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Friday, April 23, 2010

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

By this time tomorrow, I will be preparing to sit down to a meal with by far the best dinner companion I could ever hope for.  So, who is this man and what does he have to do with design?  Well, only that he is married to a designer.  Me.  This is my husband and he has been in Afghanistan for nearly 2 years.  He has been working for our country, our family, your family, and the mostly kind, often misunderstood people of Afghanistan.  He works there as a Department of Defense civilian.

The above picture is old, but it is one of my favorites as it reminds me of a joyful day.  Below is a very recent photo and the attire is markedly different and what he has often worn these past 2 years.  When he returns home, gone will be all the special accoutrements that are a necessary fact of life in this dangerous environment.  And, I am so very grateful that he is coming home.  We are among the lucky.  And, despite the sacrifice to our family and sometimes painful daily reminders of his absence, I have not for one minute lost sight of how fortunate we are of his return.

My husband said goodbye to a colleague a year ago this month driving back into Kabul on an April day.  He said goodbye to several friends on a fateful winter's day.  We have all heard of the thousands of military casualties on the news.  They were  men and women I never knew.  But, I think about all of these people and their families.  I think about how their families will never welcome home their special someone to dinner again.

So, I tell you this as a way to announce I am taking a little blogging break.  I am taking the next week off from everything.  I want to thank all of you dear sweet thoughtful bloggers who have taken the time to leave me a really lovely comment or... made me laugh!  It's been a wonderful distraction on many days and helped more than any of you could ever guess in making these last few months more tolerable.  I have certainly enjoyed the many email exchanges and feel so lucky to have formed new friendships.

Now, it is finally time for all of us to reconnect.  We can not get back the 616 days missed, 8 birthday celebrations, 2 Thanksgivings, 2 Easters, first day of high school, first place at a track meet, too many football and field hockey games to count.  Or all the other events and special moments missed.  But, we can go forward and celebrate a boy turning into a man, Daddy's little girl blossom into a young lady, and this man's best friend tail wagging like crazy.  And, a really happy wife who is about to get the gift of the first restful night's sleep in quite awhile!   


All photos are provided by me personally and may not be copied or reprodced.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Birthday Wishes For My Favorite Child

I have three children and all have birthdays within weeks of eachother.  Two of them had the exact same due date as projected by the doctor and the youngest one, who is adopted, was actually born on the day the other two should have been!  The oldest and largest one came early, the middle and petite one came late, the youngest adopted one was....well on time!  Perhaps that is why she is the favorite.  No drama, just a few quick decisions and into the back of the car the tiny little thing went.

Yes, I am one of those mothers who plays favorites and I do not attempt to hide it from the other two.  I even say things like "who's mommy's favorite?"  The little one always comes gleefully running because she knows it's her.  And, now the other two are so used to it I no longer have to provide the answer to my own question.  They will do it for me!  Occasionally, there is still eye rolling, but thankfully it shows up less and less as acceptance gives way.

Here they are posing for our 2008 Christmas card:

Yes, the two non-favorites have shoes, but trying to get three together...

And now for a  picture of the favorite:

Perfectly darling....right?  She also likes my blog...a lot!  I know this because she is all to happy to sit with me for every post.  And, when I get stuck on all the techno stuff, never has she said "Oh, not the blog again..." in a tortured voice.  She is also the favorite because she never asks what's for dinner(especially after lunch), does not try to debate what is an appropriate outfit to wear, and is always happy to hang out with me. The other two know they could be favorites too, if they would just stop the mentioned behaviors.

Here is another reason:

So, for her 4th birthday my wish is for her to have a really good bed.  And the choices for my sweet girl don't seem all that great, especially when it has to be part of the decor!  I have considered covering a plain bed in Sunbrella fabric that is pretty....

Bunny Williams favors these:

My daughter likes this:

This looks a bit like an expensive jail for celebrity favorites:

This stylish bed is actually meant for outside:

Any suggestions for an attractive and washable option for my favorite?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Leaded fuel.  Always.  Coffee is my friend.  My favoite friend.  Ok.  Possibly my bff! My daughter actually said that to me once and I scoffed at the remark, but then had to laugh at the element of truth.  Tea is a welcome visitor too.

I am quite sure caffeine is very important to many of you.  I have a caffeine station in my kitchen.  No, not one of those fabulous built in types, although that would be so nice!  But, a far less grand arrangement out on the counter with a bunch of things I need  to cope...I my best everyday.

Generally, I don't care for appliances to be on display.  I have selfishly decided the coffeemaker is a worthy exception.  Mine is not even all that attractive.  But, I like this type because it keeps the coffee hot and fresh all day and the outside of the pot stays cool. Which means I can and do cart the carafe to my office!  I also have a French press, but I use it sporadically.  When I feel the luxury of leisure.  Lately, we haven't visited much.  A forgotten friend.

I keep everything contained on a tray that gets used.  Sometimes, I take all the items (except the bff) and put them just below in the cabinet I designed to store them.  And other times, it's all out like you see here:

So if I am leaving it out, it has to look nice right?  I put the filters and spoons in a large mug that is a bit like a latte bowl.  I don't use sweetner in my coffee, so no need for a sugar bowl or tiny packets of powder unless I have other friends over.  Cream or milk only for me.  The thin little metal gizmo can whip up dollups of frothy milk in less than a minute!  I  often drink tea later in the day.  I do like my tea a bit sweet and use the lemon & honey straws in the tall glass.  Loose tea is in the small square canister and plenty of tea bags in the wood box.

I do like to change containers on occasion.  I am always interested in finding pretty and practical ways to coral all the necessities of my crutch, addiction, vice...daily fuel.  And, if I'm on the run, I'll swing by the drive through of the really overpriced barista.  Just don't tell my bff!

Cleaning tip:  The best way I have found to clean the inside of a thermal coffee pot is to put about 2 tablespoons of dishwasher powder (Cascade) and fill it up with very hot water.  Let it sit for several hours, then rinse until the water is clear.  Repeat for stubborn stains and use a soft foam cleaning wand if necessary.  The inside will look like new!

All images courtesy google and A&A

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Darryl Carter: A New Venture!

Darryl Carter is a lawyer-turned designer-turned author-turned furniture designer-turned model....wait back up on that last one right???  See for yourself...



I discovered this ad inside the latest issue of House Beautiful.  I found it rather amusing.  It tells me this man does not take himself too serious to get down on the floor and strike a pose on behalf of Benjamin Moore Paints.  His favorite paint company.  Which if like me, you admire and follow his work, probably already know this!

While I am certain Mr. DC from Washington, D.C. has been posted about many times in the blogsphere, this ad gave me a jumping off point to share some of my favorites images of his work, both current and from years past.

Views of the the kitchen breakfast area...



I love the fact that many elements remain unchanged and yet the space clearly has a new look. It's a bit more elegant.  Notice all the changes still incorporate hits of black.  In the older version, it was subtle. The ribbon detail of the roman shades, the black chandelier shades, the black iron etagere and the black framed botanicals on the other end of the room.  Now there is a statement piece.  A beautiful black bookcase, designed by Mr. Carter that holds his collection of white dishes.  Despite its size, color and fretwork, it does not overwhelm the space.  The only other notable hit of black is in the change of chair fabric.  This space still reads as calm and serene, but is now more sophisticated.

I doubt I would have never thought to put an etagere on top of a kitchen island!  It appears to be the same one as previously located in the breakfast area, minus the ball finials.  It looks quite good here and lends a cozy feeling to the voluminous ceilings.

The bathroom...



The bathroom is another stunning example of taking an already beautiful space and somehow making it even better by introducing a few elegant additions.  Initially, the bathroom was a crisp white space with it's ebony stained barrister bookcases, a nod to Carter's past.  The pair of tubs are such a unique feature...can you imagine how decadent two tubs must be!  And, now with the introduction of an 18th-century secretary, that previously called his living room home, makes you almost forget that you are in a bathroom!  The once white shutters, that Carter designed, are now black with simple linen roller shades.  A pair of architectural pieces salvaged from the Russian embassy now sit in front of the bathtubs.

This is a Capitol Hill loft from a 2004 tear sheet.  One of the first I saved of Carter's work:

I love the uncomplicated feeling of Carter's work.  But, it is his ablility to bring so many interesting elements together and make it appealing and believable for real life that truly makes me admire his amazing talent for redefining traditional interiors.  Eveyone in design has their fantasies, stepping foot inside his home makes my top 10 list!!!

"Now" images all courtesy of Elle Decor November 2009.  Photography by Simon Upton.  "Then" images courtesy of Southern Living-year unknown, The Washington Post Magazine April 2004 and The Washington Post At Home Fall 2008.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Guest relations.  Week to week I am never sure what will pop into my head to share with you all.  Most often it is something that comes about in a quick and unexpected way.  On more than one occassion I have had that sinking feeling Tuesday will be disappointing because either I am slammed with life, work or both.  Lately, it's been both.  Had it not been for the email I received from a reader, this Tuesday would have been a blank page. 

This reader wanted to know what I would recommend for guest soaps and did I keep favorites always on hand?  I suggest that you only supply your guests with soaps that you would enjoy using yourself.  I offer an assortment.  I also choose the soaps based on whether my guests are male or female and what I think they will like.  I almost always have some on hand, because....well,  I love soap!  But, if it's more than a few days stay, I probably need to shop.  And, yes, multiple soaps for multiple people and uses!!!

When people stay with me, I want them to feel it was pleasurable in the way that good hotels always make you feel.  But, of course everything in the contex of real living.  In other words, plenty of beautiful soaps and stacks of fluffy white towels, just not delivered everyday!

So here is what I have on hand now.  All in dishes and containers I already own.  I would also use any of these in my powder room.  Which would you choose?

One last thing, I have been so late in thanking the very kind  Amy of Pemberley Style  who gave me a blogger award.

She has a wonderful online shop Pemberley Collections that among many other things sells the most delightful soap dishes!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Confession: I Slept With Gerard Butler

It's the truth.  I make no excuses.  No, it wasn't planned.  Yes, my husband is away.  Of course I regret it.  But, if you must know, only because of the dull ache and indent on my forearm from the sharp edge of his thin white spine and the crazy dreams that followed of fragmented images and misguided design.

I tried to resist him, but he was here for 2 whole days.  I mostly ignored him.  Well yes, there were long admiring glances and an occasional smile as I passed him lingering in the living room.  But, I told myself I was far to busy to invest any real time for the thrill of a few photos.  That all ended last night.  I caved.  I asended the stairs embracing him in my arms.  I turned the lights down low, and began to read.  He talked only of his loft.  I could tell he desperately wanted my approval.  I tried to say flattering things.  Such as how I admired his good sense in selecting the right designer to execute his style.  But, I quickly ran out of words and drifted off to sleep.

When I awoke, there he was grinning, looking a bit rumpled.  Him sitting in this chair could have been the beginning of a beautiful relationship, but it was not meant to be.  I had to relay my true feelings and told him that I thought these spaces are far too theatrical for the context of a New York loft.  He said that was the point.  Well, then you have disappointed my perception of what I thought your home would look like.  So, darling, unless you plan to dazzle me with something classic and sophisticated befitting of your Hollywood's over.  Reduced to nothing more than a cheap one night stand.  And, oh Gerry,  I am sorry if you thought I could keep this little secret between us.  Oops!  I'm a blogger...we share everything!!!

House Tour:

Whatever Gerry!

images courtesy of Architectural Digest

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Suds up!  I count soap among my many obsessions.  There are 3 simple criteria to make me buy a bar: smell,size and color.  When I am nearing completion of a bathroom project, one of my very favorite things to consider are the soaps and containers.  I look for items that will not only suit the space, but the clients will really enjoy.  But, even at home I like it to feel decorative.

If you are a regular reader of Tuesday Tips you have likely taken notice that I have issues with packaging.  I often shop the big box stores, the very same ones many of you do your shopping.  However, when I get home I can't just put my purchases away.  I require them to strip!  As in rid themselves of the hideous attire your favorite brand is sporting!  I toss everything possible into the recycle bin and trash the rest.  I do this for two simple reasons, beauty and convenience.  I talked about yesterday.  LBE!  And, if I don't have time, I get my kids to do it.  They never complain...they know there are far worse chores I could assign!

Here is a look into the the top drawer of the vanity in the bathroom my kids share:

Option #1

Option#2 much better.  Beautiful and convenient.  The pretty green soap on top smells divine and is mine!  No sharing...just wanted a super pretty picture.  And, given the crazy amount of bars teenagers go through, Dove is quite fine for them!!!  The wood bowl is perfect for the shallow drawer.  Or, if you love a long soak, try a pile of soaps in your favorite basket next to the tub as shown in the top photo. Now the words "beauty bar" make sense wouldn't you agree?

all images courtesy of A&A

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Live Beautifully Everyday!

Three words I am committed to incorporating in every aspect of my life.  The core of my design philosophy.  Words that fit into any budget or style.  Is this a new concept?  Hardly.  A forgotten one?  Definately.  I am continually amazed at the prospect that many people still subscribe to the notion that there are certain things that must be saved for guests and special occasions.

I was reminded of this again today, when chatting with a friend.  She mentioned that she had company for Easter dinner.  My friend said that her guests loved her china and she was so happy she unpacked it for Easter. And, that the table looked really beautiful.  She seemed almost surprised.  The idea that people deprive themselves of enjoying their own things is perplexing.  Do they not feel worthy of such little pleasures?

Well I am here to say, we are all worthy of using beautiful things and that each day that we wake up and take a breath is a SPECIAL occasion!!!  I encouraged her not to pack them up, but instead display them or relocate them somewhere more accessible.  I suggested she even let go of other items to make room for these dishes she clearly enjoys.  She said this had never crossed her mind!  Sound familiar?  For those of you nodding....I feel very confident your great-grandma would never say "Okay, the minute you hear death is imminent or that Armageddon is not just a movie, you can use the heirloom (fill in the blank) I passed down to you."

Still not convinced?  Consider this.  By using the items you deem special, not only can it improve the quality of everyday living and at the very least bring a smile to your face, but you will always be confident when sharing them with others.  Because: 1.) it didn't cause anyone to break out in hives. 2.) smell bad.  3.) fall apart.

Make a point to use those items you thought were special enough to buy, save and store away in the first place!  I'm talking about linens, dishes, chocolates and everything in between!!!  Otherwise, how do you know what you want to share or gift and what you really want to keep for yourself and use at whim?  Buy a duplicate if it turns out to be something you really love to use, but also want to share.  This way no one was deprived of enjoyment.  Except in the case of the unwanted house guest.  Find the best local hotel possible or simply skip worrying about number one!!!

Repeat often L-B-E!!!

images courtesy of Wedgwood, Diptyque, Williams-Sonoma Home, Lily O'Brien, Hermes