I’m laughing to myself because when isn’t it a time for a refresh in the life of a designer. I mean the whole point of what I do is refreshing, redoing or building from scratch. I get bored of my own spaces pretty quickly and have pretty much got things to a point where I can do a quick refresh on the fly without having to reinvent the wheel. That’s what people mean when they talk about Good Bones.
Where am I refreshing you ask? Well I’ve got things going on two fronts at the moment. My kitchen, as you may recall is about to get a whole lot more bling in the form of a Tecnogas Superiore Matte Black and Brass Range + Hood AND we are finally getting our new sideboard in our dining room which I have designed to fit the tiny space. It’s replacing the old Ikea Upper Cabinets which we had suspended on the wall to act as a bar and catch all for LIFE. I couldn’t make my house any wider when I renovated it so I couldn’t make the buffet any deeper than 12” which I know is bonkers but it’s enough. As I type this our amazing cabinetmaker texted me to say “Let’s install it this Friday!” GLORY BE!!!!
The design is a little more contemporary than I’m perhaps known for but I always love that edge. We put traditional bones in our Victorian and juxtaposing it with more contemporary lighting and occasional pieces of furniture were the essential Mix I was looking for. Because the layering is becoming self evident now (I’ll admit it was lacking the first few days things were installed #ChezMoi) so I’m happy but it means I’m likewise turning my attention to my other home away from home, my office. As you may recall, my focus for 2017 is on EDITING - walking the walk and talking the talk and I think it’s time that my office speak more to where my designs head - Layered Luxury. To that end, we’ve got new dining chairs for our marble meeting table on the way and I’m thinking of some dramatic fabric treatments to delineate office space. More Drama. More Layers.
In my own office, well things need to be livened up. For our first Fabric Collection Launch, I opted for corals because I felt it would photograph better and speak to the possibilities the fabrics offered. I routinely protest that I’m not an orange person, but I use it all the time but I need to change how it is in my office. Now the crazy thing is that this all got started because of a light fixture that came into my life. Dyson Canada has recently launched a lighting collection and I’ve had the opportunity to visit with them not once, but twice to see the technology in action. The first event we attended was the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) and I was blown away with their pendant lighting the CU Beam - one LED bulb lit up the entire hall. I mean DAYYYYYYYYYYUUUUMMMMMM. So impressive. The floor and desk lamps were the sexiest lamps I’d seen in a long time and I was immediately smitten. When the Floor Lamp found it’s way to my office - ELATED. Now it’s a surprisingly lil number I must tell you - I’m usually the girl with the alabaster, substantial lamps but this just was the perfect 180.
Let me introduce you to the CSYS Task Light..
I linked to their website above because it’s very straightforward and I met Jake last night and I have to tell you, my eyes often glaze over when people start going on about the Tech Specs on things. I mean I want PRETTY lights but I found his talk very engaging and hopeful to be honest. Perhaps it is all the doom and gloom in the world right now - the fact that he was able to create something which seems SO SIMPLE gives me great hope for what else can be achieved. We asked about a few things to make things even more awesome and well they got cagey which leads me to think that they are ON IT. Specifically, being able to control all of these amazing lights from my phone…. I get giddy thinking about this.
I mean HELLO LOVER right? What I’ve learned from hearing Jake speak and my own experience with the light (which comes in both desktop and clamp versions) is that this light really provides what I need and doesn’t waste a lot of energy illuminating areas that don’t need it. The sexy slide features, remind me of my slide ruler and again are functional as I’ll get out. I love the architectural lines of the lamp juxtaposed against my Thibaut wallpaper and that Louis chair. I mean HELL YES. So much win. The CU Beam hasn’t been released but it’s also ridiculously functional with all sorts of different settings - it’s a need vs a want. Now before I come back to the other changes I want to make in my office, I need to share with you one other picture. Now the space was designed by my friend Alison Habermehl. I helped her style a project that was being shot back in the summer and when I saw the space, I knew she needed to borrow my CSYS lamp. I only have one picture to tease you with, but you will immediately see that a trad vignette really gets elevated with the lamp.
SO GOOD. Perfect for so many applications the mind boggles.I love the sleek gloss components to the lamp which got me thinking about what else I could add to elevate the office to something more sophisticated and luxurious and then I came across this.
I mean DAMN right???? This is from a 1stdibs ad for a settee and I love the colours and how they will juxtapose with the coral and the wallpaper and of course the light!!! I’m thinking drapery. As much as I love the look of the settee (which I have pretty much), I think the drapery in my office will JUMP UP AND DOWN AND POUR CHAMPAGNE for you.
I’m going to need to do a few new pieces in here as well but I’m working on that still.
So that’s how a light changed my life and sparked a refresh. It’s dangerous being me.
If you follow me on social media, you know that the world has gone to hell in a hand basket and well my thoughts/feelings/commentary are all out there for you to see. This here blog will be a safe place, all are welcome except for haters, those who promote hate or intolerance and the like.
In the morning, I’ll be off to Winnipeg with my team and a few extra team members. We’ve got our millwright and our Drapery Workroom joining us on this trip because there is so much amazing that needs to be done and our wonderful clients have entrusted not just us but our incredible trade partners to make this project a reality. I’m so grateful to NOT be the one in charge of taking measures and translating them to someone else. This is really the ideal design scenario. We come in, we bring in our people, we work with our people to make it all happen and then we install and celebrate. Design Nirvana.
I haven’t shared with you our inspirations for #HandsartHouse or #LighthouseLodge - same client on the blog but if you’ve followed along on instagram you’ll have had a taste with what we are aiming for. With #HandsartHouse we find ourselves with a relatively new build, that checked off a LOT of our wish list items. You’ll hear people talk about “Good Bones” when it comes to a house and often it means it has architectural features, layouts and other items that you can’t really build into a house after the fact. For example, our clients really really wanted a secret passage way. The house comes with two and we’re adding a third. The house comes with two double garages so we can have a show garage and a regular garage. Check. The kitchen is wonderfully laid out with fantastic cabinets - it just needs a few tweaks. Awesome and so on down the list.
Our scope of work however, in spite of the good bones, is still extensive. Every time I think about it I may get a little bit light headed because it is really and truly a designer’s dream. Worth noting on our mandate: Design and build a Hammam Spa in the basement. Other people may have Climbing a Mountain on their bucket list, designing one of these is definitely mine. We are also designing a Virtual Reality room. I’ve tried it out and it’s hilarious. I think there are videos of me doing so on the internet. Apparently you are supposed to be quiet when you are in the VR world… oops my bad. We are vaulting a ceiling in the Master Bedroom to match the one in the office and are looking at a lot of bespoke, hand made, one of kind decorative items. A custom mural in the two storey kitchen (hand painted on the walls), lacquer, wallpaper, Pecky Cypress Panelling, Tile work and of course furniture and other millwork. You can see why we need a Design Army!
I’m going to start with two rooms that gave me the most trouble. By trouble I mean, I didn’t quite have a vision for them. Well the problem was more that I had too many ideas and narrowing it down to one GREAT idea was escaping me. I want the dining room to be dramatic and not dark & conventional. I’m still flushing out the embellishment but I’m thinking we need gilded mouldings. As you can see, I’ve begun to specify pieces for the room which have actually helped me to better define where I want it to head. Sometimes, it’s a journey to find your way to the right design. We have had a custom wallpaper in mind for the ceiling, by custom I mean, we’ll have to design it and have it made (we have a pro who takes care of this for us) but I’ve also flirted with plaster mouldings on the ceiling. I’m thinking now that we beef up the cornice with plaster, possibly add wall pilasters and lacquer the walls. The moulding will all get gilded. Gloss + Metallic though I was really taken with the ceiling design above. I love the mix of the Chinoiserie chairs and this middle eastern buffet. We fell in love with Holland and Sherry bespoke embroidery on wool drapery so that’s a must.
The Karen Knorr photograph in the opening I’m sort of obsessed with. I love the idea of doing the room in rich aubergine lacquer with burnt red accents and heather and iris with gold accents. I’m also okay with going a bit green should say our clients fall in love with a particular feather wallpaper. More on that later.
Joseph Dirand for Pucci used a gilded highlight which I think is super elegant on either a light or a dark base. If you want to see some of my other inspiration for the project visit my Pinterest board for what’s catching my eye!
Our Master Bedroom I had initially thought they wanted a neutral vibe for so I presented that initially but to be honest, it wasn’t much of a presentation it was more of an ink blot test. Ironically, they saw some of the papers and fabrics we’d picked for guest bedrooms and felt Master Bedroom FOMO. They were jealous of the Guest Bedrooms and wanted the Master to have the same WOW. So we’ve got a wonderful Lorenzo Castillo wallpaper, a spectacular Chinoiserie fabric for a headboard AND a matching settee. I was so inspired by Les Ensembliers’ Kips Bay Showhouse Dressing Room that I simply must do something similar for bedside tables. That hand painted lacquer finish was really so delicious I had to stop myself from rubbing up against it. Oh who am I kidding I totally did. We are also going to do more Embroidered Drapery in here to really cocoon them in the winter!
More on the Guest Rooms which are REDONK when I’m back!!!
About a month ago my friend and colleague Wendy asked me what my goals for 2017 were. We routinely trade info on what is making us tick and directions we are keen to head in. I was unprepared for the question to be honest and didn’t really have a quick answer. Some years I’m ready to say goodbye to one year and go raring into another and then there are the years where I’m remarkably ambivalent. I found myself at the point of the conversation, being ambivalent. Perhaps it has been the absolutely insane amount of travelling I’ve been doing? I’ve accomplished a lot, I’m grateful for amazing clients and wonderful work - I don’t feel a pressing need to climb mountains and scale tall buildings. I may have found the sweet spot in it all. I’m happy, satiated I know that this won’t remain this way, a fire will be lit, a new goal will tease/taunt/will me to chase but I recognized and appreciated that I was in a good place and the luxury of being there is that I have time to ponder, dwell, delve and be introspective. Within a few hours of the conversation, I had got to thinking. While I don’t have a bucket list of activities/goals/dreams that I’m hell bent on pursuing in 2017 I am passionate about making some changes. I’m calling 2017 the year of the Edit. I’ve started to eliminate trades/vendors and other work related relationships that don’t conform or align to my brand/vision or my service model. This will continue.
I’m a natural born leader. It’s my zone of comfort. The first time I ever rode a horse, we were at this Ranch in high school and it was a trail horse sort of deal. My horse somehow got in front and my friend Paula’s horse was behind me but it liked to be the lead horse. When the leader told us to YAYAYA and go, Paula’s horse bolted from behind me and took off with her flapping off the side in her saddle. It was seriously NO BUENO. My horse gave chase and at one point I realized that the dark thing in the snow was Paula just as my horse jumped over her. Long story short, a riderless horse emerged out of the forest and the first group of kids from school bet for sure it was me that had been thrown! Man were they disappointed when I appeared. Clearly I should have been on Paula’s horse but I have learned. I do better, I thrive, when I march to my own beat. I have severe Oppositional Defiance Disorder and telling me to do something or to follow well I plot your death if I’m being entirely honest. Kinda the same reaction I have if I can hear you chewing gum or eating your food. Your death, DEFINITELY plotted. I’ve carved out my process to play to my strength and in 2017 I’m going to continue to hone this.
It also I realize, means refining my message in terms of what content we put out there and extends to photoshoots and content on our website. OVERHAUL to commence. Alignment is key and our brand pillars - PERSONAL, DISTINCT, STYLE & PASSION will be what we vet everything against. I’m excited about this bit!!
After renovating our house in the spring of 2016 I discovered that things that I had packed away I didn’t need or miss and it was freeing to not put everything back in again. I want to purge more - no it doesn’t mean I’m going to suddenly get rid of all my fabric remnants but I do want to clean house both of stuff and relationships that aren’t mutually gratifying or profitable. We’ve already started to terminate memberships with those who really don’t serve us or add a benefit to our business. It’s kind of like unsubscribing from emails that you end up deleting every day as part of your morning ritual. I know that I could use a service to roll them into one email but… I’m enjoying hitting unsubscribe!!! This also has extended to unfollowing, unfriending and in some cases blocking people on social media. I’m over the liars, the fakers, the exaggerators. It’s exhausting playing nice and pretending - it really and truly is. I recently witnessed some seriously TACKY commentary on a friend’s post that had me hit the UNFRIEND button and I feel all the better for it. I don’t want to be associated with these people and wherever it is they find themselves. I don’t want to drain my creative source.
And this leads me to my 2017 Rally Cry. My goal in Editing, Refining & Honing my craft is to be my most Creative, Rebellious self. I’m not going to apologize if others do not get it. I will not be made to feel guilty if smaller minds and hearts resent my creative self. That’s their own deal and it will not bear fruit in my garden. I have unlimited potential and 2017 is the year I’m going to serve it up. I am asking more of myself than ever before and it will take focus and dedication and pruning/purging.
I welcome it.
For the longest time, I ran my business as a service industry business but to be honest, I spent a lot of that time feeling that I was owed and that people were out to get me and so I was always hedging my bets and treading water in a pool of negativity. The stress then was often CRUSHING. Working with Lloyd Princeton and Perry Gladstone, I soon realized that I was basically operating a Fast Food Design Service while I was wishing it were more of a 5 Star Restaurant. Why weren’t these clients finding me I wondered? Why were the same get in get out people trying to take my ideas but never wanted me to execute them.
And then it clicked. If I wanted to operate a Luxury Service I had to provide the service that was not what one would expect from a Drive Thru but I had to go the extra mile. I was able to really refine this and my ideal client with Kim Kuhteubl who was my coach most recently which helped get past the growing pains of transitioning from Fast Food to Fine Dining. The last 3 years of running MHD have been the best and most joyous. I love coming into work and I am not afraid to leave work, travel or take vacations the way I used to be. I have an amazing team here in the office and so I am looking for the same when it comes to our suppliers and trades. Luxury Service means demanding excellence of yourself as both a boss and business owner but it also means cleaning house when it comes to your suppliers.
We ordered chairs from a supplier in February, they were finally delivered yesterday. The upheaval, drama and WORK that was involved on our part to get them into the clients’ house was significant and we weren’t making them. This particular supplier offers us great pieces with style and price point that are amazing so we let things slide and ultimately, they come through and do so politely which is kinda huge. I dropped a supplier a few years ago after they refused to honour their warranty on a table we had to return FIVE TIMES. The clients really wanted the table and we had designed an entire room around it. That supplier lied, cheated and were incredibly rude and so their cheap goods didn’t align with our luxury service model and so good riddance even if your product looks nice and you charm the pants off of designers and bloggers at Market. Bye Bye.
We have local suppliers too who we try to support but I have to say the service model between Canada and the US can be vastly different. While we have a lot to be desired here in Canada, service on the mfg and even local levels strikes me as very different to that of the US. We have clients who work in the customer service industry and from what I know of their amazing company is that Service is KEY and their commitment to it is admirable. I would love to send a few suppliers to them just for an inservice, it could be life changing. However, I am not able to control the service that others offer and their attitudes are also not within my control, what is in my control however is what I’m willing to be party to. We received a piece yesterday that arrived to the client’s damaged or unfinished more specifically. The supplier categorically denied any fault and said it was in perfect condition when it left their care. Despite photo evidence that proves to the contrary their assertion, there were no apologies, solutions, remedies offered - we were told to deliver it back at our expense and it would be fixed. That’s not a service model that our business aligns with. When our client sent us the email notifying us that there was an issue, our response was swift and apologetic. No fingers were pointed. Did we ask the client if they had damaged the piece? Were we immediately defensive? No - it’s not about us it’s about the client and the speed and efficacy by which we resolve a problem speaks to the service we want to provide. Suppliers often make it difficult for designers to resolve matters - lots of red tape and sign offs - but the good ones see things the way we do - there’s a problem, let’s fix it and then after the matter is resolved, let’s figure out how we can avoid this from happening again either together or individually or both.
While I’m disappointed that the supplier responded in a way not befitting the service I expected, I’m not surprised. There was a pattern that had already emerged and this was the final straw. Better to cut ties now and move on so that we can continue to work our magic and not have it dulled by those who aren’t up to the task. Resolve, move on and learn for the next time. This is essential in offering a luxury service. Level Up. We’re game.