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April 1 is known as a day of pranks and tricks. Having worked with a host of designers and decorators, I have a few tricks of my own when it comes to making a space look its best. From a grouping of blue and white vases or black and white jars, to a well placed black and white stripe lamp, transforming a room is often as easy as choosing the right accessories or the perfect coat of paint. What room in your home could use a decorating transformation? Here are a few ideas to get you started.

Living Room

blue and white vases

This space should exude welcome and comfort, especially if you like to entertain. Add fresh flowers for an easy and seasonal transformation; the blooms will soften and enliven the entire room. Use an eye-catching blue and white vase or other bold color to pack some punch. For year-round color, group blue and white vases of various sizes on a sideboard or shelf. Tired of your sofa and chairs? Refresh them with chic pillows in graphic patterns of various sizes. The resulting texture and color will make the room feel entirely different.

Bathroom

Small rooms are perfect for playing with bold colors. Choose a boldly patterned wallpaper for the entire space for a startling design transformation, like the map below. If wallpaper isn’t your favorite, similar effects can be achieved with paint in a rich jewel tone or other saturated color. map bathroom wallpaper
Add some lux to shelving with black and white jars to hold all your essentials. Unusual soap dishes and toothbrush holders are other ways to quickly inject new personality into the space.

Kitchen

Black and white is a perennial favorite for kitchens because the color combination is clean and chic. Black coffee mugs, a black ceramic vase, or other black accessories invoke this palette without much effort. Painting or staining cabinets is another way to transform a kitchen’s look, though it involves a bit more time and planning. If you have exposed shelving, hide things like canned goods with (Martha Stewart approved) cabinet curtains, while leaving your beautiful pieces exposed.black and white vase

Bedroom

A black and white stripe lamp injects a modern feel to a bedside table, while blue and white feels more serene. Either way, you’ll feel more relaxed with diffused light coming from multiple sources than a glaring overhead light source. If you’re looking for a more dramatic overhaul, consider hanging tapestry fabric along one wall; the result will add old-world charm, color, and warmth to the space. Or put some wallpaper on the ceiling for a totally different feel. Changing details like drawer pulls, curtains, or bedspreads also make a huge difference with little effort.

Have your own decorating tips and tricks? Please share them by leaving a comment below.

Map wallpaper image courtesy of alovelyescape.blogspot.com via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest.

Bedroom image courtesy of casahaus.net via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest.

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The reasons for using Italian ceramic coffee mugs for your favorite hot drinks go far beyond aesthetics. The ceramic keeps things warm for longer, especially if you pre-heat the mug by running a little warm water in it first. Even better, ceramic doesn’t conduct heat like metal or glass, keeping your drink warm while still allowing you to hold your coffee, tea, or hot chocolate comfortably.

Italian coffee mug

But with so many great Italian coffee mugs out there, there’s no reason to limit their use to just drinks alone. Italian ceramic coffee mugsHere are four ways to enjoy your mugs without coffee inside:

1. Go green. Italian coffee mugs can quickly transform into a fantastic mini planter. Add some rocks or gravel to the bottom for drainage, then soil and a small plant such as a succulent or fern. This can be a useful way to use a chipped or cracked Italian ceramic coffee mug that you love.

2. Get organized. Can’t ever find a pen? Use an Italian coffee mug to hold various writing utensils anywhere in the house, from study to family room.

Italian ceramic coffee mug

3. Serve creatively. Contemporary cups and saucers can also be a useful way to serve your next meal. Italian coffee mugs are great for starting off your next dinner with a small portion of soup. Mix and match different Italian ceramic coffee mugs to give the table some unexpected color. This works particularly well with cream or blended soups; everyone can just drink them, no spoon required.

Fiore Mug with soupItalian ceramic coffee mugs

4. Savor sweets. Sometimes you just need a little ice cream in your life, but not a whole bowl. Feel less guilty by serving yourself a scoop in an Italian coffee mug. By filling a smaller container, you’ll feel like you’re actually eating more since the mug looks full (it’s an old trick for those trying to eat less; the same works for eating off of smaller plates). For true decadence, make an affogato. One scoop of vanilla ice cream in an Italian coffee mug plus one shot of espresso equals a delicious treat that leaves you feeling like you’re in Italy.

What else do you put in Italian coffee mugs or contemporary cups and saucers? Leave a comment below and let us know!

Affogato image courtesy of Ewan-M.

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Chic and timeless, it’s no wonder so many gravitate towards black and white kitchen décor. Want to add a touch of modern sophistication to your dinning room or kitchen for spring? From black and white vases to a black and white butter dish, here are some ideas to add to your table.

black and white zigzag wine bottle holder

No one ever said a black and white vase needed to be boring:

black and white vases

white vase

black and white vases

I love how this black and white flower vase contrasts with the bright sunflowers.

black and white striped vase with sunflowers

black and white flower vaseAnother idea is to add black and white ginger jars to flank the kitchen range. Mix and match patterns for a modern touch.

black and white ginger jars in kitchen

Black and white butter dishes, salt and pepper shakers, napkin holders, wine bottle holders, tablecloths, or even just black and white dishes can completely change your next meal.

 

black and white table
black and white table
black and white striped table

Looking to update your kitchen or dining room? Some ideas for remodeling or designing a whole new space:

black and white kitchen decor
black and white tile
black and white dining room
black and white dining room

black and white dining room with blue

Source: bhg.com via Emilia Ceramics on Pinterest

What are your ideas for black and white in the dining room or kitchen? Have other ways you love to use black and white? Leave a comment below and let us know!

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blue and white pitcherBlue and white is a popular color combination, though not all blue and white ceramics have the same feel. I think the flexibility of blue and white explains the combo’s success since it can adapt so easily to any decorating style. For example, blue and white ceramics from Mexico have a quite contemporary feel while Italian blue and white ceramics feel more subtle and refined. Feeling overwhelmed with all the blue and white options out there? Trying to find the perfect blue and white vase or serving tray? Here are some easy ways to pick the pieces that are right for you.shades of blue

First, think about the blue shades that you gravitate towards. Rich cobalt or a lighter slate? Turquoise or teal? Navy blue or sky blue? Peacock blue or periwinkle? If you already have a blue in your decorating scheme, look for something like a blue and white vase in a complimenting shade. Blue is wonderful in that not everything needs to exactly match, but try to group hues together that have similar tonal qualities for the best look. Wikipedia has at least 61 pages devoted to different shades of blue – you’re sure to find at least one that you like!

Italian blue and white lamp

Next think about the blue and white balance. More white or cream, like with most Italian blue and white ceramics, tends to read as more refined and sophisticated. Do you want blue and white mugs that are mostly blue with a touch of white or the reverse? Mixing dominant colors with your blue and white ceramics and home accessories is a good way to keep things textured and balanced. Think white plates on blue chargers with a blue and white pitcher holding water or wine at dinner. Or a blue and white lamp as an accent light in the bedroom or den.

Blue Striped Vase by Talavera Vazquez

Of course, patterning is another factor when adding blue and white home décor. Do you tend to mix prints and patterns or stick with a single motif? Prefer mostly solid colors with some subtle accenting textures? I recommend additions like a blue and white serving platter – the color combination makes food really pop, no matter how ornamented or plain the platter is itself. The same goes for blue and white mugs, plates, and bowls. I tend to mix patterned pieces with solid colors, but there are endless interesting ways to combine dinnerware that will reflect your own unique, individual style.

Italian blue and white mug

Do you prefer blue and white ceramics from Italy, Mexico, France or somewhere else? How do you use these pieces to create sophistication in your home? Check out our blue and white decorating ideas on Pinterest, then leave a comment below and let us know.

Shades of blue image courtesy of Booyabazooka.

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Even though it’s January, there’s no reason for your garden to be neglected. Inspired by Sunset Magazine’s tips to refresh a winter garden, here are some ways to keep your garden looking chic all winter long with outdoor pots and more:

Change your color palette

Highlight white blooms and bright green leaves, perhaps with touches of purple or burgundy. If you don’t get snow in your area, this is a way to stay seasonal and fresh at the same time. Accent your white blooms with white cushions on patio furniture, giving the garden a serene look as it prepares for the colors of spring.

Get creative with greenery

Ferns are not the only answer to your greenery needs. Grasses are another hearty option, or try something interesting like this fiber optics plant in a zig zag ceramic planter. Coleus plants with their wide variety of colors and patterns are another creative greenery choice for your ceramic pots for plants indoors or out.

Accent your entryway

Nothing says welcome quite like a door flanked by pots and tall plants. Spiky or fountain-like shapes draw the eyes, particularly when in striking outdoor plant containers. Layer in low growing plants around the rim for a stacked effect that’s particularly eye-catching.

Bring plants inside

Fill your windowsills with greenery (particularly if you don’t have an outdoor garden of your own). Not only does this chase the winter blues away, you can also accent your home with chic black and white planters or cleverly designed small flower pots. Another idea: fill large flower pots indoors with white azaleas and hydrangeas forced into bloom; they look like delicate snowballs.

Group pots on a doorstep

Instead of a formal style door flanking, a small cluster of large and small flower pots dress up any porch or doorstep. A mix of patterns – zig zag planters, ceramic striped outdoor pots, and plain clay flower pots – filled with an interesting plants like purple kale and crimson ‘Fire Power’ nandina makes for a colorful homage to the season.

How do you warm up your winter garden? Have any tips for using outdoor pots or ceramic zig zag planters? Leave a comment and let us know!

Narcissus image courtesy of nosha.

Coleus image courtesy of Pharaoh Hound.

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It’s early in the morning and you’re not quite awake yet. You open the cabinet door to get a mug for your morning cup of coffee or tea only to be confronted with an array of choices, none of which you really want. It can feel like a Goldilocks moment: this one’s too big, that mug’s too small. Then you spot the mug that is just right. It’s the right size, shape, color, and thickness. Sound familiar?

I’m always surprised at the mugs, cups, and glasses people will hold onto even though they never get used. A friend of mine recently mentioned she’d gone on a cleaning/simplifying mission in her kitchen. She took about half of the mugs and cups in the cabinet (the ones that usually stayed in the back) out, boxed them, and put them on a high shelf in a storage closet. The result? She’s now able to display all her favorite Italian coffee mugs on a shelf, adding color to her kitchen and complimenting her other Italian ceramics on display. There’s also less clutter in her cabinet. She’s thinking about holding onto the extra mugs and cups for a while in case she needs them for entertaining, but told me she also might just donate these extras and get more of the Italian hand painted mugs that she likes (and uses) instead.

Given that mugs are a popular choice for gift giving and we are well into the holiday shopping season, I’ve been thinking about what makes the perfect mug. Here are four factors to consider when choosing the right coffee cup for coffee or mug for tea:

  1. Thickness: A thicker coffee cup will keep things (like your coffee) hot longer and be generally sturdier. Thin mugs and cups are more likely to crack (think about your Grandmother’s china cups).
  2. Size: Know something about your gift recipient’s coffee or tea drinking habits. Do they favor espresso or an extra large serving of coffee with plenty of cream? “Standard” mug size might be the perfect fit, or maybe a bigger mug is in order. Having a variety of sizes can also be useful when it comes to entertaining or accommodating different family members’ beverage preferences.
  3. Handle: This allows you to carry mugs and cups and not get burned. Look for solid handles that are big enough to slip a few fingers in, letting the drinker savor the warm beverage inside. Small, thin handles are likely to break off or slip out of hands.
  4. Design: Mugs are a place where it’s easy to mix and match stylishly. I love the array of designs in my personal collection of Italian coffee mugs – most of them have the same size and shape, so my only decision is which Italian hand painted mug I feel like using that morning. These Italian ceramics make great kitchen decorations with their mix of organic motifs. Others prefer solid colored mugs or cups, and then there are always the fun designs like these polka dot mugs.

Need some mug gift ideas for yourself and others? Check out these mugs and cups to get you started.

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Looking for a pop of color for your living room or bedroom that won’t be dated in six months (I’m talking about you, tangerine tango and neon yellow)? Chic lamps are a fantastic way to add a new color to your space in an unexpected way. But deciding what color lamp to choose can be frustrating, especially if you don’t want to repaint the walls or recover the furniture in your family room.

Of all the options out there, blue and white seems to be the ideal color combination when it comes to refreshing a space. Modern yet timeless, a range of blue hues from cobalt to sky work with most existing room design. A quick search on Houzz brings up over 25,000 blue and white ceramic lamps in design photos for almost every room of the house. From plain to patterned, there’s certainly a blue and white lamp out there for your space. Here are some of my recommendations for finding the right lamp for you needs:

Want a conversation piece? May I suggest ginger jar table lamps. These statement pieces add a sculptural element to your room, highlighting a favorite table, accenting a bookcase, or complementing a sumptuous window treatment. Finding a chic lamp is about getting out of the mass-produced box, says California Home + Design, and I couldn’t agree more.

Need the perfect match? Great things come in pairs, lamps included. Use two ginger jar lamps on a sideboard in the dining room or a living room console. Try a pair of blue and white ginger jar lamps flanking a bed for useful reading light plus design. Don’t need any more lighting? A similar effect can be achieved with large or small ginger jars in a graphic pattern.

Want to set the mood? I love looking at the homes featured in Elle Décor and this Southampton Victorian was a stunner. The breezy feel of the mostly white interior décor has soft pops of blue in cushions, throws, and rugs that echo the nearby shore. The nautical vibe reminds me of the chevron zig zags on this blue and white ginger jar lamp. Call it design by association, but sometimes finding a feel you want to replicate makes choosing the right lamps and home accessories easy.

How have you used ginger jars or ginger jar lamps to refresh your home design? Is blue and white always a winner or do you have another go-to color combination? Leave a comment and let us know!

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