Saturday, August 25, 2001

Decorating goes to new heights

Savvy homeowners use plant ledges to reflect personality

By Michele Day
Enquirer contributor

[photo] Plant ledge at Sandy Recker's home.
(Brandi Stafford photo)
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        The plant ledge over the entryway to Sandy Recker's Florence home was a decorating frustration for years. She tried all the usual accent pieces, including silk plants, baskets and vases.

        “I never really liked anything up there,” she says. “It wasn't right.”

        Then she decided to create a display of items that have personal significance. She dedicated one side of the ledge to her life, dominated by 35 years as a teacher. The focal point is an antique children's desk.

        Her husband Paul Recker's portion of the display tells the story of a businessman and sports enthusiast. The centerpiece is an antique coat tree holding an old sweater vest that Mr. Recker used to wear, along with a Notre Dame ball cap and sweat shirt. (“He didn't ever go to Notre Dame, but he always was a wannabe,” Mrs. Recker says.)

        Using items with personal meaning to decorate plant ledges is suggested by several interior designers.

[photo] Plant ledges can work in kitchens
(GNS photo)
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        “It's wonderful to have your personality reflected in your home,” says Brenda Reeves, who has an interior design business in Taylor Mill.

        She recently decorated a kitchen plant ledge with a client's collection of antique milk bottles. She'd asked the client what items in her house evoked an emotional response — and learned her grandfather had been a milk man.

        For presentation, Ms. Reeves added colorful pieces of crockery and greenery to the milk jug arrangement.

        Plant ledges have some drawbacks, says Jenny Winne, director of the design division for Thomasville Furniture in Eastgate.

        “They're big dust catchers. Once you get something up there, you can't get it down, and a lot of people don't know what to do with that area.”

        But plant ledges also have great decorative possibilities, she says.

        “I use plant ledges as more of a display cabinet. If you have an interesting vase, maybe a piece of art and a basket and a little greenery around it — all of that on the ledge takes your eye up into that area. It really creates another little room. It is a nice area where if you have something that you really, really particularly love, you can show it off.”

    • Choose items that are low maintenance. “Once you put it up there, you leave it,” says Jan Pettibone of J.T. Interiors in Edgewood.
    • Remember that people look at your plant ledge from many angles. “It needs to be pleasing to the eye whether you are entering the room, leaving the room or upstairs looking down,” says Brenda Reeves of Brenda Reeves Interiors Design in Taylor Mill.
    • Try using accessories that have personal meaning. Be creative. Think big, but not flashy. “You want to decorate, but you don't want to make people look up there and strain themselves trying to figure out what's up there,” says Amy Bernard of Hoffman & Albers Interiors in Kenwood.
        Staple plant ledge accents include baskets, pottery vases and large plates, along with silk plants. But a little creativity opens up all sorts of other possibilities. A canoe, an old sewing machine, fishing poles, a bicycle, an antique trunk with a wedding dress spilling out, stacks of suitcases and an antique garden gate with watering cans are among the items decorators say they have used on plant ledges.

        “I've even done an ancient Roman ruins display, where I took pedestals and laid them all over on their sides,” recalled Ms. Winne. “You can do anything. You've just got to come out of the box.”

        “You want the display to appeal to your style,” says Erin Smith, an interior designer with Touch of Class in Florence. “A vintage dress and a stack of suitcases will work in a Victorian-style home, but not in one that's more contemporary.”

        And remember that plant ledges require large accessories, says Amy Bernard, interior designer for Hoffman & Albers Interiors of Kenwood. Ledges are typically high, so nobody can see the small stuff.

        Accessories aren't the only things that make a plant ledge distinctive. Designers recommend paint to add drama.

[photo] A long ledge over a fireplace at Homefest
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        In the recent Homefest showcase of new homes sponsored by the Home Builders Association of Northern Kentucky, Ms. Reeves used contrasting colors and textures to draw attention to a long, wide ledge over a fireplace in a home by Noll Builders. She chose a caramel-colored leather finish for the walls around the ledge and white paint for the ledge and trim.

        “Between the textured look of the paint and the white of the trim, you get a lot of depth,” she says.

        To complete the Reckers' ledge, Mrs. Recker used a Bible, symbolic of the religion classes she taught at St. Pius X Church in Edgewood and her first pair of eye glasses. There are art supplies from her days as an art teacher and books from her first years as a teacher and her own elementary school days at Blessed Sacrament School in Fort Mitchell.

        Finally, there are the “mood flags.”

        “Those have identified me ever since I started teaching,” she says. “The red flag meant Mrs. R wasn't in the best of moods, and the kids knew to watch out. The green flag meant everything was a go. And there was a yellow flag, too.”

        Today, the flags stick out of a wicker basket, a gift from a former student, on Mrs. Recker's side of the plant ledge.

        Along with the coat tree on Mr. Recker's side of the ledge are a freshly polished old Samsonite suitcase and a pair of dress shoes, both from his days as a business traveler. Old golf clubs and golf balls, along with his first Wilson tennis racket, testify to his love of sports.

        “It isn't that it's a "wow' or anything like that,” Mrs. Recker says of the display. “But I think it's unique because it defines both of us and where we've come from in only a few pieces.”


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