Blog created by interior decorator Peggy Clarke to help create homes that reflect the people who live there and how they (want to) live. Blending spirituality with the art of interior design, Clarke aims to help people who want to create harmonious spaces for balanced living.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Hitting the Books

It’s back to school, which means stacks of books are starting to encroach on living space. In my house, we have a library, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t books piling up on top of kitchen counters or next to nightstands or, dare I say, on bathroom floors. So, it’s time for gorgeous ways to store all these beautiful books. I’m particularly fond of stacking books of similar sizes or topics on top of a side table and putting a finial or small sculpture or iron piece on top, but if you want something more permanent, try some of these...

I know I try to highlight things on this blog that most people can afford, but from time to time, I just want to go a little crazy. This bookcase will cost (at retail) about $4,300. Think of it this way, if you hire a decorator, maybe you’ll only have to pay $3,000. Does that help? You can get this as Dialogica.

While I’m at it, this one’s gorgeous, but not cheap.

It’s from Patina and will run you close to $12,000 retail, but no one pays retail for these things. Your local designer can sell it to you for at least 25% less. OK, forget the price, hand painting this bookcase has created a piece that’s both elegant and rustic. Gorgeous.

This is from Tucker Robbins. It’s handmade from sustainable wood. It’s high end, but I wasn’t able to get a price on this. If you want it, though, I can find one in your area and get a price for you that way.

The same goes for this Nicholas and Stone case. N&S is the oldest furniture maker in the country and has a quality rarely found anymore. Again, I couldn’t get a price on this, but this line is carried here in Northern Westchester by Country Willow if you want to purchase it retail.

If you like contemporary design, these free form shelves really make a statement. You can get them from

Unlike these others, this is easily purchased. It’s from West Elm and only costs $400. It draws attention to itself, which, in this case, I appreciate. It has contemporary style with strong lines; it feels simultaneously substantial and light.

I love bookends. I have more pairs than I can count. Here are some great examples of what you can purchase today.

This is raw onyx and is available from which is a non-profit organization that supports artists all over the world. These only cost $40 and are raw and rustic and beautiful.

This is stone bookend is available wholesale from Barreveld for $10. You won’t be able to purchase it yourself (that price isn't retail), but a designer can get it for you easily.

These are from Pottery Barn for $70.

These are from the Metropolitan Museum store ( for $55

I found these online at a site called They’re selling these for $55.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Hot Trends and Cool Colors

I took this from the Patina Newsletter. ( has gorgeous painted furniture.)

According to Leatrice Eiseman, executive director of the Pantone Color Institute®, environmental and earth colors will continue to be popular color choices for home decor and interior design in 2008. Popular color palettes will still include brown, green and blue. And neutrals will no longer be confined to simply creams and ivories, but also grays, mochas, sandstones, olive and ochre.Eiseman is a color specialist who has been called "America’s color guru." Her color expertise is recognized worldwide, especially as a prime consultant to Pantone, Inc. She heads the Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training and is also executive director of the Pantone Color Institute.
Leatrice recently revealed her take on color trends for 2008, which include the colors brown and tan continuing to be widely used and the continued popularity of the color green in 2008 as well.
"The color green, " Leatrice says, "will continue to be symbolic of eco-consciousness and will only increase in usage in 2008. Because of the “green movement" the life of the color green will be prolonged—green is good.” With the color blue in 2008, she says, “you cannot go wrong. The whole environmental aspect is associated with the preservation of water. Blue emits clean and clear all around the world.” Variations on the color orange will continue, she predicts, while gray, black, and white, particularly with textures, will remain steadfast classics.Eiseman also forecasts a color palette that provides both a link to the past and, at the same time, recreates it as the collectible of the future. It includes tapestry blues, muted blue greens, elegant champagne and warm peachy tones. “This palette speaks to the past with new dimensions in texture that helps to reinvent what is traditional,” she says.
Patina has always been a leader in these types of looks whether through its use of brightly colored floral designs or remembrances of time spent in the exotic Orient in its chinoisserie decorations. Patina's own unique take on color and tradition positions it well to take advantage of the subtle changes taking place in interior design.
With the major color trends for 2008 beginning to take shape, trend forecasters say consumers will continue to embrace all things natural, but they will look to develop a higher level of refinement. The "Eco" and rustic looks now familiar to consumers are poised to take an upscale twist, as the palettes for both trends become more urbane and sophisticated.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Beds, Beds, Beds

I’ve been searching for the perfect bedroom set for someone and in the process have seen some gorgeous pieces. I’m not listing prices here because they vary from store to store and a few aren’t even available to the public but have to be purchased through a decorator, but I should warn you: None of these are cheap.

This is one I seem to measure all the rest against:

I don’t know if a picture really captures the moment here, but this bed has grace.

This is the one that had my client hooked for a while.

What’s interesting about it is that it has a footboard, but since the wood wasn’t too thick, it didn’t feel overpowering the way so many of these beds can. This one is done by Henkel Harris.

Drexell Heritage has a new line. It’s a reproduction of Walt Disney’s furniture. It’s elegant, mid-century modern. This piece also has so much storage that you won’t need a dresser.

This is the one my client is going to buy.

Whoever took this picture should be fired, though. The footboard really isn’t larger than the headboard!

If you like sleigh beds, the best price is from Martha Stewart’s Skyland Collection

This one is pretty straight forward with a simple, classic design. Unlike some of the other beds I saw, this one doesn’t bump out too far on the side which would get old fast. No one wants to bang a foot first thing in the morning. On sale, this one is less than $1,000.

If you’d rather something simpler, try a platform bed like this one:

Now for a true confession: I don’t have a bed. OK, I don’t sleep on the couch. What I mean is that my husband and I sleep on the most fabulous matress money can buy settled comfortably on the metal frame the delivery guy had in the back of the truck.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Art and the Divine

People often appear baffled when they hear that I have spent most of my life in the fields of ministry/theology and am now an interior decorator. They seem to think there’s a disconnect, that I changed paths mid-career which always seems funny to me. Is the connection between art and spirituality lost on so many?

This Sunday I’m preaching in Danbury, CT ( on incarnation. Incarnation is a theological subject (the notion of the Sacred, embodied) but is also, for me, an artistic reality. We and all we create are the embodiment of the divine. Some would say we are made in the image of God in that we create or that our creative spirit is the divine spark. I might go further by suggesting that which we call god (or sacred life or whatever word you use) is that which makes us alive, that we are, in reality, the incarnation, the embodied divine. On Sunday I’m going to pose the possibility that traditional theologies that recognize Jesus as the incarnation of God alone, have frozen or fixed incarnation like a butterfly on a collector’s board, trying to hold grace still. By limiting the idea to one person (Jesus) we have created a cult of one (Christianity) rather than a cult of all which would recognize that god is alive in all people and, ultimately, in all the natural world.

Of course Jesus was God embodied. And so was Siddhartha Gautama and Lao Tzu, and so is my nine year old nephew and so is the cashier at Stop and Shop. This sounds trite and possibly obvious, but let me say it clearly nonetheless. Incarnation didn’t happen once and for all time in the person of Jesus, but happens with every birth and can be seen each time we break ourselves open and pour ourselves out in service to each other.

Art, in all its forms, is the celebration and manifestation of this reality.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Color Matters

I went to a conference last week on color. What I was hoping for is for someone to confirm that a silvery lavender is the next hot thing. (They didn’t, but it is. Trust me.) What I got instead was a pretty interested report on some research done by Pittsburg Paint on the relationship between our current social order and design style.

They broke up our current society into five generational groups. They are:

The Digital Age: 4-13
Generation Y: 14-33
Generation X: 34-44
Baby Boomers: 45-64
Golden Age: 64+

Each group is identified by those things that define them and therefore the colors they most respond to. I’m not going to go into it all (it was a 2 hour lecture, after all) but the result of their research can be found on their web site. If you’ve got some time, try their color game. It might help you know what color you should paint that room you’ve been wanting to change:

Monday, April 23, 2007

Green Design

People always want to know what’s hot, but in telling them I warn about making a house too trendy because of the inevitable feeling in 3-5 years that the whole thing has to be redone. Well, that’s not the case with sustainable design. Thanks to the recent recognition and (slow) acceptance of our looming environmental crisis, green design is hip and not likely to go out of style any time soon.

I’ve got some resources here and things for you to know, but I want to issue a warning. As much as magazines want to herald “affordable yet sustainable” in reality, prices are higher when you’re looking at ecologically sound decorating choices. It’s also true that not every design need can be met with sustainable resources. For instance, I haven’t yet found a single adhesive for tile that I would recommend to a client and while cork looks great and has plenty of advantages, as it gets older it looses its color and becomes easily damaged.

If you’re in the market, or are just curious about what’s out there to decorate your home in a way that’s responsible to our planet, here are some things to consider:

Purchase furniture that uses reclaimed fabric. ABC Home & Carpet is one of the best retail options for concerned consumers. Not only do they lean towards green design, they are committed to fair trade, a critical part of planetary sustainability. Here they’ve used fabric found on discarded items to upholster furniture.

Q Collection is committed to creating high-end, stylish pieces with environmentally friendly materials. They’ve eliminated toxic chemicals and carcinogens to improve air quality including the ever-popular formaldehyde which turns to a gas at room temperature. Here’s my favorite from their collection.

J Goode Design creates hand-blown glass light fixtures using recycled and recyclable glass and sustainable wood like bamboo. Using the ancient art of glass blowing, each pieces is unique and quite stunning.

Peter Loh builds state of the art furniture using reclaimed wood.

Instead of vinyl flooring in your laundry room, consider marmoleum. It’s all natural made of linseed oil, rosins and wood flour and is as strong as vinyl in high traffic areas. Look for it in your local green building supply store.

Another great resource is the Building Materials Reuse Association ( for materials you can recycle or repurpose in your own home.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

...And a Little Drop of Paint

I’m sure you know the easiest and cheapest design fix is paint. In that spirit, I indulged myself in a little holiday spruce up. I started with four chairs I found at a local tag sale. I paid $18 for the four of them and used leftover paint from past projects.

Here’s what they looked like when I purchased them.

The good news is that the frame is solid and very heavy. They’re mid 20th century (my guess is late 1960s, but I could be off by as much as a decade) and built to last. The first thing I did was strip the vinyl seat covers. The padding was in good shape, so I kept it and simply reupholstered the seat with a remnant I picked up locally. Then I added a little paint and here’s the result…

Once that was done, I got started on my grandmother’s china cabinet. The piece itself was sentimental only insofar as she owned it, but she’d only had it for about 15 or 20 years; I think it came with the condo she bought when moved to Delray Beach. No one wanted to sell it, so I inherited largely by default; I was the only one with enough room in my dining room to hold it. For two years it’s been sitting against a wall, filled with my mother and grandmother’s things.

One of the things to consider when painting anything, walls, floors, furniture, is using paint that’s environmentally friendly. Paint has traditionally had chemicals (VOC, volitile organic chemicals) that affect air quality both in and outside the house. People concerned about sustainable design look for paints with no or low VOC. Fortunately, those of us in New York State have been protected by some very tight environmental laws; any can of paint sold in the state is already low VOC.

If you’re looking for the most earth-friendly paints, try natural paints, which are even better than no VOC. Milk paints are my favorite choices.

Other very good choices:

AFM (American Formulating and Manufacturing)
Benjamin Moore & Co. (Pristine® Eco-Spec® )
BioShield Paints
Devoe Paint
Duron Paints and Wallcoverings (Genesis Odor-Free products)
Home Depot
ICI Dulux Paints
Kelly Moore
Sherwin-Williams (HealthSpec® paints)

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Bedding in Blue

A woman in Virginia wrote asking me what pieces I’d suggest from the Eileen Fischer bedding line or how I’d put together a new set from a variety of lines.

The most important thing when it comes to making a bed is comfort. I’ve tested sheets of every thread count and I can tell you the softest sheets are jersey t-sheets. They aren’t as durable as others, but for the price, buy extra. The Company Store advertises them in every size but I’ve always bought my from Bed Bath and Beyond. Design tip: buy white.

In making the perfect bed, next I add a luxurious blanket. This is where cashmere, fleece or alpaca come in. Fleece is the least expensive of the bunch and, again, I’d go neutral. Aside from the options archived below, here are some other ideas:

This one’s from Scandia Down ( (If you’re working with a blue palette, get the beige.)

A wildly inexpensive option would be, believe it or not, from Target. They have a “super-soft fleece” for under $25. It’s not heavy, which might be just what you want.

The top layer is obviously most visible and therefore of the biggest design concern. For looks, I head straight to Restoration Hardware. Their silver sage is stunning and once it’s paired with chocolate what you have is rich and spectacular. Also, not cheap.

I’ve checked out some alternatives. Although I love Martha Stewart’s furniture line, her bedding looks cheap and undistinguished. Domestications, the popular catalog, has the same problem. Anthroplogie, one of my favorite stores on the planet, has unique choices, but nothing they sell is well priced and it tends to be quite feminine. Feminine is better in the bedroom than most any other room in the house, but if a man lives in the room, it’s still more appropriate to be a little more gender neutral.

This is one last idea from Pottery Barn, which isn’t my favorite store, but they do well with color.

A few rules for creating your new bed:
1. Keep the colors neutral. Bedrooms should be a place of refuge.
2. Comfort is more important than appearance.
3. Be careful with online purchases since texture is key here. You’d be best off going to a store where you can feel the product, or to buy from trusted sources.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Art for Art's Sake

Christmas this year, my mother and husband bought me the dining room set of my dreams. OK, I bought it, but once they heard what it cost, they agreed to pay for it and call it a gift. The table is hand-crafted by a master artist in upstate NY who, in a matter of weeks, created an 8 foot Harvest Table with two company boards. The legs are 5.5 inches wide, tapered and painted and the top is a heavy 1.5 inch dark-stained pine. The reason it’s taken me so long to purchase the table I’ve wanted is that I had a French Country Farm Table, which is similar enough to what I wanted to make it seem ridiculous to replace. But, I’m picky (bordering on OCD) and I wanted an American Harvest Table for my American country home. What inspired me was both finding this artisan and a thorough researching of prices on black Windsor chairs that I’d done for someone else. Windsor chairs can cost a fortune and I wanted ten or twelve of them, but after visiting every retailer in the tri-state area, I found a price that made the whole thing possible. (Some of you might wish I’d tell you where to get such a deal or who this master craftsman is, but I have to keep some secrets to myself so you’ll, you know, hire me.)

I tell you this story because it’s inspired me to want to surround myself with gorgeous hand-crafted things. True American art. So, today's blog is filled with examples of artists with whom I've worked or whose work I’ve seen at crafts fairs. They are at the top of their game, but several have kept their prices reasonable enough to make their work accessible. I give you here a sampling of some of our local artists. Upon meeting them I’m always grateful for their willingness to create and offer to the world their craft even while we live in a society that doesn’t truly value or support our artists.

Hand Blown by Boar Glass. It's simultaneously light and heavy, a true study in balance.

Nicole Chazaud Telaar’s work is some of the most fun I’ve seen.
A whole room can (and should) be designed around her pieces.

Peter Harrison creates contemporary furniture using exposed steel and wood giving a room the feeling of being a gallery as well as a part or your home.

Custom furniture made from domestic hardwoods and exotics.

Pottery is an ancient human art form, always satisfying to make and enriching to own. Having a few good examples in a room silently connects the space with all those who have gone before us.

This spectacular example is from Greenbaum Studios.

Damian Velasquz's work is museum quality, which is reflected in his prices, but the work is too spectacular not to recognize in this list of artisans. This piece is just one example of how his work is a true re-imagining of standard pieces.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Christmas Decorating Gone Natural

I've been in stores looking for great Christmas decorations, but, as usual, it takes a long time to sort through a lot of tacky stuff. This Christmas, I'm going to use a lot of natural elements rather than things I buy in a store. Consider doing the same in your home. Here are some tips:

(BTW, I'm having trouble with the spacing on this blog. Sorry if it looks messy.)

Try decking your halls with poinsettias.
They're inexpensive, make a significant holiday statement and belong in every room of your house. Go to your local Home Depot and pick up a dozen or two in varying sizes.
Cover the floor around the staircase or tuck them in threes in a corner of
your family room or living room.
Keep a small one in the guest bathroom in a simple basket.
As cliche as it might be, strings of cranberries are festive, easy and inexpensive.
Consider starting a new tradition in your family by spending an hour with your kids making your own garlands.
Cranberries are better than popcorn, which will wilt in under a week. Popcorn looks great, but only if you string it a few days before the holiday.
This web site has tips on how to do make these garlands:
Another inexpensive idea is to take an autumn hike in a local park or around your neighborhood for sticks, pinecones and evergreen branches. Carry a basket or bag with you for your collection and when you get home, decorate your mantle or nestle your findings in baskets or around candles. Use your cranberry garlands to add color.
I'm not suggesting you make your own ornaments or even a wreath; very few people have the time and inclination for that. Rather, I'm suggesting bringing in some natural elements which will allow Christmas decorating to be both simple and elegant.
If you love the way a room in your home looks, send me a picture.
Maybe I'll post some of them! (

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Thanksgiving Table

Sorry these posts have taken me so long. 3 posts in one day has to make up for it right?

I'd love to pile this posting with great family recipes, but, really, who cares how things taste if the place doesn't look great.

I'm particularly interested in black and white this year. One of my favorites is this pattern available at Berdorf Goodman.

These Kate Spade plates are just what I'd want on an elegant, sophisticated and contemporary table.

These plates are interesting and a little bit feminine, which is typical of Anthropologie (the retailer). The design is unusual, which is difficult to come by these days.

This piece is a decoupage by John Derian available at which is a great site to visit if you've never been there.

This classic bird pattern is also available with a white background, which is less dramatic, but might work better with your decor. The pattern is done by Jasper Conran.

This blue plate has a lot going for it. It would look wonderful on top of a white charger (see Tiffany for some gorgeous ones) and a white tablecloth. It will make a statement when your guests first see your table.

I don't like clocks in the dining room, but these don't tell time, so I'm letting it slide. Pattern by Ralph Lauren.

Useful, Helpful and Different

There are some fabulous things on the market today that make life easier and with online shopping, getting them is just as simple. Check these out:

This new Microwave Drawer (in 30 and 24 inch sizes made by Sharp) solves some space problems.,1050,49,00.html

Barbara K is single working mother how seeks empowerment through authentic independence. She's founded a company that creates and sells tools for women.

Spray Painter that actually works for under $100