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Friday, May 28, 2010

Happy Holiday Weekend!

A three day many possibilities!  Maybe you will be...

heading to the beach.....

taking a drive to catch the scenery.....

working in the garden.....

lounging by the pool.....

cruising around on your bike.....

strolling down your favorite path.....

As for me, I plan to spend it with family, host a cook-out with close friends and hopefully a whole lot of this.....

However you spend it.....I hope you enjoy every minute of your long weekend!!!

Images coursesy of Veranda, Southern Accents, Tradtional Home, BH&G 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Pretty in pink!  I really love peonies and just had to post them once more before the season is over.  I spoke a little about their history and tips for cutting and dealing with ants here.

I love a big bunch on the dining room table!

This past weekend I cut my second group to bloom, which are a common and beloved variety, Sarah Bernhardt. Below, in this first image the sun was bright and you can really see the vivid color and the other is just after a shower, the rain droplets still clinging to the leaves!

Another thing besides their beauty and fragrance that endears me to  peonies, is how easily they can be "arranged" in any type of vase or container.  Anyone can make a peony arrangement look good! This vase is one of my favorites...anyone recognize it or have it among their own collection?  I purchased it in 1996...from a favorite retailer...when they were mostly a mail order catalogue....just a few stores scattered across the US....but they were still called......Pottery Barn!

On the buffet under one of my favorite convex mirrors.

Every type of flower I have ever put in this vase looks beautiful.  Versatility is the key to saving time and money and this vase never disappoints. It also looks good no matter where I place it!  As far as the peony history, again I like the rustic element of the black iron cage surrounding the more refined element of  blown glass.  The arrangement started out in the dining room and then settled here in the living room:

Or right next to the best seat in the house!

Tiny tip:  just for fun, snip the tiny emerging buds and put them in miniture glass vases. So simple and sweet for maybe a silver tray on your bathroom vanity, on top of a favorite pile of books, or next to someone's breakfast dishes for a pretty start to the day!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Designed for a Fresh Start: Rooms Revealed!

This was without a doubt the most unusual project I have worked on to date.  It was certainly not hard, but it required plenty of hard work.  And in the end, a reward  from the most unlikely person.  I had just descended the staircase, tired, sore and sweaty with the last bag of trash in hand.  I heard a sweet little voice coming from a sweet little boy of no more than 4 years old, who was standing in the room I just left. I heard him say "it's so pretty" his mother and sister.  A big sigh and broad smile from me.

I gave a little preview here.  Now for the back story and how this project started...

Jennifer Sergent, of  DC by Design did a post called "Designer Bedrooms" and showed this picture sent from her friend, designer and blogger, Jill Sorenson, who is the founder of the charitable organization Knock Out Abuse.  This is a room from the shelter for abused women:

I sat on it for few days, but couldn't shake the image. I picked up the phone and called fellow designer and blogger Lauren Liess, who lives one town over from me. She saw Jennifer's post too.  Ok decision made.  I will sign up to work on a bedroom re-do. That eventually turned into one large bedroom and the foyer/living room space.

On a chilly day in March the volunteer designers met at the shelter office signed confidentiality agreements and were then driven to the location.  By now many of you have seen the "group" photo of us on the staircase. After touring the spaces, I joined forces with Lauren knowing that we could pool resources, share rides (the location is 45-60 minutes away on a good traffic day) and if you read her blog...she is energetic, has plenty of projects under her belt showcasing some very impressive DIY skills, and the fact that I am more than 20 years older was pretty darn smart of me...don't you think? The bonus, we both love bargain hunting/thrifting and knew this could be a lot of fun while helping people in the process.  We measured, photographed, then didn't set foot in the spaces again until painting day.

In the meantime, we hunted and gathered.  We had one super fun afternoon scouring the thrift store and found really great stuff for our 2 spaces (and a few treasures for our own homes).  Next, I spent a day at Lauren's house and while I held and fed her darling baby boy, she sewed all the pillows for our spaces!  And since she has two little ones, I did as much running around as possible.  We talked on the phone, emailed, and I downloaded and sent  photos from other words a variation of e-decorating!  And, in no time our plans came together for the 2 spaces.

The Bedroom:

What the client asked for: this came by way of the shelter's director, Cathy.  The bedroom space needed to sleep three and a sturdy bunk bed was necessary and hopefully a headboard for the twin bed.  Plenty of storage, nothing too fragile and the drapes, which were recently made, had to stay. 

What we proposed: It was more of a series of decisions, since no presentation would be required.  We knew the drapes had to stay, and possibly the dresser already in place, in case we were unsuccessful scoring a replacement. So, the cream and gold from both of these items had to be considered.  Lauren and I both love serene paletes and the color aqua. We scoured her remnant inventory and found a small piece of the aqua and white damask pattern that would be our starting point and later find a home on the twin bed.

The end result: A soothing retreat that would feel like a haven for a  mother and her young son and daughter. We focused the design around an adult female client since there is a very large playroom for children that was getting a fantastic update.

The details: All items from these 2 spaces were either already there, donated from our day of thrift store shopping (including a pair of near new Ikea chairs), donated from others, from my storage room or Lauren's abundant fabric stash!  We added a second small cream chest on the other side of the room in the place of the original dresser. A  fairly new TV with it's own DVD player (donated from a client of mine) was put on top for better viewing and 3 drawers below for more storage. We both forgot to take a picture of this!  Purchased new: 4 lamp shades, 2 black decorative pillows, 3 sets of sheets, 3 bed pillows and 3 cotton blankets. All from Target.  And, the 2 black curtains rods from Joanne's Fabric & Crafts. Much of the paint was also from our own supplies with 3 new gallons purchased.  Talk about on a budget!





The Entry/Living Room:

What the client asked for: a more inviting space with extra seating.

What we decided: approach it like a modern day parlor! Start with the drapes with pink grograin ribbon detail I already had (buying new drapes would take up far too much of the budget from our personal funds) and work from there.  Lauren had the brown fabric with the pink, black and green accents and everything else evolved from that as we added in color and artwork.

The end result: a cheerful conversational space where adult women could gather and connect and hopefully talk about promising futures for themselves and their children!!!



Behind the scenes: The "before" pictures of our bedroom were not entirely accurate because the room had just been cleaned up to get ready for it's new occupants. On the morning of load in day, I arrived early and got quite a surprise! What I found was a room very close to the image I borrowed from Jennifer, plus a whole lot of toys and books. Stuff everywhere, covering every surface that had to be bagged and cleared for Tom the handyman to even put the bunk bed together and for us to get the room done!

The French style gold & cream dresser and nightstand were identical to the pieces I had growing up in the bedroom I shared with my sister!

For the living room, we  had picked out a wonderful old gold mirror at the thrift store that was suppose to go in between the windows. But it never arrived at the shelter.  So we pulled this medieval couple from our art pile. I think they look quite good for last minute!

The pink hydrangeas from my house were mistaken for fakes more than once and were toppled over...water and all!  Regardless of budget, fake flowers or plants will likely never make it into either of our designs!

The beautiful dresser with lion's head pulls in the living room was found on our thrifting day and slated for the bedroom...then went missing.  It was literally delivered as we were packing up to leave! Lauren and I took one look at each other and knew we could not re-do things and re-take pictures in the bedroom since the occupants had arrived home and the sun was going down.  So we both dropped our stuff, moved the dresser along the stairs.  I gathered all the containers I could get my hands on, cut some very thorny roses just outside the door and Lauren....grabbed handfulls of the green "plant" with the roots still attached!!!  Flexibility is a necessary designer trait!



I hope you enjoyed this post and are inspired to take on a challenge in your area.  If you are located in the DC metropolitan area would like to help out Knock Out Abuse please contact Ellen at 202-725-5604 or There are still many opportunies and work that needs to done in other local shelters.

I want to thank my partner in design on this project Lauren, for a fun collaboration! Jennifer Sergent who can make up the perfect bunk in bounce a quarter off it and was there at every turn helping us on load in day, including some last minute sewing!!! Cathy for helping put together that old iron bed,  for keeping things in sight during all of the chaos and caring about these women everyday!  Danielle, for lending a hand many times.  Ellen, who never complained when I sent her on 2 "tours" of Home Depot looking for items not only had she never heard of...but it seems neither had the kids working there! And of course, the ceiling medallion you so graciously paid for...and I don't even have a picture to show! All of the voluteers who painted, assembled, hauled furniture and helped with electrical issues.  And special thanks to you Jill, for caring enough about this cause to make us care too.


To see more pictures of amazing transformations, please visit these blogs:
DC by Design
Design Dossier
Dream Design Live
Hardwood Artisians
Live Like You
PureStyle Home


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Aqua, My Love!

Perhaps you have noticed I love the color aqua.  Maybe my header tipped you off, maybe because I have mentioned it and shown a glimpse here and there of it in my house or work.  Recently, I have used it in two very different projects.  I think it reads as a neutral.  Seriously. Try to think of a single color that does not look good paired with aqua?  I mean without letting your possible dislike of this color or a possible paired color influence you. For example: yellow.  In my adulthood, I haven't particulary cared for yellow.  But, pair it with pale aqua or grey and suddenly I have a whole new appreciation...and love!

 Image courtesy of Lene via The Essence Of The Good Life

The use of this color has deep historical roots that goes back centuries.  The Victorian's loved it and proudly used it in their formal front parlor's.  The Swedes love the lighter shades, especially combined with whites, creams and grays. It gained popularity again in the 40's.  Modern design often incorporates bright, sometimes electric pops.  I especially love aqua for it's versatility.  It looks good used in interiors from coastal to classical.

Martha Stewart from 1998

Two of  my favorite designers, Suzanne Kasler and VicenteWolf, use it in the most beautiful ways:







 Erin of  House of Turquoise  had the brilliant idea to create a blog specifically to talk about her love of this color and all of it's close cousins.  I visit her blog often to share my love and get my fix!

unknown-I've had this image forever

Decor-Spring 2010

Decor-Spring 2010

Decor-Spring 2010

 And, yesterday while trying to catch up on some of my favorite reads I came across something great at Jenny's who writes MFAMB.  She is currently contemplating painting these dining chairs black.  I was distraught....freaking out....ok, if you read the comments...begging her to leave them pale aqua. I like the fact, they are neither black or white....but unique and cool like Jenny (yes, dear readers, if begging doesn't work...a little flattery is not beneath me as long as it is rooted in truth). She selected a fabulous suzani fabric for their seats and just had them recovered.

Get ready to swoon:

So, with permission to use these photos and have a little fun, Jenny has agreed graciously, to let readers beg, convince...oops!...I mean weigh in with their most honest opinion on the fate of the chairs' color. And, if you have an idea besides pale aqua or black, please let us know....just in of us is wrong!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Designer Challenge!

A call goes out looking for help to re-design some of the most depressing spaces you have ever seen.  But, like any good designer, you like a challenge. The details unfold....

Client: females with children in crisis.
Scope of Project: 1 very large house.
Spaces you will work on:1 bedroom, 1 entry/living room.
Days on site to complete: 3
Budget: 0

How to proceed: beg, borrow and bargin hunt!!! Oh, and join forces with other local talented, fun, generous, fabulous designers and...bloggers, wonderful handymen, as well as an army of volunteer painters!

Stay tuned....I promise to share some truly remarkable before and afters as well as plenty of details from all the amazing people who had a part in creating beautiful spaces for women who have suffered from domestic violence.  For now here is a little peek of some of the items used in the spaces I helped to transform!

Inside of my car on load in day:

Bargin hunting finds from a generous thrift store:

All photos by A&A and may not be copied or reproduced without written permission.