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BETTER WITH AGE
Tammy Minn interviews Ruth Ann Chafin, owner of Interior Network, Inc. for the Inland Empire Magazine.
ROOM TO GROW
Tammy Minn interviews Ruth Ann Chafin, owner of Interior Network, Inc. for the Inland Empire Magazine.
Tammy Minn interviews Ruth Ann Chafin, owner of Interior Network, Inc. for the Inland Empire Magazine.
PROFESSIONAL TIPS FOR DECORATING YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE
With the help of a local interior designer, Dave and Ann Doty of San Bernardino have updated their home from children's parties and teen sleepovers to a home that is well-suited for entertaining.
On a quiet tree-lined street across from a San Bernardino country club, the home that Dave and Ann Doty have owned for 23 years is proof that houses, like good wine, get better with age.
The Georgian-style two-story built by architect Jerome Armstrong in the 1930s has seen its share of birthday parties and teen sleepovers. But with the Doty children grown, it was time for a new look.
Ruth Ann Chafin, owner of Interior Network in Lorna Linda, helped the couple turn their family home into a comfortable place for two and a perfect place for entertaining. Starting with a master plan that would go in phases, Chafin first headed for the kitchen where cobalt blue countertop tile dominated the room. Dave and Ann didn't want to completely change the kitchen, but they needed more light and a new look. Chafin had the ceilings raised and added task lighting. A small window that looks into the backyard was replaced with a bay that opens up the view and brings natural light into the kitchen.
To balance the intensity of the cobalt tile, Chafin drew from the couple's hobby - wine and wine-tasting - to guide the theme for the wallpaper. She chose a large print with a grapevine and fruit pattern in green, blue, red and flaxen for the kitchen walls, while complimenting it with companion paper in the breakfast nook.
"The idea was to use the colors in the wallpaper to blend into the rest of the house. We started with the blue in the kitchen, then took that into the Tuscan colors - yellows and reds - and blended those with the global feel of some of the collections the Dotys have. The result is warmth, not intense color," Chafin says.
Walking through the home, Chafin's concept of transitioning from the blues of the kitchen to the golds and reds in the dining room and living room is subtle, but effective. It allows each room to retain its identity, while blending into the total scheme.
In the dining room, the table is placed diagonally and is set with colorful dinnerware that could be changed with the season. Flaxen walls flow into the entryway and living room.
In the living room, a wine-colored wall that the fireplace is on adds richness and depth to the room. Carved antiques blend easily with a painted contemporary Asian table.
"With the wood floors and the antiques already the focal points, we really couldn't do any more wood in this room," . Chafin says. Therefore, the painted table was the perfect touch for the seating group in front of the fireplace. An heirloom sofa in a soft sage with gold accents also fits the scene. A swag of red, green and gold hangs year round, unifying the colors in the room. Chafin says the key to combining antiques with new pieces or ones that may be of a different style is a balance of color and texture.
To transition to lighter colors upstairs, Chafin used the same wallpaper in the stairwell that's in the living room, but in a slightly paler shade. Upstairs, the theme takes on a "Tommy Bahama" look, Charm says, a little more casual, but still using the flaxen, greens and golds.
Throughout the home, Chafin has used light window coverings that afford privacy, but allow the views to be enjoyed.
Outdoors, a patio in the front of the house is shaded by a fine old tree that was nearly lost in the renovation. Uprooted by strong winds, Chafin says several experts offered differing opinions. Some said the tree should go and others thought it could be salvaged,
Chafin aligned herself with the latter group and had a crane upright it. It was replanted and secured by cables while the deck was being built around it and the irrigation system put in place.
"The tree makes the front of the house and it had been there so long,"she says. "It would have been a shame to let it die." Luckily, her instincts were correct and the tree thrived. It casts shade on the deck that now includes lush plantings and a fountain for peaceful respites from the hectic pace of the world.
The Dotys have traded kid parties and sleepovers for a home well-suited to entertaining. Hospitality is often a goal of people looking for a change in their homes, especially after they've raised families and are ready to rearrange the space, Chafin says.
"People often come to us looking for help because they've abandoned, at least for a period of time, entertaining in their home. We help them get that back." .
Redlands homeowner Susan Gonzales wanted her small bathroom to appear larger. She enlisted the aid of professional designers who took her one-room vision and expanded it to a palette of possiblities for the entire house.
ONE OF THE MOST EXCITING THINGS ABOUT BEING A HOMEOWNER IS BEING ABLE TO decide what to do with all that square footage. Even if you live in an older home, incorporating a new look can be exhilarating.
"After losing my husband, I realized it was time for me to do something different. I guess you could say it was part of my grieving process. I knew that I needed to make this my home. It was no longer our home. As in any marriage, we had opposite views when it came to our likes and dislikes. I decided it was time for me to do something for myself," says Susan Gonzales of Redlands.
It all started with a small bathroom. She wanted to make the room appear larger, but didn't know where to start. That's when she decided to meet with Ruth Chafin, president of Interior Network, Inc.
After Chafin and one of her designers, Antoinette Ball, visited with Gonzales for a while, it was apparent that her wants were more than just redoing a bathroom.
"Our philosophy is to make a plan and work a plan," Chafin says. "Had we totally gone with Susan's initial idea of just redoing the bathroom, we would have run the chance of a lot of bruises along the way. What we did, even though Susan's only concern at the time was making a tiny bathroom appear larger, was develop a design concept for the whole interior of the home. We identified how the space could function. We identified what color and materials could be used. Then we asked Susan if this was the home she wanted to live with. If you really listen to what your clients say, you start to learn additional issues they have in regard to their space."
Because the home is small (1,700 square feet), Gonzales wanted a look that was light and airy, and she thought a light ambiance was the solution.
"Usually people stay within certain perimeters because they don't have the knowledge," Chafin says. "For instance, they may think beige is neutral and is a color they can do anything with. But other colors can be just as neutral when you have a plan and know how things connect. A designer's job is to listen, not only with their ears, but also with their eyes and their heart.
Ruth Ann Chafin offers the holiday party hostess tips on how to focus on what's important this season and avoid a meltdown from trying to do it all.
Everybody's been there. You know one person at the party and, unfortunately, it's the hostess. You haven't seen her in hours. Rumor has it she's got her head in the oven trying to resurrect the main dish. The last time you saw her, she was wielding a pate spreader and shrieking at the kitchen help. She's active in community groups, church and philanthropic fundraising, but tonight she's become the protagonist from a Stephen King novel.
The hostess in meltdown is suffering from the "Do It All Syndrome." According to Ruth Ann Chafin, owner of Interior Network in San Bernardino, this common ailment can bring a party to its knees before the first cocktail wienie graces a skewer. She says people, especially women, have become used to packing their agendas to the brim and not asking for help. They approach their role as hostess in much the same way. But there is a cure. As an interior designer, Chafin has helped clients prepare their homes for guests and has taught seminars about entertaining at home. She hosts her own monthly dinner parties to keep in touch with families and friends, so she speaks from experience. Chafin's recipe for success?
"Focus on the 'f' words in life-fun, food, frolic, family, friends and faith," she says.
Those "f's" are the reason most people like to have dinner parties at home, she adds. The details, the table linens, candles, even the food, are hospitality props. They're the extras that create warmth and invite guests in. Chafin, a hockey-playing grandmother in her 50s who runs her own business and donates her time to several community groups, has developed a plan for throwing successful dinner parties at home.
In fact, she has a notebook complete with forms for guest lists, seating arrangements, menus, an inventory of dishes and accessories, and theme topics. There's even a spot to record after-party thoughts. The idea is to be organized enough so that when the first guests arrive, the host can "come to the party too," she says. Chafin makes the following suggestions for throwing holiday parties at home:
Pick a date that's not crowded with other obligations. Chafin prefers Thursday evenings. Most company parties are on Saturdays, so a small get-together with friends set for a specific time is welcome during the busy holidays. She likes to phone people to invite them to her dinner parties, rather than sending a more formal invitation. It allows for personal contact, she says.
Invite a variety of people and think about where you will seat them at the dinner table. Sit the gregarious storytellers among the shrinking violets. When mixing groups of people who might not know each other, it's important that the host or hostess is free to make introductions and break the ice, Chafin says. Having a theme for the party can also help people get acquainted and start conversations. Holiday theme ideas include an ornament or stocking exchange, asking each guest to bring a photo of a favorite Christmas past and sharing what was special about it, or having each guest bring a new toy that will be wrapped at the party and donated to a charity.
The sunday before the party, get out the tableware and start arranging it. Everything doesn't have to match, but it should be consistent. For example, if you have a holiday pattern, such as Spode's Christmas Tree, but don't have enough place settings of it, alternate it with solid color plates. Chafin also likes to use 15-inch gold charger plates under the dinner plates because it makes it easy to serve the course and they look dressy.
Have music playing as guests arrive. "Don't forget any of the senses," Chafin says, including smell. She never uses fresh flowers on the dining table because their scent might interfere with the rich assortment of aromas from the food. Instead, if she wants florals at the table, she uses silks at the napkin rings. Fresh flowers can be placed on the hors d'oeuvre table.
Keep the menu simple and delegate pieces of it to reliable friends or family. If someone says, "Let me bring something," let them. Chafin says, "It's a gift to let others do something for you. Lots of people learn how to give, but I don't know if we're taught to receive."
Have the salad on the dinner table when guests arrive. A spinach salad is a good choice because it doesn't wilt. With the salad in place, the hosts and guests can enter the dining room together and bring their conversation with them. With a little planning, a holiday party at home can be as much fun for the hosts as it is for the guests.
Seasons change. People change. Ruth Chafin believes interiors need to reflect those changes.
The back road from Ruth Chafin's San Bernardino design show room to a client's home in Yucaipa needs some TLC. The dips and dives in and out of potholes and around errant squirrels nearly sacrifices her ceramic mug of coffee, but she steadies it without blinking. Focusing on the road, she's deep in con- versation about "the big picture" of interior design and how the process of changing people's homes can throw a wrench into their sense of security. It's not the change itself, she explains, it's the process that can up-end people because the familiar is being altered.
One good chunk of cracked road jiggles the cup again, and the hockey stick in the backseat of the Ford Mustang lurchaes forward, begging attention. It gets it. Trade magazines and fabric samples are standard cargo for designers; hockey sticks are a new twist.
Chafin acknowledges the stick and explains that she joined the San Bernardino hockey league two years ago because she needed to change her viewpoint. After 20 years as a business leader, she wanted to learn how to be a team player without being the one who calls the shots.
"Girls my age were taught Barbie. Boys were taught team sports," she says.
Less tactile learners would have taken a management class, but "Ruthie" as her co-workers call her, prefers the hands-on method. It doesn't matter to her that as a 50-ish grandmother she's the oldest player in the league, or that her petite frame could be mowed down by an energetic teenager twice her size.
"God's given me three scoops of passion for living and no scoops for good sense," she laughs. But that poke at herself in fun is just that. Chafin's method for getting where she's at, both professionally and personally, are based on logic, not ran- dom acts of nonsense. For example, her decision to tackle a male-dominated industry was based on her drive to fill a void for clients.
She realized after opening Interior Network Inc. in 1982 that as good as architects are and as skilled as subcontractors can be, there was a missing link between builder and homeowner. Too often Chafin and her design team would trail-in after people had spent a lot of money on new homes or remodels. Clients complained that something still didn't feel right and hoped Chafin could fix it. She found herself making changes after-the-fact that could have been penciled-in before the blueprints went to press. Her degree in home economics and interior design and a credential to teach the latter were a good start for running a solid design business. But she wanted people to be happy in their homes, to be able to control what was around them, rather than having the space and "their stuff" dictate to them.
She wanted the confidence to be knees and elbows with plumbers and electricians and feel qualified to state her opinions about such topics as water pipes and lighting choices. Ultimately,pipes control where plumbing elements will go and bad lighting can kill a room. So in 1994 she went back to school and got her license as a general contractor. She's also a ceramic tile distributor and a member of the National Kitchen and Bath Association, the San Bernardino Assistance League, and the First Presbyterian Church of San Bernardino.
With the license taken care of, Chafin focused on the 10-plus people employed by her company. She wanted to learn what they might feel like on the receiving end of her enthusiastic motivation. She needed to be coached, not be the coach.
"I feel that God has sent me the people who have come to me. Some of them have been with me for years. We've become family. I owe something back to them because they're giving me part of their lives," she says.
"It's fun and it rejuvenates me," Chafin says.
And that's how she feels about most things, especially change. When she makes her New Year's resolutions, she types them out and breaks them into man- ageable monthly goals so they don't over- whelm her by January 31. Change is a con- sistent part of those goals, in one form or another. June's goals include cultural events to cultivate the fine arts of life. She also likes to invite a few friends to dinner each month so she doesn't lose contact with people she loves.
Homes are our havens, she says, and it's fun to invite people in.
After the road trip to Yucaipa, Chafin is back in her own San Bernardino home, eager to demonstrate how change isn't a bad thing and, when done properly, doesn't have to be a nerve-jammer. Itcan even be energizing.
"Seasons change. People change. Our homes need to reflect those changes to function well and feed our changing needs," she says.
It's really pretty natural, she adds. You just have to be prepared for it. In fact; Chafin can switch her winter theme living room to summer in about 23 minutes. But it takes planning, she says. Choose a color scheme, such as tan and black, then switch accessories, artwork and slipcovers as the seasons change. The basic furnishings, like an antique armoire or a family sofa, don't change. They don't even have to move.
Chafin's hints for easy-change rooms are ones she's pretty much applied to her life: Eliminate clutter, value the stuff that makes you feel good, and don't do anything real crazy.
Present sports excluded.
What would Christmas be without the Christmas tree? So many of our holiday memories and celebrations are centered around the tree. Some of us decorate our trees the same way year after year, using favorite ornaments, while others like to change their trees more frequently and look for something new and exciting each year. Whether you just want to update your tree, or seek a new look altogether, Randy Stephens has some hints for everyone. Professional florists, Randy Stephens and Pam Null, both of Interior Network Inc., keep busy every year decorating Christmas trees and clients' homes for the holidays. Stephens has been volunteering his talents decorating trees for over 20 years at the Annual Christmas Tree Lane of Santa Claus, Inc. of San Bernardino. We recently asked him to share with us some of the tricks of the trade.
The first decision is whether to use a fresh or an artificial tree. Fresh is always nice because of the fragrance it brings into the house. If you do go with fresh, be sure to check the needles for freshness. Choose the type of tree that has room between the branches for ornaments to hang. These would include the Norfolk, Noble and Silver Tip. Artificial trees are a good option, now that manufacturers are making them more realistic looking. They can be used year after year, and can stay up for a longer period of time without danger of drying. Their branches are also strong enough to hold the heaviest of ornaments. Either way, be sure to buy the tallest tree you can afford, that will fit into your room floor to ceiling. That means a standard ceiling would take a 7 1/2 foot tree.
Put the lights on first. A 7 1/2 foot tree takes 400 to 500 mini lights or 100 lights per 1 1/2 foot of tree. Buy the end to end variety and remember that for safety reasons most strings of lights can only be strung three in a row. Plan your extension cords accordingly. The trick to putting on lights is that they need to be wrapped around the entire length of each branch from trunk to tip. This trick alone gives your tree an incredible glow and depth. Next, put on the ribbon. Purchase 10 yard bolts of three-inch wide ribbon. Wired ribbon is the best. Zigzag the ribbon diagonally around the tree. Weave the ribbon in and out, to again give depth to the tree. There will also be enough ribbon to make several large bows for the tree. Each bow, with streamers, requires five yards of ribbon. Narrower rib-bon can be purchased for the bows, but do not buy smaller than 1 3/4-inch. For ease of attachment, use green pipe cleaners to tie the bows. Also, add some texture and interest by weaving cording, bead garlands and "sinmay" throughout the tree. Ornaments should include a wide variety of shapes and sizes. For a 71/2 foot tree, buy three dozen large ornaments about 6 to 8 inches in size, teardrop shapes to eight inches long, 60 medium ornaments and 24 small. Place smaller ornaments near the top of the tree and work down to the bottom with the largest. Again, don't ignore the inside of the tree, place ornaments there too. Tie novelty items on the tips of the branches. Here creativity can be expressed with a glue gun by making floral sheath sprays incorporating grapes, leaves, ornaments, pine cones, figures, poinsettias, ribbon and more.
The color scheme can be traditional or contemporary. A traditional tree has multicolor ornaments, incorporating the Christmas colors of green and red. White lights are the preferred choice here because they do not detract from the colorful ornaments. A more contemporary tree takes its color scheme from the colors in the home or room. In this case, the choices are endless. Metallic colors of gold, and more recently silver and copper, are popular as accent colors for ribbons and ornaments. They are neutral and compliment any color scheme.
Stephens' final tip is, if you can't quite get your act together in time for this year's tree, "it's never too early to start planning for next year's tree. Shop the after-Christmas sales for bargains on ribbons and ornaments. If you do your shopping right, you won't have to buy new decorations for years!"