Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Year, New Look!

I mentioned at the end of 2010, that after more than a year of blogging, I thought my blog needed an update. I was bored with the look and I really didn't think it reflected my style. Well as you can see, I can check that off the to-do list!

My new look was created by Shari of Little Blue Deer. It was such a fun and insightful experience to be "the client" and collaborate with her on this project. I had several ideas about the look I wanted to reflect my personal style and design ideas, but with no tech skills whatsoever, I knew I needed a pro to execute my blog's makeover. After just a few email sessions (it was just like e-decorating) with Shari, she got me...and the new look started to come together very quickly. There may be a tiny bit of tweaking needed and I still have a few things to finish, but I'm thrilled with the outcome!

It really got me thinking about the relationships between designers and clients. When ideas are flowing, the communication is good, budgets/prices clearly outlined, personalities well matched, and there is trust in the skills of the person you have chosen to work with, design is just so easy and rewarding. So, if you've been procrastinating on making a call or working with someone on a project... JUST DO IT!

Friday, January 28, 2011

The Divine, Mr. Devine

It's been snowing here in Virginia, not like the 3 blizzards of last winter, but still when you have 8.25 inches of heavy wet snow dumped in a few short hours, it's just no fun. My Crape Myrtle was splayed out on the lawn once again like a giant spider. I think I've saved most of it along with my Korean Lilac, but the Bradford Pear is history and a few others are not looking too good. The back yard has so many fallen limbs, it's resembles a a giant game of Pick-Up Sticks! The snow is falling again as I type this.

This looks like the perfect fabric for a Midsummer's Night soiree.

The mail man didn't get here until after dinner, so I didn't even bother retrieving the mail until this morning.  After shoveling yesterday, I spent some time nursing my aching wrist and knee and reading some of my favorite blogs.

Stylish, sophisticated and fun!
 I was reminded I needed to send follow-up note of information providing additional details regarding some fabric samples. No need. Turns out yesterday was a really good mail day! In my box were the fabric samples I had recently contacted MDH about. His web site was being worked on, and I never got back to him on specifics. Instead he just sent me a wonderful sampling of the patterns I indicated I liked and plan to use for a current project. Excellent customer service and a little mind reading!

Samples of the collection at Maison et Objet, Paris 2008...
 add up to divine artwork!!! 
 Getting samples is always exciting, they're like getting presents....oh, and these were too...each one carefully wrapped in tissue, each one gorgeous! I am loving the collection, the designs are perfect for both traditional and modern interiors, hand made by local artisans.  Mr. Devine's fabrics were recently featured in Elle Decor as well as Southern Living. I won't tell you which ones I plan to use, I think it will be best to wait until it all comes together!

Have A Great Weekend!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesday Tip

Can you perfectly fold a shirt or sweater? Me either.  My husband is pretty good at folding and organizing. Actually, really good. I fell in love with his closet, before I really knew him.  I mentioned how we met here.

I went to that party. My roommate went with me. The location: bachelor apartment for two. Guests: new friends, old friends and an assortment of single woman. Some of whom don't mind their manners, especially when they drink. During the party my friend wandered into the bedroom of our host, dragging me by the hand with her...where...much to my horror, she opened the closet doors! Full disclosure, I looked. Gawked actually. It was a beautiful site. Suits perfectly hung, freshly pressed shirts hung by color, shoes organized the same way, t-shirts and sweaters looked like colorful packages lining the single shelf. She had a little crush on our host. I was interested too, but thought he was dating someone else. She looked at me, rolled her eyes said "you two are perfect for each other." Turns out we were.

Our host, now know as Mr. A&A, and his roommate way back in those bachelor days were known for throwing great parties and their invitations drew big crowds. They were also aware of deplorable behavior by certain types (those looking to confirm availability) of women, as demonstrated by my roommate. They always had a surprise or two for such types. At this particular party, they had lined the medicine cabinets with ball bearings. In the middle of the party those of us in the hallway of the apartment heard the strangest noise, even over the loud music playing. The pranksters and their buddies knew immediately what had happened and rushed to the site to revel in their victorious effort. As predicted, a woman had succumbed to her nosy ways and locked herself in the bathroom upon realizing the imminent humiliation that awaited her. When she surfaced red faced, her exit was swift. Her future invitations...lost in the mail.

So don't be a snoop and fold your shirts nice because you never know what can happen! For a little help, you can buy these folding boards here.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Thank You Notes & Sharing Blog Awards!

Time to get those overdue thank-you notes out!

My sincere thanks to Mona of Providence Ltd and Danielle of Fresh Quince for giving me the Stylish Blogger Award. In addition, I'd like to thank Renae of Renae Moore Designs for passing The Super Comments award to me. These are blogs that I enjoy a great deal and these 3 ladies have plenty of talent and wonderful blogs, so if you're not familiar, click over and say hello!

In the spirit of the Stylish Blogger Award, I was requested to pass it on to 10 blogs that are newish to me and share 7 things about myself. Talk about difficult with so many wonderful blogs popping up, but here are some recent discoveries that I think are quite stylish!

Ann of Peggy & Fritz
David of Savoir Faire
H.H. of Hill House Ramblings
Jessica of 24 Corners
Joan of For The Love of a House
Kate of Party Resources
Reggie of Reggie Darling
Shari of Little Blue Deer
Stacey of Quintessence
Victoria of Art House Design

And now to tell 7 things you may not know about me...I thought about opting out, but instead I've decided to have a little fun with it!

1.) Most of the time, I enjoy cooking especially for parties and holidays, but I despise grocery shopping. As often as possible, I will coerce my husband and teenage children into doing it. One of the good things that has come from it, is that my son has no trouble navigating the mysteries of the grocery store and does not think that it is a chore just for the wife. When I do go, often it is to higher end or smaller grocers in an effort to make it more pleasant. For me "pleasant" means I bought flowers and no one was in the check-out line torturing me with their cell phone conversation.

2.) In my real life I swear. Not like a sailor or even close. My favorite expletive is sh*t. I say it even when I'm not particularly upset...working on that. I once did it in front of a client who's bathrooms I was renovating at the end of 2009 when I saw something the contractor had done incorrectly. He laughed and said "you don't strike me as the swearing type!?" Of course, I was embarrassed and he quickly said "don't worry, we're going to get along just fine." I blame this flaw as a result of a long career with "the suits" in my former life.

3.) I don't understand the appeal of most reality TV. Especially the stupid women on the "Housewives" shows. I've tried watching various episodes on more than a few occasions, and I'm bored silly. My dog is more intelligent, attractive and amusing.

4.) Currently, my favorite television shows are Mad-Men, Boardwalk Empire and Modern Family (did you all see the last episode with the grape juice spill on the $50K designer rug and the uh...bedroom FUNNY!) But given the choice, I much prefer movies to television.

5.) I love to read, but since I started blogging, I've noticed I'm reading less and less for pleasure. And, I don't mean design books, because that's always a pleasure. Working on that too.

6.) I drive my family nuts with my recycling issues. It's really only an issue because they can't remember that things like empty toilet paper rolls need to be recycled and yet no matter how many times I tell them pizza boxes can not be recycled, they put them in the bin anyway. The recycle bin is in the garage, the trash can is outside...draw your own conclusion.

7.) In the winter I turn the fireplace on in the master bedroom every night just before bed and once I am warm and toasty....I make my husband get out of bed and turn it off. I still consider myself a good wife.

And now to the Super Comments Award, that was easier, except for the questions...please forgive me Renae for opting out with the specific questions attached to this award, but I think one round about me is plenty for one post. If by chance anyone is interested in additional snippets, they can be found here.

Many thanks to the bloggers, including Renae, who regularly take time to share a comment of wit, wisdom, support and most especially contribute your thoughts and opinions about art & design.  I pass the award on to these 10 fabulous bloggers:

Danielle of Fresh Quince
Elizabeth of Pretty Pink Tulips
Kat of Low Tide High Style
Kathysue of The Good Life of Design
Mona of Providence Ltd
Patricia of PVE
Stacey of Quintessence
Sue of The Zhush
Suzanne of Privet & Holly
Tina of Tina Steele Lindsey


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Woven Shades: Reader's Questions Answered

After the post I did about curtain rods I received several questions about where a woven shade should be hung. I am also working on a project where shades are needed, so the timing to give this attention couldn't be better!

Let me start by saying, there is no correct way, but instead preferences and practical concerns. So the only way I can answer these questions is from my point of view. Other decorators and designers may disagree.

A woven shade without curtains looks best mounted inside (above) the frame. It looks more finished. However, if it's for a cottage, cabin or beach house and the goal is a super casual look, an outside (below) mount is fine. Just make sure the cut lines up with the outer edges of the molding.

A woven shade with curtains will depend on the following factors: Style, mouldings and budget. Often the latter being the key consideration. Many woven shades can be purchased "off the shelf" to fit the most common window sizes and if you're working with a small budget, this can be a good solution.

If the moldings are beautiful, an inside mount is preferable. If the casings are plain builder basic or very narrow, a custom outside mount is probably going to look best. I also think one large custom shade for a double window looks simple and beautiful.

Shades (or blinds) for hard to reach places, such as a two story foyer can be put on a remote with custom settings for light control. I have such a set up and it was worth the splurge, especially since the window directly lines up with the hall bathroom. It's the perfect solution to keeping my teenage daughter from view of the neighborhood!

As much as I love mixing high & low, rustic & elegant, this woven shade is just too casual for my taste. I think it's identical to the one in the cabin above and it just looks like the budget fell short.

I find it so distracting to see "stripes" of varying materials such as moldings, rods and shades, when all that was needed to have a more finished look was a simple adjustment in length of the curtain and height of the rod.

I would never recommend this installation. Two different
colored moldings, a painted ceiling, mullions in the upper
portion of the window, a rod that's placed far below the
 ceiling and the inside mounted a radiator...
it all adds up to an intensely distracting window.

This is better...

For a  tailored or more seamless look, bring the shade up to the curtain rod and the rod up to the molding.

To my bloggy friends who emailed asking if I was MIA...had a little collision with some ice on the driveway. Sprained wrist...nothing serious, but it's put a damper on my blogging efforts....can't type worth a crap...more than usual.

Images courtesy of Canadian H&H, BH & G, Southern Living, Ashley Whittaker, Cottage Living

Friday, January 14, 2011

Peacock Blue, I Love You!

If you read my blog with any sort of regularity, it's no secret that I love aqua. But did you know that I've had a long standing love affair with peacock blue? I especially like adding it during the fall and winter. Toss in brown, green and cream and that rounds out the color palette for the main floor of my house.

Tissue box cover

Much like aqua, it pairs well with so many other colors such as red, purple, gold and orange. Today I found this trash can and tissue box cover.

Trash can

The detail on the back!
 I thought they were really attractive and fun. It may need to find a place in our library, to keep my favorite peacock blue velvet pillow company...

I am so behind on reading my magazine subscriptions, but last night I tossed and turned over this:

January 2011-Canadian House & Home living room
of designer Colette Van Den Thillart, Photographs
 by Chris Tubbs.

 Her library/office/dining room! I once had a chair with the same
 tray shaped back, sadly it became too wobbly to be of any use.
Maybe I need to find a new one!
 And, today while sourcing fabric, I became obsessed over a cream,  green and peacock blue houndstooth. There must be something/someone that needs it. And, I wonder if Mr. A&A would be interested in a new wall color for his beloved brown library? Yes peacock blue, I am still so in love with you!

Have A Great Weekend!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tuesday Tip

I've been in the closet...far longer than I had planned. Time to come out. The dust was bad. So were some of the shoes and tops. Okay, maybe not bad, but completey unneeded and totally neglected.

Shoes being donated.

These fell into the same category.

Yes, I hang up casual tops and even some t-shirts.
 A small section...color coded...of course!
Extra hangers, so exciting! Shopping anyone?
 Yesterday, I looked in the master closet and a few things were starting to irk me. Specifically, our current method of shoe storage. Flats and men's shoes slide off the stainless steel shoe racks and either end up on the carpet or fall behind the stupid racks and make marks on the walls. They gotta go.

Goodbye stupid storage, sorry our time together was brief.
 Even with your abilty to expand, I still hate you.

I purchased a dozen tweed shoe boxes with a drop-down magnetic window (from Container Store) last year for my good shoes. They were the same storage boxes that I had just used a total of 30 for a client's closet project last year (and yes this is another one of those questions I get..."Are you ever going to show the after?" and the short answer is I don't know. The day I wrapped up I forgot my camera and just never got back to do after pictures...sorry...for me too, because I was so happy with the outcome!) So what started as a quick sweep of our closet has finally yielded an end to the annoying shoe issue. I will need to purchase more shoe storage boxes to complete this and I plan to use them for most of my shoes. I cleared 2 lower shelves for boots and my husband's shoes. But at least now I know the system, what will work, and that means completion is attainable!

Hello handsome tweed storage!
 So what exactly is my tip today? Figure out what's not working in a specific area (closet, drawer, pantry etc...) and do something to fix it! A key part of accomplishing this will be to not to get hung up what you paid for a non-performing item or how long you've had it. If it doesn't work for you, it doesn't work!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Reader's Questions Answered: Part I

After more than a year of blogging, I am going to try and answer the questions that I get asked most often or happen to remember from comments on  specific posts and emails. If I didn't respond to an email, I either forgot, thought it was spam or you may have requested information that falls into the category of an online consult.  I really do try to provide as much information possible on my blog, but I can't answer specific questions about what to do with a room/space, or source out a product or item when in my "real" life I am charging others for the same service. Please send me an email and I will be happy to provide an e-decorating quote.

What color and brand is the paint in your dining room?
I use a lot of Pratt & Lambert paints because their colors just work well in our house. However, I am not exclusive to the brand because I also like/use Benjamin Moore and Sherwin Williams. The dining room paint on the wall color is Lambswool, the ceiling is Manchester and the trim is Seed Pearl.   

Why don't you ever show your whole dining room?
No chandelier! I took one out 3 years ago and haven't decided on a replacement....pathetic, I know. But dining by sconces and candlelight has been a lot of fun!

You normally provide all the sources of items that can be purchased and I've noticed many other blogs are starting to do this too, but sometimes you don't. Why? I have received several variations of this question on several occasion. I learned after a few months of publishing a design blog that it made sense for me to include this information at the end of certain posts. Just as a magazine does, I list the sources to satisfy reader inquires and cut down on time spent emailing answers to questions. If I don't list the source it's because the item is either an antique, from a shop no longer in business or a trade only piece. I have a really good memory, but there is the occasion I can't recall exactly where an item came from. Those items likely came from auctions, estate sales or antique shows.

Details from a pillow I designed, fabricated bya quality workroom.
  However, there may be occasions when I intentionally do not provide a source. For certain things, and I think most designers/decorators would agree, it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy sourcing items and forming vendor relationships and it's not reasonable to expect information to be provided without the opportunity to be paid a fee in certain situations. Here's an example. In 2008 I was hired to do holiday decorating for a client. In addition, was a consult to "spruce" up a few things. This meant adding new sofa pillows, accessories, restyling bookcases and moving furniture. It also included freshening up her heavily used mud room (where guest coats would be hung) and one of the things I did was to add a skirt to an unattractive mud sink.

Client's mud room from this Tuesday-Tip post
  The following year, I received a call from my client's neighbor who wanted me to give her the name of the person who did the living room sofa pillows, mud room pillow and sink skirt for my client, so she could have one made too as well as some other items.  I told her I could do a consult and she said no just needed things to be sewn, no help needed. Really!? My thoughts...well if you're calling me, then clearly help is needed and there is a fee for that. Very politely, I told her I have 2 workrooms that I use. One I have had a relationship for years and the other is newer, but either way I do not send people to drop off "projects" for them to do, without my input. She never called me back. I took it as a sign that she fit into the category of someone I would not enjoy working with. But....another woman did call me this past November and gladly paid for a consult and sourcing of items she needed for her holiday party as well as a new mirror for her foyer...from the same neighborhood! She couldn't have been nicer and indicated she would like to work together on some other projects. Knowing when to say no is an important part of keeping things fun and profitable!

Where did the items come from on your holiday table post?

I was in such a hurry to get this post done I simply forgot! Here they are:

Tablecloth: Waterford from Macy's
Napkins: Williams-Sonoma
Chargers: Macy's
Dinner plates: Home Goods
Holiday salad plates: RH (from several years ago)
Wine & Water goblets: J.G. Durand-wedding gifts!
Silverware: Mother of Pearl PB (from several years ago)
S&P Shakers: vintage, from thrifting somewhere?
Beaded Pears: gift from a friend
Christmas Crackers: Williamsburg, Va.
Votives: Isabell
Candles: Perin-Mowen
Mini Cedar Trees-Trader Joe's
Glass Candelabras: the only new items this year & you won't believe where I got them...World Market!

Where did you get your dining room chairs?
They are antique French bought at auction through a friend's sister in the 1990's. I saw very similiar in a shelter magazine not too long ago, so I think it's very possible to locate this style.

Do you know the name of the wallpaper used in this guest bedroom from  Paula Dean's house?
I do not...if anyone knows, please leave a comment or send me an email that I can post.

Where did the lion's foot planter with the pinecones come from? And, where did you get the pinecones? They were both gifts. The planter style is an antique, but I have seen these from time to on the look out at antiques fairs, etc...! The pinecones are from a friend who vacations in Lake Tahoe. I've had them for years, but  recently I've noticed stores are selling the big pinecones ....just make sure they smell like pine and not weird!

What dryer sheets do you use?
This gave me a laugh! But, I get it because I am certainly interested in what products you all like and are using. These came from Wal-Mart. I used to buy Arm & Hammer's "mountain fresh" scent from Target  and when that was discontinued and they came up with a lavender scent that smells nothing like lavender and almost knocked me out. I literally threw the entire, just opened, box in our outdoor trash can! So this has been a good substitute. I mostly use liquid fabric softener except on towels, blankets, gloves and scarves and other items that the absorbency can be compromised.

If you noticed the title, I'll do this in parts in an attempt get additional questions answered.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Storage And Organization Solutions For Your Holiday Decorations!

Maybe you have already put your holiday decorations away this season and maybe you are just sick of the mere mention of the holidays, but making changes to the way you organize your decorations now will change your life.  Okay, it's possible that I'm over exaggerating the outcome. But I can promise, if Christmas music isn't keeping you merry & bright while you're lugging box after box from the basement or attic, having a better storage system will definitely help! Especially when it comes time to everything down and pack it away, because there is no after Christmas music to keep you cheerful...someone still needs to invent that! 

Beautiful & practical holiday storage boxes.
 I have always felt I had to mentally gear up for a 2 day commitment of lugging, looking, unpacking, and searching through mounds of tissue paper in various containers all in the effort to make Christmas happen.  The middle part aka holiday decorating, I love and thoroughly enjoy! But after the successful execution of that event, when things are winding down, was the nagging knowledge of another 2 day ordeal of making Christmas disappear!

I already had a basic system in place with large red and green plastic bins purchased years ago. Gathering it all in one place is the first step. It doesn't matter what color storage boxes you choose, but stick to one that will be for holiday storage only and easy to identify.

From our basement storage room makeover last fall. 
   The next step is to give each bin or box a label.  Being able to identify at a glance, without removing a single lid, what each bin contains will feel like a gift from Santa! The labels need to be specific. This is so important if you truly want the "pack-up" to go quickly and painlessly...meaning everything fits back into the exact same place it came from.  Added bonus: labeled boxes are the best solution when you come across that one thing that got left behind and used to get shoved in some random place!

Specific labels are key to easy decorating. What a pretty box
with it's Acanthus Leaf motif!

A small tree in my daughter's room decorated
with her collection of dog ornaments.

My son's tree with all his childhood ornaments.

Each year I put the box in the hallway between their two rooms
 for them to carry out their tradition of decorating their own little
 trees and pack them away after Christmas!
Eventually, I realized I that my bin labeled "glass balls" was not working as well as I had hoped. It just wasn't large enough. I have a set of large peacock blue glass balls and a few others that are over sized that did not come in packages. I was storing them loose in tissue and I was always concerned they would break. I needed storage for them and that got me thinking about why was so hung up about keeping everything in it's original package? The solution??? Sort and store the glass balls by color. So I last year I figured out what additional storage was needed and ordered it.  While I waited for it to arrive, it gave me time to sort through several bins and figure out what could be donated. I remember It wasn't until the first week of February before everything was put away. Totally worth it!!!

Sort by color!
These gorgeous peacock blue glass balls are my favorites.

Finally, a place for these too.

I like using index cards for labels because they are cheap and easy to write on and read. For the plastic bins I just tape the label to the end facing out.  For the cardboard/fabric covered boxes I put it on top of the contents inside the box. If you really want to go all out, take a photo of the contents of each bin and that way no matter who packs it up, there is no question about what goes where. This will also help you identify what type of storage containers you are lacking so you will be able to make a list of what needs to be purchased.

These storage solutions for my holiday decorations came from Target, Container Store and Ultimate Christmas Storage .  One last thing. I absolutely think it's worth purchasing acid free tissue and shredded filler. It will keep your decorations safe from breakage and the possibility of corrosion. Do it once, do it right and you will be one happy Elf next year!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Tuesday Tip

Got the after holiday doldrums? Me too.  It doesn't matter if it was a hectic over scheduled (many years) or a blissfully relaxing (this year) holiday season, I am always disappointed to see the holiday season come to an end. The best way I have found to enjoy January, the least exciting month to me anyway, is make a few simple changes to give the house a fresh look.

Winter white tulips in an alabaster vase.

My very first Tuesday Tip was about flowers and I found gorgeous purple tulips for that post. So for this year's first Tuesday Tip, I thought why not start there. After enjoying the Christmas tree and lots of fresh greens during the holidays,  flowers are a great way to transition and still have something pretty to look at around the house. Winter white tulips are available for another week or so and if you find white bland, there are plenty of colors available!

A dramatic change from holiday decor, but it still looks like winter.

Buy some new dish towels in fresh colors or fun patterns. I purchased these in the fall and now seems like the perfect time to give them a work out! This definitely falls into the category of LBE. Those of you who are using ugly old dishtowels...treat your hands and your dishes to something nice!

Brown and aqua...shocking choice!
Download new music to your ipod. I know this may seem unnecessary, but after a month of listening to wonderful Christmas music, my "old" songs suddenly seem stale. What are you listening to now?

I don't think anything says New Year like new calenders! One for the mud room and one for my desk.

January 2011...anything is possible!

I don't make resolutions, instead I am trying to commit to trying something new each week! Some of the things on my list include: recipes, nail polish, music and dog walking routes.

Someone put this in my stocking?! Love the name.

Tiny Tip:  In my first TT post, bloggy friend Holly of  Things That Inspire told me if you put a penny in your container, the copper will keep the tulips from drooping too much. I tried it and it worked! Over Christmas I had a few extra stems of white tulips I didn't know what to do with so I put 3 each in water with cedar had the same effect and it seemed like they stayed fresh longer!  A happy accident!!!