Window Boxes

While it is still the heart of winter in Chicago, it is never too early to begin thinking about how we want to use and decorate our outdoor spaces come springtime. Even in the most urban of areas, window boxes (placed inside if necessary) can bring the peace and beauty of the outdoors into any space. Window boxes can even be used to dress up plain windows or visually correct the scale of undersized or uneven windows.

Now is the time to begin thinking of the color scheme or plant varieties you want to surround yourself with in the coming warmer months and how you will tie that in with the existing environment. Color combinations like the bright red flowers against the blue and white of the building in the photograph above make a bold statement. You can also use a variety of mixed colors for a more natural look or stick with a specific color scheme that compliments your home and existing landscape.

Arranging Wall Art Properly

When arranging wall art, there are a few guidelines you can follow to make your room look like it was designed by a pro.

1. Scale
When choosing and arranging your artwork, take into consideration the amount of wall space you wish to cover. When filling the space above a sofa or bed for example, try to fill the space in proportion to the furniture below it. Take some painters tape and mark off the general area you intend to fill. Take a few steps back and glance at the wall. If it looks too top heavy or empty, then adjust the tape until it looks pleasing to you.

2. Pattern
Now that you have the size of space figured out, it is time to decide if you wish to fill it with one large piece, a few medium pieces or several smaller works of art. When hanging an even number of equally sized square or rectangular pieces, they tend to look best when laid out in a row or grid pattern. Unevenly numbered groupings or groupings of differing sizes and shapes usually look better in more staggered layout patterns as shown in the photo above. Tape off a section of your floor to indicate the space you wish to fill and finalize the arrangement in that space before transferring it to the wall.

3. Height
As a general rule, although it does not apply in all cases (i.e. above a couch or bed), the center of the piece of art or group of pieces should be at eye level – approximately 60″ above the floor.

4. Color and Texture
Variation in frames can either make for a visually interesting grouping, or a visual nightmare depending on how it is done. Sticking with a theme, while safe, helps to ensure a favorable outcome. When varying the texture or style of frames, try to keep the frames within a narrow color palette. If all frames are of a similar style you have more room to play with variations in color.

Note: although painters tape is gentle, it still can do damage to walls and floors if you are not careful.

Organization With Baskets

An organized home is a relaxing home… and a more beautiful home too. One of my favorite ways to keep things organized and clutter free is by using baskets. For a more serene look, I like to stick with the same basket design consistently within each space and line them up nicely on the shelves. These work wonderfully everywhere from kitchen cabinets to closets and bookcases.

The “Branas” baskets from Ikea are one of my favorites, and they are very affordable too!

Baked Sweet Potatoes

Ingredients:

*Sweet potatoes
*Safflower oil
Topping Option 1
*Powdered cinnamon
*Butter (optional)
Topping Option 2
*Shredded cheese
*Black pepper
*Crushed red pepper
*Salt (optional)

Sweet potatoes are too healthy and nutritious to be enjoyed only at the holidays. To save myself time and effort, I like to bake up a big batch of these so I have them ready for dinner the next few days. They make a great breakfast too!

Wash the sweet potatoes prior to baking. Coat potatoes and baking sheet in a thin layer of safflower oil and place in oven at 450 for 45-60 minutes (I don’t preheat my oven, so reduce baking time if you do). Check potatoes periodically with a fork and remove once they are soft all the way through. Before eating, slit open the top of the potato and add your desired toppings.