I love to escape in the printed word.
I am in two book clubs. I like the social aspect of them plus I like to have a schedule of books to read. If I had to choose, I would be picking books based on their covers (I can’t help it, I am a graphic designer after all!) Sometimes the monthly picks are hard to get through (we are reading Room by Emma Donoghue in one, Townie by Andre DuBus III in the other) but getting together with the other moms in town is a nice way to connect and have some purely grown-up time (plus we always have wine : )

I don’t love to travel.
I used to before starting a family, but now the thought of going places I have never been before
(plus packing for it) unnerves me. I guess I have gotten too accustomed to our daily routines. Once we get to our destination I always enjoy it, but it is just the thought of not knowing what to expect that bothers me. I am working on getting better at exploring outside of my comfort zone, however, and even signed up to attend Blogfest 2011 in New York in May. Going by myself to New York is something I have never done before, but I know once I get there I will be surrounded by lots of great people that I have met through blogging. If you see me there looking like I am not sure which direction to head in first, feel free to lead the way!

My house is far from perfect.

When I go to meet a client, sometimes they will apologize for the way their house looks. Maybe there are toys on the floor or laundry isn’t put away. My reaction? I have four boys and live in a fixer-upper ... my house never looks camera-ready even on a good day! I would love to be able to open the door to guests and know that everything was in its place. Chances are, however, that there would still be boxes of something to sort through hidden in a closet somewhere. Life just seems to take over and there are only so many hours in the day. I would much rather spend my time creating something tangible than tidying up.

I enjoy watching TV with Ben & Jerry.
At the end of the day, I just want to kick back and relax in front of the TV with a bowl of good ice cream (although to be honest, I eat it right out of the pint). My favorite shows right now are Modern Family (makes me laugh), Parenthood (director Ron Howard nails it), Housewives of _____ (about the most drama I can handle), Gossip Girl (for the set decorating) and The Nate Berkus Show (I like to keep up with what he is doing). I also can’t wait for the Novogratz family to come back on the air (they will have a new show this summer on HGTV). Now that is a family I can relate to!

I would like to know more about my readers.
I wonder sometimes if I am sharing information that my readers enjoy. What do you like about design blogs? Are you looking for something in particular? Working on a renovation? Curious about design? What would you like to see more of in this blog? Introduce yourself with a comment or email me. I would love to hear from you!

Yvonne Blacker Interiors on facebook
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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Weekend list of stylish blogs


This week I received a Stylish Blogger Award from Tricia Mitchell of the Avolli blog Swedish Antiques. I was honored to be on her list of 10 stylish blogs that she follows, as I am a fan of her blog and the gorgeous Scandinavian pieces that she sells on her site, Avolli. After receiving the award, each recipient of this online honor must then select 10 favorites of their own and share these links with their readers. Tricia and I actually share a number of favorites. She chose four that I would have put on the top of my list:

Completely Coastal
Create Girl
for the love of a house

All of these women design bloggers (including Tricia) were featured in New England Finery issue 1 (see pages 64-66)

Meet our Stylish Bloggers ...

For my list, I would like to include the other design bloggers who grace the pages of New England Finery. I visit these blogs for on-trend inspiration whether it be about fashion, decorating, gardening, art or living a stylish life. Pop by and say hello to ...

Fine Living Muse (starting with editors letter, page 2)
Elizabeth Wertz Photography (cover and pages 22-35)
Seams Couture Blog (cover and pages 22-45)
Gallery Della-Piana (page 45)
Dress Your Best (pages 52-53)
Kim Smith Designs (page 55)
Irwin Feld Design (page 56-57)
Dunes & Duchess (page 59)
Vermont Designer (page 66)
Focus on Design (see pages 70-71)

Bonus link ...

For my final link, this blogger was not actually in the magazine, but her sister-in-law was. Jenny Scala (page 12) provides the New England Fine Living retail shop with her favorite seasonal “Style Pics” (clothing, jewelry, bags and accessories). While Jenny loves fashion, she also appreciates delicious food and healthy recipes like the kind you will find on the blog of her sister-in-law Lucinda Scala Quinn who happens to be the executive food editor of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and the host of Hallmark Channel’s foodie favorite Mad Hungry.

For recipes and highlights from her show visit Mad Hungry Blog (but don’t go there on an empty stomach!) I like reading her blog since I can relate to the fact that Lucinda also has a home full of boys to feed (she has three – older than my four – but with the same huge appetites!)

Along with spreading some “blog love” as a chosen stylish design blogger, I have to provide a list of 7 things you might not know about me. If you are one of my chosen ten, you are invited to do the same on your blog (including choosing 10 blogs that you find stylish and letting them know that they are on your list). I will put together my 7 things list and post it next week. In the meantime, have a great weekend and I hope you enjoy this list of stylish blogs worth following. Thanks again to Tricia for including me in this fun “pay it forward” exercise!

xo Yvonne

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Time for a makeover ...

Before consultation: room lacked design details

I really enjoy when I can give my clients the design direction they need to make decisions on their own with confidence. Sometimes just an hour or two of consultation time – plus some follow up emails or phone calls – is enough to make a big difference without having to invest a lot of money.

For this design makeover, a client wanted to update the look of her living room (pictured above) and she had already begun the process with a new sofa and a pair of lamps. She wanted to add more style to the space and pull the look together but wasn’t exactly sure how to go about doing that. We met in her home, I gave her a list of design to-do’s, and she got the job done (beautifully!)

The end result looks modern and bright

Step 1: Color
New paint color on walls: Benjamin Moore Stratton Blue HC-142 (it looks a little lighter in this picture than it is ... always bring a color home and see how you like it in your space with your lighting)

Step 2: Style
Newly painted brick fireplace (white is much more modern looking). Although hesitant at first, she was so happy she followed through with this step and wished she had done it years ago.

Step 3: Contrast
The room was further brightened up with a light textured carpet to contrast with the smooth medium tone wood furnishings, plus a set of white floor to ceiling natural fiber drapes were also added which contrast with the rough texture of the brick.

Step 4: Edit
Less is more when it comes to decorating. Photos were removed from the mantel and just a few pieces were left. My recommendation was to find objects that reflect light.

Step 5: Add a touch of black
Especially in a pale colored room, a touch of black can visually anchor the space. The new black fireplace screen that my client purchased adds character to the overall look of the space.

We have now moved on to tackling a couple of other rooms that were also in need of style updates. I will keep you posted of her progress!

If you are having a hard time trying to figure out how to design a room in your home, give me a call at 617-899-1226 to schedule a coaching consultation. I also work via email for those interested in virtual design plans.