Friday, January 8, 2016

Think spring: Spring silk florals and garden home decor now available at Michaels

We're wrapping up the first week of January and many of us are just now experiencing the first frigid temperatures of the winter season. We should be grateful that we've escaped the cold this long, right? Yet, there are those of us, me included, who is already counting down the days until spring.

So when I went into Michael's Craft Stores this week, I was happy to see that spring is in full bloom at the store.

Spring silk florals are out in abundance, now occupying the floor space just vacated by the Christmas decor. What's more, Michael's already put out a variety of the home decor items with a garden theme. I know many avid gardeners page through the seed catalogs during January, waiting impatiently for the time when they can start seeds indoors.

If you are already chomping at the bit for spring, take a gander at these beautiful spring blooms at Michael's. They are gorgeous and yes, they are also on sale!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Use your sunroom or screened porch year-around with fold away windows

Sunrooms are a great idea but unfortunately, many are only used three seasons of the year. Thanks to NanaWall, a company which makes windows that are like walls that actually fold out of the way, our sunroom is something we use year-around.

Instead of opting for traditional French doors or a sliding patio door, when we built our home we requested that the builder install a patio door that would accordion-fold to the side so that it would virtually disappear, leaving nothing but a huge opening to our sunroom.

That's exactly what we got from NanaWall.

Our sunroom is off our great room and has a door to a porch leading down into our backyard. Here it is in the summer, looking into it from our kitchen and great room. See the actual step-by-step installation here.

Copyright Norman Sizemore
Copyright Norman Sizemore
Naturally, in the summertime, we're in this room all the time. The windows in the sunroom open wide, letting the air flow through the house. The NanaWall accordion folds to a neat, unobtrusive stack on the right side, along the wall of our great room so it is entirely out of the way. By installing the NanaWall, we significantly increased the square footage of the great room when the door is wide open.

In autumn, when the temperatures start to fall, I bring in my outdoor plants to keep them over the winter. Even then, we still live in this room. A day doesn't go by when we do not have the NanaWall open.

In the winter, when Chicago gets its worst weather, we're still in this room. We have radiant heating installed in the floor and it warms up the room very nicely. If we didn't have the NanaWall, which opens up the sunroom to the rest of the house, we probably would not be using it on a daily basis in the winter like we do. Only when the temperatures fall below zero outdoors, do we keep the NanaWall closed during the day to maintain heat in the rest of the house.

Then, in just a couple short months, we'll be looking at spring temperatures again, when the room will once again become the centerpiece of our home. Installing a NanaWall was one of the best decisions we made when building this house.

Copyright Norman Sizemore
Do you use your sunroom year-around? What would make you use it more?

Monday, January 4, 2016

11 tips for decorating your home for winter once Christmas is over

It is a couple of days into the new year and you've just taken down the Christmas decorations and now your home looks incredibly blah. Now what?

Prior to Christmas your home was likely decorated with pumpkins and the warm golds and oranges of the fall harvest. So what do you put in your home now? After Christmas but before spring?

Is it too soon for daffodils?


Especially if you're in a colder climate and outdoor flowers won't be sprouting for awhile. In the meantime, you do need some seasonal decor, but what?

Here are a few ideas:

1. Make use of natural greenery. Christmas may be over but I repurpose the wooden bowl that holds pinecones and evergreen branches and colored ornaments over the holidays for the remaining winter months. After Christmas, I remove the ornaments and freshen up the greenery. I've added a little sparkle and some cinnamon sticks. The pop of red is courtesy of a faux pomegranate and a handful of wooden beads cut from a string of "cranberry" garland. The arrangement adds color, sparkle and the spicy scent of cinnamon.

2. Don't put away the apothecary or ginger jars. At Christmas, I fill apothecary jars with vintage ornaments. But with the holidays gone, I use the same jars and fill them with wine corks or potpourri. Again, I add a little color with cranberry beads.

Christmas decor
Post-Christmas decor

3. Fill your vases with winter florals. Berries are great for a winter floral arrangement. While they also are used at Christmas they are not exclusive to that holiday. They work all winter long.

4. Just as berries work in winter, so do evergreen boughs. These are artificial boughs from Michaels, but they work just as well as the fresh ones I bring indoors at Christmas. During the summer this vase is filled with a yellow mum, but until I can bring out the spring flowers, the bright red sprig of berries will warm up the otherwise drab winter months to come.

5. Not all Christmas decor is just for Christmas. I originally got these lanterns at Christmas but I loved them so much I keep them up year-around. I fill them with wine corks and during the winter, through in some berries to dress it up.

6. Use found items from outside as filler in your jars. I love these glass blown hurricane candle holders from the Sundance Catalog. You can fill the bottom half with virtually anything. Again, at Christmas, they hold vintage ornaments (see below) but afterwards, I fill them with pinecones from my yard and some wooden "berries." The flameless candles are from Pottery Barn and are encircled with cinnamon sticks. I don't think the cinnamon stick candles are available any more, but they are offering Birch Wax Pillars as well as Shimmering Bark, both of which would give the same look.

7. Use winter floral arrangements. Winter can be such a dreary time of overcast, gray skies that you need color wherever you can get it. That's why I use a lot of color, bold color, particularly red in the winter time. Here on my island is a floral arrangement that I love from I also continue to use my Winterberry hand lotion and soap from Williams-Sonoma and I keep my dishwashing liquid in the red bottle for dispensing into the sink.

I made this floral arrangement from pieces I picked up at Michaels. Again, greenery, berries and pinecones with a splash of color keep the winter theme going.

8. Use natural poinsettias and candy to accent the room.  I received a poinsettia for Christmas and there's no need to toss it when the holiday is over. Keep it going and add in some bright candy too. Here I have a dish of peppermint snaps to bring color to the room.

9. Fill up your year-round vases with seasonal floral. I hate storing seasonal decorations so I try to make them work year-around. Here, I simply change out the filler in this set of mercury vases that I have out all year. I fill them with some faux evergreen branches and they sit on this antique washstand alongside another beautiful floral arrangement from I picked up the mercury candle holders from Michaels.

10. Replace the Christmas door wreath with something more generic. The traditional Christmas wreath doesn't look good past the holidays but a natural winter wreath works. I'll keep this up at least through February or maybe mid-March before I change it out to something with a spring theme.

The same goes for my back door, which I keep to a simple, green wreath with pinecones. 

11. Don't forget your outdoor planters. Outdoor planters can look dismal in the winter months, making the outside of your home look almost as dismal as the weather. When spring isn't around the corner, fill the empty planters with winter elements. Again, my go-to items are evergreen boughs and pinecones. Surprisingly, these natural boughs will look good for quite some time before they dry out and need to be replaced. By then, I hope to go to something that evokes thoughts of springtime.

How do you decorate between January and March? What do you do to keep your home looking warm and cozy when springtime is still 90 days away?