Easy Ways to Prep Your Home This Holiday Season

Lots of white accents and candlelight. Photo cred: Crate & Barrell

Lots of white accents and candlelight. Photo cred: Crate & Barrell

Two years ago I saw some cute table name cards on Pinterest and decided to make them for Thanksgiving. It was the first year we hosted, and the cards were basically rosemary springs woven through paper  Those stupid things took me so #@!$%%^ long that I just got mad thinking about it.  The rosemary needles would fall off when I wove the sprig through the holes that were too small or too big, and the paper would bend and look stupid.   After a few were made successfully I felt obligated to finish the job and that took hours. The learning moment came after a few glasses of wine and advise from oddly rational family members -- I then committed to keeping the holiday home decor situation simple going forward. Here's how: 

1. Get rid of crap. 

Retailers do an excellent job of making you want to buy buy buy this time of year with their pretty tablescapes and perfect everything, but I advocate for the opposite: getting RID of stuff you don't need will make the inevitable influx of people, gifts, food, leftovers, hand-me-downs, etc. feel less overwhelming.  In particularly, go through your open shelving, kitchen drawers and closet to just purge.  No one needs 3 can openers, college tee-shirts and dry markers. Throw it out or donate it and I guarantee you'll feel better.  For supplementary reading on this topic, read "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up". 

2.  Add one strong pop of color.

My favorite simple way of getting the house festive after executing tip # 1 above is to add one bright color in small ways, but repeatedly, throughout the house. In December, it's red (for me, but you could do gold, silver, white, or others)... very bright, saturated Christmas red. I add some bright red candles to our table, put a bright red throw blanket on the couch and even have a red doormat at our front door.  Red berry branches are also some of my favorite flora to put in vases, on a cheese plate when hosting, or incorporated into a table setting. As a side note, I like the real ones over the fake, but do what you have to do.  

3. Lights

Lighting plays a huge role in people's emotional well-being, so accordingly, to make your home festive and fun, you need the right lighting. My top hack is to OD on Christmas string lights and candles.  Scatter them around, inside and out. There are battery operated versions of each that come in handy in various situations, but overall, turning off your electric lights and enjoying the string lights and candles is an instant win. Add some wine to the mix and you are golden. 

Pinterest, catalogues, and Instagram can provide a ton of inspiration, and I will gladly admit that I love it. I look at pretty pics and pretty things ALL THE TIME and get ideas from all the visuals. BUT, you don't have to recreate what you see.  You probably can't, or wouldn't want to because staged professional interior pics aren't actually livable. Maybe we should do a post on that? LET US KNOW.  In the mean time, keep it simple and enjoy. 

What's On Trend

No shame in the black wall game. Photo cred: One Kings Lane

No shame in the black wall game. Photo cred: One Kings Lane

EVERY week I tell myself I'll write this blog before Sunday night. I never happens. I get why, but it's moderately annoying. I will say, however, that a small part of me likes pumping these out at the 11th hour before my self-imposed Monday deadline; my blogs end up being a totally accurate reflection of my current mood and ideas.  Tonight I'm overwhelmed with my week ahead (including a presentation on Instagram LIVE Monday at 1pm through A Well Designed Business), and so my thoughts are scattered. Accordingly, I'm summing up diverse selection of recent art world trends I've seen. Here we go: 

1) Galleries going out of business. 

This is a sad one for life but not HORRIBLE for my biz. So many brick and mortar art galleries are closing their doors in NYC since rents are high and the gallery model hasn't evolved in the past 50 years; it's still a white cube of a space, showcasing 1/10th of the art it has available in a sterile, often intimidating environment. Prospective buyers are less inclined to go in and buy when they have many seemingly more accessible resources available to them through the Internet. When galleries go away, the art they had in inventory still exists, and thankfully I know where to find it. Being able to show clients pieces that they literally can no longer see coming in off the street boosts my value add, but this is definitely going to shake up the structure of the art market in the long run.

2) Black Walls

I'm a design groupie and I look at pretty interiors (in real life and through photos) often. I've started to see black accent walls that look unexpectedly beautiful and homey.  They make me want to paint SOMETHING black in my all white house (when my husband is away, obviously) to add a different dimension. Stay tuned for how this plays out... 

3) Maple Frames

Frames, just like any other material thing in life, go in and out of style. Slim frames have been favored over gaudi big ones for a few years now, and I'm seeing a lot more slim white-washed maplewood frames that look beautiful. They're warmer than white lacquer gallery frames that are, well, in galleries quite often, and they have a neutral, textural appeal. Fun side fact: getting your art re-framed every few years is an excellent way to freshen up your space.

4) Video Marketing

I am in the process of jumping on this bandwagon (STAY TUNED FOR OUR BRAND VIDEO), but there is a bit of a learning curve involved. Regardless, it's worth it. A video marketing guru who I trust told me that the reach of text-only content is X, photo plus text is X times X, and video is multiples of that. Some people in the art and design industry are doing this amusingly well, and one of my favorite companies to watch that's crushing it is Studio McGee

5) One Kings Lane

I used to buy from OKL often, particularly when I was furnishing our old apartment. The prices seemed a little better than the selection, but back then I seemed to favor function over form (weird).  Anyways, I stopped looking for a while and now I'm back to checking regularly. WHAT HAPPENED?? Their products are gorgeous and their marketing is killing me. I'm seeing their name everywhere and their perfectly curated room pics have become a time suck. I could hang out on their website for a year, and Awesome photographs from the recent Brooklyn Designer Showhouse were even sourced from OKL.  Yes, it's added to my source list from now on. 


AND there you have it; an accurate account of the eclectic thoughts buzzing around my head tonight. This post was actually loads of fun to write, so I'd LOVE some feedback. PRETTY PLEASE give me a comment or a like so I can tailor this going forward. 

The Reason Behind our New Logo that No One Noticed

Last week we made a little logo switch-a-roo that I'm 99% confident no one noticed.   If you did, compliments ARE welcome, but honestly, after our marketing person put the design that I approved up on our site,  I didn't even notice.  I'm guessing you're in that camp.  This is a good thing; my intention was to do something different but keep the brand recognition in tact -- kind of like when your friend gets her lashes done and you can't pinpoint why she just looks good... 

Our first logo, RIP 2014-2017

Our first logo, RIP 2014-2017

Anyways, changing a logo is actually a big deal. There are people who go through this whole brand exploration exercise and conduct hours of research, thought and graphic designing to come up with a selection of potential colors, fonts, and symbols that together communicate your brand message to the masses.  We didn't do that; "brand identity" is a hot topic here at the MaLa HQ and we have a marketing person whose been a critical part of that non-stop convo, so we opted for execution of our updated vision rather than exploration. Here's why we did it and how we've evolved:

The first logo was created when the company was just starting (and was just me) in 2014 and those little curly cues were exactly what I wanted; I thought they looked like the gated driveways leading into my hypothetical future clients' homes. As it turns out, I don't have any clients with gated driveways (largely because I live in New York City, though we do have clients nationwide), but more importantly, Mason Lane is a bit cooler than I expected. The curly cues were "precious", as my branding expert/mom friend pointed out, and that is not an adjective people use to describe me, ever.  

Even though we're dealing with stylistically diverse art and spaces, we do have a visual point of view --  It's an aesthetic that people hire us to execute on their behalf, and in my opinion, it's a cool one. Spaces that we've completed end up being bold but livable, interesting but comfortable, clean and polished.  They have a distinct character to them that highlights our clients' taste and serves repeatedly as a conversation starter. For this reason, we needed to drop the precious little curly cues.  I was actually a fan of keeping the color gradation from that first logo, but I was kindly informed that is "so out", so that's gone too.  

And here we are; Logo 2.0, matching the cool vibe we've grown into and that we create in client spaces every day.  Yes, it is simple, and there were some more complex ones in the running, but this one worked everywhere --- on the website, business cards, with "art advisory services" and without... even on my new branded pop socket that #Maddie got me. (And if #Maddie is a mystery to you, start following our Instastories).  We hope this helps convey who we are to our current and future client base, and PLEASE send us your feedback to confirm that said cool vibe is clearly communicated. 



Three Ways to Make Your Current "Art" Look Better

A client's Tribeca living room with old sketches from an art class re-framed, matted, and hung to finish the space. 

A client's Tribeca living room with old sketches from an art class re-framed, matted, and hung to finish the space. 

First of all, "ART" is in quotes in the title of this post solely because I'm broadly defining it to mean any sort of framed wall decor (poster, hand-me-down, needlepoint, etc.) that you have, or may consider having, on your wall.  It's NOT a snide way of indicating that these items aren't "real" art; I'm not elitist about the fine art world at ALL and my goal is always to help people spend wisely and to make their walls awesome. 

That said, art that you have already quite possibly isn't living its best life right now; there are often ways to make it look better. Here are a few: 

1) Re-framing. Framing, just like fashion, music, food, etc., is an industry with trends, innovation, and changes.  When frames are dated, the art inside looks relatively worse.  Re-framing every few years is one way to freshen up your art, and really your space. Black plastic frames from the 90s --- not so on trend these days. White lacquer or, bleached maple wood frames, big fat 8-ply white mats (since the old ones have probably turned yellow-ish): YES -- go all in as these will give your art a clean, contemporary and polished look.

2) Art height.  Museums hang art with the center 57-60" above the floor. That number is generally considered a starting point in the home because furniture, architecture, and interior design sometimes warrant going higher or lower.  Importantly, to make your pieces look coherent in a space, hang with the centers of all artworks at the same distance from the floor.  For example: If your over-the-couch piece has a center at 62" above the couch, then the center of the piece on the adjacent wall should also be at 62". Again, there are exceptions, but this is a helpful guideline to making everything look better together. 

3. Hardware. The hardware on the back of art actually matters. Wires, for example, are exceptionally annoying because the art will inevitably get crocked when there is one nail and a wire involved.  My framers know to use D-rings on my jobs instead. D-rings are two rings (in the shape of a D, for "DUH") with one on each side of the back of an artwork. You put two nails in the wall, level and at the same width as the D-rings, and voila.....art that stays put.  One bonus tip on this is that the D-rings should not show when the art is hung; you need the framer or artist to put them on the back of the art about 1/4 inches in from the edge so they don't stick out when the piece is hung. You could also do this yourself with a drill, but I'm not going to fully endorse busting out electric tools here unless you're a pro. 

Re-curating people's current art collections is one of my favorite services we offer; it's economical and the results always exceed client expectations. I'm sorting through a bunch of before and after re-frames and will be editing and posting in the coming weeks.