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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Making the Kitchen, the Heart of the House

I REALLY love to cook, and for me one of the best things about cooking is the gathering together of friends and sharing the experience. The image above is one of the favorite kitchens I have ever designed. The owner was a retired chef and he would through the most terrific parties, where he would invite tons of friends over and we would all sit around the island (it sat 12) and he would cook and talk, and we would all eat and drink, it really was a magical place. Now, not all of us have a place where we can sit 12 people and cook at the same time, but I think there are some lessons that can be learned none the less. Here are some of my thoughts on how you might go about making the Kitchen feel more like the heart of the home:

  • Start with the backgrounds, paint the kitchen a warm, inviting color. Try to stay away from colors that are too cool, like blues and use earth tones, it will give the room an inviting feeling that will encourage people to linger.

  • It doesn't matter if its a modern or traditional Kitchen, the idea about colors apply to both.

  • Make a spot to sit for your visitors, it doesn't matter if its a chair or a stool, just make sure that they can sit comfortably and not feel that they are constantly in your way. So maybe put them on the other side of the island , but just be sure you can go from refrigerator, to sink to stove without asking them to move.

  • I am not a big fan of TV's in the Kitchen. They generate a huge amount of noise in an already hectic spot, at most some background music would be nice.

  • Try keeping either fresh flowers or living herbs in the Kitchen, its amazing what a difference this small gesture will do. Its a way of showing people that you care about the details.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Monday is Answer Day: Color

Today's question comes from a reader in Miami, who, ironically has an all white apartment. The reader tells me that while the apartment is a modest size, that the all white scheme feels too antiseptic. Originally he thought that it would make the space feel cleaner and more spacious, but now feels like it is dull and lacks any punch, what should he do? He had the idea of buying some new furniture or repainting his whole home, I think this might be a little drastic.

It is my feeling when working on a place, to try and bring out the personality of the people who live there. If your concern is light and cleanliness then maybe an all white scheme will work for you. The thing to remember though, is that an all white scheme does not necessarily mean that EVERYTHING has to be all white. I suggest that you take a look at one of the major walls in each room and give it a shot of color. Often one concentrated injection of color will make the white brighter and give a lot more depth to the scheme that you have going on.

As far as what kind of colors to use, as a rule of thumb, I think that stronger colors would work in the main living space, maybe a deep bronze color, that way the scheme can still stay pretty neutral, or if you want something a bit more daring try paprika or a pepper red. I would suggest staying away from sage and other muted tones, you run the risk of it getting to look like a bad office scheme.

In the bedroom, try something that is soothing, what about a very soft pale blue, or even a very very light camel could be pretty too. I think that a warm dusty pink, could also be great, but some guys may be a bit shy about using that. The point is, in the bedroom, use a quiet, soothing color that will encourage quietness and romance.

I hope that this was helpful, let me know how it works out. Remember, each Monday is answer day, so if you have any questions about your decor, write and let me know.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

5 Favorite Books: Palm Springs

While I am not convinced that the middle of summer is the best time to visit, that is exactly what I did. I was in Palm Springs this week, for a few meetings etc. It had been several years since I had visited and it reminded me just how much I love the desert. The thing that I think I like about Palm Springs though is definitely the architecture. Unlike a lot of other desert communities, such as Las Vegas or Phoenix, Palm Springs embraced the idea of modernism with a fervour that few communities have. What you can see now is one of the best collections of modern architecture, in a condensed place, as well as a community that has taken this identity and created a town that celebrates this style and continues on the vanguard of modern design.
This week I have selected a few books from my collection about Palm Springs, some talk about its history others it's style, but they are all entertaining books in their own right. I hope you pick up one or two, and let me know what you think.
Celebrating the weekend retreat, this book is a great starter book,,,, great images and some terrific examples of beautiful homes.

I am a big fan of all the books that Dianne Saeks does on design, and this is no different, if you were to have only one book on Palm Springs, this would be a tough one to pass up.

Another great volume on Palm Springs Architecture. Adele Cygelman has worked at some of the finest architectural magazines in the world, and brings her trained on to bear this brand of modernism. She has gained access into some of the finest homes in the desert and presents them with stunning photography.

Often regarded as the man who started the modern craze in Palm Springs. The houses of Albert Frey were some of the first to marry modernism with a desert context. His houses remain the benchmark of style even today.

This book looks at the Palm Springs of today, its a great insight to what is happening now, as people buy and renovate, or build from scratch, and how they are managing to capture the spirit of a very special place.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Thursday is Resource Day: California Faucets

Today for the Thursday Resource, I have decided to post about a great company, California Faucets. So many of my projects are new construction or remodels, and one of the things I am always looking for is stylish, well priced, quality plumbing fixtures. This I think you can find with California Faucets (www.calfaucets.com).
I have been using this company for years now, and in that time there line has extended broadly to incorporate everything from very traditional, to cleaner more modern designs. With an inspiring range of finishes you can achieve a very custom look easily.
Everyone who reads this blog knows too, that I am always especially keen if they have a great web site too, and this company sure does.
So keep them in mind on your next project, I think you will be happy with the results.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Happy Birthday Gilena!

Today is a very special post for me, it is the birthday of one of my best friends, Gilena. She and her husband, were two of my earliest clients, almost 10 years ago, and since then they have come to mean a lot to me. But does that justify a posting? Probably not, the reason why I wanted to post for her birthday, is because she is the one who has almost single handedly taught me about how design can create meaning in peoples lives.
It's an interesting story, both her and Gary were married to other people, tragically, they both passed suddenly and they met in a bereavement support group called "Our House". After dating a while they decided to get married and build a new home together. That is the home I designed with them.

For them, the house became a way to honor the memories of their previous spouses, as well as a symbol of their new life together. This idea of a home being a symbol like this really brought home to me a whole new way of looking at what I do.

Gilena, went on to write a book about the experience, she posts it on her blog bit by bit, and is really an inspiring story, if you get a chance you should check it out www.alifeimagined.com .

So anyway, happy birthday to my friend, and thank you for opening my eyes to the possibilities of my vocation.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Keeping it Green

One of the ongoing themes of my work, is a relaxed, quiet informality. The goal is to try and make your decoration look effortless. One of the ways you can create that loose feeling is with plants. I love what they can do for a space, they make it feel fresher, cleaner and somehow take the formality away. In short, almost all of my rooms have plants in them, it's the next best thing to being in a garden.

So here are some of my thoughts about using plants:

  • When choosing plants, pay very close attention to where in the room you are going to be using it. If the place you choose is not right for your particular choice, it will always look miserable, and that's not what you want. Luckily though, there are lots of choices, so become friends with the guy at your local plant store, they will steer you right.
  • When in doubt about the light you have, take some Polaroids with you to the plant store, that way you can show them where your plant is going and they can help with suggestions.
  • There is almost no reason, ever to have a fake plant. Sometimes I will use them in rooms with no windows or something like that, but if you do.....keep them small, the larger they get, the more fake they will look.
  • You can make your plants more interesting by being creative with your choice of pot. I did a house recently where I used pots that were very tall, so that I could get the interesting part of the plant up to eye height. Another idea is to use a tall pot with ornamental grasses, this can be really pretty too.
  • They may seem overused, but don't overlook the palm. It can be a very hard wearing plant that is both large, but still airy. I find that they create an immediate elegance too that I think is really charming.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

5 Books I Love: Summer Entertaining

So I am a bit frantic today I have 12 friends coming for dinner tonight (several of them are designers which adds to the pressure) in a house that is way too modest for this sort of event. So it has got me thinking about how I should go about this. I have decided that I am going to do something quite simple, Ceviche, followed by Grilled Lobster with a watermelon and Arugula Salad followed by a fresh Fruit Salad. We will be eating outside in the garden, it will be quite a simple affair with fresh delicious food.

I took my inspiration from some of my favorite cookbooks, by two of my most favorite cooks, Bill Grainger and Donna Hay, both from Sydney, Australia. Between the two of them they have amassed quite a collection of books, but the 5 listed here are among my most popular. It is amazing to me just how simple all these recipes are, often just a few ingredients, but you will be shocked by the depth of flavor.

For instance Bill has a Chicken Soup recipe, that is made from canned chicken stock and a few vegetables, it takes only about 10 minutes to make but tastes like you have slaved all day in the Kitchen, try it, it will rock your world!

Donna Hay on the other hand has made a career by taking classic recipes and reinventing them in a simpler way. One of my favorite books of hers is Flavors, instead of each chapter broken up by course or ingredient, it is broken down by tastes, so there is a chapter on salt, or lime, it's a refreshing way to look at food and makes putting together a meal a real breeze.

Anyway, try some of these books and see what you think, it really is a new way of looking at food.

Bon Apetit!

Friday, July 20, 2007

I Love Bunk Beds

Just like the title says: "I love Bunk Beds!". When I was a boy growing up in Australia, my brother and I shared a room with bunk beds, I thought it was terrific. There is obviously the advantage of sharing your room with a sibling, which I am always a fan of. It seems that kids can get isolated enough these days with all sorts of video games, computers etc, having them share a room, seems like a great opportunity. So, if this is the case for you, consider using bunk beds, here are some thoughts on how to make the most of them:
  • Create areas inside of each bunk for your children's own, personal stuff. You can see in the picture above I added pin up boards so that each child had a place to display their own favorite art pieces.
  • I love the idea of draping the bed, the opportunities that this creates for play is tremendous, whether it's a fairy castle or an enemy fort.
  • Using Bunk Beds will free up a ton of floor space too!
  • Use swing arm lamps on the walls adjacent to the bed, it can get a bit dark on the lower bunk, especially for reading etc.
  • Make sure you have a soft landing spot....it can be a long way down from the top bunk :)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Thursday is Resource Day: Rocky Mountain Hardware

I always look forward to Thursdays, as I get another chance to highlight some of the great resources that i have come to rely on, and today is no different. Today's resource is Rocky Mountain Hardware (http://www.rockymountainhardware.com/). I have been using this company for years now, ever since a friend suggested them, after seeing their stand at a trade show. Back then, this was more than 10 years ago, their designs lent heavily on what i would call Mountain primitive, they were sandcast bronze, but with a definite leaning toward the unrefined. At the time is was mostly door hardware, since then, their popularity has skyrocketed and they now offer, cabinet hardware, sinks, tiles and now even lighting.

The reason I chose them today was that, yesterday I was at a jobsite and the contractor showed me a brochure of a new line they have just released that incorporates inset panels with leather, mixed with the bronze (see the top picture). This has to be one of the coolest things I have seen in a while and is such a warm, sophisticated look, I cannot wait to use it.

The company is based in Idaho, and produces all of their product there, and what's more is very environmentally friendly as well. Take a look at their website I am confident you will be impressed by the collection that they have built, if nothing else you will be inspired by the old world craftsmanship used in a way that makes it relevant today, I know I was.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Working with a Large Room

There can be a lot of challenges associated with working with a small room, but there are also a lot of issues dealing with a large space. If it is not dealt with properly, your seating group can feel adrift, and the space will feel overwhelming and uncomfortable. So here are some tips about dealing with a big room.

  • When starting on a big room, it is crucial that you create zones, the goal is to make it feel almost like a series of rooms put together.

  • Try to find creative ways to break up the space. For instance, in the room shown above, I created wrought iron screens to help break the room up. This is a particularly good method because you can use the screen as a place to put furniture in the middle of the space.

  • Try to space the focal points around the room. For instance the TV may be on one side, the fireplace on another. Other things that you can use for focal points, could be a view, a fish tank, a billiard table or even a fabulous standing lamp.

  • Using area rugs is another great way to break up a space, when doing this use color to tie them all together. In the room above, I mixed modern and traditional rugs, but in the same palette so that it doesn't feel too disjointed.

  • Don't be afraid of space either, it's important that you resist the temptation to over furnish, it will just become oppressive.

I hope that this helps.....

Monday, July 16, 2007

Coffee Tables

While I am not a big coffee drinker I am a big fan of the coffee table. A coffee table it would seem is pretty much any table that you might use as your primary table within a seating group. It is distinct from a side or occasional table in that it is usually placed in front of a sofa, instead of beside one. I have used many different things as coffee tables, old doors, foot stools and even larger tables whose legs have been trimmed. Here are some thoughts about tables you may want to keep in mind:
  • A coffee table doesn't have to be one, single table. In the example above I used a collection of tables to create the scale I needed.This technique can be handy as it can provide an opportunity to use some smaller pieces to great effect.
  • Try finding an old object to use as a table, whether an old door or an antique garden stool, using an old object can create a great focal point.
  • Using a coffee table with a shelf underneath can provide terrific opportunities for storage, especially look for baskets so that your storage needs can be addressed in an organised way.
  • A good height for a coffee table is about 18" above the ground, this is about the same height as a standard seat.
  • If you opt to use an upholstered item as your table, be sure to have a collection of trays at hand, to provide a stable place to put a drink or some snacks.

Monday is Answer Day: Lighting

Today's question is about lighting. Lesley wrote in and she is building a new house, and she is wondering about lighting, whether or not there is much of a difference between recessed lights and surface mounted lights, and how she should design with lamps in mind as well.

This is a very interesting question, because lighting is a great passion of mine. It becomes pretty clear as well if you really think about each of the different types of fixtures. Recessed lights basically will shine light onto the floor, or any horizontal surface, but will put almost no light onto walls or other vertical surfaces. It is that light, (on the walls) that helps you perceive depth in a space. To help balance out the light I like to mix in some surface fixtures, whether they be hanging on the ceiling, or mounted on the wall (sconces). The combination of these two types of light will provide a nice visual texture to the space and helps to bring it alive.

In the image above, you can see where I have combined recessed light (used to light the floor) and surface light (used to light peoples faces as they come to the door), to create a vibrant space.

I also have introduced a table lamp a well to create a brighter area at the table, which helps to draw attention to it, and to help enhance the sense of entry.

One final word, be sure to use dimmers as much as possible and also put everything on different circuits whenever possible. You want to be able to raise and lower the levels of each light in relation to each other, depending on the situation.

Lesley, good luck with your project, I hope this helps.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

5 Favorite Books on Martha

Everybody has a skeleton or two hidden in their closet, and today I am bringing mine out into the open. I am a HUGE Martha Stewart fan, her ability to reduce an idea into a simple executable project is really inspirational. Her books are constant point of reference for me, so there is not a lot to say on each one, but if you don't have this collection, you really should go and get copies for your Library.

Who doesn't like a clean house??!!

I have, at best, a unique sense of organisation, it may still be a bit loose, but it now at least looks good!

As you all know, I am a big fan, of easy, quick tips and that's what you get here. Everything from displaying collections to hanging pictures.... this is classic book of ideas.

More of what you get above. It's amazing to me that she can keep generating these books that are full of ideas that anyone can use.

This one is a bit more practical than some of the others. Finding beauty in the everyday object is really what this is about, and grab a copy and you will see what I mean.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Voices of Design: Scott Flax

Today is a fascinating interview with someone who normally flies under the Radar of the design community and that person is Scott Flax. Scott came to my attention a few years ago when I was visiting a Show house. In the Kitchen the designer had done one of the most inspiring wall treatments that I had ever seen, it was a stencil pattern (well at least i think it was a stencil) of chicken wire, it created the most delightful country yet modern motif it was beautiful. Scott was responsible for this. I later learned that his primary business is as an Architectural Colorist, a career I never even knew exist, but made perfect sense. Since then I have used Scott for color consultations to huge success, I hope you enjoy what he has to say, i think he's fascinating!

MC: You have developed an incredible reputation as a colorist, which to a lot of people is a somewhat mysterious field, can you explain a little how you got into this field, and give a brief description of what it is you do?

SF: Specifically, I am an architectural colorist (as opposed to a hair colorist). I came to this rather specific design field because of a number of circumstances. One, I wanted to begin consulting as a way of getting off of the scaffold (I'd been a decorative/mural painter for twenty five years and beginning to ache) and create more time for painting in my studio. I also had met and worked with Donald Kaufman and Taffy Dahl (leading architectural colorist in the United States) and when I began to consider this path , they were very helpful in talking with me on how to approach my vision. Fortunately and unfortunately, the business of consulting came much quicker and grew much bigger than I had imagined. After seven years, I can say, "I found my niche." My scope of work involves creating color palettes, decorative finishes (both in studio and with various artisans and artists), and design work in regards to flooring (tile and wood). In bringing me on board to collaborate with decorators, architects, and clients, it is my job to create a context that has a beautiful, cohesive quality and a point of view.

MC: When you are brought into a project, how do you start?

SF: When I begin a project, I do two things. Look and listen. I study the architecture, after all it all begins there. Taking cues from it. Seeing where color can support and sometimes, correct, a situation. I look at how the light (both natural and artificial) relates to the space. I look at the sighting. I see how it relates to the elements around them (whether urban, suburban, or rural). I listen to the intention of the decorator, architect, and in the case of residential, the home owner. What is the mood, the style, the feeling they are trying to evoke. Often there are furnishings and art to take into account. When I have the opportunity to work with museum exhibitions, I have to understand the curatorial intention and themes. Of course, that is always a great pleasure as I get to be up close and personal with painting and sculpture and dialog with experts on art and art history.

MC: What color is your home? How did you get to that decision?

SF: Although I would have been very happy in an all white (custom, of my own creation, naturally)house, I was over-ruled by my partner who insisted when our new house was built, " you do it for everyone else, I want color!" So I thought about our location (a few blocks from the beach) and began creating cool, calm, refreshing colors. So when you come in from the glaring light, you would immediately be transported and relaxed and hopefully breathe a deep sigh of relief. I created a exterior stucco color that was the interior palettes' counter-point . The stucco is a warm, creamy, deep off-white gray color. Always changing. How I imagine Roman "white" to be.

MC: Do you see any big trends in color? Do you pay those any mind?

SF: I think the big point on color trends is that "color" is a trend. "Swiss coffee" in all its permutations has been rendered obsolete. As far as trends, I work site specifically, so all color is fair game.

MC: Are there any colors that you keep coming back to? I guess what I am asking is, do you have a favorite color?

SF: I will tell you I have love affairs with specific colors, but I don't force them on anyone or anything. Its all about what works best in any given situation. As you know, a specific color is only as "right" as the other colors its asked to relate to.

MC: I know that you are a fan of Farrow and Ball, as well as Benjamin Moore’s Aura paints, what is it that draws you to these particular manufacturers?

SF: Farrow & Ball color system is a beautiful language of color. Very flexible in both traditional and modern applications. The actual paint has a great visual quality. The Estate Emulsion has a sheen/hide that is rich and subtly reflects the light. The oils are outstanding. Benjamin Moore has approximated this high quality in their Aura paint line (water based). The actual group of Aura colors are interesting and good looking. The nice thing about the Aura paint line is that you can have any Benjamin Moore color from any series made in this high quality paint.

MC: What do you think has been your greatest success story?

SF: It sounds cheesy, but doing what I love and getting paid for it is success in itself.

MC: How do you deal with clients who might be color blind, or at least see colors different from you?

SF: Its funny, my approach and my color presentations give clients a relaxed forum to speak openly about what they are seeing and sometimes feeling about the colors suggested. Their relationship to color is so complex and personal. It is often interesting and comical in their associations. But my bottom line, if they react negatively to a color suggested (with or without explaining), I put that color board away. That knee-jerk reaction says it all. Too many other options to force them to see it a certain way. Color blindness is a different matter. They will usually ask me to help understand the color and why I'm proposing it. I can't think of too many times where color blindness has been an issue. Clients who hire me usually have heightened color senses and strong opinions about color.

MC: Where do you see yourself and your career heading five years from now?

SF: In five years down the road I'd like to have had the opportunity to develop some fabrics and wall coverings, using some of the color and motifs I have developed over the years. I am always thinking about writing a book on color, not a "how-to book", but more personal and hopefully artful.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Thursday is Resource Day: Portera

Today I am very excited to talk about this new resource. It was brought to my attention by a designer friend of mine who worked on the home of the owners. The resource is Portera Doors, and they sell old and antique doors from all over Europe. To say that they are old door sellers is like saying Christies is a used furniture store, this place will take your breath away!

I had the pleasure of meeting the owners, a young couple from Southern California, who developed a passion for doors when they were remodeling their Mediterranean house a couple of years ago. They met a dealer in Spain, during their process and the rest is proverbial history, their business smarts mixed with his great collection and you have one of the finest specialist dealers I have seen in a long time.

For those of you not in California, a quick trip to their website will convince you to hop on a plan and visit (www.porteradoors.com). The site is well organised and easy to navigate, but apparently only grazes the surface of what is available, so if you have something specific in mind give them a call.

While all they sell is doors, you should think a bit more about other ways you can use them. I am planning to make a headboard out of one, and for another project I think a pair of doors would make a great art piece just hung on the wall. I am sure other great uses will come to me too.

I hope you enjoy the site, and visit the store if you can, I am sure you will be as excited as I obviously am.

Portera Doors

27 S. El Molino Ave

Pasadena, CA 91101

ph: 626.639.2130

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wall Painting

A lot of the homes that I do, especially in Southern California are Mediterranean Inspired, whether they be Italian, Spanish or Southern French. One of the iconic things about a lot of these styles is wall paintings, or frescoes. As many of you might guess, I am not a huge fan of over decoration, my whole philosophy is based on simplicity and authenticity in design, so where do frescoes fit into this? Well, here is an example of a home I did recently with a light painting on the wall, that had the feeling more of a sketch than an elaborate painting. Here are some thoughts you may want to consider if you are doing your own work at home:
  • Keep the colors simple, I prefer a more faded, worn look.
  • The design should be simple, unless you or your artist is exemplary stay clear of faces, they are the hardest to pull off and can ruin an otherwise great piece.
  • Try to limit yourself to a room you only use occasionally like the Dining Room, that will keep it feeling fresh even to you.
  • Don't take it too seriously, this is not the Sistine Chapel, introduce some whimsy and humor.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Thrilled to Announce

It is great to see that while I was gone things keep powering along. My friends over at Peak of Chic (one of the best Interior Design Blogs I have seen) published a photo of my Tableaux Cloths in an article they did on Tromp l'oeil, you may want to check it out, they always have great stuff, that seems to be the result of a magnificent obsession with design.

Keep an eye out in the months ahead I have been working on a new design that I think will be terrific...... a Tableaux Tent! I can hardly wait to feature it.

Another great surprise was to see a project published in LA Home magazine. It is one of my favorites, a modern Asian home out in the Pacific Palisades. Thanks to Sherri Nickols for making that happen, she is a terrific writer and has been a huge supporter of my work, so look out for that on the newsstands.

Outdoor Summer Living

It has been about a week since I posted last, I have been on vacation. A week in Hawaii as a summer get away is not too bad. I thought I would be diligent to continue posting every day, but alas, that was not the case. But I am back now, refreshed and ready to get going on my regular postings again.

Having just returned, I am now preaching the word about taking some time to yourself and getting away. I realise that for a lot of people a big trip is out of the question for a variety of reasons, but wouldn't it be nice if you could create a place in your own house where it felt like a vacation every day? This is not out of the realm of possibility, it might just take a little imagination, here are some thoughts about how to make your own vacation at home.

  • Try creating an area under a shady tree, maybe its a hammock, find a small table that can go along side, and maybe add a small light in the tree so that you can take advantage of summer evenings.
  • On a porch you can use some inexpensive sheer drapes to create and "island" kind of feel, add some natural fiber rugs and a few pillows and you are ready to start making mai tais.
  • If you want to be a bit more adventurous, you can drag some of your furniture out to the yard, it takes more work but for a weekend get together it can make for a great scenario. Try getting some colorful fabrics, maybe some Indian prints to lay over your pieces and it will give your gathering an exotic feel.
  • Above all, make the most of the summer, it is one of my favorite times of year, whether its a hammock in the corner of the yard or an elaborate party set up, take some time and enjoy your great outdoors, it will be winter again soon enough.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Answer Day: Swingset?

Todays question comes from Rachel who faces a problem that a lot of parents face. She has a couple of young kids but a back yard that is a thing of beauty and in which she takes great pride. She is worried that the swingset will ruin the way the backyard feels, so her question is aesthetics or swings?
Most people face this dilemma whether its in the backyard or the Living Room, and I have a point of view on this that may surprise a lot people. When it comesto things like this I think that the kids should take a top priority, good design and children are not mutually exclusive.
So my advice to Rachel was, "put in the swingset", but find one that works with the style you have going. accomodating children means finding a middle ground, whether that is aswingset that fits with your landscaping style, or baskets for toys in the Living Room that matches the rest of your decor. The thing to keep in mind here is that good design comes from an honest expression of who you are and how your family lives, so if that means swingsets toy baskets so be it.