April 03, 2014:

In the Pocket…

I've often heard this expression in relation to sports and dance routines - can you tell that I am a HUGE fan of So You Think You Can Dance? It's true of designers too. When you settle into that zone creativity just flows and the results show.

I put a lot of thought and care into our fabric assignments and the look and feel of a space. Sometimes I can get rather caught up in the individual fabric selection and I have to take a step back and think - what do I want the space to say?

For our #LongBranch project, I want the kitchen to be fun and whimsical because it is open to the rest of the house. I worry when my fabric choices match too much because it will end up looking like a model home and not have much in the way of personality. Other times, I worry that they will have too much personality and be discordant. I am a complex creative for sure.

So imagine if you will, a simple parson chair style barstool. Nothing too fussy but we're looking at a vinyl on the seat and then a print on the inside and outside back of the stool. Ya with me?

Okay the fabric at the top of the picture is what we are considering for the back and the fabrics at the bottom are the living room... I'll show you the seat fabric in the next photo. Let's call this Option 1

Here is Option 2 and you can see the vinyl lizard we are looking at using. The print at the top is our second choice for the barstool back. Here's why I love it - it doesn't match the living room perfectly but it relates. It has my signature animal print IN the tree branches which is just damn cool. The client loved Option One but I was hesitating. She saw what I was saying about this second print but didn't love it with the violet lizard.

So, I started to play around with other options and combinations... Here it is with what I will call DEEP PURPLE Lizzie aka Option 3

But then I started flipping and I found a deep Indigo Lizard. Option 4

And then Sweet Sexy Cobalt Lizzie came into our lives and we had a "Now You've Got My Attention..." from our client with this Option 5. Totally NOT what we started out with but I am loving where we ended up.

April 02, 2014:

Expired in Ecstasy…

I feel the need to come right out and say - this is in no way a sponsored post. All of the emotions that I am about to explode out on to the blog are genuine and as real as it gets.

About a year ago, I met the people at Thibaut IRL. We'd connected previously and collaborated on a few projects but we'd yet to meet in person. After that meeting, they approached me as one would approach a focus group and asked me for input on what I would love to see in wallpaper and what I thought was missing from the pattern world. I was honoured thrilled and excited to have direct say and influence on the direction of design.

Fast forward to now and the upcoming Market and the release of their latest collection called Enchantment. Whether or not I had a direct influence on this collection remains to be seen but I can't help but feel that I did (is that bold and brazen of me to say - I checked my notes and well... I'll let you judge for yourself when you see the collection).

The collection is now live on their site - I will admit that I've hit refresh a zillion times in the last week in hopes it had gone live.

I literally got weak-kneed with what I saw. Like jumping up and down shouting LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE OOOOHHHHMAGAWWWDDDD LOVE I DIE DIE DIE LOVE. It was quite the sight to see. I i-chatted a link to Celia who then began her own convulsion of LOVE LOVE LOVE. Okay I'll shut up now but suffice it to say we're trying to figure out where and when we can use EVERYTHING including the yellow which I normally HATE. Not this one. Good GOD. I need a vacation home just to have more surfaces to wallpaper.

GAH GAH GAH. I love love love this. And I still hate yellow but who cares in this instance. It transcends yellow.


Weak. In. The. Knees.

I may start a Revival Tent series just for this collection.

This as wallpaper MAY work in my Den. It's Trellis without being "Over Done, Cheap, Big Box Trellis." It's got enough corners and interest to make it edgy and sophisticated. Check out the rest of the collection - I haven't blown it all for you. I am seriously swooning.

March 31, 2014:

Investing in Yourself with Design

At various points throughout my career in design I have heard the following: "I couldn't possibly afford you..." including shortly after I left teaching to pursue this as a full time gig. I was flattered then and immediately comforted them with a "Of course you can..."  After a decade in the business, my retort was often "You probably can't afford me..." Now I don't have a clever response per se but rather, I opt for "What is your budget?"

The interesting thing to me is that it's very hard to immediately dismiss whether or not a designer is affordable because every budget is different and sometimes you act as a consultant whereas other times you're the entire production team. Now that isn't to say that there are some projects that are really not suited to having a designer involved because of the budget restrictions because there are. I have been approached by prospective clients who have a budget of $10,000 and needed to furnish an entire condo. This would be an example of a project that I would most likely pass up. In this particular instance however, I did say that the living and dining room could possibly be done for that amount however, if I were to do it, it would be done as a lump sum payment and I would spend it as I saw fit in order to fulfill the mandate and that I would do the best that I could with that amount. I knew full well that it was a long shot of a proposal and well I didn't get the gig. You see that would be a fun challenge for me but I couldn't have any restrictions. I would have to be given full creative reign to do with the budget as I saw fit. I'm still totally game for this by the way if you should want to take such a risk with me. (You know that because I am a DAMN GOOD designer, I'd ask you a whole bunch of questions first before I bought a single pillow)

Our #Unionville client has worked with us on I believe 7 different projects spanning almost a decade. I've done both of her daughter's homes and continue to do work for each of them and their parents. While we haven't ever set an actual budget for any of our projects, our client who is very involved and aware of her spending range always makes the call on whether or not she wants to invest/splurge or if we have to get creative. Her home is the perfect illustration of High and Low. We have done almost the entire home now - just finishing off a few last bits but her office was a big deal. Now the entire story on this house reads like a John Grisham novel at times, with the twists and turns and revelations but what started out as a totally cosmetic decorating job has turned into a full scale renovation, new kitchen, new flooring the works on top of decorating. When it came to her office - which is located smack dab in the centre of the house - literally, it had to be functional. That was our initial mandate. As kitchens were being pulled out and flooring completely removed and re-installed anew, the office became essential because it is the hub/mission control. Without order and organization in her office, the became disconnected from her source and it was very unsettling. I believe in Feng Shui terms, her Chi was off and our task was to ground it and get her re-connected. But with all of the unexpected design turmoil, the budget was reduced for this area. So Celia and I started looking at Ikea, West Elm, Crate and Barrel. Big Box stores who have creative solutions on a budget - made possible when designers are actually at the helm. The office itself is awkwardly laid out - it has three transom windows at the top of the room on three sides and it is angled off in the door way because it is right smack dab in the centre of the house. Suffice it to say, we tried every sort of permutation we could think of with this  route and we just could not arrive at a solution that was both functional AND had a certain amount of elegance and refinement. You see by this point, we had plans for the rest of the house in place and a look going and these just weren't passing muster. Because of the location of the office, our client didn't want it to look cheap. If it were super functional - which we weren't finding options for - we may have compromised and gone for it but it wasn't the right fit. In an act of desperation, our client agreed to her husband's suggestion that they go to Business Depot and have someone there design a layout for free! (The client and I exchanged knowing glances at this point)

The design that came back was no better than any of our professionally designed layouts given the better looking Big Box options (yes that is really saying something) so Celia and I made a bold move. We talked our client out of the stunningly beautiful oh so fabulous silk hand woven carpet for the living room which was a princely sum and suggested we scale back there and put the money into purchasing a beautiful office suite that we had become aware of. We then looked at the measurements of the pieces we were eyeing and as if Divine Inspiration hadn't already charmed us once, but we were bestowed with the perfect layout and sizing.

Now we did lose out on an exceptional area rug. No doubt about it but given the amount the formal living room will actually be used, we couldn't justify it. The office is the epicentre of this family's nervous system and by creating an elegant work space, we knew we were investing in our client's well-being which was more important to us than a silk carpet. We installed the office today - we've got some decorating left to do so it's by no means a finished product but it is better than any big box Store could come up with and entirely worth it.

A smart investment that happens to be pretty smart looking too.

Shagreen + Lacquer + Leafing....  DAMN.

Oh yes. A pair of brass etageres. Book storage was critical for us BUT we also needed a place to hide the ugly.

This three door with fabulous organization inside Media Console was the solution. It also mixes silver leaf and brass and this may be my new favourite thing to do. In fact, we're putting brass lanterns over an island with polished nickel hardware throughout in TWO kitchens. Living on the edge people, living on the edge. We will finish the office off with art rails and leaning art and a custom upholstered corkboard. Sophisticated solutions that in the end, didn't break the bank.

March 28, 2014:

Prepping for #HPMKT - Style Spotting

I can't remember if I've mentioned on the blog that I've been asked by the fabulous people at High Point Market to be one of their esteemed Style Spotters for both markets this year. I've been doing a lot of homework on their never ending list of vendors (it seems) and I have to say I'm sitting in my office FREAKING OUT at some of the product that I am encountering.

I love it when I find new suppliers who fill a gap in a particular area. 

Now, I'm going to be THAT person and NOT share the particular vendors. Why? Intellectual Property. I've spent at least 4 hours to this point of my own valuable time doing this research. I'm going to be taking a week away from my business (who are we kidding, I'll be working remotely from North Carolina the entire time) to travel to this show and invest it in developing new relationships. Did I ever tell you about the time when a designer across the hall from our office stormed in in the middle of a meeting I was having, and DEMANDED I tell her where I got barstools for a client from???

I continually advise new designers that they have to do the leg work. I remember our teacher in design school who refused to tell us where/how to get samples for our projects. The lesson was not the fabrics/materials we put together for our presentation, the REAL lesson came from hunting the materials down in the first place. I can remember feeling so charged by a new vendor back then and I can say, 17 years later, it's no different. Same excitement.

I look forward to using these pieces in future projects... maybe even a few of my own personal ones......

A Vertical Triptych to DIE for. (would look fabulous in my kitchen at the office non?)

Just when I thought I was over Malachite I find this bathroom accessories collection. SWEET JESUS.

GAH my bathroom. I love it.

I'm a total sucker for Shagreen. This comes in a wealth of colours too.

I mean have you ever?? I hate hate hate going into a bath store or a similiar discount retailer and trying to find bath sets. It's the bane of my existence. NEW supplier with SO many options. LOVE LOVE LOVE.

Painted wood floor tiles. I just passed out cold.

March 27, 2014:

Design Disappointments

We've all been there.

As designers, we regularly have our hearts ripped out of our chest, thrown on the ground and then backed over by a German Automobile. That fabric scheme we "KNOW" is brilliant, gets filed away for FCU - Future Client Use. We re-source a more client-centric light fixture despite swearing up and down that this is the PERFECT fixture, we don't even need to look anymore. Not to mention the client calling to say that our fabulously, designed to the nth detail room is on indefinite hold as the roof just caved in.

I've also gotten in my car and headed out to meet prospective clients who have passed muster enought to warrant a meeting to get there and discover what we "MUST" work with or what we have to ignore or we discover that the budget cup does not in fact, runneth over. This requires a designer's skin to thicken. You have to let it roll off of you even if every nerve in your body is screaming "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. I recently had a lighting saga unfold with a project. I spec'd lights initially that were deemed out of budget. So we went with another more cost effective and funky option that the client loved UP until the point that they were installed. The glass wasn't golden as much as it was YELLOW. We then took a few more months to try and find something new.  Dozens of emails back and forth. Trips to shops. More trips including a day where I tagged along. We finally found the perfect set of lights. We ordered them. Guess what they are - yup, the first set of lights that I specified over 6months ago. 

Not that I need to say I told you so, but I DO do this for a living.  If you go to a doctor because your skin itches and they discover you have a heart valve problem do you say - leave my heart alone and just give me the skin cream? That would be foolish. Why is it any different with design? If you want light and bright and airy - why on earth are you settling with your existing dark and dreary furniture? If you are going to blow out the back half of your house, don't you want the front to match?

I know it can be scary handing over all of the decision to the designer, but if you give them all of the information they require, if you are open and honest with them about your goals and your budget maybe you should let them run with it. You get to approve everything and make key decisions but they will be the ones serving up the choices. They will be using their experience, to drive their selections which includes budget considerations, practical use/wearability and function and previous trial and error (aka first hand experience) to help you make those decisions.  Freshening up is one thing but it's rarely enough unless you've already got fabulous design on which to work off of. 

There's nothing worse than decorating around a $500, $1000, $2000 mistake. It hurts sometimes to admit this but it's true. Big Picture thinking is where it's at. It's the perfect cure for these Design Disappointments. Hiring a designer and placing your trust in them is a great way to ward off DD from happening from the start.  You'll occasionally break your designer's heart but stick to the big vision and they will be forgotten. Hold the course. Tried and True.

Decidedly NOT a disappointment. A possible contender for a certain shower curtain....? Too trad? I am my own worst client. I can't commit to a direction though I feel that Raging Drama Queen MAY have to be the style summary on this one.

A Nursery Contender....

I love it in all the colour ways. OBSESSED.

I need to upholster with this.

I have a really hard time saying no to a Paisley.

Maybe THIS works as a shower curtain.

Indoor Outdoor fabric folks. HALLAFARKINGLUJAH