Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Travel light!  Last week I was meeting up with a friend who was running a bit late.  I didn't mind though because it gave me time to take a quick browse through Crate & Barrel.  Lots of bright colors everywhere I looked.  Generally, not my thing.  But, these fun items caught my attention!

Who could resist a clear little bag with brightly colored trim to store all your travel size lotions and potions the next time you go somewhere?  Maybe when you show the grumpy person at the airport who wants to look at your stuff, they will smile.  Maybe.  The best part?  It has this fun little airplane charm dangling from the zipper.  So I bought four.  I've got to tell you,  grabbing that tiny jet makes zipping up the bag super easy!  Bye-bye zip-lock.  Now I have something better for the earth and way better for my stylish sensibilities!  I am sure the men in my household will moan about the colors....what's that honey?....I can't hear you....

Happy Spring Break!!!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Contractors: When Things Go Wrong

This was one of those very challenging weeks where things didn't go as planned. I had to fire a contractor and that is always an unpleasant event.  Let's face it, without contractors a designer can not do their job.  The vision we have for a space, the ideas we propose to clients require skilled individuals to execute.  They are  key players in what I fondly refer to as my trio.  The trio consists of the client, the contractor and me.  Often I am working with the contractor the client has selected.  In other situations, I will recommend a particular contractor that I am very confident in their professionalism and abilities.  In most cases, they have been test driven...in my home!  Or, I have seen their work in person.  And sometimes, even this is not enough.
Case in point.  This past week I had to fire the painting contractor off the job for the client whose closets I am re-doing.  Here's a recap.  The painting was suppose to start a week ago, but the day before Mr. Painter called to say they were running behind on another job, could they push it to next week?  I called my client she said okay even though she had already emptied out 5 closets.  This past Tuesday, the painter I had "sold" her on showed up on time with 2 other men.  He then instructed one man about the work to be done and left.  She callled me to inquire if I knew this, because other than to introduce himself he did not speak to her.
I immediately called Mr. Painter to inquire about the situation and he replied "She is getting me, because he is my guy and I am the best and therefore she is still getting the best!"  My response, besides difficulty comprehending the arrogance I had not previously been exposed to, was to say "Well I sold you and this has taken us both by surprise, so I will trust what you are saying."  After this statement, I was trying to talk to him and he kept talking over me and said he had to go to another job, but would be a "good boss" and check my job later. Ok. Fine. I called my client and told her that the man at her home is one of his employees and he assures me will do an excellent job.  I have worked with this client before.  She trusted what I said.

Later that evening, I received another call from my client saying she was unhappy with the work.  There are drips, holes that were not filled, nail pops not fixed, and shelves that had previously been covered with a paper not sanded.  Oh, and Mr. Painter did not come back to check on the work/progress.  All things I had emailed as well as discussed with Mr. Painter ahead of time!  I called him and said "I think we have a few problems over at...." and began relaying the concerns.  More talking over me, some profanity and then "they're closets!" and I said "that makes no difference, she is paying for a professional paint job!"  I then began to try to explain to him how it is very important for me to manage the expectations of each client and job, still thinking he would apologize and say I will take care of all the issues personally and not to worry.  He did not say any of those things, but instead  said "get to your point, I don't have time for this!"  I said  "Ok.  Here is my point...your fired."  Silence.  And then he said, "Are you @#$%@&#.....kidding me?  No one has ever fired me off a job and you're not even giving me a chance to fix it!"  I said ,"You have had two conversations worth of chances to say the right things and be professional and you have chosen not to.  He then asked me not to share this with a couple via me he had just quoted work for.  I said I can not promise that because I do not  think you are the right painter for them either.  He then said, "Oh, so now your trying to take business away from me?"  My reply, "These are people who I have known for 15 years, I care about them.  Without my recommendation, the business would not have been yours to quote."  I then said, "It is regrettable our relationship is ending on a sour note and that I am sorry to have ruined your evening."  He said, "You didn't even ruin my day because I just bought a brand new Ford F-150 with Harley Davidison (something or other) and it was a great day!"  We hung up and just then it occured to me....there was no other more important/difficult painting job.  He had lied.

I immediately got on the phone trying to line up my favorite contractor to beg for a favor.  Yes, that is what a good designer should do for their clients in my opinion. We spoke and he said he could work me into his schedule for Thursday and Friday, but he would have to put 3 guys on it and I would need to make sure all the paint is there.  Whew, I had  been saved!!!   I called my client and said " Mr. Painter has been dismissed from the job and a new crew of 3 will be there on Thursday.  She said "Thanks, this is such a relief."   I met my contractor's painter that morning, to go over the details of the job.  I was on time, he was early.  When I was walking toward the house he came down the driveway to greet me, then grabbed my client's trash bin from the curb, as well as the gallon of paint I was holding, and put the bin in her garage.  The first closet we got to, he pointed out all the things that needed fixing.  This was going to be a very good day.  I made the right decision for both of us. I always notice these little gestures and details.  They often provide me with everything I need to know!

This situation definately took time away from blogging, so please excuse the lack of posting. I have been planning to do a post on contractors....just not this one!   I will eventually do one that outlines key elements of what I think you need to know and look for when hiring contractors based on my experiences as a designer and homeowner.

images courtesy google

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Spring Cleaning!  In order for me to kick off spring, I must officially say goodbye to winter.  For me, this ritual starts in our laundry/mud room.  It begins with washing and putting away all the coats, hats, scarves and gloves.  The room immediately looks and feels brighter with the white wainscot now more visable after removing all the dark coats cluttering up the hooks!

After everything is washed or drycleaned, and the coats are relocated to a storage closet.  The wool coats go into a canvas hanging bag, and I toss a few of those little cedar balls in the bottom and zip it up.

The hats, scarves and gloves are stored in lined baskets.  I put a dryer sheet in the bottom of each basket and then fold everything so it is ready for the next season.  During fall and winter I am quite happy if things are thrown into the baskets or on the hooks and do not land on the bench below! I use my favorite dryer sheets to line the baskets.  It makes everything, including the room, smell so good!  Here's a little peek into my basket:

This small room is the main entrance for our family.  It's also where the backpacks and shoes land, where the dog eats, where the family calendar and note board is kept, and yes, where the mud gets tracked in and the laundry is done!  Keeping it super organized is a necessity.  Every spring is a reminder to sort through things and freshen it up a bit to keep it looking nice.

One of the ways this can be accomplished is to consider how everyday items are used, such as detergent! There are so many options for beautiful, inexpensive, practical dispensers.  In all likelihood, you already have plenty of options to choose from in your own home.  Just think outside the box....or jug!

I prefer powders.  I don't like dealing with heavy jugs and endless drips.  I have front loading machines and this just really comes down to preference.  For a lively dialogue about powder vs. liquid check out iVillage's Garden Web home forum on this subject.  I also prefer my storage to be open.  Meaning no tops or lids.  Nothing to unscrew or lift off.  Did you know the average person spends 5-7 hours per week in their laundry room?

Another reason to make things attractive and convenient!  A quick scoop out of these crocks and I'm ready to push the start button.  Also, if you don't have a counter across your machines, (one of the 2 things still incomplete in this room!) cover them with a large white towel.  It will keep the surfaces from getting scratched as well as act as a little noise buffer.  Plus, it just looks fresh!

I'll try anything to avoid keeping unsightly boxes and bottles out.  Here is what I have found works best for me over the years:  Crocks, one large for detergent, one small for laundry booster, an oil pouring bottle for fabric softener and plastic scoops to avoid chipping the rims.  If you really want something pretty, try a palm sized clam shell from your last trip to the beach!  My daughter found 2 that are purple and white that we use in the summer.  The green fabric softener is a new scent I thought I would give a try.  I also added the tray this past weekend.  I am hoping that certain members of the household will take a hint of where I would like things left!  Happy Spring!!!

images coursety of CountryHome, Southern Accents, flicr and A&A

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Todd Murphy

Chicago born, well known Atlanta artist, Todd Murphy has been on my mind for quite sometime.  It all started in 2005 while searching the web. I became facinated with his work.  Then in September 2006 my issue of Tradtional Home arrived in the mail and a full blown obsession begin over this image:

I begin hunting down everything I could on this man.  I knew realistically I would not likely be able to afford an original work, but I couldn't help myself from pursuing information.  Perhaps there was something smaller.  Once, there was.  I called the gallery.  Sold.

Then yesterday, everything changed.   Restoration Hardware catalogue, favorite retailer to many, came in the mail.  I gathered it in my reading stack for the night and headed upstairs.  I casually flipped it open and it came to rest here:

I must admit, I was thrilled upon recognizing Mr. Murphy's work immediately, and then disappointment quickly followed.  I was thrilled that this man's work that I had long admired, was now attainable. But, also disappointed that it was being reproduced and was now so very available. 

I think it is one thing to have furniture pieces and accessories show up repeatedly in various interiors.  Including on occasion, a friend or client's home.  I have learned to be comfortable with this fact of design, and believe these items are often transitional and adapt to the style of the room and the individual.

But artwork?  I am thinking that is quite different.  It is personal.  It is to be appreciated and admired.  Artwork in the style of Mr. Murphy's not only makes a statement, but has a very distinct look.  I have heard him referred to as "the dress artist" because of his beautiful dress creations.  The first time I ever saw the TH image, it had a profound impact.  It was emotional.  I found it to be haunting, seductive and mythical. I showed it to my sister and a few friends. Each one had a different reaction.  None described it the way I saw it.  Some did not care for it. But, I truly loved it.

                                          Metropolitan Home-March 2008

Has retail gone too far?  This has distracted me all day.  I am so conflicted.  I would love to own a work of art by Mr. Murphy, but do I really want to see something that I perceive as personal on the walls of so-and-so's living room?  Please use this post as an opportunity to express yourself and help me sort this out....

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuesday Tip

File folders.  My home office is having a little lapse in efficiency at the moment. Okay, that is not exactly the truth. The actual truth is far more pathetic.  It's having major style and organizational issues!  To such  extent I could barely locate the few items I am showing here in the sea of scribbled notes, scraps of paper, notebooks, magazines, stray pens, pencils, invoices, tile pieces, fabric samples and folders.  I put everything on the floor just to clear this little corner spot of the top of my desk which actually has a pretty curvy top and beautiful iron base.  Think European garden table.  The pale aqua mantle is an antique that was a birthday gift from my husband in 1998.  Not only is it pretty to look at, but makes a easily accessible shelf!

Two things caused my office to look like a bomb went off in it.  Which is why you only get to see the little spot I cleared!  Here is what happened exactly in this order:  I started blogging and then a month later the SRT did an interview with Grant Gibson. The mess in my office was caused by the latter I've concluded.  You see the SRT ladies and Grant did not state the specific publication name and year that showed his bathroom project that they knew in advance they were going discuss!!!  And because of this little oversight, I was forced to trash my office looking for the tear sheet I knew I had saved or filed somewhere???  Afterall, I had to follow along as they chatted about each detail in the picture!  Pause button you ask?   I had already made tea and gotten all cozy.  I was in the SRT mind frame...no pausing allowed!

How does this relate to file folders you ask?  Well every project needs a starting point and inspiration.  And, I suppose before the SRT interview my office needed an update. So it's been on my mind for a bit and I keep coming across great options in folders.  Hopefully, one will spark a new color scheme and help me get back to the organized way I used to work before the laspe!!!  Looking at all the amazing designs and patterns available is really no different than looking at fabric. I've got to start somewhere, so why not file pretty!

And, if organization and pattern aren't your thing, may I suggest these!

Folders on my desk from Wal-Mart. Pink/aqua floral folders-World Market.  Folders in Red, Aqua and Brown-See Jane Work.  William Morris Cloverleaf-Amazon. Crap folders-The Paper Source.  All under $15.

Thursday, March 11, 2010


A cameo is an image of a small scene or figure raised higher than it's background and carved from one material.  Also known as a low relief carving.

Cameos date back to 300BC in Alexandria, Egypt where they were carved into rock to record events and information.  The Greeks and Romans depicted images of gods and goddesses in their cameos.

Most of the cameos we see today were inspired by the romantic elegance of the Victorian Era and were carved in sea shells.  They were used in brooches, hair pins, earings and necklaces.  The favorite piece of jewelry of many women during this time period.  And lately seem to be enjoying a popular resurgence!

This necklace was a Christmas gift from Anthropolgie.

A cameo sits on top my favorite clove scented soap purchased a few years ago in Charleston,S.C.

It may suprise some to learn throughout history cameos have also been worn by men.  Cameos have been used on military helmuts, swords and accessories.  Cameos often depicted heros and rulers.  During the Renaissance, Pope Paul II was an avid collector and wore many cameo rings.  Napoleon even wore a cameo to his wedding.  During the 18th century men used cameos to signal their prestige and culture.

Rings by Amedeo

Another less familiar type of cameo is the giant cameo.  These have been spotted in decor and add the most beautiful, unexpected, elegant quality to a room.  I have the following three images saved in my "best of the best" favorites file!

Designer Nina Griscom's Manhattan Townhouse-House & Garden, Photographed by Simon Watson

These were used by Grant Gibson in the San Francisco showhouse bathroom he designed.  Grant is 6'4.  I mention this in order to provide a reference of the size of these 18th-century Italian marble cameos he selected for the space!  Images courtesy of  Grant K. Gibson.  And, Tradtional Home-March 2007 Photographs by Michael Venera

      Want a cookie? Image courtesy Romantic Homes-March 2010

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Shade Parade.  Do you ever look at your lighting and think perhaps it doesn't work anymore?   Maybe you don't care for the style or the color.   Maybe it does in fact need to be replaced.  Or maybe it just needs a new shade.  Of course replacing a lamp shade is hardly a new concept, but keeping a few on hand that can do double duty is an option worth consideration!

I especially like to do this with accent lighting.  It provides flexibility on a moments notice by allowing me to  move the lamps from room to room, season to season.  This also works very well for sconces and chandelier shades.  Granted with table lamps price and storage could be an issue, but a simple linen or silk drum shade will give you a beautiful, additional alternative to almost any base.  Just make sure the shade is in proportion to the base.

For a low cost option consider the possibilities of 2 candlestick lamps dressed in 4 shades.  This provides 8 different looks that helps avoid needing something new!!!  I have a pair of everything shown, but sometimes only one is needed depending on where it is being located. These lamps have been used on mantels, dressers, bookcases, butlers pantry, buffet, secretary and even the back of the powder room toilet!

Just for fun, I would love to hear which combination you preferred!  And, would you care to take a guess as to which lamp and shade may have been purchased together?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Vintage Spindles

The popularity of architectural salvage shows no sign of stopping.  I am sure in great part do to the effort of many to be more green.  It may also be attributed to the downturn of our economy.   But I believe for a vast majority, it is a way to avoid the abundance of mass produced items in favor of original artisan creations that add unique character to our homes.

In the recent issue of NapaStyle there was the most unusual and charming Chandelier that caught my eye.  It is made of beautiful lathe-turned wooden spindles that have been salvaged mostly from the midwest.  In addition, there are several other pieces that have been reinvented as fabulous one-of-a-kind useful home decor.  Here is a look at the collection:


End Tables:

Towel Bars:

Magazine Basket:

Lazy Susan:

I would also like to take this opportunity to extend a very big THANK YOU to Averill for giving me the "Sunshine Award" this past Wednesday!  It was a crazy busy week and this was just such a wonderful  surprise!  Averill's blog Odi et Amo was one of the first handful of blogs that I became hooked on!
She is a lawyer by day and a decorating DIY extraordinare in her spare time, who always inspires me with one amazing post after another!!!

So in the spirit of receiving this award, I would like to pass it on to these 5 wonderful blogs:

Debra at 5th and State
Linda at Lime In The Coconut
Renae Moore of Renae Moore Designs
Delores at Vignette Design

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Function beautifully.  I mentioned in my previous post a client stopped by to drop off two items.  The visit was just long enough to grab a quick cup of coffee and show her one possible storage solution for her many pairs of shoes.  As she glanced around my kitchen she commented "I like the way you display some of your food items. " Huh?"  This took me a moment to process because as far as I knew there was no food on display, except for the sad bananas begging to be made into bread.  I realized she was talking about what was under my microwave!

There it was in fact on full display, the contents of our daily breakfast.  It occured to me in that moment I had not thought about this in awhile.  I have always used decorative jars and containers on my countertops for snacks and go to foods since my kids were little.  Not only does it look nice, but it directs them to your preferred choices.  Imagine the time saved everyday if you don't have to rummage through the pantry and cupboards trying to locate everything you need.  Added bonus:  it practically eliminates hearing "Mom, where is the...?"  We can literally prepare oatmeal in a minute!  Of course, before I took this photo I made sure the jars were fingerprint free, no stray raisins lingered, and the items on the little ratten tray were actually facing the right direction!

The alternative: 

I don't think anyone desires their countertops to look like the isle of the grocery store.  That should be the goal for your pantry!!!

Sources:  Each item was less than $15 except the two gifts.

Glass jars with lids: Wal-Mart
Plastic scoop: Container Store
Blue bowls: Anthropology
Pewter spice shakers: birthday gift
Blue salt shaker: Pottery Barn
Ratten Tray:  Smith & Hawkin
Blue sugar bowl: Plow & Hearth
Spoons: wedding gift...not this decade!

In case your interested...one minute breakfast:

1/2c. quick oats
1c. skim milk
dash salt

Add ins: Kids
1T. dark brown sugar
1T. raisins
2 shakes cinnamon
Top w/banana slices after cooking

Add  ins: Mom & Dad
1T. light brown sugar
1T. cranberries
1T. walnuts or pecans
3-4 shakes cinnamon
dash nutmeg

Microwave 45 seconds, stir, and enjoy!!!