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DIY with Carol Charny: Pass the Seltzer

Many people are curious about the creative process; how it works and how they can access the mystery and energy of it all.

Where do the home decorating ideas (or any creative ideas for that matter) come from anyway?  Is it shelter magazines like House and Garden?  Is it antique shops and flea markets?  Is it fabrics, colors, artworks, travel; is it a version of what your mother used to do or husband likes or your neighbor did?  What is the answer to it all?  The truth is that “the creativity” stems from you and all that experiences and that surrounds you each day, including in your dreams.

Inspiration is everywhere and anywhere in your sphere. We are lucky that our ‘sphere’ includes the obvious stimulus of New York City and all it has to offer, but the colors, the textures, and the creativity of other artists is in the H20  the and there for the inhaling.  It can roll and ruminate inside that head of yours making a slow simmering “soup” of visual experience ready to be accessed when you sit quietly and let the ideas it bubble up to the top.  In fact, my family frequently reminds me to concentrate on the on the road when I am driving as I am almost always looking out the window taking a visual inventory of the colors, shapes and their relative execution on the street.

The trick is to rope, and then corral the influences and ideas one sees it and translates it into an actionable plan.  Easier said than done to be sure! The “doing” comes only after that inspiration emerges and the plan is set to paper.  Do not let the execution slow your forward trajectory, or throw a wet blanket on your spirit.  Someone or something is always going to be there with the “no but” “you can’t” or “it won’t work.”  Have confidence.  You will figure out how to make your individual vision real even if you have to work toward your creative concept one step at a time in slow incremental moves.

Avail yourself to as many creative “feeds” as you can on a continual basis.  Open up the trap door of your mind and let the vibe flow in un- restrained.  Do not edit any idea even a little bit. (Almost anything is possible except striking a match on a cake of soap as my mid- western Mother says!) Give the thoughts the time to develop and flourish and don’t solicit too many opinions from the “on-lookers”.   They can squash a good creative idea in its infancy.  They say that a camel is a horse that was built by a committee.  Stop yourself from the negative sabotage that is always trying to wheedle in to damage your burgeoning inspiration.

That said; let me give you a real life example.  The doorbell rings and there stands “Walter the Seltzer Man” wanting to collect seltzer bottles from the porch and deliver more.  I am busy and I don’t want to take a minute to give him the old bottles and get new ones, but I do.  In comes Walter with snowy boots and 12 vintage seltzer bottles (some as old as 100 years) newly filled with fresh seltzer.  Walter sets them down and tells me some of the same stories as he always does.  He leaves in his truck and I put the bottles away.

I cannot help noticing the amazing colors the old squirt bottles have.  I have to stop and give them a minute.  Amazing….turquoise, green, clear and deep blue like hard sucking candies.   It almost makes you salivate to look at them.  What an amazing life they have had.  They are filled with a bubbling fresh elixir that cleanses the palate and settles the digestive track.  The bottles are vintage, scratched to a cloudy state, but still so pretty and intensely colored on this cold day in January.  It draws me.  What a fabulous color story this could be for my recent client’s needs.  They have a family room that is soft and pretty to be sure, but way too quiet, sedate for an active young family.  It seems to lack “zing”; needing a spritz of the unexpected.   An idea and the crumb of creativity is slowly germinating somewhere in the back of my head.  I love those colors.

How can I use them?  So..what about employing those crisp cold colors in concert as toss pillows and a throw in solids and modern geometric  patterns on the neutral sofas?  And then…what about organizing the book shelves in the same room grouping the blue, green and yellow colored book jackets together?  And then,…  how about adding green and blue and bronze colored modern glassware and pottery as objects positioned on the shelves as accents?  Nothing takes a muted, quite room, in shades of beige, up a level than the contrapuntal use of color. A fabulous modern drum shade on a floor lamp in a vibrant color like turquoise could look unexpected and exciting Just might work.  Let me think on it before I do the “reveal” to the client.

For home work:  Take this inspiration and” in your head” apply those seltzer bottle colors to a neutral bathroom  in the form of towels, bath salts, a container for potpourri, candles and other products.  You can do the same exercise with your guest room.

Look around and breathe in to your surroundings.  It is all there waiting there for you to recognize and utilize.

Carol Charny’s  eponymous store in Larchmont was a popular source of gifts and ideas for nearly a decade. She is available for consultations at

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