Archive for November, 2008

Waiting in the Wings

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There is nothing more handsome and timeless than a great wing chair!! Though some may think they are boring or dated, I say they are far from it! In fact to me chairs are sort of like artwork in an interior.  And just like you need a mix of media in your art collection to keep things interesting, I think a variety of chair styles is a must to make every living room a success! And though their looks may be decieving, there is actually a great deal of comfort in a well designed wing chair, especially when combined with a perfect little stool for propping up tired feet!

I happen to have been extremely partial to the “Hyland” from Barclay Butera for over a year now and my fondness does not seem to be waning.  As the old saying goes, I just think it may be one of the best things since sliced bread! I have a pair of Hylands in my own living room and I am having great success at getting it in several of my clients homes too! The scale is just perfect and the proportions, gorgeous!!  And those curvy legs…Va Va Voom!! The Hyland looks great in solids with nailhead trim, or in the case of my living room, in a fun green cotton print sans the nails! 

Whatever way you prefer it…belive me, you cannot go wrong with this Chair!!! And if when you have used this one so many times that you need a substitute, try Barclay’s Wyland. A little more European in style, it works great in a multitude of interiors, especially something a little less formal. I have a pair in my shop in an amazing Coral motif cotton print with an antique French leg finish and I can hardly stand not to bring them home!! If only my house was a little bigger!

And if you like these pieces, Check out Barclay’s new book! I think you’ll enjoy it!

An Attitude of Gratitude

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Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday!! Partly because I get the pleasure of going to the home of my Aunt and Uncle, who have a beautiful home and who spare no energy in preparing a beautiful table (see above) and amazing meal for us to enjoy together.  Here are more photos of the amazing home!

 Or maybe the reason I love Thanksgiving so much is because we have the added excitement of our annual family golf tournament each thanksgiving morning complete with a HUGE (I’m talking PGA size) and very official looking trophy with each of  the winning team members names engraved on it year-after-year.  And keep in mind that many of these team members have never played golf before and this is their once-a-year effort at the sport! Here are a few photos from a couple of years ago taken by our good friend Michael Baxley.  It was unseasonably hot that year.

Here is my cousin David William with my nephew Hudson looking on.

And my brother, Lang.

My dad (and Hudson again).

And cousin Elizabeth, now on the golf team at SMU! Go Mustangs!

 And if food and golf were not enticing enough, we also have a fabulous wine tasting paired with gourmet hor-d’ouevres before dinner.  And each year we discover some fantastic new varietals! One of my favorite reds, a Pinot Noir by Kosta Browne, was a discovery from last year’s thanksgiving tasting.

But the real reason  that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, is that thanksgiving, for me,  is a day of love and fellowship with the people that I care for the most in the world. It is not diluted with getting wrapped up in things like buying gifts or spending a lot of money.  Now don’t get me wrong…I love a good occasion for gifts and spending money and Christmas happens to be my second favorite holiday for many, many reasons, but there is just something about a holiday that is totally focused on counting the many blessings that we each have in our lives!!  And I never even really thought about the fact that America was the first country to have a holiday based solely on being thankful until I heard it said that way in so many words while watching the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special last night with my daughter. But that even reminds me of one of my many gifts…living in this great country of ours!!

Every single day, I think how amazingly grateful I am for all of the wonderful things in my life!!  The list is so long that you would not even believe it, but it starts with my husband, daughter, parents, family, friends, and runs the gamut through my successful company and all the amazing things that are on the horizon in 2009 for my business, including a new book and a product line for a national manufacturer. 

These things are what make me get out of bed each day. And belive me, I really am aware of how fortunate I am!!! And I am such a beliver in having an attitude of gratitude! I write thank you notes everyday…literally! And if I can’t think of anything to be especially thankful for that day, then I thank someone for just being a part of my life and for making it just a little bit more pleasant than the day before! My staff practices this gratitude discipline every day too!!  And just the act itself makes their lives a little brighter each day because it forces them to focus on the good in life as opposed to getting bogged down in negative thoughts and emotions.  And the most fun part is that we all get the pleasure on a regular basis of getting a “thank-you for our thank-you”! And let me tell you from experience there is no better feeling than that! To hear from a customer service rep who is in tears because in all of 20 years in this industry, they have never been written a thank you note and that we changed their entire attitude about an often thankless job” is a gift that gets us all through a few more demanding days at the office.  I highly recommend this practice!! It certainly will touch your soul and lift your spirits just like another of my favorite disciplines, yoga.

And speaking of yoga…during this season of thanksgiving, one group of people that I am especially grateful for is my amazing staff!! They make me look good everyday.  And talk about giving me 150% percent…these people are so dedicated and they really believe in the vision that I have for my company! You cannot buy that kind of dedication and loyalty.  They are employees who act like owners and there is little that I can do to repay this sort of committment to me and my firm!!  But as a little token of my gratitude in honor of this Thanksgiving week, I had the pleasure of inviting my yoga teacher, Holly, to my office yesterday to give us a “private” group lesson.  And we had it right there in the design office!!! We moved the meeting table and turned out the lights except for a couple of low wattage lamps, we lit candles and turned on my “yoga” music, and we turned the ringers off on the phones, and for just one hour…we focused entirely on ourselves!! We focused on releasing all the tension and stress associated with being a “care-giver” for 40 wonderful clients, and we turned all of our energies inward! And let me say, it was one of the best experiences of my life!! Talk about girl bonding!! Not a word was said by any of us as we listened to the soothing instruction by Holly’s oh-so-calm tone, but no words were necessary!! There was so much unspoken gratitude that could be felt in the room.  Gratitude for the opportunity to take this well-needed break, gratitude for Holly and her knowledge of the practice, gratitude for such an amazing place to work, with amazing co-workers and amazing clients! There was gratitude for this holiday season, and our families, and our friends! Gratitude for our bodies and our health. Gratitude for life and all the blessings it brings and for the challenges too!

So just in case I did not verbalize it, even though my gestures may have gone without saying, I want everyone to know that I am totally thankful for my staff!!  They are a group of 8 amazing women that certainly add to the joys of my life everyday!

And I am also thankful for my Wonderful Family, Friends and Clients and to all you faithful readers of my blog and for the exciting things I will be able to share with you in 2009!! Happy Thanksgiving! And may you experience an Attitude of Gratitude this holiday season and into the New Year! Believe me, your life will never be the same!!

Life is Short, use the good china! And the Hutch too!

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I love tableware! This love is something I get from my parents! Yes, believe it or not, both my mom and my dad love a great set of China. My parents have collected beautiful china for years and the fun part is that they didn’t wait for a special occasion to use it.  We used it when just sitting down to dinner with family or a few friends.  And when a special event did come up, mom pulled out all the stops with amazing centerpieces, linens, crystal, candles and all the trimmings! It doesn’t hurt that she is an amazing cook either! Some of my favorite china patterns that my parents have collected over the years include the simple “Ebony and Ivory” by Lennox, Marc Blackwell’s signature series with my dad’s name engraved on the rim and fun patterns like Jaguar Jungle by Lynn Chase.

  

My dad started my first china pattern when I was about 18 years old, before I even had a place of my own. I was so excited, I will never forget.  My very first china pattern…”White” by Wedgewood.  It is this perfect bone china, so simple and sophisticated! It goes with everything! And I have since collected several amazing sets of accents plates to make it fun an exciting. Including one of my favorites, the coral motif plate from the “Cristobal” pattern by Reynaud.  I have also added “Monkey Business” by Lynn Chase for fun occasions and Majesty Platinum by Wedgewood with the perfect platinum rim and my monogram for something a little more formal.  And for the perfect summer party, I have a fun set of lime and white cabana stripe china by Marc Blackwell. 

 

Wedgewood’s Majesty Platinum with Monogram

 

Monkey Business by Lynn Chase

And just like I love collecting shoes and plan for future additions to my shoe collection, I have a “wish list” for china too.  At the top of the list is “Balcons du Guadalquivir” by Hermes, more “Cristobal” by Reynaud, “Avington Lavendar” by William Yeoward, and “Carolina” by Marc Blackwell, which is the perfect shade of Robin’s Egg Blue.  And it even has this fabulous coffee set that matches. See all these beautiful patterns below!!

The amazing Balcons Du Guadalquivir pattern by Hermes!  Probably my most favorite!!!

 

And the Fabulous Cristobal by Raynaud

   

This is the Avington Lavendar by William Yeoward…so fresh and unique.  I can just see this set for Springtime. It would look great on a Sod-covered round table!!!

 

And Marc Blackwell’s Carolina, it is charming and sophisticated! You can not go wrong with it!

Now all this talk about China leads me to another important subject…storage! And just as I am a big fan of closet systems and organizers for my shoes, let’s talk about one of my favorite pieces of furniture…china hutches!  With a huge collection of china, it is imperative to have the perfect storage piece!  And exciting china hutches are experiencing a great resurgence lately.  They are being designed with a great deal of creativity and care by many of the nations most famous interior designers including some of my favorites like Barbara Barry and newcomers like Windsor Smith.  Some are a fresh take on traditional styles and others are new and unique!

Barbara Barry’s Glamourous Hutch by Henredon.

And Windsor Smith’s take on an old classic breakfront…I especially love this one!!!!

But like most things of quality the great ones are not inexpensive! The good news is that investing in a great china hutch is worth the money because it will last a lifetime and will protect your china collections so that they can be passed down for generations to come!!

Here are my some of my other favorites that you might consider when purchasing one for yourself! I actually have the Hickory Chair Vauxhall in cream with a custom Benjamin Moore paint finish on the interior in the perfect shade of kelly green to compliment my living room. Whatever you decide to purchase, just remember that life is too short not to use the good china! Even if it is not for an important occasion, I urge you to take the opportunity to make everyday life just a little more special!! What are you saving it for?? Bon Appetite!

The Vauxhall like I have in my own home! It holds a ton of stuff but doesn’t take up much room!!

This is a photo of my good friend, designer Amanda Nisbet’s living room. She lives in a Fabulous New York Apartment and this BEAUTIFUL William Yeoward hutch is the focal point!!!!

I think this Julian Chichester Circles cabinet is pretty swell too! I put it in a young clients home recently.  She is whimsical and energetic and I thought this was the perfect compliment to her personality!!

The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.-Henry Ward

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I love watching the Fine Living Network.  Some of my favorite shows on FLN are those by interior designer Sarah Richardson.  Her demeanor is so calm.  And I love the way that she finds inspiration for her work in nature and in life.  Each episode she selects a few items that are inspiration for her color palette and textures.  Things like, leaves, coffee beans, fresh flowers, twine and a multitude of other everyday items that many of us never even take the time to notice. Though I am sure Sarah experiences the same high stress that others in our creative industry do, she seems to have done a really good job of balancing her work and her life and she seems to take the time to find the beauty in the simple things.  She is an inspiration to me and I am sure many others that strive to find this same type of balance.

We, as Americans, spend a lot of time searching for balance. This especially holds true for women.  We are on this constant journey to find the perfect mix of work and family and that leaves very little time for ourselves.  I have to admit that I am no different.

No too long ago, I had the enlightening revelation with help from my friend and business consultant Mary who has been in the interior design business for over 30 years. She helped me understand that this “so-called” balance we are all looking for does not have to necessarily be divided in equal parts, as long as the sum of the parts is 100.  So striving for 50% work and 50% family is not only unnecessary, it is almost impossible to achieve. At different times in our lives, the scales will tip to either one side or the other. And that is ok. I also came to the realization that it is not only ok but can even be healthy to embrace my passion and love for work and that I should allow myself to be free of guilt while spending my time focused on my business which also happens to be my hobby.  Mary also helped me realize that I have a creative gift and talent and that I should take advantage of this while I have the energy and the desire to use it, because I might not always have that option.

Another amazing woman, my yoga teacher Holly, has had a great effect on my work-life balance and certainly my stress level. Just being in her presence calms me and centers me. She recently helped me realize something very important about my journey towards balance.  She helped me to understand that this balance that we are “searching” for is something that we already have. It is always present, we just don’t take the time to realize it and to enjoy it. We don’t find peace and beauty in the simple things in life…those very things that Sarah Richardson uses to create her inspired interiors.

Last weekend I had the most wonderful opportunity to reflect on these profound ideas from my advisors and mentors while spending time with 30 other fantastic women from around the country, communing with nature, embracing our similarities and differences, and nurturing ourselves. We spent 3 glorious days at Lake Ouachita just outside of Hot Springs, Arkansas chatting in front of roaring fires, getting pampered at the Turtle Cove Spa, eating delicious organic meals, practicing yoga with views of the Lake and hiking through the Ouachita National Park. We even hugged a couple of trees…no kidding!!

The weekend was all about balance.  And I am happy to say that it was a great success!!  I feel more balanced and at peace than I have in a long, long time.  And the really exciting part for me is that I not only feel rested and relaxed, I was completely inspired by the environment to be creative, in a way that I have not been in a really long time.  I felt like a child again getting out in the woods on the hike, and with my IPOD providing the background music, I was transported into a euphoric state where I could absorb the colors and textures of the forest, the lake, the sky; where I could study the shadows and the streams of sunlight through the trees. I smelled the fresh scents of the moss and the creeks and I saw the falling leaves and heard them crunch under our feet.  It was a true delight to all the senses and I cannot wait to translate all of these experiences into designs for my clients’ homes.

During the retreat we had the pleasure of meeting and getting to know Stephen Altschulers, author of The Mindful Hiker.  Stephen has spent a lifetime falling in love with walking, and he taught us all how to become one with nature as we were hiking on the beautiful Lake Ouachita Vista Trail.  Thanks to Stephen, I will never look at a tree the same way again…and I will probably even have the urge to give it a little squeeze!  He helped us truly see all the beauty that lies around us each and every day that we are too busy to stop and notice. 

 

 

And to top off what was otherwise a perfect weekend, my spa experiences at Turtle Cove were some of the best that I have ever had.  Featured in many magazines including Day Spa Magazine in the June 2007 issue praising their outdoor and seasonal spa services, Turtle Cove was named in the top five spas in the country for catering to women because of their annual Women in Balance Retreat  by Healing Lifestyles and Spas.com.  I had the pleasure of having a custom massage in an outdoor pavilion that overlooks the lake.  It was a delight to the senses, because I not only had the pleasure of touch, but I was able to feel the cool and crisp wind on my skin, and hear the rustle of the leaves, the crickets chirping, the birds singing…talk about relaxation!!!  And if that were not enough, I followed that up with a seasonal treat, the pumpkin skin renewal facial complete with a pumpkin and yam enzyme peel, a chamomile toner, finished with a pumpkin latte and chocolate mask. All organic, these products felt wonderful and smelled good enough to eat!!

So a thank you is in order for all those that helped remind me this weekend of my place of peace.  That helped me remember that what I have been searching for was always right before my eyes…and my ears, and nose and skin.  And that it truly is important to stop and smell the roses, or in this case the yam and pumpkin facial.  I appreciate the opportunity to take this inspiration back to my family, my office, and my clients.    It will be these experiences and the love I found in my many new friendships that were developed over the weekend that will inspire me and my work over the coming weeks and months. I have already planned more hikes with my new found friends and I am planning to re-visit the spa in the winter for their winter quince facial and again in February for the champagne pedicure and fireside hot stone massage. I think this retreat may really have changed my life for the better long term.  I think this newly rediscovered love of nature and nurture is something I can carry with me for the rest of my life.

And in the tradition of Sarah Richardson I plan to use nature and life as cues for my color palettes and textures in my interior design.  Look for the following themes coming soon in my projects to a magazine near you! Peace be with you all and may you have the opportunity if only for a moment to find balance in your life!!!