By Tara Gary
Back in August, I wrote about the upcoming book signing of Atlanta-based interior designer, Vern Yip. He’s the guy from HGTV and TLC with impeccably good taste who recently finished his second book on home decor, Vern Yip’s Vacation at Home: Design Ideas for Creating Your Everyday Getaway. I went to the event at the Marcus Jewish Community Center to hear what Vern had to share about designing any home to make it feel like a luxury retreat. Well, I don’t know about “any home.” I have a few friends (who shall remain nameless) that feel completely comfortable walking into their homes, immediately dropping everything right at the entryway, and tossing this-and-that on the kitchen countertop. They never put anything away, then seem befuddled as to why their house looks like a bomb went off. There are also those who choose to make the first room of the house a playground for their children—with toys, tiny pieces of train sets, and Legos perfectly distributed like land mines. Ouch! No, those homes need more than a few tips from a book.
If you’re somewhat organized but stumped as to how to transform your house into the relaxing and welcoming home of your dreams, this book can definitely lead you in the right direction, and if followed properly, get you to that pinnacle of home perfection. Vern’s tips are spot-on and words I’ve lived by, however, now that I’ve redesigned a few homes for clients myself, I’m aware that his tips are not common sense to a large portion of the population.
Keep ONLY what you NEED and LOVE. When he spoke these words, I looked around the auditorium to see if my mother somehow magically appeared and heard him. Sorry mom, but my mother is a collector of well, almost everything. Something I’ve taught myself is that it is more than okay to see something (and even love it), but it’s not necessary to own it. Vern stressed this most important tip for transforming your home into a relaxing environment. Keep items you love (that have special meaning and remind you of some place or someone), but keep in mind, those items do not all need to be displayed. Everything should have a place of its own, and it can always be neatly tucked away in a drawer (hint hint). He also mentioned every space does NOT need to be filled. If there happens to be a bare wall which needs a little something, do not run out and just buy anything to fill the void. Wait to find that perfect something along the way of your life. It will find you or vice versa.
Closed storage is your friend. I have always had “hiding spaces” in my home. The entryway has a bench with storage, and my wall units have baskets and bins. Baskets are the perfect remedy for clutter. If you have certain beautiful items on display, that’s wonderful. Just keep it to a minimum – less is more. Wall units with glass show clutter. Instead, choose furniture with drawers and solid doors to keep everything away from eyesight. Boxes with lids are another great solution for storage. These ideas help prevent, what Vern refers to as, “visual pollution.” I love that term. There is certainly plenty of visual pollution out there, and I’m not only referring to clutter.
Minimize maintenance. Performance fabrics are designed to endure everyday spills and messes from the toughest of stain criminals, including toddlers and pets. Investing in stain-resistant furniture yields high returns on your time and maintenance. Vern also suggested quartz countertops, as opposed to marble or granite which need to be sealed and maintained. Quartz can be purchased in patterns that look identical to marble, and it is stain resistant to things like salsa and red wine. Stain-resistant carpets and rugs are also a great investment for your maintenance return. LED bulbs (which last an average of 21-22 years) are also a timesaver, keeping you from changing those pesky, hard-to-reach light fixtures.
Use fresh flower alternatives. Among other suggestions, I found this one to be the most satisfying. Back in February, I wrote an article about what not to do for Valentine’s Day. I suggested visiting Trader Joe’s for beautiful flowers—as opposed to sending a bouquet of overpriced flowers from the florist. No offense, however, I did offend someone. My publisher informed me of a disgruntled reader who referred to me as “ignorant” (among other things) in a complaint about my story, but in my experience, I have seen prices increase from florists on Valentine’s Day. I like florists, I merely suggested Trader Joe’s because they do have a nice variety of flowers at a great price point. Anyway, Vern suggested purchasing an orchid (which produce beautiful blooms lasting up to 8 or 9 weeks) from Trader Joe’s as an alternative to a bouquet of flowers (which tend to need maintenance and have a much shorter life span). Upon hearing his suggestion, a smile of satisfaction appeared on my face, because (in my mind), I heard Vern saying, “Tara, you were right.”
His other suggestion to fresh flower alternatives was preserved roses and boxwood—both very pleasing to the eye. I have used preserved roses in two weddings I’ve planned for clients. They’re a little more expensive, but they look just like fresh roses, come in a variety of colors, and seem to last forever. Vern said he has a bouquet of preserved roses in his Manhattan home that have lasted for several years now. The lady sitting behind me asked him where to purchase preserved roses, and he suggested she find them online. I turned to her afterwards and suggested Save on Crafts. They have a nice selection, and the blooms are shipped to you in boxes resembling egg crates, which keeps them safe and secure.
Vern had many great suggestions for making your home a more relaxing environment. In his book, he outlines and explains his methods (even down to providing a graph to guide you through light bulb purchasing). I found a copy online at Barnes & Noble for $16.11. That’s a very nice price for some very good advice. Of which, the best advice he said he could give was, “When it comes to your home, realize you are the home’s most important guest.”
Apart from the book, Vern answered questions from the audience. He was super personable, dressed in a perfectly-tailored blue jacket, and his tie matched the leather autumn-orange chair where he sat. He brought laughter to the room when he admitted that out of 67 episodes of filming Trading Spaces he only slept once at night. Otherwise, he was awake assisting with the “homework” assigned to the show participants. He also mentioned that he was originally a student working to become a doctor, when he looked up and realized the walls were a hideous shade of yellow and the fluorescent lights did nothing to enhance his surroundings. His instinct to create beautiful living spaces certainly provided Vern with a career better suited for him, which is fortunate for us, as well.
“A Page from the Book Festival of the MJCCA” (Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta) brings a prestigious array of authors to the Atlanta community throughout the year. Expanding on the success of the annual November Book Festival of the MJCCA, A Page from the Book Festival events allow the MJCCA to continue fostering a love of reading and enabling interaction with favorite sought-after authors all year long. Visit atlantajcc.org/bookfestival for upcoming events.