Sunday, June 27, 2010

Tile!! Tile!! Tile!!!

Fabulous tiles!! Anyone have a project that I can use these on? Virginia Tile Showroom.

I always stop by the glass tiles for a look!! Virginia Tile Showroom.

More fabulous glass tiles!! Virginia Tile Showroom.

Accent pieces galore!! Virginia Tile Showroom

Option 1

Option 2

Always look at materials the way you will see them in the space, vertical surfaces up, horizontal down.

Yesterday I went to a Virginia Tile showroom to get some tile samples for clients that are doing a kitchen renovation to choose from. I am completely in my element in a showroom, I get excited about the possibilities when I walk in the door. It always puts a smile on my face and elevates my mood (I am a simple girl!!). But I know these environments can be completely overwhelming for the average home renovator that does not do this for a living. There are thousands of choices and many stores, so unless you are focused and have a plan, you can get lost in a sea of tile!! I am going to share some of my strategies for making it easier to sort through the maze of choice!!
  • It is important to have a plan and a vision!! If you are focused and know what you are looking for it is a lot easier to sort through the many choices. For example: the clients I am working for want a traditional feel to their kitchen. We selected the granites before tile shopping, 1 type for the countertops and 1 type for the new island. It was decided that the countertops backsplash would be a large stone tile, that will go to the underside of the cabinets and will compliment the cabinet color. It was also decided that there would be an accent tile above the range. I know the clients style preference, the cabinet style, the granite choices and I had a plan prior to tile shopping about what type I was selecting: a stone tile that compliments the cabinet color and accent tiles that will add some impact. Coming armed with this plan, I could eliminate a lot of the tile sections at the store and focus on the stone and a traditional accent piece.
  • Hire a designer to help you form a plan before you shop. Even if you don't have the budget to hire a designer for your whole project, most do consultations that are a set price and can help you come up with a plan. I have done many 2-3 hour consultations on bathrooms and kitchens just to come up with a plan for the type of tile and the placement; the client then shopped for the tile themselves, but was able to focus on the plan with little distraction. Budgeting a few hundred dollars for a designer's time at the beginning of a project can save you a lot of grief and legwork in the end.
  • Come armed with "givens" in your project. For example, have the granite and cabinet color chosen before tile shopping. It is also helpful to have decided the "style" of the kitchen, whether modern or traditional etc... This will help you eliminate tile styles at the store. (See, it all goes back to planning!!).
  • Don't have competing patterns!! I see, in a lot of kitchens, a highly colored and veined granite paired with a backsplash with a tile pattern. Most often, unless you are a designer and have refined the art of the subtle pattern mix, this comes off as too busy. This is where a decision needs to be made about what will have the most emphasis. Do you want the granite countertops to have a lot of coloration, if so choose a backsplash that is simple, such as a lightly colored stone. If you want a patterned backsplash, choose a countertop that has less color.
  • Remember too, that you will be living with the countertops and backsplash for a long time. My motto is to keep it simple, classic, neutral and to compliment the style of the cabinets. Trends come and go for a reason, save them for accessories that can be easily changed later. Remember the avocado shades in the 70's or the mauves of the 80's?
  • Always look at the surfaces as they will be placed in the room. For example, lay countertop choices flat and backsplash choices vertically. This allows you to view them reflecting the light as they will in your room. We all know light can change a lot!!

Most of all, have fun!! Walking into a showroom full of possibility is exhilerating!! Walking in with a plan is practical and refreshing!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Hey Mr D. J..... Keeping a Design Journal

All Journals shown available

I truly believe that part of knowing yourself is knowing what you like in your environment. Your home is your most personal space and it should reflect your personality and contain all the things that you love to be around. Your home should be all about you and your family. It should have the colors that you love, the textures that you love , the items that you love and the spaces should be arranged to fit your family's needs. One way of exploring and getting to know your design sense is through keeping a journal.
One of the things I love most about my job, as a designer, is discovering how others like to use their space, what their design style is and what type of things they like to have in their environment. At the beginning of a project, I spend time with the homeowner exploring these things. I ask lots of questions about how they use their spaces, I look at pictures they've saved of rooms they like, I look at items that are important to them, in general I try to get an idea of what their personal design sense is. My main objective as a designer is to make my client's space reflect them and work for them. Most people will say to me, "I don't have a style". This is not true!! Everyone does!! Everyone is drawn to certain items, colors and styles; the trick is, if you don't recognize these, is to look for patterns. Keeping a journal is perfect for this because you can look back at your entries, notes and pictures and say, "everyone of these pictures have celedon green in them, I should add some of that color to my room" or "I keep noting the crystal candle sticks in every entry, I must need a few". It's fun, easy and a useful tool for working with a designer.
The first question I ask, when starting a new project, is have you saved any pictures? If they haven't, I give them "homework". I give them a pile of magazines to mark what they like in. I tell them, mark anything you like, it can be an advertisment, a bedroom (even if we are doing a living room), a piece of jewlery, anything that catches your eye. I am not looking for a room to "copy" for them, I am looking for patterns. I will see the same colors showing up, the same textures, the same style of furniture. I can see what your eye is drawn too, you can do this for yourself!!
Tips for design journaling:
  • First get yourself an attractive journal. It can be small to keep in your purse, or large. Barnes and Noble has a great selection.
  • Look through magazines and paste in things that you are drawn too. It can be a place setting that you like, a bedroom, a lamp, etc.
  • Make notes of spaces that you like. Why do you like being in your friend's living room? Aside from the company, is it the lighting, the fabrics, the colors? Jot it down. Be a keen observer of spaces and write about what you like(refer to my earlier post about this).
  • Stuck in a rut with your home? Jot down why you are picking the same things. I hear a lot from clients "I am always picking the same things". Before you buy something that you know is the same and you will be bored with, jot down why. If it is the same shade of blue that you always buy and think your space is too blue, give yourself "homework" before you buy. Look through magazines and find pictures of rooms that mix blues with different colors. I did a post on blues and browns and found pictures that combined them in different ways. Find inspiration to shake up your rut!!
  • Having a dinner party? Keep notes on the way your favorite restaurant serves or look through magazines and paste in pictures of table settings and food serving ideas. Take this with you when shopping so your inspiration is at hand.
  • Get paint samples and make different color combos, paste them in your journal for future reference.
  • Have fun!!

As you can see, a design journal can be fun to keep and a great tool to take with you shopping or hand over to a designer that is helping you. Afterall, isn't it a great luxury to be surrounded with the things you love and be able to recognize the things you like when out? Your home should be your haven!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Monday Blues (and Browns!!)......

My Jonathan Adler journal that I keep client notes and sketches in.

A Restful Blue/Brown combination by Barbara Barry, Veranda Magazine

A mostly brown room with subtle hints of blue accessories, chair back, lamp shade, light fixture and flowers. House Beautiful Magazine

A grand blue and brown scheme. House Beautiful Magazine.

Blue upholstery and dark wood furniture. House Beautiful Magazine.

Bright blue against dark brown. House Beautiful Magazine

A dreamy blue bed against a calming brown wall. House Beautiful Magazine.

Combination of patterned and solid browns and blues. House Beautiful Magazine

Just a shot of blue in this mostly neutral room. House Beautiful Magazine

Mostly neutral with a subtle hint of blue in the ottoman and artwork. Vicente Wolf

Mostly blue with a hint of dark wood. William Sonoma Home

One of my favorite color combinations now is blue and brown. I think it has such a rich and elegant feel; combining both warmth and serenity. I have been drawn to it in photos and in personal item like the Jonathan Adler journal I carry with me to keep client notes and sketches in. I have always loved browns and deep carmel colors but would combine them with celedon greens, for my own personal spaces. I did venture out awhile ago and buy a deep blue chenille settee for my home that sits against a dark chocolate wall.
As you can see, from the photos above there are many ways that you can approach a blue and brown scheme. It is very versatile, it goes well in a traditional, modern, eclectic, contemporary or old world setting. You can have a mostly brown and neutral scheme with hints of blue or a mostly blue scheme with hints of brown. The blue or the brown can come from the color of the wood in the furnishings, the wall color, the accessories, the lighting, the upholstery...... The possibilities are endless!! If you want to try this combination in your home, you could start by adding removable items such as pillows, replacing a lampshade, adding a brown wood box and a blue glass bowl or vase to a table, adding blue hydrangeas... it can be simple. If you are ready to make a big leap paint the walls chocolate brown and add grey blue velvet somewhere in the room. Or, buy a fabulous journal in this color scheme or try brown pants with a light blue shirt!!
The browns and blues should have similar hues to make the combination pleasing. I would suggest playing with paint chips to find combinations that go well together, or find an item that has a nice mix of the colors and follow the color combination already figured out for you!! Have fun, try something new!!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Contrasting Piping...

A subtle contrast, rope piping in same color as background of fabric.

A colorful contrast.

I like to play with color and texture a lot in my work. One way of adding interest to a custom piece is to use a contrasting piping, it is a good way of adding an accent color or texture without committing to the color on the whole piece. It can either be done subtly by keeping the color the same and changing the texture, as in the ottoman photo above, or you can go for a more colorful contrast as in the sofas pictured above.
I let the style of the room dictate what kind of contrast I am going to do. The room that the ottoman was placed in was fairly neutral. We had a mix of patterns and textures, but they all had the same background colors so the look was elegant and neutral. I loved the little ottomans, we got 3 that are moved around between 2 rooms, I loved the fabric and thought the silk rope would be a nice compliment to the fabric and design of the ottoman. The silk rope gives the ottoman more dimension and defines its shape.
The sofas, pictured above, were used in a lower level walk out. We used a little more color down there than in the rest of the house. The tv built in wall and the kitchenette were painted a rusty red, so we brought some of that into the furniture by adding a raspberry velvet colored piping to the herringbone fabric of the sofa. We further accented that contrast with pillows in the same raspberry velvet and a silk plaid with a fringe detail. I like the contrast of the more masculine menswear herringbone of the sofa fabric with the feminine raspberry velvet piping detail. It adds a little femininity without being girly.
When selecting fabric for furniture or pillows, think about adding contrasting piping. It can be a fun way to add a little spark to the piece without committing to too much color.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Have a Lovely Monday!!!

The loveliest roses, cabbage rose.

A close up of a delicate peonie

Vintage tea cups carefully stacked. Photo from Little Doll Face's photo stream

Both Jo Malone's candles and the packaging are lovely.

Temple St. Clair jewelry is a vision of loveliness.

A lovely little tea party.

A lovely bridal lunch. Veranda magazine

A lovely white Shabby Chic bed

Nothing is as simple and lovely as a Tiffany box, except what is inside!!

Lovely little Petit Fours by Dragonfly Cakes

One of my favorite words is lovely. It's definition conjures up all sorts of beautiful images: Lovely; full of love; loving; Inspiring love or affection; having beauty that appeals to the emotions as well as to the eye; enjoyable, delightful. When I think of something lovely, I picture things that are very feminine. Thoughts of afternoon teas, simply adorned bridal tables, pale pink flowers, scented candles, soft colors, delicate jewelry and small decorated pastries float through my head!!
Pictured above are a few photos that display what my personal definition of lovely is. I think it is simple, delicate and feminine. The tissue paper softness of a peonie or cabbage rose petal, the fine thin delicately flowered porcelain of a tea cup, the well mannered tea party, the beautiful blue of a Tiffany box and simply ruffled crisp sheets are, well, lovely visions to have dancing in your head on a Monday morning.
I also think lovely is more than a look, it's an attitude. You can feel the warmth of a lovely, kind person before they even speak. It is a welcoming look, a kind smile, eyes full of joy that say "approach me, glad to meet you" that make a person lovely. Kindness, thoughtfullness, integrity are words I use to describe a lovely person.
Today's little luxury is to find something lovely in your day. Seeing lovely, being lovely and meeting lovely is one of the best luxuries of all!!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Friday Night Dinner........

Roasted Vegetable Couscous

Grilled Salmon and Chicken

Individual lemon cakes with lemon cream cheese frosting

I love to cook!! My husband was planning on going out to dinner last night, but my daughter and I decided to make dinner and dessert and surprise him when he came home. We had a busy week of running around and thought a night at home with a good meal would fit the bill. I wanted to make something quick and easy, so I pulled out my roasted vegetable couscous recipe and decided to do a quick marinade for chicken (I had a piece of salmon left that I threw in there too!).
The couscous has a lot of ingredients, but goes together quick. Most of the prep is with the vegetables, but they are left in the oven to roast, so you can enjoy a glass of wine while they cook!! It is a recipe that I developed years ago and everytime I make it, people ask me for the recipe, so I thought I'd share.
For the lemon cake I used The Barefoot Contessa's lemon yogurt pound cake recipe and Martha Stewart's cream cheese frosting recipe with lemon juice and lemon zest added. I made the cake in a sheet pan and cut out hearts with a cookie cutter. I used 2 hearts with frosting inbetween and then frosted the whole little cake, 2 slices of strawberry on top completed it. Simple and delicious!!

Simple Marinade:
  • 1 c ranch dressing
  • 1/2 c red wine vinegar
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ground black pepper
  • 1/2 c parmesan cheese

mix ingredients together and place in chicken (4 large breasts for the amounts above), cover and place in refridgerater. Bake or grill.

Roasted Vegetable Couscous:

Roasted Vegetables:

  • 1 large sweet potato, cubed
  • 1 red pepper, cubed
  • 1 orange pepper, cubed
  • 4 carrots peeled and sliced
  • Place vegetables on roasting sheet, cover with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 350 deg. until tender


  • 1 box couscous (about 4 c, I make the whole box because it keeps for a few days and is good served cold for lunches!!)
  • 2 c chicken broth (or follow box directions)
  • 1 can chick peas
  • 3 tbls curry powder
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • In a sauce pan, place chicken broth, chick peas, curry powder and garlic. Bring to a boil. Turn off stove and pour in couscous, let sit for about 5 mins until broth is absorbed and couscous is tender.

Dressing and garnish:

  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 redwine vinegar and oil dressing
  • flat leaf parsley
  • 1 avocado
  • chopped green onion

Putting it together:

  • combine roasted vegetables and couscous in bowl
  • add lemon juice and zest
  • add vinegar and oil
  • black pepper to taste
  • add green onion
  • toss
  • garnish with avocado and flat leaf parsley
  • have a glass of wine and enjoy!!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Have you impressed yourself today?

The Barefoot Contessa's beautiful new "barn". Image from House Beautiful

Breathtaking!!!! Image from House Beautiful

Image from House Beautiful

What a lovely way to dine!! Image from House Beautiful.

I love covered porches!! Image from House Beautiful

Bringing the indoors out!! Image from House Beautiful

A gorgeous welcome at the front door. Image from House Beautiful

I love Ina Garten's, also known as the Barefoot Contessa, aesthetic. Her homes, her food, her table settings and the gracious way she entertains all have the same warm feel. I love watching her show, to me it is about more than the food she is making, it's about creating a lifestyle. As you are watching her prepare food and set her table for her friends or family, you get the idea that this is how she would be whether the cameras were rolling or not. She seems genuine and lovely; This is reflected in her aesthetic, the way she chooses her personal items in her homes and her table settings, perfectly reflect her. You can see the common thread of this in all her homes. She has given us a glimpse into her lifestyle that is as lovely and warm as she appears to be.
The way she presents, on her tv show, is very pleasant. She is teaching how to prepare meals, but is doing it in a comforting and calm manner that makes you feel you can try to create what she has without being intimidated. Her homes, to me, have this same feel. They are very well detailed, have beautiful furnishings and rich materials, but the way they are pulled together becomes warm and welcoming, not overwhelming and intimidating. You get the feeling, by looking at the spaces, that you would feel comfortable sitting at her table. Her choices of furnishings and accessories are sophisticated, clean and "simple". There is not too much or too little, just the right amount to create a lovely atmosphere that says, "come join me", not "don't touch".
The Luxurious Life, is about creating a world for yourself that pleases you. It's about making personal choices that reflect how you feel and make you happy and not about making choices that you perceive will impress others; It's about impressing yourself!! It's about making choices about comfort and style that make you happy to come home at night and proud to have others see what you've created. I think that Ina Garten has done a fabulous job in reflecting herself in all her choices about food, decor and entertaining. Everything about her says, "Welcome, I'm glad you're here".
Ask yourself this question, have you impressed yourself today? How do your personal spaces reflect you? Are you happy with the home you've created? Do your spaces make you happy, not in terms of what you "think " will impress others, but truly reflect your style? A truly luxurious home is one that you've created just for you and your family; one that reflects what your interests are and is set up for the activities you find important, for how you live. Everyone can have a luxurious home, it just takes some self exploration to find it!!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Table for Six......

Now that summer has just about settled in, we have been spending more time enjoying the outdoors. I still have a lot of work to do; I usually fill my deck with many pots of flowers but that has to wait until all of the 2 families of groundhogs are relocated from under my deck!! We have had 9 taken away so far and there are still several under there!! So the flowers will have to wait, otherwise they become a continual buffet for them, and I am not setting my table for the groundhogs!!
So, in my wooded yard (amongst the wildlife!!), I decided to set a table for dinner. The table I set outdoors is a little more playful than what I would set indoors. Inside I favor an all white setting. I generally use all white dishes, clear crystal, white or yellow flowers with a pop of green. On occasion I add more color with flowers or the glassware, but I favor a clean crisp table, letting the food take center stage. Outdoors I thought I'd have a little fun. I used a white table cloth so the blue and yellow accents would pop. I centered the table with a pot of big sunflowers with a hint of purple stasis. I surrounded these with little bunches of yellow gerbera daisies and little seafoam green dishes with votives. My place settings were a set of blue and white flowered Spode salad plates sitting on top of a white plate rimmed with a basket weave. I used a deco inspired blue glass with a green stem for wine and paired that with a blue and white water goblet. Hanging above is a candelier.
I like the way the blue and white setting appears crisp against the wooded yard and the rustic stone of the house. Even though I used a lot of "mismatched" elements on the table, the similarity of color pulled it together. It could have appeared "hodgepodge" but by using different glasses and flowers with the same color make them uniform and pleasing to the eye.
Today's little luxury is to have some fun with an outdoor table setting. Do something different than you would do indoors, be a little playful. Use real dishes and linens, like you would indoors and accent with flowers and candles. I don't think there is anything more relaxing than dining outdoors, as long as the groundhogs don't join us!!!!