California designer Shiree Hanson Segerstrom's weekly tips for decorating, gardening, and stylish living

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Tried and True: Easy to Remember Tips for Decorating and Designing Your Interiors

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When you have done something long enough, naturally you pick up a lot of tricks of the trade along the way. Here are a few of the tried and true, lessons and short cuts I’ve learned over the years.
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Paint, fabrics and flooring, if chosen well will make a home function well, look better and feel “right”.  Aim for clean, edited, well accoutered rooms first and foremost. Once that’s accomplished, you can throw in a few unexpected elements to give your rooms a little personality.



Always buy a small sample of at least three or four of your chosen paint colors and paint them on 8 x 11 pieces of art board. View them on different walls and at different times of day to get a clear idea of what the paint color will look like.


Even better, paint the colors directly in and around the corner of the wall opposite the main light source, wrapping each of them around the corner so the color can “bounce” off itself. Paint color reflects on itself and intensifies.



above via DECORDESIGNREVIEW.tumblr
I like to view paint colors next to white paper for perspective. I also like to compare colors that are similar to one another side by side. It’s especially helpful to compare neutrals this way.

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Never paint a bedroom red. Red is a dynamic, vibrant color and can be agitating in bedrooms. Use restful colors like soft greens, blues and even lavenders. Soft yellows and pinks if chosen correctly can be pretty too.

Generally speaking, light, cool colors enlarge a space and warm, dark colors make it appear to be smaller or “cozy”. However, the rules with paint color are often broken for special effects such as in powder rooms and dens. Small spaces can look nuanced and mysterious with dark colored walls and floors. Use high gloss paint finishes and reflective surfaces such as mirrors, polished nickel, and brass as accents.


Floors, walls and ceilings are the biggest surfaces in your home. When choosing wall to wall carpet I usually prefer high quality, neutral colored wool. For wood floors, I generally choose medium/dark finishes for large spaces and light finishes for small spaces.  In homes with a mix of rooms sizes, choose the finish that’s predominantly best and stick with it throughout. If you do too many flooring colors or styles in one home, your floors will look like a patchwork quilt. When it’s not possible to use the same flooring throughout, you can achieve continuity by using the same color or tone.

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Window Coverings
When choosing window treatments for your home you need to keep several things in mind: privacy, heat, cold, sun, the value of the home, and the type of window you’re covering.


Over the years I’ve kept my window treatment projects very tailored and simple. I like tasteful, high quality, style-savvy fabrics in simple, pinch pleated draperies, box pleated valances and Roman shades sewn by experienced work rooms (at least fifteen to twenty years in the business).


If the views beyond your windows are less than desirable, floor length stationery curtain panels over stationery floor length sheers allow maximum light without the unsightly scenery.

Floor to ceiling draperies make windows appear larger and are a great camouflage for unattractive windows.
After flooring and walls, the sofa is one of the next biggest surfaces in your living room. If it’s not chosen properly, it will have an adverse effect on the room’s overall appearance and comfort level. In small rooms, choose a sofa without a skirt to visually enlarge the room. In a large room conversely, a skirted sofa will help keep the room from feeling cavern like. The same goes for chairs but it’s not always necessary to have both skirted or un-skirted sofas and chairs. You can mix them up a bit.
Warm colors (red, orange) and patterns, as in clothing, make your furniture appear larger while black and other dark colors make them appear to be smaller.


Without upholstered pieces or fabric window coverings, your dining room will look like “one big sea of wood”. If you have a sleek and modern home with few adornments this look can be quite lovely. Otherwise, add color and pattern with his and her accent chairs in a beautiful fabric. Even better, add accent chairs AND coordinating custom seat cushions. Coordinate the fabrics with the living room furniture for cohesiveness.

Shiree’s Style File

Mirrors are a great way to visually double the space of any room.

Original artwork is a big investment. Purchase mirrors and framed prints until you’ve developed your own preferences for original artworks. Seek the assistance of a reputable, experienced art dealer to help build your collections.

Area rugs are an important purchase but tend to look “busy” next to upholstered pieces. If you collect fine rugs for your home, work your fabric treatments around them by choosing those with little or no pattern. Let the rug’s pattern be the focal point.

Sofa throw pillows look best in two’s and three’s. For an average 87-90 inch sofa, or 75 inch apartment sofa, use twenty inch throw pillows. For a loveseat, use 18 inch pillows. 22 inch pillows are quite large and best used as “pillow backs”, in place of back cushions. These are usually seen in fives.

If your room is missing something, it’s usually texture, color, scale or greenery.

Lastly, I feel every room should have at least a few small touches of red…in flowers, in books, in a lampshade, or in artwork.



Thursday, July 24, 2014

RERUN "My Favorite Biscuit Recipe from the Palo Alto Junior League Cookbook"

This is a rerun of a post I wrote in winter of 2012. Enjoy...

    "This weekend it was snowing at my Sonora place.  David and I holed up for the weekend, going out only for a few essentials and a coffee break.  I made my favorite lasagna recipe in honor of my son Christian who just landed a job selling tickets to the San Francisco Symphony.  It's his favorite dish.

I also made a batch of home made biscuits and I have a favorite recipe I've been using since the early 80's when Christian was born.  It's called Sour Cream Biscuits and it comes from the Palo Alto Junior League Private Collection 2.  I think it's one of the best biscuit recipes I've ever used.

Sour Cream Biscuits

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

2 C. unbleached flour
4 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
2 t. sugar
1/2 C vegetable shortening
1/3 C. sour cream
1/3 C. milk

Stir together dry ingredients into a food processor with a steel blade.  Process a minute or so till blended.  Add shortening until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  Transfer ingredients to a large mixing bowl.  Add sour cream and milk all at once.  Stir with a fork only until dough follows it around bowl.

Turn dough out onto a floured board.  Lightly knead for only a few seconds.  The secret is to handle the dough as gently as possibly!

Pat or roll dough out to a 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut with a biscuit cutter and place on an ungreased cookie sheet.   Bake 10 minutes, till lightly golden on top.  Allow to cool slightly before eating so they won't be doughy.  Enjoy with a little sweet butter or your favorite jam, but I love my with just butter.   

Note: You may use the dough to make one big shortcake by increasing the sugar to 1 1/2 T.  Absolutely fabulous with strawberries and lightly sweetened cream.  

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Q and A: Five Top Decorating Questions Answered


Everyone loves intriguing spaces. Whether it’s a windowless, jewel box of a powder room with red lacquered walls or a glass walled living room with mountainous views, we love being “transported”. 


Perhaps this comes from our days as children with forts and tree houses. Or maybe it’s a deeper nesting instinct. I’m not sure about the psychology.



You can choose all the paint colors, carpet, fabrics and furnishings you like but designers will tell you the challenge is choosing elements that look fantastic “together”. It’s much more than choosing color and styles. It’s like telling a story: there are lots of words in a book but it’s the order in which the author puts them that makes the book interesting.

I’ve compiled a list of questions people frequently ask during our consultations and provided a number of solutions below.

Frequently Asked:

Q: “We are remodeling our kitchen and there are so many decisions to be made. Where do I start?”

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A: Start with the elements already present in other areas of the home such as flooring, molding, doors, casing, and windows. Think about the year the home was built. Think about future plans for remodeling other rooms. Plan your kitchen to blend in with all of the above. If your home is relatively new and modern, cherry wood cabinets, recessed lighting, contemporary brushed stainless steel pulls, and granite counter tops might be in keeping with what is “already there”. Or, if it’s an older home, consider white painted cabinets, a polished marble tile back splash, and old fashioned black porcelain pulls.

above S.R. GAMBREL
I find clients sometimes want to go in a completely new direction with their kitchen remodels just to be “different”. That’s a mistake unless you plan on redesigning the entire home. Never try and make your home appear to be something it’s not. Consider the architectural style, geographic surroundings, maintenance issues and THEN your style preferences. Aim for flow and continuity.


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Q: “My sofa is getting dingy. Should I recover or replace it?”

A: The first thing to consider is the overall condition of your existing sofa. How is the frame? Is it wobbly or stable? How are the cushions? Are they misshaped, lumpy or uncomfortable? How much did you pay for the sofa? If it’s a good quality piece it’s worth having it recovered. Prices for recovering sofas vary dramatically due to the wide range of fabric costs. Most upholstery fabrics begin at $80 a yard.


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Q: “I need window coverings throughout my new home. What is the solution to a home with many sizes and styles of windows?”

A: Most homes do have many types of windows. My favorite go-to solution in three words is draperies over sheers. Depending on sun control and privacy needs, you can opt for functioning or non-functioning draperies and sheers on traversing decorative hardware.


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I also love stationery draperies over wooden blinds on decorative rods and rings. They make virtually any unattractive window look fabulous and are a great investment for most traditional style homes.

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Coordinate drapery fabrics with your existing design scheme. Wooden blinds, shutters and drapery hardware are a great investment. The drapery panels can be replaced or changed out (for a different look) with a relatively small investment. This also makes them a great selling point for potential buyers.  

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Q: “What are my window treatment options for French doors and glass sliding doors?”

A: I prefer traversing draperies for both French doors and glass sliding doors. In some instances valances and stationery panels can be nice for glass sliders depending on what’s on the neighboring window/s and how much space is available side to side. Like most window treatments, these require professional workmanship to be functional and attractive.

above via HOUSE AND HOME

I'm familiar with the mass-produced window treatment options for sliders and French doors like vertical shades, honeycomb shades, etc. but I've never cared much for them. They are outrageously expensive for what you get. If you’re going that route at least choose styles and colors as neutral as possible.

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There is one mass-produced option I’ve used and loved and that’s the Hunter Douglas Nantucket sheer shade with internal rotating louvers. When the louvers are "open" they give the room a softened light while still allowing you to see outside. When closed they provide maximum privacy and sun control.

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Q: “I don’t like contrived decorating or a lot of accessories but I’d like my home to look special. What can you recommend?”

A: There are some very nice ways to make your home more festive without being overly decorated. My favorite way is to keep on hand a wide variety of quality vases and fill them on the weekends with fresh flowers or greenery from the garden. Sans flowers, they are a fine table top accent as long as they are kept clean. I also love having lots of hard bound books and baskets around the house.  They add a homey, useful touch. Lastly, high quality lamps, simple throw pillows and lap blankets add texture and bring a home to life.

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Feathering your nest is quite often about finding ways to play up the positives and detract they eye from the negatives. Start by filling a binder or file with pictures of the homes, rooms, and individual furnishings you love. By educating your eye, you are much closer to getting what you want from your project.
If you haven’t already done so, go to Pinterest and build boards for your projects. It’s fun, easy and a great way to find inspiration. If you need help finding interesting images, to get you started, follow me on Pinterest here.

The images in this post are from Pinterest boards "Kitchens, the Hub of the Home" and "Living Well at Home".

above via VERANDA

above via SWEETSTROLL.tumblr


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