Decorating for the soul: The comfort of a friend's porch

In a time when we are all searching for comfort in some form, I think of porches. For me, porches help to make sense of a world that has gone off the charts.

A friend's porch.

I think about one of my closest friends who decided it was time to make an addition to her home. She wanted to add an L-shaped porch that wrapped around the entire back of the house.  A place that would extend the living area and add another dimension to this already charming, vintage home in Winter Park.  

I was happy to be asked to help because there is nothing more fun than coming up with a decorating plan for a friend whose taste you know. Hers: a combination of eclectic, cottage chic with very cool accessories collected from her travels and living abroad. It is much more than just a porch.

Today, it is a place where friends gather. Family celebrations take place. Important decisions are made. Friends have shared happy times on this porch. Solved world problems and a few of our own. Planned road trips. Shared dreams and concerns. It is always a place of comfort.

Big wicker chairs, candles, tables filled with beautiful orchids, comfy pillows, breezy fans. It is a place where you can get off the treadmill and enjoy the peace and quiet. Simple and uncomplicated.

It is one of my favorite places. My home away from home. They say the distance to a friend's house is very short. The same goes for the back porch.  

So, on a day where we still cannot make sense of it and the horror of 9/11 still lingers heavily, I think of the comfort of a friend's porch. 

Home sweet dorm: Tips for transforming a room into a functional space

Since this may be the week that you are putting the final touches on a decorating plan for someone heading to college, you may be interested in some of these tips from this weekend's "Home Inspirations" column. They also work for a home bedroom for a teen or 'tween!

 Wrenda Goodwyn • special to the Fort Myers News-Press• July 31, 2011

The first time most students walk into their dorm room they are greeted with four (white or beige) walls and a somewhat sad single bed. Let's face it. It is not a pretty picture.

Photo of bedroomFrom Pottery Barn: Key West wall mural is background to room done in blue/green tones.But with a few tips and some thoughtful, creative planning, it can be transformed into a cheerful and creative living and study space that will be functional and fun for nine months!

Decide on a color scheme.

You may not be allowed to paint the walls but you can come up with a color palate that will set the tone.
Select a style that works for you.

A young college-bound student had me decorate her bedroom at home a few years ago. A theater-major, she was all about everything Broadway. The room was purple and well, spectacular. With murals of NYC, lighting effects and filled with Playbills and framed memorabilia. I was sure that she would want to take this theme with her as she embarks on her college adventure. But she told me this week, no. Not the case. She will take a few small mementos from home but she looks at college as a new start. She will be using blue-green tones and a beach theme. A new chapter and a fresh new style.

Focal point: the bed. Accent pillows, throws, sheets and comforters should be where you put the bulk of your budget.

Photo of coolersFrom Pottery Barn: Mini coolers in cool colors.

Consider storage. Always at a premium you will want to maximize every inch: Under the bed with risers. Vertical shelving. Hanging closet organizers. Cube ottomans that double as storage.

Really cool (and comfortable) sphere chair (very inexpensive) that folds up. Drawers that break apart and can go under bed.

Declutter. Start on day one! Only take what you will use and don't be afraid to send some back with mom and dad. You should leave some space open so that you can move and have space for friends to visit. Remember: Less is more and this is a good time to simplify your lifestyle.

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Travels: Living like a local on the streets of San Francisco

Photo of San Francisco BridgeI have always wanted to live in San Francisco.
Of course I have also wanted to live in London, the Cotswolds, Zurich, Key West, Mendocino, New York  and a long list of other places that have captured my heart.
But San Francisco is a place that has always made me wonder what it must be like to live in this beautiful, vibrant city. So I did. Sort of. 
My home away from home for four great days was the Photo of Telegraph HillLoft on Lombard. Located at the foot of Telegraph Hill and historic Coit Tower, this condo is part of the worldwide selection of great places that HomeAway offers that make you feel like you are living like a local no matter where you travel.  It is the best way to really feel like you are part of a city for a few days. 
Offering all of the amenities of a high rise city lifestyle, Photo of Loft on Lombardthis warm and comfortable 600-plus square foot loft gave me a peak of the Bay Bridge. Across the street is the historic Del Monte building.  It was the best reservation I have ever made. For me, it is always about the décor, wherever I go.  This little slice of San Francisco had it all.  A terrific window seat that frames the window and views. A contemporary kitchen  with  state of the art appliances and Ceasarstone countertops. The living room has high ceilings and contemporary furnishings. There are lots of books on architecture and art. I was right at home. 
It was only a short two block walk to the cable car and from here I could go anywhere. China Town.  Union Square. I left the car in the garage and walked to Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli square, the Embarcadero, Pier 39. Five minutes from my favorite Fog City Diner. I went to the market. Walked the streets. Ate seafood on the Wharf. Felt like a local. I liked it.
 Photo of Ghiradelli Square