Friday, March 16, 2012

Kiwi Coastal Style

Does your house have a certain style? If it does - did you create it that way intentionally or just end up with it? What piece in your home is most precious to you and why?

Our kitchen, Photo: Scott Hargis
I never thought much about any of these things until the last couple of months when these questions were asked of me many, many times. That's because next month our house in on the Children's Support League Home Tour. All the five homeowners on the tour are interviewed extensively for a Diablo magazine article, press releases and brochures.

Before I came to the US, I didn't know much about these home tours. People pay between $45 to $85 to tour five local homes. Ticket sales, together with sponsorship from local businesses and the professionals who've worked on your home, go directly to help disadvantaged children in the East Bay. Last year the tour raised $186,000 for disadvantaged local children and a total of $2.7million has been raised since 1986.

Our entry, Photo: Scott Hargis
Our entry, Photo: Scott Hargis
We rented this house - formerly a 40's brown Brady Bunch-like two-storey - for five years before buying it and spent the next year re-modeling. Initially we didn't have much of a plan. One thing we knew for certain: the kitchen had to be the biggest, lightest, best room in the house. We wanted all the rooms in the house to be used all the time - and that meant no dining room. (How many times did we hear: "No dining room? You're lowering the value of the house!")We even thought about eliminating a living room.

I realised now our priorities were quite un-swoony. With four kids and all their friends running around, I wanted the house to clean up easily. To look fine after ten minutes of a quick-and-dirty pick up before six adults and five kids arrive for dinner. I always want to feel free to invite people over on the spur of the moment but sadly I'm the quintessential idle hostess - I don't want to spend hours on cooking, arranging or cleaning up.

So everything had to be easily wipeable and washable: the Philippe Stark lucite Ghost chairs, the  Australian Spotted Gum wood floors - which shows no sins - and the (relatively) inexpensive white Caesarstone recycled kitchen and bathroom surfaces. Anything precious had to be out of the way or on the walls.

Our dining area in the kitchen, Photo: Scott Hargis

At the risk of sounding horribly pretentious, in the end I've realised I didn't want a definable style. I know the word "eclectic' is overdone, but I love modern chairs, ethnic art and colour. A huge Tongan Tapa (flax) cloth in the living room with a cardboard Frank Gehry chair. And purple, orange and always chartreuse green (everyone noticed in the photo shoot I was wearing all those same colours too - does that happen to you?) Still we had to define our style - I came up with the phrase "Kiwi Coastal" for all the tour literature.  It feels familiar with a friendly palette, loadsa light and a touch of quirk or kitsch. I never wanted the rooms to look "done' or designer-y.

During the photoshoot and interviews I was fascinated to watch top interiors photographer Scott Hargis, who had donated his time. His photos went straight from camera to computer and he spent mere minutes merging two photos to create an image most pleasing to the eye...and sometimes you didn't even know why.

I fully realised the magic Scott weaves when I took my own photo of the living room. (We've just replaced our our old sofas with new white ones....) See the differences: his photo is soft, rounded and twinkling. After reading Scott's five tips below I see that my photo has contravened every rule: it's taken from too high, it's too wide and with nothing in the foreground -  resulting in a flat, dark cluttered shot. Phew!

Our living room, Photo: Scott Hargis
Our living room, Photo by me







1) Keep the camera low. Although we're accustomed to viewing rooms from our normal standing height, the camera prefers to be more like four feet above the floor. Take a knee when you're composing your shot and it will look more natural!

2) Hold the camera perfectly level. The most common mistake people make is being too high (see #1 above) and then tilting the camera down towards the floor. This causes the walls to lean in from the sides, in a very disconcerting way.

3) Remember the things you learned in art class. When composing your shot, keep in mind the Rule of Thirds, and use Leading Lines and Perspective to your advantage. (See these Google Image searches of Rule of Third, Leading Lines and Perspective for some dramatic examples of these concepts in practice.)

4) Don't show everything. Most beginners shoot VERY wide-angle, and their shots suffer as a result. Zooming in will make your images much more powerful. Zooming in so that only half of a lamp that's near the edge of a photo gets included, for example, will still tell your viewer everything he/she needs to know about the room. Professional photographers will almost always use the longest focal length lens they possibly can, when shooting interiors.

5) Include a foreground object. Compose your shot in a way that includes something up close, with your room arranged beyond it. You don't have to show the entire object, and it shouldn't take up too much space in your "canvas" - but it will really help develop a sense of depth in your shot, and draw the viewer's eye in.

How about you? What matters to you most about your home?





43 comments:

  1. such an interesting post!! congrats on having your home featured!! good for you. They have home tours here in Central Pa to raise $ for charities...I love to go and see and get ideas. have fun!!
    I am your newest follower..pls follow back if you can.

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  2. Well first you have to have a home....working on that! :) I LOVE love love the green door. my fave color. that will definitely be a staple color in my home!

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  3. Your home is fabulous! Great idea for raising money for charities!
    ~Anne

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  4. Your home is lovely Jody! Thanks for the tips!

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  5. Jody, Your home is wonderful. I like your choices of colors, textures, design - lovely. Had to chuckle when you mentioned the kids and ease of clean-up, entertaining, etc. You really need to think about these things when you design a home!

    So kind of you to open your doors for such a wonderful cause. I'm sure the event will be a success!

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  6. Seriously????!?!?!? I am moving in. Make room, I am on my way!

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  7. Your house is fabulous...my floor is similar but that's about where the similarity ends! I'm depressed now. Enjoy your rainy Friday evening...in paradise.

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  8. Jody, your house is beautiful and I love the art on your walls!

    xo Mary Jo

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  9. Oh I agree your home is just gorgeous!! I love the colors that you have chosen!!

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  10. I love your rules and your house is so cool and mod and chic. Can't wait to hear how the house tour goes. I know it's for a good cause, but I'm not sure how I would feel about strangers walking through my house all weekend. Please tell us about it.

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    1. Strangers in your hosue...Yes that's why we didn't do it two years ago. We are going to be out of the house for three days - not sure where we are going - I don't want to hear people's comments...

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  11. HOW do you keep your place looking like THAT??!! While I'm tidying one room they're trashing all the others. I vaguely recall this was a nice house til we moved into it. I think we've got a wooden floor in the living room.... I haven't seen it for weeks. I believe our settees were once red and quite funky. Now they're kind of mottled biro'd splattered blobs covered in kids, stained cushions and filthy duvets. The kitchen units are grease-coloured. The bedrooms of course are all statements of individuality - NOT. They are all almost identical mounds of clothes and magazines and discarded pillows with an actual bed under there somewhere. The outside doors are barely visible thro' the forestation. And the garden needs an old person to come round to tell us what to do about it. But..... it's 'ome!

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  12. Madame SG: Believe me: it was like that JUST for the duration of the two hours the photographer was here. After that back to Animal House with Cy, eight eating at the island in his underwear...

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  13. I've always thought you had an exquisite house. Suspicions confirmed. Your goals for your house are similar t o ours -- a lived-in functional place, that is easy to clean. The other thing for us is lots of light, since we're in a dark place much of the year.

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  14. LOVELY PICS:) I really like your blog...so much nice inspiration everywhere. I wish you a sunny and great week:)

    LOVE Maria at inredningsvis.se
    (Sweden)

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  15. I so love your home. I love the combination of colours n the chic touches here and there.

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  16. you are completely opposite of "horribly pretentious"... love reading your thought process behind the design... or should i say, the "un-design"? :) love the colors that you chose (& that you chose the same for your attire!), that you wanted to fully utilize every room, & that you wanted it to be "entertaining-friendly" but also "user-friendly".

    ...& great photo tips too! (someday i hope to see your home in person!)

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  17. My goodness how beautiful, I hope you keep all the pics of your house looking so pristine. VERY kiwi coastal x

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  18. I'm in heaven! Have always admired your house and now it's been photographed professionally I can salivate over it even more!
    Our kitchen is our hub too; so pleased with our new fittings last year which ensured we made the most of the light that floods in.

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  19. Your home is gorgeous and the photo tips are wonderful! My home is very traditional but comfortable. I still need to tackle a kitchen remodel, but after living through the last few months of bathroom (ongoing), floors and driveway, I need a break from workers!!

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  20. This is so exciting! And your photography tips are spot on. Thanks for them!

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  21. Very interesting and beautiful photos. My home decoration tends towards the Oriental in style - with furniture inherited from my parent's Hong Kong days plus purchases from travels in places like Laos and Cambodia. However, I have to admit the effect is slightly ruined by Lego bricks and 'toy creep' around the entire property....

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  22. Your house looks fab and I totally agree with you regarding the "done" look. But White sofas?!? Man, you're brave!

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  23. I want to come vacation in your Kiwi Coastal home! Great tips on photos and you can really tell the difference between his and your...sorry!

    I like a mixture of everything in my home...from overstuffed to tailored, antique and more modern, light walls with dark furniture or dark walls with light furniture. It has become a mix of what we like.

    We chose not to have a living room and don't miss it one bit because we were never the formal, sit in the fancy room, type.

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  24. ooh your home looks lovely.......... cool 'n' groovy 'n' very livable....!!

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  25. beautiful home! I'm with u about not being attached to a certain definable style..our homes should be uniquely ours filled with things we love!

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  26. this is the first time i've heard of house tours, and i think it's such a cool idea! and i love how they help disadvantaged children! :)

    <3, Mimi
    http://whatmimiwrites.blogspot.com/
    Fashion To Figure Giveaway

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  27. everything is full of style and good taste! amazing :D

    xx

    www.sickbytrend.com

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  28. Your home is amazing! Best of luck with the home tour - I'm sure it will be a successful event and raise funds for a very worthy cause. :)

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  29. great place and beautifully decorated!

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  30. Jody, your home is very beautiful. I love every art piece, the entry way (second photo) is gorgeous and I totally agree with paying much attention to the kitchen. That should be the best room in the house. And thank you for the tips, I did learn something. :)
    Ada

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  31. Wow. What a beautiful home! Our home is what you would call 'shabby chic' mainly because it is 80 years old! We moved into it four years ago but haven't been able to upgrade it yet. It is literally falling apart while we are in it. Yet, I still love it very much. There is some kind of cosy, happy vibe in it which makes me feel that the previous occupants lived a happy life here. That is important to me. It also has a lovely green and private back garden which I love. And of course, it came with feral cats included! what's not to love? :)

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  32. Seeing photos of your spacious house brings back nostalgic memories of open spaces back in NZ. After nearly 4 years in the UK, I've started to get used to cramped flats and houses but at least there are plenty of parks in every corner. Your house is lovely!

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  33. What a great read with fantastic photography tips. I love taking photos but I always feel that my indoor photos stink and my outdoor photos of birds, flowers, and trees are beautiful.

    I love your entry way and all of the light coming through in your kitchen. That chair in your living room is just the coolest chair I've ever seen!

    We don't really have a style, our things are a little mismatched, but it feels like home!

    PS Thank you so much for the wonderful birthday wishes and the sweet words about my mom...she was diagnosed with diabetes and stage one thyroid cancer about two years ago and has really done well to lose weight and eat right since then and is doing great. xoxo

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  34. I love the pop of colour in the first image!
    Pop over to my blog when you have a spare minute & check out the new look!
    x
    Melissah

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  35. I love your style and the first image is fabulous...open, airy space...perfection!!

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  36. That wall of windows just leaps out of the picture. I want one of those!!

    http://jesterqueen.com

    Your captcha is making the posting hard. Hopefully this way it will go through. Unless you have high spam, you might want to consider dropping the captcha?

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  37. Crikey...lovely place or what?? Especially that lovely mushroomy ceiling light in the hallway.

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  38. Wow, what a great house. Lot's of light. And great cause too.
    xx
    maya

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  39. Your home is amazing! You have some super fun pieces! That my home is welcoming to others is what matters most to me. For many years I felt like everything had to be perfect in order to have people over. Now I realize that an open door and heart are what make people feel good about being in my home.

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