May 3, 2010

Mix 'em Up!

Ralph Lauren - La Plage Collection

Design is constantly evolving and keeping a current look can easily become like a dog chasing after it's tail. What inspires and draws me to Ralph Lauren is their designs are classical, but fresh and updated. The use of traditional furniture silhouettes, rich textured fabrics and pleasing colors are inviting and comfortable. They're traditional in their approach, but not stiff and formal. In our "Recession Chic Economy" this stands the test of time and allows one to morph into new looks gracefully without breaking the bank account.
The striking piece above was given new life by the choice of it's upholstery selection. Mixing fabrics together can be tricky, but mixing fabrics within a single piece of furniture is even trickier. This approach has been around awhile, but RL took a vintage chair and breathed new life into it using this technique. Often when different fabrics are used within a single piece it tends to look whimsical bordering on cartoonish. A little bit of this look goes a long way and less is definitely more when using this in a room. One or two pieces in a space is probably enough. When it's done well it's a home run and you recognize it when you see it, because it appears to flow naturally and seamlessly.
What are your thoughts on mixing fabrics in a piece of furniture?

Calvodos Ticking Stripe
71% Linen, 29% Cotton

These fabrics are from the Spring 2010 La Plage collection. Based on a blue and white color palate. The collection has a tranquil nautical look with seaside elegance. Chic and rustic elements are artfully mixed bringing a contemporary feel to a traditional framework.

RL Beaumount Blockprint in Ink, 100% Jute

Mary Cassatt
Children on the Beach, 1884

Rob & Stucky
This clever juxtaposition of striped fabrics creates a crisp & breezy nautical feel on a traditional wing chair. The upholstery tacks are a defining touch that punctuates the chair's outline.

Adam Emory Albright
Children On Seashore With Lobsterman

Monograms will always be favored, but they seem to have morphed and transitioned over to this hand lettered look. If you haven't already, I predict you will be hearing much buzz about African Sketchbook. It's a hot commodity in the design world market, their fabrics are unique and wonderful!

By the Seashore, 1883

German Grain Sack Chair
Whether you refer to them as feed sacks or grain sacks they exploded on the mainstream design market last year. I'm sure no old barn has been left unturned by antique hunters and pickers looking for vintage originals. Who could have predicted they would become so popular?

Isn't this avante garde back detailing interesting. It's not a look for everyone, but I like it. What's your two cents on the subject?
Posted to: The Inspired Room

Apr 5, 2010

Treasure Hunting!

Did everyone have a nice Easter? I enjoyed dining at an elegant 1890 Italianate style mansion that was turned into a restaurant. Luckily, I had my camera and took photos as I wandered around. I’ll post about it at a later date, but wanted to share a little sneak peek. The home was built by a lumber barren and is rumored to be haunted by his first wife who mysteriously passed away six months after moving in. There was talk in some circles she was poisoned by her better half, but that was never proven. This photo was taken in one of the upstairs bedrooms now referred to as the ladies lounge. If you look closely you can see the trees are starting to leaf out here in the Great Lakes Region.

We had a surprisingly mild winter, but yesterday the wind kicked up enough to knock the power out for several hours on my side of town. I got tired reading in semi darkness so decided to do a little Thrifty Treasure Hunting! I visited a couple favorite spots that were not affected by the outage and found several nice items.
I scooped up this pretty silver plated tiered tray, which now resides in my dining room. I added a silver fork and thong hors d'oeuvre set I already had from an earlier garage sale find. I'm always curious about any marks on the back and the hors d'oeuvre set says "EPNS Made In Sweden". It's electroplate, but if you pay attention you might get lucky and run across a valuable silver piece. Silver is marked in different ways and this is referred to as Hallmarks. If a piece is marked or has a symbol you can easily do a quick search and see what you're dealing with.
After I got home I gave everything a little polish and thought they turned out quiet nice for the grand sum of $4.00. This photo is a little deceiving, because the tiered tray looks bigger then it is. Actually it's only around 10” tall. It has fine detailing I like it and the price was right.

I want to mention since I’ve received a few comments about the topic of Thrifty Treasures that YES, I love the thrill of the hunt and finding a good bargain! The piece has to make sense, but often I find interesting objects on the second hand market. Tomorrow's antique just might be today’s Thrifty Treasure.

Did you know? Technically to be considered an antique the item has to be 100 years old and anything younger is classified as a collectible?

After my silver score I spent a lot of time poking around in the dish section, but kicked myself for not putting a colorful ceramic rooster in my cart. I came back for it just in time to see another shopper put it in hers! First rule always put anything in your cart you're not sure of and make your final decision later!
I wasn't disappointed for long, because walking back to the register I spotted this Early American chest that had just been placed on the floor. The drawers were in the wrong slots so it looked disheveled, but that worked to my advantage. I asked for the price and the gal said $30.00 and this one didn't get away. I needed something exactly this size in a cherry finish to blend in with some Pennsylvania House furniture in my living room. This is not the quality of Pennsylvania House, but the size and color is good. One of the drawers on the inside is marked Dixie, which was a mid priced furniture company that was eventually bought out by Lexington.

Angels know how to light the way!

This angelic presence keeps a watchful eye on top of my new "Treasure Chest".

Standing in line at the register I noticed this striking velvet riding helmet hidden on a low shelf. It was marked $10.00 and I didn’t hesitate to buy it. I had been looking for one to go in the bedroom of a client’s daughter since it was designed in an equestrian theme. Doesn't it make the perfect finishing touch on her nightstand? It has a sculptural quality that makes a statement and adds a touch of whimsy.

Corinthian Columns

Looking back my power outage turned out to be a very good thing!

Here is one more glance at the Italianate mansion. Don't you think the detailing is breathtaking? I adore old homes and in my book they may not always be thrifty but they are certainly treasures!

Mar 26, 2010

ZINCS Grown Up!

This sleek coffee table is a modern interpretation of a 5th-century BC Greek Klismos design. It's part of the new Garden Collection recently introduced by Restoration Hardware. It has a rich powder grey finish constructed from weighty aluminum.

Zinc is commanding attention in a major way in the design world of late. It’s been around a long time and I’m sure many of you remember growing up using zinc garden watering cans. In the past zinc was often delegated to simple utilitarian pieces. Well it’s all grown up now, being used in unique ways and it has emerged into an inspiring chic beauty!

Zinc Leaf Spheres

Restoration Hardware

Reproduction of 19th- and early 20th-century European garden objêts

Restoration Hardware
Bulgaria zinc footed urns

Handcrafted Metal
Normandie Style Countertop

This beautiful and elegant countertop was created by Handcrafted Metal Company, which is based out of Austin, Texas. When I discovered their fine workmanship I recognized it was something special and unique. Pieces like this are crafted by the hands of skilled artisans and in my opinion elevated to works of art.
The countertop is reversed hammered for extra texture and interest. It’s shown above in zinc with a medium patina. When I realized they offer mail order the wheels in my head started turning!

Handcrafted Metal
French Bell

This zinc hood has elegant lines with graceful proportions.

Handcrafted Metal
Zinc Hood Double Sweep With Straps

Handcrafted Metal
Framed Apron Sink With Towel Bar

Isn’t this a clever and useful design? I love the way they intergraded the towel bar into the sink.

House Beautiful

This farmhouse chic piece originally was a utilitarian garden piece that was cleverly reinvented. It was stylishly adapted into an open shelf vanity with double vessel sinks.

Antique Zinc Pediment Mirror

This mirror started life as a window from a French chateau before it’s transformation.

Plumm Design

This one of a kind garden table has a zinc surface with a reclaimed antique cast-iron base.

Photo by Kerry Michales

Colorful flowers spill over a zinc garden pot.

New York Zinc and Lead Company 1890 Historical certificate depicting four miners working their claim.

I’m a history lover and always interested in the background story so I’m including a little information about the basic ingredient used to make these beautiful and chic pieces.

Zinc it a is a bluish-white lustrous metal also known as Spelter. When mined it is not usually found by itself. Zinc ore is mined using both underground and surface open-pit methods or a combination of the two.
In the past it was commonly used to make many 19th-century inexpensive, cast articles such as candlesticks, clock cases and early 20th-century Art Nouveau and Art Deco items.
The term galvanizing refers to the process where zinc is used to cover metal that will rust.

This photo is of a large old Lead and Zinc mine in Gwydyr, North Wales. This area boasted several mines during it’s heyday of metal mining between 1850 and 1919.
The mine is composed of many floors and this deep level drains the mine to the mountainside. Notice the fine brick arched lining with many “straws” growing from the gaps, some as long as 3’-0”. It’s described that at several points along its length water spurts out of the walls similar to a car wash!

Zinc After Processing

Posted To: Melissa @ The Inspired Room For Inspiration Friday

Mar 14, 2010

Pottery Barn Makeover!


This 1914 Victorian beauty is the home of my wonderful client, who generously gave me carte blanche to write about the design work I’m doing for her. We met by lucky coincidence when I first started this blog. She is a talented painter and professional writer who used to pen interior design articles for the Baltimore Sun. Turned out we had a lot in common and corresponded for several weeks then realized we lived 15 minutes apart! We met for lunch one afternoon and conversed for several hours, then she hired me. Talk about lighting striking in a good way! Over this past year she become a valued friend as well as a client.
Her historical home is truly an inspiration to work on and I’ve done my best to keep its integrity in tact. The first time I laid eyes on it my heart skipped a beat as I sat in the driveway admiring its fine architectural details. It reminded me of the Owen's house in the movie Practical Magic staring Sandra Bullock and Nicole Kidman.
Her home will be a work in progress for awhile as there are many projects planned for the future. It has excellent bones and was built in the era before power tools by the skilled hands of master craftsmen. There is striking woodworking and stained glass through out. It’s perched on a lake and hosts two decks with accordion doors that swing wide open that is perfect for entertaining. The bathrooms were remodeled in the 60’s and updating them is one of my assignments. Currently I’m working on the large first floor powder room. It’s a total gut job and I’m in hot pursuit of some special pieces for it.


This photo was taken standing in the middle of the living room.

My client purchased this home because the living room could accommodate the baby grand piano. However, the living room has long and narrow proportions, so it was difficult to create a seating arrangement good for conversation. The piano fit, but took up most of the space on that side of the room. In the center is a fireplace that is not pictured (if you look carefully on the right you see the hearth) which compounded the issue. The other main problem is the dining room is small and there is no room for a buffet. This is a problem because my client entertains often for large groups and needs extra serving space along with a bar set up. My solution was to move the piano to the other side of the room, actually to the adjoining room which has double glass doors. Doing this opened the space, and the piano could still be part of the room when there is a party. The doors can be closed if someone wants to play in private or not disturb others with the noise.
A serving and beverage area was created next to the dining room by adding the Pottery Barn mirror and console bar. The mirror also visually opens the room and reflects the pretty view from the window across from it.

This is Dan a man of many talents! He's a good natured soul who knows how to hang a mirror, handle a paint brush and does quality workmanship.

The mirror weighs over 100 pounds and these are old lath and plaster walls. I bought an electronic stud finder specifically for this home and it has proven to be an invaluable tool. Older homes often don't have any rhyme or reason how the studs run. I've worked on many older homes, but this one takes the cake!
I stood on the ladder and marked the studs, then it took two strong backs to hang the mirror. I measured carefully to be sure both pieces they would fit in the space before placing the order, but there wasn't much room to spare. To my delight the installation went seamlessly.

Pottery Barn introduced the Egan Mirror in their catalog around Thanksgiving; however it was not actually available until three months later. A slight irritation, but it was worth the wait.
So for three months I patiently twiddled my thumbs and hummed the Rolling Stones Time Is On My Side!

Don't even get me started about the new Restoration Hardware Oviedo Chaise!!!

My client obviously didn't choose Victorian style for her furniture. However all these items she will take with her if she ever moves. Things that will become a permanent part of the home will be more traditional, like the items selected for the bathrooms.

The Markum Console Bar is a versatile piece and can be used in a variety of ways if you think outside of the box. I especially like the dropped down section that holds the wine bottles. If you look closely you can notice the door knob wine stopper next to the vase. I found the stopper in an adorable store called The Lambs Tail Antiques.

Tip: The day I took these photos, I stopped by my local grocery store to pick up fresh flowers. Their selection looked tired, so I opted for this bunch of babies breath instead. I often use babies breath this way and even when they dry out they still look nice for a few months. As I was checking out the cashier asked if I was making an arrangement with them, so I explained I was only using the babies breath, she liked the idea and told me she had never heard of doing this so I thought I would share it here.

This became the music room and holds the baby grand piano. Sun resistant pull down shades were installed to protect the piano. Dan painted the room the same color as the living room. It’s not finished yet, but it’s getting there.

An updated ceiling fan is on the "To Do List".

Posted to: Susan's @ Between Naps On The Porch, Met Monday.

Feb 26, 2010

Inspired By Living An Authentic Life!

The Stylish House is for kindred spirits interested in making their NEST clever, stylish, warm and inviting!

Trust me, I know what the “Good Stuff” is, but the last time I checked I still wasn’t a Rockefeller descendant! When some people meet me for the first time socially they've commented “I could never have you come to my home because it isn’t up to snuff”. Or they want to visit mine to check it out, and give it the scratch and sniff test! In the food chain of life there will always be someone with less and someone with more. I appreciate a touch of whimsy and follow a healthy philosophy, which is to relax and enjoy what I have. Gaining confidence comes from doing quality work to the best of your ability, and not getting hung up on unachievable perfectionism. What good is it to create a meticulous home if you’ve driven everyone insane during the process, and accumulated a mountain of debt?

I believe you should throw that dinner party even though your table is a hand me down from your mom.

I believe there is a maturity and satisfaction that comes from saving up for a special piece that you will enjoy for many years.

I believe in creating a game plan that makes the most of what you have to make your decorating dollars stretch as far as they can.

I believe the most interesting rooms are developed over time.

What are your thoughts on authentic living?

Feb 17, 2010

How To: Test Paint Colors

Painting of Artist's Palette: Peter Gee

Did you know when you enter a space your eye notices COLOR first, and paint is the #1 most effective tool that creates the most bang for your buck?

However, finding that perfect chic color can be more elusive then buying a winning lottery ticket, and can quickly becomes a lesson in frustration! Have you ever picked a paint color, with high hopes, which then turned into "what the heck was I thinking" once it was brushed on the wall? Hands down, I'm asked the most questions on the topics of color and paint. So, I thought it would be helpful to share some of the things that have worked for me.

Paint is such an important mainstay in my line of work that several years ago I developed the following method for testing paint. I did this after realizing those ridiculously teeny tiny paint manufacturer samples that were offered were not nearly big enough to be effective. What I did to solve this problem was make inexpensive, quick and easy sample boards that are an effective visual aid. I've made many for myself and clients, and they are such a good tool I wanted to share this idea.

Making a sample board can save time, money and the frustrations of color selection. I would rather buy a small sample of paint and test it out before making a final commitment. Even if I have used a paint color before, it can change due to lighting and flooring.

Sample Board Advantages:
  • Eliminates marking up existing walls, especially good if you're not going to paint right away.

  • Boards are large enough to be realistic to visualise what the paint will actually look like in the space.
  • Boards can be moved around to see how they work in different lighting, and how they look next to existing furniture and textiles.

  • They are inexpensive, quick, easy to make and reusable.


Start by purchasing a piece of foam core board from a craft or office supply store. Foam core is thick and sturdy so the paint doesn't leak to the backside. Because of this both sides can be painted different colors. It's sturdy enough that when propped up it will stay in place.

Cut the foam core board with a straight edge into manageable sizes. I cut mine into three pieces. I use a rotary cutter, but a serrated knife or scissors can be substituted.

Tip: If you're doing a lot of home improvement projects, design work or crafts, I recommend investing in a rotary cutter, mat and straight edge. They come in affordable kits, and they are extremely useful for a wide variety of tasks. I prefer a large diameter rotary cutter, because I've noticed the blade doesn't get dull as quickly as the smaller ones.

Use inexpensive foam brushes to apply two coats of paint. Let the first coat set up before applying the second coat. Use long strokes, going in the same direction.

Finished Sample Boards

The boards are large enough to accurately judge how the paint will look in the space. They can be moved around easily to see how the room lighting affects the color.

Boards are labeled with masking tape.

Sherwin Williams: Svelte Sage, Restrained Gold, Latte

For easy reference the information includes:

  • Brand of paint

  • Color name

  • Paint number

  • Type of finish: flat, matt, satin, semi gloss, gloss.

Posted to: Works For Me Wednesday and Domestically Speaking