Hiring Contractors

If you have a bigger project on your hands, you probably want to hire outside help. For projects that require plumbing and electrical work, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you hire a licensed, insured professional like a good General Contractor. These people are the most trained and qualified to perform the job. Yes, they do cost more up front, but at least you know the standards they must uphold that an unlicensed handyman or your friend Tony from down the block may not. The safety issue is also paramount here. It’s just not a good idea to mess with pipes or wires unless you know what you are doing. If something goes wrong, it can go REALLY wrong.

General Contractors are “point people” who have many functions: plumbing, electrical, framing, building, drywall, tile work, appliance installation, woodwork, roofing, painting, and all other aspects of home repair.

Sub-Contractors are specialists in one field, hired by the General Contractor to do work for you, under the same contract (ie- Flooring Installer, Plumber, Electrician, Roofer, etc.)

When you’re thinking of hiring someone to do work in your home, it’s a good idea to get at least 3 estimates from 3 different people. Remember: the lowest is not necessarily the best. You want something that will last. Check out photos of past projects, ask for references, and get to know the quality of each person’s work.

Here are some questions to ask:

-Does the contractor hire all the workmen himself, or will he be hiring outside help (sub-contractors)?

-Which parts of the project will be sub-contracted out, and to which sub-contractor? (Check out the sub-contractors!)

-Is he licensed and insured, and can he provide copies of these certificates?

-Has he done this type of work before?

-Who will be the foreman on the job?

-Will he assist in acquiring permits (if necessary)?

-How does he invoice payment? (Some bill all at once, and some bill in increments- for example 30% up front, 30% second payment, 30% third payment and then 10% at completion. I ALWAYS ask that the project is billed in installments, and hold the last payment until the project is completed to my satisfaction.)

-Is there a one-year guarantee on all work that will be done?

I am a big fan of hiring someone that has done work for someone I know. That way you can not only see the work for yourself, but ask pertinent questions about the experience:

-Was the work completed on time?

-Was the project done to your satisfaction?

-Were there hidden costs or fees?

-Did the workmen treat your home with respect?

-Did the contractor adequately and regularly supervise the work?

If you are hiring someone you do not know, ask lots of questions. A good contractor will take the time to answer your questions and make you comfortable with the project.

Use your instincts. If you get a funny feeling at the first meeting, or the prospective contractor won’t answer the questions you are asking, this probably is not the guy for you. On the other hand, if you feel comfortable, you have seen his work, asked questions of his former clients and they have answered positively, know that he is licensed, insured and qualified, and the price is one you can afford, you have just found yourself the person to improve your home. Good luck!

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Fastidious, yet Fabulous Painting Tips

I’ve actually seen people freak out over paint color, in the bad way. “Oh my God, it doesn’t look like the chip in the store!! Oh my God! What the hell??” Generally, when I see people picking paint colors and buying them in the store, I’ll have my own Designer Intervention with them, and lay it down for them: you MUST take te card home and look at the paint sample in the room that you’re actually going to paint!

And that’s just the beginning. Yes, I do this for a living, and details are my life and fine, call me anally retentive about decor (I’m a Virgo… Born this Way!) but there are a bunch of little steps that are worth doing to ensure that the paint chip you love is the color you’ll get. And there are even more steps on how to paint (if you’re doing it yourself.)

SO… my point is that yes, following these ideas will take you longer, but your home will look the way you want it. Isn’t that worth a little extra time? Oui. Here are the steps I follow every time I paint. Try them. You’ll like the results!!

-Get a whole bunch of paint card samples at the store. More than you think you’ll need. Go home and look at the paint colors on the wall/ceiling in the daylight. I generally scotch tape them up and look from 5 feet away. You may have 2 or 3 choices,which is OK at this point.

-Benjamin Moore (95% of the paint I use) has these little 4 oz samples that you can buy for a couple of bucks. Great idea to get them and test the color on a big piece of oak tag, so you can see the color on a larger area than the tiny chip. Once they dry, look at them again in the area they would go. Now, once you like them in the daylight, look at them at night with whatever artificial lighting you have.

-Make sure the colors go with your furniture, rugs, etc. If you like the colors in the sunlight and lamp-light, get them. As far as finishes, I generally get eggshell for the walls and semi-gloss for the trim. (In the kitchen, I get Pearl for the walls. It’s easier to clean.)

-I buy cheap brushes (2 at 1″ and 2 at 3″) a 6-pack of moderate-priced roller pads, and good painter’s tape. Don’t skimp on the good tape! And if you get the disposable drop-cloths, the cheapest ones suck, but the medium ones are OK. If you want to be eco-friendly, get cloth ones and re-use them.

-Important supplies to get before doing any actual work: a great playlist on your ipod, a good friend or 2 to paint with, sandwiches, chips and wine or beer. Calories don’t count when you’re doing manual labor.

-Prime the whole room white (usually 2 coats) as whatever colors you have chosen must be applied on a white base, and not whatever color existed on the wall. Now, if you can prime the night before, that helps a lot. If not, the primer should dry for about 4 hours.

-Edge and paint the ceilings first, followed by the walls. Then the trim: windows, crown molding and base molding. Lastly, the door frame and the door. There is less chance of you getting paint on yourself that way. Everything should have 2 coats.

That’s it! Whew!! So, now that you know what to do, why not give it a shot for a weekend? Believe it or not, painting is actually fun to do, and you’ll like the feeling of accomplishment. Let me know what happens! :-)

To see some of this work in action check out www.joecangelosi.com.

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How “White” White Are We Talking About Here?

It’s inevitable. At some point during your design and decorating, you’re going to have to select a white paint that works.

Benjamin Moore lists about 268 of them. Some tint to beige, some to blue, red, yellow, grey, warmer, cooler, blah blah blah… So how on earth do you make some sense out of these and pick the one for you??

Well, seeing as how I am more of a “color” person myself, I generally only use white as trim or in some cases, a ceiling color. If you do it this way, you’re already half way home. Look at a larger sample of your wall color next to the white, and make sure they are in the same family. So, they should both be warm, or cool, or greyer, or redder, etc. The goal here is that the white should accentuate the color, and make it seem more of itself, as opposed to washing it out.

Here are some popular choices that have worked for me in the past. All are Benjamin Moore colors, unless noted.

“White” is really white. I would say this is the closest to no tint whatsoever that Benjamin Moore makes. Basically, if you threw bleach onto something and waited 2 hours, this is what you would get. A very clean, crisp white.

Super White

“Super White” (above) is the slightest off-white I’ve seen. It’s just a little softer than “White” and can add the tiniest bit of warmth to your choice of color.


If you are looking for really-really white-white, Behr (the Home Depot brand) makes a paint that I am increasingly using, especially in bathrooms. “Ultra Pure white” is so white white and so clean, that it’s hard to go wrong here. It makes for a great trim in semigloss, and can compliment carrara marble, white towels and other bath fittings quite well. I love this color! Behr paint is very thick by nature. 2 coats of this bad boy and you are good to go!


Linen White is not white-white, but an off-white, and is a good one to pair with taupe and medium beige. It has a slight yellow tint that adds a lot to rooms done in tones. I call it a “safe place to rest your eyes.” I read somewhere a while ago that 90% of the paint sold in the country is Linen White. That seems a little excessive, and if that is true then 90% of people need to expand their comfort zone a little more!


Navajo White is in the same family as Linen white but has more of a warm tone to it. Still a very very neutral color, it can support bolder hues well without being terribly obtrusive.


China White tints to the red. This is a good option for rooms that are pink, blush, or for beiges with a warm hue.

White Dove

White Dove has some grey in it, and pairs well with charcoals and greyer taupe choices.

Decorator's White

Decorators White is in the same family as White Dove. It is one of the most popular whites that Benjamin Moore sells, and is a pretty safe bet to coordinate with a lot of colors.

Ultimately, your choice of white is going to depend on what other paint color you have int he room. Take a few sample cards, look at the chips in both natural sunlight as well as the incandescent lights you have in the room. If you love it both times, score! That’s the white for you.

For some examples, check out joecangelosi.com

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Decorating for Entertaining

I’ve been to a lot of parties this summer for a variety of occasions: birthdays, holidays, and a lot for no reason other than to have a get-together with friends. Many are memorable for lots of reasons, but the ones that stick out in my mind are usually the ones where some good thought has been put into the decor of the party. I’m not talking about streamers and balloons that you get from the 99-cent store, here. I am talking about the planning of locations for items that will help ensure a great flow and good time for your guests.

The first thing I like to do is to have a small drink station right near the front door. A nice tray on a table will do, maybe with some champagne flutes or punch or something interesting that welcomes people into your home right from the get-go. Maybe a specialty drink that you’ll be featuring that night? A tray of margaritas or cosmos certainly sets a mood for what’s to come.

On the flip side, I always put the main bar in the farthest location from the door. Why? Because this placement allows guests to wander around the home and say hello to people on their way to get a drink! 9 times out of 10 they will stop and talk and probably walk to the bar together. You’re trying to get people to meet and talk here!

On the same token, let’s talk about seating. Unless it’s a sit-down dinner, I like to have seating for half the guests that will be there. I’m not trying to be rude here, quite the contrary. The goal is to have people up and mingling and walking around and having a good time. Chairs are usually placed in groups of 2 or 3 so that when a longer conversation is struck up, the guests can then sit down to chat.

Flowers are great. Think one display by the entrance, one by the bar and one by the food. Maybe a few little vases around the house as well. Keep to the same general colors in each display for continuity.

Glassware should be actual glass and not plastic. If you’re serving a lot of wine, those little wine charms are invaluable! Pretty much every party I’ve gone to has featured a game of “Where the hell did Joe put his drink?” If there’s a charm on the glass, your guests will know which one is theirs if and when they set it down for a while.

Food at a cocktail party should be appetizers and the like that can easily be consumed in 1-2 bites, and served on a small (approximately 6-inch) plate for easy mobility. Have lots and lots of plates because these get dirty fast. Lots of small napkins are a must! These can be a fun color that can match the rest of the decor.

Also, think about convenience for your guests: If it’s a New Year’s Eve party, place lots of hats and noisemakers around all areas where the guests will congregate. If it’s a Christmas party, have one or two extra gifts just in case you forgot someone on your list and they show up with something for you (a nice bottle of champagne or a nice scented candle make great last-minute gifts.) If you know a lot of smokers and you don’t smoke yourself, have several ashtrays outside so that your friends can easily light up on the porch and then re-join the festivities.

Remember that your home is an extension of yourself. Make sure to make people feel welcome and they will certainly remember the great time they had at your party!

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The Broken Windows Theory

When I first heard about this one, a lightbulb went off in my head that was as bright as any billboard in Times Square.

The origin of the idea was an anti-crime measure in urban areas. Long story short, the theory says that a “broken window” in a building sends a signal to people that the residents in the community are not concerned with the overall upkeep of their neighborhood, and that vandalism and crime are tolerated there. In essence, the signal is that it is OK for someone to break another window. And another. And another.

Conversely, if an area looks beautiful and is maintained well, then people will take pride in living there and not want see it vandalized or have crimes performed in their now-improved neighborhood. The more people there are in a given place – who care about what happens there, the more people will want to prevent something from damaging that area.
At the same time, now this is the important part: the environment that is well maintained is ITSELF a deterrent to crime, as it sends a signal to potential vandals and criminals that their behavior is being monitored by residents and that misconduct is not tolerated in this community.

The image of “broken windows” being used as a blanket example for things that can found in areas with high crime rates: graffiti, brown lawns, sidewalks and streets that needed better paving, etc. The original article, written for Atlantic Monthly in 1982 stated:

“Consider a building with a few broken windows. If the windows are not repaired, the tendency is for vandals to break a few more windows. Eventually, they may even break into the building, and if it’s unoccupied, perhaps become squatters or light fires inside. Or consider a sidewalk. Some litter accumulates. Soon, more litter accumulates. Eventually, people even start leaving bags of trash from take-out restaurants there or breaking into cars.”

The theory was put into practice in several major Metropolitan areas in Massachusetts, New Mexico, the Netherlands and my home city of New York. Broken and unkept items were replaced, and funds were invested into nicer looking facades, parks, streets, thereby improving the look of neighborhoods. So, what happened? Generally, crime decreased! Whether this cleaning-up was the sole reason or a contributing factor remains under debate, but the fact is that crime did decrease at the same time.

Once each area received a good once-over, the Real Estate Industry took notice. More investments into these once considered “fringe” areas occurred, and development, specifically in the homeowners’ market ensued. I saw it with my own eyes: an area once considered to be not the most desirable due to abandoned houses and storefronts or sub-par looking parks and sidewalks, after some TLC was suddenly the “hot new neighborhood” with sparkling condominium buildings and businesses geared toward the new neighbors’ income bracket.

This idea has been put into place into schools as well. When an educational environment is shiny and new, functional and efficient, healthy and nurturing, then the students will change their behavior to suit the new improved surroundings.
The concept is that if a student has been given an atmosphere that is beautiful, then they will feel that they are deserving of such an environment, and their demeanor will change not only in relation to the environment but to other students and teachers as well. You know what? It actually works! Many schools that have implemented this theory have seen major improvements in conduct and have made large strides in grades, test scores and graduation rates.

People actually do change their conduct in a better-looking setting than in one that is run-down. We all want to take pride in being somewhere that is beautiful. You can see it in large-scale examples like beautiful hotel lobbies, the opera, museums. Watch how someone who normally does not spend time in places like these changes their stance almost immediately upon entering. They will usually stand taller. Once acclimated for a few moments, they will walk prouder and allow themselves to be awed by their environment. Think about it: do you act differently when dining in a better restaurant versus a fast-food chain? Why?

The interesting thing is that most people will look to others in their surroundings in order to determine how they should act and what behavior is considered acceptable in that particular setting. The more interesting thing is what happens when there are NO people around: people then look for clues and signals in the environment to tell them how to behave. An atmosphere that is clean and well maintained sends a signal that the area is monitored frequently and well cared-for, thereby deterring vandalism and crime. On the other hand, surroundings that are full of litter, graffiti and yes, broken windows, sends off the signal that this is a place where vandalism and crime can easily be committed and go undetected.

The theory all boils down to this: Our behavior is dictated by our environment.

So, what can each of us do in our individual lives, on a more attainable scale? Well, whether at home or at work, a more ordered and efficient space leads to more order and efficiency. A well-maintained place full of beautiful well-maintained items will signal to people that this is a place to be treated with care and respect, and that other people in that setting are to be treated with that same care and respect too. Now, I’m not suggesting that there is crime an/or vandalism in your own home, but how about asking yourself, “Does my own environment reflect how I want people to treat it?” More importantly, “Does my environment reflect how I want to be treated in it?”

Try this method in one space of your own life: It could be small scale like your desk at work or kitchen counters. How can improving these spaces improve the tasks you perform there? People will be sure to notice a spruced up office space. And you will create more room in the kitchen for people to cook with you, and it will certainly be easier to maintain a clean counter if it’s already clean.

It could be something larger like a yard or basement. Creating a nicer space for the kids to play or for family and friends to congregate will improve the lives of those you care about. A den? Family room? Front porch? Anywhere that you feel could use a change from clutter or, just to make something look more appealing. Plant a flower bed or add some nice terra-cotta pots in the stairs. Paint the fence. Add a nice small tree. Think about “curb appeal.” You’re not only making your home a nicer place for your family who lives there, but for the neighbors and community as well. Maybe the people next door will see your flowers and love them, and get some too. This is how movements start. Then, if you’re going super-scale to the neighborhood level, and involving lots of people, you really get the idea.

Whatever thoughts or experience you have on putting this into practice, make sure to leave a comment as I’d love to hear from you.

For more information, and to check out some great spaces, check out my website.

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Designing Your Home for YOU

Does your house say something? It should. And hopefully, it should say something about YOU!

Many times, I’ve walked into a room and said, “Oh, so-and-so must have designed this! It’s nice.” I then wonder what the owners of the home must be like. You see, the issue with instantly knowing who designed the space is that the Designer’s style has usurped the feeling of the person living there!

I am a firm believer that a home should reflect its owner. In everything. It should function well for their needs, make them happy, and be a place where they can create memories. As Oprah says, “Your house should rise up to meet YOU.” You said it, O!

Yes, it should have the wonderful things that Designers bring like beautiful vignettes, great colors, textures, senses of scale and proportion, and wonderful furnishings and materials. But, does this work for the people living there? Is the living room more of a museum of antiques and porcelain pieces than a place to entertain friends? Does everyone in the home love being there and using every inch of the space. Does it make them smile? It should! :-)

I like knowing what the owners are into: Do they have hobbies? Do they like to travel? Collect things? Cook? What’s their background? Are they more formal or more easy-going? Do the furnishings reflect any of that? That’s the fun part!

Most of the time, if you are looking at a Designer’s portfolio, and all the rooms look the same, yours will probably look just like that too if you hire him/her. The designs may look “nice,” they may have cost a pretty penny, but is this where YOU see yourself? Is that “YOU?”

My whole thing is that I like to let my Clients talk and tell me exactly what they want. I may refine a suggestion, offer a different solution, or introduce new ideas, but they are all based in that first question, “What do YOU want?” Then, I give it to them. And if I’m really doing my job well, the choices we make together give solutions that respond to what was asked for, with great functionality and an aesthetic that was even better than expected. All the while, remembering that I’m helping someone make their home a better place for them to live.

What’s better than that?

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New York Junior League House Tour

The Calm Before the Storm!

The Calm Before the Storm!



I was very excited to find out that one of my designs was selected for the Junior League House Tour! The organization is fantastic, and promotes – among other things – volunteerism among women. The House Tour is one of their main fundraisers and events, and I was very happy to participate.

The First Guests Arrive

The First Guests Arrive



The Greenwich Village Loft is a truly fantastic space in the City. This space in a former factory building is very large at 2200 square feet, gets unbelievable natural light, and is occupied by a wonderful photographer whose work is shown in large scale prints throughout the space. The display of these photographs as well as impressive collection of art by other modern photographers was a primary focus of the overall design.

Mingling in the Living Room

Mingling in the Living Room



We chose a neutral color for the walls, and selected furnishings and accessories that did not draw too much attention away from the artwork, but subtly enhanced it. Certain pieces have bold saturated colors, while others play a more supporting role. Lighting plays a key role in the design, both in drawing visual focus to the featured photographs as well as creating ambiance in each area. The centerpiece of the loft is a chandelier made of fourteen handmade glass spheres, which provides a unique focal point made of light.

Enjoying the Event in the Dining Room

Enjoying the Event in the Dining Room




The home is all at once modern, comfortable, bold, bright, warm, and inviting. So many people commented on that last part, which was also such an important element of the design, and I’m glad it came across. Yes, it was designed to be a show-place for an important art collection. Yes, it is very much the quintessential “Downtown Manhattan Artist’s Loft,” but it is still very much a home, and everyone said they felt that someone really lived here and loved the place.

The owner entertains frequently, and there are many dinner parties and larger events held here regularly. Since the Loft really is one big open space, many people can enjoy themselves at once. However, smaller events can have a cozier feel, since we delineated the space visually with layered rugs. Lighting can also be enhanced to illuminate certain areas more than others at different times of the evening. This gives a feeling of being in a more intimate environment while actually in a much larger space.

Admiring the Western Views from the Kitchen

Admiring the Western Views from the Kitchen




I was told that we should expect 250-275 people. Well, we must have had 300 at the very least, maybe more! I had purchased 280 glasses for mimosas and drinks, and we ran out about half an hour before the event ended! People were telling me that the guests who came in the morning were texting their friends to make sure not to miss this place on the tour in the afternoon! We had some HUGE rushes of people, who even showed up half an hour after “closing time.” I figured if they made the trip down, they should at least come up to experience the place.

People Seemed to Enjoy Themselves all Day!

People Seemed to Enjoy Themselves all Day!




I honestly lost track of how many people made it a point to approach me and say that this was by far their favorite Home on the Tour this year. That made me feel great, as it was my first time participating, and I was so glad that they really got what the home was meant to be: a fun and welcoming environment for people to enjoy themselves and experience some great art, fantastic views, wonderful food and drink, and ultimately, the company of people.

The experience for me was overwhelmingly positive, and based on the reactions of all the guests, this home was a place that they all really enjoyed too. You know when the crowds that leave the place are smiling and talking about it, they had a good time! I was very happy to be a part of a great day.

For more information, check out www.joecangelosi.com and www.facebook.com/joecangelosidesign

The Morning After... Thanks to Matthew, the owner of the loft for letting me take over his home for the day!

The Morning After... Thanks to Matthew, the owner of the loft for letting me take over his home for the day!



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DIFFA Dining by Design 2012

Each year, DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS) holds an event in major cities that I always make a point of attending. In New York, it is located with the Architectural Digest Home Show, and always proves to be one of the major highlights of the day. Designers, Furniture Companies, Paint Companies and others in the industry feature their work and wares in a table setting for the public to see, discuss and take away inspiration.

The best part is that the money raised goes to education and preventative care to people at risk for infection as well as treatment and direct care to those people living with HIV/AIDS. So, they add lots of beauty to the world, and help lots of people… not bad right?? I’d say that’s a pretty great organization.

At the event, there are always a lot of great table settings to see, but there are certain ones to which I am usually drawn. Color, contrast, style, beauty, and that certain je ne sais quoi are all things that catch my eye, and here are 10 of my featured favorites:

Designlush/MMPI

I like the repetition of the circle motif, as well as the beauty of the metallic objects.




Thom Filicia for Artistic Tile


This is a great example of how to decorate using only black and shades of gray. Very beautiful.




RDYC Interior Design and Architectural Development


I love this one… Ultra-Classic meets Ultra-Modern! Love.




Libby Langdon for Liebherr


I love the chandelier made from wine bottles!




Evette Rios for Hayneedle


This is the first installation I’ve seen that uses two levels. Way to think out of the box!




HBA


Drama! I would totally eat here.




Roger Thomas for Maya Romanoff


Sometimes all you need are tones and real beauty…




Marie Aiello for Resource Furniture


Video screen background, metallics, lucite, dramatic lighting, patterns, patterns, patterns… sold! Brava.




Eric Warner for Aesthete Ltd.


This one is great… Modern Elegance! I’m such a fan of the Philippe Starck “Louis Ghost” chairs.




Slade Architecture


Black, white and plastic! Sometimes contrast and boldness is key!


For more information on DIFFA or to attend their next event, check out their website at www.diffa.org


For more great rooms, check out www.joecangelosi.com

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What Projects Give Great Impact on a Budget?

It’s no secret… nobody is tossing thousands out the window anymore. Everyone is feeling a crunch and making much more informed choices on how to spend money. This is not to be said that people don’t still want to improve their homes – everyone wants a nice place to live – maybe we’ll just hold off on that antiquing trip to Sotheby’s for a little while.

In this regard, a lot of clients have been asking me about what we can do to their homes that won’t break the bank. In this instance, the first thing I would suggest is get a realistic and specific dollar amount in mind, and once that happens, decide on the places you would like to focus your ideas and energy. Then, as yourself if there work you would be comfortable doing yourself as opposed to hiring someone to do it for you? Spending $30 on a How-To book might be a great idea in saving lots more in labor costs! Painting, simple tile work and some types of simple flooring are areas where you may be able to learn what to do easily, while plumbing and electrical stuff are probably best left to the licensed pros.

If you’d like to give the house a once-over, nothing beats paint as the place to start. It is a low-cost way to add color and change the overall feeling of any room. A good primer should cost $20 per gallon, and paint can go up to $40 or $50 per gallon (always budget for two coats!!) A few brushes, some drop cloths, a good Ipod playlist and a little elbow grease, and you’ve got a new vibe in your bedroom!

Replacing some out-dated furniture is also a great way to go as opposed to a complete home re-design. Good upholstered furnishings should last 10-15 years or so, depending on use. At that point, the styles will most likely change. If you are not so attached to the piece, donate it to the Goodwill for a tax write-off and get something new. If you love the piece, but it’s just time for a fresh look, think about having it re-upholstered in a more updated fabric.

In the living room, accessories are the key. New pillows on the sofa can brighten up the space very quickly for only a couple hundred bucks. Maybe new art? Lamps? A foyer mirror? These don’t need to be expensive to look fantastic. This is also a great opportunity to step out of your comfort zone and try a new look or idea!

Lighting is such a key aspect in your home. What if you replaced your older chandeliers and ceiling fixtures with something more contemporary. Simple things like this can – literally- brighten up your home instantly. Many lighting stores and websites are having sales right now, so it’s a great time to invest in these items… and don’t forget the dimmers – on everything! $20 per fixture buys you some great ambiance!

If you’re a little more ambitious, and want to tackle a few kitchen updates on a budget, you can do it, just remember to keep things in perspective. The best ways to give a big change are to sand re-paint your cabinet doors (or replace the doors if you have the cash) and add some new hardware. You’ll be amazed at what this can do for your space. I have done this a few times for clients, and the look is that of a whole new kitchen for a few hundred bucks. For a little more, you can add a new backsplash (maybe $25-40 per linear foot, depending on material.) This can also be a great eye-catching item!

If you’re going to replace your appliances, and the $6,000-$10,000 per piece on the Viking and Sub-Zero pieces are not an option for your wallet, you can plan to spend $1,500-$2,000 each on some decent stainless steel alternatives that will last you a while.

Can’t afford new wood floors? Sand and refinish the ones you have! Or paint them!

Will a new bathroom cost too much? Think about re-glazing your existing fixtures, or maybe a tub surround instead of expensive tile. New towels and accessories can also brighten this room.

Have a look at some Home and Shelter magazines or check out a few DIY books from the library to start getting some ideas.

My point is that things are possible to improve your home even when you think that it may not be the case. Check out some other great ideas on my website here.

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My Favorite Photographer, in My Favorite City

A few years ago, I was treated to my own informal showing of Matthew Pillsbury’s work by the artist himself. We had met at a party the week before and I had heard a few things about him from our mutual friends. Once I was in front of these large-scale prints of his work and really took the time to take them in, I was absolutely speechless. Anyone who knows me even for a little while knows that that is a rarely occurring feat unto itself! You’ll see why.

Sitting on the High Line




In these frames were images of beautiful architecture and interiors from around the world, bold and unapologetic, and were juxtaposed with the fleeting ghostly images of people occupying the spaces. Some exposures are longer (he produced a whole series of “Hours”) and some are only a few minutes. What remains constant is that Matthew visually captures not only a beautiful place, but a few moments of the ephemeral human experience in and of that place.

Top of the Standard


With THAT being said, I also had the pleasure the other night to attend the opening of Matthew’s new show, “City Stages,” at the Bonni Benrubi Gallery. This selection of new work focuses on the literal and figurative Stages of New York City. Some of the images are photographed staged performances, some are parades, some are street scenes. Some places are iconic because of what they are: The main reading room of the New York Public Library, some are iconic because of when they are: the Tribute of Light on the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, and some are iconic because of what happened there: the Occupy Wall Street movement at Zuccotti Park.

New York Public Library, Main Reading Room


Tribute of Light, Sunday, September 11th, 2011


Zuccotti Park




While at the gallery, everyone was talking about all the different focal points in each piece, the sense of movement, the sense – in some cases- of raising up a more mundane subject matter to an artistic one, and the overall strong feeling evoked through each image. If you think about it, these are also topics that could be describing New York, couldn’t they? An ever-changing place where the everyday and the elevated live side-by side, sometimes in the same place… or in the same person. There’s a lot of gray in the black-and white.


Fausto, Washington Square Park


Contortionist, Big Apple Circus


Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade


Matthew presents the New York that he knows and loves from his own individual perspective. He is able to heighten, lift, and hold dear the big and the small, and give them an equal playing field. There is a joy there that is almost child-like in it’s approach. It gives you that glisten in your eye, like the first time you sailed in the Harbor and saw the skyline from the water, or your first glimpse of a new vista in Central Park. As a lifelong New Yorker, one of my favorite things is when I am shown something new in the City, or something in the City in a new way.


Thanks, M, for that. Well done.

Jing Fong Dim Sum


Jane's Carousel




For more images and information, check out www.matthewpillsbury.com

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