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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Six, Six & Sixty: Getting Personal

This past April, Marija the author of  Holding Court, one of my very favorite blogs, awarded me The Beautiful Blogger  award.   While I was flattered and most appreciative, I really wasn't keen on the idea of sharing "personal stuff" with blogworld.  You see that has been one of the biggest surprises of blogging to me...most of you do this willingly...and wonderfully.  Many of you share nothing, including your identities! And some of you, I think may be on the fence... like me?

Me at age 6

When I started blogging, I swore I would never post a single photo of myself or family....well I've loosened up a bit, but still haven't quite decided how I will navigate this part of blogging. Guess I will likely just make it up as I go.

So, I e-mailed Marija and told her my issues and she graciously responded saying that she understood and maybe I would want to consider saving it to do down the road when things may be too busy to post.  Good advice. may have guessed I was away on vacation, returned home to loads of laundry, mail and oh,  a twisted knee (a story for another time) so I thought while I am sitting here with my leg propped up, why not?   I understand for this award, the recipient is suppose to share 7 things about themselves ( I modified it to 6), show the 6th picture they ever posted and this just so happens to be my 60th post!

1.) Before I was a designer I had a long career as the director of a very large and well known brokerage firm. It was a  testosterone driven atmosphere that only 4 women, including myself, occupied such positions with this firm's offices throughout the country.....which I certainly hope has changed by now! The uber competitive and serious environment of investment & financial services with "the suits" was worlds apart from my current life in design and blogging. For starters, this !!! or this :) would have been greatly :( upon.  And , this ;) would have likely got me fired! I miss the big paycheck, the smell of men's cologne and little else from my former career.

My 6th picture is from a bathroom renovation project you can read about  HERE.

2.) I was born in Florida. The sun, surf, sand and the need for several great pairs of flip-flops are in my blood!  My father was a colonel in the Air Force so we moved a lot growing up.  I have lived everywhere from Oklahoma to New York. Our family settled in Virginia when my father retired and started his own company.   As a result of growing up in such a variety of environments I learned to adapt quickly to change, enjoy many types of people and adjust to different accents!  I think there are wonderful people everywhere.  I also think there are are plenty of rude people everywhere!

Scene from our recent vacation

3.) I am a bit of a germaphobe and I think the creation of hand santitizer & wipes are some of the greatest contributions to society ever !!! I loathe clutter and I am a recovering perfectionist.  But, I have always used my "good" things regularly. If this blog can accomplish one thing, I would like readers to really think about this and use their nice things and not save them for someone, some occasion....someday. Please make it a priority to Live Beautifully Everyday! 

Flowers....beautiful everyday!

4.) I love to travel, but can be super picky about the accommodations!  I have been to Europe and the Carribean several times and my list of other places I'd love to visit just keeps getting longer!  My design aesthestic is greatly influenced by European sensibilities and Southern traditions. My tastes lean towards tradtional, but I love a modern twist here and there.

My favorite house both inside and out. Charleston, SC

5.) Giving back is important to me. There are so many opportunities that don't require writing large checks.   For example, while my husband was in Afghanistan he discovered an orphanage for children of all ages who's parents had been killed as a result of the war.  After speaking to the director, it was determined what they really needed were school supplies.  A quick flyer made up by my son was sent out to friends and neighbors. Within days bags of donations came pouring in.  We packed & shipped hundreds of pounds of supplies in a 2 year time span.  It was so easy, so rewarding and something I think will stay with my children forever.

Some of the many school supplies donated

6.) We have owned our home since 1993 and have lived in it for all but 4 years, when we rented it out.  Due to it's age and the neglect it suffered from the renters, we embarked on a whole house renovation (inside & out) 5 years ago and I am happy to say we are nearly done!!!

Our basement ( AKA teen/media pad) after completion, but before decorating! One of these days I'll show the afters!

Ok, if I stick to the original rules...

7.) My favorite kind of people have both good manners and a sense of humor.  Did I mention I wear a tiara when I blog?  

All photos courtesy of A&A

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Living With What You Love

Struggling.  I have been struggling to write a post about two of my favorite, and I think very important design topics: family photos and collections. Trying to gather the right words and images, including many from my own home, together in a way that clearly illustrates my thoughts and ideas on these subjects has proven to be a far greater challenge than I had anticipated!  Ah yes, so much easier to do it verbally!  So, I put it aside for later.

Later came in an unexpected way. Via my inbox! A few weeks ago I received the most casual email that said in part "I have been enjoying your blog and I think my newest book may be of interest to you."  I receive a lot of emails these days. Many are from new bloggy friends or readers with questions about a certain item or post.  Some I really can't even discern what they are about.  And, then there are some requesting endorsements, mentions, givaways, reviews and more recently for sponsorship possibilities. I read them all.  I reply only to those I am genuinely interested in myself, sharing with my readers and that fit the style of this blog!

I've tried to complete posts on these topics on more than one occasion. Collections & family photos come up inevitably with every client, friend or family member I have ever worked with. It can be a very sensitive subject. It stirs the emotions and quite often are the very components that can make or break a room. Done tastefully, displaying family photos and collections are what gives our spaces warmth, believability and soul.  Most people do not have the ability to self edit, especially when it comes to possessions that are personal. Many are challenged by figuring out the best and most inspiring ways to display their collections. I have successfully helped many, but I am always looking for new and exciting ways to accomplish this important aspect of design.

Enter Monica Rich Kosann. Photographer, designer and author of 3 books. Her latest book is called. Living With What You Love. We exchanged a few emails, she sent me her book and I read it...cover to cover and I simply loved it!  We also chatted on the phone. This talented woman was so warm and engaging. The conversation flowed easily and it was hard to believe we were complete strangers. But, after reading every page of her book, I should not have been surprised by her warmth and passion.

                                                                      Currently the objects of my desire!

Whether or not you are currently working with a design professional, this book has so many ideas to get you started in creating your own tasteful and original displays of beloved family photos and collections. Monica will walk you through ways to incorporate photos and collections into your own home and decor without it becoming a distraction, but instead an enhancement to your style as well as the style of your home. Her book is an abundance of information on everything from framing to curating a collection on a tray. The interiors featured in her book are as varied as the collections themselves. Her approach is fresh and unique. The forward is by Alexa Hampton. This is a book for homeowners and designers alike. A really great resource for your design library!

Here's a tiny sampling of the book:

In addition, Monica designs exquisite jewelry including charm bracelets and lockets as well as items for the home based on vintage pieces. Just last week I saw an ad in Elle Decor for one of her lockets. Katie Holmes has worn her signature locket since the birth of daughter, Suri.  Madonna purchased several of her image cases for a dinner party. She had each case wrapped and placed on the dinner plates as a gift for her guests! I have my eye on a few pieces that I will be leaving not so subtle hints to my family for my birthday next month! And, just this month Monica was accepted to be a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America as reported by WWD!!!

In the coming weeks, I promise to still share some of my own images of how I display my family photos and collections including: antique keys & locks, French opera glasses and corkscrews. In the meantime, as the mercury soars and you find yourself retreating indoors for a reprieve, may I suggest heading to your favorite book seller to get started on Living With What You Love !

All images courtesy of Monica Rich Kosann.  Photographs by Steven Randazzo 

Monday, June 21, 2010

Hello Summer!

I always look forward to the slower pace of summer.  Especially this year!  The last few months have been a series of deadlines, celebrations and life taking a few unexpected twists and turns.

For me, summertime means mornings that are not dictated by alarm clocks, but instead by the sounds birds chirping, sprinklers turning on, and lawn mowers humming.  Hot afternoons with far less hectic schedules are an invitation to lounge in the backyard under the shade of trees reading a book.  Evenings give way to cooler air, dinner on the grill, sipping a favorite cocktail, the glow of lanterns and fireflies and perhaps a visit with friends or neighbors. 

And, then the best time of all....summer vacation! The beach is my absolute favorite destination. The sound of waves crashing, the smell of  salty sea air, sand between my toes and a breeze coming off the ocean is all that I ever need to truly relax!

Hello Summer...I've missed you!!!

All images coutesy of Google

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dad's & Grad's

                                CONGRATULATIONS TO MY GRAD!!!
                                HAPPY FATHER'S DAY TO HIS DAD!!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Doing double duty.....beautifully!  We moved back to Northern Virginia from Williamsburg in the summer of 2005 and if you have ever visited the area, you may have noticed the omission of the mall.  Yes, clearly one would seem out of place among all the many wonderful historic buildings.  If you just had to go (and sometimes I did) to a mall it was either to Norfolk, or my favorite in Richmond.  But most often, I happily shopped the local boutique's.  One particular shop in town that was a favorite for home decor also carried a few fashion accessories.  

 It was love at first sight when it came to these straw bags covered in sequins!!!  They quickly became known as the mermaid purses as labeled by my daughter.  They were perfect for lunch with the gals and dinner with the husband.  They hold a cellphone, small wallet, lipstick and pack of tissues perfectly.  They have been borrowed by friends for weddings, the opera and class reunions.  Almost all the sequins have come off the handles, but I don't mind, they are still beautiful and quite sturdy despite their delicate appearance!

What I do mind is not enjoying them regularly.  So when they are not accompanying me or one of my friends, they do this:

I have many vessels that I love to hold flowers, something you have likely gathered by now is a favorite topic.  But, in keeping with LBE why not use something beautiful that you hold something else beautiful that you love?  I simply place a tall plastic drinking cup filled with water inside the bag, add a few of my hydrangea stems and voila...I have two shimmering summer arrangements!  So take a look around and grab something beautiful that can do double duty!!!

All photos via A&A

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lutyens Bench

I have been completely smitten with the Lutyens bench for what seems like an eternity!  For anyone who may be unfamiliar, this particular style of bench is by Sir Edwin Lutyens (1869-1944).  He is the English architect who is probably most famous for planning the city of New Delhi.  Lutyens was noted for his versatility and range that included designing many great country estates. And, certainly considered by many to be the greatest English architect ever.

The bench chair, as it was known, was created by Lutyens in 1908. Please note: this date is not related to length of my desire!!!  This distinctive bench is the most recognized of all the English garden benches.

There is a size, price, material and color for every taste:

I finally settled on 2 small benches centered in between the windows for both sides of our front porch:

Happy Weekend!
Images courtesy of Patio Shoppers, Grandinroad, Restoration Hardware, Plow&Hearth

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Tuesday Tip

Beach reading!  Around this time of year I start combing the bookstores to see what I might like to pack in my beach bag. Besides the necessary sunglasses, hat, and suncreen I consider my reading material just as important.  My criteria: light, fun, and if possible related to my vacation area.  Here's a hint...this Virginia gal considers herself a southerner.  I like to vacation down south and my husband and I plan to retire in one of our favorite southern cities!  So it is understandable that I have great affection for southern authors.  I have many favorites and among them is Mary Kay Andrews.

I have no idea how I first came across her book Savannah Blue's several years ago, but after reading it, I was hooked.  I have since read many of her books.  She is a great story teller and writes in such a way that the characters seem so real that when you come to the last page, you feel as if a close friend has moved away.  Her books are immensely entertaining and the best in details about interior decorating, design, junking and antiques! Yes, in other words any designer or design enthusiast dream beach read!!!

Not only is the official start of summer is just around the corner, so is the release of her latest book The Fixer Upper.  And, it just so happens Mary Kay Andrews bought her own beach house fixer upper in 2008 and it was featured in this month's issue of Better Homes & Gardens!

 Here's a little tour: 

  So grab a book, get comfortable and's summer!