Thursday, December 26, 2013

Vivid colors return in time for new year

I'm working on my list of things to mention when the conversation turns to New Year's resolutions and things of note from the year passing.
The best news, to me, is the return of bright colors. That trend will continue, as neutrals move to a back seat. Plums, purples and lilac tones are darlings for 2014.
The timing for this switch couldn't be better, as far as I'm concerned. Who wants to be surrounded by beige in an economy that's still sputtering along? Bring a cheerful tone into the room, and suddenly, everything around it seems to have more life and energy.
My resolution for next year is to learn how to operate my digital camera. I've been using point-and-shoot mode since I got it months ago. I signed up for photography classes at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden. (See details here.)
All of you Facebook friends, no need to worry that the classes mean you'll have to put up with pictures of my morning yogurt parfait or victory shots when I've cleared a weedy section of my garden. Those pictures are already stored in my phone.
Speaking of smartphones, I spent more time than ever with technology in 2013. Maybe you can relate. We come home from a day at a computer only to pick up again – laptops, smartphones and tablets. I'm adjusting. To make that easier, maybe next year. I'll get a new case for my phone – something in a very bright color.

Sullivan:; @sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Festive table doesn't need holiday motif

You’ve dusted off the family recipes, taken inventory of the pantry and fridge and carefully mapped out where you’ll buy ingredients for the year’s big feast.
But what about the dinner table?
That vague plan you put on a back burner weeks ago needs finishing touches. Without them, the table might look like an afterthought. And we won’t even remind you about the stress that comes with a last-minute scramble.
Here’s a tip that might make it easier: Forget about seasonal color schemes and patterns, says Mollie Rowe, a tableware expert from Juliska. Instead, use what you have to create a display that makes the occasion something special.
Start by clearing the table and setting out a dish for serving each item on the menu. Those main pieces are the beginning of your theme, which you’ll need for focus – and restraint.
“Bohemian shimmer” is how Rowe describes the theme for a table she decorated for B.D. Jeffries’ SouthPark store.
“Bohemian is more of a free will,” Rowe said. “The shimmer is from the gold and platinum plates.”
Her goal was to keep it simple, also working in tones of pewter and bronze. Rowe explains each in this video.

For finishing touches, she said, add only things that energize your theme. When you’re done, don’t hesitate to take a few things away.
“Less is always more in the end,” Rowe said.
See ideas for more traditional holiday table decor in this slideshow.

Sullivan: and @sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Avoid rookie hostess mistakes

It's funny what we worry about at this time of year. We want everything to go smoothly when family and friends are with us. And we want to lavish those guests in comfort and holiday cheer.
Experts say we should make a plan and lots of lists so the pantry is well-stocked and we're prepared to handle those little emergencies and special requests.
It sounds so simple, but I've learned that there's almost no way to really be prepared when the celebrating starts. So now my personal holiday survival list just covers the basics:
  • Coffee: This is a no-brainer, except that I'm not a coffee drinker. Imagine the disbelief when a house full of relatives came downstairs one morning to find not even a spoonful of mojo juice. I'm not exaggerating when I say those people were scary.
  • Paper towels: Seems to me some people, especially the youngest ones, can't get enough of these. I've seen them used as a dish rack, as place mats and layered to make a pillow for a teddy bear.
  • Firewood: The fireplace is my go-to for bringing everybody together. Just be sure to send an experienced person to the woodpile. You'd be surprised how much of a danger people become to themselves – and their dignity – when they come face-to-face with a small spider or a baby snake.
  • Well-charged smartphone or camcorder: It's the host's and hostess' job to capture the most memorable moments, especially those trips to the woodpile.
Sullivan: and @sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Stick to a plan when family gathers

What’s most important to you and your family during the holidays? 
Most of us would say it’s being together with relatives and friends. But there are so many things that creep in to change that priority. 
Shopping, decorating, wrapping gifts and preparing for holiday events outside the home can quickly eat away at your time and become distractions, said Laurie Martin, owner of Simplicity, a professional organizing company in Charlotte.
“We get caught up in the cyclone of doing too much and being too busy and we miss the big picture,” Martin said. 
She recommends checking in with everyone before they arrive to decide what to do with the time that you’ll have together. Agree on a plan, write it down and share it with everyone. Avoid other activities and events unless they fit with the group’s priorities. 
“Try not to cram too much into your schedule,” she said. “When there’s less on your schedule, you have more time to appreciate what you’re doing.” 
Here are other ways to keep your focus on the people you’ll be spending time with: 
  • Think of ways to simplify your plan for holiday decorating. 
  • For the jobs that have to get done, find ways to delegate, defer until after the holiday or hire out.
  • Ask everyone to turn off tech gadgets and give their full attention to the people in the room during activities the group agreed on. 
  • Most importantly, during the hectic times, remind yourself again what is most important.

Sullivan: and @sullivan_obs on Twitter

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bring the holiday celebration to the front yard

Stephen and Erica Crotts are front yard people. A big group on the lawn outside their bungalow in Old Town Rock Hill becomes an invitation for someone new to come over.
For their recent holiday celebration, the Crottses hung chandeliers over a grand table near the porch, served collards from the garden and roasted a pig Latin style – in a wood-framed box with hot coals on top.

Their weekend celebration leaves their guests free for family gatherings on Thursday. Maybe 50 friends, neighbors and church members had joined the Crottses by sundown, perhaps a little cold but lingering for hours under thick streaks of clouds.
The guests proudly covered the table with family recipes, took turns on the porch swing and passed around the Crottses’ baby girl, Lena.
“This is wrapped up in my faith tradition,” said Stephen Crotts, 27. “In the story that I think the Christian faith is telling, it ends up in a feast where all cultures are represented and all kinds of people are at a party.”
Stephen Crotts is on the left in the picture above, watching the pig roast.
He and his wife talk about other reasons for hosting the celebration in this video.

Crotts is involved in connecting an even broader community through The Friday Arts Project, which hosts public events each year. And occasionally he’ll convince his neighbors to host get-togethers in their yards.
“We think the more people are together, the more joyful we can be, the more we can grow together through being vulnerable and open; we think that this will make our city a more flourishing place,” Stephen Crotts said.
Here is a slide show with more pictures from the Crottses' celebration. You might get ideas for your next party.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

High-tech ways to foil the burglars

For some, holiday “shopping” means breaking into someone else’s home for presents. So it’s best to make a checklist for home security along with all of the other holiday plans.
Technology can help you keep tabs on what’s happening at home. It can also make it easy for the wrong people to know that you’re away. Some tips for making sure that automation works for you and not against you:

  • Start by taking an inventory of valuable items in your home. That’s one of the things the HomeZada free app, shown here, is designed to do. You can organize pictures to keep a visual record of items you own and receipts for purchase. You can store this information or share it with your insurance company.
  • The vacation and travel pictures you post on social media sites such as Facebook can be a signal that you’re not home. Wait and post your pictures when you get home.
  • Use automatic timers to turn your lights off and on. Some can be controlled from a smartphone or computer. Exterior lights left on during the day can be a tip-off that you’re away. Timers keep things looking natural.
  • Consider installing a security system that lets you operate and monitor the equipment from a mobile device or computer. With many plans, you can turn your alarm on or off and get text messages and video alerts about the status of doors, windows and motion sensors. AT&T’s Smart Security plan costs $159 for equipment plus $40 a month.

Sullivan: and @Sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Duck Dynasty furniture line coming to Charlotte

It doesn’t stop with camouflage shirts, pants and hats. If you like those, the shuffle over to a pillowy recliner or sofa in huntsman-themed upholstery could be pretty natural.

That was the thinking behind Jackson Furniture Industries’ launch of a new Duck Dynasty collection at the fall market in High Point.

And who better to be the face of the brand than the camouflage-wearing, duck-calling Robertson clan whose reality show the collection is named for?

 “Duck Dynasty” brought the A&E network to the top of the TV charts last season with more than 10 million average viewers. Recliners and sofas are a big part of their simple, family-focused home life.
Someone seemed to be talking about the collection wherever I went at fall market. The reviews were mixed: Some thought the collection quacked. A few women just didn’t get it. Others thought the Robinson family look-alikes, posters and cutouts at Jackson’s showroom launch were good entertainment.

Fortunes have been built on lesser ideas, and Jackson’s team and a sister company, Catnapper, has worked out deals to put their mallard prints and similar lodge looks in more than 1,000 retail showrooms nationally. Shipping begins Jan. 1.

“I’m not sure the appeal would be (there) for the design-oriented female,” said Greg Van Pelt, chief operating officer at Next Generation Interiors of Bakers, a Cramerton retailer that will carry the line. “I think it will be hot for the sportsman who has a room that he wants to label with his identity.”

Also look for the collection at Kimbrells Furniture, Factory World Outlet in Waxhaw and Tindall Furniture in Pineville. And you can also see it here.

Camouflage and sportsman themes have been creeping into the furniture industry for about eight years. The Duck Dynasty collection creates more of a designer-label brand, said Anthony Teague, who handles sales and merchandising for Jackson.

“A lot of times we see apparel trends transfer to the furniture industry,” said Anthony Teague, who handles sales and merchandising for Jackson. “You see so much camouflage in the Southeast ... to see that spill over into the living room is not surprising.”

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Children's garden coming to Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

The newest big building project at Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden is the Kimbrell Children's Garden.
A team broke ground on Lost Hollow on Thursday. Old World architecture and Southern horticulture will come together on a grassy hollow with a forest at its back. The design is by W. Gary Smith of New York. He is shown here.
 “This will expand our ability to offer programs to school groups,” said Jim Hoffman, the garden’s spokesman. The garden currently offers 14 programs to about 8,000 school children a year.
The opening of an Orchid Conservatory has boosted attendance by about 20 percent a year compared to 2007, Hoffman said. Lost Hollow will likely help boost admissions beyond the 90,000 who currently visit.
Attracting more families with small children is a goal when the new garden opens in fall 2014. “We hope that children will ask their parents to go to Lost Hollow,” Hoffman said.
Nearly $4 million in donations have been made for the project, to be built on about 3 of the garden’s 380 acres in Belmont. There are more than a dozen drawings for the project’s features and garden rooms, which include a pond with a castle sunken beneath the water and a cave with a giant fireplace as the entrance.

The fireplace and several other artifacts are from the estate of Daniel Stowe, the late textile executive who in 1991 set aside the meadows, woodlands and lakefront property for the garden.

Sullivan: and @Sullivan_obs on Twitter

Read more here:

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Unfinished remodel is a costly lesson

Van Thu Ta and her husband, Hai Quach, paid a contractor $25,500 in cash and checks to renovate their south Charlotte kitchen. They wanted the full treatment – two walls taken down and a new island, floors, appliances and granite countertops.
The contractor started work in June ... and stopped in August. She hasn’t seen or heard from him since, she said.
Two walls came down. The cabinets and some of the flooring went in, but not the countertops or the appliances.
She’s contacted the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List to complain about the contractor’s work. She said the information she has since found about the contractor at online referral sites could be misleading.
“Don’t trust anyone,” said Ta, 39, “and don’t pay up front.”
In this video, you can get a better look at the unfinished project.

North Carolina residents can file complaints against contractors with the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office, which enforces the state’s consumer protection laws.
You can get tips for selecting a remodeler from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry’s Charlotte chapter.
One of the association’s tips is to check out the contractors you are considering with consumer protection agencies.
Ta, a hairdresser, thought a referral from a client was something she could trust. The contractor she hired showed her samples of his work on his phone.
She did get a signed contract before the work started, and she’s got records of her payments, she said.
Ta and her husband recently paid $12,000 for more appliances. He plans to finish the renovation.

Sullivan: and @sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Solar-powered house wins praise, awards

The 850-square-foot, solar-powered home built by students at UNC Charlotte won a People’s Choice Award and tied for third place for engineering recently.
Designing and building a house for the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon over the past two years could have even greater importance for the architecture and engineering students in the years to come, said Meg Whalen, a university spokesperson.
“For many of the students, they really had not thought about solar-powered homes” before the project, she said. “They learned to value that. It will become something that they certainly see as viable and something to continue to strive for.”
Students wanted a project to inspire future builders and home buyers. They studied Charlotte’s Center City 2020 Vision Plan for insights. Their design, Urban Eden, has 30 solar panels over the roof that are intended to produce all of the energy residents would need.
The solar panels are retractable. They slide out over the deck to shade it in summer. In winter, they move back to allow the sun’s heat to warm the deck and interior. Students added vertical gardens to preserve a link to nature.
The gardens and the moveable solar panels were favorites among the 10,000 people who toured during the competition and expo for 20 college teams.
UNC Charlotte had problems with appliances and placed 13th overall, but the team’s concept was more solid, Whalen said.
“What we kept hearing was such positive feedback about the design,” Whalen said. “They thought it was pretty and liveable.”

Sullivan: and @sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Win a free advance tour of HomeArama

I’m almost sure I’ll never be able to afford a house like the one shown here. Still, I’m looking forward to taking a walk-through sometime between Nov. 9 and 24.
Those are the dates for this year’s HomeArama home tour.
Twenty lucky people out there won’t have to wait that long to see this and the five other luxury homes on the tour, in the Cheval community in Mint Hill.
A random drawing will give each of them a special behind-the-scenes tour, from 10 a.m. to noon on Nov. 2.
This SmarterLiving event is presented by The Charlotte Observer and the Home Builders Association of Charlotte, which presents HomeArama.
Observer real estate columnist Allen Norwood will lead the tour. He’s already scouting for cool technology and “green” additions that define smart living. Of course, there will be plenty to see that’s just inspiring in these homes, priced from $500,000 to $1 million.
Learn about HomeArama’s builders and register for the drawing by Oct. 29 at or send your contact information to
Sullivan: and @Sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Local potters on display Saturday at festival

If buying local goods is important to you, carve out an hour or so Saturday. Carolina Clay Matters Fall Pottery Festival will be back at McAlpine Business Park, 8300 Monroe Road, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

More than 60 artists from the Carolina Clay Matters Pottery Guild will sell decorative and food-safe ceramics on the grounds of the former dairy farm. (Doris Landrum created the piece shown above.)

The twice-yearly event draws a good crowd in May, but the fall show is even bigger, said membership secretary Rae Stark.
“We have a lot of people who do their holiday shopping,” Stark said.
Potters tend to work alone in a studio or at home. The 150-member guild has helped them become a closer community.

The group’s next meeting will be at noon Nov. 17 at Central Piedmont Community College’s Ceramics Studio, where Shane Mickey will lead a workshop. The studio is in the Central Campus’ Center for Arts Technology (on East Fourth Street next to the student parking garage.)
“Our guild has helped to create and build interest in pottery,” Stark said. “We also have a community of consumers in the Charlotte area who appreciate handmade pottery.”
Sullivan: and @Sullivan_obs on Twitter

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

DSBG director says 'Value what we already have'

Kara Newport thinks a lot about climate change.
That’s one reason Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden’s executive director hasn’t ripped out the decades-old azaleas and dogwood trees from her yard. It’s also a reason she chose a home in Mount Holly that was built in 1919.
“This is my example of how I can work with nature and use the resources that I'm given,” she said. “A new landscape is not necessarily a better landscape.”
Those ideas about placing value on what we already have can work in public gardens such Daniel Stowe, where Newport has worked as director since 2006. She believes those concepts will also be embraced by the American Public Gardens Association, where she is a new board member. The 73-year-old association is taking on climate change through an initiative called Youtopia
The association has more than 500 member gardens in 50 states. With close ties to gardeners through organizations such as Charlotte’s Wing Haven and UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens, the association’s members believe they are in the right place to teach their patrons about climate change and ways that gardeners can help prevent it.
That can start, Newport said, with taking care of the established, well-adapted plants you have rather than using more resources to grow new ones.
Sullivan: and @sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Get lessons on blending art, kitchen design

Beauty and function can be powerful partners in the hands of a skilled designer.
A chair, a table or an appliance can serve a purpose well and look stunning doing it.
If you’d like to see ideas for making art the focus of design in your home, visit the Hans Krug kitchen showroom on Saturday, Oct. 5. The free 12 Hours of Design event will begin at 10 a.m. You’ll pick up tips for bringing art into cooking and kitchen design.
“We’re reaching out to an audience of people who appreciate good design,” said Elayne DeLeo, event director for Modern Atlanta, which promotes innovative design. “To us, design is an art form. Just as art is emotional, architecture and design are emotional.”
Designers will decorate the showroom’s modern and transitional kitchens according to different themes. Chefs from the Art Institute of Charlotte will create food displays.
Architect and designer Borek Sipek will display his glass work, one example shown above, and answer questions. Design Within Reach will showcase modern furniture and lighting in an outdoor lounge.
Organizers say this is a chance for designers to share ideas with people who might be planning a project for their homes.
“We’re trying to elevate the discussion about design,” DeLeo said. “Design affects you every day.”
Sullivan:; @sullivan_obs on Twitter

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Festival in the Park: entertainment and also art

I’m paying more attention to the bare spaces on my walls now that Festival in the Park is back at Freedom Park.
The annual event, running through Sunday, brings music and other entertainment, but it’s also about art.
There will be 180 artists selling pottery, paintings, sculptures and other pretty things for the home. Jewelry and other crafts will be on sale, too.
North Carolina has its share of fine potters, so I always look forward to seeing the clay work. This year even more so.
“Sixty percent of our artists are new this year,” said David Dalton, Festival in the Park president. “That really brings a fresh look.”
Most pieces will go for $50 to $500. Organizers host Kings Drive Art Walk in spring for those who are comfortable with higher prices.
At Festival in the Park, you’ll often see paintings and photography with images of the mountains or the coast. That’s because the Carolinas have such breathtaking landscapes, Dalton said.
The photo above, "Sunset at Pawley's Island," is by Jae Williams. The one below is by Araik Minasyan. Both will be exhibitors this year.
With lots of families expected, some artists also bring pieces for a child’s room or nursery.
For me, Mountains or coastland would be much better than these bare spots.

Take a peek at this year’s progam.

Sullivan:; Twitter: @sullivan_obs

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Find garden treasures at Charlotte-area plant sales

Fall is a fantastic time for planting perennial herbs and flowers, cool-season vegetables, shrubs and trees.
So every year you’ll see a series of plant sales in the Charlotte area where you can find extra-special treasures. Among the reliable locations are Wing Haven Gardens, UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens and Central Piedmont Community College Horticulture Building on the Cato Campus.
See dates and times for this year’s sales below.
If you are interested in growing lavender, fall-blooming salvias and ornamental ginger plant as sorely needed bright spots for autumn, consider adding one more location as you mark your calendar: The Lavender Farm Shop, also called La Bastide des Lavandes. It’s in York County, S.C.
Landscape designer Chris Pinard’s Mediterranean-style gardens will inspire you as you make a plan for fall planting. You’ll see lots of ideas that you can borrow.
Tours of Pinnard’s 9-acre property are available in September and October. He’ll also take orders for lavender plants that grow well in the Piedmont and offer growing tips.

Register for tours here.

Sullivan:; Twitter: @sullivan_obs

Fall Plant Sales

  • CPCC Horticulture: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday, Sept. 20; 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Sept. 21. Details:
  • Wing Haven Gardens: Members preview 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 9. Open to the public 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 10, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 11 and 12. Details:
  • UNC Charlotte Botanical Gardens: Members preview 3-6 p.m. Oct. 17. Open to the public 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 18 and 19. Details:

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Huntersville tag sale will aid Habitat

Jack Hart comes from a family where worn and aging things are seldom thrown out.
The stash has become unwieldy, so Hart is inviting the public to his 50-acre farm for a tag sale. Visit from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 13029 Asbury Chapel Road in Huntersville.
The money he raises will go to Our Towns Habitat for Humanity. He could win the contest title for Biggest Cheese in Town if he raises more than the other nine contestants.
He’ll sell housewares, toys, tools, cameras and more, said Nancy Baldwin of Nancy Baldwin’s Tag Sale Treasures. She volunteered to organize the sale.
Hart, a former FBI code breaker and longtime family fix-it man, has been a volunteer at the ReStore in Cornelius since 2006, said his daughter, Carolyn Hart. The contest is a way to lend more support.
Each contestant will host individual events and has pledged at least $1,000. The winner will be announced Nov. 7.
After hosting a hot dog sale and then a sale of his watercolor paintings in previous years, Hart, 95, thinks he might just clinch the title this year – based on the volume of goods.
“It was originally in my grandparents’ home and then my parents’ home,” Carolyn Hart said of the sale goods. “I’m descended from a long line of hoarders.”

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

What I learned in a Charlotte garden

There was so much that I didn’t say about Annie Patterson last week.
I wrote that she’s a new recruit to the Backyard Friendship Gardens program. She and others donate food they’ve grown for the nonprofit Friendship Trays meals on wheels program. More donors are needed.
I was inspired by the garden and what I learned about Patterson during my visit.
“There are two kinds of people,” Friendship Gardens Director Henry Owen said as he looked over the crops. “People who live in scarcity and people who live in abundance.”
Gardeners, Owen said, live in abundance.
It seems true when Patterson talks about her life, although abundance is not what many would see. The Camden, S.C., native was one of 12 children and lost her mother when she was 8, the year before she planted her first garden.
She finished 11th grade before coming to Charlotte and working for 28 years at an 80-unit Myers Park residence for seniors. She looked after the place and the people, she said. She’d do extra cleaning for some of the residents and other chores. Many times she wouldn’t accept anything in return, she said. That went on for years.
She decorated the building with flowers and houseplants and shared vegetables she’d grown.
She decided to buy a small house off Old Pineville Road some 20 years ago. The residents gave her a down payment – on the house and later on a car.
One man called the bank after her mortgage loan was denied. Finally, it went through.
At 79, Patterson still grows such a full garden that people drop by to see it, meet her or pick up gift baskets.
This year there were rows of peppers, okra and lima bean plants. She grew 10 rows of tomatoes and lots of eggplant, although she doesn’t care for either.
She grows them because she believes the abundance in her life comes from giving.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Hummingbird Festival returns Saturday

I can't help but think about my first encounter with a curious little ruby-throated wonder when the annual Hummingbird Festival returns. It's happening from 10 a.m. to 4p.m. Saturday at Reedy Creek Park, and it’s free. Humming-birds are fond of trumpet-shaped flowers such as the beauties on the pineapple sage plant. I grow this tender perennial because the arresting scarlet color is needed in September. That’s a time when many other blooms are fading or gone. I was kneeling beside a vigorous, fully bloomed, 4-foot-tall plant a few years ago as I tried to pull up a stubborn dandelion. I heard a humming sound, but it wasn’t the noise of the ticked-off carpenter bee that had been trying to scare me off. When I looked up, the hummingbird was hovering over the pineapple sage bush and watching me. Hummingbirds are curious, so it didn’t leave when I turned. It seemed amused to find a human wrestling with a weed. We stayed there for five seconds or so, eye to eye, then it took off. Seeing hummingbirds in my garden is one more reason that Salvia elegans is one of my favorite plants – a must for the herb garden. It’s just as valuable for bouquets, and you can use it for cooking and making teas. At the festival, you have a chance to see these agile migrating birds before they head south for the winter, and they rarely disappoint. Visit for information about the festival.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Make a neutral room sizzle with color

Beige and brown still have a grip in many homes.

That's even more likely if you're selling or thinking of doing so. Neutrals are … buyer-friendly.

But some of us are ready to move on.

''What has happened is that we have beiged and browned out,'' says designer Mark Abrams, co-owner of Chicago-based Port 68 and an exhibitor at the High Point Market earlier this year.

Working with a neutral color palette doesn’t mean we have to put up with dull rooms, Abrams said. Red is a powerful tool for resuscitating the bland.

''You may not want a room that's completely lipstick red,'' he said. ''One piece might give it a wow factor.''

That’s the idea behind the red Hancock Chest that Abrams designed for Port 68. ''It gives you a little sizzle,'' he said.

The room shown here also has zebra-print chairs with red cording.

The chairs bring energy into the space -- a pulse.

Of course, red is not the only color that works, but it is a trend. In his own home, Abrams has a Mandarin orange foyer outside his beige living room and rich, bronze dining room.

''It would knock you off your feet,'' he said of the bold foyer.

And for those who love the blues, turquoise is a top pick these days for a softer punch of color.