Written on April 18, 2014 at 8:00 am , by Carrie Waller
For those of you who (like us!) have been glued to the tube come Sunday night on NBC, you’re already familiar with our guest today—Elaine Griffin. In addition to being a contestant on Nate Berkus’ American Dream Builders, Elaine is a BHG contributing editor, with a venerable taste well worth looking up to. We are thrilled to feature the designer and get the inside scoop on how she is, time and time again, able to turn a house into one stylish home.
First of all, congratulations on all of your success! You’ve, of course, worked with Better Homes and Gardens as an editor, and also have designed for Oprah’s O at Home, contributed to Elle Décor, among so much more—and now you are a cast member on NBC’s design reality show, American Dream Builders hosted by Nate Berkus. How did you get your start in this industry? What about design sparked your interest?
I was a publicist after I graduated from Yale, working in New York and Paris. After getting into a very Devil Wears Prada fight with my Vogue editor just before my thirtieth birthday, my mother suggested that I take a hobby and make it my job. Being Southern, my two greatest passions were design (interiors + fashion) and etiquette (about which every Southern Belle is obsessed), so off I went to the New York School of Interior Design, and later got a job working for Peter Marino.
Tell us a little more about American Dream Builders—We can imagine that your limits were tested! How were you able to keep your cool and execute such stunning results while under tremendous pressure?
Some days were better than others! We worked 12 – 14+ hours a day, six days a week, under more pressure and with less sleep than I have ever had, professionally. We would see a house for the first time at 9:00 a.m.; all of our drawings, plans and elevations were due at 1:00 p.m. for demolition, new framing (we couldn’t add footage to most homes, so we restructured the existing interiors), electrical, plumbing and tiling. Demolition began immediately after lunch at 2:00 p.m. Our fabric orders were due by 5:00 p.m., as were curtain measurements with finished lengths. We ordered fabrics online without seeing swatches, so sometimes we had surprises when the final goods arrived. To say we were on pins and needles and everybody’s nerves were frazzled is an understatement—each week, we completed two projects that would have taken months to do in the real world.
We were divided into two competing teams, but there was still enormous intra-team competition—you didn’t want to be the one to make a mistake and get sent home if your team happened to lose. Plus, everyone on the show runs his own successful business, so essentially we were twelve Chiefs and no Indians, which made for an interesting personality mix, too.
I realized after the Spanish build that in my quest to win, win, win!, I was being too aggressive with my teammates, and that I could be just as assertive and effective without being overbearing. The judges really gave me quite the tongue-lashing at elimination, and I almost got sent home, which was a very humbling, major aha moment for me. I’m a competitive, Type-A person by nature, but I saw that I didn’t have to overpower my teammates to get the job done, and that was life-transforming for me. In subsequent builds, I made sacrifices you don’t see on-camera for the benefit of the team.
You’re well-traveled, having been raised in Georgia, with stints in both New York and Paris throughout the course of your career. How has living in these cities shaped your style?
The one design rule I’ll never break is that rooms should look like the people who live in them, which, as a designer, translates into being able to implement a wide spectrum of styles for a diverse clientele. I’m a firm believer that dictatorial design is a no-no—the client runs the show when we’re working together, and I aim to implement their specific vision for their home. (Helloooooo, it’s where they live!!!!)
Developing a great “eye” in design is all about exposure—the more you see, the more you understand. So living and visiting as many places as you possibly can helps expand your creative vision. It’s why fashion designers are forever taking big trips to faraway spaces, but truthfully, with the Internet, we can all travel to a different destination every night on our computers.
Staying fresh and innovative in such a fast-paced industry like design can be a challenge. How do you stay creative and where do you look for inspiration?
Inspiration is everywhere, especially in nature, which never ceases to amaze me with its beauty and complexity. I learned to understand color by studying the combinations in nature: a forest’s 10,000 matching shades of green, the colors of the sky at sunset and dusk, the skyline at the shore—I could go on forever. It’s important to look back, too, at the work of design and architectural legends of the past—Billy Baldwin’s rooms from the 40’s and 50’s look as fresh today as they did back then, as does the work of British legends like John Fowler and David Hicks. I could spend days lingering over the work of my contemporary peers and visiting designer showhouses, which are always endlessly creative and inspiring.
In flipping through your portfolio, we see earth tones and tribal-inspired patterns intermingled with geometrics and mid-century silhouettes. Can you give our readers some pointers for successfully co-mingling design styles?
As a rule, for patterned fabrics—floral, plaid, big print, stripe—you can have one example of each in a room, otherwise it starts to get busy. Fill in the rest with textured solids.
Of the four main “players” in a room’s design—the walls, ceiling, floor and furnishings—only one can be the shining star. The other three have to be supporting actors. So if you opt for the super-bold patterned rug, for example, then the upholstery, walls and curtains have to be quieter. Making bold visual statements with all four is painful to look at and even harder to get comfortable in.
When mixing furniture styles, know that all pieces with the same historical origin match: all classically-inspired styles fit beautifully together, for example, no matter where they’re from or how traditional or modern they are.
And it’s important to mix furniture finishes in a room to avoid visual monotony. You want wood, metallic and painted pieces, plus sleek/shiny and matte/textured surfaces and fabrics in every space to give it a professionally-designed look.
What are your top three tips for achieving high-end style on a lower-end budget?
1. Commit to an investment. When decorating, time and money are inversely proportionate—to save one, be prepared to spend a lot of the other.
2. Buy lamps, even if they’re only cheapo temporary lamps from the dollar store or thrift shop. You could fill a room with cardboard box furniture and it would look flat-out warm and inviting by lamplight. (Trade secret: As a rule, you need a lamp in at least 3 out of 4 corners of a room for balance and to avoid dark spaces.)
3. Do accessorize. The finishing touches are the last 10% of decorating but they give 90% of the effect, style-wise, so don’t give up until you’ve got them. It’s the objéts, accessories and art that personalize a room and add warmth and style. I’m a big fan of hitting flea markets, thrift stores and HomeGoods for fabulous chic-on-a-shoestring pieces.
You’ve been quoted as saying that a person is the “soul of every room” in their home. What does your home say about your soul?
My most favorite compliment by visitors dropping by is how nap-worthy my living room is. I love that because it means that it’s warm, cozy and inviting. And that’s what a home should be—nurturing. I have wanderlust and love to travel—I hope that’s reflected, too, in the multiple periods that are present. I’m crazy about style but am a practical gal, too, says my Ikea dining table and Pottery Barn rug.
I grew up on the Georgia coast and still have sand in my shoes…and far too many seashells in my living room now. True to my Southern roots, I love to entertain and adore doting on my guests—there’s always room for one more at my table, with proper napkins for cocktails, lunch and dinner (Southern ladies believe in fussing over their table napkins), and it’s always six o’clock somewhere! At the end of the day, though, I want you to feel comfortable and instantly at home the minute you walk through my door. That’s what’s most important of all.
Catch Elaine on American Dream Builders Sundays on NBC at 8/7 c, and keep an eye out for her winning space from last week’s episode in the upcoming June issue of Better Homes and Gardens!
(Photos courtesy Elaine Griffin)
Written on April 17, 2014 at 2:16 pm , by Melissa Bahen
Hi! I’m Melissa. I write about food, family, and farm life at Lulu the Baker. My family and I are about to fulfill one of those good, old-fashioned life-long dreams: we’re building our Dream House.
In the past month of building at the Dream House, we’ve gone from big, huge changes like adding porches and roof lines to almost imperceptible steps forward like deciding which windows should open and which should be fixed. It’s an…interesting…change. We’ve been used to walls going up and slabs being poured and cranes placing beams, and it’s a little unsettling to drive by and have it look…exactly the same from the outside as it did the last time! But it’s comforting to go inside and see that things have indeed progressed.
The month started off with huge changes–changes that made the house look like a real house. All of the porches–front and back–were installed along with the lovely square pillars we chose last year. We also made a trip up to Portland to buy 1500 square feet of douglas fir beadboard that will go on porch ceilings eventually. On that same trip, we forced ourselves to choose kitchen counters. It’s something that had been on our mind for a long, long time, but we’d been putting off making a commitment. And we got to a point where other decisions (paint color and stone veneer, to name a few) were being held up because we couldn’t decide on what to put on the kitchen counters. So we went to the big warehouse and chose some really beautiful granite, and we’re really excited about it! It’s called Nordic White, and it’s a lovely light grey with subtle black speckling.
Along with finishing the porches, the workers got the roof “dried-in”, which means that all of the wood is up and they’ve put the roofing felt on, but the actual shingles haven’t been installed yet. It also means that the house will stay dry now, even if we have an occasional rainy day here or there. The upstairs and main floor dried out within a day of having the roof dried-in, but the basement took a bit longer. After several weeks of rain, we had a good 2 inches of water in some areas, and part of having a water-tight basement means that water has a hard time getting out. Our wonderful contractor actually swept the water out with a big push-broom one weekend, then set fans all over the basement to dry it out. And we now have a dry house!
We chose so many things this month! A fireplace for the family room, bathtubs, toilets, sinks, and fixtures for the bathrooms, interior and exterior doors, door knobs, and windows. We figured out where to put all of the electrical outlets, planned out light switches and light locations and wiring and whatnot. And we unsuccessfully looked at stone for the fireplace and outside of the house–twice. There are some decisions that cannot be rushed!
My father-in-law is a college math teacher/electrician, and he’s doing all of our electrical work for us. He’s spent the past few weeks wiring the entire upstairs and the garage, setting switch boxes and installing can lights all over the place. I think we have most of the lights figured out, and lots of them are already purchased, but he sent us home with a shortlist of fixtures we still need to decide on, like something for the breakfast nook and a few lights for the laundry room stairwell. Every decision, even where to place an outlet, feels important and weighty, and there are a million of them. I hope we get to the end of the decision-making phase soon and can just enjoy watching everything come together!
So, what’s on the Dream House horizon for the next month? Plumbing and electrical fixtures get installed, insulation and drywall go up, and we’re hoping the walls will be taped, textured, and painted, which is huge! I’ve worried that the house will be too dark inside, something that bugs me endlessly about our current house, but our contractor has assured me that when the walls are painted, everything will be lighter. The exterior light fixtures that we already have will hopefully be installed, along with the beadboard on the porches, and we’ll have to scramble to find a few light fixtures that we haven’t quite been able to nail down yet. It’s hard to believe that we’re so close to the end, and the Dream is almost a reality!
Written on April 17, 2014 at 2:00 am , by Chelsey Andrews
Trend: Colorful Porch Perk-Ups
Add some color to your porch or patio with these 12 inspiring DIY ideas. Pillows, chairs, tables, and more! Enjoy!
Super Lovely DIY Porch Pillows, on A Beautiful Mess.
I’m absolutely in LOVE with this DIY Pallet Swing Bed, on The Merrythought.
Updated Outdoor Chairs, on Design Sponge.
Pretty Painted Patio Rug, on All Things Thrifty.
Wire Cloche Succulent Garden Terrarium, on DIY Showoff.
Pretty Patio Table with Interchangeable Centerpiece, on Craptastic.
For those tiny patios and porches: Little Patio Table Update, on Lovely Indeed.
Add a base support to an old screen door, paint it, and turn it into patio decor, on BHG.
Pallet Serving Tray, on Live Laugh Rowe.
Front Door Makeover, on All Things Mamma.
Outdoor Concrete Side Table or Stool, on The Paper Mama on BHG.
Recycled Wood Planter, Zelo Photo Blog.
I don’t know about you, but I would LOVE to have the swinging porch bed in my yard. So comfy.
- Chelsey, The Paper Mama
Written on April 16, 2014 at 2:01 pm , by Kenzie Kramer
Written on April 15, 2014 at 7:00 am , by BHG Guest Blogger
The BHG Innovation Kitchen, created for the May 2014 issue, is filled with fresh ideas and cool products. Here, senior editor Kit Selzer highlights a few of our favorites.
Salt and pepper. Vinegar and oil. Bread and butter. Compiling a list of kitchen pairings can make a fun party game, but what’s the most important combo when designing a kitchen? We say it’s cabinetry and countertops. Together, they set the overall style of the space and have the biggest impact.
Whether you’re updating your existing cabinetry with paint or creating a kitchen from scratch, as we did, a few rules of thumb will help you get a polished look.
1. Don’t be afraid to use more than one color of cabinetry. In our Innovation Kitchen project, we used four: light gray in the main part of the kitchen, dark gray in the adjoining multipurpose pantry, white for a few select pieces, and a fresh green for a tall built-in the dining area. This combination of cabinets from Decora helps define zones, creates more interest than a single hue would, and sets the basic palette. Variation in cabinet color makes a kitchen feel more personal, less like it’s straight off the showroom floor.
2. Show restraint with countertops. When you use different cabinet colors, you’ll likely be happiest using the same countertop choice throughout. We love this quartz-surfacing countertop from Cambria, which, with its gray veining, resembles marble but is more durable and easier to care for. It looks great with all of our cabinet colors and gives the entire space continuity. Bringing in a second pattern would have created a busy look.
3. Cabinetry and countertops in similar tones gives the effect of furniture. Generally, it’s best to choose countertops that coordinate with but don’t match cabinetry for greater contrast. However, you can use near-matches for effect. Take this hutch, for example. It’s made from a glass-front cabinet placed on top of two slightly deeper sets of drawers with a slab of the kitchen’s quartz-surfacing countertop placed in between. Together they look like a single unit. Another idea: Match a countertop to a low, wide cabinet to create the look of a freestanding buffet.
Now you’re ready to create your own perfect pairings.
Written on April 14, 2014 at 9:00 am , by Michael Wurm, Jr.
Can we talk about poufs for a minute? I’m not sure if you have boarded the pouf-trend train yet, but I’m taking on the role of conductor and inviting you to hop on board. As I’ve mentioned here on Style Spotters, over the last year I’ve been creating an office / living room for myself. While the space is pretty large, it’s divided into two separate areas: the office and the living room.Because of the layout, the living room got the short end of the stick in terms of space. However, I’m making that area work as hard as possible.
First, I incorporated a small sectional for maximum seating and total television watching comfort. Given the size of the sectional, I don’t have a lot of space for side chairs without making things feel cramped. The solution? Poufs!
Adding two patterned poufs on the opposite side of my coffee table not only offers me extra seats, but also provides an element of fun. It’s like having a couple mini- bean bag chairs. Adults have an opportunity to be kids again, but in a super stylish and trendy way. You have to love that!
With more and more people on the hunt for the perfect pouf for their space, the varieties, styles, colors, and shapes available these days are endless. Today I want to share some of my favorite poufs in hopes that one or two will fit your space.
Climb aboard the train and use the comments below to let us know which poufs are your favorites.
Michael A. Wurm, Jr. – Inspired by Charm