Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My "a-ha" moment

There are pieces of every project that make a project; the pieces of the puzzle that come out just right, that lead you from one point to another and that tell the story of the space in one complete breath.  These moments justify why you still have a job and continue to create beautiful interiors. 

Last week during Blogfest, Newell Turner, the Editor-in-Chief at House Beautiful challenged us to pinpoint the "a-ha" moment in our careers and blog about it for a chance to appear on their Pinterest Inspiration Board.  Here's mine...

This is a beach house that I worked on a few years back in Cape Cod. By it's own right, it's a gorgeous piece of architecture (designed by Stephen Hart), and in it's initial design, the architecture and the view were the intentional focal points.  Originally, the palette of the house was very muted with just-a-kiss of color on the walls, naked oak floors, nothing on the windows, and a limited collection of artwork.  It was meant to be casual and beachy, but the house lacked warmth, and showed it's wear.

After realizing how much time the clients spent here, we wanted to make it feel like a year round residence; somewhere to spend holidays, where kids and grown-ups alike could feel comfortable.  In doing so, we infused bits of color, texture, and interest.

This shot, taken by photographer Carey Marden, is simplistic in composition, but given the way it draws you in, it captures the essence of the whole house.  The richness in the color of the hardwood floors, the soft and playful wool carpet, the authenticity of the antique chest, and the texture of the beautiful oil painting by Deb Quinn-Munson.  This little vignette grabs your attention when you come up the stairs and draws you down the long hallway to another incredible guest room. 

Now I could have shown you the incredible guest room that punches up the colors from the painting that you see here, or I could have pictured the dining room with the New Classics custom table and stunning views of the Elizabeth Islands.  But instead, I am showing you this.  This little moment was that "a-ha" moment for me.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Getting personal for glassybaby

On the last day of Blogfest (yes there is more to tell), we were given the sweetest little gift; a handmade glass votive with the most bittersweet story attached to it.  We then met the woman behind the story and learned about why and how her company glassybaby (www.glassybaby.com) came to be. 

Lee Rhodes is a three time cancer survivor.  During her struggles she found that when these votives were lit, their color and light offered great hope and healing.  She wanted to share her story and her success, so she started to tell it and spread the love.  She talked of her family.  She talked of the artisans who make the votives.  She talked of how these little gifts of light can give the gift of hope.  And, she told us of how glassybaby generously gives back to the community by distributing 10% of their revenue as unrestricted funds toward the uncovered needs of cancer patients and their families - bus fare, a cool pair of jeans, new shoes, or even a glass of scotch on the rocks - because she knows first hand that only you know what you need when you are going through it....

Now, because they offered up a contest asking bloggers to tell their inspirational stories in hopes of naming a glassybaby themselves, I'm going to get a little personal.  I'm going to get personal because I went through it.  Not as a survivor, but because my dad wasn't one.  From my past posts, it's obvious that my dad and I were great friends.  He was a special guy - a cross between Rodney Dangerfield and Ronald Reagan - the life of the party with the gentlest of souls.  Nearly 11 years ago, he died of kidney cancer, and though it was a downhill battle from the time of the diagnosis, with nicknames such as The Jolly Green Giant and/or Jimmy-HaHa, it never seemed as hard on him as it should have been.

The name The Jolly Green Giant wasn't given to my dad because he was big.  On a good day, and in need of a haircut, he might have been 5'10".  It was given to him because he was a fan of Heineken before it was the mainstream yuppie beer that it is today.  Not that he was a big boozer, but rather, he was your quintessential "Wall-Streeter", who liked a beer after the bell.  And, if they didn't serve Heineken, it was all or nothing, and a Coke would suffice.

As a kid growing up on the Jersey shore, we spent a lot of summer afternoons scouring the beach for sea glass.  If you can imagine, the Jersey shore in the 70s and 80s had a lot of sea glass (yes, I'm admitting that there were probably other things to be found :).  My dad used to pick up the green pieces and joke that they came from Amsterdam, that the Dutch tossed their Heineken bottles into the sea, and they made their way across "the pond", rough and tumbled in the sand, to become these gorgeous soft pieces of sea glass that we would collect and covet.  This was our joke, a good story of upcycling if you will.  In college, while visiting Amsterdam, I even sent him a photo of me standing outside the factory, and that was a laugh even until the end.

I've written before that my that favorite color is green, spring-grass green - or now, that we're getting personal - the color of a Heineken bottle.  There are moments in your life that remind you of other moments and so on, and that green, especially when tossed and washed, reminds me of Dad; the days on the beach, the lobster bakes in Lavallette, Monmouth Park, and Harry's.  That green is fresh and new every spring, and re-launches memories of riding the big tractor around the yard, the time we tried to make a garden, and when we had a bunny named Clover.  It reminds me of playing softball on the Green Giants and of him trying to get home early to make it to the last inning.  It reminds me of MBBTC and years of swimteam and summer nights.  And mostly, it reminds me of home and the green leather sofa in our family room where we would watch the Buffs and Who Wants to be a Millionaire.  Those were our moments, my personal family moments... 

And so, in the spirit of competition, this is my submission; a new votive in remembrance of my late father; a votive named HaHa; one just for Jimmy Ryan.  And, if we don't win, at least you'll know why I like green and maybe you'll think harder about why your color is your favorite and if deep down, it really has a special meaning.

To find out more about this amazing company, please visit (and like) their facebook page https://www.facebook.com/#!/glassybaby

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blogfest, the final chapter

Today was the third and final day of Blogfest 2012, and to me, it was the most informative.  We started the morning off with a casual breakfast at the Kravet Studios located in the Flatiron district of the City.  After a quick cup of coffee, we broke into small groups and were given tours of their working space.  I was lucky enough to be put in a group with Cary Kravet who took his time to introduce us to every employee on staff!

We started out speaking with the creative team behind Brunschwig & Fils.  They walked us through the process of how they have been pulling prints and patterns from the archives and then tweaking them to work with updated color palettes.  Last year proved to be a huge success as they settled in under the Kravet umbrella, and we look forward to their new collections to be released within the next 18 months. 

From Brunschwig, we learned about working with licensed lines such as Kelly Wearstler for Lee Jofa and Jonathan Adler (coming soon to Kravet).

We spoke about showroom styling and how much thought goes into the way the fabrics are shown as a story, in the wings, and on display as vignettes.

We talked about carpet, their custom color program, and many new upcoming lines about to launch.

And finally, we talked about the ways that the products are actually made, from hand blocking, to hand painting, to painting using CAD, to digital screen printing.

This hands-on experience was hands down the best aspect of Blogfest.  Thanks to our wonderful hosts, the entire team of Kravet employees, and an incredible line up of sponsors, my three day (and three hour tour) was something that I am eager to blog and brag about.  

To find out more about this great event and what other bloggers are blogging about, please check out http://www.blogfest2012.com/attendees.htm or #blogfest2012 on Twitter.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blogfest part 2

Today was another fabulous day at Blogfest with a packed agenda focused on the business of design and important people in the industry that we, as bloggers, should stay connected with. 

We started the morning off with a breakfast hosted by the Hearst Corporation on the 44th floor of Hearst Tower.  Despite Blogfest being dubbed Fogfest, the views from this amazingly redesigned space came and went enough to know that you were enjoying your coffee and your bagel in a prime piece of real estate.  Once we all had a chance to reconvene and chat about yesterday's activities, we took our seats for opening remarks by Kravet in anticipation of an incredible line up of speakers. 

Editor in Chief Dara Caponigro of Veranda magazine kicked off the panel discussions by complimenting American designers with their "can-do" attitudes and their ability mix all styles of design.  She then introduced two on-the-rise designers, Darryl Carter and Timothy Whealon, who then went on to show their work and talk about how to have effectual relationships with their clients.  Both agreed that transparency is the key ingredient in making a project successful.

Following Veranda, we were greeted by Editor in Chief Newell Turner of House Beautiful.  His topic was focused on taking notice of your "ah-ha" moments and creating spaces that you actually want to be a part of.  It was a fun, laid back, and audience-driven dialogue with designers Michael Herold, Jill Goldberg (from Hudson in Boston) and Jon Call - all of which were young, funny, and completely humbled by their recognition.

After a few hours of candid conversation, we had a quick visit to Elle Decor's Modern Life Concept House.  The three story residence in the heart of midtown was an unexpected burst of energy with primary colors and a gorgeous outdoor cabana.  If you have time, it's definitely worth a visit.

And, so onto the D&D building and lunch at the Lee Jofa showroom - what could be better than Dean & DeLuca sandwiches?!  Well, maybe dessert while Alexa Hampton got personal with Traditional Home's Editor in Chief Ann Maine (and maybe seeing a super traditional designer let loose among friends, which of course, made us all sanguine :)!)

Now, all of this actually happened before happy hour.  So to unwind, Baccarat invited us up to their new, soon-to-be lighting showroom - the first in the States - to sip champagne (served by male models) and meet Vincente Wolf - Wow, wow, wow. 

The final event of the day was at GE Monogram's Design Center.  This was really a treat.  Not only was there appetizers and Pinot Noir (you know it's my favorite), but there was lots of staff on hand giving demonstrations of how their products work.  Sliding oven shelving, wok grates, and integrated ice makers are just a few innovative ideas that keep this company spotlighted in kitchen design.

So, night-night - Day 3 is just a few hours away!


Blogfest part 1

Yesterday was a whirlwind of a day - pouring rain the entire drive down to the City, dropped my bags at the cute Flatiron Hotel http://www.flatironhotel.com/, and headed right out to the Javitz Center for the International Contemporary Furniture Fair.  While contemporary design isn't really my specialty, there were some cool things to discover. 

Graypants Studio from Seattle makes these incredible lighting fixtures out of cardboard boxes that they actually reclaim from businesses throughout the Seattle area.


And Board by Design from Carbondale, CO, makes these fun porch swings - the frames can be powder coated any color to match your scheme...


And for funky lighting, Apparatus had some really interesting things.


From ICFF, we headed up to The Kips Bay Decorator Showhouse for the Blogfest 2012 opening party, and a chance to mix and mingle with other bloggers and some of the designers from the showhouse - Charlotte Moss, Thom Filicia and Jamie Drake were on hand to talk about their spaces.  Once we had a chance to drool over the lacquered walls, silver leaf ceilings, and the amazing art collection on display, we were greeted by Cary Kravet of Kravet and Margaret Russell from Architectural Digest.  Cocktails were served, hands were shook, nice-to-meet-yous were exchanged, and I was very happy to be part of such a dynamic group of professionals. 

The bus then took us to The Savant Experience Center down in Soho www.savantsystems.com.  Savant is a company that custom designs, integrates, and automates A/V systems in residential and commercial spaces.  Everything is Apple controlled, so music, TV, your shades, lighting and alarm systems can all be managed through your I-pad.  Their showroom gives you a chance to test drive it all while relaxing in a space designed by Thom Filicia.

The evening was capped off with a visit to Savoir Beds www.savoirbeds.com to literally take a load off and try out their luxurious mattresses.  With their premier bed going for $72,000, it was no wonder that I was ready to get under the covers after such a great day!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Blogfest or bust


On my one year blogisversary I told you that I would be heading down to Blogfest 2012 in NYC.  What I didn't tell you is that I am REALLY, REALLY excited to be part of such an event, especially since my blog was started on a whim (and maybe with the intention of actually being a blogger qualified to go to Blogfest).  Not only is the line up of activities incredible, but the company of my fellow bloggers is humbling - See here to view the talent pool http://www.blogfest2012.com/attendees.htm

So just to give you a taste of what the next three days will entail, here's the schedule of events:


Arrive in NYC and check out the International Contemporary Furniture Fair
Blogfest Kick-off party at The Kips Bay Showhouse hosted by Margaret Russell
Cocktail party with Thom Filicia at Savant Experience Center
After party at Savoir Beds

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Flea market chic

Remember my "Wowza!" post from a few weeks ago (http://www.spacetograce.blogspot.com/2012/04/wowza.html)?  Well, here it is coming along, way under budget thanks to my savvy client and her willingness to reduce, reuse and recycle.  In my last post about her, I praised her for agreeing to put up the black and white horizontal stripes and to paint the floor in a high gloss black varnish.  Now, she's hit the bargain basements, craigslist and the flea market, updated the finds with a splash of color, and Ta-Da!, we have turned an understated, underused space, into the most vibrant room of the house!

Because this client is out of state (yes, I can work virtually anywhere), I asked her to take a few scouting shots...

Here was the first step.

A great dining set found on craigslist - but too boring

So we made it pink

And recovered the seat in this fabulous Lilly Pulitzer fabric

And then there was a need for storage - how could she resist this???

And now that green is in the picutre, we might as well...


All coming together

Even Millie likes it!

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Brimfield rundown

Last Thursday I finally made it out to Brimfield, MA, for the annual outdoor antique festival (and a fabulous Tweet Up event generously hosted by Gretchen Aubuchon of Fashion + Decor, Cynthia Bogart of The Daily Basics, Aubuchon Hardware, Benjamin Moore, Company C, and Kathryn Markel Fine Arts).  If you haven't been, picture the most enormous flea market you've ever seen, and then picture it bigger.  It happens three times per year and goes on for miles with vendors showing and selling their wares from all over the country.  Yes, there is a lot of junk to sort through, but if you have the patience and comfortable shoes (or in my case, a pair of wellies to get through the mud), then you are bound to find a few treasures.  Here are some noteworthy favorites that I came across...

Antique textiles from Pandora Lux Linens

Lesser known antique textiles from Austria for just $20/yard!

Authentic Swedish furniture from Lone Ranger Antiques

Decoupage lamps and original artwork from Mary Maguire of Lyme, CT

Custom lampshades handmade in Vermont

Lots of jugs and jars to add some character

A few things for the bathroom

And finally, a few things to bring home.  I loved this sweet little monogrammed hand towel.

And I found a Wedgwood ring box to add to my daughter's collection.

And, last but certainly not least, I finally bought my very own cowhide rug!

Can't wait for next year!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Ikat love

Ikat is one of my favorite type of patterns.  I have a pair of chairs that are ikat.  I have drapes that are ikat.  I have antique throws that are ikat.  I even just bought a dress that is ikat.  But for those of you who can't yet commit to this tribal feel, how about just a few accents?  The Java Collection by Home James! is great for brightening up your whites, complementing your pinks, and adding drama to your browns.  Who knows, with a few of these around, you might start to fall in love too...


Saturday, May 5, 2012

An unobvious update

Have you ever seen those images in magazines called "Second Look" or "More or Less"; a type of editorial game where you are supposed to look at both photographs and pick out what's different?  Well, here's my take on it with the explanation below (and if you click on the images, you can compare them side by side):

This is my house.  It had it's 100th birthday last year and was in dire need of some exterior updating.  Believe it or not, the first picture is the house on the day that we bought it, and the 2nd picture was taken today after a complete exterior renovation.  Yes, I know it looks exactly the same.  That was the intention.  This ridiculously expensive update wasn't meant to change the look of the house, it was meant to make the house last another 100 years, looking exactly the same as it always has...

So what's different???

1.  Roof.  The 30 year old, slate-look-alike asphalt shingles were replaced with new black architectural shingles, copper drip edging and ice shields, all with a 40-year warranty (by O'Toole Contracting and Restoration).

2.  Gutters.  The rotting wood gutters were removed and replaced with 6" copper gutters to match the already existing copper downspouts.  A Lifetime Warranty (by Gutter Shell of New England).

3.  Chimney.  The original chimney had been repointed many times and had a tree growing out of it.  We pulled down the facade to just above the roof-line, fixed the broken flu, salvaged the bricks that we could and mixed in additional reclaimed bricks that the mason found from another project.  We also added a copper chimney cap to ensure no more trees or animals could damage the structure again (by L.DeAngelis & Sons Masonry).

4.  Shutters.  We added shutters to the face of the house to add historical detail and interest.  The shutters are made of pvc with aluminum reinforcement and come with a 25 year warranty (by Architectural Elements).

5.  Decking.  The decks on both sides of the house were dangerously unstable.  We ripped them off, replaced the flat rubber roofs with new membranes and rebuilt the decks using AZEK composite decking (which comes with a Limited Lifetime Warranty).

6.  Railings.   The original railings were not to code, missing spindles and anyone could have fallen over the side, so we replaced them with custom cellular pvc railings.  The center detail is similar to the original detail and matches a brick inlay detail that is on the face of the house.  The finish is warrantied for 10 years, and the product itself has a 25 year warranty (by Architectural Elements).

7.  Paint.  We stripped and repainted all of the trim on the house.  We added some color to the recessed panels (Benjamin Moore Saybrook Sage) to match the patina of downspouts, and painted the front door a high gloss hunter green using a product by Fine Paints of Europe.  We also added the subtle southern detail of a blue ceiling (Benjamin Moore Blue Veil) on all of the covered entries.  (Painting was done by Wright Touch Painting)

8.  Details.  We added mullions to the casement windows, beefed up the surround on the front door, and added an old-fashioned, wooden screen door.  We also replaced all of the exterior window sashes and any other damaged wood with composite.  (All carpentry was done by D. Morin Construction).

9.  Typography.  We replaced the basic house number with the entire street address.  This is my favorite part.  WestOn Architectural Lettering has so many great products to choose from!


So why have I given you the play-by-play on our renovation?  There are a lot of skeptics out there who think that composite material isn't as good as the real deal.  They think that it looks cheap and undervalues the asset.  I think that they are wrong.  From looking at these photos, can you really tell the difference?  Which will last longer?  Does wood come with a warranty???  If anything, I think that the integrity of my house is stronger than ever!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Happy Blogiversary to me

Today I am celebrating the 1 year anniversary of my blog.  After 86 posts, I finally feel like I am getting the hang of this.  I have established a strong readership, gotten positive feedback, and met some great people along the way.  I'm even off to BLOGFEST 2012 in NYC in a few weeks!

So thank you, thank you to all of you who follow, who comment (here, on Facebook, on Twitter, and in person), and who are a part of my conversation.  The world of interior design is changing quickly, so I'll keep doing my best to keep you up to speed...

And, for those of you just getting to know me, here is the post that kicked off the series:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Let me introduce myself...

I'm an almost-middle-aged mother of four with my own interior design business that I've been running from home for the past six years. Being almost middle-aged, I am new to the world of blogging. Though, standing at my laptop in my kitchen while the kids are eating Asian noodles from a box from Target, I am a quick study, and quite honestly, getting hooked on blogging...

Life for me is full time, all the time. My husband says that I have 2 speeds - on or off. I go, go, go until I hit the pillow, and then I'm shut down recharging until the first kid is up, staring at me from the side of my bed telling me they're hungry for waffles... My kids are aged 3 through 10, swimming in every activity from soccer to drama to Chinese to literally swimming. BUT, they're thankfully in school most of the day. During that time, I'm able to service a handful of clients and keep up on what's hot and what's not.

Interior Design is my second career. When I was a kid, my mother was a NJ housewife obsessed with the D&D building. She would redecorate at every opportunity. Brunschwig & Fils, Scalamandre, and Clarence House were names I was familiar with early on, but Wall Street was calling my name instead, and I followed in my father's trading footsteps and started my career in finance. I went to school and studied economics, moved to NYC and got my first job at one of the oldest banks in the country. I met my husband and lived on the Upper East Side. Life was pretty good.

Soon after we were married, my husband got a job offer in Hong Kong. We were excited at the opportunity and committed to a 2 year contract. I found a job at another bank there and kept up on my career. He travelled to Phuket and Singapore and all sorts of exotic places. I felt left out sitting on my career in a high rise with a great view. 

After much debate, I left my job and decided to travel with him - though I felt like such a slacker. I was 27. I felt obligated to have a job. So, to solve my personal plight, I decided to try something new and flexible and took a position with a local gallery specializing in Southeast Asian textiles and Balinese art. Quickly I took interest in the local cooperative villages, the beautiful Chinese brocades, and Jim Thompson. I couldn't sit still. For the first time in my life, I felt creative and inspired by the beauty around me.

But just as my new life was getting started, I was pregnant and our contract was up. We snuck in an amazing trip to Bali and Australia before heading back to the States and settling down in Brookline to start a family. After such a whirlwind adventure of life-altering experiences, my husband knew I wouldn't take well to becoming a stay at home mom. He surprised me for Christmas that year with an enrollment in New England School of Art & Design's interior decorating program. And, alas, a new found career had begun.

And now, ten years later, I'm still at it. I can now appreciate my mother's influence in my career and would love to tell my late father that the twelve different dining rooms all really paid off in the end...

I LOVE doing what I do. Sitting at my laptop at 9pm when the kids are asleep, I am still talking, thinking and researching some aspect of design (though now there is a glass of Pinot next to my laptop). I am seasoned at this in a different way - My life in the boys club of Wall Street has left a realist in me that thinks more objectively about design than my peers. I think, "How is this going to work in a busy household, in my household? What can I do to keep their kid's puke from staining their new white sectional? How can they afford this when private school is around the corner? What's the trend of this neighborhood, and how can the developer make sure that they capitalize on who their true market is when setting up a model unit? Do people really think purple will stay in style long enough to upholster a sofa in it? Sisal is gorgeous, but olephin that looks like sisal is more practical" - right?? These things I know - they are my everyday life...