Steps To Creating Beautiful Interiors - With Staircases

They take you from here to there. They're efficient. They function well and they are oftentimes a home's major focal point.

So I am baffled and disappointed when staircases are treated mundanely. Please don't ignore your staircases.

They should be allowed to show off,
to be focal points. Staircases are some of the
world's most beautiful architectural pieces.

There are unique and fun situations when a staircase that is just barely visible, not situated directly in the open view, can actually add interest to a room. The revealing of only a slight glimpse can cause intrigue, the thought of: 'up those steps may be another world, only accessible via that passageway.'

Above Photo From the Book: "The Heart of France"

If your staircase currently is just a means to an end......
if it exists now just to take you from one floor level to another.....

take a fresh look at it. What can be done to make it
a beautiful feature of your home.

* Make them a real destination.
* Treat them like sculptures.
* Highlight their features.

This article includes some beautiful pictures of stairs. Some with railings of wrought iron that are super ornamental. Some have been decorated with paint and mosaic tile patterns that just draw you to the stairs. Many of these stairs are simply just beautiful architectural details themselves, but look beyond that. Consider how the steps, the stair landings, the surrounding walls and floorings have been designed, what treatments have been used. Look at each composition as a whole.

Stairs and stair landings are naturals for display. This is where you might mount your favorite art pieces, hang an unusual quilt or set of masks. Add a vase, use a large mirror at just the right spot. Build your stair composition with whatever things you have, play with it, until it is its own art work or art sculpture. Don't limit yourself. Try different looks and your stairs will be the focal point that they deserve to be.

If you are in need of an interior designer, our Directory of Designers can help you locate a professional in your area. Working with an interior designer helps assure you get the look you desire while helping eliminate costly mistakes.

Design Art - Brad Pitt & Marc Jacobs (& We) Can Enjoy The Style

Actor (and more recently along with wife Angelie Jolie, increasingly social activist) Brad Pitt recently purchased Dutch designer Jeroen Verhoeven's Cinderella Table ($293,000). On this same shopping spree at Design Miami/Basel, the actor also picked up two Max Lamb Bronze Poly Chairs ($25,000) and two Family Lamps by Atelier van Lieshout - all of which are outstanding design art pieces.
This design art style is unique and highly appealing (and unfortunately, exorbitantly expensive.)

The Cinderella Table is beautifully made - it consists of a solid block of white marble. This one piece provides a good example of the significance of contemporary process art. The birch version of this captivating table sits in The Collection of New York's MOMA.

div>Design art is a continuation of elements of mid-century modern art, which was whimsical but highly controversial. It polarised art critics, but Harold Rosenberg acknowledged it and supported it. During the transformation of artist Jackson Pollock's painting style into existential drama, Rosenberg stated, "what was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event".

When Brad Pitt purchased his furniture art pieces, he was at Design Miami/Basel - considered by many to be the grandest of the contemporary art exhibitions, the "Olympics" of modern art". The furniture art style is part of a new but rapidly-developing market. Fetching it may be, it can be understandably intimidating to consider starting a collection from highly influential artists such as these mid-century modern artists (i.e., George Nelson, Paul László, Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Isamu Noguchisamu).
W.Magazine reports that even such talented, immersed in the design field people such as Marc Jacobs have been known to get intimidated by the art world. He is reported to have said, "I had in my mind that only incredibly grand, extremely wealthy people lived with art of any sort." This is Marc Jacobs, one of the world's most influential style setters - he's been artistic director at Louis Vuitton for the past decade. Marc Jacobs has had his own label since 1994.His foray started with a Christie's auction catalog, not too unusual. He fell in love with an 18" x 13" canvas oil painting, "Mary Calling Up A Storm," by Karen Kilimnik. He paid $31,000 for the portrait of a dark-haired young woman and within weeks, he acquired three Mike Kelly prints from Skarstedt gallery. His collection includes a Lalanne sheep sculpture, the "Peach" by Ed Ruscha and many other creative journey, mid century art pieces. (Click here to see designer Marc Jacobs Paris apartment.)Not all of us have the design genius of Marc Jacobs or the budget of Brat Pitt for the $230,000 Cinderella Table. For those of us who are still wanting to incorporate this serendipitous style in our home interiors, there are less costly alternatives. It isn't the quantity of the art but rather how striking the piece is, that makes it distinguished. Even one piece in a room can be effective. If you are lucky to have found a piece of mid century modern art that you cannot live without, the cost may very well be worth the investment.
Do: mix it with your other styles. Do: embrace it (don't be afraid of it). Do: use imagination in the placement and presentation of this piece. And, finally, do: consider that the fascination includes mid century modern art pieces as well as reproduction modern art (they are available at a much lower cost).
When done well, incorporating this new style is really another link in what should be the creative journey toward a beautiful living environment. These artists did not believe that the beauty was the end product. Rather, the fun, the inspiration and the stimulating, positive interaction between the product and the user, the artists felt, extended the beauty. In our individual lives, how we create, evolve and interact with our home interiors as well can define and extend real beauty.

How To Be Happy (Cont'd)

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Preparing food and festivities for family and friends can be more than just an entertaining task. We can magnify the occasion when we look at the ordinary as a blessing, a gift.   

It brings to mind a bon mot that I've lived by for like forever.  It is entitled, "Life Is 100 Percent."

"Life Is 100 Percent" 

"Life is 100 percent.
10 percent is wonderful,
 mountain-top experiences.
10 percent is bad,
80 percent is boring,
 every-day, regular life.

"It's what we do with the 80 percent, boring,
every day, that determines how happy
we are in life." 

It is so true.  Do something fun, go out of your comfort zone and invite some friends to your home,  Do something that helps determine how happy you are in life, ordinary or extraordinary.  Just do it.

Try a new recipe like this one from the Pampered Chef, "Pecan Pie Muffins."

A Bonus Recipe For You:

Pecan Pie Muffins Recipe
by the Pampered Chef


1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped pecans
2/3 cup butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease mini or regular muffin cups generously. Grease them well or they will stick.  In medium bowl, stir together brown sugar, flour and pecans. In a separate bowl, beat the butter and eggs together.  Stir in dry ingredients just until combined. Spoon batter into muffin cups about 2/3 full. Bake for 12-13 minutes for mini muffins or 15 - 17 minutes for regular size muffins.  Run a knife around the edge of each muffin and pop it out.

See more recipes in "The Pampered Chef, All The Best, From Our Kitchens To Yours"

More Something Beautiful Journal Bonus Recipes:

Heirloom Tomato Tarts Recipe
Spinach Balls Appetizer Recipe
Pecan Pie Muffins Recipe
Tuna Apple Mini Melts Recipe

Chalkboard Art

The above photograph (from the book: Breaking the Rules: Home Style for the Way We Live Today) is of a giant blackboard located in the hallway of Fashion Designer Cynthia Rowley. In the Rowley house they have a rule (and it's probably written in chalk):

"In this house, not taking things seriously is taken very seriously."

This is a great example of both form and function. Chalkboards have been used for years by homeowners to keep shopping, honey-do, and various other lists, and now they're taking on a fun and decorative life of their own.

ApartmentTherapy had a article dedicated to chalkboard art that I enjoyed: it included various chalkboard ideas including how to make chalkboards using chalkboard paint.

From that ApartmentTherapy article, following are a couple blog entries I found interesting:

"My artist friend, Lisa, used chalkboard paint over her kitchen sink only, and it is so amazing! Each week, she writes a quote for the week and random words that she's trying to add to her vocabulary that she gets in those word-a-day emails. The rest of her kitchen walls are cherry red. Looks great with the slate color chalkbord paint. Great to see people using chalkboard paint. It's great stuff!"

"I just painted a wall in my bathroom with chalkboard paint. It's silly and fun. People use the bathroom and leave notes... hee."

Enjoy decorating your home. Remember many of the rooms in your home can act as art galleries or functional space, or both.

Decorate A Dreamhouse, Manhattan Brownstone (Cont'd.) + Lemony Lemon Brownies Bonus Recipe

Article Continued From Main Post, Click Here To Return.

Written By: Patricia Lynne
Editor: Sarahjoy Crain

In my current Something Beautiful Journal entry, "Decorate A Dreamhouse," I'm imagining I'm living in a Manhattan Brownstone in the Upper West Side Of New York, like the ones shown at left.

My Brownstone located in the Upper West Side is among the State of New York's finest neighborhoods, with its charming, brownstone facade and classic styling; the neighborhood is favored for its historical value, dating back to the nineteenth century. Its wonderfulness includes:

  • My Brownstone is located on a tree-lined street just one-and-a-half blocks from Central Park in one direction and one-and-a-half blocks from Riverside Park (overlooking the Hudson River) in the other; it's just steps away from several subway and bus lines, making all of the City's wonderful attractions easily and quickly accessible.
  • A short cab ride, bus, or 10 minute subway ride puts you right in the heart of midtown with the theatre district, Carnegie Hall, Rockefeller Center, Empire State Building, Times Square, the shopping of Fifth Avenue and MOMA. You can walk to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and the fabulous Museum Mile, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Guggenheim, The Museum of the City of New York, etc. 
  • SoHo and Tribeca, with their unique, interesting shops and galleries, are a quick subway-ride away. This Upper West Side neighborhood was recently featured as New York's hottest restaurant row. 
  • The exterior of my particular Brownstone has been tweaked a tad - I painted every inch of the exterior of my unit enamel white. It stands out - the detail of the stair rails appears even more stunning in white.

  • The interiors are a fresh, sophisticated cottage look, with a mix of Swedish and French antiques. The color scheme is subdued; my unit is open and airy and full of light helping to provide a feel of endless space - enhanced by 12' ceilings.
  • Although it is fresh-looking and on the side of contemporary, there are unexpected accents throughout the house that are antiques or that have been painted and decorated in a way that lend intentionally to the drama of agelessness.
  • Ensuring that wonderful quality of comfort, I have purposely made it welcoming and romantic through the combination of color and texture (including provision of monogrammed bedding, Egyptian cotton sheets and wonderfully soft blankets and throws).

We're going inside now so please join me as I write in my SB Journal on decorating the interiors of my sophisticated Manhattan Brownstone.

Decorating My Dreamhouse Formal Entryway:

When you enter my Brownstone, there is a small formal entryway and here you are greeted by the resonance of this significant Swedish late Gustavian Grandfather Clock as it chimes in the new hour. The warmth of its sound brings life to my house.

It is one of the many beautiful antiques available from Talisman Antiques of London.

Decorating My Dreamhouse Living Room:

The windows in my Brownstone are significant - they are numerous and oversized owing to the 12' ceilings.
The window coverings are simple but elegant, also a nod to a more contemporary look. I've avoided ornate valances, cornices, tiebacks and tassels. They are a simple silk drapery style that just slightly forms a "puddle and poof" on my floor.

Hanging in the center of my Manhattan Brownstone living area is this dramatic 59" high black Murano Style Venetian Noir Chandelier .  This beautiful hanging light is available from the Something Beautiful Shoppe.

The chandelier's style is a reproduction 17th-century Venetian-style chandelier, the curves and strength of the black is an important feature with other pieces throughout the room.

Fell in love with this white linen Swedish settee From Tone
On Tone Antiques. The curbed backrest and cut outs are delicate and a perfect backing for the detailed embroidered and pearl decorated lumbar pillow. The frame includes laurel leaf trim, applied lion masks & flowerettes, front turned fluted legs & rear sabering legs.

The coffee table measures 58" x 33" - and is definitely 'art as furniture.' By Eva Zeisel, this piece is one of my home's favorite unexpected accents.
Born in 1906 and still designing today, Eva Zeisel is known world wide for her work with clay but it was not until she was in her 80's that she began designing coffee tables. Zeisel is a recipient of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award For Lifetime Achievement. The Eva Zeisel Coffee Table is available from Design Within Reach.

Again I chose muted fabric color tones on these upholstery pieces, my Club Chairs, French Napoleon III, dating back from the 1870's to 1880's. From Tone On Tone Antiques, the chairs are covered in a heavy Belgian linen and each chair holds a very soft-colored, floral decorative pillow.

The Louis Ghost Transparent Chair is both enchanting and comfortable.

With classic baroque style and innovative modern design, in a short time this chair has become an iconic piece in the canon of Philippe Starck for its instantly recognizable Louis XVI chair shape pared down to an essential form and boldly reinterpreted in plastic.

And ..... it is sitting in my living room - - a-hem, just a cute little sidechair.

The "Manuscrit Rug" is my choice for underfoot - Joaquim Ruiz Millet is an architect and designer, and a writer, filmmaker and gallery directory. His Manuscrit Rug is an expression of all of his passions and features a romantic poem that he wrote in his native Catalan. It features the actual handwriting of the designer, the rug is an enlargement of a page in a novel Ruiz Millet is working on.

Last but not least, artwork for my living area's walls:
I have chosen this one oversized artwork by Pablo Picasso, "Evening Flowers." It has been framed and matted to just over 5' .

I find that my living room area is dynamic with its tall, elegant drapery presentations, beautiful but subtle Swedish pieces, the explosively-black chandelier, overhead, the artwork-as-furniture coffee table by Eva Zeisel and then, of course, the Manuscrit Rug. It is lovely and complete and I rest at the selection of this one very large art piece.

Decorating My Dreamhouse Dining Area:

This beautiful dining collection is from Maison
Home Interiors which is located in Richmond, Virginia.

I love the tall global candleholders and how they play off the glass reflections in the crystal chandelier and off of the tall cabinet's glass fronts.

On the opposite wall I have the Ballards Canterbury sideboard in cream, and also from Ballards, the Lemon Topiary Tree.

Decorating My Dreamhouse Master Bedroom:

My bedding is romantic with its scrumptious feeling, goose-down insert duvet, monogrammed pillow shams and embroidered bedding. Both the bed and bedding are from Pottery Barn.

I like comfy places to sit and read. I like to put my feet up, I like a nice view. These two pieces fit my needs and I like the tactile feel and look they offer my bedroom - the natural woven Seagrass Wingback Armchair and Ottoman, are also from Pottery Barn.

I love waking up and seeing this Anastasia Mirror - it is graceful while the shelf with its contents allows it to look as if it is a functional piece.

Decorating My Dreamhouse Rear Yard

Living in Upper West Manhattan doesn't allow for grand sized gardens and courtyards, let alone a swimming pool. But we did it.

Good planning = greenery and more than adequate walking, meandering and entertaining space.

If decorating isn't easy for you or if you are in need of some particular interior design assistance, our designers at the Something Beautiful Shoppe will be happy to work with you - working with professional helps assure you get the look you deserve while helping eliminate costly mistakes.

This has been so much fun, writing my "Decorating A Dreamhouse," this time in the Upper West Side in a Manhattan Brownstone. Of course I just imagined decorating it, but I desired to create an inviting, sophisticated but enchanting home.

I could so live here. Couldn't you?

Click Below To Read: Other "Decorate A Dreamhouse" Articles

A Bonus Recipe For You - Lemony Lemon Brownies:

The 'Brownie' Batter

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt or sea salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Tart Lemon Glaze

1 rounded cup powdered sugar
4 tablespoons lemon juice
8 teaspoons lemon zest


Preheat oven to 350deg.F.  Grease / spray an 8" x 8" baking dish with butter / cooking spray and set aside.

Zest and juice two small / large lemons; set aside (can substitute lemon juice)

In the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the flour, sugar, salt and softened butter until combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, lemon zest and lemon juice until combined. Pour into the flour mixture and beat at medium speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.

Pour into baking dish and bake for 23-25 minutes, or until just starting to turn golden around the edges and a toothpick inserted into the center of the brownies come out clean. Allow to cool completely before glazing.  Do not overbake or the bars will be dry (even with the yummy glaze).

When brownies are cooled completely, make the glaze . . . sift the powdered sugar, add lemon zest and juice, and whisk together all three ingredients.  Spread 1/2 the glaze over the brownies with a rubber spatula.  Let glaze set.  Spread the remaining glaze over the bars and let it set. This glaze does not harden like most.  Cut into bars and serve!