Monday, December 31, 2012

New Year's Wishes!

I don't know what 2013 will bring, but there is always something about the start of a new year that is so exciting and inspirational.  This little design blog celebrated it's 3rd  anniversary on Saturday- it really doesn't seem possible! It's been a lot of fun and I feel so fortunate for the all wonderful people I have met along the way and the friendships that have formed.
Where will you be celebrating when the clock strikes 12 o'clock, at home by the fire or out on the town?

Wishing you all the very best in 2013, HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas!

As I finish clearing away the last remains from the holiday brunch we hosted today with old friends and new,  I am reminded of the only thing that truly matters- to stop and enjoy the season by spending time with the ones you love.
I am looking forward to stretching out on the sofa and watching It's A Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story!

It doesn't matter that my dried oranges didn't quite turn out as planned, apparently there is a technique and I didn't have the right one!
My ended up with slight little grill marks on them- oops!

Though they didn't make it on to the tree as planned, I tossed them in bowls around the house with pine cones and fresh greens.
Next year, I vow to figure out the trick to getting the perfect dried orange slices.

There were other little holiday mishaps, like my mixer breaking down in the middle of holiday cookie baking.

At least I can still make these. A friend brought these over- so clever! Who knew a Hershey Kiss, a chocolate dipped cherry, 2 slivered almonds and an Oreo cookie was all it took to make a mouse!!!

I'm so glad I took a chance on orange this year, the color is so festive and the scent from pomanders fills every room in the house,  invoking the spirit of a simple Colonial Christmas.
I enlisted the college kid again this year for making pomanders- it made me deliriously happy watching my elf at work.

 I wish you all a Merry Little Christmas!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Tuesday Tip

How to polish silver according to the experts!

This is one of those tasks most people dread doing, myself included. In fact, there was a time when I didn't even want to own any silver because of how time consuming it was and the awful smell of most polishes. Not to mention, it was always one of my assigned chores growing up. But here are some great tips for taking the pain out of polishing.
The expert advice I have to share comes via the folks of Southern Living magazine and the Mr. Othman Ayoub, the Director of Stewarding at the Ritz-Carton in Washington, D.C.

Southern Living breaks it down into 3 parts:
1.) Polish It: remove tarnish by placing your silver on aluminum foil in your sink, sprinkle with baking soda and pour boiling water over it. Rinse and pat dry.
2.) Use It: Frequent use brings put that rich patina. Rinse right after using to prevent tarnishing from sulfides found in foods like mayonnaise and eggs. Use a gentle dish detergent (avoid anything with citrus). Silver made after 1939 is dishwasher safe, but remove before the drying cycle!
3.) Store It: If displaying in a cabinet, place a piece of chalk nearby- it absorbs chemicals that cause discoloration. Or store in sealed plastic bags. If you have a silver drawer or chest, line it with Pacific Silvercloth, an acid and sulfur-free material that keeps your treasures spotless.

Mr. Ayoub  uses this method:
1.) Line a glass or plastic tub with aluminum foil- shiny side up and fill with hot water.
2.) Add salt- he used coarse kosher salt and baking soda.
3.) Put in silver pieces and let soak 10 minutes.
For quick touch ups he uses a bit of Colgate toothpaste and a soft cloth.

For copper pots he says...
Make a paste of salt, baking soda, lime juice, vinegar and flour. Use paste to rub pots with a soft cloth.

And, for the black stuff that inevitably ends up on the bottom of pots and pans he says pop open a Pepsi and soak!

A few months ago,  I was noticing some pretty silver spoons  my client had out on her counter in a glass vessel. I asked how she kept them from tarnishing quickly and she gave me these from The Container Store:

After cleaning silver, place one of these strips in the drawer, bag or whereever you store your silver.
I'm guessing  this may have a similar result to using chalk or silvercloth as suggest by Southern Living?

Readers if you have additional tips, please share them, we need all the shortcuts possible this time of year! Also, I would love to kno,  besides Brasso (I loathe the smell) what readers use to clean their brass?

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Dear Santa, please define naughty?

Children have a very clear understanding what defines naughty and nice. In their minds, if they can't recall refusing to eat their vegetables,  putting their toys away, pulling the cats tail or hitting their younger sibling during the past week- well then, they were nice.
My beautiful daughter, once she got over her fear of Santa!

Even pets know when they are naughty. They look guilty.
This picture was taken 2 years ago just before my son's winter break his first year of college. He called to say how much he was looking forward to coming home for Christmas and sleep in his own bed. Being the loving parents that we are, we sent this picture to him saying we gave his room to the dog.

For adults there is clarity lacking on just what constitutes nice.

Dear Adults,
Santa has two simple words for you this season. MANNER UP! If you do not want to be on the naughty list,  here is what the man in red said:

5.) If you are taking the kids to see Santa and you have a screamer, there are just 2 choices. Leave immediately so the next 5 kids in line don't become screamers or sit with your kids on Santa's lap no matter how humiliating you find it. No, there is not a third option- regardless of how long you waited in line.

Yes, that's me sitting on Santa's lap with the my two little acorns- December 1996.
 If it looks like I'm constraining my daughter, I am. A moment later she started to cry and wiggled out of my grip and into the arms of her father. My son has never been afraid of Santa. You may have noticed his little booklet that he pasted all the toys he liked that year! Santa knew a problem when he saw it and suggested I come sit with them. I can still remember thinking how silly I felt. But it got my daughter over her fear and my husband still carries this photo in his wallet all these years later.

4.) There are restaurants for families and there are restaurants for adults. Know the difference. And, if for some reason you don't and sense that maybe a particular establishment is not kid friendly, go with your gut instinct, move out and move on to plan B. Please don't ruin everyone's night out just because you couldn't figure out yours. Oh, and there are restaurants for sick people, especially those who are coughing and hacking up god knows what-  it's called your house!

3.) Do not take a parking space you can see that someone is already waiting for.  If you can shop, you can walk from another space farther away. Same with you space stalkers, if the person hasn't left in a minute,  just find another space instead of backing up traffic and not allowing anyone else to leave because you saw it first! And, the fake handicap parkers, well Santa says he has some reindeer droppings that he needs to unload. Same goes for those of you who insist on backing into a parking space, but don't have the driving skills required.
Don't be the tree, someone may just be feeling a little Grinch-y and run you over.

2.) Santa has a special holiday message for all you loud cell phone talkers. When in a shop or restaurant put your @#$%^&* phones away. If you have an actual emergency there are quieter places like the vestibule or restroom. Or in case no one has told you before now, you really aren't interesting enough for the rest of us to be forced to listen to your conversation. The likely reasons you talk on your phone in public places are probably because you're uncomfortable standing/sitting alone, you're self absorbed or you're simply an ass. No one wants to hear what you just bought for who,  how much you spent, how your day was, what your plans are for the rest of the evening-day-year,  or what looks good on the menu. People like you take the HO-HO-HO out of the Holidays.
Madame, you could do better. Much better. I think I'm going to ask Santa if he can bring me that dress and wallpaper because I'm
certain I've been nice. Well at least this week,  I was home sick coughing and now I have laryngitis!

1.) Don't forget to hold open doors, say please and thank-you, be a good host/hostess and think of others that may be in need.  In general,  just be the most gracious and civilized version of yourself and then maybe...there really will be peace on earth.

Monday, December 3, 2012

O Christmas Tree, What Will You Be?

I love Christmastime, it's a sensory feast! It engages every one of our senses from holiday music,  tinkling bells, crackling fires, aromas wafting from the kitchen, the scent of pine and oranges and cinnamon, to the sight of shiny ornaments and festive garlands that decorate our homes.  Ah, the decorations. O Christmas tree, how I love to decorate thee! And every year I struggle to make a decision on just what to do, with the endless ideas and inspiring images that dance in my head!

From year to year I use many of the same ornaments, but always change up the color combinations in some way. Our tree last year was very neutral and I loved it! But, I've had the color orange swirling around for awhile. Would I dare do something so unconventional? It would be an idea that would either have a wonderful, unexpected outcome...or go terribly wrong and leave family, friends and fellow design bloggers to wonder what was I thinking!?

There are trees and then there are TREES! Image courtesy of Reggie Darling.

After seeing the tree of the always delightful, insightful and stylish Reggie last year, with it's beautiful pinecone (an obsession I share) ornaments and dried orange slices, well let's just say I became completely enamoured and have looked at this image more times than I care to admit. Reggie purchased the feather tree at Bunny Williams' shop Treillage in New York City. I'm betting if Ms. Williams saw how it was decorated she be enamored too!

Then last week, I was in Neiman Marcus shopping. One minute checking out the citrus fragrances by Jo Malone the next minute distracted by an orange scent so intoxicating and divine, I forgot all about shopping and was focused solely on my tree and buying that scent!

So with a mere $15 investment in frosted orange balls from Michael's, bags full of oranges for pomades and drying, inspiration from Reggie and my new bitter orange scent- I've started decorating.

While the tree won't have the elegant sophistication of Reggie's- seriously who can top that!? I think it's coming along nicely. But, in case things go terribly wrong, I'd love to know what or who has inspired you?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Client's Master Bedroom Makeover

This client came to me via my blog, specifically via my friend, Renae Moore who I met through blogging. Renae's talents are evident in the client's beautiful living room, which she completed prior to moving to Atlanta a few years ago. I don't know if I will ever be able to thank Renae enough for this referral, because this client would be any designer's dream client! She has been a pleasure to work with from our initial consultation to the final install. It's not often that the designer-client relationship runs perfectly smooth.
A little gift and thank-you note from me to the client.

When I first saw the space, my renovator instincts kicked in and I immediately wanted to move the closets which occupied what should have been the bed wall. Especially after the client told me that they wanted to make the switch from a queen to a king bed. Then came the bombshell- the master bathroom had been renovated in 2005 and a walk-in closet had been eliminated and 2 closets with bi-fold doors were added to what was, in fact, the original bed wall. And, in case you're thinking that the client made that decision on her own, you'd be wrong. She hired her first interior designer, an ASID designer. 
Details-Bedside necessities.
 Things I think every bedside needs. I am giving a few of these faux shagreen boxes from the Nate Berkus collection at Target for Christmas gifts-what a stylish way to hide everything from hand lotion to the remote control!

What The Client Asked For: a king size bed, but not just any king sized bed- they wanted a mechanical bed that both the top and bottom could adjust! Plenty of clothing storage, a wood headboard with footboard, possibly a mirrored chest and/or mirrored side tables and a slipper chair. Keep the existing shutters,  shades, and carpet since all 3 were just a few years old. They didn't mind the wall color, but were open to a change. And if possible, the husband wanted to keep his armoire.
The embroidered leaf fabric was the inspiration for this bedroom.

My drawing. Option #1 was selected, although we did go with more modern sconces shown in another drawing.
What I Proposed: I had the client and her husband choose the bed first. After sourcing several fabric options, the client fell in love with an embroidered leaf fabric. It quickly became apparent the wall color wasn't going to work. I suggested a color scheme of blue-gray and cream with hits of smokey lilac. An upholstered headboard to keep the large bed from taking over the small room (and definitely no footboard), a lighter/fresher paint color, wood bedside chests (I'm not a big fan of mirrored chests because they are so hard to keep fingerprint free and they chip/crack easily). A desk/dining style chair since a slipper chair would be too deep to move freely around the bed and vanity. But more importantly,  it would be too short to do it's main job- which was to camouflage the sink vanity that was measured incorrectly and extended beyond the wall edge! The shutters were beautiful and the white matelasse roman shades were well made, but needed a height adjustment for light control, as well as give a lift to the 8ft ceilings. It did pain me to leave the existing carpet since I always like to start with the floors. And, the germaphobe in me strongly dislikes frieze carpets and this one was not wearing particularly well. But it remained, as the king adjustable bed was a heavy hit to the budget. Oh, and of course, no project of mine would be complete without pretty door hardware!
 From the moment I first saw this Bombe chest at Crate & Barrel over a year ago with it's Acanthus-like scrolls lining the drawers, I knew I wanted to find a way to use it in my house or in a client's one day.  I initially proposed an incredible Neoclassical mahogany chest with concave drawers for this client's bedroom, which she loved. But at more than 3 times the price, it wasn't the best way to allocate the budget.

Classic with a bit of modern-my favorite!

The End Result: A soothing palette of creams and blues with a bit of smokey lilac and few dark pieces to keep the scheme from being overly feminine. The upholstered headboard I selected took some convincing, but I knew a wood headboard would overwhelm the small room. Same went with the cherry armoire, it was just too imposing and drained the room of natural light. I think the dark chest and burl wood mirror show how it is possible to have dark pieces incorporated for that bit of masculinity and still achieve a light and airy feeling.The bedside tables were a huge challenge due to space constraints combined with the need for storage. This is where we splurged, and it paid off! The glass and iron table next to the chair delivers on the bit of glamour the client wanted without the upkeep of mirrored chests. I don't think you can ever underestimate the power of proper lighting and artwork to transform a space!  A few accessories and fresh flowers and it was time to turn this room back over to the clients...
Dark and dated.

Light and bright.

I always prefer to use a different fabric and/or design on each side of a decorative pillow.
It prevents boredom and is a great solution if you like a change with the seasons!

When the client's daughter came for a visit, she said the room looked bigger and thought her parents kept the queen sized bed afterall! The fact the room looks larger has much to do with removing the boxy armoire, raising the shades as well as changing the wall color. The wall color turned out incredible-it changes from light blue-to gray-to pale aqua! 

Although it is always preferable to see the bed from the door, the unusual curves of the large burled wood  mirror provides enough interest to welcome you in! This is an example of how dark pieces can be used without weighing the space down.

The "boob" light in the ceiling had to go! I replaced it with this classic glass bell lantern.

And, since these sconces were installed too high and the walls were going to need to be patched,
why not update them too?

Since there is a sink vanity in the room, I had to give it a little spruce up with new sconces, a linen hand towel and jar of pretty soaps! We talked about painting the sink cabinet cream to match the bedside chests. Maybe one day along with new carpeting. For now though, the client loves her new room and isn't that all that really matters in the end?
All Lighting- Visual Comfort/Circa- Charleston, SC
Bombe Chest and headboard- Crate & Barrel
Cream bedside chests and Curvy burled wood mirror-To The Trade
Glass and iron side table and leaf series over bed- Ethan Allen
Purple silk velvet and leaf embroidered fabric- To the Trade- Kravet
Pillow Shams/sheets-Restoration Hardware Outlet
Throw- Bloomingdale's
Glass water carafe- Pottery Barn
Shagreen box on bedside table- Nate Berkus/Target
Candle- Linnea's Lights
Clock- Savannah's of Leesburg
Door hardware- Baldwin Brass
Paint- Benjamin Moore. Wall color: Night Mist , Trim and doors: Linen White
All other items are one of a kind or discontinued.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

The Nightmare Before Halloween

Also known as Sandy! Well after taking an unintentional month's break from blogging, I certainly could not have anticipated my first post back would be about  my random thoughts and the unthinkable devastation that we are all seeing on the news. 
Walking in the neighborhood. The beautiful calm before the storm

Although for the last decade we have made the southern coastline our beach destination, the New Jersey shore was the vacation destination of my husband's family since the 1920's. Cape May, New Jersey was the first beach my own children ever experienced.  This area, along with many I was not familiar until Sandy, seem to be all but wiped out by water, sand or fires. It's hard not to get emotional over the images I've seen, though I don't know a single person living in these areas.
I took this photo from the French doors in our kitchen just before it got too dark and the storm really ramped up.
 And, in case I never saw these majestic trees again! The tree to the left soars high above all the roof lines
 and is the tallest and widest tree in the neighborhood.
 Not comforting during storms!
That left me wondering how you all fared? We were beyond lucky. We had power outages for just a brief time, and though the winds howled and the rain was relentless, not a single tree came down. Just two are leaning over. We braced for the worse and stayed in the basement, but compared to the damage of the Derecho storm this summer, Hurricane Irene, and the Blizzard of 2009/2010 we got off with barely a scratch.
Our backyard.
Irregular flagstone path just after installation. The very next day, the ground was covered again in leaves.
The little rock wall with 2 Hosta (the only plants in this bed still living!) I built years ago and our landscaper said it could stay :)

Ironically, we had just installed the new landscape plan for the backyard including the installation of an in-ground sprinkler system and flagstone path. The ground is so unsteady between the work and all the rain, I'm afraid to even walk on it. Just from the deck, I can see things have sunk and shifted and though I am concerned what will survive and/or need to be re-done, I feel so incredibly lucky that our house didn't flood and the 2 tallest trees in the neighborhood, located in our backyard, did not fall onto our house or our neighbors.
New sod...approved!

Oddly, this was the first year ever, I did not purchase a single pumpkin, mum, cabbage or put out a single Halloween decoration inside the house and though it was an incredible busy month with wrapping up our house hunting, overseeing the landscaping installation and trying to finish up my final client projects of the year, I'm not sure it really had anything to do with any of these things. Last year, I only did pumpkins. Could that have been the forecast of things to come? If not for the calender, I would not even know it was Halloween. Scary.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Autumn Leaves

On this third day of autumn, I woke up to a very chilly house and would have loved to spend another hour in bed:

I love the cozy, yet elegant feel of this room. Anyone know who designed it?

certain members of the houshold were having none of that!
Happy Autumn!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Look Inside The Genius of Gary World

The man behind Gary World

Restoration Hardware Chairman and Co-CEO, Gary Friedman
(Oops! Amend that to former)

There is a new logo. It's called...
Or in blog world, Really? Hardly.

Gary has invented black. Black must be the new Belgian.
I'm upset with Gary,  again.  He's taking credit for inventing black.
Recently I proposed to one of my client's that she ebonize, or at least paint black, some of her existing furniture pieces. She thought I was a genius. I hope she doesn't cancel the date for the furniture refinisher to pick up the pieces next week when she finds out it was not an original idea. And, at least she can now get the dining room chairs I proposed. There is now an alternate choice of stain for the legs. She won't have to settle for faux Belgian. Gary invented that too.

And, according to Gary... 
Words from a genius.

In Gary World, going green means...
The upside to this? Hold the books, all 3 volumes, and step on the scale. Now drop them to the floor.
That's right, you can now wear your skinny jeans and have ice cream. Thanks Gary, you are a genius.
never having to say you're sorry for sending out 5.6 LBS of PEFC-certified forest paper to hundreds of thousands of people.  Afterall, it's only twice per year. And as consumers, we are responsible for stopping it. I mean, requested to ask to be removed from the list of...irresponsible people who get this in the mail.  
Gary's picture had to be cropped this year.
 But only because he had a lot to say, this political season, on the topics of fearlessness
and hopelessness. But to the latter topic, he's optimistic...

But seriously Gary, for my effort to be responsible in both my trip to the curb and time on my computer, couldn't you at least  put on a different shirt and jacket while you mug for the camera? But, if you do buy a new outfit for next years photo, please recycle responsibly and cover a stool with that leather jacket.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tuesday Tip

Share some sweet basil with friends. For many, our summer gardens especially those in containers, are fading fast.
Lemon-Basil Butter Cookies-bet you can't eat just one!

Why not give the gift of herbs in the form of a cookie? This is a super easy receipe and has just 6 ingredients, that you likely already have on hand. Place a bunch in a pretty bag and drop them off to friends and neighbors. Don't worry, this receipe yields dozens, so you'll have plenty of leftovers to put in your freezer!
Wish I could send a bag of these to all my blog friends and readers!

Lemon-Basil Butter Cookies
Southern Living May 2001

1 cup fresh lemon-basil leaves*
1 3/4 cups sugar, divided
1 pound of butter
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 large egg
6 cups all-purpose flour

Process basil and 1/4 cup sugar in a food processor (I use my mini-chop) until blended.
Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add remaining 1 1/2 cups sugar, beating well. Add lemon juice and egg, beating until blended.
Shape dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on lightly greased baking sheets. Flatten with bottom of a glass dipped in sugar.
Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.
Yield 6 1/2 dozen
*Plain fresh basil leaves may be substituted for lemon-basil leaves (I use regular)


Monday, September 3, 2012

Dear Summer,

Goodbye. Yes, it may be your unofficial end, but I think it's reason enough for celebration. You behaved badly this year. You were too hot, too dry, too buggy, too muggy -just too long. I hope the garden gate hits you hard on the way out. Please go away, as fast as you can. I'm waiting for autumn, with open arms.
So pretty, I love a charming garden gate!

An amazing backyard fountain from a recent house tour!

I can't remember a single summer in my life that I was more ready to see end. Maybe it was the temperatures, maybe it was the lack of time spent having fun, maybe it was work, the lack of blogging? Or maybe, it was the house hunting? We started the search in early spring, just dipped a toe in. We jumped in with both feet this summer. Do you know how hard it is to find a great house, in a city that you love, that has everything on your wish list and will likely be the last house you ever buy? Crazy hard...and exhausting!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Missing London

It's hard to believe the Olympics ended a week ago tonight. There were thrilling highs and crushing lows. Great stories of enduring hardships and sacrifice.  It did not matter that I watched them from my sofa. Somehow, I felt that these Olympics games were the best that I could recall?  
Sofa by Wesley-Barrell. Designer pup extra. In pounds, please.

Perhaps, I am am biased having been to London, that we have several British friends, or that ancestors on both our mother's sides were British. Perhaps, it was that the Queen's humor in the opening ceremony, rarely on public display, made us all laugh and relax and send the message that we were indeed in for a jolly good time. Who will ever forget the moment the future King of England gave his bride a spontaneous and enthusiastic squeeze as a spectator in the stands? Perhaps, it was the agreeable weather, which was nothing short of miraculous by anyone's measure. Or maybe, it's just simply a matter of fact, that our friends across the pond hosted a great Olympics!
I snapped this in early summer while visiting the Farrow & Ball showroom at the DC Design Center.
 I've said it a lot (to myself) this summer as I continue work on my most challenging project. Ever.
 It's been a marathon...of Olympic proportions!

And, even though the opening and closing ceremonies were fragmented, I enjoyed them. Truthfully, they could have been from any number of bizarre and fragmented dreams that rob me of sleep! And, if you are of a certain age, the music in the closing ceremony was a wonderful trip down memory lane and it made you feel youthful and capable of Olympic greatness- if only in your dreams.

To help cope with missing London and the Olympics, I will resume reading these two books:

 Both are based in England and that's where any similarity ends. One is written by Lady Fiona Carnarvon, wife of the current Earl of Carnarvon and current countess of Highclere castle. It covers the Edwardian period, the First World War and the extraordinary life of Lady Almina. It is neither a biography, nor a work of fiction, which is what what makes it so fascinating. If you are addicted to the mini-series Downton Abbey, this is a must read! The series inspiration,  including many of the characters names is clear. I think knowing the real story will only add to the enjoyment of the series when the new season resumes.

The other book is a debut novel from a young author named Daniel O'Malley. It's about a group of people with supernatural powers who work for her Majesty's Secret Service. Sounds hokey right? I did not expect to actually like this book, but when another author recommended it-I thought why not give it a try?

So with England as the perfect backdrop, historic references, drama, suspense, supernatural power and a good deal of humor, it's a bit like the Olympics I would say!